A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.
-attr. Ancient Merican Philosophe and Alchemist Benyamin Franclen
I have found the Cake. It is no lie.
-Frostius the Sweet, Primarch of the Sons of Cake
“I was there the day Frostius found the cake,” he would say long past a time when it was no longer amusing. His brothers would sigh, anticipating the harrowing story that would follow those words. It was a tale of woe and of deliciousness and the consequences of the actions described would rock the Imperium to its very foundations.
The Great Crusade was midway through its second century and there was no place humanity’s reach did not stretch. The XXI Legion Astartes, known to the fledgling Imperium by their Low Gothic name of the Sons of Cake sat in orbit above a gently rotating sphere below. They had reached the western edges of known Imperial space and were intent on pushing the borders of the Imperium further into the darkness. Their battle barge, the seat of their legion, was known as Sweetness Incarnate and it was poised to deliver its cargo of Astartes with all the fury of an oven set to 500 degrees fahrenheit.
The planet was designated by Crusade cartographers as 2081-13. To the human inhabitants of the planet it was simply known as Bakery and unbeknownst to the Sons of Cake and their Primarch, it was to be the site of their ruination. The Sons of Cake took the planet’s name as an omen of the very best kind. In the ship’s Strategium/Bakery the legion’s officers were gathering to hear the words of their primarch.
Frostius sat enthroned in a massive edifice cunningly carved to resemble a bowl of frosting. He was resplendent in the armor that had been gifted to him by his brother, Ferrus Manus. It was colored flour white and trimmed in the colors of strawberries and chocolate. Enamel sprinkles stood out here and there in splashes of bright colors. From his mighty pauldrons and backpack rose inextinguishable candles that burned with the brightness of an open wood fired oven. A master-crafted chefs hat sat on his brow. Silence fell among the gathered captains as Frostius stood up and prepared to speak. He opened his arms, as if in benediction and the captains ceased their stirring and baking.
“My Sons! Brothers in the cake. Children of the Allbaker! We have gathered here on this most auspicious day to bring another human culture back into the light of the Emperor’s great ovens. As we were bred for war even as we bake bread for war, so we shall descend on this planet with mixing spoons raised in readiness. But remember, we keep our other hands extended in friendship, out of sweetness. This planet’s people has offered us no sign of resistance and so we will share our recipes with them even as they share their recipes with us. Now please, report to your Muffin-pattern drop pods and let humanity’s great and delicious cookbook be expanded.”
The primarch drew his great power cake slicer as legion baker serfs ran forward with the specially prepared Crustulum Glorium and the primarch began cutting the massive cake into slices. The legion captains along with the Imperial Army commanders strode forward as legion serfs handed them each a slice. This was a time honored legion ritual and all would partake. After the ceremony was concluded the legion’s captains dispersed to see to their companies before the drop. None knew it at the time, but the Sons of Cake were marching to their sugar-coated doom.
Chapter Master Pan Kuchen of the Sublime Strawberries chapter of the Sons of Cake Legion strode down the companionway en route to the embarkation zone. His equerry and Captain of the 5th Company of the Strawberries, Janus Waffles, hurried to keep pace with him.
Kuchen nodded to Astartes and serf alike as he made his way to the Drop Pods. The smell of baking bread, pies, and cakes suffused the air of the Sweetness Incarnate’s decks. Even as the Astartes made ready for war they stirred, mixed and baked using the various kitchen related attachment to their armor. The Sublime Strawberry’s armor was a light shade of pink with darker red trim. Around each eye lense was affixed in gold the image of a strawberry denoting their favorite choice of ingredient.
The Sublime Strawberries stood in high favor with Frostius. They, along with the Choice Chocolate, and Regal Red Velvet chapters, formed the elite of the Sons of Cake. They were a cut above other chapters such as the Terrifying Tunas, Brazen Beef and Mendicant Mushrooms, whose choice of ingredient was not quite as sound nor as delicious as their brothers. In fact those chapters even flirted with heresy by preferring the baking of pies rather than cake. Nevertheless all Chapters and flavors of the Sons of Cake made ready to descend to the planet below.
As Kuchen emerged into the bustle of the drop pod bay he noticed a knot of his warriors surrounding the terminator armored figure of Frostius’ equerry, Gordonius Ramsay. Kuchen misliked the man, he was only a demi-Astartes and a vulgar mouthed *****. Nevertheless he was widely respected for his skills in the art of the bake. He had been with Frostius on the Legion’s homeworld and acted as a father figure to the primarch before their discovery by the Emperor. He had been too old to accept the gene-forging of becoming a true Astartes and had merely been granted juvenat treatment as well as some limited gene-forging. He had become a bitter man who used far too much vinegar in his cooking.
Kuchen granted Ramsay a perfunctory salute as Ramsay noticed his presence. With a sneer on his face the equerry said, “Chapter Master, Frostius, deliciousness upon his name, has granted the Strawberries the honor of accompanying him to meet with the planetary leaders.”
Kuchen and all the other officers dropped to their knees as they were granted the highest of honors. “Please relay to Frostius, deliciousness upon his name, that the Strawberries are rendered speechless and we of course would be overjoyed to serve him as always.”
“Rise my children,” said Frostius as the enormous primarch emerged from the shadows. Joyous cries “Dulcisian” erupted from the assembled Astartes. In the language of their homeworld it meant “The Sweet One.” It was the legion’s private nickname for their beloved primarch.
“You need never interrupt your baking on account of me.” The men, were humbled by the sweet tones of their primarch’s voice. “Kuchen, you may give the men the order to embark. We descend to the planet’s surface.”
“Of course, my lord. Strawberries! Make for the drop-pods! Our Primarch has spoken.” The men hurried to obey as Waffles followed his chapter master to their stormbird, Strawberries and Cream.
Muffin pattern drop pods slammed into the plains of Bakery, just outside the planet’s primary settlement. Clouds of super-heated flour billowed out from the drop-pods and the sweet scent of freshly baked pastries suffused the air. The Sons of Cake had landed in full legion strength.
The chapter master’s stormbird, Strawberries and Cream, waited a few minutes and touched down behind the massing legionnaires. Pink armored marines jostled with those in brown and grey as red and chocolate hued sergeants barked orders. Waffles ran his practiced gaze over the chaos and saw the organization that mortals would miss. He watched the pride that filled the Strawberry marines as their chapter master emerged from the steam-enshrouded interior. Then Frostius descended. A collective gasp arose from the gathered legion. Astartes sank to their knees and offered the fruits of their baking in supplication. The primarch would stop to offer a quiet word or sample some of the baked goods from the legionnaires.
+Dulcisian, what are your orders?+ voxed Kuchen.
“We march on the city, my sons.”
Waffles opened his vox frequency and began relaying orders to the legion captains. Forming up into massive chapters, the Sons of Cake marched on the capital in the full panoply of a parade with their primarch at their head. Drums and fanfares erupted from the legion’s column. Unlike their brothers in the Alpha Legion, Night Lords, or Raven Guard, the Sons of Cake preferred to march to war with their traditional battle songs. As they marched in lockstep, marine’s stirred bowls full of batter and placed them in their backpack mounted ovens. The cakes would be presented as gifts to the compliant humans they would encounter in the city. The joyous cries of the “Happy Birthday Song,” an ancient Terran celebratory hymn associated with the baking of cakes, rang out in the hot, oveny air.
A strange sight met them at the entrance to the walled city. Waffle’s eyes widened as he beheld the magnificent walls of the city.
He breathed into the vox network +Those aren’t bricks. They’re fruit cakes held together with frosting. Truly this is a blessed place!+
As the Legion passed beneath the shadows of the massive gate and entered the city proper they were bombarded with a tremendous roar. The entire population had turned out to witness their reconnection with Terra. The people wore strange masks that seemed to be carved from hardened frosting. The colors matched those of the legion chapters, with the exception of the pie-based ones. The color of strawberry, chocolate, and red velvet took pride of place and had the greatest representation among the populace. Legionnaires dropped out of column and bestowed baked goods on celebrating individuals.
Tears glistened in the legionnaires eyes as they marched through the city streets. Not since they had left their homeworld of Hotpointia Ovenus had they received such a joyous compliance. They finally emerged into the central plaza, their armored boots sinking into the biscuit paved central square.
Frostius himself fell to his knees, tears streaming from his eyes, as he gazed upon the towering edifice that graced his sight.
“I have seen this in my dreams. It is an image drawn straight from our homeworld’s sacred myths.”
There before the Legion sat the titanic edifice of a throne crafted from what appeared to be millions of different cakes.
It was a sight that had only been echoed a few times in all the glorious history of this newborn Imperium. Only at the great triumph at Ullanor when many of the legions gathered to celebrate their victory over the foul Orks, and the Word Bearer’s rebuke at Monarchia had a legion kneeled in the dust. The Sons of Cake had sunk to their knees at the sight before them. It had affirmed all of their innermost beliefs in an echo of the ancient rites and visions from their homeworld. There, in the central plaza of the city, towered a titanic edifice glorifying the art of baking. It was a throne composed of millions of different cakes and it dwarfed many of the tallest buildings they had seen in the centuries of the Great Crusade.
The only marines still standing were those legionnaires who hailed from the birthworld of humanity, Terra. They had formed chapters that preferred, not the baking of cakes, but rather pies. Frostius tolerated their presence and acted sweet before them, but still they were held in contempt by the vast majority of the legion. The Brazen Beef, the Terrifying Tuna, and the Mendicant Mushrooms stood unmoved by the throne that had so affected their legion brothers. Chapter Master Boeuf Guiness of the Brazen Beef voxed his friend, Kuchen of the Sublime Strawberries, +Pan, what in the Emperor’s name is going on here?+
The only response he received was a drool-filled moan as the marines from Hotpointia Ovenus lost all control of their faculties.
+Brothers arm your bolters. Something is very wrong here. Secure the perimeter. Keep the crowds away. We must consider the possibility that some unknown bio-weapon is affecting the Cake Chapters. I will call in extraction for the primarch.+
Receiving multiple acknowledgements from the captains under his command, Guiness ran forward and grabbed Frostius by one of the decorative candles burning on his shoulder pad.
+My lord! What ailment grips the legion? We must withdraw from this place!+
Frostius looked up at the chapter master with haunted eyes. There was no recognition that he knew who Guiness was. The primarch blinked and flashed a sickly, reassuring smile. Sweat stood out on the primarch’s flour-dusted face. Steadying himself on Guiness’ armor, Frostius stepped up as the chapter master grunted at the addition of weight.
“My thanks, Boeuf. All is well, it is just, this confirms everything the legion stands for. It is a glorious Cake Throne, drawn from our deepest legends. We…were merely startled…This is a glorious day for our legion.”
The Brazen Beef commander nodded, but he was far from reassured. Suspicion was written across his face. Before he could say anything, two of the marines under his command, still in the process of dicing up vegetables for the addition to pies they were making, came forward and made the sign of the Aquila.
+Commander, five civilians who are claiming to be the high priests of this place are demanding to meet with the primarch. They say they know what is happening and that all of this has been ordained by something they call the Cake God.+
+There are no gods, men, only the Empieror, beloved by all, and the Impierial Truth.+
Frostius gasped and surprise was written across his broad features, so like his father’s. He quickly covered it up and said, “We will proceed. Bring these… Cake Priests to me.”
The legion officers gathered around their primarch as the planetary delegates, these so-called “Priests of the Cake” came forward. The priests were bedecked in elaborate robes that mimicked the ancient accoutrements of Terran bakers. They carried gigantic ceremonial whisk-staves made from some sort of white chocolate that did not melt. Flour and granulated sugar cascaded from their robes with every step. When they spoke frosting drooled from their mouths. Their voices were as silky smooth as fluffy whipped cream. Globules of custard pooled at their feet with every step. Symbols of cakes as well as eight-pointed stars crafted from birthday candles adorned their robes and hurt the eyes of all those who looked upon them. The symbols seemed to squirm and the candles looked to glow with a strange inner light.
They met Frostius’ eyes in a rare show of courage. Most mortals upon gazing upon the genetic perfection of a primarch were struck blind or suffered spontaneous seizures. In Frostius’ presence the effects were slightly different, they were overcome with the overpowering urge to produce baked goods. Frosting would suddenly erupt from pores or their hair would erupt in flames, in a grotesque parody of a birthday candle. Imperial scientists had thus far been unable to account for the strange phenomena other than project that it came from some latent psychic talent being manifested by the cake-loving primarch.
“Greetings, Frostius Dulcisian, Favored son of the Cake God.”
Kuchen, having recovered his faculties after the bizarre incident with the cake throne, half drew his sword, anger flashing in his eyes.
+You do not speak that name. I should kill you where you stand, mortal.+
The High Priest was unflinching at the naked threat provided by the growling Astartes and calmly spoke. “The Cake God has shown me my fate. It is not ordained that I die this day. I will not be killed at your hands,” he said. A knowing smile spread across the priest’s face and he slowly raised his hand to point at Boeuf Guiness, “He will be.”
Guiness’ eyes widened and he drew his bolt pistol and drew a bead on the high priest. +You spit lies priest. What is this devilry? Frostius, my lord, we should leave this place and obliterate it from orbit.+
“You will do no such thing. Frostius you will be revealed your sugar-coated destiny in this place. Today is a glorious day, for today you find the Cake God. He has worked towards this moment for such a long time. There is no turning back from this. To find your true place in this delicious universe, you must venture into the Throne of Cakey Goodness. All will be made clear within.”
Frostius stared into the distance for a moment, his eyes unfocused as he was lost deep in his sugary thoughts. His equerry, Ramsay, was at his side, his vinegary and salty face alight with excitement, was pulling at Frostius’ pauldron urging him to accept the words of the priest. Finally, after several seconds, Frostius nodded, his face set in grim determination and looked at the priest.
“What must I do?”
The Cake Priest’s smile became even wider and he told the primarch, “You must simply enter the holy Throne of Cakes. All will be revealed within.”
Frostius nodded and gestured for several marines, including Waffles, Boeuf, and Kuchen to accompany him. They strode forth across the biscuit paved square and after many minutes of crunchy walking they arrived at the side of the Throne.
The Cake Priest bellowed a single word in a vile, yet beguiling and sweet sounding language, “LEMBAS!”
With a pneumatic hiss, a previously unseen door opened in the base of the Throne of Cakes. Flour and sugar flew from the innards in gigantic clouds of white powder. It set the marines to coughing as it overwhelmed their advanced physiology. The small coterie of mortal priests were unaffected. Waffles, Boeuf, Kuchen, and Frostius, along with a smattering of other marines in the red colored livery of the Regal Red Velvet chapter entered into the throne. What they would see in its sugary depths would forever change them and bring them to their frosting coated with whipped cream and cherries on top doom.
Strange noises echoed through the vast halls. Sounds such as roaring ovens, keening mixers, and other less identifiable noises resounded in the complex. The mulititude of multi-colored cakes wreaked havoc on the finely tuned senses of the Adeptus Astartes marines. One of the Red Velvet marines stuck his helmet in the mixing bowl in front of him and whisked his head to red ruin. Boeuf was furiously creating pies in an effort to forestall the creeping insanity that was affecting the marines. Only Frostius and the Cake Priests remained aloof from the madness.
Soon they emerged into a vast chamber, the center of which appeared to be a massive lake of molten frosting. What appeared to be cake based lifeforms, completely unknown to Imperial records, capered and gamboled about the shore of the lake. Some stepped into the frosting and were subsumed, while others emerged from the molten lake newly formed. Each was babbling in thousands of tongues. Each of the languages seemed intimately familiar and as if they could understand them. It almost seemed to the marines as if they were crowing “Cake for the Cake God. Frosting for the Frosting Throne,” but that was surely blasphemy and floury absurdity.
Suddenly one of the nearby cake-things leaped through the air and opened its layers wide as it clamped down on Kuchen’s head. With a muffled cry, thick with the sound of frosting invading his helmet. Boeuf reacted instinctively reaching for his friend, seeking to use his mixing spoon to scrape the beast off from his fellow chapter master’s helmet. One of the Cake Priests interposed himself and said, “Do not interrupt this process. He is becoming one with the Cake. It is his pre-ordained fate.”
+By the Empieror’s oath, I will not interrupt this process.+ Boeuf roughly shoved the priest into the lake of frosting and the man screamed as he was consumed, only to have a simulacrum walk out moments later. A frosting coated approximation of a man, with a large cupcake in the shape of an eye stared its cyclopean and candied hatred out at the pie-loving chapter master.
Boeuf finally gave up on his friend, seeing the vital signs slowly wink out. He was beyond help. Gibbering cake-things began flying through the air and attaching themselves to the other Sons of Cake. The party rushed towards the beach in the unseemly haste of revelers at a birthday party that has been rained upon as they seek shelter indoors.
As they reached the shore, a boat awaited them in the shape of a baking tin. It had no discernable means of locomotion. The Astartes vaulted into its embrace and began firing from within. The Cake Priests calmly strode into the lake and began pushing them deeper into the chamber.