The golden rays from the twin suns of Tarloth were slowly peeking through the early morning mist. The mildew hung limply on blades of grass. The sweet scent of flowers in bloom wafted through the air, a testament to the beauty of summer. Birds chirped. Crickets clicked. Dagon awoke from his blissful sleep, taking care to awake fully before moving a muscle. Long years as a spacemarine scout had trained him to do so in the field. He quietly opened his eyes and treated himself to the beauty of nature in full bloom for a fleeting moment before bringing his attention to the situation at hand.
He was lying prone in a heavily camouflaged observation pit, a mere five hundred meters from an Imperial Guard outpost. Lying under his stealth cloak and camouflage, he was but invisible to anyone even a few feet away. To his left he felt the presence of brother Hakael, lying prone as he was and keeping watch. To his right brother Mammon appeared to be asleep, but Dagon knew that he was awake and surveying the surrounds just as he had done.
"No activity! Even the guards seem to be asleep! We should give them a wake up call!" Grinned Hakael as a matter of fact, patting the heavy bolter lying next to him. "You'd love that wouldn't you brother?" mused Dagon.
It had been three days since they arrived at this Imperial Guard post and had kept it under observation with strict orders not to make contact. It is a trap, he told himself for the hundredth time. But what was the bait? The small Imperial Guard outpost was a make shift one, built around an explorator base camp. Obviously the explorers had found something significant! Or so the chapter thought. His chapter! He had been in service with them for fifty-three years. He had bled with them at Piscina IV and across a myriad of other worlds. They were his family now, and his home. He subconsciously ran his fingers over his shoulder guard, proudly feeling the white winged sword emblem of the Dark Angels chapter emblazoned on it. It was a habit of his. A matter of pride.
His small advance scout force of five men had arrived, dug their observation posts and deployed without the knowledge of the IG troops. The IG post was of moderate size, and the detachment had made a reasonable attempt at building defensive fortifications. There must have been an entire IG company along with heavy weapon platoons and a few Leman Russ tanks along with the Chimerra transports. The scout observation post was positioned to the East of the IG camp. Brother scouts Jeon and Turel were out on point one to the North and the other to the South. They could see everything that went on in the camp and all entry points were under direct line-of-sight. Another textbook reconnaissance operation, Dagon, complimented himself silently. He was proud of his men and their commitment to their duty.
Then realiZation dawned on him. The Cadian sentries were not visible because they were probably dead. "Possible perimeter breach! You know the drill!" Dagon whispered, his senses tensing up in anticipation.
"Auspex sensor sweep commencing!" replied Hakael, pausing as he thumbed the intricate sensor in to action. "Multiple contacts due west of the camp. Fast movers. Skimmers! Very fast! This is a full scale attack" The tension in Hakael's voice had risen palpably.
"Jeon! Turel! Report! Situation Omega Delta Four!" Hakael screamed in to the comm-link.
"They are dead, Hakael! Make ready! Maximise stealth!" ordered Dagon grimly. "Send signal Delta Maxim Prime to the fleet!"
Mammon muttered a prayer to the emperor under his breath as he brought his sniper rifle to bear, using the scope to observe the IG camp. " He saw flitting movement in the periphery of the camp but was unable to identify anything unusual except the lack of activity in the camp. Then he saw it, a shadow here. A movement there! "Mandrakes! Damned alien scum! Mandrakes"
Then they all saw the silent gliding forms of the black vehicles. Scores of very fast moving raiders and jet bikes skimming over the ground approaching the imperial guard post in near silence.
"Permission to engage Sergeant!" Hakael requested calmly "Let me cleanse these scum", his Heavy bolter at the ready. Turel was his friend. Turel had fought with him at Piscina IV and had survived the first contact with the orks. Turel was probably dead as his sergeant said.
"Fire discipline stands. No engagement unless situation critical" Dagon was angry. Two of his men were dead. He couldn't avenge them. Atleast not right now. The mission and the chapter came first. "The road to redemption is paved with sacrifices" he reminded himself. They were going to be sacrificing the imperial guardsmen and the explorators too. He didn't like it, but the greater good of the chapter had the highest imperative.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The sounds of battle were fading. A hulking Leman Russ tank lay burning at the entrance to the camp, its turret lying a hundred meters away, smoking, a testimony to the power of the dark lances. Ammunition continued to explode within the hull, but the crew didn't care. They were long dead. Had they had the opportunity to witness the carnage outside their tank, they would have thanked the emperor for their release. For, it was said, that to be imprisoned by the Dark Eldar, was to suffer a fate worse than a thousand deaths. Smoke was billowing out from the camp. Dead and mutilated corpses of imperial guardsmen were everywhere. Chimeras lay smoldering. Buildings smashed asunder. Gun pits caved in.
Archon Siltak surveyed the ground from the roof of the command bunker. The elevated position allowed him to take in the scenes of utter devastation. He relished every moment of it. A thin wry smile crossed his deathly pale and unimaginably cruel face. The imperial garrison at the explorator site had stood no chance. His mandrakes had removed the sentries with contemptuous ease and the almost two thousand troops with Leman Russ tanks and heavy weapon batteries were overrun so rapidly that the imperial commanders' dinner was still warm in his now dead mouth. Half a days march away lay the prize. Tarloth city! The only city on this world and home to a million souls. This will bring him many favours from his lord, the Archon thought, as he relished the thought of a million slaves from this feral planet. His lord would favour him well for one million souls.
"They fought like children and died like women" hissed Ishtrak the haemonculus, standing behind the Archon. "The two spacemarine scouts were a surprise" "Perhaps there are more surprises for us to relish?" Countered the Archon. "Spacemarine souls are so delicious, especially dark ones from the so-called Dark Angels" he sneered contemptuously. "They have such anger in themselves." A fresh burst of gunfire erupted as if to answer his rhetorical question. The Archon swung around in time to witness his warriors being torn apart by heavy bolter shells as they attempted to advance against a small squad of scouts. They were only three but they fought like thirty. His men were being mowed down as they advanced on foot, the raiders being deployed on the wrong side of the camp. "I want them alive" A cruel smile flashed on his face. His warriors were expendable, but marine souls were..so rewarding.
All hell had broken loose as the alien scum started to advance towards them. Haekon was calmly stitching a bloody arc through their lines, switching fire from flank to flank, forcing the Dark Eldar to cover. Mamon calmly ripped off single shots from his sniper rifle, each one finding a target. Each one taking down a scum. Each one taking down a being that killed his friends! Targeting squad leaders and anyone who seemed to be different from the rest, while Haekon provided suppressive fire, the two were a deadly team. They had perfected this technique with deadly precision in their years of combat experience.
Dagon activated the homing signal and the pre-determined call signs were flashed to the awaiting fleet. His received a single word back from the fleet!
"They'll be outflanking us soon Brother sergeant" shouted Haekon as he thumbed off another burst of heavy bolter shells in to the enemy.
"Our orders are to hold! We hold! At all costs! For the Lion!"
Years of combat experience and dancing with danger develops a form of extra-sensory perception to danger. Dagon could feel the danger even before he heard or saw it. Pulling his bolter free and activating a krak grenade he swung around to their rear in time to see another dark shape glide to a halt less than ten meters away. "They move so silently, these damned aliens" He cursed to himself as he threw the grenade and thumbed the trigger.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *