Hundreds of miles below the Valkyrie, the surface of planetoid Ixis 37B was a jagged grey tangle of crags, peaks, and canyons, punctuated here and there by the bright orange of a lava flow. It was a low atmosphere rock where little sunlight pierced the perpetual gloom, and little or nothing lived. It wasn’t until you got closer to the surface that you saw stranger sights– rock formations hovering above the ground like strange, floating sculptures, perfectly hemispherical pits stretching for miles across, and strange electromagnetic signals seemingly originating from the planet itself– all of which had attracted the attention of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Tempestor Stone of the Ironheart Grenadiers pulled his gaze away from the Valkyrie’s viewport to glance at back Alpha Squad. Around him, his Grenadiers were harnessed into their seats, busy doing last-minute weapons checks, saying the odd prayer here and there, and cracking jokes with one another– all standard rituals for a man about to make a drop.
At least two standard Terran weeks ago, an Adeptus Mechanicus facility in Ixis had unearthed ancient ruins of xenos origin. Only a few days after that, though, the raids had begun: sleek craft, supposedly of Eldar origin, had started to strike at the outpost from the barren wastelands surrounding it, reaping a heavy toll on the Skitarii garrison before disappearing back into the darkness of the moon’s eternal night cycle. The attacks had been incessant, day after day, until the very last Skitarii had been slain. Now the Techpriests were defeneless, and they were calling on the Imperial Guard for help. They were adamant that something that they had found– an artefact of great significance, or so they claimed, though they refused to go into specifics– could not fall into xenos hands.
Task Force D-55’s mission was simple: extract the surviving Techpriests, and more importantly, the whatever-it-was that they had found. Ground assets– in particular, an armoured brigade from the Ironheart 23rd– were already on site, though Marshal Everson had also sent Stone and his Grenadiers in to provide airborne support and extraction if need be, and– as Everson himself had said– “to give those flying pointy-eared whoresons a taste of their own medicine.” Stone smiled at the thought, but it soon disappeared as he recalled the details of the xeno attacks. Whoever these attackers were, they had been capturing Skitarii alive with each raid, mutilating them, and leaving their barely-alive bodies nailed to cliffsides in full view of the Mechanicus outpost. This could only be the grisly handiwork of the Dark Eldar, he knew, which meant that failure today would mean a fate much worse than death for him and his men.
“Vox reading from the ground, sir!” came an abrupt shout from Bishop, his pilot. “The ground column has sighted and engaged xeno forces at delta nine-five!”
Stone snapped back to reality. “Auspex!” he ordered, bracing himself against the upper walls of the Valkyrie as he strode down the length of the plane towards the cockpit. Looking at the auspex on the main console, he saw returns pinging to life on the circular screen– solid green blocks representing the armoured column sprang up, forming a loose row upon a topographic representation of the valley far below them. A yellow triangle blinked in the middle of the column, representing the asset that the Mechanicus wanted extracted. At the furthest of the valley, meanwhile, multiple white dots of varying size were suddenly appearing. Those dots were converging on the column with alarming speed.
It was at that moment that the vox crackled to life. The cabin of the Valkyrie was suddenly flooded with a cacophony of screams, shouted orders, and a low, static-laced rumble that could only be the boom of battle cannons.
“Shut it off,” Stone ordered, “and bring us into drop altitude.” He turned and strode down the other end of the plane to his men. “Weapons ready! We will be dropping in exactly one minute! Our opposition is highly mobile with multiple skimmer assets! Expect intense enemy fire and fierce resistance the moment we hit the ground!”
“So, business as usual?” piped up one Grenadier.
Stone flashed him a rare smile. “Business as usual, Grenadier,” he replied, as he flicked the power cell of his pistol and re-checked his grav-chute, before grabbing a hold of the overhead railing.
In front of him, the side door of the Valkyrie began to rumble open to the endless starlight outside…
So, I apologize for the long time it has been since my last batrep: life, as usual, has been fairly busy. A while back, though, I managed to get my first game with the new Dark Eldar in against a friend of mine who had just started on 8th edition himself. For the sake of keeping things simple, we agreed to a 1500 points game, with my Kabal against his Imperial Guard. I brought the following:
I took the following:
KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD RAIDING PARTY:
KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:
Dracon Khyrus (Archon)- blast pistol, Djin Blade, phantasm grenade launcher, Hatred Eternal
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon
-Raider- dark lance, splinter racks
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
Ravager- 3 dark lances
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators
CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:
Succubus Karath Deathbrand- blast pistol, Blood Glaive, Adrenalight, Hyper-Swift Reflexes
9 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Grave Lotus, Hekatrix w. agonizer*
6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, Painbringer
PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:
Haemonculus Vakkan- stinger pistol, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer
-Venom- dual splinter cannons
Total Command Points: 7
*Yes, I know the agonizer is technically a bad choice against Imperial Guard, but I made this as an all-comers list.
Thoughts: In putting together this list, I wanted to try out the Alliance of Agony stratagem as well as the Raiding Force rules…and to be honest, I also wanted to try a little bit of everything. The general idea of this list was to have a solid core of firepower from my Kabalites and vehicle-mounted weapons, while the Wyches, Reavers, and deep striking Mandrakes would try to force my opponent to deal with multiple close combat threats at once.
My Imperial Guard opponent, meanwhile, brought the following:
IRONHEART EXPEDITIONARY FORCES:
MILITARUM TEMPESTUS BATTALLION:
Tempestor Prime Stone- hot-shot laspistol, Blade of Conquest, Draconian Disciplinarian
Primaris Psyker- Psychic Barrier, Emperor’s Gaze
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power axe
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power sword
7 Scions- 2 plasma guns, Tempestor w. power sword
Scion Command Squad- flamer, plasma gun, grenade launcher, medi-pack
4 Servitors- 2 heavy bolters
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter
CATACHAN SPEARHEAD DETACHMENT:
Lord Commissar- bolt pistol, power sword
10 Veterans- 3 plasma guns, Sergeant w. power fist
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter
Hellhound- hull heavy bolter
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Total Command Points: 8
I’ll be honest, I was rather intimidated at first by both the sheer number of tanks at his disposal, and by the entire detachment of deep striking Scions that would be pouncing on my army in turn 2. It was at around this point that I began to wonder if I had brought enough blasters or lances for this battle. Still, this game was going to be a test for both of our lists. “Maybe I’m selling myself short,” I thought at the time, “maybe the Imperial Guard’s shooting won’t be so bad.” Ah hah hah hah hah…
For the scenario, we settled on The Relic– which we represented with an old pot of paint that my opponent had on hand. We figured that it had to contain some sort of fantastic STC construct, or blackmetal, or maybe the Imperial Guard is just desperately running out of silver paint nowadays.
From right to left: I placed my Reavers far forward, hoping to advance and then charge on the first turn. Further behind, the Kabalites and Ravager hit behind one rock formation, while my three Venoms (one carrying my other Kabalites, one carrying the Wracks and the third carrying my Archon, Sslyth and Haemonculus) huddled behind the other one, hoping cover would be enough. My Wych Raider and Razorwing saw on the opposite far left flank, and the Mandrakes remained hidden in the shadows.
My opponent, meanwhile, had his tanks and Chimeras strung along in a loose formation, with his Manticore sitting far back on the right while one of his Russes huddled underneath a giant floating rock formation on the left, praying that the weird laws of gravity on this planet didn’t suddenly revert to normal.
Incidentally I love this particular game board (at Sword and Board in Toronto). My opponent and I both were hazy on how the terrain rules would apply to so many elevated, floating terrain pieces, so we agreed that, because it was obviously a low-gravity world, it would take a full movement phase to get up and down any of the giant floating rocks, no matter how high they were.
I failed to seize the initiative, and so the Guard went first.
The Guard began the came with the Techpriest and his attendant Servitors bailing out of their Chimera and going into cover in the rocky outcroppings at the end of his line. The Primaris Psyker also exited his own character, walking on foot behind the tank line. Both Chimeras and the Hellhound both scooted towards the objective, while one of the Russes lumbered forward as well to get better line of sight.
In the psychic phase, the Primaris cast Psychic Barrier on the advancing Russ, but suffered Perils in the process, losing 3 wounds in the mother of all migraines. In the shooting phase, the Manticore took aim at the Razorwing: I immediately used the Lightning Reflexes stratagem, forcing the Manticore to hit on 6s, but even then, it still hit with a few of its missiles, doing 3 wounds to the Razorwing. The stationary Russ, meanwhile, managed to spot the Ravager and opened fire: once again, I was forced to use Lightning Reflexes, but it availed me little– the sheer number of shots the double-shooting Russ was able to unleash with its battle cannon and secondary weapons did 5 wounds to the Ravager, leaving it teetering just short of its second damage bracket.
The pain didn’t end there, though. The Russ that had moved managed to draw line of sight to my Archon’s Venom. This time, I opted to conserve command points and not use Lightning Reflexes– which may have turned out to be a bad move.
The Venom was smashed like an egg by the battle cannon round, sending my Archon, the Sslyth and the Haemonculous all tumbling out in the wreckage, more outraged than hurt.Finally, one of the Chimeras managed to draw line of sight to my Reavers, firing its guns and pinging a wound off of one of them. Overall, that turn could have been worse, but I had just lost First Blood and been given a painful example of how nasty Guard shooting is.
On my turn, my Archon absolutely refused to trek across the battlefield on foot, and ordered the Wracks to vacate their Venom while he and his posse boarded it in turn, before it and most of my other vehicles advanced up onto the ridge. For the rest of the battle, the Wracks would have to make it on foot like the dregs that they were.
The only exceptions were the Razorwing, which made a long advance around the left flank to be all sneaky and stuff, and the Reavers, who advanced screaming towards the nearest Leman Russ. The Wych Raider also advanced, zooming along the rock formation to hopefully attack the rear of the enemy forces next turn. The Wracks, meanwhile, advanced towards the opening between the two floating rock formations, looking to possibly grab the relic in a few turns.
In the shooting phase, my force was on an elevated position looking down on the Guard, all packed in their tanks like sardines, and prepared to open them up. I concentrated my fire on the closest Leman Russ…
…and did dismally. Heat lances, dark lances and blasters all fired down at the packed human vehicles, and all either missed or failed to wound. When the dust cleared, despite me firing practically my entire army and spending two command points in the process, I had only done 3 wounds to the foremost Leman Russ, and 2 wounds to the Veterans’ Chimera.
Hm, okay, this was bad.
In the assault phase, the Reavers tried to redeem themselves by charging the Russ. One of them was battlecannoned out of the sky on the way in, but the rest made their charge, doing one mortal wound to the tank with their grav-talons and another as their bladevanes tore rents into the big tank’s hull. The Russ did nothing back, and the fight dragged on, with the Reavers swarming the Russ and causing sparks to fly as they scraped at it with their bladevanes, jeering at the tank’s crew to come out and play.
At the start of my opponent’s turn, the Russ, understandably, fell back from combat. At least it would be unable to fire this turn. In the centre, the tanks shuffled somewhat to get better line of sight, while the Veterans and their attendant Lord Commissar disembarked near the relic. At the back, the Techpriest led his Servitors up onto one of the floating rocks to get better line of sight to the Drukharii host.
And then the clouds parted, and it started raining Scions. A plasma toting squad came down right on top of the objective, ready to start freeming some pointy-eared xenos.
Up on top of the floating ridge, meanwhile, the other two squads, the Stone and his Command Squad all dropped in a cluster in front of my massed vehicles, ready to put the hurt on as well.
In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker casts Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, but failed to cast Smite. In the shooting phase, though, Stone ordered Elimination Protocols on the Wyches’ Raider; two of the melta-toting Scion Squads then combined their fire and exploded it! One Wych was killed in the ensuing blast, while the Succubus took 2 wounds, and the nearby Kabalite Venom took 3.
The dust from the explosion had hardly even cleared when the Hellhound let loose with its flame cannon, failing to damage the Venom, before the Manticore fired on it as well, wrecking it with several ICBMs worth of overkill! The Kabalites were forced to disembark onto the ridge, shaken by the loss of their transport.
The pain didn’t end there, though. The Veterans, the plasma Scions, Servitors and both Chimeras combined their fire on the nearby Reaver Jetbikes, forcing me to again use Lightning-Fast Reflexes against the Vets. It didn’t help: even though one Veteran fried himself on overheating plasma, my poor Reavers were mercilessly blasted out of the air in a white-hot storm of plasma and laser fire. As an encore, the Leman Russ in the far corner fired on the Kabalite Raider, doing 7 wounds to it and leaving the fragile skycraft teetering.
That last round of shooting had been brutal, and I’d taken some painful losss, but I wasn’t out of the fight yet. I moved my Wyches and Succubus along the narrow causeway to go after the Scions, looking for get some payback for the loss of their ride.
The Archon’s Venom moved further up on the causeway, looking to disembark its highborn cargo next turn. The various vehicles also angled for better line of sight, with the Razorwing in particular zooming down along the left flank to get a bead on one of the Leman Russes.
That wasn’t all. A whispered chorus of hisses was heard as the Mandrakes arrived from Aelindrach, crawling out of the shadows near the Manticore, looking to feast on the mortals cowering within.
In the shooting phase, Raider-mounted squad of Kabalites, eager to put their splinter racks to use, rapid fired down into the Scions holding the relic…and did 4 wounds, all of which were saved. This, by the way, was with them rerolling 1s thanks to their obsession, and getting exploding 6s thanks to splinter racks. Unbelievable. Their blasters, at least, combined to do 6 wounds to the nearby Hellhound, but failed to kill it. Sighing, the Archon, wondering why he had to do everything himself, calmly drew his blast pistol and exploded the Hellhound, killing 3 of the Scions in the blast! As an encore, the Kabalites who had lost their Venom fired into the Scions as well, killing another 2.
Elsewhere, the Archon’s Venom fired across the chasm at the Servitors, mowing down 2. The Kabalite Raider missed a pot shot at the foremost Leman Russ, but the Ravager was more accurate, zapping 4 wounds off of the ugly human tank…
…before the Razorwing raked it with disintegrator bolts and wrecked it! The Wyches fired their pistols at the Scions, but did no damage. Finally, the Mandrakes unleashed their baleblasts at the Manticore…and, despite their volume of shots, only did 1 mortal wound to the missile tank.
In the charge phase, the Wyches multi-charged into the massed Scions across the bridge, and amazingly, didn’t lose anyone to overwatch! The Succubus followed suit into the leftmost Scion squad, prompting the Tempestor to heroically intervene. The Mandrakes, meanwhile, charged into the Manticore, losing 1 to a heavy bolter round on the way in. In close combat, the Succubus went to work, slicing and dicing apart 5 Scions from the rightmost squad with her Blood Glaive. The Wyches, however, performed less impressively, only killing 3 Scions from the other squad. In response, the Scions failed to hurt the Wyches, but did manage to jab a bayonet into the Succubus, wounding her despite her 3+ dodge save. Then the Tempestor swung at the Succubus, hitting and wounding twice…
…and crucially, the Succubus failed a save, even with a command point reroll! The hit quickly translated into 3 wounds that the Succubus failed to ignore. My jaw hit the floor as my tricked out Succubus was slain by a humble Tempestor!
Meanwhile, the Mandrakes unleashed 21 attacks on the Manticore…and did no damage whatsoever. Even more embarassingly, the Manticore hit with its one attack and ran one of the shadow-fiends over! In the morale phase, at least, the last two Scions on the relic ran, as did the last two Scions from the squad that the Succubus had mauled.
In the Guard turn, the Manticore wisely withdrew from combat. The Veterans, undaunted by the recent demise of the Scions in front of them, moved up, letting the Lord Commissar behind them grab the relic (at the time I wasn’t sure if characters could grab the relic or not). Everything else stayed and took aim.
In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, before Smiting he Kabalite Raider, freeming two wounds off of it and leaving it teetering on one. In the shooting phase, one Chimera tried to finish the Raider off, but its shots bounced off of the night shield. It was down to the Leman Russ, since the Raider was the only thing it could draw line sight to, and the big tanks inflicted half a dozen or so battle cannon hits on the Raider and brought it crashing to the ground, forcing the Kabalites to bail out on top of the causeway.
Further in the backfield, the Veterans turned their guns on the Mandrakes threatening the Manticore, and managed to gun down three of them despite their shadowy forms. The Servitors, meanwhile, fired across the chasm at the smaller unit of Kabalites and managed to blast down two of them. Last but not least, the other Chimera trained its guns on the incoming Wracks and fired, managing to kill one of the freakish things.
In close combat, Stone swung out with the Blade of Conquest and killed one Wych. In response, though, the Wyches sliced down the remaining four Scions, leaving Stone fighting them on his own. In the morale phase, the Mandrakes held their nerve, but one of the Kabalites from the smaller squad ran for it.
In my turn, the Archon and his posse disembarked, and moon-jumped down to the floor ot the chasm to hopefully assault the Veterans, while the Wracks moved up to hopefully do the same. The Venom also dropped down, aiming to shoot the Veterans up and possibly charge them to absorb overwatch.
The remaining Mandrakes once again moved after the Manticore, while the Ravager dropped down to the floor of the chasm as well, angling to get line of sight on the Leman Russ while the Razorwing circled around to attack it from behind. All of my Kabalites, however, stayed put, as they were in comfortable firing positions against the hapless mon-keigh squatting beneath them.
In the shooting phase, the Venom shredded three Veterans, while the Kabalites…sigh…did nothing. Again. Combined blaster fire, at least, from both squads of Kabalites and the Archon managed to do 7 wounds to the leftmost Chimera, leaving it sitting on 3. The Mandrakes flung balefire at the Manticore but failed to hurt it. Finally, the Ravager fired on the Leman Russ…and hit and wounded with all three shots! I rolled for damage, and my opponent and I both watched in stunned amazement as the Ravager did 16 wounds, wrecking the Russ in one round of shooting! This, sadly, left the poor Razorwing without anything to shoot at, given that the terrain was severely limiting its line of sight.
In the charge phase, the Mandrakes once again charged the Manticore, the Venom charged the Veterans, and the Archon, Haemonculous, Sslyth and Wracks charged the Chimera, all without taking casualties from overwatch. The Mandrakes, sadly, bounced off of the Manticore.
The Venom, meanwhile, at least managed to slice down one Veteran with its bladevanes, while avoiding any damage from the Sergeant’s power fist.
The Archon, meanwhile, swung out at the Chimera with his shiny new Djin Blade, and managed to do something like 6 or 7 wounds of overkill, slicing so deeply into the human tank that he hit a fuel line and caused it to explode! The Archon and Haemonculous were both wounded in the explosion, while the loyal Sslyth was vaporized, as were two Wracks, and the nearby Ravager also took a wound, bringing down into its middile damage bracket.
Elsewhere, the Wyches managed to do 3 unsaved wounds to Stone, leaving the Tempestor hanging on one. For his part, Stone swung back but was unable to hit his agile foes. And with that, the fight dragged on…
In the Guard turn, the Manticore again withdrew from combat, as did Stone– despite the bonus granted by shardnets, the Wyches actually lost the roll-off for No Escape, and failed to keep the Tempestor from escaping! Ruh roh.
The Lord Commissar began to move away from my lines with the relic in tow, while the surviving Chimera moved up to place itself between the Commissar and my many, many guns.
In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, and then followed up by Smiting the Venom, zapping three wounds off of the fragile skimmer. In the shooting phase, though, the Scion Command Squad opened fire on the Wyches, dousing them with flamer fuel, grenades and plasma blasts, wiping the squad out.
In the rest of his shooting, the Servitors managed to mow down one of my Mandrakes, while the Chimera’s many guns managed to blast down another, leaving just one of the shadow-things standing.
In close combat, the Psyker joined the fight against my Venom, swinging with his force staff and smashing one wound off of the skimmer and leaving it on one wound. The Veterans, sadly, despite smashing at it with rifle butts, rocks and even fists, were unable to hurt it (despite their Catachan strength bonus), and the Sergeant critically missed with his power fist. The Venom, for its part, failed to inflict any damage with its bladevanes, and the fight dragged on.
Except, that is, until my turn, at which point it simply flew out of combat. My Archon, Haemonculus and Wracks all moved towards the Veterans, and, more importantly, towards the relic, while the Ravager zoomed up around the protective Chimera so that it was now prow-to-face with the Lord Commissar.
The last Mandrake, as usual, moved after the Manticore to deny it the ability to fire, while the Razorwing zoomed over the rock formation it had been behind to bring its weapons to bear on the centre of the battlefield.
In the shooting phase, the Venom got some vengeance as it perforated three Veterans, despite their protection. The Kabalites then followed suit with their massed splinter rifles…and, with their twenty-odd shots, killed only a single Veteran. To make it even worse, their blasters missed the Chimera completely! The smaller unit of Kabalites also decided to miss the blocky human tank. I decided that these idiots were going to be made an example of after the battle. Once again, the Archon had to show them how it was done, calmly taking aim with his blast pistol and vaporizing the last, piddly Veteran.
Next, the Ravager fired its dark lances at the Lord Commissar, scored two hits…and the Lord Commissar saved both of them on his refractor field!! The Mandrake, unsurprisingly, did no damage to the Manticore. The Razorwing, at least, showed some competence, unleashing a flurry of missiles and disintegrator bolts at the Manticore and doing 4 wounds to the missile tank.
In the charge phase, the Archon charged the Primaris Psyker…and even with a reroll to charges, fell short. The Haemonculus, however, had no such difficulty, making the charge into the started Psyker and felling him with his electrocorrosive whip, no doubt tying him up for his long trip back to the Dark City. The last Mandrake charged the Manticore again, and once again, survived overwatch, did no damage, but denied the missile tank another turn of shooting. Last but by no means least, the Ravager charged the Lord Commissar…and the two completely failed to hurt one another. Crucially, though, the relic was contested.
At this point, my opponent realized that there was no way he could keep hold of the relic, and threw in the towel. And with that, it was a decisive, albeit costly, win for the Drukhari.
Result: Drukhari Victory!
Thoughts: Wow that was an intense game. After those first two turns, I thought it was all over, but then slowly but surely, my dice started to behave themselves: my lances and disintegrators started popping enemy tanks, my Wyches went through his Scions like a blender (before dying to the Command Squad and the world’s luckiest Tempestor, anyway), and my massed splinter fire…um…it, um…well, the important thing is, I won.
Looking back, I see that my use Reavers and Mandrakes to tie up his tanks was really what won me the game: it wound up costing me both units in the end, but it did a lot to mitigate his firepower throughout the battle. And it’s a good thing too, given how amazingly some of my units failed– my Kabalites, in particular, were notable for their seeming failure to shoot down any Imperial Guardsmen, and the Wyches were not nearly as amazing as I expected they would be (though they were still quite good). I think ultimately what sealed the win for me was keeping his Scions isolated from the main game, tying up his tanks with my melee units, and successfully gunning down everything he had on the objective. The man of the match for my army, without a doubt, was the Archon, for managing to explode two enemy tanks in a row.
Some learning points from this game:
-I forgot the +1 attack provided by the Wyches’ blades– had I remembered, then I have no doubt that the Wyches would have chewed through the Scions (and Stone!) a lot more quickly.
-Heat lances SUCK! They might be decent against low-toughness vehicles, but against toughness 8 Leman Russes, they actually struggle to wound. In future, I will probably ditch them in favour of more blasters.
-I keep forgetting that I can use consolidate moves to move within 1″ of fresh enemy units and lock them in close combat too. Had I remembered that, I would have done so against the Scion Command Squad, thus denying them the ability to shoot up my poor Wyches.
Overall, though, I think this was a great test run for my Dark Eldar. For future games, I definitely want to try out Scourges as a possible dedicated anti-tank unit, as well as possibly toy with other Obsessions– I honestly found the Flayed Skull obsession more useful for denying cover in this game than for the rerolls to hit with splinter weapons (although that may have just been my atrocious rolling).
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more batreps, and more articles on my Dark Eldar army, in the future!
Lord Commissar Brok released his handhold on the Mechanicus container and threw himself to the dust as the Ravager came screaming down at him, the xeno vehicle almost black against the night sky. He narrowly avoided being skewered on the skimmer’s bladed prow, its sharp vanes narrowly slashing over him and lacerating his cloak. He felt the compression wave of the skimmer’s passing press over him, and heard the shriek of its engines as the damnable thing soared past. Spinning around, Brok raised his bolt pistol and fired shot after shot at the Ravager as it flew away; in the gloom, he couldn’t tell if any of his shots hit their mark as the Aeldari craft banked upwards away from him, its engines glowing a malevolent violet in the twilight. It would be coming down for another pass soon.
His vox bead crackled to life. “All forces, pull back!” came Stone’s voice. “We can’t win here! Withdraw to extraction points!”
Brok felt his teeth grind. “Belay that order!” he snapped into the vox as he stood back up, making sure that he was visible to the remaining Ironheart forces. “Stand and fight! You are soldiers of the Imperium, and you will triumph or you will die on your feet!” Swearing that he would execute Stone personally when this battle was over, he turned…
…and realized, for the first time, that he was alone. Aside from the bodies littering the floor of the canyon and the smoking carcasses of the armoured battalion, he could see no living Guardsmen in the area. Even the Manticore had stopped moving, its missile racks pointing silently to the night sky. He was the last one standing.
He heard movement behind him. He immediately spun, power sword raised for a backhanded slash…
…and stopped when he felt something sharp and cold enter his chest. Opposite him was an eerily beautiful alabaster face, with features that were smooth and pointed, and golden eyes that glinted with amused malice. The Eldar was smiling, perfect teeth gleaming in the moonlight, and as Brok glanced down, he could see that the alien was holding a sword with a hilt embossed with a leering, daemonic visage, and a jagged blade that was lodged halfway through his chest. Brok felt nothing from the wound– nothing, that was, except for a strange, aching cold that was now spreading through his body.
“As you wish, mon-keigh,” the Drukhari sneered. The Commissar didn’t even realize that his own sword had dropped from his numb fingers– fingers that were starting to crack, and crumble into powder like dried parchment. “You get to die on your feet.”
Brok tried to say something, but his throat had become very dry, and nothing came out except a hoarse rattle as his mouth filled with dust. A second later, his skin cracked and sloughed off, crumbling, before his entire body collapsed in a rapidly disintegrating pile of gravedust.
Sighing, Khyrus flicked the dust away from the blade and sheathed it, before turning to the container that the Commissar had been determinedly trying to drag away. “So, is this the little box that you wanted?” he grumbled, not bothering to hide the irritation from his voice.
“Indeed,” hissed a sibilant voice next to him. The Haemonculus Vakkan slithered up next to him, his multiple finger joints tenting as the freakish thing looked greedily at the container. “The Coven is most grateful for this gift, Dracon Khyrus. We shall do…wondrous things with its contents.”
Khyrus raised an eyebrow. “Not that I care, but…what is in this little container that you needed an entire raiding force to retrieve?”
Vakkan smiled– a ghastly, needle-edged sight. “A bygone relic, from a bygone civilization,” he replied. “A relic from which we will glean many, many secrets.” At the Haemonculus’ motion, the attendant wracks silently broke open the lid of the container and threw it open. Inside, Khyrus could see a mass of silver liquid, shimmering under the starlight in such a way that it seemed to glow with an inner light.
Reaching in, Vakkan dipped a hand into the liquid and pulled it back– the silver liquid now coated Vakkan’s hand, and, as Khyrus watched, seemed to writhe and twist like some living second skin.
“Tell me…what do you know of living metal?”