Welcome back to part 13 of the Matroyshka series. We are nearing the end now… If you are just joining into the series, part one can be found here.
Vhuna stood, head still in her hands, watching the Sisters as they tried to bring Koju round. The searing pain that had followed her rebuilding was only just beginning to fade.
The Sisters had quelled the bleeding in Koju’s chest, for now, and were pumping him full of stims. The Abbatissa had reluctantly agreed to spare a few Sisters from the chirurgia to tend to him. Vhuna wondered just how that conversation with Mallus had gone.
From the frantic sounds coming over her vox-link she knew that the Chaos abominations had warped into every one of the Convent buildings at the same time. They were slaughtering the Sisters and destroying everything they could. Troops desperately needed elsewhere had been rushed to the lifts as the stormtroopers defending the Convent had proven woefully ill-equipped to fight the colossi of Chaos. They had, at least, bought precious minutes with their lives in which the relics could be moved to other, safer, parts of the Convent buildings. It was a race against time between the foul warp-spawn hunting for the relics and the reinforcements arriving from the plateau.
Vhuna flowed out with her mind, steeled now to the revulsion she felt whenever her scrying sense touched one of the hell-spawn. She could see them clearly in her mind, like beacons of darkness against the pure silverscape. She began to direct the Guard troopers to the relics’ locations. There was no point trying to direct them to the cursed daemons themselves, as they warped in and out of realspace, hunting and searching from location to location.
She heard a call on her personal vox-channel for Koju. It was General Kurt’s Chief of Staff Major Achiezer. His voice sounded hoarse.
“Psyker Vhuna here, Major. Koju is injured.”
“Report, Psyker. What’s going on in the Convent? What the hell is up there?”
“Some kind of huge traitor Marine, sir. There’s one in each complex. They’re hunting the relics.”
“Sacred Throne! This is a disaster!”
“I’m directing the reinforcements –“
“Make sure the reinforcements reach the relics, girl. Get them out of there. How many have been taken?”
“They’re not taking them, so far as I can tell. They seem to be destroying them.”
“Sacred fecking Throne! We can’t spare any more troops and still protect the landing site. We’re being pushed back already. This is impossible!”
“Yes, sir. You should know, sir, the last of the large, airborne xenos are approaching now from the east. And there are flesh-pods descending from low orbit for this location. Hundreds of them. I guess the Navy never found those ships after all.”
The vox-bead just hissed in her ear.
“Repeat that, Psyker.”
She did, with a voice that hardly trembled at all.
“ETA?” The Major’s voice sounded quiet, and frayed.
“The pods. About ten minutes. The creatures. Any minute now.” She hesitated. “And –“
“The heretics’ flyer is still there. Off to the west. Seems to be hovering. Some of the xenos have –”
“But there’s no more of those cursed Marines on board, at least.”
“I can’t tell what they are, sir, but there’s lots of them. The things in the Convent aren’t the worst of it, Major. I can tell that. There’s something much darker on board that ship.”
“Well that’s just fecking marvellous, isn’t it? If the sodding Eldar turn up for a shot at us you’ll let me know, won’t you?”
The line went dead.
There was only one Sister left in the small antechamber now. Vhuna walked over to Koju, and saw his eyes were open.
“How much of that did you hear?”
“Oh, I’m fine, Shiny.” He paused to draw breath. “Thanks for asking.”
“Bollocks. You’re half-dead. Anyone can see that, I didn’t have to ask. The situation’s going to hell, Koju.”
“Yeah. I heard what you said. My bead’s fried.” He pulled it away from his ear. “Gave Lady Lard my spare, too. She dead?”
“No idea. I guess so. Haven’t seen her. We’ll get you another. What do you think the heretics are up to?”
“If they’re not here to take the relics –“ Koju gritted his teeth, gripped his chest and tried to swing his feet off the cot. He almost succeeded, and fell back onto the hard mattress with a cry of pain.
He gasped. “I was hoping for something a bit more impressive there. A hand?”
Vhuna stood back and the Sister came over and helped him to his feet. She started removing the blood-tubes and vein-bridges.
“- then they’re here for something else. They wouldn’t come all this way –“ He stopped again, taking a careful and deep breath. “– from the Eye of Terror just to destroy some relics, especially when they could have done that when the Emperor’s finest weren’t here.”
“They’re here for something else then? What?”
“They’re waiting for it to turn up, whatever it is. Otherwise they would have come in by now. They probably think we can’t see their flyer. You can’t tell what’s in it?”
Vhuna shook her head. “I don’t want to know. Seriously. I just want to leave.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, Psyker. You would do well to remember my day job. The relics are a distraction – no offence, Sister. Watch that flyer, Vhuna. Very closely.”
Koju buckled his pistol-belt back on, wincing in pain as he did so. There was a faint pink froth at his lips.
“What now?” Vhuna asked, but Koju wasn’t looking at her.“Sister. I need to see the Abbatissa. Immediately.” He turned to Vhuna. “We get the last of the reliquaries out of here, of course. Save what we can before the xeno pods arrive. And hope there’s still a clear path to the landing site. This Convent is lost.”
Lieutenant Chemenko wiped the blood away from his eyes again, and then dived behind the battered Leman Russ as another wing of scythed horrors flashed through the smoky night air over his head. The soft, sickening thuds of their living ammunition came through the metal shell of the tank against his side, and he heard cries from all around him as more of the bio-rounds found their targets. No time to tend to their wounds now, he thought, even if he knew how to treat them.
“Sergeant!” yelled Chemenko, trying to make his voice heard above the screaming of the beasts, the death-cries of his troopers and the rapid thunder of the tank’s heavy bolters.
He saw Sergeant Lowe glance up from his position behind the shattered masonry that had fallen from above only minutes before.
“Get the squads to fall back to the Rhinos! Fall back! The Russ will provide cover.”
Lowe gestured an acknowledgement, still firing his lasrifle with the other hand as he did so.
A spore erupted off to the left, showering an entire squad in some sticky fluid. They were trying to scream, and Chemenko cursed himself for being glad they couldn’t. He hoped it would be quicker than that when his time came, but that time was not today.
Chemenko clambered up the ladder at the rear of the Russ, ducking back yet again as something long and barbed hissed past him into the night. He took the flamer from the hands of Trooper Cowl, not stopping to wonder where the rest of him had gone, and began to work the heavy fuel-tank into place on his back.
He saw Lowe rounding up the squads off to his right. Throne! So few left. Where was Madden? He had the comms.
And then the remaining stab-lights of the immobilised Russ picked out something up ahead, something rushing out of the darkness beyond the cliff-edge. A glimpse of wings too big to be real. Dull armour plating, thick enough to protect a ship of the line, slung over the largest teeth Chemenko had ever seen. He froze, ancient instinct sealing his fate. There was a glimpse of greenish limbs and soulless, flinty eyes before it crashed into the Russ, crushing it into the plateau surface like a tin toy and smearing Chemenko’s body over the rock.
How this new horror had burrowed through the plateau Colonel Lekh had no idea, but it had come up right through the middle of the last working Hellhound on this stretch of the line. The exploding fuel tanks of the inferno cannon didn’t slow it in the least, as the burning shreds of the tank tumbled away around its long, slender body.
“To me!” Lekh bellowed as he advanced, igniting his power sword in one hand and raising the gold aquila to his lips with the other. “Victory or death! Victory or death!”
Lasfire began to pour onto the beast’s hide as it continued to stretch upwards, still emerging from the tunnel it had dug. A stubber opened up on it from the far side, and chunks of chitin sprayed into the foul-smelling air. Then it unfolded its long, slender arms, and screamed.
Lekh only just managed to check his step and hurl himself to one side as a single, curved claw the size of a man stabbed downwards, the point biting deep into the rock. No-one else had been as quick as Lekh, and the red monster that now stood almost ten metres tall flicked their skewered corpses from its many-segmented talons and stabbed again, blindingly fast. Men were being reaped like crops.
Lekh rolled again, and again, only just dodging the creature’s attempts to impale him. He could hear nothing but the clink-clink as the thing’s razor-sharp talon hammered again and again into the rock all around him, flying slivers of stone bringing fresh cuts to his face.
With one desperate swipe of his family’s most treasured heirloom he managed to cut the tip off the talon, and it paused long enough for him to leap back to his feet.
He raised the sword in the air, hurling defiance at the towering monster, both of them now surrounded by a sea of bodies, blood and fire. His fate looked him in the eye and he gripped the golden aquila tightly in his hand, furious, wordless wrath tearing from his throat, as the beast arched its back and all eight talons flew for him in a blur.
The ancient power sword of the Lekh dynasty tumbled to the blood-soaked dust, its energies seeping away.
Overhead an armored colossus swooped, and then wheeled away. There was no meat here left to kill.
Part 14 can be found here
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