Teaser extract from Aaron Dembski-Bowden's THE FIRST HERETIC

Thanks to the folks at Black Library, here's a teaser of the upcoming The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Canada, USA, Europe).

Here's the blurb:

Amidst the galaxy-wide war of the Great Crusade, the Emperor castigates the Word Bearers for their worship. Distraught at this judgement, Lorgar and his Legion seek another path while devastating world after world, venting their fury and fervour on the battlefield. Their search for a new purpose leads them to the edge of the material universe, where they meet ancient forces far more powerful than they could have imagined. Having set out to illuminate the Imperium, the corruption of Chaos takes hold and their path to damnation begins. Unbeknownst to the Word Bearers, their quest for truth contains the very roots of heresy

Another excerpt from the novel can be found here.


The nearby speaker towers blared their message, over and over. ‘Strict weight allowances are in effect for personal belongings on the evacuation craft. All residents of Inaga District are to report to Yael-Shah Skyport or the Twelfth Trade Gate immediately. Strict weight allowances are...’

Cyrene tuned out the warnings, watching the people flocking through the streets below, strangling traffic with their slow, marching queues. There, at the end of the street, one of the XIII Legion directed the herds of people like livestock. In its hands, the false angel carried the same weapon as its brothers, the massive rifle with its supply of explosive ammunition.

Cyrene leaned on the balcony’s railing, bearing witness to the eternal theatre of oppressor and oppressed, of conquerors and the conquered. Her district was due to be evacuated by tomorrow morning. The process was stilted, with a great deal of curses cried and lamentations
heaped upon the silent false angels.

‘Strict weight allowances are in effect,’ the speakers boomed again. Those vox-towers had been used for the city’s thrice-daily prayer readings, speaking words of tolerance and enlightenment to all sheltering within the city. Now their holiness was perverted, as they served as the invaders’ mouthpieces.

Too late, Cyrene saw she’d been noticed.

The air turned thicker and hotter from engine wash, as a small skycraft drifted over the street at the same level as her balcony. A two-man vehicle, its skin formed from sloping blue armour, was suspended on whining turbines as it weaved through the air. The false angels seated in its cockpit scanned the second-level windows of the buildings as they passed.

Cyrene’s shiver threatened to become a tremble, yet she remained where she was.

The craft hovered closer. Rotor fans blew hot air from the craft’s anti-gravitational engines. The false angel in the gunner seat leaned forward, adjusting a hidden control on his armour’s collar.

‘Citizen,’ the warrior’s vox-voice was a raw bark over the speeder craft’s engine. ‘This sector is being evacuated. Proceed to street level immediately.’

Cyrene took a breath, and didn’t move.

The warrior glanced at his companion in the pilot’s seat, then looked back to Cyrene in her quiet defiance.

‘Citizen, this sector is being evac–’

‘I heard you,’ Cyrene said, loud enough to carry over the craft’s infernal din.

‘Proceed to street level immediately,’ the warrior said.

‘Why are you doing this?’ she asked, her voice still raised.

The gunner shook his head and gripped the handles of the massive calibre weapon mount, aiming it directly at Cyrene. The young woman swallowed – the gun’s muzzle was the size of her head. Every bone in her body gave a panic-twinge, pleading she run.

‘Why are you doing this?’ she demanded, drowning her fear with anger. ‘What sins have stained us all, that we must leave our homes? We are loyal to the Imperium! We are loyal to the God-Emperor!’

The false angels remained unmoving for several seconds. Cyrene closed her eyes, waiting for the
hammer-hard impact that would spell her destruction. Despite the moment, she felt a smile tickling her lips. This was an insane way to die. There’d be nothing left to bury.


She opened her eyes. The warrior had lowered the cannon’s aim. ‘The Emperor, beloved by all, ordered the XIII Legion here and mandated our actions. Look at us. Look upon our armour, and the weapons we bear. We are his warriors, and we do his will. Proceed to street level and evacuate the district.’

‘The God-Emperor demanded that we abandon our lives?’

The warrior snarled. It was a crackling machine-growl, only rendered human by the hint of anger within. This was the first emotion Cyrene had heard from the invaders.

‘Proceed to street level.’ The warrior brought the cannon to bear again. ‘Now. I will slay you where you stand if you cast your ignorant heathen words once more over the name of the Emperor, beloved by all.’

Cyrene spat over the side of the balcony. ‘I will go, only because I seek illumination. I will find the truth in all this, and I pray there will come a reckoning.’

‘The truth will be revealed,’ the warrior said, as the craft made ready to hover away. ‘At sunrise on the seventh day, turn and look back to your city. You will witness the illumination you crave.’

And so dawned the seventh day.

The lightening sky found Cyrene Valantion standing atop a rise in the Galahe Foothills, her traditional dress hidden beneath a long jacket clutched tightly against the worsening autumn wind. Her hair blew free in a mane, and she watched the utterly silent, utterly still city to the east. In the last hours, burning blurs had floated upwards: each one a landing craft belonging to
the XIII Legion, each one returning to the heavens now that their warriors’ work was done.
With creeping inevitability, the sun reached the horizon. Pale gold – cold for all its gentle brightness – spilled over the minarets and domes of Monarchia. A city of unrivalled beauty, the spear-tips of its ten thousand towers turned golden by the dawn.

‘Holy Blood,’ the young woman whispered, unable to find her voice and feeling the wet warmth of tear trails on her cheeks. To think that mankind could create such marvels. ‘Holy Blood of the God-Emperor.’

The sky grew brighter still – too bright, too fast. Barely past dawn, it was already becoming as bright as noon. Cyrene raised her head, watching with weeping eyes as the clouds of heaven lit up with a second sunrise.

She saw the fire fall from the sky, lances of unbelievable light spearing into the perfect city from above the clouds. But she did not watch for long. The sun-spears’ incomparable brightness stole her sight after only the first few moments, leaving her in darkness as she listened to the sounds of a city dying. The world shook beneath Cyrene’s feet, casting her to the ground. Worst of all, her eyes itched as they failed, and the last clear sight she ever saw was Monarchia in ruin, its towers falling into the flames.

Blind and betrayed by fate, Cyrene Valantion cried out to the heavens and prayed for a reckoning, while the city of her birth burned.

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