Welcome back to Matroyshka. If you are just joining us, part one can be found here.
Koju was frantically trying to get through on his vox, so he missed it. Vhuna didn’t. Without warning the thing appeared between them and the group of Sisters. The only signs that a half-second ago there had been nothing but empty hall were vanishing wreaths of faintest shadow and a ring of dust puffing gently outwards around the feet of the towering form of the Chaos obscenity.
It stood not ten metres away, its back to them. The overwhelming impact in her mind of the chaos spawn’s presence meant she didn’t even begin raising her lasrifle until the colossal figure had begun firing on the retreating Sisters. Bullets from the screaming autocannon filled the hall, ricocheting off walls, floor and ceiling in a deadly hail that none of the Sisters could possibly survive.
As Koju’s strangled cry indicated he had seen the foe, Vhuna began firing at the thing’s back. Her shots just bounced off the hideous amalgam of armour and thick hide that sprouted in scaly clumps.
As it turned towards them, the autocannon winding up for another burst, its other arm melted and flowed, the dark grease of the warp moulding and solidifying its limb into a flame weapon.
Koju knocked Vhuna’s rifle down, sending her last shot spanking into the flagstones, and grabbed the weapon’s strap. He lunged sideways through an arch, pulling the strap as he did so and Vhuna, the same strap still wound around her wrist, tumbled after him. Behind them the air exploded into a storm of iron and stone dust that was baked moments later by a rush of hellfire.
They hauled themselves to their feet and began running across the open courtyard, their footsteps echoing as behind them the conflagration died. They ran through another arch, leapt down a small flight of steps and slid to a halt against the curved outer wall of a spiral staircase.
Vhuna nodded, trying to catch her breath.
“Mallus?” she gasped.
“The Boy would – no, Mallus. You’re right.”
“Make it qui-“
Koju’s bolt pistol cut off her words. Whine. Snap.
“Staunch. I need Mallus,” he said to Fendahl, who had collapsed to his knees, clutching his chest.
The old man looked up, struggling to get the words out, his crooked teeth gritted against the phantom pain. “Very. Well. Relent. Get on with –“
Koju winced as some of the blood sprayed across his face. Whine. Snap. He looked down.
The Boy stared back at him. He could hear the ponderous footsteps of the warped daemon Marine resounding through the archway at the top of the steps.
“Come on, dammit. Staunch.”
Koju looked away as he pulled the trigger, then lowered the weapon. Stepping back he bumped against the cold stone wall.
“The Emperor calls, Mallus.”
“Koju. Bring me something to eat?” Mallus’ voice was slow, desert-dry and deep.
“It’s on its way here now. Some abomination of the fallen Astartes. You handle that?”
Mallus simply grunted, and his cold, beady eyes shone with a silver light as he turned his massive bulk towards the arch. Far taller than Koju and obscenely fat, he moved surprisingly quickly and gracefully.
As soon as he reached the archway Koju heard the whine of the autocannon and an instant later Mallus was hit by a wall of supersonic iron. His coarse clothing burst apart, rent and torn off in ragged strips smouldering in the heat from the daemonic rounds. But where the bullets hit his pallid, puffy flesh brief geysers of argent light erupted, studding his chest and distended abdomen. It looked to Koju like someone firing into a lumpen lake of quicksilver, and it was doing just as much damage to Mallus.
The psyker grinned, showing his stumpy, discoloured teeth, and then roared, flecks of spittle spraying out. The Obliterator tried to target his head, which almost disappeared behind fountains of silver light, and then Mallus charged.
He vanished in a crackling gout of black smoke and yellow flame. Koju cried out as the Obliterator simply appeared out of thin air only a few metres from him, wrapped in tendrils of spent warp energy that faded swiftly away. He scrambled for cover but the hell-spawn’s attention was fixed on Mallus.
The flames had subsided leaving the psyker almost naked, his skin smoke-blackened but otherwise unharmed. He seemed to know exactly where the Obliterator was, turning back to the top of the steps as more ebony warp-strands flowed over the chaos abomination’s bilious flesh, twisting an arm into another cruel amalgam of metal, bone and sorcery.
Twin beams of star-matter leapt from the nozzles formed by the Obliterator and poured over the corpulent form of Mallus. Koju flung himself through the doorway and onto the spiral steps to avoid the backwash of searing heat as the tapestries on the walls ignited instantly in blue flame.
The psyker staggered back slightly, despite his bulk. The stone at his feet where the beams splashed began to glow a sullen red and silver light swelled to fill the room as he absorbed the outpouring of energy from the melta.
The Obliterator stopped firing, confounded at this strange foe and raised a hand that now resembled the massive claw of some talonned fiend. It screamed its anger and its defiance, the high-pitched sound tearing into Koju like sawblades drawn across open nerves.
Mallus roared again, light flooding now from his eyes and mouth, tendrils of it snaking down his own arms to his hands. They began to glow, and lengthen. Claws of pure silver light began to form, and Mallus leapt from the top of the steps crashing into the huge daemon.
Koju swatted at the flames that had sprung up on his uniform, as he tried to struggle to his feet. His cap was gone, his hair and face singed badly. The air was like the inside of a furnace, his lungs couldn’t find any oxygen, and it was only getting hotter as the two titanic figures grappled, energies spilling out. Silver and black light arced and leapt from wall to wall, as the Obliterator fought back with power drawn directly from the immaterium. Koju was barely able to get back in the room.
Just as he did so, shielding his eyes from the glare of the warp-energies, a deflected spear of coiled shadow crashed into the ceiling, bringing down chunks of masonry. He backed off again, uncertain how or if he could assist Mallus.
The wall beside him exploded outwards, hurling pieces of stone at him and slamming him backwards onto the ascending stair. Mallus and the Obliterator hurtled through the gap, wreathed in psyker flames, and fell heavily to the worn steps. They tumbled away out of view, and Koju, his chest and head in agony, staggered after them, bolt pistol held unsteadily in front of him.
He reached the half-landing. The Obliterator was on its back, thrashing its arms as they flowed from one shape to another, morphing weaponry and corrupted flesh in a desperate fury. Mallus was astride its chest. He gripped the daemon’s head in both his giant, silver hands and screamed into the thing’s face. The noise knocked Koju’s feet from under him. Brilliant threads of argentine energy poured from Mallus’ gaping maw piercing the head of the Obliterator and melting the stone floor under him. Then, as Mallus kept up his impossible scream, they changed direction, flowing from the juddering Obliterator and into Mallus’ mouth. The scream grew in intensity and pitch; cracks appeared in the stone walls and it seemed that the whole Convent must collapse. Then the daemon Marine stopped thrashing, stopped morphing and stopped moving. It began sinking into the widening pool of liquid rock underneath him.
Mallus’ scream died away like a fading echo and the tendrils of silver energy covering his hands and arms were sucked back into his mouth. Leaning on the headless daemon’s chest he pushed himself slowly to his feet and stepped away as flames began to flick around its torso.
He looked at Koju with his beady eyes glowing like tiny suns. The Obliterator had clearly found a way to hurt him; deep gouges in his pale yellow blubber were oozing blood, but they were already beginning to close. Mallus licked his fat lips.
“Any more?” Mallus’ voice seemed to be coming from the bottom of a well.
“No. Sorry.” Koju slumped backwards onto the lowest steps, his pistol falling from his grasp.
He felt a heavy and surprisingly cold hand on his face. He coughed, stars of pain erupting within his chest. The hand hovered in front of him. Frothy blood covered it. Was it his own? Why couldn’t he get up?
The hand vanished, the room whirled about him and he felt himself being lifted. He told Mallus they had to contact the General, although he couldn’t remember which General. Wasn’t there a Colonel? Where was Vhuna? Was she safe, he asked? He told Mallus to take him to the Abbatissa. She would know where the warboss was. The warboss was getting thinner. He had to kill it again so they could all be safe. Yes, safe.
After that there was nothing.
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