The rain poured from the sky, drenching Kellen’s clothes and equipment. Undergrowth and roots made for a treacherous escape into the hills for every stride had the chance of sending him sprawling. It was a daunting task for anyone, even a well trained twelve year old boy. The caves where he could elude the beasts long enough to get back to the Deliverance were his only chance. Silently he did thank the Emperor for the downpour that masked his running through the undergrowth and moved as fast as he could mindful of his steps.
Coming to a slippery stop, he came to face a muddy slope that was impassable. There was no going back the way he came. The draw in the terrain feature was not on the maps that he had studied long ago with his father and Chaplain Azariah. Erratic weather patterns and terrain were against him today as well as the monsters that followed. They boxed him in with no retreat. Like his father and the others he might die, but not without a fight.
Dumping his pack on the ground, Kellen removed the combat knife from its sheath. Easily as long as his arm the blade was more like a small sword in his hands. Black, perfectly balanced, and razor sharp, he had been told that it once belonged to a champion for the Emperor. Given to his father upon retirement from his service it had now become his son’s. Kellen imagined the warriors who had held this weapon and the enemies that had died by their hand.
Taking the strand of black pearls from his neck he wrapped them around his hand and hilt of his weapon. He recited a silent prayer of vengeance and continued his preparations for the fight ahead. Faith in the Emperor would keep him alive.
As the rain let up a bit, noise from far off in the brush alerted him to the approach of the pack of monsters. One on one he could fight and have a good chance at survival. He might even be able to fend off two but a pack of at least three or more were hungry and on his scent.
It hadn’t always been that way in the beginning. When the sky turned overcast and the spores fell the packs had been larger and organized, something other than feral. Father had said it was a miracle from the Emperor that they all hadn’t been killed in the first few days of the infestation. Then, without warning, they reverted to a more bestial state and the transformation of the planet tapered off into a stalemate between humans and the Tyranids.
Years had passed since the monsters had emerged from hiding and everyday was a struggle for survival to the next. Slowly but surely, the Tyranids were evolving and humanity was becoming extinct on Helicus II. Kellen vowed to himself that he would show them the definition of extinction at the end of his blade. He hurriedly finished his preparations for battle, maybe his last.
The first of the creatures scampered into the draw following the same path Kellen had just used. Their heightened sense of smell could be confused by the rain but not for long. It had really only been a matter of time before they caught up with him. Staring him down the creature looked back the direction it had come as if silently calling its companions.
Baring it’s teeth, the creature let out a hiss in Kellen’s direction. Slowly it attempted to press him towards the back of the draw by frightening him. The gaunt took a few steps forward into the mud as the rain came down in torrents. Kellen was not intimidated by his presence or actions.
About size of a large canine it had more than twice the muscle mass of other creatures its size and a nervous system that rivaled actual astartes. The creature’s reptilian tail had a mind of its own. Some of the first had shooting type weapons but they had died out early on as they evolved for the need to survive. Close combat gaunts dominated with claws and teeth on the ground and gargoyles with wings and talons in the air. Less common but more evolved were the genestealers and the worst were the Broodlords. Chaplain Azariah had taught him that were some known as Lictors but he had not, the Emperor be praised, run into any of them.
The second of the creatures followed the same trail as the first and entered the small clearing. Both seemed to acknowledge each other and began circling slowly in opposite directions to press Kellen back into the embankment making another run for it difficult or impossible. They may have been bestial but they had an enlightened mentality, due to a controlling hive mind, offering up no escape for their prey.
Kellen kept both in front of him for the moment, figuring which was nearest to give himself a heartbeat at most against the furthest beast. Trying to feint against the one on his right, Kellen let out a low growl and half heartedly lunged to antagonize it into moving first.
Both gaunts leapt at Kellen in response and that would be their last act. Hunger overrode any shred of rational thought as both lunged for Kellen.
Kellen brought up an arm to grapple one gaunt mid-flight and used the creature’s momentum to toss it into the undergrowth. It landed a couple of meters into the foliage with a loud crash and cry of pain. Kellen turned instinctively to slash at the one on his left, impaling the creature mid section. The awkward positioning and force drove him to the wet ground. He quickly got back to his feet he and removed the blade from the gaunt. It lay heaped in the mud showing no signs of life.
The undergrowth broke apart as the remaining gaunt raced back through the mud towards the boy who awaited him. Snarling mid run, the gaunt lashed at Kellen’s legs, attempting to gain a hold and obviously drag him to the ground. Leaping out of the way, Kellen hit the embankment as he struck the creature with the combat blade leaving his stomach open.
Kellen’s maneuver saved him, but he cried out in pain in the exchange and fell to his knees as soon as he hit the ground. Gripping the blade and pearls, he grasped at his stomach with his free hand, looking for the beast. Blood was flowing over his torn fatigues and into his hand. The gaunt had struck a blow to his mid section rendering Kellen’s body with its claws but he couldn’t bring himself to look anymore than a second.
A hooked horror emerged out of nowhere across the muddy field. It consumed Kellen’s vision. The creature was three times his size and had six arms. The tendrils from where a mouth should be, grasped the dead gaunt Kellen had killed first. A claw, or foot, held the second gaunt on the ground. The reason he hadn’t noticed before was that the creature was blending into the environment. Its coloring change with its movement to blend in and the rain seemed to ignore the creature itself as if it weren’t there. The creature was noiseless creating a dead zone of silence despite its size.
“If there ever was a time that I needed a miracle it would be now,” whispered Kellen. He knew he could not defeat this monster or even put a dent in its armor. It was a Lictor, the same creature that had killed Techmarine Var and Brother Harke. It was stronger, faster, and more intelligent than the others. It was an advanced creature of considerable power and not a match for a twelve year old with a knife.
Finishing the gaunt in its grasp, the creature crushed the other under its weight as it moved towards Kellen sensing the emotions welling up inside the boy. It instinctually presumed the next meal was frozen in terror. The scent of blood was masking what Kellen really felt.
Standing erect, Kellen faced the creature none the less. Fight in every breath is what Sergeant Asher had taught him before he had been taken down. Fight in every breath. Today he chose to die and maybe, just maybe, take one more with him unto death.
“Make sure it’s dead,” said a black clad and robed marine, indicating towards several other green armored warriors. He was a giant even by astartes standards. He wore no helmet, showing his older, hardened face and skull cut brown hair. A smoking plasma pistol indicated a weapon that had been used, most likely on the Lictor. The Dark Angels Chaplain was formidable indeed in his skull adorned armor.
Kellen blinked rapidly to get his vision back and put his arms down from protecting himself from flying pieces of remains. He watched the marines efficiently move to secure a perimeter and follow orders. Kellen then looked to the chaplain that had saved him from certain death. It had been more than two years since he had contact with another living soul that had not wanted him as a source of food. His prayer had been answered.
The chaplain nodded in acknowledgment as if in a silent conversation with someone else. “That will be fine for now.” The marines moved into new positions and secured the area. Looking at Kellen he waited before speaking, examining the boy who stood in the rain. “I have many questions that you are about to answer,” pointing the pistol in Kellen’s direction. “Where did you get that strand of pearls?”