+ Vaarhun of Felg +
We scramble down the steep slope to the roiling plain, descending with inadvisable haste. I didn't care. Black scree and pebbles bounce and clink against one another as our feet skitter and slide, the sea-roar of battle overwhelming the sound.
I have plotted our path. An intercept route that will take us down the edge of the plain, then on in the wake of the Avernii.
Halfway down, Medardus falls. Missing his footing, he lands heavily on all fours and begins to slide. His gloss-slick armour provides little drag on the rocks. Coalstan lunges for him, but too late. Scrambling furiously for a solid foothold, Medardus gathers pace, the scree loosening and building into a minor avalanche. He is spun and finds himself spreadeagled.
We watch, helplessly, as he is carried ahead of us, slowing briefly on an outcrop. His motion is arrested just long enough for him to dart a look back up the slope at us before the comet-trail of scree catches up with him and carries him over.
I hear him cursing over the vox-net, before distance carries him out of range. A knot in my stomach, I glare at Triumph, almost willing him to condemn Medardus to the dead with his morbid intonation so I can punch the thought out of him – it would be a release. He remains silent, head down.
None of us speak, concentrating instead on our footing. We advance more cautiously, frustrated by the pace. Speed is of the essence, but it's not going to help if we arrive quickly and dead.
"Things dropped on our heads, I had expected." she says. "To be flattened by falling Ishtari? This I did not expect." We stand in a staging post erected by the Raven Guard and crewed by a force of Ctsebian Combat Engineers. The artillery officer's quip was oddly jovial. Her eyes were round, with a hint of mania about them.
"We need transport." I state, over the roar of the guns. Even bellowing, I have to repeat myself three times. She is bleeding from her ears; an affliction that I spot is common amongst the mortals here. The Ctsebian pulls a face. She has called in a med-evacuation craft, but that would be overflowing. Even with three Legions driving forward, she explains, the battle is heavy going, and casualty reports are rocketing. I shake my head. "Do not mistake this for a request. I need transport."
Flustered, she gives an elaborate bow, and hurries away. The six of us stand, impatient and wary, for the few minutes until she returns. Overhead, I spy a wings of flyers in the deep stone grey of the Word Bearers, and I rejoice privately. Our reinforcements are arriving. Casualties or not, four Legions cannot stand against seven.
"Of transports, Ishtar, I have none to offer." Seeing my brows darken, she stumbles over her words in her haste to appease me. "Vehicles, however, I have." She gestures to a graveyard of tanks; a mix of broken wrecks presumably drawn back from the vangaurd drop zones. Most are clearly beyond repair; mere shells – but others perhaps offer more promise...
It is damaged, but it runs. Already we are closing on the embattled Avernii, and nearly out of the Raven Guard's primary drop zone. We have joined a column of Loyalist Imperial army vehicles advancing to stiffen the line of battle as the vanguard forces push towards the Warmaster's lines. I rap a brief tattoo on the Whirlwind's ailing engines to encourage the machine spirit. Alone amongst the wrecks, this artillery piece offered us the means of transport, and so it lives again as a makeshift transport. I feel a burst of pride that it is the lone Iron Hands vehicle that still runs – albeit fitfully.
Five of us are hunched on top of it, holding on firmly as we are bounced around. Miredan drives, and he sits alongside another Iron Hand, one of the few of the insular Clan Felg, a minor Clan whose entire strength had been subsumed within the same Order as our own. A Seeker by disposition, Sergeant Vaarhun had deployed at the advance of our primary drop site, and pushed ahead. His squad was obliterated by raking megabolter fire as a renegade Titan maniple stalked over them.
Falling back, he had ended up linking with a force of Kraton Fusiliers, and had immediately taken command, directing them forward in support of Avernii. He bears the Seal of the Eye of Vigilance on his shoulder, an honorific that now stares out accusingly. He is recalcitrant to explain his reasoning in keeping the hateful logo, but he is our brother, even as a member of another Clan company.