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Beginning of the End Times
 
Old 15 Aug 2007, 09:44   #1 (permalink)
42
Shas'El
 
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Default Beginning of the End Times

Excelsior Meredius, 3rd Grand Master of the Grey Knights chapter, lay on his chest, his body in agony and his mind in a blur of thoughts as he struggled not to let his will slip. If he did, his soul would be lost in the eternity, lost to this creature of madness that now delicately tortured his body inch for inch, while revealing to him personal secrets even Meredius had long forgot.

In an effort to keep away the pain, and the insane icy cold voice of his torturer, Meredius thought back upon the events that had led him to this situation, forsaken by the Emperor’s Light. As his vision turned inwards, the mangled, blood sprayed bridge of the Guardian of Light disappeared, exchanged with the picture of it, as it looked only hours ago…

:::::::::::::

He had stood upon the bridge of his sanctified battle barge, when the order came. Inquisitor Lord Russel McKay asked for the assistance of the Grey Knights, to ones and for all destroy the menace of Lord Morgan Steiner, the self proclaimed Night Haunter’s Chosen, Lord of the Night Lords traitor legion.

Meredius had welcomed the request, and praised the Emperor for such good tidings. This traitor in particular was worth confronting, his fleet having played hide and seek with almost the entire fleets of the Gothic Sector, razed the worlds of Ultramar under the very eyes of the Ultramarines and evaded every attempt of honorable battle.

An aura of mystery surrounded the leader of this faction of the ever dark Night Lords legion, this Morgan Steiner. Some sources labeled him a charismatic marine, some a psyker, some even suggested him being a radical inquisitor turned traitor. Whatever his actual status, traces of a unique kind of daemons, spoken of in whispers as Morgan’s Lurkers, marked the trail of this Terrormaster.

Meredius had smiled as he heard that the time had come to call the traitor to justice. The flagship of the chaos lord, the despoiler class battleship before the heresy known as Malleus Nox, the Nighthammer, had been sighted near holy Mars by the black ship of Lord Inquisitor McKay. Now the traitor flagship bore the call sign Apokalypsis. MacKay had emphasized it as meaning “the end of the age” in high gothic, and pondered upon what could be the reason for the change.
Meredius couldn’t care less for the battleship’s name however, only his heretic quarry was of interest. The small fleet of the Grand Master had been less than an hour’s travel away; the time had come to decapitate the snake being this traitor to the Emperor and mankind at large. Meredius had given the order, “Man battle stations, warp exit in 42.9 minutes”, immediately.

:::::::::::::

Meredius flinched and unwilling tears ran down his cheeks as the delicate adamantine claw of his enemy cut a spiral in his left eye. As his vision turned red with pain and blood, when also the right eye was morbidly decorated, the Grand Master again fell back into his memories…

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They had arrived in force, the battle barge Guardian of Light, flanked by the strike cruisers Emperor’s Blessing and Righteous Might. As well a squadron of five gladius class frigates, the Untainted Flock, moved ahead of the battle barge.

The coordination was perfect, and as the warp gave way for reality, Meredius could clearly see the sleek shape of the Apokalypsis, at a distance of less than 70.000 miles. The holy STC configuration of the ones proud battleship had been changed in a million ways and her hull adorned with skulls of all sizes. In the dark to the port side of the Apokalypsis, 95.000 miles further towards the astronomicon, lay the black ship of Inquisitor Lord McKay, the dark hull of the Hand of Law almost disappearing among the stars.

Immediately Meredius had ordered the Untainted Flock ahead, to protect the black ship from attacks, and ordered launch of all available thunderhawks.

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The memory of his first mistake momentarily pulled the Grand Master back to the present, an ongoing river of pain flushing through his body as another of his teeth were splintered. The torture was slow and particulate, but the Grand Master’s enhanced body would not capitulate to physical torture alone. To keep out the mocking voice of the traitor lord, Meredius reckoned the battle before his defeat…

:::::::::::::

The first wave, the frigates and the massive thunderhawk screen, should have kept the Apokalypsis busy while Meredius’ capital ships moved in for the kill. The Grand Master had stood proudly at ease on the bridge, as the first in a long chain of disasters struck.

With a ripple in reality warp space was torn apart a mere 22.000 miles to the starboard of the Guardian of Light. Like an immense specter, a slaughter class cruiser appeared, her translucent hull adorned with skulls and corpses. Without a flare from her engines the specter turned, moving towards the Guardian of Light and her strike cruisers.

Already Meredius received disturbing communications from Righteous Might, as the abomination passed straight through the strike cruiser. It hailed with but a single sentence: “The Phasmatis Vereor commits you all to your doom. We have come for you!”

Then the Phasmatis Vereor, “the ghost of fear”, floated within 15.000 miles of the Guardian of Light. All monitors on the bridge turned to static, and wails sounded from every vox. Then horrible pictures of skeletal sailors doing their duties appeared, repeating the same sentence “Ave Dominus Nox! Ave Dominus Nox! Ave…”

The bridge crew was shocked but calm, but around the ship, in hangars and on gun decks, panic broke loose. Recruits fell to the floor, shaking, experienced sailors let go their tools and preyed to the Emperor for forgiveness. As the Phasmatis Vereor passed through the Guardian of Light as well, also the Emperor’s Blessing was affected.
Only Meredius’ Grey Knights were keeping their senses, but they were few and too scattered to quickly reinstate order. The next flight of thunderhawks didn’t launch.
:::::::::::::

The images of the doomed sailors still haunted Meredius’ mind, although he now knew they were only illusions. Figments of imagination created by Dark Age technology, and employed as psychological warfare. The last thought made Meredius scream, as a needle was inserted into his eye, and slowly heated. The grand master turned his thoughts inwards…

:::::::::::::

With the confusion caused by the Phasmatis Vereor, the fleet was for a brief moment uncontrolled. It should be a defining moment.

Around the Apokalypsis several signatures appeared, and bathing the battleship in a blaze of plasma exhaust, four slaughter class cruisers appeared from hiding, accelerating towards the Untainted Flock. In the same moment the Apokalypsis launched her ordnance, a mighty fighter screen of eight wings of hell blade fighters passing the slaughter class cruisers and taking formation, two wings in front of each.

Between the four cruisers a volley of torpedoes roared forth, before Apokalypsis’ lance turret flashed. The lead nova class frigate was hit on the stern, her shields flashing and her hull bulging as the rays went straight through. Then the frigate exploded, her plasma drives penetrated and hull integrity broken.

The four slaughter class cruisers hailed the Untainted Flock as the Harbingers, and scattered fire from their prow batteries picked off the shield of the port most frigate. The return fire from the four frigates managed to crush a single cruiser’s shield, but nothing more, then the Harbingers were among the Untainted Flock.

Among the capital ships, the hell blades clashed with the silvered Grey Knight thunderhawks, but outnumbered them almost two to one, and in a crescendo of wrecked fighters and destroyed thunderhawks the superiority was won by neither side. Here and there fighters and thunderhawks returned to their carriers, but a hundred tiny hulls were left floating in the icy void.

The row of torpedoes from the Guardian of Light was intercepted as well, but a few thunderhawks succeeded in penetrating the storm of strike craft, and boarded the unshielded chaos cruiser. The boarders were quickly slaughtered by overwhelming numbers, but the fighting resulted in scattered damages and a single internal fire.

With the traitor ships that close, the vid-screens on the frigates of the Untainted Flock now showed nothing but horrible images of slaughter and screaming static, and the sensor operators had no chance to avoid the four chaos cruisers from locking on. With individual hails from the Victum Noctu - The Conquest by Night, Bellum Obscurum - War in Darkness, Atrum Fames - Famine in the Dark and Nex Umbra - Death by Shadows, the four slaughter class cruisers turned about the port, opening up with broadsides from batteries and lances that tore the suddenly fragile frigates to shreds. The four Harbingers didn’t even care to slow down, accelerating towards the Grey Knight capital ships as they reloaded their gunnery, the fire upon the Nex Umbra quickly being extinguished and her shields raised ones again.

With a flash of light, the styx class heavy cruisers Leviathan Nox and Behemoth Nox ended their stealth mode 25.000 miles to the port side of the Apokalypsis and accelerated towards the Hand of Law. The traitor carriers’ lances flashed and the shields of the Hand of Law flared. Each assault carrier launched two wings of hell blade fighters, screening themselves from the ordnance of the Hand of Law, and four wings of hell talon bombers to assault the black ship. Only a few thunderhawks were launched in response.

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Meredius remembered the shocked but calm voice of Inquisitor Lord McKay. He was ordering Meredius to engage immediately, taking the pressure off the Hand of Law that now suddenly faced two heavy cruisers and a battleship. The rapidness, with which Meredius had giving the order for the strike cruisers to advance, now seemed hasty. As did the grand master’s minds progress towards madness, as a hundred needles were pressed through his skull, into his brain…

:::::::::::::

The Emperor’s Blessing and Righteous Might accelerated forwards, but due to the confusion and horror in the engine rooms, the advance seemed more stoic than heroic. No flights of thunderhawks sheltered the two ships, and the second wave of strike craft from the Apokalypsis rolled over them like a thunderstorm. Only the Emperor’s Blessing was targeted and as the dread claws dived in they had almost free reign, a few burning in space as turret fire tore them apart.
Hundreds of Night Lord assault troops breached the holy compartments of the strike cruiser, and although the grey knights fought back they were outnumbered upon their own ship. Batteries were disabled, several fires ignited and with a sudden internal explosion the starboard engine room was set ablaze and the strike cruiser momentarily lost its maneuverability. First then the sensor crew of the Emperor’s blessing spotted the volley of torpedoes, which had suddenly turned their way. The boarding torpedoes impacted on the hull, breaching it and adding to the carnage with several extra fires and internal explosions.

In the same moment the Harbingers, having turned back on course, rushed by the strike cruisers. All four chaos vessels passed in between the two strike cruisers with attack speed, broadsides ripping the shield, armor plates and gun emplacements off the Righteous Might, as she was targeted with all available guns. The Emperor’s blessing was defenseless against the onslaught, and as multiple lances pierced her decks and point blank salvos rippled over her hull, she slowly capsized, systems shutting off and dying, as a few escape pods left her blazing hull.

The Apokalypsis as well closed with the now lone Grey Knight strike cruiser, her dorsal lance battery making the stern of the Righteous Might crumble, as another mighty wave of attack craft launched from her bays. Teleport assaults from all four Harbingers added to the chaos onboard the strike cruiser.

The Hand of Law turned, trying to close with the two assault carriers and bring her bombardment cannon in range. Instead the Leviathan and Behemoth Nox both turned as well and added to the distance between them, another lance barrage flashing over the black ship’s shields as a new wing of strike crafts were launched. McKay’s few thunderhawks could do little to stop the incoming bombers, being overwhelmed by the fighter screen, and soon hell talons dive bombed the Hand of Law.
As the Apokalypsis made course towards the Guardian of Light, Inquisitor Lord McKay seemed to decide to join the battle for real. With all engines on full thrust the black ship sped towards the Leviathan Nox, and even with weapons on low power the Hand of Law managed to destroy the heavy cruiser’s shields.

Surprised communication flared between the Leviathan Nox and the Apokalypsis, then a full flight of dread claws launched from both the assault carriers and the battleship, combining as they bore down upon the Hand of Law like colossal swarm of vampire bats. An incredible array of energy patterns then flared from Behemoth Nox to the Hand of Law, and now the surprised communication streamed from the black ship as her monitors and voxes went haywire.

Having no chance of downing the hundreds of assault boats, the Hand of Law was suddenly lined with row upon row of dread claws. The fighting inside was desperate as McKay’s crew lacked the fighting prowess of Meredius’ Grey Knights, and quickly several batteries faltered and fires ignited as Night Lord sabotage teams did their job.

McKay ordered the black ship sharply around, a salvo from the bombardment cannon shattering the armor around the engines of the Leviathan Nox. The fighting onboard the black ship was still intense and the inquisitor seemed not willing to receive another wave.
The shot to the engines seemed to slow Leviathan Nox momentarily, but didn’t diminish her armament. Instead of escaping, the Hand of Law was paid off with another lance and battery salvo to the rear, and the Behemoth Nox laid a course of pursuit. So far the shields of the Hand of Law held, but it was only a matter of time before she would be overwhelmed by the waves of attack craft from her persistent opponents.

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Meredius remembered this as the time when he had doubted victory the first time. Seeing the blazing hull of the Emperor’s Blessing float beside her crippled companion had filled him with a seldom feeling of despair. Or was the despair he suddenly felt the result of his rips being broken one at a time, in several places each. Meredius tasted blood coming up his throat and didn’t dare to wonder why, struggling to continue his mental memoir and block out the pain…

:::::::::::::

The order on the Guardian of Light was almost impossible to reestablish as the Phasmatis Vereor constantly passed through her hull, showing her doomed crew to the engine rooms, batteries and bridge. Meredius let his ship advance slowly, he couldn’t do much else. All the most sacred prayer had been tried, but no chant could remove this spectral abomination of a cruiser.

Even as finally a few thunderhawks were launched, the grand master couldn’t find his pride again. The four chaos cruisers, the Harbingers, had ones again turned around, and although the Righteous Might returned fire, she was weakened. With her bombardment cannon disabled the strike cruiser’s broadside armament couldn’t penetrate the shields of her baneful enemies. Within the strike cruiser’s launch bays resigned only chaos, as the four chaos cruisers bombarded her with morbid communications. Truly the Four Riders of the Apocalypse these ships were, and as the lumbering battleship finally got within good range of the strike cruiser, the five chaos ships obliterated the Righteous Might in a final, devastating salvo.

The mighty fighter screen from the Apokalypsis easily destroyed every single thunderhawk and torpedo the Guardian of Light so painfully had launched, and still the chaos ships were not within range of the main armament. That would soon change.

Turning to flank the Apokalypsis ones again, the four chaos cruisers followed her within range of the battle barge. The Guardian of Light desperately turned to starboard to bring her broadside to bear, but the combined salvo managed only to strip the Victum Noctu of her shields and stern armaments. In the same moment the Phasmatis Vereor materialized, locking on to the signature of the battle barge.

The Harbingers and the Apokalypsis itself reached Meredius’ flagship in the same moment, and the six chaos ships all turned around her port side. In a few seconds the mass of ships were swallowed in a cloud of debris as the mighty armaments of the seven capital ships spoke in concert. The Guardian of Light, outgunned and outmaneuvered, succeeded in crippling Victum Noctu before her port shields collapsed. Then the ruthless bombardment from the chaos ships began ripping her apart, armor, bulkheads and crew being thrown screaming out into the freezing void.

Meredius had stood upon the bridge as he heard reports of port decks being breached, turrets exploding and fires blazing in several sections. Above the thunder of the guns Meredius heard the one report that could shake him now: “Bomber wings coming in, sir, hundreds of hell talons…”
The port turrets were down, the targeting systems destroyed.

The grand master remembered when he had been only a brother-captain, and during a day raid against a chaos cult he had heard that menacing call…”hundreds of hell talons”. The scream of the devilish crafts as they had dived onto the city had been a sound of pure madness, audible even after they had left. Like the cry of a million children.

Now the chaos strike craft moved in the void and there was no sound, no screams. But Meredius knew what was coming, and in his head he heard them. Now he just stared out the huge viewing ports of the bridge, yelling the only appropriate order: “Brace for impact!”

Like blood locusts from Catacha the hell talons came swooping in over the port side of the Guardian of Light. Lascannons flared as they tore up gunnery stations, sensory pits exploded and armor ran molten. Then the bombers dived one by one, dropping their bombs over the entirety of the center section, blowing away the armor plates and opening several decks to the void. Missiles littered the interior surface of the battle barge and the bridge shook violently from the pressure waves as the hundreds of bombers passed closely by, returning to the Apokalypsis to rearm.
The shield generators had given up long time ago and now yet a salvo from the six chaos vessels shook the Guardian of Light from aft to stern. Her crew was crumbling as her bulkheads collapsed. The battle barge burned.
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 09:45   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Beginning of the End Times

:::::::::::::

Again the grand master was torn back to the present, by a feeling of sudden defenselessness. Blood soaked his black carapace as the Night Lord legionaries stripped him off his aegis armor, piece for piece. Meredius’ tears were now not of pain, but of bitter sorrow and burning hatred, and a tingling of a feeling, that the grand master with trembling mind recognized as fear…

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The moment the swarm of hell talons had passed, another row of impacts shook the bridge. Armor plates bulged inwards as huge adamantine claws punched through them. Blazing with white flames the metal began to melt, soon running molten onto the consoles, deck and corpses.

Meredius had in an instant recognized the telltale signs of a dread claw assault. The Grand Master spun to his feet, the explosion of the enemy warheads having thrown him to the deck. Grasping his blessed thunderhammer and storm shield the terminator armored grand master gave his orders, calling all surviving crew to prepare to repel borders.

Around Meredius the thirteen survivors of the bridge crew braced their sidearms, preparing to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Three dread claws had impacted upon the bridge, probably containing a total force of thirty chaos marines. Still Meredius’ terminator guard calmly spread out, preparing to vanquish the foe. A moment of silence passed as the armored bulkheads after several seconds finally gave way and fell inwards.

Then hell broke loose. As the iris hatches of the three vessels span open five flashes of light illuminated the bridge, and warp lightning crackled as a total of fifty chaos marines in night blue armors teleported onto the bridge. Bolter and plasma rounds filled the air, mixing the sound of gunfire with screams, yells and battle cries. The next moment the room was filled with a mist of flames, blood, body parts and armor fragments.

Meredius fought like an avatar of the Emperor, his storm shield sheltering him from the plasma storm as he slay several traitors with every swing of his ancestral hammer. For a moment hope had filled the grand master’s mind, but then he had a brief second to look around him: Almost the entire bridge crew had been obliterated in initial the storm of shrapnel, and now even Meredius’ bodyguard was heavily pressed.

In the right corner of the bridge, brother Elantus was assaulted by six marines strong enough to catch his force halberd with their chain swords, ripping it out of the terminator’s hand and running him through with it. To the left brother Caranax and Liate fought a full squad of traitors, including a Night Lord champion, armed with power claw and frost axe. Several traitors fell to glowing force sword, until suddenly the champion’s axe swiped over Caranax’s face, crushing his helmet.

The veteran terminator stumbled for a second. Four traitor marines were over him immediately, firing their bolt guns into the breeched helmet and spraying Liate with brain paste. Liate spun around; beheading one of the traitors, but the Grey Knight was too slow for the axe-wielding champion. The champion parried the terminator’s force blade with his axe, and then caught Liate square in the chest with the power claw. A spray of red exploded from Liate’s back as the blow passed straight through him, and the champion’s white terror mask was colored red with gore.

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The thought of Liate’s death brought Meredius back to his tortured situation, just as his right foot was crushed by the axe armed champion’s power armored boot. The grand master’s mind exploded in a million colors of pain, and no chemicals from his stripped armor would damp it. He cursed the weakness of his mortal body; even the Emperor’s inheritance could no longer defend him from pain. Denying to faint, Meredius fled back into his memories…

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Out of the corner of his eye, Meredius had seen brother Palos’ plasma scarred armor being lifted into the air by a champion with jump pack, power claw and an archaic looking punching knife. With the roar “Slauuuughter!” the champion threw Palos’ corpse at the grand master. Even though Meredius brought up his shield, the impact threw him several feet back. It cost him dire seconds to down the five marines that took opportunity to assault him, grasping his weapon arm and draining his shield generator with plasma pistol shots.

That was when it struck Meredius that these attackers not acted like ordinary chaos scum. The assault had been surprising, coordinated and with overwhelming force. Reports that he had until now ignored, came from all over the Guardian of Light, telling of thousands of intruders moving through the ship’s gangways and cathedrals, attacking the crew from all angles and executing all they found. A single individual, possibly a pair, seemed to stalk the vents and channels, unstoppable night blue killing machines with jump packs, claws and unearthly psychic powers. His crew fought bravely, but the destructive bombardment had depleted them to a point were only a fighting retreat was realistic.

It was first then Meredius noticed the last champion’s right shoulder, armored by a Black Templar shoulder pad from before the heresy. As well the champion’s armor looked archaic, almost ancient. The realization hit Meredius like a rock. These were veteran space marines who had served before the revolt of Horus. They were over 8.000 years old, and carried the experience of millions of battles. First founding Night Lords, direct descendants of the insane primarch Konrad Curze. Cold sweat began emerging from Meredius’ forehead.

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The thought of sweat made Meredius scream, as droplets of acid was sprayed onto his face, biting into his skin, eyes and open wounds. Then an armored boot hit his head from above, and the scream changed to a low moan as the grand master’s mouth was forcefully closed…

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The carnage around the grand master had suddenly stopped, and the marines opposing him fell back. For a brief moment Meredius believed in victory, but then recognized the horrible truth: He was alone. Around him a ring of almost forty traitor marines reloaded their weapons, a single marine closing the blast door permitting access to the bridge, locking it in place.

The bridge of the Guardian of Light was covered in bodies, but only fifty or so were traitors. Ten of his bodyguard had been slaughtered, veterans of a thousand battles butchered like sheep. The body of the last to be slain, Oberax, lay behind Meredius. Oberax’s beheaded helmet was held high by a Night Lord champion, raising trophy and bloody power sword with the cry of “Nocti Victor!” It was the ancient call of victory, having sounded on the thousand worlds massacred by the night Lords. On the vox status reports had become scarce, all of them telling of desperate last stands and final prayers to the Emperor. Meredius had given his prayers as well, readying to take half of these traitors with him into death.

That was when yet a bluish blaze of teleport lightning illuminated the bridge. Four traitor terminators stepped aside to reveal a lithe Night Lord, clad in artificer armor, wearing a night blue cloak with skin from fenrisian wolves lining it. The skull-and-wings of the Night Lord legion showed proudly on the traitor’s chest. Still it was the marine’s face that drew Meredius’ attention. Half the visage was covered in dark grey skin, a reflective black eye with a steely iris staring back at Meredius with such intensity that Meredius flinched. The other side of the face was covered in an adamantine mask, wrought into the shape of a human skull and fitted with bionic eye, glowing menacingly red.

“I am Lord Morgan Steiner, Terrormaster of the Night Lord legion and Supreme Commander of Night Haunter’s Chosen. I have come for you!” As the traitor snarled the last sentence, he brushed back his cape to reveal a Black Sword sheathed by his side.

Meredius recognized the sword, ones belonging to the 2nd Emperor’s Champion of the Black Templars. “And I will take you with me!”, Meredius answered as he took a step forth, readying to launch himself at the traitor. A single strike with the force hammer would be enough! If he could at least kill this commander, whose aura burned so brightly with daemonic forces, the traitor fleet would maybe brake apart, and the loss of the Guardian of Light not be in vain.

The Supreme Commander’s reaction was not as Meredius had hoped. Instead of making a head-on charge the chaos lord gave a single, calm command: “Shoot him.”
Seven plasma guns fired behind the grand master, and the force of the impacts pressed Meredius forwards, stumbling. Within a second the force field of his iron halo overloaded. With a sudden blast the terminator suit’s oxygen reserves exploded, sending Meredius headfirst sliding over the floor. An armored boot stopped his head.

Meredius remembered how he had looked up into the half-human face of Morgan Steiner. The man had smiled. A cruel, predatory smile. “Right where I want you!” the Supreme Commander had laughed, drawing his black blade and driving it through the grand masters plasma-charred back. The blade was biting deep, through flesh bone and floor, anchoring Meredius to the deck inches below his right shoulder. The last hope of a fighting death left the grand master as he felt his right arm go limp and heard the thunderhammer’s handle hit the floor. The scream that left his mouth was more of anger than pain. That would soon change.

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The thought of his torturer’s face brought the grand master back to the reality of blood and pain. Yet a heretical symbol was carved in the skin below his waist, burns and acid adding to the waves of inscrutable pain as drugs were induced into his neck veins. His throat was raw from trying to scream, and later blood ridden from begging for mercy. He could no longer flee into his memories as the Terrormaster’s words brought forth pictures from old times. Times of hardship, pain and personal failure.

This enigmatic shadow warrior, the Night Lord, the enemy, knew more about him than any battle brother. More than the omnipresent soul of the Holy Emperor.
Even though the thought seemed to drag knives of hatred and fear through his brain, Meredius couldn’t help but think that this man, this traitor, might be more powerful than the Emperor. The thought alone made Meredius roar in panic, but the only sound coming from his mouth was a pathetic whimper…

:::::::::::::

For the second time this night, Morgan smiled. The grey knight grand master had finally broken. Now was the time for the final, devastating, assault on his spirit: “I don’t need information from you, Excelsior Meredius. I know all you do, and much more. You have nothing I want, not even your soul is of interest to me. Like you, Excelsior, I am a servant of the Imperial Edict.”

The grand master’s blind eyes grew narrow, hearing these words he didn’t dare to belief.

“The Emperor betrayed me, Excelsior. As he has now betrayed you and left you, in your moment of need. The Emperor is a leech, sucking the marrow out of his warriors and the souls out of the populace. If there was ever a daemon, the Emperor is such a creature.” Meredius’ eyes had now closed, tears of sorrow running down his cheeks.

“I cannot help you live, Excelsior. The Emperor has taken your body, used it, and thrown it away. But I can take away your pain, and let you die in peace. It will only cost you a single sentence. Forsake the Emperor and swear me fealty. Or your death will never come, your wounds never heal.”

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Meredius had been trained for millennia in recognizing the lies of chaos and the temptations of the daemonic. But this man was no mutated creature of darkness; he didn’t speak lies, and promised nothing. Nothing save escape from the torment of life. A last thread of revolt flew through Meredius’ splintered mind. He would not deny the Emperor; he would not swear this heretic fealty! With a blinding flash of psychical and mental pain all such thoughts disappeared, and left was only the fractured mind of a child, begging for forgiveness…

:::::::::::::

Morgan slowly wiggled the dark blade out of Meredius’ shoulder, each movement sending waves of pain through the grand master’s broken body and spikes of despair though his brain. “Rise to your knees, and swear!” the Terrormaster commanded.

With blood flowing from a million miniscule wounds and internal damages, the grand master struggled to rise. Without his armor he looked old and wasted, and blood flowed from his mouth as he leaned down upon his broken feet. With his head bowed, arms hanging slack from his torso, Meredius mumbled unrecognizable word.

“Loud, brother…” Morgan whispered.

“I…swear you…fealty…my lord…” Blood dripped from the grey knights entire face, and his words came between rasps of and bloodied gurgles. “I…lay…before you…my…immortal soul…”

“And you forsake the Emperor, his name, his person and his soul. First then, the pain will go way.”

“I…forsake the…the…Emperor…his na…name, his person, his…soul...” With the last word Meredius coughed up, what had to be the last droplets of blood in his entire body.

:::::::::::::

In the moment he had said the words, the entire soul of Meredius seemed to turn and tear at him. Before his blind eyes the grand master saw the Emperor, in his glorious human form, hovering above him. The Emperor’s eyes were sad, and so was his voice: “You have betrayed me, Excelsior.”

The words burned Meredius’ soul like promethium, and opening his bloodcurdling mouth in a silent scream the grand master raised his dead eyes to look upon the chaos Lord. “…NEVER!” He wanted to yell, but all he could do was spit bloody foam, and whisper the denial of his fealty to this horrible creature of chaos…

:::::::::::::

Morgan Steiner saw what was coming; the Grey Knight would never bend. But the populace would think otherwise. “Hereby I give you peace!” Morgan spoke, as he swung the black blade, a clean cut taking off the grand master’s head, as the devastated body collapsed.

Morgan Steiner, Terrormaster of the Night Lord legion and the self-proclaimed Chosen of Night Haunter, picked up the grand master’s decapitated head, raising it to the sky: “Adeo mori servus Imperator Fictus.” The assembled voices of his legionaries roared, on the bridge, in every chamber of the Guardian of Light, on every ship of Morgan’s fleet: “Ave Dominus Nox! Ave Dominus Fomido!”

So dies the servants of the False Emperor. Hail the Lord of the Night! Hail the Lord of Terror! The words seemed to spread in space, like rings in the water. The warp boiled as Lord Steiner claimed his trophy.

But Morgan didn’t take his time to enjoy the victory. Turning to his champions, he gave his orders: “Kean, take your men and get the plasma reactors rigged, so we can leech the fuel to Apokalypsis. Leave enough for a meltdown though; the Guardian of Light will serve us but a few hours more.”
“Jargoth, loot the hangar bays, take as many functional thunderhawks and spare parts as you can find. These, all fuel and ammunition, are to be transferred to the Harbingers, in equal measure.”
“Regan, get the grand master’s body rigged for our little demonstration. Use brother Kayron’s armor, he won’t need it anymore. ”
“Murdock, give me a link to the Behemoth Nox. They can let the Hand of Law escape. And call Sorcerer-Lieutenant Durath. I want the battle barge swept for all live within an hour.”
“Marl, you and the Chosen return with me to Apokalypsis.”
With a silent salute the veteran champions hailed their lord, scattering to do their assigned duties.

With that the Terrormaster span around, the terminators taking their places around him as he entered a dread claw, speaking to the helmet vox. “Lady of the Night; have the Behemoth Nox transmitted our little scene to the Hand of Law?” “Aye, sir”, the voice in the other end laughed cruelly, “her machine spirit fought back well, but the entire show has looped on every vid-screen aboard her since the boarding action. Nice show, although not strictly a personal record. Three minutes short if I recall.”
“Right”, Morgan answered, his voice lighter as he spoke to his trusted captain, “but a grand master takes his time to crack. Now give the Hand of Law a full broadside and let her disengage. We are leaving for Mars in thirty-six point two minutes.” “Aye, sir!”

Locking on to the now limping black ship, the styx class heavy cruiser Behemoth Nox swung about, lining up her batteries as another flight of six wings of Hell Talons left her launch bays. Eight wings from the Apokalypsis and six from the Leviathan Nox joined them as well, coming in behind the Hand of Law in the same trail that Behemoth Nox had followed, out of reach of the black ship’s bombardment cannon.

The salvo hit the Hand of Law over the aft, ripping her shields off and pounding her engines with shrapnel. The mighty flight of bombers tore down upon the black ship, ripples of molten armor plates spreading over the dark hull as the bombers targeted batteries and turrets, before returning to their hangers.
With a sudden shift in course the Hand of Law shut down all systems, and although Keyvan Horst could easily make visual contact with the enemy vessel, he allowed her to disengage.
Moments later the captain of the styx class cruiser could report to Lord Steiner: “Inquisitor McKay has left for the warp, course 923-485-679. Assault carriers Leviathan Nox and Behemoth Nox are returning to base for light repairs.”

:::::::::::

That particular day, a sudden shadow fell upon Mars. The mighty shape of the Grey Knight battle barge Guardian of Light entered the system of Terra, her port hull pockmarked with craters and several decks open to the void. Without hailing the battle barge accelerated towards Mars, the only communication on all channels being the disturbing sight of slaughtered Grey Knights and a grand master tortured to insanity, with bloodcurdling screams and a repeated “We have come for you! Ave Dominus Nox!” looping through the gory scenes.

The message was clear, and the entirety of Mars’ defenses succeeded in obliterating the battle barge before it collided with the planet. The culminating explosion of the plasma reactor destroyed two cobra class destroyers and crippled the Mars class battlecruiser Invincible. To this day the incident is only spoken of in whispers, when inquisitors are near.

:::::::::::

Two days later, 0541259.M41, listening post PQ644 in orbit around Mars suddenly malfunctioned. In a full half hour the entire populace saw the Grey Knights being slain, their armors stolen and defiled and Grand Master Meredius tortured to a gibbering, crying wreck. Fatalities among the traitors were not seen.

As it was approached, the sensor station exploded, leaving only Meredius’ headless corpse floating in orbit. The grand master was clad in Night Lords power armor from before the heresy. Chained to his chest was a proximity mine, bearing the inscription “We have come for you”.
It cost the Inquisition one thousand trained psykers to eradicate the memory from the populace but still the rumor can be heard in the streets: “The Chosen of Night Haunter reached Mars”.
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Old 16 Aug 2007, 00:16   #3 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Re: Beginning of the End Times

This is quite well done with all the switching between past and present but I get the feeling that this is very much a piece of OMG TEH CHAOS PWNS. Ok obviously thats not how the message was delivered but the whole account seems horribly one sided. 100 grey Knight terminators once banished ANGRON and several Bloodthirsters and now they can't even kill a few Night Lords?
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Old 16 Aug 2007, 01:36   #4 (permalink)
Shas'Ui
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 937
Default Re: Beginning of the End Times

Awesome fluff piece; I feel the need to outline its pitfalls and achievements:

Pros
+Impeccable representation of the dark 41st Millennium
+Effective means of breaking up the gratuitous violence while simultaneously creating the mood
+The latin representation of high gothic proves very effective in establishing setting
+The naval combat is classic including the names of the ships which sit quite well
+The Night Lords were an excellent choice with perfect representation of their combat tactia

Cons
-Characters seem inhuman through the utter lack of dialog during the introduction
-Lack of strong characterization beyond physical description of the central antagonist
-The conflict was all together too one-sided with few, if any, glimmers of hope for the protagonist

Overall, a favorite, to say the least.
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