A/N: Saw a homeless man walk into the store holding a live turkey by the legs the other day.
The day of the Imperiums final victory, and ultimate defeat.
Upon the fields of Cadia, within the holds of bunkers. The stench of death was a miasma, sweeping through the sky. It was the 13th black crusade- it was the Despoilers last crusade.
The Cadian Gate died, and the Imperium was Shattered. The death count is still unknown; some say, that only the Inquisition knows the true number- but refuses to state it, for fear of demoralization. What is known, is that Abbaddon died there.
He, and innumerable other traitor astartes and turncoat renegades died within the Cadian system. The void is filled with corpses from the vented hulls of starships, and planets are awash with continent sized graves of bleached white bones and charred black soot. The Shattering had to be an imperial victory in the eyes of the people, for if it was told that it was what broke the imperiums back, there could be no recovery.
It was claimed that the traitor legions were finally defeated, that the veterans of the long war had all perished, that they had all died there, put to the sword at long last for their ancient heresy. It was said that at the shattering, the Imperium was finally purified, purged of all traitors, that now only the true and faithful remained.
It was all a lie.
Here and now, within the kings capital city upon Valtavyn, were three Renegade Astartes. Superhuman killing machines in patchwork armor but no less leathal. Monsters from terrible nightmares. They walked in the world of the living. So far, in the campaign against the Tyrants Lash, few, if any, had been seen. But now here there were three.
The two in the backlines worked their way forwards, strolling up the road side by side, firing from the hip or one handed. They were Renegades, Astartes. None of them looked the same, none of them wore the same colors, the same insignia. Nor did they use the same weapons.
The one in the center plaza was the only renegade that bore a Bolter- a true Astartes pattern Bolt Gun. Even then, it was in a clear state of disrepair. Panels were missing, replaced by thick leather wrapped over sections to protect the inner workings. The Magazine was cobbled together, and looked as if it had been taken from a different Boltgun variant entirely.
The two advancing from the rear were no less dispossessed in terms of equipment. One was using an imperial guard issue autocannon as if it were a rifle, the frame had been altered- it bore a stock, and the butterfly-trigger had been replaced by a pistol grip. It was an odd configuration, and unwieldily, but the thunderous report and subsequent eradication of several Grenadier weapons teams in quick succession stopped any argument.
The third and final Renegade bore a large shotgun. Short barreled and piggish, its single barrel erupted in a plume of flame from the muzzle as it fired. Then the renegade was reloading, opening the breech, ejecting a casing, fitting in a Heavy Bolter round, closing the breech, and firing again.
They were each wearing armor that was clearly of many different marks. It was unlikely that they were even wearing their own original armors. Likely they wore what they had scavenged from dead loyalists and traitors alike.
It didn't matter that their equipment was sub-par, it didn't matter than their armor was faulty. It didn't matter that they were outnumbered. They were still Astartes. War incarnate. They aimed. They fired. Men died.
Hastis kept his head down, he pulled Hyork back before the idiot could stand up and fire his laspistol like it could do anything. Fighting against the old man, he locked his hand around the inquisitors arm and pulled him back, into a shell of a building- what must have once been a butchers shop by the smell, or maybe it was just the corpses. Lagorn was right behind them, back pedaling, watching the renegade astartes in the center of the plaza.
The Marine lazily ducked a krak missile, then he twisted around and put a burst of bolt-rounds into the second story of a venerable old building- the stones that made up its exterior were blasted apart and an entire section fell away, body-parts and blood were mixed in the rubble and ruin that was left.
"Hyork!" Hastis shouted, "We need to withdraw!"
The two other renegades at last strolled into the plaza- ignoring the lasbeams that painted over their armor, despite the precision that the bursts of lasfire held- targeting the marines helmets, legs, arms, it still was nowhere near enough. With each shot fired by the renegades, another lasgun went silent, the fire was slowly slackening, and with each death the grenadiers were that much closer to breaking.
"What!" Hyork snapped back. He pulled against Hastis' grip. "Those men are dying, damnit!" He shouted. "You mean to abandon them?"
"Nothing they have could even dent those bastards armor, cant even touch them! It's hopeless! We need to retreat!"
"That's cowardice! They may not have the means but we do, we will stand and fight!" Hyrok shouted.
Hastis snarled and grabbed the inquisitor by the head and shook him. "Listen to me you ancient bastard!" Hastis forced the inquisitor to look him in the eye. "Even if you could kill one of them, there's still two left, and they won't let the same trick that killed one of theirs work on them, and for my gun to have a chance of punching through their armor, I need to be at point blank range! Not a chance in the Warp that I'd ever get that fakking close!"
Outside, two krak rockets spiraled out of cover, one of them whiffed, sailing over one marine, but the other miraculously clipped one of the renegades pauldrons, the warhead detonated, the armor piercing rocket tore the entire pauldron clean off of the marine, exposing the lighter armor beneath. At once, the majority of the grenadiers fire refocused onto that renegade, forcing the traitor astartes to reposition out of the open and into the fountain where he could cover his vulnerable shoulder.
"You can't force me to run, Hastis, not again, not after-"
"It isn't running, it's defensive repositioning." Lagorn chimed in. "If I were you I'd do it now, they'll take note of us sooner than later."
"You can't make me do this…"
"I bloody can, and bloody will. You are not dying on my watch, not until you clear the name of Fendora." Hastis snarled, grabbing Hyork again by the coat.
"We are leaving. Now." Hastis calculates in his head just how they would be able to do that without exposing themselves to the Renegades. Even a second out of cover would mean death. "It's the only option we have, this battle is lost."
A voice, far deeper than any humans could ever be rolls over Hastis from behind.
"Battle is only lost when you admit defeat."
The shadows shift, a giant emerges, a Marine. Hastis instinctively aims his weapon, in return, the marine stares punitively down at Hastis and the inquisitor, with steely grey eyes.
"I will not allow you to admit defeat."
Clad in scarred, pitted, and broken carapace armor that may have once been proud, the Astartes stands tall despite what is clearly a plethora of grievous injuries that wreathed his body. Flamer burns, lasblasts, autogun rounds and even a few glancing bolter hits to his carapace-clad chest. Still, despite the injury, the marine stood tall, holding a metal quarterstaff smeared with blood in one hand and cradling a scoped bolter in the other- its muzzle blackened with gunsmoke.
"Where in the Warps' five-hells did you come from?" Hastis growled, "Why didn't you radio inn? Think you're too good for discussing matters with the Guard?"
The marine ignored Hastis, looking out at the trio of renegades. Eyes narrowed, the aspect of the astartes shifts, calculating and shrewd, he disregards Hastis. All in a matter of seconds he comes to a decision.
"Have the guardsmen with their weapon teams on standby. I will handle this." He states.
"Are you giving me orders, Marine?" Hastis snapped. "When did Brutes like you think to be above the Inquisition?"
The marine shrugs as he steps past the inquisitor and his agents. "When did the inquisition foster cowards?" He answered.
"Was that a joke?" Hastis growled back. "Are you playing a joke?"
"Hold this." The marine tossed his oversized scoped bolter to Hastis. The guardsman just caught it and it nearly toppled him over. The marine walked past them, vaulting through the window and landing in the street. He threw off the tattered remains of his camocloak and left it in the dust.
"Traitors," The scout marine shouted- announcing his presence with a soft but powerful voice. "You face me, now." He decreed.
The trio turned, forgetting about the guardsmen- the mortals- entirely, when now faced with a demigod of war such as they. Snarling words pierced the air, laced with anger and regret, and for a moment the war seemed to stop. "You," one of the three snarled. "who are you to challenge us?" The renegade said. "Without amor or weapon? Has madness taken hold of you? I give you this chance now; withdraw! While you've the legs to carry you!"
Yenald ignored their blustering, instead he scrutinized the emblem upon their pauldrons, studying the faded chapter iconography there, scarred and mutilated, but still desperately trying to shine through the muck and grime of shame.
"Ultramarine's successors." Yenald observed. "The Avenging Sons' chapter?" Yenald inclines his head. "Your chapter died. Broken at the Dathos Tragedy. How did you survive?"
The apparent leader of the three renegades barked a cold laugh, stepping forwards, lowering his ramshackle bolter by a fraction of an inch. Intrigued by the peculiar scout marine before them. "You claim to know my chapter, yet I know nothing of yours, Scout." He said. "Name yourself, and then perhaps I'll answer you, fool."
"Scout Master Yenald, of the Sun's Descendants."
"I thought your chapter was lost." The autocannon wielding renegade scoffed. "Consumed by Xenos along the western fringes of this cursed galaxy."
"Forgotten," Yenald shakes his head "not lost."
"Feh, you claim to be forgotten?" The leader said, "You know nothing of being abandoned and cast aside…"
"I know enough. I've seen it first hand. The conflict within you. Your home is gone. Your masters all dead."
The renegade growled, his grip tightening on his weapon. "Don't pretend to understand, fool, you weren't there, you couldn't ever understand. You claim to know of Dathos, of that dark day, then, you must know that the realm of the five-hundred burned at the hands of the corpse-light empire? You know all this, and yet you still fight?"
"The realm of the five-hundred was burned. It was never broken. It will rise again."
"Impossible- what strength does mankind have now? The Imperium is dead! Our father is dead! His stasis crypt was broken, and his corpse was flayed by those metallic abominations! The realm of the five-hundred eradicated by the green corpse-light of xenos!" The Renegade marine spat, "If you had any sense about you, you would run, taking all that you can carry just to survive." He shakes his head in disgust and anger.
"This galaxy is not meant for us, it never was, it never will be. It only belongs to the strong, it belongs to those that have the power to take that from those who cannot protect what they hold!" The renegade leader raises a clenched fist, the ceramite of his gauntlets audibly groaning in protest. "Tradition means nothing! Honor means nothing! What use are these things when we live in a galaxy where even demigods can die and have their skin worn like a funerary shroud across the back of wretched xenos constructs!"
Yenald speaks slowly, as if lecturing a child. "You put your faith in a single man. He may have been a demigod, but he was still a man. When he was lost, so was your source of conviction. I believe in man-kind. I put my faith in all of humanity. I believe in these mortals you hold so much contempt for. You saw your father as infallible. I know humanity to be fallible. So, in their stead, I strive to show them the way. Dathos did not break you. Realizing the failures of your fathers did. You could not come to terms with his death, and in turn, that became your defeat. You made excuses to plunder and steal. You let yourself fall into ranks with traitors, mutants, and likeminded failures. You sought culpability in the empire you served. You should have instead looked to yourselves to find where the weakness lay."
The renegade marine roared. Forgoing words in favor of violence- rebuking the cultured tongue of Yenald with a burst of automatic bolter fire.
In the time that it took the Marine to raise his bolter, Yenald had already closed the distance between them.
Hastis had seen Astartes fight before. He's seen it on several occasions. He'd seen it from a distance and he'd seen it up close. Both had been terrifying spectacles. Nothing that large, that strong, should be able to move that quickly, and that precisely. It just wasn't natural. The unerring grace of the perfidious Eldar made sense, it seemed Right, they were light and stringy, flexible and delicate. They moved and it seemed Natural in how controlled their motions were. An Astartes- an Astartes in motion, in full explosive combat, was unreal. A full eight-feet of muscle and controlled rage should not be able to react with such insane responsiveness.
Yenald was dancing, spinning around the iron defenses of the Renegade marine, with artful skill he battered the traitor with brutal thrusts of his glimmering silver staff- unlocked and fully extended. Sparks erupted after every strike- as the folding silver quarterstaff slammed into the ceramite armor of the traitor. The renegade in turn dropped his ram-shackle bolter and instead drew forth over a foot and a half of shining plasteel, to the marine it was a mere combat-knife, but to any human it would have been a sword. The other two renegades charge into the maelstrom, ripping combat knives and other close-in weaponry from their belts.
The renegades try to corral him, they try to pen the Scout marine in and hack him to pieces- they might as well have been corralling water with their fingers. The Scout flows, dips around them, sways around their strikes and keeps out of their range- yet maddeningly just close enough for his own strikes to connect. Always targeting the cracks in their defenses, always slipping under their guard to throw off their aim just long enough for a blow that should have ended the scouts life instead fly off mark.
Yenald comes in low like a bird swooping under a tree-branch, dodging one of the precise swings of the renegades by centimeters. Even so, the blade grazes Yenalds cheek, the very tip cutting through his skin and drawing blood- but the scout does not care. Yenald brings the tip of his staff up, catches the marine firmly behind his arm and leverages his force into the renegades swing.
Off balance, and with Yenalds weight behind his own strike, the combat blade of the renegade swings around and slams home- into the neck of his brother.
Shock and disbelief comes over the renegade- he watches his brothers blood well around his embedded combat blade. He did not mean to strike his brother but his wild swing, and the careful redirection of Yenald made it so he did. With both his throat and spine pierced by his brothers blade, the Renegade dies.
Yenald doesn't wait- his capitalizes on the marines shock- Yenald lunges forwards with sudden vigor and force. He rips a combat blade free from his belt- long and tapered, it is clearly designed for stabbing through armor and reaching vital points. Before the renegade can react, his blade slots into neck of the traitor almost neatly- like a gear being fitted back into place. Punching up under the renegades helmet, through his lower jaw, the roof of his mouth, and then finally coming to rest in his brain- displacing grey matter and reaching all the way back until finally punching through the medulla-oblongata. The renegade marines twin hearts stopped a moment later.
A quiet tug, and Yenald pulls his blood-washed dagger free. The bodies of the two dead astartes collapsing on-top of each other in a heap of ceremite and plasteel. Yenald circles back, he regards the last renegade.
"You… My brothers…" The marine snarls. "I'll have your hide!" His fists clench, armor groans, he holds tight the grip of his blade. The Scout-Master pays him no heed.
"Now." Yenald says aloud, looking past the renegade
The red beam of energy cuts through the air at the speed of light- the high pitched whine the only warning the renegade has before his torso comes apart as the lascannon beam rips through his armor and out the other side. The remains slump to the ground with a clang, smoke and ash drifting out through the hole made by the potent anti tank weapon.
It took a minute, maybe more, before the Calibrian grenadiers were able to move. They gathered their wounded, prayed for their dead, and set to work. There was still a battle to be fought, there was work to be done. Hastis left the safety of the dedicated butchers shop, striding out to meet the Astartes. He glanced past the stoic Scout Master, who had busied himself with scraping the dried blood of the renegades from his knife and quarterstaff. Hastis noticed that the Quarterstaff the marine used had interlocking parts, and as he watched, the Marine collapsed it down into a more compact form. He wondered if that reduced its structural integrity.
Without the threat of having a bolter round blow open his skull, Hastis could take in the condition of the Scout Master more clearly. His carapace armor was pitted and scarred, blood leaked sluggishly from still open wounds that should have closed. His arms were torn up with buckshot and shrapnel. His face was stained with viscera, his equipment dented and scratched. He looked like every frontline guardsmen did after having stormed an enemy strongpoint and surviving.
Yenald turned and faced Hastis, his face betraying no emotion, his flint grey eyes seeming to dismiss his surroundings. He spoke before Hastis could even begin.
"The inquisitor." He rumbled. "I'd speak with him."
Hastis was indignant. He had wanted to get the Marines information- wanted to know if he had seen. Any other renegades and chaos marauders like the three dead traitors behind him. "In a moment, I need to know-"
Yenald grunted, pushing Hastis aside with one hand and stalking past. The guardsman snarled and grabbed Yenald by the arm. The Scout stopped. He looked back and down at Hastis. There was something in his expression that Hastis couldn't read.
"Don't you just try and brush me off, Astartes!" Hastis snapped. "I wont have your like looking down on me!"
"You are arrogant." Yenald states, and the cold eyes of the Scout marine are the last thing Hastis see's besides the torn-up knuckles of the scouts hand before they slammed into his face.
"Is he…" The question hangs, and Yenald is quick to answer.
"Unconscious." Yenald curtly replies to the grey haired mortal, old and wizened, but in no way feeble. Behind Yenald, a guardsman is quick to investigate the knocked-out inquisitorial agent, the master of whom, now stood before Yenald.
"You do know that there are consequences for striking a member of the Ordos." Hyork intoned.
"I don't suffer fools." Yenald replies. His tone brooked no argument.
Hyork nodded slowly. "Very well, Hastis can be troublesome, that I know from experience."
"Why suffer him, then?"
"I have my reasons, and Hastis is a proficient fighter."
Yenald agreed silently. He had seen the handiwork of 'Hastis' before, back in the trenches. Surrounded by dead fanatics, all by his hand.
"Inquisitor." Yenald says. "Speak with me." It is a demand, not a request.
"I've lost many brothers." Yenald states. "Too many."
"The artillery sites?"
"Protected by renegades." Yenald looked back at the bodies of the traitor astartes.
"They attacked from ambush. They knew we would be there." He shook his head. "They killed my brothers. I alone survived."
Hyork was quiet for a moment, calculating the risk of several more renegade astartes loose to wreak havoc, along with artillery. He cursed.
"How many traitor astartes were there?" He asked.
"Not enough." Yenald said.
"Their guns are silenced." Yenald told the Inquisitor. "The traitors are dead."
Hyork said nothing for a moment, then spoke quickly. "Your brothers, were all of you slain?"
"No." Yenald shakes his head. "But many were. Squads' Ioca, Celaphaius, and Chernobaug should remain. Escorting the guards tanks. Designating targets for artillery strikes." His grimace deepened. "Lost too many. Should have seen the signs. The ambush." He looked back at Hyork, sudden intensity in his gaze. "Your Vox. Let me use it. Mine was damaged."
"What do you need it for?"
"I must call the Griffons."
Sickly incense, rotten smoke, lifting from ochre and carmine pennants, daubed with wax sigils of abominable origin. A stone alter, gravid with ill portent, Sickly creatures squirmed and mewled piteously around it, bent in genuflection, bleeding from open wounds that coated their pale, hairless, emaciated bodies.
Theirs was a purpose that dominated the center of the chamber- the corrupted chantry with its high fresco ceiling stained black with smoke and obscured. The outskirts- the walls with their painted saints and glaring statues, all defaced, all toppled. He was the most blighted desecration of all.
His presence corrupted the very floor with skeins of hoarfrost and ice spawned from every step. His gaze fixated on the alter, the profaned pedestal. The time- the time was nearly here, almost- nearly, but not quite. A second more- another, two seconds than three, once again, now!
A flick of his armored wrist, an ushered word, and the painted black sky beyond, was taken deeper and deeper into an unnatural Night as the world fell.
The air was rotten with smoke, and swirling clouds of ash, and above it was the pearlescent blue dome of the void shield. A shield of energy that protected the corrupted city beneath from the massed guns of the imperial guard and the lances of the navy. In better days, it could have been pummeled until it overloaded, and the city shattered. In the dark days after the Shattering, such acts were seen as ill afforded.
The void shield shifted, swelling, swaying, rippling like a dome of water- before Breaking. Like a lizard peeling its skin a ripple cascaded down over the field from the top and worked its way down the sides- a black, bilsome substance reminiscent of corrosion turned the once translucent field now black and obscured.
A dome of night fell over the city, blocking out all light- a suffocating darkness thick with ash and smoke- in the air, the scent of sulfur.
A/N: He wanted the butcher to fix it up for him. Shit was surreal.