A rare non-Imperial 40k audio drama, Gav Thorpe’s Heirs of the Laughing God: A Deadly Wit introduces the Masque of the Fading Dawn, a troupe of Harlequins led by the idiosyncratic Duruthiel, or the ‘Red Swan’ as he refers to himself. Despite the disapproval of his Death Jester companion Adroniel, Red Swan leads his troupe in a risky assault on the fortress of a powerful ork warlord. When the mission proves more dangerous, and the warlord more deadly, than he had anticipated, Duruthiel is forced to open up about the real reasons for choosing this particular, reckless mission.
Taking place (largely) well away from the usual characters and locations of Warhammer 40,000, James Swallow’s audio drama Corsair: The Face of the Void is a bold adventure story featuring rogue trader Santiago and her crew of misfits taking on pirates, aliens and even Imperial authority. Closing in on a pirate ship carrying a valuable bounty, when her prey is strangely becalmed Captain Santiago leads a boarding action to retrieve and claim the prize only to find unexpected dangers lurking in its depths. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary bounty they’ve been sent to claim.
Released back in 2011, Sandy Mitchell’s Dead in the Water is the first of two Ciaphas Cain audio dramas (so far, at least), and in common with the productions of the time is performed (pretty much) by Toby Longworth alone. It’s a classic Cain tale of accidental heroism and unsuccessful self interest, as he finds his quiet posting on the backwater world of Archipelaga unwelcomely enlivened when he’s backed into leading a search mission for a missing squad of Vostroyans. In typical fashion, what begins as a simple task quickly turns dangerous for Cain, Jurgen and co.
Chris Dows is developing a fine reputation for writing Imperial Guard, and with his audio drama Titans’ Bane he turns his attention away from Elysians and towards Cadians, with a story focusing on the crew of a Shadowsword super-heavy tank. Having taken a beating by the forces of Nurgle, Lieutenant Quiller and the crew of Titans’ Bane limp back to Imperial lines, desperately trying to repair their wounded tank even as its machine spirit ails. To make matters worse, frictions within the tank threaten to boil over as Quiller attempts to integrate two non-Cadian replacements into her veteran crew.
The third Shadespire-set Black Library audio drama, Guy Haley’s The Autumn Prince is the bravest and best yet. A narrator-less tale driven by strong dialogue and an excellent central performance from John Banks, it sees aelven Prince Maesa drawn to Shadespire in search of dark secrets to help him solve an even darker problem. Guided by the bound spite Shattercap and driven by determination that only an ancient soul can possess, Maesa seeks out the trapped spirit of one of Shadespire’s old lords to bargain for the knowledge he desires.
If you’ve been following the 2017 Black Library Advent Calendar throughout December then you’ll probably already know that three of the twenty-four stories were audio dramas in the Horus Heresy Primarchs series. These three stories are the first audio dramas we’ve seen so far in the Primarchs series, and two of them offer the first contributions to the Heresy in any form by the authors in question.
A suitably dark and grisly tale, Ian St. Martin’s short audio drama A Lesson in Darkness is a Primarchs story concerning Konrad Curze, primarch of the Night Lords. When the human world of Piamen refuses to join in Imperial unity, the Imperium sends Curze and his legion to bring the Piameni to heel. Newly reunited with his legion, Curze demonstrates his instinctive mastery of terror tactics as he brings compliance to the horrified population of Piamen. For his legion, and Captain Nivalus in particular, it’s an early taste of what’s to come under Curze’s leadership.
A short Warhammer 40,000 audio drama, CZ Dunn’s The Rage of Asmodai sees the Dark Angel Interrogator Chaplain join forces with a squad of Relictors, led by Captain Vidarna (remember him from Ben Counter’s Heart of Decay?), to hunt down a Chaos Space Marine who has led the local population in rebellion. Though their objectives differ, the two Chapters agree to work together and achieve both – Asmodai will get his prisoner, while Vidarna will get the ‘object’ the Relictors have come for.
A twenty-minute Shadespire audio drama from David Guymer, A Place of Reflection sets a story about identity, memory and purpose in the Mirrored City, a place of endless twisted reflections and tricks of the mind. Told from the usual Stormcast Eternals perspective it sees Moribus of the Sons of Mallus on the hunt for an elusive foe, focusing his mind by thinking back to the various deaths he’s suffered since his forging.
When is a Primarchs story not a primarchs story? How about when it focuses on Malcador the Sigillite, as in LJ Goulding’s audio drama First Lord of the Imperium. It might not directly feature any primarchs, but if anyone knows their secrets it’s Malcador, and when he’s called to the bedside of an old friend to witness her final moments he comforts her with talk of the primarchs’ purpose and the grand plan he and the Emperor hold for mankind. Even under these circumstances, however, is it possible to sift Malcador’s words for the actual truth?