Warhammer 40,000 - ...No Matter the Odds

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Kuja
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Warhammer 40,000 - ...No Matter the Odds

Post by Kuja » 2013-07-18 09:27pm

Recently it occurred to me that, for one reason or another despite my return to writing Warhammer stuff I'd never penned anything about my favorite Space Marine chapter, the Black Templars. I decided to fix this and it happened to coincide with my desire to try writing a big badass speech. (To some degree, you can also blame Gregorian again for their fueling imagery of a glory-charge.) So, here's my take on the Raging Space Catholics. PRAY! KILL! BURN!


Warhammer 40,000

...No Matter the Odds



----------------------------


On the twelfth day, they laid their champion to rest.

It was a ceremony conducted in near-silence, but for the sound of feet upon the stone floor of the basilica and the distant bells as they tolled for the day's fallen.

His artificer armour had been scorched and sundered by the innumerable blows of the enemy. The sacred wards and catachisms inscribed upon its glossy metal had been warped and chipped away by the fury of the battle, the iron halo that surmounted his helm broken into two pieces. Beside him they laid his bolt pistol and the great black sword marked with the words 'Imperator Rex.'

They placed his arms at his sides and as they released him, his head tilted back to rest upon the stone of the altar. Then they stepped back and lowered their heads in respect, each man lifting an armoured hand to his chest in salute to the fallen champion. With that they turned and retreated, leaving but a single man before the altar.

He was bent, his weight resting upon one knee. Like the others, he wore armour black as night, the shoulderguards white but for the great cross inscribed upon the left and the lines of script that chronicled his deeds in service to the Emperor. Like the rest he had removed his helm in honor of the holy place, and bare for all to see was the human face beneath the inhuman armour of the Adeptus Astartes.

Castellan Lurenz was olive-skinned, his head shaved but for a moustache and goatee that had long ago faded from its original color to an iron grey. His face was lined, marked by scars that testified to a life of war. The silvered faceplate that covered the upper left quarter of his face and the sharp green glow from the cavity of the eye socket there completed the picture of Lurenz as a warrior from the stars - an Angel of Death. A Space Marine.

It was death which principally concerned the Black Templar's mind as he knelt before the altar of the basilica. Amongst the brethren of the eternal crusade, there were few things so shocking as the death of the Emperor's Champion. Appointed by the divine hand of the Emperor Himself, his actions heralded by dreams and portents, it was rare to see the Templars take the field against the enemies of mankind - even in a force as small as a single fighting company - without a Champion to guide them. For one to fall in battle was a terrible omen.

Lurenz lifted his head and fixed his eyes upon the prone body of his brother. His machine eye detailed the damaged plates of the Armour of Faith, the latent power field around the black sword, the receding heat and still hearts within the man's breast. His human eye saw only Brother Ervin, a longstanding initiate of the Chapter, a solemn and pious man who would say no more quiet prayers, or stand fast over an injured squadmate.

It had been Ervin's visions that had brought the company to this place - visions of green-skinned bodies like a tide overrunning the human populace of castellated cities. Despite the intensity of Ervin's warnings the Jorian Crusade had barely paused for breath following the last operations to wipe the stain of the Archenemy from the nearby Verakki Cluster. As such, Lurenz's company alone had been despatched, a single strike cruiser carrying them away from their brethren with the promise that the rest of the Crusade would follow with all haste.

They had arrived at Ervin's prophesied world, a shrineworld known as Gond. It had enraged the Templars to see that as their brother had foretold the despicable filth of the greenskin had infested the holy world's southern continent, and they had acted without delay, dropping from orbit to join the defense at Giliath, a great city that bridged the isthmus between the north and south continents, there bottling up the voracious hordes. Vicious fighting had followed as the massed weight of the orks pushed into the southern quarter of the city, the xenos throwing themselves into the guns of the defenders with reckless abandon.

In a mere twelve days, Fighting Company Lurenz had shrunk from ninety-six men of the Chapter - initiates and neophytes alike - to a paltry fifty-two.

And now, they had lost their Champion.

Lurenz lifted his head to look beyond Ervin's still form, raising his eyes to the great stained-glass window that decorated the far wall of the basilica. The tinted glass depicted the Emperor Ascendant, standing radiant above the masses. His left hand clutched a sword, while His right was raised to the level of His face in benediction. A great golden halo had been worked into the design of the window, and it glimmered as Lurenz set his eyes upon the silicate features of the Emperor of Mankind.

Machine vision noted the ambient levels of light and the strength of the iron fittings that held the glass. A human eye saw the face of the Emperor and the beauty of man's works as they sought to capture even a fleeting measure of His grandeur. Beauty that would be smashed and defiled as surely as the breaking of the dawn if the orks managed to push through the Imperial defenses.

But rapidly that was becoming a question of when rather than if. The Black Templars and the gathered defenders of the shrineworld had held the straits that cut through the center of Giliath with all the ferocity and acument that they had at their command, and yet the immeasurably vast numbers of the xenos battered at them without respite. Word had come the day before from the Jorian Crusade - the Templars' brethren making for the shrineworld at flank speed, their estimated arrival standing at twenty days hence.

It would not be enough, Lurenz knew. Not at the present rate of attrition. Their brothers would arrive to find the city overrun, the bodies of the Fighting Company looted and left to wither amidst the wreckage. They could not pull back - they had trapped their thumb in the neck of a bottle, and to remove it would see the outpouring of a green tide upon the shrineworld's northern lands.

His eyes fixed upon the Emperor's features, Lurenz did not do anything so coarse as to ask for guidance - had He seen fit to do so, then He would have graced the Castellan with His wisdom. Instead he silently recited the names of the men under his command, the fallen and those who yet lived, and each of them he commended to the Emperor.

Then he rose, a ponderous motion as his armour quietly groaned, and here the Black Templar did a curious thing. His left hand gripped at the hilt of his chainsword, he lifted his right and with the last two fingers tucked into his palm by his thumb, Lurenz touched himself in four places - at the brow, at his sternum just below the aquilae which decorated his armour, just above his primary heart, and finally just beside his right shoulder.

The motion was an ancient ritual sign of the Black Templars, one that echoed the shape of the great cross of their chapter. It reminded the men of the four great pillars upon which the chapter of the eternal crusade had been founded - the Emperor, whose sight pierced the heavens, the people of the Imperium, for whom they gave their blood, Rogal Dorn, the true-hearted son in whose image they were crafted, and Sigismund, the strong right arm of the primarch, in whose name they fought.

The motion completed, Lurenz spared a final moment to look upon his fallen brother and then turned from the altar, striding down the center aisle of the basilica. As he had commanded, his men had departed to return to their positions, and so he was awaited by a mere handful of individuals that stood by the great doors of the house of worship.

"I mislike your expression, brother," said the cold, feminine voice of Johanna Meyr. The canoness preceptor of the Argent Shroud stood just to one side of the door, her dove-grey armour stained with ash. Like Lurenz himself she had but a single eye, its iris crystal blue and scarcely warmer than the unblinking augment that had replaced its twin. Beside the hard-faced woman was her newly-chosen seraphim commander, Etain Khione. The woman's fierce green eyes belied her youth, as did the paired lines of scar tissue across her right cheek.

Lurenz looked the canoness preceptor in the face and spoke, his voice deep and solemn. "Would you claim to know His will, sister?" he asked simply. Johanna Meyr lifted her chin and looked defiant, but chose not to gainsay him. After a moment's silence Lurenz turned his attention from the woman to one of the two men at the other side of the doors. The lord general looked more pale than usual, leaning upon a wooden cane as he adjusted to his new artificial leg. "General Gallo, make ready your men to assume forward positions upon the defenses," he said.

The lord general was a tall man, but he still surrendered a good head in height to the Castellan, and so looked oddly young as he turned his face upwards to meet Lurenz's gaze. "You - you do not intend to abandon us, do you Castellan?" he questioned.

"I intend," Lurenz said firmly, "to uphold my sworn oath to the Emperor. I intend to take the battle to the enemy, rather than sit amongst our barricades and await the inevitable."

"You'll be killed." Khione's voice was deceptively soft in its intensity. "All of you."

"Likely so," Lurenz agreed. "But in so doing we shall meet our ends in a manner befitting the sons of Sigismund. We shall not hide from our enemies, rather we shall seek them out, and meet them on our own terms." The seraphim pressed her lips together, green eyes narrowing as they remained fixed upon the Castellan.

"This is foolish, brother," Meyr said. "We can hold the chokepoint against the xenos-"

"For seven days, canoness preceptor, your convent has held the chokepoint alongside us," Lurenz interrupted. "In that time you have lost a third of your number. Can you tell me to my face that you shall hold for another nineteen?"

"Where is your faith?" the woman hissed through her teeth.

"Do not question my faith, good woman," Lurenz snarled back. "I have lost many fine brothers these past days. I have seen an annointed champion of my Chapter fall to the massed blades of our enemy. Do you think this has broken me?" he all but bellowed, his voice echoing amongst the great arches of the basilica. "I am a man, mortal even as you are, sister," he said in a quieter voice. "I cannot know His mind, and I cannot claim to know His plan. I am left to act as would any other man; to stand by the oaths which I have sworn and in accordance with the signs by which I might know Him.

"In a mere handful of days I have watched my company be cut nearly in half," Lurenz proclaimed. "I have lost lost the battle-brother whom I trusted to guide us through this battle in the tradition of my Chapter. I am left with little choice but to interpret this as the Emperor's will, and I shall not shrink from my duty to Him. If it be His plan that we live, then I have faith that we shall do so. And if it be that He desires our deaths, neither shall I shrink from that. That is my faith, sister." Johanna grimaced, but Khione seemed almost to nod slightly.

With that, Lurenz turned to the sole remaining figure. Cardinal Beorstas was a slightly paunchy man long since gone to grey. Without his wig, without his ceremonial robes he seemed almost at odds with the grandeur of his basilica. As he faced the one man amongst those present that had not opposed him, Lurenz bowed his head and said, "bless me, father, and pray for the souls of my men."

The cardinal stepped forth and motioned to a nearby servitor that held a bowl of oil, into which he dipped his fingers and reached up to annoint the Castellan's brow. "'The words of the faithful are like unto mountains,'" he intoned softly as his thumb stroked Luranz's brow, "'but their deeds are the whole of the world.'" With that he stepped back and made the sign of the aquila. "Go now, and may the Emperor go with you."

Lurenz nodded his head and then straightened, taking his helm from his belt and lifting it to his head as he turned away to step through the open doors. He did not look back.

-----------------------------------------

The greater part of Giliath stretched out before him. The steps of the Imperial basilica faced the center of the city, and from its doors Lurenz could see the glistening water of the straits. Even now they were beautiful, marred through they were by the buildings smashed by the conflict and the smoke trails that rose into the sky.

The Black Templar's stride was sure and even as he descended the stairs, his hand resting upon the pommel of his blade. Much of the city had been evacuated in the face of the xenos horde, but a handful of civilians had come forth to gather at the base of the steps and line the street to watch and weep at the sight of the fabled Angels of Death as they carried their fallen brother to the basilica. Many had remained, and now they parted to let Castellan Lurenz through, a few bold hands reaching out to touch the Black Templar's armour as he passed. The Castellan permitted this; let the people take hope where they could find it, for their world had known precious little of it these past few days.

Soon enough, however, the eyes of the civilians gave way to those of the Guard, and though the armed men of the Imperium were more composed, their faces were scarcely less morose as they watched the armoured figure pass through their ranks. Some few saluted. Others visibly clutched at talismens or chapbooks.

Finally, Lurenz came at last to the fore of the defensive line, and it was here that he rejoined his brothers. The remaining half of Fighting Company Lurenz was stationed at the remaining trio of massive bridges that oversaw the straits. Initially they had been mined and wired with defenses, but the repeated charges of the orks had left them strewn with rubble and empty of all but debris before the lines of the Templars and their vehicles.

Castellan Lurenz paused briefly as he came alonside the familiar shape of his Crusader, the boxy vehicle thrumming softly and vibrating as he raised a hand to touch its flank. After a moment's silence he reached out to the nearby rungs and ascended to the vehicle's roof so that he could look out over the assembly.

The Templars' vehicles had been placed at the mouth of the three bridges, the men gathered in their wake. To Lurenz's left he could spot the skull-faced helm of Chaplain Hochmann, his golden crozius glinting in the light so that the black cross of the Chapter shone brightly. To his right he could spy the crimson armour of Techmarine Roth, the fingers of his powerfist flexing in anticipation.

The Castellan remained silent as he considered for another moment the sight of the southern part of Giliath across the water. The buildings had been devastated, ransacked and shattered by the orks. Their grotesque savageries of equipment lined the banks on the opposing side of the straits, and Lurenz could see the motion of green-skinned bodies as they moved to and fro amidst the ruined city.

The teeth of his chainsword clacked softly against the sheath as he drew his weapon. "My brothers," he said over an open channel, and silence descended upon the company as he spoke. "I have had much cause this day to reflect upon the subject of faith. Faith is the core and essence of every human being, but it is the paradox of our existence that in moments of doubt, in times of despair faith may desert us, just when we need it the most. Look across the water, and see what awaits us, my brothers. Look upon the alien foe, and remember that he counts upon that crucial moment when our faith deserts us.

"Faith," he said, "is our surety, our confidance that our cause is righteous. Faith is the rock upon which all else is built. Faith reminds us of our purpose and strengthens us so that we might rise to the challenge of our adversity. Through faith, we overcome. Without faith, without that strength of heart, all the weapons and ammunition in the galaxy would be worthless. Think on this for a moment, my brothers."

He paused briefly. "But whence cometh our faith, brothers?" he posed after a moment. "We are all told to trust in the Emperor, that His strength will see us through our times of trial. We are all expected to emulate the example of Rogal Dorn, primarch-progenitor of us all. Yet..." he trailed off to let the word hang for a long moment, "in our heart of hearts, what man amongst you believes himself capable of following in such foosteps? Which man amongst our company has not looked within himself and questioned 'is it possible? Is it indeed, even concievable that I might seek to model myself upon such men as the great primarch, let alone the Emperor Himself?'"

Chaplain Hochmann's helm had swung round during the Castellan's speech, the ruby lenses of his skull-faced mask boring deeply into the commanding officer. Lurenz seemed not to notice the scrutiny as he continued. "But for the moment let us reflect not upon the greatness of the Emperor, my brothers. Turn your minds instead to the example of another. Who amongst you does not know the name of Sigismund?" Beneath his helm, he smiled at the humor of the question. "The founding father of our chapter. The greatest swordsman of his day. The Emperor's Champion, yes, Sigismund was all of these. But, my brothers, reflect upon this question. What was Sigismund at heart?

"At heart," he answered himself, "Sigismund was a man. Not a legend, nor a hero. He was not one of the noble primarchs, bred by the Emperor for peerless strength and wisdom. Sigismund was a man, a space marine, just the same as any man here amongst our ranks. He could have been any one of tens of thousands of space marines, or indeed any one of countless millions amongst the peoples of the Imperium.

"Yet we revere his name. Sigismund! We hold him aloft as an exemplar to be emulated. We honor his memory with the traditions - indeed, the very core of our Chapter! Why?" He dropped his voice. "I shall tell you, my brothers. Look once more across the water. Do you see the massed hordes of the ork? No, I tell you, rather you see the assembled Legions of the arch-traitor and his minions. See it! Witness it in your mind's eye! Place yourself upon the very walls of Terra as did Sigismund himself and look out upon the gathered strength of the Archenemy! Think of that black day. Can you feel it?" he asked. "That creeping dread? That tendril of despair as it seeks to wrap itself 'round your beating hearts? Sigismund felt it! He felt it as keenly as you or I!

"And yet, this man, this one man, he donned the colors of the Emperor and he sallied forth to meet the traitors head-on! And upon the fields of Terra, it was not the blood of Sigismund that spilled forth, but one traitor marine after another, a full hundred of them felled by his sword in a single day!" Lurenz lifted his chainsword, the steel guard flashing in the sunlight. "Sigismund, First Captain of the Imperial Fists, Emperor's Champion, do you think all this was given to him as a fluke? Because he was some freak, an exception to the rule, a man above the rest of the Astartes? No!"

Lurenz raised his sword high. "SIGISMUND HAD FAITH!" he roared, and the Black Templars roared along with him. "Look within you, each and every man! Within your breast beats the heart of Sigismund himself! As we carry on his name, so too do we bear his soul within ourselves! Dig deep, my brothers, and find that core of faith within yourselves! Bolster it! Bring it forth and take strength from it! Remember that each and every one of you is a Black Templar, heir to Sigismund, and raise your voices alongside my own as we remember our oaths- Suffer not the Unclean to Live!"

"Suffer not the Unclean to Live!" his men chorused.

"Uphold the Honour of the Emperor!"

"Uphold the Honour of the Emperor!"

"Abhor the Witch, Destroy the Witch!"

"Abhor the Witch, Destroy the Witch!"

"Accept any Challenge! No Matter the Odds!"

"ACCEPT ANY CHALLENGE, NO MATTER THE ODDS!"

"Fighting Company Lurenz!" he roared, "your orders are simple! If I should charge, follow me! If I should retreat, kill me! And if I should fall, avenge me!"

They hoisted their weapons and cheered with such force that their voices were heard throughout the Imperial lines.

Castellan Lurenz leveled his chainsword, pointing it across the water. "Black Templars! No pity! No remorse! NO FEAR!"

Engines screamed and men saw fit to match their outpouring as the Black Templars charged across the bridges, armoured bodies moving with such haste as to match the speed of their machines. Startled, the orks had time only to squeeze off a few hasty shots as the Templars closed the gap between them. The armoured prows of the land raiders smashed through the shoddy ork defenses, and bolters roared as the vehicles' multibarreled weapons opened up on the nearby aliens, cutting them to pieces. Moments later the men on foot joined the assault, some of them leaping over the top of the barricades to come to grips with the foes.

Castellan Lurenz leapt from the top of his vehicle and waded into the fray himself, drawing and firing his plasma pistol with a blast of searing blue light and a whoosh of superheated air. His chainsword thrummed to life as he keyed the activator rune, and soon the weapon was spattered with black blood.

Little by little, the world descended into a haze of carnage. He glimpsed Hochmann as the chaplain swung his crozius, the weapon's power field decapitating a ork that was more machine than meat. He saw Roth as the techmarine simultaneously crushed one greenskin's skull in his power fist and wrenched the neck of a second with his servo-arm. A neophyte, a youth with his hair yet close-cropped from indoctrination, went down beneath several xenos; his pistol pressed to the chest of the foremost as the rounds he fired ripped from its back.

Grinning beneath his helm, Castellan Lurenz laid into the green tide with every ounce of his strength. If indeed the Emperor decreed he died this day...it would be in glory.

------------------------------------------------

Imperial historians hold that the last charge of Fighting Company Lurenz was nothing more than a reckless action.

However, it was this action that allowed the city of Giliath to survive.

With the deaths of the Warboss Gokshul and much of his court at the hands of the Black Templars, the orks fell to savage infighting as the clan leaders sought to fill the void left by the warboss' demise. With the aliens divided and their numbers much reduced from the intercine warfare, the sisters of the Argent Shroud and their allies in the Imperial Guard were able to hold the line, and indeed retake much of the southern portions of the city.

Nineteen days later the bulk of the Jorian Crusade arrived in orbit, and the full force of the Templars' wrath was unleashed upon the invaders. Within the span of three months, the strength of the orks was reduced to a handful of feral tribes clinging to life in the harsh southern deserts of Gond.

Though killed to a man, much of Fighting Company Lurenz's armour and weaponry was recovered and returned to service by the Templars, including the relic wargear of their champion.

The names of every member of the company were recorded and inscribed upon the eastern wall of the Basilica-at-Giliath, there to greet the sun with every rising.

Thanks to his open-channel broadcast, the last words of Castellan Lurenz were recorded for posterity. Without fail, they have been played throughout the Jorian Crusade fleet on the anniversary of the battle ever since.

The endless crusade of the Black Templars continues to this day.
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PainRack
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Re: Warhammer 40,000 - ...No Matter the Odds

Post by PainRack » 2013-07-19 01:14pm

wows
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Re: Warhammer 40,000 - ...No Matter the Odds

Post by LadyTevar » 2013-07-19 06:30pm

Now that is a speach, and a charge to be proud of.
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Re: Warhammer 40,000 - ...No Matter the Odds

Post by Kuja » 2013-07-20 09:09am

Thank you. Looking back I can already see a dozen changes I would have made. Ah well. Hindsight and all that. XP

I'm still pleased with it.
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