Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 72, final update done)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 35)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:20 pm

Thanks a lot again, guys (yes, Midgard, you do say it a lot, but I don't mind :D )

Part 36 is up.





[The following agreement is made in the four hundred and twenty-fifth year of the Fatemaker Chapter, appointed guardians of the Malachis Sector in the name of He Who Protects. Ave Imperator.

In order for the Imperium to function, its various organizations must realize that naklonjenost, favours repaid in kind, are needed whenever a military force is required to perform tasks beyond its expected duty. It is for this reason that this agreement has been made between Brother-Captain Andros Malistrum, leader of Strike Force Four of the Fatemaker Chapter and Director Kosvalik of family Duranno, appointed governor of the Faramuntibus System and its associated fiefdoms. The Emperor Protects.]






Assessment time.

The regular officers and the human associates were all sitting around the conference table which had seen so many tense debates in the last few months. This time, the general mood was a little more relaxed, which was probably the result of not having to discuss time travel, the nature of human souls, the death of Mankind’s god or the eventual extinction of the human race. Compared to those subjects, this problem was almost refreshing in its simplicity. The Fatemakers wanted to get something from a planetary governor, who wanted something in return.

Still, there were unforeseen complications, and there was also a general feeling of wrongness in everyone present.

‘I am not sure we can trust the Director,’ Andorias said. He rarely offered a lot of his mind to his peers, but now that he was part of the delegation, it was also expected of him.

‘For once, I agree completely,’ Essen added. This was also unusual, but now everyone had the same opinion. Even the mortals. Even Magos Brakk nodded slightly.

‘I’m not sure why I think so,’ Andorias continued. ‘I mean, they were not hostile. I sometimes meet Guard officers on the battlefield, and they are usually not very…’

He trailed off for a moment as he was looking for the right word.

‘Relieved,’ Mediator Dmitrija helped in.

‘They are not relieved to see us, yes. They are usually afraid of us, too. But these people were not.’

‘Were you missing it?’ Essen broke in a sweet voice.

‘Not now, Sergeant,’ Malistrum shook his head. ‘Sergeant Andorias is right. There was something missing from this conversation, and I think I know what.’

He looked at his people meaningfully, who exchanged curious looks in turn. They have heard the reports from the three officers, they also saw the recordings which Sergeant Andorias’s artificial eye made (which itself was a grave insult and a breach of every imaginable Imperial protocol; not that anyone at the table cared at this point), but apparently, there was something they had missed.

Finally, Mediator Dmitrija sighed, and raised a hand.

‘He did not show the sign of the Aquila to you when you left,’ he said.

Malistrum pointed at him in agreement. ‘Not only that, but he also neglected to say “The Emperor protects.” By the way, this was something I didn’t do either. I was curious whether the Director would say anything to it. He did not.’

‘These people are no longer Imperials,’ Uskovich said in a quiet voice.

There was a moment of silence as people digested this.

‘Maybe we are not Imperials any more,’ Hemethor added equally quietly. The others looked at him, but he returned none of the stares: his eyes were firmly fixed on the table in front f him.

‘What do you mean?’

Hemethor looked up. ‘We are about to make a deal with secessionists. Isn’t it our duty to stomp people like these? How can we call ourselves Imperials if we just let this… this heresy flourish? We would be doing our work and we would get what we wanted in the end anyway without lowering ourselves to them.’

‘I disagree,’ Essen answered before anyone else had the chance to react. ‘They are no different than the rest of us, really. They must have drawn the same conclusion as we did: the Emperor died, and Mankind is on its own. In fact, every system, every man is on their own now.’

Hemethor looked at him with utter disbelief.

‘Are we really talking about this? Chaplain, say something!’

Uskovich looked at Hemethor with a hard stare.

‘I am terribly sorry to say this,’ he started, ‘but the Sergeant was right. I have been thinking about this, and the sad truth is that the Imperium and the Emperor are one and the same thing. One cannot exist without the other, and now that He is no longer with us, the Imperium will disappear.’

Hemethor was shocked.

‘What do you… do you mean that…’

‘No, he does not mean it, Sergeant,’ Malistrum cut in. ‘Chaplain Uskovich did not mean that we have given in to the reality, but he said it out loud, and we have to face it. Even if we find our brothers, even if we rebuild our strength, we will not be able to save the Imperium. We may be able to save some fraction of Mankind, but that’s it. The human species will be divided and isolated, and whatever force will remain from the Imperium will only be able to hold onto some of the fragments.’

He started to walk as Hemethor and the others were staring with him.

‘We are going to meet people like the Director out there,’ he continued. ‘The sooner we find our brothers, the better we can start pulling things together and getting rid of Kosvalik’s kind. But,’ he raised a finger, ‘if we want to find our brothers, we need an Astropath, and Kosvalik has one. We have three options now. We can move on without the Astropath because we don’t like the person we have to make a deal with for him, or we can take him by force and become robbers…’

The Captain was somewhat relieved to see the disgusted look on his officers’ face at his proposal. Things were not completely lost with his Space Marines.

‘…or, thirdly, we can be pragmatic and take the offer. I have studied the preliminary report they sent us, and it seems at first sight that their claim for help is legitimate in itself, even though we are not obliged to interfere.’

‘You want to offer them a naklonjenost, Captain,’ Essen stated.

‘Indeed,’ Malistrum answered. ‘We have experience in dealing with similar situations. We do what we have to do we take what we want, and then we move on. Faramuntibus is not really our problem. The Malachias Sector is, and here we have the chance to get the means to solve our problem – and, through it, the problem of the humans in the sector.’

Malistrum stopped next to Hemethor, and looked at him in the face.

‘We need to make sacrifices for this, just like we have needed to sacrifice so much before,’ he answered. ‘We don’t have so much left for us: the Chapter, each other and a small fighting chance. Is it worth fighting for these small things? Is it worth making further sacrifices, even on our conscience?’

Hemethor looked hesitant, but only for a while. He nodded quickly enough, and Malistrum sighed inwardly.

He still had his men, and this was good. Still, two years ago, a similar conversation would have been unimaginable. Astartes – himself included, he realized – were in many respect like children. They did not question the world around them, and they did not have to think a lot. Now they did. He made a mental note not to let his strike force interact with outsiders if he could help it.

Of course, this was a question for later. He addressed his Astartes again.

‘We will review all the data about this conflict again. We are going to offer a proper naklonjenost, and we will only agree to do what our Chapter’s regulations allow us. These people are Imperial enough; besides, we have been accused of sedition, even heresy, before. We will make a deal with them, we will get what we want and then we leave. Am I understood?’

There were a couple of nods around the table.

‘Good. I want you to see to your squads; contact the crew, both the Ogryns and the humans and inform them about our situation. Strike Force Four goes to war once again.’

The decision had been made, and professionalism took over as the people present started to ponder over the logistical details of the task ahead. Malistrum eventually closed the meeting, and as the officers slowly left, he was watching impassively as his men went away to find their subordinates. The room was soon empty; that is, empty, except for one person who stayed and watched his Captain with cold, emotionless eyes.

Malistrum looked back at him for a few seconds, then he sighed in resignation.

‘Tell me what I need to know, Librarian,’ he said.





The Captain’s personal room was half-dark again. Malistrum was sitting in his usual place: at the cogitator with one particular picture about the burning Opportunity displayed in front of his eyes.

Akichi told him everything: what he believed happened on the planet and what he thought about the old Astropath who brought them here. He also shared his fears with him.

Started to walk the path…

This was a somewhat tangible challenge than the ones Malistrum had had to deal with nowadays, and he was more determined to face it – even if he was not the least more assured.

The picture still showed him the same. He could still not decide what to make of it. Was it prophecy? Was it doom? Was it merely a possibility?

His lips curled downwards.

I will defeat you.





[Strike Force Four and the strike cruiser Opportunity hereby pledges its support to the liberation of the orbit of Faramuntibus III. Brother-Captain Malistrum agrees to achieve this objective with all available means at his disposal, excluding means proscribed by the holy Inquisition of Mankind…

The orbit of Faramuntibus III is considered to be liberated under the following conditions…]






Aboard the Opportunity orbiting Faramuntibus IV


554 days after the Emperor’s death


The docks of the Opportunity were witness to unusually busy activity that day. The naklonjenost-treaty had been signed by both parties the previous day, and the Fatemakers were busy readying themselves for the oncoming battle. Before they could leave, however, the Directorate insisted that they allow a governmental delegation who would oversee the completion of the treaty. This was not a standard procedure, but Malistrum said yes – especially because the delegation also brought Astropath Lucas with it as a token of goodwill.

Sergeant Andorias was selected to be the one who greeted the delegation, on account of how he had already contacted these people once. He was standing in the hangar bay with his squad as honour guard, and he was wearing his regular power armour set without the jet-packs. He felt slightly vulnerable not to wear his usual combat gear before actually going into combat, but he understood the necessity of this gesture well enough.

The hangar bay’s door was open, with a force-field erected to keep the air inside the ship. Andorias could already see the approaching Faramuntibus vessel: a gun cutter with a powerful set of laser cannons attached. The Sergeant’s expert eye assessed the fighting capabilities of this craft, and he was somewhat impressed, although he was not sure that this ship was suitable for what was supposed to be a diplomatic delegation. He would have taken this as an insult, and probably the Captain had too, but this mattered little now that things were in motion again.

The gun-cutter passed through the force-field, and started to land on the spot the Opportunity’s beacons designated for her. She was standing directly in front of the honour guard, her beaked cockpit facing Andorias.

The ship turned off her engines, and stood immobile. The Astartes outside waited.

The ramp was finally lowered and a single man walked down onto the deck. He was an Imperial Commissar by his looks: he was wearing the traditional cape, red sash and the cap, with the traditional bolt pistol strapped to his belt. He stopped at the bottom of the ramp while his head was still level with the towering Astartes warriors and took a good look at them.

Andorias did likewise. Commissars in general were made of harder stuff than the rest of the mortals, and it showed on this one too. In Andorias’s limited experience, most mortals were cowed by the presence of an Astartes, but the Commissar did not seem to be scared, only reserved and stiff. While this was an admirable trait in a human, in this situation, this only made the Sergeant put him in the ‘dangerous’ category.

We will play according to their own rules, Sergeant, Malistrum had instructed Andorias before the ship had arrived. Since the Commissar was unwilling to address the Space Marines, it seemed it was up to Andorias to speak.

‘My name is Brother-Sergeant Andorias Mortan. I welcome you aboard the Opportunity.’

The commissar slowly saluted. ‘Commissar Lamberg, Faramuntibus PDF,’ he said. Andorias could not help but imagine him to be instructed to play by the rules by his own leaders too.

‘My orders are to escort you to your quarters,’ Andorias continued.

‘This won’t be necessary,’ the other broke in. ‘My men and I were instructed to stay aboard our ship during our stay.’

Andorias frowned.

‘This is an unusual request.’

‘We will not be in the way,’ Lamberg answered.

No explanation, then. The paranoia was something which a Fatemaker could understand, but the same Fatemaker was definitely not used to being dictated, especially not aboard his own ship. Luckily, Malistrum prepared him for similar situations.

‘The Opportunity is ready to leave, Commissar,’ he said. ‘However, I am going to need visual confirmation of the Astropath’s presence before I am to give the signal to go.’

The commissar nodded, turned back towards the inside of his ship and barked an order to his crew. Soon, three more people appeared on the ramp.

The Astropath was a tiny old man with blind eye-sockets. He was not much at first sight, but he represented something grandiose for Andorias: a fighting chance for the survival of his Chapter. The man seemed rather fit, but he was nevertheless accompanied by a naval rating, who was holding onto his hand, not so much as to help him, but rather, to restrain him. The third person was also an armed man, with a visor that covered his face entirely. He was carrying an ornate las-pistol on his hip, the significance of which was beyond Andorias’s experience. Nevertheless, he recognised the armsman for what he was.

A vitifier. A standard bodyguard and executioner, the likes of which used to accompany every single Atsropath in the Imperium.

‘Are you satisfied, Sergeant?’ the Commissar asked.

‘He matches the description we received, yes,’ the other answered.

The description could have been false from the very beginning, of course. Malistrum and his two commanders did not really believe that the Faramuntibus people would try a cheap trick like this, but it paid to be ready. The only reason Andorias insisted on seeing the Astropath was not to confirm his person, but to get him out in plain sight.





Librarian Akichi was wearing his camouflage power armour again; only this time, he was also wearing the helmet. It limited his psychic abilities somewhat, but at least he was undetected again as he tried to contact his psyker peer.

He started with a slight psy-nudge.

Do not react, Astropath Lucas.

The body language of the Astropath did not betray anything, but Akichi saw with his witch-sight that his mind opened and reached out towards him.

Thank the Heavens you are here, Librarian! There was a great deal of relief in his mental voice which Akichi could understand.

Do you know what is happening to you? he transmitted

Fate is in motion, the answer came. Whatever is supposed to happen to me, whatever reason my life was spared for, it will come about now.

The quiet acceptance in the Astropath’s voice unnerved Akichi somewhat. He quickly took over the conversation.

We have made a deal with your people, Astropath. In return for our help, they agreed to give you to us, so you could help us.

Did they want you to help them with the war?

Do you know about it?

There has always been tension. After He passed away, it only got worse. There had been debates and trade sanctions before, now there is war and killing and suffering.

Could you feel it in your quarters?

I could, Librarian.


So the old man was an unusually powerful empath too, besides being able to predict the future. All of this would come in handy once they managed to acquire him, but Akichi could just not forget that this was again suspiciously convenient.

In the real world, the Commissar started to talk to Sergeant Andorias, and turned to go back to the ship. Akichi knew the squad would have to leave soon too.

Astropath Lucas. Did they suspect anything about us?

No. they are ignorant. Their minds are cold and calculating. They are occupied… with victory.


Akichi transmitted a mental question symbol, encouraging the Astropath to continue.

They believe they will win the war with your help. They are willing to part with me in return; they look at me, and even though I have no eyes, I can sense they only see a valuable piece of bargaining currency in me. They are already thinking of how they will use the planet once they have taken it.

We are looking for allies, not slaves
, Akichi projected. You are no currency to us. If you are willing to help us, we can help you in return.

I know
, the answer came. I have foreseen that I would serve you for the rest of my life, and I would be able to fulfil my destiny. Be careful, though, Librarian. The Director is suspicious about you. He sent the Commissar to kill me if he believes you are trying to act against his interest.

We are definitely not on his side, but we are no enemies of his. Have no worry, Astropath Lucas. We are prepared to deal with them if they try and harm you.


Lucas made a mental sigh. I know.

The Astartes squad turned and started to walk towards the hangar exit, but the Librarian was not finished yet.

You have seen it?

I know what you are planning to do. If you make a mistake, a lot of people are going to die.

This is the tenet of our very existence, Astropath. We are responsible for you now, and we have no intention of making mistakes.

Everybody makes mistakes. Even your kind.

It will not happen this time.






[Strike Force Four is not required to take part in any military action on the ground, provided it is not linked to securing the orbit of the planet…

On completion of the liberation of Faramuntibus III’s orbit, the Faramuntibus Directorate agrees to hand over Lucas Mortimer, licensed Astropath of Gamma level, currently attached to the planetary governmental Astropathic cadre, into the custody of the Fatemaker Chapter.

May the Emperor have His blessing upon this treaty. In nomine Imperatoris.]






Faramuntibus III

556 days after the Emperor’s death

A rag-tag fleet was approaching the orbit of the planet.

‘Rag-tag’ was the right expression. The strongest ship in the fleet was, unsurprisingly, the Opportunity, followed in strength by a Dauntless-class light cruiser called Ortansia. There were also several system monitors and modified merchant vessels, the combined firepower of which could in theory match that of the Ortansia. Other craft were following the main fleet at a distance of about half a day: troop transports and freighters carrying fuel, ammunition and all sorts of things necessary for a prolonged military campaign.

And that was it. The entire Faramuntibus Navy consisted of one single capable vessel with a contingent of hastily-modified, consequently, weak, ships. The only reason why they had not lost their civil war a long time ago was that their enemy was in no better shape itself.

As far as Malistrum understood – or, rather, bothered to understand – the Faramuntibus conflict, the underlying theme was an old grudge from the time when the more dynamically developing Faramuntibus IV had managed to usurp the governmental seat from the original ruling planet, Faramuntibus VII. Their feud had been festering for centuries, unchecked by anyone as there was no need to bother with it in a time of relative peace and prosperity. Now that the Emperor had died, things had changed, and an open conflict had broken out almost immediately.

In one of their private meetings, Akichi mentioned to him that the conflict was, in a way, beneficial. The system’s navy was not very strong, and it had split into two at the beginning of the conflict, so the system’s inhabitants did not have the opportunity to engage in a total, all-consuming war. Still, the concept of war focussed their minds, and this was probably the reason how they could recover from the effects of the Withdrawal.

The Librarian did not have a high opinion of this solution. The spiritual wounds had healed on the souls of these people, but the result was similar to a real wound healing while dirt was rubbed into it simultaneously. The scar which would remain after such a wound would be much uglier.

Commissar Lamberg showed all the symptoms of a badly healed psyche. He was edgy and overly suspicious of everything around him. He was standing now next to the Captain on the bridge of the ship as an observer should have, but it was clear that he was not feeling relaxed or confident. Whenever there was some movement nearby, his hands involuntary moved towards his holstered pistol, which in turn kept activating the mental conditions of the Astartes around him. Malistrum himself had come close to breaking the Commissar’s arm at lest four times in the last two days, and he had to do special mental exercises just to be able to tolerate the man.

Thankfully, the mission was near its end. The fleet finally got near its target, and Faramuntibus III was already visible through the viewport.

The planet was the de facto breadbasket of the entire system. Besides heavy agricultural activities, there were also huge grox herds in the equatorial area: the combined output of the entire planet was more than enough to feed everyone in the system. In a typical fashion, the two warring sides started to wage war for it instead of coming to some mutual agreement. There were few settlements on the surface, and it was pointless to destroy the cultivated regions, so the two sides had spent almost a year sending people down on the planet whose sole task was to find the enemy somewhere out in the untamed regions and kill them.

The war was pointless not even in its objective, but also in its execution, which was probably why it was dragged out. However, everything had changed about three months earlier when an unknown cruiser had arrived in the system and allied herself with Outer Faramuntibus. It was obviously a warship as it was able to blockade the planet’s orbit, cutting off all communications and probably destroying the Directorate’s ground forces in the process.

Even with an extra cruiser, the secessionists could not dream of attacking the well-defended capital planet; on the other hand, the Directorate did not have enough forces to break the blockade. The resulting stalemate would eventually go in favour of the secessionists as they had more food sources as the capital, but it would still take years for the conflict to resolve itself – unless the Fatemakers change the dynamics of the war.

‘Enemy fleet is approaching, Brother-Captain,’ the serf at the consoles addressed his Captain. ‘Elements of the blockade force are leaving the orbit to join them.’

Malistrum nodded. The unknown ship did not stay around the orbit: she had returned to Outer Faramuntibus as soon as the planet had been secured. Even so, they had a rather large portion of the defence systems and long-range system scanners in the system, which meant they were well aware of the Directorate fleet approaching. The obvious solution for them was to leave their planet and meet their enemy, preferably before they could land their ground troops.

Malistrum’s plan was also obvious. He would destroy or chase away the new enemy ship and break up the blockade as quickly as possible. He would then wait until the Directorate troop carriers arrived and deployed, he would collect his prize and leave. It could not happen soon enough. Naklonjenost or not, the more time he spent with these people the more he felt that he and his company of Space Marines were doing mere mercenary work.

‘Unknown enemy is identified as a Dictator-class cruiser,’ the serf reported. According to her identification signals, she is called the Star of Reminica.

Malistrum looked at the Commissar.

‘Is the name familiar to you?’

The other shook his head.

‘Check the archives,’ the Captain ordered, then he leaned towards the tactical holographic display showing the planet and its surroundings. ‘Interesting.’

‘What is it?’ Lamberg asked. His crude manners irritated Malistrum, but he was able to hide his feelings.

‘They are not trying to align to us,’ he said. ‘They are approaching on an attack vector, but they are not trying to come level with our keel.’

‘And what does this mean?’

‘This means that the captain of that ship is either very inexperienced or a veteran who doesn’t need to follow conventional space tactics.’

‘Does this mean you cannot beat them?’ Lamberg asked. Malistrum did not answer. There was something menacing in that approach vector, something he could not quite put is finger on. He finally made up his mind.

‘Captain,’ Lamberg spoke again. ‘Does this mean you can’t…’

‘Wait,’ Malistrum raised his finger. His tone was commanding, and the Commissar suddenly found himself shutting up. The Captain gave an order.

‘Open a channel to that vessel.’

‘Channel open, Brother-Captain,’ another serf reported after a few seconds.

Malistrum nodded to himself, leant closer to the vox-speaker built into his command seat and started to speak.

‘This is Brother-Captain Malistrum, Captain of the strike cruiser Opportunity of the Fatemaker Chapter calling hostile vessels. This planet belongs to the rightful rulers of this system, which is the Directorate of Faramuntibus IV. You are defying Imperial law here. The Opportunity has pledged herself to the cause of the Directorate, and we are willing to fight and destroy you if you stand in our way. We are here to secure the orbit, and we will open fire at any hostile vessel approaching. Oppose us at your own peril.’

There was no answer for a few seconds. Malistrum waited patiently, and his patience finally rewarded him with an answer.

‘This is Brother-Captain Barandiya of the cruiser Star of Reminica of the Howling Griffons Astartes Chapter calling the Opportunity.’ The voice coming from the vox-speaker was strong and confident, with a strange undertone. Malistrum would have been ignorant of it two years earlier, but he had been exposed to similar impulses himself, and now he was able to identify irony and sarcasm. ‘This planet belongs to the rightful rulers of this system, which is the original governmental seat, the Oligarchy of Faramuntibus VII. We are defying no Imperial law here; in fact, we are here to enforce it ourselves. The Star of Reminica has pledged herself to the cause of the Oligarchy, and we are willing to fight and destroy you if you stand in our way. We are here to secure the orbit, and we will open fire at any hostile vessel approaching.’ The voice waited for a moment for bigger emphasis. ‘We are here to oppose you, Brother-Captain, and we have brought our own peril with us.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 36)

Postby qah » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:41 pm

Boy, that escalated quickly.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 36)

Postby librisrouge » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:10 pm

Plus, in dealing with a chapter like the Howling Griffons, there is little to no chance of making them back down. Either the Fatemakers will be forced to confront them or they'll have to betray their own treaty.

*shakes magic 8 ball*

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 36)

Postby Midgard » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:59 pm

It is about to get out of hand soon... From what I recall of Howling Griffons, they seem to be the type to shoot first, and ask lots of questions later, and they definitely seem to be in a trigger-happy mode here. I wonder if the Fatemakers will be able to come to some sort of a truce with them... but given that this is 50K with its emphasis on things getting darker and darker, I wonder if the truce will be agreed to by the few survivors of that battle... if there are any.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 36)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am

You are all right with the Howling Griffons: it is no wonder I chose that Chapter to oppose the Fatemakers.

Let's see what they can make out of each other.




Part 37


Captain Malistrum stood motionless.

He was painfully aware of all the people on the bridge looking at him. The serfs at the various consoles and Commissar Lamberg were all watching him in silent anticipation. As so often in the last few months, this was again one of those moments: frozen silence, a moment of calmness before the calamity begun.

He made a cutting gesture, and the vox attendant broke the link with the other vessel. ‘Confirm the identity of the Star of Reminica,’ he then commanded.

The serf he had addressed turned back to his instruments, and spent a few seconds checking the information appearing on his display.

‘Identity confirmed, Brother-Captain,’ he said quietly. ‘The Star of Reminica is indeed the property of the Howling Griffons Chapter.’

Malistrum turned to the Commissar next to him.

‘Did you know anything of this?’ he asked. His voice was deceptively calm, which the other seemed to completely ignore. He shrugged.

‘There was no intelligence suggesting that the new enemies are Astartes warriors. Still, this doesn’t change anything.’

‘Oh, it changes quite a lot,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Check the archives again,’ he told his crew. ‘I want to know how this ship got into the Malachias Sector. Raise shields and alert the rest of the crew. Cancel the boarding instructions, and initiate boarding-repellent protocols. Sergeant Andorias and Hemethor link with the support auxilia, and wait for further instructions.’

Now frantic activity ensued. The serfs overcame the shock of the new development well enough to fulfil their duty. The Captain saw all this, but he barely registered it.

Astartes in the Malachias Sector! Not only that, but Astartes on the other side of a military conflict! The implications of all this were too far-reaching, too terrible to even contemplate on, but he had no choice. At most he had a couple of minutes to solve the issue in any meaningful way, before…

Before he was forced to open fire upon his own distant kin.

‘Re-open the link,’ he commanded.

‘Brother-Captain Barandiya, This is Captain Malistrum,’ he started his speech. ‘I believe we have some things to discuss.’

‘We can speak, Brother-Captain,’ the answer came ‘although not for a long time, I’m afraid.’ There was a soft chuckle. ‘I suppose the first thing you would like to know is how we actually get here in the first place.’

‘That would be a good start, yes,’ Malistrum agreed.

‘Since this sector belongs to your jurisdiction, I believe you have the right to know. Very well. My cruiser belonged to the task-force sent to reinforce Warmaster Anastatico Koffa and the Julianus Crusade. We travelled through this sector approximately five years ago, and we duly noticed your Chapter about our presence. It appears you were not informed about this.’

‘My Chapter typically operates in long-ranged strike forces,’ Malistrum said cautiously. ‘We have had no contact with our main force for several decades.’

‘Quite understandable,’ Barandiya said. ‘I have not heard from my Chapter for a while. At any rate, the crusade has made a resounding victory about two years earlier. We managed to cut the enemy forces in three groups, and my task-force was charged with harassing and destroying one of them.’ his voice went softer. ‘Exactly 556 days ago, we were in the Warp, executing a journey to our next rally-point.’

Malistrum grimaced. ‘You were in the Warp when the Extinction happened.’

There was a little sigh on the other side of the link.

‘So this is what they call it now.’ A little pause followed. ‘Brother-Captain, I have no intention of discussing with you that event or any possible implication.’ Barandiya’s voice gained a steely edge now. ‘Right now, it doesn’t matter what happened there, and I’m not going to make any guess. This is my final say in it, and I will not speak about it. Understand this, or our conversation ends here.’

‘Understood, Brother-Captain,’ Malistrum answered. As a matter of fact, he would have had a lot of questions, but he understood his peer’s state of mind on this topic far too well. ‘Let’s talk about the Faramuntibus system then.’

‘Ah, yes, Faramuntibus. Well, to be completely honest, we had no reason to come here, except that we needed to stop somewhere to re-fill our stocks, and this was the place where we could finally exit the Warp at the end of the journey. We asked for permission for docking and refit at the first available space-port, which happened to be Faramuntibus VI. We presented our case to them, to which they presented their case to us.’

‘That’s it?’ Malistrum was incredulous. ‘Brother-Captain Barandiya, I can assure you that the Oligarchy is not the rightful ruler of the system. I have in my possession statements of Imperial judges who have clearly…’

‘I’m sure you do, Brother-Captain,’ Barandiya interrupted. ‘I’m sorry to break in, but it seems to me that you don’t have a lot of experience with Imperial politics. Am I correct?’

Malistrum frowned. ‘What is this supposed to mean?’

‘What I mean is that our kind rarely has to interfere in everyday Imperial legislation and politics,’ the answer came. ‘We don’t have to be involved because we are always in a strong position. When we go somewhere, it is because we are badly needed. We demand things in return: provisions, manpower; things which we can use to go on. We never have to actually negotiate with them or understand their point of view.’

‘Again, what is your point, Brother-Captain?’

‘My point is that the Imperium is woefully negligent of its own client worlds,’ Barandiya explained. Malistrum could not ignore the tiredness in his opponent’s voice. ‘As long as they pay the tithe, and they keep their business to themselves, the higher authorities usually leave them to their own devices. I have only started to understand this recently myself. I’m sure that your people have legitimate documents which entitle them to govern the entire system, just as mine have a judicial ruling placing them back into power. The fact is, they both went to two different courts, and the two courts made two different verdicts. It may take centuries for them to solve this case, but the point is clear: at this present moment, both worlds are the rightful rulers of the system.’

Malistrum looked aside only to see that Commissar Lamberg was looking at him with cold, unreadable eyes. The Captain himself could not help clenching his fist during Barandiya’s speech. It was shocking to hear a fellow Space Marine talk like this, but it was also equally shocking to hear his own views back from the mouth of a complete stranger. What the Howling Griffon had said was not new to the Captain, although his own experience did not involve politics, only the military aspect of the Imperium. He had seen things, but not quite like this. For the Imperium to make such an impossible act…

He had to realize that he barely understood the people he was supposed to protect.

‘The Star of Reminica has launched fighter wings, my lord,’ one of the serfs warned him from his console.

Malistrum looked at the tactical display. The enemy cruiser was Dictator-class; effectively a carrier, the main strength of which was its ability to release a veritable school of fighters. With the right training and combination, these small and agile vessels were capable of crippling even capital ships.

‘Launch our own fighters, and order them to form a protective shield around the Opportunity,’ he ordered before returning to the display. He was dividing his attention now between Barandiya and the imminent tactical situation, ignoring the coldness in his chest.

‘I mattered little which side I would have supported,’ the other Captain continued. ‘The reason I sided with the Oligarchy was that I contacted them first, and they were technically not secessionists. I had the right to side with them, so I did.’

‘I see, Brother-Captain,’ Malistrum said. ‘What I don’t understand now is why you are telling me all this.’

‘Because I want you to understand my situation,’ Barandiya answered. ‘Our situation, actually. It doesn’t matter why we are here in this system. It is obvious that we both needed something which these people could give us. In return, we gave our word that we would wage their war for them, and that is the only thing that actually matters.’

‘Four minutes until effective long-range, my lord,’ a serf interrupted.

‘Captain, you must stop this pointless discourse and act now,’ the Commissar warned.

Malistrum ignored him.

‘Captain! I demand that you observe the tre…’

Now the Astartes Captain looked at the mortal with murder in his eyes. Lamberg shut up immediately. All the while, Barandiya’s voice continued to boom in the vox-speakers: every word was a cold, painful stab for the leader of Strike Force Four.

‘I was hoping that you have no close affiliation with your side, but I was obviously fooling myself. Our kind does not pledge itself to action unless we really mean it; and our word is law. I gave my personal word to the Oligarch that I would maintain the blockade regardless of the cost, and I am sure you have made a similar pact with the Directorate. We are enemies, Brother-Captain. I am sorry, but this is the case, and I suspect you would have tried to convince me otherwise. We are both bound by our oaths.’

Malistrum leaned very close to the speaker.

‘By oaths that force us both to shed fellow Astartes blood,’ he said in a grave voice.

The answer was an initial sigh.

‘It happens. Does this surprise you? I am sorry. You would know this if you had more contact with other Chapters. We Howling Griffons have fought against other Space Marines, and not just against heretics like the Tyrant or the Soul Drinkers. It has happened before, and it will happen again.’

Barandiya shocked Malistrum with these last words more than he could have imagined.

‘I have to return now to my crew, Brother-Captain. We both have a battle to win. I would wish you good luck, but… there is really no point in it, is there? Barandiya out.’

The vox went silent. Malistrum stepped back, and raised his fingers to his chin in contemplation.

‘Three minutes until long-range, my lord,’ the serf added.

‘Captain! You must act now! Astartes or not, they are enemies, they said it themselves!’ Lamberg burst out. ‘If you don’t have the guts to face your own kind…’

‘Open a general intervox link,’ Malistrum ordered, as if the Commissar were not even there.

‘Observe the treaty!’ Lamberg cried. His hand slid onto his bolt pistol again. ‘Obey the Directorate! Ob…’

Malistrum moved too quickly for the others to see what happened. Lamberg suddenly cried in pain, and the Captain stepped back, the bolt pistol – with the holster, the belt and part of the Commissar’s torn uniform firmly in his hand.

‘Do not make the mistake of believing that you are my better,’ he said coldly. His fist clenched, and the bolt pistol broke in half between his fingers. ‘Try something like this again, and I will seriously hurt you.’

The Commissar back into a corner of the bridge, with a look on his face which bordered between pain, fear and hate. Malistrum did not care. He let the pistol parts fall on the floor, and stepped to the speaker again.

‘Crew of the Opportunity, brothers, humans, Ogryns,’ he said. ‘I hoped this day would never come, but it seems anything is possible these crazy days. The enemy we are facing is another Space Marine company. That’s is right, we are forced to fight loyalist Imperial Astartes now.’

He allowed a few seconds for the crew to take this in, and continued. ‘I now how you feel about this news because I feel the same way. even so, we are committed to our mission just as they are. We are facing our equals today. We are facing our brothers today. Nevertheless, we will fight, and we will win. I need your trust in this just as you have granted me your trust on countless other battles. I know that everyone will do their best no matter what the Galaxy throws at us. Fight hard and survive. Malistrum out.’

The Captain nodded to the serf, who turned off the vox, and went back to the tactical display for a final time. He looked at the enemy position with slightly narrowed eyes.

‘One minutes until long-range contact, my lord,’ the serf warned him for the last time.

Malistrum turned back to the crew.

‘Accelerate the ship,’ he ordered. There was no doubt in his voice, no hesitation, only the cold determination to win. ‘Engage her.’





The so-called ‘Battle of Faramuntibus’ would become a famous landmark in the late chronicles of the Fatemaker Chapter; one which would be remembered as long as there was any Fatemaker left to remember it. Also, it would become a dark stain in the memory of every single participant involved. The after-effects and the long-term consequences of the engagement would resonate centuries after the actual battle, and it would become synonymous with the term ‘misunderstanding.’

The battle itself was almost beautiful to behold. As the Directorate forces, with the Opportunity at the forefront, accelerated to meet the enemy, the Oligarchy’s leading ship, the Star of Reminica, spread out its own vessels and sent two of them – two Cobra-class escorts – to encircle the Directorates in a loose crest-like formation. The two capital vessels instructed their forces well: the first few minutes were devoted to positioning, and although the first shots were fired at maximum range, barely any hits and absolutely no damage was made.

Captain Malistrum was watching the unfolding scene with impassive eyes. Any hesitation he might have felt disappeared entirely from his mind. He had made the decision to engage and he was committed now: his Astartes conditioning closed any emotional or ethical considerations except for the desire to win. He ignored the skulking Commissar at the periphery of his vision, too. Whatever problems he would have with the Directorate later was also irrelevant.

‘Instruct the rest of the fleet to fall back,’ he ordered. ‘We will pull the Star of Reminica away from the main battle-line. In the meanwhile, they are to form a gunline with the Ortensia on the left flank. Keep them dispersed until the Cobras release their torpedoes, then engage.’

The crew relayed his orders, to which he nodded, and returned to the display. As the two fleets changed formation, it was clear that the main enemy vessel was thinking in the same terms as him. The Star of Reminica broke away from her own formation, intent on fight it out with her main opponent without interruption.

Malistrum had no objection. He was watching as the Star of Reminica approached from under the Opportunity’s relative vertical plane. It seemed that the Howling Griffons were intent on ramming, which was, of course, out of question. Barandiya must have had other means at his disposal to bring his forces to victory.

Malistrum knew about at least two of these means. The Star of Reminica had multiple fighter wings, all of which had seemingly been launched. The fighters of the Opportunity were deployed in their usual shield formation, ready to repel any possible attack coming from them. The display showed more enemy wings than the Opportunity’s, but their movement suggested a kind of carefulness which their greater number did not justify.

The other weapon he had to be careful about was the set of torpedo launchers built into the enemy ship’s prow. Captain Barandiya did not have a regular Astartes strike cruiser under his command. Those ships, the Opportunity included, were designed to allow their Space Marine masters to wage space and orbital battles the way they liked it best: strike cruisers allowed more boarding and close combat options than the other Imperial classes. Close-quarter warfare, however, meant that those ships had to sacrifice long-range punching force, which was something the Imperial Navy excelled at. The Star of Reminica was an old-school Imperial design, with the typical triangular prow and the regular set of torpedoes built into her massive structure. In theory, Captain Barandiya could unleash a deadly salvo of six torpedoes, more than enough to cripple or destroy even a strike cruiser like the Fatemaker vessel.

If the Fatemakers let themselves to be destroyed. The Opportunity, like all ships in her category, was equipped with enough anti-ordnance weaponry to defend herself from a torpedo attack. The way Malistrum saw it, the best chance the Star of Reminica had was to order her fighters to engage their Fatemaker peers, effectively neutralizing both sides, while she launched he torpedoes simultaneously. The Opportunity would probably weather both attacks, but at least the Howling Griffons would hold the initiative, which, in Astartes hands, was almost half they needed to win.

Malistrum frowned. If Barandiya wanted to act upon his strength, the right moment should have been at least two minutes earlier. A Space Marine Captain would not hesitate so much unless he had a different plan to carry out, Malistrum had no intention to wait for.

First move would be done by the Fatemakers, then.

‘Prepare vertical thrusters,’ he ordered. ‘We will turn onto their vertical plane. Descending thrust on port back thrusters on twenty per cent, starboard front thrusters at eighty per cent, the others on fifty per cent, and turn starboard by twenty degrees. Engage on my mark.’

‘Yes, my lord,’ the answer came.

Malistrum had a few more seconds to look at the tactical map. The other halves of the two fleets engaged, and started to pummel each other. The way he saw it, they would effectively destroy each other. But for the Star of Reminica

He might be right. There was only one way to find out.

‘Engage.’

Only the faintest tremor indicated that the Opportunity changed course, and was now turning to meet the enemy head on. The tactical display shifted angle, but the Captain adjusted easily enough. The Star of Reminica finally reacted: a pair of red icons appeared between the two ships.

‘Enemy has launched two torpedoes, my lord.’

Two?

‘Prepare anti-ordnance weapons, and watch out for new torpedo salvoes.’ Malistrum hesitated for a moment, as a new idea was slowly forming in his mind. ‘Scan the enemy ship. If they launch another salvo, I want to know which tubes they used.’

‘I cannot guarantee a reading on that, my lord.’

‘Just try your best.’

Another few minutes passed. Space battles were not exactly quick affairs: unless the ships were really close to one another, or a truly lucky hit crippled a vessel, the engagement was slow-paced, with only the occasional position adjustments and ammunition and shield reports breaking the tension-filled silence. Malistrum watched as the torpedoes ran through the distance between the two ships, catching up with their own fighter wings. Just as he expected, the enemy fighters chose just this moment to jump at the Opportunity’s wings, to keep them occupied while the torpedoes continued their journey.

‘Kill those torpedoes,’ Malistrum ordered in an indifferent fashion. He knew two torpedoes would never get through on their own. He was counting now in his head, all the while looking at the display on the tactical screen. The icons representing the fighter wings were completely intertwined, hinting at the ferocious fighter battle out in space.

‘What are our fighter losses so far?’ he asked.

‘Six… no, seven fighters, my lord.’

‘Six fighters,’ Malistrum said quietly. He raised his head.

‘Contact Wing-Commander Charadan, if he is alive.’

It took approximately a minute to reach the leader of the Opportunity’s fighter wings, which was another indication of the serious fighting. Malistrum continued counting.

‘Charadan here,’ the voice of the commander finally came through the speaker.

‘This is Captain Malistrum, Wing-Commander,’ Malistrum said. ‘I need an assessment from you about the enemy fighter wings. Am I right that they are not full strength?’

There was a moment of silence. Malistrum waited patiently while he was still looking at the display, waiting for another torpedo salvo to appear.

It did not, and Caradan’s voice soon returned.

‘I checked my sub-commanders, my lord. One moment…’ the voice faltered, no doubt as a result of an enemy fighter passing by. ‘Sorry, my lord. All pilots reporting that the enemy wings are not full strength. In fact, some of them seem to be at half strength only.’

Malistrum nodded. The losses suffered by his own fighters were surprisingly low, and this fact explained it just fine.

‘Thank you, Wing-Commander. Malistrum out.’

The bridge broke contact, and the Captain devoted his whole attention to the display again. Finally, he got what he was looking for: another pair or red icons appearing in front of the Star of Reminica.

‘Two more torpedoes are launched, my lord.’

‘Are they coming from the same tubes?’ the Captain asked.

‘It is hard to say for sure, my lord, but by these readings, I would say yes.’

A dry smile formed on the Captain’s lips.

The Howling Griffons were fighting on low reserves. He was suspicious when he heard that they had just returned from a serious crusade. No force, Astartes or human, would go on for years without depleting their manpower, their fighting machines or their specialized gear. Captain Barandiya had only enough ratings and overseers to operate two torpedo tubes, and he did certainly not have enough aircraft to punch through the Fatemaker lines. He could not build upon the main strength of his own ship. The Howling Griffons were weakened and vulnerable.

There was a degree of sadness in this thought. It would very well be the same case with Strike Force Four with the situation they were in. In the present battle, however, this was just a weakness which he could – and would – exploit to his advantage.

‘Accelerate and bring the Opportunity forward. Engage starboard thrusters and show the enemy our portside to her.’

The helmsman frowned. He was a veteran of space battles, and this order was… unusual. It would have been much easier to turn the starboard side of the Opportunity towards the enemy. The two ships were still aligning: by the Captain’s manoeuvre, the Fatemakers would have had to pass before the prow of the Star of Reminica, allowing her to fire with her torpedoes again.

‘I know, helmsman,’ Malistrum said, guessing what was going on in his serf’s head. ‘I have a plan. Execute the manoeuvre.’

‘Yes, my lord.’

The Astartes vessel turned ponderously, and passed the enemy’s axis. The Captain was vindicated: the enemy did not try to launch new torpedoes. Apparently, Barandiya did not even have enough crew to operate the two tubes properly.

‘Fire bombardment cannons,’ he ordered.

The Opportunity opened fire. This was not the ideal firing range yet, and the Star of Reminica’s shields held, but it seemed that the Fatemakers were beginning the upper hand. Unless Barandiya did something drastic, the dynamics of the battle would shift irrevocably towards the Directorate’s side.

And this was what worried Malistrum. Space Marines, especially a veteran like the Howling Griffon commander, thrived on warfare, and they were always capable of turning a tactical situation back on their enemies. Barandiya could have not been the exception. He had to have something more.

‘Possible engine signatures activated behind us, my lord.’

Something like this.

Malistrum looked at the display and saw that four small dots appeared behind his ship. His eyes narrowed.

‘Repel them.’

The dots approached the ship: two of them took the lead, while the other two fell behind. Reaching the perimeter which marked the range of the Opportunity’s anti-aircraft turrets, first the leading two, then the last two dots disappeared.

‘Confirmed hits on the leading vessels, my lord,’ one of the serfs reported. ‘No confirmation on the rest.’

An image started to form in Malistrum’s mind: the battle at Belandon, before the Extinction, when he commanded two Aquila fighters to sacrifice themselves so the more precious cargo: vessels filled with Astartes warriors could reach their destination.

‘Boarding alert,’ he commanded, ignoring the curious looks on the faces of his crew. The sirens veiled on the bridge as the alert was announced. Malistrum stepped back to the vox systems.

‘Put me through to Sergeants Hemethor and Andorias.’

The two Sergeants reported back at once.

‘We are being boarded by the Howling Griffons,’ Malistrum started without any preamble. ‘They will probably enter the Enginarium section on the two sides of the ship. You must stop them.’

‘Understood, Captain,’ the two officers answered in unison.

‘Make no mistake, brothers,’ the Captain continued. ‘The enemy will be Astartes today. Loyalist Astartes. Our cousins from another Chapter who just happen to be on the other side of a conflict. Yet you cannot hesitate to engage and kill them is necessary. This is a dark battle, but we have to win it for the Chapter.’

Now there was a moment of silence.

‘We will not let you down, Captain,’ Hemethor’s voice answered. a second later, Andorias assented.

‘Thank you. I count on you. Take the mortal auxilia, and find them. We will report their position from here on the bridge.’

‘Understood, Captain.’

‘Understood, Captain.’

Malistrum sighed.

‘Andorias. Hemethor.’ The two others could not ignore the fact that the Captain called them by their name only. ‘I want prisoners. I want prisoners even if it means you lose men.’

‘They are just like us, Captain,’ Andorias answered. ‘Even if they capture some of them, the other Captain will not surrender.’

‘I don’t need prisoners because I want them to surrender,’ Malistrum answered. There was a strange glint in his eyes which the two Sergeants could not see. ‘I want to use them to defeat the Howling Griffons in one strike.’
Meaneye
 
Posts: 122
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:47 pm


Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 37)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:58 pm

Update time again.

I have been working on it the whole day, and it seems I will be very busy with other things soon, so the next update will be postponed a little. I will definitely finish this chapter of the story this year, but I don't know how much time I will have for it during the holidays, so I will update as I can.

Part of the above reason is that there will be a Games Day event in Hungary in two weeks, and I will be busy painting for it. Once it is over, I will link a few pictures of the gaming table for consolation (We will play 6mm EPIC Armageddon on two tables pushed together, with about 10-10 thousand points of painted armies, so it will be quite a sight :D ).




Part 38




The Howling Griffons had broken through the Opportunity’s outer hull at two points, both of which were as close to the Enginarium as possible. To win time, the two squads left their Cestus pods back and headed for the generators right away.

The leader of the whole operation was called Sergeant Harald: a veteran of countless engagements, including the Badab Wars. It was no accident that he was selected for this task. He had fought Astartes, loyalist and traitor alike, and he was not afraid to spill blood if the success of the mission demanded it. He had been instructed thoroughly by Captain Barandiya, and he knew very well what was at stake here. He was determined and desperate in equal amount, ready to kill anyone who stood in his way.

His squad was equipped for a boarding mission. Two of his men were carrying reinforced storm-shields and bolters, but there were also some equipped with meltaguns and close-combat power fists. They were alert to the smallest sound or noise. They were intruding into the territory of the most dangerous creatures in existence. Space Marines were notoriously hard to kill: they knew it because they were Space Marines themselves. By all estimate, Harald expected the kill ratio in this battle to be one to one, with perhaps a handful of his Marines surviving by the end.

The forward trio – the two people with the storm shields and a backup – gestured from the end of the corridor, indicating to the Sergeant that they had arrived at the point where they were supposed to meet the other squad. The man also indicated with his hands that the others had arrived there too.

For security purposes, vox contact was not encouraged between the squads. Sergeant Harald went forward, and the two shield-bearers opened a way for him as he passed. Harald frowned as he saw that the other squad was waiting for them at the intersection of the two long corridors.

‘Any sign of the enemy?’ he asked, using only his normal voice.

The other squad-leader shook his head, to which he cursed inwardly. What was going on here? In theory, they could have arrived unannounced, although this was unlikely seeing as how they punched two holes into the vessel, causing decompression and oxygen loss, which the ship’s automatic systems compensated immediately. Boarding alert should have been screaming all over the Opportunity, and the crew should have been throwing themselves at them before they did some irreparable damage to the ship.

Nothing like this happened. The corridors were empty and silent, and this made Harald’s skin crawl. He just knew that the Fatemakers would have something nasty waiting for them.

His men were looking at him expectantly. They understood the situation just as well as he did, but they were not the ones giving the orders. That responsibility was solely his, and he had to decide how to move on with the mission.

Returning to the Star of Reminica was out of question, and so only one possible decision remained. He looked at his two squads one last time to take stock of the forces at his disposal. He had close-combat specialists in his squad, while the other consisted of six Terminators with the regular power fist-storm bolter weapon combination. One of them had his storm bolter holstered, and was carrying a small chest-sized device in his hand: a teleport homer, which theoretically allowed them to return to their ship after they disabled the shield generators and the engines. The Howling Griffons had enough melta-charges for this task to level a small city, and they had studied the internal structure of the Opportunity’s vessel class. They were as ready to go as they would ever be.

Harald finally made up his mind.

‘Let’s go,’ he ordered, and the sixteen Space Marines turned into the next corridor.





Captain Malistrum was watching the enemy Howling Griffons setting off again with folded arms. This was perhaps the first time he was disappointed with the other Astartes, although his disappointment was directed more towards the Imperium in general.

He never understood how people can build warships and not set up cameras everywhere in them. Not just on the bridge or in the hangar bay, but everywhere. What was the point in leaving out whole areas of the ship’s internal structure from the surveillance system? He had seen vessels where the captains had absolutely no idea what was going on in whole sections of their own ship. Some even said the ratings living there were not important enough for surveillance, or even that the ship was too ancient; as if any of these reasons had been valid.

The Opportunity was full of concealed security cameras. If he wanted to, he could have seen the approaching Space Marines from two or three different angles in black and white display. The cameras showed clearly as the small enemy team went on to what they believed to be the main corridor towards the Enginarium. Malistrum sighed inwardly, and opened the vox-link to his Sergeants.

‘Enemy consists of ten regular Marines with two storm-shields, three meltaguns, three powerfists and a power sword plus six Terminators with basic weaponry. We are relaying information of their position. They are going to end up at choke point 6/C.’

‘The Terminators will never get through there,’ Hemethor concluded.

‘They will move on towards ambush point 4/C,’ Andorias added.

‘Agreed. Prepare the ambush.’ Malistrum hesitated for a moment. ‘Did the auxilia join you?’

‘Yes, my lord.’

The Captain was not especially happy about this. He sacrificed mortals when he needed to, but he was not keen on it, and he knew he was now sending his mortal subordinates to their death. There was no way they would survive this engagement without casualties.

Still, he needed an edge over the enemy Astartes, and it had to be number and overwhelming force. He closed his eyes, and gave the order.

‘Go and defeat them.’





Sergeant Harald was confused.

The plans he received of this vessel class clearly indicated the corridor would end in a T-section, where they were supposed to turn right. The T-section was there all right, but it was oddly shaped. For some reason, the right corridor was narrowed down to an almost ridiculous width. Even a regular human would have had difficulties pushing through it, and the Astartes, especially the Terminators, had zero chance of fitting in there.

The Sergeant had to improvise. There was an alternative route marked in the blueprints of the vessel, and even though the team would have wasted time going there, it was an option while the narrow corridor was not.

‘To the left, he ordered.’





The space-battle continued to rage. Malistrum looked at the tactical display and saw, somewhat disapprovingly, that although the Ortansia had managed to destroy one of the Cobras, she received a torpedo hit from the other which almost took her out of actions. The rest of the two fleets started to kill each other at more or less the same pace. By the time this battle was over, nothing would remain of either the Directorate or the Oligarchy forces – unless the fight between the two Astartes ships came to a quick conclusion.

He turned back to the intruders’ display. They were walking down another corridor now which they probably believed would take them around the choke point and back towards the engines. He wondered if they were following some kind of map.





The forward trio stopped again. Harald sighed impotently, and went forward to see what the problem was. He passed his shield-bearers again and stopped, just like the rest of the team.

Where another T-section should have been, he only saw a set of stairs leading downwards. No junction, not even any hint that there were two other corridors to choose from. There was a simple one-way stairs which was not indicated on the blueprint in any way whatsoever.

He looked left and right to see if there was any welded door which could have indicated the corridors. He found none.





Normally, Malistrum might even have felt some form of satisfaction seeing the misery of his enemies, but this was not one of those engagements.

The interior of the ship had been re-built more than fifty years earlier. The Opportunity received serious wounds in that mission, and Strike Force Four was forced to include all the repairs into the naklonjenost-treaty with the hive-world they had defended from Eldar corsairs. Since the ship had spent almost a year in the docks, Malistrum decided to turn the simple overhaul into a strategic rebuilding project, and asked the tech-priests of that world to completely re-design all the internal rooms and corridors aboard the vessel. The Opportunity had not been boarded ever since, but the Astartes contingent saw this as a wise investment anyway, and, after fifty years, there was finally a pay-off.

‘Enemy approaching the ambush point,’ he voxed.

‘We are ready, Brother-Captain,’ the answer came.





This is an ambush. You have led your group into an ambush.

These words filled Sergeant Harald’s thoughts as he was trying to work out his next move. The last corridor had left him and his team into a large, spacious hall with only one reinforced door on the opposite wall. The room was at least two storeys high, and it was completely empty.

Even the Emperor designed this room to house an ambush. Sergeant Harald cold not have imagined a better attack point himself. All they needed to do was to walk up to the middle of the room, and the trap would be sprung.

‘Defensive formation,’ he hissed. ‘Terminators on the flanks, shields in the middle.’

The Howling Griffons obeyed. The two squads formed an impregnable fortress of ceramite and bolter. No force in creation – Astartes or not – would break up a similar defensive formation. If the Fatemakers wanted to attack now, they were welcome to it.

The formation was waiting, weapons ready to unleash hell. Helmets turned slowly and visors blinked as the instruments built into their armour scanned the area. There was no noise and hardly any movement.

The squad waited on.





The orbit around Faramuntibus III calmed down somewhat as the two sides were running out of usable warships. The Opportunity and the Star of Reminica continued to shoot each other with maximum intensity, although their effort was somewhat reduced by the distance the two vessels had put between each other. The surviving captains of the fleets saw this, and occasionally, they wondered why the Astartes cruisers stopped manoeuvring and positioning themselves, instead settling for long-range fire which the shield absorbed with little difficulty. To an outsider, it really seemed that both vessels were waiting for something: as if the pieces of a separate game had been set up by both sides, and they were waiting for one side to lose patience and make the first move.





No attack came, and sergeant Harald started to realize that even if it had been a trap, the Fatemakers would not spring it while the Howling Griffons were standing there, waiting.

The problem was that his team was operating on a tight schedule. The Star of Reminica could not maintain her optimal performance for long, and unless Harald succeeded in crippling the ship, Captain Barandiya would eventually lose the battle. He had to move forward, trap or no trap.

He gave brief signals to his Marines, and the formation shifted. Three Terminators detached from the main group, while the gap they had left behind closed behind them immediately. Slowly, Harald led the three others to the great iron door on the opposite side of the hall.

Silence was his only reward on the other side. He cast an uncertain look at the three Terminators, then he stepped to the door, and placed his hand on it.

There was still nothing.

Harald sighed, and yelled up into the air.

‘This is as far as we get!’ He looked around to see whether he could elicit any reaction. ‘We will not get any more exposed! You might as well attack us here and now.’

He stepped back and waited. His men readied themselves.

There was a crackle in the air, similar to the sound of a vox unit activated. A single commanding voice addressed the Howling Griffons.

‘You are right, Sergeant. Andorias, Hemethor: commence attack.’

Harald and his three Terminators raised their weapons; the Astartes wall did likewise. The door slowly rose.

They were invaded by the sound even before they could see the enemy. The Fatemakers came with a bestial, inhuman howl, the kind of battle cry which would have been worthy of some feral tribe, not the Emperor’s superhuman warriors. Harald aimed at the point he knew an Astartes head would be once the door fully opened. He could catch a quick glimpse of the corridor behind the door, and for a fraction of a second, he could see the power-armoured legs of the charging enemy.

Then the door rose up, and the four of them opened fire immediately. Herald saw that his quick burst exploded against the chestplate of the huge figure in front of him. He saw the great warhammer the figure raised high in the air to strike him down; then his battle instincts kicked in, he jumped back, and the hammer fell.

The world exploded in front of him. The noise and the shock shut down all his sensors for a second, and the unconscious part of his brain took control over his body. He fell hard on his back, rolled on and arrived in a crouching position, aiming towards the direction of the attack.

His senses came back just in time to see his attacked raising the warhammer again. It was no Astartes. It was not even human. It was a towering brute, a parody of the pure human form wearing body armour and a smooth, impassive iron mask. His enemy was an Ogryn.

There was no time to think. Harald let loose a full salvo of bolters, emptying half his magazine into the abhuman. The bolts impacted, and exploded all over his armour with no visible damage. Harald’s eyes opened wide behind his visor.

An Ogryn in POWER ARMOUR?

That was all the time he had before the Ogryn stroke, and he had to roll aside again.

The strike pulverized the floorboard behind him with a deep sonic booming noise. Jagged metal splinters peppered on his own power armour, and the shockwave created by the attack actually rolled him over one more time. The Sergeant put his foot hard on the floor, shifted his whole bodyweight on it, and jumped forward.

It was a desperate attack, but not a foolish one. This monster had the reach and the raw physical power to chance him all over the room, and a direct hit from that strange-looking hammer would have killed him outright. Attacking was an option which the Ogryn was not prepared for, and at such close quarters, Harald had the advantage with his shorter power sword.

He stabbed upwards. The sword went through between two plates of the Ogryn’s chestplate. It stuck almost immediately with a grinding, sizzling sound, but the Sergeant leaned into the push, and he buried the blade into his enemy’s body almost down to the hilt. The Ogryn yelled out in pain, but then the sword reached his heart, and it silenced him for good.

Harald pulled the sword out with a grunt. The body fell down slowly, and the Howling Griffon was concealed for a second from the rest of the battlefield, which gave him a moment to think and observe.

The shouting continued. Harald could see that the gunline of his squad was firing wildly towards the door. The dead Ogryn’s body did not let him see it properly, but he could still see the outline of further dark shapes running towards his men. More Ogryns were attacking, and although he could not see it from the body, it seemed that his three Terminators could stem their tide a little, which allowed his other Astartes to gun down the rest. At least two more giants fell over in his field his vision, and as his own Ogryn slowly slumped down on the ground, he could have a better look at who he had just killed.

He let out a wild, snarling curse. The Ogryn was not wearing power armour. It was a set of crude, reinforced ceramite plates, which covered the entire body, not unlike his own Astartes armour; but the difference ended here. The servo-motors at the joints were primitive and non-functional, barely allowing the wearer to move the plates on one another. This kind of armour was completely impractical for a Space Marine because it would have made them slow and lumbering, but this was no problem for an Ogryn who was not agile or nimble anyway.

The weapon which had almost flattened the Sergeant was similarly crude-looking. It was a type of reinforced maul with a built-on power generator, which did not even look like it was working continuously. Before the Ogryn stroke, he had to pull a big, protruding lever on the side of the whole thing, which presumably activated the generator for a few seconds. It was difficult to believe that anyone would design a primitive weapon like this with any complicated technology, but yet…

Any type of servo-armour had to be designed to one specific individual. Who would waste effort into creating battlegear for an Ogryn? The generators in those mauls would probably only contain enough energy to allow ten, maybe twelve strikes. The armour joints would break down after a few days’ use. What kind of Astartes had the mind and willingness to turn an abhuman into a shock troop like these?

What manner of Astartes were these Fatemakers?

The Ogryn finally fell on the ground, and the Sergeant was no longer blocked. He saw his Terminators separated from him by the onrushing abhumans, as they were gunning for them from the other side of the door. Between them and the gunline, they effectively kept the enemies pinned at the entrance.

There was a flicker of movement at the top left corner of his vision. He looked up sharply. He gasped.

‘DISPERSE AND COVER!’ he yelled, even though he knew it was too late.

This hall was designed to be a trap for a reason. Hidden panels slid open at the height of the second level, and rock-crete grey armoured Space Marines appeared all over the wall. They wore Devastator-equipment, and they fired four missile launchers at the Howling Griffon gunline. Harald cried involuntarily when the missiles impacted, and threw his men all over the back of the hall.

He jumped at the Ogryns, raging. He pushed himself hard against one of them, even if for a second. Before the brute had time to punch him away, he stabbed the bolt pistol under his chin, where his helmet and chestplate collar met. He shot all his remaining ammunition into that small crack, and he was rewarded with the Ogryn’s head jerked backwards. Having killed his next enemy, he stepped aside and forward.

What he saw chilled him to the bones. The Terminator closest to the entrance had been rushed by Ogryns. At least three were holding him by the arms, trying to push him to the ground, while a fourth one was standing by, ready to smash him with his power maul. The Terminator – a veteran whom Harald had known for at least four decades – was fighting hard, although his cumbersome armour was more of a hindrance in his present position than an advantage. The Griffon actually managed to free his right hand, and, as the maul-wielding Ogryn stepped closer, he punched him with his power fist as hard as he could.

The Ogryn died instantly. His mates howled, and bumped into the Griffon using their sheer bulk. The Terminator fell on his back as if he was just a piece of wooden log; one of the Ogryns jumped at his head, and started to stomp on his helmet with loud, clanging noise. All the while, the other two held his arms down, and one of them yanked at it hard with a deep, bestial growl. The Griffon’s arm twisted into an anatomically impossible position, and the Astartes yelled in pain.

Harald cried, and ran towards the trio of Ogryns. He lashed out with his power sword on the run, and drew a squirt of sparks, metal fragments and blood from a gigantic figure he passed by. He was focussed on the three beasts who were killing his man, but he could not ignore the markings on his tactical retina display and the frantic voices of his other squad members. The gunline was apparently disrupted and broken up, and his visor was blinking with impassive red signs indicating dead or seriously injured Astartes warriors.

He barked brief tactical instructions into his vox, and ran his sword through the knee joint of another Ogryn. He screamed like an animal, which called the attention of the other trio. The one abhuman who was trying to dent the Terminator’s helmet with his massive foot turned back and reached down for the power maul which his dead mate had dropped. Herald knew that he would not pick it up in time. He was too close. The Sergeant raised his sword – then his instruments literally exploded with warning signals.

He jumped forward again. He landed on his arms and elbows, turned over them, while eight electrically charged power blades slashed the air where he had been a fraction of a second earlier. The Ogryn now had time to pick up the power maul, and lashed out with it towards Harald, but he had little time to aim and swing, and the sergeant could roll on. By the time the Howling Griffon was on his feet, he had already passed by the Ogryns and the wounded Terminator, and he was in no position to help him.

Another Terminator was standing in front of him in the familiar rock-crete armour with Sergeant markings. He was wielding dual lightning claws, and the way he was holding them suggested that he was a highly dangerous veteran even for an elite warrior of his kind. Other Fatemaker Terminators thundered on behind him to join the fight.

The enemy Sergeant barked a few unintelligible words. He was obviously used the Ogryns’ own language, and the abhumans listened: they broke off as one to run towards the now tattered Griffon gunline. The Fatemakers took over their positions, and they pushed the remaining two standing Griffon Terminators towards a corner; one of them went straight towards the injured Griffon, and aimed his storm bolter at him.

Harald growled, mag-locked his empty bolt pistol, and he grabbed his power sword with both hands. The sound of further explosions came from behind him, and another squad member marker went red on his visor display, but he blocked it out. He had found the one enemy in this battle who mattered.

He attacked. The Fatemaker did not try to evade: instead, he just deflected the power sword with his upper arms and the blades of his power claw. He was good. The sword scored and scratched his ceramite plating, but herald was not able to penetrate his armour to actually wound him. The two of them started to circle around each other.

Harald knew he was in a dangerous position. He had not managed to make any serious damage to his enemy, but while the terminator was circling and moving forward, he was forced to step back to gain enough space to swing the sword. He was being herded, and he knew he would soon run out of manoeuvring space.

He did the unexpected, and lunged forward, in the hope of confusing the other. Plate to plate, his sword was not the most effective weapon, but the Fatemaker would be even more helpless with his lightning claws. He would bump into his enemy, and he would thrust his blade up between the neck and the helmet, just like he had executed the Ogryn a minute earlier.

As he sprinted, the terminator turned slightly, and shouldered into him. He was pushed back, he had to make a step back immediately to avoid the upper cut of the lightning claws, then another as the Fatemaker made a horizontal slash with his other arm.

The Fatemaker had obviously taken over the initiative. He was lashing out with his claws with deliberate, short cuts, which the Sergeant could block, but every cut made him step back again, and whenever he tired to spin out of the Fatemaker’s way, one of the claws always chased him back to where the Terminator wanted him to be.

Harald’s shoulder hit the wall hard; it was the end of the road for him, and he knew it. His last chance was a bold, risky burst to try and break away from the Terminator. He had a secret move: a wide double-loop arc with the sword which ended in a forward thrust. It was difficult to execute perfectly, and he had little room for it, but he was out of options.

He swung the sword. The blade made a perfect 8-shaped arc in the air, and then gut stuck between the blades of the Fatemaker’s left hand. Harald tried to free it, but the Terminator pushed him back with his left hand. He slammed into the wall again. He refused to let go of his sword, and this was his one real mistake in the entire fight. The Fatemaker pushed the claws on his right hand against the Grifon’s sword-wielding arm, and slowly but deliberately, put all four claws through ceramite and flesh.

Harald yelled. The Fatemaker pushed and twisted, tearing muscle and ligaments in a rain of sparkle and blood. The sword fell out of the Sergeant’s limp hands, but he could not move as the Terminator pinned him against the wall with his elbow while simultaneously moving the claws inside Harald’s arm. There was a faint crack as the bone finally snapped; only then did the Fatemaker step back and threw the Sergeant on the ground by the now useless arm.

Harald fell on the floor, and blacked out for a second. He came to, gasping, only to realize that that he had no more weapon, and the one thing holding his arm in place was the remains of the ceramite armour plate. His brain registered the sound of further fighting: the growls and shouts of the Ogryns were mixed with the noise of heavy weapon firing.

A Fatemaker with a heavy bolter stepped into his field of vision, and sprayed an unseen target with explosive shells. The Griffon Terminator with his wounded arm was trashing weakly on the floor, while a Fatemaker Terminator was holding his one good arm with the storm bolter down with his feet. The tactical display disappeared from his visor. He was blind, and he had no idea how many of his brothers were still alive.

He reached up to his helmet with his remaining arm. The helmet came off at the second pull, and fell on the ground. Herald was looking at four shimmering power blades mere inches from his face.

The Fatemaker Sergeant yelled.

‘ENOUGH!’

The fighting broke almost immediately. The firing stopped, and the bestial howls of the abhumans abated, then stopped altogether. The silence gave a stark contrast after the ferocious battle noise, and the hall suddenly felt like the inside of a tomb.

Harald looked up at the Fatemaker Sergeant. He did not move, and he was still holding the claws at Harald’s face. His external vox system activated.

‘This fight is over, Sergeant,’ the Terminator boomed. ‘Order your men to surrender.’

The grey helmet conveyed more emotion than the Fatemaker’s voice. Harald winced as another jolt of pain rushed along his arm.

‘You cannot be serious.’

‘I am serious, Sergeant. You have failed your mission, and all you can achieve is kill your remaining men.’

Harald snorted, although his whole body ached.

‘We are Astartes! We don’t surrender. If you were a real Space Marine, you would know this.

The Fatemaker shook his head. ‘This is not true. I studied the Badab War. I know you took part in it. When two loyalist Chapters fight, and one of them is about to lose, they can surrender to preserve lives. It has happened again. Your Chapter has witnessed it.’

‘Two loyalist Chapters…’ Harald’s lips curled down. ‘You are no true Astartes. You use underhand tactics, and you employ subhumans! What kind of Space Marine would do such things?’

‘We are practical, Sergeant. We were once in a position where we had to decide between playing by the rules and dieing out and surviving to do something good for the Imperium. We have made our decision – now it is time for you to do the same.’

Harald almost laughed out. ‘We don’t work like this. We don’t forget about our honour. When we have to die, we die. This is the way of the Imperium! This is the way of the Astartes!’

‘Not any more,’ the voice of the Terminator boomed again. ‘The Imperium has enough dead heroes already. We remember them and we gain strength from their stories. Who will remember your story, Sergeant? Who will remember the Howling Griffons?’

‘It doesn’t matter!’ the Howling Griffon retorted with a feral grin. ‘We will all live forever on the Emperor’s side!’

‘There is no Emperor any more.’

Herald stopped grinning.

‘You must know what has been going on in the Galaxy,’ the Fatemaker continued. ‘He is no longer with us.’ He stopped talking for a moment to look at the Griffon Sergeant’s face. ‘You are not denying it, so you must know that what I am saying is true.’

‘This is not…’ Harald started. He was pale now, and not only because of his injuries.

‘It is true. We had to discover this the hard way, and it cost us, too: we paid the price in blood, suffering and lives. There is no Emperor.’

‘That’s what you Fatemakers believe,’ Harald winced.

‘That’s what we Fatemakers know.’

‘How can you say this and remain so calm? Huh? How can you go on saying… knowing that life is pointless, and everything is over?’

‘I still have my Chapter,’ the answer came. ‘As long as I have it, I still have something.’

‘Idiot! You are talking about you own Chapter, and you would have me betray mine?’

This time, the Fatemaker made a noise which sounded like a sigh. He deactivated the claws on his left hand (his right claws were still a few inches from the griffon Sergeant), and took his helmet off. He had a slightly tanned face, criss-crossed by scars and injuries from previous battles. One of his eyes had been replaced by ugly augmetics: the lens whirred as it focussed on Harald.

‘I am not asking you to betray your Chapter,’ he said. His voice was flat and unimpressive even without the distortion of his vox, but there was something in his words which made Harald stop. ‘I am asking you to continue living for it. I was in a similar situation before. We were battling with a group of Sororitas, and they had the chance to surrender. They committed suicide instead. I was their enemy, and now I am the last person to remember them. Their convent will never know what happened to them, they ceased to be useful to the world. Is this what you want? Is this the way you want to die? Battling other Astartes? For this unknown world?’

Herald said nothing.

‘Your Chapter needs you more than ever before,’ the Fatemaker continued. ‘This is a new age. The real heroes survive and live, and the dead are just that. Dead people. You have nothing more than I do. You have your Chapter, and that’s it. Your Chapter needs you alive. Your Captain needs you all alive.’

Harald stared at the other Astartes. He looked back, unmoving. It was difficult to read anything off his face, but there was a glint in his eyes which herald did not see very often, especially not on someone he had been fighting. There was no hate in his one remaining eye, only something akin to sorrow.

The Fatemaker Sergeant was feeling genuinely sorry for him.

Herald blinked. ‘Chyton!’ he called back.

‘Sergeant Chyton is dead, sir,’ a tired, painful voice answered.

Harald recognised the voice. ‘Hanshi,’ he said. ‘What are our losses?’

‘Seven dead… three serious injuries,’ came the answer. Hanshi himself must have been wounded by the sound of his voice.

Herald glanced aside. The Griffon Terminator with his arm pinned down by his Fatemaker counterpart was lying on his back, but he could still move his head, and he saw stretching his neck to catch his Sergeant’s glimpse. He looked like a bug turned on its back, but he was far from being harmless. He was ready to fight back. Harald saw it clearly. He was ready to reach for the Fatemaker’s leg, ready to try and pull him to the ground.

He was ready to die.

Harald closed his eyes.

‘All right, Sergeant,’ he said. Tiredness and pain finally started to catch up with him. ‘We surrender.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 38)

Postby librisrouge » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:07 pm

Excellent work again good sir.

What I wouldn't give for some Ogryn modeled like that in my Imperial Guard army, especially if I could actually give them Carapace or Power Armor.

Just out of curiosity, will you be working the Fatemakers into the wider 50k setting eventually. I know that you posted something in the Age of Dusk thread about another group of Astartes claiming their name and the official Fatemaker icon being retired by Vulkan but the survivors seem to have inherited some of the Fatemakers' secrets. Will that eventually be explained?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 38)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:39 pm

Everything will be explained eventually, librisrouge: it is just this time-loop that they are circling in at the moment which makes it hard to explain what will happen without massive spoilers. The Fatemakers are supposed to be extinct by the Age of Dusk, just as the future Akichi predicted, and yet there is a commandery under the same (nick)name under Vulkan's command, and they do use Ogryn shock troops (wearing servo-armour and power maul :twisted: ). There are approximately 15 (maybe 20) more updates planned in the Fatemakers' Odyssey, but all loose ends will be tied sufficiently in the end.

Oh, by the way, when I was describing the Ogryn battlegear, I had the Fallout computer game series on my mind, and I imagined their armour would look like a Brotherhood of Steel armour. something like this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ukd4pTw6p6Q

...only with a super sledge, and I guess the Ogryns would be just as clumsy in it as this guy (and the armour would be rock-crete grey, of course :D )
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 38)

Postby Midgard » Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:28 pm

The Fatemakers just got their crowning moment of awesome through superior tactics rather than brute force, which seems oddly fitting for them. I am anticipating the next part very eagerly!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 38)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:10 pm

Huhh... almost a month later, but at least I have time to write again :D

Part 39

‘Enemy force is subdued, Brother-Captain.’

The voice crackling from the vox-units elicited some curious looks from the crew – although the serfs were too well disciplined to show their interest in any other way. Malistrum himself was not surprised. He had visual contact with the entire fight through three of the cameras installed into the ceiling of the hall, and he already knew that the battle concluded in favour of his forces. Still, he needed confirmation from someone on location. He leaned forward.

‘What are our losses, Sergeant?’

‘Nine Ogryn auxilia dead, another four wounded. No serious injuries in any Astartes.’

So his estimate was correct. Even the loss of the abhumans was regrettable: they were part of the Opportunity’s crew, and the Captain always made a conscious effort not to look down on them because of their genetic heritage. Too many of the Chapter had died today, and too many good Imperial lives were lost too. The only justification for all this bloodshed would have been if he could have avoided even more deaths through this victory.

‘Thank you, Seregant. Are the Howling Griffons willing to cooperate?’

‘They are, my lord.’

‘Good. Escort them to the containment level, and make sure they are secured there. Take all their weapons, and wait for…

Malistrum made a mental check to see the deployment plans for his troops.

… Techmarine Askarin to arrive there in fifteen minutes. He will deactivate any remaining battle system in their armour. Once you are finished, check in for further instructions.’

‘Acknowledged, my lord.’

‘Malistrum out.’

The Captain turned to his bridge crew now. While he took them all in, he had a few more seconds to spare, and he was now pondering over the next logical step in the battle. It was a risky step. He was now sure that he could be victorious, but he was loath to pay the ultimate price of such a victory. The other option…

It was also risky. He was not used to diplomacy that much, and Mediator Dmitrija would be of no help against another Astartes. On the other hand, Malistrum knew that he had the greatest chance to go through with his plan as he was capable of thinking in a way not even his fellow Space Marines could.

He was not only an Astartes like Barandiya, but also another Captain. He knew what he would do in a situation like this, and so he could also exploit a Captain’s way of thinking.

He made a nod to the vox operator, as much for himself as for the mortal.

‘Open a channel to the Star of Reminica.’

Commissar Lamberg in one of the corners of the bridge started to shift uncomfortably, which Malistrum saw but ignored completely. As far as he was concerned, the Directorate officer had forfeited all his rights aboard this vessel the moment he had tried to subdue the Captain by threats.

‘Channel open, my lord,’ the serf reported.

‘Brother-Captain Barandiya, this is the Opportunity,’ Malistrum started to speak as he stepped away form his consoles and headed for the serf handling the ship’s sensors. ‘We have repelled your boarding party, and we captured the survivors. The teleport homer is in our hands, and the shields of our ship hold on. Your attack failed.’

He arrived at the sensor operator, and went down so his lips were level with his ear.

‘Check the Star of Reminica’s movement, and also pay attention to her shields and weaponry,’ he breathed with as low a voice as possible. The Astartes had superhuman hearing, and he had no intention of letting the enemy know that he ha further plans.

The vox system crackled.

‘So I see, Brother-Captain.’ Barandiya’s voice was flat and devoid of any emotion. ‘If you don’t mind, I will not congratulate you on your victory. Nor would I suggest that you have actually beaten us. Not yet.’

‘The Star of Reminica is changing course and she is heading towards us, my lord,’ the sensor operator whispered.

‘Did she stop firing?’ Malistrum asked back in a soft voice.

The serf looked surprised. ‘She did, my lord.’

The Captain nodded, and raised his voice.

‘I have not suggested that you are beaten, Brother-Captain,’ he said. ‘I am merely stating facts here. Some of your men have survived the fight. They are currently being taken into custody.’

‘And you are a fool if you believe that you can use them as a bargaining tool,’ Barandiya retorted. ‘A Howling Griffon would rather die than put the rest of his brothers in further danger.’

‘As all Astartes are supposed to do,’ Malistrum answered. He was looking at the data displayed on the sensor operator’s console. The Star of Reminica indeed stopped firing, and she was accelerating quickly. Her forward shields were still raised, and the data suggested that she had activated emergency generators or perhaps re-routed energy from other systems to boost her defence. She had the means to approach the opportunity, and although undermanned and outgunned, she still had one weapon in her arsenal that she could use against the Fatemakers with deadly efficiency.

Her own bulk. The Opportunity was strong, but not strong enough to kill such a big vessel with a few well-placed shots unless she got extremely lucky. The Star of Reminica would be able to get into ramming distance, and she would attack with all the fury of an Astartes Captain who feels he no longer has anything else to lose. Barandiya seemed to be a capable captain. Malistrum would not be able to outmanoeuvre him like he had done with lesser shipmasters. No, the Star of Reminica would reach his ship, and she would run into her, destroying both vessels in one, final, defiant strike. A fitting end for a Space Marine who had lost everything he had: his ideals, his purpose, his comrades. Malistrum himself might have done the same if he had run out of options.

So it was time to give the Howling Griffon an option.

‘I myself understand your concern, Brother-Captain,’ Malistrum continued. ‘I do not shirk from my duty myself, but I feel this battle has cost me far more than I was willing to pay for the completion of this mission. I am willing to offer an alternative solution to this conflict to avoid the loss of more of my Marines.’

‘Are you suggesting that you want to surrender?’ Barandiya snorted, but there was a slight change in his tone. Malistrum knew that he had the Griffon commander’s attention.

Commissar Lamberg raised his head at these words, and made a step forward. He opened his mouth.

Malistrum raised a finger towards him.

Lamberg closed his mouth.

‘Surrender? No, I have no intention of surrendering. Not until I am able to fight. But I have to realize that we are fighting a war which is not supposed to be fought by our people. As commanders, we have both involved the people under our command in a conflict which is below our interest, and quite frankly, our forces are only bound to this system through us.’

‘It is our prerogative and duty to make the decisions,’ Barandiya answered. His tone was becoming tired and flat, like somebody who is about to leave the conversation. Malistrum knew he had to hurry now.

‘And so this is also our duty to resolve the conflict. Between the two of us, without the interference of our people.’

‘We are way past any chance of negotiations,’ Barandiya said. Malistrum cast a quick glance at the instruments in front of him only to see that the Star of Reminica was gaining momentum. ‘It is time for us to…’

‘Precisely,’ Malistrum interrupted. ‘Which is why I hereby challenge you to a personal duel.’

The answer was delayed. The crew and the commissar was looking at the Captain with shocked expressions, but they hardly mattered. The Star of Reminica was still approaching at full speed, and Malistrum knew that he had perhaps a minute or so before he was forced to order evasive manoeuvres, even though such an order would eventually become pointless.

‘A duel,’ Barandiya repeated in a flat voice.

‘Between the two commanders of the two opposing forces,’ Malistrum confirmed. ‘It is well-documented, and even the Codex Astartes approves of such ordeals when loyalist forces are confronted. At any rate, I have made a challenge to you, Brother-Captain. It is up to you whether you accept it.’

This part of the conversation was actually very dangerous. Malistrum could influence the events only up to this point, and now his opponent had to react. The Fatemaker Captain knew nothing about the other: his personality, his goals or even his Chapter’s customs. All he knew that he was another Space Marine captain, just like Malistrum himself.

Malistrum would have sacrificed anything for the right purpose. He knew that there were conditions which would have made him throw away his life, his strike force, even his entire Chapter. He would have never surrendered. He would have remained true to his principles, even in the face of total annihilation. Nothing could have persuaded him to abort a mission, to go back on his own word. In a similar situation, he would have rammed the other.

Unless he had received a chance to save his people. A slim chance to salvage something out of this catastrophe. A chance to make things right, not by sacrificing others, but by risking his own life, using only his own skills, without endangering any more of his men. Malistrum would have accepted death and tried to take the other down with him, unless he had received a fighting chance.

That damned small, illusory fighting chance.

‘Captain,’ the serf warned him, and indicated the console. Malistrum looked down, and saw that the Star of Reminica had decreased speed, while changing course slightly.

‘I accept your duel, Brother-Captain Malistrum,’ Barandiya’s voice came from the vox-unit. ‘Let us talk about the details.’





Ten minutes later, Malistrum left the bridge. The door had no time to close behind him.

‘Captain!’

Commissar Lamberg had guts, Malistrum had to give him that. Most mortals were generally too much afraid to confront Space Marines, and Lamberg had also almost been killed by him earlier. Still, he dared to stand up to him and question him all the time. The Captain could still not decide whether the Commissar was brave, dutiful or simply an idiot.

‘What are you planning to achieve with this duel?’ Lamberg asked demandingly.

Malsitrum turned to have a better look at the man standing at the door.

‘We are going to duel, Commissar,’ he said. ‘You heard it yourself. The winner will also be victorious in the entire battle.’

Lamberg stepped forward. ‘This was not part of the treaty!’ he cried. He was obviously restraining himself from using menacing body language, which was a good thing; Malistrum would have probably killed him if he had tried to attack a second time.

‘The treaty said that I am to clear the orbit of Faramuntibus III by all means available to me. I am using one of the means at my disposal. The fight is not over, Commissar – only the fleet ahs no more part in it any more.’

‘You were in a winning position!’ Lamberg retorted. ‘The attack was repelled, the enemy was weak! What was the point of giving them an advantage?’

‘The Howling Griffons were not defeated,’ Malistrum said. ‘They were only wounded, and that made them even more dangerous than before. I was given the authority to interpret the tactical situation and adjust our own moves accordingly. Believe me when I say, Commissar: you did not want to face those ‘beaten’ Marines on that vessel.’

‘Instead, you give them a chance to win,’ Lamberg stroke back. ‘What will happen if that Captain wins the duel?’

‘Then he won the battle as well, just like he would have won if his ship had destroyed ours. But this will not happen. I will beat him.’

‘You had better beat him, Captain. You had better win. You will not get the psyker unless you deliver the orbit to us, just like we agreed in the treaty!’

‘I am aware of that, Commissar.’ Malistrum answered coldly. He had enough of the whole conversation by this point.

‘Would you give up the battle and lose the psyker just because you lose a duel?’

‘Just like Brother-Captain Barandiya would give up – will give up – when I win, yes.’

‘What makes you think Barandiya will simply stand aside?’

‘Quite simply, Commissar,’ Malistrum answered. ‘He gave me his word.’

‘His word,’ the Commissar repeated.

‘His word. And this is all I need. We Astartes are not only different from you mortals physically, but also culturally. We are able to see things in the long run, and we have the age, the experience and the mental fortitude to live up to our words. We are unshakable, but bound by our own nature. This is what makes us fight on even if the whole universe is against us, and this is the one thing which makes us stop at the right time. I don’t expect you to understand this, so I will tell you to understand that my decision is final and firm, my belief in this dual is final and firm, and Barandiya’s word was final and form on this issue.’

Lamberg was struck. He was simply staring at the Captain without uttering a single further word. Malistrum allowed him a few seconds to add anything to the conversation, and then, as nothing more came out of the other’s mouth, nodded and left. He had no more time for a mortal who simply had no understanding of the way the Astartes handled their businesses.





Thankfully enough, Chaplain Uskovich was more understanding of Malistrum’s situation, although he had brought questions of his own.

The two of them were standing in the ship’s main armoury; half an hour had passed since the conversation between the Captain and the Directorate officer. The huge hall was divided into several sections by the shelves and weapon racks, and every single flat surface was crammed with Astartes-sized weaponry: close-combat blades, traditional, plasma-and melta-based firearms and various energised weapons were stacked in neat rows everywhere.

Malistrum came here on the advice of the Chaplain. Uskovich speed-read the various codex Astartes references to ritual duelling, and he was busy bringing his Captain up-to-date on the whole issue. Neither he nor Malistrum had an easy time with it. The Fatemakers, by their very nature, were not exposed to the general Astartes culture, and they had most certainly never duelled before. The rituals which surrounded the event were ponderous and clumsy, with all the weight of the twelve thousand years old codex which contained them.

Luckily, the basic rules were simple enough. The duel itself only required a flat surface, two energised blades, one long, the other short, two bare-headed Astartes in basic power armour and this was more or less the total summary of the fighting rules. The combatants were not supposed to hold anything back during the fight, although it was obvious that brute force will never win on its own in a similar situation: they simply had to beat their opponent in any way they could.

‘This is an ordeal, my lord,’ Uskovich was explaining to Malistrum as the Captain was testing a short power gladius in his hand. ‘But beyond the ordeal, the simple fact is that you prove your right by besting the other.’

‘Just like in real life,’ Malistrum nodded. He was not entirely satisfied with the blade in his hand, so he put it back and reached for another.

‘It’s important to understand that this will not be a dual to the death,’ the Chaplain continued. ‘The point is that one of you should acknowledge the other’s fighting superiority, at which point he will give up and the other wins.’

‘This fight is not about giving up,’ the Captain said. The new gladius was more to his liking, and he was weighing it on his open palm as he was listening to his officer.

Uskovich shrugged. Such gestures had not been typical of him, but his recent recovery from an almost total mental collapse changed his behaviour somewhat. ‘Then one of you will die, my lord.’

‘Precisely.’ Malistrum pulled out his other sword, and he spun them in his two hands. The movement was deceptively simple, but even a casual observer could have realized the smooth, flawless execution of the movement.

Uskovich stopped for a second, and he looked at his Captain with narrowed yes. ‘You intend this fight to carry on until one of you dies.’

‘So does Brother-Captain Barandiya,’ the other answered. ‘Chaplain, this is a duel between two Astartes commanders. We both gave our words, not to the other, but to our own allies that we would carry through their cause no matter the cost. Our possible death is part of that cost.’

The Chaplain said nothing. Malistrum looked up with a curious expression.

‘I thought you would object it.’

Uskovich shook his head. ‘I will do no such thing, my lord. I know that this is about more than just a victorious duel.’

‘Do you?’ Malistrum asked back, scabbarding his power sword.

Uskovich nodded. ‘You want to make a cleaner fight out of this because you think we wage a dirty war.’

‘It pains me that we accepted the naklonjenost,’ Malistrum said softly. He leaned against the nearest weapon shelf, and looked directly at his Chaplain. ‘I don’t say that we shouldn’t have accepted it. It was necessary. But it made us lesser than what we used to be.’

‘We are not acting like proper Astartes,’ Uskovich said with a grimace.

‘Right now, we are mercenaries,’ Malistrum sighed. ‘The payment will keep us going, but mercenary work is mercenary work nonetheless. We should feel doubly ashamed for the fact that we are only talking about this because the enemy is like us, a brother Chapter. I think I would not be so worried if we were killing mere mortals, and this thought terrifies me.’

He slammed his fist onto his open palm.

‘We are warriors of principle. We have to be because we are too dangerous to exist without diamond-hard principles. We are about to loosen our moral standards, and we cannot allow that. We intend to exist in a thousand years, even longer, and time has a tendency to erode human things, even ideals. We must stay pure. The Codex allows us to settle this our way, the Astartes way, and the price we have to pay is merely the death of one of us, commanders. The Griffons must feel the same way. Abandon this idea once, start walking the easier path once, and we will disappear without a trace in a few decades. Or worse, we become renegades like the Twilight Monks.’

Uskovich looked down for a second, then he locked eyes with the Captain again.

‘Even if I accept this, your decision means that you might die, and then we will have neither a leader nor a psyker to continue our journey.’

‘We would survive without Astropath Lucas,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Perhaps it would even better that way, not that it is my intention to lose. It appears that his acceptance into our Chapter is part of the great circle which threatens to destroy us. If he didn’t join us, the circle might be broken.’

‘Or it might not,’ Uskovich warned. ‘We don’t know for certain which version is part of the circle: him joining us or us refusing him.’

‘Which is why I will fight for him anyway because fighting is what we Astartes do,’ came the reply. ‘But even if we don’t get him, we know that the reserve fleet will eventually reach Holy Terra. That is their destination. If their trail gets too cold, we can simply head for Subsector Terra and look for them there.’

‘You would have to die for that first, and this is the part which worries me more,’ Uskovich said. ‘You hold us together. Who could take over your place?’

‘I have been thinking about this a lot myself,’ Malistrum said. ‘It is an illusion that I am the only one who could lead Strike Force Four. There have been leaders before me, and there will be others. What a new leader need is unanimous support from the officer cadre, and the unanimous support of the attached specialists.’

This last sentence meant that Malistrum was not thinking about appointing Uskovich to his successor, which neither of them bothered to point out. Astartes Captains were traditionally chosen from the regular rank-and-file Sergeants in almost every Chapter. Berzevicz, the Librarian-Captain from Strike Force Eight was more of an exception than any regular occurrence. That strike force could handle his leadership: Strike Force Four could probably not do the same with any their own specialists.

‘Which Sergeant are you proposing?’ Uskovich asked.

‘We need a strong one for this task,’ Malistrum replied. ‘Sergeant Gorski and Hemethor are fine officers, but they miss the sheer determination to lead more than a squad. We need someone who has a clear goal, and is able to see the path which leads directly towards that goal.’

‘Essen, then?’





The main hangar bay was being prepared for receiving the new Howling Griffon delegation. There was not much to do, except for clearing a large area for the duel, and setting up an honour guard from the Fatemaker Space Marines. Every ranking officer was expected to be present too, except for Sergeant Gorski, who had the watch on the ship’s bridge during the ordeal and Hemethor, who was charged with guarding the captured Griffon prisoners on the containment level. Librarian Akichi was with him, making sure that the Fatemakers would have psychic support should the Griffons decide to try to break out.

Apothecary Ruffar, who was there to provide medical assistance, looked around, and made a quick headcount. Every officer was present, except for one.

He waved to a Space Marine who was passing by.

‘Where is Sergeant Andorias?’

‘I think his gear was damaged in the fight,’ the other answered. ‘I saw him going to the Armoury to take it back for repair before the duel begins.’





‘Do you understand how important this is, Chaplain?’ Malistrum asked. ‘You have to support him. His person divides the officers, but I see no better candidate at the moment than him. You have to support him. You have to put all your weight behind him – at his election and later too. Can I count on you?’

Uskovich nodded gravely.

‘I will support him, as you ask.’

‘Good.’ Malistrum put away the short-sword too. ‘Then let’s not talk about it until it becomes necessary. When is the delegation due?’

‘Actually, we have about twenty minutes, my lord,’ Uskovich answered. ‘I think it is about time to go.’

‘And to make fate for ourselves again,’ Malistrum added. ‘Come, Chaplain.’

The pair left the Armoury, and silence came back to the great room. It did not last long.

A shadow moved among the shelves. The bulky figure had been standing further inside the hall, almost at the back where the specialist Terminator gear was stored. The Captain and the Chaplain could not see him from all the equipment, and he had no time to reveal himself before the other two started their conversation. By the end, he had no intention to reveal himself either.

Sergeant Andorias stopped at the shelf where Malistrum had taken the shortsword from. He could not go any further. He was looking at the exit, after the two officers, with an expression on his face that was at the same time shock, disbelief and pain.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 39)

Postby Gaius Marius » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:33 am

Oh snap.
Space Cowboy, Spartan II, Specter, Reclusiarch

'I see the fear you have inside.'
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 39)

Postby librisrouge » Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:00 pm

My Father-in-Law is in the hospital and my tenants informed me that I'm going to have to evict them.

This made me smile for the first time in a week. :D

Thank you. Keep up the excellent work. It may just be a hobby for you but this holiday season has taught me that you don't know the effect you actions have to their full length and width.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 39)

Postby Meaneye » Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:37 pm

Thank you librisrouge. If I could make someone feel better with the story, it is an added bonus :D

Actually, I write this for some kind of mental hygiene myself. I am a teacher at home, and the way things look right now, I will have to advise my graduates to consider not starting their studies at any university this year. I need to be immersed in a story where things progress in a way that makes sense to me.

Whatever. The holiday seasons are coming, and I will have time to write more, so the updates will occur more regularly than in the last month :roll: .
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 39)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:03 am

Merry Christmas everyone!

This is not a complete update, only perhaps half of it, but apparently, we have some kind of winter solstice celebration today, so why not? Another update will come later this week; until then, enjoy this one :D .


Andorias was heading towards the hangar bay with slow, uncertain steps. His movement was more akin to that of a sleepwalker than of the confident Space Marine he had been a few minutes earlier.

He was not really aware that he was walking. His subconscious mind took control over his body to execute the last order he had received. He had to appear in the hangar bay to witness the duel of his Captain, and his Astartes conditioning was intact enough for his legs to start moving on their own. Duty came first; a Fatemaker obeyed without hesitation.

Always.

Andorias’ mind was elsewhere. The last few sentences he had unintentionally heard from the conversation between Captain Malistrum and Chaplain Uskovich were echoing in his head. They would not stop: they would not find their place in his mind. They were circling like a flyer looking for a suitable place to land, a ship searching for a piece of solid land to anchor onto. They found no such solid place.

Duty and personal conviction were pulling the Sergeant to two different directions. Duty had the upper hand: even if those words were not meant for his ears, not yet, they were nevertheless binding, and he had no choice but obey. His personal beliefs, his emotions, his individual thoughts, however, rebelled against the very idea he had just heard.

He had not felt anything like it since his indoctrination into the Chapter. Never. He had fought when he needed to, he had not fought when he was ordered to stay put. He had contributed to the orders as his talents allowed, but he never questioned, and he never disobeyed. In his entire life, he had one commanding voice above him, doing the thinking for him, and that voice now stated his wishes in no uncertain terms once again.

But how could he obey this last wish?

The Sergeant looked up. One more turn at this corridor, and he would arrive at the hangar bay, where the Captain would fight a duel with another Astartes, who, admittedly, was his equal in every measure. For a long time in the history of the strike force, Captain Malistrum would face a challenge that could actually kill him. What if he really dies?

Andorias slowly leaned against the wall with the palm of his hand. He crouched slightly. His face had a painful visage, and his eyes showed nothing but hopelessness.

How could he obey his Captain’s wish this time?

His face slowly hardened. His bathing accelerated. As control over his body functions slipped from his hand, the flow of his blood reddened his cheeks.

How could the Captain have made such a decision? How could he have made such a grave misjudgement? This had to be an error. This could not be what he really wanted. And even if he had really meant it, how could he have imagined that Andorias would say yes to it?

His hand curled into a fist, scratching the surface of the wall in the process.

He would have said yes to anyone else. He would have been willing to serve under some other Sergeant. Hemethor, Gorski, yes, or one of the specialist officers. Why not? Berzevitz could make it work in his strike force! Why not Akichi? Why not Uskovich? Anybody would have been a reasonable candidate, anyone, but him? HIM?

‘No,’ he whispered to himself. His fist banged on the wall. ‘No, I will not allow this. Not this one.’ He hit the wall again, this time harder. ‘I refuse it. I will not tolerate it. No.’ The third time, he slammed aggressively on the metal panel. ‘No. No, no, no, NO, NO, NO!!!’





The voice, like an explosion, found its way to the hangar bay. There was only a serf at the entry: all his Astartes lords were in position to receive the Howling Griffon delegation. They were already standing in a neat line, the officers in front of them, looking towards the void-shielded entrance behind which the approaching Griffon vessel was already visible in the darkness of space. Two of the Space Marines the closest to the corridor turned their heads at the sound. One of them looked behind the serf onto the corridor, then nodded slightly towards the mortal, indicating that he should investigate. The serf bowed quickly, and went out of the hangar.

He could only get until about half length. Sergeant Andorias turned into the corridor, making his way towards the hangar with hurried, determined steps. The serf actually had to jump out of the way lest he would have been pushed aside by the bulk of the Astartes officer. Andorias went on, and entered the hangar without so much as saying a single word.

The serf looked after him. He knew the Sergeant only by sight and by name, but he knew better than to try and stop one of his masters. Hesitantly, he made a step back towards the hangar, then stopped. He was obliged to check what that noise was.

He only had to turn into the other corridor. He hissed as he caught sight of the dented wall panel lying on the floor.

‘By the Chapter,’ he breathed. The saying was catching on quickly among the mortal members of Strike Force Four, replacing the traditional ‘the Emperor protects.’

What could have made the Sergeant do this? The wall panel was strong, even for a power-gauntleted hand to tear into it this way. What manner of anger overtook Sergeant Andorias to give him the strength to brutalize the wall like this?

The serf swallowed, and decided not to ponder over it too much. He stepped back into the corridor, and went back to his duties in the hangar, trying to forget what he had just seen.

He would never tell any of his friends or shipmates about it. He was afraid, not of Sergeant Andorias, but of the slip of control he had seen in one of the subhumans he looked upon as gods. He would take his secret to the grave within three months, dieing almost as the last crewman aboard the ship, due to the betrayal of the Chapter he had sworn his soul upon.





The small shuttle turned off her engines. She was painted in the red and yellow colours of the Howling Griffons Chapter, but she was tiny in comparison to other Astartes vessels. There was no visible armament on her, and she looked pitifully exposed and vulnerable as she was sitting opposite the bulky, lumbering hull of the Directorate shuttle.

Looks were often deceptive, however. The occupant of the shuttle represented far more power and danger than any armed fighter could.

The ramp lowered, hissing, releasing smoke under the vessel.

‘Attention!’ Sergeant Andorias cried. Dozens of Astartes warriors straightened to welcome the guest.

The figure coming down the ramp was bulky, like all Space Marines. His ancient yellow and red armour was highly ornamented, with various laurels and purity seals decorating the metal surface. It looked ancient and powerful, but not as powerful as the man who wore it; in fact, the armour only seemed to highlight the strength of the person who was wielding it.

Captain Barandiya of the Howling Griffons Astartes Chapter was a bald, square-jawed man. His face was criss-crossed with dozens of smaller or larger wounds, indicating the weapons he had to face in his long life: chainsaws, claws, laser beams, flamers. His platinum stud marked him out immediately as a man of importance, but not before his grey, penetrating eyes caught a man’s attention. He was oozing strength and the quiet confidence which could have only been achieved by leading the most powerful soldiers in countless battles and campaigns.

Barandiya stopped at the bottom of the ramp, and looked around. He saw Astartes warriors in ordered ranks, holding their bolters in silent salute. He saw the officers of the company standing in front of their men, watching him with neutral faces. He singled out his opponent immediately, not just because he was wearing the right markings or because of the two blades hanging on his two sides. He recognised Captain Malistrum because his posture, the micro-movements in his facial muscles, the way he emanated authority and determinedness mirrored Barandiya in every possible way. No other person had the same raw power and potential buried in them than the two Captains: not the other Sergeants, not the Chaplain with his skull-faced helmet, and certainly not the mortal menials or the pale Commissar standing next to the other shuttle.

Barandiya came alone, and he did not need to explain to the Fatemakers what this meant. He had no honour guard, not even a single Astartes to act as an observer from his Chapter’s part. No other Space Marines came with him because there were no other Space Marines left to accompany him. Sergeant Harald and his two squads were all the remaining Howling Griffons who survived the Julianus Crusade. The Captain had sent all his Marines into battle to defeat the Opportunity while he stayed aboard his own vessel to match the Fatemaker Captain’s space warfare expertise with his own. Now his men were beaten, and he came here, not to win the battle, but to win freedom for his people, and to win back what was left of his honour.

He was alone, surrounded by almost forty Astartes warrior, the mightiest enemies in the Galaxy.

‘Brother-Captain,’ he nodded towards Malistrum, ignoring everyone else in the hangar. ‘Let's get over this, shall we?’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 40.1, Christmas update:-

Postby Meaneye » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:14 am

Update time again. It is too late now, and I migt have made a few grammar or spelling mistakes in it. I will only add new parts to the story in 2013, so enjoy this one :D .

His opponent was brave, Malistrum had to hand it to him. It was, of course, expected of a Space Marine commander to go to great length and brave great danger for his brothers, but to do so without showing any emotional strain… this was too much even for an Astartes.

As he was studying Barandiya’s movement, Malistrum began to suspect that this duel will be the most challenge he had ever faced. He had to fight against stronger opponents, sure. The Neo-Devourers sprang to mind immediately, although other enemies had outmatched him in some aspect in the past. He had to fight against overwhelming numbers, enemies with superior fortitude or strength, whichcraft or foes who were more cunning than him. This was the first time, however, that he had to fight someone who matched him in almost equal measures in everything.

‘Brother-Captain Barandiya,’ he bowed slightly towards the other. ‘I presume you would like to talk to your men before the fight begins.’

‘That’s right,’ the Griffon said. Malistrum signalled to one of his Marines, who stepped forward, and offered Barandiya a vox-unit. The Captain took it, and turned it on.

‘Barandiya here,’ he said it into the vox.

‘Librarian Akichi here, Brother-Captain,’ a voice answered from the other side. ‘A moment, please’.

Barandiya held the vox away from his ear, and looked around him with impassive eyes, waiting for the Fatemaker officer to call his Sergeant. The Fatemakers looked back. There was no enmity in their eyes, but the tension between him and the enemy forces was palpable. Instead of an aggressive, hormonal taste, the air carried the faint smell of… it was difficult to say what. Space Marines knew no fear, but they did not really know how to handle pressure, apart from oppressing it with mental exercises. Concentration, however, brought out some of the symptoms which were normally typical of regular mortals. They were sweating slightly. Their breathing was a little faster than normally. An Astartes’ senses could perceive this without much effort.

The vox buzzed in Barandiya’s hand.

‘Sergeant Harald reporting.’

‘Harald,’ Barandiya greeted him. ‘Are you unharmed?’

‘My arm is useless, Captain,’ came the answer. ‘But I’ll live.’

‘Who died?’

There was a pause.

‘Chyton. Eltan. Fiorde. Boris. Friedrich. Fei Tsun. Theodor. The others are alive.’

Barandiya did not answer for a moment.

‘Listen to me carefully, Sergeant,’ he said at last. ‘I have agreed to duel with Brother-Captain Malistrum, the leader of the Fatemakers. This duel will decide the outcome of the battle. The winner will take everything. Do you understand me?’

‘I do, Captain,’ Harald replied.

‘You will remain in their custody during the duel. You will not try to break out, you will not look for opportunities to escape. After the duel, the Fatemakers will escort you back to the Caestus pods, and you will be allowed to go back to the Star of Reminica, regardless of the outcome of the duel.’

He said the last words with his eyes boring into Malistrum’s; there was no hesitation, no compromise in his look, only cold determination. Malistrum bowed his head in silence. He had good reasons to cooperate with the Griffons.

‘Is this part understood, Sergeant?’ Barandiya asked.

‘Understood, Captain,’ Harald answered. ‘We will stay put.’

‘Good.’ Barandiya took a slightly deeper breath. ‘If I lose the duel, we will relinquish control over Faramuntibus III. We move out of the system, and we let the Directorate take the planet over because that means we have lost the war. Do you understand me?’

There was no reply. Barandiya asked again.

‘Do you understand me, Sergeant?’

‘I do, Captain,’ the answer finally came.

‘If I die in the duel,’ Barandiya started. ‘HSSSH!’ he hissed into the vox when it buzzed again, indicating that the other Griffon was about to start objecting. ‘If I die in the duel, you take over the company. You will still relinquish control over the planet, and you will still move out with the ship. You will leave the system, and continue the journey. You will take the others home. Do you understand me?’

‘Harald,’ he spoke into the vox. ‘Do you understand what I am saying? Are you with me?’

‘I… I understand. If you… if…’ there was a sigh on the other side of the vox. ‘I obey your orders.’

‘Good.’ Barandiya stood immobile for a few heartbeats, as if not sure what else to say to his Sergeant. ‘I’ll be all right,’ he finally said. He opened his mouth again, but instead, he deactivated the vox, and gave it back to Malistrum’s man. He looked right into the Captain’s eye.

‘I am ready.’

‘Then let’s start it,’ Malistrum replied. ‘Chaplain?’

Chaplain Uskovich and the two opponents went to the middle of the hangar. There was no ceremonial circle or marked place for this fight. The two commanders would fight on the floor until one of them died, or one of them gave up. That latter was out of question; that much was obvious. Barandiya did not simply instruct his men about what to do next. This conversation could have been a farewell to his men.

The two of them stood facing the other, the Chaplain standing slightly away form them. Uskovich’s head turned left and right, regarding the two people; then, as he saw that they were in place, he raised his head, and started to speak.

‘We have gathered here, brothers, to witness the duel of two Space Marines whose indifference could not be settled by mere words.’ The Chaplain had speed-read the description of the ritual an hour earlier; the Fatemakers had never duelled this way before, but his part in this was merely to finish the ceremony. ‘We are brothers in arms, and the grandchildren of He on Earth. Murder is not our way. Yet, we are also warriors, and the Emperor’s will rests in our martial prowess. For this reason, these two men have agreed to undergo an ordeal here. The one who wins here is the one whose actions are supported by the Emperor.’

‘It is a sin to rob Him of a capable warrior just because he does not agree with one of his brothers,’ Uskovich continued, looking at the two Captains. ‘This is a dispute, not a war; victory can be achieved without killing, and there is no shame in admitting defeat here. Captain Andros Malistrum, Captain of Strike Force Four of the Fatemaker Chapter. Will you fight with honour, will you spare your opponent if he admits defeat, and will you admit defeat if necessary?’

‘I will, Brother-Chaplain,’ Malistrum answered.

Uskovich looked at Barandiya. He understood at once what he wanted.

‘Lichenko,’ he said quietly. ‘Fifth Company.

Uskovich nodded. ‘Captain Lichenko Barandiya, Captain of the Fifth Company of the Howling Griffons Chapter. Will you fight with honour, will you spare your opponent if he admits defeat, and will you admit defeat if necessary?’

‘I will, Brother-Chaplain.’

‘Drew blades,’ Uskovich ordered.

The two opponents drew their swords, and they held them up so everybody in the room could see them. Uskovich slowly raised his two hands, and placed them in front of his chestplate: the thumbs locked, the fingers spread, he showed the sign of the Aquila: the double-headed eagle.

The Captains saluted with their weapons. The others stood attention.

Uskovich did not move. The ceremony had to be closed, but he seemed to hesitate for a second. It took him that much time to say the last necessary thing.

‘The Emperor protects!’ he lied.

‘The Emperor protects!’ the others lied back.

Uskovich stepped back. The Captains energised their blades.

The duel began.





Sergeant Gorski was walking up and down on the bridge of the Opportunity. He never even tried to mask his impatience, nor did the bridge crew expected him to do so. All of them knew what was happening and what their place in the events was.

The Captain was fighting. He lived or died by swordblade, and it was the duty of every Astartes aboard the ship to witness it. Yet, allowances had to be made. Sergeant Hemethor and Librarian Akichi were guarding the Howling Griffon prisoners on the containment level. Other squads were positioned along the ship’s interior; after all, they were still under battle condition. For the same reason, a Space Marine officer was required on the bridge in case command decisions had to be made.

Gorski understood the necessity of his presence here, but this did not make him any calmer. He felt bad for two reasons. The first was that he felt he was neglecting his duty towards his own Captain. The second was that he was not experienced in void-fighting. Sure, he was familiar with the basics of tree-dimensional warfare: training every officer in the basics of ship-to-ship combat was only expected in the Fatemaker Chapter. However, he lacked actual experience. They all had.

Ever since Malistrum had acquired his rank as Captain of Strike Force Four, he had always conducted space battles. His genius had won the battles, and the others were content in letting him lead them to victory. After all, who would have risked a real space battle to let some other officers gain experience? Normally, when a captain became invalid, the ranking crewmember stepped in to continue the battle, but – and Gorski had to realize this just in the worst possible moment – that crewmember was unavoidably a mortal here. The dubious honour to wage war in the name of the Astartes belonged to First Officer Omir today, and the balding little man seemed capable enough, but it was enough to look at him to see that this man would not make command decisions unless he had the backing of a true Space Marine.

They depend on us too much, Gorski thought. And in return, we depend on them too much. And, in return, we both depend on the Captain too much.

Sergeant Gorski had found out one weak point in the training of the Fatemakers. Malistrum had clearly knew about this, which was why he had ordered him to nursemaid a full-grown adult in case the space battle erupts again. Gorsko imagined what he would do in this situation, and he decided that First Officer Omir would look at him with that annoying reverence in his eyes, and he would have to say the words: raise the shields, and shoot back, First Officer! And then he would step back and let the mortal guide the ship, unable to leave because Omir could not make decisions without looking back at him over his shoulders.

Thak the Emperor, fate or whatever power remained in the Galaxy, a space battle seemed unlikely. The two fleets had bled each other out quite remarkably: apart from a few escorts on both sides, only the Ortansia remained intact enough to represent any sensible military might. The Directorate ship was badly wounded, and she was leaking plasma and air into the void, but she managed to manoeuvre herself next to the Opportunity. There they all stood: two depleted fleets, waiting for their masters to fight it out all on their own.

Gorski tried to imagine how they could go on without the Captain, and he failed. How could anyone replace him? Who could bring together all the humans, all the Astartes, all the Ogryns? Astartes could do the impossible, but not the unimaginable.

Don’t you die on us, Captain, he thought nervously.





Some expected the duel to be quickly over. Some knew their Captain’s legendary skill with the powersword, and they believed that Mlaistrum would make short work of the other Astartes. Some others, on the other hand, realized that his opponent must be as proficient in his chosen weapon as their Fatemaker leader, and they thought that the two master swordsmen would bring the fight to a quick end, one way or another. Finally, there were some who were, like the two Captains, swordsmen by heart, or at the very least, melee specialists. They knew that two people who stand on the same – very high – level of fighting prowess would not start exchanging strokes in a hurry. They would have to assess the other, weigh his weaknesses and strong points, and only then would they start hacking the other up. Once they swing into action, the fight would probably be over quickly, but that would come later.

The two Captains were moving towards each other with slow, determined steps. They did not lock eyes; both of them were trying to take n the whole body of their opponent, to see how the other was moving, how he was holding the weapons, how much he favours his better hand at the expense of the shorter blade in his left hand. As they were nearing each other, they also started to circle around the other. Their swords were held high, at the level of their head, their crackling tips almost touching the other’s blade so the energy sizzling through the two weapons could actually jump from one piece of metal to the other.

Malistrum was concentrating like he had not done so in close combat since the days of the Neo-Devourer Wars. Those enemies were lightning fast, and even a fraction of a second lost attention had got even a veteran Astartes in those terrible decades. The pace of this fight was unlike any combat from Malistrum’s past, but the danger was present just as clearly. Astartes or not, Barandiya intended to kill him, and in return, he intended to kill the Griffon commander.

He needed a weak point. Everybody had at least one, which a gifted warrior could exploit. Malistrum knew what his own weak point was, and he had worked hard, first to eradicate that mistake, then, later, to forge an advantage out of it once he had realized that he had to live with that weakness. Proficient as he was with the sword, he was not two-handed. He always relied more heavily on his right arm and the right side of his body, even when he was fighting with only one sword. He tended not to us a bolt pistol in his other hand: he could use the two together at a level within Astartes requirements, but ‘within requirement’ meant that you barely passed the bar, and ‘barely passing’ would get a man killed in battle. When he had seen that he would never become a true proficient two-hand fighter, he simply trained himself to be better with a single sword, and, at the behest of his first squad Sergeant, he also worked out a fighting style where he would keep his left hand in the cover of his body, surprising his enemy with sudden strikes with his left arm. It worked against some opponents; it failed against others, but he regularly managed to surprise his Astartes training partners with it, and since his opponent was also an Astartes… it might have worked.

His opponent, on the other hand, was a true two-handed warrior. He was holding his power-gladius in a confident and open manner at his side, meaning he could launch attacks and parry with it at the same time. It was difficult to see whether he was quicker than Malistrum. This pace was not adequate to assess his speed, but small signs were telling Malistrum that his opponent’s technique was not honed by fighting hyper-charged, lightning-fast Ork-Tyranid hybrids. An advantage? Perhaps. A balanced warrior could counter the speed of another by working his entire body: arms, legs, body mass – in greater harmony, easily evading an attack which was merely fast but uncoordinated. Was Barandiya balanced enough?

It did not seem so. There was something in his movement: not something Malistrum could quite put his finger on at first, but there definitely seemed to be the barest hint of uncertainty in the Griffon’s steps. Barandiya was favouring the left leg for some reason. He concealed it well enough, but the Fatemaker’s experienced eye could see it. It was not much to exploit, but it could have been the edge Malistrum was looking for.

The Captain’s mind was not racing with possibilities. He could not afford it: it would have been too distractive. It took four slow steps around each other for him to work out his plan, weigh the possible consequences and reach a decision. It was time to act.

The fast change in pace surprised almost everybody in the hall. Malistrum darted forward, hitting his opponent’s blade aside with his long sword. He passed by his right side, turning almost 180 degrees as he stabbed his gladius towards Barandiya’s side. It was a lightning-fast move, one which would have left even a veteran Space Marine undefended for a second. The audience hissed as one while the shorter energy-blade stopped mere inches from the Griffon Captain’s power armour.

Barandiya turned out of his original position, almost the same way Malistrum did. His long sword made an arc in the air, forcing the Fatemaker to parry with his own blade. Barandiya leaned on his leg – his right leg, the one which seemed to be weaker a second earlier – and put his whole body weight into the forward thrust. His two blades slashed into the air as Malistrum leaped back with two short steps, putting his sword in front, hiding the gladius again behind him.

Malistrum could not even afford a small grin, but he knew that he had judged his opponent right. Barandiya was only faking his leg wound. It was a clever trick: faint enough so he would not suspect a trick, just barely visible so only an experienced warrior would recognise it. He saw through the trick, but, at the same time, also exposed himself. Barandiya now knew that he would not have an easy time with Malistrum. Both of them would be more careful now.





Andorias was watching the duel with burning eyes. The two commanders had been circling around each other for a while, looking for a weak spot in the other’s defence to exploit. Andorias was doing the same: he was trying to determine the moment one of them would be able to bring in a killing stroke. He had found none. They were trying: the slow, tension-filled minutes of stalking were broken by sudden outbursts of steel clashing on steel. Te air was crackling around the combatants as energy sparks leapt from the power swords, adding new sounds to the metal clanks and the grunts of the fighting Captains.

Andorias would have appreciated this battle under any circumstances, but he found he could not do so this time. Not only because too much was at stake for him, because fighting always carried in itself the possibility of failure and death. Losing this battle, however, would have carried something else: life as he did not wished to live on. He felt bitterness rise in him for short seconds when Captain Barandiya launched attacks, and he found that the bitterness did not go away even when it seemed that Captain Malistrum would finally have the upper hand. He felt powerless as he watched on, anger eating him inside for not being able to influence the fate of his own strike force.

He had to force himself into a relaxed state. He was keenly aware just how often Barandiya turned his back to him, and he was keenly aware of the bolt pistol mag-locked onto his belt. It was a shameful and terrible thought, but it would not go away from him. If he shot Barandiya in the back, he would lose his honour, but this price was perhaps worthwhile. The consequences of the failure of his Captain were too bad for him to apprehend.

He used the mental exercises he had learned as an initiate, and ordered his balled fingers to slacken. Then he ordered his body to slow down his breathing. He would not even think of shaming himself and his Chapter this way.

Andorias suddenly looked up. The pace of the sword-clashes changed.





Malistrum gripped his sword harder as Barandiya struck. The Griffon swung harder, forcing Malistrum to put more strength into his own swings. It was obvious what the Griffon wanted. Obviously, the two of them were matched in their fighting capabilities, so it was time to try something new. Did Barandiya really think that he could overcome him with brute strength?

Barandiya’s sword clashed against the Fatemaker’s blade, and pushed it back. Malistrum cold only stop his own sword a hair’s breadth from his face.

Strength, right?

Andorias pressed his lips as Malistrum yelled, and jumped forward, just as Barandiya did the same. Their swings became wider, almost a blur. They stopped moving around and stood, swinging their two blades not from their arms, their shoulders but their hips. The upper parts of their bodies became part of the attack strikes putting more lethal force into them.

A large clanging, sizzling noise indicated that their blades met. It was almost immediately followed by another, equally loud noise as their shorter blades met. Then came another noise. The blur of their weapons made it difficult to see what they were doing: only the explosive sound and the bluish air ripples made by their swords clashing against each other indicated just how fiercely they were trying to break through to reach the other.

A new sound came: not the sound of two energized blades meeting, but that of an energy blade tearing into ceramite. Malistrum wavered for a fraction of a second, but Barandiya had no time to use this opportunity. He made an attempt to step forward, only to be struck back as malistrum’s blade made a gashing mark on the Griffon’s ceramite chestplate. The whirling blades met again, eliciting the now familiar energized clash, then Barandiya was struck back again, a second before he cut Malistrum’s face, sizzling one side of his face.

The Fatemakers winced, but the duel was far from over. The two Captains leaped at each other, pushing away the other’s longer blades. They banged together, the eagles on their chestplates clashing. Barandiya leaned back, trying to hit the other in the face with the hilt of his sword. Malistrum blocked the strike with his own hilt, and stabbed upwards with his gladius from the side. The movement was improvised, and he could not put enough force into the stab. The blade slid off Barandiya’s side plating, and in return, he tried to elbow into Malistrum’s shoulder.





Andorias bit into his lips. The duel of the two Captain had become a brawl as they were trying to beat each other with their fists. They were too near to the other to use their swords, which thus became mere hunks of metal pieces in their hands, which they could use to bludgeon the other. They pressed against each other hard, pushing the other, leaning on their legs. This was a very dangerous position for both of them. the slightest movement could push them out of balance, practically winning the fight for the other.

Any moment.

Any moment now.

Now.





Malistrum headbutted Barandiya. This was the first time he had ever used this tactic, and it was easy to see why. He did not need it against a weaker opponent, and it would not be effective against anyone who was his equal. Indeed, Barandiya headbutted him back immediately. Malistrum growled. The two of them punched their heads into the other’s face three, four, five times before jumping back, putting some space between each other.

Malistrum panted. Hs face was bloodied, from his own blood as much as from Barandiya’s. The Griffon commander was equally bruised, and there were scorched marks on their power armours where the blades hit home. Both of them looked in much worse shape than at the beginning of the duel.

This was the problem. They were still evenly matched. They could not beat the other with their fighting prowess, their stamina, their cunning or their brute strength. There was no telling who would win in the end.

Malistrum did not like this thought. It meant continuing to fight and hope that eventually, Barandiya would make a mistake before he would. He never liked to put his fate in the hand of chance and coincidence. The other solution, however…

There was a way to end this. A last, final outburst, striking out with his swords, forgoing the necessity of parrying. Barandiya would seize the opportunity, the Captain had no doubt about that. Both of them would strike at the other, inflicting horrible damage on the other. In all likelihood, they would kill each other with that strike.

This would have been the worst possible outcome. With no clear victor, the battle would continue. Of course, there was no Howling Griffon left on the Star of Reminica to continue to fight, but the Griffons guarded on the containment level would undoubtedly try to break out, forcing the Fatemakers to open fire at them.

Strike Force Four killing unarmed brother Astartes, then moving on without their leader. Anything else was a preferable option.

Cold melancholy overcame Malistrum. He had to make yet another sacrifice, losing another part of his old self in order for the Opportunity to continue with her quest. He could no longer win this fight in an honourable way.

He had to turn Barandiya’s own honour and trust in the Astartes traditions against him.

Malistrum darted forward. He used his longer sword, just as he favoured it during the entire fight. His blade jumped left and right, hitting Barandiya’s blade away from the vertical middle line of his body. He struck forward with his gladius.

Barandiya was expecting this, and he hit back. He parried the shorter blade, and the longer, returning his longsword to the middle. His own gladius hit Malistrum’s hard, batting it up as he was trying to bring in an upper stab.

Malistrum stabbed low with the gladius again, then again. Every time, Barandiya batted it away with increasing force as Malistrum put more strength behind his own attack. The two blades met hard a third time.

Malistrum’s sword flew up in the air.

The audience gasped.

Barandiya was taken completely surprised by this. He cut upwards hard while parrying, anticipating some form of resistance. Who would be so stupid to let go of his weapon? His left hand followed the course of Malistrum’s gladius, while both of them locked the other’s longer blade with their or. For a second, Barandiya’s right hand was occupied, while his left hand was too high up to be of any use.

Leaving Malistrum’s left hand free to act.

The Fatemaker Captain struck. His fingers closed, and he stabbed forward with the tip of his palm. His gauntleted fingers stopped just short of Barandiya’s face.

None of them moved for a second.

The silence was broken by the sound of Malistrum’s gladius hitting the ground. Then the two of them jumped back. Barandiya lowered his swords and he looked at Malistrum with eyes wide open.

‘I could have killed you with that strike,’ Malistrum said, the first words to leave his lips since the beginning of the duel. ‘’I won, Captain. Acknowledge it, and stand down by your honour.

Barandiya made a hesitant step back. His face changed as emotions were overcoming him. He opened his mouth; nothing came out first apart from some low growl, but the growl got louder and louder until it became a shout, which turned into a yell.

Malistrum was right. He was aiming at the bridge of the Griffon Captain’s nose, and his power gauntlet had enough force in it to break through the bone, right into the brain matter. He lived only because Malistrum allowed him to be alive.

He yelled without any rational thought. All his frustration, his anguish, the indignity of his situation was concentrated into this inarticulate shout, which was more fitting to an animal than an intelligent being. He shouted and until all air left his lungs, and his yell slowly faded into nothing.

He looked at Malistrum with blood-shot eyes. The Fatemaker Captain could not even begin to imagine what was going on in his head. Barandiya now had to choose between breaking two oaths: the one made to the leaders of the oligarchy and the one made a Space Marine. Breaking the first oath would disgrace him forever; however, breaking that oath would save his men, the ones he had been together through Hell and back. They were the only people he had remaining with the Emperor gone and his faith in the natural order of the Galaxy shattered. How could he abandon them?

Malistrum knew the Griffon was thinking about these things because he would have been thinking the same. They were too much alike. Malistrum knew what he would have chosen: how could Barandiya decide otherwise?

He was not disappointed. Barandiya pushed the last puff of air out of his lungs. He heaved. He shook his head. Slowly but surely, he composed himself, though. He looked at his two swords as if he had seen them for the first time, and finally maglocked them with deliberate carefulness. When he looked up again, his features were smooth and unreadable, just when he first stepped onto the floor of the Opportunity.

‘You are right, Brother-Captain,’ he said calmly. ‘You have won the duel – and consequently, you have won the battle as well.’





Oh, and also Happy New Years everyone! :D
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 40, full update)

Postby LordLucan » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:54 am

I loved this duel. You are a very accomplished writer, and your fight scene between captains in particular was first rate; not too crowded by description, and fast paced enough to keep the tension.

I'll have to catch up on this story, as I confess I've been too distracted of late to read it all, but I will get on that asap, as this is awesome prose and I anticipate the parts I missed will be equally good (if not better). Even without context, I found this part exciting and tension-filled.

Just posting this now to make clear that I will be readingt he rest, and I will comment again on this as soon as I have done so.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 40, full update)

Postby librisrouge » Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:45 am

I can only echo what LL said. That was first rate and captured that correct pacing of fight scenes that so many authors struggle with. Well done.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 40, full update)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Jan 13, 2013 5:50 pm

The first update of the year :D . The story arc is not quite concluded, but this much is already an update's worth. I will put up the rest later next week.




Victory.

Malistrum took a deep breath. Tiredness came down upon him like a great wave: his muscles started to ache as combat fatigue was trying to overcome him, and his head started to ache as his brain realized he no longer needed to operate in combat mode.

He cared none of it. He was exhausted physically and mentally alike, but all these counted for nothing against the almost forgotten feeling which he had not experienced for more than a year.

He had won. He had won not only a battle, but he managed to solve a crisis without any further cost in human life. He had to pay the butcher’s bill: his Ogryns suffered at the hands of the Howling Griffons, and he had lost more than one good fighter pilots in the void war with the Star of Reminica. On the other hand, he had managed to bet his opponent while simultaneously sparing his life. He was resolved to die or kill for his Chapter, and it turned out he needed to do none of the two things. In victory, he had been merciful, and he did not need to lose more of the values he had held dear.

Moreover, this had been a victory with a significant gain. Strike Force Four was now able to reclaim the Astropath from their Directorate allies, enabling them to continue searching for their brothers. After so many detours, failures and Pyrrhic victories, it seemed that the Fatemakers had finally managed to make fate for themselves once more.

The Captain seethed his weapons, and looked at Chaplain Uskovich, who was acting as the judge of the duel.

‘Chaplain?’

‘The duel is over, Captains,’ Uskovich answered. Malistrum knew him too well not to notice the relief in his voice. ‘You have fought valiantly, and the Emperor has made His judgement. Let there be no more enmity between the two of you.’

Malistrum nodded, and addressed Captain Barandiya.

‘May I declare a general stand-down in my fleet?’

‘You may, Brother-Captain,’ the other answered. ‘I will do the same myself.’

The tension eroded in the hangar bay. Malistrum activated his vox-link, and called the bridge.

‘Sergeant Gorski?’

‘Gorski here,’ the answer came. There was relief in his voice too as he heard his Captain speaking, and Malistrum allowed himself a faint smile.

‘The duel is over, and Captain Barandiya acknowledged defeat. Both fleets are standing down, the Opportunity included.’

‘As you wish, my lord.’





Gorski exhaled, and looked at First officer Omir, who started to grin, along with the rest of the bridge crew.

‘Power down the battle systems, and go to reserves,’ he ordered.

‘Aye, my lord,’ Omir replied, and turned to his crew to instruct them. Gorski watched the instruments which indicated that the ships in the two fleets were starting to reduce the energy output of their own battle-systems. One by one, the ships turned down their macro-cannons and shields, like fighting soldiers slowly lowering their guns.

Gorski shook his head. This was close, my lord. Please don’t do anything like this again.





Malistrum turned down his vox, and went over to his fellow Captain. He was watching the approaching Fatemaker with a curious expression. Malistrum knew what was going on in his head. He had lost the duel, and Space Marines were not used to defeat. Barandiya could not back down on his word, and his honour obliged him to accept it, but his mind was reeling as he was forced to acknowledge a situation where he had to continue living with the shame of defeat. Malistrum realized that Barandiya must still have had the old, pre-Extinction mindset about the world. Two years ago, this situation would not have occurred, but the new world required pragmatism at a previously unprecedented level, and the Griffon had obviously not started to cope with it.

Malistrum felt deeply sorry for him. He knew what would await his fellow Astartes: realizing and writing off losses, adapting to a cold, sterile, godless Galaxy, parting with some of the old notions and values that all Astartes had lived by. This duel would not be the only thing the howling Griffons would lose.

‘That was… an interesting move,’ Barandiya said as Malistrum reached him. There was no reproach in his voice, as the rules of the engagement did not forbid any such practice. What Barandiya must have taken exception to was the fact that Malistrum used Barandiya’s own convictions and honour as a weapon against him.

‘A move which saved both of us, Brother-Captain,’ Malistrum reminded him. ‘Neither of us has the luxury of independence. We must live because our forces live through us.’

‘Aye, this is true,’ Barandiya grimaced. ‘I will withdraw my ship from the area. I doubt that the rest of the Oligarchy fleet will follow my orders after this, but the way I see it, they are too weak to resist you. You may occupy the orbit of Faramuntibus III at your leisure.’

Malistrum said his next words cautiously. ‘I have been thinking about what you said earlier, Brother-Captain. The two planets are too much entangled in their own private wars to allow the other to win. Even if one of us clears the orbit today, the other force would eventually return to reclaim it. This war would not stop today, and although fate has brought us here, this is not our war. Not a war which we could fight with any decency. I know this sounds hypocritical from my mouth, but…’

Barandiya raised his hand. ‘No. No. That’s not my concern – especially because I agree with you. It is just…’

He made a sad smile, and looked Malistrum in his eyes.

‘You see, Brother-Captain, we are stuck here. We arrived in this system after a series of space battles with the remnants of an Archenemy forces. The Julianus Crusade had been concluded before the Em… it has been concluded, and some of the enemy formations were fleeing towards this subsector when the troubles started. We were wounded, and we could afford no further jumps. I only agreed to support the oligarchy in return for a general refit, which we received, and Warp-cartridges so we can continue our journey, which we will probably not receive now. Like it or not, this system will be our permanent home now, and frankly, I don’t see how I will avoid taking further part in the war now.’

This gave Malistrum pause.

‘Brother-Captain, we have managed to re-supply from one of our secret base a short while ago. We have spare Warp-cartridges to share with you.’

‘Barandiya shook his head. ‘You offer is appreciated, but I have to say no. We are not in a state where we would have to rely on alimony, especially from a force which we have previously antagonised. I cannot accept it from you.’

‘I am offering no alimony,’ Malistrum said firmly. ‘That is not part of our nature. Nor am I trying to make up for anything that happened today. Conflict between us was inevitable and regrettable, but it is all behind us now. We are brothers again, and, being in a similar situation, I can understand your plight. I consider myself an honourable man, although I have had to do some things lately which do not sit well with me – our duel included. But I would accept help without hesitation if it meant that my company would survive and go on.’

Barandiya closed his eyes, and Malistrum knew the other Captain had to fight a tough battle against his own ego to say yes. To accept help from an enemy who bested you… with a proud Chapter like the Howling Griffons… still, this was a test. The Griffons would have to learn how to survive in this new Galaxy, or they would disappear from the stars forever.

Barandiya sighed, and opened his eyes. ‘I would appreciate all the help you can provide, Brother-Captain.’

‘And I would gladly help you,’ Malistrum said. ‘If you don’t mind, I need to instruct my crew. I will also release your Astartes from the containment level.’

I will go to my shuttle, and do likewise, Barandiya said. Malistrum watched him turn away, and felt relief again. As things had started to turn out, this was as good a final solution as possible.

He briefly wondered just what experiences his fellow Captain had had since the Extinction. How had he managed to overcome the Withdrawal? What had he made of the Emperor’s silence? Had he accepted the fact that He no longer protected?

These were questions that he could have asked later. He took a look around, acknowledging that the rest of the crew was much more at ease now. The humans smiled and chatted; a forgivable offence now that the fight was apparently over. Commissar Lamberg went back to his shuttle, his mission concluded satisfactorily. The Astartes warriors were still standing stoically as expected, but he saw the signs. They were happy for him.

All, except for Sergeant Andorias. He was relieved as well, but there was some source of tension in him which did not go away at the end of the duel. Malistrum frowned, and went to him.

‘Sergeant,’ he said. Andorias looked back.

‘I am glad this is over, my lord,’ he answered.

He actually was, this was obvious. Malistrum knew that his Sergeant could not express personal feelings and emotions very well, even by Astartes standards. He waited patiently for him to open up.

‘Captain,’ Andorias started. ‘I am sorry.’

Malistrum raised an eyebrow. ’Sorry for what?’

Andorias was struggling with words. ‘I am sorry, Captain… I have to… I mean, I have…’

The Sergeant looked up. However, he was not looking at the Captain.

Malistrum heard it too. A whining noise, quite at odds with the regular noises the hangar bay usually produced. It was out of place, yet something he had heard quite often in his life.

He turned back. His eyes opened wide.

The Aquila shuttle the Directorate delegation used to come aboard powered up her systems. She was armed, which the Fatemakers had noted, but wrote off as a negligible threat. The laser cannon mounted on the outer hull of the vessel could not have penetrated the walls of the hangar, and so they had let it at that. Now, however, the cannon turned on its mounting with a familiar mechanical purr.

Both Fatemaker officers needed only a fraction of a second to calculate the fire arc of the weapon. Both of them opened their mouths in unison to shout a warning.

Both of them were too late.

Captain Barandiya also heard the sound, but he had a distinct disadvantage aboard the Opportunity. It was not his ship, and he was not as familiar with the various noises as the people who practically lived their long lives here. He reacted just a little later to the machine noise than the others, but that little delay was all the difference the shuttle needed.

The laser beam penetrated his power armour with a loud static hiss. It did not go through, though, which meant that the energy was completely caught within Captain Barandiya’s body. Not even the Astartes eye could follow the speed at which the heat built up inside the Howling Griffon. The upper part of his body burst open almost immediately, throwing the remains away from the shuttle. Captain Barandiya, a veteran of a thousand battles, was killed with one single cannon shot.

Malistrum screamed. He was not aware that he was screaming; he certainly had no idea that his scream imitated Barandiya’s own yell at the end of their duel. Both Captains shouted because of the magnitude of shock, betrayal and failure they experienced: both of them cried out loud because of the realization that something went terribly and irrevocably wrong.

He jumped towards the falling body of the Griffon commander. His vox-unit buzzed into life.

‘Captain! The Ortansia…’

He ignored the message. He ignored the cries of his own men, who were jumping after him as one. He reached Barandiya in three leaps, and arrived, almost slid on his knees next to his body. One quick look was enough to know what had already been obvious to him in the beginning. Lichenko Barandiya was dead.

The laser cannon turned again. This time, it was aimed at the Howling Griffon’s shuttle which the Captain had used to come aboard the Opportunity. The energy beam tore into the vessel, opening up her hull with the first shot, turning her on her side with the second one. With this last shot, the cannon went silent.

A commotion erupted around Malistrum. The other Astartes caught up with him, and they immediately formed a protective circle around their kneeling Captain. Andorias barked short instructions, and the Astartes formed an impenetrable wall, their bolters aimed at the Directorate shuttle. The combined firepower would have been enough to at least damage the vessel, which would have been followed by the attack of all three squads simultaneously. They would have opened up the shuttle like a canned food ration in a minute.

The ship did not make any more threatening move. The entry ramp was still lowered, and now there was movement inside the ship. Malistrum stood up, and saw three people emerging from the belly of the shuttle.

The first one was the vitifier who had come here to guard, protect and – if necessary – kill Astropath Lucas. Normally, his duty would have bound him to the side of the old psyker, but this was not necessary in this case. Astropath Lucas was being pushed forward right behind him; the sightless white orbs of his eyes could not convey much fear or panic, but he still managed to show it all the same.

The person behind him, holding him by his neck was Commissar Lamberg. He folded his left arm firmly around the Astropath’s neck, while holding his bolt pistol to Lucas’s skull with the right hand. His features were particularly sharp, and his whole being was edgy but determined. The trio slowly came down the ramp to face the Fatemakers.

Malistrum’s vox activated again.

‘Captain! The Ortansia is still firing! What should we do?’





Sergeant Gorski could not believe his eyes. It was happening too fast.

The Ortansia had failed to power down like the rest of the two fleets. The Seregant had seen this, and was about to contact the vessel when the Directorate ship’s weapons fired a salvo at the Star of Reminica.

The attack took the Howling Griffons’ ship completely by surprise. She had already lowered her shields as it was fitting for a vessel who had lost a battle. Trying to stand down, she had exposed herself to the barrage from the Directorates, and she was paying the price for it.

The salvo tore into the hull in three different sections, destroying the bridge, breaking up the rearmost decks and damaging one of the engines. Even to the Sergeant’s inexperienced eyes, it was obvious that the Griffons were crippled by that one attack, and the instruments showed that the Ortansia was preparing for another attack.

First Officer Omir cast a shocked glance at Gorski.

‘My lord? What is happening?’

Gorski had no answer for him. He activated the vox-unit with an almost indecent haste, and called the Captain.

‘Captain! The Ortansia! He is shooting at the Star of Reminica! What is our orders?’

No answer came. Gorski watched as the Ortansia started to turn so she could aim the other ship with her torpedoes. Even while on the move, one of her cannons opened fire again, and the blast tore another chunk out of the hull.

Gorski knew that he should have acted, yet he could not. The worst possible thing had just happened to him: he was forced to make a major command decision, and he found he was unable to give one.

He almost jumped at the vox console.

‘Captain! The Ortansia is still firing! What should we do?’





Malistrum looked right into the eyes of the Commissar. He returned the gaze, and did not falter much.

‘I am sorry it has come to this, Captain,’ he said. ‘But I had to take matters into my hand. The way you were handling this situation was intolerable.’

Malistrum slowly raised his hand to his collar. Normally, he could have activated his personal vox by moving his chin down, but this time, he made the extra effort.

‘You were about to let an enemy leave unmolested,’ the Commissar continued. ‘An enemy who was still capable of fighting. I don’t know what you were thinking, I honestly don’t know. But from this moment on, I’m afraid I have to take control over this operation. If you don’t act stupid and cooperate…’

‘Sergeant Essen. Activate three to seven,’ Malistrum spoke into the vox. His gaze never let go of Lamberg’s face.

The Commissar frowned. ‘What are doing?’ he demanded.

Malistrum ignored him. ‘Sergeant Gorski?’ he asked.

‘Captain?’ the answer came. Malistrum kept his gaze on Lamberg.

‘Kill the Ortansia.’

Lamberg’s eyes opened wide.

‘You cannot…’

Malistrum raised a finger, and said, ‘Shut up.’

Lamberg’s mouth snapped close. The Captain lowered his arm.

‘Now we wait,’ he said.





Gorski nodded to First officer Omir, who in turn waved to his crew. They needed no more than that.

Just as the Directorate attack took the Griffons by surprise, the Opportunity managed to launch a killer blow against her former ally immediately. The powerful bombardment cannons blasted the ship’s shields apart, and the two last projectiles bore into the metal frame just behind the prow section of the vessel. There was no sound in space, but the crew could well imagine the noise the crumbling frame of the ship was making while the slowly turning vessel put more strain on the already weakened superstructure of the Ortansia.

Then it happened. The Ortansia, a long and sleek vessel by design, gave in to the law of gravity and tore in two behind her prow. The two parts started to spin away from each other as the sections open to vacuum started to vent air into space.

Gorski checked the data about the Star of Reminica and saw with horror that they were already too late. The Astartes ship was shaking as internal explosions and fire started to kill her from the inside. Gorski knew what he saw: the vessel was immolated. With almost every corridor and hall on fire and no air recycling as the energy reserves failed, the Griffon ship was sentenced to a hot, agonising death.





Malistrum listened to the report of his Sergeant on the vox. He was still staring at the Commissar without any obvious emotion, which made the situation even more tension-filled. Lamberg was breathing heavily. He had thought that he was in control of the situation, and now he was most definitely not. Not even with Astropath Lucas in his hand. Not when facing thirty bolters.

‘Instruct both fleets,’ he ordered. ‘They are ordered to keep distance from each other as well as from us, and make them understood that we will kill any vessel who makes any threatening move against anyone else.’

He made a slight nod in acknowledgement of the bridge’s answer. ‘Now we can talk,’ he told Lamberg.

‘You will not get away with this,’ Lamberg hissed. ‘You have become the enemy of the Directorate. Why did you betray us?’

‘Betray?’ Malistrum asked. ‘I have just won this war for the Directorate. Captain Barandiya was willing to surrender, and you had the orbit of the system’s agricultural planet. You have received everything you needed. Why did you attack?’

‘Because the enemy was still alive!’ Lamberg shifted to the left to get a better view of all the Astartes in front of him. ‘Are you really so naïve to believe that Barandiya would have simply moved on?’

‘He was willing to move on.’ Lamberg did not know Malistrum enough to notice the hard edge in his voice, but his men did, and they tensed. Malistrum was seething. Rage and violence was lurking just under the surface, and only the iron will of the Space Marines prevented him to jump at the mortal in front of him and tear him apart.

‘Because he gave you his “word”,’ Lamberg replied. He allowed himself a small chuckle, which elicited some murderous whisper from the Astartes. ‘That’s no way to fight. As long as the enemy is alive, he is dangerous. Only complete annihilation is the right answer!’

‘Not my answer,’ Malistrum shook his head. ‘It has never been my answer.’

‘Then you are weak,’ Lamberg retorted. ‘Weak and unprepared. Welcome to the real world, commander! Mankind survives because we are tough and ruthless. There is no other way.’

‘It is blind ruthlessness that got us into this situation,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Not you standing a hair’s breadth from being killed, but the situation Mankind in general is facing now. And as for us being weak and unprepared…’

He nodded without any obvious reason. Lamberg frowned, and pulled the Astropath backwards with an angry jerk, eliciting a gasp of fear from the psyker.

‘I don’t know what your are planning, Captain, but I am warning you. You make one step…’

Someone sighed behind him. The sound was immediately followed by a large object falling on the ground in his periphery. He risked a sideway glance and opened his mouth.

The vitifier was lying on the floor in the pool of his own blood. How did he die? None of the Astartes in front of the Commissar moved.

He tried to make another step back when something pushed against his back. Something sharp.

A new head hovered into his vision. A large man was leaning forward and down from behind him until his mouth was level with Lamberg’s ear.

‘I don’t know who you are,’ Sergeant Essen said, ‘But I have the feeling you are my enemy. I suggest you stop moving altogether.’

Lamberg froze still.

‘It is important that you understand your current situation, Commissar,’ Malistrum said in a level-headed, soft voice. ‘For this reason, I will allow you to turn your head and take a look behind you. Sergeant?’

‘Just carefully,’ Essen told the Directorate officer, and he slowly turned, the Astropath still in his grip, the tip of a knife still pressed against his spine. What he saw chilled him to the bone.

The Astartes standing behind him was bad enough. He had been caught, and it was only the fact that he was still threatening the Astropath was what kept him alive. Worse still were the two other Space Marines standing behind him, weapons raised. They were not wearing the power armour he had now come to associate with the Astartes, but a lighter carapace version. Still, they were Asatrtes, and they managed to get behind him on the two sides of the ramp to his shuttle.

How could they? The area around the vessel was clear, and his own crew would have alerted him if anyone had tried to approach them. The Commissar looked down on the floor and gasped. Parts of the floor panels were slid aside, and now shallow but wide compartments under the floor were visible. All of them were under the Directorate shuttle, and he did not need much imagination to guess where the attackers came from.

‘That’s right,’ Essen said. ‘There was a reason why we directed your shuttle on this landing platform. We never quite trust outsiders, and it seems we were right about you lot.’

‘We came aboard three days ago!’ Lamberg protested.

Essen nodded. ‘It was a longish wait,’ he admitted. ‘Two of my men are still under the shuttle; it seems you managed to land right on top of their panel...’

Lamberg’s mouth shut closed. He was about to realize just what manner of warriors the Directorate had tried to abuse.

Another figure appeared on top of the shuttle ramp. Another Astartes came out of Lamberg’s ship, dragging two corpses behind him. He threw them out of the ship with a contemptuous flick of his wrists, and made a horizontal slash with his hand towards the Captain, indicating that the shuttle had been neutralized.

Malistrum stepped forward; the line of Astartes opened to let him through.

‘I would really like to kill you now, Commissar Lamberg,’ he started. ‘I really do. I made an oath to a brother Astartes, and you made me an oath-breaker. An oath-breaker.’ He put special emphasis on the last expression. ‘We are the Angels of Death. We need to keep our paths, e need high ethical and moral standards because we are too dangerous to exist otherwise. This realization is what would have kept Captain Barandiya away from this local war from now on, had you given him the chance to act upon his conscience.’ He stepped forward again. ‘It is the same conviction that you have to place your trust in. You have two options, Commissar. You can release Astropath Lucas, and I give you my word – my word, and nothing else, no assurances, no further promises – that I let you leave alive. Your other option is that you refuse us the Astropath, in which case we will try to take it away from you and then kill you.’ For the first time in the conversation, Malistrum tore his penetrating gaze away from the Commissar and looked at Astropath Lucas. ‘I am truly sorry that you are in this situation, Astropath. This is not how I intended to acquire your help. I promise we will try to take you out of there alive, one way or another.’

Malistrum looked back at Lamberg. ‘Even if the Astropath dies, you will follow him shortly. So – I have presented you with two options. Make your decision.’

The two humans swallowed almost simultaneously. Lamberg licked his lips, and opened his mouth, only to close it again.

‘He… he is right,’ Lucas groaned. Lamberg’s eyes darted down on the psyker’s head.

‘What?’

‘Captain… the Captain is right,’ Lucas said. He was stammering a little, and he was looking for words, but there was no doubt in his voice. ‘I am psychic, you know? I can see… things. I always could. Even though my Tarot no longer works, I can glimpse into the future, and your future is clear. I see your demise’

‘Shut up,’ Lamberg whispered.

‘I see you die,’ Lucas continued. He closed his blind eyes for a second, then he opened them again. ‘I see you die with the gauntlet of a Space Marine around your throat. And Commissar?’ he added. ‘You will die screaming.’

There was silence in the hangar bay now. Nobody said a word: the only noise was the heavy breathing of the two humans. The ship seemed to be waiting, ready for a short but heavy burst of violence.

Lamberg closed his eyes. His hand wavered a little, then he slowly moved the nozzle of the bolt pistol away from the Astropath’s head.

Essen reached down, and gently took the weapon out of the Commissar’s hand.

‘Permission to take away the Astropath,’ he said.

Malistrum nodded, to which Essen reached over Lamberg’s shoulder, and tapped Lucas on his arm.

‘Come with me, please,’ he said. He pulled Lucas away from Lamberg, and led him away. The Commissar stood, slightly hunched, looking after his prisoner. Then he looked back towards the other Fatemakers.

Malistrum was waking towards him at a slow pace. Lamberg opened his mouth, but only a tiny whining noise came out of it. The Fatemaker leader stopped in front of him, towering over the miserable-looking human like an ancient monster from the old human legends.

Malistrum looked at the man for some time.

‘I have already broken one oath today,’ he finally said, and leaned down.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 41)

Postby Sardaukar » Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:52 am

Awesome story. Malistrum is turning out to be a cultured,noble badass and an incredible guile hero. You drive very good character-driven narratives. Honestly,is your characterisation that is your strength in fiction writing
"People who are rooted in the here and now, who are not defeated by their limitations, who don’t compare themselves to others, who confidently advance along their chosen path—such people are happy, such people are truly great." -Daisuke Ikeda

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."-Aristotle
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 41)

Postby librisrouge » Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:47 pm

Great addition to the story. Some real character development on the part of Malistrum. I especially can't wait to see what the Fatemakers do with the surviving Howling Griffons? Will they join them? Will they be left behind to carve out their own lives in an increasingly difficult galaxy?
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