The Reaper chainsword smoking and revving, I yanked it out of the daemon knight's chest. Or what was supposed to be its chest...
Ichor and noxious fluids poured out, along with organic matter that in no way belonged to the material universe. There was a shudder and the daemon knight slumped.
"Blades and fire work better against these monstrosities than any other weapon," I breathed, studying the scorched, pitted form of the daemon knight. The damned thing had shrugged off hits from my las-impulsor, only to finally die when I stabbed its beating heart analogue with the Reaper chainsword that was Karyuu's left arm. What used to be a Knight Desecrator no longer resembled anything the Mechanicus had built, its form twisted and warped by cursed energies from Jigoku, the hellish realm from which these specters emerged.
That had been the saying passed down to all Knights of Draconis III. From the time of the Old Night, long lost historical records and myths had whispered that the best method of dispatching daemonic entities was through blade and fire. This was further reinforced during the time of the Great Heresy, when the Knights of House Yato had fought alongside the noble scions of Ultramar to defend the realm of Five Hundred Worlds from the Great Enemy. This was not the first time the Knights of Draconis III had fought against enemies belonging to a realm not of our universe, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Just as the Ultramarine Legion - before it was broken down to its disparate Chapters - had learned during the calamitous betrayal at Calth, we were forced to once again rely on old legends to confront these old daemons that had supposedly vanished into myth, bringing blade and fire to bear against the unholy hordes. Already, I could see a few Knights Crusader of House Yato purging the remains of daemonic knights with gouts of promethium from their heavy flamers. Cerastus Knights continued to duel in the shadows, the azure-white arcs of lightning that lined Cerastus shock blades clashing against crackling Reaper chainfists or Tempest warblades. In close combat, however, the nobles of the Cerastus Knights Lancer were more skilled, able to pilot their machines more deftly and swiftly while warding off melee attacks from their opponents.
Within minutes, the Knights of House Malinax were annihilated.
Our victory wasn't without loss, however. Broken chassis of Knights clad in the colors of House Yato littered the landscape. Many were those who fell to the immense firepower of the Titans of the traitor Legio Mortis. The Death's Heads had claimed a fair tally before they were finally brought down.
But House Malinax had also slain a good number of our valiant scions. A few of the old and venerated Knight Lancer chassis lay sprawled on the ground, their adamantium armor gouged apart by snarling Reaper chainfists. One of them had remained locked in mortal combat with his foe, his shimmering Cerastus lance - now gradually fading - plunged into the chest of the Knight Acheron that had slain him. I didn't know if the pilot was still alive - but the growling fist had plunged deep into where the Throne Mechanicum had otherwise lay.
So many dead. So many venerable suits of armor fallen, their machine spirits extinguished. Perhaps the Adeptus Mechanicus could revive them and restore the broken pieces of armor, but the valiant souls of the courageous, noble pilots would never return. Combat experience and wisdom accumulated over decades...gone, snatched away cruelly in mere moments.
"The war is not over yet," Lord Takeda Takumi said wearily, gently guiding his limping Cerastus Knight Lancer to the fore. Sparks scattered from exposed wires and broken cabling. I caught sight of his wary countenance on a flickering pict-screen installed within my Throne Mechanicum. "The blasted scions of House Malinax are here. We will wipe their treacherous existences from this planet."
There was a blurt of binharic over the vox before it resolved into a mechanical voice. I raised an eyebrow, not recognizing the voice.
"This is Alpha-Primus Hexodal Rho-Ixas, Marshal of the Skitarii Macroclade 24-Epsilon-Theta, Draconis IV. Most holy and noble scions of House Yato, do you read us?"
"I'm Takeda Takumi, a Daimyo from House Takeda, but yes, we march under the banner of House Yato. What's the situation of Augerilla, Rho-Ixas?"
"The Hive City of Augerilla has been secured, Lord Takeda. Cadian, Draconian and Valhallan regiments have succcessfully captured the city and wiped out all ork elements. It will hold. However, I've just received a transmission from the Skitarii maniple garrisoned at the Hive City of Kryptonia."
Kryptonia...that was the principal hive city of Kryptos VIII.
"The Black Templars have landed in force to attempt to retake the city from the heretic warbands of the Iron Warriors and Word Bearers. The Skitarii maniple is reinforcing them, but their progress has been hampered by the appearance of Knight-class armor within the city. Visual records and noospheric scans confirm a 99.7% match with those of House Malinax. The Black Templars' attempt to successfully take Kryptonia has statistically fallen from 48.6% to 23.2%."
"With such low odds, why would they even try?" Sir Honda Haruka muttered. "That's suicidal."
"They are Astartes," Lord Takeda said grimly. "Do not evaluate them according to the standards with which we evaluate normal men."
"Do we help them?" Sir Honnouji asked fiercely, despite the exhaustion clear in his voice.
"Of course," Lord Takea replied resolutely. "Gather the Knights and have the Sacristans conduct field repairs immediately. We'll move out in six hours."
"The wastelands will still be teeming with orks," Sir Kanda Keisuke warned.
"Augur scans report that their numbers have been greatly diminished by Titan-class war engines from Legio Mortis," the Skitarii Marshal reported. His voice was devoid of emotion, but I could still hear some form of satisfaction in his voice. "The same war-engines that you noble scions have slain. The Omnissiah bless you for destroying the abominations that have turned away from His most holy teachings."
"Rho-Ixas, we would appreciate infantry support. We'll be calling upon the tanks squadrons of the 724th Draconian, or whatever they have left after the last assault, but the more we have..."
"Rest assured, my lord, I have called upon significant Skorpius vehicle assets from the Ark Mechanicus, Omnissiah's Grace. I have already assigned a full macroclade to accompany you to Kryptonia, with additional Cybernetica reinforcements."
"Excellent." Lord Takeda turned his Knight Lancer, sparks still cascading off his frame. "Now where are those damned Sacristans?"