“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.”—Malcom Forbes, M2 philosopher
* * *
A short hop using his jetpack put Brother Goro Turrius on the roof of a small shop near the center square of the town. All around him, other Vanguard Veterans landed heavily on the plascrete roof.
Much of the town was burning, and smoke cloaked the streets. But the photo lens in his helm automatically slid through the frequencies to infrared, and he could identify the heat signatures of the approaching cultists.
They were no threat. What was concerning was the beast that led their advance: a massive Helbrute. Its vox grill was set to maximum volume, for the screams and roars of this half-crazed traitor—trapped forever in the horrors of his dreadnought armor—required Turrius to lower the volume of his audio-filters.
“There is heresy!” roared Brother-Chaplain Arzen Gabriel, who had taken command of the squad after Brother-Sergeant Varran was killed earlier in the fighting. “Harden your hearts, my Brothers. Fuel your hate for the heretic and traitor. We cannot allow this filth to advance any farther. Here we hold the line.”
As he gave the order, the Brother-Chaplain launched himself upwards, sweeping forward on a pillar of flame and then downwards to block the advance of the Helbrute. Without hesitation, the other five veterans also launched themsselves, and soon they were locked in combat with the massive dreadnought, circling it like a pack of Fenrisian wolves surround a massive Fenrisian Mammoth and attempting to wear it down and feed.
Brother Turrius landed to the dreadnought’s right and took the time to raise his bolter and fire shell after shell at the traitor. But each shell exploded harmlessly against the dreadnought’s armor. He stopped firing the instant that Brother-Chaplain Gabriel leapt forward with a swing of his crozius.
“Die foul beast!” Gabriel screamed, his thrice-blessed power weapon slamming into the dreadnought’s hip and tearing off a strip of carapace armor..
The beast roared in outrage and swung his massive power fist at the chaplain, who quickly sidestepped the clumsy blow. At that moment, another Brother struck at the creature’s back with his chainsword.
The melee continued.
* * *
Both sides had reached the heart of the town, and the center square became the scene of confused fighting.
On one end of the square, cultists swarmed out of alleys and buildings to charge at the advancing Astartes. They were quickly stopped by a hail of fire from a squad of Sternguard that had taken position in the building on the far side of the square.
In the center of the square, a war band of Plague Marines—their armor dripping with foul pus—was locked in combat with a tactical squad of Knights. The loyalist Astartes were struggling to hold off the traitors, whose Warp-tainted bodies gave them an edge in size and resiliency.
It looked as if the Knights would be overwhelmed, but there was a flash of light like lightning—and what sounded like a crack of thunder. Out of that light strode a squad of the 1st Company, clad in holy Terminator Armor. They had teleported directly into the heart of the fighting.
Stomping forward with dread resolve, they joined the battle—and the tide of war turned.
Not far away, the wall of a building collapsed, and out strode Captain Alaric Galba, commander of the 1st Company., followed by his command squad. All wore Artificer Armor of the most ancient and sophisticated design—armor that only the most renown heroes of the Chapter were given the honor or wearing. It was stained in the blood of the traitor Astartes who had occupied the building.
As one, Galba’s squad raised its stormbolters and began firing. Cultists and traitor Astartes Marines began to fall. Caught between the onslaught of the Command Squad and the Veterans in Terminator Armor, the traitors simply crumbled.
* * *
Brother Turrius barely managed to avoid the swing of the Helbrute’s massive power fist, its field of energy crackling in the air and momentarily causing Turrius’ video feed to turn white with static.
The chainswords of his squad were useless against the thick armor of the dreadnought. Two brothers already had fallen to the metal-clad beast, and those that remained knew their role was simply to draw the Helbrute’s attention. They must keep the Helbrute from focusing on its only true threat—the crozius of Brother-Chaplain Gabriel.
As the traitor’s arm swung past, Turrius leapt at the Helbrute’s side armor and shoved his chainsword point-first at its hip. Pushing with all his strength, the chainsword’s blade screeched against the armor, creating a cloud of sparks and smoke but had to no other effect.
But the distraction did its job. As the Helbrute turned toward Turrius, flame burst from Chaplain Gabriel’s jetpack, and the loyalist champion flew upwards to the Helbrute’s helm. Gabriel drove his crozius into the monster’s face, and the metal crumpled at the blow. The Helbrute staggered, his vox grille blaring a single grunt rather than the heretical screams of before.
Grabbing the gorget of the dreadnought, Gabrial swung himself onto the traitor’s back and again brought down his crozius onto the monster’s helm. The helm collapsed into itself, the metal legs of the traitor buckled, and the traitor fell to the ground.
“Now, Brothers,” Gabriel screamed. “Let us turn our wrath against the heretics.”
* * *
The heavy fire of the Sternguard was cutting down the cultist horde like a scythe to wheat and, with the Helbrute down, Brother-Chaplain Gabrial’s Veterans turned their ire at the heretics as well. Within a minute, the horde was slaughtered and the flank of the traitor’s attack was destroyed.
The battle was lost, Ghaz Tek realized. Once again, he had been humiliated on the field of battle.
He wondered briefly what the future held. Would Nurgle express his displeasure with some unpleasant mutation? Would Necrocius attempt to assassinate him and take control of the war band? Would another of his men challenge him for leadership?
Ghal Tek pushed aside such concerns. Worry was for the weak. He turned his back on the few Death Guard whose bloodlust had trapped them in melee with the loyalists. Most of his men were withdrawing in good order, and those still fighting would distract the loyalists for a time. He doubled the Imperial lackeys would pursue.
Tomorrow would bring another battle.
* * *
Captain Galba watched the retreat of the Death Guard on his tactical display. The last of the enemy in the town had fallen, and the pitiful survivors were retreating with all haste.
“Shall we pursue, my lord?” one of his command squad asked.
Galba considered his answer for a second. “No. Two Imperial Guard regiments are moving on our position. They can take control of the town. There are other calls for help that are more strategically pressing than killing these traitors.”
Only 150 meters away, Brother-Sergeant Sirrus stood beside his tank and watched the sun set on the horizon. The fight with the traitor vehicles had proven challenging. Although both vehicles were eventually destroyed, their weapons had severely mauled the front armor of his tank.
He began an inspection of the damage. A mortar shell had smashed directly into the Predator’s front hull plate, gouging out a plate-sized, 25mm-deep crater in the armor. Only 25 centimeters to the left of that, a sizable section of the corner armor—as well as several links of the left tread—were a melted blob, a casualty to a highly corrosive chemical sprayed upon the tank by the Blight-Hauler.
“Let your machine spirit be appeased,” Sirrus said quietly as he rested a gauntlet on the tank’s hull. “Your enemies are destroyed. The Tech Priests will repair the damage, offer the appropriate prayers and holy oil, and you will return to battle soon.”
TheGM: Narrow streets and alleys, burning buildings, and desperate hand-to-hand fighting—it was a glorious battle to behold, particularly the dramatic arrival of the Terminators and Captain Galba that turned the tide of battle in the final two turns.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our hobby adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Dozaria Campaign