‘Aebathan’ – Cthonic:, Noun:, meaning: A fatal strike to the throat of an opponent, usually reserved for ritual combat or an honor duel. From Ancient Cthonia.
Tagalla had not yet fallen. The whoop-bang of bolter fire had started. There was little blood from the wound in his neck, it had already begun to cauterize. Balak tasted the arterial spray on his lips.
Sergeant Festor was the first to reach him, gladius thrusting. Turrigor was suddenly in his path, power fist crackling, the soot-black haft of the company banner clutched in his off-hand. Muffled curses. A flash of volkite and the sergeant fell, Kallas and the other Osgothi were like wolves behind him, howling at their kill.
Balak turned. The square was alive with the retort of bolter-fire, the churning roar of chain blades. He lifted his arms and bared his neck to them all in the ancient Cthonic challenge.
The company, his company, were dying faster than his auto-targeting reticle could keep up with, threat runes winked in and out of existence as the melee raged around him. He glimpsed Lieutenant Turrius break free of the square, cutting down three of Rova Squad as he went, a trickle of others went with him; fighting clear and pushing deeper through the ruins of the Choral City where only hours before they had fought through as brothers.
A few gave pursuit, shrieking the war-cries of their homeworld. The rest stayed, pausing in the sudden stillness that fell upon the square. Some picked like vultures over the dead. Apothecary Socra moved dutifully amongst them, back bent to his bloody task. Others watched in grim silence. Sergeant Alaric flicked blood from his chainsword. Fervir simply reloaded his bolter.
Then all eyes turned at the fzzz of a power weapon igniting. Brother-Ancient Kræsos. Leviathan.
Balak faced him, unlatching his helmet with one hand, holding his dagger in the other, the blade still reddened with the blood of its only victim that day. The only one that mattered. He bared his neck.
‘What say you Terran?’
Acid-rain hissed from the power-fields of the mighty siege claw. The storm cannon thrummed. A metallic rasp whispered from his vox-unit. It was unintelligible, a heavy bolt round had buckled the grill of the broadcaster. The leviathan settled instead for ejecting the ammunition feeds from his cannon.
All through the square, the Astartes of 49th Company brayed like savages. They clustered around Kræsos, who stood silent amongst them, unmoving, betraying nothing. They pulled chains from the ruins and bolted them to his carapace, mounted grisly trophies upon him, baptizing the ancient in the blood of his brothers.
‘The Terran!’ they cried, some hanging from his great limbs, or stood upon his back.
‘The Terran! The Terran!’