In several instances, Icarion seems to have assigned operations on the Day of Revelation as rewards for those sworn to him; an opportunity to settle scores or assert one's primacy in the most emphatic way. Such interpretations are inevitable when one considers the Perfidy of Untara, in which two Legions would clash in a realm of warfare where both excelled - the oceans.
On the Loyalist side were the vaunted XIXth
Legion, famed even among the Astartes, led by one of the best-loved Primarchs. The Scions Hospitalier had proven themselves dauntless and staunchly loyal in their duty to Imperial unity throughout their service. More pertinently, when the Legions found themselves divided, the Scions took the side which proved to have the Emperor’s favour, Pionus setting himself against several of his brothers at the Vizenko Prosecution and condemning them for their trespasses. Quite aside from the fact that Icarion had suborned several of Pionus’ opponents from the Prosecution, the deed proved that the Primarch of the XIXth
could not be expected to turn against the Emperor.
The task of killing Pionus went to a brother who shared several of his talents and indeed had shared several battlefields with him, yet never the glory that accrued to the Scions. Sorrowsworn Morro of the Drowned was a bitter warlord who had skirted censure by his father and brothers more than once, tolerated for his Legion’s willingness to endure any hardship and persevere in any warzone, but for his transgressions and mien always denied acclaim and the glory he coveted. He despised what he saw as the enthronement of a weakling in the Warmaster, and had argued vociferously for the cause of gene-seed experimentation on Baal. In truth, the Sorrowsworn and the XVIth
Legion were already treading a darker path than any truly guessed at this time, except perhaps the arch-heretics among the Eagle Warriors.
The material disparity between the two Legions was not apparent so much in manpower as in the auxiliary units they fielded. The Scions’ protectorates and alliances, especially the realm of Yamatar, ensured that they marched to war backed by Titans, Knights and maniples of automata. The Drowned lacked any close allies among the former two, so if they were to attack with a realistic chance of success, the site of the ambush must be chosen carefully. Icarion and his advisers had likely grasped this before Morro had even pledged the Drowned to his banner. It is unknown, however, when the Insurrectionist eye alighted on Untara, where the betrayal was to play out.
Appropriately enough, this was an Ocean World, one of unusual significance within its subsector. Sitting at the intersection of several stable Warp routes, it held rich deposits of prometheum that provided its settlers with great wealth. By the time that the first Imperial outriders found it, Untara was serving a collection of stellar polities and its rulers only too happy to accept compliance. Over the next eighty years its wealth was parlayed into great civil and military works, complemented by several levies for the Imperial Army, and Untara grew into a subsector capital.
It was about ten years after the Emperor’s return to Terra that the rumblings of discontent began. Agitators within the Untaran Parliament pressed for greater autonomy, and in a decade these had turned into calls for outright secession. The matter was only more disquieting for the presence of a Fire Keepers garrison which had seemingly done nothing to stay the unrest. Finally, a sector governor decided that enough was enough, and called upon the nearest Expeditionary Fleets to settle the matter. One of these was the 192nd, Pionus’ own, which was due to visit Untara in its final stages of resupply. Neither Pionus nor his advisers were overly perturbed at the request for another fleet to join them, though they must have questioned the governor’s decision not to deploy any of the garrisons at his disposal. They refrained from any query, however, for the governor had been put in place by Icarion himself.
The other fleet was commanded by Sorrowsworn Morro, comprising his famed and dreaded “Kelyfos”. This was the main force of the XVIth
Legion, known to comprise over 100,000 warriors. As such the Drowned outnumbered their cousins who, while being the larger Legion, were far more dispersed, with only half their number accompanying their Primarch. Their ships showed all the variety that the XVIth
’s fleets were known for, ancient relic-vessels sailing alongside ships raised over Mars and Jupiter and taken as spoil over the course of the Great Crusade.
The Scions may not have been present in great strength, but their senior officers and veteran companies were disproportionately represented in the flotilla. Five of the Déka, the Legion’s ten senior commanders, were present, gathered for an offensive into the Greythan Expanse. Pionus was also accompanied by Tallus Orion and his sister Inna, the two heads of the Legion’s Apothecarion, and Titan-barques of the Legio Gojira sailed with him. These would be delectable prey if the conditions could be made right, and so Icarion's agents had laboured to ensure the conditions were right. Morro, for his part, exploited them to the hilt.
The Ocean Conquerors
The two fleets met one jump away from the Untara system so as to present an overwhelming display of force when they translated. When they did so the threat was unmistakable, and despite the four star forts arrayed around Untara, its fleet parted meekly before the oncoming Legions. The Scions and Drowned settled into a bombardment anchorage above the main centres of power before sending companies aboard two of the star forts, which had been laid open to them. So far, things appeared promising; the show of force had cowed the recidivists just as Icarion had planned.
Pionus made for the surface, with Seventh Captain Glaucus left in command of the fleet. A quarter of the Scions joined him in the descent, with more ready to follow. As the gunships issued from hangars, Seventh Captain Glaucus coordinated the Scions’ part in the seizure of orbital control from the bridge of the Hell's Heart. Untara boasted ancient, marvellous cities wrought from coral in the Age of Technology and built grandly upon since then, but the true focus of power lay with its mineral wealth. Thus it was to the focal point of that wealth, not the old cities, that the Scions would deploy.
The Districtas Facilitas was the economic heart of Untara, a sprawling port in which promethium was shipped to orbit and good were imported from across the Imperium. However, unlike terrestrial space ports, the Facilitas lacked towering structures of plasteel and ferrocrete, and had little presence above the surface other than its vast landing plates. Instead, the bulk of its structure lay beneath a shallow sea and the dunes below that, dotted with copses of plasteel forest where the Untarans had built their promethium refineries. It was here that the greatest number of Scions Hospitalier deployed, commanded by Captain Epinondas of the Déka, a force of some 12,000 Scions Hospitalier.
Sixth Captain Diokles took 4,000 of his brethren, by some margin the smallest force, to the Crucible. This fortress constructed by those Fire Keepers who had initially garrisoned the world. However, it had become notorious among the Legions as more of a prison than a holdfast, a dumping ground for the pyskers of the Fire Keepers where they could be forgotten by their father and brothers whilst still accomplishing a task of some use. By the time of the Day of Revelation, the Ember Host was some 500 strong, but the numbers were of little import to Diokles. His task was to ascertain just why, with a planet apparently verging on serious unrest, the Ember Host had not acted to rein in the Senate.
The final deployment of Scions was the 8,000 Legionaries drawn from the Fifth and Second Battalions, led by Darius Mytakis and Metis Odyssales. Most prominent among them were two hundred Terminators of the Depthstrider elite, which formed Pionius Santor's honour guard. Pionus led this force to the Omnium, Untara's political centre, where he meant to extract an apology and fresh pledges of loyalty from the lords of Untara. Smaller forces made for various other locations across the surface.
Morro made a similar show of force at the Omnium, notably outdoing his brother as 15,000 Drowned Men disembarked from bulk landers. The old Legion Master Hennasohn was dispatched to the Crucible: a famed psyker, it was suggested that he could bridge any gap of understanding between Diokles and the Ember Host. Pionus permitted this display out of a cautious optimism that Morro, with whom he had shared a frosty relationship in recent decades, might finally be seeking reconciliation with the brotherhood of Primarchs. As ever, the great tragedy of the Imperium ensured the cruellest of ironies.
Pionus received on the most minuscule of warnings from Medeos, his Chief Librarian. A noted telepath, Medeos had entered a little behind his master, but on entering the presence of Morro he was struck by convulsions. He spoke only one word, imploring Pionus to flee, before the psychic pressure - now supposed to be a product of Morro's latent corruption - overwhelmed him entirely. Medeos fell like a cut thread, the first death in the massacre that now unfurled.
The first shots came less than a minute after Medeos' death. Presumably Morro had identified the most advantageous time to attack, but it was vital that the killing begin before any communication could reach the Scions' fleet from the Omnium. A barrage of macro-batteries issued from Iocet, one of the star forts occupied by the Drowned. The XIXth
Legion battleship Spear of the Waters
came apart in less than a minute, its shields stripped away and its escorts obliterated. Several more vessels were badly damaged. Vox-hails rang across the fleet, both Legions voicing outrage. XVIth
Legion ships pulled alongside their stricken cousins in support. Then they let loose with their own cannons.
The Scions reeled in orbit, losing no time in hailing their Primarch, but too late. Even as Pionus swung around to demand answers from the Senate he was attacked by Morro, whose barbed whips tore into his armour and lacerated his flesh. Badly wounded, Pionus staggered away, enveloped by the Depthstriders as the Drowned opened fire. Mytakis bellowed in desperation for his men to bar their enemies from pursuing them, and the Depthstriders turned their weapons on the Senate’s grand gates. With the sacrifice of this improvised rearguard and an avalanche of broken masonry the way was shut, but the reprieve only lasted minutes. At the same instant, Scions Hospitalier across Untara had come under attack.
The 192nd Fleet had been waiting with shields lit, ready to do battle with the defenders of Untara. Thus they were not immediately devastated by the onslaught of the traitor-held star forts. But with the treachery of their cousins, they were caught between two enemies. The Scions responded with coiled fury, hammering back at their attackers. The Hell’s Heart, Pionus’ sharp-prowed flagship, led an attack against Karanst, the first star fort to begin firing on the fleet. With a ruinous barrage of torpedoes they cracked its armour before loosing iron-eater warheads into the exposed structure. Karanst was condemned to a lingering death as the voracious compounds laid waste its heart, but the Scions paid heavily for that victory. Two battleships and five cruisers had been lost in the attack and the Hell’s Heart came away with a gaping hole in its port side. A Titan-barque of Gojira was lost next, taking with it a war maniple of god-engines.
Still the Drowned attacked, joined by the Untaran fleet. Morro’s baleful flagship, the Queen of the Damned, mirrored the actions of the Hell’s Heart. Baerlun Voidstainer, Morro's fleetmaster, may have been a mortal, but he was an ancient and ruthless tactician in his own right, having served Morro on Pheneos and been deemed too old to become an Astartes. Augmetics and rejuvenat treatments had made him a grey shipman of long service and great skill. Now he put his abilities to use, following his master into treason and slaughter. The 192nd Fleet was to be enveloped, sundered and picked apart like a shoal of fish by ocean predators.
The Scions aboard the star forts had responded to the treachery by fighting their way to the control chambers, seeking to at least disable the great weapons of the forts or, if possible, turn them upon the attackers. On one of the two forts they had been resisted, but the commander of Tethys fort had not successfully suborned all his officers. Two lieutenants and their men staged a mutiny, killing the commander and throwing open the command chambers to the Scions. Before long the guns of Tethys had begun to exact reprisals against the Drowned, but this was an eventuality foreseen by Morro. The Queen of the Damned, flanked by two Goliath-class battleships and another with an uncomely, likely alien aspect, descended upon the station. Nova cannon and vortex missiles ripped away shields and left gaping, burning wounds. Finally a fusillade of strange projectiles shot from the Queen of the Damned on noisome, iridescent contrails. Where they struck, Tethys’ structure imploded, contorting and turning in upon itself.
As the Queen of the Damned
destroyed the fort its sister ship, the Horrorheart
, rampaged through the XIXth
Legion formations. Its provenance was and remains unknown to history, but its armament was justly infamous long before the Insurrection. Tidemaster Renno, commanding in Hennasohn’s place, hewed the void with salvo after salvo, crushing dozens of vessels in mere minutes. Lesser battleships might, with sufficient guile, coordination and courage, bring low a Gloriana, but Renno sailed with squadrons of his own, screening the behemoth and adding their fire to its. In these circumstances, only the wounded Hell’s Heart
could hope to halt the reaver, and with little chance of its own survival.
Fighting for survival as they were - the Untaran fleet joining their allies in the slaughter - the Scions could do little to prevent their enemies from deploying hundreds of transports. These raced down to the surface, and Diokles’ forces could only warn their brothers of the assault to come. Touching down, the craft let down their ramps to release thousands of Astartes, joined by the sinister troops of their Mechanicum allies. Adsecularis, combat servitors and automata spilled into the cities of Untara, seeking blood and punishing any who obstructed them with lethal force. Dreadnoughts too came forth, and the Drowned had armed themselves specifically to do battle with another Legion, right down to the armour-piercing bolts in their guns and stranger, abhorrent weapons which inflicted revolting wounds upon their victims.
The Sanguine Tide
Many of the Legions’ customary tools might be reckoned dreadful enough. Bolter, chainsword, melta, flamer and volkite alike, the Angels of Death wield monstrous tools for grisly work. Yet the arsenal that the Drowned now brought to bear was something else; weapons that inflicted deaths of surpassing cruelty and pain. Howls of agony issued from Space Marine throats, even their phenomenal pain thresholds unable to cope with these baleful weapons.
At the Crucible, Diokles’ men were cut down on the landing platforms at they tried to break free, pinned down by the new arrivals and hacked and blasted apart. Diokles himself fell to the blades of Hennasohn and his guards, but it was not only XVIth
Legion weapons which brought death to the Scions. The Fire Keepers of the Ember Host renounced their loyalty, having already made common cause with the Stormlord. With sorcerous fire, they consecrated their betrayal in the ashes of their kinsmen. If there had been any doubt that this treachery had also been pre-planned, Xth
Legion turncoats appeared at the Omnium, where Odyssalas’ warriors tried desperately to reach their Primarch, hurling themselves at the Drowned Men who blocked their path.
In the Districtas Facilitas, Epinondas had consolidated his forces and dug in. Like most of his Déka brothers, he took a forensic approach to the preparation for a battle. Now he used what he had learned from the holographic records, ordering companies to locations which they could rally to and make defensible. With this done, Epinondas’ tactical acumen stymied the slaughter, creating kill-zones which it would severely cost the Drowned to break through. However, he had underestimated the lengths to which the Drowned would go to exterminate the Scions.
squads, aboard modified dreadclaws, shot towards the Scions’ location. Cutting their way in, they emerged to the rear of their prey and announced themselves with their guns. Epinondas’ secure position was at once broken, and behind the initial waves of breachers and tactical marines were the infamous Malacost hazard squads. With Epinondas locked in battle they struck, catching him in a crossfire of mass-reactive bolter rounds until only scraps were left.
The surviving Scions were splintered, robbed of their commander and surrounded on all sides. The Drowned set about nothing less than the butchery of their onetime comrades, their formations closing like a fist on a throat. No dignity was afforded to the Scions, only the cold and contemptuous dismemberment of a cornered enemy. A single XIXth
Legion captain, Yovun Arima, led a breakout with nearly three hundred Scions, making a daring attack on the route by which the Malacost themselves had infiltrated. But this was only a small success, less than a fortieth of the Scions who had entered the Districtas. Arima’s warriors still faced a deadly trial, attempting to shake off the Drowned who would soon be in pursuit and with little hope of reaching their brothers elsewhere.
With Pionus stricken at the Omnium, Darius Mytakis took charge of the companies who succeeded in linking up with the Depthstriders, formulating a path to the landing plates as he demanded fresh gunships from orbit. Waves of Drowned Legionaries broke against the formation, hounding them from the front and rear. The surviving Librarians of Medeos' retinue were instrumental in keeping the enemy back, bolstering the efforts of their brothers, and even then the stream of deaths could only be slowed. Several XIXth
Legion companies were fractured or wiped out entirely as they attempted to defend their wounded Primarch, prepared to put down mortal troops but utterly unready to face fellow post-humans. But through valour, cunning and sheer fury, the Depthstriders forced a bloody march through the Traitors in their way.
The Omnium now resembled one vast convulsion of violence, with mortals caught between the anger of the opposing Astartes. A handful of Odyssalas’ companies, under the command of Captain Morada, commenced a ferocious and costly action to secure the landing platforms. Both sides knew these to be the Scions’ only way of evacuating their Primarch, and so the Drowned’s second wave had left heavy support squads and Mortis Dreadnoughts. Morada lost hundreds of men to shake the foe’s entrenched position, and only defeated them with the aid of the gunships which had descended to retrieve Pionus. Then the Drowned’s attacks were stymied, but only because several of the Thunderhawks and Stormbirds had brought Scions to the surface, ready to lay down their lives by the hundred if that was needed to get the Primarch to safety.
In orbit, whole Psalidas of Drowned Men, thousands of Astartes, had fought their way aboard the star fort Aphron, where XIXth
Legionaries still held control having slaughtered the Unataran garrison. At first the Drowned were beaten back, the Scions entrenched and their resistance stiffened by automata maniples and Army troops of the famous Yamatar Ashigat regiments. Then a second wave of gunships set down in the hangars, and among these were Stormbirds bearing strange and ominous markings. Landing ramps hissed open and unnatural howls shook the recycled air. Vast, misshapen figures, massive even by the reckoning of a Space Marine and heavily armoured, took to the slaughter.
The Scions knew well the monstrous power that gene-tampering could buy. Perhaps a few, likely no more than a score scattered across the Legion, remained who had fought in the Unification Wars and seen the monsters wrought by techno-barbarians. So it is likely that, while their mortal allies mistook the new enemy for gene-hulks or Ogryn Charonites, terrifying enough in their own right, the Scions recognised they were something more, and fouler. They moved and fought with too much poise and intelligence, spiked as it was with deranged bloodlust, to be such crude beasts. With awful clarity, they realised they were facing creatures that were kin to them - they may never have been full Space Marines, but they had been meant for that glory before undergoing a perversion of the process that made an Astartes. The Forlorn were unveiled.
What followed was the kind of slaughter which the Legions themselves had wreaked upon mortal armies throughout the Crusade. Where the line had held before, now it buckled just as warplate did under the blades and claws of the aberrations. Scions were eviscerated, their bodies mangled beyond recognition. Only massed gunfire could reliably fell the Forlorn, and behind the monsters came the Drowned, exploiting the disorder that they caused. The elite Charonite Seekers were deadliest in this role, striking at officers and throwing their units into further disarray. Within an hour of the Forolorn making their presence known, the last Scion on Aphron was a parcel of shattered ceramite and pulped flesh, only a couple of hundred fighting their way free aboard gunships and saviour pods.
Below, in the depths of the Omnium, Odyssalas had been cornered by Drowned companies led by the notorious Gorespray Lorkut. With no hope of reaching his Primarch, Odyssalas ordered his warriors to breach the city’s walls with bombs and melta charges, several of these having been taken from the better-armed Drowned. A ragged string of explosions punched through the coral and stone walls, allowing the sea to come thundering in. The Omnium had defences against breaches, but the damage done by the fighting and Odyssalas’ actions saw to it that these were not enough. Thousands were killed as the merciless tendrils of the ocean forced their way into the grand structure, and throughout the Omnium the battle was now fought through flooded passageways under crimson emergency lights.
Morro caught Mytakis’ force at the port, threatening to finish what he had begun in the shadow of the gunships which might carry Pionus to safety. Yet in this dire moment, the XIXth
elite would not break, even in the face of a Primarch. Divemaster Therskites turned to bar Morro’s path, half the surviving Depthstriders and thirty more Scions halting to stand with him. As one they raised their guns, picked a single target and fired. Even a Primarch could not shrug off such a wave of fire, and Morro reeled from it. Plasma, bolters, lasfire, volkite rays - all inflicted a measure of punishment. Several of the warriors around him were reduced to ashes and gory fragments of armour and bone, and the ceramite of Morro’s armour began to bubble and flow.
All knew this would not be enough to end him; Morro broke through the storm and punished the defiance of Therkites’ warriors, tearing them apart. More Drowned Men followed, advancing over the bodies of their comrades and victims, ready to end the task. But Therskites had sold his life dearly, and the gunships now loosed their own weapons, first against the Drowned and then against the gantries and platforms. The enemy were cut off from Pionus, and would have difficulty in retrieving their warriors from the surface. The wounded Primarch was hauled aboard, and the gunships turned skyward again, braving the swarms of enemy craft to deliver Pionus to the fleet.
From Heart of Hell
Yet Pionus’ flagship could not reach him. Beset by enemies, the Hell’s Heart wallowed in a deluge of fire, and Glaucus came to a grim realisation. Even if the flagship could win free of the battle, it would never survive Warp entry. He ran the calculations and identified three necessities. First, a ship would have to run the gauntlet and retrieve Pionus, before leading a breakout with whatever vessels could be saved. Second, as many personnel and war machines as possible must be evacuated from the flagship. Third, if the Hell’s Heart was never to leave this system, then its end must be made fruitful.
Glaucus turned to his protégé, Galen Diomes. Captain of the 19th
Company, he had been left in command of Glaucus’ ship, the Nereid
, while his mentor had taken over on the Hell’s Heart
. Diomes was charged with retrieving the Primarch and any other escapees from the surface, ordered to take as many ships as he deemed necessary. As the Hell’s Heart
and its escorts bulled into the Drowned formation, all caution cast aside, Diomes burst through the net and took his ships down into low orbit. His breakout went all but unnoticed, for the Drowned's prey were many; the remaining barques of Gojira and House Toho, as well as the Army bulk conveyers, among them. Besides, the XIXth
Legion’s flagship hunted, and it sought another of its kind - the vicious Horrorheart
For Glaucus knew the Drowned Man who occupied the Horrorheart’s command throne. He and Renno had once been comrades, long estranged like their Legions but nonetheless, warriors who had fought together in six theatres. That former friendship was enough for enmity to burn like acid in his blood. The Scions might shackle their fury, deploying it with rigid discipline, but it was never absent. Now it rose to the surface, as the Hell’s Heart, Pionus’ bright white blade in the heavens, cleaved the Insurrectionist fleet.
Legion vessels fell back at its approach, firing to strip the armour from its flanks and rip the spires from its spine, but not quickly enough. Dozens of frigates and destroyers were dismembered and sent spinning away by the Gloriana's torpedoes and lance-strikes. The Ironclad-class battleships Athogeion
shadowed it, taking in the escapees from the Hell’s Heart
and its escorts before turning to follow the Nereid
. Glaucus’ gambit was well-orchestrated indeed, for it pushed the main body of the Drowned fleet between the Scions and the remaining star forts, giving his brothers a further respite from the onslaught.
As his flagship thundered towards its fellow Gloriana, Pionus was borne up into the void. Diomes, slipping the net and fending off the enemy ships that attempted to follow, took up position in low orbit. He had his ships train their weapons on the fighter wings pursuing their master, and lance beams stabbed down into the masses of enemy craft. With every minute, ships were destroyed protecting the Nereid, but finally the gunships reached their refuge. Diomes knew that to withdraw would mean abandoning thousands of his brothers to their deaths, but he had his mentor’s final instructions and now the survival of the Legion lay in his hands. The Nereid’s thrusters blazed anew, and the Scions began their retreat.
As the flight began, a clash of behemoths drew to its climax. The Horrorheart attempted to veer and evade its counterpart, but Glaucus was not to be denied his prize. Using the four remaining cruisers to effect a feint, Diokles drove the Horroheart into his sights and ordered a final burst of power fed to the engines as the last course corrections were made. That burst drove the Hell’s Heart, cannons still blazing, toward its opponent, and the mighty prow burst from the far side of the Horrorheart’s belly. There the two giants hung in the void, entangled like bull animals fighting beyond all thought of survival, and still they lashed one another with their vast guns. Machines and bodies spilled in their thousands from the great wound Diokles had made, but the Horrorheart was not slain. Reverse thrusters flared and the Drowned ship wrenched itself free, taking half the prow of the Hell’s Heart with it.
The coda to Glaucus’ great charge was a series of ragged volleys delivered with every remaining gun as the Hell’s Heart
ruptured, the kick of its own cannons shaking loose its metal bones and great sheets of its armoured carapace. So great was the damage that Glaucus could not overload the reactors for a final strike, the ship disintegrating under the assault of the circling XVIth
Legion ships. But Glaucus, a true master of voidwar, would not yield to death before he brought his quarry down. A single Stormbird, maintaining a vox-link to the flagship, recorded Glaucus’ final words: “You never deserved to sail her. For the [lost to vox interference]... For the Emperor.”
A final flurry of vortex torpedoes leapt across the gulf between the two ships and striking the wound that its sister had made. Great portions of the Horrorheart’s skeleton were unmade, and what was left could no longer withstand the stresses of the ship's own engines. Twisting, its crenellated spine torn in two and vast ruptures bursting open along its flanks, the Horrorheart came undone. The reactor failed, and nuclear fire flooded the vacuum, disintegrating what remained of the Hell’s Heart when it struck. Along with Glaucus, hundreds of Scions and tech-priests, along with hundreds of thousands of mortal personnel, had given their lives to ensure a chance for their comrades. Two of the cruisers and a handful of escorts survived their diversion, racing to join the main fleet as they pulled out of orbit, the Primarch secured.
Pionus, once aboard the Nereid
, had recovered sufficiently to assess the situation, and point-blank refused his men’s efforts to move him to the Apothecarion. Instead, with his Apothecaries attending to his wounds as best they could on the bridge, Pionus orchestrated a withdrawal, pulling ships back wherever possible and springing counterattacks as necessary. It was costly, and the Scions lost ships with every action, but gradually the XIXth
Legion pulled free, making for the Manderville Point.
This success perhaps masks the knife-edge on which the Legion had teetered on the landing platforms; only a Primarch could have orchestrated such a retreat successfully, and the ravaging of the Iron Bears gives us a clue as to how things would have gone otherwise. It is for good reason that Therskites and the warriors who stood with him are said to have saved the XIXth
. Nonetheless, that accolade must be shared with a mortal officer on the enemy flagship. For critically, the Queen of the Damned
did not intervene; had it done so, it is unlikely that even Pionus could have saved his fleet from total destruction. However, Morro had sustained grave injuries of his own in the pursuit’s final minutes, and his fleet were unable to contact him. Fearing the worst, Flag-Captain Baerlun broke from combat and brought the Queen of the Damned
into a lower orbit in order to gain a teleport locus, saving the Nereiad
from its murderous attentions.
More broadly, the XVIth
Legion formation had been disrupted still more with Glaucus’ suicidal attack, and in the confusion it took longer for them to recognise which vessel was leading the retreat. Helm-feeds show the Copper Prince standing in spite of wounds that would likely have killed an Astartes, his flesh charred and peeled away from the bone in places. Nonetheless, he was deeply unimpressed that his fleetmaster had abandoned the fighting to rescue him. Morro wasted little time in executing the mortal for his failure to pursue and destroy the Scions.
With no realistic chance of catching Pionus now, Morro turned his attention to finishing the battle on Untara itself. Over the next day, Scions were hunted down on the stations and in the cities. The surrounding waters were scoured, as was the void around Untara. Those few Scions who were found, comatose but alive in sealed armour, were killed on sight. Their equipment and gene-seed was taken by The Drowned just as they salvaged from the bodies of their own. The Ember Host were permitted to take a share of the plunder, and were given transport to Madrigal for an audience with their new liege lord.
The gains far outstripped the losses for the Insurrectionists. The Drowned had lost 20,000 warriors in the battle, largely as a result of destroyed ships. The element of surprise and the complicity of the Untaran Senate had proved a potent weapon indeed, giving them a far greater advantage than the arithmetic would suggest. The Scions had lost two of the four Titan-barques they had brought to Untara, Knight walkers and tens of thousands of Secutarii joining the Titans in oblivion. Three Army bulk conveyers had been crippled with another destroyed, and into these Drowned Men and their Mechanicum servants poured. Willing or not, the mortal prisoners they took would serve the Stormlord's cause. The bulk would be converted into servitors, but those young and robust enough would become Aspirants for the Legion. The Forlorn too would grow in number as a result, with defective Aspirants given over to the Ioseka flesh-twisters within the Apothecarion if their minds were sufficiently intact.
Morro had intended to linger long on Untara, dredging the entire world as his Legion brought the entire subsection to heel before making for Iona and finishing what he had begun. This was the contingency he had made for Pionus' unlikely survival, one for which fresh forces would be placed at his disposal. With Alexandros and Kelbor Hal assuredly in control of the Sol System, a boot upon the Emperor's throat, the Imperium would be mired in confusion. Considering these factors, Morro would have enough of an advantage to overcome even Pionus' mighty allies in Yamatar and the Taghmata of Gryphonne. Glory long denied to Morro awaited; the entire Southern Imperium would capitulate because of the Sorrowsworn's deeds.
But as the second day of the hunt began, his Astropaths received an urgent message from the Stormlord. Not all had gone the Traitors’ way; strands in Icarion's web had come loose and threatened to unravel his entire scheme. Morro was ordered to depart Untara and set his Legion to the carving out of a shadow empire from which the Stormlord could vie with the Emperor. Untara, drawing on the resources of a subsector now yoked to the Stormlord's banner, was expected to defend itself. Morro reluctantly complied, although three companies were left with instructions to ensure that no Scions endured on Untara.
A handful of Scions remained, none larger than seventy from the data-logs recovered. The Drowned pursued them for weeks until only one warband remained. Odyssalas, ever the canny warrior, had gathered what survivors he could find as all hope of escape dimmed, and begun a campaign of sabotage against the cities and refineries close to the Crucible. With the disruption brought on by the battle, several ocean floor installations had gone quiet, and Odysslas’ band used a clutch of these as bases, patching up their equipment enough to keep functioning in the depths. The Scions had by now accepted fate’s judgement, hoping for nothing more than to hinder the enemy for as long as possible, but on this tale, salvation intruded.
Before the bulk of the promised reinforcements could reach Untara, a Fire Keepers fleet entered the system, seeking their erstwhile brothers. They laid waste the handful of Drowned ships along with the Untaran fleet and the two star forts left functional. The Xth
Legion ships carried the remnants of Tribe Barinthus, and though sorely depleted, rage smouldered in them. Changes to the Stormlord’s plans meant that Untara’s defences had gone largely unrepaired, and the Xth
Legion, famed for their siegecraft, were consummate unmakers.
Within a few hours the Senate and its haughty occupants had been destroyed. The Drowned had resisted fiercely, but they had already taken losses at the hands of their prey. The newcomers, having had months of voyaging to sharpen their blades, slew them with the fervour of wronged men denied vengeance for too long. The Fire Keepers went about their task with ruthless focus and speed, leaving the populace alone for the most part but eradicating the overseers of its industry. The subsector might yet be reclaimed, but Untara’s output must at least be staunched for now.
Intuiting the purpose of the Drowned Men who had stayed, Chief Thirgen sought the surviving Scions, finally making contact with Odyssalas and his warband. Declaring his loyalty to the Emperor, he bade them come aboard his ships and leave the system, promising a chance for retribution. While suspicious and given to fatalism after their ordeal, the Scions saw little point in resisting their saviours, and departed Untara with them. Plucked from an ignominious end and borne towards Terra, Odyssalas would survive to add a bloody tale of his own to the ledgers of the Insurrection.
While this small postscript was playing out, Pionus had withdrawn to Iona with the remains of his fleet to consolidate their strength and take stock of their losses. The harm inflicted on the Scions was grave: some four-fifths of the warriors Pionus had brought with him died in the ambush, and they represented some of the Scions’ most skilled and experienced personnel. Of the Synedrion officers present, only Mytakis and Primus Medicae Tallus Orion had escaped the system with their Primarch. Odyssalas was presumed to have been lost with the bulk of Second Company, and his brothers would not learn otherwise for several months.
Severe as the damage was, it was mitigated in part by the dispersal of the XIXth
Legion. Even with as many of them grouped in one place as Icarion could arrange, the force at Untara only constituted half their total strength. Ambushes were launched against three more of their fleets, but in those cases the Scions proved able to fight their way free, although each detachment paid in blood for their escape. With their Primarch alive and the scientific riches of Iona at their disposal, the Scions Hospitalier remained in play.