One objective completed, two more to go, Haldur thought when he learned the prisoners were rescued.
The brother-sergeant was inside the town’s Administratum building now. A moment ago, a frag grenade had dealt with the heretics on the balcony, but there might be more traitors inside—and his orders were to destroy the communications dish on the roof of the building.
Standing in the lobby, he watched as two brothers edged up the stairs, cautiously looking up as they climbed. Haldur began to follow, staying a good three meters back to serve as fire support and a reserve.
It was a prudent move. Three grenades droppped onto the two warriors in front of him. The marines were confined by the walls of the staircase, which magnified the force of the explosions.
All three marines were stunned by the blast. One went down. The second was swallowed by a wall of flame that erupted from above. Someone had a flamer up there.
Recovering, but too late to save his two brothers, Huldar raced up the stairs, roaring a battle cry. In only seconds, he’d reached the landing above, where he found three heretics desperately trying to take aim against him.
That wasn’t going to happen, Haldur knew. He fired a round of his bolt pistol into the chest of a heretic holding the flamer and then slammed physically into the other two.
The landing was small and confining, and Huldar knew he could not use his combat blade effectively. Not that he needed it. He put his armored fist through the face of one heretic, then shattered the knee of the other with his boot.
As the heretic fell, Huldar brought down his boot yet again—and the heretic’s head exploded like a melon dropped from a rooftop.
From his defensive position, Xy-Tor listened to the vox and heard the desperate cries of his men. He knew he was losing the battle. But his men were putting up a good fight. Several marines were down.
Behind him, half a dozen men were dragging the artillery pieces around to face the town. One man was holding an artillery round, ready to load the gun.
The ufar-ma was not going to give up without a fight.
Through his monocular, he caught sight of movement. It was Mel-Gar. He’d burst out the back door of a building, followed by two others. The men had reported their successful ambush, and Xy-Tor was pleased. But he wasn’t sure they were going to survive.
One of the Wolves’ Rhinos had turned the corner of the street, and the men had run right into the firing arc of its heavy bolter.
Sure enough, the Rhino opened up and the men were gunned down. Xy-Tor was tempted to try for a direct shot at the vehicle with his artillery, but it was too risky. The range was too far, and he wanted to keep the artillery as a surprise, in case the marines became overconfident and advanced without proper reconnaissance.
He’d wait. Minutes passed, and the shooting in the town died down. The Rhino stopped and reversed direction, disappearing down the street and out of sight.
Now what? Xy-Tor wondered.
Enough was enough, Haldur told himself. The thought didn’t satisfy him.
Five of his men were down. Three were critically injured; one was dead. That was more than 30 percent of his force.
The prisoners were recovered; the communications dish destroyed. He wasn’t sure how many of the heretics were still alive, but there would always be more heretics. They were like all vermin—seemingly without limit.
If he got back to Imperial lines quickly, he might save some of his brothers. He could avoid more casualties.
The wolf in his spirit howled for blood, for revenge. But Haldur took his duties as a commander seriously. The price of this raid was getting too high. It was best not to lose perspective.
He was a singularly thoughtful Space Wolf.
Reluctantly, he ordered his men to fall back to the extraction point. A Thunderhawk was heading toward them to recover the men and Rhinos. The mission was, in theory, a success.
Under his breath, Haldur swore an oath to his Emperor. “I will kill a thousand heretics for every man lost today. ”
It was unbelievable. He was still alive.
Xy-Tor could not get over his surprise. More than half his men were dead. Dark smoke filled the sky overhead, fueled by the blaze of the half-demolished Administratum building.
The heretic felt contempt for the Wolves. With victory in their grasp, they’d withdrawn—just so they could recover the prisoners and their wounded.
The Tainted Souls had no such weakness. The lives of his people belonged to Nurgle, and to die was to enter their god’s embrace.
Already, vast clouds of Rot Flies were swarming throughout the town, drawn to the smell of rotting flesh. The brutal desert air was not as conducive to disease as the moist air of the temperate regions of the planet. Butthe touch of Nurgle could not be denied.
Xy-Tor motioned to one of his men.
“We must honor our dead. Have their bodies chopped into pieces, their blood and guts smeared against the town’s walls. Have their heads put on pikes so we can see them and remember their sacrifice.”
This is why we will win this war, Xy-Tor thought. Even in death we are strong.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.