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The massed ranks of the assembled Chaos Warriors waited eagerly on the boarding ramps, swords dripping gore from the pre-battle blood offerings. Their bestial chanting, and the muted clanking of their weapons grating on their armour, reached Deathmonger's keen ears even through the thickness of his iron helm. Beastmen bellowed their rage at each other, stamping their cloven hooves as they jostled and bit each other in their lust for battle.
Glancing to starboard, Deathmonger saw the huge Plagueship of Nurgle swing out of formation and head towards the approaching Imperial Fleet. Slime fell in fatty gobbets from its hull as it eased forward, the thick black cloud of bloated flies almost obscuring its malformed shape. Dragging its ungainly bulk through the waves, the Plagueship left a stinking stain on the surface of the otherwise clear seas, marking its passage with its filth-ridden wake. Dimly-seen decaying and corpulent warriors reverently loaded its plague catapults with their deadly cargoes - plague spores, detritus and nurglings that climbed eagerly into the great launching cups. The huge expanses of mildewed rag which served as sails flapped indolently in the indifferent breeze, proclaiming the arrival of the Plaguefleet to any foolhardy individuals who might actually be close enough to watch.
The pungent stench of the Plagueship to starboard mixed with the heady fragrances drifting in from the port. There the Hellship of Slaanesh forged its many-coloured path towards its victims, delicate spider trails of brilliant light beaming forth from the tall dome atop its elegant decks. Saardis Vaarn, Champion of Slaanesh, poised at the bow of his ship, glanced across to catch Deathmonger's gaze. He raised a slender leather-clad hand in languid salute, grinning as he urged his brightly bejewelled craft to greater speed. White foam crashed around its bows as the Hellship surged forwards, easily outpacing the Bloodship of Khorne in the race to battle.
Deathmonger acknowledged the greeting with a curt nod of his armoured head. He knew that beneath the debauched appearance and fine silk raiment, Saardis Vaarn was arguably one of the greatest servants of the Chaos Lords, and his fighting skills legendary.
Overhead hovered the Bane Tower of Tzeentch, the incomprehensible Knower of All Things. It glowed blue-white, the barely-controlled coruscating raw magical energy of the warp arcing and flashing across its hull.
Deathmonger didn't know the name of the strange Chaos Sorcerer who chose the Bane Tower as his battle steed; as the heavily-cowled wizard had explained in clipped tones when they first met, to know the name of your enemy is to wield great power over him. Deathmonger had grunted dismissively then, and did so again now. He had little faith in the fickle power of the Changer of Ways. Deathmonger followed the way of the warrior - an honourable path to Daemonhood through battle after bloody battle.
Even so, the Bane Tower, and the Sorcerer within it, still commanded a measure of respect from the blood-stained Champion of Khorne, for he had seen it consume many foes in unearthly fire, or summon great waves and plunge ships into the cold ocean depths. As he watched, the Tower accelerated with incredible rapidity, glowing an intense white as it shot towards the heart of the Imperial fleet.
The Deathgalleys were gathering around Deathmonger's Bloodship. Their sails billowed in the wind as they wallowed in the wake of the towering Man O' War. Deathmonger paid them scant regard: they had their orders and would either fulfil them or die in the attempt. To those that survived the onslaught, perhaps there would be a reward from their fickle chaos masters; for those that died, eternal damnation. Deathmonger shrugged and turned away.
The Imperial fleet loomed large before the Plaguefleet, a bristling wall of cannon and steel. Deathmonger counted the Wolfships and the Wargalleys, arrayed in ranks before the Admiral's Greatship. Deathmonger knew many of the larger Imperial vessels by name, their fearsome reputations going before them. He recognised the Greatship Karl Franz as a mighty warship and a worthy foe.
Gesturing with a heavily mailed fist to his lieutenant, Deathmonger's coarse voice rasped his instructions.
"Sound the war cry. Unleash the burning skulls."
The lieutenant grinned, showing sharp steel fangs. He screamed his leader's commands at the lesser warriors below. They moved to take up their appointed battle stations as the ship's great bronze horns trumpeted the charge.
The Bloodship lurched forwards, closing the gap with the Imperial warships. The burning skulls were flung into the air, filling the sky with the acrid smell of scorched blood and bone. The deadly missiles flew as blazing streaks of flame, crashing down amongst the Imperial ships and igniting sails and crew alike. Imperial halberdiers on the deck of the nearest Wargalley leapt into the sea screaming, their clothes aflame.
The tension on the Bloodship's decks was rising to breaking point, the battle rage sweeping through the crowded warriors. Deathmonger knew that they would soon be uncontrollable: becoming insensate killing machines as all rational thought was consumed by the need to kill and kill again. As if to emphasise his thoughts, a Minotaur suddenly stampeded through the packed ranks of the thugs and cultists, completely berserk with frenzied bloodlust.
Then, as one voice, the hoarse cry rose to a bellowing cacophony.
"Blood for the Blood God."
Deathmonger grinned as he braced himself for the shock of the Hammer of Khorne striking home. Drawing his black Chaos Blade from its scabbard of flesh, his rasping voice joined those of his eager warriors as the gaping maw of the Bloodship spewed molten lead and iron upon its ill-fated victims.
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