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post #16 of (permalink) Old 06-23-12, 10:09 AM
Zinegata
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(1091 words)




Was it Enough?

King Milanovich deserved a better fate. Skalantia had enjoyed seven prosperous decades under his rule. Getting eviscerated and having his remains left hanging from the ceiling like a grotesque chandelier was not a just reward.

But Brother-Sergeant Pontius had little time to ponder about the grisly decorations overhead. He was still in the middle of a life-and-death struggle with the ones responsible for this atrocity.

"Advance!" Pontius ordered, ignoring the fact that the greenskins were still charging at them through the narrow hallway. With practiced precision, the Pontius Team followed his command, meeting the green tide head on and gunning down dozens of the enemy.

Surprised by the ferocity of the Astartes counter-blow, the Orks were thrown back. Veteran Brother Felix then took the lead, drawing his Psi-Sword. His swordsmanship skills were becoming legendary. Even his fellow Space Marines only saw a blur as he hacked and slashed his way through a dozen Orks within seconds.

The enemy was breaking. Pontius could sense it. All that remained now was the cleanup, unless...

The head of poor young Brother Crassus suddenly exploded beside him, having caught a massive Shoota round head-on. There was deafening roar, but Pontius didn't have to turn his head to know the source. The War Boss had finally entered the fight.

Pontius gritted his teeth. This was going to be a challenge. Such a beast was not brought down easily, and the other Orks were already rallying at the sight of their leader.

But to everyone's surprise, the fight ended before it could really begin. A blazing hot plasma round took out the Boss's left eye. A second shot obliterated the other eye, leaving the War Boss blind. Enraged, it began to shoot and stab wildly, accomplishing little but to slaughter most of his remaining troops.

A third shot finally killed the War Boss, obliterating the monster's brain. Felix, killing the few remaining greenskins, walked over and broke the corpse's spine to make sure it was dead.

"Good shot," Pontius admitted, though without much enthusiasm in his voice. Though Brother-Logis Cicero was proving to be an excellent shot with the plasma gun, Pontius never liked him very much. Cicero either spoke bluntly or not at all, and he made little attempt to form a rapport with his Sergeant.

"I believe we have annihilated them, sir," Felix reported as he stepped into the throne room, "Auspex indicates no further Xenos life signs."

"Any survivors from the hostages?" Pontius inquired, though knowing it was unnecessary.

"They are decorating the ceiling just like their king, sir," Felix reported grimly, "But our Thunderhawk is reporting that there is a crowd gathering outside."

"We should leave immediately," Cicero said, "We have accomplished our quest. Meeting the locals will just cause unnecessary delay."

"The crowd is standing between us and the extraction point," Felix pointed out tiredly, "Do you propose that we just ignore them?"

Cicero was about to argue, but Pontius cut him off, "We'll deal with it when we get there. For now, honor our fallen Brother."

Felix and Cicero stared at each other for a moment, but quickly set aside their differences for a higher cause. Together, they carried Crassus' body - flanked by the rest of the Pontius Team - as they began to march back to the Thunderhawk.

As Felix had pointed out, they soon met the crowd at the castle gates. And as Cicero had feared, the crowd was about to cause an "unnecessary delay".

A woman led the crowd, wearing tattered robes. Yet she still had an unmistakable aura of nobility about her, and Pontius recognized her almost immediately. She was Princess Alyastra, daughter of the dead king and the only surviving member of House Milanovich.

There was anger in her eyes. The crowd shared her anger. Pontius felt unease. He did not know what to do.

"Did any of my family survive?" she asked, though the tone of her voice indicated that she already knew the answer.

"They did not, mamzelle," Pontius answered simply.

"And the Orks?" she went on, her tone remaining the same.

“All dead as well," Pontius reported.

A long silence followed, as Alyastra simply stared at Pontius with those angry eyes. It was as though she was saying "Why weren't you here to protect us? Why did you let my father die?"

Finally, Pontius broke the uncomfortable silence.

"We must leave immediately. Our Quest here is complete. We are required elsewhere."

"Very well, I understand," the Princess replied without a hint of sincerity in her voice.

"No you do not," an angry new voice shouted, "You do not understand."

Every pair of eyes turned on Brother-Logis Cicero, even those of his fellow squadmates. The princess and the crowd were enraged. Pontius and his team were mortified. Even with their limited social abilities, they knew this was a horrible faux pas.

But Cicero knew no fear, "We are not Gods. We cannot bring back your dead. We are not priests. We cannot help you grieve. We are not farmers or masons. We cannot help you rebuild."

Cicero then took off his helmet, letting everyone see his face. It may have been handsome once, but it had been terribly scarred when he was still a Neophyte - fighting Orks in another time and place. His eyes were hard and angry like that of the crowd.

"We are warriors. Our only purpose is war. We kill those who try to harm you. We avenge those who have already been harmed. That is all that we can do."

Then, for a brief instance, Cicero's eyes softened. He motioned towards Crassus's lifeless body. There was sadness in his voice as he spoke.

"And when it is time for us to meet the Emperor, we can only ask ourselves: Was it enough?"

Cicero once again donned his helmet. A long silence followed. This time, it was Alyastra who broke it.

“Yes, we understand,” she said, before stepping aside to let the Space Marines pass.

The crowd did likewise.

The Pontius Team left Skalantia without further incident.

-----
Later that night, Princess Alyastra would visit the spot where Brother Crassus had died. They knew because blood and pieces of his helmet had been found on that spot.

She lit a candle, joining many others that had been placed there. Silently, she prayed for the young Marine’s soul, even though she did not know his name.

The ritual done, she leaned down and whispered three words to the stones hallowed by hero’s blood.

These words were for him alone:

“It was enough.”

Last edited by Zinegata; 06-23-12 at 10:22 AM.
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