Rains of Badab Primaris
Something was wrong.
He ran even as he cursed under his breath, bolter clutched close to his chest, ceramite boots wading through mud and sewer muck in a naked rush for the next turn. His brothers were with him though, in truth, there were few of them left even before they made it back to Badab Primaris. Still the runic symbols of his helmet's display flashed across his right eye. Twenty sigils of Legion Cohort Squad Haakon, twenty loyal knights of the Tyrant... and twelve of those sigils were now dulled out, their lives and deeds of honour memorialized by little more than a recognizing that they dead. Their gene-seeds unrecoverable, their names unwritten in the Elegy of the Forlorn. In the distance he could still hear the resonating boom of the Sacrosanct Bell's toll to offer mourning to those lost souls in the far distance from the highest tower of the Palace of Thorns.
That alone was to be his comfort, the mourning of the bell and the knowledge that he would be joining his brothers soon.
The sound of his own name was enough to drag the warrior from melancholy, drifting on heel as he darted into the branching path of the sewer tunnel and slammed his back to the wall. He knew the command without it even being given, the same routine check for ammunition that had been played out for the past four hours. How strange it was to have known this entire war without worry for ammunition, to now count every bolt round with a blessing in the final hours of their dying home world.
"18 rounds, Sergeant. No spares."
"One spare." A familiar voice cut in as a bolt magazine was tossed towards him. Cycla caught the sickle clip, thumbing the first round slowly in his hand lightly. With a small and weary smile he offered a nod to Ichoma, his closest brother returning the curt gesture in a scarred MK IV helm.
Forty-eight bolt rounds. Cycla offered a small vow that he would take the lives of twenty-four Star-Phantoms before the Sacrosanct Bell tolled for his loss as well. For the last four hours Legion Cohort Squad Haakon and their kindred squads of the XIII Legion had been fighting a losing battle with the Star Phantoms in the sewer caverns, defending every passage and line that they could, laying down their lives in the muck and mud to keep the invading forces away from the Defense grids that lay beneath the Palace of Thrones.
But something was wrong...
In the past hour the ground beneath them had begun to lurch, not the deafening rupture of orbital bombardment or detonating structures above them, but rather something far deeper, below them where the atomic generators of the hive cities still lay. Even now the earth shook beneath their feet, sewer water quivering in chaotic ripple patterns across the brackish surface.
For a fleeting moment he was spared a luxurious moment to recover his breathing and what remained of his squad took stock of their situation. Cycla looked upwards, the ceiling above them cracked and buckled to reveal chance glimpses of the tortured sky above.
Heaven was burning, clouds of bruised black obscuring all notion of sunlight, a storm brewing a deluge of torrential rain and cobwebbed lightning... Even amidst such a hurricane, their beautiful city burned and crumbled against the wrath of the Imperium, everything they had bled for, everything they had fought for with tooth and nail was brought to ruin and ashes...
He closed his eyes even as the rain battered against his silver helm, emerald lenses staring unblinking into the weeping sky of Badab Primaris.
He would die here... They all would.
The question now was a matter of when and how.
With a deep breath he opened his eyes once more and looked to his squad, surveying over each of them and lastly to his sergeant. Veteran Sergeant Haakon returned his gaze for a moment, no gesture or words between them, yet the quiet passing of time was enough for them.
"We need to stall them here." Sergeant Haakon began to speak, relaying the digital feed of the sewer system to the rest of the squad, his words rushed with little time for them left to remain here, lest they be caught off guard. Even now, as Cylca peered around the corner he could see no sign of the enemy, but he could hear their boots stomping through the mud towards them.
"Legion Cohort Sjaal is setting up explosives at the joining passages up ahead, but they need time to reach the point and set the demolition charges. We will stay here and stall the enemy for as long as we can."
"I will stay."
Every Space Marine, including Cycla turned to face Ichoma, the warrior standing in the battered ruin of power armour, bolter crunching to his shoulder plate in a readied position. "With the confining space of the corridors, there's too many of us to make any proper use of our fire power. Our best bet would be to maintain singular sentry at this corner and the opposite to maximize the overwatch field. More than two would simply be a waste of man power. With respect, sergeant, the rest of you should move forward to take defensive positions further on or meet up with Squad Sjaal."
In silence, Cylca looked down at his hand, peering at the fresh sickle magazine that his brother had offered him, staring at the exposed bolt casings as though they might offer him some form of parting wisdom.
"I will stay with him, sergeant." This time it was Cycla who spoke, looking over to Ichoma. Though he could not see his expression, Cycla saw the surprise in his brother's body language. "Like you said.. Two would maximize the killing field. You can't be at two corners, right?"
Without a word, Ichoma offered another silent nod of thanks to his brother, the two warriors looking to their sergeant now for some form of confirmation or refusal...
The obvious death wish was not denied.
Four. He had killed four Star Phantoms, a far cry for what he had hoped but even as the flashing runes warned him that he had expended the last of his ammunition he felt no sense of shame or lost pride. Really, he shouldn't have been expecting more.
Bringing the smoking weapon to his forehead for a moment he offered up a silent thanks to the machine spirit before tossing it into the muck where the weapon disappeared beneath the rippling surface. Drawing his combat sword, Cycla spared a glance over to Ichoma, his brother fallen silent after the second return of volley fire when a bolt round had caught the warrior in the eye lens and sent him down with a quarter of his head missing. He was still laying their, slumped and unmoving against the wall.
Ichoma had taken six of the Star Phantoms down, and Cycla made a new vow that he would at least meet his brother's tally. He could hear them moving along the passage now, cautiously as they had no idea he had already run out of ammunition. Again he stared at the sky above through the broken ruin of a sewer roofing, the rain still pouring down from the sky above as a mother that weeped for the murder of her children. His breathing was ragged, his muscles ached, his wounds searing... yet it all seemed to bleed away in the rain, the water soothing him even though it never came into contact with his skin.
He would die here, that much was certain. It is a death that is inevitable. But it is a death that that he had chosen. On his own terms. In his own way. blade in hand. Fighting to the bitter end.
Battle Brother Cycla of the Astral Claws Chapter
Legionary Cohort Squad Haakon, XIII Legion
Pict-feed taken at the siege of the Palace of Thorns, subterranean sewer system
Subject announced K.I.A. from close-ranged bolter fire
He died with his blade broken and his vow kept.