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Melchoir looked through his magnoculars. He could see the golden light of the setting sun casting itself on the tall remnants of a large building off to his left.
That's where it was. He didn't know what it was he was looking for, or where it was, but he could just... feel it. It was there.
He had begged, pleaded and nearly had the impudence to demand a night attack. Their force was small against a larger one, and the nature of the mission made it perfect for an in-and-out action under cover of darkness. Inquisitor Druxus had steadfastly refused. He seemed to think that the window of opportunity was incredibly narrow, and they needed to attack as quickly as possible.
If he couldn't attack silently in the middle of the night, he was able to cobble together a next best plan. He would attack at speed, from the west, just as the sun was setting. A dynamic burst of energy against a blinded enemy.
But the sun was getting low, and the light was fading fast. He only had one chance to get this right.
"Go," he seemed to say to himself, "Go now!"
Melchoir tapped his micro-bead.
"This is Melchoir. Confirmed target, ruined building at 9. About a mile off. Prepare to attack."
The motor pool turned to the left and lined up into formation. The target was distinctly visible. They had some ruins and a few streets to cross, but much of this part of the city had been leveled. Hopefully it would all be simple. It would all be smooth.
The officer looked around from his commanding position out of the top hatch of his transport. He took in a deep breath and held it for a moment.
"Charge!" Melchoir shouted over the vox.
With a ripping peal of engine sounds, the chimeras and fire tanks roared to life. The tanks revved up in frantic anger before suddenly breaking out.
The line of armor began its charge through the ruined city careening through the yellow light around them. Melchoir, now somewhat used to this, held on for dear life with his power fist as his chimera crashed into a pile of rubble, bucking the vehicle up into the air in a spray of gravel and concrete. He braced himself as the tank caught air time and then crashed back down hard onto its suspension without breaking speed.
As the gap began to close with impossible speed, the commanders of the fire tanks began their war cry. A long, loud whooping wail blasted out of their speakers as they frenetically blitzed their objective.
All around him, the other vehicles raced forward, accelerating past dangerous velocity. The ground was uneven and filled with half-wrecked buildings. some swerved violently back and forth to avoid obstacles, while others were content to simply charge through them. It was as crazy, violent, and outright berzerk as a cattle stampede.
The chimera to his left swerved hard to avoid a large block of concrete. Steel crunched on steel as the transport sideswiped Melchoir's vehicle. The officer lurched to the side as metal ground on metal.
"Get off!" Melchoir shouted as the other vehicle stuck onto its side. He reached down with his powerfist and tried to pry the two chimeras free from each other. The officer's driver pulled hard to the right and the two speeding transports peeled off each other.
His chimera crashed through a low brick wall, spraying masonry and dust everywhere, skipping the transport up into the air again for a moment before crashing down.
Melchoir's heart was pounding. This was it, they were almost there.
The tanks raced forwards, coming up to the walls. As yards became feet, they didn't even start to slow down. Instead, the scattered wad of armor regrouped into a straight line and closed in for the final push.
He watched the seemingly haphazard yet extremely skilled motions of the other drivers. This was dangerous and crazy. As the wind whipped past his face it all felt, dare he say it... fun?
The maddening roar of acceleration gave out as the tanks came upon the ruin, almost crashing straight into it.
While one of the fire tanks assaulted towards the doorway, Melchoir's pack of armor swerved off to the right, thundering around the obstruction like charging bulls.
The enemy was already there.
Enemy infantry was stirring and beginning to throw itself piecemeal towards the back of their defenses, shocked by the armored wall crashing into them from behind, barely visible in the blinding sunset.
An artillery piece began to boom from somewhere in front as it turned and fired wildly at them. The sound of scrambling fighter aircraft began to whir up into the air.
They were caught completely by surprise.
"Come on!" Melchoir shouted, "Press the attack!"
The vehicles around him slowed slightly as the great gap of the massive building yawned in front of them.
Then targets started to appear. One by one, enemy infantry and vehicles began to disorganizedly filter into them. Melchoir could see the artillery piece. He could see the first enemy flier lift off the ground and come in to pass over them.
This tanks slowed and prepared to flank. The enemy began to charge in.
The hellhound which had stuck its nose through a door in the building had a perfect view of them rushing into the open space before them. With one long, snaking jet, it shook out a quilt of liquid fire into the ruins in front of it. Back and forth it sprayed, causing the flames to stack on themselves higher and higher.
Then, from nowhere, something hit the fire tank, interrupting its crescendo of burning fuel. In a moment, the ruins began to die down. Through the failing flames, Melchoir could see the enemy. They were already there!
Beasts and monstrous creatures charged through as the fliers above repelled down a unit of infantry. The aircraft strafed almost without aiming into their thickly-packed assailants.
As it dropped off its troops, the aircraft in front of them pivoted into a hover. It turned and bore down on the armor in front of them.
A triple blast of lascannon fire pounded down into the chimera next to him, raking over the front and top armor of the vehicle. To his right, a gigantinc, demonic monstrous creature jumped at one of his fire tanks with a pair of colossal axes.
"Burn them!" Melchoir shouted at the top of his lungs.
The air exploded into an immolating blast of violence. Melta guns came forwards in the hatches and began to fire at the demon and up at the hovering aircraft, the awesome power of their special weapons sizzling the air around them. The tanks themselves drove forward slowly and steadily, unleashing long blasts of heavy flamethrower fire from their hulls, igniting the tightly-packed enemy infantry in front of them.
The hellhound spurred back into life and opened the valves on its inferno cannon, heaving even more fire onto the enemy in front of it from its concealed position. Screams filled the air as the fire quickly took on a life of its own, the liquid mat of flame starting its own firestorm. As air rushed into feed the inferno, it began to whirl and whip up into the sky. The column crashed into the flier above, knocking it off course.
It began to spin and buck violently, blindly backing up. The tail fins caught the edge of the ruins behind it and the whole aircraft jerked suddenly to the right. From below, more meltaguns slammed into it from out of sight, causing the aircraft to break apart. Soon another explosion and cascade of aerial debris added itself to the raging death beneath it.
Melchoir recoiled as the wave of heat rolled over him. In just moments, all of the enemy before them was completely destroyed.
Everything, except for the gigantic demon. The officer turned and pointed his good hand at the creature, preparing to give orders.
He looked up. From behind it was another aircraft bearing down straight at him. Words caught in his throat.
A barrage of lascannon fire blasted down into him from above.
Inquisitor Amns stood atop his chimera. He was searching the area visually, and with onboard auspex systems while his senior partner, Druxus, was scanning the area with his mind.
They had just lost their Imperial Guard convoy. Druxus had insisted on going straight for the objective, while the officer had decided on a more circuitous route. They could still be heard nearby. He hoped they didn't wander away too far. They would be attacking soon.
The prize was of paramount value. All week the inquisitor had been working with planetary defense force units to create a diversion in one of the weaker cells of enemy resistance. Druxus' foresight saw a tiny window of opportunity wherein the enemy would leave themselves for just long enough to sneak up on them. To catch the guards, as it were, off-guard.
The objective was one of the devices that the traitor guardsmen were using to summon demons. Capturing one such device would have the twin effects of giving them a sample to study, possibly allowing them to find an exploitable weakness in the devices, and on the other hand, removing the capabilities of this particular cell to reinforce itself. Hammering out pockets of resistance once and for all was vital. Soon the enemy would be reinforced from the survivors of the "Drop Zone Delta" campaign. Rumors amongst the guardsmen gave that conflict a different name: the "Melchoir Massacre".
In any case, the device was of vital importance, and, for this brief moment, would be thinly guarded. Druxus had been certain.
Amns looked at the other inquisitor. He was clearly impatient. The heavy labor of controlling the forces of the warp was taxing on him. Druxus seemed to tense up. His mind shifted.
Suddenly, from way up the street came the roaring sound of engines. Druxus had identified the exact spot of his quarry. It was in a ruined building just up ahead. The inquisitorial chimeras began to roll forward behind their terminator retinue. The ringing roar of engines echoing through the ruins filled the sunset air. Just where were they attacking from?
As the crashing sounds of the vehicles washed over them, they made it up to the objective.
Amns, though not much in tune with the Empyrian drifts himself, could feel the familiar sinking weight of demons nearby. The twisting knots of the world around him straining at the seams.
And then he saw them, the confused enemy desperately trying to turn around and counterattack into the sun.
The thundering blast of enemy artillery rang out through the ruined city streets. The enemy frantically attempted to lob shells in, while one of the attacker's own mobile guns began counterbattery fire. Over the noise, the piercing grating of supercharged engines accompanied by their warcry quickly began to close in on them.
The convoy had arrived just in time. The most responsive of the enemy units began to pour into the ruin to defend their relic.
The inquistor could feel the world around him finally began to sag to the point of bursting. He turned and watched as first one, and then a dozen demons began to materialize in front of him, drawn to the fiery light of Druxus like a moth to the flame.
To his right, he could hear the sounds of battle as the guardsmen's tanks crashed into the ruins. He could hear the bombastic exchange of artillery. He could hear the sounds of aircraft engines springing to life. If this was their only chance, it suddenly didn't feel like much of one.
Then in front of him, reality retched out its demonic infestation. A great chariot carrying a demon cannon followed in behind sprinting cavalry, the demonic steeds materializing at frightening speeds. Above them all, a greater demon of the Lord of Murder towered, a pair of mighty axes in its mighty hands.
They charged in a slavering wave of destruction.
"Paladins to the ready," Amns spoke smoothly in his baritone voice. The Grey Knights were already there.
As the cavalry charged in, so did the terminators. The energy fields of their force swords and thunder hammers rippled with raw power, their refractor fields shimmered slightly in the failing light of the sun. With implacable momentum, the paladins smashed into the front rank of the demons.
Instantly, the fight devolved to a swirling melee, the superior skill at arms of the terminators matched against the ravenous malignancy of their enemies hacking and clawing against them. Hammers swung into empty air, while rending teeth and talons bit uselessly into the tactical dreadnought armor.
"AMNS!" came the booming mental voice of Druxus slamming into his mind. The inquisitor's head involuntarily snapped over to where his superior's gaze was affixed.
Above him, an enemy aircraft had circled in as the ruins were becoming filled with infantry rushing into the gap. Druxus snapped his attention into place. In front of them, the ground was beginning to shift and shake. It was a warp gate forming!
Immediately, Amns' hand reached for his controller box. Inside his transport were his servitors. They would have the firepower to close the gate.
His fingers fumbled over the controls. Druxus didn't understand how to operate the servitors, so he needed to get his mind the hell out of his body. Some times when you wanted it done right, you DIDN'T do it yourself.
Amns concentrated his mind and began to push back against his superior. This meddling confusion needed to end. The mind of Druxus only pushed back harder.
"Get out!" Amns shouted with his mouth.
Suddenly, everything exploded around him. The ruined building erupted in an apocalyptic inferno as the guard's fire tanks all focused in on one spot. Aircraft came in and pummeled Druxus' chimera, pounding through the armor. The vehicle caught ablaze, and the burning tank bucked the senior inquisitor from the roof.
In this lapsed moment, Amns regained control over his body. He quickly undid the bumbling of his superior and brought his servitors beneath online. With a few flicks of switches and manipulations of dials, the semirobotic life beneath him began to stir.
With perfectly instructed movements, the servitors aimed their multimeltas out of the hatch and began to fire, their blasts disappearing into the wall of fire behind them. The warp gate began to twist and writhe under the awesome power of their anti-tank weapons. Before it even opened all the way, it began to fail and close in on itself.
Amns carefully guided the servitors. In the wink of an eye, the portal disappeared.
He took a moment to notice Druxus escaping the wreckage of his transport and dive towards the ruined building, looking for the artifact. He turned to his left and saw the paladins dispatching their foes with righteous violence.
The moment that their task was done, they charged forwards once again, into another, much larger pack of demons, and assaulting into the demonic artillery piece.
With undeniable strength, the terminators crashed their thunder hammers into the chariot, each landing blow blasting a surge of disruption field power into the vehicle. The smashing blows ripped it apart with the powerful, explosive energies of their weapon. A cluster of attacks was all it took for the demonic engine to begin to dematerialize. Meanwhile, the other Grey knights fought against the clawing demons with their swords at hand.
The awe-inspiring skill of the warriors easily subdued their enemies as one demon and then another fell to the force blades. Soon, the thunder hammers were turned back on them as well, and with irresistible power, the terminators triumphed.
He scarcely had a moment to think before another wave of demons crashed into them. From above, more aircraft swept in and mercilessly strafed down at the transports and paladins.
They were everywhere and on top of them. This wasn't a mission to sneak in and steal something. This was a mission of naked survival against a frantic enemy.
He only knew one thing. He needed to hold. Hold long enough for Druxus.
And there was no way of holding a position like killing every single last one of them. Amns looked down at his controller box. The only way for it was slaughter. He turned towards the enemy with a gleam in his eye.
Melchoir struggled to his feet. He had landed hard on one of his retinue, who was thrashing underneath him in the dark cabin of the chimera. The officer instantly recognized the smell of burning fuel.
With a hard shove, Melchoir got to his feet. The command staff followed suit, their weapons at the ready. He could only barely make them out in the gathering haze of oily smoke.
The officer lead the way, escaping out of the vehicle and scrambling for cover.
Melchoir crouched under the ruins, the rest of them came in behind.
"What do we do, sir?" one of them asked anxiously as the sounds of battle raged around them.
The officer closed his eyes to think.
Endless options swarmed into his mind. His intuitive sense of the fighting bubbled up through the chaos.
"We're here to retrieve an object," he finally said, "It looks like our ability to do that is compromised. There's only one thing we can do now - hold the enemy off until someone else can make the grab."
The command squad looked at him uncertainly, their lack of a transport weighing on their minds.
"Oh, what," Melchoir stated incredulously, "You're Folerans, and you can't hold a position? We do what we do where we can, let's move out."
The guardsmen reluctantly hefted their meltaguns as Melchoir pushed between them. To the side was a crudely constructed ladder up to the second floor.
From above, he could look down onto the unfolding warzone around him. Only one thing really interested him, though, these damnable strafing aircraft. They were flying in at extremely low altitudes, and were flying slower than usual to inflict maximum damage on his tanks and men.
One in particular made a wide banking turn out of the ruins and circled around for another pass.
"That one," Melchoir ordered to his men, pointing out the target with his power fist, "Prepare to take that down at my command. Let it come in nice and close."
The Meltagunners set up in the ruined remains of the windows. They leveled their guns up into the air while crouching behind the sill.
The aircraft made a wide, graceful banking arc through the air. As Melchoir had expected, it kept on turning in to get another strafing run in over the ruined building to the side. As it came out of its turn, the flier leveled out and slid into its angle of attack.
Just a little bit closer.
The vehicle slowed down just a tiny bit as it flew in, ready to blast its twin-linked lascannons into his hapless guardsmen below.
He watched as it flew almost straight at him. As it sped in front of them, it turned to swoop past the ruin.
The guardsmen lifted from their positions. In an instant, they fired their meltaguns into the speeding aircraft. With a shrieking wail, the guns bore in.
With uncanny reflexes, the pilot swerved his craft violently out of the way, deflecting the melta blasts off of the wings. In an instant, the flier tailspun up and away out of the range of his guns in a daring evasive maneuver.
Melchoir shouted his frustration as the aircraft tumbled unharmed to his left.
Then what was going on below finally grabbed his attention.
His guardsmen had disembarked and found what they were looking for. They had captured the objective.
But they weren't alone. As the aircraft tried to straighten itself out overhead, the demonic monstrous creature that had attacked his fire tanks was back, swooping down before his guardsmen.
With a soul-piercing scream, the axe-wielding monster stormed towards the veterans, the ground shaking beneath its lumbering bulk of muscle and rage. It brought down its weapons in blind fury, one after the other. The chopping brutality splattered the guardsmen like a blender. Blood sprayed everywhere in heaving arcs as the men below were completely eviscerated. Only a few in the back managed to break and flee for their lives.
The monster, slick with blood, trampled the corpses of the vanquished underfoot as it strode over the objective, yearning for more slaughter to inflict on helpless prey.
Melchoir looked on as the terrifying monster craned its head back and let out a bellowing shout. His breath came stuttered to his lungs as his eyes fixed on the horror. He swallowed hard.
He closed his eyes and thought about Sanario. It had been a demon, just like this. Just like this that had killed his friend. There, he said it, Sanario was dead. There was no way to pretend like he wasn't anymore. He blinked back tears forming in his lowered eyes.
His teeth began to clench as emotions began to overtake him.
No, not this time. This time he couldn't run away. He didn't know if he could beat a demon prince, but this time, he had to try. And if he failed, he would join his friend in whatever world there was after this, and do so without shame.
He lifted his head, blinking his eyes rapidly. He cleared his throat.
"Sir?" one of his attendants asked.
"Come on," Melchoir replied in a quavering voice. He reached down and turned on the disruptor field of his powerfist.
Straightening himself out, he walked between them and made his way down to the ladder. His men formed up behind him on the ground floor. He shook violently as he began to stride forward.
The demon ahead of him turned to face down the last of those around it who dared to show resistance.
"For Sanario," Melchoir thought to himself, as his emotions began to overpower him. His wobbly legs ran faster and faster. Soon he was at a full sprint.
The meltaguns behind him began to open up, spraying their high-strength weapons fire into the monstrous demon in front of them. Melchoir was almost deaf to the sound. His mind was focused completely in front of him. On just one thing. On just one task.
The demon reeled as it was shot in the back. It turned around to face the guardsmen skittering towards it. Melchoir clenched his teeth.
They leapt into the assault.
With unearthly speed and alacrity, the demon hefted its weapons and swung them down with awe-inspiring power. The first two guardsmen in were instantly split in half, the chunks of their body exploding in a spray of gore as they flew heedlessly through the air.
Melchoir swung forward with his armored gauntlet as hard as he could. His grasping hand gripped just below an axe head buried in the ground where a guardsman had just stood. The demon jerked up his arm to free the axe. Melchoir hung on.
The creature wheeled his other arm around, splitting another guardsman like bloody butter to the hot knife. Once again, it jerked his other arm. Melchoir jerked back. The demon turned to face the officer as Melchoir pulled on his axe, smashing the blade deep into the earth.
It bore down on Melchoir, its massive jaw opening into the officer's face and letting out a piercing scream. Melchoir looked the demon in the face, and let go his grip.
With blinding speed, the other axe came smashing down. Melchoir just barely leapt out of the way as it crashed into the earth. He pivoted and lunged back towards the axes. With all his might, he brought down his powerfist. The disruptor field snapped at the demon's flesh as the gauntled crushed into its exposed arm.
With a shreik, the monster lurched backwards, freeing one of his weapons from the sod. Melchoir was on him again and again. With a wide left arc, he smashed his fist down onto the demon's knee, forcing it down. The demon prince reached forward with a huge, open, clawed hand, grasping for the officer. Melchoir recovered and punched the creature in the palm, the massive strength of both combatants straining at each other.
Melchoir leaned into it, desperate to push back the creature's hand. Then from the side, a brief flicker caused Melchoir to collapse to the ground. The demon's free hand snatched into a fist as the other axe split the air where the officer had just been. The officer backed up on the ground as the axe swung horizontally above him. He struggled to find his feet as the axe came down again and again.
Melchoir cowered. The beast kicked its leg forward and caught the officer in the flak armor. As he fell the other came forward to pin him to the ground. It's massive axe lifted up into the air.
His wild stare met the burning gaze of the universal essence of thoughtless rage, piercing into his soul. With a twisted smile, the demon brought down its axe.
He was caught mid-swing by an explosive cloud of melta fire. The demonic monster howled in pain as the anti-tank guns demolecularized its corporal substance. With another scream, it unfolded its wings and turned to face its attackers.
From behind Melchoir, his remaining tanks rolled forward in a line, pouring heavy weapons fire onto the demon. From behind them, his surviving soldiers were coming to his rescue.
Leading the charge from the rear was Quistl Amns, directing the fearsome power of his multimelta servitors straight into the beast's belly.
The monstrous creature recoiled from the sudden torrent of firepower, leaping to the air as the forces of the Imperium crowded in around it.
The aircraft above turned to pivot as the demon prince swept up into the air next to it. The two airborne enemy began to escape.
The rapid fire of multilasers trailed through the sky after it, the demon bleeding out its ethereal substance from its many wounds as it erratically kept to flight. The aircraft above was temporarily vulnerable. Melchoir looked up from the ground as the inquisitor trained his multimeltas on the hovering flier. The same burst of anti-tank fire that had shredded into the demon quickly broke apart the aircraft.
Without one of its wings, and with both engines on fire, the flier swerved off to the side, desperate for a crash landing. As the smoke and debris flew off through the air, he could see the demon trying to flee.
The more damage it took, the more it began to fit and start in the air, weaker and weaker. Soon, the demon's corporeal form began to splinter and disintegrate. With a painful cry, it began to dissolve back to whence it came.
Melchoir walked slowly down the corridor. Even these hours later, his heart was still slightly racing. The adrenaline sifting through his veins gave the dark hallway an otherworldly appearance.
It was late, but there was something he had to do.
He finally made it to his secluded destination. The dim light cast its pale glow onto the door.
"Quistl P. Amns," was written in neat letters on an index card that sat in its holder.
Melchoir cleared his throat, and swallowed hard. In his arms, he carried three painfully overstuffed folders bulging with documents. He gave the door three swift kicks.
"Enter," came the muffled voice of Amns from inside.
Melchoir was wondering just how he could accomplish this, when the doorknob turned, and the door swung open slowly. In the darkness, he found himself staring into the dead eyes of a servitor. The officer nearly jumped out of his boots.
The harmless, slightly whirring creature slowly and methodically plodded out of the way. The officer composed himself and crept into the dark room. He passed close by the cybernetic remains of a viable human being. It watched him with its mechanical stare as he passed.
The room must have been large, but Melchoir couldn't tell. The floor was stacked with metal racks. In the middle were three large work benches arranged in a rough triangle. Tools of every sort covered every horizontal space like a blanket. Everywhere were piles of bits of wire, washers, hand tools and a wide array of crude electronics. In the overcrowded, seemingly disorganized workspace sat inquisitor Amns on a stool.
The lights were turned off save a few work lamps, craning at odd angles onto his project. The inquisitor held onto several small wrenches between the fingers of one hand, and was delicately manipulating a screwdriver with his other. In the middle of the floor stood a servitor.
It was turned off, presumably. If you could even turn a servitor off. Melchoir looked on in disgusted fascination as a long steel screw was carefully being threaded through flesh.
If servitors felt pain, it didn't show.
"And that's it," Quistl nodded to himself. He un-hunched himself on his stool and grabbed at one of the overhanging lights, pushing the swinging arm away and the light bulb with it. He reached over and turned another one of the lights off. It was impossibly hot and crowded in the now dimmed, cramped workshop.
The inquisitor turned to the officer at last.
"Ah, Marshal Theleos," he noted in his smooth voice, pleasantly surprised at the identity of his visitor.
"Lord Amines," Melchoir replied, finally peeling his gaze away from the inquisitor's project.
"I saw in you today something which I have very rarely seen in a man before," the inquisitor began, "Bravery can come from foolishness, and skill can come with time, but what I saw... Well, willingness to sacrifice is not something that comes easily to a person. Especially not the willingness to sacrifice one's self."
Melchoir remained silent for a moment, and then finally replied, "I live to serve, inquisitor".
Amns leaned back on his stool, eying the officer in front of him.
"No, Theleos," he responded coolly, "This here lives only to serve". He gestured towards the cybernetic entity he was building. "Service is easy. Someone tells you what to do, and you do it. Gunners fire on command. Conscripts march to their deaths. Servitors mindlessly repair machines. Acquiescence to those more powerful than one's self is not a virtue. It's a basic fact of existence."
Melchoir didn't know what to say.
"Service isn't exceptional," Amns continued, "You, on the other hand, are. You have that genius in you that, paired with your other qualities, makes you exceptional from a common soldier. From a common servant."
Melchoir frowned. He wasn't used to compliments. Was the inquisitor merely flattering him?
The inquisitor watched the discomfort of the officer for a moment before finally breaking the silence.
"Why are you here?" he asked directly.
Melchoir stepped forwards and, bereft of anywhere to put down his binders saw fit to heap them onto a disorganized pile of jigs and spanners.
"I've brought you something," he stated, "I don't function well without information, and I thought if I gave you some of mine, you might give me some of yours."
This piqued the inquisitor's interest. "Trust based on utility," he mused, "What are all of these?"
"These are documents," Melchoir spoke, not quite certain where to begin, "They, umm... belonged to my priest. His name was Sanario."
The words were hard for him to say. He suddenly found it difficult to control himself.
"If you want to know what the Ecclesiarcy is doing. I'm sure you will find your answers somewhere in here."
Amns leaned in and looked at the officer.
"He was your friend?" he asked softly.
"Yes." Melchoir was on the verge of a breakdown.
"Sit down, and tell me everything."
"I don't know where to begin," Melchoir murmured, looking for a clean chair or stool to sit down on.
"Just start at the beginning."