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Subject: The Great Marine Swap Fiction Crusade Thread-Two Stories Added 8/2
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model Inquisitorial Henchman Natalia- No Reprsentative Model
Prologue 1- The Induction
Commissar Northrop clasped the handhold, standing with sword gripped as the Chimera trundled forward over the rough ground. He peered through the view ports a choking dust made by the innumerable other Chimeras and tanks that made up the spearhead of the Imperial attack. Following behind would be the infantry, marching into position to meet the enemy. Artillery support would already be in position by the time the Tyranids attacked…
A raucous laughter broke his concentration. Turning back, he glared at his charges, elements of the regiment he was attached to. Ten men and women all slapped their knees and threw their heads back in amusement. Most of them sat, some on the single bench that straddled one side of the transport’s hold, and a trio sitting in the corner on ammunition and supply boxes. All the soldiers held their lasguns at rest, wearing the flak armor of imperial guardsmen.
One of the two standing men was Sergeant Kelso. He was by the front of the Chimera, near the hatch that led to the cockpit. His visage was hardly ever without a grin, but he bore the scars and premature aging of a veteran who saw plenty of fighting and the horrors of the galaxy. He was most likely the one to of cracked the joke and made everyone laugh.
Commissar Northrop rarely smiled. He rarely liked jokes. He was here to watch over the soldiers, and kill any who deviated from their loyalty or oaths to the Emperor.
He chooses to ride with this squad specifically because of the color of their leader. While a respected and combat experienced noncom, his antics and buffoonery when out of combat caused unease with regimental command. While the suspicions were there, none warranted any serious disciplinary action. And his actual acts of humor were in and of themselves minor and harmless.
But Northrop never took that chance. Any threat to the integrity of the regiment would be dealt with, no matter how small.
Even the three soldiers who sat by themselves and seemed to separate from the rest of the squad were under Northrop’s watch. They were friends to was sure. Their aloof attitude spoke of comradery between the three, a bond that was probably forged sometime in the distant past. Natalia, the female of the group, seemed to be the ringleader. Her resolve was strong, and her presence under fire and ability to think outside the box could make her a potential candidate for promotion one of these days. The other two, Nix and Hasheed were opposites of each other; Nix the silent and brooding member of the group, and Hasheed the brazen and loudmouth. Regardless, they worked under Natalia in some form of informal command structure within the squad. Despite their allegiance to one another, all three still followed Sergeant Kelso with great zeal.
But that friendship could threaten the integrity of the unit. If it ever did, the commissar promised himself they would all die together, right then and there. *****************************************************************************************************************************
A hot flash blinded Hasheed. He cried in pain, but could not remember what it was that caused him such torment. The blinding flash subsided, but left the soldier muddled, unable to determine where he was.
Infinite blackness stretched before Hasheed; a yawning chasm that would swallow him forever if he were to fall. Hanging on the precipice of nothingness…he felt as if his fate would be decided in the next few moments…. ***************************************************************************************************************************** The Tyranid swarm had broken through the Imperial lines. Individual guardsmen were fighting for their lives now, hand to hand and sometimes group together in phalanx formations, their lasgun fire keeping them safe in false pockets of security as the chaos swirled around them.
Natalia shouldered her burden as best she could, the limp body of her comrade and friend Hasheed slumped on her back as she made for the Chimera transport.
Sergeant Kelso urged his several remaining troops to their ride, imploring them to hurry. Less than a hundred yards away was the leading line of the hormagaunts- small, ferocious bio-organisms of the xenos horde with sharp claws and ravenous hungers. Countless numbers of them swarmed the stragglers, pulling down the slow and injured. At their ankles were their lesser cousins, a carpet of creatures that resembled miniature versions of the hormagaunts. Ripper by name, their greatest threat was their numbers, legions higher than any other Tyranid creature ever encountered.
Natalia did not want to think about the fate of those she had left behind. She sniped a shot from her lasgun, and then legged the last few feet to the transport, throwing her gun in first through the back hatch and then lifting Hasheed up, a fellow soldier named Nix grabbing his injured body by the feet as they hauled him up.
Kelso came in last, leaping and shouting at the top of his lungs for the drivers to floor it. From the cockpit came an explicative and an affirmation, followed by the engines gunning and the whole vehicle lurching into motion, everyone jolted from their feet as the Chimera jumped into motion, kicking up mud and dirt as the tracks spun at full velocity.
Everyone exhausted, the remaining troops slumped into seats or on assorted supply boxes. Natalia took Hasheed’s body and placed him on the bench with Nix’s help. Telling Nix to remain with Hasheed, she ran to the first aid kit on the wall and found the bandages and medicine stuffed into metal tins. Grabbing what she needed, she returned to Hasheed’s side, unfurling the bandages as Nix ripped off the flak armor and jacket, revealing a festering gash across the chest.
Natalia briefly looked to Sergeant Kelso as he watched out the lasgun emplacements on the side of the transport. Despite the grime and blood covering his face, Natalia saw true fear on his visage as he viewed the wider battle from his small view slit. He also seemed several years older than he looked before the battle. The laugh lines that creased his aged face seemed to grow further wrinkles, as if the past few hours had added another decade of life from the horrors he saw. Perhaps that was the dirt causing the wrinkles to look deeper and more numerous than they actually were.
But he had to be concerned about his own fate, for he personally shot down the Commissar that was ordering the regiment to form a futile, last ditch effort to hold the line. In that one moment of enraged clarity, Kelso took his pistol and drove the bullet home right in the back of the head of the Imperial officer.
That moment was a critical one, for any further hesitation would have seen the entire platoon decimated, swept up in the bloodbath that was still ongoing as Nix applied the salves to Hasheed’s torn torso, and Natalia started dressing the minor wounds across her friend’s left arm.
As it was, half the regiment was dead, now being devoured by the Emperor knew what that stalked the killing fields after the Tyranids had swept the field of living enemies. Other units were not so lucky. Natalia saw an entire squad of Ogryns consumed by raveners as they burst from the ground and tore into the bulky abhumans with abandon. What she thought was a squad of Armageddon Steel Legionnaires that had held the left flank of the Imperial army was quickly consumed by a flock of gargoyles that blotted out the sky. Their transports offered little protection as larger winged Tyranids swooped in from behind the gargoyles, lifting up Chimera after Chimera into their taloned grasp, and flipping them over end over end, or driving beaks and talons and claws into hatches and vulnerable side armors, allowing their smaller brethren to breach the tank’s interior in order to deal with the defenders within.
She still remembered the haunted screams from the vox-caster as desperate officers tried in vain to call in support for their beleaguered positions. If their positions were already lost, some chanted into their equipment, praying to the Emperor for protection before blood curdling cries ceased their canticles.
A tear that trickled down her cheek was quickly wiped away. She looked around at the other soldiers, too intent on their deep fatigue to watch her specifically. Nix tapped her shoulder, and she turned to regard him. He indicated for her to help him prop Hasheed up on the bench. He needed his chest wound covered, or else he would probably not make it…. ************************************************************************************************************************************** Hasheed felt the darkness recede….but only by a hair of a fraction. He still felt like he was on tip toes, that any movement forward would cause him to take that plunge.
It was a desperate feeling that he felt. He was alone, and he was in danger. He couldn’t remember how he came to be on a cliff in the middle of the night, not knowing where he was or what he was doing the second before he found himself in this frightening place.
He did have fleeting images of what may have been, but they were too undistinguished to be made out in any detail. He saw…metal, dirt…and people, lots and lots of people…maybe animals? It was like trying to remember a dream.
But he couldn’t think too long on those whimsical images. He had to focus on not taking that final step off the ledge… **********************************************************************************************************************
The escarpment’s walls gave Natalia a sense of relief.
Towering steel with cannons and men to patrol the parapets; this was a bastion of mortal might that she desperately pinned her hope to that it could stop the Tyranid swarm.
The great metal doors opened, revealing ranks upon ranks of reserves that were swarming the interior, lining up in columns to march out and face the Tyranid menace. Camps and buildings were buzzing with activity as armaments and tanks were being brought out from machine shops and from bunkers. Officers and storm troopers flecked the masses, their presence offering order and stability to the chaos of troops coming out to the battlefield and the limping remnants of an army drudging back in to lick their wounds.
Natalia’s sense of relief was humbled by her shame as she realized that she was one of the sad few who had made it back, their tails between their legs. Looking out the view slits, she saw some of the guardsmen turn their heads to the line of battered tanks and transports entering the compound. Some wore blank expressions, others the look of grim determination. A few soldiers smiled in derision or snickered into their sleeves, laughing at the expense of those that didn’t die, or so Natalia guessed.
But the sacrifice of the army that was essentially no more had bought these men time to prepare, time to launch the counterattack. Even now, the skies still hummed with activity as Imperial Navy vessels kept coming in from orbit, dropping in tanks and troops as fast as they could. While they had air superiority, they needed it to get as many armaments and personnel planetside. The Tyranid swarm was notorious for their numbers. Once the gargoyles and other winged monstrosities arrived, extraction and resupplying would be impossible until the battle was over and the cloud of hostiles cleared from the skies.
Natalia kept Hasheed’s head propped into her lap. He was still unconscious, but his breathing was normal. Thankfully, the poisons secreted by the hormagaunt that clawed him were neutralized by the vaccine found within the first aid kit. He would need to be moved to one of the medical bunkers regardless.
Nix sat on a supply box next to the bench. He was still intently focused on Hasheed, keeping his gaze squarely on the man’s listless form. He only turned away once after his wounds were tended to, and that was to look into Natalia’s face, concern deep on his handsome face, his deep blue eyes tinged with sorrow.
Both Hasheed and Nix were Natalia’s lifelong friends, knowing one another since their early days on the dusty hive world of Morlas. They were inducted into the Imperial Guard on the same day, as all had shared the same birth year. Luckily, they were trained together and placed within the same regiment, the 152nd. A few other childhood acquaintances of theirs had also made the arduous journey through the guard ranks with them. However, all of them were now dead, the last few left for the feasting back on the battlefield.
Of all the worlds that they fought through, muddled through, and sometimes had to escape from, this was the first that had utterly swallowed their regiment. Nearly ten thousand veterans had flocked to Worchester Prime of the 152nd to stave off a revitalized splinter fleet of Hive Kraken. Now…Natalia couldn’t be too sure if the regiment was even close to several hundred effectives or less. Her brief glances outside told a story of multiple shattered remnants of a regiment lurching back along with them, some too few to even count on two hands. Only a handful of them even had one transport to their ranks.
The Morlassian Chimera finally cleared the gates. Keeping in line with a convoy of other dusty vehicles, mechanics and engineers busily kept motioning outside with light sticks to drivers, showing them where to park. Swarming the vehicles was personnel and medics, troops rushing to get out as officers barked orders and regiments fell in.
As her chimera parked, Sergeant Kelso came out of the cockpit, his face washed and his aged face clean again. He still had the wrinkle lines from both his prior jolly self and the new, hardened traitor he had to become in order to save his men from the commissar’s suicidal orders.
Everyone inside the transport looked at their leader. He looked over them. All of them shared a look of knowing, knowledge that even though none of the squad would tell of what their sergeant did because of the bonds of loyalty, somehow the event had to of been known to the higher ups in some way.
That was why when the squad finally exited the back of the chimera; Natalia was hardly surprised when an escort of military police following a grim looking fellow in carapace armor walked straight up Sergeant Kelso. With a wave of his hand, two of his men came forward and grabbed the sergeant by either of his arms, roughly hauling him away amidst a silent exchange of stares and glances from the surrounding guardsmen.
The military police officer stayed behind momentarily to watch as Hasheed’s lifeless form was carried from the back of the chimera, two nurses carrying him by stretcher to the medical bunker, their procession following the dozens of others as wounded men either dragged themselves in for convalescence or were dragged in turn by orderlies or fellow guardsmen.
Natalia was so focused on Hasheed’s departure that she did not notice the man in carapace armor staring intently at her as her wounded comrade entered the medical station. His glare was only a few moments long, but the thin smile that creased his face was fleeting at best, for he turned back the way he came, following the patrol of men that he had brought out in order to rescue the sergeant from summary execution.
The real military police were making their way to arrest Sergeant Kelso at that very moment. ********************************************************************************************************************************** Hasheed was surprised.
He felt himself step back from the edge. He wasn’t quite sure what was making him do that.
The darkness lightened a bit too, becoming an inky purple that still surrounded him. The images that haunted him coalesced into greater detail. The people he could see were armed. They carried guns and swords, and they were covered in dirt. They fought against creatures he could not recognize. They had teeth and claws and killed. They killed.
A woman’s head came into view for a brief moment. He thought he recognized her, with red hair trailing out of her helmet, and a look of dread plastering her face. She was shouting, but he could not make out what it was that she was saying.
The image disappeared, hiding amongst the other things he saw. He wondered who she was, and why she had tears that trickled down from her green eyes… ************************************************************************************************************************************* Nix watched as the procession escorting Sergeant Kelso departed, and another bodyguard of military police following a Commissar approached. They’re gait was swift and merciless as they wove between the vehicles and blood stained warriors in their approach. Nix could not gauge where they were going, but they were heading in his direction.
Nix paid only a second more attention to them as he turned toward Natalia, still looking longingly after the medical bunker where their friend Hasheed was taken into. Nix was awash in emotional turmoil, regret that he wasn’t there to take Hasheed’s place when he was mauled by the Tyranid creature, fury at the loss of Kelso because of his actions to save the regiment, and above all else, sorrow that he could not comfort Natalia.
Placing a hand on Natalia’s shoulder, his lifelong friend tensed for a moment before all her stress melted away, blowing out a long breath and turning to Nix with mournful eyes. Nix was about to comfort her with the scant words he could provide, but the ground decided at that moment to rebel.
The ground shook and buildings groaned in protest as the entire fortress rattled and screamed in metallic agony as the earth beneath them undulated. Chimeras and forty ton tanks bounced about on armored tracks and reinforced wheels, churning side to side with the chaotic motion of the land. Men helplessly fell to the dirt, unable to stay erect in the tumult of the moment.
Nix caught Natalia in his embrace, falling to the ground with her and hugging her close to his chest. He could do nothing more than press up against her, watching as one chimera jumped up high enough to turn on its side and crush several wailing guardsmen under its massive weight. The smell of blood and dirt choked him as he took a steadying breath to remain calm. Fixating on the stench of caked blood and soiled clothing from a nightmarish battle that his comrades and he had left behind actually helped him keep at bay the helplessness he felt right at that moment as Natalia cried out Hasheed’s name and the lurching dread he got at the pit of his stomach welled up.
The dawning horror spoke not of the simple and humble ground causing the tremors. Rather, the first hand knowledge of the varied capabilities of the enemy caused his mouth to go dry. For erupting out of the ground was dozens of burrowing organisms launching out of holes bursting through the dirt, leaping upon the fallen Imperial guardsmen and laying waste to their demoralized foes.
Nix could do nothing but hold tight to Natalia as around him because a bloodbath of feeding Tyranids and exploding fountains of soil. *********************************************************************************** Why couldn’t he remember? Why couldn’t he think?!?
Hasheed clutched his head. He sat in a mire of thoughts that swirled and swirled around him, struggling in vain to remind him of what had happened. Each one was a puzzle piece, something that when put together in the right order would allow Hasheed to finally remember why he was here, why he was abandoned.
Crying in frustration, Hasheed threw his arms out, trying to seize the pictures of what he guessed was his recent past and wring out of them answers. But all of the images dissolved in his touch, slipping away to continue their orbit around him. Silently, they swirled around him in vigil, trying their mute best to make Hasheed remember.
Hasheed’s one consolation was that he knew he would not die. Walking away from the cliff, the land around him grew lighter until its texture was a dark grey. He could make out mist and clouds, but could not penetrate through their murky endlessness as he sought a way out.
All he could do was continue to ponder about what those images meant. *********************************************************************************************************************************** The Imperial response had degenerated into chaos.
Guardsmen ran about, madly fighting or fleeing for their lives as thousands upon thousands of Tyranid monstrosities sprang from the ground and descended from the skies. Gunships unleashed reckless strafes of missiles and lascannon fire into the mass of tanks, men, and aliens, rupturing the ground even further. Officers bellowed orders into the morass of men, struggling to maintain semblance of order within the fortress walls, walls that had artillery positioned to fire into the interior of the Imperial strongpoint.
Natalia waded through the mess, dragging a blood soaked Nix behind her as all her focus and intent lay in the medical bunker at the end of a swirling melee of desperate humans and hungry aliens.
Natalia pushed aside the last fifteen minutes of hell as she and Nix joined the struggling defense within the walls of the Imperial compound, vainly trying to keep the Tyranid burrowers contained to their deployment zone. The press of lasgun fire and heavy weapons had succeeded in the first several minutes after the tremors ceased, but the surprise attack from above broke the concentrated fire as antiaircraft batteries began diverting ground fire to keep the press of gargoyles and harpies from taking out the defenses.
In that one momentary lapse of fire, the ground attack overwhelmed the Imperial cordon, causing the guardsmen ranks to break, especially since the first line was held by the survivors of the previous Tyranid engagement, a fight in which most of the men had endured their mental limit of horror and hopelessness. Asking them to go into another such battle was beyond even the command prowess of a Lord Commissar.
But a few steeled veterans continued to fight with knives and swords in hand, locked in mortal combat with creatures they knew meant the end of their entire existence if they choose to surrender and flee.
Natalia thanked them for the distraction, but she could no longer fight merely for survival. She had one of her friends safe by her side now. All she needed now was to save the only other person that she cared about.
And none of the dozen or so personal fights stretching before her and the medical bunker in which Hasheed was housed could stop her.
Walking with determined strides, Nix at her shoulder with his lasgun poised to fire, Natalia simply strode amongst the beleaguered human defenders and merciless alien attackers, circling around those who cried to her for help or simply gaped at her brazen recklessness.
A hormagaunt leaped at her after finishing off a bloodied pulp of once what had been a human. She answered back with a trio of lasgun shots, punching three holes right through its chest and causing it to collapse in death spasms. Then she kicked it aside and continued onward.
As she reached the end of the final melee, she began to break into a run as she approached the unguarded, open metal doors leading into the spartan medical bunker. Bursting through the door, her heart sank as she viewed the interior.
The lightless interior spoke of evacuation. Surgical tables and beds and stretchers were strewn about. Most of the important medical equipment was gone. No one was left save for a few bodies, none of which even looked remotely like the dark skinned Hasheed.
Crying out in frustration, Natalia threw her lasgun to the floor, unable to comprehend how an entire medical facility had already been evacuated. She was at least expect the compound to be overrun with Tyranid organisms devouring the helping, prepared at the very least to exchange her life defending the prone form of her lifelong friend.
Now with the vast emptiness of the bunker stretching before her, Natalia collected herself and picked up the discarded lasgun. The injured had to of been evacuated somewhere. She just needed to find out where exactly they were taken.
She couldn’t give into despair yet. She still had a friend to rescue….or die trying. ************************************************************************************* Hasheed sulked within his orb of flying visions, finally accepting he was in some sort of purgatory…perhaps for crimes he had committed.
The grey mists had not gotten any brighter, nor had anything else changed about his condition. He still couldn’t remember, and he still couldn’t escape.
He finally accepted he was stuck in a nightmarish oblivion with unrecognized memories to torment him forever.
A tiny mote of light poked at the horizon, a pinprick that materialized just as Hasheed had fallen into deep despondency. Smothered in his own sadness, Hasheed did not notice that light beckoning him to discover it… ************************************************************************************* Natalia ran through the expansive hanger, running through the hallways that led to various bays as she sought the exact one that she needed to find before the spacecraft departed.
Her heart kept pounding, protesting for her to stop and rest. But she knew she couldn’t every second she spent not looking for Hasheed was another second closer to the departure of her friend and any hope of finding him.
Through desperate plying of the medical records scattered about the bunker, she found the orders that had detailed the immediate evacuation of the entire structure and personnel moments before the tremors and the Tyranid attack had started. The seal that commanded the order was unknown to her, as it didn’t belong to any that she had seen within the Imperial Guard hierarchy.
But that unknown seal didn’t concern her. What concerned here was the explicit order she found to move Hasheed himself to docking bay Gamma 17-B, tucked far and high into the imposing building that housed hundreds of vessels that were even now fighting their way out and above into the atmosphere to the awaiting Imperial Navy starships above.
She had raced through the failing defenses of the dying Imperial guardsmen outside to get here. By now the defenders were probably hemmed into the buildings, using narrow corridors and preset explosives to buy time for the evacuation. Their deaths gave Nix and her the time they needed. Else it would have been a struggle between survival and escape.
Nix panted alongside her, his swear soaking everything he wore. He had discarded his lasgun after shoving it into the maw of a ravener, shooting repeatedly until the gun grew hot and unable to fire any longer. He still kept up, despite the last furious skirmish with Tyranids as they raced into the building before it was barred from the inside.
Now racing up the final flight of stairs, they burst into the long hallway that led to the Gamma level hangers. The clanking and echoes of rockets reverberated through the metallic corridor had grown furiously progressive, as more and more of the Imperial ships were at last departing. The noisy reverberations and the sliding hydraulic doors were the only things left on this level. No personnel were racing around frantically to prep departing ships.
But none of the noise mattered or the emptiness mattered. Natalia heaved in deep breaths as she counted the odd numbered doors until they reached the two that said 17.
Bracing herself, she touched the control pad that initiated the machine spirit, causing door B to hiss open, revealing to her the final fate of Hasheed… *********************************************************************************** Hasheed sprinted, racing for all he was worth. He discovered the light along with a flash of inspiration. Focusing on the image of the woman who had knelt over his prone form, he concentrating on remembering who she was and what she had meant to him.
Thinking it was a lover, he was shocked to find out that Natalia was his lifelong friend. Secretly, he had at one point harbored a crush for her, but the years of service to the Emperor and the soldierly comradery that he had felt with being with her had muted those youthful emotions, replaced with a deep and loving bond for someone he considered akin to a sister.
The flood of memories assaulted him; surprising him at how powerful they were emotionally, especially when he tied them to Natalia. She became the anchor to which he remembered, remembering the brutal and short war against the Tyranids infesting the planet, and the dead, alien eyes of the Tyranid creature that had felled him. The moments afterward became blank as at that point Hasheed remembered slipping into unconsciousness, finding himself in the personal hell he had come to despise with all his being.
The light was growing closer as he ran toward it. And he started feeling…colder; as if the light was drawing the warmth from him.
That didn’t matter. The blinding light utterly obscured his vision now. He was getting colder, but he knew that he had to push through, to continue moving forward in order to return to where he belonged. He just hoped that it was by the side of his friends, Natalia and Nix included.
The final stretch of running turned into a struggle to simply move. Pressed against some unknown force, blinded by the omnipresent light, barely able to feel anything thanks to the subzero cold, Hasheed made one final mental push, roaring in denial at being held in eternal fog and oblivion forever and finally freed himself from his prison.
To wake up locked in a tomb of ice, the distorted frozen water blurring his vision of what he knew to be Natalia, staring in horror right at his icy, unmoving form.
Hasheed wanted to scream in despair, but found his mouth was already open and unable to move along with the rest of his body. ************************************************************************************* Before Natalia was a coffin of ice encasing her dearest friend Hasheed. She didn’t even see the man in carapace armor that had led Sergeant Kelso away flanking the metal tomb holding the block of ice that showcased her injured friend. Nor did she even glance at the hunched form of another man standing there too, a metal helm encasing his entire head with tubes and wires stabbed into his back.
Her eyes were focused on the face of Hasheed, his face locked in wide mouthed horror. Thankfully, his eyes were closed…
They blinked open. Through the glass, she made contact with his eyes, and found herself stepping away, her fingers stretching up to her unhinged jaw as she stared in dread and joy as her friend lived, held prisoner in a frozen vault.
“Dear Immortal Emperor,” Nix intoned as he stepped next to Natalia, his face completely aghast at what he saw. “What has happened to him?” he whispered.
The man in carapace armor strode forth. He had a stern smile on his face, his gait measured as he walked before the open coffin revealing the trapped Hasheed. “He has been saved…for now,” he stated with an underlying threat.
Natalia tore her gaze from Hasheed’s, and looked the threatening man in the eye, meeting his steely gaze with her own.
“Release him,” she commanded, implying there was no room for debate.
The man in carapace armor chuckled and made it sound morose at the same time. “That I cannot do.”
Natalia took a step in the direction of the man. He held out a finger, and shook his head.
“Don’t do that. If you provoke Sergeant Kelso over here, I cannot vouch for you or anyone’s safety.”
Natalia opened her eyes wider and stopped. She turned to consider the hunched form identified as Kelso. She noticed that he had begun to crouch lower, his legs ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. All he wore was a tattered cloth around his loins, nothing truly identifying him as the man that once commanded her platoon.
She turned back to the liar. “You lie,” she accused.
Again the man chucked. He beckoned with a hand, and the hunched humanoid relaxed and lumbered over to the other man. With both hands, the man in carapace armor unlatched the metallic helm and lifted off the hunched man’s head…revealing the aged and weathered face of Sergeant Kelso.
But if he was Kelso, he was Kelso no longer. His eyes were milky and dazed, as he was blind and dream walking at the same time. Tubes ran into a mouth that slouched and drooled. His head was shaved and more tubes were tucked into his skull, running down his spinal column and ending jabbed into his upper and lower back.
To all intents and purposes, Natalia did not see Sergeant Kelso anymore, but a puppet that was made from the body of her former commanding officer.
“Why?” she uttered, unable to believe that the transformed Kelso before her was now a mindless slave.
The man who held Kelso’s helm put it back on upon his head, thankfully hiding his deformed face. “He broke Imperial laws. He defied the orders of an Imperial Commissar. Even worse, he killed him. That in and of itself should of merited immediate public execution right on the spot. If it wasn’t for the chaos of the retreat, a nearby Commissar would have happily done the job.
“But the orders were delayed until the fragments of the surviving regiments were combed through and the traitor found. Luckily, I found him before another Commissar found him and shot him right on the spot.”
“But…but why?” Natalia sputtered, still not understanding why he was like he was.
“Oh, well he still deserved to be punished. He knew what he did, and he accepted becoming an arco-flagellant in exchange for sparing his life and continuing his service to the Emperor in some fashion. Also, because he received this punishment from me, it cannot be superseded by an inferior command and therefore he’ll be absolved of the orders to execute him on the spot.”
The female soldier digested the news, finally understanding and narrowing her eyes as she looked at the grimly smiling man standing before her. “Who are you?” she asked at last.
The man tilted his head, as if thinking for the right response. “I am Inquisitor Heth Fernix. And I am here to offer you a position within my circle of henchmen and women. I would like you to become an acolyte under my tutelage.”
Natalia spat out of disgust. “To the fracking throne with your offer! Look what you have done to my friends!” sweeping her hand toward Kelso and Hasheed. “Why should I accept anything like that?” she asked.
“Well,” the Inquisitor began slowly, tucking his arms behind him. “It is simple really. You are a loyal soldier, and dedicated. What’s more, you are capable and gifted. Not many guardsmen could survive the trials of the past few hours, let alone discover the whereabouts of a fallen comrade whisked away in the eleventh hour right from under your nose with the heat of battle upon you.
“Simply put, I want your loyalty and your skills. I’ll even take your friend Nix over here under my tutelage as well. The Inquisition has need of you Natalia. I have need of you.” She was about to scoff out her answer right then and there, but Heth jabbed a finger up a split second before she said no.
“But…think carefully my offer. If you say no, all of you will die right here and now. Even if you manage to escape, you’ll eventually fall prey to the Tyranids now only two levels below us. All the other ships have escaped their hangers except for mine. I’ve waited for you here until the last second so I may give you this offer; if you decide to follow me, I’ll save your friend Hasheed here. I’ll even release Sergeant Kelso here from his current state and deposit him somewhere safe where he may live out the rest of his days in obscurity, hidden away from Imperial authority and safe from any persecution from vengeful Commissars looking for revenge. The choice however…is yours and yours alone to make.”
Natalia stared balefully at Inquisitor Heth. She looked hesitantly at Nix, who stood by her as somber as she was, and back at the icy tomb that encased Hasheed, his frozen eyes pleadingly staring at her.
Closing her eyes, Natalia stepped before the Inquisitor and bowed her head, accepting his offer to save her friends…
The Macharian VI Crusade: Introduction
The storm shredded skies of Macharian VI presided over a cacophony of inhuman screams.
In the bowels of blood drenched valleys, armies raged forth again and again. The ground was beyond slick with the blood of the defeated. The cities were long demolished; blasted to rubble and ground down by artillery and deathstorms that ravaged the planet.
Only the strong yet survived on this grim world, fighting in the shadow of a tear in the Maelstrom, mere light years away from its corrupting influence. Millions march across littered plains of bones and rubble, their minds focused on war. Billions more huddle in the shadows, “protected” by those with the weapons and will to try and claim this world as their own.
The maddened denizens of Macharian VI are a shadow of their former selves. Once an enlightened people living under the protection of Imperial security and comfort, they were in the crosshairs of a splinter fleet of Tyranid bioships. Mankind’s many weapons were no match for the Tyranid numbers as they descended upon the world. In the twilight of their despair, hope came to them in the twisted form of Chaos Undivided.
Legions of traitorous Space Marines descended from space. Fueled by the might of alien gods of war, pestilence, pleasure, and change, the Tyranid swarm was driven from the planet. The shattered populace had barely any time to reassess their situation under the sway of Chaos when an Imperial Fleet came to save Macharian VI.
Imperial Commanders were startled to see not Tyranids planetside, but a full host of powerful Chaos worshippers lording over a conquered planet. Dozens of Imperial Guard regiments were thrown down from the orbiting fleet to fight their unholy enemies, only to be pushed back again and again as the numbers of the Chaos armies were bolstered by Daemons summoned from the warp and converted natives of Macharian VI joining the Ruinous Powers in the war.
A plea was sent to Space Marine chapters near and far. No less than two dozen Chapters offered their super soldiers to the cause, creating a nascent Crusade to wipe the sector of the taint of Chaos.
Within a matter of months, the assembled host of loyalist Space Marines descended with fury upon the world. Nearly one thousand dedicated defenders of the Emperor’s might added their combat arm and deadly aim to the faltering forces of Mankind, shuffling back the diseased hold of the Chaos Space Marines and their acolytes. The victory to reclaim the world was at hand.
And then just like that, all communications from the planet ceased. The Imperial Navy effectively disappeared, and the Space Marine chapters represented on the planet were no more. Even the entrenched forces of Chaos were gone. What was left was the populace of Macharian VI that survived the war. Forgotten in a power vacuum with the detritus of war surrounding them, they continued to wage a senseless, eternal struggle for nothing on the planet.
Years went by before the Imperium’s bureaucratic arm finally absorbed the astonishing vanishing act of an entire Crusade. Space Marine chapters were finally made aware of the catastrophic loss of battle brothers involved in the war.
Together, both Imperium agents and Space Marine chapters girded for war again. Another Imperial Fleet was outfitted, and regiments of Guardsmen were funneled back towards Macharian VI. Chaplains consecrated the power armor of veterans and even terminators being send to the planet. A Chapter Master even offered his services in personally directing the war effort, as a whole company of his fellows in arms had disappeared along with all the other battle brothers.
As the forces were slowly mounted, long forgotten forces on Macharian VI stirred again. Tyranid beasts slowly accumulated biomass from the disparate and far flung settlements that dotted the massive world. Chaos Cultists who went underground years before began congregating again with the intent to summon the dark forces once more. Mysterious guerilla fighters lurked the shadows; stronger than the average man, living in the most dangerous climates the world offered, and unusually skilled at blending back into the mists when faced with a concerted effort to fight them.
Yet despite the array of forces mustering again, none saw what happened beneath the surface of Macharian VI. A puppet master watched from indescribably old monitoring systems as events unfolded above. His minions waited in silent tombs below the mortals, ready for the call to kill. His gaze never wavered as what scarce forces he did send above manipulated the combatants against one another.
The time would come when he would show his full hand. Horrors untold would wash over the world. Then his master would enjoy the harvest.
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model Chapter Master Patroclus Calabeck, Solar Lions- lightning claw, storm bolter (inmygravenimage)
The Prelude: A Warning
Transmitted: Explorator Ship Angelis Maximus, orbiting Macharian VI. Received: Battle Barge Decimator, in transit to Macharian VI. Transmitter: Astropath Secundus Kylak Receiver: Astropath Terminus Garbale Author: Inquisitor Heth Fernix Thought of the Day: The Emperor's Might is only as strong as your Conviction to His Cause.
This message is intented for Chapter Master Calabeck. I direct this to you from the Explorator Fleet currently orbiting your intended target. I've cut through several bureacratic layers to get this to you directly. Ignore the fact that you did not know before hand that the Inquisition had a representative aboard this ship. This does not concern you. However, I will transmit to you what has been found. I owe you this much after the incident on Renox Prime and your service you lent to me with your direct invervention. Consider this repayment.
Something is terribly wrong here.
Scout ships have reported the entire planet is in anarchy. There is no signs of any significant organized government left loyal to the Imperium. Worse, initial scans report that energy signatures from the surface match up against what we feared is a continued presence on the planet of a Chaos infestation. We also cannot rule out the possibility of any hibernating Tyranid bioforms or genestealer cults infesting the survivor populace.
This was expected by my superiors. The proximity of the Penthrax Anomoly approximately seven light years away lent great suspicion that this plaent would eventually face threats from the Immaterium. What's disturbing about this is the fact that it didn't happen for over one thousand years. One thousand years of almost no distrubance. Not even the planets of Ultramar have had such good luck.
Of the remnants of the previous Crusade that was launched to Macharian VI, there is no trace. No ships, no debris, nothing. Even the Tyranids are not as thorough in their destruction of such a large task force of Imperial ships, especially those with Space Marines present. Luckily, there was no signs of traitor fleets or hive ships lurking in the frozen depths of the system. I'm sorry to say, but the reason for an entire Imperial Navy with Space Marine support to vanish unfortunately cannot be concluded at this time. Nonetheless, I took some time to contact Terra and do some research into what I could find out about your lost brothers and the forces they reinforced.
I've done what investigation I could into the matter using Imperial archives to cross reference reports found by the first incursion to reclaim the plaent and what the Explorator ships I joined had discovered. I've been...blocked at several points by security codes that neither my order nor my contacts could give me clearance to. What I have found is typical information found about planets such as Macharian VI; Civilized World with tithe grade Solutio Extremis. Annual Imperial Guard regimental levy of 5. Only known habitable world in the system. Colonization date going back to M39.The usual reports did not pique my interest, until I stumbled across a few files that seemed to of been forgotten by archivists.
What I did find was the original journal logs by an early Explorator mission sent back in M36 when the Imperium finally found the region. The reports said the Macharian system had no habitable plaents deemed suitable for human colonization. A second report that was independent of this one from M38 "found" the Macharian system again and recorded the only known planet for colonization was Macharain VI with orders for immediate colonization within fifty years. I had to go through the records several times to confirm this. It makes no sense.
Further delving found that no reports indicated any xenos activity or cosmic events from that time that could of affected the planet's habitability, other than the proximity of the anomoly. Even that is highly skeptical to of caused the planet to suddenly become habitable to human life.
That was all I could find.
Nothing explains the events surrounding what has been going on with this planet. The only conclusion I can draw is that there is an unknown element beyond the Tyranids, beyond the Chaos forces that has had a hand in events here. The missing reports, the sudden appearance of a habitable world, and the lost of over 20 Imperial regiments and a thousand Space Marines is simply unexplainable. Worse, how come there has been no alarms raised by sector commanders regarding this tragedy? Nothing!
When you do arrive, be careful. Very careful.
May the Emperor bless us all.
Sergeant Tano Inushi, Mantis Warriors- katana, plasma pistol (Gitsplitta) Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model
“Submit to judgment...”
The words rang against his ears as Sergeant Tano Inushi awoke from his disturbed sleep.
“or be purged where you stand…”
Inushi wished he choose the latter course of action now.
Fully alert and standing up again, the fallen Mantis Warrior looked around his confines. The brig he now occupied for the last several years was his home now. Gone was the days of his former existence with his fellow warriors, fighting in the Emperor’s name and delivering swift justice to those who wronged him or his mentor, Scoutmaster Darius Stone.
“We are Mantis Warriors….”
“We are not forgiven….”
“We’ve earned this fate….”
Inushi replayed the final days of his freedom day after day, every morning he awoke before the Inquisition came down to torture his mind and body, looking for any tiny crack to excuse themselves for more arbitrary punishment on his person.
Inushi dared not strike back. He knew he was valuable to them in more ways than one. His continued existence allowed his friend and teacher to still live…or so they say. The Scoutmaster could be dead by now, as years have ticked away while his pupil had been captive to the whims of the capricious Inquisition.
Sighing, he stretched his bruised muscles and began to perform basic exercises in his spartan cell. The daily routine kept his body in shape despite the minimal room, and allowed him some emotional respite as he pummeled the walls of his cell with scabbed fists. His spirit and body were hardly broken despite the strain levied on him after innumerable days locked away.
The one side of his cell where he could peer out was perpetually kept dark. A trick of magic or technology Inushi could not say. Men came and left through the darkened portal, perhaps watching him every minute of every day. He himself could not penetrate the dark depths.
He didn’t even know where he was.
Performing his final hundred stomach crunches, the space marine then sat up and assumed a cross-legged sitting position, folding his arms and closing his eyes as he began to meditate in the final minutes before the next round of punishments began.
Images flitted by in his semi-conscious state, each one copious coming into perfect crystallization in his mind’s eye.
He remembered the first day that the Mantis Warriors found the promising youth on his home planet of Nihaze III. They took him and the other recruits aboard their Battle Barge, Endless Redemption.
The months blurred by as recruit after recruit was deemed unworthy, either dying or being inducted into the serfs that would service the marines for the duration of their lives. Finally, only Tano Inushi remained standing, alone amongst the crop of young men that had succeeded in becoming a scout.
Years then progressed as surgery, indoctrination, and training honed the reckless young Mantis Warrior into a perfect killing machine. He learned under the wing of his beloved Scoutmaster Darius Stone. He learned the tortured history of his fellow marines and the path of redemption they were imposed on, and he learned the depths to which select chapter mates succumbed to their “Battle-haze,” a flaw in the geneseed that granted them greater senses and strength, but at the cost of their will.
It all culminated into the celebration that took place where Tano Inushi stood at long last was considered a full Mantis Warrior, and placed into the Tactical Squad that he would one day lead when the prior Sergeant fell in battle.
Then the fated day came when the Inquisition took that all away from him. They overheard his heretical words against the fate they imposed upon his chapter. They took him away and sealed him in this cage. They gifted him with pain every single day. Their laughs and accusations marred the mind of Inushi, tempering his stoicism with well hidden fury he fueled in the dark pit of his mind of the day he would finally be released-
The cell door clinked, and swung away into the dark void. The sergeant opened his eyes and sighed. Standing up, he turned to face the bleak prospects of the day, the trudging trio of guards along with the Inquisitor who would mete out his daily punishment. It didn’t matter who was the Inquisitor who stepped through that door, in Inushi’s head they were all the same blurred torturer that had cast him into this hole.
Today what strode through the door was one man who stepped through the blackness into the metal cell. He held in one hand something long and thin wrapped in cloth. The other hand rested on a holstered plasma pistol.
“Sergeant Tano Inushi of the Mantis Warriors,” the Inquisitor stated. “You are free.”
All the emotions drained out of the stunned marine as he gaped at this man. Looking more closely at his features and power armor, he noticed for the first time that this weathered and seasoned servant of the Emperor was not one he had seen before. Composing himself quickly, he narrowed his eyes and scoffed.
“Free? You’re mocking me. This must be yet another penitence I am being tested with now. Am I right?”
The Inquisitor shook his head and tossed the wrapped cloth to the marine, who caught the item gingerly. Still eyeing the man, he undid the cloth covering...
And felt the touch of familiar steel to his hands. Inushi jerked his eyes downward.
His katana was once again reunited with him.
Inushi slumped to his knees, reverently holding his favored weapon. With tears in his eyes, he looked to the Inquisitor questioningly.
“Your imprisonment has been hereby revoked by me, Heth Fernix. You are now taken under my wing for the duration of this Crusade. Here, you may need this. It’s not your original weapon, but I hear you liked to use plasma pistols.
The Inquisitor unholstered his weapon and handed it to the kneeling Inushi, who accepted it as he rose, his mind racing with the sudden turn of events. One question did sprout in his thoughts that he had to state.
“Deathwatch?” queried the young marine.
Again Heth shook his head no. “I am afraid we don’t have the time to go through all the pomp and ceremony for you to be inducted. Suffice to say, you were brought to Macharian VI for a different purpose. Take my hand, as you may get dizzy from passing through the null light barrier.”
Inushi took the man’s hand and stepped into the blackness after him. A wave of nausea passed through him, but he clenched his teeth and overcame the momentary sickness.
A great hanger loomed all around him as he came out of the depths of his cell. Something was not right. He was marched down a corridor to his enclosed room all those years ago when he last saw the outsides of his imprisonment. A few steps more and he spun quickly to see where he was entombed for four years.
His cell was nothing more than a giant metal crate.
“How…” Inushi began to question, but was cut off by the Inquisitor.
“Gyro-stabilizers kept you from knowing when we moved your cell around. You’ve been in over a dozen different prisons over your tenure in that cage. Rather ingenious as we have had problems keeping space marines captive for long periods of time, especially when those said marines were actually threats to the Imperium rather than misguided or misled souls. You I judged were one of those souls.”
The Inquisitor swept his hand across the length of the giant chamber. Flying transports flew about and running Imperial Naval men ran across the deck of the mile long hanger. Over a dozen massive doors were bare and open to the recesses of space. All the hanger doors that Inushi could see were positioned in orbit to view the massive planet below.
“I was brought here…” questioned the Mantis Warrior. “This is Macharian VI I assume? Why was I brought here to Macharian VI?”
Fernix turned to meet the taller man eye to eye. His look was one of determination and resolve. “I brought you here because you deserved a second chance. The Inquisition is not always right in who they condemn as heretics. Thankfully, I learned of your imprisonment before embarking on the Crusade. I pulled up your files and found your record impressive. Thus I called in some favors from within the organization and got you stored aboard the first wave of transports that came to this planet.”
The Inquisitor never broke his stare, keeping Inushi pinned in place. “You skills are needed. You were a fine scout within the Mantis Warriors, and a far better marine once you were inducted into their ranks. The Scoutmaster I talked to personally gave you a high recommendation despite your mouth…”
Inushi drowned out the Inquisitor. His mind tunneled as he conjured up an image of the man that was his mentor, his friend, and in everything but the biological sense, his father.
He still lived. And with that one final doubt cast aside, Inushi knew what he had to do.
“…so that is why we need you…”
The marine snapped back to reality. “Heth Fernix,” interrupted Inushi.
The Inquisitor closed his mouth. He nodded for the sergeant to continue.
Inushi kneeled. “I solemnly swear under the light of the Emperor’s grace, and upon the honor of my chapter, I pledge myself now and forever to serve you in any capacity you command. Task me with whatever you may desire to do to me, so long as I continue to serve the Emperor I will not falter nor fail.”
At last, Inushi understood what his mentor had spoken of as the Mantis Warrior’s duty to absolve themselves of the taint of suspicion. Their traitorous actions during the Badab War had forever marred the chapter in the eyes of his fellow man. Each one of the marines would always stand on a precipice of doubt and insecurity so long as others viewed them differently. The chapter as a whole continued not only to fight for the honor of the Emperor, but also to earn the respect of others who didn’t see them in the same way.
Inushi swore to himself he would prove his loyalty to the Imperium, even if it meant doing it one person at a time.
Heth took a moment to judge the marine. “Very well. I accept your oath of loyalty. It wasn’t needed, but I thank you for speaking what I saw in your heart. You were misguided…but now it is time to bring you back into the Emperor’s light.
“Sergeant Tano Inushi. You were naked with nothing but a loincloth and your resolve for such a long time. Now you have your weapons to carry in the Emperor’s name. I will also give upon you a suit of power armor. I will also restore your status as a sergeant once more. You will be given your own squad of men and command over them.
“Now then…” the Inquisitor said, motioning for Inushi to rise. “Enough of the pretty words. We have a task to perform in service to the Emperor. What would you like to know?”
Sergeant Tano rose. With his mind clear and his doubt and fury dissolved into mist, he began to question the Inquisitor about the nature of the Crusade…
Captain Skaldeyes, Mentor Legion- Plasma Pistol and Shotgun (endtransmission) The Descent
Below, the Tzenhai Plains was covered by the milling mobs of innumerable humans, shooting, maiming and killing others of their kind in the tens of thousands. Above, the sky cried white hot tears. They streaked from dark overcast skies that split with lightning.
Down came dozens of drop pods carrying the might of the Emperor.
They landed uncaringly upon the masses below. Thousands died as impacting metal transports crushed and flung the rabble. Hissing gyros and hydraulics dropped down doors to reveal gleaming, armored soliders. Their helms masked their contempt for the armies they came to cull. Bolter shots belched from inscribed guns as the Space Marines began their advance. The mob fell like sheared grain stalks.
From a green and white gilded drop pod came the veteran command squad of Captain Hyrito Skaldeyes. They laid about them with chainsword and bolt pistol, scattering the hundreds of poorly trained thugs that confronted the Emperor's champions. Once the area was secured, out stepped from the spartan interior a figure beknighted in purity seals, badges of honor, an an iron halo denoting his ascendancy amongst his battle tested brethren.
He wore his power armor with grace as he stepped onto a bloodied world as he had done hundreds of times before. He wore no helm so his gaze could meet those he vanquished, giving them that marginal satisfaction of knowing who killed them; a man withered by over a century of war with a bionic left eye and implants puckering his scalp.
His command squad returned quickly from their work. Brother Argus stepped forth from them and snapped to attention before his commanding officer.
"Captain Skaldeyes! The drop pods have all landed without incident. We are pushing hostile forces from the deployment zone and have secured the immediate area!"
Captain Skaldeyes nodded. He turned towards a floating servo-skull that hovered nearby. It carried a phonetic device to listen to his voice, transcribe it, and replay it back to its recipients orbiting above in the fleet.
"This is Captain Skaldeyes. Objectives have been achieved. The landing has been successful. You may begin deploying the materials to build a foward base."
The silently floating skull flashed as it sent upward the signal using its machine spirit. A second later, it flashed again and garbled out, "Understood. Message received. Cargo ships will be landing within the hour for delivery."
The senior space marine commander began barking out orders to his subordinates. They saluted and began sending out messages to other landing sites for instructions. The captan turned towards the sky, and noted a particularly jagged bolt of lightning that struck the distant horizon.
It seemed another Imperial planet would rejoin the fold he thought.
Just like they always do.
Sargeant Anmnix- no representative model.
Sargeant Anmnix was alone. His armor was rended in several places, and the splatter of xenos blood stained his weapons.
He was stranded amongst the chilled night air deep in the Frostdepth Mountains. His tactical squad's ruined rhino transport was kilometers away, and all of his men were dead. All that remained of the squad was him, his plasma pistol, and power sword.
Normally dauntless against the foes of mankind, Anmnix was tested sorely in spirit and in body tonight. He knew he was hunted by creatures from another galaxy, brought to this one by hunger beyond comprehension.
A screech from a short distance behind alerted him that he was being hunted again. Ragged in breath despite his considerably durable anatomy, he knew he already suffered a dozen serious wounds. Several scything claws from Lictors had penetrated his power armor with ease. A genestealer had rent his face before being blasted away by plasma. Acid marred his torn armor from the spittle of flying gargoyles.
Stumbling, Anmnix dived for cover. A rock outcropping had seveal fissures deep enough to hide behind. He hoped that night dulled the senses of the Tyranids enough to pass by him. He crawled snugly between two large slabs of rock and allowed his aching body to relax for a brief moment.
The screeches and clicks of the alien menace drew closer as the moments dragged on. Out of sight, the sargeant used his extrasensitive hearing to approximate what was tracking him. The scratching of claws and hooves on dirt announced to him that at least 20 or more smaller creatures were running around the rock outrcropping. Their chatter and clanking chitin grated on the space marine's psyche, but he held himself perfectly motionless in his secret spot.
Eventually, the swarm moved on, going in the direction Anmnix originally was tredding. Anmnix could not stay here for long. Something from the air or with greater senses would detect him before long. He had to move. He had to will himself beyond these mountains and warn the others that the Tyranid menace was truly awake on Macharian VI.
The dirt spun upward, flung by a score of bikes. The wind whipped about the powerful forms of the riders. Their machines bellowed in might, their throaty mechanical screams giving praise to the machine god and their tech servants who maintained them. From the distant and ancient past, each Space Marine upon their bike felt the awakening of a primal thrill that their race enjoyed thousands of years prior.
Brother Lacrimosa led the charge, the forefront of a vanguard of bikers following after cobbled together buggies built by their heretical Chaos enemies across a ruined road. A trio of ramshackle cultist warmachines wree straining to keep ahead. Each one was a transport for a dozen pistol waiving and curse spewing men who had given their lives to alien gods. They shot out the backs of their trucks, firing wildly at their pursuit.
The twenty space marines gunned their bikes foward, led by the fluttering Lacrimae banner held at the forefront by their designated leader. The choice was obvious, as Lacrimosa was the most celebrated marine rider of the disparate chapters to join the crusade. His tales of glory and victory were unquestionably astounding, even for one of the Emperor's champions. Armors gleaming in blues, reds, blacks, gold and silver trims, heraldry from recent and distant chapter heritages all created an impressive representation of men willing to follow the Rider of Renox XI that single handedly rode down an Ork warboss before claiming his head.
"Open fire!" bellowed the Rider as thirty eight bolter guns belched forthed their fist sized ammo, adding to the destructive twin meltaguns that Brother Lacrimosa equipped his bike with. The blasts shredded and burnt into the escaping vehicles. Each bolt tore off armored hide or pierced heretical flesh. Men and bits began tumbling from their ride, dead and useless against the onslaught. The first truck careened off the road in a shower of smoke and flung riders. Another exploded as one lucky bullet punctured the fuel core.
The final machine chugged to a halt, riddled with bullets, greasy black smoke rising from the machine's engines. The space marines circled the broken ride and stopped their bikes. Brother Lacrimosa took out his shotgun from the side holder and held his banner high in the dusty wind. Approaching the rear of the vehicle, he was joined by two other battle brothers. Gun at the ready, he peered inside. Blood smeared the sides of the passenger compartment. Dead men littered the floor.
Lacrimosa started to lift himself into the back. The driver, covered in blood and clutching a pistol, leaped out with an unholy shreak from his seat. The Rider of Renox casually flipped his shotgun up and unloaded a righteous dose of shot into the traitor of the Emperor. His headless body slumped to the floor, prostrating himself before a pool of his unforgiven blood.
"Heresy shall not escape our wrath," entoned the battle brother behind Lacrimosa.
Brother Aluco looked up into the dismal drench of rain falling from the deathstorm ravaging this side of the planet. Thunderstrikes rebounded across the rubble strewn ruins of the capital city Danathin's Door. Miles of civilization pounded into ruin by years of war, further pulverized by the damaging rains and winds that frequently whipped Macharian VI.
His four companions from the Mentors Legion followed brother Aluco on patrol. Flanking behind their position was a ponderous force of Imperial Guardsmen snaking their way though the city proper. Little resistance had been found so far, but the running battles that had marked the crusade's beginning began to take toll on the forces of the Imperium. The planet's dual infestations of Tyranids and Chaos Space Marines had made the cleansing of the planet difficult.
Brother Aluco turned to his data slate, looking over the latest reports from the Space Marine patrols and Imperial Guard after action reports. Hot spots of conflict still raged across the globe. A fierce battle was currently in progress in the Tarakan lowlands. Several other ruined cities were currently being reclaimed from Chaos fanatics and Genestealer cells.
Aluco poured over the data, trying in earnest to learn what he could. If anything that the Mentors Space Marines did well, it was learn and adapt. The new and tinkered jumppacks he and his comrades wore and the enhanced plasmagun he hefted were testament to the technological prowess of his chapter.
But the learned space marine was just as perplexed to the whole situation as anyone else. Armies continually moved back and forth as supposedly peaceful sectors of the planet sparked to war again. Tyranids appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the night. Chaos daemons roamed the plaent with feral abandon. Imperial commanders unable to contain the threats as they came.
The rain drenched and the rubble crunched underneath. Aluco had to remind himself that the moment was all that mattered for the time being. Thoughts of grand strategy were best left to his down time and to his superiors.
He and his men had a city to cleanse.
Sargeant Kadakrazz, Ice Angels- Power Axe, Plasma Pistol (Ice Angel)
Brother Donegal, Son of Luicifer -Shotgun, Bolt Pistol (Sageheart) Watch-Captain Alexander, Deathwatch (Imperial Fists)- Black Shield (btemple0)
Sergeant Kadakrazz led his mismatched brethren through the frigid tundra of the Bitefel, the wintry northern lands of the Calaball Sector. Shards of ice pelted the marines as they trudged through the hellacious winter conditions. White and more white met them. The skyline and ground merged into one frozen blur. The one thing that kept the marines going was the weak signal that emitted from near the magnetic north pole of Macharian VI.
“Sir, we are less than a kilometer from the source of the signal,” pointed out Brother Donegal of the Sons of Luicifer, whose white colored power armor constantly starkly with sergeant’s blue and white timmed black protective gear. He carried his shotgun and bolt gun in each hand, preparing for any potential ambush that could threaten their march.
The locals from the most northern settlements warned the Space Marines about the dangerous figures that lurked in the Bitefel. Shadowy and humanoid, they skulked amongst the petrified boreal tree, killing the local wildlife and running off any hunting parties that happened to pass into their territories. Sergean Kadakrazz elected to search the rumors himself, wary that a Tyranid presence could be infesting the remote regions of the titanic world now under siege.
Yet the back of his mind scratched with suspicions. The reports were not showing typical behavior of Tyranids. Usually they killed, hoarding their biomass resources for future use. Some of the locals would have been dead by now, with settlements overrun here and there. From what he and Brother Donegal could gather, there wasn’t a casualty short of bruised egos and frightened superstitions that afflicted the natives.
So the veteran marine gathered what recruits for his mission he could find. Brother Donegal was the first to respond, a brother in arms who shared the field of battle several times before with the Ice Angel. Several other marines then followed, forming a loose knit but disciplined tactical squad of hardened campaigners.
The land tested the new cadre of marines sorely. Sharp pelts of wind-whipped ice pounded against human-forged armor and iron determination. The land sloped dramatically before them, pressing downward into the featureless terrain.
“Fourty meters to the north east,” shouted the sharp eyed Son of Lucifer as the marines in unison turned towards the indicated direction. Within the depressing land was a shadowed hole, almost utterly obscured from vision by the lay of the land and the vision reducing winter storm.
The unit fanned out, approaching with practiced precision and battle-honed wariness. Each marine held their weapon close and their senses took in the full breadth of the potentially hostile surroundings. Each shard of ice became a single speck of importance to their wizened eyes. Each molecule of disturbed air became their muse to listen too. Even the ground, with sensitive white softness, became a delicate instrument as their leaden feet crunched down with heavy, deliberate thuds.
Finally, Sergeant Kadakrazz stood before the gaping maw. Its pitch black darkness beckoned the vigilant defender of humanity to test its depths. His fists clenched around his ancient plasma pistol and thirsty power axe. His concentration held at a razor’s edge, waiting for the inevitable enemy inside. Behind him Brother Donegal flanked, his two gifted weapons preparing to clear the way before the wrath of his leader and comrade in arms. The other space marines fell in behind, eager to charge behind.
The tension snapped as from the depths of the eternal darkness, a pair of glowing eyes awakened. If not for the decades of experience in the Emperor’s name, Kadakrazz would of shot first. Those eyes however were not the glowing pits of despair of a Daemon, or the slitted predatory eyes of a Tyranid bioform.
They were the glowing slots of a fellow Space Marine’s helmet.
From the depths of the cave came before the gathered soldiers the tarnished armor of a fellow marine. His armor was pitch black; darker than the despairing motifs and color scheme adorning Brother Donegal. He held himself erect and proud, his combi-plasma boltgun fastened in its holder and his powerfist relaxed and limp. His right shoulder pauldron was festooned with the easily recognized motif of the Imperial Fists; an honored and well established Chapter of the Imperium.
But that was not what drew the eye of Sergeant Kadakrazz. He looked at the left shoulder pauldron and in one of the few times in his life devoted to the Emperor, gaped wildly at the silvered skull badge of one of the Emperor’s most peerless defenders of humanity.
“Deathwatch,” was all he could breathe.
The stoic and somber Deathwatch marine nodded. “You are indeed correct. I am Watch-Captain Alexander, formerly of the Imperial Fists Chapter and now member of the Deathwatch. I presume you are the leader?”
Sergeant Kadakrazz’s throat tightened. He croaked an affirmative and then turned to his men, who were equally awed by the presence of the xenos hunter. Only Brother Donegal was unbowed. He stepped before the sergeant and stood before the Deathwatch captain.
“You know the Sons of Luicifer do not respect the Deathwatch like other chapters, so I’ll be blunt… brother. Why are you hiding in the dark recesses of the planet? Your signal was nigh undetectable until we approached within several kilometers of your position. I’d almost suggest you were shirking your duties, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as no Deathwatch I ever knew ever dishonored their pledge to the Emperor or the Inquisition. ”
Watch Captain Alexander appraised the upstart marine behind his battle mask. He nodded once and then unclasped and lifted up his helmet, revealing a startling marred face, even for that of a seasoned marine. His right side was entirely bionic, metallic plates crisscrossed with tubing and miniature pistons. The other side was a scarred mess without an eye or ear. His one bionic eye stared deeply at Brother Donegal.
“I hid because it was the only way to complete my mission. There is….enemies on these planets that are beyond what we thought we were to expect. You see, I am probably one of the last surviving members of the crusade that came to Macharian VI. I was part of a kill team led by Inquisitor Helenez, sent along with other chapters to stop the onslaught of traitorous Chaos marauders.
“My mission was to hunt down any traces of a genestealer cult while the other Imperial forces dealt with the invasion. We soon discovered that the Tyranids were the least of our problems. There was a darker entity lurking behind the scenes, taking a hand in events that were as disparate as could possibly be, but yet connected in intent and execution.”
Alexander looked upward, his broken face slackening in remembrance. “Our team cut a swath through the deception and illusions placed before us, interrogating pawns and puppets of the enemy we sought. Our last mission took us northward. We found that there was a strong possibility of xenos activity in the Bitefel. We were tricked. Our entire force was scattered by an endless stream of Tyranids herded to us. Some of us died, some of us fled and escaped. I don’t know what happened to Inquisitor Helenez, but I can vouch that less than a third of us survived. As for the rest of the crusade, I gathered what information I could about the events of this world while remaining unseen. The locals spoke little of the events, as if the traumatic Tyranid and Chaos invasions followed by our intervention never happened. It was as if though their minds were…blanked. All they knew was despair, survival, and war. Nothing beyond scrabbling, scavenging, and warmongering was known. All they knew was the next moment led to either life or death.”
The Deathwatch marine turned towards his audience. Brother Donegal stared back for several tense moments. Sergeant Kadakrazz watched both cautiously. He knew his comrade to be impulsive and blunt at times, but few were as true of a servant to the Emperor as he was.
“We need to escort you back to the command post, and then to the fleet,” said Brother Donegal. “All that matters now is getting your testimony to higher command. We’ve felt as a whole wrongness to this world. All this does is confirm what we suspected.” He then turned to face the squad leader. “ Sergeant Kadakrazz, would you lead the way?”
All turned to the Ice Angel. Each marine ignored the stark blackness of the cave and the white eternity behind them. There was no middle ground. Every one of them knew what they needed to do.
“We go brothers. The Emperor blessed us today in finding Watch Captain Alexander. Reunited, we will now return and report back what we found today. And may the Emperor protect us all.”
The Doom Eagle tactical squad rent the Tyranid line with bolter fire. Anareas Colaster marched with his silvered comrades, lending his own fire to the mass ripping apart the swarm of extragalactic horrors.
Claws and talons bristled to move past the wall of fire as the creatures attempted to breach the choke point of the narrow crevice in the rock wall. The Frostdepth Mountains had already claimed the Cadian 1024th, and several other tactical squads had fallen within the winding valleys, shattered stone outcroppings, and frigid highlands of this especially nasty stretch of Tyranid infested land.
Only one marine managed to return and tell the tale of the encroaching Tyranid menace. The call came up for the scouring of the Imperial flank high in these forsaken mountains. Brother Anareas along with his brethren were the first to answer; their dour countenance not once flinching or despairing at the duty that other failed marines had paid for with their lives. Inside, they already counted themselves dead, their lives forfeit to the greater glory of the Emperor.
And now they found themselves cornered in a twisting labyrinth of high, impassible stone walls, obscured from reconnaissance craft desperately trying to find them and extract the beleaguered soldiers. Not like cornered rats did they issue forth their heated ammunition into alien hide, but with the stern and precise strokes of a dour surgeon going about his grim practice.
The sergeant ordered several men to retract from the front line and reload; it had to be done. Already the ammo was dwindling to almost nothing, and soon close combat would ensue. Brother Anareas kept up his fire with the other five men holding the line.
The screeching hormagaunts finally began to press in. With a muted prayer to the Emperor, Anareas watched as his sergeant delve right into the throng of Tyranid monsters, laying about himself with his smaller bolt pistol and chainsword. Knowing he was buying time and attention for his men to continue their volume of fire, Anareas and the line continued to shoot, aiming as carefully away as they could in gutting any creature that passed their commanding officer.
A minute passed and the other Doom Eagles rejoined the line, their fire helping with each passing second in pushing the swarm back. Like a tempest born of metal and silver, the sergeant held against his lesser foes. Slowly, the Doom Eagles advanced, attempting to clear the crevice and the shadow of the looming canyon wall.
But their advance ended abruptly as a monstrously large Tyranid form pushed its way forward, battering and stomping the smaller bioforms away. It bellowed an unearthly cry as the Tyranid swarm surrounding the Doom Eagles slackened, clearing a path for the solitary space marine defiantly standing in its way. With sword and pistol in hand, Anareas watched as their leader too his stance and accepted the charging carnifex directly. The creature’s massive jaws snapped forward as the chainsword connected uselessly against its armored hide. Up the Doom Eagle was lifted as the creature broke through the crevice walls and slammed its power armored foe into the canyon wall. Cracks and fissures broke the solid stone and the ground shook in protest as the carnifex’s rampage abated with its sudden stoppage.
It reared back to reveal the sergeant’s mangled and crushed form still embedded in the wall, his blood and gore staining the impact. Without a moment to contemplate, Anareas and his battle brothers drew their fire at the creature in a resolute attempt to avenge their fallen leader. The creature turned and reared itself up high, bringing its impossibly sharp and man sized talons to bear. It began scything the marines as it began harvesting, cleaving in twain the power armor protecting the marines.
Not once did any marine flinch. As the smaller swarm of creatures began to leap up and pull down the Doom Eagles not fated to die by the carnifex, a bloodied brother Anareas noted the last thing he thought of was the fact that everything he cared for was already dead, left behind on a cindered Imperial world where the Doom Eagles adopted him. It struck him as curious that that was his last thought.
Battle Sergeant Kerva, Knights of Macragge- Powerfist, Bolt Pistol (alabamaheretic)
The Knight, Part 1
It was a familiar scent.
The corridors were slick with freshly harvested blood, the offal of scared guardsmen dying ingloriously as their deepest, darkest nightmares came to haunt them in their final minutes of desperate living. A hint of sulfuric smoke wafted the air, discharges from grenades and explosives used in too tight corridors. And yet the scent was still there, permeating all the gestalt smells that were a part of an ambush that everyone knew was coming, but not where or when it would strike.
Kerva walked through the mess with tempered patience. He picked out the slash marks on the walls, the carved up bodies that he found in the command bunker, and the lack of any enemy corpses that would speak of the physical presence of the enemy.
But this wasn’t an enemy that would leave anything behind save for death, artistically splattered across the walls and the floor, a reminder that there was nothing to save you except your own demise.
Battle Sergeant Kerva knew the signs well. He saw them in the aftermath of the Battle for Macragge when a detachment of his Fifth Company came to help the Ultramarines mop up the detritus of war. The scenes his brethren saw appalled even them, a cadre of steeled warriors. It was then that Kerva’s chapter master reforged the chapter into the Knights of Macragge, solemnly swearing to Marneus Calgar himself that the legion of warriors at his beck and call would scour the galaxy for the aliens that perpetrated the horrors that befell the realm of Ultramar.
In the decades since, Kerva and his soldiers plied the stars, hunting for days on end for the Tyranid menace. Through attrition and battle, the Knights of Macragge learnt how to fight the various organisms and tactics of the overwhelming galactic invasion of the invaders. Years of perfecting their art yielded one of the most efficient and deadly counterstrokes to Tyranid aggression in the galaxy. But the weight of their responsibility was enormous, defending an entire galaxy against so numerous a foe. Scattering to the corners of the Imperium, each Knight would dispense their personal experience in the defense of world after world, thwarting the aliens from their succulent harvest of biomass.
The Knight of Macragge hastened his steps, confident that the creature still lurked these halls, absolutely certain about the creature he faced.
Taking out a remote detonator, he punched the button, causing the complex to reverberate with the cadence of tumbling rocks as the entrance became sealed from the outside.
Men gripped their heads in agony, dancing around in a stupor, swaying to the incessant moaning noise of the nearby daemonettes as they chanted and swayed to their demonic rhythm. Every so often, one would approach an entranced mortal and snip their body asunder with precise crab-like pincers, then flit away to rejoin her sisters.
The giant temple hall was adorned with the gore and bones of innumerable victims. Purplish lights pulsed amongst the ichor, throbbing with arcane energy. The blood soaked floor caused many of the hapless mortals to stumble and fall, some breaking bones. Most of them arose anew to continue their gyrations and convulsions.
On the far wall under a desecrated mosaic of the Emperor of Mankind fixed to his Golden Throne, one of his children was chained to the wall. His armor was gone, leaving behind the muscled, genetically enhanced man. He wore a tattered tunic soaked in blood, and crisscrossed across his frame was innumerable seeping wounds, delicately applied by his tormentors; an eon of practiced torment emblazoned across every inch of his skin.
Standing before this bowed man was a daemonette a head taller than her kin. She had the delicate allure of the most beautiful and charismatic mortals, but with the eyes of malice befitting a daemon, and the pincer-hands of a murdering beast. She too beat her hips to the sounds of mortal torment and devilish delight, thrusting her charms before the hardened eyes of the defender of humanity. Many tortures of the body, spirit, and mind she visited upon the Space Marine. Most of these trials the stoic warrior resisted. Every now and then the lead daemonette would see a glimmer of his spirit breaking. All that she managed to pull from his lips and his psyche though was the name of the one that resisted her urgings to surrender:
Brother Warren of the Omega Marines.
Her fanged and luscious lips widened in anticipation of her latest machinations. To date, all her efforts were trivial mockeries of her real talents. Most of the temptations and pleasures she granted were but the opening gifts of the touch of Slaanesh, her master. This marine was indeed a true loyalist to the Emperor who laid still and silent in his mortally shackled flesh. But his will was not supreme.
Pulling closer to the superman before her, she slithered her body across his torso. His chained fists clenched and he rattled in defiance to her foul intrusion. He cursed her in a litany of prayers despite his tortured body and inflicted pain. All was in a vain attempt to deny the subtle nudges he felt in the back of his mind to give in.
Her face leveled with his and her pupil-less eyes locked onto his questioning stare. His lip quivered as she simply smiled and pulled his head to hers, giving him a lustful osculation, her tongue delving into his mouth.
He resisted for a brief moment, then slackened his struggles and fell limp into the chains as the daemonette infused her essence into him, transferring the arcane spell she casted into his form. It suffused him, causing his body to glow faintly, beating in tandem to the other monstrous creatures that danced in the hall.
She released her kiss and walked back slowly to admire her work. Already, the touch of chaos was mutating this damned child of the Emperor, his skin turning a reddish hue, small spikes starting to poke randomly from his form.
He was already unconscious from the power of the transformation spell. When he awoke, the Omega Marine would become a true servant to the will of Slaanesh.
Brother Cornelius, Raptor Dreadnought- multi-melta, flamer, two dreadnought close combat weapons (madmartykmf)
Brother Cornelius walked amongst what he considered his dozen children, helping to pave the way against the tide of Chaos Marines barring their path. Men of incredible stature and tenacity these Raptor scouts were, but they dwarfed against the 15 foot frame of the dreadnought that shepherded them through many a battle. His eternal tomb stalked the rubble of a besieged town as his smaller charges flitted about between rubble, occasionally standing in line to fire suppressive shots as their advance spearheaded the main Imperial army.
Cornelius himself simply walked forward, challenging the wretched enemies of man to come before his multimelta and flamer, or his powerful grasping claws that was already drenched in the blood of a dozen foes today. Behind his metal façade, the broken body of the once fallen marine shed its inactivity for a brief smile, unseen and kept forever hidden.
An armored tank chugged into view down a narrow street, flanked by a score of Iron Warrior traitors, their shiny steel armor adorned with trophies and abominations against the Emperor. The shard-like, exposed structures lining the venue provided cover for the Raptors as they stopped their advance to fire pot shots at the full grown Chaos Marines to either side of the Predator tank. Brother Cornelius watched in amusement as several Iron Warriors fell before reacting to the fire, their numbers now even against the loyalists they faced.
The Destructor pattern Predator’s main autocannon turret labored into position, lining up a shot at the dreadnought anchoring the other end of the street. Its gun belched a massive artillery round at the sarcophagus bound body of the veteran marine. The direct hit shattered against the stronger front plating of the walking behemoth. Steadying himself, Brother Cornelius urged his constructed form forward, charging through the thick fire of the Iron Warriors and Raptor marines as they exchanged bolter rounds.
The autocannon fired once more at its charging target. Impossibly quick, the dreadnought wheeled to the right as the round zipped by, exploding into a distant building. Not faltering for one second, it charged in from the tank’s left, bringing its meltagun to bear. A white hot bar of light lanced forward, striking through the hull and out the other side. Even with his dulled, stifled hearing, he heard the hiss of metal evaporating before the power of a star punching through heretical side armor.
Not done yet, the Iron Warrior occupants trained the turret gun on the dreadnought in one last desperate attempt. Too experienced to let such an amateurish point blank shot occur, Brother Cornelius reached up and enclosed his armored talons around the autocannon’s muzzle. The resulting shot never occurred. Rather, the tank jerked in place once, and then exploding from the inside out, shrapnel and body parts scattering across the narrow stretch of road and pelting the Chaos forces hiding in cover.
Utterly cowed, the Iron Warriors began a fighting retreat, filtering out of their position with less than a third of their original numbers alive. The other Raptor scouts hiding behind their protector and patriarchal figure stormed out, guns blazing to catch the retreating soldiers. Brother Cornelius stomped over the corpse of the dead tank and jumped down after his brave children.
Brother Sig, Get of Frenki- Boltgun and Bolt pistol (porkuslime) Brother Warren, Omega Marines Tactical Marine- Bolter (porkuslime)
The Insanitorium, Part II
Brother Sig followed a trio of his brethren into the ruminated, despoiled sanctum of the immortal Emperor. Miles of hallway and ornamented rooms dedicated to the primogenitor of the Imperium seethed with the power of Chaos. Tens of thousands of Imperial Guardsmen were already dead, their numbers culled by the various daemons lurking the still dangerous corridors. The only advance to drive deepest into the basilica was the one led by the Gets of Frenki. The successor chapter to the Space Wolves drove through the abhorric monstrosities that barred their path.
In the corridor ahead, wolf howls sounded. The sound of snarls both animal and daemonic rebounded against the granite walls. As Brother Sig and his fellow marines rounded the corner, they found their pack of five giant wolves ripping to sunders a like number of daemonettes who dared cross their path. The lithe forms and pincer like claws of the Slaanesh maidens was no match for the unrivaled ferocity of the feral pack they faced.
The melee ended, the Gets inspected their charges for serious injury. Confident the wolves were able to continue, the lead marine whistled, and the wolves began to chase ahead again, outdistancing even the mighty strides of the Emperor’s chosen. Down the corridors they raced, the walls smeared with purplish ichor and human blood. Tapestries and motifs lay broken and tattered amongst the broken forms of men and the chunks of meat and discarded bones of even older victims to the taint of Chaos. The ground began to vein with skeins of pulsating purplish energy, coruscating with crackling, arcane power.
The last corridor ended in a baroque metal door, adorned with runes and prayers, the purple strings of force skittering underneath. The wolves yipped and scratched at the door, unable to advance further due to the formidable obstacle before them. Brother Sig’s fellow Get produced a melta bomb from his belt harness. Setting the timer, he fixed it to the door and ordered everyone to retreat. The timer counted to zero and a bright flash followed by the tearing screech of metal and stone followed.
When the marines cleared the now nonexistent doorway, they stalked into the very heart of the defiled house of worship. Tall overarching ceilings were littered with corpses drooped from chains. Thick blood seeped from between cracks in the wall masonry. The floor pulsed with the purplish energy, casting everything within in haunting hues and fractured shadows.
The only external and true light cast came from the circular image of the Emperor in relief on the stained glass window, casting a fractured, multicolored radiance on two forms in the center of the room. A slightly taller daemonette with a curiously bemused grin flanked a hulking slumped mass of red muscles and spikes. Taller by a head than the daemon, its body was slouched over, its breath coming in deep ragged bursts. The corrupted creature’s eyes were pinpricks of whitish energy. Malevolence and unbridled rage emanated from the monstrous thing.
“Well. I am very surprised to see wolves amongst the ranks of the Corpse’s children,” the daemonette clicked as she weighed each Get of Frenki within her lustrous eyes.
Brother Sig prowled forward, clenching his bolt pistol. “Fowl witch! You will die for desecrating the holy chambers of the almighty Emperor!”
The head daemonette smiled wickedly and turned to her minion. “I don’t think you could make me pay, even if you tried. However, you could give in to the power of Slaanesh like this poor soul did. He was one of your brothers until I…’convinced’ him to the greater pleasures he could have. Tsk, tsk. Poor soldier drank too deeply of the cup of honey however. I fear he may be too far gone to enjoy it further.”
She then smacked the back of the fallen Omega Marine, and the thing sprang forward, diving into the nearest wolf. The pack pounced and the fight began. The four marines circled the curiously confident daemonette as she turned to view each of her opponents in kind.
Bolter shots sprang out, attempting to catch the deceptive she-devil before she moved. Inhumanly, she danced out of the path of several bullets and another bounced off her preternaturally reinforced skin. Towards the leader of the Gets of Frenki she pounced, her powerful pincers neatly severing through his power armor and lopping off both his arms. Spinning acrobatically through the hail of fire, she mocked the marines and their ability to shoot her. Another marine was cut down as he backpedaled from her claws. Flitting towards Brother Sig, she lunged for his throat, twin claws seeking to rip off his head. The marine tucked into a diving somersault and landed to the side. Dropping his bolt pistol, he cursed and reached for his bolter. The temptress turned and was greeted with penetrating rounds of fire from the remaining marines. She shielded herself with armored forearms, but the feeble defense was shredded by fist sized bullets. Howling in agony, her form dissipated into mist that evaporated into nothing.
Then the marine next to Brother Sig was pounced upon from behind. He turned to see that the red mass of flesh that was once a dedicated defender of humanity was ripping off the power armor of the Get. Sig turned to see the broken forms of all five wolves splayed across the ground, their bodies rent and torn from viciously cruel claws. Fueled by rage, the marine leaped upon the blood-smeared body of the mutant to stop it from killing his sole remaining comrade asunder.
With one hand gripping the thick of a large back spike jutting from between his shoulder blades, Brother Sig laid into the head of the monster with headshot after headshot, roaring in denial at the carnage around him, crying in agony at the fate of his fallen friends and wolf pack, and denying the fallen marine the satisfaction of killing one more human.
Finally, the beast stopped snarling, and his shoulder slumped. Sig leaped off its back and gripped the aberration, pushing with his might to uncover its victim beneath. The massive and truly dead former marine laid on its side, its two eyes dulled in death.
Underneath, Brother Sig saw the remnants of his fellow Get of Frenki. The marine was beyond saving, his armor cracked like an egg and the innards thrust about with abandon, torn from his body and with it the hope of medical salvation.
Looking up, a sullen Brother Sig looked at the relief of the solemn Emperor casting his gaze down upon him. For a traitorous moment, the lone marine contemplated the unfairness of the galaxy and everything within.
Battle Sergeant Kerva, Knights of Macragge- Powerfist, Bolt Pistol (alabamaheretic)
The Knight, Part 2
Kerva stood before the air duct, his armor smeared with caked blood and grease, overwhelming his own personal body aroma with the decay of the bunker. He held his powerfist before him, the oversized gauntlet providing a poor shield against the inevitable onslaught of the cornered Tyranid organism.
Three days. Three days of waiting, of patient focus on the same spot. Over seventy hours of vigil. Soon the xeno would emerge, and the hunt would be over.
The Knight of Macragge favored his powerfist, for his other hand was gone in exchange for tearing the tentacled maw off of the sly and ravenous monstrosity he stalked. More than a week of prowling, hunting, and sudden ambushes as the predator slowly died of starvation.
On day one, Kerva canvassed the entire compound, snaking through innumerable pathways countless times, learning the layout of the lair of the beast he stalked. Flitting images mocked the periphery of the marine as it tried to approach, seeking a quick kill, but the vigilant marine knew well how to tread in the presence of the perfect assassin.
Day two saw the first confrontation, and the exchange of mortal blows. Leaped upon from behind hissing steam vents deep in the compound’s power core, the creature rent fantastic blows in the power armor of the Knight. Several minutes of hand to hand combat yielded a trophy for Kerva; the creature’s mouth tentacles used to feed itself, but at the cost of the hand that pulled the gory prize from the Tyranid’s maw.
The decided advantage on his side, the next several days became a series of cat and mouse hunts as the lictor sought to escape, using its preternatural quickness and stealth to stay a step ahead of the veteran Tyranid slayer. But the final confrontation was always a shadow ahead. Relentless hunting of a cunning predator would yield no results.
So Kerva had to think two steps ahead. At last finding a pattern to the creature’s movements, preset detonation charges across the air ducts it most frequently used were set and detonated, leaving only one exit for escape.
The Knight of Macragge was already at the entrance of the sole exit route, biding his time against the creature’s instinctual urge to feed had crazed it enough to attack. Without the energy to dig its way out in its hungered state, it would have to burst from the ducts, straight through the awaiting marine.
And finally, on the seventy-first hour, it emerged.
Kerva swung with his powerfist, a broadside smack that drove away the creature’s two talon arms, forcing it to barrel into the injured marine with its lithe body. Accepting the mass of the creature without budging, Kerva hugged the beast and drove it into the wall, dazing it momentarily. Raising his fist, the space marine sought to end the fight right then and there.
But the lictor kicked out, its cloven feet driving the marine away. It didn’t give the staggered human a chance to recuperate as it dove in mercilessly, its twin talon appendages and two taloned hands raking the marine’s armor. Scratches appeared on the dirtied power armor, ripping away the grime of the ruined complex.
But the marine was not fazed by the bull rush. Raising his stump of a hand, the marine launched forward, and held his handless arm within the arc of the two descending talon arms. The jagged thorns drove into the muscle and sinew of the forearm. Using his powerfist, Kerva smacked the back end of the lictor’s weapon arms, driving the points further in until they appeared on the other end of his forearm in a grisly smear of blood and gore.
Unable to pull the talons out, the creature struggled mightily as the marine threw all his might into a devastating punch, the powerfist driving straight into the creature’s chest and through its spine, killing it instantly.
At that moment, both combatants slumped. In the beady eyes of his dying adversary, Kerva saw the seething malice of the lictor slowly being smothered by the glaze of death. His arm still lodged in the creature, Kerva could not summon the strength to escape the death embrace. His heavy lidded eyes beckoned for closure.
But Kerva knew he could not yet sleep. He still needed to escape the prison he himself created.
While the world was still enveloped in the grasp of the Tyranid invasion, he couldn’t yet rest.
Venerable Brother Laan, Red Scorpion Dreadnought- Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter, Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon (endtransmission)
Inquisitor Heth Fenrix- no representative model
Rain pattered against the ancient massive stone slabs. The deathstorm abated, Inquisitor Heth Fernix stepped out from the relative safety of two fallen slabs juxtaposed against each other. Following the Imperial agent was the earth shaking steps of Venerable Brother Laan. An ancient Red Scorpion space marine encased in Dreadnought armor, it accompanied the fragile looking Fernix to the summoning circle. Interred right after the Angstrom campaign, Laan continued to serve his chapter for thousands of years after, dispensing his sage advice and massive bolter rounds in duty to his fellow chapter-mates. Today, he found himself hastily inducted into helping the Inquisition.
“Are you ready for this?” asked the Inquisitor as he turned to his stalwart companion.
“It is dangerous even under the best of circumstances,” grated the Badab War veteran. “Still, you must proceed regardless. The entire crusade hinges on your success today.”
Fernix sighed. He turned towards the chalk white arcane runes etched at the epicenter of the standing stones.
Fernix fished into his satchel and produced a leather bound text, crawling with similar runes and language long dead to most mortals. “Protect me from anything that may decide to attack. I require absolute concentration.”
“Understood,” announced the encased marine through his vox box.
The Inquisitor turned to a middle page within the thick tome, and began reciting words in a tongue that screamed heretical to the ears of the speaker. However, they had to be spoken. The Macharian VI crusade was almost all but lost. Billions of dead now littered the surface of the planet. Daemons ran free amongst the sliver of the populace that still survived. Chaos cultists and Chaos Space Marine warbands arrived daily from orbit or from hiding, adding weight to the crush of forces pinning the Guard regiment to their fortifications and entrenched positions. Tyranid incursions fought both sides with renewed intensity daily, carving deeply into reserves that would soon run dry.
As for the Space Marines that had journeyed to reclaim Macharian VI, less than half still lived. They fought in the skies against the traitor fleet battling the Imperial Navy, and fought shoulder to shoulder with the ranks of normal humans below. The few successes the marines did enjoy were quickly negated by the sudden appearance of a new sector in danger of being overrun, or a luckless marine squad disappearing without a trace. Despite the tactical brilliance of the Space Marine leaders keeping the whole effort in focus, the strategic war was being lost at an alarming rate.
Worse, the High Lords of Terra in one rare and singular response to the campaign deemed the world too valuable for Exterminatus; the order to wipe the planet clean in purifying fire.
So Inquisitor Heth Fernix was forced to do what some in the Holy Order deemed borderline heretical and downright suicidal.
He was going to summon and bind a Greater Daemon.
The summoning words glowed in the hands of Inquisitor Fernix as his voice gained power. The runic symbols on the ground began to emanate energy as well, causing the air to crackle. Rain began to slacken in the immediate vicinity as some force diverted the rain to angle away from the summoning circle. The ground at the center of the engraved runes split, and hellfire flicked out from the opening. Screams of pain and ether from the Immaterium flowed out, circling around the opening in anticipation for the occupant to emerge.
A claw scrabbled out from the hole, finding a perch in the ground in which to hall up the rest of its body. A winged horror emerged, its bird-like maw and staff of infused energy identifying it as an agent of the Chaos God Tzeentch.
Inquisitor Fernix grabbed an icon from around his neck, a relic of past times in the shape of a curved serpent. Snapping the necklace off, he whispered more words into the charm and hurled it at the Lord of Change before him. It shattered into golden dust and enveloped the avian creature as it shrieked in protest and attempted to swipe at the dust now twinkling on its form.
“Daemon, bow to my will!” intoned the desperate man as he held forth his free hand, palm outstretched and his will attempting to impose itself upon the vast intellect of his nemesis. The thing’s bird eyes narrowed in challenge. Rising to its full height, it stepped forth, testing the limits of the circle and the magic attempting to bind it. Straining at first, its foot refused to move further towards the Inquisitor. After a tense moment, it raised the arcane staff it carried and dispelled a wave of rolling purple energy outward, cascading over the summoner and pushing him back. The book tumbled from his grasp and the test of wills ended prematurely.
Flexing its wings in victory, the Greater Daemon did not see the canny Dreadnought approach from behind its massive arm seized its tall, slender body and wrestled it to the ground. For added effect, the venerable marine ripped off a wing and shot it several times in non-vital areas, taking most of the fight out of it.
Struggling to rise, the dreadnought held the broken from of the Lord of Change before Fernix, who held his arcane book again and started a chant that caused the struggling creature to jerk in response. Their gazes locked as the two did battle in their minds. Minutes passed as the Inquisitor’s brow soaked in sweat, and the Daemon he attempted to control struggled less and less.
Finally, the Lord of Changed went limp, his eyes still alert but his body all but motionless. Confident he held the horror in thrall, the shaken man approached. He watched as the thing cast a malevolent but helpless glare his way.
“Tor’Achen is your name. Correct?” asked Fernix.
“Yes,” the creature replied in monotone.
“Good.” Fernix clasped his hands behind his back and began walking back and forth. “I will ask you a few question, and all I ask for is are answers. You will give it to me. If you don’t, Venerable Brother Laan here will tear you asunder and I will banish you corporeally from this plane for a century or more. Is that understood?”
The creature glared some more, but could not refuse to answer. “Yes.”
“Let us begin. First, do you know about where you are?”
The creature looked around, suddenly for the first time showing a spark of fear in its visage. “Yes.”
“What is the name of this planet?”
“Mi’Tor’Izzahath,” replied the Lord of Change, fidgeting within the iron embrace of the dreadnought.
Fernix stopped pacing. “Mi’Tor’Izzahath? What does that mean?”
“Place of Forbidden Mazes.”
“And who named it such?”
“My lord Tzeentch did.” Its eyes darted frantically about, as if trying to escape the Daemon’s head.
“And why is it named as such?” asked the Inquisitor, curious as to why a Lord of Change would be afraid of this planet.
“My lord has…restricted his minions from coming to this planet. It is dangerous to our kind.”
“Your kind? Do you mean Daemons or minions of Tzeentch?”
Tor’Achen hesitated a moment before answering. This time, it spoke without compulsion to answer.
“This world is anathema to all that lives. No Daemon, human, or Tyranid is safe from what lies within.”
“What lies within?” Inquisitor Fernix muttered under his breath. Hearing the question, the Daemon answered unbidden.
“Below the deceptive crust of the planet lies an ancient evil. It is anathema to both you and to my master, mortal. Peril reigns for all of us who remain here. My master knows of the horrors beyond time that lurk within. You may have heard of them as well. The Eldar have their fractured tales of the war their progenitors fought against them. Countless civilizations stand in terror of the nightmares wrought during their infancy, stalking them to death through the eons of some ancestral memory.
“For your kind however, your mismatched confederacy of rabble know of these creatures as the Necrotyr.”
Inquisitor Heth Fernix stared at the Lord of Change as it still feebly struggled to flee. From the bottom of his soul, the normally unshakeable man felt the chills of fear pang his gut. With all his will, he clenched that fear in his mind and shoved it down to the bottom of a pit of thoughts that began to swirl and take shape, his conviction causing him to stop his staring contest with the broken Tor’Achen and turn, stalking away to plan his next move now that his enemy had been revealed.
With a simple wave of the Inquisitor's hand, Venerable Brother Laan bearhugged and squished the Greater Daemon to pulp. Casting aside the torn body, the Red Scorpion stomped after the Inquisitor through the prattling rain.
A whirling dervish of splintered limbs, flying bullets, and pained screams announced the arrival of two Space Marines. Both holding dual bolt pistols, they stood back to back as they entered the hideout of a reputed den of Chaos worshippers. Brothers Dejirn and Patyrick danced a deadly waltz as the confirmed cultists raised ruined weapons and charged. Over the refuse and broken furniture marking their abode the filthy men leaped over, attempt to clamor after and pull down their hated enemies.
Within the maelstrom of wart covered, snarling men in rags, the two men stood amongst and above the filth surrounding them. Each man came from a different brotherhood hundreds of light years apart, but fought in perfect synch as if knowing the other as a battle mate for years. Their four guns held at bay the dozens of shaven headed scum attempting to overwhelm them. The Angels Sanguine and Knights Penitient would be proud to name their respective comrades in arms true marines to approach such odds without fear or hesitation.
Any who stepped between the pistols was met with a backhanded pistol whip, sent flying to the ground with broken jaws and glazed looks. As the numbers were thinned by raining steel and physical feats of superhuman strength, a circle formed as the foaming cultists gained new appreciation for caution, surrounding the Space Marines with their sharp and blunt instruments poking out, attempting in vain to keep their two foes at bay.
Tense seconds passed as the marines held their guns out, goading the criminal horde to come at them again. Finally, from the back of the room, a taller figure approached. Shadowed, it was difficult to make out the man’s features, but his girth and height indicated he was more than just man.
Approaching, he elicited a fowl smelling stench that made his minions recoil, their rags going to mouth to keep out the diseased air. He wore broken power armor of a space marine, though it was slick with slime and pustuled skin dotted the broken cracks in the ceramite. Finally, his face stepped into the flickering torchlight from the walls, and his pocked and bald head held the semblance of two filmed over eyes and a mouth between innumerable bloated warts.
“You dare enter the domain of Kurkglyck the Incurable?” it slurred between broken, browned teeth. “Nurgle will be pleased if you would enter his warming embrace. But first, lower your weapons and submit to my will. I have…things to share with you.”
Brothers Dejirn and Patyrick answered with pistols blazing, charging forward to meet a more formidable foe. The swarm of Nurgle worshippers attempted to block their path, but the pretense of a fair fight ended as most were trampled under the armored heel of the two Assault Marines. Clearing the broken bodies that laid in their wake, they cautiously approached Kurkglyck as he now sported a wicked looking scythe, holding it before him as he warmly favored each marine with his sickly smile. He bade them to approach. The two stalwart soldiers obliged.
Sternguard Marine Unikal, Mantis Warrior- Silenced-Bolter, Silenced Bolt Pistol (Gitsplitta) Assault Marine Sergeant Grimswald, Sons of Guilliman- Power Sword, Plasma Pistol (schank23)
Everything went horribly wrong the minute the Mantis Warrior fired his silenced bolter into what he assumed was the huddled shadows of men in the near-dark dusk of Macharian VI.
They stood over the carcasses of other humans, silently flensing their flesh off, carrying it on their backs as they did their grim work. Unikal thought they were cannibals scavenging a fresh killing field. The minute he squeezed a round into their backs, the metal clanking against metal, he knew that what he faced was not normal. When they jerked up and stared at him with glowing green eyes, he knew what he faced was not human.
Dashing through the scrublands scorched by boiling acid rain and stunted by the march of innumerable armies, the Space Marine struggled in vain to escape his pursuit. The knife fingered abominations he easily outpaced. However, he was being hounded by the grim specters of cobra-hooded snake men, floating in silent pursuit of Unikal.
The Mantis Warrior turned to fire a muted bolter round into the trio of floating wraiths stalking him. Like the other metallic creations he fired against, his ammo plinked off their armored hides. Firing again, the round was true, but somehow passed right through their form. Cursing, he pumped his legs as hard as he could. Genetically enhanced as he was, the distance between the man and the machines was cut by inches every minute. Soon, they would be in striking distance to fleece him of his armor and his skin. As a product of the geneseed of heroes, he vowed to live on to report what he found.
Doing the calculations in his head, it would take over an hour before he got back to the closest Imperial Guard encampment on the Trampled Plains. Between his speed and the speed of his pursuit, he wouldn’t make it halfway there. He had to think. They were immune to his guns; the plain itself was perfectly flat for kilometers around. He had no way to communicate his situation. He cursed loudly again.
He had to think of something!
Looking back, his death was apparent. He wouldn’t make it!
So with grim resolve, he abruptly skidded to a halt and spun back the way he came. Out from his holster came his bolt pistol. He charged right at the lead creature, diving under swiping talons and firing into its serpentine abdomen. It screeched inhumanely, an ancient language that predated everything the Space Marine knew. A shiver of fear climbed Unikal’s spine, but he suppressed it as he scrambled from underneath the floating thing to backpedal away. Its movements jerked around in the air, as finally one or more of his bolter rounds had actually caused damaged.
The other two monstrosities lazily floated into range. With all his martial skill, he fended off their claws and the swipe of their barbed tails. Up close, he noticed that they seemed to shimmer in and out of reality, their bodies not whole at times, others perfectly solid as his arm shuddered under hammer-like blows.
He fired off two more shots at close range, but with his concentration focused on defense, he could not mount a proper offense. Finally, he noticed the third and last creature entering the fray. It circled around in a wide arc to get behind him. Once it did, The Mantis Warrior knew he would die.
But the creature never got completely around him. Loud and concentrated gunfire erupted in his ear drums. He noticed in his periphery the zip of heated bullets as they riddled the jerking and spasming form of the creature.
“For the Emperor!” was the battlecry as several Space Marines charged to stand shoulder to shoulder with Unikal. The odds suddenly favored the Mantis Warrior as the combined might of five battle-tested warriors felled the two remaining hooded specters of death they faced.
With combat abated, Unikal allowed the exhaustion to overwhelm him as he finally reached his body’s absolute limit. Two of his fellow battle brothers grab his arms and helped him stagger to an ammo crate they hauled from the confines of a nearby parked rhino transport. Lead eyed, he stared up at the leader of the squad who stood flanked by his men.
He was a Son of Guilliman from the look of his checkered white and blue armor. He led a disparate group of marines that came from other chapters, some from those he knew, others that he couldn’t even vaguely recall. A cackling power sword was held defensively in his hand. The other hovered closed to a plasma pistol strapped to his belt. He stared down at Unikal with a furrowed brow, quietly sizing up the man he rescued.
“Battle brother, what are you doing this far out from your base?” he asked.
The Mantis Warrior sighed and tried his best not to sound tired. “Recon. I was attached to the Banarian V’s 332nd Regiment. I was tasked by Colonel Drakun to find and eliminate any enemy scouts that could be trying to find the remnants of their fallen comrades.
“I found these things on the field, stalking the dead and taking their flesh. These ones here pursued me,” he gestured toward where the dead metallic creatures lay. He froze in surprise. The corpses were gone.
The marines surrounding their sergeant quickly snapped into action, filtering out to find out where they went. The Son of Guilliman ordered his rhino crew to turn on the searchlights.
“By the Emperor’s Might…” he began to maledict. He caught himself ahead of completing the curse and turned to Unikal, who was as wide eyed as the man who saved him.
“Vanished?” he questioned as his men barked out negatives to any hostile presence in the vicinity.
The Mantis Warrior nodded his head. “These creatures hounded me for kilometers. They can…phase out of existence. I tried hitting them with bolter rounds and physical blows. Sometimes they shimmered out of existence.”
The two men stared at each other in understanding. What just happened tonight needed to be reported, and quickly.
“Come with me into the rhino,” the sergeant bade. “We have a communication array inside. We need to report this to Chapter Master Calabeck.”
With a strong grasp, the Son of Guilliman marine lifted the tired soldier off the crate.
With a questioning stare, Unikal asked, “Wait…before we go inside, please tell me the name of my savior. I owe you a debt for my life today.”
“Son…you may call me Grimswald, a Son of Guilliman.” His stern façade softened. “And today marine, for what you found, we may have to owe you all our lives.”
Three marines stood vigil. Three of the greatest warriors that Mankind ever produced cast their gazes forth towards the northerly Frostdepth Mountains on the horizon. They watched as the mountains began to squirm…as if alive. In the twilight hour on their side of the world, they could not fully comprehend why the entire horizon gyrated with motion….until a thin blanket of black lifted off in the dusk and began flying towards them. It was only then that three lonely marines realized a vanguard of Tyranids had awoken.
Across the broken Borderlands they fled on foot, feet pumping to keep ahead of the thousands of gargoyles in pursuit. Knowing full well that the creatures would eventually fly ahead of them and cut them off, one of the three marines opted to turn and stand, giving the others a chance to escape.
Upon a boulder did the marine sacrifice himself. Brother Aclidbes of the Sabre Marines shouted at the top of his lungs, firing madly into the air, attracting the swarm as his two brethren escaped into the broken terrain, effortlessly evading the aerial pursuit as the creatures mindlessly began circling the only threat they could perceive.
An encircling tornado of flesh and wings began to swoop down, coming into contact with the bullets spewed by Brother Aclidbes. Uncaring, they accepted the thin hail of bullets as they leveled their own guns, a fusion of living flesh and function that formed a biogun. Thousands of propellants ejected from their guns, shrouding the defiant marine under a shadow of death.
The swarm circled about after their initial assault. Nothing remained to oppose them. With one final beat of wings and screeching to signal the threat ended, the gargoyles left the bloodstained rock to continue their advance ahead of the millions more creatures already issuing forth from the Frostdepth Mountains.
Sergeant Anmnix- no representative model
The skies poured down their tribute, torrents of rain to the huddled masses below, herded together by men of great stature and powerful armor. Their guns spoke of death and the promise of eternity.
The mud clung to boots and to ankles; some of the children clung desperately to their parents to keep from being trampled by the masses milling about in the confined area outside the town. Shouts of challenge and provocation came from their captors as they massed the people in the middle of a ruined settlement, several of their guards still hunting down anyone who hadn’t been found yet.
They were precise, for fifteen more minutes of searching confirmed for the somber soldiers that no one else was left. As the few men who were tasked with the search disassembled and took position at the edges of the mob, their leader strode forth.
His massive boots stomped above the mud rather than through it. His armor was grand, like all of his brethren. His hair plastered his forehead, as he forgone his helmet to stare at the pitiful wretched before him. With his fevered eyes and his corpse-like lips, he looked like death itself. The garish scar cresting his left cheek and the pockmarks of acid spoke of the horrors he had to endure weeks ago when he fought the alien menace that had swarmed the surrounding lands.
His arrival in town was met with the same blank stares all the world’s inhabitants gave to the marines. Luckily, a detachment of marines was present. His warning relayed of the Tyranid resurgence, he joined the squad positioned here and took command less than a week later when the sergeant on duty was ambushed by the beastly Tyranid aliens in the dead of night.
The passive inhabitants stood by as several score of their numbers became crazed Daemon possessed hosts, going on a murderous spree through the listless masses before the marines were able to react, taking down the horde of monstrous creatures at the cost of three of their numbers. None of the remaining citizens of the town cared even a flicker as they simply went about their empty lives trying to survive.
And then the day came when the countryside became overrun with Tyranid bioforms, the creatures cutting off the town from all sides, isolated and protected by a scant handful of marines. No desperation or despair entered the minds of the people. They simply wandered about aimlessly as the marines fought day and night for days on end, filing choke points with the bodies of the dead aliens and barricading street with the wreckages of civilization, striving one minute to the next to survive and protect humanity as they were trained to do.
But here they were, the alien menace driven off for the moment, the sky leaking all the tears of the heavens, and Sergeant Anmnix holding a gun to the people he swore to protect, driven to the corners of sanity by all the unfairness of the universe.
And with the nod of his head, the guns spoke.
After long minutes of speaking, silence reverberated through the rain, the mud colored red. A final series of cracking sounds echoed through the area, signaling that the entire town would know eternal darkness for all time.
The Devastators knew their fight futile. The breach in the Imperial Guard lines was final. The fight was turning into a bloody massacre as millions of Rippers, Hormagaunts, and Ravagers tore into the decimated regiments.
And yet anchoring the line was twenty of the deadliest warriors the galaxy ever saw. Twenty Space Marines carved a terrible toll on the mass trying to push forward, attempting to eclipse the retreat of an army ragged beyond endurance. Surrounding their position with the remnants of the Iron Fists that spearheaded the attack and now the vanguard, a few thousand soldiers joined the score of Devastators from keeping the total destruction of the army from happening. Their Chimeras formed a steel wall as the Tyranid swarm scampered across a littered field of body parts and broken landscape.
Kronos Califaux of the Sinners Chapter and Terinth Reiyn of the Disciples of Blood were the sole Devastators to wield the dangerous and hefty plasma cannon armament. These twin sun guns ruptured the horde at critical spots, wiping out swaths of Warriors and lesser minions with ease. Other powerful guns joined in on the roar of fire that allowed the Imperial Guard to manage a shoddy defensive posture from being overrun. Lascannons, heavy bolters, multimeltas, and frag missiles sent seared limbs and broken bodies tumbling across the front as lasgun fire added their weight into the gruesome carnage.
From the sides of the last stand, the Tyranid swarm began flanking their position. Kronos and Terinth trained their guns in unison, but to no avail as the Rippers began scampering over the hulls of broken machines, tearing down the lightly armored guardsman first in their path. Hopelessly, the last few hundred men exchanged lasguns for swords as their Commissars and Officers urged them to take down as many vile vermin as they could.
For the marines, they formed a circle amongst the carnage, standing upon the upturned mass of a shattered Leman Russ, avoiding the greater melee but still doing their utter most to drive back the creatures around them and give the Imperial Guard one slim advantage against the thousands to one they faced. For minutes, the tenacity of the brave men allowed the marines to pelt the enemy lines. But their will was beyond human endurance, and talons and claws laid low the last human wall between them and the Devastators.
But salvation came. Two Thunderhawk Ships emerged from the embattled sky, adding their weaponry to the fray. They descended to hover above the upturned battle tank in which the surrounded marines fought, missiles and bombs cutting huge holes in the blanket of alien bodies skittering across the ground. From above, ropes descended. One by one, the Devastators climbed to safety as the inferior ranged bioweapons of the Tyranids plinked off of heavy ceramite plates.
At last, only two marines remained behind. Both Brothers Kronos and Terinth kept their weapon fire unabated. Their plasma cannons blazed until their cooling mechanisms failed and the guns overloaded. Casting their ruined weapons aside, the final two marines joined their saviors in the armored gunship. The Thunderhawks then flew upward into the storm wracked sky as another disaster befell the Macharian VI Crusade.
Captain Rocus Qalu descended the filth drenched steps. Before him was a room shadowed in darkness, the only light emanating from the door at the top of the walkway. Dark pools of liquid were intersected with broken and crumpled bodies. Rocus flicked both of his wrists, and his twin thunderhammers hummed with power, flooding the chamber with blue flickers on energy. A trio of figures stood at the edge of his light, standing silently at the back of the room.
“We have a score to settle,” stated the captain. He directed his gaze to the tallest of the three figures, attempting to size up his enemy. He knew two space marines had died at the hands of the traitor, and also knew that this was where they last were. The evidence of their final stand was apparent from the scores of corpses littering the area.
“You will die for your actions and your transgressions. I offer one final chance for repentance and recanting from your heretical beliefs and actions before delivering upon you the punishment of the Emperor for betraying his blessings and protection.”
The Nurgle marine stepped forth, his diseased and corrupted form pustuling across his torn and rent power armor. He held a wicked scythe before him, crusted with blood and dripping with disease.
“Death? My dear captain. You misunderstand the intent of Nurgle and his embrace. He does not gift his children with death, but with pestilence. Those who reject his gift are fated to die sadly. However, those who accept his gift find the Plaguefather a warm and inviting patriarch. Take for instance my two new brothers…”
He gestured and his two minions stepped forth. Captain Rocus now understood. These were the two marines that the Blood Dragon was sent to find after neither returned to the extraction point. They were now cursed with the touch of Chaos mutation; shambling, distorted abominations with hardly a mind of their own. To the captain, both marines were already dead.
They attacked. Springing forward, they stretched out clawed hands to wrestle down their former leader. Captain Rocus stepped forth and drove his hammers down into their skulls, caving their craniums into their bodies and bursting their forms in a splay of blood and flesh. Power armor cracked as the sundered armor fragmented into thousands of broken shards. His former brothers in arms pulped, the stalwart Rocus approached.
The Nurgle marine also came forth, his ugly pocked face grinning. He strode with the balance of a true warrior, honed through hundreds of years as a servant to the Emperor and millennia of conflict fighting amongst the traitors and Daemons that tried to eat away at the heart of the galactic empire built by Him. His scythe came in high, aiming to reap the captain’s head.
Rocus ducked and swung a mighty arc with his cackling right hammer arm. The blow impacted and resonated against the room. But the weapon only cracked the already tarnished armor of the traitor, the wound superficial.
“I have a degree more favor with my Father than other minions,” the servant of Nurgle responded, bringing his weapon up then chopping downward. Rocus used his left-handed thunder hammer to intercept, the haft halting the scythe inches from the helmet of Captain Rocus. More pressure applied the scythe scrapped and grinded against the indomitable metal. At last, the space marine brought his other thunder hammer around for a swing, forcing the traitor back and at a distance from the Blood Dragon marine.
They circled, wary of the other. Weapon for weapon, the loyalist was better armed, but he faced a far stronger opponent with a resilient body. Rocus would need to disarm his foe before the scythe landed any significant blow.
Shouting in praise to the Emperor and in fury at his two fallen comrades, the Blood Dragon captain flung a thunder hammer end over end at the Nurgle marine. Startled at the unexpected missile, he brought his scythe up to block and ducked his head behind the impediment. The hammer jolted his arm as the thrown weapon connected and deflected off to the side. Looking back up, he found that his opponent was not at a safe distance, but had charged right next to him, his sole thunder hammer now hefted in both hands for a swing. Keeping his defensive posture, the Nurgle worshipper braced for the blow.
It wasn’t enough. The hammer came in from down low, swinging upward and inside the reach of the scythe. His greater strength failing him against so sudden an assault, the scythe was ripped away. Reaching the apex of his swing upward, Rocus spun his hammer and reversed it back down, smacking the traitor with all his might square in the chest. Armor cracked again and finally the mutated marine coughed up blood.
Again and again Captain Rocus Qalu smote his enemy. Strike after strike of deathblows rained down, breaking the mortal form of the superman until his knees buckled and popped, and his spine broke in a dozen places. At last, the Captain relented, gazing down at the impressive resiliency of his defeated foe, his milky eyes still looking above at his executioner. “Any final words before I send you to oblivion, fallen brother?” asked Rocus.
Miraculously, the plague marine responded. He raised a crooked finger up and pointed behind the looming Blood Dragon, indicating he look away.
Rocus nodded and brought his hammer down, condemning the forfeited soul of the former Space Marine to an alien god for all time. Done with his quest for vengeance, he did as he was requested and turned.
Before him was a sight more vile than the plague marine he smote. A Daemon of great girth with festering maggots devouring his flesh appeared before him. Thrice the height of even a space marine, it hunched its mass as its fall boil encrusted back squished against the ceiling. Its maw of broken, brown teeth smiled upon the startled Blood Dragon.
Before his lightning quick reflexes could react, the thing stabbed forth a blob of an arm, its sausage like finger tapping the marine on its helmet, freezing him in place. It kept its finger there as it began to speak, its voice the combination of buzzing flies and swollen tongues.
“Child of the Emperor of Man…fear not me, the blessed of Nurgle the Great Lord of Decay. My master has no interest in your conversion…today. He bade a favored child of his to come here on his behalf, and deliver unto me a being worthy of carrying out this task. At last, he has found his quarry.”
Struggling against the paralysis, Captain Rocus stammered, “T-then w-why cap-p-ture ….m-m-me?”
The Greater Daemon smile broadened, creasing his fat bloated face even more.
“You are not beholden to me. I do need to give you a most important gift though…It will be…painful and possibly fatal. But if you should so survive, you will know everything my master does about this world and why your little invasion has failed miserably to this point.”
“y-you l-li-lie!” the captain croaked, still unable to do more than talk and stare.
The daemon sighed. “Believe what you will, but understand this: my master has gone to great lengths to protect his followers. This information was gleamed from the dark depths of plots and intrigue that his great enemy, the god of secrets Tzeentch had discovered. He thought to hide this information and keep it all to himself. He did not count of the ways my master has at prying away such secrets. But I digress.
“Now you will accept this information regardless of what you want. As much as we hate to admit it, the Ruinous Powers are too divided and helpless against what this planet could potentially do. Its existence threatens not only us, but also your precious Imperium. So take this offering and live…live so that you may set into motion the events that could save all of us.”
A flash of light erupted from the Daemon’s fingertip and flowed into the mind of Captain Rocus.
All that is or was to the Space Marine became pain, as image after image of darkness and death incarnate flowed through him. He finally was able to move, and he clutched his head in agony, screaming to the high heavens above as his wordless howls echoed across the room and out into the ruined city above…
Tiny specks of light illuminated the floating sphere representing the planet of Macharian VI. Little green blips moved like hornets, markers showing the activities of the Imperium. A slowly growing tide of red marks denoting Tyranid infestations grew like mold across the globe. Slowly the red tide pushed back and consumed pockets of green blips as the Tyranid menace began to consume almost an entire quarter of the globe suspended in midair. On the other side, little blue Chaos blips continued to sprout randomly, intercepted by agitated green marks that shrunk considerably once a blue mark ended. This played out over and over again as the sphere’s time frame danced back from the present and forward again as events were rewound and replayed at the whims of the viewer. Again. And again. Ceaselessly, the performance of the Imperial Guard and their Space Marine allies was juxtaposed to the increasingly growing Tyranid threat and the sporadic intervention of the Ruinous Powers.
Thus was the state of affairs as Chapter Master Calabeck watched on. For months his men had fought and died without a clear victory in sight. Half the Space Marines were dead, and but a third of the surviving Imperial Guardsmen clung to life, flung like a blanket across the planet in an attempt to smother the bonfires of war. The crusade had to be conservative now. No new reinforcements were coming, and the High Lords of Terra gave secret, encrypted messages to Calabeck to continue the conquest of Macharian VI. Under no circumstances was he to even think about Exterminatus as an option. The High Lord’s directive was absolute.
Bitterly, Calabeck had ordered the far flung marine units to concentrate. It would mean the wider war would become the burden of the Guardsmen, but he had no choice. If the Imperium was to emerge victorious, no single unit or solo missions could be afforded anymore. Each strike had to be precise, perfect.
Frustrated and fighting a war with one hand tied behind his back, Calabeck could not shake the notion that the whole effort was for naught right from the start. At first, the failures of the first weeks were minor setbacks. Then entire regiments and even Space Marines vanished. The Chaos forces continued to pester, and the latest Tyranid invasion was devastating. Thankfully, the planetary populace acted now as if in a stupor. Initially at each other’s throats, they took a back seat to the brutal battles, becoming victims instead of participants; lukewarm to either the traitors or the Imperium, and falling like pins to the unstoppable Tyranid advance. And until recently, not one side ever held a decisive advantage for long. The recent alien offensive changed the whole complexity of the dance of death. But nagging the back of his mind, Calabeck sensed that the timing of the Tyranid attack was too perfect.
Calabeck wondered what could be at work opposing his forces. Each move he made was suddenly reversed by more disturbances and more setbacks. Despite his intelligence network and interrogations, he could not penetrate the cloak from where the daggers came. The forces pulling the strings were there, but how could the masterminds control all three forces locked in a death struggle and still remain hidden? The questions confounded him to no end. Directed to organize the war effort from afar by his masters and unable to leave his command ship suspended in orbit, Calabeck felt blind. Without his personal involvement planetside, all he could do was direct and command from afar.
He needed now more than ever for his personal eyes on the ground to give him the information he needed. Not only did he need it, but everyone still living on the planet would need it too.
Sergeant Tano Inushi cursed. A rather withering pox, he directed it at the genestealer trying to get within his defense, its four arms darting in and out looking for the quick kill. Inushi denied it with three quick swings of his katana, slicing two arms off with an equal number of strikes, and the third impaling the creature in its chest. Gurgling purplish blood, it slid off his blade as he assessed the combat within the transport.
Everyone on the transport was fighting for their lives. Their intent was to get the aircraft to the awaiting command ship above. Mercy’s Redoubt however was nominally an oversized but slow Imperial Guard Valkyrie. Inushi and his tactical squad commandeered the space vessel to transport vital info held by three Imperial agents. Unfortunately, they didn’t account for the cargo crates holding a three score count of genestealers waiting to ambush them.
Inushi was supposed to be guarding with his life the three Imperial agents. All three were all rushing towards the beleaguered cockpit pilots who were swarmed with a host of the vile invading creatures. Taking charge was the Inquisitor Heth Fernrix himself. He fought with sword and pistol, deftly sidestepping genestealer attacks and pushing them into the path of his two more formidable comrades.
The first man Inushi recognized as Watch-Captain Alexander smashed his powerfist against the swirling storm of claws and talons attempting to rend him. The other he knew as Rocus Qalu, a Blood Dragon marine reknown for his ability to wield two thunderhammers at the same time. His twin hammers crushed any xenos combatant that was pushed his way by the Inquisitor.
As for Inushi’s ten man squad, only three remained. Two thirds of the genestealers were dead, but the rest still pressed in undeterred. Inushi ran towards his remaining three soldiers, all of whom were veteran marines in their own right. The Dust Devil marine he knew as Brother Lenxicus had only his boltgun remaining. He fought with determined zeal, trying to keep his fellow marine the young scout Flesh Tearer Ziolus from getting ripped apart by a trio of talon tipped terrors. Both men fought along with a third comrade who suddenly got pulled down before Inushi joined their defensive stance.
“Flaming slag piles!” shouted Inushi as he leaped into the fray in an attempt to save the falling marine. His plasma pistol smoked as his shot three rapid fire rounds into their chitinous backsides. Two fell to smoking holes that penetrated into right their spinal cords, but the third turned from his gored victim, claws glistening with freshly coated blood. Inushi calmly stepped into its reach, dodged the first swipe of its talon, and did a quick and clean cut from side to side, causing the startled creature’s torso to slide right off its legs and tumble dead to the ground before it even knew what killed it.
Inushi silently prayed for the dead marine he could not save and turned to help his last two comrades, who now had gained room to fire forth their boltguns, causing the remaining five genestealers to face them to finally break their assault, scattering towards the empty crates that they previously hid in. Brothers Lenxicus and Ziolus merely reached for their krak grenades and hurled them into the cover the aliens took, the resulting explosions causing wailing screeches and tattered limbs to fly about.
Waiting to make sure the aliens were truly dead, Inushi and his men searched the containers to find that the final alien attackers were dead or dying, finishing off the few that weakly clung to life with bolter rounds the size of fat fingers. Clearing the back of the transport, the last three survivors of Inushi’s tactical squad moved forth to meet the carnage that surrounded the other two marines, who stood vigil over the doorway leading to the cockpit.
“Everything is clear at this end,” announced Sergeant Inushi as he approached the two Captains. They were busy cleaning their weapons off, the bodies of dozens of genestealers surrounding them not fazing them in the least.
“Good work Sergeant Inushi,” said Watch-Captain Alexander as he appraised his gun one final time before sheathing it. “We will pay respects for the fallen once we finally get into the hanger bay.”
“And double check to make sure that all presence of the Tyranids is cleaned from this ship,” added Captain Rocus as he laid his thunderhammers to rest on the wall. “The ship will have to cleanest from bow to stern.“
Tano nodded. He looked around. “Where is the Inquisitor?” he asked.
Rocus pointed with his thumb to the cockpit door. “The pilots were all dead. Luckily, one of them set the machine spirit to keep ascending. He is now attending the machine spirit with rituals and prayers in order to keep us on target.”
The sergeant nodded again, and then frowned. “Do we know how these blasted heaps of Ork midden get aboard our ship, or why they were here in the first place?”
Captain Rocus was about to answer before the Watch-Captain held up a hand and interjected. “We don’t know exactly why. It could have been a random infestation of this ship while it was in the warzone against the Tyranids to the west.”
Inushi knew first hand after months of campaigning that the Tyranid swarm was advancing inexorably and was using unconventional means to ambush and demoralize the average Imperial soldier. While it was uncommon for Imperial vehicles to be infested, nonetheless several nasty outbreaks of genestealers and ripper swarms lying in ambush until the crews returned to base had occurred. The results were particularly brutal.
Yet Inushi could not believe that entirely. The Deathwatch marine stopped Rocus from his explanation. Perhaps he was hiding something.
“But you don’t think that was it random?” pried Inushi as he directed the question towards the Inquisitorial marine.
Watch-Captain Alexander shrugged. “It is possible they were waiting in secret to ambush the next ship leaving for the capital ships above. As far as I know, the Tyranids have been unable to get any forces outside the atmosphere.”
“That’s still speculative. Don’t you find it unusual that the Tyranids knew what vehicle to infest in order to get into the atmosphere?”
The Watch-Captain frowned. “Tyranids are known for their adaptability. They’ve been at war with us for decades, and have proven adaptable to our technology and tactics. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they could target a specific ship, especially if this ship was in a recent warzone and know it is capable of space to ground transportation.”
Inushi knew instantly where the Captain’s logic faulted him. He looked around at the cargo bay once more before turning his attention back again to the two Captains. “I don’t buy any of that. This ship is a cargo transporter primarily. If you look at the outside, the paint is still relatively new. If you see inside here, it is clean and free of any marks, especially ones that would be made by armed guards coming and going with the shipments. This ship hardly looks like it saw any use at all.”
Inushi mentally held his breath. He knew he walked a fine line now. “The Mercy’s Redoubt was a bloody trap meant specifically for you three. You three were the targets. You know something that they didn’t want coming back to our superiors.” The sergeant narrowed his eyes. “What is so important that you three were marked for death, which caused seven of my men to die here defending you? For their honor, we must know why.”
The tension became palpable. Brothers Lenxicus and Ziolus tightened the grip on their shouldered gun. Captain Rocus inched his hand closer to one of his resting hammers.
Suddenly, the cockpit door hissed opened. Inquisitor Heth stepped out, watching the scene unfold before him.
“Stand down everyone,” he commanded, glaring at all the marines in turn, watching as muscles relaxed and fingers eased off triggers. “I’ll tell you what is going on here.”
Watch Captain Alexander began to protest, but the Inquisitor held up his hand. “I trust the Sergeant and his men as much as I trust any Deathwatch. Remember, I personally command him like I do you. And the Blood Dragon here has also sworn to me as well.”
Captain Rocus Qalu nodded, but said nothing else. Satisfied that order was restored, Heth nodded.
“We three have walked different paths until now,” the Inquisitor began. “Each of us has uncovered a portion of the reason as to why the Crusade is an utter disaster. We have information that could possibly change the course of events here. And maybe, just maybe if the Emperor wills it, could grant us victory upon this planet.
“But we couldn’t tell anyone. The transmissions and reports being sent over Imperial communications are being monitored. I could not chance any of this information to leak. We needed the utmost secrecy and subterfuge to get this far already. If I didn’t track down these two men here, their lives could have been forfeit.”
Inushi still did not understand. “So who are we hiding from then? Are there traitors amongst our ranks? Perhaps there is a genestealer cult amongst the Guard, or even Chaos worshippers infesting our brethren?”
Heth shook his head. “Worse. The ones behind our misfortunes and possible demise are none other than the Necrotyr. We are facing the ancient horror that once almost destroyed our galaxy. We are facing the Necrons.”
Chapter Master Calabeck stared into the inky depths of space. Black studded with glittering stars against a massive and complicated tapestry, his thoughts didn’t go out to the eternal dance of the cosmos, but to the planet his flagship orbited.
His personal quarters were sparse; he had nothing save his armaments a few pieces of personal effects, and a place to sleep. Opposite the door was a window into the dark depths of space to which he currently stared. He retired early after the briefing with his officers and the recent arrival of the Inquisitor and his retinue. Despite an alarming situation that developed en route, the finally brought the news that Calabeck secretly feared.
Now he would need to act quickly after his solitary contemplation. The news of the subversive Necron presence wouldn’t remain a secret for long. He trusted his immediate officers and liaisons with the Imperial Guard and Navy, but time would eventually crack the silence. The mere mention of the Necrotyr would instantly demoralize and jeopardize the entire Crusade.
Worse, it could force the hand of his newly discovered enemies. As far as he knew, there was no Necron presence reported. However, any disappearance of significant forces not pegged on the Chaos or Tyranid theaters of war could be the result of the surreptitious intervention of the Necrons.
But could the Necrons be the ones orchestrating the arrival of both the Chaos and Tyranid forces to this planet as well as his own? What would be the benefit of attracting three armies to a planet? Have them annihilate each other? Weaken the sector for a planned culling? Could this be in fact a tomb world? Certainly even a planet full of Necrons couldn’t fight against everyone currently fighting on the planet’s surface.
It didn’t add up. He needed more time, more information.
But first, he needed to deal with what was in front of him.
First he needed to contain the Tyranid swarm before it overran his positions and destroy what was left of the Crusade.
Turning from his view, he exited his small confines and navigated the massive corridors and hallways of the ship.
He needed to get to communications. Then, he needed to get the message out.
There was a force of marines he needed to staunch the xenos advance.
Assault Marine Machient, Solar Lions- Power Axe (Solar_Lion)
Brother Machient awoke. His head throbbed, and he fluttered open his eyes.
The world spun.
He tried moving his arms, but they were restrained. He looked down and around as the world tilted in circles. His legs were strapped along with the arms. A larger restraint held his torso in check. Wind buffeted his face and hair from the left. What was causing the wind?
Keening wails alerted him to the presence of others as the vertigo continued. He looked around, and saw that others were confined as he, bound every few feet along a gigantic black and red striped wheel that spun horizontally. The ceiling he stared up at was garish with colors and images that defied any logic or sanity. Suspended from the ceiling was what looked like stalactites, though it was impossible to tell from the mosaic of chaos above. Spinning around on a giant wheel made the painting ceiling dizzying to look at.
The wheel kept spinning, and Machient observed more of his surroundings. Each prisoner was held down at the outer edge of the wheel, and most appeared to be regular humans, though several wore the uniform of an Imperial Guardsmen. Some of the stripes on the wheel held not humans, but gory remnants such as bound hands and legs, stains to commemorate those who once held a condemned soul. About half of the wheel was empty in this fashion.
Suddenly the wheel began to grind to a halt. Slowly but surely, the mechanisms controlling the contraption was reducing the speed.
Laughter began emanating from all around, booming and boisterous, tinged with raptured madness. Machient saw mirthless expression as the keening wails of despair turned into whimpers and stares.
Finally, the wheel stopped.
And several spikes from the nightmarishly colored ceiling feel from chains and impaled an equal number of victims. Barbs sprouted out from bodies, popping out of mouths and ears, pushing out eyes. Their death convulsions came quickly as the spikes ascended and tore bodies from limbs. Holes in the tapestry allowed the spikes to disappear from view. Other spikes grew out from the ceiling and snapped in place to suspend over the wheel.
And the wheel began to lurch in motion again.
A voice giggled insanely. Again, the prisoners were crying and wailing in fear again. None were the voice.
“Glorious! Slaanesh be praised!” it cackled.
“Another good round of a game!” it declared, obscured from view and hidden from the space marine entombed on the giant roulette wheel.
“Another spin for those still playing,” it declared malevolently.
Brother Machient knew he had to escape, or else die in the mad amusement of a Chaos worshipper.
The last cultist fell, a hole punched through his chest by a plasma round. Smoke curled from the corpse.
Menaras Threrk stood over the piles of bodies, his gun hot from repeated firing. The corridor stank of burnt flesh. Faces marred in blood stared lifelessly into nothingness.
Menaras strode forth towards the broken double doors ending the hallway. He stepped over the piles of heretics tracked through rumor and browbeating amongst the dazed populace of Fintstrap. Their ineffectual defense of a Chaos ‘relic’ was pitiful against a member of the Evocati marines.
Menaras heard whispers and weapon cocking from beyond the broken cracks of the portal. Smiling, he whirred his chainsword to life and sundered the shoddy workmanship of the two doors in a hail of splinters. Satisfied the door was weakened enough, he kicked both in and sent a cloud of dust and wood chips flying.
Stepping through the cloud, he strafed to the right, avoiding the punishing shotgun blast that missed him by inches. Through the dim lighting and obscuration, he noted the box-like room contained three surviving defenders along with a nondescript box on a pedestal. Nothing but a dozen feet of open room stood between him and his prey. Only one had a gun, and he was already trying desperately to reload. The other brandished knives and strode forth to assail the Evocati marine.
Menaras scoffed and raised his plasma pistol. The gun flashed three times. Three more corpses joined their brethren in the hall, holes peeking out of their torsos.
Holstering his pistol and chainsword, Menaras narrowed his eyes on the foul prize. Hesitantly, he approached, stepping over the corpse of the dead gun wielder. Taking the box up, he examined it. Plain, wooden, and brown. Rattling it, the box seemed to contain a single object.
Curious, but also wary of the unknown nature of what he intended to look upon, he uttered a litany of praises to the Emperor and denial of the corruption of Chaos.
His carefully undid the top of the box, sliding it up and off. He was disappointed at the solitary content of the box.
A hand mirror.
Its ivory handle was inlaid with a single white gem and unornamented. The silvery sheen of the glass was perfect without blemish.
Menaras frowned down into the box, tossing aside the box top and grabbing the mirror within. No response. Staring back at the marine was his helmeted head.
Menaras contemplated. Were these cultists simply insane? How could this be a revered object of Chaos? Was this a trick? Perhaps they hid the real object and used this one as a decoy. As he was thinking, the mirror’s reflection began to fog. Snapping out of his reverie he stared at the thing, his visage becoming obscured his. Curious, he watched as the mirror reflected nothing but pure white.
With an inquisitive finger, Menaras poked the surface. The point of contact became a dot of black against the white. It spread quickly to drown out the opposing color; an utterly black coating that reflected nothing. Then dissipating as quickly as it spread, the visage returned, and Menaras gasped.
The helm of a Khorne berzerker ornamented with skulls stared back at him. Before he could act, the Berzerker reached back and shot his hand through the mirror, grabbing the forearm of the startled space marine. The chaos marine pulled, and the entirely of Menaras was magically sucked into the mirror, itself floating in midair as the reflection of the room dimmed again within the confines of the silvered surface.
Minutes passed, and the mirror remained suspended and unattended. The silent corpses were the solitary spectators to watch as the mirror at last awoke once again, this time disgorging the Khorne Berzerker from the depths of the arcane relic, expunged by magic as the prison that once held it now contained a new occupant.
Turning to inspect the floating device, he smirked within his helm as he saw the trapped loyalist marine peering from the confines of his eternal entrapment.
With his new plasma pistol, the chaos marine blasted the floating mirror into thousands of metal and ivory shards, and then nonchalantly walked out of the room and into the wider world.
Brother Rindelas smiled. A trio of bloodletters flooded into the room sporting horns, red scaled skin, and baroque large swords. They assaulted the isolated command post of a far flung Imperial regiment with abandon, thinking they had found easy sport. They had not banked on finding a single solitary Brazen Claw space marine leading the defense, especially one whose chapter planet Talus IV was overrun with daemons and warp spawned terrors. Now Indelicus lived to avenge the dishonor of his chapter.
Rindelas’s bolter spat out another round, and the infernal hide of the Khorne daemon was punctured through the chest, his body smacking the abandoned control panels before slumping. The command squad of the guard regiment added their volume of fire, lasguns and the commander’s own plasma pistol adding weight to the volley.
The final two daemons never made it to close combat, their corpses riddled with bullets. Rindelas smiled and ordered the men to follow him outside. They ran from the central command post into the straight and ordered corridors, on the prowl for more invaders. Twice more they encountered swirling melees inside the compound as normal Guardsmen fought valiantly against the creatures of Khorne. Into the fight Brother Rindelas lunged, his furious assault giving even the bloodthirsty war daemons pause. They fell quickly to the enraged man and the redoubled efforts of the conscripts.
The final combat ended, Rindelas gathered the platoons he saved and led them outside.
Through the broken doors they went into the carnage of an even grander battle being fought on the dust plains. Massive soul grinders grappled with Sentinels as Bloodthirsters chased after retreating Leman Russ tanks. Rank upon rank of beasts and daemons fell against the press of fire offered by the tens of thousands of guardsmen still alive. But the attack waves came chaotically and the few who slipped past the masses of Imperial Guardsmen were free to cause terror as they choose. Thus a score of daemons had penetrated the command bunker.
Rindelas knew that the fight could be lost if order was not restored, despite the satisfaction that he could have gotten from personal combat. His adrenaline subsiding, Indelicus ordered forth the commander and his vox-caster assistant.
“Commander, I need you to give me command of this wider battle. We need to get your men organized. Khornite daemons love the slaughter, and fighting as individuals will not work. I will lead this fight from here on, organizing your tanks and me to repel them with minimal casualties. Is that understood?”
Despite grimacing at being given orders, the veteran leader nodded and stepped aside for the marine to conduct the battle that he now fought with every waking moment of his life and service to the Emperor.
The Rout, Part I
Clattering, clicking horrors stretched from horizon to horizon, miles upon miles of land blanketed by the alien menace.
The Imperial Guard could do nothing but fall back. Panicked soldiers either fled for their lives, or died where they stood. Even the stubborn and staunch Commissars could not impede the rout. At last realizing the inevitable, they too would break and run rather than fight against the swarm.
A few regiments held out, taking the land’s own breaks and bottlenecks to halt the tide where they could. Thousands died thankless deaths.
And the entire line of battle was bereft of Space Marines. Too few to be spread out anymore and wasted in small unit operations, the whole front had been cleared of their expertise and determination, pulled back to be conserved. Curses and blasphemy touched the lips of many guardsmen as they fled, betrayed.
General Gustavus Gryar watched as the horizon turned against his devoured line. From the rear, the aged general mustered what men he could for a last ditch effort. His line included the last remnants of armor that he could muster; a paltry mix of battered Basilisks, ramshackle Leman Russ tanks, and other odds and end transports and vehicles that could still fire an ordinance weapon. He even managed to find and haul to the front a baneblade whose tracks did not work anymore. Yet its guns were still operable and therefore pressed into the fight.
Between the tank treads and broken behemoths, his men waited. They stood behind the ceramite barriers on top of hastily piled dirt hills. Before them was concealed spike pits and minefields dug in the eleventh hour. Not enough to kill the majority of the horde, but enough to slow them down in the final half mile in front of all that remained of his army.
General Gustavus sighed. He eyed the tattered regiments, a hundred thousand men reduced to a tenth of their prior strength from the start of the day. Eyes growing distant, Gustavus remembered the millions that arrived on Macharian VI, their banners held high and the populace utterly cowed by the showing o Imperial might. The romantic vision of that day almost had Gustavus lost within their depths.
But he snapped into reality, and saw that the last of the retreating guardsmen were truly dead, the ground now home to gullies and streams and copses of trees swarming with the enemy. Innumerable gaunts and rippers flooded the ground, some stopping to sop up the blood of the fallen, others who saw the line of guardsmen waiting for their approach and rushed forward in a blanket of carapaces, talons, and alien flesh. The occasionally large carnifex trudged along, ponderously making for his lines.
“Ordinance….fire!” he commanded.
Dozens of guns belched forth their fire. Canisters with grapeshot exploded overhead miles away over the enemy, spreading lethal metal that tore into thousands. The ground exploded in splashes of dirt and flesh as no shot that hit the earth would miss the Tyranid carpet. Energy weapons targeted the largest creatures, tearing holes in their flesh, shooting off scything talons the size of two men high. One carnifex lost its head utterly, falling down upon a score of its smaller cousins under tons of armored skin and claws.
Despite the volley, the horde continued to press onward. The closest creatures now were within a mile of his lines. From his vantage point standing atop a tank, the sharp general could see the eyes of the larger creatures at the forefront.
“Heavy weapon squads….fire!” he commanded.
Hundreds more guns added their weight to the fire. Mortars, missile launchers, heavy bolters, lascannons all began their onslaught from between the slits within the ceramite barriers.
The punishing weaponry slowed the Tyranid advance with a wall of bullets and bombs. Gaunts died over and over again, only to have another of its kind scamper over the corpse. A carpet of dead was overrun by the living as they struggled to press on, slavering and clacking in anticipation of the feast beyond the walls.
Within the half mile remaining, Tyranids fell through the concealed pits, falling to their doom on the sharpened stakes below. Land mines send shrapnel and corpses into the air.
“Lasguns…fire!” bade the general, a tinge of trepidation in his voice as he knew that this was the final weight he could add to the barrage.
Thousands of guardsmen leaned over the man tall barriers and added their might to the fight. Energy beams shot from above stunned and killed the leading edge of the swarm as they slowly punishingly closed to within a thousand feet of the upturning ground upon which the barriers rested.
And yet, as General Gustavus watched as thousands upon thousands of xenos scum died, the gaping holes in their line closed and the living simply pressed forward. His men stopped to reload, and others grew sweaty and panicky as the minutes of onslaught their guns unleashed did little to quell the tide about to overwhelm their defenses.
Closing his eyes, the veteran commander fished into his coat pocket and produced a portable triggering device. Savoring the sounds of his men yelling against the odds as the creatures began rushing up the hill, inhaling the sulfuric smell of the explosive charges as the ordinance guns began training their fire at practically point blank range, the general harkened back to the days of his youth when he was enrolled in the Schola Progenium on his native Chanos Prime. He remembered the words of his favorite instructor, an old Commissar with fire behind his aged lips.
“Remember that your duty above all is to serve the Emperor. You act in his name as he did to serve mankind, and you die in his name as he did to serve mankind.”
In the disabled baneblade brought to the front was a hot wired virus bomb. No one but the loyal crew and command squad to Gustavus knew of the contents within the tank, but all knew their commander would use it to end the advance if he could.
They also knew that if it were to detonate, half the planet’s life could be wiped out by the virility of the bomb.
But to stop the Tyranid menace that was close to pushing them to the brink anyway, on this desolate world where most of their comrades had already died, they were willing to keep this weapon a secret and use it if needed to end the war once and for all.
And so with a heavy heart and a prayer to the Emperor, Gustavus pushed the button.
Sergeant Bertrant, Sons of Lorraine- powerfist, bike (djphranq) Brother Bruno, Sons of Lorraine- combiplasma, bike (djphranq) Brother Benoit, Sons of Lorraine- chainsword, bike (djphranq) Honored Brother Bernard, Sons of Lorraine- dreadnought, assault cannon, DCCW, bolter (djphranq)
The Rout, Part 2
The button clicked, inaudible against the screeching Tyranids slogging up the hill, or the fire attempting to push them down.
A metal hand clasped his shoulder. General Gustavus spun. The normally unflappable commander gasped.
A space marine stood upon the battered tank with the general. Clad in power armor colored in the purple and gold trim of the Sons of Lorraine, Gustavus recognized the speaker as Sergeant Bertrand.
The commander furrowed his brow. He thought the marines had pulled back, unable to afford their presence on the front lines due to their shrinking numbers. About to query the man who helped him contain the Tyranid presence until his departure, he realized the viral bomb did not detonate.
Spinning, he stared at the baneblade. It still fired from the line along with the other ordinance tanks. No detonation occurred. It must of been disarmed.
Knowing his intent, Sergeant Bertrand spun the commander around to face him, eye to eye.
“General,” the Son of Lorraine said fondly, hand clasping the other man’s shoulder. “I know the price you were about to pay. I am sorry you were forced to make this choice. I am sorry we abandoned you.”
The marine was solemn, and his voice was tinged with regret.
“Why did you leave then?” asked the general, curious about the answer he himself and the rest of high command would not get an answer to.
Bertrand released his gripped. “We are fewer now. Our brethren along with your men lie in graves and on battlefields too innumerable to count. We’re being cut down slowly but surely, thrown into battle without end. We cannot afford to fight without purpose any longer.
“Today though….we have a purpose once more.”
The marine leaped down off the broken vehicle, and the general walked to the edge. Below was a contingent of twenty marines sitting upon space marine bikes, including three Sons of Lorraine that had survived along with their sergeant.
Brothers Bruno and Benoit were easily recognized by the Imperial commander. Bruno, his face obscured by a helmet, hefted a bolter fitted with a plasma attachment. Benoit never donned any head coverings, revealing a shaved scalp sprouting bionic parts to replace what he once lost in battle. He slung over his shoulder a chainsword, polished to perfection.
Standing next to and above the bike squadron was the senior member of the trio. A massive, lumbering dreadnought, Honored Brother Bernard sported an assault cannon and giant grasping hand affixed with a bolter. His steadfastness in battle had earned great respect from the guardsmen he fought with.
How did all of them enter the battle lines without detection? Gustavus mused as their leader mounted his bike, revved it up, and drove his continent towards the barriers. Men who saw him cheered, as the presence of the Space Marines lifted morale. None could cheer for long, as the Tyranids had finally closed to within meters of the wall, their alien blood flying close enough to touch the ceramite barriers. The firing was brutal and intense. While only a few of the guardsmen behind the barrier had died from bioweapon discharges from the onrushing Tyranid swarm, they were still outnumbered and still in danger of being overrun.
Gustavus called out orders to his ordinance as he watched the space marines curiously drive along the line behind the men, and then turn right as they rounded an upturned tank that was stuck in the ground behind the infantry line, its tracks broken and shattered. They drove around the tank and halfway towards the artillery line. Spinning around, the bikers lined up with the wreck and revved their engines. With a hand command, Bertrand and his bikers raced towards it at breakneck speed.
Executing a simultaneously wheelie, all 20 bikers drove up the impromptu ramp, leaped through the air, and flew over the expanse between the tank, the men, and the barrier, clearing it with room to spare. The Imperial guardsmen in the vicinity stopped firing, watching as the bikers landed on the down sloping hill on the other side, brandished chainsword and pistols, and drove directly into the teeth of the incoming horde of Tyranids.
With mounted boltguns on their rides, and chainswords swinging expertly, the space marines led by the Sons of Lorraine cut a highway of blood and gore through the ranks of the Tyranid menace. Rippling in response, the Tyranid organisms began to undulate in anger, the tide of creatures hesitating in their assault.
The dreadnought, which did not follow the bikers, walked over the ceramite barrier not too far away, and began firing relentlessly into the mass of creatures that had almost breached a weak point in the defensive wall. Taking pot shots by ineffectual Tyranid weaponry, the entombed and ancient marine caused his own ruckus, attracting the nearby bioforms to uselessly assail him. Anything that tried to leap upon his frame was smacked away by a powerful claw, or shot down by the weight of lasgun fire that nearby Imperial Guardsmen used to cleanse their savior of clinging creatures.
General Gustavus watched this all as he continued to bark orders. Despite the spectacle, he had to lead his men. The distraction of the space marines was turning the fight, as the Tyranids were at last halted, literally inches from sweeping the barriers and the line of men into oblivion. Wails of inhuman pain split the air as bullets and explosions at last pushed the creatures down the hill, a wall of their own carcasses forcing the creatures to overcome one more impediment.
Minutes dragged on into hours as the fighting raged unabated. Ammunition was not a concern, as the dead who died before this battle left the survivors ample munitions to last a long time. The Tyranids continued to die as the swarm’s carpet of creatures began to slacken, the massive weight in numbers finally starting to die.
All the while, the space marines drove through the alien ranks. Thousands of the creatures had died by their hand, most of them swept up in either avoiding the crushing weight of the bikes, or killed by the hacking motions of the chainswords employed by the marines.
More importantly, their brazen charge through the morass and press of bodies had forced the host of creatures to divert some of their attention in dealing with the experienced Tyranid fighters. In the end, it had cost them the battle.
At last, the tide of creatures broke. The hundreds of thousands of creatures that had pushed the Imperial Guardsmen to the brink laid dead. A fraction of a fraction remained, the few thousands of the creatures breaking ranks, pursued by the space marines that chased them down, or the bombardment of tanks that still could sight the creatures and blast them off the earth with ground shaking shells.
Honored Brother Bernard stood vigil over the wall, his dreadnought armor riddled with acid marks and scratches. Defiantly, he saved the wall a dozen times over the course of the day long battle, and the guardsmen who lived at the end of it all cheered wildly at the old Son of Lorraine, their celebration a sharp contrast to the curses they once spewed when they thought the marines had abandoned them.
Gustavus himself silently chided himself. He too thought that the marines had abandoned them. But he was wrong. He saw the sincerity in the sergeant’s eyes. He knew that like him, the space marine followed orders, knowing that whatever he did, it was to protect and serve humanity, even if it meant the sacrifice of some for the greater majority. Even if it meant he had to stop fighting each personal battle in order to win the war.
Gustavus watched as the marines still continued their pursuit of the fading Tyranid menace against the horizon’s dipping sun, knowing that even if they were not seen, they would still stand vigil over the Imperium even in its darkest hour.
The Haze, Part 1
The terrors awoke him again, cold sweat perspiring on his face. The distant memories of a nightmare unremembered faded.
Why couldn’t he remember?
Cherke tried to focus his mind. Thoughts that swirled at the periphery of his consciousness collided with some unseen force, pushed away and scattered. He stopped resisting, as the strain made his head throb.
He rose from the tattered linens in his decrepit room of the ruins he inhabited. Dull and listless, he trudged from the floor that was his bed and lifelessly exited the room, already clothed in what remnants he could gather. Into the hallway he went, surrounded by the same filth and debris that occupied his room. Other refugees were up as well, some of them milling about aimlessly, others functioning with glazed looks and stumbling numbness of motion.
Cherke’s stomach grumbled, so he would go forage for food like he had for the past few months.
Cherke could not remember how he came to reside within the ruins of this city. In fact, he could not remember anything at all beyond the passage of a few weeks at a time. He wasn’t scared of the lack of memories…just numb. He knew deep down it should have terrified him that he couldn’t think or feel anything.
But he didn’t think that either most of the time. Right now, he needed to eat.
He passed by the girl with red hair and dark, sullen eyes. She couldn’t remember her name. He identified her with the toy ball she always carried but did not know why she held it. Standing next to her was a man with dark skin and slanted eyes. He had a vicious scar on the left side of his cheek, and always seemed to accompany the girl with the red hair and the toy ball. He protected her, but did not know why. He too could not remember his name.
Of the scores who occupied the shattered building, Cherke was one of a handful that remembered his name. It took considerable effort and time to drudge it up, but Cherke was his and his alone to carry.
The exit to the building was a level below. Through the dilapidated stairwell he shuffled down, careful to step over the corpses and sleeping occupants. Opening the door to the next level, he was met by sunlight filtering through the wall of this level, knocked down in some hazy fight between armored soldiers from a dim memory long ago.
The straggle of bodies was heaviest here. Men and women slumped against the walls, gnawing hunger preventing them from moving. Most of them were here simply because this is where the foragers would return to if they returned. The city was a dangerous place, and not all the foraging groups returned.
So Cherke took a seat on a chunk of the stone wall that was not occupied and sat looking out into the street and the ruined cityscape that greeted him. Dozens of building that used to spiral high into the sky were bent down and broken into the ground because of the war. Debris and refuse littered the streets. A few bodies lay amongst the piles of broken vehicles and piles of garbage. The occasional skeleton gleamed in the glaring sunlight. As the minutes dragged on, explosions reverberated through the marching morning, followed by greasy black smoke that followed each concussive blast. Cherke guessed the action was a few blocks away.
Perhaps the foragers would not return this day. He would go hungry again.
A tiny voice in the back of his mind spoke out. It did that sometimes, pleading for him to take action.
He knew that by looking at his frail frame and slender arms, he wouldn’t last much longer without food.
Go out and find your own food the voice seemed to implore.
Cherke shook his head, as the throbbing headache came back, followed by flashing images of shadowed forms with penetrating red eyes staring at him, watching him, weighing him; standing before him, preventing him from acting.
Do not let them win the voice said. Go it commanded.
Straining to think, shuddering at the pain, Cherke finally decided.
Today, Cherke heeded the voice.
Assault Marine Machient, Solar Lions- Power Axe (Solar_Lion)
Dreadnought Brother Sergeant Aaron Tullus, Imperial Fists-Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon, Auto Cannon (Tauzor)
The Reality (The Game Part 2)
The bloody, massive roulette board turned one more time.
Brother Machient was freed from his restraints. However, he could not get off the spinning disk. The room’s chaotic outlay was eating the corners of his desperate mind. For hours, he dodged and evaded the spears that shot from the ceiling and impaled random victims. As the victims dwindled, Machient worked on his restraints, slowly testing and pushing them to their limits.
When it was his turn to be impaled, he roared with all his strength and broke free, rolling out of the way as the spike landed where he was a split second ago.
Now the Solar Lion danced with death. He could not compel himself to leave the area of the round platform, so all he could do was dodge, listening to the cackling, unseen observer as he continued to commentate while the space marine lived on the edge of madness and death.
Machient tried to find a way to escape, but the room was large, wide, and barren save for the wheel and the insanely wrought room décor, demented and absurd color schemes and paintings lining the walls and ceiling, beckoning for the beleaguered space marine to descend all the way into the bowels of psychosis.
But Machient held firm, keeping his eyes above, waiting for the wheel to stop spinning again and for the spikes to descend.
Again the wheel stopped, and the spikes came down. Several at once fell from the high ceiling, and Machient barely dodged again, rolling towards the center of the platform and avoiding the thudding points as they sunk inches into the wooden board.
And once more, the spikes rose and were swallowed by the wall. Once more, the invisible observer cackled with glee.
“Hehehehehehehehe! Wonderful acrobatics! I wonder if I am going too easy on you…perhaps I should release all the spikes next time. We’ll see if we can…”
His voice cut off as the wall behind Machient exploded, rubble and debris scattering across the room wide wheel. Two massive figures leaped from the broken wall and landed on the raised platform. Landing upon it, they bucked the platform under their tremendous weight.
The wheel crashed upon the floor, smashing into large, splintered chunks. Machient held on to the central piece, watching in awe as two titanic figures battle amongst the ruined roulette table.
A freakishly tall and lithe purple humanoid with four arms wrestled with a dreadnought, decked out in the fabled chapter color of Imperial Fists yellow, a massive clenched fist insignia adorning his front plating. His one massive clawed hand clenched the two right arms of the Chaos tainted creature it fought, the other arm trying to align a shot with its autocannon attachment.
Awkwardly, the two danced through the broken rubble as the creature bend and wriggled, trying to keep out of the weapon’s line of sight while the dreadnought attempted to use his ponderous weight and pin the monstrous humanoid. Brother Machient tore his gaze from the combat as he filtered and climbed over the remnants of his former prison, the compulsion to stay confined on the wheel having abated. He kept focus on the gaping hole in the wall, just low enough for him to leap up and climb into, perhaps to escape or help the beleaguered space marine walker that saved him in the nick of time. In his fevered mind, the Solar Lion could not decide just yet what he would do.
Assault Marine Machient, Solar Lions- Power Axe (Solar_Lion)
Dreadnought Brother Sergeant Aaron Tullus, Imperial Fists-Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon, Auto Cannon (Tauzor)
The Dance (The Game Part 3)
Aaron Tullus remembered back to his ancient past, back to a summer day, dancing with a pretty flit of a girl that smiled and beamed at him, a young girl he assumed he would one day marry. This was all before his future as an Imperial Fist recruit on his home world of Salthax Prime was decided, before the long years of training and decades of war brutally ended with his internment in the sustaining force of his sarcophagus. The memories sometimes flooded him when the present reminded him of the time before his existence nestled in the dreadnought.
The warped, psychotically grinning creature before him danced and jerked in his grasp, its two arms crushed together between his metallic fist. With his other arm, he brought to bear the barrels of his massive autocannon. The creature danced on its toes, turning away from the arc of the gun. The Brother Sergeant jerked the creature back again, crushing the bones in its two right arms. Without flinching, the blue humanoid winked, and continued to wriggle all around, frustrating the dreadnought.
“You have a lovely shade of yellow, if I may say,” cackled the creature as it bent its torso back and lunged forward, driving its skull into the ceramite plating of the dreadnought’s armor.
Staggering from the unexpected blow and power fromsuch a frail looking monstrosity, Tullus released his grip and began flailing his gun madly, shooting up dust and breaking splinters off the debris of the shattered roulette wheel they fought amongst. With uncanny reflexes despite two of its four arms broken, the creature hunched down and darted through the rain of bullets, skipping away and laughing madly as it escaped behind cover.
Determined not to let his foe escape, the millennia old marine righted its massive body and ran forward, visual sensors attentive and gun trained to fire at a moment’s notice. In the back of his mind, he noted the hole that he created when he broke into the control room of the tormenting Chaos worshipper. The space marine that was interred here had escaped, and the Imperial Fist thanked the Emperor he wasn’t too late to save the marine that went missing from patrol days ago. The Crusade simply couldn’t afford losing more of its thinned numbers to the predations of the Chaos forces.
“I have a surprise for you,” quipped an echo of the creature as its voice carried across the chamber, keeping Tullus from discerning its true location. “You may not like it, but I sure will…”
Blue warpfire sprang up around the dreadnought. Instantly, the entombed marine felt searing pain as his injured body writhed with agony. Unable to send coherent commands through the dreadnought’s neural interface, the metal body began jerking and staggering around, crashing into piles of upturned wood, wrecking havoc on the broken things surrounding him.
The azure flames did not harm the nonorganic frame of the dreadnought, but it ate away at the mind of the space marine sergeant. Focusing, he could barely remain conscious. All he could do was suppress a small portion of the pain as the twisted abomination attacked him mentally.
From around an upturned spike of the broken wheel, the creature came, all four arms clasped behind its back, its head cocked as it regarded the fallen dreadnought.
“Poor, poor crippled marine. Despite your armor and your sarcophagus to protect your mortal form, you have very little protection again my psychic might. Pity. I had thought you to be a more worthy adversary. At least the marine I caught, stripped naked and bereft of his weapons and armor, proved to be more durable of mind than you. I guess you relied upon your gifted encasement for far too long. Well, I can still enjoy playing games with…”
The creature’s monologue was cut by a ferocious roar from above. Turning, the creature saw the naked Solar Lion, Machient, standing in the hole that was made earlier, clutching his favored power axe. Cackling with power, the weapon hummed as the marine swung it up and leaped from the hole, soaring high into the room’s upper reaches before descending down, right above the Chaos worshipper.
Bringing its two remaining arms to bear, the creature snarled an arcane rune of power and hurled the might of its twisted heritage at the marine. A necrotic bolt of energy hit the Solar Lion square in the chest, enervating him with paralyzing force.
But it did not slow the descent of the marine, nor angle his axe away as it cleaved through the creature from head to pelvis, then splitting the ground in a cacophonous wave of power. The marine’s stunned body smacked the ground, several bones snapping upon impact. In turn, the two sections of the Chaos renegade tumbled away from each other, collapsing in a pool of its own ichor.
The demise of the Slaanesh devotee caused the blue flames to wink out from the dreadnought’s form. Finally regaining control of his mind and body, Brother Sergeant Aaron Tullus righted himself, and stomped over to the inert form of his savior.
Gently tucking the gun barrel under his head he hefted the broken body of the Solar Lion up. Miraculously, the marine was still alive and conscious.
“Did…did we get him, brother?” whispered the marine as he clung to the other massive arm that cradled him.
“Yes,” grated the vox box of the dreadnought.
Closing his eyes, Machient uttered thanks.
With his objective achieved, the Imperial Fist scaled the nightmarish room that was the lair of the fallen Chaos creature, and began its sojourn back to Imperial lines, the memories of a long ago dance intermingling with the fight he had today.
The Resolve (The Haze Part 2)
Cherke found purchase in the rubble, lifting one arm over the other across the uneven surface. The mountainous pile that remained of a broken building was all that stood between him and the battle he knew was being fought on the other side.
Cherke would at least not go hungry. He struck out after overcoming his innate, unnatural hesitation to do for himself. It didn’t take long to scour nearby buildings, wary of the smoke and booms that reverberated through the littered streets as he found a stash of rations perfectly preserved. The food didn’t last long as the ravenous young man ate his fill, then gathered the rest in a makeshift sack and headed out, adventurous for the first time that he could remember.
And literally, it was the first time he could remember. The scratching, knotting pain of thinking had abated, broken by resolve and determination. The shadowed menaces in his subconscious still lurked, but they would not come out now. Not while Cherke was awake and active. Not while he hungered to know what fought each other across the ruins of a city that held little value to anyone save the survivors.
Cherke stopped moving, looking upward to the sky. It was darkening quickly, a sure sign a deathstorm would be upon them. Perhaps in minutes, the slashing winds and shards of ice followed by a cackling, lethal electric storm would pelt the area, and anyone caught outside would be chancing fate itself by walking unprotected upon the world’s deadly weather phenomenon.
But his curiosity compelled him. He finally peaked over the shattered slabs of stonework and masonry, and laying flat against a broken piece that was about as long as he, he watched from above as a dance of destruction was orchestrated below.
Armed men fought a whirling battle, rattling off shots at one another, pinging the ground and the thick protective armored suits they wore. The combatants moved from cover to cover. Some employed jetpacks for charging or darting through the urban maze, fighting with alacrity and cunning, giving ground only to shift around another corner and ambush an enemy combatant who was his equal, pirouetting into strategic positions in order to deny an enemy the advantage. The unfortunate who met several at once, isolated for a brief moment from his brethren, was likely to be cut down in a hail of bullets, or shorn through with whirling chainswords that could cleave a man in twain.
Cherke watched it all, mesmerized by the unknown soldiers fighting an unknown war with each other. Their only difference aside from the various colored armors was the ornamentation. Cherke carefully noted that those with spikes, horns, and images of horror and despair fought together, while those who wore seals and grand motifs seemed to fight against the spiked warriors.
None of them noticed the thin, tattered young man observed this all from his perch. Their fight dragged on slowly from one end of a street to the other, marching in time with the minutes that ticked away, keeping Cherke focused on the fight. He didn’t notice the looming clouds blot out the far away until a peal of thunder shuddered him back to reality. Looking up, he saw the dreaded anvil shaped storm clouds reach over from horizon to horizon, the closing haze of glittering sparkles indicating the advancing line of ice shards pelting the ground. A buffet of wind pushed down hard on poor Cherke, the storm’s breath telling him it was about to pounce.
Reacting through vague instinctual memories, Cherke lifted himself up and moved as fast as he could find finger holds scrambling down the broken building with as much haste as he could muster. His sole thought was to find cover. Nothing on the rubble he found would provide adequate shelter; none of the jutting beams or slabs of broken stone would be enough to keep him alive. The only thing he could do was get off the rubble and make for the other side of the street where a line of tattered but still standing buildings would suffice to ride out the deathstorm.
A ricocheting shot from one of the marines alerted him to his other concern, which was that as he got off the rubble, he now found himself square in the warzone between the men who fought in a death grapple with one another.
Stuck between the dueling fusillade of the enemy factions and the storm that was now moments away from covering the area in bone shattering ice shards, Cherke hesitated in the middle of the street to what would be his next course of action.
Cherke hesitated too long, and a strong gale threw him to the ground. A few slashing shards of ice came in on the gust, cutting through his clothes and biting into flesh. Crying in despair, the frightened young man raised his hand up as he saw the line of shattering ice hit the ground, breaking into innumerable glittering fragments as they swept over the rubble he descended from, and began pattering the street a dozen feet away from where he lay. Death was looming.
But as Cherke squeezed his eyes shut, the sweeping storm did not rend him asunder. Fetal, Cherke opened one eye, to see a man standing above him, clad in the armor of warriors, holding a massive baroque sword of cackling energy in one hand. He held the storm at bay with his stance, his body wide enough to keep the buffeting storm from killing. Through his helm, he stared down at the miserable and filthy refugee at his feet.
“What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here,” he stated.
Wild with adrenaline and fear, Cherke attempted to climb to his feet. The warrior’s iron hand grabbed him, and hugged him to his plated armor.
“Don’t struggle. I will get you to safety,” he said against the pounding ice fragments and gales of furious wind as he trudged into the cover of an overhang from a derelict building. He turned a corner and found an alcove that the ice and wind did not find.
Watching over his shoulder, the warrior kept one eye on his huddled charge. “Tell me boy, what is your name?”
“C-Cherke,” the young man responded, wrapping his arms around his knees in the tight and cramped hole, the bulky and oversized metal armor of his protector flooding the entrance. His savior nodded. “You may call me Captain Enovand of the Shadow Sanctus Space Marines…”
Cherke’s mind twisted at the mention of that word. Despite the fog of unmemory he suffered, the two words of Space Marine harkened him to a flash of images he could not interpret. Banners of light against darkness infinite, hordes of enemies downed by the might of only a handful of brave warriors, a skeleton entombed to a throne, his upturned claw grasping a badge of honor. Images of bravery, of sacrifice, of benevolence barraged him. All the while, Cherke felt the horrors in the back of his mind, struggling to stem the flow of insight. Their piercing green eyes and dull metallic hides shuffled through the parade of thoughts, their claws and energy beams piercing the warriors, leaving behind pinpricks of light.
Utterly ineffective, the nightmares receded, and left Cherke with a sense of warmth and confidence as the nameless images too ebbed. But before they disappeared, they left Cherke feeling reassured, that the man who stood before him would not harm him. That he knew in his soul, despite not knowing who or what he was.
He could trust this man with his life if need be.
“…we need to move now. It is not safe here,” concluded the captain.
Cherke caught the end of his statement and frowned. Not safe? He echoed the thought with words.
Enovand nodded. “The storm will abate over time, but the enemy is still out there. I separated from my comrades. They distracted the traitors so that I could save you. However, I do not know yet how they fared or if any of the enemy noticed my departure from the battle. So long as I can, I will protect you from the forces of Chaos.”
Traitors and Chaos meant nothing to Cherke, but the interest the Space Marine Captain had in him was curious. It also made Cherke suspicious. He wrapped his arms tighter around his knees.
“What do you mean that you will protect me? You do not even know me,” he blurted.
The Space Marine leader reached out and rested a hand on a flinching Cherke.
“Son…you are the first civilian I have seen with fire in his eyes. Aside from the heretics burning with Daemonic fury and the Tyranids with alien malice, none of the other humans I have encountered on Macharian VI seem to care. When we opened our arms to them upon arrival, they stood in their doorways and in their ruins, content to wallow in their own misery. Deathstorms would sweep in and thousands would die, standing there exposed as the skin was ripped from their body and the ice pelted their flesh into glistening piles of pulp. Tyranids would sweep a settlement almost bone dry, and the few survivors would stare blankly at the empty homes, then trudge about as if loved ones or neighbors never existed.
“Even the most war torn worlds never held such…apathy to live. Even the dirtiest, most scarred fragments of humanity would cling to life in some way, even if it was because all they knew that was left was oblivion. Here…there is not even nothing. You’re the first I’ve seen with fear or courage or distrust on this world. Everyone else simply doesn’t care.”
The marine released his grip. “That is why I need you to accompany me. Allow me to protect you so that you may live.” He turned his hand out, palm open.
Cherke regarded the hand and the marine for a long moment, his breath caught in his throat and the pelting storm outside silent in this moment of decision. His hand twitched, and a bead of sweat trickled down his cheek.
A ricocheting shot broke the silence, metal clanking on metal as the Space Marine Captain jerked forward into the hole from the impact. He thrust his hand out, holding the side of the alcove to keep from falling.
“Make the choice, Cherke! Stay here, or come with me!” the marine shouted as he turned around, but before he could exit the hole, a hand reached up to grab his cloak.
“Take me with you,” commanded Cherke as he stood up in the alcove, his eyes focused on the outside, the deathstorm raging against the world and the sharp crack of gunfire echoing against the concrete.
Hiroto clenched his fists, keeping them from stabbing down into his holsters to bring forth his twin swords. Once released, none of the Necron below would survive their fury. But he held his hiding place, carefully concealed by the darkness and the absolute stillness he executed with great restraint.
From his position high in the bell tower, he observed the hundreds of mindless automatons herding the entire village to their doom. The villagers came out of each house under guard, and carried not one scrap of possessions with them save for children who could not walk on their own. Under the grim guard, none of the people even cried out in fear or wept in sorrow. All their faces were blank, as if their souls no longer inhabited their mortal coil. They casually shuffled into green vortexes of power that Hiroto assumed acted like portals.
This struck Hiroto with great concern, as he had seen before in reports and some firsthand experience the depravations of the Necron host once they started culling. Many would die until their resistance was broken. Their flaying weapons tearing the skin and then flesh from desiccated bones was an unearthly sight that cowed even the mightiest human warrior. The survivors were then taken away, kicking and screaming into eerie green portals that bled with arcane power and high technology.
The entire populace of this condemned community didn’t even blink. They simply wanted into the light that appeared in the darkness of the night, and were swallowed whole without complaint. With his enhanced vision, the space marine vanguard made out the individual Necron warriors as they simply ambled along, ensuring the humans trudged along unerringly into the portals. Their green glowing eyes numbered in the hundreds. With this complacent populace, Hiroto didn’t even think the Necrons would need more than a single sentinel to oversee the harvest.
But it was that laxity in the Necron guards that allowed Hiroto to stay hidden. None of the Necrons even bothered to break in or enter into any of the homes or shops of the people here. They simply came out of the green portals that winked into existence from nowhere, and the victims obliged them by coming out almost as soon as the metallic invaders appeared. All the Necrons had to do was simply stand there and wait for the cattle to go to the slaughter willingly.
But Hiroto was not too sure the human populace was so readily compliant. There had to be some reason the Necrons were able to execute this whole operation with some sort of trick. Perhaps hypnoindoctrination or a drugged water supply was to blame. Given the advanced technological state of the enemy, it could be a neural control device that projects a blanketing signal that dazes or confuses the human mind, forcing them to be docile.
But it wouldn’t account for Hiroto being unaffected. He would at least know there was something attempting to brainwash him. So what could it be he mused.
His answer came almost instantly. One of the humans Hiroto was casually watching suddenly jerked. His head erupted with visible electrical surges as they came out his mouth, nostrils, and ears. He brought his arms to his head, and attempted a stammering scream. He stumbled out of the shuffling line of other humans and dropped to his knees, clutching his enervated skull. Two of the closer Necron guards swiveled their eyes toward the collapsed human. They began to lurch from their stationary positions and advance on the disturbance.
The Mantis Warrior could not allow this chance to escape him. Hiroto leaped from the belltower, unfurling his jetpack’s wings as he glided down, swooping from his high perch to intercept the Necrons. They were barely twenty feet away from their victim, and Hiroto easily 200 or more. But they did not know that death was not stalking them.
With one of his swords unsheathed, Hiroto activated it, causing the weapon to scintillate with murderous energy. The glow and hum of his sword alerted the other Necron sentries to his presence as he landed, his feet touching down less than ten paces from the two Necron warriors about to lay their hands on the curled up human.
Dozens of the mechanical constructs raised their weapons, gauss flayers glowing with arcane energy that could kill with ease. Hiroto pounded his legs hard, raising his sword as the two Necrons grabbed the human and began pulling him up into their cold embrace.
Hiroto sliced with his sword, lopping off both of the Necron heads as he shouldered between the pair of headless bodies, and scooped up the shivering body of the man. Green bolts of energy pierced the air.
All of them missed or struck the bodies of their vanquished brethren, burning into mechanical bodies or smacking into the morass of humans surrounding Hiroto and the man tucked under one arm.
Hiroto wasted no time. He activated his jet pack, and leaped into the air, ascending skyward as fast as the rocket would take him.
More of the green bolts of arcane fury lit up the sky, but the Necrons were firing blindly into the night, unable to catch the Mantis Warrior as he quickly escaped the maximum range of their weapons.
Inquisitorial Henchman Natalia- No Reprsentative Model
Natalia awoke in a cold sweat, stifling the primal scream from a repressed nightmare. She bolted up from her cot, surrounded by the other sleeping members of her temporary unit sleeping under the stars. Gasping for air, she looked to see if she disturbed any of the other members.
Everyone save the two guards on the perimeter was still asleep.
The inquisitorial agent curled her legs under the blanket and took steady breaths. Looking up, she looked into the vast blanket of stars twinkling above Macharian VI. Each one represented a faraway place; each a place that her master sent her. In her service to the Inquisition, she had completed countless missions; missions that ranged from simple courier jobs to hopeless and desperate battles that ended in utter annihilation.
Somehow she was always the lucky one. She had traded hand to hand blows with Orks, sniped at the slippery shadows of the enigmatic Eldar, and fought a whole spectrum of humanity from misguided servants of the Emperor to cults sacrificing their bodies to Daemon summoning.
Each battle was a distant memories to her. Each one a scar on her psyche; buried under a triad of memories, each mental picture a reminder of why she still continued to struggle on living.
The first image was of Sergeant Kelso, his laughing visage interposed with the solemn man he became after they last departed. Dropped off on an agricultural world with little significance to the Imperium, Inquisitor Heth Fernix promised he would be safe here. He had kept his promise as far as she knew, keeping tabs on the man who saved them all by killing a commissar in the heat of battle. Last she heard, he had settled down with a wife, and he was anticipating his second child to be born. That news was two years old. She wondered if he ever dreamed at night, remembering the torture Inquisitor Heth had visited upon him when he was drugged and fitted with a subservience helmet to turn him into a fearless animal of a warrior. Or perhaps of the times he had with his squad, of Natalia and Nix and Hasheed. Did he ever wonder about his former life, or did he bury it as much as Natalia buried her own past?
Sliding Kelso from her mind, she turned to her second important recollection, her friend Nix. Always the silent one, he was a stoic and solid warrior. During their training days, it was he who helped her and Hasheed learn how to shoot straighter or snap to attention that much faster. He was also her staunchest ally, silently following her even if he didn’t agree with her decisions. It was his loyalty that helped her track down Hasheed on a doomed planet, and it him who followed her even after they found Hasheed and swore fealty to the inquisitor that saved them, never once questioning with words the choice she had made. She could see the pain it wrought her friend, but he never said it hurt.
But their master was a merciless taskmaster, sending her and Nix for several years on never-ending missions, always courting disaster. Three years they survived, until at last Natalia could not save Nix. She remembered that fatal day, the one where his body, bloodied and chained, was dragged through a nightmarish portal of screaming and clawing souls, daemonic minions dragging the broken Nix into the Warp, forever out of her grasp. She remembered the haunted face, the wordless howls as he reached out to her from her hidden perch, paralyzed with fear and unable to help her friend in his most desperate hour. Her fear is what saved her however. She was able to return to Heth, hate and tears in her eyes, the vital little scrap of technology handed over to the Inquisition. Not once did he blink when she said Nix didn’t make it. He simply turned and left her to her guilt and anger.
And yet it wasn’t Nix’s demise that troubled her the most. At least, she consoled herself that Nix was dead, desperately convinced that he would never survive in the universe filled with unimaginable horrors and entities.
No…it was her dearest friend Hasheed that still haunted her.
His cold, contorted expression confined within a tomb of ice that she dragged around, a mountainous burden of guilt she could never let go. She had found him on that doomed world, only to be unable to rescue him anyway. He was released by the inquisitor like he promised, but he was never the same afterward.
He was freed, but at the cost of his sight and most of his mental faculties. The tomb was an imperfect prison, and the process to free him had consequences. But Natalia would not leave him like she left Kelso. She exacted from the inquisitor one more promise that he be kept at all times in comfort and somewhere nearby so that Natalia could forever watch over him, even when away on missions.
Natalia and Nix cared for him in turns, talking with him and straining to keep him entertained in what limited ways his mind could comprehend. But it never was enough. He would sit, often towards a window or portal, head stooped and shoulders hunched. He could barely talk, and he couldn’t see, so she never understood why he favored the sitting positions he always found for himself. A few times Natalia caught Hasheed fondling a knife, caressing it close to his chest as if he meant to end his life. But he never did so. He seemed to hold it to try and keep a connection with his warrior past, but Natalia couldn’t be certain. He was so different from his once boisterous and rowdy self.
He survived less than a year like that, dying slumped in his chair without a reason. Nix cradled Natalia for hours as she wept for her departed friend. The inquisitor solemnly stood in the room as the corpse was carried away, and stood there until Natalia’s sorrow turned to anger as she assaulted the dangerous man, screaming why he allowed Hasheed to die. He simply took the fists that clipped his jaw, the kicks that bruised his body, and never raised a hand to defend himself as her rage played out. All he did was look at her, his own eyes a deep pool of regret and shame, and it took Natalia a long time to resolve that he never meant for Hasheed to die like that. He had given his word that he would save Hasheed, and he had failed.
It was then that Natalia looked at Heth Fernix one last time, and saw not a cold, emotionless man who cared little for his fellow man on his quest to save humanity. The same man who bargained two lives to entrap Natalia in his web was also the same man who felt the deep pangs of guilt in failing in his promise to Natalia. He could command the Exterminatus order in a heartbeat, but in the next feel the death throes of the billions he condemned to death for the greater good.
That was why she was now on Macharian VI, following that same iron willed man who would save humanity at any cost except at the cost of the human soul.
That was why she now followed his orders to observe the men he himself tasked with a hazy order, a mission to search and find a particular point of interest that none in the regimental command knew what it was.
Only Natalia, the right hand of Inquisitor Heth Fernix, would know when the small army would find the Necron portal, the entrance that hopefully would help end the war for Macharian VI before it was too late.
Two garrulous warriors exchanged weapon blows with his bloodied protector. They laughed and cried praise to a god that made Cherke wince whenever they shouted at the top of their lungs as they continued to lunge in with devastating attacks.
But Cherke’s defender kept his blade and body between him and the assailants. His tattered cloak ripped about in the wind, the cackling energy of his oversized sword screamed in protest every time it riposted a deadly cut from his enemies clad in red with skulls adorning their armor. The sky split with electrical discharges, and the shards of ice continued to pelt the outside relentlessly.
Cherke did as the massive Captain Enovand said, and he kept behind the armored man. The two men he faced were skilled swordsmen, both wielding wicked blades that whipped with rotating edges. The wayward young man could imagine what a blade would do to him. But thankfully, they were drawn to their worthy foe and Cherke’s protector more than they were a helpless lad.
But the fight was disadvantageous from the start. The Shadow Sanctus marine was fighting two enemies of near equal skill to his own and keeping an eye out on his charge. Eventually, he would falter, and then it would be over.
The moment came quicker than Cherke wanted. The space marine overextended on an upward cross block on one of the opponent’s blades, only to be bull rushed by the other devious combatant, throwing him to the ground and brandishing the whipping saws of his cruel instrument of war.
The marine, heedless to his own defenses, craned his helmet to Cherke. Locking stares, the captain bellowed for Cherke to run.
Cherke listened and ran, clutching his cloak, its tail swirling behind in the deathstorm’s gusts. Fragments of ice stung Cherke’s face as he ran underneath the overhang of the ruined building. He ran in the direction unknown. It was a blind run, as Cherke did not know this area well, hardly venturing from the ruins he had inhabited for the past few months.
With the heroic warrior stalling for time, with the howling deathstorm raging around him, and the sounds of battle stalking behind him, Cherke did not care about the unfamiliarity with his surroundings. His life mattered, perhaps for the first time since he could remember. Being wanted made him feel different than when he sat in dirt and debris, waiting out the day for scraps of food to be passed to him from the gatherers who made it back to the refugees. Having a purpose and a focus was utterly different than watching others die from exposure, or from starvation.
Cherke vaulted over a shattered column. He saw that the overhang did not last much longer, becoming a stretch of road that he would have to cross in order to continue his trek. The next building offered shelter, but in between was the raging deathstorm.
Furious wind, flesh tearing ice shards, and cackling electric outbursts rent the sky. Pounding crashes of frozen water and billowing winds drowned out all other noises. It made it hard for Cherke to think, as he had to find a way across the street. He didn’t know if he would eventually be pursued, but it wasn’t hard to imagine he would be the next target of the warriors that were probably now hacking the limbs off Captain Enovand. Cherke would die either to the sword or to the storm.
Wrapping his cloak about his face and making sure his garments protected him as best as he could, Cherke waited for a moment in which the storm would abate enough for him to make a mad dash across the street.
It came within moments, and Cherke gathered all his courage as the storm’s swirls slacked enough that the ice did not fall in the area as much, and the howling winds buffeting him did not seem like they would barrel him over.
Cherke tensed as he faltered for one second, peering out the cowl of his makeshift hood of cloth. But behind him, he heard a shout. Dimmed as it was against the storm’s fury, it was all that was needed for Cherke to breath out once last time, and propel himself forward on energy born of desperation.
He crossed as fast as he could. He felt the stings of ice as they tore through his paltry defense. They embedded in slivers and fragments against his clothes, tearing through in places, knifing him in his sides, on his back, his legs, and his arms. He held his arms overhead, trying to keep any shard from finding purchase in his eyes, for if he lost those, he would be done.
A thousand thousand tiny knives felt like they were tearing him apart, but Cherke hobbled across as fast as he could. He was halfway already, and it inspired him to continue pushing forward. But cruel winds buffeted him once more, tossing him from his legs, sprawling him face down on the pavement. The ice stung harder, and he felt the warm blood of his life soaking his garments.
Refusing to quit, the injured youth struggled to crawl across the remainder of the way, his face scraping against the rough surface of the street. Blood trickled down his forehead as a particularly large shard grazed his face, narrowly missing his eyes. Blinded by his own blood, deaf from the maddening winds screaming for his death, Cherke feebly tried to continue to crawl on.
But his body gave out. His wounds too grievous to continue, the wounded Cherke collapsed. As his eyes grew dim, he felt his body grow lighter, as if his spirit was ascending from his corporeal form. He though he heard someone call his name, but it was too distant a sound to make out…. **************************************************************************************************************************************************** Cherke could only see a bright light. He felt heavy again, and sore. His consciousness was barely there, and all he could do was float in that blinding light as his senses slowly returned. He couldn’t move. He was still breathing, but Cherke could only guess he was alive then.
Muddled voices sounded above him. Focusing his senses to the sound, his hearing slowly returned enough for him to hear the middle of a conversation.
“…incredible discovery. Do you have any idea what this could be?” said one voice.
The other grunted. “It looks like something that tech-priests and engiseers use in their rituals.” That voice sounded familiar.
The first voice agreed. “This is a device that is similar, yet not the same all at once. We use something very similar. Think of the mind control helms the Inquisition uses on their arco-flagellants.”
“Very similar? Do you mean that this is not Imperial tech?” said the familiar voice.
The other voice grew solemn. “I am afraid so. It shares many similarities to what we use, but it is more advanced, smaller, and far more intricate than anything else I have ever seen before. And it defended itself.”
“Defended itself?” muttered the man who Cherke was vaguely recollecting slowly but surely.
“Yes. While extracting this device from the subject’s neck, it shot electric surges out, ruining the machine spirits of my equipment and paralyzing one of my techmarines in the process. Luckily, I used a more…mundane surgical device. Unfortunately the process left the subject paralyzed from the neck down.”
“Pity…this young man here has a gift. He was more alert and self-aware than any of the other citizens of this planet that I had ever met before. Do you think that his will was what caused him to break free of the device?”
Cherke then realized that that voice was none other than Captain Enovand! He survived! But also, he realized as his clouded thoughts began to return that the paralyzed subject they talked about…was him.
Trying to stifle his fear, Cherke decided to listen in on the conversation, trying to push that sad fact down for the moment to learn more.
“Well…yes,” confessed the other voice. “Either the device could have malfunctioned, which is certainly not the case as we discovered, or the subject here has mettle beyond that of a normal man. Such as it is, these devices act two fold.
“One, these devices act as a neural inhibitor. It is designed to cloud thoughts and thought processes. It reduces the memory capacity of the victim and eliminates most of the emotional responses relative to fear, anger, hope, or joy. It simply makes the people uncaring walking husks of their former selves. It explains why the people of this planet never rose against the Chaos hordes or the Tyranid menace, nor greet us with anything more than blank stares.”
“But what about the Chaos cultists? Many of the Imperial soldiers and guardsmen swear they had seen these same men and women docile one night, then ravenous, psychotic murders in their next encounter?” asked Captain Enovand.
“Ah…that I cannot answer,” said the other voice. “Perhaps the Chaos forces have a way of circumventing the devices. We would have to capture a ranking member of the enemy forces to get them to tell us. Such as it is, the mystery will have to remain for now. But there is something else that needs to be said.”
“Go on,” beckoned the captain.
“The second thing these devices seem to do is also act as a mind control device. We’ve had a second subject come into our possession along with an eye witness account of the subject’s actions. Unfortunately, that first subject did not live long enough to be experimented upon-“
The word experimented made Cherke suddenly feel the bottom of his stomach lurched. He tried again to move, even blink, and found that he couldn’t even twitch. All he could do was stare into the blinding light, breathe, and listen some more.
“-but it is safe to say that the device acts than just more than a dampener of emotions. I believe the device is being used as a tool to help the Necron forces control the populace.”
Captain Enovand grunted. “The Necrons? So we are sure that we are facing such a powerful foe here? I thought they only harvested humans by all accounts? Now they’re using mind control devices?”
“Well yes. The Necrons are the ones who appear to be using these devices. The chain of command has alerted only specific members of the crusade with this knowledge. I am imparting this to you because the man who commanded me to speak to you about this wanted me to explicitly state it. He felt the knowledge could be entrusted to you, especially since your role in bringing this subject to us was very critical of our understanding of the situation as a whole.”
“Well, I appreciate the confidence,” began the captain, but doubt seeped into his voice. “But why has the secret been kept for so long? Wouldn’t it be prudent to try and focus on the Necrons as a whole rather than keep it hushed?”
The other voice coughed before responding. “The situation is very sensitive, or so I am told. All I can say is that the device is being used by the Necrons and that it is a very critical piece of information. That’s it. If there is anything else, there will be orders that will come down that will direct you in the next action ahead. Aside from that, you must remain silent about what you have found.”
“So that is it? I just go back to my unit and keep my mouth shut? Above any of these other threats we have faced here, the Necrons are by far the more dangerous of anything else possible. Why would I remain silent?” fumed the captain.
“He thought you would react like this. Here, take this.”
Cherke thought he heard the rustle and unfurling of paper. Moments seemed to stretch into agonizing eternity as he waited for a response.
At last Captain Enovand spoke again. “So that is it, then? It has come to this? What more can I say other than I will do as commanded.” The man sounded resigned, almost defeated. “I am sorry, captain. It is as I was commanded to do.”
As an afterthought, the captain spoke again. “So what about Cherke here? What will become of him?” inquired the Shadow Sanctus marine.
The other man’s voice became icy. “I am to do my duty and operate. He is the first live subject who resisted the Necron device’s influence, and thus I must discover anything else I can.”
“Is that the only way?” whispered the captain. “I believe this youth could make a fine space marine one day given his incredible resolve.”
Cherke all but stopped listening at that point. His entire being became numb as he now realized his final fate. All that had happened since he escaped the dark forms that had clouded him mind to the fight in which Captain Enovand fought with his very life to save him were the brightest points of what Cherke could remember. Everything in between made him feel alive, as if he was worth something again.
Now he lay motionless, the blinding light burning him to his hollow core, and the whirling sound of a machine inching closer and closer as it reverberated into his ears.
All that Cherke could think at that point was what was the point of living, if all it meant was death in the end?
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model Chapter Master Patroclus Calabeck, Solar Lions- lightning claw, storm bolter (inmygravenimage)
The battle barge Decimator hung in orbit, suspended above the battle scarred planet below. On the command deck, two figures stood before the swirling replica of Macharian VI, a manifestation of the death below.
Chapter Master Calabeck grimaced as he played back the last few days as the Imperial forces indicated on the maps retreated, collecting what strength they could on the far side of the planet.
Already the Tyranids were simmering again. The reports of their activity were growing, and with alarming speed they were reinforcing again.
The Crusade could not afford to fight that menace again.
But if all worked out, they wouldn’t have to.
“What is the progress of your research?” inquired Calabeck as he turned to his compatriot in the Crusade, the shadow that operated behind and ahead of the armies of the Imperium as they marched.
“We definitely need the Chaos forces at this point,” remarked Inquisitor Heth Fernix as he too studied the map. “Every time we learned about the Necron presence, the Chaos forces already know about it. We must find out anything else they may know about the greater enemy.”
Calabeck shook his head and fully turned his massive body toward the smaller man. “Consorting with the traitors? Are you sure that is necessary? What about the mind control devices found implanted on the spines of the inhabitants? Anything you can use from what you discovered there?”
Inquisitor Fernix continued to scrutinize the orb representing the planet below. “Not without the knowledge of how to suppress the devices. I have a plan, but it requires knowledge beyond what we know. The Chaos forces know how to stop it from working. Our limited but thorough tests have proven that each and every one of our men subjected to the device is unable to function at 100% capacity. And we’re talking about Space Marine subjects. Normal humans are even worse off, no better than brain dead animals at that.”
The chapter master raised an eyebrow. He never consented to the testing of marines with the xenos devices. But he had to trust the Inquisitor, as he was imprisoned in his floating command ship by higher authority, unable to lay a direct hand on the action below. And the Crusade was growing desperate. Two Imperial Guard unit mutinies had already occurred. The response was annihilation for the traitors. It had to be. There was no way other recourse than to continue the war effort, especially since defeat could mean the triggering of whatever plans the Necrons have up their sleeves.
And that above all else was something the Crusade must prevent at all costs.
“So what do you propose inquisitor?” Calabeck tried to keep the ice out of his voice, but to little effect.
This time, Heth Fernix turned to regard the chapter master. Both had known the other prior to the Crusade. They both knew the man before them was fearless, uncompromising, and above all else, stubborn to the end when he made his decision. Calabeck stared for a long time into the smaller man’s eyes, searching to see if his intent really was to side with the Chaos heretics in these desperate times.
Calabeck closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. “Well? What do you intend to do?” he asked with much less hostility than before.
The Inquisitor kept staring his gaze locked on the chapter master, and his hand slipped into a pouch on his belt. “First, we need to locate the nominal leader of the Chaos forces at this point. Any officer or sorcerer would suffice for the knowledge we may need, but if we are to strike back at the Necrons, we need to be able to rein in the Chaos attacks and hopefully convince them to fight with us.
“Second, I need your help planetside for this endeavor. The Chaos lord in charge will not listen to anyone but the leader of the Imperial forces. That I can guarantee, especially since I cannot do it and no one else under your command or mine would have the clout needed to convince them of what must be done.”
Calabeck was about to remind the inquisitor of his inability to leave his ship when the small man pulled from his pouch a small scroll, worn and weathered, but well preserved. Calabeck took the proffered document and unfurled it, his eyebrows rising higher and higher as he read the sacred words printed upon it.
“Blessing of the Emperor,” whispered Calabeck as he reverently held the artifact before him. Rarely did the three century old leader ever become humbled or surprised anymore. “Where did you get this from?”
Heth gently took the scroll, wrapped it up, and slid it back into his pouch. “That I cannot tell you. But now you can descend from your prison and rightfully command this Crusade like you were meant to do from the start. I always wondered why the High Lords commanded you to remain above while your men died below. At the very least, that wrong has been corrected.”
Calabeck nodded. “Yes. It is time to finish our work.”
Battle Brother Dette, Knights of Macragge- heavy bolter (alabamaheretic)
Klyn-dal, Lord of the Severed Skulls and Warlord of Macharian VI, watched as another wretched prisoner was brought before him.
Dragged forth by a pair of the hunched, infernal-red, and horned daemons known as bloodletters, they hauled the captive forward, tugging their cargo with taloned hands. Tossing him to the ground, the battered space marine landed before an ornate throne. Gold-plated skulls adorned the base, ascending to curved, malicious horns that acted as the backing of the warlord’s seat, wide enough to house the terminator armor of Klyn-dal as he sat upon his throne of trophies.
The loyalist marine coughed up blood as he managed to climb to his elbows, his welted and torn face looking up at the leader of the Chaos forces on the war-drenched planet. His armor was torn and rent, the blue paint ruins and coated in blood and grime. His weapons were gone, and the iconography of his allegiance desecrated and ruined.
The Warlord of Macharian VI leaned forward, his head resting on a clenched fist. “Ah…a misguided child of the false Emperor,” denoted the Chaos lord. “What is your name?”
Through broken teeth, the warrior managed to grit out his response, “Br-brother Dette….Knights of Macragge.”
Klyn-dal chuckled. “A Tyranid hunting warrior? Interesting. I have heard of your chapter’s exploits in the past, and the presence of several of your kin on this forsaken planet. I trust that you have found the hunting here of the aliens…enjoyable?”
The Warlord threw his head back and had a deep throated laugh at the loyalist’s expense. The rest of the court of cultists and renegade Chaos marines lining the desecrated throne room also joined in.
Through his one good eye, Dette spat at Klyn-dal in his merriment. Slowly, the Chaos lord stopped laughing and looked down as his armored boot, smeared with red spittle. Unbelievably fast, he rose from his chair of skulls and horns and lifted the battered space marine by the back of his neck, holding him fully off the ground without a strain in his effort. Despite the dramatic pose, Klyn-dal didn’t look the least bit angry. He simply stared at the broken man borne in his fist, no stronger than a new born kitten. “You have fire… former brother Dette. I like that. I especially like that in my minions.”
The Lord of the Severed Skulls drew the warrior’s face closer to his own, his breath hot on the marine’s face.
“I will ask this only once. Recant your vows to the corpse sitting on the Golden Throne. Throw away the shackles of your imprisoning chapter. Join my cause, and together we will destroy the Necrons that keep my masters from this world and the Crusade that futilely flounders in its death throes.”
The bloodied marine quivered his lips, trying to form the words of his response. Curious, Klyn-Dal turned the marine and pressed his ear to the broken man’s lips. Listening for moments on end, the Chaos lord drew back his head and shook it.
“Stubborn to the end. Very well,” he replied.
From his free hand, the Lord of the Severed Skulls summoned a shimmering force. It coalesced into a great sword of prodigiously length, wickedly carved with runes that dripped blood. Viper fast, he reared the sword back, and thrusted it into the abdomen of the dying marine, the other end poking out covered in blood and gore.
Releasing his hold on the loyalist, Klyn-Dal let the sputtering few moments of life shudder from the impaled Brother Dette. When the light of his one eye dimmed, Klyn-Dal lowered his sword and let the body of the dead marine slide off, flopping to the ground before the pair of bloodletters who stood vigil, watching hungrily at the flesh set before them. With a wave of the warlord’s hand, the daemons took the corpse and dragged it away across the stone floor, staining the reddened floor it in a smear of fresh blood.
Winking the sword out of existence, the Chaos lord sat back on his throne, and watched as another pair of bloodletters dragged another space marine before him. He smiled as the thought of what he would do this one....
Brother Tanaerum, Achlysian Reavers- bolter and chainsword (Yggdrasil)
Hundreds of square miles of enemy territory, buried deep in the Raven Skull Mountains, hostile daemons and cultist scouring the land for plunder and sacrifice.
None could find the former pathfinder, the one who stalked through the rubble and rocks of the jagged crags he ascended. As a son of Achlys, he stalked the dark depths of every shadow cast during the day, and murdered with silent fervor during the yawning chasm of night. Days upon days of trekking the barren and infested landscape, his personal mission not one of vengeant fury; the kills he made were of an assassin’s necessity, murders in the dark of night that slowly brought him closer to his target.
Armed with only a bolter and chainsword, only the most battle-wizened warriors would see beyond this simple marine of the Achlysian Reavers. Raised on worlds plunged in midnight darkness, trained to fight on the twilight planets far from the warming embrace of a loving son, and blinded by the trials set forth by his demanding chapter, Brother Tanaerum needed no other tools.
The fools surrounding him groped blindly even in the light; unaware of what the world truly looked like. Even the seasoned hunters of primal worlds that used all their senses and knowledge of the wind and terrain could not see what the Achlysian Reavers saw. At times, Tanaerum would simply shake his head that countless others lived their entire lives without true vision.
But for a man who lived countless decades at the pinnacle of alacrity, sometimes the sight from within the darkness was both a blessing and a curse. His enhanced senses allowed him a sixth sense and a preternatural kinship with nearby future events, but it blinded him to what his actions beyond actions could do. Without a true grasp of the future, a man so blessed as Tanaerum could avoid the pebble in his direct path, but fail to see the boulder plunging down to crush him.
In his introspective moments when he stopped his pursuit, the former pathfinder would recall his recent past. Haunted memories of the furious combat aboard the training ship with his young charges fighting off the boarding action with their own counter-boarding, the enemy numbers swelling until combat was more like wading through thick mud than the expert ripostes of a master fencer. Untrained and partially blinded initiates fell left and right as the invaders used their manpower to win rather than their skill. Building and fueling his rage at every drop of blood spilt of his students; he calmly discarded his bolter and picked up the nearest two chainswords of the enemy.
In his moment of weakness, he became the whirlwind, blind to the mayhem he caused until the strength of his assault faltered, the blood of a dozen wounds seeping from his body, two bloodied initiates grabbing him and tugging him towards the escape hatch as the paralyzing horror of what he had done was quickly overwhelmed by the failure of his mission. As he was pulled into the emergency escape pod, his eyes flickered over the scores of bodies left in his wake, some alarmingly familiar as he noted the features of each and every man he had slain, irrespective of the side they were on.
The acuity of predicting the infidel’s attack did not allow Tanaerum to also know he would lose control over his emotions. In the penitence for his actions, the fallen marine was given the task to serve the Inquisition in any capacity they deemed he should see fit to execute. As a measure of irony, he was also imparted with one of the chainswords that he had loaned from a fallen enemy, perhaps as a mockery to his actions during the incident, or as a reminder of the price of weakness.
But regardless of the intent, the inquisitor he was now subordinate to knew how to use the skills of the disgraced warrior. With precise instructions, Tanaerum crossed the hundreds of miles of hostile lands alone, avoided detection at any cost, and had scaled the walls of a mystically shrouded fortress to confirm the location of his target.
Perched in an alcove within the weak points of the enemy wall, Tanaerum stood vigil for three days and nights, watching and waiting for his quarry to appear. From what he was told, this was a man who rarely ventured from his fortified position, sending out his minions to do his bidding and commanding what he controlled of the Chaos invasion.
But even a reclusive warrior-king had to make his presence felt at some point.
On the fourth dreary day, through the magical mists hiding his castle in the mountains, the marine found his charge, spotting his impressive sword and armor even from his vantage point and distance, he found the man the inquisitor wanted him to find, walking the courtyard of his expansive demesne reviewing the traitorous troops under his command.
Identified at last, the Achlysian Reaver fingered his bolter, and then departed.
His mission done, he left the fortress, the mountains, and the enemy behind unscathed, for all he had to do was make sure that the leader of the enemy forces was still there in his palatial home.
Still thinking himself safe and secure when the space marines attacked.
Klyn-dal stood on the parapets of his mountain fortress, and basked in the glory of the thousands thronging the courtyard, giving praise to his iron-fisted rule in the name of Chaos.
The glaring sun of Macharian beat on his back, and for a moment, the traitor marine remembered through his fleeting and long life. Past the blood and the war that followed every moment, a young Klyn-dal sat with his father, watching as a space vessel descended to his planet. It was that very same vessel that the space marines would select the young man and whisk him away to a future that held nothing but death for him. Tired of war in service to the Emperor, Klyn-dal broke his shackles of repression and walked into the darkness that beckoned, offering him more than what a dead master could provide.
Turning his back on the light, Klyn-dal never regretted his decision. In the shade of the sun that morning, exalted by the followers that both feared and loved him, he cracked a wicked smile and raised his ornate sword into the air, thrusting it high for all his minions to see.
Yes, he would stab at that false light, piercing it and cracking the shell, revealing the decaying, hollowed interior of the Imperium. His sword would be the truth that no one but the Chaos gods truly cared for what humans did. The empire will fall, and the teeming trillions of souls spanning the galaxy will exalt in the times ahead as the strong will not only endure, but conquer and lead, while the weak shall either submit or perish under the flames of war.
Klyn-dal smiled all the wider as he envisioned himself at the forefront of the conquerors. When he subjugated this benighted that his master’s minions feared to tread, countless hordes of demons and cultists will flock to his cause, swelling his armies to bursting and giving him the power to carve his name into the stars.
In his glory, Klyn-dal did not immediately recognize that his devoted minions had stopped cheering. Many were looking around nervously. Stopping his exaltation, Klyn-dal felt the foundations of his fortress home shake. The vibrations increased, and many of men below began to grab to whatever they could to keep themselves balanced. Small chips of stone and dust rattled and danced to the shaking.
The Warlord of Macharian VI smiled. He knew what this meant.
He turned toward the stairs, eager to greet his unexpected guests.
Battle Brother Felix Cordoba, Crimson Fists- Termite Drill Transport (Gavin Thorne)
The first attack had to be unexpected.
The Chaos forces would expect tanks to climb the heights, drop pods to rain from the sky, terminators to teleport in, and assault marines to jump pack into the fray. They would not expect Felix Cordoba or his Crimson Fist Termite Drill unloading several tactical squads into the heart of the traitor fortress.
Grinding through ancient layers of stone and mineral deposits, the churning drill of a half dozen machines grinded age old rock to dust as the squadron of adamantium tipped drill ships bored into the heart of the complex. Punching Into open space, the machines slowed their advance, half exposed from the rocks they had pushed aside during their journey.
Bringing the machine spirit of his wondrous earth churning transport to a low hum, Battle Brother Felix Cordoba exited his craft, the escape hatch built into the side of the machine bursting open with hydraulic precision, welcoming the marines within to a bleak interior. Water dripped in recesses of the pitch black that echoed all around them indicated a natural cavern.
Flood lights flared to life, confirming their suspicions.
Scanning the wide cavern, its highest point disappeared into the stalactites twenty feet above. Pools of cool water formed around the stalagmites that jutted from the cave floor, creating the image of rocky maws that spanned the natural room.
Brother Cordoba narrowed his gaze, finding unnaturalness to the pristine condition of the cavern. They were literally underneath a festering, fetid home of Chaos worshippers. Surely this cave could not be untouched…
As if to reflect his grim thoughts, the pools of water surrounding the marines and their boring crafts struck out, turning into thin whips of water and lashing the marines with surprising rigidity. The whips of water startled the veteran warriors, but their armor protected them from the surprising onslaught. Spats of bolter fire punched through the pools of water and thin strands of aquatic malice. None of the firepower even phased the tainted waters.
“Flamers to the front!” commanded Brother Cordoba as the bolter marines retreated and a trio of flamer wielding warriors came forth, opening up streams of fire that caused the water to hiss in pain. Great gouts of smoke wafted into the cavern, obscuring the penetrating flood lights and misting the whole cavern in a fine spray of defeated water.
After minutes of scouring, the cavern was utterly fogged, but none of the whips or pools of water remained. Gathering his charges, Brother Cordoba had the men kneel.
“Brothers! We are below the lair of our enemy! Know that our task today will be difficult, but it falls to us to begin the assault where they least expect it! Our mission will be glorious, and pray to the Emperor that we will carry the day!”
In unison, the disparate marines in armor too varied, reflecting their various and disparate chapters that blanketed the cosmos, all praised the Emperor. The mist dissipating before them, the marines charged forward across the cavern, eager to find the path that would lead them up and into the bowels of the traitor den.
Brother Fabrizio, Carcharodons (Space Sharks)- twin power swords, stormbolter (btemple0)
The Shark, Part 1
Between him, his blades, and his enemies, nothing else existed.
Slowly, the throng of warriors came at him, each one a heartbeat too slow to avoid their deaths as twin swords sliced through their arms, their legs, their heads. Neatly carved body parts and spurts of blood fountained around him as he whirled and swept enemies from their feet, or detached feet from their owners.
Fabrizio thought his enemies looked like they were pushing through water, their movements were so slow. The Space Shark would have pitied their inadequate movements if not for the fact that they had sold their souls to dark powers. Each one of the scum had a glint of desperation in their eyes, fevered determination to be the one granted favor and therefore an extended existence from their imperious masters if one of them could just fell this warrior, the one carving a path through their ranks.
More and more of the relentless horde turned around the corner and into the room, piling upon one another to try and stop the single, solitary marine they thought they had managed to separate from his other brothers and therefore be an easy target, even with traumatic losses to their own side.
But the Carcharodon did not hesitate nor falter, and he was far from an easy target. He danced across the stony room, blood slicking the walls and staining the bookcases of foul research contained within. The pile of bodies began to accumulate, toppled over the chairs and draped across desks where Fabrizio entertained the evil heretics would try and glimmer some insight into their pitiful existence, finding one iota of power to hoard for their own and use when most advantageous.
None of his opponents exhibited any such dark luck. They were armed with knives and clubs and desperation. He on the other hand was gifted with the Twin Teeth of Marant, the fabled First Frenzy of the Space Sharks. Down the line of his successors were these finely crafted blades passed, and into each hand a hundred times over did the wielder prove worthy to wield these blades.
As the Hundred and First Frenzy, Fabrizio knew that the long line of swordsmen he descended from would be shamed forever if he were to fall to such feeble foes. Only another Space Shark would ever best him, as was traditional in his chapter for when the two swords were passed from one Frenzy to the next. Combat by trial would decide the next wielder of Marant’s legacy.
Until that time, the master swordsman didn’t allow these wretched creatures to impose their numbers against him. He simply stepped on top of the bodies that completely carpeted the floor and continued his harvest of body parts as more men pressed to pull him down. None could even enter the whirling cage of steel that entombed the Carcharodon marine. Fingers flew free and blades snapped off at the hilt as dozens upon dozens tried where everyone else before them had failed.
At last, Fabrizio stopped his dizzying performance of martial skill. Barely winded, he stood almost to the ceiling on a mountain of corpses and limbs. Looking at the sole entrance to the room, no more cultists had entered for a good several minutes now.
The last of the horde was now dead.
The space marine, covered from head to toe in the gore of the fallen, merely flicked the tainted blood from his blades and casually strode to the exit.
He would not join in on the assault the rest of his fellow space marines were currently engaged in. He had a deeper purpose in mind.
The squad of space marines scrambled up the narrow steps. One lost his footing, and the hapless marine fell off to the side. At the last second, he threw his bolter to a nearby comrade who quickly grabbed it by the stock. Then the luckless marine fell, and descended into the impenetrable darkness that swallowed him whole.
Madness thought Brother Jaska as he stowed away the gift of the departed marine, cradling his plasma pistol with renewed awareness of how precious a weapon was at this time. Keening wails followed the marines from the darkness below, belonging to the arcane horrors that dwelled in this nightmarish space between reality and the Immaterium.
Somewhere along their travels, the marine squad had fallen into a trap, triggered by a sorcerer of considerable power. Now they were stuck between realms; still within the confines of the castle, but also trapped within a pocket dimension that seemed to flux in and out with the mutable and ill defined dreamscape of the Warp.
The stairs was only the latest in a long line of seemingly endless corridors, steps, or challenges the marines had to collectively overcome. In spite of the puzzles, the marines also had to be on guard for the demons that haunted this non-reality. They would simply appear out of nowhere and ambush the superhuman warriors without a moment’s notice. Luckily, only the third casualty had just struck the team with the death of the departed brother Renyt.
The Chrysemys marine was in charge now that Renyt was dead. They were ascending stairs that seemed to lead nowhere, and all of them were in danger as the moans and screams from below increased in pitch and proximity.
“Brothers!” yelled Jaska. “Ascend without me! I will hold off the threat!”
Without complaint but concern in their eyes, the remaining marines carefully stepped around the determined warrior, who now drew his chainsword too. The final battle brother, clad in yellow black stripes, touched Jaska on his shoulder and whispered a quick prayer to the Emperor for his safe return. Then turning, he left the resolute man to his suicidal stand.
Jaska watched as the team ran up the thin and bone white stairs into the oblivion above, uncertain if this was the right choice or not. As the last of their forms vanished into the dark, a piercing cry from beneath him brought his attention downward.
Jaska resolved that it had to be. For the sake of the mission, he had to buy time for his brethren.
Entering the faded light was a ochre colored creature with many claws and many mouths, all of them flailing and gibbering with insane sorrow. It propelled itself on three powerful legs that vaulted four steps at a time on the narrow passage. Amazingly, it never seemed to lose its balance despite the twisting malady of limbs.
Jaska aimed his powerful pistol and unleashed a cackling shot of pure energy, smashing into the teeth of a particularly large mouth centered on its abdomen. The fangs cracked and splintered as the bolt of energy broke through the orifice and exited through the abominations’ back amidst a splatter of bone, teeth, and gore. The thing faltered, but still charged the marine.
Dropping his pistol, the Chrysemys marine took his chainsword in two hands and swung with all his might, an overhead chop that connected with what passed as the creature’s head, and clove right into its midsection, organs and bones disconnecting wherever the chainsword touched.
But the creature’s momentum smashed into the warrior, and the dying creature crumpled on the marine, pinning him underneath its bulk on the stained stairs, the chainsword still whirling bits of blood and gore all over the place.
The marine struggled to push the still flailing monster off him, its mass keeping him from getting any proper hold.
Another series of desperate wails from below made Jaska stop his squirming.
More of the creatures were coming.
And he only had seconds before the other horrors would be upon him…
“Charge,” he cried as his men ran across the courtyard, bolters blaring out hate for the defenders of the Chaos sanctuary tucked in the desolate mountain range.
Bolstered by a traitorous space marine here and there, the dozens of frail warriors in cloaks, hoods, and tattered clothing bristled with spikes and guns pointing outward, the tide of the Emperor’s mightiest warriors deterring them not in the least.
Inushi’s chargers were the first of the marines to emerge from the depths of the Chaos fortress and its underground labyrinth of madness. Thanks in large part to the senior Mantis Warrior Tano Inushi, the squad suffered no losses. His knowledge gifted to him by the Inquisitor Heth Fernix as well as the many years of suffering and training he endured made Inushi the perfect veteran to lead this particular mission amongst the ten or so squads of marines now making their way through the heart of the enemy’s home.
Sergeant Inushi thought it ironic about what the inquisitor told him regarding his mission; minimize casualties but make sure that you complete your mission above all else.
Since none of his charges even knew what the crafty Heth Fernix had planned, Inushi kept the secondary mission goal from his men, allowing his warriors the free reign they needed to maximize their efficiency and avoid any more casualties to their already depleted forces.
Inushi saw above all else how desperate the Crusade had gotten. To even think the Emperor’s own would stoop this low…
The wave of the Mantis Warrior’s marines smashed and swatted away the sticks and primitive guns the traitor forces had leveled against them, crushing the first line of defenders underneath their armored bodies. Then, after their momentum played out, they began separating into islands of furious action against the desperate and pitiful humans herded forth to overwhelm the ten attackers.
Inushi hacked away those who thought to challenge him, his plasma pistol and sword eliminating any of the traitors who came before him. From the corner of his eye, he saw the six or so Chaos marines who had funneled their minions into combat retreating, running across to the other side of the courtyard and into a pair of baroque doors that slammed shut after them.
The sudden loss of their leaders broke the morale of the wretches who began to flee or fall to hands and knees before the loyalist marines. Without a thought, the space marines split their skulls after promising them quick deaths for their transgressions.
With the broken remnants of the defenders scattering, Inushi motioned for half his squad to run down the survivors.
With his other four men, they quickly unpacked the device they had carried up from the depths of the Chaos sanctuary.
It was this device the Inquisitor Heth Fernix had charged Inushi to protect and activate.
The Mantis Warrior grimly smiled as he flicked the switch that would bring its machine spirit to life.
The Fang viewed the mountain of corpses, the bodies of men with fewer than four limbs, and thought faintly of a prior time.
He strode into the room of carnal destruction, only to see that upon closer inspection on the macabre scene that it was not wanton destruction and mutilation that mauled these men. It was something else more controlled, more precise.
The Fang picked up a neatly severed arm, gazed at it for several moments, and then casually tossed it aside. He found that every piece he inspected was similarly cut. There was great precision to this work.
The more he observed and sifted through the remnants of unworthy foes, the more he had to drag out his ancient memories to a time before The Hunt, when more mattered than the great chase of predator and prey that he so enjoyed today.
He remembered the brutal, close combat efficiency of an ancient and long standing marine chapter. Not the one he belonged to. That he could barely remember in the dimmer recesses of the past.
No…these marines were once his enemies.
And in particular, he remembered one specific marine that dared to cross his path… ******************************************************************************************************** The skies bled fire and bullets, the swift and merciless advance of the Carcharodon advance strafing the lines of the renegades as they fought furiously not to retreat, but merely to survive.
Vanguard Veteran Catotigernos led his contingent of assault marines on a sweeping flank attack, busily observing the ground and skies for any enemies attempting to flee south toward the equatorial mountain range of Nargath Tertiary. If any enemy made it that far, it would mean a guerilla war to which mean the Space Sharks would possibly resort to detonating the planetary core in order to flush out the traitor marines they sought to exterminate.
After a half hour of fevered searching, he spotted a small convoy, a trio of enemy rhinos belching fire and smoke as they tried to struggle southward and away from the frontlines. They were in the badlands, desperately fleeting for the foothills visible in the twilight of the world’s dipping sun.
Signaling for his men to follow, he roared the engines of his modified jump pack and flew on a direct path toward the remnants of the devastated Feral Lion marines.
Catotigernous watched as the rhinos stopped their retreat and turned around. Still streaming prodigious amounts of smoke, it was evident that these transports were already battle damaged. Still, they lined themselves up for a last ditch stand, and the ragged remnants of three tactical squads emerging from the access points meant that they sought to stand and fight. They sought what cover they could amongst the rocks and scrubs of the parched land.
As the Space Shark descended from the air in a suicidal dive, Catotigernous smiled. His enemies were sitting ducks, unaware of how dead they would be in a matter of moments. Gunfire erupted from the score or so of the remaining Feral Lions, their shots clanking off of reinforced artificer power armor. One lucky shot clipped a Space Shark’s jetpack, causing the marine to plummet to his death.
The remaining loyalists turned their thrusts around at the last second as the entire team of assault marines descended amidst the battle scarred rhinos, swiftly engaging the renegade marines with cold and calculated strikes from swords and axes.
Under the assault, three unengaged marines broke from the melee and ran. After neatly cutting through the throat of a Feral Lion with his lightning claw, the grizzled leader shouted for his second to take command. Leaping into the air, he fired up his jets and began pursuit of the fleeing cowards.
On powerful legs did the retreating space marine traitors flee. But they couldn’t outrun the pursuing Space Shark.
One of the Feral Lions turned, firing his boltgun as he strafed to the right, attempting to split from his two comrades and draw the ire and pursuit away from them. Catotigernous thought the tactic noble, but in the end futile. He drew a bead on the skirmishing marine and fired twice. The first shot sizzled into the ground, but the second one punched a hole straight through the Feral Lion, coming clean out the other side. The wounded marine fell to the ground, collapsing and surely dying from his injury.
Catotigernous grimly stalked his remaining prey as they tried to scramble over the broken ground. One of them tripped. The other looked back for a mere moment before deciding on his continued retreat. His comrade reached out and cried for help, but realizing it was too late, turned on his back and watched as Catoginerous landed on the broken ground, mere feet from where the fallen marine laid.
“Please brother…I surrender. Spare me,” he uttered, pleading with an upraised hand beseeching him for forgiveness.
Sickened, the Space Shark strode three steps forth and slashed once with his lightning claw, cleaving through the arm and burying itself deep into the traitor’s chest. Gurgling blood through his helm, it took mere moments for the traitor to die. After he expired his last breath, Catoigernous retracted his deadly claw and began his pursuit again, knowing it would only be a matter of time before he caught up with his remaining quarry. ****************************************************************************************************************************** The Fang fingered his chest, remembering the pistol shot that nearly killed him. He also remembered being on the cusp of death, the fine line that if crossed meant an eternal descent into oblivion.
He also remembered his dark pact as he laid there, a pool of his own blood forming around his still form. With his breath scant and eyes filming, he made a mental vow to one day hunt down the chapter responsible for his demise, even if it took him to the ends of time and reality to do so.
His wish was granted, as some unknown power whisked his soul away and brought him to a place of nightmares where he dangled and floated in madness for what seemed eternity.
Then a sudden end came to his torment, and he awoke for the first time in a long time, far away from the world of Nargath and back in living flesh, his eternal mission seared into his spirit.
He would hunt the Space Shark that killed him, and kill all that ever dared call themselves Space Sharks.
For the Feral Lions, for Chaos, and most importantly, for himself, would the newly christened Fang kill every last one of the loyalist bastards.
Exiting the room of blood and gore, he stalked the ones that had caused him pain.
And return it a thousand fold.
Ancient Adrastus, Carcharodon (Space Shark)- lascannon, dreadnought close combat weapon (btemple0)
Ancient Adrastus chortled within his prison, a body several tons in weight and twice the height of even the heroic proportions of a space marine clad in power armor.
His gauntlet cradled the head of a massive daemon that dared to tangle with him. It had died too easily in his grasp, and its death sent the horde of smaller, scaled creatures that accompanied it into frenzied rage. They clung to his metal frame and clawed at whatever was exposed. But their weak, ineffectual attacks were only bothersome to the Space Shark and nothing more.
The centuries old dreadnought wadded across the parapets of the Chaos stronghold with abandon, reveling in the carnage he wrought. A great deal of attention was given his solo invasion of the fortress thanks in large part to the fact that he was the only marine to descend in a drop pod through the anti-aircraft turrets that had defied his descent.
Knowing that the meager air defenses would not stop him, he was surprised to learn that the defenders were even less capable in stopping his rampage. So far, the strongest opponent tossed his way was the thing that he now dragged along, clenched in his fist and held as a trophy that sent the human cultists fleeing and the little daemons that nibbled at his heals furious.
Finding the constant assault of the little critters finally playing on his serves, Adrastus dropped the daemon corpse and began to stomp about, crushing several little monsters with every leaden footfall. He brushed off another score or so with his massive hand. He even fell backward and began to roll about, laughing inside his life sustaining sarcophagus as each little daemon died with a macabre popping noise.
After ending the life of the last pestiferous critter, Andrastus arose once more, and then stomped away, aiming to scour the entire outer wall of any opposition that stood in the ancient Space Shark’s way.
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model. Chapter Master Patroclus Calabeck, Solar Lions- lightning claw, storm bolter (inmygravenimage)
Impatient, even for a mere five more minutes, Calabeck stalked his war room, waiting for the beacon to become active. Heth Fernix stood by, attending the third figure in the room, a techmarine, as they monitored the progress of the invasion of the Chaos sanctuary with keen interest upon a screen mounted projector that hummed with the vital energies granted to it by the Machine Spirit.
“It doesn’t look good,” quipped the techmarine as he shook his head. “We’ve lost contact with an entire tactical squad in the last five minutes, and the other several that we’ve deployed are fighting for their lives at the moment.”
Calabeck continued to pace, his growls of frustration not because of the chaotic battle below, but because he yearned for the fight. He was a warrior first and foremost. A sound tactician and strategist, his patience was strained the moment he learned of the Imperial orders sanctioning him to remain within the safety of his command ship while countless others below died for his forced inaction.
He could have prevented a few million deaths he thought as he fingered his storm bolter. Calabeck had won more than one campaign leading from the frontlines; his almost legendary prowess combined with his ability to command a larger battle even under the hailstorm of enemy fire had earned him his mantle of Chapter Master many times over.
“Your assessment does not seem to factor in what is our real intent,” commented the Inquisitor as Calabeck didn’t even deign a response to the techmarine. “The fact is the plan has gone well. We’ve scattered the defenders within their keep and have kept them from guessing what we intend to do. We’ve deliberately made sure that our forces are fighting, forcing the enemy to hunt elusive targets that are impossible to catch.”
“So we intend to harry the foe? For what purpose?” inquired the techmarine.
“To force the hand of their commander,” replied the inquisitor as he kept his eyes on the monitors. “If his underlings cannot finish the task for him in ridding his adobe of an invasion force, more than likely he will personally command the counterattack.”
“And is that when we strike? Do we intend to assassinate their leader, cutting the head off the snake?” The techmarine spat out his words, venom evident from his decades of indoctrination in hatred against the forces of Chaos.
Chapter Master Calabeck stopped pacing to and fro. Slowly, both the techmarine and Heth turned to see the imposing and armor clad marine commander stare at both of them. His lightning claw was unsheathed, cackling with dancing energy.
Heth Fernix’s finger twitched for his pistol as the techmarine flinched and took a step back. Thinking better, Heth folded his arms and observed as Calabeck’s claw retracted.
“Alert me when the teleporter is ready. Then you will have your answer,” said the terribly formidable man as he then turned and continued his pacing.
Heth watched as the techmarine went back to the monitors, glancing over his shoulder to watch his commander.
The Inquisitor however, need not look at the leader of the Crusade. He trusted the emotional man that he would carry out the orders given him.
For both the inquisitor and the chapter master knew that the entire fate of this world rested on their shoulders in the next hour…
His plasma pistol came out of its holster, firing a cackling shot of energy.
At least his gun shared his sentiment.
One of the Khorne Berserkers fell, a hole exploding through his chest. The other dozen stomped right past their fallen brother and descended on the space marines under the Mantis Warrior’s command, crossing the courtyard of their demonic fortress in a blood crazed charge.
Skulls rattling and other macabre trophies adorning every inch of abused and punished armor, Tano saw that this band of corrupted warriors was anything but novices. Chainswords whipped freely from their sheathes, and cries to the blood god erupted from their baroque helmets. Tano shouted in defiance, lining his men up to shoot while the enemy closed the gap. Bolter rounds slapped down another chaos warrior, and then the melee was joined.
Tano quickly unsheathed his katana and began executing a dance of steel as a trio of berserkers tried to rush past him and get at the teleportation device that would enable the rest of the invasion to invade the enemy bastion.
But the loyal space marine could hardly defend himself as his two remaining opponents were skilled combatants. Metal screeched on metal as their two whirring blades were intercepted time and time again as Tano struggled to stay toe to toe with both foes and not allow them to flank to either of his sides and perhaps get at the machine. To their credit, the other space marines under Tano’s command had not broken either, keep their heads about them and keeping the Khorne Berserkers from getting any shot at taking out the beacon.
One of the swords got through his defense, and the rusted chains zipping across the blade grinded sparks off his chest guard, deflecting the blow and stopping any serious harm from going through. Staggered, Inushi raised his pistol and sniped an off-balance shot at his two aggressors. Undeterred, they bull rushed the susceptible warrior, sensing the kill was theirs.
The Mantis Warrior, with decades of combat experience and causing the demise of hundreds of melee enemies, could hardly disagree with their anticipation…
Ancient Adrastus, Carcharodon (Space Shark)- lascannon, dreadnought close combat weapon (btemple0)
The Demise(The Shark Part III)
Inarca could hardly believe the power of the Emperor's soldier.
His cabal mates was torn and displayed in grisly piles of bodies. Blood covered the walls and the metal frame of the warrior before him. Trembling, with his will sapped, his sole weapon a sword of disputable effectiveness against the hulking champion before him, Inarca began to turn and flee. A blinding flash followed him. His torso evaporated. A bellowing metallic laugh followed.
What was once Inarca's head and legs fell to the cobbled walkway on the parapets of the traitor fortress' outer walls. The gun that felled him was a powerful lascannon, build directly into the arm of his killer. The clanking strides of Ancient Adrastus stomped over the remains of the dead cultist, forgetting the last of a score of wretches that proved incapable as to so much as make the large encased space marine flinch.
Moving across the wall, the marine confronted his next opponent standing at the end of the walkway, just exiting from the guard tower attached to the wall. His jovial chuckling ended abruptly.
The dreadnought bound Space Shark eyed his opponent warily, for this one was different from the dozens that either died ingloriously to his mighty claw and gun, or leaped to their death to avoid his wrath.
This warrior was clad in red power armor, ancient and well worn, yet hardly uncared for. The warrior wielded two identical swords cackling with both technological and sorceress might. The man worn no held to mask his visage, revealing a passive face covered in bionics and scars beyond counting. Yet set into that face was eyes of fire and hate, literally glowing with the infernal powers that marked him as a chaos marine.
A memory tickled Adrastus, forcing him to hesitate in obliterating the enemy before him.
"Fallen warrior!" Adrastus shouted. "You were once blessed by the Emperor himself, and now here you stand a corrupted shadow of your former self. I am Ancient Adrastus of the Carcharodons. Know my name to comfort you in the knowledge of who gives you death today."
Adrastus watched through his artificial eyes as the chaos marine adopted a fighting stance, bringing his power swords before him, one suspended over the other as his legs tensed to pounce. Did he really think to charge directly at something twice his size and ten times stronger?
Before springing, the warrior smiled. "I am the Fang, and I will kill you."
The name flickered instantly in his mind, but Adrastus didn't have time to ponder. He raised his gun to fire, but the chaos marine was already steps away from engaging him in melee. So fast! In all his centuries of combat expertise, Adrastus could not remember a man, even an artificially enhanced warrior, move so quickly.
The dreadnought's lascannon fired, but the shot was already too last, and the Fang had already strafed towards the crenelated wall. Adrastus pivoted his torso and lined up another shot. The energy sizzled through the stone battlement, but the Fang was still alive, perched on top of a merlon, blades drawn to either side. Without missing a beat, the Space Shark spat out one more perfectly aimed blast.
But the Fang was already airborne, his body propelled by powerful legs, swords raised upon his head as he descended from the air. Adrastus raised his dreadnought claw up to grab the chaos marine from the sky and crush the life out of him.
Both swords swung down, flashing with blinding power.
And Adrastus barely registered that he had lost his claw, severed at the wrist by only one of the blades slicing through it.
By instinct, Adrastus brought his lascannon to bear on the Fang, who kneeled at the dreadnought's feet, both swords lowered and his back exposed. Adrastus fired, and his vision blurred as the lascannon exploded, causing the dreadnought to stagger and lurch to the side.
The ancient Space Shark could hardly believe it. His enemy had managed to sever off his arm and ruin the barrel of his gun arm simultaneously?
But the wizened warrior knew who he was up against. Every Carcharodon knew of the tales of the one enemy of the chapter that resurfaced time and time again, leaving in his wake entire squads of dead and dismembered Space Sharks.
He watched through his fading optical sensors to the outside world that the Fang has risen, positioning both his swords to skewer the coffin that held his inert body, tucked inside the torso of the dreadnought.
"You," rasped the injured dreadnought as his vision finally winked out, the machines spirit slowly fading away.
"Yes...me," said the Fang as he plunged both swords into the dreadnought.
“Traitor,” gurgled the dying marine as a bolt round ended his torment.
Brother Taki had heard it before, countless times before the tribunals and the Inquisition. Each time, the chaplain stood and accepted the words, swathing himself in the guilt and the shame that had come to define each succeeding Mantis Warrior. Just like the Emperor who had to burden the guilt of his failed son, Horus, each of the Mantis Warriors in kind continued onward with their everlasting quest for redemption.
For the thousandth time, Taki prayed to the Emperor against the maledictions levied against him and his kind. He hefted his smoking pistol, allowing the corrupted Space Marine slumped at his feet to pool in his own blood. He was once again covered in the perpetual darkness of the underground labyrinth, the darkness swallowing up the corpse.
The holy warrior didn’t even flinch, surrounded by the consuming shadows that struck again and again against the invaders as they struggled to find their way through the bowels of the Chaos fortress. For what seemed like an eternity, Taki had kept his men vigilant with prayer and with battle expertise, fighting off the shadow beasts at they emerged from their twilight realm. Claws and teeth of all shapes and sizes swirled in the dark recesses of the expansive maze, gnashing at the minds and bodies of his brethren space marines trapped within.
He did not know how the maze encased them. He had led his men from the caverns below the castle in their assault, and the darkness between the natural caves turned into masonry and stone of midnight black. Each direction they tried to navigate lead in directions untried, locations unfamiliar, and with a creeping sense of doom that the darkness that surrounded their artificial light emitters was watching them. Proving correct, the marines were vindicated in their wariness by being struck down again and again, falling to the predations of a place they neither understood nor comprehended.
And now there was just the chaplain.
The winds that seemed to start from nowhere and everywhere began again, cresendoing with maddening roars. Each sound was an affront to the Emperor, denouncing him for the false idol he was. Thousands of impossible to comprehend languages repeated the mantras of hate and scorn, yet each one was understood by the reticent man buffeted by the gales of insanity. Deep in his bones, the mad voices were false echoes, and each one was a barb that would break against his shield of faith. Each was a pitiable fraction of the pain that the Mantis Warrior carried within himself every single waking moment of his life.
With a reverberating roar, Taki turned on his staff, a weapon of awesome might and power, and bathed the area in the crackling blue light of its pure energy.
The darkness revealed, he saw the inky black claws and teeth that coalesced in midair, lunging to tear apart and drive themselves deep into another victim, turning him into a shambling, mutated mockery of his former self.
This he would not allow.
Swinging his staff in blurring arcs, he smacked the countless maws and paws from the air, scattering them again and again each time they approached. With each assault beat, the wind would sputter, quieting to mumbles and murmurs as the oily shadows coalesced into weapons, and then screeched back for a counterattack. But the Mantis Warrior was too fast, each disembodied natural weapon splashing into nothingness like a blob of water bursting against the ground.
Again and again the dark forms were beat back; not a single tooth chipped his baroque armor. Each movement was fluid, preemptive in stopping an attack that got too close and was not even within the view of his periphery vision. Brother Taki knew that he was in the throes of what his fellow Mantis Warriors called the ‘Battle haze,’ a state of tunneled concentration on a single foe that all else stopped mattering. Called upon to see it countless times in more severe cases, the knowledgeable holy man would know it to be the fatal flaw of his geneseed, a condition that would lead him to ignore his caution and common sense.
There was however only one enemy, and nothing else. He was focused, determined and there was no distractions now that he was alone. In this primal state, decades of physical training guided each swing, each stroke as he smote the foul taint of the place from his immediate presence. Without companions to care for, he only had to concern himself with the enemy before him, and for him, the enemy was the darkness existing around him. He would smite it from reality if he could.
As if the gloom sensed the intent of the battle-crazed warrior, the final wave of teeth ended pitifully as the cackling energy staff cleared the air of the last fowl taint. All that now existed was the marine who stood defiantly in his globe of light, and the darkness that stood at razor-edged closeness to the edges of the radiance. Gathering itself for one final assault, the mad winds roared again, spitting and cursing with all its might as it tried to once and for all end the life of a tainted servant of the Emperor.
The darkness lunged at the Mantis Warrior, pushing at the light emanating from the top of the staff, consuming the pool of radiance like a filthy black balloon filling with air. Brother Taki, with all his might and conviction, raised his staff and swung it down at the blob of midnight that had violated the sanctity of the light, and smashed it with crushing force. Thousands of shards of broken murk exploded and fragmented, slivering again and again as the entire curtain of emptiness and eternity was cast aside from the light of the staff, fluttering away into the recesses of a slate stone room emerging into detail.
The Mantis Warrior scanned the developing room, seeing the walls that looked like firm reality to him. And to his shock, he saw the corpses of the nine other marines surrounding him, all splayed out in a macabre flower of twisted limbs and broken power armor. He had thought each body was abandoned forever to the twisting nether maze that had spawned around them.
Silently praying once more to their deaths in service to the Emperor, Taki spied a gnarled wooden door that had at last materialized within the room. Walking towards it, he grasped the handle and turned the knob. Opened and closed in one motion, the apothecary left the room and with it all the false accusations that a false reality tried to claim him with.
Apothecary Sebestyen Fencarta, Grey Knight- flamer, force weapon (Knightley)
Sebestyen Fencarta looked over his shoulder, sure that he could hear a faint echo of power emanate from the bowels of the fortress. It felt like a psychic shockwave. The ground and the walls shuddered, swelling in agony for a brief moment. The Chaos fortress actually screamed in agony for one fleeting moment before returning to silent brooding insanity. The ripple receded and reality returned to normal. He was sure that it was a sign of a victory for the invaders, but given the nature of the place, he wouldn’t be surprised if the fortress itself was coming alive to attack the trespassers.
Sebestyen remained unperturbed, fully aware and experienced in the ways of the enemy that had built this unholy temple to the corrupted Gods of Chaos. Alone in the bowels of the fortress, his mission was like any of the other warriors that had come into the home of the enemy; to sow confusion amongst the enemy.
The apothecary smiled grimly at the irony of what he was doing in the middle of a fortress dedicated to Chaos. But his smile waned as he tred across another corpse of yet another one of the fallen battle brothers. This marine was slumped across the bodies of innumerable cultist, blood smeared so thickly across his armor that Sebestyen couldn’t even figure out what chapter he was originally a part of. Methodically, the apothecary went about his second set of orders handed down to him by the pragmatic Inquisitor Heth Fernix.
"He that may fight, heal him. He that may fight no more, give him peace. He that is dead, take from him the Chapter's due. While his geneseed returns to the Chapter, a Space Marine cannot die. Without death, pain loses its relevance,” the somber marine intoned as he set about his grisly work of recovering the gene-seed contained within the body of the deceased warrior. Cracking open the power armor, he sawed through the layers of metal and flesh with his arm mounted medical instruments, all the while watching his surroundings in case more of the enemy returned.
At last, he entered the chest cavity. Pulling aside the dying organs, he located the first of the Progenoid glands. Using his preternatural dexterity and advanced extraction devices, the apothecary had the gland out and secured in his medical pack within a handful of minutes. He looked at the gland in its jar along with the other five he had already collected, the glistening sacs still wet due to the preservation effects of the containers.
Turning the marine over, he was dismayed to find that the enemy had hacked at his corpse after his defeat, and the progenoid gland at the base of his spinal column was beyond salvaging. Curious as to the butchered marine’s chapter, Sebestyen wiped away some of the blood to reveal the emblem of a snake coiled around a clenched fist. Recalling the vague and obscure iconography of the myriad Space Marine chapters, he remembered the fallen marine to be a member of the Iron Snakes, a chapter hailing from the Segmentum Pacificus.
“Your work is done, fallen brother.”
The Grey Knight descended the pile of bodies, and turned to stare at the tribute of a warrior who gave his life in service to the Emperor. Then without hesitation, Sebestyen raised his flamer and ignited the pile of bodies, lighting the mound of flesh as a funeral pyre to the man that now had given his gene-seed to the future of his chapter, once the apothecary escaped the labyrinth of stone corridors beneath the feet of the enemy.
Klyn-Dal watched as one of his warlocks shuddered, foam spilling from his mouth. The other sorcerers, kneeling in a circle around a pentagram drawn in blood upon the floor, continued to concentrate, eyes closed and hands upraised as they each chanted their own fowl and twisted arcane syllables.
At last, the warlock flopped to the ground and his spasms ceased. His summoned creature had died, and in exchange for the loss of such a powerful minion, his life was taken in the bargain.
Klyn-Dal clutched his bloodied sword, walked through the room of summoners. Half a dozen active summoning circles maintained the fortress’ menagerie of horrors and monsters that were trying desperately to repel the invading space marines. Each caster was enthralled to a specific manifestation of chaos, using their bodies as a conduit to the Warp. Half of the casters were already slumped down, dead or otherwise incapacitated. The siege was going poorly for the defenders.
Snarling, Klyn-Dal turned to the man in the center of the room, a tall sorcerer in power armor adorned with runes and etches signifying his master as Tzeentch, the Architect of Fate. He held a staff capped off with a crystalized claw clutching a crescent moon, dancing energy cackling across its facets.
“Zarglitch, your warlocks are failing me, and that means you are failing me as well,” warned the warlord, holding his massive, blood-wet sword at his side.
The archwizard wizened visage remained impassive. “My lord, I humbly apologize. We are doing our best to try and eliminate the invaders. Aside from one group assaulting the parapets and making a stand in the courtyard, we’re having difficulty locating them.”
“I do not care. I’ve already found and eliminated a group of the invaders within my castle,” the tyrant spat, holding up his quenched sword as proof. “Your magical prowess does not impress me if you cannot even begin to discern the whereabouts of a handful of men slaughtering my minions left and right!”
Measuring the threatening posture of his overlord, the cautious Zarglitch replied carefully. “My lord, the forces of the Imperium that are romping around the fortress will in due time be caught. However, I do suggest that we focus our efforts on the enemy forces that are pinned down, namely the squad holding a tenuous defensive line in the courtyard.”
Klyn-Dal measured up the sorcerer one more time and turned, waiving his hand in the air. “I do not care about them. They’re already cornered with no other place to go. They’ll be eliminated in due time. Just find me the others so that way I can minimize their raid and make them pay for their intrusion.”
“My lord,” Zarglitch said more sternly, causing the warlord to pause his exit from the summoning chamber. “It would be unwise to allow the marines in the courtyard to survive much longer.” Looking over his shoulder, the smoldering gaze of his master made the archwizard cringe. “Why should I listen to you?”
Zarglitch clenched his staff tighter, summoning the will to stand before the very man who could end his existence but with a word, despite the powers the master warlock wielded.
“I have divined that they are not pinned down as they would seem,” he began. “They’re protecting a device that the great and all-knowing Tzeentch has told me that has the power to bring about our undoing.” Klyn-Dal kept his stare on the warlock long enough to cause the tall man to begin shifting uncomfortably. Then with nary a word, Klyn-Dal stalked from the room, his entourage of warriors waiting in the grand hall that led up to the summoning room.
Barking out orders, the retinue of battle tested bodyguards fell in behind their master. Waving his hand, one warrior clad in spiked armor fell in step next to the warlord and saluted. “What is your will?” he asked. “Fetch me my latest pet,” Klyn-Dal ordered as he continued his determined stride.
Brother Ricoh, Mantis Warrior- two chainswords (Gitsplitta)
The Fatal, Part 1
Brother Ricoh stalked the corridors of the fortress, loping about the dangerous environs like a panther stalking its wounded prey.
Already the space marine had ended the lives of dozens of enemy defenders; their corpses were scattered throughout the complex along with a handful of monstrous creatures that had stepped forth to oppose his blades. Each had in turn met a grisly death on the whirring blades of his chainswords.
Now Brother Ricoh had changed his focus. Explicitly, he was merely to cause chaos and havoc, carving up defenders and generally causing a terror campaign within the enemy base, forcing the foe to deplete their strength in chasing ghosts and shadows while the teleportation beacon was being prepared.
Brother Ricoh slowly realized that the enemy was not as well prepared as the high command had originally thought. The outer defenses were thick with automated guns and there was significant resistance at first, fewer and fewer enemies came forth to oppose the Mantis Warrior. The Chaos forces had their shell cracked, and the interior was hollow.
Perhaps it was time to end the assault right here and now. Rather than waste the Crusade’s resources on the diversion, perhaps the diversion could become the final strike.
But Ricoh remembered the orders of the Solar Lions Chapter Master distinctly; do not engage the commander of the Chaos forces, a hulking man in terminator armor styled the Warlord of Macharian VI. He would deal with him personally.
And yet here it was, not even an hour into the siege and the enemy was already on the ropes.
Perhaps the Mantis Warrior would take it upon himself to end the threat all by himself. He was already deeper into the fortress than any of his comrades. He was sure of it. Clenching his swords even tighter, Brother Ricoh ran further down the winding hallway, intent on ending the assault.
Brother Fabrizio, Carcharodons (Space Sharks)- twin power swords, stormbolter (btemple0)
The Score to Settle (The Shark, Part IV)
The Fang savored his kill. He felt the machine spirit slowly die as its mechanisms failed one by one. He felt the vibrations as the failsafe trigger, securing the sarcophagus of the inert space marine inside on its internal life support. He felt his swords grate against the metal as it squealed every time he gyrated it against the twin holes punctured in the massive dreadnought.
At last coming out of his reverie, he ripped out his dual swords. Smiling from ear to ear, he climbed upon the torso, crawling over to stand down over the hollow eyes of the machine’s head.
“I will consume your soul, and it will grant me ever greater power to hunt down your brothers. I will kill every one of you for what you have done to me.”
He aimed his next swings, looking to penetrate the living tomb of the wounded marine. But he never launched his fatal assault. Instead, he pivoted in place, and turned to look at the tower from which he had exited.
Standing at the entrance was another of his hated enemies, a Carcharodon space marine. But this marine was different. He knew that instantly, as if his past called him, howling in rage at the man standing before him and the long line of warriors who had preceded him. Each Space Shark, a hundred before this one stood before him. Each was a wielder of the finely crafted swords this one held. Each was a stain upon the Fang’s conscious, a blot amongst countless thousands that infuriated him, clouding his mind with unrelenting fury that until they were all dead, he would know no peace.
“We have a score to settle, for all my fallen comrades,” said Brother Fabrizio as he adopted a defensive stand, both of his magnificent blades poised before him.
Snaring in response, the Fang leaped from the inert dreadnought, and landed on his finely tuned muscles. With rage unquenched, he blitzed the Frenzy and clashed with the Twin Teeth of Marant, his demonically imbued swords matching his foe steel for steel.
Across the Fang swiped, his blades loping for an opening. Brother Fabrizio gave him nothing to exploit, each of his parries an expertly timed counter that launched into a quick jab to keep his enemy honest. But much to his surprise, the Fang was equally skilled, and each thrust was in turn slapped aside.
Then again, the Frenzy had to remind himself that this was a hand that had killed over eighty Space Sharks alone, a man capable of tearing apart a whole tactical squad as he was reputed to have done on Unava VIII. Fabrizio remembered arriving too late, the carnage having played out days ago with only the trademark hacked up bodies the Fang left behind as the only sign it was his doing.
The Twin Teeth flashed straight out, causing the Fang to backpedal as the loyalist marine began to turn the momentum of the fight. Brother Fabrizio entered the space the Fang vacated, and began a whirling dance of steel as he launched flunge after flunge at the enemy, forcing the chaos marine to keep parrying, unable to riposte any of the hits tossed his way. It didn’t simmer his anger, as he kept his wide-eyed stare and his teeth were still clenched and foamed.
At last, the Fang missed picking off a stab, and one of the Teeth sunk into his power armor, a brutal puncture that bit into his flesh. Unfazed, he struck back at the Frenzy, and was met by the same sword that had landed the first blow, energy cackling between the swords in the exchange.
“First blood is mine,” stated the Space Shark in-between his sword work.
The Fang only snarled, charging once again to try and retake the initiative….
Inushi watched as the two crazed warriors came at him. He couldn’t stop them both as they prepared to hack away at him overextended form.
Two shots cracked the air, and both berserkers snapped back their heads. Their forward momentum barreled into Inushi, and the trio collapsed in a heap next to the transporter array as it hummed with increasing energy.
Wasting no time, the Mantis Warrior pushed the corpses off him, and took a cursory glance as he saw that both had smoking holes in their helmets, entry wounds the size of three thick fingers punched through.
The marine who saved him strode to his side, his twin boltguns poised to fire more if need be. His armor was gritty and grey, the occasional skull adorning it. Inushi remembered the solider to once have been a Weeping Angel before joining the Deathwatch. He was the only warrior that the inquisitor had specifically recommend join the squad that would defend the teleportation device.
“I thank you for the support Brother Aulus,” Tano said as he surveyed his other squad members finishing off the remaining berserkers, having only lost two of his men in the melee.
“It is my duty to serve,” the stoic former Weeping Angel replied. “and we still have a mission to finish. I won't let you fail it.”
The Mantis Warrior looked down for a moment. “Agreed. This is not over yet. The generator to power the transporter needs more time to charge.”
Aulus nodded. “It will only be a matter of time before the traitors realize why we are standing out in the open. We’re the only ones that are holding our ground, defending the same position while our brothers within the castle fight a war from the shadows.”
“Just be ready for when the next assault comes. I suspect that they’ll rush the courtyard from the doors they retreated to previously.”
As if to spite his prediction, the air itself began to bubble and churn, the faint smell of sulfur and death permeating the courtyard.
“Daemons,” Inushi said flatly as he raised his sword. “Brothers! Reform ranks!”
Librarian Nesjanal, Blue Novas- force weapon, bolt pistol, three servo skulls (Njal the Weatherman)
The Guardian Angel
The iron grey walls, a cube prison, and his three floating servo -skulls was all the reality that Librarian Nesjanal needed.
He kneeled, his great armored body at rest. He breathed very calmly, despite being imprisoned within the prison ship floating above Macharian VI. His confines, suspended in an anti-gravity field within a null zone that existed between the Immaterium and the material plane, required no other guards.
He was the sole occupant of the ship, navigating it with his thoughts and maintaining it with an army of robotic mechanisms to sustain the vessel. It was a well armored cruiser, a ship maintained by the Blue Nova space marine chapter to imprison their most dangerous enemies who possessed unrivaled psyker power and ergo required unprecedented security measures to house and maintain them.
It has been the home of the chapter’s librarian for nigh over 200 years. And it was personally requested by Nesjanal once he deemed himself too dangerous to be allowed to roam free in the galaxy.
Despite the protests and concerns of his fellow marines, the acquiesced to his demands, for who could deny the man who saved the entire second company of Blue Novas from destruction on Mastic XI? Or the man who fought a bitter psychic duel with a whole platoon of fully energized Weird Boyz at the battle of the Pentraxs Caverns?
Because they could not say no, they allowed their most beloved Librarian to eternally entomb himself within the prison ship. His only companionship was the floating skulls of the chapter’s three prior Librarians, converted into hovering biomechanical devices that allowed Nesjanal to channel his latent powers and focus them in running the ship while his true focus was in doing his utter best not to be consumed by the Warp and its denizens.
Nesjanal knew that he required such stringent containment. He was already cursed by the very forces of Chaos that he fought again. His body had begun to mutate years ago, slowly corrupted by the daily fight against the Daemons trying to possess. His particularly strong psychic emanations meant that even with suppressants to douse his signature in the Warp, powerful minions of the Ruinous Powers still kept trying to overcome his formidable mind and possess perhaps one of the most powerful Psykers in the galaxy.
The null field kept most of mutatiosn in check, and all but the most powerful abominations from the Warp at bay. It gave Nesjanal no solace in this, as it prevented him from fighting at his true strength, fighting all his battles now by proxy as he astral projected to fight the enemies of the Imperium, lending an unseen hand to the forces down below.
Brother Ricoh, Mantis Warrior- two chainswords (Gitsplitta)
The Fatal, Part 2
Klyn-Dal waived off his final messenger and turned the corner. He and his entourage froze in their tracks. At the other end of the dimly lit stone corridor was a green space marine, his twin chainswords out and ready for battle.
The warlord smiled at this interruption. He gave one command and his two foremost guards stepped forth, hulking titans in power armor, both with halberds of blazing black energy and skull adorned helms.
They charged, shouting praise to Khorne , thrusting their halberds as spears to impale the lone loyalist. With a roar of his own, Brother Ricoh leaped over the blades and landed on the hafts, causing the two guards to stumble through their momentum. Not wasting the moment, the Mantis Warrior hacked at the guard to his left, his chainswords throwing sparks and illuminating the hallway with orange fury for a brief moment.
The second guard recovered and pulled back his halberd to gain room to swing. Ricoh didn’t allow him the opportunity and moved within his reach, causing the Chaos heretic to raise his weapon in defense as sword after sword clanked against his long weapon.
The Mantis Warrior fought furiously for he didn’t have much time left. The first warrior was getting to his feet, his helm marred with teeth marks from the bladed swords, but otherwise untouched.
Ricoh clanked his swords against the haft one more time, and then spun the other way to execute a powerful cut from high above the guard’s left shoulder. Instinctually raising his halberd to cross paths with the swords coming in on high, the guard didn’t notice as the experienced Mantis Warrior had dropped one of his swords in his twirl, and put all his strength into the one blade, smashing through the shaft and gouging deeply into his chest, spraying blood and armor through the whirring teeth of the chains.
Ricoh knew he was out of time, for as he pulled the sputtering sword out of the dying man, pain flashed in his side, causing him to stumble. Righting himself, barely he brought his lone sword out to block a stab from the halberd. The first guard had struck him once with his infernal weapon. It didn’t pierce his armor, but the mere touch of the black nether energy caused him great pain and discomfort where it struck near his kidneys.
Noting the power of the long reaching weapon, the Mantis Warrior picked off thrust after thrust from the patient heretic. He kept jabbing, knowing that the Mantis Warrior would gain the advantage if he was allowed to get inside his reach. He also knew that the necrotic damage to the space marine’s flesh would get worse over time. Within his helm, he smiled maliciously at that knowledge.
As if on cue, Ricoh took one hand off his sword and clutched his wounded side, his movements becoming more labored and lethargic as his swings struck with less force. Seizing the moment, the traitor lunged with all his strength, hoping this would be the final attack to overwhelm the space marine and cut him down for his master.
All he got for his efforts was a krak grenade to the face. Ricoh’s cleverly concealed grenade came out from the hand that was purportedly grasping his wounded side, and it hit the surprised guard square in his helm. The resulting flash of heat and pressure simply evaporated the upper half of the guard’s torso, causing the rest of the man and his armor to limp to the ground.
Catching his breath between seizures of actual pain, he forced down the screams of his body’s agony to turn and meet the enemy that still lived. His target, the self-styled Warlord of Macharian VI stepped forth, clapping his gauntleted hands in praise.
“Very good, very good indeed,” mocked the daunting Klyn-Dal. “You managed to defeat two of my lesser minions. For that, I would offer you a place at my side as one of my underlings, but I sense that you would not want that, hmm?”
Ricoh winced. “I would never bow before a heretic and blasphemer like you.”
Klyn-Dal frowned. “Unfortunate. Well, come at me. I will make you bow before me one way or another.”
The Mantis Warrior needed no more prodding. With a defiant roar, he charged the distance between the two. For a moment, he was surprised to see the warlord, clad in terminator armor, merely hold out his hands, open palmed, inviting the Mantis Warrior to strike first.
Ricoh obliged, pulling his sword back for the initial swing. All he could think about was ending the threat of the enemy right here and now.
He never saw the giant baroque sword materialize in Klyn-Dal’s right hand. He only saw the glint of the malevolent steel as it flashed before him, slicing into his chest. The cut was deep, and it forced Ricoh to fall to his knees, blood seeping through his armor and down his torso. He clenched his teeth as all he could do to prevent himself from falling into unconsciousness was focus on the victorious man before him.
With a flouring, the terminator clad tyrant flicked the Mantis Warrior’s blood off his sword. He looked down at the kneeling space marine, locking eyes with his enemy.
“Don’t worry. I won’t kill you yet. I’ll let the disgrace of this defeat haunt you as I go above to wipe out the rest of your brothers in arms. Then and only then I’ll give you the mercy of oblivion.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Klyn-Dal kicked the defeated warrior out of the way, his body slumping against the wall. The small force of warriors behind the Chaos lord marched on by, following their leader down the hallway and toward the stairs that ascended out of the complex.
Ricoh’s vision began to waver, as the blood loss had finally settled to a trickle, a pool of it coalescing around his legs. The last thing he saw was his chain swords, futilely out of his grasp along with the man he thought he could have defeated and save the Crusade from its most vile enemy…
Zarglitch, the First of the Ravager Skulls, Heir to the Scions of Torment, and Chief Butcher of the Magaran Heresy, wiped his brow of sweat as Klyn-Dal’s messenger relayed the orders given to him. Sneering in contempt at the pressed warlock, the personal envoy turned and left the summoning chamber, his boots clacking against the unforgiving stones.
“Keep the defenders of the teleporter occupied, or I will end you,” was the message relayed to him moments before.
It hadn’t needed to be said; he already had a full circle of casters working on focusing the rifts in reality around the courtyard. But the orders were directed at him, and all within the chamber heard the words loud and clear and knew what it meant.
If the teleporter activated, Zarglitch would be the one to blame and the first to die in the purge that would follow.
So Zarglitch would not allow it.
Barking out commands furiously, he gathered two more circles of casters and his personal acolytes to the chamber’s central pentagram. It was twice as large as any of the other circles. The etchings themselves drawn with the blood of one hundred loyal space marines, and glutted with the power of Warp energy syphoned from four ancient artifacts imbued with imprisoned greater daemons, each a powerful underling of a Chaos god.
The master spellcrafter held those same artifacts above his head. Standing in the center of the circle, his followers sonorously chanted, calling upon unholy powers to fuel his spell. In their cadence, Zarglitch fell into his arcane preparations, calling upon words that represented all the forgotten and outlawed pieces of lore that hundreds of years of research and discovery had empowered him with. Each note caused the room to shake, and the other spellcasters to begin bleeding from their ears, eyes, and nose. One convulsed in fits and seizures, falling unconscious from the sheer power of the spell.
Purple necrotic energy flowed outward from Zarglitch. His stringy white hair rose, static electricity causing it to dance wildly. The incantation was now at the apex of its power. It was time.
“Talisman of Ingonorea the Bloated, Horn of Slyrax the Delicate, Scroll of Znszesztorz the Inscrutable, and Sword of the Blood Drencher….hear the cries of your master! I call upon you! I command you! Come forth and do my bidding!”
Zarglitch rose off his feet, floating in midair. Smiling, he closed his eyes, for the next part was always the best one for him.
The room melted around him, reality itself fading away. The screams of his trapped acolytes caused the warlock to grin even wider. Their bodies would dissipate along with the chamber and everything else in it. If he had to die, at least no one else would be able to steal his secrets.
Zarglitch frowned, burying that thought. He will not die. His minions were necessary for the sacrifice.
The warlock opened his eyes, and he floated in a black void with four other, monstrous individuals wrapped in chains and runes. Each was more bizarre than the last. Each was formerly a powerful daemon that had walked the wider galaxy, scions of their respective masters and made in their image.
And each was his captive.
Ingonorea was a bloated, postulating mound of flesh, his one eye and massive horn crowning a squat skull and a row of rotted, jovial teeth. Next to him and in stark contrast was the androgynous and lithesome Slyrax, naked save for the chains wrapped around the Daemon. Hunched in glaring contemplation was the beaked Znszesztorz, a massive birdman that clutched a twelve foot wizard’s staff, capped with the skull of an unknown creature. Finally on the far right was the barely restrained Blood Drencher, whose form was that of a massive crimson colored man with horns adorning his head, hooves for feet, and a body scarred from eons of battle. His pitiless red eyes spoke of death to his captor if he ever got free from his bonds.
The Nurgle daemon laughed, his rolls of slick fat rippling in reply. “Ho ho ho. We have a guest!” He clapped his fat hands together. “It has been so long since we had a guest!”
“He rarely visits anymore. It is as if he has forgotten us,” warbled the birdman, clacking his taloned fingers against the staff. His eyes calculated, weighing as always.
The Slaanesh daemon curled its fingers through locks of luscious hair. “Mmmm….I suppose he came to play with us again. I remember when our ‘master’ played with us last time.” It leered in anticipation, a dangerous and predatory glint in its eyes.
“RELEASE ME!” was all the Blood Drencher said, his muscles cording as he tested his restraints once again, the metal chains clanking violently.
Znszesztorz sighed. “Really…you had to chain me next to him. Each time he screams…”
“I WILL BURN THE FLESH FROM YOUR BONES WHEN I BREAK THESE BONDS!” the demon roared, spittle flying everywhere. A generous amount smacked the birdman in his face.
“…well, duly note for the 2,531th time that I protest this imprisonment.”
Ingonorea clapped again. “But it is such fun to see you two bicker for centuries on end!” But then the Nurgle daemon grew somber. “Yet I do miss the wider universe. Each little pox that I could of sired….my children…” A tear moistened in his eye.
Finally, the seductive Slaanesh incarnation tried to pose despite the chains restraining it. “How about you let me go? I can promise you the most scintillating experience of your life.”
“NOT BEFORE I TEAR HIM ASUNDER!”
“Enough!” screamed Zarglitch as he ended their useless prattling. He had no more time to waste. “I have need of you.”
“Need?” asked the Tzeentch creation. “What need would require us?”
The warlock glared at the birdman, the most dangerous of the imprisoned quartet. “I need to end a threat to my master. Your power is required.”
“Your master…” asked the birdman, his eyes betraying the initial surprise of that revelation. “Well…I suppose we can come to an arraignment of some sort if you are willing to negoti-“
“No,” cut off Zarglitch. “There is no time to argue this. I will summon you to the material plane. It will pull you out of these artifacts. And then…”
“We will be free!” cried Slyrax. The revelation quieted the Khorne daemon and made the bloated plague daemon bubble in joy.
“In exchange, you will never, ever do or say anything to harm or hinder me ever.” He directed his gaze to the smoldering Blood Drencher, then back to the nominal spokesman of the inmates.
The birdman pondered the offer. “This would substantially reduce your own personal power. Is the situation that grave that the mighty Zarglitch would sacrifice so much for another’s cause?”
More than anyone, the Tzeentch daemon knew the pride and the power that the mighty warlock had. To humble oneself before another was something Zarglitch never thought he would do. To abandon one iota of his supreme magical powers was even more unthinkable.
But Macharian VI had changed all that. Once, Zarglitch considered himself along with a half dozen other Chaos warlords the rightful ruler of this planet. With a rift to the Immaterium so close by, it was decided tha Macharian VI would make the ideal home planet to a new empire of carnage and destruction carved from the corpse of the false Emperor’s domain.
Zarglitch led thousands of his warriors and summoners to the unsuspecting world, firmly believing that he would be the one who would control. But the world was not what it seemed. Tyranids had already infested the planet, forcing the Chaos forces to engage two foes at once. When the aliens were at last exterminated, the Adeptus Astares appeared along with a space fleet that rivaled anything the Chaos legions could toss at it combined.
The war quickly became a losing prospect for the forces under Zarglitch and several other warlords. Two were already dead when Klyn-Dal finally rose to prominence. The least powerful of all the self-styled future rulers of Macharian VI, the former space marine husbanded his scant resources and men, absorbing the fragments and deserters from other factions, building his soldiers into a fighting force to be reckoned with.
Before long, a humbled Zarglitch knelt beside the remaining two generals before the throne of the Warlord of Macharian VI, who arbitrarily spared the warlock at the expense of the others. Their strewn corpses adorned the walls of his mountain fortress for weeks as a reminder of who was truly in power. With the remaining Chaos factions under his command, the entire war effort would be focused on winning the war.
But then the war ended. It wasn’t the Space Marines who were victorious, nor were the forces of Chaos triumphant.
The Necrons came…and ended everything. It wouldn’t have been fair to say they had waged a war, nor presided over a massacre or genocide. They simply appeared, and the decimation of the rival human forces was complete. Klyn-Dal and Zarglitch barely had time to save themselves, sealing their presence from the Necrons through the powers that Zarglitch wielded.
Huddling within the confines of the fortress, Zarglitch was tasked with finding out how to defeat the Necrons, who somehow controlled the populace through artifice so advanced it dwarfed even the technological prowess of the Eldar. Months of study and divination gave him many of the secrets to the power that the Necrons held, but none that would lead to an advantage. Even finding out how to defeat the powerful mind control devices implanted within the populace was small consolation, for Macharian VI was no match for the metallic legions that had overrun the planet, herding the humans like cattle for slaughter.
The arrival of the second Imperial crusade meant little to Klyn-Dal, who still yearned to find a way to conquer the planet. For Zarglitch, trapped and beaten upon this world, it offered him a chance to escape.
And it was that sliver of a hope that the master warlock made a pact with the four daemons. In exchange for their final orders under Zarglitch’s control, they would be free. And in exchange, Zarglitch would obtain the device he needed to escape this world and his loathsome master.
He just prayed that the device was not destroyed before it was secured by his minions.
Brother Fabrizio, Carcharodons (Space Sharks)- twin power swords, stormbolter (btemple0)
The Sadness (The Shark Part V)
The Frenzy noted for a brief instance the desperate melee below the parapets. In the courtyard, the remnants of a space marine tactical squad were fighting for their lives as swarms of summoned daemons kept attacking. Each wave was felled, but the air kept shimmering and folding, belching forth a new daemon every time one of their kind was killed by the desperate and cornered human warriors. He could not spare a second glance, for he was locked in his own mortal struggle. The raging Fang attacked again, his swords out to his sides and closing in like a vise. Fabrizio swiped his swords out to counter, the clang of steel reverberating again for the thousandth time.
It was a dance of death that could seem to go on forever. Now, the skilled master swordsman had a dozen nicks in his armor. His gauntlet was sliced through and he had a stab wound in his chest. Neither injury hindered him in the least. His opponent still leaked blood from the hole in his power armor. He also had a scar on his cheek. Neither of those injuries looked like it could slow down the frenzied warrior. In fact, it made him all the more vicious.
Roaring in frustration, the chaos warrior launched another attack, leading with his right hand. Brother Fabrizio picked off the first thrust, and then set his other sword as the swing came in. Parrying, he used the momentum to twirl his sword into an attack, forcing the Fang to block with the first balde he swung with. Before the block even came, he had his left hand stabbing in again, only to get blocked by one of the Teeth of Marant.
This wouldn’t do thought the The One Hundred and First Frenzy. The duel was only minutes in length, but each warrior could fight like this for hours on end if needed. The longer this went on, the greater the chance an outside force could prematurely decide this personal battle. Even if it was one of his fellow marines, he could not let the chance to punish the Fang for his transgressions slip away to someone else. It was his duty to finish this once and for all.
“I will kill you and take your swords as my trophy!” raged the wrathful butcher as his latest offense was once again forced into a stalemate as each duelist was again at arm’s length, standing their ground while whipping their swords to and fro, the steel screeching but neither relenting.
“You’ll pay for what you have done!” replied the Carcharodon marine, sending a horizontal swing of his left sword, attempting a swipe at the head of his foe.
To his surprise, the Fang retreated out of range. He still held his swords out, but he was trembling with contained rage, much different from the fatal intensity that was focused and extroverted beforehand.
“What I have done?” he asked. Confused, Fabrizio did not pursue the Fang to continue the engagement. At ten paces away, Fabrizio kept his swords high and ready, prepared to resume the offense if needed.
“What have I done?” asked the former space marine more loudly. This time, his crazed eyes held a hint of confusion, or perhaps sadness.
He lowered his swords, their tips pointed at the ground. Fabrizio didn’t let his guard down, for he was now genuinely curious as to why the Fang, who had murdered thousands of Imperial soldiers, dozens of his own comrades, and held no remorse for his actions, had the most profound look of pain on his contorted face.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?” he roared, his swords flashing up again, the distance closed, and blades sparking in protest.
Fabrizio backpedaled, his blades barely fending off the renewed assault.
“You stole everything from me!” the Fang screamed. His aggressive swings were even wilder now, bordering on reckless. The Space Shark noted this as he continued his defensive twirls, determining the pattern of the attack.
“You decimated my chapter!”
Fabrizio took his first offensive swipe, a single quick jab through the spinning evil blades. It touched the Fang’s armor, and by the insane look on the maddened enemy’s face, he didn’t even register the attack.
“You hunted down my brethren!” the Fang roared, accentuating his point with a mighty overhand chop that overextended him.
The Frenzy exploded, striking with three quick pokes, the Teeth of Marant easily sliding into the power armor of his foe. Each thrust out drew a line of blood . “You killed me!” he screamed, uncaring as he kept lunging again and again, abandoning all pretense of defense as his skill evaporated before his rage. Each costly swing was answered by a hit from Brother Fabrizio as he whittled numerous holes in the already punctured power armor.
“You…you are responsible for my torment…” The Fang was now winded, blood leaking from his protective shell, his strength sapped. He took one last futile swipe. The Space Shark ducked the blow and leaped forward, his sword smashing through the Fang’s rent armor and carving into his abdomen. The force of the hit knocked the fight out of the defeated Chaos space marine as he dropped his swords and tumbled backwards, blood ejecting from his mouth.
The Frenzy kept crouched with his blades out for a few more seconds until he heard the collapsed traitor cough up blood. Straightening, Brother Fabrizio sheathed the Teeth of Marant and stared down at his defeated foe. The fallen warrior was barely conscious, his eyes already glazed.
“You….took….everything,” he managed to say as blood drippled down his cheek.
Brother Fabrizio sighed. “No…it was not I nor my chapter who took it. Nay, it was the Emperor.”
The Fang furrowed his brow, unable to focus his eyes on the Space Shark.
“We all belong to Him, for it was he who gifted us with the strength and fortitude to not only serve Him, but serve humanity. Remember the oaths you took when you became a Space Marine, for it is by these oaths that we give ourselves to Him completely and utterly and by those oaths that if we stray from His light they are taken. Remember.”
Fabrizio watched as the Fang began to mouth one of those long standing oaths. His confusion lifted as he silently uttered his former chapter’s own pledge to the Emperor. The Carcharodon could only wonder what those were, for before the Fang could finish, he died.
And the One Hundred and First Frenzy’s task was complete, his chapter avenged.
It left him feeling a bit hollow inside.
Librarian Nesjanal, Blue Novas- force weapon, bolt pistol, three servo skulls (Njal the Weatherman)
The Denial (The Desperate Part II)
His consciousness drifted into the Immaterium, the alternate reality hidden underneath the world that he normally knew. As he opened his astral eyes, he saw all the entropy and discord that marked the realm as the home of the daemons, a symphony of sounds and colors that would drive a sane man insane. For those who went through the process of breaking mentally, a second trip to this blighted realm was like a welcome home.
Hundreds of wispy ethereal entities flitted about the familiar form of Zarglitch, identifying him as one of the few mortals that a daemon would not willingly attack. His arcane power was great, and marked several times over by the Great Lord of Change Tzeentch, he was protected from all but the most powerful monsters to inhabit the realm. As the daemon spirits parted before the shimmering form of Zarglitch, one stayed behind that bowed before the great warlock.
“You return master,” it crooned, a collaboration of pink arms, legs, and tentacles that marked it as one of the pink horrors, a creation of Zarglitch’s patron god. “What brings you here?”
“No time to explain. Follow me,” instructed Zarglitch as he sensed the psychic emanations that reverberated through the Warp. Catching hold of one of the many currents of mind energy permeating the anarchic cosmos, he rode it to the location of a powerful disturbance.
Nestled within the shifting tints and shades of this universe, Zarglitch arrived before a great spherical blot of utter darkness that encompassed this region of the Warp. A sense of dread crept upon the master sorcerer as he surveyed the massive object floating amongst the chaos.
The pink horror shuddered as it slowly floated behind the master warlock. “This…” it hissed. “This is a bad place. We are forbidden from being here. Please, do not let me approach.”
Zarglitch noticed that here, amongst all the places of the Warp where daemons were abundant, there were hardly any entities around. The few that were here were forced here by the summons and pacts made by the practitioners of the dark arts.
It was the result of a great work erected by the Necrons. Zarglitch could not even begin to comprehend the technological complexity it would take to create a device that would not only reject the Aether realms, but utterly destroy whatever it touched. It was simply the antithesis of all that chaos meant; perfect order.
“You may depart Jinznij,” bade its master. As soon as the words escaped his lips, the pink horror turned and flew as fast as it could. It winked out of view seconds later.
Zarglitch had no time to spare. He had to find the concentration of daemons that would lead him to the battle occurring in the courtyard. Focusing, he discovered the location, directly below him on the massive spinning black anti-world.
The master warlock willed himself in the direct of the sphere, initially encountering some resistance to his psychic powers. But the Necron sphere would not deny him, and he forced his way onto the planet where the ripples of psychic activity were strongest.
Touching down, he looked around at his surroundings. The black nether world became a mixture of greys and blacks, pale shadowy imitations of their real world counter parts. He saw the towering walls and the crenellated castle. He looked around and saw that he was indeed within the confines of the courtyard.
There was however nothing there. Only the permanent structures were represented here; that and the vague outlines of the Warp signatures of daemons as they flitted in and out of reality while dueling with the space marines trapped on the real Macharian VI.
The battle was still raging. Zarglitch noticed that there were significantly fewer daemons left than what he had ordered his minions to summon. Now that their human anchors were all dead, the daemons would not be able to sustain their assault for much longer. Slowly, the ripples in the Warp would cease.
The master warlock had to act fast. He pulled out of his belt the four artifacts that he would break, releasing the contained greater daemons into the Immaterium for the first time in centuries, and then sending them to reality in order to carry out his plans. Hopefully, Klyn-Dal will arrive too late, and the device would be safely tucked in a pocket dimension for Zarglitch to use later for his escape.
Zarglitch began his spell of breaking, an incantation that would free the daemons and set in motion the events to secure his escape.
But a great psychic force rammed into him, staggering his astral projection, causing him to lose his spell. Looking around, Zarglitch tried to find the source of the attack. It was powerful, and the master warlock wondered what could be so power as to cause him to break his concentration.
It struck again, this time from behind. Zarglitch fell to one knee, keeping hold of the artifacts in his clenched fists. This time, the beleaguered spell caster was ready. He released a spell of detection, and discovered the cloaked entity that had assaulted him. Another spat of words, and it revealed the form of what was attacking him.
Gasping, he saw that the attacker was a Librarian, a powerful space marine psyker that radiated awesome mental energy. He too was in his astral form, clad in power armor and circled by a trio of servo-skulls. He held up a mighty sword of pure white energy and was poised to strike again.
“Not again,” snarled Zarglitch as he put away all the artifacts but the Sword of the Blood Drencher. The red colored sword flared to life in his hands, channeling both his own psychic energy and the uncontained rage of the Khorne daemon trapped within the sword.
The two psykers clashed, a wave of roiling cerebral energy blasting away from the engaged duelists.
“I will not let you summon your minions any longer,” said the Librarian. Shocked that the loyalist space marine even knew of his plans, Zarglitch pushed back the man with a burst of mental energy, and then pointed the red sword at him. A syllable of hate drenched power caused the sword to glow with unholy energy, and a red fireball shot out at the rival psyker.
Unimpressed, the Librarian raised his hand and stopped the fireball midair, causing it to fizzle out. His eyes then glowed, and a wave of his own azure fire came into existence before him, rolling outward to strike the startled Zarglitch.
The master warlock could not believe how strong this man was! He sheathed his red sword and pulled out the Scroll of Znszesztorz the Inscrutable. Unfurling it, he found and chanted the Spell of Denial, dissipating the wave of energy before it hit him. Reading down further, he used the next spell contained within the Tzeentchian artifact to create a bubble of pure energy that coalesced around the Librarian, trapping him.
“I have you!” cried Zarglitch as he raised his hand and formed a fist, commanding the bubble to collapse and crush his enemy.
“No,” said the powerful psyker, shattering the fragile prison. His eyes became twin pinpricks of azure flame.
Zarglitch snarled. “How?! How can you be so strong! I am the strongest!”
The psychic winds surrounding the two men howled as Zarglitch summoned all the power he had, cloaking himself in an aura of purple energy. He grasped the scroll with one hand and held up the Horn of Slyrax the Delicate with his other. The Librarian merely held out his palm.
“Let us see you survive the Resonance of the End, pathetic worm!” roared Zarglitch as he read the final verses of the scroll. When the last word escaped his mouth, he put his lips to the horn and blew.
A wave of pure destruction engulfed the Librarian, causing the greyish landscape to explode in all directions, flecks of stone and smoke ascending into the air. Zarglitch laughed, thinking his enemy was finally obliterated.
But the smoke cleared, and the Librarian still stood his ground. His armor smoldered and his face was covered in dirt, but his eyes still glowed fiercely with power and his visage was a mask of pure death. He raised a finger up at the master warlock and uttered the word “begone.”
Zarglitch’s ethereal form shattered, screaming. His consciousness fled back to his body left on the real Macharian VI, and he awoke screaming as well. He was back in the melted room, the corpses of his former acolytes sunk halfway in the floor, indescribable horror etched on their faces.
The defeated warlock jumped to his feet, touching his body and face to make sure that he was still whole. Checking off any bodily harm, he questioned his mental state to make sure that he was also whole. Satisfied, he tried to project his astral form back into the Immaterium to see if he could try and finish what he had started.
Alarmed, he tried again and failed. Desperate, he tried to cast a spell but could not summon the energy to do so. The hope draining from his body, he reached into his pouches to produce his artifacts containing the imprisoned daemons.
Tattered, torn, broken; each object was destroyed and beyond salvation. Further, it crept on Zarglitch slowly that not only were the artifacts lost, but the daemons themselves were probably obliterated as well.
Collapsing to his knees, Zarglitch laughed, tears in his eyes as he finally came to terms with his predicament.
He was powerless, he was trapped, and further, once Klyn-Dal got a hold of him, he would be dead.
And he still continued to laugh until his sides hurt.
Brother Aulus, Deathwatch (formerly Weeping Angel)- two boltguns (inmygravenimage)
Sergeant Kristar, Gray Night- force weapon, power sword (Knightley) Brother Jarvis, Gray Night- power weapon, chainsword (Knightley) Brother Arelux, Gray Night- power axe, close combat weapon (Knightley) Brother Tain, Gray Night- two power swords (Knightley) Brother Wyaerd, Gray Night- power sword, chainsword (Knightley)
Inushi cursed. He cursed some more. And then he created a rather inventive curse that would have surprised the mother of a hive city thug.
The honed Mantis Warrior had never felt so desperate. He had only three men left in his command, and each one was protecting the teleporter with their lives. Down to their close combat weapons or fighting with pistols, each one was battling a myriad of daemons that kept popping out of the Warp with abandon. Inushi watched as Brother Aulus simply used his guns as impromptu clubs, fending off a trio of methodical plaguebearers and a daemonette who kept stabbing in with its powerful claws, looking to lop off a body part if the Deathwatch marine ever faltered.
The number of Daemons coming from the warp was now slackening, but with only three defenders, they were still outnumbered four to one.
Inushi himself had to fend off two bloodletters as they kept swinging their swords around to attack him. He also kept his eyes to the sky as a similar pair of screamers kept swooping in, trying to score a lucky hit and gore him on a blindsiding attack.
The third marine was desperately fighting off a gang of jovial pink horrors, toying with the hapless marine as they flicked miniature balls of incandescent energy at him, scorching little marks on his armor or body as he continued to swing his chainsword to and fro to do anything against the prancing and chortling hell raisers. At last, he connected with one of his frantic swings, hacking a pink horror in twain. To the soldier’s surprise, the split haves reformed into two small blue monsters. Their countenance became furious, and they conjured a massive fireball between the two diminutive monsters that engulfed the doomed marine, causing him to burn to a cinder amongst the mad barrage of magic from the Tzeentchian daemons.
Now the odds were six to one. The Mantis Warrior simply kept swinging his sword in riposte, dodging the screamers as they lunged at him from time to time. What else was he to do?
A cry from his left caused him to turn briefly. He saw the Deathwatch marine pulled under the warted and twisted plaguebearers, the daemonette on his back and attempting to tear into his armor.
Inushi’s heart sank, but his determination did not waver. He spun around and executed a powerful roundhouse swing of his sword, diving right through the midsection of one of the horned daemons he found and breaking the sword of the other as it interposed its weapon. Unarmed, it snarled and raised its clawed hands to fight, only to have its head blown off as Inushi fired his plasma pistol.
The corpses of the bloodletters dissipated back to the Warp, leaving Inushi with ten more daemons to fight all on his own. Fingering the pistol trigger, he grimly decided to take as many as he could with him.
And then the teleporter beeped. Its energy cells fully charged. Inushi turned, incredulous that the device would only now decide to work.
In a burst of electric discharge, five space marines instantly appeared in a circle around the device.
Each warrior of the five man squad was a fresh face to Inushi, a band of brothers he did not have the chance to work with. They sported cackling power weapons, maces and swords dancing with energy.
Their leader stepped forth, holding aloft a staff of coruscating power. His eyes glowed, a sign that he was a psyker. With a roar, the staff reverberated with power, the air rippling in shockwaves that sent the daemons into stunned shrieks and protest. The flying screamers shuddered in midair, and then crashed into the ground. None of the humans appeared to be affected.
With a collective praise to the Emperor, the grey-clad warriors charged, raising their weapons as they barreled into the pink horrors and the plaguebearers. Weapons smashed down upon the otherworldly bodies of the daemons, crushing bones and severing limbs as the dazed monsters barely put up a fight.
Inushi lined up careful shots at the duo of flying manta-like daemons struggling to rise from the ground. The plasma pistol ended their struggles.
The remaining daemons dissipated back into the Warp once their bodies were beyond mortal limits for punishment. No more of the Warp-born creatures materialized again.
Finally done, the Mantis Warrior sighed in relief. Approaching the quintet of warriors, he surveyed the carnage of the battle for control of the courtyard. Over a hundred dead traitors and heretics littered the ground, maimed and trampled upon from the raging battle that had taken place. Aside from Brother Aurus who was now staggering to his feet, all the men under his command were dead. Inushi prayed for their souls and for the lives they traded to ensure the beacon remained untouched.
The five new space marines and Brother Aurus gathered with Inushi near the teleporter, which was now whisking from orbit more and more marines, each of them spreading out to secure the courtyard from any more assaults.
The leader of the grey space marines saluted the battle worn Mantis Warrior. “Hail brother! I am Sergeant Kristar of the Gray Night space marine chapter. These are my cohorts and men at arms, Brother Jarvis, Brother Arelux, Brother Tain, and Brother Wyaerd.”
Each man in turn saluted the slightly bemused Inushi. “Gray Nights?” he asked.
Kristar nodded. He moved in closer to speak to Inushi privately. “I know of your affiliation to the inquisitor, so I can divulge a bit more about us. We are descendants of the actual Grey Knights, scions of the Emperor’s own personal army of space marines.”
Inushi raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Is that even allowed? I thought the Grey Knights were unique.”
The sergeant nodded again. “They are. But we’re the first of any space marine chapter to have our gene-seed derived from their stock.”
Curious, the Mantis Warrior asked for what purpose.
“We’re in dark, deperate times.” Kristar turned grim. “The Inquisition secretly fears the Grey Knights themselves will eventually be unable to cope with the increasing threats from both Chaos and the alien races from both within and from outside our galaxy.
“The plan is to eventually supplant more and more gene-seed of the Grey Knights into successor chapters, training them to the same high standards as the original chapter. Perhaps we will not have all the advanced gear that they wield, but we will wield the same courage and tenacity to fight the wars that will be coming in the near future.”
Inushi furrowed his brow. Future wars? What did he mean…
The Gray Night clapped Inushi on his shoulder, keeping the inquisitive Mantis Warrior from contemplating that news further. “Come brother, the leadership is about to descend.”
Inushi viewed the might of the Crusade arrayed before him; nearly two hundred marines were gathered here. This was little more than half of the remaining marines. All were armed to the teeth and awaiting the arrival of the Solar Lion’s chapter master.
None of the corpses of his fallen comrades remained. Their bodies had already been carried off.
A strange thought came to the Mantis Warrior. He wondered if the sacrifice of his men was worth it in the end?
He prayed it was so.
The Reflection, Part 1
White blanketed the countryside on Fenchire Secundus, the southernmost continent on the planet. Sparsely populated and practically ignored, the simple farmers were hunkered down for a winter that would last nearly half the year. The hamlet of Westhrope numbered fewer than five hundred. Each resident was intimate with their neighbor, knowing all the little things that a small community was privy to know. They greet each other in kind when the times were good, and feuded over the petty things when relations turned sour. But it was a tight knit community that trusted one another and kept to its own, wary of any outsiders.
When a foreigner was given a parcel of land on the outskirts of the hamlet, the local denizens were curious if not hostile. He integrated himself well into the local affairs, building his reputation and his farm through hard work and determination, and generally kept to himself. He did earn the amore of a local belle, and they had settled down once the courtship was done. Years had gone by since the man first stepped into Westhrope. And yet here he was, the locals considering him another one of their own, a proud scion of a strong farming community. He was expecting his third child by spring.
Icicles that adorned the pipes and idle machinery outside the agridomes were large, the length of a man or more in some cases. Snowflakes of intricate complexity danced in the frozen wind, whisked about by a southerly wind that brushed the trees at the edges of the expansive farm.
Inside his adobe, Kelso Manchester as he was now known, enjoyed a cup of brethe, a local crop that brewed just like coffee. He sat in his chair, watching the winter scene with contentment, knowing the food that the domes still produced would give him and his family enough sustenance for the winter while his fields outside laid idle.
Sleeping on his lap was his daughter of two cycles, three years in earth terms, resting her head on the crux of his other arm. He tussled her blonde hair from time to time as he enjoyed the relaxation of a frozen winter, his task in feeding the community and the occasional tithes to the larger cities northward not due until the middle of next spring. He took a sip of his warm drink.
A woman's hum emanated from the kitchen behind him, his wife Della busy with cooking. Soon, Kelso would join his wife, as he would prepare the meat from one of the herds of cattle kept indoors in the western domes. It wasn’t too much of a task; he had already slaughtered the beast and salted its meat, preserved in one of the freezing chambers that kept their other winter stores fresh for the long months ahead.
But he did not want to stir just yet. His daughter had just dozed off. He turned to see his son, busy at his desk in the den, reading through for the hundredth time another one of the worn books that chronicled the conquests of Lord Solar Macharius, whose conquests to restore the Imperium of wayward star systems also at one point included adding the planet Fenchire to the fold.
As if sensing the eyes of his father, Bertrand put the book down and looked up at his father. Beaming a smile that only an innocent child could produce, the child reminded Kelso that this was his pride and joy. Diligent and smart, the boy one day dreamed he could be a Space Marine, like all the heroes of his preadolescence were made of.
Kelso returned to look out the window, his countenance saddening a hair as he thought about the prospects of his child eager for a life beyond the simple contentment of a farmer. Bertrand had inherited the skills of his father; the marksmanship of his toy laspistol was uncanny for a child of his age. He was also clever, picking up with no difficulty the intricate tasks of repairing and maintaining the agritools that harvested the farm’s crops. He even was a competent chef when his mother allowed him to help prepare meals.
But above all, the child had a restless, unquenchable thirst for the greater world. Even though Kelso was careful that he left no hints of his past life as a soldier behind, Bertrand suspected his father was once a Guardsman who saw the greater galaxy. Perhaps his wife, who was the only one he had confided in parts of his past, had spoken of the noble deeds and character of a man before he had destroyed or gave away all the baubles of a military life years ago.
The former soldier was confident that was not the case. It was just the simple imaginations of irascible childhood feeding his son such thoughts.
He desired so much to remove the past from his present and future. He truly wished his son would never, ever know what kind of man his once was, nor the things he had to do to survive. The scars sometimes reminded Kelso of what he had endured to get to this point, and the occasional look up the stars above made him wonder of the Inquisitor who had promised him that he would never see him again.
In moments of weakness, he did want the Inquisitor to return, only to let him know if Natalia and the other guardsmen were still alright.
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model Chapter Master Patroclus Calabeck, Solar Lions- lightning claw, storm bolter (inmygravenimage)
The Arrival, Part 1
“The area is secured,” stated the techmarine as he went over the information reads one last time. “Captain Skaldeyes reporting in….only two survivors from Inushi’s squad.”
Grand Master Calabeck nodded, confirming the data. He graced the teleport platform, Inquisitor Heth Fernix at his side. He flexed the fingers of his gauntlets, readying himself for the potential conflict below. His stormbolter was filled with ammo and his lightning claw was unsheathed, cackling with energy.
“Relax,” suggested Heth Fernix, who stood with his arms at his side, completely at ease. “This has been a long day in coming. You don’t want to appear anxious.”
“It cannot be helped,” the Solar Lion growled. “You know as well as I that what we intend to do cannot be guaranteed. I’ll do what I must if I have to. You cannot expect me to do any less.”
The solemn man nodded, lowering his gaze as he contemplated the coming events.
Calabeck turned to the techmarine. “Teleport us…now!”
Nodding, the engineer-soldier tapped the commands into his computer terminal. The energy within the transporter hummed, syncing with the device planetside and…
…they were there.
The surge of electrical energy dissipated quickly, and the leader of the Macharian VI Crusade, the indomitable leader of the proud Solar Lions, heard the crunch of his boots on the gravel of a planet for the first time in months.
The wind was stale and reeked of wrongness. The offending castle before him assailed his sensibilities, and the mound of burning corpses gathered by his men of the fallen traitors and heretics made his eyes harden.
But he was at last free, ready to command his troops from the frontlines as he was so accustomed in doing.
Lines of marines fell in two columns before him, creating a corridor to honor the exalted leader and his zealous companion. Each man was utterly devoted to their leader, finally free from his exile in the fleet above.
Calabeck took in the sight with pride. “So…what do you think?” asked Fernix.
The Solar Lion took in the scene for a moment. “I think we have a mission to complete. Let us be about it.”
The Inquisitor cracked a wry smile.
And the duo strode forth.
The Arrival, Part 2
Klyn-Dal threw open the massive rune-inscribed doors that led to his normally barren courtyard. On the rare occasions he graced the crenelations to stare down at his minions cheering him below, the shouting, undulating throngs would be the sole features of the otherwise pebble strewn ground.
Today, as he stepped through the portal, he was greeted by death. The bodies of his fellow Chaos worshippers still littered the ground. Their torn, bloody corpses spoke of brutal demise.
The two dozen guards that attended the Warlord of Macharian VI at all times filed out past him and flanked his position, their backs to the twisted keep behind them. Before them was the combined might of the Crusade in all their glory; dozens upon dozens of loyalist marine chapters arrayed against his precious few soldiers. Each was an expert, veteran fighter, their collective experience spanning countless centuries under the most arduous tests an unkind galaxy could unleash upon them.
Klyn-Dal made a mental note that a certain warlock would die for his failure once he was done here.
Striding to their front was the man that Klyn-Dal was eager to meet. Like the Warlord, this was a warrior among warriors. His gait was perfectly balanced despite the cumbersome armor he wore. His mantles and medals for valor and cunning were simple ornamentation; his eyes spoke of the depths and the lengths he had had to fight in countless wars in order to win. Klyn-Dal imagined the body of the man, strengthened to superhuman proportions, a roadmap of scars and robotics, something that every space marine would succumb to from the years of service to the Emperor.
Klyn-Dal was free from most of those weaknesses; he was still handsome despite the march of centuries upon his body. The various gifts bestowed upon him by the Chaos gods had mutated him, but through sheer willpower and the dark arts, their corruption was minimal. To the casual observer, he was a striking giant of a man, rippling with muscle and the deep, penetrating gaze that demanded obedience from all.
The wiry little man sulking behind the Solar Lions chapter master looked like a whipped dog, his dark brooding countenance hardly anything that Klyn-Dal would worry about. But the Warlord knew better, recognizing the motifs and sigils located on the man as symbols of the Inquisition. Perhaps not a physically imposing man, but he was a being fueled by his fervent devotion to the Corpse Hidden in the Throne. That in and of itself made the smaller man more dangerous than anyone else save the Solar Lion’s chapter master.
He would have to die first.
But before that, he would perform the formalities of war and speak to his hated enemies. At least, until every contingency he had prepared for this event were in place.
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model Chapter Master Patroclus Calabeck, Solar Lions- lightning claw, storm bolter (inmygravenimage)
The three figures stood at a long distance from one another.
“So…here is the mighty Crusade, come to pay me a visit at my humble castle. So what brings you to my home, wretched loyalists?” Klyn-Dal smiled, his fingers itching to summon his sword.
Heth Fernix leered at the warlord, never breaking his gaze from the dangerous warrior. He remained silent while his much larger, more ostentatiously armored comrade spoke.
“We are here for you, Kyn-Dal, Warlord of Macharian VI.” Calabeck practically spat out the title of the self-styled world leader. “We have much to discuss.”
“Discuss?” laughed the belligerent Chaos lord.
“Discussion?” he echoed again. “Talking is nothing more than interrogation to your filthy kind, especially to him.”
He raised his hand, jabbing a finger at the inquisitor who kept his stance neutral and face passive, hands clasped behind his back.
“I know the kinds of talks that are given. They probe and prod your mind, sticking their fingers in to find any taint of disloyalty or opposition to the cause of your blighted Emperor.” The Chapter Master bristled at the insult.
Klyn-Dal smiled. “I’ll be damned if I submit myself to that torture again.”
Calabeck took a steadying break before continuing “We are not here to…”
“I won’t hear any of your pretty words. I was a space marine once. I know what it was like to stand before a tribunal of those who thought they were better than you, whether it was the holier-than-thou librarians or arbitrary, capricious sector governors.
“Each one was a man instilled with the notion that the Emperor gave them the authority to do whatever they wanted. Well, I find it hard to believe that a rotting, dead corpse can still command his minions when he had died ten thousand years ago!”
Klyn-Dal began to pace back and forth, his fervent eyes shining brightly as he continued his tirade.
“That is why I cast off the shackles chained to all of us when we became his chosen warriors! I saw through the hypocrisy, the charade of that existence. Why commit myself to a man who was killed by real, unimaginatively powerful gods that are not only still alive, but also willing to share their power with us humans!
“I made that choice long ago to walk away from a dead corpse and join the cause of immortal, primal deities; ones who listen to my prayers for power and the sacrifices in their name. In return, I was rewarded for my faith.”
He flicked his hand, and a sword coalesced into it, its radiant energy dancing madly. Every single space marine tensed their sword hands and aimed their weapons, all pointed toward the Warlord of Macharian VI. Unconcerned, Klyn-Dal merely continued on.
“Every one of you I pity. Do you realize how far you have fallen in service to the false Emperor?” he asked. “Do you know that despite your oaths to him, you greatest heroes have also strayed from his light?”
Klyn-Dal looked at the gathered marines. He read their body language. A few seeds of doubt were definitely there as heads twitched to the side, fingers relaxed from their triggers, or weapons lowered a bit to the ground. Calabeck looked furious, his face clouded with anger.
Klyn-Dal decided to push the issue. “Did you know that Marneus Calgar, the exalted Ultramarines Chapter Master allowed a group of Tau warriors escape an Exterminatus order on the planet of Malbrede?
“Or that the Blood Angels, descendants of the slain Sanguinius who dared oppose our migh, joined forces with the despicable Necrotyr to fight for a common cause?
“Did you all know that?” he asked, sweeping his free hand toward the loyalist space marines. “Did your leaders ever tell you that they too have strayed from the path of the Emperor like I have? Have they told you?!”
He looked directly at the inquisitor, who still stood perfectly, his face unreadable. A few marines shuffled in the stifling silence that stretched on, the tension in the air palpable as the Warlord of Macharian VI finished his speech.
It was Chapter Master Calabeck who stepped forward. Inquisitor Heth Fernix turned to watch as the man strode forward, closing the distance between him and Klyn-Dal. He had his lightning claw and storm bolter out, but neither weapon was aimed at the chaos commander.
He stopped five paces from the man, barely out of sword reach. The entourage of guards gripped their weapons tighter. Each one was a former space marine, a heretic that was as equally well trained as their more numerous former brethren across the courtyard. They would not attack unless Klyn-Dal allowed it.
Patroclus Calabeck, Chapter Master of the Solar Lions, used every inch of patience and restraint not to drive his lightning claw into the gut of his enemy.
“I’ll make this plain as day. You will stand down your men, and we will talk. I have an offer for you.”
A minute passed as the Warlord of Macharian VI kept his gaze locked with the very dangerous and threatening space marine.
At last, Klyn-Dal said, “No. I don’t think we’ll do that today.”
He snapped his fingers and the keep behind him exploded.
A massive, bulbous beast burst from what was once the Klyn-Dal’s fortress stronghold. The gutted building now had a gaping hole in its side, like a half-eaten apple core.
Tano Inushi raised his plasma pistol to shoot it, but what good was it?
It was thrice the size of a baneblade. The thing looked like a bloated pink bullfrog, its squat limbs straining to hold it hunched frame up. As a trio of marines charged, its maw unhinged and swallowed all three in a quick gulp, taking a generous amount of ground with it. Every space marine with a melee weapon fell back, scrambling to keep out of range of the hungry beast as a rain of bullets and energy bounced off its fleshy body.
Inushi recognized the buboes and pustules that wriggled and shook whenever the thing moved and turned, seeking its next target.
Those were human faces and limbs sticking out of the creature.
What was that thing?
It leaped; he didn’t think it could do that! It crashed into the nearest group of space marines, its body flattening the soldiers as it rolled over them. A few had managed to scatter in enough time. They took pot shots from their weapons as it rolled to a stop on its four fat paws. Then it lunged again, and sucked up the nearest soldier with a satisfied slurp.
Choas reigned in the courtyard, for not every marine was fighting the beast. Ripples in the air coalesced into human forms, men clad in power armor that began furiously engaging the crusaders in hand to hand combat. The few guards that Klyn-Dal had brought with him were tangling with the more powerful or experienced marines. Chapter Master Calabeck was fighting no less than four armed combatants.
Between the melee, Inushi watched as Klyn-Dal stalked a dazed figure that was crumpled on the ground. It was Heth Fernix.
Inushi began to run in the direction of the Inquisitor when a trio of warriors suddenly appeared from thin air. They started their chainswords into motion and began attacking Inushi instantly, snarling in tune to their savage weapons. Inushi pulled out his katana, parried the first attack, and could not go further until he dealt with the latest threat to crop up in front of him.
Helpless to the fate of his master, Inushi could only watch in horror as the Warlord of Macharian VI drove his sword down into the head of the Inquisitor.
Inquisitor Heth Fernix- no representative model
The Strands of Fate
The fight had quickly degenerated into one on one combat amongst the space marines and their former kin. The Chaos-spawned bioweapon was mowing down the other half of the Crusade.
Klyn-Dal reveled in how everything was progressing. It was simply pure; Chaos in its greatest form.
It took a great deal of planning to get to this point. Of course, if the windbag Zarglitch had kept the teleportation device from working, he wouldn’t of needed to unleash all of his forces in one desperate attempt to repel the invaders.
The hundreds of men he had already lost to their initial assault meant little to him. They were weak, craven men with one sliver of hope that a Chaos god would boon them with something that they could lord over their lesser brethren with. They deserved to die.
No, Klyn-Dal saved his entire company of battle-hardened warriors for this eventuality. Each one a former space marine, they were fueled with the power of Chaos Undivided, or whatever god they had an affinity for. The Warlord of Macharian VI cared not for who they worshipped. Merely that they had renounced their faith in the false Emperor was enough for him.
The amalgamated mass that was the monstrous creature ripping apart the space marine ranks was his crowning achievement. It look months to gather enough bodies to stitch together to build it. It also needed tens of thousands of souls to fuel its birthing, giving it the glimmer of sentience to function. But that wasn’t the hardest part of the whole process. Teaching it not to kill Klyn-Dal took weeks for it to understand, ultimately learning who its master truly was. That was what took the greatest effort to produce.
Klyn-Dal focused his sight on the Inquisitor Heth Fernix, dazed and staggered on the ground, the rubble from the building’s explosion laying him low. He didn’t appear too hurt, but there was no second guessing anything at this point. An Inquisitor could hold any number of devices or protections capable of turning the tide of this battle. Ending him now would eliminate that very real threat.
Klyn-Dal ordered several more men to engage the Solar Lion Chapter Master. Calabeck was furiously carving a path through his guards, screaming at the top of his lungs for the warlord to fight him. In due time Klyn-Dal would grant the request and fight the enraged man.
But he had to concentrate on the bigger threat at the moment.
Stalking over to the smaller man, Klyn-Dal watched to make sure there was nothing that the fallen inquisitor could do. His hands were empty and he still didn’t recognize the approach of the warlord. Satisfied, Klyn-Dal raised his ornate sword with one hand, and dropped it down on the head of his hated enemy.
Suddenly, a thousand possibilities opened up before the Warlord of Macharian VI, and each one played out simultaneously before him: Klyn-Dal severed the man’s head. Klyn-Dal missed. An errant shot from a combatant deflects the blade. The inquisitor manages to evade in enough time, coming to his senses. He pulls out a device at the last second and obliterates the warlord. Klyn-Dal survives the onslaught and still kills the inquisitor. Calabeck thrusts his lightning claws through his chestplate. Klyn-Dal parries the attack at the last second, sparing the inquisitor.
Each and every conceivable event passes within the time between the sword descending and the sword finishing its swing. The assault of possibilities overwhelms the former marine, and his vision blurs briefly, his breath ragged as if he had run for a week without rest.
Leaning over in exhaustion but still gripping his weapon, he knew he connect with something. When his sight returned, he couldn't believe what was before him.
The Inquisitor stood , his sword blocking the attack. But the strength behind the attack was strong, and the massivesword still bit through the smaller man’s shoulderpad, driven in at least several inches deep in and definitely connecting with flesh.
Recovering from his exhaustion and his incredulity, Klyn-Dal managed to ask, “How?”
Equally winded, the Inquisitor drew back, pushing the warlord's sword away and gaining precious space between the two.
“You know of the Eldar Farseer’s ability to view the skeins of fate that surround us all and manipulate events to get to a favorable outcome for themselves? Well, I have this.”
Fernix pulled back his coat to reveal a brooch fastened to his armor. It looked like a glass disc, but swirling inside it was a miniature galaxy, slowly revolving around its center. Oversized stars swirled around the axis, glittering as if molten.
“This is an ancient relic of Holy Terra known as the Tears of the Disir. It is said to date back long before humanity ever reached the stars. It’s a device once worn by the most powerful and influential men on the planet. Gifted to them by an ancient, immortal who once walked the planet, it alters the fate of those who court disaster. It takes all possible outcomes of a negative event and randomly assigns a new more positive fate for the wearer, altering what could have been.
“This is the third time it has ever had to activate for me. Doing so helps the wearer escape death, but it is not without consequence. The more times it is used, the more damage the user suffers after escaping a fatal event. Maiming and incapacitation are probable events once the user has escaped from doom enough times.”
Heth Fernix winced as the pain in his shoulder inexplicably flared, causing his muscles to spasm uncontrollably. Was he poisoned?
Klyn-Dal laughed. “I see my blade is now affecting you. Curious you didn’t lurch over in pain already. One touch of this sword enervates anyone who isn’t its owner. You must have some form of protection hidden about you other than that trinket.”
The Inquisitor fell to his knees, his sword dropping to the ground. Men shouted and died around the duo.
“The paralysis will be temporary, but the duration should be long enough for me to finish this once and for all.”
Klyn-Dal approached the Inquisitor again, this time the man fully aware of the towering, terminator clad tyrant looming over him. Unable to respond and knowing the brooch could not activate again so quickly, he watched as the sword descended upon him a second time.
The Long Trek, Part 1
Sergeant Kristar, Gray Night- force weapon, power sword (Knightley)
Sergeant Kristar dared the dream, dying in glory to his distant forefather the Emperor was the ultimate accomplishment. Death against a worthy foe such as the behemoth flesh monster would be glorious. But his fate was not to be sealed today.
The beast spun upon him and his team of powerful warriors. Each was a scion of the power a true Grey Knight held, so their hands reached out and waves of psychic energy roiled against the creature. Hails of bolter and lascannon fire merely tickled the creature, but a direct attack upon its proto-mind was very effective.
The creature reared up on its hind legs, screaming in agony as the five marine advanced. Their onslaught was punishing the beast. Its every waking second would be agony until it expired.
It lashed out, faster than was thought possible. One massive claw grinded through the rubble and bodies, and swatted the entire Gray Night combat squad off its feet. Stunned Sergeant Kristar landed against the parapets on the far side of the courtyard, the body of his men tumbling to a stop just before his broken body. He slumped against the stone wall, his body failing in strength.
He was hurt badly. Blood trickled down his brow. His head swiveled as he tried to regard the broken bodies of his men. Thankfully, each fallen Gray Night seemed to still be respiring.
With his one good eye, he scanned the courtyard, watching as half the space marines continued to engage the beast at a distance, trying to kill it while it recovered from the mental scars it received. The other crusaders were locked in melee in the shadows of the broken keep. At least they were holding their ground, but for how long?
The battered sergeant knew he could not wait any longer.
He lifted his trembling hand and reached into one of his belt pouches. He pulled out a remote control. A symbol of the Inquisition adorned the central button. With his last ounce of energy, he pushed the button. Thedevice beeped, and his arm relaxed, the remote falling from his fingers.
Sergeant Kristar slipped into unconsciousness, hoping that the reinforcements summoned would be enough....
The Long Trek, Part 2
Farseer Ciraban had lost his sense of time while plying the depths of the universe from the darkened room. His fingers glacially traced the runes and verses left behind by his forbearers, ancient seers who had passed their dangerous knowledge on in the hopes of guiding the remaining Eldar. Ciraban was once again secured within the Chamber of Memories, seeking out the threads and paths to which he could guide his people within their floating space home by researching the texts written long ago.
Craftworld Athame survived thanks to his tireless efforts. He and his council of warlocks and seers tirelessly protected the thousands who still lived and may yet be born. While his spirit resided within his corporeal form, it would be his endless duty to continue combing the shards of the past for glints of the future.
His hand ceased moving and his breath hastened. He looked up in time for the great wraithbone doors to swing open into the sacred chamber, his protégé Geimhreadh entering.
The chamber flared into intense brightness for a brief moment, revealing an intricate dome that played out the final days of the War in Heaven interposed with a future conflict yet unnamed. The light touched countless tomes that circled the wide room, each corner and nook covered in priceless artifacts and baubles from bygone eras.
Farseer Geimhreadh stepped into the middle of the chamber, sweeping into a bow that fluttered his robes and lowered his handsome but grim face. Despite his good looks, he was also the most promising of Ciraban’s students and in all but name his right hand man.
The ancient farseer closed the text he was combing and rose, turning to meet his still prostrate servant.
“You felt the emanations too, young one?” Ciraban whispered.
Geimhreadh lifted his eyes to meet the gnarled face of his master and nodded.
“Then you know it is time to pay our debt to them,” the ancient one stated.
Geimhreadh bowed his head in response, his eyes closing in shame.
“We must do this for them. We share a common enemy and a common fate if we do not act.” Farseer Ciraban folded his hands behind his back and turned. “The signal will not be sounded for approximately three weeks. That should be sufficient time to gather the necessary reinforcements to make the trek to where those who need our help are located.
“Gather Exarch Edana and her troops. We will need to bring all the help we can muster. To call the signal is significant indeed. Only the gravest situations are we summoned for. Go…honor our fallen and protect those who fight with us against the Great Enemy.”
Geimhreadh rose. His task given, he departed, leaving the ancient farseer to continue his vigilance over the past and future of Craftworld Athame.
The Long Trek, Part 3
Prismatic pathways yawned before the loping Eldar soldiers. Colors shifted from minute to minute, each highlighting a different point of departure through the myriad pathways that snaked off into unknown destinations. The floors remained eternally misted, solid under foot but shrouding the eyes from what lurked below the ankles. It was impossible to peer through the thin veil of fog, and most Eldar speculated that the floors hid runes that gave the webway the ability to send its walking traffic billions of miles in the blink of an eye.
At the head of the jogging Dire Avengers was the Exarch Edana. Her eyes were keen and her armor glistened from constant and unrepentant care. Her followers were handpicked by her to escort the man running aside her, the enigmatic Geimhreadh. It was war that the Farseer Ciraban warned her of, and it was in that pursuit that she agreed to accompany the seer’s trusted lieutenant on his perilous journey though the webway.
The company of Aspect Warriors passed a shattered portal down a now sealed off destination. Runes of warding were carved into the walls, signaling powerful magic that kept whatever lay on the other side of the portal prostrate from causing harm to the webway or its travelers.
Exarch Edana once remembered the ancient celestial pathway was a creation of wonder and light, always tantalizing and uplifting to her people. Her parents had told many stories of the days before The Fall when all Eldar benefited from its rapid movement across the galaxy. They spoke of laughter and companionship as Eldar walked hand in hand with one another, never once thinking that this very place would become a deathtrap to them in time.
They rarely spoke of the horror during The Escape when tens of thousands of Eldar died from the daemons that spawned in the tunnels. Some tunnels simply vanished or crumbled away, trapping its victims within a paradoxical unreality from which there was no escape. Others were dragged away by the Dark Ones who became as vile and as dark as the Great Enemy. Their prisoners might have been counted as the lucky ones, for they would live to suffer another day.
She stopped before another dead end. Her warriors ceased their running behind her. They stared at yet another ruined ending of a pathway destroyed forever. The misted floor trailed off from the sparkling blue tunnel, the wafting smoke drifting out into reality, the cold expanse of space studded with twilight sparkles.
“Another dead end,” she lamented. Frustrated but undeterred, she was about to order her warriors to retrace their steps. But the robed seer stepped forth, surprising even her at his audacious movement towards the brink of the cosmos.
Farseer Geimhreadh approached the very edge of the webway and peered off into the gloom beyond. If it wasn’t for the ancient protections placed upon the magical tunnel system, every single Eldar present would have been sucked off into the frozen darkness. Such as it was, the farseer was dangerously close to moving beyond the wards that would save even him.
He took one more step forward.
The exarch grabbed his shoulder.
“It is not only unwise to continue, but foolish and insane as well, honored one.” She kept her voice even despite the panic she felt at the mute seer’s suicidal progression to the portal.
A tense moment followed before the farseer turned, his face somber but determined. If not for Edana’s dedication to the art of war, she would have found the young Eldar a handsome man to pursue down the pathway of love. But she had chosen her fate the moment she refused to give up the sword for another profession to claim as her own. Fighting was her life now, and she meant to make sure that every strategic asset to the cause of survival would continue to be used toward that end.
“Death is not for you, honored one. We still need you to help us track down the right pathway that will lead us to the humans.” She felt a bitter taste in her mouth at using the name of that race. “Do not do this.”
She was unsure if he would listen to her. Up until this point, he was simply a silent companion that had followed her fifty aspect warriors through the twisting and unfamiliar paths of the webway that were seldom treaded these days. He was responsible for their navigation through the journey as only his precognition could guide them to the gateway they sought. But all he did was lead them into dead-end after dead-end, each time he simply turned around and went back the way they came.
This was the first time she had to deal with Geimhreadh directly. Having little to do with the daily spiritual and politic dealings of her people, she hardly knew what to make of the silent seer aside from the whispers and superstitions surrounding him; his silence was a curse from the seers who came before him, that what he divined of the future was so horrifying that he would never be allowed to utter his dark premonitions. It was only through the direct intervention of Farseer Ciraban that he was allowed to live and continue to serve the Eldar through his other formidable powers.
Geimhreadh continued his forward movement, but Edana held him back, clenching his shoulder more forcefully, almost to the point of causing pain.
“I will not let you die.” She had settled on finality in her decision. If he had gone mad, she would abort the mission and drag his unconscious form back to the Farseer if she had to. “Take one more step, and I will not hesitate to-“
Shocked, she found herself reeling from a wave of psychic energy that rolled over her and her followers, each tumbling like dominos before a gust of wind. Raw power flowed from his eyes, which had turned icy white as he channeled his awesome mental prowess. He stood over her stunned form, her body paralyzed from the shockwave he emitted.
For a brief moment, she lamented being unable to strike the traitor down. But then the farseer relaxed his countenance, a ting of regret crossing his face. He didn’t appear threatening anymore as his eyes returned to normal.
At last she felt she could move again, and began to slowly rise, never taking her eyes off the seer as he turned. To her horror, he waved after them and walked beyond the webway…
…and vanished into the sparkling abyss.
Exalted Brother Erasmus, Grey Knights- nemesis force halberd (Knightley)
The Long Trek, Part 4
One hundred assembled men filed into the altar room. Before them was the massive Emperor in relief, his immortal image flash frozen in serene pose, captured by the blood, sweat, and tears of a dozen of the most industrious and creative souls that existed in the Segmentum. The statue dwarfed even a Baneblade in size.
It was made out of a material almost unknown to the Imperium’s vast citizenry. Its mythical properties were the stuff of legends…and associated with the most enigmatic of the xenos races. But to the hundred men who continued to approach the statue each and every day, using the room for exaltation of their forefather, this was their ordinary routine. The statue itself was a reminder to them of the Emperor as he was before he did battle with his own son Horus for the fate of the Imperium. Each man present reminded himself a thousand times over that the sacrifice made that fateful day would not be forgotten. His legacy continued in the form of these and hundreds of thousands of other mortals who stepped forth from the ranks of humanity. Each one gave up a normal life to become a fragment of what the Emperor embodied. Each carried the sword and shield that would defend the Imperium against all enemies both from outside and within.
Exalted Brother Erasmus led the processions every day for the last twenty three years into the chamber. While not a chaplain, he nonetheless tasked himself in leading the hour long ceremony that reaffirmed each man’s dedication to the mighty Emperor and their pledge to serve the Imperium when their time came.
It was not a difficult task, despite the disparate nature of each man who came before the statue and altar in humble reverence. Everyone present was a space marine, a man enhanced to superhuman physical strength and fortitude, indoctrinated to hate enemies of mankind. While they strode into the chamber with weapons and plating that protected them physically, and muscles and reflexes that protected them bodily, it was their indomitable spirit that ensured their loyalty.
Each man came clad in armor, armor that was marked and nicked and repaired countless times from the many years of service to the Imperium. It was a garish display of colors and symbols that spoke of various allegiances that each space marine owed to their respective chapters. A good third of their number wore blackened armor or armor hued to gray silver sheen. Significant this was as it denoted them being Deathwatch or Grey Knight marines respectively.
But Exalted Brother Erasmus cared not for prior affiliations. They were here because they served a greater purpose; one divined to them twenty three years ago and reaffirmed every day as they halted their ceaseless combat drills and instructions in furthering their art of war to come back to a chamber that reflected their commitment. Every day they came to this chamber, they waited for a sign that their service was needed.
Today, the statue of the Emperor responded to their patient vigil. The statue reverberated with inner resonation, a crystal clear ringing that shook the chamber once. Erasmus took his place before the altar and the statue, and gazed up upon the face of the Emperor.
“We honor the commitment that has been made through a pact of steel and blood,” he intoned. “Let those who fought with us step forth so we may settle the debt.”
The statue of the Emperor warped, twisting as if made of clay. The wraithbone construct arched and expanded outward, forming a fanned door that rippled with waves. As the door coalesced one final time, the rippling stopped and the portal opened, heralding the traveler who had come before the space marines.
Farseer Geimhreadh stepped from the portal, walking up to the altar behind which Erasmus stood.
After twenty three years of silence bound by oath, the unspeaking seer opened his mouth.
“You are needed, Exalted Brother Erasmus. The time for us to settle the debt is now,” said for the first time in decades.
The Grey Knight smiled faintly. “You know that talk of a debt is meaningless in the greater struggle against Choas.”
“It is vital to us. We still do not trust the younger races like…your kind.” The young seer struggled to keep disgust out of his words. “Still, we must build a bond between our people, and it must be founded upon one small promise at a time.
“And it can only be built by those that we can trust. That precludes almost your entire race.”
That Erasmus would not dispute. The relationship between the Imperium of Humanity and the fragmented Eldar people was suspicion at best, open warfare at worst. The vast, vast majority of humankind would never accept the Eldar as nothing less than xenos scum to be eradicated. Some of that sentiment was founded on the reasons of necessity that kept the Eldar alive…and at the expense of the humans who died to make it happen.
“Are your soldiers ready to travel? We must make haste, as the event to occur is fast approaching, and I sense that any hesitation now will be critical in deciding that fate of all those involved.”
Exalted Brother Erasmus turned back to the space marines gathered behind him. They had forsaken active participation in the wider galaxy, events that may have been decided by any one of their personal interventions, to prepare for this day.
When Farseer Ciraban and Geimhreadh had warned of a greater conflict to come twenty three years ago, the Eldar were at their mercy. They had beaten off a Chaos invasion on an alien planet, and the fragmented Eldar forces that had survived were unable to escape without their webway, which was consumed in the conflict. Struggling to decide what to do with their one time ally, the farseer struck a deal with the gathered marines. In exchange for their support that day, he would give the space marines the ability to stop an event in the future that would likely consume a dozen dozen planetary systems if it was not stopped while in its nascent stages.
If it wasn’t for the Farseer Ciraban’s uncanny knowledge of certain events only Grey Knights knew, Exalted Brother Ciraban and his cadre of warriors would have probably declined the deal. Suffice to say, both sides had to agree upon exacting conditions in order to come to terms that would show their commitment to the proposal; an unspecified length of inactivity for exactly one hundred marines to be prepared for the event, and the utter silence of Ciraban’s most promising prodigy until the hundred marines were needed.
Erasmus would have chosen another condition, but it was Geimhreadh’s insistence he carry such a burden. The marine could only imagine what that such an oath had done to the young Eldar psyker.
“We are prepared,” said the Grey Knight as he hoisted is halberd, a perfect weapon in deadly grace and all the more better to channel the warrior’s latent psychic energy.
In unison, the other ninety nine space marines stood and readied their weapons, eager to finally fight again after such a long period of waiting.
The farseer nodded. “Good. I have a contingent of warriors on the other side of the portal. They are our escort through the webway. Do not stray away from the path we show you, and do not touch anything.
“Also, do not be surprised if they look angry. I…could not tell them what it I was doing until I knocked them all down. Let me explain to them what it is we are doing and all will be well.”
The Grey Knight raised a curious eyebrow, but otherwise nodded and followed the farseer through the portal into the webway.
Marines unaccounted for:
? All options, including Baal Predator Arakasi ? Various GK Termis (x5) TheChronoTrigger Space Wolves ? ? Johnny_Leopold Bloodfists ? ? Monkeytroll ? ? Bike Mannahanin
This message was edited 155 times. Last update was at 2013/01/25 14:29:09
IceAngel wrote:Cool! How many marines are involved in all of this?
I look forward to the next installment.
So far the number I have to work with is around 35ish. I added a few in who are not represented to move the story along, and with the breadth of people who are participants in the Swap thread, I gather that number could swell.
Fluff wise, about 1000 marines could be spoken of plus another 100 or so from the prior Crusade.
So lots of room to do things.
The story finale and other such stuff won't appear yet, but I'm about midway through the plot. Further stories will be added in here and there and will involve more new marines and select old ones.
Prologue 1 added in- The Induction (added as the first story).
Originally the story was created for the fluff competition, but it added a new perspective I could use for the Crusade and help create a new plot device in the future! It helps flesh out the Inquisitor a bit and adds a new character to use.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2011/08/11 05:35:57