Angels Never Die
Brother Asarius pulled himself upright, opening his eyes. All around him, the fallen bodies of his squad lay, weapons still held tight in their dead fingers. Khornate cultists picked over the bodies, fighting for the prized bolters, heavy chainswords and grenades. Fights broke out over the heavy and specialist weapons, the most valuable loot of all. Asarius rose to his full imposing height, drawing the attention of the cultists. "Blood for the Blood God!" they screeched, wild-eyed and frenzied as they rushed him. With the heightened reactions of his body, Asarius perceived the charging cultists as slow and clumsy, their reactions in slow motion. His bolter came up, Asarius planting a bolt in a cultists' chest or head. Twelve of the traitors pitched, and then exploded in gruesome explosions of blood and gore. The five remaining cultists kept coming, the demise of their comrades only spurring them onwards. Asarius shifted his stance in an instant, firing his bolter one-handed as he drew his combat knife. The two-foot long serrated blade cut the head from one cultist, Asarius driving it into the chest of another. As the third caught a three-round burst to the chest, disappearing in a foul explosion of blood, the two survivors leapt on Asarius. One stabbed repeatedly at his flexible neck armour. Thick blood gushed from the wound before Larraman's cells quickly sealed the wound with scar tissue. Asarius reached over his back, picking the man up with ease. The Marine caved in the skull of the second traitor with the butt of his bolter, kicking the falling corpse clear. Holding the last cultist in front of him, Asarius crushed the man's neck.
Asarius watched as other cultists scattered like rats, fleeing before his wrath. He reloaded his bolter mechanically, his senses keen as he scanned the surrounds. A faint whimpering alerted him. The Marine swept his bolter onto the source of the noise. Asarius knelt, pulling aside a slab of collapsed roof. Underneath, four small children looked up at him, terrified. "Come, it is not safe here" said Asarius, holding out his gauntlet. The nearest child recoiled as if stung, letting out a sharp cry. The Marine sighed, holstering his bolter. The children followed his movements fearfully, huddling closer together. He reached up and removed his helmet with both hands, a faint hiss of gas as his suit depressurised. Hooking his helmet on his belt clasp, he looked at the children again with his own eyes. Their gaze travelled across his bald, scarred features, a faint stubble covering his face. Asarius's eyes were a deep aquamarine, the large liquid eyes of the children reflected in the twin orbs. One child moved from the protective circle of his friends, reaching out cautiously. He touched Asarius's face, his soft fingers tracing the fresh scar. Asarius gently removed the child's hand, shaking it. "What is your name, little one?" he asked softly, a faint smile creasing his weathered features. "I am Nero" said the boy, his voice quavering slightly but not breaking, "but who are you?" Asarius looked to the others, then back at the boy. "I am Brother Asarius of the Novamarines" he replied, careful to keep his voice low and clam. "Are you an angel?" suddenly asked another of the children, moving to kneel next to Nero. Asarius laughed softly. "What do you know of angels, boy?" he asked seriously, curious. "My father said that when the demons come for us, the Emperor sends his Angels of Death to protect us" replied the newcomer, confidence in his voice. Good, though Asarius, the people of this world remember their oaths. "They say that his angels are divine, the Emperor's will made manifest. They say angels never die" continued the boy, the words obviously instilled through repetition.
A roar broke the silence, echoing through the empty streets ominously. "Come, little ones. The demons are coming" said Asarius, putting his helmet back on. The hiss of hydraulics and the green status rune in his display told the Novamarine his armour was sealed again. He checked his bolter, as the children stepped out of the ruined building. Their small eyes took in the broken bodies and smashed wargear, shock registering on their faces. "Are they your friends, angel?" asked Nero, pointing to one of the bodies. Asarius nodded solemnly. "They are with the Emperor now" he said softly, a wave of sadness overcoming him. Another roar shook Asarius from his grief, as he turned to meet the new threat. A pack of huge dogs rounded the corner. Asarius saw their tusks, blood-matted coats, and spines. "Daemons" he spat, disgust heavy in his voice. The pack had probably been summoned to hunt down any survivors, he realised with a sudden fury. "Behind me!" he ordered the children, as one of the beasts turned to the sound of his voice. The Flesh Hound let out a snarl, alerting the rest of the pack. They snorted and snapped the air as they charged Asarius, the scent of soft meat and recently-spilled blood overpowering their senses. The report of the bolter shook the eardrums of the children, booming over of the snarls of the daemons. Two dissolved into greasy ash, their flimsy grip on reality smashed apart by the mass-reactive shells. The three others continued on. Normally, Asarius would move to engage in close combat, where his superior armour, reflexes and combat prowess would win out. However, with four defenceless children in tow, his option became limited. "Run!" he ordered, herding the children with one hand, while he fired on the move. Nero led the three others, but their small frames could not match the pace of Asarius or the heavily muscled Flesh Hounds. Asarius knew he would need to fight them soon, if the little ones were to escape. Drawing a chainsword from the ground, he swiped at the left-most daemon; his bolter continuing to pump bolts into the other two. Another Flesh Hound howled as it's from disintegrated, sent back to its foul master. The other two leapt at Asarius, who charged into them. His armoured elbow sent one sprawling into the rubble, stunned. The other sank its fangs into his leg, crushing the ceramite and drawing blood. Asarius barely felt the bite, lopping the beasts' head from its shoulders. It dissolved into ash, even as the last Flesh Hound regained its feet, snarling and slavering. Its horrible cries sent waves of bloodlust through Asarius, which he fought against. A warrior of his experience had felt the calling of Khorne on many occasions, but he focused his mind as Chaplain Agrippa had ordered. Calling on the Emperor, Asarius charged the Flesh Hound, as it leapt for his throat. In mid-charge, he sidestepped, snapping the beast's spine between his armoured kneecap and elbow. It clung to reality, its sharp claws gouging the ceramite of his shoulder plate. "By the Emperor, begone foul daemon!" shouted Asarius, firing his bolter into the wounded creature. The Flesh Hound dissolved into greasy ash. Asarius breathed several deep breaths, calming his heightened senses.
"An amazingly display, but pointless" said a sharp, cruel voice. Asarius spun, aiming the bolter at the sound. A Chaos Sorcerer, his rune-encrusted power armour a sick mockery of Asarius's own, lowered his force staff. Nero recoiled as the humming blade stopped near his neck. Asarius knew his odds of penetrating the Sorcerer's helm with his bolt shell, but he kept his weapon raised. "A choice, lapdog. Either you submit, or I send his soul screaming into the Warp" said the Sorcerer coldly, his eyes glinting with warp-energy. "How about you release the children, and I send you back to your foul master" replied the Novamarine, totally unafraid. Nevertheless, his eyes flickered down to the pleading face of Nero. The boy cried quietly, the other sobbing quietly while the Sorcerer held the blade to his neck. Asarius hesitated but a moment, but his distraction was enough. The Sorcerer conjured a bolt of writhing warp-energy, sending it into the Novamarine. Asarius felt his chest armour shatter, the bolt of ethereal energy destroying him spiritually as much as physically. He fell, his bolter clattering to the ground as his fingers fell limp. "No!" shouted Nero, unable to believe his eyes. "Now you see where the path of the so-called righteous leads, boy. But Tzeentch has other plans for you" replied the Sorcerer, smirking beneath his helm. The impassive Traitor Marines, their armour writhing blue with warp-flame, herded the children away, carrying Nero. The boy continued to stare back at the fallen Asarius, tears streaming down his face.
The children were lead to a podium, where cultists had already gathered other survivors. Most were children no older than Nero, with a handful of elderly. Cultists dragged them to specific points, chaining them to the ground. The heavy manacles clamped tight around Nero's wrists, crushing his delicate arm bones slightly. He winced at the pain, but spat into the face of the traitor securing him. The tattooed, blood-splattered man laughed back, his breath foul with the stench of human flesh. "Don't struggle so, little fly. Soon Khorne will take you, and your struggles will be over" he snarled hungrily, before leaving with the others. The Chaos Sorcerer moved to the centre of the prisoners, satisfied with the pattern. "Let the ritual... " he began, before a chunk of rockcrete smashed him over. The booming roar of a boltgun opened up, blasting down cultists. Nero and the other children watched as Asarius charged into the circle. His boltgun blew apart cultists with every step, as his chainsword slew those who got close. He was a swirling melee of death and destruction, his blows timed perfectly with the rhythm of his bolter fire. The cultists were numerous, but they broke like water against rock verses the superior warrior. The Novamarine sent the last of the cultists screaming to hell, turning his attentions to the Sorcerer. "How tiresome. Very well, Imperial dog, we duel" stated the Sorcerer, drawing his force staff. Asarius discarded his empty bolter, taking his chainsword in both hands.
The Sorcerer let fly with a burst of warp-energy, but Asarius was ready. He dodged the spitting arc with ease, charging the Sorcerer. Asarius met the force staff with his chainsword, only to see its top half fly away. The humming blade carved into his injured leg, striking precisely where the Flesh Hound had bit him. Burning warp-flamers sent agony pulsing through Asarius, as he let out a gasp. The armoured knee of the Sorcerer buried itself in his chest, breaking what remained of his ribcage. "Pathetic, hardly worthy of my skills" said the Sorcerer, totally unimpressed. Asarius struggled to rise, but the Sorcerer casually kicked him in the face. Fresh blood flowed from Asarius's nose, as he landed on his back. The Sorcerer twirled his force staff, calling on Tzeentch as he brought up his weapon for the killing blow. Asarius tried to move, but there was no time.
A rock broke against the helm of the Sorcerer, throwing his aim off and sending the force staff plunging into the rock below. The humming blade parted the rock like water, its energies flowing through it with ease. Asarius reached out and gripped the shaft of the weapon. The Sorcerer tried to extricate his weapon, but he wasn't fast enough. Even as warp-energies burned at Asarius, his fist tightened and he broke the haft of the force staff. It spluttered and died, the lower half still in the Sorcerer's hands. The Sorcerer reached for Asarius, trying to summon a curse, but the Novamarine was faster. He drew his combat knife with practised speed, driving it into the flexible neck join of the traitor's power armour. It slid up and under the helm, driving the serrated blade into the Sorcerer's brain. The body remained locked in the position, as a strange wind whistled around the two Marines. Asarius was flung back by the miniature warp-storm, as the Sorcerer's soul was sent spinning into the warp. The corrupted power armour fell beside him, the knife still imbedded in the head.
Asarius groaned, the warp-energies had fried his nerve endings, making every movement feel like his skin was on fire. "Please, don't die angel" sobbed Nero, the other children pleading as well. The Novamarine steadied himself, coughing up blood. His breathing was shallow, and he could feel the air sting his burned lungs. Just a little longer, he thought. He smashed the chains binding Nero, letting the boy free the others. The elderly held the children, as they surrounded the collapsed form of Asarius. Nero was on his knees by the Novamarine's head, holding it in his lap. "Don't die, you can't die. The Emperor doesn't let his angels die" cried Nero, beside himself. Some of the others turned away, sobbing as Asarius coughed again. "Nero, I am but one of many who serve Him on Terra. To die in his service is an honour above all others" said Asarius, his voice calm. The roar of engines alerted them to the approaching Thunderhawk. Novamarines quickly deployed, ten man Tactical squads securing the area. The children and elderly were lead away, but Nero refused. "Leave him be, brother. I have something to say before I go to meet the Emperor" said Asarius, brushing away the Apothecary. He looked back at Nero. "Today, you witnessed the triumph of faith in the Emperor, over the darkness in men's souls. Chaos is everywhere, it corrupts any who forget their debt to the God-Emperor" said Asarius calmly, as he felt his soul begin to depart his body. "Remember today, boy. Remember that with faith in the God-Emperor, no man or beast can stand before you." Closing his eyes, Asarius let himself die. He drifted freely into the warp, watching as the scene around his body dimmed. As he looked up, he drifted towards a bright, white light. It was his last though, before he merged with the God-Emperor.
Nero threw himself onto the dead Marine, sobbing profusely. The Apothecary gently laid a hand on the child. "Come boy, dry your tears. He goes to meet the Emperor now" said the veteran Novamarine, gently pulling the boy off the corpse. Nero staggered away, joining the others. He stopped and watched as the Apothecary drew back his reductor, removing the progenoid glands from Asarius's neck. "Ave Imperator, brother. May your rest your soul with Him on Terra" intoned the Chaplain, as four Marines carried the huge body away. Nero watched as Asarius was loaded onto the Thunderhawk, more and more bodies joining him as the Novamarines recovered their dead. Thank you angel, wherever you are, thought Nero.