Blood and Iron
Blood and Iron
The thirteen chosen of the XIXth Grand Company entered the chamber one by one, in no particular order of rank. It was a plain room, dominated by a quadradecagonal table made of highly polished steel, tall enough to reach the waist of an astartes – bright lights shone down on it, casting the rest of the room in darkness. At the edge of this table, opposite the door, stood the Warsmith, watching them as they took their places around the table. They moved with well-practiced efficiency, smoothly sliding into the positions marked for their rank with the faint hiss of well-oiled armour servos, not a word uttered between them, waiting. The tension in the air was palpable as they watched one another, probing their fellows for weakness while the Warsmith’s eyes slid over each member present with cool appraisal. Though they ranged in shape and size, Pelegon towered over the proceedings, exceeding all of them in both height and bulk, despite being stooped over the table, both armoured hands resting on its surface. He enjoyed the fact that those junior in rank to him had to look up to him in every way.
“You know why you are gathered here” Pelegon began, his voice a heavy, mechanically-altered growl “and today, I bring you welcome news. Consider this campaign a gift.”
The Warsmith brought up his left forearm, into the vambrace of which was built a large, complex-looking cogitator array, and tapped a few keys. In the centre of the table appeared a miniaturised planet, though it was so clear and solid that it could have been a model suspended before them – with so clear a picture, and no visible projectors, the technology producing the hologram was a far cry from the simple flickering images that most Imperial commanders had at their disposal.
“Pelexis III is a simple agricultural world, the only one considered habitable in its system – Pelexis II and IV were mined dry of ores during the latter days of the Crusade. It has a population of seventeen million, deemed too awkwardly situated to draw a tithe for the Imperial Guard. A world like this would normally offer us nothing, but for the unusual garrison it has acquired”
Pelegon tapped another key on his cogitator, and a spot on the northern hemisphere began to glow red. The symbol that floated above it was one familiar to all of them, showing a wolf’s head over a diamond. The VIth legion, now reduced to a chapter; the Space Wolves.
“Some eighteen years ago this world was attacked by the Word Bearers, an offshoot from the seventh Black Crusade – the intelligence I acquired did not specify the leader of this invasion, or the reason behind it, but the incursion, minor as it was, was put down by the Space Wolves”
Pelegon looked around to ensure that his captains were following what had been a very simple speech so far. His eye lingered in particular on the Primus Medicae, Lugerev – he appeared to be lucid for the time being, but the man’s forays into madness were a cause of concern for Pelegon. If he did not manage to correct himself, Lugerev would have to be removed before too long. Of course, that would upset the brothers Coeus and Iapetus. The loss of a pure-blood, especially the one tasked with ensuring the propagation of their line, would not be received with any measure of good cheer. However, while the state of Lugerev’s mind did not interfere with the quality of his work, the problem could wait. His face and mind inscrutable, Pelegon returned to the task in hand and tapped another button on his cogitator; the hologram of the planet was replaced with a fortress.
It was a fairly simple structure, forgoing complex architecture and advanced defensive structures for rugged high-faced walls and heavily-armed gun batteries. It appeared square as viewed from above, with four corner bastions narrowing down to a central keep. There was one gate, on the most heavily-armed, south-facing, wall, large enough to accommodate the stature of a Reaver battle titan. Of course, it had never held so prestigious an artefact, and nor would it.
“I will upload what architectural plans and layouts I have of the bastion to your cogitators. It is named ‘The Wolf’s Claw’”
At this there was a quiet collective rumble from the gathered senior officers, felt through the tremor of the floor rather than heard – the Iron Warriors were not given to humour, but even they found the somewhat repetitive and predictable nomenclature of the Space Wolves amusing. Pelegon did not partake, but his upper lip was raised a little in the closest he muster to a smile.
“When they defended this world and destroyed the invaders, the master of the 9th Company, Thorgarr Redtooth, swore to the then governor that he would see it defended until the world was brought back to strength – or, as is their interpretation, its pre-invasion population of twenty-five million. So they have remained here, an idle garrison. Their love for mortals” a rare hint of derision entered Pelegon’s usually neutral voice “is what has left them vulnerable to us, and it is what we shall exploit to bring them down without so much as firing upon the walls of their fortress. The mortals think themselves invulnerable while they have their guard dogs – as is proven by their lack of even a token planetary defence force”
It was a well-known fact to all the assembled officers that their commander harboured a particular dislike for the Space Wolves, though none, except perhaps Tyranus, knew its origin.
“We will ensure that the Space Wolves will not speak of this battle, for I will see them so utterly humiliated that any boast that they could muster will die in their throats – doubtless you will be wondering how I acquired this information, and the specifics that apply to each of you in turn. To that end we will have another rendezvous on the bridge of the Ferra Perpetua. I expect your units to be fully mobilized and in orbit by then, except for” Pelegon pointed toward the 4th and 5th Captains “you and your men will remain to guard the Eisenschloss in our absence”
Pelegon straightened up and slid his Spartan-style helmet over his grim features, the muted glow of the red orbs that constituted its visual receptors washing over his captains one by one.
“For this, we stand to acquire no material gains, but our foe stands to lose everything – humility, pain and loss are the lessons we will teach them. Lucian, Iapetus, Lugerev, remain. The rest of you are dismissed. Iron Within”
“Iron Without” came the reply.
Two of the Tyranthikos, a unit of soldiers so elite that they are no less now than an extension of your body and will, fall into step beside you as you leave. Though their power fists are disabled and their combi-bolters hang from their thighs, you know that they could ready and throw themselves at an opponent in a fraction of the time that it would take most astartes, despite their heavy cataphractii plate. As paranoid as they are hardened, their heads twitch as they constantly take in and filter their surroundings for the slightest hint of a threat – in their presence you are safe, though you know that your strength and ability to lead must remain unquestionable to stop them turning on you.
The 1st Company has its own keep, a somewhat squat structure to the East of the Eisenschloss. Though the fortress was designed to accommodate the movements of armour-clad astartes, the corridors and rooms of the 1st Company’s quarters are especially enlarged in order to allow the easy movement of large numbers of soldiers clad in terminator armour. They will be expecting you to relay the news, knowing that the summoning of all the XIXth’s senior officers can only mean a campaign.
As master of the guns, the movement of units into orbit is the most arduous task for you, out of all the captains. In addition to the deadly firepower at your command, you must have available enough ammunition to keep those guns firing constantly for periods that can extend to weeks, months, and even years. It is no mean logistical feat, and one to which you are clearly uniquely suited.
The Iron Havocs, marksmen and heavy weapons specialists beyond compare, constitute a significant portion of your infantry presence, and are distinct from your other infantry specialists, the Destroyers, by their relatively unblemished appearance. Both are specialists, and competent in concocting, managing and executing complex fire and assault protocols, and answer to your command as well as a fine set of tools will to a master craftsman. They are strange within the IVth legion to the extent that they do not require great shows of strength in order to remain sated, satisfied much more by the intelligence and planning of a commander than his ability to keep insubordinates (of which there are few) in line. So far you have certainly proved adequate. However, you are aware that the Master of the Forge, Adriun, acquired a Fellglaive tank, a result of a trade arranged by the Warsmith. It is clear to you that, as the master of arms, you should be in possession of the ancient weapons platform. Whether it was given to Adriun as bait, an insult, a test of strength or merely because it is so temperamental and technically advanced a weapons system, you do not know.
Lucian, Iapetus, Lugerev
After the last man has filed out of the room, you find yourselves alone with the Warsmith, who taps away on his cogitator. You know that he is perfectly aware of the tension between Iapetus and the non-Olympian members of the XIXth, and his request to ask you to stay together seems completely deliberate.
“During the ground assault, this will be your target” the Warsmith manages at length, the image of an Astartes Strike Cruiser appearing on the hologram table. It appears no different from a standard model, its markings showing the relatively lightly armed craft to be of the Space Wolves chapter.
“The Fist of Russ. It is currently in orbit over Pelexis III. The crew is mostly human, with the bulk of the 9th planetside, but there is, to my knowledge, still a strong Space Wolf presence aboard – destroying it would be no hard task, but I want it captured. This is a task for a needle” Pelegon nodded toward Lucian “and not a hammer, Iapetus. How the two of you co-ordinate your resources is up to you, but I expect the crew to be killed and the ship under my command by the end of the siege. Any damage I see on that ship, once you present it to me, I will reflect upon the two of you”
The Warsmith turned his full attention to Lugerev, ignoring the other two as the hologram disappeared without a flicker. The downcast lighting served only to accentuate Pelegon’s size and the aura of power that radiated from him like a sick heat.
“You are to accompany them, Lugerev, for I know that a unit of Salamanders was struck down some time ago, and their gene-seed collected by the 9th. Why the XVIIIth have not seen fit to relieve their comrades of that most precious resource I could not answer – perhaps the Wolves are keeping it for themselves. You know that we do not use Space Wolf gene seed, but that of the Salamanders is acceptable enough – and an additional ten marines at our disposal is something not to be dismissed. I wish you to personally oversee the recovery and delivery of the gene-seed to the vault on the Ferra. After that you will join us on the planet to sort the prisoners we will have taken for prospective recruits. Now…”
Pelegon turned his head to take in the three that stood before him.
“Are there any questions?”
You know that it will be your duty during the course of the siege to ensure that all equipment is functioning to the best of its ability, as well as the recovery of usable materials from the fallen enemy. By far the youngest member of the senior officers, you know that the Warsmith has a respect for both your ability and ambition, and how quickly you rose through the ranks, and is cautious of you for the exact same reason.
Several servo skulls accompany you, each bringing news from different men under your command of matters requiring your attention – mostly shortages of particular machine parts, or suboptimal furnace temperatures. Though none are urgent, the manufacture and maintenance machine of the Iron Warriors being too well-made and managed to provide major incidents, they still chip away at your time, of which you have little to spare.
In the meantime, you must inspect a Fellglaive tank given to you by the Warsmith a mere handful of hours ago. You were informed that it was a gift from Barban Falk of the 235th Grand Company, though the fresh scorch marks and gouges in its armour indicate that its previous owner may not have handed it over so willingly.
The ancient weapons system, the volkite carronade, awes you – only a handful of such old and complex ordnance exists in the material universe, and this is a gift handed to you by the Warsmith in the expectation that you will be able to analyse and replicate it in due course. You also know that the 2nd Captain may well want this for himself, though whether you want to keep the ancient weapons system for yourself is up to you.
The meeting room leaves you feeling unsatisified. You pride yourself on your strength of will and the inability of other telepaths to read your mind, but it would be only natural for a psyker to be able to challenge the power of another. The Warsmith’s mind remains to you anathema, unable as you are to read it – every attempt that you have made has been rebuffed, and you do not know whether the Warsmith actively resists and is aware of your attempts, or the effect is passive – he never mentions it to you, or indicates awareness of your efforts. It is likely this that has helped him resist the taint and urge of Chaos for seven millennia, even in the face of social intercourse with your daemon primarch.
As Epistolary, you know that the mental purity of the XIXth is your responsibility. It sounds like the kind of religious, soulful rubbish espoused by the followers of the Emperor, and the motives that the two factions share behind their wish for purity are similar – there must be no possible division of loyalty. Each man must be utterly sublimated to his desire to wage war, but the reasons must not be incorrect; earning the favour of one of the Dark Gods falls into that category. Beyond that, whether it is personal vendetta, a raging bloodthirst or merely the job to which one finds oneself (somewhat unsurprisingly as an astartes) best suited, does not matter, as long as their willingness to fight, competence and loyalty to the XIXth are beyond question.
Today you have two marines, or to you two tiresome tasks to deal with. The first is one of your librarians, who was reported after tomes marked with the eight-pointed star, and more worryingly, eye of Tzeentch, were found in his possession. He argued that it was for the purposes of research and countering the power of the Changer of The Ways – the investigation and judgement fall into your hands.
The second is a battle-brother of the 2nd Company, who was cited for possible corruption by an apothecary after unusual abscesses were found on his left forearm, which refused to heal. He denies worshipping Nurgle, and is currently, as is the suspect librarian, detained and awaiting investigation and judgement.
Gentlemen, you have until the 28th to write what you get up to. After that, there will be an update, and things will move onward to glorious orbit. If you have any questions or requests, or if I haven’t written/clarified something vital, please message me.
Lucian the first to enter the briefing room and bowed to the Warsmith leaning on the table infront of him while technically being ranked third of Pelegon's captains, Lucian was generally the first to arrive in any meeting that was called purely to watch his fellow members of the company arrive and gauge their moods. Standing in his jet black armour and dark grey cloak and hood Lucian stuck out like a swore thumb amidst the sea of burnished iron and silver that the rest of the 'leaders' of the 19th Grand Company wore.
Standing still with his hands at his sides casually Lucian stood to one side of the room with the majority of his body facing the Warsmith but turned enough to the side to look at the others enter the room and take their places before listening to Warsmith Pelegon outline his plans for the next campaign and when he did he shifted his entire focus to the display and taking in every drop of information that the Warsmith deigned to tell them.
Lucian shook his head at the mention of the Space Wolves recalling the troubled relationship between the First and Sixth Legion but quickly crushed the thoughts of the past, as that is just what they were, memories of the past. Turning his gaze back to the holo-pic he listened and waited silently and when Pelegon concluded the briefing with Lucian himself and the rest of those gathered echoing the end of the Iron Warrior chant he then turned to leave the briefing room with the others and stopped when Pelegon called for him, the Captain of Seventh and the Primus Medicae to wait.
Pivoting on his heel he turned and made his way closer to the Warsmith and waited for the rest to leave before listening intently to the new information that Pelegon told them and to himself Lucian smiled lightly to himself when he heard Pelegon speak of the mission of taking the 'Fist of Russ' requiring a needle instead of a hammer which meant that Third Company would be required to do what it does best: operating away from the main battle field in acts of deception, sabotage and other less honourable acts though when he heard that the Captain of Seventh, the Shipwright: Iapetus he was less then happy and being asked to work along side someone who had about as much subtlety as a World Eater .
When the Warsmith asked the three of them for any questions Lucian step froward and finally spoke: "As always Warsmith, you honour me and Third Company with the tasks best suited to us. As you said removing the obstacle that is the 'Fist of Russ' from orbit and taking it will require a 'needle' I already have several plans in mind and with your blessing I will requisition what I need and be under way to put the plans in action two days hence. I ask firstly that: Captain Iapetus remain with the rest of the Company as he and his men would be of no use to me. Secondly I require a loyalist ship from around this very planet something that has yet to be refitting as to suit the legion, something that is fully operation yet still bears its loyalist colours and scars from its latest engagement. Finally, I would require a psyker of great power, I require the presence and use of, The Librarius's Primus, The Seer: Coeus. If I have permission to gather these then I shall submit a full outline of my plan to you before the day is out, My Lord."
He sighed as he shooed away the Servitor skulls, and wirelessly adjusted the Furnace temperatures to optimal levels. He continued to tread along to his Forge, where he eventually with a few button presses got a hovering platform to come out to him, using technologies he had managed to crack and replicate previously. He stepped up onto the platform and as it glided along towards the Forge and Factorum, meanwhile he did calculations on a data slate he held approving repairs and shipments as well as denying personal requests for gear that was not needed or could not be justified for how it would impact his time without sufficient compensation.
Adriun shook his head slightly, ”Don’t they know that I don’t do personal requests without a trade? How many times must I…” he paused as he saw the FellGlaive tank as the platform came to a stop, “Beautiful.” Was all he could muster as he hovered closer and let his gauntlet slide along the flat barrel of the ancient weapon.
He immediately ordered the tank to be hauled into the Factorum for disassembly, it was the quickest way to catalogue the parts and begin piecing together how to replicate the technology, which he had a very good idea how it worked as his personal side arm was a Serpenta and he intimately knew its workings and could make another with his eye’s closed. Massive machines drove out of the Factorum and attached hooks to the tank, and several Humans under his employ climbed into the machine and set about gearing it into neutral. He knew the Warsmith dis-tasted mortals, but it was key that Adriun worked with them, as he was linked with the Traitorous Mechanicum, and so these humans were minor acolytes from them, specifically ones that wished to distance themselves from the more corrupt parts of the Traitor Mechanicus, or wished to increase their station through his employ.
Slowly but surely it began to be dragged into the hungry facility, where machines where already being prepped to disassemble the tank, starting with the turret. The Factorum, and its adjoining building the Forge, were massive constructs, lined with automated defenses, and spires pumping out steam into the air. However the building was highly stylized to Adriun’s tastes, and it did not resemble the former Master of the Forge’s abode. What made it so different were the additions that where made, specifically Titan husks, from Adriun’s kills from other campaigns. None of the hulls were defaced, in-fact they still had pristine heraldry and only retained battle damage from their time of defeat, and so were trophies commemorating several astounding victories for the XIXth Grand Company.
The entrance to the Massive Factory was reconstructed through the Head of one of Adriun’s largest quarry, as was fitting, the tank was slowly pulled into the mouth of a Machine God. Adriun cracked a slight smile in his helm, something he wouldn't let any of his fellow captain’s see him do, but something in privacy of his workplace he would allow himself to have the luxury of revealing some modicum of emotion.
As He hovered into the massive complex, all around him the sounds of machines and mechanical progress, he watched the FellGlaive precede, its arrival arousing a joyous murmur among his Human workers and simply causing his Tech-Marines to turn their attention for a longer time than normal before returning to their current tasks. He levitated up to an over watch, like a Mechanical Throne overseeing the operation of the facility, it was surrounded by Holo-projections and data-screens showing the processes and status of the various machines. There were several sub stations near it, each manned by a Tech Marine and a retinue of Technological Savants and Tech-Priests. His platforms lowered and locked into the over hang and he immediately got to monitor the system through the surrounding screen, behind him two thrallax cohort guards.
Through the Vox sytems of the building he broadcast his commands, “Brothers, we have received a gift from the Warsmith, it shows how much he respects our work, we shall continue to exceed his expectations and show we are worthy of such a donation.” He paused as he directed the Servitors to begin assisting the Human workers.
“Now this weapon is to be disassembled and catalog according to my usual procedures, I need the main Emitter core delivered to me as soon as possible, Delta and Gamma Teams will be in charge of making a blue print of the generator and Capacitors, Alpha and Beta the Barrel’s Magnetic Focusing arrays similarly will be left to you, I expect this completed within the week, no Later. That is all.” He said as he stepped back from the overlooking station and screens before him, and dismissed the guards.
Adriun continued back along the overhang and into an Adjoining room that was his personal quarters, he walked in and looked at the wall, where their was a collection of Xeno Weapons he had studied and were gifted to him in exchange for his artisan weapon and armor-smithing services. The other tech had provided invaluable insight to improving current technology, some xenos tech providing insight into Imperial tech problems, the rest remained curiosities to look at. However something else drew his sight, and his heart, a small Silver token on a silver necklace, his Mother’s legacy and the only thing he had from his short past life. He let his armored finger trace the little silver object his eyes taking on a tinge of sadness, indiscernible behind his helmet, which he proceeded to remove and set upon a pedestal.
He walked over to his work table in his personal quarters and turned on several screens to continue monitoring the functions of the factory, he pulled up current information he had on Volkite Weaponry and everything he knew about building them, which he had done through intense study and replication of his side arm. He got to work on simulations of the functions and scaling it up as the Factorum disassembled the massive tank and began cataloging each and every part with machine efficiency, and they worked on getting the parts Adriun Requested for study.
Tyranus' footsteps were a heavy thud as he marched along with the two Tyranthikos escorts that were ever present at his side. Like extensions of his own thought they constantly observed every possible vector of potential attack, analyzing every potential threat that they encountered as they maneuvered through the corridors of the Eisenschloss. The two members of the Tyranthikos swept the room for any signs of hostility, even within the protected confines of the Eisenschloss their dedicated service was at its utmost, they were impressive warriors and Tyranus smiled proudly underneath his helm that he had honed such a fanatical fighting force behind him.
At the head of the trio Tyranus strode in and removed his helm, taking note of the presence already of Lucian the Captain of the Third. As their Lord made his entrance and gave greeting the two members of the Tyranthikos bowed their heads and spoke in unison as they did so "WarSmith," before finding places in the shadows behind Tyranus' seat at the table which was the first chair to the right of the WarSmith. Before acknowledging his Brother Captain he greeted the WarSmith, "Pelegon! What glory do we bring to the XIXth this day?" His booming voice was filled with excitement at the prospect of having a proper campaign again. Like much of the First he had grown rambunxious and eager to go on the offensive again. To the keen ears in the room, they would note that Tyranus referred to Pelegon often by his first name rather than his title of WarSmith, though out of a sign of familiarity and not of disrespect. Thought Pelegon as always stood taller than Tyranus himself, he was still the broader of the two now ancient warriors and he looked at his kindred warrior with the predatory grin that Pelegon had seen many times before, Tyranus was anxious to be on the hunt once again.
Lucian was one of his fellow Captains that he did not harbor any great mistrust in and as such greeted him with a cordial but sincere nod "Captain Lucian, how unexpected to see you here," referring to the fact that the Third Captain spent much of his time on missions of subversion and espionage, things that Tyranus understood the value of and appreciated more than many of their fellow Brother Captains. "The First has always had great success fighting alongside the Third, Captain Lucian." It was as complimentary as Tyranus got really, but he was quite sincere in his praise, the two companies had a history of successful campaigns, typically in taking out well protected targets, wherein the Third would infiltrate and kill those in command of the enemy while the First tore through their enemies' front line defenses in great swathes.
As the rest of the Captains and XIXth's leadership arrived the reason for their summons was finally revealed, at least partially. Pelegon spoke of the planet Pelexis III, and its rather mundane existence. However at the mention of a Company of Space Wolves Tyranus quickly perked up. He enjoyed humbling the braggadocious dogs of the False Emperor, however he did not particularly agree with the mission if they stood to make no material gains. That said he was a fond believer in sending clear messages to his enemies and allies alike, and this would likely send a clear statement to the Imperium, that their settlements in these regions were at the will of the XIXth Great Company, even if 'protected' by a company of Space Wolves. Tyranus took note of the The Wolf's Claw an unimaginative and standard template bastion that had been utilized on countless worlds beholden to the False Emperor. It was unique in its name alone and while it was fortified it would not stand up against the tidal wave of destruction that was his Tyranthikos, he assumed they would be the spearhead to lead the assault against the fortress as that was their specialty.
As the meeting concluded the retinue was dismissed save for Iapetus, Lucian and Lugerev were ordered to remain. What exactly those three alone were to be privy to was of interest to Tyranus, but he could not linger on the lack of complete information he was given. His task now was to muster the First Company to readiness. The Tyanthikos fell in behind him as he left the chamber, replacing his helm and again marching, this time at a quickened pace towards the keep to the East that harbored the First Company.
Flanked by his Tyranthikos escorts he was immediately met by his Lieutenant Xerath, "See to it that the Iron Tyrant is prepared to launch at my order," Tyranus spoke as he observed the various states of readiness that his men were in. They had been preparing for operations under his orders since he had received a summons. They would be ready well within time, but Tyranus held great expectations for his company. "Our Land Raiders are already prepared my Lord," Xareth answered before even being asked the question, to which Tyranus nodded approvingly "Well done Xareth. Assemble the command squad, Veka and Lukar are to take auto cannons, Grega and Dathos shall take their chainfists and all are to be equipped with cyclone launchers. The rest of our Brothers may equip their normal Tyrant loadouts," He referred to their Tyrant Siege loadouts, ideal for line breaking and shattering embattlements like the Wolf's Claw. "We shall be in orbit shortly, you have done admirably to have the men ready to this point, do not fail me so close to our return to glorious battle." His words were laced equally with complimentary and ominous tones, to which Xareth nodded thankfully at the praise and quickly went back to directing his Lord's orders as Tyranus walked away, his two honor guard in tow as the Keep erupted into cheers, the barking of orders and the continuation of the clanking and bustling of the First preparing for war as Xareth relayed the orders of the Captain Tyranus.
I would have words with Pelegon in private before we embark on this new campaign, He thought to himself as he made his way to the armory aboard the flagship of the First the Iron Tyrant. He proceeded to look over the Wolf's Claw in his HUD as he marched, his keen mind searching for the weakest point within the structure that he and his Tyranthikos would strike at before tearing apart those who stood as its guardians. As he arrived to the armory he saw that which he had been seeking, a single barrel direct fire frag launcher that was quickly affixed by a pair of servitors at his behest to the right shoulder of his Cataphractii plate. His honor guard stood ever to either side two paces behind, he spoke to them, knowing they were unlikely to respond "Tell me my Brothers, have you ever hunted a wolf?" To his amusement the less decorated of the two spoke up in response "No, but I have heard from you my Lord that they die just the same as any other Imperial Dog." Quite satisfied with the unexpected answer Tyranus nodded as he let himself laugh "Yes, yes they certainly do Brother Dayus."
Hmmph. . . Of course the Night Lord would be one of the first to arrive. . . So eager to please his master like any of the other fools in the Eye that would do anything to please the Dark Gods. He pranced around like a good little show dog before his master and only Lucian beating him none the less. It was as though the Captain of the Third came forth from the shadows and was one with them.
A rather mundane mission really. No spoils to be had save for the blood of those wolf loving spits. Their unimaginative adherence to names a child could conjur forth, their preference to look like savage barbarians. He opened and closed his fists with a grinding the ceramite together in anticipation. It was always a pleasure to bathe in the blood of the Emperor's Executioners.
There was however a situation that brought great fury to him and it took a degree of self-control to not openly bark in the meeting like some damned fool of a World Eater. Despite his position as master of arms, the Mechanized Fist of the XIXth company and the obliterator of worlds Pelegon had seen fit to distribute a machine of war not to him but to the Master of the Forge. The more he thought about the insult the more it infuriated him. What was the Warsmith trying to accomplish with this? Did he want to test the strength of the Second Captain? Did he want to wound his honour so some aspiring champion would seek to overthrow him? He repressed it for the time being so they could focus on the meeting.
While externally there was no great show inside Kunzhardt was both joyous and enraged. The opportunity to spill Wolf blood brought him a degree of satisfaction he would not deny. However the events to come did not please him. He would need to speak with the Warsmith, and most assuredly to the Tech Marine, and to put down any insurrectionist that might have aspirations a bit too lofty. He eyed every individual in the room illuminated by the dull glow of the the lumoglobes dotting the room and upon dismissal slammed the heavy powerfist into the open palm of his left hand in a traditional salute and wordlessly left the room with zeal.
Walking down the hallway Kunzhardt briefly entertained the idea of taking the Night Lord now, there was the slightest possibility that the two bodyguards would honor blood above all but he quickly extinguished the idea and pressed on. There would be no advantage gained from so foolish a task. He returned to his own lair to the large hangar like expanse that was essentially a colossal shooting range and combat simulator. Helmets on at all times and live ammunition used. They would train the way they fight. His subordinate ran up to him through the zone where two squads were engaging one another and saluted to him as a bolter round pinged off his pauldron.
The boiling silence ended in a thunderclap.
The voice carried over everything else in the room like a krak grenade detonation.
"Everything is proceeding efficiently Kunzhardt. Three wounded, no fatalities. What did the Warsmith desire?"". . .Pelegon wishes us to deal with a pack of wild dogs and the babes that they're safe guarding. . . No glory to be had but the opportunity to shed loyalist blood is always enticing. I wish to remind the Imperium of how foolhardy protecting weaklings is; let us bring tox weaponry to scorch the soil."
"Of course! Wolf blood is fine I shall make ready for our leave"
"Very good, I must have a word with our Master of the Forge."
With that he turned and left leaving his adjutant to run things in his stead. Vhalos was a loyal capable soldier without too much aspiration it was a good combination for him and he was efficient enough to manage to not garner Kunzhardt's wrath too often. No that was reserved for another this time as heavy boots summoned him to the Factorum.
He walked past two immobile sentries at the massive gate, Castellax Battle-Automata, some of the many relics that the relative youth of a Tech-Marine had access too, and in relative quantity. They let him pass as their virtual intelligences registered the Captain of the Second’s presence which meant Adriun would be very aware of his arrival.
Kunzhardt was met by the sight of an entourage of Tech Priests and Tech-Marines surrounding the husk of the FellGlaive, which was stripped down to the chassis. It was to note however the tank that came in, disheveled and battle wounded, was now pristine and repaired, and ready to be re-armed and equipped with its weapons. He also noted several turrets hanging on chains, without the gun or capacitors mounted, that were exact pristine replicas of the tank’s original turret, it seemed as soon as the Main weapon’s technology was cracked they would be able to mass produce the weapon.
He was noticed by the Tech-Marines and Tech-Priests that were overseeing the work of the Servitors, a few Tech Priests and a Tech-Marine came forward.
The Tech Priests bowed with utterances of “Mi’Lord.” And the Marine saluted in the Iron Warriors fashion and directed the Captain to the Elevator.
Soon he was at over watch near Adriun’s personal quarters. The Master of the Forge of course knew this and turned on his Vox.
“Brother Captain, come in, I have been expecting you.” He said amiably.
As Kunzhardt entered the abode, most likely with little concerned with its decorations, he saw Adriun standing near the Main Firing component of the Fell Glaive, or at least assumed so.
Adriun turned to him, while his Mechadendrites continued to work on the device unabated.
“Speak Brother, I assume this is not about your arm, as maintenance was not long ago, is there some service you need of me?” He full well knew why the Captain of the Second was here, but he wished to let his Brother-Captain vent first if necessary.
The grandiose nature of the Forge room always disgusted to some degree. The unnecessary eccentricities of a man that had been all but consumed by the machine. There could be a degree of respect held for the absolutely ancient technological marvels lying around but it was all a great show like a puppet master stringing along marionettes or a doll maker and his display of windup toy soldiers.
The cavernous room with the grinding noises of countless minor events occurring crested by a Fellglaive in countless smaller pieces as the center piece turned his stomach. A mighty weapon of war reduced to scrap!? No that couldn't be the case. He noted some of the pieces that seemed to be replicated and that it seemed like Adruin would seek to produce multiples of this tank which left him at somewhat of a disadvantage in the coming discussion. There would be no high ground for Kunzhardt and all he could do would be to save face and maintain his strength before all. This was a ploy after all! A perfect upstart to humiliate the second captain by removing him from the loop and then sending him into the Factorum where his honour could be mocked. Damn that Warsmith and his ties to the VIIIth legion! Deception and cowardice are their way and this was certainly a fitting way to remove the Second Captain indirectly so that one less objection towards the Tyranus could be mustered.
The tempest of paranoia swirled about within the ceramite helmet of Kunzhardt as the elevator slowly raised. He felt like he was being summoned by an ecclesiastic bastard fat with the coffers of his own office. The grinding of his fist raised to the point that it disturbed his thoughts and he remembered to what degree the Tech Marine had worked on his arm. It was of high quality and had laid many devastating blows to lay foes low and he could not discount the meticulous nature of the marine, but was it a service to him or to preserve the power fist / cybernetic arm so that it would be in pristine condition after he removed it from the second captain's corpse?
--"Brother Captain, come in, I have been expecting you."--
Heavy boots announced a presence with silence to accommodate it. He surveyed the room's trinkets again. He'd been in this room before and the sheer undisciplined nature of it struck him as ghastly. There seemed to be no discipline and it was in stark contrast to the borderline Spartan nature of his own domain it was hard to believe that the Primarch's seed sustained him and not some lesser Legion. . .
Cold eyes turned to Adruin directly now, studying the hive cluster of mechanical tentacles working and flicking about like a dance. He studied them trying to pattern how he might strike should it be required and how to try to time their counter strikes. One good swing with the power fist would be plenty. Even if the Tech-Marine couldn't see Kunzhardt through his helmet it was as though he could feel the daggers stared into him and turned to face the Captain of the Second and while it was well disguised a trained eye might notice it looked like the second captain had took an incredibly deep breath to try to calm himself before speaking.
---“Speak Brother, I assume this is not about your arm, as maintenance was not long ago, is there some service you need of me?”
"No brother. . . The arm performs as it was intended-thank you. The Warsmith has seen fit to gift you a mighty warmachine; it rightfully belongs to the Mechanized Fist. What are you doing with it?"
Adriun scratched his hair covered chin, "It rightfully belongs to the XIXth Brother, I think you know why it was gifted to me. My work guarantees that this single beast can be made into many more."
He took out his pistol and showed it to Kunzhardt,"Like this piece here," He turned and pressed a button on a data slate and the wall open up showing a dozen more identical pistols.
---"See, while I fully intend for the mechanized fist to make use of it, it makes much more sense to make sure it is more than one that can be made use of, I am sure you would rather be able to field ten than one, and the risk of losing this technology in battle is greater without this redundancy." He finished and the wall closed up.
---"Do not fret, I will grant you this boon in due time, as I would hope you would grant me something you thought would be better left in my care as well." He finished and proffered his hand, "Deal Brother?"
Within the helmet the captain of the second was scoffing at the young upstart of a Tech Marine who's life span he had doubled thus far. He had bore witness to countless worlds burning and titanic fleets in space coming to blows. His eyes had observed the Emperor, Perturabo, Horus himself! And this whelp!?
Kunzhardt seemingly growled before responding.
"You already have my debt, Adruin. . . I will be informed of receipt of any additional warmachines before taken into your care. Just ensure we have plenty of these. I itch for campaign and this incursion against wild dogs will not satiate for long.
That was about as close as Adruin would get to receiving true gratitude from the second captain. It was a show of weakness and Kunzhardt would never allow it but he appreciated the arm and the weaponry that Adruin supplied him. It was what allowed the Mechanized Fist to bring down the very sky upon those unlucky enough to fall within his cross-hairs.
With that the Second Captain retrieved the Forge Masters hand in his own massive power fist and shook, squeezing tight enough to shatter any mans hand into dust but for an Astartes it would likely just cause some discomfort. And with that he bowed his head slightly and marched from the room.
Adriun knew he had disarmed the Second Captain's mood like one would disarm a bomb, he had cut away at the preconceptions like so many vital wires, He respected his Brother Captain and knew his move was also a political one and would further cement a very necessary camaraderie between his Mechanicus Sect and Kunzhardt's armored divisions.
During the whole confrontation he noticed his actions had somewhat shocked the easily angered captain, and maybe he would fins some new found respect for Forge Master, at least he hoped, he only desired to serve the Company, and that meant they need to be secure in loyalties to one another, it saddened him that something as trivial as birthplace and gene-seed could cause such friction. But his brother finished, and accepted the hand shake, though very strong he remained stoic and nodded to his Brother who departed, hopefully a friendship of some-sort would bloom from the enlightening exchange.
He turned his full attention now to the large device before him, it’s functioning was no mystery to him, it was nearly identical to his side arm, aside from higher quality and larger components, he could already understand what would be necessary to replicate it. He continued his disassembling of the device and recorded in detail each of the parts and their function, soon his gift would be ready for manufacturing.
"Well now, it seems this is more alike to the Serpenta than I thought...Now then with this amount of output though the Magnetic fields would need to be five times standard strength to maintain the particle projection." He said to himself taking down notes.
He watched some monitors seeing the Captain of the Second had finally left, he wondered if he would be able to get him the Vehicles in time for a trial by fire. There was no room for doubt in his own abilities however and so he pushed the thought aside.
After a while he decided to contact the other teams to see if they had made desirable progress, they after all had the easier jobs than he had, he expected them to have a full catalog and already be in a testing phase to see about part production if they were to make his one week deadline.
He opened up the vox broadcast for the factorum, "Brothers and Mechanicus Comrades, I have made significant progress into the inner working of the Carronade's main firing components, and so I expect that the Teams have made even more progress than I”
“I expect a full report sent by Servo Skull within the next hour.” He finished and cut the signal.
After the broadcast the teams, Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma, began to converse among themselves as the servitors continued their work. There were two Directors that oversaw the combined teams, Loakk was the Tech-Marine in charge of Alpha and Beta, and Furthuum the Tech-Marine in charge of Delta and Gamma.
Loakk was a tall and imposing Tech-Marine with an impressive bulk brought on by his Genetor/Biologis practices; He was the Right hand of Adriun. His Marines and Tech-Priests, to lowly Tech thralls all showed signs of physical enhancement to the flesh, typically having extra grafted musculature and fiber strengthened bone structures and enhanced sensory organs. Loakk himself wore modified Maximus power armor, that fit his extra muscled bulk, and his face was pale as his blood had been replaced with a synthetic hyper efficient replacement, his pupils were slits that noticed every detail and saw in more than one wave length. He had Mechadendrites like any of his station, but his cybernetics seemed sleeker and focused on preserving his flesh instead of replacing it.
He spoke to his team and dictated to a servo skull with a recorder,” The operation proceeds accordingly, the Barrel has been disassembled, and cataloged then reassembled and tested, we are working on attempting to duplicate it small scale now and once this is successful we may begin constructing templates for the factorum which will take a bulk of the time. That is all Master Adriun, Iron within, Iron without.” The rest of the team resounded the chant as well, and then returned to their task and ordering about the servitors.
In another part of the factorum, Brother Furthuum, the opposite to the other Operations Director in every way, Furthuum forgoes most flesh for Iron instead, being highly cybernetically enhanced, he is interred permanently in a massive modified Gorgon Pattern Terminator armor. He had many Mechadendrites, all oriented for manipulation and tool usage, and his Shoulders were capable of each mounting a heavy weapon of his choice as well as each arm having bracing to mount a heavy weapon as well, making him quite the weapons platform in combat, using dual power fists on those fortunate enough to not die at a distance, and on top of that he could mount a Cyclone Missile launcher as well.
He towered over his compatriots they as well deeming flesh weak in their appearance, His face armored and a single eye replaced by a large complex optical unit for precise aiming and precision work. The flesh left on his face tanned from work with welding, and being near plasma cutters with frequency, and his single eye red and judging.
He spouted binary at those with translators, and they responded in kind, this Man-that-was-machine was Adriun’s Loyal left hand. He then spoke for the others and to please Adriun who preferred High Gothic to machine language, though fluent in both.
“Delta and Gamma have successfully mapped the capacitors and main generators, they are similar to those used by the Shadow Sword, with some differences in function and capacity, we are ready to begin production phase, and it would only take slight modification to current templates to accurately reproduce the product.” He spoke in his machine tinted tone.
One of the Tech Priests released a Servo skull that was attached to its body with the message recorded, it hover back to their master. With that they returned to work.
Adriun listened to both recordings and smiled pleased with his work and that of his team, he sent the Servo Skulls back and then proceeded to record his own message for Pelegon.
“Warsmith, Master Pelegon, I have cracked the FellGlaive's inner working with the assistance of my teams, We are working on bringing it into a Production phase so that it may be of use to the company, we will defer out product to Brother Captain Kunzhardt for his expertise and usage, I hope this pleases you.” He said to the recorder.
He paused, “Thank you as well for entrusting this task to me, I will not disappoint, and my final question in this matter is if I will need to manufacture tech thralls for this engagement, if not deemed necessary then I will coordinate with my armored and mechanized units to deploy as a strike force in the upcoming operation, I am positive with the Armored Fist and my Mechanicus units, our siege will be swift. Iron Within.” He finished and sent the Servo Skull to the Warsmith.
He went back to his work area and reassembled the Firing unit, and had a Crane come in through the ceiling, which opened up and then snatched the device away. Adriun the grabbed his Sheathed blade and attached it to his belt, then holstered his Serpenta as well, and left the room to go about to getting the factorum prepped for production, the longest part of the work for him.
Perius Lay on the surgery table before him, a thin stream of blood flowing from his neck that wasn’t sealing up. That meant, it was deep. The Warrior was one of Kunzhardt’s, one of the Second Company. During one of their endless, perilous training regiments Perius had taken a bolt fragment to the side of his neck and was rushed to Lugerev’s care.
Pelegon always preached about numbers, and for good reason. It was an issue for nearly all of the remaining Traitor Legions. A failed rebellion, and several millenia of guerilla warfare had taken its toll on all their numbers. To lose an Astartes in a training accident was...deplorable.
Perius was not dead yet, though. Lugerev had put him to sleep so he could more easily search for the embedded fragment.
‘Kunzhardt might want to start making his mens’ training a bit more purposeful than this.’ Said Lugerev to one of the two Apothecaries assigned to 7th Company, who stood to the side of the room. His name was Tirgivil, and he was here to learn, today.
Both of the medical officers wore their unarmored garb, iron-gray, hoods down draped over their wide, strong shoulders.
Lugerev didn’t much feel like guessing as to how many patients he had received from Kunzhardt’s Company in any standard Terran cycle due to being in the Warp, but needless to say, it was a lot.
He stuck a syringe into Brother Perius’s neck. A solution to soften the flesh so he could cut it open easier. A second syringe, poked. This one at the edge of the wound; a solution to help the Larraman’s cells clog the bleeding.
There was a spread of small holes in the upper chest and collar bone area of Perius’s power armor. Something was wrong. Lugerev’s hands searched over the area, unable to manipulate the armor.
‘There’s another wound here, a second penetration they didn’t notice. One of these pockmarks goes all the way through.’
Tirgivil did not say anything in return. He knew it was not necessary.
Lugerev Looked into Perius’s numb, unconscious eyes. He grabbed the adamantium tipped saw off of the table next to him. He placed it carefully at the top edge of the armor’s collar bone and activated the tool suddenly realizing there might not be time to properly remove the armor. The jarring, screeching of metal on metal ensued. The gray earth around him constantly trembled. It shook beneath his feet. The noise was tremendous. For days, the noise had been tremendous.
His saw continued to bite into the iron hued war plate as lifeless suits of power armor dangled off the sides of corpse-mountains and fell, nudged off from the intense vibrations, dropping like worthless bugs. It looked as if these piles of dead had been dumped out from buckets. Yellow, black, iron, chevrons, and black mailed fists had never been so mixed together. Missiles screamed over top of him, and Lidecrus screamed into his face with all the spittle Lugerev could have ever asked for.
‘Where is it?’ yelled Lugerev at the top of his lungs, he had wrent the chest plate open, but could not tell where the bolt fragment had gone. Lidecrus’s whole chest was soaked in blood.
Lugerev’s hands waded through the blood over the hole. It was so large. It must have been the entire bolt round’s tip, shattered as it hit the reinforced ribcage.
‘Everywhere,’ whispered Lugerev, ‘Its everywhere.’
His fingers dug through the flesh, expertly plucking out piece after piece. Lidecrus grabbed hold of his wrist, pulling it down as he screamed in agony, calling out to Lugerev that he was dying.
‘Hold on my brother.’
Lidecrus’s eyes were stuck, locked on the piles of dead bodies surrounding them.
‘Just one more.’ the dying Marine practically whimpered.
Torrents of enormous caliber rounds from a fortified gun emplacement, ground an incoming squad of Imperial Fists into red dust and bits of armor plating. Apparently they had sighted him, and had made a for a run, hoping to kill the Apothecary.
Lidecrus’s life was fading in his hands, fast. Those hands were frantic now. He couldn't start trying to repair the flesh with pieces of burning metal still lodged inside.
He screamed back at the patient in frustration. He grabbed Lidecrus’s head in his blood covered hands, smearing the Marine’s ears red.
‘Stop dying! Stop losing blood! I can’t take it anymore, you bastard!’
He activated the saw on his narthecium, and plunged it into Lidecrus’s ribcage. If his brother had already been screaming in agony before, Lugerev had no idea what to call it now.
‘Where are you, you damn piece of Emperor-blessed metal. Where, are, you-’
‘Sir.’ A hand was on his shoulder. It was Tirgivil.
Lugerev looked down at Perius, and stopped his rotating saw blade. The Second Company warrior lay on the surgery table, dead, his ribcage cut open with organs bubbling out.
Lugerev felt sweat on his face. His twin hearts were beating with adrenaline. He stood up straight, collecting himself.
‘The wound was too deep. I will have to inform Captain Kunzhardt to decrease the pernicious nature of his training exercises.’
Tirgivil could see it in his master’s eyes, that he was utterly confused. After a moment of silence, Lugerev picked up the heavy, armored body. Tirgivil moved to help, taking one side.
‘Please clean the table, Tirgivil. Pelegon has summoned a council. I am already late due to Perius being brought to me.'
Several minutes later, Lugerev had just transitioned from the Medicae Halls to the main tower of the Eisenschloss. He walked rather slowly, discovering he was not as late as he had thought.
‘Tik-tok. Tik...tok. Tik-tok tik...tok. Always, always. Always. Tik-tok, tik, tok, tik-tok. Slower...Tik, tok, tik, tok’ he was saying to himself, as he rounded a corner and found the verdigris-eyed twins, Iapetus and Coues, deep in conversation in one of the open spaced, adjacent chambers to the corridor.
He looked at them for a moment, and decided not to interrupt, passing them by. He knew they would be following him soon enough. Truth be told, not long after, all three of them stood at their places around the fourteen sided, polished steel table. While the Warsmith spoke, Lugerev stared down into his hazy reflection. He watched as it moved, side to side. Though his eyes were lost to this oddity, his ears were open, absorbing the details. A few times though, his eyes wandered up to the stern, emotionless face of the Second Captain, who's eyes never veered from their Leader.
Space Wolves. Maybe he’d get to kill a few. That wasn’t going to be his primary objective though, naturally.
The mission sounded simple enough. An easy target. Some sugary prey to vent their Warp crazed appetites. All but two and himself were dismissed. Massive, armored bodies slid past his robed form. Now at the lonely side of the table, he looked up towards Pelegon as he continued with further information regarding a Strike Cruiser. The Fist of Russ, he mused, sounds like a ship that will be around for a while. Being that it’s named after one of Russ’s hands, I bet, that’s where it will stay.
Ah, he thought, as he finally heard his objective. There it is. And he shuddered at it. Lizard geneseed? Disgusting. Red eyed, burnt, radioactive freaks.
“Are there any questions?’ Asked Pelegon.
A short pause, in which Lugerev looked to the Seventh Captain, now separate from his psyker brother. He liked Iapetus. He had given him a means off of Terra. Lugerev had been assisting the Sixth Company, The Company his roots were in, which had nearly perished on the Throne world. With all hope for escape thought lost, Iapetus descended through the smoke and smog, with a lowered ramp, and an open palm.
Suddenly the other figure in the room spoke up, rather loud. Clad in black, this individual stepped around the table a bit in order to come closer to the Warsmith. He dismissed Iapetus’s role with hardly a thought, and laid out his requests for some kind of plan.
Baffled, perplexed, puzzled. Lugerev’s eyes and brow were in the shape of dire concern. Disgust, even.
He raised his arms out wide, looking back and forth between Pelegon and Iapetus as if to ask: Am I the only one seeing this?
When neither of the two seemed to know how to respond, Lugerev voiced the question instead.
‘Who is that?’ He paused looking at the individual further, squinting his eyes now, jaw dropped.
‘Is that...is that seriously one of the Lion’s pristine little maggots?
Lugerev drew his blade from beneath his robes.
Iapetus was inspecting the Wandering King, twelve-kilometres of iron, cannons and battlements, of sprawling city-scapes and cavernous hangers, when news of Pelegon's summoning reached him. He nodded, appreciatively, to the thrall who had brought the news, and immediately set off to the primary hanger. His Stormbird was already awaiting, glinting in the lights, engines idling. Iapetus was aboard, and approaching Medrengard, in a matter of minutes. He stood, in darkness, contemplating. This meant one thing - War.
The transport banked down, through poisonous clouds, and flew over Medrengard's barren, rocky plains. It flew low, kicking up storms of dust and grit, gaining speed, faster and faster, until the fortress of the XIXth loomed ahead, a twisted, gnarled finger.
The Stormbird landed, engines settling down with a whine. Iapetus awaited in the hatchway, still as a statue, as the ramp lowered. There, framed in coils of mist and smoke, was the Seer. He wore robes, grey and roughspun, the Inquisitorial Rosette dangling from his neck on a beaded chain. He carried his axe and the Iron Grimoire, the Librarian's tome, hung heavily from his hip.
'Brother,' Iapetus said, descending the ramp. 'It is good to see you.'
'Brother,' Coeus called back, embracing Iapetus. In his Terminator Armour, the Shipwright dwarfed his twin. 'It is good to see you too. How fairs the Seventh?'
Iapetus stepped back, clasping Coeus' hands between his gauntlets. One thought, one muscle-twitch, and he could crush the bones to dust. 'They are well,' He said, smiling. 'A well-oiled cog,' His voice dropped. 'In a rusted machine,' He looked around, surveying the hanger. Mostly empty; save for a dozen Stormbirds and Thunderhawks and their attendants. 'And your witches?'
Iapetus and Coeus began to walk, towards Pelegon's war-room. The fortress was quiet, unusually so.
'My Librarians serve me well, mostly,' Coeus said, as they turned down a long, quiet hallway. 'They brought one to me, a man called Bronsk, to be tried. Interesting, they also brought me Rorke from the Second.'
'Bronsk?' Iapetus said, raising an eyebrow. He knew the Marine - A veteran of the Crusade, of good, albeit low-born, Olympian stock. 'I know him. One of us,' Coeus knew what that meant. 'This other - Rorke? - One of Kunzhardt's lot,' Iapetus shook his head. 'He matters not.'
+His sin is minor enough. Possessing contraband from what I could hot read. I’m sure he’ll be fine.+ Coeus transmitted, directly into Iapetus's head. To some, this was a grievous invasion of privacy, bringing nosebleeds and migraines. To Iapetus, this was simply the norm.
'Kunzhardt's is certainly problematic. Some sort of infection. Perhaps I will have to investigate them closer,' The Seer continued, manipulating Iapetus's mind. There was a perverse pleasure to Coeus, like a serpent regarding a rodent, as he spoke of Rorke.
'Are there others? Among the Second?' Iapetus asked, his voice growing cold. He smiled hungrily. 'Of course there are others. A formal investigation will have to be launched, will it not, brother?'
It was not a question. 'And Kunzhardt? How could he have missed such a terrible thing - He should be charged with incompetence at best.'
'Well, we can hardly expect a half-born to do much better than stammering impotence. You remember how Gneous fell?' Coeus laughed, a harsh, biting sound. 'It’s always the half-born.'
'They are unworthy at best. Worse, still, is that bastard Night Lord,' Iapetus grunted. The Tyranthikos were his, now. Iapetus remembered Krotas, and fondly at that. The Night Lord had ruled longer, twisting the Tyranthikos into his own butchers, much to the chagrin of Iapetus, Coeus and the Olympian faction. 'Where has our glory, our pride, gone?'
He raised a hand, clenching it into a fist. 'They stain us, this mongrel-breed. Blood, so pure, so glittering, has blackened and congealed. But we serve, brother, and faithfully. More faithful than the Night Lord, or the bastard-born, ever could.'
'Tyranus,' Coeus spat, his saliva eating away at the floor. 'Peace, brother,' He said, stepping into a dim, narrow hallway. +We will purge them from our proud Legion,+ He continued, with his mind's-voice. 'Let us not focus on what has been, but on what is to come,'
Iapetus nodded, listening. +Their reckoning will come and we will cast them down and grind them to dust under the hammer of Olympia+ The Seer continued, and Iapetus could feel his mind throb. Even he, so accustomed to the witchery of his brother, felt the touch of the warp. 'These half-breeds will have their day,' and then, another switch, into his mind. +And their end is neigh. We will see to that my brother,+
'And we will be mighty, loyal and pure iron once more,' There was a brief pause, as Lugerev, the Chief Apothecary, marched past. Iapetus looked at him from downcast eyes. They were friends, Iapetus having saved the Apothecary and his forces at Terra, and shared similar opinions. The Iron Warriors were Olympian, and always would be. Coeus caught it, too, and quickly spoke. 'Do you know how Lugerev fares these recent days? I heard one of your Apothecaries was at his side, but I’ve not been able to check on our troubled friend.'
Iapetus sighed. 'Tirgivil, yes,' The Shipmaster said, watching Lugerev enter Pelegon's war-chambers. 'He reports to me, on times. He is Lugerev's pet, that I know, but he is a true Iron Warrior,' He pursed his lips. 'He fears for Lugerev, as do I. Has Lugerev grown worse, Coeus, or has he always been so mad?'
He stepped towards the war-chamber. 'If we watch his back, he shall watch ours. Lugerev is an Olympian, a friend, Coeus. We need him and his Apothecaries, so does the Grand Company. So long as Tirgivil warns me, I will look after him. I only ask the same of you, brother.'
'I have not grown so old yet that I struggle to distinguish friend from foe, Iapetus,' Coeus said, angrily. Iapetus stepped back, raising his hands, and grinned. 'I just wondered if Tirgivil had seen any marked change lately. As I said, I have been otherwise engaged,' The doors loomed ahead, now. Inside, Iapetus could make out figures, armoured in iron, standing stock-still. 'Rest assured, I will watch over him as surely as I watch over you.'
Coeus entered first, taking a place around the quadradecagonal table, a position for every senior officer. Iapetus stepped besides him, between the Seer and the Mad Apothecary. Pelegon dwarfed them all, a monstrosity of flesh, blood and metal. Iapetus stared at him, as he spoke, with a tight mouth. Something isn't right, he thought, as the briefing continued. This world, the presence of the Wolves, felt strange.
Stranger still, as when Lugerev, Lucian and Iapetus were told to remain behind. Pelegon's motley brotherhood filed out, Iapetus grasping his brother's hand, and then turned his attentions back to the Warsmith. More information flowed forth, concerning a lone cruiser, the Fist of Russ.
'Are there any questions?' Pelegon asked, in that deep, rumbling voice of his.
Lucian, the Dark Angel, quickly wrote off Iapetus. The Shipwright narrowed his eyes, green, poisonous slits, and curled his lips.
'Who is that?' Lugerev sneered. Iapetus snorted, biting back a laugh, and shrugged - No easy task in Terminator Armour.
When he drew his blade, the Shipwright was forced into action.
'Lugerev, brother,' He said, raising a hand. He pushed down the weapon with his fingertips. 'Lucian wears the garb of Caliban,' And, so he did, in his black plate and stained robes. He looks like a robber-knight, Iapetus reflected. 'But his hearts are iron,' That was a bitter lie. It almost burnt his tongue to utter it.
'How many ships have you taken, Captain?' He asked, turning his attentions to the Dark Angel. 'A dozen, two? I have taken hundreds. I have built ships, I have repaired ships, I have destroyed ships. And I, and my Company, will be of no use?'
He snorted again.
'Wolves do not hunt alone,' He said, to Pelegon. 'I suspect a trap, Warsmith,' He paused, thinking. 'I'll draw the vessel away, with the Wandering King and Lonesome Queen, and disable her. Whatever damage is dealt, and damage will be dealt, I will personally oversee the reconstruction and recommissioning.'
He waved a hand, dismissively, in Lucian's direction. 'If the Angel is so hungry for glory, if he strains at the leashes so needlessly, he may have the honour of boarding, and capturing the ship. I ask only one thing - He defers to my authority. The right tool needs to be applied, here. And I'm afraid,' He mocked. 'A needle can only prick.'
Lucian turns to regard the apocathery with his red helmet lens as he begins to draw his blade as Lucian's own right hand slides up to his shoulder and grips the hilt of one of his blade but releases it when the Seventh Captain intervenes. Standing there listening Lucian watches his fellow captain and the Primus Medicae as the Seventh Captain speaks of him wearing the garb on Caliban.
Shaking his head he looks at Pelegon before turning his gaze back to the 'Shipwright'. "I wear the garb best suited to stealth Captain Iapetus hence the colour of my armour and my robes." Lucian steps forward one and fixes his gaze with Iapetus's own as he listens to the Seventh Captain speak of himself and that he and his company would best be suited for the job of taking the ship. "Captain Iapetus this task that the Warsmith has set out requires subtlety and you and your company are about as subtle as World Eaters when it comes to battle."
"As soon as you lead the Wolves away and begin attacking them then they themselves will send out a call to reinforcements even if they dont the call will still go out alerting others that there are Iron Warriors in the region giving the world we are going to take even more time to prepare for an invasion."
Lucian steps forward again to stand chest plate to chestplate with Iapetus as he meets his gaze with his own. "No, you would be best employed taking your ships and entering orbit and doing what I know the Fourth Legion are perhaps the best at: Precision Orbital Bombardment, which you can use as cover to get the rest of the Grand Company planet side. If this mission required your 'technique' then there was no need for myself to be included to stay behind as any of the other captains would easily be able to simply blow holes in the ship and then repair them at a later date. Your plan will also include casualties and loses in resources while my plan will ensure that we sustain minimal loses."
Lucian turns away from Iapetus to look at the Warsmith. "The decision however is not ours Iapetus, it is the Warsmiths and as such I abide by your decision Warsmith Pelegon." Lucian bows his head to Pelegon.
Sitting in atop the Dais in within the Keep of the First Tyranus loomed over the proceedings around him, he awaited word from his Lieutenant Xareth that all preparations had been made for their battle barge The Iron Tyrant and as he waited word of something most interesting reached his ears. The message had been delivered from a Brother who stood in the shadows, his power armor, from what could be seen was mundane and refrained from the flourishes and braggadocious nature that the various war plates of the First now typically held. The warrior though was one that had no problem lurking in shadows, blending in plain sight and the kindred bond that Tyranus shared with him was that both had come gene stock other than that of the Iron Warriors. And so, rather than try to remake the man, Tyranus used him as he was, and Draxus flourished in his role. While he had a suit of Cataphractii that was his right to wear when on campaign, typically Draxus meandered about the Eisenschloss and its accompanying structures, simply picking up on any rumor that circulated and relaying it to his Lord.
"Corruption, or so they say, has potentially taken root within the 2nd, supposedly a Brother named Rorke" Draxus seemed to drag out his delivery, to the annoyance of Tyranus. He indicated as such with his questioning tilt of his head and a sweeping gesture with his right hand imploring the marine to continue, or continue to drag it out as his own peril. "Having overheard it from several within the Apothecarion-" Tyranus cut him off quickly at mention of the Apothecarion, "Did Lugerev see you?" his scowl only intensified as he continued his line of questioning, "Were you identified by your HUD link?" There was a real threat now of physical violence in the tone of Tyranus. Draxus of course did not disappoint, "No my Lord, Lugerev was at the summons with you and as we are preparing for war the Apothecarion is quite overrun with Battle Brothers seeking final confirmations of their readiness for war. To your second question, my next 'stop' was to the armory to see to it that my HUD and link systems were repaired as they do not function currently. When asked I merely said I was 'with the reserve company', they did not even bother to ask which one, so inundated were they with Battle Brothers seeking clearance to go to war on our new campaign." Draxus had taken all the steps necessary to remain unseen and that satisifed Tyranus enough. "Additonally my Lord, A Librarian named Bronsk seems to have been found in possession of occult materials, but that is mere speculation I have heard, I cannot be sure if that information is accurate. All the same, if there is one corrupted, there are likely others."
Tyranus held up his right hand, indicating to Draxus that he did not seek to hear his theories about what any of this information meant. "Draxus, you will rejoin your 10th Squad, I'm sure Sergeant Nelios will be glad of your return and his squad's return to full strength."
Draxus exited and Tyranus quickly brought up his vox comm, he had matter to address with the Third Captain. His encrypted vox link confirmed he spoke, his low, bass ridden voice carrying with it a level of enthusiasm and flattery he rarely utilized. "Brother Captain Lucian, the Third is most welcome on this campaign!" the flattery left a taste of too much butter slathered on too thin piece of bread for it was not Tyranus' typical mood to be so amicable, though he tried admirably to hide it from his tone and facial expressions.
"I do not know what endeavor you and your Third Company are to be sent on, but know that if you require additional fire support that I would lend to you a small retinue of my Tyranthikos to fight alongside your Company." The niceties were simple enough to read through, Tyranus wanted to know what was going on and sought to have some small hand in the glory of whatever secretive plan was underway. Whether the Third Captain would humor him he doubted, but he had an amiable enough history with Lucian that he did not see it as out of the question.
Lucian's reply was taciturn in regards to his mood, "First Captain Tyranus, while the offer of aid is appreciated the Third Company itself will not be deploying on the planet as our task will be carrying us elsewhere to deal with a problem far more suited to Third. As such your warriors will not be needed something which I have already told the Seventh Captain as the mission I have been given requires stealth and espionage of the highest degree and I'm afraid to say that all other companies lack such qualities."
Tyranus saw that they were both outcast to an extent among the senior officers as they were not of the contingent of the XIXth that carried "pure" gene stock of the Iron Warriors, solemn as their oaths to the Great Company and the Legion may be. As such they were potential allies of circumstance, or just as likely Captains who would eventually have to fight private wars against those who conspired to 'purify' the ranks of the XIXth. He noted that Lucian had denied The 7th a place in his mission, likely appealing to the WarSmith to have the 7th to take another assignment as necessary.
"Very well Brother Captain Lucian, of course I understand and respect the specialized nature of your mission and will ask no further of its content. However, I would ask only that you be wary around Lugerev and the Seventh, they do not see the true value in the work you do and may look to undermine you. If you should have need of myself or my Tyranthikos, do not hesistate Brother Lucian. Glory to the Shadowed."
There was a moment of silence as Lucian thought over the words of his Brother Captain, Tyranus, knowing the nature of Lucian was not surprised as the crackle and static of the cut off vox fizzled before he too closed the channel. His Brother Captain had given him some valuable snippets of information, but they were indeed just scraps, pieces, the nature of Captain Lucian interested Tyranus in that it was very much akin to how he had operated a lifetime ago.
"We are assembled as per your orders Lord," the heavily digitized voice came from the vox-grille of the most senior of his Honor Guard, the seven that would ride with him in his Crusader pattern Land Raider when they attacked Pelexis III were in front of him. He rose to his feet and though he was at best the same height as the Honor Guard around him he dwarfed them in sheer size and intimidation, his customized Cataphractii plate easily larger than those of his warriors, he held the HUD linked storm bolter and shoulder mounted frag launcher lent to the appearance of a walking tank. "You shall accompany me to the domain of the 2nd, I would speak with Captain Kunzhardt about our newest campaign."
Disembarking from the Crusader dubbed Exterminatore Tyranus was at the head of a cadre of his own personal honor guard, warriors who did not technically belong to a squad within the First, they answered directly to the First Captain, ever watchful over their lord, their right pauldrons glistened in worn and aged gold signifying their station as sworn guardians to Tyranus. They entered the massive Hangar that housed the training exercises of the 2nd Company. This day he was accompanied by seven, these men made up a core component of his command squad, the other was lead by his Lieutenant Xareth and his first squad.
They were not here for conflict and as such their weapons were at this moment not powered and all had their storm bolters securely mag locked to their waists, however in what could only be described as hostile territory they were on high alert, their heads moving with a level of hyper awareness, scoping every possible angle for any sign of hostility.
Tyranus spoke to the first veteran of 2nd Company he saw, his retinue of Seven formed around him so as to protect him from all sides. "I would have words with Captain Kunzhardt," The Veteran gave a look that revealed how unsure he was of what to do. The Veteran clearly knew that Kunzhardt was not overly fond of Tyranus, and must have wondered if this incursion into their training grounds was to be interpreted as an act of aggression or challenge. "I wish to speak with the Mechanized Fist about how we might best crush our adversaries underfoot in our newest campaign."
My legs were crossed but no part of me touched the floor. My mental powers kept me suspended, but that was less than a background thought. What was important was the deck of psychoactive cards that circled him. His mind moved them facing outwards, random paths and random directions. This tarot was a way that the servants of the False Emperor scry the future. They wouldn’t cast their souls into the warp like I would, but it was interesting to hear what their best voices would offer me.
I turned over the card in front of me. A sword. War. Pelegon would ask for him soon then. Next was a glaring wound. Opening like a maw. No wait, that wasn’t right I realised. It was an eye. It was an evil eye that burnt but offered no warmth. I felt a chill run up my spine at meeting its hateful glare. Was this a portent that the servants of Imperium would quake at, or was it a sign of infighting for the Grand Company. The room disappeared from around me and I soared into the Immaterium, searching for the truth. A burning world, the howl of wolves, the separating of flesh and spirit. I drank the emotional tides in, and caught a close approaching wave. Someone approached.
My eyes flung open and I opened the tumblers on my chamber doors. A serf, Borigan from hot-reading his thoughts, stood with his fist raised about to knock. “My lord…” he began.
“I am called to war?” I said, already sure of the answer.
“Yes, but there is another matter I thought you’d like to know.” Borigan continued, no doubt wondering why he bothered to inform a man who wore the title The Seer.
“Oh?” I said, collecting all the cards into a single deck which fell neatly to the floor. I uncrossed my legs, standing at my full height with my robes falling flat against my skin.
“Captain Iapetus will be arriving soon. Hanger 6.” I picked up the Iron Grimoire and Eternal Schism, strapping one to either hip.
“Thank you Borigan.” I said making my way past the serf.
I was about to walk out without pause, but a sight stopped me. Two men were shackled. One I recognised, for he was one of mine, Librarian Bronsk. As well as the physical shackles, he was bound with a psycho-dampening collar. How solemn it would be for a man who had always heard the voice of the warp whisper to him to suddenly separated from his constant companion. My mind quested, why was he bound? Possession of sorcerous tomes, contraband. I kept my face impassive, but chuckled to myself. The other, who was he. A hot-read told me his name was Rorke and he was from the 2nd company, but I didn’t need to look for his crime. A steadily weeping collection of abscesses marked his forearm. They were my problems and my duties to deal with, but at a later date. After I had seen my brother.
I walked into hanger 6 to find myself surprisingly alone, except for the lobotomised servitors who scuttled around guided by whatever machine-code that was running through their simple brains. My robes began to billow as one of the 7th’s Stormbird’s landed, but I didn’t move. The exhaust fumes caressed my robes until the engines finally died and the entrance ramp lowered. My larger twin stood, his form accentuated by his Tauros Pattern Armour and no less lethal for the lack of weapons. 'Brother,' Iapetus said, descending the ramp. 'It is good to see you.'
“Brother…” I said opening my arms to embrace a man to whom may greeting was far more than a mere formality. “…it is good to see you too. How fairs the 7th?”
Iapetus stepped back, clasping Coeus' hands between his gauntlets. One thought, one muscle-twitch, and he could crush the bones to dust.
“They are well.” He said, smiling. “A well-oiled cog…” His voice dropped and took on a harsh tone “…in a rusted machine.” Iapetus surveyed the hanger, perhaps looking for some intruder “And your witches?” The way he spoke about my charges was harsh, but not like the others. They spoke with a tone of derision that I hated, although I had long since grown accustomed to their ignorant mutterings. Iapetus’s term was born from familiarity, not contempt. The ramp to his Stormbird closed behind us as we began to walk towards our master’s chambers. “My librarian’s serve me well, mostly. They brought one to me, a man called Bronsk, to be tried. Interesting, they also brought me Rorke from the 2nd.” I left an empty space for Iapetus to comment, he would no doubt have something to say about the half-born’s bastard son.
“Bronsk?” Iapetus said, raising an eyebrow. We had known Bronsk for a while, a low born Olympian, but one of the true IVth Legionnaires. “One of us” I knew what my brother meant by that. I had to spare him. I pressed my consciousness onto his, something he was familiar with by now. It was the only sure way to know we would not be heard. *His sin is minor enough. Possessing contraband from what I could hot read. I’m sure he’ll be fine.* Of course he would, I held his life in my hand. He was still worth interrogating though, to find out what he knew.
I switched back to my audible voice “Kunzhurdt’s is certainly problematic. Some sort of infection. Perhaps I will have to investigate them closer.” My face remained fixed but Iapetus would have felt the wave of pleasure I sent him.
“Are there others? Among the Second?” Iapetus asked, his voice growing cold. He smiled, a knowing and sinister smile “Of course there are others. A formal investigation will have to be launched, will it not, brother?” It was not a question, but I could have launched one with less evidence. “And Kunzhardt? How could he have missed such a terrible thing - He should be charged with incompetence at best.”
I felt my curled lip turn into a smile briefly. It would do me good to see the Gorgon-spawn feel the icy breath of the Librarium down his neck. “Well, we can hardly expect a half-born to do much better than stammering impotence. You remember how Gneous fell?” I referred to my Ultramar born predecessor, and laughed unkindly. We knew the truth of his demise. “It’s always the half-born.” I tutted, making no attempt to hide my disgust.
“They are unworthy at best. Worse, still, is that bastard Night Lord,” Iapetus grunted. “Tyranus, bah.” I spat and left my saliva to burn a hole in the iron floor. He would always be Tyberus. The warp still sung his true name and the smell of his former brothers clung to him like the stench of a rotting corpse. Nothing could wash that off him.
“Where has our glory, our pride, gone?” He raised a hand, clenching it into a fist. “They stain us, this mongrel-breed. Blood, so pure, so glittering, has blackened and congealed. But we serve, brother, and faithfully. More faithful than the Night Lord, or the bastard-born, ever could.”
We were almost at the meeting hall now, ahead of the others, but we were not done. I walked down an adjacent corridor, pulling my brother aside. “Peace brother…”
*…we will purge them from our proud legion…*
“…let us not focus on what has been, but on what is to come…”
*…their reckoning will come and we will cast them down and grind them to dust under the hammer of Olympia…*
“…these half-breeds will have their day…”
*…and their end is neigh. We will see to that my brother…*
“…and we will be mighty, loyal and pure iron once more.” I spoke with two voices. Most regarded us as prejudiced relics, and secure conversations helped maintain that illusion of benign disgust.
I smoothed a crease from my robe and saw the Primus Medicae walk past. All the players were being summoned. “Do you know how Lugerev fairs these recent days? I heard one of your Apothecaries was at his side, but I’ve not been able to check on our troubled friend.” Iapetus sighed.
“Tirgivil, yes, he reports to me, on times. He is Lugerev's pet, that I know, but he is a true Iron Warrior,” He pursed his lips. “He fears for Lugerev, as do I. Has Lugerev grown worse, Coeus, or has he always been so mad?” He stepped towards the war-chamber. “If we watch his back, he shall watch ours. Lugerev is an Olympian, a friend, Coeus. We need him and his Apothecaries, so does the Grand Company. So long as Tirgivil warns me, I will look after him. I only ask the same of you, brother.”
I ran my tongue over my teeth, a habit when I am thinking about what to say. “I have not grown so old yet that I struggle to distinguish friend from foe, Iapetus...” I retorted with more than a little venom. “…I just wondered if Tirgivil had seen any marked change lately. As I said, I have been otherwise engaged.” Iapetus knew better than to pry into exactly what had consumed my time, especially given the lion’s den they were about to enter. “Rest assured, I will watch over him as surely as I watch over you.” With that we entered into this war council, infected as it was with those gene-seed abortions and deserters they were forced to fraternise with.
I took my place, two seats removed from our ally Lugerev. Iapetus sat between the two of us. I only half listened to the briefing, but then I was used to devoting half my attention to various things and taking it all in. If the other Astartes round this table had heightened senses, mine was on another plane of existence. As I listened to Pelegon I stroked each of their minds. Tyberus’ was a hot bed of rage and arrogance. Entirely misplaced. The Gorgon-spawn’s mind was a strange cocktail of joy and anger. Lucian tried to hide from him, but his title was the only thing deceptive about him. He was open before me whenever the pleasure took me. None of them knew, I wasn’t reaching deep enough into their minds to raise attention to myself.
The only being in this room who could resist my probing was the one who spoke. Only once had I ever managed to gain entrance to his mind, and that was when he had allowed me to erase my own name from his memories. I wondered if he knew he held me out, or it was just a natural thing he did without noticing. If Pelegon ever fell, I would take him for myself and break his mind open and gorge myself on his memories. We were to be killing the Space Wolves. The howling of wolves as the world around them burnt. Whilst blood-letting was always enjoyable, killing for killing’s sake seemed a frivolous waste of resources. However, before he got to the point of this mission, Pelegon concluded the briefing. Curious. Iapetus was asked to stay, along with Lugerev and the orphaned Dark Angel.
Iapetus grabbed my hand before I left. *I’ll be watching* I promised him, leaving a portion of my consciousness resting in his mind. Many struggled with another active presence in their mind, so I would simply observe unless my brother asked. At least I would know what the Warsmith was keen to hide from the rest of us. While my allies put this half-breed in his place, I had two prisoners to attend to. The warriors of the Eisenloss parted before me like water. Some sneered as me and I burst the blood vessels in their noses or eyes, depending on my fancy. Some bowed respectfully whilst others just moved out of my way.
As I reached the Librarium, I heard the quiet echo in my mind from the ‘private’ meeting of Lucian asking for me by denying my brother his right as Shipwright. Fool. Iapetus would feel that sentiment, but they would be in accord. “You will bring Rorke to my study.” I said as I moved towards my chambers. The shuffling grating of iron chains followed me whilst my mind resounded with the sound of metal on metal as weapons came out of their sheaths. “Leave us.” I spoke and the men who had forced Brother Rorke into my study left, shutting the door behind them.
“My lord, I swear…” the man began to frantically plead. He knew my reputation to not suffer fools or corruption. I paced him, searching his mind with none of the subtlety I had exerted earlier. These were scalpels, cutting away at memories and secret thoughts. “…I am not a servant of the Dark Gods. I would rather die than worship at their feet. I…”
“You will be silent Rorke.” My voice was empowered by warp and forced his mouth to dry up. I tore the corner of a blank page off and dipped it into his sores. The papyrus immolated in my hand and the black smoke screamed with a daemonic face in the short-lived flame. Rorke’s eyes were wide with horror.
At last, I stopped facing and stood in front of the man under Kunzhurdt’s command. “I know you don’t worship the Dark Gods, but sadly, they seemed to have taken notice of you regardless.” Slowly, Eternal Schism came into my hand. The signals etched into it burnt brighter. “You have been judged, and you have been found wanting.” Telekinetically, I etched the symbol of the Librarium into Rorke’s forhead. Smoothly, the axe-head separated the man’s head from his body. Normally that would be enough, but if this was a Nurglite infection as I suspected, the body needed to be thoroughly cleansed. Fire poured from my fingertips and engulfed the body. With a thought, the door flew open and several serfs rushed in to clear the room of the smouldering remains.
“Borigan.” My voice boomed harshly. The serf rushed in and performed a hurried bow. “Take the head of Brother Rorke here to Captain Kunzhurdt. Inform him that I will be speaking to the Warsmith in due course about the investigation of his company. He has until then to purge and heretics and fanatics from his midst. After that, his company is to be judge by the Librarium.”
“Of course my lord Coeus.” The serf left to do the business I had bid him, and I had another prisoner to interrogate.
“Bring in Librarian Bronsk.” I said as I listened to my brother tear the Caliban heathen apart. Things were getting tense in there, and the results of my investigation thus far gave me ample cause to disturb a meeting I may as well have already been in.
Two Librarian’s flanked Bronsk as he was shuffled into my now cramped chambers. One of them presented me with the materials he was found with. As before I bade them to leave us and as before they did. I turned the books over in my hands. Most were slender, but I could feel the weight of the secrets they held. I stared the Librarian down with my serpentine glare.
“My lord, you know I do not serve the Changer of Ways.”
“Why not?” I asked, an air of mischief about me. Bronsk seemed stunned. He began to stammer. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? The god of all magic in the galaxy and you aren’t at least tempted to bend a knee just to sip from his cup?” Bronsk hardened his face.
“No.” he said resolutely. I nodded for a moment.
With that, a spear of thought drove into the Librarian’s mind. It pierced to the very core of him, where the darkest secrets were held. “I know you are lying…” I said as I tore down mental fortresses and uprooted the worst parts of the man. “…because I feel that temptation too. I feel the draw of power calling me, asking for just an inch of compromise in exchange…”
“I will not yield!” Bronsk screeched. I stopped my mental onslaught for a moment. The man showed me the memory himself. A young Librarian haunted by mocking voices on a battlefield far from home. Playing on his paranoid. A great winged beast, taunting him. It was an obsession, but not the black kind. Bronsk needed a vendetta fulfilled and had resorted to forbidden tomes to break the hold a daemon had over him. It offered him power even as Bronsk tried to destroy it. He was tempted and he was ashamed.
But he was not tainted, at least no more than I or any other member of our order was. We all needed our weapons. “You will be demoted to a Lexicanum. I cannot have the weak leading the strong. Until you have overcome this daemon you will shadow Librarian Kolvax. He will notify me of your success or death.” With that, I unlocked the many chains that bound him. Had he been of impure stock, I would have dealt with him as I did Rorke, but he was my own and I would not abandon him. He was not broken yet, and this may only be his tempering. “Dismissed.”
My official duties attended to I spread my arms out wide. If I was going to disturb the Warsmith’s little council I would do so ready for war. Besides, Kunzhurdt would likely come looking for me after word reached him of his guilt. My monastic robes peeled off of me and my armour started to be drawn to me as if I were a new star being born. Usually serfs would dress their senior captains but I needed no such help. It took moments to slot everything into place and secure the Iron Grimoire to my shoulder and Eternal Schism to my hip. Now armed and armoured, I strode quickly back towards the meeting chambers of my current Warsmith.
The doors opened before me and I withdrew my splinter of consciousness from my brother’s mind. I didn’t need it now I was there myself. Lucian had just finished prattling about deferring judgement to Pelegon without even revealing his ‘grand plan’. Plucking it from just below his surface thoughts, it was hard to understand why he was so embarrassingly proud of it. It was foolish and Iapetus was right to dismiss it out of hand, even though he hadn’t heard it. “My Lord I thought it best to inform you directly of the results of my investigation. Unless I’m interrupting a meeting where I am not required?” Lucian, and possibly the Warsmith, would be irked by this intrusion. However, with a possible infestation of Chaos worship up my sleeve and Lucian’s express mention of me, I would be very surprised if I was sent away…
Pelegon firmly believed in a little sibling rivalry, but it was a tool that required careful and timely usage. Like a cinder, it had to be carefully tended to in order to burn bright, and right now the Warsmith had blown strongly enough onto it to give the heat that he wanted. It was merely a matter of ensuring that the fire didn't grow large enough to hurt him. The captains destroying each other would be a step too far.
The Warsmith enjoyed watching them sniping at each other, though both presented valid points. He had a good idea as to what Lucian would do with the materials he had requested, and if it was as he assumed, it was a solid plan. Pelegon was pleased with his third captain for forming a fairly comprehensive plan so quickly, but he would have expected nothing less. The seventh captain's assurances and reservations were also well-judged, given the lack of information that he had furnished them with so far.
When Lugerev drew his weapon, Pelegon did not move an inch, remaining as statuesque as he had been throughout the discourse. In his mind, he egged Lugerev on, urging him to swing at either him or Lucian. Had the Medicae done so, it would have been his last act; Pelegon would have crushed his skull between his fingers, helmet and all, and that way rid himself of another problem. Had the medicae assaulted Lucian...the Warsmith was not a gambling man, given as he was to stacking the odds in his favour, never playing them, but he would have been more comfortable wagering on Lucian than Lugerev. The First Legion, whatever his fellows thought of them, could not be found wanting with regard to their bladework. A pity that origins mattered so much to some.
"A trap, Shipwright?" Pelegon rumbled "they expect nothing, and know even less. Likewise, Lucian..." the Warsmith turned, and made long, slow strides for the door, patting the third captain's pauldron as he did so, noting how the other marine flinched from his touch "...I am aware that they will send a distress signal..."
The doors slid open and Coeus made an entrance, informing Pelegon that his investigation was concluded. The Warsmith paused; the Epistolary would not have interrupted him unless the matter was of at least some import, and that was enough. Regardless of how busy he was, the Warsmith made a point of always having time for his cabal of psykers.
"...indeed, I was counting on it. After all, how else will the rest of the Imperium know what we will have done on Pelexis? They will come and see our work"
The Warsmith turned to face them as he stood in the doorway, his huge frame filling it out, barely large enough for him not to have to stoop or angle himself sideways. His armour was as grey and metallic as the surroundings, the black and yellow hazard stripes on his shoulders making them seem even larger than they were. But contrasted against the light of the corridor, Pelegon appeared as a black silhouette with glowing blue slits for eyes.
"If I cared about the means, then I would have overseen the assault myself. As it is, only the end matters to me. Had I thought one captain sufficient to complete this task to satisfaction, then I would not have given it to the pair of you. Consider that before trying to assume command again. Coeus, with me"
Punching his left hand into the palm of his right, the Warsmith took his leave. Being out of the same room as Iapetus, despite having Coeus tagging at his heels, helped him remain calm; the siblings' dogmatic love of Olympia and its sons sickened him, as did Lugerev's degeneracy. There would be a day when no original Olympians remained, when the bloodlines ran dry, and he had to ensure that that did not propagate the demise of the IVth. They were a set of principles and doctrines as much as they were flesh and blood, and he knew that the iron of their ideals would have to outlast the iron of their armour. Those born or assimilated into the ranks of the XIXth since the destruction of Olympia were already ample proof of that, it was just necessary for the Warsmith to ensure that the idea didn't die with him.
As they walked, Coeus reported his findings to the Warsmith, who did not reply. The marines who passed them did not bow or show deference, knowing that Pelegon had no love for those who abased themselves at his feet. He was confident of his own power, knowing that he reigned over the life and breath of all who called the Eisenschloss home, and viewed those who felt the need to display their power as weak. They needed the validation of others to maintain their power base, something that he viewed with as little regard as the worship of the Dark Gods.
The Warsmith looked down at into the palms of his hands, rotating them. Countless thousands had died as a result of their direct work, and Pelegon's latest pet project would serve only to add to that count. The targeter arrays that were built into his armour allowed him to mark out targets using the armour's built-in cogitator, exact markers that would show up on the HUDs of any units that he wanted to fire. The full destructive might of the XIXth could be brought to bear exactly where he pointed a hand. None of Pelegon's subordinates knew of this, nor was it at all visible externally. Once on Pelexis the Warsmith would demonstrate the array's immense power to Kunzhardt, and give him the second one he had built. The original, made from archeotech pre-dating the Age of Strife, he would keep for himself.
The ancient warrior returned to his present setting; the training ground by the outer wall of the Eisenschloss, and Coeus at his side. Neophytes, ranging from twelve to sixteen standard Terran years of age, were carrying out shooting drills before him, the relentless pace of training unaffected by the news of mobilisation. At their tender age, they lacked the strength to wield full-sized boltguns. As a result they were given large-calibre autoguns that had, relative to the neophytes' body size and mass, recoil and firing action similar to the boltguns they would wield as fully-fledged marines. The librarian, he noticed, was observing them with narrowed eyes; likely scouring their ranks for any psykers he could take under his wing.
All had freshly-shaved heads, and a large single scar on the backs of their skulls where their Catalepsean Nodes had been implanted. With their Larraman's Organs inside them, they could have had the surgery yesterday and be combat-ready today. The youths fired with commendable accuracy, and Pelegon was aware that though young, none had the expressions of fear or joy on their faces that human infants usually had in such settings. All those assembled here were suitable for their future careers mentally as well as physically, the conditioning that would turn them into the most fearless and intractable of warriors having already taken effect, as was proven by the fact that they were still mentally functional. To produce the fifty or so assembled before him, there would have been over three hundred initiates, to use the statistical averages of their creation process. Just over half would live long enough to become complete space marines. They looked like children, but had been put through unimaginable physical torment, had watched hundreds of their fellows die by their sides...and had pushed on.
Pelegon knew that the training process for the XIXth was much more rigorous than even that of the Imperial marine chapters, unwilling as he was to set any other than the highest of standards. He wanted each of his men to count for ten of those he faced, had to know that every component of his war machine would function exactly as needed. To wage war as he did, the vetting process had to be as thorough as possible. The neophytes were suffering under the burning white sky of Medrengard, the sweat pouring freely from their bodies as they fumbled for new magazines with slick hands. The guns were growing hot in their grip, but the Warsmith knew that the instructor would have given them a fire rate that they would have to maintain.
"Your findings do not cause undue concern" Pelegon eventually concluded. The weight of command was a heavy one, and any who viewed a Warsmith's throne with envy were, in his opinion, fools. He led because he knew that he had been born for it, knew that he could devote to both his father and legion the entirety of his existence to its fullest extent. He didn't trust anyone else to do what he did.
"Nor do I view Captain Kunzhardt as unreliable or potentially corrupt. You don't need to play games with me, Coeus, I know you don't like him because of his bloodline. But none of the positions of the senior commanders is fixed" the threat was slight, but coming from the Warsmith, who was not given to striking with warning, it would be a sign that his displeasure was great "were there anyone better than Kunzhardt, they would already have his title and command"
Pelegon watched as the Tenth Captain roared at one of the neophytes, grabbing his gun out of his hands. The Warsmith's hearing was, as of that of all astartes, enhanced to beyond human levels, and even at the distance at which the pair stood he could hear the exact reason why. He had been repeatedly firing down to the last round, then manually re-racking the gun, rather than counting his shots and keeping one in the chamber so as to greatly increase the speed of reloads. He would be beaten mercilessly and given some tiresomely unpleasant duty as punishment, no doubt, but Pelegon knew that the captain knew when to give the carrot and when to use the stick, and trusted his judgement. That he was able to personally oversee the training of most of the initiates without detracting from his other duties and tasks was indicative of the man's skill.
"Are there any among them that catch your eye, Coeus?"
Always watching always waiting like a spider waiting for the fly to catch itself in a web. The other captains seemed intent on seeing to his downfall. Whether it was a vendetta, to secure the might he commanded, or to topple one they saw as impure. It mattered not they slunk in the shadows whispering hushed treason dripping with venom. He would plunge his hand into the darkness and tear their geneseed from their still living bodies but to do that would cross a great canyon and draw wrath to him. He had dealt with the Master of the Forge who, through honeyed words no doubt, dismissed Kunzhardt's worries and reassured the second captain of the purpose of the tanks but what of the others? There was a cult within the XIXth that would see not just purity from corruption but also purity from foreign blood and it was common knowledge he was one of the Bastard's. Yes he was born of an Iron Warrior Fortress World and bled with Maloxdraxian recruits but those not from that broken dead world were seen as less to them.
The frustration built up in him as heavy boots trudged in a forced march back his own lair. He'd have words with Pelegon before the mission and express his own anger over things. His anger turned to rage as he entered his own quarters to discover a wall of 1st company honour guard mingling within his quarters. His own soldier was taken by them and was being questioned as to his whereabouts it would seem. Had pelegon sent his hounds for Kunzhardt? Would they be used the same way the Vlth legion was ordered to deal with the llnd and the Xlth in their own purging? He felt the twitch almost instinctively as his power fist drew back just past parallel with his body in a somewhat cocked position. The only saving grace was that none of them had their weapons drawn. Did they expect him to surrender with civility? He would die there in his own home with his hands drenched in their blood.
A bellow rang throughout the room magnified by his vox link to the casters throughout the hangar and at once the room was quiet, no bolter rounds, no explosions, just the hiss of singed metal as every iron clad astartes in the room turned to face him and the group. They would not find his courage wanting, and if it came to it, he would not find their firepower wanting. He marched past them to where they were questioning his subordinate and took his place dismissing him back to his own duties. His fists clenched and unclenched and adrenal glands brought forth their potion readying the soldier for anticipated conflict. With a slightly bladed defensive stance he addressed the lot of them his words dripping with defensive venom.
"Why are you here, Hand of the Warsmith? Why have you brought your. . . retinue to my domain?"
He censored his remark towards the honour guard. His disdain for the first captain aside Kunzhardt highly admired the veterans of the first company. They were able soldiers second to none and served as fantastic frontline soldiers to allow his guns to pound enemy positions into mulch. Still if this came to blows he would make it his final act to rid the first company of a bat that had long overstayed its welcome.
Tyranus turned as he heard the commanding voice of Kunzhardt shout of "Cease Fire!" above the fray. He was a man that Tyranus rather liked and respected, as much for his tactical acumen and service beyond reproach. Beyond that Kunzhardt, much in the way that Tyranus envisioned himself was a great leader and molder of men, it was admirable how he took the raw -for an Astartes- recruits given to him and transformed them into the best siege fighters he had ever seen.
At Kunzhardt's command the entire complex was suddenly deathly silent as the 2nd Captain approached, Tyranus took note of the entirety of the assembled Astartes turned and all attention was now on their Captain and himself. "Why are you here, Hand of the Warsmith? Why have you brought your. . . retinue to my domain?" The harsh tone Kunzhardt spoke with was softened as he referred to his Honor Guard, which he took as a sort of professional courtesy given by Kunhardt.
Tyranus lowered his head in something akin to an apologetic bow, "Captain Kunzhardt," he spoke the man's name with an inflection of respect and while the two were hardly on good terms, he had no ill intentions though and sought to make that as clear as possible. He calmly put his hand up, motioning for his retinue to remain where they stood, he did not want to accidentally create a scene of bloodshed by having the vertible wall of Tyranthikos move with him.
Removing his helm so as to speak with Kunzhardt face to face he began, "I believed it would be best to come and speak with you in person. My retinue accompanies me only as we are so close to the launch of our campaign." He gave as manner of explanation, which while possibly believable, was not the truth, were they at readiness for war or not, the Honor Guard would have accompanied him to the lair of the Mechanized Fist. " I wished to speak with you on matters regarding the coordination of The First and Seventh Companies in the coming campaign. I will always welcome the aid of the The Mechanized Fist and his company of the greatest siege fighters known to the stars. I believe that my Tyranthikos are the perfect hammer to your anvil, or vice versa." He took note of Kunzhardt's lazily cocked powerfist and prepared himself for anything, gauging the distance between himself and the 2nd Captain to be just enough that he could draw his power glaive if needed. In a pinch he had his retractable power sword in his left vambrace, but he would do all he could to diffuse a rather tense situation.
"There is also another matter that I would like to discuss with you, something best discussed in private." He did not wish to reveal the information he'd obtained from Draxus in front of line soldiers as this was a matter to be discussed by the respective Captains.
More honeyed words. Would the entirety of Eisenschloss seek his ass for their lips? What games were being played? He would entertain them and run their gauntlet; they would find his iron strong and his ego unflattered. The complete show of pacifism from the 1st captain and his guard disarmed the 2nd Captain who would either think it to be a trick or a ploy to garner some favour. At his formal greeting Kunzhardt bowed his head in return and slammed the powerfist into his open hand once more acknowledging the greeting and honouring the position if not the person. It would be a fantastic battle should a round be let loose. His own infantry clad in traditional power armour cobbled together from countless battlefields and what the forge master could procure, injured and likely tired from the days drilling and down ammunition vs an elite force from the 1st. It would be wonderful but utterly pointless.
With a single sweeping motion his right arm swept from his side up to his side parallel with the ground and then dropped back to his side and with it so lowered the countless firearms in the hangar only to resume an alert pose and at this he finally spoke. He growled the first bit like an enraged animal only to resume a harsh tone.
"Save your breath-Don't shower me with flowered words, bat. . . Now, Captain of 1st Company, if you wish to talk battle that is fine. . . Leave your guards I will not be captive in my own domain."
He moved slightly to his side and bid Tyranus move with him, he would stay abreast the Night Lord though as he would never allow his back to Tyranus and would expect the same from him.
He removed his own helmet revealing a jaw like iron and rightfully so with bionics making up his throat left over from a history as a Destroyer marine. His recessed eyes almost in a perpetual glare allowing little to discern what he was looking at. He scrutinized the marine like a man accustomed to being lied to and betrayed, skeptical of every word that was being uttered. They were in the corner of the titanic hangar with no souls near them but still completely within view of both the 1st's honour guard as well as the 2nds forces in training.
"You and I both know this fact. Your veterans are unmatched within blooding distance. Mine beyond. We are masters of our domain but I don't like you. I hate your lineage of cowardice and dishonour. However, you fight with fervor and earned the respect of Tyranthikos, no simple task and for that you are tolerated. Now think on your words, Tyranus, what do you want to discuss?"
Captain Kunzhardt returned his formal greeting in kind, which Tyranus was somewhat pleasantly surprised by, before the Mechanized Fist spoke, bringing the stark realities back into the light. "Save your breath-Don't shower me with flowered words, bat. . ." The words were spoken as if they were accusations and Tyranus couldn't help but smirk just a little at the remark 'Bat.' It was one he had heard before, though few would say it to his face, and he appreciated that the 2nd Captain was at least honest with his opinions. Still, with one wave of Kunzhardt's hand the myriad of weapons that had been directed at them were lowered and the Astartes and aspirants wielding them hesitantly went back to their tasks at hand.
The Mechanized Fist stepped aside and motioned for Tyranus to continue on with him, "Now, Captain of 1st Company, if you wish to talk battle that is fine. . . Leave your guards I will not be captive in my own domain." Tyranus nodded cordially "But of course," his hand went up, but he reiterated his intentions anyway, "wait here." The Tyranthikos Honor Guard silently acknowledged and stood motionless, like grim statues, but at the slightest provocation they would leap into action at their Lord's word.
Kunzhardt revealed his battle scarred and rebuilt face, numerous bionics and restructurings had taken place, but none minimized the man's effectiveness as a warrior or a leader. They were within sight but out of earshot of their respective forces, and as such Tyranus hoped this would be a meeting of equals. The Mechanized Fist was not a man to mince words and perhaps his tact of seeking to prop up and flatter the man had not been particularly well advised. The tone with which Kunzhardt spoke seemed to confirm this to an extent. "You and I both know this fact. Your veterans are unmatched within blooding distance. Mine beyond. We are masters of our domain but I don't like you." The 2nd Captain started in, before lacing in the requisite barbs about Tyranus' origins. "I hate your lineage of cowardice and dishonour. However, you fight with fervor and earned the respect of Tyranthikos, no simple task and for that you are tolerated. Now think on your words, Tyranus, what do you want to discuss?"
The mention of his past again brought forth a certain glimmer of disdain and anger to his eyes, but he simply huffed out of his nostrils, as if somehow that would cool his ire. It did not, but Tyranus was not here to begin another war before commencing the one on Pelexis III that was sanctioned by the WarSmith. "In our respective disciplines you are correct, we are unmatched and thus I look to you as an equal." Tyranus furled his lip as he spoke, he would dispense with the flowery and complimentary language as that made him appear weak and Kunzhardt would not have ears for it anyway. "My lineage is not that of a coward, I am at the forefront of any operation undertaken by the Tyranthikos, I do not simply bask on a throne and bark orders. My loyalty is unbound and completely to the XIXth Great Company, near seven millenia of service to it speaks to that." Tyranus, clearly agitated was about to cast aside his original intentions and felt himself tense as if to strike at Kunzhardt, but his inner voice cooled his temper, reminding himself that he needed to at the very least not make another bitter enemy.
"Regardless, I appreciate your candor Kunzhardt, but I do have real matters to address with you, matters that far outweigh any personal feelings." He composed himself, pushing his hatred and anger away, he would unleash it later on any poor souls who sought to impede him on Pelexis III. "I would request that you limit your use of any thunderfire cannons that you were planning to utilize to embattlement towers on the Wolf's Claw itself and as also refrain from using them as a means to destroy any forward defenses outside of the bastion itself. I realize that we have had great successes using such a tactic previously, but in this instance I had intended to move in at speed with my Tyrant Siege squadrons with our Land Raiders, I believe that the mobility they present will allow us to destroy any ad hoc defenses they can muster without wasting the fire power of your thunderfires on so soft of targets. It also will limit any potential collateral damage to any assaulting forces from our respective companies. I believe a mobile assault and siege will be our best way of breaking their line defenses and ripping open their bastion to be gutted."
Tyranus paused for a moment, as if he were rethinking the offer he had decided he would make. "I understand that such a course of action will leave your armored divisions potentially vulnerable to counter assault as they will not have entrenched and protected positions as would be the case in a protracted siege. As such I would offer the assistance of several Tyranthikos squadrons to cover your armored division's advance if you deem them an asset to your operation." He was sincere in his offer as well as his estimation of how he believed they would best carry out their assigned mission.
“Coeus, with me.” from his reference, I assumed he was more frustrated with Lucian than Iapetus. Iapetus had proposed working with the 3rd, he just wanted control over a boarding action. Something my brother was known best for. It was Lucian who had dismissed his company entirely. Now that the Warsmith was gone, Lucian could not hide behind him and would have to confront Iapetus and Lugerev directly, something I sincerely hoped ended in blood.
Pelegon bade me to report what I had found. I started with my own subordinate.
“My judgement of Librarian Bronsk is thus; he is tempted but he is not tainted. One of the inherent risks of being a psyker is we must endure the constant whispers of the warp and its promises of power. A particular entity has plagued him for some time now, and the tomes he was found with were, as he protested, for combatting a foe. However, such single-mindedness does not befit someone of his rank. His vision must be broader, or else he risks falling prey to some unknown foe. As such, I have demoted him to the rank of Lexicanum and placed him under the supervision of Librarian Kolvax until such a time as he has dealt with this vendetta.”
My tone was calm and collected. I did not believe there was anything to alarm the Warsmith in this minor infraction and I did not need him becoming overly interested in areas which did not concern him. Bronsk tomes would of course be scoured for weapons to use against our daemonic foes, but exactly how that was done was a process Pelegon deliberately avoided knowing about. Likely he feared that the truth of how such weapons were obtained would displease him and for him to reconsider using them, despite their necessity. He was right, how such information was obtained would likely chill him to the bone, but he had thus far avoided knowledge of it. I imagined he would continue to do so, as long as it proved useful.
Moving on from my brief analysis of the warrior in my care, I spoke of Brother Rorke. “The Gorgon’s man, Rorke, however is quite a different story. As expected, his wounds were a blessing from the Plague Father and had to be purged with fire before I could let the serfs dispose of the remains, lest they become infected too. My chief concern is that it is likely others members of the Company are infected or actively spreading such a contagion. I think it best if the Librarium conduct a full inquiry of the 2nd Company and eliminate any further fanaticism from the Mechanized Fist.”
We had reached the outer walls of the Eisenschloss. Pelegon was inspecting his hands, apparently fascinated by them. I considered trying to breach his mental barriers to hear his thoughts. Leaving the Warsmith to his own thoughts, I cast my mind over the recruits slaving away under the false sun that hung over Medrengard. My eyes flitted between them. Mostly, it was fascinating to hear their thoughts. Such young ambition and determination. It was a shame so many of them would be forcefully infected with the gene-seed of a less worthy legion. One boy in particular I felt a kindred spirit in. I mentally noted him. I would have to call for him after I was done here.
“Your findings…” Pelegon rumbled, apparently having stopped considering his own hands. “…do not cause undue concern. Nor do I view Captain Kunzhardt as unreliable or potentially corrupt. You don't need to play games with me, Coeus, I know you don't like him because of his bloodline. But none of the positions of the senior commanders is fixed…” The warsmith was threatening me. How quaint. “…were there anyone better than Kunzhardt, they would already have his title and command.” I was certain I could find an Olympian who could do the half-breed’s job just as well, if not better.
Pelegon was a man most feared. He was strong, driven, methodical. He was most things you would want in a leader. Many, especially the lower ranks held him up as an object of fear and adoration. He expected his word to be obeyed without question and was not one to suffer fools. The tyrannical warsmith was known for many horrible and cruel deeds within the warp and the Imperium. None of that stopped me grinning and chuckling to myself.
“You can dispense with the threats Warsmith. The worst you can do is kill me.” I risked my soul as well as my body to keep this Grand Company pure and Pelegon thought he could intimidate me with demotion and death. Spoken exactly like someone who had never seen the true face of power.
Pelegon asked me if any of the initiates caught my eye. “Well, my esteemed Warsmith, I figured you might be able to tell me which of them I should be looking at, since you are more adept at spotting the Warp’s influence than I am.” My voice dripped with sarcasm and Pelegon’s anger burnt through his mental block like a solar flare. I was sure he was about to berate me for my insolence but I started talking before he could. “A Nurglite plague is a sickness of the soul, not a malediction of the body. If one of his men is afflicted, then it is likely there are others with rusted souls too. Men who would rise up and pollute this Grand Company.”
I turned my head to face the Warsmith, defiant even though his stature meant I could not look down at him. “You appointed me as Chief Librarian to safe guard the purity of this Grand Company because I can sense the warp’s influence more keenly than anyone else in your service. I intend to do just that.” Pelegon’s rage still simmered. I was probably on shaky ground, but I had been in more precarious positions before. “I didn’t ask for Kunzhardt’s head, and such an inference says more about your paranoia than my ideology. I simply asked for the Librarium to investigate his company and uncover any taint where ever it hides.”
I looked back over the recruits, my face the same furrowed near snarl that it almost always was. “If there is nothing there, at least we will confirm that. And if there is, then you will know that those who would sacrifice us on their alters to their gods will trouble us no longer.” Pelegon might still be fuming at my disregard for his authority, but that was his problem not mine. Even if Kunzhardt wasn’t a mongrel, it would be foolish not to verify that the taint hadn’t spread further than one man. If Pelegon still protected his 2nd Captain, they the Grand Company would learn that their Warsmith would rather protect his chaos-worshiping half-breeds than execute sound leadership. Worse still, if there was a taint to be uncovered and Pelegon hid it unknowingly he would find everything he loved ripped from him by the Dark Gods. I wouldn’t hesitate to burn it all to the ground, if it meant I could purge the tainted from our midst…
The immovable noted a change in the Night Lord. Something he had said struck home with him and the faintest of smirks curled the corner of his lip before being dismissed and he could almost feel heat at his neck from where Tyranus was no doubt focusing even if his eyes weren't staring. He'd never really talked at length with the captain of first company and as thus didn’t know much underneath. He knew the man was not of Iron and had been assimilated into the group. A lesser alloy. Perhaps he was being too harsh on the captain; no man can choose his stars.
Others within the XIXth would remind him of his bastard blood and the redundancy would be noted for he constantly reminded himself of his own short comings. Perhaps this bat found comradery in the XIXth that he couldn't within the VIIIth. He'd heard stories of how they flapped about clawing at each other looking for weaknesses. A pack of starving wolves nipping at each other to find the weakest. The 1st captain was ranting now, proclaiming his own glories as support to an argument and by the sounds of it had misunderstood Kunzhardt's intentions. Tyranus finished his full dissertation leaving the 2nd Captain in silence.
"Yes. . . Your lineage. . . But an apple does not always rest by its tree and your apple rolled far from Nostramo and you have shown your aptitude in the warsmith's eyes and in the eyes of the Tyranthikos. . Now. I have not had an audience with Pelegon and don't know his full plan. We should resume this conversation aboard the Ferra Perpetua. The Warsmith will speak more then and we can detail a strategy. Don't worry I wouldn't hinder the 1sts glory and don't suspect to need your guard. A lone bastion on a forgotten world in an insignificant sector is unlikely to be well secured. Again we can speak in more detail then."
The Warsmith brooded, not responding to the librarian's taunts. He was tempted to threaten further, to retaliate, but decided that neither course of action was necessary. He had options available to him that would make the librarian weep and beg him for death, even as iron-willed as he was. Yes, Pelegon could himself offer nothing worse than a painful death, but that didn't mean that he couldn't hand the librarian, trussed and gagged, to someone who would be able to do far worse things to him. Such as their Father.
Corporal punishment would be pointless. Pelegon only struck to kill, and what Coeus had done did certainly not warrant such retribution. Aside from this infraction being minor at best, the librarian was quite simply the best at what he did, and Pelegon did not have the time to personally ensure the ideological purity of the XIXth himself in the weeks that it would take for a new epistolary to be appointed, with no clear successor to Coeus. That he had his own means of finding corruption was something that the librarian was clearly ignorant of, and the Warsmith would see it kept that way for the time being. He knew that worship of any of the Dark Gods was a cancer of the mind more than it was the body, for they did not force entry; they had to be invited. However corrupt and blighted a body might appear, the mind would be far worse.
"I have allowed my own frustrations to cloud my judgement" the Warsmith grated, the realization coming forth naturally and easily from his lips. As with many in the IVth legion, Pelegon was quick to anger, but once roused, his fury easily abated. It was not without difficulty, and exercising his indomitable willpower over himself, that the Warsmith swallowed his words.
"Know that I do not doubt your abilities, Coeus, but think that you might be less driven to assist the 2nd Captain in maintaining his company's purity were he of Olympian blood. Your counsel is, I know, never given without due thought, but I would like you to consider this"
The Warsmith watched the recruits continuing to train, his eyes seeking one out in particular. It had started as a low hum in his head, but in his mind's eye Pelegon could see the hum visually represented as an aura. One of the recruits was a psyker, though he didn't know it. Likely he was not from an Imperial world, otherwise he would have been dragged off on one of the Black Ships and fed to the Emperor they so revered.
One of the advantages of an eidetic memory, given to all astartes, was the ability to perfectly picture any scene from one's past. In his mind, Pelegon saw the recruits shooting at targets, as they had all been doing, and the aura settled on the head of one. Lights betrayed the presence of other entities, not of the material universe, flitting near him, drawn to the psyker. Unfortunately, Pelegon could not assess his psychic strength, as Coeus had a similar glow, though were this ability able to assess strength he knew that the light from Coeus would be strong enough to blind him - though this was an ability he would hone with time. The hum allowed him to establish the corrupt from the pure. The last time he had spoken to their Father, the dark aura around him had almost entirely obscured the daemon prince from Pelegon's vision.
Pelegon used his armour's targeter to mark out the neophyte in question, the circle appearing in Coeus' HUD. He was dark skinned and broad-shouldered, one of the older neophytes, with harsh features suggesting that he had not had an easy life even before his induction into the IVth legion.
The Warsmith couldn't help but be pleased at Coeus' inability to contain his surprise, but continued to talk as if the matter had been nothing more than a distraction. Which, of course, it hadn't been. Pelegon liked to keep his cards close to his chest, and with that had given away more than was strictly necessary, but he didn't want to keep the Epistolary in the dark.
"Consider this; the XIXth are currently at a fighting strength of 2474 astartes, neophytes and recruits notwithstanding. Of those, we have 1312 with original IVth legion gene-seed. When I assumed command, the XIXth was at a fighting strength of 2000, all with IVth legion gene-seed. Our apothecarion was not, in the past, lacking in ability or drive; the losses have been a result of nonrecoverable deaths in combat and, some very few, from corruption of gene-seed due to Warp influence - an unavoidable side-effect of the world we now call home. We stand now stronger than we ever did during the Crusade. You view those without our gene-seed as corruption, I view them as much a part of our legion as we are. Without the gene-seed of other legions, the XIXth could not wage war as we currently do"
Leaning over the parapet, the Warsmith held out a hand experimentally and testing his newly-assembled targeter, pulling in co-ordinates and seeing how quickly he could compile multiple sets of co-ordinates for simultaneous barrages, ordering and re-ordering the firing sequences. Of course, none of the firing orders were sent to any units, merely deleted from his cogitator's memory banks as soon as they were completed. Though not as illustrious as that of Coeus and Iapetus, Pelegon's own Olympian bloodline was above question. Thus, perhaps Coeus would listen to him. If not, and the Warsmith had no reason to believe that matters would change, then affairs would continue as they always had. Were they to rid themselves of this petty bickering then the XIXth could be so much more.
"I know that your brother feels the same way regarding blood purity, and I order that you do not allow your dislike to affect your professional relationship with the Second Captain, among others. Iapetus can draw the remaining Olympians around himself like some sort of cabal, if he wishes, but drifting in the cold void they only distance themselves further from what we were meant to do" the giant dropped down to one knee, knocking the ceramite bricks beneath him with a knuckle, before rising to his feet as a servo skull drifted toward him, bearing news from the Master of the Forge. Pelegon listened to its message before dismissing it, pleased with Adriun's progress. Such was the rate at which work could be done without obstructions.
"To re-forge the earth and rock of enemy worlds with our hands, and to drown the Imperium in both their blood and our own. While the siege of the Wolf's Claw plays out, you are to conduct a full scan of the entire XIXth Grand Company, and report any anomalous findings directly to me. If anyone questions your judgement, they are to be viewed as obstructing the investigation and will be castigated appropriately. I will not have these petty arguments tear my Company asunder, and if you find any whisperings of malcontent, whether from the Olympian or adopted factions, I expect to be informed"
Tyranus allowed himself to grin, Kunzhardt couldn't get rid of him fast enough. "Very well if you wish to discuss a strategem for our assault we can continue it aboard the Ferra Perpetua." There was a flash of danger in his eyes as he continued, his voice barely a whisper, "I have it on reliable sources that a man under your command by the name of Rorke was taken into the Apothecarion, he bore wounds that could have been marks of Chaos. From what I was told he was taken to be examined under the warp tainted vision of Coeus the Seer."
"You speak so readily of my past and my gene stock, but your man Rorke is not of Olympian birth either and has likely been put to death at the hands of the Seer." Tyranus held back the waves of rage, he cared not that a man under the command of another was dead, but a straw in a hay bail. "I am not of Noble Olympian blood, I am of low born Nostramon, I have the blood of a mongrel bat running through my veins, but because of that I am overly familiar with the preambles to a coup. Be wary, for when The Seer investigates your Company and likely the Grand Company as a whole he will make sure he finds "taint" where he wishes to see it."
Tyranus then bowed his head in respect once again, "Perhaps we shall speak again aboard the Ferra Perpetua, if not, Glory to you in our campaign Captain Kunzhardt." The brooding tank in Cataphractii plate then made his leave, quickly enveloped and surrounded by the seven Honor Guard around him as they proceeded to board their Crusader before making their way back to the flagship of First Company.
Iapetus gently placed his finger tips on the side of Lugerev's sword, pressing it downward. The Apothecary allowed its downward movement, and dropped it low to his side, standing straight again though he was still on edge.
The rest of the conversation became a blur to him. He stood there, motionless, scouring as many of his memories as possible, trying to figure out if he had missed some important detail concerning the First Legion.
The Seer had come back rather quickly. Lugerev tried to hold respect for the Librarian out of his like of Iapetus, but it was difficult to manage at times. Coeus's presence, like it did for so many, caused his face to contort, and his muscles to itch. He was a Warp dabbler, and there was always something to be wary about behind that. They could snap, and at any moment become the host of a powerful Neverborn.
When Pelegon made his leave with Coeus, the door shut leaving him alone with this Lucian, and Iapetus.
He was the first to break the silence this time.
'Iapetus, explain to me who this is.' he said, indicating Lucian with a wave of his hand, frustrated.
'Have I been in the Apothecarium so long that I missed the First Legion deciding to turn their backs on the Imperium, and join our cause? What is this madness? How has he come to be a Captain? Are we not Iron Warriors anymore, but some amalgamation of traitors?'
Lugerev turned away, holding his head in his unarmed hand, breathing heavy, grimacing, growling.
He spoke to to the air now, 'What is going on? What is happening? Is there something wrong with me?"
'Iron within, Iron without, Iron within, iron without, Iron within...'
Iapetus listened to Lucian, his fingers curling into massive, crushing fists. The way he spoke, with that flair of arrogance, angered the Shipwright. When the Dark Angel stepped forwards, chest-to-chest with the Olympian, Iapetus almost laughed. He, although unarmed, dwarfed the Angel - Terminator Armour afforded not only strength and shields, but also powerful, unrivaled strength. Iapetus was confident that even if Lucian drew his twin-blades, he would twist the little Angel's head off.
When Pelegon spoke, on the other hand, Iapetus felt only irritation. By right, this task should have fallen to him - He lorded over the Grand Company's fleet, he had proven himself time and time again, and he would not, could not, serve under the Dark Angel. He was a serpent, striking from the shadows, a coward. His lip curled, his temple throbbed, as Coeus drew nearer. Iapetus and Coeus shared a bond, a split-consciousness of sorts, a faster, more reliable method of communication than the vox-system afforded.
The Warsmith and the Seer left, the doors sliding shut behind them, and left Lugerev, Iapetus and Lucian alone.
It was the Apothecary, half-mad, half-lucid, who spoke first.
Lugerev and Iapetus were long-time comrades. When Iapetus had first met him, Lugerev had been smeared in gore and ash, having fought, killed and healed on the fields of Terra. Iapetus had stood tall, his armour largely unmarked, and clasped hands with the Apothecary. Since then, there had been a bond - Though, one that was often strained, - And remained friends. Their shared lineage, that of lofty Olympia, bonded them together.
'We are Iron Warriors,' Iapetus drawled, when Lugerev was done. 'We always have been, and we always will be, brother,' He stepped closer to Lucian, looking down at the Dark Angel. 'Our Warsmith has seen fit, Lugerev, to allow the introduction of oathbreakers and castaways into our ranks. Captain Kalistarion, the Exiled Knight of Caliban, has ruined the Third Company. Alpha Legionaries, Dark Angels, more - All corrupt it.'
He bared his teeth, addressing Lucian, now.
'I am Kheledakos, worm,' He growled. 'Brethren of Cold. Whilst you slink and slide in the shadows, like some gutter-vermin, I rule the stars. If you are wise, Lucian, you will trust to me. This ship will not be taken by deception.'
Lucian watched the Seventh's captains hands curl into fists in his anger and then watched silently as the Warsmith relayed his orders before leaving with the librarian and simply watched Iapetus as he spoke to the mad Primus Medicae and then stepped back shaking his head before speaking. "Captain Iapetus, you are wrong in thinking that I do not trust you. I trust all the captains under the Warsmiths command, it is why I am with this Grand Company and not with one of the other legions. The Fourth still understand honour and loyalty especially the 19th, this mission will not work well if the two of us keep butting heads like two bull Grox so let us be civil with each other."
Lucian looked at the apocathery for a moment then looked back to the terminator armoured captain. "Let us plan this mission together as fellow Captains and Brothers-in-Arms under the Warsmith if the two of us are to work together. Between the two of us the ship will fall even quicker than the two of us acting alone if we combine our plans. For example I could lure a sizable portion of the Space Wolves off of their ship and onto the one that I have asked for where we shall ambush them while you and your men enact your plan in taking their ship. Divide and Conquer." Lucian inclines his head into a nod as he then begins to head for the door.
"Either way I shall be bringing the entire of the Third Company to command and the 'Shade Wraith' should we encounter any unexpected reinforcements. I will contact in two hours to go over the plans for taking the ship Captain Iapetus. Iron Within." As Lucian stood before the doors and as he pushed them open he turned his gaze to regard Lugerev for a few moments and then left without another word making his way to the part of the fortress where Third were currently stationed as he voxed his lieutenants and begin issuing orders to them.
Pelegon admitted that his frustrations had clouded his judgement. He was wary that I would not be so driven to purify the company of an Olympian. "You misunderstand Warsmith..." I said, and concern I had about retaliation swiftly draining as the Warsmith gave ground to my sound council. "...I would prosecute an Olympian just as thoroughly. It is just fortunate that such cases are far rarer than the cases of corruption amongst our other brethren." The last words dragged as I spoke them. I censored my language, but Pelegon would know what I meant. Pelegon expressed a trust in my abilities, which stroked my ego but ultimately changed nothing. It was good to know ones power, and that was something that me and the Warsmith shares; we needed no one to remind us of the power we wielded.
However, he also asked me to consider something. He reached out and marked the neophyte that I had spotted. What was this fresh devilry? I was not inclined to show my emotions, but I cocked my head at the Warsmith's...what did I call it? Intuition? I had not yet felt that the man was a psyker, but I also did not believe in coincidences. Perhaps it was just being in the warp for so long, he had developed some form of pseudo-sixth sense? It shed light on why his mind was guarded so heavily. What else was he capable of. If nodded in approval of the Warsmith's choice as I pondered this. My mental walls were impregnable, but that didn't mean the Warsmith hadn't tried to breach them. Maybe he stroked my defences even as I tested his. If I was wary of the Warsmith before, I had a new reason to be so. Until I could assertain what he was capable of, I would have to redouble my guard.
There was something in his hands too. He gestured and the marking appeared. Likely some technical marvel of his own devising, but I wasn't interested in that. What had before been an interesting quirk had become a new factor which I would have to consider in any plans. How had I missed it? Was this a recent development? Some quirk of spending time in the warp for so long, or was it a talent Pelegon had possessed all along and I had never realised. Warp-damn him. He shouldn’t be able to surprise me. All that registered was my surprise but behind my ever higher reaching bastions of mental fortitude I was still processing this revelation as Pelegon explained the benefits of letting these half-breeds infect our beloved Grand Company.
“My concern is not merely blood purity, but purity in the holistic sense…” My voice was serious, equal parts threat and a promise. “…if an Olympian, even Iapetus, knelt before the Dark Gods, rest assured I would be just as quick to pass judgement over them.” It was mostly true. I expected purity from the Olympians. They had to show the half-breeds what it truly meant to be “Unbroken”. However, even heretics could recant, a luxury I rarely afforded those already tainted in their flesh. The Olympians had proved faithful thus far and I never imagined I would have to make good on the words I said now to reassure Pelegon.
The Warsmith ordered a thorough investigation of not just the 2nd, but the entire Grand Company. “I will bring the full force of the Librarium to bear in this investigation, Even so, a thorough investigation of every member will take time. I hope you realise this Warsmith.” Pelegon nodded. I assumed he would rather I was certain every member of the Grand Company was utterly clear of taint than it be rushed and stones left unturned. “I will start with the 2nd Company and if any further roots of corruption emerge, I will follow them. If not, I will simply make sure each company is fully investigated.” I switched my vox channel to the 10th Company Captain, Vargus. Another half-breed. I would undo all the damage he had done in the would be Librarian in due course. “Captain Vargus, after your training session, would you send the recruit at station 16 to the Librarium.” I killed the link.
I turned my attention back to the Warsmith. “I will keep you informed of any developments in my investigation...” I held a closed fist across my primary heart. “…Iron Within.” With that, I left the outer walls of our fortress and began to work my way back to the Librarium. I could mentally apprise the members of my not-so-small cabal of the investigation, but sometimes it did good to be seen and not merely heard. In total there were 27 psykers of varying levels, excluding myslef, in the Librarium and they were spread between all the companies, although not equally. The 7th had five librarians to themselves, six when I accompanies them which was frequently. It meant I had 1 psyker for just under every 100 battle-brothers. Although none of them possessed my powers of discernment, all of them were skilled enough to spot taint at the very least. If they met resistance past that, their superiors would intervene. Failing that, I would break the unfortunate soul.
It was several minutes before I reached the Librarium, and I took the time to mentally summon all those who were not ship bound. When I got there, there was at least one psyker of some rank which was attached to each company present. I told them that they were to perform a mental sweep of each member of each company and that I would wander between companies, offering further interrogations where my subordinates had concerns and otherwise ensuring the thoroughness of the investigation. There were no questions. It was rare that we had to enact a Grand Companywide investigation, but all of us were trained in the arts of telepathy and spotting the taint of the warp in the hearts of others. I dismissed them back to their companies to begin their own personal investigations.
“Codicier Felix, Codicier Gnore and Lexicanium Harvald. You will accompany me…” I paused for dramatic effect. Everyone here was a true Iron Warrior, each carried Perturabo’s seed. Most importantly, they shared my vision for the rise of the Grand Company. There was a note of mischief in my voice. “…We are going to investigate the 2nd Company.” The three of them smiled like hungry wolves. We stalked the halls. The halls cleared before our imposing form. As we marched to the 2nd Company’s lair, I reach out to Iapetus. *Brother, when you are done shaming the Calibanite, wait for me in my chambers. We must talk about some revelations I have had.* I withdrew from my brother’s mind. I had to prepare my entrance.
As we entered the 2nd Company’s training hall, I noticed wandering members of the Tyranthikos. They had no earthly reason to be here. Unless their Nostraman captain was also here. How delightful. I reached out and found both the Gorgon and the Night Lord, their consciousness huddled together. Tyberus was unveiling a plan and Kunzhardt was dismissing it. Then Tyberus, with self-satisfied glee revealed that he knew of the taint. Now how was that. A name, just below the surface which I plucked, the Night Lord’s emotions running to high and too volatile for him to realise. Draxus. Marvelous. My mouth contorted briefly into a grin.
I smothered any such glee from my expression as I entered the room where both the captains were ‘discussing’ matters.
“…Be wary, for when The Seer investigates your Company and likely the Grand Company as a whole he will make sure he finds "taint" where he wishes to see it.” I could not have hoped for a more perfect moment to enter.
“Is that so Tyberus?” I said, my voice carrying with it the icy chill of judgement. “Best you get back to your company and make sure to remove such taint from your menials before I do.” I was tempted to smile saccharinely at the Night Lord, but I resisted the urge. “You will find several Librarians hopefully already beginning an investigation of your men. On orders of the Warsmith, you are to afford them every privilege, comply with their wishes and assist them in their investigation. In due course, I will make my way to your Tyranthikos.”
With that, my attention turned to Kunzhardt. “As for you, my friend,…” the words were almost spat with no doubt left as to the irony of the term “…I have come to investigate your Company first, since this is where the taint first showed its diseased flower. You may continue with your preparations for the coming campaign, but me and my men will move amongst you and examine each and every warrior under your command and ascertain the depth of this infection.” My entourage filled out behind me to begin the necessary work. They didn’t need Kunzhardt’s approval. They had mine, and I had the Warsmith’s. “I would like…” I began, meeting the Gorgon’s flinty glare, feeling waves of impotent animosity wash over me. “…to begin by interrogating your man Rorke’s squad-mate’s and commanding officer.” It was not a request, but I sincerely hoped that Kunzhardt tried to deny me my right. Such a move would imply harbouring taint, and the sanction for such a crime would be up to me to decide…
He was glad to have his helm on at the entrance of The Seer, "Is that so Tyberus?” Coeus spoke with a glaring smugness as he spoke his former name that made the man even more unbearable. “Best you get back to your company and make sure to remove such taint from your menials before I do,” His helm shielded the visage of the snarl that his face took on, and his response was measured and hid the boiling anger that welled up within him. "First Captain or Tyranus will do, furthermore I will not impede your investigation, but my right to be present for any such investigation will be enacted."
Tyranus could feel the icy cold of the warp touched aura of Coeus clawing at his mind, he strained to shield what he could, but he knew that he was not a psyker and his efforts were likely in vain. He exhaled and sought to rebuke The Seer any way he could, "You shall not find any taint within The First. The only weakness within The First was purged millenia ago and now are harbored within the Seventh." His reference to the Veterans who had abandonned their oaths to the First Company was hardly veiled.
With that he and his Honor Guard took their exit, Tyranus was left fuming over the encounter though. "Our plan has changed, bring us to The Keep, I shall not have The Seers minions digging their claws into our Brothers without being properly supervised." Tyranus was unsure of what he would do, to unleash his rage and strike down one of The Seventh's warp touched servants would have catastrophic results, still the very notion of being under any form of investigation stung at his honor like not other.
Captain Kalistarion...Suddenly it came back to him. The schism within the First Legion, Lucian coming to the XIXth after a joint battle that left them without transportation, and his rise to Captaincy.
The chamber doors shut once again. Lugerev straightened his spine, taking his hand away from his face and relaxing. With a deep breath he turned to face Iapetus, his eyes still and clear.
‘He’s an odd one,’ he motioned with his thumb pointing towards the doors, indicating Lucian.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone’s opinion change so quickly.’
‘First you will only hinder his success, and now things will most assuredly go smoother if the two of you combine your efforts. That is quite confusing.’
Iapetus grinned at him, looking rather amused at something. 'He hounds glory,' the Shipwright said, after a moment. 'The Dark Angel is Pelegon's favoured pet, an assassin, a spy - Creeping closer and closer to the Warsmith,' He shook his head. 'How long until Pelegon lays with a slit throat?'
‘That’s a very good point, actually. Being such a master at sabotage and born of what is still considered a loyal legion to the throne on terra, should cause our warsmith a bit more concern. I rather miss Endymion and Krotas’
'Don't we all?' Iapetus countered. 'We are a dying breed, Lugerev. On times, I regret ever fleeing Terra. We should have stood, stood and died, rather than face this long-death.'
‘Yes..stood, as stubborn and unfaltering as any of the Iron Warriors before us. Perhaps it is there we lost ourselves, then. I think it is safe to assume we were not the only ones, at least, who lost our way that day.’ Lugerev said this, with his eyes wandering over the ceiling.
Iapetus leant against the table. 'We keep the company of Dark Angels and Night Lords. Half of our brothers' hearts pump with the blood of our enemies.'
‘Pelegon justifies this mission over ten pairs of geneseed. I lost another one of Kunzhardt’s men today, due to a training accident. Geneseed is quite fragile. Most likely, all ten, if captured, wouldn’t make it into a final product fully intact and stable anyway. I suppose I am good enough...’ His tone wandered off a bit at the end.
Lugerev glided back to the table edge, where he began sliding his finger tips over the metal surface in a delicate manner, back and forth, then swirling them in circular motions.
‘Iapetus, I do not like the idea of mutts in our midst. Mongrels, hybrids, half-breeds...
He turned and cocked his head toward the 7th Captain with an all too happy smile.
‘You know this.’
'Our breed is endangered. The Iron Tenth, Ultramarines, Imperial Fists,' He ground his teeth together. 'And now Salamanders? Those which we fought against, those that bled us dry, haunt our ranks.'
Lugerev danced his fingers around some more. He gave a stern look to Iapetus.
‘Just make sure I get to that geneseed first. I don't want anyone else touching it.'
And with that, the Chief Apothecary took his leave.
Sorcery. Of all the miserable filth that tormented this fortress the abominations that haunted the librarium were by far the worst. At the head of that horror show was the prince of it all. The inbred twin that touted his own sanguine purity over the rest of the fortress. The presence of his twin at the head of another chapter only added to the disdain. Perhaps they were Alpha Legionnaires that had done such an impressive job of infiltrating the Grand Company. He'd never bore witness to proof of their descent from Perturabo. He held no special place for the Librarium and knew that there was no place for a non-Olympian with them. There was a clawing at his mind that seemed to herald the coming of one of those warp touched monsters every time they entered the room. It was different than the millions of whispers every soul within the Eye felt; the promises of power, the whispers of betrayal, hungry immortals toying with Astartes like marionettes it was like the tendrils of Slaanesh working their way through his very brain and every time he'd encountered a sorcerer Kunzhardt wanted nothing more than to blast the foul thing from the face of existence.
The presence of Coeus and his cabal were ill omens within his hangar especially considering the foul news that had barely just escaped Tyranus' lips. The captain of the second said nothing during the two's altercation, silently hoping that whatever anger he'd stirred in the 1st captain only moments ago would find an outlet in the entrails of Coeus. Alas there was enough calm left over to drag the Captain and his Tyranthikos away from the hangar leaving only a few sorcerers and a full regiment in armour and bolters, another fight waiting to happen.
"And your zeal could not have been more accelerated if a Dark God was present in the flesh of this much I'm certain, witch."
Teeth grated and fists clenched. He would revel in the opportunity to tear the entire length of tongue from Coeus' throat and to strangle him with it but again there would be no glory here. He returned the glaring knight like helmet to its place sealing his armour once more. He had shown Tyranus a consideration not normally shown in his domain. The battle training within the second was not meant to halt. It was meant to inspire the greatest glory; true training in a true battle to yield strong warriors and that meant full battle regalia. At this point he realized that his men had been idle far too long for his liking and anger swelled up within him.
"You would conduct an inquisition mere days before a battle!? Would you see XIXth blood spilt? You may have your hunt, Coeus but know I will hold you accountable for every soldier that falls because they were being given physicals instead of training. . . Squad Kon'tu Report!"
The last line was barked into the hangar as he engaged the vox casters and within scant moments five additional soldiers had scrambled from the trenches and were in a line before the Captain. Kunzhardt closed with each of them walking down the line like a lion sizing up the prey scrutinizing their stench for impurity seemingly exhaling steam from the grill of his mark III helmet in anger. He turned finally to the sorcerer's before him.
"They are yours. . .Seer but I will stand watch over your investigation."
Upon leaving his brothers at the end of the Warsmiths words, he sent a short Vox message to one of his sergeants
"Brother Dantioch. News."
He was greeted by a moment of empty silence before the reply was received as his fellow instructor likely finished berating a recruit for some small failure. " Seventy percent of the current rotation are meeting their required firerate-accuracy quotas. Recruits Oron and Elean continue to meet sub par standards on the range. However they show aptitude for their close combat drills. They have been assigned additional duties pending your confirment. Addittionally Recruit Zacherie continues to show conspicuously high results on all training regimes. Report ends. What news from the Warsmith Brother-Captain?"
He had served with brother Dantioch back when he was still a raw recruit and along with brother Kennoch of the Fifth Company they were the only two of his squad who survived the events of the Carens Grace conflict.
"We are leaving here, Inform the others to be ready."
As Vargus entered the training fields he saw the Stage Six recruits going through their firing drills. Scanning around the group for failures, he sought out his senior instructors from the group. As he advanced over towards his brothers he noticed a number of recruits not following the training they had received. "Recruits! What are you doing wrong?"
All of them paused and looked at Vargus "Erm-" The three at fault stammered.
"Dont stop firing" Vargus snapped, eyes scanning across the three recruits, pulling their names from his memory.
"Sir, we werent counting our rounds, sir." they responded in unison. Yes thought Vargus, recruits Oron and Elean, he would have to do something to ensure they learned, the hard way that this wasnt acceptable. He was surprised by the third however, Recruit Aphessius normally an above average achiever within the ranks of the tenths recruits. "Good, you recognise your failings. Dont, let this happen again." Vargus strode off to meet with his instructors leaving the recruits to wonder on what he said and likely with an elated feeling on escaping without a visible punishment. Little did they know that he had a plan for them before leaving for orbit.
As he reached the collection of his three other instructors he paused hearing his vox come alive with a message from the Seer “Captain Vargus, after your training session, would you send the recruit at station 16 to the Librarium.” He paused turning to observe the recruit at the station referenced. Activating his vox he turned back to his instructors "How many of the recruits have failed in their training this cycle?"
Dantioch was the first to answer "Thirty eight percent of the total training force have incurred some minor failing, I have compiled it into todays archive." Vargus could tell Dantioch was puzzled by the request such a thing was not nomally of immediate relavance to the captain. "What word from the Warsmith Brother-Captain?" pushed instructor Elogan his impatience for glory clearly showing. "We prepare to march brothers,but first we have one last trial for our charges. Ready the training fort." He switched his vox to the channels of the tenth "All instructors collect those who have failed on todays cycle and direct them towards the training fort, give them one hour to prepare their defenses using the armaments available to them. Then send the others to assualt it. Those that survive we will take with us to orbit when we mobilise." With his orders acknowledged he closed the vox and began to prepare for his role in the coming conflict whatever form that may take. The Seers request would have to wait, he just hoped the recruit was better at defending a fort then he was at firing a gun.
Iapetus regarded the Dark Angel with narrowed eyes and curled lips. His utterance of Iron Within, the creed of the Iron Warriors, the Olympian way of life, disgusted him. I should snap your neck, he thought, as the Third Captain retreated away. Snap your neck and crush your skull. Iapetus remembered a time where he valued the companionship, and advice, of Lion El'Jonson's sons. Now they were his sworn enemies, hated paragons of a decaying Imperium.
'He's an odd one,' Lugerev said, jutting a thumb at the First Legionary. 'I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone’s opinion change so quickly,' He laughed, merrily. 'First you will only hinder his success, and now things will most assuredly go smoother if the two of you combine your efforts. That is quite confusing.'
The Shipwright grinned. Lugerev's madness was always an hindrance, a worrying condition, but it was also entertaining. 'He hounds glory,' Iapetus said, wetting his lips. 'The Dark Angel is Pelegon's favoured pet, an assassin, a spy - Creeping closer and closer to the Warsmith,' He shook his head. 'How long until Pelegon lays with a slit throat?'
'That’s a very good point, actually,' The Apothecary reflected. 'Being such a master at sabotage and born of what is still considered a loyal legion to the throne on Terra, should cause our Warsmith a bit more concern. I rather miss Endymion and Krotas.'
'Don't we all?' Iapetus sneered. 'We are a dying breed, Lugerev. On times, I regret ever fleeing Terra. We should have stood, stood and died, rather than face this long-death.'
‘Yes..' Lugerev drawled, eyes turning to the ceiling. 'Stood, as stubborn and unfaltering as any of the Iron Warriors before us. Perhaps it is there we lost ourselves, then. I think it is safe to assume we were not the only ones, at least, who lost our way that day.’
Iapetus placed his hands on the tables, palms flat against the surface, and sighed. 'We keep the company of Dark Angels and Night Lords. Half of our brothers' hearts pump with the blood of our enemies.'
'Pelegon justifies this mission over ten pairs of Gene-seed. I lost another one of Kunzhardt's men today, due to a training accident. Gene-seed is quite fragile. Most likely, all ten, if captured, wouldn't make it into a final product fully intact and stable anyway. I suppose I am good enough,' Lugerev traced a pattern on the table with his fingers. ‘Iapetus, I do not like the idea of mutts in our midst. Mongrels, hybrids, half-breeds,' He cocked his head, smiled - A smile that was undoubtedly happy, and yet, made Iapetus shiver. 'You know this.'
The Shipwright did. He nodded, and spoke. 'Our breed is endangered. The Iron Tenth, Ultramarines, Imperial Fists,' His teeth ground together. 'And now Salamanders? Those which we fought against, those that bled us dry, haunt our ranks.'
Lugerev's gaze hardened. Iapetus understood that look, and the tone which the Apothecary took. ‘Just make sure I get to that Gene-seed first. I don't want anyone else touching it.'
He turned, then, and marched away, footsteps clattering against the stone floors. Iapetus watched him go, until he disappeared, and then left himself. Preparations would have to be made - The Seventh, some four hundred brothers, Olympians one and all, would have to be mobilised. An inspection of his Company, and the Nineteenth's fleet, would follow. It was his duty, as Shipmaster, to assure the fleet was ready. Last minute repairs, and crew replacements, would be implemented. Iapetus prided himself with the fleet's greatness, it was his tool, his weapon. He, as much as Pelegon, had honed it into a well-crafted machine.
His mind throbbed, and Coeus's ethereal-voice, soft and fleeting, filled his head. It was a summoning, to his Witch-Twin's chambers.
Iapetus grunted an affirmation, unsure if Coeus still listened, and changed his path.
'Brother,' He voxed, upon arriving, and finding them empty. He had detoured, moving amongst the Grand Company, amongst the half-breeds and the sycophants. It was not a pleasant experience, witnessing the degradation of a once-great brotherhood. 'Where are you?
The Ferra Perpetua pushed forward through the Warp, its sharp prow carving aside and deflecting currents of unreality as easily as a scalpel through soft flesh, forming the point of the spear, the rest of which constituted the XIXth Grand Company's fleet, though none could match the ironclad giant in size or firepower. Despite being a far cry from the Goriana-class behemoths such as the Iron Blood, the Ferra was exceptionally armed and maintained to the Warsmith's exacting standards, and had not partaken in a retreat since the siege of Olympia. Despite millennia in the Warp, its surface remained unadulterated and brutally functional, the skull of Perturabo adorning the prow to leave its foes in no uncertainty that it was the burning wrath of the Iron IVth that they faced. A relic of a bygone era, its appearance in realspace always heralded the death of thousands - a bloody reminder to the Imperium of Man of the sons that it had betrayed and abandoned.
The bridge was, unlike that of most ships, a place of quiet order, where armoured astartes moved and worked with industrious purpose. Each knew their place and order of business, and worked away, whether monitoring sensors or operating a set of panels that controlled one of the many systems that kept the mighty voidship operational. On a raised dais stood the assembled commanders of the XIXth, muted and ready to receive the words of their Warsmith, who stood at their head, by a huge metal cylinder of unknown provenance, large enough to house a dreadnought. His helmet was removed, and without it still stood half a head taller than even Lucian. He had not aged much over the seven millennia since the Heresy, black hair slicked back from his head and harsh features heavily lined, but not yet wrinkled. The Olympian's face was calm and almost serene, but in his dark eyes there burned a hatred so intense that it was clear to any who looked that it had consumed him long ago.
"You know by heart our standard method of warfare; to break our foe through the methodical and careful application of force. Like a neck between our fingers, pressure must be applied in the correct places until we feel give, and upon their yielding to our efforts we do not relent; instead we move the pressure to those failing zones and double it there, and keep applying it until our fingers meet the palms of our hands. The guns of the XIXth have yet to fail to bring a foe to their knees, but for this campaign I do not intend to use them - insofar as we usually do"
The captains' reactions were mixed. Their facial expressions varied from surprise to outrage, though some remained stone-faced and unresponding. However, they said nothing, and after looking around, Pelegon continued, derision now clear in his voice.
"The Wolves have long held a deep love for mortals, viewing, at times, the lives of the individuals that make up their rotten empire as important as the empire itself. To that end, they have performed foolish acts on the battlefield to do no more than save handfuls of mortal lives. This is something that we will exploit. They presume that the mortals on Pelexis are safe under their care; I intend to prove to them that their protection is worthless. The mortals are to be used as weapons against them, to draw them out of their lair - and in the act, ensure that the Imperium learns that they cannot be allowed to forget us"
Pelegon's voice, usually a bassy growl, had dropped to a rumble that could be more easily felt than heard, the hatred and anger in his voice driving it down several octaves.
"This is a plan that must be played out exactly if it is to have the effect that I desire. Think of this less a battle than a culling. On the table before you are data-slates, each marked for one of you. Take them and study, we will enter realspace in the Pelexis system in 38 hours. Iron Within"
The Warsmith turned and sat on his command throne, a huge chair of burnished iron set into the wall at the back of the bridge. From his wrist-mounted cogitator snaked a wire, hooking itself into a bank of computers to his left, monitoring the marines at the helm of the Ferra Perpetua. What ancient technology Pelegon used to allow his men to pilot the ship through the empyrean was unknown even to the Master of the Forge, but all the captains knew that it was due to the huge cylinder that sat next to the Warsmith's command throne. Lacking any markings or decoration, it had nothing on its exterior that might have hinted at the contents within, but the older commanders did know that the Warsmith had spent more than a fortnight sometime in M32 sealed in his tower developing it.
Your data-slate holds for you a most interesting piece of information; the formation of hammer and anvil is to be used to ultimately destroy the wolves, and the Tyranthikos are to be the hammer. The first stage of the assault will involve heavy planetary bombardment designed to eliminate precisely two-thirds of the human population, followed by capture and enslavement of all who survive. After that, the Tyranthikos have been instructed to return to the Ferra and await deployment. Work below your station, perhaps to start with, but the honour of the kill is ultimately to be yours.
Your data-slate informs you that this will not be a challenging deployment for you, to your chagrin. The bombardment from orbit is nothing of any difficulty, firing, as you will be, on undefended civilian hab-blocks and settlements. After that, you are to fire precisely around the Wolf's Claw and level the ground around it, without harming the fortress - though your orders inform you that you will be deployed planetside between the two bombardment orders, which is unusual. Usually the latter would be orchestrated from the bridge of the Ferra. After that, your orders detail that you are to conduct precise barrages designed to destroy the transmission and sensor equipment of the Wolf's Claw, and then shell it with smoke rounds until the defensive perimeter around the fortress has been constructed. Your orders do not extend beyond that.
Lucian, Iapetus, Lugerev
The Warsmith has told you that in the taking of the Fist of Russ transmission signals for aid are not to be blocked, and that the exact location of the cruiser will be given to you once the Ferra's sensor arrays determine them upon Warp exit. Beyond that, you have been given no further instruction, having been given it in the Eisenschloss. However, Lugerev's data-slate does have one additional line:
Do not disappoint me.
Your data-slate contains the blueprint for a tower; it is to be constructed opposite the front gate of the Wolf's Claw, on the outside edge of the defensive ring that the 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th companies are to erect around the fortress, just out of range of its guns. The tower is a strange, baroque structure, containing a conveyor belt designed to transport light loads to the top, and covered with other small platforms and upward-pointing spikes. It will be easy enough to fashion once planetside, but its purpose is unrevealed. Another request that you have is for a steel full-fit mask in the shape of the Iron Skull - one that is of such a size that it could only fit the head of an astartes, with a request that it be taken plentside after the defensive ring has been constructed and kept at a temperature at which it will retain malleability. Both these orders are simple enough for one of your skill.
Your orders tell you that 10th company, in co-ordination with 6th, 8th and 9th, are to assault the remaining human population centres after the bombardment and capture as many mortals as possible. A defensive ring of trenches and emplacements is to be erected around the Wolf's Claw with a radius equivalent to just over the maximum range of their guns - this known as the pattern of fortress is of a standard Imperial template. The human slaves are to be kept in compounds surrounding the defensive ring, and you are informed that there will be a signaled assault, though the time of this is not specified.
Your data slate has the orders of the other captains on it, and a message from the Warsmith reminding you that orders from you pertaining to investigation and purification are to be taken as orders directly from him. You are also told that purity will be of especial importance due to the nature of the campaign to be conducted after this one.
This next update will take us through transit; the next, to be on the 4th of October, will place the XIXth in the Pelexis system and in orbit, followed by stage one of the battle plan.
The conversation with the Seer had been cut short by their deployment and likely for the better. Blood would have been spilt within the halls of the Second had the discussion carried any further. Vhalos had ensured that the might of the Mechanized Fist was aboard the Ferra Perpetua and stayed true to his word. The Second held their own quarters within the Warsmith's flagship as the main source of firepower on the ground in any conflict. They would never want nor have a flagship to announce their importance. The presence of the Ferra Perpetua was enough to send most mortals waste down their legs. The domain of the second here was almost identical to their location in Eisenschloss and carried much the same training facility albeit it catered towards less bloody combat to avoid going into the breach at less than full capacity.
Within the multiple hangars that made up the Second's kingdom Kunzhardt had prepared his troops for siege and toxins. He would make an example to all that would come to this world after them would know that not even the Angelic loyal Astartes while sitting on their porch could do nothing but bleed and die like everyone else under overwhelming Iron. Everything was going well and the Second captain thought again on the presence of taint within the Grand Company and worst within his own. He'd made a personal point to be with the investigation at every possible moment but even he couldn't ignore the call of the Warsmith. Was this just the final drop of the plan? To show weakness in will to have the deadly warmachine delivered to Adruin before him? Then to show weakness in Iron by having taint revealed within the chapter? Was there any taint at all? Coeus would always find a more critical eye falling upon the mud blooded companies and his had always bore a mutual abrasion for the Librarium. This would not stand for long. He'd waited for too long to speak directly with the Warsmith.
With the meeting of the captains disperesed Kunzhardt retrieved his respective data slate and walked slowly from the room with everyone else when he realized what his charge would be and all at once turned on heel and marched back onto the bridge helmet in hand and moved directly for the large chair resting in the rear of the bridge.
A colossal clang echoed through the room as the power fist slammed into an open palm to meet greeting the Warsmith with a bowed head.
"Warsmith I wish to have an audience regarding the Pelexis deployment and the purpose of the 2nd Company. I welcome the promise of campaign and slaughter-but this is just that-a slaughter without challenge and glory-little more than target practice for our orbital guns."
Adriun arrived with the other Captains as was requested, before docking he had delivered Ten brand new Fellglaives to the Captain of the Second as he had always planned on doing, whether or not Kunzhardt took it as some sort of play by the Master of the Forge was not Adriun’s concern, it was a simple act of camaraderie and hopefully cemented some trust. However he looked on at all that had gathered and nodded in kind, and then turned his attention to the Warsmith, who looked rather hateful at the moment; the Imperium’s Loyal Pups brought the worst out of him.
--"You know by heart our standard method of warfare; to break our foe through the methodical and careful application of force. Like a neck between our fingers, pressure must be applied in the correct places until we feel give, and upon their yielding to our efforts we do not relent; instead we move the pressure to those failing zones and double it there, and keep applying it until our fingers meet the palms of our hands. The guns of the XIXth have yet to fail to bring a foe to their knees, but for this campaign I do not intend to use them - insofar as we usually do"--
Adriun was unfazed by this development, he wondered why but it did not shock him at all.
--"The Wolves have long held a deep love for mortals, viewing, at times, the lives of the individuals that make up their rotten empire as important as the empire itself. To that end, they have performed foolish acts on the battlefield to do no more than save handfuls of mortal lives. This is something that we will exploit. They presume that the mortals on Pelexis are safe under their care; I intend to prove to them that their protection is worthless. The mortals are to be used as weapons against them, to draw them out of their lair - and in the act, ensure that the Imperium learns that they cannot be allowed to forget us"--
This development though panged at something deep within himself, ideas he hid deep in the storage banks of his Cogitator, where only he could look, a tactic he had learned in dealing with Psykers, he could just keep information he wished private out of his biological mind, and separate from his conscious and unconscious desires. He just barely stopped himself from having visions of his child hood. He maintained his stoic face but deep within his cogitator, disgust brewed.
He nodded and took note of the Warsmith’s brutal seriousness in his conviction to maintain his plan.
--"This is a plan that must be played out exactly if it is to have the effect that I desire. Think of this less a battle than a culling. On the table before you are data-slates, each marked for one of you. Take them and study, we will enter realspace in the Pelexis system in 38 hours. Iron Within"--
With the meeting concluded, he browsed his data slate, taking rapid note of the plan he had to execute, he wondered at the purpose of the tower, and he could assume much from it. The Platforms could make excellent weapon emplacements, and the conveyor could easily move munitions, however he feared a far more disturbing purpose due to its positioning. He quickly rejected the idea, it had to have some military application, he hoped.
He sighed as he walked the corridors, and he voxed his Master Architek, one Eryx Anagos, an Olympian born Tech-Marine who showed great aptitude in construction, he was an eccentric one, holding true to old Olympian tenets.
“Architek Eryx, I am sending you blue prints for a construction project, I need the components readied for assembly, and I have added additional notes to modify the plan for a stronger faster assembly regarding its internal structure and supports.”
Adriun was literally analyzing the construct and making the structure more efficient without any loss of shape or function, which was streamed live to the Architek.
“Ah, Adriun you are true to your arête as always, the structures’ balance is commendable, though I do dislike the décor, but it is what the Warsmith wants and that is not questionable. It shall be done.”
Eryx musings were always strange, but it had to do with how he perceived his work, as art. Adriun had received tutelage under the Olympian in his rise through the Factorum, and had come to respect the art innate to technology.
Eryx himself hummed as machines sprang to life and began to manufacture the skeleton of the tower for assembly on the surface.
“Thank you Eryx, that is all, keep me updated on the progress.” Adriun only heard the hums of some tune from an orchestral piece that he could not name, Eryx was lost to his art, and so he cut the line.
He was alone in his sympathy with mortals, there were some within his company that had a better view of mortals, but it wasn’t close to actually caring about their lives. Were they no better than monsters? Like those of his childhood, they were carrion beasts ready to feast on innocent flesh just because they could; the Wolves had proven themselves superior in one aspect, morality. At least they had not forgotten where they came from, as each Astartes was once Human, only the enhancements and training separated them from common man. Adriun could understand the ends justifying the means, but what did the Iron Warriors fight for? An ideal? No it seemed they only wished to prove something to the Imperium, but what was that? That the XIXth did not need daemons to act like them? He was unsure what to make of it all.
He sighed as he continued his mind a buzz as he entered the forge and set about constructing the steel helm, he had an idea of how Pelegon intended to use it. It was to be a torture mask he assumed, to shame the Wolf leader. Or at least he guessed, only time would tell, but it did not take long for him to do, he had the mask done within the hour, only spending extra time to ensure it was perfect. He set it down and then assembled his wargear.
He looked upon his blade, tracing his armored finger upon it, a weapon of death, just as he himself was. His shield, was life, it was to defend and protect, could Iron no longer protect, would it only be used to kill and soak in the blood of victims and gather rust from blood. He should let such thought cloud his mind though, but it was difficult as he had never participated in a battle of slaughter during his time in the XIXth. He had known there were casualties in war, that was a simple fact, and something he accepted easily, but to directly target civilians was something he had never done. Civilians had always been a tertiary casualty that simply resulted from war, but he so no purpose in them being primary targets.
In the end though, as he cleaned his sword and shield and checked their power field emitters, he knew he would have to differ to the Warsmith’s judgment, but maybe just maybe he could save some from this terrible fate. The Mechanicus could always use knew recruits, especially those of an impressionable age.
He smiled under his helmet, now he had a valid reason to save some from the fate that Pelegon would enact upon the unsuspecting Imperial citizens. He couldn’t save the families, much like his own family was beyond saving, but he could give the offspring the same chance he had, did they not deserve it? He believed not even the Warsmith could rightfully make a judgment on that.
He was about to call for his head Genetor when Loakk himself entered.
“Adriun, what news did the Warsmith have? What is our objective planet side?”
Loakk was perceptive as ever, then again the Master Genetor had known Adriun since he had come to work in the Factorum, and through his rise through Mechanicus ranks.
“Pelegon has ordered a planetary bombardment of all major civilian hubs on the planet, and then to enslave them…..much like our more rusted brothers.” Adriun said dryly.
Loakk being taller looked down at Adriun, his enhanced eyes scanning his armored form, if he had not worn a helmet, Loakk would know his thoughts by facial expression alone.
“This displeases you I assume, but the Warsmith does not make such commands lightly, it has purpose even if its not easily seen, this slaughter must have value otherwise he would not waste the resources, as our guns are better spent on something that can fight back.”
Loakk was right of course, the Humans death’s were part of something much bigger than just some pathetic backwater world, but Adriun didn’t see why they just annexed the people, more bodies to work for the XIXth and pay tribute would be better, would it not? At least Adriun thought as much.
“I just see it as a waste, they could be used by us, and does the Mechanicus no longer need recruits? I don’t believe so, and more people to be made loyal to us make us stronger and more able to enact our Iron will on the Galaxy.”
Adriun knew the Tech Guard could use more to bolster their ranks, and the planets criminals could be used to make more servitors, and children could be raised in ways of the machine, to keep their human ranks full of highly skilled individuals. There was also the possibility of potential recruits among the populace.
Loakk simply looked on, and his tongue licked the air briefly before retreating in rapid succession.
“Yes, we could use more recruits, we train only the best, and those that become marines, would become even better than their mortal counter parts, but what you do not see is the Warsmith’s hate, the Wolves are hated for a reason, they are weak because of their passion for mortals, it can be used against them. I do not hate mortals, I hate the Imperium that governs them, and I despise our brothers who cast us aside so easily for their false Emperor, not that I believed Horus to be the better option anyways.”
Adriun didn’t have much to say, he was seeing that maybe he jumped to conclusions.
“Adriun can you playback the exact word’s of the Warsmith.” Loakk requested, and Adriun obliged him.
“As you can see this is a strike against the Imperium, that abandoned us after we built its empire, one that should be ours, but these cowards devalued our work and ostracized us, think not of the citizens but of the message it brings, that they should not forget what they did, we built them, and we will break them. We can do it better, and they are deluded in believing they can protect anything from we who built them up.”
This is why Loakk was his advisor and right hand, he had experience, and experience that involved emotion at that, unlike Furthuum, whose advice relied on pure logic and lack of empathy. Adriun needed both types of advice, each for different times, and Loakk’s was the correct one right now. Loakk continued speaking.
“I know of your past Adriun, I know why you see this as a waste, because you yourself could have just as easily been a statistic. Take pride in that though, but continue with the Warsmith’s plans, and I would not assume that the Warsmith is not willing to listen just yet, I would suggest proposing to him that the Mechanicus could use young recruits, that is reasonable, and should be all you can expect to get. Let the rest burn, they suffer because of their protectors, not because of us.”
Adriun nodded, the loyalists had brought this on themselves, Loakk dismissed himself, but not before one final input.
“Master of the Forge, when you decide to speak with the Warsmith, ask him first to grant me permission to harvest Wolf Geneseed for my experiments, it is unworthy of recruits and should be used to garner more understanding of Geneseed. Iron Within, Adriun.”
Loakk croaked as he pounded his fists together in salute, Adriun returned the salute as well.
He sighed and then purged his mind of his thoughts, and deleted unnecessary thoughts and stored again his memories in his cogitator’s data banks, and closed it behind a digital wall. Keep the pertinent requests in his mind though he stowed his weapons away, having selected his load out for the mission, and the Steel Masque set in a specialized container to keep it heated and malleable.
He took off his helmet, his face and mind devoid of his previous thoughts, carefully deleted, digitally and chemically. He headed back to the bridge, as his task was done, his forces beyond ready.
Aboard the Iron Tyrant the First Captain oversaw as a member of the Librarius made his way through the ranks of the Tyranthikos. Tyranus would not impede their investigations, knowing full well that there was no taint of the warp borne powers within his Company. Still, the Astartes he had summoned stood before him now in full Cataphractii plate. "Draxus, you shall serve now as my equerry and a member of my Honor Guard." The Cataphractii plate that Draxus wore was annointed with all of the markings of the Honor Guard, though his weaponry differed slightly from that of the two Honor Guard that typically went everywhere with the First Captain. His right hand was encased in a cataphractii lightning claw, at his left hip was a mag locked storm bolter like those of his brethren. Tyranus' motives were simple, the closer his equerry was to him, the less chance there was of The Librarius' investigation being able to directly question him.
With his three Honor Guard in tow, Dayus, Karius the Elder and Draxus, Tyranus watched the data slates and projections in the center of the briefing chamber and listened intently to the WarSmith's plans for their siege and suppression of Pelexis III. The three warriors stood silent and motionless behind their Lord as the plans were laid out before them, their heads moved about, ever on high alert on their Lord's behalf.
"You know by heart our standard method of warfare; to break our foe through the methodical and careful application of force. Like a neck between our fingers, pressure must be applied in the correct places until we feel give, and upon their yielding to our efforts we do not relent; instead we move the pressure to those failing zones and double it there, and keep applying it until our fingers meet the palms of our hands. The guns of the XIXth have yet to fail to bring a foe to their knees, but for this campaign I do not intend to use them - insofar as we usually do." Pelegon spoke with a starkness to his tone, but the note that they would fight in a way that was unusual for them peaked Tyranus' interest, and not in a favorable way. Why should we fight in any way that would compromise our effectiveness when we are masters of our craft of warfare? For the time being he allowed his opinion to be spoken in his mind only.
"The Wolves have long held a deep love for mortals, viewing, at times, the lives of the individuals that make up their rotten empire as important as the empire itself. To that end, they have performed foolish acts on the battlefield to do no more than save handfuls of mortal lives. This is something that we will exploit. They presume that the mortals on Pelexis are safe under their care; I intend to prove to them that their protection is worthless. The mortals are to be used as weapons against them, to draw them out of their lair - and in the act, ensure that the Imperium learns that they cannot be allowed to forget us." Pelegon continued and more information came forward that Tyranus was displeased with. He wondered just how much of this campaign was to be beneficial for the XIXth beyond stoking the flames of a grudge that Pelegon held for some wrong that was not some seven thousand years old. The Imperium has not forgotten us Brother, of that I can assure you. Taking this world will be a statement in of itself, these theatrics are unnecessary. The displeasure of the newly assigned mission continued to build up for Tyranus as he mulled over the information given to them.
As they were dismissed, given 38 hours to be fully prepared for enactment of their battle plans, Tyranus immediately began to overlook his data slate. He left last of his Brother Captains and as he exited he could not help but notice the pause of the Second Captain in the main hallway. Something had clearly struck The Captain of the Second Company. Tyranus then broke off down an adjacent and dismissed anything from his mind that did not have to do immediately with his tasks at hand. He quickly sorted through his data slate, looking over the plans, poring over the information and the stratagem within.
The Hammer and Anvil, he thought to himself as he saw the formation and operations itinerary laid out. It was a tried and true method wherein a fortification was battered with orbital and/or planetary based siege before the Tyranthikos were unleashed to inflict their own brand of warfare. The most savage, vicious, borderline sadistic and skilled melee fighters in the XIXth found their way into the First Company and as such they were perfect for taking heavily fortified bastions. More than that even, they were highly adept at killing Astartes still loyal to the False Emperor, for they had experience in doing so for thousands of years.
As he read on though, Tyranus found plans for an operation that the Tyranthikos were decidedly not purpose built for. The savage, ruthless, merciless warriors of the First Company, according to these battle plans were to be tasked as enslavers and cattle herders. "There is no glory in this, only the breach of the Wolf's Claw itself holds true glory." He made an immediate about face, forcing his Equerry Draxus to jump back and press himself against the wall of the corridor to allow his Lord to pass by unabated. Karius the Elder looked to the new Honor Guard member with a nod that indicated he was pleased with their newest member's reflexes. The trio of Tyranthikos slotted back into their formation behind Tyranus as he marched back to the bridge of the Ferra Perpetua.
He entered, flanked by his Honor Guard, as First Captain he was begrudgingly welcome on the bridge of the XIXth's flagship. "-out challenge and glory-little more than target practice for our orbital guns." Tyranus overheard the final bits and pieces of The Second Captain's petition to the WarSmith. Pelegon would not be fond of two dissenting voices, but he needed answers. "Captain Kunzhardt, I see that I am not the only one with questions about our latest deployment." Tyranus nodded respectfully to Kunzhardt, but only after acknowledging Pelegon "WarSmith," his bow to Pelegon was slightly more pronounced, but it was clear that the First Captain was not here for pleasantries.
"WarSmith, with all respect, I would speak with you about our newest campaign." Tyranus measured his words, he needed to be direct, but not critical of his comrade and leader's battle plans, especially in front of Kunzhardt, who likely was also here with some complaint, though Tyranus figured that The Mechanized Fist would complain even were he to be given the chances of first glories on a battle field simply because he was a man who could never be satisfied. "I understand the merits and actions of our campaign here WarSmith, but the Tyranthikos are ill suited to take prisoners. The taking of prisoners and slaving of them could possibly be undertaken by a reserve company. I merely wish to know why it is that the First must take up this task Pelegon. Would we not send just as bloody and horrific a message if we simply slaughtered the entire planet?" Tyranus was truly curious as to why the enslavement of the populace was of any concern when slaughtering the people and their protectors would at least to his mind send a more startling reminder to the Imperium that the XIXth was fully operational and prepared for war.
Adriun walked through the halls, occassionaly linking in with servitor chatter and video via his own link with them, that came from his station as master of the forge. While he may not have been a psyker, he still had ways to get information and be more wary of his surroundings.
He went over his requests in his head, Wolf Gene-seed for Loakk's experiments into better understanding Gene seed, in the hopes of one day being able to replicate it. This request would hopefully soften the blow of his next request, to request the Children of the Civilians to be inducted into the Mechanicus, those that survived...... This disappointed him the most because he believed in their ideals and that they would be better suited to rule than some false emperor. He believed it was their job to spread their iron will and doctrine, and slaughtering a planet and taking slaves seemed counter intuitive to building a force that was loyal to them. He intended to change that, in time.
As he neared the bridge he heard voices, it seemed other were discussing the objectives of the campaign with the Warsmith, this didn't bode well if the Warsmith was not in the mood to hear disagreement. He entered cautiously and awaited patiently at the back. In the meantime he checked his dataslate, Eryx progress in manufacturing the assembly parts was displayed as a progress bar on the screen, he was roughly a quarter of the way done it seemed, he would be finished far before arrival into real-space at this rate.
"Are you questioning my planning, Kunzhardt?"
The Warsmith tapped on his cogitator a few more times, having kept a close eye on the formation of the XIXth's fleet, then turned to give the 2nd Captain his full attention. All astartes were the pinnacles of physical perfection, and Pelegon was no exception to this; his features were rugged and would have been, to any mortal, handsomely solid. Hatred twisted them out of shape sometimes, but now they seemed almost serene. He knew how to deal with his different subordinates, and he judged that pacification would be the best course of action.
"When have the 2nd Company not been the linchpin of any of our sieges, Kunzhardt?"
The Warsmith rose to his feet and approached the captain, placing his hand on one of Kunzhardt's pauldrons. There would be need to show some degree of empathy here, though the complaint did, in truth, annoy him.
"This campaign holds little glory for you; some exercise in technical skill regarding the orbital bombardment around the Wolf's Claw, but I am confident in your ability to execute my orders. I also view you as one of my better captains, who seeks excellence over personal glory. Do not be disheartened"
Pelegon then turned to Tyranus, who was giving what essentially boiled down to a petulant whine. The former Night Lord's reluctance to carry out the more menial tasks required of him, and that annoyed the Warsmith. He could have played him off with a compliment, telling the 1st Captain that he had been granted this task as he was the only one with the skill to see it carried out correctly, but a show of strength would be far more satisfying. The Warsmith's face hardened, and when he spoke, his voice was a threateningly low rumble.
"You assume that wanton slaughter is my objective; do not attempt to second-guess me again, Tyranus. It is the way of the IVth to be meticulous, and not to view any task as above us. That was how our erstwhile brothers viewed us, as mere workhorses - our willingness to do what was asked of us became a strength, lent us will and stamina beyond any other. You complain now that gathering slaves is beneath you. How long will it be before you decline to dig me a trench line, viewing a shovel with similar disdain? Dayus, Karius..." the Warsmith paused momentarily as he tried to recall the third, less familiar "...Draxus, kill him"
The three Tyranthikos drew their storm bolters as one and levelled them at Tyranus' head, moving to cover him from three positions. Karius' and Dayus' power fists came to life with a crackle, while Draxus' lightning claws slid from their sheaths. Tyranus was caught between the three veterans and the Warsmith, who raised a hand to indicate that they should hold their fire. None glanced at him, keeping their eyes entirely on their target, but they did hold their fire.
"The Tyranthikos, as with every marine in the XIXth" apart from, perhaps, some of Lucian's fallen angels, and Coeus and Iapetus' dubious fraternal loyalties to each other "is loyal to me first and foremost. I allow my orders to be questioned, but only for good reason. Complain again that the orders you are given are unworth of you and I shall find a more willing replacement. Now get out of my sight"
Tyranus could do nothing; he was caught, and turned to leave, the Tyranthikos following him, weapons put away and deactivated once more.
"One more thing, Tyranus" the Warsmith called from his throne, where he had again taken his seat. His voice was nonchalant, as if what he was saying was almost an afterthought "you are relegated to trench duty until we break orbit. Kunzhardt will have command of the Tyranthikos for duration of this mission"
The Warsmith was very exacting in how he dealt with his captains, and he chose his threats and soothing with equal care. He had not come to question Pelegon, but to make requests, and he hoped such requests would receive better consideration than outright denial of what he said. He knew he couldn't change the Warsmith's plan but he could adapt to it.
He kept a congenial face and approached, he thought it best to make a report of his progress first and work his way to his requests, and he decided it best to ask apologize to Kunzhardt that he wouldn't get a chance to use his new toys yet.
"First Captain, Second Captain." He nodded in kind to each of them so as not to ignore their presence in dealing with Pelegon. "Warsmith Pelegon." He saluted with a hammered fist to his chest.
"First of all, I apologize Kunzhardt that the Fellglaives are not to be used immediately, but I know you will soon get the chance." He affirmed.
"Warsmith, I have sent the orders to prepare assembly pieces for the tower upon arrival, I have modified them slightly just to make assembly easier, it will maintian its shape and purpose though, I did not alter is finished design."
He looked at the Warsmith, the hulking Astartes was never easy to discern a mood from and he knew that Pelegon was already deciding how to handle him, he only hope that he proved worthy enough to have his requests be considered.
"The Steel masque was also completed to your specification, it is currently stored in a portable Kiln unit to maintain heat."
He paused though his pause was mere microseconds, his Cogitator and enhanced brain only made it seem like he had to think about what he was to say next.
"I have two requests to ask of you regarding the mission Pelegon, Loakk as you can guess has requested access to the Wolves Gene-Seed for experimentation into the nature of gene-seed. His reasons that they are unworthy of use on recruits so they can be put to use with him. I also have my own request regarding the Mechanicus, I wish to take recruits from the children of the planets populace, especially those of extreme youth." He said building his argument for the request.
"Their minds, the most malleable, will not recall our slaughter. We can put them to our Iron ways, and shape their minds to serve both the Mechanicus and the Grandcompany. I assume not all will have the innate skill for technology, and those that don't can go the reserve Regiments of Tech Guard, to bolster our ranks with lesser but completely loyal soldiers, to allow us to spread our Iron will with even more impunity. Also those within the children can be looked over by the Apothecarion for possible Recruits to our ranks as well. This is all I ask, nothing more."
He knew regardless of the outcome he would do as the Warsmith asked, he had to, this was the greatest Grand Company of the Legion, and he wished it to continue to be so, and it only would if they all followed orders.
As he moved towards the room to which he had been summoned there to hear the Warsmiths words, Vargus reflected on the results of his latest test of his charges. of the one hundred and eighty two recruits he had had in his care only three score and six now remained under his tutelage. Fortunatly for Seer Coeus recruit Aphessius had survived the test albeit with a penetrator round fleeing the battle with one of his eyes. He had instructed Brother Dantioch to escort the recruit to the librarium once the blood had stopped flowing.
As he listened to the Warsmiths words preaching the importance of this assault he paid little heed to them seeing the mission as little more then continuation of the status quo. For all the Warsmiths words of the XIXth being unlike the other grand companies, of being the 'Unbroken' he saw little difference in their actions. Of course they didnt take council with the eternal denizens of the warp but in that should they not make their own path? What glory was there to be had in beating away at the ageing corpse of a hated grandparent? Those however where not his concerns, however much he found his current orders to be distasteful. He had a debt to be paid, he had been elevated to the mantle of a warrior of the XIXth and so had a duty to both it and to the Warsmith.
Perusing his orders as he returned to his quarters among the tenth he felt no surprise at reading what they entailed, assisting with crowd control, a fitting role for his recruit auxillaries, dissapointment flairing however at this likely providing them with little useful training aside from intimidation and manual labour.
Sending a vox message to his brother captains of the sixth eigth and ninth companies he began to prepare in conjunction with his fellows for the coming conflict. His company would be preparing now ensuring they had their carapace plates in working order and their guns were in working order on the ranges. His instructors would be ensuring that his standards were met while he coordinated with the others.
Pelegon watched the Master of the Forge. He respected Adriun's abilities and innovative tendencies, and knew that his requests were always measured. He had yet to hear an unjustified complaint or suggestion from the younger marine, and that left him on something of a more secure footing with the Warsmith, despite his relative youth compared to some of the other captains.
"The populace, what of it survives our bombardment, will be scanned for potential recruits, as has always been standard practice - as astartes they will be more than they could ever have imagined, grubbing in the dirt of their rotten empire. But for the mechanicus...you know I disdain the use of mortal soldiers. Too unreliable, too weak. That is a request I cannot condone"
The Warsmith shifted in his chair, and rested his chin on a knuckle, briefly in thought.
"Loakk may have as much Wolf gene-seed as he desires, but on the express condition that it is not implanted in any of my recruits, and that it never sees the light of the Imperium again. I was planning on destroying it; an experimental substrate seems a far better use of that resource"
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