The Ath’lakar River coursed through the primeval forest like a massive, coiled serpent made of crystal jade waters. The rushing, unstable river had crushed through mountains that had risen to block her path and chiseled caverns into deep into the depths of the underworld. The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man looked through the minuscule firing slit of the chimera and beyond the Bridge of the Sixth Behemoth into the churning waters.
The great feat of architecture had been built centuries ago, and once belonged to the accursed eldar when they still purged this planet of his kind. The violet wraithbone arose from the green waters, crafted to resemble the heads of six writhing serpents cutting across the river. Corruption from the immaterium had given them subtle changes. Dark admantanium scales grew from the ancient wraithbone, bleeding strange crimson liquid, and the support beams of the bridge had become slightly writhing tongues.
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man was onboard a convoy headed into the abyssal bleakness of the Lost Woods. With a seventh sense beyond any mortal’s comprehension, he reached out beyond the inner limits of his mind and scanned his surroundings. A daemon could tell how large a convoy was not through the eyes of a physical vessel, but by the silence of the seventh sense. Daemonic entities were talkative beings and constantly chittered into the ether. And this ferocious bombardment of chitterling noise was maddening… and somehow intoxicating.
Wherever the voices were present, bloodshed was soon promised.
The Bridge of the Sixth Behemoth began to shrink into the horizon and the nearby cropping of twisted Black-Bark Birches sprung up on the other side of the Ath’lakar like an impassable labyrinth. Yet the convoy of armored vehicles pressed forward onto the overgrown and muddy trail that snaked further into the shade. A light rain pattered down, made a soothing noise through the foliage and against the hull.
Several uneventful minutes passed before the convoy came to a screeching halt. The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man heard the drivers press their feet against gas-pedal repeatedly, futilely goading their mechanical beast onward. The voice-that-commands whispered something that echoed across the immaterium, but clearly resonated with the mortals as well. In moments, ramparts from the chimera transports collapsed across the convoy into the muddy earth.
The voice-that-commands uttered with absolute authority. “All platoons, we continue to move on foot.”
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man knew the drill or so the mortals called it. He had been fighting in the trenches of mortal worlds for decades, without a name, enslaved in another’s body. He was more soldier than daemon now, at least in this sad existence of a life. But even in this existence, the hierarchy still existed. The endless cycle of gaining power through the culling and elimination of your enemies and gaining glory. Even if it were all in the name of another master.
The others began to unbuckle harnesses that kept them strapped into their seats. He followed suit, snatched his Hell-gun and ammunition from the weapons locker. They marched down the rampart in single file, into a sea of verdant grass that came up to the waist. The light shower turned into a deluge. Thick droplets burst against his carapace armor in rapid succession, but he did not mind. It took his mind off of the voices.
The voice-that-commands began to give orders. “Platoons, fan out into a thin line. Proceed with caution. Be wary of ambushes, we do not know what is beyond this point. Move three clicks further northeast.”
There was no confirmation. Only the sound of boots slogging through mud and foliage to comply with the command.
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man slinked into a small grove of teal Ferns that sat at the base of several trees. The others were spread thin across the wilderness, their footfalls and barely registered movements silent beneath the roaring of the rainstorm. Some scouted ahead from high hills, hidden beneath the giant, arched roots of massive Birches. Others were hidden in the nooks and crags of the forest.
The first shot echoed across the Lost Woods as if the wailing of a damned soul. The discharged round was a heavy, single shot that audibly singed the air that it lanced through. There was no despairing cry, but merely the sound of crashing armor and a lifeless corpse.
He sprinted forward in a half-crouch as several more sniper rounds were fired around him. One of the others slid down the high hill he occupied moments before, the remains of his skull smeared across the hillside. He fell into cover behind a twisted Birch, where one of the others lay slumped against the trunk.
The remaining others unleashed a torrent of hell-fire into the increasing fog. Nearby foliage was reduced to nothing more than smoldering ruin under the volume of fire. Deep in the fog, the creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man noticed disc-shaped objects hovering in the canopy, long armaments attached beneath their plating. They fired only on occasion, but when they did, one of the others fell in battle.
He fired a withering hail of hell-fire into the nearest drone and made it blossom in a fiery explosion. A bullet of white-hot, sapphire energy whizzed past his head and embedded itself through the chest of one of the others climbing through the Fern grove. The other climbed back to his feet, in spite of the gaping hole in his chest and fell into cover beside the creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man.
Suddenly, the Lost Woods came alive with Pulse and Hell-fire. The creature-that-peered-through-eyes-of-man and the other beside him combined rapid burst of their hell-guns into a nearby thicket. The small clutch of alien scouts that had hidden there became saturated with hell-fire until they perished.
Four more groups of scouts concealed amongst the underbrush broke cover after that slaughter. They masterfully weaved through the storm of fire that the Forlorn’s Beginning unleashed. Ochre armored figures revealed themselves from high ground positions and unleashed death from afar.
A pulse round slammed into his shoulder guard. He winced, barely able to register the pain of his flesh being burned inside out. He swept his Hell-gun out in front of him and fired a quick burst into a Fire Warrior lining another shot on him from a long ridge. The alien tumbled backward, bleeding from several wounds, and vanished into the thicket.
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man slogged through the muddy grass, under an endless hail of pulse fire, and into the open. Traces of sapphire energy burned against his carapace armor, but he paid no heed to the danger of imminent death. Pulse fire shifted from across the Lost Woods onto him, but a resurgence in the ranks of the possessed forced the fusillade to lose focus again.
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man climbed a muddy hillside and juked into a large grove of thorny brambles. A Fire Warrior no more than several meters away, buried in the branches of a high Redwood bared down on him with unerring fire. He crashed through the brambles without effort, his thumb on the pin of a grenade that flew loose toward a clutch of scouts occupied with fighting on the other side of the grove.
The detonation took them completely by surprise. No survivors remained.
An accurate shot from some kilometers behind him pierced through the forest canopy and found purchase in the Fire Warrior attempting to snipe him from afar. The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-man spared a glance over his shoulder. The remaining soldiers of his platoon sallied out from their cover to join him.
Covered in thorns, the creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-man erupted from the brambles amongst his hidden foe in a whirlwind of death. The Hell-gun in his arms rattled, kicked furiously as it cut down four Fire Warriors who turned to destroy him on the ridge. Rapid pulse fire embedded itself through his carapace armor in a dozen places, but he could not find it in himself to care. He dropped his ranged weapon and drew a long, wicked dagger and charged into the teeth of the enemy.
His seventh sense counted seven remaining enemies.
A blast of forked lightning arced through the Lost Woods and scoured the area of remaining enemies. He barely had time to sink his dagger through the spinal cord of a foe that ducked beneath his coup-de-grace. He looked up from his kill as it was blasted into ashes.
The voice-that-commands echoed from the shadows. “What is your name?”
The creature-that-peered-through-the-eyes-of-man shrugged. “I am no one, my lord.”
“Now that will simply not do. You showed great valor today, it would be discouraging to the others to allow such… exemplary behavior to go unrewarded. From this day forward, your name shall be known as Ne’gath. You would do well to remember it.”
Beneath his helm, Ne’gath smirked. It was a shallow name, lacking the familiarity of the daemonic tongue, but it would do for now. “Your bidding, eternal.”