Judgement

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Judgement

Postby Bellarius » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:21 pm

“… it was in the final hours of the war for Titanus that the traitors' leader showed himself.
The conflict which had begun as a crusade against an old heresy, the greatest of the Imperium’s mistakes, had become a grinding war of attrition. Despite blasting our way through the world’s orbital defences and successfully landing our forces on the world below, they were more than ready for us.
From hidden bunkers below the world’s surface and vast networks of catacombs they repeatedly struck from all sides, hitting our supply lines and reinforcing their faltering strongholds even as our valiant warriors tore them down. Bodies choked the vast wastelands of the planet’s surface, pure and corrupt alike falling in the constant battle, but despite hideous losses neither would retreat.

For the Grey Knights and their successors of the Exorcists chapter, this war was a matter of honour. To slay and execute those who carried their gene-seed but had utterly disgraced themselves, allowing their blind faith in the Emperor of Mankind to lead them astray. Becoming a vice rather than a pillar of strength, allowing them to become warped by the whispering of daemons who disguised themselves as angelic saints and brother Knights.
For their allies, the warriors sent by the few surviving Orders Militant of the Adeptus Sororitas, it was a matter of revenge. They now knew the identity of those who had repeatedly struck at them, crippling and destroying them over the course of several millennia, who had slaughtered countless Sisters and sacrificed them in dark rituals to serve their own ends. Only with retribution and the extermination of the servants of the Ruinous Powers who had taken this world as their stronghold would they leave the planet to begin to long process of rebuilding their numbers.

And the blinded foolhardy astartes of this world, those who had become twisted, mewling puppets in service of the dark gods would only rest with the slaughter of their “misguided” brothers. To the traitor Grey Knights, the self-proclaimed “Knight Wardens of the Emperor” this was a war for survival, to defend the twisted parody of holy Titan they had made their home.

Despite their blind fanaticism, false faith and the strength they gained from the tainted weapons they wielded – the Knight Wardens were losing more of their number with each passing day. Acts of heroism by the Imperial crusaders were beating back the darkness which skulked within the world, slowly but surely slaying its defenders.
Many of these tales are well known to the inquisition – the redemption of Anaval Thawn, the duel between Castellan Crowe and Justicar Alaric, the death of Vorth Mordrak and his daemonic servants at the hands of Canoness Telleran. But these are tales better told by others, for there is only one act of heroism I witnessed first hand.
The judgment of Kaldor Draigo.

Draigo was amongst the last of the Wardens to fall. Not out of skill at arms nor even tactical capability but because he had avoided the conflict. Whereas his battle brothers and followers had died to defend the towering corrupt spires which served as their homes, he had hidden, cowering in a mighty fortress far from the battles. It was only when we approached his hiding place, the last structure standing upon the world of Titanus, that he marched out to face us.

The warrior’s wargear was a grim parody of those worn by Grey Knights. While the sanctified tactical dreadnought armour of the 666th chapter radiated purity, strength and bore few if any icons celebrating the triumphs of the warrior they encased, Draigo’s was littered with symbols of the Ruinous Powers. Gaudy plates and trinkets which boasted of his own feats, depicted his sheer power as exceeding that of the primarchs themselves, and in golden plating was recorded texts from the blasphemous Book of Lorgar.

In his right hand, rather than any pure nemesis weapon of a Knight was an axe of a daemon. Crudely carved and hammered until it resembled a sword and reeking of Warp energy, even from where I stood I could feel its lust for untainted blood. Worst, however, was the banner upon his shoulders.
Strung between the poles, across fabric of human flesh, was the body of the Imperial Saint Aspira. The Saint’s body had been reported gone when an unknown force, now known to be the Warden Knights, had assaulted the tomb complex in which she resided and destroyed the stasis field which preserved her corpse.
The body had been stripped of the ornate armour she had worn and every inch of flesh had been inscribed with chaotic text and the sigils of Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeenth and Nurgle. Next to her defiled body were the heads of Canonesses Ereon and Gabriella, leaders of the once powerful Sororitas Order of the Silver Chalice.

Standing before the arrayed Imperial battle lines, Draigo shrieked obscenities. Boasting of how he had single handily slaughtered every daemon of Slaanesh, destroyed the city of Tzeentch and torn the heart from the traitor primarch Mortarion. He listed victories which were impossible, of how he had travelled the Warp on foot and easily conquered the greatest of daemons in single battle. Boasted of how he had done more in a hundred years to defeat Chaos than any warrior who fought his chapter had done in ten thousand years, claiming to have exceeded the Emperor himself in power. That he carried his gene-seed and as a result was immune to the corrupting influence of the Chaos gods. This last statement broke the silence which had fallen amongst the assembled Imperials upon seeing the Grand Master. A sound I had not heard in the many months of bloodshed since we had set out to defeat these heretics: Mirth.

It started slowly at first, a low chuckle before bursting out into roars of laughter. It had come from the terminator clad warrior at the forefront of our warhost, the Force Commander of the assembled Grey Knights upon this world – Brother-Captain Stern.

I had not seen any of the silver warriors express any emotion besides grim faced determination in the time I had fought beside them, and seeing their near legendary leader react this way was nothing short of unnerving. Raising his voice for all to hear he spoke of the so called “victories” Draigo had achieve in his years amongst their ranks before being lost to a Warp storm. Of how the traitor had barely passed any trial, of how his envy and hunger for glory had been infamous amongst their number and how, contrary to his claims, M’Kar had easily beaten him to within an inch of his life in their each encounter.
Stern voiced his disgust at Draigo, of how far he had fallen, the daemonic powers praying upon his pride and obsession with glory. Where the other leaders of the Wardens had fallen to daemonic possession, lamenting personal failures or had their perceptions twisted by Chaos – Draigo had been turned willingly. Even amongst his own traitorous kind Stern saw him as a disgrace, a pathetic ruin of a man who was nothing more than a puppet for the daemons he thought he opposed.

Drawing his blade Stern issued a challenge to the warrior, to prove his own abilities and defeat him in battle. He ordered that no astartes would raise a weapon against the corrupt warrior until one was slain by the other.
Screaming a foul clamorous praise to the dark gods, Draigo raised his weapon and charged.

Despite his deluded tales of victories against Chaos, there was no denying the traitor’s sheer power. Driven on by the corrupting influence of the weapon he carried and his own dark totems he repeatedly slammed against Stern’s armour, trying to break through Stern's disciplined defences and execute the Grey Knight leader. While Draigo fought with sheer strength born of the Warp, Stern battled against him with experience born of a thousand campaigns against humanity's worst enemies. Repeatedly drawing Draigo into feints and striking around the daemon weapon, he breaching the traitor’s armour over and over again.
Bursts of psychic energy, both pure and corrupt exploded around the opposing warriors, the force of which opened rifts in reality, warping their armour and ripping flesh from bone. But for all his skill, Stern was the weaker of the two. Where has Driago drew upon the power of Chaos to sustain him and push on, Stern was gradually tiring as the battle wore on and began making mistakes.

After over an hour of fighting, the duel ended. Mistaking a feint from Driago as a true attack, Stern raised his sword high and left his guard open to a sweeping blow into his side from the heretic’s shield sending him staggering back. The daemonic weapon stabbed down and punched through Stern’s abdomen, splitting the ancient armour he wore and drawing blood. The Brother-Captain toppled backwards, gripping the hideous wound in his side as Draigo roared into the heavens in victory.

Stepping forwards to deliver the final blow, Draigo realised there was another who was striding from the assembled battle lines. A towering figure in plane robes of a pilgrim. Power armour could be glimpsed beneath the robes and as the figure approached, Draigo sneered. He repeated the order Stern had issued, that no astartes was to interrupt their duel and knew that no space marine would dare to disobey his words. The figure said nothing, simply pulling back the hood and allowing the robes to fall away and Draigo’s sneer was replaced by an expression of shock, then fear. It was no astartes.
White wings unfurled and the figure took to the skies, drawing the blazing Ardent Blade from its scabbard, looking down upon the fallen warrior in disdain. “Ye guilty” judged Celestine, Living Saint of the Order of the Martyred Lady as she attacked.

Whatever power the gods of Chaos had gifted to Kaldor Draigo was no match for a living embodiment of the Emperor’s will. Frantically he raised his shield to defend against the oncoming attack, only for it to shatter with her first blow. As he was still reeling, she swung her blade in two wide arcs, the first cutting through the base of the banner pole upon which Saint Aspira’s defiled corpse hung, the second removing his sword arm at the elbow.
Draigo screamed in pain as black blood erupted from the wound and clutched at it, only for a stab from behind to puncture his chest. Stern, his face drawn and pale, had rammed his nemesis force weapon through the traitor’s back, impaling him upon it and shattering the mocking parody of an inquisitorial seal which adorned the chest plate of Draigo’s armour. Falling to his knees, Draigo felt the powers of Chaos departing from him. The runes which once glowed with sorcerous power began to dull to flickering embers and his Warp spawned weapon shattered, fading from reality. Fearing his end, the he began begging for his life - pleading that he be allowed to make amends for his mistakes and his crimes against the Emperor.

Picking him up by his ruined gorget, Stern snarled as he saw fear in the Grand Master's eyes. “You are nothing” Stern spat “You are no astartes, you are not even a man. You shall live. I promise you that, you shall live to see your corrupt sect of traitors fall and your world. But know this: I take neither pride nor pleasure in your defeat, heretic. You are neither humanity's greatest champion nor the successor to Him on Terra. You are nothing.”
Looking to the assembled forces waiting his command, Stern yelled “Techmarines! Fetch me chains!”

With their leader defeated, the Knight Wardens’ daemonic allies abandoned them. Charging from the wasteland beyond their citadel in an armoured tide came the combined force of space marines and sisters of battle. At their head was Stern’s personal Land Raider and spayed across its front, held in place by spears of adamantium which had been driven through his flesh and chains strong enough to resist even the enhanced strength of an astartes, was Draigo. Crucified and still living, watching in mute shock as the Imperials stormed through the Warden’s remaining citadel and destroyed all within. He said nothing as libraries of arcane knowledge were burned, warriors crushed beneath the tracks of the armoured war machine and the imprisoned daemons held within the citadel, powering its heretical facilities, were banished.

Only as he was removed from the tank and chained to his throne at the citadel's highest point did he begin to cry out, protesting as he realised what punishment the Grey Knights planned for him. True to his word Stern left the warrior alive, trapped on a dead world, and left for insanity to claim him. I still remember his screams to this day, begging us to take him or end his life as we left. Screaming for us to finish him even as lance strikes came down upon every other location across the planet, levelling every one of the Wardens’ bastions save for Draigo’s prison.

Even to this day, years since we left Titanus and returned to the heartland of the Imperium I wonder if he is still there. The physiology of a space marine is powerful and, as much as I loathe to admit it, their long lives can be extended by the powers of Chaos.
In my mind’s eye I can see the Lord of Wardens chained upon his throne, crying out in anguish as he is forgotten by the universe, as everything he accomplished is torn down, every mention of his name is struck from Imperial records and the true servants of the Imperium move on without him.
It is a heartening image.”


- Extract from the records of Inquisitor Dante, Ordo Hereticus – Litinarch Sub-Sector

----

The manager of my local Games Workshop wanted me to have a good reason for why my Grey Knights Land Raider had Draigo crucified on its front, besides my utter hatred for the character.
I imagine 2,300 words of revenge fanfiction might make him regret that asking for that.
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Bellarius
 
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