Big Game VI – Chapter Twenty Nine: A Well Placed Strike
With a slow, loping stride, Gorath made a path towards his prey. The Master of the Flames crouched before him, his shimmering bladed shield held ready to ward off yet another blow from the Chaos Lord’s furious daemon hammer. A grim determination showed on the Loyalist’s face, but the whine and growl of armor fouled by the hammer’s strikes betrayed his desperation. Gorath knew the Azure Flame could not hold out long. The battle was his, bit by bit, as it had always been.
It had cost Gorath dearly, oh yes. One of the grisly talons that held him aloft sparked and strained, giving the Chaos Lord’s step an uneven limp. The torn remnants of his helm, its ornate tusks and lenses sheared away, lay on the cracked and pock-marked floor, tossed away in the heat of the battle. The dearest loss, in truth, had been his ancient combi-melta. A simple, utilitarian thing – a modified Kanalet-pattern weapon from forges long dead on a planet long since shattered – Gorath had never even bothered to give the combi-weapon a name. The sacrifice had been an easy decision, in the moment, a calculated move that traded the weapon for an overextended swing of the Loyalist’s bladed shield. Soul Hammer’s return blow nearly crushed the Marine’s torso and had only been partially deflected by a roll that had left Perseus overbalanced and vulnerable. Another maneuver, opening further possibilities and advantages. Another cog in the endless machine of his victory.
Still, the sight of the bisected weapon on the floor caused an unwelcome stir of emotion in the Chaos Lord. He felt no regret at the loss, but something else welled up inside of him. Nostalgia, perhaps. Sorrow, at the loss of a half-remembered past. Gorath steeled his mind against such base trivialities – his past had built the present, each loss a simple toll for the vengeance now at hand.
As Gorath advanced, the Loyalist darted forward, swinging his shield once more for the Chaos Lord’s chest. Even as Soul Hammer fended off the attack, Perseus spun and made another strike. Gorath blocked the blow, and another, and another, until his moment came. Taking advantage of the Flame’s slowed reactions, Gorath used his greater reach to lunge to the side, dodging the shield and bringing the Soul Hammer around. It smashed into the Flame’s chest with a final crunch, and Perseus flew across the room, crashing into a wall. With effort, the Loyalist regained his footing, but could not bring himself to stand at full. He stared with undisguised hatred at the Chaos Lord.
“You could have run, Flame,” Gorath said, stalking forwards. “You chose this fate. You chose to put yourself into the inevitable path of history. Now you must stare into the cold truth of the moment – I will kill you, I will break your Chapter, and I will incinerate the heart of your empire. You are witnessing the end of your Emperor’s dream; the final act of ten thousand years’ vengeance.”
Suddenly, Perseus scowl turned to a smile, and he nodded in determination. He threw himself at Gorath, striking at the Iron Warrior’s midsection. Gorath felt nothing as he followed through and brought the hammer around in a two-handed strike directly onto the shield face. The crackling power field around the shield evaporated with a pop as it split in two. Its halves clattered to the ground, exposing a gauntlet beneath rent with fissures that glowed with the daemonic balefire of Soul Hammer. The Master of the Flames flew back again, tumbling across the floor.
Gorath shook his head in irritation. The Flame’s final gambit had failed, and now was the time to end it. Slowly, and without pity or mercy, he stepped forward to finish his opponent.
A sickening crunch was audible beneath his talon.
With a sigh, Gorath came to an understanding. Perseus’ attack had never been meant for him. Sure enough, he stepped back to see the ruined machine given to him by the Necrons. The Virus Node. His tool to take control of the tower.
Gorath loomed over the fallen Chapter Master, slowly pacing a circle. Blood trickled from the corner of the Loyalist’s mouth, drying hard and thick in an instant. His ruined gauntlet came upwards in a warding gesture, then fell back across a cracked and pitted breastplate.
“Such a petty ending.” Gorath said. “Oh, yes, I foresaw your plot. You seek to stop the inevitable machinery of my will with a single pin-prick, but there is no hidden weakness for you to exploit. Know before you die that I will hold another relic of the Necrontyr within the hour. Know that when the pages of history have been written that the best you and your brethren could be is a momentary inconvenience.”
Perseus coughed a short laugh, expelling a gobbet of crimson blood. “Well,” he said as he wiped the blood from his chin. Strangely, he seemed to smear the blood onto his unbroken left arm. “I suppose that will have to be enough.”
Too late, Gorath spied the trick as Perseus’ fingers tapped at the keypad on his gauntlet. With a snarl, Gorath brought the Soul Hammer down as the Master of the Azure Flames shimmered and disappeared in a column of light. The daemon hammer’s head impacted the ground with a hideous squeal and sank half a meter into the flooring.
Denied his prey, Gorath wrenched his weapon from the smashed tile. Let the Loyalist escape, he thought. Let him watch as his Imperium crashes and implodes around him. A hundred small deaths of the soul, a life without purpose or clarity. A shallow existence of pointless battles for a war long lost.
Turning towards the elevator that would bring him to his final goal, he found the Siege Lords’ standing in perfect rank before him. There were fewer of them now, but not by many. Their Champion, The Silent Scream, wore deep scars where an ethereal blade had cut deep into the cold gray ceramite.
“The Eldar?” Gorath asked.
The Herald of Desecration removed his helm with a hiss of venting pressure and spoke for his mute Champion. “Gone, Lord,” he said, his voice cold and impassive. “Melded into the shadows.”
“Fled, just as his ally has,” Gorath said, summoning the lift. “They sought to slay a behemoth with nothing more than a sword. Let that be the final, mewling note of the Imperium’s defeat.”
The Omega Station shook, a great tectonic quiver that caused even Gorath’s heavy, gyro-stabilized talons to lurch. In that moment, Gorath understood what had truly transpired. What his battle with the Azure Flame had truly been.
Sometimes, a sword wielded well was all it took.
The Siege Lords stared impassively at their Lord, awaiting his command.
“Follow me,” Gorath said. “We will end this.”
Gorath strode into the awaiting elevator, his victory suddenly seeming to slip further and further away as the Station’s shaking grew to a roar.