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He glanced over at me as I came and stood by his side. I unlimbered my thunder hammer, feeling it quiver and thrum in my hands. “She’s my girl,” he snarled. “I saw her first.”
There was a keening screech overhead as a Thunderhawk swooped past, Tigers in white and black armor igniting their jumppacks as they leapt from it. From the left, Tigers in white and brown armor, driving bikes painted the same, roared into view, firing into the Banshees. Hengr, the Wolf Guard, swore and yelled, “Come on, boys, those damn Tigers are going to spoil our party!”
Shurikens swarmed through the air like frenzied bats as we charged. Scores of them struck me, most ricocheted off, a few stuck in my armor. None drew blood. I saw two, three Grey Hunters fall face-first into the thin amber snow before we smashed into the alfirline. I wielded my thunder hammer in huge, overhead swings, for it was not a nimble weapon. With each blow another Guardian would literally implode before me, squashed into bloody jelly so quickly they didn’t have time to scream.
Around us, the Tigers were closing in. The Fire Dragons, several yards behind the Banshees, stopped and fired at the 20 jumppack Tigers hurtling down upon them. Four Tigers died on the way down. The others landed behind the Dragons and charged, tearing into them with sword and bolt pistol. The bike Tigers sprayed more bolter rounds into the Banshees as they rode past; one Tiger swept the Banshees with a gout from a flamer and all of them perished. Their nerve finally broken, the Guardians we were fighting fled and we shot them down as they ran.
By the time we were done knifing the Guardians who hadn’t been killed right away the jumppack Tigers had finished off the Fire Dragons, severing the alfirs’ hands to keep as trophies. The bike Tigers roared off in search of fresh prey. I couldn’t see the Dark Reapers on the ridge opposite us—had they fled? Somehow, we had survived.
“We didn’t need any damn help,” Hengr spat, as the leader of the jumppack Tigers approached. “Especially from a bunch of women.”
“Shut up and get back to your men,” I growled at him. He glared at me for a moment and then withdrew. I turned to the Tiger Veteran Sergeant as she unbuckled her helmet. “I am Ferin Ironhammer. We thank you for your aid,” I said.
Her hair was black and cut short, and she was missing one of her brown eyes; I was no Wolf Priest, but I guessed she lost it to an Ork axe, of which I’ve felt several. She wiped away the blood from a fresh wound on her forehead and replaced her helmet. “I am Sita Gupta, Tiger of Kali. I apologize for the delay—en route, we had to deploy one of our squads against the Dark Reapers.”
She looked around as her sisters collected their dead. “Many more Eldar are headed this way. Comcentral has ordered a general retreat, back to Third Sector. We will accompany you, if you like.”
“Gladly, but we have many wounded and dead we will not leave behind,” I told her.
“We burn our dead—of course, the Dragons were kind enough to start the job for us,” she smirked. Beneath my helmet, I stared at her in horror, for until then I had only known Orks and Traitor Marines to speak so callously of fallen comrades. These Tigers of Kali were indeed as cruel as I had heard.
I began, but Sita Gupta ignored me as if the retrieval of the geneseed
didn’t matter. Instead, he turned and yelled orders in a tongue unfamiliar
to me. I watched as one of her troopers picked up the corpse of a Tiger
with a nine-inch hole seared straight through her intestines. As she tossed
the corpse on top of the others to be burned, the helmet fell off and her
long red hair tumbled out. I looked into her dead, staring blue eyes.
With great effort, I roused myself from my Deep Memories and reminded myself of where I was. The danger for my kind in delving into the Deep Memories is that one can become enchanted by their power and remain there for years, re-living one’s experiences. But I was myself again. And I knew what had been troubling me: I had seen this woman the Tigers call Raja Khandar Madu die on Bray 4,000 years ago—she was the dead Tiger with the red hair and the blue eyes I had seen tossed upon a makeshift funeral pyre. But how could this be?
The candles before the other Dreadnoughts had burned low and I wondered how long I had been submerged in my memories. Hours? Days? It didn’t matter. I strode from the Tiger Eternal crypt or shrine or whatever the hell they called it and growled at the first Tiger I saw to fetch Zaghnal Maratha and have him meet me in the feast hall.
I soon learned that I had been remembering for only a few hours. The feast was over and all the Marines—Wolves and Tigers—had left. The servants were busy cleaning but paid little attention to me as I waited.
Zaghnal Maratha appeared. “Greetings, Old Wolf. I trust—”
I pointed a talon at him. “I have seen your Raja before.”
“I saw her at the Battle of Bray—4,000 years ago. I saw her killed and I watched her body burned. Now how can it be that the same woman welcomes me and my men here today?”
“Are you sure it was her, Old Wolf? The Battle of the Two Fangs was a large conflict very long ago, and—”
“Do you doubt the word of a Space Wolf?” I thundered, and the servants fled the room. “And do not speak to me of that battle. I was there! I WAS THERE AND I KNOW WHAT I SAW!”
He didn’t so much as flinch. Nor did he shout. Rather, he stared right into my photoreceptors and coldly replied, “I too was there, as were many Tigers that were present tonight, though only I, being a Librarian, remember it.”
Fighting Tigers in orange and black armor ran into the room, bolters ready. Zaghnal Maratha waved them off. “Return to your posts,” he ordered. “Lord Ferin and I were discussing old times.”
The guards withdrew. “You are a liar,” I said. “And not even a good one. No Space Marine lives that long. Not even the Blood Angels.”
“You insult us, Lord Ferin. And were you not our honored guest, my reply to your insult would be of the sort you Space Wolves are most familiar with. Dharma forbids us from deceiving our friends, Lord Ferin, and the Space Wolves have ever been our friends—and ever shall. But to answer your question, let us go to the main library.”
“You first,” I growled.
We passed through many marbled corridors until we came to a huge room full of shelves holding thousands of scrolls. It also had a huge vidscreen hanging from one wall. Zaghnal dismissed the servants and activated the vidconsole. A vidpage covered in strange letters appeared on the screen.
“This is the main library of the Fighting Tigers, where we keep the Rigsamayajur Mahaduyana, the sacred text that records our history. So far, it consists of over 458,000 vidpages of iambic verse. As the seniormost Tiger of Brihaspati, it is my task to maintain and add to the collection. So you were right: I am a poet. There is also a Rigsamayajur Ghuyarashtra, a different version, kept by my counterpart to the south, but—”
“Show me what you have to show me and make it quick,” I grumbled.
“Very well.” Vidpages flipped past too fast for anyone but a Dreadnought to read. “The Rigsamayajur is written in High Vedic Sanskrit, but I can translate it for you if—”
“I will translate it myself,” I replied. Another benefit of being a Dreadnought.
Thousands of vidpages flipped by. Suddenly, Zaghnal Maratha stopped them. “Here is where my predecessors began to record the Battle of the Two Fangs,” he said. He flipped a few more pages and magnified the view. “And here is the list of the fallen.”
Halfway down the page was:
“And,” Zaghnal Maratha said, flipping ahead several dozen pages, “here she is again, during the Eradication of the Koli in the Angrboda Nebula.”
“And,” he said, flipping through more pages, “she ran into our purple-armored friends from Bray again.”
Madu,Tiger of Indra,
“In that life, she had a very promising career,” he said. “She had risen through the ranks, from Scout to Assault Trooper to Veteran Sergeant to Veteran Trooper and to Assault Terminator before being ambushed in a forest by Howling Banshees. A shame, really.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you Tigers live forever? Die and live again and die again and live again?”
“In a sense. We call it purusha.”
“No one lives forever,” I growled. “You are born, you live, you die, and that is the end of you. Each man has only one life to give for the Emperor. And just because you scribble nonsense in pretty verses and have fooled yourselves into believing it does not make it real.”
“You say you saw Khandar Madu die on Bray. She is here, but still you do not believe. Do you wish more proof that what you have already seen?”
“I do,” I said.
you will believe what you see next,” he replied.
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Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers