Isstvan III ~ Revenge Served Cold
Forces involved in the Battle:
Loyalists Involved In The Conflict
Traitors Involved In The Conflict
Another wave of bombardment rolled across the ruins of the Choral City. Deep underground, so deep in the catacombs that the cold dripped like icewater from the nitre-encrusted walls, the survivors waited.
Rickard Wagner, still of the XIVth, stood unmoved and unmoving at the heavy stone slab that sealed the chamber. Only that slab and thick mud had saved them, before the virus and the firestorm, and even down here the flames had left the surface of the stone glowing with heat in his armour’s autosenses.
But now there was the cold. And his icy rage, a rage that would tear the very stars from the sky if it took that to expunge the treachery of Mortarion and those other dogs.
He felt a movement behind him, and the touch of a mailed hand on his pauldon.
Wagner turned, face taut within his helm. The other marine was his counterpart from the Emperor’s Children, the swordman who had led his own men into the catacombs minutes before the virus was unleashed. They’d both heard the screams over the vox, as the troops still on the surface died, as everything on the surface died, even as he and the Astartes from the Third Legion frantically packed clay and mud and armour-sealant into the join around the rock.
“Brother, we need to decide.”
Vladamir’s voice was soft, and cultured, but Wagner knew the warrior was as set on retribution as himself. He’d seen the way his hand gripped the hilt of his sword, as the first rolling bombardment pounded the city, and they’d realised that nothing but total obliteration would satisfy their former battle-brothers. There would be no surrender. There could be no surrender. It would be a battle to the death, until one side or the other was erased from existence, no matter how long it took and no matter the price. And Wagner had sworn to himself that he would take as many of the animals with him as he could.
“No. There is nothing to decide. My men vill follow me, and ve vill tear out the black hearts of these oathbreakers even if it takes our last breath.”
There was a smile in Vladamir’s voice. “I know, brother. My men too, I think. But do we unleash our retribution here, or take our vengeance to the fleet?”
A very few escaped final annihilation during the Isstvan III Atrocity, even after the traitors descended to hunt them down in person. One such group included marines from the Third and Fourteenth Legions, who unanimously decided that retribution would be better served if they could take it to the ships that had unleashed the hell of the Life-eater Virus and subsequent firestorm. To do so, of course, would require one of the traitors’ own Thunderhawk dropships.
Most of these marines were equipped with nothing more sophisticated than bolters and flamers, but there were some glimmers of hope about the plan. Rickard’s battle-brothers included a handful of reconnaissance specialists, who could watch unseen from the blackened ruins of the Choral City, and signal the attack as soon as one of the traitor transports was left near-unguarded. Perhaps it was the very independance of these marines had had them marked for death in the viral purge, but it is pointless to speculate at this remove. Even better, these survivors found the Ancient Ulltis Skane buried within the rubble of the Spinward Promenade, in the eastern districts of the Choral City, and miraculously his Contemptor Dreadnought life-sustainers had proved proof against the horror of the Life-Eater.
Still, the attempt to hijack the waiting Thunderhawk was fraught indeed. The Death Guard marines left behind at the landing zone, as traitor squads combed the ruins for survivors, immediately called in support when the loyalists attacked. This support included a unit of Castellax - a dire threat even to the most determined of Astartes - and at least one officer from Mortarion’s inner circle.
Happily, even the automata seemed appalled by their role in the betrayal, and were seen to turn upon the consul directing their operation, before themselves succumbing to loyalists of the XIVth. Attacking from the southeast, Wagner’s icy rage, and Vladamir the Black’s vengeful swordwork, cast down the traitors after much righteous slaughter in the ash-filled lanes of the city. The marines that had survived, stained black by the ash of a billion dead, but perhaps washed clean in the blood of traitors, then left the desolation behind them to pursue their vengeance elsewhere.
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