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Alica stared at the ruined temple before her. Fitting for what was about to happen here, as it was in a temple like this one that the seeds of her betrayal took root.
Turning aside to face her Celestians, Alica spoke, her tone clear for all present to hear "I shall enter the temple. You leave now and return in two hours"
The lead Celestian nodded her assent to her superior.
Alica's face hardened as she continued.
"If I do not return in two hours, tell Inquisitor Holt I have fallen, and to bombard this place from orbit."
"I shall see it done, mistress," spoke Celestian Angelica as she spun to return to the Rhino troop carrier that had brought them. A note of pride filled Alica's heart as her bodyguard mounted up and the engine of the Rhino thundered into life.
She watched the white and blue form of the Rhino slip away in a dust storm across the salt flats.
She was now alone. She always knew that she must tread this path alone.
Turning back to the temple, Alica prepared for what lay ahead.
Gemiel sat patiently for her sister to appear. Her own bodyguard of warriors waited in the alcoves around the great alter room. Five warriors in pristine purple and gold armour, Their grim determination and silent demeanour denoted their loyalty to Gemiel and that their presence was not required.
They did not move, even when the noble form of the Canoness entered the temple through large swinging doors. They noted with disgust the gleaming white suit of power armour and the deep blue sash which hung loosely from the Sororitas' frame. They also noted the scabbard which held a sword swinging heavily from the Canoness' side and the long line of rosaries which were held on a small filament of wire.
No challenge was offered from these Emperor's Children, and none would be accepted if the enemy Canoness gave them one.
Instead she merely moved towards their mistress, a look of determination and anger in her features. Only stopping to withdraw her weapon, a polished and luminous white sabre which she held in a quite, elegant ease that many of Gemiel's Chosen admired.
Cast before Alica with the sharp relief of contrast in her own image was Gemiel. Where Alica's armour was ornate and pristine. Gemiel's was worn and cracked in places, but was none-the-less highly polished, with a lusture of deep purple that Alica had never seen before. Shrouded beneath her armoured chest plate was a bright pink tabard, with the symbol of one of the damned Chaos Gods resplendent upon it's fabric. The design seemed to have been woven into the very fabric and the symbol itself held a quality of pure satin against the plain cloth of which it was inlaid upon.
"I have come to settle our blood debt, and I do not intend to let you live any moment longer, Gemiel," spat Alica, her tone sinister and highly venomous.
"It has been too long since I last set eyes upon you, my sister," Gemiel let the insult of being related to such an abomination sink in before continuing.
"I do hope you've practiced your fighting technique, Alica," spoke Gemiel softly.
Alica watched the Slaaneshi Princess slowly withdraw her weapon. A fine sabre with no marks marking its pitch black surface.
Alica watched her foe slide slowing into the air, her weight being supported upon a massive set of powerful turbines and anti-grav engines.
Alica triggered her own jump pack, and felt the weight shift easily off her feet, although her eyes were still fixed upon Gemiel.
It was not until battle was joined with Gemiel that Alica noticed that she was being observed. She noted that the five solemn figures had not moved a muscle. Five individuals dressed in purple armour trimmed with silver and in each hand, a dangerous weapon.
They each bore a single lightning claw, and in the other hand held some sort of ranged weapon, ranging from a plasma pistol to a combi-meltagun.
Snapping back to the task at hand, Alica spun in a shallow arc as she brought her gleaming white sabre in a masterful arc down upon the purple form of Gemiel. With a skilful and elegant flick of her blade, Gemiel parried it. Alica rolled with the swing of her blade and placed her arm on Gemiel's armoured shoulder. She kept the traitor below her as she brought her weapon back up to strike again.
Gemiel slipped off her jump pack with a flick of her whist. She felt the powerful turbines slowly cycle down and with it, her altitude. She slipped her blade across where Alica's legs should have been, but clearly she had learned a lot since they last met. Her weapon was met with the physical presence of her white sabre.
Feeling her feet touch hard ground again, Gemiel rolled away at the same time, unhooking her jump pack in a quick hand movement.
With the weight of the pack off her back, Gemiel renewed her attack with her darkened blade. Swinging wide, Gemiel felt the weapon hit Alica's weapon, and pulling it back quickly and then punched forward, she felt the tip of her blade bite into soft flesh, by-passing the power armour with ease.
Gemiel watched with glee as Alica's face changed from grim determination into clear pain.
Alica forced herself away from her foe with a force of will, skirting around from attacking again whilst the pain flared in her leg. She discarded her own pack as she changed her grip on her white sabre.
A faint glimmer of utter pleasure flashed across Gemiel's face as she licked the fresh blood off her weapon. "I had tasted the blood of many enemies, and yours is the sweetest" hissed the Slaaneshi Princeess. (Nice, suitably creepy-evil for a Slaaneshi character)
Before she could hiss another insult, Alica darted forward. Sweeping her weapon across in a wide arc, aimed clearly at her foes head.
Gemiel ducked at the last instant, and swept her own blade at Alica's waist height.
Alica anticipated Gemiel's attack, and leapt back with the precision of a master swordmaster. Gemiel spun the weapon around in a small arc and brought her blade down where Alica had leapt back to, but her weapon met with the cold hardened edge of Alica's own parry.
Aspiring Champion Nioan led his squad away, despite his obvious desire to stay and watch his mistress strike the Adeptus Sororitas down, but had his orders.
Behind the ancient Imperial cathedral rested the squad's transport. A deep purple Rhino with silver trim idled outside.
Boarding the transport vehicle, the five Champions signaled they were ready to depart and the Rhino accelerated away from the cathedral.
Nioan depressed a switch on the monitor built-into the walls of the Rhino. The image changed to a rear view of the Rhino. The Emperor's Children marine glared at the monitor as the image of the Cathedral got smaller and smaller in the display.
Minutes later, the Rhino slowed to a halt and the aft ramp begun to lower. Nioan ordered his men out in ordered precision which was a hall mark of the Emperor's Children.
Glancing around, Nioan saw the faint outline of a Thunderhawk circling high above them.
Activating his vox with a mere thought, Nioan ordered the Thunderhawk down to the pick up point.
Blood flawed from open wounds as both combatants struggled to score the killing blow. Both warriors were too skilled to merely let their opponent through their guard.
Alica spun wildly with every ounce of strength she had left. A smile cracked across Alica's face as the blow slipped beneath Gemiel's guard and she felt the blade bite deep across her sister's chest. The white armoured warrior's face turned sour as the realisation hit her like a bolt shell that Gemiel didn't make such mistake in her fighting style. Something was amiss, and she couldn't put her finger on it.
Thoughts trickled through Alica's mind as she felt the warm sensation of blood wash across her hands from the deep cut in her opponents abdomen. Gemiel was holding her sister tight in an embrace as he life slipped away. Forcing her sisters arms off in disgust, Alica stepped back and watched her sister draw her last breathes, knowing that her task had been fore filled.
The Chosen squad stode up the open ramp of the Thunderhawk gunship. When they were aboard, they felt the sudden surge of engine power as the Thunderhawk round itself to full throttle. When the ramp was fully upright, the surge of power reached it's climax and the squad inside felt the full force of a full power take off.
Nioan strained to remain aloft, even with the full benefit of his power armour and the support of a bulkhead against which he rested his hand.
Minutes later, he accessed a hidden panel and a holographic display flickered into view. It's green interface depicted a vessel which grew larger and larger. Nioan watched as the vessel grew to be larger then the pict screen's viewable dimensions and parts of it begun to disappear off the edges of the screen.
Accessing the panel again, Nioan turned off the pict viewer, and spun to face the ramp once again. As he did so, he felt the shudder as the Thunderhawk touched down again, this time onto hard plate.
Seconds later, the front ramp lowered into place and Nioan ordered his squad out with a single gesture. When he was free of the armoured hulk of the Thunderhawk, he strolled across to a vox panel set against the closest wall of the Thunderhawk bay.
Pressing the activation stud, he spoke clearly. "Begin the second part of our Mistresses plan!"
Alica stepped back as she stared at her sister. Wounded.
Her mind filled with renewed resolve as she saw Gemiel reach for her weapon. She saw her sister stagger to her feet, intent upon finishing this fight, even if Alica wasn't.
The Sister of Battle watched the Slaaneshi princess step towards her, clearly unsteady upon her feet, her strength was fading fast.
Alica barely parried the strike from her sister which came as fast as a lightning, a powered thrust aimed at her stomach.
Smashing away Gemiel's blade in a counter-strike, Alica withheld her follow-up strike. She glared at her sister, knowing full well she was no threat to her now as Gemiel's blade slide across the shattered marble floor.
For what seemed an eternity, Alica and Gemiel eyes locked. Alica realized that they were worlds apart now, and she knew that there was nothing left of her younger sister.
Little could be done now, lest destroy what had become of Gemiel.
Rage blossomed in the Sister of Battle as the insight sunk in.
With but a single blow, she struck her sister. A clean blow, severing her head in one motion.
Turning away from the heavy thump of power armour hitting the marble floor, Alica was saddened greatly by the turn of events which had forced her into such a vile act as killing her sister.
Nioan pondered the pict screen before him. The Khorne Lord, Arnell, had made remarkable headway in preparing the way for Gemiel's forces to take their objectives without too much loss of life.
Already he had captured and secured two of the six sacred sites required for the activation of Gemiel's plan. He had entrusted this task to squads Iion, Sramian, Nall, Ionran and Quriab to hold the sites until they were required. Then at the stroke of midnight, the ritual would be complete, and the masterpiece of Gemiel's plan would be enacted.
A cackle floated across the vox link. To Nioan, it seemed so distant, so far removed from his senses, "Iion reporting, we are in the pods, awaiting deployment" croaked the vox unit.
"Iion, you are to make drop in three seconds" ordered Nioan.
A slight judder resounded through the hull of the ship as the drop pod was fired at the surface below. He watched the pict screen again as a rune flashed into existence. Due south of the objective.
A few seconds later, several other runes, each marking a squad member of Iion's squad, appeared.
They fanned out, and secured the area around the objective.
He would have to do this a further three times before the day was up, thought Nioan, a cold smirk crossed his face as the thought formed.
The drop pod screamed down form orbit. From the tone of the wind outside, Nioan could tell he was on target, a prefect trajectory.
The drop pod touched down heavily, the Slaanesh Chosen were ready for the sudden jolt. Less then a second had passed before the Chosen had passed before the doors had been blown out and the first Marine had crossed the threshold of the pod.
In the distance, the Chosen Marines could pick out the sounds of battle. The distinctive whirr of chainaxes and chainblades cutting into flesh, bolters firing and the sounds of death being wrought from the defenders of this world.
Nioan's eyes finally settled upon the objective. A stone figure of no more then 8ft in height. It's form disgusted Nioan in it's purity. A lone Sister of Battle stooped in prayer, and a single book resting in her stone hands.
With a thought, Nioan activated his armour's chronograph. A green display lit up in the bottom corner of his vision.
'Nearly eleven', thought the Champion squad leader, 'better get the ritual started' as he ordered his Chosen into their places.
The corpse was unlike anything Alica had seen before. It's form was unlike anything she had ever seen. It enacted loathing and hatred, but in equal measure, sadness and remorse. She stood there, staring at the corpse of her sister.
It could not have been more then an hour since the encounter had started.
Outside was dark, certainly darker then it had been. The light had faded gradually since the outset of her fight with Gemiel.
Her wrist chronograph was registering twelve, midnight.
She felt a cold wind stir. As the turned to leave, she noticed the wind become colder, somehow bypassing her heated suit of power armour.
A shiver ran up and down her spine, a sense of foreboding filled Alica.
From out of nowhere, a sound hung in the air. At first, it was too distant or too quite to hear properly. As the seconds ticked away, he voice begun to become closer or louder.
Alica shivered again as a cold finger toyed with the base of her spine. Spinning around to find the source of the sensation, she saw nothing.
Taking comfort in the fact that she still had her blade drawn and in her hand, the Canoness side stepped suddenly, she aware of another presence.
The presence seemed to float on the edge of reality, a specter of pure energy and somehow it was strangely familiar.
Slowly, as ethereal sounds became louder, until each was clearly heard, and easily defined. They were the sounds of battle. The sounds of death, screams, gunfire and the sound of blood being spilled.
Intermixed with the sounds of death, she heard a voice. The voice was calling to Alica. As she concentrated on the voice, she soon discovered it was her own. Alica screamed "I will not succumb! I am His holy servant, and I cast down your tyranny!"
Despite the Canoness' outburst of rage, the voice continued to whisper of thoughts and desires that Alica had kept locked and had sworn to never desire again upon turning upon the way of the Sororitas.
It whispered her greatest fears and secrets. Every secret known the Alica was bore out in hushed tones, and Alica could tell that is was taunting her, using her own secrets and whims to break down the mental barriers of faith she had spent so many years to errect.
Her mind reeled at what she was hearing. Without even thinking about it, her hand came to rest upon her rosarius. Taking solace in its presence before the voice had completely broken her, Alica's mind fought the psychic invasion with ever ounce of faith she could muster. She knew that if she faltered in her resolve now, she would surely die.
With a sudden thunderclap and a bright flash of pure purple radiance, the noise was gone. All of it. Becoming suddenly aware of a new presence behind her, Alica wheeled around abruptly.
She could not believe her eyes.
Gemiel had been given new life.
Before Alica could react, Gemiel bounded towards her, the darkened blade lashing out with frightening speed. Alica was unable to parry or dodge them all. Stepping back fom the sudden onslaught, Gemiel felt the surge of pain begin anew.
Two large gashes formed across her chest and arms.
"There are things in this universe that not even faith can defeat, Alica" spat Gemiel. "How?" demanded Alica as the life slipped from her mind.
"My mistress sent me a test of faith. I was to die by my own blood's hand and trust in her divine power!" spat the traitor Canoness.
Alica's face grimaced at the prospect that she had been toyed with. That she had played into Gemiel's hand.
"And you'll have the pleasure of watching my transformation" boomed Gemiel.
Alica glared with hatred at the sight before her. She watched her sister transform. Wings took root, and burst forth from Gemiel's back. She saw the Slaaneshi princess grow, her power armour bursting at the sides.
Within seconds, her power armour shattered into pieces which fell away and impacted against the floor of the temple. Purple light beamed from Gemiel's chest as a large symbol burned across Gemiel's chest.
The pain raked across Alica's body, she could feel her life slipping away rapidly as the transformation of Gemiel came to it's conclusion. "Your soul shall know oblivion as I have known it, Alica" boomed through Alica's mind as death overtook her.