Zso Sahaal crouches atop a ruin overlooking the dead. Smoke curls up from the burning hulks of the Salamanders' vehicles, wrecked by the fire of those they once called brothers and the Talonmaster watches as his warriors check all those dead are just that. A knife here, a bolt round there, the red blood of Nocturne mixes with the black of Isstavan's sand. The 139th Company of that legion had run from the Dropsite, fleeing the fate decreed for them and all of their like. But no longer. Sahaal and his 3rd Company was one of many companies from all 8 legions now revealed under the Warmaster's banner, tasked with hunting down the last remnants of the first wave legions. The Iron Warriors and World Eaters sweep the Lurgan Ridge to the west, hunting down the Raven Guard and their coward of a primarch. Others sweep to east of Sahaal, the loyalists will not leave Isstavan alive, of that the Talonmaster is sure.
Sahaal's column had detected the Salamanders 4 days hence and had spent that last 39.48 hours in pursuit, finally running them to ground in the wreckage of one of the planet's few settlements. Pressed against the wall, the Salamanders had seen no option but to fight, it was that or dying with wounds to their backs. As it was, it had been no choice to it. They fought, and they died. The bodies of many sons of Nocturne lay in the sand, along with both of the Salamanders' Contemptor brothers, one lacking anything above the groin after a meeting with the VIIIth Rapier carriage. A Caestus ram burns in the village, wrecked by the attack run of a lone traitor Avenger fighter which also hosed the Salamanders' counter attack with it's formidable firepower before vanishing into the skys once more.
Sahaal's vox clicks as his second activates a link. "All Salamanders confirmed as dead, we count 54. At least all except those who broke off at battles end. Auspex reads 10. Requesting permission to pursue them?"
" Granted. What were our losses, Librarian?"
"3 dead, 9 wounded. I have not heard back from sergeant Zalon's assault claw though. You were with them captain, can you elaborate?"
"All are casualties, 4 are dead, 6 are wounded. Find the Apocathery for them now. Special attention to be given to brother Vankas if he lives, he stood by me when all others around him fell."
"Indeed captain. And why did they fall?" A silence pregnant with meaning invades the vox, it is a unspoken truth that to accompany the Talonmaster in battle is a virtual death sentence.
"It is of no matter. Apocathery now."
"Yes lord, I will fetch him momentarily."
"Are we done here? The joys of pursuit call to me."
"Almost captain. We have a prisoner."
Sahaal smiles behind his faceplate. "I'm coming to you."
His jump pack ignites with a roar of turbines and he leaps off his perch, and descends towards the librarian standing in the shadow of the Salamanders' predator, its magna-melta staring forlornly up into the sky. With a thump, Sahaal lands and straightens, maglocking his helm to his leg as he does so.
" What killed this then?" he asks, tapping the tank with his claw.
" I did" Brother Helcon booms as he strides past, his assault cannon and claw stilled once more, barely a scratch marking his sarcophagi.
" Impressive" the raptor says, raising a hand in acknowledgment. " Now, that prisoner?"
The librarian motions to a gaggle of marines to one side who wander over. Sahaal recognizes them as 8th Tactical Claw, and a lone warrior of the Atramentar as well. Held limp in their hands is a warrior of the XVIIIth, his helm crest marking him out as a sergeant.
" Would you like to interrogate him now or after we have run his brothers to ground?"
" Now, it think. Before he builds up his defenses."
Sahaal turns to the captive Salamander and gently lifts his helm up. "Can you hear me, cousin? Do you know who I am?"
" I...hear you. And I know you."
"Very good. Name, squad designation and company?"
"Aliso Vorren, 2nd tactical squad, 139th Company, XVIIIth Legion."
"Perfect. For formality's sake, I will ask you this now.Where is your Primarch, where is your legion rally point and how many of you survived the Dropsite?"
Vorren chuckles. "Go screw yourself, I'll not talk."
There is a harsh metallic crack as Sahaal's gauntlet meets the sergeant's helm, snapping the astartes' head back against his powerpack.
"That wasn't very fair, was it? I did ask you nicely. So let's try this again. Where is Vulkan, where is your rally point and how many of you scum still live?" The claw blades slip through the sergeant's breastplate and into the flesh beyond.
"Ugh...I'll still not...agghhh...talk."
"Are you sure?" The claw twists, rending Nocturnean muscle under its touch.
The Salamander screams in pain, Sahaal's claw has reached the abdomen. "I..Will..Give..You..Nothing."
The claw withdraws with a shluck. "Somehow I believe you. But I say this, you will talk. If not to me, you will talk to him." The bloodstained claw rises to point to the VIIIth's Librarian "Well, I say talk which implies you have a choice. You really don't. Satalinus will rip what I want from you, whether or not you co-operate. Remove his helm." A pale and blood-drawn face is revealed, a Terran it seems. "Release him."
The Salamander falls to his knees, blood pour from his wounds. "No....the anvil tempers me. I..Will..Never..Break."
Satalinus steps closer, hand reaching out to rest upon Aliso's forehead. Sahaal smiles. "Trust me, you will. Our Librarius specilise in cracking stubborn prisioners' minds open and Satalinus is one of the best. One final chance, sergeant Vorren, tell me what I want to know. No...?"
A goblet of spit strikes the embossed skull on Sahaal's breastplate, and begin to slowly slide down onto the midnight blue plate.
The Talonmaster laughs to the sky," We have our answer then. Begin."
The screams echo from the ruined walls, the sound music to the Talonmaster's ears.