+ inload: Massacre at Phen Mun +

 + Massacre at Phen Mun +


+ Today, A little prelude to the battle report – up soon – to which I'll attach some first thoughts on Crusade gaming. Had a blast!+

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Phen Mun was breathtaking. The lighter was still high up, but the Kills and her team had buckled in and opened the door, to 'let in the the world a little', as Brunski put it. It was a habit he'd inherited from his previous life; a habit Kills indulged as much for the team's morale as the chance to breathe fresh air for a change. The wind whistled and buffeted the passengers, who sat quietly, enjoying the changing pressure and freshness of the new world.

From the peninsula where the open sea began, all the way inland along the river's trail, the water was tinged a beautiful pink in the descending sun. Rich red soil was covered with thick grasses that bloomed into vigorous woodland as the Arvus continued its journey. Kills looked over the eight of them, nodding to herself.

She tugged on the fabric cable, checking the carabiner was secure against the rail, then stood and walked to the rear of the passenger hold. Her poncho whipped and cracked in the wind as she leaned over, one foot perched precariously on the edge. Reaching a hand out of the back of the shuttle, she tilted herself further, looking down on the trail racing past below.

'You'd hardly know there was a war going on, eh?'

+++


The faceless nature of their warhelms, along with their sheer bulk, lent credence to the ancient claim of Astartes being the immortal and invincible champions of mankind. They were filled with the same vitality and aggression that Brunksi had emulated as a child.

The Inquisitorial aide was an experienced and resourceful man in his own right; ex-Guard, ex-mercenary. He knew his strengths as a warrior. The Astartes were everything he had aspired to be as a young man: unbreakable, self-reliant, surrounded by comrades so like-minded that they operated as one.

Now he had seen them fight firsthand; driving the strange disc-shaped xenos vessels from the coreward reaches of Sector Surpalus. He had revelled in their power; feeling a curious mix of inadequacy and glee at how his species' champions had so completely outmatched and outclassed the grey-skinned creatures.

Now he had seen them recruiting, he realised what such unbridled power could lead to

Now he was a man, Brunski shivered, and wondered how he had ever thought of the Astartes as heroes

He rubbed his hand over his neck, ruefully, as he saw another Chapter thrall leading a ragged line of collared and shackled inhabitants of Gang Maoy along the paved road towards the waiting lander. Several were maimed. He forced himself not to turn away, to meet their gaze. That was the price of being part of an Inquisitor's party: you had to face the tasks others wouldn't.

'Joyous be those who volunteer for service; for they shall be happy slaves. Sorrow to those who attempt to parley or shirk, for that is punishable by slavery' The Gentle had quoted, after seeing Brunski's discomfort. It was a saying, or edict, or mediation of another of the Gatebreakers' interminable poetasters. Brunski and Haim had long tired of the Astartes' self-justification. It seemed obscene in its superfluity. What could a man do in the face of the Astartes? There was little choice here; merely slavery of different stripes, abject or self-deluding. 

He looked again at the faces of the 'recruits'. The first had his nose broken, his eyes swollen near-shut. Brunski felt a pang of guilt at how thankful he was the youth could not meet his gaze. The second and third were dismal, their heads cast down. The fourth appeared almost manic, the eyes in his flat, hairless face bulging.

For no reason he could fathom, Brunski reached out to the youth, who turned to him. The third part of the Gentle's catechism came back to him as their gazes met.

'Honour to those who resist; for they sow the seeds of their own ascension.'

+++

Every so often, she or one of her detail would spit out a mouthful of the red insect-analogues and curse. It was hot, and Haim was sweaty, and the damn bastard flies made her twitch involuntarily. Trail discipline was non-existent for the Andocrines – they were either wide-eyed and twitchy on sparkies, or chewing handfuls of nummer alongside their anti-mals and enviro-adaptive meds. 

Every so often, as they bunched up, Jenette would appear, as though from nowhere, and hiss at them to keep their spacings. Haim's admiration for the Catachan had long curdled into resentment. The trailblazer seemed to be enjoying the patrol.

'Killing a leech,' she'd said, back at the camp, a lho-stick dipping up and down as she spoke. It hadn't been clear whether it was a boast, a suggestion, or a question. 'Won't get no second chance.'

Now Haim had witnessed the results of the infection on Phen Mun, she wasn't at all sure even Jenette would be safe. 

+++

+ Market district, prior to the Massacre. +


Castaway stood on the low hill overlooking the market square. Having volunteered for the urban observation – the thought of all that greenery had made him sick – he had quickly grown to regret his decision. Posted with the Astartes, he'd been variously ignored, laughed at and ordered to silence by the marines. It didn't sit well with his temper, but he was canny enough to recognise that reacting would only end one way.

The squat could see that the township had, perhaps, once been quite beautiful; the older indigenous architecture and town plan integrated and sitting pleasingly alongside the soaring, dominant presence of the Standard Template buildings. In his mind's eye, he could see a pleasant riverside town – but now it was wrecked. Not by the Astartes – that at least was a small mercy for the populace – but by some internal war. The Gatebreakers' presence wasn't helping, however. The Space Marines were being treated like invading aliens rather than valued guardians; the populace fleeing and hiding whenever rumours of the Gatebreakers broke out.

Politics, thought Castaway, ruefully chewing his lip; though he understood that an army appearing without warning and demanding a tithe of the world's best and brightest wasn't the most stabilising or reassuring approach. From Kill's briefing, the Gatebreakers hadn't recruited from Phen Mun for decades – but something was different this time. Something quite insidious had got into the population: and it wasn't the familiar clean fear of power; but a malignant, insidious influence...

Tunnel-crawlers, he thought, the very name making him feel small, and vulnerable. He shuddered. His knuckles whitened around his shotgun, and he hurried back to the Astartes' lines. Something serious had come up on the long-range auspex, and he had very little desire to be anywhere too far away from the Gatebreakers when it arrived.

+++

+ Gatebreakers engage the enemy on Phen Mun +


2 comments:

  1. By God that was a blast to read, read the report over at the bolterandchainsword forum. I love that you went with the auto bolt rifles, they are my favorite and people really underestimate the amount of shots they have. A long long long time lurker, huge fan of all your works!

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