Valdane's Chronicles

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 7

A heretic's end.

The panicking crowds eventually thin out as the acolytes reach the warehouse district.

In the streets lay numerous civilian bodies littered with bullets. In the middle of one intersection, a wounded Arbite, bleeding heavily, attempts to drag himself to cover. A blinding volley of automatic fire ripples down the avenue, punching into the injured trooper. His movements cease.

On the opposite side of the intersection, the acolytes see Krieger, Murco, and a handful of other Arbites hunkering behind a building’s corner.

Dressed in an ornate, molded red carapace, Krieger immediately motions for the acolytes to remain in cover. He commandeers the Arbite commander’s vox-hailer servo skull and orders it out into the open.

With silent obedience, the small skull glides forward on ancient grav suspensors.

“Dalsius Brenner,” Krieger bellows through the vox’s rattling grille, “by order of His Immortal Majesty’s Holy Inquisition, you are thrice convicted of heresy – by your deeds, by your beliefs, and by your associations. Your sentence is death.”

After a brief pause, chattering autogun fire rips the servo skull apart. Murco smiles and returns fire.

Ishamael reaches out into the dead Arbite’s fleeting mind in order to get a better picture of the foe they face. The psyker rifles through the last few moments of the man’s life and learns that further down the street, in a warehouse on the right side, four well-armed men protect a cloaked foe – most likely Brenner.

The party decides to split, hoping to approach the target building from multiple sides.

Under covering fire, two of the Arbites on the far side swiftly cross the deadly kill-zone. With reinforcements, the acolytes set out.

Using Taeric’s grapnel, Calidus gains purchase on the warehouse roofs, providing him with a decent unseen approach. Below, the other acolytes and their two Arbites circle around the rear. Krieger, Murco, and the other Arbites provide distracting, suppressing fire from the front.

Eventually reaching the unguarded rear entryway, the acolytes prepare for entry.

High above, Calidus lets off some diversionary shots at one of the figures firing from the target building’s third-story vantage points.

At the rear, the two Arbites breach the locked door. Immediately, a storm of lead pours out into the alley, striking the two troopers. One manages to dive for cover while the other is gravely wounded.

Calidus continues to exchange fire with his target, sliding back and forth between the pipes and cooling towers providing him meager cover. The deadly exchange carries on back and forth as each shooter curses the tangles of cable, messes of plasteel, and machinery obscuring their respective foe.

Back below, Taeric leaps forward into the doorway, shielding the wounded Arbite. Felpox manages to drag the man to safety as numerous armour-piercing rounds rip through Taeric’s shield and punch into his armoured body. Ishamael too joins the fight, stepping behind his comrade’s living-cover and firing powerful wych-fire volleys at his foes.

Inside the darkened warehouse, two gunmen stand up on elevated walkways, firing out from the building’s upper floor windows. At ground level, another fires out from the building’s large sliding front entryway. The last gunman, crouched behind a series of crates, continues hammering the acolytes at the rear door with suppressing fire.

Having withstood enough punishment, Taeric draws his keen blade and charges into the fray. The closest target meets his challenge, drawing a chainsword and beginning a deadly, swirling melee of whirring teeth and blades. The red-haired man is a skilled fighter – the two exchange blows, blocking and ducking out of the path of the other, while counter attacking in turn. Eventually, Taeric strikes true.

Behind him, Ishamael and Felpox enter the room, each lending their fire – physical and psychic to the fray.

Pulling from hidden wells around him, Ishamael’s mental attacks strike one of the men on the upper walkways, catching him alight. Pausing briefly, the gunman manages to put himself out.

Felpox’s stub gun chugs away, connecting with the gunman at the front door.

The unwounded Arbite joins in as well, firing his shotgun at the walkways overhead, attempting to wound or kill the gunmen above. A few of his rounds connect, knocking Calidus’ target to his knees.

Calidus seizes the opportunity – using his grapnel to leap across the gap separating him from the target building. Carefully approaching the his now wounded foe, Calidus pushes the barrel of his shotgun through the window. With a point-blank shot, he blows apart one of his target’s legs. The man spins around, raking the wall with his autogun. The rounds tear through the metal wall as Calidus leaps wide. Jumping back to his feat, the acolyte pumps out another volley of deadly buckshot, obliterating the gunman.

Hidden among the shadows inside the warehouse, the thunderous report of a bolt pistol announces the presence of the fifth enemy fighter. The rounds slam into the exposed Arbite and the shells’ micro-detonations pulverize his shoulder – turning the man into chunks of unrecognizable meat.

Knowing that they must act fast, Felpox drops his pistol and pulls out his spear, charging the fighter engaged with Taeric. Felpox’s fine spear-point cleaves apart the foe, ripping muscle and sinew away, exposing the man’s ribcage. Using the distraction, Taeric slams his blade through the target’s hip and leg, spilling a river of gore across the dusty warehouse floor.

Believing the fifth man to be Brenner, Taeric charges after him into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Ishamael continue his psychic assault on the remaining gunman on the walkways above. Again, the target is lucky, ducking and dodging around many of the heat-waves arcing and rippling through the air towards him. Eventually, Ishamael’s bolts catch him. The man begins cooking alive, his flesh crackling and popping under the vicious balefire.

From beside the psyker, Felpox charges the front door gunman. Catching the foe unaware, Felpox knocks him to the ground. Panicking, the man tries to push aside Felpox’s wild blows. Felpox thrusts his blade through the man’s outstretched arm, shearing his hand from his wrist. The spear continues its plunge into the man’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground.

Now knowing that his target is indeed Brenner, Taeric continuously attempts to knock the man down. Brenner dodges many of Taeric’s swings and attempts to fire back with his ornate bolt pistol. Taeric parries the shots and eventually connects a solid blow to the heretic’s face, stunning him and knocking him to the ground.

Additionally, without any more suppressing fire erupting from the front of the building, Krieger, Murco, and the other Arbites are able to finally make their approach. Krieger strides forward toward Brenner while Murco finishes off Felpox’s pinned target. The point-blank shotgun blast obliterates the wounded fighter, spraying both acolytes with a shower of chunky gore.

Taeric calls for the Arbites’ manacles. He shackles and subdues Brenner completely.

The acolytes catch their breaths and regain their composure.

Three of the enemy gunmen and one of the Arbites lay dead.

Surprisingly, although gravely burned, one fighter remains alive. Armed and armored well, the acolytes are not sure what to make of him. Like his dead comrades, the man – once red-haired – is covered in numerous tattoos and markings.

Arkady recognizes their meaning.

The men are Vasarian Janissaries – an entire culture made of mercenaries septs. Although working for the heretic Brenner, the Vasarians are completely apolitical. They serve as nothing more but hired human weapons – concepts of life and death or right and wrong have little meaning to them. After a contract has been served, they are returned to their world like a gun put back into a case. Arkady explains that is unlikely the men knew or could even understand what Brenner had done.

Through broken conversation with the injured man, Ishamael learns that the group was hired by Brenner to escort and defend him during his journey to a neighbouring world. The mercenaries were not briefed regarding their ultimate destination, and were, like always, paid in advance. The man is filled with remorse for having failed in his oath – a grave dishonor for him and his people.

Ishamael offers the man the Emperor’s Mercy. The fighter, although grateful, explains that a true Vasarian death is to die in combat with a weapon in hand.

Taeric accepts the challenge.

The combat is brief – the badly burned and wounded Vasarian standing no real chance. The Vasarian thanks Taeric even as the acolyte’s blade slides deep into the mercenary’s chest, ending his life.

Now, Krieger and the acolytes turn their attention to Brenner, whimpering and sputtering in the corner.

Felpox removes his medicae kit and begins arranging his blades. Krieger pulls a crate forward as a makeshift chair. Then, he takes a single incendiary shell from Murco and unscrews the end. The Arbite commander forces out Brenner’s hands and Krieger pours out the contents onto the adept’s bare skin.

Reacting with the moisture in his flesh, the powder begins crackling and eating its way through Brenner’s hand meat. His flesh blisters and bursts as the reactive substance start tunneling through muscle and bone. Tendons snap and the warehouse begins to fill with a sickening smoke.

Brenner’s screams pierce the still air.

After a few minutes, the reaction slows. Kriger seizes a second shell from Murco and the real interrogation begins.

Primarily, the acolytes discover that those kidnapped aboard Praxos have been moved off-station to somewhere in the Stygies Cluster Sub-Sector. Although Brenner is unsure of specifics, he knows that the genestealers’ taint has spread much further than Praxos.

Furthermore, Brenner reveals that the Brotherhood is obviously not the fraternal labour union that they have made themselves out to be. Brenner knows that they’re monsters – both figuratively as well as literally and that their headquarters is not simply a soup kitchen. Furthermore, all of the Brotherhood’s recent contract acquisitions have lead Brenner to believe that something is transpiring in the mines. To date, he has been too afraid to see for himself.

Lastly, the acolytes learn that Brenner knows the Heretek that they have seen in the servitor vid-capture from Tertia-12. The creature’s name is Somnius Halbrel. As far as Brenner is aware, Halbrel was brought in months ago to help the Brotherhood with their work. Although Halbrel spends the majority of his time in Foundation, Brenner believes that he has some sort of warehouse somewhere among the docks.

Through the intense and lengthy questioning, the acolytes come to understand that Brenner is but a mere pawn in a much larger picture.

Eventually, having unraveled the adept’s secrets, Krieger and the others realize that Brenner has exhausted his usefulness. Ishamael sets out to render the Emperor’s Justice.

Brenner, terrified, whimpers and drools in the corner, cradling his mangled hands.

Krieger and the Arbites commander back away.

Rolling up his sleeves and undoing his armoured jacket, Ishamael braces himself. The air heats and ripples around his hands as the essence of an unseen world-that-should-not-be is pulled into reality.

The psyker’s eyes flare as he extends his arms, surrounding Brenner with a fiery, ethereal embrace. The inferno overwhelms the prisoner and once again his screams resonate throughout the edifice. Ishamael steps back, taking a breath and letting the heretic burn.

Eventually, the screams subside.

Murco strides forward, lighting an Iho stick off of the now immobile husk. He nudges Ishamael and chuckles.

For a while, Brenner’s charred form continues to sputter and crackle like a wet log. The darkened warehouse walls flicker with the light cast by the dancing corpse fire. Wretched smoke rises to the rafters.

When all is done, only ash and whispers remain.

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