Chapter 1: War on distant worlds

Subsector Carolis, Segmentum Ultima. A minor and often overlooked sector under Imperial rule. Few Imperial Guard regiments were contributed by the five planets making up the sector. Instead, they provided the metals necessary to manufacture weapons and armor from its many mining operations. Of course, even that came to an end when the rulers of Carolis declared themselves independent from the Imperium.

Swift and violent battles broke out across the five worlds as the rebels mercilessly purged any loyalist forces that remained in the system. The last remnant of Imperial rule to fall was the frigate Helljumper. However, before she was boarded and her crew slaughtered, the captain managed to send out a distress signal. A warning that these traitors had floundered Imperial rule and was challenging the Emperor's vision of all of mankind united under one banner.

The Imperium's answer; six Imperial Guard regiments were redirected towards the Carolis subsector, two of which originated from the subsector and were eager to retake their homeworlds from the vile traitors. The remaining four regiments were as follows; one Elysian drop troops regiment, one Vostroyan firstborn regiment, one Tallarn desert raider regiment, and the last one was a regiment from one of the most feared and lethal forces available within the Departmento Munitorum.

The Death Korps of Krieg.

Battle was first joined in space, were the outgunned and inexperienced rebel fleet was obliterated, with few losses for the loyalists. Orbital bombardments followed that reduced hundreds of cities to rubble and sent the rebels scurrying for cover within the most heavily fortified cities available. A grueling year-long campaign followed, as the loyalists eradicated one rebel stronghold after another. Counter-attacks were attempted by the rebels, but their soldiers were ill-equipped and poorly motivated, not to mention lacking a coordinated system of command. Easy pickings for the battle hardened Elysians and Tallarns, who combined their forces to perform hit and run attacks coupled with aerial strafing runs to break the back of the rebels.

The Carolis regiments then simply smashed apart whatever was left with their chimeras and Leman Russ tanks. But as these four regiments swept away attacking enemy forces, that still left the task of cracking open the rebels' heavily fortified cities and bastions. A task the Death Korps took on with vigor. Within nine months, for out of five planets were liberated from rebel control and returned back to the fold, leaving only the Capital planet still standing firm against them.

Resistance was fierce, as the rebels fought tooth and nail to hold the line against the onslaught. Tens of thousands of men died in the opening days, the loyalists sometimes forced to climb over their own dead to reach the enemy. Nevertheless, the rebels were steadily forced back, inch by bloody inch, as their guns ran out of ammo and their guns got worn down. Eventually, the rebels found themselves besieged within the capital city of Helsink, the birthplace of the rebellion. Some would call it ironic that this would be where it was finally crushed. But even as death and defeat stared them in the face, the rebels dug in and awaited the attack with grim determination. Traitors were never shown mercy in the Imperium. They knew that they were dead men already, so the least they could do was sell their lives dearly.

The siege had now been dragging on for three weeks, with the loyalists' artillery relentlessly hammering away at the walls. The Elysians and Tallarns were more than happy to starve the rebels out. Victory was already theirs, the rebels were just too stubborn to see it, they reasoned. Besides, urban warfare was something they both abhorred, both preferring lightning warfare on open ground. But the Death Korps were adamantly against it. They wanted to storm the enemies' positions right away, in true Death Korps fashion. They were backed up by the Carolis regiments who were eager to finally deposit the usurper and crush the rebellion once and for all.

In the end, they won, and a full scale assault was planned. The attack was to take place the next day, and so word was quickly spread across the frontline to have their gear ready. As night fell across the battlefield, the soldiers enjoyed their meals with great gusto, knowing that for some this might be their last meal. Nevertheless, spirits were high in the camps, as many celebrated the fast approaching end to this grueling campaign. Cheers and songs echoed throughout the night sky as soldiers gathered around large campfires.

Such things would have normally been considered madness in a siege, but the rebels had stopped firing back with their artillery over a week ago. Either their guns had been destroyed or they had simply run out of ammunition. Either way, it meant it was safe to make fires. But even as preemptive celebrations were thrown, there was still one regiment who refused to partake; the Death Korps. These emotionless soldiers maintained their vigilance and were even double checking and even triple checking their gear. War was all they existed for, the battlefield was their second home. Joy and celebration had no place in their ranks.

Currently, a squad of Carolis guardsmen had made their own little fire, and was just enjoying each other's company as they joked and laughed together.

"I'm telling you, I can't wait for this war to end." One of them, a short fellow with the thickest beard one can imagine growing on his chin said before he took a swig from his mug.

"Aye, I know the feeling, Gus. It'll be good to finally kick that traitorous bastard's ass off of his throne." A second, middle-aged man, added thoughtfully.

"In that case, I call dibs on the first kick." A third, much younger man, suddenly piped up, eliciting laughs from his comrades. But amid their laughter, the one called Gus suddenly elbowed the one next to him. Once he had his attention, he pointed to something moving past their little group. That something turned out to be a Death Korps infantryman, carrying a bowl of food. Without even acknowledging the ten men squad he just walked past, he took a seat next to a chimera, nearly hidden in the dark shadows of the night.

The guardsmen all stared at him in curiosity, some even in trepidation, but the soldier never so much as glanced their way as he neatly placed his lasgun right next to him within easy reach should the need arise. The sudden silence that had descended upon the group was swiftly broken by the sergeant as he called out to the lone soldier.

"Hey lad, you shouldn't sit by yourself over there. Why don't you join us at our fire?" many in the squad sent him looks of disbelief. Was he seriously inviting a Death Korps soldier to eat with them? It was common knowledge among the regiment that you stayed as far away as possible from those suicidal killing machines. Still wearing his traditional helmet and gasmask, the soldier stared at the group before he wordlessly hoisted his lasgun over his shoulder and walked over to them. Some shuffling around later, and a spot had been cleared in their circle for the soldier, which he quickly occupied.

Still, silence remained over the group as the squad mates eyed each other dubiously while eyeing their newest companion inquisitively. The soldier remained quiet through the whole thing, did not even remove his mask, he just silently observed the squad before him. Something that was a bit unnerving for a few of them. Eventually, a light chuckle slipped out of the sergeant.

"You know, lad, I think it would be a hell of a lot easier for you to eat without that bloody mask on at all time. Don't you think, eh?" he questioned humorously with a grin on his face, yet still the soldier said nothing in return. Though at least he did seem to take the sergeant's words to heart as he slowly removed his mask and helmet. What they found underneath chocked them to their cores, for the soldier had the face of a young black haired boy; and I really mean young. The oldest one in their squad was twenty five, but this kid seemed even younger.

"How old are you, son?" the sergeant asked softly. The soldier turned his gray eyes, devoid of all manner of emotions, towards the sergeant.

"16." He answered monotonously, receiving a fair share of looks of disbelief. A fact he found strange.

"Holy shit! That young!" the middle-aged man from before burst out in surprise before his tone got a bit darker. "Does it even exist an age limit on how old a child must be before he can join the army?"

A nonchalant shrug of his shoulders was all the answer that he received from the soldier, who then proceeded to eat his ration. While the rest of the squad seemed content to just drop the matter and continue on as if he did not exist, the sergeant still pressed on.

"What's you name, son?" he questioned jovially, trying to appear friendly. Not that it seemed to affect the soldier in the slightest.

"769355-637566-Keled." He answered, sounding more like he as listing off the amount of ammunition he had left. Then again, no one in the Death Korps had ever cared about his name, he was just referred to as 'trooper' or 'soldier', just like everyone else. The sergeant scrunched up his face at the name.

"Keled it is then." He finally decided before stretching out a hand for Keled to shake. "Name's Keating."

Keled just stared at the offered hand in incomprehension, clearly having never experienced that form of greeting. Getting the message, Keating withdrew his hand a little awkwardly, but still pressed on.

"First campaign you've taken part in, I guess?" he asked casually, to which Keled merely nodded his head.

"If I remember correctly, all of you Death Korps regiments are from Krieg, right?" he asked, but never even waited for an answer before he continued. "Me and my fellows are from Carolis V, the one farthest out in the subsector. Our regiment were heading off to Emperor knows where when we got word that our homeworlds had revolted. So we turned around and headed back with all haste to retake what is ours." There was a hint of sadness in his tone, but also a bit of pride and anger, none of which Keled picked up on or understood. Emotions had always been a foreign concept to him.

"But after tomorrow, this will be all over, and peace will be returned to the sector." Keating continued with a dream-like tone in his voice as he stared far away, into the dark horizon. "When the battle is over, why don't you seek me out? I'll give you a tour of our capital. Or at least what's left of it."

A shake of his head was the answer he got. "Unlikely. When the rebels have been neutralized, we will be departing." Keled answered. A frown marred Keating's face as he leaned closer towards Keled.

"How do you know that?" he questioned. Keled stared back at him with dull and lifeless eyes, eyes of someone who expected death at any second and accepted it.

"That's the way of the Death Korps of Krieg. When one war is won, we depart to the next one, only stopping to resupply and replace our losses." He replied, still as monotonous as ever. A sigh slipped out of Keating's mouth.

"That sounds like a hard life. Always moving from one war to the next." He remarked, to which Keled did nothing more than shrug.

"It's the Death Korps lives." Was all he said on the matter before he stood back up. "Permission to leave, sir?"

"Permission granted." Keating said tiredly. Keled gave a crisp military salute before walking away, lasgun slung over his shoulder.

(A word of warning. The following scenes will get really bloody, 40k style.)

Dawn. Whistles rang across the lines, cannon fire boomed like thunder and aircraft engines howled through the air. All across the battle lines, loyalist troops were rushing into positions, boarding either aircraft transports or armored troop transports. Naturally, the first wave would consist of the Death Korps, and it was here that we found Keled boarding a Gorgon Armored Assault Transport, along with the rest of his platoon. The last one on board was the Watchman before the door closed. With fifty men all crammed together, there was little room for maneuverability, and Keled could do nothing more than tightly grasp his lasgun while waiting.

At some unheard command, the assault began as the Gorgon began rumbling forward. The grinding noise of thousands of tanks rolling across the landscape was accompanied by the roar of fighters and bombers as they streaked through the air above, something that Keled could observe from the roofless troop transport. Then the fireworks started as AA fire ripped through the skies. A mad dance erupted in the skies as the loyalist pilots tried to steer clear of the incoming fire.

Some were obviously not lucky, as Keled watched a Vulture Gunship get its wing blown off, sending it on a wild spin through the air before coming down like a meteor towards the ground. He was not certain whether it was the gunship exploding he heard or if it was merely an artillery shell hitting its mark. But the air force was dishing out as good as they got, as above Keled, hundreds of fighters unleashed their missile payload in a devastating barrage. Keled did not see the damage, but he sure as hell heard it as a huge procession of cacophonic explosion shook the very ground.

Though it seemed like the enemy was not down for the count just yet, as when the Gorgon drew closer, explosion just outside the transport alerted Keled of enemy return fire. A huge ball of fire suddenly rose up from the ground next to the Gorgon, along with bent metal pieces and human bodies. Another transport most have been hit pretty badly. Something ricocheted off the hull of the gorgon, causing it to shake violently and knocked a few unprepared soldiers off their feet.

More explosions echoed from outside the transport, and Keled was sure he could at some points make out the distinguished sound of a tank going up in flames. But not once did he feel fear, not even as the Gorgon was rocketed back and forth by glancing hits nor as the heavy stubbers mounted on it began opening fire. Fear was something he had never known, something he had never bothered to learn about. It was an emotion, and as the drill instructors back on Krieg had literally beat into him, emotions only got in the way of your duties on the battlefield.

If there was one emotion that was accepted, or at the very least tolerated within the Korps, it was hate for your enemies. But Keled had never bothered with it. Why hold hate for something you were going to kill anyway?

But he did however feel a small amount of surprise when some kind of armor piercing round punched through the front ramp of the Gorgon and cut a bloody path through the packed crew compartment. Dozens of men were scythed down simply because they had no room to dodge. The soldier standing next to Keled got his arm and entire shoulder ripped off, spraying both of them with blood. The soldier collapsed to the floor on his knees, rapidly bleeding out. He looked up at Keled and said on single sentence.

"I can't fight anymore." Naturally, it meant more than that, and Keled easily understood the meaning. He could not fight anymore, and would die soon anyway. But as long as he lived, he was in the way for those who could still fight. So Keled brought up his lasgun and without so much as a second of consideration, plunged his bayonet into the soldier's throat and through his neck. A few gurgling noises slipped out of him before his lifeless body slid off of Keled's bayonet. No one so much as glanced their way through the ordeal and Keled merely cleaned off the blood on his bayonet and returned to waiting, never even mourning the comrade he had just killed.

The Gorgon suddenly began tilting upwards, and the ground became more uneven if the numerous bumps were an indication. It could only mean one thing: they had reached the enemies' lines. The same thought raced through everyone onboard, as lasguns were raised, bayonets were fastened and safeties were turned off. With a last rumble from its engines, the Gorgon came to a lurching stop. Time slowed down, all grew quiet in Keled's ears, each man held his breath. Then, the assault ramp was lowered and the Death Korps were charging out of their transport. Straight into enemy fire.

The first ten to clear the ramp went down within seconds, their bodies riddled with holes. But their deaths allowed for the next ten to advance even further before they too were gunned down. And through this maelstrom of las- and stubber fire Keled charged alongside his comrades, heedless of danger. A soldier in front of him got his head blown off, no doubt from autocannon fire. His body was about to topple over, but Keled acted quickly and grabbed hold of it. He then charged on, using the body of his comrade as a meat shield.

More soldiers were falling by the minute, but more just kept on coming. Finally, when his makeshift shield was about to fall apart from the number of shots it had taken, Keled threw it aside and came face to face with the rebels, holed up behind barricades made by sandbags and rocks. They were a pathetic sight, dressed in rags and whatever guardsmen armor they could scrape up. But while they stared in fear at Keled, he leaped right over their cover. His first kill was a bayonet through the throat. The second was as he pulled out the bayonet and fired a trio of las shots straight in the face of the one behind his first kill.

Another rebel took aim on him from the side, but Keled threw himself forward while twisting around until he had the enemy in his sight again. He had fired off another four shots before he even hit the ground. The rebel went down, screaming in pain from the mortal wounds inflicted across his stomach and chest. Keled was back on his feet in no time, just in time to receive a rebel charging him with a bayonet while screaming like a madman. He easily swatted the weapon away with his own before driving the back end of his lasgun straight into the face of the rebel, breaking his nose an sending him flat on his back.

And execution shot to the head later and Keled was moving on to his next enemy. More Death Korps were now climbing over the barricades, and more rebels poured in to stem the flow. Keled drove his bayonet through the chest of one rebel, but as the corpse fell over, it dragged his gun with it and left Keled unarmed as another one came at him. He sidestepped the bayonet thrust before he kicked the gun away. Stepping in close, he rammed his elbow into the rebel's throat, crushing his windpipe. One of Keled's comrades were wrestling for control over a lasgun with a rebel, so Keled stepped up behind the rebel, grabbed his head in a headlock and broke his neck. The comrade he had helped only gave a small nod of acknowledgement before rushing back into the fray.

Another Death Korp rushed past Keled, but a stubber round tore through his chest and he fell over. The fallen soldier's masked eyes landed on Keled, and seeing that he was unarmored, reached out and offered his own lasgun. Keled snatched it up and took aim on the stubber wielding rebel who shot his comrade. Five shots later, and he was down for the count. Without missing a beat, Keled charged at another rebel, ramming his bayonet into the guts and giving it a nice twist before kicking the rebel off of the bayonet.

Someone suddenly jumped onto his back and tried to strangle him. He tried shaking the assailant off, but nothing worked, and his grip on Keled's throat tightened. Finally, he collapsed to the ground on his back, his attacker beneath him. Yet still he refused to let go. It was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, and his attacker kept screeching in his ear. He suddenly smashed his helmeted head back, being rewarded with a sickening crack followed by a cry of pain. Not letting up in the slightest Keled rammed his head back again and again and again. Only when the fingers around his throat grew slack did he let up and staggered back up to his feet.

He only gave quick glance at the cracked open skull of his attacker before he hefted his lasgun and charged another rebel. He barreled over him before putting a single shot in his head, even as he held up his hands as a sign of surrender. The whirring of a chainsword suddenly reached his ears over the dim of battle, followed by the unmistakable sound of flesh being torn apart by said weapon. Turning to where it was coming from, Keled found a rebel sergeant bisecting a Krieg soldier before gutting another one.

Without a second thought, Keled charged towards the sergeant. Two rebels put themselves in his way. The first one was shot straight on the heart, a merciful death, while the second one received three shots to the guts, falling over and wailing in agony. But he did get off on shot that nailed Keled in the leg, but he ignored the pain and charged on. The sergeant quickly spotted him, and with a savage war cry charged as well.

Keled tried skewering him, but he sidestepped before bringing his chainsword in a decapitation arc that Keled dodged underneath. The sergeant pushed on with a flurry of wild swings aimed at Keled, but he kept dodging and ducking as if it was child's play. He suddenly struck out with his bayonet, piercing the sergeant's leg before withdrawing out of range from his sword. The sergeant howled in pain and collapsed to one knee.

Keled tried to take advantage of that, but the sergeant furiously swung his roaring chainsword at him to keep him at a distance. Another rebel must have seen his superior's plight as he charged at Keled while screaming like a savage. Keled blocked the bayonet with his own before he stepped closer and with a mighty push, rammed it in-between the legs of the rebel. He was never even given a chance to scream out in pain before a powerful uppercut from Keled snapped his head back and sent him off to la-la land. But the sergeant had taken advantage of his opponent's distraction to climb back up on his feet and was now facing Keled again with fury burning in his eyes.

"Death to the false Emperor!" he roared with absolute hatred before he charged at Keled, chainsword held in a two-handed grip. Keled's way of answering was with a silent prayer to the Emperor before he too charged with his bayonet. They were upon each other within a matter of seconds, ready to end their little duel. But it was then that Keled did something unexpected: he threw himself forward and glided along the ground on his knees. It did not take him very far, but it got him underneath the sergeant's defenses, where he rammed his bayonet upwards. It pierced right underneath his ribs and punctured a lung. Keled pushed the back end of his lasgun against the ground to steady it as he literally threw the sergeant right over him.

The poor man landed face first into the stone ground, dazed and suffocating in his own blood. Keled wasted no time in getting back up on his feet and placed three las shots right in the sergeant's chest.

"Retreat! Retreat!" the call suddenly rang out across the blood soaked battlefield, but it was not coming from the loyalists. Within moments, the rebel forces were in a panicked and disarrayed retreat. No, that was not correct; it was not a retreat, it was a rout. Death Korps troops rushed past Keled in pursuit of their enemy, and Keled just hefted his lasgun again and ran after them. The first line of the enemy had fallen, but there was still a whole city left to capture.

Deeper and deeper into the city, did the Death Korps push the rebels. On many occasion, they would try to turn around and fight back, clogging up the tight hallways with the dead and the dying. But the Death Korps were relentless in their attack and the rebels were always forced to flee yet again. It was through these narrow corridors that Keled charged along. His helmet was dented, his greatcoat was torn and bloodied, and he had developed a noticeable limp in his right leg, courtesy of the stubber round embedded there.

But never did he slow down, never did he allow the pain from his wounds and his aching muscles to affect him. He was going to fight on to the bitter end, and if it cost him his life then so be it, at least then he would die fighting on his legs. The Krieg way. More gunfire suddenly echoed from up ahead, the rebels must have found their dropped balls again and turned around to face them for like the tenth time.

Coming up to a sudden left turn in the hallway, Keled found about a dozen Krieg soldiers dead out in the open, most of them shredded into chunks of meat, with more crowding to get a clear shot at the rebels. At the head was a Watchman, seemingly debating whether to play it safe or just charge headlong into enemy fire. A sudden weak groan right beneath Keled alerted him that someone was still alive. That someone happened to be a wounded rebel.

"Mercy…" he pleaded with outstretched hands from where he lay on the cold floor. But he received no mercy from Keled as he rammed his bayonet right through his skull. No prisoners, no mercy, that was how war was fought.

"For the Emperor! Charge!" the Watchman suddenly shouted, sabre and laspistol held high as he charged around the corner. He was swiftly followed by the rest of the soldiers, and Keled found himself charging along. As he rounded the corner, he found the rebels had set up a heavy stubber and was spewing out rounds as fast as possible. Las- and stubber fire raced back and forth in the hallway and soldiers fell in droves on both sides. But even with the heavy stubber, the rebels could not stem the onslaught coming at them. As Keled charged on, something ricocheted off his helmet, a las round hit him square in the stomach but did not penetrate his armor and another las round burrowed its way into his left shoulder right beneath his shoulder pad.

Seconds later, the two sides met in a clash of flesh and steel. The soldier in front of Keled was turned to bloody confetti by the heavy stubber firing at point-blank range. Without a single hesitation Keled leaped atop the heavy stubber and fired six shot into the gunner before coming down bayonet first into the loader. He kicked aside the body and drove his bayonet into the side of another rebel. The man howled in pain right before three other bayonets pierced his chest and he was thrown aside. A rebel made a swing with a sword at Keled, but he ducked underneath it and swept the man's legs out from underneath him. The moment he landed on the ground Keled put a las round square in his head.

Within minutes, the rebels had all been massacred and the Death Korps moved onward. What they found beyond the rebel line was a golden door, no doubt leading into the throne room. They tried pushing it open, but it was barricaded from the other side.

"Demo charges to the front! Now!" someone shouted. Seconds later, a path had been cleared to the doors that a pair of engineers was rushing along. The soldiers withdrew to a safe distance as the engineers began setting up the explosives.

"Demo charges placed, sir!" one of them shouted before the sprinted away from the door. "Fire in the hole!" that was the only warning given before with a push of a button, the doors went up in smoke and flames. Without even waiting for the smoke to clear, the Death Korps charged headlong into the unknown. But what they found on the other side was not what they had expected. There were no rebel soldiers blocking their path, because they were all dead. Their blood stained all surfaces of the throne room, and many of their corpses were placed on pikes in the center of the room, where a robed man was standing inside the foulest of symbols known to man.

The Eight-Pointed Star.

"So at last do the Emperor's slaves come before me." The robed man proclaimed as he brought out a book from within his robes. "But you are too late to stop us."

With no further Avado, he opened the book and began chanting in a foul language that hurt one's ears. Having waited long enough, Keled and his comrades raised their lasguns and as one opened fire on the heretic. But their efforts were in vain, as a force field of some kind sprung up around him, deflecting the incoming fire.

"Ranged weaponry doesn't work on him, so we'll take him with bayonets! Charge!" someone shouted. That was all the explanation the Death Korps needed as the lowered their guns like spears and charged. But the heretic merely laughed at what he saw as a useless gesture.

"You fools! Your bravery will get you nowhere! I will tear your flesh from your bones!" he shouted maniacally before blasts of eldritch lightning lashed out from his fingertips. Dozens went down in an instant, their flesh being literally torn off the bodies by the psychic power. But Keled never faltered, he charged on even as his comrades were torn apart all around him. There was no fear, no trepidation, no doubt. He was going to put an end to that foul heretic if it was the last thing he did in this life.

The one charging next to Keled suddenly exploded in a shower of bones and flesh as the psychic powers ripped him apart and sent Keled tumbling to the ground from the shockwave. He tried to stagger back up again, but unbearable pain was wracking his body and sending him into violent spasm. Some kind of psychic attack must have hit him. His vision grew darker, even as he heard with greater clarity as the maniacal heretic obliterated everyone facing him while laughing like the madman he was.

Then it all became silent again. The butchery was apparently over, and the heretic was still standing. The vile fiend gave an unimpressed scoff at the futile effort done by the Death Korps.

"Idiots. This is what awaits all who opposes the might of Chaos." He muttered darkly to himself before he turned back to his blasphemous ritual. At those words, something stirred within Keled. Even as pain tore him apart from the inside out, he found determination flooding his veins. This was not how it was going to end. Chaos would not win, it would never win. Not as long as there were those willing to fight it.

With a monumental effort, Keled forced his eyes open and rolled over onto his hands and knees. Even as the eldritch powers continued to press down on his tortured body like the hand of a god, Keled stubbornly forced himself back on his feet, clutching his lasgun tightly in his hands. Slowly, he forced one foot forward, then the next, then another step, and another, and another. With pure willpower did he push onward, every step bringing him closer towards the unsuspecting heretic who had turned his back on the slaughter he had just committed.

His goal became clear when the very air in front of him began to split and tear. Foul energy spilled out like oozing blood from the wound in reality. That madman was seeking to open a portal into the Warp. Step by agonizing step, Keled drew closer to his quarry, until he stepped inside the blasphemous circle drawn on the floor. Only then did the heretic become aware that he was not alone as he spun around and beheld the approaching soldier in shock and fear.

"No! That's impossible! You shouldn't be able to stand!" he exclaimed frightfully. With the Warp Gate in the process of being opened, he could not divert his power to deal with this pest without getting dragged into the Warp along the way. Meaning he was completely defenseless against this lone soldier. Closer and closer did Keled draw towards the heretic, even as pain the likes of which he had never experienced worked to force him on his knees. But he would not bend so easily.

"Wait!" the heretic suddenly cried out in panic. "It doesn't have to be like this! I never wanted to call upon the Gods of Chaos! I know of their evil, but your Imperium forced my hand in order to save my people! If you withdraw now, I'll break off the spell and never use it again!" his attempts at saving his life was in vain as Keled raised his bayonet, making ready to plunge it into his black heart.

"If you interrupt the ceremony now, the Warp will claim us both! Do you understand me?! You will be dragged into the realm of daemons to be picked apart by its denizens! You'll never join your precious Emperor in the afterlife!" the raving madman was now screeching out whatever he could think of to buy time, but Keled was deaf to his words of warning.

"So be it." That was all Keled said on the matter, voice as dead as his comrades, before he plunged his bayonet straight through the chest of the heretic and into his heart. A startled gasp was all that left his mouth before the Warp Gate began to writhe and crack, the foul energy it had been seeping out beginning to get dragged back to the pits that spewed it out. But the Warp was not leaving the material plane empty-handed, as it began to drag with it the corpse of the heretic that summoned it, taking his killer as a bonus as well.

Keled wanted to fight back, but there was no strength left in his body, and he had fulfilled his task. He was content with what he had accomplished, and accepted the cruel fate that awaited him. And so it was, that when the Warp Gate closed, it had dragged Death Korps soldier Keled with it, to face whatever torture and madness that awaited him on the other side.

Falling. That was all Keled felt. Just falling, and falling, but never reaching a bottom. He did not even bother to open his eyes, knowing already that there was nothing of logic or value for him to see in this ocean of madness he had been dragged into. Screams of agony and howls of joy echoed all around him in a deafening cacophony, sounding like it was miles away yet mere inches away at the same time. Deeper into the abyss he plunged, falling for aeon yet at the same time seconds.

Foul things caressed him, their slithery touch being felt on his skin even when he was wearing full Death Korps gear, sending chills of revulsion down his spine. He could feel how the twisted denizens of this realm were closing in on him, like wolves circling a prey. They were taking their time, savoring the meal to come. But even though he knew that death was upon him, Keled felt no fear, just peace and calm. He could not fight these immaterial beings, but he could make their coming meal bittersweet by denying them the satisfaction of hearing him scream in pain or fear.

Closer and closer they came, their corrupted breath tickling his skin as if he was naked and not fully armed. 'Here it ends then.' He thought grimly as his body relaxed, waiting for the jaws of his killers to sink into his flesh. The thing was however, they never came. Instead, Keled felt something tugging at him. An invisible force dragging him away from the predators, to their great fury and displeasure if the sudden roars of outrage were anything to go by.

No longer did Keled feel like he was falling, now he felt like he was being dragged after a Land Speeder. More predators of the Warp tried to claim him, but he felt more than saw how whatever was pulling him along was moving far too rapidly for the denizens of the Warp to ever hope of catching up. Soon, the nightmarish sounds that flowed through the warp were gone, replaced by a swirling noise. Only now did Keled dare open his eyes to behold what he had fallen into. What he found was not what he had expected.

He was no longer in the twisting and burning inferno that was the Warp, at least he assumed he no longer was. What he was tumbling through now was a tunnel made out of crystal blue water, swirling like a maelstrom. And down this rabbit hole did Keled tumble end over end towards the unknown. Then, he saw it, a light at the end of the tunnel, coming ever closer. In Keled's mind, it could only be one thing; the Emperor reaching out to claim his servant from the maws of Chaos, to finally be at rest. 'Peace, at last.' Keled thought as he closed his eyes, embracing what was undoubtedly the end of his mortal existence.

However, he was to be disappointed in that regard, seeing as when he was spitted out of that tunnel, he was not met with the Father of all Mankind and a blissful existence at his side. What he got instead was being dumped painfully on solid rock. Despite himself, he could not help but let out a painful groan. Nevertheless, a Death Korp never died lying down, so he slowly and unsteadily crawled back on his feet with aching muscles. But when he at last managed to stagger upright again and opened his eyes, he was met with a most peculiar sight.

Two men were facing off against each other in a spacious hall filled with glass cages, though both had apparently forgotten about each other and instead devoted their attention to Keled. Their choice of armament was also… a bit unusual. The one closest to him was dressed in all black, with a cape and a mask shaped like that of a bat (I don't know whether a Death Korp would be familiar enough with bats to draw that conclusion or not, but just roll with it here). Strangely enough, he seemed to lack any form of weapons, unless he was carrying something in that belt of his.

The second one was also largely dressed in black, but he was wearing at least some manor of armor, along with weapons in the form of a sword on his back and a sidearm holstered in his belt. The man had long white hair tied up in a ponytail as well, but what really defined him was the half black, half orange mask with only one eye hole.

Confusion dominated in Keled's mind at that point. Just where had he landed? Was he still in Imperial territory? How did he even end up here? At least those two looked human enough to him, so he had not landed on a xeno world, that was something at least. But that still left the question: where they friend or foe?

"Who are you?" the bat-themed man suddenly demanded with a dark and menacing voice.