The Unhallowed 11th

Player: Torbjörn

Sergeant Massawa had waited in the dark corridor outside the strategium for well over thirty minutes now. The old veteran stood in a corner, brooding and absently fingering the worn activation rune on his power fist, while causally eyeing the empty-eyed servitors hurrying past him every now and then. The strategium of the flagship “The Unhallowed” was occupied by Lord Assab Eusebius, self-appointed leader of the Sons of Horus, formerly Captain of the 11th company of the Luna Wolves Astartes.

That had been ten millennia ago, and much had transpired since. After the defeat at Terra, Lord Assab had led the 11th company of the Sons into the Eye of Terror, as most of the so-called Traitor Legions had back then. Assab had however not conformed to the orders given by the self-righteous bastard Ezekiel Abaddon, Captain of the 1st. They had not become Black Legion. They had stayed Sons of Horus, and for this audacity they had kept up a running battle both with the Loyalists of the False Emperor and the forces loyal to the usurper Abaddon, for the last ten millennia.

Keeping to the deepest reaches of the Warp had been easy enough, as Lord Assab’s diplomatic skills coupled with abundant sacrifices had kept them safe from the Neverborn tearing at the Gellar-fields in the vast cold void of the Warp. Staying out of reach of the ever encroaching Loyalists in real-space had been a more difficult task, and as a result the 11th company’s numbers had dwindled over the years. The company, more like a warband now, got new recruits by stealing initiates from Loyalist Space Marine chapters as well as growing their own vat-breeded True Sons on the ship.
Grimy stealth operations and risky teleportation gambits had been the modus operandi of the 11th company back when they were still Luna Wolves, and they had survived this long by adhering to those brutal tactics ever after.
With a sudden and loud beep from an overhanging klaxon, Sergeant Massawa snapped out of his reveries and let go of the power fist. With a pneumatic hiss followed by a painful creaking sound, the doors to the strategium opened. Massawa stepped aside as a wild pack of burning Horrors sped past him, gibbering and laughing maniacally. The daemonic incursions had increased both in frequency and duration over the last few months, and not one day passed without The Changer of Ways making it’s presence known on the defiled decks of The Unhallowed. The fetid smell of the Warp was at times over-powering, and the reek of magic was tangible even to the non-gifted. There were rumours among the men that Lord Assab had made a pact with the Great Conspirator, and that several of the Unburdened now resided in his very soul. 

After the daemons had rounded the corner and disappeared to wherever they were going, Massawa steeled himself and entered the dank hall of the strategium. The room was dominated by a large holographic galaxy map, over which a score of dark-hooded fleet officers hunkered down, bony fingers working intently on haptic receivers. On the command throne Lord Assab himself sat staring up into the windowed ceiling, to the stars. His sea green old Terminator armour suit could barely fit in the throne, filled with trophies and arcane regalia, almost flowing off from the throne. Assab was indeed a True Son, as his likeness to the Cthonian’s progenitor Horus was striking. Back in the days of Horus, it had always been the dispute between “Little Horus” Aximand and Assab, as to who bore the strongest resemblance to Horus. Today Assab’s visage was beset by ever-mutating facial features, bright-coloured blisters and intangible outbursts of fire in the veins under his skin. Even his breath emanated heat as from a latent meltagun.
The throne creaked and almost cracked as Assab righted himself, let out a hissing sigh and turned his ominous gaze on Sergeant Massawa.
“Aaah, Sergeant, what news from the Inheritor Rex?” Assab spoke, and as his blackened lips formed the words, the meaning of the words was simultaneously spoken inside Massawa’s mind. Neither voice were in sync with Assab’s lips, a blessing Assab had picked up after liberating the mining colony of Tesseney VII in the name of Tzeentch. Damn it, Massawa thought, as he felt the nose bleed starting as soon as Assab’s twin-voices spoke. Come to think of it, the strategium always smelled of clotted blood these days, as those who listened to Assab for too long started bleeding from both nose and ears.
“The Sons of Baal captured the Inheritor, Lord Assab, and it is most likely destroyed by now. We managed to get most of the armoured crates off ship before capture. The tanks and daemon-engines are being unloaded below us as we speak.” Massawa methodically spoke between gritted teeth.
   “And the creeew, are they dead or will they sing their songs of treachery to the cursed Blood Angels?” Lord Assab’s flesh-voice asked in a keening note. Assab’s mind-voice boomed SWALLOW YOUR SOUL over and over again inside Massawa’s head. Massawa winced and shook himself in order to gain control of both posture and mind. Sorting the voices from each other had proved a difficult task.
“I personally killed most of the crew upon departure, and my squads set what melta-charges they could before the boarding torpedoes hit the hull. Also, the Knight we stole from Tesseney VII is secure and aboard The Unhallowed. We have yet to open the sarcophagus of the Princeps though.” Massawa pressed on, while supressing a rampant headache. 
   “Good, goooood. Their sacrifice [SWALLOW YOUR SOUL] will not have been in vain. Speaking of the subject, we shall need sacrificial gifts where we are going. We shall have to find a suitable planet here in Ultima Segmentum, preferrably full of ephemerals [SWALLOW YOUR SOUL], so that we can find proper offerings. It has been too long, and I cannot come empty-handed to an old friend. That would not do, now would it? [SWALLOW YOUR SOUL] My seers has found a small Imperial outpost nearby, guarded by a small detachment of the Great Liar’s pet Wolves. The Wolves [SWALLOW YOUR SOUL] will make a most excellent gift, don’t you think Sergeant?” uttered Assab, now almost purring with wanton anticipation. Souls now bore the importance earlier born by military victories. Massawa nodded, though he did not remember everything Assab had said, as the mind-voice had kept searing his mind like the end of a Maulerfiend’s magma-tentacle. 
“Just give me the location Lord, and the Unhallowed 11th will crush them.” Massawa snapped between clenched teeth, snorting then swallowing the wet clump of snot and blood massing in his nasal cavity.
“Capture sergeant, caaaapture. We need the Wolves [SWALLOW YOUR SOUL] aliiive and in good vigour for the coming ordeals.” Assab’s voices both said, finally reaching harmony and lipsync.
Lord Assab turned to a cowled three-armed figure on the left side of the throne and hissed “Dekemhare, prepare my Chamber, for I must commune with an old friend from the 17th Legion, a friend of... Flame”. Dekemhare, which was some kind of herald of the Daemonic entities Assab now cajoled with, said nothing and simply faded from sight in thin air, leaving only a stark smell of prometheum.
Massawa saluted his Lord, and with a “For Lupercal!” left the strategium, and went to gather his squad for the next bloody assault. They had not had access to Drop Pods for centuries, so the less secure method of sorcerous teleportation would have to suffice yet again. Damn how he missed the good old Drop Pods, filling the skies.
Lord Assab watched his old battle brother walk away, and returned his pondering gaze to the stars above. The blessed blisters on his forehead changed colour yet again as he started to hum a song he had picked up recently. Surely a good omen.
The song he sang had already been old when the galaxy was young. 

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