View Full Version : Fiction: Duty and Honour

11-08-2005, 23:49
A short story for my army. Feedback very welcome, in all forms.

In the mountains of Salinas...
With shiverings hands, Colonel Umer Leigh corrected his uniform jacket and took his hat off, placing it under his left arm. He drew a last deep breath to calm his nerves and strode towards the tent at the foot of the lake before him. These new allies had approached without invitation, making a mockery of his scout patrols, and setting up this tent only a stone’s throw away from the camp of his regiment, without notice. Surrounded by an incandescent fog lit by the fiery orange sunlight of Salinas, the tent looked disturbingly foreboding. He had never been so terrified in his life.
The great tent appeared truly ancient, with its dark grey fabric torn and burnt in a dozen places, and had no markings that he could see. Its entrance was a couple of thick animal hides covering a hole in the tent’s wall, and was guarded by two gigantic robed shapes on either side, whose features remained invisible in the shadows. The giants were still even as he approached, giving no acknowledgement of his presence.
Colonel Leigh cleared his throat.
“I am Colonel Jared Leigh of the Kolkhoz 33rd Light Infantry.”
Leigh suddenly worried that he had done something wrong. Had he been too informal, perhaps? Did they even speak Low Gothic? Picturing the punishment they might deliver for his disrespect, the Colonel grimaced inwardly. They were destroyers of worlds, butchers of untold thousands. Who knew what they might do to him for this slight?
Without as much as a greeting nod, the guards finally pulled back the animal hides in perfect synchronicity, revealing the tent’s interior. Bowing deeply and making the sign of the aquila for good measure, Colonel Leigh entered the tent.
Inside, the great tent was largely empty. There were a few crates, some sort of sensor device, and a crackling fire in the center. The air smelled of oils, smoke and incense. On the opposite side of the tent sat their leader, and by his legs were two alien-looking canine beasts. He sat dressed in full battle gear, wearing massive power armour, and carried a massive pelt over his shoulders. It looked different from how he remembered power armour, almost warped somehow, with large metal studs, spikes, chains and exposed cable. It was black as space, and seemed to almost absorb the light of the fire. The Colonel shuddered. This was not at all how he had pictured Space Marines.
“Colonel,” greeted the Space Marine in Low Gothic. “I am Master Elias. Sit, for we have much to discuss.” His voice was a coarse whisper.
Colonel Leigh hesitated. The hounds at the feet of their Space Marine master looked up at him, and he couldn’t help but look back. They looked like a horrifying cross between a wolf and a rat, except they were enormous. And though he was ashamed of even thinking it, the beasts looked touched by the insidious forces of Chaos; their bodies asymmetrical with protruding horns and bone spikes. Concentrating, Leigh suppressed his thoughts.
“Thank you, Master.”
The Space Marine nodded, once.
“The decaying Imperium is plagued by the injustice and treachery of the weak, Colonel Leigh. The pure and strong fight the enemies of Man, but the weak destroy him from within. That is the way of things, and the way of weakness. Now, the weak have turned upon you and your men. In their ignorance and incompetence, they have charged you with heresy, and sentenced you to death. Is this correct, Colonel?”
Summoning all his bravery, the Colonel met the eyes of the Space Marine Master. They were dark brown and intense, and though his face looked ageless, those eyes reflected an eternity of war, somehow.
“Yes. Yes, Master. When the Lord General revealed his allegiance to Chaos, all forces under his command were apparently assumed to have turned with him. No attempt was made to contact me or my officers, they’ve just… they’ve turned against us, Master. If you hadn’t arrived, I don’t know what we would have done. You can tell them that we are innocent, yes? You can tell them-”
“They are fools, Colonel. Misguided fools. There is no reasoning with scum such as them. They are pawns, puppets. They have been given orders to destroy you, and make no mistake; even if you manage to escape, they will hunt you forever. You may die tomorrow, or you can struggle for survival for a year or more. But they will find you, in the end, and they will kill you all. Make no mistake.”
Once again, Leigh felt the cold embrace of despair, and wanted to scream. Then he thought about what the Space Marine had just said.
“Escape, Master?”
“Yes. Did you think I arrived with my men simply to share your death? Did you think I came here just to let you die? You swore an oath to the Emperor, and I am here to make sure you honour that oath. Death, young Colonel, is a privilege you must earn.”
Colonel Leigh just stared at the great Space Marine, waiting for him to continue.
“The forces of Chaos are approaching this planet as we speak. The only way you and your regiment will get off this world, is if you can manage to infiltrate the Imperial lines, and work your way towards the space port in Kernan’s Creek. With luck, you will find enough shuttles to take your men into orbit. The Imperial fleet will be occupied with the chaos ships that are inbound, and so a transport will be able to pick you up and evacuate your regiment from this system, along with, hopefully, a handful of other regiments. The chance of success is slim, and even if you do succeed in reaching the space port, there is a fair chance you will need to leave many men behind, if there aren’t enough shuttles.”
The Space Marine’s expression turned grim. In the light of the fire, his face looked like that of a statue. Like the statues of the Primarchs themselves, thought Leigh.
“My Master, I have barely three thousand men at my command. We are facing an entire division in these mountains, and we are surrounded. Is there no other way?”
As soon as he had spoken the words, the Colonel felt like a coward. He looked down, unable to meet the judging gaze of the Space Marine Master.
“A hundred men are no match for a warrior who stays true to the throne. By Terra, your own regiment proved as much when they defeated the three hordes of Prince Gaminor in the defence of Gaius station!”
Colonel Leigh froze. “That battle is part of our regiment legend. That was more than two millennia ago. How do you know it?”
His eyes on the fire, the Space Marine paused, as if trying to remember.
“I was there.”
Leigh found himself lost for words, as his brain struggled to understand.
“You have a lot of preparations to make and very little time indeed. I will leave you to brief your men. By the Grace of the Emperor, I will see you onboard the transport in a few days. My guards will give you the details.”
The Space Marine removed his pelt and rose to his feet.
“Duty and honour,” he said, in High Gothic, presenting his sword to the Colonel in a warrior’s salute. It was an arcane weapon, its hilt marked with the symbol of the Dark Angels; one of the Emperor’s own Legions. Colonel Leigh felt his courage return.
“Duty and honour,” repeated Leigh and .returned the salute with his own officer’s blade. The Guards withdrew the animal hides covering the opening, and the Colonel strode out of the tent, into the fog.