Monday, 16 May 2016

Undertaking to Pylos: Part 1

“You are bathing in my killzone.” The statement broke the solemnity of the moment, but the giant with the deaths-head did not look away from the unfolding ceremony. “We do not bathe. It is the Rite of the Giving of Water.” The other giants were arranged in a semi-circle that opened out towards the foaming breakers, clad in the gunmetal livery of their Chapter. They each cradled a crested helm in their left arm and a double-looped serpent symbol coiled proudly on the pauldron above. They began drumming a dull, thumping, beat on their thigh armour, as the Apothecary amongst them unstoppered the lid of a copper flask. “What is that?”.

Thanatos did not answer immediately. Water dribbled from the flask into the sea and the brothers of squad Lakodeme began to sing the dirge of Bellerophon. Aesclepion returned the flask to a leather loop on his thigh armour and joined the semi-circle, adding his voice to the song. “Where were you raised, boy?” The young knight set his helmet down on the black gravel at his feet, where it continued to chatter with increasingly anxious vox transmissions. “Aecor. It is an ocean world.” He extracted his own flask from a niche in the carapace armour at his hip and sipped, as he gazed out over the waters. “We are no strangers to sea monsters.”

The skull-face turned and, for the first time, Telemachus felt he had won the giant’s attention. It was not a comfortable sensation. “These waters are now consecrated with the sacred waters of Ithaka. Our fates intermingle. We will defend these shores as if they were our own, even unto death.” Telemachus considered this, taking a longer sip from his flask. “That may happen sooner than the Emperor wills, if you do not take your position in the defensive line. Any time now this beach is going to be crawling with xenos.” One by one the marines donned their helms and unclamped the combi-weapons maglocked to their chests. Blocky magazines of ammunition where slotted into hungry receivers and plasma coils were charged. “You may hide behind The Wall if it makes you feel safer, Aecorian.”

Either the knight missed the tone of dismissal in his voice, or he chose to ignore it. Thanatos was beginning to warm to the boy, it took courage to lecture a Brother of the Snake on warcraft, however misguided that may be. “There is only one place I feel safe, and it is not behind The Wall,” said the knight, gesturing towards the cockpit of his war engine. It was an impressive machine, bristling with ordinance and the promise of violence. “We have a saying in Ithaka; hives are not best defended by ceramite and rockcrete, but by the valour of their inhabitants.” Again, the knight considered this, eyebrows furrowed. At his feet, the chattering of his helmet became more insistent. “Do you not have walls on Ithaka?”.

The giant laughed as he hefted a spear from the gravel by his side. He pointed it towards the line of Iron Snakes, now forming at the cyclopean Sea Gate of Pylos. “These are the walls of Ithaka.” He strode up the black dune without turning back. Telemachus looked back out to sea and frowned; there was a disturbance on the horizon. The voices emanating from his discarded helmet were apoplectic, so he switched off his vox unit. Telemachus walked out into the foam and upended the remaining liquid from his flask, as the opening barrage ripped from armoured emplacements on The Wall.