“It is one thing to ask a man to stand and fight against the odds. But you owe him the tools to fight. Against the Death Guard’s pestilence, we need respirators, hazard-environment suits, and a pre-battle regimen of antibiotics. You’re offering my men nothing but a lasgun. You’re dooming my command to death.“—Colonel Manikas, commander of the 44th Dozarian PDF Regiment, to his division commander
* * *
Despite his decades of experience, Manikas still found it difficult to wait for the fighting to begin in earnest. So far, casualties were light. A shell had killed a dozen men on his right flank, and two advancing Bloat Drones were sniping at Confessor Bernard’s 2nd Company. Meanwhile, the drones were under fire from a trio of Imperial lascannons to his right.
“What is the status of 1st Company?” the colonel asked one of his aides. The 1st Company anchored his left flank and, with the Death Guard marching to his right, the unit was poorly positioned to support.
“A recon squad reports no enemy troops to their front,” a nervous-looking lieutenant answered. “Most of the company is now advancing against the enemy’s right flank. They estimate it’ll take five minutes before they’re in weapons range.”
Not fast enough, Manikas thought. The Death Guard would hit his own right flank soon enough, and the enemy Vindicator and Bloat Drones were only 100 meters to the front of Confessor Bennard’s command—point-blank range for the vehicles’ weaponry.
The enemy was well aware of that fact. The Demolisher Cannon of the Vindicator roared with flame, and the fired shell landed right in the midst of Bernard’s men. Half a dozen bodies flew into the air.
Looking through his monocular, Manikas saw his messenger reach the company. Perhaps now Bernard would obey his orders and fall back to the cover of the woods.
A moment of hope crossed his mind just as another enemy shell landed on his heavy mortar’s position only 10 meters away.
For Manikas, everything went dark.
* * *
“Now!” Ghaz Tak screamed. At his signal, the Rhino’s engine roared as its driver slammed down on the accelerator.
The Rhino leapt forward, black smoke billowing out its rear exhaust, and the transport hit the Imperial line, running over several Imperial soldiers and forcing others to throw themselves aside or be crushed.
The tactic worked. The Imperial line broke. The Rhino, along with its companion transport, gave chase. A few more soldiers were run down, but then a heavy blow struck the vehicle and flame engulfed its interior.
A lascannon had hit the Rhino’s engine, The explosion that followed killed a few cultists running behind the vehicle, but Ghaz Tak and his retinue—all encased in Terminator Armor—simply shrugged off the flames of the burning Rhino and eagerly disembarked.
The Imperials had formed a firing line along a stone wall only 30 meters away, and Ghaz Tak didn’t hesitate. “At them!” he screamed, allowing his blood lust free rein. “Kill the Imperial lackeys!”
His retinue only numbered five, but his warriors were too well armored to be bothered by lasguns. To the firing Imperials, it was as if death incarnate was coming for them. They could see the taint of disease on the stained and fungus-ridden armor of the traitor Astartes, and they felt true horror as their lasgun shots bounced ineffectively off their armor.
Death was coming for them.
* * *
“Stand your ground!” Bernard screamed.
The Imperial priest was paying no attention to tactics. But his holy presence, standing amidst the fierce gunfire and dropping shells, was an inspirational sight that kept his company of conscripts in the fight.
Bernard had dismissed the orders to withdraw. He had been ordered to defend this region’s croplands, and his men were going to defend this field. Not one meter of land would he surrender to the traitors if he could help it.
Yet, even he wasn’t sure his men would stand. Cultists kept charging his position, and the Death Guard’s Vindicator tank was looming ever closer.
A shell landed nearby, staggering the priest and showering him with dirt, rocks, and bits of flesh ripped from the newly dead. Bernard began to shout the Litany of Defiance, and his men began to join him.
“We stand for the God-Emperor. We will not succumb to temptation. We will fear not the enemy . . . “
They are still chanting when the cultists charged yet again.
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The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Dozaria Campaign
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