“THOSE ACCURSED GREY KNIGHTS CLOSE ON OUR LOCATION! ARE THE UNDERGROUND MINING OPERATIONS SECURE?”
“Yes, my lord! Safe and secure and quite impossible to find!” The audience chamber pulsed red, shrouding those figures who waited before the black maw into nothingness where the demon’s voice resounded.
“THEN GO! WE WILL MAKE OUR HOME ELSEWHERE, WHERE THEY WILL NOT DARE TO CHASE US! THE ORKS FIGHT AMONG THEMSELVES, THE… PLAGUE THAT FEASTS UPON THE LAND IS BUSY CONSUMING ITSELF SO NOW WE CAN FIND OUR PLACE IN THIS SYSTEM!”
“Might I recommend this planet? A truly perfect place, one where our… sire… await.”
“Delicious.” Acheron looked at the map. “Truly delicious. We can set our base on top of the pathetic Eldar, crush them and move on. All the while the lackeys of the Emperor will be searching for us in vain.”
The section of tundra where the Hell Castle made its landing was a blasted sludgy grey mess of hills and ruins, the legacy of bombing on a truly apocalyptic scale. The ice had begun to reform over the past battlefield, and deep within the murk could be seen the skeletons of soldiers. While the Mykene Legions set up their main fortifications, Master Engineer Kenzan had his own mission. To set up a perimeter in a place that overlooked the main approach to the fortress-complex that Acheron was building.
Rocky hills had emerged from places where the ice had receded and not yet recovered, and in one corner of the field of low plateaux the tops of old Imperial fortifications poked through the ground. It was there that Kenzan had made his camp.
The sound of troop movements had, however, disturbed the army that had caused the destruction of this region. The Imperial barrage that had turned the pristene icefield into a mutilated grey tundra had been centred, in fact, on the survivors of what had been called the Cursed Company of the Razak Roughnecks regiment. It had been a noble sacrifice intended to crush an implacable Necron army beneath tons of melted ice.
Regrettably, it had been in vain, for the energy of Hell Castle’s deep-core fuelling had reawakened the Dynasty of the Deceptors.
“Status Report.” The tomb had once been on the surface, before the Imperial bombing had changed the landscape. Within its once-flooded, damp halls a single Necron sat, scarabs bustling around a stasis throne.
“Reawakening still in progress. Forces available: One quarter-lakh fully operational. One eighth-lakh mid-repair but combat capable. One Monolith. One Scythe.”
“Leave the unready troops. Deploy all that can fight. We buy time for the others.”
Kenzan had noticed movement under the ice – or rather, sensed it. Sensed the utter emptiness that seemed to lurk so far beneath the surface, and already sent his troops into defensive positions, ready for them to surface. He knew well what would arrive. Legacies of a dead era. Ghosts, the sort of evil that would never die.
Sure enough, skeletal figures were flickering into life along the horizon. Few in number, some trailing lank water-plants, some with armour plates cracked or missing, but sure enough Necrons.
Khedora Omega fired the first shot, sending arcs of metal shards across the tundra towards a sea of scarabs, blasting great gaps in the carpet. As if in response, it vanished. One by one, like the turning out of a sea of lights, the little robotic insects faded away.
“RECALL THE SCARABS! RECALL THEM!” From the hilltop, Lord Senusret could see the mortals wreaking great fury upon his precious repair scarabs.
Until his heavier forces – the great implacable Monolith, and the one fighter-craft that could be spared – arrived, all he could do was protect what he had and fire as the chances arose. His cadre of warriors were serving well, cutting down one of the interlopers from the limits of their range, and it seemed like little could go wrong.
Kenzan knew his Space Marines, the steely wall of the two full units of the Iron Mask Corps, could handle these cursed creatures. They were not strong, still damaged, still repairing themselves.
But he had a mission.
“It is time. MECHANICAL BEAST DRACODEUS XIV, ATTACK!” As his personal retinue suppressed the Necrons on the hill, and the second squad traded shots with those in the ruins, he saw Ju’zan’s latest infernal creation take to the skies on faltering wings.
It was an immense dragon made of metal, arms terminating in long fire-throwers and the head-section home to a vast lava-spewing gun. It pulled itself high into the wintery sky and then dived, a whip of lava from its maw melting into the icy ground and when the initial flash of steam had cleared the Necrons were reduced to one. The mocking, unstoppable leader. Tattered robes burning, metal skin glowing white-hot, Lord Senusret had weathered the Mechanical Beast’s attack unscathed.
No matter. It had done well.
As Senusret recovered from the dousing in lava, he surveyed the field. The enemy were rapidly advancing. Contact had been lost with his vehicles. All he could do was continue to defend. Another of the Iron Masks died in the fizzing, crackling lightning storm that surrounded their unit, but it was nowhere near enough.
Dracodeus XIV had a limited brain. It could identify targets and kill them.
It dived into Senusret’s Immortals and with bladelike arcs of fire reduced two to ash.
It once again spat molten metal and rock over the Necrons its tiny, beady eyes could see, and only one stood.
It had drawn blood.
Khedora Omicron saw the Necrons beginning to reform from Dracodeus’ attack and instinctively selected the appropriate weapon. A cannon firing ball lightning that phased through the rocky cover the Necrons were using and exploded in a burning, blinding light.
In that instant – in that hellish conflagration from the infernal dragon – Senusret’s infantry had been more than decimated. They had been reduced to two. Two Immortals cowering on a hill.
This mortal, this human, would pay. The tide would turn. He could see the Monolith beginning to phase into view, its glorious form appearing in the midst of the enemy.
Then it vanished again, a horrible grinding noise ripping the sky as it once again appeared, this time hundreds of metres above the ground. Straight over a patch of old tank traps and fortifications that had somehow risen to the surface.
It fell like a stone, listing as it did and shattering into broken piles of metal blocks on impact.
It was impossible for a Necron to weep but Senusret felt genuine regret to see such a marvelous engine of divine power reduced to nothing more than rubble.
As his foe, the human who had wrought this outrage, ran towards him, he saw the fighter-craft make its pass, its main gun opening a crack in the thin air which engulfed full half of Kenzan’s retinue. Too late. Far too late.
Too late it was. Khedoran Omicron saw the Necron aircraft, did the appropriate calculations and fired.
It was rent in half by the beams.
But Senusret was not done. He had rounded on his rival and the two warriors were circling each other with weapons held defensively. The Necron made the first move, biting into Kenzan’s iron ribcage with its staff’s bladed edge and then darting away.
Kenzan swung his own axe and decapitated Senusret in one smooth motion, watching the Necron fall to the floor.
“VICTORY! VICTORY FOR CHAOS!”
As he turned to celebrate, he did not see Senusret stand back up, raise a staff in a gesture of defiance and embed it in his body.
The Necron Lord died knowing it had done the best it could. As plasma fire and molten metal reduced the body of Senusret to mere atoms lest it regenerate again, and his spirit fled back to its next host, he knew that he had not died for nothing.
“The perimeter is secure, good. Good! But Kenzan died. No matter. Kenzan is replaceable.”
“Men of metal, it matters not. We kill them. We bring fire and sacred machines and we kill them. Would that I could see the Eldar now, now their two most feared foes sit right around them.”
“Do not get overconfident, Acheron. Kenzan died fighting a small force of damaged Necrons. We must be ready.”
“Oh, for sure. For sure. But for now we prepare.”
Within the tomb, more of Senusret’s host were beginning to awaken. They were, insofar as Necrons had the capacity for mutiny, feeling displeased with a Lord whose sole achievement was to beat down an old man and lose his entire force.
Indeed, they were displeased with the loss of the Monolith.
And within one Necron initially destined to be one of Senusret’s bodyguard, a damaged circuit suddenly shorted out.
“I… I AM… I AM LORD TUTANKHATEN. I WILL LEAD US TO VICTORIES UNLIKE THE COWARD AND FAILURE SENUSRET. I WILL HAVE THE COWARD AND FAILURE SENUSRET TURNED INTO SCARABS SO THAT HE MAY SERVE US BETTER.”
Insofar as Necrons could celebrate, they welcomed a new leader.