Alkedra informs us that there are native life-forms known to swim in promethium, so the presence Thorhammer detected is probably not a Genestealer. Would be good to confirm this, but lower priority than before.
In the meantime, we decided to launch a patrol into Grynsval, in order to scout out the area and thin out the Genestealers. Launching a full assault seems undesirable at this stage; while we have access to Guard and local forces, their effectiveness and morale are doubtful.
We noticed last time that one large building had no Genestealers – or at least, none emerged, even though all the others seemed to be in use as hiding places. This building turned out to be the warrior lodge, which seemed like a possible place for a Broodlord, so we agreed to make that our first priority.
Before entering on foot we took a fly-over in the shuttle. Thorhammer exterminated one Genestealer from the air, and the rest hid. We could see movement all around, but not enough to aim at. Hrolfgar tried to detect the xenos in the Warp and succeeded all too well; from the look on his face, his experience was similar to mine. I don’t think either of us will be trying that in a hurry.
The purpose of the fly-over was not to kill the Genestealers in any great number, but to discourage them from patrolling in the open, in order to make the following reconnaissance safer. To assist in stealth, we ordered the servitor to circle overhead as we went in on foot – the idea was to attract their attention and intimidate them into staying in hiding. As it turned out, it was a very good thing we had the shuttle nearby.
The guards made an opening for us in part of their barricade, and I led the way in, using my stummer to muffle my footsteps. The barricade was quite near the lodge, so we made that our first port of call.
The lodge was a big and sturdy building; there were no ground-floor windows and the upper windows appeared to be barricaded. Sarlock detected four life-forms on the second floor, so we took positions and prepared for entry.
I jumped up, punched a hole through the roof, and dropped in a frag grenade. There were several screams – not Genestealers – and we discovered three apparent humans, along with one killed by the grenade.
According to their story, two of them (an old man and a young warrior) had been part of the last failed assault on Grynsval, six months ago, and had barricaded themselves into the lodge; the other, an old woman incapable of speech, had been there already.
We were highly suspicious of this story. Where did they find food and water to survive so long? Why did the Genestealers not break in and take them long ago? Although Ogur could not confirm taint, it seemed almost certain, and Hrolfgar very rightly executed them rather than risk allowing their escape.
Having cleared the house without further incident, we moved out to check the next one. At this point, things started to come apart: while I was moving forwards to scout the house, Sarlock detected a group of Genestealers hiding in rubble to the side of the path. Just as I was nearing the house, Krak’atoa flamed the other group, and we were attacked by two packs at once, six xenos in total.
Ordinarily this might not have been a problem – we were competent to take on six Genestealers between us. But several of my brothers opened fire, causing enough noise to awaken more. As we despatched the first wave, more and more appeared.
Realising that our position was untenable – and that Hrolfgar was about to do something dangerous – I dropped a frag grenade and leapt back to Thorhammer’s vantage point on higher ground. Hrolfgar unleashed a powerful blast of warp-lightning that staggered the Genestealers but didn’t kill them, and he went down under a mob of them.
Thorhammer had the presence of mind to call in the Servitor, who brought the shuttle down safely on our position, but our brothers were pinned out in the open. Even if they’d been able to flee to the shuttle, they would most likely have been accompanied by Genestealers, and there were more than enough to bring down the shuttle.
Since there didn’t seem to be any remaining options, I threw a blind grenade into the middle of the fray. Krak’atoa, Ogur, and Sarlock were able to retreat to the shuttle. I jumped into a smoke cloud full of angry Genestealers to look for Hrolfgar.
The darkness was impenetrable, which is probably for the best, but it made it very difficult to find him. In the end I got my bearings by finding a ditch near his position, and then I managed to locate him by touch. By this time the smoke was thinning, and I was uncomfortably aware of the number of Genestealers moving nearby – knowing how good their hearing is, I’m glad I requisitioned a stummer.
I had my doubts about whether I’d be able to fly with him, but the machine-spirit in my jump pack must have sensed the urgency of the situation, and we lifted off the ground. As I’d thought might happen, the noise of the pack drew our foes’ attention, and one of them slashed at me out of the murk, but its aim was off.
By that time the shuttle was airborne, and I carried Hrolfgar over the barrier to safety.
I was unscathed; several of my companions were badly hurt. Worst of all, before Hrolfgar went down I think I saw one of the Genestealers get its ovipositor inside his helmet. My understanding is that the implant can be removed with prompt attention, and I hope Ogur is up to the task. If not, Hrolfgar cannot be allowed to live; a traitorous Rune-Priest is a dreadful prospect.
In the meantime, we need to reassess our tactics. Lessons learned:
- Stay focussed and be careful not to engage more than one pocket of Genestealers at a time.
- Avoid noisy weapons; this puts some of us at a disadvantage, but if we can avoid facing large numbers at once, I’m sure we can prevail.
- Never underestimate the value of blind grenades and stummers. On the other hand, frag grenades seem to be near-useless against Genestealers, except for getting attention.
- Next time we do something like this, it may be worth our requisitioning some Stalker pattern bolters, or silenced ammunition. I was very glad to see Thorhammer had brought some of the latter.