Monday, 28 September 2015

Dusk Raiders

Dusk Raiders

Before the Death Guard, the XIV Legion Astartes were known either by their number, or as the Dusk Raiders. In storm grey, with a deep crimson right arm, the recruits – mainly drawn from Albia – did their part in the fierce Unification Wars that began on Terra, and continued until the pacification of the whole Solar System. It was from this point that the Great Crusade began.

Expeditionary model of the week: Dusk Raider

Expeditionary Bulldog Lopez produced this great model for one of our painting and modelling contests.

Over to Bulldog Lopez to expand on his figure:
Undated pict capture of a human warrior bearing early "Dusk Raiders" heraldry. While some Imperial scholars maintain the warrior is a "Techno Barbarian" warrior others argue that this warrior is an early Thunder Warrior, citing that the warrior wears what appears to be a primitive form of powered armor.

Noted Imperial heraldic scholar, Bellisarius Gallileus of the 47th expedition, has postulated that the human is a warrior loyal to Nathan Dume and that the XIV Legion adopted the heraldry from the banner of a fallen warband during the wars that ultimately crushed Dume.

A great model, I'm sure you'll agree.

Tale of the week: The Two-Fold Web, by Ogun

+Who’s firing? …What’s happening? Auspex, get me a reading, now!
+We are under fire, I repeat, we are under fire! Heavy damage to the starboard batteries…
+All vessels [static] … they have turned on the Emperor…
+…for Horus! For a new order!
+Raise the voids! Full power!
+Who is the Vision firing at? Someone tell me, where are those ships going?

17 hours earlier.

‘It was a complete success, the enemy was massacred and we have now received orders to assist in pacifying several systems that remain loyal to the enemy.’ The Lord Commander of the 2067th Expedition, Regina Voren, was in typically bullish mood, hands on her hips as she stalked back and forwards in front of the assembled ship masters and army officers. ‘The Onyx Spider Chapter is on its way back to us and will translate in system in the next ten hours or so.’

Keppler glanced at the holographic projections of his fellow officers. He cleared his throat.
‘You have a question, Vice-fleet master?’ she snapped. Keppler removed his glasses and absent mindedly polished them, ignoring Voren’s cold stare. 

‘Are the orders for the entire task group, or for the 2067th proper, Lord Commander?’ Her eyes narrowed, but her tone remained neutral.

‘It is for the 2067th, Vice-fleet Master, and that includes you and your battle-group until otherwise instructed.’ 

Keppler replaced his glasses and cocked his head.‘The original orders came from the traitor Warmaster, Lord Commander? Should they still stand?’ Voren opened her mouth to retort when another figure materialised next to her, stepping onto her projector podium and throwing her into shadow beneath his armoured bulk. 

‘Needs must, Master Keppler, I fear,’ Ramon Vek told him solemnly. ‘That your forces were combined by Horus’s orders may be fortuitous for the swift pacification of this sub-sector. I am sure once fresh orders are received your battle group’s position will be clarified. Until then, I, on behalf of Lord Aurelian, request your ongoing assistance in this painful endeavour.’ Keppler inclined his head briefly. Still irritated, Voren decided she had not finished with the grey haired veteran.

‘Why are Nonsuch’s power levels still at full, Vice-fleet Master? I want your vessel powered down to anchor standard.’ Keppler shrugged. 

‘My Magos informs me the problems with the power grid will take a number of hours yet to repair. Until then we are stuck at full power and may be forced to vent some plasma.’ Voren’s eyes narrowed further. 

‘Very well, keep me informed.’ Keppler made the sign of the Aquila, and stepped off the transmission pad. The command crew were stood around the podium watching him nervously.

‘Your falsehoods regarding the power grid are a personal affront to my reputation, Vice-fleet Master,’ Magos Kodar’s voice grated through the vox-grill of his mouth. He clicked forward on his mechanical legs.
‘The falsehood is necessary, Magos. Continue to maintain full power,’ Keppler told him flatly. He turned to the stick thin young man standing a few feet away, nervously holding a data slate as his empty eye sockets gazed sightlessly into space. ‘You are confident you intercepted and interpreted the message correctly?’ Keppler growled. The man flinched. 

‘Yes sir. My exceptional sensitivity for detecting and interpreting messages sent between other astropaths is attested in the City of Sight’s personnel file in your possession, my lord.' Keppler sighed as if defeated and walked over to lean heavily on the strategium table. 

‘Tell me again.’

‘Imperial counter attack massacred. Ferrus Manus dead. Second wave has declared for Horus. Await reinforcement.’ 

‘How is it possible?’ Lieutenant Arkell muttered yet again. 

‘Enough with the whys.’ Keppler snarled, ‘We need a course of action.’ He glared at Arkell. ‘Get me a detailed system plot and provide a tactical breakdown of all ships in the fleet, especially those who have served with the Word Bearers before.’

‘That’s the entirety of the 2067th, sir.’
‘Who outnumber us three to one, I know. Get it done.’
‘How long before the Word Bearer ships get here?’ he turned and asked the astropath.
‘The last report said seven and a half hours, sir.’
‘Not ten.’
‘No, my lord.’
‘So the Lord Commander is with the Warmaster,’ another officer said, shaking their head in disbelief.
Keppler removed his glasses and polished them again before replying.
‘So it would seem.’

‘Thank you for speaking with me again, Chaplain.’
‘Ramon, please, Keppler. Formality is not my style.’ The Word Bearer’s holographic face, tattooed with the spider symbol of his Chapter, smiled. Vek was good; the smile went all the way to his eyes.
Keppler’s force had been marooned in the Tentarbus system for five months with their new comrades of the 2067th. Warp storms, particularly fierce around nearby Phall, had cut them off from the galaxy all that time and resulted in the loss of several of their ships. For those five months, and even in the few weeks prior to the new force’s arrival here, Keppler had wondered why, when the Word Bearer vessels had sped off to Istvaan, they had left the chaplain behind. Now he had his suspicions. 

‘Ramon,’ he allowed, with a friendly expression, ‘I wanted to ask about the redeployment order we’ve just received.’ The chaplain raised an eyebrow. 

‘You have an issue with the order? The legionaries are being assigned to your vessel in case of attempted boarding actions. We lost vessels to boarding at Istvaan with the Astartes off ship and the Lord Commander desires to secure the 2067ths only two battleships from any repeat.’

‘Of course,’ Keppler nodded. ‘I appreciate that. I was just seeking your advice on the numbers and for recommendations on accommodating them. My battle group have never had Astartes deployed on board it before. 

Ramon’s smile widened. ‘Ah. Sorry my friend. I have spent so long mending fences between yourself and Voren that I have come to expect the worst from your calls.’
Keppler smiled and listened patiently, occasionally making notes on a data slate. When the call was terminated he stepped off the podium and handed the data slate to an aide before stalking over to the strategium table. A three dimensional representation of the system glowed in front of him, replete with combat data and fleet dispositions.
‘Voren wants the ship intact,’ he began without preamble to the assembled officers. ‘We’ll be boarded by the XVIIth legion and the command crew will be no doubt purged before they appoint a new master.’
They stood silently, digesting the tidings.
‘We’ll need to escape before they get here then,’ Arkell remarked dryly. He enlarged the display of the fleet’s location. ‘Green are our ships, red are theirs. Over the past eighteen hours a total of seventeen redeployment orders have been issued to the ships of our task group. The result is this,’ he pointed.
‘They’ve trapped us in close orbit of the gas giant Tentarbus VII all bunched up,’ Keppler finished. 

‘Clever.’ He leant forward thoughtfully, the glow of the projected lighting up his craggy face, ‘or perhaps not...’ he began.
‘Sir!’ A breathless ensign handed him a data slate. ‘Mistress of Auspex’s compliments.’ 
Keppler looked at it and swore softly. He tapped the nearest slaved console servitor. ‘Display the new arrivals.’
‘Throne!’ someone muttered as the ships appeared.
‘Nine vessels; six escorts, two cruisers, and this,’ Keppler pointed, ‘the Vision of the Pilgrimage, an Astartes battle-barge of a class I’m unfamiliar with.’
‘Xerxes Class. Vergiddion-Maxima Forge World is the only construction yard,’ Arkell informed him, consulting another console. ‘She outguns us and carries at least 600 Astartes.’ Keppler looked down a moment and took a deep breath before looking up again and glaring over the top of his glasses at the assembled officers. 

‘We have only nine hours until they get here now. What is the warp like?’

‘The Navigator reports stormy, but continuing to calm, sir.’
‘We will have to cut our way out this web,’ Keppler remarked staring at the display. He glanced out over the cavernous bridge space towards the huge viewports. The gargantuan, crimson storm-wracked bulk of Tentarbus VII loomed over them, oppressively vast and close. Off to the starboard he could see the fleet, at its heart a few thousand kilometres away he could see the powerful form of the Lux Terrae, Voren’s flagship, an old but mighty Castigation class Battleship. She outgunned Nonsuch, but as an Emperor Class Battleship that was not Nonsuch’s principal strength.
‘Why haven’t they already destroyed or boarded us?’ a junior officer asked hesitantly.
‘One, because they don’t know we have intercepted the news of Istvaan,’ Keppler told him grimly. ‘Two, because they want this ship intact for the Warmaster. Three, because boarding us in force with troops would be a blood bath. Better to wait for Astartes to do the job quickly and efficiently.’
‘Sir,’ Arkell nodded at the tactical readouts. ‘We will lose a lot of ships, even if we do escape.’
Keppler said nothing.

‘The Vision is only thirty minutes out,’ Vek told him. ‘Was there a reason you wished to speak now?’
‘I wanted your opinion.’
‘On what, my friend.’
‘On why Horus did what he did at Istvaan III.’ Vek’s smile vanished and he frowned. 

‘A good question.’

‘Why betray his own men and massacre a civilization in the process?’ Vek nodded thoughtfully. ‘Betrayal, it has power; symbolic power. It resonates. It also shocks. A betrayal on such a scale, it paralyses the victim. By the time they can respond, they are too angry or frightened to do so with unimpaired judgement.’

‘So Horus counted on this at Istvaan V?’

‘Probably, yes.’
‘A shame for him it didn’t work then,’ Keppler noted dryly. Vek’s hologram suddenly glanced to one side, frowning.
‘You are venting plasma from your starboard side?’
‘Yes, apologies. We notified fleet command. It’s to prevent an overheat. I’m assured the power grid has nearly been fixed and we can power down to anchor standard in the next 20 minutes.’
‘The ionisation is fogging the auspex.’
Keppler reached out and took a data slate from a bridge officer and consulted it in view of the Word Bearers Chaplain.
‘Yes, as I said, apologies. I did warn of this possibility nearly 17 hours ago. The auspex disruption should clear in the next five minutes.’
‘That was a lot of plasma, Vice-fleet Master,’ Vek said, his voice clouding with suspicion. Keppler looked up from the slate with a frown.
‘Is that a problem?’ The Astartes did not answer but stared intently at Keppler’s expression of puzzled concern.
‘Anyway, we were talking,’ Keppler prompted as Vek tried to read his face.
‘We were… of betrayal,’ the chaplain acknowledged slowly.
‘How do you feel about what happened?’
Veks’ eyes widened slightly. ‘Me? I thought you wished my counsel for yourself?’
‘I thought it might help me understand things … from an Astartes perspective. You are after all a step closer to the primarchs than us mere mortals.
‘I think… I think it will prove a new beginning,’ Vek hesitated.
‘Perhaps not a positive one though,’ Keppler grunted.
‘For some perhaps.’
‘Betrayal, of course, works best when it is committed by someone you thought you could trust; even if that was just to sit blindly waiting for the inevitable,’ Keppler commented, unsmiling.
Astartes reactions were fast. Vek’s holographic form spun as he bellowed at the startled bridge crew of the Lux to raise the flagship’s void shields.
‘Tell the crew I’m sorry,’ Keppler remarked sadly, but Vek was already gone.

‘Voids up, all batteries fire,’ he instructed Arkell calmly. ‘Helmmaster, get us underway. Full combat thrust, we won’t have long. Prepare to launch the second wave.’
‘Sir, the Vision will be in extreme firing range in fifteen minutes!’
‘Tell the battle group to run like their tails on fire, and good luck,’ he snapped as the Nonsuch shuddered with its first broadsides.

Out in the void, the Nonsuch’s massive first bomber wave, launched with the plasma venting, swooped down on the unprepared Lux’s bridge and blew it apart.


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