Secret War: Upon Blood Sands

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Chapter 30

#31 Post by Adrassil »

The gun line was dying, both literally and figuratively. Ammunition was growing scarce. Tathe didn't know the exact number of men who still had ammo and who didn't. Tathe was a commissar, not a colonel or general; logistics weren't his responsibility until he'd taken over the contingent and had to learn much first hand. He'd just ordered those that did keep back to cover the flamers with precision fire. Tathe, his makeshift command squad and the many soldiers without ammo and bayonets fixed followed the flamers. Two flamer troopers had died, trooper Bulok who'd been decapitated by a daemon's blade and who was then avenged by Dellenger and trooper Sulvik, who'd been gutted by a bayonet thrust from a former Velrosian comrade. Five still advanced at the fore, but many Resurrected and daemons still managed to get through, many having fallen to Tathe's blade despite the wall of fire.

Adreen had taken a bad cut across the thigh and Dellenger a chainsword tear on his left shoulder and taken a glancing blow across the side of his head from the butt of a las rifle. Blood streaming down his face.

Although he was now coated with blood, Tathe and the rest of his command squad had yet to be injured. Still, he couldn't help curse and wonder where their leader: Attelus Kaltos and his girlfriend, had gone; this was the time he needed that melee monster the most when ammunition was running dry, and his men were dying like flies. He'd gotten Karmen Kons to look for them, but she couldn't. Tathe had to guess it was to do with the arrival and extraction of their Guncutter about an hour ago.

Reports flooding from the flanks told that they were falling behind and taking horrendous casualties. Tathe knew this was going to happen; the men and women fighting on the flanks knew it was going to happen. But that didn't even begin to allay the pain in Tathe's heart.

Tathe's bolt pistol shot blew a charging Marangerian trooper's skull into red mist; he knew the trooper's name but had shoved it back into the recesses of his mind, then he shot a cultist through the guts. A snarling daemon shoved both corpses as it burst through, moving with inhuman speed; it lunged at Tathe.

Tathe didn't even blink as he emptied his pistol's clip into the thing's oversized skull through the roof of its oversized mouth. The daemon's momentary distraction allowed three cultists to charge in. One was stabbed through the neck by Dellenger, who was too distracted by taking down Tathe to see it coming.

Tathe knelt beneath the sweeping chainsword of one while cutting through the knee of the other. Tathe turned the cut's backswing into a parry to intercept the chainsword headed for his head. Tathe then twisted his sword into a vertical up slash, which sliced through the cultist's groin.

The shriek the cultist let out was so loud it almost eclipsed the roar of the fire and the buzzing of las guns. Tathe had long ago decided to deal blows that took some time to die from. It'd delay them from coming back, and it proved cathartic to his more sadistic sensibilities.

But he found himself incapable of doing it to guardsmen, no matter how hard he tried to.

"How far away now?" Tathe yelled to Dellenger as he cut through the chest of a charging Sovrithian.

"Five more blocks," said Dellenger, while sliding aside a wild bash from a cultist, then stabbed the cultist through the ribs. "Not far, sir."

Tathe clenched his teeth that didn't seem 'not far' to him, and that was just until they converged on the strange hole which descended into the middle of the city, and Emperor only knew what lived down there.

A scream drew Tathe's attention just in time to see trooper Heunstein being stabbed through the chest by a Velrosian scout trooper.

Heunstein fell, clutching at his horrible wound. With a roar, Tathe dashed for the scout trooper, powersword slashing for the scout's skull. The scout had left with Adreen's squad to scout ahead only a few hours ago. He'd been fighting on the front line and was one of the best, up with Adreen and Dellenger. Tathe had had no idea he'd been killed, despite the fact they'd advanced only a few metres from each other.

The scout saw the sword slicing for his throat, but even he couldn't react fast enough to dodge. A clang echoed as another powersword sheered off Tathe's, sending shivers up Tathe's arms and the cut-off course.

Tathe slipped back, just out the way from a thrust and looked to his attacker and couldn't help let his jaw drop.

It was Valketh. The captain's eyes were glazed with psychotic anger, the same murderous look he'd treated Serghar's agent only hours ago. Tathe would've never imagined he would ever be on the wrong end of that glare.

Then Valketh launched at Tathe, sword cutting for his wrist.

Adelana stood in the recreation room, watching Sarkeath swirl and twirl below; somehow, the blood sands weren't visible from orbit; here, it seemed like a normal desert world with brownish sand. There was a better term to describe the colour, one she'd learned from her father, but she'd forgotten it. He'd known every name for every colour in this galaxy. It was just one of the many things she'd forgotten, replacing it with more knowledge on how to kill, how to manipulate and read others. She recalled what Hayden said about her becoming like Attelus. She'd snarled him down, but now she was beginning to see his point.

She'd enjoyed it a bit too much, setting up the trap for Serghar and his minions.

She was beginning to enjoy the killing. What was she becoming? They chased Etuarq in the name of justice, but were they really? It was becoming more and more obvious that them chasing him was exactly what Etuarq wanted and-


Adelana couldn't help jumping and spin to see Attelus, his shirtless torso bandaged as he entered the doorway. He was somehow paler than normal, and the purple bags beneath his eyes darker.

"Sorry," he said. "Didn't mean to give you a fright, Adelana."

Adelana nodded; she knew he didn't mean it, even injured. He moved in instinctive silence.

He was just as silent as he moved to stand beside Adelana and gazed down at Sarkeath with her.

"You alright?" he said.

Tears welled in her gaze, and she looked at him. Faster than thought, he met her eyes, and it caused her to turn away.

"I-I'm fine," she said. "I should be the one who asks that."

"I'll live," he said. "Thanks for saving my ass, Adelana. I'm alright now. We need to get down there."

He turned and started away.

"I don't think we should," she forced herself to say.

He stopped, his broad back facing her.


"I-I know that sounds insane, but please hear me out, Attelus."

He turned to face her, his glare so intense she couldn't help but flinch.

"I don't understand how that couldn't be anything but insane, Adelana," he said.

"I uhh, uhm."

"But I'll hear you out, and this better be good, frigging really good."

"I-it's what he wants," Adelana spluttered out.

Attelus' eyes narrowed. "Who?"

Adelana couldn't help roll her eyes. "Etuarq! Your father. Your father even said he needed you alive to get that sword. If you go down there, you're playing right into their hands."

Attelus pursed his lips and shrugged. "But I already said that we might need it so we can kill Etuarq."

"But...she...told us that Etuarq doesn't know how to make a perpetual, Attelus. So we don't need the sword."

Attelus flinched slightly, and his attention fell to the floor before glaring back to her. "Yes, but what if she's lying, Adelana. What if he's able to turn himself into a perpetual, just not others?"

"Yes, that might well be true, but you do remember that it's a daemon blade, right?" said Adelana. "I'm no expert on those things, but don't they tend to corrupt the wielder? You know, make them into chaos worshipping psychos?"

"Well, what do you want me to do?" said Attelus. "Wait, safe up here while our friends die down there?"

Adelana faulted at that.

Attelus sighed. "It's too late now for us to turn back, Adelana. I have to get that sword; we'll just have to deal with the consequences of it when it comes up."

He turned to start away again.

"I think we've made a huge mistake," said Adelana, stopping him yet again. "We should've just left Etuarq alone; we should've just let inquisitor Tybalt chase him or another part of inquisitor Enandra's organisation. To me, to you, this is too personal. We say we do this to stop him, for justice. But really, it's out for revenge. It's just an excuse for you, for us to kill more people, and if we don't stop, it'll end in the death of another world."

Attelus sighed and slouched his shoulders. "It's already happened even without our involvement, Adelana. Don't you remember one of the reasons why we've travelled all the way here? We're going to the surface, and that's that. Even if all your speculations are true, we can't just leave the Velrosians, our friends, okay? We're in too deep in every which way, anyway. We've better get prepped-"

"Attelus," said Adelana, trying to keep the desperation from her voice for her last-ditch attempt. "If you take that sword, I'm leaving. I've been thinking about transferring since before we shipped out, and if you take that sword, I will. I mean it. Avenging Omnartus be damned."

She wanted to add, 'if it meant losing you,' but couldn't get the courage to say it.

His shoulders shook the briefest of shakes; the movement reminded Adelana of the Elandria-thing's earlier reaction to Attelus' pleas.

"If that's-If that's what you feel you must do, Adelana," he said.

There was a long, awkward pause that was cut by a heartbreakingly un-enthused laugh from Attelus.

"That's if we don't die on our way there," he said before disappearing into the shadows.
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Chapter 31

#32 Post by Adrassil »

Karmen was overwhelmed by exhaustion; the servos of her power armour were what kept making her take step after step forward. Advancing in front of her were Vark and Verenth; they'd both run out of ammo, so Vark fought with a bayonet attached to his hell gun, while Verenth had 'borrowed' a las gun with a bayonet. Verenth was surprisingly effective, not on the level of Dellenger, who'd mastered the form, but he held his own. The thought of Dellenger made her fight the urge to glance at the scout, who was almost hypnotising in his preternatural grace and skill. He was also exceedingly handsome, but of course, he didn't even spare her a glance; she'd be offended if she didn't know the scout was completely clueless on the matters of human interaction. That and he was fighting three cultists at once, despite his numerous injuries.

But the real battle was between Tathe and the Marangerian in a captain's uniform. Both exchanged power sword swings almost faster than her eye could follow. She couldn't help but be impressed at the Marangerian's skill.

The loss of her kineshield allowed for numerous casualties to be wrought from the guns of the guardsmen Resurrected. The guilt gnawed at her; in her earlier days as Estella Erith, she too had idolised the Velrosians, so now to see them die like flies around her without her being able to do anything hurt her more than she could say.

More good people she'd failed.

Not just that, but her bolter had run dry, and she couldn't fight at the front either; she had to regain her strength for the very last push. When they finally descend into the city's depths.

So here she was, useless, yet again.

A Galak Heim trooper advancing beside her fell; he flew off his feet and landed on the sand, writhing, screaming. Karmen hadn't even seen what hit him. Two troopers broke from the gun line, one a Marangerian, the other from Despasia and picked up the man and turned to take him to the medicae truck as the soldiers behind them parted with admirable discipline. Karmen couldn't help but let a smile cross her lip; all these men and women all from different cultures were like family. From countries that had warred and hated each other for millennia before the coming of the Imperium came were now fighting side by side, blind to the hate-fuelled tremulous past and the colour of each other's skin.

This was unity; this was the god-Emperor's vision. The pride of finally fighting alongside her heroes flooded into her, but along with it came regret. Regret because she knew this would be the first and only time. The Elbyran contingent was dead. Dead the second they stepped out of their makeshift fortress and began for the tower. Not just that, but this suicidal mission was made on Attelus' and Karmen's volition. More souls were sacrificed in the god-Emperor's name—more deaths to hang onto her conscience.

She shook away the thought; it wasn't about her or her conscience. This was about the Elbyran; this was their battle, their glory, their sacrifice. The long-suppressed soldier within her bubbled back.

Another one of the flame troopers died. Her head exploded in a welter of blood and brains. She collapsed and began to spin toward the Elbyran.

Karmen, only in the last millisecond, managed to raise her hand and send the flame trooper spinning forwards again.

"Someone, stop her," Karmen roared through clenched teeth. "I can't...hold it for long."

Both Verenth and Vark moved to comply, fighting with a sudden burst of ferocity which somehow broke through their almost palpable exhaustion. Karmen couldn't watch their advance as much as he dearly wished to, too entrenched in concentration. She cursed Attelus' name through gritted teeth, wondering yet again where that idiot went.

"Karmen?" said a voice over her vox unit, a voice she recognised as Verenth's. "You can let go of the body, Vark's getting on her flamer."

With a gasp, she let the flame trooper's corpse fall. It sickened Karmen to see the poor woman's body disappear beneath the feet of the advancing Elbyrans, but what else could they do? She had a very good idea how many soldiers were left, but she refused to name the number, not even in her thoughts, not until she had to.

She watched Vark as he clumsily swayed the flames from side to side as Verenth laid in again and again with his lasgun. Karmen looked to see Tathe or Tathe's blur while he now fought the Marangerian captain, the Velrosian scout and a cultist at once. All the while, he still somehow managed to keep stepping forwards.

Karmen's thoughts were interrupted by a rain of las shots which splattered off her power armour, the kinetic force caused her to writhe, but the two soldiers on her flanks weren't protected by power armour, so they writhed and screamed as they were cut down.

"Shit," said Hayden over the vox, ever the epitome of calm. "Enemies in the building, two down on the left, fifth story. Any suppression fire sent their way would be appreciated, please.

By now, the Elbyrans had grown to trust Hayden and his auspex and instincts beyond question, and instantly a small number of shots flew where Hayden had indicated.

"Do we have any missile launcher ammo left?" said Hayden.

The reply was swift from a captain named Sevon of the Despasians, who was in charge of the supplies. "No, sir, throne agent, we have run out of both missiles and missile launchers, if you catch my drift."

"I understand," said Hayden. "Let me take care of this. Stop the pinning fire in ten seconds and make room for me on the right flank."

As he was saying this, Hayden was fanning right, watching the building through his long las' scope.

It was almost exactly ten seconds later that the pinning fire stopped, and then Hayden opened fire. Six shots in rapid succession.

"Targets neutralised," he said. "But I am on my last three shots."

Karmen turned as something caught the corner of her gaze; she just managed to see Tathe managing to disembowel the cultist before losing his sword; it was smashed from his grasp by the Marangerian captain. The scout then skated in, thrusting for Tathe's chest with his bayonet.

But before Karmen could even raise her hand, let alone cry out, sergeant Adreen's shoulder barged the scout off balance when the bayonet tip was only a millimetre from Tathe's chest.

Then she was decapitated by the Marangerian officer.

Tathe's anguished scream somehow managed to rise above the roar of war, and then he was on his feet, sword back in his hands and charging for the officer with wild abandon. Tears shone in his eyes.

Karmen knew he was running to his death, having last all discipline and skill in his rage and grief. Dellenger and Delathasi were moving to intercept Tathe, but Karmen knew they wouldn't fight their way through in time; but Tathe was just about to run past Karmen.

So Karmen reached out with her power armoured hand and grabbed him by the storm coat and, with a tug, tore him off his feet and crashed his back against the sand.

Dellenger and Delathasi were then on the scout and the captain, respectively, launching into a blurry melee.

Then Tathe was on his feet; his rage etched face turned on Karmen.

"Why did you do that, witch!" he screamed, raising his crackling powersword; Karmen flinched, knowing it could slice through her armour with ease.

"Answer me," he yelled, but he wasn't interested in her answer as he had already begun to slash.

He didn't even make it halfway before two troopers grabbed him and hauled him back.

"Let go of me," Tathe said, struggling.

Karmen nodded her thanks to the pair of troopers, one a Galak Heiman, the other a Velrosian.

+You were going to get yourself killed, commissar,+ she sent. +Get a hold of yourself, commissar.+

"Frig you," he said.

+This world, this tainted world, is influencing you. You need to control it, you are in command, and many will die other than her if you do not.+

Tathe didn't reply; he just sneered and struggled more.

Karmen nodded to herself. +We'll all die if you don't, die without reaching your objective and join the Resurrected. Every step and death and especially the death of scout-sergeant Adreen will be pointless. Get your head together now."

The commissar looked down in what may have been a shame.

Karmen turned away, and it was then the Elbyrans finally advanced into the final cross-section before they would delve into the depths of the city.

Karmen was finally forced to admit the number of survivors. They'd left with just under one thousand men; now, they were down to about two hundred and fifty. This would be the do or die part.

She inhaled deep and reached into the warp, and erected another kineshield against the withering, flanking fire. But heart-achingly, many Elbyran troops were killed, slain at the blades of the daemons and cultists as they burst from the side streets in a rushing tide.

No, Karmen corrected, not killed, slaughtered. Many of the Elbyrans being too exhausted to put up much of a fight. It was a miracle they'd lasted this long, a true testament to their skill and limitless discipline. But their morale, their stamina wasn't.

A cultist managed to push past the two remaining flamers and charged Karmen, swinging down an old axe.

Karmen blocked the blow with a forearm and then punched the cultist through his face.

She was wrong; tathe keeping his head wouldn't make any difference; this was the end. Frustration boiled through her; to come so close for it all to be for nothing was...was...

Karmen cursed Attelus' name for what felt like the umpteenth time, even though not even he could halt many of the deaths, but if he were here, the love of Tathe's life would likely still be alive.

Verenth and Vark, his flamer having run out of promethium, fought back to back, laying in their bayonets and las gun butts. Helma cut down cultist after cultist with her sword as a Velrosian sergeant stood at her side, his chain sword whining and tearing and whirling with flying blood. Delathasi and Dellenger still fought the scout and the captain. Even Hayden was forced into close combat, his long las swinging and smashing with.

How they hadn't fallen yet was amazing, but it was just a matter of time.

A matter of inevitability.

The las fire smashed through the Resurrected's south flank, an accurate, disciplined deluge. Even many a daemon fell beneath the focused fire.

The enemy baulked and turned to address their new attackers, and the Elbyrans hesitated; their confusion on who their savours were, was almost palpable.

A second later, Karmen's exhaustion addled mind managed to comprehend, and a scream of triumph burst from her throat.

"The Sovrithans!" Karmen yelled. "The Sovrithans are here!"

Jelket led from the front with captain Dantian and his command squad. He fired his Hellgun at the hip; he cut down Resurrected after Resurrected. The enemy wilted underneath the Sovrithan gun line, like waves pulling back from a beach after smashing against it. This was their plan, to distract the enemy with the Elbyran's push so the Sovrithans could circle the city and flank them.

It'd worked surprisingly well, the Elbyrans somehow managing to push so far and so fast that the enemy attention was forced to be completely fixated on them. The bias of their commander would have surely attributed to that fixation, as the commissar had predicted.

Jelket didn't know how many of the Elbyrans were left; he just hoped there'd be enough to push into the depths and that his comrades and friends were still alive.

"For the Emperor," Jelket yelled. "For Sovrith. For the ordos."
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:


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Chapter 32

#33 Post by Adrassil »

The enemy seemed to pour over the lip of the incline in a never-ending tide in a desperate bid to keep the Sovrithians and The Elbyrans from meeting. The Elbyrans were locked in melee, still pushing forward despite the odds. At the same time, Jelket and the Sovrithians laid down a constant hail of las shots to somewhat stem them.

Jelket fired from the hip, racking his hell-fire through the Resurrected it was impossible to miss. Many Resurrected tried to turn to address the Sovrithians but were slaughtered. In any other battle, this flanking manoeuvre would've been devastating, maybe leading to a decisive victory.

Here it was just so two forces could meet, one resupply the other, then join into a combined, desperate advance toward an objective they had no idea would even make any difference.

Despite this, Jelket's heart sung, he'd left the guard to escape this stuff, but now he'd never felt more alive. He was never the best at anything, but here he was, saving the butts of the others, assuming they're alive, of course.

He could see the enemy's sporadic fire smack off an invisible wall over the Elbyran front line, so Karmen at least was still alive.

The next half an hour was the most intense battle Jelket had ever taken part in, hundreds, maybe thousands of Resurrected and dozens of daemons. Jelket couldn't imagine how hard it must've been for the Elbyrans for these past few hours.

Once the Sovrithians pushed into the intersection, giving the Elbyrans a break from the front line, they stopped their advance. I didn't take Jelket long to find Hayden, Karmen, Torris, Helma, Verenth, Delthasi and Vark all were dead-eyed, beyond exhausted, and barely acknowledged Jelket. It was the same with every single other Elbyran around as the Sovrithians moved by to take over the rear guard. Many entered the buildings around to secure them.

"It's good to see all of you made it," said Jelket, then his relief was overtaken with concern as he noticed something. "Where's Attelus and Adelana? Halsin?"

"We don't know," said a voice, but it wasn't any of them that answered Jelket, and he turned to find a bloody, beaten commissar approaching, using his beautiful single-edged power sword as a walking stick. "We believe they are in orbit as your ship lifted off about an hour back. And the young medicae is in one of the trucks tending the wounded."

Jelket nodded, his concern somewhat stifled, and he couldn't help but wonder why Attelus and Adelana had abandoned the Elbyrans.

Dantian stepped forward. "You are commissar Tathe?"

"I am," said Tathe.

Jelket fought the awe welling in him. So this was the famous commissar Delan Tathe? He seemed to ooze charisma and leadership beyond humanly possible, even with the exhaustion and what the other thing? Jelket couldn't put a finger on it.

"We have brought the resupply you wanted," said Dantian, straight to business as usual. "I will be honest, commissar, I was tempted to leave you and your men for dead."

Tathe shrugged. "I would understand that...if you did, and I must thank you for not leaving us for dead." Tathe's tone was stilted, robotic. "I have sacrificed too many good men and women in this; I just hope it's not for nothing."

"I pray that it isn't commissar," said Dantian. "But I am afraid that we'll lose many once we begin down that hill."

"I know, captain," said Tathe, and while he didn't roll his eyes, his voice seemed to scream he wanted to. "We're about to descend into hell. Are you and your men prepared?"

Dantian bristled. "By the god-Emperor we are. We'll fight one hundred times harder than you did, and we will show the enemy the deaths they more than deserve."

Tathe grinned. "Please, don't take my question personally, captain. I was merely asking, and it gladdens me to see you so fired up."

"I am a captain of the imperial guard, commissar," said Dantian. "And while my regiment isn't as well known or said to be as elite as yours, we will prove that reputation means little to action. When will you and your men be ready to advance?"

The commissar pursed his lips. "I know this must seem to be much, captain, but we need fifteen minutes. Many of my men are dehydrated, and we all need food. If we have any less time, we'll be little use to you."

Dantian raised an eyebrow and looked Tathe up and down. "We'll give you half an hour."

Tathe took a shocked step back. "I-I that's too much, captain."

"I have over one thousand men, commissar," said Dantian. "Even with that number, I doubt it will be enough down there, so I really don't want your men to slow us down, and I want to prove to you just how good we are, understand?"

"Understood," said Tathe.

Dantian nodded and peeled away, his finger to his microbead as he began to call out orders.

Jelket looked at Tathe as the commissar collapsed onto his arse. "I saw what you did there, sir."

"What's your name?" said Tathe.

"Trooper Jelket, sir."

Tathe glared up at Jelket, his head tilted forwards. "Trooper Jelket...shut up."

Jelket stood for a few seconds, trying to decide how to react to the commissar's rudeness.

Jelket shrugged. "Fair enough," he said, then turned away and walked up to Hayden. The bid sniper laid on his back, his attention to the sky.

He sat down next to Hayden and handed him his water canister. "I'm glad you made it, big guy."

"I'm glad I did too," said Hayden, his voice as lifeless as Tathe's. "I've never had to do anything like that before, and I frigging hope I never have to again."

"Never thought I'd hear such words from you," said Jelket. "And I hate to say it; we've still got a long way to go."

"I know, I know," Hayden growled. "And that frigger abandoned us."


"Attelus," said Hayden as he took the canister and unscrewed the lid. "He flew up into the damned atmosphere leaving us to bleed and struggle down here."

Jelket couldn't make a reply; he'd never heard Hayden so bitter and angry before.

"I...I'm sure the kid had his reasons-"

"This mission right from the start has been a screw-up, Jelket. He's just made mistake after mistake, after frigging mistake."

Jelket began thinking about that, but Hayden interrupted him. "He's twenty-eight, one of the youngest of us. It was a huge mistake of the Inquisitor to put him in charge."

"I don't know. If Attelus weren't in charge, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for his connection to the Eldar. But, yeah, he's made a few mistakes."

"Just a few, you're a master of frigging understatement, Jelket. Don't you have somewhere to go? Fight alongside the Sovrithians."

"Maybe I should," said Jelket after a pause. "But they aren't my comrades, my friends. I'd rather spend as much time with you guys as I can before we all might die, and they don't need me."

Hayden laughed. "You're so frigging sentimental, and of course Attelus isn't here for that-"

"Get over it," said Jelket, snatching back his canister. "I'm going to talk to someone who's not all bitter and twisted right now; I'm not in the mood for this."

Jelket stood and started toward Torris, who sat with his back against the wall, his head hung forward, a water canister almost falling from his hand.

"Marcel?" said Jelket kneeling in front of him. "You alright?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm alright. I'll live, for now. It's good to have ya back, Jel."

"Good to be back, despite some of us being..."

Jelket trailed off, unsure what to say about it.

"Hayden? Yeah, I heard it. I understand where he's coming from, but it isn't worth getting so pissed about. I was like that, remember?"

Jelket just smiled and nodded while his thoughts screamed yes.

"Anyway, the good commissar forgot to mention Attelus got a call over the vox from Vark saying one of the flanks needed help. It turned out that Vark hadn't sent the communication and Adelana went after him."

"Of course she did," said Jelket. "So he then got in over his head, and either he or Adelana got injured, so they had to call Darrance to save their arses."

"That's what I think, too."

Jelket grinned. "Either that or they're up there finally screwing."

"Doubt that," said Torris.

"Why's that? Is Attelus gay?"

"Nah," said Torris with a low laugh. "Although that's an understandable question, he's just got a shit ton of baggage."

Jelket laughed. "Yeah, being indirectly responsible for the death of a whole planet would be a lot of baggage."

"Nah, it goes deeper; it's from before then..."

Torris trailed off before saying more.

"You aren't going to say more?"

"Don't think he'd appreciate that, Jel. Now please, bud, I've gotta rest."

"Yeah, alright," said Jelket as he stood up and looked over his allies. Most had thrown themselves on the sand where they stood, but Karmen and Vark sat together against the wall on the opposite side of the street, engaged in conversation.

Jelket sighed and sat down, he wanted to talk with his friends, but they needed their rest more than he needed to catch up.

Half an hour wasn't enough, but it was the best they could get.

"Jelket," said a voice, and he turned and found Helma approaching.

"Hey, captain," he said and started taking a swig of water.

She sighed and sat down next to him. "I don't want to die, Jel."

Jelket almost spat out his water. "W-what?"

"Don't get me wrong; I'm not afraid to die. I've faced that already; I just don't want to become one of them," she said. "They say 'only in death does duty end' but not on this Emperor forsaken world. Here if you die, you become an immortal chaos worshipper."

Jelket shuddered and said, "I-I really hope that doesn't happen to either of us. Why does everyone come to me to talk about their shit?"

Helma smiled. "Because you're a good person, Jelket, you're better than you think you are, despite all those weird conspiracies you believe in."

"I still think Marius Hax is involved in this."

"And maybe he is, Jelket, but we don't know that, do we? Anyway..."

She stood and patted him on the shoulder. "Keep up the good work, Jelket, but excuse me, I need a snooze at the very least."

She turned and started away.

"Hey Helma," said Jelket, making her stop. "If we somehow manage to get through this, how about we get a drink sometime?"

Helma looked over her shoulder at him, and a smile crossed her face. "Yeah, sounds like a good idea."

Jelket smiled back.

"Are we ready?" Attelus said, just slipping on his fresh new bodyglove while walking into the common room. "We haven't much time left."

Adelana stood up from her seat. "I've been ready for a while now, Attelus. Been waiting for you."

"Well, sorry, Adelana, I just had a blade stabbed through my guts and-"

"Yes, I saw that," said another voice, a deep voice that reverberated through the entire Guncutter. Attelus turned to face the shadow, his powersword drawn and flaring into life, but he stopped in mid slash.

"Kalakor," he said.

The Raven Guard towered over him, and although Attelus couldn't see any pupils in his black eyes, he knew he looked down at him.

"You may be inquisition, but that is lord Kalakor to you."

"How the hell did you get in here?" said Attelus.

The Raven Guard's reply was narrowing his gaze.

Attelus sighed and slouched. "How the hell did you get in here, lord?"

Kalakor's huge shoulders shrugged. "I am Raven Guard; if I wish it, I can get anywhere."

Attelus' guessed that the huge Astartes managed to slip aboard when Darrance had picked them up.

"I didn't know that Raven Guard Space Marines were so arrogant," said Adelana, and Attelus couldn't help smile at her brass...ovaries?

"So, lord," said Attelus. "Why are you here? For a rematch?"

As he said this, he slipped back a step and readied his sword.

Kalakor raised an eyebrow. "No, I won decisively. Why would I want a rematch?"

"Well, I'd like one," Attelus muttered; now he had his powersword, things might be different.

"We must wait," said Kalakor. "The Elbyran and Sovrithians have rendezvoused."

Attelus straightened. "They have?"

Kalakor smiled. "Yes, unlike you, I have bothered to communicate with the surface."

Attelus frowned and exchanged a look over his shoulder at Adelana, who was frowning too.

"Well, I'd just been stabbed through the stomach and-"

"Stop making excuses," said Kalakor. "You took responsibility for getting yourself and your group captured; this is not any different."

Attelus dropped his gaze to the floor; the Space Marine was right, frig it.

"Why must we wait, then?" said Adelana.

"They are soon going to push into the depths of the city; I do not know what they are to encounter. If we attack at the right-"

"We can open up a gap for them to reach the tower," said Attelus.

"But you will unnecessarily put this ship in danger," said Darrance as he stepped out of the cockpit. "I've already flown down far too often, now. We still need the Guncutter."

"Do I seem to care?" said Kalakor. "I can assure you; I do not."

"Of course, you don't," said Darrance.

Then a realisation hit Attelus; it made him grip the hilt of his sword so hard he was afraid it might break.

"How many will die before we go down there?" said Attelus. "We might lose one of us, I-"

"That does not matter, little girl. They are in service of the Emperor; it is their duty to sell their lives for the Emperor. Only in death does duty end."

"That's easy for you to say," said Attelus. "You don't know them; you haven't fought with them."

"I do not, and it seems you know them too well, throne agent of the ordo Hereticus. You are allowing your foolish sentiment to override your logic. This is the reality of being a leader; you must be ready to sacrifice your underlings if needs must. This might be that time. I had to do it with my brothers to defeat that greater daemon, but do you know the difference between that and this?"

"What?" said Attelus through clenched teeth.

"Their deaths were guaranteed," said Kalakor. "Your allies' deaths aren't; man up, little girl and take my advice. I have been at this for much longer than you have, so take my damned advice."

"Yeah, but your brothers weren't going to become mindless chaos worshippers," said Attelus.

"That does not matter; only what matters is victory."

Attelus couldn't reply; he could barely keep from hyperventilating; his hands shook now.

"But they're my friends."

"I see you have made the cardinal mistake of leadership, getting too close to your underlings," said Kalakor. "Your inexperience is showing. You do not have to do as I say; I will not stop you if you go to the surface now but let me tell you, you may regret it."

Kalakor smiled. "And you are only human, despite your enhancement."

"I hate to say it, apprentice," said Darrance. "But the Space Marine has a point. We're all expendable, even you."

Attelus closed his eyes and forced himself to calm.

"Adelana, what do you think?" Attelus said.

"I-I," she said.

"Do not place the burden upon her," said Kalakor. "This is your decision and yours alone."

Attelus opened his eyes.
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Chapter 33

#34 Post by Adrassil »

The Sovirthians held the line, and they did it frigging well. Tathe couldn't help but be amazed by their skill and discipline even when daemons advanced among the Resurrected's ranks. Tathe didn't know the casualties the Soviritians suffered, and he didn't want to know, just to allow him and his men some rest time, but it would be too much, even if it were only a few.

Tathe laid on the blood sand, trying to rest despite the sound of constant roaring battle all around him.

"Sir?" said a voice over Tathe which caused him to open his eyes, finding both Dellenger and Vark standing over him.

"Vark," said Tathe. "Any word from Attelus Kaltos?"

"No, sir," said Vark. "Nothing, but that's why I scout trooper Dellenger and I are here."

Tathe clenched his jaw.

"No, we haven't, sir," said Dellenger. "But they have."

Dellenger indicated the Sovirthians with a subtle nod.

Tathe raised an eyebrow. "What?"

Dellenger shrugged. "Been watching their commander, listening into him talk on the vox, and he seemed to be talking to someone about 'being in orbit' or something."

Tathe furrowed his brow. "Why would Attelus communicate-?"

He was interrupted by Vark handing him the vox horn. "Speak of the devil, sir. It's him; he wants to speak with you."

Tathe took the horn and placed it to his ear. "Now, I know you're inquisition and shit, but you better have one hell of a good excuse-"

"I ran into my father and his lackeys," Attelus said, and Tathe couldn't help simmer at the young man's gall to interrupt him. "They...defeated me, and we needed to escape into orbit so I could get treatment for my injuries."

"That's all well and good," said Tathe. "But we're about to descend into the depths of the city, where everyone knows the fighting's going to be the thickest and we could use your blade, so get down here-"


Tathe's anger blasted from simmering into exploding. "What in the Emperor's name do you mean by no? Hurry the frig-"

"No means no, commissar. I'm sorry, but it would be better for us to stay up here, come down when the time is right to maybe, hopefully opening a large enough gap in the horde for you and your men to push through to the tower."

Tathe couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What? Do you seriously think that you and your girlfriend would make such a difference?"

"Well, no, but we do have the Guncutter and a Space Marine-"

"A Space Marine?"

"Yes...He's uhh...a stowaway. This was his idea."

Tathe rolled his eyes; the plan did sound like the typical, ruthless pragmatism of the Adeptus Astartes. "You're insane."

"That is most certainly not the first time I've been accused of being that, and it most certainly isn't the last. So I take that as an 'okay'?"

"Yeah, yeah, it's an okay. But there's not much I can do about stopping you from doing it, is there?"

"No, I guess not," said Attelus. "Commissar."

There was a long, weighted pause.

"Yes?" said Tathe.

"I...hope you don't die; you've been a hero for me ever since I was a kid."

Tathe frowned; if he could feel older than he did now, he couldn't believe it.

"Uhh...thanks?" he said.

"Don't get yourself dead," said Attelus, then he cut the link.

Tathe rolled his eyes, but he couldn't prevent the slight smile from crossing his face.

Karmen's vox beeped, and even though she didn't accept it, it came through anyway. Indicating it was: important and on the general line for everyone on the team, and for it to be forced meant it was from the team leader: Attelus.

"This is Attelus Kaltos," he said, despite surely knowing everyone already knew. "And I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" said Hayden. "Sorry about what? You've got more than enough to be sorry for."

"I know," said Attelus. "So I'm sorry about...everything? But mostly about leaving you guys down on the surface. As I'm sure all of you have guesses, I got in over my head. My father...I knew he was good, really good. But in all honesty, I never imagined he was that good; I've got a long way to go, it seems. I apologise again. I'm meandering. But that isn't what I'm most sorry about. I won't be coming down for a while yet."

"Why?" Karmen couldn't help blurt, as did a few others on the line.

"Pragmatism, I'm afraid," said Attelus. "Karmen knows the philosophy better than anyone, but we're going to enter the atmosphere and watch and wait for the exact right opportunity. Then we're going to fly in and try open a gap for you."

"You and who's frigging army?" said Hayden. "This is insane."

"I don't have an army, well, perhaps, I do. In the most metaphorical sense, anyway. Got a stowaway named Kalakor, who so happens to be a Space Marine. You've met him, Hayden. I need you to appreciate this is his idea, not mine."

"But you still agreed to it," said Hayden. "We've had to bust our arses-"

"Hayden," said Attelus. "Don't think for a second I want to do this, but seriously, old friend, can you think of a better idea?"

"I've never been your friend, old or otherwise," said Hayden, then he cut the link.

There was a long pause before Attelus gave the longest, saddest sigh Karmen had ever heard from him.

"The rest of you understand, I hope," he said. "If any of you die before we get down there. I need you to know, all of you, that despite all the shit that's happened...If this means anything from me. It's been an honour to work with you, to fight with you and as much as I've botched up: An honour to lead you. I'm sorry to have led you to this hell hole, and if any of you die and become one of them. I swear, I will not hesitate to go into the Eye of Terror itself to save your souls if I have to. And I will make sure that your death won't be in vain."

"That's if you don't die, too," said Verenth, and that made a few sad laughs to echo through the link.

There was another long pause.

"Yeah, yeah, that's if I don't die...Too, Verenth," said Attelus. "I-I wish all of you luck and-and I hope to see all of you soon. G-good luck again."

Then Attelus cut the link.

"Well," said Halsin after a few seconds of stunned silence. "Sucks to be us."

Now that made everyone laugh.

Adelana sat and watched the whole thing, and she couldn't help smile: for someone so cynical about 'amazing, awe-inspiring speeches' Attelus wasn't half bad at making them. The hypocrite. She gave him three and two-thirds stars.

Attelus wiped his eyes with a sleeve.

"Are you...crying?" said Kalakor, his tree trunk-like arms folded over his gigantic cuirass.

"N-no," squeaked Attelus. "It's just the...recycled air."

Adelana was sure if Kalakor had pupils, he would've rolled them as he shook his head and sighed. "You humans, always so sentimental."

"Should...I...Should I fly us in?" said Darrance.

Attelus confirmed it with a nod. "Don't forget, you're human too, Kalakor."

"Lord Kalakor, and no, I am not human. I used to be human, but I had sacrificed my humanity a long time ago, so I could fight the wars that normal humans cannot, in the Emperor's name."

"So, do you think yourself above us mere humans, then?" said Attelus and Adelana felt sudden stinging fear channel through her chest. Was he seriously trying to antagonise this demi-god?

What Kalakor might've believed was a smile grew across his face, but in actual fact, it seemed more like a hateful silent snarl. "In the ways of battle, yes. But I cannot say that I would do as well as an administratum bureaucrat at sitting and mindlessly typing on a cogitator all day, every day. So yes and no."

Attelus and Adelana both couldn't help smile at that, but Attelus' smile was short-lived.

"So what about me? Is that why you didn't help me in my fight with my father? You just stood there and watched, didn't you?"

"Oh, figure that out, did you?" said Kalakor. "Well, I will apologise for that, but..."

"You're not going to tell me that, are you?"

"No, afraid not. But I do have my reasons."

"Was it so you could measure the enemy? Their strengths and weaknesses?" said Attelus. "Their weaponry?"

"That is one reason, yes," said Kalakor. "And surely after our little sparring session and how close it was, you must see that if I get in close combat with that father of yours, I will be dead."

Attelus sniggered. "So much for you being so much better than us humans at 'the ways of war.'"

"Your father, like you, is not a mere human," said Kalakor. "That is obvious, but unlike me, you didn't have to sacrifice your humanity. But your father and his underlings had, it seemed and willingly too, maybe."

"Sacrifice," said Adelana. "You keep saying that. Do you regret becoming a Space Marine?"

Kalakor's black eyes swung to her, and she couldn't help wilt beneath them, but she couldn't help but swear for a split second; tears shimmered in their depths. "Regret is not becoming of the Adeptus Astartes. Do not think for a second we are capable of such a pathetic notion."

In the corner of her eye, she saw Attelus smiling.

"One of them I knew," said Attelus. "In fact, I knew all of them. One was...special to me-"

His words made Adelana baulk.

"Yes. I am assuming her name was Elandria?" said Kalakor. "Because you were-"

"And I know she wouldn't ever give her humanity willingly. I'd tried...I'd helped her find it-"

Adelana didn't let him finish before she got up and stormed out of the common room. Ignoring his cries of her name the whole way.

"Leave her," she heard Kalakor say. "The Imperial Guard are beginning to move."
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Chapter 34

#35 Post by Adrassil »

Tathe blinked back the tiredness as his body seemed to move in autopilot and raised his laspistol to put a bolt through the skull of yet another Velrosian trooper. Yet another trooper who Tathe recognised but refused to recall the name of or what squad he was from. Dellenger on his right shot flurry after flurry of las fire from the hip, while Karmen Kons on his left sent aside las barrage after las barrage with her kine shield. The Sovirithians now had their flamers at the fore, and they bathed the enemy with a constant wall of fire.

His gaze wandered over the horde of Resurrected, searching for Adreen. Hoping to the Emperor that she would never be amidst them, that he wouldn't be forced to kill her.

Adreen was never the most skilled combatant or stealth practitioner. Tathe was the former and Dellenger the latter. Still, she was insightful, able to read people as well as a battlefield with almost freakishly on point accuracy, but she was also charismatic—a leader. Tathe had believed that she deserved to have a higher rank for a long time and even suggested it to his father once.

General Tathe had dismissed it with his typical lack of explanation, saying: 'You are a commissar, a political officer, in charge of morale and discipline, and that is that. Such advice is out of your jurisdiction. I don't need your advice on who to promote. I know what I'm doing.'

Tathe had later put this to Adreen after a night together, and she too had dismissed him. 'I'm not interested in climbing the ladder, Delan. Never have been; I'm happy where I am.'

He'd been a naive fool; she'd always seemed immortal, so he almost believed that she was. No matter the mission general Tathe or colonel Vonlet sent her and her squad on, she and Dellenger would always come back. That was a lot more literal, now.

Sudden tears blurred Tathe's vision, and anger made him pump wild shot after wild shot into the Resurrected. It'd been only a few minutes since they started moving, but it already felt like an age. The Imperial forces slow advance had slowed even more. The Resurrected came in even thicker and faster and from every direction. Both the once-guardsmen and the cultists now acted like an ill-disciplined rabble. It wasn't just ill-disciplined, but it also stunk of desperation. It was getting more and more obvious they really didn't want them near the tower.

Tathe smiled. It was strange, but despite the increase in enemy numbers and despite the exhaustion and the newly found slowness of their advance and the mixture of the regiments. Morale seemed high, higher than when they began somehow. Tathe supposed it was because their objective was near, that and the enemy's desperation fuelled them like it sapped the remaining discipline from the Resurrected.

At times cries of 'for the Emperor!' or 'for Sovrith!' and other such exclamations echoed through the almost completely consistent buzzing of lasgun fire.

Tathe allowed their enthusiasm to wash through him; it seemed to make the anger and grief flow from his chest and into his legs. He knew it was temporary; he just hoped it'd be temporary for long enough.

He was foolish; he was supposed to be a commissar, so he was meant to be amongst the most ruthless beings in the cosmos. As a commissar-cadet, he'd believed he was, but Tathe knew after years of developing his self-awareness he was never capable of such ruthlessness.

Tathe was just lucky he served with a regiment so disciplined, he never needed to exhibit such ruthlessness.

His laspistol clicked dry, and only two seconds later, his hands had reloaded and continued to launch shot after shot. He gave his surroundings a quick glancing.

As much as he hated to admit it, the Sovrithian gunline performed even better than the Elbyran one had before. Their accuracy was amazing, and their discipline as they covered every inch with las fire, remarkable. The Elbyrans, beside the Marangerians, were skirmishers first and foremost; they'd rarely needed to perform such tactics in their long service. But the Sovrithian rifles seemed to specialise in this warfare. This made Tathe re-think his decision for him and his Elbyrans to play decoy; perhaps if the Sovrithians had done it, there would've been fewer casualties. Tathe dismissed the regret; he'd known his father would naturally wish to have all his attention on the Elbyrans. The general seemed to have some way of viewing what was going on in the city, how Tathe could only speculate, but he'd hoped it was somewhat limited, which so far had proven true.

Unless, of course, it was just a feint.

Tathe clenched his jaw and shook himself back to reality, now wasn't the time for paranoid over-thinking.

Now was-

Tathe's thoughts were interrupted by a screeching, a screech that seemed made of rage and eclipsed all other sounds throughout the entire city.

It took Tathe a good few seconds to realise it was from the speaker horns in the city. Having forgotten about them utterly.

"How?" general Tathe's voice roared; it seemed to morph out of the screeching into clarity. "How are you alive still? By now, all of you were meant to have joined my army! Can you not see? Khorne is offering you immortality. The opportunity to forever be in his service, but still, you refuse my offer."

Tathe didn't say anything; he just sliced off the head of a charging cultist who managed to make it through the rain of fire with a backhanded slice. Then sent the corpse cartwheeling back with a front kick, the rattling chainsword flying from its grasp.

"Can you not see that your efforts are pointless?" said the general. "That your Emperor is nothing but a foolish tyrant without any power to save you?"

If anything, the general's rant just increased the speed of their advance and the intensified the accuracy and rate of fire from the Imperial forces.

Tathe's father let out another roar of frustration. "It doesn't matter. All your fighting and dying will soon be for nothing. Even if you manage to descend into the depths, you will never, never make it to my tower. You will find the true gifts given to me by the blood god within the depths. Oh, and do not believe for a second that I do not know of that accursed ship you have in orbit."

That caused Tathe to pause in his shooting, albeit for less than a second.

"Well, Khorn has finally gifted to me the servants necessary to bring that little, bothersome craft crashing down," said the general.

He laughed. "I suggest that you vox them and say your goodbyes to the cowards hiding up there."

The speakers screeched again then went silent.

"Vark," said Tathe, choosing not to bother to point out his father's hypocrisy being that he is cooped up in his tower. "Get on the vox-"

"Way ahead of you, sir," said the Inquisition operative.

"This isn't good," said Karmen.

Tathe glared at the psyker. "Look where your damned pragmatism got us now?"

Karmen frowned back.

"No, good sir," said Vark. "I can't get through to them; something's..."

He trailed off.

"Or someone's blocking us?" said Tathe.

"Don't worry," said Verenth as he blasted again and again with his pistols. "Darrance is the best pilot in our organisation; they'll be fine."

Tathe didn't reply; after having seen how skilled these Inquisition agents were, he believed Verenth.

To an extent.

"Keep trying, frig you," said Tathe.

Kalakor reached to his ear.

"What's wrong?" said Attelus as he sat up from the couch he laid on.

"I have lost communication with the surface," said the Space Marine.

"Great," Attelus groaned and flumped onto his back.

"It is about as 'great' as you are a swordsman," said Kalakor.

Attelus blew the Raven Guard a raspberry, and much to his surprise, the Space Marine rumbled what may have been a laugh.

The vox link beeped into life in Attelus' ear.

"We have company, apprentice," said Darrance.

Attelus sat up. "I...but the Eldar aren't scheduled to arrive in three days."

"The Eldar?" said Kalakor.

Attelus winced. "I-"

"These are not the Xenos, boy," said Darrance. "I don't know what the hell they are, but they're coming out of the warp, and they are coming fast. Dozens and counting, void fighters of an unknown make. I have no frigging idea how they are managing to warp travel outside of..."

He trailed off. "And they are coming this way! How do they know we are here? I have the stealth field up!"

"What do you mean by Eldar? And they are 'scheduled'?" said Kalakor.

Attelus slipped off the couch and gaped up at the Marine. "It's uhh, it means-"

"Shut it, both of you," said Darrance. "Now isn't the time for this crap; get strapped in, evasive manoeuvres."

Attelus ignored Darrance and dashed into the cockpit, and sat on the co-pilot's seat.

"What are you doing?" said Darrance. "I told you-"

Attelus grinned and clipped in his belt. "I am."

Darrance groaned then he sent the Guncutter into a left-ward spiral. Attelus could see the ships bearing in on them now. They were blood red, bulging things that would've been moving faster than he couldn't follow if his eyesight weren't enhanced. Their shots lit up the void, heavy bolter fire, and las cannon shots sheered straight for them.

Darrance laughed and sent the guncutter wheeling and spinning through the torrent. He veered right and sent a las beam slicing through two ships, and their halves erupted into explosions.

The ships wheeled after them, and Attelus could see one as it sped so close by the cockpit's window it seemed barely a few metres away. The yellow and green cat-like eyes that studded along its length. That was how it was able to be in the warp without a larger ship; they were more daemonic than material.

The Guncutter's bolter emplacements fired afterwards as Darrance spun the Guncutter into a 180-degree arc, tracing through the black and smashing into numerous of the attacking craft. Two shuddered under the shots and stopped their momentum; the smoke seemed to grow from them, white-hot against the black.

The rest swung round out of sight, and Darrance grinned as he made the Guncutter slide side to side, wind up and down. Attelus could only clutch to his seat and watch the incredible level of munitions fly past the cockpit to either explode, sending the ship into shudders, or continue onward to Emperor only knew where.

"I have been waiting for something like this," said Darrance as he sent the Guncutter into a brief, deep dive. "Bored out of my skull until now."

Attelus didn't reply; he just glanced at the scanner and the alarming amount of red dots following after them.

"Apprentice," said Darrance. "Can that frig Ulysses do this, huh?"

Before Attelus could ask, 'do what?' Darrance sent the Guncutter into a downward spin and fired las cannon blast after blast into their pursuers before facing forward again.

"Could he do that, huh? Huh?"

"I don't know," said Attelus, remembering the large dark-skinned man with dreadlocks who was thought to be one the organisation's most skilled pilots. Darrance had a rather one-sided rivalry with him since they'd joined the Inquisitor's employ three years ago. Attelus had worked with Ulysses once or twice but never in a combat capacity, so he genuinely didn't know.

"Aww, frig you, then," said Darrance.

Attelus clenched his teeth as Darrance sent the Guncutter into a twirl, then hung left, allowing Attelus to see the entirety of Sarkeath pass by, changing from being on their right to their left in only a few seconds; it made his mind whirl.

"We have to find a place to hide," said Attelus. "Get to one of the moons."

"Shan't," said Darrance while he suddenly slowed, allowing for three of the daemon ships to overtake them, then he blew them into pieces with three separate shots.

"What the hell do you mean 'shan't'?" said Attelus.

"It means 'shall not,' shan't! Do you need to be sent back to the Scholam to re-learn your low gothic?"

Attelus clenched his jaw. "That's...not...what...I meant, frig you."

Darrance laughed again and banked right before twirling through a huge barrage of bolter fire; it was after a good ten seconds of this before he replied. "We can't if we hide those Lightnings will enter Sarkeath atmo and-"

"And attack our Imperial Guard allies," said Kalakor. "Who will be defenceless against air attack."

"Exactly," said Darrance while wheeling the craft into a zig-zag. "It is good to see that one person on this ship has some intelligence."

"But the little girl has a point," said Kalakor. "As much as your void craft piloting skill is impressive, we cannot just do this forever."

Attelus gave the pilot a side-long smirk.

Darrance let out a roar and turned the Guncutter toward Sarkeath.

"What are you doing?" said Kalakor.

"Doing something other than this," said Darrance.

There were three quick-fire beeps from the console.

"What's that?" said Attelus.

"We've got missile lock," said Darrance. "Three of the bastards."

"We are entering the atmosphere too deeply," said Kalakor.

"I know," said Darrance. "Throne take you, all of you frigging backseat pilots, even the ones that are Space Marines."

Much to Attelus' surprise, Kalakor laughed, then the fire began to waver across the glass.

"Well," said Attelus as the fire became brighter and brighter, and Darrance continued on the same angle. "If you know we're heading into the atmosphere too deep, why are we still doing it?"

"Because shut up, that's why," said Darrance and a second after, the console beeped another five times, and he reached out and pushed a few buttons with quick fingers. "Putting all power into shields," he said.

The ship started to rock.

The realisation hit Attelus, and he straightened in his seat, looking at the scanner. The eight blinking red icons were slowly gaining, but he could imagine them wobbling and burning in the atmosphere.

Sweat began to bead and run down his face as the blinking red icons came closer and closer. And after every few seconds, another beep announced another missile lock.

He imagined the servitors slaved to the heavy bolters spewing shot after shot in an attempt to shoot them down.

"Shit, shit, shit," Attelus couldn't help hiss as he realised the sweat wasn't just from nervousness now, but the heat which now sweltered inside the cockpit; the oxygen seemed to seize inside his lungs.

But his gaze didn't move from the scanner, even as the Guncutter's rocking became worse and worse.

The first few red dots were only a centimetre on the scanner when they blinked faster then seemed to disappear, apparently burning up; they lacked a shield and moved faster than the Guncutter, so they were bound to burn up first.

"Evasive manoeuvres," said Darrance as he began to bank up, it only caused the Guncutter to shudder even more, and the heat outside just intensified.

There was another different beep.

"What does that mean?" Attelus said.

"The shield," said Darrance. "It's at below ten per cent, so just shut up and let me concentrate."

Attelus wanted to say that it was too late, that they were just going to burn to death in complete agony, that Darrance's stupidity got them killed, but he literally bit his tongue.

Instead, he looked back to the scanner, just in time to see that most of the other missiles had disappeared too.

The beeping of the dying shield warbled and warbled and warbled; it seemed to warp into his hearing to such an extent it almost felt like it'd been a part of it for his whole life.

When the shrilling finished, it took him a good few seconds to realise it.

"We're on proper entry angle now," said Darrance with a laugh. "All the missiles have burned up, and we are through the atmosphere, now."

A split second after lascannon beams and heavy bolter rounds passed by.

"That is all well and good," said Kalakor. "But we still have those corrupted ships on us."

"I am aware of that," said Darrance while sending the Guncutter into a spin, then a left-side banking, through the shooting and heading straight for a huge city which towered out of the blood dunes like the trees of an oasis.

Attelus said, "is that-"

"No, that is Sorkath," said Kalakor. "It's two hundred kilometres of-"

An explosion shook the ship and interrupted Kalakor, and the city seemed to grow and grow.

There was yet another different beep from the console, which made Darrance curse colourfully.

"And again, what the hell does that mean?" Attelus sighed.

Darrance didn't answer; he just reached out, then without looking, and deft fingers: manipulated the scanner. It seemed to zoom into the green triangle, which represented the Guncutter, then it zoomed in more and revealed a schemata of it. There was a good dozen blinking red dots at the back of the ship in the hangar bay.

"This is just getting frigging better and better; we've got foreign spoors, we have enemies on board," said Darrance. "Apprentice you and your Space Marine bud-"

Attelus had already undone his belt and leapt from the co-pilot's seat before Darrance had said up to: 'this.'

"Way ahead of you," said Attelus as he drew his powersword and activated its edge in a blaze of blue.

As he stepped into the rec room, he exchanged a nod with Kalakor. Attelus couldn't help but wonder: If did their enemy had these capabilities, why hadn't they been used sooner than this? Why now?

That mattered little now; what mattered now was killing these stowaways. Whatever the hell they were.
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Chapter 35

#36 Post by Adrassil »

Attelus and Kalakor didn't bother with stealth or subtlety, and the Space Marine led the way as they stepped out of the corridor and onto the hangar's catwalk.

Instantly las and solid shots rained against Kalakor's power armour, and Kalakor raised his bolter and replied in kind.

Attelus slipped past Kalakor and, in a split second, took in his surroundings. The docking bay was now crawling with dozens of cultists and guardsmen. Two huge, hunched, horned daemons were amongst them, standing head and shoulders taller than any of the Resurrected.

Grinning, Attelus smashed aside a few shots and vaulted over the handrail. His sword sliced through one unlucky cultist from head to the groin as he was in mid-fall.

Attelus landed into a kneel then lunged across six metres to cut through the chest of a guardsman as he was raising his lasgun. The throne agent whipped out his foot in a hook kick which sent the corpse's upper half flying and spinning, then smashing into the skull of a charging cultist who collapsed and crashed into a guardsman beside him.

He laughed and dashed aside a withering hail of shots that followed him as he continued to sprint.

A cultist stepped into his path; a chainsword held ready. Attelus slid into a kneel, and the chainsword swing which was meant to tear through his torso passed over his head. Attelus gutted the cultist with a horizontal cut, darted onto the screaming cultist's flank, then onward, so the rounds raining in his wake tore the heretic to shreds.

He charged for the enemy flank, a Marangerian trooper roared at Attelus, stabbing with a bayonet. Attelus sidestepped, then bisected the Maragerian's skull with a downward, diagonal stroke.

A cultist let out an enraged screech and came at Attelus, but before Attelus could counter the cultist's stabbing combat blade, the bastard's head exploded in a haze of red and sent spinning back, the neck spewing out a thick tendril of blood.

Attelus back-pedalled a Velrosian sergeant's whirling chainsword, then his sword parried through a swinging lasgun. Attelus sent a side-kick that bashed in the last guardsman's face. Attelus' backswing then opened the sergeant's throat. He carried his slash into a 180-degree arc that sliced through the elbows of a cultist as he was in the midst of a wild overhead chop.

A thrusting bayonet made Attelus duck, then as the enemy guardsman was about to swing out the butt of his lasgun Attelus kicked him under the jaw with his boot knife; Attelus pulled his foot out and kicked the man back into his ally.

Attelus blocked a slashing axe then weaved beneath another cutting chainsword. He then impaled the axe-wielding cultist through the skull, pulled out his blade, then sliced straight diagonally from the shoulder to hip of the guardswoman sergeant with the chainsword.

A split second later, one of the daemons burst through its Resurrected allies; it snarled and, with a sword as long as it was tall, smashed out a downward, diagonal strike. Attelus danced back of it then ducked its huge reverse swing. The second daemon pushed past the first's left and swung down vertically. Attelus dashed out of its path, and the black, hazed with blood-red blade hit the deck with a deafening clang and smashed in some of the steel.

"Get out of the way," Kalakor said over the vox, and Attelus started darting toward the stairs.

Two frag grenades clanged at the daemons' clawed feet and exploded. It sent them and the six nearest Resurrected flying.

Attelus sprinted up the stairs while drawing his autopistol from its chest holster and stood beside Kalakor.

"You are a fool," said the Raven Guard as he fired bolter round after bolter into the enemy horde, which seemed to grow and grow. "Why did you abandon cover and an elevated position?"

Attelus took cover behind the marine and added his piddling fire to Kalakor's roaring deluge.

"Mostly out of fun," said Attelus. "And a little so I can be a distraction for you to be able to kill as many of the enemy as possible."

Kalakor sighed. "You aim for the mortals; I will take care of the Bloodletters."

"Bloodletters?" said Attelus while sending a cultist cracking, bouncing down the stairs with around to the chest. "Is that what they're called?"

With incredible speed, Kalakor ejected his empty clip and reloaded. "You are a part of the Inquisition, but you do not know what those daemons are named?"

Attelus shrugged as he darted back from a brief fusillade. "We're Ordo Hereticus; the daemonic isn't our speciality. I do know that they are in the service of the blood god, though."

"But you still ally with Xenos, despite the fact that you are not Ordo Xenos, but the alien is not your speciality, either."

Attelus said nothing, just cut down a guardsman as he was starting to advance up the stairs.

His vox bead beeped.

"We're about to enter the city," said Darrance. "Get ready for-"

"Yes, yes," said Attelus. "Evasive manoeuvres, we know."

"Hold on to me," said Kalakor as he magnetised his boots.

Attelus sheathed his sword, holstered his pistol then grabbed the Space Marine by his overly-large backpack.

The ship began to tilt right, and an idea hit Attelus, and he activated his vox bead.

"Darrance, keep the line open and tell us how you and when you are going to turn."

"What?... Oh yes, I see where you are going with this. I am about to turn hard to starboard."

Before Attelus could ask what the hell that meant, the ship whirled right, almost ninety degrees; Attelus cried out and only just managed to hook his hand around Kalakor before he was thrown against the wall. The Resurrected and the daemons weren't so lucky. Their crashes were almost deafening as they hit the wall, as were their pained cries.

Kalakor pumped bolt round after bolt round into the stunned, injured enemy ranks; even if he wasn't shooting insanely powerful miniature missiles, each shot would've been a kill shot.

Attelus found purchase with his left hand, pulled himself behind Kalakor and drew his powersword with the right.

"I am going upward," said Darrance and a second after, the Guncutter straightened and started swinging up.

The Resurrected were thrown back against the airlock doors, but the daemons were ready. They'd already dug their huge claws into the bodywork, but that was what Attelus was counting on as he hurtled at one so fast that it had no time to react before Attelus' powersword sliced through the Bloodletter's chest. The daemon roared. Attelus forward momentum carried him onto the large airlock door, but he'd angled himself so he could roll into a kneel to negate the impact.

He ignored the pain which flared through his legs, stood and faced the huge cultist coming at him, his whirling chainsword smashing for Attelus' skull.

Attelus slipped aside the attack's path, but the cultist turned it into a horizontal cut. Attelus weaved beneath the attack; then, he heard the huge, clawed feet hitting the steel behind him.

He darted past the cultist and sliced his sword across his ribcage on the way. He drew his autopistol and put a point-blank round through the face of a guardsman while he was in the midst of raising his recently retrieved lasgun, then gutted a cultist with another bolt. Kalakor's bolter blasted, and Attelus glanced over his shoulder to see the daemon reeling and writhing beneath the deluge.

His senses sent him dashing left just out the way of a blurt of las. The last blast managed to nick his shoulder, making him reel and pain to flare down his arm, but his flak jacket protected him from the worst of it. With a backhanded throw and an enraged roar, he sent a knife into the eye socket of the guardswoman who'd shot it, sending her writhing and screaming in agony. Attelus dashed forward and put her out of her misery with a horizontal cut that sliced through her hips.

Attelus parried an incoming chain axe, then ducked a swinging las rifle butt. He sent the guardsman smashing against the wall with a sidekick and back-pedalled the cultist's back-swing.

His powersword was a blur as it deflected a few blasts of las-fire.

Then he flinched as another pair of huge, clawed feet smashing onto the door behind him.

Attelus glanced to see the two Bloodletters that towered over him. One of them still had a tear through its elongated torso.

"Fire in the hole," said Kalakor over the vox, and a grenade fell amongst the Resurrected advancing on Attelus. The explosion sent them screaming and writhing off their feet.

Attelus burst out in laughter and sidestepped the first daemon's downward diagonal cut, then darted back as it reversed it into an upward diagonal.

Attelus was still laughing; he imagined the daemons had the sneering face of his father.

"You are enjoying this far too much," said Kalakor as his bolter shots sent the daemon blanching away.

Attelus was in the midst of opening his mouth to retort, but Darrance's voice interrupted him.

"I am about to dive."

"Shit!" Attelus said through clenched teeth as he jumped over the daemon's blade as it arced for his legs.

Attelus heard the Resurrected being shot to shit by Kalakor behind him, and he hunched into a sigh; perhaps going down here wasn't a good idea.

Then the Guncutter began to drop into a dive. Attelus jumped just before it met the apex, so when it did, he was already diving toward Kalakor. It took him less than a second for him to sheath his sword, holster his pistol and grab Kalakor by the backpack and spun to face upward. The abrupt stop caused pain to burst up and down his arms, and he cried out.

Around the Resurrected rained in screams and flailing limbs.

Kalakor's barking bolter also made it rain blood as he exploded heads and torsos into chunks. There was so much blood it almost disturbingly reminded Attelus of the underhive of Omnartus all those years ago.

Attelus was forced to let go one hand and hang aside a guardsman's falling corpse. The two Bloodletters claws had allowed them to keep from falling, and the entire time, they'd been moving into the middle of the door, directly overhead. Their snarling visages stared down at Kalakor as their long tongues flicked and writhed.

A shiver passed through Attelus as a realisation hit him.

"Kalakor, the daemons," he said.

"I know," said Kalakor. "I am going to de-magnetise, jump for the handrail on my count."


One of the Bloodletters dropped.

"Now!" said Kalakor.

With a roar, Attelus flung himself off Kalakor and wrapped his fingers around the catwalk's handrail.

Kalakor leapt from the arc of the hurtling daemon's blade, and the crash of their collision with the wall was deafening.

The other Bloodletter let go and flew straight for Attelus.

"Shit, shit shit," cried Attelus and slid left.

The Bloodletter's weight buckled in the adamantium handrail, and it made Attelus' hands slip. With desperation fuelled strength, Attelus managed to keep hold by the tips of his fingers. It wasn't far to fall, but he could hear Kalakor's and the other Bloodletter's fight raging beneath his feet, and he sure as hell didn't want to drop into that.

The daemon turned to him and stabbed its sword for his face, Attelus clambered leftward, and it whistled past him by a hair's breadth.

With a cry, he threw himself up and perched onto the handrail.

He drew his sword and activated its powerfield.

The daemon let what may have been a laugh and swung for his chest. Attelus slipped back from it and cursed; the Bloodletter was a good two metres tall, its reach with its sword almost double that, he had no way to get in close enough to use his sword effectively.

The daemon cut out a large horizontal blow that Attelus just managed to duck; then, he was forced to jump over the reverse swing aimed for his legs. Attelus clenched his teeth and leapt onto the top of the catwalk, and the daemon was a split second behind him.

He stumbled back from another whistling slash, well aware of how he was getting closer and closer to the wall. He parried a thrust and almost made him lose his sword in the process. It then whirled out an upward diagonal cut which he knelt beneath. It stabbed again, and he hurtled himself back so far his back hit the wall.

He stared at the daemon, eyes wide.

It let out what may've been another laugh and drew back its sword.

Las fire smashed against beneath its jaw, a full auto flurry which made it flinch and look down at the source of the shots from down the corridor. It had to be Adelana, yet again saving Attelus' arse.

It gave Attelus the opening he needed, and he pushed off the metal into a sprint. The Bloodletter turned to him and swung out its huge sword, but it was too late. All Attelus had to do was slide beneath it and hold up his blade, so the daemon's arm was sliced off at the elbow by its strength.

It bellowed out in rage and pain, and that allowed Attelus time to close in further. Attelus first cut hacked into the side of its neck, as did the second, but before he could hack, Darrance's voice again came over the vox.

"I am levelling out."

Attelus was forced to dart away from its swinging stump then drew his pistol as another idea hit him.

The Guncutter began to flatten.

More las shots erupted from the corridor and smashed against the side of the daemon's head.

Attelus ejected the clip of standard ammo and slammed in a fresh one of dumm dumm rounds, the daemon was unarmoured, so it was worth a try. He added his shots to Adelana's, unleashing point-blank shot after point-blank shot into its face. Their combined shots blistered its features, exploded its eyeballs and smashed its teeth into nothingness. The Bloodletter growled and backed away, trying to raise its arms to protect itself.

Once it'd stepped far away enough, Attelus charged again; by then, the Guncutter was angled about twenty degrees.

Despite its mashed face, the Bloodletter still managed to swing out at him. Without breaking stride, Attelus ducked its huge claws, then with all his inhuman speed behind him, lunged into a cut that went clean through the last half of the daemon's neck.

Attelus dropped into a silent roll as the Guncutter finally equalised, while the Bloodletter's limp, headless corpse smashed against it with a clang.

He turned to the fight between Kalakor and the last Bloodletter.

Kalakor was on the back foot; his bolter wasn't in his grasp; all he had was his knife, a knife which would've been a long sword for an average person but was minuscule compared to the daemon's. Attelus had the feeling that Kalakor's armour would be but tissue to the Bloodletter's blade as Kalakor was trying his best to keep away from its arcs. Attelus raised his sword and waited for an opening.

"Attelus," said Adelana as she started down the stairs, a lasgun in her hands. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner."

"It's alright, Adelana," gasped Attelus as the exhaustion from the fight seemed to smash into him. "You made up for it by coming right at the right time. Please stay on the walkway; more might be coming."

"Coming? Coming from where?"

"The warp, I suppose," said Attelus.

The ship suddenly tilted left, causing Attelus to stumble slightly.

"Damn it, Darrance; you were supposed to warn us-"

The pained roar interrupted him.

Kalakor's right hand had his knife buried in the Bloodletter's forehead; his left clutched the daemons sword arm. As it writhed to get free, its other claw was slowly pulling the knife out.

" agent," said Kalakor.

"Oh! Right," said Attelus and lunged. His slash took the daemon in the neck, it only went halfway, but his momentum knocked it off balance and made it let go of Kalakor's wrist.

Kalakor then ripped out his knife and tore its head off with one brutal blow.

For a few seconds, they stood as Attelus struggled to regain his breath.

"Well," managed Attelus with a grin. "That was one hell of a fight."

Kalakor's helmet's inscrutable glowing red gaze swung to Attelus as he went to retrieve his boltgun.

"You need help," he said, shaking his head.
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Chapter 36

#37 Post by Adrassil »

Kalakor chose to remain in the hangar just in case more Resurrected appeared, while Attelus and Adelana struggled through the weaving, winding ship toward the cockpit.

Darrance warned them of each turn before it happened, which was now almost every few seconds, but that didn't stop them crashing and bouncing off the walls, and for every split second, Attelus expected the Guncutter to explode and consume them in fire.

The fact that it hadn't happened yet was a true testament to Darrance's incredible skill as a pilot.

Incredible was the understatement of understatements.

"You alright?" said Attelus as he helped Adelana prevent herself from smashing her face against the wall.

"I'm fine," she said a bit too fast while tearing her arm from his hand.

"Why'd you storm out-?"

"Seriously, Attelus?" said Adelana. "Now?"

"Yeah, sorry. Thanks, Adelana."

"For what?"

"Thank you for being you," he said. "And thanks for saving my arse back there; how many saves do I owe you now?"

Adelana smiled. "I lost count."

"Yeah, sure you did," said Attelus, and they burst into the recreation room.

The Guncutter swayed left, forcing them both to plant their feet.

"We can just take a seat here," said Adelana.

"To hell with that," said Attelus. "I've gotta see what's happening."

Adelana sighed and said something about 'men.'

Attelus ignored her, dashed the rest of the way into the cockpit, and retook the co-pilot's seat.

He stayed silent while buckling himself in, not wanting to break Darrance's concentration.

The world through the window was a blur of blood sands and grey towers and buildings. This view was almost eclipsed by the massive amount of munitions strafing by. Las cannon shots and heavy bolter fire churned through rockcrete walls, turning it into dust and sent sand into the air in waves of kicked up crimson.

Adelana took the seat at the scanner and peered out the window.

Attelus glanced at the scanner and couldn't help start, seeing only seven red triangles were following them.

"You are all strapped in now," said Darrance. "Now, I do not have to hold back anymore."

"Hold back?" said Adelana.

Darrance's reply was a sudden banking right, making them head straight toward a ludicrously huge tower.

Attelus waited, expecting Darrance to begin going up or around it, but instead, he powered up the lascannons.

"No," said Attelus as icy tendrils spread through his chest. "No frigging way."

"Yes, frigging way," said Darrance, and he opened fire then tapped his vox bead. "All servitor turrets open fire on the building in front of us; spread your fire."

A second after heavy bolter shots joined, raking across the tower.

"You're insane," Attelus shrieked through clenched teeth as he pushed his back into his seat. "You're frigging insane!"

Then they were eclipsed in darkness.

"Servitor turrets, fire lanes of thirty degrees," said Darrance as he pumped lascannon shot after shot while constantly swinging the ship side to side through the enemy shots.

Attelus took another look at the scanner; all of the daemon ships were still following them.

Adelana was screaming, and Attelus couldn't blame her.

The top of the cockpit was covered in sparks and the shriek deafening as the ship skirted the ceiling.

Darrance let out a curse and tried to straighten the Guncutter out but ended up skidding on the floor, the shrieking was replaced by grinding, and the ship slowed. Darrance lifted it, wobbling the ship so much it threw them around in their seats. But by some Emperor given miracle, Darrance stabilised it. And all the while, he still shot the lascannon.

"Shit, that was close," he said.

Attelus couldn't even consider making a reply; his fingers had somehow become paler as they gripped the armrests so hard they were beginning to crack. He couldn't help believe his teeth would've cracked too if they weren't made of wraithbone.

Then they were out of the darkness and headed toward another tower only about thirty metres away.

"Y-you're not doing that again," Attelus cried; the relief hit him so hard it made the words burst from his mouth like machine gunfire as he exhaled. He'd no idea he'd been holding his breath the whole time.

Darrance didn't answer verbally as he sent the ship climbing toward the sky. There was another horrid grounding as the ship bounded off the tower's wall, and the G-forces pinned Attelus to his seat.

Attelus looked up, and his jaw dropped so fast it hurt his cheeks. The huge tower was collapsing in a wave of thick grey dust and debris which rained toward them.

Only two ships were after them now. Some of them must've been crushed by the collapsing tower.

His attention shot forward as Darrance banked the Guncutter left, just a microsecond out of the path of a cluster of falling metal beams. It threw Attelus to the side, and Adelana almost smashed her face into the scanner screen.

"Turrets, aim for the ships," said Darrance. They flew diagonally over the building, which was a blur; Attelus lost count of the number of times Darrance swayed the Guncutter through bits of the falling building. It took only a few seconds but seemed like tens of minutes before the baby blue sky surrounded them.

Now no enemy ships were in pursuit.

Darrance slowed and levelled the Guncutter.

For about half a minute, the only sound was gasping.

"I can't believe..." managed Attelus.

Darrance grinned. "Seeing is believing, is it not, apprentice?"


Darrance shrugged. "It was not all me; if it were not for this ships advanced gravity dampeners, the G-forces would have crushed us in our seats."

"I...I never thought I'd see the day..." said Attelus.

"Never see the day when you would bear witness to such piloting finesse?"

"No, never thought I'd see the day when you'd be somewhat humble about something."

Much to Attelus' surprise, Darrance laughed. "Oh, come on, give me this one, please."

"Yeah, okay, fair enough," said Attelus. "We've really got to head back; we might've already missed our window of opportunity."

"Of course," said Darrance as he wheeled the ship around. "We still have much on our agenda. Just this time, please keep yourself from being impaled again."

Attelus sighed.
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