OK, so I have got here 5 stories. All of them are western, and I will be listing them in order of largest to smallest. Please note that this is my first ever competition and my second ever time posting a poll. So it's likely that I'll get some things wrong, though I hope I haven't forgotten anyone's story (and if I have, I am prepared to become a flagellant in penitence. Seriously).
So, heeere we go...
The Rain Lord
The Rain Lord
Day 3 of the 4th month Gothic year 40,841
The heat was unbearable during the dry season. Marcus walked down the street in a trench coat, occasionally glancing at the dehydrated beggars asking for water. There were few places where anyone could go to escape the heat in Hive Duran, but he knew a place. Water had to be rationed, but there were bars that had drinks obtained through illegal means. He turned down a back alley and entered through a door with a backwards glance, just to make sure nobody was following him. The cool breeze instantly bathed him as he entered deeper into the bar down the flight of stairs. When he passed through the saloon doors he quickly glanced around then took a seat at the bar.
“What’ll have Marcus?” asked the bartender in a thick Roscathen accent.
“Some of the good stuff Leonard”, replied Marcus in a soft voice. Leonard smirked then pulled out a bottle and placed in front of Marcus. Marcus drank the cool drink quickly, trying to replenish the vital fluids he lost. “How’s business?” asked Marcus after he had finished
“Slow,” replied Leonard, “It’s gettin’ harder to get a hold of these drinks. The gangs have been stirrin’ up trouble. Arbites got too much to deal with so they brought in the PDF.”
“Maybe supplies are getting low” said Marcus as he drank another bottle
“Maybe,” sighed Leonard, “I’ve heard on the street though that it’s not something, but someone who’s been stirrin’ up trouble.” Marcus stopped drinking.
“Is there another gang coming in?”
Leonard shrugged, “Maybe. Wish I knew.”
After Marcus had finished his drink the door to the bar opened. He glanced backwards to see a tall man with a large bag enter. Marcus could not make out the man’s face due to the man’s robes, but there was something ire about him. The man approached the bar and dropped the large bag on the counter.
“So you brought the stuff?” asked Leonard smiling. The man nodded in return and Leonard handed him a bottle. Marcus glanced over between the sips of his drink. The man was built like a wall and stood at least 7 feet tall. His grey robes obscured his features, but there was an odd aura about him that made Marcus uncomfortable.
Suddenly the bar door opened again and 5 men carrying autoguns walkthrough. Marcus could tell that they were black star gang members from the bandanas they wore. They came in very slowly taking their time as they walked up towards the bar. Their footsteps echoed on the wooden floors and their chains chimed an ominous song.
“What have we got here?” exclaimed one of the members. Marcus cowered closer to the bar. He could hear the men breathing down his back. “There’s a bounty on your head, boy.” Marcus glanced over and saw that all 5 members were surrounding the man in the white robes. There was no point in getting involved in the dispute, so Marcus slowly walked away and took a seat in the corner of the bar. He watched as one of the gang members started to whisper into the man’s ear.
There was a cry of pain as the man in the white robes grabbed the back of the gang member’s head and smashed his face into the bar, going completely through it. The sound of bones cracking filled the room. The other’s jumped back and unleashed a torrent of shots at the man, but he managed to get behind the bar without a scratch. They continued to shoot up the bar, the bullets carving up the freshly lacquered wood and the sound of empty bullet shells were a symphony of chimes.
They dispensed their cartridges into the bar and started to reload and that’s when the man struck. Jumping out from behind the bar, he landed on the top with two pistols that Marcus had never seen before. With unnerving accuracy, he fired four shots and all four gang members fell to the ground. Each shot was a direct hit in the forehead. The shootout was over in less than a minute.
Marcus watched in terror as the man calmly stepped down and placed his pistols away. The man turned and looked over the bar and said: “Sorry Leonard. I did not expect them to find me so quickly”
“Don’t worry boy,” said Leonard as he slowly got up, his ears were still ringing from the shots, “I’m gettin’ too old for this. Seems like now-a-day that fights are goin’ on all the time. Feel bad for the bar though; just had that painted.”
“I will pay for the damages,” said the man softly, “I should have been more careful.”
“The merchandise you brought more than makes up for this,” laughed Leonard, “Just take care boy. They’ve got a bounty on your head.”
“So it would seem. Can I ask you for a favour, help out an old friend? Take this package and do exactly as it says.” The man handed Leonard an item wrapped in a black cloth, “Take care.” The man turned around and started to head out.
“What should I call you boy?” asked Leonard, “Can’t be using your real name around here anymore.”
The man paused for second then replied: “Call me... the Rain.” He continued his way outside and left the bar. Marcus finally got up, still shaking in his boots. Luckily he had gotten away unscathed.
Day 12 of the 8th month Gothic year 40,841
It was Cheven’s first day on patrol in the lower reaches of the hive. Things had gotten worst over the last year with gang violence steadily increasing and the drought still continuing. He remembered the days when the roofs in the higher reaches of the hive would be open to sunlight, but due to the intense heat, they were closed. The rainy season had not come to quench the thirst of the hive and tensions over fresh water had been rising. It was getting difficult to keep the hive cool now since bandits in the desert had been holding up supplies. Cheven was lucky though since being recruited as an Adeptus Arbite he was given food and water. All he had to do was shoot at gang members.
The Rhino transport grinded to a halt and as the back door opened a wall of heat engulfed the patrol. This was as far as their transport could take them. Cheven readied his shot gun in anticipation of any threats and cautiously walked outside into the lower hive. Looking at his squad members he could sense the stern resolve in his comrades as they proceeded into the local market place.
The place was in need of repair as recent battles were apparent. Bullet holes peppered the walls, and signs lay on the ground. Citizens were cowering in the alley ways, and others were shutting their windows. It was as if almost everyone had evacuated the area and now the area was a ghost sector. Cheven readied his shotgun since trouble was bound to be close by.
The silence was broken by the sound of gun shots and a piercing scream. The patrol immediately ran towards the noise with their guns armed and loaded. As they turned the corner they saw three men holding two terrified girls and gun point. The men grabbed the nearest girl and started barking demands at the patrol. The Arbites readied their guns. A few hostages as casualties were no importance in the grand scheme of the hive. There were many more.
Cheven looked down his sight at one of the men, but he noticed something. There was blood dripping down from the side of the man’s head. The man collapsed to the ground and a pool of blood soon formed. The men started shouting and firing their guns blindly as if they were trying to shoot a ghost. They swore and cursed the rain as another one fell. The Arbites stood around, staring blankly at the final man, firing his autogun, but soon that man fell to sniper fire.
There was no time to think, the Arbites immediately took cover and started firing into the nearby windows. The sounds of bolter and shotgun fire filled the air with the sound of breaking glass adding to the symphony. Cheven unloaded his shotgun into the window across the street with a steady pace, trying to keep calm in his first encounter. As he finished reloading his gun something grabbed him from behind and pulled him back. He was being used as a hostage.
Cheven noticed and hand holding his shotgun as one would hold a pistol. Soon his nearby squad mate was shot in square in the head by his own shotgun. The other Arbites turned to see hapless Cheven held as a hostage, while their squad members were taken down. Soon though, the Arbites opened fire on Cheven not caring whether their squad mate was killed. A bolter shot ruptured his arm and suddenly the man let go as Cheven fell to the ground in agony. He looked up to see a tall man wearing white robes firing his shotgun and a bolt pistol at the same time. This man could not be human.
The six remaining Arbites exchanged fire with the white robed man. Their training for these kinds of situations proved to be useful, but even their suppressive fire was not enough to prevent return fire. Behind the barricades where Cheven and the man were, the Arbites continued to fire, trying to prevent any return fire and hopefully hit the man.
“Continue suppressive fire,” shouted the sergeant, “Mils flank from the left, the rest of you cover him.” Mils ran out under the torrents of suppressive fire, but as he came closer he caught a faint glimpse of metal, but it was too late. From a small opening in the barricades, the man had shot Mils with perfect accuracy. The sergeant was dumbstruck as he continued to unload his bolter into the barricades. They continued to exchange gun fire, although the sergeant could sense that his squad was losing moral.
Even though the roar of the gun fire was deafening, Cheven could hear the pin drop of a grenade and he knew what was coming next. Time seemed to slow down as Cheven saw the grenade soaring majestically through the air coming towards him. He knew his death was inevitable and he started to say a prayer to the Emperor.
The grenade never came though. The man in the white robes threw a rock at the grenade and deflected it back towards the Arbites. It was unbelievable. Cheven was shocked with disbelief that even as the grenade hit the ground and exploded. The Arbites were flushed from cover as the grenade claimed their lives.
Blood flowed from the many wounds that were inflicted by the shrapnel as the sergeant regained consciousness. He looked around to see his other comrades dead from the grenade explosion; their bodies had been ripped apart. Ahead of him was his bolter and instinct drove him to crawl to it. As he reached for it a boot stepped on his arm. It felt as if a Rhino transport had parked on him and his arm was broken as it was slammed into the ground. He slowly looked up and saw the man in the white robes aiming a bolt pistol at him. The sergeant closed his eyes and waited for his execution.
Cheven watched as his sergeant was executed in front of him. As the bolt pistol round ruptured his head, blood sprayed and covered the man’s boots. He knew he was next as the footsteps of the man drew closer. His eyes met with the white robed man. He couldn’t make out any of the feature of the man, but Cheven knew that the man was watching him from underneath the hood.
The man sat down next to Cheven and started to tend to his wounds. Cheven was shocked that his enemy would tend to him. With the remaining energy that he had left Cheven faintly asked the question: “Why?”
The man continued to bandage his wounds as he replied: “Go back to your station and tell them that the Rain is coming.” Cheven soon passed out from exhaustion and blood loss.
Day 9 of the 13th month Gothic year 40,841
The rainy season had come at last, but the Arbite patrols did not stop. Recently, patrols would be wiped out with only one man remaining. Each one told their story of the man in white robes and how he told them that “the Rain is coming”. The Judicator took the threat seriously and requested reinforcements from other Hives and even the PDF. It was still hard to get food and water even though there was now plenty of it to go around. Leonard had to close his bar as the Arbites had laid waste to it.
He looked down the alley and heard gun shots of in the distance. It was becoming extremely common now, even though the Arbites grip had been tightening. There was news that the Black Star gang leader had been crushed by an assault involving the PDF. If they were getting involved then all the gangs would be crushed within two months. Leonard pulled out a cigarette and started smoking to calm his nerves. He let out a sigh.
“Smoking is a terrible habit” said a voice.
Leonard lowered his head and smirked. “So,” he said slowly, “Looks like the Rain finally came.”
“Seems so,” replied the cloaked man, “I am sorry to hear about your bar closing. Times were better back then.”
Leonard exhaled a smoke ring and sighed. “That bar meant a lot. Remember all the good times?” Leonard tried to smile, “Back when there was no prohibition. Those were the good old days, back when we were livin’ simple lives. You and your family...” Leonard stopped. “Sorry, I forgot”.
“It’s O.K. Nothing will bring them back now. Besides the Black Star gang has been destroyed and my vengeance satisfied. It’s time to move on.” Leonard threw his cigarette to the ground and rubbed it into the ground with his foot.
“Ya. It’s time to leave this place. I’m supposed to be leavin’ in a few days from now. Goin’ to a farm world to do some work. Time to go live an even simpler life. What will you do though?”
“I will be returning from where I came. It’s the only thing that I am suited for.” Leonard pulled out another cigarette and started smoking. Gazing down as he inhaled.
“Don’t be so hard on ya. You were the best runner I ever knew and you’ve got a wicked shot, but destiny calls us all. How do you plan to go back when they’ve got a bounty on your head? It’s not like you can waltz back in. You stick out since you’re as big as one of ‘em space marines.”
“That’s where you come in. You’ve read the instructions. When you hear gun fire go through the sewers and plant the bomb in the armoury. I’ll keep them distracted long enough for you to get in and get out. There are enough explosives in this bag to destroy the whole complex.” He gave a heavy bag to Leonard.
“Shit son!” exclaimed Leonard, “What do you have in this thing? A Hive Tyrant?”
“Just go,” he exclaimed while lifting the massive sewer cover with just one hand, “Good luck!” Leonard climbed down into the sewers as he lugged the explosives in the huge leather bag. Only three minutes had passed before gunfire could be heard. The low rumble of a heavy bolter could be heard off in the distance. The sewer cover ahead was dripping with blood. Leonard could only imagine the carnage that was going on above as he continued his walk through the sewers.
Leonard started to remember when he first met that runner. It was after he had been discharged from the military and left in Hive Duran. He was a veteran sergeant and led a drop trooper squadron in his glory days, but now he was too old and too sick of combat. Especially after losing most of his squad to a Hormogaunt attack. He clenched his teeth and the thought of those leaping bastards. That was his final mission before being discharged at the age of 52; watching his entire squad get slaughtered before he was saved by a squad of Space Marines.
He sighed as he continued to walk down the sewer. Now he could hear a tank rolling in with all of its guns firing. From the sound it was probably a Leman Russ battle tank. It was a sound that he was all too familiar with.
Leonard opened a bar after being discharged and met the Rain three years after that. He remembers meeting the hulking man. Built like a wall and could probably wrestle a great desert Tiger without breaking a sweat. He was paid by store owners as a special delivery man. If something needed to be collected or delivered, he was the one to do it. Never let anyone down no matter how dangerous the job was. He was always able to slip past the gang members and until 11 months ago, he never had a shoot out. He was just an honest working man, like the rest of the Hive residents.
He climbed up into the fortress and readied his shot gun for any passing arbites. The bag weighed him down as he carried it up the ladder. Leonard figured that there must be enough explosives to bring down half of the fortress. If there were other explosives in the armoury, surely the fortress would collapse.
He lifted the sewer cover and quietly entered the dark and noisy place. Sirens were wailing and the chaotic footsteps of arbites running to battle echoed through the halls. “How is he going to fight all of those soldiers?” thought Leonard. “While that man was exceptional, he was only one man, but enough it’s time to find the armoury.” He looked down both corridors with shot gun in hand as he slowly crept between hallways. As he turned his sixth corner though he could hear the voices of arbites giving orders to those defending the fortress.
“Deploy the Tarantula Turrets!” Shouted the commander; “They can’t survive that much suppressing fire.”
“Sir,” cracked voice over the radio exclaimed, “We have one of them pined, possibly even wounded!”
“What are you waiting for?! Flush them out and kill them with the tank”
“But the casualties to the civilians...”
“An Irrelevant factor. If we show any weakness now then we may lose this world to chaos! Send an order to the crew to prepare ordinance rounds and advance!”
“Sir Yes, sir!”
“Things ain’t going well,” thought Leonard. No man could survive ordinance rounds, no matter how strong they were. Also there could be untold damage to nearby structures and civilians, but it was just like the arbites to do that. They didn’t care about the common man, only that they remained in power.
“You are unauthorized to be here civilian,” a hand grabbed his shoulder and without thinking, Leonard had unloaded his shot gun into the arbite. He blew the head clean off, but the blast grabbed the attention of the other arbites. Leonard ducked for cover and autogun and shot gun rounds started to go off. It was a frantic fire fight with bullets bouncing off the walls as he kept his head down.
Leonard loaded his shot gun and threw some smoke grenades. He had been through this before in his battles and wasn’t about to let some lazy control freak arbites get the better of him. He rushed out as bullets poured out aimlessly. Leonard unloaded his shot gun into arbite after arbite under the cover of the smoke grenade. Soon the smoke had cleared and he was the only one left.
“That seems to have done it.” Said Leonard as he looked around the room making sure that no one was left alive. Suddenly he felt the searing heat of lead enter his flesh followed immediately by a large bang. He fell to the ground, wounded by the shot gun blast.
“You have caused a lot of trouble traitor,” said the arbite, “But the Emperor’s judgement will fall upon you today.” He heard the man’s steps approach him as he lay on the ground, wounded. He heard the shot gun being primed for another round.
Leonard quickly drew and knife and stabbed the arbite in the calf where the armour was weak. The man collapsed to the ground with the shot gun round aimlessly firing. Leonard’s flak armour had saved him for once and he got up and stabbed the arbite in the chest.
“You know something,” whispered Leonard, “This is for my men who fought against dark things on ugly planets so you could go around beatin’ up civilians. Well I hoped you enjoyed your cushy life ‘cause it over boy.” He pulled out the knife then drove it into the arbites neck. Blood ran down the man’s around and started to stain the ground and he fell over lifeless. Leonard spat at the man. He had no respect for these dead, not while his friend’s bodies were never given proper rest. He picked up the explosives and headed towards the armoury.
The armoury was empty as Leonard placed the bag down and wired the explosives as he had done many times in combat. Before becoming a veteran sergeant he was the one who carried and primed the demo charges. He wired the explosives and left the armoury as quickly as his wounded body would take him.
Leonard climbed down into the sewers and pulled out a cigar. One he had been saving for a celebration like this. Soon, he would have his revenge against the bastards who destroyed his bar. For his faithful service to the God Emperor he was repaid by having his bar destroyed. It was unjust, but then that was just the perfect word to describe the Arbites in this Hive. Their reign of terror was soon to be over and the Hive would descend into anarchy.
As Leonard climbed out of the sewers he could hear the cries of frightened people and even more gun shots. The sound or the sights didn’t bother him, he had seen worst. All the battles that he fought made him desensitized to the smell and the sight, but he still couldn’t get the faces of his comrades out of his head. The brave men he fought along would soon have vengeance for being sent into the slaughter against the Tyranids. Deep in his heart he could never forgive the high command for sending his squad into the human slaughterhouse of Medusa XX.
He climbed to the roof of a nearby building and looked around as he pulled out a lighter. He gazed at the lighter that had been given by is second in command. The silver lighter had the imperial Aquila on it. The cigar smoke did little to release him from his troubles and pain. Perhaps it was time to quit smoking.
23rd Day of the 2nd Month Gothic year 40,842
Brother Sagarious prayed to the Emperor over the roar of the Thunderhawk’s engines. He was selected by the Chapter Master himself to help quell the uprising in Hive Duran on Lorn XII. It was an honour to be selected to evaluate the situation. It was traditional chapter protocol to send a kill team to investigate if Chaos was at the root. After all, they were the pious Space Marines of the Golden Legion, a newly created chapter.
The Golden Legion’s first major battle that used up three battle companies was against a heretical uprising on Grastev VI, where they successfully were able to purge the entire population with the help of a witch hunter. Sagarious remembered the day well. The righteous angels of death delivering holy retribution against the non-believers brought a smile to his face. The cult was discovered by a small kill team of veteran Space Marines. The chapter was small back then and battles had to be selected carefully so not to over extend the chapter’s resources. The previous Chapter Master knew this and decreed that it would be chapter tradition to first investigate possible conflicts with small kill teams, even though it went against Codex Astartes.
As they entered the atmosphere Brother Belarious, the leader of the kill team, said: “Let us now take a moment to pray to the Emperor, our great father and to our first Chapter Master Reahin.” There was a moment of silence as they prayed. “Our objective,” continued Belarious, “is to discover whether the uprising in caused by our hated enemies of chaos or simple disorder. There is a rumour that there is a single man behind it all. He could be an agent of Chaos, so fire on sight. Better to cull a thousand civilians than to let one heretic live. Remember that Chapter Master Reahin disappeared on one of these missions. His armour was recovered, but not his body. Never forget that even a veteran of ten thousand battles can still lose his life if he is not careful.”
They disembarked as soon as the Thunderhawk landed. The smell of blood and holy gasoline fumes filled his nose. Sagarious looked at the ruined city around him. It was hard to believe that a small riot could have caused this much damage. He loaded his bolter as he based by the ruins of the Arbite fortress. The fools were not pious enough and succumbed to laziness. If they were vigilant as the Emperor demands then this would have never occurred and peace would have been with them.
The rainy season was almost at an end, but the damage to the upper Hive layers allowed the rain to come through, causing the roads to be muddy. It would have made travel difficult for ordinary men, but not the mighty space marines. They walked past the wreck of a Leman Russ tank with their bolters ready for whatever menace caused such damage. The sharp eyes of the Space Marines did not miss even the slightest detail as they walked through the city. Brother Sagarious saw a cigarette butt lying in the dirt in one of the alleys. “Weak minded fools,” he though, “What a terrible habit. Such pleasure will surely lead one to the Dark Gods.” He continued through the city bolter raised.
“Brothers Sagarious and Daru go to your right and sweep the alleys,” said Belarious, “the remaining two, come with me. We will do advance recon. Remember to shoot on sight. It is better that 1000 innocents are killed then to let one heretic go.” Sagarious nodded and walked down the alley with Daru behind him.
The rodents scuttled and darted between the boxes and crates as the two powered armour behemoths entered the alley. Their steps echoed in the alley, but they kept a sharp eye and ear out for any signs of life. The damaged caused the riots was severe and the buildings looked as if they could collapse and any moment. Sagarious whispered a prayer to the Emperor as he knew battle would be joined soon. He had picked up the scent of a human near buy.
Brother Daru stopped and fired his bolter into a window 200 yards away. Sagarious could see and smell the blood of a human being spilt. They knew that they were there. Soon autogun and lasgun fire filled the alley way and they took cover behind some crates. Sagarious knew that his holy power armour was more than a match for the pathetic bullets and laser bolts that the rebels had, but losing his life here was not an honourable death. He had to live to report the information.
The rain started to come down harder and started to obscure the fight, but with their optical implants, Daru and Sagarious were easily able to pick off each of the rebels one by one. The scent of blood filled the air as the kill count increased. They culled the heretics with utmost efficiency as the scent of blood filled the air, but there was something else on the air; the scent of engine oil and smoke.
Sagarious glanced down quickly to see that the mud had been soaked in engine oil. He could see the black tar bubbling up from the ground. There was so much that regardless of the rain falling it could still ignite, but where was the smell of the smoke coming from? He glanced up.
“Need a light?” said a man covered in robes. In one hand he held a silver lighter that had and Aquila and in the other, a rag saturated in engine oil.
“Daru, shoot the heretic up there!” They both reloaded their bolters.
“Suit yourself.” Replied the man as he set the rag on fire and threw it down. It fell slowly and despite the rain, it still burned.
“Into the building!” shouted Daru and both of the noble space marines jumped, just as the rag landed and fire consumed the back alley. The cries of the heretics filled their ears, but they were not pleased since it had been caused by one of their own. Now was not the time to be disappointed. That heretic could be anywhere.
Sagarious surveyed his surroundings with a raised bolter. The room looked abandon, but there was no mistaking it for one of the foul bars those citizen lowlifes use to escape their hardships. It is pathetic that the Imperium would allow such places to exist. They need to live their lives with more obedience. A moment of laxity spawns of life time of heresy, and that is exactly what happened.
CRACK! Sagarious turned his head to see brother Daru fall to the ground. Behind him stood that cloaked man with a chair in his hand. He could see that the man was as large as his fellow space marines, but there was no time to think, only to act.
Sagarious dropped his bolter and pulled out his combat knife and immediately took a swipe at the heretic. The knife easily cleaved through the two wooden stumps that used to be the chair. With a follow up thrust he lunged at his opponent, but the man dodged the attack. The man’s dexterity matched his own, but the Emperor would guide his blade against this heretic. He attacked again, but the heretic slid over a table then with only a single foot, managed to flip it over into a barricade. Sagarious crouched and pulled out his bolt pistol.
Sagarious pulled out a bolt pistol clip and readied his gun only focusing on the task at hand. Soon he felt the barrel of a gun pressed up against the back of his head. Rage soon filled his mind at allowing this heretic to get the better of him. “Curse you heretic!” He shouted.
Suddenly the pressure was gone as a bolter round screeched over his head. He turned quickly to see that Brother Daru had recovered and now was firing at the heretic. Wood splinters filled the air as the bolter rounds smashed through the tables, desperately trying to reach their target. Sagarious added his shots as well. How could anyone survive the combined might of two space marines?
Soon there was return fire, shot at rates far greater than any normal bolt pistol could achieve. They continued to move and return fire, but now it was getting difficult to determine where exactly to shoot. The bolter shots seemed to come from every direction, but they must overcome. Just as a bolter shot screeched past his helmet, he caught the shimmer of metal. It was the enemy.
Sagarious aimed his bolt pistol, prayed to the emperor and fired. The bolter round screeched through the air and at his target as he reloaded. He began to smell blood on the air. His opponent must be wounded.
“Grenades!” shouted Daru, “Get to cover!” Sagarious ran for cover as the grenades exploded. The shockwave smashed the chairs that were outside of the blast radius. Those were no ordinary grenades, but were grenades designed for taking out tanks. This was going to prove to be even more difficult.
Sagarious threw some frag grenades out to proved cover before advancing. When the shrapnel went off, he jumped and rushed forwards. He didn’t wait for Daru as he was consumed with defeating this heretic. He ran into the white smoke and began firing bolter shots, randomly, hopping that they may strike down his opponent. Conserving ammo was not important any more, only defeating this heretic.
He passed through the smoke, and quickly glanced around and the damage that had been done. There were no tables left, only splinters, burning wood and some splatters of blood. Sagarious snarled. He had wounded the heretic, but it escaped.
“Brother Sagarious,” said Daru, “We should continue...” he was interrupted by the sound of heavy bolter fire. They both jumped out of the way to dodge the hail of high calibre rounds that were even tearing up the concrete floor. Sagarious readied another frag grenade and gave Daru a quick hand jesture. Daru began firing bolter rounds into the approximate area as Sagarious threw the grenade. As soon as that happened, they both charged towards the heavy bolter fire.
Before either of them took 12 paces, Daru fell to the ground as a high calibre round cut through his armour and crippled his leg. He would not be getting up on his own. There was no time to tend to Daru’s wounds, not while the heretic possessed a heavy bolter. Sagarious continued the charge as he threw another grenade out. This time it entered the barricade where the heavy bolter was. He caught a glimpse of the robed man fleeing the heavy bolter barricade.
Sagarious continued the chase by running through the barricade without a second thought to the barbed wire. The scent of blood was strong, which means that the heretic must be nearby. He stopped and readied his bolt pistol. He noticed it was out of ammo and ejected the cartridge as he reached for another one.
The screech of a bolter round pierced the air and all he saw was his bolt pistol explode. He turned to his right to see the cloaked man holding a bolt pistol of his own. The barrel was still smoking. Sagarious could see that the man’s robes had been stained in blood, but no normal man could have survived that long with a wound caused by a bolter round.
The second shot came and Sagarious felt the bolter round pierce his armour and sink deep into his flesh. It was perfectly aimed, right at the neck joint. He felt his own blood spray from his body, but even that would not finish a space marine. Sagarious drew his knife as blood ran down his neck and shoulders, then charged screaming “Die, Heretic!” at the top of his lungs. He felt another shot pierce his leg and he began to fall forwards, crashing to the ground.
How could he be defeated? Chosen of the Emperor, defeated by the great enemy. What shame he brought upon his chapter, to be defeated by the very thing he hunted. He felt the bolt pistol against his head. There was only darkness after.
“Sagarious, Daru” said Belarious over the intercom, “Status report.”
“Brother Belarious,” replied Daru, “I regret to inform you of the passing of brother Sagarious. He fought honourably against a squad of heretics; however he was laid low. I am bringing back his body for the apothecary. There is reason to suspect chaos influence but this would need to be confirmed by an Inquisitor. ”
“We will honour brother Sagarious. We will leave this planet and return to the battle barge to await further orders.”
One screw up. That was all it had taken. Now he was paying the price of failure. Drayaan casually steered his Jetbike over the sands of Calarv IV, the bike’s once glorious colours of the Wild Hosts now worn and scarred by the harsh conditions of the desolate desert planet. The insignia of Saim-Hann he had removed himself shortly after his exile, albeit some of it was still visible; the rest was done by the many tiring days of endless travel. A small gust of wind flipped his dark hood back, revealing nothing more than a helmet that still bore the colours of Saim-Hann. A pair of mandiblasters had been expertly integrated into the helmet, a reminder of his past serving within the Scorpion Warrior Path, I reminder he’d love to forget but kept for necessity, ‘Why would one discard equipment that had saved one’s life?’
The rest of his creased dark leather cloak flapped around his body. He had a relatively slim build, his red armour clinging to him like a skin-tight suit and a clunky golden force shield clinging onto his sword arm. The plates of the armour slipped together perfectly, as all Eldar armour did. His boots were the only visible armour difference, being larger and chunkier gold greaves as opposed to tight boots, he'd never had much love for fully restricting suits.
A single slender arm reached up and tugged the hood back down over the helmet, gently coaxing at first, yet ending with an angry yank. Drayaan glanced at the fuel gauge, ‘Almost empty.’ He grunted, ‘We shall soon go our own ways, my friend.’ He patted the Jetbike like a rider would their favourite Horse. Fuel had become scarce, as had money. Trading Vessels had less and demanded more, Pirates had more, but their demands were still too high, ‘It’s either an animal or a barely functional Mon-Keigh bike, and I know which I’d prefer.’ He peered back up and flicked the handles to the left, coursing smoothly around a boulder. ‘I seem to be too engrossed in thought to have much time for the world,’ Drayaan thought to himself as he weaved in and out of a cactus field, ‘Maybe I’m getting old…’
The field opened up to the edge of a Human road that was covered in potholes and had long fallen into disrepair, Drayaan smiled, safe in the knowledge that Blinkstrike would be too busy covering more space in a minute than a conventional Human vehicle could do in an hour to worry about the state of roads, ‘if only they would hurry up and develop anti-gravitational technology, maybe then we’d all be happier looking at our surroundings rather than trying to play a game of dodge the pothole.’ His thoughts were interrupted by the low hum of an engine and he instinctively glanced at Blinkstrike’s radar, remembering almost immediately that it had packed in a few hours back. It wouldn’t have been much help anyway, as by the time he had looked behind him the craft was visible. A single Void Dragon Phoenix soared into view, ‘Bounty Hunters, great’ and with that, Drayaan sped off.
The Phoenix was still a fair bit off, but its shape still loomed menacingly on the horizon. Drayaan spotted a narrow canyon about three miles off, it’s entrance wide like the maw of a beast, ‘Can I?’ he thought, ‘Of course I can! Why I ever doubted myself…’ His thoughts were cut short by wide scatterings of shruiken blades burying themselves in the sand around him, ‘They couldn’t… no… not that fast... Surely not…’ He peered over his shoulder; two more Phoenixes had joined the chase a lot closer to him than the first and were now blasting shruiken blades at him. Drayaan made a sharp right turn into another field of cacti and could hear the shruiken blades as they embedded themselves in the plants’ thick skins before finally slicing through. The canyon emerged fully from over the horizon and the Phoenix pilots soon realised the exiled Autarch’s intentions.
The two crafts sped over Drayaan and Blinkstrike, making two sharp turns when they reached the canyon and hovered there, facing the Autarch. Drayaan smiled and reached for Blinkstrike’s undercarriage, pressing a hidden button. The front of the craft split and slid back into the hull and a single pulse laser rose up. Drayaan steadied the Jetbike, hitting a straight line between themselves and the canyon entrance, before grabbing the controls of the lance and taking aim. The Phoenixes realised his intentions too late, the first one taking two hits to the fuselage and exploding in a brilliant ball of orange flame, the second took only one strike to the cockpit; the laser broke through the energy shields and blasted into the cockpit, ripping holes in both pilots as it travelled the length of the ship and fired out of the back. The final phoenix burst into flame and fell to the ground.
‘How fitting.’ Drayaan thought, as he pressed the button again. He watched the phoenix hit the floor and explode, sending sand and molten debris in all directions. He glanced at the power gauge, ‘Three shots and a minor change, that’s good.’ He and Blinkstrike entered the Canyon, marked by the two flaming wrecks at it’s maw, ‘Not long now.’ Atop the ridge of the canyon was a colossal red beast, it’s hooves making deep prints in the sand and it’s evil red eyes following Drayaan’s every movement through the canyon. The Third Phoenix flew overhead and the beast launched off the ground on two red wings, axe raised.
Night was busy settling in over the desert. A lone molten moon, a titanic disc of volcanic ground ascended into the heavens, casting a pale red glow over the white sands. Drayaan had been greeted by this behemoth many times over the past few days, but never had it looked so ominous and unforgiving. Drayaan’s shallow and unblinking green eyes followed the moon’s movement in the skies. Sharp gusts picked up every now and then, lashing angrily against Drayaan's makeshift encampment, yet his gaze never fell from the giant in the sky.
He looked dead to the untrained eye. No motion. No expression. It was at their own peril that they attacked. Drayaan’s eyes flicked swiftly to his right and back again, a move so fast it would go unnoticed. In the short time that his eyes were in place they picked up two figures, cloaked in darkness, creeping up to the camp. A quick glimpse left revealed a further two figures doing the same. A small crash signalled a fifth figure had just tripped over Drayaan’s half hidden jetbike. Drayaan let the rag-tag mob creep closer; he could almost hear them becoming more confident. Their footsteps became louder, more prominent. Sniggers started to escape the mouth of their owners. One started to talk,
“Pssst! PSSST!” One of the figures made the noise through a phlegm-filled throat, making it seem more like a dirty rattling. “You think e’s dead?”
“Dunno,” replied another with a deep voice that sounded like stones falling down a hole, “Poke ‘im.”
“I aint pokin’ it!” he first one exclaimed, “Get Gobb to poke it!”
“Wadda ya mean get me ta poke it?” A third shouted, his voice confirming Drayaan’s suspicions.
“Yeah, wadda ya mean get ‘im ta poke it!” This voice sounded higher yet unmistakably phlegm-like. “I wanna poke it!”
“Shuddit yer grots!” A loud and booming voice roared up from behind Drayaan’s makeshift tent, “Nun o’ you lot are gunna poke it if it wakes up before yer get there!” Silence ensued before it was broken again by the first voice,
“I still say Gobb pokes it!”
Shouting erupted between the five and Drayaan took his chance. He picked up a slender sword, a weapon crafted expertly for him on Saim-Hann to mark his elevation to Autarch, and wrist mounted shruiken catapult, one of a pair he had gained when walking the path of the Dire Avengers, and rolled out of his tent, leaping up and spinning around in a single awe inspiring movement. Five Orks stood around the encampment, each one mid-argument with their red eyes forward and mouths agape. The iron chin protector of the larger one slipped off and slammed onto his foot, making one of the other Orks giggle slightly.
“What are you doing here?” Drayaan said calmly, shruiken catapult aimed and blade in hand.
“We’ze comes fur yer ‘ed, boss promised us rewards… yer couldn’t lend it to us for a while could ya?” One of them said.
“Where is your boss, and why has he placed a bounty on my head?” Drayaan said, his mind and thoughts demanded answers, but he knew that the simple minds of these Orks could not answer all of them.
“Boss said der spiky ear’d boyz give us gubbinz if we get em yer ‘ed, boss and Orks like der spikey ear’d gubbinz and boss send his bestest kommandos after it.”
It all pieced together, the world was being turned against him, as if punishment in the afterlife was not enough. “Take me to your camp, I wish to speak with your leader.”
The Orks conversed amongst themselves, starting with the one who dropped his protector giving the one who laughed a large thump on the head; he rubbed his head and went to thump the Ork back, but decided against it, as he would be getting a choppa to the head in return.
“We’ze gunna take yer back… on one condition, you give us your bike-thingy!” The Orks all laughed as if they’d driven a hard bargain on the now completely non-functional jetbike.
“Fine, now take me.” Drayaan ordered.
“Don’t worry yer pointy ‘ed, we’ll take yer.” One of the Orks said.
Drayaan saw a shadow appear in front of him, but couldn’t turn in time to see his attacker, who hit him over the head with something, knocking him out.
“E’z wakin’ up! Get da boss!”
Drayaan prised his eyes open, the light blinding him momentarily and then morphing into the shape of a mystified green face.
“Where am I?” Drayaan said, each word felt like it took a lifetime to get out.
“Yer in me office pointy ‘ed!” A large green Ork waddled into the room, his bulky metal armour was covered by a widened turquoise and gold trimmed commissar tunic that still failed to fit properly, and instead rested upon the Warboss' shoulders like an extravagant cape. The tunic was missing several buttons but each medal was intact and polished to a shine. Above the medals sat a name badge that read ‘Dave’, the rest had been snapped off and was now being worn by the smaller Ork that followed. A polished metal chestplate covered the mighty Ork's chest, with thick armour plates covering his legs and large boots covered his feet. “Da boyz said you wanted ter see me.” The Ork's face was bigger than the other's, with large fangs protruding from his mouth that had recently become a means of hurling spit at everyone in the close vicinity.
Drayaan went to wipe the Ork’s spittle from his face, but his hands had been bound by fraying ropes, albeit badly, “Indeed… erm… Dave?” The Ork’s face went a dark purple, filling with rage, “itz Evad! Der namez Evad!” It said, glancing down just to check. “Der pointy ear’d humies told me that we get more gubbinz if we ‘and you over in 1 bit, but dey shudn’t mind a fer fingers for squig food.”
Drayaan tested the ropes again and they fell harmlessly to the floor. Evad glanced behind Drayaan and saw the ropes, grabbed the nearest Ork and smacked him over the head with his power claw,
“I told yer filthy lot ter tie im up propa!” Evad cried out.
“S’ok boss, we took away ‘is gadgetz!” One of the Orks shouted.
Drayaan reached down and found his blade and catapult gone. Evad started to laugh, throwing spit everywhere. Drayaan turned and found his weapons lying on the table behind him. He back flipped onto the table, landing expertly and picking up his shruiken catapult and helmet, spreading monomolecular blades in all directions with one hand and fixing his helmet back to his head with the other. He attached the catapult to his arm and grabbed his blade. Evad roared as the shruiken discs ripped his tunic and pinged off his armour. He charged at Drayaan, who leapt over the Warboss’ head and through the open door.
As soon as he exited he came under fire from Ork shootas, luckily the Orks weren’t known for their precision aiming and most of the shots hit the sand, the rest bounced off Drayaan’s armour. The Autarch fired off more shruiken discs at two nearby Orks, ripping through their leather armour with ease and entering the flesh, tearing into their organs. They fell to the floor, roaring and cursing, followed by two more. Another Ork charged Drayaan from behind. The Autarch ducked low and the Ork’s choppa barely missed his helmet; Drayaan drew his blade with his free hand and span out from under the Ork and brought the blade upwards as he rose, slicing the Ork cleanly in half. Another roar erupted from Evad’s building and the Warboss charged out, loosing a loud ‘Waaagh!’ from his mouth and running at Drayaan.
Evad swung his claw clumsily at Drayaan, who bent backwards as the claw swept in front of him and sprung forward with his blade. He leapt up and landed on the Warboss’ other side, running around to the front again. The tactics had worked and Evad was looking madly around for the Autarch, swinging his claw in all directions, he finally stopped in front of the Autarch, arms’ folded. Drayaan smiled and activated his mandiblasters, sending pulses of laser into Evad’s face, each pulse lancing across the flesh and burying deep into the cybernetics. Evad clawed at his face with his free hand, it felt like his face was burning. Drayaan took the chance and curved his blade around, bringing it down upon the Ork’s claw arm, slicing through the exposed flesh and cutting the arm cleanly off. Evad roared in pain and flailed his remaining arm around madly. Drayaan took small pity on the Ork, clutching his blade in two hands and decapitating the Warboss in one swift blow.
The remaining Orks glared in disbelief at the unharmed Autarch as he stood atop one of his many kills. One Ork roared and charged at Drayaan, choppa raised. Drayaan twisted his head around to face the Ork and released a volley from his mandiblasters, felling the beast. He sheathed his blade and turned towards the camp’s gate. A low whirring filled his ears and he turned around. Nothing. The Orks had now all but fled. Cautiously, he walked up to the gate and kicked it, drawing his shruiken catapult and blade. The gate scraped along about four inches before grinding to a halt. Drayaan walked up to it again and was about to poke his head around when it was met by a large white hand that prised the gate open with ease.
Drayaan stepped back and rolled to the right, hiding under a raised platform. A single Wraithguard appeared. These wraithbone-clad warriors were once dutiful Eldar fighters that had earned their right to have their spirit stones placed in a sarcophagus of dense material, infusing their souls with the wraithbone and bringing them back to battlefield as silent soldiers that felt no pain or remorse. Led by a Spiritseer, usually a Farseer or Warlock experienced with guiding the souls of the dead, they lumber across the battlefield, destroying everything in their paths with their Wraithcannons, huge weapons that tear holes in the material universe and suck their targets into the immaterium.
The first was joined by a second, and by a third and a fourth and a fifth. Drayaan stayed still, awaiting the arrival of the Spiritseer. The five Wraithguard surveyed the area and moved on through the camp.
Drayaan was about the move when he heard voices coming from the gate,
“They failed, how surprising.”
“Failure is based around the weakness of the enemy; we know what he can do and we must not continue to underestimate him.”
“Indeed. How did the Phoenixes fare?”
“Equally as badly, two were found crashed at the entrance to Rend Canyon, the third was located atop the canyon, it had probably taken sand into the engines and crashed.”
“He is too dangerous to keep alive, what were Saim-Hann thinking when they let him go? But anyway, we cannot dwell too long on the past. I need your rangers to locate any and all bounty hunters in a one hundred kilometre circle around this region-” The voice was cut off by a shout from near Evad’s building,
“One hundred kilometres is a bit of a way for someone to travel without their Jetbike. It’s here in amongst this rubbish, all it needs is some fuel and a little tune up, maybe some paint to hide the markings.”
“Good work Jayrl, make the circle thirty kilometres instead. We can’t underestimate him, but thirty should be too far for even an Autarch to travel in a day without transport, ready the Rangers!”
“As you wish.”
The one known as Jayrl crossed Drayaan’s vision. On the sleeve of his cloak lay an emblem bearing the mark of Alaitoc, although the lead Wraithguard bore that of Iyanden. The ranger ran out of the compound to get some fuel from whatever brought them, probably some Waveserpents, valiant grav transports of the Eldar. Two robed figures entered the compound, one dressed in pure yellow robes with a blue helm, a Spiritseer, the other in pure blue robes with a yellow helm, a Farseer. Instantly, the mainly yellow figure glared down at Drayaan’s position,
Drayaan swore and rolled out from underneath the building, watching as robed Rangers filled the ramparts around the compound and the Wraithguard turned to face him.
“Give up, exile, it’s over!” The Spiritseer shouted, shruiken pistol raised and aimed at Drayaan.
“A warrior’s path ends in battle, not at the command of a warlock.” Drayaan calmly replied.
“Then so be it.” The Spiritseer replied, “Wraithguard, kill him.” The Wraithguard moved silently in on Drayaan, Wraithcannons raised,
“Rangers, fire at will!” The Farseer shouted. The Rangers fired their Long Rifles simultaneously, all shots hitting the wall behind where Drayaan was a moment ago.
Drayaan had gone underneath the building again and rolled out from underneath on the other side. He took the chance between the rifle reloads and the Wraithguard regaining their target to dash across the compound yard and jump up onto the ramparts. The Farseer and Warlock fired their shruiken pistols as he went, razor sharp discs buried themselves in the sand around Drayaan as he ran. Upon landing on the rampart he drew his blade and drove it deep into the body of the nearest Ranger, picking up his reloaded long rifle and firing it at a barrel behind a building. The shot blew the barrel sky high as whatever was inside it exploded in a fiery inferno. Two Rangers next to the barrel were vaporised as it started a chain reaction around the structure, which itself ending in an explosion. Drayaan jumped off the rampart on the outside of the compound, plucking two plasma grenades from the Ranger’s belt as he went.
He could here the shouts and orders from inside the compound as he ran around, his feet almost gliding across the sand making no noise. He switched to a wall hug at the sight of rifles poking over the wall and out across the desert. As he neared the entrance he could see Jayrl curiously looking around the gate. Drayaan held his blade tight in his hand, closing in on Jayrl and finally leaping on him, driving the weapon deep into the young Ranger’s body, purposefully missing most organs.
“Thanks for the fuel.” He whispered in Jayrl’s ear as he drew the blade out, leaving the Ranger to gurgle and choke on his own blood. A shout came from the ramparts and several shots whizzed past Drayaan, signalling that he had been found again. The Spiritseer and Farseer stepped out into the open, watching as Drayaan mounted the refuelled Jetbike,
“Blinkstrike and I have a few things to do before we die, so sorry I couldn’t have stayed longer.” Drayaan pushed the accelerator with his foot and closed his eyes. He could feel the wind blasting past him, the speed he was going, the thump as he hit the floor? He opened his eyes, seeing Blinkstrike go a little way before coming to a halt. He tried to pull off the sand, but something stopped him. He glared at the Farseer.
“Nice, what else can you do? Or are you a one trick pony?” Drayaan barked at the psyker
“Oh, I have so many it’ll blow your mind.” The Farseer retorted.
“Then do it, blow my mind.” Drayaan replied.
“I shall, you’ll see… oh, sorry, no you won’t.” The Farseer laughed to himself.
“Yeah, laugh it up.” Drayaan muttered.
“Before we get our hands dirty, I wish to hear of how you evaded us.” The Spiritseer said. “You caused both Craftworlds much trouble, downing two of our best crafts and killing 4 of our best pilots, slaughtered an entire imperial crossing, single-handedly killed Alaitoc’s best Scorpion Exarch and his squad, demolished an established Ork encampment, scaring away the last Orks in the process and then taking out two Wraithguard, seven Rangers and Alaitoc’s most skilled Pathfinder, that’s quite the feat.
“I don’t like the blow my own trumpet, but yes, it is quite a feat.” Drayaan said, “Oh, and Orks don’t run, you should know that.”
“Why would that be of any importance to us?” The Spiritseer said in the most condescending way he could.
“It might help with that green wave over there, either that or it’s a rather large mirage.” Drayaan nodded his head to the west, and sure enough, the Spiritseer and Farseer looked too, breaking their concentration. Drayaan tested it quickly, he was free of the psychic bonds. He drew his blade and thrust upwards, pushing the blade through the Spiritseer’s armour, the Farseer looked back quickly,
“I bet you feel stupid now, falling for a desert trick I learned from the imperials before I killed them. The foolish Mon-Keigh thought up something that outsmarted two Psykers of the Eldar.”
“Not as stupid as you’ll feel when you look again.” The Farseer replied, running into the compound the gather survivors. Drayaan peered over at where he’d signalled, and sure enough his eyes were met by a large wave of green. Four Falcons glided out from behind a rock formation, their weapons aimed at Drayaan. A single missile fell from the sky, blowing the top off one of the Falcons. Drayaan took his chance and ran for Blinkstrike, mounting it and speeding off. Two Brightlances buried their shots into the dirt next to him, a scatter laser fired off at him, the lasers hitting the ground or bouncing off the armour of the Jetbike. A second explosion signalled the Orks were in reasonable firing distance, close enough to get off a sufficient amount of shots to make sure at least one of them hit their intended targets.
Drayaan glanced behind him at a flaming Falcon and the remnants of his pursuers as the green wave hit the compound, not even a Farseer could survive the power of an Ork horde. Drayaan and Blinkstrike sped off into the distance, watching the moon as it fell through the sky, being replaced by a large fireball that spread light across the sands. He smiled to himself and patted Blinkstrike. Behind him, a large clawed hand reached out of a space behind a large boulder. Two burning red eyes emerged from the darkness. A pair of giant wings unfurled and a huge golden axe was plucked from a belt. One curled horn protruded from the boulder. The two red eyes watched the Autarch speed away. The creature released a great daemonic laugh and leapt into the air off two powerful hooves, disappearing into the distance.
Around midday, the pair arrived on the outskirts of a small deserted town. Or it would be deserted save for the imperials that hid in the houses, awaiting their chance to bag the reward for themselves. Drayaan turned in place and blasted a robed figure with his mandiblasters, before activating a plasma grenade and throwing it into a nearby house, blowing it into rubble along with whatever was inside. Several ranks of guardsmen appeared on the rooftops and took aim. Beneath his helmet, Drayaan smiled, “Another feat to add to the tally.”
The folly of Virgil Delargo
The Folly of Virgil Delargo
I found myself located at an establishment rather less classy than those I preferably frequented.
I was in dire need of some quick funds, which is why I lowered myself to enter this kind of place.
The crowd was loud and restless, and contained several particularly hostile elements.
I was sitting at a table with four fine subhuman specimens, enjoying a casual, if not exactly friendly game of cards. I was starting to regret leaving my weapons at the door, as is customary.
I would much rather be alive and a bit rude, than polite and dead.
Too late for that now, I suppose. No matter, a man of my talents always has a trick up his sleeve.
To my left sat an unsavory man in a brown-gray, worn coat. He hadn’t uttered one syllable since we initiated our match, and had racked up a sizeable pile of credits. I couldn’t be sure this early on,
but I already saw him as my prime adversary. He seemed like a calculating sort of fellow, and of the minority at our table who actually knew the complete set of rules.
Further left there was a whelp from the PDF. A young would-be soldier that saw fit to gamble away his salary during his limited spare time.
Just casting a casual glaze at him now and then, his frustration was amusingly obvious. He would scratch the back of his head, sigh loudly and stare at his scattered, pathetically lonesome coins.
I suppose I shouldn’t mock the boy. He had been my most steady flow of income today, and I contemplated buying him a drink afterwards.
Directly opposite me sat a hulking mass of fat, muscle and animalistic rage. His full, filthy beard and shaven skull gave the impression that his head might be upside down.
His left eye had been cut from its socket, but it was as if it still cast hateful stares around. His slab-like arms were thicker than many a man’s thigh.
His was a distracting presence; I didn’t fancy the idea of offending this man by raking in all his coin.
And to my right sat the only man who knew me, and that I knew by name. It was Mordok Blackstrain, a supremely dangerous, uncompromising thug.
He was of a modest size, but well muscled. His arms were covered in scars and cut from unsuccessful attempts at his life, and obscene tattoos of the most grotesque kind.
His pleasure girl Anda sat on his lap, lazily patting away at her foul lho-sticks.
And here, completing the circle, sat I. Virgil DeLargo, jack of many trades. I might have stuck out like a sore, no mutilated thumb. On this particular occasion
I wore everyday garments, a purple silk jacket and likewise trousers. Shoes of black leather and a wide triangular hat completed this most informal of outfits. Some called me a man of grand fashion sense;
others labeled me a prancing queer.
Of course, if I let such plebeian insults get the better of me, I’d have been a beautiful corpse by now.
Now then, back to the events at hand. The game was progressing at snail’s pace, the youngster from the PDF taking his sweet time.
Strategizing perhaps, employing some rookie tricks he learned at boot camp. It would not help a damn bit, I could tell.
He had already made some of the very worst moves allowed in this fine game I hold so dear, and he didn’t seem to get any smarter.
“Feth it all, I fold.” He whimpered in an almost sobbing voice, sweeping up his remaining wealth and rising from the table.
A shame it was, those would be much more at home in my pocket. Well, no use dwelling on that. My duster-wearing ‘friend’ to my left had a much alluring treasure.
If only I could wrest it from him, the other two goons would be easy pickings.
“Fare thee well, son. Better luck next time.” I hurled after the Grunt as he approached the door. He turned around, and scowled, dismissingly waving his hand at me.
As I turned back, the trio of remaining opponents glared at me with discontent. Anda stared at me with an imbecilic look on her face.
Seemed like they had already made up their opinions about me. Very well, can’t please them all. I couldn’t care less about their approval. I only wanted their money.
“Shall we carry on then?” I attempted, picking up my seven remaining cards from the table, sipping my drink gently.
The man in the duster nodded towards me, and laid down a card. The seven of blacks. Now, if he had been stupid that single card might be
the foundation of a grand victory for me. But I had a feeling he wouldn’t commit it without an organized plan.
If I still possessed my trademark luck on the next draw, I would be able to turn it against him.
The huge slab of a man observed the card, grinning trough his stinking whiskers. He slammed down the Black Knight, and proudly crossed his arms.
The man from the PDF suddenly seemed like a professional cardslinger in comparison.
I shook my head, and sighed lightly to make the giant think he was winning.
To build up his confidence, and then break it down with a clever riposte. I could notice the man to my left doing the same, while Mordok openly snickered.
“I believe it’s your move.” I gestured towards Mordok. He shook his head, and folded his cards.
“No way in hell is I falling for that.” He said, hewing Arda up from her sitting position and rising. “Next round I’ll eat you all alive.”
Excellent, I thought to myself. I would soon have the fat man out of play. Then the interesting part would begin. Sudden death; the part I excelled at. I had picked up a few ‘trade skills’ in my day.
There was not an agumentic eye within the mile, so none would be able to see my little sleight of hands.
Some might call me a finesse player; others might label me thieving scum. Can’t please them all.
The obese Cyclops stretched his hand towards the pot, certain that continued play was a mere formality.
Now, I’m not a very temperamental sort of fellow. Some might call me serene, others might call me docile. I am neither.
I’m simply not an idiot, and as such don’t go flying into raging fits. But at times one has to go against ones nature.
“What are you doing?” I said sternly, not taking my eyes from the cards. In the corner of my eye I could see him halting, hesitant.
“We are still in play. Retract your hand and sit down, or I’ll drag you outside and drown you in the sand.”
I stared him down, and he stared right back at me.
His lone eye was red and swollen, and I could see pearls of sweat forming on his brow. His fists were clenched, the single card he still possessed crumbling in his meaty grasp.
“Who the feth do you think you are, maggot!” he bellowed, rising up with tremendous speed, and looming over the table. He was truly massive
now that he stood upright. I wondered if I had made an unsalvageable mistake, but I kept traveling the road I had chosen.
“Do you know who I am?” He threatened, leaning across the table to look me in the eye.
Now, I’ll admit that I was intimidated, being the honest man that I am. But I kept up my act. Didn’t flinch, didn’t waver. Acting and charades are amongst my many talents.
“I do not, but I would very much like to know.” I said calmly, standing up and putting my hands behind my back.
“I am curious as to who could have such audacity as to threaten one of His servants. By the Emperor, man, do you have a death wish!?”
I raised my voice considerably, and slammed my fist to the table as hard as I could. I moved my arm in such a manner that the collar of my jacket would slide open and reveal
my Rosarius, symbol of the Emperors Holy Inquisition. I made it seem unintentional, as if I didn’t need the badge to support my authority.
Obviously, I’m not an actual Inquisitor. The very idea is laughable, I could hardly think of anyone more ill-suited for that job than I. The Rosarius was only an identical, and very expensive, forgery.
That’s right; I and the craftsman had committed one of the most blasphemous heresies in the Imperium.
Posing as an Inquisitor is an exceedingly rare crime, and with good reason. The punishments are so gruesome, the consequences
so unspeakably dire that death seems like a gold-lined gift. This, my friends, is why it’s so easy to commit. Most anyone will fall for it. And if anyone should happen to demand further identification, I can just
have them executed for insubordination. Truly a wonderful system.
The large man shrank, and turned ghostly pale. He uttered a swift prayer of forgiveness, no doubt battered trough his thick skull at an early
age,and sat down quietly. He looked seriously ill, and I could practically smell the fear reeking from him.
“Now then, shall we continue?” I said, casting one last glance at him.
The man to my left, seemingly unfettered by the spectacle, dealt his final card. A white Rosarious. An odd coincidence, and an unpleasant turn of events.
Still, the fat man would be out of play now, and I would be left to deal with my most interesting rival in peace.
Now, I wasn’t very surprised when the large idiot didn’t fold, but played out his last, futile card. The black two. By the Emperor, if he decided to throw away his last credits then so be it.
I put down my White Knight, and let my left hand man sweep up the pot. The frightened man-child of a giant muttered something of an apology, and scurried out of the establishment.
I locked eyes with my remaining adversary, and observed a sly smile. I don’t know why, but it made me… nervous, I might call it.
“You’ve been lucky so far.” He said, speaking for the first time that I heard.
His voice was… Vibrant. Authoritarian. Brilliant.
“I do intend to keep up that trend.” I half-heartedly replied. I didn’t fancy any more chatter.
I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, away from the filthy drunkard’s nest I had happened upon.
Just needed to bleed my enemy dry first.
“Good luck has to end sometime.” He said, shuffling the cards for our final standoff. “So, you’re an Inquisitor? Not a very common sight around here.”
“I believe that was made clear.” I said. I didn’t quite like his tone. Almost as if he was talking to some common man.
Whenever I had pulled my little act on someone, they had always been very reverent. Incredibly careful with their choice of words, and the sound of their voice.
From simple farmers to high-up military personnel, everyone showed glaringly obvious respect.
But not this man. He was very relaxed about the whole thing.
“I was wondering, why did you leave your weapons at the door? You folks can do anything you want, can’t you?”
“My faith is my armor, devotion my fist. Now, no more talking. Deal the cards and finish this.”
He nodded, respectfully. That’s better. Time for my big show.
As he shuffled the cards around, I discretely prepared the card in my sleeve. Years of training had enabled me to switch it with a card I’m holding in literally the blink of an eye.
This had gathered me many riches over the years, and was one of my most valuable assets.
The card I was hiding was of course the game-winning one.
In a deck of 216 different cards, the lone Emperor was the absolutely supreme one. It seldom surfaced during a game. Well, not when I wasn’t playing.
The man and I both picked a card. The thing about sudden death is, the remaining two players get one card each.
Highest one wins.
As simple as that, a banal end to an otherwise complex set of rules. I looked at my card. It was the Black Rosarius. Not bad, but why take chances?
I quickly made the switch while he was studying his card. I now had the Emperor in my palm.
I looked into his face, and saw that he was smiling. Perhaps he had gotten some high card, and was certain of winning. Hah, we’ll see about that.
“Let’s see what you have.” He said, smirking.
I put down the Emperor, gently of course.
When he saw it his eyes opened wide, and he let out a slight gasp. I couldn’t help but smile widely, and I crossed my arms.
“Well then, what have you?”
“I.. It’s a..” He hesitated, but slowly put his cards to the table.
When I noticed what it was, I was shocked. It was the Emperor; the one that belonged in the deck.
I panicked for a little while, one or two seconds. But then my mind cleared. I was after all a damn Inquisitor.
I stared at him, making sure that my phony rage was evident.
“You DARE lie to me!?” I shouted.
The man shook his head, his lips forming silently forming ‘no, no’.
“Did you think you could cheat an Inquisitor? Really, do you know what your penalty will be?”
The man rose to his feet, scraping together his stack of credits and put them into his
bag, which probably contained some personal belongings of his.
“I did not cheat, sir. I really did not. Must be that someone mixed up this deck. Here, take this. You won.”
On the inside, I was happy with how things were turning out.
On the outside however, I had to maintain a mask of displeasure.
After keeping him in suspense for a few seconds, I snatched the bag from him.
“You are a very lucky man that you didn’t stumble upon a less merciful Inquisitor.” I said sharply, and stuck my eyes into him like a dagger.
“I shall forgive this little incident.”
As I walked to collect my weapons, he followed me to the rack.
Surprisingly, he picked up a very exquisite sword, and an equally ornate Bolt Pistol.
He must be either very wealthy or a cunning thief to carry such items. I didn’t really care what he was.
I had gotten what I came for, and could not wait to get out of this loathsome place.
As he slung his belt around his waist, I turned to him again. I wanted to know who he was, maybe dig up some records on him.
After all, information might lead to riches.
“One last thing, what is your name?” I demanded.
“I am Jared Kano, sir.” He said, fastening his belt buckle. Now, I’m normally very aware of my surroundings, but still it took me a few seconds to notice.
His belt buckle was of solid gold, and the Inquisitorial symbol shone in the middle.
I recoiled in horror, and instinctively locked eyes with the man.
There was that sly smile again.Those cold, unforgiving eyes.
The Rosarius around his neck that he now revealed.
Everything was a haze, and I could do nothing but stand like a gibbering fool. I was stunned. Incapacitated by a mere necklace.
“I would like to know who has the audacity to pose as an Inquisitor. Who is insane enough to try fooling me.” He said, making sure I got an adequate pause to appreciate the irony of the situation.
He then slammed the grip of his gun against my skull, and I fell down lifeless.
“Did you think you could cheat an Inquisitor? Idiot.”
The gang approached him warily. Wearing mesh armour and carrying a variety of low-grade weapons, they were mistrustful of any non-clan member to come through their area of the hive.
Rufan calmly raised his hands and said clearly, "Don't worry, I'm unarmed and I'm not an Arbites."
A clan member with a wicked knife raced forwards and searched him for weapons or ID. Finding none, he looked him directly in the eye, searching for a hint of deception.
The two men stared at each other. Rufan was tall, lanky and Aryan, while this gang member was taller, more heavily muscled and more intimidating in every way.
At last, the gang member stepped aside, and let him speak.
"I wish to seek an audience with Garan." He said, putting respectful stress on the final word. Garan, the leader of the Serrated Sword Clan here on Tigres. It was the hive city's most influential, most powerful cabal. Which was precisely why Rufan needed him.
"Why?" said the clan member suspiciously.
"Important business - concerning the safety of the Serrated Sword Clan." replied Rufan smoothly. The clan member seemed satisfied at this, and the group escorted him down the alleys.
The journey took over half an hour, giving Rufan time to take in the surroundings. Broken windows were everywhere, the shattered remnants glinting as they caught the rising sun. The faint scuttling of rats was all around, coming from every angle, though they never let themselves be seen. An alarm was sounding off in the distance, ringing off of the tight walls of the hive alleys.
At long last, they stopped. In front of them was what appeared to be an old, run-down Imperial Factory, thousand-year old symbols of the Adeptus Mechanicus showing faintly beneath a covering of dust on the grey, metal entryway. Legend had it that a traitor uprising had ruined the factory, and the Adeptus, left with an unworkable factory, had been forced to abandon it, taking any salvageable equipment with them to their new location. It was still an imposing sight. The shadows it cast stretched for almost half a kilometre over the outhabs, and Rufan had to crane his neck back almost to breaking point to see the top of the mighty structure. If the new factory on the other side of the outhabs was anything to go by, it had once been adorned with red, but a millennium of erosion had reduced it to bare metal. There were no windows, and no entry points other than the one in front of him - the massive double-door, tall enough to admit a dreadnought, wide enough for a Leman Russ to fit comfortably inside.
A huge, mechanical grinding suddenly sounded from the depths of the monolithic construction, and slowly, deliberately, the double doors opened outwards, shining a blinding, ethereal light out onto the group. Rufan winced and raised a hand to shield his eyes, squinting at the innards of the building. Gradually, his eyes adjusted, and he saw a pair of guards standing on the inside of the doorway. These weren't your average gang-members, either - they were wearing plates of thick mesh armour, painted the pale blue of the Serrated Sword, with helmets, visors, and matte-black autorifles. None of this was military pattern, but the guards looked well-trained and were undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
One of them gestured, and the gang escorted Rufan into the old factory. For the first time, Rufan could hear the crank of machinery, and see sparks in the distance as weaponry and armour was churned out. The factory was obviously soundproofed to the outside world, because inside, it seemed the Serrated Sword had managed to get it working again. A remarkable feat for non-tech adepts, and punishable by death. But the clans had never cared much for Imperial laws and taboos, here on the Eastern Fringe, so far from Terra and the main Imperial strength.
The gang that had brought Rufan in were sent out on patrol again, and the doors closed with the same ominous grinding. A guard in full combat gear walked up to Rufan and gestured to the elevator nearby. Rufan nodded and stepped into it, followed by the guard, who tapped a button on the side of it. The elevator was open and made of solid wire mesh, yellow-and-black striped plating lining the edges. The primitive rope pulley system kicked into action, and the elevator was pulled joltingly upwards. The Serrated Sword may have got the factory working again, mused Rufan, but they were no experts.
The juddering journey lasted about three minutes, as the elevator climbed the dizzyingly high structure. Rufan caught glimpses of the clan's work in places; In one area, the mechanical arms appeared to be welding a rudimentary tank together, while a few floors up, the workers of the clan were attempting to clear a pile of collapsed girders out of a corridor.
The elevator clanked onwards and upwards.
It finally stopped on what could only have been the very highest point of the factory - the pulley mechanism was clearly visible above his head, creaking and groaning as it strained to keep the elevator at its height. The guard unlatched the wire gate and stepped out with Rufan, shutting it behind him just as the elevator began to descend again. The chances were, Rufan would be up here for a long time - if his information was regarded as important, he would most likely be given a room up on this very floor. If not, he would be killed for wasting Garan's time. Either way, he wasn't going back down anytime soon.
He regarded the corridor as he walked down it. It was pristine, and the walls were painted the pale blue that was prevalent for the Serrated Sword. Their emblem was emblazoned every few metres in black, the weapon the clan was named after. Dim phospha-lamps cast dreary shadows, the flickering lights only making the sword emblems more menacing.
They reached the end of the corridor, and the silent guard nodded to a door on Rufan's right. It was a darker blue than the walls, but otherwise was unimpressive. Tentatively, Rufan eased it open, and the Guard left him alone.
Garan was leaning back on a chair, behind a large desk, smoking an obscura pipe.
Rufan took in his appearance quickly. Garan appeared to be clad mostly in brown leather, and wore an antique, brown hat made of felt, the rim of which went full circle around his head. There was visible stubble on his face.
He released a cloud of smoke and finally spoke.
"Rufan, is it?" He was smiling slightly. "I hear you have some information... regarding the safety of this clan?" He leant forward, setting his pipe aside.
Rufan nodded, and removed a data slate from one of his pockets, handing it to Garan. Garan's eyes moved quickly from side to side as he skimmed it, gathering the gist, and narrowed. His smile faded and he lowered the slate, looking at Rufan with suspicion.
"Where did you get this information, exactly?" He said quietly. Rufan allowed himself a small smile. He had him.
"The spire itself." He said. "I worked there. A low-grade job, but I had connections."
Garan surveyed the information again, then looked back up at Rufan.
"Am I to believe," he said, standing up, "That the governor is planning to purge the Outhabs of all the clans?"
"That's what it says on the slate." replied Rufan, careful to keep his voice neutral.
"He doesn't even know where we are."
"Doesn't he? It doesn't take a genius to work it out, Garan. You think you're so well hidden, in this old, abandoned factory, but in reality, all someone has to do is shadow one of your gangs until they come back here. The Arbites aren't stupid."
Garan still didn't seem convinced. "In all the hundreds of years the Serrated Sword has been active, this has never happened. Why should it happen now?"
"This new governor is different. Haven't you been paying attention to the elections? This one is strong, not weak and scared like the others. He knows that you and your kind, if left unchecked, could pose a serious danger to this world. He wants to end this danger."
Garan went deep into thought as he heard this. Rufan cut in.
"And your cute little army down there won't help. The Arbites are going to come in full strength. You might hold out for a while, but you'd be overwhelmed in the end."
Garan's lips had gone very thin. He wasn't quite done yet.
"And how do I know you're telling the truth?"
"What reason would I have for not telling the truth?"
"Oh, a whole lot of reasons."
The sound of an Arbites speeder distracted Rufan from answering, as he glanced upwards.
"Just a regular patrol speeder, they always come by this way." said Garan dismissively. Rufan narrowed his eyes as he heard a dull thump from somewhere.
"Did you hear that?"
Garan shrugged. "Probably one of the old chimneys falling down after last night's gale."
Rufan crept round to the other side of Garan's desk. There was a wooden door on the back wall of the office, old and rickety.
"What's through there?" He asked.
"Not much. An old terrace. I'm surprised it's still there. Now, how about you answer my questi-"
But he stopped at the faint sound of plodding footsteps.
The roof must have been thin here. It was easy to hear through it. Easy to hear the plodding steps. Whoever was up there had not been banking on that.
Rufan put his eye to a narrow crack in the door, barely big enough to let light through. He could just see the shapes of the old derelicts of the Outhabs in the distance.
They were blocked suddenly as something dropped down, blocking his field of vision.
Rufan leapt backwards and fell hard as the door was violently kicked open. Wood chippings sprayed everywhere and a black coated, armoured figure burst in, holding a laspistol, with the Arbites symbol on his left breast-plate.
Garan pulled a laspistol from a holster Rufan hadn't even known existed, and pointed it at the Arbites just as the black-clothed figure raised his own.
A race for the trigger. The man with the quickest fingers would survive.
Garan's las-bolt went squarely through the Arbites' head before he even raised his own pistol fully, punching a tiny, blackened hole between his eyes. He fell, dead.
Garan slowly re-holstered his laspistol, raising his other hand to make a quick adjustment to his hat. He looked over at Rufan.
Rufan looked down at the dead man, then back up at the clan leader. Reflexes that fast... he hadn't known it was possible.
"Can you explain that?" said Garan coolly, gesturing. Rufan nodded, getting up.
"I think so. You are the clan leader. Assassinating you would cripple the Serrated Sword, confuse its members. Giving them the perfect opportunity to wipe it out.
"They will have been waiting for that man's signal. As soon as he contacted them, told them he was successful, the rest of the Arbites would come in. Of course now that he's failed"- he looked down once again at the dead body - "They've lost their chance. Your soldiers would fight even harder if you told them you had just survived an assassination attempt. Their advantage would be gone."
The two stared at the dead lawkeeper.
"He must have dropped down from the speeder." Muttered Garan. "That's a Guard-issue antigrav jump pack. Arbites don't usually have that sort of equipment." He reached down and turned the man over. There it was, clear as day, an Imperial Aquila engraved into the metal.
"They must really be serious about this." He continued, turning to Rufan. "I think you're telling the truth after all."
Rufan smiled in relief.
==three days later==
The spire was clearly visible to Rufan from this rooftop in the Outhabs. Ten times as high as the next tallest building, it cast a shadow that stretched for kilometres. Windows, arrayed in a grid pattern, covered roughly the bottom fifth of the building, gleaming in the early-morning sun. Above that, there was no-one brave enough to maintain them, so it was just blank metal.
It all happened very suddenly. Several rolling booms echoed for miles in every direction, and massive clouds of dust spurted out of the ground around the monolithic tower.
Slowly, it began to topple.
The screaming of a billion people was a strange noise. Everywhere in the hive, the spire was visible, at least some part of it. Everyone in the city could see it falling. Everyone was screaming in horror. Even out here, on the edge of the outhabs, the noise was painful to the ears.
It seemed to take an eternity for the spire to hit the ground. It split into sections as it went down, falling to pieces. Each of them hit the ground with an earth-shaking boom which drowned out the terrified screaming of the populace.
The cloud of shattered rockrete and pulverised metal stretched up for miles. They blotted out the sun far more effectively than the spire itself ever had.
Rufan smiled. The Serrated Sword had done its job. The explosives planted in the very foundation of the spire had worked perfectly.
Rufan knew for a fact that exactly the same thing had happened in every other hive on the planet. Each hive had a dominant clan in the outhabs, and none of them took kindly to the information they had been given.
Forging a document detailing the new governor's plans to purge the outhabs had been easy, with the technology Rufan had behind him. It had been a simple matter of obtaining all the official seals and passwords of the upper echelons, and with his job in the spire, Rufan had been cut out for it. he had always been an expert at hacking into systems, but with the miraculous technology he had been given, it had been even easier than he was used to.
Procuring an Arbites assassin had been harder, however. His superiors had not wanted to sacrifice a follower, so they had selected one proud Arbites from each hive. Just one. One who would want to take the glory himself, and not inform his superiors. In each case, it had worked. Through whatever means, the lone Arbites had tried to assassinate the leaders of the most influential clans, alone. Each time, they had failed. That had given each of them reason enough to believe Rufan's colleagues, each of whom had told the same lie - the lone Arbites was in fact an assassin who, when he had succeeded, would signal his comrades to finish the clan... And so, in each hive, the spire toppled.
Anarchy and chaos would reign over the whole planet. There were no leaders, no planetary governors, no government. The Arbites would try and fail to keep control. All of which was exactly what Rufan's superiors wanted.
With no leaders, the planet would be impossible to defend. Its formerly formidable bulwarks would crumble and fall. It would be easy picking for the fleets of the Tau Empire, now only three days away.
This was a hive world. It had a planetary defence force of millions. Invading it head on would be a long and gruelling task, one that Rufan's Tau masters, without the limitless supplies of troops of the Imperium, could not afford. What better way to break an unbreakable fortress than with an inside man?
Once upon a time in Commorragh
Once upon a time in Commorragh
Tahril sat in the dark room. Tables filled the interior, discarded food littering the floor and tops. Endath was alone in the room, his helmet to his side as he drank the colorless liquid in his goblet. His eye's winced everytime he took a sip of the pungent concoction but it was soothing.
Three Eldar entered the room from the shadows, all dressed in black armor clad with blades and chains. One stood out, he stood without a helmet and carried with him a whip. Tahril looked up to the three but did not acknowledge them, instead taking one more sip before smashing his goblet to the ground.
"Archon Tahril, you have failed Lord Vect for the last time. Your command in Kaurava was attrocish and nearly cost the life of the Lord himself. He has decreed you to be apprehended and brought to him immediately," told the lead Eldar warrior.
Tahril now looked at the three with a bitter gaze which was diverted by the heavy hissing of two figures in the shadows next to him. Two mandrakes appeared out of these shadows, their skin glistening from the small amount of light. Tahril hated mandrakes, slimy creatures. As they began to approach him, Tahril slowly unholstered his pistol, waiting until they were just next to him.
One mandrake brought his bladed-hand back, ready to impale the archon. Before he could, Tahril punched his power claw through the underside of the table and grasped the mandrake's head. He whipped around to shoot the other but it was gone. He then collapsed his claw on the captured mandrake's skull, cracking it making the mandrake flail in his grip like a doll. Dropping the carcass Tahril smiled at the three now frightened warriors.
The lead warrior unraveled his whip and cracked it to intimidate Tahril. The two other warriors screamed a battle cry and fired volleys of splinter rounds. Tahril, using his claw, turned over the table and hid behind it. As the firing stopped he could hear footsteps coming closer and closer.
Suddenly a crack emitted just feet away and the whip of the warrior slammed down on the table, cracking it down its width right next to Tahril. Another crack, this time severing the other side. Another crack sounded but this time Tahril knew its direction and used his claw to grab the whip, pulling the warrior over the table. The warrior struggled to get up as Tahril fired a single splinter shot into its helmet stopping its convulsions.
Tahril could hear the other two warriors running away and knew they would send more troops. He jumped over the table and followed them down a corridor. They took a turn as did he. Finally he came across a long corridor consisting of many doorways, all occupied with positioned warriors armed with their rifles. At first Tahril was filled with awe but then smiled cunningly.
From his wrist came a cylindor, white as bone, that barreled down the corridor creating a trail of black smoke. The warriors looked upon the smoke and began to scream in pain as twisted figures, grotesque and horrific scenes, filled their view. Tahril walked down the corridor with a slow stride, firing his pistol into the withering warriors now slumped on the ground. He came to the end of the corridor which was marked by a large metal door which read across it, "The Armory".
Tahril did not bother with the door opening for he knew it was locked, instead he used his large claw to slice through it. As he broke it down a hail of fire erupted causing Tahril to tumble back, taking cover next to the doorway. He looked at his wrist once more and maneuvered it into the door and attempted to fire it. Nothing fired.
Tahril was consumed with rage. Blind with anger he erupted through the doorway catching the few warriors inside off guard. Tahril struck one warrior, fired and killed another. He then grasped the helmet of a perplexed warrior and used to as a shield against the last one who was able to fire. Tahril threw his shield at the firing Dark Eldar who he then killed with a flurry of pistol fire.
The scene was horrific. It smelled of burning flesh, Tahril delighted in it. He also looked around and saw a fully stocked armory. While attempting to choose some suitable killing devices a roar sounded from behind him. Slowly turning he found himself face to face with a creature known fondly as a grotesque. The creature was riddled with metal rivets, hooks, and drug filled tubes.
Tahril's former cheerfully maniacal expression turned to horror. He used his claw to grab one arm of the creature and attempted to grasp it off. Try as he did the claw could not tear through the creature's hide. The grotesque simply peered down at Tahril and raised its other arm. It struck Tahril on his shoulder knocking him across the room. His claw led the way and had actually pierced the wall, revealing a whole new corridor.
Stepping out of the armory Tahril calculated his options and then saw the stack of plasma grenades situated next to the slow-moving grotesque. Tahril raised his pistol and fired several shots, eventually piercing one canister which erupted in a burst of light. Tahril shielding his eyes but could hear more exploding grenades and then the whimpered cries of the grotesque as it was burned times over. He could not help but laugh at the situation before attempting to find where he was. The only indication was a large ornate door at the end of the short hall. It held no name but instead a mural that depicted an Eldar leading others into the webway.
"Vect." Tahril muttered.
Slicing through the door he was met by a single throne up against the far wall, though the room itself was quite small. No incubi surrounded the figure in the throne nor any warriors. The walls were lined with a single scene repeating over and over. The murals depicted a single Eldar looking at a throne then being killed by the Eldar in the door's mural. Under each depiction was the word "Futile". The figure sitting on the throne stood up and slowly walked towards Tahril.
"My archon, my poor archon. Do you not find it amusing that I send my men to bring you to me and instead you kill and come to me yourself? I do, and I also find it amusing how you believe you could take revenge on me. I am Asdrubael Vect, and I am in control." The words of Vect echoed throughout the rounded room adding to their weight.
"Vect. You fail to see my power! You fail to see what I could have become! Now die!" Tahril lowered his claw and aimed his pistol at Vect.
His hand trembled for a split second. Within that second a blade cut through Tahril's torso from behind, its tip protruding through his front. Blood began to drip from the corners of his mouth as he slowly turned around to see his killer. Behind him he saw a scaled face adorned with blood red eyes. From its lips escaped a hissing tongue, flickering in the air. It retracted its blade and Tahril fell to his knees. The creature readied itself for the killing blow as Tahril reminisced about one thing, how he hated mandrakes.