Karel and Stern try one last attempt to save Triton from Exterminatus via the hands of the unfeeling Inquisitor Mordecai.
"Stern!" it hissed, then moved away from the portal so that the final member of this Daemonic pact could burst through into existence. the final figure emerged, tallest of the three, her lithe form striding gracefully from the portal. she vaguely resembled a human woman, but there was a completely unhuman air of grace and seduction to her. she was thin, but muscular. her naked torso expanded and retracted beautifully as she breathed air again. her face was human for the most part, her eyes a dangerously seductive black that damned any mortal foolish enough to gaze into them, a series of horns extended backwards out of her head where her ears should have been, and her purple hair was braided in long strips dowh her back. her pale flesh more attractive than that of any mortal soul. three pairs of breasts ran down her torso, ending in savage sets of teeth instead of the seductive nipple. as well as a normal set of arms, an extra pair extended from her back, ending in glassy black, scythe like claws. her normal arms were lean and muscular, in one she carried a thin bladed sword, whilst the other ended in a purple glove capable of heightening the emotions of any mortal it closed around, making them the perfect morsel to sustain it's wearer, the one known as Zarakynel.
her stomach gurguled in anticipation for the coming battle and she let off a childish giggle, much to the distaste of the red skinned An'ggrath, who snorted, then spoke in a booming voice.
"where is that vile puss bucket, Scabeithrax?!" he roared in frustration.
M'Kachen swung it's head round to meet the Daemon's gaze.
"Scabeiathrax fell to the humans, he crossed the void to early." it hissed.
"don't speak to me, sorceror! you are scum! you would prefer to blast your enemies apart rather than rip their skulls from their flesh!" boomed An'ggrath, who then lowered his head and charged at the skinnier Daemon, who readied his staff to deal with the Bloodthirster.
as the two bickered, the lean figure of Zarakynel watched with interest and hunger as a contigent of black armoured humans approached, the one leading the procession she identified as the one who had summoned them. the procession stopped, and Syrax, who's name Zarakynel had fortold before her arrival, nodded to the dark haired human who stood beside him. the human pulsated with Daemonic aura, and Zarakynel knew he was not entirely human, at least, not anymore. the human ran forward and jumped lithely onto her leg, climbing up her enchanting form. she giggled, her heightened senses feeding off every touch of his hands scaling her supple body. he clambered over her supple, fleshy thigh and up her perfectly muscular back, using the braids of purple hair as hand holds. eventually he reached her shoulder, and clambered upright to talk into where her ear would be.
"Lord Syrax offers you three of his finest warriors to be devoured in return for your services."
"excellent." she giggled in a seductively sweet voice, "am i to devour you this day, morsel?"
"no." he replied flatly, with no hint of being seduced by her seductive aura, "he also requests that you break up the two bickering children, so as he may put them to work on your task."
"very well." she said, swelling her lithe form to greater height and strength. she grabbed An'ggrath by the ring in his nose and M'Kachen by his scrawny vulture like neck and lifted them both off the ground.
M'Kachen fell eerily silent whilst An'ggrath struggled in her grip. she giggled at their pain, then brought them both close to her face.
"we all have work to do here, the sorceror has his enemy to confront, and the Bloodthirster has skulls to collect, so i suggest you both stop fighting before you become my next meal."
she let go of both of them, and they dropped to the ground.
"now," whispered the human on her shoulder, "you may take your pick, three warriors."
she scooped her head down, staring at the comany. most looked away, but those too slow got caught in her deadly gaze, and stood there, their grip on their weapons slackening. she plucked three hapless warriors from the company, scoping them up in her gloved hand. she swallowed all three whole in one go, savouring the pain and pleasure as they struggled inside her. her stomach gurgled, and the movements inside her ceased. she sighed, regretting she couldn't devour any more, then she smiled, sudden realisation flooding into her. she could have all she wanted, she was superior.
she puffed her chest out, the gnashing teeth on her breasts opening up. long, glistening tongues shot out, ensnaring six more humans and pulling them in. she giggled as she felt the humans struggle in her grip. the gnashing sets of teeth closed firmly, damning the humans inside, she could feel their pain and anguish at being betrayed by such a beautiful being, and the gurgling faded as the thrashing of the humans within her bosom ceased.
"my master will not be happy." whispered the figure on her shoulder, who then leapt, dropping to the ground with barely a thud.
M'Kachen's head snapped up suddenly.
"i sense Stern!" it hissed, "he is near!"
M'Kachen's eyes focussed on a human ship streaking through the sky.
"then go." Zarakynel waved a hand dismissively, "delight in feasting on your prey."
M'Kachen spread it's leathery wings and took flight, angling towards the point where the human ship was landing.
Stern jumped from the boarding ramp of the Thunderhawk as soon as it touched down, excited at the prospect of piloting a Nemesis Dreadknight again. he leapt over to Tech-Priest Vakel, who was fiddling with an ancient control panel next to the massive bulk head doors of a weapons cache.
beside Vakel stood Benvard, the Sergeant Major of the Zerithian Cobras. Stern acknowledged him with a quick nod. behind Stern, the deathwatch spread out, backing up the perimeter of Guardsmen. Karel jogged over to the group, slightly annoyed at being left behind.
"how long will it take you to open this damn thing?" he ordered Vakel.
the sound of battle could be heard all around them as the Guardsmen and the Deathwatch fended off the Daemonic horde.
"you will need to wait until i have administrated the rites of opening, brother Captain."
"for the emperor's sake!" Stern shouted, "do you mechanicus have to have a ritual for everything?"
"if it is any concern of yours, most things." Vakel spat back.
just as he was about to punch in the code and open the bulkheads, Vakel was lifed off his feet by a violent psychic blast, rising high into the air before exploding.
Karel elt out a savage roar as he was covered with the burnt shrapnel and seared flesh of a man he had known and fought alongside for years.
he went to draw his sword, but a silver armoured hand held him in a firm grip.
"no, Karel." said Stern, "he's mine."
Karel looked up to see a massive, blue skinned, vulture-like humanoid descend from the skies and land in a billowing cloud of psychic energy, throwing back the guardsmen around it.
"Deathwatch, with me!" roared Stern, and Karel felt a slight twinge of jealousy.
"great, now what do we do?" grimaced Benvard.
"we take the easy way in." said Karel, thrusting his fist straight through the control panel and watching the ancient bulkheads begin to slide lazily open.
Stern turned to face his ancient enemy, as M'Kachen turned towards him. the Daemon's skinny frame towered vastly over the forms of the defenders and the other daemons around it.
"bring it, filth!" Stern roared.
the daemon said nothing, but simply rammed it's staff towards Stern.
he dived out of the way, but was too slow, his left arm getting caught by the end of the staff. Stern heard a loud crack and pain laced up his arm before the seditives of his armour began blotting out the pain and healing the broken bone.
Stern landed and rolled to absorb the impact, activating his Nemesis force weapon as he went.
the blade crackled with a blueish hue, the ethereal energies lighting the blade up, a beacon of the emperors light for the defenders.
the daemon launched it's hand towards Stern, aiming to crush him. Stern jumped over the blow as it landed, landing squarely on the daemon's blue skinned arm. Stern climbed up the daemon's arm, his feet steady and sure. he climbed up to the daemon's shoulder. the creature brought it's staff round, aiming to knock Stern off, but Stern dug his nemesis force sword into the creatures boney flesh as the staff hit his shoulder guard. he stood firm as the daemon screeched with rage, flapping it's wings in a torrent of pain.
Stern moved his left arm as the various chemicals his armour produced finished healing it, and weilded the force sword in both hands. around him, the Deathwatch gave him cover fire, and Stern was grateful for their support. he wrenched the force sword out, then turned and slashed it through one of the daemon's leathery wings. the warp spawned creature screeched in agony as it's wing came flying off and black ichor spilled from the wound.
it lifted a massive hand and batted Stern off it's shoulder, sending him flying. Stern landed with a heavy thud and rolled to his feet ready for whatever psychic monstrosity the daemon had conjoured up. but the blow never came.
Stern turned at the sound of heavy footsteps and saw M'Kachen grappling with a silver giant of a machine. it was roughly humanoid shaped, with the main cockpit open to the elements. in one silver armoured arm it carried a hammer, whilst a massive, multi barreled psycannon was mounted on the other. the Dreadknight mimiced it's pilot's movements, and Stern saw that it was Karel who operated the Dreadknight.
the massive construct grappled with the towering daemon, and Stern saw his chance. he ran at the Daemon, jumping up it's leathery leg and using the loincloth around it's chest as a method of climbing, he once again hoisted himself up onto the creature's shoulder, lifting his force sword high above him, then slashing it low. a look of surprise came over the creatures face as it saw it's headless body towering over it, then the blue skinned body fell, throwing up a large cloud of dust and black ichor. Stern jumped from the monster's form as it collapsed, landing squarely on his feet in front of it's corpse. a second later a massive crack in the ground opened beneath the daemon and it fell back into the soupy flesh of the warp.
"you fight well, brother Karel." Stern saluted.
Karel copied the salute, the massive suit copying his movements.
Stern watched as another Thunderhawk descended, blasting apart the remaining daemons that assaulted them with practiced volleys of las fire and heavy bolter shells. instead of a troop compartment, the Thunderhawk had several long mechanical arms ending in clamps slung on it's underside.
"Brother Captain Stern." shouted Karel, "will you be willing to pilot the other Dreadknight?"
"Brother Captain Karel." replied Stern with a broad smile, "i would be delighted."
Lorelei Grey ran onto the landing deck as the first Thunderhawk touched down, unloading it's cargo of Deathwatch members. this was followed by several Valkyries loaded with guardsmen, and then another Thunderhawk carrying the massive forms of two Nemesis Dreadknights, clamped to the underside of the Thunderhawk with massive grappling claws.
the Thunderhawk deposited it's cargo and then turned and landed alongside the other ships.
"i never thought i'd see the day..." murmured Inquisitor Mordecai beside her. the man had turned out to be more of a hinderance than anything else, questioning Lorelei's every move and decision. the silent form of Castellan Garran Crowe stood behind them, leaning on the daemon sword that signified him as brotherhood champion of the purifiers.
Lorelei watched as the two massive Dreadknights, one piloted by Cpatain Stern and the other by Captain Karel, stomped over the metal decking towards her.
"you got them." she smiled, "i knew you could."
"aye." replied Stern, "but not without loss."
"Vakel was slaughtered by a daemon of the foul sorceror god." Karel spat, "we slayed his killer."
Lorelei nodded, turning and walking away from the assembled commanders.
Karel quickly unclipped himself from the Dreadknight's harness and dropped to the floor, following.
Stern did the same, dropping to the metal decking of the landing deck with a thud, and marched to where he knew the one commander who had been silent and out of sight ever since they had gotten back would be.
Benvard sat on one of the benches in the chapel, his head leaning against the wooden arm of the bench and staring listlessly at the floor. he looked up as Stern marched over and sat beside him. the Grey Knight's massive form dwarfed Benvard's.
"something troubling you, Sergeant Major?" he asked.
"a little." sighed Benvard.
"care to enlighten someone?" asked Stern.
"i'm not sure." said Benvard.
"Sergeant Major, if life has taught me anything, it is that all people have troubles, and it never does them good to keep those troubles locked away. such things lead to heresy. you don't have to tell me, just someone you trust."
"well," replied Benvard slowly, "if i can't trust a Grey Knight, who can i trust?"
Stern sat and listened.
"i took sixty men out with me today, Captain. fourty three came back. these are men that i've bled with. men i've fought with, men who i got down to the cathouse with after evening drills. and every day i see more of them extinguished as if they were nothing more than ants beneath a man's boot."
"Sergeant Major, i don't pretend to understand your predicament, nor do i pretend that i am the right person to console on the matter, but i will say this."
"what?" replied Benvard.
"that every man is a spark in the dark, and that each one, though only seen for the briefest second, burns as bright as the light of a thousand suns, and that even though your enemy may see them as less than ants, the Emperor values each and every soul that passes into his halls. remeber not how your men died, Sergeant Major, remember how they lived."
"thank you, sir." replied Benvard after a minute.
Stern offered his hand out, and Benvard took it in the warrior's grip, a symbol of friendship and loyalty across the entire imperium.
he clapped the guardsman on the back, almost knocking the wind out of him.
"thank you, captain." wheezed Benvard, trying to get enough air in again.
"i think you will be alright, Sergeant Major."
he rose to his feet and marched down the central aisle, leaving the Sergeant Major to his thoughts.
Lorelei Grey stood in the training chambers of the Warp-Rider.
she had stripped down to boxers and a training bra, which she always wore underneath her clothes. in front of her a punchbag hung from the vaulted ceiling. her face streaked with tears, she hit the punchbag again and again, venting out her frustration.
it wasn't fair.
she had known Vakel her whole life, and they had been close friends. every time, when a Guardsman's time was up and their company deported back to their home planet, or a contigent of Space Marines were called into defence elsewhere, it had always been them. they had bled and fought by each others sides.
and now he was gone.
hot sweat dripped down her body and her muscles were raw with the physical exertion, but she didn't care. she only wanted to find release from the constand stench of death all around her.
"he was a good man." came a voice from behind her.
Lorelei turned to see Karel standing there, his face grim.
"yes." she replied hoarsely, "he didn't deserve his fate."
she leaned against the metal wall and slid down it, drawing her legs under her chin and clasping her arms around them.
"Inquisitor." started Karel, sitting beside her, "fate rarely does us justice, and that is just a fact we must live with. we are the fighting force of the imperium. one thing is for certain in our line of work, we all die bloody. what makes us different is that we can choose where and when."
the Inquisitor nodded as Karel continued.
"Vakel chose his fate. he could have easily sent an adept to go in his stead, but instead he went himself. the fact that he was willing to place himself in harms way shows that was willing to give his life in defence of the imperium."
"it dosen't change the fact he's dead, though." she whispered.
"no, but we can honour him by remebering, and avenge him by fighting these foul Daemons every step of the way."
"i don't think he'd be that easy to forget." chuckled the Inquisitor, and Karel couldn't help but smile.
just then a voice rang out over the ship's speaker system.
"will all Imperial officers please report to the bridge."
"Mordecai." muttered Karel.
"that bloody bastard is giving orders on my ship!" yelled Lorelei, surging to her feet and running over to where her armour sat in a pile in the corner.
whatever Mordecai wanted, it had better be good enough for her not to put a bullet through his skull.
Benjamin Mordecai looked up as Inquisitor Grey entered the bridge. he stood and looked at her with his arms folded. either side of him stood Castellan Crowe and Captain Stern. behind them stood a ten strong squad of Grey Knights.
"alright, Inquisitor Grey." said Mordecai, "time for you to enlighten us as to this brilliant scheme of yours."
"very well." said Lorelei, stepping up onto the commander's pulpit and giving Mordecai a slight push off it.
"as you know, there are still civilians on the planet below, and whilst they can't escape, we can still do our best to prolong their survival until more help arrives. a fleet is being dispatched from Culexa Primus as we speak. in the meantime, i propose we cut this incursion off at the head."
"and just how do you propose to do such a thing, Inquisitor Grey?" replied Mordecai smugly.
"why do you think we went to such lengths to obtain the Dreadknight suits, Mordecai? i intend to use the suits to close the warp portal feeding this invasion, thus cutting it off at the head and turning a dangerous mission into a cleanup job."
Mordecai unfolded his arms, furrowing his brow.
"i can vouch Captain Stern for piloting one of the suits, but there are none amongst our number with skill enough to pilot the other."
"Captain Karel displayed great skill in piloting the suit when we were securing them." put in Stern.
"then it is settled." said Lorelei before Mordecai could put up a fight, "Sergeant Major Benvard and Castellan Crowe will lend their strength to keep the horde at bay whilst Captains' Stern and Karel attempt to close the portal. now, let's get to work!"
she clapped her hands and waved the space marines off the bridge before turning to Mordecai.
"this is deception, this isn't fair." she snarled at him.
"sometimes these things must be done, Inquisitor. would you rather the horde spread?"
"you're enjoying this too much, Mordecai..." she spat.
both fell silent as they knew what they were about to do.