Time passes. One after another, the mortals perish to bolt rounds, matter impeller beams, mortar shells. Two kilometres out, we are alone. Our vehicle throws a track when we hit impact mines. We debark without comment, without pause, and begin running forward.
Here on Isstvan V, our Morlocks – Clan Avernii, and representatives of other Clans they deem strong enough to fight beside them – have hammered into the Emperor's Childrens' lines like a wedge driven into green oak. Here there is structure, of a sort. Blood, armour shards and heat-sweat is rising over the line in an aerosolised cloud. I have never seen anything like it. Even from our vantage a few hundred of yards back, the cacophony of Astartes-on-Astartes combat is rising over the general din.
As we watch, aspects of the line are swallowed by fireballs and missile impacts, or cleared by graser-sweeps and detonations, murdering conquerors of worlds and heroes of humanity like chaff. Such is the martial pressure that such gaps are closed near-instantly as rageful Legionaries pour forward to clash over the falling corpses of their brethren.
The Morlocks are driving forward furiously. There must be thousands of Iron Hands, each stepping forward with heavy tread to combat the glittering lines of the Emperor's Children. The line of advance is too broad to be centred on the Primarch; but for a glorious moment I see Ferrus Manus emerge from a storm of fire. His armour is aglow, his weapon – the mighty Fireblade – culling Fulgrim's elites with each sweep. It is glorious. It is an exemplary massacre; executed with all the skill and power the Tenth can muster.
It is monstrous in its fury.
It is also – I realise, with an unfamiliar cold twist in my guts – far from certain that it will be enough.
On Medusa, the Morlocks are apex predators. The arrival of the Legion saw their brutal demotion; just as all xenos species – sentient, sapient or otherwise – was put firmly underfoot by the Imperium. Here on Isstvan, I recognise a similar result. Clan Avernii are powerful, but they are outnumbered. From our position in the rear, I see the strength of the Emperor's Children as the Avernii's flanks are overwhelmed. It is slow – I am sure too slow for the IIIrd Legion's liking – but inexorable. Predators, Land Raiders and Rhinos begin to curl around the Iron Hand line, supported by clades of marching purple-armoured figures. Furiously as my brethren fight, the line is being attentuated, draw thin as the Morlocks vainly try to keep pace with Ferrus.
I turn back, searching for our Primarch in the swell of destruction, even as we continue to sprint. We find ourselves walking over a field of the dead and broken; our pace broken by the curve of armour and forced to sidestep smouldering tank-wrecks. We meet and pass Avernii casualties, vainly limping or stumbling forward, their faces and limbs twisted into fury that borders on lunacy. We are swept up. There! Ferrus has emerged at the head of a knot of Iron Hands, who club and brutalise their way through the shimmering bladework of the Phoenix Guard. They stand at the base of a craggy hill, driving upwards.
Onwards to the peak! Onwards to Ferrus!
+ WIP shots +
+ Some Clan Avernii veterans (i.e. command squad people), plus the Immortal, who I think needs a couple of tweaks to his arm.