Titus estimated that any close by Tyranids would now be sufficiently alarmed to their presence. It was time for war.
Vox and her fellow librarian had already pushed towards the entrance. Both sergeants claimed their spot directly behind them while the brothers shuffled for positions.
A couple of Hormagaunts passed the field of vision for a moment. They were climbing up from the lowland and their black exoskeletons transformed them into fleeting shadows among the rocks.
If enough had gathered, even these smaller creatures could make trouble for the Space Marines. The nook in which the door was hidden was an excellent spot to jump onto single targets.
The other librarian spoke: “Wait for our signal! Ready?”
Titus nodded and crouched, ready to spring forward. The two librarians laid the palms of their hands against each other. For a moment, nothing happened.
A thin sheet of fire licked up between their fingers.
Then, they burst into flames. A mighty cone of fire roared outwards, shortly followed by the librarians themselves.
Burning brightly they sought to gain enough space to step apart. Finally, they waved for them to pass through the gap between them.
Titus sprang forward, crossing cracked, partly melting rock and aimed to gain higher ground. Trusting that the fire would keep his back free, he scanned the area in front. Finding no immediate threat, he spun around.
A large pack of Hormagaunts was running around in excitement. Most of them had been too far away from the entrance to be harmed by the fire but close enough to be forced back by it.
Targets as easy as this were rare in the field and Titus used his advantageous position to the fullest. The warp flames had to die down before the five brothers carrying flamers could pass through. Until then, the beasts were thoroughly under suppressive fire.
The two librarians were the last to leave the outpost, steadying each other as they stumbled through the uneven terrain. Vox had blood dripping from her nose and the younger librarian looked shaken even with his helmet on. They each regrouped with their teams.
While Gladius moved out to engage the critters, Aegis drew together and looked for their objective.
When the Hive Tyrant came into view, Titus said in a baffled tone: “You didn’t mention that it was flying.”
“It’s not”, Vox answered, her choking gasps hardly audible in the wind. “That’s a trick of the light.”
And with this, she turned to the rock face in their back and powered up her jump pack.
From here on, everything happened so fast that Titus only found out the actual chain of events when Grimfang gathered the reports of his men during their march afterwards.
Unlike the specimen earlier, this Hive Tyrant was a veteran. Its black exoskeleton was scarred by innumerable battles.
It sailed around the edge of the mountain with deceptive slowness. A few quick beats of its enormous bat wings steadied it enough to lift the gun growing out of the disgusting body. Hindered by the unpredictable air currents, it nevertheless managed to take a wide part of the mountain flank under fire. The dense cluster of Aegis would have been in trouble, had it not dispersed a moment earlier.
Tiberius and Dankwart managed to find cover while Vox strove to gain height. Titus, on the other hand, blindly relied on his armour to protect him while he tried to follow his partner. For once, tactical considerations had nothing to do with it. Neither did habit or even instinct. It was fear that drove him after her. Nothing but the stinging, irrational fear to lose her. He was certain that she would attack the thing and he had to stop her.
Not for the first time today, Titus’ orders were utterly ignored. He could scream his demands that she stopped this nonsense all he liked. While both of them struggled with the wind, Titus soon became certain that Vox was employing her foresight. There was no other way she could climb so fast. Titus was thrown off course during his third, hasty leap, missed the ridge he had aimed for and only found a footing considerably lower.
For a moment, he saw Vox crouching on a rock high above him. She drew her sword. The Hive Tyrant flew a tight circle and came back for the next assault.
And then, the Trygon broke through the wall right in front of Titus.
He was pushed away from the precipice by the stones the beast had to shove out of the way. At least escaping the lashing claws of the monster, he fell.
The drop alone would never have caused his stomach to crumple up like it did when he saw Vox pushing away from her perch.
Inexorably slipping further out of reach, Titus did not even dare to lift his bolter against the Hive Tyrant for the fear of hitting Vox by accident.
Landing unnecessarily hard on a steep slope, he had to push away once more to escape the stones that clattered down around him.
When he was able to look again, the Hive Tyrant was tumbling. Its right wing had snapped off under Vox’s sword strike and it plunged down, hitting the Trygon. The snake-like body of the burrower was forcefully dragged out of the rock and both monsters plunged into the depth. Titus only just managed to disappear from under them. Screaming with unearthly voices, the beasts hit the side of the rock with oddly muffled thuds on their way down. When they landed, the Hive Tyrant had been cooked by the electric charges its sibling used for defence in close combat.
Vox was nowhere to be seen.
Titus’ vision hemmed in. The world became a horrible pinpoint of hatred, containing only the single moving enemy in reach.
Attacking a Trygon at short range was at the far side of the sensible options at Titus’ disposal. He did not care.
As if powered by bloodthirst alone, his axe appeared in his hand. Roaring in sheer, inconceivable agony he sprang the Trygon from above. He sent a salve of bolter shells ahead because waiting until he arrived was out of the question. He needed to hurt it, needed to find a way out for the overwhelming pain inside him.
The xeno had some functional limbs left and managed to flick him aside at first but this only resulted in Titus having a face and a belly to attack.
Had he been able to think about it, he would have been grateful for the challenge. He was forced to pour all his skill and experience on top of his anger to overcome the beast.
When it finally sagged, Titus realised that he had not been the sole combattant. Grimfang was kneeling on the head of the thing, his sword buried up to the hilt between two armour plates at the neck.
“Bloody hell, sergeant”, the Space Wolf growled and it was hard to tell whether the glint in his eye was meant to be approval or reprimand. He was panting just as heavily as Titus but both warriors had retained only decorative scratches.
Aggravatingly slowly after the rush of the fight, details trickled into Titus’ consciousness.
Dankwart and Tiberius were close by. They had taken the beast under fire. In the rocks above them, the last few smaller critters ran around. Here and there the fire of a flame thrower went up.
All of this seemed strangely irrelevant.
There was only one crucial thing he needed to know: “Where is Vox?”