Season of Fire (Pt1)

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Season of Fire (Pt1)

Postby Tenngate » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:57 am

This is the start of what I hope will be a 30,000 word project. Any feedback would be enormously appreciated

+Prologue+

Hades Hive. Where a monster was ground to a halt on the blood of the brave. The brave, who stood as one behind the sage wisdom of an old man. An old man, clad in nothing but the dusty attire of the Commissariat. He who clashed with the mightiest of The Beast’s chieftains. And felled it. Here, Sebastian Yarrick traded his arm for Ugulhard’s head and Hades bellowed a call of defiance that shook a world. It was the stuff of legend, a testament to Man’s entitlement to the stars. Where a war was won and where hope was born.
Now, fifty-seven standard years later, hope had died. An endless wilderness of twisting agonising wreckage, tortured ruins and broken spires that gasped at molten skies was all that remained. Nothing but a blown out window for every soul snatched in the firestorm that was known as The Beast’s Rebuttal; a mile wide hunk of void rock that scoured the defender’s of their symbol and killed a megalopolis. A giant corpse of rubble and steel sinews sat frozen and wretched in Hades’ place. Skeletal claws dug into the scorched earth like a cripple in his deathbed. Yet still it whispered. Hades was gone, the mountains of material and flesh were cauterised forever, but the memory, the word, the word itself… It was to sound out in a million throats from the Diablos Plains to Hive Tartarus. Whispered in a vox before a midnight raid; roared as Steel Legionnaires ran hopelessly into the teeth of chattering guns; muttered as vectors were plotted by Deathstrike battery crews, ‘This is for Hades, scum…’

The war labours on. But although our story starts here, in the wastes of Hades, this is no saga of the Third War. For now in the year of Our Saviour 999.41 The Season of Fire has come to planet Armageddon. The world is now plunged into suffocating stalemate as tectonic plates shift and temperatures soar. The Resurgent Beast has in his impatience melted away into the void, leaving his vast hordes to shape their own fate. Imperial armies entrench and take stock, whilst others leave for more immediate warzones. Make no mistake, there was no victory here, only a modicum of respite. Truly, the blight of Orkdom will never leave this place. Never.

-I-

Heavily damaged, haemorrhaging aviation fuel and guns dry, the pilot had barely made it back to Yarrick’s Hope Harbor. After landing, thanking the Emperor and accepting a slug of throat burning liquor from a sunburnt crewman, he had shakily made his way out of his stale cockpit and across baking tarmac to the debriefing room. Firmly imbedded on a ruined couch with an Iho-stick quivering at his lips, he described the ill-fated sortie to a surly intelligence officer. Before being dismissed the pilot had nonchalantly planted a grubby finger on the map, indicating the whereabouts of a plume of dust he’d seen during the stricken Thunderbolt’s jarring descent. Probably nothing. All the same, it was embedded on the morning’s action report along with the plummeting inferno that had been his wingman.
++++ 
The thimble of data was thrown into the miasma of Cognitive banks that made up Armageddon Command. It was sifted, weighed, suddenly lost, retrieved, merged with a tract of seemingly unrelated information and then punched abruptly into a data slate. Tiorga, a diligent junior staff officer on the strategem deck of the Claritatis, anchored three thousand miles above, held the slate in her print stained hands. Probably nothing. She narrowed her tired eyes, her face a picture of furrowed concentration. This sector, what was it? Infernus Hades. She turned the slate over, skimming through a stream of coordinates and weather reports. She was about to set it down when something caught her weary gaze. A local patrol, of the Kholundan IXth to be exact, had reported enemy contact on their way back to Ragalan’s Reach, a small encampment nestled in a rocky outcrop. Nothing further. How old was this scratch report anyway? About three days… these Kholundans still hadn’t got themselves back into Ragalan’s yet. Why? Despite the abundance of off-world personnel operating on Armageddon, none were naïve or foolish enough to stay out in the wastes when the Season of Fire was imminent. Her augmented eyes raced through the remaining data, drawing and closing scenarios with her sharp, critical mind. Wait. More missing patrols, two in the last fortnight. This one from Ragalan’s and another, here, fifty clicks due north striking out from Tycho’s Folly. Missing. Why hadn’t this been picked up sooner? She glanced up at the hundreds of men and women hard at work about her, steadily succumbing to the towering piles of slates as flickering holo feeds of battles far below raged about them. The overflow from catastrophic engagements in adjacent sectors inevitably led overlooked details like the one she now held in her hand. She looked back to the slate and found the dust cloud reported from a Thunderbolt pilot at two thousand feet. A missing patrol? It could be anything, a sand squall, old shells cooking off in the rising heat, a herd of sweltering Groxen. Tiorga had been crunching data onboard the Claritatis long enough to know, and now instinct caused her to throw the switch which blinked a greasy amber light above her station. This was worth a look. The strained voice of her section commander now rasped through static in her ear.                                                                   “Tiorga. You have something for me, no?”
++++
As requested the thick astral scope of the Adsideo, one of nearly six hundred orbiting watch stations, glanced away from its vigil on the Pallidus Mountains to inspect a tiny corner of the Infensus region. Adepts adjusted the magnification, cycled through image filters and promptly found what the terse report from the Adspectus Claritatis was demanding. A plume of dust. The filters cycled to thermal, peeling away the obscuring layers, froze the image and came to a rest. The outline, despite some atmospheric distortion, was unmistakable. A score of Ork vehicles, adorned with all the accoutrements of crude lethality that could be expected of their race. There too, gutted on their battered hulls like offal on a butchers block, were the grizzly remains of what had been the Kholundan IXth.
++++

‘Hold Brother!’

The Razorback’s heavy treads locked abruptly, bringing the fearsome tank to a screeching stop behind the boarding ramp of the waiting Thunderhawk. The craft’s enormous turbofans beat up billowing plumes blasting the armoured vehicle underneath in noxious dust and toxic filth. ‘No, no. This world’s not done with you yet,’ thought Bericus, inside the halted Razorback.
‘Captain Tull to Sergeant Bericus,’ rasped a disembodied voice from the tank’s internal voxcaster.

Tull, the taskmaster, the uncompromising, the sentinel of what was Hades, the Lord of the Third - or what was left of it.

‘Aye, Brother Captain,’ said Bericus, picking a fleck of bone from the teeth of his underslung chainblade.
‘State your readiness.’
Bericus spoke without thinking, his response as practiced and monosyllabic as if he were back in the hallowed cloisters of his chapter monastery. ‘All brothers present and battle worthy, our steed is still fresh and our assault cannons still hunger.’
‘Then, Sergeant of the Squad, accept your orders,’

Tull the traditionalist

‘See here then, Brother Sergeant.’ A torrent of tac-data fuzzed in an epileptic shock across Bericus’ visor. ‘Eight enemy vehicles counted,’ continued Tull, ‘two to four score Xeno- filth moving at speed. Currently on a heading consistent with Ragalan’s Reach at -’

Yes Tull. I understand. We’ll intercept them.The Titan graveyard will be the killing ground. The leering skull face of that fallen lord of war will witness their ruin; see them and their wretched hulks smashed by my brothers. I picture them even now, hungrily entering that adamantium ruin. Into our bolters. Into our blades. Into our steed’s assault cannon.

‘I accept my orders Brother Captain,’ said Bericus taking the target’s speed and bearing, duly plotting an intercept in a heartbeat. ‘We go now! Glory and hate.’
‘Glory and hate. Tull, voxing out.‘ The vox snapped closed and Bericus gave an imperceptible nod to Brother Fortix who sat opposite him. Fortix banged his gauntlet hard on the battered plate that separated the five astartes from the driver. The Razorback roared into life, thundering out from under the suddenly rapidly climbing Thunderhawk. The tank’s treads tore through the rank silt, eagerly gunning towards the new objective. Inside, Ajax pulled out his auspex, deftly goading the machine spirit into life with a silent prayer whilst Domli rose steadily and opened the top hatch. Suffocating heat poured into the compact compartment as the marine climbed out onto the hull. Domli gripped tight, his dull mustard armour suddenly bright in the intense glare of Armageddon’s hellish suns. The vehicle bucked about savagely as it tore through the blasted landscape. Ignoring the forces threatening to throw him off the hull, Domli reached out and ripped away the heavy enviro-tarp covering the twin linked assault cannons. Brother Ursad exchanged his sickle magazine for a sixty bolt round drum, locking the hefty load underneath his MK IVGodwyn Vb bolter just as the corvus helmed Domli dropped back onboard, slamming the thick hatch behind him with a resounding crunch of alloy on ceramite. He tossed the tarp to one side and drew his boltgun, a matt black Umbra bonded with an indiscreet melta. He checked the mechanism for the hundredth time that day, and days were short on Armageddon. Ajax sat at the Razor’s command node, his temperamental auspex now mag-clamped to his thigh, tracking the horizon through the assault cannon’s ocular feed matrix. The five armoured giants went about their battle rites in grim silence. No regard was given to the fact that the Thunderhawk now searing into the crimson sky had been mere seconds away from taking them away from this wretched planet.

A kinship no mortal can ever understand runs through us. Deeper than loyalty. Deeper than reason. I know how they see us; The angels of death, wading through the green tide, reaping fury on the hated foe. They see no hint of pain when we are wounded, no sign of lament when one of our number succumbs. They will never know that it cuts fathoms deeper than they could possibly endure. For I know pain, I know sorrow, I know loss, but aye, I know no fear.

++++
The thunderhawks and transports were coming in now. Bulk lifters hauled those drop pods and wrecked vehicles that could be salvaged back onboard to be made fit for purpose again.Chapter serfs picked through the debris, overseen by their Techmarine masters whilst servitors formed a binary choir to calm the machine spirits trapped within. Amongst this grim haul was the chassis of Reclorcrex, Dreadnought of the third. His sarcophagus was now a hollowed out ruin of charred wiring.Tull stood on the command deck of Rancor's Charge, a small Astartes frigate of the old pattern and a venerable one at that. Over two thousand years of service, or so he had been told. Hardly an honour to be bestowed with the hand-me-downs of what had probably once been but a workhorse of a Second Founding chapter. Reclorcrex, pondered Tull, had been old enough to remember when the chapter went by a different name. One day, thought Tull, that memory will die with me too.
Tenngate
 
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