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Battle Brothers of the Jericho Reach

The Price of Hubris: Session 10

Where the Battle Brothers make quite the first impression

After a few hours of prayers to the Emperor, consulting his tarot and lightly scanning the Warp, Brother Drakhaus received the answer that he needed… there was a Xenos presence and taint on Aarun, and it was from one particular sect of a race, although he could not narrow down which Xenos presence the Kill Team would be facing. Upon telling this to the rest of the Kill Team, there was a debate over which Xenos they would be facing and, in Brother Calremus’s case, which Xenos they want to face (Orcs!). After consulting one of the star charts located in the Watch Fortress, they came to an educated guess that it would probably be Tyranids, given how close Aarun was to Beseritor, the location of their last triumph. Armed with the knowledge, the Kill Team began concocting strategies for dealing with a Tyranid Threat.

Diaz Lan was there to meet the Kill Team as they boarded the Horizons Pride, festooned with many more Battle Honours from the Battle over Beseritor and with Lan covered in glory for being the one to realise that there was a threat on Beseritor. He told the Kill Team that the amount of latitude he was not given by the Crusade made it all worthwhile, which gained him a few stern looks from the Battle Brothers… the unspoken threat that if he did anything to harm the Imperium, they would find him, no matter how much latitude he had been given. The Kill Team was again introduced to Lan’s senior staff, and Brother Calremus noticed that the original Enginseer, who had been present, was missing.

They learned that the Enginseer had been murdered, in cold blood, by one of the members of the Enginseers own team, and that the accused, Khol Bennex was currently being held in the brig, and they learn that he is swearing that he did it in self-defence, even though that contradicts what the other witnesses to the scene saw. This piqued the interest of the Kill Team, after all, if he was guilty then they were empowered to issue the Emperors justice to this traitor of the Imperium but, if not, then they could further the Emperors Justice by helping this man… that, and they knew that the trip would be long and boring, and this would keep their minds in shape. Diaz Lan did inform them that the Adeptus Mechanicus would want to question and try this man in their own way, which stymied the Kill Team’s ambitions somewhat.

Khol Bennex, it must be said, almost died of fright when the Kill Team stomped into the Brig, looking incredibly menacing (as Space Marines are wont to do) and he began pleading for his life even before they had managed to speak one single word. Once Brother Curro indicated that they were only here to kill him if he had done something to warrant it, he calmed down a little, although the Battle Brothers could, with their advanced senses, literally smell the fear dripping off him as he climbed up off the floor to face them. Brother Haakon suggested, in jest, that they just eat his brain to learn the truth of what happened… which sent Khol back down on the floor, pleading for his life again.

With a stern look at Brother Haakon, Brother Curro reassured the man that they only eat brains to glean information that is not forthcoming, which helped a little, and got him back on his feet, although he kept casting wary looks towards Brother Haakon. Khol Bennex stated first that he did kill the Enginseer, Krepp, but that he had found a Servitor that was spouting absolute nonsense phrases, and he had taken it to Krepp for the learned Enginseer to have a look at, and then Krepp had just attacked him out of the blue. He had stumbled backwards into the corridor, just avoiding the attack and Krepp had run at him, and Khol had managed to turn the charge so that Enginseer Krepp had met his end falling into a vast, boiling, depositary of engine waste.

They learned that Khol had seen a few more of the servitors spouting nonsense, but that no-one was listening to his warnings because, as a suspected murderer, his word was not to be trusted. Having received the name of Krepp’s second in command, Enginseer Gaant, the Kill Team informed Khol that they would be back… either to free him, or to enact justice upon him. With this new information, the Kill Team did spot some rather odd behaviour from some of the servitors, with many of them looking in bad repair, with wounds marring their flesh, and other anomalies you would not expect. This intrigued them enough that the found their way to Enginseer Grant to report their findings. On the way, they restrained one of the odd servitors so that the Apothecary, Brother Elyes could cast a cursory eye over it.

What he found did not fill the Kill Team with confidence… numerous sores that were weeping a blackish liquid and a vague brownish tinge to in the back of the “eyes” of the servitor, which Brother Elyes, thinking back into the history of the Horus Heresy, understood that the vague brownish tinge was corruption, and corruption from the Dark Mechanicus… a near mythical organisation that the Adeptus Mechanicus denied all knowledge of. With a new sense of urgency in their steps, they began the search for Enginseer Gaant, understanding that corruption of this sort needed to be excised from a ship like the Horizons Pride before it was too late.

After a quick conversation with another Enginseer, where they were relieved to hear that it seemed that only the Servitors that Krepp was responsible for seemed to have this taint. Brother Elyes was still poking and prodding the servitor they had gathered when, before his eyes, the limbs started mutating into razor sharp metal claws, the fusion of flesh and machine in its most tainted form. Brother Elyes was a Space Marine though, so he was quick enough to dodge when the inevitable attack came, stepping back out of its range and watching the attack clang against the metal corridor. Then, with an action that was as quick as only a Space Marine can be, Brother Elyes smoothly brought his Bulkhead Shears off his back, swung them round and decapitated the Servitor, which fell to the floor, the neck wound both sparking and fountaining black blood.

Knowing that time was even more of the essence, the Battle Brothers hurried to find Enginseer Gaant and immediately asked for an explanation for the monstrosity that they held in their hands (in a few pieces). Gaant was appalled at the lack of care that had obviously been given to this Servitor, and listened with mounting concern to the story of the Kill Team, after which he told the Kill Team that Krepp’s servitors were in a relatively small area of the ship, because of his other responsibilities, and that he would send a signal to them all to shut down and go inactive. Brother Drakhaus pointed out that if the Servitors are attacking people that are near to finding out their secret, they would probably not take too kindly to a shutdown request, and that could potentially be a problem.

Enginseer Gaant was convinced enough by that argument that he gave Brother Elyes a device that would shut down any servitor that was in range when it was activated, so that they could test it on one or two of the “odd” servitors. Dismissing the Kill Team so that he could get back to his work, Enginseer Gaant put his attention back to his duties, leaving the Battle Brothers to search the ship for more offending servitors, which was a rather menial task, but the Kill Team realised that cleansing this ship of the corruption of the Dark Mechanicus was worth it. They quickly found another servitor, Brother Elyes inserted the device into that particular servitor, pressed the big glowing red “off” rune and then, all hell broke loose.

Or, it would have done, had the Kill Team, taking Brother Drakhaus’s warning to heart, all be close to the servitor, so much so that as soon as its equipment started to mutate into weapons, it was hit by a barrage of attacks from all sides, which completely destroyed it. Brother Curro had also been recording this on his shoulder mounted pict recorder, so they rushed back to Enginseer Gaant to show him this proof, with Brother Drakhaus trying, but failing, to keep the smugness out of his voice. It was then that Enginseer Gaant noted an anomaly on his sensor equipment… it appeared that a large group of Servitors were heading that way. The Kill Team immediately set up a defensive perimeter to meet the Servitors head on.

The Kill Team all switched to close combat weapons, knowing that their blessed Bolt Guns could cause many more issues than they might solve, and anything heavier would undoubtedly cause a hole to appear in the hull, which is never a good thing. As the mutated and insane servitors moved around the corner, they were met with a blistering counter charge from the Kill Team. Brother Curro led the way, his power sword and chain sword cutting a large swathe through the servitor’s rants, his instincts tempered in the fires of close combat fighting with Carnifexes and Genestealers; these were merely an annoyance to him, a problem to be stamped out. The rest of the Kill Team took their lead from this awe-inspiring close combat performance, with Bulkhead Shears, Power swords and Force Staffs rising and falling with brutal efficiency.

Noting a particularly concentrated group of the servitors, Brother Drakhaus drew upon the warp to shoot a bolt of lightning in their general direction. The lightning was devastatingly effective, striking in the middle of the group and then coruscating out amongst the group, melting their metal parts and setting their fleshy parts on fire… after a few seconds of flailing around; the group fell into a smouldering heap. The Kill Team was a model of Space Marine close combat tactics, dodging, parrying and striking through the melee, their power armour taking the brunt of any hits they took, and their enhanced strength allowing them to cleave through the mass of servitors. After a frenzy of blows and counter blows which seemed to stretch for hours, but was actually less than a minute, the servitor assault had been smashed into a thousand pieces, and the Kill Team had barely broken sweat.

After breaking the back of the horde, Enginseer Gaant called a halt to inform the Kill Team that all the other servitors which had been part of Krepp’s detachment had seemed to have shut down and were not moving. Gaant, with the Kill Team’s support, collected a group of other Enginseers, equipped them with flamers, and then sent them out to do the Emperor/Omnissiah’s work, by cleansing the tainted servitors with Fire! For a week or more the smell of burning flesh and electronics filled the air of the ship, with the air scrubbers having to work overtime to clean out all the foul corruptions but, eventually, the task was complete to the Kill Team’s satisfaction. The Kill Team, having informed Diaz Lan of this, were given permission to free Khol Bennex but the Battle Brothers were not without mirth, and they decided to approach it in a slightly different manner.

The Kill Team approached Khol Bennex, with Brother Drakhaus making a statement that they were here to administer the Emperor’s justice, and would Khol Bennex stand and face his judgement. Cowering in the presence of these angels of death, Khol stood to face his fate, although the Battle Brother’s enhanced senses picked up a very foul odour coming from the lower half of his back. When he was informed that the judgment was that he was to be set free, and congratulations on helping protect the ship, he almost fainted and asked if the Kill Team was joking. Brother Drakhaus leaned in very close and asked Khol if it looked like he was joking. Khol lost his composure, squeaked like a little girl, and then ran off in a panic, leaving the Kill Team to chuckle at their antics… before reporting back to Diaz Lan.

A few weeks passed before Captain Lan introduced the Battle Brothers to his other honoured guest, Brigadier General Archibald Heth who was in transit to Aarun to take control of the Imperial Garrison. The Kill Team was surprised that such a high ranking member of the Imperial Guard was being put into what was a rather menial position. They surmised that it either showed the important of Aarun to the Imperial cause in the Jericho Reach, or reflected poorly on the General’s status and talent in the Imperial Guard. They sincerely hoped it was the former. Upon learning that he was a Cadian, who had served on the Archeros Salient, battling the forces of the Ruinous Powers, they realised he deserved his command and that he was a true servant of the Emperor.

After exiting and re-entering the Warp a few times to make sure that the Horizon’s Pride was not flying into the Hadrex Anomaly the ship arrived in the Orbit of Aarun. Lan informed the Kill Team that due to him failing the Aarun test the last time, he was not really welcome on the planet… merely tolerated, and so he would stay up in his ship until such time as he was needed. As the Kill Team flew down into the planet’s atmosphere, they could see how Aarun had been given its name; there was a slight sheen of gold that seemed to coat everything, although if you really focused then it seemed to just be a trick of the light. The thunderhawk set the Kill Team down in an open space just outside the capital, Haistand, which they realised was this Primitive world’s version of a landing pad. After disembarking the Kill Team saw that there was only one route up into the city, and that it was choked in traffic. With a general sigh, the Kill Team started the long ascent, getting their first impressions of the Aarun people.

Brother Haakon, with his massive fur mantle, definitely stood out amongst the people of Aarun, whose animal life on this planet tended towards the reptilian, so most of the people wore clothing that was scaled, and had a lot of bone inserts. The Kill Team immediately noticed that whilst the Aarun people were curious as to who these newcomers were, Giants in impenetrable armour, they did not show the normal level of respect and awe that Space Marines were used to, which was a strange and unsettling experience for a lot of the Kill Team. However, they could not help but admire the Aarun people; they were the exact kind of people that most of the Kill Team had come from, a proud warrior nation.

Midway up the climb, with the Battle Brothers making good progress, if only because of their bulk and strength, they passed by an Aarun merchant prodding and cajoling a group of Agrox up the road. One of the Agrox, its nose unused to this new metallic scent, began to get a little bit agitated, which started a chain reaction in the rest of the group and, before anyone could blink, they had gone berserk. Events crystallised into three flashpoints… an Aarun child in the path of a raging beast, a wagon full of people about to tip off the edge of the road and a young Aarun warrior surrounded by three of the Agrox, and looking in dire straits indeed. Brother’s Curro and Calremus were the first to react, Curro utilising his jetpack to quickly get to the wagon and grab a hold of it just before it was about to fall. Tapping the immense strength potential in his arms, he managed to arrest the momentum of the wagon and then hold it still, his arms straining against the weight.

Just before the Agrox could trample the Aarun child into paste, Brother Calremus and Haakon hit it from the side with a shoulder charge. They could feel the Agrox’s ribs break with the force of their charge, and they diverted its charge enough that it pass by the child before collapsing with most of its internal organs reduced to ruin. Brother’s Drakhaus and Elyes went to the aid of the Aarun warrior, a few kicks and chops to various vulnerable parts of the Agrox taking down two and allowing the Aarun warrior to bury its knife deep into the ear of the remaining Agrox, sending it down in death spasms. Brother Curro, tiring of just holding the wagon, nonchalantly leaned back, pulling the wagon back onto solid ground. This display of strength was met with a few gaps from the, normally unflappable, Aarun people. The fact that all of this had happened in a blink of an eye was even more impressive.

After a rather brusque encounter with the Aarun Herder, including threats of “legal” action, the Kill Team continued their traversal of the only road, from this side, into Haistand, with Heth commenting that he is always amazed by the quickness of action from members of the Adeptus Astartes. After reaching the city, and being given a general location guide by the General, Heth told the Kill Team where he would be quartered, and then left them to their own devices, in an unfamiliar city on an unfamiliar planet in the middle of an unfamiliar culture… this could only end well!

After talking amongst themselves, it was decided to meet with the leader of the Aaruns, Caele Rylus Darkscourge, as that was their main reason for being here. Their trip took them through one of Aarun’s main marketplaces, which seemed a hive of activity with bartering going on left, right and centre with gleaming racks of bladed weapons and large mounds of food seeming to be the two main pieces that were being traded for. They found their attention occupied by a merchant who, upon seeing the Kill Team, would not leave them around, shouting and hollering that he had something that they needed to see… not begging or pleading, but making a complete and utter arse of himself, until the Kill Team turned and began heading his way, if only to get him to stop talking!

After offering him his own residence and a massive herd of Agrox for their fabulous “thinstone” armour, and being rebuffed quite forcefully, he looked around carefully and took out a pouch, which he then revealed to the Kill Team. In the pouch were four very unusual knives, which the merchant claimed could cut through the very best armour that the Aarun’s could produce. What made the knives unusual was the talon like blade, which upon closer inspection, was revealed to be a type of chitin, but one that held an improbable razor sharp edge that the Kill Team immediately recognised was Tyranid in origin. Paying a bit more attention to the merchant, the Kill Team thoroughly quizzed him one where he had received these knives, and learned that he had received them a couple of months ago. Brother Calremus managed to trade his combat knife for two of the talon knives.

After learning that a man calling himself Heydal had given traded these knives to the Merchant, and that he had left using the westernmost road from Haistand, the Kill Team set off again for the homestead of the Caele, with even more questions burning their way through their minds. The rest of their journey was uneventful, and they were greeted at the entrance to the Caele’s Homestead by the local guards, with Brother Curro showing remarkable diplomacy by greeting the Aarun guards in their traditional way (by pressing the hilt of his knife against their shoulders). Zayr, the shieldmaster of Aarun was impressed by this, and made a mental note to inform the Caele that maybe these “Astartes” were indeed as had been described to them by the annoying runts of the Imperium.

After being ushered into a room to wait for the Caele, the Battle Brothers looked fondly at the surroundings, with most of them remembering growing up in cultures like this, before being chosen by the Astartes… it is not something they think about often, but in these surroundings the memories come easier. Their memories were interrupted by the entrance of the Caele who was, by any measurement, an impressive physical specimen. He stood almost as tall as the Battle Brothers, and was lean and muscled like all other Aarun’s the Kill Team had seen, and he had something that the Kill Team recognised immediately, he had presence… they could easily see why he was the leader of this world. After a formal greeting both sides got down to business, with the Caele wanting to know why the Astartes were on his world, and Brother Curro informing the Caele that entry into the Imperium would be glorious for his people.

The Battle Brothers could see that the Caele was no fool, but that he was bound by the traditions and laws that governed the people of Aarun, so when he offered them a potential way to further both the cause of the Imperium and their investigations into Xenos presence on the planet, by the Trial of “The Proving” they were quick to accept. They could see that this quick acceptance had impressed the Caele, but that his face was still lined with worry, although what for, they could not tell. Upon the ending of the conversation, in which the Kill Team were given until the morning to prepare themselves, they were introduced to the Caele’s second, Alkedre Firestalker who explained that they would be undergoing the Divested Hunt, a trial that only the most honoured of Aarun warriors had ever completed. They learned that they would have to kill a Diablon, which was a king predator on the planet, and that very few Aarun’s had ever completed such a task… although the Battle Brothers were confident that, even without their armour or weapons, they would be able to overcome this task.

Alkedre informed the Kill Team of the rules of the hunt, and then gave them some information… the likely area they would find a Diablon, tricks of how to track it and a description of what they generally look like. Dawn of the next day finds the Battle Brothers almost completely naked, bereft of their advanced armour and weaponry… without that, they looked every bit as martial and impressive as the Aarun people, although because of their gene enhancements they tended to tower above everyone, even without their armour. They stood before the Caele who, with a solemn look, gave them his blessing for them to begin the hunt. The Battle Brothers moved into the Canyon, taking heft of some of the ancient weapons that had been provided for them, but then realising that they could probably do more damage with their fists and feet.

After a couple of hours of relatively relaxing movement, the Kill Team came to the first set of terrain that was not a dry, blasted out wasteland, and immediately realised that this was a nesting ground for some of the planets animal inhabitants. Not wanting to sap their energy with a fight when none was needed, even if they could easily win it, the Kill Team decided to use a little stealth for once in their watch. This was a rare event given that Brother Elyes had probably the loudest set of power armour in the known universe, so it was not something that happened often. However, their lack of practice in this area was obvious when Brother Calremus managed to trip over one of the nests and landed with an earth shaking boom, which immediately drew the attention of the Theratryx (reptilian horses) in the area.

The Kill Team, with reflexes honed from years of experience, immediately got together, back to back, as the Theratryx swarmed around them and, so quick were the Battle Brothers that they were the ones who acted first, and who acted in concert. Brother Curro was a whirling dervish of destruction, his fists and feet flying at near impossible angles, taking the heads off the animals, or crushing their heads, their stomachs, taking out their legs… he was an unstoppable angel of destruction. Brother Drakhaus laid about him with a Holy Smite, ripped from the eddies of the Warp, sending Theratryx’s flying through the air, their smoking bodies dead before they hit the ground. The rest of the Kill Team was not as effective as those two, with most of their blows flying wide.

And then, the Theratryx started mobbing the Battle Brothers, trying to push them down onto the ground through their weight of numbers, whilst also clawing and biting them as much as possible. However, the Battle Brothers were too quick and too strong for this to work, and most of them emerged unscathed, with only Brother Curro having taken any damage at all. The Kill Team, growing tired of this combat, started taking apart the Theratryx horde with extreme prejudice, so much so that after another round of Lightning from Brother Drakhaus, the scattered to the four winds, not willing to suffer this much punishment. Brother Elyes, even though he was denied his usual reagents and medical supplies, was able to patch up Brother Curro enough so that he was in no discomfort at all. This meeting also gave the Battle Brothers more than enough supplies than they would ever need to complete the Divested Hunt.

The Kill Team resumed their journey through the blasted landscape and, after another couple of hours, they started encountering land and land formations that matched what they had been told by Alkedre and this knowledge spurred them on, knowing that the end could be in sight. Holding their breath against the sulphurous fumes that coated this barren landscape, their senses were soon overwhelmed with a new smell, that of rotting flesh and they noticed a footprint that matched the form that Alkedre had given them… and they figured out that there was only one of them by the tracks. The Kill Team took a minute to discuss their tactics, and they agreed that it would be too hard to explain a Psykers powers to the Aarun’s, so Brother Drakhaus agreed to not use any of his damaging abilities (Avenger, Smite etc) because it would go against the challenge.

Brother’s Curro, Haakon and Elyes took up position on a ledge just above the cave where they were sure the Diablon made its lair, and started sending a stream of arrows into the cave, to try and get the attention of whatever was inside (if anything). They were quickly rewarded with a roar of anger and could both hear and feel the thumping footsteps of the Diablon as it charged towards the entrance of the cave. Brother Haakon, using his Wolf Senses to get a better view of the area, nocked an arrow and let fly, only to see it clatter off the hard scale armour of the Diablon. He shouted a warning to his Battle Brothers that they would not be able to fight this at range, and he could hear the bows being dropped to the floor. Brother Drakhaus and Brother Curro both acted together, with Brother Drakhaus charging the beast as it left the cave mouth, and Brother Curro leaping down from on high at the same time.

Both tapped into their faith in the Emperor, bringing forth the strength that the Astartes was legendary for, and Brother Drakhaus was the first to land his blow, a roundhouse punch that grazed the scales of the Diablon, but which held it in place for Brother Curro to land on its head and jam his fist into one of its giant eyes. However, the Diablon would not be felled so easily, and it shook Brother Curro off before he could do much damage, roared in anger and defiance and then attacked. Brother Curro flung himself to the ground as the massive talon swept over him, and Brother Drakhaus managed to push the head to one side so that all the Diablon bit down on was dirt and rock. Brother Elyes, seeing an opportunity to swing the fight in the Kill Team’s favour, ran in and spat acid at the Diablon’s eyes but, just as it was about to hit, the Diablon blinked and its armour hard eyelids deflected the attack.

Brother Calremus once again did not bring himself glory with his fists, missing the leg of the Diablon, but to his defence he was more used to using a missile launcher than anything even in relation to close combat. Brother Curro drew one of the bone swords that he had taken from the weapons… he was not planning to use it to strike the Diablon, but to use it to deflect its attacks instead. Using the weapon as a balancing item as well, Brother Curro struck out ferociously, his right hand chopping against the scales and such was his strength that they cracked under the force of the blow. As the Diablon struck back, Brother Curro raised his bone sword and pitted his strength against the creature, parrying the blow but, more importantly, holding the leg off the ground.

However, this did not stop the Diablon’s jaws from closing around Brother Calremus’s legs, doing some quite dramatic damage before he was able to free it, and he could feel the tainted, fetid blood trying to seep into his immune system, but his Space Marine organs kept him safe from harm. Seeing an opportunity, Brother Elyes struck hard at the Diablon’s face, only for his fist to bounce off the scales… the Kill Team was learning new respect for this creature, and anyone who had hunted it before. Brother Curro, still holding up the Diablon’s leg, chopped his hand against the joint again and again, seeing the armour crack and digging into the flesh, but before he could do more damage, the Diablon managed to free its leg and slice Brother Curro across the stomach. What would have been a mortal would for anyone else was merely an inconvenience for Brother Curro, as his blood started working on clotting the wound right away.

The Kill Team continued its assault, slowly chipping away at the hardened scales whilst mostly avoiding the attacks back, this was a much harder fight than they thought it would be… every sweep of the Diablon’s claws could do terrible damage, and the jaws were not much better. However, they kept making it switch its target, or trying to anyway, so that none of them were a target for all it could bring to bear, because that could have overwhelmed even one of the Emperors Chosen. Brother’s Drakhaus and Curro continued to work together, with one of Brother Drakhaus’s punches driving the beast a few steps sideways, directly into a powerful uppercut from Brother Curro, and they could see by the anger of the Diablon; that hit had hurt. Its response was furious… it sliced its claw across the head of Brother Haakon, sending him sprawling in the dirt, wounded but not crippled.

The Kill Team was wearing the Diablon down by attrition, with no one punch or kick doing enough damage to truly hurt the monster. Brother Curro laid into the creature, cracking scales and driving it backwards with the force and ferocity of his attack, and it did appear to hurt the Diablon, because it lunged at Brother Curro with all its might. The first claw hooked Brother Curro in the arm which meant he could not dodge the second strike which hooked up through his stomach and out of his back, skewering him as the Diablon lifted its prize and then shook its claw dismissively, sending Brother Curro to the floor where he lay still as the grave. Seeing their Battle Brother laid low by this monster unlocked something in the rest of the Kill Team and they fell across the Diablon with some of their most powerful blows. However, the Diablon was still standing and was preparing its counter attack when Brother Elyes stepped up.

With the Diablon dazed slightly from Brother Calremus’s thunderous blow, Brother Elyes took a run up, ran up the back of Brother Calremus and launched himself through the air. He could almost see the fear entering the eyes of the Diablon as he crashed down with a massive overhead, double handed blow, which smashed through the skull of the Diablon directly into its brain. With a cry of pain so powerful the Kill Team had to cover their ears, the Diablon stumbled backwards a few steps before dropping to the ground, its head flopping about as if it had no control… and finally the beast was dead. Brother Elyes did not rest on his laurels, he was immediately up and taking care of Brother Curro, who had once again survived blows that he had no right to survive. The Kill Team took stock of the situation, and then started sawing the head off with practiced strokes.

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