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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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Morrattek-I

Pursuit of Glory had fought its last battle. It stood there standing, but silent. The howdahs on its back were shredded and splintered. Riflemen's corpses had been dangling there, blood staining the armour like warpaint. The helm was rusted and battered, lenses cracked and caked with dirt. The ram mounted on the left arm was cracked and twisted. The right was blackened by the fires of the crude chemical rockets that had been mounted there.

They'd replaced the ruptured steam core, but the throne would not engage. The spirits would not speak. She had sat in that throne, she had felt and heard nothing.

The keepers of the war machines assured her they only slept, waiting for the day when they would be reawakened. That didn't explain why they called this place a graveyard. Near a dozen of the behemoths stood here. Here and there were offerings to the spirits, precious metals and bizarre devices laid at their feet in sealed boxes anchored in the grounds to resist the fierce winds. The oldest still bore the weapons of yore, devices capable of shattering walls and hurling bolts of lighting to cast down their foes. Parts salvaged from these ancients could have been used to save their brethren, but that was against tradition.

Do not disturb the sleep of the dead.

It was also tradition that should one outlive their knight, they stand vigil next to its body for three weeks, as a sign of respect to the ancients. She was nearing the end of her stay. During the journey here there had been new stars in the sky. Some of them had fallen, soaring towards the ground in great arcs. The serfs manning the vehicles ignominiously dragging the Knight’s along the ground had paused their work to stare at the heavens, astounded by what they saw. It was an omen of some kind, but of what she could not say. The Seneschals and the Lords would surely be discussing it in depth, and depending on its interpretation such an omen could shift the balance of power across the planet. For now though, her place was here, and she put such matters out of her mind.

Three weeks had passed. She had seen stars both depart and arrive in the sky. What that meant she could not fathom. She was alone here, the only sound that of wind rasping against the bodies of the machines. When she dreamed they spoke to her, like the voices in the throne.

It was the last day of her vigil. Others had come. Pilgrimages to such sites were not uncommon, but she did not recognise their crimson robes nor the strange sigils upon them. A skull; half bone and half something that resembled a knight’s face uncovered by its helm. She could not recall any House that wore garb of that kind. If she could have bonded with ‘Pursuit of Glory’, gained access to the knowledge of her ancestors...

A strange but eerily familiar sound drifted on the wind, a little more than a whisper. Inhuman, yet she knew it. She had heard it, sitting in her throne. The voice that 'Pursuit of Glory' spoke in, the voice they all spoke in. Her heart was beating in her chest as she listened, but she could not determine the source. There were tales of machine ghosts, vacant helms that tracked your path and weapons shifted in ways the wind could not account for.

"Was this one yours?"

The voice was strange, unidentifiable with sex or locality. It had a metallic echo to it. She turned, to see one of the red robed pilgrims besides her, gazing up at the knight. Her hand slid to her blade, sheathed at her side. Violence at a Knight grave was unheard of, but these were strange times and these seemed a strange people.

"Yes, yes it was."

The stranger twisted their head so that it faced her. It was not a face of flesh. Wiring crept out of their mouth and into their neck. Lenses like those that adorned 'Pursuit of Glory' stared at her in the place of eyes, only these were vibrant with light. Its lips moved, twitching spasmodically.

"It will be glorious to see it walk again."

Edited by Beren, 10 June 2019 - 02:00 PM.


#128
Beren

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Morratek-II

“Greetings”

The Tech-Priest’s voice was warbling, and he couldn’t see its eyes under the rim of its hood. Its fingers had folded into their symbol of greeting, the Omnissian Cog. He attempted to perform the same symbol. It was meant to be a thing of courtesy. In truth, his awkward rendition of it probably came closer to insult the compliment. If so, the Martian made little of it.

“The latest configurations have been completed.”

“My thanks.”

They seemed to want to do something new with them every decade or so. He didn’t complain. Neither did his House, and the machine spirits certainly didn’t.

The walked, the adept’s clunking legs discordant and ungainly compared to his own stride. It was babbling. For a people that often tore out their own vocal chords to replace them with synthesisers, they talked a lot. Today this one was talking of a world where the local biosphere was evolved in such a way that it triggered periodic firestorms. Fauna would spend their lives racing ahead of it, the flora would spread their seeds by it. The adept seemed almost amused as it told of how their landing party had been forced to choose between remaining within a shielded structure containing a coterie of insane but well surprisingly well armed xenos and trying to brave the inferno outside. The entire conversation stemmed from the thermal buffering systems which had just been integrated into ‘Pursuit of Glory’.

Underlying it all was frustration, frustration that they were stuck here instead of out there. He listened carefully, memorising every word. In part it was due to own idle curiosity, but mostly because he knew the it would please the spirits. In life and death they had seen nought but the windswept plains of Cobenin, and with each new story story the Mechanicum imparted the spirits hungered for more. Even in their admantium bones part it was due to his own idle curiosity, but also for the sake of his Throne. The spirits within ‘Pursuit of Glory’ had never known any other terrain than Cobenin’s windswept plains in life or in death. The machine spirit reacted favourably to such tales of other worlds. Indeed, one day he would also perish and be consigned to exist only as a shade in the shell of machine. It would be a reassurance to carry such knowledge with him to his grave.

The halls they walked through were anachronistic. Ancient architecture carven in stone was criss-crossed by steaming cables and flashing panels. To a degree, there had clearly been an effort to place the additions in as an unobtrusive fashion as possible, but the sheer number of the modifications made that somewhat difficult. He was rather surprised to see that the marble slabs that composed the floor looked little the worse for wear, having been torn up to place new plasma conduits only the week prior. Sometimes he had to remind himself that their heritage still remained under all that metal and circuitry, nd that this was a necessary benefit for the standing of the Houses.

They came at last to a great portal, where their passage was barred by a bulkhead bearing upon it the Explorator's symbol, the Opus Machina they called it. The elegant wooden gates that had held the entrance in the past had long since been removed to one of the storage areas. Its care and maintenance was something that he had partook in as a youth. Its etchings and carved figures, of the Knights and lords of old, remained immaculate. Here, in the setting for which they had been crafted, their magnificence would have been amplified. The figures would have stood and sat under trees of stone, a great hall fashioned within another purely so that they might occupy it. It was hard to argue with the Mechanicum's reasonings for security though, and now a comparatively plain slab of metal took its place with gun servitors perched in those boughs of stone.

Where the old gates would have swung open with a well oiled silence, the new ones would have laboriously slid apart to the whining of sirens and the screeching of servos. Instead they used a smaller hatchway, its passage bored straight through the walls. As one door sealed behind him there was a brief moment of darkness before the other opened, the only illumination being the blinking lights from under the tech-priests cowl. Then there was a near blinding ray of artificial light, and tbe stepped into the hangars.

In this section alone there were thirty different bays, each of the size required to hold the bulk of a Knight Engine. Each archway bore the engraven heraldry of the engine that it housed, symbolisms decided upon by long deceased ancestors still gracing these walls. The machineries and diagnostics panels, and one point rusting and decaying, had now not only been restored but added to. The steady hum of power generators was in the air.

Within these great alcoves stood the Knights themselves. Resplendent in their vibrant colours, banners draped off their weapons. Techpriests and servitor drones scrambled over their hulls, ensuring every rivet was in place, though scraping off portions of the paintwork in the process. The Scions would handle the repainting themselves later, a small price to pay for the full function of their war machines. He gave as brusque wave to a couple of the other pilots, either is mounting or about to head out themselves.

‘Pursuit of Glory’ was in one of the further hangars. It was mostly clad in the green and grey of his House, with a pauldron in grey and another in red to display its allegiance to the Morratek alliance with the Explorators. At its sides it bore Thunderstrike Gauntlet and Battle Cannon, the same weapons carried in the Throne’s earliest memories. The helm, one he had designed himself to cover the most recent installation of optical arrays, was crafted in the image of a bascinet. The scion did not need to observe this as he scrambled up a ladder to the mounting gantry. It was a sight he had seen so often as to have it ingrained into his memory. The litanies of the techpriests as a droning in his ears as took up his helmet, and carefully stepped onto ‘Pursuit of Glory’s hull, and was dampened entirely when he pulled the hatch closed behind him. They were alone now, him and the spirits in the cockpits dim enclosure.

His helm slotted over his head, skull nestled within the gel padding. His eyes were closed. The neural interface cable jacked into his skull-socket. Suddenly he could hear the techpriests again, their litanies coming across clearly in his sensors. He could feel the spirits whispering into his ears, asking eagerly. He complied, letting the tale he had just been told run through his mind again and become part of the tapestry of memories. In return, the whispers grew louder. He listened, and saw. Worlds where the sky was forever black, or where blue suns malevolently crawled their way over the horizon. Cities half ruined and crumbled into dust, with ancient relics buried under the rubble. Seas of acid and skies of fire. Forgotten vaults buried in the roots of mountains. All this he heard. He let each story run through his mind, and again become re-embroidered into the soul of the Knight.

#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

 

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#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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Morratek-III

It was a stumbling run, forcing her way through passages crowded with menials and slipping past lumbering servitors. They few lumens preset cast a pallid light over the scene, a poor substitute for Cobenin’s natural sun. That was something she would have to get used to during in the interims. The cramped corridors were like the swarming arteries of an insect hive, everybody rushing to make sure the final preparations were set. Her gauntlet slammed into the access panel of a door, and she muttered an apology to the mechanism’s machine spirit as she passed through it.

It was going to be a momentous event.It was not merely enough that she would experience the occasion herself. She wished to immortalise it, to capture it for eternity. That meant ‘Pursuit of Glorious Knowledge’ had to witness it too. The ship was alive. Voices bellowed in the menial’s commontongue, modulators screeched in binaric. Venting systems and power conduits were hissing. Control panels constantly blinked up at adepts who frantically double checked and cross-referenced the readings they were receiving. Hundreds of years had been spent in preparation for today. Components had been repaired, replaced and augmented. Compatibility, especially with those systems that had been supplied from Forge Worlds elsewhere in the Imperium, was a particularly concerning issue. It was not her issue though. So she left them to their ministrations and raced onwards.

At last she came to a passageway that was wider than many of the others, and clearer of traffic. Here, her pace slowed. An excessively rushed approach would risk drawing the attention of the weapons emplacements currently concealed in the floor and ceiling. As it was, the Skitarii wardens standing before the sealed portal stepped forwards and smoothly raised their plasma fusils to bear. One, holding a crackling power maul in one augmentic hand and some kind of scanning device in the other, stepped a good distance in front of the others. She presented her wrist, and the device clamped around it. She knew that this was not a mere verification of her ID tag. The Skitarii’s optic lenses were locked with her eyes and would be visually registering her facial morphology; bio-electric signature and thermal readings before comparing them against those on record. It probably could determine that her heart rate was above standard and would delay for further verification. Should she prove hostile, the warden’s proximity would not prevent its fellows from incinerating her.

After approximately three seconds, the device released her wrist. The Skitarii stepped aside and the doors began to slide open so that she could dart through. The bay, just like the rest of the ship, was awash with activity. Magnetic clamps were being checked, loose items stowed just in case. Technically, most of this had been completed several days ago. Practically, it was an Explorator maxim that no amount of checks was ever enough. In the void, or on the most inhospitable of planets, the slightest oversight could mean death. Worse, it could also destroy any knowledge you were in the process of collecting at the time.

She could see that other Scions must have had similar ideas, for several knights already seemed active, heads swivelled to focus on an object surrounded by frantic servoskulls in the bay's center. Techpriests were arranged around the rest, including ‘Pursuit of Glorious Knowledge, already in the process of initiating their reactor. A nod of gratitude at the nearest one, then she was scrambling up to the access gantry.The ridged hull seemed unfamiliar, but the Explorators had assured her that this configuration was both faster operating and better sealing than the original hatch. Dropping into the cockpit, she recited the last of the litanies with the techpriests, coaxing the engine's plasma core into activity. Light vanished as the hull shuttered ssgut above her. On went the helm. In went the cable.

In an instant the individuals scattered through the bay became tiny, miniatures that could be swept aside with ease. Violence was not to be their purpose today. The flock of servo-skulls zipped away from the table-like object in the center of the bay. 'Pursuit of Glorious Knowledge' swivelled its head so that its optics were focused on the device. There was a burst of sparks, and a hololific image flickered into existence.

It was Cobenin, routed in from the fleets pic-sensors. Some parts were more detailed than others, where the vessels covering that specific region had the better pict-imaging systems and sensor arrays. Areas of hazy cream marked the hurricanes tearing across its surface, coastal regions inundated and mountainsides swept clear of any but the most deep-rooted of foliage. She could pick out the Marekkon Crags where their
Forge-Keep was situated, and offered a brief thanks to the Omnissiah for it.

The caconophy of the Knight bay was drowned out by a series of pealing claxons, and transmissions - infospheric, binaric and lingual - were blared across the vessel.

“Departure in T-6 minutes. All constructs to ready for departure.”

It was a bland announcement that belied the significance of the event. The explorators had remained here too long. The worlds they had once surveyed were blocked to them now, integrated into the edifice known as the Imperium of Mankind. The secrets they had discovered were either ignored or deliberately concealed and denied to their discoverers. ‘Pursuit of Glorious Knowledge’ would never share the experience striding across those landscapes unhindered by their fellows. Yet it was only through elements of the Imperium that they were again to be borne to the stars.

There was a family of plants common on the plains of Cobenin. The Explorators had long ago categorised it and graced it with their own nomenclature, but it was still commonly known as Shatterweed to most. The majority of plants that she was familiar with were hardy stock, built to resist the fury of the winds. Shatterweed was the opposite. It grew brittle and frail. When the storms came its old grounds would be stripped bare, the weeds would be shattered and its seedling fragments would be borne far and wide upon the wind to take root in fresh soil.

The Imperium was to Explorators, to the Knights of Morratek, what the storms were to the Shatterweed. A dire threat and yet, for the present, necessary to propel them onwards. Yet a storm has no conscience, no blame. The same could not be said for the minds of mortals.

She was waiting. All the Knights were waiting. As the seconds were ticking down they whispered and pondered in anticipation and in regret. Again came a broadcast, then again. The final one was repeated in exactly the same monotonous metallic tone as the others. Despite this, she felt her heart rate surge again. The Marekkon Crags began to blur and become indistinct. The great globe suspended in the bay’s center began to shrink. Over the next few hours and days it would shrink until it was barely a dot. The hololofic device would remain, but it might be years if not decades before it showed Cobenin again. In the meantime, Morratek had turned its minds to new worlds beyond the Imperiums grasp. It yearned for the secrets that would be discovered their names would be recorded i the logs of discovery. Morratek was to travel the stars, not as invaders or the builders of an empire. It was for the purity of the Quest for Knowledge.

#132
Beren

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Mausoleum

You will most certainly deride me for my statement, and blame the severity of my accident for the things that I witnessed. I say to you that we see things when we sleep, and that we sleep most deeply on the edge of death.

The first thing I recall seeing was the buildings. They were old, in disrepair. Great cracks ran down te walls. Roofs were caved in, windows shattered. In truth, they looked more like the decaying husks of animals than buildings. The first thing I remember hearing was…. nothing. I do not mean to say that there was merely an absence of the mechanical groans and human hubbub that typically characterises a city, but that there was nothing at all. Not a chirp nor a rasp. Not a scuttling of insects, the soft padding of paws or the tramp of workers boots. Even the wind seemed dead.

Still in some bewilderment at my situation, I moved to raise my prostrate form from the ground. In doing so, I found that my hands came away thick with dust. The entire street was carpeted in it. At least a foot deep, with no sign of disturbance other than my own. Nowhere did I spot the smallest leaf of green, or any other colour produced by nature's whims, peaking above that ashen mat.

I cannot tell you for how long I wandered, nor for how far. I can only tell you that I found nobody living. Nor did I find anybody dead. I once stumbled across a graveyard, only the graves lay open and empty. The grave markers themselves lay askew, proof that the dead once lay there. Where they had been removed to I could not then guess.

I walked. I felt not weariness and neither hunger nor thirst. Any concern at my circumstances was displaced by the surreality of the experience. It was only when I saw him that I felt unease.

He was standing there, alone, at the end of a street. Silent and unmoving, I had walked ten paces towards him before I noticed he was there. I halted. Still he did not move.

The figure was robed in grey, the same dead colour of the dust that seemed to coat everything. Their frame was gaunt even when covered by the voluminous robes. Other than that, I could tell little.

This being the first sign of anything resembling companionship since I had arrived in whatever forsaken land this was, I was quite determined to have some answers out of him. At the same time I was well aware of the peculiarities I found myself ensnared me, and even then something about the fellow seemed off putting. Thus while I cried out to the figure and asked of him his name and if he might know where this place was and how I might of came to be here, I was just as resolute as he was in maintaining my distance.

Just as I had finished my entreaties, the figure lifted his arm and with a single finger beckoned to me. Without waiting to see how I responded, he turned away. For a few seconds I debated internally. With each second the figure's slow and measured pace took him a step further away from me. What choice did I have but to follow?

Again I cannot say for how long or how far, but follow I did. Though his speed was not a difficult one to match, I had little intention of getting any nearer than I had to. Instead I simply maintained my distance, hoping and fearing that it would bring me answers.

We came at last to an area that seemed to rise above its surroundings. At the very top of the slope, without any form of turning, the figure made an abrupt turn around the corner of a derelict structure. Fearing that I might lose him, and any hope of answers, I quickened my stride. My hasty attempts to catch up up to my guide were brought up short when I rounded that corner.

I still don’t understand how I didn’t see it earlier.

It was stretching up into the sky, and yet sprawling across the landscape at the same time. It eclipsed the city entirely, like one of those ‘Hives’ that I’ve heard about on other worlds. It was not built like a city though. It was clearly of a single design and architecture, arranged into a great dome with a hundred temple like outlets and studded by bizarre monoliths that seemed to take on the aspect of grinning skulls.. Granite grey and cold marble, silent stormclouds surrounding the highest point. It had the sombre chill of a mausoleum, only no mausoleum could possibly be that large. It would have been enough to contain every corpse in Arakharn, and more besides.

So enraptured was I by this view, that it again took me a good time to realise that my companion now stood beside me. I did not start, for it was less sudden than that. More that I slowly grew to be aware of his shrouded form in the corner of my eye, an unwholesome presence far nearer than I liked. I think I began to hold my breath out of fear, though he posed no open threat to myself.

I still didn’t catch a glimpse of his face before he set off again. Just the threadbare back of his hood as it receded. He was making for the Mausoleum of course. I doubted there was anywhere else of import in this barren wasteland for which to head to.

I didn’t like it. I followed anyway. The damned thing seemed to grow as we got closer. I don’t mean that it was farther away than I thought, or larger than I had thought. I mean that it literally seemed to be rising, strange structures sprawling out towards us. Never when you looked directly at it, but always in the corner of your eye…

Where before there had been only empty ground before its gates, there now seemed to be roads and walls and lesser shrines that grew in their horrid significance the more I observed them.

They were built from dead animals. Mice, birds and larger pets. The thick bones of livestock animals arranged by the hundred. Vacant eyes sockets stared out at us. The empty exo-skeletons of a million insects seemed to conglomerate in flimsy decorations, latched atop of the bones of larger beasts. As we travelled through this metropolis of the dead the walls sand shrines seemed to close in on me, barring the path behind us and seeming to send out grasping limbs in order to hold me in place.

In the face of this I walked faster, at some times even breaking into a run in an attempt to escape my surroundings. Despite this, my guide never seemed to change his pace, nor could I seem to gain on him no matter how hard I tried.

At last we came to the gates of the true monument. It was a gate formed from bars of black iron, stretching up into a ceiling of shadows without end. From smaller strands of metal, vines had been fashioned so that they wrapped around these bars. Vines that were leafless and seemed dead despite the fact that they can never have lived at all.

I am sure that you must be tiring of this by know, but again I must state that my memory does not seem to encapsulate the full sequence of events. The gates stood closed, and I cannot imagine that any endeavour of strength on my part or that of my constant companion’s could have shifted it. How then, am I to explain that I found myself on the other side of it, staring forlornly behind me as the guide gripped my a\rm and pulled me further into the interior. The final memory of that moment shows me a hundred skulls, none present before, crowded up against the bars and watching my every step.

I did not look at his hand. If I did, I must have taken great pains to try and forget. I cannot forget the sensation of that abhorrent grasp. He gave off no warmth. Some parts felt cold and clammy, others hard and dry. Whatever concerns I possessed about this, and concerns I am sure I had, they were soon superseded by more visual disturbances.

Biers, carven as if from a single piece of colossal stone. They stretched into the distance. In places they were arranged in concentric circles, radiating out from grand pillars. In the pillars and in the walls I could see halls, each one seeming to contain another bier. On these biers were the bodies.

Young and old. The obviously ailing and the seemingly healthy. Those who bore the marks of terrible weapons and those who might have succumbed to poison. Flesh-bare skeletons, specimens that appeared entirely intact and every stage in between. A few disturbing examples simply possessed gaps and socket-like apertures where augmentics once might have attached. Many seemed empty, but upon closer inspection bore the tiniest shards of bone or scraps of flesh.

Aside from being in a place that blatantly contravened the laws of reality, surrounded by thousands of corpses, there was also the smell. Rather, the lack of it. Many of the cadavers were clearly in an advanced state of decay, yet there was no stench of rotting flesh. It was an omnipresent detail that either helped form a buffer between my sanity and this unreality - allowing me to deny the things my eyes bore witness to - or simply enhanced the sensation of dread that my addled mind clung to.

There is one more salient feature I must describe before bearing my tale to its conclusion. Amidst this endless tableau of death, there was a particular set of biers that stood out. The thing that first drew my notice was the clothing of their occupants. Each wore the same grey and ragged robes as the figure which I had followed all this. For a brief moment a fear was kindled in my chest that through some perverse trick of fate they might all be the same individual, however that was allayed by the different statures of the bier’s occupants. One last glance before I was firmly dragged away re-lit a that spark of terror, for I noted that one and only one of that set was completely and utterly devoid of any occupant.

That was one of two biers that I am sure was empty.

I could discern no course in our passage, nor anything remarkable of our destination. Just one more bier amongst a thousand, though this was clearly one of the one’s where the corpse had been recovered in such a poor condition as to be practically unnoticeable. Having been born to a halt, and remaining unwilling to confront my host or the fact that I now seemed to possess a second shadow, I gave the object a more thorough inspection. I had in fact made it something of a mental exercise to try and identify these minute remnants as they passed me by.

Nothing.

Not a splinter of bone or a scrap of gnawed on flesh. Not even the smallest thread of cloth. The longer I stared at this barren feature, the more a terror rose in me until I could bear it no more. At long last I twisted to look directly into the face of the one who had brought me here.

The face, if it could be called that, was one of death. Pallid skin was drawn tight against the skull, having a most singularly disturbing impression. Wisps of bedraggled hair clung to its scalp. The worst was its eyes, cloudy white as if recently deceased. I could just about distinguish some of the original pigmentation. I could certainly still feel the intensity of which they stared at me.

In a setting of normality, I might have suffered no more than an ill turn at witnessing this. On top of everything else, and having snatched my last hope of sane and typical fellowship away, it was as if an abyss had opened up beneath me. My legs seemed to weaken, my stance becoming unsteady. Those hands which I had so studiously ignored earlier came to rest on my shoulders and with an implacable force push me to lie on that empty bier.

That was when I awoke. It was in the middle of surgery after the accident, and under enough sedation to make a grox docile at that. My sudden release to consciousness and resultant screaming and thrashing was quite an obstacle to the ministrations of the medicae, so much so that I nearly ended my own life there. I am glad that I did not. Half my panic was because of what I had just experienced. The more significant part was due to what I first saw when I awakened, standing vigil at the chamber’s corner.
Since then, many of my associates and relatives have attempted to placate me. They have assured me that I had no doubt heard of the rising profession that sought to respect and care for the deceased. That, through no fault of my own, I had come to associate unjustified and foul connotations with them that had risen to the forefront of my mind as I lay in a state of trauma. Each time I assert that I was wholly unaware of this sect - I was hardly the most informed of current events to begin with - I am ignored.

I have watched their graveyards grow to be replaced by crypts and mausoleums. I have observed as the style of such structures grows ever closer to resembling the thing I witnessed in my dream. I have listened to the drunken tales in working bars of grey robed adepts haunting the streets at night in an endless search for bodies that are not always dead when just discovered. The nobility finds it convenient to ignore such things, dismissing them as drunken ramblings. They are satisfied that it is not their coffers that pay for the extravagant buildings that give the dead as much comfort as they ever had in life. They brag and boast about who will rest in what tomb of what size and grandeur, ignorant to the fact that these carers of the dead care nothing for such distinctions. All this has persuaded myself to take thorough precautions in sternly conveying my wishes for cremation to anyone who I trust and stands a good chance of outliving me.

I will not let them have my body. I will not let them put it in that place, not after they came so close before. When I woke in the middle of that surgery, the first thing I saw was a grey robed figure standing in its corner, awaiting the procedure’s outcome. Their complexion was healthy, and they seemed perfectly well. Yet, I swear they possessed the likeness of that figure I had so foolishly followed. He had the same eyes. Unclouded by death, but they were the same eyes glaring at me with the same terrifying intensity from which I had just escaped.

Edited by Beren, 15 July 2019 - 09:14 PM.


#133
bluntblade

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You double-pasted this one, Beren

#134
Beren

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Morrattek IV

<Landing in T-5 minutes. Initial perimeter secured. Provide Macrocarid Advance Party with cover. Ensure environmental seals are secure.>

Systems reading were poured directly into his brain as he analysed them. Servoskulls would still be sweeping the hull exterior for any sign of compromisation. Enginseers would be pouring over the same data he had access to, only with a far greater scrutiny. Everything was greenlit. No breaches detected.

The grav-sensors produced a sensation of drag as the craft slowed, even though the Knight was not so much permitted as to twitch within the protective confines of the landing craft. Then it was stationary.

He linked into the infosphere as the exploratory servoskulls were being issued from dispensers on the vessel’s sides. Reinforced against the possibilities of caustic atmospheres and equipped with enhanced augury arrays. Later they would be pressed into service as scouts and remote examination drones. For now they gave one last sweep of the immediate environment, confirming that there were no immediate hazards to the war-engines.

<Interior bay access corridors sealed. Negative on immediate terrain hazards. Infolinks secured. Augury systems verified. All cockpits confirmed sealed and pressurised. Ready for disembarkment.>

The imperative was replied to by a chorus, the scions of the Expedition responding as one.

<Affirmative.>

The ramp lowered. A vista of black crags set against a grey sky revealed itself. Two suns, each red and angry, hung in the sky. Unfamiliar foliage clung to the ground, sprawling in twisted shapes and bizarre hues. Strange things scuttled amongst the strange undergrowth, fleeing the titanic interlopers upon their domain.

‘Pursuit of Knowledge’’ was the second to stride the ramp as its pilot drank in the unfamiliar surroundings, committing them to the machine spirit’s undying memories. He allowed himself only a moment of this before turning his attentions to his duties, augers and weapons sweeping the terrain before focusing on the structures in the distance.

Here and there a bizarrely twisted spire still poked its way into the air, but for the most part there were crumbled stumps and structures half crumbled to dust. Some were more intact than others, seemingly intact against the march of eons. The ruins were awash with a spectrum of colours and infospheric notations that indicated, even after all this time, the faintest of residual power readings. These were the objectives.

The Marcocarid suddenly trundled away from the base camp, speeding right past the deploying knights. Its blunt frame rocked back and forth as it hurtled across the terrain. The pilot only had a second for a brief and half-muttered oath before urging ‘Pursuit of Knowledge’ to follow it. Seismic readings indicated that two others were also tailing them, evidently having received identical imperatives.

The strange city grew closer. The knights assumed a formation afront the exploratory vehicle, ready to shield it from attack and strike back if directives permitted.

<Movement. Multiple contacts at 43 degrees, inbound. Presumed hostiles, initiating purgation protocols.>

‘Pursuit of Knowledge’ zeroed in on the region indicated by its fellow engine. Scuttling things that bore no form of uniformity. Whether they were some form of defense mechanism or simply hostile fauna was irrelevant. Threat to the engines was minimal. Threat to the transport and its Magos passengers was above acceptable levels. Zones of approach were lit up in different colours, each assigned to a different knight.

<Targets designated. Protect the Magi. Protect the data. Further the Quest for knowledge.>

#135
Beren

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Under the Ice.

 

 

 

Xander stood a little way off from the main delegation, but he observed and heard everything. Not that it mattered. They weren’t about to ask his opinion on any of it.

A yard away stood four tech-priests, each clad in the slight variations of the Xandrian heraldry and engaged in infospheric communion. Technically, such an exchange could have been committed through the infosphere with each Magos remaining within their respective domains. There were two reasons for conducting such a meeting in person. Firstly, it allowed for more secure short range bands of transmission to be used - even vocalisation if deemed necessary - and secondly to better allow the Birennon Magos to flaunt Xander’s presence.

Xander himself was a head taller than his esteemed colleagues, his robes rimmed with ice blue and his metallic components etched with frost-sigils. He was silent, unmoving, watching his peers.

They were in a closed chamber with bare of markings. The lighting was inactive, neither the tech-priests nor their escorts required much light for their optical implements to function. Their escorts themselves , Iopex Extinction automata, lurked in the shadows on the edge of vision. Xander played his head mounted omnispex over each one of them in turn, magnifying and analysing. Seven total, two slaved to each delegate and one for himself. Arthropod-like constructions, rotor cannons nestled on their backs or cradled beneath their body. Their forelimbs, though primarily used for the constructs' locomotion, had been honed on a monomolecular level so that they might serve as close quarters weapons. Their most significant armament, the Cryseitur rad-blades, currently remained concealed within the dendrites of their torsos.

Xander's own omniscope could detect a total of thirteen deviations between his construct and the others, all aesthetic in nature. That lent him a quiet sense of pride, content that his more significant modifications were noticeable. It also meant that he would have to upgrade the omnispex when he had the time.

The Khyrkesra representative was still posturing, indicating the Frost-Born's presence whenever an impasse was reached. Code flowed between them sometimes rapid and sometimes languid, though still measures faster than any form of verbal utterance. Such a waste. If they didn't care for his opinions, then they could at least leave him to his work.

In total, 3 minutes and 35.2 seconds had elapsed before the discussion concluded. The Vretenian Cohortius had begrudgingly conceded that their current research endeavours in the Karic plains would be halted. As a concession to facilitate this, the Mulnissan Cohortius would provide them with a set of technically non-existing schematics that though inherently less valuable, but also less controversial. Had it been written down on paper - a commodity both rare and almost useless - the final concord would have taken up twenty five double sided sheets. If they were written on paper, Xander might have tried to burn them. Khyrkesr and the Cognis Prime had no business shackling the ambitions of others such as yourself. The data-whisper was quiet, a neural ghost issued from the flesh. Xander analysed it, acknowledged it, then purged it from his systems.

Like a hundred other petty frustrations the sentiment behind it was frozen and compressed, beconing part of the frigid core of resolution at the center of his being.

The doors were now sliding open, their body guards scuttling out ahead of them. One by one the Magos glided, trundled or shuffled out. Each one was bound for the transit lines to their respective holdings. In the past, Xander's trajectory might have invoked a query from the Khurkesyan, they were bound to the same Cohortius after all. As long as he displayed himself where needed, his achievements no longer warranted that sort of scrutiny.

---

The vehicle came to a stop, ice crystals breaking under its tracts. The Iopex crawled out of the hatchway, sweeping the ice plains with its optical sensors in search of hostiles. Xander followed, gauntlets hauling his frame through. Just to be sure, he surveyed the white surface of the glacier and the grey sky above. Thermal readings were the easiest to detect, but also the ones which his fellow Adepts would have put the most effort into masking. Some of the more extreme had adapted their augmentations to the cold so well that they scarcely gave of heat at all.

Nothing.

Now he turned to the vista ahead. Once it had been a glacier like that behind him; he remembered it. Between the time he had been entombed and the time he had awoken that had changed. Some unknown catastrophe had gouged great chasms in the ice, tearing up the frozens bones of this world and casting their shattered remains back down again. Snow might have dulled the scars somewhat, but still they remained.

His Omnispex was locking onto multiple potential routes of descent, none entirely free of risk. It correlated these with the information he had been given, calculating probable matches. He found one with an 87.45 % match. That was too high an uncertainty to be tolerable under normal conditions, but the directions had been flesh-spoken rather than transferred and had been less than precise as a result. Besides, there weren't any better correlations.

---

The channel ahead was now impassable to vehicles, which was most likely the intention. He was far enough into the crevasse that it would not be spotted. That meant he could theoretically shut its engine core down entirely, reducing its chances of detection further. At the same time, this would mean leaving the vehicle's anti-sabotage devices offline.

A risk within acceptable parameters.
---
The Iopex registered two entities, neither making any attempt to conceal their thermal signatures. Xander's own vision, despite being hindered by several metres of ice, confirmed the auguries.

Xander attempted an infospheric transmission. No response, physically or electronically. He cogitated, came to a conclusion.

With a wailing shriek, the automata lunged forwards. Its hind legs launched it through the air to crash down in front of the figures, rotor cannon spinning and sweeping while its rad-blade whipped around.

"There will be no need for that, Frost-Born."

Xander was forced immediately to engage several chem-inductors in order to lower his irrationality index. No doubt it had been intended as an honourific, but the limitations the title imposed on him made it closer to an insult. Admittedly, their own lack of irrationality in the face of the Iopex’s advance was at least a base competence.

The Iopex had navigated its way through several hundred metres through these labyrinthine ice tunnels to a point where it was a rather short distance from where Xander was currently standing. He wasn’t in the mood for a task that was both tedious and inefficient. With a clunk, his servo arm engaged with the ice cutter he’d brought. Carefully, he applied its heated blades to the wall. The ice was dense, compacted over hundreds of years, but it was reduced to slurry in seconds. It would freeze again just as fast.

The final layer vanished. The automata's visual feed was re-verified, and Xander stepped through. The two were there, just as depicted. Their cloth bore more silver thread, though it appeared tarnished, than their colleagues. Their robes were frayed around the edges, and covered in a thin layer of frost. The one on the right, the one who had spoken, had augmentics showing through the ragged gaps in its robes. The craftsmanship was adequate, but only when set against the inferior materials included within their composition. Its head had an oddly bulbous appearance, a multiple-loped cranial dome studded with interface ports and a mandible like set of apparatus roughly where the mouth should be. The sum appearance might be correlated to the corpse of some long dead beast where the flesh had rotted away to reveal bone.

The other one was swathed from head to foot in robing cut from the insulative hides of some of the rare creatures that called this frozen wasteland home. A pair of thick goggles stared back at Xander, the only visible part of its face.

The one that had spoken before raised its voice again.

“We would appreciate it if you refrained from such actions Frost-Born. It creates difficulties for us.”

The Frost-Born swivelled his head to focus on the speaker, without lowering the ice cutter. He coaxed his vocal chords into the action, to make rare use of some of its tonal capabilities.

“Surely the Cohortii Chorydelos has not fallen so far that its resources cannot be stretched to repair a wall made of ice?”

Sarcasm. A trait he had made sure to retain. Useful when he wanted to vent irrationality on colleagues without them registering it. Some caution was required when determining exactly which constructs retained the ability to detect it and interpret its connotations correctly, but it was rewarding when done correctly.

They both remained silent, unmoving, for several moments before the vocal one resumed the conversation.

“We must request that you use your biological functions for vocal communication during your presence. Query: Do you retain biological optics?”

He didn’t. The wiring for his omnispex went right through his eye sockets, replacing his optic nerves in the process. He informed them of this, and as he did so the unspeaking one slid a transparent slender tube filled with fluid and a pair of pale spherical objects out from between its robes.

“I am afraid that we cannot permit the events here to enter the infosphere in any form. It must be limited to the biological.”

It spoke the word ‘biological’ with the first hint of emotion that Xander had registered in his voice.

“Assumption: You will not allow us access to your cortex to extract data recorded there. Necessity: You will allow the temporary implantation of biological optics. Our Domini-Biologis may not have the same skill as those of Birennon, but it will suffice.”

Xander hesitated. He cogitated, assessing the risk and the reward. A detailed set of protocols was issued to the Iopex, just in case.

---

Everything was blurry. It was flat. Instinctively he tried to activate the data feedouts. Nothing. He kept trying to focus it more. No more detail was forthcoming. A voice. Again, he was now bereft of the capability to analyse pitch or timbre or speed, leaving him with only the impressions born of instinct. Low, soft, sibilant.

“These are engineered to function at the temperatures within these levels. A few degrees higher and they will cease to function. Above that, and they will most likely liquify.”

Clearly this wasn’t going to improve. Something scraped on the ice, and his head snapped round as eyes danced for a non-existent lock. Just the Iopex, lenses focused upon his still form. Hanging in its mechadendrites was his omnispex, as well as the cabling that had now been replaced by bio-synthetics.

Beyond the Iopex and the Domini-Biologis, he could make out the silhouette of the other representative.

“If you would follow.”

---

That wasn’t ice. It was covered in it, frost patterns sheetining across its surface, but behind those even biological optics could discern patterns and numeration. The representative lifted a limb, and a slender mechandrate slid formwards. It plunged into the ice through some form of minute borehole, eliciting only the slightest sound as it did so. The appendage fell and the mechadendrite with it.

“Well?”

They did not respond.

After exactly 3.76 seconds, the wall suddenly seemed to recede. It swung away, revealing a vast chamber behind it. Heads bowed, the two Chorydelos adepts stepped through.

Xander’s head was raised at a very precise angle, the height he expected them to stand. They were not. Once mighty forms were sprawled across the ground, left where they had fallen. Limbs were shattered, hulls torn through or bearing gaping breaches that had cored right through them.

“This is what became of the project?”

He didn’t need optics, biological or otherwise, to sense their surprise.

“You were aware…”

“Yes, I was aware. I am far more aware than you ever will be of what these are, and what they could have meant”

Had a menial been present, they might have been surprised by the emotion in the voice of a tech-priest. Resentment, and a touch of sorrow. As it was, not even Xander registered them.

That the project had failed had always been clear. Only failure of the direst sort could see an achievement lauded the world over buried and forgotten. To see it, everything that might have been…

Their voices blurred in his ears, unrecorded, as he strode over to one of the fallen giants. It's starboard eye had been shattered, a precision shot having landed in just the right place to penetrate a vulnerability redundant in purpose. Motionless rivulets of discoloured ice clung to the rim of the shattered socket, giving the appearance of frozen tears.

Without hesitation be thrust his head through the breach. He could not make out the throne of a princeps, nor the consoles of the Moderati. Instead he focused on the frost-coated mass of synthetic flesh that took their place, and the furrow carved by the same round that had shattered the viewport.

Somewhere along the way his predecessors had erred. It had cost them greatly. The slightest oversight could have been responsible. Now the Xandrian Mechanicum was as frozen as the ice that buried their world, trapped in a single state.

Until now.

He lacked the resources and reputation they had possessed. It was better that way. There was much to be learnt from this, but he would have to start again. He would have to work on a smaller scale and with greater caution. He must not overreach himself, but neither must he stop pushing. Every disaster no matter how great was simply a barrier to be avoided next time even if it reached across the stars.

Progress must be inexorable. Devastation faded. Even now countless Explorator fleets were doubtlessly voyaging across the galaxy, rebuilding Mankind's legacy under the name of the Mechanicum. Stagnation would at best lead to a perpetual purgatory for humanity, and at worst a long and drawn out death.

It was imperative that this be avoided, no matter what.


Edited by Beren, 18 August 2019 - 04:55 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 and jabbed it into 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, 01 August 2019 - 11:04 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."


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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.

  • simison and Skalpynock like this

#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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