'She loves me, you know.'
This is a story about fire and one who loves it more than any other living soul.
‘She loves me, you know.’
On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. Psalm 11: 6
The sound, like the scourge of the ancient barges moving through the Lock Mines, rolled and thundered in a continuous cacophony as the windswept fires leapt from tree top to tree top in what some would call a firestorm and others would call the end of all things.
The fires were started not by wild beasts but by the hand of a single man; Pater Castode. From the safety of a rock shelf he watched the fires dance, leap and jump.
‘Fire is a living thing…it breaths, it grows and in order for it to breathe and grow it needs to eat…it needs nourishment.’ He had once said.
Pater Castode leapt for joy as the creation he had wrought screamed its freedom with only a voice he could hear. Nobody spoke to him or treated him as well as the fire did. The fire loved him. It spoke to him and sang to him. Without fire he would die from loneliness and starve from lack of hope.
Tears of joy made their way down his ashen cheeks creating tear trails that snaked their way from his light grey eyes, down and around his high round cheekbones and then finally dropped to his guard issued uniform from his hard set jaw line.
When he spoke of fire he always referred to it as she or her. ‘She loves me!’ he would exclaim, ‘She needs me…I love her.’ He would whisper when he was on guard duty or marching or in mess hall, eating the stuff that passed for food.
His unit would hear him talk quietly to himself, but they did not really give it much thought. They figured he was just thinking out loud…trying to organize his thoughts; trying to sort through all the things he was dealing with.
Lots of guys talked to themselves when they came back from the front. The Psychiatrists said it was normal and not to be worried about it. It was just the way some people dealt with the trauma and the realities of war.
The way Pater Castode spoke led those who knew him to think he missed his wife back home. He used to talk of her often before being shipped off to this doomed world. When they spoke to him he usually answered well enough, but there was always a deadness in his eyes when they saw him…like he was dyeing inside and there was none to save him.
The only time that deadness would appear to be gone was when he spoke of her. ‘She loves me you know.’ He would say. His friends would nod and pat him on the back and tell him he would be alright. ‘You will see her again soon.’ The sergeant told him.
Pater Castode just smiled and said ‘Thanks Sir. She loves me you know.’
‘Yes Pater, I know.’ The sergeant would reply.
The night was lit up by the explosions, las-fire and cones of flame that exited the muzzles of everything from small arms fire to the heavy weapons that etched out red tracer fire across the battlefields.
Thick mud covered Pater as he snaked his way through the razor wire behind the enemy lines. Skulls and burnt bones that still held the cooked meat of the fallen, hung from the wire by the thousands.
Some of the bodies still held some life in them who breathed out prayers to the Emperor of mankind in hopes they could still be saved and rest in his paradise in the end day.
Pater Castode knew these prayers well. He had prayed them himself when he was sure he would die…when he himself hung from these same razor covered wires not so long ago…before she found him and ate away the garments the razor wires had tangled him in.
It had been raining the night she came for him. She ran along the trench below the razor wire like a river and consumed all that was in her path, whether living or dead. When she came to him though, she only ate away the parts of his garments that were caught by the razors. That was when he found that she loved him…the night she saved his life.
He had wept as the rain subdued her and caused her to die. Now he crawled through these same wires in hopes of finding her again.
Gunfire from heavy stubbers sent tracer fire overhead with a staccato beat that pounded fear into his very being. Screams and shouting and cursing from his fellow soldiers, along with return fire from las-rifles, shot guns and a host of other heavy caliber weapons assailed the forces of chaos with very little effect.
Frag cannons and mortar fire exploded all along the lines in concussive blasts that tore bodies apart and sent shrapnel into the advancing line up to forty meters away. A chimera exploded in a blast that sent it thirty feet into the air as it tried to overrun a section of razor wire half a click away.
‘She loves me!’ he screamed as he tore his way free from the rows of twisting tangling wire. A las-round turned him around and caused him to fall to the muddy, blood covered ground. The shot had punched him hard in the left shoulder but did not go through his thick mud-covered jacket.
Sweat poured down his face as he righted himself and dived for cover behind two dead men. Shots from a heavy stubber slammed into the bodies, tearing massive holes into arms, legs, chests and pasting the dead men’s heads into unrecognizable bone filled mush.
Pater lay there for a few moments until he was sure the threat was passed from him, the gunners thinking he was dead. With quick movements he sprung from behind the dead bodies and ran up the hill and jumped into a dugout at its base.
Blood and dismembered bodies covered the walls and floor as if it were decoration, the smell pungent and overwhelming. There were three Chaos solders hunkered down behind two stumps and a line of sandbags firing into the guard as they continued to crawl and fight their way through the razor wire.
One hefted a sniper rifle and zoned in on a wounded guardsmen as he struggled to free himself from the wire. His screams for help stopped as the sniper blew off his head; brain mater, blood and fragments of skull spraying out of the left side of his cranium.
The other two Chaos warriors sent thirty bullets a second from the heavy stubber, into those below tearing arms and legs from bodies and cutting them in two, bisecting them with practiced ease.
Pater Castode smiled as he unleashed hell upon them and laughed as the liquid promethium melted their flesh from their screaming souls. ‘She loves me, but she hates you.’ He yelled at them as they screamed and writhed upon the corpse laden floor.
Turning, he saw a door and carefully opened it. It was lit up by burning torches perched within the skulls of guardsmen long dead. The torches burned black smoke that filled the highest points of the tunnel and rolled along its ceiling like a fog.
Quickly he ran down the length of the tunnel and kicked in the door at its end. Behind the door twenty men stood around a dimly lit table planning the next stages of the battle ahead.
Clothed in the mockery of Imperial Guard generals and leadership, the Chaos war council turned as one in shock surprise. One pulled his sidearm but only got off a single shot before he was set alight and began his descent into torment.
The others soon joined in as the liquid promethium covered their bodies. They ran around in circles screaming as the fires melted their skin in bubbling droplets that pooled and ran upon the floor, until one by one they collapsed and died.
Pater loved to watch her work. She was beautiful and so alive. She never failed to tell him of her love. He bathed in her song and rejoiced as the screams of the enemy faded away.
Shortly after the war councils burning, the enemy surrendered. None were allowed to live. Victory was complete and final upon the front lines of Hospel Three.
Pater Castode was now a war hero. He knew it was only because she loved him that he could have done so well. Without her he would most likely be dead. ‘I love you so much and miss you all the more when we are apart.’ He said.
Those gathered around him as he was being rewarded the Golden Aquila bowed their heads in understanding. They were amazed that now; in this moment of highest honor he would still be thinking of his wife who he had left back on Demarious Five, four years ago.
‘I will see you soon and we will feel each other’s warmth once again.’
The forests of Lusarna Prime lay before the Demarious Brigade, Imperial Guardsmen one and all. With mountains to the east, the sea to the west and the dead sands to the south it only left one place for the hosts of Chaos to hide…the forest of Lusarna Prime to the north.
There had not been any rain for nearly seven weeks and the south wind blew dust from the desert in waves that coated everything within its path. The snows that dotted the mountain tops had begun to melt three weeks ago and the streams, rivers and lowlands were reaping the benefits of the waters arrival.
The beasts that dwelt in the highlands were in need of the waters life and were making their way down into the lowlands to hunt and drink from the overflowing spring water. In the day the creatures hid in holes and caves, in tall dry grasses or the thick undergrowth around trees and rocks.
But at night they roamed about, some as small as mice…others the size of king predators that hunted flesh and gnawed upon bone. Three hundred thousand guardsmen flooded the forests and hunted, not the beasts, but the armies of Chaos who sought to make their way through the forests and enter the manufactorium that lay in the deep south.
They were crafty and strong. They moved like the shadows in the night. Their numbers could not be easily counted; they were swift and as silent as whispers between lovers.
Within the three months since the Guard had landed upon the soil of Lusarna Prime, the enemy had overrun their lines twice and flanked their heavy artillery on three occasions.
It was tiring work hunting them down. Doug Misen stepped over a dried out log and wiped his sweaty face. He pulled his canteen from its pouch, unscrewed the lid and put it to his lips, took three large gulps, returned the lid and placed it back into the pouch on the lower left side of his pack.
‘You would think finding the heretics would be a simple matter, what, with three hundred thousand of us combing the trees.’ He said
Pater Castode grunted and stepped over the log next. ‘Yea, you would think.’ He answered. His olive green guard issue fatigues clung to his body like a mistress because of the sweat that caked his body. Sunrays beamed down at odd angles and felt like firebrands when connecting with exposed flesh.
Off in the distance the sounds of a Leman Russ Exterminator smashing its way through thick undergrowth with its massive dozer blade could be heard. The sound was added to by forty Chimeras and thirty Sentinels, fallowed in the distance by twenty two Leman Russ Vanquishers.
The Vanquishers were spread out in loose formation as they sought to make their way along the paths made for them by the Exterminators dozer blades. The Sentinels moved quickly through the thinner parts of the forest, into clearings and up shallow slopes.
The pintle mounted guns moving back and forth in wide sweeps were directed by sensors mounted in the pilot’s helmets; where the pilot’s head moved the rotary cannons would fallow.
The foot infantry fallowed the Sentinels and mingled with the Chimeras like small ants around giant beetles. The sun beat down upon them through the trees but the men marched through the woods with other things on their minds than the heat.
It had been three days since the last skirmish with the enemy. The forces of Chaos were not known for their patience.
Pater began talking to himself again, quietly speaking comforting words to his mistress. She would save him when the time came to fight. He would watch her dance and listen to her sing, but not now. He had to be patient, but the longing to see her again was almost uncontrollable.
Doug Misen heard him as he talked. He sure misses his woman back home. I sure hope he lives to see her again, he thought. He didn’t say anything though…he didn’t want to interrupt Pater’s memories.
The attack came around midnight. It was as dark as the grave except for where the floodlights flashed. From the shadows they came by the thousands. They wore the flesh of the dead upon their faces and screamed as if they were possessed by the daemons from the eye of terror itself.
It seemed like the trees opened up and from them the enemy poured forth like a plague. The rear lines were hit first and overrun within an hour. The enemy attacked from the forest that had already been searched. The guard was not prepared for a rear assault. The land had already been taken; there was no thought the enemy could circle around their flanks and take them from behind.
The ground opened up under an Imperial Chimera and exploded as the mine detonated. The stumps of surrounding trees were blown apart and collapsed as they were caught in the blast. Las-fire and cannons fired into the darkness only to hit their own men as they tried to meet the enemies charge.
Pater Castode lit the igniter to the nozzle of his flamer and sighed…he would now get to see her dance again. Oh, how he loved to see her dance. With a shout he pulled the trigger and set her free. She did not only dance for him, but she sang too. It was his delight to hear her sing.
Thirty of the Chaos warriors were charging through the thick bramble, firing their weapon and tossing grenades. The grenades tore apart trees and sent debris and shrapnel in all directions, tore bodies apart like wet paper sacks.
Pater cast his mistress upon them and laughed as they began to scream and tumble over fallen logs, each other and freshly blown stumps. Their promethium soaked skin dripped from their hands, faces and scalps and caught the dead grasses alight. Shortly thereafter the forest burned.
The night was alive with the reflections of battle, the screams of the dyeing and the smells of ozone and ignited powder. Exhaust from the war machines trailed into those nearby causing them to cough and spit out brown mucus.
The enemy did not retreat as they had in past nights, but advanced and took advantage of the confusion.
Doug Miser fought beside Pater and plunged his bayonet into the throat of a man caked in blood and clothed in the skins of a guardsman who still screamed from down the hill. The cannibal fell to the ground still swinging the blade in his hand and screaming the name of his god.
Doug pulled the bayonet from the man’s throat and plunged it in through the side of his head. ‘Now you’re dead, you son of a—.’ His voice was cut short as his chest was opened up by a large caliber shell. The shot had come from behind, had entered through his back and exploded inside. In shock surprise he collapsed and died.
Pater Castode had fought beside his friend ever since he had left Demarious five. Pater threw himself to the ground and crawled behind a pulped stump. Smoke still rose from it in wisps that were carried off it the wind. Peering out behind it he expected to find the enemy, but instead found his compatriots.
In horror he realized everything he had ever known was being torn apart. Blood caked his face and his lips were lightly burned from the heat, his exposed skin was awash with pain from being too close to his lover, but nothing hurt worse than finding himself being set upon by those who were supposed to cover him.
They called it friendly fire. It was represented by a black cross. His unit was just blown to hell and they would call it friendly fire.
Hundreds more of the Chaos cultists charged the hill and were mowed down by the pintle mounted rotary guns that spat forth their rounds in a three meter cone of fire that lit up the night.
Pater Castode slid down the hill and crawled quickly down the hill. He remembered where a high place was, where there was a cleft in a rock. It overlooked the forest. He was tired of this campaign, of these long days and endless nights.
He was sure he could live with it all and endure the hardships of war when his unit was still alive. With their help and the comfort of his lover’s warmth he knew he would be alright. He would someday return home to his wife and children and introduce them to her. She would sing for hem too.
But not now. Chaos was against him, the Imperial Guard was against him. Everything was against him … except for her. ‘She loves me.’ He spoke softly to himself as he made his way to the cleft. He would show them all her beauty.
‘Show me how you move. Teach me how to sing your song.’ Pater Castode prayed. And with that he sent sheet after sheet of liquid promethium from the high place where he stood. The liquid fire cascaded down the dry trees and onto the thickly nettled ground. Flames quickly spread and sent embers of fire and ash into the sky.
The wind picked up and lent its strength to her and she howled and roared and screamed and sang. She was alive…fully alive and Pater wept for the love of her.
The night sky glowed as the fires consumed the forest. The winds swept the fire into a horseshoe shape that soon surrounded both the Imperial Guard and the forces of Chaos, but they were so busy killing each other that they did not notice her or hear her lovely song.
‘She will hold you to her bosom and you shall be comforted by her. You shall feel her warmth and know her as I do. You will find her love more pleasant than that of a woman and you will be free; oh, but if she hates you, than you will know her fury and shall be tormented until you are both damned and dead!’ Pater screamed into the night.
The forest burned for three days along with every man, tank, Sentinel and armament. No one survived her long desired touch. She hated them all because they hated her. Instead of receiving her as a lover they rejected her and tried to turn her for their own ends. She hated them for that.
Peter walked through the smoldering wasteland and marveled at the end result of her fury. Oh, how she hated them, it was plain to see; the charred remains of skeleton and skull along with the ashen remnants of flesh and soul, of burnt trees and crackling whispers of flames final notes.
Pater Castode knelt by a rippling brook and drank deeply from its ash filled moisture. At first he coughed, but as he drank the water became a little cleaner. In its reflection he saw a man who, though covered in dirt, blood and ash, held the gaze of one who knew he was not alone and knew he would never be again. ‘She loves me, you know.’ He said to himself.
A good reputation take a long time to build, but only a moment to destroy. Wow, that's deep!
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Last edited by Adrian; 02-10-11 at 02:44 AM.