Storms of Grevahdi: Part One - The Holy Warmaster
Posted By: Alex Kane<email@example.com>
Date: 7 November 2007, 4:17 am
The blazing orange sun shone brightly, even through the wall of intense smog and black dust that continually manifested and polluted the skies of Grevahdi. This was a world near death; though its dunes endured yet against blood and fire, its precious oases had been lost to the glassing of its settlements by the swarming vessels of opposing Covenant fleets in orbit. The once-revered skuumat trees were now all but extinct, along with the few animal species native to the sands. All that remained of the mythic world were its ravaging storms and the alien camps scattered across its surface, unwelcome and unaccommodated.
The Holy Warmaster--the former "Arm of the Prophets," Durj'sriik--surveyed the sweltering battlefield that had once been the Bau'ri Imperial City of Ylateen. His palms bled from the strain of their grip on his two ceremonial plasma blades. His scarred body ached with fatigue and his soul grew darker with each moment of combat, but his resolve remained unhindered. He could feel the pores on his scalp sprouting sores from the weight and endless friction of his helmet. He disliked the cumbersome weight of his grenade and ammunition bandoliers, the discharged beam rifle mounted on his back atop his deactivated Kig-yar energy shield. All around him, his Elites and their scarce engineers regrouped and gathered the weapons of their fallen brethren. His second in command, Theil'hask, came to his side without the insult of a poorly selected word.
"The temple at the core of the city," the Holy Warmaster rasped. "We must seize its treasures before the Brutes."
"You speak truly, my friend," Theil'hask replied. The elderly warrior was a more fragile creature than most of the Elites in the Holy Warmaster's rogue fleet, a testament to the rationality and philosophical roots of the now-warlike Sangheili species. He wielded only a primitive single-bladed variant of the traditional plasma sword, a relic of the ancient war against the species that became their heretical Prophets.
"My Lord," interrupted a squawking Unngoy, Dalgib, "Our Hunter has already wandered inside the base of the building!"
"This is unusual," the Holy Warmaster replied. "Lekgolo beasts never stray from direct orders unless it is absolutely dire..."
"Perhaps it has a good reason, then," Theil'hask reasoned. "We should get moving."
The entire squad of Elites and their solitary Grunt commrade, Dalgib, began marching in recon formation toward the massive temple. Plasma blades ignited with a roaring simultaneous hiss.
"Me use the fuel rod cannon?" Dalgib asked, his cowardice possibly warranted.
"You may," said one of the Sangheili warriors as he hefted the weapon from his back and onto the Unngoy's shoulder harness. "Conserve ammunition and do not fire unless we're all out of the way. Remember what Vurnum did to Trehl'dus."
The newly empowered Grunt led the way into the ancient stone installation. The low, gutteral bellow of their lone Hunter could be heard deep within the bowels of the temple.
Theil'hask glanced at Durj'sriik, whispered: "I smell the sickening stench of Jiralhanae."
The Holy Warmaster shook his head. "No--Drones."
The shadowy naive of the colossus amplified the distant shrieks of two distinctly different sources. The empty hall of alien columns and pedestals where once beautiful statues had been broken off led into a single doorway, relatively the height of a Wraith tank. Once the squad of Elites had reached it, the Holy Warmaster signaled for Dalgib to inspect the room beyond via the tiny rectangular hole in the door. He crept toward the door, obstructing the others' view of the gap.
"Our Lords! Oh, Gods, take me! Aaaaaahhh!" Dalgib dropped his fuel rod cannon and scampered toward the Elites for salvation from the horrors beyond the door. Durj'sriik seized his throat and lifted him from the ground.
"Cowardly Grunt!" the Holy Warmaster barked. "I should--"
But he had no time to do anything before the door flung open, and a grievously wounded Kig-yar clawed his way toward them across the floor. The Jackal no longer had any legs, and his eyes appeared to have been masticated by the maw of some hellish beast unimaginable by even the Warmaster. His cries of agony were justification for spontaneous suicide.
The scarce light of the clarestory windows ceased, and a swarm of Yanme'e flooded the vast chamber, swallowing up the Jackal like some small insignifant morsel.
Blinded by a shade of winged demons bent on their destruction, the Elites brandished their weapons and let loose an eruption of rampant streams of plasma and hurled grenades into the shallow air above.
The temple ceiling rained blood, and the carnage reaked in the dry air.
"Elites!" cried the Holy Warmaster above the din of Drone extermination. "Let us make our way into the next room!"
They all complied, but many barely survived the momentary lapse of gunfire. Their single Unngoy companion stupidly attempted to retrieve his fuel rod cannon.
"Dalgib, no!" screamed Theil'hask. He reached for the idiotic Grunt's claw and pulled him toward the door.
As they made it through, one persistent Drone clasped onto Dalgib's artificial atmosphere suit and punctured the tank. The suit shot a pungent cloud of methane into the air. It stunk worse than the innards of the Yanme'e, but seemed to effectively deterr the armored insects. Durj'sriik made note that the brave Unngoy's sacrifice would be honored by the surviving Elites when the war was over.
The chamber beyond the naive was undoubtedly the heart of the massive shrine, though it had been littered with the shameful blood and fire of the Drone's previous ambush. All that remained of the fallen Jackals were their fragile skeletons and a few damaged carbine rifles. The scattered, smoldering innards of their brave Lekgolo warrior could be detected in their primitive, ununited form throughout the room.
Shrapnel from a Brute spike grenade was apparent in the scarring on the walls. Not even the claws of a Jackal could have marred the walls so viciously.
"The Brutes," Theil'hask whispered gravely. "They must have raided this temple days ago, and raised a Yanme'e hive for the sole purpose of a clever ambush. It seems to have worked."
"Not so," the Holy Warmaster remarked. "We are still alive, and the Kig-yar population on Grevahdi must have been nearly wiped out by this swarm. Look at all the ash and bones... The Brutes rely heavily on their long-ranged gunnery skill for guarding their camps. We should fly our wounded back to the medical ship by Phantom. We can commandeer Brute Prowlers and maul through their defenses during the next sandstorm--the Jiralhanae fight poorly during fierce weather."
"Truth!" shouted the squad in unison.
"Once we can seize the Brutes' communications center, we can amplify a signal strong enough to contact the Arbiter and his new human allies."
Theil'hask cursed with the prejudice of his long years as an ethnocentric warrior, though he would never allow such discontent to reach his friend's aural receptors.
"We shall send the Brutes back to the unknown hell from whence they came, and let it be known that our Prophets would have us bathe in the fires of that hell!" Durj'sriik raised a pair of crisscrossing plasma blades.
"You speak with great clarity, my friend," said Theil'hask, honoring the Warmaster.
The Holy Warmaster smiled with his tentaclelike maw. "Then let us leave this sandtrap."