Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Radical: Hero

This is Radical part V.  For more check the table of contents here.

I remember praying. As the denizens of the warp bore down upon us, teeth flashing and blades gleaming, I dropped to my knees and prayed. The words are lost in my memory. In fact, I'm not even sure if there were any words. I cast my faith into the heavens, full of desperation, and listened for an answer. Around me my sisters, defiant to the end, fired upon the daemon horde, refusing to fall until their duty was done. Amidst them all I was there, a tiny young thing, covered in the blood of my friends, armor dented and weapon empty, my eyes full of tears, begging for salvation. I believe that it is during our darkest moments, when the shadows of our enemies fall over us, that our light burns brightest. The sound that finally drowned out my sobs was like nothing I had ever heard before.

It was a staccato beat, a wordless prayer to The Emperor in the form He loves best. Dozens of stormbolters had raised their voices in response to the roar of the daemon and silenced it. I felt the flying shells whip past me, pulling my hair back from my face, and I looked up at my salvation. They stood well over two meters high, clad in plain, unpainted ceramite power armor. Each of them had their left hand raised, spitting fire into the daemons from stormbolters mounted on their wrists, and in their right hands they held burning swords. I don't know how long I watched them, dazed and staring as more and more of they grey figures appeared before that cogwheel door, appearing in flashes of light that left an ozone smell in the air. It was Sister Superior Halquin who snapped me out of my reverie, shouting, “Grey Knights! Fall back behind them!”

A hand grabbed me by the shoulder and hauled me to my feet, drawing me into the midst of the figures as they moved forward in perfect unison, their boots shaking the ground with every step. The daemons fell back before them, shrieking in pain as the sanctified bolts hit them. In droves they exploded, only to disappear in a howling mass as they were driven back into the warp, one at a time. When the Knights reached them, their swords clove through the daemons. I could see more of the Knights now, appearing on walkways above us, firing down from above into the daemon, securing their flanks and setting up firing lanes. One of the Knights turned back to us, “Where is the Inquisitor?”

“Through this door,” Halquin said, indicating the warpfouled brass door we had been defending for what seemed like an eternity. “He's setting the charges to blow this facility.”

The Grey Knight seemed to consider this for a moment, then gestured to some of his battle brothers, “We shall assist the Inquisitor; you will accompany us, sisters. The rest of my brothers are needed here.” With that simple order given, he moved past us and placed his hand on the door, which seemed to recoil from his touch, the disturbing reflections in its brass pulling away from his gauntleted hand. He pushed the door open, and four more Knights joined him.

“Okay, you heard him, let's go!” Halquin saw my empty hands and passed me her bolter, Samantha's bolter, then retrieved Analyn's power sword.

“What about the Palatine,” I asked, looking at our fallen leader, and Halquin shook her head.

“We can't take her with us, and she's probably better off here than where we're going. I have a feeling that we haven't finished here yet.” After that we set off after the Grey Knights. The bolter I had been given had only half a clip left in it, and I had run out of reloads fending off the chaos marines. At least it still had the sarissa on the end of it, and I took comfort in the fact that at least I'd be able to cut into my enemies if I couldn't shoot them.

Beyond the brass door, the manufactorum was completely tainted. The smooth stone had become spongy, and leaning against it caused it to ooze a sticky purple liquid that smelled like offal. Thick veins ran along the walls and the floor, pumping thick fluids in an irregular beat. The Grey Knights led the way, with we sisters following in their footsteps, taking the rear guard. The only light we had was the glow from the power sword in Halquin's hands, and it lit the place in a pale blue that cast shadows at odd angles before us.

Nothing in those twisted hallways tried to kill us. I had the feeling they were more than busy fighting the Grey Knights behind us, and had no time to spare for our small group. Eventually we came into a vast space, suddenly well lit, and my stomach churned. The walls were rotting meat, and the light came from horrible smelling purple flames, burning in torches made of bone that were growing out of the walls. The floor was yellowed human teeth, crunching under our feet. At the center of the room was the shrine of the Omnissiah, defaced and befouled. Unidentifiable bodies, flayed of skin, hung from iron hooks, posed upon it in a horrible mockery of a scene I had seen a thousand times in my lift, the defeat of Horus at the hands of The Emperor. Standing at the foot of this shrine was Inquisitor Argus Fane and what was left of his retinue, a single, battle weary storm trooper clutching a battered hellgun, and a crusader, the disruption field of his power sword gone out, leaning on his heavy ceramite shield. They were surrounded by the bodies of techpriests, more twisted than even the servitors we had fought before.

“Inquisitor,” the Grey Knight said, “We are holding the daemon incursion at the entrance to the inner sanctum. We have come to assist you.”

Fane turned then, and my heart froze in my chest. His hair, formerly a dark widow's peak, was now thinned and greyed; his gleaming gold power armor was rent and dented, covered in blood and ichor, a a ring of unused meltabombs circling his waist. Around his neck the shining red I of the Inquisition had been cleaved in two, and now only half of his symbol was left. The only thing left of him was his daemon hammer, undamaged and unbroken, its power field still crackling with energies waiting to be spent. “Yes,” he said, and his voice was hollow and shaken. “Yes, thank you. We must hurry then.” He turned back to the shrine, then in a single swift movement he brought his hammer around and smashed it into the face of the stormtrooper at his side. The man didn't even have time to scream, he simply flew back into the altar, smashing into the corpse meant to represent The Emperor in the gruesome tableau. There was an explosion of horrid light, and I had to look away. Something about the flayed bodies hit me then, and I shuddered at the realization.

The bodies had been unrecognizable because their mechanicus implants had been ripped out, and the bodies were fresh, their blood still ran freely. They had been there perhaps only minutes. The Inquisitor had put them there.

When I looked up again prayers began to issue from my lips unheeded. The stormtrooper, obviously dead, was beginning to move, his broken bones crackling and shifting under the influence of some great power. The Inquisitor slammed shouted, “Daethlugh! You foul warp spawn piece of shit! Come into this world so I can finish you off once and for all!”

The only response was a laughter that pounded in my mind with such force that I fell to my knees. I saw that everyone else had fallen then as well, including the Grey Knights. Only the Inquisitor stood upright and defiant, clutching his daemonhammer as the stormtrooper twisted and tore, ripping apart in a cloud of gore. What rose from the corpse was something whose very presence made my mind scream in protest. The daemon was half a dozen meters tall or more, and disturbingly human, but not. Great twisted horns rose from its feline skull. It had two arms and two legs, and a pair of great leathery wings rose up over its back, extending out wider than it was tall. Its legs ended in cloven hooves, and its taloned hands held a single great, blood stained axe that could kill a dozen with a single swing. From its fanged maw the laughter continued to issue, then it spoke, and its voice was even worse. It felt like my bones were trying to crawl out of my flesh. “Argus, are you still hunting me? After all this time?”

Fane hefted his hammer over his head, “That's right. And this is the end of it. I knew your foul taint was on this planet, and I'm going to finish it now. I'm not just going to banish you, I'm going to end your blasphemous existence right here.”

“Good,” the daemon said, and stepped forward, smashing the fouled shrine under one cloven hoof. “The fire in your blood will please my master greatly.” It began to laugh again, then recoiled as a stream of bolts impacted into its face. The Grey Knights had recovered. They spread out around the daemon, sprinting in their power armor as their hands spit death at the daemon. One, the leader, I think, leapt forward, catching onto the daemon's knee and driving his sword deep into its leg. The Daemon howled in anger and with a simple twitch of his arm dislodged the space marine and sent him spinning off into a wall where he hit so hard his body exploded in his power armor.

The Inquisitor shouted a warcry and swung his hammer into the daemon's ankle, bringing it collapsing to on knee as the powerful weapon discharged its energy at impact, but a backhanded swipe with the haft of the daemon's axe came so fast it was a blur. Only the Inquisitor's faithful acolyte, raising his shield at the last moment, kept the Inquisitor intact. The supression field on the shield flared one and went out, and the pair were sent sprawling across the floor in a heap.

“For The Emperor!” Halquin shouted, and rose to her feet, charging the daemon with her sword. The rest of we sisters rallied then and began firing into the daemon, expending out last ammunition to distact the daemon long enough for Halquin to strike at its legs. She swung the sword into the back of its ankle, and any mortal creature would have been crippled as its tendons were snapped, but this was a daemon. Halquin's sword shattered on the daemon's skin, and a kick from it tumbled her several meters across the floor.

The Grey Knights attacked again, this time en masse, seeming to come from all angles, their power weapons cutting and slashing at the daemon, but it simply swung its axe once and they scattered, two of them cut clean in half by the warp weapon, the other two crippled and unable to fight back. The daemon laughed again, our attacks proving to be completely useless against it. Then the Inquisitor shouted a challenge.

The daemon turned to him, apparently amused, and raised its axe over its head for a killing blow. The Inquisitor charged, leaping through the air, powered by the augmetic muscles in his power armor, and swung his hammer at the daemon's jaw. Then, as simple as anything, the daemon simply caught Argus Fane between two fingers, let him struggle for a moment, and bit him in half. The lower half of the Inquisitor's body fell just a few feet from me, and I stared in horror as the daemon chewed his powered armored torso with a series of cracks and crunches as the ceramite was destroyed. It spit the daemonhammer across the room, then turned to we sisters.

It swung its axe at us, and I dove to the ground. A moment later I felt the warm wet rain of my sisters' blood pouring over the back of my neck, and I rose to my feet. They were all dead. I stood alone in the room with the daemon, and it watched me, grinning. I knew my death was at hand, and I began to pray once more, commending my soul to The Emperor. Then the daemonhammer slammed into the daemon's hip, and it howled in pain, collapsing onto its hands and knees in pain and shock. The Inquisitor's crusader ran from across the room, unarmed now that he'd thrown his master's hammer.

His armor was rent and broken. His helmet had been discarded, and his face was covered in blood. The daemon swung its axe awkwardly at the man, but he leapt at the last minute, the blade passing just under his feet. The crusader caught the haft of the daemon's weapon and rode it through the backswing, letting go at the apex of the arc and letting the momentum send him flying through the air to land on the daemon's face. The daemon shrieked, and rose to its face, but the crusader held on, reaching into the daemon's mouth and yanking and pulling at something. The daemon swung its head, and the crusader lost his grip and flew threw the air. On instinct I ran to catch the man, and when he hit me we fell to the ground in a tangle. I heard him whisper something as he looked over his shoulder at the daemon. It roared and came at us, its hooves hitting the ground with such force the entire room shook, then its head exploded in a corona of fire as bright as the sun. Intense heat seared my eyes, and the daemon fell to its knees, decapitated. Warp fire engulfed its body, and with a sound like screaming children the daemon was sucked back into the warp.

The crusader rose to his feet, and extended his hand to me. As he did the pins from the half dozen meltabombs that had been hanging from his master's belt fell from his grip. “Thank you,” he said. “For the catch.”

“Of course,” I replied. “It's nothing.”

That was the first conversation I ever had with Isimbard Kane, and at the time I have to admit that I was too in awe of him to respond properly. Still, I should have said something to someone then about what I had heard him whisper. I never told anyone what he said, not until years after his death, and that is my sin in regards to his fate. As the daemon roared, and he lay atop me, moments before his victory, the words I heard him say were “Blood for the corpse god. Skulls for the golden throne.”

So ends the fifth passage of the Personal Record of Palatine Regina Winterfield concerning the fate of Inquisitor Isimbard Kane, and the end of her account of the war on Ulric.


  1. Absolutely fantastic! Just gripping!

  2. Okay, I actually got a chill when I read that last line.

    This is really top notch. I am really enjoying it.