That so cruel a creature could feel anything amounting to displeasure from the suffering of the mortals would have surprised any one of Pelegon’s lieutenants, but the truth was that the Warsmith no more enjoyed causing them suffering than he enjoyed protecting or helping them. They were nothing to him other than resources to be expended, as much as bolt shell or astartes – only, perhaps, far more easily replaced than either the former or latter. It was often said that a surfeit of warm bodies was the Imperium’s greatest asset, and it was one that Pelegon was all too happy to tap into when needed.
The mortal he held now had once been a woman approaching her middle years – now she was a raw, skinless husk, too exhausted and blood-starved to even scream. Spent, he dropped her from the platform – the wet thud of her impalement on one of the spikes below was drowned out by the cacophony of screams that surrounded the encampment. It had scarce been a quarter-hour, and the corpse piles before the trench line were impressively small. His Iron Warriors, well-versed one and all in human physiology, knew how to get good use out of each screaming mortal body. Whether or not they enjoyed it, Pelegon did not know. This method of war did not sit well with him. It smacked of the skulduggery and backwardness of the VIIIth legion, something he could claim a fairly intimate knowledge of.
The miserable chorus that filled the air was cut in half by a mighty howl, one that Pelegon could recognise from his days on Olympia only as a war horn. Brief images of his distant childhood flashed through the Warsmith’s mind – his first, biological, father’s displeasure at his weakness, Perturabo’s establishment of Lochos as Olympia’s foremost power, and the decimation of the legion. A flicker of the sense of awe that the juvenile Pelegon, hidden high in an abandoned eyrie above the plains below Lochos, had felt watching those mighty warriors strangling each other, how they had so willingly died at the Lord of Iron’s command, returned to him now.
In the present, the Warsmith watched flinty-eyed as the huge front gates of the Wolf’s Claw swung open. From it marched the 9th Company of Space Wolves, led by their Wolf Lord, Thorgarr Redtooth, and his ten Wolf Guard – at the current distance, Pelegon could make out only some of the markings on their armour, but their weaponry was visible – huge, ornate power-axes and storm shields, bar one who had forsaken his axe for a stave; by his psychic hood, and the runes in his armour, it was clear that he was the libarian. Standard fare for Space Wolves, but what surprised the Iron Warrior most was their mounts – Thunderwolves, each standing as tall as a terminator, saliva dripping from their mouths, from which the lips had been drawn back, revealing wicked fangs easily capable of rending power armour. These had not been accounted for, and Pelegon inclined his head in acknowledgement that this battle might be over a little less quickly after all.
Flanking the Wolf Lord’s command squad were two more squads of Wolf Guard, both clad in indomitus pattern terminator armour – this caused Pelegon to suppress a laugh. The Imperium could no more produce further suits of the far superior Cataphractii or Tartaros patterns, though whatever survived this battle would be gladly taken into the XIXth’s ever-expanding arsenal. They were armed with a mixture of weapons, ranging from thunder hammers and storm shields to power fists and assault cannons – Pelegon spotted a cyclone missile launcher atop one of them, but they advanced without firing.
Behind the 9th Company’s finest came the rest; five ten-man squads of Grey Hunters, armed with a variety of weapons that each suited the man wielding them – from plasma guns to lightning claws, each marine’s arsenal was a reflection of years of service, dedication and prowess in combat. Covered in fetishes and trophies of their many hunts, their pomposity disgusted the Warsmith. True strength needed few displays, for it required not external validation to function. With no audience, these Wolves were nothing. Two of the squads were led by Wolf Priests, and even distantly Pelegon could hear them spouting the Emperor’s lies to their men – at that moment the Warsmith decreed that he would personally end at least one of them.
Flanking the Grey Hunters were four ten-man squads of Blood Claws, armed with chainswords, long, serrated combat blades and bolt pistols, with jump-packs mounted to their armour. They tested their thrusters as if almost nervous; if anything, they were waiting to sink their blades into the Iron Warriors before them. They believed that their training rendered them the pinnacles of astartes might in close-quarters combat. The XIXth would teach them that discipline and strength would crush raw bloodthirst and confidence.
Finally, bringing up the rear were two ten-man squads of Long Fangs, toting a plethora of heavy weapons that they carried with the ease of long-practice. Pelegon knew that his own Iron Havocs were far superior – none could match the IVth legion in their prowess with large volumes of firepower. But the aged veterans of the 9th Company would not bother them long; once his own 1st Company deep-striked into the gateway, the Long Fangs would be the first sheet of metal between hammer and anvil. They were confident and cool-eyed – whether that would last once they were charged by several tonnes of ceramite fuelled by seven millennia of hatred would intrigue the Warsmith.
“First Company, prepare for deep-strike” the Warsmith uttered the order coolly into his armour’s microbead, and received an affirmative. All hundred-odd of them would soon appear behind the Wolves while the rest of the XIXth advanced across the field toward them. As per the Hail of Fire doctrine, they would advance and charge while firing boltguns – this combination of murderous firepower combined with close-quarter savagery had won the IVth legion more assaults than Pelegon could remember.
“Kunzhardt, place the teleport homer” the Warsmith uttered, and then looked about him to see that his men had dropped the mortal and advanced upon the trenchline, weapons drawn. Clambering down the huge tower, now slick with blood, the distant report of an Earthshaker informed him that Kunzhardt had indeed fired the homer – it would land behind the Wolves, and there the 1st Company would arrive.
Now at ground level, Pelegon moved forward to the trench line, where he could see Coeus and Adriun stood side-by-side, discussing something. What, he did not know – they were over a private vox-net, and Pelegon was not yet paranoid enough to believe that tapping into those would do him much good. The Warsmith moved to stand between the two of them, patting the marines on the shoulders and directing their attention toward the battlefield. The Wolves were not advancing, knowing that to assault their defensive position would result only in a greater toll. They would not charge until the XIXth did, knowing that they could take a greater toll that way. This suited the Warsmith well, who with a final look around, raised his right arm over his shoulder and drew the enormous claymore from his back.
The blade was covered in sigils that any versed in the daemonic arts would have recognised as those of sealing and binding, designed to contain a roiling warp entity within a physical object – in this case, Pelegon’s claymore. However, it had no otherworldly presence beyond a faint echo of what might once have been empyrean taint, and appeared unaltered other than a slightly unnatural sheen to the metal that diffracted light in unusual colours and patterns not unlike an oil spillage. The Warsmith transferred it from hand to hand, testing its balance for the umpteenth time; it was, of course, perfect in spite of its size, and Pelegon was confident of his ability to parry with the blade. It had more than two centuries since he had taken to the field of battle, and now would be the time to change that. Though he primarily viewed the fire of his guns and the tenacity of his men as his strength, not his own prowess with a blade, they had all been built to kill, and to not exercise that for so long felt like a void in the Warsmith’s soul. Putting his sword in his right hand, with his left the Warsmith drew his other weapon; an ornate storm-bolter with a yellow-and-red colour pattern, and imprinted on the length of its squat body a shattered fist - it fit in his grip as easily as a pistol.
Raising the bolter, holding it before him, the Warsmith began to advance across the battlefield, his men following suit, and began to issue orders over his vox, his voice a low, calm murmur in their ears.
“Redtooth will have seen me, will know who I am – expect the Thunderwolves to come at us right away. I assign you personally responsible with disabling him. Do what you must; disarm, cripple, disembowel – I do not care, as long as he lives and remains lucid. Iron Within”
“This form of fighting is not your speciality, Adriun, but I expect you close at hand to oversee the salvaging of all useable equipment for our arsenal as soon as the battle is over. I want that iron masque brought down from orbit and ready for Redtooth once the fight is concluded. Move at my back and I will ensure that you will remain standing. I have yet to fight with you, and it is time for me to personally see the strength of your steel. Iron Within”
“Unbreakable, Kerberos has taken the bulk of the First Company into orbit and will be deep-striking behind the Wolves. Until the Tyranthikos arrive, hammer them with everything sub-106mm, shots to disrupt, not to kill. The men need to spill blood with their own hands, and I would not deprive them the trial. Should you wish to join the fray, do so at my side – I am curious to see how a Thunderwolf’s skull withstands a powerfist. Have the larger guns reposition to level the fortress once we have cleared it. Iron Within”
“Have your neophytes target only the Blood Claws; it would be folly for them to engage anything else. Any who bring me a Wolf’s head will be deemed to have passed their close-combat training – and may keep the spoils of their kill. Watch, oversee, show them how to gut one of the Emperor’s pups, as has ever been your duty. Any heavy weapons salvaged from the Long Fangs will be given to the 10th for training purposes. Iron Within”
Kerberos, and the rest of the Tyranthikos
“Target the Long Fangs – they will be closest to your position upon arrival. Whether you choose to fire or engage in close combat I leave at your discretion, but those Long Fangs take priority over all other targets. Do to them as you have done for centuries past. Iron Within”
The Fist Of Russ
You already know what you’re doing.
You find yourself in the engine-room of the Fist Of Russ, surrounded by servitors who do not react at all to your arrival, continuing to attend to the machines to which they are bound, or whatever repetitive menial task they have been purposed for. Mighty turbines fill the cavernous chamber, and at each stands a tech-priest wearing pale blue robes with red fringes. They are momentarily dumbfounded, but will shortly attempt to react. There is little that they will be able to do, however, themselves being poorly armed and the engine-room’s defences being almost entirely external. You know from the ship’s plans that two levels directly above you is the Grand Hall of the ship, where the Wolves would hold banquets for the entire 9th Company, and that the Captain will be either there or on the bridge. Security on this level is low, consisting only of serfs and ratings, with no astartes presence as of yet.
Are you still alive, m8?