Scorched Earth by Nick Kyme

Scorched Earth by Nick Kyme

Author:Nick Kyme
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub, pdf
Publisher: Black Library
Published: 2013-10-28T23:00:00+00:00

* * *

I CROUCHED ATOP a pillar of rock, watching Haukspeer approach the edge of the crash site in the distance. From my vantage, I had an excellent view of the Urgall region including its hills, volcanic ash plains and the Depression itself.

I could also see the warbands to the west, for I can think of no other way to describe them; of traitors migrating outwards in a horde. Something had roused their interest and when they appeared to be headed north, I wondered if Sulnar had put his sacrificial plan into action.

‘Our encounters on this journey have been mercifully light, brother,’ said Usabius, sitting on his haunches next to me. It was as if he could read my thoughts, and I nodded at his remark.

‘But at what cost? How many legionary lives will be lost to this cause?’

Across the plains, like ants forming a colony, the traitors began to converge. Some strode silently, purposefully; others chanted or rode on the backs of armoured columns. It was a massive force, one brutally capable of destroying any lingering loyalist resistance hiding out in the mountains. Mercifully the Dies Irae had long since quit the planet, doubtless slaved to another of the Warmaster’s fell causes, but the Titan’s absence would provide no stay of execution for our brothers.

Usabius took on a conciliatory tone, as if he could sense the guilt and anguish I felt at leaving our allies to their deaths. ‘Those lives were already lost, Ra’stan. They were lost the moment the traitors turned their guns on us and started shooting.’

I knew Usabius was right but it did not make the sight of my brothers’ gleeful killers any easier to take.

Averting my gaze, I concentrated back on the crash site.

Without his armour, the Raven Guard was not quite the wraith he used to be but he still moved with incredible stealth, and I lost track of him on several occasions as he picked his way through the wreckage.

‘Like a ghost,’ I said to the air.

‘Isn’t that almost literally what they’ve become, what all the shattered Legions have become?’ said Usabius.

‘Except the Raven Guard have the skill and stealth to turn that into an asset.’

Haukspeer had kept his lightning claw; of all his trappings it still functioned and it was a formidable weapon. He kept it low and by his side, ready to silence any sentries. During my military career I had not had many occasions to witness the XIX Legion in combat, but if this was the lethal efficacy of their Apothecaries, I shuddered to think what their assault troops were capable of.

‘Walking amongst the shadows as if he’s part of them,’ Usabius added.

‘Fortunate, then, that we have him as our scout,’ I said, casting a sideways glance at the Urgall Hills to our right and the sounds of ritualistic chanting now echoing loudly through them. The warbands were closing. ‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘A dark seed was sown within them, brother,’ Usabius answered. ‘It took root in both their minds and bodies, and this is the manifestation of it.


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