HonorableMan: A Last Lho-Stick
They came out of the darkness, the soot and smoke congealing into gold-trimmed war-plate of the deepest black, roaring chainweapons raised high and already coated in drying blood. Boltfire rang out, mass-reactive warheads blasting away at both Cadian trooper and concrete cover; answered by eye-searingly bright las bolts, the armored giants nevertheless moved forwards, inexorably, inevitably.
It was a losing fight, the Cadian sergeant knew- but they were Kasrkin, the best of the best, the Caducades sea-eagle brand upon each and every trooper’s neck. They would not break, would not fall back, would fight to the bloody end. That was what the Imperium asked of them, and they’d be damned if it got any less than that.
He popped up, leveling his hellpistol and snapping off a shot. The bright ruby beam leapt from the weapon’s muzzle, flying true; one of the towering traitor warriors faltered and then fell to his knees, half of his helmet and head missing. Four more searing bolts of energy lanced out, transfixing the traitor Astartes’ torso, and it finally collapsed.
That would not be enough.
A bolt-round hit the waist-high concrete barrier that the sergeant crouched behind before detonating, sending shrapnel ripping across the faceplate of his helmet; the elaborate HUD inside his visor flickered and died. He didn’t have time for this. Ripping the helmet off and throwing it aside, the sergeant stood and snapped off two more shots, striking another traitor but doing absolutely nothing to stop it.
They were drawing close now, despite the increasing volume of hellgun fire and the slowly-rising number of Astartes dropping under its weight. The sergeant ducked down and drew his sword, more than a meter of adamantium crackling with energy, a weapon that could easily cut through even these traitors’ power armor, and stood-
There was a Chaos Marine right there, and the sergeant realized that there was something cold against his stomach.
He looked down, weapons falling from suddenly nerveless fingers.
The Chaos Marine wore a pair of lightning claws, and three half-meter blades were embedded in the Cadian’s gut. A slow smile spread across the traitor’s pallid, unhelmeted face, revealing teeth that appeared to be pointed fangs, and a tongue sporting its own mouth.
The sergeant flopped to the ground as the traitor withdrew his claws, violet eyes open wide, his breath a cloud of mist in the cold air. It was so very cold, despite the armored and heated bodysuit; almost instinctively, he curled up on his side- or tried to, legs not responding to his will.
With a derisive snort, the traitor Astartes turned away and moved on. He was too close for that cursed battle-plate to provide any protection from a hellpistol- with a grunt of effort, the Cadian reached out for his dropped weapon. He couldn’t reach it; dragging himself closer, his gloved fingers finally closed around the pistol’s grip, but his killer was already gone, disappeared into the rubble.
The sergeant coughed. Something dribbled out of his mouth, and he was fairly sure he knew what it was. He became aware that he was lying in a puddle, a ruby-red puddle that was only growing, fueled by the founts of his wounds.
It didn't hurt very much. That was a bad sign.
Dragging himself over to the concrete barrier that had provided him cover earlier, the Kasrkin sergeant propped himself up on it in a sitting position. He had no illusions- this was a mortal wound, and there was no help coming. His squad was dead, of that he had no doubt- Astartes weaponry made quick work of most beings, often rendering them into unrecognizable gobbets of bloody flesh, such as he could see carpeting the ground not far to his left. Apparently the rest of them had been butchered while he had been distracted.
A burbling laugh left the sergeant’s mouth. Trained from childhood, equipped with the best armor and weaponry available… and slaughtered like this, all dead in a single cold afternoon on some little-known shrine world.
It was almost funny.
The sergeant dug in a pocket with shaking hands, gloved fingers finding the battered pack of lho-sticks and closing around it. There weren’t many left, and he dropped two before finally getting one out and between his lips. It didn’t matter- he wouldn’t need them again, that was for sure. He dropped the pack, too, trying to put it back in his pocket; his lighter came out of a different pocket, smooth chromed metal cool even to his gloved hand.
It took two tries to get a flame to leap out, orange at the top, blue at the bottom, wavering in the breeze. It caressed the end of the lho-stick for a brief moment, as the Cadian brought it close; snapping the lighter closed, he dropped that too.
He inhaled deeply, letting the lho take away the pain and the shaking. Reaching up, he took the small paper tube from his mouth with two fingers, dropping his hand to his lap. The end was stained red, the sergeant noticed; almost as if that had caused it, he coughed hard. It was a wet, rough cough, the kind that hurt his throat; flecks of blood came out, and more dribbled thickly out of each corner of his mouth.
There wasn’t much to do, he idly reflected, as one died. All one could do was sit around and wait for it- for some reason, the wounds weren’t quite so painful, or else he’d have contemplated finishing it quicker with the help of his hellpistol. But no, it wasn’t so bad, not at all- in fact, it afforded an opportunity for sitting down and not doing anything.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a chance to just sit down and have a smoke.
Taking another drag from the lho-stick, the sergeant tapped ash free from the end. No, transit through the warp he’d heard was boring for other soldiers, but for a Cadian, a Kasrkin? God-Emperor no, they spent that time training, mock-assaults, hand-to-hand combat, intensive studies on the enemies they’d most likely encounter. And when they weren’t on board a naval vessel, they were fighting. No respite for the best of the best, none at all. Never-ending training, and then battle. That was the life of a Cadian- he’d never really known anything else and hadn’t even thought about it. Not until now.
Something cold landed on his cheek. Something else. Again. Again.
It was snowing.
The lho-stick dropped from between his fingers, sizzling and dying in the claret-red pool that had formed beneath him.