The map glowed softly in its frame. Inquisitor Velianus turned his gaze away from it. He was tired of looking at the world with its constant stream of flickering lights. It had been torn apart by war and would remain torn for centuries to come. The Third War for the Hive World was drawing to a close, the Inquisitor could feel it, but it was still uncertain who would be the victor. For every red light that shone out on Velianusâ€™ map, indicating an Imperial victory, more green lamps would light the ravaged terrain of Armageddon as Ghazghkullâ€™s forces moved ever onwards.
Velianus reflected on how much he hated the war as he glanced up at the sullen skies. Rolling iron barriers of cloud blotted out the moon and the stars, a fine drizzle falling onto Velianusâ€™ upturned face. Ghazghkull refused to give in, he turned every victory into another advantage for his armies. In his long career Velianus had only met one other man like him.
It felt odd to admit the kinship that the old commissar â€“ now head of planetary defence for the duration of the crisis â€“ shared with the Ork warlord. Velianus lowered his steely stare to the horizon where the Ork hordes stretched out in an infinity of barbarity. Somewhere out there was Ghazghkull. Velianus knew that the promise of a fight this large was too much for his Orkish brain to resist.
Velianus turned back and looked into the gloomy depths of the bunker. The old man was sitting on one of the benches, slumped backwards so his head was hidden in shadow and most of his body veiled by a criss-crossing mesh of dark lines. Velianus knew that the old man would not move from this command bunker, that he would not stir from this ground until he was slain by the hand of the Orks whom he had cheated fifty years prior to Ghazghkullâ€™s latest campaign.
How in the name of the Emperor could he endure? Velianus wondered. The Inquisitor himself had only briefly tasted the last war at Armageddon. He had arrived at its climax under orders from his superiors, and had waded through the ashes of Hades scattering Orks before him. He remembered moving through the ruins, closely flanked by a squad of Imperial Fists, looking at the devastation Ghazghkull had wreaked in the name of his mad dream.
Velianus himself had never met Yarrick before now. The old commissar had been busy - busy fighting this endless war. Kurovâ€™s purges had never truly removed the taint of the Orks from Armageddon and even if he had not been there Yarrickâ€™s presence had inspired those who fought against them.
But now Ghazghkull had returned. He had returned, and his new war was greater than any in Velianusâ€™ long memory. The Inquisitor had served the Emperor a thousand times on a thousand worlds, but he had never faced a foe as vast as Ghazghkull. The Ork warlord loomed over Armageddon in the same way Yarrick had done, his barbaric shadow throwing the hives into chaos where Yarrick had fought for peace. He was the beast, the antithesis of Yarrick and at the same time his equal. Fate seemed to have linked them, but with all the omniscience of the Emperor Velianus could not have guessed what their destiny was to be. Any other man would have fallen under the weight of the duties that now assailed Yarrick.
â€œAnother hour,â€ he informed the old man. â€œAnother hour and we wonâ€™t be able to see but for green tides.â€
Yarrick stirred in his pool of shadow, leaning forward so his cold gaze met that of Velianus.
â€œVery good, Inquisitor,â€ he said, tilting his head to one side. â€œThe bombardment has begun.â€
Velianus stopped to listen and heard the roar of long-distance guns pounding into the enemy hordes somewhere in the distance. They formed a steady rhythm of booming coughs and Velianus ducked out of the bunker again to watch their deadly cargo stream across the grey sky.
Yarrick stepped out of the bunker alongside him, giving a brisk involuntary shudder at the cold of the night. He lit up a pipe and puffed on it as he regarded the Orks drawing closer. â€œIt is a mighty horde, larger than the one we fought at Hades.â€
Velianus remembered the day Ghazghkull had bombed Hades into oblivion, remembered the mass of Orks surging towards the Imperial defenders, remembered the Salamanders and their noble charge. He had made a dozen such defences as the war for Armageddon had taken its toll on the forces of the Emperor. Now they stood alone. There would be no Salamanders arriving to rescue them, no Titans to crush the Ork war machines into dust.
Yarrick spat angrily into the dust. â€œGhazghkull will not use Gargants, not this time,â€ he said. â€œThis time it is the power of the Ork he will call upon to annihilate his foes, not the power of the machine. Commander Balian should cease his barrage. His shells would be better spent on Roks than these teeming hordes.â€
â€œI could give the order for Balian to desist,â€ Velianus suggested, but Yarrick shook his head.
â€œLet him fulfil the pride of his soldiers. They will fight for that if nothing else.â€
Velianus caught a fiery glint in Yarrickâ€™s eye that made even the disciplined Inquisitor shudder. The old man seemed so outwardly frail but inside Velianus could almost sense a palpable inferno of rage. He would not die until it was finished, until every single Ork lay dead.
Yarrick indicated the endless sweeping lines of Greenskins. â€œYou see it, Inquisitor? You see the fearlessness with which he commits himself to war? That is something that you and I will never know. He is not as other Orks in their mindless millions, though from his tactics he appears so.â€
â€œI donâ€™t understand,â€ said Velianus.
â€œAn Ork cares not for victory,â€ Yarrick explained. â€œAn Ork cares only for the war itself. Whilst we live for peace after war, an Ork lives for chaos during battle and will struggle to find another fight after one has drawn to a close. We seek to justify an existence free of the pains of warfare, but the Ork has not such quandaries or questions. Their existence is justified by the battle by which we seek to find a means to justify ourselves.â€
â€œBut Ghazghkull does not?â€ Velianus enquired.
â€œHe is different,â€ Yarrick said darkly. â€œThey say Armageddon is his obsession but it is his curse. His final victory here is how he justifies himself. To most Orks, war is an end. He is unique because he recognises war is a means. He is unique because he alone amongst his kind can destroy us.â€
â€œYou say him alone,â€ Velianus objected. â€œBut Ghazghkull is not a strategist, he is not an Imperial thinker â€“ he is an Ork. An Ork is as any other Ork. War is as an Eldar decadence.â€
â€œI would have thought an Inquisitor would understand, but you do not,â€ Yarrick said grimly, turning away from the horizon. â€œMaybe you will, after this night has passed. If you still draw breath maybe you will.â€
Ten minutes had passed from Yarrickâ€™s disappearance into the bunker when the tanks began to rumble into position. The land around Velianus had been dotted with the flickering lights of cooking fires as the Steel Legion sat in waiting, but now the armoured behemoths of the Imperial Guard began to move forwards.
From his vantage point in the forward command bunker, Velianus watched as Chimaeras rolled smoothly to a halt around him. Their ranks were punctuated by the unmistakable bulk of a Leman Russ turret rising above them. Velianus glanced at the Ork horde and did a few quick sums as he tried to calculate roughly how many would die in the service of the Emperor tonight.
He offered a quick prayer for the souls of the countless number of men sacrificed for Ghazghkull, and shuddered as he realized the millions they would be joining. Yarrick was visibly bowed under the weight of those who had died in the face of the Orkâ€™s dreams.
Velianus could see the green and red glowing map sitting on the wall of the bunker behind him in his mindâ€™s eye. He wondered if this nightâ€™s slaughter would result in another green lamp or another red. He prayed for red, red to show victory and red to honour the blood of those killed to achieve it. They could not afford another defeat on Armageddon. It would cost them the war.
Velianus spent another half an hour watching the tanks move into careful formations. Clouds of dull red dust rose around their tracks as they turned in rumbling arcs, giving them the shimmering look of a mirage. Hymns to the Emperor and the Imperium rose around Velianus in spiralling paths of sound as the soldiers made their peace with the world.
Velianus turned to the nervous aide who stood by the bunker.
â€œGet me on a comm to the commander,â€ he ordered. The aide bowed and hurried inside the bunker. He emerged a few moments later carrying a bulky comm device that he deposited at Velianusâ€™ feet and dialled in the frequency. Velianus snatched up the receiver.
â€œInquisitor Velianus, Emperor bless you. The Orks will be in range in another fifteen minutes.â€
â€œGood work, Commander. Are your men ready for battle?â€
â€œWe will fight and we will win, Inquisitor. Make no mistake about that.â€
â€œYour barrages wonâ€™t stop Ghazghkullâ€™s armies. It falls to the courage and might of your men to do that.â€
â€œMy barrages are not intended to stop them,â€ Balian replied curtly. â€œBut they will demoralize them, and that is an advantage we can press.â€
â€œBalian has learnt nothing of his time here,â€ Yarrick remarked, stepping out of the bunker again. â€œIn the face of battle an Ork knows no fear. He may quail momentarily but where else would he find the thrills of war but here?â€
â€œAnd this is again how Ghazghkull demonstrates his unique nature?â€ Velianus said wearily, lowering the receiver.
â€œPrecisely,â€ Yarrick responded. He gestured at the Orks on the horizon. â€œThey are here for war and the fulfilment of war. They do not know the importance of Armageddon any more than they know the insignificance of an outpost on Kassal. Ghazghkull and only Ghazghkull has a purpose here, a purpose that will doom us if it comes to fruition.â€
Velianus was saved from a response by Yarrickâ€™s next comment. â€œFifteen minutes until they are in range? Then I believe it is time.â€
He passed back into the bunker and Velianus wished Balian a swift victory before following him. Inside the gloomy bunker, he glanced at the map. He could have sworn the green dots had multiplied in the forty minutes since he was in here last. Ghazghkull had spread faster then anyone could have imaginedâ€¦
â€œHelp me, would you?â€ Yarrick said tersely, struggling to lift the bulk of the famous power claw without the help of the servo-implants attached to it. Velianus stepped forward and took the claw from the old man, marvelling at the crudity of the dull red metal. If the stories were true than Yarrick had ripped this from the hand of an Ork Warboss fifty years ago at Hades as he had stood alone defending the streets of the Hive from a hundred-strong gang of Orks marauding through it. It had been updated and improved by the Imperium, of course, but it still retained evidence of its crude origin.
There was a brutal snapping sound as Yarrick slid his arm into the claw and the wires around it clicked into place, sliding into plugs in his flesh. The old man smiled grimly. The claw of the Imperium was about to face the claw of the Ork.
Looking once again like he had some purpose in the world, Yarrick moved out the bunker. Velianus followed him in time to see him striding amongst the tanks towards the front line. Velianus hurried after him, observing how the heads of the guardsmen turned in awe as Yarrick passed them. He was a hero to them, a war legend who had held Armageddon for longer than their lifetimes. Beneath his peaked cap Yarrickâ€™s face was set in silent determination, looking neither left nor right as he strode through the tanks of the Imperial Guard. Velianus could only follow in his wake.
Yarrick reached the frontal Chimaera and allowed himself to smile. Velianus caught up with him as he paused to survey the Ork hordes drawing steadily closer.
â€œIt would be wiser to return to the bunker,â€ Velianus suggested. â€œThe front line is dangerous.â€
â€œWe must not load ourselves with weaknesses the enemy may exploit, Inquisitor,â€ Yarrick replied distractedly. â€œAn Ork does not fear danger; why should we? Only by facing it shall we attain victory.â€
Velianus found himself helplessly submitting to the old manâ€™s will. He remained with him for the fifteen minutes until the tank barrage began. In that time the hymns at their backs slowly dwindled and died, as if the magnitude of the approaching Orks had dulled the spirits of the guardsmen. The guttural war chants of the Greenskins were clearly audible and Velianus squeezed the handle of his chainsword in anticipation.
The Leman Russ nearest to them fired first and Velianus followed the shell with his eyes as it blazed across the plain and tore into the Orkâ€™s front line. In the cracking explosion Velianus saw the outline of dark bodies being thrown into the air. Fire rolled across the Orkish army.
Lightning blasted across the sky in an arc, striking directly between the two armies in a flash of light accompanied by a simultaneous rumble of thunder. As if on cue rain began to pour in earnest from the iron sky and within seconds Velianus was drenched. He shivered, but Yarrick made no movement. The lightning had summoned the rain but it had also summoned the artillery. The tanks of the Steel Legion opened fire in a deafening roar of shells and explosions that ripped the Ork lines to shreds. Greenskins died in droves yet still more marched on implacably. They had stupidly begun to fire madly towards Imperial lines even though they were still out of range.
Velianus swore as he shifted his feet and realized within seconds of rain the plains had been transformed into a sea of mud. It squelched as he moved and he blinked, wiping water from his eyes as he struggled to see the enemy moving ahead of him. They had become nothing more than a green streak of green dimply perceived through a curtain of water.
The drum roll of their marching intensified, punctuated with the shrieking yells of their war chants. The second volley spat out a vicious cargo that blasted more Orks away in a blood-soaked crucible of fiery destruction. Ork rokkits streamed from the Greenskin ranks as they retaliated, but their feeble artillery was shamed to silence before the battalions of the Imperial Guard. More shells fell like rain and Velianus saw that they had bitten deep into the Ork lines.
The drum roll continued in an unceasing beat that swept towards the defenders.
Minutes passed as the tapestry of gunfire wove itself a story of flames over the battlefield. The pouring rain did not relent. As the Orks drew closer Velianus could make them out even through the foul weather and he drew his chainsword, squeezing his bolt pistol in anticipation. Dirty red war trucks sped ahead of the marchers, racing each other and zooming around in wide arcs throwing up sheets of mud behind them. Bikes pulled wheelies and elaborate tricks in an urge to outdo each other. The noise of the engines was drowned out in the roar of the Orks.
The Greenskins were close enough to hit the Imperial Guard and now their firing doubled as they let loose with everything they had on the Steel Legion guardsmen. Velianus flinched as shots flew around him felling soldiers but Yarrick stood confidently beside the frontal Chimaera, grim and unsmiling as the men disembarked around him.
In another thirty seconds the air rang with the crack of the discharge of lasgun fire. The massed ranks of the Imperial Guard were known for their unerring accuracy and within seconds the mud was choked with the bodies of Orks. One superb shot standing near Yarrick hit a truck right in the gas tank and it exploded with a dull whoomph.
All too soon the Orks were upon them. Velianus focused on a wild brute that charged him with a savage roar and he raised his chainsword to intercept it, but before he could move Yarrick had felled it with a practised shot from his Stormbolter. Velianus raised his bolt pistol and snapped off three shots in rapid succession, nailing three Greenskins right in their heads.
Yarrick gave an almost bestial yell as the Orkish line smashed into them. Velianus found himself alternating powerful sweeps of his chainsword with blasts from his bolt pistol as he tore into the swirling melee. Yarrick was up ahead with a squad of Stormtroopers, their Hellguns keeping the masses at bay as Yarrick cut a swathe through the Orks. His bionic eye left searing scars across their faces and once again Velianus found himself following in the old manâ€™s wake clearing up the Orks they had left alone. The Steel Legion surged forward in war.
A truck screeched to a halt by Yarrickâ€™s position. Undaunted he gazed up at the crowd of Orks perched on the back and unloaded his Stormbolter into them as they leapt from their crude vehicle. They leapt at him with guttural cries and for a moment the old man vanished under a hail of Orks. The Stormtroopers started forward in horror but seconds later Yarrick emerged in a bloody whirl of dead Orks, his claw snapping them up with practised ease.
The Steel Legion counter-attack was piecemeal but it didnâ€™t seem to matter. The Orks seemed oddly reluctant to commit to the assault and ahead Velianus could see the tracks of the Battlewagons had ground to a halt. He could not understand defensive behaviour in an Ork. Was it merely the presence of Yarrick, bellowing hymns to the Emperor, that sent them back in droves? Velianus wished he could view the battle from above to see some coherent picture.
In the end it mattered not. The Steel Legion pushed their advantage and Velianus hurled himself at the Orks with a grim snarl of satisfaction.
Velianus had felled two more Orks when he heard Yarrick yelling at him above the power of the storm. He stared at the old man as he moved furiously, then drew closer and heard the words before they were whipped away on the wind.
â€œFall back! Fall back!â€
Velianus could not understand such an order. The Orks were broken; their failure to cause a decisive assault had cost them the battle. If the Steel Legion kept up their attack Ghazghkullâ€™s attack would be decimated.
But all along the battle line Imperial Guard squads were pulling out, wildly retreating to the line of firing Chimaeras blasting away at their foe with lasguns, getting to a safe distance before turning and running full pelt back into cover. Even Yarrick had disengaged, killing the last of the Orks who opposed him before falling back swiftly. With a roar of frustration Velianus followed him. An Ork strapped to a crude rocket pack soared low over his head and the Inquisitor ducked, dispatching the Greenskin with a single shot.
Yarrick turned to an aide and yelled a single order. â€œTell the men to dig in deep, get far back into the lines!â€ He ducked into the interior of the Chimaera. He shook his hair free of water and slammed his claw angrily into the side of the tank. He was slick from head to foot with the blood of the Greenskins and his eye blazed angrily from under his cap.
â€œWhat the Frag did you think you were doing out there?â€ Velianus snapped, looking back at the Ork hordes teeming some distance from the Guard, kept at distance with a steady stream of gunfire. â€œWe had them!â€
â€œWe did,â€ Yarrick acknowledged hollowly. â€œWhich meant Ghazghkull was manipulating us. The Orks werenâ€™t committed. He had another plan and I could not stand by and watch him succeed!â€
â€œOrks donâ€™t have strategies!â€ Velianus protested wearily. â€œThey fight and they die! We should attack! Order a second charge!â€
â€œNo!â€ Yarrick said at once. â€œNot until I know what heâ€™s doing.â€
â€œHe is losing!â€ Velianus almost yelled. â€œDoes war tire you so much that you invent stories to remove yourself from its midst? We fight now! Crush the Orks with the same brutality they show to us!â€
Yarrick turned away in disgust. â€œHave I told you nothing today? Have I told you nothing of Ghazghkullâ€™s intelligence? An Ork that does not fight has been instructed to, and instructed for a purpose. Contemplate that purpose, Inquisitor.â€
The calmness of his tone aggravated Velianus and in helpless rage he turned to look out of the open Chimaera. The Orks were trading poor shots with the Steel Legion, not even attempting to charge. Something sped through the sky above them.
â€œCommissarâ€¦â€ the Inquisitor said slowly, taking a few steps towards the exit.
â€œThe skyâ€¦â€ Velianus managed unhelpfully. But now Yarrick had turned and, seeing what Velianus saw, bolted out of the Chimaera. He stood for a few seconds staring up at the rain-washed clouds before he swore loudly.
As per Yarrickâ€™s instruction the Steel Legion had pulled deep into their own ranks of tanks. They were huddled together, tightly packed in the spaces between the rows of Chimaeras. In the sky above them blazed a fleet of small Ork Roks. They were far too close too the ground for any order to even be given, and Velianus and Yarrick watched in helpless desperation as they ploughed deep into the Imperial Guard lines. Hordes of Orks leapt from each one, crowing gleefully at the devastation they had caused. Yarrick watched in horror. After his retreat they had become packed together and hundreds were snuffed out with the descent of each Rok. The earth itself shook as the Orkish constructions smashed into the ground.
Yarrick pounded his claw into the side of the Chimaera. All around them Velianus could here the baying of the Orks.
â€œStupid!â€ he snarled, and glanced at Velianus. The light of battle had faded from his single remaining eye. â€œHe knew I would do that if he didnâ€™t attack fully, he knew I would retreat, pull together, defend, consolidateâ€¦â€ he spat each word out like an ugly confession.
Velianus stared out at the line of Roks. Tangled Chimaera wreckage protruded from under each one. Now they had an enemy on both sides of them rapidly closing in. To his horror Velianus saw clanking and whirring legions of crude Ork Dreadnaughts pour from the Roks to prey upon the ruined tanks like capricious death-gods.
â€œWe lost,â€ he said dully. â€œWeâ€™ve been broken. Ghazghkull has won.â€
That last sentence seemed to stir Yarrick and suddenly he snapped out of his bitter reverie, rising to his full height and glaring around him.
â€œThat may be true,â€ he said fiercely. â€œBut to the last drop of blood we shall fight him for it. Ghazghkull will not take Armageddon without a fight. Inquisitor, we shall give him a war worthy of an Ork!â€
The order to advance spread like a ripple in water through the Steel Legion lines. They were pinned hopelessly but those at the back would tie up the forces issuing forth from the Roks whilst Yarrick led the grim final charge against the malicious Ork horde that now began to charge them, seeing that they were moving to meet them in combat.
Yarrick and Velianus moved side by side this time, their bodies cutting through the rain to reach the Orks. Yarrick had felled four with his Stormbolter before Velianus had lifted his chainsword but he in turn sliced the heads off three with a single furious stroke. They rode the power of the Orkish storm in a wave of death. Stormtroopers blazed all around them, falling one by one, but they were untouchable. Yarrickâ€™s power claw clicked and bit at the Orks like a lethal pair of giant scissors, and Velianus stood down scores with his bolt pistol and the deadly sting of his chainsword.
They moved through the storm of Greenskins, felling them one by one, boots trampling on the smaller slave race that panicked and scattered around them. Velianusâ€™ face was contorted in rage that these Orks dared come here, dared face the wrath of the Emperor. He did not know how the battle for the Roks fared but here he felt invincible; like nothing could stop him.
Yarrickâ€™s eye alone was killing swarms of Orks. It burnt red-hot lines in their race and when it passed across an eye it simply popped in its socket, allowing Yarrick to finish off the Ork with a simple shot form his Stormbolter. But Velianus could see the line of Dreadnaughts advancing from behind the teeming Ork masses and he knew that every alien they killed brought them closer to those clanking machines of death.
Yarrick hissed at the insolence of the Orks as they redoubled their efforts and sliced through an armoured one like he was made of warm butter. Another one came at Velianus sporting a claw even larger than Yarrickâ€™s but he angled his chainsword so he sliced it off at the elbow and blasted the Orkâ€™s face off with his gun.
He did not have time to kill the next Ork he faced.
A smaller Greenskin rushed at him but before it got within range of his chainsword a great metal claw swooped down and grasped him, metal scissor-blades sweeping him up and snipping him in half like paper. The Dreadnaught led the dead Ork fall from its arm and Velianus could imagine the shout of glee issuing from the alien within as he advanced upon the lone Human. Yarrick was engaged with a Dreadnaught next to Velianus. There was no one else to help him.
He stared up at the metal behemoth and his heart suddenly quailed. The pounding of the rain and the rush of battle faded into insignificant background noise as the blazing eye slit of the monster met his quavering gaze. For a moment he stood frozen to the ground, cold rushing through his veins, and could remember nothing but fear.
Then he heard Yarrick bellow praise to the Emperor and suddenly he straightened up in pride. He was one of the Holy Inquisition, he would not be killed by some ridiculous construct that dared to come and despoil the Emperorâ€™s worlds. With a shout of fury he descended upon the Dreadnaught, bolt pistol punching tiny holes in the armour plating. But the shoddiness of the Ork design was its undoing. Velianus slashed furiously at the sections between the rusted armour plating, and on his second stroke he slashed a number of power cables, following up with a bolt pistol blast straight into the monsterâ€™s eye slit.
The Dreadnaught swayed, its feet slipping in the mud as it took an uncertain step backwards. Velianus knew that inside the pilot was dead or dying and he turned away from the metal behemoth as it swayed precariously. Yarrick had fared better. He stood atop the fallen hulk of his own opponent, his power claw holding aloft the head of the Ork driver and the frontal armour of the Dreadnaught torn wide open.
For a moment the two exulted in their victory, but then a deafening roar shook the battlefield and their heads snapped around. There was a clump of Stormtroopers that had ran ahead of them past the rampaging Dreadnaughts, and now they stood in terror around a massive Ork almost as big as one of the walkers. He had clad from head to toe in colossal plates of armour several inches thick and was roaring with laughter as he snapped up Stormtroopers in a power claw many times larger than Yarrickâ€™s. Velianus watched the bodies of the broken guardsmen go flying through the air as the Ork cut a bloody path through them.
Grinning like some hideous nightmare born out of the darkest fears of man, the Ork stomped towards Yarrick. Velianus was frozen, only dimly aware of the teeming hordes of Orks rushing around them. His eyes were on the armoured Ork as it strode through the rain, a pathway of blood marking its unstoppable presence. Glyphs and totems were carved into its metal frame, each one denoting death and destruction on a planetary scale. Velianus watched in despair as the beast hacked down scores of guardsmen that rushed to defend Yarrick. His heart felt chilled. This beast seemed to embody the devastation that ravaged Armageddon, the sweeping strokes of his arm echoing the strokes with which the Greenskins decimated the Imperium. This Ork was Warlord Ghazghkull, Velianus was sure of it.
Ghazghkull reached Yarrick with a brutal roar of satisfaction. Velianus watched as Yarrick gazed coolly up at the rampaging monster without fear. The laser light of his bionic eye seemed dull as this infernal creature raised its claw to strike in a hammer blow that Velianus was sure would tear the heart from the defenders.
Yarrick was faster, his power claw whipping out in an arc that punched wide into the Orkâ€™s frontal armour. The power claw dropped, but uselessly, and in another blow Yarrick had knocked the gargantuan Greenskin into the dirt. A look of dark satisfaction crossed his face as he fired a Stormbolter round straight into the Orkâ€™s face.
The cloud of despair lifted. This Ork was not Ghazghkull, it was just another war chief who dashed against the stalwart rock of the Imperial Guard in hopeless vain. Velianus looked up from the dead beast into Yarrickâ€™s eyes. The old man was standing tall and proud, mud churning around his feet and a halo of light from the flicker of the rising sun playing around his cap. Rain washed down around him but he stood firm through it, meeting Velianusâ€™ stare with a nod.
â€œNow do you understand, Inquisitor?â€ he asked.
Velianus looked back at the line of Imperial tanks. The dull glare of the exploding Roks was framed against the bloom of the artillery in the distance, the horizon lit with blossoming clouds of flame as fires swept from the darkened sky.
â€œI believe I understand,â€ he said thickly, glancing back at the approaching second wave. â€œGhazghkullâ€™s difference from his troops is in his determination to succeed, not simply to fight. That is what sets him apart. That is what necessitates his destruction.â€
â€œYou have begun to grasp the significance of our campaign,â€ Yarrick nodded curtly. â€œI hope in time enlightenment will follow.â€
Without another word Yarrick leapt from the carcass of his fallen foe and lifted his power claw once again, giving a wordless roar as the Ork line smashed into them. His face was uplifted and the lights of the missiles shone upon him. Velianus shouted a prayer to the Emperor and joined him in battle. Tomorrow there would be another red bulb alight on the map!