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[Iron Gauntlet 2017] Deserter

Iron Gauntlet Iron Gauntlet 2017

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Nothus peered over the fallen wall during a brief respite from constant autogun fire while his armor's auspex registered potential targets within the hazy mess of the keep's breach. Ducking back down again as another wave poured out from behind the ruined barricade, he readied himself for the approaching horde of poorly-equipped militia.
"Vita brevis", he sighed to himself as he stood up and took aim.
Chunked entrails spewed outward almost instantly as his neatly-placed shell detonated within the chest of the one of the city's still-fervent defenders. As he lept into the foray, boltgun still blazing, the violent screams surrounding him slowly coalesced to a cacophonous roar. A few ominous clicks preceded a brief moment of silence before the frag grenade cleared the smoked-filled killing field before him.
"The Bastard", as he is known among his fellow warriors, abandoned his oaths to the Imperium upon being captured during the Fall of Badab. His lower half was found to be all but destroyed, and he had suffered extensive melta burns from his chest to his nose, which had since been replaced with a bionic rebreather. He had chosen life when it was offered along with his surrender and personal service to technical and medical genius known "Ovis" of the enigmatic renegade Astartes group known as "The Violent Gods". Nothus Dega spat on his former allegiances quite willingly when given a chance to subvert his fate by transcending the limits of the body- a body he had finally been made to understand was as mortal as anything else made of flesh and blood. The nickname was indeed well-earned.
He had recently been assigned as a squad leader while the Gods' officer ranks were thinned as part of his long journey toward induction into the group's inner circle,. Despite his considerable combat prowess, however, his primary interest was found outside the battlefield. 
He had not been chosen from among his class of aspirants to study the ways of the Cult Mechanicus, and the sting of failure had haunted him throughout his tenure with the Sons of Medusa. With new life had come a new sense of reverence for the mysteries of existence and a deep desire to master them. Now with the wisdom garnered from his near-death experience, he cared little for the orthodoxy of the source from which such knowledge might be acquired. The knowledge to which he now had access surpassed his wildest conceptions, and so there were no limits to what he would subject himself to in order to maintain his access to it.
Though he had started off as simply a de facto heretic, he now found himself among the true believers. Achieving his masters' military objectives was his duty for the time being, however, and his own interests would simply have to wait.
The field in front of the wall's opening had not been cleared entirely by his grenade, and he would now have to clean up after himself. 
Nothus rarely said much before entering the field of battle, and even his centuries now spent fighting for the cause of the Violent Gods had not changed his old ways. Far more terrifying than any voice was his cold silence, and Nothos took a certain sort of pleasure in experiencing the simple sounds and smells of warfare without distraction.
The rhythms of the dull thuds of slumping bodies accompanied a dozen final breaths as Nothus let loose a quick burst of boltgun rounds into the disorganized mob. Blood-curtling yelps threatened his trance-like advance as his fellow warriors surged forward on both sides. All the while, he squeezed his power axe tightly as he continued to let loose into the smoke-wrought carnage before him.
A lone defender somehow trudged through the overwhelming firepower and set his path directly towards Nothus, who sidestepped the hail of poorly-placed autopistol fire and slashed low and wide as he stepped forward. The move left the man groaning pitifully as his legless torso dropped, intenstines flopping onto the ground in a sputtering haze of blood and bile. A familiar series of symbols flashed across Nothus' visual field as his enhanced armor confirmed the presence of the chemical he had already tasted in the city's blood-soaked air: iron, the indelible marker of human mortality. 
All around him the city's ragged vanguard continued their dogged advance, even if their efforts must have felt quite fruitless.  Behind him, friendly lascannon fire from Ovis' detachment rained down into the breach, carving holes into the city's desperate counter-attack, including the failing walls that continued to funnel the city's defenders directly into the spearhead led by Nothus himself. The enigmatic techno-mystic, however, was absent as usual, preferring instead to keep company with his esoteric bio-mechanical research and sending his equerry to command in his stead. 
Nothus recalled his surrender and conversion to the cause of the Violent Goes quite vividly. Though his memories of his final battle as a sworn Medusan still remained vague, his revival on a cold operating table in Ovis' laboratory came back in exquisite detail. An acrid itch pulsed all across his chest as his visual field remained a dark void, spotted by fuzzy pockets of orange light. The image cleared to the dull outline of a dark figure hovering over him in the dimly-lit and bitter-smelling chamber. 
"Would you like to know why you're alive?" 
The bite of the metallic voice sent shivers down Nothus's spine, further exacerbating his increasingly desperate urge to pull his bound arms up to rip out whatever thing had replaced his ruined face and chest so as to stop the maddening itch. His violent thrashing calmed and he grunted pained assent as the figure paced around to the other side of the operating table. 
"You have an air of tenacity about you, a quality I observed in you even from across the battlefield. Should you renounce your vows to the Imperium and swear allegiance to me, I can allow you to continue on and to learn from my technically-gifted friend Ovis here the ways of machines and of the flesh in this world, and of the subtle interactions between them. On my end- I, Jaruk the Apostate, can teach you the secrets of the universe, for they are many, and our keys to our access to many of those secrets themselves lies hidden in various parts of our material domain. The Imperium has- for the entirety of its existence- endeavored to hide certain truths from us. Perhaps those motivations were for simply our preservation, or perhaps for intentions more nefarious, but nonetheless, kept from us despite the crucial role we played in its very sustenance.
I suspect that you, too- particularly in your training regarding the circumstances of your chapter's birth- came to wonder if such things might be true. They are true, and you are only alive because they are true.
Since the alternative is that Ovis transplants a new head onto your torso and throws your current one away, have you made your decision?"

Edited by bloodhound23, 25 December 2017 - 05:44 PM.

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