c. Jake Murray
Ah, thought Nassicros of the Gilded Talon as he soared above the snow-smothered treeline, it felt good to be on the hunt again.
He and his brethren glided over the forest canopy, angry blue flame searing outwards from the snarling daemonic maws of their jet backs as they skirted the edge of the treeline. Though their weapons had been sheathed, their violet armor was spattered with blood from their most recent skirmish. Reflecting the albino canopy below them, the inhuman ichor seemed to shimmer a bright blue, almost topaz in colour that was stirring to the senses. Nassicros had to admit, it was pleasing to the eye, though little else about this wretched mud-hut of a planet could be said to be beautiful.
Eventually, they spotted the blunt gray stonework of the ruined temple jutting out of the treeline like the carrion-stripped spines of some prehistoric monster. Angling their flight, Nassicros and his brothers descended downwards towards the barren clearing that made up the courtyard of the temple. He heard the Kakophoni before he saw them, the grossly modified warriors gathered at the top altar of the temple, forming a circle as they enacted some ritual-or-other to the Dark Prince. They were all humming in unison, keeping their voices lowered enough that they wouldn’t inavdertently obliterate the temple; all the same, the bass rumble coming from their augmented throats made Nassicros’ armour rattle and his teeth itch, and he felt blood trickling from his nostrils and ears. The Noise Marines paid him and his brothers no heed as they descended, which suited him fine.
Ahead of them, though, turning to watch their descent, was a being whose opinion mattered to Nassicros greatly, standing and seemingly basking in the acoustics provided by the Kakophoni as it seemed to stir the air with its arms like a conductor. Twice as tall and again as Nassicros or his brother Marines, the being’s form was a vast trunk of armour and flesh amalgamated into blessed union. Its arms ended in long, sword-like digits that reached down almost almost to the earth, and a pair of angelic pinions stretched outwards on either side of its shoulders. Its right shoulder seemed to be made purely from the mewling, twisting form of a lesser daemon, bound forever to its wearer in both pleasure and pain. As the being turned to face him, Nassicros caught site of its face– an impossibly beautiful, almost human-looking face that could only have belonged to something that had ascended beyond mortality.
Nassicros landed in a crouched kneel before this being, the movement slamming down the thing that had been impaled in his rightmost digitigrade talons– a twisted, bestial corpse, its shredded body soaked in indigo ichor. What was visible of its body showed a muscular torso covered in iridescent blue feathers and a crude tunic, a slack beaked jaw, and yellow eyes that now stared up sightlessly at the uncaring sky. The sickly smell of its torn innards was pungent, and Nassicros shivered in delightful revulsion at the scent.
Of course, it was hardly the first of such creatures they had found: dozens of the avian beastmen were now strung up on barbed hooks all across the ruined temple, riven through with six-blessed iron spikes. Even now, they croaked and squawked piteously, forever in torment but unable to die, their agony causing the atmosphere around the temple to haze and shimmer as reality began to reshape itself.
“Another successful cull, lord,” Nassicros said, his voice hissing out of his helmet’s vox-emitter. ‘That’s one village less of the feathered vermin to worry about.”
Excurias, war-leader of the Emperor’s Children and favoured of the Dark Prince, smiled at this– an impossibly wide, ghastly smile that slithered up the sides of his face to meet the corner of his eyes, exposing rows of mirror-bright teeth and momentarily shattering the eternal beauty of his features. “Good,” he purred in a voice like a pair of scissors through silk. “We have spread a succulent pallor of terror across this world, one that has ripened to grant us such sweet scents.” He leaned back and sniffed the air in emphasis. “Tell me, Nassicros, did you capture any alive?”
The Raptor Champion slumped his shoulders. “Alas, we did not,” he said. He gestured to the row of moaning mutant captives. “I would have loved nothing more than to add to this wondrous symphony, my lord, but the abhuman scum put up too fierce a fight, and we were forced to butcher rather than capture.”
Excurias gave a dismissive wave of his taloned claw. “It is of no matter. The terror and pain we have spread is pleasing all the same to the Dark Prince. The skein of this world has been stretched taught by the wondrous song we have orchestrated. Soon, we will tear the skin of this world asunder and knit something new from that immaterial flesh. The axis of this world will tilt, alignments will shift, to allow the shadow of Blessed Slaanesh to fall across this plane.”
Nassicros felt a thrill rush up his gen-hanced spine at the mention of the Third Legion’s patron deity. He was about to give praise to the Dark Prince, and give praise in turn to Excurias for his brilliant plan…when his enhanced ears picked up something in the distance. A sound of bestial footfalls crunching across snow. The sound of shrieking, avian voices, and the throaty blare of war-horns.
He turned, and saw shapes filtering out of the distant treeline. There were hundreds of them– the same avian-headed breed of mutant they had been harrying all of these long weeks, crude woad daubed on their feathered hides. This wasn’t the usual band of scavengers that Nassicros had been fighting since they got here, however– this was an army, marching as one, united in purpose and hatred. Most wore simple chainmail, and carried hook-bladed axes and swords that seemed to shimmer with pale unlight. Nassicros spotted some hovering in the air on spinning, bladed discs, wielding longbows that glowed with naked sorcery. Misshapen, mewling things could be spotted lumbering among the mutants’ ranks, their anatomies owing nothing to sense or reason, while towering above them lumbered a greater beast, flattening the ground with cloven hooves as it roared, several great tentacles spreading out from around its great maw.
Nassicros watched in distaste as a mutant at the head of this rabble– a leader of some sort– shrieked something at them in its sharp, cawing language. He spat. “Beasts should know when they’re conquered,” he said.
Excurias did not reply: the Daemon Prince’s gaze was fixed on the distant treeline. Nassicros soon saw why: another figure soon came wading out of the woods. This one towered twice as tall as the Beastmen around it, its powerfully muscled form covered in feathers that seemed to ripple a fascinating myriad of colours, transculescent symbols fading in and out of existence across its ever-changing hide. A pair of great wings spread out from either side of its shoulders, indigo pinions that rivalled those of Excurias. In its hand, it held a blade that seemed to writhe and twist like a live thing, pale, iridescent light illuminating its writhing form.
“Ah,” said Excurias, “I was wondering when the master of this world would grace us with his presence.”
The other Daemon Prince tilted its head back, and its beak opened to let out an ear-splitting screech that reverberated across the woodland. Its mutant follows joined in the screech, and then the ground shook to the rumble of a hundred taloned feet as the Beastman horde surged onward in a charge….
So, a while back, my friend Andy was trying to get back into 40k after a brief hiatus, and was trying to learn the minutiae of both 9th edition and Tabletop Simulator. Obligingly, I set aside the time to have a practice game with him, so that he could both learn how to use TTS and also learn some of the new features of 9th edition.
As this was meant to be a fun learning game, I decided to use my fledgling Thousand Sons for a change (heheh, change). Of course, Thousand Sons are in a state right now where they desperately need updated profiles, given that all of their loyalist opponents have extra wounds, and their book isn’t nearly as powerful as it used to be back in 8th edition. With this in mind, and also considering the fact that in TTS I can use models I don’t technically have in my collection, I put together the following list:
CULT OF MUTATION PATROL:
Daemon Prince- wings, Hellforged sword, Helm of the Third Eye, Gaze of Fate, Warptime, Undying Form
20 Tzaangor- Tzaangor blades, Brayhorn
20 Tzaangor- Tzaangor blades, Brayhorn
10 Chaos Cultists- autoguns, heavy stubber
Tzaangor Shaman- Dark Matter Crystal, Weaver of Fates
3 Chaos Spawn
3 Tzaangor Enlightened- Fatecaster greatbows
Mutalith Vortex Beast
Total: 989 points
Pre-Game Stratagems: Relics of the Thousand Sons
Any Thousand Sons purists reading this are no doubt quivering in rage at the lack of Rubricae, Sorcerors, or indeed anything remotely of the Thousand Sons. For this list, I went with the theme of a Tzaangor tribe, no doubt fighting to repel whoever had been foolish enough to invade their daemon world. As such, I went with as many Tzaangor and Tzaangor-themed units as possible, including some of the mutated beasties in the list like Chaos Spawn and a Mutalith Vortex Beast (and also some Cultists to hold backfield objectives if need be). Keeping with the theme, I had the force being led by a Daemon Prince instead of a Sorceror or two, again, as I wanted to keep the list Chaos-y without actually including any Chaos Space Marines.
For my Cult, I went with the Cult of Mutation for thematic purposes, even though (1) its relic can’t be used by a Prince, (2) its warlord trait is useless, and (3) its signature spell is extremely situational. Again, as this was a learning game, I wasn’t overly concerned about winning or losing, and besides which, Mutation felt fitting for a horde of mutants. Going into the game, my plan was simple: get as many of my angry birdmen into combat as soon as possible while buffing them with spells. Really, that was it.
Andy, meanwhile, brought the following:
EMPEROR’S CHILDREN PATROL:
Daemon Prince- Mark of Slaanesh, wings, pair of malefic talons, warp bolter, The Endless Grin, Prescience, Glutton For Punishment
10 Chaos Space Marines- Mark of Slaanesh, 2 flamers, Champion w. power sword
6 Noise Marines- sonic blasters, blastmaster, Champion w. power sword
10 Raptors- Mark of Slaanesh, 2 plasma pistols, Champion w. plasma pistol & power fist
2 Chaos Spawn- Mark of Slaanesh
Defiler- Mark of Slaanesh, Defiler scourge, twin lascannon
This, too, was an experimental list, based heavily on the models he planned to use for his fledgling Emperor’s Children force for 30k. Being fairly new to Chaos myself, I had few comments on it, though that Defiler was a particularly scary prospect, one that I felt I would be hard-pressed to deal with.
SCENARIO AND DEPLOYMENT
For the scenario, we decided to keep things simple and play the Annihilation scenario from the main rulebook. Our deployment was as follows.
Without even waiting for the command from their Daemon Prince, the Emperor’s Children surged forwards. On the left flank, the Rhino gunned its engines, the Slaanesh-worshipping warriors inside thrilling at the speed of their advance, and alongside clanked the Defiler, its great metallic pincers opening and closing as though eager to rend mortal flesh. In the centre, the Raptors fired their jetpacks and flew into the dense canopy of the woods, eager for their chainswords to bite into mutant flesh, while behind them soared the Daemon Prince, followed closely by its two pet Chaos Spawn. Only the Noise Marines did not move, content to deliver the blessings of Slaanesh upon the mutants from their clear vantage point.
Drawing the upon the power of the Empyrean, the Daemon Prince granted Prescience to the Noise Marines, allowing them the clarity of vision to see how best to devastate the enemy. Roaring praise to Slaanesh, the Kakophoni unleashed their sonic weaponry upon the leftmost herd of Tzaangor. Blistering waves of sonic power rippled across the landscape, atomizing all trees and fauna in their wake and leaving spiralling particles of snow rising in the air……and above all, causing six of the Tzaangor to implode in puffs of blood and feathers, and another three of the mutants to either stumble numbly from the battlefield or to simply collapse, blood seeping from their ruptured eardrums.
The Defiler, meanwhile, sensed a potential threat in the tentacled horror that was the Mutalith, and turned its guns upon the beast. Such was the daemon-engine’s rush, though, that the searing beams of its lascannons merely singed across the flank of the beast, scoring a deep burn but otherwise only causing minor wounds. A thunderous boom followed as the Defiler’s battle cannon roared to life: there was a tremendous blast of smoke that obscured the Mutalith, but when it cleared, the twisted war-beast lumbered on, having been shielded from the blast by the coruscating warp-energies that swirled around its form.
Enraged at the temerity of these invaders, the Daemon Prince of Tzeentch let out an ear-splitting shriek, a sound echoed by a horde of beaked avian mouths as the Tzaangor horde surged forwards. Both herds of Tzaangor went moving as quickly towards the oncoming Chaos Space Marines as they were able, while behind them the Tzaangor Shaman and Enlightened floated close by on their shimmering Discs, content to stay out of range of the enemy guns. Further on the right, the Mutalith lumbered towards the Defiler that had so injured it, roaring its defiance even as its accursed flesh began to knit back together, while next to it the Spawn shambled, slithered and skittered forwards, impelled onwards by the implacable will of the Daemon Prince.
The air seemed to crackle with barely contained power as the Tzeentchian horde drew upon fell sorcery of their own. Weaving unknowable symbols into the air, the Daemon Prince cast the Gaze of Fate and became attuned to the myriad, twisting strands of destiny, before granting the rightmost Tzaangor herd the blessing of Warptime. The rival Daemon’s efforts thwart this spell were dashed aside, and, with a great howl, the Tzaangor surged on faster, their forms seeming to flicker as they moved out of lockstep with time. The Tzaangor Shaman, cawing praise to the Changer of Ways, further blessed the Tzaangor by casting Weaver of Fates, strengthening their destines and imbuing them with a measure of arcane protection.
The sorcerous power did not end there, however, as the roiling psychic energy surrounding the Mutalith suddenly burst outward, exploding into a myriad of unpredictable effects. The rightmost Tzaangor herd, already blessed by their leaders, felt their limbs swell with unholy strength as they were filled with a Chaotic Infusion, while sizziling arcs of power lashed outwards in a dizzying Warp Flare, though the ephemeral power was out of range of the Defiler or the lumbering Rhino. Seeing the Defiler as the biggest threat, the Tzaangor Enligthened drew glimmering arrows to their Fatecaster greatbows and fired, dealing two deep wounds to the machine-beast that caused it to roar in mechanical rage. Finally, the Cultists– lowly humans who had not yet been blessed with mutation– huddle at the windows of their temple and fired their autoguns at the oncoming Rhino, their hail of bullets pinging harmlessly from its armour.
And then, driven onwards by the blasts of brayhorns, both herds of Tzaangor charged into the waiting Raptors, with the rightmost herd also crashing into the flank of the Rhino. In response, the Daemon Prince of Slaanesh laughed and plunged into the melee, intervening to aid his Raptors.
Meanwhile, the Mutalith stomped forwards and crashed into the Defiler, the ground rumbling as the two behemoths collided, while the mindless Spawn mewled and howled as they slammed against the Defiler as well.
Howls and the sound of enchanted steel meeting ceramite flooded the air as the melee raged. Six Raptors swiftly fell, hacked down by the enchanted blades and brute strength of the Tzaangor, while three great gouges were also hacked deep into the hull of the Rhino. Even the Daemon Prince was wounded as he took an axe-blow to his thigh; laughing in exhilaration, he waded through the leftmost herd of Tzaangor, his claws scything left and right as he reaped four of the mutants down, and the remaining Raptors hacked down three more, causing a further to lose its nerve and flee. Knowing that the Cycle of Slaughter was now upon them, the rightmost Tzaangor attacked with increased fury, the enraged birdmen hacking down the last four Raptors and tearing another three breaches into the Rhino in an orgy of bloodshed.
Further to the right, the Defiler counter-attacked with blinding speed, the Daemonforged runes on its hull burning brightly as it was driven to fight with greater fury and accuracy. Its great piston-driven claws tore into the Mutalith, ripping great chunks of betentacled flesh free with great sprays of brackish ichor. Wounded almost unto death, the weakened Mutalith was only able to flail its remaining limbs uselessly against the Defiler. The Spawn, however, were at that moment blessed with a Fated Mutation, morphing Grasping Pseudopods with which they tore off armoured plates around the Defiler’s legs, dealing four severe rents to the daemon engine.
Eager to demonstrate their superiority to this mutant rabble, the Chaos Space Marines disembarked from their Rhino, which tried but failed to disengage from the Tzaangor swarming them. (Andy could not find much space to maneuver).
Elsewhere, the Noise Marines remained where they were perched atop the ruin, content to let the rest of the warband get stuck into bloody melee while they continued to play the song of Slaanesh. Once again, the Daemon Prince attempted to grant the Kakophoni the gift of Prescience, but this time its efforts were thwarted by its rival Prince. Seeing the enemy Daemon Prince perched atop the treeline, the Kakophoni turned their sonic weapons upon the Tzeentchian Daemon. Terrible sound-waves annihilated much of the canopy, the slicing pressure of the sonic weapons tearing a wound into the Daemon Prince’s flesh, but accomplishing little more as its shifting form resisted the terrible, ear-shredding power of the sonic weapons. The Defiler, meanwhile, after regenerating some of its damage, tried to finish off the Mutalith with a point-blank blast from its lascannons, but, entangled as it was with both the Mutalith and the Spawn, its aim went wide.
With a great, agonized wail, the Emperor’s Children’s own spawn slammed into the remnants of the leftmost Tzaangor herd. Between them and the Daemon Prince, the few remaining Tzaangor were quickly torn to bloody scraps, leaving the Slaanesh Prince bellowing in triumph.
The Chaos Space Marines, meanwhile, crashed into the other herd of Tzaangor, chainswords revving. Though these Tzaangor had been blessed with numerous spells, the Traitor Marines were Veterans of the Long War, and were far more skilled in the art of murder. Ten Tzaangor were quickly mown down by the Traitor Marines’ assault; the remaining Tzaangor fought hard, and managed to hack down five of the Traitor Marines in return, the ground around them quickly becoming slick with spilt blood.
Finally, the Defiler grasped the Mutalith with both of its claws, and, with a wet, crackling pop, tore the wounded monster in half. The daemon-engine’s metallic roar of triumph, however, was short-lived, as the Spawn mutated toxins on their limbs that seeped through the Defiler’s armour plates, weaking them. Shrieking mindlessly, the Spawn tore off hull sheeting and mechanical limbs alike, before piercing the Defiler’s ammo stores. The Defiler was annihilated in a great fireball that spread outwards, dealing two grievous wounds to the Spawn, further damaging the Rhino, and killing another two Tzaangor and one more Traitor Marine.
At this, the morale of the Tzaangor broke, and another four either turned and fled, or were else butchered further by the Traitor Marines.
Seeing its rival Daemon Prince within striking distance, the Tzeentch Daemon Prince flew forwards to battle this interloper personally.
Nearby, the Tzaangor Enlightened and their attendant Shaman flew around to aid their Prince with bow and with spell.
Further on the right flank, the Tzeentchian Spawn, still hungry for flesh after destroying the Defiler, loped towards the Traitor Marines battling the remnants of the Tzaangor.
Flexing its talons, the Daemon Prince attempted to Smite its rival Prince, but found the spell blocked by the Slaanesh Prince’s own arcane talents. The Tzeentch Prince then attempted to invoke the Gaze of Fate to guide its path, but the Changer of Ways, as ever, is a fickle god, and the spell fizzled and failed on the aetheric winds. Attempting to support his Prince the Tzaangor Shaman gathered arcane energies to himself and managed to Smite the enemy Spawn, but lost control of the spell at a crucial, fatal moment: only a quick downing of a Sorcerous Elixir prevented the Shaman from being grievously wounded by the miscast.
Trusting in fate to guide their shots, the Tzaangor Enlightened fired their greatbows at the enemy Spawn, and managed to inflict two wounds on one of the beasts. Elsewhere, the Cultists, finding the enemy out of range of their meagre guns, instead huddled on the ramparts of their temple complex and prayed that the enemy didn’t turn their attentions their way.
With a terrible gibbering, the Tzeentchian Spawn slammed into the Traitor Marines and their attendant Rhino. The Emperor’s Children struck with speed and finesse, driving their chainswords into the wounded Spawn and splitting it open, killing it. In response, however, the Spawn again morphed toxins on their appendages and lashed out, ripping open ceramite and flooding the Astartes’ bodies with paralytics. Within seconds, the remaining Traitor Marines had been ripped apart by the crazed Spawn, leaving the few surviving Tzaangor thanking the Changer for this deliverance.
All of these other battles, however, paled in comparison to the airborne duel that erupted between the two rival Daemon-Lords. The Slaaneshi Prince struck with blinding speed, darting left and right as its its talons slashed three deep furrows into his foe’s warp-spawned flesh. Shrieking in pain and rage, the Tzeentchian Prince evaded a fourth strike and swung his hellforged sword in a dizzying arc, slicing four biting wounds into the rival Prince in reply. Both Daemon Princes landed on the earth with a crash that threw up blankets of snow, eying one another warily now that they had traded wounds.
With the moment now becoming more and more precarious, the Rhino engaged its engines and fled from the Spawn, both to avoid being torn apart by them and also to threaten the Cultists hunkering in the ancient building across the field.
Even as he battled his Tzeentchian rival, the Prince of the Emperor’s Children still had some tricks up his sleeve. Awakening the Chaos Familiar attached to his shoulder, the Prince commanded her to grant him the knowledge of the Death Hex, before gathering the power needed to afflict this terrible curse upon his foe. Alas, the Daemonette affixed in punishment to his shoulder was a spiteful creature, and the words she imparted to her master were laced with a few choice lies. Terrible pain wracked the Daemon Prince as the spell backfired, wounding him, and the Daemonette’s mocking laughter faded in the air as the discorporated back into the Empyrean.
The Noise Marines, however, were oblivious to all of this as they continue to play the song of Slaanesh. Turning their sonic weapons upon the Tzaangor Enlightened and the Shaman, they unleashed an Endless Cacophany so that these mutants might know double the pain. All three of the Enlightened were ripped apart in the ensuing sonic storm, and the Shaman was left coughing blood from two grievous internal wounds, though the Shaman refused to fall or fail the Changer.
And then, with shrieks of what sounded almost like glee, the Slaaneshi Spawn came bounding in to aid their master, also charging the few remaining Tzaangor as well.
Morphing razor-tipped claws, the Spawn tore apart two of the Tzaangor, leaving only one of the bird-men alive to hack back ineffectually with his blades, and also tore a deep wound into the Tzeentchian Prince’s flank. Shrieking in triumph, the Slaaneshi Prince unleashed a hurricane of slashes, carving two more deep wounds into his rival’s hide. Too late, however, he realized that his cunning rival had allowed him to get close: catching one of the Slaaneshi Prince’s arms by the wrist, the Tzeentch Prince slashed his blade upwards, severing his rival’s arm at the wrist. As the Slaaneshi Prince shrieked in agony, the Tzeentch Prince drove his hellforged sword straight into the Slaanesh Prince’s heart. There was a terrible, glassy shatter as glowing cracks formed across the Slaaneshi Prince’s hide, and with a terrible scream the Daemon exploded into a thousand shards of light, scattering back into the Empyrean.
With the death of his Daemon Prince, Andy decided to call it there, and I agreed. Looking back, though, the battle still could have been turned around– the Noise Marines were still an active threat, and, assuming I didn’t send my own Spawn to murderize them, his Spawn could have potentially taken down my Daemon Prince if they rolled well enough. Either way, the game had been called, and it ended with a hard-fought Tzeentchian victory.
THOUSAND SONS ANGRY BIRDS VICTORY!
Thoughts: Well that was an entertaining game! The small board size and the nature of our armies meant that, on turn 1, things were already getting torn to shreds in melee. Given how much slaughter was going on back and forth across this game, I’m surprised that I actually had one Tzaangor still alive at the end, despite being caught between an enemy Daemon Prince and unit of Chaos Spawn.
Looking back on the game, I think what won me the game was getting that crucial charge on turn 1 with both of my Tzaangor herds (managing to cast Warptime on one of them certainly helped!). Getting my Daemon Prince into a fight with Andy’s I think swung things for me as well: although the Slaaneshi Prince had more attacks and was swinging first, my Tzeentch boy had an inherently better invulnerable save and was doing 2 damage a turn to his opponent’s one thanks to his hellforged sword…although really, I think it was just the dice more than anything else that helped him win that fight.
Some other thoughts on this battle:
- Chaos Spawn are MEAN! My humble unit of three managed, with some luck, to actually kill Andy’s Defiler, and then went on to each a squad of Chaos Space Marines. I am quite surprised at how good their damage output is for such a cheap unit, especially when you consider that they have Hateful Assault…for…some reason.
- This battle illustrated, in more ways than one, that Chaos Space Marines desperately need that extra wound upgrade that the loyalists have: if they had been 2 wounds each, then I think the Raptors would have survived that initial assault, and both they and the Chaos Space Marines would have lasted a lot longer.
- As this was only a learning game, Andy was still getting a handle of how the army worked. I’m dead certain that next time, after he figures out more of their abilities, relics, etc, I may have a tougher time of it. In particular, looking back at the options available to Emperor’s Childen (especially thanks to those fine gentlemen at Goonhammer), I realize there are several mean stratagems they have in melee that they could have used against me, including using Combat Drugs to boost the stats of one of his squads.
Overall, though, it was a fun game that, hopefully served as a good introduction to both 9th edition and to Tabletop Simulator, and hopefully there will be more to come as this lockdown continues (though I’m hoping it doesn’t last for too much longer).
T’zhakha sank to his knees, his body finally succumbing to exhaustion after running on non-stop adrenaline for the past hour. His blades clattered to the now gore-slicked snow as they fell from his fingers, his muscles numb after having hacked and swung with those blades without pause for all that time. He was breathing in great lungfuls of air, tinnitus still ringing in his ear canals. After the riotous cacophony that had flooded the battlefield only moments before, the sudden quiet was unsettling, making his body tense as his fight-or-flight reflexes acted up.
Around him, the great forest was littered with the dead. Many of them belong to the star-giants who had invaded their realm, their garguntuan forms toppled like stone monoliths, their their lurid, pastel-shaded armour cracked open as rich blood seeped out from the ruined flesh beeath. All of the invaders who had come into this forest had been slain this day, cut down for their transgression against the Changer…but the fiends had not died easily. Far outnumbering the slain invaders were the bodies of T’zhakha’s kin. The entire tribe had gathered their might for this battle…and in a single day of bloodshed, the entire tribe had died.
All of them, T’zhakha knew, except for him. In the swirl of the melee, he had dodged snarling chainswords, evaded the spined arms of the Dark Prince’s Spawn, and even came within an hair’s breadth of the scything claws of the infidel Daemon that had led the enemy host. Past the roiling emotions of shock, anger, and sorrow that threatened to overwhelm him, T’zhakha began to slowly realized that the Changer of Ways had marked him. The Changer had spared his life– no doubt his god had other plans in store for him.
The flutter of great wings, however, brought T’zhakha back to reality, and he remembered that he was not the only survivor of this battle. Looked up: ahead of him, his exalted lord, the great Daemon Prince Qarzaz Void-Gaze, set down to the ground like some majestic, iridescent eagle, and surveyed the carnage around him. The black, glittering coals of his eyes seemed to take the carnage in, and T’zhakha could swear he saw a glimmer of satisfaction in those warp-born pits.
And then those eyes settled on him, T’zhakha felt his gaze pulled into the unfathomable blackness of those eyes, his spine turning to jelly as he sank to his knees. For that moment, his entire world focused into that single, all-penetrating, all-consuming gaze.
“You live,” Qarzaz spoke. The daemon’s voice was the nerve-shredding scrape of talons on metal. “The Changer has a purpose in mind for you.” It was not a question, or even something spoken out of astonishment. The Daemon spoke it as though it were a plain, simple fact.
Little by little, T’zhakha willed his muscles to move in a dumb nod. “We…won…” he managed, his voice barely a whisper. “The star giants…we killed them, lord. We won.”
Qarzaz tilted its head to the side, as though considering something as it stared down at T’zakha. “The interlopers sought to shift the alignment of this plane,” it said, “to bring it out of the gaze of the Changer and into the realm of the Youngest God. For this, they died. But to undo what they have done, the axis must be tilted once again. The alignment must be brought back into focus. This must be done with with blood, with life. With sacrifice.”
T’zhakha nodded again, this time more eagerly. “S-sacrifice?” He shakily gestured out wide with his arms. “Yes! Sacrifice! My entire tribe gave their lives this day, Exalted One! Our blood mingles now among the sacred stones, our flesh shall soon decay and give way to new, changing life! Surely, this must please the Architect of Fate!”
For the briefest of moments, there was silence, as the Daemon Prince seemed to consider his words. “Yes,” he finally said. “Your tribe sacrificed themselves today. All of them. All…but one.”
T’zhakha felt ice in his spine as the full import of Qarzaz’s words became clear. Before he could even rise, however, the the form of the Daemon Prince seemed to blur, a vague impression of movement. And then, suddenly, incredible pain flooded T’zhakha’s chest, instant, searing agony that overwhelmed and paralyzed him as his body sudden slowed and ceased to function. Blood pooling fromt he corners of his beak, he looked down, and saw the glowing, writhing blade of Qarzaz’s daemon-sword embedded in his chest.
“As I said,” spoke Qarzaz as T’zhakha’s vision began to go dark, “the Changer has a special purpose for you.”