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Deathpriest Ky'ren shrugged his massive shoulders, loosening the muscles in preparation for the fight to come. He stood, unarmored and barechested, inside the training cage of the Strike Cruiser Ice Wraith facing his opponent, Sal'cir, who was similarly dressed. The air was cold inside the ship, almost freezing, and the breath of the two Space Marines left their mouths in misty clouds as they raised their weapons into a fight stance. While the temperature might have been considered to be frigid for a normal human, but Ky'ren and his battle- brother were hardly normal. To them, the temperature was almost comforting, an ever present reminder of their birthplace, the frozen wastes of Stygia. Ky'ren and Sal'cir slowly circled one another, feeling the hard stone of training cage underneath their bare feet. Neither opponent took his eyes off the other, eying each other like a pair of predators, taking in each other's strengths and weaknesses with eyes that were even colder and harder than the stone floor upon which they stood. Neither Space Marine spoke, neither moved.
Sal'cir made the first move, striking out with the suddenness of a serpent. His weapon, a short- bladed sword, slashed towards Ky'ren's throat. Ky'ren simply leaned back slightly, allowing the blade to miss him by a hairsbreadth, and delivered a strike of his own with his weapon, a one- handed axe. His weapon arced towards Sai'cir, only to be intercepted by a solid parry. Sal'cir, blocking the blow entirely, forced Ky'ren's axe upwards with his own blade, leaving him open to a counter-attack. Ky'ren jumped backwards, disengaging the locked blades, and then lept forward towards Sal'cir, his axe leading the way. Sal'cir sidestepped, letting him rush straight past him. Ky'ren spun around immediately, wary of an attack at his unprotected back. The two Space Marines faced each other once more, weapons up, slowly circling each other again.
"You're favoring your right side." said Ky'ren, his frozen breath wafting up towards the ceiling.
"And you are leaning to much on your left foot." replied Sal'cir, gripping his sword with both hands.
"Well spotted." admited Ky'ren, with a hint of a smile in his voice. "Shall we go again?"
"Whenever your ready, Varsen."
Ky'ren almost smiled at the remark. Varsen was a phrase the Stygian native tongue. It translated to "elder" in gothic, Sal'cir was obviously trying to taunt him. While it was true, the Deathpriest was older than Sal'cir by a few centuries, that only meant that Ky'ren had more experience under his belt.
"Just try to keep up." said Ky'ren, and the Space Marine resumed his attack.
The two fought for hours, the clashing of their weapons echoing throughout the spacious training hall, their footfalls slapping against the cold stone of the floor. Ky'ren and Sal'cir attacked and countered, striking and dodging in an strangely elegant dance of blades and footwork. But even as the minutes dragged on the two Space Marines matched each other blow for blow, stance for stance. Ky'ren could have ended the battle at any time, but the whole point of the practice duel was to test each others abilities, and the Deathpriest planned to do exactly that. Their sparing continued until Sal'cir lunged forward, slightly overextending himself. Ky'ren, sensing victory, knocked Sal'cir's sword out of his hand a clang of metal on metal.
The rough clap of cermite on stone suddenly interrupted his moment of triumph, as War Commander Xe'rak strode out of the darkness. Fully armored in his artificer plate, decorated with various Kill- Trophies, Jas'var was an intimidating sight even to other Lindwyrms, a testament to the War Commander's prowess in the field. Holding his helmet in the crook of his arm, Jas'var glanced up at Ky'ren, his features as hard and unforgiving as granite.
"Might I ask what you are doing, Deathpriest?" Xe'rak's gravely voiced echoed throughout the spacious training hall.
"Disciplining the younger generations." replied Ky'ren, with a look towards the shamefaced Sal'cir. "What do you want?"
"We've recieved a vox message from another Chapter, the Skull Hunters. They've requested our aid in taking back a Hive World known as Cydax."
"...and you want me to be their when you meet them." said Ky'ren, finishing the War Commander's sentance.
Xe'rak nodded. "Get your armor on, we dock at their battle barge in ten minutes."
Captain Ardas of the Skull Hunters stood on bridge of his Battle-Barge the Void Hunter, awaiting the arrival of the Lindwyrms. Once again he prayed to the Emperor himself that they weren't another biased group of zealots like the Ultramarines. Ardas mentally grimaced, remembering the time he met the Ultramarines Captain. The encounter hadn't exactly gone well, in fact the two chapters had nearly come to blows. Needless to say, he wasn't exactly glad he required assistance.
Ardas glanced around quickly to make sure everyone was present. Around him stood the commanding officers of the Skull Hunters 3rd Company, Apothecary Zevin stood to his left, his white power armor deeply contrasting with the red of Ardas' plate. Espitolary Gormeln on his right, his head nesltled in his psychic hood, his blue armor making him stand out predominately among his red-armored brothers. Last but certainly not least was Company Champion Dekalen, who restlessly fingered the hilt of his power sword, his warrior soul yearning for battle. Ardas suddenly wished that Chaplain Gustor had accompanied them, seeing as the old veteran's silver tounge would have been incredibly helpful in this situation. Too late now, thought the Captain, as the bridge doors opened to reveal the several Space Marines, wearing the ash grey and frost blue colors of the Lindwyrms.
The first thing Ardas noticed was the trophies. Mounted on or hanging off of their armor were ears, vertabre, bones, skulls, pelts and even hides of various enemies now long-dead. Tally marks were etched in there armor in various places, some seared into the ceramite with acid, others looking like they had been etched in with the tip of a combat knife. The Lindwyrms were walking trophy rooms, testaments to the foes they a had fought and bested over their many battles. Ardas liked them immediately.
The Space Marine leading the group was perhaps the most fearsome of all, boasting a the skull of the biggest ork Ardas had ever seen strapped to one shoulder plate. His helmet, which he carried in the crook of his arm, had been forged into the visage of some sort of dragon-like creature, and no doubt would have looked terrifying while worn. The Lindwyrm looked at Ardas with silent appraisal, as if he was evaluating Ardas.
"You are War Commander Xe'rak?" asked Ardas, unsure of how to proceed.
"I am." said the lead Linwrym. "I am commander of the 5th Company, and next to me stands Deathpriest Ky'ren and Warscribe Epistolary Tsa'rei." Xe'rak gestured to the Space Marines to his left and right. One wore the black armor of a Chaplain, his skull faced-helm and crozius mag-locked to his belt. The Deathpriest also boasted a necklace of finger bones that might have once belonged to eldar. The other, most likely the Warscribe, had the same grey armor as the rest, but wore a ice blue robe over his armor. Like Gormeln, he wore a psychic hood, and sheathed at his waist was a force sword of impressive length.
Ardas proceeded to introduce his fellow Skull Hunters before getting rioght to the point.
"We need your help." said Ardas, almost embarassed by by the fact.
Xe'rak nodded. "We figured that out, but what exactly do you need our help for?"
Direct and to the point, Ardas liked that. "Every heard of a Chaos Warband known as the Archfiends?"
"Rumors and reports." said Xe'rak. "Nothing more."
Ardas nodded in return. "So did we, until about three weeks ago when the Hive World of Cydax sent out a distress signal. We came to the planet only to find millions of Chaos Cultists swarming over it, and at first we thought they were the threat, but then...." The Skull Hunter grimaced. "We were abushed by a whole company's worth of Chaos Space Marines. As it turned out they were the guiding hand behind the cultists all along. We lost nearly half the company, including our Chaplain. Now we no longer have the proper numbers to sustain this fight, and my brothers are being slaughtered on the planet below."
"I see." replied the War Commander, considring these implications. "I have a full comapany of battle-brothers at my back, and our forces are at your disposal."
"Glad to hear it." said Ardas. "The way I see it, we are going to need all the help we can get."
Krayas Grendal, Champion of the Archfiends, strode through the streets of Cydax, reveling in the carnage he had created. All around him, the bodies of civilians and PDF guardsmen alike carpeted the ground, their spilt blood pooling around Grendal's feet and dripping from his bare hands. The sweet sounds of death and despair rang through the smog-choked skies, bringing a smile to his lips. He wore no helmet, and thus could practicaly taste the blood he spilt. It was glorious, all of it. Aren't you forgetting something? Whispered a voice that echoed through the Chaos Space Marine's concious. Grendal's grin split even wider, revealing a mouth of teeth that were too long and sharp to be natural.
It is time? He thought back. Yesssss... Replied the voice, it's tone edged with unholy malice. The Warp is opening...soon...sssssooooon. Grendal suddenly heard a familiar noise, the sound of a bolter being fired... Grendal tried to dodge, but not fast enough, as the bolt round gazed the side of his head, the mass-reactive round detonating in his face. All around him, a trio of red-armored Space Marines, their pauldrons bearing the cursed skull-and-dagger symbol, leaped from their hiding places, intent on finishing him. Grendal slowly turned towards them, his face a charred ruin, and began to laugh. In front of the loyalist's very eyes, his shattered skull began to re-knit itself, his ruptured eyes flowing back into their sockets, his charred skin re-growing. Soon, Grendal stood before them, completely unblemished, not even a scar remaining.
"That," he said, dagger-like teeth bared in a feral smile. "Was a close one."
Grendal closed his eyes, allowing his inner voice to take control. The daemon's power surged through his body and mind, molding it like a lump of clay. His body swelled in size, teeth lengthening into full-blown fangs, nails bursting from his gauntlets and they transformed into claws. His power armor warped and twisted, the ceramite becoming one with his skin, as hooked bone spines sprouted out of his back and shoulders. A pair of horns erupted from his forehead, completing the tranformation, which had taken only seconds.
The Grendal-Thing stood before the shocked Space Marines, it's lipless maw of fangs still set in a malicious grin.
"My turn." said the Inner Voice through Grendal's mouth, now fully in control, and rushed towards the Space Marines, claws outstreached. The loyalists fired a volley of bolt rounds towards the Possessed Chaos Space Marine, the bolts blowing chunks of the Thing's flesh as they shot it. The wounds simply regenerated themselves, even as the Possessed closed the distance between them. Grabbing the first Marine's bolter, the Possessed wrenched in out of his hands, using it's other claw to sever the limb holding the weapon. The Space Marine screamed in pain, his right hand now a bleeding stump. Before the other two could react, the Grendal-Thing sank it's teeth into the Space Marine's neck, savoring the taste of rich Astartes blood, and then whipped it's head back, ripping the Space Marine's throat out.
Before the corpse hit the ground, the Possessed was arlready on top of the next loyalist. This one was faster than the first, dropping his bolter and drawing a broad-bladed combat knife as it fell upon him. Dodging the Possessed Marine's first strike, the Space Marine pivoted around and buried his blade up to the hilt in the exposed flesh of the Grendal-Thing's back. Hissing like and angry serpent, the Grendal-Thing backhanded the red-armored Marine with enough force to crack his cermaite chestplate and break his fused ribs, sending the loyalist flying. Combat knife still sticking out of his back, the Possessed spun around to face the final Space Marine, a Sergeant judging by his armor's markings and vestments, who held a chainsword in one hand and bolt pistol in the other.
The Grendal-Thing lept forward, the force of his jump breaking the pavement beneath him, bolts slamming into it in mid-air. Flesh still healing, the Possessed Chaos Space Marine landed on top of the Sergeant, taloned feet planting into his chest and driving him into the paved street. Even while prone the Space Marine still fought, his chainsword arcing up to slice the Grendal-Thing in half. It caught the chainblade in with a clawed hand, adimantium teeth sawing through flesh that healed faster than the weapon could damage it. Lifting one foot, the Possessed stamped down on the loyalist's head, repeatedly, not stopping until his helmet had cracked open like and egg and his head had been reduced to a stew of bone shards, blood, and mashed grey grey matter.
Satisfied with it's bloody work, which had only taken a few minutes, the daemon released control of Grendal's body, transforming Grendal back into his original form, albeit with his blood-and-bone colored armor damaged in some places. Grendal, now back in control, reveled in this new slaughter, drinking in the scent of freshly-spilt Astartes blood. Yes, being Possessed had it's benefits, especially since Grendal was one of the rare few that enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the Daemon inside him.
Looking to the smoky sky, Grnedal could see the burning outlines of Drop Pods fliting inbetween the spires of the Hive City, promising the gift of more lambs to the slaughter. Oh yes, he thought, anticipating the bloodshed that was to come. Being Possessed has it's benefits.
Ky'ren had seen some hell-holes in his day. He had fought against Chaos Space Marines on the Daemon World of Dakem, he had slaughtered blood-hungry genestealer cultists on the dead moon of Sigmus V, he had faced down xenos horrors on the tyrannoformed planet of Dor Malic.
Nothing came close to the slaughter he saw before him.
Cydax was an open grave, a casket carrying a mutilated corpse that had once been a proud Imperial city. Buildings had been desolated, shrines defiled, corpses carpeting the streets in various stages of death and dismemberment. Blood poured in maroon-crimson streams down broken walls and cobbled streets, most of it smeared along various surfaces in the form a blasphemous symbols of Chaos. Even worse were the state the corpses. Stacks of bodies; men, women, and children burnt on sacrificial pyres, or hung by their necks from lamposts, or impaled upon said lamposts, and in some cases both, the sickly smell of roasted flesh and spilt blood hanging it all. It was heresy, it was madness, and Ky'ren religious soul chafed at the very sight of such senseless slaughter.
Ky'ren sucked in a calming breath as he began to reciet the Litany of the Eternal Purge, a short prayer for the destruction of all that was not of the Emperor. Behind him, Standard Bearer Da'kul shifted restlessly, unsure of whether to advance or hold position.
"Deathpreist, how do we proceed?" asked the Standard Bearer, gazing out into the devastated streets.
Finishing the Litany, Ky'ren replied; "Raise the banner high, let these heretics know that the Lindwyrms have come."
That was all Da'kul needed to hear. Unfurling the great Standard of the 5th Company, the the Marine rasied it to the heavens, displaying the great dragon-serpent of the Lyndwyrms for all to see. Behind Ky'ren did the Lindwyrms march, his command squad leading the way. Company Champion Or'pal, clad in his Curadh-Pattern power armor decorated with the skulls of his most worthy foes, marched beside Apothecary Cal'mar, a white armored figure in a sea of grey armored Space Marines. Behind them lay their battle-brothers, clad in ash grey and frot blue, marching on foot or transported in the Rhino Tanks that rumbled beside them as their treds slid over the bloodied street. Ky'ren was at the head of the force, gripping his Crozius in one hand, his bolt pistol in the other, the grin of his skull mask promising death to all those who dare try and stop the Lindwyrms advance.
It didn't take them long to run into opposition.
The enemy came in the form of cultists, a ramshackle mob of depraved men and women. Some were little more than civillains turned murderers, clad in common garb smeared with gore and viscera. Other wore the armor of the Imperial Guard, armor covered in chaotic runes and sigils. More than a few of them bore mutations, bearing claw-like hands and mottled skin, twisted torsos and vestigial limbs. But despite their appearance, of them had one thing in common; the symbol of a daemon's skull wreathed in flame, a symbol that was tatooed into their flesh, sewn into their clothes, and branded arcoss their skin. The symbol of the Archfiends.
(MORE TO FOLLOW)