New history mostly done:
The Lightning Bearers are a stolid, proud Legion, constant in their service to the Imperium. Through the Crusade they were warriors cut from starlight, fierce and intelligent, gracefully bearing the Emperor’s own lightning over centuries of glorious conquest during the Great Crusade. To common humanity, they were angels of light, a bright star in the firmament of the Emperor’s great design. Their particular role in that design, however, was long obscured by the Emperor’s order. Now that we can place it in the history of the Imperium, it takes on a new significance: a harbinger of the ordeal which the Imperium would suffer.
First Among Equals
While the Ist Legion stood sentinel over the creation of the the Legiones Astartes as the Emperor’s prototypes, the IInd heralded the specialism which would define some of the Astartes. Just as pertinently, their development would bring with it the first appearance of psykers among the Astartes. Few Legions would be so defined by it as the Lightning Bearers.
For His second Legion, the Emperor recruited widely, though with a particular focus on the eastern Meditaer region. This is believed to have been advocated by General Zaron Ramdul, who had observed the prowess of the desert tribes in high-velocity engagements. He recommended to his liege that they be used as stock for one of the new Legions, and they were soon determined a good fit for the IInd.
Despite the psychic element inherent in the Legion’s gene-seed, it proved to have few of the drawbacks which afflicted some other Legions. Their steady rise attests that theirs was indeed pure, with a low rejection rate even in the beginning. With these early successes, cadres began to be raised and grouped into the structures established with the Ist. As well as education from military scholars, they trained under the eyes of veteran Thunder Warriors before taking to combat alongside them. These trials were costly, but they rapidly produced warriors of a pedigree never seen before on Terra and taught them the limitations of Thunder Warrior tactics.
Throughout their genesis the IInd strove to master any form of warfare in which they might be required to engage. The disordered formations and sledgehammer attacks of the Thunder Warriors had no place in their methods; the IInd became synonymous with intricate strategies which could nonetheless pivot around a single factor. This is thought to be the first evidence of the foresight which later became their hallmark - the ability to see the point on which an entire battle might hinge, and seize the opportunity.
The first time that the IInd was unleashed in full occurred during the three-day Battle of Lakad. As their conscript forces were pushed back, the Heart Taker priesthood which controlled this city unleashed the Thur-Gea, genetically modified soldiers akin to the Thunder Warriors and steeped in the blade-cult practices of the region. Even the terrifying power of the Thunder Warriors would have struggled to overcome this similarly genhanced strength, but even as the Thur-Gea charged the Ist Legion swept onto the battlefield by gunship and cut through the Thur-Gea. The larger giants were felled by the newer, swifter breed in mere hours, their every blow all too obvious to the Legionaries and their deaths coming as if ordained.
From Franc to Merica the Legion won dazzling victories in this manner, and the battle against the witch-cult of Orioc - dubbed the Silencing of the Eternal Dirge - became the capstone of their deeds on Terra. Their status was made clear with the name they chose, taken from the title of the last Thunder Warrior. The Lightning Bearers, the IInd Legion became, mindful of those who had come before them even as they looked to the future. Still greater deeds awaited, and the Lightning Bearers’ growth continued as the Great Crusade stretched out into the void from Terra.
The Ghost Crusade
The Silencing of the Eternal Dirge left clues as to the particular purpose the Emperor intended for His Second Legion, had any known what to look for. The Emperor, who is said to have traversed the Galaxy even as Old Night sundered Man’s domains, knew the worst of what waited for his armies. Mutation, xenos marauders and madness would afflict thousands of worlds, but these were mere physical obstacles. Fewer - far fewer - but more problematic were those worlds where the separation of realspace and the Warp - that unknowable dimension by which we cheat distance and move across the Galaxy - had frayed. The denizens of the æther, beyond their threat to human life, posed a threat to the very foundation of the Imperium, for the entire edifice rested upon a falsehood. The Galaxy was sterile; religion was myth and nothing more. The Warp defies reason however, and the things that inhabit it no less so. For the sake of Crusade such incursions were to be purged.
Standing mandates existed under which sufficient ætheric breaches were grounds for the world’s destruction. However, these were not always successful in banishing the taint. Moreover, in some systems the resources on a world or even the system’s position among the arteria of the Warp mandated a more direct approach, cleansing the world instead of wiping it out. Thus it was that the Ghost Crusade was proclaimed, in the utmost secrecy, and entrusted to a single Legion. When this is considered, the urge to expand and equip the Lightning Bearers when several Legions lacked even a fraction of their power, takes on a new significance. The same might be said for the terrible relic-weapons they retained in their arsenals, and the psychic gifts which became apparent early on in the Crusade.
Only the merest fragments have been retrieved from data-cores and decoded, where the Ghost Crusade is concerned. The numbers of words scoured, the tally of the lost and the horrors overcome must remain for all time unknown. Instances are recorded here and there of Ist Legion elements partially withdrawing from a campaign or being abruptly reassigned from their existing campaign, but these attracted no serious attention, however. They were the Emperor’s favoured Legion; if he called they answered, and it was not for others to question why. And soon any questions would be blotted out when a Rogue Trader fleet drew near to a world named Madrigal, and found the Primarch of the Ind Legion.
Edge of the Maelstrom
Compared to many worlds that became host to a Primarch, Madrigal’s prior existence is well-documented in the annals of the Mechanicum, being a colony founded by Mars as the Age of Strife set in. While the Red World and Terra warred with each other and then themselves, Madrigal endured the onset of Old Night. Drawing in cultures which struggled to hold together, it became a powerful stellar polity. Even a large and growing psyker population was a source of prosperity rather than a cause for alarm, though the Warp anomaly known as the Maelstrom loomed close to the world.. By the time contact was established with Mars and the Mechanicum sent its Explorators, Madrigal was strong enough to be accepted as a partner to those magi who made their way to the edge of the Maelstrom. The world itself remained verdant even as its moon Akira grew into a shipyard to rival Saturn in its golden era.
But this happy equilibrium was not to last. The surviving archives attest to growing tensions within and without the Mechanicus sect, of clandestine meetings and increasingly esoteric research as a cabal sought to combine forbidden science and psyker arts prohibited by the rulers of Madrigal. Finally, the conspiracies take nightmare form, coalescing into an individual: the Thunder King. Machine-lord and blasphemous sorcerer, he unleashed a war which consumed the fertile surface of Madrigal in atomic fire and Warp-spawned horror. Though the Thunder King was eventually defeated, entombed beneath the world’s crust, Madrigal was irrevocably changed. The survivors were confined to the fortress-cities they had built upon the world’s mountains, and the extent of the strife had drawn a tendril of the Maelstrom perilously close. Every two centuries, the world would pass through it and endure what became known as the “Time of Storms.”
The people of Madrigal and the surviving magos of Akira conferred, and realised that their orbit would carry them through the Warp-tendril. Necessity forced them to cooperate, and they threw themselves into the construction of what came to be known as the Macro-Geller Field. While not as secure as the ubiquitous, ship-sized field, this shielded Madrigal and Akira from the worst of the Warp’s onslaught, and those spectres that menaced the world and moon were destroyed by the warriors of Madrigal. When the threat abated, the rulers of Madrigal and Akira vowed that they would never again permit the power of the Warp to be abused in such a fashion.
The people of Madrigal honed their martial skills, developing lethal vibro-blades and power armour with which to brave the terrors in the rad-clouds. Their increasing prowess was complimented by their psyker-talents, which had become a uniform gift of precognition, merely latent for most but astonishingly potent in the hands of those who set themselves to mastering it. One day, on the cusp of a new century, one of these masters was struck by a vision. His name was Ikaru Anasem, and he foresaw the arrival of a child who would restore the fortunes of Madrigal.
Many responded with skepticism to Ikaru’s pronouncement, but the Magister stuck to his belief and when the infant’s pod came streaking down through Madrigal’s atmosphere it landed not on the surface, but in a suspensor web constructed by the technologists of Anasem. Taken in by Ikaru and his immediate family, he was raised as both a warrior and scholar. His curiosity was boundless, whether in the arts of war, science or history. While he had not yet attained the mastery of foresight which allowed him to gaze years into the future, his “immediate” precognition was superlative, and he soon proved himself on several expeditions to the surface. Yet he resisted the injunctions of his adoptive father to take part in politics, instead preferring to explore and test his own limits.
It was perhaps inevitable then that he drew envy from his contemporaries. By far the most important of these was the scion of the Clan Tokawa, Hirato. Until Icarion grew into adolescence, Hirato was reckoned the most promising young warrior on the planet, and he studied with the young Primarch. It seems that Hirato came to resent the ease with which Icarion mastered so many skills, and the crippling of his father during an expedition - one which ultimately saw him killed by radiation exposure - soured it further as the responsibilities of ruling his Clan weighed on him, while Icarion was free to earn renown. Over the years, bitterness became violent ambition as another passage through the Time of Storms loomed.
Struggle between Clans was no stranger to Madrigal, though hostilities were traditionally put on hold when the baleful tendril loomed in the skies. Fourteen years after Icarion’s arrival, Tokawa and Anasem had become embroiled in a war against the Clan Kadora. Hirato and Icarion fought together in the battle that brought the renegades to heel with only weeks to spare before the Time of Storms, which would have allowed them to entrench. In the aftermath, Hirato received the leaders of Anasem in his sky-city, only to bare his teeth. It was an observed phenomenon that when the Time of Storms drew near, the seers of Madrigal often had their second sight occluded by the tides of the Immaterium, and Hirato exploited this against his unsuspecting guests. After the feast’s conclusion, Hirato’s soldiers descended upon the Anasem quarters with cruel efficiency, murdering all they found. Icarion fought his way free with a few of his kin, only for their craft to be torn from the sky, vanishing into the clouds.
No one imagined that any could have survived the crash, and with Clan Anasem devastated, Hirato met with no meaningful opposition when he declared himself Shogun over the planet. With ruthlessness and cunning, he tightened his hold, pillaging ever more ruinous weapons from the surface and even building hermetically sealed strongholds in a few places, garrisoned by loyal soldiers and manned by slaves taken from among his subjects. Most cruelly, he began to banish his opponents to the wastes to be hunted by his warriors. While his rival was most assuredly dead, he seems to have grown obsessed with augmentation and surpassing Icarion’s power. Five years later, he was barely human, a tyrant of metal and ceramite, and even the Magos of Akira quailed at him. Ship-building was renewed in the void around Madrigal, ready to spread his tyranny to the stars.
Then expeditions to the ruined cities began to vanish. The butchered carcasses of animals appeared, seemingly killed for food. Redoubts were broken open, weapons and supplies taken, their personnel vanished or slain, and the icon of the Clan Tokawa desecrated wherever it was depicted. Soldiers dispatched to find the cause found either nothing or death, but a picture emerged nonetheless. Something was stalking the wastes and ruins, able to endure the rad-scoured environs and overcome anything sent against it, intelligent enough to outwit and overcome anyone sent after it, and implacable once roused to anger. In other words, a Primarch.
When Icarion emerged he did not do so alone. He had carefully assembled an army from liberated slaves and rescued outcasts, housing them in the catacombs beneath the Tiger Claw Mountains. The carefree warrior of his youth faded rapidly as he learned of the crimes being visited upon his people, and as he plotted Hirato’s downfall the solemn warlord of Imperial history coalesced. Over half a decade his army amassed weapons and trained, waiting to exact retribution. Then they struck. From a seething mass of storm clouds they emerged, clad in plain grey armour and Icarion bearing two exquisite archeotech blades, a spear and sword, and quickly seized the city built atop the mountains. The news triggered unrest across Madrigal, as people saw their saviour in the vengeful warrior.
Hirato meanwhile was frenzied in his reaction, calling his army together to slay Icarion once and for all. Icarion must have foreseen this, immediately attacking one of the outlying Tokawa bases. Hirato took the bait, racing there before his forces could fully assemble. Amid the carnage the two met, the gene-forged warrior and the machine-bulked despot now equal in stature. Their duel raged across the landing plates, lesser warriors scattering from their path, savaging one another until Icarion finally plunged his spear through Hirato’s throat. He had taken grievous wounds, his armour gouged and scorched, but the victory was his. Now, as people came forth to see this liberator had felled their ruler, Icarion knelt and took up the mantle Ikaru had intended for him. To his last breath, he would be the guardian of Madrigal.
Icarion was tireless in his work from that day. His first move was to reform the Astral Colleges, aiming to ensure that they exerted greater authority over their students. Destructive pride and ambition were to be discouraged, self-control stressed from the lowliest novice to the highest circle of magisters. Men of courage and wit were drawn from across the Clans to govern the world, and Madrigal began to move past the recent strife. Progress accelerated at a constant rate, making it difficult to say with any certainty when Icarion first became aware of the father coming to claim him. Scholars have passionately argued for almost any timeframe, some claiming that his first inkling precipitated the end of his exile, others suggesting that he only knew a few days before the Imperial fleet translated into the system. Regardless, when the Emperor arrived, He found His son waiting.
Reunion was treated with all the pomp and ceremony such an occasion deserved, both on Madrigal and the worlds of the existing Imperium. Primarch and Legion accepted one another eagerly. Examining the records, speaking with his sons and fairly devouring the Principia Bellicosa and other texts, Icarion found little in the Legion’s structure that he wished to alter. Their ethos he adapted subtly, weaving the teachings of the Astral College into the fabric of the Legion. This became the way in which Aspirants from both Terra and Madrigal learned to wield their powers. Resources flowed into his realm, and Akira became capable of supplying many of the Legion’s demands by itself. This can be seen in their distinctive armour variants and the preponderance of vibro-blades among the Lightning Bearers.
But the real test came with Icarion’s first forays into the Great Crusade at his father’s side, and he did not disappoint. A consummate general and warrior whose skill and grace defied any effort to describe them, Icarion led his sons to new heights of conquest. With that same dedication and skill, he accepted the heavy burden of the Ghost Crusade. So perfectly matched were the Primarch and his sons that the Lightning Bearers’ name remained unchanged. Around the Lightning Bearers Icarion built a great host, both from the domains of Madrigal and Akira and other worlds in the growing Imperium. The warrior culture of Madrigal permeated the Lightning Bearers - indeed, such aspects as the fascination with storms made for an uncanny fit with the existing Legion - and in every kind of warfare they excelled. They went about the building of the Imperium much as they had the Madrigal Sphere; stern and unyielding in war but magnanimous in victory, eager to bring the Emperor's dream to fruition.
In short order, Icarion proved a worthy addition to the brotherhood of Primarchs. He was a true warrior-scholar, who called upon deep wells of knowledge and wisdom as well as his prowess in battle. In the early Crusade he cut a peculiar figure beside the Twins and Kozja Darzalas, and many looked quizzically upon the plainly aether-touched Primarch. Others recognised that he embodied a particular aspect of his father’s powers, and deduced that he was meant to play a particular role in the Emperor’s designs.
The Lightning Bearers fought in many of the Crusade's greatest campaigns, and often at the side of the Emperor Himself as in the Vremalkyr Incursions and the Chahlem Offensive. In a roll of honour which stretched to tens of thousands of battles, defeat was a vanishingly rare blemish. Perhaps the only marks against them were their reserved nature and the way in which, responding to the demands of their hidden war, the Legion’s course through the Great Crusade could appear haphazard and inconsistent. Yet whenever they proved unavailable for a campaign, their admission came with the Emperor’s seal, which none could dispute.
Edited by bluntblade, 08 March 2020 - 10:38 AM.