The Garden of Ghosts
Upon my journeys I came to the Garden of Ghosts, the Forgotten Monument of Holy Terra. Built in the earliest days of the Imperium, the garden has stood for ten thousand years exposed to the harsh winds and rains of the Throneworld’s highlands. Time is a cruel master and after ten millennia the faces have been all but worn away. Everyday uncountable numbers of adepts pass beneath the sightless gaze of thousands upon thousands of the long dead. Few now know what the monument symbolizes, its origins having been locked away in the depths of Imperial History. The truth is far more tragic. Once each statue had been carved in the likeness of the warriors that fell to defend Terra from the treachery of Warmaster Horus, but thousands of years of neglect and revision have robbed the monument of its purpose to all but those warriors of the Adeptus Astartes whose archives contain histories of the Horus Heresy. As long as I draw breath, let it never be said these warriors were forgotten. Their memory will be carried with me until my last day, In Memoriam.
-Chapter V, Warrior
Pilgrimages of the Adeptus Astartes
Yet, today could not be celebrated. He held Vygo in his arms, his friend’s chest pierced by a broken sword. His own armor wept blood from a dozen gashes and punctures, the crimson bright against the battlefield’s dust. He wasn’t aware of his surroundings, or the dark iron and bright gold bodies piled high in every direction. He didn’t see the crumbling mountain walls around him, or the storm of fire and metal that raged in the sky. Amon was only aware of the ragged gasps coming from his friend’s respirator. With a shaking hand he unbuckled the seals on Vygo’s collar, hearing the hiss of escaping air as he removed his friend’s helmet. Knowing that these would be his last moments with his brother, he wanted Vygo to know he would not have to endure this last trial alone.
Vygo was pale as only a man who has lost too much blood to live could be. His eyes swam in and out of focus, and his neck could not hold the weight of his head. His dark hair was matted with blood and dust and the blood vessels in his eyes had all burst from ordnance concussion. With every ragged cough more of his ruined lungs would follow. He gently reached below Vygo’s neck and delicately turned his face to look at him. Vygo gasped, suddently jerked into consciousness. He looked to Amon with the eyes of a man who had fought his last battle. Amon knew the look well enough now. He had seen it many times in the past fifty-five days of fighting. It was the look of a man refusing to come to grips with his mortality. Neither of them had believed the stories coming in from the front with every wave of refugees. Stories of Legionaries who had been unable to cope with the stress of having endured the whispered insanities the Warmaster had unleashed. Stories of conflict on an unimaginable scale seemed impossible to the inexperienced pair. That hundreds of thousands of legionaries could be dead dead, torn to pieces by their own kind, beggared belief. Experience was the cruelest of teachers, and it was in no shortage of lessons these past weeks.
Fifty-five days of endless combat. Not the slow grind of a siege or the lightning fury of descending into a heart of the enemy from orbit, but a parade of tortures without end. Even behind the lines there were close quarters firefights with the creatures of nightmare and shadow. Trench raids by battle hardened, merciless Iron Warriors had torn through their lines at the Dhwalaghiri redoubt and it was they who had shoved the sword through Vygo’s chest. The Iron Skull of Olympia's mirthless visage etched into the blade protruding from his armor. The bastard sons of Perturabo were not the only foe they had faced these past weeks. There had been sudden executions from Alpha Legion infiltration teams that picked off their sergeants and commanders, leaving them leaderless moments before an assault. Legionaries would disappear in the darkness of night, only for his brothers to find the bodies hung in a bloody mockery of the Emperor’s own sigil, their skin flayed from them by the vicious Night Lords. Yet, none of that was as mind numbingly relentless as fighting at the front.
They had been selected to fill the ranks of Storm-Captain Rohr’s detachment of Grenadiers, normally a position for veterans, the circumstances had seem the Legion Masters desire to increase the strength of their assault formations. They had thought their role would be to spearhead the counterthrusts of the Legion. The Warmaster had changed all of this. The insanities heaped upon them were limitless, each more soul wrenching than the last. The blistering sonic attacks of the Emperor’s Children that would burst a legionary in his armor or the massive tracked assault vehicles that would release herds of corrupted monsters in broken golden armor so that the VII Legion would know they killed their own kin. Numberless hordes of cultists were whipped before their guns so they would expend all ammunition before the wretches’ Word Bearer masters would descend into the loyalist lines, spreading warp fire and calling forth creatures beyond comprehension. The World Eaters would descend upon the palace walls in a blood lust, climbing over one another to be the first into a breach. Their blood spattered warriors mercilessly dragging the Imperial Fists down and rending them apart. The Warmaster’s own would lay down a ceaseless rain of ordnance on the Palace void shields, so that the firelight would make it feel as if the war raged within the heart of hell, and his warriors would reave their way through the VII Legion lines, taking gristly trophies and performing dark rites over the dead.
Of everything he had endured for the past fifty-five days, this trial would be the first to overwhelm him. He had held at Karnali when all hoped seemed lost, and again at Gandaki. Here in the powedered marble and granite of the palace precints, he would finally break, giving in to his own limits. The stoicism genetically bred into him and forged in thetraining halls would finally crack. He looked at his brother’s face, and tears
slowly began to trail from his eyes.
‘No,’ Vygo said with blood leaking from the corners of his mouth. ‘We won. The palace held. Today we celebrate, just like you said.’ His eyes swam out of focus as a terrible cough took him. Amon held him tighter until he stopped convulsing.
‘Not like this, not after everything,’ he replied, his voice breaking.
‘Then remember,’ Vygo said, gently tapping two fingers to the side of his friend’s head.
Vygo’s eyes glazed and he began to shake violently. His friend’s breaths came more rapidly, and the bright, arterial red of mortality came up with every cough that wracked his body. Amon gripped him tighter, as if he could some how expend the last of his strength to let Vygo cling to life. Finally, Vygo stilled and endured no more anguish. The tears ran hot down Amon’s face as he saw the light fade from his friend’s eyes. His discipline broken, he was still human enough to sob. His body shuddered, his jaw hung slack in a wordless cry of agony at such a profound loss so soon after the indescribable hell they had just survived. For his closest brother to die in the final moments of victory, robbed him of all will to carry on.
‘I will see you soon,’ Amon whispered, delicately closing his friend’s eyes.
He could not celebrate this day again, though the import of his nineteenth birthday was beyond reckoning. In the millennia to come it would be known as the Day of the Emperor’s Ascension, and today the traitors fled. The sky was alight with the contrails of fleeing ships and burning debris. Loyalist fighters that had been impotently grounded for so long, reaped happy vengeance upon the traitors. Across the planet the t raitors fought tooth and nail amongst one another for seats aboard gunships and assault claws. Their vast fleets of landers and bulk transporters crashed into one another in their effort flee from vengeance. The palace ordnance batteries that remained intact had opened up again now that the traitors had pulled away from loyalist lines. The massive rolling barrage incapable of missing such a densely packed target. For the traitor’s to flee as the palace fell had taken the impossible. They had all heard the news over the box, traitor and loyalist alike. It was as if a sudden halt came over the battle and both sides stared at one another for a fraction of a second before the Iron Warrior Vygo had been dueling stabbed him through his hearts and snapped the blade before turning into a sprint away towards the traitor lines. Seeing their comrade flee snapped the Iron Warrior’s from their disbelief and they turned and ran after Vygo’s murderer. The remaining Imperial Fists pursued their bitter foe, vengeance burning through their veins.
Yet today, amongst this victory, Amon had not pursued the enemy that had slain his best friend. He had numbly knelt next to Vygo and cradled him in his arms. Today’s significance had another deeper meaning beyond their initiation, one that had tied them since first meeting. It was such an insignificant thing to have
created such a strong union by giving the pair something to hold on to when times were hard and the darkness had crept in all around them. It is what drew them to one another in camaraderie under the merciless training masters, relying on one another for support and growing inseparable through shared
experience. It was one of those rare confluences of chance that see two strangers meet and befriend one another in mutual hardship. Enduring training together built their friendship into an unbreakable bond of brotherhood as close as true blood relation. Every year they would repeat the same tradition
in remembrance of their first meeting. At midnight, they would meet on the walls or parapets to tell stories of home in the same fashion as the first night on the cold battlements. On his thirteenth birthday, Amon was assigned duty in the bitter cold of the monastery’s outer walls. He had only been with the legion a few short months, and missed his family desperately. Vygo had been assigned his watch parter was friendly and conversational, constantly asking his counterpart why he was so dour. As the night wore on, Amon finally relented and told him of his birthday, and his homesickness. A slow smile crept to the corners of Vygo's mouth, and the other boy stared at him with in disbelief, finally sharing his secret. They continued talking for hours, Amon's thoughts of home disappearing completely. The secret that had bound them so closely was all Amon could think of.
Today was also Vygo’s nineteenth birthday.
VII Legion Organization
III Grenadier, CXVII Storm Battalion, VII Legion
The Storm Battalions are modularized combined arms forces designed to be used as shock troops for Imperial Fists assaults. Over time the Storm Battalions earned a fierce reputation amongst the legions for their daring, all out style of attack or their tenaciously stubborn defense. At the outset of the Siege the CXVII Storm Battalion possessed near company strength detachments of its own Grenadier, Support, and Airborne detachments as well as the five standard companies that made up Imperial Fists Battalion level units.
Hard fought attrition battles favored the Imperial Fists preferred manner of war making, with their assaults comprised of large numbers of Terminators and Heavy Infantry. These self-contained linebreakers were key to winning back ground lost to the forces of the Warmaster, though by the end of the Siege these units
had suffered 90% attrition rates.
III Grenadier was the CXVII spearhead, leading the way through no mans land behind their boarding shields, using specialist shotgun armed trench clearance teams and large numbers of flamer and meltagun support
to crack open the traitors weakpoints so that armored support could drive through and overrun their positions. These specially outfitted legionaries carried all manner of personalized wargear and weapons to help them in their mission, and it wasn’t uncommon to see field modified Mark III plate amongst the veterans. By the end of the siege III Grenadier was reduced to a single man, its honors and victories carved into the Hall of Honor in the Legion’s fortress monastery.
Pict Capture DX/235-2B-112, Legionaries Amon and Vygo,
VII Legion, Siege of Terra-Day 05
Legionaries Amon [left] and Vygo [right] had been part of the same class initiated during the Primarch’s
accelerated recruitment program that saw thousands of untested neophytes complete their training four years earlier than the standard decade long cycle practiced by the Imperial Fists. While functionally as capable as a standard legionary, having received their Black Carapace, both lacked the four years of
practical combat experience normally required by Legion standards. Meaning, that for these two warriors, the Siege of Terra would be their first war. Amongst the recruits directly initiated for the battle of Terra, attrition was 97%. Legionary Amon was the only survivor of III Grenadier, every other warrior falling to the
traitors during the fifty-five days of fighting.
Both warriors are equipped in newly forged Mark III Iron Armor still bearing the original makers mark and coat of paint. The Phobos pattern rifle and pistol were favored by the Imperial Fists for their accuracy and stopping power against power armored opponents, though the weapons frequently required a level of
maintenance that some would consider inexpedient. During the Siege weapons jams and armor malfunctions were common as the defenders were rarely not engaged in combat long enough to perform field maintenance. By week two of the Siege large numbers of units were issued with combat gladius’ or chainblades so that ammunition would be conserved in the trench fighting [Not Pictured]. The Pict Capture above shows the two legionaries during the first Imperial counter-offensive at the Dhwalaghiri line, each with a pistol and heavily laden with excess grenades and ammunition for the lengthy combats the Storm Battalion would engage in.
Edited by Marshal Rohr, 02 April 2016 - 02:20 AM.