Dark Angel - Brotherhood
For the fifteenth time, Elias Krateron slapped a magazine into his bolt-pistol and expelled it. He was armoured, like all of his brothers, in the sea-green of the Sons of Horus, a belt of pteruges ringing his waist. There were hundreds, thousands
, of warriors around him - Each undergoing their own preparations, checking armour seals, boasting and bantering amongst one another, revving the motors of their long, barbaric chainswords. Krateron's own squad, 17th of the 17th Company - Some naysayers claimed, that after Murder and the loss of four brothers, they were unlucky, damned and doomed and damned again - Were crouched together, silent and statuesque, their helmets sealed and their weapons ready, though unloaded.
, sixteenth time.
'We are the speartip,' Krateron heard someone say, jovially, nearby. 'We'll go in, beat the Isstvanians around a bit, and let Abaddon mop up the mess.'
, seventeenth time.
Isstvan. Vardus Praal, the local governor, had revealed his true colours, murdering Imperial officers, throwing up his arms in open revolt. He was a turncoat, a bastard traitor, blind to the light of the Emperor, to Horus Lupercal and the Imperium. And now the might of not one, not two, but four Legions had fallen upon the Isstvan System - The Sons of Horus, the Death Guard, the World Eaters and the Emperor's Children were all present, and in massive numbers. It was almost
, eighteenth time.
But something felt strange about this undertaking. Here, upon the Vengeful Spirit
, a task-force had assembled, over a third of the XVI were present - An ad hoc formation of individual squads and formations, pulled from a hundred companies. Everyone had noticed the subtle rearrangements in the command hierarchy; tested, popular and capable Terran officers being rotated out in favour of younger, zealous Cthonians. Indeed, Esarhaddon now commanded the 17th, the Hesperus Guard, having replaced old Tybrean on the outset of the Isstvan Campaign.
, nineteenth time.
'If you keep doing that,' Rasped a voice, low and brittle. 'You'll cause a malfunction.'
Krateron's head snapped around. One of the Sons of Horus, his armour so superbly polished that it shone like a mirror, stood over him. He was bareheaded, with wide-set amber eyes and a straight, dignified nose.
'Sarnbael,' Krateron called out, embracing his brother with a clatter. 'Brother.'
Sarnbael and Krateron were polar-opposites - Krateron, tall, pale-skinned and grey-haired, one of the XVI's Terrans, old and hardened; Sarnbael squat, broad and bald, one of the true Sons of Horus, having been raised from the slump-hives of Cthonia, and later, inherited the Lupercal's noble features. Despite these differences, friendship had blossomed between the two, and their squads often worked in tandem - Sarnbael's choleric nature complimenting Krateron's steadier, calmer outlook.
'Sergeant,' Sarnbael said, tersely, disengaging from his friend. He straightened, eyeing the gathering of Legionaries, and whistled. 'Quite the show, isn't it?'
'It is,' Krateron replied, nodding in agreement. 'I did not know you were selected for the speartip.'
'I wasn't,' Sarnbael said, with a disappointed smile. 'I have other duties to attend to aboard the Minotaur
, but that is later.'
'Came to see us off, then?' Krateron ventured.
'I did,' Sarnbael meeting Krateron's gaze. 'I wouldn't miss this for anything.'
'Praal's a fool, a dead
fool,' Krateron added, after a moment of silence. 'Fulgrim's peacocks have been given the duty of securing the Precentor's Palace, though.'
'Not all of the Emperor's Children are songbirds, Elias,' Sarnbael growled, his expression hardening. 'Remember
'I meant no offence, brother,' Krateron said, grinning. 'Nevertheless, it shall be a glorious day. We'll be back by nightfall, mark my words. We're going in with Endall's lot, straight for the Sirenhold.'
'Or an infamous one,' Sarnbael grunted, folding his arms across his chest.
Krateron raised an eyebrow. 'Infamous? You're mistaken, brother-'
'Infamous,' Sarnbael interrupted. 'Days like this, where such a show of hand is needed, are infamous. The war with the Interex and the campaign on Aureus were the same. No glory, just blood and piss and infamy
. Isstvan will be the same. Many will die.'
'I don't understand, Praal is a rebel-'
'You don't understand,' Sarnbael cut in, smiling sadly. 'Of course you don't. How could you? You see only one thing, brother - War
. It rules you, you see no other purpose. Isstvan, to you, to these,' He indicated the crowd of Marines with his hand. 'Is just another war.'
'Why are you telling me this? Are you envious, brother, that Horus has put you on deck-washing duties?' Krateron laughed heartily.
'I'm telling you this, Elias, because I am your friend
. Because my conscious wouldn't let me remain silent,' Sarnbael paused, pursing his lips. For a moment, he was lost in thought, in consideration. 'Isstvan is the turning point, the paving stones to something newer, something greater. Nothing will be the same after Isstvan. These next few hours, days, weeks and months and years? That will be the judge of whether today lives on in infamy or in glory.'
Krateron opened his mouth to speak.
'Speartip units to posts!' Commanded the deck officer, his voice echoing throughout the cavernous hanger.
'This is it, then,' Sarnbael said, offering his hand. Krateron clasped it in his, shook it, and nodded. 'Farewell, Elias, watch yourself down there.'
'Don't miss me too much, Sarnbael,' Krateron laughed, slapping a fist against his chest. 'Lupercal!'
'Lupercal,' Sarnbael mimicked, grimly, and spun on his heel, marching away.
Krateron jogged away, leading his squad from the front, lowering his helmet over his head. For a moment, everything was bathed in blackness, before reality snapped back into being, fuzzy-green.
He and the men of 17th entered their drop pod, buckling themselves into their harnesses, slamming magazines home, uttering oaths of moment.
What had Sarnbael been talking about? He was on the point of raving, of lunacy. He made little sense. Krateron made a mental note to inquire further into the subject, after he returned from the surface.
Slowly, deliberately, Krateron loaded his bolt-pistol.
, twentieth time.