Three factions vie for a foothold on a new planet. For blood, glory, and ancient claims.
| The long, whooping wail of some distant pack of creatures shook a daydreaming night watchman from his fantasies of home. The 101st Corven regiment had the misfortune to be stationed in an old, backwater Imperial base, serving as both a listening post and a watch post. Despite the multiple purposes the base was small, barely holding only a single regiment, as well as their Colonel. There was no personal space in the sleeping quarters, large square rooms with rows of beds packed close together, and bunks above them. Small paths separated both the bunks at their sides, but also at their heads and feet.
The Guardsman mulled over the numbers in his mind as he stared out from his post into the empty night. Corven had been a start up colony, not many men to spare for Imperial Tithe. The 101st was made up of only four companies. Each numbering around five hundred men. That put the regiment at around two thousand only, small for an Imperial Guard regiment.
The thought of the cramped quarters almost made Richart Brauhn, the night watchman on shift, glad to be out, in the open air. Though the dust that was kicked up on the plateau the base rested upon sometimes gave him coughing fits. His post looked out at a dusty, patchy plain. A few hills dotted the landscape, and rumors of Orks lurking behind them were rampant amongst the Guardsmen. No sightings had been confirmed, at least not that anyone has dared to admit.
Whispers of other things in the night were also popular at the time. People telling of strange snake like apparitions, appearing for brief seconds, and gliding away silently through the nearest wall. No one dared bring the subject above whispers, for fear of being shot. Thankfully, executions were few amongst the Corven regiments due to the low manpower.
Brauhn paused in his musings for a moment to focus on the dark plain below. He did this every so often, so that he could not be accused of not performing his duties. As it had been all shift, as well as the whole three days they had been stationed here, it was quiet, still. The only sounds were some unseen animal whooping and howling. It was unfortunate that the hills blocked much of their view. The base had been established hastily when the planet had been found. A simple building to establish a claim on the planet.
It was only a few hours until the shift change now, and despite enjoying the open night air, Richart looked forward to sleeping. A fresh shower in the morning would be nice as well. The one good thing of being stationed somewhere uneventful, no restrictions of activities or food due to cut supply lines, or constant fighting.
Something in the corner of his eye caught Richart's attentions, it moved suddenly and was gone. The act made the tired guardsman flinch backward. Stumbling into an ammunition crate he knocked down the binoculars that sat on them. They clattered noisily to the gray ferrocrete, breaking the near silence of the night. Inside the bunker behind him Richart could hear the shuffle of boots. One of the other night watchmen poked his head out, Stephan Giron, a close friend of Richart.
"You trying to rouse the entire base, Richart?" Giron asked, his inquiry was ended in a large yawn.
"Nah, mate. It was one of those mosquito beetles. Tried to get me, accidentally knocked over my binoculars killing it." Word of seeing flits in the night would no doubt have him investigated for madness, or heresy. Or worse still, upset the peace his regiment was enjoying.
"Oh, one of those big blighters was it? Nasty things those." Stephan seemed to buy the story, not that the man would turn him in.
"Aye, that they are." Richart nodded his agreement.
"Well, listen mate. Why don't you take off to get some rest? I can cover the rest of your watch." The idea sounded like a dream to Richart. There was no way he going to pass up this chance.
"Emperor bless you, Stephan. I can't thank you enough." Richart almost tripped over himself again in his haste to get below, shaking his friend's hand gratefully as he passed.
Hurriedly, Richart made his way down from the guard towers, and across the empty courtyard that served as both a training yard and an unloading point for the Arvus Lighters that delivered supplies.
The barracks was no beauty of design, it's simple exterior's only decoration was the number sprayed on the side, indicating to which regiment it belonged. A heavy iron door barred access to the building's interior, easy enough to open, the dry air made it cry in protest. Thankfully the sound didn't seem to wake the men sleeping inside, the sound of more than a hundred breathing bodies was punctuated only by the occasional snore.
Richart made his way through the maze of beds in the low light that was afforded by a distant moon. Finding his own welcoming mattress he dropped lazily onto it, taking time to enjoy the rough comfort he had grown used to. It was not a glorious mattress, but it was his, and served him well. Richart finally gave in to protocol, stripping to his undergarments, and folding his uniform, and stowing his boots beside the bed. Sliding under the covers, it wasn't long before sleep overtook the man.
His rest was fitful at best, being plagued by bizarre dreams. Visions of green skinned xenos battling strange dark figures. The figures were never revealed to him, whatever they were, they cut back the savage Orks, and then vanished without a trace. The scene bled into another, massive orks piled onto a roaring monster, swinging their makeshift weapons and howling with feral anticipation.
By the time Richart was forced awake by call of the Captain and the trumpeting anthem, his vision had changed again. Dark and sinister things which Richart cared not to recall had played on the edge of his dreaming. Only the light from some unseen force illuminated the darkness of his dream. Whatever creatures lurked beyond the light's reach dared not step forward.
The showers were hot, especially nice after the fitful night. Showers were almost ritualistic for the 101st Corven, times of cleansing. Time was taken to not only clean their bodies, but their minds as well.
"On this day, as on all others,' the Guardsmen chanted in unison, beginning their morning routine. "I give my life to the Emperor, and to the Imperium."
They continued, their words echoing off the walls of the communal shower. "With my being I stand against the enemies of man." The act of recitation was meant to cleanse the mind, though it never made Richart feel any different.
"With my body, I battle the xenos. With my mind, I battle heresy. And so, on this day as on all others, as I clean my body let my mind too be cleansed. May the Emperor shield us from corruption." With the ritual finished, the showers were turned off, and the men dressed. Reporting to the training yard for daily exercise and assignments.
Daily training consisted of physical exercise, marching, jogging, and the like. Assignments and recreation time were then issued, each platoon cycled duties. Scout teams had just returned with no reports, meaning today another team was going to be sent out. The platoon's Lieutenant addressed her men with a datascroll in hand.
"Alright!" The Lieutenant barked, she had always been a commanding woman.
She stood as tall as any of the men, and taller than many.
"You boys get to take a camping trip." She continued, hiding the true severity of the assignment. Scouting duty was week or more long detail, in which the selected platoon set up a scouting camp, and observed the area.
"The Colonel wants the region to the south-west scouted, monitored, and secured if need be. Your little get away will last eight days, on your return I expect a full report that I can deliver to the Colonel. Dismissed." There was no time for questions, and nobody dared ask any.
The men around Richart began packing the needed gear and loading it into an awaiting Chimera armored transport. Richart joined the rest of the platoon, loading in monitoring equipment and securing it for shipping. After marching this chore almost seemed a leisure, simple repetition, allowing the Guardsman's mind to wander.
He drifted back to his dreams the night prior, and the faceless creatures he had seen battling the Orks. He saw with more clarity now, it was not so much that the shadows were alive, but that whatever they were simply did not exist. The concept frustrated Richart to no end, and so once more he pushed the thoughts from his mind.
The Chimera was loaded, and the platoon was boarding. The drumming of its engine vibrated the iron interior of the transport. His platoon was made up of ten men, including himself, Stephan and the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant was remaining behind to man communications with the platoon, allowing her to report directly to the Captain if anything went awry.
As the Chimera lurched forward, its treads biting into the dirt for traction, the men inside were jolted towards the rear, eliciting several groans, and murmured complaints from those in the middle of the bench. The men took this as a sign; they began discussing site duties and chatter. Richart stared toward the front of the vehicle, trying to catch sight of the outside through what little he could see of the small window.
Chapter 1: Royal Host
Chapter 2: Savage Tide
Chapter 4: Risk and Reward