The Emperor’s Redemption, Overlord Class Battlecruiser, The main base of operations for the Redeemed Chapter of Space Marines, in high orbit above the planet Omera Secundus.
Ashriel picked up his tray of daily nutrients and walked into the Mess Hall proper in time to hear Brother Samal say;
“.. and then he said: but the Bolter was holstered…”
A hearty round of laughter followed brother Samal’s punchline, with Samal himself laughing the hardest.
Ashriel took his customary place at the Champion’s seat of the long table and said his prayer, asking the Emperor for strength before taking a bite of the tasteless nutrient. Out of all of the hardships he had endured since returning to the Emperor’s Light, eating this slop was among the hardest. Ashriel longed for a bowl of hot steaming… anything really, anything was preferable to this slop. He took a bite of the nutrient and immediately heard another yet louder, round of laughter.
The timing was suspicious.
Ashriel turned to look at his battle brothers and scowled when he saw laughing and smiling faces turned his way.
“Oh, Ashriel.” Samal said merrily. “I never get tired of the look on your face every time you eat this swill. You brace like you are facing down a horde of rampaging Orks.”
Ashriel scowled harder.
“Come Brother,” Samal said after the laughter has died down a bit. “Enough of your scowling, I heard you saw our very own glorious leader in action, please, regale of us with a tale.”
Ashriel held his scowl for a few seconds more just on principle then relaxed and said; “Very well, mayhaps my tale might teach you a thing or two about battle, Samal.”
The brothers quieted down, the only sounds to be heard the scraping of eating utensils on metallic nutrient trays, as they eagerly listened to Ashriel’s story of their reclusive Brother Captain.
“My tale starts with the few facts that you all know; how during mid warp travel, Brother Captain Zuriel came onto the bridge and declared that he had received word from the Emperor of an imminent infestation by Great Nurgle on Omera Secundus; a fat agricultural world in an outlying system that the Imperium can barely defend. We immediately came about from our direct course to Holy Terra and reentered the Warp, ready to bring swift death to the enemies of the Emperor… as any good Space Marine would do.”
“What you all do not know” Ashriel clarified, “Is that when we entered in-system we received a Hail from another chapter of fellow battle brothers that apparently arrived before us. Our scans of the planet surface show that they had already established a beach head and have heavily fortified it. The ship’s tech-servitors identified them as the ‘Storm Zealots’ chapter, they pride themselves as masters of … defense.” Ashriel said this last word with distaste.
“Nevertheless, Brother Captain Zuriel returned their hails and demanded that they stand down. We were sent by the Emperor himself, Our mission must supersede any other and whatever spoils there are, it is ours by divine right!”.
“But” Ashriel continued, his voice growing darker, “The square-jawed single-minded patrol-leader of these so called Storm Zealots had the nerve to reject our Brother Captain’s request!”
Angry muttering followed Ashriel’s last statement.
“Yes, yes, I know, only a successor chapter would have the discourtesy and outright gall to treat a respected Brother Captain that way and by rights, Zuriel should be furious! But, and I must admit I am humbled, Brother Captain Zuriel remained calm and attempted to negotiate with the cretin.” Ashriel said, exasperated.
Taking a moment and a swallow of his nutrients, Ashriel continued: “Because of Brother Zuriel’s wisdom in this, an accord was soon struck and a meeting was to be held at the Storm Zealot’s beach head. Brother Captain Zuriel instructed for a small detachment to accompany him; myself, Eremiel’s Squad and Halmeth’s assault marines. Old Amurael insisted on joining the landing party, oh and also that new machine the Tech Marine fixed up, the one we found at Epidermus, remember?”
A round of cautious nods and not a few shudders answered Ashriel’s question.
“We boarded our assault crafts and flew down to the designated landing spot, a clearing just outside of this small city the Storm Zealots have claimed.”
“We touched down, boarded Eremiel’s Rhino and drove to the meeting spot. Old Amurael and the Machine stood guard over our craft while brother Halmeth’s squad took to the skies.”
Ashriel drank to clear his throat.
“The Storm Zealots were waiting for us, not exactly with smiles and hugs, mind you..” Ashriel said, a bit of mirth creeping into his voice. “These new Successor Chapters take themselves much too seriously and the Storm Zealots certainly live up to their name… But I digress”.
“The meeting started well enough, an exchange of polite pleasantries and Data slates regarding the encroaching Nurgle infestation with promises of cooperation and a sharing of the glory. It was all well and good up until Brother Captain Zuriel unfolded his wings…”
Ashriel paused for another swallow, gauging his audience and smiling a bit on the inside at how eager they were.
“The Storm Zealots went livid!” He exclaimed. “Cries of ‘Mutant’ and ‘Heretic’ were thrown, weapons were drawn and fighting formations were adopted”.
“We naturally formed a protective circle around Zuriel while he tried to explain to these cretins that his angelic wings were a gift from Holy Emperor… And it almost worked too.”
Ashriel again paused but this time with a small sidelong look at brother Halmeth.
“That is until Brother Halmeth and his squad came down from the skies to complete our exitus formation. One look at his horns threw them once again, into a foaming rage that Mighty Khorne himself would be proud of”.
A uncomfortable silence descended the mess hall as the Battle Brothers turned to stare at Halmeth and the great curving horns that grew out of his forehead.
Brother Halmeth; ordinarily a stern, unsmiling, non compromising space marine, turned a bright cherry red, cleared his throat and said in a gravelly voice; “But, these horns were a gift too…”
The mess hall erupted into gales of laughter.
After a while, Brother Ashriel continued his story over Halmeth’s uncomfortably red face. “Needless to say, we parted company, the Storm Zealots firing shots as we withdrew back to our landing craft. They only stopped following when Brother Amurael started shooting back. They withdrew then as well, practically dragging their Captain back with them.”
“We were about to lift off when Brother Captain Zuriel went into one of his famous sudden trances. He fell down to his knees with his head bowed, not long after a halo of Golden blue-ish light surrounded his head; a sure sign that The Emperor was talking directly to him”.
“When next Brother Captain Zuriel got up, he turned to look at me with blood-shot red eyes and ordered a full frontal assault.”
Voices of disbelief sounded in the mess hall.
“Yes Brothers, you heard correctly, Brother Captain Zuriel commanded our outnumbered force on a frontal assault of a heavily fortified enemy position, against the superior fire power of an enemy that specializes in defense.”
Discussions erupted along the mess hall as the Brothers debated strategy and tactics, of rules of engagement and conventional wisdom, of sound tactics and obvious answers.
Ashriel turned to look at a Brother who asked a question over the raised talks and, as he answered, the others quieted down to better hear.
“The enemy forces? Yes, they were formidable. The Storm Zealots had a couple of squads deployed in two fortified buildings with overlapping fields of fire and a wide killing field. They also had, steel yourselves Brothers; 2 squads of those new marines. Hulking abominations and an affront to the great works of our Holy Emperor!”.
Angry muttering erupted along the mess hall. The confirmation of rumours of a new type of space marine apparently bringing strong emotions to the front,.. mostly of Hatred.
Ashriel held up a hand to silence the table.
“Brother Captain Zuriel lead us in Prayer then laid out his battle orders; I was to accompany Brother Eremiel’s squad in the Transport that will head straight down the middle of the killing field while Brother Halmeth takes to the sky. A few of our Brothers were instructed to flank on the right, which had the most cover for them to advance thru while the Machine was programed to hold our rear and act as a mobile artillery. Brother Amurael told us that he will support our assault with long range weaponry and keep an eye on the Machine.”
“I took stock of the situation and I estimated that our lone Rhino transport driving alone in-between the two fortified buildings, facing down the whole firepower of the Storm Zealots, would be decimated in minutes, if not seconds. I informed Brother Zuriel of this fact and of my concerns; but all he did was looked straight in my eyes and said in that melodious voice of his; ‘Have Faith in the Emperor, Ashriel.'”
“What more could I say to that? I resigned myself to die gloriously and so I said my prayers and checked my Bolter.”
Taking another mouthful of his nutrients, Ashriel bit, swallowed and continued with his story; “We started the battle with speed and precision fire. Brother Captain Zuriel flying just behind the transport, we headed straight in between the two reinforced strongholds, the Brothers and I not strapped in but in exitus immediatum position as per Brother Captain Zuriel’s instructions.
“When our transport crashed thru an abandoned building into their killing field, the Storm Zealots opened fire with everything they had. Shot after shot of red hot plasma seared off our armor until a final shot from a Lascannon took our tracks and the green light of ‘Deploy’ shone on the inner transport door.”
“We did not panic of course, we are the Dark Angels of His Holy Emperor after all. We deployed from the doomed transport and moved straight into combat formation delta. Brother Gamail was a hero that day, taking point and firing his bolter from the hip as he ran straight into enemy fire”.
“We ran toward the enemy as hard as we could, shouting our Litanies of Death for last the few moments we had to live when suddenly a giant shadow pass over us, Brother Zuriel was flying high and drawing the enemy’s fire!”
Nods of approval and hand thumping were heard from the table as the Brothers appreciated this selfless act.
“As we neared the enemy’s position,” Ashriel continued, “I saw that Brother Amurael’s Lascannons and Missiles have had an effect; he has torn an entry hole for us in the building we designated as ‘Bravo’.”
“My vox-link crackled to life and Brother Zuriel gave the order to attack Bravo. I myself saw him fold his wings and swooped into the entry hole, slaying those new marines with the Black Sword of the Lion as he landed.”
Ashriel’s voice took a more fervent tone as he told of what he saw. “It was beautiful to behold Brothers, Captain Zuriel’s movements were graceful, moving from enemy to enemy in a dance of death. Nothing seemed able to touch him. Our Brother Captain is a testament of the ingenuity and superior craftsmanship of our Holy Emperor as he put paid to those abominations.”
Ashriel paused and for a moment, a strangely adoring look crossed his battle hardened face.
He visibly shook himself and continued his tale. “As we entered the building to support Brother Captain Zuriel, The effect of this crazy headlong charge became clear to me. The moment we engaged the enemy, the shooting from Building ‘Alpha’ stopped. The enemy were afraid of mistakenly shooting their own and it had the positive effect of cutting down half their firepower.” Ashriel paused again then said in a small voice filled with wonder; “It was a brilliant plan.”
Cheers rang out along the Mess Hall.
“The battle was a haze after that brothers, as you all know how these things tend to become. I remember Brother Captain Zuriel taking on a squad of marines himself, I remember cutting down an over zealous (hah!) enemy attacking me with a knife, I remember brother Halmeth smashing through the back of the building where the Zealots were hunkering, waiting for their chance to shoot down our captain, I remember their leader smashing his way out of the building, looking for space so he can swing his oversized thunder hammer, I remember cutting the cretin down from behind as Brother Captain Zuriel taunted him.”
“The battle was short but it was a glorious, it was honorable and we took the day through the tactical genius of our Brother Captain. It was his plan to isolate and completely destroy one portion of the enemy, negating their superior numbers and firepower at the minimal cost of a machine spirit of the Rhino.”
The battle brothers cheered, clanking their mugs together as they laughed and celebrated tale.
“The Machine? Oh, I heard that the Storm Zealots called for reinforcements from their assault cruiser in orbit and a drop pod containing a squad of marines landed near it.”
Ashriel paused a second and smiled, “You all know how that ended, the tortured wailing from it’s machine spirit should’ve been enough of a warning for them but they were marines through and through. They stood their ground and fired shot after shot into it. We have to give them their dues brothers, they fought bravely as a space marine should and they died to a man, ripped apart by the Machine.”
Ashriel paused one more time, swallowing his last spoonful of nutrients.
“And there you have it brothers,” Ashriel said, lowering his head. “With my own eyes, I saw Brother Captain Zuriel perform miracles in the Emperor’s name, he spoke directly to Him, he was protected by His Divine Will and in the end, Zuriel was even merciful to the foe; allowing the Storm Zealot’s commander a proper burial, taking no trophies at all.”
When Ashriel next raised his head,he spoke with conviction and his eyes were lit with the fire of fanatical devotion.
“Thus endeth my tale brothers, tomorrow we embark on the cleansing of Omera Secundus from the taint of Nurgle with no further interference from other competing chapters. This fight is ours alone, the Glory is ours alone, …Praise the Emperor!”
Cheers followed this proclamation by Brother Ashriel, former sergeant of the Dark Angels and now Champion of the Redeemed Chapter of the Space Marines.
“War is what happens when language fails” – Margaret Atwood