Gabriel Argenti: A Grim First Impression
It’s been hours since the 15th legion had started to fight on the planet Shalaï. The whole world had fallen into the clutch of a cult centred around pain and pleasure. Unfortunately, Shalaï was filled with resources so an exterminatus was out of the question.
The cultists far outnumbered the Seraphims, even more so because of the absence of the usual knight houses supporting the legion due to the secrecy that mission implies. Several dreadnoughts had to be awakened to compensate that loss in term of firepower.
Since no reinforcement was expected, it was decided to engage the full bulk of the legion in several shock-assaults in key locations at the same time to take control of them as fast as possible.
The main target was the planetary capital and the colossal temple at its center where the most important religious figurehead of the cult resided.
The attack was launched at dawn and rapidly the streets of the capital turned into a battlefield. The astartes of the 15th legion charging into battle, chanting hymns to the glory of the Emperor and their primarch. The Seraphims cut down waves after waves of fanatics throwing themselves without any trace of doubt and hesitation. Even more insulting some of them was even laughing when receiving injuries, even fatal, while powerful sorcerers took advantage of the fact the astartes was locked in melee to unleash on them all their psychic might with little to no regard for their "allies."
The 15th legion have in its ranks only the elite of the elite, so casualties were low, at least for a battle of that scale yet the cultists managed by sheer numbers to slow them down almost to a halt. Even after tremendous losses inflicted by the spear, the sword and flamers of the legion, the moral of the fanatics never flinched. Laughing like maniacs as they threw themselves to a certain death.
There were, however, an exception. At the center of the battlefield, the paladins, the best warriors the legion had in its fold where slicing and dicing through the wall of flesh that was their opponents. With teamwork and cooperation honed through the course of countless battles and trainings together, they unleashed all their strength, both martial and psychic onto the powerless fools who tried to stop them.
Leading them on the front line, Gabriel Argenti, commander of the 15th legion was smiting the enemies of his emperor with a mix of masterfully executed sword strikes and powerful lightning of warp energy. A spectacle both graceful and terrifying to witness. No among of wretched slaves was enough to slow down the primarch.
As the battle continued, ominous clouds of warp energy gathered at the top of the temple filled with bolts of purple energy. Those worrying signs only convinced the son of the Emperor to reach the titanic building faster.
Gabriel and his group managed to break through the enemy lines and arrived in front of the temple. He was sure that the best way to put an end to that battle and also saving a maximum of his sons was to cut the head of the cult as quick as possible, so he decided to enter with his most trusted warriors.
They were expecting a fierce resistance inside as the building could without problem contain a full regiment of imperial guard. Instead, they were greeted only by a cold dead silence.
The only thing that went breaking the calm of that atmosphere was an almost intoxicating, even for astartes, odor of blood coming from everywhere in the temple.
Gabriel and his paladins advanced carefully inside the immense yet empty corridors expecting traps and ambushes. But none of that came to them. Only a distant chanting far way started to break the silence as they kept going inside the edifice. The deeper they advanced into the temple the stronger the stench of blood were. After some long minutes, Their leader decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered his sons to rush the central chamber where the chanting seemed to come from. Since he entered that building he had a terrible feeling, maybe thanks to the innate foresight ability coming from his powerful psyche. However, his fears were quickly confirmed as an inhuman scream resonated across the whole temple looking like agony and ecstasy at the same time.
Second later scores of hermaphrodites looking, crab-clawed monstrosity burst inside the corridor Invading the place in a blink of an eye, assaulting the Seraphims with lightning fast attack taking them by surprise. It’s possible they survived because of the painful effect they have on daemons, slowing down their attacks.
When the element of surprise withered away the primarch and his guards started to fight with unparalleled skills and bravery, cutting down dozens of enemies in mere seconds. But for every one slayed, two was taking its place. There were just too many of them.
Gabriel knew he had to fight the cause, not the consequence or else him and his sons would finish overwhelmed eventually. He raised his hand and from it projected a blast of pure psychic energy, banishing the daemonettes in front of him and opening a gap in the sea of enemies who was blocking the way. The primarch lost no time and stepped into the breach. He knew he was the only one who could pass as the monsters quickly started to close the opening he just made. He had a blind faith about the skills of his subordinates, particularly his paladins so it’s without fear that he left then fight this battle, so he could put an end to the war.
He finally reached the main room and inside the reason of the unbearable odor became apparent. The main room, easily the largest one of the colossal temple, was entierly covered of corpses bearing ritualistic scarifications (including the eight pointed star). The room was so high it was impossible to see the ceiling. There were numerous terraces on the walls allowing for people at every floor to observe and participate in the ritual. Those too were filled with corpses of cultists. Gabriel couldn’t imagine how many people were sacrificed here.
His thoughts were quickly interrupted by an otherworldly cackle coming from the center of the room. There, illuminated by a ray of light coming from the unseen roof, was standing an immense creature, bearing the attribute of both man and woman. Looking magnificent and terrifying at the same time. Its beauty only flawed by two threatening crab-like claws sprouting from his chest. Gabriel took a moment to think, he has seen a large number of those "psychic constructs" since he joined the crusade, but this one was way more large and threatening than the other.
He didn’t have much time to observe it, as the creature closed the gap with him in a blink on an eye, lashing on him with attacks from every angle. Extremely fast yet with a deadly precision, the primarch was only able to block and dodge at the last second, loosing his helm in the process.
The beast, known by some as a Keeper of secrets, kept pressing the attack on the son of the Emperor, laughing like a deranged while trying to slice his adversary with his finely decorated sword and his razor-sharp claws.
Gabriel came to his senses. He was fighting the quickest opponent he ever faced after the Emperor. (his brothers and sisters might be able to surpass the Keeper but Gabriel never faced any of them in a real fight to the death.) He needed to focus. He started to take the upper hand in the exchange and with a swift, seemingly effortless motion, cut one of the claw of the vile creature who backed down.
But despite just having lost a member, the sublime monster looked at confused champion with a devious grin on his face, he licked its lips and addressed few words to the primarch: "Looks like I found an interesting toy."
Gabriel was stunned. It was the first time he saw one of these "constructs" talking. He thought they were incapable of such things, after all the Emperor himself described them as mindless yet now it was obvious that it was not only talking but actually enjoying the fight. This instant of shock was enough for the fiend to rush at him once again and this time one blow connected. The blade of the Keeper sliced his face, blinding temporarily his right eye.
He backed down while the creature was laughing, licking the blood from the blade and complimenting him for the taste. Taunting the disoriented warrior and trying to intimidate him.
Ironically this wound had the opposite effect on him. It brought him down to earth. This demon was the same as the ones he killed by the dozens, and most importantly a nuisance that the Emperor, his father, tasked him personally to rid the galaxy off. Questions were secondary. His mission came first.
As his confidence came back the daemon started to look more and more irritated, maybe loosing his focus and determination weakened Gabriel's ability to pressure those warp entities. Seeing the monster visibly annoyed amused the master of the 15th legion, it was his time to grin. That was enough for the Keeper’s pride who charged the confident knight with impressive speed. But this time the man was the faster than the beast. He charged his blade, the Silver Thorn, with all the psychic energy he could bolster and planted it with both hands in the center of his enemy’s chest.
The wretched monstrosity screamed in pain, in a last effort it swayed the primarch away with a powerful strike with his remaining claw and yet the sword stayed deeply embedded in his chest.
Bolts of lightning erupted from the body of the creature as all the energy imbued in the sword was unleashed inside it, cooking it from the inside out.
The fiend cursed in numerous languages, some humans couldn’t even understand before vanishing out of existence.
Gabriel got back on his feet, his bulky armor having taken most of the blow for him. He took back his sword and rushed to come to the help of his paladins, but it seems that slaying the great beast was enough to make all the lesser one disappear.
When they emerged from the temple, the clouds of warp energy had finished dispersing. That spectacle apparently made all the cultist loose their resolve, and they were from this point easily crushed. The war was won, if was now only an affair of cleaning down. The legion could manage without him.
He got back to his ship and asked to have an audience with the Emperor. Refusing to make his report to anyone except his father. He had much to ask him.
It’s this day that Gabriel received his scar on the right eye. To his surprise and his sons surprise the wound he received from the blade of the Keeper never healed fully despite his powerful regenerating abilities (natural and psychic). Sometime, when powerful warp sorcery like on Shalaï is used near him this mark on his face start to hitch, an unpleasant reminder of his first meeting with some people call a greater daemon.