The XIV's bombardment had gouged vicious scars upon the firmament and earth, veteran scars that would mark the world for millennia to come. And into the aftermath of destruction had the angels of death flown. Their Dreadclaws had ripped apart the intoxicated clouds in streaks of fiery titian. Once an adequate altitude was attained, archaic rockets paved their malevolent descent. 4 thousand sons of Asura stepped foot on a landscape of vague reminiscence but overall, wholly devoid of certain familiarity to a man.
The Astartes were in the ruins of a vast fortress-city, crudely akin to barbarically ramshackle cities of Ursh from the Age of Strife, framed by the shadow of a mountain range of burnt sienna that rivalled the great volcano plains of Baigok in immensity, the largest of its monstrous kind in the hemisphere. The rot of nucleonic fire was evident on the masses of corrugated metal structures around them. The millions of foul denizens that had called this distasteful place home had been reduced to billions of ashes infesting the stale air of the alien world, the stench of manmade doom fresh and unadulterated. They were surrounded by the remnants of alien civilisation. Only moments after insertion did the xenos make themselves known though it had been in a manner no one, maybe not even Asura himself, had foreseen.
The mountains had erupted in a roaring avalanche of green.
Sunsu woke up beside Death.
His lenses were wet with the ooze-like blood of his enemy, his armour coated in viscera. His enemies blown or torn apart into mincemeat, the First Captain forced his way out of concrete and metal, trampling the ground of green corpses strewn around the missile-hollowed edifice he'd emerged from. He revved his chainaxe thrice, the engines struggling to dispel the chunks of gooey meat clogging the crevices between each fanged blade.
“Sunsu to the First. Sunsu to the First.”
Static replied. Interference from the Orks was isolating his men but the Legionaries had planned beforehand to regroup after each squad had achieved their tactical purview. The whole place had gone to hell after the Orks had launched salvos of long-range ballistic missiles from the mountains onto their former city. Separated from his company after the most recent salvo, the Astartes officer was alone for now. He had to pick up the pace. His armour hummed louder than a pair of data storage servitors at full power. The Astartes warrior marched through ravaged “streets”, the word generously used, concrete and metal debris connoting an abstract depiction of his Primarch’s vision for xenos kind; utter annihilation.
Guttural snarls were issued from the corners of his vision. More greenskins and much more of their lesser sized but no less detestable brethren. From the dark interstices between broken buildings they came. These were the survivors the Astartes had come for, survivors of the XIV’s bombardment. All were bearing scars or missing limbs but the greenskin species were a hardy species and injured or not, the beasts were intent on killing the lone Astartes before them.
Responding with a growl of his own, the First Captain of the XIV leaned into a battle-stance. His chainaxe clogged up, Sunsu instead bludgeoned the first of the many xenos that charged him. He moved with impossible grace for one so large, weaving through the foe, chainaxe in one hand and combat knife in the other. He sliced their thick throats. He mutilated their thick arms. Darting excruciating inches away from filthy xeno blades, he’d riposte with a brutal crushing of their skulls, turning alien bone to alien powder. The arrogance of the aliens betrayed them and within moments their numbers had been reduced to the digit. The last of them was no different from the first and its end was no different from the first either.
A trail of corpses left strewn behind him, Sunsu stomped further through the ruined world. When contact was finally established, it was established on the remains of the fortress-city’s walls. Standing atop a valley of wreckage, he awaited the reparations of his weapons from his personal serfs. His Sergeant had been prompt to attend to his Captain.
“The company's objectives have been achieved sir," Sergeant Fao reported.
Sunsu glanced at his battle-brother then turned his gaze on the sandstorm coalescing on dry red desert plain beyond, “As expected. Any casualties?”
"A few were killed from the retaliating bombardments. The Apothecary has recovered the fallen's seed."
“Acknowledged. Status on the other companies.”
“The 2nd is positioned to our eastern flank, the 3rd to our west. The 4th is still regrouping, they suffered heavily from the missile attacks.”
Sunsu spat out his anger, the glob of acid expelled from his mouth disintegrating the metal beneath him. “Those xenos scum will pay for this!”
“That they will, my son.”
Both Astartes spun around to face their gene-sire. Though he was coated in a sheen of grime and xenos viscera, the gruesome stains somehow made him appear more resplendent. He was a war god in the flesh.
Bending the knee, Sunsu said, “I have failed you, my lord!"
Asura raised an eyebrow, "Is that so?"
"My company has suffered because of my inability to perceive the threat in the mountains. My incompetence has cost the Legion and I offer my life in recompense!"
The Primarch laughed, a rough but warm sound. He beckoned his First Captain up, "The burden of your brothers deaths lies on my shoulders, Sunsu. It is a weight I must carry for the rest of my life. I gave the order to make planetfall and in my bloodlust-ridden haste to purge the xenos remnants, I became blind to other threat vectors. Perhaps redemption may be found in the battle to come."
The Captain looked up, "Do you intend to assault the enemy's mountain strongholds, milord?"
"Why come to them when they come to us? Look beyond, my sons."
In the plains beyond, the Captain and Sergeant saw an encroaching sandstorm, albeit a massive one. Sunsu frowned and enhanced his photolenses. Now able to see clearly past the wall of dust particles, he found himself instinctively unsheathing his combat knife at the sight before him. There was not an inch of land not covered by the outlines of beast or machine. It was a horde so large that their movement had created the sandstorm around them. Sunsu's transhuman mind estimated the size of the enemy army. It was easily in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million-strong!
"We must signal for reinforcements!" Sergeant Fao exclaimed.
Asura nodded. "That would be a wise decision. But from who? We cannot recall the companies engaging in boarding action so quick nor will the fleet be much help for the void war continues still."
"Perhaps your brothers and sisters may lend us strength, lord?"
"Hmph." Asura took a moment to retrieve twin sheathed swords from one of his honour guard. Fang and Edge they were named and aptly so. Even sheathed, the twin power swords exuded an aura of vicious martial potency. There were few power weapons in the Imperium of the same class.
"Much of my siblings are preoccupied with either trying to impress Father or prosecuting their own wars. It will prove fruitless contacting them. And there are even fewer who will lend their sons and daughters to the XIV once they hear of my intentions."
"My lord?" Sunsu asked.
In a single motion that was a blur even to the enhanced eyes of the Astartes, Asura unsheathed Fang and thrust the tip of the power scimitar toward the rapidly encroaching Ork horde. Opening the vox channel, the Primarch spoke to all his sons.
"We are the Dread Lords. We shall strike swiftly into the heart of the enemy in a single thrust. Recall the Dreadclaws and prepare to for reinsertion. Danger-close conditions. We will decapitate the head of this horde and present it to the Emperor!"
Turning to Sunsu, Asura commanded his Captain, "Send out a system-wide distress call. The XIV shall request aid from its brothers and sisters and it is by their coming that this battle will be won. Yet, let it be known the Legion did not shame itself in front of them by awaiting their arrival. We will engage this mass of xenos filth in open battle my sons and we will fight our way to their warboss whose head shall be cleaved off its hideous body by the end of this solar cycle. In the name of the Emperor it shall be done!"
The companies would begin reassembling into the Dreadclaws. Unlike ordinary droppods, the Dreadclaws were vicious assault boats that could fight the enemy post insertion. Hundreds of Dreadclaws would lift off into the brown skies of Ullanor, disappearing into the murky clouds.
Like lightning they struck, waves of Dreadclaws descending down onto the vast Ork horde, the assault boats unleashing their arsenal of incendiary rockets that seared green flesh from bone and armour-piercing autogun fire shredding Gorkonauts and Deff Dreads. The Legionaries of the XIV emerged from their Dreadclaws in assault formations, bolters barking ferociously, chainswords and chainaxes roaring a roar of doom. Even in the chaos, there was a precision to the Dread Lord's attack. Reckless as it may be, the thousands of Astartes that were ripping their way from within the vast Ork horde were operating in tandem. They were a blade plunging deep into a great filth of green flesh. And the tip was their Primarch.
Asura was a maelstrom within the storm. His twin swords sang in alien blood, the blades wreathed in auras of lightning and swung with supernatural speed. The Primarch was a juggernaut of battle and he massacred the Orks before him without so much as a bead of sweat staining his bloody beauty. His honour guard followed the path their lord cleaved, the elite warriors proving their worth in a mounting tally of Ork skulls. They were the tip of the Dread Lord's assault, their flanks covered by the First Company.
"For Asura!" Sunsu bellowed as he slammed the running teeth of his chainaxe into the head of an Ork before swerving about to jam the barrel of his bolter-pistol into the mouth of another. "Tolerate not the xenos!" He raged, alien viscera coating his helm from the resultant explosion.
Overhead, the Dreadclaws washed whole swathes of alien in chemical fire while simultaneously engaging duelling Ork Fightas. Covered by their assault boats, the heavily outnumbered and outgunned Dread Lords went berserk within the Ork lines. Their prowess judged by the deathcounter, an archaic technology that tallied the number of kills each warrior amassed, the Astartes vigorously partook in an organized slaughter of xenos. The Dread Lords advanced forth as a juggernaut, deeper and deeper until the first of the Nobs appeared.
The creatures were massive, some dwarfed even an Astartes in Terminator armour, and they charged out of their own lines, a stampede of the strongest Orks in the horde that trampled their lesser brethren as they rushed at the Astartes. Already engaged in the grind of close combat, the Dread Lords were unable to meet the charge with a charge of their own nor were most of the frontline able to even brace for it. Sunsu was hurled back by the brunt of a Nob, crashing into his brothers behind. He barely had a millisecond to react as the Nob swung a massive, spiked mace, the force of which would have lopped even his helmed head clean off. Ducking under, the First Captain sliced thrice against the Ork's stomach then expended his remaining bolter-pistol clips into the beast's chin. The Nob stumbled backward but it did not fall, even with its guts spilling out and his lower face turned into mincemeat. It's eyes glinted at Sunsu and it lunged forward once more. Sunsu parried away its mace while a battle-brother came up from the side to decapitate the thing's head. The Nob's body kept swinging until the two legionaries proceeded to mutilate it further.
Sergeant Fao's voice cried out within his helm, "Captain! Our lines have halted!"
Sunsu grimaced. The Legion could not lose momentum. Not in the position they were in. The rear, being held by the 3rd and 4th companies, was already holding back Orks in the tens of thousands. If they stagnated then his battle-brothers there would soon be ripped apart.
"Push back brothers! Push back!" He shouted into the vox while his vox-emitter amplified his voice tenfold in the immediate vicinity. "Kill them for the Emperor! Kill them all for Asura!"
The desperation in his voice was evident. He had lost sight of the Primarch and the Honour Guard. Battle-brothers were beginning to die all around him, death-runes blinking repeatedly in his helm's interface. He was Astartes. He knew no fear. But a Dread Lord knew dread.