The enemy initiates a fighting retreat from most of the bases it has established on the outskirts of the capital. Vicious urban warfare bogged most of the loyalist ground forces down for days – they couldn't risk a counter-attack against their landing areas. As it is, the majority of operations have been conducted by mobile forces, a lack of resilience hampering their success.
In his primaris Leonidas reads reports, sees runes representing the enemy backing off, and wonders. There are rearguards, true, evidently desperate traitors ready to sacrifice themselves, but the main forces are moving out. Iskander, on board the Omniscience, and ready to strike at the critical moment when the target presents itself, cuts in on the vox. “Not retreat. Redeployment. Why?”
Another vox, this time from a librarian, Gregorziato, patched through from his storm eagle. He reports a monstrous cry for aid. The source, an enemy of great psychic ability, spoke of “this turbulent whore”. Leonidas considers for a moment and then asks his commanders where the woman who bewitched Malleo is – the one who was so keen to fight here. Mention is made of a vaporator station outside the city where a Blood Angels insertion team recently engaged armoured units.
Leonidas orders Faith to be found. Wherever she is, no matter how powerful she is, she's causing trouble, and this is a job for real soldiers. Having said that, whatever she's doing may have single-handedly broken the deadlock that their forces had experienced – and if that turns out to be the case, she can be forgiven, and even deserves rescue.
There's only one force he can count on to get to the right place at the right time; he tells Iskander to launch immediately for her last known location. The warrior pauses for a moment, but grunts an assent...
Captain Ifan sends a ready signal to his men. The Iron Warriors have sent an even larger force to avenge their previous losses. This time, though, the Blood Angels are prepared for what will come, and as well as improving their air insertion protocol they have called upon heavier support from their chapter armoury as part of the general breakout from Arzach, the capital city. Ancient Harson, a Land Raider, and a number of heavy weapon specialists have bolstered the force saved by the living saint.
Comms from Leonidas suggest that Faith is active in the mountains just beyond, having left the Blood Angels around 24 hours ago. Ifan meant what he said to her about owing a debt, and he intends absolutely to repay her, as do those men that she restored. Leonidas and his Mechanicus-aligned warriors seem far too cold towards the woman, a true heroine of the Imperium. Perhaps they have little care for honour and see her merely as a resource to be used. She deserves better.
A vox from his airborne escort tells him that the enemy are coming into view. Their force seems to be holding to a similar formation as the previous detachment. Ifan raises his blade and prepares to issue the order for his men to drop. They were caught out by misfortune, the enemy's arcane schemes and daemonic intervention in the last battle – and they paid badly for it.
This time it will be different.
Because of some poor communications and bad organisation on my part, largely due to having a surprisingly-busy weekend, we hadn't come up with specific point values. There was plenty there if we had gone unlimited points, as I'd wanted a while back; I had boxes of Land Raiders, a large case – about a company worth, plus terminators and scouts – of marines, and some guard air support.
However, there was only one opponent for me, and using more than double his points would be a bit rubbish! I knew roughly what I wanted to take, but didn't even have time to write up a list, what with having to take photos, etc.
The Saint Dreams of Being Tortured to Death.
Sunrise, and she already feels the pain of a thousand cuts. The once pit slave stands before her, smirking as he slashes at her thigh. Her bonds are tight enough to stop her from fleeing, but loose enough to let her move a little; she tries to turn so that his blade will cut the ropes. He easily sees what she's planning, and laughs as the blade tears her flesh. “Kneel!”
She will not kneel.
They're gathered before her – all of them – laughing, pointing, making lascivious gestures and shouting obscenities. They've been twisted by the power of their daemonic master into rotting, stinking monstrosities. Her torturer, Moebius, has only given her one option to lessen the pain: kneel before him and pledge fealty to Loc-Nar, prince of Nurgle. Her response is, as it has been from the start, silent contempt. She won't betray her vow, not even in her agony.
It's been nearly half an hour now. The spinning blade mounted on the stump of his arm is razor-sharp and can cut shallow or deep, but it's always extremely painful. Her once-long hair has been reduced to a spiky mess; blood trickles from her opened scalp into her left eye. Moebius tells her that he won't cut her face, but the rest of her is fair game. If he expects her to react to that, he's mistaken. He slashes her again.
She will not kneel – but she grows weaker.
Taarna looks to the skies, and sees a speck, flying in the distance. For the first time in years she desperately tries to reach it. She begs to be away from here, to be free too, but immediately curses herself. What would her sisters say if they found out about her old gift? And, anyway, it can do nothing. She thinks “No, be free”. It wheels, describing a lazy arc.
The leader asks her if she has any last words. She looks up through a blood-matted fringe, unable to focus. Shaking her head – which causes more pain – she tries to spit at him. The bloody gobbet lands short. Ugly laughter rings out and her head bows again.
But she will not kneel.
She mouths obscenities at the ground, but still not a sound passes her lips. Moebius tires of this, and says, simply,“I will keep your pretty head.” Taarna looks up at him as he raises her own sword in his one good hand. The blade gleams beautifully in the morning sun, which shines behind him like some kind of halo. She blinks furiously.
Then she kneels.
Faith wakes with a grimace; she longs for more rest, but sees the severity of the situation – they're pursued by many foes and must move fast. The chase is headed by a lesser daemon prince, commanding raptors. He bellows that he will hunt her down and take her skull for Khorne.
Could it be that Loc-Nar has somehow avenged himself against her in the moment of her victory? Has his foul touch infected her in some way, leading to this unnatural fatigue? No matter what, it's her duty to resist. Her escorts haven't given up on her, and she will stay by them, even if she can't fight to her full ability.
At least the Geminae no longer have to bear her weight, and that lifts their spirits. Her sisters are tiring now, though, and all are short of fuel. They head for a power relay station, searching desperately for a lifeline that will allow them to escape. They find many fallen defenders – but no survivors – and mutter prayers for them through parched throats. As for promethium, there is none.
Taking shelter under the centre of the installation, protected by a void shield, they wait for the enemy. This must be an important regional supply facility. While their voxes reach no allies, there is a slim hope that friendly forces might discover them. Very slim, though.
As comfortable as her sisters can make her, the saint drifts back into the world of dreams....
Edited by Brother Sefiel, 27 July 2017 - 10:58 PM.