Winterseed striding

A missile corkscrewed across the street, impacting on the face of a dilapidated market building and collapsing the shopfront in a cloud of debris. Sorrow-leads-to-spite's ivory features twisted into a feral grimace behind his moh faceplate. With practised battlesign, he indicated the likely avenue of attack. Sure enough, two dozen or more hulking orks broke cover and began to run towards them, their faces set.

Showing none of the momentary disconcertion his fellows felt, the Exarch brought his pistol up and carved one of the beast's face into a shredded mass with a stream of shimmering shuriken. The vanes of the field generator on his forearm came fitfully to life, as the semi-sentient device detected the psychic spoor of the beast species. The weight of fire from the Avengers increased as, one-by-one, the Circle Inculcandum fell into practiced rote, set themselves, and fired at the oncoming force. Too few were falling. Sorrow-leads-to-spite was submerged in his war-self, and felt the clawing of his psycho-reactive suit as a prickle of fear ran up his spine. The orks were too close. Too many.

Too late to run, he further mused, and then inwardly cursed. Private thoughts were impossible in the mind-mesh of the Dire Avengers, and he felt the indignation and horror of death from the others in response. Bullets began to raggedly churn the air, and one whipped past him, tearing a favour-token from his belt. Grimly, he rose to his feet, and activated his halberd with a mental impulse. The fell blade Haolchu carved a glittering trail through the air as drifting dust particles ignited, while the slender members of the Circle adopted millennia-old fighting postures around him in a formation as old as the Craftworlds. If the Circle were to be broken, it would be in the manner proper to the myths; defiant in the face of destruction.

Driving thoughts of defeat from his all-too-living mind, he allowed the spirits of the Others to ride him. For a moment, the Exarch was a vessel for twenty millenia of experience, at one with the previous wearers. He was Unready-Hand, first rider; and Cold-Borne-Child, and Turning-of-the-Wheel... he was over one hundred warriors; their awareness swelled his own.

Dimly, as though from a great distance, he heard a bellowing of rage as the orks closed. Closing his eyes, he dropped to one knee while thrusting upwards, spearing the first ork to clear the barricade. Drawing his wrist backwards, he pushed up and slammed the halberd back and forth, sending a surprised ork head spinning away. The noise returned as the orks got in close, raging. Heavy blows from whirring blades and rusty cudgels were robbed of their killing edge by the shimmershield's influence, but the eldar were still being knocked from their feet.

Star-fawn kicked herself back up, eyes shining with warlust. She was the first to die as the shimmershield failed, a ragged hole appearing in her midriff and tearing her leg clear as a guffawing ork emptied the magazine of his crude gun. Skin pale as drifting snow, her eyes screaming denial, her spirit stone began to glow with an eerie blue, drawing the gaze of a bleeding ork. Sorrow-leads-to-spite took full advantage of the black-clad monster's distraction, and polearmed it to the floor; slicing an arm clean off and finishing it. The battle had turned into a disjointed brawl, and the exarch found himself in a brief lull. Turning, he saw another mob of orks massing, and his heart fell.

All of a sudden, a great shadow fell across the square. Almost as one, the combatants and approaching orks turned to look upwards. Two churning coherent streams of black light flashed across the square and struck the approaching ork squad. Without a sound, the orks disintegrated into drifting flakes of rubbery grey ash that swirled away on the gale whipping across the market.

With a great thump, the Titan landed, its head turned to the combat. Sorrow-leads-to-spite grinned, despite himself. Deliverance was at hand. Winterseed!