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#1
simison

simison

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Finished converting the old threads. This will mark our first dedicated Black Book thread that wasn't repurposed from an older one. 

 

It will also be the quickest one to complete. We already have the Madrigal Purge, the Death of the Bear, and the Underwater Madness campaigns completed. I will soon repost those here for ease of reference.

 

The real question is do we want to expand the book to include the other Legions involved in the Day of Revelation? At the very least, the Dune Serpents versus Warbringers is worthy of consideration. The Predators' is probably worth a red box, unless Kel wants to go into detail. The battle between the Steel Legion and Morning Stars against the Void Eagles is an odd one since that could be potentially covered by the Morning Stars' red book. 


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The Second Son: Narrative of the BOTL Vth Legion Primarch

 

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#2
bluntblade

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I think the three we've got is OK; we can always add some context for the Serpents with the opening of the Eastern Fringe.



#3
simison

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I'm inclined toward writing up the Warbringers versus Dune Serpents. As the first black book, I suppose this will determine the word count range of the rest of our books. Probably should count it up to see where we are currently. 

 

Also, one thing we will need to add: campaign-specific rules.

 

For the Halcyon Wardens, I'm adding Pyrrhicles as a character. That's something else we need to consider. How many additional slots does each campaign grant to a faction? If one, I'm just adding Pyrrhicles. If two, maybe a wargear or another character. Malis would be the natural choice except he might get his rules in an Insurgo book regardless.


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#4
simison

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The Day of Revelation

 

Part 1: The Madrigal Purge

 

“The Emperor has lied to you.

 

There is no Imperial Truth save for Imperial Dominance. Unity is Slavery, Reason is Ignorance. Your worlds have been shackled, your sons and daughters, the very marrow of your worlds have been bled dry to feed the insatiable thirst of the Imperator Exultarii. 

 

This is a Day of Revelation.

 

You are not alone. Your suffering does not go unnoticed. The grand lie that is the Imperium would see the Emperor use your worlds as stepping stones to achieve godhood in a universe he wheezes is sterile and secular.

 

As you hear me now, vast fleets ply the void of interstellar space to bring war to Emperor. Many of you will find our ships arriving at your worlds shores, do not be alarmed. There is a place for you. You shall be welcomed, we have heard your suffering and now descend upon you to answer your prayers. Even now, others are already rising.  Throwing off the shackles of hypocrisy and opening their eyes to revelation.

 

Enemies of a mad tyrant stand with me, join with me. March with me to Terra and the Imperium can be yours!

 

I am Icarion. I am Stormlord to this New Imperium. And I am coming for you.”

 

++++~Telepathic broadcast Emanating from the Malestrom Zone~+++

 

The first blow the Arch-Traitor sought was not against superficial flesh and steel but one of spirit. For though Icarion the Stormborn had made his choice to entwine his destiny with that of vile Chaos, he believed in the purity of his own cause. It was a decision driven by his ideology that he manipulated the 18th Expeditionary Fleet to come to the heart of his new, counterfeit Imperium. For at the command of this vaunted fleet was none other than Pyrrhicles the Paragon, Equerry to Warmaster Alexandros. It was Icarion's hope that he could persuade the false Astartes to join the Stormborn's cause and to open a path to bring the Warmaster to Icarion's banner. It was not to be.

 

The Pieces Assembled

 

The time between Icarion's choice of insurrection and the day he revealed his claim would be measured in years. Patient was the Stormborn as he carefully watered the seeds of rebellion throughout the Legiones Astartes. Nomus Sardauk would be the last of the Primarchs to fall for the temptation Icarion offered. His rebellion now enjoying the support of ten Legions, Icarion made a choice. Although it might have been possible to rally yet more strength to his banner, the time required and the unsure nature of success led Icarion to deem his forces sufficient. Dispatches were stealthily sent to his new lieutenants. The hour drew near to finally overthrow the Emperor. 

 

From records recovered from Icarion's false Imperium, it is now known that Icarion hoped to end the war in at little time as a few months. The Day of Revelation would be the opening gambit in Icarion's treachery. The Legions and Primarchs who would not swear to his banner would have to be eliminated, crippled or occupied. To this end, Icarion planned for a series of ambushes that would strike at the Loyalists simultaneously with the Legions loyal to the Stormborn. With Icarion lacking the authority necessary for the redeployments, he approached the Warmaster.  

 

At the time, the Warmaster was preparing to return to Terra to once again debate with the Council of Terra. As the Great Crusade began what many assumed to be its final phase, the Paternova of the Navis Nobilite and the Fabricator-General of Mars had begun lobbying to change the protocol for selecting Imperial governors for newly compliant territories. Long a powerful privilege reserved solely for the War Council and the commanders of the Expeditionary Fleets, it was argued that this right was no longer a wartime concern but an administrative duty to be completed. Although Malcador had yet to act upon the proposal, a wave of frustration had spread throughout the upper echelons of the War Council as many saw this as nothing less than the bureacrats trying to wield more power over the Great Crusade's loyal soldiers. The Warmaster sought to put an end to this measure and to reassure his commanders. 

 

As usual, Alexandros would rely on Icarion to manage the warfront as he wrestled with the Terran politicians and eagerly met with his brother before taking his leave. From the private records of the Warmaster, in addition to the usual struggles of managing the Great Crusade, Alexandros confessed Icarion about nightmares. Known by some as the Seer, Alexandros possessed a talent for foreseeing the future but only in the short term. Within a private meeting between the two brothers, Alexandros explained that he had been receiving portents of destruction and some nameless doom that had eluded his efforts to identify. 

 

Icarion preyed on Alexandros' suspicions and took the opportunity to propose a massive redeployment of the Great Crusade. For the first time in many years, Legions and Primarchs would come together in various warzones, ostensibly to better react to the incoming threat. Trusting Icarion, the Warmaster gave the order according to Icarion's designs. It was a decision that haunted the Warmaster and the Imperium.

 

As audacious as the Day of Revelation proved to be, it was intended to merely be a first step of three. Once the Day of Revelation had come and gone, Icarion would then march on Terra itself from Madrigal. With the Loyalist Legions in disarray, his fellow Traitors would reunite with him as they pushed into the Sol system. Together, the Traitors would lay siege to Terra and confront the Emperor with Alexos Travier swearing he would be able to provide a means of matching the Emperor's might. There they would defeat the Emperor and prevent whatever conspiracy Icarion had imagined would take place.

 

Most importantly, Icarion had planned for this march to occur in the company of the 18th Expeditionary Fleet, specifically Lord Protector Pyrrhicles. Key to this lightning victory would be the Warmaster himself. So long as Alexandros joined his brother's conspiracy, no Loyalist Primarch or Legion would be able to halt the Traitors. Terra, guarded by the Halcyon Wardens, would be deprived of its most potent defence force and would have to rely on the Custodians alone as their defenders. While undoubtedly more powerful than a Legionary, the Custodians numbered a scant 10,000 compared to the hundreds of thousands who served in the Legiones Astartes. With such few numbers, the Custodians would've been hard-pressed to defend the Imperial Palace, let alone the rest of Terra. If the Halcyon Wardens turned coat, war would have broken out within the walls of the Imperial Palace, threatening to undo any defence before it had begun.

 

Yet, if the Warmaster refused Icarion, all of this would come to nought. The Sol system would be defended by the Warmaster's own Legion, and there would be no guarantee the Traitors could seize Terra before the Loyalists rallied against them. Some historiographers and military analysts are befuddled as to why Icarion, once known as the Great Crusade's greatest general, would leave such an important factor to chance. It must be remembered that just as Alexandros was too trusting of Icarion, likewise Icarion proved to be trusting of Alexandros. It is a remarkable fact that two of the Imperium's greatest leaders and diviners would be so blinded by their affection for one another. For no two Primarchs enjoyed as close as a friendship as Icarion and Alexandros did, being two of the eldest of the Primarchs. Recovered data cores reveal that other Traitor leaders and strategists had brought their concerns before the Stormborn of Alexandros' undeclared fidelity to their treachery. In all cases, Icarion would rationalise away their concerns. It seemed that Icarion could simply not bear the thought of his most beloved brother turning against him.

 

It would be for this reason that among Icarion's plans the Halcyon Wardens' 18th Expeditionary Fleet would be traveling in the space near Madrigal upon the Day of Revelation. Pyrrhicles, Equerry to Alexandros, was an important component to Icarion's efforts to bring Alexandros to his side. By extension, the 18th Expeditionary Fleet would hold the key to either Icarion's perfect victory or lengthy defeat.

 

The Trap Laid

 

Whether by fickle fate or by planned design, the 18th Expeditionary Fleet carried an unusual complement of Legionaries before its fateful voyage to Madrigal. Pyrrhicles the Paragon rarely assumed command of such detachments. As the Equerry of the Warmaster, Pyrrhicles often served as his master's voice throughout the Imperium when the Warmaster could not attend and trust others to carry the burden. This had become a full-time duty as the Warmaster sought to not only expand the Imperium's borders, but to ease the transition of newly compliant systems into the Imperium's fold. Given Pyrrhicles unusual nature, for he was not a true Astartes but a man who had undergone extensive gene-therapy, Alexandros especially favoured Pyrrhicles in handling matters with mortals. 

 

It would be Pyrrhicles' other duty that would place him with the 18th Expeditionary Fleet on that day. Despite whatever physical disadvantages Pyrrhicles in not being a true Astartes, he more than compensated with a will of adamantium and a devotion to his lord that bordered zealotry. It would be these qualities that would allow him to eventually earn the rank of Lord Protector within the Vth Legion. This rank was the head of the Order of the Shield, an organization of Halcyon Wardens who honoured the Warmaster's dedication to shield warfare and to live the ideals he had set forth. Regardless of preferred weapon, every Order member carried a personal shield and had vowed to defend the average citizen. Ranks were physically displayed by the size and strength of their shield, from the humble combat shield to the mighty storm shield. 

 

Starting in 931.M30 at the behest of Alexandros, it had become tradition for the Order of the Shield to gather every twenty-five years for an operation in an event known as the Aegis Reforged. During the campaign, veterans were expected to share their knowledge with each other and to instruct newer members of the Order; all the while, the Order members would renew bonds of brotherhood in the furnace of combat. Although encouraged, the chaos of war prevented the entire Order from assembling with a tendency for the upper echelons of the Order being over-represented. 

 

This would hold true for this expedition as well. Charged with securing Compliance for the system simply designated as N7-88M, the 18th hosted to a large number of the Order's highest veterans. For this august body, the venerable 18th would serve; the sole addition to the fleet would be Pyrrhicles' personal battle barge, the Dominion of Reason

 

Waiting for this modest fleet of over fifty warships would be a full third of the entire Lightning Bearers' armada, centered on Icarion's personal 17th Expeditionary Fleet. Although Icarion intended to march directly to Terra from Madrigal, he knew that if the entire Ist Legion had assembled in the system, it would alert Pyrrhicles before Icarion would have a chance to speak and persuade him of his cause. The remaining fleet and Legion elements were instead deployed to the nearby systems of the Realm of the Sphere, awaiting Icarion's signal. 

 

The Lightning Bearer vessels in-system would be placed in a state of readiness above the shipyards of Akira. Although they were to present no particular formation, Icarion took care to place his fastest ships on the flanks of the initial rendezvous, ready to pursue and intercept any Warden ships in a worst case scenario. Meanwhile, the heaviest warships would center themselves around the Thunderchild, Icarion's personal Gloriana-class battleship. Icarion and many of his officers hoped that these precautions would ultimately proved to be unnecessary. Of Icarion's vaunted foresight, it would only be revealed long after events had played out that the famed diviner could not clearly see the future. It is unknown if his personal feelings had clouded his sight, the turmoil of the near future was muddying possibilities or if some other force was influencing him. For once in his life, Icarion was unsure of what the future held for him.

 

Upon the Day of Revelation, events proceeded as Icarion had hoped. Arrangements had been made for units of Drowned and Berserkers of Uran to strike at local systems, Legions who's rebellion would have surprised few while diverting potential suspicion from the Lightning Bearers. The 18th Expeditionary Fleet was in mid-transit when astropathic requests of help reached them. Although eager to strike back, Pyrrhicles ordered the fleet to divert to Madrigal, to alert the Lightning Bearers if necessary and to join forces against this multi-faceted rebellion. When they translated into the system, a Lightning Bearer vessel received them. 

 

Ostensibly serving as an honour guard, the Lightning Bearers led the 18th Expedtionary Fleet to Akira. Within hours, the Halcyon Wardens were soon surrounded on all sides except for the rear. It was at this moment that Icarion reached out to Pyrrhicles, welcoming the venerable Warden and receiving Pyrrhicles' warning in turn. Icarion then warned the entire Halcyon Warden fleet of a supposed greater betrayal, one that accused the Emperor of evil. Although the Stormborn made his most sincere plea for the Halcyon Wardens to join him and to protect Alexandros from the Emperor's treachery, Pyrrhicles, living up to his title 'Paragon', ultimately held true to his oaths and loyalties. 

 

With but a few words, Pyrrhicles had shattered Icarion's hopes and plans for a quick victory. No longer would the war end in a matter of months but would last years, though few would foresee just how long it would last. Despite this setback, Icarion would reject Pyrrhicles' own offer to surrender his rebellion. Not only would he refuse to change his course, Icarion would mark this day with an announcement. No longer would the Ist Legion bear the Emperor's lightning. They would henceforth be known as the Harbingers. Pure white armour would become storm grey. Icarion himself would claim a new title: the Stormlord.

 

Brotherhood Broken

 

Once Icarion's pronouncement was complete, Pyrrhicles issued orders. Although well aware that Icarion and the newly-named Harbingers were enemies of the Imperium, the Lord Protector could not in good conscience open fire on their cousins. For as their Primarchs enjoyed the strongest of friendships, the Haclyon Wardens and the Harbingers had centuries of shared battlefields, oaths sworn and friendships earned. Pyrrhicles, hoping that perhaps some diplomatic solution could be salvaged, commanded the 18th to leave the system and to return to Terra without combat. There, the Warmaster and Emperor would be alerted of this treachery. However, Pyrrhicles would order all ships to have void shields activated and weapons prepared in case the Harbingers opened fire upon them. 

 

Although word would eventually reach the Warmaster and the Emperor regardless whether or not the 18th completed their duty, Icarion would not simply allow an entire Expeditionary Fleet to leave his domain and threaten his forces at a later date. Yet, the Harbingers were just as unwilling as the Halcyon Wardens to engage in war. Thus, Icarion ordered his Legion to detain the Halcyon Wardens with as little violence as possible. 

 

As the 18th fleet began its retreat, a rift emerged among the Vth Legion. Approximately one-third of the Halcyon Wardens present would not obey Pyrrhicles' command. It would be this incident that would lead to the rise of the infamous Malis. At the time he was second-in-command of the Order of the Shield. Malis and the Wardens who followed him argued that Pyrrhicles was a fool to simply disregard Icarion's warning. For two centuries, Icarion had been a trusted confidant of Alexandros and had shown more faith to the Imperium than even the Emperor had in these last two decades with his secretive retirement on Terra, so the argument went. Therefore, it was imperative to side with Icarion, both for the Imperium and their honoured Warmaster.

 

No matter how forceful Pyrrhicles' attempts were, he was unable to persuade this rogue element to maintain their fidelity to the Imperium. Already outnumbered, the scales were now exacerbated against the Loyalists. Malis and his Traitor Wardens promptly retreated toward Akira. The Harbingers eagerly welcomed them, allowing them safe passage through their fleets as they hoped more Halcyon Wardens would follow Malis' example. That hope would be only partially realized as several Warden warships would choose neither to follow Malis or to submit to Pyrrhicles' commands. They would watch and wait, unsure what to make of this new conflict. 

 

 

What followed is considered one of the odder engagements in Imperial records. With neither side authorised to open fire upon the other, an elaborate dance developed in the void. Harbinger warships would seek to block or slow the Halcyon Warden vessels, utilizing their faster escorts to waylay the 18th fleet as the heavier ships closed the noose. In turn the Wardens focused their efforts on evading the Harbinger craft as they steadily headed to Madrigal's Mandeville point, the larger warships taxing the skills of their captains. Although eager to avoid spilling unnecessary blood, the stalemate could not last forever. 

 

History does not know what happened next for certain. What can be objectively stated is that the Halcyon Warden escort, the Jutland Spear, fired two torpedoes that struck the Harbinger vessel, the Evening Star. From here, the account becomes muddled as both the Harbingers and the Halcyon Wardens claim two divergent versions. According to the Harbingers, it was the Halcyon Wardens who opened fire first, choosing to forsake friendship and brotherhood for aggression. This version would soon be taught throughout Icarion's counterfeit empire, a few false remembrancers arguing that the Insurrection was ultimately a war of righteous defense on behalf of the Traitors since it was the Halcyon Wardens who fired the first shot. 

 

This directly contradicts the testimony of the Halcyon Wardens and what is considered to be the true tale of the battle within the Imperium. While the Halcyon Wardens do not deny the Jutland Spear was the first to open fire, they report that no Warden gave the command to do so. Second-hand reports and interviews have explained that a battle broke out among the Legionaries on board as those who wished to heed Icarion fought for control of the ship. At some point during the fight, the torpedoes were activated. Unfortunately, it is not clear as to how this came about, whether it was an accident discharge or if someone on the bridge intentionally fired the torpedoes as there are a variety of unverified explanations given. 

 

Regardless of who or what caused the attack, the reaction was nigh instantaneous. The void became alive with light and metal as the Harbingers opened fire on the Halcyon Wardens. As they noted the first incoming volley, Pyrrhicles' gave the command for the 18th to defend itself. These opening shots would prove to the most bloody few minutes of the entire battle. Harbinger fighter and bomber squadrons that had been trying to slow down Halcyon Warden warships abruptly found themselves in a murderous crossfire of point defences. The Harbinger's 30th Fighter Wing of Gamma Squadron had penetrated the deepest into the 18th Fleet as they had attempted to slow some of the central warships. When the fighting began, the 30th Fighter Wing found itself under fire from a Warden cruiser and two escort ships, along with three Halcyon Warden fighter wings. The 30th survived for fifty-six seconds before being completely exterminated. 

 

Yet, only in a few areas of the battlefield did the Halcyon Wardens enjoy an advantage. Around the edges of the Halcyon Wardens' formation, the 18th Fleet suffered terribly as the Harbingers were able to capitalise on their advantage in numbers. Within a few minutes of the opening salvos, well over a third of the loyal 18th had succumbed to the Harbingers' cannons. The Imperial Herald, a light cruiser, reported lost of void shields after sustaining fire from eight Harbinger warships. Its engines crippled and disarmed of its weapon systems, it would be left to float in the void until the Harbingers returned to capture it after the battle's conclusion. 

 

Flight of the Defenders

 

For the rest of the battle, the Halcyon Wardens would have only one advantage - the orders of Icarion himself. Although the Halcyon Wardens fought with vigour and honour, victory would only be measured in the number of ships escaped to achieve some semblance of a strategic victory. Icarion knew that both the sheer advantages in numbers and in quality of warships had already secured a tactical victory for his Harbingers, their first victory of the Insurrection. With this knowledge, Icarion was confident the battle could be left in another's hand in addition to a pressing need to communicate to his fellow conspirators a new set of orders. 

 

Whether by fate or chance, Fifth Sentinel Raiden Athrawes was appointed as the Harbingers' field commander for the rest of the battle. A famed hero of the Great Crusade and a rising commander within the First Legion, Raiden personally knew Pyrrhicles, both honoured by the Emperor himself during the Koloss Synthecide. This prior relationship would not prevent Sentinel Raiden from fulfilling his Primarch's commands. 

 

Before Icarion took his leave of the field, his last orders were for the Harbingers to do everything in their power to seize and capture the enemy warships. Without the hope of a quick victory, Icarion's new empire would require as many functioning warships to make his conquest possible. Given that the Harbingers had to take greater care in preserving the ships of the 18th, this placed them at a disadvantage to the Halcyon Wardens. In particular, this would spur on-going waves of boarding parties and battles within the warships. Unlike the void battle, which favoured the superior ships and experience of the Harbinger captain and crews, the Halcyon Wardens now could demonstrate their specialty of defensive infantry combat, a specialty only enhanced by the skill of the Order of the Shield.

 

Still only minutes into the engagement, a majority of the Halcyon Warden vessels that had chosen to remain neutral would now attempt to aid their brothers. However, since they were well behind the Harbinger lines, they were swiftly overwhelmed as they sought to distract the Harbingers from the main fleet. Led by Citadel Bolaro from his ship, the War Eagle, these ships endured as best as they could before being the first V Legion ships to be captured. Although some Halcyon Wardens chose to fight to the bitter end, other Halcyon Wardens chose to surrender to the Harbingers, wishing to avoid unnecessary blood spilt. 

 

As the Harbingers continued to pierce the flanks of the 18th Fleet, Pyrrhicles quickly acknowledged the deterioration of the situation, highlighted by a torpedo attack against the Dominion of Reason. To prevent the fleet from being slowed down by its battleships and dooming the entire 18th, Pyrrhicles gave the order for all ships to make for Terra at best speed. Victory would be defined as alerting the Warmaster of this utter betrayal. 

 

Escort ships and light cruisers, released from their prior duties, sped at full speed to Madrigal's Mandeville Point. The few carriers swift enough to outpace the Harbinger fleet became beacons for fighters who's home warships were either destroyed, captured or soon to be one of the two. The heavier warships who stood no chance at escape abandoned their flight as they sought to shield their brothers from the Harbingers' advance. At the most extreme members, the Halcyon Wardens detonated their own ships in a bid to deny the enemy the resources they desired and to damage enemy warships, as was the case of the Indomitable. Yet, this was not universal. A sizable portion of the 18th would not abandon their brothers to face the Harbingers alone, regardless of their orders. 

 

As the 18th Fleet scattered and dispersed, Lord Protector Pyrrhicles ordered the Dominion of Reason to abandon its retreat as it sought to pits might against another behemoth. It's opponent was to be the Nimbus, a Victory-class battleship commanded by the Master of the Madrigal Defence Fleet, Doras Rho. Joining the Dominion's charge were several lighter ships who would not leave their commander to his fate. The light cruisers Endeavour and Star of Halto protected the Dominion's flanks, along with several escorts. The entire 71st Balovian Bomber Squadron, now homeless with the destruction of the Fortress Ovlast, rushed ahead of the impromptu flotilla to clear enemy escort ships with the remains of four different fighter wings providing cover. 

 

While several other 18th elements similarly banded together in the face of overwhelming odds, none were as large as Pyrrhicles' new flotilla. To list the Harbinger ships opposing the Dominion of Reason and her companion ships would quickly rise into the dozens. Needless to say, the counter fire against the Halcyon Wardens was overwhelming. The Endeavour succumbed first as its weapon systems were eliminated under precise fire from lance batteries. After two bombing runs, eliminating two of the Nimbus' escorts, the 71st Squadron perished as the last bomber died at the hands of three Harbinger fighters. Despite the toll taken upon the Dominion, its way was clear to its enemy and opened fire on the Nimbus

 

As the Nimbus' void shields strained, the first Halcyon Warden ship escaped the Madrigal system. The destroyer Talon's Razor had pushed its engines above their safety limits but was rewarded as it safely entered the Warp, well ahead of the pursuing Harbingers. While the Star of Halto crumbled beneath a barrage of lance batteries, two more 18th fleet escorts fled the system. With the destruction of the Dominion's last escort frigate, it stood alone as Pyrrhicles' ordered all weapons to target the Nimbus, coinciding with the retreat of the first light cruiser Courage.

 

Broadsides brought to bear, the two battleships fired at will as they passed one another. Still under orders to capture, Rho was forced to limit his firepower. Pyrrhicles' operated under so such hindrance. Although surrounded by allied ships, the Nimbus trembled beneath the waves of cannon fire; until a lucky shot pierced its adamantium flank and detonated its generatorum. It would be the Dominion of Reason's final kill before the Nimbus' catastrophic explosion ripped into the Loyalist battleship. In particular, the Dominion's engines collapsed, leaving it dead in the void and surrounded by the Harbinger fleet. 

 

The End of an Era

 

By this point of the battle, the 18th Expeditionary Fleet had been reduced to only a few vessels that fought their way to the Mandeville Point. Harbinger escorts and cruisers hammered the last survivors as they attempted to breakthrough the growing blockade. Centered on the last surviving battleship, a Dominus-class named the Flying Mountain, Citadel Eadwegor led his own ship with four others to breach through the Harbinger line before fleeing into the Warp. Although other Halcyon Warden ships attempted retreat, none would have the firepower necessary to pierce through to freedom, doomed to eventual capture.

 

The majority of the fighting shifted to the remaining boarding actions as the last of the recalcitrant Halcyon Wardens were subdued. This would see some of the bloodiest fighting as the Harbingers could only count on their numbers as an on-going advantage. The legendary divination talents of the First was often countered by the skills of the Halcyon Wardens' Librarians, especially the Vraben. Although fewer in number, their brothers valued their lives well above their own as they prevented lethal ambushes and guided the Shield members to more defensible positions. The Madrigal Purge would be one of the few battles where the Harbingers were forced to rely on more mundane tactics, adding to their casualty counts. 

 

The costliest fighting occurred typically in the final stages of ship capture. Where ever they could, the Harbingers first attempted to reach out to their former allies with diplomacy, recalling prior exploits and oaths sworn. A few times this would be enough to secure the surrender of a squad or a small number of Halcyon Wardens, unwilling to engage in direct combat with the Harbingers. Whenever this happened, the Harbingers took great care to honour these individuals in hopes of sapping further resistance. Where pleas failed, sometimes threats sufficed. Although more than willing to sacrifice their lives, often the Halcyon Wardens often found themselves defending ship ratings, crew members, and serfs as battles progressed. By threatening these weaker members of the ship, the Harbingers arranged the surrender of other Halcyon Wardens, who were unwilling to cause the death of a dozen innocents for vengeance. This had the effect of leaving the most determined Halcyon Wardens standing during the last phase of ship capture. 

 

Although reduced in number, these Halcyon Wardens were driven deeper into their ships until inevitably backed into a corner. In these few areas where the Harbingers could not immediately bring the weight of bodies to overpower their cousins or coerce them with words, only sheer attrition remained as defenders were slowly exhausted of ammunition and energy. 

 

In these scenarios, none were as deadly as the Athenoi. Armoured in terminator plate, defended with storm shields, and armed with power spears, the Athenoi were the elite of the V Legion, the favoured unit of the Warmaster himself. Where one of these warriors fought, the Harbingers paid thrice in number. 

 

One hundred of these famed warriors stood aboard the Dominion of Reason. Combined with the unwavering spirit of Pyrrhicles and the eight hundred members of the Order of the Shield, the Dominion of Reason would be the last warship of the 18th to be captured, despite being boarded before a dozen other ships. Only eight Halcyon Wardens would surrender on this ship. The rest would hold true to the Lord Protector's will. Knowing to defend the entire ship would merely hasten defeat, Pyrrhicles divided his Legionaries between two locations: the bridge and the enginarium. So long as the Halcyon Wardens controlled these two locations, the battleship remained in the hands of the Vth Legion.

 

Against this august force, Sentinel Raiden Athrawes deployed the First Legion's famed auxiliaries, the elite Rakurai, in a move of forced pragmatism. Raiden could not risk the loss of too many Legionaries, else this would threaten the new Stormlord's designs. Despite being one of the finest formations throughout the Imperial Army, the Rakurai sacrificed over 2,000 auxiliaries, even with the guidance of Harbinger seers. Although maintaining a loss ratio of one Warden for twenty Rakurai, the grueling match of attrition whittled away the final defenders of the 18th.

 

It was only at this moment, after two hours of rotating units and non-stop, successive assaults, did Sentinel Athrawes replace the Rakurai with Harbingers. While the defenders may have only lost a quarter of their number, ammunition had been exhausted, and the spectre of fatigue lingered over the survivors. Even then, the Halcyon Wardens would not die easily or quickly. Practiced tetsudo walls protected the Shield-members from ranged fire, forcing the Harbingers to engage in costly close-combat to break defensive formations and lure out individuals to be overwhelmed. One by one, the Harbingers bled their foes at great price. 

 

Alas, no matter their valour, the calculus of war would not be denied. The enginarium would fall first. It had been planned for the Halcyon Wardens to hold out as long as possible before Pyrrhicles would give the order for the massive battleship to self-destruct. Aware of this plan through his own divination, Sentinel Athrawes had taken care to only allow enough Harbingers to be aboard the warship to maintain the never-ending pressure on its defenders while delaying the future where Pyrrhicles destroyed his flagship. 

 

Reversing his previous orders, Harbingers stormed the Dominion in bulk as the assaults on the bridge were temporarily halted. Pyrrhicles soon saw the tactics unfolding and gave the long-awaited order. Unfortunately, it would not be obeyed. A dozen Wardens were further divided as three of them attempted to follow through with their commands. The Harbingers attacked in force, overwhelming the survivors with one last push, even as the self-destruct sequence neared its last step in activation. 

 

With the threat of detonation removed, Sentinel Athrawes himself boarded the flagship with the best warriors from his maniple. Pyrrhicles could only call upon twenty-one Wardens, out of the original nine hundred, to stand with him aboard the bridge. Raiden alone marched onto the bridge and challenged the Lord Protector, swearing if Pyrrhicles defeated him in single combat, Raiden would allow the Dominion of Reason to leave the Madrigal system with its survivors. Should Pyrrhicles fail, the last members of the Order of the Shield were to surrender the flagship.

 

Pyrrhicles accepted. Although he was exhausted from hours of combat and not a true Astartes as Raiden was, the Lord Protector fought with an undying zeal that forced Raiden to call upon his every skill as a Sentinel of the First Legion. While Pyrrhicles was able to pierce Raiden's abdomen, Raiden stabbed through the Lord Protector's sole heart. The Legionary whom the Emperor himself had deemed the "Virtue of his Legion" perished, a symbol of the Great Crusade forever lost.

 

A New War

 

Of the fifty-seven ships composing the 18th Expeditionary Fleet that entered the Madrigal system, only nine would escape, mostly escorts and light cruisers. Of these nine, an additional three would not survive the treacherous Warp travel to Terra. Although a dozens ships were outright destroyed in the Madrigal Purge, the majority of the 18thwarships were either captured or defected to the Harbingers, including seven battleships. Since the battle occurred in the Madrigal system, most of the damaged new additions to the Harbinger fleet were towed to the Akira shipyards within a single day. In a few months, the Akira shipyards had successfully restored these ships to full operating condition. 

 

In regard to their former defenders, the original 8,700 Halcyon Wardens were reduced to a scant few hundred survivors when the ships limped into the Sol system. Although 7,000 Legionaries might not mean much to a Legion well over 240,000, the true cost was in the composition of these casualties. Most of them were dedicated members of the Order of the Shield and irreplaceable veterans of the Great Crusade. In a new war where defense would rise to such priority for the Imperium, these losses were acutely felt. The Order of the Shield in particular suffered from the lost of centuries-worth of experience and skill at a time when they would be capable of coordinated defense and imparting their much-needed wisdom to their lessers. The death of Pyrrhicles was an especially symbolic blow to the Order who had only ever known his leadership, and a deep personal wound to the Warmaster himself who had been close friends to the Delian warrior since before the Emperor had found him.

 

Unlike many of the other ambushes to occur on the Day of Revelation, a large minority of these casualties were the result of capture and defection. Many of these new prisoners of war would be escorted into temporary holding facilities on Madrigal. Their eventual fates would be diverse as a few would successfully see the Imperium again through exchanges, while most would suffer a far darker fate. Most infamous of these Wardens would be the third who followed Malis into the Stormlord's treachery. From this initial base, they would form their own allied force to the Traitors, eschewing their former Legion name to become the Hammers of Malis. 

 

For the price of turning on their closest cousins, the Harbingers suffered a loss of 17,000 Legionaries, most of the casualties incurred at the end of the battle when the last defending Halcyon Wardens reaped the highest cost. This casualty count paled in comparison to the deaths of the Rakurai, which were well over 40,000. In terms of ships, the Madrigal Purge enforced only a light penalty of fourty-four, most of which were the lighter frigates and destroyers. The Nimbus would be the heaviest Harbinger vessel to suffer destruction, whereas most Harbinger battleships and heavy cruisers received only light damage. The Harbinger's prized fleet was well-prepared to begin the next phase of the Insurrection. 

 

Despite an overwhelming tactical victory, Icarion knew from the moment Pyrrhicles' rejection that the battle would be nothing more than a strategic disaster. Icarion had lost his best chance to persuade his beloved brother, Alexandros, to join his rebellion. The Halcyon Wardens, the second-most numerous Legion would remain loyal to the Emperor. Although Icarion would attempt several more diplomatic efforts to persuade both Alexandros and the remaining Loyalist Primarchs, it was clear that Icarion no longer hoped for a lightning victory in a war lasting a few months.

 

Instead of a rapid invasion aimed straight at Terra, Icarion ordered the Legions under his banner to regroup at the Maelstrom Zone. To break the defences of the Sol System would require time, preparation and the strength of an empire. To that end, Icarion would build a new power centered on Madrigal. The Harbingers first orders were to secure the neighboring systems for the Stormlord. With the Loyalist Legions shattered and scattered before the Day of Revelation, a temporary window existed for the Traitors to act without impunity as they sought to lay claim to territory, to resources and to raw military power. Terra's fate was not saved by the actions of the 18th, merely delayed.

 

Icarion would give one last order to conclude the Madrigal Purge before turning his full attention to galactic conquest. Every fallen Halcyon Warden's body was recovered, that could be recovered, from the Madrigalan void. Icarion then ordered the creation of a large marble tomb on Madrigal itself and honoured these fallen warriors with his sons. For though they were now enemies, Icarion held nothing but respect for these warriors, who he felt were tragically misguided serving the will of a tyrant. Upon the marble tomb, each Legionary's name was etched into the stone. Written above the tomb's entrance in golden filigree, it was written, "Here lie brave men, killed by loyalty."


Edited by simison, 23 May 2019 - 02:00 AM.

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Madrigal Purge clocks in at 6,336 words.


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The Kataii Ambush

On the Day of Revelation, the blades of insurrection fell upon every Legion loyal to the Emperor, but the Sixth would be wounded more deeply than any other. The Iron Bears, with their great technological power and potent mortal allies, had been identified from the start as one of the greatest threats to Icarion’s seizure of power. One of the most formidable Legions, they boasted great technological prowess, a redoubtable pocket empire and an impressive roster of allies integrated into their line of battle. Knights marched into battle at their behest, and their realm of the Three Fires - or Tricendia in High Gothic - had given them not only several Army regiments but the Daughters of Daer’dd, who ranked beside the vaunted Solar Auxilia and Icarion’s own Rakurai cohorts.

Icarion did not need his foresight to understand that if he did not eliminate the Bears on the Day of Revelation, they could provide a stumbling block on his road to Terra. Even with the presumed cooperation of Alexandros and the subsequent seizure of Terra, the Bears’ realm of the Three Fires might become a bastion for the Loyalists, especially in conjunction with the Dominion of Mycenae. Moreover, it lay adjacent to Icarion’s intended route to the Sol System, and he could not countenance such a powerful enemy on his flank. Daer’dd himself would be a fearsome enemy, beloved of the common soldier and one of the few Primarchs Icarion could not be certain of defeating in combat.

Thus Icarion moved to eliminated him, setting the stage for the Day of Revelation’s most infamous battle. Knowing the power of the Bears and their mortal allies, he assigned not only the Godslayers to this task, but the Grave Stalkers and the sinister Lasarine Mechanicum. Their treachery was to be enacted over the planet Kataii. This was a subsector capital, insignificant in the Imperium’s sense-defeating sprawl. Events, however, would give it an immutable place in history.

The Blades Readied
For nearly two decades prior to the Day of Revelation, three Legions - the Iron Bears, Berserkers of Uran and Grave Stalkers - had been leading the thrust northwards, deep into the Ghoul Stars, along with fleets of Drowned and Eagle Warriors for several years. In this region, resistance was murderous indeed. Dozens of grotesque xenos and abhuman breeds ensured that this brutal front took decades to push forward. Therefore upon the Day of Revelation, unlike in some theatres of the Great Crusade, the fighting was far from over, with some tacticians estimating that it could be as much as another two decades before the Ghoul Stars could be declared conquered.

This was the reason for the Iron Bears' presence over Kataii. The bulk of the VIth Legion was engaged in the Ghoul Stars and had recently completed the extermination of the Orks of the Kayvas belt, a collection of nearly 40 worlds. However, as in the broader Crusade, there was still a great deal of fighting to be done in the Ghoul Stars. Their next assignment was a region known as the Angel’s Horns, recently scouted by Rogue Traders and expected to require four years’ fighting to secure it. It was daunting enough that Daer’dd called upon the vast majority of his Legion, nearly 130,000 Legionaries along with the bulk of their allied Army, Knight and Titanicus units. Kataii was to become a forward base of operations for the VIth for at least the coming campaign.

It was also supposedly for this reason that the Godslayers and Grave Stalkers were joining the Iron Bears' muster over Kataii. K’awil and Koschei were apparently at odds over the broader campaign’s course, with the former wishing to press on into adjacent sectors and the latter intent on consolidating recent conquests. They sought to confer with Daer’dd in order to establish a coherent strategy, and it was for this reason that their allies’ bulk transports halted at Euryd, the small world with which Kataii shared its sun, while the Legion fleets moved on toward the core planet. In truth, the Grave Stalkers and Godslayers had arrived with the purpose of slaughtering their cousins, and these more vulnerable ships would be a distraction.

When the Godslayers and Grave Stalkers translated, the Iron Bears were arrayed in a standard Imperial resupply anchorage pattern, with many of their largest vessels anchored about Kataii's void port, directly above the docks on the world itself. Strike cruisers and smaller battle barges were anchored around the largest vessels in tight knit formation to allow easy travel between vessels, while the very smallest ships were positioned in picket squadrons on the outskirts of Kataii's gravitational field. As the Godslayers and Grave Stalkers moved closer, they kept their intent hidden, exchanging vox-hails with their cousins as if all was normal.

Permitted to pass by the picket squadrons, the Insurrectionist fleet sailed on through the void towards the main body of the Iron Bears fleet. It was then, as the Insurrectionist fleet's vanguard was moving into orbit above Kataii and the fleet's main body was just an hour or so away from joining the Iron Bears in orbit above Kataii, that the Primarchs of the three Legions met via hololith for a preliminary strategic conference. In truth, it is likely that Daer'dd simply wished to converse with Koschei, a brother he had not seen in decades. During this meeting, Daer'dd unwittingly gave his two brothers strategic information that would prove useful, when they made the last-minute alterations to their battle plans. Amid the exchange of pleasantries, Daer'dd revealed that only 100,000 of his sons were actually with him over and on Kataii. A further 30,000 had been delayed by Warp turbulence and was expected to arrive in a trickle over the past days, although the furthest out were still four days away.

Of more immediate use, Koschei and K'awil discovered that nearly 6,000 Bears were not in orbit at all. Instead, they were on Kataii itself, amid the world's docks, overseeing the transfer of supplies into orbit and surveying facilities which might be of use to the Legion in the long term. This was by no means a glorious task, but necessary. More pertinently, it would shield these Astartes from the initial onslaught in the void, and give them time to prepare for an assault. This raised the ominous prospect of Bears evacuating from their ships to the planet, where their legendary terrestrial arsenal would make it far more costly to wipe them out. As a preemptive measure, eight Brotherhoods of the Godslayers deployed to Kataii's docks, supposedly to prepare for their own resupply operations. As the Godslayers spread out among the sprawl of gantries, warehouses, and docking stations, a force of 150 Grave Stalkers discreetly deployed to the main structure of the docks, the vox relay centre.

Meanwhile, the Godslayers and Grave Stalkers fleets had moved into high anchor alongside the unsuspecting Iron Bears. Some Godslayers elements had even boarded Iron Bears vessels under the guise of wishing to see old comrades. The Iron Bears had no idea of the peril. As the final adjustments were made to the Insurrectionists formations, weapons batteries were powered up, boarding pods loaded into torpedo tubes and the Legionaries of the VIIIth and XVth Legions checked their weapons and armour a final time.

The Knife in the Back
The first act of betrayal was a shot fired from the plasma pistol of one Sergeant Ivan Vladislavich, a warrior of the Godslayers 6th Brotherhood, on board the Iron Bears strike cruiser Heart of Iron. It felled Captain Roanilas of the Third Grand Wartribe, known to history as the first Legion casualty of the battle of Kataii. With the surrounding Iron Bears still reeling from the shock of this crime, the other members of Squad Vladislavich followed suit. Once the Legionaries and Daughters on board the Heart of Iron were dealt with, the Godslayers moved to the bridge, seizing control of the strike cruiser and killing any of the mortal crew and Army soldiers who resisted. Then, with the blood of former comrades darkening on their gauntlets, they turned the guns on the nearest ships.

All across the daylight side of Kataii, the same scene played out, Godslayers and Grave Stalkers turning on the Iron Bears apparently apropos of nothing. The VIth Legion fleet, brought into close proximity to Godslayers and Grave Stalkers vessels by the pattern in which the Insurrectionists had anchored their fleet, were raked with fire from lance batteries and could muster only sporadic retaliatory fire, with most Iron Bears ship captains being too shocked to effectively respond. To add to the confusion, many of the Iron Bears vessels began to also turn their guns on the rest of the VIthlegion fleet, seized by the Godslayers. Aboard several of these, crew attempted to retake control of their ships, but proved powerless in the face of the traitors. Quite aside from their weapons, the boarders held the controls of life-support systems. These were quickly turned off where mortals were deemed a serious hindrance, condemning them to a slow demise.

In these opening minutes of the attack, tens of thousands of Astartes died, while the mortal death toll soared into the millions. The Iron Bears had been caught unawares, with their shields largely deactivated and none of their crew in battle positions. The only exceptions to this were the picket squadrons, removed from the main body of the fleet and so out of the way of the main betrayal. However, like every other ship in the Iron Bears fleet, their vox was now flooded with the sounds of ship and Astartes captains requesting orders, answers or simply demanding a halt to the madness. And along with that, all the cacophony of slaughter.

On the bridge of the Iron Bears flagship, the vast Dragon of Autumn, Daer’dd could only watch and listen in horror. He tried to establish contact with his brothers, whose flagships were firing on the Dragon of Autumn, yet K’awil gave no response and while contact was established with Koschei, the only response the Primarch of the Godslayers gave was to say “Forgive us” before breaking contact.

The losses sank in, the toll growing with every heartbeat. Vessels - not just warships, but troop carriers with no weapons capable of meeting such attackers - burned, gutted with exacting accuracy and thoroughness. Before Daer’dd’s very eyes, a mass conveyor as large as the Dragon was torn open, condemning almost a million soldiers of the Huronian Sunstriders to death in flame or the cold void. Sixty kilometres away the Claw of Dusk, flagship of the Fifth Grand Wartribe and the jewel of Oamura’s shipyards, was dying, bleeding atmosphere and molten metal into the void. Voidcraft spilled from its hangars, yet most were run down and destroyed before they could reach another ship. Lord Chief Logan Drake, a comrade to whom Daer’dd had entrusted the command of a Wartribe, felled by honourless cowards.

Horror turned to anger. Daer’dd issued an order across the vox, over the screams of dying ships. His Legion was to break out of the trap, flee the system and regroup with the ultimate goal of reaching Huron. The Dragon’s shields were lit, followed by the rest of the fleet. The rate of destruction slowed, but already enemy Astartes had made their way aboard followed and were killing thousands of mortal crew. Daer’dd led his Totem Guard and other favoured companies to confront them, leaving the void war to his shipmistress Lotara Sarrin, who engaged the Insurrectionists with all the ferocity and skill for which she was renowned.

Where before it had been a slaughter, with the Primarch’s order given, battle was truly joined in the void above Kataii. Recovering from the initial shock of the ambush, the Iron Bears fleet began to fight back with some semblance of organization and strategy. Dozens of vessels, their names too numerous to list here, sacrificed themselves in desperate rearguard actions, allowing other Iron Bears ships to disengage, regroup and fight back as ad hoc squadrons. While the Iron Bears continued to fall in numbers never before seen by the Legiones Astartes, they no longer died without knowing why, unable to take some measure of revenge. The first recorded ship kill made by the VIth Legion was the Grave Stalkers light cruiser Hidden Shadow, its engines destroyed by fire from the Dragon of Autumn in the twentieth minute of the battle. Within a minute the leviathan had consigned two more vessels to oblivion as it cleaved through space, its lessers sailing in its wake.

The armed complements of many doomed vessels, rather than staying to die with their ships, launched themselves at Insurrectionist ships in an attempt to board them. While many of these boarding pods were destroyed, hundreds more slammed into their targets. Fuelled by their fury at the betrayal, these Iron Bears who succeeded in boarding Insurrectionist vessels wrought butchery upon all they found until they too were slain. A few boarding parties succeeded in purging smaller vessels of all key personnel, but even when they withdrew their safe return was uncertain. Many more fell aboard the vessels they attacked, and the last words of those aboard Grave Stalkers ships were often of strange, hitherto unseen automata wrought by the magos of Lasaris.

One notable boarding action was that fought by Sergeant Enoch Awanjish and multiple squads of Iron Bears stationed on the frigate Iron Soul. Surrounded by four Godslayer ships, the Iron Soul was dying, bleeding its life out into the void and so the Iron Bears and Daughters launched themselves at the Godslayers battle barge Absolute Brotherhood. Twenty one of them reached the ship and when they did, they fought their way onto the bridge, Awanjish clearing their path with his thunder hammer. While they were eventually all brought down, they killed more than half the bridge crew, and brought down more than their own number of Godslayers.

Already, dozens of adamantine carcasses drifted, gutted, through the void, the bodies of their crew freezing in the vacuum chill, and still the battle over Kataii continued.

Rain of Iron
The first that anyone on the surface of Kataii knew of the betrayal taking place in orbit was when it began to rain metal. As the Iron Bears fleet was ripped apart in orbit, the shattered and twisted metal from the carcasses of those ships that were destroyed lower in orbit began to fall down to Kataii's surface. Some smashed into the cities of Kataii, killing millions, others into Kataii's mountains. However, the vast majority of these ships carcasses came crashing down onto Kataii's port. The fury and heat of their reentry incinerated the bodies of anyone caught in the open, Astartes and mortal alike. However, the Godslayers had known to take cover in the storage chambers underground beneath the docks.

The Iron Bears and their allies had not, and so many were caught out in the open, crushed and incinerated by the hundred along with thousands of civilians. Like their comrades in orbit, they began to roar out requests for orders into the vox, struggling to be heard amid the cacophony. However, no matter how loudly the Iron Bears roared into the vox, they received no answer save for deathly silence, for their requests never even reached the ears of their Primarch in orbit nor even their officers in the docks. Treachery had drawn a veil over the world as impenetrable as the pall of ash and smoke that loomed overhead.

While eight Brotherhoods of Godslayers had been deployed to the docks to engage and destroy the Iron Bears on the ground, only a small force of Grave Stalkers, most from the XVth's destroyer cadre, had joined them. Unlike the Godslayers, the Grave Stalkers had a very specific task: seize the vox relay centre and destroy it without word reaching the anyone but their allies. It is a grim testament to the skill of the Grave Stalkers who carried out this action that so little is known about it. A handful of Huronian troopers reported finding dead Imperial Army troopers and workers at the vox relay centre. They noted that they had been killed in one of two ways: a knife through the back or with their necks broken. This was a hallmark of the XVth’s methods; quiet and chillingly efficient, killing and moving on before a scream or gunshot could prompt alarm.

Moving through the facility, the Grave Stalkers seem to have spread out immediately, killing any who could discover and inform their superiors of the destruction of the vital machinery within the relay centre. Only a small number seem to have continued on to the heart of the relay centre, destroying several parts of the vast network of circuits and broadcasters needed for the relay centre to function before taking cover for when the ships' carcasses began to fall.

In the confusion caused by the lack of any long range vox communication, the individual groups of Iron Bears were forced to act on individual instinct. Where other Legions' first instinct would be to find cover, the Iron Bears first thought was not of themselves. Instead, it was of the suffering around them. Their immediate reaction was to lead or carry as many of these people as they could to some form of shelter. Thousands of mortal lives were saved, but at a gruelling cost to the Bears. The fighting on the ground that followed this initial rain of debris was even more chaotic than that in the void above Kataii. Certainly, the coordination of the traitors, that had served them so well in the early stages of the battle, vanished. Some emerged from cover too early, rising up to the surface to find the metal rain still falling and suffering heavy losses for their misjudgement. Others emerged too late to find that the battle was in full swing, the element of surprise lost.

However, those who emerged as the initial wave of falling ships was beginning to slacken found the Iron Bears in disarray, their vox all but useless and many of them blinded by the burning fragments of metal that laced the air, having neglected to wear their helmets or lost them in the initial chaos. In addition, the Insurrectionists still had the advantage of surprise. The Iron Bears had no idea of what was transpiring in orbit. The Insurrectionists did. With full access to fleet tactical networks, armed for fratricide and in some cases supported by dreadnoughts and automata, they began to sweep through Kataii's dock complex, butchering any Loyalists they came across.

Perversely, it was the chaos of the ground war's opening moments that saved the Iron Bears. Amidst the confusion, many units had splintered as their members saved those mortals they could and sought cover for their charges. Thus when the Insurrectionists emerged from cover, large units of Iron Bears were nowhere to be found, only small, scattered groups. Even as the deluge gouged the city, the Iron Bears had realised that this could only be hostile action. Therefore, they decided that those Legiones Astartes elements on the ground needed to regroup and try to reestablish contact with the fleet or, failing in that, prepare for a ground invasion. There were two locations these Iron Bears moved towards to regroup: the docks' spaceport or the vox relay centre, with most making their towards whichever was closest. On their way, some of these survivors ran into their Insurrectionist counterparts, through these encounters discovering their treachery.

Those Iron Bears who reached the spaceport found a grim tale awaiting them. Those who had arrived before them had established contact with the fleet, more specifically the Dragon of Autumn, one of the only ships whose own vox transponders were powerful and operational enough to be reached. The Dragon of Autumn dealt a thousand deaths with every salvo, but its shields were straining under the intolerable beating it sustained from its enemies. Dozens of ships had been destroyed or disabled in the opening moments of the betrayal. Seeing that no help could be expected from orbit, the Iron Bears began to prepare the spaceport’s defences for a test they had never been designed for: assault by another Legion.

By contrast, those Iron Bears who made it to the vox relay centre found only bloodshed. When they had believed it safe to do so, the Grave Stalkers emerged from the bunkers beneath the vox relay station to find the Iron Bears who had taken cover there. In short order, fighting had broken out between the two, the Grave Stalkers uncaring of the mortals they cut down to reach the Bears. In the blood-spattered and firelit confines, the battle became a sprawl of hand-to-hand combat, the VIth Legion's tomahawks against the XVth's knives and the claws of their cyborg allies.

As broken Iron Bears vessels began to fall out of orbit, several Godslayers vessels peeled away from their squadrons and began to move towards the Kataii Orbital Port. It was around this monolithic structure that many of the Iron Bears' largest ships, including the Dragon of Autumn, had been anchored and many of Kataii's orbital defences were located here. From these ships, hundreds of Caestus Assault Rams launched, each one making straight for the Orbital Port. Each of these assault rams was packed with Godslayers, equipped for the rigours of a boarding action in the Orbital Port's winding, narrow corridors. Their one objective that we can be certain of was to take hold of the Orbital Port and in doing so seize its anti-ship batteries to be used against the Iron Bears, or at least neutralize them. However, while the Stormborn had expressly ordered that the Dragon of Autumn be destroyed, it has been argued that this assault constituted an attempt to capture the Iron Bears flagship and the other capital ships, any of which would be a major addition to the Godslayers fleet.

Whatever their true objective, hundreds of craft slammed into the Orbital Port and from them poured thousands of Godslayers, many of them veterans of a hundred sieges. However, when they smashed their way into the Orbital Port, in many cases they did not find their path unopposed. Many were showered with volley after volley of las fire shortly after stepping foot inside the Orbital Port and this riposte came from not from mere militia or Army troopers, but from soldiers of the Solar Auxilia 918th Cohort. The “Star Serpents”, resplendent in green and white livery, were themselves the veterans of decades campaigning in the Ghoul Stars, and they stood firm in the face of their attackers.

It is universally acknowledged that to fight a Legionary with any hope of success requires another Legionary or potent combat-automata. However, while it was known that they were far and away superior to unaugmented non-Imperial human troops, it was not yet realised just how outmatched the troops of the Imperial Army - even the elite Solar Auxilia - were by the warriors of the Legions at the time of the Day of Revelation. While it had never been imagined that the two might meet in battle, the likely outcome was easy enough to anticipate - a massacre. Legion void warfare was ferocious, beyond even that practiced by the Solar Auxilia.

It is a testament, then, to the valour of Marshal Solar Iri’idus Marzas and his Star Serpents that they were undaunted by these odds. In the tens of thousands, they deployed to to stall the Legions amidst the Orbital Port’s passageways. However, the Auxiliaries’ las weaponry had to be wielded en masse to breach the Astartes’ warplate, and while their Rapier turrets and volkites proved more potent, these were too few to halt the tide. By contrast, the Space Marines’ guns and blades were virtually unimpeded by the armour of the mortal soldiers. The attackers lost scores of warriors, but the toll was exceeded a hundred times over by the Star Serpents.

The Solar Auxilia were not the only Imperial forces to meet the Godslayers in battle in the Orbital Port. Whereas many of their still living brothers had remained aboard their ships, a number of VIthLegion Dreadnoughts had disembarked from their vessels to the Orbital Port with small honour guards of Bears and Daughters. It is worth noting that next to none of these dreadnoughts came from the larger ships of the Iron Bears fleet, meaning that in all likelihood they had needed to board the Orbital Port to obtain repairs that the forges of their own vessels were unable to supply. This theory is given further credence by the fact that many of them were missing weaponry or seemed to have parts of their ironform which were malfunctioning at the time of the Battle of Kataii. However, each of these warriors was still a dreadnought, quite capable of wreaking carnage among their traitorous cousins. Now they emerged, flanked by the Mechanicum troops who guarded the forges.

With their living brothers dying in unprecedented numbers and the Tricendian Auxilia being massacred in vain attempts to hold the Godslayers at bay, the living dead of the VIth Legion joined the battle. As the Godslayers pursued the retreating Solar Auxilia through the Orbital Port, they were confronted by these giants. Quite abruptly, the Godslayers ceased to be the butchers and became the butchered, as when Ancient Acona made his stand at gate 34-A.

Both of Acona's legs were so badly damaged that he could barely move, but his Kheres assault cannons remained lethally intact. He fought with all the determination the revered fallen possessed, mowing down squad after squad as the 19th Brotherhood attempted to dislodge him. Worse still for the attackers, his stand gave a Sub-Cohort of the Star Serpents a point around which they could rally, forming ranks to add their own fire to his. Without Acona they would have been swept aside, but in the Ancient’s shadow they had the armoured corpses of Godslayers for cover, and their massed las-fire found the breaches he made in the warplate of their attackers.

A similar incident has become known as the Charge of the Broken. In Spineway 3 of the Orbital Port, elements of Sub-Cohorts Quintus and Tertius had engaged the Godslayers 28th Brotherhood. While they put up as much resistance as they could, inevitably the Solar Auxilia were being forced back with heavy casualties. The Godlsayers pursued them, halted only by the appearance of Ancients Aertemes, Ivar and Maakdewa with their retinue. They had heard the desperate calls for reinforcements from the Solar Auxilia along the Spineway and raced to respond. As with all the Dreadnoughts on the Orbital Port, they lacked certain capacities, Ivar having even lost his artificial sight in the Compliance of Gareen. Nonetheless, when they charged into the Godslayers, they were deadly, ripping or blasting them apart in the dozens and forcing the warriors of Zbruch into retreat.

Through such feats of courage, guile and endurance, the Loyalists kept a hold on the great guns of the station. Directed by Artificer Bakgii, they put these ship-killers to full use and hammered nearby traitor vessels with lances and plasma. More than a stubborn objective, the Orbital Port became an active danger to the Godslayers, hampering their attacks on the beleaguered Iron Bears and savaging their own vessels. VIIIth Legion ships joined the corpse-hulls spinning in the void, and smaller guns staunched the flow of enemy reinforcements.

However, despite all these efforts, the Godslayers eventually pushed up the Spineways and towards the docking facilities, bringing down over seventeen dreadnoughts, mostly with melta fire and krak grenades or melta bombs. In the case of Maakdewa, however, the Godslayers made their kill at great cost with power weapons and chainfists, Captain Igor Ivanovich finally dragging the revenant from his Lucifer sarcophagus. With victory in their grasp, the Godslayers were fought their way into the immediate vicinity of the Port’s docking spaces and the remnants of the 21st and 33rd Brotherhoods commenced a boarding action against the Iron Bears battle barge Oamura’s Fire.

Seeing the danger to the few vessels of the VIth Legion that remained docked, in most cases due to extensive damage caused in the opening moments of the battle, Iri’idus Marzas issued his final order over the vox: all the surviving Loyalists were to seal their armour against the void - Dreadnoughts being proof against such hazards - and his own troops were to hold the Godslayers in place and prevent any escape. Marzas then had the tech-priests overload the Orbital Port’s gravitic engines, the very devices that kept it in orbit.

The result was a catastrophic explosion which swallowed much of the central port and sent many of the combatants flying out into the void, killing most of the surviving Solar Auxilia, either through the immediate explosion or exposure to the void. However, this terrible price was one the Marshal Solar was quite willing to pay. His actions killed thousands of Godslayers in the explosion and cast others out into the void freeze. More importantly, those Iron Bears ships still docked, deprived of an anchorage, went crashing down to Kataii’s surface, killing millions but denying their use to the traitors.

Below, the outraged militia and garrisons deployed across the world, even turning the surface-to-void guns of the main hives upon the Insurrectionists. The governors and some commanders might have given their fealty to Icarion, but their underlings had other ideas. Their attempts to target Insurrectionist ships were hampered by the density of vessels in orbit, but this was an unwelcome development for the traitors which would likely necessitate the use of terrestrial forces. But quite abruptly, this was forgotten as the Bears seized the initiative.

 

The Bear’s Rampage

Just as battle was raging in the void all around them, an equally vicious struggle was being fought in the bowels of the Dragon of Autumn. As the Iron Bears flagship, it had been the prime target not only for the weapons batteries of every Insurrectionist vessel within range but also for numerous Insurrectionist boarding parties. While those aimed at the bridge and upper levels of the Dragon of Autumn had been blasted apart before they even got close, many that had been aimed at the ship's lower levels had slammed home to disgorge their deadly payloads. As a result, rather than going on the offensive and boarding the Insurrectionist, Daer'dd and his elite Totem Guard were forced onto the defensive, a role they were relatively ill suited to, as were all Iron Bears.

It is said of many armies that they are more dangerous with their backs to the wall. Such forces inflict more casualties upon their enemies in battles where their death is all but assured than they ever would otherwise. Most assuredly, a Legiones Astartes is such a force. With their backs to the wall, the Iron Bears fought with desperate savagery and recklessness rather than, for example, the Fire Keepers' cold wrath and stony determination. Such a difference might be insignificant enough against another opponent - the Legions being trained and equipped for all modes of warfare - but against their cousins it was a telling weakness. Here lay the masterstroke of the Kataii Ambush, not in the deployment and coordination of the Insurrectionists, but in forcing the Iron Bears to fight on the back foot and in such disorder.

It was this defensive posture that they were forced to adopt that is partly to blame for the high Iron Bears casualties compared to those suffered by the Insurrectionists in the early battle when compared to other battles of the Day of Revelation. Reduced to reacting to their enemy's movements, seemingly unable to control the tide of battle and moreover enraged by the betrayal, many Iron Bears vessels and their crews hurled themselves at the Insurrectionists in brave but ultimately doomed charges. The Insurrectionists responded with countermeasures already devised and rehearsed, and those Bears who gave in to the urge to attack were cut apart systematically.

While the Grave Stalkers largely refrained from boarding actions, it is clear from data-logs that when they did commit, the targets were typically the Titans and Knights allied to the Iron Bears. On those ships that berthed these engines the Grave Stalkers came for the bridge crews and vital systems, either in bleak silence or depraved shrieking. The disorder among the Iron Bears intensified as ships they sought to guard fell silent and unresponsive. Counter-attacks were attempted, but by the second hour only two Titan-carriers and a House August conveyer had been retrieved, and the most that the Bears could hope to achieve was blasting apart the remainder and denying them to the foe.

Foulest of all, on one vessel the Grave Stalkers captain aboard fled the coming of the Bears, into the bowels of the ship his company had attacked. Activating a cluster of vortex grenades, he and his retinue caused an engine-breach which scoured the ship’s insides, killing thousands and condemning a proud War Maniple of the Legio Auris to ignominious death. In a hundred such atrocities, the Grave Stalkers inflicted destruction which far exceeded their numbers.

Only the skill and resolve of fleetmistress Lotara Sarrin and the officers under her command saved the Iron Bears fleet from utter destruction. Steadily and painfully, Sarrin pieced the Iron Bears fleet back into some semblance of order and united action, reduced as it was. Under her command, it began to make a fighting withdrawal towards the system’s edge. The Dragon of Autumn and other juggernauts made up the rearguard, loosing volley after volley to deter their pursuers.

As his shipmistress coordinated the Iron Bears' withdrawal, Daer'dd himself had been hunting Grave Stalkers and Godslayers in the Dragon’s lowest levels alongside his Totem Guard. While the fighting had been fierce, few Legionaries could stand against these elite warriors. Against the wrath of a Primarch, that number dwindled to none. In the speed with which the Insurrectionists had prosecuted their boarding actions a terrible realisation had come to the Primarch of the Iron Bears, confirmed by the discovery of a holo map of the Dragon of Autumn on the body of a Grave Stalkers officer. The ambush, the massacre of his sons, had been planned with exacting precision right down to their boarding procedures. It was no outbreak of madness, but likely part of some greater scheme.

Finishing the hunt in the flagship’s depths, Daer'dd returned to the bridge and gave his shipmistress new orders. No matter the cost, they were to engage the Godslayers and Grave Stalker's flagships while as many of the fleet as possible fled the system. While his fleetmistress attempted to reason with the Bear, he would brook no disagreement. From the highest praetor to the lowliest menial, these were his people being killed, and he would not sacrifice them for his own safe passage. Worse, K’awil and Koschei had broken all compacts of brotherhood, and only their blood would answer for such treachery.

So it was ordered, so would it be. Turning around from its withdrawal, the Dragon of Autumn plunged back into the Insurrectionist fleet, flanked by its escorts and the cruisers Bear's Blood and Huron's Heart. Lord Chief Lakestrider of the Third Wartribe was left to lead the majority of surviving ships to safety, trusting to Daer’dd’s action to keep them from the worst of the attack. Taking full advantage of the Insurrectionists’ surprise at such an apparently suicidal charge, the flagship and its fellows carved a bloody path for themselves with their guns until finally, the Dragon of Autumn was exchanging lance fire with the Grave Stalkers’ flagship, the Eye of the Void.

K’awil’s ship was a masterwork by the Lasarine Mechanicum, a unique ship fearsome in aspect and equipped with stealth systems that defied replication. Its weaponry was also impressive, far exceeding most ships of its class, but in open battle it was no match for a Gloriana battleship. The Dragon was beyond even those monsters in power, and under Sarrin’s direction it twisted and cleaved through the escorts of the Eye of the Void, the sword of a blademaster dispatching his foes. It alone reaped six ships - destroyers, frigates, a cruiser - yet never lost sight of its true target, Sarrin using the Dragon’s momentum to bring it alongside the Eye of the Void. The daring attack had its price in VIth Legion ships, but now the Dragon was upon its target and loosing broadsides, bursting its shields and cratering the corpse-grey armour beneath. His shipmistress' duty complete, Daer'dd, his Totem Guard and several more companies teleported aboard the flagship of the XVth.

With wrath boiling in their veins and vengeance in their hearts, this assault force mauled their way through the vessel's halls. Lasarine Adsecularis only slowed them for seconds. Vorax automata swarmed him, lesser predators attacking an alpha beast, and he made scraps of them. Not even a force of Grave Stalkers veterans, led by one of their Legion's few Dreadnoughts could halt the Bear and his Totem Guard, with Daer'dd tearing the ironform limb from limb and dragging its pilot's ruined body out onto the cold metal of the ship's floor where he left it to die, twitching and cold.

The Bear's rampage was only halted when he was confronted by his target. K'awil Pakal had moved to intercept his brother, bringing a guard of some 200 Reapers - the damned warriors of the XVth, dead men walking each and every one. It is said that in the dim light of the ship's corridors K'awil smiled, an ugly expression more akin to rigor mortis than any true mirth. Without a word, Daer'dd charged K'awil, who leapt to meet him with a wordless shriek. The Astartes charged in their wake. The two forces met with the dull clang of ceramite on ceramite, a sound which the galaxy would come to know all too well as the sound of betrayal.

To see Daer'dd fight K'awil was to see a battle of opposites. One the one side Daer'dd, striking with great hammer blows and on the other K'awil, darting in and out with his twin blades, inflicting small wounds and retreating, even as the Reapers leapt at Daer’dd, several evading the slower Totem Guard in their frenzy. However, there was no escaping the fact that in open combat, K’awil was grossly overmatched. So, while he held out a great deal longer than any other foe the Iron Bear had faced, he was eventually felled, smashed aside with a hammer blow to his already torn chest. Such damage was ruinous even for K'awil's superhuman body and the Soulless fell, his face mangled by Daer’dd’s fangs.

But before Daer'dd could finish his kill, a new combatant intervened. Koschei Karkovic, who had teleported aboard with his elite companies, interposed himself between Daer'dd and K'awil. If words passed between them, they have never been recorded. Many maintain that Koschei pleaded for forgiveness, even as he recognised there was no turning back. Daer’dd’s rage would only allow this to end with one of them dead. With power fist and dagger Koschei charged his brother, and when his dagger broke in Daer’dd’s gauntlet he took up one of K’awil’s blades. Mighty though he was, this was a battle Daer'dd could not win. Weakened from his battle with K'awil, he slowed. His blows became easier to block, his openings easier to exploit. The autocannon bound to Koschei’s power fist widened the breaches in his armour. Finally, Koschei brought Daer'dd to his knees, even as Daer’dd hauled him into an embrace that broke bones and crumpled his Terminator plate. Koschei tore at his wounds and unloaded his cannon at point-blank range, lacerating Daer’dd’s hearts and lungs until life fled his body.

A Primarch was dead, and nothing would be the same.

The Brink of Extinction
During the Great Crusade it was often said that a Legion, once united with its sire, would not survive his loss. One could not exist without the other; the logic seemed self-evident. The psychic energies bound within the Emperor’s sons were loosed, wreaking chaos among his sons on the Eye of the Void. Where confusion had reigned before, now there was raw havoc and blood-blind rage. The change mastered the Bears aboard and they fought heedless of anything but their fury. Elsewhere the damage was less immediate and profound, but ruinous nonetheless. The control that Lotara Sarrin had managed to maintain over the VIth Legion fleet was greatly weakened by the news of their Primarch’s death. Dozens of ships broke ranks and simply charged forwards, guns blazing, seeking to wreak bloody vengeance for their father.[/background][/size][/font]

The violence Daer’dd had wreaked upon the bodies of his brothers may well have been all that saved his Legion from annihilation. Koschei was withdrawn by teleportation to the Krylataya Pobeda, wracked with the emotional trauma of his crime, while K’awil was taken to the Apothecarion. The Godslayers’ flagship now took the place of the limping Eye of the Void, while the dreaded Lord Ajaway took charge of the Grave Stalkers from the ancient Dark Sovereign. With that, the Insurrectionist fleet fell upon the Bears’ broken formations, seizing on every weakness with unerring, pitiless accuracy.

With Daer’dd fallen, command of the Iron Bears passed to Therox Cass. A former Legion Master, he had served as Lord Chief of the Fourth Grand Wartribe since the reunion. Now disaster thrust the mantle of command upon him again, and with him Chief Praetor Achille Nibaanisiiwi. A senior captain of several decades’ service, Nibaanisiiwi had earned a reputation for a taciturn bearing, matched by his skill in battle and a level head. Upon the latter, the fate of his Legion now rested, for he was one of the few officers aboard the Eye not consumed by his rage of grief. The Dragon of Autumn would not survive unless more warriors could be brought back to defend it.

As Cass and Sarrin tried to rally the fleet, Nibaanisiiwi gathered any VIth Legion warriors he could, seeking to retrieve Daer’dd’s body and any surviving Totem Guard. At Cass’ direction, he was reinforced by additional companies led by Captain Yoxer Bellows. They were sent only to aid him in his mission, for there was no hope that they could capture the Eye of the Void and survive. To many of the Bears already aboard, the odds were below their notice, their minds given over to the hunger for revenge. The Grave Stalkers and their Lasarine allies, however, led by the Ancient Manik’chul, now outnumbered and outmatched them. From every corridor they came, a vice closing on the VIth Legion warriors. By the time Nibaanisiiwi secured his sire’s body, the fighting had deteriorated into brawling among and upon the piles of corpses. Finding warriors from other ships who had boarded the Eye of the Void, Nibaasiniiwi and his captains brought back those they could, but were forced to abandon hundreds to whatever grisly end they might find aboard the ship.

The wave of Daer’dd’s death broke hardest upon the Bears’ shamans. Attuned to the aether as they were, they had felt their father’s death most keenly, the psychic backlash only worsened by the storm of fury and loss that followed. Almost to a man, they forsook all control of their abilities, killing indiscriminately. Some were abandoned when they proved impervious to reason, but others were forcibly restrained by their fellows. One such case was that of Daer’dd’s adoptive brother, Aandegg Niimkiikaa, who was stunned by his guards and brought back to the Dragon of Autumn.

Only a scant few of the remaining Iron Bears vessels held the rearguard strung together by Captain Sarrin, often those captained by veterans of the Great Crusade. Holding their formation, they managed to fight a way out of the ambush, punching their way through the outer traitor cordons and managing to enter the Warp, although many sacrificed themselves to give their brothers that chance. More would be devoured by the Empyrean's capricious tides, their vessels too badly damaged to survive the journey. Many ships evacuated all the personnel they could, hurling them into the void in landers and gunships in the hope that some would reach another ship. If nothing else, better these craft be destroyed than seized by the enemy.

Following their example, there were several more breakouts by hastily thrown-together formations of Iron Bears vessels, notably the Dreaded Claw, a vessel carrying some 400 of the Iron Bears who had been deployed to the surface and fought free. However, such successes were just a small part of the battle. Many more Iron Bears vessels were destroyed than escaped, their hulks left gutted in the void, doomed by their own rage. While lesser forces might have given up in the face of annihilation, the Iron Bears were Astartes and as such fought to the last breath of the last warrior. Yet such bravery could not carry the day and, after a battle that had lasted five hours, the VIth Legion had been scattered to the solar winds by the Insurrectionists.

Death's Tally
As the last of the escaped Iron Bears hauled themselves into the Warp, the time had come for their betrayers to count the cost on both sides. The warfare that had raged in the orbit over and upon the surface of Kataii was a new and brutal way of fighting, the Imperium’s deadliest warriors and weapons turned upon one another. To us, the crimes and scale are familiar - uncounted billions live now who have been reared on our recent and terrible history. At the time however, such losses among the Legiones Astartes were almost unheard-of. Only the most terrible battles of the Great Crusade - Rangda, Stengah, Chimenak - had ever carried such a murderous price. The Day of Revelation, in which these were inflicted on every loyal Legion and coupled with the unthinkable betrayal, was a blow whose force cannot be overstated.

The mauling taken by the Iron Bears was enough to drive any Loyalist to despair. Even in the immediate aftermath of the ambush, when the only reports of it were from scattered bands of exhausted survivors, it was apparent that the damage done to the VIth verged on the irreversible. Casualties and material losses were grimly calculated. Such estimates hammered home the shock, tallying 65%-75% of those gathered over Kataii as casualties. In some units, notably the Totem Guard, casualties were much higher, but no Grand Wartribe present at the ambush survived as anything other than a theoretical concept, scattered and hounded as they were.

Indeed, even as these casualty records were being compiled, the butcher's bill of Kataii was not yet complete. For weeks after the ambush, the Godslayers and Grave Stalkers combed the surrounding systems for survivors, butchering any they found. In addition, more Iron Bears were entrapped, for their fleet had been scattered by the Warp when it arrived in system over Kataii. Most were warned by their brethren, but even weeks after the battle Iron Bears ships were still translating into the system, unaware of the massacre that had taken place and the killers waiting for them. Others still would arrive in what they thought to be safe havens only to be blasted out of orbit by worlds that had sworn themselves to the Stormlord.

A year later, the death toll of Kataii and the Bears’ subsequent flight stood at 112,000, a loss of Astartes exceeding any other in Imperial records. Added to the butcher’s bill were millions of mortal troops, scores of vessels. Vast troves of the Legion’s renowned war machines were lost or worse, in the hands of the enemy. The Behemoth’s Stride, flagship of the Second Grand Wartribe had successfully led the first breakout and forced a passage back to the Three Fires, but not without cost. At the height of the battle that raged aboard it, Lord Chief Ezibiknh had been slain by a Grave Stalkers Moritat. Of the VIth Legion lords who fought here, only Lakestrider would survive to see their home with living eyes. When the Dragon of Autumn reached Terra, Cass’ injuries had been deemed so severe that only internment in a Dreadnought would preserve him.

The losses were worsened by the fact that in so many cases, it was impossible for the gene-seed of the dead to be recovered and their deaths made fruitful. This was an especially cruel blow to a Legion known for its prolonged conversion processes, which persisted even as the Legions cast aside many prohibitions on accelerated Ascension. Many thousands of aspirants would perish in the rebuilding effort due to the hazards of these procedures, but even then it would be a full mortal generation before the Bears could sally forth in any great number. Unknown to the Loyalists, the gene-seed of the fallen Iron Bears had been scrupulously collected by their killers. In the main it was intended for cultivation and implantation, but substantial amounts were also given over to the Warbringers’ Asklepian Order. A final insult to Daer’dd; the experiments he had worked to end were now fuelled by the genetic material of his murdered sons.

As for the two Legions responsible for the atrocity, their losses are more difficult to discern, for we are forced to rely on datacores which had long been concealed from Loyalist eyes. Indeed the Grave Stalkers kept much of their records from the other Insurrectionist Legions even at this time. We can be sure, however, that the XVth had borne a disproportionate share of the Iron Bears' fury. They lost nearly 2500 Legionaries according to their own records, which also admit to another 600 captured or missing (likely from boarding Iron Bears vessels which later escaped). Considering their small size - although it is believed that they had greatly swelled their numbers from the time of the Qarith Triumph, as detailed elsewhere in this work - their losses were steep indeed. In addition, XVth Legion Apothecarion records place the losses of their Reaper cadre in the region of 2,500, likely around three quarters of the mutilated killers. Accurate figures for the Lasarine taghmata have never been obtained, but their losses are believed to be proportionate to those of their allies.

The Godslayers too bore a steep price for their fratricide. They had lost 27,000 warriors killed with another 7,400 missing or taken prisoner, likely under similar circumstances to the missing Grave Stalkers, making for a total of nearly 35,00 Insurrectionist Space Marines lost. Under any normal circumstance, such losses - a full fifth - would have considered catastrophic. But in this context the Godslayers had got off lightly, as unlike the Grave Stalkers and Iron Bears they were able to recover much of their fallen warriors' gene-seed. The losses were attributed in part to the unexpected VIth Legion presence on the surface and the Orbital Port, which had drawn assets away from the original core objectives.

Kataii was scarred deeply, with the death toll from the fallout estimated at 16,000,000. The subsequent mutiny that swept through its garisson saw a further 600,000 deaths as the Insurrectionists reasserted control, and a regiment loyal to Icarion had to be put in place to keep Kataii under his thumb. Still, this turn of events had been unexpected, and Governor Silonius was allowed to keep his position, as penal hives were erected and filled to repair the damage and restore Kataii's productivity. Desperate to redeem himself in his masters’ eyes, he and his cronies became tyrants, driving their people mercilessly to meet the demands of the Insurrectionist war effort.

The Iron Bears’ allies suffered commensurately with the Legion they served. Of the 153 Titans that the Legio Auris boasted prior to the Insurrection, scarcely a third survived to stand against the Traitors, and most of these had been on garrison duty within the Three Fires. It is reckoned that another 20 were claimed as war spoil by the Traitors and given over to the Legio Mortis, who had long despised the Tricendian “upstarts”. It is unknown whether they were offered first to the Godslayers’ allies in the Legio Fortissimus, but Kharkovic’s writings make clear his distaste. A handful of Knights from Houses August and Blintrubas were also seized, some along with their pilots. These warriors might have hoped for death, but at the hands of the Grave Stalkers they were denied any mercy. Instead they were handed to the Magos of Lasaris, who took relish in humbling those who had enjoyed such exceptional status. Broken in body and mind, they became the Hollow Knights, enslaved to those who had murdered their kinsmen. When this became known it stoked fesh rage and anguish in their kinsmen and the Iron Bears, who vowed to end this abomination and punish those responsible.

Mortal personnel, military and civilian, resisted violently even after being taken prisoner. As it was deemed more difficult than it was worth to try and turn them, they all met one of three fates: slave labour, servitor conversion or simple execution for the most grimly determined. The Martian Magos who served under the Bears were offered clemency, and it is said that a small minority accepted these terms. Most, however, chose to join their Tiricendian fellows in resisting to the last. Navigators were taken alive wherever possible, though some died simply from proximity to the Grave Stalkers.

As for the slain Iron Bears, their weapons and armour were scavenged along with their gene-seed. By Kelbor Hal’s writ the renegade Mechanicum would make no attempt to analyse or imitate the technologies of Huron, but it is likely that Lasaris flouted his edict. The Grave Stalkers took trophies both practical and charnel, while Koschei forbade his warriors to take personal spoil from their vanquished foes. It is conjectured that a small number of companies flouted his command, for Godslayers were later encountered wielding Huron-pattern blades and guns in small numbers. Such wargear as could be salvaged, both from the Astartes and their mortal auxilaries, was dispatched to Madrigal with a message from Kharkovic: “By such deeds as these we bloody our hands, for the dream of a better dawn.”

Despite the Godslayers’ legendary stoicism, it is not hard to discern misery and resentment for the act they had been set to perform. Leaving aside the steep losses inflicted by the Bears, the act of betrayal scarred the Legion’s collective soul. The psychic backlash of Daer’dd’s fall afflicted the murderer’s kin as well as the victim’s, and some have speculated that the presence of the Pariah K’awil twisted this, deepening the stain on Kharkovic’s soul.

The Grave Stalkers had paid a gruesome toll for the victory, but their mordant spirit warded them against the kind of psychological fallout which harrowed the Godslayers. K’awil emerged mutilated and with his grim aura amplified, but there is no evidence to suggest that this diminished him in the eyes of his sons. Taking ample spoil from their defeated enemies and gaining greater resources through Icarion’s favour, the dark legend of the Grave Stalkers was set to grow far beyond their previous infamy. 


Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost

 
The Second Son: Narrative of the BOTL Vth Legion Primarch

 

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simison

simison

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Underwater Madness

 

 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.
 
Open Waters
  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.
 
Perfidy
  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.
 
  XVIth 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.
 
  XVIth 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 and Heikuros 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.
 
Survival
  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.

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#9
simison

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The Battle of Kartyg
Kartyg was the purest ambush of the Day of Revelation, fought as it was between Legions who cordially detested one another long before the Insurrection began. Even as allies in the Great Crusade, Crimson Lions and the Berserkers of Uran could not be trusted to fight together, and it is likely that Raktra Akarro demanded the chance to slay Hectarion as the price of his entry into the war. Knowing that the IIIrd Legion was widely dispersed, he likewise divided his Hordes to seek out the Clans of the Lions - although the Lions' impressive numbers meant that some Clans would be assaulted by detachments of the Drowned and the Warbringers. 

The Berserkers' mightiest Hordes, numbering some 80,000 warriors, laid their trap on a world close to the war front where the IIIrd Legion was currently campaigning. Kartyg was a mining world in the Eastern reaches of Segmentum Obscuras, recently brought to compliance and only lightly garrisoned. Its governor deferred instantly to the authority of a Primarch, especially one with Raktra’s monstrous reputation. With that, it was the work of a few short hours to butcher the garrison and enslave the population. Then the VIIth Legion sent out a falsified distress signal through Kartyg’s terrified and bewildered astropaths, dug in, and waited.

Hectarion arrived with 60,000 of his Legionaries and a collection of Army fleets which had happened to be in the region, believing that a xenos force of unknown nature and alarming strength was loose behind Imperial lines. He found a world apparently stripped bare, its fortresses gutted. The Lions’ advance forces made planetfall, seeking survivors or lingering enemies in the cities. As they delved into the subterranean levels, further companies - known as Brotherhoods among the IIIrd Legion - penetrated the mines, and in these depths they found the enemy. The Berserkers had set mortal troops, feral and death worlders utterly in thrall to the Ashen King, in the upper levels of the mines and the under-cities. With the face of the enemy apparently revealed as human but non-Imperial, the Lions attacked in greater strength, accompanied this time by the Army regiments.

Now the Berserkers showed their bloodstained hand, companies storming up from the deepest reaches with Titans and Knight walkers lumbering in their wake. Equipped to engage a mortal horde, the Lions and Army had their lines torn asunder, their tanks blasted and shredded by the Berserkers’ war machines. Even as the true face of the enemy became clear, the VIIth Legion fleet emerged from the shadow of the system’s second, uninhabited world and from high above the solar plain. With naked malice, they fell upon the Loyalist fleet.

The Lions’ fleet did not suffer as greatly as those of the Iron Bears and the Scions Hospitalier, as they were arrayed for battle, but on the surface their forces were ripped apart, trampled under the pitiless feet of the Legio Yharma. The Lions mounted a desperate series of evacuation attempts with their gunship wings, but such was intensity of the VIIth Legion attack that only a fraction of these craft returned to the void, bringing Lions to relative safety. Hundreds of craft fell prey to fire from the surface or Insurrectionist fighters and interceptors, spiralling to earth in flames. Even the thickly armoured bulk landers of the Tricendian Auxilia came apart, shattered by Titan cannons before they could flee.

As Raktra’s flagship approached, Hectarion held the IIIrd Legion fleet together, tactical sense warring with his duty to his sons and outrage at his brother’s crime. His lieutenants, Vericos and Hastein Iron-Arm, attempted to dissuade him from confronting Raktra directly, but only the intercession of Traighas Two-Blade . They had received astropathic missives from nearby worlds, and realised that the Berserkers’ actions were part of a greater whole. The Lions would serve no one by standing and dying in this backwater. They had to escape with what strength they could, and learn of the war’s true extent.

The Lupa Sanguis led the Lions’ surviving vessels in their breakout from the system, but even with Hectarion swayed, their escape was hardly certain. Only the unexpected number of Army ships, which outnumbered those of the IIIrd, had delayed the destruction of the fleet, the Auxilia fleetmasters advancing courageously into the teeth of the enemy to buy time for the Emperor’s son. At the system’s edge the Hooded Guillotine, the Berserkers’ menacing flagship, caught up to its sister ship. 

Here Hectarion would likely have met his end but for the bravery of Rix Thegnir Hralssen, who commanded the strike cruiser Draugren. Peeling off from the formation, Hralssen had his ship intercept the Hooded Guillotine at ramming speed, firing all the while as it shot towards the leviathan. Its assault craft hastily scrambled, the Draugren ploughed through a cluster of the Gloriana’s spinal towers, inflicting grave damage on itself to knock its target off course. Stunned momentarily by the daring ploy, Raktra's favoured companies were beset by suicidal boarding attacks by those gunships and assault rams which had reached the Hooded Guillotine. Wounded by Hralssen’s act and beset by attackers within, the baleful ship left its lessers to pursue Hectarion. Hralssen paid for his bravery at the hands of Raktra himself when the Draugren was boarded in its turn.

Hectarion escaped with roughly two thirds of his fleet, but less than that proportion of the warriors he had brought with him. Some 37,000 lay dead on Kartyg or floated in the void above, along with hundreds of thousands of Army troops, their regiments shattered by the ravenous violence of the Berserkers. The survivors found the surrounding systems suddenly hostile, with the awful certainty that the VIIth Legion would soon be in pursuit. Their only recourse was to retreat. The Lions learned of Icarion's treachery soon afterwards as they hastened back towards Loyalist territory, swearing grim oaths of vengeance upon the Insurrectionists. 


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#10
simison

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The Fall of Light

 

More astute readers of this volume will notice the absence of two infamous Legions, the mercurial Wardens of Light and the treacherous Eagle Warriors. The Arch-Traitor's plan had not forgotten them, but no accurate record has survived of what took place over Gatra V. What is known is that Icarion convinced the Warmaster to order Gwalchavad and his Legion to reinforce the Eagle Warriors' Compliance of the Gatra system.

 

Recent events may have shortened memories of some, but Gwalchavad and Alexos Travier, Lord of the Thirteenth, were once the closest of friends. Although one a psyker and the other a Blank, both were marked with unusual beginnings that placed them apart from their brothers. Both had sought to prove themselves to the Imperium with zeal, yet were known for their own divergences from standard doctrine. Finally, both served a period of mentorship under the watchful gaze of Icarion where they spent ample time in each other's company. This would form the foundation for a powerful bond that would seem to have lasted for all time. Until the Day of Revelation.

 

Recordings from surviving Warden vessels show the 11th Expeditionary Fleet reaching their cousins in seventeen days after merging the 11th, the 22nd, and the 66th under Gwalchavad's command. After confirming casualty counts from translating into the system, Gwalchavad ordered his fleet to enter into high orbit over Gatra V next to Alexo's 27thExpeditionary Fleet. As the Wardens ships executed their orders, Alexos Travier personally contacted Gwalchavad, inviting his brother to come aboard the Tira-to to enjoy fellowship and to discuss the current strategic situation of Grata V. Gwalchavad happily accepted. Once the Warden fleet reached their positions, Gwalchavad and his personal guard traveled over to the Tira-to.

 

From here, the account becomes muddled by whispered rumors and shadowy half-truths. Not more than twenty minutes after Gwalchavad met with Alexos, data logs recorded strange phenomena occurring on the planet's surface. Concurrently, all contact was lost with Gwalchavad and his honour guard. As the Wardens of Light attempted to reestablish communication with their Primarch, the Eagle Warrior warships opened fire upon them. Reeling from the ambush, the Wardens of Light plead and demand answers for this treachery. From the surface of Gatra V, the unexplained phenomena increased. Strange, purple flashes occurred over eight of the most populous cities. Vox systems began receiving the shrieks and screams of pain and agony with no origin point. Human crewmembers became afflicted with random bouts of insanity as they babbled about incredible evils hunting them, only those physically stationed near the Wardens of Light enjoyed a small degree of protection. 

 

What was clear was the XIIIth's hostility. With silence answering them on the vox, the Wardens of Light cast aside their confusion as they regarded the Eagle Warriors as enemy combatants. The Warden fleet returned fire as the commanders sought the whereabouts of their Primarch, whose fate was still unknown aboard the Travier's flagship. Already the battle threatened to overwhelm them as the Eagle Warriors had secured a 2-to-1 advantage in numbers alone before their ambush. A priority order was dispersed amongst the Loyalists: their number one objective was Gwlachavad's safety. Ignoring all other foes, the surviving Warden ships boosted towards the massive battleship, ready to sacrifice their lives to a man to save their gene-sire. Gwalchavad's personal Gloriana, the Caledwylch, led the assault. The famed warship would pay the ultimate price as the Eagle Warriors concentrated their fire upon the mighty battleship. Yet, as it died in fire and flame, it ripped an opening in the Eagle Warriors' lines, allowing the rest of the 11th to approach the Tira-to

 

In the midst of this gallant charge, a shockwave erupted from Gatra V. Eyewitness accounts vary in description, but the common theme was that a 'tear' of some sorts was ripped open in the fabric of reality. All visual recordings of that moment have been deemed classified by the highest levels of authority and have been sealed away from prying eyes. Regardless, the 'tear' was a temporary one, lasting 4.8 seconds before it 'collapsed', as survivors have described it. 

 

Despite the large-scale distraction, all was not lost for the Wardens of Light. Gwalchavad's personal stormbird was spotted fleeing from the Tira-to, a few minutes later. Piloted by the hero, the Scoprion, the famed Warden demanded immediate support for him and his passenger: the Primarch Gwalchavad himself. Their spirits restored, the remaining Wardens threw themselves into a frenzy as they protected the stormbird, until it safely docked within Chalice of Hope. Gwalchavad secured, the Wardens of Light fled from the guns of the XIIIth.

 

All surviving ships of the XIIth formed a shield around the Chalice of Hope as they fought their way through the Eagle Warrior envelopment. So desperate were the Wardens of Light that several ships would resort to ramming techniques to physically clear a route past the Eagle Warrior warships. It would take the sacrifice of four ships before the remnant of the 11th Fleet escaped from the trap. Even then, total annihilation was a possibility if not for the fact that the 27th Expeditionary Fleet failed to give chase. It is still a mystery as to why Alexos Travier did not deliver a final blow, especially given the final outcome of the Insurrection. Perhaps memories of his former friendship stayed his hand. It could be that whatever foul event consumed Gatra V had left its mark on Alexos, preventing him from capitalising on his victory. Or, maybe Alexos hoped to enact another scheme upon his brother. 

 

Whatever the case, only a mere fifth of the 11th would escape the system. None of those ships were undamaged. The final tally would see well over 40,000 Wardens of Light dead. The death toll could have easily reached greater heights had Gwalchavad gathered additional Warden of Light fleets to his banner, but he had believed that the combination of three of his Legion fleets to be of sufficient strength to aid the Eagle Warriors.

 

When inquired of how the Scorpion had both rescued their Primarch and escaped Alexos, the Scorpion explained that it had only been through the sacrifice of Arngrim Valten and Gwalchavad's personal guard, that the Scorpion had successfully reached the Tira-to's hanger bays. Of Gwalchavad, apothecaries attending him reported he had been injected by bizarre, xenos narcotics. They would do all they could to restore their father, but, for the moment, Gwalchavad was removed from the Insurrection. 


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#11
simison

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The Raid of Mena-goth

 

Niklaas, Lord of the Tenth Legion, had always been a controversial figure among his brothers. His harsh treatment of his Librarians and his unending distrust in the powers of Warp had affected even his relationship with the Emperor. Yet, for all his critics said of him, Niklaas had proven himself as a level-headed warlord, an unsurpassed master of siegecraft and second only to Daer'dd in the forge. Responsible for many of the Imperium's finest redoubts, Niklaas possessed unparalleled knowledge of the Imperium's defenses, rendering him an invaluable asset in the incoming civil war. 

 

Records show that Icarion made several subtle overtures to the Witch Breaker, but it would come to naught. Whether this was due to Niklaas' loyalty to the Imperium or to his distrust of Icarion as a psyker, it remains unknown. As such, Niklaas and the Fire Keepers would be marked for destruction on the Day of Revelation.

 

The task of eliminating Niklaas and the Fire Keepers fell to the Jade General and the Warriors of Peace. At first glance, the two Primarchs seemed to be natural allies. Both possessed an inherent distrust of the Warp and advocated for extreme solutions in order to contain the perceived threat. Where Niklaas severely limited his librarians, the Jade General sought to unlock the secrets of the Soulless gene and cultivate it among humanity. Both prided themselves on their methodical approach of war, whether it be the Fire Keepers' meticulous fortifications or the Warriors of Peace's precision in martial arts. However, it never came to pass. Simple differences in personality led to bickering between the two brothers even as they acknowledged and respected each other's talents. Avoiding the love between Alexandros and Icarion and the hatred between Hectarion and Raktra, the relationship between Niklaas and the Jade General meandered between extremes.

 

When the Jade General received his mission, it was with his characteristic stoicism that he accepted. Given the size difference between the Xth Legion and his own XVIIth, he quickly deduced his only hope of victory was a precision strike against Niklaas and his command staff. If the Jade General could successfully eliminate Niklaas, it would deprive the Imperium of its last remaining master of siegecraft and behead the Tenth. Annihilation of the Fire Keepers would then be dealt with at a later date. 

 

The timing of events was in the Jade General's favour. The Fire Keepers were engaged in a purgation campaign on the border of Segmenta Solar and Tempestus. Although well within the Imperium's borders, it was only recently that a new system had been discovered, hidden in the Sanguenay nebula. Rogue traders attempted to survey the system and soon met hostility on several planets. A more primitive branch of the Eldar had laid claim to the system and were willing to defend their home to the death. 

 

Although a lengthy campaign due to guerilla warfare, these Eldar could not hold against the might of a Legion were it not for reinforcements. The armies of the Craftworld designated as 'Biel-Tan' by its xenos population attacked a few days after the Fire Keepers had successfully cleansed the first planet. Lightning raids inflicted casualties and slowed the Fire Keepers' progress as they clashed on the second occupied planet. It was on Icarion's recommendation that the Warmaster deploy the Warriors of Peace to aid their fiery kin, the Soulless a potent weapon against the Eldar's witchcraft. 

 

The Warmaster agreed, unintentionally dooming the Fire Keepers to suffer during the Day of Revelation. It would be on Mena-goth II the two Legions would clash. When the Jade General's personal fleet, the 3,484th Expeditionary Fleet, arrived in the system, communications were established to ascertain the situation. Unaware that he was providing precious intelligence to a foe, Niklaas acceded. The bulk of the Fire Keepers were sprawled across the planet, while a core reserve force defended their primary fortress and ad hoc starport. Even so divided, this placed well over 30,000 Legionaries mere minutes away from their liege lord, in addition to auxiliary forces and titan support. 

 

Although the easiest solution would be an orbital bombardment on the Legion's command center, it was rendered impossible by three factors. First, Niklaas' personal Gloriana, Treads Upon the Night, maintained a stable orbit directly above the location, removing the best potential bombardment vector. Second, after several lightning raids by the xenos, the command center was defended by an active void shield network, rendering the window for bombardment a sliver. Third, there was no guarantee that Niklaas himself wouldn't be protected by the shield generators of his personal armour. 

 

In a moment of irony, the Jade General deduced his only viable tactic was a precision strike, much akin to the tactics seen among the Eldar. Estimating a window of 37 minutes, the Jade General would have to inflict as much damage as possible before retreating. For even if he could successfully annihilate the base defenders to a man, the Fire Keeper's much larger fleet would destroy the 3,484th and strand the Warriors of Peace planetside, dooming them to an eventual death of attrition. 

 

Since it was imperative that the Warriors of Peace be able to retreat back into orbit, drop pods would not see use in the upcoming battle. Instead, as the 3,484th took its place beside the Fire Keepers fleet, the Jade General would have to rely on two waves of landing craft packed to the brim with Space Marines for combat operations. Once the Warriors of Peace had been cleared to begin landing operations, the Primarch himself would travel to the surface with his elite guard to personally meet with Niklaas. Unknown to the Fire Keepers, every reserve XVIIth fighter, bomber, and gunship were prepped for combat as the first wave of Warriors of Peace disembarked unto the planet. 

 

The first wave had completely disembarked as the Jade General entered into his brother's headquarters. The second wave descended as the emptied first wave of landing craft slowed their speed toward the void. It is said that Niklaas called out in greeting to his brother. The Jade General answered by activating his weapons. The Emperor's loyal son survived the first blow of the ambush through supernatural reflex, his arm catching the Jade General's lightning kick. In that moment, the Warriors of Peace struck. 

 

As the Jade General attempted a killing blow, his sons slew the Loyalists around them. Fire Keepers, especially those closest to the landing pads, died in the hundreds as the Warriors of Peace secured their retreat points. The first wave of aircraft hurtled back toward the surface and strafed defenses, while the second wave deployed its Legionaries to the newly-secured landing zones Anti-air defenses were prioritised to ensure the Warriors' maintained dominion over the skies, an especially critical task given that it would their only avenue of retreat. By far, the most visible carnage was the destruction of the titans of Legio Tonarum. XVIIth bombers and gunships focused fire on these massive machines of war. Unprepared for a blade in the back, the entire base rocked beneath catastrophic explosions as unshielded titans died beneath concentrated fire, which in turn ripped colossal breaches in the Fire Keepers' defenses. 

 

In orbit above the planet, much the same played out as the Warriors of Peace warships opened fire on the unsuspecting Fire Keeper ships and unleashed fighter and bomber wings to cripple the Loyalists. Despite the widespread destruction, this was no mindless release of aggression. With initial security established, the Warriors of Peace targeted series of specific objectives to ensure a proper withdrawal. The 3,484th concentrated their attacks on the Fire Keeper warships between them and the Mandeville Point. On the surface, security details defended the landing pads, while assault teams targeted the fortress' shield generatorums and communication arrays. 

 

In a moment, the battle shifted as symbolised by the duel between the Jade General and Niklaas. For thirteen minutes they fought, the Jade General struggling to find the killing blow. Although a master martial artist and armed with surprise, he could not overcome his larger brother. It mattered not that Niklaas bled from a different wounds or several of his bones were broken. Incensed with rage over this betrayal, Niklaas was a volcano, fiery and unyielding in his defense. At exactly thirteen minutes and seventeen seconds, the Jade General acknowledged his failure to kill the Steel Prince.

 

Ordering a withdrawal, the Jade General sacrificed his personal guard, the Menshen, to escape. While Niklaas vented his rage on the remaining Legionaries, the entire Warriors of Peace assault force retreated to the landing pads. As quickly as they had deployed, the landing craft swiftly returned to the surface to bring the Warriors of Peace to the fleet. The few remaining anti-air batteries would send several dozen of these crafts burning to the surface. 

 

While most of the Fire Keeper assaults were unable to challenge the Warriors of Peace for control over the landing pads, this would not hold true for the zones closest to Legio Tonarum's positions. While a large number had been slain, Tonarum would not allow this betrayal to come to pass without blood. The nearest titans, no longer concerned with xeno raids, abandoned their posts to wreak havoc on the Warriors of Peace nearest to them. Entire landing pads would be destroyed along with their defenders in the fury of their counter-attack through vulcan mega-bolter, turbolaser and volcano cannon.

 

In spite of these losses, a majority of the Traitors would escape into the air as they returned to the fleet. In eleven minutes and fifty-one seconds, the last living Warrior had boarded the final transport in a perfectly-executed withdrawal worthy of the Scions Hospitalier. 

 

Although the ground situation had consistently remained in the XVIIth's favour, it was the orbital situation that demanded their retreat. As the last transport broke through the atmosphere, the 3,484th bled ships as the Fire Keepers' 77th rallied against them. Even with the initial advantage, the 77th was easily twice the size of the 3,484th and took advantage of their numbers to strike back. Such was the intensity of the 77th's counter-attack that the Jade General, now protected aboard the Mandate of Heaven, ordered his fleet to begin retreating to the Mandeville Point before the last transport, a sokar-pattern stormbird known as the Hawk's Fire, safely docked with its ship. 

 

Weaving through the battlefield, the Hawk's Fire would not survive as it was swarmed by Fire Keeper fighters only a hundred kilometres from its ship. Its death would mark the conclusion of the most intense fighting as the 3,484th Expeditionary Fleet. Aware that the xenos may take advantage of the in-fighting, Niklaas was forced to order his fleet to avoid pursuit. Although the 77th would lob lance and torpedo salvos at the fleeing Warriors of Peace, they succeeded in only destroying one more ship, a cruiser known as the Viper's Wrath

 

In terms of cost, the Raid of Mena-goth is one of the lesser battles of the Day of Revelation. Roughly 14,000 Warriors of Peace were sacrificed, most of which were lost in void combat during the 3,484th's retreat or during Tonarum's counter-attack on the surface, to slay 26,000 Fire Keepers and well over thirty god-engines of the Legio Tonarum. Yet, this battle is notable for a different reason. Although wounded, the Fire Keepers' woes would not end there. Eager to enact retribution against his brother and to determine the state of the Imperium, Niklaas ordered a complete abandonment of Mena-goth. Paralleling the Warriors of Peace a mere day before, the Fire Keepers were set upon by a resurgence of Eldar forces that would add an additional 8,000 to the butcher's tally. Even to this day, Mena-goth remains in the hands of aliens. 

 

The Raid of Mena-goth would feature prominently in Imperial propaganda as evidence that the Traitors were wholly consumed by their ambitions to the point they were willing to expose humanity to the predations of xenos. This would continue for a decade in the information war between the Imperium and the false Imperium, until it was quietly discarded by the Loyalists. That would not be enough to prevent further controversy down the road. 

 

As for the Fire Keepers' desire for retribution, they would be denied. Hours after successful extraction from Mena-goth, orders arrived straight from the Warmaster. The entire Fire Keepers' were to make straight for the Sol System. Although originally intended to rally for the Loyalist counter-assault against the Traitors, the Fire Keepers would end up playing a critical role in the Mechanicum Civil War. 


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#12
simison

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Word count (including the red boxes): 25,993 words.


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#13
bluntblade

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Scission doesn't seem to unwieldy now, does it? :P





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Halcyon Wardens, Harbingers, Iron Bears, Grave Stalkers, Godslayers, The Drowned, Scions Hospitaliers, Wardens of Light, Eagle Warriors, Fire Keepers

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