This novella contains a prequel story set across M36 starting at the Fall of Goge Vandire and follows the story of Daenyathos, a Soul Drinker who soon grows into a figurehead and will alter the destiny of the entire Soul Drinkers chapter.
Now since not everyone will get ahold of this excellent story for either price reasons or its 1000 copy run, I have posted the plotline here so that you all may know what it entails.
The story starts with Daenyathos who is fighting on Terra against the Frateris Templar and the Brides of the Emperor, alongside his fellow Soul Drinkers and an Imperial Guard Regiment. And in the Tomb of Malcador he meets an Imperial Guardsman named Fidelion who tells him that to flee death is worse then death. These words are reinforced by a meeting with Inquisitor Kayede during an Exterminatus mission to destroy a heretical populace who tells Daenyathos that humanity is its own worst enemy and that the Inquisition and Space Marines must lead humanity, lest humanity destroys itself. Through Fidelion and Kayede and their words Daenyathos begins to doubt his current path and joins the Reclusiam to take the Chaplain’s path.
During his training Daenyathos begins writing the Catechisms Martial, a text that he hopes will put the Soul Drinkers spirit on paper. He eventually finishes it and is revered throughout the Chapter, being elevated to the Reclusiarch’s second in command. Eventually the Chapter is tasked to terminate a dangerous heretic named Croivas Ascenian who has committed high crimes against the Imperium and is declared a moral threat. During the hunt for Ascenian Daenyathos speaks with the Reclusiarch Gorosius who tells him he has read the Catechisms Martial and has noticed a worrying piece in it. In the text Daenyathos speaks of humanity as cattle and that the Soul Drinkers and other Space Marines must lead them as the superior beings, however other exceptions like the High Lords of Terra are not included and that means through a paradox since the High Lords of Terra are cattle then the Space Marines who follow them are cattle as well. Unless the Space Marines secede from the Imperium. Daenyathos says he will write an addendum as that is not his meaning, and soon after Gorosius is killed during the hunt as he is eaten by a native predator.
However an enemy scout who survives the massacre later witnesses a giant in black armour tearing his way out of an animal corpse, only to be shot dead by another giant in black armour. Daenyathos reflects on his murder and privately admits that there is no mistake, and that what Gorosius said about the Catechisms Martial is true and that the true plan is to have the Soul Drinkers secede from the Imperium. Daenyathos is then promoted to Reclusiarch and becomes the Master Chaplain, gaining his own recruits and begins cultivating his own flock of those who are loyal to him and his vision. However during the continuing hunt for Ascenian a Space Hulk is raided and Daenyathos is captured by the heretic who begins surgically dissecting him to learn more of the Space Marines.
Daenyathos is able to survive by telling the heretic what makes them Space Marines. The Gene-seed, which Daenyathos claims was created when the twenty Primarchs were created. Of all twenty sons of the Emperor, two were universally despised, and both were murdered by their brothers and hacked up into thousands of tiny pieces, these pieces were used to make the first Space Marines. Whether or not this is true we can only guess but Ascenian believes it and attempts to take Daenyathos’s gene-seed, only to lean in close enough for Daenyathos to bite out his throat. Eventually Daenyathos is found near-death by his fellow Chaplains who take him back and secretly entomb him within the Chapters only Dreadnought.
Daenyathos praises them upon his resurrection and brings out a Chapter relic, revealed to be Fidelion who they have kept alive for over a century. Daenyathos tells his Chaplains and Fidelion of a plan that will start with them slowly turning the Chapter towards the renegade’s path by using the Reclusiam to manipulate them. This plan will take centuries or millennia but will end once the Chapter reaches Terra and fulfils an unspecified goal, but just hearing it causes Fidelion to break down weeping and beg for death, which is quickly granted. Daenyathos says that he must leave the Chapter so that he will turn into a legend over time and become as revered as Dorn himself, upon which he secretly leaves for a world known to the Soul Drinkers only and the Chapter is informed that Daenyathos the Warrior-Philosopher has perished. And eventually not a single man that served with him remained in the Chapter, and the legend was born.
The artwork of the novella is quite amazing. It isn’t fancy CGI artwork or highly lavished painted artwork but rather just pencil drawings, and yet they are better then many advanced art. The simplistic pencil scribblings bring the story to life with excellent captions of the characters, weapons and locations that the novella creates. And some amusing and very very interesting side-markers by the Imperial Fists chapter on this confiscated tome give another point of view to some of the events.
The markings left by the Imperial Fist Dominus tell us that according to the records of his Chapter the Soul Drinkers Chapter never served at Terra during the Siege of the Ecclesiarchal Palace. And that the soldier Fidelion is not on record for any Imperial Guard Regiments at Terra and has never been, he admits that Fidelion may have been left off by accident as Guard records are not as well-kept but he doesn’t believe that is the case.
It mentions that Inquisitor Kayede was executed in 616.M36 for high crimes against the Imperium and that the world Khaal where Gorosius dies cannot be found by the Imperial Fists vast star charts. Kayede’s words while seeming loyal can almost scream Radical, it isn’t a large leap and perhaps his words were the root of the Soul Drinker’s heresy. And Khaal, does it exist?. It is described as an almost impossible to believe world where life has evolved to live out its life-spans in a few hours to survive deadly radiation, and that the day is dark and the night is bright. But this is 40k and that sounds quite possible.
We are also given two conflicting accounts of the Soul Drinkers founding. One tells us they were created from the fast-attack units of the Imperial Fists, however this is denied with a “NO NO NO!” by the Imperial Fist captioner. The second account tells us that the Soul Drinkers were created from the personal guard of High Marshall Sigismund of the Black Templars during the Third Founding. This is remembered by Gorosius so we have no clear way of knowing where the Soul Drinkers come from.
High Point: When Daenyathos reveals his true plans and the manipulations he has put into them I was amazed, the Imperial Fists are right, the Soul Drinkers are heretics and need to die. Plus the conflicting accounts of Soul Drinker and Imperial Fist keep us guessing throughout the novel about who is right and who is wrong. Are the Soul Drinkers intentionally lying or are the Imperial Fists blinded by hate. It can’t be told but we’ll find out eventually in Phalanx, the upcoming final Soul Drinkers novel.
The character Croivas Ascenian is one of the best I have seen in my collection of Black Library. An Imperial Missionary who upon arriving at his new world was to minister the faith of the people, only to experiment on them. The entire population was cybernetically connected to a machine that painfully shocked them whenever they disobeyed and kept them in a permanent state of agony. He did all this just to see what happened. And the atrocities continue on such as marching an entire city into a dark valley to have their minds ripped out and put into the skulls of several psyker children whose power was amplified to destructive superhuman levels, and merging twenty-thousand people into one fleshy mass to try and forge a single being from them. And they only get worse. And his appearance was breath-takingly horrific, the images were excellent and made him into a character to fear.
Low Point: Only one thing bugged me and that was the Reclusiarch seeming to be the head Chaplain. Either its a mistake or the Soul Drinkers Reclusiarch is also their Master of Sanctity, or they dont have that rank at all.
Overall Daenyathos is a very imaginative story that delves into a period of turmoil the Imperium had not seen since the Horus Heresy and the ramifications of choices made during that period, such as Croivas Ascenian becoming a Missionary when in the 41st Millennium he wouldn’t have even been considered.
The Soul Drinkers Chapter is also shown in a totally new light, their dark past is accounted and we see that their secession was not just the temporary anger and madness of one Librarian. It was the result of millennia of planning by the Chaplains and the guidance of a single heretic whose reach was so wide that he orchestrated the Soul Drinkers fall from grace.
I give Daenyathos a 9/10 for its exciting story, its stunning artwork and a new cast of characters that even though this will be their only appearance, they are greater then some Black Library regulars. If only the Soul Drinkers series was about Daenyathos, but we can’t have it all. If you haven’t bought this novella already i’d highly recommend it, hurry only a few hundred copies remain.