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A Tale of Six Warlords Chapter One: The Rise of the Cheesestealers

warlords

 

 

“Sarge, what in the Emperor’s name is that?”

Sergeant Isiah Reeves, of the Castellan 143rd, sighed to himself. Baby sitting was not why he’d enlisted but apparently it was time to remind Trooper Henderson about the need to use his own eyes. As he rounded on Henderson, the verbal tirade fled from his lips as he stood dumbfounded.

“Is that…a Rat?”

Reeves had seen a lot of things in his time as a guardsman but this was definitely a first. A body was strapped to the table before them, it’s torso neatly cut open and secured back as if someone had be dissecting it. It was roughly the size of a human, but covered in what looked like white fur, what looked to be a tail hung limply off the side of the table. There was no mistaking that head. It was a rat for sure, beady little red eyes, a pink nose and mouth full of jagged teeth.

Someone was throwing up behind him, but Reeves still couldn’t tear his eyes off the body.

“Ha! Looks like a big ol’ rat to me sarge”

Gunner Bauher was easily the biggest of the squad, standing over a head higher than Reeves himself. It was no great surprise to see him push past Henderson and proceed to poke the limp form on the table, giggling the entire time. For the second time in under a minute, Reeves was wondering why he even got up this morning.

“That, Sergeant, is heresy. And exactly why myself and Sister Naustro were sent on this mission with you.”

Inquisitor Hadrian Vaul entered the room, followed immediately by Sister Naustro. Reeves had been hesitant we he was told he would be working with an Inquisitor but the sister was another thing all together. Rarely did a guardsman ever see a Sister of Silence, let alone work with one. Just one look was enough to know she could tear through his entire squad in a blink of an eye, and Reeves was starting to worry as to what they might really be up against.

“Rogue scientists in this facility were conducting experiments on abhumans without the sanction of the Imperium. We believe they were hoping to create a subservient workforce to carry out labour in the mining colonies of this sector. This would have been enough to earn severe punishment but it is rumoured they were also integrating unknown Xenos DNA into these experiments. We are here to cleanse this facility in the name of the Emperor!”

Another sigh. Reeves began to rub his temples. This was not turning into the day he had planned for.

“Sarge! We’ve found a tunnel!” Here we go. “Lead the way Trooper.”

……..

“Sarge.”

Here it comes. Yet another complaint from Henderson.

“Yes Trooper Henderson?”

“I can’t shake the feeling that we’re being watched. I swear there’s little red eyes down each of those smaller tunnels we walk past.”

“Ha! The dead rat got you scared little man?”

Perfect timing as always from Bauher. Reeves had been having the same feeling, but try as he might he could never quite catch a proper glance.

“Shut your fething mouth Bauher!”

“Ha! Come make me little man.”

Babysitting again.

“Gunner! Focus on finding a target for the flamer and leave the boy alone. Henderson! We are being watched. You’re part of the Castellan 143rd, this is what we do. Keep your wits about you.”

Hours in the tunnels were starting to get to men. Reeves knew that they had to find something soon or they would start turning on each other. They had to be close now.

“I must be losing my mind, I swear I can smell cheese.”

The vox chimed.

“Sergeant. Bring up your squad. Sister Naustro has found something.”

…….

Reeves found Vaul and Naustro standing at the head of large chamber.

“It appears we have found our scientists Sergeant.”

Scattered across the floor of the chamber were the bodies of twenty scientists, or what used to be scientists. But the rats. The chamber was teeming with rats. They moved across the floor like a furred wave stripping the bodies of whatever they could eat. Someone vomited again.

“Sergeant. You know what to do.”

“Gladly. Gunner! Unleash hell”

“Ha. I thought you’d never ask Sarge”

Normally, the grin on Bauher’s face when he was about use the heavy flamer was enough to scare most men, today the rest of the squad actually looked relieved.

“Fire in the hole!”

The world turned white. The stench of promethium and burnt flesh were something the squad had dealt with before, but even the howling from the torrent of righteous fire couldn’t drown out the shrieking of the dying rats. This time, more than one squad member emptied their stomachs.

“Ha. Barbecued rat, bet it tastes like chicken.”

Perfect timing again. More troopers fell to their knees.

“Knock it off Gunner”

“Aw come on Sarge, just having a little fun.”

“That’s an order Gunner.”

Whatever smart reply Bauher had in mind died in his mouth as a high pitch screech tore out from the far side of the cavern. Reeves and his squad clutched at their ears howling in pain, Bauher dropped to the ground convulsing, blood pouring from his eyes, nose and ears. Only the Inquisitor and the Sister remained standing. Vault’s hand glowed blue as he clutched at a symbol hanging around his neck, the Sister looked completely at ease.

“Psyker!” Vaul hissed.

Suddenly, Sister Naustro exploded across the chamber, her massive great sword appearing in her hand in the blink of an eye. Vaul was only a step behind her, holding the same symbol outstretched in front of him, the light nearly now as blinding as from the heavy flamer.

Reeves struggled to his feet, barely able to balance himself, and tried to rally his men. Most were coming to terms with the screeching, slowly standing up, lasguns at the ready. Henderson lay curled up in ball against the chamber wall, clawing at his ears, tears streaming down his face. Bauher had stopped moving, his face covered in blood, wearing the same stupid grin as always. Judging from the angle of his neck, Reeves knew this would smile he would ever make.

“Squad 12! On me! Fix bayonets!”

The remainder of the squad formed up and began advancing towards the Inquisitor and the Sister. Reeves could barely make out Sister Naustro’s movements in the glow up ahead. The speed at which she attacked was incredible, the greatsword a blur in her hands. Surely nothing could stand in the face of such an adversary. Reeves nearly choked on the cheer forming in his mouth as the Sister’s head came sailing back across the chamber. This could not be happening.

Vaul stumbled back in the light of the chamber, one arm missing, the other hanging limply at his side.

“Run Sergeant! We must get word of this back to Terra!”

Reeves stood paralysed in fear as he watched what only could be described as some kind of giant rock saw explode through Inquisitor Vaul’s chest. Footsteps began to echo in the chamber as the rat men made their presence known. Clad in a mix of rags and armour, armed whatever they could salvage as a weapon, they poured into the chamber in an endless stream, their footsteps soon drowned out by chattering and screeching.

“Squad 12! We make for the surface! Light them up!”

Lasgun volleys filled the air, every shot finding a mark amongst the rat men horde, but for every one that fell, two took its place. Reeves looked on in horror as the rat men began to fight back. Teeth, claws, mining picks and knives. They’re weapons were scrap but they were terribly efficient, soon Reeves was the only man left standing.

Well, this is it. This is how I die for the glory of the Imperium.

It took Reeves a few seconds to register that everything had gone quiet. The rat men just stared at him, not making any sound. Slowly a gap started to form at the end of the chamber where Sister Naustro had met her end, the rat men climbing over each other to get out of the way.

Reeves dropped to his knees as the screeching started again, it took everything he had not to pass out. As he looked up, a figure emerged from the shadow, as if straight from a nightmare. This was clearly the leader of the rat men. It stood twice the height of Bauher, with four arms, each claw honed to a razor sharp edge. It’s body a mix of white fur and hardened muscle, showing visible signs that some of the Sister’s attacks had made it through. On it’s head was a rusted bronze helmet, and it wore the remains of some kind of bright orange striped vest, similar to what Reeves had seen worn by construction workers on his home planet.

“Bow to me, yes yes.”

Reeves looked up in shock. The screeching had stopped and now this ‘thing’ was talking straight into his mind.

“You humans thought you could control us, yes yes. Thought you could cut us open, do your…. experiments, keep the cheese from us, yes yes.”

Blood was starting to weep from Reeves’ eyes, nose and ears under the mental onslaught. There wasn’t much time, he had to try something. Bauher’s promethium tanks were just to his right. If he could fire his bolt pistol into them point blank there should be enough fuel left to vaporise everything in this chamber. It’s now or never. Reeves lunged for the tanks.

“Clever, yes yes. But no where near fast enough human.”

Clarity.

Reeves’ squad had always said they looked up to him, now he wondered if this was how they felt, as he stared up at his headless body.

……..

As Reeves’ body slumped to the floor, the rat men erupted into sound and began stripping whatever they could find. The Patriarch flicked the blood from his claw and began to examine the body of the Inquisitor. Pathetic, tiny humans. Too busy fighting with each other rather than working for one purpose. He pries the symbol from the dead man’s hand. This symbol he knows. This is the symbol worn by those killed so many of his brood. The Imperial Aquila. A single screech silences his fellow rat men. He holds the Aquila aloft.

“They tried to keep us from our cheese, yes yes. And again they have failed!”

The once glowing symbol is ground to dust in his giant claw.

“The humans will pay, yes yes, we will have all the cheese! Our day of ascension is at hand, yes yes. All hail the Four Armed Emperor!”

 

 

 


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