Jump to content

A Tale of Twenty Writers


Recommended Posts

Welcome brothers and sisters to the concluding thread of A Tale of Twenty Writers. The goal of the exercise was to create a story, of between three- and ten-thousand words, about a particular legion during the Horus Heresy. One writer per legion. The upper limit has been relaxed over the course of time but I doubt many of us will exceed the original limit.

Now, without further ado, I present to you my story. A tale for the seventh legion, the Imperial Fists. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Destroyer’s Hand

Dramatis Personae

World Eaters

Angron - Primarch, World Eaters

Crocell the Destroyer - Captain, 18th Company

Balthur the Gladiator - Champion, 18th Company, Gladiator Guard

Sal’mar - Sergeant, 18th Company Seeker Squad

Tarkain the Red - Rampager Champion, 18th Company Rampager Squad

Brutus - Contemptor Dreadnought, 18th Company

Imperial Fists

Rogal Dorn - Primarch, Imperial Fists

Jurgen Maximo - Former Captain, 9th Company

Tomnas Krane - Captain, 9th Company

Praetor Dollus - Company Champion, 9th Company

Eclan Harklus - Nuncio-Vox Operator, 9th Company Command Squad

Illian Demus - Sergeant, 9th Company Tactical Squad

Demetrius Solun - Sergeant, 9th Company Terminator Squad

Arkha Foven - Sergeant, 9th Company Breacher Siege Squad

Caldor – Sergeant, 9th Company Veteran Tactical Squad

Imperial Personnel

Eluvin Anders – Shipmaster, Furious Endeavour

Ilain Agostini - Chief Astropath, Furious Endeavour

Federick Greenvoss – Comms Officer, Furious Endeavour


“They call him the Destroyer, you know.” Solun said to Krane.

“Is that so, brother? I heard he had fought with Sigismund himself in their pits. Sigismund won, of course.” Demus declared, turning to his fellows from a conversation with a friend, this new thread of chatter far too tempting to waste time excusing himself.

“Ever dismissive, are you not?” Krane chided.

“There are worse qualities to be lumbered with, my dear Tomnas.” Demus responded with a grin. “Besides, if he wants a rematch, I’ll give him a seeing to.” Both Solun and Krane knew he was beyond help. Solun smirked anyway however it was soon lost as a gauntlet clasped the collar of Demus.

“Cease your inane prattle, boy.” Captain Maximo grimaced. He brought the sergeant close enough to speak into his ear. “Do not talk ill of the Conqueror's men, especially when he is in the same room as you. That goes for you too, Sergeants.” Maximo pointedly looked at Krane and Solun. Suitably chastised, Demus kept quiet as he watched his captain stalk away towards their primarch, followed closely by Dollus. Krane was grateful. Demus might be a friend, but he was also a fool. It would be the death of him.

As they returned their attention to Angron’s cohort, Solun spoke once more, “They say he was one of Angron’s best destroyers. That’s why he still wears the black.”

“Oh?” Said Krane sarcastically. “I hear he used to be just a lowly sergeant, commanding a ragtag bunch of lunatics that dabbled in chem-weapons and he one day slew his commander in a pit fight.” He crossed his arms over his battle plate and arched an eyebrow as he poured scorn into his tone. He knew not to trust hearsay.

“You are insufferable, sometimes.” Solun sighed.

“And you should know better, Demetrius.” Chastised Krane.

“Save it. If I need sage advice, I will speak to the Sigillite. I am sure he would be of greater use.” Came a grumble.

“Hah!” Snorted Krane. Although part of him felt such talk was taking liberties, he knew that Solun had every reason to say such a thing.

Stood in the command centre of the Imperial taskforce on Telerach Primus, deep in the suburbs of the principal port-city, the Imperial Fist sergeants chattered amongst themselves, theorising strategy in the face of a new offensive. The arrival of the World Eaters had been an unexpected surprise, especially when Rogal Dorn himself had barely been informed of his brother’s impending arrival.

Angron had landed, much without ceremony, and, with an entourage of captains and champions, entered the command centre normally dominated by Dorn alone. But the Red Angel was not who the Fists had talked of – that had been done to death already, ever since the outer pickets had reported of the World Eaters arrival. No, it was of a new captain called Crocell. Arisen from the ranks through destroyer squads and on through his predecessors command squad, he was not averse to using any means at his disposal to win. He sported several decorations on his black armour, from a bloody hand on his brazen helm, to crossed chains on his vambraces and more, all telling of his martial esteem within his own Legion.

Arguing broke the fascinated study, Imperial Fist and World Eater alike turning to find Angron face to face with Dorn, centimetres separating them and both flushed with anger. Insults were traded and promises were made. The Seventh Legion stood in shock at the unseemly tirade their gene-lord had unleashed at the Conqueror, while World Eaters watched with rapt attention. To see their father fight one of his brothers, and the Praetorian no less, was something not to be missed. Granted the 435th Expedition was here to help, under orders, and granted Angron himself was only to be with the taskforce until the end of this mission before he set forth to rejoin the greater concentrations of World Eaters out there but this might be the only opportunity for any of them to see what primarchs could do to each other.

“Do not presume to dictate tactics to me, Angron!” Dorn shook as he growled out each word, allowing one after another to roll over his gravelly vocal cords. An accusatory finger wavered over the Red Angel’s chest.

“You would do well to listen!” Batted Angron, his retort sent back to Dorn as if they were playing a sport.

“Oh, I listen well enough, brother!” Dorn’s eyes narrowed. “Maybe you should do the same, someday, eh?”

“To you? A man who would cower behind walls and wait for the enemy?” Came the expected sneer.

“So you deign to insult how my sons fight? Not even Perturabo bothers with such pettiness anymore.” Dorn rumbled in disgust. He glowered at the Red Angel, unperturbed by his savage appearance and outlook.

There was almost a feeling of glee, of excited anticipation from the blue and white armoured astartes, while their brothers bedecked in yellow exhibited the polar opposite – they were aghast, shocked and dismayed. This was not the sort of conduct Rogal Dorn expected or espoused. To see him stoop to such levels must have meant he was as angry as they had ever seen. Before anything coalesced into violence, Angron laughed. A madman’s laugh it was, lacking any sympathy or joviality that Russ may have shown, lacking any grace Fulgrim or Sanguinius may have had. In the face of rage, the Conqueror had laughed. Each and every one of the Seventh stood confused. How could the Red Angel suddenly change his demeanour like that? Dorn’s face was still a deep claret from the argument, the whites of his eyes wide and glaring at this slight, as it was to him, while confusion reigned in his mind. His usual stoicism broken and cast upon the floor, he did the only thing he could. Walk away.

Here, of all places, the World Eaters and the Imperial Fists fended off the overwhelming counter attack by the Neloros Stratochial forces, the alien junta that held together the human Telerach military since their first defeat in outer reach of the Telerach system. The Imperial war machine had crushed them again in orbit of Telerach Primus and once more on the landing fields where Fellblades and Land Raiders met the slow, ponderous fortress tanks and the strike infantry of Telerach. Only in urban areas did the odds even out. Only where buildings shielded the Telerach flanks and rear did they provide meaningful resistance.

Now it had come down to this final urban sprawl and its prizes: Industry that churned out battlefield materiel and docks that fed the continent. From these final positions Stratochial suicide squads and heavy infantry took and held ground lost to them days beforehand. Where Imperial Fists defended what they had bled for, they soon died or were forced out of position under the tidal wave of enemy troops. Armed with deadly ion carbines and the larger ion repeaters, long limbed Nelorosi led men and women, burning ceramite and killing post-humans by sheer weight of numbers. The only thing they couldn’t counter was the brute fury of the World Eaters, who roved through enemy lines like reavers of old. The tally of heads they provided outnumbered the kills the Fists could make and soon the two forces had fought a very different battle to their opposite numbers in the same city. The enemy turned the Fists’ prosecution of their bloodied forces into a stubborn and unmoving defence of the Imperium’s own footholds, grinding urban warfare dragging the casualty numbers ever higher, whereas the World Eaters burned and butchered their way into the docklands and the industrial heartlands of the city without care. They didn’t offer any distinction between the soldiers or the civilians, killing all they found, leaving each district they conquered a charnel house. Dorn himself consented to comment, describing Angron’s headlong slaughter as “At once both disgustingly brutal and a respite. I am ashamed those butchers won the war where my sons faltered.”

Angron cared little for his brother’s anguish. The job needed to be done, the path needed to be walked. Telerach itself was won, that was all that mattered.

In orbit the last of the Telerach fleet assaulted the Imperial ships stationed above the capital, intent on causing as much harm as possible. Caught in the fight were the 18th Company of the World Eaters, rearming and resupplying after protracted ground operations on the second continent. Amidst the destruction visited upon the World Eaters by the suicide attack, the ship that carried them, the Pitiless Grasp, was destroyed, left a burning hulk in a retrograde orbit. Of what the 18th company could get off the ship, several Stormbirds were destroyed before the Imperial Fists intervened, blunting and dismembering the attack with long range volleys. Placing themselves between the last of the Telerach and the World Eaters, vessels such as the Resolute, the Unstoppable and the Furious Endeavour took devastating hits that would have smashed any of the smaller vessels asunder.

The most telling blow wrought hell upon the bridge of the Furious Endeavour leaving the smashed control centre devoid of life. Prior to the death of the command crew and Captain Maximo, he had ordered a boarding assault on the final ships that were making a break for the outer system markers. Along with the boarding torpedoes and assault rams the Fists rode in, the remainder of the World Eaters 18th Company made straight for the nearest enemy ships.

Bright ion fire zinged down the corridor leaving bright trails in the after-vision of the Imperial assault. Little bolts of blue energy scored and burned wherever it struck, sometimes deep enough to cause an astartes harm. It wasn’t the case that these were aimed shots when in fact it was a blizzard of sheeting energy, the ion bolts too numerous and too fast to try counting.

Sergeant Krane led his unit deep into the bowels of the ship, designated HXV-098 by strategium analysts, to destroy the enemy engines. His breacher squad had shouldered and blasted their way down to here, with a tactical squad not far behind, exchanging fire with the crew of the xenos vessel while driving ever onward. They had already lost Istodor and Demius to unexpected fire from behind, unknown beam weaponry and flurries of ion-fire punching through the less robust rear of the mark three plate they wore. Now with Wenceslas covering the rear they soldiered on, without loss, getting ever nearer to their objective.

Up ahead a fire fight was raging at an intersection between some World Eaters and the ship crew, the astartes closing as fast as possible, bolt pistols thundering counterpoint to the whizz of enemy fusillades. Even as Krane ordered his squad to press the advantage, he recognised Captain Crocell, leading his men from the front, power axe raised ready to reap heads. The melee was decidedly one sided and the crew broke under the pressure from both a squad of Imperial Fists and several blood drenched World Eaters.

“Captain.” Sergeant Krane nodded as they clasped wrists.

“Sergeant.” Replied the Destroyer. Both clad in the same armour, bearing vastly differing heritage and honours. Black regarded yellow, the mutual respect shown gave Krane heart. At least not all of the Emperor’s hounds were bloodthirsty maniacs.

“Engine room?” Krane asked as Demus’ tactical squad caught up with them.

“Aye. You have the boarding shields, Fist, lead us into the breach.” Crocell ordered. Krane turned to his men.

“Onward, sons of Dorn! The engine room will be ours, by our honour!” The squad roared their approval, following Krane and Crocell down the final corridor at a charge. The door ahead was taken care of by Brother Ultair, the melta blast reducing the exotic metal to sludge. Inside the fighting was short and brutal, with the enemy crew providing little decent resistance to the marauding astartes streaming in. When all was said and done, it was an easy fight. The crew lay scattered amongst the machinery of the engines, blood and body parts decorating walls and consoles. The objective had been met. It was time to destroy the engines, or at least the core that fed them. One melta charge delicately placed on the engine core, whatever it actually was, sealed the fate of the enemy ship. There was no crew left in that section of the ship, as far as Krane could tell, and they casually eliminated any resistance they found on their egress.

From the relative safety of Crocell’s blue and white stormbird, Krane watched HXV-098 bloom in the darkness, spreading itself across the void in a shell of rapidly expanding gas and debris. The Fists had avenged their captain and the World Eaters their ship. There would of course be further seek and destroy missions, given the lack of Army divisions available but when they parted after the end of the compliance, it would be a time when Krane was captain of the 9th and Crocell still fought for the Imperium.

Chapter One – Old Friends

Skarllax, the benighted world. A system not known for its peace of mind, nor its culture. It was known as a world full of miscreants and scum, of cutthroats and wastrels. When compliance had come to Skarllax, the Fists had imposed order quickly after they had eliminated the worst of the underlords and the mob bosses. And for a time it was enough. The criminals kept their heads down and the leaders of Skarllax complied with every demand Terra made of them. Penal regiments for the Imperial Army. Minerals and ores given up to the Mechanicum. Young sons taken for service in the Imperial Fists. Law and order reigned for three decades until the scum arose again. The rightful governor was deposed and made an example of before the ‘court’, his bloodied carcass hung out above the governor’s palace for all to see. However, these rebels against Imperial rule had not reckoned upon the Fists returning so soon.

Already the second city burned as the Imperial Fists rained retribution down from orbit, obliterating the run-down conglomeration of habs and cheap service industry like the hand of a wrathful god. Hundreds of thousands had been immolated, a warning to their fellow citizens to comply or suffer death. Now with advance units dropping down to return Skarllax into the Imperial fold, the seventh legion began preparations for massed strikes. The worst of the cancer had to be excised or else Skarllax would sicken once again. Three hundred astartes stalked the population centres even now, putting bolt and blade to any that resisted.

“Sir! Vessels incoming, from the system marker. They appear to be legion vessels, Captain Krane.”

“Reinforcements? I had not expected such on our mission.” Mused Praetor Dollus.

“Neither had I, my friend.” Krane turned to the mortal crew, finding the necessary stations with his gaze. “Sensorium! Identify the vessels.” A crisp affirmative echoed around the bridge as the crewmen at the sensorium consoles focused the ship’s eyes and ears on the newcomers. The answer came with trepidation from the crewmen. World Eaters. Seven ships. Tomnas Krane crookedly smiled, as did his senior men, looking to each other knowingly. The hounds of war were here.

Tomnas looked at the holo-transmitter, knowing well enough it would light up as soon as he stepped on it. The Captain had always found these devices such curious things, able to bend light to shape it into whoever was communicating on the other end of the connection. There were times when static fogged the image or poor reception blurred the resolution but, as he was assured many times by Magos Ermacora, it was a superlative example of Martian technology. Freshly installed during the Furious Endeavours’ last visit to Terra, it didn’t portray the standard green most holo-displays did. This shining piece of human ingenuity provided all its images in soothing blue.

“Comms?” He beckoned. The low background rumble of the ship filled the gap between his query and the answer.

“Yes, sir?” Called the communications officer. The distance between them making the crewman shout unnecessarily.

“Signal the Bloody Path.” Krane stepped upon the wide projection plate, Dollus standing at his shoulder. He knew how to deal with World Eaters – he had fought beside them before. With the image resolving itself, the marine that stood before him was none other than Crocell. After all these years apart, Crocell stood before them with only a slight grain of static to his projection. Krane tapped the sheath of the sword Crocell had gifted him.

Dollus leant to Krane’s ear, whispering low enough for the holo-transmitter not to pick it up, “I thought he was dead.”

Krane whispered back, “So did I, brother.” Dollus resumed his position as Krane stepped forward. “My brother! I did not expect to meet you like this,” the World Eater nodded, his body encased as it was in blood red armour plate, still bearing the brazen helm, clasped under the crook of his arm. Krane noted the unusual colour of the armour. It must be an accolade, he thought. He kept talking, “We must met in person, so I can embrace you. This all seems premature. I was not informed of your arrival.”

“Tomnas, brother.” Came the reply. “You see I greet you in regular battle plate too.” A chuckle belied his demeanour - he was champing at the bit. “There will be time for personal greeting and full dress ceremony when I arrive. I am just a few hours away.” The sensorium had relayed some data to the shipmaster, Eluvin Anders, who nodded to the crewman and caught Krane’s eye. Four fingers were shown.

“Ah, I see. The Shipmaster says you will be arriving in four hours.” The Captain nodded toward Crocell.

“Decelerating fast.” Crocell answered, moving his hands, not as gestures in normal conversation, but as a personal calming exercise. He rubbed his thumbs over his fingertips, Krane noted.

“We will meet together then, you and your officers. Me and mine.” The holo-transmitter adjusted as two of Krane’s sergeants came online. Solun, stepping onto the same device Krane and Dollus perched on, was someone Krane implicitly trusted and always kept as counsel, if nothing more than for comfort. While Demus was briefly on the Knuckleduster, doing the rounds supervising the flotilla’s defences, transmitting his own photon doppleganger. He wasn’t asked to attend the meeting, nor was he informed. He was simply a law unto himself at times that Krane tolerated.

“It seems you all have not changed,” husked Crocell, the scars on his face telling otherwise for him. His close-cropped mohawk highlighted his scalps scars, one of which bisected his right eyebrow too as it crept from his neck, over his cranium and down to his eye. The puckered flesh itself told of a heinous injury.

“Indeed, sir,” Dollus responded. It was true. They hadn't changed. Not significantly at all in over twenty years, not even Demus. Krane locked his eyes with the World Eater.

“We will meet shortly, brother. My vessel is entering orbit.”

“Welcome to Skarllax Prime,” Krane said. He made a discrete motion for the holo-tranmitter to be turned off. Before Crocell disappeared, Krane saluted and his men followed suit, using the old Unity gesture Krane was so fond of.

Dollus paced the bridge behind the throne, clearly pensive over this development. Krane watched him, curious over what his champion was mulling over.

“Is there a problem, Praetor?” Krane inquired. Solun watched from the other side of the captain’s throne.

“The World Eaters arrive unannounced to a re-compliance of a world beholden to the seventh legion. I don’t like their methods, Tomnas, and I don’t like their results, either.” Grimaced Dollus.

“Come now brother, you and I both know how to deal with Crocell’s lot.” Krane soothed. Dollus raised an eyebrow. “Just point them at something you want removing, or at least don’t mind losing, and stand well back.” A grin crept across Krane’s face. His friend weakly smiled. It’ll do, he thought.

“Solun, assemble the Praetorian Guard. We have guests to welcome.” Krane ordered.

Chapter Two – Times Long Past

On the upper assembly deck, two terminator squads and Praetor Dollus stood guard as Tomnas Krane awaited his friend. The finery that he wore rarely came out in the presence of his men, not being a man normally given over to ceremony. His salt and pepper hair, along with his red Terran cloak, accented his yellow mark four armour and gave it colour. Alongside his most powerful warriors, he would greet Crocell and welcome him back to the ship that gave him succour during the final moments of the battle over Telerach. The overhead lighting gleamed off of the arrayed armour present, reminding Krane that the Legions colours were something to take pride in. He smiled, if only briefly.

“It will do my heart proud to see Crocell again, Praetor,” Krane admitted. His friend glanced over at him, empathising his captain’s feelings.

“My lord? Is something the matter?” Dollus enquired. Krane turned to him.

“No, not exactly, my friend, but you were there when we parted from the World Eaters after the victory over the Neloros.” Tomnas lowered his voice, “You know that our legions did not part as brothers in arms should.”

Dollus considered the memory and nodded. The Furious Endeavour had taken damage shielding Crocell a second time, as well as Krane himself, as they returned from HXV-098 and so a parting ceremony was planned, at Crocell’s behest, to be taken upon his new ship the Bloody Path considering Krane’s vessel was simply unfit. Krane bore the shame of not holding the ceremony himself and covered his feelings as best he could. With his veterans around him, Krane had taken Dollus along, passing through Crocell’s Gladiator Guard when they had disembarked and met the Destroyer. Things, although smooth, went by at a rushed pace, the two leaders embracing like old comrades but parting as mere warriors. When the World Eaters had left the staging point it was obvious Krane did not appreciate the way things had ended.

“You think Crocell still feels affronted by what happened at Telerach?” The Champion asked. Tomnas considered the question. “We saved him and his precious stormbird from being blown to bits,” pressed Dollus. “Crocell should be grateful.”

Krane allowed a chuckle. “You do not know Crocell then. That he needed help at all is unthinkable to him, for it suggests that he acted in a manner less than… expected of him. Be sure not to mention it around him, Dollus. I am serious.”

Shaking his head, the champion disagreed. “Too damned proud, the lot of them, do you remember seeing the way their champion sized me up when we first boarded the Bloody Path? You did not have to be old Caldor to feel the condescension coming from him. They think they are better than us. You can see it in every one of their faces.”

Krane turned and stared at Dollus. Not only was he being judgmental of perhaps their closest comrades in the World Eaters, but he was also displaying an insecurity Tomnas had no idea about. Was Dollus really all that concerned of what other legions thought of him? Did he fear not measuring up?

“My apologies, lord,” he said. “I spoke out of turn.”

Krane leaned close to his friend, “Yes you did, but you spoke from your heart, and that is why you are my champion. It is true that this rendezvous is unexpected, for I did not request the presence of the World Eaters to aid us. The 48th Expedition needs no assistance in defeating rebels.”

“Then why are they here?” Puzzled Dollus.

“I do not know, though I welcome the chance to see my brother again and heal the rifts between us.”

“Perhaps he feels the same and comes to make amends.”

“I doubt it; it is not in Crocell’s nature to admit when he is wrong.’ He assured Dollus.

As the quarantine gates opened, a gush of equalising pressure made Krane’s cloak billow momentarily, as did Crocell’s. His was fur-lined where Krane’s was silk and man-made fibres. The World Eater looked like a hero of old, his cloak rippling as he stood over heat vents. It almost seemed melodramatic. Krane watched as he stepped forth, followed by his own terminator escorts – the Gladiator Guard. Chief amongst them was Balthur, known to Krane simply as the Gladiator, who took his place at his captain’s shoulder. The other terminators fell in line with Krane’s own, evenly interspersing themselves amongst his elite. What Krane could not figure out was that all of them sported the same change in colours as Crocell did. Was it a collective award? Did the World Eaters Legion change their heraldry yet again?

“Tomnas, it gladdens me to see you again.” Spoke Crocell as he embraced him. Tomnas felt pride at this connection between him and his estranged brother from the World Eaters. Perhaps things did not end so icily after all.

“It is an unexpected joy to see you my brother.” Krane held him at arm’s length, studying the new red and gold of the World Eaters. “What brings you to the Skarllax system? Are we not prosecuting the foe quickly enough for the Warmaster?”

“On the contrary, the Warmaster himself sends his compliments and bids me honour you for the speed of your conquests.” Crocell smiled. The warriors of the seventh visibly stood straighter and prouder. Such tidings were good indeed.

“You hear that, my brothers!” Krane bellowed. “The Warmaster honours us! Glory to the seventh legion!”

“Glory to the seventh legion!” Came the hoarse reply from his elite. Krane beckoned Crocell forth.

“But come, brother. Aside from passing on the Warmaster’s honour, what brings you here?” Krane asked. Crocell flexed his lightning claw, the one he had named Bloodfiend. Krane drew Lightnius in response and smiled. That they were closer than most between their legions, there was no doubt. Krane had crafted that lightning claw himself and personally gifted Crocell the weapon as a sign of brotherhood before the World Eaters left Telerach. Lightnius was Crocell’s response. Krane sheathed his blade once again.

“You are right, Tomnas there is more that I would speak of, but it is for your ears alone, it concerns the very future of the Great Crusade.” Said Crocell solemnly.

“Then we shall talk in my private sanctum.” Krane gestured ahead of himself as Dollus and Balthur followed at a discrete distance, leading their respective retinues.

On the bridge of the Bloody Path, Sergeant Sal’mar surveyed the nearby Furious Endeavour as it drifted past the viewing bay. Stood absolutely stock still, the World Eater kept his cranial implants in check through sheer force of will. The golden yellow vessel certainly had teeth but it lacked the brute power the much larger Bloody Path had. Not exactly impressive, he noted. However, it had speed where his ship had strength. Something to bear in mind. Scars from previous battles were still quite visible against the uniform yellow of the Furious Endeavour, something that stirred feelings within Sal’mar’s mind. Had they no pride? A besmirched vessel was as bad as besmirched honour. His grip on the bridge railing tightened, compressing the hollow brass flat into his gauntlet palm. He rode the pulse his cranial implant shot through his nervous system but gained a modicum of control as he reminded himself of his duty. The Destroyer had given him a task, not to be deviated from, that would ensure Crocell’s plan. Sal’mar knew he was the man for the job, taking pride that he would not think twice to make the order.

“Helmsmaster, signal the fleet to be ready on my command.” Sal’mar ordered. The rush from the cranial implant faded along with his choler. He checked the monitor displays next to the command throne, pleased to see all stations were on standby. The teleportarium was ready. The gundecks were ready. The boarding parties were ready. He knew his place here; he was the spark. On his say-so, havoc would be unleashed. The implant tingled at the thought.

In Krane’s personal sanctum, Crocell marvelled at the militaria on the walls. Banners from regiments and legions served alongside, armour and weaponry from personally defeated foes and Captain Maximo’s helm adorned the black walls of the sanctum. The few that had been allowed in such a private place had marvelled just the same as Crocell did. Various pieces of archeotech firearms decorated the room, some from ancient Terra, others from much further afield. Most, however, were enigmatic – little was known of them beyond the fact that they were weapons and how they could be fired.

Krane pointed out one in particular. “"There is nothing in weapons, machinery, or engineering devices that obliges them to be ugly. Ugliness is a measure of imperfection." You of all people could appreciate that sentiment.” Yordal of the third legion had waxed lyrical long and hard many years before on the subject, imparting a sense of the aesthetic on Krane he had never acknowledged before. The passage he quoted came from ancient Terra, through Yordal.

Crocell regarded him with an arched brow. “I care for no such thing, brother.” Krane smirked. Of course he wouldn't.

“Now, come on then, what is this all about? You speak of the future of the Great Crusade, what is going on?” He said jovially, idly inspecting Lightnius’ pommel.

“The galaxy is changing… brother. What we once knew is dying and already brother is fighting brother, the Warmaster has set plans into motion already - his forces are going against the Imperium. It is only a matter of time until he wins the war.” Declared Crocell. Tomnas could hardly believe it. He had stopped playing with his blade and stared at Crocell open mouthed. “Others have already joined Horus. We will strike before the Emperor is even aware that his designs have been unmasked. Horus will reclaim the galaxy in the name of those whose blood was spent to conquer it!” Shaking his head Krane felt betrayal. What was this? A joke? With Crocell being uncharacteristically earnest, it was unlikely. Speechlessness turned into a breathless question.

“This is the new direction of the Crusade you spoke of?”

“Yes! It will be a glorious age of unity, my brother. What we have won is already being given away to petty mortals who will waste the glories we have won for them. What we have earned in blood and sweat will be ours again, can’t you see that?” Krane could not believe what Crocell was saying.

“All I see is betrayal, Crocell!” He bellowed. “You are not talking about claiming back what we have won; you are talking about betraying everything we stand for!” The look on Crocell’s face turned from earnestness to pleading.

“Tomnas, I am asking you this for the sake of brotherhood, join us!”

“Brotherhood? Our brotherhood died when you decided to turn traitor!” Crocell backed off at the allegation and Krane simply saw red. Ironic, in its own way, part of Krane rationalised. He aimed Lightnius as it cleared its sheath for his treacherous friend’s head only to find Bloodfiend blocking the strike. As the weapons were forced closer and closer together, Krane looked deep into Crocell’s eyes and found a determination there he wished he had not. Bringing the weapons low Krane jabbed at the Destroyer’s face with his off-hand, smashing into his cheek and splintering the bone there. A head butt to Krane’s own face was riposte enough and Crocell wildly swept his claw at Krane’s throat, instead cleaving gashes into the 9th Company captain’s pauldron. Krane spun away before the claw came back and kept Crocell at bay with broad sweeps of Lightnius. They circled, each knowing the other was deadly enough not to attempt a coup de grace yet.

“This is pointless, Tomnas, even now the Warmaster is getting rid of all the Legions who didn’t side with him, none are allowed to survive.” Crocell reasoned.

“What are you talking about traitor?” Barked Krane. He had little patience for turncoats. A chuckle met his consternation.

“The powers of four legions were unleashed on Isstvan III and only those portions that weren’t loyal to the Warmaster and his grand designs for the future of the galaxy were killed. These weak elements are dead, cleansed by the fire of viral bombs and the fury of those loyal to the cause.”

“The Life Eater?” Krane barely vocalised, his face a mask of horror. “Throne alive, Crocell, how could you be a party to such murder?” Crocell did more than chuckle this time - he outright laughed. As he did so he leapt to attack, Krane frantically bringing Lightnius up in response. It was a feint. A claw dragged and scorched through Krane’s cheek, searing his face black along the gash. Krane staggered back towards the wall behind him, Crocell moving in and dealing him a similar punch Krane gave him earlier, making a mess of the captain’s other cheek. Again a punch landed and Krane felt his nose cave in.

Krane reached out, hand grasping for the wall in support, Crocell landing another punishing blow, mashing the jawbone and ear down Krane’s right side. In desperation Krane brought one of the pistols to bear, an immeasurably old piece that caused Crocell’s chestplate to crack and splinter as small slugs speared through it, lodging in the World Eater’s chest and shoulder blade. Krane went to fire again but Crocell was quicker; Bloodfiend crushed the gun and his hand together, mangling flesh, metal and ceramite into an unusable lump. To his credit, Krane barely murmured. A sweep from Bloodfiend, an intended killing strike, began its arc toward Krane’s neck, but he grabbed Crocell’s vambrace halting the deathblow. He had to drop Lightnius to do it, but it was better than being killed. Crocell merely smiled, looking the Imperial Fist square in the eyes.

On the bridge of the Furious Endeavour, Federick Greenvoss, Communications Officer, had noticed some odd communications in the past minute or two. It was as if the World Eater vessels were preparing to engage a foe. He gestured to the shipmaster.

“What is it, Greenvoss?”

“Sir, I have direct comms traffic between the Bloody Path, the Son of Angron and the Gladiatrix. It appears they are bringing themselves on standby for battle.” This caught the shipmasters attention. He strode over as briskly as his Saturnine jodhpurs allowed him.

“Hand me the set.” Greenvoss complied quickly. The messages certainly were for readiness but until he heard the orders for target lock, he had believed they were just spooling up to bombard the planet below. Anders blanched. He had known in his guts the World Eaters were here in force for a reason.

“Sensorium! Scan the World Eater vessels for activity! And make sure we are the only ones out here. I don’t want us training our guns the wrong way! If there really is a threat out there, I want eyes on it!” Taking the command throne Anders called up the status of the weapons. Not ready. Hell and damnation! “Gunnery Officer!”

Hosmer saluted crisply, a naval man all his life. “Sir!”

“Get those weapons online and do it quickly. Any more than ten minutes and I will personally kick your ass out of an airlock!”

“Already on it, sir!”

“Good. Shields up!”

The sanctum’s doors swung open and Balthur saw Crocell emerge alone bearing Lightnius. Dollus also saw the grievous wounds from the fight Crocell bore, first confusion then shock and finally hatred flooded his mind. At a signal from Balthur, the Gladiator Guard swung their crackling power weapons at the Praetorian Guard they stood next to with chilling precision. Several men fell where they stood but those that survived fought back, dragging down three World Eaters before they succumbed to increasingly superior numbers. Only Solun still lived, circling toward Dollus, away from the seven Gladiator Guard that remained. Corpses of the Praetorian Guard lay where they fell, most were headless although other heads had yet to be claimed. As the World Eaters advanced on Solun and Dollus, they left red boot prints on the decking from the pooled blood trodden through. The Gladiator Guard closed the noose on the centre of the hall with measured strides, their sizzling blades and axes extended before them like duelists.

“In the name of the Emperor, what are you doing?” cried Dollus, the sanctum’s doors closing behind Crocell with a hollow boom. Dollus hovered his hand over his sword, not yet willing to draw, as to do so was to invite immediate death. Balthur watched him with the eyes of a predator. “Where is Captain Krane?” The champion demanded, but Crocell silenced him with a shake of his head and a sly smile of pity. Crocell tongued his bloodied and battered cheek.

“He is dead, Dollus. He would not listen to reason and now you will all suffer. Balthur...” Crocell gestured toward the duo, clearly inviting his own champion to extinguish their lives.

Dollus leaned towards Solun and whispered, “Is your beacon active?” Solun looked at Dollus and, after a second, nodded. If it wasn't before, it was now. Dollus, as solemn as possible, spoke again. “Solun. You know what to do.”

Balthur smiled, unsheathing his zweihänder from his thigh strap. Even Solun knew what was to come but it was too late for him to make a difference. As Balthur stepped forward, Solun vanished, teleported deep into the Furious Endeavour, physically recalling himself to the teleportarium. The light and the sound from the brief warp blink blinded the World Eaters, allowing Dollus this final chance. His sword was in his hands as quickly as it ever had been, up and ready to kill. Down went one Gladiator Guard stood behind Dollus, the champion’s blade thrust into his torso, then down went a second to Dollus’ left, his return strike bisecting the helm, all in a matter of a second. By now his opponents had gathered their wits and Dollus could not fell another yet without opening himself to a lethal blow. A lunge by one Gladiator Guard was batted aside, kept at arm’s length. This covered another sweep by an axe toting Gladiator, shearing the top of Dollus’ pauldron clean off. From behind came a second axe swing, only for the owner to first lose his arm and then his life.

Balthur thrust his blade into the 9th Company champion’s back, much to the surprise of the Fist. On its way through Praetor Dollus’ body, the zweihänder pierced his second heart and punctured a lung, causing immense pain to the champion as it punched through his chest plate, bringing him to his knees. With his opponent gravely wounded, Balthur released the zweihänder and moved around, intent on bringing his chainaxe to bear on the poor fool in front of him. What he didn’t expect was for the champion to attempt a swing at the World Eater. It was a defiant gesture. Balthur liked that. He kicked the weapon away out of his grasp, causing the champion to sag to his side, rich blood pooled beneath him, his body failing to cope with the ruptured organs inside of him. The weapon clattered on the decking a few metres away, well out of reach to be any use.

“It was a shame not to face you in the pits, little one.” Balthur lamented.

“It was a shame not to fight you to your face.” Retorted Dollus. Balthur chuckled. This one had fight in him. Such a shame. He lifted his weapon for the killing blow. The chainaxe whirred and Balthur swung it up to execute Praetor Dollus. The whirring teeth tore through his neck and exiting in a gory spray of blood. The champion of the Imperial Fists collapsed, his vital fluids flooding from his ruined, decapitated body and Balthur savoured the delicious aroma of freshly spilt blood. Crocell nodded appreciatively and opened a channel to the Bloody Path.

“Sal'mar,” he said, “we will be making our way to the bridge, and could use something to keep the 48th Expedition's ship's busy. You may open fire.”

Chapter Three – Unto Death

With seven enemy vessels bracketing her and her attending escorts, there was little the Furious Endeavour could do except lash out and hope it would be enough. The Knuckleduster, although informed of the treachery, responded far too late to protect itself and was torn apart by torrents of fire. An entire broadside connected with the escort as it drifted out of formation, shredding the mortally injured ship and casting its ragged carcass on the planet below. Debris and bodies spun away from the dead vessel.

Solid hits from the remaining escorts, the Mercurial Gaze and the Terran Born, brought down a World Eater escort and crippled another but did little else in the face of the traitors superior numbers.

“Engage the Bloody Path, direct fire upon their bridge and engines. Instruct our sister vessels to do the same.” Commanded Solun. It had taken several minutes for the terminator veteran to make his way to the bridge and relieve Sergeant Foven of the conn which by then the engagement had begun. On his way he instructed his fellow sergeants to be ready to repel boarders. None of them argued while the battle klaxon sounded.

“But this ship is built for speed and maneuvering, not direct engagements! I cannot give you victory – It simply cannot be done!” Cried Shipmaster Anders.

“You will do it, Commander. You will do it because we have no other choice.” Growled Solun.

“You are not the commanding officer! If Krane was here I might consider it!”

“Krane is dead, Shipmaster. Dead.” Solun bent so that he was face to face with the shipmaster. “Killed by those whoresons who we called brothers earlier today. With our champion dead too, it falls to me to affect a response to this heinous crime. Now DO IT!” Anders recoiled from the hulking sergeant, visibly taken aback by the implication of bodily violence. Orders to the helm followed shortly thereafter.

The Imperial Fist cruiser brought it’s guns away from the ailing destroyer Gladiatrix and poured fury at the Bloody Path, slowly draining the shields. Turning toward each other, each ship ploughed through the maelstrom and focused on their foe with single minded determination. The Mighty Seven, running interference with the World Eater ships was brushed aside by the Bloody Hand almost as if it did not matter one jot. It wasn’t long before the vessel was bracketed and transformed into a blazing wreck from desultory fire by the Son of Angron, as if punitively killing the ship for trying to upset the order of battle. When the Furious Endeavour turned to match the Bloody Path’s own coming about, both sets of shields failed under the onslaught. With several ships from each flotilla directing their fire upon both principal vessels, there was little doubt that such a strain would overcome the generators. The port batteries were the first to suffer, the Furious Endeavour was being denuded of its offensive capacity. The final shots spat from the last of the guns struck the dorsal arrays of the Bloody Path, destroying the macro-weaponry, spectacularly overloading the stressed energy feeds and incinerating the mortal crew that manned them. Soon after, the gun itself ceased to be as a lance strike from the Son of Angron burned the battery, its crew and its magazine into atoms. The resulting explosion silenced the cruiser altogether and began an inferno amidships.

Plumes of fire and shattered hull fragments leapt from the ship into the void, the result of yet more hits. Superstructural wreckage and gouges in the hull plating telling of the terrible destruction wrought by the vessels of the World Eaters. Proud as it may have been, the soot smeared surface marred any beauty the ship may have had prior to the engagement. Other lesser ships had been either smashed asunder already or forced to flee, trailing wound-smoke and other gasses, leaving the crippled Furious Endeavour to its own fate.

Its guns silenced, its engines bestilled, the Imperial Fist cruiser awaited judgment. The boarding alarms sounded and weapons were handed out to the milling crowds. Seventh legion astartes double-checked their equipment and readied themselves for battle. What was coming would be violence of hurricane-fury. The World Eaters were coming.

All across the vessel boarding torpedoes smashed into the hull, delivering their deadly cargo. Assault boats quickly took the docking bays by storm, disgorging dozens of crimson clad warriors and overrunning the scant defence put up. The teleportation assault had already begun in earnest with World Eaters being materialising in the enginarium, the main gangways, the barracks and, unfortunately for Solun, the bridge.

Before the first boarders had finished materializing, Solun launched himself at the breacher squad, keen to break them before they had a chance to overrun the bridge. The first ones to be smashed aside by Solun’s power maul barely had time to bring up their bolters, let alone fire them. Even as the enemy squad set about him with combat blades and chainaxes, Solun had killed four of the turncoats, the counter-attack proving vital. The others, behind their boarding shields, would be a tougher task for him to overcome. While a trio of World Eaters kept him occupied, the other three brought their bolt pistols to bear on the crew and began to slaughter them. A lucky shot from Eluvin Anders downed one of them, shattering the eye-piece and penetrating his skull, but soon even the shipmaster was cut down like wheat before a scythe. Stray shots from the execution had punctured the bridge’s viewing ports, venting atmosphere and pressure into the void.

Their objective met, the two turned back to find Solun facing just one of their brethren now, the others looking very much like broken toys. At each available juncture, they poured fire on him, buckling his plate and damaging his armour control functions. Even as he finally hammered his opponent into the decking, the others were on him, their bolters dry. One drove a combat blade into his ribs, through damage dealt already to the terminator’s armour, with Solun choking the life out of the wretch when he tried to remove it. The last gashed Solun’s terminator plate five, six, seven times with his chainaxe, more often than not drawing yet more blood out of the veteran. But today was not his day – a parry smashed his weapon before a low sweep from Solun put the World Eater on his back and, being held down with a boot, could do little except bring his arms up to shield his head when Solun drove his maul down, smashing it into bone fragments, a sundered helmet and wet gore.

Solun glanced around, surveying the scene; the bridge crew were slaughtered to a man, the bridge’s integrity was compromised and the boarding alert sounded, the entire compartment was a nightmare scene of shredded bodies and broken astartes. He knew he couldn’t stay there as it was always a prime objective in seizing a ship. No doubt Crocell intended to take the bridge and the ship as soon as possible. The terminator tenderly removed the combat blade, careful not to cause more harm than what had been done already. The bloody knife clattered to the deck amongst the ceramite-clad deceased.

Outside in the command corridors armsmen sought to reach the bridge, ready to repel the now deceased foe. Solun sent them back. They would do no good on a bridge with no air against Crocell. He ordered them to the Astropath’s chambers armed with instructions for Illain Agostini to broadcast an alert to the nearest Astropath hub. In a momentary reflection Solun cursed the dregs of Skarllax. They had drawn away valuable men, men that could hold the Eaters of Worlds at bay. No doubt they would be hunted down after the Furious Endeavour was lost. It was only a matter of time before the 9th Company was destroyed piecemeal. Solun headed toward the Astartes cells. Surely there were Fists still in that section.

Stalking the corridors coming from the bridge, Solun found Foven and his breacher squad standing over the still forms of dead World Eaters. There was perhaps three or four Imperial Fists mixed amongst the ceramite clad corpses but on the whole it seemed Foven and his squad were handling themselves. The terminator nodded to Ben-Ezra and Cerion, members of Foven’s circle of veterans, born of Inwit. With them was Harklus, the company command nuncio-vox carrier and close confidant of Krane.

“Harklus. Well met.” Solun nodded as they both clasped wrists. Harklus looked Solun in the eyes.

“How’s the bridge?”

“A mess. We cannot defend it with this many World Eaters running rampant about the place. We need to get word back to Terra of this treachery and then we leave.”

“Leave?” Asked Harklus. A brief silence stretched out as the Imperial Fists present turned to look at Solun.

“Yes, Eclan. Leave.”

”But what of this ship? Do we just let them take it?” Foven chipped in.

“This ship is doomed either way, Arkha. We’re doomed.” Solun reasoned. “There are twice as many hounds on this ship as there is us, they have void supremacy now and they have taken the enginarium. We cannot save the Furious Endeavour.” Foven looked dubious.

“And what? We go down to Skarllax to die? Is that it?”

“Yes.” Admitted the de facto commander of the 9th. “We go down there to die. But I guarantee you this – we have a better chance defending ourselves amongst the urban sprawls down there, and taking as many of them with us. We have long range firepower down there that we simply can’t use up here.” Foven ruminated on the thought.

“A last stand.” He muttered.

“Aye, brother.”

“And what’s to stop them from simply bombarding the planet?” Asked Harklus.

“Nothing. Except the fact that they are World Eaters. They will lust for ground combat. An orbital strike just isn’t in them.” He reasoned. He hoped to Terra that he was right.

“Alright.” Foven touched his helms forehead with the tip of his chainsword. “I swear here and now that I will personally take a dozen of those scum before I even think of dying.”

“That’s the spirit, Arkha.” Grinned Solun. “Harklus, I need you to get to the planet as soon as possible and round-up every available son of the seventh legion. Instruct Caldor to make ready for an assault by these mongrels. He’ll know what to do.”

“Shall I use the teleportarium?”

“Aye. We lost the shuttle bays a long time ago. Round up whoever you can and get planetside.” Halkus left, taking Ben-Ezra and Cerion with him.

"Depressurise and vent the aft compartments. We might thin the herd." Foven looked at Solun, confusion clearly writ upon his face.

"But surely we would wish to halt the World Eaters coming from the enginarium? They’ll overrun life support if we just let them have their way. We cannot allow those dogs to have control over such vital systems."

"There is no way we shall recapture any lost sections whilst Angron's bulldogs run riot over the ship. It is as good as lost, Foven. We may as well deny them as much as we can and slow them down. When what remains of the crew has pulled back to the command decks, we shall depressurise the rest of the ship also." Solun grimly assured him. The sergeant had listened, jaw set, and was ready to obey. This was to be a last ditch stalling attempt.

“So, what now?” Asked Foven.

“We get to the Astropath and confirm that she’s relayed our plight. Then we leave.”

With most of the ship now becoming cold and airless, Solun along with Foven’s squad reached the Astropath’s chambers. It was a charnel house. Astropath Agostini was messily ripped in two and the Army crew armsmen that had protected her were nothing more than a collection of scattered body parts and splashes of arterial blood.

“Throne’s sake.” Grimaced Solun. “Now we’ll never know.”

“Solun?” Foven’s voice had an edge that wasn’t reassuring. Solun turned. At the far end of the corridor stood a World Eater, staring right at them. If Solun wasn’t mistaken, it was a rampager. Armed with a meteor hammer. This would be interesting. He barely had the thought when the World Eater hurled himself down towards them at full pelt, intent on carnage. He smashed aside Paulian and disarmed Goreth in two deft moves. Goreth did lodge his backup combat blade in the rampager’s chest but he paid for such temerity when his head was caved in by a great swinging strike. Left and right the weapon spun, smashing aside a shield here, forcing a Fist furiously back there. Foven ducked in and bashed the World Eater into the bulkhead with his boarding shield, heaving hard to make the move worth the effort. Following their sergeant the others piled in to keep the marine where they wanted him. The World Eater, wedged between Foven and the metal of the ship, flailed wildly as Solun pointed his maul at him with a scowl beneath his helm.

“This is for Krane.” The maul crushed the chest plate like wet paper. The World Eater wetly howled at the treatment he could not avoid. His hammer fell to the decking. The howling trailed off into a gurgle as the stricken astartes slowly went limp. Solun crushed his head for good measure and scooped up the fallen weapon, stowing his power maul at his hip.

As the squad eased off and let the ruined body fall to the floor, Foven led on, away from the bloodbath and towards the thoroughfares that would take them to the teleportarium. Through the twists and the turns along the way, bodies of Imperial Fists and ship’s crew told of fierce fighting, often leaving frost-rimed corpses that were less than whole. All around them damage to the scenery and discarded weapons brought a frantic note to the displays of the dead, morbid dioramas speaking to the Fists of their comrades last moments. In some places there were barely any World Eaters to be seen, in others they lay three deep.

Along the way, the group swelled from eight men to forty six, picking up survivors and wounded as they moved ever on. More than once they were accosted by roving World Eaters, keen to kill and rend. Each fight took men from Solun but they prevailed time and again through skill, strategy and fortune. Forty became thirty two when they came across the unmistakable Tarkain the Red and his rampagers, Solun having to choose between leaving the engaged men or committing to an ever escalating fight in tight confines. He knew what was to come and every man was vital to the coming war on Skarllax. With a heavy heart, Solun chose to withdraw, consigning the four still living men left behind to imminent death.

Crossing the gantry-ways leading directly to the teleportarium itself was the last obstacle before escape. Ahead a Dreadnought slaughtered a squad of seekers with its power claws, a great bronze plaque denoting the individual as ‘Brutus’ emblazoned upon its chest. The last marine, recognized by Solun as Sergeant Apropos, scored a gouge in the armour plating with his power axe, dancing away a little too late as the Dreadnought swept its claw attempting to smash Apropos asunder. Although the marine survived, the Contemptor took his arm, ripping it free from the sergeant in great welter of blood. Before Solun and Foven could help him, Apropos lit his appropriated World Eater jump pack, launching himself far away out of sight, away from the teleportarium itself, down an unmarked corridor. Brutus, like the hound of old he was, gave chase.

Foven looked to Solun, as if to ask whether to follow. The terminator shook his head. He pointed at the open double doors that led into the room itself. Solun felt a sense of loss passing the dead seekers, more so than with any other deceased brothers he had passed so far. Maybe if they had been just that little bit quicker, fought just that little bit harder, maybe they would still be alive. Maybe Apropos would still have his arm.

The ad hoc company moved through the heavy teleportarium doors, heading directly towards the teleport chamber itself. On the way yet more bodies were to be found – both Fist and World Eater, crimson bodies outnumbering golden bodies. Where the Fists were often hacked to death, the World Eaters frequently seemed to be gunned down beyond arms reach. Up ahead, propped up against a wall, was a familiar warrior. A survivor that Foven knew all too well.

“Cerion! I thought you were planetside?” Foven asked as he knelt.

“No, Sergeant. I was wounded when the World Eaters tried to prevent us from leaving. I stayed behind to make sure Halkus and the others made it.”

“How many have gone through?” Solun queried. He dreaded the answer.

“About a hundred and fifty of us.” That was better than Solun had expected. He smiled beneath his chipped and scored helm. “We even managed to salvage some heavy weaponry on the way here.”

“Good work, brother. Go on through with Foven.” Solun said warmly. The man had done his duty, and done it well. With any luck, and a good apothecary, he’d be fighting fit by the time the World Eaters came for the forces directed by old Caldor. The same went for the others with Solun who’d been wounded. Foven turned to the terminator.

“What if the World Eaters follow us down using the teleporter?” He asked. “It’s likely they’ll use the last co-ordinates entered into the cogitator.”

“Then I shall have to steer them elsewhere. I will lead them on a merry chase, brother.” He said with forced good humour. “I have Dorn’s blood in me, I am an Imperial Fist. Those that I will face shall be laid low.”

“Corrupting an Inwit expression to a native, eh? I would rather you did not do that.” Chided Foven, expressing mock-offense. “So, you are to be our distraction, Demetrius? It will be the death of you.” He said shaking his head.

“I know.” Admitted Solun. “Get going.” Foven saluted, the old Unity salute that Captain Krane favoured. Solun followed suit, showing Foven the respect he deserved. It would be their last moments together alive and they both knew it. Foven followed the first group onto the teleporter and unceremoniously vanished, blinked down to Skarllax, hopefully somewhere close to Caldor. The second and third groups dutifully pursued Foven to their new battleground, with select men giving the officer they knew the salute before they disappeared. Solun understood those who did not acknowledge him. He was occupied with thoughts of what to do next; no doubt they did too.

Solun stood before the console, meteor hammer resting upon his shoulder, and decided where he would lead any pursuers. The Bloody Path. If anywhere, it would be there. Tomnas would have concurred. Smash the head, leave a broken body. Solun’s preferred method of war. He keyed up the console, having to somewhat guess at the controls, for he was no techmarine. With co-ordinates locked, the terminator steeled himself. Those that he would face would be laid low.

Activating the timer, Solun briskly mounted the teleporter, silently hoping that he’d got it right. Silently hoping he wouldn’t blink in the middle of orbital space, or a wall. Silently hoping, by all that was true, that the Bloody Hand’s shields weren’t operational again. He breathed in deep, feeling a surge of hormones his body flushed through itself, ready for more melee. A whiteness enveloped him, quickly replaced with multispectral hues before reverting to whiteness again. It was a moment before Solun fully recognized where he was.

Turning the stare at the new arrival, Sal’mar could not quite believe what he was looking at. A battered terminator in seventh legion colours, covered in rime, bearing a rampager weapon. How could this be? He had no right to sully the bridge of Crocell the Destroyer, no right at all! Shouldn’t he be dead? The terminator moved, jolting Sal’mar out of his stunned silence. The gunnery officer and his underlings perished, clouted into bloody lumps by this interloper. Other crew scattered before this wrathful veteran, some escaping his reach, others taking their last breaths in the pandemonium as they failed to get away. Sal’mar brought his bolt pistol to bear, caring not for any mortals in the intervening space. Under fire, the terminator spun and advanced on Sal’mar, taking his lumps as he strode ever closer across the expansive bridge. Knowing he would not fell the veteran by the time he came in range of the meteor hammer, Sal’mar discarded his firearm when it ran dry, throwing it to one side. Drawing his combat blade and chainaxe, he launched himself at the loyalist from the command dais.

Solun watched the World Eater cast down his bolt pistol and draw his melee weapons, ready for close quarters combat. The red and bronze marine leapt at him, clearly intent on carving him up. Solun countered with a deft swing of his weapon, hooking the head of the hammer with the astartes legs, pitching him face first into the deck as he spun in mid-air from the kinetic impact. The hammer came down and crushed the helmet, and head, of the space marine rebel.

For a brief moment he stared at the corpse, oblivious to the manic crew about him seeking to flee the bridge. A foolish ensign attempted to assault Solun with a naval sabre but was denied his moment of glory when the veteran swatted him with the back of his hand to the floor, breaking every bone in his skull and neck. A flash illuminated the bridge and cast Solun in stark contrast, his shadow splashed against the back wall for a millisecond. He knew it was World Eaters, even before he turned. The sight of Tarkain the Red backed up by six rampagers brought a weary smile to the sergeant. At least they weren’t still hunting his brothers on the Furious Endeavour. The World Eaters thundered towards Demetrius Solun, in his damaged and compromised terminator plate, crimson arms raised brandishing their deadly weapons. He snarled an oath as he brought his power maul and the meteor hammer to bear. They would not take him without a fight.

Epilogue – Downpour

Crocell surveyed the bridge of the Furious Endeavour, his newest ship, trailed by Balthur and the remaining Gladiator Guard. None had gone through this culling without damage, least of all Crocell himself. Balthur sported several trophies from his roaming through the ship, one of which was the head of the Fists’ champion, hung from his waist by the hair.

“There has been a commotion on the Bloody Hand.” Crocell said dismissively over the vox. “It seems one of our prey slipped the net and attempted to take my ship all by himself.” Balthur merely grunted. “I must remember to give Tarkain the honour of being in the vanguard when we fall upon those remnants down there.” He said, looking at Skarllax through a shattered view port. Balthur grunted again. The last of the seventh on board were being hunted down as they spoke.

The war below on Skarllax, between the rebels and the Fists, had abated when the astartes began to prepare their positions and leave them unmolested. A coldness soon swept across the principal city as they awaited the Eaters of Worlds. The rebels were curtly told not even they would be spared. Many fled far and wide. With the five hundred Caldor commanded, they resisted Crocell and his men for weeks until, finally, they were swept aside by a massed assault led by Brutus and his brethren. Many World Eaters of the 18th took trophies that day from the dead loyalists, never knowing that one ship had fled the initial void war. The Mercurial Gaze had punched in co-ordinates for the system’s edge and ran silent until they could safely enter warp space. It was at that time that Caldor and his men died defending their ground like true Imperial Fists. Of all the people to bring back word to Dorn of this atrocity, it was one of Krane’s circle. Sergeant Illian Demus.


And now, for those of you who've been extra nice and read the whole thing - here's an illustration by Greyall depicting Crocell and Krane:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Having always loved the World Eaters for their atrocity and massacre abilities, I thought it would suit this story well. Though I have read many stories where the World Eaters lost, I am glad to see the World Eaters win a battle, none the least in the Horus Heresy. I really enjoyed reading the story and hope to see more in time, I might even make this "Crocell" person one day if I get the appropiate money to do so.


- ColdWinter

Link to comment
Share on other sites





This story is a follow-on to my previously posted Horus Heresy-era story, "The Massacre," which can be found here. Because it is out of the scope of this story -- and that the official tale has yet to be told -- I've decided on a slight retcon to the end of that tale; basically, you can ignore the part where Vulkan is on board the Thunderhawk. This is also a tale I've wanted to tell for a while but never really had the motivation to get it typed up. As a result, I want to thank witchunter kraine for this thread, and Aquilanus for letting me handle the Iron Hands. I also want to give a shout-out to the rest of the Tale of 20 Writers crew -- hope this matches up.



Dramatis Personae


Iron Hands


Cadmus Mantellar – Clan Chief, Clan Shologar

Callum Corwin – Iron Commander, Clan Shologar

Jarek Tekton – Iron Father, Clan Shologar

Nellus Fetladral – Clan Chief, Clan Caledonii

Herod Goros – Clan Chief, Clan Harmenak

Yavin Blantar – Iron Father, Clan Kaargul

Herak Valemarr – Clan Chief, Clan Iphos

Rulian Torke – Contemptor Dreadnought, Clan Vardiis

Bano To’gan of the Salamanders – Captain, 5th Great Company



The Traitor Legions


Horus Lupercal – Warmaster, Primarch of the Sons of Horus

Alpharius – Primarch of the Alpha Legion

Occam Pytheon – Commander Omicron







Chapter 1

Blood from a Stone. Iron Without.




Space is a void, a vast emptiness lacking color, or form, or function. This very emptiness was normally an asset to the vessels that plied the inky black, since it made detecting others of their kind extremely easy even at the longest ranges. It was only when the void found itself filled with the debris that inevitably collects around major stellar bodies that it became truly possible to sneak up on a void-craft. The magnetic anomaly detectors of the Iron Warriors battleship Stoneburner were cluttered with just such debris as it led its flotilla through the inner reaches of the Asazi Tertius system.


The Stoneburner's auspex swept the space around Asazi Tertius, its weather eye keeping constant watch for intruders. The serfs of the IV Legion tasked with watching the sensor readouts kept redirecting the auspex's gaze to a mass of meteors slashing their way across the flight path of the Iron Warrior fleet. The meteors were the remnants of a comet that had long since collapses in upon itself, caught still in Asazi's gravity well, and their path took them to within fifty thousand kilometers of the Stoneburner and her escorts. The Iron Warriors were experts at siege warfare, but when it came to void warfare, their skills were sorely lacking. No truly adept force would ever approach what amounted to starship-sized hunks of heavy metals with their shields down and defenses at rest.


The Iron Hands of Clan Shologar, however, were quite skilled in "black water" engagements. Their own fleet, led by the battlebarge Ironmonger, had been drifting along without shields, thrusters, or active sensors -- nothing to betray that the warships hidden amongst the broken comet tail were anything more than loose chunks of rock and iron hurtling through the vastness of space. As the fleet-meteor-hybrid passed "beneath" the ships of the Iron Warriors, the ships of the Iron Hands went to full power. Thrusters burning white-hot, they shot from the comet's tail and closed the distance to the Stoneburner in seconds. Thirty thousand kilometers was an extremely long distance in terrestial terms, but in void warfare, it was the equivalent of knife-fighting range.


The Ironmonger drove straight at its Traitor brother, spitting torpedoes as it came. The spread of torpedos arrowed in on the Stoneburner, crashing into its ventral decks. This payload delivered, it turned away, powering past the battlebarge and instead gunning towards its smaller cousins. It rolled as it passed the vanguard cruiser Remorseless, its starboard plasma batteries unleashing the power of the sun upon the smaller vessel. With no void shields to protect it -- its crew was still scrambling to reach general quarters -- there was nothing to prevent the hyper-hot projectiles from burning their way into the cruiser's hull. Bulkheads blew out as adamantium-ceramite plating ran like wax, venting atmosphere and terrified crew into space.


But the Ironmonger was not the only Loyalist ship in the fight. The cruisers Twilight Hammer and True Silver combined their fire and obliterated a trio of destroyers, leaving nothing but a massive expanding cloud of gas. They slashed through the new, miniature nebula and executed pinpoint turns, running along the starboard flank of the Traitor battlebarge. Their own port-side laser banks opened up on the larger ship, incandescent beams cutting new scars into the armor of the Stoneburner. The second salvo splashed against an invisible barrier, their pent-up energy dispersing in circular washes of color like oil dripped into a pool of water. The Iron Warriors were beginning to recover from their shock; it happened quickly, no surprise given that it was a Legion craft.


Even with the Traitors' recovery, the odds of the battle were still horrendously tilted against them. Half of the battle group's escorts were already gone, vanguard cruisers and frigate squadrons burned away by the guns and missiles of the Iron Hands. The Tenth Legion had planned its assault well, pitting two full battlebarges and a dozen cruisers against their opponents. The Gauntlet, the second of the matte-black battleships, had been tasked with stripping away the Stoneburner's companions, and her captain had done his job well. The barge had accounted for four destroyers and two cruisers by itself; one of them, the Maledictor, had responded far faster than any other enemy vessel and had even launched counter-boarding parties before it succumbed to the macrocannons that studded the hull of the Gauntlet like a pox. Those invaders took time to hunt down, more time and effort than it normally would have taken. The majority of the Gauntlet's crew, like those of its sister the Ironmonger, were elsewhere.


* * *


The boarding torpedo slammed into something solid, and Callum Corwin hoped fervently that it was their target and not some random chunk of debris spit out from the ever-weakening gravity of the comet's remnants. His concerns were allayed when the G forces did not increase, when his world was not turned upside down, when the boarding pod did not spin crazily out of control. The pod began to vibrate as its laser-edged drill head cut its way first through several meters of layered ceramite and adamantium, and then through the outer bulkheads of the Stoneburner. After a moment, the rumbling stopped and a sliver of light broke the darkness as the drill-head split apart. Frag launchers spat shrapnel outwards, filling the interior of the Fourth Legion warship with a perfect storm of supersonic fragments capable of carving through even Astartes power armor.


Even before the storm had abated, Callum was out of his crash-couch, weapons up and ready. He charged out of the boarding pod and into a bloodbath.


The pod had disgorged him and his squad into a trunk corridor on the starboard side of the Stoneburner. It was at least a hundred feet wide and maybe half that tall, its walls unadorned save for the occasional set of harzard stripes backing the icon of the IV Legion. If the sets of heavy-gauge rails built into the floor were anything to go by, it connected the reserve magazines to the warship's main broadside batteries. There were no ammo carts in evidence, but there must have been about two hundred crewmen passing through the corridor rushing to their battle stations when the boarding torpedo hit. The blizzard of shrapnel from the pod's frag launchers had scythed down scores of the unaugmented humans, though the moans of the wounded and screams of the dying fell only on the deaf ears of Callum and his squad.


The Iron Commander swung his head left and right, the templar visage of his Mk. III armor as cold and impassive as the machine he strove to emulate as he walked through the carnage. He didn't even bother to step over the living or the dead; these people were weak in body and in mind, and that kind of sin armored him against such ridiculous notions as pity or mercy or remorse. He strode where he wished, and woe to they who lay in his way. His squad piled out of the pod behind him, boarding shields raised and bolters clenched tightly in their armored fists, and they paid as little attention to the massacre as he did. Consulting his armor's internal auspex, Callum nodded up the corridor to their right.


"This way," he ordered, without explanation or preamble, and stepped off. His squad reacted just as he knew they would, without verbally acknowledging the order; they simply fell in around him, forming a black armored box twenty post-humans strong around their commander. They proceeded at what was referred to as a combat glide. It was a curious amalgam of half-walk, half-run that allowed a military force to move quickly but still maintain overwatch with raised weapons. It was a time-tested concept perfected in pre-Imperial eons past, and one that the Iron Hands used often. The purpose of a machine, after all, was to make things more efficient, so the Legion tended to adopt those practices and wargear that were most efficient.


Though not a full sprint, the combat glide used by long-legged and tireless Astartes still ate up ground at rates that would make an Imperial Army drill instructor green with envy. The Iron Hands had travelled almost the full length of the trunk corridor in a matter of minutes before they made their first contact with those they had once called brothers.


A pair of empty ammo carts -- massive flatbed railcars designed to carry tank-sized macrocannon shells -- had been ripped from the rails and overturned to form a giant blockage at the end of the corridor. And from either side of the makeshift barricade, Callum could see flashes of dull iron and hazard yellow. Smiling behind his helmet, Callum drew his power sword and said, "Shields up, box formation. Rush advance to the barricade."


Like a perfectly oiled machine, the twenty members of his squad pulled together so they were moving shoulder to shoulder in four ranks of five, with a slight bulge in the formation around him in the center. The front rank held their boarding shields before them, bare centimeters from the floor, while the second rank raised theirs and overlayed them across the tops of the front line of shields. This practice was copied by those on the sides and rear until the squad became like a black-shelled tortoise. With the shield-wall complete, the squad increased their speed to a flat run. The squad was perfectly drilled, and every single pounding step was taken in unison by the entire squad as if the squad was twenty-one bodies controlled by a single mind.


The throaty booms of bolters began vying with the thundering run of the Iron Hands as the Iron Warriors at the barricade opened fire. The mass reactive rounds battered against the shield wall but failed to penetrate or even slow the charging Iron Hands. Callum's blood was up now, the sense-assaulting crash of combat awakening old urges in his mind. He firmly squashed the desire to reach out with his sixth sense, to boil the blood of his enemies within their veins; this war was going to change many things -- had changed some already -- but so far as the Tenth Legion knew, the Edict was still in force. Thus, he had to kill with his hands instead of his mind.


The squad reached the barricade and came to a crashing halt against the undersides of the flipped caissons. The shield wall was still intact, and the Iron Warriors were still trying to slam bolt rounds through it. Grunts of pain from the post-humans around him told the Iron Commander that some of those explosive rounds were starting to punch through the shields. But then again, they were intended to be disposable.


"Strong side, shields down. Go." The Legionnairies to Callum's left dropped their shields and charged into the Iron Warriors, drawing blades as they went. The Traitors were caught flat-footed, obviously not expecting such a massive swing in strategy so quickly, and the particular murmur of combat rose to a crescendo.


Callum charged with his men, side stepping one of his Iron Hands as he went down from a bolt-round to the helmet. The Iron Commander launched himself at the enemy, bodily colliding with an Iron Warrior. Both of them went down under the impact; Callum used his momentum to roll clear quickly and jumped to his feet, power sword up in a two-handed guard. His opponent was slower getting to his feet so Callum wasted no time and lunged. The traitor never even saw the crackling length of the sword until it was buried to the hilt in his chest. Blood hissed and boiled around the wound, the blade's lightning field cauterizing the flesh it had cut through so easily. The Iron Warrior looked at his chest, then looked up at Callum.


He somehow knew the other Astartes was trying to look him in the eye, and he suddenly felt somehow honored by the traitor. It was a chilling moment, in truth; his enemy was wearing the same exact pattern of "Iron" armor that he was, from the layered plastron and riveted greaves to the double-stacked power plant on his back and the templar-masked helmet on his head. It was the first time since the Emperor's Children had turned on the Iron Hands at Callinedes IV that Callum had felt anything approaching the old bond of brotherhood with a member of another legion.


The moment passed, and Callum ripped the sword away. The Iron Warrior fell to the decking, fingers spasming as they tried to maintain a grip on his bolter. With the last of his breath, the traitor croaked out two last words. "Iron. . . within. . . " Callum frowned down at him from behind his helmet, his moment of contemplation already forgotten.


"What do you know of iron, traitor?" he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he brought his blade down and quite unceremoniously chopped the Iron Warrior's head off.





Chapter 2

Fulgrim’s Failure. Bait.




The Lupercal's Court was nothing like Alpharius remembered it. The walls had been painted over, the clean white of the old Luna Wolves now an ugly mix of midnight black, arterial red, and what he could only describe as a debased green that somehow put him in the mind of the new heraldry of the Sons of Horus. So much had changed since 42 Hydra Tertius, and Isstvan III, and most especially Isstvan V. It wasn't the first time he and his Legion had shed the blood of Imperial servants; given how the Alpha Legion operated, that was as inevitable as it was unfortunate. But it had been the first time he'd ever killed a fellow member of the Legions. He hadn't wanted to, but Horus had demanded that the Primarchs all lead their Legions into battle personally that day. He'd been dressed as a common trooper of course, just a voice over the vox for most of the Twentieth. He hadn't wanted it, but he'd done it just the same. Sometimes, that was the only choice one had.


Setting aside his misgivings, the Primarch entered the Court. The gut-wrenching icons embroidered upon the numerous tapestries hanging from the roof twisted the eyes, so he avoided looking at them and instead focused his attention upon his brother.


Then again, that term didn't truly define Horus anymore.


He was now the Warmaster; no longer content to be the first among equals, he demanded fealty from his followers like one of the god-kings the Great Crusade had spent two centuries squashing. But again, sometimes even someone as wily as Alpharius was left without a choice.


Alpharius approached the Warmaster and went down to one knee, his own armor, resplendent in shimmering blue-green and embellished with icons of dragons and snakes, standing in stark contrast to that of the giant standing over him. Horus' thickly-plated armor was black as the damned, his face back-lit by some strange sickly light source from within the heavy cowl that crowned him. He had obviously come from battle fairly recently, the tell-tales of new blood splashed across his greaves and gore still clinging to the spiked faces of the mace he held loosely in one hand.


"Rise, brother," Horus said, his voice edged in anger, and Alpharius felt his palms go dry in his gauntlets. He knew the power of the Warmaster's anger and was coming to stoke it; as always, reward came with risk.


Alpharius stood and reached up to remove his dragon's-headed helm, mag-clamping it to his thigh. He swept aside his scaled cloak -- one affectation to his homeworld and its apex-predator -- and rested a hand on the intricate bat winged-pommel of his power sword. He'd never use something so gaudy in combat, but he was a Primarch of a Traitor Legion. It seemed right to at least look the part.


"Warmaster," Alpharius said by way of greeting. "I have brought some information I thought you might want to hear."


Horus turned to look at him, and when the Primarch of the Twentieth saw the unholy gleam in the Warmater's eyes, all he could think of was the Acuity and the futures he had seen. Humanity must survive this, he thought to himself. "Speak, then," Horus said, the frown never leaving his face. "And be quick about it. I'm in no mood for your wheels within wheels."


Alpharius nodded. "Yes, my lord. As I'm sure you're aware, the Iron Warriors lost another patrol." Horus had been turning away, but froze at Alpharius' words. He turned back slowly, eyes hooded as they locked onto the shorter man. For his part, Alpharius fought to keep the smile from his face before he continued. "You were not?" He shrugged. "I apologize, lord, I assumed Perturabo had informed you."


"He did not," Horus spat. "I'll deal with that later. How did you know about it?"


"Bantram Prime, the Emperor's Children lose an entire fortress with no evidence left behind as to who destroyed it. Nova Tetra, the Word Bearers battleship Sermon for the Damned disappears without a trace. Ullis Primaris, an Iron Warrior-garrisoned starbase is destroyed."


"I'm aware of these events," Hours said, interrupting. "Get to the point."


Alpharius nodded. "Not knowing who or what is dogging our steps was worrying me, so I assigned some of my own Legion vessels to shadow the flank patrols of the fleet." He paused, waiting for another outburst, but the Warmaster was silent, so he continued. "The light cruiser Iota watched the entire engagement against the Stoneburner. A fleet of warships from the Tenth Legion jumped them in the Asazi Tertius system, while the Iron Warriors were en route to a Mechanicum station there that had not yet declared its loyalty to the true master of mankind."


"The Tenth." The words were whispered, a mix of longing and resignation in Horus' voice.


Alpharius handed over a data slate which Horus took. "They ambushed the Fourth, boarding the flagship before wiping out her escorts. Evidently, they took control of the ship because it departed with them when the fleet went to warp."


"Fulgrim's failure is compounded," the Warmaster rumbled. "He promised me Ferrus and the Tenth at Callinedes. Then he swore to destroy them on Isstvan, but the whole Legion wasn't there. Then he swore to hunt them down before they could interrupt my plans." His voice dropped an octave as his anger got the better of him. "I grow weary of failure."


"And I can promise success where Fulgrim fails," Alpharius said, drawing a snort from Horus. "I can, my lord," he repeated. "Fulgrim is hunting a Legion. His fleet is operating en masse, seeking an engagement with an enemy that clearly knows just how foolish a large-scale engagement would be. The Iron Hands are scattered, divided, hitting us in penny-packet attacks. Even if we do swat one fly, there are a hundred more still biting us. I can play this game much better than they can, and much better than Fulgrim could. You know this."


Horus' frowned deepened as he peered at the dataslate, and for a moment Alpharius was afraid that the Warmaster would deny him. But then his features smoothed over some as calm asserted itself. "You can do this without interrupting your Deliverance operation?"


Alpharius nodded once again, allowing a ghost of a smile to pull at his lips. "The Legion can. Unlike most, we specialize in being in two places at once."


"Very well," the Warmaster said. "But remember the price of failure, Alpharius. What will you need to see this through?"


The lord of the Twentieth allowed his smile to bloom fully. "Bait."





Chapter 3

Strategies. Flight of the Phoenix.




Cadmus Mantellar stormed into the Anvillarium aboard the Fist of Iron, anger etched onto his face. What half of his face, that is, could still show emotion. As one, the rest of the Iron Hands in that sacred chamber turned to look at him. Mantellar was an impressive sight, especially to his fellow Legionnairies, whose reverence for bionics was legendary amongst the Legions as a whole. He wore one of the last suits of Tactical Dreadnought Armor in the X Legion, rebuilt from the scrap that was all that remained from the suits that he and his fellow Clansman Malachai had worn during what was already being referred to as the Drop Site Massacre. Even then, they had been so battered by the enemy during the fighting on Isstvan V that there were barely enough functioning parts to combine them into a single operational suit.


Even then it was incomplete, and Cadmus felt the loss of his old weaponry keenly. He'd gone into battle on Isstvan with a set of paired power fists, unique in their construction -- gifts from Ferrus Manus himself when Cadmus had risen to command his clan. He only had one of them left now, courtesy of Ezekyle Abaddon of the Sons of Horus. After that, he'd sworn that he'd never give up that second power fist, that he'd use it to choke the life out of ever traitor to the Emperor's cause that he came across. The Legion's artificers had modified it, building a double-barreled plasma blaster into it. Half his right arm had been given up to the black soil of Isstvan; he had replaced it with a reinforced augmetic. Now, he carried a power axe there, a double cog-toothed blade that had been a gift from Kelbor Hal to the Legion. Now, rumor was that the master of the Mechanicum had sided with Horus. If true, Cadmus had every intention of burying that relic blade in the Fabricator General's iron-plated skull.


The other Clan Chiefs present on board the Fist of Iron were gathered in the Anvillarium, where Ferrus Manus had once held court. It was a large open chamber where the fires of industry were evident everywhere. Giant pistons -- actually part of the ship's generatoria's heat exchangers -- slammed up and down along one wall, filling the room with their rhythmic thudding. Steam leaked from overhead pipes, feeding into a soft billow of clouds just above head height that cast the ceiling in shadow. Hissing glow rods mounted on the walls threw their hazy, neon light across the chamber, and each of the Space Marines in the room was accompanied by their own shadow as a result. Just at the edge of hearing, the clank and grid of the Legion's artificers could be heard as they struggled to repair and rebuild as much of the wargear lost during the Drop Site Massacre as was humanly possible. In keeping with the Primarch's tradition, there were no tables or chairs in the Anvillarium, no places of repose or rest. The members of the ad hoc council that governed the X Legion stood in a loose circle, each man capable of seeing and speaking directly to each other member of the body.


Mantellar, the flesh-side of his face lined in frustration, took his spot in the circle and, without waiting for any sort of formal opening to the ceremonies, abruptly stated, "I was in the middle of crushing a World Eater task force at Kalinnan. This had better be good."


"The council decided -- " Yavin Blantar began.


"The council can't decide anything if we're not here," stated the Clan Chief of the Harmenak, Herod Goros. "I had literally just begun the reduction of a rogue Imperial Army fortress brigade when your summons came." The veteran officer's hands came to rest on the hilt of his long-bladed power sword and the butt of his plasma pistol. "I still find it difficult to believe that this meeting was so important that my Clan had to slink away from a fight we were winning like a dog with its tail between its legs."


Blantar, the ranking Iron Father of the Kaargul Clan, snorted. "The rest of the council thought it important that the Legion be drawn back together for a powerful strike." He paused, his flinty eyes -- still flesh, surprisingly -- sweeping the assembled leaders. "The Emperor's Children continue to hunt us, even as we nip at the Traitors' heels. We feel it's time to land a telling blow and even the odds the Emperor's armies will face."


"Even the odds," coughed Nellus Fetladral. Another veteran of the Drop Site, he was also the newly-minted chief of the Caledonii. Their prior commander, Ullis Kersh, hadn't made it off Isstvan V. Like the Avernii, the Caledonii had contributed large numbers of troops to that operation and were as a result woefully understrength. Fetladral himself had suffered serious wounds, and much of his face, neck, and chest had to be rebuilt with cybernetic implants. He was still getting used to speaking through a vox-box that replaced his lower jaw, and the electronic voice it emitted was rough and grating to the ears. "How do you mean?"


Blantar nodded at Fetladral. "Excellent question. Our Primarch is dead; perhaps Corax and Vulkan are as well. Having one of the gene-sires on the battlefield is perhaps one of the greatest advantages a Legion can field at the moment. Therefore, we need to kill a Traitor Primarch." He leaned forward, his posture placing extra emphasis on his next words. "Preferably Fulgrim."


Mantellar snorted. "Our fleet is still scattered from Isstvan to Medusa and back! There are a dozen ships from Isstvan we still haven't accounted for yet. Do you know how long it will take to gather enough forces to assault the III Legion head-on? And besides, a fleet that big will be seen a month away thanks to the warp-wake it'll push in front of it."


"And that's even if we can pin down Fulgrim's location," added the gravelly voice of Herak Valemarr of Clan Iphos. "The Emperor's Children are operating together, never spread across more than three or four systems, but our scout ships playing tag with them have not been able to identify the Pride of the Emperor anywhere."


Regardless, we should make the effort, stated Rulian Torke. A former Morlock officer from the Vardiis Clan, he'd fought for the X Legion from within the confines of a Dreadnought's shell for over a hundred years. He no longer commanded in battle, but he was an original Terran Legionnaire and there were no Iron Hands anywhere that did not respect his opinion. Killing Fulgrim is more than revenge. It makes a statement to the Traitors that we are still here, still fighting, still a force to be reckoned with.


Before any more arguments could be made, the door to the chamber opened and Callum Corwin burst in. Mantellar glared at his subordinate and opened his mouth to chastise him for the breach of protocol, but Corwin spoke first.


"Commanders! Report from the Twilight Hammer -- the Firebird was spotted during an engagement in the Castalia system."


Cadmus' eye narrowed, the steady red-lit augmetic that replaced his left orb likewise dulling in sympathy as if trying to mimic the action. "That's only two systems away." His gaze swung back to Yavin Blantar. "We can jump there in under twelve hours."


Blantar nodded and looked around the room. "Do any of you now disagree with this course of action?" His question was met with silence. "Then return to your ships. What assets we have here will travel to Castalia, and we will mete out the Emperor's justice."


* * *


If any word could be used to desribe a warship of the Iron Hands, it was "efficient." Nowhere aboard the Ironmonger were there galleries devoted to art such as might be found on a vessel of the Blood Angels or the Emperor's Children. Architectural embellishments likewise had no place there; where the bridge of an Ultramarines craft might be framed by mighty columns, or where the walls of an Imperial Fist command center might be engraved with the names of the honored dead, the bridge of the Ironmonger was simple, stark, and spartan. Its walls were undressed steel, free of any testament to the banal concept of decoration. The cogitators and control stations had the occasional stamp of the seal of the Adeptus Mechanicus but aside from that, the only thing approaching an embellishment was the raised gauntlet sigil of the X Legion in carven relief upon the main hatchway leading to the rest of the ship.


Those doors closed behind Clan Commander Cadmus Mantellar as he entered the bridge. There was no call or salute, no bosun there to greet him, such traditions being wasteful of time better spent working. So when Mantellar stomped up the raised dais that dominated the small amphitheater-like control center, the only person who paid him any mind was Callum Corwin, sitting in the command throne.


"Lord," he said by way of greeting. "We should be breaching real-space in about two minutes."


Mantellar acknowledged the report with a nod before following up. "Where's To'gan?"


"Here, Cadmus," responded a voice colored a rich baritone. Mantellar turned to watch Bano To'gan step up the dais to his side. The other Astartes was shorter, but stockier even then Cadmus was without his Cataphractii plate on. Unlike the rest of the bridge's inhabitants, whose armor and robes were a sea of black and white and silver, Bano To'gan's Mk. IV plate was a deep emerald green. But that was not all that set him apart; when he went without his helmet, as he did now, his coal-black skin was plain to see. Combined with eyes of a color that reminded Cadmus of the eternal lava flows of Medusa, it was quite obvious to any Legionnaire where To'gan came from. In the confused retreat from Isstvan, many ships had picked up what few survivors they could regardless of Legion. To'gan was not the only Salamander on an Iron Hands vessel; Cadmus had even seen a pair of Raven Guard sulking about the Fist of Iron during his brief foray to the flagship. They weren't sons of Ferrus, but they were loyalists, and that counted for just as much at the moment.


"How's the leg?" Cadmus asked, something like real concern in his voice.


The Salamander shrugged. "Still hurts, but it's healing. And no, I still don't want to replace it with a bionic."


A ghost of a smile tugged at Cadmus' flesh-face. "Suit yourself."


"Real-space reversion in fifteen seconds," Corwin said, interrupting.


Cadmus turned back to the viewscreen that dominated the forward bulkhead and nodded. "The ship is yours, Callum. Fight well." The clan chief felt his insides squeezed as the battle barge translated back into the Materium, the transition from warp space to real space making his gorge rise in some primal, instinctual reaction. A powerful shudder ran through the ship, and then the viewscreen went active.


The Ironmonger's auspex array painted picture that was exceedingly grim for the enemies of the Imperium. The Castalia System featured just four planetary masses and a mediocre-sized asteroid ring. The Iron Hands fleet had exited the warp "above" the system's elliptical plane, and Cadmus was now looking "down" into the stellar system where a task group from his own Clan Shologar had, at first glance, fought a brilliant engagement. The sensor sweeps had picked up wreckage constituting the remains of at least seven enemy vessels, whereas the Tenth's task force was no more than two cruisers and three much-reduced destroyer squadrons. Even as the new arrivals watched, the destroyer Stone Lion combusted. But moments before she died, she spat a spread of torpedoes that caught a vanguard cruiser in the purple-and-gold livery of the Emperor's Children flat amidships and blew out her spine. The cruiser began to twist around her midsection as she tried to maneuver away, the stress of inertia warping her damaged internal structure. Her captain evidently saw his mistake and dialed back on the acceleration not knowing his ship was doomed; the Twilight Hammer delivered the finishing blow with her heavy plasma blasters, a full boardside slicing the III Legion craft cleanly in twain.


"Where are you. . . " Cadmus whispered to himself as he studied the plot. "There!" he exclaimed, pointing.


One of the few remaining III Legion ships was making a run for the second planet in the system, probably intending to slingshot around it and use the planet's mass as a shield from the Iron Hands' fire. Flanking it was a small craft, perhaps half the size of a frigate, dancing between the streams of laserfire and rain of macro-shells on engines that left a long after-glow of ionized particles. It was shaped like a raptor, with swept-back wings and a brilliant paint scheme of purple and red and pink. It was a one of a kind starship, built to the exacting specifications of the Primarch Fulgrim for his personal use during void battles.


The Firebird.


"Fist of [iron, this is Ironmonger," Callum said into his vox horn. "Firebird identified, closing on Castalia II. In pursuit."


The flagship's captain's response went unheard by Cadmus as he turned back to To'gan. "Blantar wasn't such a fool after all. If we can kill that last cruiser, we'll have Fulgrim trapped here. The Firebird isn't warp-capable." This time, the smile was full-fledged. "A measure of revenge -- for us both."


To'gan nodded, silent, as he watched the pursuit unfold on the main plot. The True Silver was closing on the fleeing cruiser, bracketing the other ship's flight path with torpedoes in an attempt to corral her away from her escape velocity. The Firebird swept in, laser-bundles firing, and destroyed some of the ordnance. The rest kept flying, and the struggling cruiser tried to turn across the torpedoes' path. In theory, it was a good maneuver; torpedo guidance packages were incapable of pushing the warheads through a full ninety degree turn, so their target-lock would be broken and the warheads would detonate harmlessly. In practice, the missiles were too close and the cruiser too slow. The warheads slammed into the traitor ship's rear quarter. Their impacts sloughed away armor and blew bulkheads into space. The ship's engine nacelles went dark as they lost power before the generatoriums overloaded from the damage caused and the entire aft of the vanguard cruiser disappeared in a roiling explosion.


The Firebird, now alone, turned in towards Castalia II. She dove towards the planet's single moon, wove around its cratered, lightless surface, and shot like an arrow towards the planet below. Wings trailing fire like the phoenix of myth, she plunged into the atmosphere and disappeared beneath the planet's cloud cover.





Chapter 4

Iron Rain. Ambush.




The drop pod's retrojets fired with a scream like a freight train, slowing the pod just enough that when it slammed into the surface of Castalia II, it was travelling slow enough that the Space Marines it carried were not blasted into a primordial stew upon impact. Locking bolts fired off and the petal-like ramps of the pod shot open, giving Cadmus Mantellar his first real view of Castalia II.


It was a fairly young planet, still developing, just on the inner edge of the star's liquid water zone. The topsoil was thin and gritty, and Cadmus' heavy feet sank almost a centimeter into the ground with every step he took. Vegetation was scarce, mostly gray moss and lichens with a few brave, stunted trees clinging the sheer faces of the olympian mountains that soared, dagger-like, into a sickly yellow sky. The atmosphere would have been instantly lethal to an unaugmented human, lacking enough oxygen to keep them alive while the nitrogen and methane levels strangled them. To a gene-forged Astartes in iron clad, it was merely an inconvenience.


The iron rain of drop pods was still coming as the Tenth Legion went to war once more, the combined forces of a dozen clans committed to the assault. No one was really sure if normal Astartes could actually kill a primarch. Ferrus, the only confirmed primarch casualty from the killing fields of Isstvan, had died by the hand of his brother, and that was a whole other story. Armed with such empirical evidence, however, Cadmus was certain: primarchs could die. It was just a matter of doing enough damage. Whether it was with blade and bolter or via orbital bombardment, Fulgrim was going to die today.


The Iron Hands had detected the Firebird's crash site. Her pilot had committed to an emergency landing in the valley in which Cadmus stood, but something had gone wrong. Orbital scans had picked out a long furrow in the salted earth and wreckage that appeared to be shorn from the small craft's fuselage as it dragged itself along the ground. The trail ended at what appeared to be a large cave of some sort, leading to the belief that Fulgrim had tried to put his aircraft down in the cave, safe from detection, and somehow misjudged his landing.


Cadmus sniffed, judging the situation. Marker icons showing the positions of his seven squads so far on the ground decorated his visor's heads up display, and he blink-clicked them away as he confirmed their readiness levels. His own squad of six -- other veterans of the Drop Site, heavily augmetic and armed to the teeth -- plus Bano To'gan were with him. Without a word, he stepped off towards the cave, barely two kilometers distant, where the Primarch of the Emperor's Children awaited him.


* * *


Cadmus and his strike force made good time, arriving at the entrance to the cave on the heels of Clan Vardiis. The towering form of Rulian Torke in his Contemptor chassis gazed down at him in silent study as he led his men up to the cave mouth. It was actually a massive cavern system, the cave continuing under the primordial mountain range as a winding tunnel whose depths were unknown at this point. There was also no sign of the Firebird, and the trail of debris stopped just inside the cave's entrance.


"Honored Torke," Cadmus said over the vox. "Something. . . does not make sense here."


The Dreadnought chassis bobbed as if its owner were trying to nod in agreement. The Firebird should not have been able to fly through such a cave. But where it went. . . I do not know.


The chief of the Shologar considered for a moment. There was only one logical course of action based on the evidence, and he wasted no time questioning it. "Death's Heads," he began. "Skull Bearers of Medusa! This is our destiny. Within here is our revenge. Become vengeance, my brothers. Become wrath." He took the first step, forever determined to lead from the front. "Proceed inside."


The Shologar Iron Hands went into action, bolters up and at the ready as the various squads shook out into wedge patterns. Cadmus led the first squad, walking at the very tip of the spear. Bano To'gan flanked him, his emerald green armor a smear of color at the edge of the clan chief's peripheral vision. As they moved deeper into the tunnel system, the pilot light from the Salamander's hand flamer threw shadows all around them, the constant flickering pull at Cadmus' eyes. Frowning, he engaged the thermographic filters in his helmet, clearing his view.


The tunnel had started off as a decidedly natural formation roughly forty meters across, bending and twisting as if carved from the bedrock by some burrowing worm; more likely, it was a dormant lava tube. It wound its way down, the air temperature gradually rising and the atmosphere thickening the further they travelled. Primordial granite surrounded the Iron Hands, the tunnel's walls and floor rough-hewn and strewn with pebbles and shale. The ceiling was a constant mass of stalactites, as if they were marching into the jaws of some great draconic predator. After several kilometers -- with no sign of the [iFirebird[/i], Fulgrim, or indeed any life form more advanced than some albino lichen -- the tunnel's nature changed.


The change was as abrupt as it was obvious. The walls, so irregular in texture, became almost instantly smooth and their color, once the granite gray of natural bedrock found throughout the galaxy, was discolored an uneven char-black. The stalactics disappeared, the last few that bordered the char-zone actually sliced in half, giving a perfect cross-section of the flowstone beneath. The sudden alteration in the environment gave Cadmus pause, his gait slowing gradually until he came to a halt, the rest of his Clan coming a stop behind him. He walked over to the wall and ran the palm of his power fist over the wall.


Clan Chief? asked Torke's synthesized voice in his ear. Why have we stopped?


"This part of the tunnel has been bored. . . by a. . ." He trailed off as his fingertips scraped away the charcoal residue, revealing a crack in the wall. He followed it down, laser-straight. The implication of that took just a moment, but even that was too long.


The hidden doorway he'd inadvertently discovered slid back into a recessed hatchway, and a blur of gold and purple shot from the passageway. It slammed into him, the force of the collision knocking him back a step. The servos in the legs of his Terminator plate compensated for the heavy hit and he kept his feet, but he couldn't see much aside from purple ceramite. He reached up with his power fist and grabbed a hold of his attacker, ripping the Emperor's Child off of his body. The traitor was stabbing wildly with a combat blade, trying to find a weak spot in his Tactical Dreadnought Armor to no avail. Behind his helmet, Cadmus allowed himself a grim smile as he squeezed his fist closed. The violet ceramite crumpled in his grip, the Space Marine inside crying out in agony as his ribcage splintered under the remorseless pressure. The Iron Hand tossed the bleeding remnant of an Astartes aside and assessed the situation.


The Emperor's Children had orchestrated the ambush perfectly, though how it was set up was still a mystery to him. Numerous portals had been cut from the tunnel, and Emperor's Children were pouring from them in the hundreds directly into the lead squads of the Iron Hands. Murder holes cut into the ceiling had opened as well, and grenades and bolt rounds alike came from them in a deluge. The ambush had been perfectly planned and executed, and Cadmus had walked his men straight into it. With a roar of anger, Cadmus threw himself into the battle.


He lunged at the closest Traitor Legionnaire, leading with his left hand. His clenched power fist landed a perfect strike, slamming square on the spread-winged golden eagle on the enemy's plastron. Cadmus felt the ceramite give way and the Emperor's Child flew away, blood splashing from the concave crater in his breastplate. He moved on, stepping into the swell of battle as he had on a thousand other occassions.


His power fist punched and smashed, crushing the life from a Traitor with every strike. The swings of his relic axe were just as lethal, the Mechanicus-blessed blade cutting through bonded ceramite and gene-forged flesh with equal ease. He even put the plasma blaster to use, the brilliant blue-white bolts boiling the enemy in their armor. And while Mantellar was a storm of death amongst the enemy, he was not the only one doing the killing. Cadmus watched as To'gan killed five opponents with a single swing of his long-hafted thunder hammer. He saw one of his men, a young battle brother named Garvin, take two bolt rounds to the helmet only to stab his own gladius into the soft armor at his assailant's neck. Rulian Torke was there as well, his left-arm power claw and rotory cannon dealing death left and right.


The ambush had achieved total surprise, but Cadmus had already seen that the momentum was shifting. The Iron Hands had numbers on the Traitors, but it was more than that. The Tenth Legion was fighting harder and faster than their opponents. The Emperor's Children had always trumpeted the skill of its individual members, but such skill didn't matter at that moment. The Hands had turned the tide, refused to back down. They kept pushing back. As Cadmus killed and killed again, he saw Iron Hands literally refusing the lie down and die. Garvin had removed his helmet, fighting on with a jagged rent in his forehead and the whole right side of his face a confused mass of wet red flesh. A plasma gunner Cadmus didn't know had his weapon and most of his arm removed by a power sword, yet he leapt upon his foe, his remaining hand pistoning into the Traitor's face. Iron Father Jarek Tekton was at the forefront of the fighting, alternating between screamed litanies of hate and blurted scraps of binaric even though his armor was in ruins; he left a trail of blood and machine oil with every step he took, the red and black fluids mixing freely on the tunnel floor as he limped into the fight, power axe cleaving Emperor's Children left and right.


Cadmus found himself smiling as much as he could as he pressed forward, blade and fist butchering Traitors, and it seemed that the Emperor's Children finally realized that their ambush was over. They started falling back, piling back into their secret passages and filling the doors with bolter fire and flaming promethium until they could trigger rockslides to block the hatches.


Within a minute, the tunnel that had been echoing with gunfire and warcries was all but silent. Bodies littered the bare earth; most were sheathed in purple, fewer lay in iron clad. Cadmus organized a new line of resistance while the few Apothecaries in the force set about the task of recovering the gene-seed of the fallen.


Vardiis moves forward, Torke told him, the other clan chief needing to stoop in order to fit his Contemptor chassis in the tunnel. We cannot give them time to reorganize.


Mantellar nodded. "As soon as the flesh-wrights are done, we'll follow on and secure your advance." He gestured down the tunnel. "Strength and honor."





Chapter 5

Firing Squad. For the Emperor.




The hard bangs of bolter fire echoed back up the tunnel as Cadmus Mantellar and his Clan moved along its length at a combat glide, their own weapons up and ready in case Fulgrim had any other surprises in store for them. Once again, the Clan Chief ran at the very forefront of the advance, the rest of his squads spread out behind him as they ran to the sounds of war.


The tunnel, which had been running straight and slightly downwards into the roots of the mountains, suddenly turned, curving around and emptying out into a large cavern. The Iron Hands of Clan Vardiis were pinned down at the tunnel's mouth, taking cover behind a ramp of fallen stones and kicked-over stalagmites; some were even sheltering behind Rullian Torke, the towering Dreadnought having lost a leg, now lying crosswise in the corridor. Beyond them, the cavern was filled with scores of the Emperor's Children, each of them sheltering behind barriers of armored permacrete. The position was well-prepared, arranged in a U-shape facing the tunnel mouth, with overlapping fields of fire. A makeshift gantry had even been erected, forming a second, elevated front from which even more of the enemy could fire down on an invader without fear of striking their brothers in the first line. It was approximately a hundred meters from the tunnel mouth to the nearest of the barricades, but it might have a light-year for all of the Iron Hands' ability to cross the distance.


The defense line appeared to be basically impenetrable to frontal assault, and there was no apparent way to flank it. Vardiis squads had already tried to storm it -- apparent from the littering of black-armored bodies on the cavern floor -- but none of them made it from than halfway before being cut down.


As the Shologar arrived and filed into their own firing lines to support their Vardiis brothers, Cadmus took cover behind Torke and rapped on the Dreadnought's hull. "Still with the living, Honored One?"


I refuse to die in such an inglorious battle, Torke replied. Be cautious, they have missile launchers on the balcony. Took my leg with one, in a moment of weakness.


Cadmus found himself nodding. "We need to break this line. I'm beginning to doubt that Fulgrim was ever here, but even then, these are Traitors and it is our duty to kill them all."


I concur. With your numbers added to mine, perhaps we can make it to the line.


Cadmus looked out at the enemy defenses and the scattering of torn bodies that was all that was leftover from previous attempts to carry the defenses. He shook his head. "No, Rulian. That is a firing squad, willing to execute any Astartes placed in front of it. Without a pavise of some sort, any attempt to storm those barriers is doomed to failure."


We must try.


"I have an idea, but I do not think you'll enjoy it, brother," he said. Engaging his vox, he said, "Frater Tekton! I need you!"


Jarek Tekton, the rents in his armor sealed by some arcane technological means, limped into the cover provided by the fallen Contemptor. "I am yours, Clan Chief," he replied through his augmetic voice box.


Cadmus nodded at the one legged chassis as he mag-locked his relic blade to his armor. "On three." Switching back to the vox he ordered, "All squads, prepare to advance! Assault to the right, we will cover you. Do not fire, simply run. One. . . two. . . three!"


On his mark, he and Tekton together gripped the Dreadnought chassis and lifted it. Servos in the armor and the massed bionics of the two Shologar heroes whined in protest, their flesh likewise straining every muscle and sinew to raise the Contemptor against the inexorable force of gravity. Together, they were able to heft the massive machine.


Mantellar. . . What are you doing?


Between gritted teeth, Cadmus replied, "Flesh is weak and iron is strong. You're the strongest of us here then, and we need your strength whether you can give it or not!"


A low rumbling buzzed from the Dreadnought's external vox; at first, Cadmus thought that Torke was laughing. He belatedly realized that Torke was growling.


Together, the two Shologar officers carried the Contemptor chassis out from behind the barricades and into the line of fire. The Dreadnought's bulk, immune to even the thunder of heavy bolters, effortlessly blocked the Emperor's Children fire. Seeing the opening, several squads of Iron Hands moved up, using the Dreadnought for cover as they approached the right flank of the defensive horseshoe. Roaring in frustration and anger, Torke opened up with his Kheres cannon, spitting fire and fury at the purple-armored Space Marines whose own gunfire was bouncing harmlessly from his adamantium skin. Thanks to the fire-break, the Iron Hands were able to make it to the barricades for the first time. Losses were still incurred, but this time, the Tenth Legion would not be denied.


The Emperor's Children were already falling back from the section of barricade being assaulted, so Cadmus and Tekton propped Torke's chassis up against the barricade so that he could continue to fire on the enemy.


When I'm mobile again, Clan Chief, you and I will have words, Torke growled.


Cadmus didn't bother arguing, just took up his axe and charged into the battle. Now that they were beyond the defense line, the Iron Hands tore into the Emperor's Children, who could not disengage fast enough to escape. The fight was devolving into a brutal hand-to-hand combat, and legionnaries hacked at each other with chainswords and combat blades with renewed fury. The rest of the Emperor's Children, seeing their companions being overrun, turned their guns on the melee, trying to pick out targets amongst the scrum. This, in turn, meant that the fire keeping the rest of the Tenth Legion strike force pinned in the tunnel mouth slackened off, and the rest of the Iron Hands were quick to take advantage of this new window of opportunity.


Having been reinforced by new arrivals, the Iron Hands poured from the tunnel, bolters spitting on full automatic as they charged the other sections of the barricade. Members of Clans Shologar, Vardiis, Caledonii, Kaargul, Avernii, Iphos, Harmenak, Vurgaan, and more besides shook down into make-shift squads as they sprinted across the fire zones of the III Legion and slammed into the defenses. As the Emperor's Children realized what was happening, they tried to re-establish their fire superiority, but it was already too late. The whole rank of the Iron Hands advance was cut down, but for every legionnaire killed, there were three more behind to take his place.


What had begun as the perfect static defense had, at a stroke, become a rout. The Iron Hands had taken the walls flanking the tunnel and were now in the process of rolling up those flanks; lacking the safety of the barricades and open fields of fire, the Emperor's Children were simply too far outnumbered to stem the tide any longer. They attempted to disengage, some of their number remaining to fight as rear-guard while the rest fell back to new positions, but the Iron Hands simply would not let them go. The rear-guards died to blades before the main body could establish new support-by-fire positions and they were, in turn, cut down by unending volleys of bolter and plasma fire.


Even the elevated positions upon the support gantry were not safe. Heavy weapons teams in ebony and silver poured missile fire into the support struts while chugging heavy bolters suppressed the gun positions on top. Rulian Torke added the blitzing fire of his assault cannon to the fusillade, the diamantine-tipped rounds sawing through the steel supports. Guy wires snapped, whipping about like the tentacles of his ancient sea creature, while the entire construct groaned under the stress of its own shifting weight until the entire assembly collapsed in upon itself, burying a score of the enemy who were not quick enough in escaping.


Cadmus watched from the foot of the wreckage as the rest of the Iron Hands finished their grim work. No quarter was asked for by the enemy, cut off from an obvious escape routes, and none was given. None would have been given even had every one of the Emperor's Children gone to their knees and begged forgiveness. This was catharsis, a reckoning, revenge for the murder of the Morlocks at Callinedes, for the slaughter at the Drop Site, for the death of their Primarch.


"Glory to the Tenth!" Cadmus roared over the vox, and the rest of the Legion roared back in response. "Purge the weak! Kill them all!"


* * *


Cadmus hefted his axe, ready to participate in the slaughter, when he saw a flash of color out of the corner of his vision. He turned and saw a lone figure, cloaked in shadow, disappear into an alcove at the back of the cavern. Power fist and plasma blaster leading, Cadmus pursued the figure. The alcove was actually another melta-bored tunnel, this one barely large enough for the clan chief to squeeze his Cataphractii-armored bulk through it. He emerged into a second cavern, dimly lit by a series of hooded flood lights. The ceiling soared away into the abyssal darkness above, but that wasn't what drew his gaze.


Dominating the cavern, with no readily apparent explanation as to how it got there or how it might leave, was the raptor-like form of the Firebird. It rested on its landing struts, its swept-back wings and hawked visage lit from underneath by the flood lamps, and its royal purple ceramite skin reflected that light back into Cadmus' eyes. Cadmus paused in the portal, weapons ready, scanning the darkness until he could pick out a single human form amidst the shadows.


"You're not Fulgrim," he stated.


"No, I'm not," the other figure replied as he stepped into the light. He was a normal legionnaire, no taller than Cadmus, clad in Maximus plate that was curiously eye-bending hue of sea-green. A scaled cloak cut from some saurian predator hung from his shoulders, its chameleonic properties fighting to fade the Astartes into the background. The dragon-headed pommel of a power sword poked out from behind the cloak, but the stranger appeared to be otherwise unarmed.


Keeping his blaster leveled at the other Space Marine, Cadmus side-stepped a bit, not wanting to block the exit in case he needed to call in reinforcements. "Fulgrim was never here, was he?"


The other man shook his head. "No, he wasn't. The Phoenician let us borrow his little space-plane so that we could get your attention."


"And you are?"


"Captain Pytheon of the Alpha Legion."


"Still a Traitor," Cadmus replied, taking a threatening step forward, but Pytheon raised his hands in surrender.


"We are not your enemies, regardless of what you might think."


"Of course you are," Cadmus growled. "I saw your kind at Isstvan V, butchering me and mine the same as the Emperor's Children or the Sons of Horus!"


"Just as we have been fighting you every step of the way outside," Pytheon replied. "It had to look. . . authentic. The Warmaster has eyes everywhere."


The Iron Hand's eyes narrowed behind his helmet. "You expect me to believe that?"


"Believe what you wish, then," the Alpha Legionnaire said. "But before you try to kill me, answer me this. Which of the Traitor Primarchs does Horus need to win?"


Cadmus snorted. "I'm not one for riddles."


"No riddle -- it's a simple question. And the answer is Perturabo."




Pytheon nodded. "Without him and his Iron Warriors, who does Horus have to tear down the walls that Dorn has built to protect the Emperor?" Cadmus had no answer, standing in silent judgment as he pondered the motives of the man before him, and the content of his words. "Without Perturabo, Horus will expend his entire force trying to breach the Imperial Palace. He'll have no men to actually storm the place, and won't be able to fight off any relief force coming to aid the Emperor."


"What's your point?" Cadmus asked gruffly.


Pytheon pointed his thumb over his shoulder at the Firebird. "Instead of hunting Fulgrim to the exclusion of all else, you should be trying to find Perturabo instead. Remove him from the equation -- and hamstring his Legion -- and no matter what else happens, Horus loses this war." He paused, his head cocked to one side as he tried to gauge the other man's response. "You'll have your chance, too. Perturabo plans to strike the planet Tallarn during the march to Terra. Catch him there with the rest of your Legion, and you'll have an opening to end this war once and for all."


The Iron Hand came to stand before Alpha Legionnaire. "And why are you pointing out the flaw in your own faction's war-plan? Why are you doing this?"


"As always, Clan Chief," he replied, "for the Emperor."


Mantellar moved fast, faster than almost any other Space Marine in Tactical Dreadnought Armor could have moved. He lunged forward, grabbing the XX Legionnaire's pauldron in the iron-hard grip on his power fist. Holding Pytheon immobile, he raised his relic axe. "No. This is for the Emperor."


Pytheon struggled, trying to squirm free or throw off the Iron Hand's aim. His efforts were in vain; the axe came down, slicing through ceramite with ease and cutting the enemy commander in twain from clavicle to pelvis.


The Alpha Legionnaire slid to the floor, bonelessly, like a marionette with its strings cut. Cadmus mag-locked his axe to his armor, ignoring the sizzle of the blade's power field boiling away the blood covering it, and reached down to the corpse at his feet. He ripped the scaled cloak from the body's mangled torso and took the dragon-hilted sword from his belt; he was not normally one for trophy-taking, but the rest of the council was going to need proof of what happened down there.


A slow-building whine caught his attention, and he looked up at the Firebird as he came to realize that he was hearing the craft's engines spooling up. At the top of the ship's gang-ramp, a single form, silhouetted by the light streaming out from within, turned away as the portal slammed shut. A great rumble sounded and the chamber began to shake. A crack appeared in the stygian dark of the cavern ceiling, rapidly widening as Cadmus realized that the ceiling was, in fact, a hangar bay door being retracted. He turned and pushed back through the hole in the wall into the main chamber. And not a moment too soon, either, as flames began to bellow from the doorway.





Chapter 6

Slithering Away. A Serpent’s Smile




The Firebird shot away into the storm-wracked sky. It slashed through the cloud cover and into the star-spangled void of space, and as it did so, alarms began to wail across the gathered ships of the Iron Hands fleet. Stormbirds and Thunderhawks flying a combat air patrol streaked away from the black fleet, burning hard to catch the Traitor vessel. The Fist of Iron began a ponderous turn, engines straining to give chase, even as the Ironmonger and the Twilight Hammer lunged forward, targeting scanners lashing the emptiness as they sought to achieve targeting solutions on the fleeing craft.


The Firebird angled away from the oncoming warships, spearing up towards Castalia's lone moon.


More alarms swept through the fleet as their sensors picked up what none had seen before. A single Legion cruiser had appeared from behind the lunar sphere, materializing as if the void simply gave it form. The Firebird turned towards the cruiser and raced into its hangar bays. Its cargo secured, the unknown vessel accelerated away from the pursuing Iron Hands. The X Legion vessels were just as fast as the other ship, but it had a major head start on them and the Iron Hands could not catch it.


The vessel, which the auspices of the X Legion had tentatively identified as the XX Legion cruiser Omicron, went to warp the moment it passed into the safe-jump zone beyond Castalia's stellar gravity well.


* * *


Horus smiled as Alpharius and his companion entered the Lupercal's Court, a vision of fraternity and honest companionship as he descended the dais and clasped his youngest brother to his breast. "Alpharius! I do not know what you did, brother, whatever it was, I salute you."


Alpharius, identically clad as in his last audience, smiled graciously back at the Warmaster. "It was a cunning plan, lord. As you requested, I've brought the officer responsible for seeing it through." He placed his hand on the pauldron of the Astartes standing beside him, whose raiment was similar to that of his Primarch. "I present you with Commander Occam Pytheon."


The golden-skinned Space Marine bowed deeply, though the Warmaster noticed that his hand never left the hilt of the serpent-inscribed blade that hung at his waist. "It is an honor to meet you, my lord," Pytheon said. "And it truly was my honor to be given so mighty a task."


Horus nodded, clapping the Space Marine on the back. "You must have bloodied their noses well, Commander Pytheon," he replied. "The attacks on our rear areas have dropped to insignificance in numbers, and our Astropaths tell me that the bulk of the X Legion fleet is falling back on Medusa. You really must bless me with your tale."


Pytheon looked right into the Warmaster's eyes, not even bothering to seek advice from his Primarch on how to respond. Instead, his lips spread into a wide, humorless smile that showed no teeth. It was a serpent's smile, and it stayed on Occam Pytheon's face as he replied, "I'd love to tell you how we did it, lord, truly. However -- I can't say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It appears that way, yeah. I think Onyxius had finished too but what with that scandal with the picture I'm not sure his tale will be told. :)


Scandal? O.o


Um... yeah. The link is dead now 'cause the thread got melta'd but there was an issue with a picture he posted up and he lost credibility because of it, basically. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do apologise, but I am going to have to pull out, the Course/essay work is going to take most of my time till christmas as I've been ill the past couple of weeks and so fallen slightly behind, and so not been able to get even close to finishing my piece, so if anyone wants the vulkan, feel free.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

It is finished my brothers. I present to you the tale of the Iron Warriors.


The planet, whose number was Four Sixteen, the sixteenth world to be conquered by the Fourth Legion, was a place of mountain ranges and large oceans. Most of the cities were within the mountains, while the largest three cities were on islands in the ocean. They had withstood the coming of the Old Night and the terrible Warp storms that had ravaged the system. When the Iron Warriors came across Four Sixteen, the planet’s warships met them, armed and ready for war, not realizing they were aiming their guns at their own long lost brothers. When negotiations began, the people of Four Sixteen refused to be drawn into the Imperium and ordered the Iron Warriors to leave. That is when the war began for Four Sixteen. Slowly, the mountain cities were taken under control of the Iron Warriors. Then, they turned their attention to the three oceanic cities and they took control of two out of the three. The third, which the populace called Galmothia, was a fortress. Located at the heart of the island, with walls as tall as an Imperial Titan and as thick as Land Raider armor plating, it was the perfect test of the Iron Warriors siege specialty.


He walked through the encampment, his mud caked boots splashing through puddles, their contents splashing against his gunmetal shin guards. As he walked past several other battle brothers, who stood up and saluted him due to his rank as Captain, he nodded to them and kept on walking. Upon reaching the war tent, he disengaged the seals on his gorget and he pulled his Mark III battle helm off his face, revealing a face that looked untouched by centuries of warfare; he pulled the helm away from the rest of the Mark III armor that he wore. Apollyon Maxamillin, Captain of the 44th Company of the IV Legion of the Adeptus Astartes, kneeled before his lord and father, who towered over everyone within the war tent. Apollyon’s midnight black hair moved in the gently breeze that was blowing, spoke in the back alley ganger accent of his he had from his days as a youth on Olympia, saying. “My Lord, the city has been surrounded and the warriors of the 44th await your command.” The being, whose eyes were cold and bitter, looked upon one of his sons and replied, “Good work Apollyon. Tell them to begin the siege at once.” Apollyon slammed his fist to his chestplate on the helmed skull. “At your command Perturabo.” Perturabo, primarch of the IV Legion, the Iron Warriors, smiled and returned his cold gaze back to the map in front of him as Apollyon rose and walked out of the war tent.


Once he reached his companies position, Apollyon placed his helm on an ammunition box of bolter shells and walked over to where his lieutenants stood, looking at the high walls of the city. “Anything?” asked Apollyon. The lieutenant closest to Apollyon, clad in Tactical Dreadnought Armor, also known as Terminator armor, looked at him through his tusked and horned helm and shook his head, replying “No Apollyon. They still cower behind their walls in defiance to the Emperor, blessed be his name.” Apollyon nods. “Thank you Valdarius.” Valdarius, terminator commander of the 44th Company, nods and turned his gaze back upon the walls, his power claw deactivated and his storm bolter mag locked to his right thigh. “They might hide Captain, but they will not for long. The Titans of the Legio Angelus Mortis are awaiting your order to begin there bombardment.” Spoke Grimedomus Lychous, whose armor bore the markings of the 44th Companies second Assault squad and whose face was a testament of centuries of warfare and eyes as dark as freshly spilled blood. Apollyon grinned. “Well, Perturabo has given us the order.” Grimedomus looked at his captain, the relish of being in the thick of it shone in his eyes. “Already? That was quick.” Apollyon, whose eyes were as red as fresh embers from the forges of Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands Legion, looked at the walls. “He wants this done, just like the rest of us. You all know your orders and positions. Go to them and let’s begin.” His lieutenants nodded and they walked away, all except one. He was clad, like Valdarius, in terminator armor, but bore the mark of the Honor Guard upon his right shoulder guard. “Apollyon, where shall we be?” Apollyon looked at Valdarius’s brother, Keltorion, and grinned before donning his helm on, his voice coming out as a vox growl before replying. “Well Keltorion, we will be at the gates to smash them down to slaughter these fools.”


As the Titan Deis Ventor and its sister Titans moved into position, Apollyon stood on top of a Land Raider along with Keltorion and the others of his Terminator Honor Guard, watching and waiting. He helms vox crackled with a voice, saying “Apollyon. Deis Ventor is in position to unleash the wrath of the Emperor and the Primarch.” Apollyon nodded and replied, “Then fire Princeps.” He didn’t expect a reply, just the heat of the plasma annihilator and hellstrom cannon thunderous sound. As they happened, all three Titans opened fire, blowing massive chunks out of the wall and buildings. Apollyon looked at Keltorion. “Alright! There is a breach right next to the gate!! Let’s move!” Keltorion and the other Terminators nodded and climbed into the Land Raider behind Apollyon, who nodded to the driver to make for the breach. As the Land Raider moved, Apollyon climbed up and took hold of the heavy bolter mount, due to he was in the only one in power armor, and turned to face the wall, giving the Land Raider some covering fire. Once they got close to the wall, Apollyon pulled the trigger, the dual heavy bolters opening up, peppering the enemy defenders with rock shrapnel and bolter rounds, tearing the defenders and wall apart alike. He only stopped upon reaching the breach and he climbed down and out, drawing his two blades of the blackest obsidian, their edge sharp enough to cut through adamantium. He ran through the breach, his Terminator retinue following him in, there storm bolters firing and tearing everything apart in sight. Apollyon rushed forward, noticing the defenders armor. They wore armor of the deepest crimson and edged in silver trim. Their helmets, which only covered the top part of their heads and faces, was molded to match their face, leaving the front part of the neck and chin exposed. The defenders, which by a quick glance had different units, like the Astartes. The bulkier defenders were armed with heavy weapons, which didn’t go through the armor of the Adeptus Astartes. They also had units that carried a variety of combat weapons ranging from swords and daggers to spears and heavy axes. Apollyon side stepped one of their polearms as the defender attempted to impale the Astartes. Apollyon then grabbed the shaft of the spear, yanking it out of the defenders grip, reversing the spear and impaled the defender on his own weapon. He then ran past the fallen defender, slashing with both of his obsidian black blades as he ran, heading to the palace. His Terminator honor guards followed, their storm bolters hitting their targets, causing the defenders to bust like a bloody blister from the explosive bolter rounds. Apollyon spoke into his vox, “Grimedomus! You and your squad get on the roof of the palace and begin the attack! I will be joining you shortly!” Grimedomus, who was on the wall still with his assault squads, vox clicked his acknowledgement and he took to the air on his jump pack, as did the other assaulters under his command. Apollyon then spoke into the vox once more. “Valdarius! Bring up the Devastators and all other units to the palace! The defenders are converging on the palace!” Valdarius replied in his deep voice, the voice sounding like a deep rumbling of thunder or the roar of a Land Raiders engines. “As you command Captain. All units are moving up, with the Terminators right behind you.” Apollyon looked over his shoulder and smiled under his helm as he saw Valdarius and seven other terminators walked up to them, there armor burned in places from the enemies las weapons and Valdarius’s power claw was dripping with fresh blood. Apollyon nodded, then stood up, yelling, “Iron Within!” and his men around yelling back, “Iron Without!” and charged in, storm bolters and weapons alike fired, tearing massive chunks out of the pillars in front of the palace, dropping defenders like wheat under the scythe. Apollyon stabbed the closest defender through his helmet, the chips of broken teeth bouncing off his armor as he yanked his blade back out, the spray of blood landing on his armor as he spun to the right, cutting a defenders legs from the rest of his body. As the fighting progressed, more defenders joined the fighting, this time of the palace guard, whose armor was thicker than the heavy units, armed with crimson bladed broadswords and full faced helms. Apollyon smiled and ran forward through the hail of gun fire and explosives, his men laying heavy fire into the enemies. Once he was in the guards, he realized their armor was useless to Astartes weapons. He smiled, slashing left and right. Arms, legs, heads and bodies were cleaved by his blades and by his warrior’s guns and weapons. “Ajax! Use that plasma cannon on these doors!” He received a vox click from his plasma gunner as he took position, the ground shaking with each step from the Terminators steps. After a second, a bright beam of blue light flared from the cannon, slamming into the ornate doors of the palace, which buckled under the heat and power of the cannon. As the doors crashed to the ground, melted off their hinges, Apollyon charged in, his men following, it became a massacre as the defenders retreated, knowing the palace was lost. Apollyon attacked their backs, killing them as they ran. As Apollyon’s tactical squads cleaned up the inner part of the palace, he lead his Terminator guards to the throne room, which was guarded by fifty palace guards, the last remaining warriors in the city, making a heroic last stand. Apollyon smiled, crediting these warriors for their courageous yet foolhardy attempt. He nodded to Heldoris, the squads assault cannon bearer, who stepped forward and unleashed a hail of heavy bolter shells, tearing the palace guards to bloody pieces, there armor useless to such heavy fire, till they all dropped dead, the walls coated in their blood. Apollyon nodded. “Let’s pay this idiotic ruler a visit.”


Apollyon kicked the doors of the throne room open, to reveal a room completely empty and silent. As he and his Terminators walked in, he scanned the room, wondering why the guards were guarding a room with no one in it. “Keep your eyes open and your guard up. Anything can hap-.” Before he finished speaking, Apollyon was knocked backwards by a force he did not see. As he stood up, he saw the rest of the defenders, which were the cities civilians, armed with all manners of weapons. He saw shovels, sickles, hammers, pitch forks and anything else the civilians could get a hold of. Some were armed with las rifles and some pistols. Apollyon laughed, the laugh coming as a vox growl through his helms grill. Then he looked to see where the force that knocked him over came from. He then founded it, a man clothed in thick armor, as thick as the palace guards, but more ornate and decorated than any other of the defenders armor. The man had named himself Zendonia, the self-proclaimed “Emperor” of Four Sixteen. Apollyon advanced towards Zendonia, who was armed with two long swords, each as long as Apollyon’s arm. “Why did you fight us? Why couldn’t you have left us alone?!” Apollyon shook his head at the mortal’s nativity. “Your ways of living went against the ways of the Imperium. Plus, we did not know if you would attack any Imperial held world.” Zendonia shook his helmed head, his face twisted in anger. “That still doesn’t give you the right to annihilate an entire civilization!” Apollyon crossed his obsidian black blades, aimed at Zendonia, and sighed. “We do. You defied the true Emperor of Mankind and declared war on us. We have every right to annihilate your civilization of lies and blasphemies.” Without speaking any further, Apollyon rushed forward, his obsidian blades at his side, ramming Zendonia into the throne, knocking him off balance. But, Zendonia countered, swinging one of his swords at the charging Astartes, attempting to put as much distance between the hulking Astartes and himself. Apollyon grinned and stepped to his left dodging the blade and sliced through the man’s right sword arm, lacerating the wound from the heat of the power weapon. Zendonia gripped the stump of his arm, leaving Apollyon with the opening he needed and leapt forward, slicing downward with both weapons, severing his head from the rest of his body, the arterial spray from the wound spray upward, coating the ground around him slick with blood. Apollyon then voxed to the whole company. “44th, the target is eliminated. Status reports?” Valdarius spoke first. “Apollyon, the market district is secured.” Then Grimedomus answered. “Upper levels of the palace are cleared out, as well as the hab blocks and space port.” Apollyon nodded, and then Keltorion spoke to him directly. “The entire cities population has be reduced to the last man. No one else lives. Perturabo’s orders have been carried done to the letter.” Apollyon nodded, pulling his helm free from his head. “Then send in the iterators and the remembrancers.” Keltorion replied. “The remembrancers are already down. Several have already caught you at work in their picters and in sketches.” Apollyon looked. “Really? Who sanctioned that?” Keltorion shook his helmed head. “No one knows. All the companies are the same way. Plus, you have received a nickname from the remembrancers.” Apollyon fully turned to look at his senior honor guard. “Which would be?” Keltorion chuckled before speaking. “They call you the Black Butcher.” Apollyon laughed the laugh deep and rough. “‘Black Butcher’? I like it.”


Once the Battle for Galmothia was finished, the 44th returned to the main encampment of the Iron Warriors to resupply and rest till the Legion left this world to go onto the next. Imperial Commander Devora Termor of the IVth Expedition Fleets Imperial Army Units was picked by the General of the Imperial Army units attached to the 4th Expedition Fleet, who was General Falcono Gentori, to become Planetary Governor of Four Sixteen. Compliance had been achieved and the Iron Warriors were needed elsewhere. Upon the Mechanicum’s retrieving all the Titans, the IV Legion left Four Sixteen and made for new coordinates. But, before they made the jump into the Warp, Perturabo received a message from the Emperor himself. Horus had turned his back, upon his sworn oaths to the Imperium and was worshiping the foul ways of Chaos. They were ordered to Isstvan V, where the traitor Horus and his legions that turned with him faced against the loyalist legions. But, they wouldn’t be going to support the Loyalists, but to support Horus and his legions for Perturabo had already fallen to the honeyed whispers of the Chaos Gods. Armed with the force hammer Horus gave to him, Perturabo lead his fleet to Isstvan V, ready to knock the False Emperor off his throne for failing to see his talents.


The Battle Barge, Iron Scion, came from the warp as a spear thrown through the stars. Its gunmetal hull was shining from the warp residue and the Geller fields powering down. It had enough firepower to level entire city blocks and to eradicate an entire planet to dust. It was the ship belonging to the Iron Warriors 44th Grand Company. In the practice cages in the depths of the Scion, Apollyon was sparring with servitor whose six arms ended with blades sharp as his obsidian sword blades. He sided stepped to the left his back facing the cage’s hemisphere as he evaded one of the servitor’s bladed arms and smirked and rushed forward, slamming the blade of his sparring sword through the servitor’s face and instantly ended the servitor’s life. “You know Techmarine Androcus is not going to like you defiling the servitors like this. That is the sixth one in less than three hours.” Spoke Valdarius, who was in the legion robes, not hiding his massive frame. “He will get over it V. This is what the servitors are made for are they not? I have seen you destroy a many servitors yourself.” Apollyon replied, tossing the sparring sword to the floor, it skidding across the adamantium floor and stopping against a bench as Apollyon picked up a towel from a rack and wiped the sweat off his scarred and muscular body. “I might have Apollyon, but I did it for a purpose, not for a release of my choler. What has you humors so out of balance old friend?” Apollyon sighed and sat on the bench as Valdarius stood in front of him, his arms crossed over his chest. “That the Emperor turned his back on us and went back to Terra while we die in his name on worlds that no one is going to remember. We have remembrancers crawling all over our ships, setting up rotting pits on our glorious vessels of war. We wage war for the Emperor who is on Terra, taking the glory of the blood we spilt and lost. He isn’t a leader. He is a tyrant hungry for power who only cares for himself. Horus will make a better Emperor than he ever did.” Valdarius sat there in silence after Apollyon finished his rant for a few minutes before speaking, his lips forming an evil grin, “The Emperor will be toppled from his throne and Horus shall reign as the true Emperor of Mankind. We shall be the praetorians of the Imperial Palace on Terra for Horus has seen our talents are superior to those of the Imperial Fists.” Apollyon nods as he walks to his arming chamber and begins to prepare for the battle on Isstvan V. Valdarius leans on the wall and asks, “Shall I order the word for the 44th to prepare for battle?” Apollyon nodded his answer and Valdarius walked away.


The bridge of the Iron Scion was bustling with activity and the figure who sat in the command throne of the vessel looked only at the view screen that was focused on Isstvan V and the fleets surrounding the planet. “I want all lance batteries at the ready and all missile tubes prepped for action corporal.” The mortal bowed at the waist and took off the relay the orders. Captain Centurios Jugtoris of the Iron Warriors Legion returned his steel cold gaze back at the view screen and smiled. Another Astartes in full warplate walked up to Centurios and banged his fist to his chestplate. “Lord, the 44th is ready and Apollyon has ordered you to be present at the briefings.” Centurios looked over at the Astartes and grinned. “Artaxias, it is good to see you’re still alive. Any particular reason why I was ordered instead of requested?” Artaxias, whose black beard was braided into eight strands while his brow was marked with the eight pointed star, smiled and a glint shone in his eyes. “Because he knows if he requested you, you would tell him to shove it and that you’re needed here on the bridge.” Centurios chuckled, which sounded as if an orbital bombardment had begun. “You know me too well Artaxias. But that is true. Ever since Four Twelve, Apollyon has been different. He used to joke with any of the crew and even me. But he changed on that campaign and I cannot figure out what changed him.” Artaxias was silent as Centurios finished speaking. Centurios looked over at his old comrade, but knew better than to ask Artaxias about it for he was oath bound not to speak of Four Twelve. “Well, tell the good captain I will be present at the briefings.” Artaxias nodded and bowed and left the bridge. Centurios looked back at the view screen and knew that whatever changed Apollyon, it also changed the other members of his command squad.


Several hours later after all the briefing ad preparing, the battle on Isstvan V had begun with the Salamanders, Raven Guard and a small detachment from the Iron Hands, all lead by their Primarchs, fought against the World Eaters, Emperors Children, Death Guard and the Sons of Horus. The loyalist expected reinforcements from the Night Lords, Word Bearers and the Iron Warriors but they would be betrayed and slaughtered down to the last warrior.


Apollyon strode down the ramp of his Thunderhwak and watched his Iron Warriors began to erect barriers of plasteel bunkers and metal walls, in appearance of reinforcing the landing site the loyalist had used to land. Apollyon looked over at Valdarius. “Gather all Terminators, including the honor guard and position them in the middle, with you at the head. I want the Sons of Corax to be slain down to the last man.” Valdarius nodded and stalked off, the ground shaking with every step he took to gather the Terminators. Apollyon looked over to the battle, smiling under his helm and he looked over to his champion of his company and spoke directly to him through a secure vox channel. “Andreas, I want you to take the most veteran and combat harden of our warriors and form on either side of the Terminators, with you next to Valdarius. Understood?” Andreas simply inclined his head and walked off to do as he was ordered. Andreas, born of Olympia, never spoke with words but instead with his deep crimson broadsword. Apollyon then walked over to the only warrior in his company whose battle prowess exceled even his skills and when he spoke, he spoke with respect and honor to the warrior. “Artaxias. I need you to stand with me and the Honor Guard.” Artaxias, whose armor born the marks of countless warlords and petty rulers he had slain and he wielded two scimitars of blackest black and he bowed his head to Apollyon. “Your wish is my command, my lord.” Apollyon nodded and walked back to stand on a plasteel platform surrounded by lascannon turrets and his warriors. One of his warriors, whose armored forearms were covered in chains that ended in scythe-like blades and all manner of tribal markings and bowed his head. “My lord, we are in position and ready to kill these pathetic warriors of the False-Emperor.” Apollyon smiled once more and nodded. “Thank you Nikator.” Nikator nodded and walked away, barking orders to his squad. “Sire, I suggest you prepare for war, the battle has splintered and Raven Guard and some Salamanders flee to us, while the Iron Hands foolishly surround there Primarch on the field of battle.” Spoke Pantheras, Sergeant of the companies Scout squads. Apollyon nodded his answer only and Pantheras vanished just as he appeared. Apollyon raised his hand to the coming Raven Guard, who was marked as a Captain of the 56th Company and he spoke through the opened vox link. “Brother, how fairs the fighting?” The Raven Guard captain spoke, “The fighting has been fierce brother. But I am glad that you have come to reinforce us.” Apollyon chuckled and spoke under his breathe, “You think that you pathetic meat sack.” The Raven Guard captain paused in his advance as he heard Apollyon speak those words and by the time he realized what was going on, it was too late. “Kill every last one of them my brothers.” Spoke Apollyon as the order was given.


The Raven Guard captain, whose name has been lost through the ages, died before drawing his chainsword by a flash of a las beam as the loyalist were cut down like wheat under the scythe as the Iron Warrior’s opened fire upon them. Nikator was in the center of it all, his armor slicked with the blood and gore of the Sons of Corax, his scythe chains reaping a devastating toll upon them as he whipped the chains around, ripping the Raven Guard to meaty pieces. Elsewhere, Pantheras and his Scouts sniped the ones trying to flee the massacre at the drop site, making sure none lived to tell the tale. Standing next to Apollyon, Artaxias killed left and right, his scimitars ablaze with power and the steaming blood as it was burned off the blades. He laughed as one of the Raven Guard tried to stab at him, which Artaxias easily parried and beheaded the Astartes with a fluid motion of his scimitar. All the while Geltorion, the companies Standard Bearer, fired into the masses with his bolt pistol, popping off head shots when he sighted a bare head within the iron sights of his bolt pistol, smiling all the while. In the center of the Iron Warriors line, Valdarius and all the terminators were reaping a bloody toll upon the loyalist, who were dwindling between the Iron Warriors and the Word Bearers who stood with them, and Valdarius’s power claw shone with power as the blood dripped off the tips of his claws and it burned as the power around it buzzed. Apollyon was the only one who was silent during the battle, while his warriors screamed to the Dark Gods and cursed the False Emperor, he killed with deathly silence. “Valdarius, begin the push” Valdarius vox clicked his response as the terminators walked forwarded, there weapons still ablaze as the Raven Guard were pushed back as the entire Iron Warrior’s line advanced. “Blood for the Blood God!!!” yelled Nikator as he slaughtered more of the Raven Guard, who were turning and fleeing from the Iron Warrior’s brutal attack. “These warriors aren’t even a challenge.” spoke Apollyon as he rams one of his obsidian blades through the chest of a Salamander before ripping it out and kicking the dead Astartes to the ground. He looked and motioned to his honor guard, which was comprised of Nikator, Artaxias, Geltorion, and two others. The first was Thain, born on Olympia as most of the 44th was and wielded two power axes now, his plasma cannon long since dead on the fields of planet Four-Ten, both slick with gore as were all the warriors armor. The second was a warrior who took a vow of silence, the reason unknown to Apollyon, and wielded a storm bolter and a power sword. His name was Alkash the Huntsman and the Defiler. “Alright, we need to push forward! The Sons of Corax are halting our advance! Converge on me, I will take point!” yelled Apollyon and the others simply nodded and followed there captain as he rushed forward, his blades dancing in and out of the loyalist guards and sliced open neck piping and arms fell to the ground severed and cauterized from the heat of his power swords. Apollyon spotted Andreas and his veteran warriors fighting back to back as the Raven Guard attack them on all sides. But the Raven Guard were the ones to fall, not Andreas and his warriors. He saw that Valdarius and the terminators had cut a swathe through the Raven Guard and had begun to attack their backs as the Raven Guard were being smashed on two sides. Apollyon avoided the Word Bearers, despite they were on the same side, but due to they had embraced the ways of the Dark Gods and had let the Daemons mutate and manifest in their bodies. Daemons thought Apollyon. At one time I would have never said that word. But times have changed. Oh how they have changed. Apollyon lead his command squad through the Raven Guard ranks, killing left and right, soaking the muddied ground with the blood of the slain as their armor went from gunmetal silver to deep red, almost black from the gore and blood of their kills. Apollyon ducked under a whirling chainsword of a Raven Guard sergeant before he impaled the Astartes on his obsidian power swords and tossing him aside like a ragdoll. Apollyon turned and saw a captain of the Raven Guard killing his troops with swipes of his power broadsword. “Artaxias! Handle the captain!” Artaxias nodded and ran forward, his black scimitars held out at his sides as he barreled into the captain, bringing a scimitar up and ripping a gouge out of the Raven Guard captain’s armor. The captain roared in defiance “You fools! You turn you backs on the Emperor by listening to false teachings!” Artaxias laughed through his vox grill of his helm and charged, battering the captain’s broadsword from his hands and spun around on his heel and decapitated the Raven Guard with a clean sweep of his blade. “The captain has been neutralized Apollyon.” Apollyon nodded and looked over to where Andreas was. “Andreas! Take a couple of men and hunt down the cowards who ran from the fight, make sure none of them escape to tell of the heresy that happened on this day.” Ordered Apollyon as Andreas nodded and jogged off with a couple of Iron Warriors to carry out the orders. “What now Captain?” asked Artaxias, who stood with the rest of the command squad around their commander, helms still on. “Now, we make for Terra.”


Once the battle for Isstvan V had ended, the Iron Warriors loaded onto their vessels and awaited the orders of the Warmaster. Apollyon stood on the command deck on the Iron Scion, looking through the view point in full wargear once more after attending to it and cleaning the gore and blood off his armor. Another Captain walked up and stood next to Apollyon, whose armor was the deepest crimson and bore the symbol for the Blood Angels Legion. Apollyon looked over at the Blood Angel and nodded. “Brother Captain Seruvio, it is a for you to be seconded to us and to see the error of the False Emperor.” Captain Seruvio Fegoris, Captain of the Blood Angels 12th Company, returned the nod and smiled. “It is an honor to be with the Sons of Perturabo and to bring glory to the Dark Gods. My warriors are yours to command Apollyon.” Apollyon inclined his helmed head to the Captain as he returned his gaze to the planet they were in orbit above. “There’s a officers meeting in the war chamber in five. Be there with your company officers so we can plan our attack.” Spoke Apollyon and Seruvio banged his fist into his chestplate and bowed and turned and walked away to gather his officers. Valdarius walked out of the shadows in full terminator war plate and walked over to Apollyon, his tusked helm in the crook of his right arm. “Finally, we bring enlightenment to the foolish that follow the Corpse God so diligently.” Apollyon nodded in agreement and looked over at his old friend. “True my comrade. I will see you in the war chamber.” Valdarius turned and walked off, heading to the war chamber. Apollyon stood on the bridge and walked up to where Centurios sat and he looked at the old ship commander. “Centurios. I know you have questions and I have the answers to those questions.” Centurios looked at Apollyon with silver eyes and nodded. “I want to know what happened to the Apollyon I knew before Four-Twelve. I want to know what happened to you and the command squad on the wretched planet.” Apollyon nodded and sighed before telling the tale.


“It all started as soon as we landed. We had formed battle formations and we had started for the war zone to assist the 562nd Imperial Army regiment that had been sent to eliminate the rebels and the target command structure that had fled from the capital city. But what we encountered wasn’t regular rebels...” Centurios looked at the captain with confusion. “But the reports state...” “It is what I was told to report old friend. Perturabo told me that is what I was to report that the rebels where heavily fortified and dug in deep. But that isn’t what happened. As we approached the fortified stronghold, we hear hissing and we thought it was from the vox. But the soldiers who were not wearing voxs could hear the hissing as well. We ignored it, treating it as enemy propaganda and we advanced forward, with Valdarius and the Terminators on the front lines, cleansing the fortifications with their weapons. But once we got inside, the rebels had been... mutated. They had appendages in places that appendages shouldn’t have been and they had strength that no mortal man should have. I watched as Keltorion was ripped apart, while in full Terminator plate, by a mortal man. A mortal man Centurios. Those rebels where possessed by daemons.” Centurios looked at Apollyon with shock and confusion. “Daemons? Apollyon do you know what you are saying?” Apollyon looked at his old friend and nodded slowly. “I do Centurios. I know it sounds crazy but I know what I saw in that stronghold on Four-Twelve. I saw it on Isstvan V in the Word Bearers. It was the same as Four-Twelve! That’s what changed me and the command squad and the entire company comrade. We saw things that we thought never even existed and had been lied about. The Emperor lied to us Centurios. It is time we had a leader who told us the truth and that can actually lead us. The Warmaster Horus is that leader and I will be there when he topples the False Emperor from his Golden Throne. We will be known for our talents that were overlooked for the Imperial Fists.” Centurios nodded and looked at Apollyon and smiled “You changed, but for the good. Let us bring the light to the lost brother.”


The Iron Scion stayed in orbit while the rest of the Warmasters forces broke orbit and made for Terra. The 44th had been ordered to be part of strike force that would arrive later to capture a key location on Terra that Perturabo had told Apollyon “Only the 44th have the iron will and the steel determination to capture this objective.” So there they were, along with several strike forces from the Night Lords Legion and the World Eaters Legion. Apollyon had been invited aboard the Night Lords lead vessel, the Desolate Terror, along with his command squad for a briefing of each of the objectives. Apollyon and his squad were taken over by his Thunderhawk and upon landing in the Terror’s launch bay, they were greeted by a retinue of midnight clad Astartes who bore the bat winged skull on their left shoulder guards and also bore the mark of Honor Guard on their right under the squad numbers they were pulled from and in their midst stood the Captain of the Night Lords strike force. His armor was midnight clad, like his Honor Guard, there trim gold as their commanders, but his armor was different. His helmet bore scars of battle and had a set of horns protruding from the side of his helmet. He wore a cloak of the blackest black and he had all manner of trophies hanging from his belt and shoulder guards. His chestplate bore a skull with the eight pointed star burned into its forehead and its eyes glowed now and then. His sword was what caught Apollyon’s eye first. The sword, sheathed in a crimson scabbard, pulsed with ruinous powers and the blade itself within the sheath was curved and it appeared to be double bladed but Apollyon couldn’t tell for sure but he recognized the captain by a more keen detail about the captains’ armor. The captains’ armor for the left hand was not a normal power armor glove but a fist with claws instead of fingers that glowed an eerie red that reflected off his armor and Apollyon smiled. “Captain Crenor Natun. Captain of the Night Lords 72nd Company. It has been awhile since we have crossed paths.” Crenor Natun, whose helm was clipped to his belt, smiled and revealed several metallic razor sharp teeth that replaced several he had lost to an Ork’s shoota round. “Captain Apollyon. Captain of the Iron Warriors 44th Grand Company. It is good to see you haven’t passed on from this life of war and glory we fight in. How are Gregor and Salvadorian?” Apollyon smiled and nodded. “Salvadorian will survive. But Gregor has been placed into the sarcophagus of a Dreadnought to fight for the glory of the True Imperium.” Crenor nodded and smiled “They both live, which is a good thing for we will need them both. I see you have two new members of your command squad. What happened to Apothecary Jormaru?” Apollyon looked down before responding. “Jormaru was killed on Four-Ten by a xenos.” Crenor bowed his head. “What a shame. Jormaru was an old friend.” Apollyon nodded in agreement and then looked at his Apothecary and the other member who just joined the command squad. “This is Apothecary Urukeme and this is Allask.” Both banged their hands on their chestplates before nodding to the other captain and Crenor bowed his head. “A honor. It is now time to meet the other Captain of this strike force for we all will be attacking the same objective, as I have just learned via communications with my Primarch. The Warmaster wants to be sure that we keep the objective once we gain control of it.” Apollyon nodded and walked next to Crenor as their honor guards removed their helms and began to converse amongst themselves as they headed to meet the World Eaters captain in the war chamber.


Apollyon walked next to Crenor as they headed to the war chamber and breathed in the familiar scent of a vessel of void war. “How has your campaigns been old comrade?” asked Apollyon as they rounded a corner and passed a couple of chapter serfs who bowed to the two captains as they walked. “Bloody and long brother. Curze has kept us busy since the campaign on Four-Seven. We have gone from planet to planet, razing them to the ground and killing most of the populace and leaving behind a regiment of the Imperial Army that is attached to our fleet and we move on. Some planets we have visited are nothing but husks of their former selves from our rampage. Many simply dropped their weapons and surrendered as soon as our fleets enter their orbit. But many fired upon us and we have lost battle-brothers on many worlds, but their sacrifice has not been in vain.” Apollyon nodded in agreement as they walked. “Ours have been the same. Were you present on Isstvan V?” Crenor nodded as they rounded another corner. “Aye I was comrade. I watched as the pathetic ones who stayed loyal to the False Emperor turn tail and run as our guns slew them where they stood.” Apollyon nodded once more and they stopped in front of a door that presumably leads to the war chamber. Upon entering the room, Apollyon stopped when he saw the World Eaters captain. His armor, solid white with the shoulder guards trimmed in blue, bore scars of battles on many planets and his face a map of campaigns fought in. He had two chain axes on his back and a series of combat knives all over his person. “Apollyon, meet Captain Kratoin, Captain of the World Eaters 89th Company.” Kratoin, whose head was shaved clean and had several studs above each eyebrow, banged his fist against his warplate and nodded. “Captain Apollyon. Your name is drawn from an ancient language. A very powerful name as well.” Apollyon smiled and nodded, returning the gesture. “Many thanks Kratoin. Your name is well known within the ranks of my Company when Tygerico served as the 44th’s Captain and who fought alongside of you and your men.” Kratoin smiled and took his seat as the other two followed suit. “Ah Tygerico. He was a good man. Shame he died from a wound from the back. I know though the 44th has become a favorite of Perturabo.” Apollyon nodded and smiled as well before Crenor spoke. “With the pleasantries out of the way, we will discuss our objective.” He then proceeded to punch in a code into the High Gothic keypad that activated a miniature hololithical display of Terra. “As you see, we are only a few months away Terra. While the bulk of our forces siege the Imperial Palace, we will be assaulting a different position.” He punched another sequence into the keypad and the map zoomed in on one area and Apollyon narrowed his eyes and smiled. “We are charged with taking the spaceport. But won’t that be a heavily guarded position?” Crenor smiled as Apollyon asked this and he nodded. “It will but we will be able to break it. It is mainly guarded by Imperial Army but there are some Titans stationed there as well. But we have between our forces roughly eight Titans. We can capture the spaceport with ease. But holding it will be the difficult part. The reason why is due to when they realize they have lost the space port, they will send any soldiers that can be spared to assault us.” Kratoin smiled and looked at the two captains. “This will be a glorious fight my brothers. We will make the streets slick with their blood as we slaughter them with our guns and our blades. I request leading the charge on the space port since my men and I specialize in this type of assault.” Crenor nodded in agreement. “I will make the back bone of Kratoin’s assault. The Terminators are growing restless, especially Valdarius.” Crenor nodded again. “Then I will make the flanks. I will tell all the princeps what they are supposed to do. I ask you both return your companies and prepare them for the war ahead. For it will be a bloody one and a hard one.” Apollyon nodded and arose with Kratoin and Crenor and they shook with the warriors embrace before they went their separate ways.


Apollyon and his command squad boarded their Thunderhawk and went back to the Iron Scion as the meetings had been finished and the Desolate Terror had begun preparing for the transition from Isstvan V to Terra as Captain Crenor commanded. Captain Kratoin and his warriors returned to his strike cruiser the Bloody Gauntlet and also prepared to make for Terra. Apollyon looked at Centurios and nodded. “Prepare to enter the Warp.” Centurios nodded and gave the order to activate the warp drives and to raise the Geller field. Apollyon looked out of the view screen as the black of the space around them slowly began to change and it became a swirl of colors as the Warp engulfed them as they entered it, heading for Terra. “Now we wait.” Spoke Apollyon as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Aye we do old friend. I will have all lance batteries and missile tubes ready to fire before we leave the Warp.” Apollyon nodded and he listened as Valdarius walked onto the bridge, the humming of his terminator armor easy to hear. “What will my position be in the assault upon the space port Apollyon?” The captain looked over at his friend with his red eyes and looked back at the viewscreen. “You will be with the World Eaters on the front lines, showing them how the Iron Warriors are in charging assaults.” Valdarius, who was bare headed at this moment, smiled and the scars on his face moved with it. “I relish this opportunity sire. Who all will be standing with me?” Apollyon never took his gaze from the viewport. “All the terminators will be with you Valdarius. The rest of the company will not be far behind the World Eaters.” Valdarius paused before responding. “All the terminators? But what about your Terminator honor guard? Will you not need them?” Apollyon still didn’t look at Valdarius. “I will have the command squad with me. I will be well protected.” Valdarius simply nodded and looked out of the viewport as well. “Gregor is fully functioning in the sarcophagus of his new body. He wishes to speak with you.” Reported Valdarius and Apollyon nodded and turned on his heel and headed to where Gregor would be waiting for him.


The Hall of the Fallen was located on the starboard side of the Scion and when Apollyon entered into the hall, he slowed his pace down as he looked upon the walls where names were etched into obsidian plaques and he recognized many of the names upon the plaques and he bowed his head in reverence as he approached the bulky shape near the Halls viewing ports. “Gregor. I see you have taken to the sarcophagus of the Contemptor rather quickly.” Gregor, whose gunmetal plate was incorporated into the Contemptors armor, looked at his captain and laughed, though it came out as a growl from his vox grill. “I knew that I would be entombed in this metal frame before I ended my service. I wish to ask you a favor Captain.” Apollyon was stunned that an Ancient of the chapter, which Gregor was before he entered the sarcophagus of a dreadnought, would ask something of him. “What is it you wish Ancient?” Gregor turned and looked down at his captain through blue helmet lenses. “I want to be part of the force sent with the World Eaters on the first wave.” Apollyon smiled and nodded. “Granted old friend.” Gregor nodded and turned back to look out the viewport, his autocannons primed and ready unleash their devastating wrath upon the lackeys of the False Emperor. “That is all I ask. Now I must prepare for the war ahead.” With that Apollyon nodded and walked away, leaving the Ancient alone so he could prepare himself for combat.


Three weeks after leaving Isstvan V, Apollyon stood upon the bridge once more with Centurios sitting upon his throne, his dark gunmetal armor shining in the bridges light. “We have received a transmission from Captain Crenor. It was hard to understand all he said but we basically understand that we are not far now from our destination. One to two more weeks and we will be there. He has also received communications from Primarch Curze that when we arrive, the siege will be just starting and it will be the perfect distraction for us to use to assault the space port.” Apollyon grinned and nodded. “Excellent. The men grow restless from not being in the thick of it with their brothers in arms. Do we have any word from Kratoin?” Centurios shook his head and sighed deeply. “We have received no communications from the Captain of the World Eaters. Either he has chosen not to speak with us or he has been claimed by the perils of the Warp.” Apollyon didn’t move or respond as he heard this. He prayed that Kratoin was still alive, along with his men for they were the key to the assault on the spaceport. “Let’s hope that Kratoin is simply ignoring us and wishes to be separate from us till we reach Terra. I want to be notified when we receive any transmission regardless who sent it. Understood commander?” Centurios nodded and Apollyon walked over the bridge and went to the firing range that was on the Scion. When he had reached the range, he realized he was not alone. He walked down till he saw that Allask and Thain were there, firing their bolt pistols into the targets and Apollyon simply watch as both Astartes fired single shots into the targets and he saw most of the rounds go through the head and chest area. When they had finish firing, Apollyon stepped out of the shadows and spoke. “I see at least two of my command squad are honing their skills with the bolt pistol.” Both Thain and Allask turned and bowed their heads at Apollyon before responding. “We know we will be fighting against other Astartes like on Isstvan V. We want to be prepared. Artaxias and Nikator are in the practice cages while Geltorion is preparing your standard. Urukeme is in the Apothecarium prepping as well. Alkash is sharpening his power sword. My power axes are ready to spill blood once more captain.” Spoke Thain before slamming home new a clip into his bolt pistol. Allask spoke next. “My sniper rifle is ready to rain death upon the enemy as are my blades.” Apollyon nodded and stepped up next to his squad mates and lifted his bolt pistol in a fluid motion and emptied the clip, which formed a semi heart shape in the center of his target. “Good. For we will be going into the jaws of death and hell itself. I want the entire company on drilling exercises and honing their skills. Understood?” Thain and Allask both nodded as Apollyon turned and left the firing range and went back to the command bridge and stayed there the rest of the journey.


The Iron Scion exited the warp like a gunmetal projectile thrust into the warp like a spear of old. The geller field slowly faded away upon being powered down as the Scion slowly prowled forward towards its destination. “Are all lance batteries and missile tubes primed and ready to fire Commander?” asked Apollyon as he looked from the viewport to Centurios. “All weapons are primed and ready Captain. Crenor and Kratoin are in position and await our acknowledge that we are ready to assault and land our troops on the surface.” Reported Centurios as he punched in a coordinate into the keypad imbedded into the left arm of his command throne. Apollyon nodded and spoke once more. “Send Crenor and Kratoin that we are ready to begin the assault. Alert all battle operating personal to prepare the hangers for landing operations when we finish the void battle.” Centurios nodded and spoke the order to one of his subordinates who scurried off to relay the order. “We will make the streets run thick with the blood of our enemies and their war machines will feel our wrath of our guns and the bite of our blades.” Centurios smiled and nodded in agreement and he then received an acknowledgement rune from Crenor. “The order has been given captain. We shall begin the assault.” Apollyon nodded and spoke. “Then let’s give them hell.”


The Iron Scion, Desolate Terror, and the Bloody Gauntlet moved as one unit as they headed to the other side of Terra to orbit above the spaceport. They did not need to fire a shot for the bulk of the traitors fleet was keeping the loyalist fleet occupied. Then as one, all three strike cruisers opened fire and began to bombard the ground around the spaceport. Then, as if an invisible signal had been given, all three ships disgorged their cargo and the battle for the Rikalos spaceport. During the landing, the ships carrying the warriors of Captain Seruvio Fergoris were all shot down. No one knows if the loyalist of the traitors killed them but one thing is for sure, the Blood Angels 12th Company was killed to the last man and erased from the chapters roster.


Apollyon stood behind the pilot of the Thunderhawk he was in as they made their way to a landing zone that would serve as a base and a launching point to assault the spaceport. His vox crackled to life as a deep voice spoke into it. “Apollyon. I will need to meet with you upon landing on the surface. We might have a situation.” Apollyon nodded and replied. “Understood Captain Crenor. I will meet with you as soon as I land.” Crenor simply vox clicked his acknowledgement and the line went dead. “Something is not right Captain. What could arise that would require a meeting of the captains?” asked Artaxias from his seat along the Thunderhawks passenger compartment. “I do not know. But we will find out soon enough.” The Thunderhawk banked to the right before straightening out and slowly began to descend and deployed the landing skiffs as it settled on the grounded and opened its ramp as it slammed into the ground with a dull clang. Apollyon was followed by his command retinue and he walked directly to where Crenor and Kratoin were standing. “Crenor. Kratoin. What is this situation you speak of?” Crenor looked at Apollyon and took a deep breath before responding. “The False Emperor has sent a small detachment of Custodians to help guard the spaceport.” Apollyon drew up for a second before cursing in Olympian his back alley ganger accent coming out. “How will we deal with them? They are equal if not better in skill compared to us.” Kratoin spoke next. “My champions and I will form a squad and go hunt these Hounds of the Emperor once we breach the spaceport.” Apollyon nodded. “May I send Gregor along with you to assist you and give you some heavy support?” Kratoin smiled and nodded. “It would be an honor to have Gregor fight alongside us once more.” Apollyon nodded and looked at the two captains. “There is something else isn’t their?” They both nodded before they spoke. “Well, what else is the problem?” asked Apollyon when neither Captain spoke. “It seems that a squad or two of Battle Sisters have been sent as well.” Apollyon’s blood began to run cold and he crossed his arms over his chest. “So we are facing both Custodians and Sisters of silence? Why were we not informed of these forces earlier?” Crenor simply shrugged his shoulders. “We do not know. But we found out about them on our way down here. So I will be leading some of my champions after the null maidens. This leaves you to lead the defense of the spaceport while we hunt down the hounds of the Corpse God.” Apollyon nodded. “So I will be leading what is left of both your forces and Kratoin’s forces as well?” Both captains nodded. “Excellent. I will use them to the fullest potential.” Replied Apollyon. “But first, we must take hold and keep the spaceport.”


After the meeting, all three captains assembled their company’s right outside the spaceport and they all had their war machines weaponry pointed at the gates. “We fire on my go Captains. Kratoin, when the gates fall, you rush in.” spoke Crenor over the vox channel. Kratoin simply vox clicked his acknowledgement and Apollyon stayed silent as he waited. “Sire, we have been requested to pull back and reform with the rest of the legion.” Spoke Artaxias as he walked back up from talking to the vox crewman attached to the company. Apollyon looked at Artaxias through his helm lenses. “Pull back and reform? Why would he order us to do that?” Artaxias shook his head. “The primarch didn’t order it. The Warmaster did.” Apollyon shook his head. “I do not answer to the Warmaster. I answer to our lord and Primarch only. We stay. If we leave now, both Crenor and Kratoin will be severely outnumbered and out gunned.” Artaxias nodded and joined the others as they all waited for the signal to commence the attack. Then, as one deep throaty roar, the war machines of the Night Lords fired as one, followed by the World Eaters and the Iron Warriors. Apollyon watched as devastation wrought upon the spaceports walls from their weapons and all of the firepower was centered on the gates of the port. Apollyon could hear the protests of the metal of the gates as the ordinance from their weapons pounded into the gates. “Tell Crenor to send in the Titans on both flanks. It will greatly speed the process up and it will also put the Titans into position to deal with the Titans that will show up soon.” Commanded Apollyon to the vox master who nodded and sent the message to Crenor, who vox clicked an acknowledgement and the ground shook as the Titans walked on both sides of the army and they added their massive firepower to the barrage on the gates. Apollyon smiled under his helm as he heard the gates scream their final death throes as they were torn off their hinges and crashed to the ground. “Glory to the Dark Gods!” roared Kratoin as he led the charge to the port, with his blood thirsty marines in suit. Apollyon grinned as he saw Gregor in the midst of the World Eaters, his assault cannons already spinning up to unleash hell on the defenders. “44th! Into the fray!” yelled Apollyon as he ran forward, his company following as they made the second wave of the charge, with Crenor making the flanks as they ran forward, bolters at the ready and weapons unsheathed as they closed in on their target. Apollyon could already hear the screams of the defenders as Kratoin and his World Eaters ripped into them, making mincemeat out of them. Apollyon looked to his right and saw the familiar golden plate of a Custodian as a squad embarked from the shadows to join the battle. “Artaxias! Nikator! Form on me! Let’s deal with the Custodians!” Both marines nodded and they followed Apollyon as he led them to where the Custodians were and as soon as they were in reach of them, the Custodians turned their attention to them and charged. Apollyon battered aside one of their halberds with one of his obsidian blades and Apollyon spun on his heel and slashed down at the Custodians exposed thigh only to have the attack parried by the shaft of the Custodians weapon. Apollyon then stepped back to avoid the stab of the halberd and he also parried a slashing attack. Then Apollyon rushed forward, knocking the Custodian off balance and giving Apollyon the opening he needed to repeatedly punch the Custodian in the faceplate, with the wet sound of breaking teeth and the caving in of the skull from the force of his punches. Apollyon then stood up and watched as Nikator whipped the Custodian he was fighting with the bladed chains he wore on his forearms and Apollyon could see countless trails of blood flowing from the battered Custodians armor. He then looked over at Artaxias who was easily handling the custodian he was facing. Apollyon then jogged forward, slicing his way through the mortal defenders, his armor becoming black from the gore and blood he was spilling and the streets were thick with blood. Apollyon spotted Kratoin in the middle of the fray, his once white armor now pink from the blood and he watched as his chain axes went up and down in a bloody arch of blood and flesh as he killed left and right, a pile of limbs and bodies piled around him. Apollyon avoided the World Eaters captain and fought his way through to Crenor who was firing his storm bolter into the masses as he and his honor guard held the center of the spaceport. Apollyon sheathed his blades and unslung his bolter and added his fire to the Night Lords and Crenor spoke over the vox. “It seems the Custodians and the Silent Sisters came to us. I saw the one you slain and Kratoin has obliterated several Custodians and Silent Sisters who dared faced him. I am avoiding him till he clams his humors.” Apollyon laughed and kept firing as he spoke. “I am in utter agreement with you brother. He has succumbed to his blood thirst and praises Khorne with every breathe and swing he takes.” Apollyon reloaded and opened fire once more. “Is it only me or does this seem to easy?” spoke Apollyon as he took the head of an Imperial Army sergeant clean off with a single round. “It is not just you. Valdarius is deep within the spaceport and he reports that the Imperial Army is heavily dug in and reinforced by several squads of Custodians. Plus they have a Venerable Dreadnought with them.” Apollyon cursed and kicked a defender back from the steps and fired once more. “How many has he lost?” Crenor shook his head. “None as of yet. But he is requesting reinforcement immediately.” Apollyon nodded and spoke into his vox, sending several devastator squads and even a Fellblade to assist and he gave them Valdarius’s coordinates. “That should suffice I think.” Crenor laughed and nodded and watched as the defenders fled towards a secondary location. “We must press on. We must not let them regroup to attack us. Kratoin! Assault their secondary position!” Kratoin yelled his response back and charged forward, leading his blood frenzied marines forward into the fray once more and the defenders opened fire, unleashing precision volleys of las fire into the World Eaters, but it did not stem the tide of blood thirsty warriors that assaulted them. Apollyon followed Crenor as they jogged behind the wave of World Eaters. Upon reaching the barricades, Apollyon saw nothing but blood and body parts strewn across the ground as the World Eaters moved forward, chasing the retreating defenders. “We need to bring Kratoin and his butchers to a heel.” Crenor nodded and spoke into the vox and Kratoin and his marines stopped and slowly but surely pulled themselves together and they were once again Adeptus Astartes. Kratoin walked over, pulling his helm free from his head and smiled, his white armor streaked with blood and gore. “A perfect day for slaughter and praising the Blood God.” Apollyon did not respond, but instead listened to his vox as Valdarius opened the link up. “Captain. Your presence has been requested.” Apollyon paused before answer. “Requested? Requested by whom?” Valdarius cleared his throat before speaking. “A Custodian. He says you two know each other.” Apollyon grinded his teeth together and answered. “I am on my way.” He looked at Kratoin and Crenor. “I will return. I believe you two have things under control.” Before the other two captains could respond, Apollyon and his command retinue jogged away and boarded a Rhino transport and went to where Valdarius was.


Upon reaching Valdarius’s location, Apollyon walked over to his second in command. “Where is he?” Valdarius jerked his helm to his left. “Over by the statue.” Apollyon nodded and walked over alone. Both sides had ceased firing and all eyes were on the gunmetal armored warrior who approached the golden armor warrior. The golden armored warrior, who stood under a broken statue of the Primarch Leman Russ, had his oceanic blue sword point first into the ground with his hands resting on the cross guard. His red horse hair plume fluttered in the window and his armor bore his name, which was concealed in place by overlapping plates, but Apollyon knew him by one name only. “Zalkoris. It has been quite some time since we have stood face to face.” Custodian Zalkoris looked up at Apollyon and laughed. “Aye it has been traitor. I knew you would come once your men saw me and the cease fire was given. I want to personally end you so I can look upon your dying face and tell you what a terrible mistake you have made.” Apollyon laughed, this laugh a deeper and darker than the Custodians. “Mistake? I have made no mistakes old friend. I have made a correct decision when I found out the False Emperor had been lying to us! Why do you still blindly follow him when he is no better than a petty liar!” Zalkoris ripped his sword from the ground and went into a fighting stance with his blade in front of him. “You will regret uttering those words heretic.” Apollyon knew the time for talk was over with and he drew his obsidian blades and prepared to fight. “You can try to comrade, but you will utterly fail.” Zalkoris did not respond and he charged, bringing his blade around in a one hundred degree slice at Apollyon’s midsection but Apollyon blocked with both blades and stepped back. He knew all eyes were on this battle. One of them would be left on the ground, their life faded and taken away from them and their soldiers moral would be sucked away and the other would be able to regroup and either take hold of the spaceport or to reclaim it. “You seem to be abit slower. Has the “Emperor” made you stop practicing your blade work?” Zalkoris shoved Apollyon back and rushed forward with a stabbing thrust. “No. I have been practicing. It seems you have slacking in your daily ritual of practicing.” Apollyon spun to the left and parried the thrust and kicked Zalkoris backwards. “I have been fighting xenos and heretics while you have sat on your laurels here on Terra doing nothing! I have shed blood for the “Emperor” while you have simply guarded him!” Apollyon roared and he charged forward, slashing with both blades, pushing Zalkoris back foot by foot. Then, Apollyon spotted the opening he needed and he stepped into Zalkoris’s guard and hammered the pommel of his right sword into the faceplate and pinned Zalkoris to the broken statue and dropped his blade. Apollyon rammed his left blade into Zalkoris’s abdomen and then slice the neck piping open, coating his helm in a arterial spray of crimson fluid. “You fought well Zalkoris but you were a fool to think you could kill me.” Apollyon looked over at Valdarius and nodded. “Alright! Open fire!” roared Valdarius through the vox speakers in his helm and the entire western side erupted in gun fire. Apollyon ran and jumped over the barricade and rolled. He stood up next to Valdarius, who was simply watching. “Well. That was interesting. I half expected you to go ahead and kill him out right, not dance around with him.” Apollyon chuckled and sheathed his blades. “I enjoyed it more. Plus Zalkoris deserved every bit of it.” Valdarius shrugged and drew his storm bolter and walked forward with the other Terminators and all of them opened fire as one unit peppering the defenders, who broke ranks quickly and ran away, only to be slaughtered by Apollyon’s warriors. “Apollyon looked at each of his retinue in turn. “Now we assault the heart of the spaceport. Gathering from Zalkoris’s armor, it seems he was stationed there before finding out I was here. Artaxias, I need you to contact Crenor and Kratoin and tell them to bring up the reserve forces and station them throughout the port and to move here to strike at the heart.” Artaxias nodded and jogged to the Rhino to get on the vox. Apollyon looked over his shoulder and watched as Valdarius and the other terminators cleaned up the last of the defenders. He then looked back and watched as Artaxias jogged back over to them. “Crenor and Kratoin are on their way Captain. The reserve forces have also moved up and are in position throughout the spaceport.” Apollyon nodded and he heard the rumble of Land Raiders and Rhinos. He heard the footsteps of thousands of warriors and the heard thuds of Dreadnoughts. He looked up and saw the massive forms of the Titans and the bulky form of Thunderhawks and Stormbirds as fresh supplies and Imperial Army regiments that had followed the steps of the Astartes that had turned on the Emperor. The final push for the spaceport had begun, but no one knew that a secret twist was about to arise.


Apollyon leaned against the broken statue, looking at the corpse of Zalkoris as Crenor and Kratoin walked over. “I see you killed another Custodian. A high ranking one as a matter of fact. What was his name?” Apollyon, whose helm was resting next to him, looked up. “It was Zalkoris.” Crenor lost his smile and Kratoin stiffened up. “Zalkoris you say? We are in a situation now. He was leading the Custodian forces here in the spaceport. The new leader should be Heltorian.” Apollyon stood up and strapped Zalkoris’s weapon across his back before dawning his helm back on. “Then I shall slay him as well.” Crenor gave Kratoin a side long glance. “Apollyon, you are living up to your nickname rather well.” Apollyon did not reply, but instead turned and walked away. “We have a spaceport to capture captains. We can discuss this later.” Crenor simply placed his helm back onto his head. Kratoin spat onto the ground and marched to join his warriors. Apollyon walked up the gang ramp of the Rhino. “Men. I have a bad feeling that something will happen when we reach the commanders building of the port. I want you all to keep your eyes on Crenor and Kratoin.” They all nodded and the gang ramp closed and the Rhino jerked forward as the Iron Warriors took the lead with the Night Lords taking the right flank and the World Eaters the left. Upon reaching the outer perimeter of the defenders base of operations, the defenders opened fire with gun nests and bunkers. The Iron Warriors opened fire with plasma cannons and heavy bolters and lascannons. Apollyon stood on top of his transport, arms crossed over his chest and his legs spread apart to secure his position on top of the rhino. “Artaxias, tell all Iron Warriors to disembark and attack on my signal.” Artaxias nodded and voxed all the warriors and stood by the vox, watching his captain. Apollyon drew his bolt pistol and turned to his right and aimed it over at Crenor. “Captain Crenor Natun. What are you and Kratoin planning against me?” Crenor looked over and spoke with venom. “You are undermining this entire operation! You seek to kill every person you face, gaining the glory while and Kratoin and I watch from the side lines!” Apollyon laughed and Nikator tossed him a second bolt pistol and he caught it and pointed it at Kratoin. “You both are unworthy of captaincy.” Before either of the other captains could draw their weapons, Apollyon fire twice, one from each pistol and claimed the lives of both captains. “Give the order.” Artaxias nodded and gave the order. Before the World Eaters or the Night Lords could realize what was going on, the Iron Warriors fired into them, killing many in the first few minutes before either force could react. Then, they were also assaulted by the defenders, killing them down to the last man. Apollyon laughed deeply and diabolically as he watched the carnage around him. “Primarch. The mission has been achieved. The strike force is ours now. Next orders?” Perturabo spoke with a laugh. “Capture the spaceport. Then hold it. We might need an escape route if this goes sour.” Apollyon nodded. “Yes my liege. It shall be done.” Perturabo cut the link and Apollyon jumped from the top of the Rhino and landed, his blades out to the side and he began to slice left and right with timed precision as his retinue followed, their weapons dancing a similar dance as their captains. Apollyon had sliced his away up the blood slicked steps as his warriors slaughtered the mortal defenders with ease. Then Apollyon spotted his target. The leading Custodian who had taken Zalkoris’s place. “Heltorian. You are mine.” Apollyon rushed forward, with Heltorian spotting him and rushed forward as well, his halberd held out to the side and fired with his bolt pistol. Apollyon swatted the bolts aside with his blades as he jumped up into the air and slammed his fist into the Custodian midsection, throwing the Custodian off balance and into a column. “You are the new commander? I have battled old women with more prowess than you.” Heltorian roared and pushed Apollyon back and sliced with the halberd. “You traitorous dog! I will remove your head for what you did to Zalkoris!” Apollyon laughed once more and parried the slice with ease, knowing he had enraged Heltorian to a point where he would make mistakes and leave his guard down. Apollyon parried the Custodians strikes left and right as he made stabbing thrusts and slashing attacks. Apollyon spun inside the custodians guard, locked the shaft of the halberd against his metal frame and drew Heltorian close before spearing him through the throat with his right sword, pinning the dying Custodian to the pillar. “You shame the Custodian order and the name of Zalkoris.” Apollyon ripped his blade out and let the corpse of Heltorian slump to the ground and he walked to the edge of the top step and lifted the blood soaked blade yelling. “Iron Within!” His men, their armor slicked with blood and gore returned the yell. “Iron Without!!” Apollyon nodded and walked back towards the doors and kicked them open and walked inside. As he walked, he notice the walls were bare and everything was gone. “Artaxias, order the fall back, no one is here.” Artaxias vox clicked and Apollyon walked out and down the steps. “What about the building sire?” Apollyon looked over his shoulder back at the building. “Burn everything. Our work is done. Now, we begin a new era of the Imperium.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.