The War Hounds
Bolters roared and spat out explosive bolts as one hundred Astartes of the War Hounds legion formed a defensive ring around the summit of the hive spire Harappa as hundreds of thousands of citizen soldiers of the planet Indus climbed the near vertical man made slopes to confront the invaders.
Legion Master Gheer barked orders to his men, urging them to keep a tight perimeter and not let one of the mortals through, though he hardly needed to tell that to veterans of the first campaigns against the ork race.
The 1st company Astartes unleashed volley after volley into the rabble that climbed to their deaths to meet the invaders under the clear blue sky dotted with white clouds, a good omen Gheer took it, for it matched the colors of the legion well.
Out of the corner of his enhanced sight Gheer saw several Astartes stop to reload, allowing the Indus Defensive Force to gain several feet on the defensive ring before the front bodies were blown apart by explosive bolts.
A grenade landed before the Legion Master’s feet and the Astartes contemptuously kicked it away, over the heads of his men and into the ranks of the IDF.
As the explosion of the grenade sent shrapnel into the ranks of the mortals and sent a dozen falling to their deaths, Gheer thought back to day that turned negotiations with the Indus government into a bloodbath against the Indus people.
‘Take us in nice and slowly Horzt,’ said Legion Master Gheer, ‘these people have granted us permission to come and negotiate terms under which they may join our master’s domain in peace. I will not have our chance at a peaceful compliance ruined, not when all the other legions in the Emperor’s service stare down their noses at us,’
‘Yes sir,’ replied Horzt, undoubtedly the best pilot in the legion.
The stormbird Gheer and his hand chosen Astartes descended in made its way to the capital hive spire, Harappa.
In the final stages of the landing procedure Horzt was guided by ground crews on a large landing pad attached to the roof of Temin, the capital building.
Outside the cockpit window Gheer could a greeting delegation, roughly fifty members of the Indus ruling council.
The massive war machine, usually armed for combat on a tremendous scale, was now armed with only a pair of quad heavy bolters, more than enough to obliterate the greeting delegation standing in view of the cockpit.
For once Gheer was glad those guns weren’t firing, to him this was a chance to bring a world into the emerging Imperium in peace and without a single loss of life.
The ramp came down with a hiss, and ten Astartes clad in blue and white mark III powered armor walked down to greet the representatives of Indus.
None of the ten wore their helmets, allowing the humans to see their faces. In place of their usual tools of warfare the super humans were armed only with a power sword each, more than enough for their safety, but not quite enough to make the delegation fear them.
Humans, if only they knew the power of the Astartes.
Gheer stopped short of the Indus delegation and raised his right hand.
‘In the name of the Emperor of Mankind, I, Legion Master Gheer of the War Hounds legion, greet you in peace,’ the rehearsed words came out smoothly, none of the warrior’s martial appetite showing through.
The lead human, the most ornately dressed stepped forward from the delegation.
Gheer could hear the jewelry the man wore rattle.
1st Company Champion Helios suppressed a chuckle behind his master.
The human stepped forward and held out his hand to Gheer.
‘In the name of the people of Indus, I, Prime Magistrate Loeb, greet you in friendship and peace,’
The giant warrior from the stars took the mortal man’s hand in his and the representatives of two branches of mankind greeted each other.
Gheer hoped this would be the beginning of a great friendship, and proof that his legion did not seek out conquest as the only way of bringing worlds into compliance.
‘No no no!’ screamed Magistrate Secundus Shale of the fourth sectorus major of Indus, ‘we will not fly the flag of your Emperor from our capital, we only wish to be allies of the Imperium, not members,’
Gheer held his anger in check on this, the fourth day of negotiations that had gotten nowhere.
Sitting in the largest wooden chair on the planet and flanked on either side by his chosen companions the Legion Master sighed.
‘We have been through this,’ he said, ‘your planet, though advance by the standards of the galaxy at large, has almost no interstellar capabilities and thus would never be a viable military or economic ally of the Imperium. Under the Emperor’s flag members of the Adeptus Mechanicum will come to your world and would bring your technological abilities up to par with the Imperium,’
‘At the cost of being your slaves!’ shouted a shrill woman, Gheer didn’t bother to identify. ‘Admit it,’ she continued ‘you only want more slaves for your wars,’
‘I will admit to nothing that is untrue,’ replied Gheer, ‘My only wish is for you and your people to become valuable members of the Imperium,’
‘As slaves!’ the shrill woman screeched again.
It was a mark of the faith Gheer had put in his companions when he selected them to accompany him to the planet’s surface. It was a sign that they recognized this faith by remaining still and making no overtly threatening movements. The only one who looked to be slipping from his composure was he Champion Helios.
‘I’m tired of arguing with you all,’ sighed Gheer ‘Prime Magistrate Loeb, I will only speak to you now, your junior governors seem disinterested in negotiating the terms under which Indus will become a part of the Imperium,’
‘The Magistrate will not speak until his governors have ruled, that is our law,’ said some minor council functionary.
‘I am nearly at my breaking point with you people,’ said Gheer ‘I offer you the olive branch and you see a slave driver’s eager lash. What could I possible do to convince you joining the Imperium is in your best interests?’
‘Nothing! Nothing that brings us under the rule of a tyrant light-years away is anywhere close to our interests!’
At this the War Hounds were ripped of their composure. To insult the Emperor, the master of mankind that had given the 12th Legion their name in such a way!
Champion Helios had had enough. Faster than the eye could follow the warrior unsheathed his blade and brought it down like an axe on the table, sending a long crack down the whole of the smooth circular piece of wood and causing it to break in half.
Two half circles fell to either side of Gheer, leaving a path open for him to walk straight for the Prime Magistrate.
Standing up Gheer brought his idle powered armor to active and the low hum that had filled the room became an angry buzz.
Walking towards the Prime Magistrate the Legion Master stilled his hand from drawing his power sword, but still rage consumed him and when he reached the gold clad man he nearly let his war senses take hold and strangle him.
‘You rule these… people,’ the War Hound growled ‘instruct them to never again call my Lord a tyrant or all your heads will roll,’
The little portly man was gripped by fear as the scarred and angry face of the star warrior yelled at him in a voice more befitting a god titan than anything else.
‘I… I-‘ he stammered until one of his governors interrupted him.
‘Will do nothing! You war mongers of shown your true colors, there will be no alliance!’
By now all the War Hounds had drawn their blades save the Legion Master, who wanted so desperately to salvage the situation, but knew diplomacy was not his forte and that it could very easily slip from his grasp.
Palace guards, attracted by the noise joined those already in the council chamber and formed a ring around the War Hounds, taking aim with their primitive solid ammunition guns.
‘Hold your fire!’ the Prime Magistrate shouted when he finally found his voice.
‘Keep your blades by your sides and take no step forward!’ Gheer yelled to his men.
‘No!’ shouted one of the magistrates, grabbing hold of a gun from a nervous young guard.
‘Fire on the invaders!’ he shouted and pulled the trigger, the last move he would ever make, sending a burst of bullets into the Champion Helios’s breastplate.
Angered, the Astartes hit the power switch and ignited his blade, sending a wave of energy running along the edge, and threw the blade, impaling the magistrate through his chest and sparking the annihilation of a world.
‘We must get out of here!’ shouted Gheer ‘there are too many for mere blades!’ he said as another wave of palace guards blocked the War Hounds’ path and sent a volley of bullets in their direction.
Champion Helios, Banner Bearer Victor and Assault Captain Cicero charged forward, swinging their blades to deflect some of the shots while trusting their armor to block the rest.
Behind the three was Gheer and the veteran brothers Toxaris and Ovidis, bringing up the rear was Apothecary Justin and 2nd Captain Cilios, who supported veteran brother Thules who’d been wounded by a round to his head, knocking him out and made him nothing but dead weight for the mean time.
The last member of the group was veteran brother Colfer, using a captured palace guard’s gun to shoot down anyone stupid enough to follow. He’d ripped the trigger guard from the stock but it was still hardly enough to accommodate his genetically enhanced bulk.
Luckily the palace was not built like a maze, and the Astartes found their way to the landing pad their stormbird waited on.
When they got there they found the landing pad to me marked and ruined by heavy bolter fire, splashes of blood and gore coating the concrete slab. Smoke rose from the barrels of the quad bolters. Horzt had used them well.
Gheer could see the pilot in the cockpit waving them forward.
Anti-aircraft guns opened fire almost the moment the stormbird lifted off the ground and the craft, might though it was, was rocked about by the shear weight of fire.
‘Get on the vox and order the Conqueror to send down 1st Company, a show of force may be enough to send this world into compliance, but I don’t want it destroyed!’
‘Yes Legion Master,’ replied Horzt.
They had almost cleared the hive spire when the weight of fire found its mark and one of the stormbird’s wings was clipped off, sending the war machine spiraling through the air.
Gheer tore his thoughts from the past, from the crash that brought him to the top of the hive spire, under the blue and white dotted sky, the desperate defense seven Astartes had thrown up against hordes of IDF before the whole of 1st Company made planetfall in their drop pods.
He tore his thoughts from all of those and focused on the present.
‘Master, we cannot hold them all back, eventually they will bring in heavier and heavier weapons,’ said 2nd Captain Cilios ‘we must bring in the rest of the legion!’
Gheer looked into his brother’s eyes long before he spoke ‘I hoped we could bring this world into the fold in peace, but that has been torn away from me,’
‘Will you order the rest of the legion into battle my lord?’ asked Cilios.
‘Send word to Kharn, have him bring the rest of the legion,’
Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).