The stealth-ship was silent. Cleomenes stood, impassively, at one of the few viewports - Staring out into the silky void; empurpled lips pulled back into a contemplative grimace. Beneath his helm, he was an automaton; lifeless and unmoving, towering over his four companions, who stroked trinkets, lubricated breaches and swirled blades. Tybarr sat with his eyes sealed, breathing heavily, mouth opening and closing in a wordless prayer.
Two of the rogue trader’s cruisers, the Sword Dance and Iron Duchess, were angling towards the distant fleet, engines flaring wildly - Their crews sent into maddening, depraved blood-lust on the prospect of combat - Massive, city-smashing turrets turning towards the orbiting vessels.
The brown-grey curve of Sotha was growing inexorably; slowly enveloping the ships, until all that remained was a stretching, lonely landscape. Even from orbit, Sotha was terribly scarred - Monstrous craters, gouges and abysses dotting the surface, as though she had been gored by a boar.
‘This is not my world,’ Cleomenes snarled inwardly, remembering the verdant forests, expansive fields and shining oceans. ‘This is not Sotha.’
Gauntlets, huge and unbreakable, balled into fists. Ctesias coughed respectively, behind him, drawing the Space Marine’s head around in a regretful glance.
‘My world, Medea,’ Said the satrap, fingering his beard, head tilted to the side. ‘Died, also. Burned. My wife and children, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles - All ashes, now.’ A faint, sad smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. ‘And I was not there, it hurts, eh? A kaleidoscope of emotions are running through you at the moment - Hate, anger, guilt, perhaps even a pinch of awe, - Master them, before they devour you, Space Marine. Or else you’ll turn into an old, grumpy bastard like myself; and that’s not a pleasurable living. Hah!’
Artaphernes guffawed. ‘As much as it pains me to admit it, Ctesias is correct.’ He leaned back, soot-dark eyebrows coming together in a frown, and sighed.
Despite himself, Cleomenes smirked at the camaraderie. He gave a nod of his consecrated helm, no words escaping his mouth-grille, his fists unravelling into hands. The Space Marine placed a hand on Ctesias’ shoulder, squeezed gently, and moved off towards the access hatch.
The stealth-ship was angling further down, hyper-reflective hull-plates and heating pads activating to mask the ship’s signature. She would arrive unopposed, gifting the five companions an opportunity to observe and learn.
‘Helms on.’ Cleomenes said, flatly. Crowned, shining helmets went down onto armoured necks - Their eyes becoming darkened, hateful pits. In their gilded void-suits, the four were lifeless, faceless automatons. Had Cleomenes been a mortal, he mused with a thin smile, he would piss himself at the sight.
The Space Marine flicked a hand over the hatch release, and with a pop, it lowered. There was a rush of displaced air, rippling the cloaks of the rogue trader’s entourage as it was sucked from the hold, before it stilled. Sotha was unnaturally flat - The mountains gone, the horizon a heat-blanketed blur; featureless and barren.
Cleomenes was trudging down the ramp before the ship had landed. The engines kicked up a layer of silver-speckled dust, twinkling prettily in the light, enshrouding the God-man for a moment.
A stab of hope filled his twinned-hearts, when he noticed a structure nearby. It rose from the ground, towers twisted like broken fingers, walks leaning heavily on one-another. Windows had been shattered inwards; the stained glass coating the ground for miles around, poking here and there, erratically. Large transports were landed, suspended from the ground by huge, taloned feet. Figures worked in the shadows - Bringing crates marked with the crossed scythe’s of Cleomenes chapter from the ruined fortress-monastery; loading them onto the ships.
The Space Marine started towards them instantly, lips peeled back in a rumbling, sonorous growl.
‘Where are you going?’ Mardonius demanded impetuously, stroking the gem-encrusted hilt of his falcata.
‘Rules of war, boy. I shall give them my terms.’
‘Terms? You offer these brigands terms?’ Mardonius spat, his voice bubbling over the vox.
‘Of course,’ Cleomenes returned, humorously, drawing nearer to the closest of the workers. ‘I am willing to give them the chance to die quickly.’
One of the scavengers turned towards the encroaching group, and instinctively, reached for a snub-nosed sidearm. Ctesias was upon him instantly; a dagger flashing in the star-light, and both went down in a tangle of limbs. He stabbed, once, twice, thrice; blood erupting from the ruptured void-suit. Despite his girth and ill-humour, Ctesias was an expert killer.
The other mortals each chose a target; hacking and slashing, splitting throats and impaling hearts.
‘Cleomenes,’ Tybarr said, his hands flecked with gore. ‘Look,’ He held one of the scavengers in his hand, face-plated caved inwards. One of the man’s eyes were gone, the cheek deflated lifelessly, lips swollen. It was Xenos - Tau. Cleomenes had butchered them before, on a dozen worlds, wrestling with their battle-suits and avian allies, the Kroot. ‘These are not organized. Pirates. I hate pirates.’
The Scythe of the Emperor chuckled at that, a deep, happy sound from within his chest. ‘I will not sully my blade on these dregs,’ He announced, clapping his gauntlets together. ‘They are undeserving of Othello’s wrath.’
They stalked through the corridors of cases and scrap quietly; Cleomenes leading the way, killing fastidiously - Snapping necks, yanking limbs free of their sockets, pulverizing organs with well-aimed punches - Moving with a dexterous grace, feline-like, despite his bulk.
Ahead, the corridors abated; opening up into a circular area.
Standing in the clearing, towering over even the over-man Cleomenes, was a sentinel. Manipulator talons, huge and potent, opened and closed in the Space Marine’s direction. Beneath a canopy of ocean-blue plexi-glass, the rider grinned toothlessly.
‘The poultry wants to dance,’ Cleomenes declared sardonically, advancing on the machine, which pivoted left, claws snapping impatiently. ‘I shall bless it.’
‘You will die.’ Mardonius chirped, ever the cynic, watching the Space Marine as he broke into a run.
‘Doubtful.’ Was the simple reply, matter-of-factly, as he dove. He rolled, beneath the pincers; one leg spearing out, connecting with one of the sentinel’s ankles. Pistons snapped, fluid spurting from ruptured fuel lines, and it stumbled.
A claw swung towards him; and Cleomenes launched upwards, landing on the arm, before leaping away once more. He landed on the chassis, pulling back a hand; and punched. There was a vibration, but nonetheless, the armoured glass held. The Space Marine dangled, fingers clinging onto their handholds, helm locked on the figure within.
The rider grinned once again, and beneath his reflective goggles, eyes shone triumphantly. And then, they faded, as he noticed his naivety - A spider-web of cracks slowly spreading across the sentinel’s front; his mouth falling open. The canopy exploded outwards, tearing the man free of his restraints, choking on his own blood as he drifted away.
It keeled over, and Cleomenes was enshrouded.
Tybarr and his satraps darted forwards; concern writ on their faces.
‘I told ‘im so,’ Mardonius sneered, shaking his crowned helmet. ‘I told him!’
A huge, sky-blue hand grasped the satrap’s shoulder. From the curtain of dust, Cleomenes emerged.
‘I shall know no defeat.’
Rounds streaked over head, scintillating blue or sparkling crimson, a mixture of human and alien weaponry.
Ctesias was down in the dust, snarling, winded by a punch. Mardonius and Artaphernes stood over him; dropping opponents with brilliantly-aimed shots, while Tybarr and Cleomenes stood apart - Unleashing the odd spurt of fire, the Space Marine on his knees, singing an ancient lament.
‘Sally forth, and we can crush them.’ Tybarr was urging, desperate to get from this Emperor-forsaken world. ‘Cleo, your brothers are gone. Whatever happened here..’
A huge, crushing fist gripped the back of Tybarr’s neck and brought him in close.
‘You are welcome to leave,’ Cleomenes’ voice was a harsh, rasping whisper. ‘Let them taste their victory - Death is a far more bitter wine.’
He stood, releasing his companion.
‘I meant no disresp-’ Tybarr offered, though Cleomenes cut him off with a wave of his palm.
‘I know. Never apologise, Tybarr. Merely say it louder the next time.’ You could hear the smile, as he plucked one of the Tau from his feet - Head and chest disintegrating with a muted explosion.
And then, with a flash of beautiful light, a group of the piratical curs were rendered into slag. Cleomenes helm snapped sidewards, and his mouth hung loose for a moment.
Regaled poorly; scratches, burns and abrasions marked out clearly on their armour, were a group of Space Marines. Amidst their group, towering over them, was a monolithic Dreadnought, a las-cannon glowing on one arm.
‘Othello..’ He whispered, tears brimming on his lids, before shaking his head clear. ‘No, not Othello. Someone else.’
He recognised one of the figure’s stances, Raxan he believed, a distant memory- But he was not going to call out and find himself mistaken. The Marines flooded around him, opening fire; butchering Tau and human alike, with careless abandon.
‘Scythes of the Emperor,’ Cleomenes growled, slumping back onto his knees. He used his Chapter's name callously, unsure of what to make of these rag-tag Space Marines. ‘Identify yourselves.’
And after a moment, his voice issued stronger over the vox - ‘Now.’
Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.
"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"
'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'