The carnage was awful to behold, men and machines lay in bloody ruin as far as the eye could see; a vista of death stretching eternally to the horizon. In the distance, huge pyres released great columns of greasy smoke into the air, which mixed with the dense haze of the planet’s atmosphere to cast a hellish ochre pall over the landscape. It was like looking at one of the ancient sepia picts that dated back to the pre-history of humanity, though the subject of this image could be no other domain than hell.
Sudden vibrations and coarse shouting heralded the arrival of the enemy; three of their cavalry auxiliary, mounted on grim steeds bulging with artificial implants and stim-injectors. They were clearly chasing something, but what?
A survivor of the defeated army struggling through the mire of mud, oil and blood, frantically trying to outrun his pursuers. Slipping and sliding down a slope, scrabbling and clawing at the opposing incline, but to no avail - a black spear plunged into the man’s back, transfixing him to the ridge he had desperately sought to climb in his wild bid for freedom. To his credit, he did not scream. Well, not until the soldiers reached him. Their leader retrieved his weapon, the cruel barbs tearing through soft flesh, bringing forth terrible screams that were abruptly cut short by a swift downward strike of
Once the warriors had moved on, distracted by another victim for their cruel sport, no doubt; Khavel slowly raised his head to survey his surroundings. No further survivors were to be found in the local vicinity, that was clear. Many more of the mounted death squads roved the battlefield, quickly impaling anything that moved, and the harsh cracks of pistol fire revealed a slower purge of the wounded, conducted by staggered rows of infantry. Escape. That was his only priority now, no tactical retreat or heroic last charge against the terrible invader; no cunning ambush or bold sabotage. No, his only chance of salvation lay with evasion and flight.
He crawled forward, nudging aside the corpses of fallen warriors, both friend and foe. The cursed symbol of his enemy glinted dully from the cuirasses of their fallen. Pausing to wipe blood from his face, he suddenly stopped, alert. There was someone nearby, a movement, a sound. Drawing his knife, the only weapon left to him now, he wriggled through the mud.
He couldn’t believe it, his squad vox-officer still lived, grievously wounded though he was. Slithering alongside his former comrade, he opened his mouth to speak and was instantly sprayed with fragments of bone, blood and grey-matter as Nahros’ head exploded, crushed by an enormous ceramite boot. By the Gods! He had fought alongside gene-bred giants, but this was something else entirely. Shifting his head to look upon his death, he caught a glimpse of that hated symbol, that burnished golden eagle, emblazoned across the giant’s chest.