Cover of Darkness (Short Story)
|Collected in||Legends of the Space Marines|
Ten millennia after it was brought into the Imperium by Jaghatai Khan, the world of Tephra VII has rebelled. The Imperial response is spearheaded by the White Scars, eager to avenge this slight to their Chapter's honour. Infiltrating an enemy fortress under cover of darkness, Sergeant Kergis and his squad face traps, deadly enemies and a threat to their very souls.
A squad of White Scars led by Sergeant Kergis, advance under darkness on bikes through a geyser field with the purpose of destroying the main power facility for the planet of Tephra VII, a large geothermal power plant functioning within a volcano, the Ignis Mons. This power station feeds the continent and the void shields for the capital city of the planet, Choldis, where the main invasion and assault will take place at dawn. Kergis and his men meet up with the advance Scout Squad and their Sergeant, Balat, Kergis's old mentor. The scouts advise their brothers of their reconnaissance and stay behind to secure the bikes.
The White Scars advance on foot for stealth, reaching the slopes of the station with minimal resistance and enter a disused tunnel hatch, advancing with good time, until they reach a large magma overflow chamber, where the squad is assaulted by a hunting pack of chaos creatures, crossbred by the warband from several species for ferocity. After defeating these creatures, the squad hears a howling approaching. What appears is a Chaos Dreadnought originally of the Iron Warriors Legion. It proceeds into the middle of the chamber, where it is surrounded by White Scars. Brother Orlos attempts to attach a melta bomb to its back, only to be smashed down and pummeled. Brother Doshin is next to fall, his head being atomized by a point-blank blast from the Dreadnought's plasma cannon. Kergis is then forced to make a charge at the Dreadnought, sliding betwixt its legs, leaving behind an explosive charge, exploding and dropping the Dreadnought down into the pool of magma beneath the floor. Kergis makes to retreat when the Dreadnought grips his leg, forcing him to cut the arm off with his power sword.
With their fallen brothers' geneseed secure, Kergis sends his squad onwards with their original mission, whilst he takes care of a special mission given to him by the Khan, to destroy what appears to be a traitor from Kergis' old squad, Borchu. Kergis finds his way through the maze of tunnels to the top of the facility where the traitor's chambers are located. He enters them and is confronted by his friend. He notices the deathly pallor of his friend's skin, and the unfamiliar bearing that he has. Kergis deems that this is a daemon inhabiting his friend’s body. The two do battle, with conversation flowing between them, with Kergis finally scoring the death blow and decapitating the daemon.
As he leaves the daemon's chamber, Kergis senses explosions that tell him the rest of the squad has successfully destroyed the control room. Magma starts to engulf the entire facility, and Kergis is resigned to the fact that he will not escape, no matter how many cultist soldiers he kills while trying.
However, outside the chamber he runs into his lieutenant, Arik, amidst dozens of cultist corpses. Arik states that the rest of the squad has exfiltrated and that he decided to come and help the sergeant to extract. The two of them then proceed to reach a landing pad and steal a shuttle and escape. Dawn breaks and the Ignis Mons proceeds to erupt, lava boiling down its slopes in a slow moving tide. The two White Scars make for the rendezvous point.
Kergis is happy with his night's work - a mission accomplished, a Daemon destroyed, and a lost friend redeemed - while musing that happiness is never meant to last in the war-torn 41st Millennium.
Tephra VII, a world liberated by Jaghatai Khan and now taken over by the forces of Chaos a year beforehand. The power station the Ignis Mons, situated in a volcanic wasteland, the Volcan’s Cradle, which provides power to the continent and the void shields for the city, Choldis, where the main assault will take place.
- Sergeant Kergis – Leader of the strikeforce destined for the Ignis Mons and its destruction. Was involved in the hunt for the daemon prince Kernax Voldorius where he served under then Sergeant Balat.
- Arik – Pathfinder of the squad.
- Gurban – Battle Brother and second to Kergis.
- Doshin — Battle brother killed by the Chaos Dreadnought
- Osol – A young White Scar battle brother, barely in full battle plate for five years. Killed by the Chaos Dreadnought.
- Techmarine Goju
- Scout Sergeant Balat – Now a member of the 10th Company, charged with teaching the scouts. Was once offered the position of Master of the Watch back on Chogoris but refused and transferred to the 10th Company to pass on his knowledge. Was Kergis’ sergeant a century beforehand, during the hunt for the daemon prince Voldorius.
- Jurga Khan – White Scar commanding officer of the Tephra VII invasion
- Borchu – An old member of Kergis' squad, had died in the caverns of Nephis-Ra, taking a lascannon beam to the chest, punching a fist sized hole through him. His body was never recovered due a cave in. His body was then possessed by the daemon that once inhabited the body of Traitor Marine named Nullus serving as a lieutenant to the daemon prince Voldorius, whom Kergis killed on Quintus. The daemon also claims to be the Kagayaga, an ancient Chogoris "boogeyman" of sorts.
- Shulok-ahk-alim-neg — “he howls without end” - Chaos Dreadnought once of the Iron Warriors, now belonging to whoever controls him. Was first killed by a Crimson Fist, then placed in the iron sarcophagus, where he howled for release and never stopped.
- Strike Cruiser Warrior of the Plains