Category Archives: Fiction
Master Cain gripped his sword, his relic shield dragging on his arm, blade point down in the ground, bone white armor scarred and dusted with the detritus of the battlefield, he watched his Blade Guard squads stalk back to the Overlord. Beside him, Grand Master Belial watched his Terminators file into their Thunderhawks. “Your warriors did well, Master Cain” Belial voxed over their subnet. The purge had been completed, the foe was not there, the resistance completely overwhelmed by the might of the Dark Angels. Most of the melee weapons his Blade Guard carried hadn’t even been bloodied, the disorganized rebels had been so shattered by the initial assault, and the fire of their guns that none had lived to meet the Deathwing blade to blade.
“Today was not their test, Grand Master. Your training is more demanding than today’s… operation,” Master Cain returned.
“You are right to expect much of them. Much will be demanded of them, and soon. This blow was ill-aimed. The next will not be.” Cain glanced at Belial. One of the few firstborn whose height brought him close to the towering height of the Primaris, Belial in his armor carried a bulk and yet a grace that was manifest, even as he stood watching the battle’s aftermath. The last of the warriors filed past the two, and the engines changed pitch as the pilots warmed up for flight.
“Back to the Warrior, Cain tonight we dissect this mistake and tomorrow we set it right.”
Cain turned to climb into the Overlord, in the distance the jet black craft of the Ravenwing took off from another side of the fortress they’d just demolished.
The Hall of Grand Masters waited deep within the Rock. Hidden down among the lowest levels few knew of its existence. At the precise same instant, guided by the Watchers in the Dark more than a dozen Chapter Masters of the Dark Angels stepped from shadowy alcoves in the wall into the dim light of the Hall. Robed and hooded in the colors of their chapters, the leaders of the Successors of the Dark Angels walked to their seats as the Watchers took up positions behind them their dark green robes blending into the stone of the walls as they froze into immobility. Many battle-brothers lived their lives without seeing a single one of the mysterious beings, this night more than thirty of them took station in the Hall.
“Master of Souls Nakir,” intoned Azrael, carefully biting off his words in the thick air of the chamber. “Why have you called this meeting?”
Nakir sat up a bit, his deep black robe shifting. “It wasn’t my summons Supreme Grand Master. The summons I received came from Master Makallan!”
Cries erupted around the table as every master claimed another had summoned him. Soon half the members were standing and the sussurus of whispers of the Watchers pressed hard on their minds.
“Enough.” said a voice. The tone was that of a whisper, but the volume crashed across the room like a tidal wave. Every head snapped with transhuman speed and precision to the throne that had stood empty when they entered. On one side of it stood a robed Watcher. Only this Watcher’s robes were not the dark green of every other Watcher ever seen, but a bone-white scribbled over with runes of ancient Caliban. Towering over him on the other side of the throne stood an Astartes in black power armor of ancient design. Hooding his features in a deep white robe did nothing to disguise the ancient Fallen Dark Angel, Cypher.
Yet the greatest surprise sat between them. Even seated the magnificent warrior on the throne towered over Cypher as Cypher did the Watcher. Blonde hair so pale as to be nearly white hung over a face narrow and drawn. The aquiline nose, projected forward over pale lips, barely seen on the face seen in so many windows and frescoes by the assembled warlords of the Dark Angels successors. His black armor shared a color with Cypher’s but where Cypher’s armor blended with the shadows, hiding him even when one looked squarely at him, the Lion’s glossy war-plate stood like a burning beacon, a black flame lit to burn out the enemies of his legion.
“I did not summon you here to listen to my sons bicker and squabble. I came here to determine exactly what has been done to my legion, and why my brother has been allowed to infiltrate it and fragment it.”
The Chapter Masters paused, unsure how to handle the barbed questions inherent in the statement of the Primarch. Cypher stepped into the stiff, empty air and cast back his hood.
“Perhaps our best use of the time is to determine how to put your Legion back in its desired state, and with the leaders it needs, given the issues the Imperium faces at present, my Lord.” He said calmly, addressing his words to the Primarch seated behind him, but with a cool, measuring gaze spread across the Chapter Masters before him.
The point of this series is to show how the missing Imperial Primarchs could return. I will be doing all 9, even the dead ones. The goal is not to show what effect they will have, simply how they could choose to reveal themselves.
Bors barreled his way through the hallways of the Chaos-infested ship. The mockery of his Imperium fed his rage and the massive thunder hammer in his hand provided his only outlet. He smashed at the thralls and traitor marines with equal abandon, the cataclysmic smashing of his weapon echoing on the bare metal. Behind him, the inceptors of Sergeant Uriah towered, their massive armor letting them see clean over their smaller brother, and their twin assault bolters hammered any knots of resistance, paving the way for the white-hot fury of the Lieutenant.
Bors lived two lives on the ship. At once the winged angel of vengeance, hammer and combi-melta dealing out potent justice to the traitors and at the same time a detached, brilliant commander of half of a company of the Emperor’s finest. Swiftly he pushed his force along, corralling the enemy into a trap to be sprung at the perfect moment. Bors knew in his hearts that the 5th was his. He had served in the Ravenwing and the Deathwing, rising to be a sergeant in the Deathwing Knights, he had been on the cusp of rising to be the Master of the 5th when Guilliman had turned his interest to the Unforgiven and asked very pointed questions that had changed everything. He did not blame Master Cain or Supreme Grand Master Azrael. He knew the pressures and demands both worked under, and he was not a weak mind to suffer jealousy. He served his Master and his Legion to the limit of his abilities, and his limits were very high indeed.
He checked the position of his demi-company one last time before plunging down a side passage. Scattering the thralls and crew of the ship they broke onto a gantry overlooking a wide gallery. Behind him the Inceptors stomped around to cover the other entrances with their rapid fire, short ranged assault bolters. The smaller Astartes tactical squads and Primaris inceptor squad in the demi company lined the railing, while the two Devastator squads lined up on either side of the Lieutenant. One of the devastator squads carried the Plasma Cannons so beloved by the Dark Angels. The other carried missile launchers and Multi-Meltas. They stood at the inboard bulkhead, facing down at the back of the bulkhead of the room just inboard of the rest of the company.
“Fire” ordered Bors over the Vox. The powerful melta guns roared, missiles screamed from the launchers, and the bulkhead shattered under the assault. The Iron Warriors on the other side of the bulkhead were some of the toughest defenders, and most determined attackers, of all the astartes created, but they didn’t shift between plans easily. Undisturbed they could have mown down Cain’s company as they broke out from their lodgement. Now they faced heavy weapons in superior position thanks to Bors swift assault. They began to move, but the rest of Bors strike force got in a massive first salvo. The Plasma guns launched blue bursts of starfire while the Bolters and Bolt Rifles of the marines lining the sides engaged targets bereft of cover, many still facing the wrong way.
Another roar announced that Master Cain had launched his breakout. Bolter and Plasma Incinerator fire smashed into the barricades, forcing the Iron Warriors to hug their fragile shields or risk a certain death. A monstrously huge traitor legionnaire, with an armature similar to a techmarine bellowed and gestured, physically dragging some of his men into a makeshift line to offer some opposition to Bors’ fire. The Iron Warriors shook off their stunned surprise and while some executed the old plan, pouring a withering fire into Cain’s troops, still hidden by the remains of the bulkhead the rest brought their weapons to bear on the more vulnerable devastators, whose lighter armor and less resilient bodies could take far less punishment than the newer Primaris.
“Uriah, follow me! Jubal, Zebediah, cover the doorways. For the Lion! For the Emperor!” he barked brandishing his hammer before igniting his jump pack to launch himself into the enemy leader. He felt the massive impact of the inceptors as they rode their own columns of blue flame to the lower level, trying to unseat the enemy before they could truly settle in. Bors swung his hammer down even as he landed, catching the traitor Warsmith on his knee, shattering it and his lower leg. The veteran of the long war didn’t flinch, the long mechanical arm on his back grabbed the wing on Bors’ assault pack shoving him back while the chainaxe the warrior carried swung in a brutal arc. A quick mental command from Bors unclipped the ornamental wings and he ducked the axe, losing half the back of his helmet to the close call. Stunned a moment he still rolled with the blow and came up swinging, pulping a hand of the traitor before standing with a flourish, with a brutal, simple waist high uppercut swing, smashing under the armpit of his enemy. The thunder hammer discharged, shattering armor and ribcage as the traitorous leader exploded in a shower of viscera and armor.
Even as his opponent fell he grabbed his combi weapon from the mag lock on his thigh and vaporized the head of a Iron Warrior lining up on Master Cain, leading a rush of intercessors and Assault Marines to try to unify the company. Within moments a flurry of blades and bolter fire the company stood together.
“Master Cain” Bors intoned with a bow of his head.
“Brother. You and your men take the honors today I think.”
Lieutenant Nabbuk walked up, still punching information into his arm computer. “Master, Lieutenant, we have accounted for nearly two hundred and fifty traitor astartes, and at least a thousand thralls. Assuming this ship lost some men on the planet I do not think they have more than 50 astartes on board, and we can sweep the thralls away with small arms. Might I suggest we cripple the ship before withdrawing?”
Cain looked at him, then at Bors. “Lieutenant, your team will hold here. I will be with you, but I’m giving Sergeant Uriah to Lieutenant Nabbuk. He will take the other strike force to the engine room to rig demolition charges. When they are on the way back your force will extract by Thunderhawk, there should be enough time for a round trip that will let the entire force extract smoothly.”
Bors looked at the Master for a moment, then at Nabbuk before nodding and going to order his troops into position to cover the bridgehead. Bors knew he had led his men that day and many others, and that Nabbuk must prove his mettle, commanding without close supervision if his men were to trust him, and even a mission against the light opposition expected would give the much less experienced officer some seasoning.
As the reinforced strike team marched aft Bors knelt behind cover, popping off his savaged helmet. Not seeing Master Cain approaching.
“Are you wounded brother?” asked the Master, not used to seeing any of his men unhelmed in a combat situation.
“No, master, not a hair on my head is disturbed.”
“… You shave your head brother.”
“Then I do not lie. That traitor nearly tried to get at the ones still below the skin though. Another centimeter or two and he might have found a way to make me a liar.”
Master Cain shook his head. The sons of the Lion did not offer much humor, and it seemed jarring when it happened. Indeed Bors reminded him much of the sons of Russ he had served with amongst the unnumbered sons. Looking over the hastily established, nearly impregnable defenses Bors had established he could hardly argue he was any less than a full Son of the Lion, as he continued to prove with every plan, with every battle, with every duel. The heavy weapons had commanding fields of fire, yet were well protected by barricades. Their blind spots, the few that existed, were overlooked by full squads, ready to catch anyone trying to sneak up on the big guns in a hail of bolter shells. In the back of the defense, sheltered in a large barricade were a squad of veteran astartes, carrying a meltagun, and Sergeant Elias, who for this battle had brought a grav gun and power axe of his own. Cain already knew that if any attack threatened to break the line Bors would lead this force into combat, the small group carrying far more firepower than their numbers would indicate, and the acumen of the two leaders would see it employed to the fullest.
Champion Joab stood, unmoving, at the very forefront of the boarding torpedo. Already he pressed against the harness locking him in place, the front of his helmet nearly kissing the blast panel that separated him from the potent melta-charge ready to bore a hole through the hull of their target. His right hand held a massive blade from ancient Caliban. His left a shield, blessed and carefully worked, incorporating a heavy bolt pistol enabling him to vent his fury even outside the press and cut of melee.
Joab epitomised the Astartes of the Fifth in a way even Bors couldn’t. Bors outpaced them, faster, tougher, smarter, he eclipsed them clearly, almost as much as their new Primaris brothers. Their soul rested with Ancient Uriah, his banner as much a part of him as his heart or his black carapace. Joab was their avatar. The incarnation of their combative spirit.
Outside the Deathwing, the Dark Angels bore a reputation as a stolid, conservative fighting force, a moving wall of firepower, reducing their enemies to ash as they implacably advanced, or a perfect bastion of defence, sweeping away any who dared take the offensive against them. While there was truth to this, it was not the whole truth. The Dark Angels could eagerly take the offensive, unleashing devastating firepower and crushing close quarters attacks with more than the Deathwing. They lack the primal lust for carnage of the Blood Angels or the Space Wolves, or the preternatural stealth of the Raven Guard, but their tactical precision and tightly controlled fury, properly channeled, gave them their own unique flair for close combat.
Joab didn’t move. Didn’t fidget as many warriors, even Astartes might do before battle. His blade pointed straight down by his leg. His shield held at an angle, covering his body, ready to snap into aim should a target present himself. The only sign of incipient combat came from the aura around him. The air around him seemed hot and close, even in the chill atmosphere the Dark Angels preferred for their ships. The first warriors behind him seemed almost to undulate, first leaning into their idol, then away from his towering contempt and rage.
Cain stood behind the honor guard selected by Sergeant Shamgar. The Primaris didn’t know what to make of Joab. The torpedo rocked to the rhythm of the incoming fire. The rest of Shamagar’s men stood behind Cain. Sergeant Shamgar had been ordered to the “slack” position at the rear, charged with ensuring no opening was left unguarded, no opportunity missed in the first flurry of combat.
The odd, warbling, hollow peal of the warning bell sounded, cutting through the noise of the torpedo. Cain and Shamgar both intoned “10 seconds to launch.”
Joab didn’t move. The rest of the boarding squad braced, even Cain, veteran as old as the metal of Caliban in Joab’s hand unconsciously braced himself against the unimaginable force.
Some fraction of eternity later a hammer of force smashed the torpedo free of its launch tube. Joab didn’t move. Sensors and relays embedded in the hull of the torpedo gave them information. Peleg had pressed close, every torpedo carried an unbelievably precious cargo and Peleg had sacrificed greatly among her ship and crew to ensure they struck home. Scarce 10 seconds from launch, within seconds of the torpedo’s engine guttering out the bell pealed again.
“FIVE SECONDS” called Cain, even his normally controlled voice pitched louder as combat neared. The party leaned into their harnesses, preparing for the immense crash as the torpedo struck.
Joab didn’t move.
The light cut out and suddenly Joab’s sword was point up, so fast a soft crack cut through the cacophony of battle. A moment later the small torpedo struck the Iron Warriors cruiser, burrowing deep before the melta charge burned through As the panel disintegrated, cut to shrapnel by precise charges, Joab, unleashed, raced into the confusion.
The two Iron Warriors in the room never stood a chance, even the stolid sons of Perturabo took a moment to recover from the catastrophic blast of a boarding torpedo. Ignoring the few surviving mortals Joab ran his blade under the arm of one, the point emerging from the other as he finally triggered the generator of the relic power sword, the initial energy discharge detonating the chest cavity and armor of the millenia old warrior he had just reduced to gore and scrap. The bolt pistol in his shield barked twice, reducing the unhelmed head of the other Iron Warrior to a gory wreck before the first Primaris lifted a foot to join him.
Within moments the squad flooded the chamber, combat blades and boots silencing forever the mortals still struggling to comprehend the calamity that had befallen their fortress in the void. Beacons bloomed as the rest of the boarding parties reported and Joab turned to follow the icon Cain had selected as the rally point for the party. A large gallery that each team should be able to reach quickly. Shield raised to just under his eyes, blade up and back, ready strike Joab ran the corridors as if he’d lived a lifetime in this ship.
Joab flowed down the corridors his legs a blur, his upper body rolling in the graceful rhythm of a swordsmen, always in perfect balance over his hips. They erupted into the first blocking position the Iron Warriors tried to put in their way, almost a score of veterans of the long war, hastily but precisely building their defense. They were not set when Joab erupted into their midst. His blade flickered and danced, he moved with precisely controlled violence, denying the Iron Warriors a chance to fire at the Primaris emerging behind him while opening precise lanes for the Primaris to lay down the withering fire of their Bolt Rifles. Any Iron Warrior hefting his bolter found himself using it to fend off a blade, anyone reading a blade found himself exposed to the fire erupting down the passage.
Suddenly an eruption of violence throws the Primaris back. A champion of the Iron Warriors and his escort bursts in from a corridor, throwing back the two Primaris covering that corridor. One crumpled, a giant power axe cleaving deep into his chest and erupting from his back. A shower of gore exploded through the room as the top of his torso flopped loosely, held by a shard of armor and a flap of flesh and gristle. The other warrior went down grappling with his assailant, combat blade and chainsword cutting at adamantium armor. The other Iron Warrior came at Cain, his Plasma pistol scorching deep into Cain’s shoulder pad, he felt the burn on his flesh underneath, smelled the charred flesh. He caught the Power Axe as it swung down on him, enfolding its haft with his power fist and snapping it. Cain jammed his own pistol under the chin of the Cultist Astartes and pulled the trigger.
Joab turned from his last victim and brought his blade up in swift salute to the traitor champion. Snapping the blade down he hefted his shield, angling it precisely. The Iron Warrior brandished his own blade. “IRON WITHIN, IRON WITHOUT!” he bellowed and swung his blade down.
Joab leaned to one side, catching the hook of the axe with the top of his shield and hooking the champion forward. His own blade cut down sharply, cutting deep into the thigh of the warrior under the armor. Strangely orange blood showered the deck.
“Blood within, scorn without!” called Joab, spinning around, hauling the axe down with his shield and decapitating the champion with a single, swift blow.
“Master Cain, Strike Force Bors requesting a landing beacon. Our escort is heavily engaged and we cannot remain in the defense envelope of the cruiser much longer.”
Cain focused on the overlay a moment. His force stood less than 30 meters from the rally point, the other boarding squads already occupied it. “Bors, they will counterattack momentarily. Breach the hull here,” he caused a beacon to blossom on a higher deck. “And bring your firepower to bear on them in the galleries inward and below your entry point.”
Joab stood still as a statue by the corridor forward, Shamgar and two of his squad stood at the rear. “Onward brothers, it will not be long before the Iron Warriors attack our lodgement. We will form the shield for them to strike, Bors will be the hammer to shatter their forces.” Without cheer or exaltation, Joab swung into motion, leading them into their fortress.
Interrogator-Chaplain Habbakuk paced his small cell. Behind his quarters stood four Deathwatch members in full battleplate, Thunder hammers charged, storm shields crackling. Two faced Habbakuk, two stood at their backs, facing into the cells. The 5th company patrolled the planet below, each squad scouring sectors long since cleaned of foes, pushing them hard while Habbakuk and Ezekiel struggled to explain the disaster unfolding before them.
“It cannot be coincidence Master Librarian. Someone must have orchestrated this. How else could the Fallen have sent one of their own, one who knows the Company Master sent on this mission here before he was even assigned to command OUR mission. There is treason at work! I must be free to interrogate BOTH of them. You must grant this, yes and bless it!” he growled. His basso voice grinding in the stonework and metal of his quarters on board the Tempus Occidere.
“Must Inquisitor-Chaplain? I was not aware that an Inquisitor-Chaplain could tell the Grand Master Librarian, the Holder of Keys, and the bearer of the Book of Salvation what he must do when it comes to the fallen. I grant that you have your own expertise. In fact I requested you specifically when Grand Master Sapphon presented me with his choices to accompany us. But do not think that my support for you means you can tell me what I must do. Interrogate the Fallen. I will question Master Cain. To date he has done nothing himself warranting suspicion beyond admitting knowing our wayward ‘brother’ and he has been very forthcoming with that knowledge himself. When you are done with your prisoner we will question Cain together. QUESTION I say. Remember, it was only by his actions that this Fallen was captured by us. Develop your questions and we will ask, ASK them.” Ezekiel said. He stood motionless before the door to the quarters, as still as Habbakuk was agitated in his pacing.
Habbakuk glared at his brother before jamming his helmet on sharply turning towards his cells he shouldered the gigantic Deathwing guardian aside as he went to collect his confession. Ezekiel watched him disappear into the soundproofed cell, then advanced himself down to the cell opposite it, where Master Cain waited, still in his robes as Master of the 5th Company, but nevertheless detained.
Master Cain stood in the empty cell. The unadorned room was designed to be uncomfortably small for an astartes so incarcerated. For a Primaris every dimension seemed downright torturous. Master Cain hunched over, the top of his spine pressed to the ceiling, along with his neck and the back of his skull. His arms folded across his chest as if he was totally at ease.
“Grand Master Ezekiel. We have had this discussion many times. I have told you what I know of my cousin. I have told you many things I am not certain of about my cousin. I have told you of my complete lack of knowledge regarding the Fallen. I have expressed my disappointment in so many… indeed practically all of those inducted with me if, IF what you have told me is to be believed. How long must I answer for the crime of capturing this Fallen for you.”
Master Ezekiel sighed. He knew the fairness of Master Cain’s questions. He understood the rage of betrayal hidden so long, exposed so suddenly. He knew equally that he could not free the Company Master to his duties, or even beyond these rooms until Habbakuk, Master Cain, and Ezekiel himself understood what exactly had happened, and how much they should tell the company. Ezekiel reached behind him, grabbing a pair of simple metal stools. Setting them in the room wordlessly they sat, so close their knees nearly rested in the other’s groin in the tiny cell.
“I cannot deny the truth behind your questions Master Cain. Nor will I try to. I can only defend them by saying this: The Unforgiven must protect our secrets, and honor, justice, and sometimes even the lives of our fellow servants of the Emperor must be sacrificed until we are certain these secrets are safe. We do not detain you because you deserve to be detained, but because we must isolate your knowledge from the company until we are certain what of it to share, and what to suppress.”
He paused. Master Cain stared at him for long minutes before nodding fractionally. “Now, and I hope this shall be one of the last, if not the last time. Tell me of your cousin, Japath.”
Master Cain’s eyes rolled back in his head a moment. His head hung briefly and a weariness entered his voice, even as he started repeating the story. “Japath was my father’s sister’s son. He grew up in my own household after his father perished, crushed under a tree during the great clearing to build armaments factories. We grew up from a young age, we had to work hard to help our family survive, even with the improvements the Emperor brought to our world. We were strong children, and faced the ordeal of the orders’ trials with eager anticipation.
When we were old enough we fought to go, my father wished to deny us but he had no right to do so, and we snuck away anyway. We made our way to the Order’s fortress and stood our night of vigil, silent, unmoving, feeding off each other’s strength. When the sun rose only four of more than one hundred boys remained in the field. The rest fell to weakness, of the mind or of the body. We passed through our trials and the screenings, and were about to begin the process of being transformed into astartes. At the end of the trials there were two nights of rest, separated by a day of meditation. During that day Sar Luther came where Japath and I were resting, meditating on the history of the Order. Behind him came a pair of metal men bearing the insignia of the mechanicum. Luther seemed greatly agitated. He questioned us, back and forth, probed our knowledge, tested our will. Japath challenged him. He answered with anger. Sar Luther didn’t respond to his anger, but soon after pointed at me. ‘That on’ he said. ‘That is the one the Lion will wish you to take'” Cain paused. Looked through the open door, at the closed one across the hall. “The Mechanicus adepts moved suddenly, instantly transitioning from still as statues to full speed they grabbed me with immense strength and ushered me out. They had a small ship, no more than a corvette, more like a courier ship, waiting to go. As soon as I was aboard I was placed in stasis. That was the last I saw of Japath.”
Ezekiel sat back, his hood low over his eyes. “Tell me of Japath. Tell me something about him. Not the dry history of how you came to wear the marks of our order. Tell me of your cousin the boy.”
Master Cain cocked his head. “The memories are not clear. The process of becoming a Primaris clouds our youth, much as the ways of becoming Astartes clouds your own.” He paused, weighing his words, gathering glimpses through the clouds of memory. “We had a pet. A bird of some sort. My sister. His sister? One of the other children living with us cared for it. The winter before we tested for the order the bird got out. The cold would kill it overnight. I thought it already dead the cold lay so heavily on us. The whole family huddled together under blankets. Japath couldn’t bear her moaning about the bird. He grabbed me by the collar. Dragged me from the pile. We went out together. We must have searched for hours. We found the cursed beast huddled in a nest of needles. It was shivering, not so lost to the cold that it couldn’t do that at least. Japath, he hated the thing. He thrust it at me, ‘Put it under your shirt Cain. I’m not warming the little shit up'” Cain smiled a moment. Slowly the smile slid to a grimace remembering how lost that boy was to him now. “He turned around looked back to where the snow had obliterated our trail and said ‘I hope you know where home is Cain. I found the bird, you find the house.’ He didn’t realize we’d gone out halfway to the manufactory and come near all the way back. He never could find his way in bad weather. I had us home in less time than it took me to tell you this story. When I handed… her… the bird she gave me all the thanks, and ignored Japath. I think that bothered him. I think it bothered him a lot.”
Ezekiel stayed in place, looking down, keeping the hood over his eyes. He stayed like that for a long time, not trusting his face to keep secret the thoughts in his head. Many stories of the Fallen and their history lay in the heavy book secured to his hip. None of them contained a tale like this. How to use it. How to turn it on Japath. “I think you have clarified things Cain. I must ask your patience a while longer. I will consult with Habbakuk, and with the Lieutenants. I think your little bird might just grant you flight from your prison.”
*NOTE, EARLIER SEGMENTS HAVE BEEN EDITED TO FIT WITH REVEALED DETAILS OF THE DA CODEX, CAIN WAS NEVER IN THE DEATHWING, AND DOES NOT KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE FALLEN*
Master Cain stood with the small coterie of commanders. Ezekiel, Habbakuk, Zadok, Bors, and Nabbuk clustered around him at the end of the column of burning vehicles and men. The rest of the company, under the supervision of their sergeants, dealt with the bodies and wargear, always alert for intelligence. Their calm, focused movements kept a wary distance from their quiet commanders.
“The traitor is near. We have his location approximated, and the hunters from the Ravenwing are covering his escape routes. We will soon be ready to strike. Lieutenant Nabbuk, Chaplain Zadok, you will each take a portion of the company to relieve our brothers at their blocking positions. Lieutenant Bors, you will take Jubal, Zebediah, Alameida, and the Librarian, and accompany Master Librarian Ezekiel, he will lead Sergeant Cole’s squad in the final strike on the traitor.”
Ezekiel nodded, his flesh and blood eye flaring, his crude implant sullen and red. “And where will you be Master Cain?”
“I will be with the command group, Chaplain Zadok has far less in the way of troops, so I will keep close to him in case of any emergency, as we discussed.” Bors shot a glance at Habbakuk. Habbakuk radiated a confident satisfaction. His face relaxed, even as his eyes danced over the other Primaris in the group. Cain looked them over, taking in the mood. “Our campaign is nearly finished. Zadok, Nabbuk, you will pit a cork in the bottle, Bors, you will flush it out. If any of you encounter trouble call out. I will bring the command group, and our Repulsor to your aid swiftly. In addition the Ravenwing has their bombers on call at a moment’s notice. Now go, assemble your troops, we leave in 10 minutes.”
“Chaplain Habbakuk, a moment of your time please.” Bors said, the Chaplain nodded, pulling the grizzled Lieutenant clear of the group. Bors took a few moments, voxing commands to assemble his convoy near their position, troops inside and ready to go. “Brother Chaplain, how much does Master Cain know?”
Habbakuk turned a bit, looking at the tall, powerfully built Master of the company. “He knows we face a traitor. He doesn’t know it is our traitor. We must, YOU must drive your force in, open a hole so that Ezekial and my forces can secure him and get him off world before any of our new… brothers are aware who it is we hunt. Stripped of his armor and drugged to his eyebrows we can pass him off as a Night Lord or a Black Legionnaire or whatever we want. You must drive HARD Bors! You must be the spear that pierces their defenses, you must blast a hole wide enough for the extraction team to drive them, and when they are there you must hold back reinforcements until our fallen brother is extracted!”
Bors nodded. He had been there when Astelan was captured, his own time in the Deathwing had been brief, his star ascendant, his own command near. Now things were less certain. Too many lights shining in too many places. He would not fail this charge. he would be the very tip of the spear, he would pierce the shield of the enemy’s defenses and form the wall preventing their reinforcements. He nodded sharply at the ominous Interrogator-Chaplain, even as they donned their helmets. “So be it. For the Lion.”
“For the Lion.”
2 hours later.
“All elements in position. Ravenwing team assembled, Assault team assembled. Lieutenant Bors, the order is yours.” Cain said, voice tense over the vox.
Lieutenant Bors looked over everything carefully, noting the position of the Ravenwing flyers, before calling out “Strike team, move to point Vengeance, for the Lion and the Emperor!”
The Predator spearheading the assault gunned its engine, close behind it Bors and the survivors of squad Jubal raced forward in their Razorback, twin assault cannons whirring as the gunner tested their servos eagerly. The rest of the vehicles raced forward with Sergeant Alameida and his hellblasters bringing up the rear in their massive repulsor. Behind the formation came the black Ravenwing, and Bone White Deathwing vehicles. Ominous shadows carefully pacing the coursing hounds sent to flush out their prey.
The predator’s autocannon barked fire, shells cracking into a Chimera staggering it before a lascannon blast shattered it. Troops spilled from the wreck straight into a stream of assault cannon fire the rest of the vehicles crowded in together, weapons firing feverishly, strobes of las fire, thudding assault cannons and autocannons as Bors directed the assault.
“Spread out, push them from their bunkers! Squads prepare to deploy. Alameida swing to the left to engage those weapon pits! Spread out by the Rock!” he called, voice pained by the close packed icons.
A tremendous concussion stunned the battlefield. Green vehicles rode the rippling ground as an earthshaker cannon fired at point blank range. Another potent blast went off inside Squad Zebediah’s rhino, turning the vehicle and its men into shrapnel and gore. Marines spilled from other damaged and broken vehicles.
“All squads assault into the bunker complex to our left front. Alameida clear those bunkers out! We will take them and open a hole for the hunters!”
“Lieutenant Bors, I am on the way to reinforce your position.” Called out Cain amid the vox-chatter.
Bors lept from his Razorback, ordering Jubal’s men forward with him. The marines went forward, bolters and melta guns firing, grenades arcing out in front of them, scouring the closest bunker and fiery balls of plasma from the hellblasters tore the roof off another. The marines dove into the bunkers, knives and bolt pistols blasting the few men still in them. The crippled Predator continued to fire, guns intimidating but not accurate after so many sensors had been blasted from its noble hull. The rest of the vehicles rested in sullen silence.
“Master Ezekiel, we have cleared the bunkers, if you move quickly you can get through to your prey!” panted Bors. “Chaplain Habbakuk, we have taken heavy losses, we could use your support holding the gap.”
“Negative, Chaplain push on, I will reinforce Bors.” called Cain. Bors looked back in shock. “Master Cain, please hold the perimeter. We can manage this, we cannot risk an escape by our foe.”
“Chaplain Zadok can hold in my absence. We will plug the line behind our hunters.”
Ezekiel called in to Bors on a secure channel. “This is acceptable. Keep him at your position.”
“Very well Master, home on my position, help us take the bunkers to our right.”
Bors set his squads in defensive positions in the bunkers, setting fire on nearby bunkers, suppressing them while the bone and black vehicles raced by. Master Cain’s vehicle came up, belching fire into the already weakened bunkers, finishing their defenders. Cain and his escorts dismounted, some clearing the bunkers, Cain observing the battlefield. The Earthshakers had been destroyed, the thin skinned vehicles less resistant to fire than even the Rhinos and Razorbacks they had ambushed. Ahead the sounds of combat dwindled a bit then flared suddenly.
“There! Heavily armed squads by that bunker!”
“I don’t see them…”
“Fire on the hedgerow”
“Swing to the left!”
“Call in the Black Talons!” so many calls from the normally quiet and reserved Ravenwing and Deathwing squads stunned Bors a moment. There was another crescendo of fire.
“There! Habbakuk to your left!” called Ezekiel, his soft voice suddenly strong, cutting through the chatter.”
“I don’t see him! Where?”
“Behind that Rhino! Ware right!” A loud explosion split the night and Bors could just make out a figure racing to a side path, away from the fight.
Bors suddenly looked further to his right. Cain’s Repulsor was nowhere to be seen. The 100 ton behemoth had glided off down the trail without him noticing.
“Chaplain Habbakuk, Master Cain has pushed forward!”
“Throne! We have to…” his channel cut out as a massive explosion shook the field. Silence reigned for a moment, as if ordinary sound was afraid to show its face following the staggering concussion. A fireball and cloud lifted over the field to Bors front.
“Master Cain! Master Ezekiel! Chaplain Habbakuk, report!” Called out Bors. Already he saw icons for the covering force moving towards him. Then the vox cut in.
“Hold traitor! Stand where you are!” Bors raced down the path towards the icon of the Repulsor tank, just in time to see a burst of gatling cannon fire rip through a knot of figures. One dove aside, rolling and coming to his feet with a speed and grace only possible to an Astartes. His black armor pocked by fire, smeared by smoke, he tried to evade, saw Bors and sprinted down a creek bed just in time to be tackled by the massive form of master Cain. The traitor looked like a teenager in the grasp of the massive Primaris marine. Still he fought back, kicking free a moment and drawing a knife, a wild feint and slash took both eyepieces off Cain’s helmet just as Bors sword crushed the traitor’s power plant deep within his backpack. Slowed by the loss of power to his armor the traitor staggered, face pale, dark hair flailing as he looked for some escape, he sat hard, thin face twisted in a wry grin.
Bors looked on, mind racing. “See Master Cain! The traitors even try to wear our old colors to sow confusion amongst our brothers!” Trying to get the idea planted before Cain could remove his helmet and take in the full scene with his own eyes. Before he could take a step and knock the traitor out cold Cain and the fallen locked eyes. Cain’s widened in shock and horror. The fallen chuckled.
“MASTER Cain? Lapdog to the Emperor after so long? He wheezed under the weight of his broken armor.
Cain looked at his gathered Sergeants. Sergeant Uriah, leader of the Inceptor squad had half his armor off, his face grey as his massively enhanced body fought to recover from the wounds that peppered his shoulder and upper torso. The other Primaris sergeants stood tense, unsure even after the battle, while the older sergeants of the astartes stood relaxed, glancing around at the wreckage they had created, or watched the guardsmen collecting prisoners, or executing those too wounded to be worth interrogating.
Cain finished reviewing the battle on his display and looked at two of his sergeants. “Micah, Shamgar, your troops were excessively slow deploying from their transport, and re-embarking to displace. They selected adequate targets but took far too long shifting between targets once they had acquired one. Their accuracy was good, but speed is everything brothers.” Micah and Shamgar clenched fist to breastplate in acknowledgement of the rebukes. He turned to the next sergeants on his list “Obed, your men deployed too far from their Rhino to re-embark swiftly, they also kept firing too long after the order to re-embark was given.” Obed nodded sharply.
“Jonah, your men are equipped to take on vehicles, yet more than 40% of their fire was spent on soft targets while there were still tanks and bunkers to be destroyed. Rectify this. We can’t have Sgt Maacah punching out tanks all the time for us.” Jonah grimaced at the rebuke, clenching his fist to his chest. “Uriah, your men performed well, have them work on their reloading drill to better maintain their fire. In fact every Primaris squad spent too much time reloading, and frequently had two, three, or even four of their brothers reloading at once. Fire must be maintained brothers. We cannot be outnumbered and not firing.” He paused, eyes leveled at the assembled leaders. “Lieutenant Bors, set up a series of exercises for the vehicle crews. They need to be able to pick a route efficiently and there was far, far too much hesitation in their movements. Especially the Repulsors. They are hover tanks for the Emperor’s sake, how are Rhinos outmaneuvering them?”
He turned on the Guard officer who had tried to slink up behind him “And you Colonel. The plan was for you to wait until ordered in. My force cannot leave this planet unless there are adequate loyalists here to ensure security behind us. You endangered that with your early charge.” Colonel Peak looked at him a moment, face paling.
“Master Cain, you left my men none of the glory. Your plan would have had them sitting and watching while he only good fight in the campaign was fought. You would have us sit out the greatest battle and then spend a decade policing the hinterlands?”
“Yes Colonel, that is exactly what I would have you do, for if not your guardsmen, then my company would have to wait for another force to arrive, and that could takes years. You would have a company of the Dark Angels sit idle for years, just for your men to claim some imagined glory executing traitors?”
Zadok pinged Cain, no verbal message, just a chime for his attention. Cain looked closer at Peak, remembered he was dealing with mortals.
“But your men fought bravely and well. We would be honored to fight with them again. Your vehicle crews especially fought with determination, and your Ogryns were a hammer in the Emperor’s hand.” He said, struggling to find the words to mollify the Colonel.
“Thank you Master Cain” she said simply, straightening to attention and offering a flowery salute. Cain returned it with a simple gauntlet to his chest, turning to dismiss his sergeants.
Lieutenant Bors and Colonel Peak remained behind. Bors looked back and forth between the two officers and gestured for Colonel Peak to step aside a moment. She glared at him, before stepping a few feet away and passing on some orders over her vox bead.
“Master Cain. The new folks need… They need some balance. We all know they aren’t performing as well as the rest of the company. You’ve got squads whose youngest trooper has 50 years fighting the Emperor’s wars. Your oldest Primaris Sergeant has less than 20. Half of them are on their first campaign with a battle company.” The tough old veteran just topped over the Company Master’s shoulders, but his presence, and the weight of centuries of experience pressed down on Cain.
“Lieutenant, I’m not going to lie to these men about their performance.”
Bors held up a hand “I’m not saying to do that Master, but you should couch your criticism a bit more carefully. Your words could be a mace or a scalpel. You don’t need to crush them down, you need to cut out the weakness.” He paused a moment. “A leader can guide, or he can push. The Unforgiven need guidance, not shoving.”
Cain paused a moment. The spoke carefully “Guilliman brought back the rank of Lieutenant to fill in the gaps in leadership. He wanted line officers to lead strike forces, and he wanted leaders to watch the back of Captains who couldn’t see everything at once. The Unforgiven have not wholeheartedly embraced the rank, but I think, today, that you have proven his wisdom Bors. Thank you.” He finished haltingly. He looked down. “Tonight we’ll have a feast. You are right about one thing, this was the first battle for many of our Primaris in the Fifth. We will feast the start of the campaign. Celebrate their success; and afterwards I’ll have a word with the Sergeants.”
Lieutenant Bors snapped to attention; crashed his fist hard to his breastplate and spun away, already dictating orders to their accompanying serfs to ready the feast. Cain looked over his shoulder, catching Peak turning away “And you and your company commanders can join us Colonel. I am not skilled at the diplomacy and the art of dealing with our mortal allies. We are leaving you to a hard, long, difficult task, with no glory, you are correct. You deserve your moment of honor, and I regret my harsh words.”
Colonel Peak looked at him a moment “Thank you Master Cain. We look forward to your hospitality. With your permission, some of my men distinguished themselves today. I beg the honor to present them to you at this feast.” She paused, planning her words with care. “It would remind them of their glory during the long years ahead, remembering being presented to a Master of the Dark Angels chapter.”
Cain nodded. He didn’t fully understand the need but Bors had convinced him that he should listen to those under him.
3 Weeks Later. Godswinson Foothills. Skagerrak III
Cain watched his company race from the treeline, bikes racing forward to screen a line of Rhinos, Razorbacks and Repulsors. Scouting Land Speeders had reported the ridgeline ahead of them to be clear, and Cain intended on taking advantage of that mistake. He watched as the Razorbacks and Rhinos pulled ahead before easing off as they reached the foot of the steep slopes.
As soon as they’d started their climb they had gunned their engines and raced forward. The Repulsors were more hesitant. Carefully selecting slopes that were more manageable they struggled to catch up to the Rhinos as they neared the crest. The doors and ramps of the Rhinos and Razorbacks were opening before they even stopped below the crest, and the marines within charged out, throwing themselves into position peeking over the crest without skylining themselves before the doors of the Rhinos were even fully open. The Repulsors pulled in at the far left and the doors opened. The Primaris marines spilled out and took positions, far more hesitantly and continued shifting up and down the line, the last of them not settling for nearly 20 seconds after their conventional brothers had frozen in place.
Looking to his right he saw the devastators Razorbacks and his command squad. The devastators set up on a little knob just off the ridge’s shoulder, targeting scanners already reaching to select targets. He left them to Lieutenant Bors and ordered his vehicle to the right of the Razorbacks at the crest. The bikes gathered on the left of his line, ready to strike as he ordered a skull-drone to pop up to give him a view of the enemy.
The traitorous guard regiment spread in entrenchments for nearly a mile starting just off the foot of the ridge, a company had started to climb the slope to fortify this last weakness in the line, they were looking up in confusion at the sound of the engines and the clatter of battle plate coming down the slope from his so far unseen company. Everything was positioned as he had planned, his plan would work perfectly.
“Swords and Bolters brothers! For the Lion and the Emperor! ATTACK!” He called into the vox, ordering the Repulsors over the ridge.
“Repent, for Tomorrow you Die!” Intoned his company as they crested the ridge and opened fire. Trusting Lieutenant Nabbuk to direct the Repulsors guns he watched his company fight through the vehicles auspex array. The veteran marines fought flawlessly. Covering each others reloads, blasting down any targets that moved to threaten them, pressing back the shrinking company with a hose of fire. The larger guns of the Primaris blasted holes in the ranks of their enemies but their fire was uneven. Reloads weren’t timed, targets were selected, but fire was not maintained well. The bikes gunned from around the far end of his line and the screaming engines of his assault squad and Inceptors striking deep in the entrenchments beyond, preventing them from reinforcing the devastated company caught out on the slopes.
“Forward, Mount up and move to your beacons!” called Cain, rapidly selecting positions at the edge of the trench line. His own vehicle had nearly reached what remained of the traitors lead company and he ordered a door open, throwing himself out, plasma pistol already firing as his auspex sought targets worthy of its fury. Two shots blasted melta-gun carrying troopers from a throng around a heavily ornamented officer. With a guttural growl he lunged forward, drawing back his power fist and caved in the whole side of the enemy commander’s body. Around him Chaplain Zadok and Lieutenant Nabbuk swung into the fight, precise blasts of fire shattering the bodies of those too far to be reaped by their energised blades.
He glanced down at the battle array cast on the backside of his gorget, showing the state of his troops and the enemy. Pale red icons flew away down the slopes, shattering and dimming while his assault troops drew in the bright red of the next enemy company in a ring facing away from his men. Again the Rhinos and Razorbacks were already slamming into position with abandon, the troops spilling out blasting fire while the Repulsors again lagged behind.
His own command vehicle belched fire, trying to carve a gap through to the beleaguered assault elements, wide to the left the bikes cut another furrow in the enemy lines, while to his right Bors made his firepower felt, Hellblasters, Missile Launchers, Plasma Cannons, and Lascannons from the heavy guns simply tore open one side of the ring, as well as shattering several field guns that had been slewing around to fire on the marines.
The Guard reeled in shock at the massed firepower and the veteran squads didn’t give them even a moment to recover, throwing themselves in with abandon, the Primaris behind them throwing themselves in with no hesitation. Cain caught brief glimpses of his exposed assault element, seeing his Inceptors blasting back any threat to his assault troops, while the screaming chainswords wreaked havoc on the bodies of those near the more conventional assault troops. The bikes circled clear beyond the ring, racing to an unseen command post and the whine-Bang of teleportation announced the Deathwing arriving at the Ravenwing’s beacons.
The vox came to life again a rich contralto calling “At them Skaggerak! Into the traitors!” and further to his left, two companies of loyal guard raced forward in Chimeras, supported by Leman Russ tanks. He could see Colonel Peaks, her short hair waving in the wind as she sat high in the cupola of her command vehicle.
“Bors, bring your element forward, we need to trap them from retreating! Micah, Shamgar, get your Repulsors forward, get them behind the enemy flank to catch them as they flee. Move!”
He continued to direct his troops through the desultory fighting that remained. The traitors fell to the last man, his own losses were a couple dozen lightly wounded, 2 serious injuries and 2 fatalities. He left Nabbuk to speak to Peaks, and set up security with the Ravenwing and Deathwing, meanwhile he called his squad leaders together to discuss the battle.
Newly-Minted Master Cain strode down the hall of the Strike Cruiser Tempus Occidere in his simple robes. Supreme Master Azrael, his features lined with the weight of centuries in command had just given him command of the 5th Battle Company of the Dark Angels chapter. He was the first, and he was the last.
He was the first. No other Primaris brother had ascended to command a company. Some few had made it into the Ravenwing or the Deathwing, and Cain knew the reason. He felt the distrust weighing heavily on him and on his brothers. He knew the secrets the Dark Angels hid, and he and Azrael were working to break the self-destructive cycle of enforced secrecy and obfuscation.
He was the last. Belisarius Cawl had intercepted him, one of the last recruits of the old Order, stolen for Cawl’s secret scheme, one of the precious few recruits that had escaped the secret rites of the Dark Angels even back then. He had met Sar Luther, and even seen the Lion, alone amongst the Legion. Alone amongst the Chapter. He had been a mortal then, an initiate, not even an Astartes, and then as he slept he was stolen away, awakening ten millennia later to a galaxy shattered, promises broken, and a legion that mistrusted him.
To the Primaris he had been a symbol. A guidon leading them through the cold distaste of their introduction, a living banner of what the Primaris could be. Eventually he proved himself in battle and became a squad leader, then a Lieutenant. He was one of the first to join the Ravenwing, a small, ad-hoc group of Inceptors joining the hunt. Shortly thereafter he had been returned to the 5th Company, first as a Lieutenant, and now as its Master. There had been many whispers about a Master who had never served in the bone white of the Deathwing, but as yet there was no suitable role for the new Primaris amongst the Terminators of that venerable company.
His stake in the Hunt was personal. Traitorous space marines dating back to when he had joined still roamed the galaxy. He had nearly petitioned to join the Chaplains. Grand Master Sapphon had interviewed him and had informed him that he would make a great Interrogator-Chaplain, but his greatest gift was in command, and in command he should go. Shortly thereafter Azrael had summoned him. He had long known of Guilliman’s frustration that none of the Primaris had been given command in the Dark Angels. He had received inquiries personally and was copied on others sent to Azrael. Azrael had called him in alone, and met with him in his chambers, deep within the Rock.
Over wine and in the dim light of candles they had discussed long and deeply the frustration that he and the other Primaris had dealt with. Azrael had been direct. His questions blunt, even cutting, but never harsh or cruel. Finally he had opened up. He had admitted his frustration at the attitudes within the Chapter, within the Unforgiven as a whole. He knew that their secret must be held, not for the secret itself for every legion had had traitors, but for the acts they had committed in covering them up. Eventually they must come forward, admit what they had done, but they needed one last Crusade. One mighty victory to show that their sins had been worth it.
Cain and the Fifth would lead that Crusade. Tempus Occidere had been loaded with every sort of weapon and vehicle. The entire Fifth Company was mechanised with transports and tanks. Squads, bikes, and even aircraft from the Deathwing and Ravenwing had been attached giving Cain more strength than any two line companies normally held. Even more proof of Azrael’s trust, he had been reinforced further with vehicle crews being assigned from the Marines of the 7th and 9th companies, rather than providing his own vehicle crews, this left all his squads at full strength even with the vehicles attached.
Tonight the Tempus would launch, on a course known only to Cain and the navigator. Tomorrow he would brief his officers, and then… To the hunt!
Note – This is, of course, not canon. I’ve given a lot of thought to how the Primaris would be integrated into the Dark Angels. It’s a sticky problem, but a fun one, and the characterization of Azrael and his feelings about the curse of the Unforgiven is nearly entirely my own creation, although not an unreasonable one.
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.