I got a bit inspired last night, so I managed to finish this quick piece.
It has some minor spoilers for my first 40K piece, Legacy of Steel, so people may want to read "Legacy of Steel" first
Word count is at 1,039, including the title.
Trust and Loyalty
The entire city was already ablaze, but Brother-Sergeant Medeus still refused to leave.
What remained of his squad was likewise honor-bound to stay with him. Together, the Medeus Team held the main plaza against countless cultists that were emerging from hiding, even as Marauder aircraft from the Imperial Navy dropped their bomb loads dangerously close to the Space Marine positions.
Brother-Logis Pythagoras knew for a fact that this was madness. He was trained to assess every combat situation from a cold, logical perspective, as befitting a Chapter with such close ties to the Mechanicum. And as second-in-command, it was his duty to relieve Brother-Sergeant Medeus for grossly neglecting his duty. The Estimates in this case were incontrovertible: Risking the lives of six Steel Wardens did not justify a forlorn attempt to rescue one
"Our ammunition is depleting rapidly," the Brother-Sergeant suddenly reminded, even as he gunned down yet another screaming Khornate fanatic, "Have you found his location yet, Brother-Logis?"
Pythagoras did not respond, choosing instead to focus on his instruments. Though his mind was certain that Medeus had gone insane, his heart sympathized with the Brother-Sergeant. They had lost two Battle-Brothers in as many days in this accursed city, while young Brother Belisarius had failed to return from his solo deployment at Helvetica last month. Losing yet another Battle-Brother was a burden that would be too painful for all of them to bear.
But fate decided to be petty, and one of the Imperial bombers finally missed its mark. The errant bomb fell right on top of Brother Sentunius, who was in the midst of reloading his boltgun. He was blown to pieces by the explosion, but the other Astartes carried on as though nothing had happened. Their armor had protected them from physical harm, and they were saving their grief and rage for later.
“At best, we will only break-even now. We lose one Marine to save another,” Pythagoras finally said, as he stared at the crater where Sentunius once stood, “I must strongly advise a withdrawal. The Thunderhawks have been waiting for nearly an hour.”
“And you have done your duty to the Chapter by informing me of The Estimates,” Medeus responded, his attention still focused on the attacking enemy, “Now do your duty to me and find Brother Varrus.”
Pythagoras suppressed a growl and went back to his instruments. They had been damaged by the explosion that killed Sentunius. Yet just as how fate could be cruel, it could also be fortuitous.
“I am receiving the signal from his armor! Along with life signs!” Pythagoras shouted, “He is not far away, approximately five hundred meters to the west.”
“The Emperor protects, while the Omnissiah watches over us!” Brother-Sergeant Medeus chanted, which was followed by his remaining squad members, “Now, let’s bring Varrus home.”
Like a machine, the Medeus Team sprang into action and plowed through the cultists that were standing in their way. Brother Titus laid down a fearsome wall of fire with his Heavy Bolter, while the rest of the Wardens picked off the survivors. In less than ten minutes, they covered the necessary distance and slew nearly two hundred of the enemy, only to find a blazing building where Brother Varrus should be.
“Are you sure that Varrus is inside?” Medeus asked, scanning the structure with his helmet-mounted auspex. Pythagoras tapped his instruments again, and confirmed what he feared.
“He is, but his vitals just flatlined,” Pythagoras started, “It is unfortunate, but...”
The Brother-Sergeant didn’t let him finish. Instead, Medeus smashed the building’s door open and charged inside. He shouted for his men to follow him into the fire.
Pythagoras and the others hesitated, but only for a moment. It was not fear that stopped them; for the Astartes felt no fear and their armor was proof against fire.
Instead, what stopped them was instinct. They all sensed the danger; but they could not tell its source.
“For the Emperor!” Pythagoras finally shouted, choosing to trust and follow his Brother-Sergeant to the end. He drew his combat knife and stepped into the inferno, the rest of the squad following close behind him.
Pythagoras’ loyalty was rewarded with a blade that sliced off his head.
In quick succession, two other Steel Wardens fell. One was decapitated like Pythagoras, while the other was cut in half at the waist. Only Brother Titus managed to raise his weapon in time to defend himself.
“Varrus! You traitor!” Brother Titus shouted as he pulled the trigger, aiming at the false Warden in front of him. To his surprise, his Heavy Bolter failed to fire. He then realized that his opponent was wearing the insignia of a Sergeant.
“I’m afraid Varrus is already dead,” Medeus said as he plunged his sword into Titus’ throat, “And so are you.”
Without another word, Brother Titus fell dead on the ground, his sabotaged Heavy Bolter lying right beside him. The flames quickly began to lick at his lifeless corpse.
+You have done well, my champion,+ said a daemonic voice in Medeus’ head.
The treacherous Astartes smiled at the sword. It was such a fine weapon – a long sword engraved with arcane symbols that were simply beautiful to behold. It hadn’t tasted his touch for too long.
“With these bodies burned, the Chapter will not suspect,” Medeus told it, “And it is time for us to leave this place and continue our work.”
+Us?+ the voice asked suddenly.
Medeus was about to respond, but found that he couldn’t speak. He tried to move, but found himself locked in place – with the sword still clasped firmly in his hand.
+I’m afraid that you are mistaken. I am no weapon to be wielded by a mere mortal,+ the voice said wickedly, +For I am the Nightblade, and it is I
who wields champions
The fire in the building began to engulf the Brother-Sergeant’s body, allowing the daemon-sword to transform it according to its whims. In his mind, Medeus tried to scream.
But there would be no escape for Medeus. Unlike the brothers he betrayed, he would not be granted the release of oblivion. Instead, his soul would be thrown into the fires of a Warp-spawned hell, damned to serve the Dark Gods forever.