“Our brothers, the fellow Sons of Dorn, faltered and it was their hesitation that cost them the battle! Let us be strong! Space Marines, Battle Brothers, a turncoat, a traitor lies within this system! A demon! We, the Crimson Fists, will bring judgement to the fallen, the heretics!”
“In Kantor’s name!”Capitan De Rada, leader of the Crimson Fists expeditionary force sent after the Templars’ Order Cuillerian, was stood at a vast lectern, on which sat the Codex Astartes. “We are joined by battle brothers who also have quarrel with the traitors formerly known as the Mykene Legion – Master Yumi of the Hive Spiders, whose recruiting-grounds were terrorised by Mykene Mechanical Beasts, and one Inquisitor Donel of the Ordo Malleus, who has long fought against Chaos in all its forms.”
And so on ground which only weeks before had been stained with the blood of Black Templars, another of the successors of the Imperial Fists marched to war with the forces of Hell Castle.
“MORE LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER. MORE CHATTEL TO FALL BENEATH ME.” Since the ascension of the vessel Ju’zan, the Mykene Legion had become more aggressive, launching raids on supply ships and pressing out into space. “I WILL DESTROY THEM.”
The demon still had a mostly mechanical form, parts of the Mechanical Beast’s carcass that had lain near its emergence point merged with the fleshy parts to give the whole a minotaur-like form. A forked staff of forge-hot metal dripped an endless supply of sparking shards every time it moved, while wings of thin, shining silver sprouted from its armoured shoulders.
“PREPARE THE ARMIES, READY THE HOST.”
And so once again Astartes marched against Astartes.
De Rada had planned well; he could see that Chaos host advancing on his position and falling into practiced firing lines. Five-man fire teams redeployed to predefined firing-points and bolters began firing staccato bursts at the enemy. The green smear of a lascannon’s shot punched into a dull silver Rhino transport advancing near ruined grain silos, causing the defiled vehicle to throw a track and come to an inelegant halt. Yet slowly but surely, the treads began to reknit, welding themselves back to shape by some dark machination. Unplanned.
Squad Paz had drawn a firing-line on a monstrous demon, but their shots seemed to warp around its body and flicker helplessly into the snow. The whole enemy force, in fact, seemed to be strangely elusive; missiles from the Hive Spiders’ great Dreadnought, Elder Saotome, went wide of the Obliterator that should have been vulnerable in the open. Squad Koshi fired their own heavy weapons at the largest of the demon engines before them, and saw the rockets disappear in dark flares of energy.
Only on the far end of the line, where the Landspeeder Aphrodia could see a ragged mob of convicts, Guardsmen and ruffians making an unpredictable, drunken route towards a burned-out farm, did a shot find its mark. One of the cultists, a wild-faced man in a purple greatcoat of the Mykene PDF, exploded into a shower of blood as assault cannon fire punched into him.
Under the skimmers’ cover, Donel ordered the Grey Knights forward, rushing towards the reported demon contact. The chance to finally bring to justice one of the Imperium’s foes was too good a one to miss.
Traitorous Terminators, the Mykene’s elite Hell Cross Division, emerged from the snow guns blazing, bolts and heavier-gauge autocannon shells ripping into Squad Gracia and tearing three of them into broken corpses. In the centre of the line, the Khedorans fired bolts of warping, dancing lightning at Elder Saotome and one of them bit into its hip, sending it stumbling on an icy patch and falling backwards.
The Iron Masks traded fire with Squad Cartada, neither side able to achieve any significant headway but the crossfire buying time for Assault Squad Jigu to move in towards a low plateau from which they could attack.
Yet ultimately it was Dabura, the immense Mechanical Beast, which did the most. Its gun fired the same flickering, arcing beam of red-and-black energy that had wreaked havoc on Calimachus’ Black Templars, and in a flare of light three of Squad Koshi were simply removed from existence. De Rada had no time to take proper stock of this, though, for the demon was upon his men; Squad Paz mustered what defence they could but what befell them sickened the Space Marine captain. The Great General of the Darkness, the thing that had once been the broken body of Ju’zan the Infernal, brought its macelike molten staff down through Squad Paz’s sergeant, spearing the man to the ground. Tendrils of demonic molten metal burst out from every joint in the Space Marine’s armour and doused his squadmates, melting two of them to join the liquid remains of their leader and forcing the others into a rout which left them easy prey for the General’s claws.
“Battle Barge Sevilla, this is De Rada! Where is the air support?” De Rada had planned to launch his own attack, a heroic intervention by the Chapter’s veterans, in concert with a devastating airstrike.
“Master De Rada! The gunships report they were attacked by Mechanical Beasts!”
With the demon about to continue its rampage through his carefully-planned line, having flown over the meticulously designed killzones and enfilading fire that had been laid out according to the Codex, it was time to intervene. Veteran Squad Toro burst from cover, the demon in their sights, and fired plasma rounds and armour-piercing bolts into its metallic hide, sending gouts of burning metal-like blood spraying into the snow.
Yet it continued undaunted towards them. De Rada saw only one option.
“Brothers. Today we die glorious deaths. We are the Emperor’s Space Marines! Great hymns will be sung of our sacrifice! Sevilla, fire on my position!”
Even Donel, observing De Rada’s attempted heroic sacrifice, could not work out why it failed. The lance-strike plunged through the atmosphere, unbearably bright to behold, and then suddenly warped into a thousand smaller spears which turned the snowfield into a devastated moonscape in the middle of which the demon – and De Rada – stood.
Squads Jigu and Gracia laid heavy fire on the Iron Masks before them, felling four of the traitors. Yet the enemy responded with a move straight from the Codex – they fell into an easily-defendable formation and laid punishing suppressive fire on the Assault Marines, stopping them from charging as De Rada had planned they would.
From a safe position surrounded by Grey Knights, Donel ordered them to fire on the Khedoran demon-beast before her. It began to falter, staggering and dropping into cover behind a wrecked Orkish vehicle, and she foolishly ordered a charge on it.
There was a second beast. There was always a second beast. It, and its wounded comrade, doused the closest Knights in magma, and even the most noble of Space Marines was given cause to hesitate. Donel was unable to rally them, and the assault broke most ignobly in the face of a wave of liquid rock.
As the gunships of the Crimson Fists were left smoking wrecks, the skies darkened as Dracodeus XIV returned to the fray. Squad Jigu was the first to face its fury, dissolved in a gout of magma from its throat. Dabura’s beam danced across the broken Space Marine lines, burning up members of Squad Cartada, while Donel’s already-depleted retinue was further thinned by a second squad of Iron Masks leaving their damaged Rhino as it self-repaired and outflanking the broken Grey Knights.
De Rada might have, once, thanked the Emperor that he had survived, that his attempt to take his own life had not been a miserable failure. That he could take on the demon in noble single combat and end its reign of terror.
When three of his veterans were cut down by unnatural darts of energy from Terminators, advancing across the crater field, and turned to receive an obvious feint from them, and he was left alone to face the approaching demon, he knew the Emperor had forsaken the Crimson Fists as had happened so long ago against the Orks.
With their leader dead, Mechanical Beasts and an awakened demon rampaging through the uncoordinated and panicked battle line, and the Inquisitor nowhere to be seen as Grey Knights died in the snow, the Crimson Fists and Hive Spiders fell back to the predetermined retreat point. The battle had ended in defeat.
At the Inquisition’s base of operations for this grand crusade, a former Governor’s Palace perched above a sea of magma on a volcanic world, Donel was trying to understand what she had seen. The demon had been so powerful it had warped the course of a battle barge’s lance. It had not even stopped its advance to do so.
More Grey Knights would be needed. This was not a fight mere Space Marines could win.