[DIARY RECOVERED BY KILL TEAM FURY FOLLOWING THE THAURIAN INCIDENT]
[SUBJECT RECOMMENDED FOR INQUISITORIAL SERVICE]
I was in my forty-second year of life when the fires fell upon Thaur. Mid-age in Imperial terms, and not unheard of in the Mournful Guard.
That morning had been a mostly pleasant one. My equine companion had carried me most of the way along my assigned route for the day. Out here, among the dense forests of my world, I had time to think, to listen, to watch. For weeks at a time I was out among the tombs and twisting trails of Thaur’s wilderness. I was an outrider, a lone guard on the fringes of a silent world.
By mid morning, however, I had felt it. The shiver in the trees. The departure of the birds. Bad omens both.
Less than an hour later, I had seen the first figure.
More than a dozen metres off into the woods from my overgrown trail, he shuffled about with a bizarre gait. Stumbling over the roots and gravestones within the forest, he moved toward me slowly, almost parallel to my direction of travel.
I slowed and halted my companion in order to take in what my eyes were seeing. From atop my mount, I could see that the figure, mostly decomposed, continued its unholy march. Bumping into a large Illyrian oak, pieces of rot and decay tumbled forth from the creature’s innards. The abomination disgusted me. Its mere presence was a blasphemy against the restful silence of this land.
It was even more disturbing that I knew not what magick drove it forward.
Corpse Crawlers, one of Thaur’s native parasitic creatures often manipulated corpses in such a manner, but this body’s state of decay told me that this was not the explanation.
Then, I heard the second beast. The snap of dead branches alerted me that it was almost upon my position.
Thaur’s forests are dark and dense. Sightlines are highly restricted. Still, I felt the fool that I had let it get so close. As the creature lunged from the dark undergrowth, my equine friend took flight.
The shock overtook me by surprise and I was launched rearward from atop my companion’s powerful frame. I do not blame him for leaving me. I had failed to keep vigilant.
My back hit the wet ground with a sickening crunch. Although my armour distributed the blow, my muscles tensed and the breath was knocked from my lungs. I feared that my shoulder had dislocated.
Now, the closest creature besieged me. Its horrible snarling teeth gnawed and clattered at the air in front of me. Thankfully I had managed to press one of my boots into the path of my assailant. I thanked the Emperor for granting me such strength and speed.
Pushing the corpse away with a firm kick, I could hear the other make his way from the trees. The sound of his foot steps broke from a crackling shuffle into a series of dull thumps.
Rolling backward through the undergrowth, I bought myself a few precious seconds. I reached deep into my mud-caked cloak, unhooking my maul from its ornate mount beside my hip. Thumbing the activation rune, the blunt end crackled to life.
The air ionized around my weapon, producing the smell of righteous thunder. I praised the Omnissiah that my fall hadn’t damaged the maul’s delicate power generator. I knew that I would be sure to recite the Litany of Thankfulness should I survive this day.
My first assailant had not yet recovered from the kick. His twisted form thrashed about in the leaves as he tried to right himself. At least they lacked any true coordination. Although outnumbered, I had the advantage.
I quickly closed the distance, delivering a sickening blow to the target standing in front of me. My maul punched deep into the creature’s soft skull, sinking in just above the thing’s right eye. Buried inside the beast’s head, the power field of my maul crackled and hissed as blood and brain boiled into a foul soup.
Still, it snarled and clawed at me.
I braced my free arm against the beast and with all my might I attempted to wrench my weapon free. I felt my shoulder pop with a painful jolt. Whether it had fallen into or out of the socket, I could not tell.
I cursed the beast in my Thaurian tongue and assailed it again with another powerful strike. This time, the maul caught the creature atop the clavicle. Snapping through the decayed bone, the maul dropped into the thing’s ribcage. A dark ichor drained from the gap.
Separated from the beast, the thing’s shoulder and arm fell free, stripping away some sinew and bone. My maul tumbled free with it. I quickly struck again and again at the gaping wounds, pulverizing the thing’s exposed innards. The crackling field at the tip of my weapon seared and smashed the last few remaining organs. The creature dropped to the ground, motionless.
Now, the second beast rose to his feet. I made quick work of it.
Catching my breath, I cleaned the gore from my weapon and examined the state of my shoulder. Then, the sounds of more and more movement to my rear.
Foolishly, I had expected to see my companion galloping back down the path towards me.
I cursed my hubris.
My work was not yet done.