‘Forward men! Do not give way to the greenskin,’ bellowed the War Hound Ancient Koslax to the men of the Imperial Army around him.
Faced with a seemingly endless horde of greenskin xeno’s charging the Imperial lines, the Army men began to buckle under the pressure of the ork horde, coming down from the mountains and on a warpath towards the Imperial cities that lay beyond the bridge Ancient Koslax and two hundred other War Hounds guarded alongside the thousands of Army troopers.
‘Do not flee the enemy! For they are xeno and therefore weak!’ bellowed the dreadnought.
The orks didn’t look so weak when one of their infernal machines sent a volley of rockets that ripped though the night sky on tails of flame and blew great holes in the ranks of troopers, sending dozens to their deaths and two Astartes off the bridge to fall the great height to their deaths.
A great cry rose from the Orks and they charged, the biggest ones first into the fray, hacking left and right with their cruel blades.
What one fierce foe gave another returned ten times more as the War Hounds drew their chainblades and cut into their foe giving no quarter. For a moment it looked as though the line would break and the orks would pour into the ranks of Imperial troopers, cutting down the men ill suited to close combat the kind of which the Astartes excelled at, but the warriors of the twelfth legion were beasts without peer and gained ground against the orks step by bloody step.
‘Push them back! No quarter! No mercy! Fight!’ Koslax bellowed, letting a stream of heavy bolt rounds into the ork horde.
Inside the adamantium sarcophagus the remaining half of Koslax’s face turned up in a feral grin. This was what War Hounds were made for, this was the kind of combat they dreamed about.
‘Die xeno filth!’ Koslax shouted, unable to merely hold back and spur his brothers on anymore, the crippled marine surged forward on a powerful blast of speed from his legs and raised his monstrous seismic hammer up high, ready to come down like a comet on the ork horde.
‘With me you Army dogs,’ the Ancient shouted, ‘Follow us into the heart of the enemy!’
Behind the surging tide of War Hounds the Imperial Army units continued to fire on the ork horde, but refused to move forward.
‘With us!’ shouted Koslax, letting loose another burst of fire from his right arm, blowing apart a pack of ork nobs.
The mortals did not budge, some of their commanders even ordered them to hold their ground.
‘Come on!’ bellowed Koslax, the War Hounds were strong but the orks had numbers on their side and would eventually overwhelm even the Astartes.
‘Now!’ screamed Koslax, the speakers built into his metal body’s main body blaring out his words, one of them blowing its wires out, destroyed by the Ancient’s rage.
Koslax was distracted from the unmoving Army troopers by the sound of incoming missile fire.
The dreadnought turned to look just in time to see a trio of missiles arcing over the ork horde before careening into the middle of the fighting between the War Hounds and orks.
Koslax saw the missiles explode in balls of flame, sending orks, debris and War Hounds flying threw the air. The darkness of the night was ripped apart in the brief burst of flame and Koslax saw the outline of an ork Squiggoth deep in the horde
‘Fall back!’ came a voice behind him and Koslax turned to see the Imperial Army units turning to flee.
‘No!’ said Koslax.
One of the Imperial Officers, Koslax did not care enough to deduce his rank turned and shouted that they had to fall back but the dreadnought did not listen to the puny humans.
‘Cowards!’ the dreadnought filled the air with his curses but it was no use, the Army was retreating.
Koslax heard a monstrous roar and turned to the squiggoth battering aside War Hounds with its tusks and stampeding through the ranks of the Emperor’s most loyal soldiers.
‘You die now!’ roared Koslax and the dreadnought turned from the fleeing army troopers and charged the squiggoth.
Colonel Quercia of the Imperial Wild Wolves regiment lay on the ground in beneath the morning sun.
His arm was bleeding, courtesy of a stray ork bullet that found him in the retreat from the night before. A medic tended his arm and in between flares of pain that wracked is arm Querica recalled the night before.
He remembered the surge of Ork numbers, their missile artillery and the bodies thrown into the air.
Just when all seemed lost Army Marshall Gaered contacted Querica and ordered him to a fallback point, a grassy knoll that gave a good view of the bridge
He remembered the War Hounds dreadnought calling him and is men cowards before running into the thick of the fighting.
He remembered making it to the knoll, a gunshot wound to the arm bleeding profusely.
He remembered seeing the battlefield he and his men had escaped from burning and filled with nothing but pure mayhem, destruction and killing.
He remembered hearing the roars of the orks dying, of their great beasts being blown apart byt the awesome destructive power of the Astartes.
Colonel Querica closed his eyes and sighed. It had been almost an hour since the last artillery shell had fallen on the other side of the bridge.
‘Is it over medic?’ he asked.
‘I haven’t heard any shooting sir,’ he said.
That was when Querica felt the ground quake.
The Colonel looked up from his arm and saw his men around him staring slack jawed in the direction of the battlefield.
Querica looked in the same direction, and his mouth fell open.
It was the War Hounds.
Battered, bruised, scarred, beaten to a pulp, some half carrying others, almost all of them wounded in some way or another , and less than fifty remained.
Leading them was the dreadnought, just as battered as its men and with its massive seismic hammer hanging from its left shoulder by just a few cables and sparking electricity every step.
‘My lords,’ stammered Querica, unsure what to say and scared for his life, as he should be.
‘Stand up,’ said the dreadnought.
‘STAND UP!’ roared Koslax, and it seemed as though the words themselves brought the wounded Colonel to his feet.
‘You betrayed us,’ said Koslax.
‘No, we got orders to fall back, so we had to fall back… I tried to tell you,’
‘You ran! You retreated in the face of the enemy!’
‘We followed orders!’
‘You dishonored us!’ said Koslax, raising his heavy bolters, and fired.
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).