The Choral City
The Choral City, Capital of Isstvan III. A beautiful place, despite the circumstances, with incredible stone and marble roads, organic shaped structures, and fantastical artwork. Statues and monuments everywhere one looked. Floral colors pristinely dashed upon the cityscape. It was also immense in size.
This morning, all of you landed in the Choral City, your squads by your side. Your men, your brothers, by your side.
With the sunrise, came the answer to rebellion, shot through the atmosphere in a hailstorm of drop pods. Those in pale green toward the heretical, massive religious site called the Siren Hold, to silence the enemy’s spirit. Those in elegant purple, towards the Precentors Palace, to cut the head from the snake.
The World Eaters landed in the city’s center, to wipe out its heart: the citizens themselves. The Death Guard were sent to the city’s western edge, to crush the massed defensive strength of the Isstvanian military.
The city’s defenders were much better prepared than you all had thought. All of you lost brothers during the fight. Forces were scattered, many landing off target, and having to fight through ground they had been given no specifics about. A shameful amount of factors were not going according to plan. Yet, despite these downfalls, it took the combined effort of Astartes from four different Legions only a few hours to achieve all of their goals and objectives, and take the city in victory. None of them would have expected any less.
None of them, none of you, expected the vox in your helmets to speak of an Isstvanian bio-weapon, a last ditch effort, a suicide bombing. All of you, for one reason or another, found yourselves Southwest of the Palace, somewhere far between it and the western edge of the City. You all scrambled to find shelter.
Within minutes, the entire world died and burned. You waited in cover, while massed screams sounded all around you, Astartes even, screaming in terror. Your shelter was superheated to scorching levels, and you waited while until it had barely cooled enough for you to finally open the barricade and step outside.
Nothing is recognizable. Nothing but ash fills the sky. Dying fires still burn throughout the ruins, sending heavy smoke trails into the air. A storm-like wind, though dry and hot, ceaselessly races through the area you stand.
It is now clear to you. The Isstvanians did not do this.
Your drop pod landed far from its designated target. Unsure of which direction the rest of Second Company had landed, you and the group of Marines you landed with made their way through the city the best they could by themselves. Captain Torgaddon and the other command elements with him did their best to guide you toward them, but they were bogged down by rebel forces had little time to spare in helping you reach them.
Stumbling upon one fortification after another, the squad began to dwindle in number until you came to one of many smaller religious shrines where a trio of warsingers took the rest of your squad before your plasma pistol seared away the last one’s existence. Shortly afterwards, another vox from your Captain, who told all who heard to find sealed shelter immediately. Your intuition brought you inside the shrine where you found an arched doorway opening to a long dark passageway. Never once letting go of the Company Standard, you slammed the doors shut, just before the entire city started screaming.
When you emerge, your vox unit will crackle back to life, but that is the only thing crackling back to life in the hellish landscape that is now the Choral City before you. This was Horus’s doing. There was no doubt.
Your drop pod had landed off course as well, never reaching the Siren Hold. You had ridden down in a squad alongside your friend and brother-in-arms, Nal Verustan.
You received little vox communication, the commanding officers of the first wave not being from your group’s Company. Their attentions were clearly already divided too many ways. Your squad did the best they could traversing the city streets, coming across several rebel strongpoints and defensive battlements. After a couple of hours had passed, only you and one other Sons of Horus legionary remained alive, your friend Nal amongst those that had fallen.
After hearing the warning message of an incoming bio-weapon attack, you ran full speed toward an Isstvanian bunker that looked like it was still intact, likely abandoned during a retreat from the World Eaters carnage-making. The other Marine who had been with you hadn’t reacted nearly as fast. You pushed the thin doorway shut before your comrade could make it in, and listened to his fists pounding on the door, and his screams as the Life Eater virus turned him to sludge inside of his armor.
When you step outside into the ash filled, firescape wasteland, your eye catches on to the only bit of color thats not gray, black, or orange. Three specks of purple in the distance emerging from their own, apparently successful, hiding spot.
You also hear your vox unit crackle back to life.
Loculus, Aurellian, and Gratus:
It did not take long for you and the rest of 10th Company to figure out that Captain Tarvitz had not traveled to the surface, Ancient Rylanor descending in his stead. Perhaps begrudgingly, you followed 13th Company’s lead into the Precentors Palace.
First, shortly after Captain Lucius had taken the head of Praal, you received word of your Captain landing in the Choral City. He moved quickly throughout the ranks of Emperor Children still in the Palace, and before you could catch sight of him, you received word that Tarvitz was on his way to warn the World Eaters of the same news he had brought to Lucius. News about an incoming viral bombardment.
Both Decurions agreed they would rather go after their Captain than risk having him die alone amongst the ranks of World Eaters.
Taking several Sergeants and their squads with you away from the palace, the Decurions sealed the fate of all but one of them. Before catching up to Tarvitz, the distant pops high up in the sky told you that you were out of time. Already able to see the smoke trails of the viral payload dropping toward the surface, the band of Emperors Children darted to the best shelter they could find. Between the virus and the firestorm, only the bunker shelter the three of you found together proved resilient enough.
When you exit the bunker, which was in the basement of a civilian building, you walk back into the street. Moments later, your vox units all crackle back to life. If there had been any lingering doubt with Tarvtiz’s news of betrayal, there was none left now.
Tharr and Straeson:
The two of you, like most of the World Eaters who had landed near the city’s center, had run rampant in your killing sprees. As long as another World Eater was still in sight, you had all kept going, butchering the rebellious populace without mercy. There was no way to tell where exactly you had ended up when you received a sudden and surprising vox communication from Captain Ehrlen warning you of an incoming bio-weapon attack from the Isstvanians and to find shelter. They were going to bomb their own city rather than let the Imperium have it back.
Apparently close to the western walls, a set of military bunkers was readily available nearby. The men of your squads ran into adjacent bunkers and battlements, but as fortune would have it, it was only yours that would withstand the full onslaught of the viral payload and subsequent firestorm. When you exit the bunker and your vox units crackle back to life, the only other Astartes you see emerge from any of the other battlements, is a lone Death Guard marine, a plasma cannon clamped to his backside.
You recognize what has happened. This was not the rebels. This was your own, still up in the sky on their space ships.
You had pushed, pushed like never before. First through one trench after another. The grinding advance toward the main city wall. Mud caked your lower half, and blood the rest along with it. There had been mines, turret fire, gates, barricades, traps, everything. Your trusted armor and Plasma weapon held true once more, keeping you alive through it all. Somehow, you found that you had pushed further than most of your legionaries. You were the only devastator of the squad left, but you were flanked by a pair of tactical marines that followed the paths you had cleared.
After breaching the main wall, and with no commands coming in to stop your advancement, the three of you simply continued on, destroying and killing what opposition you could find until finally an unnerving vox message hit your ears. There was no time to spare. Even in the distance, you could see the massive form of the Dies Irae stopping dead in its tracks and falling silent.
The two tactical marines separated from you at the last second, forcing you to shut yourself into a battlement alone. Waiting through the next several minutes, you exit the battlement alive, as true as any Death Guard could have dreamt. Hoping your brothers had successfully found cover elsewhere, you see no sign of them. Instead, to your surprise, all you see is a pair of World Eater Sergeants, as drenched in gore as you are.
The bigger surprise mutes all others, at this moment. The reality of the betrayal that just occurred, slowly sinking its dark, sickening blades into your heart. A poison your lungs were never prepared for.
None of you can interact with any of the players from another legion just yet, but you can make the decision to start moving towards any you see. The focus on this post of course, is the realization of the betrayal and its toll on the City.
Most of my posts shouldn't be this long, as this one includes an introduction as well the player pieces. Not to mention everyone is starting out separated. No promises though, as I tend to carried away...Anyway, hope you have fun writing for this beginning. As always PM me if you have any questions.
The drop pod carrying Darius and his squad had landed in the plaza at the northern face of the palace. His first sight when the sides of the drop pod hammered down was captain Lucius slaying a pack of the palace guards, their black glass armor cracking and shattering under the blows of his sword. He had always admired the captain for his skills in close combat, as he should, Lucius's movement was fluid as he pivoted from target to target, never letting a blow land on him. The shout from one of the istvaanians shook him out of his trance as he caught sight of a blade arching towards him. Darius quickly side stepped and snapped a quick punch towards the humans face, instantly killing him. He stepped over the body and released a hail of bolter rounds at a crowd of the glass armored warriors, watching the armor crumble as the rounds exploded. The brutal combat was over in no less than 10 minutes and hundreds of bodies were strewn around, a testimony to the effectiveness of the astartes.
The day continued on like this, advancing and killing all who rebelled against the imperium until a vox hail from captain Saul Tarvitz, warning all about a virus strike stopped the whole advance. Every astartes in the immediate area seeked shelter. As Darius and his squad were moving towards a bunker, an officer called to them and ordered them to accompany him in an search for Saul tarvitz. However they would never thing Tarvitz as the virus strike arrived sooner than they had expected. Darius looked up and saw the virus bombs popping, sending a green cloud of the life eater virus across choral city. He was suddenly grabbed by one of the decurions and dragged into a nearby civilian building. Inside the basement, he and the two others heard the screams as the city died. when they emerged from their shelter, the city was a very different place. soon after the vox came back online.
After hearing the vox message carrying the news of their betrayal, Darius fell to his knee's, wondering what would drive the Warmaster to commit such an act of heresy against the emperor of mankind... his own father. As he looked at the destruction that had been released upon the occupants of Choral city, he wondered what they must have felt as they were doomed to die, knowing that they couldn't stop it or even try to prevent it. Darius looked up at the emotionless helms of his commanders, knowing that they must be thinking the same things as him. Pulling himself together, Darius picked up his bolter from the ever growing layer of ash that was falling as a result of the whole continent getting vaporized by the Warmasters lance strike. He now knew that he would not fall until every last traitor paid for what they had done this day. Darius removed his helm, wanting to see the destruction through his own eyes and not the tinted glass of his battle plate. The very moment that the helm was removed, he was hit by the overwhelming smell of scorched rockrette. The original beauty of the city was no more, for where once stood buildings of great architectural achievement, now stood burnt out husks of which many were still burning from the firestorm.
Turning towards the two decurions that had ordered him to accompany them in their quest to find captain Tarvitz, Darius starts to wonder how many of his brothers from the other legions managed to get to a shelter before the viral strike, hoping that their shelters were resilient enough to protect them from the same fate of so many astartes that day. The acrid smell of the air was finally too much for Darius to handle, so he put his helm back on, glad when the air filters in his armor replaced the the smell with recycled air. "what are my orders, sirs" Darius requested.
Kyros lead the 7th Assault Squad through the streets of the city, their jump packs carrying them over buildings and battlements with ease and allowing them to easily flank their enemies, blood running down the white gantlet of the World Eater. His power axe flickering with a blue and white wash of energies, the booming thuds of the the Titan weapons in the background punctuating their every action.
As the last of the rebels in the city had been subdued the booming shelling of the Legio Titans suddenly stopped. Unusual, typically they continued with their barrage or at least orders were issued for the cease fire of the massive Titans. Kyros heard no such orders over the vox line. The grating voice of Captain Ehrlen erupted over the vox comm, issuing orders for all the World Eaters to seek shelter form an imminent bio attack from the remaining rebels. Where could the rebels even launch a last gasp strike from? Kyros thought before quickly springing into action, his squad perched atop a ruined building of the capital city. "7th Squad on me!" He bellowed, firing his thrusters and launching himself to the ground below, seeing a scattering of other Astartes below, all seeking shelter from the supposed threat.
The Titans have stopped firing... The thought crept into his mind as he lead his squad in an effort to seek shelter, the realization of the cease fire of the Titans lending credence suddenly to the warning of a bio attack. The Titans would shut down and seal themselves up if there was indeed a legitimate threat of a bio attack. But why hadn't there been a mass alert?
Their large, bulbous jump packs got in the way, they did not allow for the assault marines to move as fleet of foot as their Brother Astartes of the tactical squads when they maneuvered on foot. As they came into view of a shelter that looked as promising as any, in so much as it was the nearest one. A crackling hiss in the sky pulled all of their heads upwards, a vapor trail of a projectile careening towards the surface of the planet. Without having time to think of the implications of such missile Kyros urged his brothers onwards, firing the thrusters on his jump pack once more, desperately trying to get into the shelter. As his feet touched down he could just see the door of the bunker, far too narrow to accommodate an Astartes jump pack, barely wide enough for their tactical squad Brethren to get in. As he deftly unhooked the various clamps and locks that connected the jump pack to him, Kyros freed himself and stumbled the last desperate few meters. The moment of impact was at hand though, many of his Brothers having landed too far away to make it to the bunker on foot. Kyros stood at the threshold of the doorway to the bunker, holding the massive thick slab of a door open, his axe and plasma pistol stowed away, waving with his free hand for his brothers to get into the bunker. Only the nearest, the eldest of 7th Squad, Brother Rasul had any chance of making it. Desperately clawing and fighting with the links and clamps of the jump pack, Rasul lunged, his pack still attached, knowing that he himself could not make it into the bunker now. Rasul slammed into Kyros, knocking him back, his final action of service to the 7th Squad would be to save their Sergeant, to save Kyros. "Brother Sergeant Kyros, it has been an honor to serve with you, but The Emperor has chosen different Fates for us." The Veteran slammed the thick slab door shut to the bunker just as the virus bomb struck.
Kyros sat up, rushing to the door, slamming it with his fists, knowing that he had no choice but to accept their fates at that moment, letting loose with a vengeful promise, "Brother Rasul, I shall avenge you all!"
As the dust settled and the door to the bunker was opened, Kyros looked to the ash mound just in front of the door, speaking in a low tone to himself more than anything, "Brother Rasul..." His attention then turning to the surviving Sergeant, the markings on his armor indicated he was from a Tactical Squad (Marcus Tharr), "Brother Sergeant, I am Kyros, Sergeant of 7th Assault Squad...My men did not make it, any survivors from your squadron?" He looked over his fellow Sergeant, seeing that his posture and vitals indicated that he was just as surprised by the damage at the surface as he himself. This was no improvised Rebel attack, no, this was a virus bomb. And only one army had access to this weapon of catastrophic destruction, The Imperium, and there was only one who could have issued such an order. Horus, The Warmaster had issued the orders to fire a virus bomb upon a planet with tens of thousands of Brother Astartes on the surface. This was an act of open betrayal, of both Brother Astartes and the Emperor himself.
"Hold! state your legion, name and rank!" The threads that held them together were frayed, and as the mud and blood caked visage of an olive green power armored Death Guard came into view Kyros could not bring himself to immediately trust this newcomer, especially one with a plasma cannon strapped to his back. His combat shield was on his left arm, his plasma pistol held in his left hand, his power axe had found its way into his right hand, fully expecting the support of his fellow World Eater in any confrontation that should arise, feeling that the only one he could trust right in this moment, would be this Brother Sergeant of the World Eaters that had survived with him in the same bunker.
The sounds of bolters, lascannons, and heavy artillery filled the air around Alaros as he felt his hearts beating within his head. His adrenaline had spiked as his eyes shifted back and forth across the smoking trench lines. He searched for his next prey studying the chaotic environment for even the slightest movement. This is what he lived for, this is what he had been made for! The Warmaster had chosen to give the Death Guard the honor of leading a massive, unstoppable onslaught against the primary gates of Choral City. He hadn't been privy to command decisions, or the reasoning behind them, but he could figure out the truth of it. Most of the Choral City's defenses were centered here since they had, for some odd reason, felt that the Imperial forces would attack through here and not from above. Their logic was flawed since this planet had already been brought to compliance.
Alaros' eyes looked over at the slumped form of one of his battle-brothers, Brother Argos, cradled in one arm by an Apothecary whose name was lost to him. In the distance he saw the broken, burnt remnants of several drop pods scattered throughout the quagmire of trenches and beyond. His blood still burned with the incompetence it reeked of. The Death Guard were a stern and unforgiving legion that pushed their mortal serfs to the very best that could be expected of them, always encouraging them to endure their hardships with a stoic heart. He had no doubt that the mortal serfs who had plotted the coordinates for the drop pods were the very best ... and yet this debacle didn't give any weight to that belief. Dozens of his brothers had been deposited right into the enemy trenches being cut apart as soon as their pod's doors opened. Others had been dropped into kill-zones, with almost eerie precision.
His drop had been precarious but not outright suicidal. The doors to his pod opened and only two of his brothers died in a hail of gunfire. Alaros grunted as he turned away from the testament to incompetence and began to track forward again his left and right flank guarded by Brothers Haban and Gahal respectively. They were armed with only bolters which complimented his plasma cannon perfectly. The three of them, originally eight when they left their drop pods, had broken through trench line after trench line. The rest of their squad, including Sergeant Balasu, had not been so lucky. The sergeant had died not long after they'd taken yet another trench an ambush turret coming up close by and shredding him with large caliber ammunition. Two of his brothers had died to the countless mines scattered almost haphazardly between trenches giving them no rhyme or reason to discern. One other had simply fallen over dead. Other legions would have likely collapsed under such pressure. No doubt Fulgrim's 'dancers' would have collapsed in the face of such adversity and he wagered even Angron's butchers' would have found their fill of blood. Not the Death Guard, not the sons of Mortarion, and certainly not him.
Brother Haban jumped to cover as another string of artillery fire racked their position. Alaros half-jumped, was half-knocked into a trench from the concussive force. His ears rang and his vision turned to static for a moment as he heard Haban shouting over the vox to Gahal. Alaros hauled himself onto his side and quickly picked himself up.
'Anyone dead,' he asked over the vox.
'Negative,' responded Gahal, 'Minor wound to my thigh, shrapnel punched through the armor.'
'You'll live,' said Alaros.
'This is madness,' said Haban, 'Where is the rest of the legion?'
Alaros took a moment to listen to the vox chatter and shook his head, 'Everywhere. We're pushing forward but its a mess. I think we may be ahead of everyone else. Muranu Squad is the closest to us and they are at least a kilometer behind us.'
The two brothers made jabs at that comment. No wonder they were getting so much attention. Alaros looked over the top of the trench to see Haban leaning against the burnt out husk Istvaanian equipment that had become improvised cover in the no-man's land. Gahal was up against the broken remnants of a wall and his hand was covering the wound to his thigh. Of coarse it wasn't nearly as minor as he let on. It would undoubtedly heal but would slow him down. Alaros looked back to where he'd seen the apothecary but he had vanished, only the broken form of Brother Argos with his chest plate ripped open and covered in blood remained.
'Brothers! Be warned,' screamed a voice over the vox. Alaros looked and saw it was a signal overriding most others, 'The Istvaanians have unleashed a bio weapon! Seek cover immediately! Armor will not save you!'
Alaros looked at both of his brothers and then behind him to where the towering form of the Dies Irae stood motionless. Its guns no longer fired and for the first time Alaros wondered just how long that booming had been absent? Alaros slung his plasma cannon over to his backpack where it mag-locked. He jumped over the trench and braved standing up. The Istvaanian guns still fired? Suicide, he thought.
'Move,' he roared to his brothers and pointed towards a string of bunkers and emplacements just further ahead, 'There!'
Gahal and Haban rushed forward not bothering to fire while Alaros came up behind them, trying his best to keep pace despite the hulking cannon on his back. The air was literally raining with enemy gunfire, the shrieks of their strange warp-witches screaming in the air above him. As they approached the next string of bunkers he realized that they appeared to already have battle damage? How far had they penetrated into the city? Battle damage covered the one directly in front of them but Alaros' keen eyes and decades of experience in slogging through trenches and blasting through fortifications twice this formidable showed him that despite the damage the bunker was clearly more stable than the ones around it. Gahal and Haban did not notice this and for the rest of Alaros' dour and pained existence he would always wonder how they failed to notice the numerous stress cracks over the other bunkers that gave clear signs to their structural degradation.
Above him Alaros heard a snap and crack and looked up for a moment to see the mist of death exploding above them and leaving vapor trails towards the ground. Other Legions may not notice the subtle coloration of the mist or the dreadful 'intent' that was evident in how it slowly waft towards the ground almost cocky in its purpose. His breath caught in his throat at what his eyes told him to be true but his mind reeled at with all its conditioning and notions of brotherhood. Perhaps had he not looked up that day he would have shouted a warning to Gahal and Haban but instead he set his head forward and pushed all the harder towards the bunker as the world began to die around him.
He hit the door and immediately slammed it shut and stumbled backwards against the wall his breath catching in his throat. He checked the door and found that it was self-sealing. Inside the bunker he found only blood smears and dead Istvaanians. Outside he could hear an entire world dying around him and his mind fumbled to give some justification for what he knew was going on! Minutes passed as the dying slowly quieted. Some will leave, he thought as his mood darkened further every second, they will think it is safe. He knew it would come, it was standard procedure. It came upon Istvaan III like the fiery breath of a war god. The lances from space would trigged the noxious gases, he remembered. For in his long years of service to the Imperium, that now ironically was trying to murder him, he had seen this same thing play out on a handful of damned worlds.
The roar of the fire consumed all of his hearing as the flames scorched everything and the temperature within the bunker rose to lethal levels -- if he hadn't had on his armor. For all the mocking of his reverence for the old 'scrap of iron' it saved his life that day.
Once the last of the roaring of flames died down he gave it a handful of more minutes before standing up and approaching the door. He opened it with a hiss and the heat wash came over him as he stepped out onto the blasted, broken remnants of the Choral City. He looked around hoping beyond hope to see Haban emerge from the bunkers. Gahal was dead and Alaros knew it he probably died before ever reaching his bunker. A quick glance revealed to him that all the bunkers in the area, bar one, were blasted away in the firestorm.
Alaros looked into the sky. It was a scene of hell as the ash from the billions dead rose up to cloud out a sun that would never shrine clearly upon this world for millennia. He was under no illusion as to what had happened here. The Life Eater Virus had been employed, a weapon that nobody in the galaxy had except Mankind. And even then there were only ever two people in the whole galaxy who could give the order to use it. The Emperor and the Warmaster.
With a great sadness weighing upon his heart, slowly being overcome by rage, he growled to a man that he knew couldn't hear him but he growled anyway, 'Why father?'
As Sebastian and the other surviving Emperor's Children made their way back up to the street, his heart sank. He stood motionless, looking out over the incalculable destruction that had been wrought around them. He had brought his men away from the Palace and into this and in doing so ensured their demise. Though there were no bodies he was sure none of them could have survived. The Life Eater was too perfect a weapon. For a moment he considered whether he had survived. Or had he perished in the bunker? Was he now no more than a restless spectre doomed to haunt the ruins of this city for eternity? Or was this not the Choral City at all. Was this the Hell the ancient Terran tomes had spoken of? Everything seemed so distant, so unreal.
He removed his helmet and the hot thick air rushed against his face, blowing away such thoughts of spirits and afterlives. That was not the way of Imperial Truth. But that left only one option. This was real. This had happened. It was clear this was no Isstvanian. Sebastian had seen the Life Eater deployed before. He knew how it worked. He knew the way it left a world. This was it. He looked to the sky. Maybe it had not been Horus. Maybe it was Angron who had betrayed them. Maybe even now battle was taking place in orbit as the Warmaster was bringing the Red Angel to justice. But there were no signs. No flashes of lance batteries. No explosions of destroyed frigates and escorts. Such had been too much to hope for.
He allowed the significance of such a moment to sink into him. The scale of it was maddening. Not just here, not just the destruction of this world and the thousands upon thousands of Astartes upon it, but the whole galaxy. The Great Crusade was over and the dream of the perfect Imperium shattered. The life he had known since the age of twelve had ended. Everything he had ever known was different. He thought of Chemos, of home. He wondered what would become of it in the days and months and years to come. He thought of his childhood friend Aleksander. He had been a sickly boy, unsuitable for the Emperor's Children. Sebastian cursed him his simple existence. His ignorance of the galaxy and his innocence. He realised he was cursing a man surely a century deceased and wry, pained laugh escaped his lips. He shook his head slowly as he realised how detached he had become from Chemos. In that moment he longed for home. Longed to be a wide eyed boy again, running through the great Galleries and dreaming of life among the stars beside the great Fulgrim. He was thankful that Loculus and Gratus were there, for had he no need to stay strong he would no doubt have fallen to his knees and wept openly until the ash flowed in rivers of his tears. But he could not afford such a luxury.
"What are my orders Sirs?" the voice came from behind him.
He turned. "We find Captain Tarvitz." he said, his voice cutting through the hot winds with elegant authority. "That is what we left the palace to do and we shall follow through with it. He shall need us now more than ever. He was headed to the World Eaters, so we head for the city centre. As we proceed we will attempt to re-establish contact with the rest of the Legion. Any questions?"
Preparations were underway. The Legion, four Legions, were going to war. Isstvan III, the traitor Vardus Praal, was going to be crushed, into the dirt, by the might of Horus Lupercal. It was a gross show of power, the Warmaster was throwing his weight around, it was a bold declaration - Thus fall all traitors.
Akkad Krateron, Son of Horus, looked down at Isstvan III with distaste. He was alone, unarmoured, wearing a coat of mail and a long, flowing robe of silk. He had recently returned from the Minotaur, overseeing operations aboard the cruiser on behalf of his Captain, Serghar Targost. The Legion was changing, Krateron thought, chewing his lip. Since Davin, that accursed, swampy moon, the Legion was becoming something else, something more menacing, something where friends had become enemies, where rifts had sprung up between the closest of brothers. Now, come Isstvan, Krateron hoped that that damage would be undone, that the Sons of Horus could march into the stars, greater than the Luna Wolves ever had, more triumphant, where their name would be uttered in reverence and in fear. Though, that had always been the case, Krateron mused.
'Brother,' A voice called, behind him. Krateron wheeled. Nal Verustan, with his golden locks and golden eyes, was standing behind him, equally as unarmoured and unarmed as Krateron. 'You summoned me?'
'I did,' Krateron said, clasping his brother's hand, thumb around thumb. He smiled, stepped back, and straightened. Verustan was his senior, a Lieutenant, though he and Krateron had long been friends, despite their differing cradle-worlds. Krateron talked with the harsh, drawling accent of Cthonia; Verustan's accent, though watered down by two centuries of warfare, was unmistakably Terran. 'I have a request.'
Verustan pursed his lips. 'Speak.'
'I wish to accompany you,' Krateron nodded towards Isstvan. Hundreds of ships orbited it, circling like sharks, ready to unleash the doom in their holds. 'Down there. To the Choral City.'
'Why?' Verustan asked, walking towards the view glass. 'Targost hasn't been selected.'
'I am a warrior, first and foremost, Nal,' Krateron said back, smiling still. 'Isstvan will be glorious. Would I miss the chance to bring glory to the Primarch and the Emperor?'
Verustan laughed. 'Of course not,' And then, after a moment, he grimaced. 'You are not my man to command, brother. I am sorry.'
Now it was Krateron who laughed. 'I sought out Serghar before you. He approves of my reasoning, permission has been granted, so long as you return me, in one piece, I can come.'
The Lieutenant paused. 'Very well, then. Make your preparations, Akkad, and report to me. Planet-fall commences in four hours.'
The Choral City, once a monument of beauty, with long, wide avenues of marble and odd, organic structures. Now it was a battlefield, corpses littered the streets, buildings had collapsed, smoke billowed around the feet of Space Marine and rebel alike. Verustan and his Marines were dead, slaughtered, save for Kel Genaddon, a young Cthonian who followed Krateron's footsteps like a loyal hound.
They were advancing along a processional avenue, staying in the shadows of domestic habitations, occasionally snapping off shots at fleeing Isstvanians. Their cause was lost, now, and they realised it. Death and destruction, in the form of Space Marines, ruled here, now. Vardus Praal was dead, they were saying, slain by some Emperor's Child. Not that that mattered to Krateron, only survival did - Their drop-pod had been knocked off course, coming down into a market square, southeast of the Precentor's Palace, and for the rest of the day, Krateron and his companions had been battling their way westwards.
'What have we done, Akkad?' Genaddon remarked, as they marched along, bolters held at the ready. 'The hand of the ship is on me.'
Krateron came to an halt, gripping Genaddon's wrist tightly. 'Our duty,' He growled, regarding Genaddon with his ruby-red eyepieces. 'What was expected of us. Do you doubt the Primarch, Kel?'
'Do you doubt the Emperor? The Imperium? Have you lost your stomach for war? Must I report you for cravenness?'
'Be quiet,' Krateron said, pushing Genaddon away. 'Do you hear that?'
'No, I hear nothing.'
'Exactly,' Krateron hissed. 'All day, the Dies Irae has been firing away, and now nothing. Something is wrong.'
'Could the Isstvanians have felled it?'
There was a sonic boom. Windows broke, glass raining down upon the Sons of Horus, bouncing off their helmets and shoulder-plates. Genaddon ducked, but Krateron looked upwards, staring.
'The second wave,' Krateron remarked, seeing streaks upon the sky. He blink-clicked, magnifying the image, and then cursed. Too thin, too little, not drop-pods. Missiles. They began to fall apart, opening up like metal flowers, releasing puffs of gas.
Krateron was running, then. He turned, mag-locking his bolter, and sprinted down the street, towards a bunker. The door lay ajar, though the building was remarkably untouched, displaying no signs of damage, no bloodstains, anything that suggested war had been fought here. Behind him, he could hear Genaddon doing the same, though slower, having been caught unaware by the sudden bombardment. Too young, too inexperienced, too hopeful.
He skidded into the bunker, slamming the door behind him, and smiled as the air pressurised. These bunkers were designed by the Imperials, they were built to last.
Genaddon began to pound on the door. He shouted, furious, calling Krateron a coward and a traitor, and then he started to scream. Virus bombing, Krateron thought, as the Choral City died. Tens of thousands, more, were dying, screaming as their bones turned to jelly, as their eyes melted and their skin sloughed away. Genaddon's fingers screeched as he collapsed, dragging over the bunker door, and then everything fell silent.
The firestorm followed. It always did. Krateron did not see the blast, but he felt it. The bunker shook round him, racks of tinned food and ammunition tipped over, the lights fizzled, died and then exploded. He knelt down, as dust trickled over his armour, and listened. He lost track of time, as the fires raged, hissing and crackling through the Choral City.
When it was done, Krateron opened the bunker door, and surveyed the damage. Rock had turned to slag, bubbling in the head, dripping onto the floor. Ash and embers swirled around him, oddly pretty, obscuring his vision beyond a few feet.
He stepped over Genaddon's burnt, broken corpse.
'The hand of the ship is on me,' He mocked, laughing bitterly. 'The hand of the ship is on me, the hand of the ship is on me.'
And then he saw them. Three blots, purple and gold, trudging through the devastation. Third Legion, the Emperor's Children, more survivors. He magnified, though they were too far to identify them. He looked skywards. His vox crackled back into life, and he spoke into it, briefly, communicating with someone, his words muffled, unheard.
'Emperor's Children,' He said, opening communications with the trio. 'Be you friend or foe?'
Marcus smiled as the smoke rose in the shattered city streets of Choral. His Volkite charger let loose another beam explosively deflagrating more of the rabble. The low bass thrum of the volkite weapons of his squad and the sharp crack of the bolters continued ceaselessly. Enemies were falling left and right with their bodies torn asunder. Sensing that the timing was right Marcus gave the order for a charge to break them once and for all. The enemy gun line was in tatters and its' leadership desperate to rally.
“We shall break your world for the Imperium!” Marcus roared and charged. He sheathed his Volkite charger and withdrew his chain-axe.
The charge of the legionnaires was thunderous and terrifying as enemies were mulched from the sheer impact and rent limb from limb with each swing of their weapons. Marcus kept an eye on his squads vitals. Most were elevated but not out of the norms. They were slaking their battle rage on a hapless enemy, white armour slowly being coloured to a dull crimson. Marcus drew his sights on an officer equipped with a crackling sabre. The officer in turn saw the approaching metal clad giant and called for help. There will be none for him as Marcus sprinted forward and with two great swings of his axe he cleaved three soldiers in twain. He loomed over the man, his brows were beading with sweat, his eyes a mixture of fear and recklessness.
Marcus levelled his axe at the officer and then attacked. One swing of his chain-axe brushing aside the parry and biting deep into the officer's torso. The body soon became limp and Marcus kicked it off his chain-axe. Confirmation lights were soon beaming on his HUD as the last of the resistance was wiped out with the fury of the World Eaters. Adjoining groups were also beginning their advance.
“Civilians were being hidden in these buildings Sergeant.” Brother Antolius signalled to Marcus over the Vox. “I am bringing the flamer over now to purge the filth.”
“Good,” Marcus stated dryly. The smell of burning meat and the screams of the innocent soon permeated the air.
He took the time to quickly look over a tactical map with his squad leaders while they flamers did their work. Most of the city centre will soon be cleared. Squad leaders quickly chimed in that all legionnaires were accounted for bar those that did not survive the initial drop pod assault. Right now they were a ways of the central administration building so they will circle back and regroup with the 12th and 43rd squads and swing by the west wall. The PDF of Choral city have destroyed a series of vital bridges near the building and slowing the legionnaires further.
It was a bold plan but ultimately futile in the face of the might of the legions. After some distance of travelling the sounds that covered the battlefield had audibly dulled. Suddenly their vox crackled to life.
“Get to shelter now... All World.... Squads get to...” The voice continued. It was Captain Ehrlen and he was broadcasting on all frequencies.
There was a series of cleared bunkers near their position. Now was the time to depart.
“There are bunkers to the West move now!” Marcus exclaimed to his squad. The legionnaires sprinted towards the bunkers and sequestered themselves within. Behind them the high pitched howl of Virus Bombs covered the city. Marcus only got a brief look at the city as other members of his squads dove into unsealed bunkers. He slammed the door shut as he made his way in, squad members flashing confirmation lights as they made it to safety. He only got a glimpse of an Assault Sergeant diving into his bunker from the other side before the impact hit and Marcus blacked out.
A large chunk of concrete was sitting atop Marcus as he awoke and ironically it must have been what saved his life. Using his superhuman strength he slowly slid of the concrete slab and stood up. He could not hear anything but a loud ringing. He steadied himself on ground and looked around. Marcus saw the fellow marine next to him. He was gesturing to Marcus but he was still deafened from the blast. His senses were all jumbled. He held up a hand in affirmation to the marine. From his decorations and gear he appeared to be an Assault Marine. His HUD gave his name to be Kyros of the 7th Assault Squad.
Soon Marcus' hearing came back to him and signalled any squad members if they were still alive. No lights came back to him and all vital showed that they were dead. Anger bitter and deep crept up within him mixed with sorrow. He slammed his fist on ground in futility. They were all dead and that was that. He tucked the rage deep within him and looked for Kyros. He found the sergeant confronting a Death Guard legionnaire. The marine was consumed with grief as Kyros tried to talk to him. That weapon that hit them, it came from above, from the starships. Angron would never permit such a thing to be used on his legion and even more so to be deprived of battle. Something was wrong. Marcus mulled it over as he approached Kyros. He did not want to consider it but they have been betrayed by the fleet above and perhaps by their own legion. The anger welled up within him once more. Questions were flying within his head as to why. There was one clear fact however, that they have been betrayed by powers beyond their own reckoning. Perhaps by the Primarchs themselves.
Marcus walked over warily to the Death Guard. He tried voxing Captain Ehrlen over the legion channels as he looked over the Death Guard legionnaire.
“Legionnaire state your identification.” he said.
Decius stared blankly ahead at the inside of the Drop pod as it screamed through the atmosphere towards the planet below. The traitors that had risen up would be put down by no less than elements from four different legions, including that of the Sons of Horus his own legion. He had felt a swell of pride when he found out that the 2nd Company would be among the first deployed, and looked forward to cutting down those that had turned from the Emperors truth, even more honoured that he would continue to carrying the 2nd Companies banner. It was his charge to ensure its safety, one he had enjoyed since the Ullanor campaign.
He heard the voice of Sergeant Ulox in his ear as the Sergeant bellowed to his squad, which Decius had joined in the descent to the planet. “We fight under the banner today brothers! Bring honour to the squad and the Legion. Luprecal!” His voice was joined by his battle brothers and Decius’ own as they shouted the name of their beloved Primarch.
“The Second are honoured today by the Primarch. We are his retribution on those that would turn from the Emperors noble goal. For the Emperor and Horus!” Decius bellowed as the Drop pod slammed into the ground, kicking up dust and masonry. The pod opened and Decius was the first out, plasma pistol in one hand and banner held aloft in the other, urging his brothers forward. They had landed in a street somewhere on the outskirts of the Sirenhold, the objective for the Sons of Horus. Decius tried to raise the rest of the command element on his vox, “Captain Torgaddon, Vultus here we have arrived off target and can’t seem to get any tactical information from the Vengeful Spirit.”
“Sorry Decius, but we are in one heck of a fight right now and scattered all over the Sirenhold, we will try and guide you to us but you must try and make your way here.” The vox crackled back as Torgaddon replied.
“Affirmative Captain, we will meet you further in then.” Decius replied as he motioned for Ulox to lead the men forward.
The squad did the best they could do in the situation they were in, with limited tactical information they pushed through the Sirenhold, running into defensive barricade after defensive barricade, smashing their way through the defenders as they headed deep into the Sirenhold. However with every barricade their numbers dwindled, with the few brothers he had with him being taken down one after another with lucky shots from the defenders, though their losses were few and infrequent by the time they had reached one of the shrines that had been set up by the traitors only four brothers remained with Decius. Ulox had been taken down when a sniper had placed a round through his helmetless face, Decius cursing his brother for not wearing a helmet. He lead the remains of the squad into the shrine thinking that now they would be able to rendezvous with some elements of the second or even any other Sons of Horus.
However what waited for them within wasn’t his brother Astartes, but the warsingers that they had been sent to neutralise. Three of them stood in the centre of the shrine, Decius quickly ordering his brothers to open fire on the warsingers as they entered and were noticed by them. The Warsingers reacted first leaping forward and catching one of his brothers in their psychic scream, Decius roaring to his brothers to fire as he let loose with his plasma pistol. The burning plasma burst hit the first warsinger in the face, instantly melting away flesh and bone and causing it to gurgle as it hit the floor very much dead. Decius tracked the second as two of his brothers fell to the pure sound that the warsingers were admitting. He fired again but cursed as it suddenly leapt into the air, dodging his blast only for the last brother with him to gun it down with an entire clip from his bolter on full auto. As his brother was reloading the third struck, screaming at his brother as it killed him with sound.
As it turned towards Decius it suddenly staggered backwards as it was hit by a plasma blast to the chest, knocking it off of its feet. Decius stalked forward, watching the warsinger as it struggled for breath. “This world is ours warsinger. We are bringing it back into the Emperor’s truth. You cannot stop us.” Decius said through his helmet speakers before he brought his standard down through the warsingers head, ending its existence.
Decius world crackled into life as he culd hear his captains words “Seek cover Sons of Horus! Incoming biological weapons!” Decius cursed as he ripped the standard free and charged further into the shrine slamming all the doors he could behind him. He found a long dark corridor and without pause he entered it slamming the door shuts as he could hear the screaming city behind. How many of his brothers would be caught out in the open he was not sure.
He waited what seemed a lifetime alone in the dark, as a precaution he had waited a while and had been fortunate to do so that he missed the firestorm that engulfed the planet. Decius eventually made his way out, staring at the rubble of the city. The air was pungent with the smell of death, Decius glad he wore his helm. As he stepped outside he realized a terrible truth, this was not the work of the Istavaan’. Everything was dead, there was nothing left. Only such devastation could be caused by the Life eater virus, and only two beings had the authority to use such a weapon. He stared up at the sky and said quietly, “Why Luprecal?”
Most more in shock than anything else, unable to come to grips with the betrayal that had just occurred, some of our characters stand silent when spoken to, some merely stare at the sky, hardly any words forming on their lips, and others seem to push the event away as if it hadn't even happened, coldly asking for their next orders or demanding identification from the fellow Betrayed.
With such a drastic and unexpected turn of events, it inevitably takes time for it all to sink in and rise to its full effect in the minds of the loyalists.
Though your vox communications are back up, any testing of them seems to be rather limited. Occasional long distance signals light up, perhaps allowing one way messages to the ships above or to Captains dispersed throughout the city. You receive nothing in return however, if you try.
'Local' communications seem to operate without any issues, though. What the stable range is at the moment, can hardly be deciphered.
After you emerge from your cover, growling and shaking with bloodlust, you try your best to take in your surroundings, as difficult as that is now that the entire image of the city has been so gravely altered. You come to realize you are in one of many shrine districts. At the front of one of the shrine entrances, a pale green figure climbs out. The bright and spectacular colors and designs of a banner he carries is what first pulls your eyes toward him. Go to this Marine. Once with him, the two of you will pick up faint signals of some other survivors no too far off, to the Northwest of your location.
The Sons of Horus Standard Banner is none other than Decius Vultus, Lord Ramo's character.
"Why, Lupercal?" You whisper. Your soft words seem to be carried by the wind, picked up and thrown across the ruins, endlessly. The death throes of so many at once have disturbed this place in reality. Your tongue, after saying your Primarchs name, literally tastes different for a brief moment.
Without much longer to reflect, you will see a World Eater approaching you. Soon after meeting this Legionary, the two of you will pick faint signals on your HUD, indication other possible survivors not far from here, to the Northwest.
Either you or Euphrati can post first. One does not need to wait on the other. I would suggest speaking with each other about the posts beforehand.
The Emperors Children:
Decurion Loculus seems stunned, shocked into silence perhaps, but manages to move his boots forward as the two of you begin to move out. His helm always turning, looking up at the destruction wrought all around you.
Despite any attempts, no word from Tarvitz comes back to you. All you can hear beyond the footsteps of you and your two brothers is the crackling fires of still burning wreckage.
When a channel opens to you, it is not the voice of your Captain as you had hoped, but someone else.
"Emperor's Children, be you friend or foe?"
The vox link indicates it is coming from a Sons of Horus Marine. What does he mean friend or foe, do you even know who your friends are now? Do you reply to him and move toward the signal which shows he is further down the street you know walk on, or attempt to avoid him?
You wait to see if the Emperor's children respond. While you wait, is there anything else that you do?
They are likely in a similar predicament. Whatever their answer may be, how do you know what friend or foe would actually mean now that the world has turned upside down?
If they respond to you, please follow up on this. If they do not, what is your next move?
A few seconds pass and Gilgumann is finally able to turn his head away from the burnt sky, and look upon the two World Eater Sergeants now staring at him from across the roadway.
Are you the only Death Guard left on the surface of this world? Why are these two legionaries not Gahal and Haban, or are you simply glad to see that someone else survived at all?
You may interact with these two Sergeants in anyway you see fit, or you can even ignore them and do whatever you want. The choice is yours to make.
Tharr and Straesen:
If Angel of Lies posts first, at least part of your post would of course be to continue the interaction, if either of you post first you can interact with each other instead. You may even decide to ignore the Death Guard marine if he can't regain his composure and move on without him in search of any other XII Legion survivors.
Remember, multiple posts are allowed if needed. If that means each post ends up only being a few paragraphs, give or take, that is perfectly fine.
The Choral City
"Children of the Emperor!" Came the cry once more from Tiberius' already hoarse throat. "Death to His foes!" Came the response from his ragged retinue of the the 2nd Squad. The fighting had been nothing short of vicious this whole time and in the space of hours they had already lost three of their number to the Isstvanians. They had left them where they fell, their corpses sealed to be picked at by the Apothecaries later as if they were carrion birds. It was a poor way to view those to whom the future of the legion was entrusted, but everything in this moment was death. Tiberius and his squad had accompanied Ancient Rylanor for the best part of an hour and under his shadow they had not faultered. Even now Tiberius could feel his shots being neater and more perfect as the bisected and blew apart human bodies with their mass reactive shells. Still, for all the skill with which his squad his squad was displaying, they had been stuck in the marble archways of this banquet hall for too long and they were falling behind the 13th company. For each Isstvanian they killed, more took their place behind the makeshift barricade. This had to end and it had to end now.
Tiberius emptied his bolter at the rebels, felling a score more of the traitors before the dry clip fell to the floor. He slammed another one home, ready for when he would need it again, and at that he mag-locked it to his side. He drew his Phoenix Spear, a symbol of his office and of Imperial Authority. He pointed to the nearest five members of the 2nd squad. "Bolt pistols and chainswords, on me." Tiberius voxed. "Ancient Rylanor, 2nd squad, some covering fire if you please."
"Acknowledged Decurion Loculus" The revered dreadnought rasped in his metallic voice back as the remainder of 2nd squad acknowledged also. Tiberius smiled underneath his helmet. It was a small thing, being acknowledged by Ancient Rylanor, but an honour none the less. Although that meant his next manoeuvre had to be flawless.
And it was. Like clockwork, the Isstvanians sheltered under the combined fire of Ancient Rylanor's Kheres Assault Cannon and the rest of the 2nd squad's bolters. As they did so, Tiberius and the other five men he had borrowed, now armed more like some of Horus' Reavers, flanked the cowering traitors. As the fire dwindled and the Isstvanians went to return fire, Tiberius and his men were amongst them. For his part, his mighty Phoenix Spear cleaved through Palace Guard armour as if it did not exist. He swapped repeatedly from one-handed to two-handed grips and back again and every strike meant death for some unfortunate soul. More Isstvanians came from the corridor and might have overwhelmed some of Angron's butchers or Russ' dogs, but Ancient Rylanor and the rest of 2nd squad had already been moving up to join Tiberius. Even as the last blade stroke fell, Sergeant Lepedius and the other members of 2nd squad vaulted the barricade and fired into the incoming backup force. Moments later the steady whine of the Kheres approached and to combined weight of fire turned the corridor into a charnel house.
"I'd say that was a perfect execution Sir." Lepedius said as Tiberius switched effortlessly between his spear and his bolter again.
"If it was perfect, the Thirteenth wouldn't already be in the Throne Room would they Lepedius?" Tiberius retorted, only half serious in his displeasure at their pace. "But, that was one of the best exicutions of that I have seen in a while." He could see the chest of each member of the 2nd squad swell with pride. They were some of the best men under his command and so he was normally extremely critical of them. That made his compliment even more meaningful. Tiberius smiled under his Phonecian helm. Praise and critism in the right measure, he had found, worked wonders to motivate and drive his men closer to perfection. A request for help from one of his other squad crackled in his vox. "Ancient Rylanor, can you assist the Seventh squad? They are in the west quadrant of the Palace."
"As you wish Decurion. Children of the Emperor!" His metallic voice boomed as his feet crushed marble to powder as he moved to assist.
"Death to His foes!" They answered the ancient.
"Second Squad, double time on me" Tiberius said and broke into a run with his squad in tow, eager to reach the throne room before all the fighting was done.
Sadly it was not to be. Tiberius and the 2nd squad encountered and annihilated another relief force, making it's way to the throne room. The fight aided the wider battle, but the cry of Captain Lucius' victory echoed through the vox before they reached their destination. Tiberius frowned under his helmet. They had been sent way off course and to have made it so close with such a handicap was impressive. To another legion, impressive might have been enough but the IIIrd legion strived for perfection and it was certainly not that. "Decurion..." The voice of Sergeant Anthony, a grizzed Terran who commanded the 7th squad, came through the vox. "...the Captain is here." Tiberius furrowed his brow.
"I thought he wasn't part of the initial drop? Have reinforcements arrived already?"
"No Sir, is seems that..." Anthony paused.
"Spit it out." Tiberius barked.
"...Sir you won't believe this. Captain Tarvitz says we are betayed. A biological attack is incoming."
Tiberius paused for a moment. Betrayed? What did that mean? Had an element of their fleet been in cohoots with the Isstvanians? Or had they snuck on-board and hyjacked a ship? But how? Questions fired off in his mind as fast as his bolter had been moments ago. He needed to speak to the Captain and find out the meaning of this. "Is the Captain with you?"
"No Sir, he left to warn the World Eaters." It took Tiberius less than a second to decide his course of action.
"Then we go to him." He turned back to the 2nd squad "Grab whatever supplies you can and head to the nearest sealed area. There's an incoming biological attack."
"The Isstvanians? I thought they didn't have the capabilities." Tiberius had no answers for Lepedius. He had no answers for himself.
"Get to shelter and take anyone else you find. Tell them the same and use my authority. For the legion."
"For the legion." His squad saluted crisply and went to enact his orders, as he would expect.
Tiberius broke into a run. "Anthony, meet me with your squad at the Palace gates." A confirmation sounded through the vox, but he paid it no mind. He sprinted through the broken and battered passageways that him and his subordinates had already cleared. He didn't want to be caught in a fight with such an important objective to achieve. Anthony met him as expected, as well at the rest of the 7th squad, a couple of other 10th company squads and his counterpart, Decurion Sebastian. They ran with all their might, sprinting across the demolished plazas and over-run barricades to reach their commander. Tiberius' gaze flitted between the sky and the ground he was running on. They had gotten maybe halfway through a cluster of bunkers when they heard the distant sound of missiles exploding. Tiberius looked up. The trails of viral gas were already forming in the sky, but their contours were not ones of surface-to-surface missiles. These were orbit-to-surface missiles. What did that mean? "Everybody, get to cover now!" Tiberius shouted, darting from the nearest bunker. He didn't think about what the trajectory of the missiles meant. There was no time.
Tiberius reached the bunker first and closed the door after Sebastian and another marine he knew only by name, Darius. He daren't keep it open for longer and, much as it pained him, the rest of the Children out there would have to find other shelter. Moments later their death screams echoed through the vox. It was a sound Tiberius was certain he would remember until he died. No creature should make that noise, especially not Astartes. Such a noise was riddles with fear and pain, two things that were supposed to be expunged from an Astartes' mind. One by one the voices of his dying men and friends faded. For a moment, Tiberius thought it was all over, some horrific attack from an unseen enemy fleet to kill those invading the palace. Then the bunker was rocked by an almighty shock wave and the temperature gauge on his armour started to rapidly climb. If anyone outside had survived whatever pathogen that was, they were certainly dead. His temperature gauge started to decline and Tiberius tentatively opened the door to whatever would great them. It was a sight he had seen only once in his service to the Emperor and Fulgrim, and even then it was from orbit. Husks of armour bleed smoldering soup that had once been Space Marines. In the sky, a great fireball was consuming the atmosphere. The sky rained ash and smoldering shards of building and armour and men, throw up in the shock wave of the orbital strike.
In the midst of it all, Darius fell to his knees, his fingers caressing the ashes that might well contain his brothers. Sebastian let a pained laugh escape his lips, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. Or perhaps the madness of the situation had overtaken him. Tiberius simply took in the view. It was staggering, the level of destruction visited in a single instance. In an odd way, it was beautiful, that human hands could wrought such perfect destruction as the Life Eater virus. Tiberius named it because now he knew what it was and what his Captian had meant that they were betrayed. Except it wasn't perfect. They were still alive and so whatever madness that was driving the Warmaster, for who else could order such and attack, and his conspirators had not reached its fruition. They were alive and they would have answers. That they, mere Astartes, had thwarted the plans of at least one crazed Primarch gave Tiberius some solace at least. Darius asked for orders and Sebastian gave some perfectly adequate ones. Their objective was unchanged. They still had to find captain Tarvitz. With that, the vox crackled back into life. Tiberius tried to raise captain Tarvitz, but to no avail. His brothers began to move, and he followed, still capable of only observing.
It took them walking in through the ash for it to feel real to him. The soft crunch of it underfoot was what it took for Tiberius to realise the enormity of what had happened. Their kin had sent them to die, for crimes he did not know had not been told. This was unprecidented in all of human history, for Astartes to turn on Astartes. Had some terrible madness seized the fleet above them, or was this calculated? What possible reason did they have for turning on their brothers so violently? What was the point of it all? Why butcher thousands of Astartes on some backwater planet where they were already putting down an insurection? Tiberius could not imagine what reason those in orbit had to hate those on the surface, but he was certain they would get their answers soon enough.
The feelings of desolation, abandonment and rejection uncoiled in his gut like a virus, spreading through his limbs and infecting his thoughts until he could not contain it anymore. After several long moments of walking and silence, he utter the same unconquerable truth that captain Tarvitz had brought to them. "Brothers, we are betrayed." Tiberius' voice was low and pained, heavy with pent up sorrow and rage. He kept trying to establish contact with his captain, to ask for orders, for clarification, for some reason why they had been condemned to die. He even tried to reach the Andronius, but to no avail. Suddenly the vox crackled into life, but not with the rich tones of someone born into the IIIrd Legion. It was a harsh, unkind voice that spoke to them, and Tiberius suspected it was one of Horus' Cthonian hoard. "Emperor's Children, be you friend or foe?" Tiberius' reply was a soft whisper in High Gothic, it's regal tones trying to mask the underlying pain and anger of the man who spoke them.
"I am Decurion Tiberius Loculus of the IIIrd Legion, loyal son of the Emperor and Fulgrim. I have fought at the front of the Great Crusade for one hundred and eighty years with unflinching loyalty and resolve to the Imperial Truth. I am a champion of Katar, Murder, and a hundred other worlds. I was betrayed by those I called brother and I was sent here to die. Tell me, does that make me friend or foe?"...
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