Propelled by pure adrenaline the acolytes haul themselves clear of the chasm that appeared following the demise of the Hound Of Khrone, Strang somehow finding the strength to pull the prone Roth up the ladder and out of the destructive vortex.
Staggering down the tunnel towards the ladder, the sound of the assault on the town became clearer as the Orc horde, angered by the loss of the Killercopters, begin to attack in earnest from the ground.
Using seemingly superhuman feats of strength they drag their lifeless comrade up the ladder and out into the technicolour pandemonium erupting in the market place.
Having signed up for the militia earlier Kane and Thadius feel duty bound to help the disorganised and rag tag locals defend the battlements as the Orc threaten to over run the settlement. With Roth a burden to them all and extremely vulnerable in this situation, Thadius hands the key to the confessors chamber over the Assassin and the Pysker. With a parting salute to the Emperor they leave for the gates as the bombardment begins to rain fire on the wooden buildings.
Strang and Drake hoist the hulking Roth between them and make for the safety of the church, dodging the debris exploding around them. They make it to the heavy dock providing safety for Confessor Low, shouting for him to stand down; they stagger through the door with the fallen guardsman.
Strang instructs the confessor to look after Roth and tries to quiz the frightened man on the nature of the cultist activity the acolytes have witnessed in the tunnels. The Priest believes that the only people who stand opposed to the Church would be found in a tavern in the merchants quarters called the Angel where Lilly works as a barmaid.
Meanwhile Drake receives a vision of a sickly Death Light and the bombardment of the Spaceport by Necron ships and realises that this message must be relayed to the High Command and goes in search of a radio in the militia headquarters.
He finds an antiquated piece of equipment, constructed of valves and wheels that he has no idea how to turn on yet alone operate and heads back towards the church to find his grey companion.
Having gleaned all he can from the Priest and locked him back into the room with Roth, Strang encounters a distressed Drake in the courtyard who tells him of his vision. With his keen eyes sight the assassin can see the deadly light crackling through the clouds, explaining they must find a radio operator and relay the message.
Whilst they are both starring at the sky, an Orc on a jetpack goes over the courtyard firing on the town’s people below. The two men exchange a glance and break simultaneously in opposite directions – Drake heading back to search for anything that may be of use.
Upon reaching the Confessors chamber once more Strang informs Low that he must not open the door again until he hears one of the acolytes voices. However if the battle becomes too intense then he must fall back, taking Roth, to the most secure part of the Church – the Crypt – and they will find them. He swears to protect the helpless gaurdsman and himself at all costs. Imploring the Emperor for protection, he hands the priest the key to the door and runs to joining Drake, looking for ammunition in the militia stronghold.
Having ransacked the already depleted rooms they head out into the street at full pelt, in their hurry forgetting to take adequate precautions and encounter an Orc struggling out of it’s jet pack some 50 yards in front of them. The three figures freeze in a comedic tableau – framed by the fire and explosions of the battle now raging inside the walls, so much so that they two followers of the Emperor fail to notice a second Orc dropping in from the sky on a jetpack. The Orc, chainsword in one hand and blaster in the other opens fire – the bolt flashes past Strang’s head and as it lands it swipes at Drake but the momentum of the jet pack means the sword merely cuts air as the other Orc begins to ready itself to charge.
Reacting first Strang pulls his Mono filament sword from his side and swings a two handed full out attack that connects with the Orc’s helmet but the heavy armour absorbs the full power of the blow enraging the creature as the second Orc arrives at the melee. Drake fires a shot at the first Orc which also bounces off the heavy armour, but distracts it long enough for Drake to disengage, straight into the path of its incoming comrade who catches the assassin in the ribs with its own chainsword. Drake receives a Las blast to the chest for his troubles and is knocked off his feet as the first Orc roars in victory.
Meanwhile the second Orc starts to lift Strang off his feet using the chainsword, it takes all his will power to overcome the pain as he pulls his Auto Pistol and places the barrel into the eye slit of the helmet. With a ragged animal like scream he empties a six round burst into the Orc’s eyes. The helmet lights up like a Halloween Pumpkin as the two figures collapse.
Crawling back from the hulk looming over him Drake shakily raises his Las Pistol and prays to the Emperor to guide his shot. He too finds his mark and the fourth figure in this microcosm of violence hits the ground.
Realising the foolishness of their actions the acolytes stagger back to the headquarters in search of anything that will aid their quest to the wall. Trying to bind the wounds as best they can, they find no impact weapons that would be of any use in close combat, but Drake finds a helmet that looked as if it was previously raided from a military commission – its technology redundant but the protective qualities intact.
With a resigned look they head out once more into the carnage – Strang taking point with his trusty Long Las drawn and they creep across the square sticking to the shadows of the buildings avoiding the pitch battles occurring between the town’s people and the incoming Orcs. As they reach the half way point a movement so fast it almost seems like a trick of the eye catches their attention.
Dancing in the centre of the square, cavorting gracefully through the flames is a large red creature wearing what looks like a Jesters mask. Its movements are unnatural and lithe as it skitters here and there decapitating Orc and human alike with a wicked curved knife. Its speed and elegance is such that the even quick reacting assassin cannot track it through the scope of the rifle. As a building explodes on the other side of the quadrant it seemingly disappears.
“What the fuck was that thing?” Strang screams over the deafening noise of the battle, but the Psyker is seemingly mute with fear and with grim resolve they press on until they reach the ladder leading up to the wall.
Scaling it as quickly as possible Strang reaches the top and swings round to cover the Psykers painful climb. As Drake reaches the top and the two of them duck below the cover of the wall a large metal grappling hook lands between them as the Orcs try and scale the wall. The darkness below is so dark and the randomly fired Las shots make it impossible even for the keen eyed killer to make the first shot, but it illuminates the lead Orc below and his second shot blasts him off of the grappling hook. Moment’s later Drakes Las Pistol melts through the chain and with a dull ‘clunk’ it separates; screams of rage and the sound of falling bodies emanate from the darkness below.
Crawling carefully along under the protective wall they reach the heavy artillery that passes for the town’s defense where Kane and Thadius are holding the position with a scared looking militia captain, firing over the wall in shifts.
Not wanting to add to the fear factor Strang greets Kane and simply conveys the urgency and importance with his eyes.
“We need a radio operator. Stat”
Kane shrugs, he could see the assassin was wounded and agitated, not being one for social convention he could only assume that this was some other part of the mission and, should he need to be told he would; he turns to the militia man and echoes the request. The captain’s eyes widened in amazement,
“What? I need my men? A radio operator? You are kidding me!?!”
Kane reiterates the seriousness of the request by punching the captain and advancing on his sprawled body. Thadius, the diplomat of the pair steps in front of his Arbite colleague, hauling the shocked man to his feet, firmly explaining that if his colleagues needed a radio operator it was of the up most importance and must be given to them.
As the captain runs off down the battlements looking for a man with the necessary skills Strang motions with his head towards the Spaceport, now lit with a dull green light and that made the eye recoil and said,
“Necrons, attacking the Spaceport. We must send word.”
The Arbites acknowledge that they have seen this silently, as the captain returns with a frightened looking man in uniform barely out of his youth.
“Go with these men’
Strang and Drake acknowledge their companions with the sign of the Aquillia and a curt ‘Emperor be with you’. Kane is already firing over the battlements, but Thadius pumps another round into the chamber of his shotgun and nodding to the other Acolytes screams ‘In His Name’ and unleashes it’s fury on an ascending Orc.
Reaching the ground once more Strang grabs the petrified militia trooper,
“You. Stick between us and for fucks sake stay safe”
The radio operator nods his agreement.
Proceeding back across the town square staying in the shadows the trio see severed heads on the ground and headless bodies piled in front of the Church where the town’s people had been defending. Drake feels a sense of dread that this town is being turned into a magnification of the ritual taking place down below and the town square itself is becoming a bowl of blood, seeping down to something rotten and evil. In his concern to safely relay the message he conjures distort vision to hide their progress.
To all witnessing him, he appears to be ten feet away from his actual location, but somewhere in the plaza, something red and unnatural notices the party.
They reach the militia headquarters unscathed and Drake leads the radio operator in, with Strang covering the doorway. As he steps in last the long stick shape of a Frag grenade bounces through the door and into the outer room in where they are stood. Strang failing to grab the grenade has no choice but to dodge out of the doorway he is stood in.
In what can only be described as a divine feat of agility, Drake grabs the operator and dives into the room housing the radio and slams the door shut as the blast rips past Strang’s turned head.
As the blast settles he steps back into the room and barks ‘Get it working’ to the shaken young man before kneeling down in the doorway, rifle covering the entrance. He lets out a sigh that simply says “that was too close” as Drake slumps against the wall next to him.
As the radio operator begins to warm up the dials, a large shadow appears in the doorway. The Orc who threw the grenade steps in to view the chaos. He finds himself starring down the barrel of a sniper rifle, Drake goes for his pistol and the creature is propelled backwards into the street as a Las bolt strikes his chest and another blows out the back of it’s helmet.
Moments later the radio sparks into life.
“Get me military command” Strang instructs.
“Identify yourself? Who is using this channel?” A voice barks out of the speaker.
“This is Severus, of the Elysian Drop Troop battalion Alpha requesting immediate contact with High Command,” the assassin counters.
“Severus? What is your call sign?”
Upon mention of the call sign Strang is put straight through to High Command where he relays the information about the Necron attack on the Spaceport and the Acolytes current position. He omits the Red Jester and the Inquisition’s business, stating only that they are in Bosuul and will require assistance and evacuation when possible.
Upon conclusion of communiqué he calmly slits the throat of the young man and hacks off his head with the Orc sword to cover the murder. Drake understands that their cover cannot be blown, but the combination of more fuel added to the carnage and the cold blooded and casual manner that it was dispatched with leaves him visibly shaken.
“And now we wait” intones Strang breaking the silence, “We cannot go anywhere without our companions and we cannot stand the wall effectively in this condition. We have leads on the Cult but there is little point pursuing them as two and the others are needed.”
Drake stirs himself, the horrors of the day fresh in his mind, but deep down in the Psyker’s heart something hardens.
“That thing out there… the thing cutting of heads… It is doing it for a reason. It is feeding off the chaos and the chaos is feeding off it. It needs to be stopped”
Strang shrugs, knowing that they stand little chance given the state they are in.
“I know” replies Drake as if reading his thoughts, “But if I am going to die today, it’s not going to be by a fucking Orc grenade, if we can distract it or stop it, then in the Emperor’s name I am willing to die trying.”
Something flickers in the killer’s grey eyes and a thin smile cracked across his lips, the Psyker had come a long way from the flamboyant dandy who screamed during space travel he had roomed next to many years ago when they were first called to the Inquisition.
“That is a death I can live with. What do you have in mind?”
“There is a quadrangle of buildings across the way, you position yourself on the highest roof and I shall call the beast to me by channeling the warp” Drake replied levelly.
Half an hour later Drake had rested, gathered his thoughts and prepared himself for glorious death. He walks out into the center of the quadrangle. Looking up he couldn’t see the assassin, but then the acolytes often couldn’t tell where Strang was they just had to trust in his deadly accuracy.
High on the ledge of the overhanging building Strang lay prone under the Eldar cloak with his exotic rifle poised. He could see the Psyker perfectly and he breathed slowly and deliberately, his eyes flicking over the surrounding buildings looking for signs of movement.
Drake removes his helmet and places it on the ground with his Las Pistol and sat down cross-legged to meditate unfettered. Moments passed like the eye of a storm, as the quadrangle seemed to be immune form the battle in the town. Finally the Pysker stands and tarot deck in hand, summoning his powers, he calls his staff from across space.
A dull ozone crack split the air and suddenly the staff is in his hand, high above, unseen to the eye, the sniper gave a little start at this. ‘His powers are greatly increased’ Strang thinks.
Suddenly an Orc on a jet pack crashed down through the flimsy wooden porch roof of one of the buildings forming the quadrangle, Strang unable to see the intruder, has no choice but to let the events unfold. As the Orc struggles out of its pack, it spots Drake and began to charge. Channeling his powers the Psyker uses the power of his mind to inflict terrible pain on that of the dumb beast.
It staggers, screaming in agony, only pure blind rage and instinct driving it forward towards the source of the pain. Drake stands his ground, starring the creature down. There was a flash from the building above and a bolt from the Eldar rifle fused the spine of the attacker and dying it crashed into the ground in front of him.
As he looks up to acknowledge the shot he gasps in horror as the Red Jester grabs his Grey eyed companion and turns his face to its mask.
“I see you” the thing intones to Strang and the two Acolytes hear its voice slithering inside their brains like a leech, unsure whether the words were even spoken out loud in this world. Drake reacts first and immediately once again tried to cast inflict pain on this warp-spawned creature.
Something goes wrong.
The resulting backfire of physic energy ripples out from the Psyker causing the building the creature and Strang are on to collapse. As the roof caves in, the warp spawn drops the assassin and crashes into the rubble. It emerges almost instantly from the dust and debris. Only Strang’s quick reactions saves him from breaking bones and tearing flesh. He lies winded scrabbling for the rifle, the adrenaline of the fall jolting him out of the paralysis he had been in.
The creature advances on Drake, holding a staff with a grotesque head on the end in front of it. This head could barely be distinguished as male or female, but it chatters horrors as it is raised towards the Psyker. This proves too much and his mind opens up completely to the realities of what is confronting him. He staggers and only his staff stops him from completely collapsing on the floor in terror, he slumps to the ground, the tarot deck spilling from his hands. As it reaches him, the Jester like creature places it’s staff on him so Drake is forehead to forehead with the chattering head and it begins to babble the insanity of the warp straight into his brain, filling his head with dark thoughts and horrors no man should know.
Preoccupied by the fallen acolyte the creature has failed to notice Strang now lying prone on a fallen slab of building, Eldar rifle baring down on the back of it’s mask, with a final prayer to the Emperor for one last good shot he pulls the trigger. It was true. If this was any other being and there would not have been a head left at all, but it merely clangs off the mask with a dull metallic sound.
It’s concentration broken the Jester wheels round and begins to advance on the sniper. It once again raises the staff, Strang still calm in the face of the unspeakable demon starts to take aim on the chattering head, but from some deep reserve of will power Drake reaches for his Las Pistol and fires another shot at the back of the thing’s head.
It stops, tilting its head to one side as if listening for something and, almost laughing blinks out of existence, leaving the two of them alone in the quadrangle, an electric smell of burning and a wisp of blue/grey smoke in the air.