The Siege of Hod’s Anvil, Part 3: Defence of Silo XXI

(artwork by Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games)

“The lights are wrong,” said the voice on the vox recording, his voice laced with wisps of static. “I repeat, the lights are wrong.”

The vox message then looped back on itself, as it had been doing for the past fifty-two hours. Sergeant DeSane kept it playing on his armour’s internal vox system, so that his helm’s internal sensors could keep a lock on its source, even as he backed away from the airlock door. The floors and walls of the hallway were coated in a thick rime of frost, and the doors were frozen solid, glittering with a thick patina of ice. The environmental controls of this silo had failed, it seemed, at about the same time as contact had been lost.

He flashed a signal to his squad, and in an instant, the melta charges detonated, and the airlock door disappeared in a blinding blue-white flash. The autosenses of DeSane’s Mark X helmet instantly compensated, filtering out the flash so that he could see the airlock rapidly liquefying, the molten plasteel door seeming to fold backwards as it congealed in a steaming silver puddle on the floor of the bunker.

DeSane didn’t even need to give an order for his squad to storm the breach: in an instant, half of them were through, bolt rifles at the ready, moving with a swiftenss that came from centuries of training and decades of long campaigning in the Indomitus Crusade. A symbol lit up on DeSane’s headset, a signal from Brother Malleo that all was clear, and at this, DeSane and the rest of his squad came swinging in from the rear.

He had not expected the room to be occupied: all auspex scans had indicated no life signs in the command centre of Silo XXI, despite the presence of the looped vox recording. All the same, he lowered his rifle when he saw what was waiting for them.

“By the Primarch,” he whispered. The command command staff of the Silo– a skeleton crew of Munitorum officers, Tech-priests and adjutants– were all present and accounted for, here in the command room, though none had been left in any identifiable state. Some had been strewn across the room in pieces of frozen meat, some were pinned to their stations and mutilated beyond recognition. Despite the cold, the place had the stench of an abbatoir, and DeSane noted, in disgust, that a generous amount of blood now daubed the far wall of the command centre, describing some ghastly symbol of curving, jagged lines, the blood rendered almost black by environmental decompression and the frigid cold. It seemed even more appalling than the atrocity that had been inflicted on the silo’s crew.

“The lights are wrong,” the vox recording continued. DeSane could hear it clearly now, looping on and on from one of the command centre’s stations, the vox-operator’s dismembered body having been re-arranged artfully around it. “I repeat, the lights are wrong.”

DeSane tore himself away from this horror and focused on the task at hand. Contact with Silo XXI had been lost three days ago. Given its remote location in the polar hinterlands of Hod’s Anvil, Imperial Command had thought that it– and more importantly, the arsenal of Deathstrike warheads that it housed– would be beyond the reach of the Ork and T’au invaders preoccupied with the fierce battles raging on the planet’s main continent. Evidently, they had been wrong, and so DeSane and his brothers had been dispatched to investigate.

“Malleo, check the launch controls,” DeSane ordered. “Josephus, run a scan of the station logs. I want to find out exactly what happened here. Everyone else, run a full sweep of this area– I want to know who did this, and whether or not they could still be around.” DeSane had his suspicions, of course, as to who was behind this: there was only one race of xenos in the galaxy cruel, depraved or twisted enough to do something like this.

Even as the squad set about their tasks, another figure strode in behind DeSane, the banner-pole he held in one arm dipping low to fit through the narrow archway. Ancient Karlsen nodded grimly to DeSane as he planted the banner squarely on the semi-frozen floor, the vermillion and royal purple banner of their chapter proudly held aloft. As Karlsen’s gaze shifted to the grisly scene of the room, DeSane didn’t the other Astartes’ face to imagine the look of disgust he wore.

“Drukhari,” the Ancient growled. “This reeks of their handiwork.”

DeSane nodded. “Given how preoccupied the Orks and T’au have been with conquering the main continent, it makes sense that those pirate wretches would strike this far afield, at weaker targets.” He did not mention what needed no mentioning– that if the Drukhari had raided the silo’s precious cargo of Deathstrike missiles, then Emperor alone knew what kind of havoc they could wreak…

At that point, Brother Maleo spoke up from where he was going through one of the station’s cogitators. “The stations logs show a series of anomalous auspex returns on the western periphery three days ago,” he said. “This coincied with a number of atmospheric anomalies were glimpsed in the clouds. After that, all auspex scans cease. It’s as though all of this station’s sensor systems were disabled all at once, possibly by some sort of electromagnetic attack.”

DeSane nodded. “And what of the Deathstrike warheads?”

“All stocked and accounted for, Brother Sergeant.”

DeSane let that information settle for a moment. The all-important Deathstrike warheads on this base were still in their loading bays, untouched and, more importantly, unarmed. He cursed under his breath. “They came here, slaughtered the garrison, and then left. Why? Why attack a missile silo and then do absolutely nothing with the missiles?”

Karlsen said nothing at first. The red lenses of his helm drifted to the grotesque sigil that had been daubed on the far wall.

“They didn’t care about the missiles,” the Ancient finally said. “They just wanted someone to find this.”

DeSane turned in surprise to Karlsen. “How do you know this, Ancient?” he asked. A second later, however, he realized the answer. “You can read their language, can’t you?”

The Ancient nodded. “One of the many things I learned in the Crusade, brother,” he replied grimly. “One doesn’t fight the xeno on as many battlefields as I have without learning how they communicate– and this reeks of their twisted language.”

Karlsen, as ever, was full of surprises, DeSane thought. “Well, what does it say?”

“‘Welcome’.”

DeSane felt his blood run cold. He was snapped out of his reverie, however, when his internal vox crackled to life with a transmission from the Scouts stationed at the roof of the silo. “Sergeant DeSane, we’ve spotted movement among the borealis!”

DeSane immediately thumbed his vox unit. “Movement? Explain!”

“It’s difficult to explain, sir, but we’ve confirmed sightings of several bright lights moving amidst the local aurora patterns! Whatever they are, they do NOT conform to what we know of local weather conditions!”

The Intercessor Sergeant immediately snapped into action. “Hold your position, we’ll be right there!” he shouted. “Vox the rest of the company for reinforcements immediately!”

As DeSane and his squad rushed out of the control room, the last transmission of the late crew of Silo XXI continued to drone on behind them.

“The lights are wrong. I repeat, the lights are wrong…”

*****

So, this battle actually took place several months ago. It took me forever to write this batrep, in part because the daily grind of work, long commutes and perpetual exhaustion were killing my drive to write anything, and in part because more recently, I had to worry about finally moving into a new place. As such, this battle predates the current Space Marine codex, so anyone looking to see how Drukhari fare against the current iteration of the Astartes (especially with their new rules and supplement codexes) will be a bit disappointed.

For the next scenario in the campaign, the defenders were scrambling to survive the xenos onslaught, especially with the invading armies now knocking on the door of Saguntum, the planetary capital. While Imperial Guard and Mechanicus forces were struggling to deal with the Orks and T’au, however, I got paired against Marshal, a Space Marine player who was, frankly, quite relieved not to be dealing with T’au any longer.

The scenario were were playing was Hold Your Gains at 1750 points, with the Marines as the defender, and we set up on an icy terrain board at everyone’s favourite stomping ground, the Sword and Board.

For my list, I brought the following:

Note, because I’m an idiot and left my Wracks at home, the small unit of gold and red Wyches will be standing in for them today.

KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD (with allies from the Cult of the Blade Unforged and Coven of the Black Circle)

FLAYED SKULL PATROL:
Archon (Dracon Khyrus)- blast pistol, Djinn Blade, Hatred Eternal
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster
Sslyth
7 Mandrakes
Ravager- 3 disintegrator cannons
Ravager- 3 disintegrator cannons
Venom- dual splinter cannons
Venom- dual splinter cannons

CULT OF STRIFE PATROL:
Succubus (Karath Deathsong)- dual hydra gauntlets, Adrenalight, Precision Blows
8 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. agonizer, Grave Lotus
Raider- disintegrator cannon

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:
Haemonculus (Lazhareq the Sculptor)- splinter pistol, electrocorrosive whip, Helm of Spite, Diabolic Soothsayer
5 Wracks
7 Grotesques
Talos- dual haywire blaster, dual macroscalpels
Talos- dual haywire blaster, dual macroscalpels
Venom- dual splinter cannons

Total CP: 7 (thanks to Raiding Force rule)
Pre-Game Stratagems: Alliance of Agony, Prizes of the Dark City

Thoughts: For this list, I wanted to try something a little more fun, hence I ran a small Raiding Force detachment with a little bit of everything thrown in. It was fairly light on firepower, but I figured my best bet would be to get my big unit of Grotesques on the central objective and just keep them there. At the time, I was really worried about some of the nastier stuff that he might bring, such as Hellblasters, psychic shenanigans, etc, though the big unit of Grotesques may have been a bit much. After my last game against the Mechanicus, I wanted to try out the Cult of Strife again to see how well they fared against power armour.

Marshal, meanwhile, brought the following:

SPACE MARINES (from an unknown chapter, as well as agents of the Officio Assassinorum)

ULTRAMARINES BATTALION (INDOMITUS CRUSADERS):
Primaris Captain- Gravis armour, boltstorm gauntlet, master-crafted power sword, Sanctic Halo, Greyshield
Librarian- Might of Heroes, Null Zone
10 Tactical Marines- plasma gun, plasma cannon, Sgt. w. plasma pistol & power fist
10 Intercessors- Sgt w. power fist, Veteran Intercessors
5 Scouts- 4 sniper rifles, missile launcher, camo-cloaks
Primaris Ancient- Standard of the Emperor Ascendant
Primaris Apothecary
10 Hellblasters- plasma incinerators

ULTRAMARINES VANGUARD
Librarian- Might of Heroes, Null Zone
Redemptor Dreadnought- heavy Onslaught gatling cannon, heavy flamer
Venerable Dreadnought- lascannon
Dreadnought- multi-melta

OFFICIO ASSASINORUM EXECUTION FORCE
Eversor Assassin
Vindicare Assassin
Culexus Assassin

Total CP: 10
Pre-Game Stratagems: Relics of the Chapter, Indomitus Crusaders, Veteran Intercessors

This would be my first time dealing with the new Assassins from their White Dwarf rules, and for that matter, my first time dealing with one of the new specialist detachments from the Vigilus books. Hopefully, my spiky evil elves would be able to deal with this fancy new Imperial stuff.

DEPLOYMENT:

For terrain, we had a cluster of ruined buildings and barricades, as well as the bunker in the center that Marshal would have to defend. I chose to split my forces, with my Coven units, Khyrus, his faithful Sslyth bodyguard and both Ravagers covering one flank…

…and my Wyches, Succubus, and both Venoms covering the other. The Mandrakes, being the skulking misanthropes that they were, remained in reserve.

Marshal, meanwhile, put his Intercessors, Ancient and Scouts atop the bunker, ready to hold at all costs, while his Redemptor Dreadnought stood at the base of the bunker, ready to take on my incoming Coven units.

Marshal failed to seize the initiative, and so the battle began.

TURN 1

At the start of the turn, the Wracks were ordered out of their Venom so that Khyrus and his Sslyth bodyguard to stride on instead, and were left to shuffle around on foot for the rest of the game. As one, the Drukhari closed in on the Space Marine outpost: from the north, the Grotesqeues and Haemonculi made their stead advance, supported by the flitting shapes of the Venoms and the Ravagers. Only the Redemptor Dreadnought barred their advance, standing proudly in defiance of the xenos.

On the other flank, meanwhile, the Wych Raider and its own supporting Venom gunboats surged forwards, hoping to close the distance with the Astartes as quickly as possible.

In the shooting phase, the Ravagers and Taloi focused their fire on the Redemptor Dreadnought, disintegrator bolts and haywire burst scorching its regal purple hull. The combined fire however, only managed to deal three wounds to the behemoth, the Dreadnought only mildly annoyed by the feeble shooting of the xenos.

Elsewhere, the remaining skycraft all poured fired into the Space Marines manning the ramparts. One Venom, and its crew, rained splinters down on the Scout snipers, using their high elevation to utterly ignore the benefit of their cover; four of the young Astartes fell, writhing as toxins flooded their bloodstreams, and only one of the Scouts remained to stand his ground, gripping his missile launcher tightly. Even in death, though, one Scout managed to fire a sniper round back at the Venom, actually dealing damage to the Eldar skycraft before finally succuming to the poison.

The Raider and the other two Venoms, meanwhile, focused on the Intercessors; in the ensuing rain of splinter and disintegrator fire, four of the Primaris Marines fell, their riddled with bolts or obliterated by disintegrator fire. Again, though, some of the Intercessors, inspired by the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant, returned fire even as they fell, dealing a wound to the Raider.

Emboldened by the site of their sacred standard, Marines stubbornly hold their positions despite their losses.

Knowing that they had to hold out long enough for their relief force to arrive, the Astartes stubbornly held their ground and readied their bolters. The Redemptor Dreadnought, however, had different ideas as he stomped forwards, his vox-laden voice bellowing a challenge to the Drukhari. Though he was faced with overwhelming odds, the longer he kept the enemy away from the silo, the better.

The roar of bolt rifles cut through the chill arctic air as the Intercessors returned fire, splitting their fire and dealing two wounds to the Raider, though they failed to score any lasting damage on the Venoms. The last Scout, eager for vengeance, slotted a krak missile and fired at the rightmost Venom. The Scout’s aim was true, but thanks to some last-minute jinking by the pilot, the Venom only suffered minor damage. (Translation: only suffered 2 wounds)

On the other side of the silo, the Redemptor Dreadnought’s onslaught cannon spun as it cycled ammunition, before roaring to life, hundreds of high velocity rounds scything into the nearest Talos, chipping off corrupted wraithbone and bio-organic components and dealing two critical wounds to the pain engine. Pivoting on the spot, the Redemptor then unleashed its heavy flamer on Khyrus’ Venom, burning a wound off of the nimble skycraft.

And then, accelerating its engines, the Redemptor barrelled forward into a charge on the nearest Talos, barreling into it with the forces of an adamantium mountain. The Redemptor’s mighty fist slammed home against the Talos, dealing two wounds to it, though the glimmering blade held by the corrupted wraith-construct slashed back, tearing four wounds through the Redemptor’s hull in return. Damaged, the two walkers circled one another as their titanic duel continued.

TURN 2
With their prey now in range, the Wyches disembarked from their Raider and sprinted up to the edge of the bastion. Their Raider, meanwhile, flew over them, hovering above the bastion to overlook the entrenched Space Marines. On the other flank, Khyrus’ Venom flew up to bring its guns to bear on the Space Marines and, hopefully, allow the Dracon to disembark and assault later on, while the Grotesques, at the direction of Lazhareq, edged up to take on the Redemptor Dreadnought. Finally, the remaining skimmers circled the bastion, ready to pour yet more firepower into the Astartes.

The air was quickly filled with splinters and dark matter bolts as once again, the Drukhari firepower was unleashed upon the humans. The last Scout finally fell, riddled with so many splinter rounds that his body swelled grotesquely with toxins. Another two Intercessors also fell, disintegrated by violet plasma bursts as the Raider flew overhead.

Even as the Intercessors ducked for cover, the Raider swooped down on them, aiming to impale them upon its bladevanes. As the Intercessors fired into the oncoming vehicle, though, they were distracted from the true threat of the Wyches, who acrobatically danced up the side of the bastion to dive into the Space Marines with flashing blades.

One Intercessor was swiftly decapitated by Karath, while another two Intercessors were sliced apart in the blink of an eye by the Wyches. In exchange, one Wych was crushed by the Sergeant’s power fist, while the Ancient showed that he was no slouch either, dealing two wounds to the Raider with his bare, power armoured fists. The Ancient and the Sergeant, however, soon found themselves fighting back to back as the Wyches closed in around them…

Meanwhile, at the direction of the Haemonculus, the Grotesques slammed into the Redemptor Dreadnought. Between their hissing flesh gauntlets and the giant sword of the Wraith-Talos, several great rents were torn in the Redemptor’s hull, leaving it barely standing on two wounds. Damaged as it was, though, belching smoke and sparks from breaches in its hull, the Redemptor nonetheless fought back, smashing two wounds from the Talos and heaving it heavily damaged as well. Though the Redemptor was close to being broken, it remained unbowed.

The battlefield at the end of the turn.

Even as the Drukhari surrounded the silo, Astartes reinforcements began to arrive. With great footfalls that shattered the ice, a mighty Venerable Dreadnought came stomping onto the battlefield, followed closely by three mighty heroes of the chapter– two Librarians, and a Primaris Captain clad in state-of-the-art Gravis armour.

Elsewhere, the Officio Assassinorum’s target had revealed itself, and its execution force chose that moment to strike. A Vindicare Assassin crouched up from his hiding spot atop a ruined tower…

….while a Culexus Assassin suddenly appeared from out of nowhere behind a Venom, the hollow sockets of its skull-helm lit with an evil glow.

On the other side of the battlefield, an Eversor Assassin clawed its way up from the stasis coffin that it had been using to hide underground, and set its own skull-masked gaze on the Haemonculus as its veins began to flood with a lethal cocktail of frenzon. In an instant, the ambushers were finding themselves being ambushed.

Channelling the raw energy of the warp, one of the Librarians Smote Khyrus’ Venom at full power, melting steel and rupturing shields and sending the nimble skyrcraft tumbling down in a burning wreck. Khyrus and his Sslyth bodyguard were forced to disembark from the wreckage, more insulted than hurt.

“This is clearly all your fault, Vsshq.” (Apologies for the blurry photo)

The same then Librarian then cast Might of Heroes on the Venerable Dreadnought, adding warp-lent fortitude and strength to the machine-sarcophagus’ adamantine frame. His brother Librarian, meanwhile, attempted to cast Null Zone on the Grotesques, but instead found himself wracked with agony as Lazhareq’s Helm of Spite absorbed the psychic power and ravaged his mind, blood dribbling from his ears and eyes as he was left badly wounded by the psychic feedback.

Even as Khryus and his Sslyth bodyguard managed to pull themselves out of the wreckage, the Vindicare, sighting his target, lined up a shot on Khryus and fired. Quick as a whip, the Sslyth put himself between Khryus and the Vindicare’s shot, and was quickly obliterated as the turbo-penetrator round passed right through him to strike at Khyrus: a second later, the Dracon’s shadow field shorted out, and Khyrus doubled over as the Vindicare’s shot hit him in the stomach. (Note: the Vindicare managed to single Khyrus out and deal 7 or so wounds to him. Reading the rules as read, however, the Sslyth was able to intercept 2 of those wounds before dying himself. Did we play this right? Should both my Archon and Sslyth have taken wounds, or should it just haave been the Sslyth?)

Despite the Vindicare’s best efforts, however, Khyrus lived. Coughing up blood, the Dracon staggered to his feet, jeering a defiant curse at the distant Assassin…before he was mercilessly cut down by a volley of fire from the Captain’s boltstorm gauntlet. And with that, the ambitious had Dracon once again fallen in battle.

Elsewhere, the Eversor emptied an entire clip of his Exitus pistol into the Haemonculus, only to watch as the aberrant fiend shrugged off every impact with no lasting damage. Elsewhere, the diodes around the Culexus’ skull-helm crackled as it gathered in the unholy energies of the Warp, before unleashing them at the nearby Venom, slightly damaging the nimble skycraft.

Letting out an unearthly shriek, the Eversor lunged at Lazhareq, its neuro-gauntlet ripping a grievous wound into the flesh-artisan. Unperturbed, Lazhareq lashed out in return with his electocorrosive whip, scoring two ugly wounds into the frenzied killer.

Elsewhere, however, the Venerable Dreadnought tried, but failed, to charge in to the aid of his Redemptor brother, and could only give a vox-laden roar of rage as he saw the Redemptor at last fall to the wicked blade of the Talos, the corrupted wraith-blade tearing open the Dreadnought’s ceramite hull before it reached in with one sickle-handed blade and sliced apart the crippled Marine within. The Culexus, meanwhile, similarly tried and failed to charge the Venom that it had damaged: it could only hiss malevolently as, on the central bunker, the Primaris Ancient was bisected by Karath’s flashing blades. The Primaris Sergeant roared his defiance, crushing another Wych with his power fist before several precise blade strikes finally laid him low.

TURN 3


With the Redemptor having been dealt with, the Grotesques and one of the Talos moved off to go deal with the new-arrived Marine reinforcements, while the damaged Wraith-Talos limped off to the aid of its master. On the other flank, the two Venoms and their crews angled to bring their guns to bear on the two Assassins. Karath and her Wyches, meanwhile, held their ground, waiting to see if any brave Astartes would try to take the bunker from them.

Focusing their firepower, the Talos, Ravagers and Raider all fired into the Venerable Dreadnought, blanketing the Astartes walker with plasma and electromagnetic bursts. As the fusillade subsided, the Venerable Dreadnought was left heavily damaged, its hull blackened and electricity sparking from great rents in its armour, but it remained standing. (Translation: my massed firepower managed to drop it down to 2 wounds remaining) Elsewhere, the two Venoms and their crews fired into the Assassins: two poisoned wounds were dealt to the Vindicare, though the Culexus, thanks to its unnatural anti-psychic field, simply walked through the rain of splinters as the Kabalites found themselves unwilling to aim at the thing.

With the shrieks of agonized souls, the Grotesques charged the Venerable Dreadnought, though one Grotesque was vaporized by a point-blank shot from the Dreadnought’s twin lascannon as it charged. Meanwhile the Wracks hefted their bladed limbs and charged into one of the Astartes Librarians. Further on the right, the Wyches’ Raider swooped down on the Space Marine Captain, its crew looking to impale the fool on their craft’s bladevanes. Last but not least, the damaged Talos charged into the Eversor Assassin, looking to aid its embattled master.

In the ensuing melee, the damaged Venerable Dreadnought was brought down, laid low as the scalpel-blades of the Grotesques sliced off its limbs, leaving it as little more than an immobile box with a trapped Marine raging within. The Librarian, meanwhile, already dizzy from his contact with the Helm of Spite, was caught flat-footed by the assault of the Wracks, their own poisoned blades tore a rent through his power armour, while his force sword failed to do any lasting damage in return to the pain-insensate freaks.

Elsewhere, the Raider swooped down on the Captain, but the Astartes leader was ready, side-stepping the charge of the Drukhari vehicle and punching his boltstorm gauntlet through its fragile hull, dealing heavy damage to it and leaving it on 4 wounds.

Finally, the Wraith-Talos charged the Eversor, but the nimble Assassin managed to dodge both the lumbering swings of the construct’s sword and the Haemonculus’ hissing whip, though it failed to inflict any lasting damage on either of its opponents in return.

The situation had become dire for the Astartes, with their forces rapidly being overrun by the forces of the Drukhari. Yet more of their reinforcements soon arrived, with a Tactical Squad, a Primaris Apothecary and another Dreadnought striding onto the field from the left flank.

The unengaged Librarian edged up to bring his powers to bear against the Wyches, while the Culexus once again stalked after the Venom it had previously damaged. Everywhere else, however, the Astartes were embroiled in savage close combat.

Gathering the powers of the warp unto himself, the engaged Librarian Smote the Wracks, blasting three of the flesh-things to atoms with a gesture of his hand, before then turning his powers on his Captain, bolstering his transhuman might to incredible levels with the Might of Heroes.

Training their weapons on the distant Ravager, the Tactical Marines unleashed bolter and plasma fire into the skycraft, dealing a few wounds to it. Crucially, the Dreadnought levelled its multi-melta at the Aeldari skimmer, but the Ravager’s night shield managed to throw off the shot. Elsewhere, the Eversor fired his Exitus pistol at point blank range into the Haemonculus, but once again, the fiend simply did not notice the heavy impacts riddling its body. The Culexus once again fired at the Venom, but this time its Animus Speculum failed to damage the Drukhari craft. The Vindicare, meanwhile, fired at the Venom that had shot at it previously, and, crucally, missed the nimble skimmer.

In melee, the Captain once again lashed out with his boltstorm gauntlet, tearing chunks from the Raider’s hull and leaving it on only 1 wound. The Culexus, meanwhile, charged the Venom, taking no damage from overwatch as it reached up and tore off a chunk of the craft’s hull with its unnatural strength. The Eversor, meanwhile, found itself fighting the Haemonculus and Talos at the same time. Once again evading the heavy blade of the Talos, the Eversor nonetheless took 2 wounds from Lazhareq’s whip. Snarling, the Eversor swung back, tearing three deep wounds into the Haemonculus with its neuro-gauntlet.

Finally, the Librarian swung out with his force sword, but once again failed to find any weak points in the Wracks. As once Wrack forced the Marine’s blade down, the other drove its poisoned blade into the Librarian’s throat: the Astartes went still, before collapsing, twitching spasmodically as esoteric venoms overloaded even his flawless Astartes physiology.

TURN 4

At that moment, shadows suddenly coalesced on the left flank of the battlefield, as a pack of Mandrakes crawled into realspace opposite the Tactical Marines. Seeing the threat posed by the Marine reinforcements, the Venom that was being attacked by the Culexus flew away from the psychic abomination to bring its guns to bear on the newcomers, while the Ravagers angled to do the same.

The Wych Raider, meanwhile, finally pulled free from the Space Marine Captain, while the Grotesques and the unengaged Talos moved up to threaten the remaining Astartes heroes. Finally, the last Venom held its position, hovering upwards so that it could fire down on the Vindicare. Finally, Lazhareq, noting that he was actually bleeding his own blood, drifted away from the melee, content to let his creation finish off that meddlesome Eversor.

Once again, Drukhari firepower reaped a terrible toll on the Astartes, as the Ravagers and Kabalites focused their fire on the Dreadnought, gutting its armoured frame and sending it toppling over, ablaze. Splitting their fire, the Kabalites and their Venom pumped round after round of splinter fire into the Tactical Marines, while the Mandrakes extended their hands and unleashed chilling baleblasts into their prey. When the storm of fire subsided, seven Tactical Marines lay dead, either riddled with poisoned shards or frozen inside their armour by the supernatural cold of the Mandrakes.

The pain didn’t end there for the Space Marines, however. Once again, the other Venom, and its passengers, fired all guns at the Vindicare. The Assassin’s prodigous cover and sharp reflexes couldn’t save him from the rain of poisoned shards, and he toppled from his tower, venom coursing through his veins from a dozen wounds. The Assassin was dead long before his body landed with a crunch at the base of the tower.

With a screech, the Talos and Grotesques charged into both the Captain and the remaining Librarian. Scalpel-blades rose and descended, and the Librarian fell, butchered by the pain-constructs. The Captain, meanwhile, gritted his teeth as the Talos swiped a macro-scalpel down on his shoulder, sawing through armour and meat and dealing two grievous wounds. Invoking the name of his Primarch and the Emperor, the Captain fought back, crushing the head of one Grotesque and felling it, and fighting on even as the Drukhari pain engines surrounded him.

Bereft of his prey, the Eversor unleashed his considerable rage on the Talos, clawing and tearing into the thing. The Eversor’s neuro gauntlet managed to tear one chunk of wraithbone out of the Wraith-Talos, leaving it teetering on one wound remaining, before the corrupted Wraithlord shrieked and cleaved the Eversor in twain with its massive sword. The Eversor instantly exploded, drenching the surrounding area in bio-reactive fluids, dealing one wound to the nearby Ravager. By some strange quirk of fate, however, the Talos, despite the severity of its damage, remained standing despite being drenched in the acid.

As the battle became ever more desperate, yet more Astartes reinforcements arrived. Despite being waylaid by the ice storm earlier, the Hellblasters finally strode onto the battlefield just behind their Tactical Marine brethren. Although the battle increasingly looked to be lost, the Space Marines were nonetheless resolved to make the Drukhari suffer for their prize…although the Drukhari knew a great deal about suffering already.

As the Apothecary restored one of the Tactical Marines to his feet, the Hellblasters levelled their plasma incinerators on the distant Ravager, overcharged and fired. Although two Hellblasters immediately died to fatal overheats, the Ravager was instantly obliterated in a while-hot ball of plasma. Taking heart from the arrival of their Primaris brethren, the remaining Tactical Marines fired on the Wraith-Talos. Their plasma weapons struck true, punching through the pain-engine’s damaged wraithbone hide and sending it toppling to the ground, dead (at least, for now).

Continuing to hound the Drukhari, the Culexus Assassin once again unleashed its Animus Speculum at the Venom, but this time failed to do any damage to the Aeldari skimmer. Hissing, the Culexus leapt into another charge on the Aeldari: although it took a poisoned shard to the ribs as it charged, it nonetheless managed to leap up onto the cockpit, smashing through the armourglass shield and wrenching the soul from the surprised, and terrified, pilot. Losing control, the Venom went crashing into the ground, its Kabalite passengers forced to bail out.

Even with these successes, however it was already too late for the Captain, who was surrounded on all sides by Grotesques. He lashed out left and right with his weapons, and managed to deal a wound to a Grotesque before the slicing scalpels of the pain-engines carved deeply into his Gravis armour, carving through reinforced ceramite to puncture both of his hearts. At long last, the Captain fell, having fought to the bitter end.

At this point, the Astartes realized that the battle had been lost, and that their losses were too grievous to continue the fight. As one, they melted back into the swirling whiteness of the snow storm, vowing revenge for this day, and leaving the silo, and all of its valuable information, in the hands of the Drukhari.

RESULT: DRUKHARI VICTORY!

Thoughts: Right off the bat, things went right for me in this game. I was able to take the bunker fairly early on, and more importantly, was able to keep the Space Marine reinforcements from getting anywhere near it. I was able to maintain board control thanks to my manoeuvrability and firepower throughout the entire game, and the fact that my opponent’s army only came in piecemeal meant that he was really struggling to muster any kind of counter-offensive against my Drukhari.

That being said, this was also a scenario that really didn’t favour my opponent or his hist. With most of his stuff starting off the board, he had to rely on dice luck to bring his forces on, and unfortunately for him, when they did arrive they came in piecemeal. Had his Hellblasters come in earlier on in the game, then they most likely would have made a huge difference in the overall battle. As it was, my opponent ended up fighting against his own bad reserve rolls as much as he did against my army, and there were several moments where his dice rolls just hated him (the entire Eversor vs Haemonculus fight, for instance) To his credit, he took his bad luck in stride and kept playing, and was an overall great guy to play against.

It’s worth noting that my entire army did pretty much what it was supposed to. My Coven unitsMy strong firepower and nasty combat units were also able to reliably deal with the Space Marines’ strongest reinforcements as they came in. My Coven units, in particular, took a beating and just kept dishing the pain back– my Wraith-Talos was hanging on one wound for several turns, and simply would not die! On the one hand, I am really impressed with the resilience of my Coven stuff…but on the other hand, I’m now beginning to wonder if the Prophets of Flesh might be a little broken. On the other hand, I am becoming convinced that Khyrus is cursed now. Every single battle in this campaign, he has died horribly, even in the games that I have won.

With that game now out of the way, the noose is closing around the besieged Imperial forces in Saguntum. Next week, however, may see the Imperial forces launching a counter-attack…so who knows what my Drukhari will have to face then…

******

The conveyance platform rumbled as it slid down the subterranean shaft, the the thick ferroconcrete walls of the underground structure rolling past like the coils of some vast stony dragon. Red lume-strips fixed into the walls lit their descent, painting the entire shaft in a crimson hue like the bowels of some forgotten hell. The stygian bareness of the walls was disturbed every once in a while by numbers indicating a floor, or crude glyphs warning of hazardous materials, or paragraphs of Martian devotional scripts, etched into the surface like some prehistoric cave-marking.

This, of course, was well below where the silo housed its Deathstrike payload. The three Drukhari standing on the platform had no interest in such missiles, after all. They had passed through almost fifty floors below the surface entrance of Silo XXI, and were at least two miles below the surface now, and the conveyance shaft continued to descend, with no sign of stopping.

“Can’t this ugly thing go any faster?” Khyrus grumbled, fidgeting at the hole in his chestplate where an Astartes bolt-shell had blown open his ribcage. The wound still throbbed with pain, and the only thing that hurt more was the fact that the Astartes who had shot him had escaped his blade. He had only just healed from what was his third fatal injury in the campaign to date, and and he knew all too well that it was only thanks to Lazhareq that he lived again. Being in debt to a Haemonculus was never a good thing.

Nearby, the aforementioned Haemonculus stood suspended above the platform on his own spinal column, the long wraithbone-augmented chord extending tail-like from out of the skin between his shoulders to curl on the floor, allowing the creature’s withered limbs to hang a few feet above the steel surface without touching it. Lazhareq twisted his head around to face Khyrus, and the Dracon found himself meeting the faceless glare of the Haemonculus’ glass helm, trying not to be mesmerized by the strange indigo clouds roiling ominously under the Haemonculus’ visor. No discernible face could be seen beyond that unfathomable mist, and none in the Kabal knew if the Haemonculus even had one.

“Patienczze, Dracon Khryusz,” came the buzzing drone of Lazhareq’s reply, the audio emitters of his helm speaking in place of a flesh-and-blood throat. This close, Lazhareq towered over Khyrus, and its masked head dipped low to become level with the Dracon’s. “Our prizzze is close. We must szimply be patient.”

“Your prize, you mean,” Karath sighed, absent-mindedly, scraping one of her blades on a whetstone as she stood in the corner. “My Cult and I got what we came here for– worthy foes to wet our blades upon. Anything else is trivial.” She twirled the knife in her hand before sheathing it in a fluid motion. “Besides, how do you know the information you dredged from those machine-men is accurate?”

Lazhareq turned his faceless gaze to her, his multiple limbs absent-mindedly stroking a small round object wrapped in red cloth. Closer inspection would have revealed the object to be a head, seemingly crafted from steel and chrome, and if ithadn’t been for the oily bloodstrains on the cloth that held it, one would have thought it a robotic skull rather than that of a Skitarii. A faint electronic whisper could be heard emanating from the head in a series of beeps and buzzes. The thought occurred to Khyrus that the head might still be alive, and might very well be screaming in machine-speech.

“My methodszz are precise, Karath Deathszzong,” Lazhareq droned in reply. “Although I would dearly have wished to accommodate the preything known as Cawl, I have extracted what I require from hiszz many underlingzz. Observe.”

As if on cue, the conveyance platform rumbled to a stop, coming to a rest before a vast iron door embossed with the symbol of a glowering skull set against a great red cog wheel. Khyrus recognized it as the symbol of the mon-keigh tech-adepts, and as he watched, Lazhareq glided forwards, his spinal column slithering across the steel floor with an unpleasant scraping sound as it propelled him forwards. The withered Haemonculus raised the head of the Skitarii and held it before the great cog-skull, as though in offering. Instantly, the eyeless sockets of the Mechanicus symbol lit up with an dim red light, and a pair of laser lights immediately shone out of those eyes to focus on the ocular implants of the Skitarii.

And then, with a low rumble that sent motes of dust tumbling from the ceiling, the great cog began to slide open.

Mist came seeping through from the cold chamber beyond, centuries worth of trapped water particles instantly turning to vapour upon contact with the stale air. Khyrus’ hands drifted to his weapons, his well-trained sense of paranoia expecting security systems to go off, weapons systems to activate and cyborg-sentinels to power up on the other side of the door. As the door finally slid open, however, nothing happened. Whatever security systems the Mechanicus had in place did not trigger, and and instead all that greeted them was the tomb-like silence of the chamber beyond.

Khyrus’ finely tuned night vision adjusted to the gloom almost immediately. The chamber was vast, easily the size of a ship’s shuttle bay, and, aside from the tattered, faded banners and devotional scripts hanging from the walls, was devoid of illumination or decoration. The chamber itself was, for all intents and purposes, an empty rectangle…save, that was, for the pedestal at the far edge of the room.

Without waiting any further, Lazhareq slithered across the room towards the pedestal, followed closely by Khyrus and Karath, the latter of whom still had her blades drawn as she looked about uneasily. As they approached the pedestal, Khyrus could see that it held up a strange device: a gilded crown of ebony and bone, with an interconnected web of cables crisscrossing the middle of the ring and dangling loosely from the edges. Attached to this crown was an elongated appendage that looked for all the world like a steel centipede– a long thin column of polished silver with numerous spike-like ribs jutting out from its sides, reminding Khyrus all too well of the spinal column that snaked from Lazhareq’s back.

As Khyrus watched, Lazhareq picked the device up from its pedestal and began to inspect it, like a jeweller gazing upon a prize diamond. The rope-liked steel cable hissed as it dragged against the floor slightly. Faceless as he was, Lazhareq was impossible to read as he examined the device

“What is it?” Khyrus finally asked, fed up with mysteries.

“A relic,” the Haemonculus answered. “A deviczze created by the mon-keigh countless millennia ago, in a time when their civilizzation was at its peak…long before war, witchcraft and barbarism reduzzed them to the ignorant savages they are now. They have since loszzt the artificzze needed to recreate or even understand thiszz machine.” Lazhareq curled one hand– which had been bionically replaced with a scissor-like series of scalpel blades– around the machine in an almost tender manner. “The one known as Cawl szzought to understand it, in the vain hope that he could use it to repair the throne of his rotting Emperor.”

Khyrus did not question how Lazhareq knew this– he was coming to accept that the Haemonculus had his own means of finding things out, and that he was better off not knowing about them.”And so, by taking this device from them, we will be grievously wounding the mon-keigh’s little Imperium?” He smiled, relishing the thought.

“Yeszz,” Lazhareq replied without looking back at Khyrus, “but that is not why we are here.” Slowly, he began to drift away from the pedestal back towards the elevator. “Your lord Szzcyrex Deledras requires it, and, as part of the pact between uszz, I have agreed to retrieve it for him. And now that we have obtained it, we have no further purposzz here on Hod’s Anvil. If you would be so kind, Dracon, we muszzt make preparations to depart– this device is essential for a project of mine.

“What sort of project?” Karath asked.

“One that may reszztore your Lord to hiszz former sztature,” Lazhareq droned. “One that may very well shift the balance of power in the Dark Czzity.”

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