Sunday, 14 September 2008

Snow Patrol: Chapter 2

Snow Patrol: Chapter 2 - Part 1: Memories

It was at some point during this long endless night that Geffin realised that he was truly happy.  He had been half listening to Granthem's explanation of Munk's shootout with the Tau scouts at 'The Hill' (as he called it), when this curious realisation surfaced.  Geffin's head was nodding subtly to encourage Granthem as he plowed inartistically through his account.  The heavy, foot-by-foot trudge of his units slow march capturing an unconscious rhythm to his own head movements, so that it bobbed infrequently.

As the thought emerged into the warm recesses of his meandering mind, Geffin embraced the realisation like a child's toy or long forgotten memento.  At first he couldn't fathom where such a feeling had burst from.  This cosy pride, a satisfying self fulfilling hug that came from this spark of thinking and spread about him like the warmth of a rosy fire.  

A slow heartfelt smile spread across the Corporal's face.  Granthem, glancing over, returned it, pleased that his story was having such an effect.  To Geffin, Granthem could have been reading the assault report summaries for all the content of his monologue affected him.  His heart sang, and a small hard adult part f him couldn't place why.  Yet the greater, better measure of his soul lounged in the rays of this rarest of sensations and lapped at this childlike feeling.

Geffin could feel a tingling around his body. Not the harsh frozen numbness so commonly felt on Monia II, or even the hot flushed drive of lust or fear filled adrenaline.  This feeling was both closer and older than either of these tainted adult sensations.  Fearful of losing this long lost sensation, Geffin's mind moved slowly.  Softly he quested for the source and root of the feeling.  Finally his mind answered.

Parcher Dean stood crabbed and ancient in the dusty sunlight filling the temple.  His hands and face so creased and wrought that he seemed more part of the ornamental decorations that a vibrant man.  The Parcher was making short mass, pressing his dry lips to the calfskin cover of the Lectio Divinitatus, relishing the feel of the soft material against the nerves of his aged mouth.  With reluctance his brought the divine testament away and rested it on the Aquila altar with numb bony fingers.  Sighing softly, the Parcher turned to survey the briefly quiescent but squirming mass of little humanity arrayed about his be-robed form.

The Parcher had pride in his office.  He had been drawn to the Ecclesiastical service whilst barely older than the children before him.  His drawing had been more in the desire for fresh recruits for the upper echelons perception of growing corruption in the under hives of his birth world, Hadenheld.  On inception however, a young Dean had been fortunate to find himself under the instruction of a elder parcher both fair, kind and without wrongful desire.  Other incepts were not so lucky, and from this humble start, the young Dean's confidence and trust in the blessing of the Emperor, beloved by all, grew.  A trust that later grew to faith.

'How doth our Lord look upon us children?' Parcher Dean spoke, pleased with his performance this bright morning.  The children were responding well.  A fellow parcher years before had commented on parcher Dean's skills in elocution and delivery.

'Parcher, I cannot help but feel move by your words, but fear your performance of piety, so played out for me does not become mimicry of the fastidious man." Dean had taken the man words to heart, and so his career had never excelled or aimed at an ambition beyond the fold of his young cares before him.  Parcher Dean knew that in his own simple way, his 'performance of piety' was his own blessing and abasement to the Golden Throne.  Cynical clergy and lay welders and bondsmen may doubt his sincerity and smile benignly at his ways, but with his most precious audience.  his skills were appreciated and accepted and their trust and love was complete.  Parcher Dean would save them, each and every one.

Slowly the parcher turned, and raised a wiry grey-white eyebrow.  'Children, the Golden Throne both blesses us and watches us.  His mighty eye seers through the maelstrom of the Universe and sees each one of our souls clearly.  He doth look throughout our souls at every moment, always watchful for corruption, decadence and decay.'  The Parcher paused, and stepping within his flock placed his withered hands upon the light feathered hair of his young charges.

'And as the holy Emperor looks within us, our faith is the light that shines out.  Never turn from him and let your faith lead you.  What is the mantra of watching, children?'  While speaking, Parcher Dean had slowly touched the crown of every child's head.  He looked down at the wide open brown eyes. 'Geffin, can you tell us?'

Trudging through the moonlit snows of an alien world, hands and feet like ice, back and knees creaking from the cold and the weight of his pack, an older Geffin smiled. Slowly he mouthed the mantra of seeing his Parcher had taught him.  Granthem was no Parcher Dean, his droning monologue a fraction of the majesty and poise the elder clergyman had possessed.  Nonetheless, something of the night had awaken a light in Geffin he'd thought long lost.  Slipping his hand inside his jacket he pushed his ice-cold fingers past the las-carbine charger packs nestled there and his numb fingers bit sharply about the aquila pendant and chain about his neck.

'Fear the xenos,' he muttered under his breath. 'For it life is our death.  Fear the mutant, its rot doth spread.  Fear the cult, and spare none to live.  Fear the psyker, the madness they give. Bless the Throne, and keep your heart true.  Kill his enemies, they are yours too.'

A feeling of childhood and the buzz of warmth carried Geffin's heavy feet into the freezing night.

Snow Patrol: Chapter 2 - Part 2: The End

Corporal Darl Hammound had faced a few impossible odds through the years. His service with the Kochi 20th Light Infantry had taken him to many worlds. He would speak of red planets with blasted ochre sunsets, where a man life was measured in the litres of water in his flesh. Giant moonscapes where the terrifying prospect of fighting in low gravity and no oxygen made men shake and cry, feeling vulnerable like babes. He had fought aboard Tau cruisers and Eldar ships, boarding through giant armoured cables and scrambling into panicked combat with the desparation of rats. 

Darl had fought the strange Eldar with their scything weapons and faced the terror of the Tyranid horde. Shooting desparately while the sky turns black and the land seeths. He'd fought Tau. He'd seen friends die, killed uselessly or heroically. He'd seen a brave lieutenant shot dead by a panicking commissar for choosing not to kill his men needlessly, then plowed through the mayhem and death that, that reckless fool had dragged them. He staggered out alive, sickened by the death of too many friends, too many faces. 

He'd been shot, stabbed, had his leg sliced half off by an shuriken shot. He'd rescued friends, who later died needlessly, from wounds left to fester, from administratum errors. He'd lost his wife to another man, he'd lost his children to a new father. There was no home for him, his only placed a kindly shrine on a forgetful family wall. He was an ancestor, already buried by his family and venerated. He would never go home. His life was the guard.

It was all so fecking pointless. Such a waste.

Darl Hammound shifted his gaze awkwardly. His chin strap dug into his neck as he pushed against it. He could feel acutely the cold beneath his back, sucking the sensation out of his spine. Making his legs dead and cold. He could physically feel the uncomfortable ebb and pulse of his lifeblood pushing exorbitantly against the pressed strap, like a small heart beating in his jugular. 

Darl Hammound couldn't actually feel the kroot blade buried in his guts. At least until it was twisted by the Kroot carnivore holding it. The corporal writhed beneath the pain as his hands pushed limply at the stock of the hunting rifles. Squinting up at the figure above him, a part of his reeling brain couldn't help but respond to the sheer xenotic quality of the alien above him.

It's gnarled hands, skin puckered with overlarge sweat glands, gripped the gun with a strength he marveled at. Cable like sinues pulled beneath this thick skin over whipcord muscles and bony ridges. The Kroots chest was small compared to its arms, but it's head peered forward like the prow of an imperial battle ship. Cold alien eyes, watched him closely, eyelids closing the pupils to slits as the knife twisted again.

Again, Hammounds hands flapped uselessly at the Kroot knife, their energy spent and wasted.

Hammound watched in increasing abstraction as the xenos moved closer, leaning deeper over the embedded blade. It's eyes were mere inches from his own. It's gaping beak maw hung open as if tasting or sniffing him. Darl fluid thoughts were surprised his body still lurched as the Kroot clacked its beak together mere inches from his nose.

His adrenaline pulsed waveringly as the Kroot looked down and lowered its serated beak to the bloody maw left by the bayonet blade. With a jerk the sinuey warrior plucked the gore encrusted sickle from Hammounds guts. With a nauseous sensation, he felt staunced blood flood the cavity again.

Pushing his head down he saw the alien dip its bladed beak to and out of sight inside Hammound's own body. His revulsion soared as he was gently jerked back and forth. The Kroot was eating him, he couldn't feel it directly, but his mind placed sounds and motion together and revolted wholesale at the notion.

Unknown strength coursed about his body. His heart hammering in self preservation he'd long thought useless. He might be near death, but no Kroot would hasten him. Jerking his eyes left and right he noticed the broken blade of his power sword lying beside him. Masked by the hungry jerks and tearing noises of his own demise he clasped a palsied hand about the blade.

It wasn't live, the blade severed from the hilt and its power source. A mystified part of Hammounds mind wondered at the lasting symmetry of this. The broken and bloodied man, dying by moment, clutching a broken blade, devoid of power. 

Moving the blade cautiously to his chest he fastened his other hand about it and held it in line with his body pointing towards the Kroot. His torso was still pulled about lightly as the alien ate its fill and his blood made the blade slick where its sharpened edge cut his numb hands. Hammound could feel his strength waining, but one thought kept tracking though his brain. 

Not yet, corporal. Still can't see him clear. Stop hiding down there xenos and look at me. Look at your food, Kroot. And your food will play with you. he smiled.

Sensing a stillness about its kill, the Kroot warrior paused. Obviously its feast had died, a pity but edible none the less. Moving to get a better angle about the ribs to the liver the Kroot glanced up at its prey. It only had a moment to notice the bunched fist and concentrated eyes before a broken shard of power sword drove through its bisected avian eyes, slicing into its brain.

Brilliant. Thought Hammound, a lithe ropey figure twiching spastically on top of him. Emperors Hood, Now he's trying to mate me? Well at least he took me for dinner first...