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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-10-13, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
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Default The Prophet's War

This was something I typed up on Bolthole, with a lot of views. Thought I would expose it here as well but with some more background.

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ___
The Prophet has returned!

And with him he brings the word of the gods!

For the past twenty years the Prophet has passed through the broken worlds of the Darkvale; a cluster of several dozen worlds dedicated to the Old Faith, hidden in the unclaimed fringes of the galactic north east of the Sagittarius Arm between the Mordant Zone and the cursed, enemy worlds of Ultramar.

The sacred messenger walked amongst the believers, rousing the warring tribes and systems to unite, to gather for the common cause of the gods and to bring immolation to the infidel and illumination to the ignorant!
For ten bloody years the worlds resisted the Prophet and his Word and with regret in his heart and a tear in his cheek he unleashed his armies, favoured of the gods, upon those who rejected his pleas of unity.

Thus the great Cull began.

Legion warriors, armour clad giants called the Space Marines loyal to chaos returned to the Vales in force and were unleashed upon the worlds; the Prophets own loyal Huskarl Brotherhoods and the implacable Blackhand Cohorts of tithed to the Prophet by the Ancient Seven marched beside them to war.

Foremost amongst the enemies were the remnants of the Khedur Empire, the roving clan companies of the Vaanor Clanites. Besides them a thousand other martial cults and armies that peppered the wartorn worlds opposed the new messenger, but the when the Cull descended all that were against the Prophet fell dead or to his sacred feet in obeisance, for there was none who could not look upon him and feel regret for their folly and faith renewed under a chosen guide.

Ten years they fought a bloody war as the Vales were dragged into unison once more under their rightful master, the Prophet.

The sacred guide enacted laws to better the peoples, the starving were no longer hungry, the thirsty were no longer parched, technology and faith combined to leech the suffering the unending wars had bought, but the converted were belligerent and numerous and were ready and ripe for the next phase of the plan from the gods.

The prophet preached to them of their true enemy, the Corpse God and his Imperium!

The old way had soon returned, the ancient martial orders that were broken were once more rebuilt, the destructive wars had ceased, in place of battlefields weaponsmiths and forgemaster from the Maelstrom made their abodes.

The Hundred Worlds within the Darkvales armed and prepared for war as old rivalries were put aside and the black pacts made to the warp and in the Prophet’s name.

A hundred worlds cheered the name of Khas! The Prophet had returned, and the Imperium would pay as the Sacred Hosts spilled from the Vale and into the unready Imperium of man.


__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ________

Chapter 1

The soldier travelled his evening patrol route solemnly, his weapon slung about his shoulder and his rank of subedar crest stamped on his drab red combat armour.

A medallion of the pantheon star hung from his neck and the same sigil was carved on his crimson helmet and rebreather unit. A unit patch on his brown fatigues with sigil and six blades indicated he was of the Sixth Clan Company.

Confined roads and alleys of Lorterstown’s inner blocks were annoyingly compact, but easy to guard, single man patrol was the norm as resistance was long gone from the township.

The subedar had volunteered for his squad’s rostered rotation, to the surprise of his troopers, he wanted them to be rested after the successful persecution of their sacred duties in the southern provinces.

He was a harsh taskmaster, but their efforts against the PDF were exemplary, commendations and medallions were already given out by their Sardar-Commander, what little rest they got would only be beneficial to him.

Three entire regiments of the enemy were destroyed in a major action near the southern massifs. He still remembered the day as he marched with his oathed outfit; the Eighth Host of the Sedukh Warclans, the Sedukhar, tithed to the Lord Khas in his holy war-effort. Yes, his men deserved their rest.

But the subedar had other reasons to find himself alone on a patrol, he still felt regret for losing two of his warriors, they had of course sworn their lives to the cause of the Prophet, yet he regretted the way they died. Bad deaths were never a good sign to the fortune of the squad, seeing how it had been chosen to the elite cadre after their garrison tour.

The clanking chains from the shuffling and shambling prisoners broke the subedar's reverie and he continued his circuit into the town

The prisoners overseen by interdictor-guards were whitewashing an old group of Administratum buildings of the signs and words of the Imperium.

Farther down the street a group of ordained acolytes, new converts to the True Faith, scribbled runes and symbols that assailed their minds and dreams, an after effect of the initiation rites to the Temple of the Warp Pantheon.

A floating skull shaped object studded with red visual slits and clusters of antennas scanned the writings and gleaned some information from them that was beyond the subedar.

One of the interdictors raised his free hand in a salute with a clash of his mailed fist over his heart.

The Subedar nodded in return and walked on.

A half track carrier advanced down the main central road and the driver gave a hearty wave and halted the carrier. The Subedar recognized the four eyed driver named Vargu as his squad’s assigned driver during their southern campaign.

“Subedar Haum, by the gods it is well to see you, what brings a leader amongst the wretches?”

The Subedar nodded and studied the scaled face of the driver, “Well to see you, Var, I am on patrol duty for now.”

The driver looked surprised, “A Subedar? A Serapis even, serkar?”

“Why not? Only fair that my warriors sleep while I share their burden, and my familial name is for me alone to speak,” he chuckled, “Lest I rip your tongue and feed it to my dogs.”

The driver nervously smiled exposing brown, dirty teeth. A random vox blurt distracted the driver for a moment and he reached the cabin vox and began twisting the dials, “Damned thing, signals' been playing havoc all morning, serkar. Fleet was on alert was the notice, now it is all jumbled.”

Haum was about to ask why, when a blinding explosion ripped through the building across the street, vaporising a group of interdictors and a dozen of the chained acolytes working on the walls.

The subedar was thrown from his feet and fell hard onto the wall of the old hab unit ten meters from where he stood.

He began to sink into blackness an abyss of nothing, his mind aflame with searing heat. A sudden flash brought him back from the brink as a bang sounded somewhere close to him.

Something hard smacked into his rib, winded and half-conscious Haum began to gain consciousness from the pain of the impact.

Instinctively he started to crawl away from the firestorm he felt in front of him through his faceplate, shots smacked the ground about him, a lancing pain shot through his ribs once again and then dissipated, he felt something hard ricochet from his helmet, jerking his head back, but he crept on without pause until he got to the foot of a building, he craned his aching neck up to see a blown out and open window.

Cover, his mind intepreted the tactical situation.

Using all the strength he had left the Haum Serapis dragged himself into the window of the building he was thrown against; shots chased his retreat and puffs of plascrete and pulverized masonry spat from the abused walls of the place.

The Subedar was slowly gaining his wits and groped for his rifle strap, he found the strap, but the rifle was missing, he cursed under his rebreather and threw the strap away.

He felt a sudden sharp pain and reached down to his aching rib feeling a still hot gash through his gloves, las round, he assumed.

Intense weapons fire sounded outside followed by the rush of boots and shouting men.

Something heavy crashed against the door of the building, ten meters from where Haum barely sat, again something crashed at the door, he realised he was hearing the sound of boots ramming against the frame of it.

The enemy was trying to get in.

He needed a weapon, the subedar reached for his sidearm and pulled it from its holster, he checked the charge of the laspistol, it was a full green, ten shots on maximum charge, and he had to make it count.

Suddenly the door blew off its hinges and men in light blue and white urban combat fatigues and flak vests barged in rifles to their cheeks.

They definitely weren’t from his outfit.

The subedar took aim and fired, the pistol cracked and whined in his hand as he put two cauterized holes through the visors of the first two troopers, the third leapt away from the door toward a cabinet and flipped the nearby heavy table over as cover.

The Sedukhar was on his feet and he ran behind a couch adjacent to him, as a dozen las shots splintered the wall he was leaning on, just a second ago.

Something clipped his shoulder pad and the sizzling smell of blood entered his nostrils.

Ignoring the pain Haum raised his profile up to a crouch; his pistol aimed at the approximate area of the third trooper and fired three shots.

Haum heard a howl and the trooper broke cover with a bayonet affixed lasrifle and charged at the couch the subedar was behind, just then two more soldiers ran into the building weapons up.

The Subedar weighed his options within that moment as lethal lasbolts flew overhead, none of the options were good, he was bleeding, nearly out of ammunition and he was sure that the world had just been invaded by the Imperials, oddly he realised also that the poor bastard Var and his beloved carrier had shielded him from the worst of the explosion.

So as pragmatic as he always was accused of the subedar drew his ritual war-knife, consecrated and forged with his blood mixed in the steel and gave a short prayer to the Warp Powers for a worthy death.

With a terrible battle cry to Khorne, the war god, Haum leapt over the shot up couch and laid into the advancing trooper.

The bayonet wielding imperial lunged at him, the strike was weak and confused in the rush of the charge and the blade scraped the combat armour and slid over Haum's shoulder guard.

The subedar taking advantage of the poor skill thrust his blade into the exposed neck of the trooper, with a gush of blood the tip erupted on the other side, severing the imperial soldier’s spine.

There was a momentary struggle then the body fell limp the weight of it shifting on to the subedar.

Gathering his last reserves of strength Haum pushed ahead with the body as a shield, the other two troopers fired and the subedar fired the last of his shots in reply all the while advancing at them.

The two remaining imperials fell dead one shot in the neck the other through his visor, the subedar stood there, the limp body resting on him, his knife still stuck in the enemy throat and wondered how he is still alive.

“Blood for the blood god!” Haum whispered as he pried the knife out of the imperials neck and let the body drop like a sack of spoiled grain.

Haum discharged the expended cell from the pistol and retrieved a spare cell for his weapon, slotting it home with a click and whine he checked the scene once more.

Learning from the enemy dead was a tactical as well as practical priority; the persecution of this crusade and war itself against the Imperium would only succeed through the understanding of the enemy. The theories and lectures given by the Heralds of Khas said as much, to fight any threat; one must first know what it is.

Haum noticed that they all wore the same fatigues and armour; most carried a lasrifle of a pattern he was unfamiliar with. However he did identify them as guardsmen and the patched on their shoulders indicated that they were Elysian, it meant nothing to him.

Haum grunted in pain as he bent down and picked up the weapon, a sudden thunderous quake shook the building and heard more of the weapons fire and the rattle of tanks outside, he paused.

Tanks.

Something wasn’t right here, slowly Haum approached the window he came through and peered out at the smoke and fire filled street, mobs of Imperial Guardsmen were racing through it and a couple of immense beastly tanks in rust brown and beige began rolling steadily and firing at distant targets.

The subedar was still amazed at how the Imperials had so thoroughly vexed the planetary defences and landed right into the heart and meat of their occupation in the north-eastern sectors.

Something began clicking in his ear, he realised his vox was still online, he thanked the Gods and dialled his squad code, he got static in reply.
He dialled his company code, nothing.

Haum began fearing the worst now.

He feared that he maybe alone, surrounded by enemies.

*****************

The world of Kanith was a cold and ruined battlefield, one of the many worlds fallen to the sweeping advance of the Chaos armies within the sub-sector from the Vales.

A reply from the Prophet, beloved of the Gods, for the dishonour they did to him and to pursue the destiny of return; the conquest of worlds that would start the fall of the Imperium.

Fire, war and riches awaited them beyond the Vale, an entire empire decadent in their ways and corrupt in faith, at the verge of dying yet powerful in arms.

The promises, the pacts, the sheer amount of sacrifices that each of the worlds had made were immense, the conversion of entire populations in to the war machine of the prophet.

Such glories and horrors he had seen, all in the name of the True Gods, the monoliths of the warp who ruled and saw all.

The subedar considered these things when he awoke that cold, ruined morning under a roof full of the dead enemy.

But the reality was worse than he had expected, the firefight was still in full swing outside, with his stolen lasgun and a dozen clips, he deigned to break out and find a way out of the town.

First he needed to get a bearing on how to get out of the town and where to run; he fished into one of his pouches and came away with an old cracked map that came with his garrison order.

He splayed it flat on the ground and began to trace his hand on the street lines and crude markings that constituted the parts of the town and the roads out.

According to what he remembered before the attack he was on the single large main street that bisected the town into two sections, the north section and the south section. Haum reckoned himself to be somewhere near the north west of the northern section, three hundred meters from the north-west barracks.

He began checking all the landmarks he could see from the windows of what he found were a leisurely two storied summer house of the previous owners.

Haum spied a firestorm over the north-west barracks, to the south near his barrack there was smoke plumes leading toward the watchtower near his barrack, there was heavy fighting and explosions all about that area, seemed that the barrack was holding, but distant lumbering forms of tanks and collapsing buildings indicated it won’t be for much longer.

Haum observed that his only way out was the south-east; the fighting hadn’t spread toward the area for some unknown reason, he hoped that was because it was still in garrison hands.

The subedar collected his weapon and slowly crept toward the door, cautiously aiming his weapon at the street outside.

As he reached the door frame the subedar swung his rifle up and checked either stretches of the road, he carefully stepped outside and saw two enemy troopers jogging away from him.

Haum took aim and fired, the subedar found that the weapon was light and did not kick as much as the rifle he used; the lasgun sprayed a brilliant flash of solid blue rounds that ripped and shredded the unwary guardsmen, both fell ignorant of their killer.

Wearily, Haum approached the bodies carefully covering all corners of the nearby buildings and alleys, advancing down the ruined street his rifle up to his chin and his posture intent on harm.

He kicked over one of the bodies and saw that they were wearing a different set of fatigues to the dead Elysians, he couldn’t identify the patches as they were burnt and scored by his las shots, he kicked the other one over.

This one wasn’t dead and gurgled something, Haum put a round into his heart as soon as he memorized the patch; the two were from the 74th Hekartus Armoured.

A sudden noise startled Haum, his rifle raised the subedar began scanning the long stretch of road before him. He heard the clattering and grunting of a engine.

Two buildings over a palisade collapsed as an armoured vehicle crunched onto the street on broad tracks.

Haum was immediately on his feet and running, in the opposite direction.

The tank's turret gears whined as its cannon turned toward him, then with a wash of flame and a loud bang it fired.

The shell went over his head and hit the terrace of a building adjacent to Haum, autoguns and las bolts chased his retreat as he turned into an alley and gathered speed to vault a chain fence.

Haum felt his chest compress as he laboured himself, the wound at his ribs ached; his booted feet propelled him forward, he grabbed the top railing of the fence and hauled himself over the fence on to an opposite street.

He checked the street and found it abandoned, he turned to his planned route and began advancing to the south-east.

Within a few moments Haum came across three dozen dead, all imperials gunned down in a compact alley.
The next street over, Haum came across Subedar Rushil and his squad, all dead and before them lay the three ruined Chimera carriers and two dozen dead guardsmen.

A good account, Haum concluded as he picked through the dead comrades. He discarded his stolen weapon and took Rushil’s more familiar pattern lasgun stamped with the icon of the pantheon star and the bead charms of Rushil’s clan; he also took the explosives on the soldiers and a rocket launcher he slung across his back.

In one of the packs he found a small chapbook stamped with the black sigil of the Prophet, the chaos star over the Eternal Flame.

In a silent moment of loneliness, he kissed the book and touched it to the temples of the dead and muttered a short prayer before leaving.

He found his lonely walk exhausting and futile at times.

Street after street was littered with the dead and dying populace or defenders of the town, he came across a few scampering locals who grovelled and prayed to him for protection, he shot the first few so the others wouldn’t approach him, after that they kept out of his way.

Within the hour of his trek however he came across a firefight between a throng of Sedukhar troopers and a company of Elysian guardsmen with a behemoth tank with different crests to that of the Elysians.

The troopers were stuck in a wide clothing complex and were hemmed in toward the central plaza where they held against the assaulting Elysians, the tank was firing volleys into the building weakening its structure intent on burying the warriors inside.

Knowing his vantage in the firefight, he approached the rear of the engaging unit, he noticed that in the haste to assault they had not covered their rear and were wide open to insurgency, he smiled.

The first two troopers beside the tank wielding long las sniper rifles, did not hear him approach, with two quick shots he put them down, a fire team adjacent them in cover; noticed the lack of suppressing fire from nearby and turned to see the Subedar aiming his rocket launcher at them, before they could react the fire-team erupted in a wash of fire and blood.

Without losing a moment he shot down another three of the Elysians before approaching the tank, he removed the explosives from his belt and set it near the growling engine block of the vehicle’s rear.

Haum set the timer and looked up to see a dozen Elysians advancing toward him, he smiled and ran.

The guardsmen began firing and advancing toward the doomed tank as Haum ran to a nearby husk of a once-vehicle and threw himself behind it; the tank erupted in a massive fireball within moments and the clutch of guardsmen after him perished in the fire of the tanks death.

The confused Elysians’ fire began to drop as they tried to find the source of their tanks death and began to fall back.

Right toward Haum’s cover, he cocked his rifle and prepared to kill affixing his war knife to the rifle he charged out and shot three of the enemy, bayoneted the fourth kicked the fifth down and shot him in the head, two shots punched his shoulder plates and another pinged on his face plate and cracked his glare-visor, more shots drove him back to cover behind the ruined land car.

Haum checked himself and found no new wounds, other than an aching jaw and a malfunctioning rebreather, otherwise he was combat ready; replacing his spent las cell Haum took a firing position began to gun down the approaching Elysians.

The two Sedukhar squads freed from the enemy suppression advanced across the open entrance of the building and caught the retreating Elysians in disciplined volleys, a stubber team set up and hosed the area gunning a dozen guardsmen before changing position.

The troopers cheered as they advanced against the Elysians, their war knives in hand throwing grenades and howling oaths to the gods. Two of them fell to the few Elysians still keeping their wits.

Haum lobbed a few grenades at the Elysians and readied for a second charge, he gave a small prayer and erupted from cover firing from the hip until his weapon clicked dry.

Within moments last of the Elysians were dead or dying; the troopers cursed them and laughed praising the gods for their deliverance.

Subedar Haum advanced slowly toward the cheering troopers, his rifle gripped across his chest his finger on the trigger, “Who leads here?”
The surprised troopers looked at each other unsure of what to make of the new comer.

“And who are you of the sacred Hosts to ask us that?” asked one of the soldiers.

Haum tapped his battered breastplate’s sigil, “So fast you forget to recognize by rank, warrior. Subedar Haum.”

The troopers suddenly felt cowed and bowed their heads in compliance, one of them stepped forward; this one wore an open faced helmet like his kin and had scarred armour and a young, dirt streaked face, “We apologize subedar, the blood of battle courses through us. This is our first time and the Blood Lord’s call echoes in our skulls.”

Haum grunted in amusement, “You are fresh bloods?”

The youth bristled at the title, “We are hunters all, but warriors we are not yet.”

Haum chuckled and shook his head, “What clans do you oath to?”

The soldiers all looked at the helmetless youth, “Keshar house, Subedar Haum. I am Reigner Kobutha’s first son, Kolan. These are my brothers and sisters oathed with me, born on the same day and all oathed to my father.”

Haum unclasped his damaged helm and uncoupled his rebreather set and threw it on the ground, he took a deep breath of the burning, bloody air.

“It is suffocating wearing that all the time. You have the right idea, Kolan, an open helmet without the damned gear”, he said indicating at his ruined helmet.

The youth studied Haum’s leathery, scarred face carefully, the bronzed skin and the reptilian eyes and the ridged chin indicated he was one of the warriors from the central clans of their homeworld Khedur, possibly a clansmen from the venerable Serapis hordes.

“We...were certain we would perish here. But for the miracle of the metal beasts death.”

“Metal beast...the tank you mean? Yes? No miracle that. I did that.”
The troopers’ eyes widened in surprise, “You are of the bravest clans then, my subedar.”

“I suppose I am,” Haum replied with amusement in his tone, “You are now nominally under my command.”

The warriors all drew their blades in a ceremonious move. Haum raised his gloved hand and stopped them.

“Oaths are during the eve of wars and battles, not in the middle of a war. Now tell me this, what in the warp is happening here? My vox set is malfunctioning and the sudden appearance of all these guardsmen vexes me.”

“The enemy fell from the sky, much like how we came here, except that they flew with metal boxes on their backs, subedar,” the youth explained, “Weapons on ships bigger than mountains shot out pieces of this place to hell. I saw them float west in the sky.”

Haum nodded and considered the information for a moment; the boy was describing orbital strikes by ships in-atmosphere, that must mean the fleet was compromised he listened to the others explain how the ‘sky split as loud birds spew men at them,’ yet he could not make sense of the time frame or the sudden assault so deep into the conquered system.

He must have been knocked out for a long time for the imperials to touch down right after an orbital strike. He shook the thought from his head and looked back at the troopers.

“Why are your lot and you here? I don’t believe young warriors are sent to garrison duties.”

“We were here on a combat purge in one of the outer hamlets, subedar, under the command of Sardar Feghan North-West barracks.”

Haum tutted, Ferghan was a senior commander of the 3rd Clan Company, “He is most likely dead. Last I saw his barracks, it was on fire.”

Kolan looked upset at this and whispered something.

“You can pray later, young blood. Now our task is to leave this place and warn our brother hosts that the enemy is come.”

The young Kolan nodded, “Lead us then, subedar. We will follow you and learn.”

Haum smiled and waved them to follow him.

Now all he had to do was find a way out of the doomed town, Haum thought bitterly.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.

Last edited by Exitus_10; 07-11-13 at 03:23 AM.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-10-13, 06:57 PM
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It's a good read by any mean, but there are a few issues I wonder about.

The Elysians shall be elite paratroopers, they seems here like they are cattle not elite soldiers. The followers of Chaos being organized, that sounded so odd that I at the first read assumed them to be Imperials. Okay might be my interpretation, but I would have added a section where Haum bested Kolan and such.

And there were a place were Haum was described as yelling something in praise to Khorne. Why not let him yell Blood for the Blood-God! or that other catchphrase they use? I mean Khornate fanatics are fanatics. They yell one phrase really loud.

Also the fighting, Haum seems to be heavily armoured. He should go in and feed the guardsmen their entrails not just shoot at them. He is a Khornate fanatic, and that would seem more like them. I can understand the need for him to take out alot in ranged combat, but if I were you I would have Haum topple a column or a statue of Empy on the hapless Elysians, and then you can add some humor in it was the Empror squashed his own weaklings.

My story about the commissars Zachary Carrus and Michelle Ionza and their life and crimes https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...d.php?t=123690
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-13, 03:24 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Beaviz81 View Post
It's a good read by any mean, but there are a few issues I wonder about.

The Elysians shall be elite paratroopers, they seems here like they are cattle not elite soldiers. The followers of Chaos being organized, that sounded so odd that I at the first read assumed them to be Imperials. Okay might be my interpretation, but I would have added a section where Haum bested Kolan and such.

And there were a place were Haum was described as yelling something in praise to Khorne. Why not let him yell Blood for the Blood-God! or that other catchphrase they use? I mean Khornate fanatics are fanatics. They yell one phrase really loud.

Also the fighting, Haum seems to be heavily armoured. He should go in and feed the guardsmen their entrails not just shoot at them. He is a Khornate fanatic, and that would seem more like them. I can understand the need for him to take out alot in ranged combat, but if I were you I would have Haum topple a column or a statue of Empy on the hapless Elysians, and then you can add some humor in it was the Empror squashed his own weaklings.
Welp first of all, I dont intend to write my main character as a traditional chaos fanatic, second, he is of a military outfit who are comprised of professional troopers, Haum is a member of this and a veteran, which I will be revealing later.

I never said he was a khornate fanatic, I never implied it, I clearly explained there is a pantheon star as a medallion a sign of the follower of the pantheon undivided and he prayed to the pantheon before meeting the Elysian's charge. He happend to call out Khorne's name because he was in combat and since that is the war god's realm I thought I would add that in.

As for the Elysians, they charged into a house and Haum was in a position not directly in front of them to have been initially noticed, he took advantage of his angle and got a few lucky shots, I explain that. The third who charged him with the bayonet was already hit, thus the weak thrust of his bayonet, I also explained this I assumed with the howl when the three rounds hit his cover.

I dont want to potray him as a fanatic as I potrayed the newbloods (taking trophies and fingers) he is more disciplined and pragmatic, he isnt stupid, thus signifying his need to survive not only by luck but by thought and of course plot armour.

Also it just wouldn't be sensible to have a statue of Emperor still standing in a world occupied by Chaos forces, as well as the fact that Elysians arent the only soldiers in the place, I explain there are tanker companies and other infantry.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-13, 11:51 AM
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A solid story.

I found the single line paragraphs hard to read and slightly distracting. I feel it would flow better if you used a mixture of long and short paragraphs.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-12-13, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dave T Hobbit View Post
I found the single line paragraphs hard to read and slightly distracting. I feel it would flow better if you used a mixture of long and short paragraphs.
Of course, I will try to present it better. I guess the layout is something I havent been used to for a while.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.
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Chapter 2


Haum looked back at the darkening sky over the doomed town and gritted his teeth in frustration watching the dozens of gunships and fat bellied troop ferries descend in a huge tide from the roiling sky above the burning town.

He had been in major battles before, fighting from the front and committing necessary massacres to keep the conquered enemy compliant and please the gods with sacrifices, he had seen and done things that would turn the stomach of lesser men, yet this was one of the most awesome sights, mass invasion by the Imperials was something his own Host could not pull off which such precision and ferocity.

The rest of his ragtag group of survivours watched the scene in awe and confusion. Two of their number was missing, casualties of the breakout when they deigned to fight their way out of the doomed township.

They ambushed a platoon of local resistance fighters near the south barracks and managed to link up with a motorized company of Interdictors riding six-wheeled light tanks and a few battered old hauler trucks on their way out of the south gatehouse which was still under Interdictors control.

Haum found the Interdictor’s a strange and thoroughly alien arm of the Prophet’s war-machine; supposedly they were as vital as the soldiery, they were the body that ensured the host-command's conquests were utilised, protected and requisitioned to help the enormous war-effort to bring the Imperial systems to heel. In essence the Interdictors were the suppression, conversion and propaganda enforcement troops assigned to oversee the citizenry and police them and ensure that they were compliant to their sacred cause. A way to pause the widespread pogroms that were the norm of the early years of the crusade, the Prophet deigned that the population need not be wasted but used as a source of labour, spare organs and limbs or even meals for some of the maneater warriors like the Amuligar.

The interdictor leader, titled as an Akan, or company head, had told him that host command the enemy had been waiting beyond the third planet with a full fleet muster and had coordinated a enormous offensive in concert with the dozen PDF regiments that remained and scores of resistance groups across thirty-seven prefectures that had sprung up in the aftermath of the invasion.

The Akan had explained with a measure of uneasiness that all host forces were ordered retreat from the entire north-eastern frontier and to report to third reserve lines seventy miles to the west.

Then the enemy had attacked in terrifying force, compact buggy like vehicles with las and auto cannons sliced into them, Haum and his throng barely made it away from the exploding Interdictors vehicles and they fled past the barracks and into the outskirts of the town. From there they had run into the open fields that surrounded the township.

Haum saw the soldiery from other units flee into the surrounding woodlands and thicket covered hills, most were being harassed by flights of gunships.

They were lucky as they fled over toward the west highway, the gunships were more interested with the fleeing armour units

Between the Sedukhar squad and the highway lay a series of flood mounds, stop banks created to collect and irrigate water into the surrounding farms which were now just abandoned graveyards to the thousands of dead from the occupation.

"Heads down and follow, dont get sluggish, you runts, keep up," Haum ordered as he walked past the youngster Kolan.

"We are hunting, subedar?" Kolan asked eagerly, but to no avail as Haum simply walked past without replying.

Kolan snorted and looked at the scene around him anxiously as his comrades began to huddle and chant prayers of protection clutching their totems and beads. He found the whole ordeal slightly unnerving and utterly alien to all his experiences, just like his hunters, he nodded to those looking at him for guidance with agreement and fingered his own totem of witch bone around his neck.

In a foreign land, with sworn brothers and sisters fighting now what seemed like a losing battle, yet led by a veteran subedar who saved them and still kept his wits about him in all the confusion.

Kolan looked down at his boots and grimaced at the sticky mud coating it, the high raised banks were mostly dry, but the recent rains had made the mud on the troughs between slippery and slick with mud.

The young hunter watched his hunters all struggled and slipped in the mud; they did not stick to advance patterns the subedar had explained to them and were acting up , showing to be a poorly trained force, or atleast that is what the subedar kept telling him.

Kolan had watched helplessely as Haum admonished fully half of the troopers in the past half-hour for not keeping line discipline and making too much sound advancing in compromised territory.

He heard the subedar grunt in anger at something about the plummeting quality of the warriors as more and more replacement’s were being asked of the Sedukh.

Never had Kolan ever expected to such sentiment from a subedar, he was disillusioned and at times dissapointed at what he saw, the more he experienced the way the subedar led, the more he doubted the subedar's ability, there was no bond, there was no connection, only commands. yet that was not the worst of it, his words, the cruel swearing and oaths thrown at his lot being an untrained force, of being ametuers and a burden! Such audacity! Only he had the authority for such things, he was a Chieftan's Son! Not some dustbowl rat to be kicked around as he watched his kin be sworn at and kicked about!

Kolan sighed at the misfortunes of the past day that seemed to be testing his resolve, he was getting angry, he wanted Haum acknowledge him as the leader of the hunters, as a peer, or he would have to kill him, he was sure of it.

Close to the last bank, Haum called for a halt and the ragtag force of Sedukhar crouched amidst the tall grass that grew from the wet mud at the foot of the unkempt embankment trying to stay low as gunships made random passes overhead.

Haum climbed up to the edge of the embankment and looked out the road fifty meters away, he smiled as a plan came to him.

Kolan walked toward Haum who was looking west toward the highway and peered that way.

“Subedar...we are alone, I wish to speak like an equal, serkar. This...”

“We need vehicles to get out of here,” Haum cut in as he lifted his salvaged magnoculors to his reptilian eyes, over to the west highway where he spied a group of armour units fleeing in full speed, and to their sides lay a row of abandoned vehicles, pock marked with gunfire and rocket impacts.

“There,” Haum said pointing at the distant forms of a pair of abandoned half track carriers.

Kolan felt annoyed at the slight his one hand fiddled with the totem as the other crawled toward his blade.

“What?” he blurted out unceromoniously.

“Our rides, abandoned armoured carriers,” he explained smoothly as he removed the magnoculors from his eyes and looked back at the rabble he led, “Can any of you fools drive a vehicle?”

The huddled and crouched soldiers all looked at each other and Kolan.

Haum grimaced in annoyance, “I asked you a damned question! Have any of you driven hunt vehicles or airships?”

Three of them raised their hands, the first one stood, “I am Euran Ilko, serkar, oathed to the clan...”

Haum raised his hand, “Names will be fine for now, rat, formal introductions after we kill our way out of here and I am drilling you lot out of your stupidity.”

The group began to growl and threaten at the heaping disrespect, Euran simply nodded and stood rigidly to attention, the subedar indicated the other two up, one was a young woman with a purple and red eyes which switched every time she blinked, there was a strange beauty there behind the dirt and grit on her sweet face.

“G’jan Salur, serkar,” she said smartly and raised her rifle in salute.

Haum nodded, “Switch your damned safety, you are in a combat zone fool.”

The girl simply followed the order and looked unfazed. Haum noted the calm demenour and filed it away in his mind.

The last one was a burly, muscled youth with thick and heavy shoulders and a tall stature, his face was a mess of fang like tattoos of the Amaru clans, “Heku Amaru, serkar,” he growled as he slapped his meaty palm to his tiny bone-fang covered rifle.

“A Amaru walks among us, are you as worthless as your misbegotten clan or are you willing to show me the might you bear in the field?”

"Gladly you horde scum!" Heku growled as he lunged at the subedar his right fist aimed at Haum's face.

Haum expertly dodged the blow and grabbed the youth's wrist and gave a swift blow to his armpit below the armour followed by a grappling throw that landed the youth face down in the mud.

Haum gave a strange smile, "Good, atleast one of you is worth my time," he explained as he kicked the recovering Heku in the rib once more. "Get up and back in line, anyone else?"

The rest of the group Kolan included just stared dumbstruck at the subedar for a moment, Haum nodded to himself satisfied and beckoned the two standing hunters toward him and they helped pick the fallen youth up to his feet, Haum picked out four more that he had noted to have potential.

They were , Tejh Orik, Jeth Orik the twins, Mej Arin a sharpshooter with a repurposed and scoped autorifle and Soca Rau a silent brooding trooper who kept a long hunting knife and a silenced pistol at his waist.

“You rats will be my strike team, I will lead you,” the seven chosen looked at each other and seemed fairly pleased with the selection, "You deviate, you die. Or I will kill you, bastard of Kobutha."

Kolan howled in anger at the insult and charged at Haum, anticipating this Haum turned to face him and easily deflected the first blow toward his face with his forearm, he anticipated the second fist and caught it with a slap on his palm before it landed on target, he squeezed the fist in place and within the same second rammed his other arm's elbow into Kolan's chestplate cracking it, while winding and throwing Kolan to the ground.

The new bloods watched the scene in shock, utterly captivated by the savagery of the subedar, the admiration for strength and ability was bred into all who were born of Sedukh and a culture of martial dominance and violence was the way of their home.

“You do not hold any sway here, little man, your father is a coward and you are his bastard,” Haum explained as he approached the sprawled and gasping hunter and knelt beside him, a knife flashed in his hand, "disobey me and raise your hand again I will gut you and eat your heart you pampered little shit. I am already having a bad day, your death will only make it sweeter, understood?"

Kolan lay there smouldering in anger and pain, but he had to assent, he gave a disheartened "Yes, serkar!"

"Good, now get up and watch carefully, no deviations, no running away. This is it you shameless rotten rats."

The subedar began drawing the plan of approach on the dirt he stood on with his blade as Kolan struggled getting up, he grolwed at those who came to help him, he now saw what the subedar was doing. He was creating a split in his hunters, already a portion was behind Haum, his chosen and the a number of others were impressed by the strength of the subedar. Kolan at that moment realised he could not best Haum and shooting him in the back will only end with everyone shooting each other. Old rivalries will be reborn and half of the oathed behind him would turn the moment they saw that heriarchy through prowess meant nothing and those behind the subedar, like the dog Soca would gut him if he the subedar lost his chance. He had to be careful, he realised, Haum was more cunning than he expected.

“Kolan," Haum called to him breaking the young man from his reverie, "Listen well you Reigner Bastard, you will split your hunters in two fire-teams, one will advance behind my strike team, the second fire-team will approach from the flank with rocket launchers and heavy weapons.”

“If we suffer resistance, and we will, I want you to sweep in from the flank, you lay down a field of fire with your fire-team and secure a position for the heavies to get in place, you advance, create a fire line, let the second fire team follow, understand?”

Kolan looked at the commands and looked at his oathed and then back at Haum who spoke still.

Haum paused and grabbed Kolan by his las strap, “You will not engage, until we do, is that clear?”

Kolan snarled, “Yes,”

"Yes, serkar!" Haum growled as he backhanded Kolan's face.

Kolan seethed with caged frustration and hatred for the subedar, "Yes Serkar!" he whispered through gritted teeth.

"Louder, heathen!" Haum ordered.

"Yes! Serkar!" Kolan screamed in anger.

Haum let Kolan go and swept his hand toward the highway.

“Good. Now we move.”

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.

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Chapter 3

The seven Haum had chosen moved with the awkward precision he expected from new recruits, they were clunky and noisy in their advance, their footing was off and their barrels were over cautiously raised.

The subedar learned half way into their advance that his group, even for all their initial merit lacked discipline and cooperation; Heku and the G’jan had some sort of connection because they kept sharing a look between each other; Haum assumed they were mates because they didn't seem to leave each other's side, this would be a problem in the long term.

Euran was slightly more irritable, he carried a stubber and kept making the most noise in their advance up the war torn highway, his bandoliers clattering with his charms and totems, the heavy weapon scraping and knocking into the smoking tank husks.

More than once Haum had to double back and chide the irritant for his careless manoeuvring, a swift knock to his forehead had seemed to drive the point home, he was much more careful in his advance.

The twins on the other hand worked great in unison but paid little heed to the others; they listened intently and watched with great reverence as Haum explained how to approach a stealthy advance, both of them seemed to only communicate between themselves and mostly avoided the others.
Both were armoured and armed the same way, even the rifles which were usually unique to every individual trooper was of the exact same mold, almost to every charm and totem upon the weapon was positioned in the same place, the only thing identifiable as unique between the two was the short braids, Jeth had it on his left while Tejh to his right. This would cause more problems as unity in squad order and command was expected for an efficient unit.

Soca and Mej were the only exceptions to his critique, they were the best of the lot and seemed to have a instinctive flair for stealth, they were silent and swift, almost as good as stalker-teams that formed the elite of the Sedukhar.

Mej cradled his sniper rifle with the care of a professional hunter and his subtle movements were admirable, emulating the old hunt technique used in the upland basins on Sedukh.

Soca on the other hand was a cold predator, deadly in his hunched movement, his calloused and scarred hands compressing between a fist and claw as he breathed, his right hand never too far from his blade and the other close to his pistol, a belt of fingers hung around his waist and a pair of scalps adorned the thigh guard. Typical tribal fetishes of teeth and ears wrapped around a shrunken eyeball hung from his thick neck.

Thirty meters down the highway lay the two abandoned carriers, the strike team moved forward slowly toward the burnt out carcasses of two large battle tanks.

Haum paused for a moment and signalled Mej over, "Count the enemy over there, by the first embankment trough toward the Highway."

Mej nodded raising his rifle, he carefully adjusted the scope to his eye and scanned the area ahead, debris and burnt out shells littered the roadway and then moved his sight toward the side of the road and past the bank.

There he spotted two dozen enemy troops in brown and grey with raised black rifles marched up from the town toward the highway scrambling up the steep bank toward the highway, behind them a company strong unit of more guardsmen was approaching in an swiftly.

Mej swore under his breath, “Subedar, I count over forty of the enemy in sight, twice as many beyond the second trench, maybe more.”

“Good, I can finally show you fools what a real battle is. Keep tracking the targets."

"Yes, serkar," Mej said as he relaxed his trigger depression and posture and rolled his tightening shoulder.

Haum ignored him and waved the rest of the team to him urging them to rally on him.

“It looks like this is it you rats, Mej and Euran, open up, once I do, keep your line clear and pick your targets. Tejh and Jeth, swing about right and shadow our advance and stay low, rest of you with me, we advance up the center.
Euran, you are my reserve driver, if either of the other two drivers are hit you are the replacement.”

The twins immediately broke off and settled along the ridge as the others nodded.

Haum grinned and looked at the rest, “Soca with me, Heku and G’jan behind us, eyes up and rifles on the ready, steady advance; start the vehicles as soon as we are close enough, clear you rats?”

“On my mark,” Haum chopped his hand and they began to advance.

Kolan watched as the figures in red began darting from wreck to wreck with commendable speed, following the subedar’s lead, he noticed the twins edge on the raised slope their heads down and their rifles up. He always found them to be the most distant and alien of those who had oath bound to him.
It seemed a lot more of them were distant and alien to him.

He watched as other figures in dark grey breastplates and brown fatigues of the invaders, the guardsmen, the subedar had called them suddenly appear near the wreck and shells of the burned out vehicles, one of them began checking the surroundings and aimed his rifle down to the woods where his fire-teams hid.

“They are close to the carriers, Master Kolan, should we assail them?”
Kolan felt an urge to order an attack, but he remembered Haum’s words, and Kolan was a man of his word, “It may indeed be time, brother. That fool Haum doesn’t know that we can take them. Let him make a fool of himself, first.”

The Sedukhar nodded and waited beside him obediently watching the approaching fire-team close in on the first lot of guardsmen that stood beside the abandoned carriers.

************************************************** *******************************

Subedar Haum watched the Guardsmen carefully go about their business celebrating prematurely; a banner man and another trooper with some sort of pict or capture device was gathering and lining men up to take picts. Haum carefully saw their patches, and identified one of their banners as of the Sarox Rangers; Haum had met them before in battle and knew they were tough bastards. The imperials knew how to raise a fighting man, Haum thought grimly as he inched closer to their target.

Soca crawled forward watching the subedar unsheathe his blade and gently part the laspistol from its holster, a trickle of sweat roll down from Soca’s constricted temple and down his cheek as he steadied his breathing and tried to channel the hunter within him; he hated the tight helmet and the taut combat armour that hugged to his sweaty fatigues. Yet he was utterly concentrating on approaching his target, to his right the subedar inched closer toward the enemy.

Both their targets were looking the wrong way with their backs facing them, watching and cheering the foolish guardsmen who were waving the banner in front of a burnt out tank, the subedar looked at Soca and then back at the drivers, he raised his pistol up.

“Now,” he ordered.

Soca leapt onto the first surprised guardsman, his tough arms wrapped around the target, his forearm squeezing his throat and drove his blade into the man’s shoulder in between his shoulder pad and breastplate, and his other hand began blazing his unsheathed autopistol at the surprised trooper taking the pict.

Soca grinned savagely as he shot the pictographer and three other Rangers, they dropped with wet thuds jerking as bullets pierced their face, arms and legs, to his left he heard the crack and whine of las pistol discharge, four more of the troopers toppled down.

With a cruel pull Soca wrenched the blade out of the weakening guardsman he supported and leapt for cover as return fire sizzled past his head, the twins appeared behind a ruined tank and catching a pair of Rangers off guard and killed them with perfect shots, they moved on to the guardsmen scattering for cover in the confusion.

Soca flashed his teeth savagely at the twins and shot two wounded Rangers on the ground, he approached the lip and shot two more guardsmen trying to clamber up the steep side, shots smacked the dirt around him and forced him to retreat from their line of sight, he turned about and settled behind a piece of broken tank skirt as cover and looked around, the twins were finishing off the last of the troopers, but farther down the road he saw the subedar and understood for the first time just how powerful Haum really was.

The man was a storm of death, he laid into five of the enemy, he shot the first in the face, slit the throat of the second, kicked a third’s legs from under him, slapped the barrel of the fourth aiming at him with his blade and shot the legs out from under him, the fifth staggered back as the subedar landed his knife through the Ranger’s visor, he dispatched the remaining fallen soldiers with shots to the head.

The twins moved up to him and began covering the subedar from the fresh troopers clambering from the slope onto the road.

Soca heard a stubber open up behind him with its steady thumping punctuated by solitary thwacks of Mej’s autorifle at targets below in the trough between the bank and the highway.

Heku and G’jan arrived beside him as he fired two shots into a trooper who emerged from a nearby wreck and dispatched another dying trooper on the ground with a blade to the throat.

“We need to move up and stop them!” shouted Haum as he reloaded and took position at the lip of the highway firing down at the clambering enemy.
The sedukhar all began to approach the lip and lay down fire at the advancing Guardsmen.

“Bloody hell,” the gruff Heku swore as he raised his gun and fired at the scores of Rangers scrambling up toward them, “I hope the subedar is right about this.”

G’jan gave a sultry laugh and nodded to the twins covering the subedar as he duelled with a enemy squad-leader, “He is the fine warrior,” she said over the roar of her rifle discharge, “I choose him over that damned Kolan any day.”

Soca simply stared at either of them and drew his lasrifle, “You should go start the carriers,”

G’jan acknowledged and withdrew, Heku made sure he finished his rounds before he withdrew and reloaded his weapon.

“Where the hell is that, Kolan?” grunted Heku as he laid down a new barrage of fire at the enemy.

Soca was too busy killing to answer or care.

************************************************** *****************************

Kolan saw his opportunity as the last of the guardsmen die and smiled; he raised his weapon and waved his hand forward, “Advance!”
Twenty warriors in two lines advanced up the slope chanting their war hymn, led by their oath master Kolan at the fore.

They clambered over the wrecked metal and dead to come across a busy pair of Soca and Heku emptying their chattering weapons into the enemy.
Beyond them a clutch of enemy soldiers were trying to advance up the slope, a company sized formation was assaulting this section of the highway, Kolan raised his rifle and fired a few shots at the approaching enemy, they went wide, he growled in anger and fired again, one of his shots stuck a Guardsman’s chest and a grenade cooked off killing two others beside him.

Kolan shouted in joy and began to fire wantonly at the clambering guardsmen.
Suddenly he had forgotten all the petty squabbling, he just wanted to kill, a strange rage was overcoming him. He began to shout his own name and fire at the enemy without regard for cover.

Suddenly a shot stuck his chest and threw him on to his back.
A powerful hand grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him toward cover, “Stay down, rat, you got it? Stay here and shoot the bastards!”

Kolan looked up to see the Subedar with a bucking pistol in one hand dragging him with the other.

Strobes of las fire lit up the air about him, “You!” he screamed.
With a rush of adrenaline, Kolan pushed up to his feet slammed into an occupied Haum facing away from him, the tackle knocked the subedar to the ground, Kolan began raining blows on the prone subedar who began to raise his arms in defense.

Haum grinned beneath his shielding arms, now he can finally kill the bastard, he anticipated the next blow and grabbed the offending arm by the wrist while his other arm grabbed the upper bicep of Kolan’s other arm. With a grunt of effort Haum used his knee to leverage the young Kolan over and off of his body.

“You fight at all the wrong times, but your spirit is admirable,” Haum mocked as he raised himself up.

Kolan rolled over and got on his knee in a swift move a pistol appeared in his hand and fired.

Haum dodged the shot and rolled toward Kolan as another shot whistled past his ear, Haum grabbed Kolan’s wrist and squeezed, weakening the grip on his pistol, in almost the same instant Haum’s open palm struck Kolan’s jaw knocking him backward.

“You never learn do you, bastard son?” Haum explained as he loomed over the prone Kolan.

Haum looked down with contempt at his younger foe who struggled to recover from the blow to his jaw. Kolan strained hard as he looked up at the subedar standing unfazed as a rocket arced over him, overshot by some overzealous trooper and exploded, “Let us hope your hunters make better choices than you.”

“You will pay for this! Oathed of Reginer! Kill this traitor!” Kolan shouted over the sound of the raging battle.

No, single answer came to him, not a shot or a raised hand against the looming Haum

“Your oathed betray you, because they follow me,” he explained as he ripped the armour from Kolan’s chest.

Kolan realized that his oathed has seen the brief fight and the lack of intervention confirmed his worst fears, those who were loyal to him were either dead or turned.

“NO!” Kolan shouted in defiance and raised himself pushing the subedar of his person, “I will kill you, subedar!”

Kolan charged the subedar intent on killing him with his bare hands.
Haum slapped the speeding fist away from his chest and hammered two precise blows with a clenched fist to Kolan’s temple, right shoulder and a chopping blow to his axillery line, all pressure point blows that crippled the young master who fell to his knees like a defeated man.

“Now you know the shame of defeat, I claim all your inheritance and title. I seal this claim with your death,” Haum explained as his killers hands wrapped around Kolan’s throat.

With a quick twist Haum broke Kolan’s neck and let the body fall.
Haum looked up from a truimph only to see the defeat of the Sedukhar around him, they were being overwhelmed, they were dying.

To his left he heard the coughing and revving engines of the carrier bought to life dragging itself from the wreckage around it.

Soca the killer was there beside Haum, firing at the enemy with a salvaged rifle on full auto, he killed three troopers and looked down at the corpse of Kolan.

“May he burn for ever!” Soca spat on the corpse.

“He has all eternity for that,” Haum retorted as he picked up another weapon and fired at the clambering enemy.

A crashing sound turned him around to see a half-track ram through the carcass of a wrecked tank and swivel near him. The subedar activated his vox, “All warriors, converge to me, we are done here.”

Within moments a handful of warrior had gathered and filing into the transport, his strike team seemed the only unit in strength with the exception of Euran, “Where is Euran, Mej?”

Mej looked away toward the enemy, “They got him.”

“A fitting end then,” Haum looked at the blood and dirt caked faces and nodded to them, “This was a disaster but this isn’t the end.”

Haum watched the survivors of his chosen squad and noticed the three other survivours he knew as the brutish Samnir Gol, a silent woman named Eseth Jikra who veiled her face with a veil of chainmail, covering a giant with a rocket pod named Dersh Kurud as he darted to the transport.

The remaining warriors piled into the vehicle, Haum was the last one inside and hopped into the rear stubber cupola swivelling the weapon around and depressed the trigger spoon and hosing the advancing Rangers as they sped away down the abandoned highway.

Toward the distance Larterstown burnt with the fury of the Imperium.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.

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Chapter 4
The half-track carrier had ridden the whole night until the fuel reserves had run dry and it was forced to pull over into an abandoned refuel station, subedar and his makeshift squad found little promethium, but enough to get them to the closest allied checkpoint, some three miles away.

Haum had established vox contact, after he was woken to the squawks of incoming signals on Host-Command frequencies, the situation was dire, and the emergency regroup signals were being broadcast on all the tertiary channels.

The next morning after their stop at the refuel station they reached the outer picket of the occupation forces.

A long line of scarred and battle-damaged vehicles waited revving their engines in impatience, troopers in the grey fatigues and scaled vests bearing the black trident over the chaos star sigil of the Vale-Host Footmen, patrolled the length of the vehicle queue in squad or fire team strength, huge wolf hounds with metal collars stalked amongst a few of them sniffing and smelling the vehicles.

Heavy Predator battle-tanks and the sleek and low Marauder mediums, rolled past the line carefully scanning the area, they were accompanied by a shoal of half-tracks with quad barrelled anti-air batteries on their backs. They were all painted in the dull grey of the Vale-Hosts.

The footmen were one of the hosts forged from the amalgamated tribes from the ten core-worlds who had joined the Prophet’s first conquests in the Vale. One of the Vale-Host Footman, with the three silver circles of a Bashur, a squad-leader like Haum, approached the vehicle; he was tailed by a fire-team taking cautious tread as their counterpart team on the other side of the road stopped and began checking an old battered troop-truck in front of them.

The bashur approached the passenger side where Haum was seated and he reached into his pocket to pull out his identity slip; cards with tiny electoos pressed into cured human skin, his skin, it had his gene-print and officer record engrained.

“Greetings, serkar, may the warp-bless you,” the vox-grille on the bashur’s helmet grunted, behind the slits the eyes searched the crew and the vehicle carefully.

“Hail and salutations, serkar,” Haum returned as he passed his identification to the bashur.
The bashur was handed a datapad and he ran the card over the screen, data scrolled and he studied it carefully, after a moment he looked back up at Haum.

“Subedar Haum Serapis of the Red Brigades; your unit was listed as destroyed in Lorterstown,” he peeked into the driver’s cabin and into the back compartment; he saw the other tired and damaged figures talking and smoking amongst themselves, “they don’t match your squad description, serkar.”
The footmen surrounded the half track and the wolf hounds smelled anxiously at the damaged vehicle.
“They are not my squad, bashur...”

“Virah,” the bashur said with a bow of his helmeted head.

“Bashur Virah, my squad is most likely all on the soul-trek in the warp,” Haum said with a measure of regret in his voice, “I came across this lot, all recruits.”

Haum paused, “Am I being suspected, serkar?”

“Your identity checks out, serkar,” bashur Virah explained looking over his datapad and returned the card back to Haum, “But we have to be vigilant, serkar. There have been a lot of imperial infiltrators blowing bridges and ambushing supply and relief convoys from the western forts.”

“They have broken in past the lines?”

Virah sighed, “Orbitals, they have a huge advantage to drop troops all over the place, it is a nightmare.”
“Just how I find myself in this situation,” Haum chuckled emptily, devoid of the intended humour.

Virah nodded an assent and entered something into the datapad and handed it to a nearby trooper, “Well consider yourself lucky then brave subedar, less than a hundred of the Lorterstown garrison survived, that was one of the hardest hit zones of the enemy offensive. Host-command will commend you.”

Haum snorted, “There is no glory in loosing, bashur,” jerking his thumb to the line behind him, “No glory in waiting like pigs at a butchers.”

The bashur grunted in agreement, “I will continue my duties, serkar, you and your squad are re-enlisted as recovered, march with the fates,” he saluted Haum with a fist over his breastplate, the fire team followed suite.

Haum nodded in reply and stared ahead at the long line as they moved forward a few meters.

An hour later when they were finally allowed into the outpost by a platoon of armed interdictors and were asked the same questions and biometrics as the Footmen Bashur had asked him; tired of the questions and processing Haum had shouted at them that he was impatient and that he needed to report to senior command.

An interdictor Akan finally appeared from the guardhouse, a bald man with a strange complexion and three horrific gashes that ran down his pale and hairless head to his shaven brows, a vox grill and rebreather fashioned like a howling mouth was set on the lower part of his face, a familiar click and hissing sounded from the device for assisted breathing. He raised his mailed hand and placated Haum.
Grabbing the datapad from his junior the Akan read through with speed.

He looked up at Haum “Please, serkar; you will anger the Scions,” the Akan growled from his false-mouth as he nodded to a parked behemoth tank, “I have checked and processed your records, serkar, you are requisitioned to nearby fire base. Command is too busy to process you now, as they are coordinating a line.”

Six massive men, or higher men, in mud brown suits of baroque armour and massive blocky weapons sheathed, slung and holstered about them. They were all occupied either discussing something with Vale-Host officers’ or each other.

Except for one giant.

The one who wore no helmet who looked up from his conversation with a footman officer right into the cabin of Haum’s half-track.

Then he realised that it was Haum who the Chaos Marine was looking at. He averted his eyes from the holy warrior and rubbed the medallion on his neck like a charm.

“Serkar?” the Akan waited patiently before him.

The subedar shuddered and shook his head clear, “Fine...fine, where am I commanded to?”

“Motor Pool Camp A in Gaerin, a mile down this roadway, straight down and you will see others of my lot; they will lead you in,” the Akan replied smartly, with finality and marched away.

Haum told Heku to continue down the route, the gate neatly swung open and the half-track moved. Haum looked back at the Chaos Marine, the helmetless giant who had looked at him.

He was now conversing with the Akan reading a datapad, the Akan’s datapad.

The giant looked toward him once more as the half track slithered into the gate and past the guards.
Haum felt himself shudder once more.

The half-track was surprisingly sturdy; an efficient carrier that had lasted well beyond Haum’s expectations, as they approached the fire base, the engine finally began to smoke and splutter, more than once Heku said that the engine died and started without break at random intervals, either the spirits of the machine was refusing to carry on, or the tank was nearing empty was Haum’s best guesses.

The base was situated near the empty and cleansed township of Gaerin, an old farming community that had tended to the agro-domes toward a clutch of hills to the west.

Now that community was no more, according to what Haum had picked up from chatter before going on the southern assault; the entire township was executed near the agro domes and burned because of their continued offence toward the great powers by poisoning the food they supplied to the local garrison and almost shameless display of anti-mutant sentiments which saw three hundred unarmed colonists from Kuhk murdered along with the local Sardar.

The bodies of the perpetrators their families and neighbours, which essentially became the whole population, were forced to mass near the domes. It is said to still smoulder and burn in the death-trenches they were forced to dig before they were all shot.

Haum was at first indifferent toward the plight, but wouldn’t he have fought tooth and nail if the damned Imperium had tried to burn Sedukh?

Someone behind him started chanting a prayer, it echoed over the grinding tracks and the grunting engine of the halftrack.

Haum felt relieved finally as they pulled into the motor pool park, they were guided in by a trooper and shown to an empty spot.

An arsenal-clerk; a short plump man with a gaggle of robed and hooded lexigraph slaves, midget and crooked in stature, approached their vehicle and began cataloguing it and labelling the damages on the half-track, the clerk approached Haum as he exited the smoking vehicle, his squad following suite.
“You are the leader?” asked the plump man in a small tinny voice.

Haum nodded, “Subedar Haum.”

The clerk stared at him for a moment with its whirring, augmetic goggles and chattered something to his slave nearby; the clerk entered something into the datapad and tutted when it beeped, “This vehicle, Mark IV Half-Track Carrier, serial IIC-4A was in the Lorterstown Vehicle Pool, but it was not attached to you or this unrecorded squad you lead.”

Haum shrugged, “I think not, serkar, we found this abandoned in the west highway and we choose it as a vehicle to hasten our withdrawal.”

“Acceptable, at least you have returned a war machine to our Prophet’s Arsenal, the technophytes won’t be happy with the damage though.”

Haum grunted in amusement, “Things happen in war, serkar, the enemy tend to shoot at us a lot. Now I need to get my soldiers some rest, they have been through enough.”

“They are new recruits?” the clerk asked as he began going through his datapad once more, “Subedar Haum, combat duties, garrison in Lorterstown, assigned to the Second Sect, First Coterie, with the Sixteenth clan company; that is a decorated sect, not new bloods. ”

“I know that, I lost my sect in the invasion, I found these recruits barely holding their own, I dug them out of their mess and they are under my command for now; due to priority sixteen of our protocols, to take command of a leaderless unit in the field of battle...”

“In the absence of higher authority, yes, yes I am well versed in the protocols,” the short man said uncomfortable with the time being wasted, “You choosing to replace your sect with raw recruits is your choice then subedar and alone your burden, may victory greet you next Sedukhar, your billet is barrack seven in the east quarter,” the clerk explained as he handed Haum a slip of paper and then entered something on the Datapad, “Find the local Sardar Commander and confirm your status tomorrow when they will come for the muster.”

The clerk and his gaggle of servants moved onto the next set of vehicles without another word.
Haum and his squad stood in the dimly lit motor-pool amidst hundreds of damaged and scorched war-machines as they were left alone by the clerk.

The squad found their billets right outside the motor pool, a lonely Interdictor sentry sat outside in his brass chainmail and leather hood armed with a shotgun and stun pike, a brown greatcoat wrapped around him to ward from the cold day. The interdictor gave a stiff bow and beckoned the troops into the barrack.

“Brave warriors you are all, serkar, welcome to the barrack, food and sleep await you inside.”
Haum thanked him and ordered his squad inside to rest and recuperate, he he turned to the interdictor, “We are short of ammunition and weapons.”

The interdictor nodded, “Armoury is open for resupply, serkar.”

Haum smiled, “Good, go get me these things then.”

The interdictor was handed a slip and waved away as Haum entered the barrack and slammed the door behind him.

The new squad was already making themselves at home, dumping their kits and removing their dirty and damaged combat armour with their sweat-covered, stinking fatigues.

Haum walked down the row of beds and lockers and noticed that his was the alone in the barrack.
All the other beds were empty.

He relaxed himself and headed to the far end of the long barrack and found a neat and tidy bed, a change of fatigues and a pair of boots neatly stacked on the foot of the bed. At the other end of the bed, a lone book with the livery of the Prophet upon it, the pantheon star and the eternal flame; the sacred Book of Khas.

Haum went to pick it up, but then saw the state of his ripped, bloodied gloves. He paused and checked himself looking over his armour and his torn fatigues; blood was leaking from the gashes of his plating, pain flared all over his body, the effects of the past days began to assail him.

He began to peel the gloves and armour off in painful gasps, the pressures and damages of being in combat for a whole day began to take its toll on him, even the sleep in the half-track was plagued with discomfort and cramps. He stripped himself to his breeches and looked down at his hard muscled torso, criss-crossed with scars and bumps, dozens of flesh wounds bleeding and a terrible gash across his rib close to his left lung, he touched it.

Haum crashed to his knees as the pain returned and he howled in agony. Once more the blackness sought to claim him, but he fought it, he prayed to the gods for strength, and he soon felt them granting a measure of his wish.

The subedar regained his footing and stood to see that he was surrounded by terrified young faces taking in the scarred body of a war veteran.

“Bring me a fysik, Heku,” Haum grunted through the pain, he turned to see the form of the killer, Soca with a strangely stupid concern on his usually bitter face, “Soca you are in charge, while I recover, you are hereby declared to be my second, vice subedar.”

The surprised Soca looked around at his squad mates.

“I do not think, that is for the best,” Soca grumbled as he scratched his head.
Haum beckoned him closer, Soca approached the subedar and bent close, a thick palm slapped into his neck and the fingers tightened around it.

The Subedar was far stronger and faster than Soca had ever expected, Haum dragged him face to face and gave him a humourless smile, “I am in a lot of pain, so I will make this short and straight. Never disobey me again or I will twist your neck till your soul bled, then as old rites dictate; I will eat your heart and own your afterlife.”

He felt the neck beneath his palm tighten and the body shudder in panic, Haum grinned a bloody smile as he let go of Soca and blinked at the rest of the squad, they all stood there in a loose semi-circle looking at him, shocked and unsure.

“By the gods who damn you, attend to your duties wretches! See to your bloody filthy gear and yourselves! Next one of you to stare at me without a reason will find himself in the gallows hanging by his own innards!”

The order from the subedar was like a waking bell for the youths, they immediately broke from the gathering and set about to clean and prepare their gear and themselves; only Soca remained behind, still rubbing his neck.

“What are you waiting for, killer?”

Soca’s brows creased and he stared at Haum, “Why me?”

“You are the best damned fighter and hunters in this worthless squad, not sect warriors yet, still a new squad. You have conviction and you can use it to kill and lead. You are my vice-subedar, and i want a proper bloody sect, deal with it.”

Soca scowled at Haum’s assessment, “I am no-good at leading, I am better off transferred, subedar.”
“That is what you think; Soca, but you have potential. I know this from the moment I saw you in the first firefight,” the subedar explained as he moved the Book of Khas from the bed to the nearby table and placed it there reverently.

“You are angry and raging at something that is beyond me; you can channel this anger and not walk the red-path like Euran. You have ability, behind this facade of a killer.”

Soca held his glare, but for a moment, just for the tiniest moment, Haum noticed a flash of acceptance to his words in his eyes, “What will you have me do, serkar?”

Haum hissed in pain as he lay himself down on to the cot and exhaled deeply, “First order of business is to keep the ‘squad’ busy, keep them doing tasks and drills. Pull your chapbook and go through the protocols, recite them to me when I am recovered. Now before all that, take my gear, replace them and find me a new gun.”

Soca bristled at his duties, but he reluctantly set about to do them.

As Soca left, Heku arrived with a fysik, a tall wiry man with a beeping wand that he ran over Haum’s body, he tutted and began scribbling something on parchment and referring to notes on a datapad he produced from his musette bag.

Haum nodded to Heku and dismissed him.

“Subedar, you have been in heavy fire fights?”

Haum chuckled, “Yes, yes I have, fysik, was it all the scars?”

The fysik simply nodded not understanding the humour, “The only major damage was the las shot to your rib, seem your armour must have absorbed a large part of the shot or at least partially deflected it. The kinetic force has caused a lot of bruising within. Rest of your body is riddled with minor and superficial wounds that will be healed soon enough.”

“How long till I am ready for battle?” Haum asked concern in his bloodshot eyes.

The fysik checked his pad once more and then counted on his fingers, “A minimum of a day’s heavy rest and medication for a full recovery. The pain will return though.”

Haum nodded, “I can live with the pain. Do what you have to, to do this as quickly as possible, we are at war.”

Fysik nodded and set about to patch Haum up.

Outside it began to rain, the cold winter rain of the worlds late year turn, the mud became slick and wet once more and the flood of retreating forces from the east began to cease, the thunder of ranging artillery and clatter of tanks mixed in with the wash of the falling rains.

Seventy two miles eastward near the purged skeleton of Lorterstown; seven Imperial Guard Mechanized regiments and a division of droop troops prepared to advance.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.

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Chapter 5

Nine troopers in the dark red and brown of the Sedukhar Hosts panted and sweated as they ran, clambered and crawled through the obstacle course under the dull grey twilight of the shrouded sun, a lone figure in a brown storm-coat yelled and shouted abuse at them, a loaded pistol firing into the air and for a good measure near those who were faltering.

Dersh looked up at the brightening sun through the grey clouded sky as he jogged around the outer circuit toward the firing ranges, his combat armour felt heavy and the pack he was lugging did not help the situation, the long-barrelled Mark II ‘lancerifle’ anti-tank rifle was the only thing that felt good when carried.

He adjusted his helmet and jogged on to the firing range where Samnir the Gol; the squad flame-trooper was already spurting spears of reddish flames onto his designated targets left of the firing field; the area was blackened and charred from all the previous sessions.

Dersh signalled to his subedar and he replied by firing into the air, a husk of an imperial tank and three moving targets appeared from the right end of the field, he raised his spear rifle and lined a shot carefully, the targets began to move about to cover the vehicle in a preset pattern, the turret turned toward him.

“Die, please,” he whispered to his target through the gunsight and squeezed the trigger.

There was a solid bang and the husk erupted in flame and smoke, Dersh grinned. Three solid bangs soured the grin as he turned left to the source of the shots only to see the Jikra woman, Eseth, easily picking of moving targets with every shot. She did not even pause.

“Trooper Eseth! Inform your squad-mate that you are covering him!” the subedar shouted, “Communicate you damned heathens!”

Eseth finished her routine targets and bowed to the subedar, Dersh grinned at her like he always did.

“Trooper Dersh! Get the bloody hell up and moving, Eseth! You are his cover, now act like it!”

The subedar’s sanctioned training regime was punishing, his rifle drills and close combat spars was a source of great pain and discomfort to the new bloods.

Haum had led the bayonet training himself earlier, with ample footing and vigour for a man who had been bed ridden by dangerous wounds a day ago, he vigorously trained them in techniques in close combat.

The subedar had walked amongst the squad practicing their techniques adjusting the faulty blows, admonishing the clumsy ones and punishing the squad at the end for all their combined failures of his stringent standards and each failure was met with repetition of the tasks.

Dersh felt especially burdened by the failure of his comrades, and his role as heavy support along with Samnir and Heku had seen him relegated to special duties of weighted training and double circuits in the trench crawl.

Mej especially was unhappy, seeing how his scoped autorifle freshly painted and repaired from the armoury, was already scratched and chipped in places due to the rough movements and accidents that accompanied the training.

Dersh grunted with effort as he ducked into a trench and ran past Mej covering him with his scoped weapon; behind him Eseth struggled past the razor wire and crawled up behind Dersh.

“Keep it moving Dersh, faster!” he heard Soca howl from ahead.

Dersh strained his arm as it ached with the constant effort and movement. The added effects of the fight out of Lorterstown had still not worn off from the majority of the new bloods and it did not help this situation, he leapt past a small box on the ground and clambered onto the broken edge of the trench and advanced into the mucky pond that separated a small bridge dangling perilously over waste water.

Dersh sighed at the prospect of repeating the run.

The subedar was working them to the ground since they were woken at dawn; they had all complained to the vice-subedar at their short break, but Soca as unconcerned as ever had just told them to harden up.

Dersh saw other sects of sedukhar and footmen trained and left at hourly intervals, yet his sect was the only one that remained in the training fields, practicing and training under the relentless eyes of the subedar. It was like he was training them up to be as ready as possible.

He nearly slipped near the bridge mouth, snapping him out of his brief glimpse of his day. He had to stop thinking of his situation and concentrate on his tasks. Atleast that is what the subedar kept shouting at him.
An hour before sunset prayers of the temple the squad was relieved from their combat-training; Haum had been summoned by Command and he had left Soca in charge.

The exhausted Soca had simply ordered them to retire.

Dersh took to this order with relish as the squad retired to their lonely barrack.
“Haum sure is putting his whip on us,” Heku grumbled as he walked beside him.

Dersh grunted in assent, “I heard he has a reputation, rather his sect does.”

“Did you mean, otherwise this is as you say,” agreed Eseth as she dragged her pack along the ground.

“Where did he go to anyway?” Dersh ventured his voice loud enough to reach Soca.

Soca ignored the question.

“Well vice-subedar?” Heku asked pressing the matter.

Soca hissed in annoyance, “I don’t know. Maybe it is a briefing. He still hasn’t reported back to Host command. Maybe he is going to have us shot for being weak. I don’t know.”

The vice-subedar hastened his walk and hurried ahead toward the armoury, the other members waited till he was out of earshot to grumble and complain about him.

Dersh simply grumbled and agreed to his comrades, he didn’t really care at this point; he was too tired to care.

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.

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Chapter 6

Haum hurried along the edge of the heavily guarded cloister of the repurposed Administratum building, moving past a pair of sedukhar troopers. He was sweating within his taut new combat armour from the training he had been overseeing and participating in, his new sect was as fresh as ever, he privately cursed his luck for being stranded with the new troopers.

He walked toward an ornate set of doors daubed with warp runes and symbols, the older layer of Imperial signs were defaced and scarred. It was guarded by a pair of sedukhar troopers, both bowed and opened the doors, Haum returned a hurried salute and entered into the briefing room.

Dozens of chatting subedars and sardars from a number of companies were assembled in the place and were all sat facing an empty platform; he noticed that the majority were young and fresh faces that he hadn’t seen before.

To one side of the platform the Sardar-Commander Avigun of the First Brigade, was in consultation with a pair of Sedukhar officers who kept pointing toward the side door, a nearby slave-adept with a lexigraph writer, recorded all the words passed between its Sardar master and the other two with monotonous keystrokes.

Haum slunk into a nearby chair and undid his helmet; exhaling deeply from the effort of the day Haum yawned wiping the sweat from his tired eyes.

“Busy day, subedar?”

The subedar looked up to see a bald man with dark red eyes and a pair of dirty crossed scars that segmented his face; he smiled as he recognised him.

“Subedar Edil Taro, bastard and warrior supreme,” growled Haum with a look of delight in his eyes.

They both slapped their palms and gripped each others’ wrists in a show of old ties. Haum noticed that he was wearing a long, odd looking brown trench coat completely covering him to his boots.

“Tell me; why are you sweating so?”

Haum sighed as he adjusted himself on the chair, “Damned new bloods, from my old garrison. They are terrible soldiers, no discipline and sense; I was training them and showing them how to be a match against the Guard, been up on daily drills because I only serve with the best.”

“So they arrived here untrained?” Edil asked as he slipped on a pair of glare-visor.

“Oh absolutely, no discipline and no objective, they are so ignorant of everything around them that I fail to understand why exactly they were sent here. We don’t need replacements for garrison duty...or in this case a stalemate of a war in the east.”

Edil chuckled, “I share in your resentment, old friend. But I must ask...must’ve been hell back in the east when they first hit.”

Haum soured at the mention of the east, “It is a hellhole and you know what happend.”

“I read the reports in Lorterstown, so you made it once again through the fire, eh Haum?” Edil Taro said with his trademark drawl adjusting his glare-visor.

Haum finally relaxed and smiled, “I guess I am simply charmed by the will of the Lord of Fates.”
“Just like old times, eh?”

“Just like old times,” Haum agreed, “tell me why did you just put on a pair of glare-visor we are inside the building.”

Edil gave a sly grin, “My eyes haven’t cleared since an explosives incident and my eyes aren’t adjusting to the light in here, so I wear these.”

Haum felt something wrong as he paused from conversing, his heart leapt a beat as he felt...something.
“Kuid make it?” Edil asked, snapping Haum out of his strange premonition.

“Uh...” Haum stammered.

“Kuid Shoken, Haum, remember old Kuid?”

Haum nodded, “Yes, yes.”

Kuid Shoken, much like Edil, Kula was an old comrade from their Reaver days; they were members of the same company and had formed a tight comradeship through the wars they had fought for the gods. After the bloody Mosikur Persecution a decade ago all had changed, by then the Khas had returned and with him the Sedukhar were reborn.

Haum, Edil and Kuid had all oathed to the Host and Khas as soon as they had reached back on Sedukh following the conquest of it by the Prophet, after that they had drifted apart, until Kuid and his lot were sent to reinforce Haum’s Clan Company, he remembered promising Kuid a drink after his fateful patrol.

“Yes, Kuid was martyred...”

“Expected as much,” Edil sighed, his eyes hidden behind the visor.

Haum’s mood darkened, “Hardly the way to go caught out by swarming enemies.”

“That much is true, but these days the prospect of death doesn’t seem so bad.”

Haum sighed, “Why haven’t we deployed with the Footmen already? We are simply stuck here waiting for them to come to us?”

Edil nodded, “No, but there are bigger things at work.”

Haum chuckled at what he was a joke and left it at that.

Edil chuckled and slapped Haum on his shoulder, “Regardless, it is well to see you, First Brigade now, eh?”

Haum shrugged, “Apparently so. I couldn’t believe that we are in the first, but in any case it is as it is.”

“Well, Haum, all I can say is welcome to the First,” Edil gave an unenthusiastic shrug with the last part.

“I still don’t understand one thing. You had sent a message for a meeting a week back?”

Edil waved his hand, “It is a business of great import. We will resolve that matter...” he paused and put a hand to his vox bead in his ear and twisted the other to check the time on his old wrist-chron he had looted from an imperial officer. He looked back at Haum, “Soon, very soon.”

Haum frowned at Edil’s peculiar words.

“Silence!” the commanding voice swept through the room like a chill wind, all speaking halted and the heads turned toward the scarred brute with a metal rod in hand.

Sak’ul Avigun, the brilliant commander of the First Brigade stood at the center of the altar, a fine figure in the traditional crimson and brass armour of a Sardar-Commander raised his horned head as his charred lips spoke words of power.

He looked down at the assembled officers and licked his black lips.

“By the sacred oaths that bind us to the Eternal Powers and their wars, I hereby call a council of warriors. Make it known that the last Sedukhar of the Eighth Host meet on the eighth hour of the eight cycle, the numbers are portentous as the holy ones have forseen, change is already taken to the minds of the hosts and a damaging defeat suffered at the hands of the enemy.”

The sedukhar assembled looked at each other in confusion, one of them a Vice-Sardar by his markings stood from his chair and bowed before speaking, “What defeat is this, oh serkar? We are yet to strike the enemy in the east with the Footmen, yet we are lost?”

Avigun bade his junior to sit and took a measured breathe, “It is not in the east that we have failed, but in the stars. Our lord and master Tyrant Sorith Serkar has been slain.”

Wails and gasps of horror rippled through the seated sedukhar, prayers to the gods began being murmured across the assembly. Haum simply watched the debacle around him as officers, sedukhar wept and wailed.

The Lord Sedukhar, Master of the Brigades was dead, the ruler and uniter of Sedukh and the earliest proponent of a systematic holy war on the Imperium and a formative member of the Reclamation War, was dead. The shock of the words was palpable; Haum though a sceptic of the Host Lord, was shaken at the news.

“Our oath-bearer and master lies dead with ten of our brother brigades. The pact our world has made to master Khas and his sacred war of reclamation is now seen as void beneath the gaze of the gods. As our rites dictate the Brigades of the Sacred Host is annulled,” bloody tears streaked down Avigun’s scarred and mutated face.

“What will become of us?” yelled one of the subedar’s from the throng of officers.

As if in reply something enormous thudded outside, the room was silenced. It was followed by the clatter of gunfire and explosions, the building shuddered and dust fell from the unkempt ceiling beams overhead, Haum like the officers began to worry and began to mill around the room, another thud followed as cracks formed on the walls.

Haum tried to fathom the situation and turned to Edil beside him, he sat stock still hands braced around the armrest.

A sudden bright flash and keening thunder erupted at the centre of the room, officers in meeting were all thrown from their chairs as they bleated and cursed, some clawed at their faces, the blinding light burning out ocular nerves.

Haum felt someone push him to the ground, a gloved hand clamped around his eyes, but his ears were the noise, the noise echoed in his head like a nightmare, some word of power multiplied in his brain it coalesced as the sound and pain loud as a gunshot rumbled in his head.

He felt his consciousness slipping, but still felt the hand on him; he hung on to the feeling and shook his head and strained his eyes open, his ears were ringing.

Haum’s vision was dotted by black gaps as the smoky room began to resolve.

Everything was slow, he saw sedukhar officers grasping their ears and eyes, some were weeping blood like their sardar, but not because of devotion, others were having seizures and fits. Something flashed to his left as blurred figures with what could only be weapons, raised and primed began filing into the room from the entrance, las bolts fizzled and flashed from their weapons as they advanced.

Haum felt a stranger over him crouching and warding the unknown gunmen by strenuously waving his hand toward the far end of the place.

The ringing in his ears diminished slowly as he felt his vision clearing, his mental faculties returning he tried to assess and observe what was going on.

He saw Edil shouting something and sweeping his hands, it seemed that one of the figures was conversing with Edil, two other were covering him pointing their weapons at the crouched Edil wearing black fatigues like the rest; the unit markings were too blurred by all the smoke and strobe flashes of las discharge, but he felt a strange inkling in some half forgotten memory.

He saw Edil stand, and pull his trench coat off; beneath it he was wearing the exact same fatigues as the assailants, he flashed something at them and pointed to Haum. They lowered their weapons and walked away.
Edil bent close and took Haum’s hand in which he pressed a crest-badge into, his eyes still hidden behind the glare-visor, but not because of his poor eyes.

Strong hands grabbed him and supported him up, Haum felt his senses finally return with his control.

“Can you hear me?” he heard the muffled voice of Edil beside him.

“Yes!”

“Stop shouting,” Edil grunted carrying him through the pock marked and burnt door way into a burning and rubble littered cloister.

Haum watched all the destruction and death around him completely lost for its reason, figures in black were swarming through the place gunning down sedukhar troopers.

A tracked carrier was parked at the far end of the entrance into the cloister, its doors were open and an unknown black clad trooper was waving for them to approach, the wind picked up around them and dust began to swivel in circles, Haum looked up to see the bellies of a pair of dark grey gunships ropes trailed from either side of the wings.

The gunships thundered as it began hammering the face of the structure behind them with a blistering rate of autocannon shots. Masked troopers rappelled in all around them and advanced past, he could hardly make them out in the dust kicked up by the gunships.

“Who are these soldiers? What the hell is going on?” he gasped in the choking dust being kicked up around them.
“You remember Akaris and what we did there?”

“That was a long time ago and I hated that place...” Haum paused as he realised what Edil was implying, he looked around to a black clad trooper behind cover, he noticed the eight fingered hand imprint on his shoulder pad,
“The Blackhand!”

Edil met Haum’s reptilian eyes as they looked up, “We are re-called, Haum. I called in the favour. They accepted.”
He felt himself being carefully put into the carrier, Edil followed him and the another trooper joined them.

The other trooper was in the black fatigues of the assailants, he wore a dulled silver skull mask with a pair of kill markings stamped beneath the left eye.

“Welcome, brothers!” the vox-altered speech of the trooper grated Haum’s ears, “How does it feel to witness the momentous fall of the sedukhar?”

“It’s all the same, serkar,” Edil said casually as the carrier growled to a lurch and started moving, he nodded at Haum, “This is Subedar Haum Serapis, and he was with me since Horxan Extermination, he was in Ged Hamar’s Cadre Auxilis on Akaris.”

The gloved hand of the trooper undid the skull mask and slid it off to reveal a brutalized and pale face, a savage gash dominated the width of his left jaw to his torn ear, and yellowed jutting teeth of his molars could be seen through the wound, his left eye was a red bionic replacement, the cheeks were scarred ritually and a marks of Khorne was branded into his bald and gashed head.

But his other eye, the unnatural eye with the unmistakable black orb and white pupil, the hate and horror behind them, Haum recognized the man.

“Ghar Xukol...” Haum said it like he had touched an old aching wound.

“That is Hetman Ghar Xukol,” stretched his cut lips into a feral grin of yellowed fangs, “but at least you remember your betters, Serapis.”

There is no intelligence. Only degrees of Idiocy.
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