Big Game VI – Chapter Twenty Two: The Beginning of the End
In a flash of cold blue light, Gorath’s hulking, multi-legged form reappeared and stepped from his Teleportarium pad aboard The Black Morass. Brushing errant soot from the dull metallic grey of his armor, the Chaos Lord approached Teufel, who stood before a portion of the Siege Lords, fists to their chests in salute.
“The battle goes poorly, my Lord?” Teufel offered.
“It is a siege, Teufel,” Gorath growled, rising to his full height, stalking forward to tower over his Lieutenant. “The long and bloody path to victory. The path of certainty forged in fire. The path of Iron.”
“Of course.” Teufel said, his head bowed in acknowledgement, but none of the doubt erased from his voice. “Shall we make preparations for the final assault?”
“Indeed, my Champion. All of the elements are in place now,” Gorath said, motioning to his Terminator retinue, who quickly marched into position, their boots clanging brightly on the Teleportarium pad’s plasteel surface. “All that remains is the final hammer blow.”
“And I, Lord?” Teufel asked, raising his head to meet Gorath’s gaze.
“You, my Lieutenant,” Gorath said with a cold smile, “will watch our triumph from above.”
Teufel’s skin prickled at this insult. His ambition was undisguised, but had Gorath sensed his true intentions? It did not matter, now. The time was not right. Not yet.
“If it is your will, Black King.”
“Indeed, Teufel, it is,” Gorath nodded. “Send the teleport coordinates to the Word Bearers and signal the Cultists to interrupt the power to the main citadel’s shields on my mark.” Gorath stepped back into position with the Siege Lords. “It’s time we finished this…”
Once again, the tingling cold of the Gellar compensators filled Gorath with a shiver. For a split second, he felt a strange rush as his molecules raced through the Immaterium. He had long ago decided it was what mortals called “goosebumps,” though he had not truly felt such a sensation in the flesh for millennia. The sickening light of the warp was snuffed out in a chorus of screams as Gorath and his Siege Lords re-materialized in a hallway crowded with terrified Guardsmen.
Gorath’s hammer lashed out, pulping a hapless mortal and feasting on his soul. The Siege Lords followed suit, letting loose a fusillade of bolt rounds and plasma bolts which cleared the hallway within seconds. Gorath grimaced as he beheld Malek, who had re-materialized inside the wall, twitching in death throes. He cursed the loss of such a valuable suit of Tactical Dreadnought Armor, but paid it no heed as he led the Siege Lords onward.
Each makeshift fortification erected by the defenders they encountered was demolished without breaking stride. No defender could slow their progress, neither Guardsmen, nor Eldar, nor the pathetic thin-blooded infants that called themselves “Astartes.” The iron and ceramite of the Siege Lords made Gorath’s own cold will manifest, with no opposition able to stand before them.
The Iron Warriors approached the Citadel’s main hall, where the shouts and carnage of battle were subsiding into agonized screams. They rounded the corner to find Esharradon and his retinue of Terminators finishing off the last stand of the Angels Sacrosanct. Loyalist corpses were strewn about the flooring, staining it the deep red blood of Astartes.
Gorath watched while the maimed remnants of the defenders were dragged from behind cover. Each was stripped of weapons, and their power-generating backpacks torn to pieces by the Word Bearer Terminators. With their now-lifeless armor weighing them down, the Astartes were bound and arranged in a ritual circle punctuated with teleport homers. With a nod of acknowledgement to their Lord, the Sicarii Terminators and their captives blinked out of reality, back to the Word Bearer fleet.
“Enjoying yourself, Esharradon?” Gorath asked, barely concealing the venom behind it his words.
Esarhaddon chuckled darkly. “The road to Terra is long, Gorath, and the pain that can be inflicted upon these Angels as we descend upon the Cradle of Man will provide amusement to my Sicarii. In our wake, we will leave a psychic trail of woe for the tribes and houses of Chaos to follow. The spawn of Sanguinius will live just long enough to bear witness to the Long War’s end. They shall be made to watch as the Emperor that their Primogenitor bled for burns in the fires of our vengeance, as new gods rise to replace the old.”
A pneumatic hiss signaled the opening of an anterior door to an intersecting hall. There stood a Terminator-armored warrior, his plate all black. Bright red cruciforms on his knees and arms dripped from fresh – and hasty – application. Dents and chips across his armor showed evidence of the battles now raging across the Citadel, but the warrior’s ragged stance and trembling limbs spoke of something more than the rush of combat in his veins. Despite that, the Angel stepped forward with the majesty and purpose that spoke to Gorath of days long since passed.
Avestus Titus, the Master of the Angels Sacrosanct pointed his ornate thunder hammer at the two Chaos Lords and roared with a voice that belonged to both legend and nightmare.
The plasma weaponry of the Siege Lords immediately moved to target the new threat, but Esarhaddon’s mace swept out to block their path.
“No,” Esarhaddon said sliding his tusked combat helm into place. He turned to Gorath, the rough stone of his voice replaced by a booming vox-blare. “Time’s wheel turns, and once more the Betrayer shall bathe in the blood of the Angel. Go, Gorath, and claim your prize. The Dark Ones watch over us now, ready to feed upon the Carrion Lord. The end is near.”
Gorath shook his head and signaled the Siege Lords to follow him to their final goal as the Angel Sacrosanct charged the Lord of the Sicarii. Such melodrama, Gorath thought with irritation, but he could not deny Esarhaddon’s point. For millennia, he had felt the cold, implacable fury of the Heresy claw at the back of his mind. Now he would hold the power to spit his thousands of years of suffering back in the face of those who had condemned him to the endless hell of this existence. He felt the cold prickling of something ancient running through his veins. An emotion he’d thought long since burned away in the forge of hatred and discipline. In the depths of his dark heart, Lord Gorath, the Black King of Viridian once again felt hope.
In the command throne of The Black Morass, Teufel seethed. He tended the small indignities that Gorath heaped upon him over the millennia like a precious coal banked in fine sand. Blown on until white hot it could explode, but ignored it would fade to a useless dull gray. Teufel felt great pride in keeping the rage he felt in his soul at a fine cherry red. One day, that heat would be the ignition of his ambitious goals. Very, very soon.
Teufel snapped out of his reverie as an incoming transmission was relayed to him. Glancing to the crew that manned the ship’s main bridge, he patched the communication to a private vox channel in his own helm, setting it to maximum encryption. After a moment, a rasped voice resolved through the static.
“Apostle Shupro.” Teufel said. “I trust you have received your due, Cultist?”
“Indeed,” Shupro replied, “we have, and we are ready to proceed with our end of the bargain.”
“Excellent. My fleets are currently clearing all Imperial resistance to your path of orbit. When you receive my signal, you will deactivate the shields protecting the Citadel, and fire all available weaponry at the Command Tower. There can be no risk. It must be destroyed. Utterly. Do you understand?”
“We will comply, Teufel. The Heart of Zaral is ours; we have no more stake in your political games. And our escape?”
“It is guaranteed. The Black Fleet is yours. I’m afraid that, in the confusion, The Black Morass and its escorts will be unable to respond to this sudden betrayal by their erstwhile allies before they make their way into the void,” Teufel said, a smile in his voice. “Nor will they be able to make pursuit as they attempt to recover the remains of their fallen King and flee the vengeful Imperials. Best to live and fight another day, under their bereaved and reluctant new Lord.”
“Despicable, Teufel.” Shupro chuckled. “You will make a fine addition to the Brotherhood, Iron Warrior. One day.”
Teufel snorted. “If such a day is to come, half-breed, ready yourselves. I will burn you, your precious Hive and the whole galaxy to ash before I let you take me into your oblivion.”
“Without a doubt. And that tenacity is precisely what will make you such a prize.”
“Enough,” Teufel spat in annoyance. “Remember this: wait for the signal. Once Gorath has his prize, you will strike. At the moment of the Black King’s greatest triumph, you will render him to atoms.”
“Understood. One final thing, Teufel. Satisfy my curiosity; did Gorath truly have any intent of delivering the Heart, as he had promised? Or would he have betrayed us, as your kind so often does?”
Teufel let out a grunt. “Perhaps he did, Cultist. Perhaps not. It does not matter now. You have what you came here for. And so will I.”
Cutting the transmission, Teufel turned in his chair and began once more to command the Iron Fleet in its new path, harrying Imperial and Xenos forces while the Cult moved their own vessels into place. The ember of rage in his chest grew just a bit warmer now, primed to finally vent its fury on the thing he hated most.
Constructed as a final defensive measure, the Command Tower rose well above the rest of the Citadel, past the atmosphere into the void of space, and accessible only by a single elevator shaft. Even in the event of an overwhelming invasion, the guardians of the Omega Station would be able to seal themselves away within their fortress’ last redoubt, leaving the spacious hall beneath as a grand killing floor. Deadly turrets embedded in the ceiling and walls would see any invader shredded the moment they entered the room.
The security doors to the hall crumpled like paper before Soul Hammer as Gorath entered. Thunderous footsteps heralded the Siege Lords behind him. No defenders met their advance, and no barricades stood in their way. The turret batteries, long since deactivated by cultist treachery, sat silent. The last line of defense for the Omega Station’s Command Citadel lay open and very, very still.
“We are close, Lord,” voxed one of the Siege Lords. “Shall I contact Teufel and have him ready the operations crew for teleportation?”
All seemed clear, but a suspicion gnawed at the back of the Chaos Lord’s mind. “No,” Gorath voxed back. “So near to victory, with such little resistance? This is not finished ye-”
Gorath cut off as a mass of shadow reached out from hallway behind them, and enveloped one of the Siege Lords. With a gentle hum, the shadow flowed off of him, leaving him slumping to the floor, cut in two. The shadow took form, fixing Gorath with glowing magenta eyes. Then, it dashed for him, raising a wicked sword that dripped dark fluid.
The Siege Lords instinctively blocked the doorway, lashing out with weapons too slow and clumsy to harm the shadowy assassin. It dodged between them as if it was the wind, and leapt, striking like a viper.
An ear-piercing ring filled the hall as Soul Hammer met the dark blade. The shadow parted, revealing the twisted, ornate armour of a Dark Eldar Lord. Gorath’s spidery legs rocked backwards slightly as the fallen Eldar planted his foot on Gorath’s chestplate and flipped backwards into the mass of the Siege Lords.
Gorath opened a channel to the surviving Siege Lords. “Keep it busy.” Chirps of acknowledgment answered him. No longer off balance, Gorath’s Terminator guard formed a wall of ceramite that pushed the battle into the entrance hall.
Gorath stalked through the room, towards the doors at the end that would take him up, and into the chamber that held his goal. Decades, centuries of planning and schemes, promises and betrayals. All of it had led to this point. With the Omega Station, Gorath would finally have the power that he’d sought for so long. Not for glory, not for godhood, not even for vengeance itself. He would bring an end to this wretched, eternal cycle. The degradation and humiliation of the long millennia would finally end. The Long War would close out in one final conflagration.
As the Iron Warrior approached the far end of the chamber, a low tone heralded the arrival of the elevator. The elevator that Gorath had not summoned.
The simple plasteel doors parted without fanfare. Behind them stood an Astartes in Terminator plate of a familiar deep blue, armed only with a shield circumscribed by shimmering power blades.
Gorath sighed. Once more, victory would have to wait.