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A large shell impacts the battlesuit’s right arm, the commander is thrown
back. Intense pain fills Commander Or’es Mont’ka’s body. He turns his
head only to see the mighty battlesuit missing the bottom half of it‘s
left arm. Blood trickles down his face, he hit his head with the impact
of the shell. Or’es hits a few buttons disengaging the control mechanisms
of the battlesuit. The chest area of the battlesuit opens, exposing the
Commander in flesh, next to open are the leg guards, revealing the
remainder of the commander‘s body. Removing his pulse rifle from its
holster, the commander exits his crippled XV8 Crisis Battlesuit.
Commander Or’es jumps to the ground, only to be hit in the face with the
butt of a Gue‘la rifle. He reacts quickly sweeping the legs of his
assailant and releasing three rounds into the human’s face. Back on his
feet the commander can view the chaos around, his fire warriors are
engaged in hand to hand combat with their enemies, the kroot feast on
their dead, while their hounds hunt down anything that crosses their path.
Gun drones hum overhead releasing photon grenades from their pulse
carbines. An explosion to the commanders left throws him to the ground,
he looks up to see one of his bodyguard XV8 Crisis in flames, the
battlesuit impacts the war stricken earth. The commander raises his rifle
in anger, firing off several rounds at enemy soldiers. The low recoil on
his pulse rifle allows for quick shots. He is dead on, hitting three
enemies in the back, blood pours from their wounds as their spines
disintegrate. An enemy tank explodes in the distance catching everyone’s
attention, kroot rise to their feet and rush towards the explosion. A
missile is released from a nearby Gue’la, it impacts another battlesuit
destroying its jetpack. The battlesuit smashes into a nearby tree,
crushing the helpless warrior inside. The commander realizes that
missiles are the only way the Gue’la can defeat the mighty Tau
battlesuits. Or’es raises his pulse rifle, aiming it towards the amoured
head of the missile launcher operator. With one pull of the trigger the
head of the human explodes leaving a crimson mist floating in the air.
Out of nowhere burst cannons spin, mowing down enemy soldiers, the XV15
Stealth suits remain invisible even to their commander. Commander Or’es
charges into battle, firing off pulse rounds every couple of seconds. He
slams the butt of his rifle into the neck of a gue’la, a crack is heard as
the man’s neck snaps in two. Cries of retreat sound as the gue’la lines
break. The humans scatter into the woods, many shot down by the pulse
rifles of fire warriors. Others are chased down by carnivorous kroot and
their hounds. The commander looks around, many of his men fell to the
enemy ambush, they lie on the ground in bloodied heaps. It seems the
humans weren’t ready for a war party of this size, the sheer numbers of
kroot, fire warriors, and drones overwhelmed the potential gue’la victory.
One human remains, his face caked with blood as two fire warriors drag
him to their commander. He wears a long jacket of black, finely braided
fabric of gold and silver line his coat. On his chest is a golden animal,
the symbol of his nation. His hair is dark, strands of grey flowing
through. His face shows of a long military life, he looks at the young
tau commander. “We have fought for too long, you have become my hated
enemy, and you shall be defeated.” he mutters to Commander Or’es. These
words are followed by something the commander does not understand. The
gue’la finishes his thought by spitting in the Commander’s face.
Disgusted, Commander Or’es raises his pulse rifle to his enemy’s chest,
releasing a round, the man dies. “This is what becomes of those who stand
in the way of the tau’va, this planet is ours, these gue’la will not stand
against the force of the greater good.”
* * *
“The world of Guel’reh Telbuer is temperate. Season change and various
climates are distinct. The majority of the planet is either forest or
mountain. Only 23% of the planet is water. Orbital surveillance of the
planet has concluded that there are 16 semi-primitive nations living on
the planet. Three main nations are worth mentioning at this time. The
first of these is the Uren’vor. The Uren’vor dwell in the northern
mountains of the planet. Their technology is the most advanced on the
planet, wielding primitive laser weaponry. It is doubtful that any of our
forces will come in contact with this weaponry as it has been regarded as
unstable and in the testing stages. The Uren’vor also posses a wide range
of rifles. The diversity of their rifles is amazing. It is believed that
they sport several different types of specialty teams during war, each
utilizing a different weapon. Aircraft is highly advanced for the
Uren’vor also. They yield many stealth aircraft, though their technology
is not sophisticated enough to evade our tracking mechanisms. Their
armoured vehicles are nothing more than notable. The armour plate
utilized on their vehicles is not too thick, easily penetrated by our
rail-guns. Even our pulse rifles can put a good size hole in the side of
“The second of these seemingly superior nations we’ve named the Del’tore.
The Del’tore are recorded as dwelling in the northern plains, a bit south
of the Uren‘vor. As such, they seem to be the greatest threat to the
Uren’vor. Surveillance has reported much conflict between the two
nations. The Del’tore excel in the production of armoured vehicles.
Studies of their fighting style has shown us that they prefer to move
large amounts of soldiers into battle via armoured transport, rather than
moving in by foot. Our rail-guns should not have trouble, though our
weaker weapons will encounter problems. Their vehicle support is another
issue, they possess ordnance and artillery weapons aimed at taking out
many troops at a time. This could be a definite problem, though their
targeting mechanisms seem a bit behind. We should not encounter any
armour penetrating rounds though, seeing as their greatest enemy posses
less than average armour capabilities. The Del’tore lack sufficient
aircraft to defend against the advanced Uren’vor, though they have
advanced anti-aircraft equipment. This is another thing you should not
worry about, air support should be held to a minimum on this campaign,
only deployed when necessary. Thus, we will only dispatch the air
support after all anti-aircraft threats are out of the way.
“The final nation we are concerned with has been dubbed the Kor’tal. The
Kor’tal dwell in the southern regions of the planet. They are the least
advanced, though, with no threats to their power, it seems their society
prospers. Their capital lies in the southernmost mountain range dubbed
Mel’tor, here we will make planet fall. It is highly likely our planet
fall will go undetected, and for that reason we mean to remain unnoticed
until all units have been successfully deployed. There is little chance
they will be able to spot us, but we will take no chances, Orca drop ships
will be deployed hourly throughout the night, the first to be deployed
will be the kroot, afterwards you have full command. Commander Or’es
Mont‘ka, your army’s order is to seize the nation of Kor’tal, take it with
as little casualties as possible to either side. Be quick and forceful,
we want to take as many Kor’tal auxiliaries as possible, they will be
necessary in the upcoming stages of this campaign. Your movement will be
monitored via our orbital stations. For the greater good commander.”
* * *
Shas’o Vior’la Or’es Mont’ka, Commander Or’es, stares into the night sky
as yet another Orca dropship descends towards the planet. The kroot had
already landed and scoped the landscape, Kroot Shaper Ritok has assured
Commander Or’es that the surrounding area is clear, and he’d taken the
initiative to set up sentries around the immediate area. The second Orca
to drop in carried the Commander in his Crisis battlesuit, his two
bodyguards, each in a Crisis of their own, and a squad of fire warriors,
containing eleven Shas‘la and a Shas‘ui team leader. The third carried
two squads of fire warriors and a squad of gun drones. This ship is the
fourth, onboard are six Crisis, along with six XV15 Stealth suits.
Several more drop ships are expected matching the cargo of the first four
Orca. A final drop ship is expected, carrying the last two squads of fire
warriors and a final squad of gun drones, the ship will be accompanied by
four Hammerhead gun ships and two Devilfish troop carrier each manned by
seven Shas’la and a Shas’ui, eight pathfinders to a ship in total.
The night is peaceful, not many distractions, planet fall is successful.
Kroot Shaper Ore’Ritok stands outside his leather tent. He paces,
listening to the sounds of the forest. In the distance he watches as a
group of younger kroot ambush a large animal. The sharp blades on their
kroot rifles dig into the helpless animal’s flesh. The animal squeals and
hollers as several bladed punches dig into its warm insides. Ritok
believes the animal to be a boar of some sorts, he reckons they’ll be a
constant food supply throughout the campaign.
Dawn comes, the army is ready to move. The entire cadre contains 15 XV8
Crisis Battlesuits, 12 XV15 Stealth Suits, 120 Fire Warriors, 48 Kroot and
12 Hounds, 16 Pathfinders and a pair Devilfish, 32 Gun Drones, and 4
Hammerheads. “This army will be responsible for the fall of Kor’tal,”
thinks Or’es, “and hopefully they will last long enough to see the
Kroot scouts report there is a city owned by the Kor’tal only a dec, about
an hour and a half, north of the landing point, it has been dubbed Jor.
The hike is tiresome, through the forested mountains of Mel’tor, though
it is completed on schedule with little incident, minus the occasional
scuffle of a forest animal.
Commander Or’es orders the gun drones to make the first move through the
city, eliminating any resistance. The second to move in will be the
pathfinders and stealth teams, following them will be the fire warriors.
Finally the Crisis will drop into the city. Kroot will be the final to
enter, assuring that all is clear, and the chances of a counter-attack are
minmal. Commander Or’es hopes little conflict will be met, he wants to
see as many of his men last through this campaign as possible.
Gun drones meet little resistance as they hum through the city’s streets
over and over. Only one incident of gun fire is reported as an older
human fires a pistol at a drone, he is quickly shelled with photon
grenades and shot through by a pulse round. Stealth teams follow only
minutes afterwards, their chameleon like armour invisible to all that are
unknowing of their existence. The team walks through the city nearly
unnoticed until a gang of adolescents runs into them. The children
quickly run off, though they draw enough attention to the stealth teams to
give away their position. Pathfinders quickly seize a building setting up
sentries for the fire warriors. Shortly afterwards half, numbering about
60, of the fire warriors march into the city, guns ready for all that come
their way. A shot is fired, the round ricochets off a tau’s armour. The
shot sparks a large gunfight, fire warriors take cover on the sidewalks
and behind vehicles as they let off pulse rounds into the buildings where
the shots originated. Burst cannons unleash a sea of plasma charges into
the buildings’ faÃ§ade dust and debris fly from building, screams of pain
radiate from the inner structure. Suddenly, the firing stops, the buzz of
the battlesuits fill the air as fifteen Crisis drop into the streets of
the city. Gun drones hover into position 3 meters above the ground with
their pulse carbines facing the building. With a quick order from the
commander, the drones fly into the building, gun fire erupts again.
Within minutes the battling is over, four prisoners are taken, no
casualties are met.
Fire warriors pace the streets of Jor only decs after the cities takeover.
Commander Or’es is meeting with the governor of Jor inside its main city
building. Four large columns hold up the front roofing of the three story
building. Fine carvings line the walls, stories of ancient battles and
leaders can be learnt through the detailed engravings. Three Shas’la
guard the entrance to the mighty building. The three of them stand,
motionless, their pulse rifles, standing almost two-thirds of their own
height, are placed at their sides. Their sand coloured armour stands out
against their black under suits and the greyish tint of the building. One
of the Fire Warriors lets out a long sigh “Damn weather” he remarks in his
native tongue, as snow flakes begin to fall from the already overcast sky.
Suddenly mortars join the snow, battering on the large building. The
supports of the magnificent structure begin to crack as several impact
directly overhead. Immediately the hum of drones fill the air as they fly
off towards the mortars’ origin. Shrieking fills the air as Kor’tal
soldiers rush into close combat with kroot mercenaries. An unlucky
soldier rushes into a building only to be met with the bladed butt of a
kroot rifle to his chest. Another takes a blade to his groin, followed by
a blade to the top of his skull. Fire warriors are quick to create a
counter-attack, setting up fire points all throughout the cities
A squad of fire warriors enters the mortar showered building. Inside lie
scattered remains of book cases, fine wooden tables, chairs, along with an
assortment of ancient swords long since used. The squad quickly heads for
the stairs, only to find they have been hit by the shower of mortars that
has recently subsided. At the top of the stair well stands the crimson
covered body of Commander Or’es, he wears the traditional armour of a Fire
Warrior. In his right hand he grips a bloodied dagger. “The gue’la are
not to be trusted.” the commander mutters, giving a slight nod of humour.
His eyes blink slowly, and the commander falls forward, down into the
rubble that was once a stairway, immediately Fire Warriors rush to his
The streets of the city are plagued with violence as small armoured
vehicles begin to move into position, countered by the movement of the
commander’s Hammerhead gun ships. The vehicles draw closer to the
battling city. Without warning the powerful charges of two rail guns
impact separate vehicles, immediately engulfing them in a cloud of smoke
and fire. The front hatches of one of the vehicles open, pouring from its
mouth come fifteen lightly armoured troops, each carrying large rifles.
The barrels spout fire, hurling large bullets towards their battlesuit
targets. Smiles cover the faces of the ignorant gue’la, the projectiles
do nothing more than denting the superior armour of the Tau. Pathfinders
place their markerlights on the human targets, rail rifles follow suit
punching holes in the human’s inferior armour, a mist of blood filling the
places of impact.
Kroot Shaper Ritok meets a fist to his beaked face, he returns with clawed
swipe to his opponent’s chest, following up with a sweep of the legs the
shaper pounces on his defeated opponent, cracking the skull of yet another
victim against the stone ground. To Ritok’s right a shriek is heard, not
the usual war cry of a Kroot, but a shriek of shrill pain. One of the
shaper’s fellow kroot stands with a sword through his chest, a bloodied
human grips the sword’s hilt with a smile on his face. Picking up his
rifle, Ritok leaps to the human, with a single swing he effortlessly lops
of the head of his opponent, though his fellow soldier is not saved.
Above an enflamed drone plummets towards the earth where the Shaper
Shas’la Vior’la Uren’an steadies his breathing, the outlined display of a
gue’la on his HUD continues to dodge in and out of view. The young Fire
Warrior aims carefully for the man’s head. “INCOMING!” a shout comes
across the comm-system in his helmet. La’Uren’an drops to the floor only
seconds before a shell impacts the side of the building. Thrown back into
the adjacent wall goes two of his friends. La’Uren’an sees it in slow
motion as one of their helmets blow off, his panicked face exposed before
it impacts the wall in a mist of blue-green blood. “Support is necessary,
this is Ui’Ku’an, my pathfinders have reported a large group of gue’la
reinforcements making their way to the north-eastern edge of the city.
Three tanks have been reported accompanied by several squads of gue’la,
assistance is necessary, I repeat, assistance is necessary. Anyone within
range please respond immediately.” The comm-transmission ends, quickly
jumping to his hoofed feet the fire warrior darts for the door. Gunfire
rings out, presumably from the Gue’la La’Uren’an had been so intent on
killing, a primitive round impacts the fire warrior’s left side, he
stumbls a bit, quickly regaining his footing and following the remainder
of his squad towards the gue’la reinforcements.
Shas’vre Vior’la Ki’an stands facing the dark forests. He commands a
squad of XV15 Stealth battlesuits, his warriors stand against the wall of
a building, motionless, invisible to all who do not look for them, and
invincible to all that are ignorant enough to trust their eyes. He
catches sight of his enemy in the forest. The gue’la of Kor’tal wear thin
ebony coloured armour on their chest, knees and elbows . On their head
they wear a thick helmet. Their under suit is a dark brown colour,
blending well with the wood of the forests on this planet. “Weapons
ready…” the Shas’vre whispers into his helmet comm-system. A dull hum is
heard as eight multi-barreled burst cannon begin to spin into life.
“Aim…” Vre’Kian remains calm. “Fire!” he shouts. Without warning over
thirty Gue’la are torn apart in a volley of gunfire, shortly afterwards
pulse rifles, pulse carbines, and rail rifles join suit unleashing a
thunderstorm of various weaponry on the panicked humans. A large armoured
vehicle moves into view, a loud crack is heard as a rail gun round impacts
the side of the vehicle, flipping it over in a ball of fire and smoke. A
second tank moves into view, it passes directly past the well hidden
Pathfinders of Shas’ui Vior’la Ku’an. A Pathfinder rises from it’s hiding
place, revealing a menacing rail rifle, with a single effortless shot the
tank goes up in flames. The round penetrates the thin rear armour of the
vehicle igniting its fuel. A final tank stops in it’s tracks, slowly
pivoting as if it were following the remaining gue’la in a panicked
retreat. Before it can turn a full one-hundred eighty degrees it explodes
in a similar fire ball as the first tank to fall. Vre’Ki’an relaxes his
muscles, lowering his still spinning burst cannon. “A job well done
soldiers…a job well done…”
* * *
“I’m glad to see you doing better Shas’o Vior’la Or’es Mont’ka. The
mission went as planned, minimal casualties were met. Reinforcements will
be supplied for the next mission.” Commander Or’es gives a nod of thanks.
“I hope you’re happy to know the Kor’tal have given in. Only decs after
they attempted to take Jor did they declare their surrender. They’ve
offered one-hundred fifty gue’la auxiliaries We will be supplying them
with armour sufficient enough to last them through the majority of this
campaign.” Another nod of thanks is given by Or’es. “At dawn you should
move to their capital city Tor‘ka. There the auxiliary units will meet
with you. I’d advise you dispatch the Drones first to ensure the city is
secure. I highly doubt any resistance after their reaction to our
take-over of Jor. None-the-less it would not hurt us to be slightly more
“The second phase of the campaign will be taking us north. It is yet
unknown whether or not the other nations of Guel’reh Telbuer know of our
planet fall. I find it highly unlikely much information could have been
learnt about us in such a short time. You should stay in Tor’ka a maximum
of two rotaa, or days as the Gue’la call them. I recommend a single rotaa
rest before moving north. Our surveillance has reported a fourth major
tribe between the Kor’tal and the Del’tore whom I mentioned in our
previous meeting. We will call this nation the Ur’on. They do not
possess any armoured vehicles, their skill is close quarters combat. The
kroot will be necessary for this stage in the campaign.
“We will be supplying with another 48 kroot and 12 hounds under the
command of Kroot Shaper Tel’nok. Telnok and Ore’Ritok have battled
alongside one another before, it should be a pleasant reunion. The fire
warrior and kroot reinforcements should arrive shortly after our
conversation ends, along with the soldiers will be weapons and armour. We
will be supplying the Gue’la with down-graded pulse rifles. In essence
they’ll be carrying weaker copies of our standard fire warrior weaponry.
We will also be supplying them with our armour, minus the helmets. In the
rare case that there may be revolt within the auxiliaries, we don’t want
them possessing enough fire power to become suc…”
“You seem quite paranoid Commander…” interrupts Or’es, “what do you know
that I should know about?” Or’es’ question remains unanswered for several
seconds. “Well Commander Kauyon? What do you know that I do not?”
“I do not trust the Gue’la, nor should you, I do not want you becoming
overly confident because of one victory, this shall be a long and hard
campaign, do not put so much faith in your army, it has only begun.”
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Gaius *****ed awake as the ship shook. He pulled his thin grey blanket over his shivering body and tried to block out the icy cold. The low mutters, grumbles and confused prayers of hundreds upon hundreds of doomed souls assaulted his ears from every direction. The occasional far off clanking of the gigantic machines that propelled the Ark of the Emperor through the void rang out through the decks.
He found hard to decide what was worse, hearing the ranting and raving of despairing men in terrifying dreams and their feeble prayers to banish them or falling into the pit of his own nightmares and the terrible specters of his mind. There were no clean clothes, comfortable beds or adequate food to satisfy ones aching stomach. No rest for the wicked. They were conscripts, each one amongst billions, nothing but numbers to the high and mighty who sent them to their fate. The one thought that was shared by every Imperial General was that the ends always justified the means. If there was any resource that was never in short supply, it was manpower.
Gaius next awoke to the ringing of iron-shod boots upon the metal floor and the barking of commands. "Awake! Awake! Slackers and cowards have no place in the service of the Emperor and will be shown no mercy! Awake…" the voice of the commissar slowly died down as he marched off down the lines of bunks. Gaius began crawling out of his bunk, forcing his fatigued muscles into gear. No one questioned the commissar's orders, for they were the voice of the Emperor amid his inexhaustible armies.
The tired and dazed conscripts were marched past the long lines of empty bunks; a few contained smoking corpses. They had not got up in time; the Emperor's justice was swift and absolute. No one commented; they had all seen it before. Through endless corridors they were herded, past numberless Imperial Navy crewmen working franticly to prepare the ship for descent. Deeper into the bowels of the Ark of the Emperor they went.
Soon they entered the munitions deck. Endless racks of shells and weapons arose menacingly in the flickering gloom. Silently the big guns brooded, awaiting their awakening and the chance to again unleash righteous fire and fury upon humanity's foes. Munitions workers were hastily slapping flimsy flak armour upon the silent conscripts. Gaius felt one of the vests unceremoniously shoved upon him, and a helmet pressed roughly on his head. They soon came to conveyor belt churning out rifles for them. The laser weapons they were issued with had little power, but were cheap and easy to manufacture, produced in their billions for the armies of mankind. Gaius took one and grasped it tightly in his trembling hand.
After descending the longest ramp they had come to yet, they reached the main bay of the Ark of the Emperor. It was the largest room any of them had ever seen. The roof was invisible amid the darkness above and the vast floor was filled as far as the eye could see with terrified, whimpering men. It dwarfed even the mighty Imperial cathedrals back upon the home worlds. In some ways it was a lot like the cathedrals. It was more than a loading bay and staging area; it was an awe-inspiring reminder of the military, technological and divine power of the Emperor of Man.
Upon raised platforms stood the commissars, reading orders to the assembled conscripts. Gaius had been here before; he knew it was always the same. The commissars would tell them that they were on a glorious crusade to fight for the divine Emperor and win glory. They would give lists of tactics and strategies to the men but it was always the same, they would be sent charging straight into the enemy, and their own inglorious deaths, who knew what elite forces their deaths bought time for, gave their lives to distract the enemy for. None of the soldiers knew which planet they were fighting on, who or what they were fighting or even exactly why. They were told it was to earn salvation in the light of the Emperor through giving their lives in a heroic death; few dared question this. At last the commissar stopped monotonously droning on and stood erect. "Do any of you have any questions?" he barked. One man raised his shaking hand and began muttering something when his head exploded, showering the terrified conscripts around him in their comrade's remains. The commissar's powerful pistol smoked, "Only the faithless question! Prepare for descent!"
The men got slowly on their knees and began to pray fervently to the divine Emperor for forgiveness for their sins and a clean death, the most hopeful among them prayed for their life to be spared in the coming inferno. They all lurched as the ship began its descent into the atmosphere.
Another world, another war. It was always the same in this empire of a million worlds and ten million wars. Always another group of foul traitors or aliens to feel the wrath of the Emperor's armies. Kill or be killed, there was no escape.
The Ark of the Emperor plunged through the storm-wracked clouds surrounded by a burning halo of fire. The tens of thousands of souls within began to feel the full horror of what was about to unfold. Most shook and grasped their guns, some wept openly and a few vomited. The cavernous bay was filled with an aura of terror of the inescapable. As the jets to slow the descent fired, the terrible din of battle became audible. The explosions of shells, the deadly, distant rumble of gunfire and the imagined screams of the horrendous foe.
The ship at last slammed into the battle scarred alien ground and came to a sudden halt. The terrified conscripts immediately fell silent; the only sound from within was the continued low sobbing of some of the men. A loud but distant seeming clanking echoed across the ship, followed by a low grinding. A thin crack of light appeared above the gigantic access ramp as a terrible onrush of noise exploded into the chamber.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
I fired my bolt pistol, bursting a skull in the darkness. Another two rounds were fired into a man’s torso, carving bloody fist-sized holes in his body. My followers fired, taking out the rest of my enemies. We would not be denied.
Who am I? I am Inquisitor Hayden Tartarus, dedicated servant of the Emperor, blessed be his eternal name. What do you need to know about me? I’m an honorable man, I’m skilled with the blade, and I’m a pretty good shot with any type of gun put into my hands. I am of medium stature, my head is shaved, and my eyes are a deep brown hue.
What else do you need to know? Although it pains me to say so, and it pains me to do what I have to, I am a radical. I use daemon weapons, tainted artifacts, and even employ daemonhosts. I hate myself for having to resort to such measures, but when I became an Inquisitor I solemnly swore to do all I could to save the Imperium from the countless enemies that threaten it with destruction.
No, I do not enjoy being a radical. I don’t savor the fact that I am able to bend the daemonic towards my will. I am not a servant of Chaos, no matter what the more, puritanical members of the Inquisition say.
How did I become what I am? I made these records to tell this exact story.
In the year M41.990, I was sent to Shakuras to investigate rumors of possessed Soul Guardians establishing a base there. The whole story behind that inquiry was explained in one of my earlier records, so I will not bother to repeat it here. To make a long story short, when I arrived on the site I found an entire chapter of once loyal Adeptus Astartes Space Marines, now possessed by daemon-kind.
This was exactly what I had expected. I had read the briefing before my departure. The Soul Guardians were a rare occurrence; every last one of the marines had all developed psychic abilities, albeit most of them were minor abilities. Regardless, their commander, Librarian Pythos, along with the rest of chapter, were under the command of Arachan, a daemon prince of immense power.
I bided my time, slowly freeing the marines one by one and putting them into a stasis cell aboard the military research vessel I had requisitioned. The crew was in awe of the gigantic captives I brought aboard, but an extra bundle of cash ensured their silence.
When I finally fought against Arachan himself, it took all the skills and moves I had learned over my career just to combat the daemon prince. Somehow, I managed to defeat him for a short while, but I could feel his presence trying to seep into one of the Soul Guardians’ mind. I quickly bound him into my power sword, trapping the vile creature for all eternity.
Afterwards I was left with upwards of three hundred Space Marines, every last one of them freed of the daemonic taint. But still, I was ordered to execute them. The old me would have done so immediately, but the three years I spent combating the daemons on Shakuras changed me.
I refused to slay the marines, and I assumed it was for this reason that Inquisitor Garrat Razagal had me declared Excommunicate Traitoris. I was branded a heretic and hunted to the ends of the Imperium by young, foolish puritanical Inquisitors who believed that slaying me would be the beginning of a wonderful career. It was with a heavy heart that I had to slay them. Even with their puritanical beliefs, the Inquisition needed all of its loyal servants. I hated myself for killing them.
The Imperium had turned its back on the Soul Guardians and me, but we would not turn ours on it. Long ago I took an oath to watch over the Emperor’s people, and I mean to keep that oath. It was that oath that made me turn radical.
Though I hated every moment of it, radicalism was the only way to save the Imperium. I sacrificed my honor and my purity so that countless others could enjoy the little peace they have. Part of being an Inquisitor is about making sacrifice, and by the God-Emperor himself, I made one hell of a sacrifice.
These thoughts swam through my head as I battled Judean’s custodians. I sliced outwards in an arc that severed one Imperial guardsman’s neck, removing his head from his shoulders. His comrade barely had time to notice the blood spraying out of the first man’s headless neck before I impaled him on my sword. I could feel Arachan’s glee as it tasted the blood of the Imperial soldier. Inwardly, I shuddered at its daemonic ferocity.
Another guardsman ran towards me, shouting obscenities as he came. Those shouts became screams of pain as a backhanded strike sliced off his arm, then I turned and cut upwards at a diagonal that bisected him from the thigh to the neck. Both halves slid apart as blood spurted onto my gray power armor.
A chainsword came screeching out of the darkness, barely leaving me any room to dodge. I quickly parried and spun towards the arm that held the weapon. In one fluid motion I ended the spin with my back towards the squad’s sergeant, flipped my blade around, and stabbed my foe through the gut. Wordlessly he dropped to the ground, sliding off my blade and onto the now blood-soaked floor.
To my right was Squad Vortimus, and to my left was Pythos, Chief Librarian of the Soul Guardians. The tactical marines fired point blank into a squad of guardsmen and quickly entered the melee, striking out with fists and boltgun butts. Pythos was a spectacle to behold, slicing left and right, effortlessly slaying an entire squad of ten custodians. Soon the action was over and I addressed the marines.
‘Well done Soul Guardians. I know it pains you to slay the Emperor’s servants. I share your pain as well, but it must be done. The Codicium Draconus must be recovered at all costs. Only then will we be able to save the home we have been exiled from.’
That was why we were here. We were searching for the infamous Codicium Draconus, which was a proscribed book that contained secrets both powerful and petrifying. Only those who were strong of will could read the Chaotic pages and retain their sanity. Call me arrogant if you want, but my experiences have shown me that I am one of the few able to read from the book and remain untainted.
Normally, I would not go to such lengths to acquire such a heavily guarded book, but circumstances were dire. The Cadian Gate was in peril, and if I failed in my mission the entire sector would fall. Like I said, I will never turn my back on the Imperium.
Half an hour later, my followers and I were once again fighting Imperial forces. However, this time they were the fabled Grey Knights. Though there were only ten of them, their skill surpassed that of the Soul Guardians, and probably my own skill as well. This thought chilled me to the bone.
The Grey Knights were the Chapter Militant of the Ordo Malleus. They were trained in every imaginable way to resist the daemonic and their combat abilities were unparalleled. Their silver armor was covered in symbols of purity and the Inquisition, except for the right shoulder pad, which displayed the heraldry of the marines. Their nemesis force weapons crackled with deadly energy and a corona of energy circled around the leader’s head. The faint aroma of psychic power could be smelt hovering in the air.
We struck regardless, Pythos and I striking our enemy with our psychic powers while the other marines laid down a curtain of fire. Only two were felled by the combined boltgun and psychic attack, while the others charged onwards. I drew Arachan and rallied my troops.
‘Strike now Soul Guardians! Slay those who would stand between us and the Imperium’s salvation!’
My daemon weapon collided with the Justicar’s as we both sought to behead each other. The Grey Knight tried to smack the shaft of his weapon into my groin, but a swift downward parry prevented this. I turned the block into an upward strike, which the Justicar sidestepped to avoid.
The giant blade of the halberd came swiping in at a diagonal, but I threw myself forward into a roll that brought me behind the Grey Knight. My enemy turned to face him, but he was too slow. I plunged Arachan upwards into the marine’s gut, twisting as I went. The Justicar fell forward, impaling himself deeper onto the blade. He spoke, but his pain-wracked voice was barely a whisper.
‘Poor misguided fool. You cannot see how Chaos has corrupted you. I only pray that the Emperor has mercy on your soul.’
‘I am a loyal servant of the Emperor. You are the misguided one. You cannot see that by preventing me from reaching my goals, you would condemn us all to a fate worse than death. You cannot image the sacrifice I have made so that the Imperial citizens may live.’
The Grey Knight tried to stab me with his weapon, but pain had dulled his reflexes. I freed my blade and quickly executed my enemy. The helmeted head came free in a bloody mist and clanged onto the floor, the sound reverberating eerily through the chamber.
I looked to see how the Soul Guardians had fared, and was happy to see that only one of them was wounded. I noticed that they had been watching the fight between the Justicar and I, refusing to take part in it as a matter of honor. Honor was important to the marines, and I valued that quality greatly.
I forced myself to focus as we stalked down a dark, empty hall. At the end of it, a sickly green light glowed faintly, just barely illuminating the way. My voice was barely a whisper as I said, ‘There is our objective Soul Guardians. Steel your minds and harden your souls. We could face anything down there.’
Sergeant Vortimus gave out orders with hand signals, as he did not want to give away their position to any enemies that might be waiting in the shadows. The tactical squad responded immediately, fanning out in a perfect formation that protected Pythos and I on all sides. I could not help but be impressed by their discipline.
My small force crept quietly towards the room, entering through a large stone arch that was covered in blood, both old and fresh. In the center of the chamber there was a gray pedestal surrounded by a crackling shield of energy. Behind it, surrounded by shimmering void shields, was a chained being, almost completely depraved of its humanity. Its eyes were blank and its skin was marked with dozens of dark runes. It was a daemonhost.
I had seen its kind before. I had two myself, but this one was different. I could see how the runes of containment were barely able to bind it into the host body. The man who trapped the daemon did not know what he had done. If it weren’t for the void shield, the daemon would surely have escaped.
I turned on my vox headset and spoke in Braxis, the personal code I had developed to communicate with my followers. ‘Eternal slumber distributed evenly, pattern magnifier.’ The first part of the statement let my pupil, Interrogator Darun, that all enemy presence had been eliminated. The second part instructed Darun to bring in the research team.
‘Pattern magnifier acknowledged. Hatchet rising.’ Darun was on his way.
The research team was clad in dirty, gray robes that seemed to be falling apart at the seams. They scurried about the pedestal, trying to find a way to dampen the energy shields. They reminded me of the damned fire ants on my homeworld.
One of them pried open a metal box on the wall with the tiny saw that replaced its hand. The box housed many colored wires, which lead to the pedestal and the void shields. The autosavant cut through the green wire, dampening the shields that surrounded the Codicium Draconus. As the next green wire was cut, the energy in the room disappeared completely. The lights flickered, and a sickening aroma filled the room. The damned book was freed, along with the daemonhost.
It cackled loudly, energy flowing out of its hands and into the body of Sergeant Vortimus. Lightning splashed through the marine’s armor, frying his body. He collapsed in a broken heap, his burnt flesh still smoking.
‘Foolish mortals. You have freed me, and for that I am grateful, so I will give you a choice. I am Grastus, Prince of Daemons. Bow down and serve me, or face a death more painful than you could ever imagine.’
The only response to this was a bolt round from my pistol that did little more than bounce of the warp flesh.
Its voice was full of rage and malice. ‘Very well then fools. Enjoy the abyss.’
The daemonhost’s next attack would have cleaved me in two, if Darun had not tackled me to the ground. Pythos drew his blade and charged the daemonhost, the marines of Squad Vortimus on his heels. Bolter fire raked the evil being, while Pythos sliced off one of its limbs and plunged his force blade into its gut, channeling psychic energy into the blade.
Even with all the righteous fury of the Soul Guardians, they did no more than free the daemon that had been trapped. It was more powerful now. Pythos’ body flew towards his brethren, which made them stop firing. They did not want to take the chances of hitting their commander.
Knowing what to do, I quickly hauled myself to my feet, and took a quill and a bottle of ink form a terrified savant. I daubed the runes of binding onto Vortimus’ dead, broken body, hoping against all hope that I would finish in time.
Darun saw what I was doing and did his best to distract the daemon. He drew his sword and ran at it full speed, heedless of the danger he was placing himself in. Claws met blade, slicing through it and the hand holding it.
To his credit, Darun did not scream and fired his laspistol at point blank range into the daemon’s gut. It did no more than tickle the foul being. A backhanded strike sent Darun crashing into the wall with the sound of broken bones.
I stood once more, eyes white with concentration, and bellowed the litanies of binding. ‘In servitutem abduco, I bind thee fast forever into this host!’
It bobbed up and down, eyes closed as it floated through the hallway. I held it by a chain I had found tied to the previous host. I knew that soon it would awake, as the effects of the binding wore off. Soon it would be angry, and try to trick me into escaping. I meant to isolate it before it woke up.
Once I was aboard my personal Interdiction class shuttle, I would chain it in one of the cargo holds and place the sigils of warding, along with all the other security measures required so that I could sleep safely while it was being held.
Confident in my plan, I turned to my entourage. ‘Soul Guardians, well done. The Codicium Draconus has been recovered. See to it that the apothecaries take care of Darun. He fought bravely today. You all fought bravely. Sergeant Vortimus will be recorded in the chapter’s annals. He gave his life so that we may safeguard the Imperium for a while longer. We must make sure his sacrifice is not wasted.’
From there we left the innermost sanctum of Judean and headed towards the outer cloister. The musty, dank smell of the previously undisturbed passage flooded my nostrils. I could barely see where I was going, so I removed one of my gauntlets and lit the electoo located in my palm. On many worlds, an electoo such as mine was commonly known as a thief’s light. I found it useful for lighting my way.
Shadows stretched on down the hallway, seeming to run away from the light. I noted that there was layer upon layer of undisturbed dust on the floor, walls, and lifeless ceiling lights. We hadn’t been here before.
‘Pythos, I think we may be lost. This place was not in the briefings.’
The Librarian’s voice came back strong and confident. ‘Perhaps, noble Inquisitor, we should investigate then?’
I thought to myself for a moment. Darun did need medical attention, but there was no telling what the next chamber held. If we found more artifacts to assist us in our endeavors, we would be better off. ‘Send our wounded up along with a marine so that their safety is ensured. The rest of us will venture further. Oh, and have someone take the daemonhost up to the stasis cell as well.’
Pythos ordered one of the remaining Soul Guardians to protect the wounded then took command of the other marines. We walked on, weapons held at ready, just in case anything attacked us from the shadows.
A voice called out from the gloom, its highly obnoxious, rasping quality attacking my ears. ‘Inquisitor Hayden Tartarus. I thought you’d come. The corrupted are always attracted to pages of daemonancy. Hand over the Codicium. You are excommunicate, Malleus, renegade; everything that I am sworn to destroy. I claim your life, along with all your possessions. Your cohorts will be executed alongside you. Surrender now, and it will be quick.’
I gripped Arachan tighter, knowing exactly who the owner of the voice was. Inquisitor Garrat Razagal. He was the reason why my life had become so much harder. It was his fault that so many of the Emperor’s citizens would suffer a pain worse than death itself. I hated the man as one hates a family’s murderer. He was responsible for everything that had and would go wrong.
‘Razagal, I will never surrender to you. You cannot possibly grasp the importance of what I am doing. If you do not let me be then you damn the Imperium to death, or worse.’
His voice came back filled with laughter. ‘Is that a threat Tartarus? You are in no position to threaten. I have you and your fellow traitors surrounded. This is your last chance to surrender.’
In response, I concentrated my psychic will into a powerful blast that struck the three nearest Stormtroopers. A split second later, the Soul Guardians were firing as well. Bolters punched through armor and flesh, killing all who were hit. Massed hellgun fire headed in my direction, so I dived forward and fired my bolt pistol into the helmet of another Inquisitorial bodyguard. He screamed and fell, along with the three behind him. They died from Pythos’ powerful psychic assault, artificial lightning still playing across the surface of their armor.
Quickly I saw how badly outnumbered we were. Normally, numbers would not be a problem when one is accompanied by a retinue of warriors as mighty as the Soul Guardians, but these were not normal circumstances. The Stormtroopers numbered at least sixty, enough to form an Inquisitorial purgatory force. After the firefight began, my force was already down to eight people, Pythos and myself included. Regrettably, I had no choice. No damned choice at all.
I ducked down behind a stone pillar, hellgun rounds bouncing all around me. I could almost feel the stone rattling beneath my back as the shots hit it. Still, I couldn’t allow myself to be distracted. I pulled off the amulet of Uraj and held it out at arm’s reach. It was a powerful daemonic icon that I had put to my own uses. It was eternally damned, but like many of the equipment I utilized, it had its uses.
I closed my eyes and brought myself to picture the Military Research Vessel that I still had. I mentally opened the mind safe, dampened the void shields, and concentrated all my will and power into summoning the two dreadful creatures. Draynor and Stralles leaked out of the amulet, their warp flesh shimmering brightly. They were my daemonhosts. They were completely under my control.
‘Draynor, Stralles, take care of them.’
Wordlessly they flew off, seeking out the enemy soldiers. The noise of combat, along with the tormented screams of the dying, reached my ears. I was no stranger to combat, so remained unperturbed. I could not afford a lapse in concentration, or my daemonhosts would be freed and we’d all be dead.
A daemonhost is a tricky thing. Essentially, they are a vile warp entity bound into a specially prepared human host, imbued with countless runes and chains in order to ensure that the daemon does not escape. The daemon then serves the person who bound it. Of course, if the binding is not strong enough then the daemon will escape, and probably kill the poor man who tried to bend it to his will.
Draynor and Stralles fought their way through the ranks of the Inquisitorial Stormtroopers, with the Soul Guardians and I hard on their heels, mopping up any survivors. By now my armor was slick with blood, thankfully not my own, and the robes beneath my armor were soaked with perspiration. I probably reeked horribly, but I was too busy fighting to notice. The Soul Guardians didn’t say anything, but even if they did perceive the stench they probably would not have the heart to tell an Inquisitor that he had a terrible odor about him. I’ll never know why I cared about this in the thick of the fighting.
I barely managed to throw myself into a roll, narrowly dodging the flames. Verrio, the Soul Guardian who had been behind me, was not so lucky. The burning promethium washed over him, coating his armor in fire. He looked very daemonic, and the pain must have been excruciating, but he strode towards his attacker without even a grimace. He shot the Stormtrooper through the skull before throwing his burning body into the mass of Razagal’s bodyguards. Screams erupted as the flames spread, until almost the entire squad was blazing.
The flames must have heated a grenade because an explosion erupted, causing even more explosions that took out another two squads of troopers. All in all, Verrio had accounted for the deaths of thirty Stormtroopers.
Arachan sliced upwards, severing a Stormtrooper’s left leg and right arm. I used the momentum of my attack to swing my blade around in an arc that sliced through the waist of an attacker behind me. The damned daemon weapon enjoyed this, slaying those who served the Emperor. It wasn’t their fault that they were being sent to fight me. Still, it was kill or be killed, so I had no choice.
Soon I was back to back with Pythos, both of us slicing through enemy limbs, skulls, and flesh. We were quickly surrounded, penned down by hails of fire. I dove left and he went right, both of us trying to find cover. The shots kept coming, the troopers completely focused on us. What a great mistake. One hell of a great mistake.
Draynor and Stralles came from opposite sides, embracing the troopers as they went. Every man they touched burnt to cinders, producing horrible inhuman death screams. I hate the daemonhosts, but I had no choice except to use them. They were probably the most effective weapons I had.
Soon I was able to stand without fear of being shot to death. I couldn’t find Pythos, but I could see the mangled, twisted bodies of the fallen Stormtroopers. I shuddered, knowing that even though I had no choice I would pay for this later when I came before the God-Emperor.
I collected my weapons and ran towards the sounds of battle, getting a glimpse of someone in dark blue armor battling in the midst of at least twenty or thirty enemies. It was Pythos.
He was terrible to behold, an aura of power playing over his skull as he fired psychic blasts, shot his bolt pistol, and carved with his force sword. But for every one of the Stormtroopers that died, three more took his place. There was no way Pythos could hope to win, but he probably knew this. He probably saw it as a warrior’s fate, to die battling with his enemies.
It sure was a shame that when it came down to it, Razagal, Pythos, the Soul Guardians, and myself, we were all on the same side. We all fought every day to make sure that the dark gods did not gain the upper hand in the eternal war of good versus evil. The bitter irony of it was that we were wasting our time fighting amongst ourselves instead of focusing our efforts on banishing the daemons that would kill us all. Yet again, I just had no damned choice.
I leapt into the mob, striking left and right with Arachan. I was surrounded so closely that I would have been struck down before I could pull the trigger, so the job had to be done with the blade. An assortment of body parts went flying as I struck hard and fast with my deadly daemon weapon. Those who were merely wounded died as I crushed them underneath my feet.
I was like a tornado, hacking off the arms of one warrior, slicing through the neck of another, carving a path through more and more Stormtroopers. Arachan’s black surface shimmered in glee as it bit into flesh. Its power was seemingly boundless. With every cut it got stronger.
Soon I could see Pythos. He bled from a dozen wounds, yet he still fought on. He was a resilient one, but I knew he could not hold out forever. I doubled my efforts, hoping to reach him in time.
His voice called out above the din. ‘Tartarus, Razagal is escaping. I sent one of my warriors after him, but I doubt he can stand up to the ***** alone. We cannot let the ***** escape.’
He grabbed me and practically hurled me away from the battle. He knew that he was going to die. Not even one as powerful as he could hope to stand up against such numbers. I will always remember and honor the man for his endless stores courage and heroism.
I ran to catch up with Razagal, ordering my daemonhosts to assist Pythos. I would give the Librarian all the support I could, even if it meant that I would have to face Razagal alone.
My instinct told me to drop as I rounded the corner, so I did so. A high caliber shell flew through the space my head had just been occupying, ricocheting off the wall. I quickly ducked back around the corner in order to avoid the lethal salvo of psycannon shots that sought me out in the darkness.
I heard Razagal curse loudly at his bodyguards. ‘You idiots, you missed him! I said I want him dead! Kill the damned heretic already, he’s all alone.’
Through my mind’s eye I could feel the presence of five other men, probably the remnants of Razagal’s strike force. They probably were wielding hellguns, and one or two of them might have had some sort of special weapon. Add Razagal’s psycannon to the mix and the odds were looking even greater. Six on one was not going to be much fun.
‘Tartarus, give yourself up. You can’t win. My forces are already on their way. You will die here either way, so you might as well stop wasting your time and mine and get this over with.’
I drew two pistols from my belt. My trusty bolt pistol and a snub-nosed autopistol that had been given to me by one of my previous associates. I rammed a new clip into each of the guns and braced myself, throwing myself into a sideways roll that brought me standing behind some sort of desk. It also put Razagal and his comrades into my view. I snapped off round after round, shooting one trooper in the forehead and another in the chest. The bullets tore through his heart, dropping him to the ground like a stone. I clipped a third man in the leg before I ran out of bullets and ducked down out of view.
Return fire slammed into the desk, causing it to rock with every shot. Some of the rounds blew right through the metal, but luckily I was uninjured. After reloading I peeked around the corner and fired my bolt pistol. I was rewarded with a scream. I could’ve sworn that the man was complaining about being shot in the groin.
I quickly peeked around the other corner, snapping off a couple rounds with my autopistol. I didn’t hit anyone, but I did keep their heads down. Then I heard Razagal’s voice call out again, full of anger and frustration.
‘You will die for this Tartarus. You’ll die by my own hand. Here and now. May the Emperor have mercy on your twisted soul, because I sure will not.’
With a cry he ran towards me firing his psycannon, the lethal rounds slamming into the metal, sending vibrations through my entire body. I heard the rush of sound of metal as he dropped his psycannon and drew his force sword from its sheath.
I quickly leaped up and fired my pistols, the shots ricocheting off his armor. I dropped my firearms too, my hands finding their grip on Arachan. I ran to meet him, my dark blade glowing with an unholy light.
Our weapons met, mine glowing brighter and his humming with psychic energy. Our faces were contorted masks of concentration, each of us trying to overpower the other. I really didn’t want to do this.
He threw me backwards, sending me flying into a wall. My weapon fell from my grasp, clattering to the floor. It was just out of reach, so I had no choice but to lie there, prone and helpless.
Then I realized I still had a weapon left. One vile, corrupted, hateful weapon. My new daemonhost, Grastus.
I concentrated my mind, doing my best to ignore the fact that Razagal was closing in on me with his force weapon. I ignored the fact that I was exhausted from my earlier efforts and needed a rest. I ignored the fact that my entire entourage of Soul Guardians was more than likely dead. The only thing that mattered was summoning the damned daemonhost.
It poured from my amulet, his body glowing with an eerily intense light. Its voice hissed out as if trying to speak a new language. ‘How may I ssssserve?’
My brow was coated in sweat from the vast effort it took to concentrate. My voice was barely a whisper as I spoke. ‘Kill him Grastus. Kill him now.’
It soared towards him, pushing the Inquisitor back with swift, ferocious strikes. I could hear Razagal panting from fighting for his live.
His blade was intensely bright, as if it was feeding off of the energy he was exerting. Still, it was no match for Grastus. The former daemon prince was just too powerful.
I joined in the fray, hoping to finish off the damned puritan. I had my blade to his throat, ready to kill him, when I received a transmission. ‘Tartarus sir, we’ve picked up enemy forces moving in to your position. I believe it’s another Inquisitorial strike force.’
Just as I was ready to finish Razagal, a storm bolter barked, the rounds slamming into my chest plate. I staggered backwards, pulling my sword up in a ready position. I spotted an Ordo Hereticus Grandmaster in full terminator armor, accompanied by a retinue of at least ten warriors. I was in for one hell of a time, and it wasn’t going to be a good one. To make things worse, the distraction made me lose control over Grastus, allowing him to escape me.
I was surrounded, the men waiting for their master’s command to execute me. I could feel their collective psychic energies buzzing in the air, trying to read my thoughts. Thankfully, all my time in the Eye of Terror has trained me well, so they were unable to crack into my mind.
Just then Pythos, along with three Soul Guardians, Duran, and all of my fighting personnel who were onboard the research vessel, stormed in through the doorway. Two bolt rounds slammed into his chest, pinging off of it and bouncing harmlessly to the ground. A bolt round slammed into the eyepiece of one man, punching through the skull beneath it. Needless to say, the warrior was dead.
I quickly stretched out with my mind, calling Arachan to me. It flew into my hands, allowing me to separate a combat servitor from its legs. Even still, it struck out at me with its power fist. I turned my body, narrowly avoiding the strike that was intended to punch through my groin. I parried another attack, stabbing downwards with my daemon sword. I impaled its heart on my weapon, moving out of the way of his thrashing limbs.
Another servitor bowled me over, knocking me flat. It would’ve decapitated me then and there, but a Soul Guardian was holding onto its arm. I lashed out with my feet, tripping my attacker. A quick stroke with my sword made sure it would never attack anyone again.
Pythos was fighting with the Grandmaster, their force blades glowing bright blue with frosty psychic energy. Halos of energy played around their skulls, sometimes firing deadly blasts out of their eyes and hands. Watching them fight was a sight and a half to behold.
Pythos’ sword was a blur as it swept outwards in a strike meant to behead the Grandmaster, but the Inquisitor Lord blocked the attack just as swiftly. Their blades spun through the air almost too quickly for the eye to see. Only when the blades met was it possible to see the faces of the two warriors. I forced myself to concentrate on the battle before me and attacked the nearest enemy.
He was standing above a Soul Guardian, just about to stab his glaive downwards into the marine’s exposed helmet. With a snarl I switched Arachan into an underhanded grip and plunged my daemon sword into the man’s back. He collapsed, sliding off my blade and falling next to the Soul Guardian.
Suddenly I could feel a strong psychic presence behind me. I spun and just barely blocked an attack that was meant to stab through the back of my torso. I blocked three more blows in the blink of an eye, but again, just barely. I was tired, and the damned psyker was good.
I forced myself to concentrate, focusing on the battle at hand. I could see another attack coming at me, aimed for my unguarded abdomen. I sidestepped my assailant, spinning Arachan in the air as fast as I could. I swept out, cutting him from the shoulder to the thigh. Both halves slid to the floor noiselessly, showering the surrounding area with blood.
Two more of the retinue were slain by the combined efforts of the Soul Guardians and Darun. I saw him land a kill stroke on at least one of them. By now he would’ve earned full Inquisitorial status, but sadly it couldn’t be, as I was excommunicated. None of my pupils would be given a higher rank by the Inquisition.
Just then Pythos fell to the ground, his ruptured torso pouring out a torrent of blood. I snarled in rage and threw myself at the Grandmaster. I struck so hard my blade became notched in a dozen places, sparks flying in all directions. I focused my will, putting up powerful psychic walls and striking out with a psychic blast.
He rallied against my attacks, fighting back with his weapon and his mind. Both were extremely powerful. Only then did I realize how outclassed I was. I was going to die here, and all my work would be for nothing. Another blow grazed my ribs, cutting through armor and flesh. A final attack knocked Arachan from my grip, leaving me defenseless.
I concentrated my mind again, focusing on my foe’s weapon. The sword was about to cleave me in half, but I moved out of the way. I placed all my mental reserves into a highly concentrated blast that slightly knocked him back, causing him to hesitate for a split second. As the effects of my mind were wearing off, I dove to my sword, rolling back into a standing position. I threw Arachan like a spear, impaling the Grandmaster’s head on the daemon blade.
Darun had Razagal pinned down behind a pillar, where he was cowering in order to evade the deadly fire of my warriors. He peeked out quickly and snapped off a handful of shots, bursting one of my bounty hunter’s heads and blowing holes through another’s chest.
I scooped up the nearest weapon, which was my fallen bolt pistol. Darun’s eyes narrowed as an idea crossed his mind. Using his mind, he ordered the rest of my staff to fire on the pillars. They quickly complied, tearing the base of the column to shreds, causing it to collapse around Razagal, pinning his legs.
I calmly walked up to him, holding my bolt pistol in a two-handed grip. With unwavering hands I pointed the pistol at his head, my finger tightening around the trigger.
‘You would damn us all by clinging to your so-called purity. Are you so blinded by your beliefs that you cannot see the fall before you? If not for my actions, this world would be nothing but ashes.’
I fired the gun, blowing the man’s head to pulp. Razagal was dead, so I could leave now. Or so I thought.
Grastus was back. It attacked from the shadows, immolating three of my men from behind. Darun fired on it, followed by the rest of my followers. Grastus’ form wavered for a moment, then became on solid again.
Its voice was reedy and obnoxious as it flew towards me. ‘You hurt me Tartarus. That binding caused me such great pain. Now let’s see how you like it!’
One of my bounty hunters jumped in the way of the daemon prince, earning himself a strike to the head. His spine cracked as his head whipped backwards, making a horrible crunching noise. Then Grastus was upon me.
My blade met his talons, vibrations reverberating all the way up my arms. I parried another attack and ducked, but not fast enough. His talons came away coated in blood. My blood.
I was thoroughly exhausted by my efforts of the day, but I forced myself to fight on. I defeated Razagal and whoever his superior was, so I could definitely defeat a weakened daemon prince.
I focused my mind, blasting away at Grastus with a wave of psychic energy. Again it shimmered, pulsating with unholy light. Then it returned the favor with a psychic blast of its own. Darun and the Soul Guardians assaulted it, buying a few precious seconds. Now was my chance.
I stooped down and marked the unholy runes and markings on the body of a fallen bounty hunter. Looking fiercely at Grastus I bellowed the incantations of binding, the litany of servitus, and the wards of entrapment.
My work was done. Grastus was trapped, my foes were dead, and I had the book.
Soon I was aboard the research vessel, headed towards the Cadian gate. I would make my way to the Eye of Terror; passing past Cadia and it’s many defenses, passing past Imperial space and deep into Chaos-held territory. The stars twinkled brightly, shining through the reaches of dark space. Soon my work would be complete. Soon.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
With a crash the solid wooden door to the small tavern swung open, the bright midday sun streaming in causing it occupants to groan and burry their heads deeper into the tables. Swinging the portal closed as he entered Skalf wandered over to the bar, the heavy rhythmic thump of his axe haft on the floor caused more annoyance to the erstwhile drunks within, a small chain shirt over a leather *****in was all that covered his muscular upper body. Deep blue tattoos and livid scars ran courses across his body; his skin seemed barely big enough to conceal the bulk of the muscles beneath. Great plates of muscle swam with each movement, rising from the centre of his shaven skull was a great fiery orange crest of hair. The axe in his hand was a rune axe, all could see the runes etched into its surface and the sharp blade gleam menacingly, strapped to his back was a larger axe one could only assume it was to be used with two hands. As Skalf sat down Thorri, the barkeep, took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
“Welcome to the Golden Hammer!!” The fake smile fixed on Thorri’s face did nothing to impress the sour faced unbaraki, instead a rough sound, like the shifting of mountains rumbled from his mouth
Dropping the fake smile Thorri quickly turned to the business of pouring the pint, an unbaraki in his tavern. This could be bad for business, none of his race bar those of his ilk and the strange Norse dwarfs would have anything to do with such being. Quickly he gave the stranger his ale and suddenly became engrossed in the polishing of the same glass over and over. Skalf cast his slate grey eyes over the small tavern, once the famed Golden Hammer now it be lucky to bear the name the Copper Hammer. Shields and weapons hung from the walls, on the far side sat a block of granite names of the great hero’s who have past through engraved upon it he presumed. The occupants consisted of old timers, too old and wise to work the mines instead they drown the hours in ale and dispense wisdom. Even when it’s not looked for. Yet even as a slayer couldn’t deny their wisdom is a thing to be shared or the dwarven past would be lost. With this he drained the drink in his meaty grip and slammed it down, giving the bartender a curt nod in signal of a refill was wanted. As the tankard was returned brimming full with frothy ale, Skalf fixed the barkeep with a steely glare
“Tell me, you have a beast problem. What is this creature like?”
“You mean to slay it?” cried Thorri
“Aye, or find my honour” mumbled Skalf
Glancing about the room the barkeep began,
“It’s said to be a drake, not big enough for a dragon and too cunning to be a wyvern. Blood red scales stronger than gromril armour its body, great claws the size of the ironclads of Barak Varr, and it’s wings beat a thunderstorm as takes to the skies. Many have gone to slay it, none have returned. Manlings from distant Bretonnia, treasure seekers of the Empire and many more of your kind have passed by to their deaths.”
Thinking of the words he had just heard, a cruel smile wormed its way across the disgraced dwarfs face. Raising his ale in a salute he downed it in one, under his breath the words “Mighty death” could have been heard. Without looking up Skalf ordered a room for the night and another ale, the night quickly sank into a drunken tale of the beast from its occupants. As the morning sun rose from its slumber Skalf was already away marching up the mountainside in the direction he received, the cool air should cure his hangover; or so he hoped.
Wisps of the mountain fog that covers them during the night still hung about in the early morn; using the haft of his axe once more as a staff he began his ascent into the upper reaches of the mountainous terrain. After hours of climbing and still no sign of the cavern the taverners had described he began to wonder if they just wanted rid of him, few of his race felt comfortable around those who have swore the slayer oath; not that it mattered to Skalf. Any death in battle was a good death, as long as it’s not against Grobi. Laughing gruffly he continued the climb. Morning had past, not it was early afternoon. Unsure for how long he’d been climbing for Skalf dropped himself upon a rock, removing the tankard and small ale barrel from his pack he poured a generous amount into the vassal and sat back to rest. Closing his eyes memories came to the fore, one in particular.
The black blood flowed from the stump that was once the grobi’s arm; its high-pitched shrieks were silenced as his axe once more found purchase within its body. Skalf took stock of the battle raging about him, he wondered how they knew. The scouts had relied the king that this passage was free, no sign or noise of grobi. Yet when Skalf and the Longbeards under his command had reached the junction of the underway, they sprang forth. Scores and scores of the foul creatures exploded from hidden places within rock piles or from the connecting tunnels, and now the dwarfs were alone and cut off. Making his decision Skalf slashed and hacked his way towards the units musician Oin, swinging the rune axe in a short brutal arc he caught one of the diminutive creatures sending it hurtling back into the crowd in a spray of blood. Slapping his musician on the shoulder he ordered the retreat, lifting the dragon shaped horn to his lips Oin blew one long note.
The loud blast sent small shards of rock and dust tumbling down from the cavern roof, at the clattering many of the Greenskins dropped their weapons and shields; using this Skalf ordered the retread back down from whence they came. Moving quickly as possible they made fro the tunnel that led upwards back towards the dwarven held mines, rounding the corner they should have been there then heading upwards. But what they found was rock. A rock fall had blocked the entrance; they were now trapped and surrounded. As the dwarfs gazed upon the blocked entrance is came obvious that this blockage was not natural, there were signs of it being forced. It appears the goblins were not all as stupid as it seemed, they had collapsed part of their own tunnels to trap them. Suddenly the rearguards appeared. The goblins were coming; they were close enough for the dwarfs to hear their shrieking speech and padding of their feet. There was no escape, looking into each of his brethrens face and could see they knew it too. They would die here, but by Grungni they’ll pave their way to the Iron Halls with the bodies of their enemy.
Their hands turned white under the pressure of gripping their weapons, their lips worked soundlessly as each dwarf offered prayers up to the Ancestor Gods. It wasn’t a long wait; the grobi rounded the corner in a rush and smashed themselves upon the shield wall the Longbeards had created. Rusted iron and steel fought to find chinks and gaps in dwarven forged steel and gromril, the dwarven response was shattering. Axes and hammers rose and fell in unison as the be leagued Longbeards slaughtered all Greenskins that came within reach, but it wasn’t enough. More and more attacks were coming from the flanks as the small greenskins swarmed round the dwarven formation, slowly the numbers showed as the small block began to diminish. Dull bladed knives and swords found purchase in dwarf flesh, others were pulled under by the shear number latched onto them, dragging them down into the press to be trampled one. But at the centre stood Skalf; a maelstrom of death, dragging all in and leaving them in a bloody ruin. Bodies and limbs of the tiny creatures lay strewn about him, he armour scratched and dented in places but holding; he offered his thanks to its creator as it once more took a blow. Stood atop of a rising pile of corpses, his armour stain from head to foot with black blood, the axe in his hand glowed with a magical light as the dwarven runic magic inscribed upon them burnt with an unnatural fire. All who faced him died, the rest cowered back. Fear of this ferocious warrior striking deep into their black hearts.
So intent upon those in front of him Skalf and the remaining Longbeards failed to see the small number of grobi appearing behind them from a secret tunnel hidden by a large rock, many of the dwarfs failed to see them until they slipped their blackened daggers between plates of steel or beneath helmets at the exposed flesh below. Skalf suddenly found himself burdened with three goblins, which were quickly joined by a fourth; finally they managed to drag him to the floor. Not yet done for he tried to rise, screaming war cries and spitting dwarf oaths. He was quickly put back down to the ground when a resounding clang shattered his hearing, more and more joined in creating a drumming crescendo, the swarming goblins were bashing his head with the handles of their weapons trying to knock him senseless. After what seemed an hour Skalf was overwhelmed, his vision faded to darkness as he past out.
A scream tore Skalf awake, dimness not much brighter than the black he had woken from greeted his opening eyes. As his eyes came accustomed to the light he saw, a large cavern covered in illuminating fungi, around the edges were great stone slabs with chains, much like the one he was on. Before him stood two guards, both a few pints south of sober. Beyond them in the middle was a great roaring fire; sat about it were the foul grobi. All were in various states of drunkenness, he could see some passed out others stood prancing about or shrieking in a way he could only presume they were dancing and singing.
“I wish they’d shut up,” he mumbled to himself. But it was the more, the flames occupants that drew his attention, for within the burning inferno he spied dwarfs. They were being cooked to feed the foul creatures in their feasting, one small goblin darted forward to test the meat only to be battered aside by a horn helmeted bigger goblin. Brandishing its axe at them all it shrieked a speech, whatever its words were it made the crowd roar with laugher. Then they dug in. Skalf averted his eyes to the floor before him, tears stinging his face. But as quickly the sadness had come it was replaced with anger, a deep flame or hatred burst into life within him. He would not be eaten and he will make them pay. Pulling forward with all his might he tried to tear the chains from the stone, rusted links groaned but stayed put. Again and again he pulled, the muscles over him bunched up and throbbing veins appeared along his arms and face, he tried again fire coursed along his body in waves of pain until finally the rusted links broken. Skalf fell heavily to the floor and just lay there, exhaustion forcing itself upon him.
Each movement sent pain and nausea flooding along his body, he had only been laid there for a short while but he could not wait any longer. Slowly he forced himself to his feet, the rank smell of burnt flesh and fat assaulted his nostrils. At his feet he saw a weapon, stooping to pick it up he saw it was his own rune axe. Its surface unblemished by the greenskins touch, black blood still caked its surface. To his right he saw a rough pile of his warrior’s equipment, checking the guards he saw they were too drunk to notice, he hefted an axe. Armed with weapons and hatred he screamed a war cry to the gods, the guards were the first to feel his hatred. Not even stopping to kill them he sprinted past lashing out with both weapons, feeling the jarring of metal on bone he tore it free with one movement and charged into the depths of the drunken debauchery below. Not expecting to see a angered, crazed dwarf within their midst he was ignored; only after he began to slaughtered all in his way did the grobi realise their error. Skalf strode through them like a farmer reaping corn, scores upon scores fell to his twin axes some managed to get knives or swords and attack but the slashing blades did no more than fuel Skalf’s rage. Screaming a death chant he began to wader his way towards the fire, the bass of his voice cut through to even the most drunken grobi and they began to empty the cavern. Those too slow soon died, their black blood draining from their corpses to stain rock and corpse alike, soon the cavern was empty except Skalf and his victims. Dropping to his knees he cried out in pain and anguish as the battle fury fled his exhausted body, tears rolled freely down his face.
Everyone was dead. His entire unit cooked or eaten raw, a deep-seated shame ate at his core. Those he had known from beardling to Longbeard gone, in the belly of his race’s hated enemy. He could never return; not now. Grasping a bone dagger of those foul creatures be placed it to his scalp and began to hack at the long hair, clumps of deep chestnut hair fell before his eyes but he could see nothing through the tears and hatred. His mouth began to form the words of an oath, he swore to avenge his friends he would not rest till all those had been slain and his honour regained. He would hunt the grobi, the urk and even the drakk of the old world till the Ancestors saw if fit for him to die and his debts repaid, standing he let the knife fall to the hair matted ground. All that remained was a strip of hair in the middle of his scalp; no longer was he Skalf Thorgimsson. Now he was Skalf Grobi-Drungi, picking only his two axes up he began his hunt. His quarry was grobi.
Opening his eyes Skalf saw the sun had almost past its zenith a long time past, it was not bordering on night. The western sky turned a deep hued red and blue mixing to create a purple at the night sky began its ascent, Skalf huffed. Not even the darkness would stop his death. Finally in the dying rays of the sun he found the cave, the deep gapping maw rose from the ground like some waiting beast for unsuspecting prey.
“Into the belly of the beast” Skalf chuckled, stopping at the entrance he un-slung his pack and axe. Taking one last swig of ale he began the decent into the gloom below, glancing to the side his dwarven sight could pick out decaying corpses. Many clad in rusted steel armour plates, some had been here for what looked like centuries others looked barely a week dead. Shrugging he carried onwards towards his awaiting doom, down into cold and clammy air. The path downwards was smooth, too smooth to be natural. The beast must be big he mused, you could get at least three of those pansy manling knights down here. Turning a bend he stopped stock still, a golden light shone from the cavern at the bottom of the passage. Caution told him to enter slowly; eyes alert he entered the room. As he did his jaw almost fell from his face, before him lay a fortune, vast piles of golden coins, goblets and armour lay about. Red and green light from gems the size of his fist danced about the walls, a king’s ransom stood before him. But it wasn’t the gem or jewels that caught his eye. Nor was it the pile of weapons to the side, lances with faded pennants, axes and swords that lay strewn about the floor mixing with plates of armour and chainmail shirts. No what caught his eyes was the nest in the middle, a nest of bones. Leering skulls, and broken bones protruded from the rough circle, much of the skeletons were still clad in armour, rusted as it now was. Atop of this macabre nest was his opponent, not big enough to be a dragon but not small enough to be a wyvern; this beast was a drake. Plates of deep red scales the size of shields armoured its bulk, vicious looking black claws adorned each foot; its form was curled up but Skalf guessed it to be about one hundred feet in length from the tip of its snout to the tip of its spiked tail. It lay sprawled across the nest, its thick heavy tail lashing from side to side; sending piles of gold skittering about. A pair of black wings lain furled upon its back, but Skalf suspected that opened full they’d dwarf the sails of the manling ships he had seen. His entrance was not without notice; the beast’s golden orbs lay firmly fixed upon the minuscule being that disturbed his slumber. Looking upon the dwarf its thoughts turned from how little meal it shall provide to the weapon it held within its hand, Gralek had felt the kiss of this races magic weapons before and had no desire to feel it again. With a snap of his wings the beast was in the air, the beating of the giant pinions was like the deafening roar of a storm in the small cavern; opening its great maw it let loose a roar that shook the foundations of the room. Running a meaty hand through the orange crest that adorned his scalp he smiled.
“Good. I hate it when it’s bloody easy” with this he cried out and charged the beast.
The beast began to slowly circle the slayer, the tips of its great wings caressing the roof of the cavern. Charging forwards once more Skalf headed towards the beast’s new position, and again once more it was more than happy to move out of the way. Standing atop of a pile of gold the dwarf waved his weapons menacingly and bellowed at the creature
“Would ye stop flappin’ about!! How’s I suppose to find me death if ye don’t fight!!”
As if spurred by Skalf’s threat Gralek pushed his serpentine body upwards and began a low swoop at his meal, opening its jaws it prepared to swallow him whole. Brandishing both weapons Skalf began to swish them through the damp air, letting the battle fury consume him. Running down the pile of gold he leapt at his quarry, not expecting to find such a fearsome opponent the beast attempted to twist out of Skalf’s reach mid flight; bur it wasn’t enough. Instead of crunching into the solid bone of Gralek’s skull as intended, the twin weapons connected with his flanks instead. Great furrows dug deep into hardened plates of muscle and scale before the slow turn of the drake was complete, with a final lash of its tail it swung away from the dwarf; but it was not enough. The weapons in his hand had torn into the expanse of skin that formed the wing, with a piercing cry the ruined wing gave and Gralek crashed to the earth in a shower of gold and dust.
Slowly Skalf approached the prone creature, he never trusted they were dead till his axe lay embedded within their skull, standing but a few feet away he began to work his way to the head. The torn wing lay at an obscure angle, bones the size of a dwarf poked out of leathery skin and scales. A deep red liquid poured from the rents in its flanks, the vermilion flanks rose and fell heavily with its laboured breath. Standing before its snorting head he eyed it curiously, the thought of such treasures liming his pockets caused him to grin as he raised his runed axe to split its skull. Suddenly the golden orb opened.
“Crap” with this the creatures boat sized skull crashed into Skalf sending him hurtling across the room, his axe skittered out of his grip as he shattered the pile into a yellow spray of coins. Groggily he staggered to his feet, managing to stumble forwards a few paces he collapsed at the base of the mount of yellow, retching blood he held his head as an infernal ringing bounced through his skull. Slowly once more he forced himself up, the racket between his ears died down and began his search for the lost axe. Instead of seeing his own weapon he spied something else, drawn to a handle poking out between numerous plates of armour and weapons he grasped the weapon and drew it forth.
In his hand he now held the most beautiful piece of dwarven craftsmanship he had ever seen, surpassing that even of the ancient rune weapon his old king bore. The runes inscribed upon it faintly glowed a fiery red, its gromril forged head as sharp as the day it was forged, a dark wooden handle sprung from the head. Golden letters of its name wrote along its length, the handle and pommel was made of ivory, the material cunningly shaped in the form of a great wyrm. His admiration of the weapon was short lived, a shadow fell upon him, leaping to the side he saw the wounded beasts lunge rip the space he had just occupied to shreds. The dragon weapon in his grip he once more stood face to face with his opponent, muscles tensed looking deep into one another’s eyes neither moved. Suddenly Gralek struck, his sinuous body lending force to the attack. But Skalf wasn’t there. As soon as the beast had moved Skalf swung out of the way; somehow. He should have been its next meal but instead he found himself on the attack, the dragon weapon in his hand blazing like a falling star. The strong metal sliced through one of the black claws as if it was wood; again he found he had elven like reflexes as he nimbly rolled away from the drake’s talons. At the back of his mind he wondered about the axe, it seemed to be made for slayer of great wyrm’s, maybe it enhanced the wielder so that they may take on such a beast. But he had little time to consider this as once again the black talons lashed out; turning the attack with his weapon he missed a single claw. The black nail tore through the small leather *****ing he wore and into the tough flesh below, grunting in pain he dropped back out of range of the vicious claws. The two combatants carried on for what seemed like an age, the drake’s talons creating trenches in the stone floor and the weapon in the slayers hands reacting revenge upon the beasts flesh. Diving forwards Skalf barely managed to dodge a vicious swipe of Gralek’s claws, looking upwards he saw he was before the great drake. Before his opponent could rake his claws forwards once more Skalf struck. The dragon rune axe swung upwards, the runes upon it cast a ruddy glow as it split the lower jaw wide open, blood poured from the wound as the drake’s pained cries echoed through the room. Desperately holding onto the weapon as Gralek *****ed and swung in pain attempting to dislodge its cause, finally with a tearing of flesh and muscle the dwarf and axe were thrown loose.
The drake’s death throws were deafening and terrible, its ram sized tail lashed this way and that; piles of bullion were slung about, its spiked tip constantly slammed into the floor causing small tremors the rock cracked under such a battering. Its one good wing tried to take it to the skies but instead in barely lifted its great bulk, the other moved in attempts to lift it aloft; each flap caused new waves of burning pain to roll down its spine. Its ruined jaw worked vigorously, the deep red liquid poured from the gaping wound. A bass roar tore from its horse throat, its death roar forcing Skalf to cover his ears. Finally with a single juddering jolt it was still, a pool of blood began to spread about its form, golden coins and bright gems turned a brilliant red as the life giving liquid engulfed all. Once more Skalf approached the still drake, raising his axe above his head
“Can’t even be too careful” he muttered and brought the gromril bladed weapon down hard, its keen edge shattered the skull before tearing down through the soft grey matter below, through its soft pallet before embedding itself in the hard stone below. Looking about him Skalf saw the devastation his battle with the beast and its death throws had made, piles of gold, jewels and weapon lay flung about the place. Tearing the axe from the corpse a thought assaulted Skalf. What was he going to do with all the treasure? He was a slayer, he sought death not riches; yet riches he got. Ambling over to where he lost his axe he began his search, finding his weapon he made his way towards the tunnel entrance. Ruefully he looked back at the horde of treasure, hefting his axe and the new dragon axe, as well as a few pounds of golden coins he took for his spoils he began the long walk back to his pack.
Taking a deep lungful of fresh mountain air, Skalf cursed the gods for denying him a honourable death. Hefting his back once more to its position on his back he looked at the dragon weapon in his hand, the golden inscription upon its haft named it “Drakk Az-Dreugl” The Dragon Axe. Hefting his new weapon he began his descent down the mountainside, the smell of a warm room and sweet ale dragging his tired body onwards. The treasure… left for the next adventurer to find.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"