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REF TALE - The stories

Brotherhood of the Lost Lost and Forgotten Alternate Heresy

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#126
bluntblade

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I think this needs to be a bit clearer on which Legion has done what in this story. It's a little fuzzy at present.

#127
Beren

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Placeholder.


Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:15 PM.


#128
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Placeholder.


Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:15 PM.


#129
simison

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The Gatekeepers of Progress

Author: simison
Legion: Iron Bears
Time: 985.M30
Characters: Saginaw, Nimkii, Foban Steelwatcher

 

 

Saginaw stared at his armor. The last battle had not been kind to it. A plasma explosive had splayed his breastplate, leaving several wires to hang loose. An opportunistic enemy had cleaved the power pack later in the battle. Deprived of power, it was only because of the prodigious strength given to him by his gene-seed that Saginaw had defeated his would-be slayer. 

 

He measured his options. The damage was extensive enough that he could not effect the repairs on his own. Protocol stated that he was to submit the armor to the Mechanicum delegation of the expeditionary fleet for such extensive repairs. Yet, the last time he had trusted those cog-heads with his armor, the repairs took the rest of the campaign to complete, negating Saginaw's ability to fight on behalf of the Legion. He had checked every day and had been told the same excuse: "Repair status: Incomplete. Return at later date for update."

 

When they had finished with repairs, they had made no effort to notify Saginaw. They waited for his next visit and then made him wait an additional hour before finally returning it. He ground his teeth just remembering the treatment. 

 

However, ignoring the Mechanicum would only deteriorate relations with the Bears. With a sigh of resignation, Saginaw grabbed the damaged armor.

 

No sooner had he stepped out of the room did the air thrum with the sound of forgecraft. Normally, the sound offered mirth and promise to the young Iron Bear. However, with his armor towed behind him, the usual melody soured in his ears. He momentarily debated taking a different, more circular route to the Mechanicum. He dismissed it as the mark of a coward before he strode forward. 

 

As close as the two were, it was no surprise when Daer'dd adopted the lodges crafted by his brother Alexandros. Yet, Daer'dd and the Iron Bears found it much more easier to relax and enjoy fellowship while working with their hands. Whereas the Halcyon Warden lodges were noted for their spirited discussions and conversations, the Iron Bears could be found at their favorite places: the workshops. 

 

Saginaw marched through the hallway into the welcoming caresses of growing heat. The row of quarters gave way to a large room. It was here that most of Saginaw's squad tinkered and experimented at the scattered stations. The work space was one of dozens throughout the ship. To have one central lodge as the Fifth did simply was not practical. The Great Bear wanted all of his sons to be free to explore and enjoy a forge. 

 

The tradeoff was that most Iron Bears had become active participants in the Imperial economy. 

 

To fund so many workshops, Daer'dd had used his status as Lord of Tricendia to arrange regular shipments of ores, metals, and equipment for his Legion. The Iron Bears would then use these raw materials and fashion them as their muses led them. Rarely were such efforts wasted. What the Bears did not keep for themselves, either to serve in war or as sentimental totems, they sent back to Tricendia. There, the items found their ways into private holdings for personal use or onto the open market. Art-seekers and the purveyors of the unusual sought the more unique creations of the Bears. The more prosaic products were quickly bought for their utility. In either case, Tricendia prospered and purchased more materials for the Sixth Legion's use.

 

Saginaw himself had done his part and at least five of his items had been sold to the Bears' benefit, including an experimental sensor keyed to several prey creatures for hunting and the second-finest throwing axe he had ever forged. The best one he had saved for his own use. 

 

Saginaw glowered at his damaged armor, wishing he could repair it. The approaching heat all but embraced him as he emerged into the communal forge. Half a dozen Iron Bears alternated between crafting their latest work and chatting with each other. Nimkii glanced from his current project and grinned. "And where are you off to?"

 

Saginaw's forced a grin. "Repairs. Taking it where it's supposed to."

 

Nimkii raised an eyebrow. 

 

Saginaw's grin grew more forced.

 

Nimkii shrugged before he returned to his craft. "When you give up, you know where to go."

 

"May fortune bless your work," Saginaw said as he moved on. A few other brothers greeted him, but Saginaw only offered a polite reply as he hurried on. The heat died down as he exited the communal forge, steering towards the lift. As was true of all Imperial warships, the persons of honor could always be found toward the stern. It was where a ship's heart and head could be found in the forms of the reactor and bridge. Conversely, to be placed away from it was a subtle sign of inferiority. 

 

The Mechanicum's sanctum could be found near the edge of the bow.

 

The forge-fane was guarded. Two skitarii warriors stood before the main entrance. Saginaw could not recall a similar guard for the forge-fanes on the ships of other legions. His gait slowed. As always, a feeling of revulsion rolled through him. It was one thing to wield the Imperium's technology to improve battle prowess as the Iron Bears had done. But to use the same technology to divorce oneself from humanity? The Iron Bears abhored it. Every upgrade and piece of metal coating the skitarii was not a symbol of technological evolution, but a regression of the human spirit. 

 

If only the Imperium did not require Mars, Saginaw thought sourly to himself. 

 

He stopped before them. 

 

The skitarius on the left stated in emotionless cant, "Identify."

 

"Legionary Saginaw, VIth Legion, Steel-horse company, 3rd squad."

 

"Purpose of visit."

 

Saginaw pointed. "Armor repair."

 

Ten full seconds passed in silence before the skitarius stated, "Access granted."

 

Saginaw did not immediately move. For all of the Mechanicum claims of transcending humanity, he and the rest of the Iron Bears were all-too aware the Mechanicum was not above petty insults.

 

That included forced waiting. 

 

Ten seconds may not be of much time. To the ignorant, they might even believe it had taken that long for the skitarius to process the request or for the tech-priest to grant permission. 

 

The Iron Bears knew better. The infosphere allowed communication to occur in the fraction of a second. Here, in the forge-fane, there was no chance it was operating at less than 100% efficiency. Anything less would be viewed as a threat to the tech-priest's control. Which could only mean the ten seconds was an insult directed right at Saginaw. He did not know if the Martian representatives counted on him understanding the insult, or if they believed him too ignorant to understand what had occurred.

 

He wasn't sure if he cared. "How long will the repairs take?"

 

"Unknown. Lacking data."

 

Saginaw frowned. "Scan it. I know you have the capability."

 

The skitarius dipped its head the barest minimum for its sensors to wash over the damaged armor. It raised its head. "Unknown timetable estimate."

 

"Miichii-pewaabic!" Saginaw snarled. "This was a fruitless endeavor. I leave you and your tyrant to your 'precious' fane. Maybe if he prays hard enough, the Omnissiah might grant him a measure of wisdom!" His rage spent, Saginaw turned away from the silent guardians. He stomped back to the lift and quickly directed him where to go. 

 

He should have just listened to Nimkii in the first place. 

 

Unlike the Mechanicum forge-fane, Saginaw's next destination was much closer to the heart of the ship. For the sake of appearances, the location was toward the ship's keel, only a single deck above the menials' quarters. Even with that compromise, it was clear who actually enjoyed the Iron Bears' favor as Saginaw approached the entrance. 

 

No forge-fane awaited Saginaw. The Borgalder preferred a more secular aesthetic. Glowing red lines cut sharp angles in and around the entrance. Saginaw had once heard the Borgalder's original Homeworld was volcanic. The red lines glowing in contrast to the darker metal around it was meant to evoke magma trails against igneous rock. These lines, however, were not products of random chance snaking this way or that. Rather, the lines bent into either large geometric shapes or smaller runes of ancient value to the Borgalder.

 

Two members of the Borgalder stood at the entrance. Yet, the effect was completely opposite of the forge-fane. The skitarii stood with uncompromising precision with a hint of hostility, standing a foot above a normal human with their augmetics. The Borgalder guards were relaxed and offered a friendly nod to the approaching Iron Bear. "Distant cousin, I bid you welcome," the Borgadler on the right said as Saginaw approached. He careened his head up to look at the giant of a legionary, living up to their nickname as 'Squats'. "What business brings you here?"

 

Saginaw gestured to the armor. "I need repairs done, distant cousin."

 

The Borgalder glanced over the damaged adamantium and nodded. He reached within the outer layer of his ceremonial carapace armor before pulling out a dataslate. "This can be done for the usual price." He offered the dataslate.

 

In theory, it was always cheaper for the legion to go to the Mechanicum for repairs. Due to the Martian-Terran alliance, the sister empires, in theory, had outstanding agreements to cover such transactions. Yet, given the Mechanicum's hostility toward the Iron Bears, it became easier every year for the Sixth Legion to turn toward the Borgalder for aid. With every transaction, the Borgalder Leagues became tied closer to the economy of Three Fires. As part of this, Iron Bear legionaries would pay for Borgalder expertise through a temporary percentage of their earnings. 

 

Saginaw glanced over the contract held within the dataslate to ensure there were no deviations from the usual. Once satisfied, he kissed the bottom of the dataslate, giving his own genetic marker to approve of the transaction. After retrieving the dataslate, the Borgalder guard declared, "I am Foban Steelwatcher," before he added his own kiss next to Saginaw's, gingerly keeping his long beard out of the way.

 

Steelwatcher stepped back as he gestured to the entrance, which opened before them. "You may enter."

 

Saginaw offered a deep nod in return before he walked through the gate. 


Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost

 
The Second Son: Narrative of the BOTL Vth Legion Primarch

 

Brotherhood of the Lost has arrived on Patreon

 

gallery_92945_11930_24196.png

 


#130
Beren

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War-Tales

Author:Beren
Date:Pre-Insurrection
Legion:Iron Bears

"I've told you this before: we're safe. We've got a damned sea between them and us, and I'd like to see them try and fly past our interceptor squadrons without at least triggering an alert."

The small huddle of conscripts flightily raised their heads, having thought their voices pitched too low for their CO to pick up. Thing was, he damned well didn't need to hear what they were saying. It just took a glance at their lowered heads, all clustered together like little rats, to tell that the freshblood's were fretting about the enemy. Repeating nonsense rumours about them having giants as soldiers or some other piece of rubbish. If you asked him, they all ought to be disbarred from service just from being idiotic enough to believe that kind of talk. Only they didn't really want to be here at all, so that would only cause them to contrive yet more monumental feats of stupidity that somehow managed to eclipse their usual misdemeanors.

All of this the Watchmaster moodily recounted to himself, punctuating each thought with a drag on his lho-stick. The fumes stayed in a little cloud around his head, dimming the effect of the light strips on the wall had on his eyes. The veil of smoke dissipated, though not without leaving a lingering taint in the air, as the Watchmaster's face pushed past it as he got to his feet, muttering something to his second about a breath of fresh air 'free of the freshblood's whining'.

The building wasn't a complicated one. Meet room here, barracks their, storage on the other side. Each day he sent a couple of people out along the shore. Every couple of weeks he sent a few with tent on a nice and distant trip to check the passages. Like they were ever going to find anything.

The Watchmaster heaved on the latch sealing the door, joints groining in distress as he did so. Stumbling outside, he was facing inland. Silently observing the vista of moody peaks and valleys filled with verdant forest against a clear blue sky, he lifted the now dying lho-stick to his mouth and again inhaled its vapours. Then he turned to face the sea.

The lho-stick dropped out of his hanging mouth. He began to fumble for his gun. He yelled into his comm-bead, only to be rewarded with a harsh and unnatural static.

The presence of a rather large black and bronze metal box - easily the size of a small hab unit - was naturally quite surprising, given that it had not been there the evening before. The fact that it was not actually touching the ground wasn’t actually helping. Somewhat more concerning was the three other metal boxes that appeared to be skimming just above the surface of the sea as they approached. However, at this point the Watchmaster was neither surprised at the presence of the large metal box or the others growing closer by the second. As a matter of fact, the entirety of his mental faculties were rather occupied trying to comprehend the threat of the eight foot tall humanoid slab of metal that was currently bearing down on him at a rather alarming velocity.

---

“You hear that?”

Conscript Skirvich was well known for being prone to agitation over the smallest sounds, having earned the nickname of ‘twitchy’ from his comrades for it. In this instance, there had been the faintest thump from the near the chamber’s entrance, barely audible over the softly spoken conversation.

Before one of his fellows could admonish him for yet another false alarm, the door and a good portion of the surrounding wall disappeared. From the blinding blaze of light that replaced it, emerged a broad silhouette eight feet tall. As the after-image faded from the eyes of conscripts now scrambling for their weapons, it was revealed to be clad in thick slabs of armour, though yet moving with terrifying ease, and holding a weapon akin to a small cannon in its arms. It was clad in bronze and black, and in other circumstances an observer might have marvelled at the craftsmanship involved.

The giant waited just long enough for the mortals to recover and gain a small measure of security from holding their rifles, but not long enough for them to scrounge up the confidence to fire.

“Apologies.”

Not the first words you expected to hear from an invading killing machine, enough to give the natives pause.

“I’m afraid the entrance was a little small for my stature. If you could kindly lay down your weapons, than we can speak without me having to kill most of you first.”

---
A black gauntlet intruded upon the holo display, the spatial images flickering ever so slightly where the light met adamantium.

"Our flanking formations have successfully seized the coast with minimal resistance. When the main assault comes, any attempt at retreat or reinforcement through that region will be subject to their attacks. Should they encounter an unanticipated challenge, the grav-rhinos should be able to ensure their withdrawal."

There were five figures around the display. The two Iron Bears were the largest, towering over the others. The others were all mortal: a dataslate clutching remembrancer, an ostentatiously clad figure in the finery of a highborn Imperial Army general and a Solar Auxilia Grand Marshall whose figure was concealed by the bulk of their void sealed armour.

The speaking Astartes withdrew his hand from that region of the display, moving it to where the main body of their foe was situated. He was interrupted before his motion was finished.

"What of your... Jocastas, I believe they're called? The grav-tanks. Surely they would supply some much needed firepower to your strikeforce?"

It was the general who had spoken. It was moderated, but their was still that hint of the nobility's disdain in his voice.

It was the second of the Iron Bears that spoke now.

"Forgemaster Kirikka has judged that the consignment we have received remains unsuitable for unsupported deployment. Whatever modifications the Lasarians made, we have been unable to replicate. The Mechanicum…"

Here he glanced at a sixth figure, beyond the light of the holo-array. Lenses could be seen protruding from beyond the hood, but they did not seem to be focused upon either the hololith or the chamber's other occupants. It had not so much as rustled its robes since the discussion had begun.

"... is equally unable to provide proper support for them."

The mortal General gave a single stiff nod indicating he understood, though his brow furrowed as he did so. The other Legionary, finger still poised above the densest cluster of crimson markers, resumed.

"Our forces will provide the spearhead, both for purposes of ensuring the assault's success and for the value of intimidation. The armoured and mechanised forces of the 563rd Cohort…"

Here he briefly indicated the Grand Marshall with the slightest tilt of his head.

"...will provide support. The resulting shattering of their forces should break their resolve. Either way, we need the Imperial Army regiments ready to provide a followup push and secure supply lines."

As the general, again, began to open his mouth the Iron Bear concluded that, “of course, the Royal Korinian Guard will be present during the final capture of their government facilities.”

Apparently appeased, the nobleborn fell silent.

---

The trenchworks to their right disappeared, obliterated by a blast that sent gobbets of fesh and clumps of earth up over the contours in the lines and right down on top of them. The Sergeant was screaming at them to reload their grenade launchers and for the snipers to back on the firing step. Artillery shells from both sides were whining through the air to end in thunderous detonations. The solar weapons of the aggressors traced burning lines through the sky, while the armour penetrating slugs of the opposition blurred over the ground.

The advance that had been steaming right towards them had seized up, the leading transports having their tracks torn off by the buried mag-mines. The relief was palpable as the infantry spilling out of the vehicles were normal in stature, though well armoured. Well disciplined too, swiftly forming up and laying suppressive fire -cracking beams of light coming over the trench’s rim - upon the defenders. Too exposed. Several went down to the penentrator rifles. Blood and viscera burst out of their helmets and their back units sparked as the bullets smashed right through the bodies.

“Dragon!”

The cry was sounded by the still intact fortification to their left, having sighted the nozzle of the lumbering vehicle as it approached the trenchworks. Privates were beginning to scramble out of their trench, careless of the risk in their desire to escape the impending conflagration, when the grenades shot off. The entire squad hunkered down as heat washed over them. The bodies of the enemy infantry, whether alive or dead, were swamped by flames. Of the ‘dragon’, only a burnt out wreck was left.

Muffled cries of exultation were halted by yet another explosion. The flaming heavy transport, the same one the infantry had been dismounted from earlier, was being battered by fire from behind it. Its frame was punctured and twisted. Shrapnel was dragged to the ground by the mag-mine, until a burst of sparks indicated that was out too. By now a half-melted wreck, the not inconsiderable bulk of the vehicle was battered aside by another transport. This one was larger and more brutal in appearance. Between the two colossal tracks a vast ramp took on the appearance of a great jaw. Above that, two bolter weapons in a cupola seemed like eyes, and to either side solar weapons protruded like stubby arms, only ones that hurled death at their targets. Again the grenades trailed smoke as they thrusted towards their target, only this time they were swatted from the air by bursts of blinding light before they had a chance to hit home.

The ramp smashed down. Giants stepped forth. Impossibly large, heads set into the great slabs of black and copper metal that appeared to be their chests. Bolt weapons, two paired together, graced one arm. In the other they carried some form axe. It was one unfamiliar to the conscripts, both in basic design and the crackling layer of energy that seemed to run along their head. They were not fast, but utterly implacable. The penetrator rounds seemed to do little more than glance of the armour. One shooter would later swear that his shot had gone through the gap between leg and midriff, only they hadn’t even slowed. They reached the edge of the trench, tortured ground crumbling underneath their feet. THe conscripts had ceased fire, even the sergeant now mute with fear. For a moment they remained still, silhouetted against the flames. Then they turned, heading to the right and where the blast had collapsed the walls of the trench and made traversment easier. In a moment of suicidal bravery or blind panic, someone grasped a grenade launcher. Betrayed by faltering aim and trembling hands, it was not a clean strike. Still, the blast clearly wrenched the axe-bearing arm of the nearest giant, sending its weapon into the trench below it. The giant seemed to lurch, but it was lurching around so that it back towards the grenade’s origin. For a second it seemed to teeter on the very lip of the trench, at an angle that should have made balance impossible for a thing of such obvious weight.

The sound was almost lost amidst the battle’s fury. A pair of shots from the wrist mounted bolt weapon and the giant was already ponderously swinging away again. The four strong huddle from which the grenade had originated was now a mess of organs and torn limbs. The giants resumed their march, albeit no longer alone. More of the infantry that had first assaulted the trench were emerging through the wreckage, rapidly moving behind the giants with flamethrowers and their own double handed axes. Others, more conventionally armed, formed a line above the trench to cover the remaining conscripts. One, holding a bulky pistol, rather than one of their rifles, gestured at an object in the dirt.

“Someone secure that Tomahawk. The Bears’ll want it looked after.

---

The Korinian guard marched in almost perfect form. Almost, because their arms swung a little too high. Their legs moved in motions a little too exaggerated, black plumes bobbing a little too much in the wind. Their tabards and gilded armour a little too flamboyant to be considered tasteful. The local delegation wasn’t really looking at them though. They were far more focused upon a far more intimidating set of figures. Despite being behind the strutting mortals, the Astartes loomed over them. They moved languidly, but each time they stepped the delegates twitched. They all knew that in an instant the superhumans could bowl over their ceremonial guard and be upon their hosts without giving them a chance to so much as draw a pistol.

The local’s own guards seemed intent on pointing their weapons anywhere but the vague direction of the giants, having seemingly shrunk back into the walls. Some of them stood stock still, others seemed to constantly shift about underneath their armour.

With their ungainly precision, the Korinian's filed to either side as the Astartes stepped forwards. One of them spoke, though it could not be said which. A voice like rolling thunder echoed across the plaza.

"Brothers! You have fought bravely. You have fought with courage and honour! Now the time for fighting is over. The time has come for peace and prosperity under the Imperium, and the Emperor of Mankind."

There was one figure at the head of the planet's delegates, old and wizened but with a steely strength in his eyes. Despite the obvious fear of his compatriots, his voice was firm and clear…

---

"Oh come on! There's no way he wasn't shaking like a leaf in those ridiculous robes you people like."

"I was there! I saw him speak, and I swear…"

"By which you mean you were playing at being a statue."

The small group was huddled around a small table, in what could be described as a bar. It was bustling with labourers and conscripts, seizing trays laden with drinks and lofting them to where their own particular social circles spent their evenings. A warm and rosy light smiled through the glass panels set in the wall to fall upon where they conversed.

Two were straight of bearing, not a hair out of place. Their clothes, though they could be considered casual garments, were worn like uniforms. The other three were in general more dishevelled and loose with their gestures. In their case they had medals, small things made of tin, to symbolise their valiant service. The stories had gone on most of the afternoon, ever since the two groups had discovered they had most likely been trying to kill each other some years ago.

“What I want know…” interrupted a wizened ex-conscript, a grey haired fellow who hadn’t quite been young when the war was lost.

“...is how come you’re allowed to share that stuff about the strategic meeting.”

The query was directed at the quieter of the two Auxilia veterans, a woman who earlier in the day had explained to her one-time opponents, in detail, exactly how their ‘glorious grand army’ had been defeated. She shrugged in response.

“That was more than ten years ago now. Didn’t see that it much mattered anymore.”

She then glanced at a mousy chap, who seemed to be constantly nursing his drinks.

“You really called our Infernus tanks Dragons?”

“What else would you call something that breathes fire, is armoured, and frankly terrifying?”

The last of the former conscripts muttered just loudly enough to be heard.

“Rather a Dragon than a Bear.”

The same Auxilia veteran who had interrupted the recounting of the peace negotiations snorted, his disdain poorly concealed.

“Believe me, compared to some of the other Legions they’re gentle.”

The grey head simply shook his head.

“Either way, I’m glad that none of us’ll ever have to fight their ilk again.”

Edited by Beren, 09 July 2019 - 07:07 PM.


#131
Beren

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Placeholder.


Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:14 PM.


#132
Beren

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Placeholder.


Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:14 PM.


#133
bluntblade

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You double-pasted this one, Beren

#134
Beren

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Placeholder.


Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:13 PM.


#135
Beren

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Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:12 PM.


#136
bluntblade

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A Dialogue
“Lord, I must protest this,” Xeones insisted.
 
Alexandros raised a hand to mollify the master of the Athenoi, but kept his eyes forward. Frost was creeping up the plates of his armour. He paid that little heed as well.
 
“All screening procedures have been undertaken and countermeasures are in place, should this prove to be a threat.” His gesture took in the Librarians, Custodians and the Sisters of Silence, all ready to intervene.
 
From behind the null-maidens, Akyllles watched. His command squad had been among those chosen to stand in the chamber, though he suspected that was more for him and his fellow captains to serve as witnesses than protection. If this gift from Icarion held any real threat that the Athenoi and Custodians could not overcome, to say nothing of the Primarch himself, then one captain would hardly make a difference.
 
The tech-magi who had surrendered themselves with this “metatron” had unclasped the iron mask over the former astropath’s face. A flicker, obscured by the hunched and fidgeting forms, and then light erupted. 
 
It ripped its way from her mouth, writhing in a way that no light should. Frost began to crawl across Akylles' own armour, and that of his brothers. Then the luminescence curdled, taking on the aspect of matter; smoke, then fabric, metal and flesh. People, and not just any people at that.
 
Icarion Anasem floated above the stricken metatron, glowing vapour resolving into Harbingers behind him - and a handful of warriors clad partially in Imperial purple. Akylles’ hand tightened on the haft of his spear. He could almost hear his brothers baring their teeth at the sight of those traitors.
 
“Warmaster Alexandros,” Icarion began.
 
Alexandros did not even acknowledge the greeting. His hand stabbed towards the warriors in purple. “They leave. Now.”
 
“They are my ambassadors.”
 
“They are oathbreakers, and when next I look upon them, they will go to their knees or perish. Keep them here and the dialogue will be terminated. You’ll have wasted two of these atrocities,” he indicated the metatron.  “All that pain for naught.”
 
Icarion flicked his hand and the treacherous Wardens withdrew. Alexandros was eyeing the tormented astropath. “I feel her pain, in a literal sense, and there’s part of me which can only congratulate you. No matter what the hardliners said, we were never warlocks. Not Andezo, nor even the Eleventh… but finally, you've got there. Depraved witchery. So, brother,” he said coldly, “tell me what the two of us have to talk about.” 
 
“I wanted to offer you another chance,” Icarion said. “You can see how this will unfold. It can only end one way, and resisting will merely prolong the agony for our people. You can cut it short.”
 
“Only one way, Icarion?” Alexandros asked. His voice was soft, almost teasing, but Akyless heard the tension in it like a steel cable under cloth. “I fear you’ve spent too much time with your scryings, and came to believe them too much. Pyrrhicles surprised you - and do you expect me to believe that everything went as you intended on your Day of Revelation?”
 
Icarion’s face gave nothing away. “The numbers are still against you, brother. My forces have taken entire sectors, and the avalanche will only roll on towards you.”
 
“A long way to roll, Icarion. A great deal of resistance to grind your way through. Do you have enough soldiers to throw on our blades?”
 
“I expected more from you than a circular conversation. Has repeating our Father’s lies worn out your eloquence?” Icarion shook his head. “Surely you tire of it?”
 
Akylles flexed the fingers of his spear-hand, ice cracking where it had covered the joints. He had to do something to alleviate the tension he felt. The faces of the two brothers were close together, so very close.
 
“Should I take your side, I would be choosing your lies,” Alexandros murmured. “Even those you tell yourself. After all,” his finger stabbed at the astropath, “you hardly stumbled across these things. I see Travier’s work.”
 
Scorn flickered in Icarion’s face. “You think to lecture me on the hazards of the Warp? Remember who you’re speaking to.”
 
“It’s not just simple hazards though, is it? I know of the puppeteers behind the curtain. Travier does their bidding already, and can you be sure that the others won’t hear them calling? Raktra? Morro? Do you trust them to leave the promise of more power alone?” Alexandros, though the shorter of the two, seemed to Akylles to stand taller now. “The hooks are in, even if you can’t feel them yet.”
 
“Do you presume to know the aether better than -”
 
What followed took a mere second. Alexandros snatched his spear back from Xeones’ hand, spun it so the blade faced down.
 
"Alex -"
 
"Icarion" Alexandros said, and rammed the spear down through the astropath’s neck.
 
Not once in that motion had his face moved. His eyes were locked on the space where Icarion’s had been. 
 
Vapour spilled over them. The magi bolted, but the Halcyon Wardens were too fast for them. Akylles put his skitarius sword through one, twisting it as the disruptor field burned out the heretek’s chest. Only when the last corpse had hit the ground did the Primarch turn to face his sons. 
 
“I’ll save you the bother of deciding who asks the question - what did we learn from this?” He bowed his head. “Well, we quite possibly know more than most of the traitors do. Inasmuch as this war has a right side, we are on that side. Look upon this and understand that you are the bulwark not only against ruin, but damnation.”
 
“I find no comfort in enlightenment this time,” growled Xeones.
 
Alexandros nodded. “I fear you’ll get used to that feeling before long.”

Edited by bluntblade, 26 September 2019 - 09:55 PM.

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#137
simison

simison

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Designs of the Impure Prince

Author: simison
Legion: The Drowned
Time: Late 900s.M30

Characters: Sorrowsworn Morro, Tanna

 

Morro allowed himself a moment to revel in the pleasure of the kill. The rebel leader aimed an intricate plasma, coils glowing blue, pistol at Morro's head, but Morro did not think of it as a threat. The man shook so hard, no doubt the shot would go wide. Instead, Morro's eyes locked on the man's magnificent cape. It was of exquisite quality in a luxurious red. Morro spun one of his shotels, his famed curved swords, in his gauntlet as he debated on how to seize the cape without spilling blood on it. Skewering wasn't an option. Even if Morro controlled his strike so that the blade didn't pierce through the man's body, the man might flail and drive himself deeper on the shotel. 

 

Decapitation? No, the outpour would undoubtedly fall upon the cape.

 

Legs, Morro decided as he stepped forward, sheathing a shotel. The rebel leader screamed as his finger closed on the trigger. Before the man could blink, Morro swung. The man's legs went flying off to the side. In the instant before gravity could assert its hold, Morro's other hand flashed and closed around the man's head. 

 

The man's screams were muffled by Morro's hand as he held the man aloft. Blood poured out of the man's stumps. 

 

"My lord."

 

Morro leaned his head to one side, his dark hair pooling to one side, as he spoke into the vox system built into his armor. "Speak."

 

"We've secured the enemy headquarters and are transitioning into sweeps of the city to eliminate the last of the rebel forces. Estimated time to complete annihilation of enemy forces is two hours and fifteen minutes." 

 

The man's screams whittled as his flesh paled. Morro ran calculations and recalled previous city subjugation operations as handled by other legions. The Drowned's progress was definitely proceeding faster than a similar operation completed by the Eagle Warriors, who tended to use a bit too much flash and awe in their strikes, but slower than the Predators, due in no small part to their expertise in mobility warfare. 

 

"Pull Shoal Shishi-Revi'i from the city perimeter. If they slip through the cracks, we'll hunt them, but I want the city secured in two hours."

 

"It will be done, my lord."

 

Morro terminated the vox connection as he noted the rebel leader had finished bleeding out, heralded by the man dropping his unused plasma pistol. As Morro claimed the cape for his own purposes, he wondered what luxuries the ruler of this world had to offer him. Governor Saul Tarth had the benefit of occupying his station for three decades before he committed the mistake of turning against his Imperial masters. Overseeing Ivah had seen the man's wealth skyrocket due in no small part to Ivah's status as a key trade center in South Tempestus. 

 

Which lead to the current restrictions upon Morro's war plans. The Drowned were to inflict as little collateral damage to allow Ivah's trade to be restored as quickly as possible. At the same time, the campaign was to be completed as soon as possible. It was a bit difficult since Tarth had spent the last five years pouring as many Thrones as he could into a new Ivah military, which was why a legion had been summoned to bring Tarth to heel. 

 

In truth, Morro knew the War Council had not wanted the Drowned or Morro near this campaign. Fiscal, not military, motivation had forced their hand. By chance, the Morro's personal fleet, the Kelyfos, had been the closest legion when Tarth had declared his independence. So the Drowned would serve the retribution the Imperium desired against Tarth's arrogance. 

 

And re-open the Ivah markets as soon as possible.

 
No longer concerned with the man flailing in his death throes, Morro pinched two fingers on the back of the man's uniform before delicately cutting off the cape from the corpse. Once the cape was no longer attached to its former master, he dropped the corpse. Morro gingerly wrapped it before securing it to his armour. He threw a final glance over the city. With only rodents left to hunt, Morro would not bother remaining as he marched out of the marble office. At the doors, his personal guard awaited, surrounded by the dead who had dared to resist them. Morro wondered if any of them harbored disapproving thoughts as they had watched Morro take his new spoil. 
 
Not in the first instance in which Primarch found himself at cross-purposes with his own legion. The Drowned had always had a tendency toward the reserve when it came to decoration. It was a trait they had not inherited from Morro. The Lord of the Drowned had always enjoyed the finer things in life and would not break with it because his sons were different. Perhaps no unspoken criticism laid in the room. For as ostentatious Morro might be, his ruthless tactics were a seamless extension of the Drowned' own martial spirit. Or, vice versa since Morro could claim birth before the Sixteenth.
 
The Demersal Guard, however, kept their silence as Morro walked past them. With honed practice, they fell into step with their liege lord as they exited. Comprised of sixteen chosen warriors, Morro did not offer a hint of gratitude towards them. In terms of martial purpose, they were of little value against most opponents, whom he could slay with ease. No, the few beings that could threaten Morro would be the sole situation they had military value to him for either a knife in the flank or a pawn to be sacrificed. Outside of those truly rare events, as far as he was concerned, their true purpose was to emphasize Morro's position as a Primarch. From the contrast in height to their lethal weapons, the Demersal Guard elevated their Primarch in glory when they accompanied him. 
 
Bodies lined the hallway, their red blood contrasting with the alabaster stone. Morro claimed half of the dead by his hand. It had been an amusing exercise, seeing if he could maintain double the threshold of kills in ratio to the Demersal Guard. 
 

The most amusing kills were the ones who screamed, "For Tarth!" Or, "Defend Dukoh!" Others may have used battle cries to rally their comrades or to strike hestiation into their enemes. This worthless mob, however, had shrieked theirs like terrified children. It was a pleasing sound to Morro, added with the irony that neither Tarth cared for his fodder or Dukoh was worth dying for. The sole reason Morro fought here was so that Tarth knew the Impure Prince had landed at this particular city. Dukoh was the eighth largest city on the planet. Nothing noteworthy about the city, from economy to military. Any well experienced strategos would be utterly befuddled by Morro's strategic decision. To a novice such as Tarth, no doubt he would be expecting some ploy and would soon be sending his armies to counter. 

 

Which is what Morro wanted him to do. 

 

Dukoh was worthless to the Drowned, until Morro marched through its streets. Now, it served as a weapon by dint of his presence. His weapon. 

 

It was a lesson some of his ...brothers hadn't learned. Oh yes, they certainly understood themselves well enough as a strategic resource and their potency as a martial symbol. Yet, few of them truly grasped their utility in misdirection. Off-hand, Morro knew the Jade General and Bahmut had demonstrated a proficiency for it. Pakal never revealed himself before striking the killing blow, ironically ensuring he never wielded the ability. 

 

Then you had the glory-hungry fools who insisted upon their infuriating codes of honor. Mycenor, Niimiika, Darzalas. Always parading around, insisting they were too valuable to waste in such a role. Morro inwardly sneered at the thought. 

 

Outside the mayoral palace was a landing site designed for large craft. Probably for a luxury or a pleasure yacht, but it was the perfect size for an warhawk-pattern stormbird. The Hel's Wing was not Morro's favorite, but it was undeniably one of his more practical transport options. Speed was what he required now. As he stepped into the troop bay, he demanded a final check-in from his field commanders, shouting over the roar of the Hel's Wing's engines. 

 

To his satisfaction, they were meeting his expectations. It was important all city resistance was negated quickly to allow the Drowned to prepare the city for Tarth's incoming counter-attack. If all timetables were met, quite the surprise would await the rebel forces. 

 

The carrier ramp closed, heralding their path into the skies. Morro calculated the incoming counter-push would take fifteen hours, which meant he would have to place himself on standby so as to leave the illusion that he may or may not be in Dukoh. Standby, however, did not mean idle. 

 

The Hel's Wing swept over the city, taking care to fly by the few remaining combat zones. Each time, they flew low enough to lay down a barrage or two against remaining rebel forces before moving onto the next one. Morror counted six interventions before they reached past the city limits and out into the countryside. The carrier bay opened again as Morro stepped towards the exit. The hurtling winds did nothing to deprive him of balance as he glanced over the tactical feed being fed by the stormbird's auspex. No humans in range. 

 

With confirmation, Morro walked off the ramp. Five hundred meters flew by, the earth rushing up to embrace him. His heartbeat at utter ease, the Primarch landed upon the planet, creating a small crater. The Hel's Wing turned about and flew back to the city. The cacophony of the war machine receded as the background chatter of a forest replaced it.

 

Morro walked onward without issue. Two kilometers to west was his next destination. Although he traveled alone, he feared nothing. The only rebel forces this far from Dukoh would have been broken remnants allowed to run to spread the tale of defeat. In fact, Morro hoped he would cross across a few shattered units. Although he had been forced to sacrifice air travel for the next phase of the plan, an hour of downtime was unavoidable. Spilling blood would be a quick way to resolve that particular boredom. 

 

He wondered when was the last time any of his brothers completed a lone foot march. He doubted Alexandros, that infuriating Shield-Lord of the Halcyon Wardens could stomach the idea of traveling anywhere without a few dozen followers fawning over him. Niklaas, perhaps, if the situation demanded it. The Lord of the Fire Keepers, was a practical man, willing to make the hard choices without the veneer of a false idealism. In no reality could Morro imagine Yucahu forcing himself to travel via feet. The Fourth Legion's Star-Born seemed allergic to dirt. 
 
A snap broke Morro's reverie. He paused as he focused his hearing. Eighty meters off his left were nine individuals, two of which were dragging a tenth. A small grove of trees obscured the view between the Primarch and the group. Their gait dragged and shambled in his direction. Morro stared with merciless sea-grey eyes before he moved towards the group. Morro may not have possessed the bulk some of his brothers did, but any watchers would have been baffled as the giant demigod of war crossed the field without noise. He could hear more now. 
 
He could hear the stomp of heavy boots against the grass. The metallic jingle of loose equipment. The low moans of the wounded. Two members were whispering to each other, but Morro could hear them clearly. They complained about Tarth, the war. Most importantly, they regretted following Tarth into rebellion.

 

Perfect, Morro thought as he reached for his blades. 

 

He paused. A whim dictated he had not used only his fists in some time. He obeyed as he neglected his blades, clenching his hands into fists. He waited until the group was no more than two strides from his location. 

 

The lead soldier never saw or heard him. Morro doubted the mortal realized he'd been decapitated as his severed head flew through the air. He was already moving. In the second of reaction time afforded to them, the soldiers were barely aware something was wrong. A Drowned squad, even during a nasty withdrawal, would have maintained combat intervals and kept watch for new threats. These poor fools bunched themselves and half of them stared at the ground as they walked. 

 

All the easier, Morro thought to himself as he raced toward a trio. 

 

Their minds, only now registering something was awry, reacted with the alacrity of a slug. A kick caved the chest of one rebel, while a lashing fist sent another's broken body flying. Morro headbutted the third, rewarded with a satisfiying crack as the man's skull splintered beneath the force. 

 

The remaining rebels finally understood they were being attacked. The hapless fools raised rifles and screamed at each other as they tried to identify the threat. It took another precious moment for them to realize they faced a Primarch. By that point, Morro had slain two more of their comrades. 

 

Then, with realization descending, did the fear hammered into them. Of the remaining four, only two did not break. One fumbled with his rifle. His hands shook so hard, Morro was surprised the man didn't drop it. The other couldn't run. Shrapnel lacerated throughout the man's torso, leaving him unconscious. The two soldiers carrying their wounded companion unceremoniously dropped him as they sprinted away. 

 

For the one who possessed the courage to defy the Impure Prince, Morro showed mercy. With a single finger, Morro slammed it through the man's chest and heart. Before the man's body fell to the forest floor, Morro chased after the cowards, his adamantium boots crushing the unconscious soldier to death. The two soldiers reached a total of eight paces before Morro was upon them. Two giant fingers wrapped around their necks before Morro slowly lifted them off of the ground. They screamed and begged for their miserable lives, but Morro tuned them out.

 

Instead, he, ever so slowly, squeezed. 

 

First, they couldn't breath, clawing at his digits as their bodies thrashed about. Then their windpipes collapsed under the pressure. With an audible snap, animal panic seized them even though death was now inescapable. 

 

Morro continued to squeeze.

 

Finally, bones crunched beneath Morro's grip. Their nervous systems were pulverised. Their frantic flailing ceased. 

 

Morro released the corpses to flop upon the earth. Silence returned to the small forest as he basked in the kills for a moment. Then he turned and resumed his journey. 

 

He studied the blood covering his index finger. The red contrasted nicely with the sea-green of his armor. He wondered how his bout of unarmed combat would have compared with the Jade General's martial arts. No doubt the latter would have done it with more finesse and aplomb than Morro's own demonstration due to simple experience. The Jade General was the sole Primarch who spent as much time wielding his fists and feet as he did with bladed weapons. Morro decided it would be a worthy investment if he could gain a few holo-recordings of the Jade General in battle for his own personal study. 

 

He checked his tracker. Another three kilometers to the next point. With nine kills, he considered sprinting the rest of the way. At top speed, he could be there in a few minutes. 

 

Hesitation held him at his current pace. At top speed, he ran the small risk of missing the presence of the enemy. Small yet significant. Significant enough to cause him to abandon the idea. He would not the risk of anything threatening his plans. 

 

Twenty minutes passed as he walked. He wished he could pass the time with campaign updates, but any such information bursts could alert Tarth's intelligence network. It was not that he felt uncomfortable being solitary. His early life had been spent away from humanity with darker... creatures treating him as prey. On this pathetic world removed from such mega predators, this lonely walk was quite pleasant. No, he wanted to know if his marines were failing his expectations. 

 

The rumble of an engine distracted Morro from thoughts of his legion. His merciless eyes drifted toward the source as he considered his choices. The noise suggested a heavier class of vehicle, but Morro wasn't informed enough to identify the difference, if there was any, between civilian and military vehicles. It could be a troop transport or it could be a luxury vehicle. 

 

The true danger was the road. Morro had kept his path away from it to facilitate his infiltration. It did not matter if traffic was light. The number of buildings and potential witnesses were too much of a threat. Morro started walking again, frustrated one prey would slip out of his grasp. 

 

Then, he realized the noise was getting louder. The vehicle had turned off the roadway and would now cross ahead of Morro in less than a minute. Morro's path was taking him across a field, but there was another grove Morro could hide within. In four seconds, Morro was in position as his gaze followed the vehicle's movement. A transport, a truck with a gun mount added on its trailer, wound through the light forest. It hadn't even been painted in the planet's military's colors, a commercial logo still bright on the side of the truck and its trailer. 

 

No one was manning the gun emplacement. 

 

Morro's mind conjured attack plans. A few, well-placed grenades would disable the vehicle. The trailer was too long for his grenades to cover the length, which would require he handle it himself. His hand reached for the first one. He frowned as he considered his grenades. Although unlikely, there was always the chance a combat situation could develop on his way to his destination where he would need them. He debated it for another second as the truck neared his position. Then he removed his hand from the grenades. He had a better idea.

 

He waited as the truck was about to pass him.

 

He charged. 

 

The sheer muscle and freight that was a Primarch slammed into the truck's side at full sprint. 

 

With a squeal of metal, the truck's nose crumbled inward. The engine shrieked as Morro's mass crushed half of it. The truck whipped to one side. A mere three seconds passed before the out-of-control vehicle slammed into a tree. The tree stopped the truck but at the cost of its trunk. Hazardly chopped at, the evergreen gracefully fell to the ground, one last rumble to complete the event. 

 

Morro pulled himselt out of the engine block without a hint of injury. He glanced into the cabin. Three men occupied it. The driver and two others. All three wore combat fatigues with the co-pilot carrying a rifle. 

 

The driver moaned as he pulled his head off the safety airbag. His companion didn't stir, but Morro could see the man faintly breathing. The co-pilot's head was halfway through the window. His neck broken in the crash. 

 

With his great height, Morro didn't bother with the truck's step as he punched a hand through the door's window. Metal snarled as Morro singlehandedly ripped the door off and casually threw it over his shoulder. The driver stirred enough to see the Primarch loomed next to him. Before he could cry out, Morro smashed his skull. The driver's companion didn't stir. He only jerked once when Morro reached over and snapped his neck with a finger. 

 

His work finished, Morro languidly walked toward the trailer's rear entrance. Several voices rattled around within the closed container. On a whim, Morro slammed his fist against the container. Careful to not punch through the metal, the Primarch's fist left a sizable crater. He smiled as he heard screams erupt from inside. Bright blue lasers shot out from within. To Morro's amusement, they pierced above even his incredible height. Perhaps they thought they faced against some titanic monster? Or maybe fear had pulled their aim high. It could be the crash had crippled their aim.

 

Continuing his stride, Morro slammed his fist, lower on the container this time. More screams. More reactionary fire. None of which threatened the Primarch as he neared the container's entrance. His ears noted the screams were diverse. Women and men hid within the hold. 

 

With a final punch, Morro neatly dodged the return las fire as he passed the corner and stood before the container's entry. He glanced at the holes left in the container's size, guaging how much charge was left in the lasrifles. A full charge would have been reduced by half. The odds there was enough firepower within to threaten the Primarch was close to zero. 

 

Morro reached out with both hands before ripping away the container's doors. 

 

He counted a dozen or so individuals cowering at the far side of the container. Four men, seven women, and two children. The men wore the rebels' uniforms, while the women and children appeared to be civilians. The rank smell of fecal matter and urine filled the air as Morro took the first step into the container, hunching over to fit his bulk. The rebels froze, their lasguns silent. In fact, all of the screaming had stopped the moment the mortals had laid eyes upon him. Morro drew his shotel...

 

~~~

 

Shoalmaster Tanna saluted as his Primarch approached. Tanna stood in the middle of an abandoned quarry with a new tunnel behind him. In the mouth of the tunnel was a hades breaching drill on standby, fresh rubble rolling off of it. The Lord of the Sixteenth held one of his blades aloft as he cleaned it with a piece of cloth that suspiciously looked like a bloodied and torn woman's dress. "My lord, we await your orders."

 

Without looking at Tanna, Morro demanded, "What is the status of the Acheron road?"

 

"Milord, due to a deposit of osmium, the diggers are running several hours behind schedule, but we will break beneath the capital city on the scheduled day."

 

"Unacceptable," Morro declared as he threw away the cloth. "I have sworn Tarth will not enjoy another hour beyond the appointed time and no rock will prove me a liar. Take me to the dig point. Correction must be implemented."


Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost

 
The Second Son: Narrative of the BOTL Vth Legion Primarch

 

Brotherhood of the Lost has arrived on Patreon

 

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#138
bluntblade

bluntblade

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Growing Pains

Legions: The Halcyon Wardens

Year: 832. M30

 

Martian Low Orbit

 

“She's a vision, fleetmaster.” Alexandros left the hololith, where his new flagship turned silently, and returned to his seat. “You've been busy.”

Antipaton, seated opposite him, inclined his head in thanks. For the last three months, while other officers planned a new structure for the Halcyon Wardens, he had been shuttling between the shipyards of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. His task was to ensure that the V Legion fleet would fit Alexandros’ requirements, dictating design preferences, assessing the command crews assigned to them and requisitioning craft to fill the great ships. Just as the reforms had years before they would be implemented, these efforts would not bear fruit for years to come. But Alexandros was willing to wait and toil.

“Your specifications for the Elpis were actually the easy part, Lord. The delicate issue wasn't even a warship, but the design for the Dartwing.” The Dartwing was the interceptor designed on Delos for Alexandros' fleet, and he hadn't found a single craft of Imperial design which could quite replace it.

Alexandros looked at him quizzically. “How so?” 

“If I may draw a comparison, do you recall when Ravja spurned the Governor of Kynsha’s offer of his daughter's hand in marriage?”

“Yes. Your point?”

“Indulge me, please. The Governor’s daughter was, well you remember. Fairest young lady on the continent, a figure you normally see in marble. But Ravja had his sweetheart -”

“Who I recall being quite delightful in her own right,” Pyrrhicles said. Finally released from the chambers on Luna, Pyrrhicles was yet to settle into his newly enhanced form. For all that his enhancements were something of a compromise against the full Ascension that his younger fellows had undergone, they had taken rather longer. After all, there was no ready template for what the Selenar had done to him.

Antipaton nodded. “Delightful, but skinny as a twig and all limbs. Ravja adored her, but her charm was rather lost on the Governor. She, Lord, is the Dartwing in this analogy, and the classically beautiful daughter is the Lightning. Hence the Mechanicum have been, ever so politely but still quietly clearly, appalled.”

Alexandros smiled. “Well they might, but we can't compromise on everything. The Dartwing best suits our doctrines and the future doctrines of our Legion. So while we’ll take Wraths and Lightnings, it will be at the heart of our squadrons.”

Antipaton flashed him a conspiratorial grin. “Would that we could take that line with the Legion itself already.”

“That would never do.” Pyrrhicles shook his head. “Changing the ethos has already proven sensitive. If we try and disassemble their structure now, when we number a mere few thousand and are still unproven… we invite much greater resistance.”

“I'd rather welcome it,” murmured Antipaton. “Our erstwhile brothers could use some humility - the arrogance and belligerence boils off them like steam off dung.”

“And that,” Alexandros growled, leaning forward, “is why we don't yet have Delian-led Chapters.”

It wasn’t easy to say that. He was proud of the warriors he had already brought into the Legion. They had followed him through the unification of Delos, and then defended it against the xenos interlopers, without any of the genetic or technological advantages a Space Marine possessed. Hell, with resources that most Imperial Army regiments surpassed with ease.

“Lord Anasem -”

“- had a functioning interstellar empire when my Father found him, and a more welcoming Legion. Delos, Primarch or not, was the polity which found itself facing the Bucephalus with ‘battleships’ no bigger than a cruiser.”

Antipaton’s eyes dropped. Alexandros relaxed back into his seat, spreading his hands in a conciliatory gesture. 

“Sorry, Antipaton. It’s a sore point for me as well. But we need to win their respect, fighting the same battles as them. Can't afford to go against them before too. So we're playing this carefully. I have you and your company here, and others taking over the training on Terra.”

That had been too good an opportunity to pass up. By recalling the entirety of the old V for his first campaign, Alexandros had created a vacuum in their training facilities. Delian personnel, both Astartes and mortals, would fill it and start moulding new generations of Legionaries.

It also spared the pride of Antipaton and his fellow veterans of Delian high command. Overseeing matters on Terra, they would not have to chafe under the command of Storm Riders before the next cadre of recruits gave them their own commands.

Antipaton took another sip, his lips quirking in the slightly sorrowful way that came often to Alexandros’ compatriots in situations like this. It was never seen in Space Marines who had undergone Ascension as youths, but for those who had grown old enough to know what it was to seek comfort in drink and women, it was subtle but unmistakable. 

“You are making infiltrators of us, sir.”

“Guilty as charged, my friend,” Alexandros laughed. “But look at it this way. The Legion needs to change, however,” he stood and walked to the window, “we have a duty to its future form. When all the Fifth wear the purple and march under the three rings, and aren’t even recognisable as the army which first bore that numeral, I don’t want them to have dragged there.”

“Is this an idealistic desire?”

“Don’t put me on too high a pedestal, my friend. There’s pragmatism here, and a long view. I want people to look back and see our Legion evolve, not see it dislocated by my hand. What’s the fundamental principle of evolution, Antipaton?”

“Survival of the fittest. Ah,” a grin spread across Antipaton’s face. “I think I see it.”

Alexandros returned the smile. “Let’s hear you, then.”

Antipaton stood up and joined him at the window. “We prove the worth of our ideals over time, as Terrans and Delians alike come up through the ranks prizing them. The change is smooth, or mostly smooth, and with enough distance it will look inevitable. A tide, not a flood.” He nodded. “I see it, sir, and I will be patient.”

Alexandros clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Good man. Now come, let’s see what auxiliaries Kaleides has managed to rustle up for our first foray.”


Edited by bluntblade, 10 September 2019 - 08:42 PM.

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#139
simison

simison

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Dare

Author: helterskelter
Legion: The Drowned
Time: Late 900s.M30

Characters: N/A

 

 

A curious thing, a dare in the mind of a child. It can inspire acts of unusual bravery or, more commonly, stupidity. Whichever is open to the interpretation of the observer. An adult would see the latter; the more youthful, the former. In this instance, the youthful ruled. The older boys had told them the tale of the swampland. About how every generation, any boys who have not yet trodden the road to manhood are claimed by the things that rise from those dank, dark waters.

 

And here lay the dare. Spend a night in the swamps, and none would ever poke fun at them again. With apprehension, the group of boys set out with their lumen globes and sleeping bags, the sun still peaking ever so slightly above the weeping trees, bathing the sky the colour of a deep bruise in its final rays. They picked their way over the gnarled roots along the drier rises between the trees; a misstep in either direction would see them fall into the blackening waters, which would leave them sodden and stinking. It would also risk disturbing the local creatures, which had not yet risen from their daytime slumber to seek an opportune breakfast from a floundering child.

 

The boys found themselves a nice patch of mossed earth large enough to accommodate this small merry band. Five in all, between 10 and 12 summers each, they played and talked as boys do 'til the last of the natural light fell, and the night rose. The boys made to cease their games, but then there were only four. In a panic they took their globes and set out to find their lost friend calling his name, their shrill voices dying in the breeze as it whipped through the dangling limbs of the weeping trees. A shriek and a splash, they ran back to each other, only three now, fear making its way into their hearts.

 

They dare not split again for fear of losing another.

 

Cautiously, they crept deeper into the swamp, less hard earth to be found. The brackish fluid started creeping around their ankles, cold, uncaring. Onward they went stepping over twisted roots, stepping over a twisted arm. Bringing their globes together, they saw their friend for the last time, pale and lifeless, a bloodied ring upon his neck, like suckers from the tentacled creatures of the seas they learnt of in the school house. They fled toward home. They fled as best they could. Roots tripped them, branches ensnared them, the earth slipped beneath them.

 

Another splash, only two now, eyes watering from the terror coursing through them. The harsh breeze stung their eyes.

 

A dull thud, another boy fell, but the last did not turn to stop. 

 

Then a crack as his nose split.

 

Blood pouring down his face, white light spiking his vision he felt a biting on his neck. His vision cleared to see two dead white lights staring down at him. He raised his globe that he desperately clung to, a shimmer of sea green edged in rose copper.

 

An affirmative ping.

 

The boy yelped as he was dragged back into the swamp, the black and brackish water enveloping him. He saw his friends for the last time, being carried away into the depths of the night by the same monsters that held him.

 

The Drowned had claimed their tithe.


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#140
simison

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Between the Rock and the Void

Author: simison
Legion: Halcyon Wardens
Time: 031.M31

Characters: Harikapa Singh, Dhana

 

 

When the door to the strategium opened once more, Singh snarled, "What now!?"

 

The mortal, one of the communication officers of the Mrtyu ka Chandrama, froze in his tracks. Brigadier Harikapa Singh scowled as he rose to his full height. He towered above mortals and Astartes. He hated it. His towering physique was difficult to fit into his beloved armoured units. 

 

In the pause, Singh took a deep breath, his hairy face relaxing. He reached up and scratched through his full, dark beard, an old human habit that refused to disappear with the centuries. It was also useful for connecting with humans as his Primarch had pointed out several decades prior. Calmer, he ordered, "Speak?" But couldn't quite stop himself from adding, "What new disaster do you bring me?"

 

The officer walked over to the hololith table and held out a dataslate. "We have a confirmed report. The 683th Expeditionary Fleet have aligned with the Traitors and are invading the Claudius system."

 

Singh stopped stroking his beard as his hand formed into a shaking fist. His furious brown eyes flashed to the hologram of Segmentum Atlanticus. Already, it was riddled with red zones marking new combat fronts, black markers for the new Traitors, and gold markers for the Loyalists. Before his eyes, the 683th flipped from gold to black. "Damn Serpents," he hissed to himself. 

 

Dhana, Singh's foremost Mukhiyā and his right hand, grimaced at the display. Possessing of dark brown skin and four heads shorter, Dhana boasted his diminutive size allowed him to pilot any war vehicle of the Imperium. It was a boast Singh was jealous of, but he could not deny Dhana's experience had translated well into a tactical genius. "That's now six warzones demanding our attention." 

 

Singh swallowed an angry retort. Given how young Atlanticus was, was it at all surprising to see so many systems exploiting the situation? All across the segmentum, rebellions, independent movements, and separatists exploded as they saw the monolithic strength of the Imperium fracture before their eyes. And that was before factoring in the Madrigalan Traitors. In the last hour alone, Singh had received desperate calls for reinforcements in three systems. The sole sense of satisfaction Sing could derive from the situation was seeing the systems brought into Compliance directly by the Halcyon Wardens were upholding their oaths better than the others. 
 

"We could split the brigade," Dhana continued. "Four of the warzones involve local rebels, unlikely to possess the necessary weapons to threaten us." 

 

"We don't have the munitions," Singh answered with a sour face. He threw a frustrated gaze at the Varanasi system. The 14th Brigade had not completed Compliance operations with the last of the enemy hiding somewhere on Varanasi Prime's mountainous regions. Singh had been preparing for a final blow for the lengthy campaign when the Day of Revelation struck. The fact that the 14th would have to abandon Varanasi with victory so close had poisoned his mood before the calls for help started flowing in. "Until we're resupplied, we're limited strategically."

 

Dhana typed a few keys, and several systems glowed green against the blue. "These three have stockpiles and caches we could use as we quell the uprisings." Singh studied them. The names, Oshia, Zaham, and Ramitha, highlighted. "Zaham is closest. We can be there in as little as three days."

 

"And be right next to the 683rd. If the Serpents choose to abandon Claudius, they could catch us before we can resupply."

 

"They'd never challenge us to open battle," Dhana protested.

 

"As if they'd ever try. They'll strike from afar with poison and wait until we're seven different colors before pilfering our war machines. Even if the 683rd neglects us, our reports from the other neighboring system, Vallykastle, stated the secessionists there have already taken the governor's palace. If they successfully seize the fleet and look to expand, Zaham would be their natural choice." Singh shook his head. "There are simply too many threats. We need to get further from the galactic edge."

 

"Then Ramitha?" Dhana suggested as the system highlighted. "It'll take three weeks of travel, but the neighboring systems remain uncontested."

 

Singh considered the system. "The route may be dangerous, and I do not care to be seen running by so many foes. Yet, it is viable."

 

"It would also provide us a firm foundation to launch a campaign back toward the edge of Atlanticus."

 

Before Singh made a final decision, he eyed the last system. "What of Oshia?" 

 

The digital projection dutifully enlarged it as it shrunk Ramitha from view. Unlike Ramitha, which hovered near the Segmentum border, Oshia existed two-thirds of the way between Ramitha and Zaham. It was also colored in stripes; it was in the middle of a civil war. Dhana repeated as much.

 

"Status of the war?"

 

"Stalemate," Dhana stated. "The rebels have the advantage of numbers, but there was a full company of Fire Keepers garrisoned on the planet. The report we have suggests even a few marines might be enough to break the deadlock."

 

A slow smile spread out on Singh's face. "We may not be able to wage an entire campaign alone, but we can fight one or two battles without fear of supplies." Singh turned as he headed for the door, Dhana falling in step with him. "Oshia will be-"

 

The door opened, and another messenger ran in. Singh halted as he glared at the new arrival. "My lord!" The messenger said as he saluted with the aquila. "We have another call for aid. This one from Legate Chukhay."

 

Dhana could see some of Singh's anger slide out of him as it was replaced by deep concern. "Where?"

 

"The Macragge System, my lord."


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#141
simison

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The Shemanseir [The "Mournful Scattering"]

Author: simison

Faction: Munetari
Time: 051.M31

Characters: N/A

 

Cresistauead [human], know this. I give you this shiasta [history], not because I am fond of you, but because you are unworthy of hatred. I tell you of this shiasta so you do not kill the Aeldari with your ignorance. I tell you of our shiasta so that you may become our weapon against those are worthy of hatred. 

 

I have heard that some of you believe that your leader swept away the Warp storms that had doomed your race in the time before. Such fools. It was no blessing that cast away the storms, that had hardly touched us, but the creation of a terrible being who will be nothing more than a plague upon your lesser species and mine: Murekhalir. An entity of terrifying might and hunger. You now know of its terrible apetite and its ways through your betrayed warriors known as the Drowned. It is our greatest enemy and our greatest shame. For it is our creation. 

 

I have heard of some of your scholars speak about some long-lost age of technological sophistication. Truly, I cannot understand how your species can reach such a height and lose so much of it. Even after the Shemanseir, we Aeldari have not lost any of the wisdom and progress we have accumulated, but I digress. Imagine, if you can with your limits, that we resided in your so-called lost age of wonder. Now, imagine the age was greater still for each member of your species was capable of bending the very essence of life into beauty and art. Oh, if you could only see the exquisite treats of the Aktoshan jewel-rivers or the bliss-mists of Lanova. 

 

That. That was torn from us by our own hubris. At our zenith, we gorged ourselves on pleasure and then demanded more. While no Aeldari is truly without grace, the displays we conjured were more befitting of the bestial Orks and their single-minded obssession and were more grotesque than the abominable creations of the Fomoire. Some of us recognized the danger approaching from the horizon. The Craftworlds were one such response, fleeing in safe isolation where the rot would not spread. The Exodites, another. And with each one you have destroyed in your brutish conquest represents a loss beyond value. 

 

I reiterate, you and your ignorant ways are unworthy of hatred. 

 

Yet, what little preparations we did take did nothing to truly prepare us for the horror that we gave birth to: She-who-Thirsts. In a single cataclysmic event, our empire's heart was torn from within. Our gods slain, except for the Laughing God who escaped into the Webway. Trillions and trillions of Aeldari lives lost to that hungering maw. 

 

And there are some among your species who dare to believe your current civil war is even worthy to consider as comparable? As if we needed more evidence of your specie's short-sightedness. But I digress.

 

I will not deny the Aeldari have bled, but we are not dead. We survive. And we have our own hunger for vengeance. 

 

I confess, our retaliation has been...less than impressive. Gods may be slain, but it is not easy to do so. There was also a time, a short time mind you, of confusion. During those disorienting years right after the Shemanseir, we had to adapt and find our place. Our empire provided every need and desire. You cannot imagine how much time had passed since we had to make war upon another. The only foe remaining to us after our many victories were the brutal Orks. Long had they had been brought to heel that their vestiges of strength were hunted for sport. We needed to find our war-spirit once again.

 

The gods answered us. Two, specifically. Asuryan, elder of all of the gods, would not yield to She-who-Thirsts so easily. Although unable to save himself, he chose Asurmen as his Hand to rally the Aeldari in these dark times. Beside him, Khaine, our war god and younger brother of Asuryan, came to our aid. Although shattered by She-who-Thirsts, death has not yet conquered him. 

 

One by one, Asurmen brought the power of the two brothers to the Craftworlds. Even as he was bringing their final gifts to our race, Asurmen chose disciples to follow him. Newly-wrought lords of war, the Aeldari are growing in strength once again. We are shaking off our turmoil, harnessing our grief. While your kind blundered amongst the stars, we were adapting, learning the techniques of death that once brought us complete mastery of the galaxy. It is only a matter of time before we finish our transformation as unrelenting avengers. 

 

Perhaps you may wonder why we even would bother with your kind. There are, of course, loud voices among the Aeldari that the only way you can benefit the galaxy is through death. After all, you are more akin to jackals, picking at the remains of greatness, all too-eager to take advantage of our loss. 

 

Yet, in the end, you and your kind are unworthy of hatred.

 

Why waste what value you do possess? I doubt your kind will ever be a proper match for us. Yet, a crude weapon is still a weapon. And gods do not die easy. 

 

So, we will ally ourselves to your Warmaster. We will strike against the minions of the Primordial Annihilator. And you will serve us as yet one more weapon in our most sacred of wars. 


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#142
bluntblade

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On the Field of Memorial
 

Zbruch, 03. M31

 

Sunset stained the Titan’s scarred armour and the snow which lay upon it. Gazing at it, Igor Vronskei was always reminded of how the Hand of Justice had looked on the day it died, lit by fire within and without. Let it never be said that the wounds caused by the Vremalkyr Incursions were not felt still.

Hand of Justice stood over the Field of Memorial both as monument and another occupant of the graveyard, dominating all around it. Statues and smaller monuments - stone carvings of the VIIIth Legion’s icon, each bearing a Godslayer’s name - spanned the snowy ground as far as Vronskei could see. It was always quiet here, even with the Falspire looming over the horizon.

The VIIIth Legion would parade and drill on the fortress-monastery's grounds, and gunships would rumble down from the void, and yet the noise never seemed to sully the hush which lay over the Field of Memorial. Vronskei fancied that somehow it was fortified against the bombast of war. Lord Kharkovic had likely thought of such things when he ordered the construction. So it should be.

Many a friend of Vronskei’s had his name carved on a stone sword in this place. It had stood before he was even born - though of course back then, the only graves had belonged to mortals. Vronskei had been among the first cadre of Zbruchan Godslayers, and watched the first stone swords join the old graves as comrades perished; first in the attempt at Ascension, and then the first wars under Koschei’s banner. Whenever he returned home to Zbruch, he would come here, and contemplate the price of victory and lost brothers. But that was not why he had come here now.

He followed the prints to the very feet of the Titan, and found a warrior tracing the letters of the names upon its plates, which gleamed especially bright in the dying sunlight. The warrior wore synth-fabric garments, quite different to the traditional garb of an VIIIth Legion warrior, and turned as Vronskei approached.

“Velitel.” He bowed his head, dropping his hood to reveal the tanned features of a Scion Hospitalier, under a long tangle of dark hair. A young warrior, and Vronskei wonder what had brought him here. “I trust I haven't trespassed here?”

He hadn't, but some territorial instinct kept drawing Vronskei’s fingers toward the kinjal dagger at his hip. He resisted it, and swept back his own hood. “No, but it strikes me as a curious thing that an outsider would come here. Even a cousin.”

Occasionally outsiders strayed out of mere curiosity, and such sightseeing sat poorly with Vronskei. This young Scion knew him by sight, though. He supposed that was a promising sign.

The Scion nodded. “I actually came here at the urging of Captain Glaucus.”

“Ah, so you're Diomes? I rather thought Glaucus would introduce us, and for that, matter, that he’d keep his pupil closer,” Vronskei said, stroking his beard and finally breaking into a smile. He had expected something more like Glaucus himself - though thinking of Odyssalas and Antonidas, it seemed to him that the student rarely mirrored the teacher in that Legion.

Diomes shrugged. “I'd have said the same of your Primarch and his praetor, during council. Glaucus is more than a little busy.”

Vronskei laughed. “Lord Kharkovic values my mettle in war. For politics, there are others who can better advise him. So he’ll let me roam the grounds and brawl in the sparring chambers, until we break for the void again and he calls me to war.”

“I didn’t want to presume,” Diomes replied. “For my part, and to paraphrase, Glaucus thought that a visit to this place would be more valuable than sitting in on another meeting of generals. I think, after all the pageantry of Qarith Prime and Terra, he felt it would make a good counterpoint.” His eyes returned to the Titan. “And given all I'd heard about the Vremalkyr Incursions, I was easily persuaded. You fought in the Relief of Ghidor, no?”

Vronskei snorted. “If you really are Glaucus’ pupil, you'll know the whole story.” He and his companies had been first to the side of the XIXth on that world. Hell, he'd fought for a full night beside Glaucus after that.

He could still summon up the memory as though it was yesterday; the battle which stretched to the horizon and lit the skies beyond. The psyker-slaved horde battering on his shield wall, the ankle-deep blood in which they waded and fought. And the bludgeoning psychic presence of the Vremalkyr themselves, against which even the suppressant powers of the Godslayers had little effect. The quintet of xenos god-things which had burned and dragged down the Hand of Justice before Koschei, Icarion and the Emperor Himself struck them down in turn. And all of that, just his first battle of the campaign.

Diomes smiled ruefully. “Well enough. Forgive my impertinence.” For a little while, they were both silent before Diomes spoke again. “I see why my mentor suggested this. It's quite something to see the names, even aside from everything else here.”

“That's why we have the Field of Memorial. Glaucus is right, it makes for a perfect lesson in humility.” Vronskei laid his gloved hand upon the Titan’s leg, over the names of three brothers from his company who had died on Ghidor. “The cost of victory should always be remembered along with our accomplishments. That statue over there -” he pointed to the carving of a ragged man brandishing a chainsword “- commemorates the mortal soldiers who made our ruse against the Velocitarii possible, and died for its success. In the Old Corner, by the gate, the graves all belong to the soldiers who followed Lord Kharkovic to free this world.”

“All equal in the heroism of their end,” Diomes murmured, gesturing upwards to the dead Titan’s banner. Koschei had designed it himself, though he left the painting to more artistic hands.

“Indeed. Whether the lives lost are Astartes or mortals, we must always weigh our gains against the cost.”

“And if you find that the cost of your duty exceeds the good it does?”

That sounded more like a Scion. They could never quite resist prodding. Vronskei looked away, towards the Falspire. Above it, the first stars had appeared in the darkening sky. “We would never permit that to be the case, be that cost material or at the expense of our ideals.”

Diomes nodded. “Words to live by.”

-----

Decades later, Diomes gazed up at that same Titan, watching the firelight play across its flanks and ash settle on its hunched shoulders. Smoke fumed off the distant Falspire as he stooped and lifted a handful of snow and ash, watching it run through his fingers.

“Galen!” The shout echoed from the ranks of stone sigils. It was the only loud noise in the place. Despite the cacophony Diomes had endured elsewhere, the sound of battle felt distant here.

He turned to see another captain of the Scions advancing on him, still helmed and with his sword in his hand. Knowing Coeretas as he did, Diomes was surprised that the blade wasn't lit.

“We still have hostiles on this world,” Coeretas snapped. “But I find you wasting time here, and your squads loitering outside. Why?”

“Mourning, brother. We should spare a minute or two for that.”

Coeretas angrily inhaled and exhaled through his nose. The effect, through his vox-grille, was of a saw dragged over wood. “And what do you find in the traitors’ territory that's worth mourning?”

“Everything, Coeretas.” Diomes let the snow and ash fall from his hand. He set his helmet back over his head, shutting out the cold. “Everything.”


Edited by bluntblade, 10 October 2019 - 10:23 PM.

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#143
Beren

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To Conquer the Depths.

 

Legion: The Drowned

 

Date:Pre-Insurrection

 

Edited by Raktra.

 

 

As a legion, we pride ourselves as masters of the abyss. We claim that we are the equal of any of its predators, and that we are ones with the depths.

 

It is, or was, a lie. Just as much a lie as the hundreds our brother Legions cling too. Unlike our brother Legions, we do not use our lie as a shield to hide behind. We strive to make it reality. As this great war of conquest continues we reshape ourselves so that we may truly claim the depths. Each year brings us closer.

 

Yet there is a lie beneath a lie. Perhaps the biggest lie of all. There is a far greater ocean than the ones we claim dominion over. An ocean filled with a thousandfold more predators a thousandfold more lethal in a thousandfold more ways. Every day a million mariners plunge into the depths, ignorant even in their dread of the waters in which they sail and the beasts that call it home.

 

We will claim these oceans too. We do not make petty boasts, nor do we make empty oaths. We state our intentions, then we fulfill them. We will reshape ourselves until we are the depths made manifest. 

 

When we walk on dry soil, we shall bring the abyss with us.

 

Vox Logs of Apothecary Bloodtwister Korryn, XI Legion

 

The screaming would have been deafening if not for the auto-bafflers in Apothecary Korryn Bloodtwister Korryn’s helm. Screams of pain were familiar to him, something he heard on a regular basis. Screams of sheer undiluted terror, those he heard less often. Especially from a fellow member of the Drowned Men.

 

The subject was half-on and half-off the operating table. His skin was discoloured, veins showing black, eyes filmed over. None of this was a concern to Korryn - after all, the other subject was currently helping him in restraining the thrashing Astartes and displayed the exact same abnormalities. What was a concern, however, was the subject writhing against the Apothecary’s grip. It was a concern that it took both of the upright astartes, even with Bloodtwister’s power armour, to hold the screaming subject it place. It was a concern that the tranquiliser, powerful enough that a single drop would kill a mortal, hadn’t even seemed to have any effect at all. Frankly, that he was screaming at all was a concern.

 

The body of the biologis tech-priest that had been assisting him, currently a mangled heap of metal and flesh leaking blood and oil all over the floor, was something of an irritation.

 

The other subject was nearly thrown clear as Korryn released a hand, jabbing his Narthecium into the screamer's throat. It would be another three minutes before, frothing at the mouth, the raging Astartes fell cold and silent.

 

Bloodtwister only waited a second before crouching to examine the Genetor’s remains. The techpriest’s needle device was miraculously unharmed. More importantly, the other of the two samples was still contained within its housing, a viscous red liquid that seemed to glimmer inside its vial.

 

“What abyss did you dredge that filth from?”

 

Bloodtwister turned his helm towards the surviving subject, even unarmoured towering over the Apothecary. 

 

“That is not your concern. “

 

Shoalreaper, the other Legionary, would have preferred that his fellow be wearing a Mk II helm. He liked to see his brother’s eyes. Eyes carried the truth unuttered by the tongue, but the only eyes he could see were the clustered inky black lenses that burst from the Mark IV helmet. Eyes that gave knowledge only to their bearer.

 

“I have summoned a mortuary-servitor to attend to the storage of the bodies. You will return to your station.”

 

Shoalreaper Merryk grunted in assent before returning to the barren slab that had been his bed for the past few weeks. There were restraints, but they were inactive. A perk of being a volunteer, though in truth he hadn’t met a brine-eater that wasn’t. He wondered what happened to the ones that weren’t…

 

Carefully he eased himself onto the slab, wincing as the marrow implants in his left leg throbbed again. Four days he’d had them, and as far as he knew their sole purpose was to make his life miserable.

 

His eyelids slid shut, blocking out harsh light made harsher still by his tampered eyes. Bitter gifts all, but they were a Legion for bitter gifts. You did not find kindness in the depths.

 

Yet it was the depths his mind drifted to, drawn by a current he did not wish to fight. The solace of the dark and the cold and the silence. No light here to shine upon them, to illuminate their flaws for others to see even as it blinded the critics to their own. No heat to warm them, to fill them with false pride and fickle hopes. Here one’s flaws were revealed only to oneself, and revealed most often in death. Here the business of murder could be conducted as it should. Cold brutality, with the illusions stripped away.

 

As usual within Merryk’s mind, this ‘comfort’ did not last long. Suddenly the armour around him just vanished. For the briefest moment there was joy at feeling the cold embrace of the ocean. Then came the pain. The cold would claw at his skull. The pressure would squeeze tight around him as if a great hand had reached out to grasp him and crush the life out of his frail body. He would be blind, but still be able to feel the burning absence of oxygen as the sea reached into him to pulp his lungs. The last thing he always heard through the pain and agony was the ocean screaming into his mind. Unworthy. Intruder.

 

His eyes flicked open. He sat up, certain that something was subtly off, though he couldn’t be sure what. Both bodies lay where they had fallen, unchanged. The lightning was no different. The air tasted the same. The Apothecary was still typing at his terminal and Shoalreaper just about managed to glimpse a snatch of text over Korryn’s shoulder.

 

...pposed to result in an increasing sensitivity to aetheric phenomena. Next subject will be exposed to a lower concen....

 

The screen faded to black as Bloodtwister turned to face Merryk.

 

“The mortuary-servitor is overdue.”

 

Merryk reached back into his memories, drawing upon the occasions where other unfortunates had their cadavers dragged out from these chambers. Every time the servitor had taken exactly seven minutes and forty six seconds to arrive after being requested. 

 

Seven minutes and fifty seconds had passed since request when Merryk had awoken.

 

---

 

Three minutes and twenty eight seconds. That was the length of time between Bloodtwister’s departure, instructing Shoalreaper to remain as he did so, and Merryk hearing the shots.

 

They were faint and muffled by the bulkhead. Three in close succession, lacking the explosive rattle that would have meant they’d struck armour or one of the bulkheads. Every muscle in the Astartes’ body tensed up at the sound, waiting. 

 

The silence that followed had him scrambling for a weapon. The lack of combat sirens in particular. It meant that either this was an isolated incident or an assault had occurred with an admirable swiftness and brutality. The latter would mean he was as good as drifting in the sea-between already. In the case of the former, he didn’t have any access to the vox.

 

Either way the tide flowed, he was a Legionary of the XVIth. One that had already martyred himself to the Legion when he chose the path of a brine-eater. A sliver of sharpened metal, an incision instrument of some kind, still slick with the blood of its Tech-Priest wielder, was the best he could manage.

 

The blood, combined with some other liquid that marred the crimson with tendrils of black, dripped out of a closed fist as he used his other hand to drag the larger of the two corpses to the door and prop it up against the closed portal. Shoalreaper permitted himself one last glance into its bloodshot eyes. They were still wide open, the pupils dilated and staring. Knifegrinder Gallor had died with his head thrown back and teeth bared, every muscle seized up. Pain and rage Merryk had seen before, but this wasn’t quite the same. There was something there he couldn’t quite recognise, something that he’d never seen before on the face of an Astartes.

 

Most brine-eaters died poorly. Better to die a poor death seeking strength than a ‘good’ death, succumbing to weakness in what was supposed to be one’s own domain. This was no different.

 

With a twitch of his hands Merryk activated the entryway access rune. The corpse toppled through, hitting the deck with hardly a sound. Shoalreaper remained utterly still. He counted, his own blood now mingling with that of the Genetor’s where he clutched his crude weapon in his fist. Nothing had suddenly eviscerated the body the second it was silhouetted against the chamber’s light. Nothing stormed through the entrance upon seeing the door rasp open.

 

Gradually he backed away, inching towards the other cadaver. Gripping a handful of its robes, he yanked. The flesh-metal thing was flung haphazardly through the entrance, mechandrites slapping against the frame. It collided with the far wall with a far louder sound than its predecessor. A mix of clattering metal and squelching flesh echoed both on first impact and then when it hit the floor. Between its rent form, the angle at which it now rested and the eclectic bionics, it now appeared to be more a huddle of bloody scraps and discarded junk than a former human. 

 

Still he waited.

 

When he did move, it was with the expectation that something would kill him at any moment. That a xenos would barrel town the corridor to tear him apart, or a well placed shot would simply remove his cranium.

 

It was empty.

 

---

 

It had used the servitor as bait.

 

The construct had been decapitated. The damage was not clean, but it was focused. Its head had been ripped free of its body, then its eyes gouged out. When Merryk lifted the head, a viscous slurry of brain matter and oil leaked from both eye sockets. That, however, was the extent of the damage.

 

Apothecary Bloodtwister Korryn was another matter. Merryk had encountered his bolt pistol and helmet first, as if they had been flung away from the scene with prodigious strength. The lenses kept staring, even though the eyes behind them were absent. He took the pistol and left the helm.

 

When he did reach the body, it was on its back and beside the servitor. Like the servitor, Korryn’s eyes had been gouged out. Unlike the servitor, so had everything else. His tongue was missing. His ears were nought but bloody apertures leaking viscera onto the ground. Each finger was a stump, power armoured digits simply shorn off. The feet and the armour that had encased them were missing altogether.

 

All of which had presumably been before the Bloodtwister’s chestplate had been torn open and his interior redistributed across the surrounding surfaces. 

 

It took two blows from the bolt pistol to crack the Apothecary’s skull. Merryk wrenched reached inside, wrenching the remaining bone plates apart. His hands came away covered not just grey with dead brain cells, but coated in strands of something violet. He could feel them burning, and dismissed his prior plan.

 

A shame. Seeing the killer through Korryn’s eyes would have been useful.

 

---

 

In recent years some sections of the Apothercarions had been avoided by habit. They were the domain of the surgeon and the chemist and whatever research they or the Copper Prince deemed worthy  to pursue. They were also the deadwaters of the brine-eaters, those who had volunteered to be the subjects of such experiments and a few that had not.

 

Out of the ways he could have chosen to take, he picked the one he didn’t know. Perhaps it was the bitter spectre of a long strangled curiosity that still nestled itself within Merryk’s mind. Perhaps it was a choice of duty, an assumption that the deeper rooms would hold the most important facilities and those worth giving his life to protect. The action made intent an irrelevance.

 

Soon it was clear that he was likely heading away from his supervisor’s slayer. He passed through two airlocks and five sealed doors. Each one bulged outwards, towards him, torn through rather than neatly cut or haphazardly melted. The gaping holes were far larger than necessary to allow his unarmoured frame through, and in each case he saw that the edges were still sharp. 

 

There were more bodies, too. A cadre of eight Agrimensor tech-thralls had been disassembled, birdlike helm-skulls arranged in a circle and facing outwards.  Six legionaries had been mauled and mangled in signs of a savage struggle. Shoalreaper spent minutes poring over armour fragments, hoping for the rudimentary markings that might indicate their unit. A futile endeavour. Two Apothecaries, both in similar states to Bloodtwister Korryn. The second had his own Narthecium jammed into what had once been his face, severed hand still attached. 

 

The only other things inside those laboratories he had came across was equipment he didn’t understand and terminals he couldn’t access.  Still, he swept each one with due diligence. Checked behind each station, in each corner and glanced at the ceilings.

 

Except for the last one. It was a dead end, guarded by two Tarantula turrets had been torn from their housings and discarded on the floor. Behind them was a single hatch, as thick as a void lock, than hung half open. It was surprisingly artful, and Merryk couldn’t but help wonder how much the individual who had carved the elaborate runework had paid for their waste of effort and time. 

 

Resting a hand on the hatch’s deformed edge, the legionary peered past it and into the room beyond. At first it seemed simply dark. Then he realised he couldn’t see the light that ought to be cast on the chamber’s floor. With a whisper of displaced air he flicked the bloody shiv in, intending to watch it fall. Instead it just stopped without sound, a sliver of dull crimson suspended in a void. Shoalreaper placed one foot forwards, then the other. The sensation of his soles against the deck vanished, even though they settled where it ought to be. The sound of even his breathing seemed dulled as the blackness reared up to swallow his sight.

 

Turning, he saw the entryway again. An inverted silhouette, its blocky outline was the only thing that gave definition to his surroundings. He could see that the reverse of the hatch was also black, and utterly featureless. Should it close on him, he would find himself in an abyss utterly devoid of sight or sound. 

 

Perhaps that was why he didn’t hear the measured strides sooner. At first he thought it was a mortal, then an Astartes in power armour. Then he saw it. Tartaros pattern terminator armour. The sea green paint was mostly gone, its frame distorted by great gouges across its front. Blood defied the coagelent that ought to have halted its flow as it trickled from a ragged hole in the suit’s thigh. At the same moment Shoalreaper Merryk saw it, it saw him. One hand, weighed down by its storm bolter, began to swing up and towards him. Merryk should have cried out, identified himself. He should have dragged the hatch closed, putting a barrier between himself and its firepower. Merryk shouldn’t have looked at what the terminator was dragging in its other hand.

 

The thing was humanoid, barely. It was around the same size as the terminator burdened with its corpse. That was where the similarities ended. Scales and flesh pushed through distended armour. An inky eye and retractable fang-studded jaw hung from a cratered face, the latter leaking a violet ooze. One arm was thick, its armour swollen and fingers fused together to form a trio of talons that approached claws in nature. The third was gone entirely, replaced by a mass of barbed tentacles that seemed to writhe even after its death. 

 

Had Merryk been an automata, a Magos Dominus would have described his condition as a logic contradiction. Despite its appearance, the thing seemed beautiful, in as much as that term could be used by a member of the Drowned. This was the pinnacle of what the brine-seekers and the Apothecarion sought, of what the Sorrosworn demanded of them. This was adaptation. He could feel that this thing was born and made of the deepest oceans, not merely pretending to rule there. 

 

As bolter shells hurtled towards his head, there was something else that plagued his thoughts. An unbidden memory from a battle decades prior. Releg Prius, an aquatic mining colony that had been dead for three years before the Sixteenth arrived to investigate. Within minutes of deployment they had been swarmed by divers, still bearing the weapons they had arrived with. Yet something had been wrong. They didn’t seem to die as easily as they should. Bolt shells ruptured the suits from within, yet they kept moving. Diving helms were shattered even as the arms wielded rivet guns. It was only when he had seen a fellow Legionary cut open a diving suit and drag out the flailing fleshy thing within that Shoalreaper had understood. The divers resisted death because they were long dead already. Something else had taken abode in their empty shells, using them as weapons. As the Drowned Men methodically retook the facility, the creatures began to abandon their shells. All that was left were the discarded husks that humans had once worn, and which the xenos abandoned. In the millisecond before his brain was obliterated in a hail of mass-reactive rounds, Merryk could have sworn that he was looking at a ruptured and empty Relegan diving suit.


Edited by Beren, 18 October 2019 - 10:15 PM.

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bluntblade

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In Transition

The Void Above Untara

Sitting in the Stormbird's hold, glaive across his knees, Odyssalas had had time to study Thirgen and his company. Their favour within the Legion was likely high, given the preponderance of power weapons over chainblades. Those typically bore the peculiar - but never ugly - look of Obsailan craftsmanship, marred by cuts and dents that were still waiting to be hammered out. Thirgen’s helm had an unsightly gouge running down the right cheek. It looked like it had cut deeper and been partially repaired. The sword at his hip, Odyssalas realised, was not Obsailan.

Thirgen caught the look. “The first cousin I slew for treachery cost me my sword. Went to take his head clean off, but my stroke was poorly aimed and though I hewed through the spine, it lodged in his gorget.” A disgusted expression tugged at his upper lip. “So I took his. Too good for a traitorous whoreson anyway,” he added, drawing the sword and resting it on his palms. It was a dao of the kind favoured by many Warriors of Peace, with a name inscribed in Jin calligraphy on the metal.

“Do you know what its name is?”

That earned him a scowl. “Do not mistake me for a barbarian, cousin. No Fire Keeper would wield a blade without knowing its soul. I went through the archives and dictionaries. It translates as Falcon.” He jerked a thumb at his jump-pack. “I’d say that fits me quite nicely.”

“I'll reserve judgement until I’ve seen you fight, but I apologise for the slight. My brother Glaucus always spoke highly of your Legion.” Odyssalas took a breath. He knew his next question would risk further angering the captain, but after weeks of isolation, he and his men were thoroughly sick of speculating. “Your superior, the one who spoke to me, he was a Sovereign. I don't claim to know much about your Legion, but I know “Sovereign” is a rank of Chaplain.” The eyes of every Fire Keeper fixed on him, but he carried on. “So where’s your Chief?”

“Dead. A damn Leviathan Dreadnought, pulped him with a siege claw.” Thirgen’s head drooped, and his voice had slipped into a hoarse growl. “No chance to save the corpse, his blade, the gene-seed, nothing. I lost two squads just bringing the Dreadnought down.” He shook his head and stood. Odyssalas rose as well, and they walked towards the cabin. “To forestall you, I’m the Tribe’s next master, pending the ceremony.” Thirgen snorted. “Solely because there's no one left who outranks me. See there?” He gestured to where a battle barge’s profile was growing in the gloom. “The Wrath of Aldimach and her escorts. Mine, with all of one thousand and two hundred warriors, and all the hollow space that should be filled with ten times that number.”

-----

Sovereign Shamgar Anath. Now there was a name Odyssalas knew. He'd been around too many Iron Bears not to and besides, Anath was notorious throughout the Eighteen Legions. An old, deadly warrior who’d come back from the brink of death a dozen times. For a long time, it had been said that he was less an example of the Emperor's genetic mastery than he was a walking piece of Obsailan and Huronic metalwork. Seeing and hearing him, Odyssalas had little reason to doubt that.

They were on the command bridge of the Wrath of Aldimach, an Infernus-class battleship that proudly bore the shattered-mountain sigil of Barinthus on its flanks, alongside the Legion’s flame. The place was more like a mountain-king's hall than the pristine spaces that defined a XIX Legion vessel. Natural fires sat here and there in place of carefully modulated lumens - those were present too, but the Fire Keepers appeared to shun them in preference of flame while the Scions favoured artificial light.

The braziers and candles were artfully wrought, however, with mirrored housings which caught, reflected and multiplied the glow. A legacy of Obsailes; a hard world whose people foraged sparingly.

It was in the materials too: burnished metal on dark granite. Above the command throne, where Anath sat, the mountain of Barinthus and the Legion’s flame had been carved into the rock, and the engraving filled with copper which glimmered in the firelight.

Odyssalas saw different sigils on the armour of warriors around him. Plainly, Anath had requisitioned assets from other Tribes, which spoke to the remarkable influence that Chaplains wielded among the X Legion - even as it hinted at how their numbers had suffered.

The Sovereign was important enough to possess his own bodyguard: six grim veterans in heavily modified Mk III armour trimmed with black, their right pauldrons carrying the skull of the Chaplain order. One of them barred Odyssalas’ path with a thunder hammer as he stepped away from his brothers, and held out a hand for his glaive. Odyssalas gave up the weapon, but his eyes barely left the figure of Anath on the command throne. The bodyguard bowed his head and the sextet retreated as Odyssalas walked on, leaving him alone on the dais with Anath.

The Sovereign's armour made unusual sounds. A mortal probably wouldn't register them, but Odyssalas could hear the differences, deeper and a fraction louder than normal, a sign that the servos weren't simply accompanying or aiding muscle movement. He heard it when Anath brought his hands together and steepled his fingers, then louder, with more of a grinding character as Anath rose from the dead Chief”s throne. All four limbs were metal then, if his ears told him correctly. There was something about his movements that, with his trained Apothecary’s eye, betrayed the Sovereign’s flesh-spare state. Odyssalas found himself scrutinising the contours of the armour for signs of yet more bionics.

Anath was undoubtedly examining him in return, taking in the way Odyssalas stood, where he looked. He made no effort to remove his helm - Odyssalas wondered if he even could. But even if he hadn't felt Anath's eyes on him, he knew that scrutinising was simply what Chaplains did.

The order's skull iconography usually moved Odyssalas to mild amusement; the Scions shirked them, as they did with most decorations, in the name of dynamism. But Obsailan craftsmanship gave it an unsettling geometry, flowing lines and hard angles that bordered on the alien. The effect was amplified by the way Anath loomed over him, only partly due to his raised throne. He was taller than Odyssalas, and his augmetics added bulk to his frame.

“Captain.” The skulled helm inclined in a show of respect, and although Anath’s voice betrayed augmetic vocal chords he invested the title with a rare degree of gravitas. “Your Legion always did understate the importance of its masters.” A pause, during which Odyssalas glanced back at Thirgen, watching from a distance. “You are, I trust, Second Captain Odyssalas, one of the Déka’s ten voices?”

Such fanciful wording, Odyssalas thought. Then again, even the Scions’ Chaplains tended towards grandiloquence, and in a Legion that prized them as much as the X, it was probably exacerbated. Out loud, he said “I am. My thanks for the rescue, Sovereign, from myself and my warriors” he added, inclining his head. “I will be still more grateful if you can tell us anything of our Legion.”

A female voice answered him, the first Terran accent he had heard since the betrayal. “Auguries have been unusually difficult to receive and interpret, lord, but we have received word of the fleet you accompanied and that of First Captain Antonidas.”

The Mistress of Astropaths was a younger woman than he had expected, her blinded eyes obscured by a translucent veil. Odyssalas turned, bowing his head. He noticed that Anath’s warriors barely looked at her, while the Sovereign didn't spare her so much as a glance. “What have you heard of my Primarch?” He felt sure on some level that he would have known if Pionus had fallen, but every rationalist screed of his education had been tormenting him for weeks with ugly possibilities. As for his mentor, Odyssalas had been at the mercy of his uncertainty.

“Lord Pionus was evacuated by Captain Mytakis. Captains Glaucus, Epinondas and Bepheros lost with the Hell’s Heart and an estimated eighty percent of Nineteenth Legion personnel present at Untara.” The woman’s voice wavered. Delivering unwelcome news to Astartes, even those as disdainful as the Fire Keepers, was one thing. Telling a warrior that tens of thousands of his brothers had been slain, among them three of those he held dearest, was quite another. Odyssalas felt them as body blows. “Lord Anonidas was attacked by a detachment of rogue Dune Serpents, but fought his way free despite casualties approaching thirty percent.”

He barely heard the last sentence. Odyssalas turned away for her, stepping towards the viewports. After all his speculation, concrete news was simply numbing. There was relief at Pionus’ survival, but for the rest there was simply a hollowness. It wouldn't remain that way, he knew. Misery and fury would fill it in time, as surely as water floods a breach.

He looked back at Anath, whose faceplate remained as stolid and pitiless as ever. He suspected that the expression underneath was much the same. The Sovereign held anger for his enemies, but no pity for himself and his Legion, and plainly expected the same of Odyssalas.

“So Icarion’s revolt has devastated both our Legions,” he said, forcing a level tone. “That can’t be all of it.”

“The Berserkers of Uran, Warbringers, Godslayers, Grave Stalkers and Steel Legion have also blooded themselves in the renegade’s name. The Dune Serpents have suffered defectors, as you heard. The Void Eagles too, and every loyal Legion has come under attack. The Emperor is silent, and Lord Daer'dd has fallen to the blades of the traitors Pakal and Kharkovic.”

Perhaps the Sovereign was impressed at how Odyssalas took the news, unaware of what he had seen on Prospero. Which was to say that Odyssalas merely reeled in shock. The idea that Daer'dd could have been felled, and the enormity of the act, verged on the inconceivable. Fratricide among the sons of the Emperor. “Madness,” was all he could manage.

Now he saw the holos. Maps of the Segmenta, divided into Imperial gold and blood red. Childish colours, he thought, for such a shattering truth. The Imperium of Man was cleaved in two. “Madness,” he repeated. “Where is the Emperor’s vengeance?”

“He is silent. No word emerges from Terra but the Warmaster’s, and even that was denied us for a time. We were to be the tip of retribution’s lance, but further treachery has us bound for the Throneworld’s doorstep.” A grating engine noise issued from his helmet’s grille. Human anger, forced through a machine. “Mars is wracked by insurrection. Even as we try and mend the breach in our walls, the citadel is compromised. So we make for the Red World. At least there, you can be of some use.”

-----

There seemed little else to say after that. Anath knew no way of getting Odyssalas to his Legion without deviating from their course towards Mars, and the idea of doing that was never going to be entertained. So the Scions found themselves set apart, isolated even as they repainted and repaired wargear, and brought hair and beards back under control.

To be sure, it was better than the alternatives he had anticipated - they weren't captives. His suspicions of that were dispelled by the way he and his men were permitted to roam the ship, bearing arms. The other weapons they had salvaged on Untara were inspected by X Legion artificers, the novel ammunition used by the Drowned proving to be of particular interest. The other items were restored and returned to them.

Odyssalas acquired still more from the armouries - there was plenty to spare after so many losses - building up something close to his old arsenal. Thirgen had assigned one of his techmarines, a quiet and contemplative warrior named Fyrstr, to help the Scions rearm. Even with all the damage and losses sustained at Mena Goth, the Fire Keepers boasted a truly remarkable arsenal. Their reputation as artificers clearly wasn’t exaggerated - Odyssalas saw weapons and armours which rivalled the collections aboard the Hell’s Heart. The generosity in opening that armoury to the Scions was striking.

And yet, they were still strangers on the ship, isolated and not fully welcome. It only took a couple of days for Odyssalas to give up on the training cages and head for the quieter hangars. He drew an audience, and he could never shake the sense that many of the Fire Keepers were looking for weakness, wondering if another of their cousins might turn traitor. Offensive, even if he could empathise.

They. Them. What the hell did they call themselves now? He hadn’t had time to allocate squads or even name his… warband, he supposed.

He would request the use of one of the training halls and call his men there. Get to some semblance of order.

“We need to reform,” he announced mid-spar to Chaledes, fending off an attack with a flurry of backhand strikes, but not pursuing the retreating Librarian.

Chaledes hesitated a moment, before lowering his sword. Odyssalas started pacing, twirling the sparring axe in his hand. The Fire Keepers’ idea of a glaive, it had turned out, was a brutally heavy halberd, ill-suited to his fighting style.

“How are we going to go about that reconstruction? Regular squads?”

“As close as we can get. We’re some way off a full Brotherhood, but it only makes sense to use that basis.” Odyssalas came to a halt, next to Chaledes but facing away. “But we need something. And as far as I’m concerned, every man who made it this far is Second Company.”

“Agreed.” Chaledes was the only surviving Librarian, and the one member of Odyssalas’ command cadre to make it this far. His “telekine’s hand” was how he had liked to think of Chaledes, with Patroclus as his right and Melaegus his left.

Not that Chaledes’ seniority made much difference to the Fire Keepers. Despite the acceptance of the Librarius in other Legions, its tacit approval by the Emperor and the fact that the Warmaster himself had helped devise it, the Fire Keepers had never lessened their dislike for psykers. It took visible effort for them to treat Chaledes with any real civility.

Odyssalas shook off the thought. “But the old Battalion is dead. My lieutenants are gone and I only have two of my old captains. Likewise our new brothers from other companies have proven themselves equal to the rest. We’d only insult them by just folding them into the existing structure.”

Chaledes nodded, but as he did, his eyes drifted to a point over Odyssalas’ shoulder. Then Odyssalas heard it too; someone was coming down the corridor.

It was one of Thirgen’s captains, clad in a training tabard and loose-fitting trews. Odyssalas recognised Procyn Lott of the 92nd Vanguard Company. A good fighter, but impetuous and belligerent - the Scions hadn’t needed to hear any talk to recognise that.

“Captain. To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“Simple caution,” Lott growled. There was a practice sword in his hand; an Obsailan design, diamond-headed. “I’ve heard the talk of the Serpent Blade, I’ve heard the stories, but I want to know if there’s anything behind them.”

“So you want proof?” Odyssalas said softly.

“Brother -” Chaledes murmured.

“Are you here for proof, Captain Lott?” Odyssalas said more sharply. He stepped forward, making a heavy loop in the air with his axe. Feeling his secondary heart kick in in anticipation, the flood of adrenaline. And under that, the kill-urge.

Lott advanced too, rolling his shoulders. “I’m looking at having you in the line beside me on Mars, and how many of the really great warriors are known for their weapon? I want to know that I can trust in more than the craft of your glaive.”

“Then learn.” Odyssalas accelerated. It never felt like charging, more that he took a step and now he was striking, immediately putting Lott off-balance and never letting up.

The Fire Keeper was good - better than his arrogance suggested. He didn’t fight like an assault marine now, it occurred to Odyssalas in a disinterested, background way. His movements were cagey, tight - the fighting of a man used to cramped conditions. Reactive but still watchful, looking for a way to take back the initiative.

Good, indeed. There were undoubtedly a few masters of the Obsailan school who could use this technique to put Odyssalas on the ground. But Lott, skilled as he was, hadn’t been tutored by Antonidas. Hadn’t been taught the trick of whipping momentum up again immediately after the enemy parried, denying him that second to come back at you.

That trick had taken a lot of teaching. Odyssalas made it count now, wheeling the axe around from one block to bring it hammering down near the base of Lott’s sword. His free hand stabbed forward, driving three fingers into Lott’s throat before his shoulder took the Fire Keeper in the chest.

It ended with Lott on the floor and Odyssalas kneeling on his chest, axe in a reversed grip and held against the Fire Keeper’s throat.

“That’s not what I expected from the Ionan school,” Lott gasped.

“It’s not from the Ionan school.” Odyssalas stood, helping his opponent up. “A Xephyrite method, taught to me by a friend. With some Terran flourishes.”

A laugh echoed from the door. Thirgen, dressed in furs and leather, was watching with an amused expression on his face. “Quite a display, captain.”

Odyssalas mustered a half-smile. “A bit callous to order your man into the line for an exhibition’s sake.”

“You think I ordered him? Procyn here is easy to read, and it was all too easy to see that his pride would lead him here. I hadn’t necessarily expected him to go down that quickly.”

Lott scowled, but was clearly chastened, and bowed quickly to Odyssalas before he exited.

Chaledes hadn’t taken his eyes off Thirgen. “So now you’re willing to trust that my captain deserves his reputation?”

Thirgen shook his head. “I’m not Procyn. I was happy to trust that reputation. Nonetheless,” he said, his eyes returning to Odyssalas. “Captain, you have my thanks. It’s good to know that we’ll have your skill alongside ours, and quite something to see one of the great warriors let loose.”

Charedes smiled thinly. “That wasn’t him letting loose.”

-----

That was true enough. Odyssalas didn’t trust himself to let loose upon anyone right now.

Solitude beckoned.

One of the great warriors. Did he fit in that grouping? Depended on who you asked, he supposed. For some, they numbered eighteen - one for each Legion, which was neat enough for most Scions. For others, nearer fifty.

He ventured away from the halting questions of remembrancers, into the armoury decks where automata stood in silent ranks. That led him to wonder how much of Cohort Scylla had survived. Never stationed on the Hell’s Heart, they would have been spared the flagship's destruction, but then he had no idea how many vessels had escaped.

So he descended further, through the fumes, sparks and ruddy light of the forge-decks, into the bowels of the ship and forcing himself to simply proceed, not prowl. Finding a vacant storage chamber, he decided this would suffice.

Condensation dripped in a corner as he drew Ladon. Disruptor energies crackled along the blade, bathing the chamber in blue light. Odyssalas breathed, closing his eyes.

Then he whirled, and in his mind's eye he disembowelled a Drowned man. The axe that had taken Sephrades' life clattered to the floor. He slashed left then right, and the Fire Keeper who had killed Patroclus died again, cleaved through his hearts.

He reaved through the murderers in near-silence, hissing breaths all the noise he allowed himself. He killed quickly and cleanly, fighting the urge to twist his blade here and there, to wring pain out of every foe. Restraint and patience were a struggle, even against the spectres of his imagination.

He turned. Lockett stood before him. This time he was unhelmed, and his face had twisted, becoming uglier than Odyssalas had known it in life.

Let restraint die. The Drowned captain came at him with a power sword, and Odyssalas sidestepped once, twice, forced a lock, drove his opponent back, spun around the counter, stepped inside the guard and stabbed.

He opened his eyes, breathing heavily, hearing his hate echo back at him from the walls, and let the glaive's tip drop. He killed the disruptor charge and stood, scowling at a puddle on the floor. He knew Lockett must be dead, crushed under the merciless weight of the Untaran sea. He had seen to it when he broke the bastard's seal. And yet Odyssalas wanted to see his eyes widen and smell his blood burning as Ladon cut deeper, into the spine. He wanted to know it had hurt.

The knowledge of his own petty vindictiveness sat uncomfortably within him, and it brought back the faces of his dead brothers once again. Cursing in Ionan, he stepped back into the shadows, trying again to distract himself.

Still, some things he couldn't switch off. Awareness of his surroundings, for example. He heard footsteps behind him, an attempt at stealth. It wasn't a poor attempt, he supposed, but something about the pace suggested an amateur quality. Also, even by mortal standards, it was fast-paced. Whoever it was had to scuttle to keep up with him.

Ladon’s haft thumped against the floor as he halted. "Who are you?" he asked. Voicing the more obvious question would have been pointless. He was a Scion Hospitalier in a part of the ship that rarely saw its own Astartes. What other reason did a mortal child need to follow him?

He let the glaive rest on his shoulder as he turned. What he found surprised him.

He couldn't say how old she was. He knew the physiology of adolescent boys well enough from seeing aspirants, but girls had never really impinged on his awareness. An Aspirant left sexuality behind at an age where most youths would be just starting to take an interest.

He could say with certainty that this one had a rather feral look about her. The vest and fatigues were baggy and scruffy. Sinews twisted over skinny arms like vines on metal beams in an arboretum.

“Zarra,” she answered, holding his gaze with the one eye that stared out from behind behind a matted fringe. She didn't back away. Impressive.

He had met a great many women in the service of the Imperium, but girls had generally formed part of a conquered populace, or had been the pampered offspring of governors and lords and therefore of passing interest at best. They had generally been well-fed, and if they had been unkempt it had been in keeping with adolescent fashion. Zarra was plainly shaped by sparse rations and hard, regular work.

He lowered himself to kneel on the deck. “My name is Metis, Zarra. You’re a serf here?”

“Aye, lord.”

He raised his eyebrows, as she finally looked away from Ladon. “Last time I looked, I wasn’t anyone’s lord on this ship.” He held out the glaive, only the gesture of offering it. There was something in the moment, something in the child's eyes that he didn't want to dispel with a weight she couldn't manage. "Why do you look at it like that?" Her eyes kept darting to it, lingering on the blade.

“They always told me the Space Marines were smart like we couldn't imagine. Can't you guess?” He wondered if that was really how far he had fallen, letting a child-serf speak to him in such a way. He could imagine the look on Antonidas’ face.

All the same, he kept quiet and let her continue. “The traitors attacked us. Pa died when they fired on us. They -” she looked away. “They killed my mother when they boarded. They went for the ship’s heart and we were in the way. They just raised their guns…” She was fighting back tears - and succeeding at that. Again, Odyssalas found himself impressed. He knew how easily mortals went to pieces in those situations.

“And now they tell us to keep on doing our jobs, and the Fire Keepers will give us revenge,” Zarra continued. “Which means the people who fight won't know about the people who died down here, not really.” She pushed back the tangle of fringe to glare into his eyes. “That’s not enough.”

He recognised something in her eyes, an emotion that dredged up memories from the haze of his trials and Ascension. He’d wanted to serve, to fight for the Emperor’s and Pionus’ dreams in the grandest way. That was the ambition Antonidas had seen, that had made him something more than an Apothecary. And here was that same ambition, still glowering back at him from a strange face. He burned to avenge the brothers he had lost, and they had been made to fight and die. She mourned a family who were never meant to die in battle, let alone at the hands of those sworn to protect Mankind.

Possibilities flitted through his mind, and he quickly alighted on one. The Dragon of Autumn was in the Sol system, and the Iron Bears flagship would always carry a few regiments of Daer'dd’s Daughters. If Zarra was so keen to fight, she might as well learn from the best. He knew enough to get her started on the Huron language.

He stood, and wondered whatever Antonidas would say about the sentimentality behind what he was doing. Then he decided it didn't matter. "Come with me, Zarra."

Edited by bluntblade, 26 November 2019 - 08:55 PM.

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Edited by Beren, 02 January 2020 - 09:06 PM.

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Edited by Beren, 05 January 2020 - 04:51 PM.






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