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Atrus stood on the modified assault bay of The Eagle of Light, watching through the narrow view-ports as the Thunderhawk swooped over the city-fight below. Pinpricks of light flashed from trenches while men died in scores below. Aircraft left long plumes of contrail in their wake as they flipped and darted around each other, a hundred small air battles melting into one. The titanic forms of Imperial and Chaos Titans were silhouetted against the skyline, and great, billowing plumes of oily smoke rose from deep wounds in the city floor where their weapons had found their targets. War had come to Daskros.
It was a desperate fight, a scene fit for tales to be told to young warriors for generations to come, stoking the hot urge for battle in their youthful breast. It was a young man’s fancy, Atrus thought. Two-hundred and fifty years of ceaseless war had left the Chapter Master of the Azure Flames with nothing more than a longing for peace. He knew the costs of war. No man earns glory by prolonging battle, Atrus thought. The only honor to be found in war is ending it.
The airlock doors hissed open, and from the corner of the limited peripheral vision granted by his sarcophagus, Atrus could make out the form of Captain Khalil as he entered the assault bay.
“My lord Atrus,” Khalil spoke with a rare hesitation. “Everything is prepared. It is time.”
“The restraints, Captain?”
“Sabotaged, as per your orders, my lord. Your Honor Guard will not be pleased.”
“No,” Atrus returned his gaze to the explosions outside the Thunderhawk. “But they will be alive, and that is enough.”
Khalil’s mask of resolve finally broke. “Please, my Lord! Let me lead the Eighth Company alongside you into this battle! Together we can crush whatever stands before us!”
“No, Khalil,” Atrus’ voice held a soft calm. “Where I go, I go alone. Once the Falcon of Light deposits me, your orders are to return to His Anvil and warp-jump to relieve Captain Ganendra’s 4th company on Julius. All will be well here.”
The Captain’s head fell in defeat. “Yes, my lord,” Khalil motioned towards the airlock, but stopped. “Whatever the outcome of today, Atrus, you will be remembered a hero.”
Atrus considered Khalil’s words. “No. I am no hero, Brother. A hero struggles against his enemies, but no matter how noble his intent, he never knows his fate. A true hero fights even unto his dying breath, knowing only what is in his heart; but does know the Emperor’s final judgment on his soul. It is in never knowing, Khalil, that heroism lies. I have seen through His eyes, and I know what path I walk. I am but a servant.” Atrus turned back towards the battle. “What I leave behind me, Khalil, is a Chapter of heroes.”
The ghost of a smile played over the Captain’s lips. “Yes, my Lord Atrus,” he said with a new vigor. “For as long as a single Flame remains, we will do honor to your memory.”
“Of that, my Brother, I have no doubt.”
With a nod, Khalil turned and made his way through the airlock, and ordered the Thunderhawk to descend into the maelstrom below.