One of Andy Smillie’s excellent Flesh Tearers stories, Death’s Shepherd is a micro-short that’s previously been available in the Black Library Anthology 2013/14 and Trial By Blood collection before its release as a separate e-short. On the blood-soaked world of Zurcon, a Flesh Tearers chaplain leads the last remaining loyal soldiers into battle to redeem their world. Full of rage and drenched in blood, the chaplain has forged the surviving guardsmen into a weapon with violence and well-chosen words, in order to retake Zurcon for the Imperium.
There’s no extraneous detail here, every element of the story designed to pack as much as possible into the shortest space, resulting in an elegant and effective (and very bloody) tale. It’s a brief and violent snapshot of a much longer conflict, the wider context inferred but largely put aside in favour of Smillie’s dark and sinister depiction of a genuinely fearsome warrior, someone so far removed from humanity it’s hard to differentiate him from the enemy. Where Andy Smillie’s concerned, the shorter the stories the better they seem to be – this one’s very brief indeed, despite the over-inflated price tag for the e-short, but it’s all the more powerful for it.