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The March of Metal - 2/2/16 complete


Cpt_Reaper

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Better late than never eh? That'll teach me to not save my stuff before a Deathwatch game XD
 

 The March of Metal

 

War had come to Castinia, scarring the once beautiful planet with conflict and death. The people cried out for help, their meagre military unable to protect their charges for long. When the first gargantuan vessels landed, disgorging thousands of blood-crazed fanatics and hordes of abhorrent half-beasts they killed unchecked for days. A valiant last stand was made by the Planetary Defence Force, headed by the Governor himself. Just when it seemed they had held back the tide of filth did the tainted drop pods fall amongst the brave defenders. The Governor was slain and his corpse hung from the battlements of the Capitol Fortress-City.

In the depths of space the last cry for salvation was bouncing from ear to ear, waystation to outpost to command headquarters to warriors. The vast behemoth that was the Imperium of Man stirred like a slumbering beast awoken by trespassers upon it's territory. Several regiments of the Astra Militarum were summoned, their might slow but deadly. Tens of thousands of men and women marching in a myriad of colours and heraldries, supported by their war machines. So too did the Angels of Shadow Chapter answer the call, the Strike Cruiser Shadow of Intent gliding through the velvety embrace of space towards Castinia, taking up orbit over the planet. Around the warship a swarm of lesser vessels moved into position, frigates and destroyers supporting the larger vessel. They punched a hole through the invading fleet, wedging themselves in with speed that the Imperial Navy vessels simply could not achieve.

The entire Third Company would march to battle, tasked by the Chapter Master himself, Master of Shadows Nephlyre Phantomkin, to hold a long forgotten Fortress of Redemption from the forces of the vile Dark Mechanicus. Thus a steady stream of Thunderhawks and Storm Eagles passed between the fortress and the Strike Cruiser in orbit, preparing for the inevitable assault.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

From atop the main spire of the fortress, Dark Master Kronos Nightshade watched silently as his brothers prepared for the coming attacks. Thrice already the enemy had come, and thrice they had been repelled with not a single casualty. They were testing the Angels' defence, each time attacking with varying degrees of force at different points.

Kronos watched as his two assault squads finished off the last of the latest attack. Androids. That is what Techmarine Valmeros called them. Heretical mockeries of humanity with flesh of metal. Upon seeing them stride towards the walls Valmeros made a noise that Kronos was certain was a curse of some form. As he ran over the many possible outcomes and the situations that would cause them in the coming battles, Kronos began to absent-mindedly untie and retie the small cord that kept his long hair in check when in his armour. This practice, while tricky with his gauntlets, was a habit he had never truly lost from his days before he became an Astartes.

 'Dark Master?' Valmeros had appeared on the spire behind Kronos as quiet as a whisper, despite his full servo-harness.

 'News on the fortress defences?' Kronos inquired hopefully. Valmeros' helm was as expressionless as the iron that was his craft.

 'Affirmative Dark Master. I estimate that full functionality will be restored to the weapons in seventy two hours, Terran Standard, from turn of midnight tonight.' Kronos stared at the senior Techmarine, dumbfounded.

 'S-seventy two hours? Very well,' he said with a heavy sigh. 'Return to your ministrations, I shall prepare the defence. Dovah meyr qah.' May the Dragon protect.

 'Omnissiah's blessings Dark Master,' replied Valmeros. As the Techmarine descended into the tower Kronos replaced his helm, thinking about how different Valmeros had become. A native of Invalice, the Chapter homeworld, like Kronos himself and yet he refused to speak their native tongue or grow his hair long as a sign of his warrior status. There were Astartes that were not of his homeworld that took up the ancient practices and learned the language. Truly joining the Priesthood of Mars was to forsake many bonds of brotherhood.

Casting aside his moment of melancholy, Kronos moved to the edge of the tower. Below, the warriors of the Third Company were preparing the defences for the battle to come. That every single battle-brother was working to set up heavy weapons or to organise the armoured might of the present vehicles caused a swell of pride within Kronos' breast. Despite being the youngest Dark Master Kronos still commanded the veteran Third with all the skill of one centuries older. He drew a cable from the nearby vox-caster and plugged it into the side of his helm, allowing his voice to reach every one of his brothers.

 'Brothers! Hear me now!

 'Each and every one of you are counted amongst the very best of the Astartes. Each and every one of you has a long and glorious history, won with blood and fire. The horrors you have faced, the battles you have fought have placed you alongside the greatest heroes of Humanity.

 'So when I say the coming battle will be the toughest yet I want you to appreciate my full meaning. The mechanical horrors we face are not like the legions of the Necrons, though they may look similar. These Androids are vile, they are soulless and they are spawned of heresy. They are mockeries of Humanity and their very existence is an insult to all we stand for.

 'We must hold them here for three days, and we must do it alone. If you can stand firm, Techmarine Valmeros will have the fortress' defences operational. Reactivating this Fortress will give our forces a stable defence point and drastically improve our ability to retake this planet.

 'So I ask you, Brothers of the Third, to stand firm. Dovah meyr qah!'

 'VAAT ZAHKRII HAAL! VOKUN SARAAN BAHLAAN!' cried the Third Company. By the sword in my hand! Shadow awaits the worthy!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Sergeant Malerai Dreadreaper stood in front of the massive fortress, his brothers of First Squad, the Nightmares, preparing their weapons. It was an hour past midnight and still the enemy had not made a move, nor had it been seen by the Neophytes searching the surrounding areas. Malerai hated the quiet, the knowing something was coming. Give him a surprise or leave him alone.

Looking over the barren plains, broken up by rock formations, Malerai watched as the telltale lights from jump packs darted over rocks and grass. The Assault Squads were returning from a perimeter sweep.

 'Brother-Sergeant? What's wrong?' inquired Apostin, Malerai's second in command. As always Apostin was able to see the emotion in what remained of his leader's face.

 'The enemy is coming. Ready the defences,' Malerai replied flatly. 'Small force, likely the first to try and punch through our defences. They will come from one direction, focus their damage.'

 'How do you know that? Sergeant Tabris hasn't reported in, nor have the scouts.'

 'Think, Apostin. The Neophytes may either be dead or unable to risk exposing the position. As for the Lokpaagoliikke, count them. How many do you see?'

Malerai pointed into the gloom, their enhanced eyesight easily spotting the approaching figures. Apostin was momentarily worried.

 'I count five Assault Marines, Brother-Sergeant. Where are the other fifteen?'

 'Standard procedure would be to perform a rearguard action, sending five Lokpaagoliikke to return with information. The enemy is allied with the Dark Mechanicus and likely has ways of intercepting our secured vox signals.'

Sure enough, the powerful searchlights upon the main tower illuminated the five Assault Marines as they bounded across the plains. With each leap they barely touched the largest of the boulders, appearing to leap across the gathering fog. Apostin smiled under his helm, seeing how Assault squads were called sky walkers in the tongue of his people.

 

Squad Leader Kilreus Tempest, second in command of Squad Eight, the Eliminators, growled as he made a final leap. Pushing his jump pack to it's limit, the Lokpaagoliik vaulted the high wall of the fortress. Landing heavily, he ran towards the Command Squad standing in front of a Land Raider.

 'Brothers! Ready the defences at once!' Kilreus cried. 'A host of one hundred and eighty androids approach from the north.' Veteran Markus, leader of the Command Squad stepped forwards, his power fist's fingers flexing.

 'You seem worried that such a small numbers of foes could best us, Squad Leader. Where are Sergeants Tabris and Zaazenach? I wish to hear their counsel.'

 'They sent us back to warn you. The rest of my brethren were to try and hold back the enemy for as long as possible to allow the Neophytes to escape unnoticed. The enemy is as hard to put down as they are relentless.' Markus clenched his fist, smiling widely.

 'Then they are a challenging foe? Excellent. Rejoin your brothers over the wall and let no heretical machine-man cross the threshold.'

Kilreus bowed deeply before reigniting his jump pack. Leaping up the the walkway he stopped, nodding to Sergeant Malerai, dropping to stand between his four squad members below. Already he could see shadowy figures darting between rocks.

 'The Neophytes made it safely then?' asked one of the Marines.

 'Looks like it. I count all present,' replied another.

 'Draw weapons and prepare to move out!' snapped Kilreus. 'Our Lokpaagoliikke brothers are returning at speed. We may have to grab the Neophytes and rush them back.'

The first Marine was about to ask when the night air was split by an unnatural roar, followed by what sounded like a vulkan-megabolter firing. Tracer fire danced across the night sky as a Company wide vox transmission met Kilreus' ears.

 'This is Sergeant Zaazenach! Projected enemy strength was wrong, repeat, wrong. Enemy numbers are estimated to be a thousand strong. They have a daemon engine! Classification; Forge Fiend, double Hades loudout.'

 'Dovah zahnir mii,' growled Kilreus. Dragon protect us.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Malerai felled another android, a bolt taking it's metal head clean off. A wisp of something otherworldly flowed from the hole exposed, the trapped daemon within escaping it's metallic prison. The very thought that these things contained the most foul of beings sickened Malerai.

His company had fought the legions of the Necron Dynasties before, Malerai himself had even faced one of their Lychguard. He felt truly alive in that fight, his foe a real challenge. Each movement was stiff but only because it was perfectly calculated. Even the lesser Necrons moved with a calculated precision, every step perfectly in sync with one another. These androids may look like Necrons, albeit as if designed by a human trying to recreate them, but they were nearly nothing alike.

There was no precision to their movements; they were like badly animated caricatures. There was no synchronisation of their troops; they bustled forwards, some stumbling and others trying to run. Some carried massive rifles, barrels adorned with bayonets, while others wielded swords that resembled shards of iron torn from some vehicle and given a hilt.

The early morning was lit up as First Squad's plasma cannon fired, a small star arcing through the air. Ten or so androids were vaporised in the impact, the magnetic field around the super heated plasma failing in a vibrant reaction. Dozens more were felled by the disciplined bolter fire of the other Tactical squads upon the walls, as well as more heavy weapons and the occasional crack of a sniper round from the Neophytes. Still the Forge Fiend had yet to appear, worse still that the androids seemed to be a continual wave.

Below, the first androids were met by the Lokpaagoliikke, falling to the brutally fast Assault Marines. Chainswords screamed as they tore through metal, pistols barked as they threw mass-reactive death and the bodies of slain androids sizzled as the power swords wielded by Zaazenach and Tabris. Some of the rifle-armed androids had charged forwards but were comically ill equipped to fight in close quarters, but the sword carriers were faring little better.

The twenty Lokpaagoliikke stood shoulder to shoulder, cutting down every mechanical abomination with righteous zeal. Zaazenach decapitated an android as it tried to bring a rifle to bear while one of his squad members punched a hole through a metallic rib cage. For the moment they were holding the line, but as more and more androids charged forwards the Lokpaagoliikke were slowly being pushed back.

 'Hi los nid veistul sivaas!' screamed Tatrasiel, Zaazenach's second in command. You are nothing vile beast! He activated his jump pack, the rocket propelled charged knocking down dozens of androids. Several other Assault Marines followed suit, their bulk smashing apart as many androids as their weapons felled.

 'Tatrasiel! Form ranks!' Zaazenach snapped. 'We hold them here!'

 'But Brother, we are pushing them back!'

Too late did Tatrasiel see the error of his manoeuvre. Surrounded on all sides by androids the overly eager Assault Marines were set upon. One brother went down, his helm split by a shard-sword. Another dropped to his knees as the weight of several androids piled on top of him.

The break in the line created by the charge allowed more androids to push into the remaining defenders, seemingly in an endless stream.

 'The line is lost! Fall back to the wall!' ordered Tabris.

 'Fall back? Cowardice-' began one of Zaazanach's Marines.

 'I said fall back! We cannot hold these numbers. Brother Kilreus, lend assistance to our brothers caught out.

 'Neophytes! Focus your fire around our position. We have wounded and need cover to extract them.'

Instantly high calibre rounds obliterated skulls and torsos around the fallen Assault Marines. As a space opened in the melee it was clear that of the six Marines that followed Tatrasiel only three still stood. Kilreus and his combat squad smashed apart any who dared get close to their dead, pulling the bodies back towards the wall.

A ripple seemed to flow through the horde. Dozens at a time turned and walked away until but a few androids stood. When the Neophytes above shot down any who strayed too close the rest turned, one looking back like a bested hound looking for a weakness in his opponent before he too fled.

 

The mood was sombre within the walls, the Angels unsure how to react to the actions of the enemy. After the main attack the androids stood about a kilometre away, the horde rippling with activity. More and more seemed to join the mass of mechanical bodies with each hour. Occasionally a number would break away, charging the walls only to be cut down by bolter and sniper.

Two Lokpaagoliikke had been killed and another had gone into a protective coma after suffering nearly a dozen massive stab wounds from the androids' crude weapons. Tatrasiel stood quietly, the deaths of his men weighing heavily upon his shoulders.

Dark Master Nightshade called his sergeants to a war council, his cold steel eyes boring into their very souls.

 'Zin zeymah,' he began. Honoured brothers. 'As you have probably guessed we are about to be overrun with the forces of the enemy. Our walls can only hold them back for so long and we lack the numbers to sustain a protracted fight. I need ideas and I need them quickly.'

Champion Aloysius stepped forwards, the emerald blade of his Blade of Caliban sparking with energy. 'I say we take the fight to the enemy. A swift counter charge to break their back!'

 'Duly noted my Champion,' Kronos replied, unable to suppress a smile in the face of Aloysius' zeal.

 'Perhaps a defensive strategy may be more viable?' inquired Sergeant Onoel of Ninth Squad. 'We are still at optimal strength.'

 'That we are zeymah. However we are outnumbered with the odds stacking against us with every minute. We have not the firepower to hold this fortress indefinitely nor reinforcements coming. Retreat is simply not an option.'

 'What if,' said Sergeant Malerai, his metallic features catching the morning sun, 'we break the enemy by breaking their leader. A daemonic host of that magnitude must be held together with a leader and will surely break if we slay him.'

Kronos thought for a moment, idly fumbling with a sword pendant hanging around his neck. He mumbled to himself, inaudible to all assembled.

 'Brother Valmeros, set the fortress' long range vox to an open frequency. Draw out the enemy with a challenge. We'll take him off balance, question his quality as a warrior. Make him act irrationally. He'll send his best too early then lead the final charge himself.'

 'We'll have to weather a lot for this to work,' pointed out Sergeant Lyrex Mournlight of Fourth Squad.

 'We are the Angels of Shadow! Sons of Invalice and descended from the Angels of Absolution, we bear the blood of the Dark Angels and ancient Caliban!' roared Aloysius, his sword held high. 'No foe can claim the ground we defend! No fortress can stand before our might!'

 'Vokun saraan!' cried Kronos as he drew his massive sword. In response the brethren of Third Company all drew their swords.

 'Vaat zahkrii haal!' they roared as one. By the sword in my hand!

 

Sergeant Mournlight was indeed right. Roughly an hour after the vox signal was sent did the android horde break into a sprint, eager to shed blood. At first they were little threat, those able to climb the high walls were quickly thrown back down by bolt and blade. Sergeants Onoel and Rufael ordered their Devastator squads to bring down the enemy ranks before they reached the wall in an attempt to prevent the dead being used as a ramp but the foe was too numerous.

Sooner than expected were the Lokpaagoliikke having to counter-assault androids as they crested the walls. Aiding them were the Neophytes high in the tower with their sniper rifles.

Despite their efforts several Battle-brothers had fallen, gaps beginning to open up on the walls. Within the walls the Company's armoured vehicles stood in a line, their engines growling loudly. Eight Rhinos in two columns with two Land Raiders and a Crusader up front and another two Land Raiders bring up the rear. Kronos and Command Squad Ezekiel waited within the Crusader Brother of Steel, Kronos himself with his eyes locked onto the tactical display within the tank.

His face was lit up as a screen flashed an angry red, a huge explosion rocking the Land Raider.

 'This is Sergeant Sereph! My squad is down to sixty percent, heavy weapon lost. Wall is breached! Repeat, the wall is breached!'

 'Affirmative Sereph. All squads fall back to transports and prepare to execute counter attack.' Switching channels to the tower, the central screen was filled with the face of Techmarine Valmeros. 'Is it ready?'

Valmeros nodded. 'All warheads armed and ready Dark Master. I will enact the firing rites then gather in the armoury vault with the Neophytes as ordered.'

Another explosion rocked the tank, shrapnel pinging from it's hull. 'The gate is breached!'

 'Are we loaded up?'

 'Affirmative.'

 'CHARGE!'

 

The fortress gates exploded outwards, crushing dozens of androids as they rushed to exploit the breach. Those not crushed by the gates were either cut down by hurricane-bolters or under the treads of the Land Raider spearhead.

Incandescent light reached out from the left and right machines, scything down the larger daemon engines. Invalacian battle hymns blared from vox-casters, deep bass notes and roaring electrotars the rivers that ancient words of valour, strength and glory rode upon.

Against the sudden charge the android horde could only run or fall, the slow daemon engines unable to react to the armoured strike. As the tanks moved further out they spread apart, the mounted Astartes firing from open hatches or manning pintle-mounted storm bolters.

Alone in the sea of mechanical monstrosities stood a massive figure, his armour polished to a high shine. Burnished iron, chevrons of jet and gold. Four servo-arms flexed with his every breath, each tipped with a three-taloned claw. A huge axe protruded from the ground, it's jagged edge burried in the ground.

 'Angels!' he screamed. 'Cease this pointless slaughter. These are my people and they deserve life!'

The Brother of Steel ground to a halt before the warpsmith, its assault ramp slamming down. Kronos strode out, flanked by his Command squad.

 'Iron Warrior, your people are dead. You burned Olympia yourself. These are daemon machines, or has your sanity degraded so far?'

The warpsmith stepped forwards, his servo-claws flexing. 'You wound me Angel. I am well aware that we are surrounded by artificial bodies, but they are no daemon vessels. I have given the souls of lost Olympia new bodies, inspired by the Necrontyr and helped by the Dark Mechanicus. Would you slaughter the innocent again?'

 'Warpsmith, do you not hear your words? The innocent of Olympia died long ago.'

 'I KNOW! WE MURDERED THEM!' the warpsmith screamed, his rage echoed by his four claws. 'THEY TURNED ON OUR EMPIRE AND FOR THAT WE BURNED THEM!'

Kronos hung his head sadly. 'I've studied the ancient reports, the stories and myths. You didn't kill the innocent-'

At that the warpsmith drew his axe and charged, a nerve struck. Kronos stared him down, steel eyes boring deeper than a turbolaser. As the axe came down Aloysius' blade came up to meet it.

 'Attacking Dark Master Nightshade when he was about to forgive you heretic is very poor form,' hissed the Champion.

 'Raising your blade to your betters is offensive welp!' the warpsmith retorted, a claw-arm swinging wide. Aloysius deflected the attack with his combat shield, following up with a thrust of his long blade. The warpsmith parried with the haft of his axe, another claw stabbing at the opening but it too would be batted away by Aloysius' shield.

 'Aloysius is our Champion,' called Kronos. 'I advise that you stop your playing lest he end this too quickly.'

Growling with frustration, the warpsmith launched into a whirlwind of attacks. His servo-claws stabbed, slashed and punched with a blinding speed all the while his great axe constantly hacking and swinging. Despite it all Aloysius stood firm, his shield sparking and his blade an unseeable blur as it deflected every blow. The Angels cheered as their Champion stood unmoving in the face of such a brutal assault. Surely the warpsmith had no chance against the stubborn determination of the Angels' greatest swordsman?

The eyes of the Dark Master saw what they could not. With every deflected blow Aloysius' shield was dented and torn, with every failed strike his sword was chipped and bent. Aloyisus might be the best swordsman in the Third Company but this Iron Warrior had ten thousand years of experience and his servo-claws moved with a fluid grace such experience afforded him. He could hear the exertion in Aloysius' exhales, see the fatigue setting in. The duel had lasted several minutes, both fighters trying to end it quickly.

 'Enough!' cried the warpsmith, jumping back with a flourish of his axe. 'This is pointless. Have Astartes fallen so far as to wear down their opponent with a, albeit talented, juvenile? Give me a real challenge Dark Master. Let me fight for the right of my people to live again!'

Aloysius looked back to his commander, his arms shaking and breath shallow. If it were ordered the Champion would press the attack as was his duty. Kronos shook his head, stepping forwards.

 'I take no pride in your death, Iron Warrior,' he said plainly.

 'Poor last words boy,' the warpsmith spat, and battle was met.

As before the warpsmith begun with a flurry of blows, attacking from multiple directions at once. Despite his sword's large size, or perhaps because of it, Kronos was able to deflect every blow. He was not on the defensive, the Dark Master was simply toying with his foe. Sparks showered from the emerald blade as it deflected and parried, an extension of Kronos rather than a weapon.

With a flash of light one of the warpsmith's servo-claws was sliced clean through causing the foe to howl in agony as the sparking stump spurted a thick oily substance. The warpsmith swung wide with his axe, a maddened wild blow. Kronos stepped aside and sliced off two more servo-claws eliciting another louder yell of pain.

 'Damn you welp! I'll end you yet!' roared the warpsmith. Kronos, however, remained silent. He rolled under another wild swing, bringing his blade diagonally upwards to sever the last servo-claw and slice deep into the warpsmith's power armour.

 'I can't die! The Olypians will perish again!' the warpsmith growled, swinging with blind fury at Kronos.

 'The Olypians died because the Iron Warriors rightfully put them to the blade. They betrayed all the Iron Warriors had built and so were punished. The innocent you claim to stand for did nothing to stop their fellows. There were no innocent on Olympia. Only betrayers.'

As his words cut into the warpsmith's soul, Kronos' sword glowed brightly as it's power field reached maximum strength. With a lightning crack and a surge of light Kronos swung his blade high and cleft the Iron Warrior in two. The haft of the huge axe was smashed to splinters, the entrapped entity screaming free back into the Warp.

The warpsmith mouthed a silent denial as his dying torso hit the ground, his last sight that of all the androids and daemon engines falling into piles of scrap as the pacts that held their daemonic essences were broken.

The warpsmith's death rattle was the last sound that would be heard upon the battlefield. The Angels of Shadow had won, and the Iron Warrior's noble yet heretical plans had been foiled.

 'Third Company! Return to the fortress and rearm. This planet isn't ours yet.'

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Updated with expanded intro. A cookie to the first to guess what language I based used for my Chapter's native tongue.

Wow, I'm surprised no-one's gotten it yet, there's a blatant clue in the battle cry at the end, it's the Th'uum, the dragon language from the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. "Dovah" is the word for the Dragon species.
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