Lt. Storn didn’t have much time to act. Sgt. Atmo had just reported in from patrol. His squad had picked up a distress signal nearby but slightly deeper in the hive. It had been sent in the clear, no doubt the nearby traitors had heard it too. He told Sgt. Atmo to hold his position and await reinforcements then recalled Squad Tydis from their patrol. Time again being essential he had to leave his heavier elements behind along with honored Brother Ryzn, still undergoing minor repairs from the previous battle. He set out with Squad Lohr and his fellow veterans of the Phalanx, expecting close contact with heretics responding to the same signal. Linking up with Sgt. Atmo, he ordered his Marines to spread out in a search pattern to cover more ground, hoping they might get lucky and retrieve the tech priest before the traitors were able to respond. His wishful thought was cut short.
“Contact! Traitors dead ahead, close on!”
* * * *
From the concealment of a collapsed storage fane, Pestilence Ache watched the Imperials methodologically advance out from the ruins of the manufactorum. From behind him, the smell of burnt ozone and accompanying electrical hum of a teleport beacon signaled the arrival of The Cestodate.
"The one who eludes us is close. The Corpse Worshipers must not be allowed to find it. Go and disrupt their search.”
As the Maggotmancer issues his orders a turrent of bolter fire erupts from the Imperial lines. The high impact rounds tear through the walls of the Fane but bounce harmlessly off the ancient bubonic terminator armor of The Cestodate. With a nod of compliance to the Emissary, the terminators crash through the ruined wall, the plascrete carnage and corroded pipes (finally) proving no hindrance to their inexorable advance. Toll Keeper dutifully follows in their footsteps, spurring on the Lords of Blight with his call of the Tally. Prey sighted, The Cestodate charge forward with surprising speed and despite the loyalist’s transhuman physiology, they prove no match for the plague ridden weapons of the Death Guard.
* * * *
Storn motioned for his veterans to go around the right side of the container as he came around the left to aid Sgt. Lohr. But the ancient terminator armor was just too much. Bolter fire had failed to slow them as the heretics’ blows cast the combat squad aside. Unable to aid his brethren Storn laid in as best he could, but the heretic’s armor held true. But then his vox crackled with Sgt. Atmo’s voice, lending a bit of hope to the situation.
Found him, sir!
Storn knew what had to be done, but these terminators would be a difficult task.
Sergeant, get him back to the firebase! The rest of us will hold them off!
As he dug in against the foul terminators, suddenly the vox was alive again. It was Sgt. Kord reporting on two single traitors behind the terminators followed in rapid succession by Sgt. Atmo with a fresh contact right. Suddenly things were looking even worse. It was at that moment while he was trying to process strategically that he briefly lost track of his immediate situation and was caught off-guard by the massive flail carried by one of the traitorous terminators. He was thrown back from his feet, and as he struggled to reset his failing power armor he could see the traitors shift their focus in the direction of Squad Atmo.
Brother Kord, I am out of the fight. It is up to You to Stop Them!
But Kord’s Bladeguard were caught between powerful foes as they braced for the onslaught. The traitors had a trick they had yet to reveal.
* * * *
As the Imperials secure the hidden Tech Priest, Pestilence springs his trap. The battle tested Coli, having recovered from their fatigue at battle for the Malginifer, emerge from their hidden location bringing fire to bear upon the loyalist's as they attempt to secure the Tech Priest.
With vile generosity, Pestilence Ache calls out an incantation. At his command, swarms of the Grandfather’s bounty seep into reality from the immaterium. Contagious warp energy floods the Loyalist Veterans, reaping havoc on their fortitude while sapping their strength and dexterity. Sensing easy prey, The Cestodate turn from the downed LT and descend upon the weakened Bladeguard. Through clawed mandibles the Champion of The Cestodate, a wretched mutated mirror of the imperial veteran, speaks. His words conjure the image of a bleak future and momentarily break the defiant spirit of the son of Dorn.
“Have no fear, corpse-sworn. The blessed gifts have already taken hold of your flesh. Accept their inevitability. soon … My Brother… we shall ascend the steps of Metallica together and announce the toll of the Grandfather to all.”
* * * *
Storn could hear his men over his still-functioning vox. They were not faring well, the psyker surprised his battle-hardened veterans, allowing the terminators to virtually shove them aside without fear of reprisal as they advanced toward Squad Atmo. The squad of heretical marines that had suddenly appeared were knocking his men out of action slowly but steadily. Storn struggled with his armor, resetting it yet another time as his Marines were knocked aside one-by-one. His men could navigate the terrain well but not without some hindrance. Their foe just seemed to ignore it. He knew his men could not outpace the traitor’s advance over the terrain in this area.
* * * *
Caught in a crossfire between the encroaching Cestodate and the newly arrived Coli, the Imperialists attempt to retreat with their prize. But the advance of the Death Guard is inexorable and slowly they herd the the Defenders into a corner. The Coli charge in, flails and cursed blades pummeling the First Born Sons. With brute force they pool the aged Tech Priest from the grip of his would be rescuers, securing victory for Lord Sepsis and potentially sealing the fate of Hive Dryloch.
* * * *
The Cestodate turn their attention to the Grandfather's Toll, plague axes ready for the roll of executioner. But before they can dispatch the few remaining corpse-sworn, a massive explosion rocks the Manufactorium, littering the street with dust and debris. As the Imperial’s armored reinforcements pour into the street, Pestilence orders the Death Guard to pull back with their prize. A reckoning with the Corpse worshippers is inevitable, but for now they have achieved their goal.
Bruides but not beaten, Lt. Storn struggled to his feet. As his reenforcements began seeing to his wounded he paused to watch the majestic, unmistakable sight of giant yellow plasteel. He didn't need the belch of the demolisher cannon to let him know that one of the Company's Vindicators had arrived. But the sound was always welcomed, especially on this day. The Death Guard had stolen victory today, but the war was far from over.
DEATH GUARD VICTORY 95-0