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Brothers of the Snake (Novel)

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Brothers of the Snake
Author Dan Abnett
Performer Toby Longworth
Publisher Black Library
Released June 2007
Pages 320 (2007 edition)
416 (2008 edition)
Editions 2007 hardcover:
ISBN 9781844164752

2008 softcover:
ISBN 9781844165476

2011 ebook:
ISBN 9780857873156

Brothers of the Snake is a novel by Dan Abnett composed of seven short stories featuring the Damocles Squad of the Iron Snakes Space Marine Chapter. It follows on from the chapter's prominent appearance in Abnett's sourcebook Tactica Imperialis. The hardback edition was published in 2007, with the paperback released in May, 2008.

Plot Summary

This page contains spoilers for: Brothers of the Snake (Novel)

Priad of Damocles squad, one of the Iron Snakes of Ithaka, is sworn to defend the Reef Stars from all threats and to perform this duty with honour and steadfastness above all else. Over twelve years, he and his squad must battle Dark Eldar, Orks and even their own weaknesses from one end of their domain to the other.

Part One - Grey Dawn: Undertaking to Baal Solock

When a Primul (Dark Eldar) vessel crashes and the crew set about slaying the local inhabitants, primary clerk Antoni follows an ancient protocol which instructs her to activates an antiquated distress signal. A month later, Battle-Brother Priad of the Iron Snakes arrives in response. Antoni is distressed to see that he is alone, and no further reinforcements have been sent.

Antoni follows as a witness to Priad's cleansing mission and together they defeat the Dark Eldar, with Antoni even killing two herself, being one of the only souls in the Reef Stars beside an Iron Snake to have killed a Dark Eldar. In the final confrontation, most of the Dark Eldar are killed by a grenade explosion, and an odd relic from their ship - an oversized jawbone - is pulverized, a fact which seems to amuse the last surviving Primul greatly, before Priad executes him.

Back in the capital city, Antoni is taken aback to learn that Priad is ranked an "ordinary" Battle-Brother. He assures her that the Chapter intends no insult to Baal Solock, since "one warrior usually suffices," which she has no trouble believing. He departs the planet, hoping that nothing further goes amiss on Baal Solock. She wryly replies that she will know who to call if it does.

Part Two - Black Gold: Undertaking to Rosetta

Damocles Squad liberates an oil refinery from Chaos Cultists and Dark Tusks Chaos Space Marines. However they must alter their mission and destroy the deposit rather than liberate it, once they realise a Chaos artifact is buried deep inside the oil. Three Iron Snakes are lost, including Brother-Sergeant Raphon, and in his place Priad is promoted to squad leader, inheriting the Sergeant's legendary Lightning Claw.

Part Three - White Heat: Undertaking to Eidon

Librarian Petrok comes to asses the tactics of the Iron Snakes and Imperial Guard reclaiming Eidon city from the Dark Eldar. He then joins battle with Damocles squad after sensing they face great danger. Meant to safeguard the eastern wall of the city against enemy retreat, Damocles is forced to ground by more foes than expected. With Petrok's help they take the wall and push inwards to discover a phosphor vent the Dark Elder were guarding. Now, it is wired with explosives. Unable to deactivate the exotic devices, the squad carefully carries them out of the city to a safe detonating distance.

Part Four - Red Rain: Undertaking to Ceres

Four squads of Iron Snakes arrive on the agricultural world of Ceres to aid Inquisitor Mabuse in crushing a Chaos Cult. Damocles squad encounters a swift moving Daemon that is hidden from their equipment, only visible through the unaided naked eye. Brother Calignes is wounded by the Daemon and Brother Pindor is found to be missing. Searching out the Daemon again, Brother Illyus is killed in another encounter. Yet during the act the Daemon stays still long enough for the Iron Snakes to rip into and kill it with bolter fire. In the nearby grain silos they discover the still-alive Pindor and rescue him from becoming a sacrifice to Chaos. Being thwarted of sacrificing a Space Marine, the meek townsfolk reveal themselves as cultists and overwhelm the marines in a torrent of fanatic zeal. Barely do Damocles conquer the overwhelming numbers. However Calignes and Apothecary Memnes are killed in the torrent and others are wounded. After the village is purged, Priad warns Inquisitor Mabuse, who guided them there in the first place, that he kept crucial information from them, and this will not be forgotten.

Part Five - Crimson Wake: Ithaka

To replace their fallen brothers, Damocles squad returns to the Iron Snakes' home world of Ithaka and the chapter fortress on the moon of Karybdis. They set about testing new petitioners in sparring for the spots in Damocles squad, and two, Dyognes and Aekon, are selected. For the place of an Apothecary, Priad inquires about Brother Khiron, but is informed that Khiron is awaiting trial for murdering one of his fellows. After seeing his squad wiped out, Khiron returned to the chapter fortress and, without reason or warning, shot his brother in the head.

Priad speaks with Khiron in his cell, and Khiron swears that a Daemon was inhabiting the murdered brother, and worse, it escaped into another body and is hiding among the brothers in the fortress. But Khiron claims it can be smelled, a scent like nothing else.

While further training the petitioners, Priad, with his mind troubled on other thoughts, takes a direct hit in the face from a practice baton. His olfactory augmetics now broken, he senses something - the obscene scent of a Daemon. Priad attacks Captain Skander, and the fight quickly escalates till Priad sets a flamer on Skander. A Daemon withdraws from the flaming body, and Priad, witnessed by all, incinerates it. Khiron is vindicated, and Damocles squad rushes out to the sea of Ithaka to save Khiron from his death sentence, and Damocles is returned to full strength again.

Part Six - Blue Blood: Undertaking to Iorgu

Damocles is ordered to act as an emissary guard to witness the crowning of a new King on Iorgu. Inquisitor Mabuse finds Priad and reveals his suspicions of foul play in the old ruler's death. As the crowning nears, a storm accompanied by strange occurrences and visions engulfs the city. Riots break out in the streets and the nobles flee the city. Something in the warp is stirring.

Mabuse believes a Chaos cult has forced the crowning in order to awaken a great evil imprisoned beneath the sacred mound of the city, for the ceremonial treasures used to crown a new ruler are in fact ancient devices keeping the evil in stasis. Damocles squad along with Mabuse take the treasures and venture into the maze tunnels of the sacred mound, assaulted by glamours and tricks of chaos along the way. Near to the centre, Mabuse is shot and killed by cultists. Damocles pushes onward into the inner chamber to find themselves swarmed by millions of insects. Near to drowning in the living cloud, Priad finally replaces the artifacts and traps the evil again, just as it began to manifest into physical form.

With his dying breath, Mabuse records a message on his augmetic recorder, urging the Chapter Master to ignore the several complaints from the nobles and military leaders that he and Damocles ran roughshod over in their rush to save the planet. Priad turns off the message midway, and says they have done nothing which they need to explain to anyone.

Part Seven - Green Skin: Undertaking to Ganahedarak

An Ork Waaagh! assaults the Reef Stars and The Iron Snakes respond with twenty five full squads led by Master Seydon in person. But Priad refuses to deem Damocles squad battle-ready after learning that the brothers under his command had undertaken a forbidden test - free-diving into a deep ocean trench. While Damocles is undergoing punishment of a month of hard training, Librarian Petrok has dreams of Seydon's force in danger and sets about building a relief force with Damocles squad at its head.

They arrive to the planet Ganahedarak to find Seydon's force cut off, surrounded and caught in the midst of an Ork civil war. The relief force launches a surprise attack and manages to buy enough time for Seydon's force to break out, and the chapter pulls out of Ganahedarak to consolidate its forces. In a bitter debate amongst the Chapter command, one side says the Waaagh! is too massive to be defeated in conventional battle, but the other says honour demands that the Iron Snakes muster the entire chapter and return to crush the Orks, or die trying.

Petrok and Priad have been having mysterious dreams concerning Priad, a set of jaws, and a black dog. Petrok convinces Seydon to hold his decision in abeyance for a week, while they investigate whether there is another way to defeat the orks.

Recalling the black dog from his first mission on Baal Solock, Priad and Damocles leaves the main force and head to Baal Solock to uncover the mystery. During the journey, Petrok becomes sick and lapses into a coma, but contacts Priad in his dreams, having unraveled the mystery: the Dark Eldar have manipulated the Ork Waaagh! by stealing a relic - the jawbone Priad saw during his mission, from a revered Ork Warboss — and depositing it in the Reef Stars. The orks are not attacking the humans or the Space Marines, they are fighting amongst themselves for the possession of the relic, and devastating anything in their path.

Priad goes down alone to Baal Solock and reunites with Antoni, now the High Legislator and a very old woman (for the twelve years that have passed in the Reef Stars since his first undertaking, forty have passed on Baal Solock). Though the jawbone was destroyed, Antoni did keep two of the teeth as a souvenir. While searching the palace archives, they are attacked by Dark Eldar, but Damocles squad breaks orders and comes down to aid Priad. Using the recovered teeth samples, the chapter's Apothecaries manage to regrow a replica of the entire jawbone and put it to use luring the Orks away from the Reef Stars and into Dark Eldar territory.

Priad and Damocles depart Baal Solock with earnest thanks to Antoni and her people. Out of curiosity, Antoni asks to see the faces of the rest of Damocles, under their helms. When they oblige, Antoni remarks aside to Priad that all Space Marines look the same to her. Priad replies simply that they are not - they are all different in look and personality, but united in their brotherhood and their service to the Emperor.

After returning to Ithaka, Priad relaxes his standards, just once, and renews his bond of brotherhood with his squad by diving the trench himself.

See also

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