"I was there boy, I was there..."
The young brother trembled as the booming voice of the veteran echoed through the vacant labyrinth. All around him ancient heroes lay in slumber, awaiting the call to war by those now tasked with leading the Chapter. The damage of the previous battle had been painstakingly repaired, the words of mercy to the machine god aiding as each battered armoured plate was removed and hammered back to perfection. As the gentle scents of the ritual of deactivation still hung heavy in the air, all that remained was for an acolyte of the forge to stand guard as the ancient entered his stasis cycle.
"I was there boy, I was there when the ground shook and all the foulness of Chaos broke through."
The guard did not sway from his duty, the strict code of conduct he had vowed to follow was the only way to ensure the ritual to successfully complete. The words of his master still rung inside his helmet; "Do not speak to them for your words may destroy their dreams". Even though every fibre of his being urged him to turn to face the dreadnought, he refused to be the reason why this valiant warrior of the Chapter was lost to the Imperium.
Although he refused to forget his duty, the young guard was hanging on every word of this ancient hero of the Chapter. He had heard rumours of this story, this legend of pain that still tore at the hearts of many of the elders within the chapter. Though officially known as the Battle of Jackle-Irsi, it had gained many names over the decades , such as the Tainting of Heroes Hill or, more damningly, the Breaking of the Foolish Column. It was a myth whispered in secluded sections of ships, a saga that had become so removed from the truth that to hear the words of a witness was a seduction beyond the machine-god’s acolyte willpower to resist. For all of the Chapter’s efforts to instil barriers against temptation, his basic desire to know the truth was too strong.
“On nothing more than a mound of earth that rose barely a titan-high, we stood side-by-side. Surrounded by the baying masses that used to tithe to the Imperium, their sanity broken and enslaved them to animalistic desires; lust, wrath and greed. Although we were outnumbered thousands to one, an Angel of Perdition is worth a million of such beasts. As we slaughtered our way through three nights of constant battle, it seemed that there was no end to the horde. Our guns fell silent as our ammunition ran dry. Our blades began to dull as the sliced through bone and metal alike. Our gauntlets grew layers of blood and gore, and our weapons choked on the flesh of traitors. On the dawn of the fourth day, the last of the heathens drew their final breath.
All that remained was a single lone figure, a blind-woman wandering the plains of blood that surrounded the hill. No, what should have been plains of blood and a sea of bodies was nothing more than red tainted dirt. This crazed woman made a slow approach to our position, screaming and chanting about the destruction we had rendered on her people. Brother Locvik ran out to put an end to this poor excuse for a creature’s ramblings. Locvik was the first to die.”
Every muscle in his body ached to turn around and ask the hundreds of questions that now filled his head. Where had the blood gone? Who was the lone woman? Who had killed Locvik? What had happened to everyone? To turn around was to possibly damn a veteran to a tormented sleep of nightmares that he might never wake, but to not to would be a crime against the truth.
“I was there boy, I was there when the ground shook and all the foulness of Chaos broke through, but Brother Locvik was there when the ground exploded beneath him. The blind woman bellowed one last war cry, and as Locvik’s blade exited the now dead old hag the first few drops of blood fell to the earth. All around us, hands and swords began to appear from the ground, rising up, rising up. Swords longer than a Predator’s main gun, arms twice as thick as ours. Hands with sharp claws able to shred through our armour. Then came their faces, oh what vile, deformed faces these were. Eyes full of anger and resentment, noses flared to better smell the pungent blood that now bled from the ground. Grins filled with countless teeth, snapping at the air as they barked unnatural sounds.
Daemons my boy, daemons so terrifying that they still send a shiver through my bones. For all our murderous wrath, for all our power, we had merely been the tool to serve blood to the earth. The enemies had willingly flung themselves against our armoured circle to be slaughtered, slaughtered so they could now became vessels for creatures of the Empyrean. As more of their kin were given an unholy birth from the ground, they marched upon us. Whist they chanted hideous vows of blasphemy, our mind-shields held strong. Whilst they cursed the rising sun and the Emperor of Mankind, our mind-shields held. But when they sung like a choir of the damned, we finally broke.
First in ones, then in twos and threes, my brothers fell to the floor. The hymns of Chaos ringing in our eyes, some turned upon themselves or on their brothers, driven mad by the ever- wrong voices of the daemons. Others just snapped, becoming little more than shivering corpses littering the floor. I stood alone, the banner of our company wrapped flat around its pole like it could sense the destruction going on around it. Thrice I was forced to take my blade to the throat of what had once been a brother. The hellish music playing madness in their minds, realising the dogs of insanity that we had strived so long to guard against. I prayed for forgiveness each time. I prayed for deliverance from this damnation. I prayed to wake one more day in the arms of the Emperor. Thankfully boy, I was answered.”
His jaw now hung heavy within his helmet, his eyes wide with anticipation as the story rolled in his ears like a sweet nectar. Though delivered with the booming, cold voice of vox-caster, somehow a human echo was found within the flat stereo sound. Emotions managed to break through their mechanical entrapment, the pain of ending the life of one’s own brother tearing the guard's twin hearts in half. That the mind-shields could be overcome was an astonishing fact within itself, too many of his brothers lay lax on their mental protection as they held their faith in such devices. He would not fail to keep his mind stronger than expected, for someday he might have to face the choir.
“Explosions! Great, devastating explosions from the skies. The daemons had no answer for the solid metal and the bombardment from the most terrifying arsenal in the Astartes grip. The rushing expansion of gas was the last thing I felt against my bare skin boy, for when I awoke, I was clad in this monstrous behemoth you see before you.
So when you hear the mumblings of the Tainting of Heroes Hill, or the Breaking of the Foolish Column, tell them that you know someone who was there. Someone who fought the day the ground erupted.”
With those words, the old veteran went silent. Finally the heavy bulk of the dreadnought slumped, his power supplies routing their energy only to the most vital of processes. Deep inside the armoured sarcophagus, the remains of an ancient brother dropped slowly in his netting, his dreams returning him to battlefields that had long been destroyed. He smiled to himself as he raised his hand to remove his helmet. To breathe air once more, to feel the wind blow against his face. In his dreams he was more alive than when he woke, and he hoped that it would be a while before the Emperor would call him to battle one more time.
“Deactivation has been completed. Did he speak much junior? Did he spin you tales of valiant fights against foes long forgotten? Ha! This old fool has long lost his mind, even our skills cannot redeem or protect the insane from millennia of entombment. Did he tell you of the Battle of Jakcle-Irsi? Of how a traitor battle barge appeared in the sky and obliterated the continent into little more than islands? No! I bet he told you something a lot more interesting, a lot more heroic.”
“No sir, he was silent as he fell into his slumber.”
As the junior followed the senior techmarine away from the chamber, he turned for the first time to look at the ancient dreadnought that he had guarded. Whispering low beneath the hearing of his commander;
“Thank you old man, thank you.”
Edited by Ferrata, 18 January 2011 - 08:06 PM.