From the ice-desert’s jade ruins, in a corner which had escaped the watchful eyes of Loki the Usurper and the other Deceptors, a tomb-complex cut off from its main mind had awakened. It was still in the process of fully coming to life, but enough was now active to trouble the Great General of the Darkness and so the Army of Hell Castle moved to stop them.
What was more, one of the Mechanical Beasts, Janus CIX, had been destroyed there in a skirmish with the tenacious Space Marines of the Emperor’s Boot, and none could risk its arcane technologies falling into the hands of the enemy.
The battlefield to which they returned was an old cathedral-fortress which had survived the atomic fire of Razak’s Roughnecks and their attempts at scourging the foe. Its burned-out arches now echoed to infernal hymns for it had become a barracks for the Cult of Bardos – ragged cultists congregated in the wreckage of its aisles as their leader, the Apostate Vogler, a high priest of the Dark Mechanicus, incited them to new depths. The Cult of the Great Fire was a new sect of the Cult of Bardos that the General was eager to promote, and as it developed he was having Acheron play an ever-greater role in pushing Vogler forward.
At the end of the day though their job was to die.
Overlord Xanith was more ancient than most Necrons, a survivor of so many battles his body was little more than a spine and head kept aloft on arcane levitation devices. His host was similarly ragged, but it could fight. First he would clear out the young races squabbling over his home, and then address the matter of a new dynasty which sought to assume total control.
He had something the usurpers did not. The Crypteks remained loyal.
The meddling cult of fleshy things risked finding the entrance to his ancient domain, and so would be silenced with the storm.
Xanith and his personal guard appeared in the midst of the young race’s armies, drawn to the biggest concentration of weak, fallible bodies like moths to a flame.
Bulbous rifles and other, more arcane weapons whipped up a cyclone of lightning and shards of rock which whipped through the Cult of the Great Fire and left a swathe of blood and flesh in pieces too small to call corpses in its wake.
At the side of the cathedral itself, Xanith’s Tomb Blades flew low to the ground, opening fire on the Hell Cross Division as they waited beneath a half-collapsed arch for targets to appear. The range was too great, though, and the bolts did little but burn miniature crevasses in the snow which quickly refroze.
As the Cult of the Great Fire engaged Overlord Xanith in a fierce firefight, the Iron Masks joined in – the Necron illuminated by his own fire. Their attentions divided, two Immortals fell – a third breaking apart under boltgun fire but reforming moments later as Xanith waved a skeletal hand over it.
There was little else could be done while the battlefield remained cast in the grey dullness of a slow sunrise, and the General’s host simply took up defensive positions and waited for the enemy.
Bloodlust, the joy of freedom after centuries trapped beneath the ice, had consumed Xanith. His phalanx had obliterated the Cult of the Great Fire and paused momentarily to await further orders – time enough for the great Monolith, part of the tomb’s old defense network and now sadly in disrepair, to call down infernal lightning on the Hell Cross Division, simply erasing one of their number from existence in a blinding pulse of energy.
Their guns no use against the Terminators, the Tomb Blades were ordered in to rake the foe with their very mounts as weapons, but to no avail. A solid wall of fire sent one of their number crashing to the ground and tore it into such small pieces it could not reform fast enough to rejoin the unit’s abortive charge. Rebuffed by the enemy’s determination, they broke left and regrouped back by the cathedral’s wall.
The Great General had sensed the enemy had aircraft incoming, and aimed to end this quickly. Dracodeus had been becoming fractious, the sentient machine thirsting for ever-greater glory, and so regular exercise in demolishing lesser armies was vital.
It did not disappoint. In a hail of molten metal and raking claws of energy, it removed almost two thirds of Xanith’s retinue and even burned much of the ancient Necron’s cloak and spine away. With that as the signal, the army of Hell Castle counter-charged the enemy. The Hell Crosses mowed down the Tomb Blades in seconds with blasts of black void-energy, and the General himself cleaving the Monolith in two with a single blow. The Necron construct crumbled as the energy keeping it mobile failed, the power-crystal at its core shattered into a myriad pieces.
At all times the objective remained in mind – the wreck of Janus CIX, there in the snowed-over courtyard of the cathedral. But it had been advancing too incautiously that had destroyed the Mechanical Beast, and there was time enough to slaughter these foes before moving in.
Xanith made an impossible gesture, apparently dislocating his wrist to do so, and his phalanx disappeared to re-emerge on top of the cathedral. It was time.
The fighter-craft Hyperius launched itself upward through the snow and with a screeching sound spun on the spot to face the Great General of the Darkness. Its gun, a spiked crystal set in a gyroscopic mounting of gears and armatures, rotated to point at the demon and with a sound like a bone breaking, the demon’s physical form was ruptured by a needle-thin beam.
Such a blow was for sure not enough to banish a demon so powerful to the warp for good, but as the body it dwelled in melted down to fleshy lumps and metal scrap with a gurgling noise, it took a long look at the Necron responsible for this. It would die.
Yet nothing else followed this intimation of a counter-attack. Xanith’s troops were too spread out to make an impact – his diminished retinue’s emergency jump, intended to sow chaos and annihilate the foe, had instead placed it in an ambush’s jaws, and the teleportation crystal was broken.
Dracodeus continued its rampage, melting down smaller Necrons hiding behind an old monastery-outbuilding. Hyperius turned to engage its foe in a dogfight, its mechanical mind and form capable of acting quicker than any human aircraft and turning sharper than any mortal could bear.
If Dracodeus had been a lesser creation, a piloted machine, this would have been enough. But it was a Mechanical Beast of Bardos. More demon than machine, it matched Hyperius move for move until the moment arrived. Its claws punched into the Necron craft’s side, burning through circuits and crystalline processors, and then with a second motion it tore the ruptured hull into two parts which fell to the ground in flames.
Xanith’s stranded retinue were cut down almost to a man by the combined fire of the army of Hell Castle, and not enough were able to rise from their icy graves to fight on.
Xanith’s warriors fired up at the dragon-like machine above them, bolts of blue light flaying plates of armour away into dust, but not enough were finding their mark. However, this was enough to buy time for Xanith to fall back to a more advantageous position, away from the hungry guns. The Overlord had one last shot, one final chance to save his cadre. Xanith’s face unfolded to reveal the muzzle of an ancient superweapon, the tachyon beam. Built into the Overlord’s scarred body as a final contingency if the tomb were breached, it would expend most of his regenerative energy in firing a devastating blast that could theoretically touch the edge of space.
But Xanith was old, and damaged, and the weapon long-disused. A lens somewhere within its firing-system was cracked, and the beam, instead of being a blue lance across the depths of space, was a dispersed and pathetic thing.
With no fight left within them, the Necrons were easy prey for the advancing forces of the General. Even without their leader, victory was inevitable. As Xanith’s broken remains were gunned down and then burned to ash in sacrifice before Vogler’s altar, the Necrons were gone. The Usurper and his Deceptors still remained, for sure, but they were otherwise engaged in fighting (most usefully to the General) the Inquisition.
A new body was already being built for the demon, using the wreckage of Janus CIX which had been recovered once the enemy were safely dealt with.
On board their battle-barge, the Crimson Fists had watched, waiting, to see if the Necrons would do their work for them. It was not to be. This Chaos host was quickly becoming too powerful, and other splinter factions of traitor marines were emerging to join them. Something would need to be done.