State of the Fifth, 003.M31
The second year of being the High Regent’s legion would be a year of great contrasts. Enough rebellions and battlefields demanded their attention to keep the Wardens fully occupied as they spread their strength from one side of the galaxy to the other. Success was a nigh constant companion as they worked with unrelenting dedication to repair the damage inflicted from the Vanishing.
Yet, as each critical situation was resolved, three less serious problems grew in the wake. With each rebellion defeated, a period of intense rehabilitation and garrison was required to prevent the planet from sliding out of the Imperium’s hands. The Wardens’ relationship with the Imperial Army had always been close, but this relationship intensified as the Wardens and the Imperial Regent desperately required the sheer bodies the Army could spare as the Army relied heavily on the Wardens’ prestige and power to coordinate and lead operations.
Thus, 003 may have been a year of unending victories, but each victory punished the Fifth Legion with more and more burdens.
State of the Fifth, 004.M31
Three years into Alexandros' regency would sound new notes of discontent at the same time new victories were added to the rosters.
The last of the major rebellions had finally been brought to heel by the early part of the year, due in no small part to a joint campaign between the Halcyon Wardens and The Riven against The Kili-Den Alignment. The Imperium's unity was gradually reaching parity with the propogandists' efforts. The unending efforts of the Order of the Open Hand bore fruit as a number of minor systems peacefully returned to the Imperial fold.
For the first time since the Vanishing, the Halcyon Wardens no longer found themselves rushed to disaster after disaster. This was not the same as having true leisure time. Even as the Halcyon Wardens, the Legiones Astartes, and the Imperial Army wore down the internal threats to the Imperium, external threats had grown in equal measure. Ork warbosses, alien raiders, and unknown dangers struck at the edges of the Imperium's borders, opportunistically exploiting the Imperium's weaknesses.
So it was, even though the Great Crusade was officially on hiatus, the war machine of Humanity slowly turned its attention once more to the unclaimed regions and the distant borders.
Nor would only the Legion set its sights on unofficial expansion.
At the tail end of 003, the High Regent dealt with the Keath Debacle which added another tension to the Martian-Terran double-eagle alliance. After resolving this situation, Alexandros declared it had been too long since he had stepped onto the battlefield and fulfill the purpse his Father had created for him. Thus, the Halcyon Wardens would enjoy a long-sought opportunity to serve under their gene-sire on the battlefield. Half of the year would be spent againt the Maelynos Empire and its unusual four-legged titans.
While most of the Legion had spent its time on securing the internal security of the Imperium, several exceptions existed.
State of the Fifth, 005.M31
While numbers rarely mean more than anything intended, there are a noted few who believe hidden meanings and symbology can be interpreted by aligning events, dates, and the correct number. So it was, the fifth year of the newest millennium ushered in a note of achievement and success.
Strengthening the core of the Imperium's political and military infrastructure, the Halcyon Wardens boasted of no small number of achievements, both diplomatic and martial. This would be the year most historiagraphers would point to as the beginning of the 'mini-golden age' of the Alexandrian Regency.
The overt internal threats spawned by the Vanishing had been mostly dealt with, though deeper signs of discord would lay hidden, not allayed.
The external threats no longer enjoyed easy victories as the Imperial war machine began to respond to their incursions. Raiders found fewer pickings as the warships of Man began patrols, and xeno oppressors fought against the early skirmishes that signaled the incoming counter-invasions.
Pyrrhicles, Herald of the High Regent, spent little time in war as he shouldered his master's burden as emissary to the myriad branches of the Imperium. So great and time-consuming was his duty that, with great reluctance, he resigned his office as Lord Protector of the Order of the Shield. The honor passed to his second-in-command, Malis, who accepted it with somber duty. This change would mark both men. Only a Half-Astartes, retirement from combat duty would lighten the aging veteran's responsibilities even as he criss-crossed the galaxy in service of the High Regent. For Malis, who had long been aware of the value of propaganda, took care to publish his and his Legion's exploits and present it to the average citizen. This would be a boon in rising the stature of the Halcyon Wardens and their gene-sire among the common man.
It would prove quite contentious among the other Legions.
State of the Fifth, 006.M31
Continuing the success from the previous year, the Halcyon Wardens continued to invest themselves in the Imperium's strengthening health. Due to the sheer volume of territory, the Order of the Open Hand would concentrate its efforts in Segmentum Solar. The hope, at the time, was that by focusing on the Imperium's core would lead to a cascade effect as their efforts rippled outward.
In one sense, this was a great success and would provide a powerful bulwark against the Five Ruins. In spite of the shifting alliances and betrayals to soon visit the galaxy, Segmentum Solar would survive the events relatively intact with only a single exception. Oath bonds and martial unity would reinforce each other and stand as a firm foundation for rebuilding.
In another sense, this would only polarize the differences between 'proper' Imperium and the Primarchian domains. Although the Order could hardly be blamed for not having enough diplomats and agents to cover the entire galaxy, their focus would distract them from the rumblings and early warning signs of domains slowly shifting to other paths. What was done in optimism that the rest of their cousins would behave honourably and true would be repaid with treachery.
In military matters, the High Regent oversaw the successes of the previous year and declared the new territory additions provided the necessary resources to aid further economic rehabilitation, post-Vanishing. As such, Alexandros turned his eyes upon the Ullanor Empire. For five straight years, the Obsidian Guard and the Fire Keepers, in conjunction with the Imperial Army, had contained the Ork menace without fail, establishing a ring of iron which had held against thousands of attempted breakthroughs.
Although the Reclamation Command siphoned a large portion of the Imperium's might, Alexandros sought to place the Ullanor Empire upon the road to destruction. In light of this, 50,000 Halcyon Wardens would travel to the front lines.
State of the Fifth, 007.M31
For seven years, the Ullanor empire had been a green splotch of cancer on Imperial maps. The initial reaction after the Vanishing was to quarantine. After all, the Emperor himself was to lead this campaign￼￼ himself to victory. The implicit assumption in strategy was the Emperor had to be found before victory could be one. However, as the years dragged on without sign or hope of finding the Emperor, and besieged by Lukas’ unending calls for annihilation, the High Regent deemed the xeno infestation was to be tolerated no more.
Mobilization began last year before coalescing into the largest Astartes campaign￼￼ since the Vanishing. The Halcyon Wardens arrived in the strength of 50,000 Marines. Despite being the Regent's Own, the Halcyon Wardens would take a step back to allow their cousins a chance at the glory. In fact, for the majority of the campaign, the Halcyon wardens served as support units, only rarely stepping into the spotlight as the situation demanded. Between these moments, they often served as the adhesive for coordinating so many different legions, armies, and forces. This campaign represented a much-needed opportunity to renew old friendships and analyze the current dynamics within the Imperium's war machine.
It would be a full century later before the fruits of these analyses came to light.
The Wardens discovered that time and ambition were undermining the bond between the Imperium and its greatest warriors. Plans were made to address these growing cracks within unity. Outwardly, Alexandros and his sons successfully created a image of Imperial strength, throwing off the shadows of discord inflicted by the Vanishing. This was helped more than a little by the excellent synergy and success of the Legions and the Imperial army.
State of the Fifth, 008.M31
The victory over the Ullanor Empire should have firmly secured the Imperium in security and confidence. This both did and did not happen. In the mind of the average citizen, this was true. The victory secured by the 'Brothers of Flame' as they became known and the High Regent was seized by the propagandists. Lord Protector Malis of the Wardens especially spun tales of inspiration of the Imperium's major victory, and glorified the High Regent especially. The Imperial citizenry now believed the Emperor, although missed, was no longer absolutely necessary to the survival of the Imperium.
It was perhaps for this last reason that the Ullanor victory seeded disaster.
Where the citizenry rejoiced at the victory, the Imperial's ruling class publicly celebrated the victory even as they subtly broke into factions. Two of the worst fracture points originated with two individuals: the Ash-Blooded and Hectarion.
The Ash-Blooded had been a reluctant supporter of Alexandros' promotion and had kept his criticisms private in communiques between himself, his most trusted allies, and Alexandros. With the Ullanor victory, accomplished mostly by a High Regent who did not lead from the front, the Ash-Blooded's warrior-spirit could hold its bile back no longer. The Emperor had been a singular warrior who had never allowed others to lead where he might. Alexandros' 'lead from the rear' command irked the Ash-Blooded. Those criticisms now aired among a wider circle, including the Council of Terra.
Hectarion had never agreed to the regency as a permanent solution. In his opinion, if the Emperor was truly gone, then tradition dictated the Imperium be split among all of the Primarchs, equally. This would prevent the very disagreement which spurred Rang's rancor and allow the brothers to live in peaceful co-existence. In these early times, Hectarion took care to voice his opinion only to a few trusted kin.
Thus, unity cracked, known to only a few.
State of the Fifth, 009.M31
In all but name, the Great Crusade had returned. With the threat of Ullanor defeated, the Halcyon Wardens returned to their pre-Vanishing status. The sole difference was that a greater percentage would be added to garrison assignments. As the High Regent's influence grew throughout the Imperium, he would turn to his sons to handle more delicate measures or for a stronger force where needed. In absolute terms, this was a minor change since the Halcyon Wardens took care not to tread into zones of control, either implicitly or explicitly, under the domain of other Legions. Yet, this effect was magnified in the eyes of many as Wardens would become regular agents acting in concert with the other Imperial departments.
This had the effect of polarizing the two views of both the Wardens and their gene-sire. To the supporters, it was more evidence of their good will and willingness to support the people however they could. To the detractors, it was another move to replace the Emperor with the High Regent.
The Ash-Blooded was rapidly becoming the central figure opposed to the High Regent as he was one of the few individuals who spoke out and cared little for the vitriol hurled in response. Although the High Regent took pains to try to amend their positions, none of these entreaties would shift the Lord of Shadows from his position. Concerted generosity from Wardens to Shadows also yielded no fruit in general, though exceptions were known.
Unknown to all but his most closest confidants, Alexandros himself began to doubt the current system. What had been created as an emergency reaction to one of Humanity's greatest disasters had lived far longer than it had intended. The High Regent's memoirs mention secret dispatches to powerful individuals, his fellow Primarchs in particular, but the dispatches themselves are lost to us due to the Sigillite's vigilance.
All that can be inferred is new plans were being tested far from the public eye.
State of the Fifth, 010.M31
The year, which heralded the tenth anniversary of the Vanishing, would not sound discord throughout the galaxy. What had begun as a quiet whispers of reforming the government dripped into public awareness. While the average citizen did not have all of the details, the elites of the Imperium became all too aware of what was going on: the High Regent was inquiring about imperial coronation. No timeframe could be ascertained or how serious this intent was, but the mere truth of its existence spread uncertainty and turbulence among the upper strata of society.
Several camps immediately began to form. The first opposed the concept. No one could hope to replace the Emperor, and to even attempt such a thing was foolhardy at best. The second camp supported it. The High Regent had successfully lead the Imperium for nine years now and had proven himself capable. The third camp could not come to a decision on the matter, swaying between the two sides. Which side dominated was extremely difficult to discern. Word spread throughout the year, and not all who heard of it believed it to be true. At best, it seemed the opposing camp may have been stronger, but Alexandros' reforms had made him a controversial figure among the elites, unlike the commoners who had responded better to the High Regent.
Regardless, events began to take on an acceleration of their own. The few times the matter was brought directly to the High Regent, he confirmed and committed to nothing. In his personal memoirs, Alexandros expressed great doubts about the possibility but would not extinguish it yet. This hesitation would not prevent escalation. Toward the end of the year, military deployments began to shift on a large scale that few quite realized.
The Halcyon Warden fleets who had successfully completed campaigns were not given new assignments. Instead, they were ordered to redeploy to several critical locations throughout Segmentum Solar.
It is only with the benefit of hindsight and access to the wider picture that allowed historians to discern the pattern. On a two-to-one ratio, Halcyon Warden fleets and units deployed between the Sol System and the Dominion and Certus Minor. The last third either deployed directly around the Sol System or to other approaches. Halcyon Warden commanders were given orders to be on full alert for subterfuge and intense combat operations. But it was only the Legates, the highest officers of the Legion, who were told of the enemy they might be called to fight: their fellow Astartes.
The Order of the Open Hand, the diplomatic arm of the Halcyon Wardens were the only ones who wore pulled from active assignments regardless of progress. Many of them were reassigned to strengthen relations between the Fifth Legion and its brother Legions. The Crimson Lions, above all, was denoted a priority assignment and would see some of the greatest members of the order travel to the Dominion for the purposes of peace.
How successful or necessary these actions might have been will be a question of the ages. For the hour was late when these decisions were made. 010 would end with many Halcyon Wardens traveling to their new deployments.
The next year would make a mockery of these plans.