"ONWARD!" The roar of company master Sammel's command rang out, joined almost at once by the heavy peal of countless bells. Amael slammed another clip into his bolter and vaulted over the lip of the trench. The grounds of the basilica were wreathed in flames. All about him the forms of robed Dark Angels advanced toward the building's main gate, their weapons pouring forth purifying fire. Hunched figures accompanied them, some swinging sweet smelling censers, others reciting ancient verses of incredible power. A colossal dreadnought, its hide covered in purity seals and the feathers of the Deathwing stalked amidst them, crouching slightly for balance as its plasma cannon opened fire on a distant target.
Through the swirling clouds of smoke and dust Amael could make out its target. Pinned down in the shadow of the basilica's adamantium gatehouse, could be clearly seen the corrupt forms of the traitor legionaries. Leering skulls and hideous gargoyles stared sightlessly from their warped armour. Inhuman horns and writhing tentacles split through ceramite plates, transforming the ancient marines into chaos-spawned beasts.
Amael fought to control his fury. The time for retribution was close. Striding forward, he signalled to the remainder of his squad to join him. Three marines swiftly followed from their position of cover and joined Amael's advance. The din of battle had grown to a crescendo. The air split as a salvo of heavy ordnance speared over their heads towards the crumbling structure that shielded the emperor's enemies. Earth erupted outwards from a near miss, knocking Amael to his feet and temporarily blinding him. Hauling himself up, the Dark Angel quickened his pace. The air was so choked with dust that the watery light of the sun had faded into insignificance, plunging the skirmish into twilight. Tracer fire opened up before him, snaking out of the dark. Ducking, he squeezed his bolter's trigger; felt its familiar kick and squinted against the flare from the ancient weapon's muzzle as spent cartridges rained ground-wards. Something obscured by the clouds exploded in a ball of flames, sending shrapnel flying out to patter harmlessly off the power-armoured marines.
Abruptly, the gloom began to fade. Out of the remnants of the darkness, a powerful beam of light appeared, followed by the colossal form of a terminator, the broken sword emblazoned upon one ash-white shoulder pad. Amael knew they were close now. Somewhere nearby, Sammael's voice rang out again above the clamour, "For the Lion and The Emperor!" Still moving, Amael drew his power sword and followed in the steps of the Deathwing. He cleared the murk at a dead run, and burst into the middle of bitter close combat. The Dark Angel battle line had converged at this point and the robed marines had been joined by several squads of their veteran brothers. Framed in the cracked remains of the main gate were the servants of chaos. Amael's fury resurfaced, unrestrainable in the presence of the ultimate heresy.
A whine turned into the scream of rocket engines as five Dark Angels descended from the heavens into the midst of the heathen. Seizing the advantage, Amael leapt forward followed by his squad-mates. Caught out by the ferocity of the assault, the traitors had fallen back into the basilica. Amael burst into the desecrated nave of the building and pumped the remainder of his bolter's clip into the mass of chaos marines moving up to engage the assault squad. The nearest came apart in the hail of fire and those behind were knocked back by their slain comrades. A flicker of movement caught Amael's attention in time for him to avoid a clumsy swing from a traitor appearing from the gloom. The Dark Angel brought the butt of his bolter down across the back of his prone assailant, hearing something crack inside the ruined armour. Three more followed behind, bearing cruel bloodstained blades. Discarding his spent bolter, Amael charged. His momentum took him through the first traitor, the heretic's torso torn from shoulder to waist by the Dark Angel's blade. Whirling to face the two left, he saw one struggling vainly, neck held beneath the armoured boot of brother Lysias. The marine brought his bolt pistol deliberately to his adversary's visor and blew the unholy mask apart in a burst of fire. Swinging back the other way, Amael ran straight into the last of the three, his sword knocked from his grasp by the impact. The traitor, his helm removed, raised his pistol, a contemptuous smile spreading across his scarred face, and slumped forward. With a superhuman ease, brother-sergeant Uriel lifted the traitor aloft, impaled on his lightning claw and tossed it into the remaining legionaries.
Amael retrieved his blade, saluting Uriel, and took in the situation. The basilica was littered with the dead and the dying. The stench of decay had already filtered through the nave and blood had stained the iron-grey flagstones of the building a dirty red. The ricochet of shells echoed out from further inside. Amael glanced up at the image depicted in the stained glass window at the head of building. The grim face of Lion el' Jonson stared back. The Dark Angels were not strangers to the world of Calne. As the Lion had once helped bring the world into the Imperium, now his sons would defend its people.
Amael gestured to Lysias and the two moved forward. Behind them, Uriel and the other Deathwing followed. Ahead, the figure of one of the assault marines shot into view from behind a marble column, locked in combat with a legionary. Other chaos marines, bearing different heraldry to the slain could be seen beyond. Breaking into a run, Amael made for the assault marine. The figure disappeared from view once again, as the column rose in front of him. Power sword high, Amael passed the column in time to see the assault marine collapse clutching a gaping hole in his stomach. Behind him, the departing figure of a traitor legionary descended dark steps into the catacombs below. Uriel arrived behind him, the gleaming white of his armour unsullied by the dust clinging to it. "There is only one way out from the catacombs," he intoned calmly. "That which the heathen has just taken in. Brother Lysias, report our status to Master Sammael. Brother Amael, gather the remains of your squad. You are our rearguard. Squad Uriel, suit lights on! We shall cleanse the unclean!"
Stooping to retrieve a dropped bolter, Amael activated his comm. "Squad Amael, form up on my position." The Deathwing stalked past into the darkness, their eyes burning red through their helms. Amael followed, leaving his squad to catch up. The path ahead was illuminated by the glaring flashlights of Uriel's squad, but the hulking suits of tactical dreadnought armour blocked his view. They travelled swiftly, two abreast as the passage would not allow any more. The adamantium of the walls soon gave way to grey stone, at first featureless, but soon covered with lines of inscriptions carved into the rock. Tombs appeared, their presence signalled by intricately wrought sculpture. Haloed angels bearing skulls signified the status of the dead. They were warriors, maybe even those that had fought at the time of the Great Crusade besides the Lion millennia before. As they moved deeper, the atmosphere changed. The crypt had become icy cold, the marines' breath visible as their suit's 'cyclers ejected stale air into the environment. It had become deathly still.
Without warning, Uriel halted. The passage had widened into a cavern and the Deathwing's suit lights no longer revealed what lay ahead. The terminators spread out and Amael took up position just behind them. "Brother Boreas, scan the area." Uriel's voice, metallic through his vocoder, cut through the static of the comm. net.
"Scan reports twenty two life-signs thirty metres ahead. Humanoid."
Uriel lifted his stormbolter, "Brother Ariel," he motioned to the Cyclone armed marine, "Let them know the wrath of the Lion!"
Ariel's left arm rose, the scarlet beam of his targeter disappearing into the blackness. "Target acquired."
Hell fire erupted from the terminator, multiple missiles streaking into the cavern like miniature comets. For an instant there was quiet. Then flames burst into violent life, thrusting out the shadow with explosive force. The remainder of squad Uriel were already moving; stormbolters flaring brightly even against the inferno before them. Amael moved up in support, bolter braced against his breastplate. "Target at point oh-nine," Uriel stated matter-of-factly over the comm., causing brother Apollyon to direct withering fire away to Amael's left. Amael tracked the terminator's line of fire and added his own. Silhouetted against the still raging fire, he saw the remaining legionaries fall back. Correcting his aim, he sent one crashing to the floor, legs torn apart by explosive rounds.
A second Cyclone volley lanced over their heads as Ariel locked onto another group. The crypt rocked and masonry began tumbling down. Amael, bolter barking, advanced into the fiery ruins flanked by Apollyon. Another legionary broke cover, fleeing into the recesses of the cavern. The terminator's assault cannon span, sending shells ripping into stone and flesh. The chaos marine disintegrated in a hail of fire and falling stone, as a pillar was torn to shreds by the bombardment. Boreas' booming voice blared loud over the comm., "Brother Amael, target at point one-five." Amael wheeled to face the threat, and felt bolter shells rip through his robes into his right thigh. Dropping semi-voluntarily to one knee, he returned fire, hearing the click of his clip emptying. The legionary went down in a crumpled heap, one side of his helm blown away.
"Area secured. Deathwing, form up on me."