The ground they were covering was ruined by the furious tank fight and stank of fuel and fyce-line. Shells had torn it up, so that the chalky bed rock was ploughed up over the black topsoil in white curds and lumps. It looked to Curth as if the very entrails of the earth had been blown out and exposed. This was a dead landscape, and they would undoubtedly extend and enlarge it before they were finished with Bhavnager. Lesp darted to the left as a Ghost went down.

Another two fell to an overshot tank round immediately ahead and Chayker and Foskin ran forward. This is hell, Curth thought. It was her first taste of open war, of full-scale battle. Shed been through the urban horrors of Vervunhive, but had only ever read about the experience of pitched war in exposed territory. Now she understood what the term meant. It took a lot to shock Ana Curth, and death and injury wasnt enough. What shocked her here was the raging, callous fury of the battle. The scale, the size, the gak-awful noise, the mass charge.

The randomness of pain and hurt. Every time she thought she knew the horrors of war, it gleefully exposed new ones. She wondered how men like Gaunt could be even remotely sane after a life of this. Stay down, Im here! They congregated a kilometre to the east of Bhavnager at an oudying farm.

Even from this distance, the thunder of the main assault four kilometres away was shaking the ground. Rawne spat in the dust and picked up the lasrifle he had lent against the farmyards drybrick perimeter wall. Time to go, he said.

Captain Sirus nodded and ran back towards his waiting tank, one of six Conquerors idling behind the abandoned farmstead. Feygor, Rawnes adjutant, armed his lasgun and roused up the troops, close on three hundred Ghosts. The wind was up, and the sun setting.

Gold light radiated from the bulbous stupa of the temple a kilometre away. Rawne adjusted his vox. You see what I see?

I see the temple. Behind them came the convoys eight remaining Salamanders. Rawne hopped up onto the running boards of one of the command Salamanders and rode it in, turning back to supervise the infantry group advancing behind him. The five Conquerors chasing Siruss Wrath of Pardua were named Say Your Prayers, Fancy Klara, Steel Storm, Lucky Bastard and Lion of Pardua, the latter the Wraths sister tank. Rocking over terrain humps and irrigation gullies, the Pardus machines began firing, their shots hammering at the looming temple and its precincts. Puffs of white smoke plumed from the distant hits silently.