Redemption Stalled

I had a few requests to post another dramatised battle report from the grim darkness of the far future, the dark millennium, the worlds of Warhammer 40,000. Join Menelus and his brother Dark Angels as they engage an unexpected foe in their hunt for the Fallen:

 

“You have no place here, warriors of the first legion. Leave or we destroy you.”

The voice sang over the vox, its musical inflections distorted by atmospheric interference brought on by the blue-green aurora that danced in the sky. Menelus leaned over the battlements of the Fortress of Redemption and watched the ribbons of light with disquiet. The parapet stretched toward the sky and on each of its four walls, a great robed angel had been carved in stonework, its face hidden by its cowl.

“Psykers,” said Brother Indius. He rested the barrel of his massive plasma cannon on the wall beside Menelus, and stared down its length into the ruined city. The aurora bathed his dark green power armour in weird light. “That’s what causes the lights. This planet is infested with the Eldar witches. I’ve fought them. Shots that should miss somehow find gaps in armour. Others run at blinding speed through ankle-breaking terrain and still find chance to fire their weapons.”

“Farseers,” Menelus said.

Indius nodded. “You see one; you put a bolt through its head.”

Before Menelus could further consider the words, movement flashed in the shadow of the fortress. A second squad of Space Marines in full tactical wargear deployed from inside into cover beside an idling land raider tank. Its massive engines, necessary to power what was essentially a mobile bunker covered in weapons, belched dark smoke that rose straight up before dissipating in strange wind patterns.

“They’re coming,” Menelus said.

The vox sang again. “You have ignored your only warning, Space Marines.”

Without further word, a beam of light lanced through the ruins. It pierced the promethium tanks attached to the land raider’s flamestorm cannons, igniting the contents. The explosion thundered through the ruins. Its force flipped the tank and triggered chain reaction of ammunition explosions inside, wrenching it asunder.

“Down!” the squad sergeant yelled.

Menelus and his squad ducked behind the fortifications while chunks of tortured armour plating rained around them, bouncing off the ceramite plates of their power armour. One slammed into Menelus’ elbow guard, scorching his arm plates with burning promethium. He glanced to the ruined land raider below, the potential of all those weapons and its thick armour come to nothing. “Why do they never talk to us first?”

“They did,” Indius said.

“It wasn’t much of a conversation.”

“Because they are xenos filth and must be eradicated,” the sergeant said. “Now set your bolter on that wall and start eradicating. We need to kill them before their infantry get close. Their weapons are made for short range and they’ll chew through these walls, never mind your armour.”

“Yes sir,” Menelus replied and glanced to the wrecked land raider, the strongest battle tank of the Space Marines. If that was what a single shot from their long range weapons could do, he had no wish to see their more powerful short ones. He took sight down his bolter.

The horizon bloomed with the sunburst armour of Eldar. This host, however, differed from the expected resistance. The wail of banshees and whine of hover-tanks were both absent. Instead, silent creatures, something between the lithe, humanoid Eldar and a machine, stalked through the ruins toward the fortress. These walkers stood head and shoulders taller than even the superhuman Astartes on the battlements. Elongated heads, eyeless and shaped like egg shells crowned their bodies that advanced with fluid grace.

“Wraiths,” someone said over the vox. “The spirits of the dead.”

Menelus and his squad lay down suppressive fire with their bolters while Indus loosed superheated death from his plasma cannon toward the enemy. The brilliant blue ball of energy screamed through the air and erupted within the front line. It reduced two of the armoured walkers to molten slag but did nothing to cow the rest.

“They melt just fine,” Indius replied.

More of the wraith-host glided into view, shrugging off bolter shells fired by Menelus’ squad. They ranged from huge to gigantic as a mighty Eldar walker, near the height of the Imperium’s Warhound Titans, dashed onto the field in a hail of lasers and explosive rounds. A shot roared overhead and blasted against the fortress, decimating a chunk of the robed angel carving. Another flew wide but a third erupted in the midst of Menelus’ squad. When his optics recovered from the flash, three of his brother warriors had been vaporised.

Beams of light from the left flank dissipated against the aegis defence line below the fortress. The second squad of Space Marines hidden behind the mobile fortifications responded with bolters and plasma to little effect while lasers struck their armour. Though the lasers failed to penetrate, one brother warrior dropped to an unseen shooter, his visor a bloody mess of shattered glass and brain matter.

Menelus looked at his bolter and shrugged. Every shot had pinged off the enemy. With most of their weapons useless against the armoured wraith-host, the defending Dark Angels fired more to cover their more heavily armed brothers than to do damage. Every whining recharge cycle of the plasma cannons took longer while the wraiths with their devastating short range weaponry stalked ever closer.

More of Menelus’ brethren fell to the Eldar giant’s explosive rounds until just a few of them remained. The supporting squad did little better, using the smoking land raider and aegis defence for cover. Though vastly outnumbered, these were the Adeptus Astartes of the Dark Angels legion of Space Marines, the Imperium’s finest, and defenders of mankind against a hostile and uncaring universe. They stood their ground. The Eldar, the silent death, advanced.

A voice called over the vox.

“Hold fast Dark Angels, reinforcements are coming. Protect that fortress at all costs.”

“Understood,” Menelus said. “To whom am I speaking?”

“Grand Master Belial. Be ready, brother. The Deathwing strike.”

Their arrival resounded across the battlefield like the sonic boom of jetfighters. Yellow flashes signalled the teleportation devices of the Deathwing. The ground by the wrecked land raider burst to life as the flashes coalesced into armoured Astartes, twice the bulk of Menelus’ own power armour. Storm bolters barked, assault cannons wailed and roared while missiles streaked from the new arrivals into the Eldar. Explosions ripped through the left flank.

Using the surprise of their precision assault, the Deathwing advanced, their vanguard a bulwark of thunder hammers and storm shields. Even a unit of the fabled Deathwing Knights came. Their green robes, worn over terminator armour, billowed with their advance. Together with their hammer-wielding brethren, they assaulted the Eldar flank. The wraiths’ short range weapons chewed through the immense armour of three Deathwing but the survivors bludgeoned a path of destruction in response. As one of the larger walkers entered the fray, a bell tolled and the Deathwing Knights’ maces glowed and crackled. Their strikes obliterated the Eldar beast.

Belial and his command squad materialised behind the Eldar line. They appeared in a storm of gunfire that tore apart a contingent of Eldar rangers hidden in the ruins. No sooner had their weapons discharged, however, than the air crackled around them and thrummed with energy. The thick plates of their armour shifted, revealing cracks and weak points normally covered by movement.

Then the mass of Eldar guardians behind the rangers fired.

A torrent of gunfire hailed into Belial and his command squad until only the Grand Master himself stood. He levelled his storm bolter in one hand and readied his sword in the other as he made his charge into the guardians.

The vox exploded with chatter. Deathwing Knights and terminators had decimated the Eldar’s left flank while heavily armed wraiths penetrated the fortress’ outer wall. Given what the other wraiths had done to terminator armour, Menelus did not fancy his chances when they reached him. Dozens of voices called for reinforcement, apothecaries or to report movements in the enemy lines. A single voice silenced them all.

“Insolent Space Marines! You have no concept of the irreparable harm you do here, the evil you usher in by fighting in this place. We shall return. We shall hound you across this planet and crush you until the dust of your bones is scattered by the winds and lost amidst the deserts.”

The wraiths dismantling the fortress walls turned without further ceremony and stalked back across the battlefield, stepping over their comrades’ melted corpses. Menelus and his squad just watched under the green and blue light swirling in the sky. Only the wind and crackle of fire sounded atop the remaining battlements.

Menelus shook his head. Chasing traitor Space Marines and their daemon allies had brought him to this planet. They had to be the evil of which the Eldar spoke. “Half the time, I swear we’re on the same side. Or at least share a goal.”

Indius shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. This is one of a billion worlds. You think we’re making a difference here?”

The thought sat ill with Menelus. If the superhuman Adeptus Astartes could not make a difference, who could? He glanced to his bolter; much difference that had made.

Apothecaries arrived to tend the wounded and extract gene seed from the dead. Menelus crouched and retrieved the battered helmet of a fallen brother. As he stood, a lone figure caught his eye across the blasted land. Its movements were slow and laboured but the outline soon resolved into thick, bone-white armour. With all the adornments and trinkets hanging from the armour it could be only one. Grand Master Belial had returned.

Their leader reached the remnants of his army, his own blood dried against his armour amidst countless scorches, scrapes and dents. He surveyed the crumbling walls. “The fortress is lost. Fall back.”

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