Xandrek continued to watch Lorgar. The Word Bearers called him Aurellian, ‘The Golden One’, and Veptus could see why. Lorgar’s beauty was not smothering blackness like Curze’s or necessarily obvious like the Lord of the IIIrd Legion, but there was something refined and alluring in him. However, the middle of the greatest battle in the history of the Imperium was no time to become distracted. Once the three legions here were dead, they would have time to marvel at the majesty of their new tyrants. “Captain, we have to move on from here!” Veptus yelled over the cacophony of death around him. Still Xandrek paid him no mind. Veptus cut the legs out from under a Raven Guard and then stabbed his prone form in the gullet, leaving him to bleed out on the red sands.
Suddenly a massive black shape appeared over the lip of the ridge. The thoughts of Corax descending on them still at the forefront of his mind, Veptus screeched. “Xandrek, look out!” The silhouette took on a more solid form. It was not Corax as Veptus had feared. However, the looming shape of a Contemptor Dreadnought with its power fists about to power into the Lord of Lies was not a welcome sight either. Xandrek turned just in time to intercept the blow with his shield, but the kinetic force of the blow still sent him flying, a slew on Nostraman curses echoing from him. His signature went dead, but his chest still moved sluggishly. He was alive for now, but his armour’s power was shot.
Already Veptus was moving, heedless of the Night Lords and Raven Guard clamouring around him. He didn’t stop to kill or maim except when absolutely necessary. Nothing would impede him from his charge. “All available units in service to the Lord of Lies will converge on my position or I swear by our Father you will die a most slow and horrific death.” Veptus hissed down the vox. Veptus noticed that Pelegon, Tyberus and most other members of the First Claw were already converging on Xandrek’s position. Good, they had not forgotten their place at least.
The Night Lords had a curious relationship with their fallen commanders. Whereas most legions would fight to defend their leaders, the Night Lords more often chose to run and leave them to their own folly to die. Indeed, if it were anyone other than Xandrek Veptus would not have looked back. He would be far away from here by now, relatively safe and leaving the fallen commander he abandoned to whatever death awaited him. Even his charge as Primus Medicae would not be enough for him to risk what he was risking now. He was a skilled Apothecary and would not easily be replaced even if Xandrek died. But the only life he had ever known had been in service to Xandrek, and he was not yet ready to shed that cloak of familiarity and comfort. He doubted he ever would be. He knew the Atrementar would understand.
The Raven Guard Dreadnought was no fool. He could have lumbered closer and smashed the bodies of the traitorous XIIIth Legion to pieces. But at such close range he exposed himself to the bites of grenades and short range melta-blasts. Instead he decided to hose down Xandrek’s prone form and any other Night Lords foolish enough to be nearby with his storm bolters. As they cycled up, those Astartes foolish enough to be near the Captain included Veptus. The bolt rounds began to chew up the earth as they approached the prone form of Veptus’s friend. Coming to a sliding halt Veptus scrabbled for Xandrek’s massive shield with his right hand, swinging it round to protect both of them from the incoming hail of fire.
Veptus planted the bladed edge in the dirt and held it fast against the repetitive drumming of the storm bolter shells. Only once he was relatively certain he was protecting both him and Xandrek from harm did his brain register the piercing pains in his side. There were three bolt wounds. One where a round had crumpled the armour, breaking the skin beneath and likely giving his third rib a hairline fracture. The second was lower down and the round had detonated inside the armour, tearing a hole in his flesh about the size of a golf ball. Likely the kinetic force of the blast had ruptured his kidney. The final round was lower down. It had struck the vulnerable exposed tubing just above his waist. There was now a fist-sized hole missing from his side and it was already beginning to bleed profusely.
Veptus snarled. He prided himself on his rationality, but when it came to Xandrek he had risked far more than was logical to save his captain. The top of his hip bone was visible in his side, although Veptus could tell a portion of it was missing. Likely broken off and shattered into shards of bone which now had imbedded themselves in the meat of his obliquus abdominis. He would remove them later but now, as gunfire still hammered on the boarding shield protecting the pair of Night Lords, was not the time for that. Veptus’s left arm, the one with the Narthecium mounted on it, reached round. First, he cauterized his wounds. He simply burned them to stop the bleeding. Then layers of medical concrete to seal the wounds until proper work could be done on them. Finally, he injected pain killers directly into his spinal column.
His own wounds attended to he needed to see to Xandrek’s. Xandrek’s armour was heavily customized to install fear and dread in his foes, like most senior Night Lords. However, with his power pack dead, all that ornamentation was dead weight. Veptus knew there were trophies on his suit of armour that even Veptus didn’t know the significance of. It was unfortunate, but he had to get rid of it. He could head Pelegon yelling over the din of battle and he could see from his HUD that several of the First Claw were moving to intercept the Dreadnought. In the commotion, he could make his escape with Xandrek.
Working efficiently, his narthecium cut away at the joints of Xandrek’s armour. Veptus tore he limb armour and jump pack off, leaving only the chest plate and helmet intact. If Xandrek was hit, his limbs could be replaced, but Veptus wouldn’t risk harm to the Captain’s vital organs. “First Claw, keep the Dreadnought busy. Xandrek’s armour is shot, he can’t stay here. As soon as we are clear, retreat. We’re done here.” Veptus hauled Xandrek over his shoulder and gunned his jump pack. The extra weight meant his fuel wouldn’t last long, but it didn’t matter. All he needed was to reach the Word Bearer lines on the other side of the ridge. He angled the stolen shield downwards to protect from upwards fire. His only real fear now was the skies above him…