He was listening to the whine of engines and trying to ignore the oncoming storm. He was trying to ignore the prospect of imminent, messy, painful death.
Elias was failing. He always failed, before battle - Always his mind dwelt on death. It was good to be aware, he told himself, tugging at the vacuum-seals of his gloves. It had saved him, on multiple occasions - On Castor, his paranoid alertness had kept him on his toes. When a civilian, a member of the Ragged Rags Cult, had charged him with a sickle, Elias had opened her brain-pan with a shot from Theodora. Being alert, he often told Tobias, not being lost in arrogance, had kept Elias alive.
For the past two months, between their last war-zone and this one - Prolial, he reminded himself - Elias had read studiously on their foes, the Swinekin, the Greenskins, the Orks. He knew their reputation, one of unbound savagery and barbarism. He knew of worlds, depopulated and stained with blood, of entire systems enslaved by their foul warbands. He had read the reports of their obscene butchery, and he had shivered. Elias was no coward - On Frater Minor, against the secessionist Brotherhood of Daggers, Elias had faced down a rebel tank with a det-charge, and came out on top. He still wore a piece of the Leman Russ's armour tied around his ankle. No-one had ever accused Elias Lengen of cowardice, but he was afraid.
'Remember,' He whispered to his brother. He was unsure if Tobias was listening. 'Skull or spine. These aren't men we're dealing with - Keep them at bay, ranged. Maximum damage.'
Elias had scoured worlds. He had seen populations slaughtered, watched the hangmen of the Commissariat lead heretics to their deaths. Never, ever, had he seen it done with the efficiency of the Orks. They were, he admitted, a tremendous threat. A terrifying reality.
Beneath his helmet, he screwed his eyes shut. The Valkyrie bucked, someone let out a cheer, someone else a groan. Eyes still closed, Elias drew Theodora from his hip and emptied her shells into his hand. Theodora was a man-stopper, somewhere between a slug-thrower and a bolt-pistol. Elias loved the gun - Loved her bark, loved the tremor in his wrist, loved the destruction she left. Most of all, he loved her name. It was a constant reminder of a life stolen, a life long gone. It hurt, sometimes, but he understood the importance of the name. It kept him on his toes.
Elias was, of all things, a practical man. He slipped the shells back into their housings, slid Theodora into her holster, and opened his eyes.
'Imagine when we bring him back Greenskin trophies,' Tobias said, voice brimming with pride and excitement.
Elias sighed. Not this again.
'Stay focussed,' He grumbled, air slipping between his teeth in a low whistle. 'Or else you'll be a trophy.'
He remembered the picts. Men, women and children - Nailed to the side of tanks, bags of skulls dangling from green sides, necklaces of fingerbones and teeth. He whispered a prayer to the Emperor hurriedly.
'I already am,' Tobias said, cocksure, the grin evident in his voice. 'I'm an Elysian trophy.'
Elias struck him hard.
And then, everything went to hell. A pair of missiles streaked past, dark smudges following in their trails. There was shouting, a sudden realisation that they were, once again, in a war zone. Their Sergeant, so similarly named, was moving towards the rear hatch.
Bullets were hammering into the Valkyrie.
The door groaned open, and Elias, now on his feet, got a glimpse of the enemy. A pugnacious brow, red eyes behind a pair of dirty goggles, a jaw brimming with fangs. Behind an equally pugnacious jet. Elias shivered once again.
It opened fire.
Elyas was shredded, his blood coating Elias, as were two others. Red-drenched, panting excitedly, Elias began to run. The Valkyrie was twisting, toppling, everything was becoming wrong.
He glanced back, saw Tobias moving behind him, and leapt into oblivion.
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?'