Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell (Advanced Review)

In the depths of space, the Silver Skulls take on the might of Huron Blackheart and his Red Corsairs.

– The Gildar Rift, a Space Marine Battles novel by Sarah Cawkwell.

Note: I would like to point out that this is an advanced review since the novel itself will not be available to the general public until December this year, and was available only to the people who were at Games Day UK a few days ago.

The Space Marine Battles range for Warhammer 40,000 is a rather interesting one. It is about telling the stories of some of the greatest battles fought by everyone’s favourite post-humans in their charge to protect Mankind. As such, as far as my knowledge extends, all the novels out so far have been inspired by snippets or otherwise in the existing background, whether it is years old or relatively brand new.

The latest addition to this range is the Silver Skulls/Red Corsairs oriented novel The Gildar Rift, courtesy of Sarah Cawkwell, who is BL’s first published female author. But she is a short story veteran, courtesy of Hammer & Bolter, and aside from Ben Counter who has been in every single issue of that e-magazine, she is the most prolific author in the same, with no less than 4 short stories.

Sarah has effectively become the Silver Skulls author, much as people would argue that James Swallow is the Blood Angels expert, or Graham McNeill is the Ultramarines expert. And that is no way a bad thing since she has brought to life one of the sidelined, lesser-known chapters and really given them a life of their own.

Having read her previous short stories about the Silver Skulls, I was rather excited to read this novel, particularly since the characters are all different, with the focus being on a different company and different heroes and different villains.

In short, The Gildar Rift is an amazing novel, and it is definitely a good placement in the Space Marine Battles range precisely because of the reasons I have already mentioned and because it is so different in its pacing compared to the others. It starts a little slow, but then builds up quite well and then maintains that pace throughout, all the way till the end.

It also, quite extensively, narrates rather fearsome and tension-ridden space battles, which are a joy to read. The ground assaults and the naval warfare are well-balanced in screen time, especially since the main hero is the Silver Skulls Master of the Fleet, Daerys Arrun, Captain of the Fourth.

In the novel’s timeline, things are rather dire for the Silver Skulls as their numbers are on a continual decline and there is a whispered undercurrent of tension between the battle-brothers of the chapter and their Prognosticators, their Chaplain-Librarians on whose visions and auguries the chapter decides whether or not to fight.

That all said, the characters act like they are supposed to act, irrespective of rank or faction. The Space Marines talk like Space Marines, the Chaos Space Marines behave like they are supposed to, and so on. Nothing in their dialogue or in the way they act is in any way jarring, unlike some of the other novels that can be named.

And of course, if you have seen the covers, then you will know that Huron Blackheart is featured in the novel and this traitor warlord handles his screen-time with a presence that just leaps off the covers. This is the second (edit: third) time I have read of him in a novel, the first being some old short story about a White Scars infiltrator among the Astral Claws (edit: and second being Skull Harvest in the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology), and he was a delight to read. Now I really want to read Blood Reaver to see how Aaron Dembski-Bowden has handled him.

The novel is itself set entire within the Gildar Rift system, a system notable for its treacherous space lanes because of numerous asteroid debris belts that have a significant effect on the plot several times. As one of the systems under the protection of the Silver Skulls, the chapter deploys quite a significant presence to counter the invasion by the Red Corsairs, who use misdirection and traps within traps to lure the loyalists away. Huron Blackheart and Daerys Arrun are quite a match for each other and the climax of the novel alone is worth picking it up.

Oh and for fans of the Chaos Codex, expect some rather nice surprises. I have a feeling that the first mention of them (there are two) in the novel will really force people to not put down the novel and just keep reading.

There are a few small hiccups in the novel, which I suspect I just need to read again to make sense of, but in no way, during the reading are they ever significant enough to disrupt the experience.

Like Battle of the Fang, and unlike The Hunt for Voldorius, the novel does have a twist which is the main reason for why the Red Corsairs attack and why the Silver Skulls must defend their flagship. I am not sure if I am so keen on this twist as I feel that it really could benefit with some more background on it, as well as a future short story or novel where it is explored further. It definitely deserves either of those. I will say though, that the twist is rather unusual and is the sort which divides people’s opinions. But it is i no way something that is jarring or unexplained or just there for the heck of it. There are reasons and situations which make it viable in the here and now, and why it must be protected at all costs.

Overall, The Gildar Rift is one novel I would definitely like to recommend to people, whether or not they like Space Marines. For fans of Chaos Marines, this is especially recommended for those who want more Huron after Blood Reaver. I do hope that Sarah Cawkwell gets a chance to write either a sequel or another Silver Skulls novel.

Rating: 8.5/10

Games Day UK 2011

The biggest Games Workshop event of the year. After the singularly disappointing experience that was Games Day LA 2008, GDUK’11 was a blast.

I did everything I wanted to do. I talked to all my favourite authors who were in attendance. I got all the books I wanted. I met some great fellow Boltholers. I submitted my two short story summaries for the BL pitch board. I went to the BL seminar. So the long and short, here goes.

The evening before, I met with Paul, who I had asked to buy some books for me that I wouldn’t be able to get at GD, and his friend James. We had a quite a bit of fun time in the Premier Inn Restaurant just chilling and talking 40k while watching the sports channel. We were later joined by Bod (the Inquisitor) and much later, Schafer. I was rather eagerly awaiting Schafe since he had my ticket to the event 🙂

The evening therefore was rather fun and enjoyable, culminating in some nice pizza and diet coke that I rather enjoyed. My first British pizza, hah!

It was discovered during the course of the evening that the entrance queues for GD were to be rather large so I got up quite early the next day to head over to the LG arena. The light Birmingham drizzle didn’t dampen my spirits and as it turned out, the queues to get in were in fact large. But the staff were processing the folks fairly quickly.

I bumped into Narry while in the unorganized mass of people heading into the arena and quickly divested him of the copy of Space Marine Collector’s Edition I had asked him to buy for me. Take note folks, that package is rather bulky. It just about barely fit in my backpack.

Once inside, we quickly headed over to the BL area, on the far side of the arena, to grab our tickets to the “Writing for BL Seminar” but spent roughly a good 20 minutes going back and forth all over the convention floor trying to find the right place to get said tickets. Which we eventually did after quite a bit of effort.

Then it was time to head over back to the BL area, where I grabbed my two tickets to the Author Cafe sessions and then proceeded straight to see the one person I definitely wanted to meet. Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyro. After a rather warm welcome, she patiently waited while I flipped through my copy of the programme to get it signed by her.

After promising that I was going to purchase a copy of The Gildar Rift soon-ish I quickly got Gav Thorpe and James Swallow to sign the programme as well, as well as having them sign my copies of Age of Darkness and in Jim’s case, Black Tide. Funny thing, I turned out to be a minor celebrity since they both knew who I was when I introduced myself as Shadowhawk. (more on this later). Well I had already talked to Jim off-forum through his site to get some advice so that wasn’t as much of a surprise but hey, he still knew who I was 🙂

Then me and Narry got into the queue for the sales area but that was going nowhere so we just headed off to attend the seminar, which was being hosted (chaired?) by Christian Dunn, John French, Jonathan Green and Sarah. Much hilarity ensued during this seminar, which turned out to be partly a new release info seminar since some of the people really seemed to have not understood the title of the seminar. Ah well. I got my question answered so I am rather hopeful about one of my short stories that I sent off during the submissions window in the summer.

With the seminar done, it was a mad dash back to the BL area, on the diagonally opposite side of the convention center to see the state of the sales queue. It was now a rather daunting affair, with at least 200 people in the line. Feeling slightly disappointed, I went off to my first Cafe session.

And it rocked.

The first thing Sarah said when she saw me was “Didn’t I just leave you at the seminar?”. *Evil grin.*

Well she talked animatedly about TGR and her other upcoming projects, one of which is the audio drama called Indomitable featuring Marneus Calgar and Chaplain Cassius. As well as some other stuff, which included HANSUM SPESS MAHRINEZ. Women.

The time was cut short though when a BL staffer told us that the authors would have to be rotated around, and my group found ourselves hosting Nick Kyme next. Let me tell you, as much as Graham and Dan might be popular among the fans, Nick is one of the coolest people I have ever met. Long talks were had about Vulkan’s fate, the nature of his lost relics, what happened to Ferrus Manus after Istvaan V, Nick’s next in-work project which is a Ferrus Manus novella for the HH and the Salamanders in 40k. Me and Schafe asked a fair bit of questions and Nick was happy to answer our insane ramblings.

High point of talking to Nick was when he approached me later and told me that I had asked some great questions. Oh my!

The third author of the 11.30 cafe session was Chris Wraight, the man who gave us the masterpiece that is The Battle for the Fang. And he is a great person to talk to as well. His thoughts on the nature of the Space Wolves as they are at the end of the Horus Heresy, how the chapter is going to change over the years et all were interesting. So were his thoughts on the Iron Hands when I asked him about his next project, Wrath of Iron, an Iron Hands Space Marine Battles novel. Talking with him has convinced me that the novel will be another great piece of work that, in the same vein as Fang, delves into the intricacies of the Iron Hands’ nature and their relations with the citizenry of the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus. And Iron Fathers. Expect this one to be a bestseller.

Well, now I finally had some damn time to go off and do whatever I wanted. So the time from 12.30 till 2.30 was spent trying to get into the sales queue and pick up the novels I wanted, and then get them signed by all the authors. Oh and the GD anthology as well.

So the haul was rather good. And I got them all signed! Wheeee!

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell
Nocturne by Nick Kyme
Hammer & Anvil by James Swallow
The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill
Shadow King and Caledor by Gav Thorpe
Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The GD 2011 Anthology

I should probably say at this point that I bumped into Nick at least three times because I kept forgetting that I had stuff to get signed by him and he just looked at me like I was a dork 😀 But hey, this was still a feat because at times his queue was almost as big as the ones for Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill! Someone was popular.

Speaking of popular, I would be fairly in correct in saying that Sarah was needlessly worried about how her queues were going to be near non-existent. Glad to say that her queue was rather long at times, especially when it took me about 20mins of waiting to get my copy of TGR signed. Cheers for her success. I have started reading the novel and am quite a bit along and definitely liking what I read. A review will definitely be up soon.

I should also mention that I got 20 seconds of a great time with William King as well, getting him to sign my 8 year old copy of Grey Hunter, my first ever 40k novel. That man looks all excited and pumped up to be back on the BL scene. Best wishes to him!

In all this madness till now, I was lucky enough to grab a small bite of lunch, much to my relief.

After that, it was back to the next author cafe session, this time with Jim and Aaron. Sandy Mitchell was there as well but I have no interest in the CC novels so I skipped his talk.

The best piece of info I managed to get from Jim about his upcoming projects was a Space Marine Battles novel concerning the Blood Angels. Mighty exciting topic I’d say and one that is long overdue. The conversation with him also included tidbits about the Garro audio novels, in conjunction with some of the things mentioned by Christian during the seminar earlier, and I am rather interested to see how Garro, Varren, Rubio and Loken’s arc progresses next.

Aaron is, well, Aaron. We got some tidbits about his thoughts regarding gene-seed capabilities, his as-yet nebulous thoughts about the future of the Night Lords novels, why he chose a Fenrisian woman to be the Inquisitor character in his upcoming Grey Knights novel The Emperor’s Gift and some other stuff.

It bears saying at this point that I had run into him just before the Cafe session and gotten him to sign my newly-purchased copies of Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver. When he asked what my name was for the sig message, and I told him my forum name, he said “you are that guy”. Always nice to be known so 😀

Well after all this excitement, there wasn’t much to do. I had already submitted my two short story summaries to Laurie Goulding, who was covering the Pitch board. And I had already had a helping of the H&B First Anniversary cake, courtesy of Christian, but I went back for a second helping. It was a damn good cake.

Spent the remainder of the time just chilling around, talking with some of the other Boltholers, chatting with Laurie regarding the Spring Submissions and the pitch board, chatting some more with Sarah and that’s about that.

Oh and I did manage to somehow squeeze in some precious seconds with Dan Abnett when he was finally leaving, getting him to sign my programme and my copy of Age of Darkness. Also went over to see Graham and do the same signing gig. Big shout-out to him because the staff had already closed his queue but he took the extra time to sign stuff for me and a couple other stragglers with me.

All in all, a very, very fun day. I would love to come back next year and have even more of a blast. Perhaps I’ll even have had something published by then 🙂

For some more details regarding exciting information courtesy of the authors and the editors, check out this link.

Excitement Abounds

So. Two days to go. Games Day United Kingdom 2011.

It is going to rock!

And what’s more, I am going! Hell yeah I am! I have my plane tickets, I have my hotel reservation, I have some local currency. A shopping list of books I wanna get.

And I am definitely prepared to have a ton of fun with all of the Boltholers who are going to be showing up for the event. Although, it appears so far that I am the only one coming from out of country.

The twin Black Library seminars, a “Writing For” and “Art of”, are going to be so much fun, I have no idea how to tell you all about it.

I have still not heard back regarding any of the 5 short stories I submitted during the Spring Submissions Window, and to be honest, I am resigned to the fact that I probably will not. It’s just been too long. There is less than a week left for their 8-week notification time too.

Hence, I am excited that BL is going to be having an area set aside at Games Day where we can submit some new short story ideas. For more information, just check out their latest blog post, which you can find here.

I already have two nice ideas regarding the Invictors and a Blood Angels successor chapter. The Invictors have already seen some time in the limelight as I submitted a short story about them for the submissions window. The Blood Angels idea is totally rocking, if I do say so myself. I feel it really captures the “grimdark” nature of Warhammer 40,000. Victory is not always the victory you hope for and all that jazz as they say.

In other news, Ch10 of Sons of Corax just got posted to the Bolthole. So definitely check that out. The last two chapters (which includes this one) have been mammoth additions to this ongoing project, and I have really had a blast writing the action scenes in there. I am told by reliable sources that the beginning and end of Ch9 is particularly awesome.

I am hoping to do some kind of a breakdown of Sons of Corax soon enough on the blog. Mostly I shall be talking about how the idea came about and how I’ve managed to write so much in such a short time! I am loving this project.

Sadly, my Star Wars/40k crossover fanfic is still in its development stage. Haven’t had much time to work on it, given some real life commitments and working on Sons of Corax.

Not to mention the awesomeness that is Space Marine. I have only played the demo so far and I am really liking the combat mechanics and the gameplay in general. I shall have the full game soon enough. Expect a review on that soon-ish.

Talking of reviews, I posted two movie reviews on 24FPS this past week. The first one is Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, which is my third review in the DC Animated Universe Film Reviews Spotlight. The second one is Captain America: The First Avenger (3D). Do check them out!

Given my novel-related haul at Games Day, I shall have a fair bit of pre-release novels in my hands pretty soon. And I have decided that I am going to review them as and when I finish them. Time to branch out the blog to more than just rambling about 40k and writing 🙂

So yeah, that’s all that. I fly off to London in roughly 24 hours from now.

Excitement abounds!

Sons of Corax Chapter 5

‘To battle, brothers! For Corax and the New Imperium!’ cried Astinon as he leaped out from the front access hatch of his Thunderhawk, followed swiftly by twenty-nine of his warriors, their jump-packs roaring in the quiet of Medan’s morning sky. The Space Marines soon left their gunship behind, which used its boosters to head back out into space where the warships assigned to the task force held position.

At some distance from Astinon and his three squads, other Thunderhawks also unleashed their deadly superhuman cargo and two hundred Corvians descended together through the white clouds on wings of fire, headed straight for the sprawling manufactora complex below them. Their helmets protected them from any air drag during their descent and they busied themselves with identifying landmarks and calculating flight trajectories to their intended destination.

+Approaching drop zone, execute maximum dispersal pattern, you know your targets, Corvians.+ voxed the Commander of the Sons of Corax to his strike force. On his helmet display, a series of green runes flashed by in quick succession, indicating the acknowledgement of the orders by his warriors.

The descending Corvians broke up into four separate groups as they approached the manufactora complex from above, each group spreading out in a loose formation over its respective drop zone. No cannon-fire reached out to halt their controlled, speeding descent, which was to be expected. The bombardment cannons of the fleet’s two battle-barges had relentlessly pummelled the target for several minutes prior to the assault.

They all landed as one in the slagged and crumbling ruins of the manufactora, the impact shock of their fiery descent kicking up dust and rubble which spattered harmlessly off their new-forged armour. Around them, kilometre-thick, black-coloured spires rose towards the heavens, each linked together by gigantic causeways and ramps wide enough to accommodate three Land Raiders at once.

The pungent smell of rusting metal and rotting bio-waste permeated the air around them, so potent that it caused Astinon’s helmet purifiers to work overtime in order to filter them out. The stench was just about strong enough to make any lesser man gag but he ignored it and accessed the primary command channel on the strike force’s secure comm-net.

+Secure your drop sites, brothers, and standby for further instructions.+ Astinon’s twin bolt-pistols were already in his hands as he issued his orders, tracking back and forth over the surrounding ruins as he searched for any sign of the hostile forces that he had been told infested the long-abandoned complex like vermin. His own squads spread out away from him like the spokes of a wheel, each battle-brother covering the other as they patiently awaited contact with the enemy.

+Move out to your targets and remain in vox-contact. Secondary mission is a go for search and destroy. Once inside, I want confirmation of the primary objective.+ A chorus of affirmatives on the command channel confirmed his terse orders as his battle-brothers proceeded to their own individual objectives, scattered throughout the manufactora.

A buzz in his helmet’s audio feed alerted Astinon to an incoming message from the Montisgarre, and he blink-clicked a glowing yellow rune on his display to accept the audio link.

‘Force Commander,’ said Kostar, his senior-most bridge officer aboard the battle-barge, the man was assigned to him by Faress Teluga himself and was said to be one of the Admiral’s protégés. ‘The venerable vessel’s sensors are picking up multiple life-signs in the ruins. Clusters of them seem to be converging on the locations of the strike teams under Captains Adrastos, Dheimmel and Salsax.’

‘Identification?’ asked Astinon, still tracking his bolt pistols across the ruins as his kill-team secured their landing site.

‘Indeterminable, Force Commander,’ answered Kostar. ‘We are unable to get clear sensor readings, most likely due to the massive quantities of metallic substances within the complex.’

‘Keep me informed of any further developments, Astinon out.’

Astinon cut the link to his flagship and accessed a secondary command channel on the comm-net that connected him with his fellow officers. +You heard Lieutenant Kostar, brothers. Be wary, the beast has awoken.+

+My strike force is already establishing a defence perimeter at Zone Kappa, Astinon, we will be ready.+ said Adrastos, all matter-of-fact and focused on the task at hand. +I am about to send four squads through the north-east entrance.+

+Let them come, Force Commander, it has been far too long since I had a good fight on my hands.+ joked Salsax as usual, the Raptor’s excitement about the prospect of a close combat evident in his voice.

As was customary for him, Dheimmel remained silent, acknowledging Astinon’s warning with only a brief click on the comm-net. Astinon paid his Second Captain’s reticence no heed, the Reviler’s taciturn attitude something he had gotten used to long ago. Instead, he turned to his champion.

‘Manov, status of the kill-team?’ he asked, his voice sounding flat and mechanical through his helmet’s speakers.

‘We are ready to proceed into the complex, Force Commander,’ came back the answer.

Astinon nodded slightly in return, and blink-clicked a faint yellow rune on his helmet display to re-establish a two-way audio link with his flagship. ‘Mr. Kostar, we are proceeding into the complex proper, be advised we may not be able to communicate with you further until we exit back.’

-][-

Within minutes of Astinon and his own squads entering the complex through the south-west entrance, the comm-net came alive with curses, oaths and warnings. The enemy had finally attacked them, and in overwhelming numbers. The Commander brought his small kill-team to a halt with a silent gesture and accessed the secondary command channel.

+Adrastos, Salsax, Dheimmel, report!’ Astinon yelled into the comm-net.

+This is Salsax from the north-west end of the complex, Force Commander.+ The Raptor Captain’s relish was clear, even on the comm-net. +We are under heavy attack by some two hundred of the enemy. We should be able to hold on.+

+This… Adrastos… light resistance… holding… north-east… will… vox-contact…+ Background noise filtered through the Raven Guard’s end of the command channel, and Astinon could barely hear him or make sense of what his First Captain was telling him.

+Enemy warband numbering approximately one hundred encountered, proceeding to eliminate all targets.+ Dheimmel’s terse report convinced Astinon that his fellow officer and his warriors could hold their own.

Ultimately, it was his own small kill-team that he had to worry about. They had not yet run into the enemy themselves and he knew that his warriors were itching for a just fight that would somehow vindicate their years of unyielding resolve through the last few decades. He was about to order his team to move forwards when he was halted once again.

‘Contacts ahead!’ yelled Leven, the auspex in his hands suddenly emitting a constant beep, beep as it warned of a horde of approaching enemies. ‘The auspex is having trouble estimating the size of the enemy, Force Commander, they are clustered too tightly. It is currently approximating three hundred enemy combatants.’

‘Those are good odds, brother,’ Manov laughed in the grim, oppressing darkness of the tunnels they were in.

‘Hold position,’ ordered Astinon, his voice as calm and confident as his champion remembered from the old days. ‘Leven, your squad will be the rearguard. Rosto, your squad will be in the vanguard with me. Manov, hold the centre. For the honour of Corax!’

‘We bring retribution to death to our foe!’ intoned his warriors in unison and split off to their assigned positions in the narrow and cramped tunnel.

Within seconds, the enemy horde was upon them and the tunnel rang with the whirring of wildly-swung chainswords and the staccato reports of inaccurate bolter-fire. The steel-grey armour of the enemy was a patchwork collection of armour plates covered with dried, crusty blood all over.

Astinon could pick out no distinctive markings on their armour but he still easily recognized who they were from the mission briefs given to him by Vulkan when he and his warriors had been assigned this mission. These charging berserkers were his lost cousins who had long ago given up even the semblance of their humanity, succumbing to their base, primal urges in a galaxy full of damnation and heresy.

They were long-lost sons of Corax; as much a part of the genetic lineage of the Great Raven as he was, and he had been charged with their absolution and redemption. But those would have to wait until he was finished here. Right now, he had twenty-nine battle-brothers to protect from the insane killing rages of his cousins.

‘Weapons free, fire at will!’ he cried and his warriors opened fire at the onrushing renegades, whose bestial screams of hate and murder matched tone for tone and pitch for pitch by the Corvians’ battle-cries of revenge and judgement.

Effortlessly contracting his surroundings to just his outstretched arm and the bolt-pistol held in his black gauntlet, Astinon took careful aim at one of the incoming enemy warriors, his helmet display providing him with a wealth of targeting data. He muttered a single word as he fired, the bolt pistol slightly bucking in his hands as he was still unused to the new weapon.

‘Carcharadons.’

The shot hit the renegade square in his forehead and he dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, only to be trampled underneath the booted feet of dozens more of its kind as they charged in at Astinon and his vanguard.

Rosto’s squad was not equipped with any heavy weapons but they still answered the incoming hail of bolter-fire in kind with their own combi-plasmas and bolt pistols. Streaks of heated plasma and bolt shells whizzed past Astinon at the renegades, killing some outright while others barely faltered in their advance. In return, two of Rosto’s squad went down, concentrated fire leaving big gaping holes in their plastrons and helmets.

Astinon had been prepared to fight toe-to-toe against Space Marines who could exhibit a modicum of rational thought and a grasp of simple infantry tactics. He wasn’t prepared for the berserkers that were charging at his squads, heedless of their own safety. Most of them were without their helmets, their faces twisted into a rictus of varying bestial expressions. If they had not been wearing power armour, he would have barely recognized them as Space Marines even with their height.

One of the renegades charged straight at Astinon who was forced to quickly holster his pistols and unsheathe the Stormblade, which was bathed in silver lightning once he switched on the sword’s power field. The unhelmeted Carcharadon brought his chain-axe down in an overhead swing at his head but Astinon blocked it with the sharp, thin edge of his sword, its energy field cutting through the haft of the chain-axe with as much ease as a bolter shell through unarmoured skin.

Ignoring the Carcharadon’s inarticulate cries of hate as the renegade came back at him with his fists, Astinon simply grabbed the renegade around his gorget with one hand and ran him through the breastplate, and the primary heart inside. As the sword emerged out through the warrior’s back and into his backpack, the Force Commander drew it back before it could rupture the armour’s power generator. The renegade’s challenge died on his lips as blood poured out in a fountain from the fatal wound; he was dead before he hit the tunnel floor.

There was no respite for Astinon however as he became surrounded on all sides by more Carcharadons, their brutal weapon-swings chipping off his armour-plates piece by piece. He stepped back towards Sergeant Rosto’s squad and sub-vocalized an order on the comm-net.

+Kasten, burn them with the purifying fire of your flamer!+

+In His name, Force Commander+ Kasten hefted his battle-worn flamer and re-igniting the pilot, hosed down the enemy with flames almost hot enough to cook them inside their armour. Or so Kasten and Astinon had thought.

The Carcharadons came on, heedless of the intense fire that burned the very air around them. Their self-contained armour, so like that of the Corvians, kept most of them safe and alive. They resembled angels walking on a carpet of flames as they came at the kill-team. Angels of Death, thought Astinon, what an ironic situation we find ourselves in.

The Commander was busy duelling against a Carcharadon renegade with his power sword when his opponent was roughly shoved to the side, his place taken by a hulking form in Terminator armour bearing a pair of crackling lightning claws. The shoved warrior snarled at the newcomer but before he could say anything, the Terminator swept his gauntlets down in a blinding, murderous arc which shredded the renegade’s head to pieces. Astinon slowly backed away from the giant, the Stormblade held en garde before him.

‘Fall back! We cannot hold this tunnel. Retreat to the entrance chamber,’ he ordered in a voice still as calm and confident as before.

‘Fall back to the entrance!’ Manov echoed his Commander’s order, directing the remaining twenty-one Corvians as they retreated from the cramped tunnel, nearly made claustrophobic by the advancing Terminator.

More renegades followed their leader, their thirst for the Corvians’ blood evident in their fell battle-cries. They had abandoned their ranged weapons and all brandished close combat weapons of one type or another which, although looking aged and ill-repaired, appeared to be in frequent use. The Terminator roared a shrill battle-cry that brought Astinon to a halt as he retreated with his warriors. He turned to look back at the warlord and was horrified at what he saw.

The Terminator held one of Astinon’s battle-brothers in his oversized gauntlets. The Knight of the Raven had been gored through his stomach by the renegade’s lightning claws, which were dripping steadily with the Corvian’s blood. The Carcharadon lord put the warrior down on the ground; none too gently, and with the shocked Astinon still watching, brought his enormous sabatons down on the hapless Space Marine’s head.

A sharp, meaty crunch announced the death of Brother Lykasz, formerly of the Knights of the Raven chapter and Astinon’s battle-brother for the last eighteen years.