The last merc guarding the elevator controls was cut in two by Castella, she’d already sliced her way through three others and killing him just seemed an afterthought to her, like batting a fly.
There were thirty-five who guarded the area, but thanks to the aide of Wesley and his Hammers, we’d slaughtered them. That’s what power weapons seemed to be, slaughter tools. There was no more need to aim for a gap in the armour or to even slash it like a sword. You could swing it like a club, and you’d get the same effect. It cut through steel as easily as flesh and bone.
Despite this I was determined to continue wielding it like I did my monomolecular blade, just in case if I ever lost my power sword and had to go back to using my old weapon, I didn’t want to go back being rusty.
Castella and even Darrance weren’t the same; both had wielded power weapons for years or even decades, they’d gotten a bit too used to it for my liking. Perhaps after this, I should point it out to them...if any of us survived, of course.
“Selg! Verenth! You and your men secure the perimeter!” ordered Wesley as he and Hayden approached the controls. “Mr Tresch! Work your magic!”
Hayden nodded slipped off his belt and began to rustle through his bags, “give me ten minutes!” he announced.
“We will!” said Wesley who activated his vox link. “Boss! It’s me!”
Quickly Wesley went over the plan with Brutis Bones, I meanwhile took out the data slate, sat on the floor and began studying over it. Now we were on the ninth floor there’d surely be some access to the tenth.
“What are you doing?” said Darrance as he and Castella approached me.
“Finding a route to the tenth,” I said. “And I just have. Not far from here in fact.”
Darrance’s eyes narrowed, “what do you propose?”
I looked him in the eye, “us three, get up there and finish this. Once and for frigging all.”
Castella scoffed, “surely they’d expect that.”
I shrugged, “yeah sure, I know, but I really don’t care anymore. I’m tired of this shit.”
Darrance’s brow furrowed, and he shook his head, “see? This is the kind of attitude that’ll get us all killed. I know you must be wary of this all, after everything you’ve been through, I understand. But we have to keep being careful, methodical, logical, okay?”
I nodded and rubbed my eyes, “yeah you’re right. I’m sorry I’m just tired, so damned tired.”
“Here, give me the data slate, let me have a look,” said Darrance.
I did, and he quickly looked over it, “okay,” he said. “Let me scout on ahead and check this staircase out first hand. You just get your energy back, and I’ll be back soon.”
He didn’t wait for a response before turning and starting away.
“Okay, young mamzel Lethe. What happened to the real Darrance and where did you put him?” I said.
Castella laughed, “I think after years of time and effort you’ve finally earned his respect. Shit, it took me a good seven before I did.”
I sniggered and shook my head, “I think you’ve misunderstood, Castella.”
I was in the midst of replying when I heard the crack of las-fire down the corridor.
“Shit!” snarled Verenth’s voice over the vox. “They’re here! And there’s tons of ’em!”
“Tons meaning?” said Wesley.
“Meaning way too many for us to handle!” said Verenth.
“Hold them off for as long as you can!” snapped Wesley, “we’ll be there in a few seconds!”
Castella helped me to my feet. She was mistaken that I’d even put any time and effort into earning his respect in the first place.
I didn’t take long for Darrance to come back. The third wave of attackers had just been killed when he walked through the smoke and almost shot in the process.
“I have scouted out the stairs,” he said as his brow furrowed. “It is strange; it is not guarded.”
“Any sign of booby traps?” said Castella, looking equally grim.
“None,” said Darrance with a shrug. “I explored the staircase in its entirety. The Throne Agent, Wesley is correct. This is just getting stranger and stranger.”
I smiled as I reloaded my auto pistol, “almost an open invitation one may say,” I said.
“What about the doors?” asked Castella.
“Nothing,” said Darrance. “Obviously I didn’t open them and cannot tell what is on the other side. They could be booby-trapped.”
I nodded, I was leaning against the metal wall in the confined, industrialised corridor. Not far away the Hammers with Wesley kneeled behind the sandbag wall that the enemy had used not so long ago.
I took the ceramic case of Lhos from the pocket of my flak jacket, popped out one and placed in my mouth then lit it.
“According to the data slate,” I said while exhaling smoke. “Almost the entirety of the tenth floor is an ecclesiarchy church.”
I held it up so they could see, “twelve pillars on both sides, fifty pews total, twenty-five on both sides. Plenty of cover for our enemy. Not much for us when we break through the doors, of course. That’s even before they’d undoubtedly reinforced the place. ”
Darrance grinned and shrugged, “when has that ever been a problem?” he said.
I clenched my jaw, “I’d suggest we wait for reinforcements before we even go near that place.”
Castella raised an eyebrow and looked at Darrance, “whos the one being logical now?”
Darrance shrugged again, “and how long will that take, apprentice? At this rate hours? And how many more will die? We risk only the three of us to effectively cut off the head.”
“Assuming he’s even there,” I said.
“Well, if he isn’t we can just fall back and report that,” said Darrance.
“What about the doors?” I said. “Won’t we need Hayden?”
Castella stroked her chin, “I doubt it. This Inquisitor could’ve laid traps far more numerously throughout the entire building than he did. If he wanted this place destroyed and all of us dead, it would’ve happened already. I have a feeling he wants us up there.”
“But, why?” I asked.
To give you a message, the words filtered through my thoughts sending a shiver through me, which made me flinch in fright. It was unmistakably Edracian’s voice.
“Apprentice,” said Darrance. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah!” I said, realising I’d suddenly started to sweat. “I’m fine, I’m sorry.”
Castella and Darrance shared bemused looks
“I don’t know,” she said. “You’re the one who’s met him face to face. If anyone should know it’s you.”
“Perhaps,” I said with a shrug, then I looked at Darrance, “and perhaps you’re right. Perhaps we should do this.”
Darrance grinned, “perhaps you will learn one day, apprentice. That I am always right.”
I sighed, and people chastise me for being arrogant.
With another sigh, this one sadder than the last, I stubbed out my lho stick on the wall and pushed myself off it.
“Wesley,” I said. “We’re headed for the tenth floor; you’ll have to hold off the mercs without us.”
He frowned, “yes I know. You are aware I can supercede you on this. I need you here and getting the elevator working is the highest priority.”
“Correction,” I said grimly. “You can try to supercede us, but we’re going, stopping Edracian is the actual highest priority, isn’t it? We’re going to do it.”
He frowned, “you are insane, who frigging knows how many men he’s got up there with him. You’re going to your deaths.”
I looked him in the eye, “perhaps so, but if we kill him in the process, you’ll only lose the three of us. Instead of dozens upon dozens of others.”
I paused and looked at Verenth who glared back at me, “dozens who might have families, children. None of us have that; we’re just hired murderers. Let us try, Wesley. You’ve got nothing to lose.”
He grimaced, “you are aware, Attenlus. That if you sacrifice yourself like this, no one here will give a shit. You’ve caused too much damage to people like Verenth that you’ll never be forgiven. They’ll see it for what it is, a hollow, selfish notion.”
I shrugged, “yeah, I know, but hardly care, and if I die I’ll care even less.”
I flinched, “because I won’t be able to care, because I’ll be dead.”
Wesley grinned and sniggered, “yeah, I got that. Alright, go ahead. Once we get the elevator going, reinforcements will be en route.”
With a nod, I waved for Castella and Darrance to follow, and we moved past the Hammers then jumped over the sandbags.
“Wish us luck,” I said over my shoulder.
“I’ll do even better,” said Wesley. “I’ll pray that the Emperor’s will is with you.”
I let out a derivative snort just before we were around the corner and out of sight.
“Nice speech there, Apprentice,” said Darrance. “Did you mean any of it?”
I clenched my jaw, “yes and no, if I die then I die and for me, this hell is over and damn well done with, but I have utterly no intention to die this day.”
Oh you have no idea, the irony of your words, said Edracian’s voice.
Go away! I snarled wordlessly.
I was only answered by roiling, echoing laughter.
“Attelus, are you okay?” said Castella.
I stopped and turned to her, “I’m fine, I’m sorry. It’s nothing I’m fine.”
Castella frowned and furrowed her brow, not looking at all convinced.
“We should move carefully from here on,” said Darrance. “Keep to the shadows.”
Castella and I nodded, and immediately we melted into the darkness as though we were never there.
It took a good ten minutes for us to reach the stairs. Having to dodge two massive waves of mercs as they ran toward the Elevator controls and our allies. I’d taken the liberty to vox them the number of mercs and their armaments once they’d passed.
All the while I tried to call the Farseer with my thoughts, tried to get her to find out how Edracian was talking to me, but much to my frustration she didn’t reply.
Most likely she couldn’t.
The stairs, like much of the building, were built with white marble with golden abrasion lining. They were very wide, a good five metres and brightly lit and curved around ninety degrees, so the door at its peak was out of sight.
I sighed, “I don’t like this.”
Darrance’s attention snapped to me, “tell me, apprentice! Is there something you actually like?”
I shrugged, “I dunno, caffeine, Castella. Not you.”
“Very subtle, apprentice,” said Darrance. “Next time someone you ‘like’ actually bothers to remember your birthday, please do inform me.”
I gaped, unable to even consider a response.
“Also, Apprentice, I only remembered it because I make a point of remembering everyone’s birthday, so do not feel special,” said Darrance.
I sighed, “don’t worry. I don’t.”
“Come on, let’s move,” growled Castella as she started up the stairs. “And do try to be quiet, please.”
I frowned and followed her, so that’s why she’d acted weird when Darrance had mentioned my birthday earlier. It mattered little; she’d come to my bedside every day to pray, I’d say that more than made up for it.
That’s if Feuilt was telling the truth, of course.
With weapons raised, silently we stalked up the stairs, Darrance in the lead. There were barely any shadows, so stealth wasn’t an option.
It took a good three minutes before we finally came to the doors, they were huge, ostentatious golden things, standing at a good four metres tall. Carved into it was what looked like the Emperor handing what looked like a scroll to a generically handsome mortal man, with the stars behind them.
We stood there for a few seconds just looking, Darrance was the first to speak.
“Apprentice, open them.”
“What? Why me?”
“Because, while I admit you do have considerable skill, you are still an Apprentice, you are the lowest ranked. So it’s up to you to go first, as you are the most expendable” he said.
“No, you go first,” I said. “The one with the most experience and skill should go first as they’re more experienced to handle what may lie beyond.”
“Your sarcasm doesn’t make it any less true,” he said. “But I insist, as your superior, I order you to go first.”
I snorted, “when did I ever care for your orders?”
“Enough!” snapped Castella and with a blast of her plasma pistol, she vaporised left door’s the hinges then kicked it, so it fell inward with a crash.
We slipped behind the remaining door and waited for the retaliatory fire, but oddly, it never came.
After sharing confused glances, Darrance leaned out to look; it only took a second before he turned back.
“You said he wore power armour, right?” he asked.
“It’s only him in there. His back to us.”
I raised an eyebrow, “are you sure?”
“Yes I am sure, Apprentice,” he said, looking wounded. “Of course I am, who do you think I am?”
+You three, you have finally arrived, please do come in. You are more than welcome.+
Involuntarily, I clenched my teeth, and my eyes widened with fear.
Castella and Darrance were suddenly moving out into the church, weapons held loosely at their sides.
“Castella! Darrance!” I yelled, but they didn’t respond, they just kept moving.
“Frig!” I snarled and slipped after them, pistol raised.
I stepped into that huge church, here the walls, pillars, floor and ceiling made of a dark green marble that reflected the intense light emitted from the dozen, large chandeliers hanging high above. Stairs led down to the church, eight total that surrounded the place from length to width, elevating the pillars and the altar above the nave. I couldn’t help wonder exactly how many mercs were hiding behind them.
Between each pillar were huge paintings each depicting the Emperor of Mankind in some great act, somewhere. When I was younger I wanted to be an Imperial historian; I used to study the crusades, the heroes of the Imperium, so perhaps I might’ve recognised what it symbolised. But the war changed me; I’ve forgotten all that now, my pragmatism didn’t just extend to my fighting style, all that learning was redundant, replaced by knowledge more applicable for my new calling. Glaitis had an extensive library of information back on her ship, so if I ever needed to be reacquainted with it for a mission’s sake, I easily could.
I frowned at the thought of Glaitis.
Edracian stood in the epicentre, amongst the pews, still in his power armour and as Darrance had described, his back was to us, his red cape so long it folded onto the floor a good metre behind him.
Whatever had taken hold of Darrance and Castella was abruptly gone as they shook their heads and raised their weapons. I thought they were wearing psy jammers, how the hell could they’ve been affected?
+I have been waiting for you! You have taken your time!+
“Inquisitor Nonin Edracian!” yelled Castella, her plasma pistol raised. “Surrender, now! And you will be spared!”
His laughter filtered through my thoughts.
+And on whose authority do you demand this surrender?+
“The authority that comes from the barrel of a frigging plasma pistol!” she snarled.
He laughed again, +a plasma pistol? You really think I would fear a plasma pistol? It is powerful that is sure, but its power is nothing, compared to the power I possess!+
“And what power is that?” asked Darrance.
+The power of the warp!+
Then he slowly raised his arms and as he did everything started to quake and shake. The pews, the chandeliers, hell even the frigging pillars.
Castella didn’t hesitate, as a bright lance of light erupted through the room straight toward Edracian. But suddenly it stopped only a few inches from hitting him the plasma beam seemingly evaporated into nothingness.
My jaw dropped, until then it was hard for me even to comprehend a force strong enough to stop plasma.
“Well, shit,” said Castella and shot again but only to get the same results
Edracian laughed and kept raising his arms; then the pews started to rise into the air, floating upward and upward. The temperature abruptly dropped, condensation began to form on the walls and floors then quickly hardened into frost.
The shaking was so intense now; that I could barely keep my feet.
She shot a third time, but this one went wild, succeeding only in burning through the wall at the other end of the chamber.
“Castella!” I yelled over the cacophony. “I’d try to save your ammo if I was you!”
Castella snarled, holstered her pistol and drew her power blades, “I’m out anyway!”
I activated my powersword in a blaze of blue, as did the other two, almost all at once.
The pews were well into the air now and orbited around Edracian at a dizzying speed. Like a colossal hurricane with him standing straight in its eye.
“Well, shit,” said Castella again.
Then they flew straight at us.
I cried out as the first pew bore down at me, it was large, a good ten metres long and made from dark varnished expensive wood.
With an upward, vertical slash I cleanly cut it in two, sending the halves whirling away and allowing me a gap to step through.
The second was on me immediately after, my overhead vertical sliced through that.
Already I’d lost sight of Castella and Darrance through the chaos. All other sound eclipsed by the ear-splitting cacophony of the pews shattering and breaking against the surroundings.
A third pew came at me, side on, which I weaved out the way of, then I ducked another. A fifth hit the floor and bounced and spun my way. Crunching and cracking with the impacts.
I imagined I looked more casual than I felt, my heart leapt in my chest so hard, blood thundered through my veins so fast it felt as though I’d explode as I jumped over it. Clearing the one and a half metres needed with ease I shouldn’t have been capable of and I landed just in time to roll underneath another. One descended at me in an arc, twisting and turning through the air, like some gravity-defying gymnast. With a cry, I desperately jumped back, a mere millisecond before it shattered against the floor where I once stood, and I was still in mid-air when it’s shards flew straight toward me like mini-missiles.
As if with a life of it’s own, my sword darted and sliced out so fast my eyes could barely follow, intercepting every bit of shrapnel headed my way. Evaporating them harmlessly against it’s powerfield.
This all happened before I’d even landed and when I did, I skidded across the smooth marble floor a few metres more, before being forced to throw myself prone as another pew seemingly swiped out at me.
I rolled as another smashed down at me, missing by a hair’s breadth and I kicked out my feet, getting up just in time to weave away from the wall of flying wooden shards.
I clenched my teeth and cursed, I couldn’t keep this up forever. I needed a way to reach the bastard! Even though it’d already been established his shield can stop plasma bolts, I had to try! I also feared what he would do with the slivers and shards left of the pews once destroyed.
I dashed forward, straight toward a pew which flew at me lengthways.
In the very last microsecond, I dropped and slid on my side, just beneath it before it crashed to the floor; missing my head by barely an inch. I finished into a crouch in time to slice through the next. I darted around another and finally found some space, not much but, it’d have to do.
With a roar, I fell into a sprint and lunged off the stairs. In mid-air, a pew attempted to intercept me. I cut it in two, and the parts flew past me, then I hit the floor, rolling to negate the impact.
I finished, kneeling and saw Edracian, still in the room’s epicentre, even with his back to us and his arms still raised.
All I got was a split second look before yet another pew descended at me from above attempting to crush me under its armrest, I sidestepped it and carried on my sprint.
Two came at me at once, one low, one high. I didn’t break stride as with one vertical, downward slash, I cut through them and continued. I caught a glimpse of Castella and Darrance then, they were both taking cover behind the pillars on the left side of the room, limiting the direction the pews could come at them effectively. As blurs, side by side, they dodged and slashed what came their way.
I barely had time to clench my jaw before more frigging pews flew at me, now they were reduced to shattered halves or even less, but they came more consistently and at a higher velocity.
With my heart in my throat, I slid from the path of one as it bounded and crashed across the floor. I leapfrogged over another and cut through the next; my advance now slowed to a crawl.
What are you doing? Edracian asked in my mind.
“Stopping you!” I snarled as I ducked a pew and weaved around another.
Edracian laughed, you have not a chance! Why do you even try?
Because that’s all I can do, I thought as I clenched my teeth and continued my dogged advance. I could sense both Darrance and Castella were watching me. What I did, the feats I’ve managed, no normal human could be capable of doing. Perhaps not even them.
I jumped onto the top of one, then bounded off it, flying a few more metres before landing in time to roll under another.
I could see him more clearly now, he was about ten metres away, but at this rate, it may well have been miles.
Two flew at me at once, flying at my sides. Left coming high and right; low.
With a curse, I was forced to bound back, making it out a millisecond before they smashed together in a deafening crash!
I darted left, twisting, covering my face, so the slivers bounced and clattered off my flak jacket. Some were sharp enough to stick fast, alongside the shards of glass I hadn’t got around to pulling out yet. The impacts sent me reeling and writhing back further.
Instinct made me duck down, as the shattered remains of a pew came ridiculously close to taking off my head.
I darted side to side, dodging another two then cut through a third.
“Where is she!” I roared.
+Where is who?+ he asked, sounding genuinely confused.
“Elandria! You sick frig! Where the hell is she!”
+Ohhhh! Her! I had forgotten about her! I am not going to tell you. Why do you think I would tell you that?+
I screamed as I cut in half yet another pew, “why! Why are you doing this?”
My reply was another scream of incoherent rage, and after sidestepping a small wall of wooden shards, I finally converged on Edracian.
I slashed, but I may well have been trying to cut through an Adamantium wall with a butter knife as my blade bounced off and sent impact pain up my arms.
+It is fruitless, boy!+ laughed Edracian. +You are a mere ant, railing against the heavens!+
I let out a wordless snarl and was forced back by another flying pew. There must be a weakness somewhere! Somewhere! Please!
For what must’ve only been a few seconds, but for me, it felt like forever. I’d dash in, slash, then dart back out as more debris would attempt to hit me. I must’ve done it dozens of times, cut at him across every inch and angle conceivable. The entire bloody time Edracian’s laughter echoed through my head.
But nothing, I got nothing. Those few seconds were more exhausting than the last few hours combined and through my gasping, I clenched my teeth as I realised I couldn’t bring myself to dodge the previous bit of pew as it bore down from above. My arms and legs ached like all hell, and my limbs felt like lead.
Silently I begged for Faleaseen to do something, to say anything! But she stayed silent.
The weight hit me from the side, suddenly smashing me off my feet and to the floor. I felt rather than saw the piece of pew fly over me, missing but only an inch.
Abruptly, I was turned by slender but strong hands to come face to face with Castella, her expression a rictus of rage.
“What the hell are you doing?” she snarled.
I didn’t reply; I couldn’t. I only gaped at her dumbly.
She let out a growl, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and hauled me to my feet; allowing me to see Darrance was there, keeping the debris at bay, his power scimitar darted and sliced like lightning.
“Why did you run up by yourself?” she yelled as she pulled me and sidestepped another pew. “We need to work together, Attelus! Stop trying to do everything on by yourself!”
“Help me here!” yelled Darrance through clenched teeth.
Without hesitation, Castella and I stepped up on Darrance’s flanks. Together we slashed, dodged and weaved through the massive amount of debris constantly thrown at us.
My exhaustion was almost overwhelming at this point, on twelve separate times Darrance had to save me, by either slashing debris I’d missed or by pulling me out of its path.
All the while Edracian laughed and laughed, and it made me angrier and angrier.
I snarled and roared with every slash, trying to ignore my aching arms and heaving chest.
But after what felt like forever the barrage suddenly stopped and the laughter with it. The shattered remains of the pews abruptly and simultaneously dropped to the floor in a deafening clatter.
The three of us stood among it, exhausted and bleeding all over from minor cuts, me the least as my flak jacket had protected me from much of it.
Well that was impressive, said Edracian.
Together we turned to face him.
“Is that all you’ve got?” remarked Darrance snidely, which made me hiss air through clenched teeth.
Edracian laughed again, of course not, that was just the beginning.
Suddenly Castella and Darrance stiffened simultaneously both letting out cries of dismay and stayed, frozen like statues. I was unaffected.
As this happened every single remaining shard, thousands upon thousands rose back into the air and pointed their tips toward us.
“Well, shit,” I breathed.
+This is your end.+