Late in M38
Somewhere in the Eye of Terror
Insanity. Pure, boundless insanity. His eyes were unfocused, staring blankly against the far wall. His mouth was open, tongue lolling inanely from it, thick strings of spittle running down his chin. Zanthon was a far from perfect example of a member of the Adeptus Astartes. A murderous thug, a thoughtless berserker.
Bravvick’s battle helm, a grotesque rendition of an emerald skull, intricately engraved with emblems of the hydra and jade droplets of venom, hid his contemptuous sneer. His disdain for the new-blood was well-known throughout his squad. Although recently elevated from the ranks of the Rancorous Scouts to replenish the loss of Faremis fifty years before, his instability and corruption were hardly a substitute for the self-control and calm efficiency of his predecessor and seed-father. He is no Astartes.
Vibrations shook the drop pod. Atmospheric entry.
“Two minutes to contact.”
A statement, not an exclamation, a sign of composure. Self-discipline. These were the tenets of a true warrior, a true son of Alpharius. Not the insane abandon of self, the submersion to the Ruinous Powers. That was the path of the fool, the insane, the weak. Bloodlust had its place, but it had to be tempered, controlled, and unleashed during combat to the greatest effect against the enemy. Mercilessness and violence of action were the standard amongst the Venom Guard, but only after careful manipulation and precise placement of assets. Maximum planning yields minimal errors. The tremors intensified as the drop pod passed from the thin upper atmosphere into the denser lower altitudes.
A warning rune illuminated inside of Bravvick’s visor.
“One minute. Prepare yourselves, brothers,” he said.
Confirmations flooded the squad’s vox channel, but the champion paid them little heed. With the exception of Zanthon, every member was a veteran of centuries of conflict and millennia of bloodshed. They knew precisely what was to be done, what powers were to be appeased, what mental preparations and rituals to conduct. They would be ready for the coming battle. If Zanthon was not, then he would die, his gene-seed would be extracted, and Bravvick would lose no sleep over the matter. Such was the fate of all weak-minded enough to prostrate themselves and whore themselves to the Chaos gods. They were to respected, yes, but never worshiped.
He quickly underwent his own pre-battle ritual. Prime bolt pistol, sliding the action slightly back to ensure a round was chambered, clamping it to his thigh and drawing his chainsword, clutching it between his thighs. Trigger personal locator beacon, checking that his squad’s indicators were all operational. Sub-vocalize activation for power fist, feeling the intense hum of the weapon as its energy field crackled into existence. The power fist ionized the air around him, lightning flashed between his clawed fingertips and danced up his forearms, sparking with barely contained ferocity. He felt the anticipation of the coming slaughter rising within him, of the enemies to be put down like animals in the Wrathful’s name, in the name of the Primarch.
“My brothers,” he began. “For thousands of years we have travelled across the stars, in the name of the Legion, in the name of the Long War.” The squad remained immobile, expressionless masks worn by all, even those who wore no helmets. Zanthon. The…Chaos Marine was rocking back and forth, mumbling to himself. Foolish bastard.
He began again, glancing at each of his brothers and, though they gave no outward sign of acknowledgment, he knew every Marine was attentively listening to his every word, “Give no quarter, for you shall receive none. When you see the enemy, crush them utterly. As I do, so must you. I swear upon this,” he gestured his gauntleted hand to the emblem of the hydra, emblazoned upon his left pauldon, “and on this!” Raising his chainsword, he slammed it point down at the deck. “For the Wrathful, for Alpharius!
“Hydra Dominatus!” The drop pod smashed into the ground.
A scene of unrelenting chaos surrounded the drop pod. Thousands of bodies pressed together in melee; humans, mutants, and Space Marines alike struggled in futility to move, let alone kill. The drop pod had plummeted into their midst, shattering bodies, casting a spray of gore and limbs over the toiling mass of flesh. The Wrathful’s instructions had been clear: Get in, get what we came for, and get the hell out.
In this mess, Bravvick was more than happy to follow his lord’s instructions to the letter. His chainsword was at his thigh, his pistol and fist prepared to commit atrocities in the Wrathful’s name.
A quick left jab burst the chest cavity of a man, bright red jets of blood erupting from the destroyed heart. A crimson streak landed across Bravvick’s visor, obscuring his vision of the battlefield.
“Graff! Get me a bearing on the shrine!” his voice echoed in the confines of his helmet. Ideally, they would have impacted only five hundred meters from their objective, but any good commander knew that the plan only lasted as far as the launch bay. “That was not a suggestion.”
He glimpsed in his auspex operator’s direction, seeing him rip through a three armed mutant, its intestines spilling through the gaping stomach wound. It tried in vain to clutch them in, collapsing to the ground, twitching.
“Four hundred sixty three meters, north by northwest of here,” Graff replied.
Not bad. The machine spirits powering the directional boosters were only capable of performing slight course corrections on planet fall trajectories, but they had done the job well enough. They were close, but the swirl of combat between them would make reaching the shrine difficult at best.
Time was of the essence. For each minute they remained locked in conflict surrounding the drop pods, more and more mutants would fill the void and eventually overwhelm the Chaos marines by sheer mass. It was time to move.
“Jib, Charritt, clear a path,” Bravvick ordered, his voice dropping to a growl, “Burn them all.”
Howling crowds advanced into the clearing blasted out by the drop pod. The two Marines advanced, shoulder to shoulder, flamers held level before them. Burning promethium dripped from the primer torches, erupting into a wave of liquid fire. A hundred figures were swathed in flames; screaming marionettes, strings being pulled and twitched by an unseen, cruel god. Jib and Charritt pressed their advantage, their armoured feet crushing those still feebly clinging to life.
Absence, silence. Momentary calm in the eye of the storm, in the bedlam of slaughter. This planet was the key, the fulcrum upon which the future balanced. Ezekial had seen this, and the sorcerer had, as far as Bravvick knew, never been wrong. The parted masses began to close again, screaming incoherently, gurgling from slashed throats and savage tongues. Even in the madness of the clash, over the din of combat, something could be heard in the wind. Booming, reverberating laughter. It chilled the soul and pressured the mind. Bravvick could feel the presence of the warp spilling over into reality, the great powers of Chaos vying for domination. It twisted his stomach and brought bile into his throat. Fighting down the rising nausea, he swallowed it. The air itself was thick with aetheric energies, the smell of blood, fear, and sweat penetrated his rebreather's filters and burned his nostrils.
None of this mattered to him, impartiality towards the four terrible gods of Chaos was a tenet of the Venom Guard, not honoring any over the others. He could care less whose blood was spilled as long as it was in the best interest of his brethren, in the furthering of the Long War in the name of the Alpha Legion.
It was for the promotion of the Wrathful’s grand vision that he found himself battling through a swarm of insane heretics on a nameless world in the Eye of Terror, in search of an artifact of untold power. No description was given, only a location, and that the Space Marines would know when they found it. His squad was one of two dispatched to the surface, Brother-Sergeant Paelleoth having landed a scant hundred meters to their south. The race was on, for the glory of the company would be bestowed upon whichever squad made claim upon the relic. To the north lay the vestige, through the teeming crowd maddened by slaughter, incensed with murder.
Thousands of beings separated Bravvick from his prize. With a furious swipe of his power fist, the crowd momentarily parted before him in a shower of blood.
“Brothers, draw your swords and push forwards. Slaughter everything you must, but time is of the essence. The Wrathful will not honour the empty-handed,” he bellowed. His vision still blocked by the streak of blood marring his visor, he tore his helmet off, magnetically clamping it to his belt. The air was thick with blood; he could breathe it, he could taste it.
Implacably, he pushed into the throng. All form was lost, all finesse forgotten. He blindly clubbed anything in his way. A human exploded in a cloud of viscera, showering his emerald breastplate with a scarlet mist of blood and gore. A screaming mutant, hunch-backed and bounding on four legs, shrieked at him from the right. Without a thought, he shot the beast in its head. Another burst of brains and bone scattering the ground, his armor. It was mindless, effortless, the flow of the kill, the dance of the butcher.
And still the laughter reverberated, carried by the wind, echoed by the roiling masses.
Bravvick found himself letting go of his carefully maintained control, pressing ever onward, endlessly hacking. The seconds stretched into years, the swings of his power fist and boom of his bolt pistol taking eons. Time stood still and sped by in an instant, all of the galaxy, the whole of the Eye of Terror, revolving around him. Bravvick was the focal point, the endless fury of the Gods. Not the Gods, the God.
He collapsed a skull with a downward crash of his pistol. An eye burst from its socket, slowly flying in free fall. He watched it in its plunge, wheeling end over end trailing nerves. After an eternity, it hit the ground and bounced once…twice. It came to a rest against his right boot. A voice said something, but he could not concentrate enough to decipher its meaning. He could only advance and kill, strike and murder.
Another mutant charged at him, loping forwards lazily. Take aim, fire. Click. Empty. He was surprised, this never happened. He was a Champion, a near-peerless warrior whose focus was unwavering…unfaltering. Disgusted with himself, he threw the pistol to the ground. Bravvick answered the beast with a roar of his own, a cry of rage that tore through the flesh in his throat. He grabbed the charging beast and lifted it over his head.
The Champion ripped the beast in two, showering himself as it organs burst in a fountain of blood. He opened his mouth, drinking in the blood, taking the intestines in his teeth. He shook the body over him, splattering his face and armor. His shining emerald armor was plastered with gore, stained deep crimson. Slowly, reluctantly, he lowered the severed halves of the mutant to the ground.
Clarity, for a moment. A fleeting moment. Situational awareness returned, the focus of the operation. He stood scantly meters from the location of his prize, and he knew what he beheld was his to win. The rage rose within him overwhelmingly, a screaming beast begging for release, a pressure in his skull as though it was about to burst apart. And still, the laughter echoed. The name carried on the wind, soft yet thunderous with the extortion to annihilate. Again, he plunged under, overwhelmed by the desire, the need, the craving to exterminate. Submerged under the endless waves of anger and wrath, overwhelmed.
The Champion was not alone. Before him stood another, a contender to what was rightfully his. A challenger, mindless as he, adorned as he. Helmless, eyes awash with crimson, shot through with scarlet, prepared to claim what was not his. A word struggled to the forefront of the Champion’s mind: Brother? No, not a brother, a target, a skull awaiting addition to the Great Throne, the Pedestal of the Damned. His chainsword was in his hand, adamantite teeth whirling. His power fist crackled with power, the machine spirit within yearning, pleading.
Without a thought he charged forward, a powerful downward sweep of his sword angling towards his foe’s neck. The other deftly sidestepped, bringing his own chainaxe to bear, the two weapons meeting in a burst of sparks. Teeth ground together, breaking under the pressure of the deadlock. The two stared at one another, seeing nothing.
A snap of his boot slammed into his opponent’s knee, bringing him to the ground, unable to support his own weight with his shattered leg. The Champion seized the moment, wildly swinging his sword to be met once again by his vulnerable nemesis. His power fist, alive with energy, punched from the left. Slamming into the challenger, biting into armor, cleaving through bone. A fountain of blood, spilling forth, staining the ground. A scream of pain, of rage and hate echoed clearly. No other sounds tainted this moment, a tranquility only for them, an eddy in the swirl of chaos. This moment, the pivotal moment of which the Champion had been told.
The contender lay on his back, leaking blood and unable to stand. The victory was the Champion’s, could only be his and his alone. He would not share. His gauntlet raised, the chainsword ready. Falling down, severing the head, covered in blood. Arterial spray, the bright red of Astartes blood, erupted from the neck of the fallen. The head spiraled away, stopping almost serenely against it…against the prize.
The Champion clamped his deactivated sword to his hip as he stepped forward. Kneeling down, he retrieved the head, a look of hatred and madness frozen on its features, tears of blood staining its cheeks. The features were familiar, not those of one who he had fought by for thousands of years, but young, lost. Recognition struck him, sending a hollow pang through to his core. Consciousness, clarity. Bravvick struggled to the surface of his own mind, regaining control.
Zanthon. The face staring up at him, the severed skull glaring at him accusingly, vehemently. The eyes, petrified in hatred. He had done this, he had murdered his own. BLOOD AND SKULLS. It did not matter, Zanthon was a monster, without restraint and without composure. But he had done this, he had gone mad with blood lust, his thirst for RIVERS OF GORE AND BONES BLEACHING IN THE SUN overcoming his self-discipline. The laughter boomed in his head, the familiar but new voice reverberating, demanding…
Bravvick stood and turned to face the battlefield. His squad was visible, a head above the horde, hacking and slashing with ferocious glee, thousands of butchered corpses surrounding them. Beyond were Paelleoth’s Marines, howling to the sky, faces dripping blood, eyes screaming madness, their sanity forfeited to gain favor in the eyes of KHORNE. The horizon was an endless landscape of destruction, a never-ending orgy of genocide in the name of the Brazen God.
The champion turned, kneeling at the altar of skulls upon a dais of bone. Their objective reached, he reverently placed the skull he had taken from one who, in the end, was truly his brother. With a scream to the Lord of Rage, he sunk down, deeper into his madness and leaped back into the carnage. “BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”
And always, the laughter echoed.
Last edited by Boc; 07-02-10 at 09:59 PM.