Astra Militarum/Imperial Guard "Wiki"

Ave Omnissiah!

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My blog is primarily my own personal fluff in the Warhammer 40,000 universe regarding the Draconis system such as the Knight House Yato in Draconis III, the Imperial Guard...I mean, Astra Militarum regiment trained there, the Draconian Armored Defenders, and the Forge World of Draconis IV with its Adeptus Mechanicus priesthood, Cybernetica cohorts and Skitarii legions, and the Titan Legion, Legio Draconis, known as the Dark Dragons.

Featured Post

Horus Heresy Janus Campaign

I had a great weekend at the Horus Heresy Weekender, which was organized by the Frozen North Horus Heresy group - thanks to all the organize...

Friday, February 26, 2021

Bladeguard Veterans

 I did Bladeguard Veterans today. As usual, they are for my Black Templars crusade. I think I have enough Black Templars to field in a Strike Force game now...oh, well. And yeah, since they are Black Templars, I focused on their swords. As you can see, one of the Bladeguard has 2 swords. He's dual-wielding, yay!

Oh, I still need to build my Cataphractii Terminators, but I can't do that until I buy the storm shields and power axes (which I'll be using as thunder hammers) from Forge World for them. But I'm not buying anything from Forge World yet until they have the models I want back in stock. I want the free delivery, after all. But yeah, the Veletaris Storm Sections are out of stock, the Knights Atrapos for Adeptus Titanicus are out of stock, the Stormblade is nowhere to be seen...ugh. Well, we'll see.

So what do I have for my Black Templars? I know I need to paint them soon, but at least I have enough of them for now. I should be using Battle Force on the Warhammer 40,000 app for this, but the damned thing always crashes on me whenever I build a list. Actually, it crashes whenever I try to access loadout. They just won't let me change loadout. I don't understand why. Maybe I need a new phone (currently using a Samsung S5). If anyone has a solution, please let me know.

Anyway, this is my list:

Patrol Detachment

Marshal, Primaris Captain with master-crafted power sword and storm shield - 105

Castellan, Primaris Lieutenant with neo-volkite pistol - 90

Assault Intercessors (5 guys, Sword Brother with plasma pistol and power sword) - 105

Assault Intercessors (5 guys, Sword Brother with plasma pistol) -100

Bladeguard Ancient - 85

Bladeguard Veterans (5 guys, Sword Brother with neo-volkite pistol) - 180

Impulsor with ironhail heavy stubber and shield dome - 130

Repulsor Executioner with Icarus rocket pod and Ironhail heavy stubber - 365

Vanguard Detachment

Castellan, Captain in Terminator Armor with combi-melta and relic blade - 110

Contemptor Dreadnought with multi-melta - 150

Contemptor Dreadnought with Kheres assault cannon - 150

Terminator Assault Squad (5 guys with "thunder hammers [power axes]" and storm shields and teleport homer) - 220

Terminator Squad (5 guys with heavy flamer and teleport homer) - 200

Total: 1,990

So there you have it! Black Templars Strike Force, ready to go! No pity, no remorse, no fear! Well, the Bladeguard Veterans, the Primaris Captain (Marshal), Primaris Lieutenant (Castellan) and Bladeguard Ancient will ride in the Impulsor and Repulsor Executioner respectively. I needed a transport for them, so I chose the Impulsor and the Repulsor Executioner. Yay, I think?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Crusaders of Dorn

 I'm surprised that this awesome Black Templars picture hasn't shown up anywhere. I thought it would make for a great Black Templars wallpaper. Enjoy!


Oh, if you're wondering where I got it from, I took it from my Black Library anthology, Crusaders of Dorn. I was reading it in my Kindle when I came across this awesome picture and I was like, wait a moment. Why haven't I seen this Black Templars picture online before? It makes for an amazing wallpaper! So...yeah. There you have it.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ignatius's Dilemma

 The Imperium cannot be destroyed.

This may sound defeatist, coming from a Sorcerer of the Thousand Sons Legion, a son of the Crimson King. But I am simply stating the truth.

The Imperium is vast. At any given point of time, it is comprised of a million systems, with trillions upon trillions of citizens slaving away to support its rotting carcass. It remains in an undying state, no longer able to prosper, but also unable to truly die. For every world we or the foul xenos take, the Imperium will recover another, through one of their crusades...or because of infighting between the heretic legions. No matter how we nibble away at its bloated body, the Imperium endures. And it survives. The orks are unable to hold any number of worlds at once, inevitably drawn away by the next sector of violence and abandoning their prizes the moment peace sets in. The tyranids move on after devouring each world, only for the genius of Belisarius Cawl and the esoteric devices of the Adeptus Mechanicus to restore these so-called dead worlds. The t'au empire is currently too small to pose a threat, and they constantly lose more worlds than they take, as confined as they are to the Damocles Gulf. The aeldari are a dying race, with their numbers too few to make a dent on the Imperium's inexhaustible army. Only the necrons threaten the Imperium, but their attention is divided between the Imperium, the hive fleets of the tyranids and the legions from the immaterium. The denizens of the warp have realized the danger of these ancient xenos, and are moving to put schemes in motion to halt their...stifling.

But no matter the number of threats attacking the Imperium from within and without, it endures. It survives. It cannot be destroyed. Even sundered in half by the Cicatrix Maledictum, both sides of the Imperium endure, bearing witness to acts of heroism not seen since the Great Crusade. And in this darkest hour, the Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, has returned. Leading the Indomitus Crusade, he has recaptured large swathes of the area they call Imperium Sanctus. My father, Magnus, had attempted to slay his brother on the rocky surface of Luna, only to fail. The Imperium will not die.

Even the warmaster, Ezekyle Abaddon, knows this. For all of his bluster, he knows that we cannot destroy the Imperium. There are many who deride him, who label him a failure or call him "armless" or toothless because he failed to lay low the Imperium even after twelve Black Crusades. Only the thirteenth Black Crusade, they argue, can be considered a success...and even then, the Imperium was not destroyed, only cleaved in half by Abaddon's machinations.

They are fools.

Abaddon is aware that the Imperium cannot be destroyed. He understands the vast scale of the enemy, the sheer magnitude of the task before him. His goals during the twelve Black Crusades had never been to destroy the Imperium. Anyone who believes otherwise is deluded. You can launch a hundred Black Crusades and still the Imperium will endure. It has to survive.

What most of us traitors do not understand is that we depend on our very enemy to survive. If the Imperium ceases to exist, so do we. The traitor legions have lost much of our resources and production ability. The few daemon forge worlds that exist, they do not manufacture on the scale of the Martian forge worlds allied to Terra. And when they do, their ships, weapons and vehicles are not as reliable, chained as their machine-spirits are to volatile daemons, and just as likely to turn on their owners as their targets. We do not have the trillions of citizens we need to recruit into our legions, for many of them do not survive the intercine warfare, betrayals, plagues, mutations and ruthlessness that plague the daemon worlds in the Eye of Terror. If the Imperium falls, we lose a steady supply of recruits and materiel. We would then be vulnerable to each other...and the myriad xenos race.

Even the immaterium cannot survive without the Imperium...without races to corrupt. The warp is enriched by the souls of humans. It thrives on conflict, on corruption. Without the Imperium to corrupt, as paradoxical as it sounds, Chaos cannot survive. They are two sides of the same coin. The Changer of Ways knows this. For what is Tzeentch's goal, if not to corrupt the innocent? The innocent must endure, must remain, must even prosper, for the game ends the moment they have all been corrupted. Even the Dark Prince knows that the sweetest pleasure comes from successfully tempting the purest that the Imperium has to offer. The Plaguefather too needs an inexhaustible population to infect, for those who inhabit the worlds under his thrall do not survive long enough for him to brew new concoctions. As for the Blood God, he cares not where the blood flows from, as long as it flows. And the conflict between the Imperium and the traitors bring about the most amount of bloodshed, even more so than the bitterest wars between us renegades.

This is the greatest paradox of Chaos. While we strive to corrupt and invade the Imperium, we cannot afford to let it die, lest it leads to our own annihilation.

Abaddon realizes this. As much as he hates the Imperium, he will not destroy it. He cannot. He will corrupt the Imperium as much as he can, deliver as many fatal wounds as he can, and then he will withdraw. He will deny as many advantages to the Imperium as possible, such as the Nachmund Gauntlet. His aim is to bring as much suffering to the Imperium as possible, to bring it to its knees and see it humbled. But he will not destroy it, for he recognizes the impossibility of the task.

He is wiser than most of the deluded fools who believe him a failure, who think they would do better in his place, that they would be able to slay the leviathan that is the Imperium.

I contemplate on this wistfully, even as I sit aboard the command throne in my battle barge, Honor of Tizca. I am probably more aware of the indispensability of the Imperium to our existence, which is why I continue to serve it, albeit in a twisted fashion. The Sapphire Drakes that I have recruited to my legion, who now comprise of the majority of my thrallband, believe my claims of loyalty. I have not deceived them. As our survival depends on that of the Imperium, I refuse to allow its destruction.

Yet, this brings about another paradox. If I believe that the Imperium cannot be destroyed, then no matter my actions - or the actions of my brothers and cousins, the actions of the other traitor legions - the Imperium will never be destroyed. Nothing I do matters. There is no need for me to intervene, to either stand in the Imperium's defense or invade its territory. It will endure, with or without my intervention.

I suppose this sets me apart from the warmaster. Unlike Abaddon, I do not like to cause suffering for its sake. It feels...so petty. Elevated from mortals as we are, such trivial agendas should be beneath us. I work for enlightenment. The Imperium may call it heresy, but they must accept the knowledge of Chaos. For, like us, the Imperium cannot survive without Chaos.

I work not simply for the sake of destruction, but also to save those I have enlightened from the narrow-minded authorities they are beholden to. I must endeavor to protect enlightened populations from the wrath of the Inquisition, who accuse them of heresy, and prevent Exterminatus from scouring them from the Imperium. They must all know...must be privy to the knowledge I hold, whether Inquisitor or menial laborer. For this was the grand dream that my father and the Thousand Sons had been working toward ten millennia ago. An age of enlightenment in the Imperium, where no citizen would ever be barred from knowledge...from the truth.

However, in order to pursue those goals and protect the Imperium from itself, I need materiel. I need to rearm and resupply my fleet. The Sapphire Drakes require more ammunition and daemon engines. And I desire more tomes and ancient relics.

As such, I find my fleet drifting toward Kryptos VIII. I do not know why I have been drawn here. Unlike my brothers of the Corvidae, I do not tend toward the powers of prescience. I excel more in the direct application of power, much like the Pyrae that I used to learn under, before we reformed the cults into the nine we have today, and I declared myself of the Cult of Magic.

But there is something there...a disturbance in the eddies of the warp currents around the system that even I can sense. An event of tremendous magnitude will be occurring in the near future, I am sure of it. Someone from a cousin legion has put his machinations into place...and is instigating an event to swallow the system in a warp storm. To unleash hordes of daemons from the immaterium to swallow this sector.

An intriguing prospect, but one that runs counter to my own agenda.

"Brother." Makhat approached, the servos of his heavy Terminator armor clanking from the motion. "We have arrived."

"Yes, we have." I nodded, my eyes riveted upon the view that the bridge windows offered me. The geller field had powered down, allowing the adamantium shafts to slide from the screen and display the dull yellow rays from the system's star. Given our distance, most of the light was days old.

"What is our purpose here?"

"Did I not already tell you?" I was surprised. I was certain I had briefed the officer cadre of the Sapphire Drakes before we made our translation from the warp. "We are here to...plunder. We are running low on supplies and ammunition. We need...vehicles and weapons. And more ships for our fleet."

The Sapphire Drakes fleet that I had acquired had not been very big. Including the Honor of Tizca, we had two battle barges and three strike cruisers, along with twelve escorts. Most had been destroyed during the flight from the Inquisition and the Adeptus Custodes. Fortunately, I was able to rescue almost the entire Chapter. Most of the renegade Space Marines had been onboard their flagship, the Azure Dragon, a dazzling battle barge produced by the forge world of Draconis IV. A young upstart, ferocious and aggressive, its temperament contrasted against the antiquated beauty and sagely patience of the Honor of Tizca, which had been plying the routes between the Eye and Terror and the Imperium for over ten millennia.

Compared to the raiders of the Red Corsairs, who we had a slight run-in, and the vast armada of the Black Legion, my small fleet was nothing. I do not think the warmaster approves of my self-appointed missions, and we clash against each other more often than we do against Imperial forces.

In order to survive, we had no choice but to expand our fleet.

However, Makhat's lip curled at my use of the word.

"We are to raid an Imperial planet for resources?" He asked, his tone distasteful. I understood his pain. Not long ago, the Sapphire Drakes were loyal, betrayed by the very Imperium they served. Attacking the subjects they were sworn to protect was...difficult for them. They had only gone along with me because I assured them of my loyalty to the Imperium. That, like them, I had simply been misunderstood.

The Inquisition was the true enemy.

"I would prefer to avoid that if necessary, but..." I trailed off, looking away. "Necessity demands for it. If we do not obtain materiel, we will not survive. Then we will not be able to do our duty."

"Isn't our duty to protect the Imperium, and not to rob it?"

"Depends on who we are protecting, doesn't it?" I asked with a sigh. "We will protect the innocent, the unarmed...the enlightened. But when we are staring down the barrels of your brother Astarte Chapters or the Exterminatus fleets of the Inquisition, who will protect us from them?"

Makhat said nothing, his tanned face brooding. But he did not refute my statement.

I turned back to the windows, closing my eyes briefly to savor the warp currents that unfurled from one of the planets like tendrils. There was something familiar about these energies, something...

"Lord." The shipmaster of the Honor of Tizca, a mortal named Tyrone, reported to me. "We are picking up readings from the auspexes."

"What readings, Captain?" I asked, rising from my command throne and toward the console of the communication officer. Commander Carter turned to me, bowing his head when he caught sight of the hulking form of my Terminator armor.

"These signatures...my lord, I believe they belong to the ships of the Iron Warriors...and I believe there are at least three ships from the Word Bearers, with one of them classed as a capital ship at least."

A smile slowly spread across my face as I digested the information. The Word Bearers and Iron Warriors were here. That explained this familiar sensation. The Word Bearers were most likely here to conduct some kind of ritual, to summon a greater daemon from the warp and unleash it upon the luckless Imperials. They probably recruited the Iron Warriors to their cause, though undoubtedly Perturabo's sons would have their own agenda.

What an opportunity. The Iron Warriors would have plenty of materiel, war engines and ammunition. And as I studied the auspex, I could make out at least thirty ships.

"The Emperor provides, brother Makhat," I said, turning toward the former chief Librarian of the Sapphire Drakes. "We have our targets. You can begin organizing boarding parties. We are going to grab some ships."

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Repulsor Executioner done!

 I have completed my Repulsor Executioner. I equipped this one with a macro plasma incinerator because it was built by my forge world, Draconis IV, and you know how Draconis IV is known for producing plasma weapons. All our Leman Russ tanks are Leman Russ Executioner tanks. So the same goes for the Repulsor Executioner - they are all usually fitted with plasma weapons. Yay.

I don't know whose smart idea it was to tell us to leave the storm bolters and Icarus ironhail heavy stubbers unglued, but whatever. Damn, even the turret is left unglued and I'm worried it will fall off. But I guess I'll leave it because if I take it off, I can't rotate the damned turret and its guns around which kind of sucks. After I paint the Repulsor Excutioner, I'll use blue-tac or something to keep them stuck or something.

Wait, why do I have a Repulsor Executioner? Simple, because I like plasma. My Black Templars need the plasma weaponry and tank anyway, so I have infantry fighting vehicles. One Impulsor and one Repulsor Executioner to cart my Bladeguard Veterans, the Primaris Captain and Primaris Lieutenant, and the Bladeguard Veteran around. Hopefully I'll get 6 more Bladeguard Veterans and I can ferry a total of 12 infantry around. As for my Assault Intercessors, I'll leave them on foot. I plan to get Heavy Intercessors eventually so that they can sit in the backline, but that's far in the future. But yeah, my army will be primarily composed of Assault Intercessors and Bladeguard Veterans, along with armored transports (the Impulsor from last week and the Repulsor Executioner). I hope to add a couple of Gladiators, which I'll see if I can turn them into Impulsors through a bit of...blue-tac (I doubt I'll use magnets). We will see!

Oh, and I have a bunch of Tartaros Terminators, led by a Cataphractii Terminator Captain. I also have Cataphractii Terminators somewhere, but I plan to build them once Forge World comes back online and bring a lot of stuff back in stock. I intend to build the Cataphractii Terminators as Assault Terminators, using storm shields and substituting the thunder hammers with power axes (but using them as exotic thunder hammers). This will be cool. I hope. But again, that's far in the future because a lot of the stuff in Forge World aren't stocked yet (my Stormblade, though I won't get that until far in the future, and the Veletaris Storm Section). We will see!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Weird Dream

 I had a weird dream on Friday. For some reason, I was dreaming that I was in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Yeah, I've been reading way too many Black Library novels lately. Actually, aside from a few military sci-fi books by Ian Douglas (Star Carrier), Jay Allan (Blood on the Stars series) and Starfist, I've been reading mostly Warhammer 40,000 novels and short stories. But anyway...

I dreamed that I was a guardsman. An Imperial guardsman, with a lasgun. For some reason, my platoon was dispatched to investigate a noble's manor atop one of the spires in a hive city. So I followed my squad in a Vendetta gunship, which landed on a platform on the spire, and followed the rest of my platoon into the manor. The hive nobles, for some reason, had all fallen into Chaos and decadence, indulging in all sort of excess. We arrived in the aftermath of a party or banquet that had taken place in a huge hall, where all the tables of food were still there. Unfortunately, we were too late - the place was infested by Slaanesh daemons. I literally saw daemonettes and hedonites bursting out of the bodies of corrupted nobles, the daemons all lunging out to attack my fellow guardsmen. That wasn't the worst thing. One of the nobles - the owner of the manor, I believe, had a Keeper of Secrets birth from his body, the greater daemon tearing its way out of his corpse and manifesting in the material universe.

I fired my lasgun at the Keeper of Secrets, but obviously didn't do much damage to it. Realizing that my shots were futile, for some reason I switched targets and shot the daemonettes around me. My lasgun had more success and I actually killed quite a few daemonettes. However, the Keeper of Secrets was still around and it tore through my platoon, killing everybody. With my commander killed, I could only run, especially since more daemons were showing up. This time, they were seekers, mounted cavalry that laughed in delight as they chased after me.

But they died to my lasgun. I don't know why my lasgun was so powerful. For some reason, my lasrifle did f all against the Keeper of Secrets, but was killing legions of daemonettes and seekers. Okay...I guess my faith in the Emperor held me through. But with the Keeper of Secrets bearing down on me, I was forced to retreat. Along the way, I ran into fleeing nobles who somehow survived the massacre, but I ignored them.

Somehow I managed to return to the Vendetta gunship that brought me here, where a few guardsmen (and a guardswoman) were hanging around to establish a perimeter. I think I reported what happened to them (I didn't have a vox, so I had to tell them in person), and we were forced to rush back into the Vendetta gunship and fly away before the Keeper of Secrets arrived. Meanwhile, we left the nobles behind, who were milling about in the platform about us.

Then...I woke up.

Yeah, that was quite the weird dream. Sounds like it would make for a good story if I ever put pen to paper. That was just hilarous, dreaming that I was a guardsman and fighting daemonettes and seekers while being pursued by a towering Keeper of Secrets. I even dreamed about my Vendetta gunship (which I have a model of)! Holy Terra. This must be a sign from the Emperor!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Impulsor (Black Templars)

 I built an Impulsor to ferry my Black Templars Bladeguard Veterans about. Yay?

Not sure what to say other than I magnetized it. So it can be equipped with both the shield dome and the Bellicatus missile array. Swapping them out just feels fun. Maybe I should gone with the Ironhail skytalon array for more dakka, but I like the missiles more. Packs more firepower.

And so my Black Templars stand ready. I think. Why am I building a Black Templars army, you may ask? I don't know. I was aware of them when I first got into the hobby. A squad of them was present in the Forge of Mars omnibus - one of the first few Warhammer 40,000 novels that I read, almost 7 years ago, when I first started (though Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium holds the distinct honor of being the first Warhammer 40,000 novel I have ever read - okay, it's more of an omnibus, but you know what I mean). I usually find Space Marines boring, with the exception of the Thousand Sons Legion. That's because I read A Thousand Sons, also written by Graham McNeill (the Forge of Mars omnibus was also written by him). I preferred the Knights of House Taranis in Mechanicusm, Ciaphas Cain and his Valhallans (and the Imperial Guard as a faction). I think the only other Space Marine Chapter I took an interest in was the Astral Knights. I did like the Grey Knights (having read Ben Counter's Grey Knights omnibus around the same time), but the Astral Knights' insane bravery against the World Engine took the cake for me.

Then about 2 years ago, I ended up reading about the Imperial Fists in the Beast Arises saga. Admittedly, I got attached to the Imperial Fists as a Legion, especially with the Last Wall protocol, and all the successor Chapters, which included the Black Templars, Fists Exemplar (sad what happened to them), Crimson Fists, Soul Drinkers (well...), the Excoriators and a few others. Maximus Thane was really amazing, and I even like Vangorvich, who actually turned out to be a swell guy before he went insane. Koorland was okay, but I like Maximus Thane more. Admittedly, there wasn't much Black Templars present in the Beast Arises, but that's when I really got more interested in the Imperial Fists as a Legion. Can't say I like their color scheme or siege playstyle, though (despite playing Imperial Guard, but I'm more of a treadhead, and the Imperial Fists aren't an armored legion, unlike the Iron Hands). I did try to read a few of the Iron Hands lore, but they were...boring. The whole "Flesh is weak" and more machine than man didn't strike me as interesting, especially since I already have the Skiarii and Adeptus Mechanicus for that. Simply put, if I wanted the whole cyborg, flesh is weak, more machine than man angle, I would just go read/play Skitarii and Adeptus Mechanicus instead of Iron Hands. They felt like a cheap copy of the Adeptus Mechanicus (no offense to Iron Hands fans). Plus when I tried playing them, they felt so...cheesy. And unfriendly (which makes sense, because they are pretty unfriendly in the lore).

So the Imperial Fists stuck in my mind, but I didn't like Lysander. I guess. I like Grimaldus after reading Helsreach, the way he delivered speeches and inspired the Armageddon Steel Legions to fight the orks. But...I actually like the Imperial Guardsmen and Armageddon Steel Legion (as well as the storm troopers) in Helsreach more than Grimaldus and the Black Templars themselves. I don't know why. The novel waas literally about Grimaldus and the Black Templars, but I found myself warming to Andrej, Ryken and Sarren more than Grimaldus and the Black Templars. Like...why? I have no idea why either.

All that changed when I read Black Legion, which was also by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Honestly, the main draw for me in Black Legion was Iskandar Khayon, who was a former Thousand Sons sorcerer. But then I read about how the Black Templars stood against the Black Legion fleet when Abaddon launched the first Black Crusade. They had a vast fleet, including their flagship, the Eternal Crusader. I read the duel between Abaddon between Sigismund. I sort of like his attitude.

"You keep speaking, Ezekyle. Do I look as though I am listening?"

Cool. Then the epic duel, which was really cool. Following which, I heard the last bit of defiant dialogue from Sigismund.

"You will die as your weakling father died. Soulless. Honorless. Weeping. Ashamed."

Let's just say Sigismund was the most badass character I had ever read. He even outshone Ezekyle Abaddon for me. From then on, I ended up converting to the Black Templars faith. Thanks to being a fan of Sigismund, I went to look for a few Horus Heresy novels about the Imperial Fists, and I did take a liking to Rogal Dorn and the Fists, especially Sigismund as a character. His inner conflict, which was caused by Euphrati Keeler's advice. He's not a perfect person. While I like Sigismund because he was badass, I didn't like him because he was supposed to be invincible or the best swordsman or whatever (Abaddon basically bested him). What I liked was that despite his age, despite all odds, he refused to go down without a fight and literally survived for over a thousand years through hatred alone. That despite dying, he was defiant to the last. So even if he got his ass kicked in Siege of Terra, I don't really care. I like him as a character, not because he's some unbeatable Mary Sue who can't be bested in a sword duel (that's one of the reasons why I disliked Space Marines). It was his personality and determination that drew me to him.

Yeah, I ended up reading Black Legion last year because I had nothing better to do during the pandemic. And that's why I ended up being drawn to the Black Templars. Because Sigismund and their portrayal in Black Legion. So I bought whatever Black Templars stories I could find from Black Library (Amargeddon: The Omnibus and Crusaders of Dorn anthology), and I'm looking forward to reading them now.

Since I'm reading up on their lore, I thought I would create a small force of Black Templars...though I think they'll end up becoming a full army on their own right. I wonder how they'll fare against my Thousand Sons? Heh. I don't care about their Combat Doctrine (which is a little weak when compared to the other Chapters), but this gives me an excuse to field them alongside my Imperial Knights, Imperial Guard or Skitarii. Yay.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Way of the Warrior 6

 The second Warlord bellowed with both its warhorns and weaponry. Clusters of deadly projectiles streaked from its carapace Apocalypse missile launchers, shearing ork wrecks apart with violent detonations. The Imperial Knights using the hulking scrap as cover staggered from the shockwaves, but their ion shields held firm.

However, I knew our ion shields wouldn't be able to withstand even a glancing blow from the monster's volcano cannon.

Despite the overwhelming advantage in range, the Warlord Titan closed in on us, barging aside a slumped Gargant scrap in the process. Its Arioch power claw was raised, crackling with destructive energies, as it attempted to hunt down the Questoris Knights Styrix that had contributed to the destruction of its brother engine.

That turned out to be another trap. Weaving through the skyscrapers of twisted metal, the two Cerastus Knights Atrapos crashed into its back, their graviton singularity cannons spitting out dark, exotic energies. Miniature black holes appeared to consume the void shields of the Warlord Titan, folding adamantium and blasting out chunks of ceramite. However, the Warlord Titan was barely scratched by those powerful energies, clumsily whirling around to face this new threat. Both Knights Atrapos nimbly darted about, keeping to the back of the Warlord Titan even as they closed the distance. Their Atrapos lascutter flared to life, intense beams of thermal lasers slicing through the armor plating of the Warlord Titan and causing it to stagger.

Eventually, the Warlord Titan managed to turn its bulk around. Lashing out with its Arioch power claw, even as the two Knights Atrapos continued to hack away at exposed cabling and unveil the massive engine's Achilles heel, it seized one of the Knights. The power field exploded as it crushed the poor Knight suit, crumpling layers of thick adamantium and ceramite into chips.

The sacrifice of the warrior was not in vain, for the other scions of House Yato chose that moment to strike. Leading his personal court, Lord Takeda Takumi and his fellow nobles - all of whom piloted the venerable Cerastus Knights Lancer - plunged into the back of the distracted Warlord Titan, their shock lances discharging volatile energies. For a moment, it appeared that the Warlord Titan had received quite the jolt, stumbling as the Knights continued to hammer away with their fearsome melee weapons. The surviving Knight Atrapos, piloted by Sir Kanda Kintarou, continued to cut through the Warlord Titan's leg and cabling with his Atrapos lascutter, his lean and ominous suit showered by sparks and embers.

The third and last Warlord Titan lumbered forward in order to assist its brother Titan, its carapace Vulcan mega-bolters stitching up a line of destruction along the crowded battlefield and toppling over ork effigies. Its macro-gatling blaster shrieked as it hurled titanic shells at the Cerastus Knights. However, the projectiles detonated harmlessly against the void shields of its brother Titan. The Knights had cleverly snuck under the shimmering aegis to strike at the Titan's vulnerable parts, much like a swarm of sharks using their speed and maneuverability to attack a much larger kujira or whale's softer underbelly while using its immense size as shelter from other supermassive predators. Even those the Ardex-defensor cannons mounted upon the Warlord Titan's rear fired, their relatively minor beams - which were meant to take out conventional tanks and infantry swarming the legs of the Titan - dissipated harmlessly against the flared ion shields of the Cerastus Knights.

Once again, I recalled how we Knights of Draconis III were often called upon to exterminate the bake-kujira that dwelled within the depths of our homeworld's oceans. Come to think of it, they were also about the size of a Titan. Often, we would have our Knight suits wade into the shore during high tides to battle these beasts as they lashed out at coastal cities, particularly those that depended on fishing for a living. Draconis III was known for its seafood exports throughout the segmentum.

Whatever the case, the third Warlord Titan would not stand idle while its heretic brethren was suffering. It also approached, its Arioch power claw extended.

That was when we sprang the trap.

The three surviving Knights Styrix wove out of the labyrinth and fired from the side, their volkite beams flaying away its void shields. The third Warlord Titan swung about, its macro gatling blaster still howling as it chewed up broken ork constructs. Its Vulcan mega-bolters halted, for it was a waste of ammunition to keep them firing. Fortunately for us, the Titan's carapace weapons could only fire toward its front arc, a weakness that Lord Takeda planned to exploit when he hatched this stratagem.

The Knights Styrix continued to draw the third Warlord Titan's attention, the thermal rays of their volkite chieoroviles continuing to strip the massive engine of its shields. The heretek engine was not without its fangs, however. Its macro-gatling cannon relentlessly bellowed and two of the Knights Styrix vanished in a cloud of detonating shells. Sir Kanda Keisuke, the sole survivor, was forced to break off, disappearing behind another blasphemous ork effigy. The already wrecked Stompa was then blown apart by the roaring Vulcan mega-bolters.

However, they had already achieved what they had set out to do. The last layers of the Warlord Titan's void shields flickered out and died, exposing the super-heavy engine to open air once more.

Sir Honnouji didn't waste the opportunity the Knights Styrix bought him. His volcano lance flared, the incendiary beam searing the air before landing a direct hit on the Warlord Titan's corrupted torso. Rivulets of red-hot metal dripped from the gouge in its body as it staggered, but it was simply a scratch. Its warhorns snarling, the daemonic entity that possessed the blasphemous engine spun around to fire its macro-gatling cannon in the direction of Sir Honnouji's Knight suit and forcing him to duck.

Once again, the Dominus Knight Castellan only proved to be a distraction. Sir Takeda Takuya's banner of Knights Errant emerged from hiding, their thermal cannons opening up. Melta beams corched the back of the Warlord Titan's torso, a coordinated strike that ripped a hole clean through the weakened metal. The Titan staggered, having sustained critical damage. Its reactor leaked plasma, shrouding the wounded engine in smoke. Once again, it roared in defiance, swinging around to face the new Knight banner, only to take another glancing hit from Sir Honnouji's volcano lance.

It wasn't just us Knights. A squadron of Stormblades had joined in, their plasma blastguns spitting Titan-killing blobs of plasma. More armor plating glowed hot and liquefied from the sheer heat, the Titan stumbling about in its last death throes.

However, the job wasn't done yet. Not just yet. While both Titans fought and took more lives of the noble warriors who did their very best to take them down, reinforcements emerged from an unexpected quarter.

I was first alerted to this by the machine-spirit of Karyuu. It snarled and tugged at my senses, forcing us to swivel away in a direction opposite the Warlord Titans. I glanced at the augur arrays, but came up with nothing.

"What's wrong?" I asked quietly. Karyuu snarled and continued to pull, almost as if it wanted to head in another direction. I wasn't very sure if I should indulge it because I would be disobeying the Daimyo's orders. However, Karyuu was rarely wrong, if ever. If it thought there was an enemy there, then it was most likely worth checking out.

Taking a deep breath, I scanned the area with my augur arrays, but the auspex came up with nothing. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to check the place out. When I moved my mount, the machine-spirit of Karyuu finally eased up.

"Sir Tanaka, where do you think you're going?"

Honda Haruka, who also piloted a Knight Preceptor, spoke up in slight annoyance. I swallowed and thumbed the button for the vox.

"Karyuu senses something. I'm checking it out. It might be an enemy."

There was a pause before Sir Honda relented. "You might be right. Yato no Tsuurugi is also restless. It is telling me that there's something out there. But all augur scans turn up empty. I thought it might be nemy Secutarii, but..."

Now that he mentioned it, we had seen no sign of the twisted, corrupted cyborgs that served as the skitarii guards for Legio Mortis. Usually a Titan Legion would be escorted by Secutarii, elite skitarii infantry that marched in their wake and cleared out enemies too beneath the notice of such towering god-engines.

Their absence unnerved me. Karyuu especially didn't like it and it was trying to warn me of something. Even though Lord Takeda's stratagem was paying off and we would finally destroy the Titans of Legio Mortis - albeit at great cost - there was still something gnawing at me. Not just the anxious machine-spirit of Karyuu, but something else.

It was almost as if Karyuu had recognized the presence of an ancient foe.

Then the Shogun's words came back to me and I flinched, my connection with Karyuu flaring up through my neural sockets. My mount hummed its approval when it sensed my enlightenment. As for me, I felt more dread than pride at being right.

"House Malinax."

"What?" Sir Honda snapped, his voice tense. "Where?"

"I don't know. But they are out here. Karyuu can feel them. They are somewhere out here. Watching us, even."

There. A shadow. I wasn't sure if I had seen it correctly - it could have been a ghost on my visual auspex, but I thought I saw something flitting behind one of the hulking ork constructs.

"I see something." A bondsman, piloting one of the Armigers Warglaive, reported. What was his name? Suzuki? "It's fast...and huge."

Then with a howl, something smashed past the destroyed shell of an ork Stompa to charge at us. Clad in the gray and ochre colors of House Malinax, the corrupted engine bellowed as it charged toward us, its reaper chainsword whirring and its Thunderstrike gauntlet crackling.

"Contact!" Sir Honda yelled, already moving Yato no Tsurugi into position to intercept the crazed Knight Rampager. He first fired a high intensity blast from his las-impulsor, which flared brightly against the Knight Rampager's sickly glowing ion shield. Even so, it was slowed by the shot, its movements hampered as volatile energies engulfed it. Thanks to that, Sir Honda was able to parry its rusting Reaper chainsword while sidestepping a swing from its Thunderstrike gauntlet.

War Dogs loped from behind mishappen pieces of ork vehicles, their autocannons or thermal lances firing. Our House's Armiger Knights surged forward, vengeance on their lips, their chain cleavers revving. House Yato and House Malinax had been sworn enemies from before I could remember. Most warriors of our House probably were unaware for the reason for our deep-sated resentment against House Malinax, but I had managed to access a sequestered historical archive that dated back to the Great Heresy.

Even though most of the information had been redacted and banned from my contemporaries, from what I could gather, our grudge stemmed from a single battle...in a world called Prospero. It was strange, for I couldn't find any other mention of Prospero in Draconis III's archives or data systems. It was a planet that had been struck off all Imperial records, apparently. For reasons unknown, though I had my suspicions. From what I could piece together, Prospero was the former homeworld of a Traitor Legion. The Thousand Sons. Once a loyal Legion of the Emperor, my ancestors used to fight alongside them. We had a strong bond, especially since it was the Thousand Sons who brought us into the fold of the Imperium during the Great Crusade. Details were sketchy, but eventually their Primarch, Magnus, had committed some sort of crime and the Emperor called for him to be arrested. He sent the Adeptus Custodes, the Sisters of Silence and the entire legion of the Space Wolves to bring Magnus back in chains, but for some reason they decided to raze Prospero too. Being staunch allies of the Thousand Sons, House Yato had pledged their support and fielded several lances to protect Prospero from invaders. There, my ancestors (or rather, the ancestors of the current House Yato) had fought against the corrupted scions of House Malinax, with each of them accusing the other of being traitors. The result of the battle wasn't clear, and I had no idea what befell the fate of those warriors who fought for Prospero, for they had simply been struck off the records.

There were a few mentions of House Yato sending lances to fight House Malinax in the Beta-Garmon system, as well as during the defense of the palace of Terra when Horus Lupercal attacked the Imperial homeworld. House Malinax had revealed their true colors during those acts of treachery, and ever since then House Yato and its many branches had sworn to destroy them.

And now we had our chance.

I staggered back as a colossal beam of light slammed against my ion shield, collapsing a layer. A Knight Desecrator was loping toward me, its skull-like helm in a permanent snarl that was almost organic. I faced down the predatory machine and unleashed my las-impulsor, my fingers twitching within my haptic gloves. My opponent tried to dodge, but several of its ion shields blew out and sparks flew from its laser destructor. Apparnetly I had succeeded in taking out its arm weapon.

Not that it mattered much. The screaming Kight Desecrator slammed into me, intent on drawing me into close combat. Its crackling Thunderstrike gauntlet snatched at me, but I swatted it away with my Reaper chainsword.

All around me, terse voices of warriors and bondsmen spoke over the vox, reporting engagements. There were at least five Questoris-class Knights, three of them Despoiler-class and wielding an assortment of weapons. Six War Dogs. In contrast, we only had three Questoris Knights Preceptor and ten Armiger-class Knights to hold them off.

"Hold them off for as long as you can," Lord Takeda commanded. The dying wail of a Warlord Titan drowned out his next words as the Cerastus Knights finally finished it off. They had taken off a leg from the Warlord Titan and it crashed down, secondary explosions rocking its body and blowing its weapons apart. The Cerastus Knights strode away, getting clear before the heretek engine could go nuclear. "We will come to your aid..."

They didn't get a chance. A fresh banner of Cerastus Knights lunged from behind the broken form of a Gargant, all clad in the colors of House Malinax. Two Knights Castigator and two Knights Acheron. The bolts of the former hammered into the ion gauntlet shields of the Knights Lancer, to no avail, while blazing promethium from the latter washed over them, turning the battlefield into a sea of fire.

Sir Kanda Kintarou didn't wait, his Atrapos lascutter slicing through one of the Knights Acheron before it could bring its Reaper chainfist to bear. The super-heavy walker staggered, and retaliated with another tide of flames. Sir Kanda unleashed another miniature black hole that tored the entire arm of the Knight Acheron off and detonated the promethium tanks, engulfing the engine in fire. Its immolated figure staggered for a moment before it fell.

Then the Knights Lancer and Knights Castigator clashed, the shock lances blazing azure as they traded blows with the eerily glowing Tempest warblades.

I wasn't able to see much of their battle for I was embroiled in a melee of my own. Swinging my Reaper chainsword, I batted away the Knight Desecrator's Thunderstrike gauntlet. In my peripheral vision, I caught sight of an Armiger Warglaive hacking away at a War Dog with its Reaper chain-cleaver, galvanized by my presence, whereas the latter was moving with smooth precision. No doubt the poor thrall had been enslaved by the pilot of the Knight Desecrator, his Helm Mechanicum overriden by the latter's Throne Mechanicum.

I would probably be doing him a favor by freeing him.

Parrying the Knight Desecrator's gauntlet with my blade, I plunged my las-impulsor into my opponent's chest and opened fire at pointblank range. The laser tore through the armor plating and blew out the Throne Mechanicum. For a moment, the Knight Desecrator slumped, its power draining away as it died. I then stabbed the limp Knight Desecrator with my Reaper chainsword, obliterating the pilot and finishing him off. Kicking the Knight Desecrator off, I then moved to aid my fellow warriors. With the death of his master, the pilot of the War Dog found himself overwhelmed by the bondsman beside me. Suzuki deftly moved to the side before carving his mount's Reaper chain-cleaver through the exposed side of the corrupted war machine, shearing off its melee weapon.

Satisfied that Suzuki had the battle well in hand, I was about to depart...only to feel a chill run down my back. Karyuu was warning me of something...that something was amiss. That I shouldn't turn my back on my dead enemy.

Pivoting about, I spun to face the dead form of the Knight Desecrator. Only that it wasn't exactly dead. The daemonic entity that possessed its figure had forcibly brought the corrupted machine back to its feet, its mechanical joints twisting in unnatural shapes. Organic substances wove over adamantium, almost seeeming to have the texture of flesh. The claw-tipped Thunderstrike gauntlet of the Knight Desecrator, already resembling talons of a predator, took on a more horrifying shape, growing right before my eyes. Its obliterated laser destructor had bent and distorted to turn into a bone-like lance, its tip sharp and edges serrated. The red glow of its ruined helm came back to life, the broken visage distorting to turn into a monstrous maw with half-metal, half-organic fangs.

And in the gaping hole of the daemon knight's chest, where the pilot had once been, a beating daemonic heart now filled the smoking wreck of the Throne Mechanicum, made from flesh and fire.

With a roar, the daemon knight charged at me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Way of the Warrior 5

Having gotten used to being ensconced within the safety of my Throne Mechanicum, protected by layers of ion shield and thick adamantium-ceramite armor, I feared no enemy. My Knight suit towered over even the largest battle-tanks, reaching about nine meters in height. It wasn't unusual for me to develop a belief in the invincibility of our Knight Lances, and when our massive super-heavy walkers went to war, we literally bestrode the battlefield as gods, above the concerns of the myriad of mortals that dwelled the ground beneath our titanic feet.

But if there was one thing bigger than even our largest Knights, it was the Titans. The god-machines of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and their twisted counterparts who bore fealty to the treacherous Dark Mechanicum, they towered over even our super-heavy mounts. Even their smallest scout variant, the Warhound pattern, was half again as large as my Questoris Knight, and several dozen times heavier.

Unfortunately, what we faced was no mere scout Titan. It was a Warlord. And even as the ground quaked beneath is titanic feet, I saw two of its brethren emerge from around the mountains of scrap that formerly composed of ork Gargants.

Three Warlord Titans. And they were all marching toward the hive city of Augerilla. All three were armed with crackling Arioch power claws, eager to bring such ruthless weapons to bear. One of them leveled its volcano cannon at the hive city and fired. The incendiary beam almost blinded me, and would have if my auxpexes hadn't automatically dimmed it down. There were a massive explosion and one of the void shields glowing over Augerilla blinked out. The other two continued to lumber forward, with the first of them raising its Sunfury plasma annihilator. I shuddered when I recalled how it disintegrated an ork Gargant.

"It's a Myrmidon Maniple, but exclusive to Legio Mortis." Kanda Keisuke's voice crackled over the vox. I glanced back in reflex and saw that his Knight Styrix had picked itself up and was limping toward the edge of the gradually dissipating void shields. "The Death Heads are one of the few titan legions capable of fielding so many Warlord Titans."

"This can't be good," I muttered. Then I shook my head. "How are you doing? You took quite some damage in the previous fight."

"I'll live," Sir Kanda replied tersely. "We don't have a choice. If we don't do anything about those Titans, then none of us will survive."

He was right, but I wasn't able to suppress the dread of witnessing the heretic god-engines close in on us. They were so...massive. This close, they almost filled out my entire visual auspex, blotting out anything I could see.

There was a slight snarl within my Throne Mechanicum, accompanied by ghostly whispers. I shut my eyes and tried to focus. The machine-spirit of my mount, Karyuu, tugged at me through the neural sockets plugged into my cranium. Through our connection, I could feel it bellowing in defiance. Unlike the flesh component, the parts that were steel and machine felt no fear. Karyuu hungered to slay the massive beasts before us, to claim immense glory and honor.

For what was a warrior if he did not fight? What was a warrior worth if he avoided a challenge?

Calm yourself down, I told Karyuu sternly. Taking a deep breath, I tried to impose my will upon the firebrand machine-spirit of my Knight suit. I forced myself to meditate, just like the old master, Ishida Ichiro, instructed. Empty my mind. An unfettered mind. Become one with my sword.

The blade of Karyuu's Reaper chainsword whirred and hummed, and the las-impulsor growled as superheated energies built up within its barrel. I gritted my teeth and focused on the present. I would not shame myself as a warrior by losing control over my mount. The warriors - the bushi of Draconis III were calmed, composed and disciplined fighters who reined in their mounts. We conducted daily meditations and emptied our minds to ensure we wouldn't be dominated by the fiery machine spirits of our Knights suits. By freeing ourselves from our past and our woes, we insulated ourselves from the haunting whispers of the ghosts within our Throne Mechanicum, the spirits of our ancestors, warriors of long times past who left a psychic imprint within the cockpit.

The essence of Zen was to help us fight more efficiently. I would not - could not - allow myself to be inundated by Karyuu's desire to charge at such a monstrous foe. House Yato was known for being the Slayer of Beasts - our yearly cull of the Orochi and perhaps even the dreaded Yamata no Orochi attested to that - and so Karyuu hungered to slay the beastly Warlord Titans advancing toward our position.

Even though I knew it was suicide. I gritted my teeth and reined it in. I was the pilot, the master of this particular machine. I should be controlling it, not allowing it to control me. Well, I say control, but I knew deep down that this was a partnership, a bond between man and machine. I could never command or control Karyuu, not really. We fought as one, with an understanding few could reach. That was also why the warriors of House Yato (and Draconis III) underwent Zen training. To empty our minds so that our own individualism wouldn't suppress the bellicose machine-spirits that inhabited our mounts. We were to work together, not inhibit each other.

Focus, Karyuu, I instructed. I'll give you what you want. We will find a way to slay those god-engines, but if we were to charge at them now, we'll only die. A futile death is worse than failure. It is a dishonor that we cannot recover from. At least if we live our failure, we still have a chance at redemption.

My mount finally calmed down, though I could sense the dissatisfied growl in its plasma reactor. Well, that would have to do.

"Lord Takeda," I said. Takeda Takumi had remained the Daimyo in charge of our Lances. I was obligated to report this to my master. Even after ascended to the ranks of full warrior from bondsman, he had remained my superior.

"I see them, Tomoyuki," Lord Takeda replied gruffly. "I'm mustering all the Knight lances under me right now."

A ping in my auspext told me where to go, and I immediately had my Knight Preceptor lop off in a gallop. The clanking behind me told me that Sir Kanda was right behind, his limping Knight Styrix doing its best to keep up. Beside him was the surviving Armiger Moirax, whose pilot I did not recognize.

Lord Takeda was waiting within his mount, Kensei. It wasn't Ryuugiri, the Questoris Knight Errant that I remembered from the days of my bondsman. Kensei was a Cerastus Knight Lancer chassis, while Ryuugiri had been handed to his son, Takeda Takuya. Takuya was present, commanding a banner of Knights of his own, three Questoris Knights Errant and six Armiger Warglaives. His father led the lance, his honor guard consisting of three other Cerastus Knights Lancer. My Knight was part of another banner under Lord Takeda's lance, along with two other Questoris Knights Preceptor and a handful of Armiger-class Knights tailing us. Our huge banner had split into three groups, with each Knight Preceptor leading an Armiger talon. As I was relatively inexperienced, I did not have any bondsmen to command. Not that I resented it. Sometimes I felt more like a Freeblade, used to operating on my own.

Rounding out the lance was a support banner of two Acastus Knights Porphyrion and a single Dominus Knight Castellan, the Kasan Jigoku, which was piloted by a veteran by the name of Honnouji Hotaru.

I had yet to include the auxiliary lance from House Kanda, a Mechanicus Knight lance featuring rare, exotic suits. Including Sir Kanda Keisuke's Taiyou no Hikari, there were four Questoris Knights Styrix in total. Even though they were rare in the wider Imperium, Draconis IV had produced plenty of the Styrix chassis to serve alongside their native Titan Legion. It was a pity that none of the Dark Dragons was on this planet with us. On the other hand, we had two Cerastus Knights Atrapos, which were designed to destroy enemy engines...such as the Titans we now faced.

However, I was under no illusion that two Knights Atrapos could destroy three Warlord Titans. However, every bit counted. I was glad that we had an additional Mechanicus Knight lance reinforcing us. Apparently the Archmagos Dominus of Draconis IV had forseen this eventuality...though I questioned why they didn't dispatch a Titan then.

"The Astra Militarum are trying frantically to hold the Titans at bay with their Stormblades and Leman Russ Executioner tanks, but they are taking heavy losses," Lord Takeda explained after we had all gathered. "We will need to make a move shortly."

"How do you want to do this?" Sir Honnouji asked cautiously.

"We will charge straight at the Warlord Titans and cut them apart," Sir Takeda Takuya said fiercely.

"As much as I am heartened by your courage, my son, that is sheer recklessness." Lord Takeda sounded simultaneously stern and indulgent. "Remember, there is no honor in foolishly throwing your life away. There is more honor in fighting cleverly and claiming victory for the Emperor."

"You sound like you have a plan." Sir Kanda Kintarou, the warrior who led the Mechanicus lance but deferred to Lord Takeda's overall command, said.

"I do." I could see Lord Takeda's smile through the holo-screen in my visual auspex. "We don't have much time, but here is what we will do."

A few moments later, the Knight Lances emerged from Augerilla, circling around the approaching Warlord Titans while using the scorched heaps of wrecked ork machines as cover. The Stompas and Gargants were huge enough to conceal the silhouettes of our Knights, something I was grateful for. Meanwhile, Lord Takeda had coordinated with the commanders of the Astra Militarum and had the super-heavy Stormblades and conventional tank squadrons pull back.

"Now!"

At Lord Takeda's command, the banner of Questoris Knights Styrix surged forward, their volkite chieorovile spitting ruby beams at the lead Warlord. The towering heretek war engine simply turned around completely unaffected.

Or so the Princeps commanding it thought.

The searing thermal rays of the Knight Styrix's volkite chieoroviles had a special property. They were capable of flaying away the void shields of even a venerable Warlord Titan very quickly. Already the once azure screens of energy were turning into a dull red upon contact from the volkite beams, and then flickering out completely. The Warlord Titan slowly spun around, trying to deal with the relatively immense agility of the fast-moving Knights, who darted around like a kappa escaping from a same in the huge green lakes of Draconis III. They continued to strip the dying void shields of the Warlord Titan even as the heretek engine fired a massive blast of plasma from its Sunfury. One of the Knights vanished, a colossal crater of glowing, red-hot rock left behind in its place. Fortunately, most of the shots had went wide and the surviving three Knights Styrix weaved through the labyrinth of broken ork machines, disappearing from sight.

The Warlord Titan lumbered forward, clenching its Arioch power claw in fury as power crackled through the vicious digits. The daemon dwelling within its heart shrieked, almost causing my ears to bleed. The machine spirit of Karyuu snarled back, resisting the ominous feeling of dread that threatened to worm their way into my Throne Mechanicum. Moans from the ghosts haunting my cockpit blew past my ear, sending chills down my spine, but just as I was taught by Ishida Sensei, I closed them out and subconsciously emptied my mind.

Right now, I had to focus on the present.

The first Warlord Titan tried to pursue the evasive Knights Styrix, but before it could get too far, eight crimson beams seared from the distance and punched into its head. The Warlord Titan staggered for a moment, sparks flying from molten metal that ran in rivulets from its now ruined, misshapen head. I didn't understand how the Princeps and Moderatii had survived. Perhaps they didn't, and the daemonic entity that possesed the once venerable god-machine was still driving it forward despite the mortal wounds it had taken. Or maybe the damned crew had been cursed by whatever foul gods they worshipped beyond the Great Rift, their immolated corpses forcibly reanimated so that they could continue piloting the Warlord despite the excruciating agony they must be experiencing right now.

It made no difference. Seconds after the ferocious bombardment of twin Magna lascannons from the support banner of Acastus Knights Porphyrion, their assault was joined by the volcano lance of the single Dominus Knight Castellan in our lance. Sir Honnouji had fired with impeccable accuracy, the incendiary beam from his devastating weapon striking the head dead center. If the crew hadn't died from the previous attack, they were definitely dead now. A colossal explosion ripped the Warlord Titan apart expelling what was left of its obliterated head. The massive engine stumbled backward before falling onto its back, its plasma annihilator letting loose another blast of defiance. However, its final shot went wide and the superheated matter washed over the shimmering void shields of one of its brethren.

The princeps of the second Warlord Titan was not amused. He shifted the aim of his volcano cannon and fired, obliterating the position of the Acastus Knights. I flinched when I saw the fireball consume their location. Acastus Knights were rare, particularly in the 42nd Millennium. Only the most advanced forge worlds continued to manufacture them, and even then only in small quantities. House Yato was fortunate that we even had a few of them at all.

However, two Acastus Knights and one Questoris Knight for a single Warlord? That was a trade Lord Takeda would take anyday. He was already giving out crisp orders and I subconsciously obeyed, bringing my Knight into position.

There were still two other Warlord Titans storming Augerilla City, and the surviving Knights had all sworn an oath to bring them down.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Way of the Warrior 4

 "WAAAGH!"

The orks sprinted toward the barricade etablished by the Astra Militarum around the Hive City of Augerilla. Volatile munitions spiraled in haphazard trajectories before harmlessly detonating against the flickering void shields that protected the sole hive city left under Imperial rule, but even without the protective dome, I thought it unlikely that those makeshift bolt rounds would hit anything.

The orks were not known for their accuracy, after all.

However, the orks were known to be excellent warriors in close combat, and they were dangerously drawing close to the barricade. Behind the ceramite walls, Guard officers yelled orders and guardsmen poured a fusillade of ruby las-beams into the incoming green tide.

Manning one of the ramparts in my Questoris Knight Preceptor, I opened fire with the low intensity beam of my suit's las-impulsor. The esoteric energies lanced through a charging horde and felled them before they could get too far. The multi-laser installed into the chest of my armor rolled about, spitting deadly beams and scything down more of the approaching greenskin. Above, the carapace stormspear rocket pod roared as it unleashed missiles that blew apart a ramshackle trukk that was ferrying a good number of boyz. The greenskins didn't seem all too intimidated when their transport was obliterated, hooting and laughing racuously as they poured out. They didn't even pay much attention to the majority of their brethren, who had been immolated by the explosion and were staggering about in a seemingly drunken manner before falling over.

The Cadians milling about the ramparts continued to fire disciplined volleys of las-beams into the unending horde, but for every ork they took down, two more replaced the dead xenos. At this rate, we would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, despite the horrific casualties my stalwart allies were reaping upon them. Once again, I was struck by how exemplary the Cadians were in battle. They never lost their cool, and were far more accurate and tenacious than the Draconian regiments I usually served alongside.

What we lacked in discipline and precision, however, we made up in fanaticism and technology. Looking at one of the auspexes inside my Throne Mechanicum, I saw a Draconian squadron of Leman Russ Executioner tanks roll up to take their place beside a Cadian column of more conventional Leman Russ main battle tanks, Vanquishers and Exterminators. Their plasma Executioner cannons bellowed as steam vented from their backs as they unleashed devastating streams of superheated matter across the ork tide, vaporizing boyz and ramshackle vehicles alike.

Swathes of the greenskin tide simply ceased to exist, their bodies incinerated by the sheer heat. Trukks, battle wagons and absurd contraptions that resembled racing cars exploded as the stream of plasma seared through them. Those that weren't torn apart by the first wave of plasma blasts were finished off by smaller streaks of blue-white light from plasma cannon sponsons or pierced by the ruby beams of hull lascannons.

Yet the orks continued to pour forward, filling the breaches that the Draconian Leman Russ Executioner tanks had just created. As far as I could see, they were a massive sea that swept forward relentlessly, with no end to their numbers.

That was all to change. Vendetta gunships swooped down to dislodge their passengers atop the ramparts. Kamikaze troopers rappeled down, not even bothering with their grav-chutes, as they dropped otno the top of the hive city walls. Unlike most regimental storm troopers, Draconian Kamikaze troopers were armed with volkite weaponry instead of the more typical hellguns - or hot-shot lasguns. Wielding volkite chargers, they fired incendiary beams into the ork horde, aided by targeting auspexes mounted in their helmets. The Kamikaze troopers spread out their shots, picking out the largest orks in the mobs, spacing their beams out evenly. Their targets were incinerated, but that wasn't the full extent of the damage wrought about by rare volkite technology.

The greenskins around the targets spontaenously combusted. Dozens of infernos ignited from the point of contact, engulfing panicking and confused orks, who had no idea what had just happened. It was only natural. The Imperium rarely fielded such ancient and exotic weapons in these dark days. The forge world of Draconis IV was one of the very few forge worlds that continued to manufacture volkite weapons in bulk.

The thermal rays from the Kamikaze troopers' volkite chargers continued to lance into the horde, incinerating large swathes of them better than any Hellhounds. Within a few minutes, the teeming sea of green had transformed into a colossal conflagration of red-orange flames, immolated orks spreading the flames by running headlong into their comrades.

The Kamikaze troopers weren't alone. Squadrons of Carnodon tanks rolled up to take their places alongside their heavier Leman Russ brethren. Armed with volkite culverins and volkite calivers, the medium tanks unleashed more of the thermal rays upon the blazing horde, wiping out the invasion force.

"Hmph. Seems like they don't need us here."

I raised an eyebrow when I heard the familiar voice over the vox. Glancing at one of the myriad holo-screens that floated around my Throne Mechanicum, I caught sight of a Questoris Knight Styrix lumbering toward our positions. Sir Kanda Keisuke hefted up the massive volkite chieorovile that made up his suit's right arm and fired into a milling blob of greenskins who had broken, only for their warboss to grab one of them and crush its head with its power klaw. That motivated the other orks to turn back around and continue their suicidal charge.

Sir Kanda took careful aim before vaporizing that warboss with the immense thermal ray from his volkite chieorovile. The orks around the disintegrated warboss howled as they combusted along with their deceased leader, and the flames only spread when more ruby thermal rays lanced into them. Coming alongside Sir Kanda's Questoris Knight Styrix were a pair of Armiger Moirax Knights, both armed with volkite veuglaires. They continued to rain down fiery death upon the ork horde from range, burning more of the xenos scum. With the bondsmen piloting the Armiger Moirax Knights dealing with the xenos infantry, Sir Kanda turned his attention to their heavy vehicles, his volkite chieorovile flashing blindingly as he scored a hit on one of their battlewagons, reducing it to a flaming heap.

The macroclade of Skitarii accompanying the Mechanicus Lance of House Kanda marched forward relentlessly, firing with uncanny precision. Several squadrons of Serberys Sulfurhounds crashed into the forward lines of orks, engulfing them in fiery phosphor. The cyber-beast mounts' maws yawned and cascading breaths of phosphor flame engulfed ork hordes. Behind the cavalry, Cybernetica maniples of Kastelan robots lumbered forward, their incendium combusters roaring as they washed the green tide with cleansing fire.

"That should be it," Sir Kanda said over the vox. "We will check out the northeast battlements. Sir Tanaka, if you require assistance, feel free to call upon us again."

"Thank you, Sir Kanda."

I watched the lance of Mechanicus Knights march off toward the northeast, bowing my head (Sir Kanda could see a holo-pict of me inside my Throne Mechanicum). A macroclade of Skitarii accompanied them, occasionlly taking potshots at the orks with their galvanic rifles.

Honestly, it was a common misconception that all Draconian Knights belonged to House Yato. While the wider Imperium believed that the Imperal Knights of Draconis III and Draconis IV severed under the banner of House Yato - and rightly so, for the Shogun was of the Yato line - there were actually several major Knight Houses who swore their allegiance to the Shogun. Led by the greatest Daimyos, each of them commanded their own house. There was House Takeda and House Uesugi, both of them second only to House Yato.

Among the many Draconian Knight Houses, House Kanda was unique in that it was seconded to the Adeptus Mechanicus priesthood that ruled over the forge world of Draconis IV. House Kanda were given Knight suits that were more in line with the Mechanicus's needs, and they often served alongside the Titans of Legio Draconis, who in turn relied heavily on the support of House Kanda. There were no scout Titans in Legio Draconis - rather, the Dark Dragons fielded massive war machines such as Warlord Titans and Warmaster Titans. The Knights of House Kanda frequently fulfilled the role of scouts, advancing ahead as the vanguard to report battlefield conditions back to the Princeps of the maniple. In fact, it was far more common for the Dark Dragons to dispatch only a single Warlord or Warmaster Titan to a battlefield in support of a few dozen lances of House Kanda.

Since House Kanda wore the same colors as House Yato and swore allegiance to the Shogun, it was easy to categorize them as Knights of House Yato. Indeed, there is very difference between the two houses - House Kanda was simply a branch clan of House Yato seconded entirely to the Mechanicus. The Daimyo who ruled over House Kanda - Kanda Kenji - was a direct relative of the Shogun. Yato Yoshimoto's first cousin, if I recalled correctly. So it wasn't wrong to just call them House Yato. Not unless you were really technical about it.

They didn't get very far when the situation changed. There was a huge explosion near the feet of Sir Kanda's Knight Styrix chassis, hurling skitarii rangers into the air in a mess of augmetics and body parts. A single Serberys Sulfurhound and his mount was crushed as a mass reactive shell detonated into them. A Kastelan robot waded through burning hordes of ork, only to be swatted off its feet by the whirring claw of a morkanaut.

"I knew this wouldn't be easy," I muttered under my breath as I turned around and saw the squadrons of ork walkers staggering toward us. Despite looking like scrap or oversized tin cans, I knew from experience how deadly they could be. They were slaughtering the skitarii and pushing the armored columns of the Astra Militarum back.

Adjustig my aim, I fired a high intensity beam from my las-impulsor. One of the Gorkanauts, spitting shells and rockets from its guns and sending the guardsmen atop the ramparts of the barricade into disarray, stumbled, a smoking crater in its chest. But it wasn't down, not yet. With a clank, it whirled around to face me, only to take a few multi-laser shots to the face. C.S. Goto would be proud...except that the multi-laser did nothing more than annoy the nob piloting it.

I fired another burst from my Knight's las-impulsor and the Gorkanaut finally went down, a smoking scrap. In its place, a Morkanaut lumbered forward, its power klaw raised. The mekboy piloting it wanted to make good use of its melee capabilities to overwhelm me before I could take advantage of the superior firepower of my Knight's las-impulsor.

I decided to teach it the error of its ways.

Sidestepping the power claw, I swung the reaper chainsword into its guts and eviscerated it. The power field flared to life and the teeth chewed into scrap metal, tearing a ragged hole in what would be the walker's abdomen. I then deftly guided my machine to step out of the way of a retaliating power klaw before hammering my las-impulsor into the gap I had just ripped into the Morkanaut's guts. My fingers clenched in my haptic gloves and I fired at pointblank range.

The ridiculous contraption detonated from the inside out, shrapnel raining down and slicing several nearby orks. I stumbled back, wincing from sympathetic feedback as the sharp metal left several scratches across the surface of my Knight suit, but otherwise I was unharmed.

To the side, I noticed that one of the Armiger Moirax was downed, having been torn apart by a Gorkanaut that had gotten too close. Sir Kanda was dueling a third Gorkanaut, weaving through its clumsy power klaw. He then seized the power claw with the Hekaton siege claw of his suit, and then ripped off the mechanical limb. There was a grinding wail as the Gorkanaut staggered, only for Sir Kanda to ram the siege claw into its head. In a single motion, he crushed it. The absurd walker slumped down, sparks flying from its frame.

Having finished off the Armiger Moirax and driven off the second to flight, the second Gorkanaut turned around to stab Sir Kanda in the back. I sheared its power klaw off with a blast from my las-impulsor and it careened, most of its shots going wide. Those that did hit detonated harmlessly against the shimmering ion shield that enveloped the Knight Styrix protectively.

"Thanks," Sir Kanda said as he whirled around and seized the midriff of the Gorkanaut with his Hekaton siege claw, pulverizing it. He then tossed it at an approaching Morkanaut that was firing and advancing simultaneously. The walker was knocked off its feet, falling onto its back helplessly and crushing both meleeing orks and skitarii alike.

I finished it off with a blast from my las-impulsor, setting off a chain reaction by destroying the crudely tacked on magazine racks that fed its voracious big shootas ammunition. The Morkanaut shuddered bfore it was blown apart.

"Phew. That should do it..."

Sir Kanda never finished his sentence. Something massive slammed into his Knight Styrix and exloded, wreathing his suit in a colossal conflagration. Despite his flickering ion shields, his machine went down, sparking. I took a step forward instinctively, but was relieved to see that his life-signs remained stable in a holo-screen inside my Throne Mechanicum.

"Damn, but that was bad," he groaned.

"Are you all right?" I asked, concerned. "Can you still move your suit? It looks pretty damaged, so you might want to fall back for now."

"And miss the fun?" Sir Kanda scoffed. "Look who's here."

I blinked and turned around. Two Stompas and a Gargant were waddling toward our position, their myriad weapons spitting out endless streams of shells and projectiles. Most of them went wide, but enough of them struck the battlements to send soldiers flying or vaporize them.

"Damn it!" I immediately moved toward the closest Stompa. Both of them had seen me and were turning around to face me. Even in the best of times, I wouldn't be able to take on a single Stompa by myself, let alone two. But if I didn't do anything, the courageous soldiers of the Astra Militarum would be slaughtered. Their tanks and gunships were pouring everything they had into the Gargant and Stompas, lascannons flaring red and plasma cannons glowing blue. But whatever force fields the orks had protected them from the intensive bombardment. Right now, the only thing that was preventing the orks from routing our armor was the void shields, but they were dangerously close to flickering out under the relentless assault.

Both Stompas fired at me while I tried to dodge. I attempted to respond with a well-placed las-impulsor shot, but the high intensity beam only dissipated against the kustom force field that shielded one of them. Missiles streaked from my caparace Stormspear rocket pod, but they had no more success than the high intensity beam of the las-impulsor. I circled them, trying to make use of abandoned hab blocks as cover, but their devastating weaponry laid the towering structures low in several salvos.

Fortunately, help came from an unexpected quarter. Two plasma beams surged outward and converged upon one of the Stompas. The superheavy walker staggered as its force fields blew out and its frame was engulfed in a tsunami of superheated matter. Its once yellow and red surface scorched black, it flailed about as secondary detonations shook it from within.

"Long live the Emperor," I murmured in awe, glancing at one of my auspex screens. The super-heavy tank company of the Draconian 724th armored regiment had arrived. Two Stormblades were parked beside their smaller Leman Russ Executioner tanks bethren and escorted by a squadron of Carnodon volkite tanks that protected them from the ork infantry. Their plasma blastguns roared again and the Stompa finally exploded.

The second Stompa turned its attention toward the two Stormblade super-heavy tanks, and I seized the distraction to step inside its guard and sliced off one of its arms with my suit's reaper chainsword. The Stompa swung its mega-choppa at the carapace of my Knight, almost taking off the Stormspear rocket pod. I hissed and struck at its belly, carving a narrow hole across the surface.

In a snarling of gears, the second Stompa slashed at me once more, forcing me to back my machine away. Behind, the Stormblades fired another volley of plasma that washed across the Stompa's failing force fields and scorched its back. The warboss inside the Stompa decided to focus its attention on my Knight, however, and continued to bear down on me. I responded by firing both the las-impulsor and Stormspear rockets into the gap I had just opened up.

Burning grots shrieked as they spilled from the expanding gap and the huge machine shuddered. The heat inside the failing machine must have reached a crescendo, for hatches all over the Stompa opened as the crew inside tried to bail. A few mekboyz seized the fleeing grots and yanked them back in, only to be cut apart by my hull-mounted multilaser.

Then the Stompa was finished off by the Stormblades. For a moment, I was blinded, my auspex automatically darkening the glare to protect my eyes, as a colossal fireball swallowed the super-heavy walker. Then it toppled over.

Only the Gargant was left. Try as we might, even with the firepower of the Stormblades and two regiments of tanks, we couldn't penetrate its force fields. The Gargant advanced inexorably toward the hive city of Augerilla, not to be denied.

Then it vanished in a pillar of smoke as as a massive wave of plasma engulfed it, shorting out the force field and incinerating the titanic walker.

"That wasn't from the Stormblades..." I muttered, dread filling me.

As powerful as the plasma blastungs of the Stormblades were, this singular plasma blast was powerful enough to level cities. Only one existence was capable of mounting such a fearsome weapon.

A Titan.

Looking up, I saw a single Warlord Titan, clad in the colors of the traitor Legio Mortis, lumber forward. Its war horns blared, a daemonic roar that almost split my head apart. Its Sunfury plasma annihilator leveled to point toward the remnants of the broken ork tides teeming around the hive city before unleashing a second volley of superheated matter and exterminating them. Infantry, armor, walkers, it didn't matter. whatever the debased Warlord Titan aimed at, everything vanished in a flash of light.

Then the traitor engine turned its attention on Augerilla, its plasma annihilator smoking and venting superheated gases as it readied for another shot.

"Emperor save us all," I whispered and clenched my haptic gloves. The archenemy had finally arrived at our last stronghold, and we had little that could stand up against firepower and armor of such godlike magnitude.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Knights and an Archaeopter

I finally received my Knights from Forge World (actually, I received them last week, but because I had to move last weekend to a new place, I didn't have time to build them - I had to pack). I spent a few hours building them today, along with an Archaeopter. I guess it fits because they are Mechanicus Knights.

First up is my banner of Questoris Knights Styrix. I love volkite, so I was happy to build a full banner of them. I can't wait to field them and see how they fare against Titans!

Then I had my banner of Cerastus Knights Atrapos. Pity Forge World is currently out of stock of them, so I'll have to make do with just 2 of them right now. I also want to see how they fare against Titans! In fact, I can build a Knight Lance with the 6 of them, but I have a bunch of Cerastus Knights Lancer and 6 other Questoris Knights, so I can field an entire Knight Household Army. Not to mention, I have a couple of Acastus Knights Porphyrion too if I have the points for them.

While at it, I might show you guys the command terminals for these guys. As you can see the Questoris Knights Styrix cost about 100 points for 2 of them, but if you add the weapons, they go up to 150 points. Adding another Knight Styrix would be 45 points plus 15 and 10 points for the weapons, bringing it up to 70 per extra Knight. A full banner of four would be 290 points.

On the other hand, the Cerastus Knight Atrapos already has his weapons baked into his cost. So 200 points for a minimum banner of 2, adding 95 points for an extra. A full banner of four Knights Atrapos would be 390 points. Phew!

And then I also built an Archaeopter. I chose the Stratoraptor variant because I like gunships (if my Vendetta gunship for my Imperial Guard hasn't already told you that). Lascannons are the way to go! I didn't put the canopy yet because I intend to paint the pilot first. Once I'm done painting the pilot, I will glue the canopies back on. We'll see.

Unfortunately, I'm out of Abaddon Black spray paint at the moment. Oh, well. And the temperature here in Minnesota is going to fall below -20 degrees Celsius or -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Hell, it's going to drop below -29 degrees Celsius or -20 degrees Fahrenheit tomorrow. So no spray painting for me. I originally wanted to buy spray paint along with Bladeguard Veterans tomorrow, but I'm not going out in such cold weather. No way.

Well, we'll see what I can do next week then. For now, I've bought a whole bunch of Black Library novels, including all the Black Templars novels. I was hoping to catch up on their lore so that I can build a small army of Black Templars. Heh. Then I can expand more on them in my little story. Of course my Knights will always be the main focus. I can't wait to write the next chapter of Way of the Warrior! Till then!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Way of the Warrior 3

 "Tomoyuki. Hey, Tomoyuki!"

I woke up from my trance, so deeply sunk in my memories that for a moment I forgot where I was. My instructor, Ishida Ichiro, was glaring at me from above. I realized that I was seated cross-legged in the Temple of the Dragon King and not embedded in the Helm Mechanicum of my Armiger Warglaive.

No...I hadn't been in a Helm Mechanicum for over seven years now. Ever since I had saved Lord Takeda's life, I had been elevated from the rank of Bondsman to Warrior, or Bushi, in our native tongue. A Samurai, the elite class that governed over the feudal domains of Draconis III.

For about seven years, I had piloted a Questoris Knight of my own, ensconced within a proper Throne Mechanicum.

"Master Ishida."

At my greeting, the wizened instructor smacked me at the back of my head with his walking stick, his wrinkled face twisted into an annoyed scowl.

"The whole idea of meditation is for you to empty your mind, not to daydream! What were you dreaming about, being so deeply engrossed in your fantasies that you failed to heed me when I called you three times? Beautiful women? You know as well as I do that the Yoshiwara District is off limits to men of your status!"

"Not at all, Master." I decided not to tell him that I was reminiscing about the past. He would just go ballistic and chide me for talking back. Ishida Ichiro was the type who insisted that if he said black was white, then black was white. He did not take well to arguments from his charges.

"The idea of Zen is to empty your mind, to liberate your spirit and focus on the present. Remember! An unfettered mind." Ishida was beginning his lecture. "Only when you achieve insight and become one with your sword would you be able to become a true weapon...perhaps a blade on par with that of the venerated Adeptus Astartes."

I wondered about that. The Space Marines - the Emperor's Angels of Death as some know them - were posthuman beings who had transcended all mortal weaknesses. Perhaps we might have an edge over them in terms of firepower and durability when protected within layers of adamantium armor and ion shields while wielding tank-sized weaponry capable of devastating entire armored columns. However, take the suits away and we would be nothing more than vulnerable flesh and bone, easily torn apart by the superhuman strength and reflexes of the Adeptus Astartes. I couldn't imagine ever being equal to them.

"Anyway, you're being called. So on your feet, boy." I hadn't been a boy for decades now, but compared to the ancient Ishida, I might as well be an infant. So I didn't object to that. Besides, I was just reliving my past when I had just barely matured from a naive teenager into a hardened warrior. Fighting against the Orochi would do that to you.

Not to mention a Yamata no Orochi, of all things. Speaking of which, I had lost consciousness after distracting it long enough from Lord Takeda. Consequently, I did not bear witness to the epic battle waged between the Shogun and his loyal retainers - which included a posse of legendary Daimyo - and the great beast. I heard (and saw through hololiths) that the Lord Shogun personally slew the Yamata no Orochi himself, riding in the ancient suit of the venerable Cerastus Knight Lancer chassis.

Displaying incredible skill, he had dodged the many heads of the Yamata no Orochi, deftly getting under its guard and ramming his shock lance right into the heart of the gargantuan creature. Upon pinning it to the ground, he unleashed a tremendous discharge of devastating energies that fried the titanic beast from the inside out.

Of course, he couldn't have done it alone. Clad in a mixture of vaunted Cerastus Knight chassis and the ever-reliable Questoris Knight frames, the Daimyo of Draconis III joined the hunt, incinerating the heads or parrying the tails that swept toward the Shogun's Knight armor. Eventually, they brought it down, and so created a new legend.

Lord Takeda had survived and was able to participate in that final battle. Apparently, everyone thought that he owed it all to me, and thus the Daimyo unanimously agreed to raise my rank and grant me a Questoris Knight suit of my own. I was nowhere near the reverent status of the Daimyo, but being acknowledged as a fully-fledged warrior was already a huge step up.

The status also came with heavy responsibilities, which was why I had been summoned to the Shogun's court.

Of course, I wasn't the only one. On my way there, I spotted dozens of warriors - every single one of them a Knight pilot like me. There were bondsmen too, retainers who accompanied their lords closely. Unfortunately, my current low rank meant that I had no retainers assigned to me, so unlike the majority of my brethren, I walked alone through the peaceful courtyard.

The Shogun, Yato Yoshimoto, awaited inside the massive wooden hall, seated in seiza. The warriors filed in, taking their places along the long tables and kneeling. The Daimyo - the highest ranked warriors - sat next to the Shogun, occupying the places in his immediate vicinity. I took my place at the far end of the table, furthest away from the Shogun. We were seated according to rank and seniority, and as a warrior, I was the lowest.

At least I had it better than the retainers, who were forced to stand outside the hall, waiting patiently for their masters. Fortunately for them, this meeting shouldn't take too long. The respectable Shogun had no patience for formalities, and he tended to end these ceremonies as swiftly as the strides of his Knight Lancer.

Female servants, dressed in brilliantly colored kimono, brought trays of tea and snacks. They placed them right in front of us, and to my complete lack of surprise, I was the last to receive a beverage. As befitting my rank, I suppose.

After the servants departed in a neat, disciplined row, the Shogun began without further ado.

"My loyal retainers," he said. "The time has called for us to fulfil our oaths to the Emperor - long may He live. I have asked a lot from you in the past, but this time, I fear that I will have to place a much heavier demand upon all of you."

There were a few whispers as the warriors murmured amongst each other. I caught snippets of dialogue here and there, and while I couldn't quite make out most of it, I understood that many of my comrades had heard the rumors.

"Yes." The Shogun smiled. "We will be launching a crusade to reclaim most of the worlds from the Draconis Sector."

There were a few cheers. Some of the warriors banged their tables in approval, while others remained serene, sipping their tea and nodding quietly. The Shogun swept his gaze across us, his eyes grave.

"As you all know, the once great Draconis Coalition has slipped into anarchy following the Great Rift - the Jigoku no Dai Kizu, the Great Scar that ripped through the heavens and exposed our realm to the underworld. There was a long period of time when the Light of the Astronomican was muffled, and our sector was plunged into darkness. We were forced to retreat to this system, to fight off the horrors not seen since the Old Night. But while we were able to largely preserve the core systems of our Draconis Coalition, we lost the majority of our systems. The previously mighty Coalition - once numbering over three hundred worlds - have been reduced to less than fifty. We are but a shadow of our former selves."

By now, all the warriors had fallen into a somber silence. None more so than the Daimyo who sat by the Shogun's side.

"But no more! With the return of Lord Commander Roboute Guilliman, the son of the Emperor, and the re-ignition of the Astronomican's beacon, we will reclaim all that was ours...no, we will go beyond that and expand. The Draconis Coalition will grow stronger and larger than ever!"

"Oh!" The warriors present roared their approval.

"To this end, I declare the launch of a new crusade...the Draconis Crusade! Already we are receiving aid from the honorable Black Templars. The regiments of our Draconian Armored Defenders have been rebuilt and are stronger and more numerous than ever, supplied by our allied forge world of Draconis IV. Similarly, the tech-priests of Draconis IV have reinforced us with many new Knight suits, allowing us to field an unprecedented number of Lances! Not since the days of the Great Crusade have we marched in such numbers! I daresay, we have more Knight suits now than back during the Great Crusade! While most of the Imperium have stagnated and even slid backward, we have progressed forward!"

The Shogun rose to his feet. In a single, smooth motion, he drew his power sword - a curved blade that was forged in the pattern of a katana. He acitvated its power field as he raised the exquisitely crafted sword toward the air.

"We will reclaim the worlds of the Draconis Sector and reforge the Coalition!"

The warriors bellowed in agreement, also rising to their feet and stamping on the ground. Unlike the Shogun, we weren't allowed to bring our personal weapons into the hall, so there was no other drawing of swords.

"But first, we must begin by taking back Kryptos VIII." The Shogun sat back down after sheathing his deactivated power katana. "We will answer the call from our Cadian and Valhallan allies for aid. We will cleanse the sector of heretics, traitors and the alien. We will drive away those who turned their backs on the Emperor and eliminate the greenskin menace."

"We are with you, Lord Shogun!"

"All who stand in our way will perish!"

"Long live the Emperor!"

The Shogun nodded as he listened to the vows made by the warriors. He took a deep breath.

"There is more. There are sightings of the accursed House Malinax on Kryptos VIII. We have been fighting against them ever since the days of the Heresy. They are our archenemy, soulless traitors who committed the ultimate betrayal. We must not allow them to live. If we are to encounter them..."

"We will destroy every single one of those bastards," a Daimyo vowed. Lord Uesugi, if I remembered correctly. Inwardly, I felt a chill. Despite having fought against all manner of monsters over the last seven years, including Tyranid bio-titans and Ork gargants, I had not actually fought against a Chaos Knight before.

I wondered if they would be more difficult to slay than the alien monstrosities that I had overcome so far.

The Shogun didn't seem to care about my misgivings. He continued with an indulgent smile, having sensed the aggressive mood of his subordinates.

"We will be launching out immediately. After this briefing, you are all to make preparations for war. Consult your sacristans and ensure your armors are in peak condition. Liase with the various Imperial Guard regiments who will be traveling with us to Kryptos VIII. House Yato will march in the Emperor's name!"

"Knights of the Imperium," Lord Takeda shouted. "We march!"

The Shogun nodded and raised a hand before issuing one final declaration. "And so...the Draconis Crusade begins."