Private W. Loxon, an unlikely hero of the Imperium.
It had been nearly three years since Wesley Loxon, his brother Xavier and their friend Hayden had joined the guard. So much had changed since then. He had seen so much and done so much and some how had managed to survive all the horror that came with being a trooper in the Imperial Guard.
Xavier, his older brother, had died only a few months after joining up. The tragedy had almost made young Wesley become a deserter but his fathers voice, echoing in his head, had encouraged him to stay. “Don’t be a failure all your life boy, join the Guard and be somebody”. His Dad had served quietly in the guard for seven years as a clerk. Then he was called upon to fight at the third battle of the Steel Nile against the Tau and both his arms had been blown off by a sharp shooter.
Loxon’s childhood friend, Hayden, had survived many battles with him and was even awarded the Iron Skull due to his unwavering courage against a sea of Tyranids in his second year as a Guardsman. In the same battle Loxon had cowered in a ditch, pretending to be dead while his friend fought bravely a few feet away from him. Sadly only a few weeks ago Hayden had contracted a horrific blood disease when Ork blood had spilled into an open wound on his forearm. He went into a fever and then passed away with Loxon crying at his side.
Now Loxon was alone. Yes he had his battle brothers but he felt isolated from them. They were burly, veteran war heroes. He was no hero. He just had a knack for survival plus he had been incredibly lucky.
One time a grenade landed square at his feet. Flung at him by a traitor guard. Loxon had just stared at the little bomb in complete shock. Miraculously the grenade was faulty and did not explode. The only thing to explode for him that day was his explosive diarrhea.
Now it was the eve of yet another suicidal battle. Commander Madrax Gentile had ordered a forward push on a Chaos Bastion. An entire infantry battalion would simply and idiotically, in Loxon’s opinion, march straight at the bastion. Straight into the enemies heavy artillery. Commander Gentile had informed his men that they would win the day by sheer numbers. Loxon had gulped hard at the news and felt his bladder go weaker than usual. Commander Gentile was not known for his intellect or his sanity. However he was known for winning many, many bloody battles but at the cost of millions of lives.
That night Loxon didn’t sleep a wink. Others around him snored contently while he trembled under his itchy blanket thinking about walking towards enemy canons. He thought of fleeing but deep down he didn’t want to disappoint the Emperor but, more so, he didn’t want to disappoint his father and brother. He tried to think of happier times to ease his worried mind but could remember nothing but battle, death, blood and decay.
As the three Suns started to rise Loxon was already up and dressing. The push would be in another three hours but he could not sit still. He checked and re-checked then checked again his weaponry and supplies. All he’d be taking was his lasrifle, two grenades, his battle blade and a laspistol his brother had found for him. As this was not, technically permitted, he kept the pistol tucked securely under his chest flak armour.
Loxon nervously took up his position with his squad. White squad of the Mighty 77th consisted of 10 men, including himself and Lieutenant Canuck, a highly decorated squad commander, who had been in the guard for a dozen years. Loxon felt some comfort in having such a well respected war hero with them. Canuck pushed his men hard and expected a lot but his skills in battle strategy were nothing less than astounding.
Before Loxon knew it, it was time for the “push”.
Loxon’s hands sweated, just like before every other battle. His mind was a blur of images of his mother father and brother.
The whistle blew and off they marched. The sky was blood red and dark clouds hung heavy and menacingly. The land was dry black ash dotted with the occasional stagnant putrid water hole. Here and there, there were remnants of past battles and wars. Some twisted, rusted barbed wire, a half crushed human skull that had blackened with time.
Loxon stared ahead and tried to keep in step with the rest of his squad. His squad was accompanied by four other squads but his was in the lead.
The Chaos bastion was a mile away but they were soon spotted by the enemy and the crack of artillery fire broke the eerie silence.
Crack-Thump! Twenty yards to the left a direct hit blew apart Green squad leaving only three men alive one of which was screaming for his missing legs. It would be a long wait before any medic would come to his aid. The other two troopers kept walking. Crack-Thump! Another direct hit. This time Red squad was hit but only one man was killed out right but three others were wounded so badly they could not move.
More artillery fire came at the Battalion unleashing a relentless barrage of death. More squads would follow but all Loxon could think of was what would happen when he gets to the Bastion?
They were three hundred yards away when a shell hit their own formation. Boom! All but Loxon and Lt Canuck were killed. Canuck hauled Loxon to his feet and screamed in his face “Keep walking trooper!!”
Loxon, now covered from head to toe in the blood of his comrades kept walking. Canuck was at his side quietly murmuring to himself.
Two hundred yards.
One hundred yards and then small arms fire came at them from the parapet of the Bastion.
“Gaaarrrrhhhh…” Canuck cried out when a bolt went straight through his upper right thigh. He fell to one knee and opened fire with his rifle. Loxon stared at his commander for a moment before swinging up his own lasrifle and fired off a few rounds.
Heavy Bolter fire came at the two men from the left and Canuck fell to the black earth clutching the ragged mess that was once his stomach. Loxon turned and fired blindly. He wanted to run the way he had come but he could not desert, he must be strong. He did not want to be labelled a coward. He had seen what became of cowards over the years. They were either executed or enslaved by wealthy pit fight owners. Then made to fight for their lives in deadly hand to hand battles for entertainment.
He crouched down to Canuck to see if there was anything he could do to help. “Fight them you Bastard!” Canuck screamed. “Fight them and make me proud. Do it for white squad.” Canuck cried out at him.
Loxon picked up Canucks discarded rifle and slung it over his shoulder.
He grit his teeth and crept towards the Bastion unseen.
The wall of the huge towering Bastion was damp with mold. He looked up at where he could see bolters muzzles firing. How would he get up there, he wondered? 50 yards to his left he saw three Yellow squad troopers get to the wall. He could see that one had a rope with a grappling hook. Loxon slowly made his way over to them. Just as he got there several grenades were flung down by the enemy above. Three almighty cracks split the air and sent Loxon hurtling backwards. He landed hard on his back. For a few moments he just laid there stunned. He sat up and looked over to what remained of the three yellow troopers. He saw a helmet split in half. A few chunks of bloody and smoking flesh and a bent lasrifle. Private Loxon looked around the rest of the battlefield and was awe struck by the silence. The sound of battle was gone and apart from a few distant painful screams there was no more noise.
Loxon also noticed something else. He was calm. He was not shaking like usual. He felt a strange kind of peacefulness. He got to his feet and did a quick check to make sure all his bits and pieces were intact. He looked out over the battlefield. Only he was on his feet and by the looks of it the entire battalion had been wiped out. He looked up at the dark ominous bastion. The firing had stopped. He could not see or hear the enemy.
Despite his calmness he did feel lost. What was he to do now he wondered?
He started to slowly walk back towards his one lines in the hope he would find others or at least someone still alive. The notion came to him that an enemy sniper might just put one in his back at any moment. He didn’t care. He really didn’t care. Something had changed in him.
Suddenly, a static voice echoed through the sky. “You there!”
Loxon stopped and stood perfectly still. His heart did not race and his hands did not sweat. “Lone soldier, turn and face us.” The gritty static voice ordered. Loxon paused for a moment and then slowly turned. Bam a spot light clicked on and shone straight into his face. He squinted and raised a hand to shadow his eyes. “Your army is gone. You are alone. You are lost yes? Come to the light my friend. We can offer you shelter, food and anything else your heart desires.” The voice had a strange hypnotic feel to it. Part of Loxons mind felt compelled to do exactly what the voice wanted him to do. Another, bigger, part of his mind was much more defiant.
Loxon started to walk towards the light. “That’s it my brother. Come to where you want to be. Safe and nurtured.” The voice urged.
A rickety rusted wire cage-like elevator was lowered down the wall from above.
“Come my brother. With us, everything will be ok.” The voice soothed.
Loxon climbed into the cage and it immediately started to be raised up to the parapet. When he reached the top, dirty and scabbed hands reached out for him and helped him into the parapet. The faces he saw were like death masks. Pale, scarred and blood smeared. Their eyes were dark with red rings around them. Their voices were whispers. “Welcome brother, welcome to your new family. We will keep you. We will make you strong.” They all hissed as one. Loxon knew exactly what they were and his teeth ground together. These foul smelling and ghoulish looking warriors were once just like him. They were once the Emperors Imperial Guard. Now they were now tainted and warped heretics. They were traitor guardsmen.
They lead him down off the parapet via a series of wet stone stairs. Then he went through some tall iron doors and down a dimly lit corridor. “Where are you taking me?” Loxon asked trying to sound a little like them and less like a non-heretic. They murmured and chuckled in their raspy voices but didn’t answer the question.
They went through another set of tall iron doors and Loxon found himself in a small temple-like room. A thousand red candles burned but still the room felt dark. In one corner there were a pile of rotting corpses. Some fresher than others. A few rats had perched themselves on top of the dead as if claiming the mountain as theirs.
In the opposite corner there stood a tall dark figure draped in a blood red cloak.
“Welcome.” The tall figure said in a deep, unearthly voice. “I am Lord Drachdyre of the traitor guard legion. Tell me, are you ready to join us or ready to die?” The dark Lord asked without even turning to face the guardsmen.
Loxon smiled broadly and said, “Now I am here with you, I AM READY TO DIE!” With that Loxon pulled the pins from his two grenades and started to laugh. Lord Drachdyre and the cohort of traitor guard in the room screeched in horror just before the two grenades blew apart the entire place and everyone in it.
– End –