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post #11 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-21-11, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
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TROOPER RUDOLPH KERN, another member of the Kopftjägers, was an even uglier-looking beast than Dormagen and that was saying something. He was kneeling next to the dead scout, going through the mans pockets. He shook his head with disappointment when he realised that Dormagen had already beaten him to it. Kern was a dull-eyed bruiser who had lost both his ears during some long-forgotten battle. When Schaeffer appeared, he waved the senior sergeant over and nodded at the corpse.
“Rolph, look at that”.

The Handshaari’s sand-coloured cloak had fallen open to reveal flak armour underneath. On the man’s right shoulder pad was an embossed Imperial eagle. Schaeffer looked at the headless corpse for a few seconds and then prodded it with the toe of his boot. A swarm of insects angrily took to the air and buzzed his face. The Spiess shook his head and then looked up at the men gathering around him.

“Remember this‘, he said in a low, uncompromising voice ‘and remember this good. If any of you are having any doubts about who we are fighting here, I’ll remind you.
As soon as this man decided to follow his deluded leaders, and break away from the Imperium, he lost the right to wear our uniform. He is not Imperial Guard; he is just an enemy wearing an Imperial Guard uniform. He is no better than a Greenskin or a Grübeln.
We are the power around here, the legitimate power and authority. We are the word of the Emperor.
We will show these rebels no mercy, and we will give them no quarter. Is that understood?’ there was some low muttering from those that had gathered. ‘Rest assured Kameraden, he will show you none. He has everything to lose right now, and he will take as many of you with him as he can”.

I remember that I stared long and hard at the Spiess and for the first time since joining the regiment, I saw the hidden light within that crusty veteran, and I saw total loyalty to the cause and the God-Emperor of Mankind. I also sensed a tremendous strength and a hidden might and rage, which lay just beneath the surface of the senior sergeant, and I knew why the men revered him so much. I was glad that I would never have to meet him face-to-face on the field of battle. I also pitied those who did.

We were at the tip of a long valley that ran up a seam of tall ragged teeth-like rocks. To our right stretched the endless desert, disappearing into a heat haze in the distance.
To our left stood a tall wall of smooth granite, two hundred metres high. On top of that, and barely visible in the half-light, were the outer walls of the city. We knew that sentries were patrolling above us and servitor-guns lined its rim. One mistake and the whole city would come down on us.
The valley had been carved out by a long dead river and the constant wind and cut it into almost complete tube. We were hidden from above by the walls of the riverbed, which formed a roof above us.
Dormagen had discovered the valley two days ago, and we had been watching it carefully for any signs of the enemy.
It became obvious after a while, that the Beddo’s used it to get in and out of the city to attack our convoys, without the need of emerging from the main gate.
Now we would use it to our advantage and break in. It was an audacious plan, the way would be heavily defended, but the stakes were high. That was why the Deathshead Regiment were chosen, one; because we were good at infiltration techniques and two; because we were expendable.

“Where’s the entrance?” Schaeffer asked quietly, turning his back on the cadaver. Dormagen nodded towards a rocky outcrop about one hundred metres further on. A sea of Flyfax surrounded its base.
“The other side of that grass. There are a couple of trenches covered by a camouflaged bunker. There’s a heavy weapon inside the bunker and maybe half a dozen rebels manning the trenches. A camouflaged ladder leads up to the tunnel in the city wall”.
“The secret way in eh?”, smirked Kern ‘I like that”. Him and Dormagen exchanged grins.
“Communications?” queried Schaeffer.
“This was the last of their scouts‘, said Dormagen . ‘We’ve mopped up the rest and cut any power lines in and out. We’ve got our very own Adept jamming all their vox traffic. They are on their own, and don’t even know it yet”. The corporal grinned, revealing his brown-stained teeth.

MORE OF THE first platoon began to form up around me, appearing out of the haze like shimmering spectres.
Being Jirmanic, they were invariably tall, well built and fair. They all sported beards in one form or another. Some had been dyed different colours, some were braided, and some were even forked. All were immaculately cared for (except Dormagen’s!). Most of them had silver or gold rings intertwined into them, signifying personal kills. A few broad, swarthy types, had blue spiral tattoos on their faces, these were the tribal markings of the Berl tribe, hardened Hive dwellers, tough and uncompromising street fighters…
All of the men wore desert camouflage fatigues with olive green equipment and webbing. They all sported the black silk cuff-title on the bottom of their left sleeves, bearing the word Kopftjäger in silver gothic script.
They were heavily armed and looked ready for action. Those of them who still wore the standard-issue Tri-dome helmets, were struggling with the heat. I noticed immediately that the Imperial eagle insignia on the front of their helmets had been altered.. The Imperial wings had been removed leaving only the skull. This was the unique, and totally unofficial badge of the 3rd Jirmania. It smacked of heresy and had been noted by the Commissars. This blatant vandalism was tolerated…. Just.
I also studied their quiet confident swagger, born about from years of campaigning. This was one of things that drew me to the regiment. As I watched them, my stomach knotted and found that I was jealous of these veterans, and knew that I desperately wanted to be one of them.
The vast majority of them filed by and did not give me a second glance. A couple sneered at me and one even directed a boot towards my head, but for the most part, I was invisible to them.
I retreated back into myself, tried to disappear and hide from their accusing gazes. Just as I did so, a crusty old Guardsman winked at me and gave a slight nod. I suddenly felt a flush of relief welling inside and realised that I was not entirely alone within the regiment. Suddenly my spirits lifted.
Obertrooper* Glowna, my section number two, punched me on the arm and pointed in the direction ahead. He left me no doubt that he was in charge here, and from his rough look, I could tell he was not happy with me. He cradled a wicked-looking non-standard chain gun in his arms. The weapon was heavy and cumbersome, but looked like a Jungen‘s toy in his large, muscled arms.
“Move it you little Shisse. You made the Zug look bad today, you ficking amateur. I won’t forget it in a hurry, believe me. Now shift your arse”.
I clambered slowly to my feet, retrieved my knife and tagged on behind.
It would seem that I was back in the real world again…

A YOUNG OFFICER wearing a crumpled peaked hat strode past me, barely noticing my presence or choosing to ignore me. He had a strikingly fair beard that had been plated into two spikes. The officer sought out Schaeffer and when he found him, he placed a friendly arm around his shoulders.
It was First Lieutenant Meyer, my platoon commander, and about the only officer in the entire Imperial Guard, that Schaeffer had any time for.
I saw him look down at the corpse, shrug a shoulder and turn away without a second thought. The officer had probably seen it a thousand times before… human, Ork, Eldar, they were probably all the same to him. He waved a couple of Kopftjägers over and ordered them to dispose of the body.
“And if he’s got identity tags‘ he said casually ‘bring them to me. When we take the city, the Arbites can pay his family a visit”.

The unmistakable shapes of three Commissar’s followed up the rear of the group. Their leader was a tall, dark-skinned, grim-faced man with a face that looked as if it had been carved out of granite. He was in a deep conversation with another Kopftjäger, a Feldwebel*, Sergeant Fisher, my platoon leader. Fisher used to be a regimental pugilist and had a face that had seen countless bouts in the ring. His nose was completely flattened, and the cartilage almost non-existent. His large nostrils became his prominent feature, and were almost comical to look at… but you would never say that to his face, not if you valued your life!

The leading commissar was carrying an ornately decorated power sword over his right shoulder, and gripped the guard of an equally impressive sheath, with a gold-plated power glove. He was sweating heavily, and every so often, he would curse out loud, and look up to the sky, his white teeth standing out against his dark features. At one point he let out a string of curses and looked about him like a predatory animal. The Kopftjäger’s around him gave him a wide birth. One of the men did not move quick enough and was smacked over the head with the flat of the Commissar’s sword for his trouble.
The pair of Commissar’s to his rear looked young and smelt of barracks and training fields. Their long blue Commissar coats and tall-visored hats, were immaculate and did not bear the signs of hard campaigning. Their leader looked positively ragged alongside them. They were cadet Commissar’s and fresh out of Schola Progenium.
They moved with a quiet confidence, knowing that they were virtually untouchable. They glanced cautiously about, watching everything, but saying nothing.
The veteran Commissar saw Meyer, Schaeffer and the small group of NCOs gathered in conference. They were standing in the shade of a large overhanging boulder. The Commissar‘s face broke from the sneer and into a smile.

“How goes it Schaeffer?”, he asked in a deep baritone voice as he moved in close behind the group. Schaeffer looked up and nodded and then narrowed his eyes, at the two Commissars hovering to the rear.
“Commissar Rabe, what an unexpected pleasure‘, he smiled ‘I did not expect to see you out here in the heat and flies”.
Rabe raised his sword’s pommel to his chin in mock salute.
“I got fed up hanging around up at headquarters‘ he shrugged ‘the air-conditioning was giving me a head ache. Besides, sometimes I like to rough it with the minions, and get my hands dirty, especially when I get to administer the last rites to traitors. I trust your boys are up to the task?”
Schaeffer’s face broke into a broad smile. Him and Rabe went back a long way and had fought side by side on many battlefields. They had a grudging respect for one another, a respect born in the hot crucible of war.
Schaeffer tilted his head at Rabe’s companions. The Commissar shrugged his shoulders and turned slightly towards the two men.
“Sorry, my apologies’, he coughed ‘may I introduce Cadet Commissar Xafinity and Nectaar. They are here to replace the other unfortunates that got fried during your last scrap on Utruv Two”.
The taller of the two Commissar’s stepped forward and gave a curt bow towards Schaeffer. He was no more than twenty years old with a fresh olive face ,with piercing blue eyes. A duelling scar ran down the left side of his face, which split the corner of his mouth. Schaeffer wondered how he had achieved such a wound at his tender age, as duelling was expressly forbidden in the Commissariat.
“Sergeant-major Schaeffer I presume?. I have heard so much about you. It will be a pleasure’, he paused for a second, thinking about his words ‘it will be a pleasure to serve with you”.
Schaeffer did not move, and did not make any sign or a signal that he had heard the young Commissar or even acknowledged his existence. Xafinity was about to say something else but Rabe stepped in and placed his gloved hand on the young Commissar’s shoulder.
“The Spiess is rather busy at the moment…. Xafinity, the pleasantries can wait until after this is all over”.
Nectaar, the second Commissar, a thickset man with grey, cloudy eyes and a cropped head, gave Schaeffer a nod and a barely hidden smile. Schaeffer nodded back.

“Well, Feldwebel Fisher‘ asked Meyer ‘are the boys ready?”.
Fisher placed the butt of his Lasgun onto the ground and then proceeded to vigorously scratch the remains of his nose. Several Kopftjägers sniggered at the sight but turned away when Fisher looked for the culprits.
“Aren’t they always, Leutnant?”, he said slowly.
“Right then’, said Schaeffer, turning back to the group, ‘the entrance we have been looking for is just over there. It looks like some sort of ventilation shaft or maybe a sewerage outlet that leads directly into the city. Its been bored through solid rock and the actual walls are a further fifty or so metres up. We should be hidden from the sentry’s above it by a series of overhangs and local brush wood’, he pointed to a line in the sand ‘There is a ladder leading up to the pipe which is camouflaged from the air”.
“It’s very pretty”, added Dormagen.
Schaffer looked up “Either way, it’s our way in to the city. It is guarded of course, but the rebels are few and, Emperor Protect Us, they are still oblivious to our presence”.
Meyer gave the senior sergeants shoulder a light slap.

Just like Lippestadt Wanderattes* caught in a barrel, eh Rolph? Rows of rebels ripe for the slaughter. Shall we get this show on the road then?”

Schaeffer nodded and then unsung his Lasgun. He checked its power cell carefully and adjusted the fire output switch to FULL.
“For the Emperor, sir?”, he said in a firm voice, and then winked at Rabe near by.
“Yes of course Spiess,’ replied Meyer ‘For the Emperor’, and he smiled and then wiped his brow with the back of his hand, ‘..And also to get out of this Verdammpt heat and into some decent shade. I should not be here, I’m a temperate, fair-skinned person and not used to this kind of heat”. He nodded at Schaeffer, who brought himself rigidly to attention.

“Abteilung!“, “Attention!”, he hissed ‘Bluteid!“. The assault group, numbering about fifty, roughly half of the First Company, immediately went down onto one knee, heads bowed and removed their helmets and caps. The men placed their weapons out in front of them at arms length.

I tucked down behind two large Kopftjäger’s hoping to disappear from view from the men around me. I had never been privy to this before, I‘d only heard about it from Grandpa Willi. Meyer had called for a blood-oath.

Used by the famed Space Marines, the oath or the ’Oath of Moment’ was a sacred vow, sworn in the Emperor‘s name. Each Astartes warrior would vow to succeed in the task set before him, and would swear before Holy and significant banners to fulfil this oath. His comrades or commander would stand in the place of the Emperor and it would bond him. To fail the Oath of Moment, was to fail as a warrior.

When the original Jirmanic tribes had seen the exalted Astartes swear their Oaths before battle, it greatly impressed them, and sat well with the cult of the warrior. From that point forward, Jirmanic warriors emulated the mighty Space marines, and also swore their own oaths. To a warrior, to fail to fulfil a blood-oath was tantamount to utter failure as a warrior, and with it came shame and the contempt of your brethren.
Blood Oaths were not taken lightly. Entire Jirmanic regiments had been utterly destroyed on the battlefield after swearing an oath, rather than give in to failure. Commanders had to use it wisely. The fact that Meyer had called an oath, showed the importance and brevity of our mission. We would break open the city, or die trying.

The Company colour of 1st Kompanie was brought forward by a massive Kopftjäger with bare arms covered in hive-gang tattoos. He still wore his Tri-dome helmet with a black visor pulled down over the upper half of his face. A bright red beard hung down to the man’s chest, which was intertwined with warrior rings and gold lace.
The banner, a black rectangle of unknown material, bore a silver grinning skull in its centre. Around this was a green laurel leaf, entwined with gold and silver thread. The word Kopftjäger was sewn in black gothic letters on a silver banner below the skull. Faded Names and distant battlefields were painted in white on either side, places where the Company had fought and died, names that were forever etched in the minds of the men around it.
The colour was an unassuming thing, a hanging that was discoloured and worn, ripped at the edges and stained with dark blood and ochre.

Meyer drew his own power sword and drove its tip into the sandy ground. With an almost theatrical reverence, he delicately took a hand full of the standard with his left hand and held up the palm of his right.
“For the Emperor‘ he began in a sombre voice, ‘who sits upon the Golden Throne on Terra.
Today we renew our allegiance to you and make our sacred oath‘, he paused, letting the words fade away ‘We will not fail in the task that is before us, and we shall carry forth victory whatever the cost.
If we do not succeed, then our lives are forfeit, if we run, our names will be stricken from the records.
To those of us who are about to die, have no fear. The path that lies before you has already been foreseen and the Emperor has willed it”

The gathered men responded quietly,
Imperator mos is
“….and I will hold you to your oath.
Today we will cleave a path to victory and destroy our enemies utterly.
Failure is not an option.
Give Death, Take Death!“

And we replied quietly, resisting the urge to shout out our battle cry and make our enemies quiver with terror.

“Give Death, Take Death!“

We all began to bang our weapons against our chests and punch our fists into the air.
I watched some of the older men embrace each other and smile, and then overheard Schaeffer and Dormagen talking in low voices.
“I’ll see on the other side, you old war-hound”, smiled Schaeffer.
“Across the Bridge of Swords*”, replied Dormagen almost like a chant.
“And to the Hall of our Ancestors”
“ Where we can drink and make merry until the light in the sky dims and the Emperor himself, sits by our sides”.
I then realised that they were both looking at me, staring at me, almost daring me to say something. I made a hasty retreat.
What the two old soldiers said confused me. I could not put my finger on it, but knew that something they whispered did not seem quite right. I put my thoughts away, when the company began to form up.
Dormagen smiled as if nothing was untoward. Sergeant Fisher gave me a slight nudge and I moved into position.
I nodded at my squad leader and tried to smile back, but trepidation had crept in and I realised that there was not much to smile at. I was about to go to war…….

* * *

Obertrooper* … Lance Corporal
Lippestadt Wanderattes* … A native rodent in the space docks on Jirmania Prime. When attacked, the rodents form a protective circle, and all die en masse!
Bridge of Swords*… A mythical bridge that the warriors must cross to find peace in death

"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

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post #12 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-28-11, 09:38 AM Thread Starter
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SCHAEFFER, FISHER, ALONG with Dormagen and the other squad leaders from the first and second Platoons gathered in front of the Lieutenant. Meyer was the senior officer here, so tradition stated that he would naturally lead the attack. The other platoon leaders, Leutnant’s Müller and Hilferding, would play supporting roles.
Meyer swung his power sword from side to side with practiced strokes, flexing his arm muscles, duelling with imaginary enemies. He nodded, and Schaeffer knelt down and drew a quick battle plan in the sand using a small piece of wood.
“First Zug will move around to the left‘, he began ‘and take out the trenches there. Schnurrbart and his boys with me, Feldwebel Fisher and the OberLeutnant will move around by the right. Kiesal’, he nodded at the third section’s corporal ‘the rest of you will protect us as we go in.
Leutnant Hilferding and his Truppe will sweep behind us and protect our rear. We don’t want the Beddo’s sneaking up on us, you know what they are like. I want Fiel up front with us, in case we take casualties. Any questions?”. Schaeffer looked directly at Dormagen, who shrugged his shoulders. The rest of the group shook their heads.
Meyer interceded.
“Listen, we don‘t want any shooting, not unless it is absolutely necessary. Close quarter weapons only… and the flamers at a push. Is everyone clear on that? No noise for goodness sake”. There was a sputtering of affirmations and a few grins.
“Right‘, said Schaeffer matter-of-factly ‘we are here to do a job that no one else would take on. The eyes of the Army are on us so let’s get it right“.
“Here we go again’, growled Dormagen struggling to his feet. He patted the bloody trophy on his hip and stared into its dead eyes, ’..You’ll be having some company soon my rebellious friend. I think a lot of your mates will be joining you very shortly”.
He then pointed at a small group of Kopftjägers, who got to their feet and formed a ragged battle line. Without any further orders, they then went down on one knee and prepared for the attack.

Corporal Schnurrbart, was a happy-go-lucky, ex-hive-ganger and a member of the Berl tribe. The Berl’s were known for extreme savagery, and the Jirmanic High Command, decided that it was prudent to separate them from one another, as they could not really be really trusted together as a group. There were usually one or two members per platoon, which was fine for the status quo. He wore two tank destruction badges on his sleeve and was a well-liked, and well-respected NCO. Schnurrbart, Schaeffer and Dormagen were inseparable and had fought together for decades.
He smiled at Schaeffer and then rummaged inside his jacket. He found two large Havana’s and offered one to the senior sergeant. They placed the cigars in their mouths simultaneously and then nodded at each other.
“Across the Bridge of Swords”

* * *


THE BROWN-ROBED Adept walked slowly through the habitation deck, its head down low and hidden under a baggy hood. It muttered to itself as it made its way along the steel decks of the Imperial Mass Conveyance the Polio Pugio.
As he went on its way, he kept a weary eye on the Imperial Guard troopers who thronged the deck. When they were not drilling, they were resting, and on the long journeys through the warp, the men had a lot of time to relax, and there was nothing worse than a bored Guardsman with spare time on his hands.
Before entering the barrack areas, the Adept had checked the troop rosters. This sector housed men who hailed from the Europa Four System, a conglomeration of thirty-six planets on the outer edge of the Imperium. For some reason, this system meant something to the servant of Mars, but he could not quite put his finger on it.. He would study their history in more detail, once he got back to his dormitory.
This particular batch of ragged miscreants were Caledonians, and wore the horned stag badge of the 174th Caledonian Highlanders. They were broad red-haired, heavily tattooed monsters from a far-off feral world. They spoke Low Gothic with a strange accent and looked like Hive gangers.
The Adept passed them by, still muttering incantations. A casual observer would have noticed that there were cables coming from its forehead that lead to a box on its back. The box was inscribed with ancient runes and the cog symbol of the Mechanicus.

The box made whirring sounds and every-so-often lights would flash.
The Adept walked with a pronounced limp, and had what appeared to be a twisted spine. The creature also gave off an unpleasant, musty smell, so People tended to give it a wide birth.
It stopped for a few seconds and watched the troopers. The habitation deck was a vast cavern of steel and pipes, and a row either side of canvas bunks stacked four high. Down the middle of the aisle were tables and around the tables were Guardsmen playing cards and dice. There was frantic activity at and around the tables. A scuffle broke out and fists were thrown. Guardsmen, the same the universe over. The long periods spent between battles, tested the hardiest souls and boredom was the main enemy here.
This single deck housed an entire regiment, over four thousand men, and there were five more decks identical to this one. Below the Adept’s feet, almost fifty metres down, was a vast tank deck housing hundreds of vehicles of every kind and description. The Polio Pugio. was only one of ten such vessels in the fleet of a hundred ships of all sizes. A small Armada en route to the next battle zone. Taskforce Halutz, was one of a dozen Imperial Fleets in this particular region of deep space. Each fleet with its own particular problems, and each fleet with hundreds of thousands of bored Guardsmen.

The Adept watched the troopers for a while longer before turning. As it did so, and unlike any normal servitor, it muttered “Brute scum” under its breath.
One of the troopers sitting nearby quickly turned and eyed the figure with suspicion. He stood up and with a nimble leap, he managed to position himself in front of the Imperial servant. The Adept grunted and then shuffled, first to the right and then to the left and when the thug, with a shaven head and gang tattoos, refused to let him pass, he stopped and dropped his shoulders in a sign of desperation.
“And where do ye think you’se is-a-going?”, asked the Guardsman, placing his well-muscled arms on his hips and his legs spread apart.
The Adept broke into the Litany of Forgiveness and bobbed up and down, his voice an almost inaudible squeaking sound. It tried to get past the Caledonian again, but the brute stood a good foot and a half higher and was twice as wide.
He bent down and tried to look under the Adept’s hood, using thick stubby fingers that looked huge next to the servitor‘s head. The Adept’s incantations got louder, and his movements became more frantic. He let out a loud trump, as his anal gland released a cloud of noxious gas. The brute stepped back, grimaced and wafted his considerable hands in front of his face like a fan.
“Emperor’s Throne…..“

A voice rang out from a group of troopers nearby.
“Hamish, you low-life bog-trotter, leave the poor thing alone, let it be. If a provost or Commissar catches you preventing an Imperial servant from going about its business, you‘ll be flogged”.
The bully turned to his mates and then pointed at the hunched figure before him.
“Och, away with you man. I’m only having a wee joke with him, so I am. It’s lost its way, methinks’ and he spun the Adept around in a circle.
“Leave it man’, said the other Trooper, a hint of warning in his voice ‘come over and join us in a glass of the hard stuff and see if you can‘t beat these bloody heathens from the Munitorum at cards”. The man waved a large bottle of an amber liquid in Hamish’s direction. The man turned and eyed the precious liquid with relish.
The Adept took advantage of the pause and backed away. Hamish saw him moved and blocked him again.
If he had got in close again and managed to look under the hood, he would have discovered something quite unexpected. Instead of the drawn, augmented face of a servant of the Mechanicum of Mars, he would have found the hansom chiselled features of a young man with piercing green eyes. The Caledonian would have been confused, he would have backed away and then probably counter-attacked with a reign of fists and boots.

UNBENOWN TO THE Caledonians, the ‘Adept’ was not what it seemed to be. The whole thing was an elaborate act and the clothes, a wily disguise. Under the hood and the robes was a man, a tall man, who could walk and talk like the rest of them. The Adept was actually a very dangerous, high-ranking Imperial Inquisitor, who went by the name of Verdant Schell. He was on his way to receive orders from a contact on board the vessel, a mission that was of no concern to anyone, least of all these Caledonians and especially, the errant rouge, Hamish.
The Inquisitor could have arrived on board the vessel with the full pomp and ceremony befitting a person of such high rank and position, with a large entourage and bodyguards. But Schell liked to move in the shadows, remain hidden, until he could reveal himself when he wanted to reveal himself.
Sometimes his very life depended on it. By taking on the disguise of a servant of Mars, he believed that he would be able to pass by un-noticed as the decks were always full of servitors going about their business. He would have got away with it if it was not for an irksome, bored Highlander called Hamish.
Schell could have revealed himself to them there and then, or he could have killed the man in an instant by liquefying his bones and turning his skin to dust. He was very capable of these things, and his powers were legendary.
But all the elaborate secrecy that had shrouded his arrival on board this vessel would have be lost, and people would have wondered why, Verdant Schell, Imperial Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, who hunted down the servants of Chaos, the unclean mutant, heretics and xenos filth, was here aboard an Imperial vessel, bound for a far-away system.

Hamish moved in closer until he was at arms length. He was itching for trouble and determined to get the better of this ‘lowly‘ Imperial servant. Schell had to act quickly.
“Now then, let’s see your face under that hood laddy”, he said as he tried for the hood again.
The Inquisitor Schell was an accomplished psyker, but used his powers sparingly. Weak men, wounded men and men befuddled by alcohol, were no match for his powerful will and he would often turn them to his devices. This troublesome Guardsman was interfering with Inquisition work and expediency was paramount.

Go back to your friends

The Guardsman stopped suddenly and his eyes appeared to glaze over. He nodded slowly.
“Aye‘ he said in a low monotone voice ‘Aye, I’ll be going back to my friends then?”

Good. Let me go on my way
“No problems.. I.. will..”

The Highlander stumbled back to a canvas-backed chair nearby, and then sat down heavily.

Sleep my burly friend

Hamish began to nod and his eyes rolled back into his skull. A second later his head slumped forward and he began to snore.

The rest of the Highlander’s broke in to raucous laughter.
“Look like Hamish has had too much to drink”
“Defeated by a lowly Adept!”

Then, from a bunk nearby, a hideous ear-splitting screeching sound started which caused Hamish to look up and shake his head.
A small trooper jumped down onto the deck and began playing an odd-looking instrument that squealed every time he squeezed it under his arm and ran his fingers over a long slender pipe. Hamish was beaming, but Schell thought the sound was possibly the worst thing that he had ever heard in his long life. It was savage music from a savage race.

“Play Caledonia the Brave”, shouted one of the highlanders, and the tune turned into something like martial music. The highlanders loved it and began jumping up and down and clapping their hands. Hamish nodded in appreciation.

Schell opened up his pace and made it to the exit way without any further problems. He found a connecting corridor and began to run, the hideous sound of the Caledonian pipes ringing in his ears.

* * *

"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

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HE FOUND THE spinal lift which took him upwards, and away from the habitation decks, up into the command areas where the rank-and-file were restricted. Access to these levels was for senior military and Munitorum personnel only, but when Schell was confronted by a steel door and a security key pad, he tapped a few runes, and the lift took him to the deck he wanted.
He had actually used the code of a high-ranking armaments officer who was responsible for one of the numerous batteries of guns that protected this huge vessel. The officer was blissfully unaware that his clearance code had just been used.
Schell reached the required level, and as the doors opened, he hunched up his shoulders and assumed the disguise of a Adept again.
A grey-uniformed naval trooper carrying a long shock baton on his belt eyed him with little interest. With a nod of his head, he let Schell by. The Inquisitor had hoped this would be the case, he knew that it was shift change over and the guard would be waiting to be relieved and not particularly vigilant. The trooper did not disappoint him.

He moved swiftly along corridors and walkways, through tunnels and tubes, guided on his way by directions programmed into a data-slate. The device was marked with the seal of the Inquisition and a single ‘X’ rune, one that he had seen before. He came to a small corridor that branched off a main concourse. It was poorly lit and smelt musky. It reminded Schell of a mortuary, that dank, throaty smell, of death. He stepped into the corridor and ducked beneath an archway. Something moved in the shadows to his left, there was figure there. He flicked his bolt pistol, from its holster on his arm, into his hand. It was already armed and ready to fire. There was another archway, and then he saw them, two large figures standing either side. He approached with caution. His first shot would be into the right hand mans groin, then….
Two very tall, heavily built sentries, wearing black carapace armour with unusual markings, moved out of the dark and barred his way. Each was carrying a Hellgun at high port.

Imperial Stormtrooper’s, thought Schell, by the Golden Throne, what are Stormtrooper’s doing here?

“I am here on the express orders….” he rasped. One of the soldiers held up a hand.
“It is alright, sir’, he interrupted in an electronic voice ’we were told to expect you. If you would like to go in, He will be with you shortly”.
The door slid silently open revealing a room that was black as the void.

He? The sentry said He, as if the Emperor himself was in attendance. He straightened up and stepped into the room.

HE ENTERED A dark and dank dormitory. It was poorly lit but Schell felt that it had been turned into a chapel or a place of worship. There was a smell of must of incense in the air. The room was free of any decorations or drapes or any sign that would give him he clue who, or what he was dealing with. It was made up of three plain metallic walls with the forth facing him, a large arched window of many colours. In front of it was a small plinth with a large opened book stretched out across it.

Schell remained by the door for a few more seconds as his eyes got used to poor light. He the looked up at the window in front of him and traced its outline. He realised that it was open to the warp beyond and only an invisible shield protected the interior of the room from the dangers that lurked beyond. Only the stout-hearted and those trained in the secret arts, could look upon the warp without fear and not go mad with its canopy of colour and patterns.

Who ever HE was, he was capable of confronting the void and had no fear of what was beyond.
Schell stared out once more and took into miasma and grinned to himself. He cared little for the warp, and cared less about its workings. He had faced it many times and fought the entities out there. Entities that he had spent his lifetime tracking down and destroying.

Schell noticed that there was a small table at the far end of the room, with a plain wooden chair behind it. He swore that it had not been there when he entered. He should be cautious.
Behind the table was a magnificent frame of gold and silver thread, containing a large oil painting, at least ten feet high. Shell’s heart skipped a beat, like it always did when he saw the Holy vision it contained. Sitting astride a great winged beast was a depiction of the God Emperor himself, surrounded by a legion of ancient warriors in full battle armour. Schell instinctively gave the Sign of the Aquilla, crossing his arms across his chest and bowing his head in reverence to the one true God.
Hundreds of tiny candles encircled the chair, and lined the far wall. They gave off a cream glow, which felt almost warm. The Emperor of mankind seemed to move on his charger, and appeared to acknowledge the Inquisitor’s presence. Schell felt a tingling throughout his body, starting at the extremities and moving like a slow tide, towards the rest of his body. He felt warm and almost contented. He went down onto both his knees and prayed to his exulted Lord.

“Welcome my friend”.

Schell sprang to his feet and turned around quickly. His senses were super- enhanced. He recognised that accent and he had heard it several times before. The last time he met the man behind that voice, he was dying.
Now he knew who’s presence he was in, and knew why he a been summoned to this rat-infested transport barge, a billion miles from home and away from his beloved job hunting the Emperor’s enemies. He began to sweat in voluntary.

Standing by the entrance was the figure of a tall man wearing crimson robes and a hood like Schell’s, covering his features. He was leaning on a staff of black mahogany with a large silver Imperial eagle at its head.
There were other figures behind him hidden in the shadows, a silent group, four maybe five people and others lined up in a hidden passageway that had suddenly opened up. He had not heard any of them arrive and that worried him greatly. He could usually sense things long before they happened. He gripped his bolt pistol a little tighter and concentrated.

He felt the static glow of his psykic power as it began to flow through his veins like a living thing. His hair began to stand on end as hidden power pulsed through his body.
Schell’s senses were heightened. He could hear, smell and see everything. He could feel the life forces in the room with and his mind began a mental target acquisition programme, categorising the signatures of each form and filing them in order of danger. The thin figure in the middle of the room posed the greatest t threat.
Now he could perceive the sound of their slow laboured breathing, the creaking of equipment, the sniffs and muffled coughs. He could smell gun oil, leather, caffeine and body odours, incense and the faint smell of decay. He also felt fear from the shadows, some of the group were frightened of him, and that made Schell breath a little easier.

Schell has sensed eleven targets in the room, and maybe more in the corridor. They were all nicely packed together and their body heat was giving each of them a distinctive form.
There were two more armoured Stormtrooper’s standing, silent and foreboding with their arms at high port. An Imperial Guard officer was in front of them wearing an insignia that Schell did not recognise. He had the mark of a veteran, very calm and cool with an arsenal of weapons about his body.
To his rear were three black-robed humans who looked and felt like scribes or servants. Behind them was something else, something very large and very powerful that he had never come across before. It certainly had a human signature, but it was far larger, and more powerfully built. When Schell probed its mind, he found it to be blank, almost empty, as if the figure only ran on instinct. Its brutal face was passive and its eyes were covered by dark eye-protectors.
Standing off to one side were two others human, a small, thickset figure wearing civilian clothing, brandishing what looked like a double-headed battle-axe, and standing at his shoulder was a slim female in a tight-fitting body suit. She had the look and feel of an operative of the Officio Assassinorum.

A Squat, an assassin and some heavy-duty muscle. This HIM has power, but we shall see…

Schell knew he was outmatched. The soldiers, the scribes and even the assassin he could deal with, but their leader was something else. Schell’s raw power and his hidden psykic energy could not come close to the potential that emanated from the robed figure. Schell sensed, that beneath the crimson robes, was an awesome power and energy, far greater than his own…

The figure stepped forward into the pale light of the candles and Schell felt his adrenaline race. The mans crimson robes began to take on other colours, gold and silver, and now there were runes and ancient script interwoven into the material. Around his neck, hanging from a fine chain of an unknown metal, was a large silver Imperial eagle. Schell caught sight of the broach he was wearing, a golden disc surrounded by a crimson rosette. In its centre was a large gothic ‘I’. The man was a fellow Inquisitor, but not just any Inquisitor. Schell took a deep breath.
The other man raised his head and began sniffing the air, and then a long claw-like hand moved up the staff and rested under the eagle at its end. Schell could see that his skin was blotchy and discoloured, and almost opaque. On one of the fingers was a large golden ring, just like the one Schell wore, a badge of office, and a badge of rank. Schell knew now that he had been right all along. He went down onto one knee and lowered his head.

“Lord Francisco Ximénes’, he whispered reverently, ’we meet again”.

* * *

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Default Part 2


At the walls of Nabulûs City
Imperial Time 0315hrs

THE REBEL SENTRY stuck his head above the parapet and scanned the area to the front of him.
Sand he thought, nothing but sand…. And rocks
He thoroughly checked the positions either side of him, watching for any movement, and any sign of an approaching Non-Com. He would have to be particularly careful, he thought, as this new sergeant was an ex-regular Guard and very keen. The son of a mule had already had him cleaning out the latrines, when he failed to address him properly.

May the fleas of a thousand desert horses lodge in his crotch. That was lowly work. I am a Beddo, a warrior, curse him!
When he was satisfied that he was alone and was not about to be interrupted, he dropped down to the bottom of his trench where it was relatively cool and in the shade.
He was manning an outpost, one of many that ringed Nabulûs City, Handshaar’s capital. Sentries like him were the eyes and ears of the rebel army, and they were there to give warning when the Imperials came. The sentry and his companion, were at point 170/A, a ventilation pipe that lead to one of the work bays deep below the city. Huge fans sucked out the stale air from the lower levels of the city and then drew in fresh air from a tunnel above. The rebel’s had been using 170/A to mount patrols ever since the Imperials arrived.
The pipe was somewhere above him, bored into the solid rock my the City’s Municipal Department. A rickety ladder lead up to it, which was camouflaged from above by sheets of torn, sand-coloured netting.
The sentry glanced up and even from this close, he could not see the covered way.
The capital city had so far been untouched from attack. Most of the big battles had been raging far to the west and to the north, in or around the outlying settlements. Sketchy reports had been reaching the rebels all the time. The Emperor’s army was coming … This or that outpost had been overrun … Convoy’s destroyed … Heavy casualties inflicted on the invaders ... So-an-so unit fought gallantly here or so-and-so general did well there.

Soon the Imperials would arrive like a creeping storm, an unstoppable wall of metal and death. Or so they believed, the Imperials that is.
Here, in the capital city, home of the Tombs of the Kings, the rebel forces loyal to their King, would make their stand. The king had foreseen it; an angel had visited him and said it was so. Here, against the high walls of Nabulûsûs the Imperials would strike and be smashed like brittle wood against rocks. Here, every metre, every second, they would pay in blood and destruction, and when they could no longer sustain the heavy casualties, they would be forced to the table and negotiate a conditional peace.

A Cornelian Bantam should not cluck until it has lain

A two-man battle trench had been dug in front of the ladder and this had been reinforced with boulders and sandbags. The suns deadly rays had been blocked out by sheets of old flakboard and camouflaged with more of the netting. It was completely invisible from above, but from the ground.

But the Kopftjägers had found them…

The second sentry had decided to take a leak, and was off hunting for a suitable spot amongst the rocks. He had left his buddy alone, with a few minutes to himself.
A sand lizard clicked loudly and then scampered for cover when he saw the man approach. The sentry eyed the creature suspiciously and then scanned the surrounding area with an optic sight. Rocks, boulders and dust… same, same, nothing ever changes. He scanned the distant horizon and traced a line of dunes. A great cloud of dust hung high above them and was moving towards the city.

Another dust storm on the way. It will get very hairy soon.

He reached inside his cloak, dug deep, and found a small box bound in white linen. He opened it up with mock reverence. Inside were illegal Lho-sticks, and he had decided that now was as good a time as any to have a smoke.
He stuck the narcotic into his mouth and lit the end with a Lucifer* and took a long pull on it, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs. He held his breath for a few seconds, to let the smoke take its effect, and then exhaled loudly. His face broke into a grin as he began to feel the warmth flow through his veins. He felt his muscles begin to relax. Soon he will see the visions.
Caution crept in. He decided to check the area once more, just to make sure that he was still alone.
He stuck his head up again, the Lho-stick balanced on his lower lip. He looked over to the right and then the left and smiled, it was all quiet. He took another long drag and felt himself going giddy, a feeling of well-being and light-headedness began to take hold.
He felt so good in fact, that he was totally unaware of what was happening to him at that point in time and space…

As the narcotic’s smoke filled his lungs, a super-heated titanium bolt had entered his left ear, pierced the eardrum and bone, and was passing through his skull.

The shock of it took out the side of his head, his brains and the illegal Lho-stick with it. The rebel never even knew he was dead. He dropped like a heavy stone, banging up
against the side of the trench wall before crumpling up at the bottom. He never made a sound as he died, looking up at the blue sky above him, a juvenile grin still on his face.

Trooper Kohl, known affectionally as the Bear, because of his vast size, and abundance of hair, was hidden in a small
cleft in the rocks, about three hundred metres to the north of the enemy position. He had been watching the movements around the trenches and the ladder leading up to the ventilation pipe for the last hour or so, after climbing up into the rocks and finding a suitable firing point. He was in the first squad, but was used mainly as a scout sniper of which he excelled. He was not the brightest man to have by your side, but as a sniper, he was the best and in a close-quarter scrap… well he was The Bear and make of that as you wish.
When he saw the sentry light up the Lho-stick and look around, Kohl zeroed in on him. A few seconds later, the head stuck up again, and that was good enough for him. The Bear was the company’s best shot, and he rarely missed.
He quickly chambered another round and re-adjusted his aim, moving his heavy-barrelled Jirmania-manufactured sniper rifle a fraction to the left. The second rebel, evidently satisfied with himself, had appeared, blissfully unaware that a couple of metres behind him, his companion lay dead with his head torn apart.

The rebel brushed himself down, turned to go back….

Kohl’s second round travelling at a thousand metres a second, could penetrate two inches of steel and three feet of brickwork. It made a mess if anything made of flesh.
The round hit the sentry in the centre of his face, exploding his skull into a hundred gore fragments and knocking him heavily backwards. He hit the side of the trench wall, kicking up a small cloud of dust, before slumping spastically, to the bottom of the trench.

Then the assault went in………

Lucifer* … a match

* * *

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HE WAS A Handshaari, a native of the city, and most likely a member of the militia or PDF. He was also only a boy, and no more than seventeen. He had not lived a full life, sampled its delicacies, breathed its infinite odours, he had not even felt the soft, warm caress of a woman yet, or experience the thrill of her body.

He was far too young to die.

A shadow blotted out the twin suns and he looked up suddenly. There was a man in front of him, a large broad-shouldered man, who had come from nowhere. The boy struggled to his feet but it was already too late. A heavy blade, the sharpened edge of a standard-issue entrenching tool crashed down, splitting his shoulder open and slicing down through his ribs before shuddering to a halt against his sternum. The boy made a feeble gasp. He looked up with, his eyes wide, almost white, and almost pleading.

It was a mercifully quick death.

Trooper Hochbaum, a short, stocky ex-hive ganger and another of the Berl’s, grunted as he tore his weapon free. He looked back down the trench and gave a thumbs up sign to the Kopftjäger behind him. Several heads appeared above the parapet and began to move towards him.

There was a high-pitched scream, followed by a curse in Jirmanic then a dull clump from inside the main bunker.
A jet of flame, twice the length of a man belched out of its firing aperture, with the whoosh sound of super-heated gases, quickly followed by the figure of a burning man.
Heads suddenly dotted up from the trenches all around me.
I had been held back in the rear whilst the rest of the platoon went in. They had almost cleared out the enemy positions with their knives and bayonets, when someone used a Flamer.
Many of the reserve sections got to their feet to watch the Spectacle, as if it was a sight they had never seen before. They watched with mild curiosity and grinned as the writhing, burning blob, which had once been one of the Beddo heavy weapons crew, met his grisly end.
Even Commissar Rabe paused from despatching a wounded rebel, to look at the scene unfolding before them. As he turned to look, Xafinity finished off the unfortunate rebel, with a round through the head from his Laspistol.

I found myself behind two other troopers moving silently along one of the communication trenches. I had my Lasgun out in front of me with its bayonet attached and was carefully avoiding the man in front of me who staggered and rocked like an old man.
What I would do if I came up against another enemy soldier was another question? After my little escapade in the Flyfax, I was not sure that I had it in me.
To kill a man in cold blood, up front and personal.

My companions rolled their eyes at me, held their combat knives up, and grunted. One of them passed the blade close to his neck and then stuck his tongue out and closed his eyes. They both sniggered as if it was the funniest thing in the world.
I think I had been partnered with two of the most despicable men I had ever met. To this day, I never remembered their names, but I know they died in combat… they all died.

When the bunker erupted with a jet of bright fire and smoke, my companions stopped abruptly and leant on rim of the trench staring on in morbid fascination.
I found myself transfixed and unable to take my eyes off the scene, I had never seen anything like it before.

The rebel, or what was left of him, was a burning torch, performing an alien dance before them. He, it, fell to its knees and then quickly got up again, dropped once more and then began to swat from side to side. Its arms were flaying above its head, beating at the white-hot flames that stood up like spikes from the surface of his scalp. A high-pitched in-human scream came from the remains of its mouth, which was now only a black hole. The scream was loud and frantic at first and then slowly petered out to a long gurgle. The fireball jumped up in one final act of desperation and ran in the direction of one of the Kopftjägers Its arms were outstretched, beckoning to him to end the misery that wracked his body. The trooper backed away in disgust, sidestepping to one side to avoid the flickering flames. He pushed the flaming thing away from him with the barrel of his Lasgun and shouted a curse. I watched the remains of the man put its finger-less hands to its face, feeling for features that were not there.

“Shoot it!” someone shouted at last.
“No! No! No firing Verdammpt!” scolded sergeant Fisher, knocking down the barrel of one of the Lasgun’s.
He gave Xafinity a look that would kill and lowered his voice.
“No shooting. The orders were no shooting‘ he turned back to Xafinity ‘and that meant even you… Commissar”. He turned abruptly towards the bunker ‘and who used his flamer… let me guess, that Shisse Nowka”.

The burning rebels’ cries seemed to reach into a mans very soul, and I found that I could not bare it any more and turned away.
My companions smiled, nodded knowingly and sneered at me, cursing me in low Gothic.

From his position up in the rocks, Kohl shook his head and picked his rifle back up again.
“That’s not right’, he said, in his slow baritone voice, ‘me no like dat. No one deserves to die dat way, even a stinking rebel. It ain’t right to let ‘im suffer”. He targeted the ball of fire, and pulled the trigger. A split-second later, the enemy soldier collapsed with a well-aimed shot through what remained of his mouth.
Death, that glorious release had come at last….

A DEATHLY SILENCE followed, with only a hint of wind sighing through the rocks. In the far distance, a carrion bird called out in anticipation, followed by a low grunting sound of a desert predator.
Schaeffer appeared from behind the bunker and signalled to the other troops to gather on him. Corporal Schnurrbart ordered his squad to spread out and form a defensive perimeter.
We had cleared the area of the enemy, but we could not afford to let our guard drop for one minute. Many Guard units had learnt the hard way, after being overrun and butchered by Beddo counter-attacks. If there were still Beddo‘s about, then we had to be careful. They were the masters here, this was their turf and we, were merely visitors..

After a while, I overcame my feelings of revulsion at what I had witnessed and got to my feet. I tagged on behind my companions, who were now moving forward with Lasgun’s ready and their heads and eyes scanning for trouble.
There were several bodies lying at the bottom of the trench, stretched and butchered like animals. I gingerly stepped over them and avoided their glassy stares.
Without any further orders, I made my way up to the bunker. I was hoping I would find Corporal Dormagen up there, and await further instructions. I was far too green to think for myself at the moment, and I understood that. I moved awkwardly and without purpose, and did not think to take up a fire position or cover a particular arc of fire. I was a tiny cog in a very big machine, a tiny insignificant cog with no real function or purpose.
I found the low entrance to the bunker which was covered by a lose curtain of rough hessian. There was a sign above it, a small rectangle with scribbles in the local tongue, which I did not understand.

“It says Mind your bleedin’ head Jungen”, said a heavily armed Kopftjäger in adjoining trench. He laughed as another equally attired trooper joined him.
“It says mind your head or you’ll get it knocked off!“ They both guffawed, clearly enjoying the experience. I smiled gingerly back at them and both of them went suddenly serious and their smiling faces turned to snarls. The first trooper spat in my direction and the other threw a stone.

I ducked into the bunker and almost stumbled into Schaeffer who was bent over directly in front of the entrance. He glanced up and them went about his business of rifling through the discarded equipment and personal belongings that littered the floor. The position smelt of accelerants and fire, and something else that I had smelt before when I used to go hunting with Grandpa Willi, the coppery smell of blood and the repugnant odour of faeces and guts.

Schaeffer appeared to be oblivious to the four bodies that were lying around him, the remains of what were once fellow human beings. They had been badly mutilated by the shrapnel and prosperous from a grenade. A large pool of fresh blood had pooled in the centre of the room and was rapidly coagulating. A swarm of flat-head flies had found their way in and were now gorging themselves on the precious liquid. A veritable scrap was going on over who could gain mastery of the bodies.
Schaeffer bent down near an overturned cooking stove and picked up a metallic object. It was a small, rounded receptacle with a handle and spout. Its base had been blackened with soot.

Schaeffer threw the object across to me and I caught it with both hands. “There’s a Verdammpt war on and these bloody rebels were sitting around and enjoying afternoon tea!!”.
Some of the brown liquid inside, spilled out, scolding my hands. I dropped the container to the floor and glared at the senior sergeant. I then looked down at the brown liquid the enemy soldiers had been drinking.
“Tea, what is tea Stabsfeldwebel?”, I asked innocently. I had no idea what the man was talking about. In fact, this was the first time I had ever been on my own with the Spiess, let alone talk to him.
A couple of Kopftjägers scrambled in and smiled at me. They grinned at Schaeffer, and after a nod from him, they began the serious task of looting the dead bodies.

Schaeffer had found a small book with a leather binder. He flicked over a few pages, raised an eyebrow and then put the book inside his jacket. He looked up at me through hooded, bloodshot eyes.
“Tea, young Dietz, is a foul liquid made from the leaves of a certain type of plant found in hot climes. These Handshaari’s love it and drink litres of the stuff every day. The Britannic’s are the same, always drinking the foul brew and talking about its qualities and attributes. Wars have even been fought over the damn stuff”.

The senior sergeant stood up, stared at me for what seemed an eternity before leaving me alone with the other two. I left them to it. I had no desire to loot the dead, even if I was allowed to and did not want to be left alone to whatever devices these Kopftjägers might do to me. I followed Schaeffer out and followed behind like a lost canine.
The officers and NCOs had begun to gather for the final task, the assault on Nabulûs City, and ultimately, the re-occupation and liberation of Handshaar itself.

Men were congratulating one another on a job well done, giving each other smiles and pats on the backs, telling each other how brave they fought and how many enemies they has slain. By my reckoning, after listening to all trooper’s stories, I calculated that there must have been at least a hundred Beddo rebels killed here in this small patch of desert. I had personally only counted a dozen dead. But, as was to find out, Jirmanic’s did like telling tall stories… it was a tradition.
Some of the men were comparing trophies they had found, weapons, money, and personal effects… the spoils of war. Most Guard units did not tolerate the looting of the dead, but to the Jirmanic’s, it was all part of the way. Even the officers joined in.

“Anselm!’, Schaeffer shouted to a tall fair-haired trooper carrying a Vox-caster on his back.
‘Get on to headquarters and tell them we have found the way in. All units prepare to attack”.

* * *

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“IT HAS BEEN a while Verdant’, said the Lord Inquisitor in a low grating voice, ’… and relax, you can put away your weapon, you are amongst friends here”.
Schell loosened slightly, releasing his grip on the bolter and letting his shoulders drop a little. He had been in enough tight spots to know that danger lurked everywhere like a hidden virus. He had lasted so long because he was cautious, and because he always carried extra weapons.
He let the psykic energy within him dissipate, and soon the tingling in his fingers disappeared. He remained watchful, brushing the minds of all the figures in the room, looking for a sign or signal, anything that would give him a clue as to their intentions.
He watched his fellow Inquisitor shuffle forward a few steps and then come to a rickety standstill.

Schell had always hated being called by his first name. Only his mother was allowed to do that, but that was years ago, when he was a mere child…. before the xenos came, before the Ork‘s came.
His beautiful, beautiful mother, his light, his world. When the brutes came, she had given up her life to protect him, her little Verdant, her little soldier. She took the brunt of the Ork’s weapons fire and the slashing blades, absorbing the shot and impacts so that he could get away, so that he could escape. Her last words to him were of love and pride and then she had died.
From that day on, he would devote every gram of his being to revenge her death. He would hunt down and destroy the Emperor‘s enemies until he could kill no more. No one ever called him Verdant, ever earned the right to call him that… until now.

“Dear me, such anger, such hate…” muttered the old man, and then gestured to the chair at the head of the table. “Please my friend, sit down, and rest, for we have a great deal to discuss”.
Schell sat down on the antique Moorsman Oval back, but never took his eyes off his fellow Inquisitor. He would show the Lord Inquisitor that he was at ease, untroubled and unfazed. He sat back and stretched out his legs out in front of him, showing the room his stout Guards-issue boots. He let his own robes open to reveal a tight uniform of a black, almost metallic material that shimmered in the candle light. His sword hung innocently at its side, its golden scabbard a pale yellow in the half-light.
The Inquisitor Lord stopped a few feet away and then bent down and stared hard at him.

“You look… interesting”, he said and then chuckled to himself. Ximénes voice was being filtered through some sort of electronic baffler, which also aided his respiration judging by the laboured breathing sounds he made.
“Today, I am an Imperial Adept’, replied Schell, opening his arms wide, ‘it is a crude disguise I know, but I did the best with the materials I had available. It is, however, quite easy to fool Naval troopers and bone-headed Guardsmen. They are so shallow and so easy to manipulate”.
He removed the cables that were attached to his head and tossed them to the floor, next to his discarded backpack.
“Can I offer you a drink perhaps?” said Ximénes. He clicked his fingers and a small, pale-skinned servitor shuffled up bearing a silver tray with a large crystal glass containing a clear liquid. He held it out to Schell, his head bowed low in reverence. Schell waved the tray away but the servant was persistent.
“It is your favourite, Verdant’, said the Lord Inquisitor, seeing Schell’s reluctance, ‘a vintage Char-Musél, from the valleys of your own Homeworld’, he checked himself. ’I managed to procure a large quantity of the wine, before its… unfortunate…”
“Destruction?’ Schell added, ’before the Exterminatus”.
Ximénes grunted and then turned away.
“It is fine my Lord‘ Schell continued, ‘you can talk about it, it bothers me not. My links to that planet were severed long ago, when my mother was murdered by the xenos filth. What happened after that is of no concern of mine, my life from that point on, was devoted solely to the Emperor, and blessed may he rein over us”.

* * *

Fifty Years Earlier
Planet Bagehot
The Nantes System

LORD INQUISITOR FRANCISCO Ximénes, Grand Master of the Ordos Nantes, walked through the makeshift infirmary and frowned.
The building had once been a library, a magnificent palace with high ceilings covered in ancient murals and scenes depicting the Emperors victories over the alien Hordes. It was a revered place of learning and culture and contained many rare and priceless books, some of which were thousands of years old.
Now the intricately carved wooden tables that were once used by avid scholars and the great and learned, had been cleared and were being used as beds for the wounded and dying. Many of the precious tomes were being used as fuel to heat up water for the chirsugeons who were working night and day, to stem the tide of misery.
There were hundreds of citizens and soldiers crammed into the large study rooms. Every space had been utilised.

Outside, in the streets and surrounding the building, were stretchers lined up side by side, as far as the eye could see. A large mass of wounded sat or stood staring into nothingness, their minds were inwards on their own suffering, barely noticing the scene of carnage around them. The streets ran with blood, the injured died in their hundreds; the grim reaper was working hard today.

The Inquisitor stopped next to a Guardsman who had lost most of his right leg. The remains of his bloody stump were covered in strips of skin and tissue. The soldier had a waxen look and muttered incoherently. Ximénes watched the mans eyes roll back and his lips split as he desperately struggled with the agony of his wounds.
A doctor, his uniform and arms stained with dry blood, tried desperately to clean the wound and steam the loss of blood. A large dark red puddle was slowly growing on the marble floor below him. The wound was already infected and the extremities were beginning to turn black.
Members of the Inquisitors entourage, high-ranking military officers, civilian dignitaries and Departmento Munitorum officials gazed down at the tortured soldier. Most of them reeled back in disgust.
Even from five metres away, Ximénes could smell the man’s flesh rotting away and that sweet sickly smell of death. The doctor stopped what he was doing and stood upright. He stretched his back, relieving the ache in his lower spine. He handed the thick dressing to a waiting servitor who took over from him, dabbing at the wound with little finesse or decorum…

“Bloody hopeless, we’re wasting our time’ the doctor muttered to himself ‘the infection is already too far advanced“.
He eyed the group with suspicion, but when he saw the Inquisitor, the blood drained from his face. He quickly bowed and gave a rudimentary salute with a blood-covered hand.
“My… Lord… I”.
“How long has this man been like this? “, Ximénes interrupted.
“Not long, maybe half an hour or so, but already…“, “Yes? “, said Ximénes.
“The wounds are already badly infected and I cannot stop the spread’, he moved a short distance away from the unconscious Guardsman, ‘he will be dead within the hour”.
Ximénes looked at the soldiers pale face and shook his head. The soldier was quiet now, and almost a corpse. He looked like he was asleep and at peace with the world.

A dozen fat, black flies with large luminous green eyes began to hover above him rubbing their front legs together in anticipation.

“..and the flies’ said the doctor, a hint of desperation in his voice ‘the damn flies are everywhere. It‘s as if they know he‘s already had it”.
“Indeed‘, replied the Inquisitor, ‘this rot, are all the wounded like this? “.
“Yes my Lord, it is quite disturbing. We cannot seem to counteract the malaise‘. He looked about him and then muttered in a low voice, ‘but there are worse than this, we have… other casualties, and we do not know what do to with them”.
“Show me”, whispered Ximénes.

* * *

THE LAST freestanding walls of the Amplus Crumena folded in on themselves like a balloon in the vacuum of space. Bagehot’s main bank, a vast expanse of white spikes and tall spires that had stood for a millennia, disappeared into an immense plume of grey dust and fluttering pieces of small paper credit slips.
The space marines manning the foremost trenches ducked instinctively as masonry and lethal shards of metal rained down on their heads.

+ And thus, it begins + hissed a voice over their vox-link.

They began to move like well-oiled automatons. Years of training and combat had honed their skills and every movement was made on instinct. They took up fire positions, and set their weapons at the ready. Magazines were checked, grenades were primed and close-quarter weapons were set loose on utility belts. Eyes stared out from behind visored helmets, and gauntlet covered hands gripped weapons a little tighter. Some of the armoured giants wiped slime and dirt from the breaches of their bolters; some of them muttered prayers, most remained silent and threatening.

The billowing wall of dust began to dissipate and now, in the distance, shapes began to immerge, appearing to materialise out of the ground like ragged zombies. There was a low humming sound that got louder and louder as the figures moved closer. A black blob of churning matter rose up from the ground and hovered above them. The black mass was organic in nature and spoke of unnatural horrors and death.

+ Check your arcs brothers, the enemy is here +

Wherever the dead lay, there were flies and on this battlefield, the flies were multiplying in vast numbers. These were abnormal, because they were not of this world or even of this dimension. They came from that place that is hidden in the dark recesses of your mind and haunted your darkest dreams. They were the foul creatures of the Warp who craved the life force of the living.
A dense, swirling, raw mass of this pestilence came flooding in over the violated field and flowed around the marine positions like an unstoppable tide of filth. Their chitinous bodies quickly covered everything with a pulsating carpet of legs and wings. Respirators became plugged and weapon ejection ports oozed a black living mass. These were big, bloated plague flies that had been regurgitated from the bowels of Chaos. They were excreting yellow filth, and producing a low base droning sound that hurt unprotected ears. The ground below them began to bubble and the earth and rockrete slowly began to split open, like a contaminated wound. Faecal matter and pus oozed out of the broken ground like a thick sweat. The sky above turned a pale yellow, and then a dull green. The stink of decay enveloped everything.

Then the cultists came.

+ Attack pattern Maxim. Firing by squad, one through to seven. On my mark +

The Space Marines were well disciplined and masters in the arts of war. Attack pattern Maxim was named after an ancient weapon that was used during pre-history on Terra to annihilate enemy troops in large numbers. The Marines had their own form of a Maxim, but these were heavy-bolters that had been positioned on the marine flanks and covered the front of the trenches. They would hit an enemy assault with enfilade fire and reduce them to a ragged mob.


The heavy-bolters began barking their deep throaty roar as the first shapes of the enemy came into range. A second later, the trenches erupted in bursts of flame working from left to right, first squad through to seven with a three-second pause between each squad. Using this method, the Marines would present a continuous wall of fire without any breaks to reload. Over seventy Bolters opened fire as one, sweeping the area to the front clean of every living thing.
The cultists advanced in a swaying line, straight into the eye of fire and never faltered. The zombies, the enemy, the workers and citizens of the city, died before they even saw the agents of the false God. As they fell and their life fluids leaked from their veins, they cursed the Emperor of Mankind in an uncouth tongue.
The cultists had been soiled beyond recognition, and only a mere hint of their humanity remained. A tainted artist had been at work here, an artist that could turn beauty into distortion. They were obscene mannequins that mimicked the worst in man, and they mocked him. Their heads and faces, if they could be called that now, had been doubled in size, unnaturally bloated with poisons, sickness and disease. Pale skin was stretched over distorted skulls, which were rent in places, revealing horns and spikes. Jaws had been extended exposing rows of ragged fangs that opened and closed like rabid beasts. Long, green forked tongues licked the air; longing for the taste of blood, warm human blood. A prolonged hissing sound came from their open mouths, no words, just a long high-pitched hiss.
Eyes had been turned into running sores of green slime, which bubbled down faces of boils and open, maggot-ridden wounds.
They wore a uniform made from human skin, strips of human skin and tissue, which bore grotesque hieroglyphics and shapes that turned men’s stomachs.
The cultists were mown down in their thousands, torn to bloody shreds by round after round from the combined firepower and interlocking arcs of the Space Marines facing them.

But this was not glory. This was not a victory to be proud of; this was the destruction of humanity on a vast scale.

The vanguard, at least five to six ranks deep, disappeared in an eruption of blood and gore, spraying the Imperial troops with their festering remains The killing zone became a carnal house, an obscene area of dust and stone twitching with piles of distended corpses.
Still they came on as if their very existence depended on it. They fell dying and hissing but were quickly replaced by rank upon rank of willing followers. In places, they reached the trenches but were cut down with swords and bayonets. The marines stood on the parapets and met them head-on.

The cultists staggered and then stopped. More ranks formed up behind them, dark and grim figures bearing black banners displaying the sign of the Unclean One. They were carrying arms. Lasgun’s, Bolters, and edged weapons were pulled into diseased shoulders, weapons taken from the Imperial dead, or looted from Imperial armouries.

+Prepare to advance brothers+

As the Emperor’s elite warriors formed up, the remaining unarmed cultists yelled a defiant curse and then attacked with renewed vigour. They threw themselves onto the blades and bayonets of the marines, and began driving them back with sheer weight of numbers.
Then the armed cultists opened fire, mowing down the cultists to the front in an unbelievable act of base barbarism.

+Forward for the Emperor! +

The marines slammed their heavy boots into the mud, pushed their shoulders forward as one… and charged.

Any onlooker, who had the strength of will to watch the dreadful scene unfolding before them, would have stared at the charging marines in awe. They wore unadorned, unassuming, matt black power armour, which did not reflect the light. They bore a white disc on their right shoulder guards with three red skulls in a triangular pattern.
They were the Emperor’s Vengeance Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, Space Marines that could trace their geneseed to the White Scars Legion and the great Khan himself. His fiery blood flowed through their veins.

Today, the Vengeance marines were the Kings of the battlefield.

* * *

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XMÉNES WAS LEAD down the aisle of the dead and dying, to a barred door. PDF with grimy shell-shocked faces and dirty, worn-out uniforms, stood guard with weapons at the ready. They stood wide-eyed and looked nervous as the party approached.
A sandbagged position had been built housing a heavy-bolter manned by an edgy crew. Ximénes noted that the weapon was facing the door and not the other way where the enemy was expected to attack.

Was the enemy already inside?

An officer and a Commissar were standing nearby. They were in deep discussion. The officer was shaking his head and gesticulating towards the door. The Commissar had a bloody shell dressing covering one eye and had his Las pistol drawn. He looked like he meant business. Ximénes turned to one of his followers, a tall dark-haired Marine bearing the rank insignia of a Captain. They exchanged glances. And the marine shook his head.

“Report, Commissar!” barked Ximénes and the Imperial Commissar swung around, his Las pistol held low. He stared at the assembled group, and was about to reprimand the intrusion until he saw who it was.

This place reeks of defeat thought Ximénes.

“My Lord‘, the commissar hesitated, ‘I cannot let you enter that room… with the greatest respect… sir”.
“I asked for your report, not what I can and cannot do” said the Inquisitor quietly. The commissar began to visibly wilt. Half-trained PDF and rebels he could deal with… but an Inquisitor, well that was something else all together.
The PDF Officer stepped forward and waved a hand in the direction of the barred door.
“My men are in there Lord‘ he said wearily ‘wounded men”.
“And you are…?”, Ximénes asked, looking the officer up and down and studying the remains of his uniform. The officer shuffled to attention.
“Colonel Hasha Sir, 127th Bagehot Infantry. PDF, my Lord… Inquisitor”.
“His men have failed in their duty’, interrupted the Commissar ’they have deserted their posts, and let themselves be overrun. They have failed the Emperor. The punishment can only be… death”.
“But my Lord…’, whispered the officer, a hint of desperation in his voice ‘there are some of my best men in there. They are good soldiers and totally loyal. They have fought the invasion since the beginning; they have faced the horrors with fortitude and determination. But now… they are … not themselves….“, he trailed off. Ximénes set his piercing eyes into the officer.
“Lord’, the officer continued ‘it is happening everywhere we meet the enemy. My men are overcome, they throw down their weapons, rip off their clothes.. It is a madness. They are…”
“Go on colonel”.

“They are possessed”.

* * *

THE VENGENCE MARINES butchered thousands of cultists that fateful day, a day that would go down in the Chapter’s Annuals of Glory. The defiled ground was littered with the ripped and torn bodies of the enemy, the trenches were filled with their corrupted bodies and rivers of tainted blood flowed freely, pooling in steaming puddles.

The cultists broke.

The Marines advanced in an unyielding black line of ceramite and steel, hacking and stabbing at anything that still had the audacity to cling on to life. As they crossed the tangled landscape, they picked off survivors and flamer teams assigned the corrupted to a ball of flaming dust.

Expediency was paramount. The planet had to be purged of the Chaos taint. The planet had to be taken back in the name of the Emperor.

They crossed the empty space between the front lines, an area that had once been a municipal park with trees, flowerbeds and caged exotic animals. It was a place where children once played amongst the Alpinia’s and Gardenia’s, where scholars studied rare orchids or sat behind tables playing games of strategy, or gossiped about the state of the economy. It was also where young couples frolicked or made love.
A place of happiness and hope.

Now it was all gone; now the park was a blackened stain of death, horror, carrion and blood.
The marines pressed on until contact with the cultists petered out and then finally stopped all together. The flies, plague flies that were gathering in even greater numbers, replaced the bodies. They swooped and dived, covering every surface and blotting out the sky. They swarmed over the armoured giants and covered them in a thick black, writhing mass.

+ I am impeded by the xenos filth +
+ I cannot see anything +
+ My Sensors are down. My Breathing is constrained +
+ We are the Swords of Retribution and we will not waver, we are close to the source. Nothing will hinder our advance. We bear the title of the one upon the Golden Throne, we will never fail him, and we will never falter. Advance brothers, advance to victory +
+ To Victory! +

And despite the flies, and despite the horrors all around them, they pushed on across the detritus of the battlefield, past the carcasses of rare herd beasts and winged bipeds with magnificent feathers and quills. They passed the compounds, passed the fountains and streams, until they reached a commercial area beyond. They had found a vast stretch of faceless office blocks where the citizens of Bagehot had flocked day in and day out, to sit behind desks to stare at data screens. They were Administratum buildings, great gothic-style blocks, with rows of arched windows, grey and inconspicuous.

+ I can feel them +
+ Brothers be wary +
+ Squads Thoraf and Emund will hold this sector, Thorsten, Ragnar and Hagbard with me+
+ Ad Victoriam! +
+ To Victory! +

Standing nearly a kilometre high, and made of black granite and quartz, the building was an imposing sight. Is façade was there to intimidate, to awe, to subjugate the minds of the population.
As the marines approached, they found that their advance began to slow, as if unseen hands or unseen forces were holding them back. In the windows above, unseen eyes looked down on them, thousands and thousands of blank, translucent eyes.

+ Sensors are picking up a colossal apparition inside, something huge +
+ Be more specific, brother, what do you mean huge? +
+ There is a presence here, my sensors are confused +
+ By the Emperor, it is a daemon +
+ All units close in on me +

The first assault squad was lead by Brother sergeant Thorsten, a veteran marine armed with a power sword and bolter. Thorsten carried a yellow and red back banner with the heraldry of the Chapter in bold white and gold. His red helmet was adorned with a green laureatus, the mark of an exceptional leader.
He led his men up to the main entrance, an archway five meters high. Two bronze statues of yawning carnivores stood either side of the opening. They watched the marines approach and grinned in anticipation; violence and death awaited those who dared to enter their domain. A brass plate affixed to the wall told the Marines that they were entering a department store of renown, but the goods and wares that this building housed would never grace their tables or decorate the walls of the living. Only death and disease was sold here.
Thorsten halted for a few seconds. He checked that his men were with him and then pushed open the large wooden doors.

+ What the…? +
+ What heresy is this? +
+ Maintain vox protocol, I want precise reports, what have you found? +
+ Forgive my lapse of concentration battle Captain. We have entered the main building and the… +
+ Brother Thorsten? +
+ The ground is moving Captain, we are under attack +

The marines had found the core, the living heart of Chaos on the planet, the realm of a monster so large that it covered five floors of the building.

Here festered Foulbane, a herald of Nurgle, a prince of putrefaction, and a creature so hideously deformed and rotten, that the very sight of it would freeze the bones and destroy the mind of a mortal man.
It had watched the black-armoured Marines approach, and it had ordered its followers to fall back. Now it had these mortals exactly where it wanted them. Today he would feast on their flesh.
The floor and stairs were moving, a perfect carpet of wriggling maggots, insects and other nameless creatures. All of them were marked with the dread signs of Chaos and all of them stank.
The Marines walked slowly on, and the insects crunched beneath their heavy boots.

The first attack came.

Pouring out of every nook and cranny, out of every hole, out of every door and window, ventilation shaft and recess, came the daemons of Nurgle. Thousands of pink or plague-green, knee-high Nurglings, carriers of disease and death. They were multi-limbed and multi-fanged gangly creatures that screamed obscenities in a guttural tongue. All of them were smaller images of the greater God, the Great Unclean One, and all of them moved with a single purpose. To kill everything they saw.
Like a green pulsating tide, they poured over the marines, scratching, biting and regurgitating puss and foul-smelling acid onto the visors of the marine helmets. They screamed and howled their curses, and they died for their God.

The Vengeance marines, born in the steaming jungles of a death world and bred to survive in the harshest of environments, were immune to the sight of monsters and foul beasts around them, for they had killed many during their rise through to manhood. They brushed aside the Nurgling ranks as if they were walking through silken webs. They continued the advance and never faltered for a second. By the time they had reached the far end of the main entrance hall, their black armour was green and fetid and running with brown and green gore.
They pushed on, stepping over the refuse of Chaos, ignoring their scrabbling limbs and frantic attacks until they came to a flight of wide stairs, which lead up to the next floor.

The second attack came from nowhere.

A mass of bi-peds with flaying arms, crude blades and razor-shape claws came up out of the floor, ripping through the vinyl and carpet coverings and toppling several of the marines. Like the Nurglings before them, they swarmed over the marines, a mass of filth-creatures with large bulbous heads, which harboured a large single eye in its centre. The floor and carpets spontaneously erupted into a river of bile.

+ Plague bearers +
+ Stand fast brothers. Send them back to the abyss +

Battle sergeant Thorsten dispatched four; five, six of the creatures with one sweep of his power sword, and blew the head off a seventh. The other members of his squad cleaved a path through the wriggling tide, driving the plague-bearers back, until the entire level was purged. Thorsten was the first to reach the next staircase, dispatching a horned monstrosity with a head butt from his Mk 7 helmet. He turned around to survey the scene.

+ The Emperor has blessed us with his divine strength today +
+ Hail the Emperor for he is the protector of humanity +

The men cheered and punched their fists into the air. It truly was a magnificent victory.

But it was not over yet. Thorsten shuddered from multiple impacts. His legs suddenly buckled beneath him and with a sickening crunch, he hit the floor face down.

+ I have a traitor, a traitor to the front. Sergeant Thorsten is down +
+ The abomination is mine, guide my fire +

Standing above them, at the top of the flight of stairs was another Space Marine, a giant even by their standards. Helmet-less and oblivious to the poisonous air around it was a man, or not quite a man, as its head was just a skull with the merest hint of flesh and muscle. Its power armour was stained green and brown and had a dull, cratered sheen. Where its shoulder guards should have been, there were now large fanged skulls of an unknown creature that made the skin crawl when you gazed upon them. Attached to its own back banner pole was a ravaged flag made from strips of human flesh, and the eyeless skulls of fallen Imperials. Foul Chaos signs had been cut into them, which screamed of unimaginable torture and violation.

It was a Nurgle plague marine, a traitor, and it cradled a heavy bolter in its arms.

+ I am the guardian here and you cannot pass + it gurgled in a phlegm heavy voice.

It placed a heavy boot on Thorsten’s chest and levelled his weapon at the sergeant’s head.

+ I claim your soul in the name of Nurgle, the one true god +

Thorsten was gravely wounded but not dead yet. The solid shell of his rib case had been punctured in several places and his internal organs were beginning to shut down, but he still clung on to life. He brought up his bolter, and fired point blank, shattering the traitor’s knee and deflecting its weapon away. The traitor screamed releasing a long burst of heavy rounds into the ceiling. There was an ear-splitting shriek and a large slab of the ceiling came crashing down on the rest of the Vengeance marines who had gathered at the base of the staircase.

The plague marine let out a triumphant cry; he had scored a great victory here. He cursed the remaining Imperial’s below and let fly a jet of hot phlegm. He fired again, a thundering stitch of heavy las rounds that punched through the walls and banisters all around, taking the head off another loyalist and eviscerating a second.
The traitor laughed again, a deep belly laugh that caused the ground to vibrate. Thorsten broke free of the rubble that was covering him, emerging like a grey ghost. The Nurgle marine was still laughing, as the veteran sergeant brought his blade around in a wide arc. It glowed with hidden energy and spikes of electricity stabbed out from it in all directions.
The plague marine stepped backwards and blocked the attack with his own weapon, a large metal claw that had just sprouted out of the end of its arm. Dark blood and flesh still hung to the daemon weapon, where it had formed from the plague marine’s blood and matter.
There was a high-pitched metal ring and an explosion of sparks and the hideous claw was sent flying to one side. The traitor howled in its bestial tongue and spat green filth onto the sergeant’s visor. The liquid began to steam as is it ate through the ceramite and plasteel plates. The traitor counter-attacked, bringing the heavy-bolter around like a large primitive club, smashing Thorsten backwards into a wall, which shattered the plaster and fittings and brought down an ornate glass chandelier. The shade popped into a million fragments of crystal as it hit the stone floor. The traitor swung again, bringing its club down a second time shattering Thorsten’s left shoulder pad, and snapping his scapula like a dry twig. A jet of bright red arterial blood escaped from the marine’s ruptured shoulder, spraying the walls like a crazed mans fresco.

Then it was all over…

Thorsten rolled to one side as the remains of the ceiling came crashing down engulfing the traitor and whitening out the sky.
As the brick, rockcrete, plaster and metal beams fell; Thorsten finally struggled to his feet using a brass banister for support. Pain wracked his body and his sight was failing, but today, he would not be denied what was his.
The traitor’s head broke free from the debris and he looked up at the wounded marine. It sniggered to itself, black liquid oozing out either side of its mouth. Then it realised its doom. Thorsten’s sword came down hard, piercing the traitor’s skull mid way between the eyes. With an unstoppable force that could have smashed through the hardest metal plate or slice through the toughest armour, Thorsten’s blade crunched down with a dull thud of indescribable gore.

+ The Emperor assigns you to oblivion, traitor scum +

A marine from the Devastator squad, armed with a cumbersome missile launcher, stepped in beside the veteran sergeant and reverently moved him to one side. He unleashed a Krak missile into the remains of the Chaos Marine. The explosion brought about a green cloud of flesh, bone and metal, showering all of those around it. A deep, distant cry came from within. A cloud of ubiquitous flies mushroomed upwards, as the Plague Marine’s screamed his last curse and was assigned to the void.

Thorsten nodded to his fellow marine. No words passed between them, but the gesture meant everything. Another traitor marine, once a brother but now only a conniver of evil, was dead. The loyalist’s everlasting quest for vengeance would go on, until every last one of them was put to death.

The flies gathered and the insects swarmed, and the Nurgle prince watched them enter his domain and licked his lips with a bloated, rasping tongue. They were coming and his trap was set…

* * *

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THE DOUBLE-BOLTS on the doors to the room were pulled back and the guards cautiously pushed them to.

An acrid smell, like a hard fist, immediately hit those that had gathered outside. The stench was almost physical, a contaminated wall of bile, human excrement and other bodily fluids.
“By the Gods”, scowled one of Bagehot’s city elders, unwittingly muttering the banned curse. Ximénes immediately swung around.
“By that remark, I assume you mean the God Emperor, by the God Emperor?“ The elder blushed, wrung his hands and bowed low.
“Of course my Lord, forgive me”.

Defeatists thought Ximénes, when the going gets tough they forget their beloved savoir and refer to ancient deities. This whole place is permeated with defeat.

The guarded room was lit with oil burners and incense hung heavy in the air. But the perfume could not hide the underlying stench. There were many men inside, PDF troopers for the most part with a few citizens here and there. They were all milling around aimlessly and muttering in a strange guttural tongue. Several members of the inquisitors group put their hands to their ears. The words made them feel sick, and some of them began to buckle and throw up.

“What are they saying?“, asked Ximénes to a black-robed astropath who was studying the group as a farmer would study a prize heifer or sheep. He waved a hand in their direction.
“It is hard to concentrate my Lord, it makes me want to vomit…“
“What do they say?“, asked Ximénes quietly. The Astropath stalled and then shrugged his shoulders.
“Blasphemy and Heresy, my Lord Inquisitor, exulting the lesser daemon Prince Foulbane”. Ximénes turned to the Imperial servant.
“Foulbane, here on this planet?“.
“It is difficult to interpret my Lord, their speech is drooled and nonsensical, but basically they are chanting…“
“Go on, my impatience grows”

“Blessed is the unclean one, for he shall engulf Humanity….“.

Ximénes studied the possessed. Most of them appeared to be physically capable. Some had minor wounds, others appeared to have nothing at all. One or two were clearly beyond help. It was the wide-eyed blank stares that disturbed Ximénes the most. It was as if their minds had been erased.
The soldiers amongst them were not wearing their helmets, and to the horror of the Inquisitors entourage, the men had disfigured their heads and faces, cutting open their flesh and ripping at their eyes. Some had inserted metal spikes through their cheeks or noses, others had cut obscene signs on their skin. The pain must have been extreme but they appeared not to notice.. They drooled and constantly muttered their chants, and they walked in never-ending circles, bumping into each other as the walked.

Ximénes grabbed hold of the nearest figure and stared into his face, holding him by the shoulders. The man looked at the Inquisitor with grey, bleeding eyes. He offered no resistance, hanging limply in the Inquisitors grip, a bloated tongue bobbing inside his mouth.
Ximénes closed his own eyes and placed his palms either side of the mans head.

“Whom do you serve?“, he hissed, and to those standing around him, the room began to get noticeably cooler. The trooper stared back, his eyes were now slits of white. The mutterings abruptly stopped.

“Whom do you serve?“, Ximénes repeated. A tiny bead of sweat trickled down his forehead.

The men around him moved well back, sensing danger. The temperature dropped very low and a fine cloud of breath could be seen as they breathed out. The atmosphere was electric, the tension extreme. Two of the Bagehot officials turned and ran for the door but were stopped by two large soldiers wearing black carapace armour and the insignia of Stormtrooper’s of the Inquisition. They carried heavy flamers, and long stun poles on their hips.
The soldier sagged and then began to shake. He began muttering again, gibberish at first, and then after a few seconds, words began to form in low Gothic. The mans voice changed to a deep baritone but seemed to come from far away.
“I..I..I am a servant….”, Ximénes concentrated harder, his face a hard scowl, his temples throbbing and the hint of static electricity in the air.

“I am a servant of Chaos’, he then gurgled, what appeared to be laughing ’I am Chaos, and we will bathe in your blood and suck out your souls….”

“You will leave this vessel’, said Ximenes ‘leave him now. I am more of a match for you”. The soldier laughed again, green spittle at the corners of his mouth.

“I will turn you into my play thing, I will…”

“Be silent!’ roared the Inquisitor ‘you will leave this vessel and fight me instead”, but before the man could say any more, his eyes bulged out of their sockets and tainted blood shot out in jets from his nose and ears. There was a low crack as Ximénes crushed his skull and jellified the mans brain. The trooper’s body went limp and he fell heavily to the ground.

Ximenes turned abruptly and then pushed his way through the group to the leader of the Extreme Council on Bagehot. The elder, a well-groomed man with a white tonsure and a large bulbous nose, made the sign of the Aquilla and bowed low. Ximénes stared at him long and hard, and the man glanced up hesitantly through bushy eyebrows. His hands flopped to his side as he wilted under the Inquisitor’s penetrating stare.

“You knew all about this malaise, yet you did nothing”
“But my Lord…”
“Silence while I speak!’, roared the Inquisitor, ’you did nothing though the sign s were there, and now this…’. He turned to the other dignitaries. ’blasphemy’, he sighed and straightened up.

“For such incompetence, such malpractice, for your utter blindness to the obvious, I hereby sentence you all to death, each and every one of you. As your soldiers die, so shall you”.

A loud commotion came from the group of officials followed by pleading and protests. The leader of the council fell to his knees and pawed at the Inquisitors cloak.
“But my Lord, we are loyal servants…. “. Ximenes struck the man hard with his mailed fist and the elder spun in the air like a rag doll, a yet of bright red blood spurting out from his broken nose.
Ximénes stepped over him, and made his way to the exit. Pleading hands and faces were knocked to one side. His retainers followed, barely acknowledging the men around them. After he stepped over the threshold, the door was closed behind him with a clang. When the officials tried to follow, the two black-armoured Stormtrooper’s blocked their way and pushed them backwards.

Outside, the PDF troopers had been replaced by more Stormtrooper’s and several huge Guardsmen, incredibly large beasts brandishing fearsome-looking multi-barrelled guns. Commissars and other military types, wearing a cross-section of uniforms from all arms of the service had gathered in a large group.
The was the sound of high-pressure air being released and then the smell of burning meat. The purging of Bagehot continued…

* * *

"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

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THE GENERAL WAS regular Imperial Guard. He was a veteran of several campaigns and had seen his fair share of action. But this… this was something else.
He sat slumped over his chart desk and scanned the small, battered data-slate in front of him. He stared down through blood-shot eyes, stained with tears. A Lho-stick hung lazily from the corner of his mouth, its end glowing hot. An empty glass tumbler lay on its side next to a loaded laspistol.

Dear Isabella… he used the stylis to erase the words.. My Darling Isabella… my love for you is strong… remember me, us… and little Toby. ..
An aid hovered to his front clutching a sheath of papers in a gloved hand.
“Shut the bloody hell up Tyson!’, screamed the general ‘shut that scrawny mouth of yours or by all that is sacred, I’ll ram my fist down it”.

Know this that I did my duty to the end… they come for me now… await my fate.

The door at the far end of the room slammed open and the general looked up. He raised an eyebrow and then glanced furtively at his loaded side arm. A Commissar wearing an immaculate uniform with full ceremonial braid marched in. Behind him stood four Emperor’s Vengeance marines with Bolters at high port.
The bustle and hubbub of the command centre went deathly quiet as junior rank officers and Adepts of the Departmentum Munitorium looked up at the new arrivals. The Commissar reached the centre of the room and placed his hands behind his back.

“You are all relieved of command. Pick up your field gear and join your troops at the front”.
Tyson, the General's aide-de-camp, stepped forward a pace.
“I must protest. On who’s authority…”, the Commissar swung on him, staring out beneath the peak of his hat.
“If it is any concern of yours, I speak on behalf of the Commissariat, who’s power is absolute, and by the leave of the Holy Inquisition itself’, he closed on the junior officer and grinned a deaths head grin ‘I shall leave you in no doubt… lieutenant, we are the only official power left on this Emperor-forsaken planet’, he turned to the others .
‘You have precisely ten seconds to vacate this room before our erstwhile brothers from the venerable Chapter of the Emperor’s Vengeance, start shooting”.
The general sat back in his chair and watched his staff scramble for the exit in a most undignified manner. A grin spread across his face.

Well here it comes

With great reverence he stubbed out his Lho-stick in an old ration tin and then scooped up a bottle that was on the floor beneath him. The Commissar stood ten paces away, still smiling.
“Hail to the glorious Inquisition”, chirped the general, raising his glass that was now full with a dark brown liquid. He knocked it back and slammed the glass back down on the chart desk.

The room was now empty of his staff and he suddenly felt terribly alone. The Commissar never took his eyes off him. The room went cold.
A dark shadow loomed in the doorway, but the general could not see who it was. He looked the Commissar up and down.
“Are you here to arrest me?”. The Commissar gave a snort and leant over, placing his hands on the desk.
“If only… general. Now that would be easy would it not?’ he stood back up and pulled out a small book from a deep pocket in his jacket.

“Under Article 8055/14v: Any soldier who, in the face of the enemy, runs away, or shamefully abandons his post or guard, or induces others to do the like, or casts away his arms or ammunition, or attempts to take his own life shall be shot on the spot. You have been found wanting and are hereby sentenced to death”.

The general smiled for the first time and then stood up. He subconsciously patted himself down and brushed away imaginary creases in his tunic. He ran his fingers along the row of medals on his left breast and fingered the Cross of Devotion at his throat.

“Though my memory sometimes fails me at critical moments’, the General said matter-of-factly ‘at no stage can I ever remember abandoning my post or telling others to do likewise”
“Details are irrelevant’, replied the Commissar in a dangerous tone ‘you have not shown the same fortitude and courage that many loyal soldiers have. Those that have already given their lives for the Emperor”.
“So where is it to be then?”.
The Commissar leant forward and pushed the generals loaded pistol across to him.
“The Lord Inquisitor has seen it in himself, to offer you the chance to at least die with what dignity you have left”
“So the Lord Inquisitor runs the show now?”
“He has assumed responsibility for the defence of Bageholt. Please make it quick… we are, so to speak, extremely busy”.

The Commissar turned on his heel and marched off, leaving the general alone with the four Space Marines. He eyed them wearily and then leant down to retrieve his bottle. It was empty and he turned it in his hand with a sad look on his face. He turned to the Space Marines.
“Am I allowed a last request?”. The foremost marine slowly shook his head and the General smiled.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to say this before but have never had the opportunity’, he picked up his pistol and held the heavy piece in his hand, feeling its balance, its coolness.
“You Astartes have no sense of humour, do you know that… you are boring and make lousy companions at dinner parties”

* * *

XIMENES WALKED slowly up to the desk and studied the body slumped before him. The general had done a good job on his head. The heavy pistol round had taken the top half of his skull off, revealing a grey mass of gluey brain matter. He gave a slight nod and two servitors stepped forward and unceremoniously bundled the officer into a large hessian sack, before dragging him back out of the room. A third servitor edged forward and cleaned away the Generals remains. When it was satisfied, it bowed low and scuttled after its companions.

The Lord Inquisitor slumped down in the general’s chair and let out a long sigh. An elderly aide wearing white robes and a stethoscope around his neck, tutted and opened up his medicae box.
Ximenes picked up a blood-stained data-slate and studied it for a moment.
Darling Isabella…

He passed his eyes over the lines before him and for a split second he felt a heave of remorse. It was the general’s final words to his wife.. Wherever she might be. It was personal, not for his eyes so the Inquisitor placed the data-slate down, subconsciously wiping away some of the Generals blood from its facia.

I think you are probably better off General. At least you died honourably. As for the rest…

He sat perfectly still, as his personal Apothecary removed the last of the shell fragments from his right arm. There was very little bleeding, the Inquisitors metabolism was so enhanced that wounds tended to heal very quickly. Soon there would be only faint scars to mark the injury. The break to his fibula however, would take a little longer.

A large figure entered the command room, and Ximénes waved his physician away.
“Leave now Diames, gather the rest of your staff”, he said calmly, and the man quickly gathered together his equipment and hurried to a far door.

The a Marine captain blocked out the light from the burning city outside, completely dominating the room. He had been with the Lord Inquisitor when they inspected the infirmaries. Now, his black cloak was torn and dusty and scorched in places. His dull black armour showed the signs of heavy combat, and was scored in a hundred places and covered in gore and blood.

“Your report Captain Gunnbjorn”, asked Ximénes softly.
The Emperor’s Vengeance commander paused for a moment as a loud explosion erupted outside. He then removed his helmet to reveal his pale rounded face with his long black hair. A large scar ran down his right cheek, which stood out a brilliant red. He ran a gloved hand through his hair and then sighed.
“We have purged sectors five through to fifteen. No cultist activity remains. My losses are acceptable, six dead and fifteen wounded. However…”
“Do go on, Captain”
“The Guard and the PDF have failed in sectors four and seventeen and have been driven back onto our lines of communications”.
“And their Casualties?”, asked Ximénes, almost as an after thought.
Extreme, my Lord”.
“..And the daemon?“.
“No, my Lord… ‘, and the captain went down onto one knee and lowered his head ‘we, I, have failed you, failed our sworn oath. I could not match the beast, I could not stop it”.
“It escaped?”
“Yes my Lord”

The Inquisitor stood to his full height, as high as the Space Marine, and flexed his injured arm. He looked down at the captain and frowned.
“This thing is beyond us. You did your best, you did superbly. I cannot fault the fighting prowess of your men. Most of the xenos filth have been purged, except for him.
I must go and face the fiend again, and try to rally what remains of the troops. I must bring some iron back into their spines. I must help them”.
“My Lord… they are abandoning their posts in their thousands, they are fleeing everywhere… they have failed”.
“This is the last bastion, the last citadel of resistance. Everywhere else has fallen. We do not have the numbers or the sheer hate the enemy forces have.….. They are intent on devouring everything, and to destroy all that humanity has strived to achieve. If we do attain victory here, it will be at a very high cost, and at the end, there will be nothing left but wilderness and pestilence.”

Ximénes placed his hands on the captains shoulder guards and raised him to his feet.
“I will think of a suitable penitence when this thing is over captain, but for now, I need you back at the front to await my orders”.
The marine slowly nodded and then turned to leave.

Ximénes twisted away and looked out of what was once an great arched window. The remains of stained glass still clung to the frame like small coloured teeth. This was the Praetorium, the garrison commanders own residence, and one of the last strongholds held by Imperial forces on Bagehot.

This was the rock in a sea of Chaos.

The Lord Inquisitor stared down at the rubble and the shattered shells of the buildings and shook his head.
“We will hold out, Captain”.
“Yes my Lord, WE will hold this place until the end of time, but the common soldiery, the Guard and the citizens, they are not like us. They cannot face such horrors”.
The Lord Inquisitor looked at the marine and grinned, “Everyone will do there duty to the Emperor, even if it means their death”

Something fluttered past the window outside, a small winged creature, a bird perhaps? The Inquisitor leant forward and placed his hands on the sill and tried to locate the animal. He stepped away from the window as the creature came back and forced its way through a small hole. There was a flurry of wings and a high-pitched squeal when Ximénes grabbed it quickly. The creature screamed and flapped its wings frantically. The Inquisitors face changed to that of disgust as the bird-creature was revealed to him.

A bird? A bat? Perhaps, but not of this world. Its long reptilian wings , almost like a bats, ended in a three-fingered claw with razor-sharp spikes at their ends. The body was small and compact, black in colour with a sheen, as if covered in oil. But it was the head of the creature that confirmed Ximénes suspicion. Evil hands had been at work here. The head was that of a human baby, or what was left of one. The eyes were streaming sores and the mouth harboured rows of black fangs that snapped at the Inquisitors face. A green forked-tongue flicked out, tasting for human blood, his blood. It was strong and it tried to pull away from him. But the Lord Inquisitors grip was firm, like iron. Ximénes tensed his arm and the creature ruptured in a mass of green and black gore. A gasp escaped its blistered lips, a sigh that sounded like relief. Ximénes dropped it to the floor and then kicked it heavily across the room.

He looked at the captain in his black, Mark Eight Imperator Armour and his slim noble face. He was one of the emperor’s finest warriors, the Emperor’s Vengeance, the warriors from the dark. They would hold out against the Chaos spawn, but weak-willed, mortal man would not, could not.

Give me a Chapter of these men and I will break this plague daemon and purge this planet

“Do you know, captain Gunnbjorn.. .’, Ximenes said with a hint of sadness in his voice, ’do you know anything about this planet that we are fighting for?”. He turned to face the Captain, who had stopped near the far door where a group of other marines patiently waited. One of them towered over the others and Ximénes realised that it was a Marine in ancient Terminator armour.

“My Lord?”
“This planet, Bagehot, beautiful Bagehot. Do you know anything about it, why we fight for it?”. The captain muttered something to his men, who then disappeared from view. He stared at the Inquisitor.
“Not a thing, my Lord, and I don’t want to know. It makes it a lot easier, if you remain aloof from it all, if you know what I mean? I go where I am sent and I do what I am ordered to do”.
Ximénes chuckled.

“I like that Captain, do what I am ordered to do, I like that, so simple, and so easy.
Well captain, Bagehot was once a wondrous planet of forests, lakes, rivers and oceans, and above all, vineyards”.
“Vineyards, Lord, now I like the sound of that”.
Ximénes smiled at the soldier.
“Yes, I have heard of your victory rituals, captain. Perhaps, one day, we will drink together from the cup of victory?”
“It would be an honour, Lord”
“Bagehot produces the finest wines. Some bottles, especially the Char-Musél variety, are exquisite’, his face then changed ashen and sad, ’and now they will be no more”.
“My Lord?”, asked the Marine.

Ximénes returned to the window and watched lines of grey infantry streaming back from the front. Most were wounded, many had lost their weapons and equipment, but to a man, they all had the look of beaten men on their faces. Even the field police and a few Commissars were trudging along side them, their duty to the Emperor forgotten, and their only thought, to get away from the vile tide that threatened to overwhelm them all.

A building toppled and Ximénes saw the towering shape of a battle Titan appear. It was moving slowly backwards with its prime weapons firing in all directions. It was slick from head to toe in green slime and surrounded by a pulsating cloud of even more flies.
A Mark 3 Warlord Titan, the Nex Necis, retreating… now it really is over

“Captain Gunnbjorn,‘ he clipped abruptly ‘order the evacuation of our surviving forces with immediate effect”.
“Yes, my Lord… I will place The Dark Blades Terminator Squad under Brother Hagbaard, at your disposal. They will be your personal escort and will guide you to your ship”.
“Thank you Captain”
“My Lord… what about the rest of the people”
“The citizens of Bagehot have failed the task that was set for them. They have failed the Imperium and worse of all, they have failed our beloved Emperor.
Exterminatus, Captain, this world must be purged..”

* * *

"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

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post #20 of 43 (permalink) Old 10-28-11, 09:53 AM Thread Starter
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IT HAS BEEN a long time since I tasted anything from home‘, Schell pondered. The word ‘home’, was almost inaudible, ‘and I know that you mean well, so I will try and enjoy it”. Ximénes coughed and then turned back to face him again.
“Unfortunately, I cannot join you, Verdant. I am prevented from enjoying earthly pleasures any more. Wine, good food and other’, he coughed ‘pleasures, are all but a memory to me now. Ever since… the last attempt on my life”.

Schell looked up from the glass and eyed the robed figure. He had heard of all the failed assassinations on the Lord Inquisitors life, especially the last attack that came so very close to succeeding. He did not know the full details, but he knew that whoever struck was close, very close, and it had rocked the very foundations of the Inquisition.

“I see you have been busy Verdant’, the Lord Inquisitor glanced at a Data-slate ‘eight Chaos cults in the last six months, and the burning of the Gorgon witch Assilius-the-Cruel. Not to mention the purging of Mahneh Five on Anastasia Prime of those filth, the Genestealers. Good, Good’, he looked up ‘I hope that Assilius’s interrogation was thorough?”.

Schell nodded “Fourteen weeks, my Lord, fourteen long weeks before he renounced his foul sponsor and begged the Emperor’s forgiveness. May I just name one of my interrogators…?”
Ximénes raised a hand “I have noted his name and will watch him closely in the future”. Schell gave a small bow of the head.
“Thank you, my Lord”. Ximénes handed the Data-slate to a small servitor wrapped in a black shawl and wearing a gilded helmet, moulded into the image of a sea creature.
“I have a new assignment for you my friend”, Ximénes continued after a pause to catch his breath ‘if you will permit me?”
“Good, excellent, at long last’, grinned Schell ‘… And if I know you, my Lord… it will be a worthy assignment indeed”. He sat back in the chair and stared at his glass. The wine was beginning to have an effect on his senses, a calming effect, calming and warm. It loosened his tongue, loosened his inhibitions. Ximénes eyed him through artificial eyes and smiled.
“I heard about the last attempt on your life‘, Schell continued matter-of-factly ‘I trust your retribution was swift and deadly?”.
Ximénes chuckled again, and then broke into a long period of coughing. Several corpse-like servitors fussed around him until he waved them away.
“Yes, my revenge was suitably efficient. Nevertheless, they nearly got me that time, Verdant, me of all people. Lord Inquisitor Francisco Ximénes, Grand Master of the Ordo Hereticus, destroyer of planets, and Grand Exterminator of Chaos’ he paused, casting his mind back to the rivers of blood that had flowed in the name of the God-Emperor.
’Ten thousand corrupted cultists paid for their heresy that day. The extermination teams worked day and night’, he stopped and looked at Schell, ’I do envy you. I miss such simple pleasures like wine”.

Schell held the glass up and looked at the clear liquid it contained. He held it up in toast.
“Lord Inquisitor, it is an honour to be at your side once more. Your service to the Imperium is legendary”.
Ximénes grunted and moved back to the window.
“Indeed’, he said in a low voice ’but we will not be fighting side-by-side this time my eager friend, I am too old and frail for all that now. Though my mind is perfect, my body is a weak shell and too badly damaged to do any serious work any more. I am beyond all healing, and only kept alive by machines.
My best work was done before the….’ he swept his arms in a wide curve.
’Now I rely on my servants and let younger Inquisitors like yourself do the Emperors work”. He appeared to sag and lean heavily on his staff. A servitor rushed forward and supported his left arm. Ximénes nodded gratefully and held up a hand. The servitor backed a few paces away. Schell watched the scene with mild curiosity.

“I am the Grand Master of the Ordos Nantes and Lord Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus’, continued the old man, ’and it has been my life’s work hunting down xenos filth, the unclean, the heretics and the witches. As a Monodominant, a puritan, like you, I believe that it is Mankind’s true destiny to rule the Galaxy, even if it means the death of every other creature or race.

Chaos, Verdant, its reek permeates everything around us, these floors, these walls. It is in the very air we breathe, it disgusts me. It is out there in the void, it is out there on Imperial worlds. The servants of the Chaos Gods are everywhere’, he sighed .
’I have judged many people and put even more to death. I have destroyed planets, purged entire star systems, all in the name of the divine Emperor’. Schell was enjoying the spectacle, the wine was definitely something else. He was feeling quite merry.
’Chaos is even here on this ship my friend”.
Schell looked up from his glass.
“On an Imperial vessel, Lord?”, he quizzed. Ximénes laughed, a sound like that of a child gurgling.
“But of course it is. You should know that, you are well travelled yourself, you know how Chaos operates. Why do you seemed so surprised?
Men are weak, Verdant. They are weak and feeble creatures that are easy to corrupt. Chaos looks for their weaknesses, plays on them and then corrupts them. It is our job as Inquisitors, to hunt it down and destroy it”.

* * *

"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

Check out my 40K 'Epic' about the Hunted verses the Inquisition:

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