Blood and Iron by Robbie MacNiven. A Warhammer 40,000 short story, Day 15 of the Advent Calendar 2015, originally published by The Black Library, December 2015. Approx.. 12 pages.
On the heretekal forge world of Dementius, warpsmith Ferrix of the traitorous Iron Warriors plans an awakening; one that will tether one of Khorne's most ferocious beasts to one of the grandest machines of war ever created; an Imperial Titan twisted to the whim of the Dark Lords.
That is the succinct overview of Blood and Iron, Robbie MacNiven's second foray into the Black Library 2015 Advent Calendar. It's no secret that I enjoyed MacNiven's A Song for the Lost tremendously, so much so that I fast-tracked this second story to the top of the reading pile. And I am glad that I did. Where A Song for the Lost was a more character-driven story, focusing on the insane Noise Marine Ulix, Blood and Iron shows his versatility in evocative world building.
This isn't to say that the characters in Blood and Iron aren't fully-rounded. Our protagonist, Ferrix, plays his cards very close to his chest until the very end, telling us much by telling us very little. A former Techmarine before his ascension to warpsmith, he possesses a limited emotional palette. MacNiven craftily shows us which outcomes elicit a positive response through subtle emotional cues.
With the secondary characters, MacNiven has fun painting them in the colors of the Gods they have given themselves over to, including an Iron Warrior gone over the deep end to Khorne, and a disgusting, oozing, overly-fawning magos in the thrall of Nurgle.
As mentioned before, a great deal of attention is tendered to the setting. We are given a richly rendered portrayal of this corrupted forge world, allowing the reader a seamless immersion into the tale being told. In fact, as much of the action occurs around a grand arena which serves as a testing ground. This reminded me of the Robeast proving arena on Planet Doom in the original Voltron:
It's saying a lot that I can draw definite parallels between one of my favorite childhood shows (and therefore memories), and a recent WH40K short story.
Perhaps what MacNiven does best in Blood and Iron is properly convey scale. This is integral, given that at the heart of the story is the awakening of a Chaos Titan. Here we get an excellent portrayal of this event; a massive, monstrous release predicated upon a thrilling duel of wills between the warpsmith and a bestial hound of Khorne. Sometimes Chaos and its unrelenting "rivers of blood" motif honestly bores me but here the excess is not in excess.
So once again, we have a wonderful, fun short story from Robbie MacGiven full of vivid imagery and descriptions. While I give a slight edge to Song for the Lost for the twisted beauty of its ending, Blood and Iron is a great build-up to an ending of epic scale, literally. Highly recommended.
Same as A Song for the Lost.
Cover Final Score: