Cheers for the comments, guys. Rep isn't no biggy, I would much rather kind, or harsh, words than extra numbers and a green bar.
Now, after a delay of something like two weeks, here's the next part. (Also, if any of you remember my World Eaters fiction from a while back - It has been rekindled, and now includes the Night Lords and, hopefully, Istvaan!)
Astelan and Belath traded blows, both intending to cut down the other, neither able to penetrate the parries and dodges. The churned flesh of Astelan’s leg, now pigmented to a rosy sheen, had crystallized into a hardened plate, but still it ached and itched. Astelan was struggling, physically and mentally exhausted, but ultimately remaining focused on Belath’s weak spots - The gorget, the underarms, the leg joints.
Belath on the other hand was making clumsy attacks, throwing his weight behind the blade, using his shield as a counterbalance. Astelan fully understood the rage which Belath felt; his world was burning, pulling itself apart at the seems and thousands of his kinsmen simply stood by, guns trained upon the returning Dark Angels. It was zealous rage, admirable to a degree, pathetic to another.
Terran met Calibanite with locked swords, eyes narrowed, staring at each other. Astelan only saw raw, unkempt hatred. Belath on the other hand noticed a tint of regret, overpowered by animalistic urges to survive.
If Lion El’Jonson had not neglected Luther and his sect, then none of this would have happened. The Primarch would have returned to vast parading, the sounds of willowy instruments and a completed Tower of Angels. Instead, his fleet had been met with terrific weapons fire, in such intensity that many of the Primarch’s ships had become clouds of plasma and strips of decking.
Astelan regretted nothing. It had been a moment of tense anticipation, followed by the triumphant cheers of Astelan’s coterie. And then, the returning salvo had been sighted and once again silence took over. The Lion, in a state of perturbed anger, had ordered immediate orbital bombardment and preparation for planet fall. None had expected the First’s Lord to personally lead the attack, not even Luther.
‘Die,’ Sneered Belath, blade arcing up for Astelan’s forehead. Astelan’s own blade met the tip, angling it backwards. ‘Simpleton, die!’
An explosive, unforeseen series of slashes from Astelan sent Belath on the defencive, his Terminator armour crying out in exertion, the cogs and wheels spinning. Belath deflected most expertly, though several struck home, sending uncontrolled, jarring vibrations along Astelan’s blade. His patience thinning, Astelan continued his onslaught with renewed vigor. But still, Belath repelled each strike and thrust, twisting his wrist with dexterity more suiting of an Emperor’s Child rather than a Dark Angel.
‘I’d rather not.’ Grinned Astelan, his teeth gritted in annoyance. The muscles of his arms burned, even his advanced biology struggling to contain the pain.
A simple, misplaced step became Belath’s undoing.
He stumbled backwards, arms held wide, his torso unguarded by shield or blade. Astelan saw his chance, and with a roar of ‘For Luther,’ launched a cunning lunge. Armour peeled away, and Astelan’s blade tasted Belath’s blood for a split-second.
The Master of the Raven Wing, run through by Astelan’s weapon, let out an agonized cry. The wound in his gut was ghastly, weeping crimson, but still he mustered the strength to pull himself free, spitting inside of his helm.
‘Whore-born bastard.’ He hissed, swinging his sword inwards. Astelan blocked it with ease, striding closer to Belath and lifting his blade high above his head.
He rammed it down, and with a screech, it pierced through Belath’s gorget, entering his body at the chest. It continued onwards, carried by momentum, through Belath’s organs until it remerged at the tip of the spine.
Once again impaled, Belath tossed aside his own blade and began to claw weakly at Astelan’s throat. The Terran smirked, pushing Belath to the ground with both hands, leaving his sword go.
‘Belath, Son of Caliban, Lord of the Order of the Raven Wing,’ Astelan snorted, looking down on the pitiful form. ‘Your life is ended. Go to the Emperor in peace, with dignity.’
‘Traitor..’ Whispered Belath, reaching for his discarded Chainsword. ‘You will be hated for this, and someday..’
His voice trailed off, devolving into a gurgle.
‘..You will be brought to justice.’
Astelan pulled his Boltpistol free, pointing it down on Belath.
‘Someday.’ He said simply, and depressed the trigger.
‘For Luther!’ Bellowed Lord Cypher, firing his plasma pistol into the encroaching horde. A Marine was immolated, his corpse collapsing, the armour fringed with scald marks and atomized blood.
The Dark Angels were now upon them along the line, hacking and firing. Caleb, clutching his Chainsword in one hand and the banner of his squad in the other, was among the first around Cypher to meet their enemy.
His blade sang, gnawing into the throat of a Brother, cutting through the oversized muscles. Blood, rich, supple, painted Caleb’s faceplate. With a sickening crunch, the man’s head came free, a welter of blood erupting from the twisted, gnarled neck. Another, bearing the insignia of a Sergeant, died silently as the tip of the squad banner punctured his right eye and brain, emerging through the top of the helm.
Behind him, the reluctant Brathor was being set upon by a trio of barbaric, bloodthirsty Dark Angels. He held his sword in a low grip, his stance hunched, strictly defencive. One launched a intrepid attack, and Caleb was amazed when Brathor twisted towards the side, raking the Astarte’s side with bolter fire. Armour deteriorated under the explosive warheads, and the gutted form of the Angel slumped, face first into the ground; dead.
‘Asturias!’ Cried one, charging forwards, his Chainsword revving. Brathor’s sword arm straightened, and the Marine ran blindly onto the tip, impaling his secondary heart and nicking the primary.
Brathor twisted his sword, pushing it further through the post-human, until it was buried to the hilt. This show of brutality allowed the third assailant time to advance, coming in from behind Brathor, his combat blade held high, his bolter angled towards the small of Brathor’s back. Before he struck, a series of rounds danced across the floor towards him, snapping him off his feet. Blood shorn against the black of his armour, where he had been torn open by explosive rounds.
The saviour of Brathor emerged from the melee, a hunch-back figure in the smoky haze, clutching a steaming auto-cannon. Brathor nodded his gratitude, and the Terminator returned it with a bob of his horned helm, before disappearing once more into the maelstrom.
‘For the Lion!’ Vociferated a nearby, strong voice. A skull-faced Astartes stood nearby, swinging an angel-hilted sword in wide arcs, each one cutting down one of Luther’s Marines.
Reddish steam drifted upwards from his activated sword, wispy strands that entangled around his chest and head. A pair of eyes, emerald like the ravaged forests of Caliban, scanned the battlefield for a new target. They locked with equally as dreadful eyes, shining from within the shadows of a hood.
Lord Cypher called a challenge to the Brother-Redemptor, twisting his sword in one hand, slipping his glowing plasma pistol into its holster with the other. The Brother-Redemptor turned slowly, his tabard fluttering about him, and pointed his blade at Cypher. With one finger, he drew a line across his throat - An archaic, child-like threat.
Cypher nodded, and returned - ‘Yes, Brother-Redemptor. You will die.’
Both met with a loud jangle, followed by the sizzle of overlapping power fields. They twisted around one another, blades still locked, talking in hushed, hate-filled voices. Cypher dashed away, blade held in a double-handed grip, sending a multitude of flickering colours across his face. The Brother-Redemptor circled, predatory strides bringing him around, one hand folded behind his back, the other firmly clutching the hilt of his blade.
Lord Cypher propelled himself forwards, hacking mindlessly, striking the Brother-Redemptor’s shoulder pauldrons with each ferocious blow. The Brother-Redemptor returned a quick, dangerous strike that struck Cypher in the chest, but was deflected away by the armour. Cypher twisted from the path of another blow, spinning towards the side and bringing his blade in.
The Brother-Redemptor allowed a single, pain-ridden cry as Cypher’s blade chewed through armour and flesh, devouring organs.
‘Repent,’ He said, his melodramatic voice rising above the sounds of battle; the barks of bolters, howls of chain-based weaponry, cries of the dying. ‘Or die.’
‘I would sooner die than kneel before you.’ Spat the Brother-Redemptor.
Cypher pulled his plasma pistol free, pressed it against the skull-face, and fired. The Astarte’s head evaporated, a puff of blood and blackened chips of bone. Without remorse, Lord Cypher kicked the corpse from his blade, and set back off into battle.
Caleb, fighting for his life, would remember that moment for as long as he lived.