Decima continued onwards, pushing through wreckage and power armoured bodies to reach the center. The last thing sent through the command-matrix was a pict-feed from Myrmidon Lord Gantharax, before the Myrmidon’s presence had vanished together with his coterie from the matrix. The Arch-Traitor was here, the Enemy, the Snake in the Grass. He was here and Decima would cleave through every damned gene-enhanced trans-human to reach the Warmaster. The last thing Decima would do in this life would be to spit his defiance at the feet of the thing he focused all his hatred towards. Then he stumbled as a flash of pain shot through his system, something disturbing the harmony of his cognis-network that made up the bulk of his command-matrix. One of his nodes was dying. Lucress.
Dominus Jakkar glanced up as the Storm Eagle made its attack run, firing an inferno towards Arch-Magos Decima’s flank. Jakkar reached out to the vultarax automata Kk-ih and fed it with target priorities and weapon overloads. Kk-ih turned through the air with a low drone and sped towards its new target. A crackling light shone from Kk-ih’s weapon mount, as it overloaded its arc cannon system. This was dangerous for its cerebral processor but with Jakkar’s command code within its software frame there was nothing it could do to stop it. The strange lightning flashing out from its cannon stretched out and touched the rear of the Storm Eagle. The pilot had a second to react as his screen went blank and his aircraft started to dip. Then it exploded in a cascade of fire and plate. The burning remains of the Storm Eagle flew over the battlefield before it reached its end 200 meters behind enemy lines, thundering through the dirt as it detonated with an exterior generator fueling almost a quarter of Protean District’s hab-units.
Scion Kuula of House Carnak drove her steed before her, like an ancient pre-terran knight of old. She didn’t just break through the lines of her enemy, she obliterated it. Her steps where the thunder of war and her voice the breath of death. As she shouted her warcry it was with Hi’huan’s armour horns. At this moment, she didn’t know where she ended and her Knight Armour began. It didn’t matter, what mattered was that enemies still tried to face her. Before her she could she a squad of astartes armed with plasma weaponry trying to stop her Lord Decima’s advance towards the center. A crocked black armoured figure, wielding an eye topped banner, stood amongst the legionaries firing what seemed to be an ornate bolt-gun. Kuula couldn’t help herself as her face turned into a predatory snarl. Hi’huan’s lascutter fired up and a thick beam of energy flared over the plasma support squad’s position. Air was vaporized together with brick, mud, ceramite, flesh and bones. Only piles of ash, shadow forms of the astartes they had been, remained. Magos Jakkar took this as a perfect moment to push the attack for a breakthrough and charged with his remaining Castellax into the surviving members of Aximand’s command squad.
With no support to help the beleaguered Veteran Squad Echyon they were soon overcome by the unrelenting Domitar and the pack of thallaxii. Sprinting over the dead with their piston-driven legs the thallaxii stormed into the rear of the remaining justearin, with the Domitar left behind to search for another target. To the flurry of mechanical blows that followed only Falkus Kibre remained. He had to use all his skill and physical might to stay alive, but nothing else mattered as he witnessed Abaddon raise his power sword to cleave the Magos Dominus in twain. With one boot planted on the sparkling carcass the First Captain roared “LUPERCAL!”
Maloghurst found himself sprawled onto the decking within one of the myriad of halls of the Vengeful Spirit. Empyrean smoke cloaked his armour and sickly ectoplasm dripped from his gorget. The peculiar sound of the lascutter still haunted his ears as he crawled up to a seated position. He had escaped, with powers he hadn’t dared to use before. Powers Erebus had whispered about but felt too insane to try to harvest for his own bidding. But desperate times call for desperate measures. He knew he had crossed a boundary few had and had not been found wanting. With this new door unlocked, who knew what awaited beyond? Maloghurst raised himself, leaning on his staff of office. The battle below had turned out to cost the Sons more than had been appreciated, the numbers didn’t lie. But in the end, it could not stop the predetermined outcome. Nothing could stop Horus. Maloghurst limped through the darkened corridors as the infantry supporting weapon batteries within the Vengeful Spirit clanged into readiness.
Horus felt it like a tremor in the air, his skin prickling and his senses sharpening. Like the great waves of an unforgiving ocean had the Mechancium forces battered themselves at the Sons of Horus. Each crashing wave of mechanical warriors and cybernetic slave-units had eroded the rocky foundation of the Sons’ attack, killing his army bit by bit. Their relentless fury had surely taken a grievous toll on both the 1st and 5th Company, but there was one rule all oceans had to follow – and as the watery waves must retreat to their murky womb so too does the tide of battle change. His almost supernatural senses picked up the change immediately, something breaking within the Mechanicum command-structure. Someone had died and with that death had a gap opened. The time to decapitate the head from the body had come. He could sense it coming, the descending blow. Right on cue a Fire Raptor swooped onto the battlefield, its target already picked out. Its bolt cannons and autocannon turrets ripped through the smoke and ash covering much of the view, hellstrike missiles flashing from wing ports. Such a beauty, Horus thought as he reached the center of the battlefield.
In one moment Decima charged towards the combat between Dominus Jakkar, his Castellax and the surviving Command Squad-members and in another he was thrown through the air. Damage-recovery systems flashed in angry orange on his internal retina, and even the alien sensation of pain reached his magna cortex. He crashed into the side of a smoking shell of a XVIth legion drop pod, breaking bones and metal frames within his body. His thallaxii had tried to stop the projections cutting them down, and he felt a surge of regret as he saw their mangled shapes beside him. Where once there had been a multitude of presences within the command matrix now there only was a flicker of spiritual life left. He could hear the booming sound of ship batteries firing overhead, the Vengeful Spirit venting its hateful heart on his forces over the other ends of the battlefield. Tech-priests and cybernetic creations vanished together from this unstoppable fire power. The initiative was gliding through his hands.
If there had been any chance for it Falkus would have greeted the gunship with a warrior salute, but he was busy trying to survive. Abaddon had killed the Magos Dominus but it didn’t seem to stop the damned robots. They flailed and continued making their strange snarls, a mixture of machine and mammal predator. Abaddon parried the blow of a thallax trying to disembowel him, crushing its glass-covered face with a returning strike with his power fist. Falkus turned around just in time to see a Castellax armed with a siege-wrecker readying itself to crush the life out of him when a shadow appeared behind the robots. A sound of metal being shredded stilled the brutal fight for a second, and just like that both the Castellax were undone. In their stead, there stood a giant amongst giants. Horus gave his sons a small smile.
Something broke the thallaxii’s ferocity, maybe a remnant of their mortal organics recognizing a threat there was no chance against. They broke ranks and fled, something Falkus found quite humorous to watch as the cyborgs leaped away on their piston-legs. Abaddon’s battle rage was nowhere done, so both Captains hefted their weapons and ran after.
Dominus Jakkar was straining under the pressure of keeping up the command matrix, holding the remaining cybernetic warriors under any form of control. Without Lucress he felt his cortex processing unit overloading from all the domination protocols he had to oversee, sending kill surges to machine spirits and giving them target preys and directional commands. He would not fail his Lord Decima, for failing a representative of the Omnissiah was to fail the Avatar of the Machine God itself. If he only could lend a small portion of his present time concentration he would be able to activate… Something struck Jakkar clean through his head, breaking holy processor units and destroying the last bits of his still organic brain matter.
Veteran Warrior Kerradon lifted his power axe, breaking it free from the innards of the machine-priest’s head. Sparks flew as squirts of oil like blood coloured his sea-green gauntlets. He would take what remained of the dead marsian’s skull and present it to Captain Aximand as a token of tribute. Kerradon planted the butt of his company banner into the still twitching corpse, turning to help Maalika with the damned Castellax. But as he gripped his power axe in both hands, readying himself for a killing swing, his target locks pinged as something broke through the smoke beside a dead drop pod. It was the form of a bloodied Arch-magos charging right into them.
Through black smoke and glaring fire the sound of battle started to quieten down around the far stretching battlefield. As the coordinated bombardment from the Vengeful Spirit stilled it was clear that the Sons of Horus were the owners of field. Massacred Mechanicum units lay strewn in mangled heaps where super-heavy shells had hit, and whole formations had just disappeared into oblivion. But the warriors of the 1st and 5th Company had not come out of this battle unscathed. The drop pod assault had been blunted all over the battlefield and in some parts of the battle legionary formations had taken such casualties that their fighting capabilities had been reduced to zero. The apothecary detachment would be harvesting a grim reaping of gene-seed this day. And still the battle raged on at Arch-Magos Decima’s location.
Abaddon and Falkus shattered ruined walls and concrete rubble as they hunted down the fleeing thallaxii. The cyborgs lit their jet-packs and jumped, throwing themselves out into the smoke and escaping the battle. Falkus came to a halt as he watched the thallaxii disappear, like a murder of crows he mused. Abaddon was sneering, his battle rage having consumed him already. He needed more to slake his thirst for violence, and Falkus knew that his temper would sour completely if he wouldn’t be able to vent his fury. And that side of Abaddon Falkus knew he could make without. “We continue onwards! There has been no kill-confirmation on the leader of this mechanical contagion.” Abaddon growled and started to pace like a disturbed rad-tygr of distant Cthonia. “If it peaks your interest, I am quite sure that the signal teams reported a Knight presence around the district.” Falkus smirked. Abaddon flashed rune etched teeth in answer, but had no time to voice his hunger. A giant shape exploded through the rubble of the ruin and crashed into them like a blood-maddened grox. The Domitar, its machine spirit going berserk with no cortex controller within range, finally found something to take out its super-killing instincts on. Falkus raised his thunder hammers as he blared “That’s one ugly mother fu-“ before the graviton fists of the automata hit him square in the chest and catapulting him through the ruin. As blackness stole his consciousness, blood bubbling up to fill his mouth, he could see the First Captain raise his power sword and power fist in a warrior salute. The following brawl between the two monstrous fighters escaped Falkus as he fell into darkness.
Horus walked through burning wrecks and torn bodies. A stillness had befallen his demeanor as he dealt death to twitching robots or crawling cyborgs. Here and there he stopped to listen to the dying whispers of his sons, kneeling beside them and taking their last oaths of loyalty to their Warmaster. A part of him felt a father’s sadness as he took a final farewell to his sons, knowing each warrior he encountered. But another part of him, something that had followed within him after Davin, felt nothing at all. He would have to confront this hole within himself sooner or later, but now he merely recognized it and pushed to the furthest back of his head.
He had found Gorr, the Reaver Chieftain, almost torn in two lying where he and his reavers had tried to storm the central ruin. The cthonian had begged for forgiveness for his weakness, gurgling his oath of loyalty through broken teeth. Horus knelt beside him, cradling Gorr’s head in his hands and listened as any good father would, and yet the dark hole in his heart nagged his concentration. “You die a warrior of mine, my son. As you go into the darkness beyond, know that your brothers will be victorious in their long march and that in the end my Eye will be raised over the fallen ramparts of my father’s domain.” Horus whispered to his Reaver Chieftain, placing the two silver coins over his now empty eyes. A buzzing sound like that of a thousand angry wasps filled his senses, and Horus rose as a floating automaton came for him. He had seen it earlier flying angrily around seeking a target for its raging machine spirit, confused and stressed by the death of the cortex controllers in the area. Its blazing red eye lens shone in starving red as it came crashing down. Horus lifted Worldbreaker and made one swing towards the Vultarax. The explosion that followed cast Gorr far away, his dead body now finally cleaved in two.
To the sound of Hi’huan’s cannon firing over the district, marsian and cthonian did battle. Decima hacked left and right with his power axe, his blows parried by the legionary in quick sessions. Jakkar’s last Castellax stared for a moment on the dead Dominus as if it tried to process what had happened, and then it tore the Son before it limb from limb. The veteran Decima fought just increased his flurry of attacks seeming unmoved by his brother’s death. At last Decima caught the legionary’s power axe with one of his servo-arms, crushing its haft between the steel grip. The warrior had time to go for his holstered bolt-pistol before Decima's upswing clove the Son from groin to neck. Trans-human blood sprayed his features as the gory remains fell like overripe fruit to the ground.
Abaddon broke through the ruined wall of the central house. His adrenalin pumped his hearts to go faster, and he only stopped for a moment to see a gang of thralls stabbing into the form of a legionary lying on top of a pile of his brothers. Abaddon roared as his hunt continued, and cut into the slave-warriors.
Decima’s internal systems flared as damage reports flooded his retinas. He was on the brink of death, he didn’t need his cognis-magna to come to that conclusion. His face mask was dripping with blood and holy machine oil, and his breathing made broken sounds that could only mean that a lung unit had been punctured. The Castellax still stood beside Jakkar, a guard dog watching over its dead master. Decima sent a signal through the command matrix and it spasmed into life. It waddled over to him, making a series of clicking sounds. Decima patted its grime spattered chassis, soothing its machine spirit with holy incantations. Without the Dominii to help him uphold the killing protocols within the software of his cybernetic warriors the machine creatures fell back into pre-instinctual patterns unique for every machine spirit. This particular Castellax seemed to lack the stereotypical predatorial rage that haunted the rest of its produced kind, its demeanor more akin to that of a composure driven hound. Such a strange happening, Decima mused and finished his hymn. Overhead he could hear the sonic boom of the Fire Raptor returning for another strafing run. The Castellax threw a glance towards the sound and looked back to its new master. With a gesture, it tried to push Decima towards the opening of a ruined hab-unit. The Arch-magos was in no condition to argue with the machine, even dismissing the thought of an argument with the Castellax as heretical. He limped inside the doorframe as the Castellax took a guarding position outside.
In that moment, as Decima tried to find cover from the incoming gunship, a gust of wind blew in from the burning mega spires in the background. Smoke cleared and flames gutted for what seemed a life-time. Through the doorframe, clear as blue sky, Decima saw the Warmaster as he strode through the ruin of a Vultarax. The Arch-traitor’s gaze traveled over the battlefield, unmoved by the vista of destruction wrought in his name. And there, as time flowed back to engulf Decima, the Arch-magos could see a small streak of crimson over the Warmaster’s brow. A sense of calmness filled Decima, his hatred fluttering out for a second. He only felt… fulfilment. Then his world exploded in light and fire as the Fire Raptor ripped apart the hab-unit.
The First Captain found his gene-father in the aftermath of the battle. Transports had descended from the Vengeful Spirit to disgorge an army of apothecaries, tech-priests and slaves to salvage the spoils from the battle. Gene-seed was harvested, legionaries sedated for coming surgery onboard the Spirit and weaponry and armour scavenged for the coming wars. Horus stood overlooking the now quiet district as the post-battle routines started to play out. Abaddon frowned as he saw Falkus being hauled from a heap of rubble, his unconscious form laid on a servitor carried stretcher. Little Horus was sitting on a dead cybernetic unit, his facial graft looked over by a trio of apothecaries. He nodded towards Abaddon who answered with a nod of his own. Horus turned to his son as Abaddon walked up to him, the Warmaster in his good humours as he usually was. Somethings never changed, mused Abaddon.
“We carry on.” he commanded. "My brothers will soon be here for our next target."
“The target, liege?” the First Captain asked.
“Molech, my son.”
Servo-skull B-14 pict-capturing what seems to be a severely wounded Decima fleeing from the field of battle, covered by a Castellax unit and a Knight Atrapos of House Carnak.
Protean District, Metrix Prime. 008.M31 - Dwell
Edited by SchultzChaos, Today, 01:05 PM.