The Emperor is dead! Only his corpse remains!” The shout was cut short by Narast Erinor’s chainsword.
He and his squad had been trailing a group of heretics for a week across Geaturium, home of the Fiery Panther Chapter. They had finally cornered them in a grove of trees, on the edge of Lemiranium, a small town.
They had attacked without mercy, cleansing the surface of Geaturium of the unbelievers, destroying everyone in their path. The heretics didn’t know what was upon them. Even now Narast was killing, striking, left and right with his blade, while with the other he spewed death from his bolt pistol. The heretics stood no chance. Even with their superior numbers, at least twenty, against five, they were no match for the Fiery Panthers.
Narast gored another heretic, who had futility tried to protect himself with a pistol. The sergeant barked into the comm, “For the Emperor! Show no mercy!” The marines had plowed through the heretic encampment. There was no escape for the chaos worshippers.
Had the heretics really think they could insult Geaturium and survive? Narast threw his head back and laughed at the pure stupidity of the unbelievers. Where they really so arrogant? So naïve? He slashed off another’s arm, thinking about it. The sergeant dropped his pistol, and grabbed a worshipper by the neck. With pure brute force, he crushed the man’s neck, snapping his spine as if it was a match. The corpse dropped to the ground.
Narast stabbed another heretic, and blew his brains out for good measure. There were only five unbelievers left. Narast was about to jump into the middle of them, when they were all shot down by the rest of his squad.
“I was doing quite well,” he told them. They laughed, and took off their helmets. Narast followed their example. Unlike other Space Marine Chapters, the Fiery Panthers wore helmets to all battles. Many of the Adeptus Astartes had their heads caved because they had not worn a helmet. But the Fiery Panthers were careful.
There were no casualties, only minor wounds. The heretics had been careless. The Fiery Panthers had punished them for that.
Narast walked to the ruins of a tent. He looked inside, and saw a bottle with liquid that had miraculously survived the battle. The sergeant grabbed the bottle without hesitation, and downed the whole thing in one gulp. His armor system could equalize the effects of poison, so the marine could literally eat and drink almost anything.
The drink was cool, with a grape flavor. Wine. Narast had not tasted wine for a whole week, and that was a long time without wine. The marine allowed himself to compare this with the Space Wolves. They were savages of course, barbarians, but most of them couldn’t go without Fenrisian ale for a day though, and the Fiery Panthers couldn’t be without wine.
The sergeant sighed in contempt. Life was good. With a chainsword in one hand, a bolter in the other, and a wine bottle on his belt, he could go far. But there was no time for musings. Adeptus Astartres were made for battle. And to drink wine of course.
Narast heaved himself upright and walked out of the ruins. One of his squad members, Kazath Leonids, walked up to him and said, “All the heretics are killed sir.” “I can see that,” the sergeant replied. “We will camp in Lemiranium,” he said into the comm. There was a chorus of yes sirs and right sirs.
The squad started tromping through the grove into the town. The afternoon was bright, and the sun was easily shining through the leaves of the trees. There was not much undergrowth, and the Fiery Panthers cut through any plants that dared grow in their way.
The squad walked out from the trees, startling a citizen, who quickly scuttled away. He was likely going to tell everyone about the marines. So the Fiery Panthers were not surprised when they were met by a welcome party.
Their leader, the elder, an old man dressed in imperial blue, walked up to them and said in a formal tone, “Welcome to Lemiranium, Fiery Panthers! Take what you need, and all you need!” “We are thankful for your welcome, and require only a shelter for the night,” Narast told him. The elder looked over them up and down. “Take my mansion-” he started to say but was interrupted by Narast, “Sir, we need a simple lodging, not a palace.” “But-” the elder started to say, “We shall take that house over there,” the marine said, pointing toward a small metal hut that was obviously abandoned.
Without letting the man say anything the squad started walking quickly toward the cottage. “I wouldn’t be against a mansion,” Gergash Olakser grumbled over the comm. “I don’t care at all what you wouldn’t be against,” Narast told him. Gergash stopped grumbling.
The squad finally reached the cottage, and the sergeant pressed a button to open the house. The door slid open with a creak. The interior consisted of one dusty room, with literally nothing in it. “Well, this is nice,” Pelnakor Unikal said to no one particular. “It is, compared to other places we have been at,” Lestor Washjok, the last member of the squad said. “Yes, like that time when we were stuck in a tree for two days! Remember that?” Kazath asked. “Ah, that was fun,” Gergash answered. “How about the time we were stuck in some quick-sand!” “And the time we were trapped in the cave on Jerogon?” The squad started sharing the old times.
Night came quickly, and the Fiery Panthers posted a sentry. They were always vigilant. Gergash was in the first shift. The others went into their dream states, a practice unique to their Chapter. After two hours and fifteen minutes, Gergash awakened Kazath. It continued until morning.
Narast woke up, and immediately felt something wrong. It was just a feeling he felt before he awakened himself from his dream state. He opened his eyes and saw the source of his unease. Pelnakor, the last sentry, was lying on the ground in a pool of crimson blood. His eyes were glazed, and his ounce black and orange chest plate was splattered with red.
The sergeant immediately awakened the others. He had a grim face, and the squad knew immediately something happened. He stepped away from the body, and the other marines noticed it for the first time.
“What happened?” Lestor asked, “What could kill a Fiery Panther on our own world?” “Someone very bold, or very insane,” Narast said grimly turning the lifeless body of Pelnakor over. The mortal wound was larger on the dead marine’s back then on his chest. Comprehension dawned the others. “He was stabbed from the back,” Narast told them.
The marines looked at each other, suspicion in their eyes. Gergash broke the silence, waving his mechanical arm around, “We must trust each other. Without trust we will fall apart. Let us bury Pelnakor.” The Fiery Panthers buried the fallen warrior outside the hut, using their hands as shovels.
When they were finished, they walked down to the town to tell the elder about the incident. The way was long, and the space marines could have called a cab. But they walked.
The elder’s mansion was in sight, when suddenly Gergash spoke one treacherous word, “Attack.” The others whirled around slipping out their weapons. And they gasped. Gergash had grown in size, becoming the size of two marines in height, and two and a half in width. His armor had transformed into an exotic, purple and gold carapace. He held a huge chain axe. “You’re a Deamonblade-” began Lestor, but those were his last words. A bolter shell came out of nowhere, and blew apart his brain. Narast looked into the direction the bullet had come from. And he saw them. At least twenty Deamonblades. Sworn enemies to his chapter.
How could Gergash be a Deamonblade? He was annoying sometimes, grumbling. But he was as loyal as one could be, and Narast was sure of that. He had now experienced what Chaos could truly do, rot even the most loyal.
“Ha! I know what you’re thinking sergeant!” Narast’s former comrade said. He emphasized Narast’s title, mocking it, “I’m such an Emperor’s dog! Why’d I go to Chaos? I’ll tell you! The Emperor is fake! Phony! Whatever you want to call him. He is a myth, one to make us be used, by the politicians on Terra. Not holy Terra! Oh, not holy. I finally understood this when Tzeenth came in my dreams. He showed me the truth! He showed me what the Inquisition did in the Emperor’s name! Our lives have been based on lies, he can only start over. As a servant of truth!”
Without thinking, Narast charged at Gergash. Their comradeship was forgotten. “Die!” he screamed, pumping bolter shells. The Deamonblade calmly swung his axe, and everything was in slow motion. The axe came closer to the sergeant’s neck. Narast could do nothing to stop it. With a last move, he raised his bolter. Aiming, he pulled the trigger. Once. The shell went in slow motion also, and the Deamonblade noticed it. Narast sucked in a breath. The other could not dodge it! He was to slow! He had to be. And he was right. As the chainsword collided with his neck, the bullet pierced Gergash’s head. Narast Erinor died, knowing he had done his duty.
For Russ and the Allfather!