Literature: Brothers of the Snake

Brothers Of The Snake is a Warhammer 40,000 novel by Dan Abnett, the adventures of Priad, a brother and then sergeant of the Iron Snakes Space Marine chapter.


Tropes included

  • Accidental Pun: In-universe, the Children of Khorne, a Chaos cult from a planet whose main produce is... yes, corn. The Inquisitor sent to investigate laments that the pun seems lost on everyone but him.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Priad explains something to Petrok while being patched up after a battle.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Priad has to calm one.
  • Armor Is Useless: Discussed and averted, as light weaponry fails to penetrate the Power Armour. Played straight, however, when Snakes fight the Black Tusks, one of which has a weapon that makes a giant hole in one of Space Marines.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha:
    "Damocles, form and cover, Hades spread!"
  • Back for the Dead: Inquisitor Mabuse shows up in one story, then reappears in another only to die by the end of it.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Why Petrok insists on bringing Damocles squad to battle, even when Priad insists they're not combat-ready.
  • Big Bad: The Dark Eldar, or more specifically, an unnamed Archon. While they have been raiding and plaguing the Reef Stars for decades, they eventually lured an entire WAAAGH! there to make life difficult for the Iron Snakes. That was a plan that was at least ''50 years'' in the works.
  • Blood from the Mouth: As always a sign of Chaos.
  • Booby Trap: While the Iron Snakes were trying to retake a city from them, some Dark Eldar mine a critical location before withdrawing. They were clever enough to place them in phosphor vent, so the entire city would have blown up, so the Iron Snakes had to physically carry the bombs out and hope that they don't go off.
  • Book Ends:
    • Both first and last story end up on Baal Solock, and in both Priad refuses to take part in post-battle festives to his honor.
    • The last story opens and closes with a trench dive, although it's two different people who make it.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": In the Reef Stars, the Dark Eldar are known as primuls.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Orkish artifact from the first story is being used by Dark Eldar to lure a WAAAGH! to the Reef Worlds.
    • The venom from snake bite one of the Marines gets early in the story saves his life by the end of the book.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A Khorne-devoted villagers torture one of the Snakes to sacrifice him for their god.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The chapter names ("Black Gold", "Blue Blood", "Crimson Wake", etc.), each of which were a different mission, or otherwise an adventure that Squad Damocles goes through.
  • Come to Gawk: Khiron thinks that this is what Priad's doing when he comes to his cell. Subverted, as Priad has come to recruit him for his squad.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Autolochus the Venerable Dreadnought, of all people.
    I'm always awake. Noise you idiots make, it's hard to slumber.
  • Declaration of Protection: Priad gives one to the farmers. He's forced to rescind it once he realizes that they're the Chaos cultists he's been hunting.
  • Die Laughing: One of the dark eldar raiders killed by Priad and Antoni on Baal Solock has the last laugh after realising that the plan to lure a WAAAGH! using an Ork relic will succeed, despite the entire raiding party being wiped out.
  • Distant Finale: The last story ends with the narrator describing events ten years later.
  • Distressed Dude: Khiron is this for a moment, given that he's standing on a rock staring at giant sea wyrms trying to eat him, carrying just a spear.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Librarian Petrok, whose job partly is using his powers for prognostication.
  • Due to the Dead: The Snakes collect gene-seed and burn the body, then throw the ashes into the oceans of Ithaka. If a sea wyrm eats them, it's considered a good omen.
  • Dug Too Deep: In Black Gold, the refinery crew dug out some Chaos substance which proceeded to possess them all.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Antoni inverts this, putting away her official portrait for being too good.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Autolochus' line as cited under Deadpan Snarker? The second thing he says upon his arrival, in fact.
  • The Evil Prince: Upon learning that the old queen was murdered, Priad quickly concludes that the new king is the murderer. The Inquisitor tells him that one doesn't have to be a detective to take such a guess.
  • Eye Scream: Natus loses both of his eyes in fight against the greenskins, but has his hearing improved to compensate for it before artificial replacements can be put in place. The impact was so strong, his head has to be wrapped in metal band so that the skull won't fall apart.
  • Fearless Fool: Khiron observes that folly and courage are not always distinguishable.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Antoni and Priad, human clerk and Space Marine.
  • First Name Basis: Petrok insists on this with Priad, who doesn't always obey, given that one is the Chief Librarian of the chapter, and the other is a "mere" Brother-Sergeant.
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: The Inquisitor does this on their behalf.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself Man: Priad smacks Natus across the head to get his mind off the blasphemous texts on the Khorne-doll when the latter is frozen in terror by looking at them.
  • Glamour Failure: Seeing the chaos beast with the naked eye among the cultists. Also, the one that infiltrated the Chapter.
  • Heroic Bystander: Antoni, who insists on watching Priad in action and blows up two primuls herself.
  • Heroic Dog: Princeps, the attack dog who follows Antoni and Priad on their errand, in the first story.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • Xander has little patience and is quick to get annoyed.
    • Once Autolochus is awoken, he can't stay in one place and keeps on prowling the ship from one end to the other.
  • Human Sacrifice: Some cultists catch and try to sacrifice an Iron Snake.
  • I Meant to Do That: When one of the Space Marines misses the shot that's supposed to blow the laid charges, he claims he was just checking the distance.
  • In Harm's Way: Like all Space Marines.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The first story is from the POV of the human on the world Priad visits.
  • Karmic Death: The primuls which lured the WAAAGH! to the Reef Stars are later slaughtered by the greenskins who were lured to their planet in the same way.
  • Kill It with Fire: The only way to ensure that a daemon doesn't escape to another host is to burn it.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Antoni never had children.
  • Manly Tears:
    Salt-water ran from his eye corners. The Rite had begun. Removing his glove, Priad wiped the tears from his eye and marked the emblem of the Iron Snakes on the bulkhead. His men watched him do it.
    Sometimes the Rite was special. Sometimes, you didn't need the flask.
  • The Medic: Apothecaries Memmon and Khiron. Who also double as:
    • Combat Medic: Both space marines are easily the equal of their brothers in combat.
  • Mobile Maze: Under Chaos, a labyrinth can't be trusted
  • The Mole: A Chaos thing.
  • Mood Whiplash: The beginning of the last story starts with the Marines getting out-ambushed by their trainees and everyone laughing, but then suddenly turns serious when it turns out that one of the trainees used to commotion to attempt the trench dive and died as a result.
  • Morton's Fork: An ordeal will prove Khiron's innocence if it kills him; if he survives, he's guilty.
  • Nice to the Waiter: A princess who tries to order the Space Marines around also strikes her guard for disagreeing with her.
  • No Sense of Humor: Priad doesn't understand humor even when it's quite obvious, like when Petrok claims he has killed four or five equerries for being annoying.
    • Inverted with Petrok, who sometimes seems like the only Iron Snake with any sense of humor.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: In first story, the Iron Snakes decided that one Priad is enough to deal with primuls invasion of the planet. They are proven correct.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Aekon hallucinates, briefly of one, before realizing it's Khiron.
  • The Power of Friendship: Petrok urges Priad to consider this in his squad's wrong doing.
  • The Promise: Priad promises to protect some civilians.
  • Punny Name: Children of Khorne, from corn-producing planet. The Inquisitor calls the little corn dolls they use as totem "Khorne dolls", but the pun is, sadly, lost on Space Marines.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In Black Gold the Marines take the facility, but lose three of their own and it turns out that the refinery has to be destroyed either way, which could've been done from the orbit.
  • Reality Ensues: Discussed then played straight. When hunting for cultists and possibly more, Memmon the apothecary removes his helmet to get a sniff of the air to get a sense of things. Priad notes that he would have berated anybody else for leaving his head unprotected, but Memmon's sense is good enough that he let's it go. For that very reason, he gets killed a few moments later.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: A sceptre and an orb, which are supposed to react if the heir is improper. They double as a can for Sealed Evil.
  • Royal Brat: One princess at the coronation, who tries to shoot the Sergeant with a lasgun built into her ring when he refuses to kowtow to her. The marine's response can be summed up as "Did you really just do that?"
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The regalia was meant to contain this; they managed to seal it up before it escaped.
  • Shout-Out: Children of Khorne to Stephen King's Children of the Corn. As a bonus, they come from corn-producing planet.
  • The Squad: Squad Damocles, natch. Lead by Raphon when Priad joins up, who takes the torch-er, Lightning Claw fairly early in the narrative.
  • Staff of Authority: One of the coronation regalia.
  • Take Up My Sword: When Sergeant Raphon is mortally wounded, he detaches his relic Lightning Claw and gives it to Priad. It's implied that this is how leadership has been passed down for much of Damocles Squad's existence, since the Lightning claw originally belonged to Sergeant Damocles.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: When comatose, Petrok sends his consciousness to Priad's dreams to warn him of incoming Dark Eldar.
  • Time Skip: There are huge time gaps between each story, ranging from two months to five years.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The township of Hekat is a hotbed of Chaos cult.
  • Weather Dissonance: At first rain on a desert world is taken as a good omen, but it soon becomes clear that something is wrong.
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: An Inquisitor appears in two stories. In the second, he alerts Priad to his concealed identity.
  • With Due Respect: Priad, arguing with Petrok.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: They try to protect the farmers.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: The trench dive, where young initiates and Iron Snakes dive a very deep trench and leave an offering at the bottom. It used to be an unofficial tradition of the chapter, but is now officially forbidden due to too many deaths attempting the dive. Aekon makes the trench dive in order to prove himself, given he's the youngest member of Damocles. Priad is incensed when he later learns that everyone in Damocles has done the trench dive except him. He's also thrown for a loop when he learns that Chief Librarian Petrok has also made the dive.