Part Three of the Newsletter is here and with it comes an awesome story that is carried on from our Competition winner!
The Tower of Vigilance and its attendant escorts were three weeks into the journey towards Arkhona and the frenetic bout of activity that had greeted the astropathic message had given way to more focussed preparations amongst the brothers aboard the battle barge. The situation was unusual in that they were preparing to face three very distinct types of foes on the surface of Arkhona.
They knew, thanks to the sacrifice of Librarian Commodus, that they would be facing the unending tides of the great devourer, an elemental force that had scoured whole systems clear of life and had been the doom of more than one chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. Chapter command was hoping that the organisms on the planet were merely the vanguard of the main hive fleets or this deployment may be over before it had even started. The Tower of Vigilance and its fleet of strike cruisers and escorts were a formidable force. Their ancient construction and disciplined crews, to say nothing of the forces they carried, were capable of obliterating fleets many times their own size, laying waste to Xenos and heretical vessels with planet cracking firepower and righteous fury. Against the full strength of a hive fleet though, it would be like spitting into an Armageddon dust storm. They would be destroyed in short order if they could not link up with other Imperial forces to bolster each other’s firepower.
The news of the Tyranid threat was not the only revelation in the psychic death shriek of the late Librarian either, the kill team had known before departing that they would be facing heretical elements on the planet. Frankly, after centuries inside a warp storm, it would’ve been more surprising not to encounter elements of the great enemy on the planet. But the presence of the Orks was something they had not expected. Many in the Imperium thought of the Orks as an unthinking tide of green death, driven only by their base instincts to seek out conflict. When finally bought face to face with the Orks the people who thought that way either learned very quickly or they died. Whilst an individual Ork was indeed a slavering monster, drawn to bloodshed like an insect to a flame, their warbands and their leaders were neither stupid nor bereft of strategy.
It was this knowledge, acquired through bitter experience that occupied the mind of Chaplain Vaulik as he stalked down the ship’s corridors to his private arming chamber. The presence of the Orks had been a splinter in his mind since they had first relived the message that had set this new crusade in motion and his training drills, conducted this morning with brother Icario of the Crimson Fists had leant new impetus to his thoughts. The Crimson fists had their own, bitter history with the Orks and the knowledge that they would be fighting the greenskin menace had been met with nothing short of exultation from those Crimson Fists present on board.
As he entered the chamber he immediately dismissed his attendant serfs, the minor repairs to his armour would wait. Reverently, he placed his deactivated Crozius onto the altar, mouthing a prayer to the weapon’s ancient machine spirits as he did so. The weapon was not his, not truly, it was a relic of the Dark Angels and he was its warden whilst he still lived. He was the twenty fourth Chaplain to be the custodian of this venerated weapon and the number of foes whose lives it had ended were beyond counting and before this campaign was done Vaulik swore to add a hundred more to that tally.
He turned to face the mirror that was set in a simple wooden frame and stretched the full height of the wall. The mirror was an unusual addition to an armoury chamber, most Astartes would consider it unnecessary at best and vainglorious at worst. But the Chaplain knew differently. He did not keep the mirror out of some sense of pride or vanity, he kept it as a reminder. He was a Chaplain of the Adeptus Astartes, set to watch over the spiritual health of his brothers, to be a beacon of faith, an example to follow. He must be vigilant for any signs of doubt, no matter how small they may be, in his fellow battle brothers. The Dark Angels above all knew the price of a lack of vigilance, a secret shame that had haunted their chapter for ten thousand years. Chaplain Vaulik knew the importance of vigilance and, like all virtues, true vigilance began with the self. The mirror was a reminder of that and as he looked into the glass, he removed his skull faced helm and met his own stare.
In his mind, he replayed the message they had all borne witness to in the astropathic chamber. It was too much of a coincidence that the Orks had come to Arkhona such a short time after its emergence from the warp storm and the Chaplain did not believe in coincidence. The planet had been cut off for centuries, it was isolated, far from any current reports of greenskin activity and an unlikely target for a speculative raid by Ork pirates due to the instability of the warp currents in its vicinity. There were far richer, easier targets within reach of the foul xenos and this troubled the Chaplain. The Orks had targeted Arkhona specifically, they had gone there with a purpose, a direction, a goal. Vaulik knew the value of the relic Commodus had been tasked with finding but it seemed inconceivable that the Orks would know of its existence, let alone its location. There were others who might though, who were capable of manipulating the Orks and setting them in motion. It was this dread spectre that hung over the Chaplain’s thoughts as he used his near perfect recall to study every inch of the message, every scene, every moment, every image that the Librarian had burned into the message looking for any hint, any clue and all the while hoping he wouldn’t find it.
But, as has often been said, hope is the first step on the road to disappointment and with a barely audible curse, Vaulik saw what he had dreaded. It was a small thing, Commodus had only been aware of it on a subconscious level, and even if he had paid it more heed, he would not have understood the implications. Vaulik did. ‘So be it.’ He said to himself in the quiet of the chamber, his voice, though soft, was full of steely determination and his eyes burned with a newly knindled fury. As he stared at his reflection, the Chaplain’s gauntleted hand moved slowly to his neck, there, next to his sacred Rosarius, his fingers rested on the string of pearls. Despite his distinguished service, despite the campaigns and the multitude of foes that had fallen before the Chaplain and despite his determination to bring the Emperor’s light to the darkest corners of the galaxy, he had not had cause to change the colour of even a single, shimmering pearl. ‘Not yet!’ he mused, ‘Not yet!’
The sound of bolter fire echoed throughout the vast training hall, mass reactive rounds flying through the air in their hundreds, the propellant trails creating linear patterns in the fog. Targets exploded, vat grown flesh and mechanical components bursting in sprays of ichor and unguents. It was the eighth time running a variation of this particular drill and the training was paying off thought Sergeant Proteus as he watched the disciplined fire bring down rank after rank of the enemy. The unique make-up of Vigilia Mortis had both benefits and drawbacks. Chief amongst the drawbacks was the difficulty in combining the myriad chapter doctrines and fighting styles into cohesive squads, forging in a short time, bonds and understanding that would normally take years to create in the parent chapters.
However, it was the benefits that were coming to the fore now as each chapter leant its own particular expertise to the training regimen, sharing hard won experience and battle knowledge with their brethren. Once the presence of the Tyranids had been revealed, Sergeants Proteus and Praeter, both Ultramarines and Tyrannic War Veterans themselves, had used their expertise and that of their fellow Ultramarines aboard to hone the Chapter in the most effective way to fight the chitinous swarm. The precision bolter shots ended charges before they closed and the devastators, ably directed by Brother Veteran Ziegfried, targeted and destroyed the creatures that directed the swarms, causing the mass to lose cohesion and become easy pray for the focussed, mass-reactive fire.
In the adjacent hall, Crimson Fists and Black Templars shared their expertise in fighting Orks. The Black Templar’s close combat ferocity and the Crimson Fists expert knowledge of the Ork way of war had proven a highly effective combination in previous deployments and was now being disseminated to other battle brothers. Blades rang, power fields surged, chainblades roared and snarled whilst the fluid movements of the Crimson Fists kept the enemy off balance and prevented them from bringing their numbers to bear effectively. All throughout the fleet, forces were being forged anew, Veteran’s and new recruits alike learning from each other, all seeking that perfect, martial state that would let them visit death and destruction upon the enemies of man. It was as these preparation were taking place that the enemy struck.
Without warning the entire vessel was rocked by a series of gigantic explosions, the sound like a thunderous bell pealing through the halls of the battle barge. Floors shook, anyone not mag-locked to the deck was thrown from their feet, serfs pitched from gantries to fall hundreds of feet to the deck, cogitators and communication terminals exploded and gasses and flame vented throughout the ship.
“What in the Emperor’s name was that?” Demanded Chapter Master Valrak from his command throne on the bridge. Alarms, warnings and sirens blared across the command deck, serfs rushed to collate information as automatic protocols activated the damage control servitors. The reports from the bridge crew came thick and fast, shouted warnings and status updates competed with the din of explosions and ringing sirens. The information would have been too much for a mortal mind to process but the Chapter Master managed to filter out the key messages from his crew.
“Multiple explosions along the dorsal spine!” cried one,
“Warpspace Energy fluctuations!” another yelled. “We hit a mine field.” Valrak frowned, a warpspace minefield was almost unheard of and at this stage he began to ponder who could be responsible. It spoke of resources and expertise that they had not expected their current foes on Arkhona to have at their disposal. His thought on the matter were interrupted though and he forced them into the back of his mind to be contemplated when time permitted!
“Damage to the Gellar field generators!” a bondsman reported.
It was this last statement that drew the Chapter Master’s immediate attention. Without the thin veil of reality that surrounded a ship during warp transit it would be easy prey for the countless entities that called this domain home. Even minute fluctuations in the Gellar field had doomed hundreds of ships over the centuries and if it failed completely the outcome was inevitable. The courage and strength of the battle brothers aboard the vessel would make the daemons pay dearly for every inch of ground they took, but take it they would. “Can we restore them?” He demanded.
“Unkown!” replied the bondsman, his voice, though clearly strained was still disciplined and controlled. “We cannot count on them for much longer!” he continued.
Valrak had little choice, though it galled him to react without knowing who his enemy was, time was not on his side. “Signal the fleet! Emergency Realspace Translation, now!” he roared and the communications officers relayed the signal. Across the ship, battle brothers and serfs were already moving to their assigned battle stations. The foe may be unknown, but the Astartes on board would meet it head on and make them pay for their temerity.
Warp-drives were pushed to maximum across the fleet, breaches between were realities created and the fleet of Vigilia Mortis translated. Straight from one hell, and right into another.
I hope you all join me in thanking Markosian for this fantastic piece of work, hopefully this will turn into a great seriers for our Chapter!