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Marius The Possessed
The Shattered Mirror of the Past
The haemonculus's scalpel buried it's blade in the bicep of the prisoner, electing both a hiss of pain and a gasp of pleasure from the restrained warrior. Dark blood, the colour of shadowed amethyst, welled up around the puncture, and then followed in a dark line as the blade as it turned the puncture into an incision the length of the subdued eldar's arm. The masked figures assisting the torturer fixed clamps to the exposed flesh, holding the wound open to reveal the bone beneath.
"How does it feel, o favoured Sandrubai?" The mocking tone was light and hoarse, more akin to a whisper on the wind than an actual voice. It belonged to a wizened figure, bent hunched over as its warped musculature proved unable to attain a straight posture. A ghastly smile spread the black lips of it's otherwise unnaturally pale face as it surveyed its work.
"It feels good, Karthobael," wheezed the prisoner, struggling to speak through a flayed-open throat. Most of his heavily tattooed and pierced body resembled its throat and arm, sliced open to reveal the pearly-white skeleton beneath. The sybarite smiled up at its tormentor. "When are you going to start torturing me?"
Karthobael hissed and spat. "Filthy little vatborn freak, you'll regret those words." Its long, delicate fingers, each with four joints and tipped by a black talon, fished a baroque syringe from the tray table held out by its assistants. It waved the point before its prey's eyes, then swiftly sank the tip into an exposed rib, the inbuilt drill in it's tip whirred through the osseous material with ease. Sandrubai drew in a ragged breath as the orange liquid within was injected straight into the hollow of his bones. Kartho smiled at the reaction.
"I've just injected you with marrowfire, freak. You may not know what that is, it's a rather special creation of mine." The haemonculus withdrew the syringe, dropping it with a clatter on the tray and replacing it with a small hammer. "It will manipulate your DNA so that all the marrow in your bones is created into more marrowfire within minutes."
With a swift tap of his hammer, Karthobael broke the rib he had injected. Orange marrowfire spilled out onto the exposed tissue, and Sandrubai screamed as his nerves went haywire with pain. The haemonculus shuddered with delight. "Unfortunately, any exposure to your regular tissues will result in excruciating pain."
The sybarite barely heard his torturer, his mind swimming in a sea of pain. His focus drifted backwards in time, reliving the catastrophe that had landed him in this most unenviable of situations…
The raid on Bastion had been very profitable. The warriors of the Kabal of the Transfixing Eye had descended on the small party of the mon-keigh elite as they finished butchering a group of their traitorous brethren. The Kabal had, as always, been seeking slaves, but this time for more exotic purposes: the dread Archon of the Kabal had decided to host a series of gladiatorial games for the larger Kabals, and had charged his dracon lieutenants with capturing worthy opponents for the visiting wych cults.
The dread Archon's right hand, the Dracon Mavari, had taken her forces into the webway in search of these mon-keigh elite. They were much sought after in Commoragh due to their powerful physical prowess, and would net her and her reputation a large amount of prestige in the dread Archon's eyes.
Though a mere vat-born and no trueborn, Sandrubai, resplendent in his barbed and pointed sapphire armour, was a member of Mavari's retinue, and had followed his mistress into battle at her side. He was only there because Mavari favoured him as her scandalous lover, due to the low status of his birth. As she regularly stated, "there's nothing like a delicious scandal to keep everyone talking about you." Because it advanced his position, as well as Mavari's fierce prowess as a lover, Sandrubai allowed himself to be manipulated in this way. But her favour had backfired during the Bastion raid.
The dracon and her retinue had already made their way through a squad of red-armoured mon-keigh, felling them with potent tranquilisers and sedatives instead of their usual lethal venoms in order for the prey to be drawn back aboard the slave-boats and transferred to the arenas of Commoragh. The dracon herself, clad in armour that bore the appearance of a sordid blue gown and wielding a staff topped with a sunburst of blades, had brought four of them low herself, their defiant cries to their corpse-god, winged primogenitor and one called 'Malat' dying strangled within their helms. That was when the shadow had fallen upon them, and Sandrubai had looked up from basking in the frenzied energy of the battlefield. He had just enough time to glimpse a boxy, scarlet aircraft peeling away when another, smaller rectangular shape fell from the sky, this one with weaponised limbs and roaring from a speaker grill in the crude language of the mon-keigh. It's landing amidst the eldar scattered them as it shattered the earth, and four trueborn were swiftly shredded by the pair of spinning claws it bore. In seconds, only Sandrubai and Mavari were left, alone against the bellowing monstrosity. The dracon leapt at the metallic fiend, only for a backhanded swipe to send her broken body tumbling away.
As it turned slowly to bear upon the sybarite, beams of unlight struck it's exposed back, causing it to shudder slightly before violently detonating. The explosion knocked Sandrubai on his arse, scattering his weapons. Through a daze he saw one of the raiding force's floating skiffs draw close, Karthobael at its prow looking fiendishly upon him.
"He failed to protect the mistress," hissed the haemonculus. "Bind him and bring him to my dungeons when we return to Commoragh. There he will be made to suffer for his failure." Sandrubai's vision had darkened then, leaving only thoughts of despair and the haemonculus's laughter ringing about his mind…
"Dishonour is not an option"
In the later part of 738.M41, an Imperial task-force comprising a Titan legion,
several regiments of guard and a newly created Astartes chapter called the Furious
Angels set out to reclaim the Centaurus Arm of Segmentus Ultima from invaders.
Initial fighting revealed the foe to be the insidious Sigil of Discord, a kabal of
Dark Eldar. The early stages of the war were to claim the Angel’s new homeworld,
Ashiva, and it’s extensive mineral deposits.
"The auspex scans are complete. We're two klicks from the target, with no enemy in
range and I want to be on our way out before those patrols return"
As he spoke, Sergeant Rigan Vigor of the Furious Angels 3rd Company emerged from the
tree line and descended down the hill, over half a dozen armoured giants in his wake.
All clad from head to toe in red, black and steel coloured ceramite, Squad Adino
formed an imposing sight and Rigan almost wished his foes could see them now. This
was not his way, skulking and sneaking when he could be riding forward in the squad’s
Rhino transport "Emperor's Shield" headlong at the hated enemy. However Rigan Vigor
took pride in having never failed in his mission and if this was how it was then he
would play with the hand that the Emperor dealt him and succeed all the same. The
mission was simple in definition if not in practice - reach the Dark Eldar compound,
kill the commander, and destroy any and all forces found garrisoned there.
Easier said than done however, as Squad Adino and three others had set off together
under Captain Yeril and his command squad five days earlier and things had not gone
to plan from planet-fall onwards. Within two hours of landing on Ashiva a Dark Eldar
patrol had spotted Cerle and his squad crossing a river, and even Astartes could not
survive long when caught in the open with no cover or fire support. The loss of a
squad was a high price to pay for only two or three of those skimmer bikes and their
foul xenos crew– made worse as the mission was too important to risk reclaiming their
progenoid glands. Two days ago Squad Filran had been forced to circle back towards
the landing site to draw off more patrols, and Vigor hadn't heard from his commander
or any other member of the command squad since a heavy storm drastically reduced
spotting distance and disrupted anything more than short-range communications earlier
that morning. Even with the combined forces of both squads this mission would have
been tight, if there was no other squad then they'd need the Angel's own luck for
The terrain was fairly open, and they made good time crossing the wasteland
surrounding the enemy supply point. Taking cover behind a half wrecked Imperial
promethium tanker left over from the last attempt to take this continent, Rigan took
stock of the objective and could not believe how easy this was. They were still half
a klick from the collection of slave pens and storage bunkers, but how could they
have not been seen already? The enemy was notoriously difficult to surprise, and this
whole mission was getting more suspicious by the minute.
"Where are they? I'm getting nothing on the auspex at all, not even slaves!" snapped
Eli, the sensor specialist and newest member of the squad.
Noting the frustration and short fuse that could easy turn into bloodlust within an
unfortunate member of a Blood Angel founded chapter, Rigan answered with a simple
pair of gestures and sending one half of the squad to the edge of the compound, and
the second kill team to establish fire-points. Leading by his actions as well as
words, he ducked around the end of the truck and sprinted towards the nearest slave-
built wall. From his new vantage point he watched Brother Tren settle in with a
shoulder mounted missile launcher while the rest of the Secondary got themselves
established overlooking the entrance to the enemy strongpoint.
"Primary, through the gates and by the numbers. You know how this works. For the
Angel!" he exclaimed, as he took his place in the leftmost-rear position of a
staggered cross formation. They moved methodically down the wide dirt path, checking
every door or window they came across and marking the portals on their helmet map
displays to show they had been checked, but found nothing but empty rooms bearing no
sign of use.
"This is supposed to be a way point for their vehicles. Where are the skimmer
trackers? Where are the slaves, or the Emperor-damned repair crews?!" cursed Eli in
frustration. "I've seen none of the evidence we should expect, even if this place
fell into disuse years ago"
"I don't like this either. Squad, reform at the tanker. We're taking this mystery
home for the Strategium to consider. With no army here to destroy and no leader to
kill, our mission is invalid. However there are still those patrols left to explain,
so keep your eyes open."
As they half-squad double-timed it through the gate and back to the tanker, Vigor and
his men were stopped dead in their tracks by a static build-up on the exposed metal
of their armour. "Energy source somewhere nearby - Primary, take up firing positions;
"They're..." the vox spat, before dropping to static.
"Alpha to Secondary, say again?" tried Vigor. "Secondary, come in!"
This time, the reply was not just static. One by one, the status lights for Secondary
team flickered out. Not to amber or red, but just... off.
Turning to face their last position, Brother-Sergeant Rigan Vigor of the Furious
Angels 3rd Company knew he was in trouble even before he saw the tell-tale flicker of
the webway portal opening out of the corner of his eye.
They had known he was coming all along.
Marius The Possessed
Yay! A story that doesn't have Imperial Guard in it! I seriously like this one, though, not just because of the fact its about Dark Eldar and there really isn't enough Dark Eldar stuff out there. The retelling of the battle, of how Sandrubai came to be at the mercy of the Haemonculi, is handled very well, and even in such a short piece we learn a lot about the characters. A very decent effort!
Again, another solid effort. The story flows well, the agitation of the marines comes across easily, as does the sense of trepidation/despair as the trap is sprung. I don't really know what else to say about this one, to be honest.
Again, hard to separate these two. I think, by the tiniest of margins, that Realitycheque's may be the slightly more polished effort, and thus his will get the slightly higher mark.
Marius the Possessed - 3/5
Realitycheque - 4/5
Marius the Possessed 4/5
Both pieces very quite good, both being enticing in their own ways.
Reality's had a wonderful flow between speach and observation, I'd say it was the best written of the two.
Marius's instead was far better with its characters, delving into the relationship between the Dracon Mavari, the lowborn lover and now prisoner Sandrubai and the haemonculus torturing him. This, and the selfishness displayed by all the characters have me giving it the greater score.
GLORY TO THE DICE GODS!
Cudos to both Marius and Realitycheque, I really enjoyed both stories and cant really fault either of them. The only way I can think to separte the two is in the theme... I felt Realitycheques was more catastrophic on the whole as it represents a major disaster all round rather than the personal (but very gory) disaster of Sandrubai.
Marius the Possesed - 4/5
Realitycheque - 5/5
Your friendly neighbourhood gargantuan creature
Wow- two of the best submissions I've read so far! It's a shame that the two of you had to be pitted against one another so early, having to bump one of you down into the lower bracket feels like potentially unleashing a bull into a china-shop. The only thing I can say to you both is that I feel like you didn't hit the catastrophe theme as well as I expected. When they announced this, I was thinking that I was going read about exploding star ships, the loss of entire legions of Guard, planets being virus bombed, Exterminatus orders, entire SM Companies disappearing. All of the stories seemed limited to personal tragedies or small losses, as if nobody wanted to go all out and try to picture a 40k-scale catastrophe.
Marius - my only complaint is that you should have italicized the introduction, and kept the rest in standard formatting. Italics are hard to read, and the practice of "un-italicizing" text that you want to have stand out, makes large blocks of italics awkward to read. The fact that this little nitpick is the best (worse?) that I can come up with, I have to congratulate you on an amazing job. You did a great job filling out your characters, making them believable and capturing the essence of the Dark Eldar. I think writing out the Furious Angels was probably a bit tough given that there isn't any official fluff that we can all track down, but their appearance was reduced to a rather minor role. The only other thing that hurt was the intro was actually somewhat long- you could have skimped a few of the details like the Marrowfire, and given us more meat in the actual story. The ending felt a bit odd too- where the heck did that Archon come from?! Was Sandrubai set up?
Cheque - good stuff, again, the only complaint that I can come up with is formatting related: please don't double-space your paragraphs. Again, it just makes things tough to read. Just drop a space in between paragraphs, and you'd be fine. Otherwise, it felt like everything flowed together very well. Your intro went smoothly into your story, and the whole story provided lots of details on the setting, which was nice. There were still some parts that chewed up too many words for how effective they actually were (pointing out that he'd rather be in the Rhino does say that he's proud and warlike, but you could've showed that better, later on perhaps). Otherwise, great stuff. The strange bit-by-bit losses were neat, it kept up a sense of suspense the whole way through the story. The only shortcoming is that the ending was abrupt- again, this is where you could've flexed Vigor's warlike nature - we never know if the marines actually died or not, and given GW's propensity for having 5 marines take on entire armies, we sort of need you to tell us that they're dead.
Great efforts from the both of you. It's interesting that these stories could be linked - Maraval could be a great hunter who carefully baited Vigor into her trap. This decision is so close that I'd award half-points if it wasn't such a problem in the last fluffwar. I've got to give Reality the edge though, just because the flow and pacing of his story made it seem a bit more polished.
Marius - 4/5
Cheque - 5/5
Damn, I was hoping the next vote would have tied us again, haha. Thanks everyone for voting though, props to my opponent, I have no qualms about being defeated by a worthy opponent.
Formatting was a pain in the arse for me - every time I copied my text to a new format, my spacing got fried :-(
Cheers for the feedback everyone, and well played to MtP this was a tense round :-)
Oh and Captain, the reason you don't know what happened to the other marines is that the story doesn't end there - Vigor and his squad will return eventually :-)