Roses Never Wilt

4.5/5 (2)

Trenches, mud, corpses and craters make for the only real landscape left. I am kneeling on the edge of a trench, my once white armour plastered with blood and grime, the black cloak tattered and torn. Even my Sabbat pattern helmet has taken a bullet. I kneel there, waiting for the right moment; and watch a lone guardsman run and stumble backwards, as a Khornate Astartes slowly chases him. The Traitor has his chain-axe raised, giggling maniacally as he revs the weapon. The conscript shoots at him, the red streak hitting the Khornate’s forehead. Of course, it doesn’t do anything. The green optics in his helmet glow up with unholy power, and I can smell the stench coming from him through my helmet.


The guardsman passes me as he tries to flee certain death, and so does the utterly crazed Berserker, entirely focused on that one poor conscript. Knowingly or not, that conscript has made himself the perfect bait. I stare down at them and watch as the chase comes to its end, a single word calmly leaves my mouth: ‘Now.’

My voice echoes through the vox all eight of my Sisters can hear. Only one rises to her feet; however, just above where the guardsman stands, Domitia with her heavy bolter. Her red optics stare right at the Khornate, who looks surprised to see her. She doesn’t hesitate and fires, two rounds hit the marine’s shoulder pad, another round hits his stomach and punches through the armour. The bolter rounds explode, tearing a massive chunk of flesh out of his stomach. Guts show and the marine makes it into cover, right underneath me. I get up, and signal my Sisters to stay down and give us cover; and then jump.

As I descend, the tip of my power sword is aimed at the Astartes. With a sharp hiss, the energized blade sliced through his gorget and down into his flesh. Using my weight and that of my armour, I drive the blade down. His inhuman scream makes me shiver; but despite this, I’m still dangling on his back. I barely hold onto the grip of my weapon, and he turns around flinging me off. I crash into the trench wall, only to land on the muddy ground. The air is knocked out of my lungs; and even though he is severely injured, the Traitor Astartes makes his way over to me. He does not even bother with the blade still rammed down through his torso.

‘YOU THINK… THIS WILL… STOP ME?!’ He screams; but I can hear his pain and exhaustion. He moves slower than before.

I get back on my knees, and he grabs me by the throat to pull me up. My right hand is clenched around his arm, panting as I stare into his optics.


I stay silent, struggling to even breathe, as my left hand grabs a phosphorus grenade from my belt, managing to arm it.

The Khornate attempts to say something else. 

‘The Emperor… protects, bastard,’ I hiss at him and shove my left hand into the gaping wound in his stomach, all the way up to my elbow.

He screams and drops me, and I rip my hand back out.

Without the grenade.

A heavy thump resounds from him as a white hot flames and smoke emerge from the hole in his stomach, as well as his helmet. He screams, more than I have ever heard anyone scream. By the time he is on his knees, burning up from the inside; I am back on my feet, grabbing my sword, and pulling it out. The blade is gently glowing; however, its steel has held up. I thank the Emperor and look into the Astartes’ helmeted face.

We bless the sinner as he burns,’ I whisper.

This gets a chuckle from some of the other Sisters still hiding above the trench; and the Astartes finally topples over, his body merely a charred corpse inside his armour. Pieces of phosphorus also have hit my own armour,  the white glowing clumps beginning to burn through.  I have to hurry, as I don’t wish to see my blessed armour damaged by my own grenade; and so using my knife, I pry the burning phosphorus from the ceramite plates. My sisters now rush over to me, and help remove the glowing embers.




We have been deployed to this hellscape of a world mere weeks ago. Since the Noctis Aeterna has happened, the Order of the Sacred Rose has defended the worlds holding our sanctuaries, shrines and monasteries; but our Saint Arabella, now guides us on a holy crusade to help the remaining loyalist worlds of the Imperium Nihilus. As such, we have descended on Obost III. Two hundred Sisters, our armoured compliment and even a handful of regiments of the Imperial Guard. However, with Obost being a Imperial stronghold besieged by the forces of Chaos for some time now, we do not know whether we can save this planet or not. All of us agree though, we will either succeed or die trying.

‘Nicely done, Octavia. What about the bait?’ A smoky voice resounds through the vox.

‘Form up,’ I order.

My Sisters rise up to their feet all around me. All of them make their way down to the trench. I point at two of them, one of them carries a storm bolter. 

‘Castia, Lillith. Go get the conscript. I want to know where his damned company has gone. If he is the last man holding this trench line, I want him to get at least somewhat of a break.’ Then I look at another small group of Sisters, ‘Lucia, Rana, Valerie, Celeste. Establish a perimeter. We will take turns standing guard until we can establish communications with command.’

The Sisters nod, as they reply in a melodic chorus, ‘Yes, Sister Superior!’

As they move to fulfil my orders.

I couldn’t be more proud of them, and I smile under my helmet as I watch them leave.

‘And keep an eye on the auspex, Lucia. I don’t want to be caught off guard again,’ I quickly add.

‘Yes, Sister Superior!’ she answers.

Domitia returns, her heavy bolter’s muzzle still smoking. Again it is her smoky voice that ensures I don’t lose myself in thought.

‘Another Traitor Astartes down. If we keep up this pace, we will be done driving them back by the end of the month.’ She chuckles, hooking the heavy bolter into her belt. Domitia grabs her helmet and pulls it off of her head. Her snow white hair falls down as she exposes her scarred and burnt face, and the fact that she is blind in her right eye. I follow suit, shoving my jet black hair out of my pale face.

‘Oh, I don’t care for how long we will stay here, Sister. The Emperor wills our intervention and since our arrival we have made progress. I believe it is by his will that we purge the enemy. So why worry? Either we win another glorious victory in his name, or we will die; and be welcomed to his Golden Halls. I do not see any downside,’ I softly rebuke, even as I give her a wink.

Domitia sits down on an empty wooden crate and putting her helmet next to her, starts to clean her heavy weapon carefully and calmly.

Lillith and Castia return, between them stands the muddy conscript. He seems to be no more than seventeen years old at best. He is shaken and pale, and his eyes are still wide, as he falls to his knees. 

‘The Emperor protects! Thank you, Sisters. You saved me!’

I look at the boy, and hold out my hand to him. ‘On your feet, soldier. We have work to do. The Emperor protects all of his loyal servants, and shooting an angry Khornate traitor is what I would consider courageous.’

I smile at him, as I look at the smoking Astartes corpse in disgust.

The conscript grabs my hand and gets back onto his feet, and he bows his head gratefully. ‘Please, My Lady. I just tried to survive.’

I nod and smile again. The scar running from the corner of my mouth along my cheek, curls up like a deep ravine. ‘Well, then how about you tell me where the rest of your unit is? They should be holding this line and not leave it to us.’

‘Yes, m’lady. They should be, however, the Lord Commander wanted us to move to a different position. As we were withdrawing they ambushed us, and I got separated,’ he replies almost sheepishly. This man is not a trained soldier. Were he a Cadian, Vostroyan, or Valhallan, I would have executed him for his incompetence; but he is a conscript, a mere child. He should be working in a manufactorum. And yet he is trying to fulfil his newly given  duties.

‘Sit down, rest. We will get you back to your company in due time.’

Lillith tilts her head at my order; and her fiery temper shows once again. ‘Sister Superior?’ she asks in honest confusion.

‘He is with us now,’ I reply. ‘That is one more gun to kill the enemy. If the Lord Commander is massing troops, I doubt we will be ordered to hold this position. Castia, try to get me the Palatine… or anyone, really. We need to know our next orders.’

Castia, the youngest and accordingly the shortest member of the squad, performs the Aquila and bows her head.

‘Yes, Sister Superior.’

I leave Castia to her task, and the conscript sits down next to Domitia. She gives him a curious look before opening one of her belt pouches; only to pull out a small ration, and hand it to him. She is at least a head taller than him, especially in her armour, and gives him a smile.

‘Eat, boy. You need the energy. If the smell is a problem,’ she nods at the dead Astartes. ‘just imagine you are at a celebration, and someone accidentally burnt the meat on the grill.’

The young man looks at her shocked, and Domitia starts cackling. Lillith soon joins in, and I just roll my eyes.

There’s another explosion not too far off. Regularly, stray artillery shells still fall on  this part of the front lines; and I don’t know why they just keep bombarding this piece of mud.

‘Sister, we have a reputation to uphold. Be nice,’ I tell her.

She looks at me, purses her lips and huffs, only to nod. ‘As you wish, Sister Superior. I just wanted to make a joke.’

Finally, Castia makes her way over to us and points at her ear.

I nod, put my own helmet back on and listen to the vox.

‘The frequency is Secundus-Alpha-14, Sister. The Palatine is awaiting your report,’ Castia explains; and I nod and switch to said frequency.

‘This is Sister Superior Octavia Navita reporting: We have cleared the south eastern trench line in Grid 82-D. Also picked up a lone conscript who got separated from his company. No casualties, no serious injuries.’

‘Good to hear from you, Octavia!’ the Palatine replies. Her voice is deep, melodic and strong.

‘Same for you, Elena. So, what is the status?’

‘We have ground the traitor assault to a halt, mostly. They still have taken so much ground, I am not yet sure how to reconquer it all. There is a new mission for your squad; however…’

I tilt my head. ‘Oh? What is it?’

‘I will send a servo skull with the necessary data. Until then, hold this line. Reinforcements are on the way.’

‘Yes, Palatine. We will not disappoint. The Emperor protects.’

‘The Emperor protects, Sister Superior.’

With that I switch back to my squad’s vox frequency and listen to them chatter. Rana, Lucia, Valerie and Victoria keep making unnecessary small talk, as they guard the ends of the trench’s section we are in. 

Castia has taken another crate as her seat, and leans up against the trench wall; while Domitia and Lillith are still talking to the conscript, who seems to finally warm up some.

Aurelia, the last one, is missing. Why is she missing?

I check my HUD, her vital signs are still there. But just barely. I look around quickly but cannot see a sign of her and draw my bolt pistol.

‘Aurelia, report! Where are you?!’

There’s a long pause and my heart starts beating faster by the second. How did I lose one of my squad members without even noticing!

‘I’m… here. I think, I… Something’s hit me.’

Her voice is calm, worryingly calm. She almost sounds tired, and I feel a lump forming in my throat. The other Sisters immediately stop talking, at least those still wearing their helmets. 

The explosion we ignored earlier.

‘Sisters, stand your ground. I’ll go get her.’

‘But…’ Lillith tries to intervene.

‘Shut it.’

Immediately, I make my way up the trench before I look around. I know, this is dangerous. There could be snipers out there. I don’t care, and it doesn’t take long for me to find her either. There’s a smouldering crater not far off, and I see something white glistening in the mud. I run over to it, and the picture becomes clearer. It is indeed Aurelia laying in that crater in a pool of her own blood. Her right leg has been ripped off at the centre of the thigh, and one arm is bent in the wrong way.

I slide down the crater, drop to my knees next to her, and look at the injured woman.

‘Don’t you dare do this to me, Aurelia. Not now, not today.’

She looks up at me and points at her helmet. I slowly take it off, and move my hand underneath her helmet to support it, just in case.

Her eyes are the colour of steel. We have served for years on end together, and not once had she gotten herself injured, despite fighting with unshakable courage. She smiles at me, her black hair falling into her face.

‘Why? Worried I might… lose my reputation as… untouchable?’ she jokes.

I take off my own helmet and cannot help but to chuckle. Yet, I cannot bring myself to answer her.

‘Don’t you dare… look at me like this. If I am to die here… celebrate; for I will be welcomed in the Emperor’s Golden Halls.’ She swallows hard and my smile grows wider.

Still, I want to weep. We have known each other since the Schola Progenium. In fact, she often helped me out back then. Yet I nod, swallowing the pain of seeing her like this. ‘If we could only get her to a Sister Hospitaller…

‘Alright. Hold still, I will get you to the trench, we will stop the bleeding and then…’

‘You talk too much.’ 

She licks her lips, takes a deep breath; and I grab her healthy arm and remaining leg. Just as I am about to pull her up and over my shoulders, I hear voices and movement. 

Aurelia also freezes and presses her lips together.

‘I need my helmet. And please, help me up to the edge of the crater.’

Pressing my lips together, I hand her helmet, then put on my own and activate the vox. Slowly I crawl up to the edge of the crater, and pull Aurelia along by her reactor pack. A platoon of cultists moves past us to take the trench my Sisters are in. Another platoon appears and Aurelia audibly sighs.

I clear my throat and broadcast, ‘Sisters! The enemy is approaching from the East. Pick your targets, do not yet reveal your position, and fire on my mark.’

Aurelia looks at me. ‘Get me my bolter, Via. I still have breath in my lungs and one working arm. Help me make this count.’

It is rare to have a subordinate give you an order. But right now it is different. Quickly I get back down, grab the muddy bolter and place it in her hand. Once I have done that, I ready my own bolt pistol, and take a deep breath.

‘Sisters. Autelia and I will open fire, hitting their rear. Give it three, four seconds, then open fire as well.’

‘Yes, Sister Superior!’ a whole choir of voices answers.

We both aim. I pick the one who looks the closest to an officer, calmly let the air escape my lips, and squeeze the trigger. The bang echoes through the wartorn hellscape. My bolter round strikes the man’s head, turning it into a red mist. The projectile continues on, and strikes another cultist’s in the back, where it explodes, leaving a large crater.

Both bodies immediately topple over like puppets with their strings cut.

Aurelia also opens fire. She fires into the crowd of renegades, and their bodies start exploding before they can even react. They turn to us, seeking what little cover is available and our muzzle flashes finally give us away. So, the enemy returns fire, focusing on us.

But we are not alone. The other seven Sisters show themselves, and a holy symphony of bolter fire, accompanied by a lone lasgun erupts into the enemies’ backs once again. Valerie and Lucia both throw phosphorus grenades and white plumes of smoke erupts as burning, hot white glowing sparks are blown everywhere. It sticks to the cultists’ bodies burning cloth and flesh alike. Desperate cries erupt, screams of torment and pleads to escape righteous punishment.

It is music to my ears, and so it is to my Sisters. Domitia has climbed completely on top of the trench, laughing into the vox as she fires. Lillith quickly pushes forward with terrifying bursts from her storm bolter, promising gore and death to everyone in the general direction.The others follow as well, falling into a beautiful hymn to the Emperor as they mow down any last resistance, executing anyone still moving as they sing. Sparks fly from my sisters’ armour from autoguns’ ricochets.

I look at Aurelia who nods at me, and I sling her bolter around my chest plate, before pulling her up over my shoulder. As I force myself back on my feet, I cannot help but to pant breathlessly. Carrying a woman in power armour, even while wearing my own, still proves to be challenging. Still I push through, and make it through knee deep mud back to my squad. Lillith and Lucia almost immediately come over to us to help with Aurelia. She is almost unconscious now.

‘Make sure… the silver of my new leg… fits the trim… of my armour.’ Aurelia sounds like she is about to fall asleep. Lucia hits her helmet.

‘Eyes open, Sister! I will personally whip you if you dare lose your consciousness.’ 

The other Sisters finish ‘cleaning up’, and as I am about to give the order to retreat into the trench, a hand grabs my foot. I look down, and it belongs to a renegade with a gaping wound through his torso. He looks at me, begging silently for his life, for repentance. I wrinkle my nose in disgust, violently pull my foot from his hand, and stare at him.

I raise my pistol, and aim at his face and pull the trigger.

‘Back to the trench, count your ammo, and then try to get some rest. Two of you stand guard. And someone help Lillith and Lucia keep Aurelia alive,’ I tell them.

The Sisters don’t acknowledge my order verbally, but their activating and deactivating their microphones produces clicks that count as such. Domitia pulls up her helmet’s visor, and takes a deep breath, as she approaches me.

‘Quick thinking. I wanted to ask, could I borrow Aurelia’s bolter? My heavy bolter is nearly out, and I don’t want to fight them off with my bare hands.’

I chuckle at the mental image. And looking at her face, she would do just that. Thus, I take the bolter off of my shoulder and hand it to her.

‘Treat it with care. I want you to give it back to her in pristine condition.’

‘Of course.’ She nods and I return the gesture, as we make our way back into the trench, leaving behind the crackling of burning corpses. I can already hear the screams of Aurelia, as Lillith and Lucia cauterize the wounds to stop the bleeding.




Three hours later the reinforcements finally arrived, a regiment of guardsmen along with a Rhino carrying our Sister Hospitaller and supplies.

I decide to leave Aurelia to the Hospitaller’s care, who at least seems confident about being able to save her. Seeing Aurelia like this hurts, and I probably won’t ever forget her screams. As I grab her gloved hand, I smile at her and lean down.Quietly I say, ‘Roses never wilt, Aurelia. Never forget that. We will be back soon. The Emperor is with you, I can feel it.’

Slowly, I lean forward to give her a gentle and loving kiss on her forehead, before letting go of her again. The trench is filled to the brim with soldiers, with officers barking orders, servitors are digging emplacements and reinforcing the trenches. Servo skulls fly about and seeing the trench filled with life again warms my heart.

 A servo skull arrives and floats beside me, waiting for the command to show us our new orders. I nod at it, and then wave it away, as I turn to my Sisters; who are sitting, eating, and relaxing.

‘My Lady? Excuse me?’ It’s a familiar voice, a boy’s voice.

I turn to look into the eyes of that young conscript who has fought by our side. Softly I smile at him, the scar on my cheek curling up once again.

‘Yes, soldier?’

‘I… I just wanted to thank you, Sister. My name is Private Rico Gallaway.’

‘Sister Superior Octavia Navita. Stay faithful soldier, and the Emperor will provide.’

‘Yes, My Lady. But still… you saved me.’

 ‘We are instruments of his will after all. Now, go get back to your company. I will pray for you.’ Again, I nod and chuckle.

He bows, performing the Aquila and turns on his heel to jog back to his comrades. I watch him, as he starts to enthusiastically tell his tale, before I turn back to my Sisters.

As I do, I take a deep breath. ‘We should have a look at this, Sisters.’ I say pointing up at the skull with its mechadendrites and red glowing eye. ‘Our new mission.’ I look at it, nod, and say, ‘Show us, if you would.’ 

A sepia toned holographic depiction of this region appears. My Sisters curiously look at it, as it details a route to our primary target. Next to the map appears text, which I read out loud.

Squad Octavia. 2.43 Kilometres East of your position the 3rd company of the 438th Cadian and Squad Iulia have been trapped and encircled at the town of Nastelle. You are to break through the enemy lines and establish a corridor for Squad Iulia and the 3rd company to retreat. They are in possession of intelligence of absolute strategic value. If you cannot save them, securing this intelligence is of utmost importance.

The Emperor protects.

–Palatine Elena Karesh

I pause and look into my sisters. All of them show the same, grim face directed at me. Determination, a burning fervour guiding us. We will save them. We will not leave our own Sisters behind. Nor will we leave a single guardsman.

‘Let us speak a prayer before we go back into battle, Sisters,’ I hear myself speak. Approval follows and my now seven Sisters move to kneel down in front of me, clutching their rosaries as they close their eyes. I do it, however, still standing – I clear my throat and start praying loud and clear, so that as many of the soldiers as possible can hear it:

‘Be the agent of my blade-arm.

Be the power in my armour.

Be the spirit that guides my bolts into the flesh of the foe.

Be the fire in my heart.

Be the force that drives my blood through my veins.

God-Emperor of Mankind, You who are all we truly have or need, move me, move

through me, all in service of Your Divine, Perfect Will.

By this may all your enemies be undone, and Your name be glorified above all.’


As I speak the prayer, my Sisters repeat every sentence in perfect unison. The soldiers around us stand silent, their heads bowed as they follow along; even the Commissars and officers follow their men’s example.

The last words leave my lips resounding throughout the trench line. I open my eyes and watch as the kneeling Sisters finish the prayer. 

‘The Emperor protects,’ I utter, as a familiar warmth fills my chest, a beloved warmth. 

I pause and let my gaze wander over the crowd. All here show their faith. All but one. A lone conscript, an old man, who just stands there, looking almost disgusted? He notices me looking at him and stares back, as if to challenge me. Sudden realization dawns on me; and while my own eyes widen, his roll completely back, showing the whites. I am reaching for my bolt pistol before I can even think. And yet, I am too slow. The man’s coat splits down the middle, and shows at least two packs of demolition charges tied to his torso. In his right hand he holds the detonator. 

I am too slow. I know, I am too slow and that he will press the button, before I can shoot. It is just a heartbeat, but still it is not enough.

Suddenly, a single lasgun shot rings out, and a red streak burns its way through the old man’s face. His hands cramp up before he can press the trigger, and his body drops like a wet sack. My own gun has found its target as well, yet I don’t have to fire. I find myself staring at the corpse, and suddenly my eyes dart to the red streak’s origin. It is that Gallaway boy. His eyes are still wide with shock, as he lowers his lasgun. It’s almost as if he isn’t sure whether or not he’s done it; or if we’re all dead, and he just didn’t know it yet.

But I know, and I’m filled with joy, for now I am sure, the Emperor has heard our prayer. I smile and with that relief running through my voice, I yell: ‘The Emperor protects!’ 

This young man has proven himself to be a walking blessing of the Emperor; and as my Sisters gather around me, watch as cheers erupt and the crowd lifts Gallaway off his feet.

‘And that is why we help even the lowest conscript, Lillith,’ I say to her. ‘I will not deny that I would have been too slow to shoot that traitor in time.’

Lillith takes off her helmet for the first time today. Her deep red hair falls out, as she presents the completely shaved right half of her head; with an Aquila tattooed on the skin. She blows a few strands out of her face.

‘Be that as it may, Sister Superior. We should not risk our orders just to keep the cannon fodder alive.’

‘Look at him! He’s almost adorable with his innocent enthusiasm and pride, isn’t he? Valerie suddenly chimes in, and the Sisters all laugh. We keep watching the men celebrate, but stand aside and provide a calm and graceful presence, rather than joining in. Of course, we are not above cheers, but not for this feat the boy had accomplished. I can feel it though, this wave of relief washing through the whole of the trench line. 

Just as I want to reply to Valerie, Domitia shows up behind me and leans in to stick her head in between Lillith’s and Valerie’s. Her burn scars curl up as she smiles.

‘I say, we keep him. He has actual puppy eyes, and the guts to shoot an Astartes in the face. Makes him likeable if you ask me.’ 

Lillith almost playfully jabs her elbow into Domitia’s side. ‘And then what? Do you wish to keep your own, personal pet conscript?!’

‘Enough of this, take any ammunition we need, and load up the Rhino. We will leave in five minutes,’ I say, and put an end to their bickering. 

Domitia raises her hands in appeasement. ‘A joke, I made a joke. Good Emperor, don’t take everything so serious, girls.’

The others chuckle as they follow the order I have given, and I turn to look for Gallaway. There is something I need to do. He is sitting on a crate, enjoying a cigarette one of the officers has given him in gratitude for his quick aim, and talking to a few of his comrades. As I approach, the young men stare at me in awe; and I try my best to look as stern as possible. We Sisters do have a reputation to uphold, after all. 

‘A word, if you may,’ I say while looking directly at Rico; who shows me those very puppy eyes that Domitia mentioned. His friends scurry off, leaving him to hold the line on his own once again. I kneel down in front of him, and offer him a soft smile that curls up again, the deep scar in my cheek.

‘You should be proud of yourself, Gallaway. Here… I have something for you.’

I reach for my belt and open one of the pouches before pulling out a silver Aquila necklace. As I look at it my smile grows sad and Rico notices. He wants to ask, but doesn’t dare. Instead, he just looks at me with his brows furrowed. I do provide an explanation though.

‘This was my brother’s. After we both finished Schola Progenium, he went to serve as a Commissar. One year in, he died fighting an Ork Boss. He died bravely. But…’ I look up at Rico and my smile grows a slight bit wider. ‘…You somehow have his eyes. That spark, that enthusiasm. You remind me so much of him, and I do not know if I will ever see you again. So here, take it.’ 

As I offer the necklace, he hesitates. He does not know what to say, but he does not have to say anything. I have made my decision already, when earlier I saw him sitting there all sheepishly next to Domitia. I gently grab his hand, let the necklace slide into it,and close the hand for him.

‘The Emperor protects, Private Rico Gallaway. He always does.’

I get back on my feet and offer one last smile before I take the helmet off of my belt and put it on. Cold, red lenses stare down at Rico and I turn around without saying another word to return to my Sister. I would like to say more, however, I can feel that lump in my throat again; and I don’t want anyone to hear me like this. One day maybe, but not this day. 




We have finally boarded the Rhino. Rana is driving the tank with Lucia sitting on the passenger seat right next to her, ready to mount the storm bolter if necessary. 

The rest of us sit in the back, doused in blood red light. Some of my Sisters send last prayers to the Emperor, others perform maintenance on their weapons.

‘You know… they could have at least given us a hose to wash the blood out of the Rhino,’ Lillith quietly utters into the vox and Celeste looks up; for the first time today actually opens her mouth for anything other than prayer, or to acknowledge orders. 

‘It is the blood of our Sisters. Honour it, for they have died fulfilling the Emperor’s will. And one day, we will as well.’

‘That is true indeed. However, it is just that it is detrimental to most soldiers’ morale to sit in the blood of their comrades.’ 

I let out a quiet sigh. ‘Enough bickering. Get ready. How long?’

‘Five more minutes. We are already picking up on some gunfire. They are still alive,’ Rana replies.

‘Alright. You know the drill, Sisters. We surprise the enemy, kill everything in our way, and break through. Whatever it may cost, for we are the conduits of the Emperor’s Perfect and Divine will.’

‘Yes, Sister Superior!’ The squad yells in unison with not one shred of doubt or hesitation in their voice. And if we all were to die here, we would still jump into the fight with just the same determination.

‘Two minutes,’ Rana utters into the vox. She does not take the eyes off the way we go as she is highly focused at this point to avoid any obstacles. 

‘Copy. Sisters, prepare to march. The Emperor is with us.’ I say as clearly and calmly as I can. 

The Rhino approaches the ruins of an old factory building just near the edge of the town. The fact that we have made it here unnoticed still amazes me, but looking at the chaotic state of the front lines, I am hardly surprised. At least the cover of the dusk helped. The tank stops inside the abandoned factory hall and drops  its ramp. My Sisters make their way out of the vehicle immediately, and I follow them as I speak over the vox to all of them.

‘Rana, Lucia. Stay in the Rhino, follow us with some distance. We will try our best to keep you clear of mines. Provide us with fire support if you can, Lucia. The rest, with me. We will be the plough, the Rhino follows in our wake. If we face something too heavily armoured…’ I don’t get to finish the sentence.

‘I did bring a few melta bombs with me,’ Valerie chimes in. 

‘Prepared for the worst as always, are we?’ I retort with a chuckle, and make my way to a torn section in the factory wall. I peek around out to see what our path may look like. Most of the town’s buildings have been torn asunder by artillery and heavy weapons fire. And yet, there still is gunfire echoing from the town. Not far from its centre, in the former chapel, I can see muzzle flashes light up almost constantly. Our Sisters are still fighting. Red streaks also light up the chapel’s entrance. I should have expected it.

Cadia stands.

Even here on Obost.

Something explodes in the distance, a tank, I believe. By the light of the fireball, I can see silhouettes. A morbid banner of flayed skin flying in the wind. Power armour ordained with spikes and skulls. More Traitor Astartes. Their sight sickens me, but I do not feel anger as I lay eyes upon them. Instead, cold hatred fills me. Disgust and utter contempt swell in my chest. They have chosen to betray us all, and as such they shall receive divine punishment for their sins.

Enemy contact. I see… four Traitor Astartes. I do not think they are carrying heavy weapons.‘ I whisper into the microphone, knowing my Sisters will still hear me. ‘About thirty cultists. They are…‘ I pause and watch a handful of the smaller silhouettes set up what looks like a turret at first glance. ‘… Setting up a las cannon. Looks like our Sisters have retreated into the chapel.‘ 

Once this town was beautiful. Now it is but a wartorn husk. It almost amazes me that so much of the chapel is intact. 

I look at my Sisters, nod at them, and we finally make our way to the factory’s open gate and approach our target. We walk swiftly but carefully, jumping over trenches, and making sure we do not cross any mine emplacements. As we close in on the town centre, we also come by the destroyed gun emplacements. Cultists lie dead here everywhere, hundreds. The Cadians who had taken their stand here, have held the line to the very last man. I find only empty ammunition crates. We also come across two dead Sisters. One has a meltagun with her, and as I kneel down to grab it, I nod at the dead woman. The sister  has a hole in her stomach twice the size of my fist. 

‘The Emperor welcomes you home, Sister,’ I utter before getting back up and strap the meltagun over my shoulder. The Rhino still follows behind us, and just as we get into range, every last one of us brings up their bolters.

One of the Traitor Astartes turns around. I almost curse and just as my eyes widen, Domitia opens fire behind me. The harrowing shots of her heavy bolter ring out, and not once does she take her finger off the trigger.

As round after round zips past me, I yell: ‘FOR THE EMPEROR!’ 

Meanwhile, the Traitor Astartes who had turned his head to us, loses it, quite literally. A round of the heavy bolter has found its target, turning his helmeted head into a black smoking crater. He falls down with a heavy thump and immediately his brethren turn around. Their armour shows a dirty silver colour with golden trim. Some of their pauldrons and weapons even show yellow and black hazard stripes. 

Iron Warriors.

Of course, out of all traitors, they are drawn to a planetary siege. I gather my courage as I keep moving forward, firing my bolter constantly. Lillith, Valerie and I focus on the closer Chaos Marines, as they start returning fire. We manage to tear off his right arm with a hail of bolts, putting another two salvos into his chest and stomach; and Lillith finishes him off with a burst from her storm bolter, which pretty much tears his entire chest apart. 

I look to my left and at that very moment, I see Celeste get hit by a salvo of bolts herself. It tears a whole chunk out of her side, and she screams into the vox before another bolt silences her forever. Domitia continues to fire which forces the Chaos Marines to slowly retreat, as Lucia climbs up to the Rhino’s storm bolter in order to provide some suppressive fire.

The cultists have noticed us. 

‘Lillith, Valerie!’ I point at the twenty-something renegades approaching us and get quick acknowledgement through clicks from the vox. A bolter rounds zips just past my head, and Domitia focuses on the Marine who has chosen me as his next target. Castia supports her from a different angle, but as the Sisters focus on the third marine, another one carrying a massive power hammer advances on me in a full sprint. I barely have enough time to look up and dodge the blow from the sizzling, massive weapon.  As I do, I drop my bolter and draw my power sword. He is incredibly fast, and as he performs an overhead swing, I quickly leap forth, and ram my sword into his side. I know that I am weaker than him, and that his strength most likely has been enhanced by the ruinous powers; but all I need is to buy some time. 

That is, until he suddenly turns just as I pull my sword out from his side. Without hesitation his power hammer comes swinging to my side. The cracking of bones reverberates throughout my body, and my eyes grow wide. He has hit me with such force that it lifts me off my feet. I fall to my knees unable to breathe. The pain is near unbearable as he stands laughing at my demise, I feel blood filling my mouth. I manage to lift my helmet visor and spit it at his leg guards. The Traitor Astartes raises his massive hammer for the final blow. Neither of us see the Rhino suddenly crashing into him at full force. He’s launched into the air, while Lucia, immediately opens fire with the storm bolter, as he tries to stand back up. She focuses on his midsection and true to her blessed aim, she manages to tear him in half with a single burst. 

I smile at her and thank the Emperor, before I force myself back on my feet. There is still blood coming up my throat, and I know that this will be the end for me. But I still have a beating heart, a working trigger finger, and my duty to fulfil. I want to thank Lucia and Rana, but just as I open my mouth, a stray round hits Lucia in the head, and she drops back into the Rhino. 

‘No!’ I yell and close my eyes, as I pull my helmet visor down, and take my sword back. I try to get an idea of this utterly chaotic situation only to find Valerie and Lillith tearing these cultists to shreds. The renegades don’t have the firepower to penetrate their armour, so it really ends up being more of a mass execution than a battle. Meanwhile, Domitia and Castia manage to overpower that last Chaos Marine. I take a breath of relief. Maybe we will see the end of this day after all.

‘Form up, Sisters! We need to get to the chapel!’ I yell as loudly as I can. That searing pain in my side keeps pounding, pulsing; but at least I’m still alive. We make our way through the town’s ruins, followed by Rana in the Rhino. With Aurelia back at the trench, and with Celeste and Lucia dead, it leaves just the six of us. However, we will prevail. Victory or death. For us there is no in between.

We approach the chapel and again, muzzle flashes light up the building from the inside. As if on cue a headless cultist stumbles back out of the entrance, and two more shots follow, as well as another massively louder shot. The stairs up to the chapel are littered with corpses of both loyalists and cultists. A few Sisters are scattered in between them, and my hopes to find at least a couple alive start to dwindle as the chapel grows silent again.

As I make my way up the stairs, I stumble. That pain. My legs give out, and I fall to my knees once again. I pull off my helmet, and spit more blood. I have to stay alive. Awake. I have to finish this mission. Castia and Valerie grab my arms and pull me back to my feet, helped by my power armour. 

‘Come now, Via. Don’t you dare give up, or I will personally kill you!’ Valerie groans at me, struggling with the weight of myself and my armour. Lillith and Domitia take point. We follow after them, and Rana who just has exited the Rhino, takes the rearguard. Lillith enters the chapel first, and just as Domitia attempts to follow, I can hear a heavy smack, a hiss, and the screeching of metal, before she flies back out the entrance, her torso mangled and torn. My eyes grow wide as I reach for her, as if somehow I could stop her falling. Valerie and Castia both raise their bolters. I manage to stand on my own as the two form up with Domitia. Suddenly there appears another Iron Warrior. This one is wearing silver Terminator armour, carries an auto cannon, and my heart sinks. He laughs arrogantly, with his power claw still steaming and sizzling from Lillith’s blood. 

‘Split up!’ I yell; and Domitia already runs back towards the Rhino to take cover. Immediately the Terminator opens fire. As I barely can run, he ignores me in his arrogance. 

‘Valerie, the melta bombs! Castia, Rana! Distract him!’ They do as I say and Castia and Rana move to his left to flank him. A few rounds hit his helmet, but the bolter rounds don’t make it through the thick armour. It works though, and he turns towards them, firing his cannon. Two rounds miss, but the next one tears off Castia’s arm, and the other hits her in the chest. She immediately drops; while a third and fourth round kills Rana.

In the meantime, Valerie has armed the melta bomb. She flings it, and it lands on the Terminator’s right side, as he turns towards her. However, he is too slow to dodge the explosion; which goes off in a deafening roar, as I turn my head from the blinding light. When the flash subsides, I see that the bomb has torn open his armour. Blood is pouring from the holes and cracks in his armour, and the arm holding the auto cannon is down. 

We have the opening we need.

‘NOW!’ I shout, and with all the strength I have left in my body, I raise the meltagun and open fire. Valerie follows suit and so does Domitia. The heavy bolter barks and almost drowns out the sound of our other weapons. We advance slowly towards the gravely injured Terminator, and continue to fire as we finally tear the Traitor’s armour to pieces. As we get closer, I don’t notice that the meltagun is empty; and I keep pulling the trigger. Clicking away until it’s empty, as do Valerie and Domitia’. Finally, the Terminator falls, cracking the stone plates behind him in the process; and while Domitia lowers her gun, I still keep pulling the trigger. She puts her hand on my meltagun, and presses it down, looking at my bloodied face.

 ‘It is done, Sister. Castia and Rana did not die in vain.’ 

I finally realize what I am doing, and I simply nod, before I make my way into the dark chapel with its shattered windows and destroyed benches. Dozens of dead cultists and another fallen Iron Warrior lay in their own blood.

I look over to the altar and see Sister Superior Iulia sitting on the floor leaning against it. Her once white armour is covered in blood, and her body shows deep craters from various hits from bolter rounds. The altar behind her is splattered with her blood, and in front of her, lies her bolter together with four empty magazines. And yet, in her right hand, she still clutches the data slate with the intelligence that Command so desperately needs. 

I leave my Sisters behind as I stumble towards Iulia, and kneel down next to her to softly take the slate out of her hand, as I bow my head.

May the Emperor bless this day and our sacrifice, for we are his servants…‘ I whisper as I take the slate from her hand. My vision starts to blur and I feel cold. Suddenly, I am pulled back to my feet, and I see Valerie next to me. Domitia is just outside the chapel carrying Castia in her arms.

‘We have to leave now, Sister. Now.‘ Valerie’s voice is but an echo as I slowly nod. We get outside, and I walk down the stairs with shaking legs almost falling twice. It is dark by now, and despite that the horizon is still lit up with fires from the burning cities. 

Valerie lets go of me and tends to Lillith’s body, so as to carry her into the Rhino. We don’t leave our dead behind. Not today. I force myself to take these last few steps into the Rhino. Then, as everything goes dark, I feel my helmet hit the steel floor. As I have told Aurelia before we left…

Roses never wilt. 

About the Author

Suzanna is a 25 year-old student with a passion for writing. She was first introduced to Warhammer 40,000 ten years ago, and the hobby has remained important to her ever since.