Alright, so, i've been drinking, jamming out to Sabaton, and relaxing... And it's been a long time since i did any writing, so i decided to flex some grey matter and shake off the cobwebs a bit.
The constant drum of artillery had long since become nothing but a backdrop, as natural and ever present as the wind or the the sound of his own breath. So much so, Corporal Vask doubted he could even sleep without it anymore. Sixteen months of grueling, endless bombardment. Sixteen months of glorious bloodshed, throwing platoon after platoon against the walls of the heretic fortress.
Vask envied them, those torn and scattered bodies, buried in debris and mud, lining the scourged fields between their trenchline and the rune inscribed walls of the heretics last bastion. He didn't overly care about the strategic purpose of this world, or the hell fueled Daemon Forge beyond. All he cared about was the debt. The duty of all Guardsmen of Krieg. The blood payment for the sins of their past.
"Corporal!" He was pulled from his reverie by the sharp bark of Commissar Trilane. "Look alive soldier"
He snapped to attention, saluting crisply, lasgun ever at his side "Sir! Are we going over, sir?"
"You Death Corps are too eager for death" the Commissar shook his head "The Emperor alone decides when your duty is done. Remember that."
"Yes sir." Vask's tone notably disappointed.
"New Ferrocrete shipment's in. Take four, head up the line and bring it down. These trenches will hold another sixteen months, be it Ferrocrete or bones that make it's walls"
If only. He nodded, disappearing into the dugout, quickly retrieving four of his platoon. Eager brothers all, they were disappointed when they learned their assignment, just as he was. But they were dutiful, and all five, and shouldered their weapons, and made their way up and away from the front trenches.
They passed other regiments on their trek, more than a kilometer up the line. Cadians. Semartians. Even a few Tallarns, though they knew not from what regiment they hailed. Past the artillery emplacements. Past the aid station. Two kilometers. Three. All the way to the landing zones where supplies were delivered, and through which reinforcements got their first view of the hellscape that would be their home.
It was menial work. Loading the tracked trailer, under the constant scrutiny of some navy clerk. Thirteen woven sacks of powdered ferrocrete. Six barrels of reactant emulsion. They carried out their assignment, and when secured, turned to return to their post, back down the winding trenches, the constant thrum of the guns never being broken by conversation or chatter. The dour silence of their dutiful action drawing more than a few uncomfortable glances from the other regiments as they passed.
Returning to their dugout by the slowly setting sun, the Commissar inspected their payload. "Well done. Take your shift, and send up Beta squad."
Ever quiet, the five saluted, and turned. And suddenly, the world was on fire.
In the deepening glow of the setting sun they came, screeching out of the sky, fire and lasbolt raking across the front line. Beasts of metal and flesh and warp-wrought sorcery, like the dragons of some tribal fable. A dozen, maybe more, Hell-Drakes streaking across the line, bringing death and oblivion. The next dugout down the line exploded, the crimson line of a lascannon ripping through it's flimsy roof, igniting it's promethium generator and sending a brilliant ball of fire into the twilight.
And as the flight of dragons carried on down the line, the earth continued to tremble. The great gates of the hellish keep had parted, striding from it's infernal forges came a mockery of the blessed god-machines of the Mechanicus. A trio of barely recognisable Reaver Titans, each step an earthquake, each volley of plasma and shell a storm of glorious death.
Vask was already to his feet. He could see them close, as the enemy vanguard spread out around the feet of their mighty war machines, hundreds, thousands of rag clad, slavering mongrels. They clutched crude weapons, tools, forging hammers, anything they could wrap their mangled hands around. A dozen were crushed beneath the mighty step of the advancing titans, but they cared not.
Commissar Trilane roarded in righteous fury "Hundred and Fifth! To your line!" He needn't bother, as Vask and his brothers were already moving. Glorious annihilation awaited in the name of the Emperor! No sooner head bodies slammed against the dirt and soot encrusted walls of the trench, than crimson lines burst forth, followed by the sharp crack of lasgun fire. So dense was the approaching line that they need not aim, laying into the chaos horde with abandon. Limbs were blown free, bodies toppled, and yet the fanatics advanced still, uncaring about their pain and losses.
Up the line, another explosion drowned out the constant thunder and screams of the advancing hordes. One of the Reavers had hit the ammunition cache, the resulting explosion arching high into the darkening sky like a rising sun. The shockwave hit a moment later, throwing everyone to the ground, before it rained stones, debris, and body parts.
The Commissar was struck by a meter long spar of metal, piecing his chest and spearing him to the ground like a macabre trophy. He coughed in disbelief, blood pouring from his his mouth.
Vask again hauled himself to his feet, wiping the filth from the lenses of his breather. He regained his vision in time to see Simons struck in the back of the head, his helmet caving in. Hissing in defiance, Vask charged, spearing the cultist through the throat with his bayonette as more poured over the embankment.
The melee was fierce. Torvek gutted one foe, turning to crush another's skull with the butt of his lasgun, before discarding it entirely and drawing his knife and slitting the throat of a third even as it's own heavy club shattered his leg. The last Vask saw, he had disappeared under a mass of kicking and screaming traitors.
Lorthal had avenged him, a gout of promethium immolating the entire lot, the roar of the flame momentarily overpowering the hooting and blasphemous prayers. A second burst from his flamer arced across the edge of the trench, fiery, screaming bodies toppling and instinctively trying to put themselves out.
Vask took up the Commissar's power sword, clasping it's battery about his wrist and, hoisting his Lasgun like a spear, threw himself into the madness cleaving and thrusting and crushing everything within reach.
In minutes, it was over. Their isolated pocket of resistance passed over by the continuously advancing Chaos counter attack. Only three were left. Vask, Lorthal and Private Meridian. Wordlessly, the surveyed the the slaughter, before a shadow passed over them like death it's self.
One of the titans had reached the front line, stepping over the trenches and continuing it's advance. Without a word, they gathered what weapons they could, and clambered up from the charnel pit to follow in it's wake.
Sprinting across the broken land, they quickly caught the slow, methodical gait of the infernal machine, scurrying like ants under it's armoured plates. As it advanced, they climbed fearlessly finding handholds and footing on shifting anchors, swaying chains and hissing pistons.
Meridian was the first to join the honoured dead. As the titan shifted to fire further up field, the private was caught in one of the machines motive gears, crushed between meter thick slabs of adamantium, his agonized scream washed away by the deafening scream of the titan's plasma cannon firing at it's hapless victim.
The survivors continued to climb.
When they finally reached the back of the beast, it had almost made it to the third line of trenches. They could see the anarchy down below as the wall of flesh met the Imperial Guard, lasgun and bolter and bayonet answering heretical devotion and warp-fueled sorcery. Somewhere down the line a gout of green flame boiled through the trenches like a liquid thing, silhouetted starkly against the dark night.
Vask nodded to Lorthal, and the two used their entrenchment tools to pry open the access hatch, Lorthal dropping into the rear compartment first with a uncomfortably wet sound. Vask followed, finding the walls slick with mucous and fleshy protrusions. A mutated and half dissolved Servitor twitched in reaction to their intrusion, ended quickly with the snap-fire of a lasgun. The momentary distraction was enough, however, and a more functional servitor lurched out of the darkness behind them. It's servo-arm caught Lorthal about the waist, the contracting tongs crushing his pelvis with a sickening crunch. Screaming in agony, the guardsman stabbed out, his bayonet piercing the things skull, as Vask clove it from shoulder to hip with the powersword.
Gurgling and sputtering, his featureless mask leaking blood, Lorthal nodded. Without hesitation, Vask stabbed him through the heart.
Ensuring there were no further lurking servitors, Vask approached the door to the command pod, the ponderous steps of the Reaver causing the compartment to sway. he slammed the keypad with a fist, the door hissing open, releasing a putrid stench he could even smell through his own mask. he gagged, both because of the smell, and the roiling mass of flesh on the other side of the door. Two distended heads swiveled in place to view the intruder, one contorted into a jawless scream, the other with mouth and eyes sewn shut, and the Titan lurched to a stop. Tentacles writhed, dripping vicious ichor as the abominable former princeps tried to pull it's self free from it's console to confront the intruder.
Vask said a prayer to the Emperor, pulled a pair of Frag Grenades from his belt, and tossed them into the command pod. The thing howled in outrage for but a moment, before the dull thud of an explosion nearly blew out Vask's ears, and his world turned to fire for the second time that day.
When Vask awoke, he was sore, his long coat burned and tattered, and both lenses of his mask cracked. He groaned, rolling to his side, he tasted copper, but not enough to fill his mouth. He realised, slowly, that he was laying on what had been the bulkhead of the titans rear compartment, now laying against the ground. The command pod still smouldered, blood and charred viscera oozing from the door. He looked out the open hatch above, to see the dim stars of a cloudless sky.
Slowly, painfully, he hauled himself from the titan, which now lay sprawled out in the mud and blasted remains of the battlefield. In the distance, he could see the flickering lights of continued explosions, and even with his battered ears, the constant drum of battle. He pulled his Lasgun from the compartment, hauld himself to his feet, and limped off towards the new front. His death still waiting for him out there, somewhere.