“Ha, burn you filthy traitors!”
Sergeant Quel’lesk excitedly yelled as he incinerated another group of the heretical Guardsmen. The adrenaline brought on by his pyromania hid his fatigue well.
“Move up! Form a firing line.” He barked at his men as dived behind a fallen stone column. Four trembling Eckrith conscript cowered beside him, showing no signs of intention to fight. With condemning eyes he shot them a fowl glance and tore the left sleeve from his fatigue, followed by the right. He stayed low and crawled towards them, pausing to tear one into strips and tie it around his forehead. The war had raged on for so long that he had no time to cut his singed hair that had been inconsiderately stabbing at his eyes. He threw the rest of the material to the ground and grabbed one of the cowards by his Flak Vest.
“Ekcrith?” He spat, demanding to know their origin.
“Great, all I wanted was courageous troops, but I got you lot. You’ll have to do. Follow me.” He ordered, pushing the young Guardsman back. He shifted towards the central courtyard. Only six hundred metres stood between him and the palace doors. He would earn his fame upon this rock.
The crack of Lasgun shots filled the air above him, forcing him to stay down. He could see his squad move up behind a wall of sandbags. Their guns sang out with the Emperor’s wrath followed by the screams of fallen heretics.
“Stay close. Those who doubt or stay behind will get shot.” He hissed at the conscripts through scarred lips. His battle cry left the conscripts bewildered at the strange tongue he spoke in, but even though they were confused, they raised their weapons and they charged.
Quel’lesk sprinted through the oncoming shots without hesitation. The heat from the widespread fires caused sweat to roll down his weathered face, but the fire drove his hatred to new heights. He narrowed his eyes, aimed his gun and squeezed the trigger at a wall of sandbags. He could see the spiked helmets moving behind it. The heat set the wall alight and made the heretics not directly caught in the blast combust.
Those who were hit by the ring of carnage incinerated without a trace. He sped up as he reached the wall and leapt mightily through the flames, landing on his side and rolling over to release his pistol and finish off those who still screamed. The conscripts, amazed at his fearlessness came in shortly after him, choosing the more indirect approach of going around the flames. He saw only two faces now, one of them blood splattered and tear-filled, the other barely trembling. The dark haired teenager with the blood splattered face trembled, wiping his face with his hands and staring at the deep crimson horror in unbelief.
“Is that your blood?” He asked, attempting to be considerate. The boy sat their, almost trance like, washed away in the sea of terror he had been forced to join.
“Oi!” The calloused back of the Sergeant’s hand struck him, gaining his attention almost immediately. “Is that your blood?” He repeated, growing weary of their company already.
“No.” His whisper was lost on the wind as a fierce cry came from the advancing enemy in the same odd tongue the Sergeant shouted in. four men with great lumbering ramshackle swords ran towards them. They had been beaten together from destroyed tank armour and spare metal. Foul sigils carved down the sides polluted the air they touched.
“No!” He shouted forcefully, firing two shots into the face of the first before unloading four more into the chest of the second. The first one dropped dead instantly, but the second was more stubborn. His chest poured with corrupted fluids and he showed no signs of slowing.
“Fire damn it!” He ordered the conscripts as he put the second one down with an expert shot to the forehead. The blood soaked trooper, still shocked, remained kneeling as the third came hurtling towards him. The other opened up with urgent Las fire, burning at the skin of the maddened attacker until the gun clicked empty. Only five shots had hit him, but it was enough to make him stumble.
He fell to one knee and grunted as all momentum was lost. He tried to raise his sword to bring it down upon the traumatised Guardsman, but dropped it as his face became bludgeoned by the butt of the fighting Conscript’s Lasgun. Quel’lesk could pay no attention to the Guardsman’s achievement, however. In a rushed effort to roll out of the path of a destructive overhead strike, his grip on his Meltagun loosened, causing it to tumble away.
Infuriated, he rose and turned to view the heretic as he slipped a new clip into his Auto Pistol. He snarled at the heretic as he pulled the blade free from the mosaic floor. In turn, Quel’lesk drew his Honour Blade from the sheath upon his back. The black blade reflected none of the flickering flames, and as he adjusted his grip and began to circle his foe he knew why he drew his blade.
A simple headshot could easily put him down, but this traitor had damaged the only thing he had ever loved. His precious Melta Gun would need repairs and new paintwork as it had been sent off into the flames. He let go of himself, snarling viciously as the warrior looked at the approaching loyalists laying down heavy fire. Two Las shots hit him in the chest before the Sergeant leapt upon him, his blade hacking wildly at the left shoulder and neck of his foe. His assault was so brutal that blood rained upwards every time he raised his arm for another strike. The warrior’s hand rose up and grabbed him for a moment before his decapitated hand was sent twirling aside.
It was only as his squad reached him and began to take their position he stopped. He was dead. He had been dead for over half a minute.
“Never touch another man’s Melta Gun.” He spat at the corpse as he walked over to the newcomers.
“Sir.” Quel’hegh saluted as his Sergeant approached.
“One moment Guardsman.” He silenced the soldier as he walked straight past, planting his hand on the traumatised conscript’s shoulder and forcefully shoving him down. Without hesitation he aimed his pistol at his head.
“You endangered my life, your life and your comrade’s. You have a gun and yet you refused to use it, give me one good reason why I should not use this?”
“Go on, argue for your life. With you dead we are better off. Now, why shouldn’t I kill you?”
“Please…d-don’t. I am in-inexperienced.”
“And a failure. If you had any sense you would kill yourself so I could save my rounds for the enemy.” He lowered his pistol and turned away from the spluttering mess of the Conscript to see Quel’hegh waiting for him.
“The AA batteries and Flak Cannons to the north have been disabled. Reinforcements should be arriving imminently.”
“Dammit!” He broke into rage once more, booting the head of a fallen heretic off into the chasm surrounding the courtyard.
“Isn’t that good news?” The standing Eckrith Conscript asked as he helped his comrade up with a blood covered hand.
“Of course it is. We cannot lose now, but I will not have Colonel Quel’hun take my honour.”
Kneeling, he placed his left arm in a rainwater-collection unit, submerging his arm completely.
“I’ll show him that I am just as good as he is.” Gritting his teeth he plunged his arm into the dying flame, grabbing the handle of his favoured weapon long enough for him to fling it into the depths of the cold water. As it sank an explosive blast of steam filled the hot night’s air.
“Come on. Today we earn glory for the Twenty-Eighth Drop Regiment.
We are the feared Sky Blades”
The torrent of furry the squad unleashed was ferocious. Fire Support Squad 8-G moved up to assist them, taking place behind he fallen columns and sandbag walls. As the Autocannons and Heavy Stubbers tore apart the enemy ranks, their roars heralded the beginning of the final assault. With one final battle cry, the Sergeant’s squad sprung from cover, their Lascarbines raking at flesh and expertly slaying the mad men who charged at them in return.
Quel’yill, Quel’drith and Quel’hegh sprinted alongside the Sergeant. In the squad of eighteen he looked majorly out of place. He looked like the least stealthy, steroid pumped psychopath ever to set foot on Bysantus. In fact, he was a steroid pumped psychopath, but to say he was not stealthy could lead to you having an untimely throat slitting.
He had led his squad in and out of hopeless situations on more times than he had fingers to count them on. Although, that may be because he lost the little finger of his left hand to an Ork before burning him away. He was indeed deserving of the rank Colonel, however, but it was his indiscriminate ‘charge and kill’ tactic that prevented him from progressing up the hierarchy of his Regiment and left him with numerous disciplinary whip marks across his back.
“I cleanse thee in the Emperor’s holy flame.”
The blast of heat made the air ripple and made the heretics evaporate upon contact with the incinerating heat. Grinning, he spun quickly and cut open the throat of a man attempting to jump from the desecrated garden eight foot above him onto his back. The body hit the floor with a wet thud, and his blood spilt out of his still breathing body. His crippled hands desperately clawed at the wound, but in a desperate attempt to save himself he only managed to tear it wider.
He kept his focus at the centre of the bloodshed and carnage. Bodies flew up around him with every explosion and he left only spurts of arterial blood and burnt husks. Las shots rang out, gouging chunks from the stone palace and traitors alike.
“They’re falling back!” Quel’yill yelled as he kicked a fleeing soldier down and filled his back with shots.
“Leave none alive.” The Sergeant ordered as he paused to look at the fortifications upon the palace steps. The traitor’s ranks were breaking.
“One last push and we are there.” Through the manic fighting he could here a distinctive sound. A sound he had grown to dislike. He didn’t even need to look up as the voice of a Persiian Primarisian trooper labelled it, shouting optimistically, “Valkyries!”
The Thirty-First had arrived.
“Charge.” Quel’lesk commanded as he picked up a blood-slick Lasgun and fired it one handed into the enemy.
“You, kid.” The trembling conscript halted at the side of him, expecting a beating. “You’re not going to freeze up again, are ya?”
“Then take this.” The Lasgun clattered as it slapped against his Flak Vest. “It’s always good to have a backup.” The Conscript nodded as he slung the gun at his side and ran after the Sergeant.
The courtyard became suddenly much narrower in the eighty metres leading to the steps, and with only flames for cover, they made their advance. For a moment they continued to run, shooting and slashing at those who refused to run. Quel’drith’s Plasmagun screamed with ever shot. The blue shots separated the flames where they touched, and upon contact with armour and flesh it melted everything.
The flames spread with every shot of the Meltagun. The intensity of the heat grew as they engulfed more of the dead.
In a matter of seconds, Quel’lesk threw a grenade into the enemy and broke out into the open. He blasted away a group of charging attackers before pressing his back against a great square column. Four columns were spaced fifty metres apart to hold up the great balcony that floated above them. He could feel the shots of a Heavy Stubber pound against the other side. He had been targeted. He needed to do something drastic.
Without hesitation he ran out and dived in front of sandbags below a Heavy Bolter emplacement whose dead user still rested slumped upon it. He sat up and pushed the body off, proceeding to punch the release lever on the other side. He was only just able to pull the weighty gun to his side of the wall before the shots homed in on him again. He shook his head as he realised the sheer stupidity of his plan, but ever hopeful he pulled it to his side where he crouched, and with a prayer to the Emperor upon his lips he unleashed hell.
As he stood he held down the trigger, unloading over thirty of the high explosive Bolt rounds into the fortifications. Limbs flew through the air, permanent fortifications crumbled and the damned Heavy Stubber was silenced. He moved a few paces up the steps as his squad advanced to the right. He could feel himself strain under the weight of the weapon, and as he raised his foot to move up the sixteenth step he felt a familiar sharp pain run through his left thigh. He had been shot. His leg gave way, forcing him to kneel upon the blood soaked rubble.
He couldn’t hold on to it now.
He forced himself to drop the Heavy Bolter and pulled out the pistol from the holster upon his hip. He forced himself up as two more shots came his way. He raised his pistol and went to pull the trigger, but paused and smiled before walking towards the origin of the shots. He clambered over a wall and laughed as he found a heretic half crushed by the last column. His legs had been trapped beneath the polished stone, and now his pistol was clicking empty.
“Poor little heretic got his legs stuck.”
He didn’t expect a reply, but the twisted man snarled and shouted as he attempted to claw at the Sergeant’s legs.
“What’s wrong? Can’t each?” Without mocking him any further he executed the soldier with two shots to the head.
He finally reached the top of the steps moments later after passing piles of corpses and blazing ammo stores. The Thirty-First would be close behind him now and he did not want any delays. The doors rattled as twelve of the squad slammed against them repeatedly, trying to crack them open.
“What’s happened here?”
“ Sixty men made it inside. They’ve barricaded it Sir.”
“Hmm…” He placed a hand on Quel’hegh’s shoulder and signalled for them all to step away. One super-heated blast from his gun tore them apart. The wood vanished with a puff of smoke, leaving the edges smouldering. Through the gap lay numerous half burnt bodies, some of which still screamed as they stepped inside. The Palace was pristine. The polished white inside showed the direct opposite of the world outside. It was clean, not bloodstained and elegant. The rest of the world had been torn apart by conflict. The vast farms had been shelled by artillery, loyalists had been crucified on the edges of the once noble cities and left to have their flesh pecked clean by the Great Ravens that circled the dying.
“Where is the Damned heretic that started this?” Quel’yill asked, uneasily looking over his shoulder.
“Every drop of his blood spilt shall avenge a tribe destroyed by his wars.”
“Don’t get so angry.” A deep, mocking voice echoed through the chamber. “You won’t have enough energy to fight.”
“Show yourself, traitor. Doesn’t your heathen God look down on cowardice?” Quel’yill shouted out. What Quell’yill failed to notice was the platoon marching down the steps that started firing upon his remark. His body was torn open as he stood in the open where others moved to cover. His body convulsed with every round that his him sending a new spray of blood out to stain the polished white stone floor.
“Blood for the Blood God!”
The platoon shouted out in unison as they began to spread out. What was more frightening to the Conscripts than the blood curdling motto was their appearance. They had not faced this elite warrior cast. These men had devoted themselves to shedding blood constantly, creating an unnerving, unholy aura that tainted the air around them. Their heads had been covered with iron masks that had been burnt onto their faces and clamped shut. Only those who survived the process were deemed worthy enough to join them. They wore scavenged carapace armour that had been painted in blood and inscribed with the runes of their Ruinous God. Each was equipped with an Autorifle and a sword similar to those wielded by the berserkers. The leader, however, was the most fearsome. He had no rifle, but he ran wielding a Chainaxe along with a Chainsword. Three skulls were lodged upon hooks on his belt and a cape of skin trailed behind him. The look of the platoon leader even frightened the Sergeant.
With enraged fever he drew his blade and incinerated four of the warriors with one shot. Without thinking he barged another down and ran through his chest with his blade as he moved cautiously avoiding the lows of the blades. These warriors swung the swords with one hand, something barely possible by human standards. Plasma shots whipped by, tearing through two before Quel’drith was made to duck by the enemy’s fire. From the cries of his men, he could tell that eight of his squad had been hit if not killed, but another shot from his Melta-gun evened up the numbers. Another shot hit the Sergeant in the leg, making him tumble.
“Sir.” Quel’hegh warned as the leader strolled towards the fallen Sergeant with glee. His weapons revved as he approached the fallen soldier, but his laugh was cut short by the approaching trooper. Quel’hegh moved forward holding down the trigger. They were only a minor inconvenience to the warrior, however, as he grunted, dropped his chainsword and attacked in return. He was a one man stampede. His boots cracked the ground with the force he ran with, his biceps were larger than most men’s heads and his skin cloak trailed behind him like the ghost of all those he had slain. Even in the face of this horror, Quel’hegh did not hesitate. His Lasgun filled the warrior’s chest with righteous shots that failed to stop him. As it clicked empty he drew his blade and leapt through the air. Failing to find any use for an empty gun, he let it go as he flew through the twisted air surrounding the warrior. With immense concentration he lodged his blade in the man’s back as he passed overhead before rolling to the ground with a broken knee.
With hope, he smiled at his Sergeant before his face turned to confusion at the shouting of Quel’lesk. It was too late to do anything; the chaos maddened warrior was upon him. With an annoyed yell that echoed through the mind of the soldier, he grabbed the Guardsman with one hand and raised him out in front of him.
He was silenced by the Chainaxe forced into his chest. The biting teeth opened a great wound that tore at his heart and lungs. As he coughed up blood the warrior laughed and pulled his arm back to swing it around and cut the soldier diagonally from shoulder to hip.
“Blood for the Blood god!” He laughed as he turned to see the Sergeant stride towards him, Chainsword in one hand, Meltagun in the other. The growling teeth cut through the armoured shoulder of the Chaos warrior with uncontested ease.
“No amount of blood can save you, heretic. The Emperor never forgives.”
“Only through shedding Blood can you survive. You are a soldier. Surely you can understand that.”
“Die, traitor.” Sergeant Quel’lesk raised his Meltagun with pride.
“I think not, Quinosian.” Before he could pull the trigger, foul lightning came from within him, consuming him and his allies like a storm. He fired, but his shot only managed to clear the rancid energies.
“Where did they go?” The more composed Conscript asked, weary of their witchcraft.
“Back to be with their deity. He will have more pity on them than I would’ve if he had stayed for a second longer.”
Allowing himself a moment of calm, he slumped against a wall and summed up his casualties. It wasn’t looking good.
“Sergeant. It is good to see you.” A calm voice rang out to him from a man in specialist grey armour. His eyes glowed red and his Stalker Pattern Bolter rested at his chest.
“Colonel Quel’hun. I can’t really say the same.” He laughed.
“Where is the Magister?”
“Up stairs, I believe.”
“We will take it from here, Sergeant.”
Dammit, he had been beaten by the Thirty-First again.