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Huge Lovecraft fan and love this concept... Any spaces going on this one?
Mardji’s Cantina, the Bitter End


Muffled voices a few metres away shook Zejinn from his trance. He lazily tossed the data slate he had been glaring at onto the table in front of him, bored of looking over accounts and ledgers. Zejinn had been working in a dingy cantina booth for over an hour, determined to get through the dull number work before his client meetings later in the evening. Mardji’s was not Zejinn’s favourite spot in the End. Far from it, in fact, but it had been nearby after his visit to the port earlier, and it was important for him to get some work done.

His companions had exceeded their limits rather quickly; two twi’lek girls were opposite, one asleep with her head in the other’s lap, and an aqualish man with an impressive gut was sat upright passed out to his left. A smattering of empty glasses and aromatic dishes dotted the battered table, a range of noodle dishes and skewered meats. Zejinn did not have an appetite, currently; they had been for his guests, but it seemed they had opted for lunch of a more liquid nature.

The voices had come from his right, where two enormous weequay guards were blocking entry to Zejinn’s booth. He kept a light security detail as more of a status symbol than anything else; in truth, almost every merc, smuggler or miscellaneous scumbag that may have been a threat was already on Zejinn’s payroll, and they were smart enough to know not to bite the hand that pays them. Over the general din and chatter of the cantina, their voices were barely audible, but they had stopped someone who was attempting to gain access to Zejinn.

He leant forward over the table to look at the one who sought him. He was tall, scrawny, with floppy dark hair and nervous brown eyes. A patchy, scraggly beard clung to his jaw, and he looked to be in his mid-twenties, even though Zejinn knew him to be older. One hand was in his pocket, and the other was raised with the palm open in a disarming manner, and Zejinn noticed he was trembling ever so slightly.

“Darac Shor.” Zejinn smiled warmly. “Let him pass.” The guard on the left grunted, and like two enormous muscly saloon doors, they stepped inwards, creating an opening for Darac to enter the booth. Zejinn gestured for the man to sit opposite him, much to the annoyance of the dozing twi’lek girl who had to move her legs to accommodate him. The yellowish lighting from the strip light above the booth gave Darac’s pale complexion a sickly hue. “It’s good to see you, my boy. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Darac exhaled anxiously. “I’m just gonna out and say it. I lost my shipment.” Zejinn did not let his smile drop, simply continuing to eye the nervous man opposite him. “I’m really, really sorry Zejinn, I am. I got pirated, there were at least a dozen of them all armed, two ships. I was on my own, I had no choice.”

“You had a choice.” Zejinn was still smiling. “You let these pirates take my guns, without even lifting a finger in protest from the sound of it.”

“Come on, Zejinn, there were a dozen blasters on me! I’m a runner, not a merc! Maybe if you sent some protection with me things would have turned out differently!”

Zejinn’s smile faded into a grimace. “So, you’re saying it’s my fault that you lost your shipment and failed your job?”

“No… no, Zejinn, no, c’mon, no! That isn’t what I meant!” He had realised his mistake, and his blatant fear was evident. Zejinn snapped his fingers.

In an instant, Darac was out of the booth, on his knees on the cantina floor and with his arms held firmly in place by Zejinn’s two guards. The falleen man stood slowly and purposefully, well aware that much of the cantina had turned its attention towards the scuffle. One of the twi’lek girls had let out a shrill scream, but even still the bulky aqualish man had failed to wake. He approached the kneeling man, who started babbling profusely, but Zejinn cut him off with a sharp gesture.

“I do not take kindly to failure, Darac. Even more so, I do not care for insults. You knew the risks when you took this contract, and your own failures are exactly that; your own. Do not presume to tell me how to operate, and do not come to me, laying blame for your failures in my lap.” His voice was unsettlingly calm.

Zejinn knelt down and gripped Darac under his chin, digging his claws into the soft flesh of his face and wrenching his head upwards to look him in the eye. He gripped his face tightly, so much so that warm red trickles had begun to run down his face. “Thanks to you, not only do I have an unhappy client who’s short of a shipment. I also now have a band of at least a dozen pirates threatening my shipping lanes and rather inconveniently armed to the teeth with E-5 blaster rifles. Can you see why I’m unhappy with you, Darac?” Zejinn’s smile was completely gone now, replaced with a completely blank expression that was just as menacing.

“I like you Darac, and that works in your favour. Our relationship until now has been blissfully simple. I give you a job, you do that job, and we both make money. That is my favourite type of partnership. If you did not have such a long history of success, do you know what I would do?” Zejinn drew a blade in his other hand. “I would take one of these from you right now in this cantina,” he gestured to both of the man’s restrained hands, “and tell you that you can have it back when my guns are returned to me. But I’m not going to do that.”

Zejinn released Darac’s face and stood up, looming over him. “Your loyalty has earned you a reward, and this is it. Your life. Do not make me regret my choice, and do not mistake my mercy for weakness.”

“Th- thank you, Zejinn, I promise I’ll-“ Darac was cut short by Zejinn’s boot hammering into his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. The man wheezed, unable to clutch at the pain thanks to Zejinn’s weequay guards.

“You will not fail me again, Darac. If you do, I will personally dismantle you like a droid while you are still alive and sell your parts on the black market. Human organs fetch a high price these days, so do try not to give me any extra incentive.” Darac nodded, his eyes wide with fear. Zejinn kicked him again, hard, and then knelt back down to look him in the eye. “You will not fail me. Am I understood?” Darac nodded again, even more vehemently.

Zejinn sprung back to his feet, his wide grin returned. He clapped joyfully. “Excellent! Then we can put all this gloom behind us and talk business.” The guards released Darac, who pushed himself to his feet slowly, clutching his ribs. A few of them, Zejinn suspected, were broken. Zejinn ushered Darac back into the seat opposite him. “Someone fetch us something to drink!” A twi’lek server wasted no time in producing a large bottle of a bitter-scented liqueur.

“Now, Darac my boy. We can’t let your transgressions go completely unpunished.”

“Call breaking my ribs unpunished?” The smuggler practically spat the words. Zejinn let out a deep belly laugh.

“Compared to cutting off your hand or taking out an eye? I’d say so, yes.” Zejinn pulled the stopper from the bottle and poured two shots of the liqueur, sliding one gently across the table towards Darac. The falleen raised his glass and then threw it back down his throat, with Darac following suit shortly after. Zejinn poured two more.

“You’ve left me in a financially difficult situation, Darac. Naturally, I cannot pay you for a job not finished. Furthermore, now I need to assemble a group to hunt down and dispatch these pirates. Now that they are armed with military-grade blasters, that’s gonna come with a premium fee.” Zejinn and Darac knocked back another, feeling the bitter warmth through their throat and chest. He poured two more.

“So, we need to find a way to compensate for my losses. I will not be asking you to hunt down pirates, that would be a complete waste of a good runner. Instead, the next job you do for me will be totally free, as a token of your sincere goodwill and to show me how truly, truly sorry you are for your errors.” Darac grimaced. Smuggling was a dangerous job and doing it for free was not an appealing prospect. Yet he did not protest; he had pushed his luck far enough for a lifetime already.

“After that, I’ll be reducing your pay for the next four jobs by a thousand. With the four thousand raised from your noble donations, I will be able to hire mercenaries good enough to take out these pirates. After those five jobs, our relationship will resume as normal. I think that is a more than fair offer, given the circumstances.” Darac did not dare protest. Zejinn let the silence linger for a moment.

“Then we are in agreement!” Zejinn raised his glass and prompted Darac to do the same. “To business,” Zejinn said with a wide smile, clanging his glass off of Darac’s and emptying it down his throat one more. He grabbed the bottle and poured again.
Name: Zejinn Xasur
Species: Falleen
Sex: Male
Profession: Crime Lord
Reason for being present in the Bitter End: Runs a large organised criminal syndicate from the End that operates in local space.

Looks:

Personality Description: Zejinn is a shrewd opportunist, with little concept of morality or loyalty. His decision making is whimsical and simply dictated by who is benefitting him most at the time, financially or otherwise. While he is friendly, sarcastic and endearing when spoken to alone, thanks in no small part to the powerful infatuating pheromones the Falleen can secrete, people who believe he is no threat often only live to make the mistake of doing so once. It is easy to think you have Zejinn figured out, but as soon as you do, he is like to do something unpredictable purely for the sake of keeping you guessing. A meeting with Zejinn could end with a handshake as easily as it could end with a blaster bolt to the back of the head.

He is the head of the End's single largest crime syndicate, with a number of people on his payroll from petty thieves and smugglers to professional mercenaries and gunrunners. Much of the illegal activity conducted on the End goes through him, or his people. If there is something illegal to be done, Zejinn has people doing it. Anything from selling pirated holo-tapes to providing hit services and selling narcotics is covered by Zejinn's expansive network, having already absorbed many of the smaller gangs on the asteroid into the fold of his own syndicate. Zejinn is no up-jumped smuggler prince playing at being the king; a unique combination of intelligence, charm, business sense and near sociopathic fixation on power and control make Zejinn an incredibly dangerous figure in the End's criminal underworld.

Character Bio:

Zejinn was born on the planet of Falleen in the Mid Rim, the second son of the minor noble House of Xasur. His father served as a courtier to a prominent Falleen nobleman, while his mother was the retainer of the same nobleman's wife, and it was through their occupations that the two met, bonded and eventually gained titles and prestige. Even from a young age, the signs were there for what Zejinn Xasur would become. He craved control and respect, and hated competition, refusing to submit to life in the shadow of his older brother. His motivations were mostly financial, and he had a fantastic nose for an opportunity and an even better sense for gauging risk. Zejinn showed little interest in the intrigue and politics of the Falleen courts. He studied cybernetics and medicine at a higher level, qualifying as a certified medical practitioner and showing great promise with his advances in scientific study.

Due to his contempt for the feudal way of life that his parents expected him to grow into, Zejinn was eventually sent on a tour of the Mid Rim and Galactic Core. A common practice for young Falleen nobles, tours such as these were often employed to expose the Falleen to the filth that occupied other worlds and help to reinforce the deep prejudices and sense of racial superiority that was instilled in them from birth. While his parents hoped Zejinn would return with a new-found sense of superiority and a drive to engage with the lifestyle they had chosen for him, they were left disappointed. Zejinn never returned to Falleen. Having seen the galaxy away from the pressures of his own society, Zejinn was awestruck by the diversity of galactic civilisations and decided to turn his back on his people and their isolationist attitudes, sensing the opportunity to claim freedom, power and wealth away from his homeworld. He nomadically travelled the galactic core, working on Corellia, Duro, Chandrila, Alderaan and many more, gaining experience and insight.

Zejinn was eventually appointed a Science Officer and tasked with leading a research team developing combat cybernetics to improve upon the abilities of Republic soldiers. Stationed initially on Brentaal IV, the team was eventually moved closer and finally to Coruscant itself. Zejinn despised his position. He was earning money disproportionately low for the time and effort put in and was constantly reporting and bowing to superiors who did their best to control the rogue researcher and restrict his brilliance. Partly out of spite, and partly sensing a lucrative financial opportunity, Zejinn put feelers out into the underworld on Coruscant. All of a sudden, state-of-the-art Republic tech started to find its way onto X-tier black market trading platforms, and thanks to a complicated network of associates, it was never traced back to Zejinn. Not bound by any ties to family or faction, even despite his work for the Republic, he had absolutely no qualms and about selling tech or info to the highest bidder, regardless of whom that bidder was working for, as long as the risk posed to himself was nominal. Over a decade, Zejinn amassed substantial wealth and began to gain repute in Coruscant's criminal underworld. Eventually, he fell in with the Confederacy of Independent Systems, earning lucrative money by developing tech for the Republic, and then selling it to the other side under the table.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. After almost five decades of extortion, bribery and black market dealing, Zejinn Xasur was exposed by a Republic Intelligence operation. Calling on a network of contacts, Zejinn managed to vanish from Republic space, smuggled far away from Coruscant and into C.I.S. space. Not long after, the Clone Wars erupted, and the Republic fell to be replaced by the first Galactic Empire, under the control of the Sith. Zejinn settled on the Bitter End, an asteroid=based city under C.I.S. control with a reputation for its roaring black market trade in Kyber. Sensing opportunity knock once again, Zejinn quickly set about establishing himself using what he had learned from his criminal involvements on Coruscant, putting money in the right pockets and a knife in the right back until he found himself at the head of his very own syndicate, dominating the End's criminal underworld and ensuring a healthy share of his profits landed in the pocket of his most generous patron, Adamantious Xen, all in the good name of the Rebellion. Zejinn has maintained comfortable control, amassing fortune and prestige, but recently, rumours of the arrival of Callidus have put Zejinn on high alert.
Name: Zejinn Xasur
Species: Falleen
Sex: Male
Profession: Crime Lord
Reason for being present in the Bitter End: Runs a large crime syndicate from the End that operates in local space.

Looks:

Personality Description: Zejinn is a shrewd opportunist, with little concept of morality or loyalty. His decision making is whimsical and simply dictated by who is benefitting him most at the time, financially or otherwise. While he is friendly, sarcastic and endearing when spoken to alone, thanks in no small part to the powerful infatuating pheromones the Falleen can secrete, people who believe he is no threat often only live to make the mistake of doing so once. It is easy to think you have Zejinn figured out, but as soon as you do, he is like to do something unpredictable purely for the sake of keeping you guessing. A meeting with Zejinn could end with a handshake as easily as it could end with a blaster bolt to the back of the head.

He is the head of the End's single largest crime syndicate, with a number of people on his payroll from petty thieves and smugglers to professional mercenaries and gunrunners. Much of the illegal activity conducted on the End goes through him, or his people. If there is something illegal to be done, Zejinn has people doing it. Anything from selling pirated holo-tapes to providing hit services and selling narcotics is covered by Zejinn's expansive network, having already absorbed many of the smaller gangs on the asteroid into the fold of his own syndicate. Zejinn is no up-jumped smuggler prince playing at being the king; a unique combination of intelligence, charm, business sense and near sociopathic fixation on power and control make Zejinn an incredibly dangerous figure in the End's criminal underworld.

Character Bio:

Zejinn was born on the planet of Falleen in the Mid Rim, the second son of the minor noble House of Xasur. His father served as a courtier to a prominent Falleen nobleman, while his mother was the retainer of the same nobleman's wife, and it was through their occupations that the two met, bonded and eventually gained titles and prestige. Even from a young age, the signs were there for what Zejinn Xasur would become. He craved control and respect, and hated competition, refusing to submit to life in the shadow of his older brother. His motivations were mostly financial, and he had a fantastic nose for an opportunity and an even better sense for gauging risk. Zejinn showed little interest in the intrigue and politics of the Falleen courts. He studied cybernetics and medicine at a higher level, qualifying as a certified medical practitioner and showing great promise with his advances in scientific study.

Due to his contempt for the feudal way of life that his parents expected him to grow into, Zejinn was eventually sent on a tour of the Mid Rim and Galactic Core. A common practice for young Falleen nobles, tours such as these were often employed to expose the Falleen to the filth that occupied other worlds and help to reinforce the deep prejudices and sense of racial superiority that was instilled in them from birth. While his parents hoped Zejinn would return with a new-found sense of superiority and a drive to engage with the lifestyle they had chosen for him, they were left disappointed. Zejinn never returned to Falleen. Having seen the galaxy away from the pressures of his own society, Zejinn was awestruck by the diversity of galactic civilisations and decided to turn his back on his people and their isolationist attitudes, sensing the opportunity to claim freedom, power and wealth away from his homeworld. He nomadically travelled the galactic core, working on Corellia, Duro, Chandrila, Alderaan and many more, gaining experience and insight.

Zejinn was eventually appointed a Science Officer and tasked with leading a research team developing combat cybernetics to improve upon the abilities of Republic soldiers. Stationed initially on Brentaal IV, the team was eventually moved closer and finally to Coruscant itself. Zejinn despised his position. He was earning money disproportionately low for the time and effort put in and was constantly reporting and bowing to superiors who did their best to control the rogue researcher and restrict his brilliance. Partly out of spite, and partly sensing a lucrative financial opportunity, Zejinn put feelers out into the underworld on Coruscant. All of a sudden, state-of-the-art Republic tech started to find its way onto X-tier black market trading platforms, and thanks to a complicated network of associates, it was never traced back to Zejinn. Not bound by any ties to family or faction, even despite his work for the Republic, he had absolutely no qualms and about selling tech or info to the highest bidder, regardless of whom that bidder was working for, as long as the risk posed to himself was nominal. Over a decade, Zejinn amassed substantial wealth and began to gain repute in Coruscant's criminal underworld. Eventually, he fell in with the Confederacy of Independent Systems, earning lucrative money by developing tech for the Republic, and then selling it to the other side under the table.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. After almost five decades of extortion, bribery and black market dealing, Zejinn Xasur was exposed by a Republic Intelligence operation. Calling on a network of contacts, Zejinn managed to vanish from Republic space, smuggled far away from Coruscant and into C.I.S. space. Not long after, the Clone Wars erupted, and the Republic fell to be replaced by the first Galactic Empire, under the control of the Sith. Zejinn settled on the Bitter End, an asteroid=based city under C.I.S. control with a reputation for its roaring black market trade in Kyber. Sensing opportunity knock once again, Zejinn quickly set about establishing himself using what he had learned from his criminal involvements on Coruscant, putting money in the right pockets and a knife in the right backs until he found himself at the head of his very own syndicate, dominating the End's criminal underworld and ensuring a healthy share of his profits landed in the pocket of his most generous patron, Adamantious Xen, all in the good name of the Rebellion. Zejinn has maintained comfortable control, amassing fortune and prestige, but recently, rumours of the arrival of Callidus have put Zejinn on high alert
Definitely looks cool!

XVIII Legion - The Black Manticores 2nd Battle Company
M31.000
Bridge of the Dark Promise
Ullanor Quintus
Ullanor Sector



It took several precious hours of careful manoeuvring, but at last, the Black Manticores battle fleet above Ullanor Quintus was in position. Hulking starships formed Leonarys’ spear. The volunteer vessels hung in the black of the void at the tip of the formation with nothing but empty space and time between them and their inevitable demise. A strong core, an amalgam of frigate and destroyer class vessels, comprised the bulk of the force behind the damned. And finally, at the rear of the formation, the Dark Promise sat flanked by its two sister cruisers. Upon its bridge, Leonarys gazed out over his fleet, steeling himself for the battle to come.

He had commanded his officers to reassemble in the strategium aboard the bridge where they had drawn up their plan hours earlier. Ophiel Mectus was the last to arrive, muttering to a decrepit calligraphus servitor that had to take two steps to match his every one. The dull green eye lenses were lifeless, but his plethora of scrambling mechanical limbs were certainly alive, transcribing the Chief Lorekeeper’s every sentiment onto various data slates. Ophiel was likely keeping a personal log, or logging his own musings, or both. Either way, as he approached the hololithic projection on the central table of the strategium, he dismissed the servitor and greeted his fellow officers.

Leonarys turned away from the viewport. Despite the blackness, space always seemed bright in comparison to the grim electrical lighting of the bridge. The dark metallic walls and ceilings were lit by the ghostly pale blue of the projection and scattered off-white lumen lamps held in black iron sconces. He counted the heads at the table, ensuring everyone was present, before keying into his vox to run final operational assessments past the various responsible parties. The Enginseer had reported all clear, and the Master Gunner had reported that the Dark Promise was operating at 100% combat effectiveness with more than a twinge of excitement in his robotic voice. Other ships voxed in, reporting their own readiness. Some had not yet, but there was no more time to waste.

Leonarys strode powerfully and with purpose from the gantry, his crimson cloak flowing gracefully in his wake. The heavy thud of his power armoured boots gave all the signal the officers needed to end their muttering and fall silent for their Praetor. Captain Addis stood away to one side, staring furiously at the flickering gothic runes upon a data slate in an obvious attempt to avoid eye contact with Leonarys. He was gripping the slate with such intensity that his knuckles had lost their colour and his frame was visibly shaking, likely with a mixture of anxiety and frustration that the Astartes were so willing to sacrifice his men and ships for their mission. Still, the captain understood the importance of their mission and had ultimately resigned to the will of the Emperor’s superhuman servants.

Addis obviously noticed the approach of the towering Astartes Praetor but did his best to not acknowledge him. The captain jumped as Leonarys’ gauntlet landed on his shoulder. “Come, Captain.” The man finally looked up from his data slate and met the gaze of the space marine. Despite being tall for a human, he still had to crane his neck upwards to see Leonarys’ face. “Let us revisit our strategy one last time.” He gestured to the hololithic projection and the two joined the remaining officers. Leonarys knew there nothing he could say to allay the captain’s reservations, but the will of the Emperor demanded sacrifices.

A dozen or so pairs of red eyes fixed on their Praetor. Leonarys relayed their plan of attack one last time; the volunteers would go ahead and draw the Greenskins into open space, where the remainder of the fleet would be able to dispatch their vessels with ease out of range of the modified asteroid space stations. After that, they would be able to deploy teams to take the stations from the inside, and then head for the surface of Ullanor Quintus. The Astartes all nodded their approval of the plan, and Addis added his own, although the captain’s disingenuity was evident to all present. Leonarys walked back to his perch on the viewing platform, taking one last long look over the fleet. He keyed into his vox. “Captain. Begin our attack.”

Almost instantly, the rows of servitors seemed to jolt into action. Their mechanical fingers swarmed across their consoles, keying at runes and processing readouts. The cables wiring them into the ship hummed and pulsed periodically with energy, feeding their thoughts into the ship and relaying to each other with a cacophony of abhuman clicks and whirrs. Flittering serfs scuttled under the grimy white light of the bridge, carrying messages and data slates to and from. The deck rumbled as the engines of the cruiser flickered, stuttered, and then roared alight. Looking out of the viewport, Leonarys could see the ships in front of him doing the same. The Praetor keyed into his fleet-wide vox channel to address his forces.

“Men and women of the Imperium,” he started, his booming voice cutting through the nervous chatter aboard the decks of every vessel. Ubiquitously, crewmen, serfs and officers turned their attention, attending his every word. “The ferocity of the Greenskins knows no bounds. Their presence in this galaxy is a ravening plague upon our noble Imperium. Today, we punish their insolence and visit the righteous wrath of our Emperor upon these Xenos parasites. Men and women of the Emperor, I charge you henceforth. You are the Emperor’s shield, and you are the Emperor’s sword. On this day, you will do battle in His name, and you will know victory. For the Emperor.” Across the ships, thousands of clamouring voices echoed the salute in chorus, their shouts filled with immense pride and zeal. Glancing over his shoulder, it appeared even Captain Addis had stood straighter, his resolve apparently steadied somewhat.

The volunteer vessels at the spear tip of the fleet began their death march toward their foes. Leonarys keyed at his vox runes to address just the forlorn frigates who knew they were venturing to their doom. “Noble volunteers. On behalf of the entire Imperium of Man, I thank you for your nobility, courage and unflinching dedication. Without you, our mission on Ullanor Quintus would have failed before it began. I give you my word, your deaths will not be in vain and your sacrifices will not be forgotten. May the Emperor bless you with his protection. Good luck.” At that, he let the channel fall silent with a meek crackle, removing himself from his vox and refocussing his attention on the scene ahead of him.

The fleets crawled towards one another, the distance between the volunteers and the rest of the fleet growing as they raced towards the haphazard assemblies that the Orks had the audacity to call vessels. As soon as the Orks had seen their advance, they had matched it with their own, firing all of their ships into action and hurtling at their opposites with their signature aggressive disregard. By the ship’s scans and cogitations, Addis had confirmed, the Orks would meet the Imperial vessels just out of range of the asteroid weapons platforms.

The volunteer vessels reached their destination and began to turn, rotating to expose the onrushing Orks to the macrocannons that lined their gundecks. The Orks did not turn to do the same. Missiles and plasma shots launched across the space between, little more than a symbolic resistance, a roar of defiance in the face of the executioner’s down-swinging axe. At any moment, the Orks would turn to meet their fire and make quick work of the volunteers but expose themselves to the remainder of the fleet in doing so. Yet they did not turn. Their vessels hurtled on with reckless abandon. The background noise faded out and Leonarys’ vision tunnelled to the scene. Everything seemed to freeze for a moment. And then the first jagged hull of an Ork vessel rammed at full tilt into the side a frigate and cleaved the vessel in two.

Leonarys felt rage boiling up from within him as the other two volunteer ships fell to the same fate. Rage at his foe, and rage at himself. He had gravely underestimated the recklessness of their foe. One could not form a logical strategy against an enemy that knew no logic themselves. He shook himself from his angered stupor as the Ork fleet continued its reckless assault, its bestial gaze fixed firmly on the remaining Imperial ships. Leonarys could see their ships now in detail; scrap metal panels spray painted in reds and yellows and alien symbols scrawled hastily across their hulls. They were poorly constructed, yet terrifyingly effective.

“Addis! Send orders! Do not face these ships broadside or they will ram you. Order all combat personnel onto high alert and prepare for boarding. And by the Emperor, open fire!” Addis did as he was bid, and the black of space was set alight with munitions fire. Searing lances carved their way through the black, melting away the ramshackle plating of Ork vessels and penetrating into the interior, sucking out helpless Greenskin crewmen to suffocate in the vacuum. Plasma blasts charred hulls and macrocannon fire boomed. Some smaller Ork vessels erupted into flaming wreckages, debris scattering across space. Some larger vessels took the immense Imperial firepower in their stride, shrugging off shells bigger than an Astartes like bothersome insects and continuing their charge. The Dark Promise shuddered as an Ork shell collided with their voidshields, rocking them but in no danger of penetrating from such a distance. The cruiser returned in kind with a volley of concentrated lance fire that danced across the void, and then tore into the frigate’s hull, igniting fires across the starboard side and removing several gundecks form the battle. Leonarys looked on stoic from his viewing platform at the utter carnage in front of him. The blazing reds and yellows of explosives and fires painted his pale skin in the colours of battle. The volunteers, he knew, would not be the only ones to make sacrifices this day.


XVIII Legion - The Black Manticores 1st Battle Company
M31.000
Southern Hemisphere
Ullanor Prime
Ullanor Sector



Blood sprayed across Tymos’ face as he jerked his talons free from the limp body of an Ork. Before the Greenskin corpse had hit the floor, he whirled around and found another target, his powered claws rending green flesh with devastating elegance. The red-soaked lightning talons hummed and crackled as they tore through skin, muscle and bone alike. A crude axe clanged off of the Primarch’s armoured shoulder, barely even scratching its surface, and Tymos retaliated in kind by opening the Ork’s belly with one hand and stabbing through its throat with the other.

To his right, Tymos saw Morael deflect a vicious blow with his storm shield, and return with an upward swing of his axe that sent his aggressor flying into the air in a spray of viscera, crumpling on the ground in a mauled heap. The familiar thud of bolt shots meeting flesh rang out around them as the marines of the Black Manticores set about their bloody work, dismantling their Greenskin foes in a blur of frenzied attacks. Tymos and Morael disposed of yet more Orks, slashing and slicing through the onrushing green bodies as if they were made of paper. Severed limbs and pooled blood adorned the ground by their feet, congealing the dirt into a clotted red-brown mess.

The fighting ended almost as suddenly as it had begun, lasting only a matter of minutes. Their ambush had been a resounding success; Tymos looked around and noted all of his black-clad sons still stood, although some had suffered wounds at the hands of the ferocious Xenos. Around him, the Black Manticores marines prowled the rows of bodies, ensuring each and every one of them was dead before decapitating them and collecting the heads, both to prevent their return and to add to their trophy collections. Some set about unclogging their chainaxe blades of the flesh their teeth had gorged themselves upon, and others set about ensuring their boltguns were loaded and their spirits appeased.

"Fourteen," a voice from behind the Primarch said with pride. Tymos turned to Morael as he approached, the arms and torso of his heavy armour coated in a thick dark red ichor. His pale head was shaven bare, but his mighty beard was wilder than ever, blood-soaked also and marked with scattered rings and adornments tangled into the matted hair. His left pauldron bared the mighty symbol of his Legion, while the right denoted his rank as an esteemed Praetor of the Black Manticores.

"You are becoming slow, Morael," Tymos responded with a wicked grin. "Eighteen." Tymos smiled at his friend, enjoying the look of disappointment on his face as he stooped the wipe the blood from his talons on the ragged cloth clothes of a fallen Greenskin before it had a chance to congeal in the joints of his weapons. "Was their leader among the dead?"

"No. It appears he does not sully himself with simple transport work. He is either smarter than we give him credit for, or he is a coward."

"Cowards do not rise far among these vile Xenos, Morael. He is wise not to expose himself so easily. Unfortunately for us." Tymos went to scratch his chin in thought, stopping short as soon as he remembered all his fingers were currently ferocious, needle-like blades. "Search the supplies and see if there was anything of importance among the shipment, any clue of where it was headed and why." Morael nodded his compliance and bowed before the Primarch, then took his leave, barking orders at this legionary brothers.

Their search bore no results of any tangible use to them. The supplies were mainly weapons and ammunition, which Tymos swiftly ordered his men to destroy. In good spirits, the squad trudged back to their transport, a Wraith-Pattern Stormbird. The black hull of the great aircraft shimmered in the light of the setting sun, its engines igniting with little more than a muffled hum and the ramp to the troop compartment lowering into the dirt with a soft hiss. Tymos climbed the ramp into the bright interior, lit with bright lights only slightly paler than his own ghostly flesh. His men followed him into the Stormbird, the ramp closing behind them.

The ship took off with a slight rumble, and then returned to smooth flight, floating through the skies with hardly a sound. The men inside bantered back and forth, comparing the trophies of their minor victory and brainstorming the best uses for the Ork skulls they had collected. Tymos sat in silence and solemnity, pondering. The war for the Ullanor Sector had been a curious affair thus far. He had recieved little communication about how the other Legions were faring. The Black Manticores had been orchestrating an extensive campaign of disruption and terror across positions away from the capital, doing their best to prevent supplies and reinforcements from reaching the main Ork positions. Orks amassed around their leader were difficult to scare, but no living thing was immune to hunger. As such, Tymos and his sons had destroyed dozens of convoys, ambushed reinforcing Orks on their way to the capital, and torn down numerous smaller strong points like scattered outposts. Yet their foe was innumerable, and the Xenos tide seemed to replenish itself with two more savages for every one that fell.

His thoughts were interrupted by the crackle of his vox. The voice of the ship's pilot came through. "My Lord Tymos. Our Astropaths have recieved word from Lord Leonarys. He says they have been victorious over Ullanor Quintus, but suffered losses in the battle above the planet." Tymos considered the words carefully. The Greenskin resistance at Ullanor Quintus must have been greater than they had anticipated. Leonarys had been successful, but from the sounds of his communication, he would likely be unable to take the planet with his remaining forces.

"Relay a message, pilot. Inform our Astropaths to tell Leonarys that I will petition my brothers for reinforcements. With the Emperor's blessing, they should arrive before any Ork reinforcements do." The pilot acknowledged, and then cut his vox communications. Next to the Primarch, Morael shuffled expectantly. "Leonarys was victorious over Ullanor Quintus." Morael grinned wryly. "He needs reinforcements, however. Once we return to our ship, we will have to pursue assistance from the other Primarchs." Tymos sighed. With the Astartes forces spread so widely across the system, finding someone who could divert the resources to aid his men would not be a simple task. Getting help from his brothers and sisters rarely ever was.

XVIII Legion - The Black Manticores 2nd Battle Company
M31.000
Bridge of the Dark Promise
Ullanor Quintus
Ullanor Sector


Leonarys had witnessed the vast expanse of the void a thousand times, and he would witness it a thousand more. It mattered not how many times the Praetor travelled through the swirling ocean of stars. True comprehension of it would always elude him. Gazing out from the bridge of the Grand Cruiser Dark Promise, Leonarys pondered upon how many billions were going about their daily lives, blissfully unaware of the blood being shed for their benefit on this Crusade. The true scale of the Imperium, of the all the lives it had touched, was truly unfathomable. Leonarys pushed the thoughts from his head. Wonderings fit for a scholar, perhaps. But now was the not the time for ponderance or sentiment.

All around, consoles and panels were ablaze with electric glow, the bright blue light waging war against the shadows of the otherwise poorly lit bridge. Hundreds of loyal servitors, more a part of the ship than they were their own person, spanned the decks below the raised walkway where Leonarys and other assorted command personnel stood. Their movements were relentless, keying commands and processing data. Bundles of thick electrical cables protruded from their flesh, connecting them to the ship like individual nerves of a single mechanical brain, controlling the ship in harmony as easily as Leonarys might move an arm. The hum of the raw electrical energy powering the surrounding machinery and circuitry was dull and incessant, secondary in volume only to the jumbled chatter of the hundreds present on the ship’s bridge.

The Dark Promise stood at the head of a few dozen warships tasked with bringing the righteous wrath of the Emperor to the Ork-infested world of Ullanor V. While a large contingent of the XVIII legion’s forces remained at Ullanor Prime in preparation for a strike at the core of this so-called empire, Leonarys had been hand chosen by his gene-father to lead a secondary group in the cleansing of the system’s other worlds. With Ullanor V the designated target, Leonarys had been only too honoured to accept the command, venturing out immediately with some ten thousand of his legionary brothers. He had not been counting the days since his fleet group had left that of the Primarch’s, but he was sure several had passed. For those days he had seen nothing but stars, a surreal stillness that often preluded the glory and bloodshed of battle. That prelude had reached its conclusion now, it seemed, for the view from the bridge now had the world of Ullanor V at its center.

“It is upon us.” The voice from Leonarys’ right was that of Ophiel Mectus, the Chief Lorekeeper of the Black Manticores. He was a curious man, wizened and weathered despite not being vastly older than most of the other Astartes. Leonarys had always assumed his elderly appearance to be a side effect of the psychic ‘gifts’ that men like Ophiel possessed, but whether there was any truth to that notion, Leonarys did not know. Nor did he know why now, of all times, Ophiel had decided to venture beyond the safety of the Legion’s sanctum on Ictar. The Chief Lorekeeper was hardly a reputed warrior, preferring usually to do battle with the dust-covered repositories of the Librarium than the foes of the Imperium of Man. Yet here he stood, at Leonarys’ side.

“It is upon us,” Leonarys echoed, before turning away from his position and towards a large circular holo-table at the centre of the strategium, where Astartes and Imperial Naval personnel alike stood gathered and waiting. The Praetor bellowed into his vox, “Give me scans of the defences.” With a flicker, ranged scans presented a high-resolution holographic image of the planet, a zoomed in picture of what Leonarys had been observing moments before. The light bathed the room, tinting his pale skin an ethereal blue. Quickly into view came the battlefleet, the Dark Promise, Ullanor V. And the Orks. Leonarys grimaced as he took in the details of what lay before him.

Despite the fact that the considerable bulk of the Ork forces had converged on Ullanor Prime to defend their core world, it was obvious that they had not left the other planets of the system undefended. Crude Ork warships, hulking behemoths of repurposed scrap metal, floated in orbit with a grace entirely unbefitting of their cack-handed construction. Their numbers were less than, but not too dissimilar from, the Black Manticores battlefleet that Leonarys commanded; a handful of larger ships, none obviously marked as any kind of capital ship, and a smattering of smaller vessels. Unlike the Imperial force, there was no uniformity of design, and Leonarys would not have been surprised if a number of the ships before them had been hastily assembled to bolster the Greenskin forces since the Astartes had reached the Ullanor system. It seemed that was not the only thing they had been building, much to the dismay of Leonarys and the assembled officers.

On either side of the formation of Ork ships, two space stations stood sentinel. Leonarys commanded for them to become the focus of the display, staring intently at the constructs. His eyes went around the faces of those at the table, their expressions a mixture of confusion and concern. The constructs were indeed perplexing. Apparently formed from a hollowed rock, the Orks had improvised a space station by crudely splicing scrap metal with asteroids. The platforms were heavily armed, sporting more weapons than anyone could reasonably have use of. Leonarys spied Ophiel across the table to his left, grinning at the improvised stations with genuine childlike delight.

“Fascinating,” the Chief Lorekeeper said under his breath. “I had read about such things in the repositories, but to see it with my own eyes.” He gave pause. “The Orks may be crude and feral, but their ingenuity is astonishing.”

“They are a threat to the Imperium,” Captain Izral countered Ophiel, “and they will be purged.”

Leonarys raised a hand to hush them both. “Captain Addis.” The Praetor’s voice was gruff and commanding, cutting through the background noise and commanding all present to listen. The Imperial Naval officer directly opposite from the Praetor stood bolt upright, abandoning whatever thoughts had been troubling him to focus on the conversation at hand. He was relatively young for a captain if the ones Leonarys had met before were anything to go by. His uniform was clustered with multicoloured medals, however, and Leonarys had little option but to trust in this man’s abilities. “Have you completed full scans of orbit?”

“Yes, Sir.” The response was curt, but polite.

“And this is all there is? I do not wish to commit to battle only to be blindsided.”

“This is everything, sir. The Orks have mustered all available naval forces into orbit to oppose us.”

“Good. I assume, as we have not yet been fired upon, that for the time being we are out of range of those weapon platforms. The Greenskins are hardly notorious for their restraint.” Leonarys took pause to return the readout to a full view of the planet, the Orks, and all the space between them and his own fleet. Leonarys was a battlefield commander, not a naval tactician, but in the absence of one more qualified the burden of command had come to rest squarely on his hulking shoulders.

“It is evident that if we charge headlong into this engagement, the combined fire of their fleet and stations would cripple us to the point of rendering a successful ground campaign near impossible. Our goal is to secure Ullanor V for the Imperium, and dominance in orbit is the crucial first stage of that endeavour.”

“We could call for aid.”

“We could, Izral, but every moment that we languish in inaction we risk a reinforcing Ork fleet arriving.” Leonarys stared hard at the readout, shaking his head at the situation that faced him. The fleet had no choice but to face the enemy head on, that much was clear to Leonarys. While some of the Imperial forces had been dispatched in large numbers to tackle Ullanor’s scattered planets. Leonarys and his fleet were comparatively few in number. Had they found the world better defended, it was likely they would have had to abandon their pursuits. Similarly, had they been more numerous then everything would have been more straightforward. Leonarys counted himself fortunate to not be staring down a hundred or more Ork ships right now, given their tendency for forming hordes. However, in their current situation, Leonarys simply could not afford heavy casualties before even reaching the surface.

“We should seek to divide their forces,” Ophiel broke the silence. The entire table turned to face the Lorekeeper. “We can make short work of the fleet and the stations, as long as we face each as a single opponent. The Orks are headstrong and reckless, prone to impulse. If we can draw their fleet out and away from the support of those stations, we can make quick work of them with our lances. After that, the matter of dispatching the stations with transports and assault teams should be a trivial one.”

Leonarys scratched at his bare chin and ran an armoured hand along his buzzcut hair. His dull red eyes counted that the Ork ships numbered in the high twenties, while their own fleet was closer to forty. It was true that against the fleet alone, victory was assured, but a sustained engagement with the Ork fleet whilst under heavy weapons fire from the platform was simply not an option. The grim reality of the situation dawned on him. Losses were unavoidable, but the sacrifice of a few may pave the path for the survival of the many. Leonarys’ gene-father had taught them that no sacrifice was too great to ensure victory, and with that in mind, the way forward was clear. “We would need to send ships forward to draw out the Orks. We need them where we can bombard them with lance fire from our cruisers whilst maintaining a safe range from their stations.”

“That would be a suicide mission, sir,” Addis chimed in, clearly unhappy that the Astartes were planning to sacrifice his vessels and his men.

“Indeed, Captain. A glorious sacrifice in the name of the Emperor. There is none more noble.” It was obvious from the scowl on the captain’s face that Leonarys’ rousing words had done little to sway him. Yet, Leonarys was undeterred, necessity dictating his every thought. Men would die, and they would die proudly. “Captain. Send word to the fleet. All combat personnel, Astartes and otherwise, are to withdraw to the cruisers. Ask for volunteers, we will need a handful of ships to make the feint convincing. Save every possible tank, shell and bullet we can.” The Captain walked back towards the main decks, crowded with servitors and serfs, and began barking orders.

Leonarys placed both hands flat on the table, leaning in close to the holographic projection of his fleet. For a while, no one spoke while thoughts ricocheted around in the Praetor’s skull. Various serfs came and went and vox chatter echoed throughout the bridge, statistical reports of successful munitions transfers and messages from one department to another. All the while, Leonarys’ gaze was fixed on the hologram before him. He rotated it, he zoomed in and out, he highlighted targets and formulated a tactical solution to their problem in his head. And the entire time, his eyes kept finding themselves on the very edge of the readout, waiting for the inevitable ping that more Ork vessels had entered the space above Ullanor V.

Thankfully, the outskirts of the readout had remained blank by the time Addis returned to the table. “We have four volunteer vessels, Sir. Two destroyers two escorts.”

Leonarys gave a grim nod. “Reassure them that the Imperium thanks them, Captain. Their loyalty is admirable, and they have proven their character. Their sacrifices will not be in vain, and they will not be forgotten.” The Praetor’s mind wandered back to his earlier musings about the billions of lives under the rule of the Imperium. Billions of lives that would never know the names of these men, who were surely to die so that they may know safety and peace. The necessities of war were not always pleasant, but Leonarys did not balk at the thought. Whatever needed to be done, however grim, it would be so. That was what it meant to be a brother of the Black Manticores.

“Our approach will be simple, brothers.” The officers assembled around the glowing holo-projection once more.
“The Orks are erratic. When they see the audacity of Imperium ships approaching, they will hurtle forth with their full might no doubt. Our noble volunteers will lead the charge, spreading out to try and engage as much of the Ork fleet upon contact as possible. We will leave them with enough munitions to fight. The idea is to engage them around this space,” Leonarys pointed a large armour-clad finger at the readout, “where we estimate they will be at the edge of the platform range.”

“Vessels with short ranged weapons will follow behind at a distance, remaining out of range of the platforms and providing close support to our volunteers with macrocannons. They will not engage the Orks until the fleet has been drawn out to meet us and they have engaged the volunteers. Once the battle begins, our cruisers will turn broadside at the rear of the formation and unleash the fury of our lances upon them. The crude hulls of these scrap vessels will be no match for concentrated energy beams. We will eviscerate the xenos in a hail of righteous fury.”

The resolve had returned to the faces of the officers at the table, now assured that Leonarys had a sound tactical plan. All except for Addis, who had turned so pale that he almost matched the ghostly visages of the towering Astartes around him. Ophiel studied the battle plans, his expression indecipherable. Making a fist, Leonarys slammed his gauntleted right hand into the chest plate of his armour in salute, sending a thunderous noise throughout the bridge. He bellowed, “For the Emperor.”

His men responded in kind with a clangour of salutes. “For the Emperor.”






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