The march to Kryptonia didn't take more than an hour. The Knights of House Yato strode ahead at full speed, their gaits graceful. The Sacristans had effected the best repairs they could manage on the field, but the machine spirits of our adamantium steeds blazed with righteous fury, bellowing in the form of horns as they raced toward the hive city.
Ahead loped the smaller and swifter Armiger-class Knights. A combination of Warglaives and Moirax, they scouted ahead to keep an eye out for any enemy armor that might hinder our way. Despite the devastation that Legio Mortis had wreaked across the wastelands, pockets of orks remained, yelling in their foul xenos tongue as they let loose small arms fire that clanged off the adamantium-ceramite surface of our armor. We ignored them, trampling on those reckless enough to charge us with their cleavers and choppers, and pushed on toward Kyrptonia without pause.
The Skorpius hover-tanks of the Skitarii of forge world Draconis IV kept pace, throwing up puffs of sand and dirt as they skimmed over the barren surface. There was a mix of Duneriders and Disintegrators, the former packed to the brim with radiation-crackling Skitarii Vanguard bearing deadly radium carbines and lethal plasma calivers or silent Skitarii Rangers armed with gleaming galvanic rifles and glowing arc rifles. The latter possessed mortar-type energy cannons capable of blasting infantry to shreds or anti-tank beam weapons capable of punching holes in enemy vehicles. They roared across the wastelands, scattering the orks with precise bursts from their many cognis heavy stubbers, mowing down the fleeing greenskins with impunity.
Following close behind were the Leman Russ Executioner tanks of the Draconian 724th, as well as accompanying super-heavy elements consisting solely of Stormblade tanks. Once again, I couldn't help but be amazed. The Draconian Armored Defenders were one of the few Astra Militarum regiments that fielded entire squadrons of Leman Russ Executioner tanks and Stormblades. Perhaps this was common back during the Great Crusade, but very few forge worlds now manufactured such a rare pattern of Leman Russ tank. Save mighty Ryza itself, Draconis IV was unparalled by almost all other forge worlds in the production of plasma weaponry, which allowed them to churn out legions of Leman Russ Executioner tanks. The Draconis system was a fading reminder of humanity's glorious past, back when the Imperium was at its peak, when gods strode amongst men in the form of Primarchs, and the potential of a magnificent future awaited us. Sadly, that future was lost to us, along with the Emperor when He was entombed in the Golden Throne.
The ghosts of previous pilots whispered to me, urging me onward, claiming that the future had yet to play out...that there was still hope for humanity yet. As long as the Imperium endured, as long as humanity survived, we might recover and recapture what was rightfully others.
We finally caught sight of the spires of Hive City Kyrptonia, the black, Gothic architecture looming over us. Explosions shook hab-blocks and skyscrapers, artillery shelling demolishing entire structures in a single salvo. Evidently pockets of resistance remained, the fighting as fierce as it ever was.
"...need reinforcements..." A voice crackled over the vox. "...requesting armor support..."
I recognized the voice of Marshal Mowbray, the commander of the Black Templars. Leading the Kyrptos Crusade, he had inserted his troops into the hive city via drop pods. Repulsor Executioner tanks and Impulsor IFVs had descended, their anti-grav plates keeping them aloft and crushing whatever enemy was unfortunate to remain beneath them. The Black Templars had hurtled out of their armored vehicles, hurling themselves at their hated foes, the Iron Warriors, and engaged them in close combat.
The Heretic Astartes had fallen back in disciplined fashion, leveling volleys of bolt-fire at the charging Black Templars. Even though they had turned from the Emperor's light, they remained a formidable foe, never forgetting the tactics that had been drilled into them.
Karyuu growled, its machine spirit sensing blood. Through our link in the MIU, I forced my steed to calm down, whispering promises of violence against the hateful foe. Then...
"Slay them all!"
Sir Takeda's command rang over the auspex. Karyuu was driven into a frenzy, its armored form charging ahead. I tempered his impetuous nature with caution, restraining his aggression and lifting my haptic gloves. In response, the las-impulsor that was Karyuu's right arm rose and fired off a stream of volatile energies. The bluish-white beam lanced into an Iron Warrors Predator that was just about to swivel about to target my suit with its twin lascannons, ripping its turret off and engulfng the tank in a colossal fireball.
The hull multilaser shifted, spitting red beams of light at armored silhouettes ducking into cover. The Iron Warriors snapped off several shots, but whatever bolts that weren't deflected by my ion shield detonated harmlessly against the ceramite armor plating of my steed. I ignored them for now, redirecting my las-impulsor toward a second tank.
An Iron Warriors Vindicator fired before my las-impulsor could recharge, its demolisher shell smashing against the shimmering screen of my ion shield. Though I deflected the shot, the impact rocked me. One of the ancestral spirits within my Throne Mechanicum hissed a reprimand, and chastened, I triggered another weapon through my haptic gloves. Above, the carapace-mounted Stormspear rocket pod snarled and three missiles streaked out, slamming into the front of the Vindicator. The force of the explosions flipped the heavily armored vehicle end over end, causing it to land on its turret, fumes escaping from hatches as the tank was devoured by flames.
I was satisfied to see that no Heretic Astartes was bailing out of the stricken tank.
Behind us, the Leman Russ Executioner tanks opened fire, disintegrating entire squads of Iron Warriors with plasma. Their main turret weapon, along with sponsons, continued to spit out streams of superheated matter that vaporized even the exceedingly resilient Terminator armor of elite Iron Warriors before they could get in close to rip the Guard tanks apart with their deadly power fists.
Skorpius hover-tanks flew over barricades, depositing Skitarii into the Iron Warrior lines. Cyborg soldiers were smashed off their feet, the bolt-shells of the IV Legionnaires hitting vulnerable areas with uncanny precision and detonating within, blowing them apart in a shower of flesh, blood and bionics. Still the Skitarii marched on, bombarding them with radium rounds, plasma, energy projectiles and lethal lightning.
"Careful!" Marshal Mowbray warned over the vox. "Enemy reinforcements coming!"
Swiveling around, I caught sight of the crimson armor of Word Bearers, the heretic zealots marching in step and firing in a similar disciplined fashion to their IV Legion allies. The Black Templars turned to engage them in combat, and I caught sight of the flashy Bladeguard Veterans shifting their storm shields to deflect storm of bolter rounds, plasma and melta beams. A couple of the Bladeguard Veterans fell, their relic armor punched through by plasma or melted by melta weapons, but their brethren charged at the Word Bearers with a vengeance. Their power swords crackled with energy fields and they hacked into the newcomers, cutting them apart. Ceramite gave way to finely crafted blades, the Bladeguard executing deft swordsmanship, a dazzling display of bladework that saw them dance around their enemies before striking swiftly. A decapitating strike saw one Word Bearer lose his head. A second Bladeguard raked his glowing power sword across his opponent, cleaving him from collarbone to heap. Both halves of the Heretic Astartes fell in opposite directions. Another Bladeguard stabbed the solar plexus of a snarling Word Bearer, whose form resembled beast more than man now. Gripping the hilt with both hands, he dragged his sword up the Traitor, splitting his horned head in half.
Despite their superlative skill, the Bladeguard sustained casualties of their own in the ferocious melee. One of the Bladeguard fell, his neck almost severed by a growling chainsword that was wielded by what appeared to be a heavily mutated Space Marine, the Word Bearer possessing hints of wings and his hands curved into horrific claws.
Worse, a towering monstrosity, with remnants of power armor clinging onto him, loped forward, his immense talons leaving craters in the ruined road. Massive bat-like wings spread behind him, worming their way through cracks in his wrecked armor. The back-mounted power plant was missing, having been gouged away long ago to make way for those wings. Towering over three meters, the Daemon Prince proceeded toward one of the Leman Russ Executioner tanks and tore it open like a can, weathering intense streams of plasma from the stricken tank. The other tanks in the Draconian squadron continued to bombard the behemoth with superheated plasma, but it withstood whatever advanced tech the Mechanicus developed.
Fortunately, help came for the beleaguered tankers. Lord Takeda, encased within his Cerastus Knight Lancer, smashed his Cerastus shock lance against the Daemon Prince. There was an explosion of esoteric electricity, and the creature was flung off its feet. Without hesitation, Lord Takeda trampled the abomination underneat his steed's titanic feet, attempting to banish it from material existence.
But more of the twisted Chaos Space Marines were arriving, possessed figures distorted by energies of the warp. The Bladeguard met them, power fields and blessed steel meeting daemonic talons and twisted claws. Swordsmanship that had been honed through years of combat and hypno-indoctrination clashed against the raw fury and brute strength of rampant mutation, sparks flying as the two posthuman forces collided furiously, unable to conceal their immense hatred for each other. The black and white armor of the stalwart Templars contrasted against the bloody crimson of the heretic Word Bearers, the smaller forms of Archmagos Belsarius Cawl's newest creations momentarily overshadowed by ancient legionnaires who had survived the Long War.
But it wasn't the Word Bearers who worried me. As I gunned down a squad of Word Bearers with my las-impulsor, I caught sight of a titanic shadow. Swiveling around and following the instincts of Karyuu, I rounded around a half-broken hab block and pursued it.
...right into the reaper blade of a Traitor Knight.
Decked out in the colors of House Malinax, the archenemy howled, a daemonic screech that caused my augmitters to blow out. I recoiled, but the machine-spirit of Karyuu roared in defiance.
It had found a worthy foe, and it wanted to slay the Knight Rampager that now confronted me.