Doubles Tournament - The Conclusion

This is the conclusion to the piece of fiction that I wrote for the Doubles Tournament I took participated in down at GW HQ.

The First part can be found here.

Daemons… of all the things that their commander Kangor had informed them they could meet, Daemons were the last of them. They all knew that the Varcan Cluster had been cursed by Chaos, but none of the Guardsmen of the Methelas 1st Airborne had encountered the curse before today.

It had started well, Captain Kangor's announcement that they would be going in had raised his men’s spirits. At least they knew that after the long flight in the treacherous conditions their Captain was still with them.

Nhojeth’s squad had been carrying their forces anti tank weapons and had been flying in the Valkyrie. They had all heard Captain Kangor’s warning and felt the change in their crafts movement as the Pilots adjusted their speed and vector.

Their formations first pass over the battlefield had revealed a Landraider and several Daemon packs. After a quick assessment the Vendettas had focused on the Landraider on their return, while their Valkyrie had targeted some of the smaller Daemons. While the Vendettas proved effective against the Landraider, blowing it up with a well place volley of Lascannon fire, the Valkyrie had little luck against the Daemon packs.

After their quick attack run, the Vendettas and Valkyrie had turned around and deployed their cargo. Nhojeth shuddered… he was the first out of his Valkyrie and the sights and the sounds when his feet hit the dirt would probably never leave him. The Sky was a sickening green hue, and the screaming of the Daemons had driven two of his squad mad the second the sound reached them.

The following six hours became the worst of his life. His squad had been tasked with finding any enemy armour and taking it out, but it appeared that the Landraider was only armour the enemy had deployed.

At one point his squad had been moving towards a cluster of trees for more cover, and to try and figure out where the Captain and the rest of their forces were when the air had suddenly turned cold. His skin, and that of his men had begun to crawl… much in the same way it did when they were around Astropath Lojac. Then in a blink of an eye the feeling had gone and they were surrounded by vile smelling Daemons. The stench had been overpowering, with several of his men retching and vomiting even while they began to fire at the enemy.

In less than 10 seconds Nhojeth had lost another three of his squad, and they only survived when a Lone Space Wolf ran into the fray, tearing into the Daemons flank and giving Nhojeth enough time to scream at his men to fallback, gaining them enough space to fire volley after volley of Lasgun fire into the Daemons. Between the torrent of fire and the Space Wolf tearing at them with his weapons the Daemons died… if such things could be said to die.

The Space Wolf emerged from the fighting with barely a scratch, and after a quick look to see that he and his men were alive had disappeared, in search of more enemies.

That was the last action two of his men saw. Both men veterans of several campaigns and good soldiers dying from what appeared to be the smallest of scratches. Scratches that turned into weeping sores and sores that decayed the bodies and minds of his men in mere minutes.

With only himself, Elano and Jodeh left in his squad, they had set off cautiously in the direction the Space Wolf had gone. It was a nerve wracking experience for Nhojeth and his men. As a Sergeant for the last three years he had never lost so many men in one battle. Every second he kept expecting his skin to start crawling and the temperature to drop.

After about a few minutes they had picked up the sound of battle, the clash of battle, and the roar of Rocket Launchers. Crawling up the side of a hill Nhojeth reached the crest just in time to see one of their Vendettas swoop low overheard, its weapons firing at a mammoth figure. The figure was bloated and disgusting, and even 50 metres away the reek emanating from it was unbearable. As one of the Vendetta’s Lascannon shots hit it full in the chest it was blasted backwards, crashing into a wall. A cheer began in his throat, but was quickly quashed as the beast got back up, much faster than Nhojeth would have thought possible for something that size. Its eyes locked on the Vendetta, it stretched out its hand and a stream of filth flew from it at the ship. Nhojeth watched in horror as the filth clogged the Vendettas engines causing it to stall mid turn. With the engines failing the Vendettas wing clipped the top of several trees, the force of which spun the Vendetta out of control and into the side of a hill. The resultant explosion left a gaping hole in the side of the hill and a plume of smoke rising from the debris.

Elano to his right suddenly roared in anger, surging to his feet, meltagun in hand. He began firing at the beast, which quickly turned its attention to him. Nhojeth and Jodeh exchange the briefest of glances before following Elano, firing as they went. The beast howled a bone chilling roar before charging at them. The stench grew worse with every bounding leap it took towards them, the three of them stood their ground firing as it came, praying to the God Emperor for a lucky shot to take it down. Ten metres from them that lucky shot came.

Three rockets thudded into the beasts back, knocking it to the side, the explosive force knock Nhojeth, Elano and Jodeh on their backs. This time the beast did not leap back to its feet, as Nhojeth rose to his feet he saw that one of the Rockets had blow one of the things legs clean off. It also barely had an army on the right side of its body, and the gaping wound from the Vendetta had expanded even more from the Rockets strikes. Shaking his head trying to clear the ringing from his ears, Nhojeth stood up. Still as unsteady on his feet as he was, and as dazed as he felt he knew that the thing was not dead. He picked up Elano's Meltagun, moving as fast as he could he placed the Meltagun's muzzle to the beasts head and pulled the trigger. The weapon vaporised its head, leaving the body twitching.

The smells and the sight of the thing up close were too much for Nhojeth and he spun away from it vomiting into the scorched grass. Slowly Elano and Jodeh pulled themselves to their feet. Nhojeth fought to bring his rebelling stomach under control, and just managed to when four Space Wolves approached, three carrying Heavy weapons with the other only holding a bolter. The one with the Bolter spoke.

“Brave to draw that abominations attention to you, brave or stupid. Which was it?”

Nhojeth wiped his mouth before standing to answer the question.

“I don’t know my Lord.”

The one with the bolter shook his helmeted head.

“Well lucky for you that we were here.” He paused before continuing. “Lucky for us that you were there.”

“My Lord?” Nhojeth asked, confused by the warriors words.

“The thing would have sensed us had you not charged it, and the angle at which it would have charged us would have proved difficult to get a kill shot, when it charged you it made it a lot more vulnerable.”

Nhojeth nodded, his brain was beginning to clear, and the Space Wolfs words made sense… to a degree. His next question needed an answer, but an answer that Nhojeth feared to know, he took a few seconds to catch his breath and compose himself before asking.

“Do you happen to know of any more survivors from our force my Lord?”

“We have seen at least one other of your craft shot down by these Traitors...”

The one with the bolter trailed off, and turned to look towards the Vendetta crash site. “You and your men will follow us, we are needed elsewhere.” The tone of the Marines voice left no room for argument. Not that Nhojeth had a chance to argue, for no sooner had he finished speaking than he and the other three Space Wolves began loping off towards the burning debris.

“Well you heard him lads.” With that Nhojeth, Elano and Jodeh started to follow the Space Wolves; follow was the only word for it as well, as they couldn’t come close to keeping up. The Space Wolves reached the hill and had fired off a volley of rockets at some enemy out of Nhojeth’s sight before he and his men were more than halfway there.

When they finally reached the hill, the scrambled to the top, climbing through the Vendetta’s wreckage and smoking hull. At the top they saw the carnage on the other side.

Daemons seemed to be everywhere. In the centre of it all Nhojeth could see a tight cluster of Space Wolves, led by the Rune Priest. Alongside them were the remnants of his sister Veteran squad, and Kangor’s command squad. Even Astropath Lojac was fighting, his robe torn and his staff discarded, Laspistol in hand.

Kangor was barking orders to the men he had with him, of the sixteen guardsmen those two squads had started with, only ten remained. The two squads flamers were spurting fire at the vile Daemons, but little seemed to slow them.

Suddenly from the trees emerged a huge bloated Daemon sitting on a throne being carried by… well by what could only seem to be smaller Daemons. It pointed… directly at Captain Kangor, its mouth moving in foul incantations. Kangor was too distracted to commanding his men to see that this thing had arrived.

Lojac’s saw it. The Astropath launched himself between Kangor and the Daemon, his Laspistol raised, and firing. The Daemon seemed to smile. Nhojeth expect a stream of corruption to engulf the Astropath, nothing happened. The seconds began to stretch.

Nhojeth snapped back to a wider focus as the thump of the Space Wolves Rockets reached his ears. His view followed the plume of the rockets as they struck home, knocking down some of the Daemons, the blasts throwing chunks of the things into the air, along with heaps of soil and smoke.

He wished his focus hadn’t shifted, through the smoke strode a sight he had dreaded seeing on the battlefield. Terminators, six of them, their armour mutated and somehow rotting, yet rotting or not it they were still Terminators. They strode through the smoke, weapons barking at the Space Wolves and Imperial Guard.

Terminators… something Nhojeth dreaded, something Nhojeth knew that even with a full squad, fresh to the battle he would be lucky to scratch. It made up his mind. For as much as the Daemon in a throne terrified him… he had seen… no he had killed a Daemon today. They could die, Terminators… well he would leave them to the Space Wolves...

“Elano, Jodeh, follow me, we are gonna sweep down and around behind that thing on the throne. Whatever it is, it seems to be targeting the Astropath, and he’s damn well saved our lives enough times… we return the favour.” The two of them nodded, although fear etched on their dirt smeared faces.

The thump of more Rockets being fired from the Space Wolves spurred them to begin to move. Nhojeth’s eyes followed the Rockets trail just in time to watch it smack home into one of the Terminators… the giant traitor took a step back, absorbing the impact, then continued its implacable march towards the surrounded Imperials.

He switched his gaze to the path ahead, as he and his men moved quickly and as silently as they could, circling around behind the enthroned Daemon. Every so often he could see the Astropath still standing facing off against the Daemon; the strain was evident on his face even from the distance Nhojeth was from him. The Captain, seeing the Astropaths plight had drawn his men in around him, protecting him from the foul Daemons. The Guardsmen fought like men possessed to stop the Daemons from reaching Lojac… so far they had succeeded… so far.

They completed their flank of the creature in about five minutes, the sounds of the battle hadn’t diminished, and only the sound of Las and Bolter fire had dropped as more Guardsmen and Space Wolves fell.

Once they were in position he took a quick assessment of the weapons they had at their disposal… Elano was once again carrying his Meltagun, although the charge on the weapon meant it would be good for one maybe two shots. They had a selection of Krak and Frag Grenades, his own Laspistol, and Jodeh's half charged Lasgun and a Chainsword.

Thinking quickly, aware his commander’s life was more than likely dependant on the three of them; he switched the Lasgun and Laspistol to full power. Less shots, but hopefully the extra power would mean they wouldn’t need them. The Meltagun had no such power settings and would simply fire at full strength until its pack ran out. The grouped the Frag and Krak grenades into a bag each, just one of them going off would set the whole thing off, and while the Frag were good at doing a lot of damage over a bigger area, Nhojeth was sure that they would need the Krak for the creature in the throne itself.

“Ok… Jodeh, when we move in I want you to set the timer going on the Frags and then lob it behind the throne, with luck it will take out those smaller creatures, hopefully knocking that thing out of the throne, then I will hit it with the Kraks and Elano can move in and finish it off with the Melta.” Both men looked like they wanted to object… to reason with him, but they were soldiers they knew that any other man in the unit would do it for them, so they weren’t going to let them down now.

Nhojeth calmed his breathing, aware these could be the last few moments of his life.

“For the Emperor” He breathed, quietly. One last quick glance at the two men with him was followed by a nod of his head. The three of them broke cover in unison, moving quickly towards the Daemon.

At forty metres some of the small creatures carrying the throne saw them, and began to jabber to the Daemon on top.

At thirty metres the throne began to turn, as the creatures alerted their master to a closing presence. Jodeh set the timer and threw the Frag pack in a long arc so that it landed next to the throne.

At twenty five metres the Frag pack detonated, the throne had turned halfway and had its back to the explosion, the throne itself shielded the Daemon from the blast, but the detonation made the small creatures carrying the throne pop in a wave, tumbling the throne forward.

At twenty metres, Nhojeth threw his Krak pack, after setting the timer at three seconds; he looked away just after seeing the pack hit the ground at the Daemons feet, the resultant blast sent a heat wave coursing over him and his men. The force of the explosion was centred in the immediate area around the grenades, so there was no shock wave to knock them down. The Daemon was not that lucky, the explosion knocked it off its feet.

At fifteen metres they broke into a run.

At ten metres, the whine of their Lasguns charging spurred all three men to sprint.

At five metres the Daemon was struggling to get back to its feet, and Jodeh leapt at it, Lasgun on Full Auto for all of two seconds before his power pack drained. The force of his impact knocked the Daemon back down, but the impact itself seemed to infect Jodeh instantly with some horrific disease as in seconds his Skin blistered, and flesh burned... pus leaking from his orifices. His screams were only cut short after Nhojeth shifted his aim and put Las shot through his forehead.

Elano made sure he stayed clear of the Daemon as he skipped round its failing arms. His Meltagun was quickly pointed directly at the things face as he pulled the trigger as fast as the gun would charge. Each shot of a Meltagun could burn through the thickest armour at point blank, but the first few shots did nothing as the Daemon continued to laugh. The third shot stopped it laughing as it burnt a hole clear through the things head, and scorched the earth beneath. The fourth shot hit nothing… in the few seconds between shots the Daemon simply disappeared, leaving behind a blighted patch of grass.

The sounds of battle suddenly reached through the Nhojeth’s focus, and he realised that the noise he had associated with the Daemons had stopped… as had the smell that accompanied them. All of the Daemons had gone.

He quickly scanned the battlefield, in time to see the Terminators teleporting away, mere seconds before howling Space Wolves reached them. The fight had ended.

Well that was what Nhojeth had thought then, he and Elano had moved to regroup with the rest of their force, bodies of his fellow Guard were everywhere, with the occasional mound of grey armour where an Astartes had fallen.

He was searching for his Captain; He knew Kangor had still been alive just before they had begun their charge at the Daemon. After a couple of minutes he saw his Captains familiar form crouched over someone, as he moved closed he realised it was the Astropath. He quickly hurried over to his Captains side.

“The Great Father comes for us… the Great Father comes for us… the Great Father comes for us…” The chant was coming from the Astropath. Captain Kangor looked up as Nhojeth approached.

“I see you survived then Sergeant?” He said. Nhojeth nodded.

"What is wrong with the Astropath Captain?” He asked in return. The Captain shook his head, standing from where he was beside the Astropath.

“That Daemon in the throne has corrupted his mind.” While he spoke he drew his Laspistol, checking its power setting before aiming it at the Astropaths head. “I pray the Emperor can save his soul, for his body is lost to us”

Just as Kangor was about to pull the trigger the Astropath lurched upright. The sudden movement started the Captain and the Laspistol whined as it discharged its bolt directly into the Astropaths forehead. The shot didn’t stop him. His arms moved grabbing Kangor’s arm with one hand, his other hitting Nhojeth in the chest, throwing him to the ground.

Nhojeth was frantically drawing his Laspistol watching in horror as the Astropath grabbed the Captain. The Captain wasn’t going down without a fight though, one hand pulling the trigger on his Laspistol, while his other arm was battering the Astropath trying to make him let go.

Then in a blink of an eye the Captain was free, one of the Space Wolves had pounced on the Astropath, throwing the Captain away, while holding the struggling Astropath at arms length his feet dangling. The Astarte’s smoothly drew his Bolt Pistol with one hand, put the barrel of the gun mere inches from the Astropaths head and pulled the trigger.

The Astropath who had been screaming about the Great Father was cut off mid sentence as the bolt round hit his head, which exploded, leaving the Astropaths body limp in the Space Wolves grip.

Another Space Wolf, a Rune Priest by Nhojeth's reckoning from the marks on his armour and Cloak on his back moved towards the Captain. Its massive frame was encased in a suit of Terminator armour, with a majestic Wolf pelt cloak attached to its back.

Nhojeth picked himself up, moving a quickly as he dared towards his fallen Captain, moving into the shadow the Rune Priests armour cast upon the ground.

“The Daemon infected your Astropath Captain. The perils of the warp and witch craft,” said the Rune Priest in a deep bass voice. “I fear that despite your bravery in coming to our aid that the Daemon will claim you too. Already I sense the infection is moving through your system. Very soon you will turn on us the same as the Astropath.” The Rune Priest hung his head. “May the Emperor forgive me.”

The Captain was barely moving and a visible infection was now moving up his arm from where the Astropath had grabbed him. His eyes were sunk and his breathing shallow. So very different from the Astropath… yet given what Nhojeth had just been through, so very believable as a taint.

Nhojeth stood backing away from his Captain; he knew what would come next. The Rune Priest stood as well. The rest of the Space Wolves moved around the Captain, as did the remaining Guardsmen. Only four of them were left including himself. Two Vendetta crew were busy prepping their vehicle for flight. He looked round himself counting the Space Wolves, seeing only eight survivors. He shuddered despite himself. To see so few Astartes still standing sent a chill down his spine.

“We sons of Russ do not require help often. Nor do we acknowledge another’s actions on the battlefield unless they are great deeds. This battle was great and worthy of many a song and tale.” He paused looking directly at Nhojeth and each of his men. None of them could meet his gaze. “Captain Kangor the actions of your men will be well remembered. Myself and my Brothers will spread the word of the bravery of the Methelas 1st Airborne to our Kin, and we will speak well of your actions to your superiors.” He paused again, shaking his head slightly. “It is with the deepest regrets that I did not get the chance to know you better, and I now commend your soul to our God Emperor.” A single thunder crack rang out as the Priests Boltgun shell hit the Captain in the chest, ending his suffering.

The Astartes dispersed, as did the remaining survivors, all of them making their way to the Vendetta that’s engines were humming back into life. Nhojeth went to move towards the Vendetta when he felt a huge hand touch his shoulder. He looked round seeing the Rune Priest.

“Your Captain was a brave man, his bravery, and yours will not soon be forgotten by us. It is easy for us Astartes for this is what we do. I think sometimes we do not always see the worth of our allies in the Imperial Guard. Now my eyes are open.” He said. “Let us leave this place and report to your Command, they will be wondering where you and your men went I imagine.”

Nhojeth nodded, reporting to High Command, the only thing that was likely to keep him away from a firing squad would be the Space Wolves report. He knew that they had been meant to deploy in the defence of Hallan's capitol, a defence that he dearly hoped had gone well.

As they walked back to the Vendetta he saw a Lone Space Wolf standing off to one side.

“Is he not coming with us?” Nhojeth asked. The Rune Priest looked up at the figure standing to one side.

“No, Brother Rankon will be staying here, he will gather both of our dead, and guard them until we can return to give them a proper burial.”

At that Nhojeth smiled. The men he had gone into battle with had been his brothers in arms, a family he had chosen to become part of. It seemed fitting to him that they would be safe in death… watched by Warriors of the God Emperor.