The Flame King
The line was drawn. Even the greatest defenders of the Greater Good would not be able to boast such a victory. In a matter of weeks, through gruelling battle, artillery fire and a few sacrifices, the Sept had beaten back the forces of a mighty Hive Tendril. The Riptides, built from a rare mineral found deep within the planetary crust, had more than made up for their cost, utterly annihilating the Tyranid beasts that assaulted their fortress. What made the things think that attacking a wall of railgun-toting, Riptide bearing Tau with a group of gigantic targets was a good idea? The Shas’vre in charge dropped his head in macabre amusement, looking over a field of charred corpses. One of the slain beasts, a warrior coated in obsidian, twitched in rigor mortis’ parody of living movement before succumbing completely. “What is the status of the defence, Gue’la?” The ex-guardsman shook his head and sighed.
“There are sections where battlesuits are too thick and where the corpses block movement. We may need to clear out those places with heavy duty weaponry, Shas’vre. But the attack is over!”
“Very good, Gue’la. Perhaps this world will yield more of those precious mineral you wanted to trade us yet”.
In the darkness of the night, a sixteen Terran hour affair on this planet, a comet broke through the upper atmosphere, its head igniting and streaking across the sky. The guardsmen on watch looked at the celestial object with fascination, keeping their old Terran superstitions at heart. Perhaps it was a blessing from the Emperor, giving his approval of the Greater Good. The guardsmen hoped that there would be a day like that, but it would not be. On the other side of their vast fortress, the meteorite smashed into the ground, digging a great trough into the cracking earth. Resting in a cradle made of jagged rock pieces and hidden away from the prying eyes of the Tau by a shield of rock, the meteorite began to glow and it awoke. The head of a mighty beast broke through the steaming rock and took in the myriad wonders of the planet. The land around it had been charred black and run through like ploughed farmland left to solidify, but the grey stone and metal of the fortress stood proud like a beacon. The creature broke its first set of arms out, grabbing claws on their tips. With these it crawled all of the way out and set its eyes on the fortress.
One of the planet’s twin suns poked out from the horizon, setting a red hue to the sky. A proud Riptide did his morning patrol along a bare patch of wall. Many of the other battlesuits and firewarriors normally on the wall had been called to clear out the bodies on the other side and after those sixteen hours of night, the job wasn’t even done.
“Moon-son, reporting. Nothing unusual on this side”.
“Received, Moon-son. Pathfinders on your side note a large heat signature. Stay on your post, Shas’O".
“Acknowledged, Brave Soul,” Commander Moon-son replied to the Shas’vre. He turned towards the open plain of seared, still steaming rock and scanned for heat. All across the broken landscape where red and white trails, betraying the presence of a particular enemy. “Ah, one of the Y’he is still around. You can’t hide from me, tyranid!” Moon-son aimed his heavy burst cannon at the cover behind which the heat trails ended and order markerlights to be fired on anything that gets out from cover.
Moon-son felt some kind of impact hit his left shoulder. The Shas’O looked up within his cockpit to see a two-pronged hook worming around in his battlesuit.
“By the Ethereals! What is the meaning of thiiiii”. Moon-son was suddenly subjected to a brutally strong tug and his entire Riptide felt like it was flying through the air. More impacts hit the front of the suit as it was torn through the outer wall of the fortress and slammed down into the hard stone. The pilot tried to turn the rigid neck of his machine, but something external was doing it for him.
The beast grabbed the Riptide in one of its claws and lifted it, performing a great feat of strength in lifting the metal monster. With a furious roar, one that echoed across the battlefield and alerted every Tau warrior in the citadel, the creature put its claw through the battlesuit’s midsection and slammed it into the ground. Warriors reacted to the downing of their commander with incredible speed, but the creature was ready for them too. Two arms came forward over the clawed ones, tipped with what looked like dragon heads. The tyranid screamed its burning wrath at the Tau, spraying powerful, raging flames at the cadre, incinerating them instantly. The creature, under pressure from the remaining Tau firing at it at range, snapped its head to the side and screeched in pain. It fell to its feet, shuddering.
“What’s wrong, Flame King? Suam’O? Not honourable enough to face your judgment at the hands of the Greater Good?” a firewarrior taunted. One of the beast’s eyes opened. Now rage was filling up its insides, but not the instinctive drive to kill. Some kind of hatred absorbed the creature. The flame born carnifex was no more. Suam’O was born. It reared up onto its back legs and released a mighty scream, demoralising the Tau that stood. A mental link appeared with the Hive Mind, goading Suam’O, to commit more acts of destruction for destruction’s sake. The beast obliged to its master and charged.
That was the day the Fortress of the Ethereal Realm fell. That was the day a new rage was unleashed on the galaxy and nothing was safe. The Hive Mind recorded this consciousness and would certainly preserve it for future use.