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In Part 1 (click to read) we find Volstag Dragonclaw, Space Wolf Scout, with no armor or weapons, up in the boughs of a tree with no memory of how he got there. He does remember being betrayed by the planet’s PDF and he remembers being tortured by a Night Lords apothecary. As these memories are coming back to him, a patrol of traitorous PDF troopers comes by, whom he has just dispatched…
(part 2 of 5)
Though it gave him no pleasure to kill injured men, Volstag knew that leaving them alive was a liability; if found, they’d give away anything they knew. He gave them quick deaths at least, certainly more merciful than just leaving the crushed sergeant alive in the snow or the trooper whose jaw and neck were likely broken. The last traitor who’d given up his rifle to serve as a spear woke up with crimson speckling his swollen lips and bruises welling under his eyes.
“Praise the Emperor,” he whispered. “Praise the Emperor you’re still alive, sir. I didn’t want to do it. Please believe me, my lord, I’m not a traitor.”
This angered the lone wolf more than the betrayal itself. “First you renounce your loyalty and your Emperor,” Volstag snarled, “then you ambush and kill my packmates. And now, lying bloody in the snow, your cowardice undermines even your own conviction as a traitor. You can’t even die clutching at your heresy? Beg for mercy when you’re kneeling before the Emperor in the afterlife, coward, because you’ll get none from me.”
With a final stroke of bayonet, the wolf delivered a quick and silent death.
Volstag surveyed what gear the traitorous PDF troopers had carried. About useless, he thought. Even if he could fit into the flak uniforms, even if his pride would allow him to degrade himself by doing so, it offered less protection than his usual Astartes scout armor. No, he’d rather go bare-chested than stoop to that. Praise Russ, if he only had his old suit of power armor and a boltgun he’d walk right down the fairway of Tundra Station, meting out the blessing of the bolter as he went. He’d have no fear of injury in the grey ceramite hide of a Space Wolf. But that was not an option either. For now, all he had was the leathery cloaks of wooly grox hide. It offered little protection beyond that from the wind. But just as it occluded the vision of his victims, it would hinder his own eyes, and the trailing cape of it could snag on branches or make him more visible. His own pale flesh was better camouflage than a dark wooly cloak moving through the snow. No, his tattered duracloth trousers were all he’d wear.
Lasguns and bayonets were poor weapons but they were better than nothing. Against the corrupted power armor of Chaos Space Marines they might only be effective at point-blank range. He’d use them only in desperation. The crack of a lasrifle was quiet compared to the bark of a bolter, but it might still give him away to nearby enemies. Volstag slung one rifle fixed with a blade over his shoulder and tucked the other two bayonets into a stolen belt. He ate what rations the bodies had on them, though his stomach felt strangely satisfied, as if he’d eaten during the fugue of his escape. I hope I didn’t swallow any mutant flesh in rage, he thought. That kind of tainted meat would give even a champion of the mead hall a stomach ache.
Now better equipped for combat, he found his twin hearts torn in different directions. The lupine hunger in him, the thirst for revenge and justice and honor, demanded that he avenge his fallen wolf brothers and die gloriously if need be to achieve it. Alone on this backward cattle farm of an outpost, what mattered more than a valiant death in which he took as many traitors with him as possible? But as a veteran Space Wolf with nearly a century of experience in warfare, he knew that if he, too, died in this frozen wilderness, the Night Lords and the heretical troopers in their thrall would ultimately out live him. Though the fury of Russ surged through his veins, he was but one warrior, the last of his pack, and though he might take a dozen heretics down to Hell with him and even avenge himself against their depraved apothecary, he couldn’t kill them all. Not alone. Strategically, he knew that a total victory would require help. His life would be better sacrificed getting a signal back to the Jaws of Morkai so that his great company would know the fate that had befallen their scout expedition. But he also knew that a long-range vox wave would take days to reach the distant cruiser. My honor won’t wait quite that long, he told himself. Once the signal was out, however, for the Space Wolves or, frankly, any loyal forces to act upon, Volstag Dragonclaw need not wait for a reply.
He would have his vengeance and a glorious death, he decided, but not until he’d ensured an even mightier retaliation would follow. No matter how many heretics remained after the lone wolf had died in battle, no Night Lord or traitorous mortal would survive the wrath days later that came in the form of fire from the sky. Volstag imagined the scene of drop pods raining down, bursting on the ground to release savage packs of Blood Claws and disciplined waves of Grey Hunters. Perhaps they’d even find enough of “Old Man Dragonclaw” left over to entomb in the heart of a dreadnought so that he could fight along side them on the next bloody battlefield.
This comforted him.
Among the other scavenged belongings of the dead troopers—which included lho sticks, a chapbook of heretical rants, a comb and hair oil, and a flask of amasec—there was only one item of interest: a voice-corder. It had belonged to the one called Bleakman, the talkative cultist with the lightning-painted helmet. Recorded were general complaints about Tundra Station, self-appeasing boasts, and profanity-colored critiques of his PDF superiors. But Volstag imagined a better use for it. When he found a long-ranged vox transmitter, it’d be quicker to plug in the voice-corder and let it tell his story, rather than lose precious time talking into the machine with his back to the door.
He dragged off and hid the bodies of his victims and buried their remaining gear in the snow, then hunkered down among the brush to record his whispered message:
“This is Space Wolf Volstag Dragonclaw.
“Days ago, I know not how many, the Space Wolf cruiser Jaws of Morkai intercepted a distress call from the Planetary Defense Forces of Tundra Station. The Station is a small Imperial outpost on Theta-Crom IV, an icy agri-world used for raising herds of long-haired grox. It has little other value. Perhaps that’s why the bored PDF troops turned from the Emperor’s light to the temptations of Chaos.
“The distress call stated that a space vessel was refusing to answer hails and preparing to land. Tundra Station was concerned about who might be aboard.
“An hour later, an abrupt follow-up message declared that the call was a false alarm and anyone listening should disregard.
“Wolf Lord Scarred-Eye, master of the Jaws of Morkai, as wise as his teeth are long, dispatched a pack of nine Wolf Scouts aboard the recon shuttle Void Stalker. My pack landed in secret and discovered the renegade space vessel had indeed landed and was home to a roving band of Night Lord Space Marines. We were confident that by taking command of the local PDF garrison we could handle the situation ourselves. What we didn’t know was that chaos worshippers within the ranks of the PDF had already usurped control. When we made our plans with them we’d unknowingly exposed ourselves to traitors and were ambushed by their Night Lord masters. Eight Space Wolves have died. Shamefully, not all went in battle nor on their feet.
“I am now the last of my pack.
“Lord Scarred-Eye, I pray to Russ this reaches your pointy ears and that you bring the full wrath of the Space Wolves to the traitors of Tundra Station. I shall do what damage I can, then see you in the mead halls of the afterlife.”