You can't escape Destiny
Heru-Ur stirred. A thin stream of dust cascaded from the cracked ceiling down onto his hull. With the grinding of gears, the dreadnought’s head lifted, his gaze shifting from the mosaic patterning the camber floor to the crystal widows set between the pillars lining the walls. The hum of his power plant changed pitch as he commanded it to switch from idling to battle mode. Cautiously, he stood up from the marble throne purpose built so that those battle-brothers entombed within one of the Legion’s dreadnoughts could continue to take part in the debates and discussions mooted by their able bodied brothers. With slow ponderous steps, Her-Ur approached the windows and looked out.
In the streets below he saw platoons from the Spireguard rushing to and fro, setting up defensive positions and preparing for battle. Curious, Heru-Ur opened a link to the local vox network and froze in horror. The unthinkable had happened. The tranquillity of Tizca had been shattered. Someone was attacking.
Turning his back on the windows, he stomped off to join the fray. By the time he’d reached the stairs leading down, he’d gathered from the vox that it was none other than the Space Wolves who were attacking! The news took him aback – had those barbarians finally broken their leashes and gone rogue? Such a thing was nigh unthinkable, but then again the Wolves did not have the restraint inherent in true Astartes like the Thousand Sons. As he descended the stairs, the picture grew grimmer. The Wolves were pressing hard and the Spireguard were crumbling under the ferocity of the attack. By the time Heru-Ur had reached the foot of the stairs, the Wolves were nearly upon his position.
Heru-Ur strode up behind the Spireguard line, and those who turned at the sound of his approached let out a cheer, taking heart from his presence. A tense few seconds passed as they waited for the Wolves to close. For a moment, it was almost peaceful, reflected Heru-Ur, admiring the way smoke drifted across the street. The serenity, however, was spoiled by clamour of the Wolves’ advance. Suddenly, without warning, the Wolves burst through the smokescreen and hell, as the old saying went, broke loose.
As the Spireguard squatted behind their barricades and aimed their lasguns, Heru-Ur hefted his multi-melta and took aim. Lasbolts splashed ineffectually against the power armour of the Wolves and inside his sarcophagus Heru-Ur frowned. How could the Spireguard be expected to hold back the tide when their weapons were ineffectual and those of the enemy tore through their ranks like a reaper through wheat? No longer holding back, Heru-Ur opened fire. The melta beams flashed into existence, the brilliance of their light momentarily burning after images onto the exposed retinas of any who looked at them. The Wolves howled in anger and pain as the melta beams decimated their ranks.
Not letting up, the dreadnought continued to fire at the Wolves as he charged forwards. Clearing the barricade in a single step, he rushed into the enemy ranks and swung his khopesh – a giant blade in the form of those wielded by his battle-brothers, but oversized so it could fit his enormous hand. The power sword clove through armour with the same ease that the melta beams had and the Wolves drew back. A few fool hardy one rushed at him from the left, his gun side, but unperturbed, Heru-Ur swatted them aside with the secondary khopesh bolted under his melta arm.
Distracted by the charge, the Wolves had left themselves exposed to the Spireguard who opened fire with everything they had, heavy weapons tearing through the Space Marines without a care, and the sheer number of lasbolts being enough to overcome their armour. Howling in anger, the Wolves pulled back, and elated by his success, Heru-Ur followed them, driving them back through the smoke.
Abruptly, the smoke cleared and Heru-Ur found himself on one of the promenades looking down onto a plaza. The destruction before him would have made him weep if he’d still been able. A vile bestial roar broke him from his reverie and he turned to see a slate grey dreadnought stomping towards him. It was one of the newer models – bulky and blocky whereas Heru-Ur’s body was sleek and rounded – but no less deadly. Heru-Ur raised his multi-melta and fired once. The blast struck true but seemed to have no effect. The hull of the dreadnought was festooned with rune carved bones and wolf hide fetishes, and as Heru-Ur watched the melta beam dissipate he noticed some of the bones crumble to dust and a glow in the runes dim.
“Hypocrites,” rumbled Heru-Ur – the Wolves were always accusing the Thousand Sons of sorcery and witchcraft, and yet here they were employing warpcraft of their own. The dreadnought charged towards him and he brought his khopesh up into a defensive stance. The enemy dreadnought swung a fist and Heru-Ur twisted aside, narrowly dodging the blow. Dancing backwards, he continued to dodge blows while striking out with his own weapon whenever he spotted an opening. The enemy dreadnought was nimble, more nimble than anyone would expect such an ungainly looking device to be, and as such Heru-Ur was unable to land anything approaching a direct hit. Fortunately he was not aiming for a killing blow. Instead, each strike slowly whittled away at the talismans festooning the dreadnoughts chassis; snipping binding ropes and slashing pelts.
As he backpedalled, Heru-Ur became aware of the edge of the promenade growing ever near. Switching from a defensive stance to an offensive one, he lunged forwards with his khopesh, but with lupine speed his foe caught it in a claw-like fist. Lightning crackled as the two energy sheathed weapons met. Metal groaned as the two war machines strove against each other, their strength evenly balanced. Opening himself to the Great Ocean, Heru-Ur drew on the powers of the warp and channelled them into his force sword. With a deafening thunderclap, the blade erupted with arcane energies. The sword went flying from Heru-Ur’s hand and the arm of his foe twisted into a mangled lump of metal. The Wolf roared in anger, speakers embedded into its shoulders twisting the pre-recorded animal cries into something vile and vicious.
Crouching low, the dreadnought grappled with Heru-Ur and forced him back. With a grunt, it tipped him up and toppled him over, demolishing the ornate balustrade and knocking him off the promenade. As he fell, Heru-Ur let out a bark of laughter. His mind went back, remembering his youth. He remembered the time when, as an initiate of the Legion he went into the temple of the Corvidae cult where he’d studied for a short time in an attempt to further his understanding and insight into his abilities. He had been ill-suited to the scholastic domain of the Corvidae, just as he’d been told by his masters, but stubbornly he’d insisted on spending at least some time in study there. In all the long hours he had cloistered himself in the temple he’d had but one vision – a foretelling of his own death. The vision was one of fire; an inferno consuming his body. Yet here he was falling.
Heru-Ur struck the ground with enough force to crack the marble flagstones and buckle the plating on his left shin, but miraculously was otherwise undamaged. Groaning, he clambered to his feet and looked up. Above him the enemy dreadnought crouched on the edge, the speakers bellowing out howls of triumph. Infuriated, Heru-Ur aimed his melta and opened fire. At this distance the beams dissipated before they reached his foe, but it was close enough that it still got buffeted by waves of superheated air. With a growl of surprise, the dreadnought lost its footing and toppled over the edge. Heru-Ur dove aside as it fell and narrowly avoided being crushed beneath its bulk.
The two dreadnoughts picked themselves up and began to circle each other. As they did so, Heru-Ur became aware of Space Wolves gathering around them, however none made a move to attack and assist their brother. Instead they began to woop and howl, and beat their armour with their fists. Encouraged by their cheering, the Space Wolf dreadnought lunged at Heru-Ur, beating at him with its power fist and the mangled remains of its power claw. Frantically, Heru-Ur backed away, deflecting blows with his own arms. A flagstone gave way underfoot and Heru-Ur fell to his knees, raising his combat arm to ward of the pummelling blows of his opponent.
A plan formed in his head and he mentally disengaged the safeties on his melta. Swinging the weapon round, he pointed it at the dreadnoughts feet and opened fire. Blast after blast pummelled into the flagstones turning them molten. Knocked off balance, the Space Wolf dreadnought ceased its onslaught momentarily. A moment was all Heru-Ur needed.
Lightning fast, he snatched up the secondary blade stowed beneath his melta and plunged it into the sarcophagus of his opponent, and not a moment too soon, he reflected as the barrel of the melta erupted under the stress and heat of overuse.
The Space Wolf dreadnought staggered back, wrenching the blade from his grasp, its howls of rage diminishing to sad, pathetic whimpers. With a final whimper, the dreadnought toppled over, lifeless. Around them the chanting and drumming died down in shock.
Heru-Ur staggered to his feet and glanced about. Professional warriors, it didn’t take the Wolves long to overcome their shock and thus he had no chance to rest. Bolter shells pinged off his hull as he centred himself and opened his mind to the aether. Lurching to life, Heru-Ur’s hand shot out, azure fire springing to his finger tips. He hurled the fireball into his audience, the impact sending a whole squad flying.
“For Prospero!” cried Heru-Ur and charged, his bulk smashing aside marines like rag dolls. As he fought, he drew more on his powers, arcane energies springing to life to obliterate those around him. On he charged, forging his way through the crowd, not caring where the charge took him.
The Wolves drew back and Heru-Ur began to laugh in triumph. The laughter soon died on his lips.
A tall figure in gilded armour strode through the Wolvish ranks, his high helm towering over his allies. Doubt entered Heru-Ur’s mind for the first time that day. What were Custodes doing here? Moreover, why were they fighting alongside the Wolves instead of against them?
The Custodian marched right up to Heru-Ur and levelled his spear. Heru-Ur brought his melta to bare, then cursed himself for his lapse in judgment – the weapon was useless for anything other than bludgeoning now. Grunting in frustration, he took a step towards the Custodian. The Custodian sidestepped and leapt forwards, faster than Heru-Ur had anticipated. The spear was a blur of silver and gold, striking Heru-Ur thrice before he could react. Every counter he made was too slow, every riposte met thin air. Dents and cracks began to form in his hull, the Custodian exploiting every weakness and stress inflicted in Heru-Ur’s duel with the dreadnought.
Frustrated, Heru-Ur channelled his powers and stomped down with one foot. The shockwave scattered Wolves, but the Custodian agilely leapt into the air moments before he could be caught. Heru-Ur lashed out with more eldritch blasts and for the first time the Custodian was on the back foot. Ceasing the psychic barrage, Heru-Ur bounded forwards and managed to grasp the Custodian’s spear. With a mighty tug, he yanked it from his foe’s grasp and tossed it aside. Unnoticed, the weapon span end over end, the force of the throw taking it over a nearby marble railing where it fell down to a lower level, skewering a Wolf Lord in the head as he lead an assault on a group of beleaguered Spireguard.
Unperturbed, the Custodian snatched up a sword from a fallen Wolf and attacked once more. In retaliation, Heru-Ur began to draw on his powers once more, but paused. Long dead synapses were beginning to reawaken, and he could feel sensations seeping into his flesh body. Concerned he turned his thoughts inwards, inspecting himself. What he detected horrified him.
Cocooned in life support wires and amniotic fluids, his organic body was secured safely in the sarcophagus of his dreadnought body, or at least, that was the theory. There was one thing the defence systems could not protect against – the body itself. Triggered by the surge of aetheric energy he’d been drawn on, the Flesh Change was now ravaging Heru-Ur’s carcass. Flesh ran like candle wax; bone splintered and grew into spikes; skin hardened, cracking into carapace and scales. Horrified by what was happening, Heru-Ur stood immobile, his attacker’s blade striking his hull unopposed. Realising what he had to do, Heru-Ur lurched into action.
Taking the Custodian unawares, Heru-Ur grappled his gilded foe and held him tight to his chest. Charging into the audience of Wolves who had gathered, he threw himself down on top of the Custodian, pinning him under his bulk.
As they lay there in the dust, the Custodian began to laugh. It was a wet, bloody laugh where his lungs, torn by Heru-Ur’s unexpected attack began to fill with fluid. “Fool,” laughed the Custodian haughtily, “You will not slay me here. I know my fate. It is my destiny to die in fire. The Emperor himself prophesised to me that I would fall in an inferno, taking down a mighty foe. How could such a perfect being as he be wrong?”
Heru-Ur did not reply. Subconsciously, he was aware of the Wolves circling him. Inside his sarcophagus, what remained of his mouth twisted into a parody of a smile. His limbs whined as they powered down and his power plant hummed with energy as he diverted everything into a feedback loop. Turning his attention back to the Custodian, Heru-Ur whispered a single phrase as power left his vox systems.
“None of us can escape our Destiny.”
With that, the power plant overloaded. For an instant a miniature sun flared into existence on the surface of Prospero, immolating those nearby; the shear heat roasting those Wolves slightly further away in their armour and turning dust, ash and stone for several yards around to glass. A psychic shockwave thrust out from the blast, penetrating minds and overloading voxes for near a half mile around. The shockwave carried but one word. A single word. No physical damage did it bare; no impact on the material world did it wreak, save that caused by those cowed by the mental shout. A single word. Heru-Ur’s final word.
Last edited by Dīnadan; 08-26-11 at 09:23 AM.