Heresy Fiction Comp 2010: The Knight of Corrus
‘Come here you little punk!’
Gareth looked up form his workbench, his face gaunt from a blend of stress, malnutrition, and lack of sleep. The custom bolt pistol he had been cleaning, the last memory of his father, an Imperial Guard lieutenant, held slack in his hand as he thought how different his life had become since the death of his mother. Some said she had a blood clot that stopped her heart in the night, but he knew she never recovered from his father’s death.
He was 13 and left in the care of his brother Cerrin, a vicious gang leader in the lower levels of Hive Tertius on the industrial world of Corrus Prime. Gareth was a curious youth, messing with whatever he could get his hands on during the day while reading whatever he could at night.
Gareth stood, knowing it wouldn’t do him any good to keep his brother waiting if he’d been drinking. The swill his brother’s gang distilled here at their headquarters left an acrid smell from the brewing that made Gareth wonder how they were even capable of drinking it, let alone selling it.
Knowing what would be required of him, Gareth holstered the pistol and grabbed his pack from the floor, filling it with ammunition and food while clipping a canteen to his belt and moving to Cerrin’s chambers.
‘Where have you been you pile of waste, I called you minutes ago?’ Cerrin curled his lips in that wretched sneer that Garin had learned to hate over the last year, his yellow teeth and blackened gums showing as his cracked lips parted. Before Gareth could respond, Cerrin interrupted, ‘It doesn’t matter. I want you to go into the hive and scrounge up some rations. Those xenos invaders should have cleared out some more of the hive scum and we should be able to take in quite the haul.’
Gareth felt a chill run through him as he thought of leaving the safety of the distillery for the alien-haunted streets of the underhive. As he turned to leave, knowing he risked being turned over to the cruelties of his brother’s gang if he didn’t, Gareth looked at the two girls who reclined in his brother’s chamber. They were clearly drugged, and he wondered if that allowed them to live with the life they had chosen when moving in with the gang.
‘Bring me back something nice as well,’ Cerrin mocked as Gareth spun the wheel on the door, opening the hatch into the streets of the underhive. Gareth could still hear his brother and his cronies laughing at him as he shut the hatch behind him, leaving them to their games as he stepped into the gloom of a city under siege.
Pain exploded in his side as the beast’s talon punched through a weakened spot in his armor. Sergeant Mohrgen spun from the attack, lashing out with his crackling power sword, taking the arm of the creature at the elbow joint. The tactical information he had received indicated the ambushing creature was a lictor, a species of Tyranid. The creature let out a stomach-churning howl as it registered the loss of a limb, redoubling its efforts against the opponent that had so grievously wounded it. Not for the first time since the hive sector collapse, Mohrgen cursed the loss of his helmet. He would not have been caught unawares had he the range of vision it afforded him.
Mohrgen was knocked off balance as he brought his sword around to parry a jab from the lictor’s other talon. Barbed hooks shot from its chest, tripping Mohrgen, skidding him across the street of the filthy hive. It hardly seemed fair, Mohrgen thought, that he would be the only member of his squad to survive the collapse yet be caught in an ambush and killed alone.
The lictor leapt at him, trying to pin him beneath its massive yet lithe bulk. Mohrgen rolled out of the way, but was not fast enough to save his sword from being trapped under the beast’s foot. Disarmed, missing his bolter, and his pistol having run out of ammo in a skirmish against a roaming pack of termagants hours ago, Mohrgen scanned the dark rubble-strewn streets for anything he could use to ward off the lictor.
As the beast slowly stalked forward, Mohrgen was aware that it kept itself between him and his weapon. ‘Very clever,’ he thought to himself. Without warning, the lictor pushed towards him with surprising speed, lashing out with its remaining talon towards the opening in Mohrgen’s armor. Spinning to the outside of the attack, Mohrgen realized too late that it was a feint, and the flesh hooks of the creature punched into his exposed side, pulling him towards the creature’s foul-smelling tentacled mouth.
Gareth put on his low-light goggles to see better in the darkened hive. The fighting had cut off the power to large sections of the underhive while it was redirected to the other levels to aid the defenses. His re-breather allowed him to keep from choking to death on the thick dust that had been cast into the air by some unknown incident. While the dust wasn’t toxic, there was enough to render it unsafe and potentially deadly.
As Gareth emerged from an alleyway, looking for any hidden stashes of food or supplies, he found himself staring at the back of an immense shape, totally alien to his understanding. No book he ever read could prepare him for the site he witnessed. The creature, clearly missing the match of its lone scything talon, held what Gareth recognized as one of the Emperor’s knights, an Astartes.
While he didn’t recognize the half-red, half-bone colored armor, nor the symbol on the shoulder of a skull with a stylized cross on the forehead, he did recognize the armor from a book of his father’s. Gareth made up his mind that he could not let this beast defile one of the Emperor’s greatest creations.
Setting his pack down, he drew his father’s pistol in a two-handed grip and levied careful aim at the beast. Hopefully his practice and the loving maintenance of the gun would pay off.
Mohrgen was in the vice-like grip of the creature’s lower arms. Despite his struggles, the damaged section of his armor reduced his capacity to fight the lictor despite his own genetically altered physique. Accepting his fate, Mohrgen intoned the litany of The Emperor’s Mercy as the lictor raised its talon to finish the job. The blow never came.
Before either could register what had happened, a spray of brackish fluid, ostensibly what passed for blood, erupted from the side of the lictor’s head. Its body, frozen in place as the brain ceased sending commands to the body, went slack, dropping Mohrgen to the street and collapsing in place. His instincts returned, Mohrgen rolled and recovered his sword, coming up in a defensive posture, scanning the artificial twilight for the intruder; thankful for the interference, but still untrusting.
‘Hail, Knight of the Emperor,’ came a voice that sounded too young and too distant to be his savior. ‘It looked like you needed some help.’
Mohrgen stood, and moved cautiously towards the source of the voice until he saw the small shape of a human, no more than 12 or 13 years of age, standing at the mouth of an alley. He was gaunt, possibly from malnourishment, but held a finely crafted bolt pistol at the ready, the barrel smoking from the recently discharged round.
‘Young man, you were not mistaken, and I would know the name of my savior.’
The youth stepped fully into Mohrgen’s vision, raised his goggles and introduced himself as Gareth Illostra, clearly marveling at the superhuman warrior before him. ‘I have read about the Emperor’s Astartes in books, and you are everything they said you would be. Should I just call you sir, or do you have a name?’
Mohrgen chuckled. ‘The kid is brave, no doubt about that,’ he thought. ‘My name is Mohrgen, sergeant of squad Invictus of the Crimson Paladin’s 5th company. I am in your debt Gareth Illostra, and would be further were you able to show me to the middle hive so I may reunite with my company to drive these creatures from this hive and this world.’
‘I would be honored Lord Mohrgen. Ever since I was little I wanted to serve alongside the Astartes. I have read many tales of the sons of Guilliman and Dorn, as those are the ones I was able to find in the libraries of the hive,’ Gareth said as he began working his way through the rubble choked streets of the underhive. ‘My father always said that there was nothing like watching a marine wage war. He said there was a beautiful savagery that they brought to the persecution of their foes, and that none could stand before them.’
Mohrgen slowed his pace so that he could match that of Gareth, his superhuman size and endurance would have quickly outpaced a fully-grown healthy human, even with the already healing injury to his side, let alone a malnourished youth. ‘Perhaps we could keep the noise down until we get into the middle hive. The Tyranids are superb hunters, the last thing we need to give them is a way to find us easier.’
Gareth nodded in understanding, although he seemed to pay no heed as he continued talking, just in a slightly hushed voice that would still be called excited and slightly loud. ‘I completely understand. I scavenge the underhive all the time for my brother and, if I’m not quiet, rival gang members might use me for target practice.’
‘Why aren’t you with your brother,’ Mohrgen inquired? He had to wonder what would possess anyone to be out until the Tyranid nest had been completely destroyed. ‘I would think someone of your age would want to stay with their family until this ordeal was over.’
Gareth made a sour face, as if he had eaten something rotten. ‘My brother abuses me as well as my talents. He thinks that it is funny to send me out to salvage food and parts when it is not safe for him to go raiding other gangs and their territories. He makes me fix his gang’s equipment while I am at the hideout when he is not using me as the butt of his jokes. But I know he needs me, it just upsets him that I am so much better at these tasks than him, so he has to show off for his friends so that they don’t think he’s soft. With my father’s death on some distant planet and my mother’s passing last year he has no one else to truly take care of him.’
After some time, Gareth walked up to what appeared to be a smooth wall. Pressing his hand into an alcove formed by the poorly worked joint of a reinforcing beam and the wall, a door slid open and Gareth walked though.
‘Where are you leading me,’ Mohrgen questioned in a slightly clipped and annoyed manner? He was in no mood for games or distractions; he had to get back to his company.
‘Unlike you,’ Gareth stated flatly with his hand masking a brief yawn, ‘I am not able to travel for days without rest. I have to stop, and this is one of my brother’s safe houses where we stash goods and equipment out of the view of the Arbites.’ Gareth moved to a dirty cot that lay on the floor and he slowly lowered himself onto the filthy mattress. ‘Make yourself at home. We have another 8 hours of travel to get to the middle hive.’
Mohrgen looked around the filthy hovel that Gareth had described as a safe house. There was all manner of boxes and crates stacked in the corners, some with the marks of the hive’s merchant houses and others with the Imperial aquilla on them. ‘We should keep going young Gareth. You’ve never faced these creatures, but they are capable of tracking us here should they so choose.’
Gareth sat up and looked at the almost comically large figure opening crates, tossing the debris of low-grade materials and foodstuff aside. ‘The quality items aren’t in the crates,’ Gareth said, sensing what the warrior was looking for. ‘My brother stashes the good stuff in a hidden crawl space under the floor.’ Without ceremony, Gareth lifted the mattress and pulled open a cleverly concealed trap door.
Descending the rickety wooden steps, Gareth flicked on a light, giving the dank crawl space a faint illumination that scattered the insects and rodents that made their home in the dirt and soil of the underhive. Moving aside boxes of Imperial credits and jewels, Gareth came across a heavy footlocker with an electronic lock, set against the back wall. Grunting with the strain such a heavy box in these tight confines, he struggled to slide it back to the stairs.
‘Help,’ Gareth said breathlessly, ‘I can’t lift it on my own.’
Reaching into the crawl space, Mohrgen grabbed the handle of the footlocker and, with the servos in his armor assisting his superhuman strength, pulled the footlocker out and set it softly on the dirty floor.
‘Stop!’ Gareth yelled, climbing out of the hole just in time to see the marine readying himself to cut open the footlocker with his sword. ‘I linked the keypad to an incendiary device. If you try to bypass that lock it will destroy the contents.’
Mohrgen stared at the youth as if he had just grown a second head. ‘Where did you learn these skills?’
‘What skills?’ Gareth inquired as he set to work entering the code on the keypad of the footlocker.
‘I speak of your marksmanship and survival skills, the ability to get past your fears, your abilities with technology that would rival a Mechanicum initiate 5 years your senior. All are remarkable for someone your age. How did you…’ Mohrgen paused as Gareth opened the locker. ‘Are those what I think they are?’
‘Yeah, my brother was planning something pretty big before the invasion began, so he had me fix these up and stash them away. I haven’t fired them yet, but I would say they have a ninety percent chance of working correctly.’
Mohrgen looked on in astonishment as he removed one of the plasma guns from its housing in the locker. ‘By Dorn I think we might just make the middle hive yet.’ Turning the weapon over in his hand and inspecting it closely, Mohrgen noticed that these weapons had been modified. ‘What are the extra tubes for?’
Gareth beamed, pleased that the marine recognized his work. ‘They feed extra coolant to the plasma coils so that the gun doesn’t overheat as quickly. They will still overheat, but it shouldn’t kill you if it does.’
‘Good work, but we should move out if we want to stay ahead of the hunting packs. I would hate for this hovel to be the location of my last stand.’ Mohrgen readied the plasma gun he was holding and looked to Gareth, his gaze holding the eyes of the youth. ‘I would ask you to come with me young Gareth. While I can make no guarantees for your survival, I can also assure you a higher calling than keeping your brother’s gang armed and operational; a calling that would make your father proud.’
‘My father always said I had a gift, and that I should use that gift to help others. Now it looks like I have that chance. I suppose I didn’t really need the rest anyway.’ With a spring in his step that belied his trepidation, Gareth grabbed up the other plasma gun, holstering his father’s pistol.
Reaching into the footlocker, Gareth pulled some wires from a small pack set into the base of the locker. ‘Never know when we might want this as well. I don’t think it’s doing anyone any good any more anyways.’ Lifting the device from the locker, Gareth tossed it to the marine as he opened the door to make sure there were no waiting threats. ‘I figure you are more likely to survive than me, so you should hold it. It is a melta charge. Without the lock as a detonator, you are going to have to shoot it to set it off.’
Mohrgen slid the charge into an empty ammo pouch and strode through the door, followed closely behind by the promising youth.
The journey to the septic tunnels had been without incident. Scanning the surrounding terrain, plasma gun held at the ready, Mohrgen knew that the worst was still to come. Genestealers surely stalked these tunnels and, if his instincts were correct, would be the rearguard of a much more horrible force.
‘So why the Crimson Paladins? I understand names like Imperial Fists and Ultramarines, but I haven’t read anywhere what a paladin is. And why are you crimson instead of having some more ominous sounding color or metal or something?’ Gareth was moving through waste-deep filth and needed to do something to take his mind off of the wretched stench lest he lose what little food he had eaten in the last twelve hours right in front of this embodiment of the Emperor’s divine will. ‘I mean, wouldn’t Steel Avengers sound more ominous and deadly?’
If it had been anyone else, someone older, someone who should have known better, he would have ended Gareth right then. However, the boy was curious and Mohrgen understood that he was nervous and nauseated from the stench. He needed him to be cognizant to guide him the rest of the way through the tunnels, so he indulged the youth’s curiosity.
‘We are named for a group of knights from ancient Terra,’ Mohrgen began while pulling himself into one of the large sewage pipes that lead deeper into the hive. ‘One surviving tome tells us that during ancient times in Europa there was a king who was withdrawing his army from battle. During the withdrawal, his rearguard, lead by a hero named Roland and his 12 companions, the paladins, was ambushed through subterfuge and treachery and slaughtered to a man.’
‘Why would someone name a chapter after a group that was slaughtered?’ Gareth inquired as he led Mohrgen to a ladder and began to climb. ‘Wouldn’t you want your name to be associated with something more victorious?’
Mohrgen sighed as they pushed their way through a rusty little-used hatch above them and into the next series of darkened tunnels. ‘You are not an Astartes so it wouldn’t make sense to you, but we value heroic sacrifice. The loss of the rear guard gave the king the chance to rally his men and avenge their fallen brethren; devastating the traitorous force and ultimately routing their enemies from Europa.’
Gareth turned the wheel of an access door on the side of the sewage tunnel and peered inside the darkened hallway. ‘Still, why have crimson in the name?’
Mohrgen stepped cautiously into the hallway, ‘We are named after the chapter from which we are descended, the Crimson…’
He never finished his sentence. As he stepped over the lip of the doorway, Mohrgen was knocked from his feet by a heavy weight that landed firmly on his chest. Acting on instinct, the Paladin lashed out with his sword, thumbing the activation stud as he did, igniting the power field around the blade. Fortunately the pale purple and blue, four-armed creature that had ambushed him had landed its blow in a place where the integrity of his armor was still intact, as the razor sharp claws scrabbled to break through. Mohrgen’s strike had been true and the creature’s head fell to the floor of the hallway with the sound of a wet sponge.
Not wanting to give any other creature the chance to take advantage of the opening, Mohrgen began to pour fire down the hall from the plasma gun he carried, picking his shots with an eye on where the creatures were most likely advancing.
Having seen the initial attack, Gareth stepped in and began to add his weapon fire to the rain of death that flew down the corridor. While not as precise in shot placement as the sergeant, Gareth was still accurate enough for the small confines of their surroundings. When they finally ceased fire, Gareth was able to see in the dim twilight cast by the flickering lamps lining the ceiling that they had managed to incinerate at least a dozen creatures similar to the one that ambushed Mohrgen when he stepped through the door.
‘I am sorry, I will try and be quiet from now on,’ Gareth said, staring at the long gashes in Mohrgen’s half crimson half bone colored power armor.
‘It isn’t necessary at this point young Gareth. They know we are here if there are any more. We just need to be more aware.’ Mohrgen motioned for Gareth to lead the way and followed as the youth established a cautious pace down the access tunnel.
‘We are named the Crimson Paladins as we owe our genetic descent from the Crimson Fists chapter,’ Mohrgen stated flatly as he continued his tale while watching for more xenos. ‘The geneseed used to create the chapter was taken from a detachment that had been left to garrison a fortress-monastery on a planet that was a key waypoint in running supplies between segmentums Ultima and Obscurous.’
‘During the early 37th millennium, the Iron Warriors raided the planet with a full grand company, intending to wipe out the Crimson Fists, descendants of their ancient nemesis the Imperial Fists, stationed there and seize the weapons and munitions stockpile that had been built up to reinforce the Cadian corridor.’
Continuing the history lesson of his chapter for the youth was filling Mohrgen with a renewed sense of purpose. ‘The Crimson Fists that had been stationed on the planet fought a sterling rearguard action while supply ships were evacuated from the planet. In the end, all of the Crimson Fists that had been stationed on the planet, save for the few that ran the Iron Warrior’s blockade with the supply vessels, had perished. After the fleet was able to escape the system, a call was sent to rain vengeance upon those ancient traitorous foes of Mankind. Five full companies of Astartes from the Crimson Fists, Imperial Fists, and Black Templars chapters spearheaded the strike force that saw the total destruction of the Iron Warriors forces and the retaking of the planet.’
‘When the High Lords of Terra ordered the 22nd Founding, the Crimson Paladins were established with those that succeeded in running the blockade being given command over the new chapter. The name would be a memoriam to the sacrifice made during those short but important weeks, and the planet, named Fortress, was given as the chapter’s home.’
‘Not to interrupt you, sir, but we are at the exterior hatch to the middle hive,’ Gareth stated, wishing that he could hear more, but it was time to finish the journey. Gareth opened the hatch and Mohrgen stepped through into blood, noise and death.
The middle level of Corrus Prime Hive Tertius was under siege by the forces of the Great Devourer. Agile Termagants clamored over debris, firing their living weapons into the ranks of militia arrayed to oppose them while scythe-armed Hormagaunts tore into the line of men, killing and moving on in a precise and controlled manner. Directing this orgy of bloodshed was the massive shape of a Hive Tyrant, using its venom cannon to disable the militia tanks that had been brought to bear against its forces.
Mohrgen could see the line would have broken had it not been for the inspiring presence of Reclusiarch Turpin and the remaining Crimson Paladins of the 5th company. While he couldn’t see Captain Malechai, he knew that the 5th would hold to the last man. From his position he knew he could strike a crippling blow if he could just eliminate the Hive Tyrant. This would collapse their hive mind and the rest of the creatures would be easy pickings for the hive’s forces.
‘Wait here,’ Mohrgen said, turning to Gareth. ‘If you do what I say, you will survive this. Now is not the time for heroics; you will have plenty of opportunity for that in the future.’ Gareth began to protest, but was cut off by a curt gesture from the Paladin’s hand. ‘I mean it. Don’t be a hero today. You’ve saved me and now I am repaying that debt. Whether I survive isn’t important, just so long as that creature dies.’
Mohrgen look off in a low run, crouching to mask his approach along a low, blasted out wall. Keeping his eye on his target, he could see green gouts of biological material being hurled from its weapon at high velocity, targeting a Hellhound that appeared to be inflicting the greatest toll on the Tyranid forces. Mohrgen took careful aim with his plasma gun, propping his leg up on a pile of debris, and fired.
The Tyrant made a great wailing screech as the plasma charge hit its cannon, splitting the base of the barrel and splattering the ground and the creature with acidic venom. Turning to face this new threat, the Tyrant readied its sword and lash and leapt toward Mohrgen.
Diving aside at the last moment, Mohrgen drew his power sword and activated it. He pressed the plasma gun against his leg, enabling the mag lock to keep it out of his way during the fight. The seconds it took were seconds he didn’t have. The bone sword of the Tyrant came flashing down at him and he was only able to bring his sword up to block the blow by a mere fraction of a second. Spinning in place, Mohrgen pushed the blade aside while sliding his own sword along the bone blade and into the flesh of the Tyrant’s wrist.
The creature bellowed its rage and spit a glob of acid at the Paladin, causing him to duck. This had the effect the creature wanted and it landed a savage kick to Mohrgen’s side, breaking his already damaged ribs and throwing him into a nearby plascrete wall. The integrity of his armor was already weak, and against a creature as monstrous is this, it was serving him no purpose.
The Tyrant stalked over to where he lay on the ground and Mohrgen knew that his end was near. Drawing the reserves of his strength, he lashed out at the creature’s shoulder with his sword, but the blow was robbed of a significant portion of its speed as his crushed ribs and muscle responded poorly to his attack. Easily blocking the clumsy strike, the beast delivered a vicious backhanded hit with the handle of its sword that burst the nose of the Paladin in a spray of blood that cast his face the same red as the right half of his armor.
Having lost his sword, Mohrgen, on hands and knees, drew the melta charge from his ammo pouch and held it tightly to his chest, knowing he would only have one chance to finish this. As he pushed himself up to meet his destiny, Mohrgen nearly froze at the site before him.
Gareth had been watching the fight between the creature and Mohrgen and couldn’t sit idle any longer. Creeping out of his hiding place at the sewer entrance, Gareth crept along the same wall the Mohrgen had used earlier, holding his plasma gun at the ready. As the creature stood over the broken Paladin, Gareth left his cover with a fierce cry on his lips as he fired his plasma gun in rapid bursts.
The Hive Tyrant turned, assessing this new threat, and flashed its hand forward. The whip coiled around the youth’s midsection pulled him forward with a jerk that jarred the weapon from his hand. The last thing Gareth felt were his legs being crushed beneath the weight of the foul thing just before his world went dark as his head was removed by the Tyrant’s sword.
Mohrgen had looked up just in time to see the deathblow landed by the monstrous Tyranid and Mohrgen knew an opportunity when he saw it. Taking the melta charge, he pushed himself from the rubble and into a sprint. As he dashed past the Tyrant, Mohrgen pushed the charge between the bone plates of the creature’s exoskeleton, diving and rolling to avoid the backwards swipe of the bonesword.
Passing Gareth’s body, Mohrgen slid the bolt pistol from the holster on the youth’s hip and spun from the roll into a crouch. Firing a snap shot without thinking, Mohrgen hit the charge with a mass reactive shell from the pistol, igniting the unstable chemicals and setting off a reaction that caused the entire left side of the Hive Tyrant to explode in a shower of acid blood and alien gore.
With the threat eliminated, Mohrgen turned to take stock of the battle he now would have to fight through to reach his brothers. As he looked across the rubble-strewn streets of the hive city, he saw the xenos horde milling around in confusion as the remaining Paladins cut them down mercilessly. Deprived of the focus of their hive mind, the Tyranids were able to mount nothing but the most cursory of defenses against the renewed efforts of the Astartes.
Mohrgen looked upon Gareth’s body and spent a moment contemplating how wasteful the lad’s death had been, privately mourning the loss of what could have been a talented warrior and gifted Techmarine, before striding to the battle line. As he put round after well-placed round into the heads of the confused and fleeing termagants around him, the bloody marine knew that his new pistol would be a constant reminder of Gareth, the Knight of Corrus.
A baby seal walked into a club.
Last edited by space cowboy; 08-24-10 at 03:03 AM.