And now, the conclusion.
It was the ordnance that responded first. Battery's of Basilisk tanks fortified hundreds of metres behind the walls barked fury and giant shells passed ominously over the heads of the soldiers they were there to support. They fell upon the Orks hundreds of metres still further from the walls throwing dirt and bodies into the air, but the horde did not falter. The laser defence batteries came next. They charged their capacitors until they produced an audible hum and a deep vibration they thrummed through the bodies of those troopers positioned nearby, before discharging it into burning ribbons of scarlet energy that blistered the skin of any within fifty metres. The lasers targeted the Orks heaviest vehicles, out-riding wartrukks were destroyed first as the bright beams cut through them like paper. Still the horde did not falter.
“Your orders Sir?”
It was Corporal LeRou, stood to Gardau's right. The young Lieutenant looked down his shoulder at him. “You know the drill by now Corporal.” he said with a forced calmness then turned to the rest of his men. “Riflemen to the walls! Take your time. Aim sharp and conserve your ammunition. Make every shot count. Mortars, target for one hundred metres and await my mark!” He was going to add something rousing, or encouraging, maybe just a simple, 'The Emperor Protects.' but the excursion of his shouting had aggravated his lungs and he doubled over coughing and spat out a thick wad of phlegm the same colour as the Orks outside. Once it was cleared he straightened up and shouldered his own lasgun.
“Incoming!” another voice bellowed from down the line. “Fighter-Bombers at one o'clock!”
In the early days of the siege the Ork aircraft had reaped a vicious toll on the defenders, but if there had been one area the Guardsmen had succeeded it was in the air. The sleek Imperial Lightning fighters had swiftly outmanoeuvred the larger Ork planes. Though the humans were distinctly outnumbered, each fallen pilot had accounted for several of the enemy. The Orks now resorted to making quick strafing lines of the walls and retreating before the Imperial response could scramble.
“Take cover!” Gardau tried to shout though it got caught in his throat and came out as a crackling wet rasp that LeRou was swift was repeat. The men pressed tight to the wall and the mortar teams laid in close to their sandbag emplacements. The Ork fighter strafed them with heavy calibre autocannons but his aim was wild. Gardau saw Trooper Beleau pitched off his feet as a solid slug clipped the top of his helmet and threw him off the wall, landing with a sickening wet crack on the ground below. Gardau watched the plane go, already having the jink wildly to avoid the hail of fire being produced by the ever moving Hydra tanks stationed within the city. It was unlikely to bother them again and Gardau turned his attention back to the plains.
“Cover!” LeRou called again and Gardau did so instinctively.
“What is it?” Gardau asked. There was a loud boom and the wall shook. Both men winced.
“Battlewagon Sir. The bastards seem to have gotten their hands on a Leman Russ.”
“Damn them.” Gardau hissed. “Trooper Vail!”
“Sir, Trooper Vail is dead.” LeRou said sombrely.
Gardau looked down at his feet, embarrassed. Trooper Vail had been the last of the platoon's remaining heavy weapons specialists and had carried their last remaining missile launcher. Both trooper and weapon had perished in the last assault though, cloven in twain by an Ork's axe as the Greenskins had scaled the walls. “Of course.” Gardau said as the wall was struck again. This time the sounds of falling masonry were clear as the walls began crumbling around them. They were truck a third time, then a fourth. After the fifth Gardau finally summoned the courage to look over them. What he saw chilled him to his core. The still seemingly endless horde of Orks were less than a hundred metres from the wall and their Siege towers encroached ever closer. Gardau realised he had missed the Mortar teams cue and cried to them desperately. “Mortars! Fire at will!” he shouted as loud as he could, momentarily unsure if he was still being heard over the now deafeningly sounds of battle. A series of deep 'whumps' assured him he had and daring another look over the walls he saw several plumes of dirt kicked up and Ork bodies blown apart, but they were far behind the Ork's front line now. “Riflemen, up!” he ordered and along the wall his men stood, raising their lasguns and taking aim into the green horde. “Steady!” he called. The effective range of a lasgun was not great and it's stopping power barely enough to stop an Ork at the best of times. They would have to wait for them to get closer if they were going to make their shots count. “Steady....fire!” he called. A volley of las-fire leapt from the wall and Gardau could see the same happening all along it's length. Many Orks were pitched off their feet but Gardau's heart sank as at least half stood back up, seemingly only angered by the Guardsmen's retaliation.
Gardau was about to call for another volley when he was thrown onto his face. He blacked out for a second and as he came too his ears rang and his vision was blurry. All the rest of his unit were the same, laid flat out as they had fallen. He couldn't tell how many were still alive. He slowly remembered the force coming from behind him and rolled onto his back to try to see. Seventy five metres down the wall a laser defence battery had exploded. Whether the Orks had destroyed it or it had destroyed itself was impossible to tell, but where once had been a tower with a powerful cannon, was now a gaping hole in the wall surrounded by the bodies of burnt guardsmen. Gardau slowly pushed himself to his feet and once again saw over the wall. An Ork siege tower rumbled towards him and Gardau knew he was doomed. He considered fleeing into the city, but decided it was better he make the Orks kill him now then risk capture later. He had heard stories of what the Orks did to human captives and he had no intention of becoming one of them.
“To me men!” he thought he shouted though he could not hear himself if he had. To searched for his lasgun but it was nowhere to be seen. Instead he drew his laspistol and sword, a simple sabre he had taken from the body of a Major he didn't know two weeks ago. As the pillar of crudely constructed metal loomed closer, Gardau closed his eyes and offered what he believed would be a final prayer to the Emperor. He prayed from a swift death, and that the Emperor protect his soul. An eerie calm came over him as he accepted the inevitability of his imminent death and he opened his eyes.
The siege tower was gone. At least, half of it was. It appeared that it had been sheared roughly in half, diagonally. The top was gone while the bottom was now a burning wreck, it's inhabitants scrambling to escape while they too were consumed by fire. Gardau looked to the sky and watched as bright lights like furious shooting stars fell from the sky on pillars of smoke and crashed into the Ork horde, exploding into great bursts of white hot flame that claimed scores of the Greenskins with every blast. Those directly under the missiles were lucky as they were turned immediately to ash and dust. Those further away roared in animalistic rage as their flesh was burnt and melted from their bones. The stench of burning flesh invaded Gardau's nose and he buried his face into the sleeve of his jacket in an attempt to block it out. Everywhere the missiles struck, great clouds of smoke blossomed, isolated at first, but they spread and with new ones added every second soon there was nothing but the smoke to the point that to Gardau the world disappeared. He could see nothing beyond arms length but the infinite grey. He hacked and coughed as it closed in around him and he sunk to the ground trying desperately to breath until once again he blacked out.
On the plains, the Ork assault had faltered. Their numbers had been decimated by the barrage and with their visibility lost they were started to resort to petty bickering and infighting. Gitstikka rumbled forward in his Battlewagon as he and his Lieutenants tried to restore some semblance of order to their lines. The ground shook and though more impacts could be heard, no-one could locate their source. For a moment there was quiet. Then all hell erupted. From out of the gloom the unmistakable barks of bolter fire emerged. All around Gitstikka, Orks were being blown apart by the heavy explosive bolts. Many returned fire wildly, how effectively was impossible to tell. With no better option Gitstikka ordered the charge.
Captain Efreet of the Fire Lords 5th Company disembarked from his drop-pod and surveyed the scene around him. His helmets sensors cut through the smoke of their orbital bombardment and he could see clearly his troops engaging with the foul Orks. His command squad around him, Efreet hefted his combi-flamer and advanced. All around him Orks were cut down before they could even respond, lacking the Astartes auto-senses they fumbled uselessly through the smoke. It would almost be comical were they not so rage inducing. Efreet could not contain his roars of righteous fury as he smote the beasts from the Emperor's land. Already though the smog was clearing, without further barrage the fires were starting to die and the smoke rising above their heads. Next to him, Honoured Brother Djinn, a mighty Dreadnought strode relentlessly beside him, his multi-melta scanning for worthy targets while his storm bolter cut down the rest.
“My weapon hungers.” Djinn declared in his deep low rumbling voice.
“I do not believe you shall have to wait long.” Efreet replied, already spying the outline of a large Ork Battlewagon advancing upon them. “There.” he added, pointing ahead. A low rumbling noise that Efreet interpreted as a menacing laugh came from the Dreadnoughts armoured body as it planted it's feet. The Multi-melta of his right heated up and unleashed two bright blue beams into the smog. Efreet could see as it cut through the vehicles armoured frame, turning it's driver to a green bubbling puddle before catching it's fuel supplies. A great burning mushroom erupted from the back right corner of the Battlewagon as it skidded to a halt, throwing Orks clear before it rolled onto it's side, the fire slowly beginning to spread.
“Burn them in the name of the Emperor!” Efreet roared across the comms and was rewarded with the sounds of his men's fury unleashed. The Captain switched his weapon to flamer and cooked the first Ork, thrown the furthest from the wreck, he was struggling to his feet before he was incinerated. Around him Sergeant Furion, Apothecary Kua, Brother Surtr, the company Standard Bearer, Company Champion Kapre and Brother Helstrom were doing the same. Efreet kicked another to the ground and stood on his chest as he unleashed his flamer upon the Orks cranium. Another deep roar caught the Captain's attention and he stepped off his latest victim.
“Oi! Which wun uv' you gitz wrecked ma' wagun!?”
It was one of the largest Orks Efreet had ever seen, standing a full head taller then even the mighty Astartes and even broader than the Captain's power armour. Around him, those Orks that had thus far survived the destruction of their transports and the Fire Lord leaders wrath were recovering themselves and gathering around the giant. Efreet was in no doubt this was the Warboss. Brother Kapre was immediately by his side.
“Allow me to take his head Captain.”
Efreet was silent for a moment before he responded. “No, allow me Brother Champion.” he said with a coolness that belied his ever raging soul. We mag-locked his bolter to his back and drew his sword from the scabbard at his left hip. “Deal with the others. The Warboss is mine.”
“As you command.” Kapre replied with a light bow of his head.
Efreet command squad formed into a line either side and step back from their Captain. “I destroyed your vehicle Xenos scum! If you wish revenge, come and take it!” Efreet roared his challenge and thumbed the activation rune on his power sword. It whirred to life, a thin blue shimmer forming around the bright silver blade before both were obscured as the sword burst into flames. In response the Warboss drew two weapons slung across his back, in his right hand, a thick bladed sword more reminiscent of a butchers cleaver, in the left a heavy double headed axe. Both were battered, dented and crude but the deep red staining on their blades assured Efreet of their danger.
“Waaaaagh!” The Warboss cried, his retinue picking up the cry as the Orks charged.
“Burn them! For the Emperor!” Efreet cried and the Fire Lords charged in return. As Efreet closed on the Warboss the rest of the battlefield fell away. Gitstikka's size belied his speed and Efreet barely avoided his first strike, a overhead blow with the cleaver aimed to cut the Space Marine in half down the middle. Efreet dodged back, then spun low to his right to avoid the follow up horizontal strike from the axe. Efreet came up and aimed to cut through the Orks arm but the cleaver swept around and smashed the falling power sword aside with such force Efreet was sure only his armour held his shoulder in it's socket. Thrown off balance, Efreet was wide open as Gitstikka's axe cut a wide arc that ended deep in the Captain's left pauldron. To his good fortune, the axe blade wedged there and as Gitstikka tried to yank it free Efreet unleashed a brutal low kick that crushed something in the Orks knee. With a cry of pain and final violent pull Gitstikka stepped back and the axe came free. A spray or Efreet blood came with it before his body immediately clotted the wound. Despite his injury, Gitstikka was relentless. The cleaver swung around and scraped up Efreet shoulder leaving a deep scar across the burning fist of the Fire Lords chapter badge. The blow glanced off the pauldron but carried through with enough force to catch the top of Efreet's helm, momentarily dazing him. Gitstikka's axe fell again and this time Efreet's blade met it. The two locked in a battle of strength as the Ork tried to force his weapon down to the Marine's head. Efreet was unyielding and, frustrated, Gitstikka swung with the cleaver again. What followed was a rapid barrage of powerful barbarian strikes that forced the Captain back, his trained swordsmanship barely able to hold the Ork's experienced brawling at bay. Inevitably an attack got through. Parrying the axe, Efreet's blade was caught, hooked under the axe head and the cleaver scored a might fissure across Efreet's helm. His auto-senses went wild with malfunctions and damage warnings and he never saw the kick that dropped him to the ground.
Efreet rolled to his knees and shook his head, trying to regain his senses. His helmet was useless and he tore it off, revealing his true features for the first time. Efreet's head was a bald knot of burnt scar tissue that he wore proudly. His eyes were dark like coal and burned with fury. His teeth had long ago been replaced with sharp flints like primitive arrowheads. Around him the smoke of the Fire Lords opening bombardment had all but cleared and Efreet took a moment to observe. All along his warriors lines the Orks had regrouped and with their superior numbers, were pushing the Fire Lords back. Defeat to the Warboss was not an option and the Captain formulated a plan. Behind him Gitstikka was gloating of his victory. Efreet reached back to where his bolter was locked and unscrewed the fuel can for the attached flamer. It was still half full and Efreet raised it to his lips. To most, even without it's toxicity the taste of promethium would be hard to bear but to a Fire Lord it was like the finest of wines. Gitstikka kicked him in the ribs and rolled him onto his back.
“Time 'ta die humie.” he said as he stepped over the prone Captain and raised his axe high over his head.
Before it could fall Efreet had spat the full mouthful of promethium up into Gitstikka's face, then clamped and twisted his jaw. Sparks flew as his teeth ground against each other ignited the spray of the fuel. The fire chased Gitstikka through the air and bathed his face in flame. The Warboss staggered back and dropped his weapons as he clawed at the bubbling flesh of his face. Efreet leapt to his feet, sweeping up his blade. In two long strides he was in range. With the Ork flailing wildly it'd have been easy to cut him down with a single blow, but to do so would have been a mercy, and Efreet was not a merciful man. Taking the sword in both hands he drove it clean through the Ork's thick chest. Gitstikka tried to roar in anguish but all that came out was a spray of thick green blood that fell over Efreet's face. The Captain snarled and twisted the blade cruelly before wrenching it out. The gaping haemorrhaging wound should have been enough to slay anything, but Efreet knew the universe had twisted way of showing mercy to the enemies of Mankind, and Efreet was not a merciful man. Gitstikka dropped to his knees then fell forward. His head was separated from his body before his chest hit the ground.
His surviving bodyguards saw first and Efreet watched with relish as Brother Surtr cut another down with his chainsword. Nearby the Dreadnought Djinn turned another to paste, crushing him into the ground with his power first. Efreet picked up Gitstikka's head and bounded to towards the Dreadnought.
“With your permission Brother.” he called.
“I would be honoured Captain.” Djinn replied.
Without breaking stride Efreet leapt, catching a foothold on the Dreadnought's elbow and pushing himself up to stand atop the hulking sarcophagus. He raised the severed dripping head into the air and roared. “Your leader is dead! Flee now is you value your lives!” The effect was like dominoes. Those nearest broke almost immediately, their leaders trying desperately to maintain control before, left isolated, they were cut down. Each unit that fled exposed the next to be put to the flame until the Orks were in full rout. Efreet watched as his assault squads led the pursuit, the Orks unable to outrun them, dozens were cut down.
The Orks would not recover from this. The Fire Lords would not let them.