Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers
Part 1 <> Part 2 <> Part 3 <> Part 4
It was the Dark Angels who had started the whole conflict between the Chapters. Once, the Dark Angels and the Fighting Tigers were allies. That was before a drifting space hulk had entered the Tigers’ star system. Rashna Marga had led a Terminator Squad into the depths of the hulk to make sure it was empty. They had found no Genestealers, no Orks—at least not within the areas they could reach. Several areas had collapsed and were impassable, choked with wreckage. In one passage, where there had clearly been a pitched battle, Rashna Marga had found a twisted piece of metal with a curious, winged emblem. He had taken it back to Veda with him.
A few years later, during a training exercise with the Dark Angels on the barren moon of Regulus III, he had noticed their winged insignias, similar to the one he had found. He asked one of them about it, but the Marine he had spoken to had made no reply.
Later that day, while on maneuvers, Rashna Marga’s squad came under attack, as scheduled. But instead of a light engagement against a few Dark Angel squads, as expected, they faced dozens of white-armored Deathwing, the Dark Angel’s elite troops, firing live ammunition instead of blanks. Rashna Marga had called for reinforcements, but had found that his communications were jammed. More Dark Angels—Ravenwing on black bikes and in Land Speeders—had arrived, scattering his men. Rashna Marga had been captured, but not before killing a few of the Dark Angels.
And then—he still found it hard to remember what had happened. The Tigers had found him, hours later, wandering alone across the powdery surface of the moon. Psychic scans by Zaghnal Maratha, the most powerful Fighting Tiger Librarian, revealed that he had been interrogated about the artifact he had discovered years before and that, though he was physically unharmed, he had been mindwiped. He could not remember where he had been taken, who had questioned him, and what he had said.
By the time he was found, the Dark Angels were gone, hurriedly canceling the rest of the joint training exercises. They had vanished into the Warp. Raja Khandar Madu had demanded an explanation and an apology from Azrael, the Dark Angel Chapter Master. No reply ever came.
In retaliation for the treatment suffered by one of their officers, the Tigers began raids against the Dark Angels. The Dark Angels defended themselves, but refused to fully engage, content to withdraw. It was as if their attention was drawn elsewhere and the Tiger attacks were merely an annoyance.
Rashna Marga knew where their attention was. The Tigers had continued to track the hulk through space, watching, waiting for the Dark Angels to arrive. Tiger ships had monitored it for months as it tumbled into a collision course with this planet, Khrell. Tiger probes had watched the hulk smash into Khrell’s northeast continent. And still the Tigers had waited, not approaching the hulk, their Scouts watching for the Dark Angels to arrive.
they had, as Rashna Marga had said they would.
Human hands had not made the ancient stone bridge that spanned the mile-wide gorge: Khrell’s previous inhabitants—whatever race they may have been—had. Master Ramon Cruz gave it little thought as he and his squad of Dark Angels ran across. The retrojets of their drop pod had fired prematurely, landing him and his men on the wrong side of the gorge. Had there been time, he would have waited until nightfall before making the crossing. But there was no time to wait. The danger was too great.
If I was in the Ravenwing I’d be across this bridge much faster, he thought to himself. But of course, he was in the Deathwing, and as such, was in charge. “Swiftly, brethren, swiftly!” he urged them. He looked back. No visible threat from the purple forest on the side they had come from. He looked ahead. No visible threat from the purple forest on the side they were going to. Good. Too good, actually, he thought.
The others ran behind him, their green armor glinting in the sun. Cruz had picked each of them for their fighting prowess, their intelligence, and—most of all—for their bravery. Each of them had fought in a hundred wars on hundreds of different worlds. Each of them had been grievously wounded in battle and had fought on regardless. Each of them had fought against horrific aliens and vile Traitors. But still Cruz wondered if their strength and skill and bravery would be enough.
For the first time in many years, Cruz was afraid. Not for himself so much, but for his men. Once again he had quarreled with his superiors in the Inner Circle—and once again he had been overruled. At their insistence, his men knew nothing about the ancient foe that he suspected had survived the space hulk’s fiery crash.
They neared the end of the bridge. Beyond the bridge was a narrow strip of dark purple grass—no more than 10 or 15 yards wide—that grew along the edge of the gorge before yielding to the endless forest.
The edge of the cliff ran for miles, following the river in both directions. The Dark Angels were close now, very close. Cruz grew uneasy.
Brother Jared was the first to fall, bolter fire erupting from the trees as the Dark Angels reached the grass. Brother Caspar was next, his midsection seared away by plasma bolts. The women Fighting Tigers in their black and white armor leapt to the attack, jumppacks screaming, chainswords keening. They were yelling something in a language Cruz couldn’t understand. Behind them, the male Tigers, in orange and black, were advancing.
Tigers! They’ll spoil everything, Cruz thought, as he drew his sword.
Rashna Marga fired his bolt pistol again and swore an angry curse as again the gyrojet ammunition bounced off the Dark Angel’s armor. Still, he smiled grimly as Anhurada’s Tigers of Kali pounced on the green armored Marines. He spared a look around—one of his men had been hit in the leg by return fire, but Sepoy Das was still up and the Tiger Apothecary, Tirvar Sivaya, would see to him after the melee. Under his helmet, his smile broadened into a malevolent grin.
Aid me now, holy Krishna, he prayed, as he charged. Let vengeance be mine!
He regretted the thought immediately. The ancient Vedic god Krishna cared not for vengeance, only justice. But then it was too late for further prayer. Rashna Marga’s curved chainsword came crashing down on the stock of a Dark Angel’s bolter as the enemy trooper blocked his blow. The trooper elbowed Rashna Marga in the helmet, then fired, the bolt missing by inches.
Rashna Marga renewed his attack, his chainsword whirling, whirling, left, right, left, right, finally slashing through the torso of the trooper, who kept firing his bolter as he died. The Tiger captain stepped over him and confronted the enemy commander—one of the Deathwing, by the look of his bone-white power armor. The Deathwing brandished his sword, daring Rashna Marga to attack.
Taunt me will you? he thought. He fired his bolt pistol again and again but enemy commander’s armor held as he advanced on the Tiger. Snarling, Rashna Marga leapt forward, his curved chainsword smashing again and again against the Dark Angel commander’s shining straight blade. Sparks flew from their weapons as the two captains fought, the Tiger shouting curses, the Angel curiously silent.
The Dark Angel found an opening in Rashna Marga’s defense and the tip of his sword plunged into the Tiger’s arm—not enough to kill or maim, but enough to hurt even a Space Marine. Rashna Marga screamed, dropped his chainsword—and charged.
The Dark Angel commander dodged, and Rashna Marga saw the ground disappear out from under him. In the split second that he hung in the air over the gorge, he looked down and saw a thin ribbon of blue that he knew must be a river—as seen from hundreds of feet up.
Quick as the cat whose colors he wore, he reached back with his free hand—the other refused to let go of the bolt pistol—and grabbed the Deathwing by his cloak. He pulled with all the strength he had, ignoring the pain in his arm—and the enemy commander came with him.
The two captains tumbled together. A spring-loaded knife blade appeared from the Dark Angel’s gauntlet and Rashna Marga watched as the enemy’s hand plunged it—oddly slowly, all things considered—towards the green eyelenses of his helmet. Rashna Marga watched his own hand—again, moving oddly slowly—let go of the Dark Angel’s cloak and jab itself, palm-first, onto the knife blade. Dimly, he felt a biting sting in his hand—but far better than being blinded.
He knew he had perhaps ten more seconds to live. One thousand one, he counted to himself. One thousand two.
Rashna Marga’s right hand raised the bolt pistol and fired into the Dark Angel’s abdomen. The bolt penetrated the first layer of armor, was stopped at the second, and exploded. The Dark Angel’s body jerked violently, the knife blade sliding out of Rashna Marga’s hand, and the enemy lost his grip on the Tiger.
One thousand three.
Rashna Marga hooked the back of the Dark Angel’s helmet with the crook of his right elbow and wrapped both legs around the Dark Angel’s trunk. The Vedic commander spared a glance down. The river below had grown much larger.
One thousand four.
The Dark Angel swatted at Rashna Marga’s head; the Tiger leaned back, then rammed his helmet into the Dark Angel’s chest. No effect. He head butted him again, this time in the faceplate of his bone-white helmet. Still nothing.
One thousand five.
The wind was roaring past and Rashna Marga could barely hear the Dark Angel’s bellows as they fell. The knife appeared again, faster now, and shindered against the Tiger’s black gorget. Then the armored hand cocked back, curled into a fist, and the next thing Rashna Marga saw was the gray cliffside rushing past, much faster now, as his jaw nearly broke from the blow.
legs wrapped tighter around the Dark Angel and his arms moved by themselves—punching,
grabbing, firing shot after shot. His head reeled and he fought to regain
his concentration, and all he could think was I’ve lost count, I’ve
lost count, and he felt a mild slap and a flash of purple rose past
him as they brushed the thin, top branches of a tree. Suddenly, he was
on top of the Dark Angel and the stony ground was very close and very large.
There was a horrid wet crunching sound, like a fat beetle dying under a
boot, and suddenly something shoved him back up into the air. Someone was
screaming. Rashna Marga wasn’t sure who it was—him or the Dark Angel—and
then something gray was rushing at him again and—
Despite losing their leader, the attack went well for the Fighting Tigers. The Dark Angels—all of them except their captain—lay dead in the grass; many of them were missing their hands, taken as trophies by the female Tigers of Kali. A few Tigers—6 wounded, 2 killed—lay in the grass as well.
Tirvar Sivaya, Tiger of Savitri, finished administering the last transfusion from himself to Sepoy Muni. It was his second of the day—and he had already suffered an abdominal wound from a Dark Angel dagger. He pulled off his orange and black helmet, moved closer to the edge of the cliff, and rested there for a moment, staring down into the gorge where Rashna Marga, the leader of their force, had fallen. Despite Tirvar Sivaya’s keen eyesight, he could not see the body—or that of the Dark Angel captain that had fallen with him. The river must have them, he thought. Not a bad death for a Tiger. Which meant that Tirvar was now in command. Fighting Tiger Apothecaries were more than just combat medics and harvesters of geneseed: they were officers and were expected to lead in the field if need be.
The able-bodied Tigers of Rudra were spread out, on guard for more Dark Angels—one could never be too careful when fighting them. Two of the Tigers of Kali lay wounded in the grass; the other eight—including Veteran Sergeant Anhurada—were several miles west, deep in the purple forest which covered most of this continent. Tirvar engaged his com-link. “Anhurada, report.”
“Anhurada here. We are approaching the crash site,” she replied. “Initial reports seem to be accurate—it hit a few months ago. We are forced to move slowly—the crash burnt up many acres—there are fallen tree trunks for miles around. Wreckage from the hulk here and there. Radiation readings are within tolerable limits. No sign of the Dark Angels.”
“Proceed cautiously. Rashna Marga was convinced that more were about, but comscan aboard the Garuda has detected none. Let me know immediately if you find anything noteworthy.”
“As always. Anhurada out.”
Sepoy Kushnar approached Tirvar Sivaya. “Tanadar,” he said, using the Vedic term for officer, “what of Rashna Marga?”
looked down into the gorge. “Rasha Marga is in Yama’s realm now, and we
cannot spare a team to retrieve his body. When we have accomplished our
mission, we shall use the sensors aboard the Garuda to locate him.”
Like what you've seen? Then vote for the Jungle in the "Top 100 40K Sites"
© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore December 2000
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers