The red of the fires reflected off the sweat that coated the towering marine, making him appear as hot and molten as the metal that he shaped with his hands. The Warsmith was naked, and stood over the forge with a pair of tongs in one hand and a hammer half the size of a mortal man in the other, beating at a sheet of metal until it was perfectly flat. Every muscle in his body bulged under his skin with each swing of the hammer, and beads of sweat hit the metal and evaporated with a hiss. Into every impact Pelegon channelled his frustration, anger and hatred. Frustration at the XIXth for not being the perfect tool they were capable of being, anger at himself for being unable to temper them into the perfect weapon, and hatred at the one that had reduced them to this. Once the metal was flat, the Warsmith set down the hammer and tongs, and after a moment’s hesitation, grabbed the red-hot iron in his bare hands and folded it in half.
Both of the Warsmith’s huge, meaty paws were covered in thick layers of scar tissue from millennia of metal-shaping this way, but despite this the pain was unimaginable. Pelegon clenched his teeth, the veins in his neck standing out as he applied his considerable strength, straining with all his might until his knuckles met one another. There was a hiss as he removed his hands, ripping free several layers of skin from the palms and fingers, which remained on the metal, burning black in a few seconds. Once the metal was folded, he took the hammer in his hand and continued to beat it, the deafening clang of metal on metal drowning out the roar of the Ferra
’s mighty engines and the hubbub of activity around him. This was what the other members of the XIXth had forgotten; that from Iron came strength, and that like it, they had to be the hardest of all substances. That it gave to you exactly what you gave to it.
Pelegon had given both mind and body to Perturabo’s iron ideal, and from it had been rewarded with the glory of command – love and indomitable willpower in equal measure. But in spite of the thousand and one pressures his position placed on him, he always found time to get close to that which had made him. One heart was metal, and the other beat for iron, knowing that it was what had made him. For in addition to being as hard as the weapon-metal, one had to be malleable. That was what many in his company lacked. Tyranus, for all his strength, held himself in too high regard. Kunzhardt, the opposite; his self-loathing drove him further than any other that Pelegon had known, but it would ultimately destroy him. The twins were blinkered by their own narrow-minded views on the XIXth’s bloodlines, unwilling to accept that, at their heart, the IVth legion were built on neither an Olympian nor Imperial ideal, but on one of Perturabo’s own design. They would wither and die, and drag the degenerate Primus Medicae with them. He was one who was, to Pelegon’s eyes, a perfect representation of the rust and canker that were eating the IVth legion from within. Lucian seemed more open-minded, but was overly confident of his own abilities. He and Tyranus were more similar than perhaps either of them realised. At the end of it, the only two who the Warsmith could call polished weapons were the Forge Master and 10th Captain – also, the only two who had been born and bred into the XIXth since the Heresy – surely no coincidence. Even there the Forge Master had some imperfection; a hankering for mortal life that the Warsmith did not care for at all. He did not realise that the inhabitants of the Imperium were not worthy of the sacrifices that the IVth had made seven-thousand years ago, and for presuming to reap the benefits of their hard work they would have to pay.
“Warsmith?” a voice broke Pelegon’s deep thought, and he set down the iron sheet, which he had bent in half again without thinking. A hundred folds would have to be made before he could consider it workable. The Warsmith slicked his hair back with a huge hand; the skin on the palms had hardened to a scarred crust, and with every movement the crust broke and ichor began to seep through. The Warsmith lifted his hand to his face and inhaled; what had once been blood was now much closer to engine fluid, with a rich, organic scent to it that only those most intimate with the workings of an engine would savour.
Pelegon turned to face the one who had spoken, his huge, heavily-muscled form outlined against the bright light of the forge fires. He was hirsute, and despite his height, heavily-built. His hands and forearms were heavily-scarred, but the rest of the marine was devoid of any marr or imperfection, bar the fact that he had no left nipple. The price paid by having to regrow a significant portion of his chest after the Primarch had installed his iron heart.
“What is it, Jurgen?”
The other marine was a member of the Ferra
’s permanent crew, and an extremely competent navigator. It would have been beneath his rank normally to act as an errand boy unless the news pertained to his work, and the Warsmith suspected what it was. Jurgen was unflappable, however, and this was not the first time he had had to interrupt the Warsmith while he worked in his personal forge in the heart of the mighty voidship.
“We have just arrived in the Pelexis system, and are four void units from Pelexis III”
The Warsmith nodded, and picked up the now dark red sheet of iron, and, after a moment’s contemplation, set it down. He would leave it to cool slowly.
“Assist me, Jurgen”
The other marine nodded as he approached Pelegon, who moved to the wall, where his suit of armour stood, only one of three. To its left stood the armour he had worn during the Heresy; it no longer fit him, for his stature had increased in the handful of centuries after the battle of Olympia, though Pelegon could not ascertain why. He could still see, in some areas, faint chips of blue paint from when he had once stood in midnight clad. That had been a long time ago indeed.
To the right of his current suit stood the legs of a monstrous suit, and it was obvious to any familiar with the equipment of astartes that they were based on the cataphractii pattern of armour, but built to accommodate Pelegon’s mighty frame. It was only half-complete, but would one day serve as his panoply of war. The Warsmith would equip himself only with that which either he or his father had crafted.
The Warsmith took one of his vambraces in a bloodied hand and slipped it on. Behind him, Jurgen fiddled with the interface ports on the back of his breastplate, ensuring that they fitted smoothly. Now Pelegon would visit that pain upon the inhabitants of Pelexis, and lay low his grandfather’s dogs.
“Jurgen...stop. I will not require my war-plate. Instead, I have something for you to deliver”
The planet below you appears to be green and verdant, and from the data-slate the Warsmith presented you you are aware that its geography and proximity to its sun makes it perfect for agricultural operations. All that is about to change. You sit on the bridge of the Ferra Perpetua
, in the Warsmith's throne, the command of the fleet, bar the ships of the 7th and 3rd company, at your disposal for the planetary bombardment. In the bowels of the ancient cruiser the 1st and 2nd companies are ready for deployment, loaded up into drop ships, awaiting for the last shell to finish falling before enacting the plan that the Warsmith has entrusted to you. Pelegon himself is absent, and you know that though this invasion is to be of little challenge to you, being allowed to have such command is a great honour, and symbol of the Warsmith's trust in you. The people below will see the ships in orbit, and will be aware of what is going to happen to them, but with Pelexis' lack of orbital defences, they can do nothing. The entire Grand Company waits only for your order to commence.
With the rest of the Tyranthikos you wait patiently, the teleport homer in your armour primed and awaiting activation from the units that will soon make planetfall. The veterans murmur in low voices, and are not perturbed by the prospect of war. It is their livelihood, and an assault as easy as this should be, mere collection of prisoners, should be no challenge to them. A chance to stretch their muscles after nearly a century of inactivity.
As you watch them converse, awaiting the orders of either Kunzhardt or Pelegon, a marine approaches you. In his Mk IV plate he is warfed by the terminator-armoured giants surrounding him, and his insignia give him away as a member of the Ferra Perpetua
's permanent crew. It is one of the navigators, Jurgen, and in his hand he holds a long steel box, with huge clasps that keep it fastened shut. It is the sort of thing usually reserved for the transportation of particularly valuable or delicate equipment, and it the right dimensions to accommodate a sword or rifle of some variety. The navigator hands it over to you, and with the traditional fist-to-palm salute, takes his leave.
You have no idea what this could be; perhaps a symbol from the Warsmith that all is forgiven? With any luck, that is the case. You unhurriedly click the clasps open, and with a hiss the seals on the box are undone, and its top falls away. Inside, its ceramite head gleaming as if freshly-polished, with a shaft of high-grade steel, is a shovel.
Iapetus, Lucian, Lugerev
The Ferra Perpetua
's augur systems detected the Fist of Russ
behind the second moon of Pelexis II, some twenty-two void units away from Pelexis III. With the fleet's jammers activated, you know that they have no way of communicating with the Wolf's Claw
planetside, but will be aware of the XIXth's fleet. Whether they will have established it as a threat is another matter entirely. Your ships have broken away from the main fleet, and are closing in on the moon, and you know that the Space Wolf ship is on the other side of the barren, grey rock.
Your techmarines have assembled the tower's constituent parts, and have loaded it onto transport thunderhawks, and are awaiting the order to descend upon the planet to move. You yourself sit in your own personal transport, with a handful of your closest associates by your side. You know that you will be working in tandem with the 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th company to erect the defensive ring around the Wolf's Claw
, as well as the slave-pens. Mighty earth-moving macines, diggers and other miscellaneous excavating and construction equipment, designed for the rigours of a IVth legion siege, are loaded onto transporters of their own. It should not take you more than half an hour to have the Mechanicum's assets completely planetside.
Your trainees are loaded onto a transport frigate designed specially for the 10th company, as many of the recruits could not survive a standard tactical insertion. They are strapped into seats in the frigate's main hangar, and the frigate is released from the Ferra
's huge underbelly in preparation for moving planetside. The digging equipment and machinery is loaded in the hold, and you are aware that this will be the first example of trench work that many of the recruits will see. This may be a good thing, however, as this battle is not expected to be one of any difficulty.
You are stood in the Ferra
's librarium, poring over the reports that your librarians have sent you from their scannings of the other companies - what do you find there? As you stand, absorbed in your studies, the door hisses open and the Warsmith enters. He is clad in nothing other than a loincloth, and his skin has a dull texture to it; it is clear to you that he was sweating recently, but that it has since dried off. His hair, however, is still damp and plastered back from his face by the weight of the moisture in it.
He holds up a heavily-scarred, partially-scabbed hand, and the others in the librarium, whether librarians themselves or merely adjutants, file out of the door behind him without a sound. As the door slides shut, the Warsmith starts pacing around you, his arms folded across his great broad chest. He circles, and though his dark eyes are locked onto you, he evades all the objects and stark steel furniture within the large chamber.
"Coeus, I have matters that I would discuss with you, on the topics of corruption and purity within the XIXth"
Pelegon stops pacing and turns his back to you, looking out of the viewing port to the planet below.
"I feel that it has been too long since I exerted myself, and would ask that you wrestle with me, as our fathers, and their fathers before them, did on lost Olympia, while we do so. I cannot allow my body to waste while my company goes from strength to strength, and I am sure you feel the same way about yourself"
This update will take us to the next stage of the siege. I expect everyone to have made planetfall and be doing...whatever they have been ordered to do by the 18th, at which point there will be another update.