Quite recently I reviewed Realmslayer. Realmslayer by David Guymer was a set of four audio dramas set in Warhammer’s Age Of Sigmar universe. That universe is much closer to a traditional fantasy. But Warhammer 40,000? That invented the term grimdark. Grimdark boils down to being an extremely violent – but not completely heartless – dystopian setting. It is definitely the darkest of the three main Warhammer settings. And I love it!
My review for today is based on a very short 45 minute long three-hander audio drama. For the unaware a two-hander is a play with only two principal parts or principal actors. A three-hander is the same basic concept but with three parts and three actors instead of two.
The story begins simply. Our storyteller an old man by the name of Teecius is due to die for the second time and go to the reward promised to a bargain maker like himself. But before he does he must tell the story of what happened when he died the first time.
Teecius awakes to find himself in a purely alien place. Somewhere that is truly and utterly wrong on every conceivable level. Somewhere that is home to abominations and gods of Chaos. The warp. The warp is the most dangerous place in existence to the point that even the super men and demigods of Warhammer are terrified of it. Some channel its power for deals or bargains whilst others use it as a desperate means of transport. But Teecius isn’t alone. He has company. A daemon prince. The first and most powerful of the Daemon Princes of Chaos. Be’lakor. And it is time to pay the price.
The name Ahriman applies to the other principle character. Ahriman is – or was – a member of The Thousand Sons, a legion that served the Emperor of the Imperium of Man faithfully. But still they were declared a heretical legion and its members had something horrific happen to them. I mention this in passing because Teecius is mentioned as being an ex member of The Thousand Sons. But Ahriman has achieved a lot since then. Attained a lot of knowledge and more than a little power. But just why might he be here inside the warp? And what could a Daemon Prince offer him?
I won’t give anything more away because it is very short after all! And I do want my readers to listen for themselves.
The acting is very well done. Teecius as portrayed by Robin Bowerman has a perfect tone. Exactly the right voice for an good mix of tired old man, cowardly deal maker and absolutely terrified dying man. I would love to hear him in more productions in future. On the other hand Johnathan Keeble as Ahzek Ahriman is brilliantly performed. Keeble IS Ahriman. A powerful warrior from the glory days of the Imperium. One who has seen so much and yet has so much more to see. One who knows full well his own personal limits and seeks to extend them. One who would stand toe to toe with giants to achieve his goals.
The final actor to mention is Gareth Armstrong. He makes an excellent Daemon. His voice as Be’lakor is so deep, powerful and ominous. The kind of voice that screams ‘Go ahead! Fight me all you wish or bargain anyway you think you can. Even if you have something I want I can claim it and make you think you have the better of me.’ Be’lakor is fully aware of his own powers and thinks he’s better than all other daemons or mortals. Even better than those creatures which created him.
The only criticisms I have are relatively minor. First of all there is a pronunciation issue. The narrators all pronounce Ahriman as Ah-ree-man rather than my understanding from the books I have listened to with Ahriman as a major character as A-ri-man. The H is silent! …That gets annoying if you are a pedant like myself. My second criticism is more of a potential issue for other listeners than one that bothered me. The story does make a fair few references to previous events that a beginning listener would not be aware of however – and I speak from experience – they often get you curious. Just who are the other people or groups mentioned by Be’lakor or Teecius? And just what achievements could Ahriman manage next either in the next chronological story or what events happened in his personal history? I genuinely hope that some of my readers give Warhammer 40,000 a chance.
It is tales like The First Prince that make me love Warhammer. The stories of powerful warriors that stand alongside gods. The stories of resurrected ‘Gods’ from 10,000 years before. The stories of tragedies befalling the truly loyal while the heretics are rewarded. But there is so much more to it than that…
Indeed, Ahriman is a great man and he was one of the Imperium of Mankind’s finest. But you speak of 10,000 years ago. What if I told you there was one who stood so high some began to think him an equal to the God Emperor? Come, let us look back to the golden age and see he who was the Imperium’s favourite son.
Ok….There seems to be a creature of change that wants to show me something from 10,000 years ago. We are going to have to travel through the warp to get there so I’m probably going to have to disappear for a while. I’ll be back by April I promise. But I might have some company for a while.