The Orks burst like fruit under pressure, smashed into a red mist vaguely resembling of the cherried wine sprays that me and mine kindred would parade under on the eve of full harvest. On such days when the Journeyed Braegs would walk amongst the forest cities, my brothers would stand sentinel for the weaker folk. The vintage bloodwines gifted to the Laeer flowers would intoxicate the spirits; make their forms sway back into to that of their natural myth. They would be forced out; bramble-coated staves sending them back into the warding grounds and away from the slumbering populace.
How I missed those pagan days.
Back, deep under layers of memory, I remember the nights before my own ascension. The nights where I would stay up until the crest of dawn, staring from high windows down at the armored giants in green and brown and silvery white, ironwood staves covered in nettleskin vines, the faint pinkish red mist seeping through the cracks in the walls, the laughing humanoid Braeg Spirits dancing through the fern shaded streets, haunting and erotic with their singing.
I swing my claw once more, and another Ork falls dead before my metal frame. The blood-slick splashes against my ocher-brown armor, the white and green livery shining in stark contrast to the crimson that I wade through.
I remember dancing under the reflected light of the sister planet during the night, and harvesting hyaaed grains during the day. I remember growing strong and charming. I remember turning the heads of young lass's in the shaded town square of Silnbranck under the great daoiwood trees of the northern pale, but my heart was set on something greater.
My brothers cry victory chants, bolters blazing white-hot as they rake fire across the green-tide. The sea of Orks breaks against our lines, bolters are used as clubs, fighting for space to wield the sacred daoiwood staves that we of the Suns' Descendants have spent centuries perfecting in grand martial tradition taught in the deep forests of Caltoria and the jungles of ravaged Caltona.
I remember the great temple of the far north, the shrine to the Sun-Seer of distant Sol, the Clockwork towers of the Machinist-men under the great mountains where steel is made into grand ships that sail on the wide sea of the Sister world.
I have no more need of such weapons for I am forged into a grand machine. I am an engine of destruction wrought and wreathed in plasteel and adamantium. My fists are stained with the futility of countless Xenos species, and before that I was bloodied in the first of the Dark Nights and three thousand wars before that. I stride forwards, my Voxcaster bellowing the battle Hymns of the chapter. My fists swing and another score of Greenskin fiends feel the wrath I embody even as rounds plink off what has become both my tomb and my revenge.
I remember standing sentinel at night. My novitiate brothers and I sent to guard against the marauding Mawl-folk, the twisted beasts being pushed back by longstub rifles and whickerwood staves.
Flames burst forth from `neath my fists, holy promethium incinerating a full swath of xenos before they have chance to raise their weapons against me.
I remember my induction into the Deep Forests, the day the Suns' held the grand feast of the whickerman's march, the forest giants emerging from the shadows of the shaded groves and welcoming those who are both brave and strong into their monastery, so we could be tested and changed.
I am staggered, an explosion rocking me backwards a single blasphemous step. My systems read green, there was no penetration, but my ire is stirred and I turn to see what fool had dared to strike me. Who challenges me?
I remember trading my whickerwood stave for the heavy cast plasteel pole that my name was writ in blood upon as well as those who had born it aloft before me. I remember the great hunt me and my new brothers took, the hunt of the Dark Eldar who skittered about the southern forests, preying upon the weak and infirm.
Another plume of bright flame erupts from the many guns of the loota tank, but I am ready. I rip the frame of a wrecked Killa-Kan from the ground -its arms and legs but metal splinters- and hurl it forwards. The shell, barley out of the main barrel is intercepted by the airborne hulk, the debris is blasted apart, giving me the time I need to surge forwards.
I remember taking their scalps, and gathering up the staves of my fallen brothers, and making the long journey north with both prize and perished.
My metal frame meets the hull of the tank with a resounding clang that is lost to the roar of battle around me. I grip the barrel with one claw and drive my right into the side, metal screams in protest as the four fingered instrument of death tears into the compartment, and the flamer underneath unleashes a gout of promethium that burns the foul Orks and lays the desecrated and tortured machine spirit of the Leman Russ to rest at last.
I remember the celebration, the ascent into Battle Brother, the rarity of my body accepting the Black Carapace. I recall the cheer and the solemnity of my journey to the far north, to genuflect before the Sun-Seer shrine, and swear my oaths of loyalty, of duty, of love, of faith, of battle and death.
The resulting explosion from the munitions rolls off my armored frame like the constant ash fall from the burning refineries, I feel none of it as I stride past the ruined tank and back into the rushing Orks. Boyz lead by far bigger Nobs swarm around me, their crude Choppas bouncing off my shell. It is the Nobz that I focus on; their heavier- although crude- weapons the only true match to my bulk.
I remember my first time away from blessed Caltoria. I remember seeing the sickle moon in the dark distance past the sun, the dread home of the cult that plagues our home.
I catch the first claw with my own; my strength crushes the implement in seconds as I tear away the arm that wielded it. The greenskins roar of pain is filtered into my brain through the many wires and circuits that make up my decaying body.
I remember my first battle on a distant world, my brothers and I felling the enemy, my brothers charge, our company rising, winning. I remember my first battle and the thousands after. I remember returning home, the horror of the Dark Night as the Cult of Strife descended upon our world, how Caltona burned in the night sky, how Caltoria was besieged in darkness.
I dispatch the first Nob easily enough, grabbing his midsection and tearing him in half, using each end as a bludgeon to smash those around me. I throw the bloodied chunks of Nob at the looming pair of Deffdreds that now accost me, the main bulk of the Ork force finally crashing down upon my Brothers and I. I am the first to meet them.
I remember watching the Deep Forest burn, the angered Braeg spirits rising up alongside my brothers, the bloodshed and ashen faced cackling scourges that leapt from branch to branch, slaughtering the weak.
The spinning blades of the first grind against my armor, and threaten to cut through before I match its strength. I pulverize the leering body with two mighty swings. The second Dred smashes into me from the side; the insane cackling erupting from its Crude vox screaming at me as its many blades and crushing claws scratch at my plate, undoing the fine calligraphy that was so lovingly etched onto my surface by the chapters serfs.
I remember not being fast enough; my brother sergeant dying as splinter rifles tore open his armor and eviscerated him from within, the remains of the squad chasing down the flight of scourges that had ambushed us, and killing them to the last.
I push against its weight, feet digging into the bloody loam and finding purchase, I grip its lower jaw, the unhinged thing coming away in a shower of sparks that seem to pain the beast within- I do not let it suffer as I ram the metal piece into the vision slit, breaking through with the jagged metal spike and impaling whatever served as a pilot on the other side. Its clawed hands slacken and spasm, I tear them off before they can fall away themselves.
I remember the field promotion that put me to the rank of sergeant and of the grand tale of our strongest champion, of Vaykor' Ru- how he faced down the dread Wych-Queen Lilith Hesperax, how they fought to a standstill, how they dueled for the entirety of that night alone before war separated them from each other, and they were whisked away to different corners.
I am wounded; servos and systems fail to heed my commands, but I press onwards. I disregard the electric aches and pains of my mechanical body; I am beyond such trivial things. The horde swirls around me as gunfire turns to the harsh smash-clang cacophony of melee. Chainswords tear and grind, staves bash and crush, pistols thud and thunder; there is no greater exultation of his glory then that of destroying the enemies of man, eye-to-eye, fist-to-fist.
I remember Antos, glorious Antos, master of the chapter, I remember his fist raised high in defiance of the Dread Dark Eldar, of his march into the lines of Wracks that besieged our forest home, how he singlehandedly broke their assault and beat back the fledgling archons that assaulted our world.
The tide breaks around us like water on stone- but in such a way do we erode. Brothers fall under the weight of the green monstrosities, slowly, but with time does the line begin to break. Flanks fail and crumble under the sheer volume of blows put upon tempered ceramite clad warriors. They die, they are dragged down and they die- but they die with purpose and curses on their lips, something that can not be said of the vile Orks, who die most ignobly, pests put to flame and snuffed out one after the other. I am there, punching, burning, cleansing in the midst of this purge and it is most righteous indeed.
I remember the cowards' strike, which felled him, and wracked him with endless pain. How I found myself charging forwards with a berserkers wrath uncustomary to my chapter, and breaking the back of the coward Wych that though to take our Master from us. I remember standing and fighting over my liege lord for three nights.
We hold for hours, we are blooded in turn, but we do not break, we crack, we falter; yet we still stand and we fight. Our lines collapsing to the left and right before reforming under the bellowed commands of staunch sergeants and pulling tight towards the impregnable linchpin that is my might. I lose count of the broken bodies that are piled beneath my feet. Green forms turn red all around me.
I remember killing. My stave crushing bodies and deflecting lethal splinters- its length a maelstrom around me that none could pass. I remember protecting my master- and killing thousands until I could kill no more.
They come in waves and we push them back, all order lost in the ensuing melees, tactics turn to savagery but not once does my spite turn to berserker fury. My rage is tempered by the amniotic fluids that sustain me, my wires surge with hate- yes, but that hate is cold, calculated and dolled out with precision. I bellow the litanies of the Ascended Sun and his many Sons; my fists bring vengeance in Their name.
I remember the Geist walkers, their solemn march and their incorporeal beasts that tore through the Eldar, driving them off our planet, how at the head of their march was the lost and returned son- the return of Geist Walker Skiot of the chapters mystic Sages.
No longer a tide of rampaging waves but a single maelstrom- they smash they bellow, they howl and rage, their guns roar and plink off armored plate. We push back, we meet their charge with our own hatred driven by the million worlds fallen to the greenskins and never to be reclaimed. We are too few and they are too many, they are a legion of green wolves to a single paltry hunter- But "I Am Among You And We Know No Fear." I cry for my brothers who fall and those who still stand, I rampage with mechanical might and I smash aside those before me just like before.
I remember falling only then, my body dying, breaking down as I finally let the toxins from countless poison blades overwhelm me- knowing my duty done, our master safe. And then there was waking: my body cold, my breath dead, my world reduced to the cogitators and machine spirit that now shared my consciousness.
All at once there is a change in the green tide, it pulls back, dragged back out to sea by some monstrous force. A raging howl echoes through my tomb, reverberating through cold steel like a death knell tolling for the last time. What stills the heart of lesser mortals chills ours but still we will stand. A Goliath of metal, bone and burning blood crests over the green tide, parting the sea like a forgotten prophet. A mighty axe and twin barreled cannon
The Warboss Cometh.
I remember the honor markings that Antos himself carved into my living tomb even though he now fought against eternal pain, as the Eldar poison wars with his formidable metabolism, the Chief Apothecary never far from his side.
My target, my prey, my destiny. I gaze at it like a scorned lover, the beady black eyes and metal jaw. The Klan markings burned into its bare chest, the heavy red plates strapped haphazardly across its form, the jagged lumps of metal stuck it its skull in mimicry of a feudal kings crown. It bellows with a loathsome roar and I answer with a burning challenge from beyond death.
I remember those days now gone, those days past and left behind on the distant home of Caltoria, the deep black, shrouded woods, the towering mountains, the scarred, twin world of Caltona that rose black in the sky each night with its graveyard forests and brooding sea- I remember it to be dead, the Dark Eldar, burning its surface, breaking its atmosphere until it was a parched, desert wasteland of rolling rocky canyons and sandy plains where oceans once loomed.
Greenskin corpses break underneath my feet, I charge through the blood and the bodies, crushing bone with every mechanical step. It does the same, foam rings its jaws and it froths and bellows, smashing aside its own pathetic horde as it pushes at its own feeble reins to get at my bulk. I welcome its Rage with a bale of flame. The undermount flamers burn hot and pure, scouring away spore born filth with ease but its bulk is of sterner sorts. It pushes through, and its axe cleaves down. I am too slow to catch its strike, but its next is smashed aside with my fists taught to war by my masters, and now guided by the vengeance of the machine.
I remember the Pact.
It is strong. Terribly strong. Point blank cannon fire rocks my sarcophagus back, and I struggle to catch myself lest I fall and it ends me with a single stroke. I swipe and knock aside its mechanical hand of cannonades, my fist pulverizing the weak xenos metal, but the fist itself below the augments and mechanical mishaps proves sturdier than anticipated and the axe falls again, pain lost on its feeble mind drowning in the depths of a full blown WAAAAGH! My left fist is torn away by its crude axe, servos hiss and wires whine, the pain doubles in my mind as sympathetic agony courses through me before it is shunted away into the throbbing dull ache in the back of my skull- my constant companion redoubles the painkillers floating through my ruined body as cogitators scream listlessly. My right arm is still functional.
I can still fight.
I remember My duty, my call to war eons after my first death.
Red runes scream at me, pain becomes me; failing systems pour their laments through my mind as responses become sluggish and the Machine spirit falters in its duties. It almost begs me to desist, to return to the lines where my brothers resist. The Machine spirit of this vessel is foolish. We are the line. There is no one left but us. My remaining arm smashes aside another blow from the Ork Warboss and the idiot strength fueling it staggers me. More sympathetic pain screams through my mind and I feel the bonds holding me to this mortal plain weaken. Another blow wracks me, and then another- and another.
I remember the Last sight of Caltoria, as I left it for the last time, praying that one day that those among us who set out on this grand crusade might return in victory. I pray that I might be the one, even if it only in slumber.
That vow is what lets me keep fighting. That vow is what lets me surge forwards and throw my weight at the brutal beast before me. My strength- mechanical purity against xenos inferiority –overcoming the grinding axe that cuts deep into my tomb and I feel my own flesh rent for the first time in ages. I bring the four fingered fist of my remaining right arm down upon its idiot face, its squalling roars silenced as I grip its metal jaw and tear it from its ghastly visage. I bleed and I am dying, but I am not yet done with this Beast.
I remember the vows I took upon the great mountain, shrine to the Ascended Sun.
I crush the spikes that it thinks a crown, I take its 'King-hood' and drive them deeper into its thick, brutish skull, and metal pierces what may serve as its tiny, xenos brain. The beast is dead.
I am to follow.
I remember vowing to uphold the Words of the Emperor- the King of Sol- the prize Sun of Terra.
The howling and braying of the green horde begins to fade, my fist crumples the skull of the warboss, and the distant rumble of artillery shakes the ground, growing closer, striking down green and turning it to black and red. I have bought my brothers time to make it so.
I remember vowing to become a king among men- but not to rule.
The blood leaks from the ruined plating, mixing with viscous preserving fluids, I smell the stench of the battlefield once more- and for the last time.
I remember vowing to beat back the darkness that leaches from the Sun, the cruel entropy of the universe was to become my bitter and eternal enemy.
Senses begin to fade as I am left alone in my tomb, the valiant Machine spirit that had fought along side me for so many years, dying before me in the end.
I remember vowing to uphold the facets of virtue that are gifted to mankind.
The last strength of my mechanical body, the last act I can force through cooling circuits and stiffening servos- I roll the hulk of my tomb over, so that I my lay with my face viewing the nighttime sky of this world whose name I cannot remember for I was never told.
I remember vowing to uphold the simple joys that are given to Humanity. The joy of peace, the joy of duty, the joy of due rewards, the joy of a mothers warmth and a fathers pride.
I choose to uphold my own due reward as I lay dying.
I gaze at a darkening sky.
And I search for Sol.