Rogue Trader S2: P8: It’s War. Total War!
Decades from now, beyond the warp storms that clutch the maw, beyond even the Eye of Terror itself, there is a world that had not known of the emperors glory, a world lost once to Xenos and now free, and upon that world the names Xanatov, Pandareos, Aviner, Sente and Victrix are still spoken of with honour.
Upon that world an old man sits, speaking barely above the crackling of the fire, but he need speak no louder to the enraptured audience of youths. “and the Lord Captain was not with them that moment, no, for he was locked in mortal combat with the Eldar down on footfall. But Aviner and Victrix were not alone, for those of the emperors chosen were with them, even some say, one of the line of Leman Russ himself”. Only the fires spitting could be heard as his voice lowered again, taking the fire within his words “They were to know such suffering, such pain, but the emperor went with them and they brought bloodied ruin.” His tired eyes raised towards the heavens “We owe them all our lives, and for that we hold this day sacred”
09:00 Present Day Footfall:
“Throning Motherless Xenos Filth” Grit and dust bellow up from the churned ground as Pandareos pushed his protesting bike at full pelt through the ruined shanty town, a barely seen Xeno’s laughter seeming to echo from thin air as it hunts for the one she knows will die below her blade.
Falling from the air, the creature stands in a three point stance, blade raised. Rising to the challenge Pandareos revs the bike up, wheeling directly towards the Xenos, before dropping at the last moment skidding across the ground. Effortlessly the Eldar shifts, cleaving a thin trail across the bike as it passes. Glancing over his shoulder as the bike rises again, Pandareos curses as he sees the Xenos holding a patch of his jacket it has cut loose, mockingly sniffing its liberated trophy
Far behind Xanatov and Gabriel continue their headlong rush through the crowd, mocked by the elusive figure that pushes them on. Finally snapping Gabriel turns to his bloodstained Captain and barks “Lets just end this now, lets put this thing out of my misery”. Chainblade revving, Xanatov needs little encouragement to face those that haunt his dreams “Do it” comes the terse reply.
Flickering false images haunt them at their last stand, each with shifting masks, bringing ghosts of fallen enemies and lost friends back to twist the knife edge once more. Finally the true Harlequin steps forth grinning through the face of nightmares, through the smile of the Elder that spent so many nights making him love the pain it inflicted.
Barely restrained, Xanatov lunged forwards but his wrathful swipe is deflected with ease. Rolling away from the impact, Xanatov ducks under a plunged tube like weapon. Warily the two combatants back off, assessing each other. The silence is broken as a shotgun blast echoes from the Elders side. Lighting quick the figure leaps, running up the wall away from the impact, kicking off a raised statue a moment before the statue is melted to slag by a burst from Xanatovs inferno pistol. Landing down before the captain, it swings the flat of its blade into his rising form, burning the hair from his scalp in a blinding strike. As Gabriel barrels into it, it leaps up landing upon his shoulders and plunging its weapon deep into his chest unleashing ruining microfilament wires within. As organs liquefy before the assault Gabriel staggers, barely conscious and barely clinging to life as his wrecked form hits the ground.
Vision filled with static as his bionic eyes reboot, Xanatov halts as a light caress touches the burnt flesh of his cheek. A harmonious sadistic voice speaks out “He suffered unspeakably, but he still lives, so tell me, should I make his death swift, or shall I let him linger in agony?” “If you hurt him, I swear I will rip you to pieces” comes the reply.
Walking away with teasing slowness, the Eldar continues it monologue “You have learned an important lesson about humility Mon Key, and about our kind and their place in the harlequin dance. More than that you have learnt about fate, for you are not fated to die here, you will die at the hands of another of my kin, as we pull your soul from your body. Now your ship burns, and your crew suffer at the hands of our dark kin. You see Mon Key your species will learn its place in this universe”
Driven again beyond reason, the Lord Captain launches himself at the Eldar in futile defiance but finds nothing. With sight failing, he drags himself bloodily across the ground towards the side of his fallen colleague as the watching Eldar mimic the act in mockery. From his side comes an unexpected voice “Looks like we’re out of luck, want me to take one of those grinning bastards with us?” Pandareos kneels weapons ready beside the fallen pair. “Get Gabriel out”. Uncertain Pandareos looks down at him, “Ya sure? Don’t get all martyr on me, yer the Lord Captain, we die to protect you not the other way around”. Angrily Xanatov barks “that’s an order”
Frowning Pandaroes lowers Frags cold body to the ground and kisses the side of her ruined face “Don’t worry gal, I’ll be back for ye, but the dying take precedent over the dead”. As he stand a familiar face comes over the coms with an unbelieving tone “Are you abandoning you post Pandareos?”. “Marchessa?. Huh, well you wont believe this, but I’m actually obeying orders for once” Marchessas voice turns from unbelieving to mockery with a cold smile “My, my has the warp frozen over? – now stop looking for me and help the Captain.” With a familiar chuckle returning to his lips Pandareos turns “Guess I still can’t obey orders, yer a bad influence on me girl”
The Eldars heads turn in shock as Marchessa’s voice booms out “Childen of Saint Druses, show these Xenos what you are made of” Men, woman and children storm out, chainsaws and flamers for all storming towards the Xenos. Taking advantage of the surprise, Pandareos Duelling pistol snaps up, to find Xanatovs snap reflexes has beaten him to hit as his inferno pistol speaks. The first Eldar collapse sideways, its leg exploding in steam and superheated plasma. The second glitters as its holofield refracts Pandareos powerful las shot into a thousand lights, each blinking away until as the final dies, so does the Eldar, its chest a cavernous ruin.
As the first elder dies in agony, Xanatov pulls it’s soon to be corpse over to Gabriel and holds it still “look him in the eyes as you die”
Smiling Pandareos turns straight into Marchessa, or more correctly her hand as she slaps him hard. As he stands shocked she throws her arms around him, tired, and angry, tears running down her face for the fallen Frag.
The moment is broken by Xanatov speaking “The prior order is still intact Pandareos, get moving”. The need is stilled though by the next communiqué, as with the power restored on the Saint Druses a message comes through, the mechanical voice of a tech priest “Teleportarium at 98% co-ordinates locked” With a dull humm, the crew find themselves finally back in the welcoming arms of the Saint Druses.
10:00 The Vengeance Of Saint Druses: Lower Decks
Slowly the vast doors open, the massed forces stepping forwards with ponderous clanking and the promise of the emperors mercy. Sentinel walkers, Servitors and combat drones, Imperial Guard in numbers countless, a show of mechanical force to strike fear into any human heart.
Unfortunately what they face is no longer human, well not entirely. The abomination they face tells a tale of what horrors have unfolded. Faces woven together, human bodies turned inside out and linked in macabre parodies of copulation that line the deck ways, alive despite the indignities inflicted upon their flesh.
The battle scars speak of the battle that had broken out once the Eldar realised that their allies were in league with the accursed Slanesh. A battle it seems that did not go well for the Eldar, for their forces have fled the webways.
The Eldars captives had not that choice and their deaths were long and drawn out, sacrifices to what faces the forces now. Lithe daemonic figures dance, promising a death wondrous and hideous. Entranced, guardsmen stagger forwards to their embrace, screaming with ecstasy as their intestines spill in a steaming pile on the cold metal floor.
Vitrix stands true through this hell, her faith burning within, where even Grimnar pales for a moment. The reaction is not fear, but a rage of legend and with a cry of “Fenris” the battle is joined. With every motion he makes another figure falls dead at his feet. But this is not victory, their deaths are ecstatic and in the name of their lord. With every fallen the walls between reality and the warp become weaker, and more of their kind slither through the illicit holes torn in the world.
Realising that they will soon be overwhelmed Aviner and Vicrix quickly come to the same solution, working as one. Aviners mind subsuming into the machine spirits, as he starts the rites of decompression. Victrix speaks with effortless authority, commanding the guardsmen to withdraw from the bays soon to become hard vacuum and summoning the other Astartes to their aid.
The forces are in disarray, caught in the grip of the Daemons entrancement, officers babble and cavort. With a slap Victrix brings the officer to his knees, pressing a stub pistol to his temples. Meeting his crazed eyes she commands “Get your men out of here or I will make your end very short, very painful and not very interesting”. Smiling the Officer turns to obey, they swings back, his gloved hand marking across Victrix lips with a heavy blow as his mind lapses to the madness. Glowering Victrix responds “You will regrets doing that” as she fills his mind with realisation of his fallen nature, and wish for the emperors mercy which fills his every fibre with self loathing that cannot be denied. The officers brains explode out from his skull from a self inflicted gunshot. With no discernable expression Victrix eases the mans jacket from his still warm corpse and passes it to the nearest guardsman, coldly adding “you’re in charge now, withdraw your men”
“I’d pay attention if I were you”. The refined voice of Provost joins them. Turning to face him Victrix can feel the play of golden energy around his bodyglove clad figure and light blazes to her psychers sight from his weapons.
Finally the imperial guard fall back, the daemons falling upon them. As Vitrix reaches the safety of the doorway, one of the damned ones falls upon her only to be met by Provost instead. With great celerity he strikes, gold light and purity sheering at its form. “You will find nothing to purchase on in my eyes, only your end” he speaks.
Inside the Space Wolf still will not depart, not whilst there are still such horrors standing. The doors are nearly sealed as the reinforcements arrive, a hulking brute of a warrior, heavy bolter pushing down upon his pale robes, and the mysterious marine who had rescued the Lord Captain before. “Where is that which needs cleansing?” asks the Marines.
Stepping inside the closing doors they let loose with righteous fury. Brother Uciel unleashing the vengeance of the heavy bolter to cover his battle brother who leaps into the fray. Finally the four figures, Aviner and the three marines stand alone against the daemon horde as the air slowly stars to seep away.
Aviner tries to alert the marines of the coming decompression, but with the bloodlust up they ignore his warnings. Grimnar finally falls before the horde that swarms up, knowing its end is nigh, but not willing to go easily. Aviner sprints to his side, trying to drag the behemoth away from his foes. The Deamonettes realise that the Marines will be the end of them, but see this tech priest as an easier target, as one four of them surge forward hoping for one more delicious death.
Relying on the machine to be strong and chanting litanies to scour the weak flesh, Aviner stands firm, ready as they strike, unbound by their attempts to chain his mind. Swarming over him they tear and tatter his armour seeking for a weak point at which to feast. Eventually one finds its goal, a probing tongue hooks deep into the soft eye socket and returning with its torn prize.
Landing ready for another assault, they turn back upon the Tech Priest, blood pouring from his empty socket, waiting for him to fall. Nigh blind he steps amongst them, their claws tearing at him once more as his power axe swings its wide ark, relying on the pulses of his logis implant to target the enemy. As the blood clears he stands alone, the daemon corpses bubbling back to the warp at his feet.
Finally the air rushes out, spilling the daemons to hard vacuum and finally Aviner collapses, letting the release of unconsciousness free him. As his mind fades, strong arms catch his falling body “Rest easy hero of the Imperium, your work is done here for now, and you have acted with honour”
11:00 The Vengeance Of Saint Druses
The danger past, the next few hours still come with much of import. The Rogue Traders of the planet are silent for once, or at least circumspect, even the underworld is still from its claims. None will act openly against those that Deathwatch have promised an oath of service to, and especially not against Victrix or Aviner, to whom Grimar personally swore an oath of friendship. None especially will bring up the warp gate, for surely such dedicated individuals were merely working to best contain such a danger.
Innocent and Caustic it seems were lucky, they had survived the horror that came. Gabriel, Tachinka and Sente are less lucky, bound within Stasis fields to preserve their life until Aviner can construct replacement vital organs. Worse yet are the questions, to save Sente Tachinka acted with forces banned and beyond heresy.
Away from Aviners dilemma, Pandareos speaks quietly with the spymaster. One day Crawken will be vulnerable, and on that day he wants to know. Going after Pandareos, that’s expected, but bringing the Lord Captain into it, well, retribution is due.
Midnight: The Foretelling
For Victrix, Aviner and Xanatov, the backup of Pandareos and his crew sat ready to intervene seems now so very far away. The warp witches haven has proven to be everything the fearful rumours spoke of and more. Strange noises echo from unseen distances amongst the crumbling façade, gravity and air pressure fluctuations are foretold by sparks of energy as the warp build up shimmers across the walls.
Finally the screams from unseen cells quiet, as blood and vomit stained white armoured guards shift silently from their way, granting them passage to their auctioned prize.
In the darkness cracked tiles and broken vials crumble noisily beneath their armoured boots. Shadows flit in the darkness, all with breath held for what is to come. In the centre seven clammy skinned figures sit, seething with obscene energies that bubble forth in bouts of terror and loathing. One poor fool breaks beneath this unsettling psychic wave, running headlong to hoped for freedom, but finds instead beating and the prod of electric batons, pushing his screams to final mute unconsciousness.
Soothing energy seeps from Victrix, wrapping the group in a protective bubble. As she releases the energy, a ripple of amusement runs across her cortex. Something watches her efforts with sadistic humour.
“Welcome” comes seven voices in disconcerting perfect harmony “to our sanctuary”. Small and warped like an aged crone they continue “ We who are more than man, who are beyond the emperor, we will speak and you will head our words”
“We are the known and the unknown”. As they speak, noises writhe in, creeping from far flung places alien to this land. Vomit erupts from one listener, spilling to the ground, but before any can turn to see the culprit all worlds collapse, reality condenses into a single perfect point of pure pain.
Consciousness seers with agony, adrift in a sea of boiling energy, liquid pain filling every pore of intellect and raw nightmare dances from cortex to cortex. Finally all thought subsumes screaming below the waves, caught in the eddies of despair.
In this moment, below all logical thought a sound rings, speaking directly to the soul, revealing terrible knowledge. Knowledge unforgettable, a time and a place, a raging incandescent nebula.
It all peals away, revealing a single gemstone, and an immense overwhelming rises in all, a wish for this treasure, to preserve it from the returning seas. For the gemstone is a world, soon to be freed by a lifting warpstorm, and treasure beyond any price that could be paid. As reality returns, each Rogue Trader meets the others eyes and sees their own thoughts reflected within. Any cost, and death is justified in winning this prize, there will be no true allies in this fatal game.
Moving quickly back to the ship, for the game is afoot, a single thought rises “Its not a gem, it’s a pearl, a pretty pretty dread pearl.” The Eldars words of where they would take Xanatovs head, the knowledge that this may be where they may purge themselves of their dark past.
In the dark they are watched as they hurry. For Sire Parcifal and through his eyes all of his kin who wish death to those of the Saint Druses have seen this vision too.
And they are oh so hungry for vengeance.