A story of the death of Bernhard Vergilius, and its effect upon those who knew him.
I never really thought what I would do with my life. When I was young, I never really thought about the future. I never imagined anything outside my world. Never caring, never noticing. So long as I was happy...
"Sir!" A mysterious voice emenating from outside his room door boomed, "All squads accounted for!"
Colonel Bernhard Vergilius' eyes snapped open. For a moment, he was disoriented, looking up at the cold metal roof above his head. He hoped he was back home, that the nameless horrors of the past few years was all just a long dream. He hoped, with all the fibres of his existence, that the man speaking was just... another butler... that he would see his family again.
"Sir? Is everything alright in there?"
The voice brought him back to reality. He was upon Inquisitor Lord Junius Fabianus' personal warship. He had asked for the task of saving a world falling quickly to Chaos. By the time he had arrived, things had looked bleak. No known members of the PDF had survived.
Instead of damning the world, a Civilised World if he remembered rightly, to Exterminatus, Colonel Vergilius asked for the time to prepare his soldiers to attempt to retake it. It was stupid, and such an act would likely get many of them killed, but Bernhard couldn't watch helplessly another world burn before his eyes. He'd watched his own, and the act had haunted his nightmares for the rest of his current life.
He'd retired to his room to wait for his soldiers to ready themselves. It was strange. He didn't remember going to sleep. He hadn't been getting much sleep lately. He knew what waited for him there. Years had passed, but Triton never faded from his mind. The memories of the family he couldn't save still haunted him. They would never let him go. Such was the punishment for his weaknesses.
The door slid open, revealing a soldier, evidently the one who had been knocking.
"Sir, the regiment has--"
"Assembled," Bernhard replied, "yes, I know. Just... give me a minute and I'll be down with them, Private." The soldier nodded, leaving, but concern showed in his eyes. Few in Bernhard Vergilius' regiment knew nothing of his past, and even fewer knew nothing of his moods. Bernhard moved over to his wardrobe, aware this might be the last time he wore his uniform.
... but like all things, happiness is fleeting, lost before we can grasp it. Now, I understand my feet have been set upon the path of righteousness. The path was set before me. I only had to walk it...
"Arriving at the LZ."
The Valkyrie pilot shook Bernhard awake from his reflections. In a daze, he allowed himself to be led off the landing ramp into the hastily erected command bunker. Everything seemed so unreal to him, just a dream. All just a dream.
Perhaps he would wake up, woken up by an alarm. The thought made him almost smell the air of his world again.
He remembered, then, the flames, the screams, the nightmares than stalked the streets. He remembered, the name of the one who caused it all, the monster made all the more terrible by the fact that it was no denizen of the Warp, no being formed of pure evil, no creature wrenched from hell, but a man. A mutant, but still, just a man. It made his crimes all the more terrible. When Vergilius became Colonel of his own regiment dedicated to exterminating Chaos in all its forms, he knew all he had done was waken a sleeping dragon, and give it cause to take arms against him.
The monster, Algernon Gosselin, had tried different tactics, corrupting entire worlds simply to taunt Vergilius, to prove even with Lord Inquisitor Junius Fabianus and an entire regiment at his side, he still couldn't stop Algernon. This time, however, he had grown overconfident, or perhaps he had miscalculated. Bernhard had arrived, which made Algernon obliged to face him. To flee now was to destroy every last part of the reputation he had built up over the years. His spies had informed Bernhard Algernon was upon this world, and now his revenge was finally in his grasp.
One thing was certain. By the end of this battle, only one would be left standing.
... walk it, never lead it. I laboured in darkness, in secret, saving world after world. Nobody would ever know of the sacrifices of each individual Guardsmen, nor anything I did. I realised I was fine with being forgotton, dying alone and unremembered, so long as it was for the sake of what's right...
The command bunker was damp and smelled of mud. Bernhard was fine with that, for it smelt better than some places he'd been. Memories rose again, Bernhard suppressing them violently.
Vaguely, Bernhard was aware of an officer next to him.
"... with the excavation of the trenches and the advancement of hostile forces continuing at this rate, we'll be finished a full trench network before we have to fight a field battle."
"Good..." Bernhard replied, smiling, pretending he was coping, "they'll soon learn a hard lesson in warfare. Most of them are just rebellious citizens. Algernon wouldn't let any chance for the glory be in other hands. His pride is his weakness."
The exterior was a lie. Bernhard never stopped hurting since Triton. The scars had faded, but the memory hadn't. Each step of the way was an agony, the only release for which was death.
"Be as that may," the officer was replying, "Algernon is an extremely powerful psyker. We estimate he is around an Alpha. You don't need reminding of what happens with Alphas and wars, do you?"
"Go ahead. I enjoy a little talk to keep my mind off things." While talking, Bernhard knew he could pretend to be a hero, one without any measure of pain, a liberator, the savior of worlds. He wasn't any of those. He was just one man in a universe of trillions. He still had to pretend.
"Very well, Bernhard. As you know, an Alpha doesn't just fight in a battle, they control it."
"Algernon is a priority. Get some snipers on it."
"Yes, sir. You better hope snipers are enough. If not..." the officer paused and shook his head, "we might as well dig our own graves, wards or non."
"I understood the risks when I started, Lieutenant. You'd do well to remember it."
The officer bowed and left.
... for at the end of the day, Right makes Might. Or so I told myself. The truth was, I had devoted my life to revenge. I thought avenging my loved family was what was right. Now, I realise, doing what's right is never for personal glory, never done for hate. Chaos is where that path ends. The universe is a place worth fighting for...
"Hostile infantry approaching, sir."
Bernhard looked over the cover of the trench networks. A dark line of soldiers were slowly moving in the distance.
"Vox comms!" Bernhard shouted at the soldier wearing a vox communications device. "Order all artillery to fire when ready. Time to nuke these bastards to hell."
The soldier repeated his command, leaving out the last sentence. That enough was almost enough to make Bernhard smile. It had been so long since he smiled. Not since his family died. Now wasn't the time for internal reflections. Now was the time for action.
"Algernon," Bernhard muttered under his breath, "today you die. Today, every person you slew, every soul you corrupted, every world you defiled will be avenged. Today, never again will anybody else feel pain caused by you, and you alone. I know you can hear me. I know you are listening to what I say. Know this: corrupting Triton was the worst mistake of your life. I pray it is my hand which strikes you down and ends your cursed life."
As if to punctuate Bernhard's monologue, the Earthshaker batteries fired in unison. Screaming shells filled the air, arcing down and exploding in a shower of dirt and blood.
Bernhard looked up. Dark grey clouds blotted out the light, threatening to burst, staring down like the heavens themselves were passing condemnation on the deeds of the Imperial Guardsmen below.
"A storm is near..." the Colonel muttered. Shouting over the cacophony of artillery shells, he spoke again to the Guardsman operating the master-vox. "On my command, all other units fire. Nobody shoots beforehand. Afterwards, they fire at will."
Chapter Five Edit
... yes, fighting for. If we don't fight for humanity, nobody will. If we don't fight, we won't survive. That is the law of nature. While I fight for what's right, too few follow me. In this universe, the good wither, the evil grow. Humanity's enemies grow more numerous with each passing day. It requires the sacrifices of innumerable heroes daily just to keep back the tides of darkness. I have no problem with dying. Pain has no hold over me. No matter what, I will never give in. It was my turn to take back what we lost...
Rain begun falling. It was a local cloudburst. Thunderstorm doesn't even begin to describe it. Rain fell like a blanket, covering everything. The Chaos army bacame hard to see, occasionally outlined by flashes of lightning.
"Ready!" Bernhard yelled into the personal vox he used to contact all units at once. In preperation, the artillery ceased firing, and the mud began to settle.
"Lock weapons!" As one, all soldiers aimed their weapons above the trench. Bernhard waited. The Chaos army wasn't yet in range of the standard lasguns. Bernhard stood strait and yelled, his voice somehow carrying above the battlefield noise;
"Chaos! You have taken many casualties, and seen the wrath of the Imperium. Still, you advance. Now, you have far more to fear from artillery shells alone. By advancing, you have signed your death warrant."
The Chaos army was in maximum range, but Bernhard knew if he waited, the first volley would be much more accurate.
"Your violence, your relentless hatred has earned you the attentions of the Imperium of Man. The futility of your actions shall be revealed for you just before your destruction. With this gesture, we will show you the Emperor's..."
Bernhard raised his hand.
"... wrath." That was the codeword. Beams of crimson light erupted from every trench, almost entirely wiping out the first three lines of Algernon's army. The survivors fled in different directions, only to be gunned down when the heavy weapons mounted on trenches opened fire. The Chaos army pulled back, and Bernhard saw the other good reason he waited. The Chaos army was in the sights of each individual soldier for longer, and more continuead to die.
"Cultists and heretics," spat Bernhard, "they wouldn't be much of a threat if they didn't come in such large numbers. What are the estimates again?"
"Fifty thousand, sir," a member of his command group piped up, "in infantry alone. We don't know if they have any armoured vehicles."
"Shit. We only have twenty-four thousand assembled here, including vehicles. They have a twenty-six thousand majority"
"Only just over two-to-one, sir!"
"Soldier, there's a difference between an army of one thousand outnumbered by an army of two thousand, and one army which has a twenty-six thousand advantage facing ar army of twenty-four thousand." The soldier had no reply. Vaguely, Bernhard remembered something about not lowering an army's morale no matter what, but he couldn't care. They best know the truth.
His personal vox spoke up, in the voice of Junius Fabianus.
Chapter Six Edit
... but I never really had a chance, now, did I? All I had was hope. One slim hope that I could change things, that I could set in motion a move which would bring the Imperium out of injustice, out of its own destruction. I hoped I could be the catalyst which sparked the purging of Chaos from this universe. Fate intervened. It was my turn to die, to fall in service to the Emperor and righteousness. My turn to pay the price of defying Chaos.
Now, I'll never do anything worthy.
"Colonel, what's the situation down there?"
"Sir," Vergilius replied, "we have inflicted large numbers of casualties upon their own soldiers, and we have forced them to fall back. They appear to have planned for such circumstances, as they have pre-dug a trech network and filled it in with sand. As such, we are now facing trench warfare. They appear to have used no armoured vehicles or artillery, and we believe to be able to shell them out of existence by nightfall. I cannot comprehend why they would rush into battle at such will."
"Emperor's teeth..." Junius sounded very worried "they've started already... Colonel, get your men out of there now."
"I said get out of there! I'm preparing to wipe this world of the face of this galaxy."
"Sir, I'm afraid if you want me off this world, you're going to have to give me a better reason than "get off now". I'm not losing another world while I still have a chance."
"Very well, Colonel. I've decrypted a transmission which details their battle plans. They need enough sacrifices through the focus of Algernon to cause a ritual which will cause a major Warp Rift. The walls of the materium will collapse around the planet and create a gate similar to the Eye of Terror. I will scour this planet clean of life before I let that happen. Now, get off that planet, and let me destroy it."
"No. You said it yourself. Algernon is the focus for the ritual. If we kill him, we've won. The Chaos forces upon this world will dissolve into infightng."
"Colonel, you might be right. You might be wrong. I'll let you try. If you want to fight for this world, go. Know this, Bernhard; if you die, this world dies with you. I don't care how many of your soldiers are left alive, this world burns. I'll prepare Exterminatus now. Go, and die in whatever way you find most heroic."
Chapter Seven Edit
My death. I would never have expected it so soon. I thought, if I was valiant enough, I would prevail. I had to. Worlds were at stake. If I fell, how many other worlds would because I couldn't save them? How many other families would be torn apart by the brutalities of Chaos? When Triton burned, I swore to avenge my family. I would soon have the chance. Righteousness would be an impenetrable armor. Wrath would be my blade. It would be the end of this chapter of my life.
Bernhard shut the vox comm system off. Walking over to the soldier in charge of the Master-vox, he ordeed the operator to order all heavy weapons to fire at any and all targets.
Bernhard blinked. He couldn't understand where the voice came from, nor the sudden peace ovewhelming him. Shaking off the emotion, he slowly walked down to the front line of trenches. Only a few dozen had been killed. His regiment was almost at full strength. Stepping up into an enclosed area where he was hidden from the forces of Chaos, but visible to his own soldiers, he opened up an emergency communication which linked to every communications bead of his soldiers.