I haven't written in some time on Heresy, and I apologize to any who had been following my previous works here. Life intervenes in ways we cannot ignore. I should continue my Atripus chronicle or the tale of Thanders, perhaps, though the time will come for those two later. For now, I offer you the first chip of a small story to add to the mix in the mean time.
Might have a few errors, etc and I apologize for how short the first bit is, but I'm stupidly tired at the moment.
For The Fallen
Part One: Reflection
A slow downpour heralded an end to the battle. The fortress which had repelled wave after wave of Imperial steel and flesh for nearly a year was finally quelled by a handful of Astartes in mere hours. Where brute strength and faith had failed the lives of thousands, the artful precision gifted by centuries of experience ultimately saw mankind victory on this day.
“It is over, then, Brother Chaplain.” Spoke a voice as deep and purposeful as the thunder creeping along the horizon. “The butte is ours.”
The hulking frames of two Space Marines winged with jump packs stood side to side along a perimeter fortification encircling the rocky pinnacle like a rusted crown. Massive cannon which once endlessly sung the chorus of destruction and defiance over the battered plains below were frozen around them in silent vigil over a ravaged landscape. Its previous occupants, ruthless traitors whom had fought to the last, now lay about the structure in varying states of death.
Chaplain Arctur remained still amongst the light winds and inconsistent drizzle of water weeping from the white-gray cloud cover above. As if the world itself was mourning the price paid by the Imperium to crack the enemy stronghold. He slowly pried away his bronzed skull-helm to feel the reinvigorating weather against pale skin and to survey the battlefield through his own eyes.
“It is never over, Brother Sergeant Pahz.” Arctur quietly reminded before releasing a drawn out respiration of weary content. “Our first skirmish on Sepikka has been won, but it was hardly a challenge. The true test awaits to be passed.” The Chaplain shook his head. “We will discuss that later. For now, Marshal Ve'Span the Third will require our guidance and resolve as his march extends further across this damaged planet.”
How many men and machine were lost in the struggle to wrest control of the butte would take the Departmento Munitorum many months to fully account, but those thoughts were little more than a novelty for Arctur. Inconsequential wonders spawned by the kilometers of artillery craters, collapsed trenches and the periodic outcroppings of splayed tank chassis taking the place of what was once quiet grassland. Yet it was hard to resist the contemplation of what could have been saved if the Angels of Death had been summoned much sooner.
He'd seen this exact sight all too many times before. The world would be different in past renditions, of course. As would the foe and the objective. Yet those were irrelevant to the blight in mind. It was arrogance that he so easily recognized.
Ordinarily, when faced with a situation which could not be resolved through ravenous seasons of Basilisk shelling and costly infantry charges alone, it would appear prudent for a revision of stratagem. But many leaders that Arctur had encountered found themselves comfortable with the false-hope that their nemesis would be unable to transcend battles of attrition. As such, predictability became a fatal flaw in the many sieges undertaken by the Imperial Guard and change would oft only occur when the allocated stockpiles of ammunition began to dwindle or reinforcement depots were exhausted of manpower.
Innovation, it unfortunately seemed, only arrived via desperation. Not calculated necessity.
As morale plummeted and summery executions blistered by increasingly nerve-wracked Commissars, sieges became bogged down in overwhelming satellite problems which could further grind entire campaigns to a halt. Wars that resourceful and inspiring officers could otherwise sweep through with glorious triumph became mires of dishonor and failure for the complacent.
That, as was the official purpose of the Knights Adamant presence on Sepikka, often became a dilemma only the direct intervention of the Adeptus Astartes could mend.
Few chapters directly sought out such conundrums with rivaled determination. Efforts to resolve these gridlocks came at significant losses of life, as the Chaplain was well aware of. Myriads of other threats haunting the stars were infinitely more appealing to that end. But every Knight knew that no true victory had ever been earned without sacrifice and they were none-the-less well respected for embracing that reality. For these Space Marines were versed in the ways of breaking their enemies backbone and toppling the most heavily defended of cities.
“They have arrived.” His companion alerted even before the tell-tale sounds of a Thunderhawk transport piercingly whined from somewhere unseen over the now fog-ridden mesa. “Shall we greet them?”
The Chaplain only slightly juked his head towards the vacant courtyard at the fortresses center and the two paced down the inner-ramparts to meet the orbiting vessel when it finally touched down.
Mist sprayed from the shattered tile-stone cloister as the Thunderhawk met its perch and the vehicle's bellowing engines slowed to a gentle purr. The front deployment ramp split from the dull green and yellow fuselage to reveal a mass of irregular shadows packing the cargo bay. Chaplain Arctur and Sergeant Pahz waited a short distance away for the new arrivals to file out.
A handful of Chapter Serfs hurriedly slid several supply casks out and off to the side of the ship which allowed a group of other Humans to escape the interior. It was the Marshal and his staff who would be setting up their new command post here even before the blood of the freshly slain had time to fully drain from its owners.
“Gather the rest of the squad at the Thunderhawk, Pahz. The Mashal's men will handle sentry duty, hence-forth.” Arctur followed the faces of each Guardsmen who stepped out of the ship with a leery glance. All of them bewildered by where they were now treading. No doubt wondering how ten men could have defeated a pocket of resistance that had nearly broken the back of an entire army group. But Astartes were no ordinary men. “Have them replenish their wargear, consume a meal and stand by for orders. I suspect that we'll be transporting out within the hour after I have a word with our friend, here.”
“It shall be done.” Pahz nodded respectfully and twisted away to do as commanded with his field-stained poweraxe swung over a shoulder, but hesitated at the last moment. “One thing, Brother Chaplain...”
“Yes?” He queried under a vacant face.
“Do try not to upset the man too much. Emperor knows he is already under a lot of pressure from the Commissariat.” Arctur knew the suggestion to be the closest thing to a joke his comrade was capable of forging even with a helmet concealing the Sergeant's smirk. A sharp huff of a laugh concluded their brief conversation no-less, and Pahz lumbered off beyond a nearby gateway.
“Indeed.” The Chaplain whispered when the entourage of Imperial Guard officials finally worked up the courage to approach the giant that he was to them.
“Lord Arctur.” Marshal Ve'Span bowed gratuitously before the Astartes. Some of his peers, initially unsure what formalities were to be observed, stumbled to imitate their master. “It is an honor to be in your company once more. I trust the assault was not too taxing for your team?”
Arctur, at first, said not a word and only examined the officers as if they were machines that required a maintenance inspection. Not out of any sense of arrogance to impose his physical superiority over them. Nor to disregard their worth in the Imperium in not being able to handle the trivial attack themselves, but upon instinct as a Chaplain.
Whether tending to his Battle Brothers within the Adamant Citadel's reclusiam on Honor's Rest or foreign allies in the field, he was more than capable of detecting the slightest of mental obstacles which might be plaguing an individual. In those who were certainly ill shaped by training and warfare in comparison to an Astartes, such as even the highest-ranking of Guardsmen, these hindrances were easily betrayed by subconscious body language alone.
Looking in to their eyes caused some to avert their gaze, save most who, perhaps holding a degree of experience with those like himself, held enough courage or were simply inspired by his presence enough to look back. Good
. Arctur thought to himself. They are growing more confident in themselves
. He needn't bother to test the lone Commissar standing rigidly at the rear of the formation who was busying himself hunting for the first signs of treachery.
“The battle was swift, and victory was inevitable.” Arctur finally spoke before the men could be distracted by his apparent refusal to speak. “They were unprepared for our lightning assault up the cliff faces with their point defenses more concerned with slower and presentable targets.”
“Well done, Lord. Well done.” A welcoming smile formed on the Marshal's sleepless face. His ungroomed dusty-brown hair and sagging face were both noticeably touched by many months of stress. “The command and control center should be deployed, now.” Ve'Span checked his wrist chronometer to confirm himself. “I suspect you don't want to stand around out here much longer. Shall we discuss the details of our new found success? I am sure you will find our recent intelligence reports most interesting.”
“After you.” Arctur gestured his glistening Crozus Arcanum towards the tall keep behind him. His voice rasped without attempt to mask what was, at its core, an order rather than a courtesy. “We are just getting started, Marshal.”
As always, please point out any mistakes, etc that I've made. Comments are appreciated, as well.]