Amareus wasn’t accustomed to retreat. As what remained of his squad trudged through the ruined Imperial buildings that nagging doubt returned. Were the Primaris really prepared. He and his brothers resembled the chapter veterans… they wore the same coloured armour, sung the same hymns and shared Sanguinius’ angelic facade, but were they ready to fight and overcome the great enemy.
The forces of corruption had hit them hard, an unrelenting tide of foulness and putrescence. The scent of befouled blood drifted ahead of the enemy. It had almost overtaken his senses. Many of his Blood Angel brothers had been overwhelmed by it. Many Blood Angels had fallen. They had died fighting to free this world, Benus Majoris, a verdant agri-world that also provided administrative functions and ecclesiastical leadership to the sector.
The crackle of the vox snapped Amareus from of his thoughts. “Brother Amareus, join me at HQ”, ordered Lieutenant Faustian. “As you command. Praise the Emperor”, he responded, keying his auspex to bring up Faustian’s location and informing the squad to continue to the assigned rendez vous without him.
As he passed through the lines of retreating warriors, Adeptus Astartes, Planetary Defence Forces and even ad hoc civilian militia, he noted the dejection on the faces he could see. All enemies were relentless, the Imperium’s struggle was relentless and they were trained to keep fighting, but this enemy did more than threaten their lives and this planet. It threatened what the Imperium and the Emperor represented. It threatened its light, its cohesion, its unity.
Amareus arrived at HQ to find Faustian and a Deathwatch Captain leaning over a hololith projection of what looked like a nearby area of the city. Forward HQ was temporarily located in the gloomy lobby of a bombed out Administratum building. The green hue of the hololith cast light on the armoured warriors, particularly glinting off the Deathwatch warrior’s metallic left arm, but the weak light didn’t penetrate into the depths of the lobby. Instinctively Amareus new someone else was there. Faustian glanced at him as he approached, “Amareus, this is Captain Cato. He has a mission that we hope you may assist on”. Cato stood, his Ultramarine shoulder guard coming into view as he turned to regard Amareus. “Brother, I understand you witnessed Chaplain Leonid fall to what we believe is the foul creature, Shurghol’gh. Tell us what happened”, requested Cato, his tone ebbing from respect for a battle brother, to remorse for a fallen hero and then to revulsion for an abomination.
Just as Amareus opened his mouth to speak the other person emerged from the shadows. She struck him as being poised, balanced, in control. Dressed in a long dark red jacket with her badge of office, a rosette, clearly displayed on her lapel, she exuded power. The power of the Holy Inquisition. Amareus faltered for a moment. Few mortal humans could have that impact on an Adeptus Astartes.
He recomposed himself and told of the moments leading up to Chaplain Leonid’s death. He spoke of the Hellblaster fire, Leonid’s charge into a battle engine of the damned, and once he’d felled it then into some fetid marines. Amareus had led his squad into the fray alongside Leonid, all the while the Chaplain chanted hymns and prayers. The slaughter was tremendous, but he and Leonid emerged from it, standing when many had fallen. Then it had appeared. A vile creature standing twice his height. A very different language spewed from its mouth as it called forth a malevolent power. Leonid fell silent. The guttural sound grew as the thing glowered at the servants of the Imperium. Leonid collapsed to his knees, his armour began to buckle and fold in on itself. Then the blood came, not the fresh blood of the recently slain, but foul, half clotted, browning vitae. It repulsed Amareus. He stood his ground, emptying rounds from his weapon into the creature. It cared nothing for him and moved off to join battle elsewhere.
Amareus finished speaking. He realised he was sweating and had a tight squeeze on his Bolt Rifle’s grip. The doubt rose again… had he really done all he could have for Leonid. The Inquisitor was staring at Cato and the captain was nodding in a silent response. Cato approached Amareus and placed his hand on the sergeant’s shoulder, “Thank you, Amareus. We mourn Leonid and your fallen brothers. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten”. Faustian, gestured a subtle dismissal towards Amareus.
Amareus was just about to leave the lobby when he turned, “Do you intend to hunt for this abomination?”. The Inquisitor looked into his face. She responded with a voice that was much older than he’d expected, “Yes. It is indeed Shurghol’gh. It is practicing a form of warp power that we first observed fighting an incursion of infected Orks in the Lorphax sub-sector. It must be destroyed.” Amareus knew he wanted to put an end to his doubt. He took a step back towards them, “I wish to join you and to help rid the universe of this accursed being”. The Inquisitor glanced at Cato and the captain in black armour walked forward and grasped Amareus’ forearm, “We will be glad to have you fight along side us”.