Harbingers: A Meeting of Brothers
The two warriors stared at one another. Behind one, a mass of murderers stalked impatiently, waiting and hoping to be unleashed. Behind the other lay only the dust of Hestius Prime's endless ash-wastes. The first figure, at whose back the armored killers waited, was clad in an ancient, blood-and-brass suit of Cataphractii-pattern Terminator armor that had seen decades of bloodshed even before the first bombs fell upon Istvaan. Though the bulky armor made the warlord appear hunched and barbaric, the ancient warlord carried an air of nobility, martial pride, and endless arrogance borne from eons of bloodshed. The second figure stood some fifteen paces away, adorned in an equally ancient and ornamental armor of some defiled, unknown variant that was the color of dried blood, trimmed with dark stone. He stood with the stoicism of one who is absolutely certain- tranquil where the other was bitter; confident where the other was arrogant. Where the brazen warlord struck terror through his sheer intensity, the second figure radiated pure, unadulterated malice. + Kelberos, + the second figure sent his voice directly into the mind of the first. "Dagaz," spoken aloud, was his only reply. + What brings you to this lonely corner of the galaxy? + Inquired the lone warrior. "You know why I'm here," rumbled Kelberos. "Speak with your tongue, deceiver. I have no patience for your telepathic nonsense." The second warrior looked down slightly, clearly chuckling behind his daemon-faced helm. + I'm afraid that will be a problem, brother. + As the thoughts pulsed directly into Kelberos's mind, the psyker reached up and removed his ornate helmet. A once handsome, classically-featured face ended at the nose; only tatters of scabrous, corrupted flesh hanging where a mouth and lower jaw should have been. + As you see, the Lords of the XVII Legion have made their intentions quite clear once before. + Kelberos grunted, in amusement or acknowledgement. "Well, I see no reason to dawdle, old friend." As he spoke, his hands reached for weapons as ancient, eloquent and utterly bloodstained as the one who wielded them. A blade, meant to be held with two hands and writhing with symbols and lambent runes, was drawn from his back, and an ancient combi-bolter festooned with grisly trophies and primitive scrimshaw lifted from it's mag-lock. His lone counterpart's long-hafted weapon hung at his back as well, but he made no move to draw it. + No reason to dawdle, indeed. + His leering helm fasted at his gorget with a hiss. "Brothers!" Spoke Kelberos, his voice carrying to the slavering pack behind him, "Before us stands the fugitive Dark Apostle, Dagaz Vau of the Word Bearers. His former masters in the Dark Council have promised us great rewards in exchange for his life." The astartes at his back growled, laughed and jeered as they took up their weapons. + Warriors of the XII. Are you sure of this course, brother? + This time, Kelberos did not speak aloud, knowing that the Dark Apostle would hear his surface thoughts just as well. "This day has been too long in coming."
With speed that belied the mass of his armor, Kelberos jinked to one side as a blast of eldritch power carved a furrow before the Dark Apostle, the psyker decimating the land with a thought. The blast drove straight into the mob of Kelberos's World Eater brothers, exploding one into scraps of flesh and ceramite, and sending more tumbling heavily in all directions. The rest howled and began tearing across the ash towards Dagaz Vau, a storm of crimson and brass intent on murder. In an instant, one was shorn from hip to collar, another flung sideways as a mass-reactive bolt round burst his skull from within. Kelberos smiled beneath his helm as his daemon-blade drank deep of XII Legion blood. The day had been too long coming indeed. The other berserkers hesitated in shock at this betrayal, costing another his life as he was lifted into the air by unseen forces. Dagaz Vau closed his extended fist sharply, and the levitating warrior imploded with a sickening crunch. The remaining warriors split into two smaller clutches, perhaps from some half-remembered notion of discipline and strategy, so long extinguished by the endless stabbing of the Nails within their skulls. Kelberos's archaic bolter bucked twice with as many shots, dropping a berserker with two explosive rounds in the chest. Another warrior fell to the underslung melta barrel beneath the weapon, his blood spraying in a red steam as it boiled in an instant and his helmet vaporized into a molten ruin. As they closed in, one of the frenzied warriors leapt at Kelberos with his chainaxe raised, only to be impaled on the glowing blade that flashed out in an instant. Kelberos tore the blade sideways, spilling his former brother's shredded viscera and parrying a strike from another. The second group had almost reached Dagaz Vau when another burst into flaming chunks, a screaming bolt of fire hurled from one of the Dark Apostle's hands as the other unlimbered his weapon, a length of night-black iron topped with a malicious, flanged end shaped to resemble the howling faces of daemons. As the rest of his foes closed in, unnatural light spilled from the head of the weapon as the Dark Apostle swept it before him. It caught the nearest warrior's legs, which exploded out from under him in a discharge of warpfire. With a sharp, open-palmed strike, the Word Bearer sent another World Eater flying back towards Kelberos in a blast of sorcerous wind. Kelberos turned aside a blow aimed for his head and spun, ending the life of the airborne berserker with a short burst from his bolter before kicking viciously at a striking foe, shattering the warrior's standard power armor and cracking the bones beneath. No sooner did the man hit the ground did Kelberos lift his boot and slam it down upon the prone warrior's skull. Not even a World Eater lost to the Nails would rise from that. It was a sight unseen since the latter days of the Great Crusade- a Bearer of the Word and an Eater of Worlds fighting as one against terrible odds. It seemed as if the ancient conflict on Armatura had been only moments before, the two warriors working in perfect tandem despite the many thousands of years since they stood back-to-back against the vengeful sons of Roboute Guilliman. Dagaz sent a warrior spinning away with a sorcery-laced backhand, and Kelberos caught the foe upon his blade. A burst from his melta weapon forced another to backstep, putting him into reach of the Dark Apostle's crozius arcanum, which slammed down upon his skull in an over-handed blow and buckled his armor with its impact. Each step, turn, strike, parry and riposte seemed perfectly choreographed as a well-oiled machine that only the bond of blood-forged brotherhood could bring. Were they not rendered rabid by the horrid Butcher's Nails within their skulls, some of the men of the XII would have been moved by the sight.
Within fifteen heartbeats, the fight was over. The two warlords surveyed their work, as if daring any of their foes to rise again. After a moment, a resonant laugh of true, unadulterated satisfaction rang out from Kelberos's ancient helm. He was joined by his comrade, and the two laughed long and loud like two charlatans deep in their cups. The two gripped wrists in a warrior's greeting amidst the remains of the berserker pack. "What a mess you have made for yourself, brother," chuckled Kelberos. + A fine mess indeed, my friend. Soon the Dark Council will learn of your duplicity, and you shall be as mired in it as I. + The World Eater waved his hand dismissively. "To hell with that walking corpse, Kor Phaeron, and the same with that slimy worm, Erebus. Let them send their minions," He looked down at the warp-forged weapon in his hand, vibrating with insatiable hunger as it was. "Their losses will only aid me in destroying these cursed Nails." + Indeed, + the Dark Apostle replied, + We shall break them upon the anvil of our fury. Come, brother. Let us return to your ship... There is work to be done. +