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post #71 of 76 (permalink) Old 11-14-15, 04:27 PM
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Brother Emund - It ain’t nuffink


Skarrunt Magrot hated mornings. No, that was inaccurate, Skarrunt Magrot hated all times of the day and… night. But most of all, he hated being woken up from a deep sleep to start a morning.

“Dis betta be gud?”, he grunted to the shaking runt-servant. He then had a thought, “Na, nufink is dat important,” and he swung his enormous fist around and smashed the runt into the far wall.

His personal bodyguard suddenly entered the room with their weapons raised and axes swinging.
The Faceripper Warboss waved them back outside and then indicated with a casual wave that someone should also remove the mess he had caused.

A large Ork loped in behind them and nodded his respects. As one of the top Nobz in the clan, he had access to the Boss at any time and for whatever reason. Perhaps, he thought, he should have just delivered the message himself instead of relying on others.
He could not help but grin as the broken runt was dragged unceremoniously outside leaving a dark trail of body fluids behind.

“How’s the odds?,” Magrot grunted, pulling on his long leather boots.
“Boss?”
“The odds on me squig “Blood clot”?”
The Nobz was momentarily confused.
“Ahh! The races?”
“Yeah the races. What else would there be?”

The Nobz now understood that his Boss had not been informed of the latest reports and was thinking about the Squig races being held the next day.
“Boss, your Squig is still odds on favourite (as of course it would be), but we ‘av reports of Hoomies.”
“Hoomies?”
“A gang of dem landed not far from ‘ere. Dey is da big one’s wiv all de armour and stuff.”

Magrot’s eyes widened and his face broke into a grin. This might well turn out to be a good day after all. They could have a bit of a scrap with the Hoomies followed by a lucrative day at the races.
He straightened up and wedged his iron helmet onto his head.

“Assemble the Boyz. I have paid gud teef for these races and I ain’t lettin’ no one get in the way. I want dem crushed, smashed, squished and flattened before lunch.”

* * *

Sergeant Martinez rolled to his right and then shuffled backwards into the bushes that lined the river bank. The rest of the scout squad were in all-round defence, their weapons pointing in all directions and covering all approaches.

“It is true,” he said in his deep accented voice. “There is a whole town of the Orks down there. They number at least a thousand. They have settled. There is an arena on the far side and even a rudimentary spaceport.”

A second scout, still young in service but with the face that bore the scars of many conflicts, tapped the screen on his auspex.
“Do we wait or move off to extraction?”
Martinez rubbed his chin.
“I would like to get a look at that arena and see what is going on over there. There is a lot of movement. Ork’s are coming in from all over the place and heading there.”
“Could it be a command centre?”
“I think so.”
“Damn,” said the second scout. “We have movement to the east. Fast moving and heading our way.”
“It is settled then,” Martinez concluded. “We relocate for extraction. That settlement is obviously of some importance to the Ork’s. Call in evac at location Delta.” He signalled to the rest. “We move, single file, double-time.”

* * *

Magrot was a Warboss of some note.. and intelligence. He had sent a horde of fast moving scouts ahead of the main gang, Cragnat Orks, bred for speed and agility. They had slipped behind the marine scouts before they were aware of them.

Martinez was the first to react.

As the first Cragnat appeared in the undergrowth he was shot through the head, the second was winged and fell screaming to the ground.

“Immediate evac I think.” He nodded to the other scout.
A bolter hammered behind him followed by the swish and crump of a rocket.
“Form a wedge.” He ordered and the scouts moved back into a diamond formation facing outwards. “Fire and move. Head for the extraction point.”

Magrot reached the first bodies of his gang and was furious. He swung his war axe in one hand and a huge double-barrelled stormbolter in the other, and immediately charged the small group of marines, bellowing his war cry.
Scout Walton fired his shotgun at him at point blank range and Magrot was knocked backwards. Martinez bore down with his power sword and took off the Warbosses arm.

There was pandemonium as both groups met in a crash of hand-to-hand combat.

At the same time a flight of Stormbirds appeared overhead and unleashed a fury of missiles and heavy weapons into the Orks massed ranks, before hammering the outskirts of the settlement with a reign of fire and death.

Magrot became entangled with his own bodyguard before being knocked heavily to the ground and set upon by more Hoomies with edged weapons and bolter fire.
He remembered the pain he felt, and then saw his own blood arc around him before falling under a mass of bodies.

He saw a Hoomie lying facing him his face torn apart and bloody.

* * *

“Well wots the damage?”, screamed Magrot.
“We won a great victory Boss!”
Magrot drooled and twitched and looked like he was about to explode.
“Da damage! Da damage!”, he raged.
“Boss,” the Nobz shook his head. “Yoose lost yor arm, dats wot.”

Magrot pushed him aside with his good arm and indicated back down towards the settlement.
“Da track yoose dork, da track! Is it still gud?”
The Nobz wiped blood from his mouth and grimaced. Magrot was going loopy in the head. Too much grog and happy weed was turning him insane. The Warboss had lost an arm and several chunks of his torso and was more worried about the arena.
“On second thoughts’ he thought ‘he is well ‘ard.”

“Boss, the arena is not damaged and the Squigs are all accounted for.”
Magrot laughed heartily and placed a paternal arm around his shoulder.
“Now dem Hoomies is sorted, we can git on wiv the real important fings. Da races! Da races!”
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post #72 of 76 (permalink) Old 12-12-15, 03:10 PM
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Treesniffer - One Day's Hunt


It is a hot day. The snows have melted and the day trees have sprung up. You and the tribe have gathered at one of the groves. The break of dawn sprouts bitter flowers, poisonous fruits, and the attacking plants seeking a bit of extra food before the sun sets and the snow's return. The plant eating animals will also come for the day trees, as the Hunters come for the Plant Eaters, and the Killers come for them all. Like your tribe.

Tossed around the camp, the furs of the tribe lie scattered. It is too hot. Everyone is at the edge of the day trees, careful of Stranglevines while seeking them out. Until the animals come, Stranglevines are one of the few plants that can be eaten safely. They also come with the added bonus of whatever animals still in it’s gullet. Several others already have gathered branches from the new growth and taking their new acquisitions, the brush the remaining snow away from rocks and smaller bushes. Simulating the rooting of the Three Horns, the rest of the tribe waits for the investigation of the first waking Stranglevines. For the tribe’s first hunt, this will break their fast in easiest fashion. A good harbinger of the day.

Six of the tribe brush with the branches, alternating between short pauses and banging the ground. It makes noise, but not too dangerously so. The rest of the tribe looks outward. The trees are still growing with the new day’s sun and the Emperor has put the trees near the tribe’s camp. Hunters and Killers will take some time to find the trees. The tribe will be fed on Stranglevines and will be fast enough to chase down the plant eaters. It will be a good day.

Rather than the warmer breeze that heralds the day tree’s grove and blows outward, an invitation to all nearby animals of fresh food, the cold air of the snow dunes falls over the tribe. Heavy upon it, the scent of a Killer. Every member of the tribe freezes in place leaving only the muttering of the wind. Very softly, a woman begins a warbling whistle then waits for your response. You break her gaze and scan the rest of the tribe. Soft as it was, they all heard the woman’s plan. Anticipatory grins answer your unspoken query. Forgotten are the slowly awakening Stranglevines as the tribe’s thoughts turn to the advancing Killer.

You let out a piercing whistle. It is the Snow Bird herd mother’s call to those in her care to gather. The rest of the tribe begins to stomp the snow. The Snow Birds, tall and flightless, are two legged like the tribe and the easiest animal to mimic. Warbling cries and squaks of adolescents are called out. They are easy prey for a Killer, and irresistible to chase and maul. Killers rarely eat their prey, perhaps enough to find another victim, but they seem to exist only to see blood scattered across the ice.

The younger hunters run about, hopping in imitation the Snow Bird’s play-gait while the main body of the tribe sinks into the snows, burrowing just beneath the powder. You do not hide, you must continue to call the Killer with the Herd Mother’s voice and when he arrives, land the first blow.

You hand feels warm, grasping the haft of your spear. Light and short, it is a weapon of the Smalls. The Smalls come to try their hands at hunting. Sometimes just the animals of a day tree grove, but sometimes to hunt Hunters or Killers. Trying to be Men, but they are only Smalls. It takes Men to bring a Killer down. Your odd spear is all that remains of a Small who thought to take on a Hunter in the fashion of Men. You have carried it ever since.

A wave of snow is pushed before the great bulk of the creature, but that is all that is visible. Burrowing just beneath the surface snow, its claws dig into the permafrost for purchase and speed, only the swiftly moving dune of snow gives testimony to the presence of the creature.
With an angry roar, the Killer rears itself up out of the snow, looming over the assembled tribe, it’s maw and eyes are easily as high as four of your tribe atop one another.

Expecting Snow Birds, it is instead faced with your tribe. Rather than the simple Snow Birds that never seem to notice the signs of a charging Killer and respond to the hunting roar by either freezing or falling to the ground in a faint, the Killer fails to make its signature strike of falling across it’s prey as it tries to pick a target from the milling members of your tribe.

Your people keep moving about. What is sound strategy when facing Stranglevines, or a pack of Hunters, is death at the claws of a Killer, for Killers always strike first at the slowest creatures. Now, as if movement of the tribe somehow points to you, the four eyes’ of the Killer focus at your immobile state. A breath’s pause and the head of the beast strikes downward.

You roar out your own challenge and, with all your might, hurl the spear into the face of the Killer. The roar is the signal to the buried hunters and they break out of hiding, attacking multiple legs of the Killer. The Killer’s strike is interrupted by your spear, lodged inside one of the eyes, and the gigantic creature rears back in shock and pain. Whipping back and forth, the Killer attempts to shake the spear loose.

The writhing unburies the remaining two thirds of the beast. Legs uncountable sprout from the long undulating body of the Killer. As long as three hands worth of tribesmen, the Killer dwarfs you and your tribe. It’s claws, teeth, unstoppable strength, and gigantic size are mere obstacles to be overcome, for the Killer represents not danger to your tribe, but a couple days of food without the need to hunt again. Any lost in the fight simply ensure more for the survivors.

******* ********** *******

Far away, in a heated room, two men watch the fight on a vid screen. A few minutes after the spear has been cast, the giant creature falls still. Without preamble, the surviving ogryn begin consuming the carcass.

“Only ogryn would think hunting one of those would be a smart idea. With their bare hands. Send a recruiter, these will make a good addition to our forces.”
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Brother Emund - Don't Count Your Chickens


Lieutenant Sébastien Dembélé did not feel like celebrating.
In the aftermath of battle, even in victory, all he could feel was grief, pain and a deep ache in his soul.

An ancient Terran Warmaster once said that a battle lost is only a little worse than a battle won.

They had won here today, but at a cost. He had lost half his command.
He sat down on a sandbagged wall and placed his face in his palms. He was exhausted, utterly drained. He let his feet hang down into the communication trench, which was now filled with the corpses of both his men and that of the enemy.

The damn Orks had fought well today, and despite being outnumbered and outgunned, they chose a last-ditch charge to a slow death, pounded into the earth by artillery and airstrikes. Not one of them survived, but oh the cost…

He felt the urge to be sick so scrambled quickly to his feet and turned towards the breeze that was blowing in from the south. The air was fresh from this direction, it came from the distant sea and not from the killing fields around him.

“What shall I write…?”, he said out loud.
“You write what you always write… sir.” Came a gruff voice behind him. He turned quickly, shocked that anyone was even in the vicinity. A dirty, bedraggled soldier stood in the shadow of a knocked-out Leman Russ and gave a weary wave.

“Sergeant… Timonen. I did not realise…”
“’Sis’alright Sir. I did not mean to startle you, especially after all this.” The NCO stopped amongst the detritus of the battle field and spread his arms wide.

“I was thinking what to put into the letters, you know, the letters to their kin.”
Timonen stood tall to his right and gazed out across the field.
“You tell them that their boys died like heroes, that they died for their beloved Emperor with a Lasgun in their hand and righteous zeal in their souls.” He laughed, but it sounded gruff and forced.

Dembélé tried to smile back but his facial muscles seemed to be paralysed. He pointed to the body of a Guardsman slumped face forward over a Lascannon.

“How about Candella there? Dear Missus Candella. I regret to inform you that your son was killed in action at, blah, crap-hole on blah-planet. He was a brave soldier and fell protecting his comrades in the finest tradition of the service.” He shook his head at the NCO. “Or shall I say that his weapon jammed and an Ork split him in two with a cleaver before he could fire a single shot.” He stood up and walked over to a young Guardsman lying on his back who appeared to be sleeping.

“And what about young Jorjadze here? Dear blah, your brave son did not die with his spine hanging out of his back after a frag exploded behind him,” he paused. “Thrown by one of his own friends in panic. No, he died leading a bayonet charge against a whole battalion of greenskins.”

Timonen shook his head and then crouched down on his haunches.
“Or Lebona. Decapitated by an Ork boss while he struggled to get up… with no legs. Or…”

“I get the picture Sir.” The NCO interrupted aggressively. “But you will do your duty and do your duty well.” He placed a reassuring hand on the Lieutenants shoulder guard. He paused then looked into the officer’s eyes.

“All these men are heroes, every damn one of them. You will tell their kin that they saved this and helped that and deserved a medal, and you knew him well and he was well-liked, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Because that is what the folks back home want to hear. They are being fed crap back there but we know the truth, but they should never know what happens out here amongst the stars. They must never know about the horrors we endure and the bitter enemies we face."

The young officer smiled. The old NCO was right of course. Yes, his men were heroes and the battle was worth the cost. He would not hang his head in shame and remorse, he would celebrate their sacrifice.
“Very well said sergeant.” He stood up and stretched his aching back. Timonen shrugged.
“Besides Sir, the likelihood is that their folks will never know of their fate anyway. The Administratum mail system would struggle to find the final destination, the math is too complicated!”
They both chuckled.

“A bit naughty sergeant, such things could get you flogged.” Timonen shrugged again.
“Commissar Gaustad is not going to care. He’s somewhere out there in the mud with a slug through his forehead. Now he is a real hero… or was.”

Dembélé decided that the conversation was becoming too risqué.
“Did you come here to find me specifically sergeant?”
“Yes sir,” the old NCO straightened up. “The boys have found a warehouse full of Amsec and are wondering if you would like to join them in a wake?”

Dembélé knew that he should not. Fraternising with the junior ranks was frowned upon. But today?
“Of course. I will just retrieve my hat which I lost leading a charge against fifty-thousand Orks…” They both grinned. He had lost it when a short artillery round exploded behind his trench. “Ah, it’s here, battered, dirty, but still serviceable…”

CLICK

… We regret to inform you that Lieutenant Dembélé was killed in action during a heroic rear-guard action against a vast horde of xenos …
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andygorn - Unveiled


"So, how would you describe my effigy to our latest triumph, Brother Feran?" Halex watched his comrade in arms for signs of trepidation or fear.

Casting a critical eye over the piece, Feran responded: "The shading is crude and too basic - there are areas too touched by darkness...that should not be with a figure of our glorious Primarch."

"Good, you seem to grasp the essence of the work...it is unfinished of course, yet I always seek critique from my peers. How proceed your own travails?"
Although genuinely interested, Halex could no longer keep an acid tone from his voice; the deadline approached and pride was everything...to be "second" meant "being last".

Casting aside a dirt-smeared cloth fascia from the nearby table, Feran revealed his own art: Halex could not contain his discomfort at the work and baulked at the sight of the offal-pile presented to his eyes.

"You would...gift this..this thing...to our Lord?" Halex inquired incredulously, coughing as the stench assailed his nostrils, even through his autosenses.

Feran snorted arrogantly: "Of course, Halex! This is the artifice of many years, each item arranged alphabetically and then in order of size. Can you not see it's perfection?"

It was one of the most debased things he had ever seen (let alone for it to be classed as any kind of gift apart from to swine). This would be a sheer insult to their Lord and Master.
Trying to cast an objective view over the steaming piles of meat, Halex used the brief lessons he had overseen in the apothecarion to judge the "work".

Perhaps it was his inner competitive nature, or maybe he was just looking for any excuse to avert his gaze, but he seized upon the opportunity to discredit his fellow entrant: "If they are alphabetically arranged, you have got some of these incorrect; 'eyes' should go after 'cranial sections', not before...even a novitiate should understand that concept....your usual standards are slipping, Brother."

Feran gave a toothy smile in return "You mistake the point of the organisation altogether, Halex, but you will...one time soon..." and walked away, leaving the cuts to dribble redly onto the once-pristine marble of their crafting chamber.

Seeing no other option, Halex put the covering back over the remains, yet the sight had troubled him deeply. That night, even the somno-inducers could not assuage his restlessness: no stranger to gore, there was something "other" about his comrade's offering that set his teeth to grinding and unbidden shapes to flit at the edges of his vision.

Unable to rest, his memory kept replaying over and over the bloody mass which had been so casually heaped before him:
'What could possibly be thought of as a gift? How could anyone in their right mind appreciate such gobbets?'
Then he suddenly felt a twitch of realisation: there had been a glint of metal in amongst the mound of entrails...perhaps Feran had mislaid it and even now walked the corridors in search of it?

Returning to the artisan quarters, he lifted up the grime-stained covering.
Although only several hours had intervened, the pile now seemed to be bigger than before, but he paid it little attention, sinking his fingers into flesh, thankful the armoured gauntlets prevented him from feeling all the sensations of being wrist-deep in body-parts.

Scattering several pieces to the floor, his fingers finally found purchase upon hard metal..wiping off most of the detritus, he pulled out a small metal disc engraved with two heads.
Astartes had no need for money, so perhaps it was an item crafted by Feran between battles? Surely such an item was valuable and worth returning?

He found his friend's dormitory uncharacteristically bathed in shadow; calling out the name, Halex heard a somewhat unwelcoming reply from the darkness: "I am in session with my muse, who goes there?"

"Feran? This is Halex, I think you left something behind and need it returning.."
"Did I?" the voice enquired, uncharacteristically dispassionate. "Bring it here and I shall peruse..."

Halex was unused to attending inside other's chambers...this was something which always seemed to be 'an intrusion too far', especially amongst their Legion, who valued their supremacy and individuality, even (and perhaps especially?) when measured against comrades.

His footsteps clomped across the floor, then suddenly there was a *squish* at contact with something yet unseen.
Halex had strangled Ogryns with his bare hands, yet something about this room made even him fearful to look down at the unnameable thing which he had trodden in.
Concentrating upon the task in hand, he passed the coin to his friend, eager to do his duty and be away from the place.
Feran turned on a lamp and his outstretched gloved hand glistened. His eyes widened ever-so-slightly in recognition at the proffered disc, then displayed a feign of ignorance.
"Where did you find this trinket?"

"You mislaid it in your 'artwork' my friend." Halex replied quickly, the speed of his voice betraying his eagerness to be away.

"No, I didn't discard it, but I have seen it's likeness somewhere else..."

"Where? Upon that last claimed world? Those savages possessed no metal" Halex laughed deridingly.

"I love you like a brother, Halex, but I cannot say." Feran paused, as though expecting a reply, yet Halex seemed confused at the lack of further explanation.

Feran shook his head, turning away to hide his sorrowful look:
"It pains me, but my muse calls once again, please leave. Now!"

Turning slowly, still confused, Halex slowly left the dormitory...perhaps now sleep could return and his friend would be sufficiently recovered in the morning to resume their conversation?

He did not hear the squelch of quick footsteps behind him, nor did his brain register threat until his head was pulled back and serrated blades delved into his carotid artery; no time to even gasp in pain.

Hauling the corpse to his workbench, Feran continued his artistry.

*****
Later that month, Feran revealed his latest work to a baying crowd who revelled in their depravity; little more than beasts-in-armour than formerly proud Astartes.

At their centre: a Living God, basking in adulation and delighted screams...one whose fall abased him even more than those of all the lesser minions combined.
Picking up a selection of oozing morsels, Fulgrim's soul-spearing voice enquired: "...and these? What are they supposed to be?"

Feran's voice trembled with barely-suppressed delight:
"I call them gifts of obedience worthy only of your majesty. In order, I name those particular ones: Acastus Ultramarine, Bellegeren Iron Hand, Garen Salamander, Halex Emperor's Child."

The Astartes howled in triumph once again; Legionnaires and Primarch.
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Treesniffer - Dance Night for the Dwarves


After draining one mug and starting on the spare she had intended for Y'Salnos, her Announced, he walked over to her.

"Come join me. I want to dance."

Side by side, they took the traditional positions of the work dance and the musicians began to play. The work dance had no words for it. It was a song of heavy drumming and it complexity was elementary. All the beats were provided by the dancers' foot stomps and those were performed at the tempo of a hammer. Leg up and stomp, slide and stomp, clap and clap. Leg up and stomp, slide and stomp, clap and clap. Determined steps, slow turns, measured claps. It was the fall of the working hammer; Heavy slam, heavy slam, and two quicker taps to realign the aim. Again and again. Even Y'Salnos could manage the work dance. Around and around they moved through the dance. Doriama could feel her legs warming up and her claps fell to a more proper cadence. Her mirror beside her, Y'Salnos's robe twirled and swayed to the turns and stomps. Faster than she expected, the music ended.


The music began again and Doriama stepped away. Somehow, Y'Salnos had managed to divine traditional dwarven songs from the musicians. The second piece was for a healer's prayer. Y'Salnos began his dance and Doriama watched as he gave thanks for the successful healing of Narent, praised the Soulforger, and begged for the god for his continued support. Y'Salnos's robe flared up and back as the spins and hops caused it to fly away from his legs and boots. As the piece ended, Y'Salnos began a rumbling staccato of steps that lead into the Victory Dance which called Doriama back to his side. Together they danced the victory of the previous day's events. Dancing down the vanquished, and parading home. Extolling the strength of their clans and the alliance between themselves. Locked arm in arm, they spun and leaped. They smashed the floor with heavy jumps, so much more satisfying on the raised foundation of the inn's tap room where the mugs jumped in response to their dancing.

It took all of Doriama's strength to hold Y'Salnos up and keep his feet beneath him. In over twenty years she had only seen Y'Salnos take up the Victory Dance once, and over half that long for the Hall to stop talking about it. Though not a difficult dance, its speed and changes were more than her partner could navigate easily and it was only her knowledge of his shortcomings along with her strength and agility that kept them on their feet in more than one exchange. By the end of the song, she found herself overheated and shaking from the effort. Yet the musicians simply moved onto another song and, shocked, Doriama retreated to her mug of beer while Y'Salnos began an unprecedented fourth dance.


A slow dance began. A far cry from the stomps and leaps of the Victory Dance, this was a dance Doriama did not expect to see for some time. From the center of the floor, Y'Salnos bent and bowed to the humans who had been filling the tap room, unnoticed by Doriama as she had held Y'Salnos through the dance. The tables were all filled, while more patrons stood at the bar and along the walls watching the dwarves, though now focused on Y'Salnos. A harp began to play alone. Quick notes like raindrops rang out through the room, breaking the silence as none of the patrons spoke. Short little steps in time to the notes, Y'Salnos minced about the floor and Doriama cringed in anticipation. He was going to give her his Announcement dance. In a human inn. Months from the Hall. Miles from home.

It would be a dance he could not complete.

The harpist's fingers flew across the strings. Falling down through the notes before dancing back up, only to fall again. The individual notes blending together, no two strings plucked together, the music swirled about as Y'Salnos danced in vain to keep his heavy tread in sync with the harpist's own efforts. The bends and spins, twists and pirouettes, they were all beyond him. His strength, born of hauling water to the mountain's top when the pumps were down, was a thing of brute force and lacking in all finesse, could not save him in this dance. Nor his beauty. His flaxen hair or downy beard. The heart tugging blue of his eyes could not make his feet find the floor in any way other than ruin. Partnered, he stood a chance in the dance, but Y'Salnos was not shaped by the Soulforger for anything solo.

Doriama watched Y'Salnos dance his Announcement. His promises to guard and provide. To shelter and entertain. To cherish and love. To be there and give her the children that would strengthen the Hold and their clan. She watched him dance and stumble and fall. As she knew he would. As he knew he would. She watched his feet fall behind on a turn and spin back to the middle of the floor. Watched as his hands flew out to try and grasp anything to break his fall, and as luck would have it, watch as one found purchase on a table she had not pushed back quite far enough. The table flew out from beneath the mugs that rested upon it. Not heavy enough to slow his descent, his unrelenting grip dragged the table across the floor with the fall, the loud crack of splintering wood as the legs snapped, giving way as he fell to the floor.

Y'Salnos threw back his head and let out a great bark of laughter that broke the surprised silence of the tap room. The few others in the room joined in, though the barkeep scowled at the mess made. Doriama could not find it in her to laugh. She moved over to the sitting Y'Salnos and as he grasped her proffered hand, pulled him to his feet. Sliding her back up to his chest, as the music began again, she lead him though the first steps of her Acceptance Dance.
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Brother Emund - The Pain of Sacrifice


THE ETERNITY GATE.
The forbidden entrance to the heart and soul of The Imperium of Man.

Pilgrims from all over the galaxy tramp the long road to see the sacred entrance to the holiest of places. Most of them will never finish their journey or reach their ultimate goal. Uncounted billions will fail and millions will die on the way.
It is a pilgrimage that only the truly pious will attempt.

Three figures, a small group amongst thousands, trudged slowly along a road worn to the sheen of glass by countless feet. If one looked carefully they would notice that the group wore uniforms of a sort which were now threadbare and faded.
Many soldiers made the journey. They had fought for their God and now they wished to be near him at the very end.

It had already taken this group the best part of two years to get from the spaceport at the Katmanda Gate to the outer walls of the Imperial Palace.
There appeared to be no end in sight. They might not make it in time.

Please my beloved Emperor, bless those who have made this most Holy journey. Look upon your devoted children and grant them safe passage.
Et beatus est quicumque non tuetur nos.
Blessed is he who protects us.


To sergeant Norog, pulling the Commissar was an honour and not a chore. Lord-Commissar Anton Scheuer was not heavy.

For what seemed like a lifetime, he had hauled the old man along in a small, improvised rickshaw made from scraps he had fixed together. It was barely roadworthy, its wheels battered and worn by the endless miles they had travelled. By land, air and sea they moved slowly towards the ultimate goal; The heart of Holy Terra and the Sanctum Imperialis, the Legendary Golden Throne, where the master of Mankind watched over Humanity.

“I can feel His presence,’ Scheuer would often mutter. ‘I feel his warmth and see his guiding light.” Sergeant Norog would smile and reverently stroke the old man’s grey hair.
“Soon be dere Boss,” he would always reply. “Soon be dere.”

Trusted Tamachi, the erstwhile Chorgoris scout, lead the way, weaving them along a path that only he knew, and keeping them clear of the curious or the foolhardy who dared stand in their way. Norog was physically imposing, but Tamachi was a hidden weapon that killed and maimed without pity or compunction. It was after all, his sworn blood-oath to get Norog and the frail Lord-Commissar to the journeys end.

“I want to see it,” said the Commissar. “I want to be near him at the end.” And his loyal Norog, the tough Ogryn sergeant who had fought alongside him in countless battles across the stars, was determined to grant his dying wish.

Terra was not a pleasant place to be, and the roads that lead to the Imperial Palace were fraught with dangers. Even near the heart of an Empire and close to the citadel of a God, there was lawlessness and evil.

Bodies lay everywhere.
Most of them were pilgrims, dressed in white robes and wearing broad hats. Some of them were in rags stained with blood and filth. Some, like these men wore the uniform of the Guard, proud and true.
Scavengers stripped the dead clean and recycling teams took them away. There was no dignity here in the mountains on top of the world.

The smell was unbearable.

They kept going, one foot in front of the other, mile after agonising mile, ignoring the dead and the extended hands of the destitute and needy.

When they ran out of food, Norog would fight in the Pits against all-comers. Sometimes Tamachi would slip out at night and come back with exotic foodstuffs that none of them had ever seen before. They never asked him where he got the stuff from. It was best not to enquire.

Hard faced Arbites moved them on with shoves and threats, sneering at their uniforms and bearing. No one was special here, no one deserved better treatment than the rest.
Scheuer tried to protest and he threatened all sorts of retribution on these men, but his medals and decorations meant nothing to them.

“Move along citizen. Move along.”

Then one clear morning they passed through a massive bastion of adamantium bristling with weaponry, its walls lined with grim troopers in carapace armour bearing the winged Aquila emblem of Terra.
Scheuer’s eyes were closed, but he had a wide smile on his face. His fingers were crossed across his chest.
He whispered litanies and prayed for more time.

Onwards and upwards through crowds of chanting pilgrims and then further and deeper into the Palace where wonderful murals lined walls of gold and silver depicting the Lord of Man with his vaunted Space Marines. Battles. Wars. Victories.

Then there were gargantuan statutes of heroes from antiquity and Incredible works or art that were the size of small Hives. Sights that no man had ever beheld, nor ever would again.

Then finally one day, they were stopped by the masses who were now silent and in awe.

“Dere is a door Boss, a shiny door wiv two big men.” Said Norog enthusiastically.
Scheuer smiled, gripping the ogryn’s arm.
“It is the gate sergeant. The way leading to it is a mile long. Those...” he coughed a deep throaty cough. “Those men are Imperial titans.” He tried to laugh but the effort caused him distress. “Titans... the big metal walkers…”
“I will lift you up Boss, so you can see dem. Me and Tachi will help you up.”

But when they went to him, the Hero of the Augustus Gate and the Siege of Andromeda was gone. Lord-commissar Scheuer was with his God now and forever at peace.

Across that sanctified mile. Past the millions of banners and flags and the statues of the Heroes of the Imperium. Beyond that golden gate, the greatest man to have ever lived looked down on all he surveyed. Was that a sigh in a place without sound? Was that a whisper in a place that no spoken word was uttered? If one of the hundreds of golden warriors of the Custodes dared glance in His direction, and upon that grim, mummified face that none dared to look upon, would they have seen a tiny sparkle in the corner of one of those empty eye sockets?

A tear of sadness perhaps? A tiny sign from He who watches over all…
Dave T Hobbit is offline  
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