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Offline Koval, Master Verispex

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Selene's Kiss
« on: September 14, 2009, 04:50:35 PM »
Something different for you, and by different I mean it's not another Black Helix Project.

Comments and criticism welcome, but please, keep it constructive.

To anyone still reading Black Helix, I promise I will finish it -- I just fancied a change.

(Before anyone asks, yes, there is a Dark Heresy quote in this passage.)

---

Selene's Kiss
A Tale of Old Legends and Stalkers in the Night

by Koval


PROLOGUE


"Well then, lads, let's see how you do."

Tarek pointed down the hill and the four youths behind him peered down at an orogi campfire, a solitary tent sitting nearby with a gaggle of three diminutive sapari crowding the lone orog as he took a skewer of meat out of the fire and gnawed at it, angrily backhanding a sapar as it tried to steal a scrap of meat. In the fading sunlight, the fire served to highlight the orog's fearsome muscles and his maw crammed with huge teeth.

"First one to score a headshot wins one of my mother's meat buns," Tarek goaded the youngsters, and as one they raised their crossbows, their trigger fingers tensing as they lined up the orog in the iron sights.

Mahisha jostled with Vinay for a prime position, neither of the boys willing to give ground as the orog beneath them continued eating. Tall and muscular, the orog's green hide was almost black in the firelight, and his piggy eyes glinted like tiny moonstones. Fangs the size of Mahisha's hand jutted upwards from the orog's bucket jaw, slick with grease from his meal. The orog wore a pair of breeches crudely stitched together from buck leather, and the shaggy hide of an ursk cub was draped over his bare torso. The orog's moccasins were falling to pieces from sheer bad craftsmanship, and a gnarled toenail was poking out of a flap of tattered leather. The orog's stink reached up the hill and Mahisha grimaced, his aim wavering.

The orog was young and alone, but by no means an easy target. Mahisha knew that even a young orog could tear a man's arm off and beat him to death with it, laughing all the while. Fully matured, an adult orog could stand even as tall as a Storm Giant, and the orogi kept growing throughout their lives, possibly reaching heights of six or seven aratni if they were strong enough to reach an old age.

Vinay fired first, but his aim was off and instead of striking the orog, the bolt impaled one of the smaller sapari instead, and it squealed as it pitched backwards off the orog's shoulder. The orog whirled around in surprise, his primitive mind struggling to make sense of what had happened, by which time Mahisha, Roshan and Vanna had loosed their own bolts and all four boys were rapidly reloading. Tarek was idly stringing his own crossbow, the master marksman letting his pupils have their fun before he would intervene and fell the orog with a single shot. The two remaining sapari and the orog were reacting to the crossbow fire, the orog ripping Mahisha's crossbow bolt out of his chest and picking up his crude stone spear, roaring as he and his attendant sapari brandished their weapons and charged up the hill.

Vinay's second shot flew wide but Mahisha's aim was true, and as the orog began to claw his way up the hill, the sapar in front of him was catapulted backwards, a crossbow bolt lodged in its skull, dead before even getting the chance to scream. The orog dodged the falling sapar, but the scrawny greenskinned runt behind him was less fortunate and the two sapari collided, falling back down the hill in a tangle of limbs.

By the time Mahisha had lined up a third shot, the orog was almost at the top of the hill and Tarek was muscling in behind the boys, his crossbow held expertly yet with a distinct casual flair. Wordlessly he released his bolt and the orog fell, rolling backwards down the hill with Tarek's bolt in his brain pan, but impossibly the orog thrust his arm out and arrested his fall, clutching onto what Mahisha assumed to be a buried rock in the hillside.

"By the Sky-Emperor," Roshan gasped. "I'd heard orogi were tough, but I've never seen even a bull ursk take a headshot and keep going."

By way of reply Mahisha fired and caught the orog in the collar, and his bright red blood trickled into his furs. The orog faltered briefly and one of the other boys fired a bolt into his face, just shy of his upturned piggy nose. Ignoring the pain, the orog let out a frightening war-shout and Mahisha felt, rather than saw, at least one of the boys crawl backwards, away from the orog as it resumed its charge.

Before it could reach them Tarek fired again, neatly puncturing the orog's windpipe and leaving him sprawled on the hillside, choking to death but somehow trying to pull himself up the hill to get at his killers. A swift boot to the head from Tarek knocked the orog back down the hill where he lay twitching, struggling vainly to draw breath.

"We need to burn the body quickly," Tarek instructed. "You do not want to see the sort of things that happen when a dead orog is left alone."

Quietly, the boys stowed their crossbows away and clambered down the hill, each one picking up one of the orog's limbs. Mahisha was quickest down and took the furthest limb, closest to the campfire, and wheezed as he struggled to lift the orog's meaty fist. Across from him, Roshan grimaced at the stench radiating from the orog's boot, and Mahisha suppressed a chuckle at his friend's expense.

When the last of the youths had taken a limb, they swung it carefully onto the campfire before tossing the sapari on top for good measure. By all rights the orog's body should have smothered the fire, but instead the flames took to its ragged clothing greedily, and from there to the orog's flesh, filling the air with a horrid stink that made Mahisha's eyes water.

"Let's get back before another orog finds what's happened to his friend," Vanna suggested, "unless anyone has an urge to watch the fire."

Nodding their assent, the youths hurried back up the hill and along the winding forest trail that had led them to the orog. Night was falling and they risked drawing the attention of the forest's predators if they lingered.

On the other side of the forest, however, was something far worse.

"By the Sky-Emperor!" Roshan gasped as he looked down from the low promontory on which they stood. "What is happening? Tarek, tell me, what is happening?"

Tarek got down on his belly and wriggled to the lip of the promontory. They overlooked a wide river, its banks teeming with life and normally attended by dozens of men and women from the various settlements along its length. Directly below them, a village burned, one light in a chain of glowing devastation stretching along the river.

To Tarek's horror, orogi cavorted and danced among the blazing huts and houses below them, dragging men and women out into the open and slaughtering them at their leisure. The few fighters that retaliated were swiftly cut down by the brutish orogi, casually shattering skulls with giant clubs of stone and wood, or impaling bellies on crude spears. Tarek forced himself not to watch, wrenching his eyes away from the horrible sight for long enough to assess the devastation.

"I'd heard that there was an orogi chieftain rallying the tribes, but I'd thought nothing of it," Tarek admitted, trying his hardest not to weep. "The orogi aren't normally this powerful and we see them off at every turn, by the Sky-Emperor's grace. This is... I have no words for it. It's too horrible to comprehend."

"Has the Sky-Emperor deserted us?" Vinay queried. "Have the Storm Giants vanished?"

"The Sky-Emperor is always with us, Vinay," Mahisha snapped. "But it does us no good sitting here. Tarek, where is our village? Is it burning too?"

"We're further upstream than the orogi," Tarek answered, relief creeping into his voice, but as soon as he lifted his head to look across the river, his mood suddenly worsened once again and he swore.

"What is wrong?"

"We're next," Tarek wept, "and the orogi are already moving."

Instantly Mahisha drew his crossbow and bolted, sprinting along the promontory with Roshan and Vanna close behind. It took Vinay a few seconds to rouse Tarek, but soon the old hunter found himself being strung along by the youths under his care and eventually they reached their village mere moments before the orogi charge hit.

Mahisha should have felt afraid, but clearly the Sky-Emperor was with him and in the place of fear, there was only the desire to protect his settlement, to kill the orogi and defend his people. Already they were amassing an army to meet the orogi. A hundred men and boys, and as many women, brandished whatever weaponry they could find, from well-made spears and crossbows to simple pans, heavy and unwieldy but just as effective at bludgeoning an orogi as any club or hammer. Somewhere in the press of bodies were Mahisha's family, but he supposed he should have been grateful that he never saw them.

The front ranks of orogi warriors struck, lashing out with their weapons and slaughtering the villagers before they had a chance to defend themselves. Blood sprayed and severed limbs flew high into the air as the orogi waded in. A trio of giant green-skinned brutes towered above the villagers, shrugging off axe blows and ignoring spear strikes as their own weapons claimed lives with each swing. Smaller orogi were less resilient and fell with crossbow bolts puncturing their hides, but for each orog that fell, another five rose to take his place.

To Mahisha, it was a simple massacre as the invincible orogi razed his village and hacked its people apart. Within seconds, the orogi had turned the settlement into an abattoir for almost no loss of their own, and already the orogi were picking up logs from the open wood fires and lobbing them into houses, cackling with glee as the buildings caught fire and burned.

A body thudded down by his foot and Mahisha looked down to see Roshan, apparently having impaled his own throat on one of his crossbow bolts rather than face the orogi. Tarek had fled, and Vinay and Vanna had gone with him, leaving Mahisha alone against a horde of rampaging orogi, with no help in sight.

Suddenly Mahisha caught sight of the orogi leader, a big dark-skinned brute riding a tamed ursk that slavered and drooled as it bent down to feed on dead villagers. The nearest orogi were giving their chieftain and his ursk a wide berth as they snarled and snuffled, barely distinguishable from one another. The orog chieftain was draped in all manner of furs and hides, and he carried a massive club that looked like it might once have been a small tree. The orog had strapped a captured spear to the back of his ursk's saddle, and the heads of dead men from other villages were mounted, five in all, along its length as grisly trophies.

A fourteen-year-old boy such as Mahisha should have quailed in fear at the sight, but by the will of the Sky-Emperor his resolve held by a thread, and unnoticed by the orogi, he raised his crossbow, praying to the Sky-Emperor to guide his shot as the ursk raised its ugly head to grunt and roar at the orogi around it.

What followed was nothing short of miraculous as Mahisha fired, his bolt flying straight into the ursk's eye and piercing its brain. Bellowing in agony, the ursk bucked and the orog chieftain was tossed from the animal's back as it flailed about, its claws goring any orogi unfortunate enough to be near it. The chieftain tried to rise but was swatted by the ursk's massive paw, and he fell awkwardly into his cronies, the burly orogi staggering under their leader's weight as the ursk groaned one last time and collapsed, the crossbow bolt in its brain robbing it of its life at last.

As one, the orogi horde seemed to turn to face Mahisha, all hooting and shouting crude curses as they charged, intent on retribution. Mahisha tried to run away, but stopped dead as four shapes shot off of the promontory, landing in the middle of the orogi and flattening a dozen of them with a phenomenal crunch. Powerful roars resounded around them as the shapes resolved themselves into gigantic warriors, riding metal steeds with wheels and heavy armour plating that shimmered in the firelight. The warriors were clad in white armour that glowed orange against the reflected flames, and blood-red lightning flashes speared upwards along their greaves and their shoulderguards.

Their breastplates were embossed with the golden symbol of the two-headed eagle, sacred crest of the Sky-Emperor's warriors.

Even as they tore into the orogi, their wheeled steeds churning the ground beneath them, Mahisha recognised the warriors from the legends of his people, immortalised in song and dance as the sacred protectors of the Sky-Emperor's realm, and knew that he was looking upon four of the holy Storm Giants themselves. They'd been too late to save his village, of course, but even one Storm Giant was more than enough to shatter the orogi warhost and avenge the countless villages that they'd pillaged and put to the torch.

Mahisha watched, his face a comical parody of amazement, as the orogi literally screamed and tried to flee. The bigger greenskins tried to enforce a semblance of control, bashing errant orogi warriors with club butts and herding them back into battle, but they were sorely outmatched from the start. The closest Storm Giant to Mahisha squeezed something on his steed's reins and a pair of ornamented boxes on the front of his steed roared into life, belching smoke and fire at the orogi, who were literally torn apart on the spot as the power of the Sky-Emperor smote the vile monsters where they stood. Another Storm Giant raised his sword and bade it ignite with blue fire, cleaving one of the orogi leaders in half at the waist with his magical blade and chasing down any who dared to flee. The greenskins' clubs and ugly spears hammered down upon the Storm Giants but not a single one could even damage their armour, the clumsy weapons snapping as the holy warriors retaliated with their own weapons, forged by the Sky-Emperor's own smiths and in every way superior to anything Mahisha had ever seen. They surpassed even the legends at which Mahisha had once laughed, thinking such things impossible; yet here they were, invincible Storm Giants proving the stories correct, and more than correct.

One of the Storm Giants shouted something in his holy language and threw his arm out at the orogi, and his fellows turned their heads as a pillar of fire exploded in the midst of their enemies. The Storm Giant's spell broke the nerve of the orogi and they turned to flee, even their hulking chieftain unable to stand before their fury. The same Storm Giant bade his comrades follow them, and his steed spat its curses one more time as the other three Storm Giants raced after the orogi, chasing them down without mercy.

The Storm Giant dismounted and Mahisha suddenly became acutely aware that the warrior was looking at him.

"Come closer, child," the Storm Giant beckoned in the mortal language, and Mahisha found himself stepping forward in obedience, even though his mind urged him to give in to his terror and run away.

The Storm Giant squatted down to Mahisha's level, his armour hissing slightly as he lowered himself down.

"I saw what you did," stated the Storm Giant calmly. "Your bravery impressed me greatly."

"I didn't do anything," Mahisha croaked, forcing the words out through his terror, and overcome with amazement at having apparently survived against impossible odds.

"No. You did what entire villages could not. You stood firm in the face of certain death, and the Sky-Emperor guided your hand. It takes supreme bravery to stand up to one of those monsters when it comes seeking your destruction," the Storm Giant told him, "and great skill to throw one like their chieftain from his steed. You have earned my respect."

Mahisha stood dumbfounded, scarcely believing what the Storm Giant was saying. A lowly youth earning the respect of an immortal warrior of the Sky-Emperor was almost impossible in his eyes, and yet impossibility was somehow becoming reality.

His mind whirled, and Mahisha wondered if he was dreaming. Everything was too surreal, too far-fetched to be true, and yet somehow it was.

"I apologise for not saving your village," the Storm Giant admitted solemnly. "My brothers and I had been following the greenskin chieftain's trail along the river for two days. We only just caught up with him here. But it was truly by the Sky-Emperor's grace that we found him and eliminated him. And you show promise, child, and you have the Sky-Emperor's favour."

There was a pause, the silence broken by the crackle of the fires as Mahisha's village blazed.

"I will make you an offer. I will take you with us, away from the death and destruction, and away from the simple life of the villages. I know of your people's legends about us, about the Storm Giants. I will show you that all of your legends are true. And when you have learned all of this, I will see to it that you receive the true favour of the Sky-Emperor, and join the ranks of the Adeptus Astartes themselves," declared the Storm Giant.

He was no longer in a crouch, but had drawn himself up to his full height, towering fully three heads above Mahisha and staring down at him like a god.

"You will never know fame nor reward," he continued, "yet if you stand resolute, your deeds will be whispered to the God-Emperor of Mankind, and your name will be revered for millennia."

Emotions rampaging through his mind, Mahisha finally allowed the full force of his awe and terror to overcome him and he fainted, collapsing into the Storm Giant's arms.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 10:54:35 AM by Koval, the Overfiend »

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 08:43:34 PM »
Epic ;D, that was pretty awesome. I like the way how you described the Storm Giants through Mahisha's eyes, and a cool intro all together. Not much to suggest or criticize, so I'll leave it at good work, hoping to see more of this, Koval :).

Offline Koval, Master Verispex

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2009, 04:32:14 AM »
And we're rolling. Expect bits of everything to show up in this story, it somehow became my melting pot of ideas while in the development stage. :D

---


CHAPTER ONE


Well, I'll tell you one thing, it didn't take a genius to know that this wasn't going to end well.

For a start, the briefing chamber was huge. We had to commandeer the Saiku's chapel, and it's just about the one room on the ship for which I have an utter loathing. It's far too large at the best of times, and I hate the feeling that something in the ceiling's going to collapse on me. A chandelier, perhaps. It's just a price I have to pay to have the Saiku all to myself.

I was inwardly grateful that I was standing in a doorway at the far end of the hall.

We also had a little gaggle of drunkards sitting in the pews, all of them Frankish (quelle surprise, as they say). Senior officers mingled with younger lieutenants, paying absolutely no heed to the gravity of their present situation, and I felt the urge to put my head in my hands as I saw one of their Commissars swigging from a hip flask of something fantastically strong. I could smell it from where I was standing.

The Frankish 12th Armoured have a bit of a reputation. They're probably one of the best tank regiments in the entire sector in terms of sheer skill. They don't have the numbers of a larger regiment like the Valhallan 14th Armoured, but they make up for it in zeal and personal skill. I'd never seen tank crew quite as proficient in handling their vehicles as these Frankish.

Unfortunately for me, I'd also never seen officers quite as drunk as the Frankish, either. It's to be expected, given that Frankland's World produces some of the best wine and amasec in the entire sector, although I can't imagine the Frankish have ever heard of there being a time and a place for everything.

Maybe this is acceptable behaviour among their peers. I don't know.

Sitting behind the chapel's altar was a colleague of mine, a dear old lady by the name of Eliesa Schwertwald. She's a member of the Inquisition's Ordo Xenos, and at the time, I recall she was nearing three hundred years of age. By no means did she look quite that old, although I would have hazarded a guess at around seventy had I known no better. Her face was almost regal in her old age, her eyes still just as keen as an owl's. Her hair was white like the first snows of winter, tied back in a tight, elegant braid.

Most interesting was her mechanical wheelchair. It's equipped with tank tracks and a rather impressive life support system, and I suspect it was initially designed for a Magos Militant rather than an Inquisitor. I asked her once how she acquired it, and I must say she was rather reticent to tell me. I know the person who would be able to find out, but he's not the sort of person I could easily petition for favours.

"At ease, gentlemen," Eliesa shouted, addressing the gaggle of drunken Frankish, although her choice of words was somewhat poor, all things considered. Nonetheless, the vox-casters around the hall picked up her voice and amplified it, snapping the Frankish out of whatever reverie they were in.

When they're in combat, they're absolutely impeccable, not to mention devoted beyond a shadow of a doubt, but if I were a hardline, puritanical Commissar, half of the regiment would have been executed by now.

Thankfully, I'm not even in the Commissariat to begin with.

"I trust you all know why you're here," Eliesa began.

"Our own troop ships didn't have enough room for a briefing?" suggested one of the Frankish officers. I suppressed a sigh. He was right, of course, but that wasn't exactly why they were all here. There was more to it than that.

"As good an answer as any, I suppose," Eliesa conceded, before turning her head backwards to face me; or rather, a man behind me. "Decurion? The holoprojector, if you please."

I sidestepped out of the way as a solidly built Skitarius squeezed around me and entered the chapel, a squareish chest-sized block in his hands. Lights winked on and off all over its surface, and I could hear a gentle purring from somewhere within the machine. There was something on top of it that looked like a small radar dish.

The Skitarius put the device down on top of the (thankfully bare) altar, and I watched as the electro-flambeaux along the chapel's periphery dimmed. Blue light flickered around the top of that radar dish, and I watched as the light resolved itself into the rotating holographic image of a planet.

"This," Eliesa began, moving her chair to sit beside the altar, "is Planet Tsuikelyon. It's on the Eastern Fringe, about four hundred light years coreward of Ultramar."

One of the attendant Commissars stiffened at the name. I noted that she was a rather beautiful young lady, her raven-dark hair falling across her round face, and her skin the colour of a sandy beach in the summer sun.

Her identification papers told me roughly half an hour ago that her name was Miyuki Nakahara, and was herself Tsuiseiki. Being as I'd also seen the briefing papers, I was worried that this might perhaps jeopardise the operation, but I knew better than to say anything.

Besides, the Frankish couldn't see me, and I didn't fancy making my presence known too soon.

"Roughly two months ago, Tsuikelyon's major cities were overtaken by Tauist cells, potentially paving the way for a xeno invasion. I've included the specifics in your briefing documents, but I will outline the important details for you. Decurion, the next image, if you please."

A human face appeared on the hololith, quite plain and uninteresting but for a sigil smeared in what I hoped was ink on his forehead. His facial structure was typically Tsuiseiki, with the round face and high cheekbones to which I was slowly becoming accustomed.

"This man is the self-proclaimed Gue'vesa'o Kouta Katayama," Eliesa explained, visibly staring with disgust at the image. "Formerly the planetary governer's aide, he killed Governer Kiyoura and assumed his position, before prompting trade and political dealings with the Tau Empire. We are to assume he has a sizeable army, but we'll leave the business of conquest to the loyalist PDF forces who resist their new governer's rule."

I threw a glance across the hall at Commissar Nakahara, noting with disappointment that she looked a lot less attractive with her face frozen in a confused mix of shock and fury.

"Your job, instead, is to assault Kazukyo, the planetary capital, and level it."

"Level Kazukyo?" asked the third Commissar, miraculously the only one out of this sorry bunch that was still relatively sober; apparently, he could hold his drink a lot better than the rest of the regiment. I judged by the amount of gold brocade on his attire that this man was Commissar Kaarel Thorbecker, a Rhonaxean according to his papers. I'm still surprised that someone from Ultima Segmentum's northern frontier managed to wind up so far down south, but I didn't pursue it.

"Is there a problem, commissar?" asked Eliesa, her tone awfully condescending.

"Actually, there is, Inquisitor, if you don't mind me saying so. If we needed to level Kazukyo, surely we could do it from orbit."

I couldn't fault that concern. Purely going by what he'd been told, the Commissar's response was entirely logical, but there was naturally more we hadn't told him.

Then again, as Inquisitors, that's to be taken for granted.

"Well, your task isn't to level all of Kazukyo per se. Katayama has an army and we need you to draw it out so that our operatives can eliminate him personally."

"You want to draw an army onto our tanks? With respect, Inquisitor, we're not the largest tank regiment in the Imperium. And if we're talking about Tauist rebels trading with the grayskin empire, we should be expecting more than simple traitors."

"I hope that's not a voice of dissent I hear, Commissar. At any rate, you're not the only regiment in the warzone. Loyalist PDF forces and the Tsuiseiki 1st Airborne are already fighting on Tsuikelyon's surface," Eliesa explained. "You'll be making landfall around the same time as the 26th Mounted. I'll add further details to your briefing papers."

"We're landing with just one other regiment?" inquired Nakahara. "Our soldiers are good, yes, but both sides have Tsuiseiki troops. So we're still at a disadvantage."

Eliesa smirked, and it didn't take a genius to work out what she was going to say next.

"If you feel you're not up to the task, I could always petition a couple of Germanus regiments to step in," she smiled, and as one the entire assembly descended into furious swearing and shouts of disapproval, generally in Frankish, although I caught a particularly colourful and imaginative curse in Tsuiseiki battle-cant from Nakahara, detailing how Eliesa's father had apparently struck it lucky with a she-goat. I couldn't suppress a childish titter despite myself, although I do recall wishing we'd found a more competent unit than these abusive drunks.

There's a lot of violent rivalry between Frankish and Germanus units, or more specifically between these 12th Armoured and the Germanus 173rd Mechanised. Ordo Xenos reports, which technically I'm not supposed to have seen, suggest Eldar trickery inviting a particularly catastrophic friendly-fire incident, but I suspect that both sides had been trying to outdo each other anyway. The Frankish have this reputation for looking down their noses at any Guard unit that isn't Frankish, with only a few exceptions. Likewise, Germanus soldiers are incredibly scathing of anything that other units do, barely acknowleding a job done right but picking up on the tiniest of errors and hounding errant commanders until they give the Germanus any old excuse to assert their superiority. Naturally, any mention of one side to the other tends to generate an extreme, and occasionally violent, reaction, unless it creates an opportunity to gloat and make a gratuitous amount of racist jokes.

"I knew I could rely on you," Eliesa smirked, the vox-caster's boom drowning out the dissenting shouts with ease. "Commissars Thorbecker, Nakahara and Defferre, please, stay with me. And for Throne's sake, Defferre, sober up, I have some de-tox pills if you need them. The rest of you, dismissed."

The revolting Frankish Commissar with the hip flask tossed his bright red ponytail back over his shoulder, stoppered his hip flask and pocketed the offending article before confidently staggering over to the Inquisitor, followed by the mildly more sober figures of Nakahara and Thorbecker. Once the last of the Frankish officers had filed out of the chapel, presumably to go away and drink yet more of their paint stripper, Eliesa turned to each of them.

"Has at least one of you read the briefing documents?" she sighed, immediately tiring of the Frankish 12th's drunken antics. My stomach dropped as I understood precisely what she was about to ask, and silently I despaired that she was skipping straight to the horrible bit.

"There's a file marked "For Commissars Only" if that's what you mean," suggested Defferre. Almost immediately, Thorbecker bashed the junior Commissar on the back of the head and Defferre almost fell forwards.

"The file mentions vampires," Thorbecker stated slowly. I could almost see the cogs churning away in his brain. "With all due respect, did you get the files mixed up?"

"No, vampires is quite right."

"But... we're dealing with Tauist rebels." Thorbecker, I think, intended his statement more as confirmation than as a question, although Eliesa didn't exactly treat it as either. Instead, she turned to look in my direction and held out her hand.

"Sergeant, you can come out now."

I immediately threw myself back against the wall, flattening my body as much as I could, as the sound of heavy metallic stomping reverbrated along the corridor and a black figure passed dangerously close to where I was standing. Stooping to pass through the door, the figure almost succeeded in winging me with his elbow, and had I not ducked out of the way he might very well have caused me a serious injury.

I couldn't see past him too well, but judging by the shocked gasps, I gather our Deathwatch associate made a considerable impact on them.

What shocked me more was that Eliesa didn't even need to pull that many strings to requisition Deathwatch support in the first place.

"This, Commissars, is Brother-Sergeant Imrik Mahisha of the Deathwatch," Eliesa announced with a grin as the Space Marine stepped around the stunned trio. "He has the responsability of eliminating Kouta Katayama and putting an end to the secessionists' revolt. In addition, it is his duty to deal with these vampires, whatever they are."

"My lady," rumbled the giant, bowing in deference to my aging mentor, "with all due respect, I think it is best if I and my battle-brothers brief the Commissars from this point. As familiar with the Tau as you are, you have not yet dealt with a concurrent vampire incursion, whereas we know their weaknesses, their strengths, their methods."

There was a rather uncomfortable silence as the Space Marine finished talking. I think the acoustics in the chapel might have induced an echo, but it's not really all that important.

From here, I could get a good look at the Space Marine's right side. He towered easily half a metre over the head of Kaarel Thorbecker, and according to his records, he's the largest man in the whole of the 12th Armoured. Mahisha's armour was jet-black, and I knew from experience that the silver icon of the Inquisition was affixed to the pauldron I couldn't see, surrounded by lines of scripture engraved into the ceramite of the shoulderguard. The pauldron I could see, however, was left in the colours of his original Chapter, and according to his papers, the Chapter in question was the Storm Giants. The shoulderguard itself was painted off-white and decorated with a scarlet lightning flash. Unlike the simplistic, angular look of thunderbolts in heraldry, the Storm Giants opted for a more realistic look, although curiously it was inverted, as if spearing up to strike at the heavens rather than the other way around. I must admit that the significance was lost on me.

"You are right, of course," Eliesa nodded at last, understanding the Storm Giant's concern. "As you say, the Tau are my specialism, and I would not wish to encroach upon yours. I leave the remainder of the briefing to you."

Without further ado, Eliesa left, her wheelchair rumbling past me almost faster than a man could run. As she sped past me, she shot me a knowing look and a rare smile. I smiled back, still hidden from the view of the chapel's remaining occupants.

This should be interesting, I thought to myself.
« Last Edit: December 7, 2012, 05:02:30 PM by Koval, Savant Preceptor »

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2009, 02:27:37 PM »
I apologise if this passage looks a bit clunky and not-going-anywhere, but it will heat up tremendously in the next passage. There's enough vampire talk for anyone to see the rough general direction in which this is going, but keep in mind that this is just as much about the narrator as the story he's telling.

---

CHAPTER TWO

"It is best to get some ground work done first. I trust none of you have ever fought a true vampire before?"

None of the Commissars said anything. Thorbecker, to be fair, shook his head, but Defferre stood there like a fish out of water and Nakahara was as still as a sculpture.

"Then this will be an easier briefing," Mahisha stated after a pause. "By and large, the creatures we call vampires appear in the folklore of many cultures, from here on the Eastern Fringe, all the way to Cadia. Accounts vary, but there are common traits that feature frequently. For example, they are always nocturnal, and haemophagous; that is to say, blood-drinkers. Of course, their traits vary as well. Commissar Thorbecker, what does Rhonaxean folklore have to say about the vampire?"

Thorbecker stiffened as Mahisha intoned his name, but swiftly relaxed again, thinking.

"The vampire -- we call it a vampyr, or a blodsugare -- tends to prey on humans, normally smaller communities, taking a handful of youths away at a time, every new moon, at midnight," he recounted. "Normally it lives in the woods or in old disused farmhouses, in as isolated and unassuming a location as it can find. It is a feral creature, like a mad dog, but is strong and agile. Stories of hunts are rare, and typically feature powerful warriors who are still barely a match for the vampire."

"A common depiction," Mahisha nodded. "Commissar Defferre, does Frankland's World have folk tales of vampires?"

"Not exactly," Defferre slurred. "We have local legends of spirits that fly at night and drink the blood of travellers, but that's about it."

"Tell me more."

"They're called sangmangeurs, and haunt the roads. They're supposed to follow you, unseen until the moment they pounce on you and bite you here." Defferre slapped the side of his neck, his thumb pressing against his carotid artery. "Of course, nobody's ever seen one. The stories go back to before Vandire. They're just there to scare little kids at night."

"I see, and Lady Nakahara?" Mahisha asked, glossing over Defferre's account entirely. For a Commissar, Defferre certainly doesn't act the part one bit.

"There's no single definitive account of kyuketsuki," Nakahara answered quite awkwardly. I don't think she'd ever imagined being put on the spot by a Space Marine, certainly not by a Deathwatch veteran, and certainly not by one that's asking about faerie tales.

Of course, she didn't know at all how relevant these faerie tales were to our operation.

"Nothing ventured, milady, nothing gained," Mahisha remarked. "Even one example will do."

"I could tell you about Veyura Sama, I suppose."

"Veyura Sama?"

"I am from a city called Kogane-no-Ichiban," Nakahara began, "which was the first settlement on Tsuikelyon's northern continent that the colonists founded after establishing the eastern capital. Veyura was supposedly a colonist that was killed by one of his peers, who found him making a sacrifice to a God of Chaos. Eight hundred years after Kogane-no-Ichiban was officially made a city, Veyuraclawed his way out of the ground and began murdering indiscriminately by the light of the full moon."

So far, it made for an interesting tale, but I decided to wait for Nakahara to finish before saying anything.

"His victims," Nakahara went on, "were found with bite marks around their necks, and drained of blood. Some were cremated, others buried. The ones that were buried came back to life at midnight eight days later, forming an army behind Veyura, who by this time had styled himself as a Lord of the Dead and was calling himself Veyura Sama, or Lord Veyura. He was vain, but thought like a beast rather than a man, and it took a counter-assault by the Imperial Guard to rid the place of his villainy. Anybody that was wounded by Veyura Sama or his army was euthanased, and all the dead were cremated to stop them from returning."

"Possibly the closest depiction of a vampire to the true horrors we face," Mahisha noted. "Although all three have merit. A true vampire can be any of these things, and worse things besides. Nobody, except the Ordo Xenos, knows the truth of the matter."

I understood an unspoken question that all three Commissars dearly wished to ask. Why the Ordo Xenos? Why not, assuming anyone had heard of it, the Ordo Obscuro, or another, smaller Ordo, like the Sepulturum that dealt with the Zombie Plague around the Segmentum Obscurus?

The answer was fairly plain before Mahisha even opened his mouth.

"The true vampire, Commissars," he rumbled, "is an alien threat that evolved in the galaxy's south-eastern reaches, beyond the Realm of Ultramar. The folk tales would have you believe that it thrives by taking humans, and using them both for food and for reproduction. The vampire's bite can transform a human into one of its own kindred. Although this is not untrue, the specifics are well-hidden for a reason."

Mahisha started pacing, dimly aware that my Skitarius colleague was still in the room. Neither the Space Marine nor the Skitarius seemed overly bothered.

"On the surface level, the vampire is a transformed human. Its biological systems are enhanced. It can react like lightning and tear off a man's head with ease. It can jump higher, think faster, attack harder than any human. Yet it is utterly inhuman, its soul caged and repressed by its transformation into a monster that thrives on the blood of the pure. It is both vain and feral, changing from haughty noble to ravening beast in an instant."

"With respect, my lord, this is generally known to us already. Especially after Commissar Nakahara's account," Thorbecker remarked.

"And yet everything you have been told is a lie. Not a lie, a half-truth. The details themselves are masked. The vampire drinks blood for its sustenance because of how it has evolved, how it has been transformed. But do we know exactly why? Not yet!"

Mahisha stopped pacing and glared at Thorbecker.

"Until now."

Thorbecker took a nervous step backwards.

"There is a reason I am telling you this," Mahisha declared. "It is because you are Commissars. It is the vampire's bite that transforms its victims, whether or not they still live after it has drunk its fill. It is your vigilance alone that will safeguard the troops, and they are moral threats if bitten and left to develop. Better to kill them, and save their souls from the torment that follows."

Mahisha resumed pacing and I must admit, even I was getting impatient now.

"How is it that the bite works?" Nakahara queried. "You said yourself they are aliens, not the daemons of folklore."

"It is because the true vampire, the entity behind its mask of transformation, is a protozoan," Mahisha answered. "A single-cell organism. What the folk tales might call a vampire is little more than the host body. The protozoa in their billions cause the enhancement of their victim, yet as if joined by some shared consciousness, they take over the victim's mind and make it their own. They feast on untainted blood cells and use it for sustenance, forcing their host to drink blood and eat fresh meat to nourish both host and parasite. And when a new host starts as a corpse, the protozoa simply reanimate it as a beast, focusing on its biological, rather than cognitive, functions and causing it to behave as in the Rhonaxean tales. They can reproduce either according to the method of their host species, or by biting a new host and transferring the protozoa like a serpent's venom. Humans are the most numerous hosts, but I have personally witnessed an Ork thus possessed, and reports from before my time have pict-recordings of a transformed Eldar."

Mahisha stopped momentarily and shot me a subtle glance before grinning at the Commissars.

"Let me tell you now that you should pray you never meet an Ork taken over by the vampire."

"There must be countermeasures against vampiric possession," Thorbecker stated. "I mean, there surely has to be --"

"I'm afraid prevention is better than cure, Commissar," Mahisha sighed solemnly. "When I last met a vampire I was forced to personally execute a Commissar like yourself. Be prepared to do the same for anyone in the 12th Armoured, even each other if need be. The signs are self-evident, just look for bite marks."

Defferre swallowed and gulped audibly.

"Though there are ways to shield oneself against the vampire's bite," Mahisha continued with a grin. "Chief among these is simply to protect oneself in the sturdiest and most reliable armour available. I dare say your tanks would be up to the task, and failing that, a carapace gorget would break a vampire's teeth."

"Would the folk tales offer anything else?" Thorbecker asked.

"Name me some of the defences against vampires in the folk tales, then, or the ways to kill them," Mahisha invited. "Protection is just one step. One has to kill their enemy as well."

"A stake through the heart," Nakahara shouted instantly.

There was a stunned silence.

"Consider that a stake through the heart, indeed anything through the heart, would kill most things, whether possessed by the vampire or otherwise," sighed the Space Marine. "In fact, I invite you to take a power sword and test my theory on myself."

I watched as Nakahara paused and then withdrew. Folklore had its obvious limits. In fairness, none of them had expected to face anything even remotely related to the stories that had scared them as children, but one had to know where to draw the line.

"Sunlight?" proposed Thorbecker. "You said yourself that they're nocturnal, and all of the stories featured the night."

"A valid point. Do you know why?"

Thorbecker shrugged. "On Rhonaxene we said that a blodsugare caught in direct sunlight would burst into flames and turn into dust. I have no idea what the truth is behind the legend."

"Not quite. Besides a direct hit from an energy weapon, there is nothing that could do that to a vampire. And by energy weapon, Commissars, I mean weapons like meltaguns and lascannon, not the flashlights the Munitorum insists on issuing you," the Space Marine scowled. "The truth is that a vampire's skin has no melanin content, and is strengthened by a chemical by-product of their transformation. In the presence of ultraviolet light, however, the host suffers from severe, and almost instantaneous, sunburn, and lasting tissue damage. Not quite your combustion, Commissar, but where does one draw the line between truth and fiction?"

I forced myself not to ponder that one too hard myself, although thankfully Defferre spoke up before I lost myself in philosophy. It's not something I especially enjoy.

"Silver?" suggested the red-haired Commissar. He was swaying about and practically leaning on Thorbecker by this point, and I could see his hand straying towards his hip flask again. Evidently, he'd declined Eliesa's offer of de-tox pills.

"Commissar, in my bolt pistol I have a shot selector that switches between two magazines. The first contains standard-issue bolter shells, while the second is smaller and houses a handful of Gantalsa-pattern inferno bolts. The bolt's composition is largely silver, providing a catalyst for the oxy-phosphor gel's reaction. In the presence of atmospheric oxygen, the shell's effects are nothing short of terrifying."

Mahisha drew his massive bolt pistol from his hip for emphasis. I don't exaggerate when I say it was longer than my forearm, and about as heavy as the holo-projector on the altar.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the inferno bolts have caused any effect on a vampire above and beyond their standard parameters," Mahisha concluded with an almost fatalistic grin, not entirely devoid of mirth but betraying his seriousness all too easily. "Similarly for icons of faith instilling terror into the vampire, it helps when the bearer in question is carrying a chainsword or an eviscerator to reinforce the threat in question."

Almost on cue, as though Mahisha's words had been especially poorly chosen, the entire Saiku rumbled, and I watched as the Commissars all lost their footing. Defferre in particular fell on his backside and, believe it or not, rolled until he was lying flat on his front. It's just about the one thing I never thought I'd see, and I'm surprised that he was ever allowed to live down such embarrassment afterwards.

To his credit, Mahisha didn't even budge. Neither did I, although I was holding onto something at the time.

"What's happening?" Nakahara asked, slightly panicked, as she picked herself up. She was fastest to recover out of all three. "We haven't made a transition back into Warpspace, surely."

"No. We must be well in-system by now, and that must mean the one thing I didn't want it to mean," Mahisha responded, masking his apprehension well. "This is only a small transport vessel. We must be an easy target for secessionist guns. If you will excuse me, I must see to the Inquisitor."

Without even waiting for a word of acknowledgement from the Commissars Mahisha turned, storming through the door and passing me almost at a run. Instead of simply ignoring me, though, he grabbed me by the collar and lifted me up, somehow still keeping me out of the Commissars' line of sight.

"You're choking me," I spluttered, and Mahisha loosened his hold, lowering me to the ground.

"Apologies, Inquisitor, but currently, your safety and Lady Schwertwald's well-being are of paramount importance," Mahisha explained calmly. "A Bargeist class merchantman does not make for an especially sturdy defence against orbital gun platforms."

"This isn't any old merchantman, sergeant," I told him, with no small measure of glee. "Is that a vox panel on the wall behind you?"

Mahisha turned around, then turned back again and nodded. I darted over to it and picked up the handset, typing my override stream into the panel.

"All decks, this is the Inquisitor speaking. We're under attack. Battle protocol delta, I want power diverted from all non-essential systems to the enginarium and sensorium levels immediately. Gun decks, you have my permission to blow the panels."

I hung up and turned around to Mahisha.

"Now get me the hell out of here," I snarled, keeping pace with the Space Marine as we rushed towards the launch bays.
« Last Edit: December 7, 2012, 05:02:42 PM by Koval, Savant Preceptor »

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2009, 02:49:03 PM »
Cool update, Koval, interesting aliens you've come up with. So do they know what an original vampire looks like? I guess these guys are a side objective?

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2009, 03:09:31 PM »
Now now. That would be telling.

Incidentally, is it just me or are you my only regular reader who comments? :P

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2009, 04:01:30 PM »
Good so far, I liked the beginning with the recruitment, although I always find invented words to muck up the flow of the reading a bit, but that's my problem. :(

Personally I prefer my marines more psychotic and alien, but it is always interesting to read another person's interpretation.

How do you plan the vampires to work on a grander scale? You seem to have suggested that the xenos threat exists in most parts of the galaxy, but is still generally unknown. Have you thought how it might collide with the Blood Angels background?

All in all an interesting read, keep it up!

Offline Koval, Master Verispex

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2009, 04:24:56 PM »
Personally I prefer my marines more psychotic and alien, but it is always interesting to read another person's interpretation.
Well, you haven't seen Mahisha's kill team yet.

Quote from: Benis
How do you plan the vampires to work on a grander scale? You seem to have suggested that the xenos threat exists in most parts of the galaxy, but is still generally unknown. Have you thought how it might collide with the Blood Angels background?
I'm not entirely familiar with the fluff to which you're referring -- is this perhaps a sign that I need to pick up the Blood Angels Omnibus and Red Fury, or are you simply talking about the Red Thirst?

As for the grander scale, again, wait and see, although I will tell you now that there was some fanon a while back, complete with rules for the Inquisitor setting, called Codex: Dark Imperium. Rest assured I won't be plagiarising anything from that, or will at least try not to do so.

Quote from: Benis
All in all an interesting read, keep it up!
Thank you.  :)
« Last Edit: September 25, 2009, 04:25:58 PM by Koval, the Overfiend »

Offline Benis

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2009, 05:01:01 PM »
I'm not entirely familiar with the fluff to which you're referring -- is this perhaps a sign that I need to pick up the Blood Angels Omnibus and Red Fury, or are you simply talking about the Red Thirst?

I've only heard bad things about the Blood Angels Omnibus so I haven't been bothered to read it but yes, I referred to the Red Thirst which strongly implies some sort of vampirism although the exact nature isn't disclosed. I just thought how the presence of such a xenos threat would mix with the Blood Angels darker nature.

It will be fun to read how this xenos works on the galactic scale.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2009, 05:10:44 PM by Benis »

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2009, 05:08:22 PM »
Quote from: Benis
Quote from: Koval
I'm not entirely familiar with the fluff to which you're referring -- is this perhaps a sign that I need to pick up the Blood Angels Omnibus and Red Fury, or are you simply talking about the Red Thirst?

I've only heard bad things about the Blood Angels Omnibus so I haven't been bothered to read it but yes, I referred to the Red Thirst which strongly implies some sort of vampirism although the exact nature isn't disclosed. I just thought how the presence of such a xenos threat would mix with the Blood Angels darker nature.

It will be fun to read how this xenos works on the galactic scale.
Quote fix...

Well, we know the Red Thirst involves an urge to drink blood; if that extends into vampirism, then bully for the Blood Angels, I suppose. I hadn't actually planned any Blood Angel tie-ins of any sort (although, very minor spoiler for Chapter Three, there is a Blood Raven) so if any parallels show up then I suppose it's just an unfortunate coincidence.

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #10 on: October 1, 2009, 11:33:11 AM »
CHAPTER THREE


In all honesty, if I'd known that we were facing static defenses and Tsuikelyon's system monitors, and that they were fighting each other as much as us, I might've even stayed on the Saiku.

As it happens, while the Frankish officer cadre were all being shipped across from the Saiku back to their vehicles on their troop ship, I managed to get a good look at how the Saiku's guns actually work. The little marvel's officially a Bargeist-class merchant vessel, but I had it upgraded when it came out of active service and ended up in my possession. It looks unarmed, but that's where the hidden guns come in. I'd had special panels installed along the prow and dorsal section, although I never imagined I'd ever need to use them.

Now, of course, the charges had gone and we'd blown the panels off, and an array of turrets sprouted along the Saiku's back, accompanied by bigger guns coming out of the front that almost made the Saiku look like some kind of gigantic space-faring mechanical snail. Another panel fell away underneath and yet another turret, this one sporting a cruiser-grade lance projector, fell down and engaged.

I didn't see any of this properly, of course, because by this time the Saiku was about the size of my hand in the shuttle's viewport and we were hurtling away from it at an impressive rate, but I did see that lance fire and claim a target almost instantly. I think it was actually trying to aim for one of the orbitals, but a system monitor must've posed a more urgent target and the Saiku's lance went straight through the monitor instead.

For a merchantman, my ship actually outguns an Imperial Navy escort vessel. It's quite frightening to consider, especially for the two system monitors I saw pull away from their stricken sister vessel.

More lances illuminated the darkness of space and I watched one of the orbitals lose an arm. The orbitals in question were of a class I don't ever recall seeing. Like a lot of orbital platforms, they had three arms branching out from a central command structure. Normally, the arms mount batteries of macrocannon or lance projectors, but here, each arm supported what I took to be a pair of mechanical mushrooms, one on the top side and one underneath. Unmistakably Tau tech, each of these bulges was studded with what I took to be railgun turrets. They would flicker once and then fall silent as another turret along the line opened fire, alternating between themselves as each turret fired and then reloaded. They could get away with a slow rate of fire, though, as railgun ammunition tends to travel several times faster than sound in air, and even faster in space; nowhere near as fast as a laser beam, of course, but faster than any Imperial projectile weaponry. It's a detail I picked up from Eliesa not too long ago, and at this point in time I was just thankful that none of those turrets were tracking us.

Precisely what they were tracking, though, I couldn't see, until I realised I wasn't meant to see it. But somehow, the grayskins had bypassed some very old and very powerful cloaking devices, and I wasn't all that impressed.by their casual disregard for some of our most venerable machine-spirits.

My Skitarius colleague would have dearly loved to hear me say that out loud, at any rate.

Mahisha nudged me as I realised I'd lost track of everything around me. I was transfixed by the space battle, still visible through the viewport and, apparently, a raised atmospheric barrier. I could dimly see the injured orbital disintegrate as our lances struck it dead centre, but even I knew that now wasn't the time to just watch the world go by.

I unbuckled myself and followed Mahisha out of the shuttle, belatedly acknowledging that I was in the Quietus, Eliesa's ship and the cruiser that was currently ferrying some very important personnel to Tsuikelyon. The Quietus, so I'm told, was a decommissioned Dictator cruiser from the days when the class was little more than a low-orbit airfield for Marauder bombers. It was never upgraded with the facilities for Starhawks, and eventually it came into Eliesa's possession not long before the Gothic War. She had the macrocannon batteries stripped out and replaced with lance projectors, and the torpedo bays were completely revamped and refitted.

The Quietus, broadly speaking, is a Black Ship, although there's a world of difference between the Quietus and the Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica (I should know, having been in the unfortunate position of experiencing the latter first-hand). For all intents and purposes, the Quietus is simply an Inquisition vessel painted black, mercifully having very little whatsoever to do with psykers. Given the choice, I'd really rather not go through that again.

At the time, however, it was home to five Deathwatch operatives, Mahisha's kill-team, whose presence was sanctioned by Eliesa. I was familiar with the service records of all five, of course, but I had spoken only with Mahisha.

Mahisha exited the shuttle before I did, so my vision was obscured by his black mass, but I saw him stride over to the other four operatives as though all were long-lost friends. I saw a Blood Raven here, an Imperial Fist there, and an Iron Champion somewhere at the back as they saluted their Sergeant as one. The final operative I couldn't see, as he was standing right in the middle, but I recalled from his papers that he was a Grief Bringer. It's probably for the best that I never saw the purple of his shoulderguard, otherwise I might've thought I was standing in a carnival rather than among Humanity's finest defenders against the Enemy Without.

"Is this the Inquisitor?" asked the Blood Raven, a taciturn fellow by the name of Ingaevon. He was helmeted, but I could tell he was staring at me dubiously, as if somehow failing to believe that I might just be the very person the Deathwatch requisitioned in the first place.

"I should be rather worried if not, Brother Ingaevon," Mahisha grinned. "Brother Lojze, accompany the Inquisitor to Lady Schwertwald. Brother Rafael, would you lead the planetfall drills in Brother Lojze's absence?"

The Iron Champion and Imperial Fist saluted again, their fists clashing against their breastplates with the sound of someone dropping a pair of cooking pots, and the Iron Champion peeled off from the group to join me while Mahisha and the remaining Deathwatch marched off to Emperor alone knew where. The Quietus isn't my ship and I have no idea of its ins and outs. Before today, I'd only ever been on it once, and that was because Eliesa wanted to brief me on the situation before everyone else knew about it.

"Was it Brother Lojze?" I queried, mostly to get some conversation going. I do hate awkward silences.

If there's one thing I've noticed in my time as an Inquisitor, though, it's that Space Marines are often masters of them. Lojze simply nodded and grunted almost imperceptibly, barely acknowledging that he'd even heard me.

"Would you mind if I asked a question?"

"I'm not with my brothers because I am an Iron Champion," Lojze snorted, pre-empting me fantastically. "No disrespect, Inquisitor, but an Iron Champion is a master of planetary assaults by age thirty. Are you aware of the Third War for Armageddon?"

"I know of it, but you must otherwise excuse my ignorance," I answered, admitting lack of knowledge for Lojze's benefit. "Being a junior, but otherwise permanent, member of the sector Conclave has its disadvantages. The furthest afield I've ever been is Norikian."

"Imagine, Inquisitor, the sky above a burning hive city choked with fire and ash, and from out of the clouds are falling innumerable drop pods, some carrying Space Marines, others munitions, all hurtling like meteors into the midst of a hundred million Orks," Lojze offered. "I was in the first wave. I watched Iron Champions and Celestial Lions alike be cut down by Orkish blades, and for every life they took, we claimed a hundred, a thousand. Imagine it! Seven Companies of Iron Champions committed to Armageddon's defense, and the entirety of the Celestial Lions Chapter cast into the fires of war to retake Volcanus Hive. By the Emperor, Inquisitor, I would have gladly sacrificed my own life and joined the slain that day. I lad the planetfall drills for my brothers because I fought at Armageddon, and I have made planetfall in the thickest fighting. But Brother Rafael is a better instructor, and circumstances dictate I take you to Lady Schwertwald rather than join my brothers. They need the drills and I do not."

I considered that perhaps Lojze needed a lesson in how to shut up instead. I don't ever remember asking for his greatest, perhaps only notable victory. His service records are the ones I remember the least well, but I do know that he was by far the youngest of the Deathwatch, barely forty-six years of age when I met him. Apparently, success must have gone to his head somewhat.

Either that, or the Iron Champions were singularly arrogant among all the Space Marine Chapters I've ever had the misfortune of meeting off the battlefield. I'd rather that Black Templar had me in an arm lock again than tolerate more Iron Champions than just Lojze, but if I tell you about my experiences with the Black Templars we'll be here all day.

My journey was mercifully short and before long we were in the corridor leading to Eliesa's quarters. It was actually quite remarkable. She'd turned a section of the Quietus into what I could even describe as a mansion. When I saw it before, it was decorated quite elegatly in a Neo-Revivalist style, all fluted pillars and glass sculptures, although a lady's tastes are as constant as the winds and Emperor alone knew how frequently she redecorated in there. Regardless, it took me a moment last time to remember that I was on a cruiser rather than a private estate.

Lojze strode ahead of me and touched a panel by the door, muttering an unintelligible stream of numbers and letters into a vox receiver as it hissed with static, acknowleding his presence. I'm still not sure whether it was a password or Deathwatch battle-cant, but it doesn't really matter all that much now that I think about it.

The entire door was apparently locked down by Safety Protocol 01-A, and I wasn't especially worried until I remembered exactly what Safety Protocol 01-A meant.

You see, the Quietus -- like all Imperial ships -- has an internal mechanism that activates when the ship suffers a hull breach. All parts of the ship are prone to sudden bouts of lockdown when adjacent areas are destroyed, purely and simply to minimise the damage. It's common sense and stops a whole ship from being compromised.

The only problem was, Safety Protocol 01-A meant that Eliesa's door was locked down, because her suite was totally open to space.

We'd been hit without my knowledge, and suffered a hull breach in what, at that moment in time, could have been the worst place on the entire ship.
« Last Edit: December 7, 2012, 05:03:17 PM by Koval, Savant Preceptor »

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #11 on: October 5, 2009, 01:20:45 PM »
Things aren't really favoring the Deathwatch team already it seems :P. Awesome updates Koval, guess we'll see what became of the Franks/Commissars sometime in the future.

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #12 on: October 5, 2009, 02:05:48 PM »
You will. I promise, I'm going through my projects in order of how intellectually demanding they are, so I've got only one going at the moment on the Conclave. This is gonna be the next one to restart, then my other project on the Conclave and Black Helix will go back up simultaneously when I've really settled in.

And considering as how I'm three quarters of the way through Black Helix, I've really got to pull a blinder on that one to finish it off now that it's been on hold for ages.

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2009, 07:30:32 AM »
CHAPTER FOUR


"So now what do we do?" I asked, trying to defuse the situation. I'm not sure it worked, though, as Lojze's mood didn't change one bit.

"We assess the extent of the damage and react immediately," he answered. "If this means a boarding action against one of the enemy orbitals, then so be it."

Not an especially comforting proposal, I will admit.

"If, however, Inquisitor Schwertwald is dead, then that puts Sergeant Mahisha firmly in command of this operation," Lojze continued. "While you are, of course, a member of the Inquisition, you are not of the Ordo Xenos and as such this entire operation is outside of your jurisdiction."

If I'd had my chainsword with me I'd have had his head off for that, but I decided to leave the violence at the door for now. There were more important things to resolve.

"Should we head back to rejoin the Deathwatch, Brother Lojze?" I suggested. He nodded and powered off down the corridor, and I'll be a kroot's great-aunt if I didn't have to sprint to keep up with our Iron Champion, who I think was actually panicking by this point. He wasn't so old, which means that had he been a little older and a little wiser he might have treated the matter differently.

To be fair I might've been inclined to rush off as well, had I been in his position, but not so fast that I couldn't keep up. I outrank a mere battle-brother by quite a long way, but apparently the word "respect" wasn't a part of Lojze's vocabulary.

Eventually, we reached the Deathwatch gymnasium, at which point I noticed something just as Lojze reached out to touch the door.

"There aren't any sirens," I observed. And I was right; I'd not heard so much as a warble out of them, never mind a veritable sonic assault on the ship's crew. "Are they malfunctioning?"

Lojze halted a hair's breadth from the entrance, and I think he must've been cursing himself under his helmet, his face twisted into any one of a thousand scowls devised by my own hyperactive imagination, or many more besides. I think I saw him shaking in frustration.

"You have a point, Inquisitor," he answered at last. "But the sirens were working when you arrived. I can only postulate that the hull breach is akin to a small puncture."

"And yet it's in one of the worst places it can be," I countered, "because the whole operation hinges on Eliesa's expertise in countering the Tauist secession."

"Indeed it does, although you don't seem to have realised that there hasn't been a hull breach, and moreover, I'm still alive," stated Eliesa from back along the corridor, and I'm fairly sure Lojze's jaw must have unhinged itself at that point.

I'll admit, mine was about to do just that.

"The reason Security Protocol 01-A is locking my suite, gentlemen, is because I activated it manually," Eliesa explained, more for my benefit than Lojze's. "Call me a fool, but I feel it's just common sense to secure my suite in the middle of an operation, especially when it's on one of the Quietus' more vulnerable points."

I found myself quite unable to fault that, although at the same time I couldn't help but dismiss it as the eccentric streak of my dear old colleague showing itself. All that panic for nothing.

"Brother Lojze, would you be kind enough to open the door for me? I have new orders for your squad."

I felt like someone had dropped a huge lead weight into my stomach as Lojze obeyed and let Eliesa into the Deathwatch gymnasium. I didn't follow them.

On the contrary; Eliesa's crafty little trick had actually made me quite curious to know how the space battle was progressing, and after consulting various holo displays I found myself en route to the Quietus' observation decks. Eliesa had done away with the old towers along the vessel's spine, mostly because they'd been almost destroyed by that point, so she'd installed some smaller decks both to slightly reduce our profile and to replace something which, to be frank, nobody would miss much.

I wouldn't have missed what happened next for the universe, though, if only because the sight of it was absolutely terrifying and risked destabilising our entire war effort there and then.

As soon as I got onto the deck, I watched as the closest enemy orbital scored first one direct hit, then another on one of our troop ships. About half as long as the Quietus and several times larger than an escort vessel, a Gantalsa-class troop transport is designed to carry upwards of ten thousand men, plus armoured vehicles and all relevant equipment and supplies. It sacrifices armament for speed and a larger compliment of landers, and was intended to ferry regiments between warzones as efficiently as possible.

The Magi at Gantalsa hadn't counted on Tau railguns, though, and the troop ship bearing their forge world's name burst into flames as blazing oxygen vented out of breaches in the hull. I prayed that it didn't belong to the Frankish 12th Armoured, but as I saw the insignia upon the smashed hull, the reality wasn't much better.

The Tsuiseiki 26th Mounted, returning to reclaim their home world, would never make it to the planet's surface, and I dearly wanted to turn away, but couldn't, transfixed by the horrifying scene in front of me, as a laser blast from one of the system monitors penetrated the ship's plasma reactor and turned the entire ship into a blazing cloud of flame and shrapnel. So many fighting men died in an instant as the blast shredded their vessel, their journey already over so soon after it had begun. Too soon. They'd never ride again, or fight, or laugh, or cry.

A psyker like myself doesn't get to my age without literally feeling death on that scale, and rather than just see the 26th Mounted die, I felt their passing, something throbbing gently yet dangerously in my temples as the blast faded.

I thought I saw the Saiku's guns obliterate the monitor responsible for that killing blow, but at this point, I couldn't tell. It was just too horrifying, not because of so many lives lost, but because they were our men.

Instantly I bolted back toward the gymnasium, pausing only to check its location before rushing to appraise Mahisha and Eliesa of this development. The corridors never seemed so long, nor did my footsteps ever sound so loud. At this point, though, I didn't care one bit about making a noise or about anyone noticing my panic; the entire operation now hung precariously by a thread, and if the Frankish troop ship died as well, our incoming aid would be reduced to just the Deathwatch, the Saiku and the Quietus rather than any ground support.

For that matter, I'd not noticed any firepower targeting the Saiku, so obviously the defenders were more worried about our troops. They'd noticed the same thing as me.

"Mahisha!" I screamed, bursting through the door into the gymnasium and drawing the Deathwatch leader's attention. His squad paused in their battle rites and glared at me from within their helmets. Truth be told, they looked like they were about to kill me.

Mahisha walked calmly towards me, on the other hand, not a hint of menace in his stare.

"Inquisitor," he asked, "is something troubling you?"

"Mahisha, do we have any members of the Tsuiseiki 26th on board?" I queried.

"They're all on their transport," Mahisha answered, and the lead weight hanging in my stomach went into freefall. "Why? What is the matter?"

"I'll spare you the drama when I say their transport's just been destroyed."

The Deathwatch stiffened and Eliesa swivelled in her chair to face me.

"What was that? Say it again."

"The troop transport carrying the Tsuiseiki 26th Mounted has just been destroyed," I repeated. "One of the orbitals scored several direct hits. The transport's been completely annihilated. I came as soon as I saw it happen."

Before I'd even finished speaking, Mahisha already had his Deathwatch in a huddle, apparently giving orders or outlining some sort of battle plan.

"I'll have the Quietus cover the remaining transport from the orbitals and the monitors. We can't afford to lose the Frankish too," Eliesa stated gravely. "Order the Saiku to cover us and help us keep the monitors off our back, your guns should have a much longer range than theirs."

"No, my lady," Mahisha snapped, and I did a double-take as I recalled just how sharp a Space Marine's hearing was. They all had an implant called Lyman's Ear, giving them an enhanced level of hearing, and an unparallelled ability to concentrate on a whisper in a raging thunderstorm. "You'll spread your firepower too thinly. Inquisitor, did you see how many orbitals were left?"

It took a moment to realise that the question was in fact aimed at me.

"I saw three, but I couldn't tell if there were any more out there."

"How were they arranged?"

"A loose sort of triangle, the closest being far away from the other two."

"In that case, my brothers and I will assault the closest orbital. The Quietus shall move in for a direct assault on the other two, and the Frankish troop ship will make a move for the planet's surface once we've made a hole in the Tsuiseiki defenses," Mahisha ordered. "The Saiku will be more than enough to keep any monitors away from the Frankish, so I shall order it to cover the troop ship's approach. Our guns can easily deal with any monitors that try to attack us."

"Don't forget that they're attacking each other as well," I pointed out, my horror almost immediately dispelled. An Inquisitor does not let his emotions control him. "WIth any luck, the Saiku should still be on battle protocol delta, so my crew at the sensorium will be able to judge which monitors are hostile and which are neutral. The monitors' guns are powerful but don't have any range on them, so we'll see them coming."

Mahisha nodded. "I'll have them confirm sensorium status, and I'll divert power to our own sensorium suite once we've found our range. Meet me here in ten minutes, Inquisitor. Lady Schwertwald, you should retire to the bridge, this is not your fight."

Before I could question him, Mahisha was already out the door, leaving me staring like an imbecile. I knew what he wanted, of course, he wanted me in the boarding party, but I'll be damned if I actually wanted to obey his order.

I didn't have it in me to sling my rank around, though, not least because Eliesa would just counter any disapproval of mine due to her seniority. I'd been manoeuvered into a corner, which really grated, and my usual companions were nowhere to be seen, all of them safe on the Saiku (together with my arms locker, which annoyed me immensely). However, as it turns out, I probably wouldn't have had it any other way.

Besides which, at least I still had my armour. It's actually Enforcer issue light carapace, but that just means I'm that little bit less likely to get myself hurt, and unlike the attire of many of my peers on the sector Conclave, it doesn't have any long capes or sleeves to snag or catch fire. It fits like a glove, and best of all, it's black.

In short, it was simply too good to pass up.

Came Mahisha's return, I'd visited a naval arms locker and appropriated a simple longsword and a military-grade lascarbine, neither of which would be especially missed by the Quietus' crew, I'm not the best shot in the business, but at least a las weapon's fairly simple to operate. Just point and pull the trigger. This one was Mars-pattern, so I at least felt confident in its manufacture.

"Are you ready to move out, Inquisitor?" Mahisha asked me.

"Yes, but there's only six of us against an entire orbital," I noted. "Are you going to let me in on your master plan?"

Mahisha laughed, sounding not unlike a braying carnodon, and grinned at me. "We're the Deathwatch. This is a raid, plain and simple. We'r\e going to rig explosives around the orbital's grav-hook array and knock it out of orbit. It'll fall onto the planet in flames like a meteor and crush the enemy."

"It'll be defended," I pointed out.

"We're the Deathwatch," Mahisha repeated. "If they try anything, they'll see for themselves that there is no deterring a Space Marine from his task."

"So why did you need me again?"

Mahisha paused, perhaps a little unsure himself as to why he'd asked me along.

"You will find out for yourself," he stated at last, before turning away and beckoning for me to follow him to the launch bays.

The freefalling lead weight finally hit the bottom of my stomach, and my confidence vanished in a heartbeat.

---

This should go at the rate of one instalment a week now, but Black Helix is still on hold until I feel I can approach something as intellectual as that again. The move went really well, by the way, although my work's still not fully sorted. So I've got this, and another Deathwatch story on the Conclave, to keep me ticking over until I can finish Black Helix.
« Last Edit: December 7, 2012, 05:03:40 PM by Koval, Savant Preceptor »

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2009, 12:57:04 PM »
I found myself at a loose end, so here's a new installment.

---

CHAPTER FIVE


I hate space travel in something as vulnerable as a Thunderhawk. Give me the Saiku any day.

Alas, I was to be denied such a luxury, and presently I found myself hurtling through space once more, strapped into a grav-couch with five Deathwatch for company. I knew them all, of course, but they didn't know me at all. To them, I must have appeared as some Storm Trooper cadet with inch-and-a-half long spikey hair the colour of mud and an unassuming face.

They knew otherwise, of course, but I suppose an image is an image no matter how hard or easy it is to see through, and at times, concealing my status as an Inquisitor has helped immensely.

We were sitting in two rows of three, facing each other. I was sitting in the middle of one row, and directly opposite me was Mahisha, staring at me as if sensing my apprehension, almost seeing it in my eyes and my posture.

"Look at the viewscreen," he invited, and I followed his pointing finger in time to see a lance shot from the Quietus behind us illuminate the tiny screen above our heads. As I watched, it smashed apart one of the orbital's arms, eradicating the railgun module at the end in a blast of light, and I must admit I felt a rush of fear as I realised that we were flying straight into an inferno.

"The explosion will mask our approach, and at the same time, we will punch through into the wound we have opened," Mahisha explained. "We're well-protected against the debris outside, and our main cannon can force a further entry if needed."

I wasn't especially emboldened by Mahisha's words, but he'd done this before. On the other hand I generally try to avoid flying in something that's big enough to pose a threat but small enough to still be easily shot down. I'm fond of cargo shuttles, because they're rarely perceived as threats; at the other end of the scale, the Saiku's perfectly capable of landing in a big enough area, but the last time I did that resulted in inadvertantly crushing a small farmstead, so I try to avoid it where possible.

Fortunately, the farmstead's owners and occupants were unharmed, but I'm getting sidetracked.

All around me, the Space Marines were nodding at Mahisha's sage wisdom and deferring to his experience. All of them had done boarding actions before, I'll warrant, but they must have all understood that he was speaking for my benefit as well as theirs.

To my left was Brother Ingaevon, the Blood Raven, a giant by even Space Marine standards and easily our team's strongest member, with a keen intellect to match. His service records spoke of a battle on Planet Kronus under Davian Thule, fighting the Orkish menace at a location called the Green Coast. According to the records, the fighting had been so fierce that he'd run out of ammunition and grenades, and was forced to assault the Orks of the Headcrushaz Tribe with little more than a combat knife and his fists; something in which, it must be said, Ingaevon rather succeeded. Even when he'd lost his combat knife, he still managed to kill three further Orks single-handedly with just his fists, instilling the fear of the Emperor into the greenskins around him and systematically eroding the tribe's resolve. As a result, he'd been seconded to the Deathwatch as intelligent muscle, but he had the potential to be so much more, of course.

Across from Ingaevon was Rafael of the Imperial Fists. A Sergeant like Mahisha, he was a lot smaller than Ingaevon, obviously, and had been selected for intelligence rather than combat prowess, although understandably he excelled at both. His service record was every bit as heroic as Ingaevon's. Apparently, his Company had been cut into two by an Eldar attack during Abaddon's Black Crusade. While the larger half of his Company was being gunned down by the Eldar, the smaller half under Rafael actually managed to overpower the Eldar flanking force sent to wipe them out, suffering heavy casualties in the process but allowing them to regroup and take the Eldar by surprise, outwitting one of Humanity's most meticulous and intellectual enemies. It was a well-placed shot from Rafael's plasma pistol that killed the enemy Autarch and broke the back of their assault there and then, the Eldar's infamous cohesion and synergy undone with their commander's demise, rendering the army easy prey for Imperial guns.

Going clockwise around the circle, I came to Mahisha of the Storm Giants, sitting opposite me. It was strange that I'd never noticed it before, except for on his service records, but the entire left side of his face was artificial. This was the first time I'd actually seen it. He was picked to join the Storm Giants due to exceptional bravery as a youth in the face of a feral Ork Waaagh!, literally standing on his own against the horde and actually killing the Ork lord's own war-bear just as a Storm Giant strike force intervened. It's quite a remarkable tale and I don't really feel I can do it justice if I discuss it here. He fought at Armageddon with others from his Chapter, winning several victories against Ghazghkull's armies and sabotaging one of the crude Orkish Stompa machines, before joining the fight against the Tyranids. Tyranids breed Deathwatch veterans like no other, and it was in a deep space battle against a Leviathan splinter fleet that Mahisha made his name. His strike cruiser was boarded -- I say boarded, but we all know it's more akin to being eaten -- by a small, and if the records are to be believed, already wounded Tyranid hive ship, and quite remarkably Mahisha's squad managed to drive off the enemy boarding party while Mahisha worked the strike cruiser's side guns himself, pelting the hive ship with macrocannon shells at point-blank range. Eventually it simply burst and sprayed the strike cruiser with acid and internal juices, costing Mahisha the left side of his face and torso. He'd saved the strike cruiser, though, and most likely other Imperial ships as well, though the records make very little mention of them.

Next in line was Lojze, the Iron Champion who'd dropped in the first wave into Volcanus Hive at Armageddon. Rather unfortunately for us, he'd been made a Deathwatch more on account of how many Orks he'd killed (fifty-eight, apparently, although I didn't believe that for a second if Ingaevon struggled with single figures) than because of any other deciding factors. If Ingaevon was intelligent muscle then Lojze was arrogant muscle that needed reining in before he turned into a little Ork himself. What was more worrying is that out of all the Deathwatch veterans currently sitting around me, he'd been serving the longest, literally since two years after Armageddon, which put him close to the end of his decade of service. It's worth noting that Armageddon saw a lot of Space Marines joining the Deathwatch, purely because the fighting against the Orks spawned so many punitive crusades into Orkish territory afterwards. Most of them were headed by the Black Templars, but the Ordo Xenos managed to get a look in as well before the Templars stole all the glory, as Space Marines tend to do. Typically, Lojze was right at the front of one of these crusades, and exactly how he didn't end up with a bullet in his head for his towering arrogance is a total mystery.

Finally, on my right there was our Grief Bringer comrade, Brother Vertigan, a rather appropriate name given the green and purple heraldry of his Chapter. Vertigan was our demolitions expert and medical specialist all at once, and was a fantastic shot with a bolter. Although his sense of humour wasn't anything to write home about, I found his demeanour somewhat refreshing, neither particularly serious nor especially casual, neither overly confident nor too cautious. His appreciation for detail was astonishing, and it was what prompted his commanders to recommend him to the Deathwatch. Vertigan was the only one of us who had fought the Tau before, in part of a boarding action against the Il'fannor Vior'la Vie'verz on the Eastern Fringe, and in the eyes of the Tau commanding officers, Vertigan had personally slain one of the Ethereal caste, no more than a junior but still beyond important to the grayskins. Hemmed in with nowhere to go, the Tau had turned particularly violent and advanced on the Grief Bringers boarding party at a march, firing their weapons the whole time until they ran out of ammunition. To do this, though, the Tau were forced to chase the Grief Bringers back to the xeno ship's bridge, which meant being funnelled through a set of no more than half a dozen corridors, and most likely a lot fewer. All it took was a clever application of trip wires and a brace of frag grenades, set up by Vertigan himself, to cripple the Tau counter-assault, leaving the survivors as easy prey for the Grief Bringers.

And then, there was myself, not exactly a great hero by comparison with these legends. I've seen my share of alien threats, although most of these have been with Eliesa, and hardly on a scale warranting the intervention of a Deathwatch kill team. On the few occasions that I've served with Mahisha before, the scale of the threat barely required one Space Marine. This was the first time I'd ever served with a proper kill team, and so far it wasn't turning out to be an especially enjoyable ride.

Shadowing the Black Templars was, at least, comfortably predictable, even if not comfortable in itself.

An unpleasant jolt startled me and I looked at Mahisha, trying my hardest not to appear bewildered. The faint smell of hot metal began to fill the air.

"That, Inquisitor, is our turbolaser destructor punching a hole in the orbital's arm," he explained. "We should be impacting in thirty seconds."

"So soon?"

"Yes, so my advice to you would be to put on your rebreather mask and hope that carapace suit's sealed well enough to stop you from suffocating," Mahisha stated as he donned his helmet.

"How comforting," I sniped, fumbling with the rebreather mask I'd brought with me and getting it on just as a bone-jarring crunch shook the entire Thunderhawk. As one the Space Marines leapt to their feet, and I'm rather pleased to add that so did I.

Although, technically, I bounced; however, levitation isn't an uncommon trick among psykers, so I was saved the embarrassment of landing awkwardly.

The boarding ramp went down and we rushed out of the Thunderhawk in a disorderly huddle, and I found myself closest to Mahisha and Vertigan, with Rafael somehow leading from the front.

"Our target is to take the grav-hook array," Mahisha reminded us over our secure channel, as if we needed reminding. "It will span the orbital's lower levels."

"Can we not take the main control module?" I suggested.

"We can't guarantee that the cogitators still operate in Gothic or Tsuiseiki, and none of us speak Tau," Rafael countered. "Unless you're a xenolinguist."

Well, that was the end of that, and Rafael had a point. If nobody had any sort of familiarity with the Tau language, the best we could do would be to press buttons at random and hope for the best; not the most inviting prospect I've ever faced.

"Contact," Ingaevon stated simply from in front of me. "They look like a light response team, but expect pulse fire."

Almost as soon as the words had left his mouth, Rafael halted and raised his bolter, firing from the shoulder as shots pinged against his power armour. Lojze rushed forwards as well, firing from the hip and blasting two of our so-far-unidentified attackers apart. More gunfire joined and I found myself rather lost in the sudden combat.

By the time I'd brought up my lascarbine it was all over and Lojze was edging forward, about as cautiously as I'd never found myself able to imagine him, pausing for a brief moment to listen for other enemies.

"All clear," he stated, and although I didn't want to say as much, I couldn't sense anyone else aside from the Deathwatch. "Although, look at the bodies."

"What's wrong with them?" I asked.

Lojze knelt down, picked up half a body, and showed me a pair of holes in its neck.

"They're vampire victims," he answered flatly.

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2009, 01:56:57 PM »
Your Inquisitor's lack of faith disturbs me ;D, lol, but then again it is his first major mission I guess. Awesome updates Koval, seems the vampires have already struck!

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2009, 02:11:10 PM »
Haha! Actually, it's not his first "major" mission per se (lots of gallivanting around his sector, which I've not documented yet), but it's definitely his first where he's been directly attached to a Deathwatch kill-team. I'll detail his exploits with the Black Templars some other time, I guess.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2012, 01:14:50 PM by Koval, Lord Governor Militant »

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2009, 10:52:40 AM »
CHAPTER SIX


At that point, it didn't take an awful lot of encouragement for me to saw off each corpse's head with repeated las fire, in case any of them rose up again like Plague Zombies. My Ordo Sepulturum peers might have something to say about that, but I didn't really care for the details at that point, and in all honesty I still don't.

"Perhaps an unnecessary measure," Vertigan noted carefully.

"No, brother, the vampire might be the most dangerous threat so far but it cannot animate a body with no head," Rafael countered. "A Fist thinks."

"So does a Raven," added Ingaevon dangerously, "and the Raven thinks we should press on rather than bicker needlessly."

I couldn't fault that. The longer we tarried, the more opportunities we'd give these vampire things to attack us. Being drained of all my blood wasn't high on my list of priorities.

"Then move out," Mahisha ordered, pointing down the corridor. "Knock out the grav-hook, then bicker if you must after we've completed our mission."

"And I presume we're going to kill any resistance," I remarked.

"Would you have it any other way?" Mahisha grinned. "Bitten by a vampire, perhaps?"

I declined to reply, suddenly nostalgic for the caves of Cirayar. There were all sorts of geological perils, but you knew about those. Quakes and cave-ins were easy to predict on a world for which they had been the norm for several millennia. You knew how to react and respond to these things, just as a general rule. I had to learn quickly when I first arrived. Every off-worlder did.

But in spite of the natural terrors, and in spite of the odd vagabond gang, you never had any predators to worry about, no living, breathing threats to your life at every turn.

On the other hand, here, in these man-made caves of steel and ceramite adrift in space, there was the most terrible of natural terrors stalking me, watching my every move, waiting for me to drop my guard for a terrible instant.

And that's before I mention the vampires.

Forget the Tauist rebels, the Space Marines watching over me were perhaps the biggest threat to my life right now, and at that point I was wondering exactly why Eliesa had thrown me in with the kill-team. She'd done it for a reason, I could be sure of that, although she'd totally undermined my authority in doing so.

I resolved to have a word with her when this was over.

In spite of the earlier excitement, though, the remainder of the station was eerily quiet. I reflected that the grayskin sympathisers may well have elected to pull back after the gun module had exploded, and send out only a patrol to assess the situation, but then I remembered that the patrol we'd encountered had been infected.

So perhaps this quietness was all unnatural.

We actually got into the main body of the orbital without a hitch before Lojze -- naturally -- got a case of the shivers and we all had to take cover in a doorway while our youngblood got over his nerves. Easier said than done when five Space Marines all had to huddle around what I think was a water pipe, although I couldn't really tell what it was, as I was being crushed up against it by Ingaevon's elbow. I'm surprised he didn't fracture my ribs.

I came in halfway through the conversation as I'd managed to work my way in between Ingaevon and Mahisha, and it was a little difficult concentrating on what they were saying when I was trying desperately hard to make myself at least a little less uncomfortable.

I did, however, get the impression that we were being followed.

Not just because of what Lojze was saying, of course, but because I could literally feel something not far from our position.

"Brother, I think your Lyman's Ear must be malfunctioning," Ingaevon rumbled. "I suggest hypnotherapy to resynchronise your implant."

"Perhaps your auto senses need recalibrating?" suggested Vertigan.

"Perhaps you are right, brothers," Lojze sighed. "Although I am nonetheless convinced that we are being followed. I will keep watch behind us."

"You're jumping at shadows, brother," stated Ingaevon.

"Actually, he's not the only one," I remarked, and for the first time Ingaevon genuinely realised that he'd been squashing me. He backed away, bowing apologetically.

"Are you alright, Inquisitor?"

"I've been better," I coughed, "but I'll live."

It took a moment for me to straighten up as my whole body was folded up into Mahisha's side. He didn't move, bless him, as otherwise I'd have fallen on my backside in a heap.

"What did you mean, you're not the only one?" Lojze asked me. "Have you seen it too? Heard it?"

"It's more like I felt it," I answered as life slowly returned to my legs. Instantly Mahisha grabbed me in both hands and almost put me in a headlock, twisting my neck this way and that.

"Unhand me, you oaf!" I spluttered. I genuinely felt as if he was going to rip my head off. Rather than stop, though, Mahisha continued working me like a fighter pilot in an evasive manoeuvers drill, and I could feel my brain rattling against the inside of my skull.

I already knew I'd feel that in the morning.

"You don't look like you've been bitten," Mahisha concluded at last, finally letting go of me and instantly wishing he hadn't as I toppled backwards into Lojze.

"Of course I haven't. Brother Vertigan was watching me the whole time."

"He's got a point, Brother-Sergeant," Vertigan confirmed. "Had he been bitten by a vampire, I'd have made all of you aware instantly."

I didn't doubt that for a second, although I wondered exactly how that would have worked. Would Vertigan have opted for bolter fire, a shout, or a chainsword strike? Perhaps something as unorthodox as explosives, maybe a flash-bang that wouldn't affect the Space Marines but would certainly have incapacitated anything else nearby, myself included. It didn't really bear thinking about, mostly because it didn't even happen.

"Then what did you mean when you said you felt something?" Mahisha asked, puzzled, before the penny dropped and an "Oh!" of realisation passed up the vox channel.

"What's wrong?" Rafael inquired.

"The Inquisitor, he's a psyker."

"So are a lot of them. I'd expected it," noted the Imperial Fist, and he was absolutely right on that count. A surprising number of Inquisition members once found themselves on a Black Ship, myself included.

I can't remember its name for the life of me, though.

"So I take it that means we're in trouble," Ingaevon chipped in slowly, readying his bolter.

Emperor help me if those words weren't badly timed, because on cue, another patrol found us. Roughly a dozen or so Tauists humans, most of them armed with those unsightly pulse rifles, rounded a corner and found us all huddled together in this blooming doorway. Their patrol leader was armed with something smaller but slightly chunkier, a pulse carbine if I didn't miss my mark, and it was him that opened fire first.

Ingaevon whirled around, his bolter roaring, and the patrol leader fell apart in an explosion of soggy meat.

The rest of the patrol didn't exactly last all that long, although a couple got in some very lucky hits, and both Lojze and Ingaevon staggered as pulse rounds found gaps in their power armour. Thankfully, it was over fairly quickly, I gather, though again I couldn't see the protracted battle for all these Space Marines blocking my view.

A lot of the enemy fire seemed to just go straight over us, though, and it didn't take me long to work out why.

The throbbing in my head had intensified and our stalker was close behind us.

I turned around, my lascarbine held ready, but all my courage evaporated in that single grim instant as I found myself staring into the eyes of a vampire.


(Post too long, again...)

Offline Koval, Master Verispex

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2009, 10:53:07 AM »
(Continued)

"Oh, frak," I swore, and Mahisha's attention turned away from his injured brothers. I'm convinced he had words of his own to add to mine.

The thing was horrific to behold. He -- I'm convinced this vampire was male -- was wearing a lieutenant's dress uniform in local PDF colours, so he had obviously been sent up here when the rebellion was getting underway. His mouth was covered in gore, although to his credit there wasn't so much as a single stain on his clothes. His facial features were well-defined, his skin deathly pale, his hair drawn back elegantly. I noticed with morbid fascination that his blood-red eyes seemed aglow, almost drawing me in, inviting me to feel the caress of his fangs.

It didn't take long to realise that our haemophagous friend here was using a sort of psychic trick to entice his victims and lure them into his grasp. I tore myself away from his gaze and darkened my visor, resorting to auto senses which the vampire couldn't affect.

In an instant, the vampire realised that he had been rumbled, although he still seemed quite content to stare at us, the thought of going toe-to-toe with a Deathwatch kill-team not too appealing. Strangely, the Deathwatch didn't fancy attacking either.

The silence was deafening.

Mahisha made the first move, as I knew he would. He wasn't using his bolter, preferring his bolt pistol for the close-ranged firefights on the orbital. He brought it up one-handed and fired a single bolt at the vampire, but Emperor help me, he actually ducked the bolter shell, and I watched as it hurtled off down the corridor before exploding against the far wall.

Bellowing a curse in what I assume was Storm Giant battle-cant, Mahisha drew a power axe that I somehow hadn't noticed before, and hurled himself at the vampire. It didn't take long for Lojze and Ingaevon to jump in as well, switching to bolt pistols and chainswords, and I found myself drawn to the spectacle as this vampire suddenly found himself on the defensive, parrying with a power sword that he had seemingly drawn from out of nowhere and reacting to his three attackers with lightning speed. It wasn't at all long before his power sword hacked straight through Ingaevon's weapon, putting him out of the fight and forcing him to fall back.

A tap on the shoulder from Vertigan caught my attention, if only because it felt like I was being punched from behind.

"Let's go," Vertigan stated.

"But Mahisha--"

"He'll be fine," Rafael rumbled. "He'll catch up with us. The mission's more important. And he has Lojze with him."

Before I could argue, Ingaevon had me over his shoulder and the three Deathwatch veterans were powering off into the depths of the orbital. I couldn't see where we were going at all, although I noticed pretty quickly when Tauist patrols started spotting us and firing in our direction.

"Aren't you going to turn around and shoot them?" I asked, panicking slightly as I realised once again that I had absolutely no control over my situation.

"We'll outrun them," Vertigan observed. To be fair, our pursuers weren't as accurate as they could be while running after us, but the gunfire was still frighteningly accurate. Every time we passed an intersection, new pursuers gave chase as previous units found themselves outdistanced, and each time the gunfire seemed to become more and more intense, with more Tau weapons working their way into the mix. I shuddered as pulse fire whizzed past. One stray shot from those could kill me even more effectively than a bolter shell.

Not so for the Deathwatch, whose earlier injuries had been only minor and, apparently, had already healed over.

Ingaevon suddenly jolted and I bounced, feeling his shoulderguard drive up into my stomach in spite of my carapace armour, and I watched as the newest cluster of pursuers took up a position on the corner of a gantry,

"I've been hit," the Blood Raven reported.

"Is it bad?"

I glanced down and saw that Ingaevon's backpack had taken a hit. Something was fizzing and I could see yellow sparks leaping out of a broken panel.

"I'll live, but my armour's no longer all it could be," Ingaevon grunted. "Power's dropping."

The patrol was taking aim and although Rafael and Vertigan were moving to cover Ingaevon, I realised that I was in serious trouble if I didn't do something.

So I did the one thing the patrol didn't expect at all.

I sent a bolt of psychic energy into the foremost defender, something my instructors had called the forcebolt; it's a direct, weaponised form of telekinesis, generally manifesting as a rippling haze in the air. If a telekine can push or pull objects using his power, or lift them into the air, then the forcebolt is analogous to the telekine swinging a sledgehammer at them.

So when I attacked the patrol from atop Ingaevon's shoulder, they didn't have a clue what I was doing until I sent one of them flying through the air, his ribcage thoroughly shattered. He crashed into the defenders behind him and actually succeeded in knocking two of them off the gantry into whatever there was below us.

Needless to say, I'd killed him instantly, although the effect on the rest of the patrol was devastating. While they were getting back up, Vertigan and Rafael's bolters made delightfully short work of them all in a mercifully quick shower of meat.

Ingaevon put me back down at last, although it was probably more for his benefit than my own.

"Brother, let me see the damage," Vertigan offered.

"The mission is the most important thing," answered our Blood Raven.

"This won't take a second, Ingaevon, and our survival is also of paramount importance."

Ingaevon stood perfectly still as Vertigan sprayed the smoking hole in Ingaevon's back with some kind of coolant gas from a valve on his wrist. It still amazes me that power armour is literally equipped for almost every eventuality, the Cadian Army Knife of the armour world, while providing nigh-unparallelled protection. In an instant the hole stopped smoking, and Vertigan peered inside, wafting the coolant gas away with his hand to take a proper look.

Just as quickly, Vertigan stood back up and shook his head.

"A couple of connectors are totally fried and a main actuator's down," he sighed. "The machine spirit's working overtime just to operate it at reduced capacity. If you push yourself too much with that armour, it'll overheat and you'll ignite."

"Can you repair it?"

"Not until we return to the Quietus, unless you want me to dismantle my chainsword's motor."

"Mine was broken by the vampire. I doubt the machine spirit would object much to being a walk-in."

The Blood Raven's use of telepath slang intrigued me, until I remembered that Ingaevon's Chapter was noted for its high number of psykers. Their Librarium intake was abnormally large in relaton to other Chapters. The Inquisition's taken several looks but I don't recall their findings off-hand. It's really Malleus territory, rather than anything for the Ordo Xenos, and I've not really gotten involved with them yet. I doubt Eliesa knows either.

"We'll complete the mission first," Rafael announced, breaking the tension slightly, "and then we can tend to your armour's spirit, brother. I'll carry you back to the Thunderhawk myself if I must."

Ingaevon looked at Rafael, probably in bemusement, and I must say I also had trouble imagining Rafael carrying the giant Ingaevon if the latter's power armour failed.

"Let's just hope it doesn't come to that," Vertigan noted. "I don't think the grav-hooks are that much further."

I could hear one of the other patrols catching up to us, and I'm sure the Deathwatch did too. Rather than wait and debate what to do, I took the initiative and rushed towards a heavy door, securely locked unlike the others we'd encountered. An array of keypads surrounded the frame at about chest height, each one displaying characters in what I now know to be the Tau language. An armoured turret of some sort sprouted from the top of the doorframe, mounting a flamer whose pilot light was flickering menacingly. The turret swayed to track me as I got closer to the keypads.

It was too well-protected to shoot with a lascarbine, that much was certain.

"Vertigan, could you give me a hand?" I asked the Grief Bringer. He didn't reply, but instead fired a single bolt at the turret, penetrating the armour plating and detonating the flamer's fuel tank. Fire blossomed from where the turret had once been, and great blazing lumps of shrapnel fell down on trails of burning fuel, missing me by sheer dumb luck more than anything.

"Let's see what I can do to this door," Vertigan stated, taking a brief look and devising a solution immediately.

"Do you need one of our demo charges?" asked Rafael.

"Krak grenades should suffice," answered the Grief Bringer. "Rafael, I need you to ram the door once the grenades detonate."

"Understood."

Vertigan got to work immediately, and his efficiency was quite admirable to say the least. Within fifteen seconds, he'd placed three krak grenades, armed them, and pulled both me and himself away from the door almost an instant before the grenades exploded.

"You didn't leave a lot of room for error, Vertigan," I observed, picturing how close I'd come to being caught in the blast. As it turns out, I wasn't exactly in any danger, but it doesn't hurt to play it safe.

"It's something I've gotten good at since joining the Deathwatch," Vertigan responded. "Rafael, do it."

The Imperial Fist nodded and leapt bodily at the door, breaking it down and opening the way into some sort of enginariumr.

I understood that it was for the grav-hook array, but part of me wondered how much of the orbital it covered as well. It's not something I'm ever likely to know, though, so I don't worry about it.

"Plant the charges and set a thirty minute timer, then let's get out of here," Vertigan ordered. "Rafael, take Ingaevon's charges and set them up where you think they'll do the most damage."

The noise of footsteps resounded again, predictably just as soon as we'd reached our objective, and I raised my lascarbine in anticipation, only to find that it was Lojze.

He'd lost his chainsword too, from the look of things, and his armour was covered in scratches from where the vampire's power sword had slashed at the ceramite. How he'd found us I have no idea, although I do have this faint memory of power armour having a locator beacon built into it.

"Take cover!" he shouted, raising his bolter and firing it back through the door as the vampire powered after him. He was almost bounding along on all fours, murder in his eyes as he leapt past Lojze's bolter shells. Without a second thought I flicked my lascarbine onto the fastest fire setting and held the trigger down, spraying red light at the vampire and forcing him to duck for cover until I ran out of power.

This was all the opportunity Lojze needed to fire, but he didn't, and I looked around to see what had happened to him. To my horror his bolter had jammed, and he didn't have time to clear it before the vampire was up again, springing forwards at a truly frightening speed and barrelling into Lojze.

I didn't need any further encouragement, drawing my longsword and diving into the thick of it as Lojze grappled with the vampire, trying his hardest to keep the vampire's power sword away from him, but the two were matched for strength and I drove my sword up under the vampire's arm before he could overpower Lojze. He snarled and whirled around, ignoring the Iron Champion for an instant as his good hand clamped around my throat, lifting me off the ground with ease. He was crushing my neck and it was all I could do to try and pry his fingers loose, but his grip was tighter than a vice and I found myself unable to breathe.

So I did the only thing I could think of doing.

I kicked him in the junk.

He gasped in shock and dropped me, his hands flying down to cover his injured manhood, allowing Lojze to draw a combat knife and ram it straight through the vampire's back. The point burst out the other side, along with a further three inches of blade, and the vampire collapsed.

I heard more footsteps behind me, along with Mahisha's voice.

"Is it dead?" he asked, entering the chamber at a run.

"It's dead," Lojze confirmed.

"Charges are set, brother-sergeant," Vertigan reported. "I suggest we get out of here."

It was probably the best suggestion Vertigan had had all day, and I could barely contain my relief when Mahisha seconded it.

"Let's get back to the Thunderhawk before the charges detonate," Mahisha ordered.

"Brother Ingaevon, can you run?" inquired Rafael, earning a grunt in response.

"I'll survive," the Blood Raven grumbled, lurching out of the room with Lojze and Rafael behind him, followed swiftly by Vertigan, Mahisha and myself.

We didn't even get as far as the gantry corner, though, before a massive rumble shook the entire orbital and a blast of heat surged out of the enginarium.

"Don't tell me that thing was still alive," Vertigan growled.

A bestial snarl echoed from the enginarium and the vampire bounded out of the flames, his uniform ablaze and his chest still impaled by Lojze's knife. He was charging straight at us without a care, his power sword gone. His mouth was wide open, as if preparing to take a bite out of the Deathwatch before him.

A single bolter shell from Rafael ended his life rather unceremoniously. He didn't even think to dodge it, if he even noticed it in his blind bloodlust, and he fell and cartwheeled towards us, his head totally destroyed. I presume it must have entered his eye or his mouth, as I doubt a hit to the skull would have had the same effect.

"So with the charges blown, however he did it, then that must mean we're in freefall," I observed.

"Precisely," Mahisha responded. "I suggest you hold onto something. This may be quite the crash landing."
« Last Edit: December 6, 2009, 03:13:01 PM by Koval, the Overfiend »

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Selene's Kiss
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2009, 05:34:40 PM »
Vampires are a lot more powerful than I thought they'd be, effectively taking on two space marines on its own? Kill-team is going to have its hands full it seems. Can't wait for more, Koval :).

 


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