“As our bodies are armored with Adamantium, our souls are protected with our loyalty. As our bolters are charged with death for the Emperor’s enemies, our thoughts are charged with his wisdom. As our ranks advance, so does our devotion, for are we not Marines? Are we not the chosen of the Emperor, his loyal servants unto death?“—Brother-Chaplain Fergas Nils’ address to the defenders of Portrein
The crisis of the battle had come. All troops were ordered to drive their vehicles into the heart of the enemy, disembark, and take the fight to the xenos.
It can be no other way, Ioculus thought. The xeno weapons are too powerful. We cannot be victorious unless we rely on the strength of our sword arms and our faith in the righteousness of our cause.
A moment later, the Bloody Vengeance shuddered to a halt and the front hatch dropped. With a roar, Ioculus charged out, following closely by his Honor Guard.
At his feet, the High Marshal could see the twitching remains of Necron warriors crushed under the fallen hatch. But hundreds more of the cybernetic warriors surrounded him, the closest already opening fire on him, while those farther back held their fire to avoid striking their own troops.
Ioculus didn’t hesitate to take advantage of this diminished firepower. The xenos’ energy beams already were slamming into his chest, and he could not risk a lucky shot penetrating his power armor. Followed by his Honor Guard, the chapter master plowed into the closest wall of xenos, his sword raised high.
Ioculus shouldered one Necron warrior to the ground and crushed its skull with his boot. He impaled another with his sword. To his right, the Chapter Champion, Brother Pierre Terrail, cut down half a dozen xenos with a single sweep of his double-handed power sword.
More than two score of xenos fell within 30 seconds, but then the mass of Necron warriors fell back, opening a path for three eight-meter-tall cybernetic constructs sometimes called “Wraiths” by Imperial guardsmen.
There was a weapon mounted on the chest of one Wraith, and it fired at one of the Honor Guard standing alongside Ioculus. The upper torso of the Space Marine simply vaporized, and the rest of his corpse collapsed.
Outraged at the loss of such a noble warrior—one of his inner circle—Ioculus responded with instant fury. He charged forward at the gigantic creature but found himself immediately challenged by the Necron’s writhing mechanical tendrils, each of which ended in a point as sharp as the finest power sword.
* * *
Agamunzu could not believe what was seeing.
All along his carefully deployed defensive line, Space Marines were charging into his troops. Although competent in hand-to-hand combat, his warriors were not the equal of these human warriors, and casualties were mounting.
He could, of course, fire into his troops, with the expectation that reanimation protocols would teleport most of the fallen to the repair facilities that operated in his underground tombs. But the self-repair rituals were degraded, ensuring that no more than 90 percent of his troops would survive the process. Already, over the course of this cursed war, this unacceptable success rate had cost him nearly 15 percent of his forces.
His Monolith was untouched. As if sensing the impossibility of destroying it, the humans were ignoring it. That astonished the Overlord. The mammoth vehicle’s Gauss Flux Arcs were causing significant human casualties, but the Space Marines simply ran past it, heedless to the danger it represented.
It was, Agamunzu realized, the only sane strategy. A single vehicle, no matter how powerful, cannot win a battle. If the Space Marines could destroy his front line, the battle was over.
New reports came from his southern flank. The Space Marines had teleported their elite troops to that flank. Clad in Terminator Armor, these new human forces had defeated his elite Lychguard and were rolling up his flank.
To his front, he watched the Space Marines strike down the last of the Wraiths and wade again into the masses of his troops.
How can this be? I reviewed every tactical algorithm to ensure victory. My deployment was optimal. My weapons superior. My troops mindlessly loyal.
I cannot be losing this battle!
But he had lost this battle, and his warriors were falling in ever-greater numbers. It was time to withdraw. With a silent snarl, Agmunzu gave the order.
+ + Withdraw. All forces withdraw. All units authorized to teleport sequentially to restoration areas. + +
Explosions of light flashed across the battlefield. His army disappearing in an instant. Only he remained on the battlefield. Standing atop his Command Barge, he laid his Warscythe to his chest—a sign of reluctant respect to a worthy foe—and turned and sped away.
Behind him, his uncouth opponents fired every weapon they had at him. They did not understand—nor would they have cared about—his respectful gesture.
* * *
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Tophet Campaign