Valdane's Chronicles

A Return to Thaur - Part 5
To scourge the daemon. The escape.

Talius and Corren continue their climb. Knowing that they’ll be unable to reach the very summit, they stop – choosing instead to begin packing explosives into the folds of the massive daemon-mound.

Meanwhile, the vessel of rot and rebirth continues to bring a constant stream of daemons into reality. Finally beginning to tire and fatigue, the Acolytes realize that they can’t continue on much longer.

Ishamael gathers himself and strides forward – spotting his climbing comrades and the cursed bell at the top of the chamber. Exchanging a glimpse with Talius, an unspoken plan is formed.

Ishamael channels all of his remaining strength – firing a beam of pure white energy at the carillon. As the blow is struck against the bell, it disappears in an explosion of blinding green light – showering the cavern with molten shrapnel and putrescent burnt flesh.

With the device destroyed, Talius and Corren set their explosives and leap from the mound. The monumental explosion of their improvised explosives ripples through the cavern and causes the daemon-thing to peel open like a giant, rotten fruit – disgorging its juice as a torrential wave of pus and congealed blood. This deluge is followed by the fruit’s seeds – hundreds of rotting placental sacks containing unborn daemonic young. Overwhelmed by the ichor and rotten fluids once contained within the gigantic mound, the Acolytes are swept off their feet and dragged down and entangled among the chamber’s many roots and mouldy crags. Coming to their senses, the Acolytes find the bottom few feet of the cavern awash with an unholy daemon slurry. From it, an army of the newly born daemons rise. Hundreds upon of hundreds of them moan – experiencing the pain of physical existence for the first time.

Screaming to their comrades, the Acolytes all gather themselves and start to leave – quickly. They climb from the chambers and start their frantic escape from the catacombs – pursued relentlessly through the darkness.

Emerging up into the Ossuaria and the pouring rains above, they find themselves surrounded – scores of countless daemons and restless dead emerging from every crack, forgotten passageway, tunnel, and catacomb.

As hope seems lost, the ground begins to tremble. Static discharges crackle as pebbles and rocks begin to float. A strange mist forms around the Acolytes.

With a crack of lightning, blinding light and a blast of air, the warband is surrounded by gleaming brilliance and streaks of silver.

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A Return to Thaur - Part 4
Thaur's darkness. The mountain of filth.

The night after the Battle of Hope’s End allowed Valdane’s acolytes a few hours to rest and recover their senses while Warden Corren and his men packed their carriages and prepared for the journey north.

By morning, the defenders of Hope’s End would split their forces – with most of their numbers venturing to Maraic. The others, Valdane’s war party included, would begin their journey to the Ossuaria.

+++++

The trip to the Great Ossuaria is long and anxious. Throughout the trip, Corren’s men share uneasy glances – clearly uncomfortable so far from the relative safety of Hope’s End, even in it’s half-destroyed state.

As the group makes its way, the blasted fog comes and goes, often shrouding the path ahead. Eventually, after another full day’s ride, they find their goal – Thaur’s once-mighty Ossuaria, or at least what remains.

Now, the Ossuaria is nothing but an enormous clearing pockmarked by giant craters digging deep into the earth. It appears that only a scattering of bone edifices and crumbling monuments seem fortunate enough to have escaped the Inquisition’s wrath. Strangely, the forests here have refused to grow back. Instead, the Acolytes find only decay and tangled roots.

The massive craters – the obvious result of a decades-past orbital bombardment – give way to once-hidden catacombs and tunnels below – many collapsing into long-forgotten tombs or passageways.

This nightmarish honeycomb of bones and ash stretches on for miles on end, as if the very land itself is rotting away. Furthermore, with the addition of the still pouring Ashen Rains, many of these craters and unearthed crypts have filled with foul, brackish waters. In other places, run offs and flash floods have created whole rivers and waterfalls washing down into the depths below.

Traverse the landscape proves to be difficult. Navigating the slick rocky outcroppings and trails, one of the warband’s carts slips, tumbling off sideways into the darkness. Although the Acolytes manage to leap free with their gear in time, their equine companions splatter on the jagged rocks far below. Here, they are forced to leave the other cart behind – lest it suffer the same fate.

Scanning the area, the Acolytes find the cultists’ trail – tracks leading to crude metal and wood handholds carved into a rock face as it snakes its way underground. Positioned beside one of the newly-formed waterfalls of mud and rot, the climb down is perilous.

Eventually, the warband reaches the bottom – lowering themselves down into a roughly-hewn passageway. A few piled bone totems mark the beginning of this tunnel. Once lit by torches now long extinguished, the tunnels are pitch black – a labyrinthian abyss stretching off in all directions. Proceeding in, the Acolytes begin their journey into the very heart of Thaur’s darkness. At first, most of the tunnels are free of debris or water, but soon they come across many passageways that are either unstable or that have collapsed completely. In other places, the Acolytes submerge themselves, squeezing through and under cave-ins or flooded corridors. Even the most navigable passages are cramped – some with no room for more than one abreast. The dampness and darkness pervades all.

Eventually, the Acolytes encounter a river – roughly a dozen metres in width and moving rapidly. Without spending hours doubling back, crossing these subterranean rapids seems to be the only way deeper into the catacombs. Damming part of the river with large boulders, the Acolytes manage to traverse the flowing mud and decay – losing only one of the accompanying Mournful Guard to the mire.

When the Acolytes manage to cross the river of filth they’re greeted by a single strike of the cursed bell. The sound is mind-shatteringly loud, seemingly resonating through the very rock itself. As the bell echoes through their minds, its followed by a monumental moan – like a hundred thousand souls crying out in agony – a sick welcoming.

Proceeding deeper and deeper through more forgotten passageways, the stench of the river doesn’t seem to fade. Instead, it worsens. Now, the temperature has also seemingly climbed, leaving the rock faces dripping wet. A slight fog starts to build and steam obscures the way ahead. Soon, colourful moulds, fungus, and other tell-tale signs of decay cover every inch of every surface. The tunnels quickly become a true assault on the senses.

The Acolytes will eventually a reach a dead end. In the floor, a small circular opening has been carved, crudely illuminated by torchlight coming from below. It appears that a rope ladder has been haphazardly nailed into a nearby wall. Descending, the Acolytes find their goal. Here, in the defiled tomb of some long-forgotten saint, they find a truly horrifying sight – disturbing at levels that their minds cannot even begin to comprehend.

The chamber is large – some hundred metres across and another fifty high. Massive tree roots descend from the darkness above, criss-crossing back and forth and forming slick rotting walkways and alcoves. Black, putrid water pours in from various points on the walls and ceiling while also bubbling up from cracks in the rocky floor. Thick, viscous pools hide much of whatever solid footing may be found below – however, these pools are now more blood and pus than rotten water and mud.

At the centre of this chamber is the true nightmare – an inexplicable sight – a giant mass of bodies, bones, and rot. Like an incomprehensible tumour four stories high, the mass pulsates and shakes. Atop the putrid, dripping pile of flesh and mould, the Acolytes see a single large bell – rusted brass, cracked, and riddled with holes. Unmoving, it rings. The giant mass moans – a sanity shattering cacophony of pain and anguish. The source is clear: almost ‘melted’ into the pile of putrescent miasma, Thaur’s missing villagers scream.

Furthermore, from between the slick, disgusting folds of the daemon-thing, bulbous sacs drop to the ground, striking off the rocks and tree roots found below. Upon striking the ground, the sacs burst open, spilling their foul fluids and birthing wretched plaguebearers and other twisted entities. Scores of undead begin emerging from the chamber’s rotten pools to greet their new brothers and sisters – and the Acolytes too.

Ishamael immediately unleashes a torrent of righteous wychfire, consuming the countless shambling dead coming from below. However, even with the tangled roots turning into a temporary inferno, the rest of the daemons seem unfazed.

Believing that the destruction of the bell may be their only chance at survival, Warden Corren and Talius drop down into the mire and make for the mountain of filth. Slowly, they begin their climb. The rest of the warband sets after the plague-daemons, hoping to buy their comrades time.

The combat is furious, with a multitude of blows traded back and forth. Koth takes a mighty wound from the daemons’ rusted cleavers and Taeric almost loses an arm – his shield and armour dissolved by corrosive daemonbile. Still, they hold their assailants off.

Working together, the Acolytes manage to down a few of the daemons and slay their herald. Then, they hear the buzzing and beating of great rotting wings. Two massive creatures emerge from behind the mountain of filth. The drones swoop in, assailing the warband.

Cornered, Ishamael is even swallowed whole. Somehow, he destroys the creature from within – blasting his way out with molten fire and the rotting afterbirth of the plague-thing.

Slowly, the tide turns.

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A Return to Thaur - Part 3
The Battle of Hope's End.

Distant, again, the incessant bell begins to sound. Corren and his men shudder. An adjutant in the corner begins to weep. Corren explains that the bell sounds every few days – but when the rains come, it’s worse. Furthermore, the men that he has sent out to investigate never returned.

Suddenly, the door opens, and another Mournful Guard explains that the fog has returned. The Mournful Guard take up their arms and head outside.

The acolytes join them – walking out into the still air of the main square.

Hope’s End’s is deathly silent besides the incessant ringing of the bell.

Then, bright glowing lights, barely visible through the fog arc high over the walls. As they sail closer, the acolytes see that they’re crude glass firebombs – the first of which slam into a few timber homes and burst into flames.

Screams start sounding from within the village as those caught in the open run for shelter. The screams intensify from the south, and groups of villagers run past the Imperial defenders. The cause is clear – a great shattering crack, and suddenly the south gate is open.

Visible through the fog, the acolytes see the first wave of enemies pouring into the village.

The smell precedes them – a great mob of dead shambling forward with incessant hunger. The unfortunate few villagers caught in their path are pulled down to the ground and devoured alive.

Then, handfuls of dirty, tattered combatants fan out into the settlement behind their undead companions. They take off in numerous directions, slaying and pillaging all they can find.

Behind them all, great rickety carts trundle forward, atop which cages full of tortured and flayed souls scream for their lives. Some of them are dead, others rotting alive. Great pustules burst open, spreading clouds of choking black flies.

The enemy spreads out quickly into Hope’s End.

The acolytes take to the fight, first focusing on saving the main contingent of Mournful Guard who have become hopelessly surrounded by the dead.

Taeric dives in headlong, cleaving through the rotting mob. Theo joins him.

Ishamael, instead, stays back, laying down sheets of cleansing flame. It’s not long before the first wave of foes falls.

Then, the acolytes split up.

Near the main gate, a sorcerer and his minions have already set to work raising the dead villagers, swelling the ranks of the acolytes’ undead foes. Additionally, another group of cultists has moved deep into the village and begun to set fire to a variety of buildings. A small group of them break off from the main assault and head for Hope’s End’s grain stores.

Ishamael sets off after them while the others focus on the sorcerer. The acolyte-psyker manipulates the cultists’ own weapons against them – stealing the fire from their torches before exterminating them all in a blazing inferno. He lingers just long enough to extinguish the fires from a few of the neighbouring dwellings and storage yards.

Meanwhile, Theo charges into the sorcerer’s entourage, meeting face to face with the conjurer’s protective wall of dead. With gnashing teeth and clawing hands, the dead find purchase – dragging the crusader down.

Seeing the acolyte’s vulnerability, the sorcerer strides in and cleaves a mighty blow with his staff. Although appearing as nothing more than a piece of rotted yew, the staff easily punctures Theo’s armour, plunging deep into his side and burning his soul with its ruinous powers.

Taeric dives into the fray, helping his comrade. With their combined might, the two warriors dispatch many of the dead – as well as the foul conjurer.

Ishamael and Koth arrive in time to clean up the stragglers.

Then, right as the acolytes think that victory has been assured, they hear the slopping sounds of wet, heavy footsteps – gargling and great sloshing of liquid – throaty, deep belches.

Then they smell it – rotten meat, death, infection. Heavy clouds of flies burst from the fog around them. With them, two figures shamble forward. Tall, single-horned beings, covered in a slick, mucus and dozens of pustules. Single milky eyes stare out of their grotesque, unholy visages.

They slice at the air in front of them with giant rusted cleavers as their powerful frames slam back and forth along the rain-soaked ground.

Instead of collapsing at the sight of the sanity-shattering creatures, the acolytes are strengthened in their resolve.

+++++

In the decades to come, Inquisitorial scholars would note that although the Battle of Hope’s End was short in nature, it marked a pivotal turning point in the first century of Inquisitor Valdane’s lengthy and illustrious career.

As the fog finally lifted over the small hamlet, scores of the archenemy lay dead or dying, and two of Nurgle’s creations were cast back into the Warp. Here, among Thaur’s dark, rainy forests, Valdane’s acolytes would win the first of their many future victories over the daemonic.

Ultimately, however, even with their success, it was clear that Hope’s End lay indefensible. As such, plans were struck to relocate the surviving villagers to the Sororitas Monastery at Maraic and that the few fighting men remaining would make for the true source of the dead – the ruins of Thaur’s Great Ossuaria.

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A Return to Thaur - Part 2
Afterlife. Visions in the Fog. Hope's End.

With the sun now fully behind Thaur’s ancient woods, the trails become even darker, with most of the way ahead pitch black. In the last hour, the Ashen Rains have grown heavier.

Just as the acolytes have given up hope of reaching shelter, they come across the outskirts of Afterlife. Strangely no lights are visible within the walled village.

Hesitantly, the acolytes enter the town and look around. At first, Afterlife appears to be long abandoned, with many of the town’s buildings empty and overgrown. After a more thorough investigation, the party finds a scattering of remains. Although some are too old or rotten to determine when or how they died, those found inside are obvious victims of violent struggle and bloodshed. Furthermore, Afterlife’s main gates have been torn from their hinges.

Uneasy, but nonetheless requiring shelter, the acolytes find a large, two-story building with a wrap-around balcony. Two sets of stairs proceed up to the second floor. Entering the building, they find that it appears to be some sort of inn. Talius and Taeric attempt to start a fire, but all of the available materials are too damp to catch. Even Ishmael’s psychic fire is unsuccessful.

As such, the party goes searching for fuel sources.

Inside the remnants of a small general store, they locate some thickened, low-grade promethieum.

The acolytes close the inn’s top floor from the elements and attempt to dry out.

While the others warm up, Talius scans for any vox signals. Searching for some signs of life, he finds only static.

As the acolytes settle in for the night, a thick fog blankets the village. The group’s meagre lighting penetrates only a few feet out from the mouldy windows and into the darkness outside.

With some of the acolytes on the edge of sleep, the party begins to hear the faint sounds of a bell ringing, far in the distance. The sound is deep and rich, even miles away, but it tugs at their minds. The sound makes the party uneasy, almost physically unwell. They wonder who could be sounding it so far away – so deep into Thaur’s wilderness.

Ishamael especially feels some sort of presence, but before he can locate it with his mind, he’s overwhelmed by a foul stench. The air chills around the acolytes, frosting their breaths. The bell’s ringing grows loud, pounding its way into their skulls.

At the vox set, Talius continues scanning through the channels, believing that the fog may be preceding some kind of attack. Slowly, countless channels of static turn to agonizing screaming. Strangely, none of the rest of the party seems to notice.

Preparing for the worst, the acolytes form a plan. With the group’s two Mournful Guard companions, Taeric runs back to the general store, finding a series of saws and axes with which to destroy the inn’s stair cases. Meanwhile, Nelix rigs tripwires on the building’s entryways.

As quickly as possible, they limit all access to the second floor. They draw their weapons and prepare to face whatever enemy may come.

After a few tense minutes, the bell simply stops, leaving a lingering, eerie silence and the sound of distant rain.

The fog dissipates.

Thankfully, the rest of the night passes uneventfully.

As the next morning comes, the acolytes realize that there’s no escaping the black rains. The storm is constant and unyielding. The acolytes debate waiting until evening, but they have no choice but to press on. This time, however, they fashion a crude covering for their wagon.

The party continues down more of Thaur’s lonely and overgrown trails – each one looking like the previous – tangled and dark. But now, large puddles and pools have begun to form. The small paths and old roads are quickly overtaken by thick, rich mud.

After a few hours of gruelling travel, the rains seem to let up a little. Still, they have taken their toll.

The acolytes’ carriage passes through what was perhaps once a small clearing or pasture – now a swamp. Thankfully, the main trail is raised slightly above the surrounding land. Even in the worst sections, the water is no more than thigh deep.

As they begin to pass through, the acolytes feel the temperature rapidly cooling again. Soon another thick fog envelops all.

In the utterly still air, another bell rings out. It’s distant, but most of the acolytes are convinced that it is sounding from numerous directions simultaneously.

Again, Ishamael feels its touch the strongest and is immediately overcome with the need to vomit. He empties the contents of his stomach on the wet grass below the carriage. In the psyker’s small pile of rejected stomach contents, he makes out the faintest movement – maggots – dozens of maggots squirming and writhing.

Now, for even those without the psyker’s gift, the noise from the bell builds to a nauseating barrage.

In a split second, the tall grasses and shrubbery around the party turns black and decays, shrivelling to the ground. A smell that can only be described as rotting meat assaults their senses.

Talius takes charge. Pushing the carriage’s driver aside, he and Taeric put the wagon’s large equines to flight. As fast as the beasts will move, the carriage begins its escape from the swamp.

Then, the bell becomes a shrill keening and ghostly apparitions fill the air.

Terrifying, whirling apparitions whip around the fleeing group like a spectral hurricane.

Through the dense fog and the terrifying, bewildering display around them, the party catches glimpses of dozens, if not hundreds of figures shambling forth from the surrounding forests.

Taeric instinctively seizes his lasgun and begins firing at the shambling masses.

A moment later, a single bolt of purple-white lightning slams into the ground beside the carriage with a monumental crack.

With it, the swirling menace and figures are gone.

The fog has lifted instantaneously, replaced with darkness and pounding rain.

Talius refuses to slow the carriage, putting as much distance as possible behind them.

As such, the party finds find the outskirts of Hope’s End within a half day.

The village itself is a gated hamlet found in a decently sized clearing. Surrounded by a large palisade wall made from nearby trees, the village looks well defended.

Firelight and torchlight are visible from within, casting outlines of the sentries patrolling atop the walls. Tracks leading to the front gate look recent.

There’s some kind of commotion going on inside the walls – with a rabble, discussion, or argument filling the air.

The party debates the merits of various approaches – be it stealth, direct violence, or a more subtle method. Ultimately they decide to hide their armour and proceed in through the front gates.

From atop the wall, the sentries see them approach. After a brief conversation, they convince the men that they have come from a far away Thaurian settlement.

Allowed inside, they find the village in a fairly good state of repair. There’s a few dozen houses, a few merchant stalls, a stable, and even covered storage yards filled with various crates, barrels and animal feed. Furthermore, the sentries are dressed in certain pieces of Mournful Guard armour. Still, the party is unsure of their allegiance.

At the centre of town, they spot where all the village’s commotion is coming from – a group of locals wielding torches have surrounded a home. The mob yells about some kind of pestilence and that those inhabiting the house have brought the dead down upon them all. The mob appears to be getting unruly, possibly on the edge of violence.

The acolytes split up, dispersing into the crowd as a few of their companions store the carriage and horses.

Moving deeper into the mob, the acolytes spot a group walking in quickly from the village centre – three Mournful Guard – one clearly in charge. The leader stands a good few inches above his comrades. With closely cropped hair and scarred face, it’s plain to see that his life has not been an easy one.

As this new group approaches the mob, the unruly villagers quiet down and make room.

The leader appears to calm the masses – dispelling the claims of pestilence as simple rumours. The supposed Mournful Guard prepare to enter the home.

Nelix offers his medicae services, but the Guard ask him to keep his distance.

The small group emerges a few minutes later. The Mournful Guard discuss amongst themselves for a short while before their leader addresses the crowds again. He claims that the rumours are false, and asks the gathering to disperse.

Thankfully, they listen – and slowly depart.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the leader of the Mournful Guard collects himself. Then, he approaches Nelix again.

As such, some of the other acolytes make themselves known.

It’s clear that the leader has already recognized them as outsiders.

The leader introduces himself as Talmon Corren, Chief Warden of the Mournful Guard. Seemingly believing the acolytes’ cover story, he invites them back to his station house to hear of their journey.

As they go to leave, Corren talks to his subordinates again, telling them to burn the house down and exile the sick. The orders don’t faze him the slightest.

Corren’s station house is a simple building of wooden timber construction. Wrought iron bars and bone ornamentation decorate the windows and doors. Entering, the Mourful Guard store their gear and set a pot of recaf upon their wood-burning hearth.

The acolytes recount false details of their journey before slowing prying into Hope’s End.

Corren explains that a pestilence plagues the land – just as much as the dead. No one is sure of the cause, but it’s deadly.

Furthermore, Corren details Hope’s End’s fight against the dead – explaining that what the acolytes have heard is true. Hope’s End is winning their fight, but barely. Corren and his Mournful Guard burn as many of the creatures as they can, but every week their numbers continue to grow. Supposedly, the Ashen Rains are only making it worse, as every day, more and more bodies wash to the surface – swelling the dead’s numbers.

The situation has grown truly dire, as Thaur’s meagre trade routes are now undefendable and its roads too dangerous for scouts or dispatch riders.

When the acolytes inquires about the dead’s origins, Corren explains how some greater force drives them. He doesn’t know their source, but he describes where he saw them first – the Great Ossuaria, around when the first orbital bombardments fell a decade ago.

He informed the Eulogus Askelline in the days afterwards, but none would listen. As a result of Corren’s perceived insanity, he was silenced and exiled.

The dead did not rise in force until many years later.

Many Thaurians believed it to be an omen – a curse finally coming to claim these lands. Others lost their minds and even began worshipping the risen dead – seeing it as the Emperor’s rebirth – a gift for their decades of service and faithful vigilance over their interred charges. Many retreated off into the dark woods to follow these foul beliefs.

The sane, like Corren, broke away from the incredulous Eulogus Askelline and retreated behind independent, walled communities.

However, now almost all has been claimed by darkness.

Corren explains that Hope’s Ends neighbours to the east and west are gone – only a few places such Hope’s End and the Adepta Sororitas Monestary at Maraic hold out – but Corren doesn’t know how they currently fare. As a result, those in Hope’s End dare not venture out, especially to the lands around the forsaken Ossuaria.

Explaining the unlikelihood of survival on their journey from distant lands, Corren reveals that he knows that the acolytes aren’t who they say they are.

Ishamael and the others concede their charade, identifying themselves as members of the Inquisition rather than native Thaurians.

Corren is surprised that the Inquisition has actually returned, even though he reveals that it was he who finally convinced Calziel and the Eulogus to call for aid.

Confused, the acolytes inquire about how that could be so – especially considering Lord Calziel’s testimony about Corren’s corruption, heresy, and betrayal.

Corren states that it was Calziel who exiled him and his men originally and that the Eulogus Lord believes that Thaur and proper Imperial governance can still exist as it once did.

Corren claims that Calziel’s rumours were nothing but desperate attempts to have Hope’s End silenced forever, lest others know that Thaurians’ best chances at survival are to be found without the Eulogus.

The acolytes debate Corren’s allegiances and pry deeper into his story. Nonetheless, the Warden claims loyalty to the Emperor.

As the acolytes discuss how to proceed, a distant bell begins to sound.

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A Return to Thaur - Part 1
The dead walk. The Eulogus calls for aid.

After a short stint on Desoleum, the acolytes have spent the better part of the last six months aboard the Reliant Dawn. Besides the odd journey planetside to Juno, the majority of their days have passed sliding in and out of the Warp, making unknown stops throughout the sector.

The acolytes have spent this time well, seeing to their equipment and tools, honing their trades, and brushing up on the art of killing.

After all this time spent in the Warp, it was almost possible to grow accustomed to travel through the Sea of Soul – as much as could be expected at least. The shivering of teeth, the headaches, the unease – still present, but the acolytes had finally been able to push them to the back of their minds. Then – there was that shuddering halt, the pressure wave, the voices in the bulkheads.

A change of course – sudden and terrible.

It wasn’t long before the warband was called to arms. A briefing. Another briefing. Always another briefing.

Valdane wasn’t alone this time – with him, a few figures crowded around the briefing table. Notably a younger man, clad in embossed leathers took front and centre stage. Although his garments were not as ornate as Valdane’s robes, he wore the rosette the same as the acolytes’ master. Another Inquisitor.

Valdane called him Elbraith.

Two others were with the Inquisitors.

The first – an aged man with an excess of scar tissue covering his face. With an odd gait, he approached slowly, balancing himself on his walking cane. His scowl was the only greeting the acolytes received.

Lastly, a Tech-Priest clad in the crimson robes of the Mechanicus Priesthood stood in the corner of the room. With masterfully crafted bionic limbs he handed the Inquisitors all kinds of dataslates and spools of information

They all look concerned.

Valdane was the first to speak, relaying that a message had been recovered from Thaur. Elbraith interrupted him.

“The dead walk. The remnants of the Eulogus Askelline call for aid.”

And so it was revealed – the rumoured geological incident was just a charade. What was once believed throughout the sector was no longer. Thaur was completely lost.

Over the next two hours, the acolytes would find out the truth.

Valdane and Elbraith exchanged stories of xenos artifacts, bizarre cults, and daemonic summoning. They described the day that left a multitude of dead, dying, and insane strewn around and throughout the Great Ossuaria and the monument of Saint Merusaad.

They described the rise and defeat of the daemon Sufvaeras. Tsyniak. The Crow Father.

The two others in the room confirmed the stories – survivors of the Battle of Thaur and the ensuing orbital bombardment.

The acolytes learned that in the months following “the incident”, and after much debate, it was decided that the risk of Thaur’s corruption spreading to the rest of the sector was simply too great.

Commodus Elbraith, the young Inquisitor before you was responsible for the inquiries and trials that followed. With a few others of his order, Elbraith and the Ordo Hereticus unearthed a number of new Sufvaerian cults as well as numerous cells of the Faceless Trade attempting last minute exfiltration of xenos relics – including some of those used in the Inheritors’ blasphemous summoning.

With so many new conspiracies discovered, the fires of the Inquisition were brought to Thaur and many were put to the torch – most notably those unfortunate few who witnessed the daemon’s summoning and Arch-Rector Renthear’s unholy sermon. In the ensuing purges, many catacombs and mausoleums were destroyed, including the Great Ossuaria and the monument of Saint Merusaad – the site of Sufvaeras’s emergence.

Lastly, Elbraith turned his gaze to the Eulogus Askelline, killing many of their order. If not complicit in Thaur’s downfall, they were at least incompetent enough to let it happen.

After the fires settled, the planet was quarantined. Thaur was declared prohibere est and placed under Inquisitorial quarantine. A cover story was fabricated, lest Askellian society learn the horrible truth.

New orbital defence platforms were built to prevent any departures and to stop any inbound visitors from ever stepping foot on the world again.

Now, almost eleven wretched years later and against their better judgment, the naval detachment overseeing the orbital defenses intercepted a small shuttle after scanning and finding no life signs aboard.

Inside, they found but a single message from the Eulogus Askelline – Thaur’s ruling body – a call for aid. Supposedly, the Eulogus say the dead have risen on Thaur and have begun attacking the planet’s dwindling populations. There’s fear among the Ordos that such events are an omen – precursors to another full-scale daemonic incursion. It’s clear that the message cannot be ignored.

Valdane briefs the acolytes that they will be dispatched to the surface to make contact with the Eulogus at the Palace of the Wake. Then, they will investigate their claims and destroy whatever malign forces conspire against them.

Elbraith explains that should these recovered messages be an attempt to break quarantine, the acolytes have full sanction to silence the Eulogus once and for all.

The acolytes spend a full day to prepare – arming themselves for their journey and attempting some rushed research about Thaur’s daemonic threats. Even with the aid of Graxon Pol and Amador, they are unable to discover much.

The journey to the surface is quick – and besides a few tense moments crossing the threshold of Thaur’s orbital defenses – mostly painless. By now, Corvath and the Cutter are one, the large craft being an extension of his own body.

Corvath drops the acolytes at what’s left of Port Restful – one-time Thaur’s main space port. Even in its prime, Port Restful was but a simple clearing no more than three kilometers across in an otherwise forested area. Now, much of it is overgrown, with thick roots tangled over the landing fields.

The once four-metre high wall of human around the port is now nothing but ruins. A handful of rusted landing platforms of cracked and blackened plascrete struts rot in the damp undergrowth. The minimal prefabricated lodgings on-site are dilapidated with many having already collapsed.

Still, Corvath finds a place to half set the Cutter down.

Strangely, there’s no one to great the party. Even the forests are quiet and still.

In the distance, thunder sounds from dark clouds. Corvath explains that storms are coming in and he’ll soon have to depart. That being said, should the acolytes need him, he’ll return as soon as possible.

The acolytes attempt to scan all radio frequencies and channels. They find no sign of any active communications. As such, they depart for the Palace of the Wake – the historical seat of Imperial power on Thaur.

Like Port Restful, the road to the Palace is overgrown with tangled roots and dense, damp undergrowth. The journey is slow, but steady.

Eventually, the acolytes pass massive burnt out pits full of ash and mud. Rusted sigils of the inquisition mark the sides of the roads. The acolytes quickly realize that the ash pits are the remants of Elbraith’s purges – giant piles of burnt flesh and rendered fat.

Not willing to open their minds completely, Koth and Ishamael still feel overwhelming waves of fear, death, and sadness.

The party presses on, unwilling to linger around the pyres. Through Thaur’s dense, dark forests, they navigate around ruined crypts and rotted mausoleums. With no one to tend to the small graves and shrines, Thaur’s wilderness has rapidly reclaimed the land.

As they continue their journey, more distant thunder sounds, as if echoing the acolytes’ footsteps. Additionally, over the last hour a cool wind has risen – bringing the smell of musty undergrowth out of the forests.

Eventually, through a clearing, the acolytes find their goal – the Palace of the Wake. The immense palace towers over the surrounding woods and is constructed of stone blocks hewn from local mines. Appearing mostly abandoned, many of the palace’s outer walls have collapsed, revealing the chambers within. Still, however, the palace looks as one can only assume it did millennia ago. Ever present in the architecture is the inclusion of human bones and even full skeletons with a quantity higher than typical of Imperial edifices.

The palace is like a solemn cathedral, and the unkempt grounds around the edifice are decorated with macabre crumbling statues, many of which also incorporate actual bones.
The only recent addition to the structure is a crude palisade and wooden wall. Along its edge, bodies lay impaled and still. A handful of black-robed figures shuffle back and forth, clearing the corpses from the walls and depositing them upon a cart drawn by a large equine beast.
As the acolytes approach, the robed figures look on in awe. Panicked, one of them runs inside. He returns a few moments later with even more people by his side. At the head of the group, one rushes towards the warband, looking relieved.

He greats the acolytes as Lord Calziel, Assumed Keeper of the Eulogus Askelline. He explains how glad he is that the acolytes have answered their calls.

The acolytes quickly begin their questioning.

Calziel explains that the dead do indeed walk upon Thaur – as horrible, foul creatures from the Warp. At first, there was but one or two of the risen each season. They were quickly put down by the Mournful Guard and the lands were reconsecrated. The Eulogus viewed these initial events as punishment for their failings.

Then, each year the dead’s numbers grew.

Calziel explains that the handful of remaining scribes and Mournful Guard at the palace have been lucky. He claims that they are far from the origin of this evil and that many Thaurians have not been as lucky. In the last few years, the dead have overrun many other settlements.

Still skeptical, the Acolytes press Calziel to explain the origins of these creatures.

The Lord explains that but one man is responsible for the evils plaguing Thaur – Warden Corren, a one-time outrider of the Mournful Guard. He was the first to tell the Eulogus of the dead.

Calziel claims that Corren and some other corrupted members of the Mournful Guard disappeared when the Inquisition first came to Thaur – travelling deep into the wilderness to form a cursed settlement and to practice their foul Warp magick.

The settlement is known to locals as Hope’s End – once a trading post, but now a blasted hamlet full of conjurers, witches, and the damned. It is rumoured that all of those who escaped the Inquisition’s retribution have landed there. The Eulogus even sent a party there almost two years ago to destroy Corren and his heretics, but they never returned.

The acolytes take a few moments to take in all of this information. Then, they form a plan – they shall wait at the palace and catch a glimpse of the dead themselves. They take some supplies and men from the Eulogus and settle in for the night.

By morning, with no signs of their unholy foes, the acolytes change their minds. Instead of waiting, they will take the fight to Corren.

As they debate the logistics of their plan from atop the parapets, the acolytes notice a scattering of ashes falling from the sky like a black rain. Seeing this, many of the Eulogus begin to weep, falling to their knees, turning their faces to the sky, and allowing the ash to cover their faces.

In the distance, pitch-black clouds cover the horizon. Purple flashes of lightning streak through the skies. Thunder echoes across the land. Soon, the ash is followed down by a light rain, streaking skin and clothing alike with black and grey stains.

Caziel explains that the Ashen Rains are early this season, surely an omen that the acolytes’ arrival is blessed by the Emperor himself. He explains that when the Inquisition quarantined Thaur, the many shipments of Askellon’s blessed dead stopped arriving. Then, after two long years, the Emperor showed his light and the dead begun to find the Eulogus again. These dead fill the skies above their lands, and once full, a great storm envelops the world. It is the will of the Emperor himself – his tears bring his servants to rest – and those buried under Thaur’s surface rise to the surface and be remembered again.

Although Ishamael questions the Eulogus’ logic, he does not debate Calziel for long – hoping not to anger the governor. Instead, the acolytes convince him to lend a few horses and men for their journey. Reluctantly, Calziel agrees.

The acolytes soon depart.

The journey to Corren’s commune is long and will require more than a day’s travel. Possibly even two. Either way, navigation through Thaur’s overgrown woods and tangled roads is difficult. It takes great care to avoid getting hopelessly lost. Taeric does his best to find a clear route, but the party often has to double back or retrace their steps. Still too much time is lost – their only hope is to stop at Afterlife, a settlement found along the way.

Thankfully, they seem to stay ahead of the black rains, only feeling their dark, wet touch in the brief moments they stop to rest or to turn around. They try to keep as much distance between themselves and the dark, lightning-streaked skies behind them as possible.

Eventually, the party stops, coming across a black mound laying across the road. What looks first like dirt and rot reveals itself to be dirtied leather robes – the remains of a Mournful Guard outrider. The man’s body is bloody and contorted.

Taeric and Theo examine the corpse. It Is recent – although some of it appears to be torn apart or partially eaten.

Sharing uneasy glances, the acolytes show the man’s wounds to their comrades.

The party continues on.

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Unrelenting Fury - Part 4
The synapse chambers discovered. An escape.

The Astartes of Kill-Team Fury ready their weapons one final time.

Skold orders Captain Grayson and his men back to their boarding vessels. Hopefully the exhausted, unaugmented humans will make it back in time to escape. Skold thanks the storm troopers and the survivors recovered from the Saint of Juno for their service, providing them with a guttural, Fenrisian farewell.

Uzas and Gerhardt flare their jump packs and burst upwards into the shafts towering above. Leaping from fleshy ledge to fleshy ledge, they dodge the bright electrical impulses sparking down the length of the chimneys.

Below them, Tyr, Skold, Dariel, and Kor begin their own, slower journey up to the hypothesized synapse chambers above.

Half way up, Uzas and Gerhardt smash into the Gargoyle organisms. Pushing off the sides of the chimney spires, they dive back and forth, shredding the foul xenos. With a flash of blades and the roar of chainswords, they dispatch the pitiful creatures. The Gargoyles’ wretched alien bodies slowly tumble back down through the low gravity.

Skold and ther others move up to join their Brothers. After a short climb, they all reach their objective – a massive domed cavern of grey and purple flesh dripping with a thick dark mucus. Five great pillars of flesh cords dominate the centre of the room, throbbing with electrical pulses and sparks, giving the chamber a terrible flickering light.

The presence of the hive mind is brutally strong here and the Astartes feel it pressing in on each of their consciousnesses. A few of them thank the Emperor that they were not gifted with a psyker’s mind.

Dariel inspects the flesh pillars, attempting to discern their use. Studying the room at length, he surmises that the cords are powerful neural networks – in essence the controlling force for the hive fleet. Valdane’s experts and the tactician Hadros have done well.

Should these links be severed, perhaps Fleet Captain Cobb and his battlegroup will gain the precious advantage they need in the ensuing void combat.

Gerhardt and Uzas immediately set out to destroy the pillars and fulfill their objective. Dariel stops their haste, pointing out that many Tyranid warrior constructs lay dormant along the walls.

Instead, Kor and Skold ready their remaining explosives and demolition charges. All of Kill-Team Fury quickly goes to work setting them about the room. Once the charges are set, the Battle Brothers proceed back down the chimneys, leaving Uzas behind with the detonator.

The Black Shield double checks the connections and ensures that he has a strong signal. With a silent prayer, he blast his jump pack – accelerating down the shaft while depressing the detonator.

A monumental explosion rips apart the synapse chamber behind him. The wave of righteous fire chases him down the tunnel, singeing his already black armour.

Uzas slams into the ground below the chimney’s exit point, rolling out of the way of the thunderous inferno following him. His Battle Brothers pull him from the destruction and down a side corridor. Already the war party is at a run, making for an escape from the doomed hive ship.

The vessel convulses, as if every muscle, chamber, and passageway attempts to act out on its own. Then, the motion becomes even more violent, throwing the Astartes off their feet. The hive ship thrashes like a wounded beast.

Now, with the hive mind’s link silent, the Battle Brothers hear their vox networks crackle to life.

Celebratory cheers are heard from among the bridge crews of various vessels – the Tyranids have temporarily stopped firing. Instead, the hive vessel and surrounding organisms are tearing themselves apart and attacking their own bio-ships.

Fleet Captain Cobb echoes through the Astartes’ helm, barely audible over the shaking and wailing of the Tyranid vessel’s walls. Cobb informs them they they must extract immediately, as the Navy has already started their attack run.

Through the violent shaking and convulsions, Skold manages to bring up a crudely calculated map from his helm’s sensorium suite. Although he already assumed their location, the point is now clear – their vessels are simply too far away.

Without saying a word, the Brothers all understand.

Quickly, Dariel locates one of the vessel’s outer passageways.

Tyr readies an armour piercing Krak rocket. Firing into the fleshy walls, the missile plunges deep before detonating a microsecond later. A metre-wide hole in the alien meat begins gushing blood.

Before the smoke can even settle, the Battle Brothers set to work, digging their own tunnel through charred flesh and chitinous bone. Dariel, Gerhardt, and Uzas slam their chainswords deep. Kor tears with his powerful servo arm. Skold and Tyr rip apart what they can with their power-armoured gauntlets.

Then, they feel it. The first tear.

Rapidly, the chamber depressurizes, blasting the Astartes out into the chill of the void.

Around them, the lights and explosions of the Imperial fleet’s lance fire and ordnance batteries rend apart space. Pieces of shattered vessels and living weapons tumble past. The full-scale fleet engagement is well underway.

As Kill-Team Fury drifts further out into the emptiness of the void, Dariel inspects the vial of genetic material recovered from the hatcheries. Although lined with newly-forming frost. It is intact.

Now free from hive ship’s living nightmare realm, the Brothers feel a collective sense of relief. Somehow, someway, they have managed to fulfill their duty – overcoming great odds and – Emperor willing – vanquishing a completely alien and unassailable foe.

They wait silently in the vacuum, knowing that salvation is not guaranteed.

Still, they hope that the knowledge of the Inquisition and the might of the Imperial Navy will triumph this day.

Here, over the darkened skies of Cel, the fate of all of Askellon shall be decided.

+ FURTHER RECORDS OF KILL-TEAM FURY EXPUNGED +

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Unrelenting Fury - Part 3
The void. The hatchery. The Saint of Juno.

With ordered fire, Captain Grayson’s Storm Troopers and Kill-Team Fury exterminate the incoming Gaunts – choking the murky tunnel with bodies.

The Astartes attempt to push through the corpses, but find their only means through blocked. Instead, Dariel seizes his bulkhead shears and begins tunneling directly through the vessel’s living walls. After a few minutes of drenching himself in gore and viscera, he punches back through to the chamber hosting the spore chimneys.

As visibility is still greatly diminished by the thick spore clouds, it takes the Imperials a few moments to locate a suitable exit. Guided once again by Tyr’s fleeting connection to the Hive Mind, they press on.

After more twisting and turning corridors, they find themselves surprisingly close to the hull again – walking through a vast transparent blister looking out into the void. From this vantage point, the carnage of the space battle raging outside is clear. The blackness of space is torn apart again and again by slashes of lance fire and exploding ordinance.

Suddenly the floor below the boarding party shudders violently and their attention is drawn to another blister nearby, from which protrudes a massive living cannon hurling deadly bio-plasma into the void. With no clear way to attack it from within the ship, the Astartes decide to venture to the outside of the vessel.

Grayson orders his men back to a safe distance down a few of the hallways – hoping to avoid the ensuing decompression.

With Tyr and his missile launcher close behind, Gerhardt cleaves through the translucent barrier separating the Kill-Team from the void. The barrier rips and tears, shuddering while trying to seal itself closed again. Much of the self-contained atmosphere rushes past, blowing out into the vacuum of space and leaving a fine layer of frost across the Astartes’ black armour.

Gerhardt braces himself against the opening, allowing Tyr to fire a deadly krak rocket at the xenos weapon blister. The missile plunges deep, detonating with a brilliant pale blue flash of the rocket’s explosive warhead and Tyranid bio-plasma. The shattered gun-blister decompresses, scattering its contained fluids out into the void.

Sensing part of their vessel under attack, a small group of Genestealers emerges from along the outside of the hull. Quickly pulling themselves along the vessel’s surface with their four arms, they close the distance with deadly speed.

Skold and Tyr fire at the approaching creatures, shattering a few of them with bolter and missile fire. However, the creatures soon reach the opening and launch themselves forward to begin their assault.

Seeing one of the leaping beasts, Tyr fires another missile – almost point blank. The missile strikes the beast in its silently snarling face. What’s left of its body drifts away lifelessly through the void.

Unfortunately, the other Genestealers manage to make it to Gerhardt, assailing him with their razor-sharp rending claws. He successfully parries their blows before dispatching them with ease. Then, only one Genestealer remains. Lagging behind its kin, it still drags itself along the outer hull.

With furious laughter, Dariel decides to remove the lone creature from its worthless existence. Pushing his Brothers aside, he leaps into the blackness of space. Crossing a half-dozen metres through the void, he slams his chainaxe deep into the xenos’ exoskeleton. The creature slashes back – exchanging a blazing flurry of blows. Somehow, Dariel is unscathed, repeatedly plunging his chain weapons deep and spraying a mist of purple-grey globules of the beast’s blood out into the surrounding vacuum.

Allowing the torn blister to slowly heal itself closed, Kill-Team Fury continues their journey towards the vessel’s Synapse Nodes.

Now, finally through the bio-ship’s outer layers, they arrive in the core of the ship, where inner arteries ferry vital fluids and bio-matter between the vessel’s major organs. Once again, shapes move about in the shadows and the tunnels’ fleshy mounds are still easily mistaken for enemies.

Rejoined by Captain Grayson and his men, the group treads quietly, as if stepping along the gullet of a great slumbering beast.

After breaching through this inner area, Fury comes across one of these vessel’s vast hatcheries – a cavernous chamber filled with thousands of gestation pods and birthing sacs. As they step into the hatchery, half-formed creatures stir silently, unaware of their presence.

The Astartes decide that this is the mostly likely place to find the genus sample that Inquisitor Valdane requires. Slowly and carefully, Dariel uses his reductor to take a sample from one of the gestation sacs. His diagnosticator helm and narthecium are unable to determine much about the sample – except for the fact that it is pure genetic material. The Apothecary stores the sample inside one of his gauntlet’s armoured compartments and the Kill-Team presses on.

However, as they go to leave the chamber, they catch glimpse of a vast, slumbering form. Through the creature’s pod, they make out a beast similar in profile to a gargantuan Warrior – surely a deadly bio-organism.

Although a few of the Astartes seek the glory of killing such a creature, Skold reminds them of their primary mission objective. Although they argue silently over the vox, they realize that awakening the entire hatchery would not aid them in their goal.

Knowing that the Kill-Team will leave the creature dormant, the Storm Troopers look relieved.

Eventually, the Imperials pass through the hatcheries and near the vessel’s vital organs. Soon, the party finds themselves climbing up a steadily sloping tunnel, the floor slick with bile and other foul liquids. Suddenly, the tunnel emerges into a truly massive chamber, so large that the ceiling and the far side are scarcely visible – lost in a haze.

Strangely, the chamber appears to be some kind of gargantuan stomach or digestive tract. The air is thick with an acidic mist and the floor deep in bubbling fluids. What catches the Astartes’ attention, however, is not the vile fleshy cavern but rather its contents – a partially digested Imperial escort. The massive vessel rises up, half sunken into the bile, its hull covered in crawling horrors as it is slowly dismembered by millions of tiny Tyranid organisms. Slowly but surely, it descends little by little into the lake of potent acid.

From closer, Skold picks up a vox broadcast from a group of Imperial officers holding out in the escort’s state rooms against a dozen or so Genestealers. From the sounds of things, the survivors are high-ranking officers from a vessel named the Saint of Juno.

The Kill-Team decides to head inside and free the officers – hoping that should they be able to escape, they may be able to assist in the void battle to come. Skold orders for Grayson and his men to wait here.

The Astartes leap aboard the Saint of Juno’s outer hull, making haste up the vessel’s slanted spine up toward the bridge and upper decks.

Getting as far as possible, Dariel utilizes his bulkhead shears to create an opening for the Kill-Team. The Battle Brothers drop inside, silently making their way toward the beleaguered officers. Approaching silently, they eventually hear the commotion of the dozen or so Genestealers trying to burrow their way in through various bulkheads and blast doors.

Still unseen, the Astartes ready grenades. They hurl their explosive payloads down the choked corridor, landing the charges into a neat pile at the creatures’ clawed feet. Microseconds later, Tyr unleashes a frag missile, sending it screaming into the tightly packed Tyranids.

The resulting explosion is absolutely immense, blending the hallway’s alien occupants with successive devastating waves of pressure, shrapnel, and flame. The Kill-Team leaves only ash.

The Astartes rendezvous with the trapped officers, freeing them from behind a now heavily-damaged blast door. The escort’s Captain and his adjutants express their thanks, dropping to a knee and making the symbol of the Aquila.

Suddenly, a wave of foul smelling air hits the group and the vessel shifts suddenly. The digestive tract releases a torrent of bile that quickly begins bubbling up from below decks. The vessel begins to sink rapidly as the acidic liquid pours in.

The group makes a mad dash towards the nose of the ship, distancing themselves from the rising caustic bile.

Quickly, they cut their way out through the hull. The Astartes toss the officers the short distance to the acid-lake’s shoreline where Grayson’s men meet them. Leaping from the Saint of Juno, the Kill-Team manages to escape just before it dips below the surface.

Regrouping, the now even larger party of Imperials continues on.

Following the inner arteries again, they finally find the first real sign of their goal – the vital organs of the hive ship. This area is unlike any of the other regions passed through so far, and the sense of importance is immediate. The thick, damp air is charged with electricity and thrumming with alien thoughts. There is a stillness that pervades everything, as if the party has found themselves in hallowed ground or in the nave of a great cathedral of flesh and blood.

Ahead, towering chimneys of light and electrical impulses lead upwards.

Entering the base of one of these vertical structures, the Astartes see it vanish up into a haze high above, lit occasionally by huge flashes of pale blue electricity arcing up and down the shaft. Small ledges, like ribs in the side of the chimney, mark walls of the passageway. The gravity here seems to have also lessened significantly.

The party decides to send the Storm Troopers upwards to scout ahead. With grapnel and line they climb the few dozen feet to the opening of the chimney before pulling themselves inside. With great arcing leaps from side to side, the scouts slowly make their way up the low-gravity chutes.

Then, having lost focus, one of the troopers is caught by the electrical impulses. With a sparking, cracking snap!, he’s knocked unconscious. Drifting back down the chimney, his body slowly accelerates, pulled faster and faster by the growing gravity. He falls from the shaft, his body shattering as it hits the floor of the tall chamber. Grayson’s medics rush to the trooper’s side.

Up above, the remaining scouts spot hordes of Gargoyles flying up and down the shafts – clearing away debris and biological matter. They seem to have noticed the scouts’ presence, but go about their business cleaning the tunnel walls. They show little sign of being affected by the electrical pulses rolling upwards.

Skold orders the Storm Troopers back down – knowing full well that it’s the Kill-Team’s turn to proceed.

Somewhere high above, Tyr can feel their final objective pulling at his mind – the vessel’s connection to the Hive Mind.

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Unrelenting Fury - Part 2
Into the dark.

Having acquired sufficient gear for their deadly expedition, Kill-Team Fury heads for their boarding torpedoes.

As they make their way to the launch bays, Valdane meets up with the Astartes again, intercepting the war-party from a side corridor. He apologizes for the final interruption, stating the need for secrecy.

He explains that the Tyranid hive ship is not only a deadly threat unto itself, but is also a breeding ground for the entire hive fleet. Should the Astartes be able to find a pure sample of the hive fleet genus while on board, it would be of great value to the Inquisition’s continued efforts against the Tyranid menace.

After the Kill-Team accepts this new objective, Valdane wishes them luck and departs – making his own preparations for the coming engagement.

Fury finds their launch bay and embarks upon their small, cramped torpedo while dozens of nervous but determined Storm Troopers board their own crafts. Some have been tasked to breach alongside the Astartes group, while others will enter different parts of the hive ship – bettering the chance of locating the hypothesized synapse chambers as quickly as possible.

From the relative peace of their boarding torpedo, the Astartes perform their final oath takings and rites of battle. Soon however, vox chatter breaks the silence. The Imperial fleet’s vessels have begun closing with the swarm.

First, the Imperials employ long-range lance and battery fire, strangely not drawing the attention of their adversaries. Then, as the battlegroup gets closer, the Tyranids begin to stir, moving like a single giant beast. Their living vessels start to slide sluggishly towards the Imperials, hurling bio-matter and ordinance into the void.

Finally, like a storm crashing over the shore, Cobb’s fleet is rocked with the first impacts—even in their grav harnesses, the Battle Brothers can feel the ship’s armour taking a beating. At this moment, the deck master gives the boarding parties a five-minute warning. The torpedo engines begin to thrum.

The wait is long and drawn out, while a mix of panicked and orderly commands echo across the vox.

Then, with an immense force of acceleration, the boarding torpedoes scream down their launch tubes on crowns of fire – out into the empty vulnerability of the void. Little is visible in the shadowy interior of the torpedoes’ crew compartments – their cold steel walls and crash-couches lit only by feeble red combat lighting.

The Astartes’ only connection to the titanic space battle raging outside is the continued vox reports of the Imperial cruisers fully engaging the swarm. More relevantly, the Battle Brothers can hear the chatter between the Fury pilots as they engage in a rolling dogfight to keep Tyranid bio-ordinance away from the boarding party’s vulnerable transports.

As the outside void is torn apart by the exchanges of fire, Fury waits in the dark.

Then after what seems like an eternity, Fury’s torpedo shudders alarmingly and seems to slow as if passing into deep water. Its hull rings with the sounds of thousands of tiny impacts. Finally, a mighty collision throws the Astartes back into their harnesses before they’re swallowed by silence.

They have arrived.

Quickly disembarking, they find themselves in a stringy, bloody series of tunnels. Alarmingly, the walls contract and expand at random intervals, as long cords of sinew slacken and then snap tight to the walls and ceiling.

To further add the to the confusion, the overlapping, chitinous flesh of the walls and ceilings constantly betray the eyes, marking out faux silhouettes of Tyranid Warriors, Genestealers, and Gaunts.

Down the tunnel, another torpedo has arrived intact. Dazed Storm Troopers soon begin to stumble from their craft.

There are two constants within the hive ship – the heat and the dark. The air is thick, and the Astartes’ warplate is soon covered with condensation. The Storm Troopers are already sweating, and even the Battle Brothers can feel the heightened temperature through their armour.

Forward facing spotlights illuminate the area in front of the boarding torpedoes, but the majority of the Storm Troopers rely on weapon- or shoulder-mounted stablights.

The boarding party spreads out into the darkness. However, as one of the Storm Troopers ventures a little too close to the bloody walls, he’s caught in the stretching sinew. As the cords snap shut, his legs are torn from his body, sending him careening through the air. One of the medics races to his side.

The Astartes share uneasy glances – already the humans are taking casualties.

Dariel and Uzas move to saw through the sinew-strapped walls, hoping to prevent further incidents. Their chain weapons dig deep, making easy work of the giant tendons. Once weakened, the massive filaments snap, whirling off down into the darkness.

The walls shudder in response, rippling down the length of the massive living corridor. A groan echoes from deep within the vessel.

Dariel and Uzas move quietly down one end of the tunnel, while Tyr and the Storm Troopers watch the other – fearing some kind of response. The rest of the Astartes continue to remove gear from their torpedo.

Soon, chittering sounds in each direction. Out of the darkness, hordes of Gaunts pour into the tunnel.

Uzas envelops himself in the folds of the walls, letting the Gaunts get closer. Dariel stands his ground. As the ravenous beasts gallop near, Uzas emerges, bathing the group in a blanket of flaming prometheum. The Gaunts leap after the Black Shield, burying him with a storm of shrieking talons. He rockets up out of the melee while Dariel plunges in. With bursts of flame and ruthless strikes from Dariel’s hungry chainsword, the pair finishes off the first group of xenos.

Meanwhile, Tyr begins to fire at the other advancing horde. The Storm Troopers also lend their fire, downing scores of the creatures with concentrated fire. However, the Gaunts hit faster and harder than expected, leaping into the gathered group of Imperials. Tyr smashes his way into the melee, throwing the beasts left and right.

Uzas and Dariel come back to aid the main group. Together, their work is quick.

As Captain Grayson and his Storm Troopers tend to their wounded, the Astartes push on.

Uzas scouts far ahead down one of the tunnels – finding nothing. Having wasted enough time, he returns to the others. Dariel and Tyr posit that perhaps the best route is deeper into the ship – into the heart of the beast.

Again, Dariel and Uzas saw through the tendons and folds of flesh lining the inner tunnel wall. Once through, they’re presented with a dizzying array of passageways, ducts, and chimneys snaking off in all directions. The moist, red and purple tunnels constantly ooze liquids and make disturbing noises. Some of the crevices shudder and pulse, disgorging tiny organisms that skitter off deeper into the ship.

With Captain Grayson’s detachment close behind, the Astartes head inside. Dariel makes crude guesses regarding the bio-ship’s anatomy, but the Battle Brothers are hesitant to head further in without a plan. Looking back to the charred corpses left behind them, Tyr has an idea.

Seizing one of the Hormagaunts’ skulls, he ingests pieces of what he assumes to be its brain. Immediately, he feels the chilling wrongness of the Tyranid Hive Mind. The xenos consciousness rips through his mind, pulling him towards the collective being of the Tyranid fleet. He feels an intense urge to proceed deeper toward the living vessel’s nose. With his newfound guidance, the Astartes carefully proceed.

After trekking through the twisting tunnels of the outer layer for a while, the Imperials begin to wade into a milky grey liquid. Dariel takes a sample, running a quick analysis. He determines that the thick, cloying liquid doesn’t seem pose a threat. As they press on, however, the fluid becomes progressively deeper.

At one point, the tunnel dips under the surface of the thick substance. The Astartes order the Storm Troopers to hold, while they scout ahead. Ensuring that their power armour is environmentally sealed, Uzas, Tyr, and Dariel submerge themselves. After swimming for several metres in pitch darkness, they emerge up from the liquid to find a vast chamber at the edge of a great lake of bile. Across the lake, islands rise up towards the rippling roof, each sprouting a towering lung-like pillar that expands and contracts rhythmically

Remembering their briefing, Dariel posits that these giant living chimneys are breathing in the self-contained atmosphere and using it to generate and propel spores down toward Cel. If they can be disabled, the Tyranids would lose the massive clouds protecting their vessels against incoming fire.

Standing far back, Tyr readies a krak rocket. The explosion is massive – the chimney bursts with shockwave that ripples over the bile. As the spores begin to fill the room, visibility drops rapidly.

The Battle Brothers set out to destroy the rest of the flumes. As they hack and slash their way across the lake, the vessel again shudders in response.

Eventually the towers seize up – unable to breathe and filter the spore-choked air.

Within a few moments, more Hormagaunts appear, pouring forth from hidden vents and passageways lining the walls. Seeing the overwhelming number of enemies, the Astartes fall back, returning through the flooded tunnel. As they reach the other side, they order the Storm Troopers to make ready.

Captain Grayson has his men take aim at the murky liquid – forming orderly ranks and firing lines.

The Astartes clear their weapons of fluid and await the Tyranid creatures close behind.

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Unrelenting Fury - Part 1
Goodbyes. Greetings. Briefings.

The Kill-Team is flown south for some time out over Cel’s outer provinces. Farms and orchards roll away below the transports, untouched by the uprising and yet to be ravaged by the coming swarm. Even further south, the vessels reach the Valshari Mountains where they arc skywards – initiating a full burn back to Cobb’s fleet waiting in orbit.

Holding position on the far side of the agri-world, the battle group has somehow continued to hide its presence from the advancing splinter fleet. The closely grouped cruisers are a flurry of frantic activity. Fury Starfighters fly close-support missions while transport shuttles ferry troops and ordinance back and forth between the warships. Furthermore, as the evacuees approach, they can see that an I nquisitorial Mars Class cruiser has joined the battlefleet.

Eventually, the Kill-Team rendezvouses with the battle group’s flagship, the Emperor’s Wrath. The atmosphere in the docking bay is somber, as a small gathering of Deathwatch Astartes, serfs, and stewards wait ready to receive Junon’s body. As Fury unload his motionless, power-armoured form onto a waiting grav-slate, a senior Deathwatch Techmarine of the Howling Griffins takes over, quickly placing the body into stasis. From Dariel, an Apothecary of the Crimson Fists takes Junon’s geneseed, preparing it for storage and travel back to the Storm Wardens.

A moment of silence swallows the hold, as even the lowliest of labourers pays their respects to the fallen Astartes. Eventually, the Techmarine and Apothecary depart with the sacred body and geneseed.

The remaining gathering of chapter serfs immediately move forward to receive Kill-Team Fury’s weapons, initiating the various Litanies and Sacred Rites of Unloading and Appeasement – hoping to calm and assuage the exhausted machine spirits contained within. Soon after – with hasty repairs to their power armour complete – Fury is asked to join the Fleet Captain in The Emperor’s Wrath’s strategarium.

As they enter the vessel’s vast strategic control chamber, armsmen and naval officers part before them, bowing their heads in respect. In the centre of the cavernous room, an immense hololithic display shows Cel, a pale blue orb in a sea of darkness. Flashing icons representing the fleet are almost completely enveloped by the vast grey-green stain growing on the far side of the planet – the swarm.

Among the gathered Imperial commanders, one tall, lean man stands ahead of the rest. He introduces himself as Fleet Captain Arast Cobb, stating his in hosting both warriors of the as well as an Inquisitor. He gestures over his shoulder, singling out Inquisitor Valdane, his entourage, and the acolytes with whom Fury has already familiarized themselves with in Lordsholm.

Cobb briefs the assembly on the situation at hand and introduces Hadros, his master tactician and chief advisor. Hadros praises the Kill-Team’s efforts, but humbly requests their further aid in liberating Cel from the Tyranid threat.

Unfortunately, the plan is far from simple.

Before Cobb’s vessels will engage the swarm, Hadros wants to try and weaken and disperse the Tyranids. Only then will the Navy will have a fighting chance against the hive fleet’s superior numbers.

Valdane’s savants believe that should the Kill-Team be able to disable the main hive ship’s synapse nodes – and thus disrupt it its ability to transmit the Tyranid hive mind to the rest of the swarm – Cobb’s battle group may gain enough of a tactical advantage to secure a victory – even a minor one.

Cobb explains that the Imperial fleet will close into range of the main hive ship and then attempt to blast a hole in its escort screen. With an opening made, the Kill-Team – and a company of Storm Troopers led by Captain Grayson – will be sent via boarding torpedoes to breach and enter the Tyranids’ main vessel. A screen of Fury Interceptors will attempt to protect the torpedoes during transit while Cobb’s battlefleet will try to hold off the swarm.

Captain Cobb makes it clear that time is an important factor, and that his cruisers can only stand for so long against the full firepower of the hive fleet. He will be counting on the Astartes to disable the synapse nodes as soon as possible. Then, hopefully the fleet will be able to pick apart the remaining Tyranid ships in the ensuing confusion.

Then, the Inquisitor provides a sobering realization: This mission is purely hypothetical – based on studies of smaller Tyranid organisms by the Ordos’ Biologis experts. The proposed synapse nodes may not even exist. No outcome is guaranteed. Neither is the Kill-Team’s survival.

Furthermore, Valdane believes that destruction of some of the hive ship’s key systems may help to buy Cobb’s battlegroup some time. Disabling the vessels bio-weapons or protecting spore ducts may help tip the balance in the Navy’s favour.

Lastly, as Cobb finishes the briefing, he informs the Astartes that the hive ship may hold survivors of other devoured vessels, bombers, and fighters that have been consumed, yet not full digested. Finding these survivors and managing to get them to safety may be a boost to both the fleet’s fighting strength as well as its morale but is by no means a primary objective.

Either way, if the Kill-Team is successful in its main goal, it must extract as soon as possible so that the Navy can begin its attack.

Gathering themselves and departing the strategarium, the battle brothers rearm and refit, not knowing what fate awaits them across the void.

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Oblivion's Edge - Part 2
The last stand at Avalos.

The acolytes’ servo skull continues to ping – providing only seconds of warning before the first few Genestealers climb out from their hiding spots under the St. Malban Bridge. Leaping up over the rockcrete and plasteel barriers, they surround the Lordsholm refugees and their Astartes defenders. The Battle Brothers of Kill-Team Fury fan out, spreading a front of black and silver around their protectorate.

From the far end of the bridge, two massive Tyranid warriors stride forward, pushing through the ruined Portica streets bordering the canal.

Behind the Imperials, their Chimeras begin to fire on the advancing elements of the Tyranid swarm. Sounds of skittering chitin and heavy weapons fire fills Cel’s sickly, spore-choked skies.

Dariel quickly takes to the fight, plunging headfirst into the first few Genestealers. With righteous fury, he manages to eliminate a few of their numbers. Still, more leap forward, quickly overwhelming the Flesh Tearer. Although Dariel fights back valiantly, the Tyranids’ rending claws bite deep, shearing through his power armour and tearing away his helm.

Skold provides his Battle Brother covering fire, striking a few of the Genestealers and allowing the bloodied Dariel to temporarily withdraw. With strips of tattered flesh hanging from his face, the Apothecary retreats back to the Imperial refugees and to patch himself up.

Tyr – standing atop one of the Chimeras – unleashes his first few volleys. No longer able to ignore the ‘Low Ammunition’ warning sounding within his helm, he yells to the PDF vehicle crew below him, beckoning them to bring more rounds forward. Too occupied with their own fight, the crew is unable to respond. Instead, Tyr opens the top hatch of the transport and drops inside. Scrambling, he grabs one of the few remaining drums of bolt shells. Heaving himself back atop the Chimera, he slams the fresh drum home. His heavy bolter chatters back to life.

Meanwhile, Gerhardt has rocketed skyward, heading toward the powerful Tyranid Warriors. Hovering meters over their heads, he draws their attention. Flying in and out of the nearby ruins, the Black Templar swiftly dodges the fresh living ammunition being fired his way. Shooting back with his bolt pistol, he takes the odd chunk out of his foes.

Having hidden under the bridge at the beginning of the fight, Uzas senses his time to strike. Emerging up and behind the distracted Warriors, he tosses two primed krak grenades. Burning his jump pack to put some distance himself and the explosive charges, he falls back to his fellow Astartes.

The krak grenades soar toward the Warriors, veering slightly wide. Although the detonations do considerable damage to the large and powerful creatures, they aren’t the knock-out punch that was expected. The Warriors – now sensing a more important target than the Black Templar overhead – start making their way down the bridge.

In the meantime, the Genestealers continue their attack. From overhead, Uzas spots them encircling the mostly helpless Lordsholm exiles. He plunges downwards, slamming hard into the already broken asphalt. Skold and Dariel charge in with him. Together, with a combination of holy bolters and screaming chainswords, they tear apart the Genestealers.

Ahead of them, Kor meets the Warriors’ advance, delivering a torrent of flaming promethium from his flamer. The Tyranid creatures instantly ignite. Although covered in a raging inferno, they ignore the damage to their exoskeletons and continue their advance.

From his raised position, Tyr easily spots the flaming monstrosities. He squeezes the trigger of his weapon, managing to catch one of the beasts in the face. The volley of heavy bolt shells blows apart the creature’s head, bursting it like a ripe fruit and scattering its blasphemous flesh across the bridge.

Taunting the other beast, Gerhardt maneuvers the remaining Warrior into the Kill-Team’s line of fire. With combined arms, Fury finishes the fight.

The Astartes secure the far end of the bridge, allowing the refugees to cross safely. Then, the Chimeras traverse one by one – delicately maneuvering around the damaged pieces of roadway. The Imperials and Astartes climb back into and onto their transports – resuming their flight from the doomed city. The nervous crews gun their throttles, hoping to put distance between themselves and the swarm – now only a few minutes away.

Finally, the Kill-Team enters Avalos Spaceport. Thankfully, the small PDF garrison they had left behind a few nights previous has been reinforced with fresh troops and two Tarantula sentry guns.

Among the spaceport’s ruined storage yards and wrecked vehicles, a small crew works feverishly to make the final repairs needed to the sole remaining landing pad. Atop the delicate structure, Corvath readies the acolytes’ Cutter.

As the desperate convoy closes in on the landing platform, a sharp vox message crackles into the Kill-Team’s helms. The man’s voice is blunt and matter-of-fact. He identifies himself as Captain Grayson, commander of the Storm Trooper detachment accompanying Cobb’s fleet. Grayson informs them that the situation has grown even direr. The massive spread of the Tyranid spore cloud means that Grayson’s shuttles can no longer stage re-entry directly into Lordsholm. Instead, they have to begin their approach from roughly a hundred kilometres to the south, in the Valshari Mountains. Grayson and a platoon of his best men are now en route in Valkyrie troop transports. He estimates they will be there in less than twenty minutes.

Unfortunately, the Kill-Team knows that the swarm will arrive at the spaceport in less than half that time. Over the crackling vox, Grayson advises them to hold the landing platform as long as possible – promising that he will be there as quickly as manageable.

The Astartes quickly begin their defence preparations.

Surrounding the landing zone is a maze of shattered and ruined buildings stretching off into the rest of the district. Any open ground is littered with debris, shattered transport containers, and burnt-out vehicles.

The Astartes quickly reposition their Chimera transports and the space port’s small garrison to cover the surrounding roadways and advances. Furthermore, the Inquisitorial acolytes lend their support, offering to help hold the line.

As the Kill-Team continues to make their final preparations, the first rumblings of the approaching swarm sound in the distance. The sky grows darker as the spores thicken, and caustic bio-matter begins to fall like rain, burning exposed skin and pitting metal. The clicking and chittering of a thousand insectoid limbs begins to drown out all other sounds. Finally, the first creatures burst into the landing zone, crashing over the ruins like a wave of nightmares.

Skold yells to make ready.

Tyr is the first to fire – utilizing his vantage point atop the central landing pad.

Beside him, Skold directs the Imperial forces. Using his autosenses to see through the haze, smoke, and surrounding fires, he skillfully commands the defenders to plug any gaps and to reposition their forces to meet the oncoming threats.

Dariel and Kor move to secure the northern rail yard, killing the first few waves of Gaunts with fire and fury.

Gerhardt and Uzas take the south. With the aid of a Chimera and a Tarantula, they manage to destroy dozens of the rampaging creatures.

As the battle rages on, it becomes obvious that the Tyranid numbers will soon overwhelm Lordsholm’s last defenders.

Eventually, the PDF and their Chimeras are overrun – buried under a ruthless tide of Tyranid organisms and downed by potent bio-weapons fire. Hoping to buy precious time for Captain Grayson’s arrival, a few remaining troopers charge out to meet the attacking hordes, delivering a handful of demolition charges deep into the enemy’s heart.

Skold scans the horizon, hoping to spot Grayson’s salvation. Seeing only spores and ash, he curses.

As the Tyranid numbers continue to grow, the Astartes detonate one of the space port’s fuel trucks, sending a rippling, flaming shockwave across the staging area. Trampling over their own flaming corpses, the creatures continue their relentless advance.

To the east, countless Genestealers emerge from Portica’s ruins – led by a fearsome Broodlord. Although Dariel and Kor try to hold them off, Dariel is again overwhelmed by the the creatures’ rending claws and scything talons. The Genestealers tear deep through his armour, spilling the Flesh Tearer’s blood and viscera over the space port’s ruined ground. Clutching his exposed organs and forcing them back into his body, Dariel pulls back from the front lines. Kor delivers a few bursts of burning promethium to buy them a handful of seconds to withdraw. Helping carry the wounded Apothecary back to the landing pad, Kor also helps protect Junon’s recovered geneseed.

Facing a massive influx of Gaunts and Warriors on the southern flank, Uzas and Gerhardt are also forced to fall back. They jump back in succession, laying down covering fire for each other with a storm of bolt shells and explosives.

Seeing the chaos unfold around him, Skold orders a Codex Pattern Bolter Assault – calling for his brothers to enact a rapid tactical retreat. Using overlapping fields of fire, Kill-Team Fury falls back, climbing to their final defence positions around the Cutter.

Suddenly, out of the swirling spore clouds above, Tyranid Gargoyles drop down into the fray.

Gerhardt is the first to react, bursting upward on a jet of flame and with his chainsword roaring. Tearing his way through the xenos masses, the Black Templar begins a deadly dance. Blood and ichor starts to rain.

Skold aims skyward, firing some of his last few bolt shells into the flock of creatures.

Tyr, unfazed by the fight overhead, continues to punish the encroaching masses. His barrel smokes red-hot as it chugs through more and more precious rounds.

Still, it isn’t enough.

More and more waves of creatures appear on the horizon, skulking up through the shattered city. With nowhere left to go, the Battle Brothers are completely overwhelmed.

Fighting back to back, the Astartes try to hold their ground.

Even the refugees are forced to take up arms – grabbing whatever rifles, pistols, or improvised weapons they can find. With tooth and blade, bolter and chainsword, they desperately keep the Gaunts at bay.

Then, without warning, the fragile land pad lurches to the side.

Looking over the barricades, the Astartes spot a Tyranid Warrior climbing up toward them.

Dariel readies a krak grenade – consecrating and anointing the blessed explosive with his own flesh and blood. The Flesh Tearer curses at the snarling beast rampaging towards him, hurling the armour-piercing charge into its maw. The grenade detonates with a shattering blast, peppering the defenders with fragments of the creature’s flesh and bone.

However, even with the Kill-Team’s heroic efforts, the Tyranids breach the perimeter – threatening the acolytes’ Cutter and the very lives of the Imperial refugees.

Skold voxes to Captain Grayson and the Valkyries, desperate to know their status. Receiving no answer, doubt trickles into his mind. The Space Wolf wonders if he should call off the evacuation and save Cobb’s resources.

The Gaunts continue to pour up over the landing pad’s sides and over the Imperial barricades.

The Astartes hurl a final battle cry into the darkened sky.

Then, as all seems lost, a faint whine of engines sounds over the din of battle. Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, two Vulture Gunships scream overhead and unleash a torrent of missiles into the Tyranids, lighting up the edge of the landing zone in a curtain of flame. A moment later, three Valkyries appear out of the gloom, their door gunners hammering the encroaching masses with heavy bolter fire.

As the first transport lands on the platform, a man dressed in Storm Trooper carapace leaps down from it and salutes. Captain Grayson greets the Astartes, cracking a few sly jokes while simultaneously ushering everyone aboard his transports.

The Kill-Team and refugees hastily depart, leaving the flaming, ruined city in their wake.

Lordsholm is no more.

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