Available as a standalone e-short or within the Sedition’s Gate and War Without End anthologies, Guy Haley’s The Laurel of Defiance sees Ultramarines Captain Lucretius Corvo honoured by Guilliman for his role in the defence of Ultramar. As he mingles with the great and good of the realm, uncomfortable with the esteem in which he’s held and the message behind his recognition, he recalls the events which led there. Events, on the world of Astagar, which saw him lead his men against the forces of the Word Bearers and World Eaters, and their horrific allies.
There aren’t that many stories where we get to see how Space Marines deal with parties, or indeed how they tackle enemy Titans, but this one does both. Haley flips between Corvo in action, where he’s clearly most comfortable, and at rest, observing his fellow Marines and the mortals around him with a curious mixture of sadness and distance. There’s a nice balance to the story, both aspects equally of interest, and it does a good job of gently touching upon that poignant sense of what might have been had the Heresy not happened. It ties nicely into Haley’s novel Pharos, but works equally well as a standalone story that has plenty of action, but is ultimately more of a character study.