-01 Prologue

I Am The Drinker Of Souls, The Lightless Flame,

The Shadow upon all mortal souls. I look upon the denizens

of this world and laugh as they cower from a desperate rage born of my deepest fear. I am swifter than the wind, though in my most

private moments of shame I admit not swift enough.

I am condemned to a life of servitude where I lead

twenty others whose lives I would just as soon see snuffed out if they were not so vital to my own. I have reached as far as I can, and though I've held with this waning grip for a lifetime my hands and mind have failed me. I am thrice damned and twice redeemed. I am Lilith of The Poisoned Blade Kabal. And I am Afraid.

My dearest mother,

Still here rampaging across the galaxy smiting the Emperor's foes! HAHAHA! Well, you know how it is anyways. I've got some good news for ya, my terms is finally almost up. I've almost completed my ten years service. I got this Munitorium form about a week ago stating that my term would be up in six months and that if I opted to I could leave the Guard. Well you already know my answer to that one. It's going to be a while even after I get out to make it back home, so you should expect to see me again after a year, no more than two. Max. By the Emperor I swear I'll be home by Christlemas.

That out of the way I've been deployed again and for once it seems that old Shagodo finally got it right. The planet's called Chedoul V in (big surprise here) the Chedoul system. It's nice here, not some inferno jungle or ice world, just right. Only downside is that it rains a lot over here, but hey that's what buildings are for right? Lotta overcast, and the more I think about it the sun just doesn't seem to want to shine here. It's not as bad as I'm making it sound, when it does rain it's always a warm rain, not those biting ones like on Sepeer. A couple days ago Mikalis, Treet, and I went over to the female barracks and took a "shower". Hahaha! I know were horrible, but everyone got a good laugh about it and Mikalis the lucky bastard met a nice young LCPL named Ilela who actually convinced Boshelvick to let the two of them stay at Beta Co barracks so long as the two of them kept quiet and didn't make any infractions on Munitorium regulation. Damn I hate him. In fact I'm sure there's' a Munitorium regulation against coed barracks. Hmm.

Tell Lieutenant Lyre that I send my regards and that I don't give a damn if she gets promoted to War Master I still won't salute her. Tell her I love her and that I'm sure she'll do fine leading whoever into whatever. She may not have the 74th behind her but anyone that comes from Soulle is sure to make a mark. Who would've thought you know? Two in eight to go? She'll make it just like me so don't you worry.

Well on a more sombre note, I have been deployed again but not against, Orks or the Dark. The 74th is in the Chedoul system as a garrison force against a possible Tau invasion. Talk has been going around about a massive incursion into Imperial space in the next system over. I don't know if any of it's true but I've been in the Guard long enough to separate the fact from the fiction. Damn PFC underground, think of anything.

Listen gotta go, Smokey's on the VOX and Treet has this weird lizard thing crawling up his, you don't want to know. You have my love and a large part of my inheritance so goodnight.

Your Loving Son,

Flynn

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00 Boy Meets Fire

Commit To Imperial Record

EST 94/0213 Inquisitorial 3224/6120

Cross-file - Distress Call, Xenos, 74th Rifles

Eastern Fringe

Raiders, Tau Expeditionary Force?

Input Clearance: Inquisitor Medias

Author- Presumed to be one Trooper Flynn Addicus of the 74th Soulles Rifles

Transmitted: The Burning Shield +Ultima Segmentum, in orbit above +Undisclosed+

Transmitter- Astropath Primus Aud'iel

Thought For The Day: To Live Is To Suffer

+++++Begin VOX record+++++

This is Trooper Flynn Addicus Of the 74th Soulles Rifles garrison force at Longs Reach calling any imperial forces can anyone +indecipherable+. I say again This is Trooper Flynn Addicus at ong Reach calling any imperial forces! Fuck! We've been overrun, There are Tau and Kroot all over the perimeter we +Explosion in close proximity+ Fuck it if anyone hears stay away from Longs Reach! Head to... head to... here! Grid coordinate 001532 +gunfire inaudible+ co..dinate... 00153279! Don't take the pass +Background noise indecipherable+

The world exploded around me Mikalis, whom I'd known for my entire life, with whom I'd pledged myself to do His will, was gone, engulfed in a blue glow that swallowed him up in a single blinding instant. But for two feet closer and the

vox transponder I would have gone with him. Instead I was thrown into a shallow mud water trench a dozen feet away. I screamed my rage at the world, the injustice that had been

done to me as I looked up at a sky of fire.

It had only been a month earlier when our regiment had been given the honor of forming a rearguard to ensure the safe passage of all retreating troops in the AO. It had been an amazing feat of foresight on behalf of whichever general had decided to fortify Longs Reach , one which also raised questions as to whether or not the outcome of the campaign had been decided before it began. There had been talk. But for whatever reason there was to fortify the mountain it had undoubtedly been effective at holding off the Tau forces long enough for Imperial troops to make a quick if disorderly retreat.

Longs Reach used to be a mountain. At least until the Mechanicus had brought in their monstrous land movers and gouged, drilled, and hauled the very earth until they had deemed it fit to build upon. Soon after construction began I knew they'd make a mountain out of it again. Standing a half mile high and three miles long in any direction laced with heavy bolter turrets, Las cannon emplacement, mortar and basilisk pits. Covers for Leman Russ' and huge interconnecting tunnels that let Chimera's drive through the emplacement to offload troops to any section that looked as though it might need assisstance. Even plasma cannons had been leant to the defence of this great montain built as they were behind huge blast doors to prevent reprieval from Xeno weapons. At the very top of this monument to Imperial might lay a weapon of unimaginable ferocity employed by the Mechanicus in the most dire of times. An Ordinatus, a weapon which through some arcane means sent a sound wave of sorts that destroyed all in it's path. The operation of such a magnificent weapon was beyond me to say the least.

The base of the mountain had not been neglected either though the fortifications of the ground level was ultimately left to the Imperial Guards discretion. And we had no intention of dying here. Three lines of twisted trenches each with a mix of heavy bolter, auto cannon, and las cannon ferrocrete bunkers; All staggered so that no single strike could destroy them all. Miles upon miles of concertina wire, hundreds of yards of which had been washed in a debilitating neurotoxin harvested from a local fauna known as Odin's' Smile. Manning these defenses' were the men of 74th and 23rd Soulles Rifles, and the 912th Cadian Mechanized Regiment. 12,000 fighting men all told. 119 tanks.

One Baneblade. One Shadowsword. They'd never see it coming.

For two miles in front of the fortress sensor arrays had been hidden in the tall Thawai grass that covered the approach. It had been argued by those in the lower echelons of the Guard that it would be wise to simply burn the grass to prevent concealment and I'm not ashamed to admit I agreed with them. High command however had decided to seed the entire area with mines. The wisdom behind this decision became apparent when at the beginning of the siege a regiment sized force of almost 50 vehicles and perhaps a thousand Fire warriors and twice that auxiliaries wondered attempted to sneak in under the cover of night. The first mine that was stepped on set the whole field ablaze. The Tau were caught in an inferno and unable to return fire so it was puzzling to say the least when our Company Commissar Boshelvick ordered us to hold our fire. The vivid memories of what came next has been the subject of a very personal scrutiny of myself. A form of Mea Culpa burned into me in the scholams of Soulle. Almost two hundred feet above us the Basilisk crews were loading their deadly payloads, incendiary rounds set for airburst. The explosions 40 feet above the forces and the firestorm that followed. Everything was burning. Tau soldiers were reduced to little more than candlesticks running around before falling over from being cooked alive in their suits. Almost two miles away you could see them and with the monocular that I wrested from Mikalis I gazed in closer and saw something I'd never forget.

Despite the hell raging around them a single undamaged Devilfish outside of the flames had rushed in in an attempt to save some of their comrades. Heretical? Yes, but as the ramp was lowered and I saw their warriors help others into their haven I couldn't help but feel a form of respect for their bravery. Let it not be said they didn't look after their own. I watched through the monocular as the heat cracked the cockpit of the vessel. Cracked and then broke. The heat from the ground was rising so fast and cold air both from our fortress two miles away and from inside the transport rushed in towards ground level. It sucked every single one of them into that cloud of flame.

And now looking up i feared I'd meet that same end. Afraid that to move would lead to an agonizing death I lay there hands gripping tight to a piece of exposed ri-bar. My lungs burned, and with each gasp of breath I came to the startling realization that it wasn't the heat that burned me. It was that I couldn't breathe. The last thing I remembered were yellow armored bodies jumping over the trench and then it all turned black.

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01 All Those Pretty Lights And Funny Sounds

I awoke several minutes later to a deep gray. A gray of smoke and ash, of toil and war. The firestorm had burned itself out which more importantly allowed me to breathe again.

I didn't dare sit up for fear of being sighted, after my previous waking moments I had no delusions of who held the trench. So I waited. Burned, battered, and bloody I waited. Then I heard them. Movement to my left outside of the trench, running, breathing hard. Tracer fire stitched across the sky and a soft warm spray of blood splattered on my face from some unknown soldier. I waited.

Morning came. Earlier a fierce melee erupted on the Imperial side of the trench as squads of Kroot leaped over the bodies of their fallen comrades to engage us in our bunkers as Broadsides' and Fire Warriors laid a suppressing fire which from my view looked like illuminated rain. But to hide from this deadly torrent was to simply invite death from another in another form. The return fire cut a swathe through the Kroot, if the agonized screams of their voices was any indication. It should be noted that everything happening here was rather uncharacteristic of the Tau, they were never ones to simply throw men at an objective. The Mechanicus must have done their job well. But for all the determination and will it took to raise Longs Reach, it seemed the Tau were just as determined to bring it down. Mantas flew overhead, the heavy bombers' firing their huge payload into the fortress showering me with dirt, rock, gravel. Several times bodies, whole or dismembered, fell into the trench.

Despite the ferocity of this attack it was as nothing compared to the orgy of violence that was to follow. In the wake of the attack run the assault renewed itself. Dozens of troops transports carrying hundreds of infantry raced across the no man's land as Crisis suits used their jet packs to take them directly into the fray. I wouldn't know it at the time but their commander O'Kais'Viorla'Vre'Biad was to be killed in this attack, cut down as he were while jumping by hidden Hydra batteries along with most of the crisis suits he was leading. It did however, explain the emissaries.

Twice during lulls in the fighting I'd heard the aliens make appeals for surrender with the promise that upon laying down on our arms the Imperial forces would be allowed safe passage off planet and out of the system. Needless to say two of their diplomats Por'El' Viorla'Myen and Por'O'Viorla'Shova met their untimely demise outside the fortress walls.

It seemed to me or at least it had sounded to me as though we Imperial's had taken the the short end of the stick in the last bout so it struck me as odd that they would entertain any ideas of surrender. Perhaps their offers were genuine or maybe they just wanted to lure us out of our holes. I'll admit I was tempted.

For several more hours small skirmishes had broken out most borne out of anger than any real military objective. But this was no consolation. We could feel it, we had no illusions about what was coming. Everyone in the 74th were veterans, mostly from fighting Orks, and if Commissar Boshelvick was still alive I knew he'd be preparing for it. That moment when you look across a field and you know in your gut they're coming.

Then came a voice calm and steady despite it's alien tone. It was rallying it's troops for the final push inspiring them so that they may for one final time storm the fortress, MY fortress and tear it to the ground. To kill my friends and my family. And then he addressed us:

"Gue'la! I am Aun'O'Viorla'Kais'Monty'r! You have refused to submit! You have chosen to cling to the ways of death! For 330 Rotaa you have employed your monstrous weapons upon our brave Shas' La! And do not think your sadistic deviations will stop as either for all your weapons you may as well have charged us with wooden sticks! I have looked upon your banners and pitied you for ignorance. For the pain and the suffering you have caused not only my kind but your own as well. Your weapons, your anger, they are but nothing when compared to The Greater Good! And since your barbarism has proven once and for all that you will never adhere to the values of The Greater Good you must now die for The Greater Good! And do not think your sadistic deviations will stop us either for all your insane weapons you may as well have charged us with wooden sticks."

Every race is susceptible to it, to varying degrees. That rage the burns inside you and makes you cast out all reason and rational to the winds. A pulsing living thing, a collective of minds all denied the same goal time and time again. That fury, that anger, that hate. The Orks had a word for it if you could call it that. And we all knew a WAAAGHHH! when we felt one.

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02 I'll Kill You With That Pointy Stick

This was it. The final battle of Longs Reach. Las bolts and tracer fire chewed up the ground while plasma fire incinerated it. Missiles streaked back and forth while basilisk shot off the last of their munitions. Bolters spat indiscriminate death towards the oncoming tide of Tau warriors and auxiliaries. I could not afford to be indecisive. A day and a half of it had managed to starve me and render me half deaf leaving me to the mercy of guns on both sides. After a day and a half of lying in a body filled trench I moved. I was stiff, of that there was no doubt. But a burst of adrenaline borne from my fear of imminent death I willed my half-dead body into a standing position. Only to be thrown completely out of the trench.

The blast which should have killed me four times over if not from the shrapnel then the shock, catapulted me up and over the wall of the trench into the midst of the onrushing enemy. The carapace Armour I wore absorbed most of the shock of the impact but I was still dazed. I reckoned I'd at the very least broken a rib. Unsurprisingly this was not my greatest concern. Unsure of what to do I glanced around and took in my surroundings.

What glared back at me was a smoking ruin, the trenches had caved in under the furious barrage and not a single bunker was left intact. The broken and dismembered bodies of 74th and the attacking Xenos lay everywhere around me. In some areas they were two, three deep. The ground itself had been dyed a crimson red and as insane as it sounds looked for all the world as if it had coagulated.

Just then plasma fire erupted all around me and without any means of defending myself or of even locating my attacker I began to crawl as fast I could through the corpses of the fallen. The meaty thump of plasma bolts hitting those already fallen around me spurred me on even as Fire Warriors ran the deadly gauntlet but a few feet from me. At one point during my escape a Tau Fire Warrior tripped on me. With no weapons I struck the beast with my fists and using my body to pin his rifle and arms, strangled him with my bare hands. And proceeded to bash the creatures face in, irregardless of the armor it wore. My hands were bloodied but, Emperor help me if it didn't make me feel like a God.

"Cause You are...or at least you can be..."

A thought, a voice in my head not my own.

"Psykers!" I practically screamed to no one in particular. Though I knew the Tau themselves were not psychic it didn't seem too much of a stretch to me that they may have enslaved another race that could employ the dark powers.

Psykers. They were every troopers' worst enemy and the one in which we had the least protection against. Dying by a bullet or shell was one thing but it was nothing as compared to losing one's soul. I practically screamed the Prayer of Warding out loud and in a moment of extreme pain felt the voice ripped away from my mind. There was however no doubt in my mind that it had only been cast out to the far reaches of my mind, not banished. I could still feel it's claws.

Inspired as I was by this new danger I sprinted as fast as I could towards Imperial lines. A horrible mistake of course but I would much rather be cut down by the Tau rifles then be snuffed out of existence by some form of abomination. As it would happen I didn't make it particularly far. A shell landed several feet to my right and threw me like a broken doll twenty feet across the battlefield and embedded several pieces of smoking metal in my side that caused such excruciating pain that I couldn't help but scream like a damn scholam child as I wrenched them from my flesh.

How I didn't die in those agonizing moments is a mystery known only to the Emperor as las bolts and plasma fire alike both ravaged the ground around me in a merciless fusillade that I was sure would eat through the very earth were it given enough time. Whether by the grace of the Emperor or not, no glowing streak struck my flesh, and almost face down in a heap of broken bodies I saw an opportunity. In front of me, no more than ten feet stood the Tau leader. Though I did not know it's face I knew it's voice. Standing in the center of the raging storm the Tau leader, his voice amplified by some unseen device urged his troops on. He was however not unprotected. Two floating discs projected a shield of such potency that I was sure it would take nothing less than an earth shaker round to collapse them. I realized their weakness at once as a Kroot ran in and then back out of the shield unharmed while rushing to the fray.

Attempting to be as stealthy as possible I felt for anything within arms reach that I could use to slay the beast. Realizing that any ranged weapon would be useless against the shields. I was forced to settle on a shattered trench board that had been shattered into something resembling a wooden shiv. Armed with my impromptu weapon I waited until when a passing Hammerhead exploded in a massive fireball I leapt up and ran full speed towards my target.

Though it took but a few brief seconds I found that Aun' O' Viorla' Kais' Monty'r was a rather unassuming character. Slightly shorter than myself with blue hued skin and a few strands of hair held in a pony tail by a small gold bracket. He wore no armor, or shirt for that matter. Rather the cloak he wore allowed his chest to remain bear for what manner of reasoning I couldn't fathom. Below that was a loose fitting robe that allowed freedom of movement and screamed of quality. He wasn't unarmed either in his left hand he held a gore spattered halberd that looked as if it could cut through admantanium.

Caught up in his inspiring oratory Aun' O' Viorla' Kais' Monty'r didn't realize I was there until ripped his head back by his hair screamed a vengeful curse and forced the makeshift knife through his throat.

Even before I had finished pulling my shiv from the Tau's throat I realized something was wrong. The sounds of battle which had been deafening before were now by comparison almost quiet. Not bothering to look find out what had led to the lull in the fighting I ran as fast as my injured body would carry me until I'd reached a small maintenance hatch to Longs Reach and upon throwing myself in, slamming the door behind me.