This story is made by Primarch11, Supahbadmarine and Cal XD. The characters involved are Grim Doris (Primarch11), Ezekiel Cornatus (Suphabadmarine), Lorenzo Drasus (Cal XD), Syrath the Immortal (Cal XD) and Bevid the Skull (Primarch11). It is about a Stone of the Gods that is discovered by Zeke. This initiates a hunt for it by those who seek it as well.
A ship drifted through space, lazily idling on the edge of an asteroid field. Anyone could see that this was not a friendly vessel. The outside of the hull was painted with large red stripes, almost as if they were fresh wounds left by the claws of some giant beast. The ship had weaponry pointing out at every possible angle. This ship was meant for fighting, or more importantly for plundering, a true pirate ship.
Aboard the vessel, in the bridge was the Captain. He was staring wistfully out at the stars. Nowadays they said that everything was coming to an end. That the Imperium was in it's waning years, destined to be swallowed by constant rebellion, countless Xenos threats and more insidious enemies. The Captain chuckled to himself. It may have been true that the Imperium was collapsing, but it had only proven to be good for business. With the Imperial Navy constantly dealing with Emperor knows what, pirates such as himself went largely unnoticed. Business had been good, as could be seen by his very full cargo hold.
He was reminiscing on his good fortune when his First Mate ran in.
"Sir, three ships have shown up on our Port side," the First Mate yelled.
The Captain immediately snapped out of his reverie, and took stock of the situation. Indeed three ships had come popped out. "Why didn't we notice them sooner," he bellowed at the rest of the crew on the bridge.
One of the men piped up, "They came out of the asteroid field. It must have messed with our sensors."
The Captain cursed. It was too late to make a quick escape, and if he tried to start a ship to ship battle then he would be decimated. The only option was to try and stop the boarding parties when they came.
Minutes later a man sauntered out of an airlock door. He was tall, and handsome with light brown hair, and an eye patch over his left eye, and wearing the most ridiculously feathery and poofy hat anybody had ever seen. He had a bold air about him, and anyone could see from his face that he was enjoying himself. Behind him lumbered an extremely large man. The man had hard armoured carapaces covering his Forearms, and a thick forehead. Aside from this the mutant was a relatively normal man. He was more serious than the other man, standing at the ready while holding an Autocannon.
"Think we'll get a descent haul from this one Zeke?" he said to the man with the eye patch.
"Sure. Nowadays it's more profitable to steal from our fellow outlaws than from merchants," The man commented.
Ezekiel Cornatus had been a career criminal for a long while now. For most criminals jobs like this were very serious business. For Ezekiel this kind of thing was actually quite fun. He enjoyed being an Outlaw. He enjoyed living by his own rules, travelling wherever he wanted, meeting new people, shooting new people and everything else that came with the lifestyle. His dour companion Rowlorn was a different story. For him this was just another dangerous job that he had to get his friend out of alive. Luckily the ship had already been captured for the most part.
The two of them entered the bridge unmolested. It appeared that Ezekiel's faithful Ork friend Snikrom had already taken care of things. The crew had their hands up, showing no resistance at all. Ezekiel mused that this was because it was perfectly obvious that the Ork was looking for any excuse to shoot someone.
"Ay boss! Can I fill em full O holes? Dese guys ben givin me shifty looks," said Snikrom.
Ezekiel chuckled and then retorted "Sorry Snikkers. Were their guests, and that wouldn't be very polite". The disappointment on the Kommando's face was obvious.
Ezekiel went up to the Captain, "So, do you have any gifts for you're guests, my good man?" Ezekiel asked. The Captain was not in a good mood. He had heard about Ezekiel, and knew he was about to be robbed blind.
"What have things come to when pirates attack each other," he growled. Ezekiel gave him a big grin and then said.
"Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't realise that there was a rule about pirates stealing from other pirates. Be assured I will never do it again... after this time..."
With that he left to inspect the cargo hold. As Ezekiel expected it was full of loot. He began to rifle through the various crates. "Well lets see here. Some good sturdy Lasguns, Drugs, jewels, Tanith cigars! We will have to keep those for ourselves. A crate full of Servo Skulls, and what are pirates supposed to do with fine China?" At that point something caught Ezekiel's eye. It was an oval shaped stone attached to a neckless. The design made it look like a large precious coin. He handled it in his hands, inspecting the unusual treasure. On one side there was a picture of a sun with blooming flowers. On the other side was a picture of a moon with wilting weeds. Ezekiel took a shine to it, and shoved it in his pocket.
"Akaruv nekran veru daxan."
"Revnadu klaxus herad merdan!"
"With the nine disciples of Tzeentch we call him."
"With the binding Star of Chaos we summon him."
"The Saint shall cometh once more to walk among the living."
The dimly lighted room went eerily quiet. A frightened cultist lay chained to the centre of a large eight pointed star, whimpering in a pathetic manner. Suddenly the heretical devotee burst into an emerald flame and the silence was replaced with horrific screams of unearthly origin. The flames formed themselves into a sphere of warpfire from which a colossal feather winged beast, with the head of an asp, emerged.
The group of sorcerers and their cultist followers looked on in a mixture of awe and fear. The daemon stepped out from the flames before muttering an inaudible incantation which subsequently caused the warp rift to close. It then turned it's attention towards the cowering cultists and smiled broadly before speaking.
"Mortal subjects..." the ungodly beast sneered, "As a reward for summoning me to this forsaken world, I will inform you that you shall be the first of my victims to have their souls ripped from their mortal bodies"
The cultists looked on in terror as the beast approached them. Their sorcerer masters attempted to use their powers against the daemon but to no avail.
"Fools... your feeble magic is useless against me"
The daemon raised his taloned hand at the coven of sorcerers and a ball of fire erupted from the air surrounding his claws. The flames hurtled towards the Psykers before engulfing them completely. The daemon laughed as they writhed in agony before disintegrating into ash.
The Greater Daemon hunted down and slaughtered the rest of the cultists one by one until he found their leader. Aktarun, the Chief Sage, begged for mercy but the daemon gave her none. The mighty beast disembowelled the devotee of Chaos in order to remove her heart. It then feasted on the cultist's flesh as she screamed in unbearable pain, before devouring the heart of his victim.
The room fell silent once more. Blood dripped from the celling and the remains of the cultists lay strewn on the floor. The daemon relished the carnage it had just caused and it began to laugh like a maniac at the bodies of his cultists as he thought about how foolish they all were. He crouched down to observe one of their mutilated bodies, finding a familiar mark on the cultists head.
A door opened and a voice emerged from the darkness.
"You always like to make an entrance. Don't you?"
"Of course..." the daemon spoke malignantly, "I take it you brought me here for a reason? Bevid."
An Inquisitorial Acolyte stood in the centre of a large room which was surrounded by windows on all sides. The man was reading intently, oblivious to the starlight which illuminated the ship deck he was occupying. He looked up briefly as he heard footsteps. A familiar woman emerged at the top of the deck's stairwell.
"Interesting book, ma'am."
"Indeed it is, my dear Lorenzo."
"...and then I saw it. The fabled Heart of Zeka, one of the legendary Stones of the Gods. Or was it, for it seemed unreal, almost like an illusion. I went to grab it but my hand passed straight through it, confirming my fears. I fell to the floor and cursed the Gods for my failings. After all my efforts to find the Heart, it wasn't here. I looked up at the celling cursing myself for being so gullible. Then I heard it, a beating sound. I looked at my hand, and in it was the Heart of Zeka. I must have been holding it all along..." Lorenzo read from the journal.
"Unfortunately, that artefact has fallen into the hands of the enemy, so it must be destroyed." Inquisitor Alicia spoke softly to her acolyte, stroking his fair cheek.
The duo stood together on the observation deck of the Deus Incendia, looking out into the empty, pitch black, darkness of space. Alicia stared intently at her protégé, wondering what the future would hold for them both.
"Attention! Lady Inquisitor Alicia to the bridge! Repeat! Lady Inquisitor Alicia to the bridge!" blared the tannoy system.
Alicia quietly left the observation deck while Lorenzo continued to read the book intently. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. The astounding powers which the book detailed had entranced the acolyte since he had first started to read it.
The Inquisitor climbed up the stairs to the bridge, contemplating what was to happen to Lorenzo after his training was complete. She walked towards the captain who seemed to be rather worried.
"We have picked up an unknown contact on the scanners, ma'am." The captain said in a grave manner. "The odd thing is that it appears to have Imperial markings."
"Very unusual, the latest reports didn't detail that there would be any Imperial vessels in this sector." Inquisitor Alicia mused.
She glanced at the vidscreens and saw an unmistakably Imperial vessel against the blackness of space. She recognised it as once. It was one of the fabled Black Ships, thus meaning it belonged to a fellow Inquisitor. But who, she did not know.
"It's an Inquisitorial ship captain. Try to make contact and hail them." Alicia commanded.
The Captain looked up and addressed his superior officer. "We can't, ma'am, and they're not responding to our hails. What are your orders, my Lady?"
Alicia stood there, pondering which course of action she should take. If it was a renegade Inquisitorial ship the Deus Incendia could dispatch it with ease. However, if she did attack, it could result in the death of a loyal Inquisitor. Before she could give an order the ship made an about turn, showing its starboard side. The ships name, Shadow of Judgement, was illuminated by the Deus Incendia's search lights. Alicia's eyes widened at the name. She knew of only one being who commanded a ship with that title.
Almost immediately a loud noise began blaring from the command station.
The captain walked over and reported, "The other ship is hailing us, should I put them through?"
Alicia signalled her captain with a nod and a crackled voice was heard over the tannoy.
"Greetings, this is Inquisitor Grim Doris, may I speak with the highest authority on your ship?"
Rowlorn was sitting at the end of the bar as usual, keeping to himself. It was a bait that he had learned early on as a Mutant. When you are a Mutant people tend to get nasty. The less attention you draw to yourself, the better off you are in the long run. It was one of many reasons that Rowlorn got nervous around Ezekiel in public, as his best friends policy was completely different.
Ezekiel was spending their shore leave making a little scene. He was sitting at his bar stool with his guitar, doing a Bluesy little number that they had heard at a trading station not too long ago. No matter how long he had been on the run, Ezekiel still liked to entertain people, something that Rowlorn admired. The truth was that Ezekiel had never truly stopped being a musician. He had gathered together a few of the crew who had known how to play instruments, and continued his career incognito. Even now Ezekiel was releasing albums under various aliases, including One-Eyed Harry, Easy Kyle, Rebel Strings, Sound Junkie and Johnny Flamboyant. There were others, but the Adeptus Arbites had found them, and banned their albums, which inevitably drove sales through the roof.
Rowlorn was sitting back, and enjoying the show when he heard the distinctive click of military surplus boots. It was probably nothing but a couple of PDF troopers looking to get drunk after their shift, but Rowlorn never took any chances. He called out to Ezekiel.
"Zeke, we have company. The kind with Lasguns."
"Oh, do we? Well that's too bad. I was really starting to enjoy myself. Ladies, we were never here" Ezekiel said to the two gorgeous women that had been admiring him, and giving them a little wink at which they both giggled.
The door opened, and in came the soldiers. There were about four of them, and they were all looking quite serious. Both Rowlorn and Ezekiel could instantly tell that they were neither off duty, or looking for a good time. The one that seemed to be the leader spoke up.
"Attention everyone! The city is currently running a drill to test our invasion protocols. We ask that everyone calmly head to the nearest shelter. The drill should not take too long."
After making this proclamation the soldiers exited the bar. By the sound of their footsteps they were clearly headed for the establishment next door. Rowlorn looked to Ezekiel for an opinion, to which Ezekiel shrugged and casually gestured toward the door. After leaving the bar they could see that the streets were alive with activity. Soldiers were going door to door, and people were walking towards what Ezekiel assumed was the nearest shelter. Ezekiel and Rowlorn also could not help but notice the Leman Russ Tank rolling down the street.
"Hey Zeke, do you get the feeling that this might not actually be a drill" Rowlorn asked blandly.
"My dear Rowlorn, the illusion was shattered for me the moment those gentlemen used the word Drill. They were not very good actors, now were they?"
Two beings stood in the centre of a large room. A room, which while not inherently dark, was neither light nor welcoming. It was ominous to say the least, and the unnatural presence emanating from the larger of the two figures did nothing to improve the atmosphere. The smaller of the two was clearly an Astartes, although compared to the colossal beast, he could have easily been mistaken for a regular human.
Both of them stood (in the case of the Daemon, stooped) over a large obsidian table, on which several small trinkets lay. Each one was laid out with great care, showing them off in all their splendour. Many of them were stones and each was said to have been marked by the gods themselves.
"I still do not understand why you need me in particular..." the large beast commented in a supercilious manner, "you must have a plentiful number of daemons bound to your service Bevid... why do you risk trusting me above them?"
"It is quite simple. You operate out with the Great Changer's plans, out with the domain of the Gods themselves and your knowledge of the Warp is damn near unparalleled. Am I correct?" the Chaos Lord retorted.
"Correct..." the Daemon mused.
"You are Syrath the Immortal, Greatest of Daemons, Betrayer of Worlds, Sundered of Tzeencth!" Bevid bellowed.
"Indeed I am..." Syrath replied quizzically.
"That is why I need you. For you are the best I can muster... and you are still in my debt." The corrupt astartes spoke triumphantly.
"Then I shall do as you command... I shall hunt down this fabled Coin of Aruto... and my servants shall deliver it to you" the daemonic beast pronounced magnanimously.
"I will also provide you with the location of Grim Doris as he is the biggest threat to my plans... I also believe you have a score to settle with him?" Bevid sneered malignantly.
"Yes.." Syrath snarled through grated teeth, "I shall make him pay for what he hath done unto me..."
"Good, good... and your servants will report to me as soon as the Coin is found?" the Chaos Lord demanded.
"Of course..." the Greater Daemon replied in an intrigued manner, "but what shall your part be in all of this?"
"All in good time, my old friend..." Bevid said in a sly voice, "all in good time..."
"So you understand why I must have all of the information related to these stones?"
Inquisitor Alicia just nodded mutely as Grim Doris explained more about the Stones of the Gods, with the journal in his hand. She kept all her focus on the Inquisitor, with a stare of both respect and suspicion. She had heard about Grim's numerous successes against the foul powers of the Warp and Xenos alike, as well as his strong abilities as a Psyker.
However, there was still little anyone actually knew about him, even his own teacher, Inquisitor Theo, knew almost nothing of his past. And despite having a retinue, though an odd one at that, he usually worked alone, never mentioning where he goes or how he performed his accomplishments.
There was also a strangely coincidentally high number of Inquisitors who had had close ties to Grim or worked with him that ended up either going rogue or being killed under mysterious circumstances. Still the information he was providing was extremely useful for her search for these stones as well. Although it appeared that it wouldn't be her search for much longer.
Deciding to speak her mind, "Inquisitor Grim Doris, if I'm hearing this correctly, these stones were blessed by the God-Emperor ,and thus are impervious to corruption?"
Grim looked at her and his stare followed by his small smile gave Alicia the feeling something was going up her back. She subconsciously grabbed the hand of her Acolyte, who had remained silent for the entire ordeal.
"Exactly, in fact those tainted by Chaos would be destroyed if they attempted to use it, Daemons would just be destroyed. I've already located some of the stones and know the location of a few of the others. Which is why I hope you would not be upset if I took this journal."
Alicia thought of this for a moment before replying. "Of course not Grim, as long as you don't mind that me and my vessel accompany you on your quest."
Grim's face showed a brief sign of annoyance, but hid it when he retorted, "Not that I'm offended, my dear, but why would you wish to accompany me?"
Alicia merely smiled, "If what you say is true, then you will need all the help you can get."
That was only partially true. The other part was that she wanted to keep a close eye on Grim. If her fears were true, then things could get ugly. On top of that, she also wanted to examine these stones as well.
Thinking with an innocent face on Grim replied, "I can't say no to that. Very well, you and your crew can accompany me. And to show you a sign of trust I'll leave the journal here with you and let your vessel follow mine."
And with that Grim Doris headed back towards his ship, followed by the soldier from the Krieg Death Korps, the Kasrkin, the Black Templar and Leximechanic.
After the Inquisitor had left the room Lorenzo spoke to Alicia, "Something doesn't seem right about him, I could neither read his thoughts nor his motives."
"I fear you are right, dearest Lorenzo, his mind is clouded from my vision..." Inquisitor Trallan replied to her acolyte in a soft voice, "and I do not know if I can trust him..."
"It's a pleasure to see you in the flesh, master" were the first words which Syrath heard on the forsaken world of Ralun II.
"Oh no, the pleasure is all mine Coraks, I see your forces have made it to the Hive Cities", the Great Daemon announced.
"Your directions were unclear, but we think we have pinpointed the location of the artefact ", a second Daemon Prince interjected.
"Good, good, Arrius..." Syrath spoke in a whimsical manner.
Syrath the Immortal and his trusted captains began to stride across the battlefield, as if they were gargantuan titans, demolishing everything that got in their way. Occasionally a foolhardy guardsman would take a pot shot at one of the trio before being promptly brushed aside by a hulking claw. The three Daemons definitely lead from the front, bulldozing their way across the enemy positions, allowing the First War Legion to advance forwards at a steady pace.
The Saint of Chaos could sense that the Coin was near, and he was literally beating a path straight to it's location. Lord Coraks had taken up a position at the head of the trio, slashing any Leman Russ', or other tanks which got in his way, with his mighty talons. Arrius the Great had taken to protecting the rear of his master, while firing arcane bolts of fire at any enemy which got too close. All this, while the Immortal Trickster carved a straight path directly towards the location of Ezekiel Cornatus.
"The Coin of Aruto is near... send a messenger to Bevid the Skull... tell him it is time..." Syrath spoke mysteriously to Arrius, after pausing in the middle of a raging battle between the Imperial forces and his own.
"Right away sir, your will shall be done..." Arrius replied before taking off from where he stood, and then flying towards the advancing Chaos forces.
With his trusted ally gone, Coraks redoubled his efforts to smash directly through the enemy. The Imperial Guard had heavily fortified their primary Hive City and the First War Legion had not even made it to the wall of the Outer City. The Daemon Prince's blade had become lost on the battlefield, and he had resorted to using the remains of one of his commanders as an offensive weapon.
"We shall take the city!!! For Chaos!!! FOR KHORNE!!! FOR SYRATH!!!" Coraks roared, "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!!! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!!!"
The now berserk, and blood crazed, Lord Coraks charged towards the entrenched enemy, leading a large squad of Terminator clad Chaotic Astartes. The insane daemon completely butchered the guardsmen, tearing the troops to ribbons and disembowelling the Sergeants. An unholy blood bath ensued, which the Daemon Prince relished.
Not long afterwards, Syrath joined the fray, using his unmatched martial prowess to simultaneously dodge lasgun shots while slicing enemy troops with his claws. He moved forwards with horrific grace and eloquence, killing, maiming and burning as he went.
"Everything is falling into place... Just as I predicted..." the monstrous beast mused to himself.
The Inquisitorial duo wandered back to the observation deck of the Deus Incendia, with the Inquisitor's hand clasped firmly around her Acolyte's. Trallan was still visibly shaken since her encounter with Grim. After entering the room, Lorenzo began to stare into the darkness of space, looking aimlessly before his eye caught the glimpse of the Shadow of Judgement. He scanned the vessel thoroughly, turning his body around the domed room until his gaze caught Alicia's. She looked at him with doting eyes, but he was oblivious to any emotion she felt for him.
"Our destiny is not in our hands... Lorenzo..." the Inquisitor mused, on the brink of tears, "we are not the masters of our fates..."
"I do not understand, Ma'am," the Acolyte replied solemnly.
"Us... we... are not meant to be..." Alicia replied, holding back her true feelings.
"I see. But anything we could still have would be considered both heresy and treason, Ma'am," Lorenzo stated plainly.
"Of course... and you're nearing the end of your training... a fine student... destined for greater duties... an Inquisitor of the Ordo Sicarius... noblest of honours..." High Inquisitor Trallan wistfully spoke.
"What of the child?" Drasus inquired
"She will be taken care of... The Assassinorum will handle it... And she will be able to fulfil her birth right as a Servant of the Imperium... but..."Alicia choked on her words, "if she has inherited any talents... her future is uncertain..."
"Attention! Lady Inquisitor Alicia to the bridge! Repeat! Lady Inquisitor Alicia to the bridge!" roared the alarm system. "Incoming distress calls! Repeat! Incoming distress calls!"
The Inquisitor and her student quickly left the observation deck, sprinting to the command bridge. When they entered they could see that the Captain was clearly worried.
"Ma'am, Chaos forces have made landfall on Ralun II, their have been heavy casualties," Captain Alanas bellowed, with worry prevalent in his speech.
"Can you play me the distress call, Captain?" Alicia asked furiously.
"Of... of... course, m' lady." Alanas meekly replied.
The sound system crackled and fizzed into life, "All Imperial Navy ships, this is a Priority One Hail. This is General Jacobus Axaran of the 17th Ralun Aux...ary Corps. ...un II is currently under h... vy attack from Astartes of unknown origin. All Ralun Regiments have suffered heavy....osses. We are in desperate need of med... l supplies and reinforcements. The capital city is under severe attack, the unknown assailants have breached the outer wal..."
"Is that the entire message?" The Inquisitor asked.
"Yes, ma'am, it cuts off right there. The message is on endless repeat. There are more like that one, from the other Ralun Generals," the Captain replied downheartedly.
"It must be Chaos, although I have no idea why they would attack Ralun II, it has close to no strategic value and has little in the way of resources..." Alicia paused, "it's almost as if they are after something... Regardless, we shall bring aid. I think they could do with all the reinforcements they can receive."
"Shall I alert Inquisitor Doris of our change of course?" Alanas inquired.
"Of course, Ralun needs all the ships it can muster."
Ezekiel was running doggedly along the empty streets with Rowlorn right behind him. At the moment he almost wished that he had gone to the bunkers with the rest of the civilians. After Ezekiel learned about what was really going on he made the decision that it was time to leave. He was going to get the rest of his crew that was on shore-leave, leg it to the nearest space port and get the hell out of dodge. However, he was having extremely poor luck in these endeavours.
His crew had been in various areas, and he could not get a hold on any of them. He would have to search for them, and then find a solution to his second, and more pressing problem. He could not find a way off-world. The first to ports that he decided to go to were wrecked. Apparently the Chaos forces had seen fit to destroy them with bombers so that it would be harder to evacuate. The port that he went to after that was heavily guarded by either PDF forces, or elements of the Imperial Guard, he could not tell which.
"Hey Rowlorn! Do we have any idea about where the others are", Ezekiel asked.
"Well, as far as I can figure Barael was doing some bounty hunting on his free time, Connery went to some bar on the other side of the city with his men and I have no clue where the Eldar, or Shifty could be", Rowlron shouted over the distant sounds of artillery fire.
"Ah, I see. So they all decided to make things difficult for me, ay? Well it doesn't matter. Right now we have to focus on finding a viable way off of this rock. I have never been a fan of Chaos followers, and that is not going to start now. Anyway, I think that the next port should be over this way", Ezekiel shouted, still running as fast as he could.
"One thing though. Why the hell are they attacking this backwater planet? It doesn't make sense", Ezekiel said.
He was genuinely worried about this fact. While he would not say that the planet was worthless, it was hardly a very high priority target. He could understand if this was just the latest victim of a series of Chaos attacks, but there had been no reports of rampaging Chaos Marines in the area. The planet was not in a position where it could be used as a staging ground for more raids. Nor was it an Imperial military stronghold. It was not even that rich in resources. What possible reason could there be for this seemingly random attack? While Ezekiel was pondering Rowlorn spotted their goal.
"Zeke! There's the port" Rowlorn announced.
Ezekiel looked up. The port was indeed there, and it had soldiers rushing around the front doors. Soldiers that were now pointing their weapons at them. Normally Ezekiel would have said that the port was not worth it, but the next viable port was behind enemy lines. Ezekiel decided that he would just have to talk his way through this. At that moment one of the soldiers called out to them.
"You there! Put your hands where we can see them, identify yourselves, or we will fire!"
Ezekiel stood up straight as an arrow. he wiped the usually relaxed look from his face, and adopted a deep scowl. He then spoke out with an authoritative voice.
"You will lower your weapons or be declared heretics! My name is Calis Remone. I am the Acolyte of Inquisitor Montra, here on a mission on his behalf. let me pass!"
Ezekiel strode directly for the soldiers without hesitating for an instant. The soldiers were immediately on edge. many of them had no doubt heard of Inquisitors, and the consequences of meddling with one. Though they were still unsure of his story. They sat their not knowing whether they should fire, or let ezekiel through. It was at this point that their commanding officer strode forth.
"Halt! How are we supposed to know if you are telling the truth? I received no notice of their being an Inquisitor's Acolyte in the area" the officer demanded.
Ezekiel adopted a sneer to his face, and looked down his nose at the officer. He spoke slowly, and with contempt, as if he were speaking to an idiot. This was an important part of the act, as inquisitors and those representing them often viewed other officials as incompetent, or inferior. Not surprising given that they had near unlimited authority.
"You were not given notice, you bafoon, because I am on a secret mission, and it is well beyond your paygrade. Now let me through, or would you rather I contact my master about this incompetence?"
Ezekiel act seemed to have paid off. The officer and his men were clearly intimidated. Still, the officer seemed determined to be difficult.
"B-But you have a mutant with you. Why would an Acolyte be with a mutant" the officer asked nervously.
"This mutant is an informant! He has been spying on the Underhives for me, and my master in exchange for his pitiful life! He has information that could be vital to stopping this invasion, and I need to get him Off-world to my master for interrogation. A task which you have seen fit to impede, you moron" Ezekiel yelled at the officer while he elbowed his way into the port through a crowd of soldiers.
When he got into the port he saw some of the devastation that had already been wrought there. The soldiers had piled several of their dead comrades in a corner. Lying a good distance away was a heap of dead Ogryns. Even with the distance Ezekiel could smell the stench, though he did not know whether it came from their lack of hygiene, or because they were rotting. He imagined that it was a little bit of both.
He went over to the officer that he had been speaking to before. The officer saluted and identified himself.
"Lieutenant Lemrick of the Mertosis 214th, 5th platoon, at your service sir. We were given orders to defend this port no matter what in order to keep it out of enemy hands" the officer announced.
"And how has your mission been going soldier" Ezekiel inquired.
He already had an idea. Based upon the pile of dead bodies the Imperial Guardsmen had taken heavy casualties. Furthermore he could tell that the moral of the remaining soldiers was quite low. Any one of them could turn tail, curl up in some corner or in the worst case scenario betray their comrades. Surely there would have to be a Commissar for such a group. Of course it was then that Ezekiel noticed the body of a great coated figure with a rather distinct hat on the pile of bodies. These men were not going to last much longer.
"It has gone well. We have had to deal with some heavy aggression, but we would never allow these heretics to beat us" Lemrick said a little too confidently.
He was obviously scared that if Ezekiel understood how bad things looked, he would start executing people, starting with him. Ezekiel felt bad for the soldiers, but he did not have time to help them. he had to secure a vessel capable of extra-atmospheric flight, and get his men. More importantly if the enemy's attacks on this position were as bad is it looked, he did not have time to dawdle.
"I need a shuttle so that I can get off of this disgusting rock as soon as possible" Ezekiel declared.
"yes sir! Come right this way. there are still a few functioning shuttles in the hanger. We will just take a loo-" at that moment Lemrick was cut off by a deafening bang.
Ezekiel's worst fears had come true. the Chaos forces were assaulting the position once again. This was almost certainly going to turn ugly. He called out to Lieutenant Lemrick.
"Lieutenant! I need you to hold the heretics back until I can get the shuttle prepared for launch" he yelled.
"Yes sir! We will show these heretics what what servants of the Emperor can do" Lemrick hollered back.
Guardsmen, and the curses of the Chaos followers. Ezekiel was have way done with the engine check when he decided to check on the progress of the battle. His jaw dropped. Already most of the Guardsmen were running for cover, or cowering in some corner. Meanwhile the ones that had the sense to keep fighting were being pressed hard. At this rate the position was going to be overrun before he could get the shuttle out. He had no choice but to intervene.
"Rowlorn! It looks like we are going to have to do a little scrapping before we bid this place adieu", Ezekiel yelled at Rowlorn, who promptly walked over to the heap of dead Ogryns , and picked up a Ripper Gun.
"I got your back Zeke" Rowlorn replied.
Ezekiel needed to rally these men, and push back the attackers. He walked over to the barricade that the Imperial Guardsmen were barely holding. He surveyed the situation. The Attacking force were mainly comprised of a large group of armed Cultists. They were being spurred on by a small group of Chaos Marines. It was not looking good, but ezekiel had seen worse. This was where the experience that he had gained posing as a Commissar would come in handy. He straightened up, drew his beloved Power Sabre and Bolt Pistol and lit a fire in his eyes. He walked toward the barricade with his eye closed, whispering litanies of hatred, and devotion to the Emperor with his words get louder until he was shouting. He jumped on top of the barricade. Caution would do more harm than boldness at this point.
"The Emperor will separate the righteous and the wicked! He will punish the wicked with holy fire, burning away their unclean souls! Here my all of you! Your opponent is fearsome, but we have the strength of the Emperor, and what is right upon our side! these filthy heretics look at you as nothing but their playthings! They will kill you, burn your homes, enslave your children until you have nothing left! Will you sit by as they make sport of you and everything that you love? No! Brothers, we will fight them here. We will let them know that there is a price for their arrogance! Even if we die, we will make them bleed for their victory, and suffer as they have never done before. Rise my brothers! Rise with me a cry defiance before your tormentors!"
As he said this he stood upon the barricade, with slugs and lasers speeding past him, shooting his pistol all the while. His actions had their effect. Those that had ceased to fight picked up their weapons and rejoined the fight. The Guardsmen now fought with hatred burning in their eyes. This fight was no longer about survial. it was about punishing the enemy for daring to try and defile their home. Ezekiel now began to supervise the Guardsmen personally. They were doing well until the Chaos marines decided to deal with this problem personally. They charged forward, making light of the pathetic attempts of the defenders. It was then that Ezekiel saw a sight that made his heart sing.
From a nearby building a Space Marine with heavily modified black armour leapt into the midst of the Chaos Marines. Ezekiel would recognize the figure anywhere. It was none other than Barael, the former Astartes turned bounty hunter. Out of All Ezekiel's men Barael was easily the most deadly in combat, coming as close to the term One-Man-Army as Ezekiel had ever seen, and he was fearless. Barael took the first foe down with a few well placed shots of his Bolter, then nearly instantly killing the next with a slash from his bayonet. One of the Chaos Marines came from behind, attempting to stab Barael with a Combat Knife. Barael spun out of the way, aiming a punch at the centre of his enemies extended arm. the force of the blow snapped the foe's forearm off at the elbow. He continued to fight in the middle of his foes. With him here ezekiel became confident, and so did the men. They charged over the barricade to take the fight to the enemy.
Rowlorn was in the middle of the fray, Tearing the enemy Cultists apart with his Ripper Gun, and using it as a deadly club if they were dumb enough to get close. The Guardsmen were engaged in a deadly close range firefight. Where the cultists lacked discipline, they made up for in fanaticism. Ezekiel noticed a particular squad of Cultists charging forward. They were all muscular, wearing no armour whatsoever. They carried vicious looking axes. they were being lead by a cultist with a very Catachan physique, wearing a skull mask.
"Khorne followers", Ezekiel thought.
If they managed to get into the fray then the cost would be high. Rowlorn was busy with a swarm of Cultists, and Barael was having a chainblade duel with an Aspiring Champion, the last of the Chaos Marines. Sparks flew every time their blades met. With no one else to turn to, ezekiel decided to handle this problem himself. He holstered his gun, and charged into the group of Cultists.
Ezekiel drew blood with his first swing. the Cultists raged around him, trying to hack him into bloody chunks with their axes. Ezekiel dodged, parried and countered with great skill. Ezekiel was a natural duellist. Where his opponents had strength and numbers on their side, Ezekiel had experience and grace on his. He was nearly dancing by comparison to his savage adversaries. One particular Cultist got behind Ezekiel, and tried to decapitate him. Ezekiel knew he was there by the unsubtle sounds of his charging footsteps. He ducked, and spun at the same time, slashing at the Cultist's torso. His foe's innards spilled upon the floor. Soon all that was left was the leader.
the Barbarian charged Ezekiel. Ezekiel dodged out of the way, and stabbed the arm that was holding the axe. He was then caught by surprise as his opponent grabbed his arm, pulling him in close. The maniac then gave ezekiel a head butt that set his head ringing. Dazed, Ezekiel was grabbed by the neck, and pinned against a wall while his foe ruthlessly punched him. Ezekiel then broke free by kicking his opponent in the groin. Ezekiel was not one to risk his neck by fighting fair, that was for sportsmen not warriors.
Ezekiel then kicked his opponent in the ribs, and pulled his mask off, hoping to nail his opponent in the face. He stopped when he saw the particularly grotesque face of his opponent. He then through the mask back to him.
"Terribly sorry about that pal. Turns out you really need that, huh?"
His opponent charged. Ezekiel rolled away and grabbed the axe that his enemy had dropped. He raised the axe as the berzerker attempted to punch him, with the fist meeting the blade of the axe. Ezekiel then kicked the Cultist's legs unto their knees, and brought the axe down on his enemy's head, cleaving the skull.
Ezekiel looked back to survey how the battle was going. The enemy forces were beaten. the soldiers were just mopping up the survivors. Barael walked up to Ezekiel.
"Ah! Good to see that you finally decided to join the party Barael", Ezekiel said.
"I knew that wherever you were was the place where I could kill the most heretics. Trouble seems to follow you". Barael replied blandly.
"Yes well I am glad that you came. I would be simply lost without my personal killing machine", Ezekiel exclaimed half jokingly.
Now that the battle was finished Ezekiel decided to check on who they were fighting. He went to examine one of the dead Astartes, and then blanched when he saw the iconography. These Chaos Marines were from the dreaded Warrior of Syrath. Ezekiel had never met the infamous Daemon or his minions, but any criminal worth his salt knew the name Syrath, and the implications behind it.
"Well, it seems my determination to leave has bend redoubled. Gentlemen, shall we take our leave", Ezekiel said to Barael and Rowlorn.
"Sir! We have further heretic forces moving on our position", a soldier cried.
Ezekiel could see the forces on their way. At their head was a dreaded Chaos Defiler. Following just behind it was a generous helping of Chaos Marines, and he could just make out a squad of Havocs. There was no way they were going to hold this position any longer, even with Barael's help.
"Lieutenant! Do we have any Krak Grenades?" Ezekiel asked.
"Yes sir! Why do you ask?" said the Lieutent.
"Because we are leaving soldiers," Ezekiel responded.
"What?! But if they take this port then they will have a landing zone to transport their troops into the City," the Lieutenant exclaimed.
"I am telling you that they can have it! Though I did not say we were going to let them keep it",Ezekiel said slyly.
As Ezekiel, and the troops retreated he watched the port as the chaos forces stormed into it. When he felt that enough had entered the building he tripped an improvised detonator, and watched as the building collapsed on the enemies. He noticed that the Lieutenant was listening to the Vox-castor.
"Any new", Ezekiel asked.
"It seems that an Inquisitor has joined the battle. Your master perhaps?"
Ezekiel suddenly had an idea. An Inquisitor would have a personal transport craft like an Aquila Lander.
"Yes! Quite so. Where is the position again?"
"Are you sure it's here Aiur?" asked the Eldar Banshee Halica. She and her lover, a Striking Scorpion Exarch (Aiur), along with several other comrades, had been sent by Grim to locate one of the Stones of the Gods. They had been tracking it's location for months, before it vanished, hours before they were going to seize it. Their new lead had taken them to the Ralun System. They had only just arrived, before securing a hidden location for their vessel as the Chaos forces attacked. An Eldar Ranger, named Verz, reported it was the forces of Lord Coraks, a follower of the Daemon Syrath, which were leading the invasion.
"I am sure of it Halica, Grim had theorised that Syrath was also after the stones, and if his minions are here then a stone must be on this planet." Aiur replied.
"But why would he want a stone? All it would do to him would destroy him, as it does with all daemons who try to use its power." Said the Warp Spider Elifor.
"No one knows what a Daemon desires, old friend, especially one like Syrath." Replied Aiur. "Verz have you located the stone."
There was an eerie silence for a few seconds, until a monotonous voice replied, "Yes, it is in the hands of a Mon-keigh which appears to be affiliated with the Imperial Inquisition. He is heading towards a shuttle platform as we speak."
Aiur nodded and stood up. "Elifor come with me, we'll try to intercept the Acolyte and capture him, we can't let the Mon-keigh have this Stone. Halica prepare the ship, Verz cover us as we move in, and contact Ularis as well, we may need that Eldar Pirate's help."
" Well, we're coming in hot guys," the Aquila Lander Pilot shouted over the comms, "I hope the Emperor is smiling on us today!"
"Will we make it to the landing site?" a clearly panicked Alicia yelled at her pilot.
"We should, as long as we aren't blown out of the sky first!" the pilot cheekily replied, "other than that it is clear skies ahead."
The shuttle craft streaked across the crisp blue sky, like a comet hurtling downwards from the heavens. A certain criminal looked up, seeing an Aquila Lander in the distance. He smiled to himself, thinking, that just maybe, reinforcements would arrive to save the forsaken planet. The Imperial Pilot brought the shuttle down to a fortified landing pad, which lay at the heart of the Imperial defensive line.
A small group of people exited the Lander, Inquisitor Alicia Trallan and Acolyte Lorenzo Drasus among them. They carefully walked from the craft to a reinforced bunker, before a strong shielding system was activated to protect their only means of leaving the planet. The entourage were lead to a battle damaged room by a squad of heavily armed Inquisitorial Storm Troopers. An extravagantly dressed, but exceptionally haggard, man entered soon after the Inquisitorial party.
"Well..." the gentleman spluttered, "...you are not the kind of reinforcements I was expecting."
"We have a full requisitioned Imperial Navy Battlefleet at our command, soldier," Alicia retorted, "we can at least cut off the enemy's reinforcements and provide arial support."
"Huh... a high and mighty Inquisitor like yourself can provide us with little more than air support. It's not the skies I'm worried about..." the Lord General scoffed, "it's the throne damned ground assaults which we keep losing, ma'am."
"Yes... bu... but... it is the best I could muster at such short notice, sir," Alicia retorted, with a strong tone of aggravation creeping into her voice, "If it's not good enough for you then I suppose we should just leave. Your deaths would not be too hard for the Inquisition to cover up."
Lord General Jacobus looked on at the Inquisitor, completely dumbfounded, as he realised the mistake he had just made by challenging her authority. Lorenzo stared directly at him, scanning his thoughts before realising the true sense of fear which the Lord General felt. The Acolyte decided it would be best to defuse the situation some what given the heightened emotional states of everyone in the room.
"So, have we heard any more from Grim Doris yet?" Drasus inquired, "he is definitely going to make planet fall at some point?"
Alicia, slightly caught off guard turned to her communications specialist who replied plainly. "Yes, sir, we have received word that his shuttle has left the Shadow of Judgement. He will meet us at the rendezvous point as agree..."
It was at that moment that a tremendously loud explosion was heard, only moments before one of the walls of the bunker collapsed, crushing the specialist. The earth shattering explosion had caused a large amount of dust to become airborne. And, it was from this thick dust cloud that a colossal figure emerged.
"Mortal fools... " the monstrous abomination pronounced triumphantly, "you shall die by my twisted hand!"
Grim stared from his ship's lookout point as the smaller landing craft descended down towards the planet's surface. With Edward leading the party, along with Frad and David, they should be able to meet up with the Eldar and hopefully bring the Stone to him. The Black Templar knew the importance of speed and discretion was key to the mission's success.
Behind him Klankz gave a sigh and asked, "Hey Boss, if yar zo worried dat dey won't getz it don, why not zend me?"
Grim gave the ork a smile, "I have no doubt that you would do your best my friend, but there may come when I need you here. That, and I'm not sure that subtlety is your forte."
His words were true. If this Inquisitor somehow caught on then he would need all the hands he could get in a close range/boarding attack in space. And the Mekboys skills would be useful. He knew that allowing the journal to remain on her vessel was a minor set back, but any other action would have been suspicious. If she hadn't been tagging along with him, he would have probably received the Stone by now. However, he also realised that, had he not stumbled across Alicia's fleet, he may have never made it to Ralun.
The worst part however, was that Grim could sense the presence of Syrath on that world. The pain of the loss of two of his brothers, by that Daemon's hand came back to him. He had a sudden desire not to be so discreet anymore, wishing to enact a horrendous revenge on the abomination. The fact that Syrath was after the stone only enraged him more. It was bad enough he had people like the Shadow One and Bevid were after the stones, as well as organizations like the Cabal, Illuminati and the Brotherhood of the Faithful, but one more on the list was not something he needed. He only hoped that Syrath was unaware of the stones true effects on Daemons, quickly eliminating him.
"Lord Grim, Edward has reported that his team has landed on the surface successfully. But they have been greeted by Imperial forces and wants to know what he should do?" Said Cel-ik.
Grim frowned but used his quick thinking, "Tell him to follow them to the Inquisitor. Tell her that I've remained here to watch over from above. Also tell Edward to try and find a way to get out of there without drawing attention. I'm going to contact Aiur's team."
The dust had now settled. The Warp spawned monstrosity turned it's attentions towards the cowering Inquisitorial representatives. At the forefront of the group an incredibly valiant Acolyte stood, keeping his allies at a reasonable distance from the beast.
"Ahhh... The Brotherhood of the Watchful Eye... It's been a while my path last crossed with your organisation..." The colossal creature spoke, bemused at the thought of encountering one of his greatest adversaries.
"Stand back! That Daemon has a quick tongue. Listen not to what he says!" Alicia commanded to the surviving members of her group.
"My, my... such formality Inquisitor... why do you not wish to name me... " The beast sneered.
Despite the apparent casual nature of the creature's diction, the daemon had not once let it's guard down. A fact which Lorenzo was quick to notice, as he prepared his stance so that he could strike the unholy creation at the first window of opportunity.
"Because words are power. And you rely too heavily on the fear which is created by the mere mention of your name, Daemon." Alicia replied, hoping to stall the daemon.
"Really... does my name hold such weight..." the creature replied quizzically
Alicia struggled to find a reply, knowing that if she could not stall the daemon further her death would be instantaneous.
"Yes... yes... of... of course... many shudder at the mere implication of your presence... do you know of Grim Dor-" Alicia stammered before being cut short as the unsettlingly carefree mood of the conversation suddenly changed.
"WHAT! That cur is already here! I knew I could sense an abnormality in the Warp! If that is the case, I do not have time to waste!" The Greater Daemon exclaimed " so... enough of this inane chatter, I'm most delighted that I shall now kill you. For I am Syrath the Immortal, Sundered of Tzeentch!"
The monstrous creature bared it's talons and pointed straight at Inquisitor Trallan. Shocked by the sudden change in Syrath's temperament, Lorenzo charged straight at the Daemon, Force Blade at the ready. However, the Saint of Chaos dodged the attack with relative ease, before throwing the Acolyte across the room with one fell swoop of his taloned claw.
"Alicia... You send a mere child to assault me... My, my how the Brotherhood's standards have slip-" the Gambler of Fate was suddenly rendered speechless while he was preparing to attack the Inquisitor.
The majestic daemon turned to find the source of the attack. To his surprise, he realised that it was the Acolyte he had cast aside, who had struck him with a bolt of pure Warp energy.
"Fool! How dare you strike me!" the Warp spawned creature roared.
Syrath changed his priorities in an instant. He immediately leapt through the air towards his new target, Lorenzo Drasus, with his taloned claws fully extended in preparation for the strike. However, instead of reaching the Acolyte, his attack was cut short as a sharp object hit him in his left side.
Ezekiel had been running for quite a while now. He was heading toward the bunker that the Inquisitor had been said to be landing at. He had seen the Inquisitor's personal transport as it came down. He would have to come up with some way in which he could take the vehicle without notice, or at least artfully convince the Inquisitor to give it to him. Either way the story about being an Acolyte would not hold up against an actual Inquisitor. He would have to use a different cover, but he could not do that until he solved his current problem. That problem being a group of Imperial Guardsmen that he had convinced that he was an Acolyte, and were now following him around as if he was their salvation.
"How much further till we get to our destination sir?" Lieutenant Lemrick asked.
"Not far Lieutenant, but you should really get in contact with your superiors. They probably have need of you, and your men", Ezekiel said, hoping that the Lieutenant would take the bait.
"Nonsense! If not for you, sir, we would have both failed our task and died. For that much we will make sure that you complete your assignment. We owe you that much at least sir."
Ezekiel thanked him for his support. Of course on the inside he was cursing up a storm, particularly at himself. it seemed that the whole "Champion of the Emperor" routine that he had used to ignite their fighting spirit had been a little too convincing. The men of their Regiment would likely tell stories about his heroics for years to come.
"As usual your attempts to blend in cause you to stand out all the more Zeke", Rowlorn whispered in his ear.
"It is not my fault that I am overflowing with charisma! This would not happen if you played the hero once in a while. Sheesh!" Ezekiel whispered back.
"Right, because I just scream hero of the Imperium don't I?" Rowlorn rebutted, grinning and showing the armoured plates that were part of his arm.
"Well maybe if you did play the hero every so often then perhaps people would stop looking at Mutants as just a bunch of freaks" Ezekiel said, exasperated.
Rowlorn laughed, "that will happen on the day that I believe that you are completely sane."
Ezekiel rolled his eyes at this response, but smiled all the same. Then he stiffened up and yelled at Rowlorn for back-talk. He had forgotten about the soldiers trotting behind him. Being seen bickering with a mutant in a friendly matter was not going to help his cover as the Acolyte of an Inquisitor. It was then that ezekiel noticed the smoke that was rising up from the area they were headed towards. He instantly got a bad feeling.
"Lieutenant! It seems that our comrades are under attack by the enemy. We must move to assist! The Mutant, the Astartes and I will head there directly. I want you, and your men to take the long way around in order to perform a surprise flanking manoeuvre", Ezekiel barked.
"But sir, won't that be dangerous for you to take the fight to the enemy with such small numbers?", Lemrick asked, clearly concerned.
"Do not underestimate my abilities!" Ezekiel yelled, "Your surprise attack may be the difference between victory and death. Now go!"
With several reluctant looks Lieutenant Lemrick and his men marched off.
"Nice one", Rowlorn remarked.
"Indeed. Now there will be no distractions for the fight ahead", Barael stated firmly.
"What fight?! With any luck we will be able to sneak past both sides, and grab the craft. I sent them off because it is hard to be stealthy with a large group of soldiers at your back. It would also be awkward making a cover story with them around", Ezekiel said much to the chagrin of Barael, who had been expecting an honourable fight with the enemy.
With the excess baggage gone Ezekiel and his men quickly got to the bunker, which was in terrible shape. Ezekiel had judged that they would be dealing with a substantial force of Chaos Space marine based upon the number of Imperial bodies, and lack of Chaos bodies. This most certainly did not bode well. Ezekiel had to fight his instinct to turn tail and run away with all haste.
"Well, shall we go in?" Ezekiel asked his companions rather half-heartedly.
They quietly snuck into the bunker. What Ezekiel saw when they entered nearly made him swoon. An Inquisitor was standing with her retinue with their weapons at the ready. They were facing off with a massive monstrosity that Ezekiel could only imagine was Syrath himself based on it's horrifying form and aura of dread. The Inquisitor and the Daemon were exchanging words, with Syrath clearly taunting his would-be victim, clearly enjoying the act of toying with his prey. The Inquisitor was speaking back, most likely trying to buy time. After all if Syrath was anything like his fearsome reputation then they would not stand a chance.
Ezekiel was not really listening to what they were saying. His attention was fixed upon his goal. Beyond them was what he had come for, the Aquila Lander. If he could just get to it without drawing the attention of either party then he could possibly get out of this ridiculous situation alive. He quietly began to sneak towards the Lander, signalling Rowlorn and Barael to follow. Barael kept his eyes and Bolter firmly set on the Daemon. Ezekiel could feel the urge to attack in him. Ezekiel found it remarkable what a few augmentations, and fearlessness born of guilt could turn a man into, but this was not the opponent to be picking a fight with. He signalled Barael to forget about the Daemon, and pick up the pace.
It was then that Ezekiel sensed an abrupt and violent change in the tone of the conversation. Suddenly the Daemon, and one of the Inquisitor's cronies were going at it. The henchman was quickly tossed aside. Now was no longer the time for stealth. Ezekiel broke out into a run towards the vehicle, hoping that the two parties would be so preoccupied with killing, or being killed as the case might be, that they would not notice him and his men. He had almost made it to the lander when one of Syrath's gargantuan coils got into his way.
Irritated at being so close to escape, and being denied, Ezekiel thoughtlessly drew his Power Sabre and stabbed the beast.
Syrath roared in anger. Furious at being attacked by surprise, and because the sneak attack had just barely stopped him short of flaying the Acolyte alive. He turned and faced Ezekiel. the two locked stares for a moment, both shocked. Ezekiel being shocked that he had been stupid enough to attack a Greater Daemon, and Syrath likewise shocked about who had the audacity to attack him such.
Syrath then roared and created a great ball of fire. He then hurled it at the pathetic mortal before him. ezekiel had only an instant to come to grips with his situation. He quickly dived out of the way of the attack. The fireball came so close to him that it singed his hair. Ezekiel gave a momentary sigh of relief. that was until he saw what the fireball had hit in his stead. He looked on with an indescribable emotion as the Lander that he had come to retrieve burned.
Syrath rose up, presenting an imposing presence to this new annoyance. He spoke with great echoing words to this puny mortal before him.
"You dare to strike at me insect?! You shall regret your actions! For now you will feel my wra-"
"Excuse me." Ezekiel interjected while getting up and dusting himself off.
Syrath looked down on the mortal in slight surprise. Ezekiel continued to go on.
"Now before I get to the point may I just say that I know exactly who you are, and have a great deal of respect for one who has managed to accomplish so much. I say this in spite of my general view that anything Warp related is bad news." Ezekiel continued on in a polite and conversational tone.
"Having said that, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD IT HAS BEEN TRYING TO GET THAT VEHICLE?! I NEARLY GET KILLED BY YOUR THRICE BLASTED HENCHMEN, AND RUN FOR MILES JUST SO THAT I COULD GET MY HANDS ON THAT CRAFT! BUT HERE YOU ARE JUST BLOWING UP MY HARD WORK! WELL @#&% YOU! YOU UGLY, OVERGROWN, RUDE, SLIME-SUCKING LIZARD!"
The whole area went silent. Syrath sat there and stared, taken aback by what he just saw. This puny, insignificant little human had just scolded him. Him of all people! The clear absurdity of the situation was not lost on him, nor any of the others gathered. Apparently a sense of situational awareness had just dawned on Ezekiel as well.
"Yeeeeaaaaaahhh.... Um.. Barael if you would be so kind?" Ezekiel tentatively said to the Marine.
As if a switch had been flipped the situation once more took a lethal turn. Barael opened fire on the massive Daemon. The scene exploded, as the weapons fire of those gathered mingled with the roars of Syrath. Lorenzo once more strode forth to do battle with the Daemon, this time with a fellow marine helping. Syrath for his part was ripping the bunker apart. This had been an odd, and vaguely amusing distraction from the work at hand, but his patients for these mortals was reaching it's end and he still had a dangerous enemy to worry about.
Ezekiel was now looking for a way out. this fight would not last long, and would inevitably end in the Daemon's favour. he looked around for something to escape with. He found it. In a nearby garage was a Tauros Venator. The vehicle would prove to work well for a speedy getaway. He shouted over to Rowlorn, and gestured over to the vehicle. Rowlorn instantly took the meaning, and jumped into the drivers seat.
Ezekiel looked at the assembled people, the numbers of which were quickly decreasing. He spotted the Inquisitor. While the idea of taking an Inquisitor along with him made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, he knew that the Inquisitor was probably going to be a good resource to have. Not only might the Inquisitor have assets for fighting Chaotic issues in the future, but she might be able to requisition a way off planet. With a feeling resembling nausea, Ezekiel ran over to the Inquisitor and grabbed her arm.
"Pardon me miss, but come with me if you want to live." Ezekiel said hurriedly while dragging the Inquisitor to the vehicle.
"Wait just a moment! Just who do you think you are? Explain yourself or-" Alicia yelled.
Ezekiel was not in the mood for debate. he firmly grabbed Alicia by the shoulders, and looked her in the eyes.
"Listen! Under normal circumstance I would be happy to recount my life's story, but since we are short on time would you kindly GET IN THE CAR!!" Ezekiel shouted, throwing Alicia into the side seat.
Lorenzo, having heard the commotion, and seeing his mistress thrown into the vehicle ran over to assist.
"You there! Stop! What in Throne's name do you think you are doing?!" Lorenzo growled.
Ezekiel put a hand up to Lorenzo, who came to a stop.
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing..." Ezekiel proclaimed to Drasus, trying to make the obvious lie sound more convincing.
"Of course if you would rather have you and your master remain here and take your chances, then by all means stay. However if you would like to get out of here alive, then help out and man the Autocannon." Ezekiel told Drasus, who seeing the reason in his words promptly jumped up to operate the vehicle's Autocannon.
With no more seats available, Ezekiel grabbed on to the door and hanged off the side.
"Go, go, go, go! Step on it Rowlorn!" Ezekiel yelled, as Rowlorn gunned the ignition.
"What about that Astartes?! Are we just going to leave him here for slaughter?" Alicia asked as they sped away.
"Who? Barael? Oh, he'll be fine. He is the kind of guy that won't die even if you kill him, if you know what I mean. He'll probably catch up later." Ezekiel said casually as they took off.
"Now then Miss Fire-And-Brimstone, we should probably get down to busi- Wh-wh Whaaaaaaa?" Ezekiel stopped halfway as he suddenly noticed that Alicia was an absolute knock-out.
He slicked back his hair, checked his breath and lowered his voice. Clearly his reprehensible need to be a Casanova had temporarily overrided his situational awarenes, and his compelte mistrust of Inquisitors.
"So! What is a sweet young thing like yourself doing on a burning trash-ball like this?" Said ezekiel with his voice dripping with charm.
"Seriously?! You have to do that right now boss?!" Rowlorn said irritably as he swerved around a group of cultists.
"Kindly keep your thoughts to yourself. saying that I am not interested goes without saying, you clod." Alicia spat back angrily, before slapping Ezekiel in a very aggressive manner.
Back at the bunker Syrath was having his own set of problems. Everyone that had been left in the bunker was dead, except for that Space Marine. The warrior stayed just outside the reach of his claws, and dodged his Psychic attacks by mere inches. This was proving frustrating, as the Marine was the one thing keeping him from going after the Inquisitor. Barael rolled, and then took out the pin on a frag grenade. He held it for a short time, and then threw it at the Daemon's face. The perfectly timed explosion occurred right in Syrath's face. He had managed to bring up his defences just before, so the actual damage was negligible, but his patients was now gone. He telekinetically picked up a large rock, and hurled it at the Marine, knocking him through a wall. He then turned to go after his quarry.
Meanwhile Ezekiel was in the middle of a fresh bout of bickering with Alicia. Rowlorn was trying to focus on driving, while Drasus manned the gun. His services were becoming rather apparent, as they were now passing through areas of heavy fighting.
"Your plan is of the quality I would expect from a child! It lacks contingencies, and appropriate intel. Furthermore it relies mostly on luck!" Alicia yelled at Ezekiel.
Well, excuse me. I am making this up as I go along. Besides, what intel do we have at our disposal, huh?" Ezekiel retorted, slashing a Chaos Marine that got too close to the Tauros.
"Yes, well we shall need to acquire some. Anyway, who are you exactly?" Alicia demanded.
"Mourton Mc'leod at your service. I am a merchant that came to this planet to sell my goods, but got involved in this madness. I hope we can help each other out Inquisitor." Ezekiel said.
Alicia smiled to herself. While it was not part of her jurisdiction, she knew who she was dealing with. She was a well informed Inquisitor, and instantly recognised the alias of the criminal. It had only recently been uncovered by her associates in the Inquisition.
"Perhaps. Or perhaps I should just shoot you now Mr. Cornatus." Alicia said with a smile, her Infernus Pistol aimed directly at her saviour's head.
Ezekiel blanched. He had not expected to be figured out so soon. Of course all of them forgot about this when Syrath's large frame appeared around the corner behind them, and Alicia subsequently lowered her weapon. Drasus immediately opened up on the Saint of Chaos, who contemptuously deflected the projectiles with a Psychic shield.
"Just to let you know, if you kill me, then my companion here, who is driving, will bail out and leave you to crash." Ezekiel stated.
"Zeke, we have a massive killer Daemon behind us. If they kill you then I am going to keep driving just as fast as I can. I'll mourn you buddy" Rowlorn yelled over the din, while just barely swerving out of the way of a chaos Dreadnought's claws.
"Oh, come on! A little support when I make a bluff, is that so much to ask?" Ezekiel stated while shooting his Bolt pistol back at Syrath, who was rapidly gaining.
"I will deal with you later, scum! For now would you please close that noise hole, and focus on the unholy monstrosity upon us?!" Alicia yelled.
"Right then! Shall we take the expressway, or the tunnels?" Ezekiel inquired.
"How should I know? It is not like I have actually been to this Throne forsaken planet before!" Alicia barked back.
"Fine. Then we will let luck decide! Heads we go for the tunnels, tails we go for the highway!" Ezekiel shouted while taking out a coin.
He then tossed it up, and caught it. The Coin had landed with the sun side up. Syrath was not close enough to see the Coin, but he did feel the change in atmosphere as it's powers took effect. Surprised, Syrath opened up his senses, and sure enough he found his target on the escaping vehicle. He had become so focused on the kill that he had not bothered to sense for it. He chuckled to himself. Not only would he get to kill an Inquisitor, but he would be able to complete his objective at the same time. He lunged forward.
It was at that moment that a section of a heavily damaged building dislodged itself right over his head. He roared, and blasted the structure into rubble, which then struck him repeatedly. Recovering from the shock, Syrath tried to resume his chase, but was cut off by a line of Imperial Tanks that had just arrived. He growled in frustration. He then remembered what it was that this particular artefact did. Whoever had it must have activated it's ability to bestow good luck. He then relaxed. There was no point in going after them now, as their good luck would make it impossible to catch them. It would be best to simply wait for the effect to wear off. Still, he sent the images of those in the car to his commanders with order to capture or kill them all. He then telepathically contacted Coraks, as he could not ignore the unsettling presence that he felt nearby.
"Lord Coraks. This is your master. I have some good news, some not so good news, and some incredible news." Syrath projected to his trusted Captain.
"What is it, great Saint of Chaos?" Coraks responded.
"First of all I have located our objective, though they have managed to temporarily elude me. Second, the troublesome Sensei scum, Grim Doris is here. Best of all, I have decided that you will be the one to take his head while I hunt. Gather the entire First War Legion!" Syrath ordered.
"It would be my pleasure, master!" Coraks responded in turn.
Meanwhile Ezekiel was breathing a sigh of relief.
"Looks like we have lost him for now. Man does that Daemon have it out for you."
"That is hardly surprising considering the role my Brotherhood plays in his affairs. Now pull over. We have some things to discuss! "Alicia said authoritavely.
"Not a chance! We are not stopping until we find a good place to bunker down. Night has almost fallen. Do you really want to take the chance of running into that thing in the dark?" Ezekiel responded.
"Very well. We will find shelter first," Alicia retorted.
Within a distant region of the Galaxy a small fleet of ships floated towards a planet that reeked of madness and death. Each ship had been branded with a mark of chaotic origin, some which were exotic and mysterious. Between the renegade ships and the planet lay another fleet, though they were much larger, maintaining a steady orbit around the forsaken world. A formidable looking ship broke away from the advancing fleet, setting a course straight towards orbital flotilla. A large cruiser manoeuvred to the forefront of the Chaotic blockade.
Onboard the ship that had exited the blockade a dim light, failing to brighten the already dark and terrifying darkness in the room, flickered for a brief second before vanishing. In its place stood several Chaos Space Marine, their armour coloured in a dark corrupted blue and green. They were all armed with the usual weaponry of an astartes, with the exception of the apparent leader of the group.
This Renegade Astartes did not appear to have a helmet like the others had, thus showing his baldness, and a patch of skin on his face which bore a distinctive serpentine tattoo. In his right hand was an axe that radiated daemonic energy and attached to his waist was a sinister looking boltgun. He looked only forward towards the darkness
Opposite of him, visible only as a vague silhouette, was a large man sitting on what appeared to be a throne. The being got up and walked towards the armoured man, showing his pale green armour and his skull helmet.
"Greetings Aloran, I'm glad you could make it." the mysterious being said to his old ally.
The son of Alpharius bowed his head. "You always do have something interesting for me to do Bevid. Now what do you need of the Omega Legion?"
The journey through the tunnels was relatively uneventful. Alicia and Ezekiel had ended up sitting in complete silence after the Inquisitor had attempted to probe the mind of the miscreant. While Rowlorn had ended up chatting rather amicably with Lorenzo while he was driving, while the Acolyte stayed on heightened alert, his autocannon ready to fire. However, the gun was not fired once.
There was a complete lack of enemy activity, despite the clear evidence that the Chaos Forces had been fighting within the tunnel. And the further the group went, the less bodies they found. Worryingly, there was also no sign of any friendly forces. Drasus could sense that both his mistress and his newfound comrades were clearly worried by the complete lack of Imperial activity.
When they exited the tunnel, they found an astonishing sight. The heart of Hive City Thatos. Unlike the outskirts of the Hive City, which had been reduced to rubble, the centre was practically untouched. There was almost no sign, except for the lack of people and the occasional loud explosion, that a conflict was even taking place within the city. It was evident that an evacuation of sorts had been carried out relatively recently and posters relaying a similar message to the populous littered the streets.
Bringing the Tauros Venator to an abrubt halt, Rowlorn stopped a couple of feet away from an impromptu road block. Seeing that the rest of the road ahead was littered with similar obstructions, Rowlorn indicated that they should continue on foot for now, and pick up their ride in the morning, provided it was still there of course.
"Well I must say Mr Cornatus, your driver is most adept, and I commend him. You, however, lack any damn foresight. We may be far from the beast, but the tunnels led us further into the city. What in Throne's name happened to your plan of escaping the planet!?" Alicia roared in fury at the criminal
"Well, we're alive aren't we!" Zeke replied in an insufferably smooth tone "And, Madam, please leave your protests for when we have actually found shelter."
At that moment, Alicia was sorely tempted to shoot the smug miscreant in the head, and it was only her extreme force of willpower which refrained herself from carrying out the action.
"As much as it pains me to say it. I agree with the deviant," Lorenzo Drasus calmly spoke, "we need to find a safe, defensable position."
The quartet crept further into the city, past a silent Manufactorum, empty Administratum buildings and an array of well kept Hab Centres. There weapons were drawn, as they had know idea of what they might find. Posters, with the repetitive messages of "EVACUATION - REMAIN CALM" with illustarions of spacecraft adorning them, were plastered all over the walls. It had only been three days since the first Chaos forces had struck Ralun, but already a large number of the planet's elite had clearly been removed from the worthless rock. This of course left a sickening question lingering in the minds of the group. "Had they been left here to die?" And it also made them wonder what the Imperial Forces where fighting for, if the people they thought they were protecting had already fled.
Cornatus, uncomfortable with the feeling of dread emanating from his comrades, decided to break the tension.
"So! That one over there looks nice! The one with the tall spires!" Ezekiel exclaimed, in a reassuringly content manner, which was likely a facade. However, it was then that something struck him. How could he forget! He had lived in a Throne damn Hive City for almost half his life. The Spire of the Hive City. He remembered how inefficient the Imperium was in general, and he severly doubted any of the absent populous would have actually made it offworld already. They would have merely only managed to get to a higher level.
"We can set up camp there!" he brightly spoke, this time in a genuinely warm tone, "and tomorrow we shall ascend! Yes, in answer to your questioning of my escape plans, Miss Fire and Brimstone! Ascend to the higher levels of the Hive!"
"And excatly how will that benifit us if the populations has already been evacuated?" Trallan enquired, doubting the fool's words.
"Think about it! All of you! Do you really think the whole populous would have made it off world by now!" he enthusiastically pronounced "The Imperium... as erm... great... as it is Lady Inquisitor, is a little slow... "
"I may have noticed that a few times Mr Cornatus, but what exactly is your point!?" she scathingly spoke, her patience with the criminal was wearing thin.
"Really!? Do I have to spell it out to you three!? None of you can see the obvious..." he spoke whismsically, enthusiasm was clouding any formalities, "the people who have been evacuated will merely have been moved further up the Spire. To where the safer Spaceports are located!"
Inquisitor Doris listened to the reports from various Imperial Commanders as well as the messages that his own operatives were relaying. Imperial forces were holding, but slowly falling back due to heavy Chaos forces. He had received reports that the assault had lost some momentum, but that the Chaos forces were still pushing forward.
Edward had reported that his team had managed to get away from the bulk of the battle and, more importantly, the Imperial forces. His operative had mentioned that they had managed to acquire several vehicles and that they had now changed course, towards the inner parts of the Hive City. Aiur mentioned that they had lost sight of one of the Daemon Princes, which could mean anything. He and his kin had decided to return back to their ship, since they were cut off from the road, with the hope of locating Edward’s group.
Grim was also suffering another problem: his inner guilt. Like all Sensei, he was a son of the Emperor of Mankind. He believed that it was his duty fight against Chaos. His duty to oppose oppression and restore freedom. The planet below was a testament to his current failure to fulfil this duty. He could feel the screams of the innocent, the cries of the victims and the roaring laughter of the victorious Chaotic forces. This would have driven a lesser man mad, but Doris has his own coping mechanism. He focused his thoughts on the vengeance he would enact against the Daemon responsible. It was then, that Grim felt a peculiar presence. One which was powerful and filled with anger. Bloodlust. Madness. Evil. And it was moving closer.
“Raise the shields now!” Grim barked, just as something struck the starboard side of the Shadow of Judgement. Grim staggered a bit before demanding a damage report.
“Minimal damage to starboard front part of the ship, major damage to the rear, we’re receiving reports of wounded.” Shouted the communications officer.
“Send medics to get the wounded, I want the turrets online and everyone at arms!” the Inquisitor ordered, “can we get a visual on the enemy ship?”
There was a brief moment of fingers hitting buttons, before a visual of the ship popped up. The view was of a Chaos cruiser approaching them. It was painted blood red and displayed several Khornate marks.
“They’re definitely not being subtle,” a comms officer commented as Grim nodded in agreement, “Of course, they are followers of Khorne, I doubt they are aware that the word subtle exists.”
The there was a loud thud on top of them, followed by a scraping sound and finally the clang of a large piece of metal striking the floor above them. Moments later the sound of Bolter fire and shouting echoed throughout the ship.
“My lord, enemy troops have appeared on the top of the ship, our forces have engaged them. Drakos is leading the defence,” a soldier reported.
“Tell him I shall be there soon, you’re in charge here, Cel-ik remain here as well.” Grim ordered as he pulled out the Tears of Yalim, one of the more powerful Stones of the Gods that were in Grim’s possession. He poured a drop of it on the floor, where it grew wider, allowing Grim to step on to it.
The stone’s power activated, teleporting Grim to the top of the vessel. He could see his forces engaged in a losing battle against the relentless Warriors of Syarth. Strewn across area were bodies from both sides, and his men were beginning to falter. However, after everything that they had been through with Grim, they weren’t going down without a fight, and after seeing their leader was now amongst them, they redouble their efforts. Pulling out his sword, Golden Star, Grim engaged the enemy alongside his soldiers.
He managed to behead two marines before a Khorne Bezerker assaulted him. Using his psychic powers, he lifted the marine into the air and crushed his body.
The Warriors of Syrath were gunned down by reinforcements, led by Smoka, Klankz and Mankaz. Klankz let loose his Big Shoota along with Mankaz Snazzgun.
“Waaahhhh, Waaaahhhh, Cry Zome Morez!” The Mekboy shouted as his and the Flash Git’s weapons gunned down any who came their way.
“Grim!” Someone shouted. Grim turned to see Drakos, one of his oldest friends approached him, in full armor. His large machine gun still had smoke coming out and his power glove was covered in the enemy’s blood. “The battle is going rather well, the enemy’s attack was unexpected but we were quite prepared. Unfortunately, we have suffered heavier losses than we expected. However, my men have managed to get our rear guns firing on their ship, pushing it back, denying them the ability to transport more troops.”
Grim nodded in approval but kept his guard up. “That may be, but Chaos is very fickle, and they may have other means of attacking us.”
And as if to prove his point, several Dreadclaw Assualt Pods struck the area, unloading 50 Chaos Terminator Marines and finally one of the Blood God’s Daemon Princes behind them, snarling as he tightened his grip on his sword. His presence helped reorganize his forces that were still fighting.
Grim turned to Drakos, “Lead our forces against his, I’ll flank them and take the Daemon Prince head on.” Drakos looked uncertain about this idea. “Are you sure that is wise Grim, you may need my help. Remember you were rather outmatched when you faced Syrath.” Drakos mentioned.
“That was different.” Grim retorted, “If he is a Daemon Prince of Khorne, then he won’t possess psychic powers but rely on his daemonic strength and swordsmanship. Anyhow, now is not the time to argue!” And with that Grim Doris headed off towards the Daemon while their forces engaged one another.
Dashing alongside the left side of the battlefield, Grim only had to cut down a few lesser Daemons before he finally got to his target, which was still oblivious to his presence. Using that, Grim unleashed a psychic lightning bolt towards the Daemon’s back. To the Inquisitor's dismay, the beast appeared to be unaffected.
The Daemon turned around as he spoke to Grim, “I assume that you are Grim Doris, the one my Master Syrath spoke of?”
Grim's heart sank as he realised that his abilities would have no effect on the beast. However, Doris was able to keep his cool composure and retorted back at Coraks, “I am, and I’m to assume that you are one of his lackeys?”
The Daemon Prince let out a growl of anger. “Foolish mortal, I am Coraks Agrath, leader of Syrath the Immortal’s First War Legion and Daemon Prince of Khorne. My master has sent me to eliminate you, so that your soul may be sent to the Warp and be at his mercy.”
He brought down his sword on Grim, who blocked it with his own sword, before the beast's face contorted into a look of genuine surprise. Grim just smirked, “Sorry but I still have plans to complete, so I’m afraid you’ll have to be the one to go.”
Grim let loose a psychic blast at the Daemon Prince, but once again it had no effect.
“Kill him, in the name of Syrath and Khorne! SPILL HIS BLOOD!” the foul creature roared.
The Chaos Terminators were upon Grim in seconds, causing Grim to go on the defensive. He managed to kill two of the Terminators, but their corrupted armor combined with a skilled fighting prowess made it difficult for the Inquisitor to land a killing blow on any of them. One of the Astartes had managed to sneak up on him, but before the Renegade could attack, a sniper shot struck him directly in the head, killing him. Grim looked up with a smile; for coming down was the Rogue Vindicare Assassin, Zekk, firing shots at more Terminators. When he landed he pulled out his combat blades and took a defensive position alongside his master.
“Move it Grim, I’ll keep these guys busy for a good while, long enough for you to destroy that Daemon!” Zekk said as he stabbed a Terminator in the throat and then cut off one of his legs.
With all the Chaos Terminators focused on the assassin, Grim charged Coraks, who had seen everything. The Daemon Prince roared and raised his sword to meet Grim’s.
For the next couple of moments the two were locked in an endless struggle of swords, blade clashing against blade. Coraks had the advantage of size and strength, but Grim had agility and space to move. However, the aura emitting from the beast's Collar of Khorne had weakened the Sensei severely, and he was realising that he would not last much longer. When Coraks went for another strike, Grim took an opening. Using the Daemon’s distraction, Grim struck his sword against Corak’s left arm, leaving a small scracth on the Daemon.
Then the Sensei moved back a bit and with his powers hurled a large chunk of metal at the Daemon. Coraks merely swatted it to the side, leaving him open to Grim's attack. Grim slashed the Daemon's leg, causing blood to come out.
Coraks roared and brought down his sword. But Grim created a psychic barrier which slowed the attack. The sword shattered the barrier, sending Grim Doris flying. Grim managed to cushion the impact and when he recoverd he swung his sword fused with his psychic powers. The force sent debris flying towards the daemon, hitting Coraks everywhere. Then while the daemon was stung he charged Coraks, sword raised high, only to be sent flying when the daemon slammed his fist into the ground, creating a shockwave.
As Grim got up he barely dodged a swing from Corak's sword. Then Grim slashed the daemon's arm and tried to get behind him. With one wave of his hand, Grim fired a psychic blast, only to see it had no affect. Corak's laughed at this as he licked his wound.
"Oh pathetic worm! You should see how you writhe when you cannot harm me with you Psychic gifts!" Coraks smugly exclaimed.
Coraks lunged at Grim with renewed zeal. The Sensei, unable to foresee the attack took it head on. His blade escaped his grasp as the force behind the strike proved to be too much for the Inquisitor. The Daemon Prince then grabbed his disarmed opponent by the torso and began to slowly crush Doris. Grim could feel that his internal organs were close to rupturing and his upper body was seriously bleeding. He knew that the Daemon could have killed him already, but he realised that it wished to taunt it's prey.
"This was barely worth the effort! You shall die here and now. Grim Doris!"
The Inquisitor's limbs were numb from the pain and he was drastically running out of time. It was then, that an idea struck him. A gamble really, but if it worked, then it would bring a serious blow to Syrath.He desperately tore out the Tears of Yalim from his pendant and threw them at Coraks. Believing this was some sign of defeat, the Chaotic entity confidently grabbed the stone, “What is this, another trinket for my collection? I shall keep it as a trop-"
Before the creature could even finish that sentence a hellish portal errupted from within the Daemon, which erupted with nightmarish fury into a one way gateway to the Anathema. Coraks was forcebly dragged from it's flesh suit and into the immaterial bonds of the Anathema realm. Blood began to splatter all over the command room as the Daemon Prince took on it's native form and was banished back into the Warp from whence it came. The stones had proved to deliver the desired effect that Grim had hoped for, and he let out a sigh of relief.
However, almost instantenously, his formerly suspended body collapsed to the ground with an unexpected thud. Exhausted and badly beaten, he crawled to a communications relay and made forced himself upright so he could make an announcement over the tannoy.
“This is Inquisitor Grim Doris! The Daemon Prince has been vanquished! Men... I want beast's troops disposed of quickly! And get us the Throne away from his ship.”
Grim crumpled to the floor once more, his mortal body and psychic talents unable to support him any longer, as blood seeped from his wounds.
As the Hive City fell into complete darkness, the group found an abandoned Arbitorial building. To their delight it had fortified doors and appeared to still have plentiful amount of supplies. Drasus had found a cupboard full of tinned food and Rowlorn had subsequently discovered a large container of clean water. All of the consumable items were brought to a well furnished Arbitorial Sergeant's office, while Ezekiel prepared two beds that had been taken from a prison cell. Trallan had been keeping watch while her new "retinue" sorted out their sleeping arrangements.
After raiding the Arbitorial Armory, the quartet were armed with a large array of weapons. Making an executive decision, the Lady Inquisitor decided that she and Rowlorn would take first watch. Her justification was that she simply did not trust Ezekiel unsupervised and she could not bear to spend any more time than necessary in his company. So, the two took up positions within their fortified location, and kept watch for any trouble, while Drasus and Cornatus slept.
Nothing out of the ordinary occurred as they stayed alert, and the assumedly deserted level of the Hive City was just that. Rowlorn had stood in silence the entire time, not straying his attentions once from the task at hand. After five hours of sentry duty the mutant and the Inquisitor took their allocated time to sleep. Ezekiel proved difficult to rouse, so Alicia slapped the criminal full force in the face, much to his displeasure. His loud yelp was enough to wake Drasus, who quickly rose to fulfill his duties. The duo grabbed a boltgun each, pulled up chairs outside the office door and begun their shift of keeping guard.
Ezekiel and Lorenzo stared out into the dark city. There was no sound between them except for the occasional distant explosion, and the wind howling. Ezekiel found this unusual as they were in the interior of a Hive City, which was a enclosed structure. Obviously the outer walls must have been breached. Still, Ezekiel was feeling very uncomfortable.
For one he was not a fan of standing still when possibly being pursued. That being said he knew that going on would be problematic. They were all tired, and he did not want to risk getting caught by Chaos Space Marines or Daemons in the dark. However it was the silence that was truly bothering him. He was a very social person, and spending time with a person without talking to them, or doing other activities felt unnatural. The fact that he caught the occasional suspicious glance from his current company did not help him. Thus Ezekiel decided to break the ice.
"Sooooo... You porking the Inquisitor?" Ezekiel inquired to his companion.
"What!?" Lorenzo nearly shouted as he immediately became tense.
Ezekiel had a puckish grin as he pursued the topic.
"Aww come on! I know you Inquisitorial types are all about the endless purging and fighting, but how can you resist a lady as-" Ezekiel paused to look back at the sleeping Inquisitor "high class as that?".
Drasus stiffened. Adopting a baleful glare he, spoke slowly to Ezekiel, "Watch your tongue scum. Get any ideas you have out of your head right now. I am but the lady Inquisitor's guardian. She is an agent of the Emperor's Holy Inquisition, and you had best show some respect!" Lorenzo growled.
To his surprise Ezekiel met his stare evenly. Ezekiel's one eye looked back into his. The look carried no fear nor aggression. Indeed Drasus found himself being looked upon in a chastizing way.
"Easy does it Captain Imperium. Lovely as she is, your mistress and I don't mesh, so to speak. She just isn't my type. Furthermore the fact that you diverted the conversation so aggressively makes me suspect that perhaps I hit the mark. Also I am a great criminal, and you had best show some respect!" Ezekiel said in a mater of fact tone.
"And why should a criminal be afforded any respect?" Lorenzo countered, feeling slightly taken aback by Ezekiel's response.
"Of course you wouldn't respect a criminal. That's just crazy talk. A great criminal like myself on the other hand, should be regarded with the utmost respect, nay, reverence! For I am Ezekiel Cornatus!" Ezekiel proclaimed grandly,"Public enemy number... What was that number again?" Ezekiel sat back down to ponder, only to have Drasus interrupt his train of thought.
"You are number three hundred and sixty four on the Imperial wanted list" Lorenzo said blandly.
"THREE HUNDRED AND WH- Throne damn it! That is just disrespectful. Nay! It's a blatant insult is what it is! Those bastards in the Arbites are just trying to laugh at me! Well, we'll see how much they laugh when I steal a few Imperial Navy Cruisers. No! I'll steal a Battleship! That has to be worth something!" Ezekiel ranted angrily, prompting the normally stern Astartes to chuckle.
"Not so high and mighty as you thought you were, ay scum?" Lorenzo stated with a smile.
"Oh shut up! I take back what I said. You my friend clearly have a pair of cold, azure orbs between your legs. How else would you be so antisocial? Furthermore those hurtful comments of yours clearly stem from you being jealous! Jealous because I'm hot, and that armor makes your ass look fat!" Ezekiel retorted.
Lorenzo was surprized by the comment, having always kept himself in perfect condition, and thus turned around to inspect himself. This reaction prompted Ezekiel to fall to the floor laughing.
"Hahahaha. Y-You actually to-took that seriousl- hahah ha, seriously?Oh Throne! I ca-can't breath! Hahahahaha!" Ezekiel wheezed out between bouts of mirthful laughter.
At first Drasus was offended by Ezekiel laughing at him. Then he realized the ridiculousness of it all, and found himself laughing as well. This was a pleasant surprize for Lorenzo. He had always been around people who were grim, and driven by duty. He almost never saw any merriment amongst their ranks. He could not remember the last time he had genuinly laughed. However It seemed that their clamour woke up the sleeping Alicia.
"What's that racket!?" Alicia asked as she walked over to the two of them.
"Oh, we're just shooting the breeze milady!" Ezekiel replied in a playful manner.
"Well I would kindly ask that you stop that," said Alicia, "I would thank you to not infect my Acolyte with your dangerous ideas."
"Dangerous?" Ezekiel asked, "And what is so dangerous about me? Tell me something, you clearly looked at my file since you saw through my alias earlier. Have I really done that much damage? In fact despite embarrassing you all, and stealing some ships, equipment and personel, I actually did you guys some good back when I was Obidiah Vernon. I am your average outlaw, so why pay me any mind?"
"Average," Alicia repeated, "Well how about the death of Inquisitor Harlannon then? Killing an Inquisitor is a serious offense."
The cheeky smile vanished from Ezekiel's face. Lorenzo noticed that when Alicia mentioned Harlannon, Ezekiel twitched ever so slightly. Clearly the mention of the Inquisitor had bothered the outlaw. Drasus could not blame him. He had met with Harlannon long ago, before he had entered into the service of Alicia. He had suffered at Harlannon's hands, and thoughts of the Inquisitor brought a bad taste to his mouth. Still Ezekiel reaction did not last long, and the amused look returned to his face.
"Beg your pardon, but I don't believe you have any solid proof that it was me," Ezekiel responded in a cheeky fashion.
"Oh really?" Alicia responded with a sly look in her eye, "Funny, because he died at a prison complex you were being held at, in a prison riot that we have evidence that you started, and on the day of your scheduled execution no less. That is quite a coincidence"
"If I recall correctly said prison riot ended up disabling the surveilance equipment, so you can not prove that I had anything to do with Harlannons death. Now having said that I have no reason not to tell you that given the chance to have committed such an act on the honorable Inquisitor I would not have hesitated. While saying that I can not confirm nor deny that I had any knowledge or part in Harlannon's death. I can only say with certainty that my actions may, or may not have had a part in his demise. May he rest in the arms of the Emperor, or burn in the pit of the Warp. You may take the meaning of these statements either this way, or that way," Ezekiel said while gesturing to the right, then the left, "Which ever suits you."
Alicia face flushed red with anger. She did not like the casual way in which this cur seemed to address her, and she certainly did not like him making sport of her.
"Y-You dare to joke with me?!" she said loudly, "I am an Inquisitor of the Emperor Holy Inquisition! I have the authority to burn worlds! Show some respect. Furthermore it may be true that we can not undeniably prove that you killed him, but we of the Inquisition can punish on suspicion, and don't you forget it scum!"
Lorenzo watched his mistress as she made this proclamation. She had a brilliant mind and good looks, looking young as far as Inquisitors went. However sometimes this made people get the wrong impression about her. She was proud, and had a quick temper. She didn't back down when challenged, and people were often caught off guard by her ferocity. He looked to Ezekiel, expecting the outlaw to become submissive like everybody else did. To his surprize he saw Ezekiel stand up with anger burning in his eye. As Ezekiel walked up to Alicia, Lorenzo half drew his weapon.
"Don't I know it!" Ezekiel snarled, emphasizing every word, "Why do you think I'm here? Huh?! Tell me! I was initially charged by that power mad brute with heresy, and consorting with malevolent forces. He thought I was a Chaos worshipper! Do I look like one of them to you?! That bastard charged me with a crime a didn't commit on a suspicion, was going to execute me without trial, turned my best friend against me and was hunting me relentlessly ever since! He ruined my life! Let me tell you, I have a list of people whose souls I hope end up getting munched on by Daemons, and his name is damn near the top!"
Both Lorenzo and Alicia were stunned into silence. Ezekiel stomped back to his post, sat down and stared into the darkness in silence. Lorenzo was astonished. He had rarely ever heard someone talk so boldly to his mistress, and Ezekiel's sincere anger had gotten to him. Likewise Alicia seemed stunned. She stared at Ezekiel with bewildered eyes, opening and shutting her mouth. Likely trying to think of something to say. After a moment the anger on Ezekiel's face faded, leaving a slightly tired expression. He heaved a sigh.
"I apologize. A gentleman should never raise his voice to a lady regardless of the circumstances," Ezekiel said, " All the same could we perhaps drop the subject of that man ?"
"Yes," Alicia replied using a slightly gentler tone, " I suppose what has happened in the past has no bearing on our situation. However I still have reservations about working with you. Why should I even let you tag along?"
Me? Tag along? My dear I believe you are operating under a mistaken assumption," Ezekiel replied, acting as he normally did, " You need me even more than I need you. Let me break the situation down for you. Firstly this planet is under attack by the forces of the Ruinous Powers, Syrath to make matters worse. Furthermore he seems to have his eyes set on your pretty little head. You are being hunted, and I need to get off this Throne forsaken planet. You have the ability to acquire a means for me to return to my ship, and likely a few tricks to dealing with the forces of Chaos. These are valuable to me. You on the other hand are cut off from the majority of your forces, and are being chased by a Daemon. I have a long record of beating the odds, and I am an expert at eluding those that hunt me. These are skills that are essential to you right now. So I am going to get us to safety, and you are going to provide me with a way of this planet in return. Does that sound reasonable, because if it doesn't I could always leave you to fend for yourself and take my chances."
"Very well," Alicia sighed, "I'll let you go this once in return for your services, but you can bet that if I see you again after this I will have you killed."
Lorenzo was surprized. He had not expected his mistress to relent, but then he thought better of it. It was the smart thing to do. They had little chance of surviving without help in their situation. Likewise he felt that to a point Ezekiel had been bluffing. Despite his bravado Lorenzo doubted that he would do well in this situation without help. "Right, so we'll leave at first light."
"No, actually I think we'll leave now," replied Ezekiel.
"Why? Isn't it too dangerous to roam around in the dark?" inquired Lorenzo.
It ws true. With low visibility and the enemy on the move, traveling at night would be perilous.However Ezekiel felt an urgent need to leave. His skin was starting to itch. He had been the quarry of many fearsome foes, and he was well accustomed to being hunted. At times like these when there was danger hot on his heels he made it a policy not to stay in one place for too long. No matter how secure your hiding place was your enemy would eventually find it if they were determined. Drasus was looking at Ezekiel when he noticed a glimmer in the dark.
"Get down!" He shouted, and Ezekiel had only just ducked when the unmistakeable line of a Las Bolt passed over his head, singeing his hair.
"Throne damn it, I hate it when I'm right!" yelled Ezekiel as Rowlorn came with his Ripper Gun.
They got in position to defend themselves as shots from Auto weapons and Lasguns peppered their cover. Drasus was looking out into the darkness. He could only barely see their aggressors in the dark of the night. He could not tell how many of them there were, or how well equipped they had been. This was a bad situation. His first thought was to try and hold the enemy off so that Alicia could perhaps escape, but he quickly discarded this idea. She would not get far alone, so she was better off with him alive and with her. Though if he thought that his sacrifice would do any good he would not have hesitated.
Just then he caught a peculiar gleam in the darkness. Upon recognizing what it was he blanched. The enemy had brought a rocket launcher. He yelled to the others to tell them to get to cover, but he had not even finished when he heard the rocket ignite. The rocket headed straight for Alicia, who had been occupied and didn't react in time. Ezekiel tackled her to the ground just in time. The rocket struck somewhere behind them, explodinjg and showering them with debree. Ezekiel was on top of Alicia, shielding her from the blast. She looked up an saw that a sharp piece of shrapnel was buried in his shoulder.
"What?! Are you alright? You're wounded, ' she exclkaimed as she pushed him off of her.
Ezekiel growled as he pulled the shard out of his shoulder, and got up.
"I'm all right love," he replied with a hint of pain in his voice, "Just a flesh wound, but this is about to get messy."
Indeed for even as he spoke the enemy was drawing in on them. All four of them had been disoriented by the blast, and the heretics had used the opportunity to close the distance between them. Ezekiel, Alicia and Lorenzo all drew their swords, preparing for the melee to come while Rowlorn continued to blast his Ripper Gun into the oncoming enemy. The heretics jumped the over their cover, and the fight began. Ezekiel was pleased to see that their opponents were not Space Marine or Daemons, but the outlook still looked bleak.
They fought furiously against the Chaos worshipping scum. Their enemy outnumbered them, but they were the better warriors, and they took the lives of heretic after heretic. Regardless they were hopelessly outnumbered. Ezekiel got knocked against the wall by what he assumed was the leader of this group of savages. He was just about to cut Ezekiel in two when his head exploded, much to Ezekiel's surprize. Suddenly the heretics were being picked off one by one. They retreated in fear.
When they left he looked out into the darkness, and on the roof of a nearby building he saw two flashes of light. He smiled, as he knew who had saved them.
"What the Hell was that?" shouted Alicia.
"Oh, that was my friend the Eldar Ranger picking off these sheep who think they're wolves," Ezekiel replied with a fierce grin.
"You have an Eldar in your service?" Alicia replied.
"Yeah, and we should go meet her before we contiue," Ezekiel said as they rounded up their things.
He was glad to see Alereina. The Eldar Ranger had been a good ally of his for a while now, and there were few that he would rather trust his back to. He felt as if his fortunes were turning good, but he could not get too cocky and tempt fate. They had to get moving, and he prepared for the journey they awere about to take.
Syrath's patience was quickly ebbing away, and the beast no longer enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. He had heard numerous reports from his commanders that the battle was going extremely well. In fact, he was now standing within the Inner Hive himself. But the Saint of Chaos was still frustrated and angry. It had only been a few minutes since he had heard the news that Lord Coraks had been banished, against all odds, and that the Imperial Battlefleet was harrying his own armada of ships. The reinforcements the beast had been promised were yet to appear, and he was already weighing up his exit strategies. Syrath was, by no means, in the mood to hear more bad news.
"S-s-sir. T-t-the t-team y-you s-sent h-has... w-well... " a frightened looking cultist whimpered.
"SPIT IT OUT WRETCH!" the Saint of Chaos roared, in tremendous fury.
"W-w-well... t-they h-have... " the man gulped, before speaking quickly "failed to report back... "
At hearing these words, Syrath plunged one of his talons directly into the chest of the young man, before lifting his body into the air. A sickly smile spread across the beast's face, as he slowly began to disembowel his victim. The cultist did not react to this action, as the daemon's talon had crushed his heart, and thus the man was quite dead. The Saint of Chaos flung the lifeless corpse against the nearest wall, where it slowly slid down towards the ground.
"Gentlemen, it would appear that this fun little excursion has turned into a damned wild goose chase. Unless we receive reinforcements soon... our options are rather limited... " the great beast snarled, "however, I must honour my agreement, and so you will just have to double your efforts."
Syrath glared at his mortal subordinates with sheer disgust.
"And!" a sickly grin formed on Syrath's visage, "seeing how useless you have all proved to be... I have no choice but to unleash my favourite pet... "
"So, any news from the others?" Zeke immediately cut to the chase, directly questioning his ally.
"I spotted Shifty a few of days ago, he seemed to be dodging some hive gangs, not that far from here. Last time I saw Connery he was leading his men in arms against the enemy, and had taken charge of a rather sizable regiment of PDF troops. Haven't heard from either of them since," she reported to Ezekiel in an ominous tone.
"Ah... I see. Well, no problem. Both of them are survivors. I am confident that Shifty will keep out of trouble, and as for Jo... Well I imagine he'll be the one dishing out the trouble in such a scenario."
Alereina looked unblinkingly back at Ezekiel. In normal circumstances she would have doubted Ezekiel's statement, but she knew from personal experience just how fierce and resourceful the two men in question could be. "I understand, but what of Barael? I have yet to see him," Alereina asked.
At this Alicia stepped forward and said, "I assume that you are talking about the Astartes. When last we saw him he was fighting with Syrath. We had to leave him in order to escape. I am sorry, but take solace in the fact that without his sacrifice we would not have had time to escape."
Alereina turned quickly to Alicia with a bewildered look. She had only just rendezvoused with Ezekiel, and had yet to take stock of his additional company. Her eyes grew wide with shock upon seeing Alicia badge, and then icy cold. She placed her hands on the grip of her Shuriken pistol, which in turn caused Drasus to ready his weapon. She then spoke in a voice that contained the same ice that was in her eyes.
"And what are these Cornatus? Since when did you traffic with the dogs of the Inquisition? Or perhaps you have been caught?" she asked, all the while her body was tensed to kill.
The tension was almost palpable. A single bead of sweat rolled down Alicia's brow. This Eldar was dangerous, though when speaking of Eldar that goes without saying. Still, she did not like the odds if things turned violent, as it was 3 to 2. She was going over combat scenarios in her head when the tension was cut by Ezekiel's laughter.
"Hahahaha! That's a real good one missy! Not to mention you said it so seriously! Then again you don't know any better do you?"
Everyone quickly relaxed, though Alereina adopted a somewhat annoyed attitude. "She is an Inquisitor. Exactly how am I supposed to react in this situation?"
At this Ezekiel chuckled, and began to shake his head.
"No, no, no. I didn't mean you. Mind you, you did have the wrong idea. The Inquisitor is cool. What I was laughing at was her comment. She thinks that Barael is dead! of course she doesn't know Barael like we do, so she can't help it", Ezekiel replied. and at his Alereina briefly cracked a grin, but it left her face so quickly that Drasus thought he might have imagined it.
Alicia, somewhat surprised asked, "So you think that Astartes survived a duel with Syrath? You're cracked! For some nameless Astartes to survive against such a monstrosity is practically impossible. besides we saw Syrath come after us. that could only mean that your friend had already been vanquished."
At this Ezekiel chuckled a bit more, and then replied, "Don't get me wrong. I am certain that he didn't beat that monster, but trust me when I say that I put Barael's chances of survival in such dire circumstances are well above my own. Frankly it would be a bit of a relief if he was dead. Then Barael would finally rest in peace, and I wouldn't have to keep looking over my shoulder. However I am sure that neither he nor I has such good fortune."
This response bewildered alicia somewhat, but she let it pass. There were more important matters at hand. "So what is our next move?"
"For starters I would say getting the hell out of here! While I hope they were dumb enough not to have called in our position, I am not risking my skin to find out!", Ezekiel stated.
"Then we head up to the Spires", Drasus added, "Since there is a good chance that there will be transport up there."
"There is more than that",Alereina added.
"What do you mean?" Alicia Asked.
"From what I have seen the remainder of the Imperial Forces are holding the Spires", she said cooly, "It seems that the they are defending the nobles that were unable to escape before the Daemon closed his snare."
"The lucky ones" Alicia added, which garnered the confused looks of the rest of the group. "Syrath wasn't sloppy. all of the transports that took off were shot down. The ones that couldn't get off the Spire are the lucky ones. The others are dead", She stated ominously.
"Well no matter. We have to get up there. From there I can order my ships to open a path for us. We should be a bit more successful than the nobles", Ezekiel stated optimistically. "Assuming we make it there of course."
"There is another variable at play here", Alereina cut in. "I saw some of my kind among the ruins earlier."
"The Eldar!?" Alicia exclaimed. "Could they be trying to attack us while we are vulnerable. Or perhaps Syrath is their target."
"No", Alereina replied. "They were too few, and oddly mixed. If they were scouts for an attack force there would have been more of them, and they would have been more uniform. I saw two Aspect Warriors and a Ranger. An odd combination."
"Then what?", Ezekiel asked.
"From what I saw I think they were tracking something"
Ezekiel paused for a moment. "You don't think they work for 'him', do you?"
Alereina scowled visibly at this question. "I do not believe so. I saw no indication that they serve that one, but if they are the servants of that twisted serpent, then I would regret that I did not kill them."
This gave Ezekiel another bad feeling. He had become for more open minded about the Eldar after having had dealings with Alereina, and her Craftworld. Yet he could not shake the unease. He still remembered that a certain Farseer had sworn vengeance upon him. All of this only increased his urge to flee as soon as possible.
"We'll cross that bridge when, and if we come to it. For now we have to get going as quickly as possible."
"This is a massive waste of my time", Edward muttered to himself. He had been inside the Rhino driving around for hours. The only reprieve coming when he had to fight. He was beginning to grow frustrated with their current task. That being to hunt down the Stone for Grim. However that had proven to be most troublesome.
David, Frad, a small team of Grim's personal troops, and Edward had been driving around for the better part of the last twenty four hours searching for an outlaw named Cornatus. According to Grim's sources this criminal had been the last known person to possess the stone. Now this criminal was supposed to be here, and it was his job to find him. Fat chance of that.
He had been in contact with Grim's Eldar allies, who were likewise searching for this deviant, but they were having difficulty as well. Who could blame them? This Cornatus had spent his life dodging pursuit, but even then the real problem was their hunting grounds. It would have been far easier to track a target through wilderness, but this was an urban warzone.
There were no footprints, or broken twigs to show that someone had passed through an area. Thus one could only hope to get lucky by speculating on how his quarry would move, and trying to get what information one could from disjointed battle intelligence that occurred during a losing battle. Furthermore he had to deal with hostiles as he went, making thing even harder. They couldn't even go through their planned route most times. Demolished buildings, ruined roads and destroyed bridges were all too common, and they found themselves constantly having to reroute.
Then there was the condition of what they sought. For all they knew the enemy had already caught this Cornatus, and had the stone in hand. Cornatus could have gotten off world, or he could have been killed and the stone could have been looted by thieves who knew not its worth. For all Edward knew the stone could be buried under piles of rubble. Had Grim told him to charge headfirst into a swarm of Tyranids Edward would not have so much as blinked, but this was looking like a wild goose chase. Still he occasionally got a call from the Eldar telling him to head in a particular direction. Clearly they were tracking the stone through some eldritch methods.
He looked over at David, who was listening over the Vox channels, hoping to catch something useful perhaps. "Anything worth hearing?'" Edward asked gruffly. "Not so far. No real news unless you were unaware that our side has been getting its ass kicked", The Cadian replied. "Our side?" Edward asked, with mild amusement. He and the Cadian had long since been serving a different nation, one just outside the Imperium's watchful eyes. "You know what I mean. I have been fighting for the Imperium for a long time, and so have you. It isn't the fault of the people here, or the Guardsmen that they are being run by a bunch of knuckle dragging twats. It's hard not to think of them as my people, you know?"
Edward understood. He had spent a few human lifetimes fighting for, and protecting the Imperium. He was devoted to Doris, and his vision for a better, more prosperous empire, but he still fealt old loyalties towards the Imperium. He had long since realized how backwards the Imperium had become, but he could not help feeling a sense of attachment to it. The Imperium had been his whole life, and he still felt protective of it at times.
"Oh ho!", David exclaimed, "This is interesting!". Edward looked up. "What is it? Any actual news?" Edward asked. "Not sure. Don't know what to make of it, but it's not military, and it's not a distress call" David replied. "Well then spit it out! What is it?" Frad piped in. "Someone on the other end of this channel is having a rather heated debate about pastries" David replied. "Pastries?!" Edward exclaimed, "In this warzone? even the nobles should be scared out of their minds by now. What sort of daft fool would be going on about such a thing?"
"We're about to find out. Someone on the other channel just connected with us. So shush! Hello? This is Sergeant David Yursop. Who is this? ... You say your name is Drasus?"
"Rilliman's fruit tarte. That's all I am saying".
The comment got a smirk from Alicia. The group had found a vehicle, and were now traveling to the nearest elevator to the next level. So far it had been an uneventful trip. The area was eerily quite. Likely Syrath's forces had finished with the area, and had moved on. Regardless of the reason the group had found itself on a long car ride with nothing to do. So now Ezekiel, Alicia and Lorenzo were sitting in a large storage container that was attached to a shipping truck. Rowlord was driving the truck, and Alereina was had taken shotgun so that her keen eyes could help spot any trouble.
So with little to do they tried to find ways to keep themselves stimulated. Drasus sat apart, tinkering with something that he had picked up. This left Ezekiel and Alicia to fend for themselves. When they had started talking it had been tense, and more like an interrogation from Ezekiel's point of view. However Alicia finally loosened up, and the conversation had become more normal. Eventually they worked their way up to a debate about the best baked goods they had encountered.
"You mean the one that they sell at Hive Groga on Virkitch IV?" Alicia asked with a smirk, "You can actually stand to eat that cheap garbage?"
"Garbage?! I am sorry it isn't up to your standards princess, but that is some good stuff."
"Kindly don't refer to me as princess. I have spent some weeks on Guard rations before while doing my job for your information. I can call it garbage because unlike you it seems I actually have taste. Now if you want real baked goods I was treated to some Ceramin Jewel Cake that was simply divine while attending a party a Lord Vastos' manor. The man had such good taste. It was a shame he was a Daemon worshipping heretic."
"Lovely. So you thank the man for the cake, and then execute him" Ezekiel replied.
At this Alicia smiled. "Indeed, and I liked Vastos up until I figured out he was a heretic. Imagine what I would do to someone I don't like".
"Aww! Does that mean you don't like me? Here I was thinking I had earned some brownie points. Speaking of brownies, I have had Ceramin Jewel cake before. It's all right, but there is no way it beats some brownies I had in Hive Malagia's Underhive courtesy of Mama Scarhand."
"delicious brownies in an Underhive? I find that hard to believe. Furthermore who is Mama Scarhand?" Alicia asked with a disbelieving look.
"Mama is someone who you don't want to meet. Generally it means you're in serious trouble. Secondly despite her skill at causing extreme discomfort to those who cross her, she is also damn near the best baker that I have yet to come across. Also I got the impression that she added narcotics to the brownies. Mind you those don't hit me like they used to, and the brownies were good none the less."
"A shame I never intend to meet this lady, and try her goods" Alicia replied sarcastically.
"Maybe you would if you could get off your high horse I... On that note what the hell is a horse? I have heard that saying all the time, but I never figured out what a horse is."
"From what I understand it is some form of animal that originated on Holy Terra. I have never seen one either. Anyway you were saying?" Alicia Responded.
"Oh yes! If you would get off your high horse (whatever that is), you may find yourself learning things you can't even as part of the Inquisition. I have seen and done things that you wouldn't believe!"
"I am quite fine with how things are. Trust me I have knowledge that would drop your jaw in a heartbeat. Some of it I wish I didn't know."
Ezekiel paused for a moment and then scratched his chin. "Yeah well... Hey, what is he doing over there?" Ezekiel asked as he gestured to Drasus. Drasus was currently sitting in the corner mumbling into the device he had been tinkering with. Ezekiel approached, and placed a hand on Drasus' shoulder. Drasus visibly jumped when Ezekiel did this. "What are you up to?"
"Well... that is... I'm just talking to myself" Drasus stated nervously. Ezekiel looked over his shoulder at the device, which now had noise coming out of it. He was startled when he recognized it. "Is that a Vox Castor? Did you actually get that thing working?" he shouted.
"Damn right he did!" said a voice from the device, "Who is this?" At that Alicia came over with anticipation in her eyes. She flipped a switch on the Castor and suddenly everyone could hear it in the compartment. "This is Inquisitor Alicia Trallan. Who is this?"
"Trallan?!" exclaimed the voice on the other side. "We thought you were dead. Hold on, I'll put my commanding officer on". There was some noise on the other end, and then a gruff voice came on. "Hello? This is Edward Oromo, representing Lord Grim Doris. Am I really speaking to Inquisitor Trallan?"
"You are Grim's men?!" Alicia asked excitedly. " Excellent! You can render assistance. Can you come pick us up?"
At this Ezekiel piped in. "Whoa, whoa, whoa there! Am I to understand that there is a second Inquisitor involved in this? Why should I trust him?"
"Who is that?" Asked Edward from the other line.
Alicia turned angrily to Ezekiel. "Shut it Cornatus! I need t-"
"WAIT!" came the voice from the other side. "Did you just say Cornatus?"
"Yes" Alicia replied. " I ma currently in the company of a low-life by that name."
"We will render assistance immediately Inquisitor. Give us your position"
"Now hold on one second!" Ezekiel shouted. "You want to give our position to the men of another Inquisitor? The fact that I am tolerating your company is enough of a miracle for one week. You expect me to trust this Doris not to string me up once you're safe and sound?"
"Now Listen here!" Alicia retorted, but was cut off by Edward.
"Put him on!" the voice on the other side barked.
Ezekiel grabbed the receiver and placed it toward his ear. "Hello?"
"Listen if you want I can personally guarantee your safety. We're..." At this Edward stopped. If the criminal still had the stone he might not know its significance. If that was the case it would probably be advantageous to keep him in the dark. "Very concerned over Inquisitor Trallan's safety. Your efforts in keeping her alive will most definitely mean something to my master. So give us your location, and we will rescue you from your current plight."
Ezekiel stood in silence for a moment. This could be an easy way out of his current predicament. He was certainly looking for one. Then he remembered Edwards reaction to his name. Why did this Edward know him, and why did his tune change so fast when he heard Ezekiel's name? Ezekiel came to the conclusion that this way out was a little too easy.
"No deal" Ezekiel stated as he turned off the Vox Castor.
What are you doing?!" Alicia shouted.
"It is way too convenient, and besides there is no way I am putting any amount of faith in two Inquisitors in one day" Ezekiel retorted.
"You don't have a choice! I am contacting them and giving them our coordinates!"
Alicia reached for the Vox Castor, but stopped when she heard a click. Ezekiel whipped out his Bolt Pistol, and fired three shots into the Vox Castor. The device was utterly destroyed. Both Alicia, and Drasus drew their weapons.
"What have you done?!" Alicia asked wildly.
"Ensured my continuing survival" Ezekiel Replied grimly.
"I am sorry mistress" Drasus said. " I was hiding the device because i was worried that this would happen.
"You were right to do so" Alicia stated heatedly, and then pointed her weapon at Ezekiel. "Give me one reason why i shouldn't kill you for that!"
"Because now I really am your only way out of this princess" Ezekiel stated flatly.
Alicia's eyes flashed with rage. They stood utterly still for a moment. The tension was palpable. Finally Alicia heaved as sigh, and lowered her weapon. Her good judgment beat out her fury. Cornatus was right. Killing him now would only hurt her in this circumstance.
"You get to live for now," Alicia spoke through gritted teeth as she glared at Ezekiel.
"Child damn it!" Edward shouted as he slammed his fist into the wall of the Rhino. He had been so close. If he had just gotten that Criminal to tell him where he was! then he could have retrieved the stone, and seen the last of this frustrating planet. However his quarry had not been as desperate as he had thought, or maybe he was too desperate. Either way the hunt went on.
"I take it he didn't take the deal?" Frad asked.
"No. he didn't"
Edward was angry. This Ezekiel Cornatus had temporarily jumped to the top of the list of people he hated. When he found him there was a Bolt with the name Cornatus on it. Edward contemplated how he was going to punish the criminal when he reverie was cut short by a loud banging on the side of the Rhino.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and readied their weapons. Once again there was a set of three bangs on the side of their vehicle. "I'll go take a look" Edward said. He opened a hatch a peered down to see what was happening. he scanned the roofs of nearby buildings first. this could be some ploy to get him to stick his head out for a sniper. When no shot came he looked down.
An Astartes was there knocking on the Rhino. At first Edward thought that it might have been a Chaos worshipping traitor, but then the Marine spoke.
"Hello brother. Might I ask a favor?"
This caught Edward by surprise, and he just barely stopped himself from pulling the trigger of the Bolter he had aimed at the Marine. He took a good long look at this curious specimen. The marine wore black armor. Furthermore it was in an archaic configuration. At first he thought that it might have been Artificer armor, but on closer inspection he saw that the armor was in poor condition, with numerous sloppy patch jobs all over.
"Your armor... it is such a old version. Furthermore it is in such disrepair. Most unusual brother."
The Space Marine chuckled. "I am old fashioned, and I have been held in poor regard with my Chapters Techmarines as of late. Regardless. I am Sergeant Barael. I have lost my lord. Beyond that I can not tell you much more. would you be willing to give me a ride?"
Edward considered for a moment. This could be a trick, but he would feel bad to leave a fellow Marine stranded in some warzone. Besides having another warrior would only be beneficial in this situation.
"Very well. Come aboard brother, but you will have to carry your own weight."
"All well and good. We should head for the Spire" Barael stated. "I imagine that is where my lord is headed.
"Fine" Edward said. Most likely that was where Cornatus was headed as well.
"I am Edward. Welcome to my hunting party brother Barael"
"Where the fuck are we, sir?" the private asked. he was bordering on panic, and who could blame him.
Sergeant Vorril surveyed the surroundings. His Imperial Guard squad had been separated from the rest of the force. They were currently running, and hiding through the ruins. No doubt they were well behind enemy lines. Luckily the Sergeant was an old pro, and he had managed to keep his squad alive so far.
"I can't be sure, but we have to be nearing the elevator. Keep your head on straight Guardsmen!"
"There's no way. It's pointless! we're all going to die!" The private shouted Despairingly.
Next thing he knew he had his sergeant's boot in his face. That kind of talk was dangerous. Morale was bad as it was, but if the men lost all hope then they were done for.
"You die when I give permission Guardsmen! Not a second before!"
Suddenly a roar split the night. All of the guardsmen present stopped to listen.
"W-what was that?!" the private stuttered out while wiping blood from his nose.
"Not sure. Keep your wits about you men!" The Vorril commanded.
Suddenly a great figure was upon then. It roared, and bared its claws. The true form of the monster was shrouded by some form of veil. Yet simply looking at it inspired some kind of primordial fear in Vorril's gut. It began to slaughter the soldiers. Soon Vorril was all that was left, wounded and backed into a corner.
"Oh Throne! Oh Throne what the fuck is it!? Emperor save me!"
These were the sergeant's lasts words as the beasts jaws ripped both reality and his body to shreds. It then turned to leave. It had been given an order. It had another meal to find.
"Well, boys and girls," barked Rowlorn, aiming to difuse the tension, "looks like this is the end of our ride!"
The small military transporter ground slowly to a halt as it reached the central structure of the Hive City. It was akin to the trunk of an ancient tree, a central column that penetrated every tier of the hive. From the depths of collapsed settlements and the compressed buildings of the Underhive to the majestic domain of the noble houses and the magnificent feat of engineering that all Hive Cities shared, the Spire. There were of course many other stilts, buttresses and stairways that propped the layers of the Hive upon one and other, but this central column was the very heart of the superstructure. It was at least one and a half kilometers in diamater, as each new layer utilised it as the basis for construction for the next and they had found but a fraction of the circumference, at the end of a derelict road.
The quintet exited the vehicle and began to look for an entrance into the central construct. As they left, Ezekiel decided it was a obviously a good idea to destroy the transporter and proceded to loose off several bolt shells into the fuel tank. It promptly set fire, but failed to explode, much to Zeke's annoyance.
Alicia sighed, "Mr Cornatus, I hardly think that was necessary."
"I didn't like the idea of it falling into enemy hands," he cheekily replied with an feeble excuse. In reality he just wanted an excuse to destroy the vehicle along with any trace of the ruined vox-castor it harboured.
Lorenzo was the first to approach the metal core, and began tapping at it carefully, as he tried to discern where a hatchway may be located. Aleriana saw what he was doing and decided to follow suit, hoping her superior senses would benefit this endeavour. But all the pair of them could hear was the solid thump of thick reinforced plasteel enmeshed with ceramite. The core had to be able to survive the worst impacts that both the environment and potential warfare could throw at it. Ralun II had once been the vast hub of trade, but the system it occupied had wearied as the Imperium mined it dry of all valuable resources. It was but a distant echo of it's forward self, a slow backwater, doomed to eventually fall from the attentions of the Administratum into bleak obscurity.
"It could take hours before we found a way in," replied Lorenzo
"I have to agree with the Acolyte," Aleriana added, "all I can hear is the reverberation of sound waves through a solid medium, without any gaps. I doubt many entrances exist within such a reinforced construct."
A look of concern came over Ezekiel's face, one that was almost mirrored by Alicia. Neither of them were fond of the idea of being trapped.
Alicia turned and glowered at him, before speaking scathingly, "Terrific, trapped and without transportation. Any more bright ideas?"
Ezekiel shrank slightly as he felt that the steely glare of the Inquisitor was probing his mind. Uncomfortable with the situation he grabbed Rowlorn and promptly ran over to join the others in their attempt to find an entrance.
"Lorenzo, Aleriana!" he cooed, "both of you seem to know how this is done, procede around in opposite directions and see what you can find. Shout us over if you discover a loose panel or maintenance hatch. The quicker we are in there, the better."
Ezekiel had realised the heavy armour plating would be a welcome barrier between him and any agents of Syrath that were still hunting the group.
"Understood," they replied in unison.
"Now, umm... Rowlorn, old buddy," he gestured at the mutant, "you stay with the Inquisitor and keep a look out for trouble."
"Got'cha boss," he grunted.
"And what about yourself?" questioned an unimpressed Alicia.
"Oh me, I'm going to enjoy a nice little sprint, test my luck and see if I can find an entrance by chance," he rapidly relayed to Trallan before running off around the structure, passing by Lorenzo as he went.
The Inquisitor sighed again, it was hardly an efficient system. She and her new guardian turned around to take up defensive positions beside the burned out vehicle.
They waited for fifteen minutes, all the time hearing the reassuring tappings of their allies systematically looking for an entry point. That was until they heard a loud noise emanate from the direction the criminal had vanished off to. It was a rather shrill scream of joy promptly followed by an extremely loud bellow.
The voice echoed repeatedly in the densely built up urban jungle, that the surrounded the centre of the hive.
However, just before they set off to join Ezekiel, Rowlorn forced Alicia to the ground, with his left hand placed firmly over her mouth.
"Shhh... " he quietly cautioned, "I just saw something over by that hab block."
She tried to get up to check it our for herself, but his enlarged frame allowed the mutant to keep her subdued.
"Stay down," Rowlorn whispered, sounding tense, "I'll take a quick look."
The gentle giant moved his head over to the edge of the driver's cab and briefly shot it up to check what it was he had just seen. His head was safely obscured in an instant, but Alicia could tell he was visibly shaken. All that he had seen in the shadows of the buildings were a pair of piercing phosphoric eyes, that seemed to violate his very soul.
He barely gasped the words, "Ma'am, I think we should... "
"RUN!" yelled the Inquisitor as she heard the sound of unearthly footsteps approaching, "FOR THE LOVE OF THE GOD-EMPEROR, RUN!"
A Rhino trundled down a deserted roadway, following the most direct route to an access elevator to the higher levels of the Hive. They had already climbed up a significant distance, utilising fallen segments of hive city as a means of accessing higher levels, but the closer they came to the Inner Hive, the less damaged the structure proved to be. They had resorted to having to find more official means of ascension but even a Rhino had limitations to the gradients it could handle.
And while vehicle lifts were becoming rarer as they continued a steady ascent, Barael noted that at this rate they would reach the spire in less than 12 hours.
People running everywhere could be seen aboard the Shadow of Judgment doing various jobs after the recent battle on board said vessel. Medics were rushing back and forth to tend to the injured. Engineer crews were frantically checking the ship's systems. And squads of WS troopers were running everywhere checking for any other signs of enemy forces on the Black Ship.
Walking towards the ship's bridge at a fast pace was Grim Doris, who had recovered from his fight with Coraks. However he was bandaged greatly from the battle though most of his wounds had already healed, his left arm was still badly wounded and was wrapped in bandages and had a broken bone though Grim used his psychic powers to lower the pain and speed up the healing process. He also had bandages wrapped around his head and he had a nasty wound on his chest which was slowly healing, though leave a scar, along with other various minor wounds. Behind him were Sivia, his foster daughter, Shas'vre, a Tau Pathfinder from the Me'Ta Sept, and Cel-ik.
"Father please you must rest!" Sivia said to Grim, worry in her voice. "You're no use to us half dead!" She pleaded.
"There is no time for that Sivia!" Grim retorted without turning around. "Syrath is most certainly after the stone and allowing him to gain a possible lead on me in finding it is something I cannot allow. Also he'll know that his champion is gone back into the Warp he'll become more desperate and enraged, and they'll be no telling what he will do!"
Grim then spoke to Cel-ik. "Cel-ik contact Richard, tell him to prepare that and have it be ready in two hours, less if he can!" Grim said to his oldest friend.
The Lexmechanic didn't show it, but he was shocked by the order. "But Lord Grim! That is just a prototype, we don't know if it will even work! And even if it does the psychic shockwave might also harm-"
"We have no choice!" Grim roared as he spun around to face the Lexmechanic. "As I said Syrath will act quickly to destroy the planet now that one of his champions has been defeated and to find the stone faster. The psychic-shell missile from the project is not fully stable I know but its our best bet of destroying the daemons down on the planet." He turned around and kept walking but continued speaking. "But I agree that its risky to use it on a human populated planet so we'll fire on a position where there are less humans but hopefully more daemons."
Cel-ik still did not feel comfortable but didn't argue and sped off to deliver the orders. "Shas'vre I want you to take command of the security to make sure we aren't attacked again. And have Ori and Borak scan the ship to make sure no unwelcome guests are still onboard" Grim said to the Tau.
"Yes sir" Shas'vre said and ran off, leaving only Grim and Sivia as the two arrived at the bridge. Officers were hard at work to keep control of the vessel and establish communication with their other forces. Shouting out orders was Lersi Ferish having taken command during Grim's recuperation. He did however noticed said man entering the room. "Grim! Didn't expect you to be up so quickly after your little run in with that daemon monstrosity. We just established communications and Ed has been trying to contact us." Lersi said as he moved to the side for Grim.
"We'll inform him soon." Grim responded. "What is his team's status and what of Alur's team?" Grim asked getting straight to the matter at hand.
Lersi sighed. "Well the that Syrath bastard's forces are making a muck of communications down there but we managed to establish communication with the two though it gets fuzzy now and then. Ed's team is moving slowly towards the spire with an odd marine according to Ed. We received word from Alur whose in the city and reported where the stone was last seen in the hands of a man named Cornatus. Also apparently Inquisitor Alicia and her Astarte somehow joined him. We almost had establish communication with them through Edward but that bastard Cornatus cut us off before we could get a fix on his location..."
"Damn it!" Grim roared. He had heard about this Cornatus person, somehow getting involved with another Inquisitor but Grim never really paid any attention to that. But it seems like this Cornatus had a habit of being the center of attention. "Wait odd marine? What did Edward mean by that?" Grim asked, remembering Lersi's words.
Lersi shrugged. "According to Ed, his team ran into an Adeptus Astarte and it wasn't a Chaos Marine. Though Ed said that the marine's armor was so badly done that Ed nearly thought he was a Chaos Marine. So he took the marine with him."
"Fine but have Edward keep an eye on him." Grim said. "What is Alur doing?"
"The Eldar's team are still following them at a steady pace but apparently Cornatus has an Eldar friend with him too. She most likely spotted Alur's team and told Cornatus. But besides that their having trouble due to..." Lersi paused.
Grim raised an eyebrow when he noticed Lersi's hesitation. "Due to what?"
"Well Alur said that something else is in that city, chasing Inquisitor Alicia's group. A daemon they think and they described it as "A Warp Terror I have never seen before" basically something out of a nightmare to be exact."
Grim's eyes widened as he understood what Lersi was saying. Even now as he calmed down he could sense something evil down below near Alur's position. Realizing how serious the situation has become Grim began issuing orders. "Send several transports down to the planet where Edward is and pick them up. Sivia you and I will be leading them." Grim said to his foster daughter, earning a nod from her. "Then have the flyers take to them to the city and retrieve the stone...and Inquisitor Alicia too and if necessary that Cornatus fellow as well. Alur's team should continue shadowing that group but avoid contact with them and whatever else is down there. Tell them only to retreat if they have no choice or when the stone is recovered." Grim ordered.
"Got it boss." Lersi replied.