Visage of Zeal, page 1
Visage of Zeal
C Z Dunn
Chaplain Gerataus strides across the battlefield, combat knife drawn and primed in his hand. His crozius arcanum, his symbol of office, hangs dormant by his side. For this task a simple blade will suffice.
The ground is slick underfoot, litre upon litre of blood pooled atop earth so drenched in the stuff that it cannot absorb any more. The black greaves of his armour are stained red as he wades ankle-deep through the incarnadine lake. Piles of greenskin corpses form macabre dams, forcing Gerataus to sidestep or collapse them to reach his objective.
The ork horde made its final charge at dawn’s first light.
The Chaplain moved among the Imperial forces, Imperial Guard and Black Templars alike, steeling their resolve with his words. When the noise of the onrushing enemy drowned out his litanies and prayers, he gave the order to open fire. Within moments greenskins were scrambling over the bodies of their front ranks to reach their enemies.
On the orks came, either oblivious or uncaring to the massive casualties they had already suffered. Those few carrying firearms returned the Imperial fusillade but, outgunned, presented themselves only as targets rather than threats.
His own bolter seeking out the largest figures among the ork throng, the Chaplain continued to exalt the Emperor’s name and inspire those around him to even greater feats of heroism and sacrifice. He was about to give the order to launch the Imperial countercharge when a neophyte battling alongside him disappeared in a conflagration of blue flame.
Somewhere within the enemy ranks was a weirdboy, an abhorrence of ork genetics that could somehow bend the warp to its own will.
The Chaplain’s devotions gave way to a vow: the xenos psyker would not leave the field of battle alive.
Another figure moves amongst the dead, his white armour stark against the blanket of emerald and crimson. The Apothecary’s task complete, the two battle-brothers pass each other and exchange solemn nods. These are not gestures of pity or grief but of respect, acknowledgments of the grim labour already undertaken and about to take place. The healer takes his leave, an idling Thunderhawk awaiting his precious cargo. The preacher continues onward.
The ork bodies become more numerous, the piles higher. The Emperor’s work was done here and done well; the barbaric xenos will no longer threaten this sub-sector and its inhabitants will sleep a little easier at night in the knowledge that one of the myriad threats they face has been eliminated.
The ork psyker’s mental assaults tore through the Imperial lines. Entire squads of Guardsmen burned out of existence in a beat of their hearts, warpfire consuming them with an inexorable hunger.
The Chaplain called out to his brethren and was answered by the voices of their bolters cutting down the weirdboy’s minders. The witch-mind smiled as it watched them fall and the corona of energy washing over its body burned brighter. With fat green fingers it motioned to the Chaplain, calling him to a duel. Black Templars raised their bolters, sights trained on their sorcerous foe but the Chaplain bid them hold their fire.
Gripping his crozius tight in both hands, the Chaplain raced to meet the greenskin in personal combat.
Gerataus finds what he seeks. Offering only a simple prayer, he sets about his grisly task.
The corpse already bears three wounds, the fatal gouge through the torso and the incisions to the neck and chest performed post-mortem. Gerataus stabs down and adds a fourth. The adamantium blade parts both flesh and bone and the Black Templar tears through the skull in a sawing motion. His cuts are controlled and measured, this mutilation being no act of desecration or petty vengeance.
The front of the skull comes away, Gerataus carefully removing it with armoured fingers coated in blood. He holds the mask of bone up and studies it in the fading light of the planet’s sun before placing it over the front of his helmet. Though too small to fit in its current state, the Chapter’s serfs and artificers will stretch and reshape it before fusing it to the metal of his armour.
The crozius connected with the ork’s jaw, teeth and blood spilling from its lips as it bellowed a roar of pain. Fixing its gaze upon the Chaplain, warp energy blazed in its eyes and it roared again, this time in defiance rather than pain. Thrusting out a fist, the beast channelled its psychic might and unleashed a bolt of energy. The Black Templar dodged the blastwave, charging in low beneath the deadly beam and collapsing the ork’s chest with a single powerful blow.
Enraged, the weirdboy swung its massive fist in the direction of the Chaplain’s head but it connected only with the crackling head of the crozius. Power field met the raw stuff of the warp, the ensuing explosion stretching the very fabric of reality and knocking both warriors prone.
The Chaplain was the first to rise, his wrecked weapon now nothing more than a simple club. He launched himself at the xenos witch, staving in its head with wicked blows from the dead crozius. Its resistance mighty even by the standard of orks – or, not knowing it was already dead – the weirdboy drew a blade from its sheath and slashed the Chaplain across his stomach, almost bifurcating the Black Templar with a single blow. Blood gushing from the sucking wound to his midriff, Reclusiarch Deuteron hoisted his staff of office for one final blow, the last of his life expended removing the remains of the ork’s head cleanly from its shoulders.
Gerataus looks down upon the torn remains of his former mentor. The ruined crozius is still held tight in Reclusiarch Deuteron’s dead hands, the witch-mind of the ork psyker who slew him slick across the haft and shattered head. Other than the gash across the midriff, Deuteron’s armour is intact and, like his already recovered gene-seed, will be put to use again by the Chapter.
For his centuries of selfless service and his heroic sacrifice, the Black Templars will honour Deuteron in their annals and his name will forever be engraved upon the walls of the Temple of Dorn.
For his decades of training and advice, and for moulding him into the Chaplain he is today, Gerataus will honour his former mentor by wearing his death mask into battle, a visage of zeal to thrust fear into the hearts of all who would oppose the God-Emperor of Mankind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Domiciled in the East Midlands, C Z Dunn is the author of the Dark Angels novella Dark Vengeance, the audio dramas Ascension of Balthasar and Malediction, as well as several short stories. Having spent many years in the publishing industry, with a strong leaning towards genre fiction, he is an expert in e-publication, audio production and zombies.
A BLACK LIBRARY PUBLICATION
Published in 2013 by Black Library, Games Workshop Ltd., Willow Road, Nottingham, NG7 2WS, UK
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C Z Dunn, Visage of Zeal
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