An anthology of shorts by @Quel Tarin and @ArchangelAzrael1876
Part V: Divine Sundering
I follow immediately in the wake of the hulking form of Sergeant Herod, resplendent in his massive terminator war plate. He roars his challenge and we surge forward towards the sprung trap. I see this Dark Apostle smile and point his cursed crozius towards the now-sprinting Herod. Another fool. He thinks Herod charges for him. He will pay for his mistake. Moments before our forces meet a massive other-worldly scream, akin to many voices layered and competing for dominance, pierces the oppressive silence that has blanketed this holiest of places and I glance upwards to the floating form of the Saint. Gone is the dark locks of hair and piercing green eyes of Acheon. In her place is something else entirely. Eyes glowing of bright white and bathed in amber and orange trim, her skin is sallow and grey. Her hair is now fiery red, flowing in locks near a meter long but now ending in flames that burn from the nether realm. In the brief heartbeat of time before the clash she crosses her arms before her and whip them out in a cruciform position.
This I was not prepared for. A concussive wave of pure force extends in all directions like a bubble of evil intent and only the gene forged reflexes of my marines gives us a fraction of time to brace. Many are quick enough, but some are thrown across the chamber and into columns and piles of detritus. I see Byss disappear into a pile of corpses, our standard dipping behind the veil of blood and ichor. We recover in time to resume our advance into the now-charging forms of our crimson and grey-clad cousins.
‘Delphus, Tartus! The Abomination! Byss, Tardos, Alexos! Take the Reivers and eliminate every accursed heretic in here! HEROD! END THIS!’
Two more steps, a single beating of my heart, and our lines collide in a tidal wave of ceramite and flesh. I am losing track of what is happening as I catch only glimpses of what is occurring around me. Herod lowers his shoulder as he charges the Apostle, but the fool ahead does not expect what is about to happen. At the last moment before Herod crashes into our foe I shift the Nightbreaker into my right hand and unlock my falcata into an underhanded grip in my left. The Sergeant barrels into the descended, crimson clad bearer of the word and shoves him to the side as he raises his sword in a two handed, overhand swing that he brings down onto the nearest heretical mirror of his own self. Horns and blood decorate the fallen terminator, now roaring his defiance with chainsword whirring into life. The Apostle is stunned for the briefest of instants as I lance my spear for his throat. He curses, he did not expect this. For all his so-called knowledge he sees little.
I strike fast, much faster than he does, but this daemonic imp in his pauldron is granting him respite between blows. I am able to see that he barely moves of his own accord. He does not know. I bring up my spear and block his overhand swing, strong enough to crack the plating of a Rhino. I spin. Much faster than him again, and bring my falcata across his thigh as I reverse grip on my spear again and twist down. I deflect his next attack and kick out at his knee as I turn, dropping myself and slicing the falcata up again across the same thigh. All three movements faster than his single blow and then he feels each hit and drops to his knee, roaring in pain. The plate across his thigh drops to the mosaic and marbled floor, and clatters into a dozen pieces. I see I cut deep. Good. I need only buy the Oracles time to wrench this damned Abomination from this world. I glance to my left as Byss and Alexos are engaged with the handful of cultists and chaos marines left remaining.
Bolt carbines echo out as round after round find their targets and detonate in staccatic succession. I turn and face to my right after deflecting yet another of the Apostle’s monstrous swings. I see Tardos lifted in the air by the risen daemon. Tendrils of purple and crimson wrap around his form even as his unpinioned hand fires bolt after bolt into the ætherial mist gathering around her. In a breathless moment it happens. A surging wind of lightning, dust and force rips forward from her accursed hands and tears the ceramite from his form, dissolving his massive bulk piece by piece. His screams, never before heard by my ears after a hundred battles, echo throughout the chamber until at last he disintegrates into a pile of dust. This momentary distraction costs me and my next parry is too slow. I feel the crash of the crozius into my skull and feel the trickle of blood down my face as a thunderous white fills my eyes. I drop to my knees and instinctively cross both weapons up and despite the temporary blindness I block his next blow.
I rise and shoulder him with my larger pauldron and he grunts in frustration as I stab through his injured thigh again with my falcata. He spins, faster than me this time, ripping the blade from my hand. Shit. I reverted my grip behind my back and pull the other falcata free and press my spear into his bulk. It hits home and he staggers as I withdraw the blade tip from his bicep. ‘Delphus!’ I roar as the cyclonic winds of ætherial fire and dust twist around the room creating a dark backdrop of what a hurricane must look like in its eye. Tendrils of unholy lightning branch out and disintegrate another two of my Reivers. Herod is battling the last of the heretical terminator-clad astartes and I see the remaining two brothers of his squad advancing to aid him. I catch the crozius in my crossed guard on the Apostle’s next swing and push down and crash my head into the heretic skull. I feel the spike of a horn in his unholy crown gouge my flesh but he staggers back.
A symphonic cacophony of daemonic voices are shouting unknown words and hymns as they vie for dominance and the storm grows all around. There are no more of the sons of the Seventeenth left standing aside from this Dark Apostle, but we are still at the disadvantage. This entire time Delphus and Tartus have been moving in concert, battling to find a weakness to banish our foe. Emperor damn her. She is flaying more marines alive with her ætherial winds. We have little chance of….
A great and thunderous crash echoes as I am brought back into my focus. Both Oracles are standing side by side, inner arms pointed to their rear and blood streaming from their eyes and ears. With their outer arms they stretch forward and sun-bright blue fire surges forth at the ascending form of what once was Saint Acheon. They wrap her lithe body in holy fire and begin to pull her towards their braced stance. Those of my brothers left standing are forced to their knees with the oppressive wall of mounting pressure this is creating. I know not what my Oracles do, but I can only guess.
I get to my feet again and stare at the rising form of the Apostle. His deformed face ruined now by my strike. He spits blood at me and reasserts the grip on his hellbound crozius. He begins to chant a low and dark litany of pure spite and the daemon within his pauldron echoes in time, yet not in sync. Something is off. Something is not right here. His face twisting into an enraged rictus behind his ruined features, the Apostle speaks his first words directly to me in the minutes since we first engaged.
‘Ignorant son of a dead corpse, rotting on his throne. I fail to see why you persist in this fruitless endeavour. Do you not see that you are too late? Princess Murmurex has risen, returned to the glory of this world to resume her glorious purpose. I approach my own ascension now as…
As he trails off in his “glorious speech” of what I’m sure would lay out his reasons and his ambitions, I look around the chamber. Despite being engaged with my Oracles, whose armour is now being stripped from their forms, the fallen saint is looking at me. The fires in her eyes dimmed to show the purple irises contained within, and for a moment I glimpse her smiling coyly at me. Hey eyes flit to the droning Apostle and I see it. The gargoyle within his pauldron is speaking faster than he is. She nods at me and extends a hand. A curious gesture but then I see it.
Byss, standing a couple meters to my right bursts into flames as a dozen daemonic voices laugh in disharmonious unison. My standard is burning in purple ætherial fire as my closest friend and advisor is consumed in unholy flames which deliver untold pain into his body. At this the Apostle ceases his monologue in frustration and stares at the daemon. She is laughing in her symphonic intonations of now what seem like a hundred voices. He has stopped speaking but his pauldron has not. He is unfocused and raging at what is taking place. Realization has dawned on him even as a tear in reality forms behind my Oracles. Each is now nought but tearing flesh and seared muscle. Their eyes dissolving into nothingness and empty sockets, but still they fight on. The Apostle roars a challenge and points his daemonic mace at me.
‘I will tear the flesh from your bones and toast the gods with wine from your skull you unrighteous bastard! You have desecrated my ascension and this holy ritual!’ Each word was spat from his mouth, his twisted face a shadow of his wrecked visage. ‘I will end this now, and flay each of you alive simply to hear you scream.’
As he speaks I lock my remaining falcata to my thigh and grip Nightbreaker two-handed. This will be it. No more dancing around him. I must take him now and sever the bond.
A crash of dust and stone explodes from the wall as Herod’s massive fist pounds into it. He has broken the baleful and droning speech of the Apostle yet again, and in the barest moment of his focus turning, I strike. My first blow strikes home and pierces his leg again. I turn under and twist the spear around as his blow runs wide. I will show the fool power. I kick back mid-turn and drop him behind the knee as my reverse-gripped lance pierces his back underneath the daemonic pauldron. Netherfire spits out from the imp’s mouth but I am once again too fast. The Apostle swings for my head but I am already under his arc and have stabbed my spear into his midsection. He is roaring again, but the pauldron is laughing. Cackling in pure bliss it is mocking him. Full of rage and unbalanced he cannot concentrate.
Behind and to his right he knows that despite the power of this risen daemon, soon she will be gone. The defiled bodies of my Oracles will rip her back into the warp and it will be over. He knows that once this happens he will fall. Most of all, he is realizing that he is not in control and never has been. All of this in a blink of an eye.
The riotous voices of the Neverborn are screaming now in pain as their doom is realized. The dissolving and near ichorous and skeletal forms of my Oracles are being dragged into the warp tear at their back. The daemon shrieks as the holy blue fires of my men grip her tightly and pull her towards her doom. They are both gone into this tear and she twists and screeches unholy curses at me as the end looms. She is pulling at the air, tendrils of lightning in hues uncountable striking out all around her, but it is in vain and at last she vanishes in a thunderous clap as the tear disappears. The shadowy figures no long flit in and out of shuddering reality as they are gone with her. The cyclonic winds, which ripped the flesh from so many die down and light returns to the chamber. Once glorious, it now lies in shattered ruin, and silence descends once again.
The Apostle shrieks a scream of hatred and despair at me, shattering the calm, and I feel the acidic spittle fleck my armour and helm. The daemonic pauldron is cackling with glee now. It knows what it about to occur, and centuries of patience are bearing its prize.
The Apostle swings a backhanded blow that arcs for my face and his aim is true. The moment his blow would land he barks a laugh of blood and spittle thinking he has won, but even as he follows through he realizes something is wrong. Nothing has happened. He looks down and sees the crozius on the ground, still clutched in his gauntleted fist. His error laid bare as blood gushes from the severed stump of his right arm. The fool is still too slow.
A single drop of blood descends to plop on the mosaic tile floor as I hold my falcata in my left hand. He was too slow and has paid for his arrogance. I mag lock the spear to my back and walk behind him now. He stares at the fallen mace as the imp laughs hysterically.
‘Fool,’ the pauldron utters as my blade severs his head from his massive frame. It rolls across the floor and disappears into the smoking debris of this battle. The engorged form of the dead Apostle slams into the floor, cracking the tiles and showering dust and splintered tile all around. I turn back and see my men. Three terminators, including Sergeant Herod, remain standing. Alexos and five more Reivers are left. Including myself that makes ten. Half our number slain in a single encounter. I open the vox link and call out.
‘Basilis, this is Prefect Julius. The shrine has fallen but the threat has been neutralized. Is the bastion proper secured?’
I am greeted with vox static. Damn ætherial storms must have convoluted the vox.
Just as I prepare to vox again to Basilis, the corpse of the slain Apostle twitches. It begins to convulse and twist as amber fire shines from each joint and rivet in the armour. The daemon is raising the body it has controlled for untold centuries. The face of the gargoyle begins to slide up the pauldron and I know that it will happen fast.
I turn to call out, but Herod is ahead of me. Three thunderous steps in his heavy plate and with a rumbling roar, akin to a Fenrisian bear of old legends, he crashes his heavy boot down and shatters the pauldron as it screams into nothingness. The twitching stops, and all pressure exits the chambers. Now it is done.
‘Basilis this is Prefect Primus, what is your status?’
My call is answered with displaced vox static and reports of bolter fire. I turn and sprint out of a collapsed wall to the right edge of the inner sanctum. My men follow me, although I need not turn and face them to know. Echoes of raised voices and the crash of bolter fire reach my ears from a few hundred meters away in the looming fortress.
‘All Reciprocators not already at the fortress, reassemble at the main gates to the north of the shrine and prepare to engage. This fight is not finished.’
As I begin to march forward to our new rendezvous point I turn and see squads of my brothers running to join me. Several dozen at least from across the caldera are assembling. A full four squads are in the main fortress under Basilis, and whatever is happening, it does not feel right. The tiered walls of this hold are massive, fifty meters at the outer wall, and I swear silently to myself in gratitude that we do not have to breach them. As squad leaders report in on the vox I glean the remaining forces at my disposal. Terra in glory. I had not realized the tally of our dead. Nigh on half the company was dead or missing, with a full four squads under Basilis out of contact within the keep.
This counting cannot be correct. How are there only three hundred and twelve heretic astartes slain. Near triple that number should be here. We have made incredible pace pushing the enemy back and taking the shrine. Terra, that took only thirteen minutes once we entered the gates. This is wrong.
One hundred and forty-six had landed with me, and now only a fraction of that remained. I had of course three of the hulking demigod terminators under Herod. None of the aggressors were accounted for after the initial clash on the bridge. Thirty-nine Reivers of the Third were with me now, along with Alexos, my champion. Kurdar Rosus, our sole remaining apothecary, was cresting a mound of rubble as he moved to join our gathering force. He would be vital, as he carried our remaining legacy in his narthesium gauntlet. What remained of our geneseed was held in precious containment within. At his approach I nod to the Sergeant and he signals the other two at his side in their massive war plate to flank Kurdar. Isaac, with his silver-barreled assault cannon stands to his right. To his left strides Essaus, now missing an eye after the melee within the shrine. His immense war hammer he is carrying two-handed. I do not see his shield. I order Alexos to vox the Bronze of Rhodes and request reinforcements.
‘Inform the master of the ship that we require Imperial aid immediately in order to take and secure this position. The enemy fleet has not made its appearance, and we must be prepared. We require any forces within range to make all haste upon this world. If they be Astartes, then an emergency drop will be required. Express to him that on my command he is to rain fire on my position. Lance batteries, macros batteries, cyclonics. Everything at his disposal is to wipe this world clean of all corruption, even at the cost of our own lives. Whatever happens we cannot allow the plans of the archenemy to come and bear fruit.
He crosses his chest and bows. He then turns to carry out his orders. I hold out my hand and one of my Reivers places a bolt carbine in it and I ram home a fresh magazine. For the briefest of moments I turn around and face the forty-four astartes at my back.
‘Come brothers, this is not over.’