Category Archives: Fiction

Swamps of M’Boto: Of Arms and Armor

The Angels commanders entered Colonel Akinye’s tent, the Colonel and his staff were already standing.  The staff braced to attention and the Colonel bowed low and made the sign of the aquila.

“Welcome Master Balthasar.  We are honored you have returned.”  He said, with a vague questioning tone.  “We were just planning the defense of the positions you captured.  Without your astartes we wouldn’t have had a chance to hold them, but we would have fought as long as we stood, then fought on on our knees, and then fallen forward to fight in the prone!”  He raised his fist in a triumphant pump, not noticing that his speech had done little to brace the spirit of his staff.

“Well Colonel, now we are back and I doubt that will be necessary.  Have your soldiers guard the woods to the north of the position my demi-company secured several days ago.  We will secure the hill and the trees beneath it.  And try not to give too many speeches to the men.  Few words, but heartfelt is best.”  Balthasar said.  He heard a distinct click as Maccabeus turned off his vox-speaker.

Balthasar inclined his head to the Colonel and turned to leave the tent.  As they walked out into the light of the twin moons, Maccabeus voice came up over the command channel.  “That idiot had as good as given in to defeat before the battle had started, and he was more than halfway to convincing his men that they were defeated before the fighting started.”

“Why do you think I told him to not give any more speeches Brother Chaplain.”

“I nearly choked when you did.  Have we a plan?”

“I expect the Xenos to come from the Northeast.  Mostly infantry, try to blast us off the hill.  Battlesuits and Hover-tanks will rush down the road between the trees and the hill.  My demi company will defend with the Razorback squads on the north side of the hill, the Devastators will guard the peak, I’ll be with the 5th and my command squad in the trees, and the assault squad will be behind the south end of the hill, ready to counter-attack in either direction, with our Ravenwing support close to hand.  These xenos are cautious  Their first attack will not be fully blooded.  The librarian and his terminators are aboard the ship if we need them.  You will take your demi-company north to back up the main line, but do not engage if you do not need to.  I want to be ready to counter attack, and we’ll want the full company for that.”

Balthasar shrugged his shoulders, rolling them around in his armor.  “Let us go to our camp.  The Colonel will hold the hill for the night and we will advance before dawn.  Have the weapons blessed and anointed with oils, debrief the brothers of the 7th, and let us prepare for battle.”

With that he strode off alone.  A pavilion had been prepared by the M’Boton Cheetas.  It was filled with all sorts of furs and luxuries.  Balthasar placed his weapons on the table, and carefully removed his armor.  The rack the M’boton troops had provided for it groaned under the weight but bore up.  Balthasar mused on this for a moment.  A portent he was sure, the men of M’boto might bend, might creak and shudder under the weight, but they would bear it.

His weapons he oiled, a fine Relic blade.  One of the last ever made on Caliban.  The low gothic runes spelled out “Arnot” on the blade.  The bluish-black steel shined under the oil.  To his hands it felt pitted, like a worn down mountain face.  He knew better than to test it.  Even without power the ancient weapon cut through astartes armor like paper, and even tanks suffered under the powered blade.  Reverently he placed it in the cradle on the rack.  He stripped down his bolter, chanting the ancient rhymes of maintenance, reverently oiling each piece and carefully replacing them feeling each action slide in perfectly. He wasn’t sure when his next chance to prepare would be, and he rejoiced in the simple, soldierly task in the simple white robe packed deep within his simple satchel of gear for campaigns.

his armor he carefully inspected and maintained.  Starting with the boots he scrubbed the mud and dust off, checking the hinges and joints, working up the greaves and knee pads, he checked the flex-joints for tearing.  He carefully inspected the symbols of chapter and company.  The banner bearing his own personal heraldry he unrolled and placed on its pole.  He finally hefted the breastplate of his armor and cleaned it  reverently.  Carefully polishing the edges he cleaned the plastron, and checked the lining on the inside, the tubes and hoses all connected, the connections cleaned.  Finally he cleaned the blade of the Dark Angels from handle to hilt, and then the wings of the Angels and the Aquila.  Carefully he placed it back on the rack, listening to the groan as the grey wood took the weight.  He took a moment to admire the carving on the armor stand.  No simple piece, hastily assembled; it bore the marks of a craftsman.  Not an ornament for a kings hall, but a gift to a leader of warriors on campaign. He called the Chaplain one last time to check in, and, finding all to his liking he set his vox bead to wake him at any signal and cast himself on the cot carefully so as not to break it and let his awareness slip away.

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Swamps of M’boto: The Return

“We are going back” Master Balthasar said.  His eyes hard on the Librarian.

“We are going back.  The Knights will take their cargo to the rock on the Strike Cruiser but we will remain here to ensure that nothing of this is spoken of where it shouldn’t be”

Balthasar glared at Herod.  The Librarian leaned back, his eyes taking a meditative cast “We will keep most of the Deathwing here, only the knights will return.  And the detachment from the 7th will be glad of the reinforcements.”

Balthasar turned his head, breathing deeply.  And again.  Focusing on the map his brain automatically created from the briefings sent from the planet below.

“Very well.  Detachment Abnell is holding the defensive complex we took a few days ago.  We will deploy there and strike the xenos through the woods to disrupt their lines facing the Guard.  I will have Captain Hanadan so inform General Middlebrooks immediately.  Will your Deathwing be ready within the hour?”

Herod nodded immediately.

“Very well, have them on the embarkation deck within the hour, we drop in sixty minutes.”  He paused to toggle his vox on “5th Company!  Gear for immediate deployment.  You have 50 minutes to be assembled by squads on the embarkation deck.  For the Lion and Caliban!”

50 minutes later, in the full panoply of war, Master Balthasar strode onto the embarkation deck.  Chaplain  Maccabeus stood at the head of the squads lined up, the vehicles were already attached to their Thunderhawks, the last of the chapter serfs fled the bay even as Balthasar crossed the threshold.  He marched to the lead Thunderhawk, then turned to his men as they stood fixed in their ranks.  “Brothers.  Embark!”

As one the assembled green troops turned and filed into the transports.  6 columns filled the dropships and vox clicks and chatter buzzed as squads and chalks checked in.

“Balthasar to all elements, final check”

“Squad 10, present and correct”

“Squad 9, present and correct”… and on until finally

“Chaplain Maccabeus, all squads are present and correct Master Balthasar”

“Brother Librarian is your element ready?”

“We are ready Master Balthasar, give the word”

“The word is given.  Captain Hanadan, open the doors and launch the Thunderhawks!”

With that the door lifted, ponderous and slow, yet smooth and the Thunderhawks lifted as one, arrowing out into the inky blackness, and turning in the double v formation that would drop them in their two demi-company groups, even as the Blade of Judgement fired her main engines to depart the system with her precious cargo.

The Thunderhawks dropped, thrusting hard even with gravity pulling them down, like homesick children desperate for the embrace of their family.  The Dark Angels were returning to war.

Swamps Of M’boto

3 Weeks prior to the battle.  Departing The Rock the Strike Cruiser Blade of Judgement climbed away, pushing towards M’boto.  The engines grumbled deep within the hull as the troopers and their naval serfs secured gear.  Master Balthasar and Chaplain Maccabeus sat in the strategium with a chart of the company hovering between them.

“Master Balthasar, I understand we haven’t been brought fully up to strength, I have to question leaving our Tactical squads so understrength.”

“Brother Chaplain we have been over this.  We could either leave every squad understrength, and risk our assault squads being short in the press, or our devastator squads short of ammunition, or we can take advantage of the Techmarines offer to grant us the use of the Razorbacks to make up the firepower our tactical squads are missing for want of battle brothers.  Now, let’s go over how we will deploy. I will take the odd squads, 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, two of the Ravenwing squads, and you will have the even squads, as well as the land Speeders.  Brother Librarian Herod will be in support, but he has his own mission and will decide which of our demi-companies he will support according to the dictates of his mission.”

“I would be more comfortable knowing more about his mission, Master Balthasar,”

“I know Maccabeus.  We believe several rebel humans have joined with the Xenos.  The Librarians and Deathwing have specific orders regarding that.  That is all you need know and more than would be wise to share, even with your sergeants.  Now, you have two full strength tactical squads, an understrength squad with a Razorback, and a full strength Assault and Devastator squad.  I will have two understrength tactical squads and one full strength.  We have enough Rhinos to transport all the Devastators and Tactical squads, and of course the Razorbacks, I will have the company command group with me, and Brother Maimonades has scared up another razorback for us.  I’m assuming you will draw a jump pack to join with your assault squad?”

“I will Balthasar.  I would like to try to draw additional weapons for that assault squad?”

“I will have a word with Maimonades.  You need all the help you can get anyway.  Oh and the final detachment with us comes from the 7th company.  Brother Librarian Abnell is bringing a pair of tactical squads, as well as a predator, and a dreadnought.  Brother Maimonades will join him.  These squads have just been assembled, and Master Ezekiah was very strict telling us to keep our hands off of them.  I plan on leaving them aboard the ship, we don’t have transports for them, and until we have a secure base they would just slow us down.  Once we have a base we will deploy them to defend it and help us secure our links to the local defenders.”

“I concur.  I’ve had a few words with the serfs as well.  Maintenance will not be a problem, we have laid in a lot of stores, and Captain Hanadan laid in a generous supply of munitions to ensure we have plenty of time for training.  I do think we should include our brothers in from the 7th in this training, in case we do need to work with them, if that is acceptable.”

“You are just hoping they make your scores look better.”

“Nonsense Master, I’m hoping they provide camouflage for your own scores, they are slipping, probably under the weight of all that ego you carry around!”

“Hah.  Speaking of which we are due for live fire ourselves.  Tomorrow we brief the sergeants.  Remember, no word of the rebel humans unless Herod or I say so.”

“Of course” sighed Maccabeus.  He stood to leave, his robes whispering as he turned to the door.  Balthasar looked sharply to the corner where a small figure darted from sight.  As he stood he grumbled to himself “Must have a word with Herod myself.  The watchers have been restless…”