This is a little fiction piece I penned for 40k a few years ago, but never got round to properly developing. It features a proud and noble chapter… and one whose marines are barely literate…
Wolf Priest Vogel cried in triumph as he swung his Crozius down hard onto the sloping skull of the ork, crushing it utterly as the ancient weapon released its full power in a brilliance of blue sparks. Another frothing and bellowing ork rushed the Wolf Priest, swinging a wicked rusting axe at his head. Vogel ducked under the blow, allowing the blade to skid harmlessly off his gilded shoulder pad. Though it was a glancing blow, the great force of the ork’s bulging muscles nearly knocked him off balance. Steadying his feet, he reversed the direction of his Crozius and smashed his weapon into the foul ork’s plate armoured chest, dropping the monster instantly. Looking up from his dead enemies, he saw the ork mob he had rushed was beginning to pull back, hurling insults in their guttural language at both himself and the Blood Claws who had followed his attack. Several shells fired from the crude pistols the orks carried sang as they flew past him with a high pitched whine. Bringing up his own ornate plasma pistol, Vogel let loose two bright energy bolts, dropping a third ork as the Blood Claws swept past him to pursue the mob as it retreated. The Wolf Priest checked himself from following and looked back to witness how the rest of the battle was progressing.
By Russ, they had done well! Through the rolling black smoke of the battlefield and amid the deafening explosions of heavy weapons, he saw the orks were beginning to falter all along the line as his Space Wolves smashed into their mobs. Their whole assault stood on the edge of failure. Everywhere, Vogel watched Grey Hunters and Blood Claws engage in fierce hand to hand struggles but it was clear the Space Wolves had the upper hand as mob after mob turned and ran. Looking further back along the Marines’ defences, he smiled as his eyes travelled to the long ridge that the orks had intended to breach. Across the entire rise, the squads, tanks and guns of the Dark Angels stood, raining a constant hail of fire down onto the retreating orks. Wolf Priest Vogel gave a short bark of a laugh – even the Dark Angels had done well today! They had started this battle by hurling long ranged shells and missiles into the approaching ork horde as the Wolves lay in wait within the gully beneath the ridge, ready to deliver their devastating counterattack. Now the Dark Angels ended the conflict by making sure the orks did not have a chance to regroup after their flight from the battle hungry Space Wolves. But Vogel knew where the glory lay in today’s action. . .
* * *
‘Fire!’ roared the black-armoured figure as he pointed his Crozius Arcanum at the lone ork mob scrambling to climb the ridge. The combined missile launchers and heavy bolters of the Dark Angels’ Devastator squad roared in a hail of fury and the orks immediately checked their advance as half their number fell dead on the rocky ground. Behind his glaring skull-masked helmet, Interrogator Chaplain Saphael allowed himself a tight grin. Now they had the orks on the run. ‘Again!’ he cried and another salvo blasted from the Devastators’ heavy weapons, literally throwing the orks back down the rise and making up the minds of those who were still wondering whether to run or continue their assault. Those orks who could still move began to retreat with great haste back to their own lines.
‘Fire at will!’ Saphael ordered and the Devastator squad dutifully started to pick their own targets, whispering their thanks to Jonson as one by one, their weapons found marks amongst the fleeing orks. He raised his fist to the squad’s sergeant in congratulations, as land speeders of the Ravenwing tore across the sky overhead to harry the retreating aliens. Turning back to the marines’ field base, he sought to locate Grand Master Belial who had planned and orchestrated the overall defence against the orks’ wild attack. It was surely time for the next phase in drawing the orks out into open battle.
* * *
Snarling as he sealed the wolf-masked helmet on to his ancient power armour, Vogel raced to the sounds of heavy combat. The com channels were alive with battle reports, directives and orders these being fed directly into the auto-senses of his armour. Icons in his helmet display streamlined the wealth of information down into what he needed to know at the present. No one had been surprised at the timing of the orks’ next assault, coming as it had in the dead of night. But this time their feral wildness, ferocity and sheer brute strength had swept through the marines’ reinforced picket line with literally inhuman speed. The alarm had been raised as the first scout had fallen beneath the orks’ axes and now marines of both chapters raced from the centre of their temporary field base to confront their foe.
The Wolf Priest found himself confronted with a remarkable sight as he neared the main line of battle. All along the heavy steel barricades planted around the perimeter of the field base, Dark Angels and Space Wolves stood shoulder to shoulder as they battled wave after wave of the barbaric orks. Beyond the space marines, Vogel saw a veritable tide of green skinned warriors, all intent on breaking through the thin cordon of marines who fought with a righteous determination. Several mobs of orks had already reached the perimeter and the sound of massed co-ordinated bolter fire gave way to cries and curses as the alien horde crashed into the Imperial line with a sickening crunch. At first, Angel and Wolf held under the strain as more orks poured into the attack but the power armoured line began to buckle before Vogel’s eyes as primitive weapons wielded with incredible strength began to batter their way through the marines. Vogel thumbed his plasma pistol to power extremis as he watched a huge ork, a leader amongst its kind, flatten a Dark Angel with its charge before clambering over the barricade, sending marines to either side flying with powerful swings of its curved blade. Within an instant, more orks had joined this creature, instinctively sensing the weakness in their enemy’s position. The marine line began to roll back from this breakthrough.
Running at full tilt now, Wolf Priest Vogel barrelled into the huge ork, causing it to stumble and falter. In seconds, he was surrounded by the ork’s followers, all screaming and spitting their war cries as they tried to grab hold of his limbs, eager to pull him to the ground. Vogel’s Rosarius field flashed brightly in rapid succession as the millennia old device sought to divert ork blades away from the most vital areas of his armour.
‘To me, Wolves, to me!’ cried Vogel as he struck out at his assailants. He discharged his pistol into one ork, burning a hole straight through the alien’s chest as he smashed his Crozius into the shoulder of another. He felt an ork behind him, clinging on to his closed core backpack and the servos in his power armour whined in protest as he strained to keep balance. The large ork was rising to its feet, hefting its huge blade as its eyes viewed Vogel with sheer malevolence, the muscles in its arms rippling with inhuman strength. Vogel looked around quickly to see if any of his fellow Wolves were near enough to give aid, but all about him the marine line was disintegrating as orks flooded through the perimeter.
The Wolf Priest swore that the large ork leered at him as it raised its blade above its head, ready to smash through his chest armour when its face exploded in a shower of blood. A black-armoured figure pulled the ork away from Vogel and delivered a hail of bolter shells into the enemy around him. Spinning round, Vogel shook off the ork clinging to his back, throwing it to the hard ground. With a quick kick he left it senseless. He turned to face his rescuer. The glaring skull face of the newcomer was fixed upon an ork as it lunged with a splintered sword. Vogel saw the blue lightning trail of another Crozius smash into the ork and he grinned at his own disbelief as he spied the figure’s winged dagger shoulder pad. The irony! Saved by a Dark Angel!
The Interrogator Chaplain reached forward and grabbed Vogel’s arm.
‘Do not just stand there, Wolf! The enemy have broken our line. Fight, fight as you have never fought before, our Brothers need time to regroup.’ The Chaplain’s stern voice cut through Vogel’s thoughts and he lifted his own Crozius.
‘Fang! I’ll lead you to battle, little Angel!’
Back to back they fought, Wolf Priest and Interrogator Chaplain. Though many orks streamed past them to be cut down by the retreating marine rearguard, together they formed a bulwark against the flow, diverting many of the enemy warriors upon them, rather than on more tactical targets. Striking at green skins all around, the two fought on against many.
‘Get ready to run, Wolf,’ barked the Chaplain as Vogel took advantage of a brief respite in the ork’s assault to reload his pistol with another charge.
‘Run? Dark Angel, I could fight all night!’ The Wolf Priest was beginning to enjoy his battle.
‘Foolish Wolf!’ the Chaplain hissed. ‘The main body of the ork force has yet to hit us, this is just an advance warband. Our brothers have contained the ork push yonder. We must leave now.’
Vogel snarled, though he knew there was some sense in the Dark Angel’s words.
‘Then let us fight our way back to our brothers,’ he declared, starting towards the retreating Marine line. He was stopped in his tracks by an armoured gauntlet grasping his shoulder pad.
‘We will never fight our way through and time is short. Our army is organised for solid defence but we will not beat the orks back to our front line. Follow me.’
The Interrogator Chaplain moved quickly westwards, away from the main force of marines. Delayed by a split second of indecision, Wolf Priest Vogel sprinted to catch him.
* * *
Dawn. The lone sun the backward world of Palmyra orbited pierced the dispersing grey clouds, casting its dirty red light upon the desolate and rocky landscape. Interrogator Chaplain Saphael quietly sighed as he willed the communications with Grand Master Belial closed. He had his orders and after twenty six years since his initiation into the secrets of the Deathwing, he knew his duty to the chapter. Turning to his companion, he frowned.
Vogel sat on a large wind-smoothed stone, his wolf-styled helmet now attached to his utility belt, running a hand through his thick beard, grey from over two hundred years in the Emperor’s service. His eyes locked with Saphael’s faintly glowing visor.
‘Let me guess, little Angel. We are cut off behind enemy lines as our brothers prepare to launch their counter attack.’ He paused, trying to imagine the Dark Angel’s glare behind the skull mask. ‘A good choice, you made – running from battle, allowing us to be separated from our entire army.’
The Interrogator Chaplain stood still for a moment, before unlatching his own helmet and pulling it from his head, revealing short cropped dark hair, his expression darker still.
‘And what would you have done, oh wise Wolf? Fought on? Allowed the orks to overwhelm us? Faced the entire might of their army, just the two of us?’
‘If it had been another Wolf Priest at my side, maybe!’
Saphael stared at Vogel in utter disbelief. The Wolf Priest smirked.
‘Wolves do not run from battle like newly-recruited Guardsmen. We will face the daemon itself and not flinch!’ he boasted.
‘It is truly a wonder that your chapter still exists. The Dark Angels do not produce foolish marines.’
‘Just cowardly ones,’ Vogel jibed, a slight smile creeping across his face.
‘You dare!’ Saphael darted two steps towards the Wolf Priest, his hand outstretched, reaching for the Wolf’s throat. Vogel reacted with superhuman speed, springing to his feet and grabbing Saphael’s wrist. Something in both marines’ power armour groaned as they pushed against each other’s strength. Vogel’s expression was a grimace as he focussed his will into moving Saphael’s hand. The Chaplain’s face was a blank mask, the effort he was exerting betrayed only by an intermittent twitch above his left eye. Neither hand moved in the contest.
Slowly, gradually, Wolf Priest Vogel relaxed his grip, feeling the Dark Angel begin to do the same.
‘We are both Adeptus Astartes, brother Dark Angel,’ Vogel said as he stepped away. Saphael simply glared at him with hate-filled eyes.
‘I will not fight you,’ the Wolf Priest declared. ‘The matter is forgotten.’
‘A Dark Angel never forgets.’
Vogel opened his mouth to voice a sharp retort at the officious Saphael, but thought the better of it. ‘So what does your Lord say?’
‘My Grand Master orders us to skirt the ork forces, bypass their perimeter and to reconnoitre the enemy camp. Our counterattack takes place tomorrow and he is keen to take this opportunity to gain intelligence first-hand.’
‘Of course. Why lead our Brothers where Angels fear to tread?’ Vogel hid his smile as Saphael’s icy glare bore into him.
* * *
Vogel flattened himself against an eroded rock that barely hid his enormous frame as the cacophony of the ork patrol roared past him leaving a storm of dust, exhaust fumes and bouncing stones. Glancing around his meagre cover as the crude alien vehicles receded, he saw three tracked bikes with improbably large cannon leading a decidedly fragile looking open-topped truck crammed with bellowing orks, the driver firing its large-bore pistol into the red sky. A dozen yards away, he could see the Dark Angel peering at the orks from behind another large stone that he had sprinted behind when the marines had first heard the orks’ loud approach. For three hours, they had moved ever closer to the orks’ camp which they had easily located by the many towering columns of smoke common to the aliens’ settlements, however temporary. Orkish patrols had been light and easy to avoid, due mostly to the incredible noise their vehicles generated, but also because the creatures seemed more intent on covering ground than in locating stragglers isolated from the combined force of marines. It was apparent the collective eyes of the ork horde were firmly fixed on the Astartes army many miles away and were eagerly awaiting the impending battle.
For his part, Saphael had been trying to calculate the ork patrol patterns, but the inherent randomness of the aliens eluded his training. Looking back to the Wolf Priest who was gesturing in a manner the Interrogator-Chaplain took for ‘all clear,’ he could not help thinking the impetuous Wolf might not inadvertently sabotage their entire mission. More than once Vogel had unnerved him by suggesting they face down one of the patrols in preference to hiding. Never a successful judge of humour, Saphael guessed this had been some kind of joke on the part of the Wolf Priest, perhaps even a jibe aimed at himself or the Dark Angels as a whole that only another degenerate Wolf would comprehend. It was, however, clear Vogel was unstable at best and a liability at worst and this insight gave Saphael some pause. The nature of the mission was critical to the coming battle and both the honour and necessity the Grand Master had bestowed upon him weighed heavily. The Wolf Priest simply had none of the inner discipline that every Dark Angel knew instinctively from the point of their initiation. Should he attempt to continue alone? Could he even evade a Space Wolf’s legendary senses? A dark shadow fell across him, breaking the train of thought. Glancing up, Saphael saw the Wolf Priest smirking down upon him.
‘They have gone, little Angel. Should we proceed or simply sit here and wait for the battle to start?’
* * *
It was dusk before the two marines were able to make their way past careless ork sentries. Vogel had disturbed two sleeping ork warriors, but had dispatched both in near silence before Saphael had been able to react. Saphael peered over the small rise he and Vogel had taken cover behind, the auto senses of his power armour easily penetrating the swift fall of dusk, allowing him to see the multitude of orks milling about their camp as they continued their preparations for battle.
‘How many?’ queried Vogel as he adjusted the internal environment of his armour.
‘Five and a half, maybe six thousand,’ said Saphael. ‘Light vehicles numbering in the hundreds and. . .’ he paused as his helmet adjusted magnification. ‘By The Lion! Battle Fortresses! Perhaps a dozen.’
Vogel stopped fiddling with his armour controls as he turned to look at Saphael who had retreated from the top of the rise to sit next to the Wolf Priest.
‘Battle Fortresses?’ Vogel asked rhetorically. ‘That is not so good, little Angel. Our army may not have the strength to counter both those and the horde in a combined assault. How did our Thunderhawks miss those?’
‘I was informed by the Grand Master they did not have much time over the target. The orks’ fighter screen was intense.’
‘Did you see any of their aircraft?’
‘No. They could be on the far side of the camp but, Emperor willing, our Thunderhawks destroyed them all.’ Saphael moved to take another look over the rise, but was restrained by Vogel’s touch on his arm.
‘That just leaves the Battle Fortresses, then,’ said Vogel. ‘Can we get to them?’
Saphael did not move, but his mind ran fast. ‘We cannot infiltrate the ork camp!’
‘Where are the Battle Fortresses, Angel?’
Saphael moved back to the top of the rise, this time joined by Wolf Priest Vogel.
‘Ahh, I see them,’ Vogel smiled as he looked across the camp.
‘Do you see the eight hundred-odd orks between the Fortresses and us?’
‘I see everything, Angel. Wolves are not blind.’
The Interrogator-Chaplain’s whispered retort was inaudible even to Vogel’s keen ears, but it caused the Wolf Priest to smile anyway. Vogel stared intently at the ork camp.
The perimeter was less than a mile away from their position and thousands upon thousands of orks filled the shallow depression he looked down upon. Far off in the centre of the camp, a huge fortified hut bedecked with unsightly banners dominated everything around it, obviously the temporary home of the warlord leading the horde. Arrayed concentrically around this large structure were lesser huts, tents and orks sleeping in the open, the camp becoming steadily more disorganised and make-shift the further it extended from the warlord’s headquarters. Vehicles of all descriptions were strewn everywhere, obviously in the keeping of their respective owners, but the huge black hulls of the twelve Battle Fortresses were to be found on the far eastern edge of the camp, presumably because there was nowhere else to keep the massive killing machines.
‘We cannot get to them, Wolf Priest,’ Saphael emphasised. ‘They will be heavily guarded, orks are probably sleeping on board and we would have to bypass too many sentries.’
‘All true, my good Angel,’ Vogel smiled. ‘But do you see those fuel dumps a little further past them? Those Battle Fortresses would not get very far towards our force if they lost their fuel.’
Saphael was incredulous. He had suspected Vogel’s nature would be detrimental to their task, but this idea beggared belief.
‘Infiltrate the enemy?’ he asked.
‘The two of us?’
‘Because you are insane?’
Vogel smirked. ‘Yes.’
Saphael stared into the massed orks below, desperately trying to find a flaw in the Wolf Priest’s idea. This was far beyond the parameters of the Grand Master’s instructions, but he knew he did not need to verify orders if this idea, mad as it was, had the possibility of success. He was an Interrogator-Chaplain of the Dark Angels, inducted into the time-honoured secrets of the Deathwing and bound to set examples to his brother marines whenever the opportunity presented itself.
‘Do you believe frag grenades will be enough to destroy the dump?’ he asked.
‘Without a doubt,’ replied Vogel. ‘If we are wise in their placing, we need detonate only a few drums to set the others off. But in the interests of making sure. . .’ He produced two fist-sized krak charges from his utility belt.
‘It could just work,’ Saphael mused.
‘Glad you think so, Angel,’ Vogel said as he stood and started to skirt the rise.
‘Wolf! Where are you going?’ Saphael asked with a degree of trepidation. ‘Our plan. . .’
The Wolf Priest turned back, a look of exasperation on his face. ‘We infiltrate the camp, destroy the dump, retreat – keep up, little Angel, we must complete the mission before our army is ready to strike.’
Saphael spoke a quiet prayer to his Primarch as he adjusted his helmet seals, the soft words lost in the hiss of pressurised atmosphere as the helmet reset its connections with his powered armour. Wondering if his actions were truly the Will of the immortal Emperor, he followed Wolf Priest Vogel.
* * *
Moving eastwards around the noisy ork camp, the two marines travelled as stealthily as their bulky power armour permitted, never closing to less than a half mile from the camp’s perimeter and taking cover whenever ork vehicles were heard nearby. The progress was slow, but both realised that two lone marines could not risk discovery if they were to succeed in their mission. The fall of night at least worked in their favour, for the darkness barely impeded the auto senses of their armour. Orkish eyes, though more sensitive than unaugmented human vision, would be somewhat hindered.
It took them nearly an hour to move into a position that would allow a direct advance to the fuel dump and Saphael could not shake his feeling of ill-boding for this mission. There were simply too many things that could go wrong, as Grand Master Belial had pointed out during Saphael’s communication with him that outlined the marines’ objective. The super heavy vehicles had the potential to smash straight through the marine line in open battle, which made the mission a risk worth taking. The combined marine army could concentrate fire on these war engines, but that would leave the entire line open to direct assault by the bulk of the ork horde, with corresponding heavy losses. Belial had suggested detailing one of the squads of Scouts already in position around the orks’ flanks to destroy the fuel dump, but Saphael had refused, declaring it his duty as he was already in position with the Wolf Priest. This was undeniably true, but Saphael was all too aware that, in part, he had also volunteered to avoid Vogel’s inevitable jibes had he simply let the Scouts attack.
The Interrogator Chaplain had noted that Vogel was much quieter now they had embarked upon the mission, with only the occasional weak insult passing between them and he had to give the Wolf Priest credit for this. Despite Vogel’s boorish behaviour earlier, it was obvious the Space Wolf was an accomplished warrior. Reflecting on this, it occurred to Saphael that this should not have been a surprise, considering Vogel’s position within his chapter.
‘Are you ready, Angel?’ Vogel asked as they prepared to start the next phase of their raid.
The two marines began to move forward, moving into the depression the ork camp sat in. They took advantage of what little terrain there was, large wind-blasted rocks, wretched planet life and abandoned ork vehicles, but too many times they had to rely purely on the cover of darkness to shield them from the prying eyes of ork sentries.
Both marines saw the sentry simultaneously and they dove to the ground, flattening themselves on the rough and dusty surface. Wandering with seemingly no care in the world, the single ork did not appear to be following any set patrol pattern. In Vogel’s eyes, the alien appeared to be doing little more than killing time before battle the next day. Kicking a rock back into the direction of the camp, perhaps showing irritation at some ork leader for forcing it into sentry duty, the ork took a meandering path that drew it inexorably to where the marines lay perfectly still.
‘Be still, Angel,’ Vogel’s voice whispered in Saphael’s helmet, inaudible to the outside world. ‘It will pass.’
‘If we must act, do it quietly,’ Saphael replied. ‘We could bring the entire camp down upon us.’
The ork took three more steps forward, then turned back to the camp, standing still for a brief moment. The marines could only guess what was going through the alien’s small mind. It turned once more to continue its distracted patrol. Taking another step, it stopped again, its head appearing to turn in slow motion as it looked straight at the marines. Saphael saw its brow furrow as it squinted into the night. Alarm filled him as he saw a look of shock pass over the alien’s face and it dropped its fanged mouth open, inhaling audibly as it prepared to shout a warning.
Saphael saw the Wolf Priest rise to action, his plasma pistol being brought up to blast the ork into its component atoms.
‘No!’ The Interrogator Chaplain reacted without thought, grabbing a weapon from his belt and hurling it at the sentry with the full force of his superhuman strength. The blade buried itself deep into the ork’s throat, cutting off the cry that was rising from its lungs. A long stream of foul ork blood arced into the night as the ork collapsed, throwing up a cloud of dust.
‘I said quietly! Imbecile Wolf!’ Saphael cursed. For once, the Wolf Priest was silent as the two marines padded forward to inspect the corpse.
Vogel bent down on one knee, reaching for the weapon Saphael had thrown, his interest piqued by the intricate device. The Interrogator Chaplain moved quickly before he could grasp the weapon, pulling it from the ork’s throat before wiping it clean on the alien’s mangy clothing and returning it to his belt. Vogel saw it had many differing and finely crafted blades, all embossed with the broken dagger symbol he knew belonged to the Dark Angels’ highest ranks, the Deathwing. A half remembered rumour he had overheard from his Grey Hunters discussing their alliance with the Dark Angels on this world sprang to his mind.
‘What was that, little Angel?’
‘None of your concern, Wolf!’ Saphael spat, almost sounding as if he were angry at himself.
Vogel smiled. That had drawn a reaction from the austere Interrogator Chaplain. ‘You Dark Angels like your secrets, do you not?’
Saphael paused before answering. ‘This is not the time, Wolf.’ He sounded calm to Vogel, but the Wolf Priest could scent something from the Dark Angel that betrayed an edge to what he said. ‘Just remember there are threats throughout this galaxy that your chapter knows nothing about. It is both the duty and the honour of the Dark Angels to guard our Imperium against the most heinous of enemies.’
The Wolf Priest raised his eyes. Pure indoctrination, he thought.
‘As one of the lesser chapters, you are not privy to either our mission or our methods,’ Saphael continued. ‘Now, let us finish this.’
Wolf Priest Vogel could barely believe what he was hearing. In another time and place, he knew he would have laughed out loud in the face of the Dark Angel’s diatribe.
‘Have it your way, little Angel,’ he replied. ‘We can continue this later.’
Saphael held his gaze a brief moment before turning back to their shared goal.
* * *
‘I cannot believe they have left this place so open.’ Saphael’s voice carried his sheer disbelief.
‘They are too confident,’ said Vogel. ‘Quickly, set your grenades. It takes but a single sentry to sound the alarm.’
‘Three minute fuses,’ instructed the Dark Angel. Vogel set his two krak charges accordingly, without comment.
The two marines worked quickly and efficiently, the Wolf Priest magnetically attaching his charges on to the greatest concentrations of rusting fuel drums, as Saphael crammed grenades between others. Icons displayed in their helmets’ visors began the countdown for the detonation of the charges, allowing them to set successive explosives to coincide with the initial blasts. Using the fuel dump itself as cover, they were all too aware of orkish activity mere metres from their position. Shouts, challenges, even weapons fire were filtered out by their auto senses, a discord that would have been deafening to the unprotected ears of a normal human.
‘Hurry, Angel,’ Vogel warned.
‘Just a few more.’
‘We have done enough.’
‘I know what I am doing!’ Saphael hissed back.
Vogel hesitated, unsure of whether to leave immediately and desert the foolish Interrogator Chaplain to his fate or stay a moment longer. He risked a glance above the fuel drums. At this range, the ork camp extended further into the night than even his crafted helmet could see. The huge hulking masses of the Battle Fortresses dominated the immediate area and he could make out the multitude of heavy guns that almost covered every available surface, as well as various spikes, rollers and other devices, all designed to allow the vehicles to literally smash through an enemy army. Mobs of orks gathered around worryingly large fires, seemingly impervious to the close heat. They ate, drank and fought, with brawls taking place almost everywhere he looked. It did not seem uncommon for the aliens to draw their weapons in these fights, often to the loud applause of assembled onlookers. The lack of honour these creatures mystified Vogel.
‘Russ-damn you. Now, Dark Angel!’
‘It is done,’ Saphael said simply.
The two marines began their retreat, ever conscious of the dwindling icon readouts in their helmets that marked the countdown of the fuses on the explosives they had laid. Saphael’s hearts maintained their steady artificial rhythm, but he felt decidedly edgy being this close to such huge numbers of the enemy and he knew he would be much relieved once they were safely back in the cover of darkness. He looked over his shoulder to make sure of the Wolf Priest’s progress and saw a mob of orks approach the fuel dump behind them.
‘Wolf!’ he warned, just as a guttural cry from the mob rent the night.
Vogel spun on his heels, drawing his plasma pistol and blasted the lead ork in the mob. The alien dropped instantly and he shouted at the Dark Angel. ‘Move!’
Saphael needed no convincing as he saw nearby mobs stir from their fires and reach for their weapons. Sporadic fire was already being aimed in their general direction and the marines moved quickly, seeking cover and darkness away from the camp.
The icons on their helmet displays reached conclusion and both marines braced themselves for the explosion, knowing that to falter in their retreat could prove fatal. The orks closest to the dump were less fortunate as the combined frag and krak charges blew the fuel drums apart in a titanic explosion that shook the ground. Several burning drums were hurled high into the sky on columns of fire, before crashing down amongst the camp, spewing fuel and destruction all around. Nearby mobs were incinerated in the blast, whilst others seemed only incited by the devastation, their feral minds driven to battle rage by the explosion. The incoming fire directed at the marines soon intensified and another, smaller, explosion threw dirt into the air as a poorly aimed rocket streaked past them, its smoke trail quickly dissipating as they ran through it.
A line of shells dug into the ground behind, following their retreat. The wild fire moved ever closer to the Wolf Priest and his Rosarius’ field flashed bright in the night as his shield deflected shots into the darkness. Saphael heard a grunt as more penetrated Vogel’s shield and impacted into his backpack. The Wolf Priest staggered under the hit and, acting on a pure instinct he might later have regretted, Saphael stopped his sprint to assist the Wolf back on to his feet. Vogel’s backpack sputtered sparks from shorted wiring within the small craters the shells had created, but Saphael could only guess whether any vital subsystems had been damaged. Looking back, the Interrogator Chaplain saw dozens of orks charging towards them and he emptied his bolt pistol’s magazine into their front rank.
He cried out more in shock than pain as a shell embedded itself in the arm joint of his armour, causing him to drop his pistol. His blood spattered Vogel’s armour and he knew the wound was serious. The Wolf Priest grabbed his other arm and pushed him forward.
‘In the name of the Throne, run, Angel!’
The Marines fled into the night, pursued by vengeful orks enraged at the success of their destructive raid.
* * *
Pulling pressure seals together with a sharp click, Saphael replaced the armour on his forearm. Thankful for his augmented biology, he felt no pain from the wound he had taken in their flight, but the limb would be all but useless for a day or two. Saphael was all too aware that without his armour, he would have lost the lower part of his limb altogether. He looked at the Wolf Priest, who seemed to be meditating. This surprised Saphael somewhat, as he had never imagined that a Space Wolf would seek any kind of inner peace after battle. He made a mental note to learn more about the Wolves from his chapter’s archives, if he ever got the chance after this campaign.
They had been lucky to escape after their raid, but once the marines had outpaced the mad ork charge and hidden in the dark, the aliens had appeared to lose interest and focus, perhaps due to the lack of the warlord’s presence that seemed to bind the whole alien army together. As morning broke once more, they had been aware of increased vehicle activity in their vicinity and had presumed that the orks were attempting to locate them. However, that the motorised patrols had been no more effective than the previous day’s had not surprised Vogel. The orks lived for war and not one of them wanted to be relegated to patrol duties when a large battle was imminent.
Vogel and Saphael had been able to view the devastation they had caused and the Dark Angel had communicated their success to his Grand Master. All that remained of the fuel dump was a huge blackened crater. Several fires still burned in the camp where fuel drums had dropped amongst the orks and even a Battle Fortress had been caught in the blast. At this range, they could not tell whether the vehicle was still operational, but Vogel was satisfied at what they had wrought. As he pointed out to Saphael, even if the Battle Fortresses had full tanks on board, they would never reach the marine line without the benefit of reserves. Grand Master Belial had closed communications by informing Saphael that he could not spare any forces to retrieve them until after the battle had been won.
‘We did well,’ said Saphael, once again looking at the crater on the edge of the ork camp.
‘Aye, we did,’ answered Vogel. ‘I believe I can make this mission a good exercise for my Blood Claws. Have the orks broken camp yet?’
Saphael stared into the distance. ‘They are just beginning to. The Ravenwing have begun their initial strikes, drawing the orks forward.’
‘Into our waiting guns,’ Vogel finished. ‘It will be a good battle.’
The Interrogator Chaplain nodded his assent.
‘You know, little Angel, it does not seem right for us to rest here idle whilst our brothers are fighting.’
Saphael inwardly groaned. ‘Wolf. . .’
Vogel smiled at Saphael’s tone. ‘Striking in their rear, perhaps?’ he ventured. ‘We may draw a mob or two away from the attack. Unless, of course, an Angel fights but one battle a day.’
Saphael sighed. ‘Alright, Wolf. I can match you.’
Wolf Priest Vogel jumped to his feet, drawing his plasma pistol and swinging his Crozius through the still air.
‘For Russ, and the immortal Emperor!’
‘For the Lion, and the Golden Throne!’