Witness by Joe Parrino. A Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights short story. Originally published by The Black Library in May 2013, for Digital Monday. Approx. 36 pages.
The Grey Knights. Imposing knights of the Inquisition. Cloaked in shadows, clad in silver. Each carries a piece of the God-Emperor, and each helps to purge the filthy taint of daemons and Chaos. However, their mysterious nature is not sheer happenstance. There are measures that must be taken so that the extent of Warp-taint is not broadly advertised. And few that see these vengeful knights in action can attest to their majesty.
Joe Parrino's Witness is the tale of these formidable giants in action, and tells of how they helped to cleanse the Chaos-wracked world of Margentum. The narrative follows the questioning of one Captain Danel Prestoff of the Brindleweld Ninth (Imperial Guard) by Burkhart, an Interrogator of the Ordo Malleus. Prestoff had been part of the original force sent to purge the taint from Margentum, had watched as the extent of the evil manifested itself, and was present for the arrival of the Grey Knights. Therefore, it is through Prestoff's eyes that the events which transpired are recollected.
Relative neophyte Parrino (who only has a few published titles under his belt so far) makes the right decision in making Prestoff the focal point. He is, in fact, our titular 'witness'. Through his eyes we can appreciate the intimidating, yet majestic presence of the Grey Knights, and feel the palpable confusion at the chaotic events unfolding. Some readers, I am sure, would have preferred a tale told from the POV of the Grey Knights themselves, but for the tone of this story, it is better to see than to know.
With a fairly basic premise (the Ninth arrives on the planet, advances, gets turned back as Chaos ripens, and then the Knights show up), it comes down to the author to craft prose that works. And this is where Parrino excels. His descriptions of Chaos transformations lean more towards Lovecraftian discomfort and unease than shock and gore. He truly conveys the effect of these horrors upon the Brindleweld Ninth, a fledgling unit so ill-equipped to process and handle it. Parrino gleefully spins colorful, descriptive words into a delicious cotton candy of Chaos. The end result is a work that combines poetic rhythm with the pulpy, indulgent satisfaction of a fine campfire tale.
Most importantly, Parrino "gets" Grey Knights. He gets the mystique, the code of honor, the stern dispensing of justice, and the extent the Inquisition must go to in protecting the 'best interests' of the Imperium. His Brindleweld unit is well fleshed-out, a detachment of questionable mettle that is more decoration that ability. However, Prestoff remains sympathetic, and even brave, in his own particular idiom, throughout.
Thrilling stuff. And well worth the price ($2.99 for 36 pages).
Here's what it is:
Witness is a hard, grimdark tale of hellish nightmares and hellish cures. Excellent treatment of a revered Chapter. A thirty page tale that packs a major punch.
Pretty nice cover here. We have a Grey Knight stomping through a tunnel, sword crackling and psycannon blazing. Nice attention paid to the ornamentation on the armor. Blue tone matches well with the silver armor, and provides a stark contrast to the bloody reds used as a motif for the Chaos hordes in the story.
Cover Final Score: