As the trial progressed, the Warsmith found himself increasingly disinterested in the outcome. On a fundamental level he understood that it was of paramount importance that he make the right decision, both from a perspective of good leadership for the 1st Company, and that of maintaining his own power base - yet, somewhat more wishfully, he had the urge to go purify himself. All this politicking, infighting and instability. Of course it would have to be worked out, for like an air bubble in a sheet of steel it could eat away and destroy the structural integrity of the whole without the correct attention. It had been centuries since he had last taken to the field of battle, and the Warsmith had thought himself rid of his own baser urges to commit violence, yet now they returned. To plunge the blade of his sword through an opponent's chest with enough force for its pommel to crack the breastplate. That would be good. To stick it through Tyberus' head and feel the spray of hot blood on his face and its rich stink in his nostrils...a quick solution, but ultimately not constructive.
"I have reached my decision" Pelegon stated, and was pleased when every eye - bar the Epistolary, who was already looking at him - set itself on him. The Warsmith stepped forward, his tread heavy with the weight of ages, until he towered over the disgraced 1st, who looked up to meet him. The Night Lord's pitch black eyes bored into Pelegon's own dark brown pair, and the Warsmith reached forward, and tapped Tyberus' forehead with a finger.
"The Warp changes us, this you all know" he turned and looked over his assembled captains. That the Epistolary had managed to rouse them so did not please him. They would be, in all likelihood, eager to see Tyberus' blood spilled. They would draw some satisfaction from his judgement.
"As the Iron rusts and warps, so it flakes and falls by the wayside. We all knew at least one lost to the whispers of the Dark Gods, and that is good. By excising that which is weak, that remaining is stronger. But what do we do when the corrosion and rot does not remove flakes? What is to be done when the rust eats out the heart of our Iron?"
Without apparent effort, the Warsmith grabbed Tyberus by the neck, his huge right hand clamped over the 1st Captain's windpipe, and lifted him up. Though the two were similar in breadth, Pelegon had the height advantage. Tyberus did not fight back, though all present could see that breathing was impossible while being held so.
"On Olympia, when a dog bit the hand that fed it, we cut its belly open. A fair judgement, I think you would all agree" and they nodded, and Pelegon inclined his own head to show his agreement "but sometimes that dog could bite for reasons outside its own control. Our 1st Captain developed psychic powers, but he is not alone in his alteration. I too find myself touched by the Warp, and will tell you all now that I have developed the talent, if you want to call it that, of witch-sight"
Silence, as they digested his statement. Pelegon had spoken slowly and carefully, Tyberus' face growing redder and redder all the while, yet still he did not struggle. Had he done so, then the Warsmith would have broken his neck then and there.
"Know that I do not blame our erstwhile brother for his gift, but his ignorance as to the implications that it could have. I myself did not detect his psychic presence, and while my abilities pale in comparison to those of our esteemed colleagues in the Librarium, the amount of time I spend with the 1st Captain on a regular basis should have made his changes easy for me to detect. But I did not, and it is my failing as much as that of the Librarium, so neither you nor I should hold them in any contempt over this"
Tyberus' face had gone an interesting shade of purple - by now the body of any mortal would have shut down due to hypoxia. The 1st Captain, for all his strength of body and will, was not far from entering sus-an membrane suspension.
"The song of the Dark Gods wails loudest for those with the curse of the psyker. Catastrophe was narrowly avoided, as no hint of taint was found on the 1st Captain. For his ignorance and endangering us all, I turn him over to the tender care of Brother Sophacles. I trust that you will excise the witch from his mind and body - but leave them both whole enough to function"
With a contemptuous curl of his arm, the Warsmith hurled Tyberus, who sailed a metre or so through the air before landing in the mud, sliding along until he hit Sophocles' armoured boots. For a few minutes, the only sound was Tyberus' strangled coughing and gasping as he wrestled air back into his lungs.
"If the accused and his curse can be separated, a place awaits him in our ranks. But for his lack of diligence, failing to report what he had done to me or the Librarius, his rank is stripped of him. Let him be known no longer as Tyranus, Hand of the Warsmith and 1st Captain of the 19th Grand Company, but let him walk among us as Tyberus, battle brother of the 1st Company. For his history of service, his life will be spared - but my clemency extends only so far"
The Warsmith broke through the assembled circle, waving an arm dismissively to indicate the hearing was at an end, and approached the foot of the newly-constructed tower. It was an imposing thing, some forty metres in height, tapering to a platform at the top, and covered in spikes, a conveyor belt running up the back. He grabbed one of the stanchion-like spikes, and began his ascent, scaling the object with little difficulty despite his size and weight.
"A new captain will be appointed in due course" the Warsmith continued, and though he was now well above them, his voice came as clear as a bell through their microbeads, as though he were breathing in their ears "for now, Captain Kunzhardt remains their commander. Assume positions. Three-metre spacings on the trench line, Tyranthikos in orbit awaiting deep strike"
The Warsmith now stood atop the tower, watching the fortress. The smoke bombardment had ceased, and all around him ancient warriors in battle-plate of burnished iron took their positions, standing on the lips of the trenches. Behind them, lines of more warriors made lines toward the slave corrals, from where the mortals would be ushered. They had already been scanned for potentially suitable recruits - all that remained were those unsuitable for implantation. No loss.
Pelegon took a moment to look around him, drinking the sight in. Now came the time to set the bait.
"IRON WARRIORS" he roared, the ironclad giant's monstrous lungs capable of making the sound carry over the two-mile diameter of the trench ring "BRING OUT THE PRISONERS!"
As watching the cogs in a clock move, the Iron Warriors opened the doors on the slave pens, and the crowds pushed forward, prompted through the firing of bolters and the promise of violence. Those that stumbled or hesitated were crushed by the wave that surged behind. They flowed like a liquid, moving between the lines of Iron Warriors and ushered into the trenches, and each Iron Warrior standing on the lip of the trench line grabbed one - a human in one hand, and a knife in the other.
Pelegon felt the rumble beneath his feet as the conveyor belt in his tower started up, and waited patiently. The Iron Warrior operating its base, the navigator Jurgen, had been given orders to send to the Warsmith a very specific type of prisoner, should one be available. As the sound of infantile cries reached his ears, he knew that he had not disappointed. Jurgen had once served as Pelegon's weapon-bearer, back when such a position had still existed. An efficient and loyal warrior, Jurgen's creativity had in part inspired Pelegon to make the plan he now enacted - indeed, the navigator had suggested to the Warsmith that a young mother made the perfect starting victim.
At the top the conveyor belt dumped exactly what he had been expecting - the woman, barely more than a girl, was almost paralyzed by fear. Her hair was matted and filthy, and her clothes were torn and damp from the mud and sweat of the press of a thousand bodies. In her arms she clutched a wailing baby wrapped in grimy rags, her attempts to calm it undermined by her own palpable terror.
"Shh" Pelegon activated the microbead built into his armour's gorget, and the speakers set up around the entrenched position broadcasted his words, projecting them over the battlefield, to where the Wolves would be listening "do not worry"
The girl looked up at him, eyes wide and brimming with moisture. The stink of fear, human waste and sweat disgusted the Warsmith. Was this what the Imperium had been reduced to? To think that once he would have given his life to create a better one for people like this. To think that he had seen his brothers die in battle for the betterment of this unworthy filth. He held a huge steel hand out, and caressed her face with it. She screamed, and the baby's wailing intensified, amplified by the huge speaker arrays.
"My child, why do you shy from my touch? I am an angel, sent to save you. Look around, how you stand over your fellows. Do you not see my armour and sword?"
The woman stopped screaming, and stared at him. Her eyes were full of mistrust, but now, deep in their depths, he saw the beginning glimmer of hope. As expected.
"Y...you're a...a space marine, aren't you?" she managed, her voice a barely audible whisper "b...b...you...you look different...to the others...in..." she nodded toward the fortress, which sat like a silent rock in the distance. The Warsmith continued, his voice warm and gentle, and now when he reached out and touched her shoulder, she did not shy away.
"I am. We are your salvation. Our father sent us, to bring our message to all the Emperor's loyal subjects and followers. Tell me, are you a loyal follower? Do you love your Emperor?"
She nodded, and Pelegon nodded back, pointing at the baby in her arms.
"Tell me, does he love his Emperor?"
The girl nodded again, and the Warsmith held his arms out, and beckoned with them.
"Please, may I give him my blessing? To tell him the message that my father gave to me?"
Slowly, hesitantly, she disengaged the howling baby from her breast and offered it to Pelegon, who took it in one huge hand as easily as a mortal might a particularly choice fruit.
"Thank you" he said, and rose up again to his full height, turning to face the Wolf fortress. The baby cried and cried, and the Warsmith turned his full attention to its pink, scrunched-up face - and smiled.
To all the Iron Warriors present, it was like seeing the dark side of the moon. Never before had they seen such a look grace their grim commander's features - love and affection shone from it, twinkled in the wells of his eyes. The baby was silenced, and even giggled, reaching out small pink fists. The Warsmith offered one huge finger, and the baby wrapped both arms around it, hugging it close to its body. Even through his armour, Pelegon could feel the small, vital heat of the baby's bare skin as it clung onto him, strong in spite of its size and young age. In that moment, the light shining off his armour, Pelegon was the picture of the man he could have been; protector of humanity, its greatest hero and most loyal servant. The crowds of human servants stopped their wailing, too awestruck by the majesty of his posture, and he could feel the hope, palpable in the air. They thought that he was their salvation.
"What is his name?"
The Warsmith stopped, and for a moment his facade was stripped off and the true man beneath was laid bare. To those watching, it like watching a dark cloud passing over the face of the sun, before he broke again into a smile and turned his head to the girl, who was standing by his side, clutching at his leg.
"Named after the hero, I take it?"
She nodded, and the Warsmith sighed.
"I thought so"
In a single smooth motion, Pelegon drew his arm back and swung it like a catapult, hurling the baby as far as he could. There was stunned silence from the assembled mortals, and then the mother began to shriek. Without sparing a moment, Pelegon pushed her off the edge, and her screams were cut short as she landed right on one of the spikes far below, killed by the impact. With a distant thud, the baby landed right outside the gates of the Wolf's Claw
, kicking up a small puff of dust.
"That was the first one" Pelegon spoke, his voice again cold and mechanical, and he replaced his helmet with one arm as he grabbed the next mortal to be sent up the conveyor belt - an old man, bent with age, defiantly refusing to cry out or show his panic. Commendable, but pointless.
"With every hour that you hug that pathetic excuse of a bastion like the puppies you are, more of these mortals will die - and not well" miniscule blades were projected out of the fingers of his gauntlets, and holding the old man up in one arm, he used the other to begin to skin him. The man's screaming carried out over the field and acted as the signal for the gathered Iron Warriors to start doing the same with their own prisoners. The air was soon filled with a cacophonous orchestra of torture and the expression of abject horror and misery.
"Come and face us - you are all condemned one way or another, but you would hold, surely, that they do not deserve this suffering? Once we have killed you all, we will withdraw and render the planet purgatus
. Until then, enjoy this siren song of pain"
The Fist of Russ
((I don't hugely want to give you the specifics of the ship-combat, but I suppose I'll have to, Revan))
Down the corridors there come only acolytes - Fenrisian one and all, they fight bravely to their last, but are absolutely no match for the speed and fury of the 3rd Company, who move with typical speed and efficiency - no bolt round or sword swing is wasted, and in your progress to the bridge you cut through over fifty of the acolytes. It seems that the Wolves are saving what astartes presence they have on your level for the Bridge.
The Bridge of The Wandering King
The Fist Of Russ'
shields are rapidly collapsing under such heavy bombardment, their generators unable to maintain any form of serious defence against the sheer tonnage of firepower that the 7th Company are capable of putting out. With a set of sparks that cover the Wolf ship, their shields sputter and die out entirely - it is up to you whether or not you keep shooting. They maintain a gallant, if pointless barrage of firepower as you close the distance.
As you stand on the bridge, Iapetus - lord and master of his domain - you are aware of flashing signals on one of the control panels indicating that you are within range to eject transports more or less safely. Deep-striking range will be reached within a handful of minutes.