Dawnbringer Chronicles XV – Blessed By Blood
As the Dawnbringer Crusades continue on their quest to retake the Mortal Realms from the forces of Chaos, the Blades of Khorne are lured into battle by the promise of sacrifices to their vile god. And as Korghos Khul piles up the skulls, his favour grows…
Lakshar Bloodspeaker had lived lifetimes. He had stacked skulls by the thousand, from the sun-bleached remains of cultists to the biggest monster bones. He had seen daemons tear the seams of reality to wash the lands in rivers of blood. Visions of catastrophic violence had been visited upon him almost every day of his existence.
Yet still, today was different.
Arterial spray fountained from the desecrated troggoth corpse Korghos Khul held aloft. The boiling liquid evaporated the instant it hit the air, surrounding the Khornate champion in a miasmic halo of gore. As Lakshar watched the ichor of fresh dead drift over the raging battle, Orb Infernia pulsed with red light overhead as if in response. It had called to Khul like a lure to an allopex, and if any reaver had harboured private doubts as to their leader’s resolve, they had been silenced by the sea of warring Fyreslayers and troggoths they had found under its fell light.
All around Lakshar, the warriors of the Goretide raised their hands to the skies and let the fog paint their skin until they were scarcely more than pale teeth and gleaming eyes in the red mist. Khul did not even stop to drink it in. He tossed the troggoth corpse from the plateau’s edge before swinging his axe around in his other hand, catching a bounding squig in mid-air and sending it falling in two halves to the rocky floor. Its greenskin rider was flung from its back, screaming gibberish as it plunged its shiv into Khul’s side again and again. Khul leaned over and picked it up. His great palm closed around its green neck. The grot gurgled until its spine snapped. He shook it until the lower body fell away and splatted atop its dead mount.
‘Yes, my liege?’ The Slaughterpriest readied his axe once more.
‘Not a single one escapes alive,’ Khul said, gesturing over the plateau. Below, the ruins of Hestal magmahold still burned between the craggy links of the Adamantine Chain. Grinding waves of rock-skinned creatures hurled boulders through the shattered hold from which broken duardin still crawled.
As his warriors cleaned up the remaining troglodytes around him, Khul pried his thumb under the skin of the dead grot’s head.
‘From the foulest horror to the smallest grovelling imp,’ he continued as he peeled the skull from its flesh shell, ‘the Lord of Blood shall receive. It matters not where nor how.’
Khul did not shout, yet his voice resonated in Lakshar’s very mind, as if the Blood God echoed his every word. The blood-painted champions all around him let out primal roars over the mountainside – and every troggoth turned to the skies to howl back their challenge.
‘By Khorne’s will,’ Lakshar agreed, raising his axe to the sky. Khul leapt from the plateau. The Slaughterpriest’s mouth split in a grin of pure joy as he followed.
The carnage had been different since they returned from Rondhol. The sound of blades biting into flesh gave rise to a wet melody. Every pyramid they raised was placed with bloody reverence. Even one as blessed as Lakshar, with molten brass in his veins and the will of Khorne on his lips, could not fully explain it – perhaps it was as simple as the approving snarl on Khul’s face as he bisected each opponent, no matter how big or small.
A scrambling advance from behind Lakshar broke through the chants of battle. He swung around on instinct to smash his axe into the chest of an oncoming duardin. The flame-bearded warrior bellowed with pain, but managed to sink his war-pick into Lakshar’s shoulder all the same. The agony of the injury flared to an impossible heat as steam erupted from the wound, melting the metal into Lakshar’s body. The Slaughterpriest did not realise he was screaming until it was already dissolving into wild laughter. The Fyreslayer yanked at his war-pick – but his skin, too, was stuck fast to the weapon, sealed by Khorne’s will with a seam of his own superheated blood. Lakshar continued to laugh as he cleaved his opponent with his axe. He wrenched the melted pick from himself and tossed it to the floor. The gash in his shoulder instantly healed over with fresh skin, as deep and red as the Blood God’s own realm.
‘Our Lord of Skulls.’ The prayers fell from Lakshar’s lips as he charged at the rest of the Fyreslayers. Master-forged steel flashed in the red light as the duardin raised their weapons to meet his assault. ‘Father of the Allslaughter, do you see us?’
At the centre of the battle, Korghos Khul was locked in combat with a hulking Dankhold Troggboss. The troggoth’s hammer was essentially a menhir lashed to a tree-trunk, yet Khul did not even take a step back as he deflected the blow with his axe. The moss-carpeted behemoth roared in primal displeasure, kicking out at the champion with one huge foot to send him hurtling into the rock. Amidst the dust of Khul’s impact, Lakshar watched the troggoth scoop up a Bloodreaver and bite off their head. The blood flowed down its chin to pool between the cracks of its stone hide.
Lakshar felt a wet thump. Dimly he registered his off-hand drop to the floor, leaving a bloody stump in its place. He brought his axe around to behead the Fyreslayer that had so offended him.
‘We offer our blood!’ he screamed out. ‘We offer theirs!’
The dust cleared. Korghos Khul stood in the crater of his own impact. His skin, his armour and his weapons were dyed crimson. The troggoth’s eyes bulged with renewed interest. It threw the headless corpse of Khul’s chosen down and gurgled a fresh challenge.
‘Do you see us?’ Khul demanded, the shout pulled straight from every fibre of his body as he charged at the troggoth once more.
The air was so thick with iron mist that it caked Lakshar’s throat and nose. Hysh’s light faded behind a circle of darkness. The rusted sky pulsed with a scarlet glow as if adopting a heartbeat all its own. As Khul’s axe carved a path down the troggoth’s body, Orb Infernia above erupted with bloody rain. There was a wet rip as the fabric of reality undid itself in the wake of Khul’s blade. Spindly red limbs began to crawl out of the dying, steaming creature. Bloodletters clambered from the wound in reality to bathe in the crimson rainfall.
For a moment, as Lakshar looked upon his master, he could see red. Blood wings spread from Khul’s shoulders; a tail edged with a thousand knives lashed from behind him. Eyes as dark and gleaming as fresh-slit veins.
Then he blinked, and Khul was mortal once more, ordering his warriors ever forward.
Lakshar bent to collect his hammer. From the stump of his pale wrist now stretched a clawed, red-skinned hand. He straightened to his full height, hefting his weapon once more.
There were still more battles to be fought.
There are yet more Dawnbringer Chronicles to come – and more to see from the Dawnbringer Crusades very soon. Stay tuned to Warhammer Community for more…