|Date||005.M31 to 014.M31|
|Theatre||The Milky Way Galaxy|
|Status||Pyrrhic Imperial Victory|
|Chaos||Imperium of Mankind|
|Commanders and Leaders|
Aubrey The Grey
Inferox "The Burned King"
|The Emperor of Mankind|
Malcador the Sigilite
Alexandri of Rosskar
Onyx the Indestructible
|9 Space Marine Legions and supporting forces||9 Space Marine Legions and supporting forces|
|hundreds of thousands of Space Marines
approximately three trillion other military casualties
|hundreds of thousands of Space Marines|
approximately four and a half trillion other military casualties
|Chaos driven back from the Siege of Terra at great cost.|
This page covers the war launched by the Warmaster Hektor Cincinnatus against the government of the Imperium. If you're looking for the main project page, go to the /tg/ Heresy
The Hektor Heresy was a galaxy-spanning conflict between the Imperial forces loyal to the Emperor (referred to as the Loyalists) and those who sided with Hektor Cincinnatus (the Traitors). The Traitors were sponsored by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and strengthened by their gifts. The Heresy brought the Great Crusade to an end and ravaged the Imperium.
- 1 Prelude
- 2 The War Begins
- 3 A Galaxy at War
- 4 Blood-Red Roads
- 5 The Battle of Terra
After the great Triumph of Ullanor, the Emperor of Mankind withdrew from the battles of the Great Crusade to pursue a secret project on ancient Terra. He appointed Malcador the Sigilite to head the Imperium's government, the Council of Terra. Hektor Cincinnatus was named as Warmaster and led his brother Primarchs in the Military Council. The Primarchs would complete the conquest of the Galaxy while the Council of Terra prepared for a future in which humanity ruled the stars.
Other powers prepared for an entirely different future. Towards the end of the second century of the Great Crusade, Aubrey The Grey had became a willing servant of the Chaos Gods. The Primarch of the Eternal Zealots had been greatly embittered by the burning of Lazarus and his new masters gave him both comfort and a means to avenge himself. Aubrey was prepared to work slowly, putting off immediate gratification for the sake of total vengeance. The first traitor was aware of dark secrets among the Lions Rampant, the Life Bringers, the Sons of Fire, and The Justiciars. However, the first ally he sought out was The Voidwatcher, master of the Black Augurs. As a master of the psychic arts, the Voidwatcher was well-aware that powerful entities lurked in the Warp and joined Aubrey's conspiracy in pursuit of his own ambitions.
The Voidwatcher's aid was essential to Aubrey's plan. The Chaos Gods had told their herald of the true nature of the Emperor's secret project. From beneath the Imperial Palace on Terra, the master of mankind hoped to link into the ancient Webway and give the human race the same opportunities for cultural advancement that the ancient Eldar Empire enjoyed. In order to carry out this work safely, powerful psychic wards had been erected. These wards prevented the dimensional breach to the Webway from becoming a gateway to the perils of the Warp. Under Aubrey's direction, the Voidwatcher breached the Emperor's wards. This perfidious act allowed powerful daemons to pour into real space. The Emperor, aided by his Custodes and contingents of the mysterious Sisters of Silence, would be fully occupied with this terrible threat for many years.
Ostium and Olmer
Aubrey the Grey rarely spoke in the public meetings of the Olmer Tribunal. Although he affected a manner of solemn regret, inwardly the Primarch rejoiced at the crumbling of the Imperium and plotted to further the ends of the Primordial. Aubrey used the occasion of the Tribunal to bring Cromwald Walgrun, Inferox, and Uriel Salazar into the worship of the Ruinous Powers, along with a handful of less august warriors in the command circles of other Legions. This achievement guaranteed that Hektor's nascent rebellion would inevitably serve the cause of Chaos - and that the Warmaster himself would tread the path of damnation.
Malcador the Sigilite was immediately aware of the Voidwatcher's treachery. He quickly declared the Black Augurs Traitoris Extremis for use of sorcery in an attack on ancient Terra. Three Primarchs, Brennus, Rogerius Merrill, and Tiran Osoros, were ordered to assemble at the Forge World Diamat and then proceed to the Voidwatcher's homeworld Ostium to destroy the Traitor Primarch and his gene-sons. Yet the Sigilite's declarations were not met with universal obedience. Hektor Cincinnatus appealed for calm and invited the Military Council to assemble at Olmer for a Tribunal to determine the extent of the Voidwatcher's wrong-doing. Brennus ignored Hektor's request and travelled directly to Diamat with his best warriors. Rogerius Merrill, ever loyal to Hektor, barely considered Malcador's order and made way to Olmer. For Tiran Osoros, the question was more complex. The Lord of the Scale Bearers decided to make for Olmer, but he had no intention of taking part in Hektor's Tribunal. Instead, Tiran would demand that the Military Council bow to Malcador's authority and disperse.
Among the other Primarchs, these events drew a mixed response. Aubrey The Grey, Cromwald Walgrun, Inferox, Johannes Vrach, and Uriel Salazar all heeded Hektor's call and came to Olmer. Shakya Vardhana was making the long warp trip to Malluma, where he would soon be fighting for his life against a powerful servant of Chaos, but the Council of Nine attended the Olmer Tribunal in his stead. Gaspard Lumey and his Fifth Legion were in exile at the edge of the Galaxy, too far to receive news of the events in process. Onyx the Indestructible was also far from the Imperial centre, but decided to make the long journey to Diamat in case his brother Primarchs needed help with the Voidwatcher. Despite their different characters, Arelex Orannis, Golgothos, and Roman Albrecht all remained at their posts and carried on their crusading efforts rather than engaging in politicking. Praetorians represented these three Primarchs to both Olmer and Terra. Tollund Ötztal withdrew to his homeworld Tisenjoch, already mourning the loss of one of his brothers and sent no emissaries. Only Alexandri of Rosskar saw the dispute between Malcador and Hektor as a sign of imminent conflict. The sire of the Silver Cataphracts had been charged to defend Terra while the Emperor worked on the Webway project, and took his responsibilities seriously. Alexandri departed from the Solar System and began to put the worlds of the Solar Sector on a full war footing. His captains oversaw the construction and improvement of fortifications. Class after class of conscripts were called up and put into military training. There was a chance, perhaps, that men as proud as the Warmaster and the Emperor's deputy would come to a peaceful conclusion, but Alexandri had never known such things to happen. Besides, he was eager to see how his Silver Cataphracts matched up against the Heralds of Hektor.
The Primarchs assembled at Olmer sat down to business quickly. Tiran Osoros begged the Council to let him speak first, even ahead of Hektor's opening remarks, and was given time to make his argument. Ever-laconic, Tiran stated simply that Malcador ruled in the name of the Emperor. Disputing Malcador's orders was every bit as insubordinate as disputing those that came directly from the Emperor himself. Hektor exercised his right of reply and explained that the Military Council conducted the Great Crusade in the Emperor's name as well and had standing orders to brush aside all those who stood in the way of mankind's domination of the Galaxy. Of course the Primarchs should obey the Emperor's intentions, but without their master to explain himself what were they to do? Discussing that question was the very reason the Tribunal had convened. Hektor's rhetoric carried the room, but Tiran shook his head sadly and excused himself. The Scale Bearers departed immediately for Diamat, followed shortly afterwards by the Iron Rangers.
Meanwhile at Diamat, Brennus and his Expeditionary Fleet were running low on patience. While he did not relish confronting one of his brother Primarchs, Brennus longed to end the delay and commence battle. However, he was hotly opposed by the Legion equerry, Ferdiad, who argued that the Thunder Kings should not proceed alone and, if possible, should negotiate with the Black Augurs for a peaceful solution. Brennus dismissed his second's views and decided to make for Ostium directly for a surgical strike. He and his Thunder Kings would attempt to confront the Voidwatcher directly and either capture or kill him. Without their Primarch, the remaining Black Augurs could be cleaned up when the Iron Rangers and Scale Bearers arrived. The great flaw in this plan was that Brennus did not account for the strength of Ferdiad's objections. When the Thunder Kings arrived at Ostium, Ferdiad and the many warriors loyal to him refused to join the attack. Furious and determined to prove himself right, Brennus plunged forward regardless of the worsening situation. The Thunder King had no trouble finding the Voidwatcher in his lair, but he was beaten back by blade and warpflame. Brennus retreated, but left many of his sons dead on the soil of Ostium. Bitterly disappointed in himself for acting so recklessly, Brennus ordered his Legion back to Diamat to link up with the Scale Bearers and Iron Rangers. The Thunder Kings' ships were places of sullen silence on that voyage.
The death of Tiran Osoros is usually regarded as the starting point of the Heresy. Although the Voidwatcher's criminal attack on the Imperial Palace set events in motion, it wasn't until one Primarch murdered another that their brotherhood was sundered and war became inevitable. It is grimly appropriate that the start of the horrific war between brothers began with the death of the Primarch who had most valued the fraternity of the Military Council.
We don't need an inspiring speech. We are villains, traitors, and murderers. There's no point in pride or shame about it.
- Rogerius Merrill, in lieu of an address to his men on the eve of the Battle of Diamat
Far from Ostium, the Primarchs of the Iron Rangers and Scale Bearers would be making errors of their own. Tiran's fleet emerged from the Warp on the edge of Diamat's system first and plotted a course to the Forge World, intending to take on supplies there. When the Iron Rangers broke Warp a day later, Tiran was heartened and sent a warm message inviting his brother Primarch to discuss strategy in Diamat's orbit. Rogerius readily accepted. As the two fleets cruised into the inner system, they exchanged non-sensitive information. Warriors who had fought together in campaigns fought by both Legions sent fraternal greetings to one another. Officers of the Fleets' Victualaries discussed the proper tone for a meeting of the two Legions' dignitaries and decided that it was best to be sombre rather than try to distract from the grim task ahead with false gaiety.
This air of complacency started to come apart as the Iron Rangers fleet neared Diamat. Tiran had directed his ships into a loose formation, giving ample space for supply shuttles to service the fleet. Rogerius Merrill had his ships tightly grouped in a cone, a tell-tale battle formation. The Scale Bearers belatedly asked for clarification and were answered by the Iron Rangers opening fire. Out of formation and unprepared for the attack, the Scale Bearers took a terrible beating from that first salvo. Crews were still rushing to their battle stations as a second round of fire hammered Tiran's fleet. Knowing that they could not continue the fight in space, Tiran Osoros ordered the bulk of his warriors to evacuate their warships and make for the unnamed jungle moon of Diamat while the fleet distracted the murderous Iron Rangers. After finishing off the Scale Bearers' fleet, Rogerius Merrill closed in for the kill. His warriors conducted combat drops onto the moon and hunted the Scale Bearers through its jungles. Though the sons of Tiran Osoros resisted bravely, they were outnumbered and caught in favourable terrain. Their resistance was broken when Rogerius Merrill slew Tiran, driving many of the surviving Scale Bearers into madness. The blood shed finally gave a name to the moon of Diamat: Sorfall.
The Iron Rangers did not have long to celebrate their victory. Onyx the Indestructible's armada, led by the super-battleship Mount Everest, broke Warp shortly after Tiran Osoros' death. The waves of anguish emanating from Sorfall were sensed by Onyx's Astropaths and on learning their portents and seeing the Iron Rangers fleet among the wreckage of Imperial ships, the Primarch quickly concluded that Rogerius Merrill had committed a foul deed. Although the Stone Men burned in system at a reckless speed, the Iron Rangers slipped away. Mighty Onyx could only gather up the survivors of the Scale Bearers and send word to Terra of the madness that had taken place.
The War Begins
The hesitant designations of the early Heresy often seem strange in retrospect. It's easy to see why the Voidwatcher and Rogerius Merrill were dubbed Traitors, but why didn't the same label get applied to the rest of the Olmer Tribunal? Malcador's use of the term Non-Compliant - usually used to designate humans who had not yet joined the Imperium - suggests that the Sigilite hoped to reconcile with those of the rebel Primarchs who had yet to commit any crimes. That hope would not survive the year.
In the Imperial Palace, Malcador met with the Council of Terra to determine a response. The Council was unanimous. Rogerius Merrill was declared a Traitor. The rest of Hektor's Olmer Tribunal (Hektor Cincinnatus, Aubrey The Grey, Cromwald Walgrun, Inferox "The Burned King", Johannes Vrach, and Uriel Salazar) were declared Non-Compliant and instructed to give up their warships. Finally, Alexandri of Rosskar was appointed Warmaster of the Imperium and given free reign to bring the realm to order. Alexandri informed the Council that he would use the full extent of his powers to wipe every trace of rebellion from the Galaxy and applauded for his resolve. He was not merely playing the crowd. Even before the response of the Olmer Tribunal was announced, the measures Alexandri had employed across the Solar Sector were pronounced over the whole Segmentum Solar. Officially, the entire population of the Imperium's most densely-settled planets was put under military discipline. Imperial Discipline-Masters were given a blanket commission to enforce Alexandri's decree and maintain order in the face of Hektor's insubordination. Finally, Alexandri suspended the Edicts of Nikaea, reasoning that the Librarians would be needed to combat the Black Augurs. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of "suspending" the Edicts meant that many of the Loyalist Legions did not reform their Librariums until very late in the war.
The Primarchs still gathered on Olmer were not so quick to act. Hektor and his brothers considered the matter carefully and eventually, with some reluctance, reached their conclusion. Invoking his authority as the Emperor's Warmaster, Hektor accused Malcador and Alexandri of Treason and Usurpation of the Emperor's authority. He called on the soldiers of the Imperium to aid in subduing the forces loyal to the Council of Terra. Aubrey, Cromwald, Inferox, Johannes, and Uriel all pledged their Legions to the cause. Many of the Space Marines from other Legions present at Olmer declared their forces for Hektor, most notably the Council of Nine who all but ruled the Eyes of the Emperor. Thus resolved, the Olmer Tribunal disbanded and the rebel Legions set a course for the centre of the Imperium. Hektor's plan was to move quickly, gathering supplies and reinforcements from the many worlds personally loyal to him in the Segmentum Solar, and strike at Terra before Malcador and Alexandri could prepare a defence. Were it not for three factors, this bold plan might have succeeded.
The successful raids carried out by the Loyalist forces were not a matter of good luck or the fabled prophetic powers of Shakya Vardhana. Although the Council of Nine Masters pledged the Eyes to Hektor, Phirun Soun (once the Tenth Master) had no intention of joining the revolt. A powerful telepath, Soun discovered the Warmaster's plans and seized the Warp Runner Devotion of Illobian to carry these secrets to his master, Shakya Vardhana. Armed with inside knowledge, the Vardhana cut Hektor's plan to pieces.
Firstly, the Council of Nine had over-estimated their control over the Eyes of the Emperor. Shakya Vardhana and his Disciples returned to the Segmentum Solar and although many officers stayed with the Council, the majority of the ordinary Battle Brothers obeyed their Primarch. The Vardhana commanded his men to strike at Hektor's supply lines. The Eyes showed an uncanny knack for discovering and destroying key depots, depriving Hektor of supplies that would have supported a great mass of Auxilia. Secondly, Alexandri of Rosskar's decrees were heeded on many worlds and Governors who would have assisted Hektor were summarily executed by Discipline Masters who then seized power in the name of Terra. Although Hektor's forces could have brushed aside the garrisons on such worlds (and likely been welcomed as liberators), the effort would have slowed down their push. Finally, as Hektor's fleet concentrated at Kuniat at the north of the Parthorum Stream, the Stone Men burst from the Warp and conducted a hit and run naval attack. While Onyx's ships did little damage before their withdrawal, the appearance of another Loyalist Space Marine Legion close to Terra made it clear that Hektor could not win a quick victory. Deeply saddened at the prospect of a long war, the Warmaster issued new orders to his troops. They would fall back from the gates of Terra and establish a cordon around Alexandri's stronghold. Those Legions that had not declared would be won to Hektor's banner or taken out of the fight. Then, with his lines secure, the Warmaster's march on humanity's birthplace could resume.
In the Solar Sector, Alexandri made similar plans. He was in contact with Onyx and the Vardhana and knew that they could be counted on to help defend Terra. But to win the war against Hektor he needed to gather more allies. Astropathic communication from far-off Centauri seemed to indicate that the Steel Marshals would soon join the fight against Hektor and although interference from Cygnus X-1 scrambled signals from The Entombed it was believed that they would fall in as well. Though battered, the Thunder Kings would surely side against Hektor, as would the remnants of the Scale Bearers. That left three Legions undecided. The nearest undeclared Legion Homeworld was Tisenjoch, where the bulk of the Mastodontii were believed to be refitting. Onyx volunteered to chance the Warmaster's guns and discover Tollund Ötztal's true loyalties, before proceeding onwards to the Atalantos Worlds to recruit Arelex Orannis and his mighty War Scribes. As for Gaspard Lumey and his Void Angels, the most Alexandri hoped is that they would remain in exile. With his strategy decided, the guardian of Terra directed his Silver Cataphracts and the Vardhana's Eyes of the Emperor to seize a defensive perimeter of systems around Sol. Although the Traitor ships could bypass planet-bound garrisons, by holding the systems around Sol the defenders of Terra denied their enemies a convenient supply base.
The Bloody Star
After their murderous assault at Diamat, the Iron Rangers had not returned to Olmer, but Rogerius Merrill had stayed in contact with Hektor. The two agreed that it would be impolitic to appear together but their loyalty to one another was undamaged by the death of Tiran Osoros. Free from the obligations of maintaining a peaceful facade, Merrill gathered his Legion for war. By the time the Olmer Tribunal concluded and the march on Terra began, the Iron Rangers were ready and becoming impatient. Merrill's men initially kept a relatively low profile, attacking in advance of Hektor's Legions and paving the way for a Traitor victory. Only after Onyx's raid at Kuniat guaranteed a longer war did the Iron Rangers openly fight alongside their allies.
What good can be said of The Voidwatcher? The hive moon of Ostium robbed him of every noble quality that could be found in a man. His tale is not even as much as a tragedy. The Voidwatcher was just a waste.
- Gaspard Lumey, private correspondence
The Silver Cataphracts and Eyes of the Emperor were surprised by the forces that contested the perimeter with them. Hektor's own Legion and those of the Olmer Tribunal Primarchs had all fallen back to regroup. In their place were the fresh Black Augurs and Iron Rangers. While Rogerius Merrill's men were devious and unconventional, they at least fought for comprehensible objectives. The Black Augurs seemingly attacked worlds at random, indifferent to their pronounced loyalties, and focused on slaughter more than battle. Yet as the Voidwatcher's rampage continued, the powerful psykers defending Sol began to sense a terrible disturbance in the Immaterium. Malcador and Shakya Vardhana conferred with the savants of the Astra Telepathica and determined that the Voidwatcher's seemingly random attacks were part of a vast work of sorcery. Once the gathered psykers had determined the next world to be struck, the Vardhana set forth with his Disciples to stop whatever vileness the Black Augurs were hatching.
The Voidwatcher made it to Yu-Jang first, but his Marines were still engaged with the garrison when the Vardhana's warriors began to drop from the skies. Against all military logic, the Black Augurs did not rally to oppose their enemies but instead carried out horrible sacrifices of the civilian population while the Eyes raced to stop them. Eventually the madness on Yu-Jang was confined to the luckless city of Fengdu, where the Voidwatcher himself presided over a carnival of atrocities. Shakya Vardhana led his Disciples in a desperate assault but nothing could have prepared them for the power being channelled through the Voidwatcher. Once in failing health, the traitor Primarch had been revitalised through some unholy bargain and revelled in his new might. The Vardhana was gravely wounded and his men slain, but the Voidwatcher showed a twisted streak of honour. Recalling how Shakya Vardhana had called for mercy at the Council of Nikaea, the lord of the Black Augurs decided to let his brother live - but used foul sorcery to tear away the Vardhana's psychic powers. Despite the cacophony of the Warp Storms the Voidwatcher had conjured into being, telepaths across the Segmentum Solar shuddered at the psychic screams of Shakya Vardhana. Even to those who did not recognise the Primarch's mind, the agony was unmistakable. To Phirun Soun, his gene-father's agony was almost unbearable. The Librarian hastily boarded the Devotion of Illobian to once more find a way to his lord's side. There was no possibility of saving Shakya Vardhana from the Voidwatcher, but Soun found his crippled gene-sire in the blood-drenched husk of Fengdu and carried him back to Terra.
If the grievous injury to Shakya Vardhana was not bad enough, the Warp Storms created by the Black Augurs would last for years and greatly hampered Warp communications. Astro-telepathy into or out of the Sol Sector was all but impossible. The light of the Astronomican was greatly obscured even in the nearby Sectors of the Segmentum Solar and totally invisible to Navigators in the far Segmenta. Without a fixed point of reference, Warp travel was dangerous and slow. The Loyalists could rely on short-range Warp beacons, though these were mainly found in the centre of the Imperium where the Astronomican was visible anyway. Hektor's forces turned to new allies introduced by Aubrey the Grey, the enigmatic Hezeyar. Although the Primarch claimed that the creatures were only psychically gifted Xenos, in truth the Hezeyar owed their abilities to the malign influence of Chaos, their souls long sold to Dark Gods. The corrupting influence of these vile entities would accelerate the moral degeneration of the Legions in Hektor's service, but their affinity for the Warp would also give his forces an important strategic advantage. As has always been the case, those who are too quick to compromise end up compromising themselves.
What caused Tollund Ötztal to change so dramatically? Some simply say that he was corrupted by Chaos and leave it at that, while other Inquisitors who have investigated the matter believe that the Primarch's gentle nature was merely a facade. But there is some reason to believe that Tollund Ötztal's mind had split at an early age. Remembrancers who visited Tisenjoch were hard-pressed to square the Primarch's account of coming to the planet with a twin brother with the testimony of local people, who said that the Skyborn was a singular entity. If this is so, Tollund Ötztal's alter-ego was a defence mechanism for the challenges of Tisenjoch that turned into his dominant - and terrifying - personality during the mayhem of the Heresy.
Before the Voidwatcher's spell was completely woven, Onyx the Indestructible had travelled to far-off Tisenjoch in the Segmentum Pacificus. There, he delivered an ultimatum to Tollund Ötztal, the Primarch of the Mastodontii. There was no neutrality in the developing war. The Emperor needed all of his loyal Space Marines to destroy the Traitorous Hektor Cincinnatus and his gang of villains. Tollund Ötztal did not reply, and though his Praetorians claimed that the Primarch was deeply troubled by the war between his brothers Onyx was unimpressed. Taking the silence as just a ruse to disguise a treacherous heart, Onyx decided to cripple the Mastodontii before they could act against Terra. The Stone Men dropped onto Tisenjoch almost unopposed while the Mastodontii commanders tried to rouse Ötztal to war.
When Tollund took command, he was a new man. The gentle warrior who had striven to keep collateral damage to a minimum was gone, replaced with a sadistic madman. Despite having to organise his defences in haste, Tollund Ötztal employed depraved tactics to unbalance Onyx. Civilians were used as human shields if they were lucky; the less fortunate callously implanted with explosive devices and used as living booby-traps, and fates of the truly luckless are best not discussed. While the material balance never tipped decisively in Tollund's favour, the Stone Men withdrew from Tisenjoch after three long Terran months, vowing that the Mastodontii would be more trouble for their allies than their enemies. During the course of the campaign the Voidwatcher's Warp Storm had intensified and the Navigators of the Stone Men fleet could barely pick out the light of the Astronomican. Undeterred, Onyx insisted that they plot a course across the Segementum Solar to the Atalantos Worlds. There, he hoped to rouse Arelex Orannis and his War Scribes to the Loyalist cause.
The departure of the Stone Men brought no relief to Tisenjoch. Freed of the distraction of invasion, Tollund carried out a great reorganisation of his forces. Those of his gene-sons who had raised objections or even hesitated to carry out his vicious orders suffered slow deaths. The most demented killers from the battle of Tisenjoch were promoted to head new "hunting groups". Then the Legion turned on the human population, systematically tracking down and torturing to death every man, woman, and child they could find. By the time the Mastodontii boarded their shuttles and lifted into orbit, Tisenjoch had been stripped clean of human life.
The Fires of Narhadul
Wolzhi Steelblood's embrace of the Ruinous Powers came as a bitter surprise. In the eyes of many, he had served the Imperium loyally for decades and was held in high esteem. But he was viewed differently among the Arch-Magoi of Mars. Wolzhi had little time for the spirituality and reverence of the Machine Cult. He had learnt much "practical knowledge" from the Mechanicum, but his soul was empty of their wisdom. Over time, the taint of Chaos crept into Wolzhi's hollow vessel, taking hold of his pride, his hope, his fears, and his perfectionism. Every new "technical achievement" opened the way to deeper damnation. Without the aegis of the Machine God, his fall was as inevitable as the laws of physics.
What separated my fate from that of Inferox? A human being that knows the enemy intends to destroy his or her family, friends, and everything dear will resist with the whole of their being. Therefore, to use terror, one must hold out the prospect of mercy. Inferox did not use terror. Terror used him.
- Gaspard Lumey, private correspondence
The failure of the War Scribes to rally to Terra was a mystery. Arelex Orannis was no friend to the Black Augurs and took accusations of sorcery seriously. Nor was the Master of the Second Legion inclined to shirk his responsibilities to the Imperium. Yet when the crisis turned to war, the Atalantos Worlds were undone by treachery most foul. Wolzhi Steelblood, the Master of the War Scribes Forges, had indoctrinated the majority of his brother TechMarines and the mortal aides who worked with them into the mysteries of the Cosmic Truth. Although this cult did not openly recognise the Gods of Chaos, it was utterly dedicated to their ends. Perhaps some of those who followed Wolzhi believed that their actions were merely a drastic measure to prevent the War Scribes' arsenal from being unleashed upon the other Legions, but the Master of the Forges himself was under no such illusions. He acted at the bidding of the Cosmic Truth when he enacted a plan to sabotage every technological wonder of the Atalantos Worlds, from the Fortress-Ship Sol Invictus down to the last Volkite gun.
The War Scribes were still reeling from Wolzhi's betrayal when the fleets of Inferox and Aubrey the Grey arrived at the Narhadul system and began their attack. The Ring-World could not be defended in the void, particularly when the perfidious Dock Lord, Joghal Zash, commanded the few functional War Scribes ships in system to join the Traitors. The garrison, a full battalion of five thousand War Scribes and their supporting auxilia were brave and determined to resist, but they lacked all of their heavy equipment and were often reduced to personal sidearms such as bolt pistols and chainswords. Chapter Master Kor'ek Jamad reported that his 54th Chapter, the worst hit on Narhadul, had just 58 bolters and 2 sniper rifles to serve as battle weapons for a thousand Astartes. With such meagre arms, the defenders of Narhadul could only hope to delay an armada led by two Traitor Primarchs while their Lord Arelex Orannis found some way to send aid.
In orbit far above the adamantium walls of the Basilikon Atalantos, the Primarch of the War Scribes was battling to restore the systems of the Sol Invictus when he was notified of the attack on Narhadul. Orannis was immediately aware that he lacked the transports to send substantial reinforcements, but he could not just sit idle. Although a great army of War Scribes was based on Atalantos itself, only a few thousand Marines were present on each of the other Atalantos Worlds. If the Sons of Fire and Eternal Zealots were free to attack where they willed, half of the War Scribes' strength could be destroyed in detail. Resolving for swift and decisive action, Orannis and his bodyguard took to the "Silent Scribe", an advanced Echo-class Strike Cruiser, and set a course for Narhadul. Silent Scribe's stealthy profile allowed her to evade the Traitor Fleets until the final approach to Narhadul, where she was detected by a pair of Eternal Zealot cruisers. It is a testament to the voidmanship of the War Scribes that Silent Scribe managed to get close enough to teleport Orannis and his men onto Narhadul before fleeing to the outer system.
Inferox was the second Primarch to join Aubrey's conspiracy. The lord of the Sons of Fire had travelled to Olmer in a deep despair, feeling that the Imperium was coming to pieces. He remained in a black mood until after long, private discussions with Aubrey the Grey. In these talks, the falsity of the Imperial Truth was exposed and Inferox was shown a new way: the way of Chaos. Before coming to the Atalantos Worlds to unleash the fury of the Ruinous Powers, the Primarch had gathered his Legion at Crematoria to share his revelation. Those who embraced Chaos most willingly became Inferox's shock troopers. Those who refused, such as the former Librarians of the Sandaramet, were killed and burned - not always in that order.
On the surface, the carnage was horrific. The brave Marines and Auxilia who had defended Narhadul had been slain and three Chapters of Sons of Fire had run amok, putting whole hab-blocks of civilians to the torch to satisfy a yearning they could not yet name. Inferox was no restraint to his men - he was the most fire-mad among them, revelling in the inferno of destruction. By contrast, the Eternal Zealots had sated their lust for battle and were engaged in looting the planet's warehouses. Arelex Orannis longed to take the fight to the insolent invaders and teach them a lesson in person, but he mastered himself and remained focused on his objective. There was one structure on Narhadul that would have remained beyond Wolzhi Steelblood's saboteurs - the fortified magazine that housed the deadliest munitions of the War Scribes fleet.
Strangely, the War Scribes faced little direct opposition. A few fire-mad squads of Sons of Fire wandered into their path, but were no match for the Primarch and his Terminator-armoured bodyguard. Arelex Orannis opened the lock keyed to his unique genetics and psychic imprint and gazed upon the stockpiled weapons, his eyes drawn to the rows of deadly Phosphex torpedoes. These were world-killers. Could he kill a world that he had poured so much of his soul into? The Primarch looked back to the fires and bodies in the streets. Narhadul was already dying. Better to stop the torture. Orannis commanded a few of his men to help rig the torpedoes to detonate while the remainder stood guard.
Setting a watch was a sensible precaution. Though the Sons of Fire had lost control of themselves, the Eternal Zealots had detected the teleport and Aubrey directed a company of his warriors to investigate. While Arelex Orannis worked within the magazine, his terminators began to sell their lives in exchange for time to complete the work. The War Scribes were veterans but their ranks grew thin under the furious assault of Aubrey's gene-sons. There was no time to set up a delayed detonation. Orannis looked to Mohxes, the only Librarian who had ever come from the ranks of his Legion, and bade him to signal the Silent Scribe. Then he detonated the magazine, infecting Narhadul with a vast, deadly green mist.
The pyres set up by the Sons of Fire were nothing compared to the metal-fed Phosphex fires of Narhadul's factories. Far from the centre of the spreading catastrophe, Aubrey the Grey found Inferox. The Burned King was so fixated on destruction that he had ceased to heed personal danger and wallowed in the hungry flames. Aubrey shouted out above the mayhem, telling his brother to make ready for destiny. Then the Primarch of the Eternal Zealots boarded his shuttle and left Narhadul to its doom. Inferox only half-heard Aubrey's words, but the approaching Phosphex demanded his full attention. The destruction of a whole world, gripped by one of the most devastating weapons mankind had ever developed. This was the purpose of Inferox's life. It was not beautiful. It was not pleasurable. It was simply his essence wrought in the world. As the Burned King became one with conflagration, the mighty hand of Khorne touched his Champion. Inferox ascended as the first of the Daemon-Primarchs.
Elsewhere, another son of the Emperor suffered the touch of Phosphex. Arelex Orannis still lived. His armour burned, his flesh charred, but he still lived, curled protectively around the personal teleporter housed in his armour's chestplate. The Primarch would never know how long he endured the fires of Narhadul, but eventually the Silent Scribe managed to dodge its way into range and deliver its master from suffering. The charred, still burning figure of Arelex Orannis materialised in the cruiser's teleportation bays and croaked one word - Airlock. The sons of Arelex Orannis did as their father commanded and exposed their father to the Void. In a hard vacuum, the Phosphex's flames finally went out.
Death on Caria
After he was nearly slain at Ullanor, Golgothos spent a long time regressed to his memories of endless violence on Sepulchra. As the Primarch rambled, Cardinal Obitus recorded his words and was greatly struck by the description of the Emperor as a God. Obitus spread this bizarre creed throughout the Chaplains of the Entombed in the years before the Heresy and the remains of the Legion would embrace it whole-heartedly after the Siege of Terra.
Whatever you require, I would be happy to help. Only do not conduct landings here, for a terrible fate awaits you on the soil of Caria.
- Uriel Salazar
In the Segmentum Obscurus, The Entombed had concentrated their forces at their bleak homeworld Sepulchra and awaited the reports of their emissaries to the rival councils. Cardinal Obitus returned from the Olmer Tribunal to report that Hektor's partisans had tried to convince him to betray the Legion. The Cardinal claimed to have tactfully refused by saying that he would report back to Golgothos and present the Olmer Primarchs in the best light possible. The emissary to Terra, Cardinal Eulogos, informed his brother officers that Alexandri of Rosskar was gathering all power into his hands for a total war against Hektor. Eulogos wondered whether Alexandri would set aside his powers in the end, but could assure the other Entombed that he had been treated honourably. Primarch Golgothos was more persuaded by the disgraceful attempt to split his gene-sons than the relatively good conduct of Alexandri. If the Rosskan tried to seize the Imperium after Hektor's defeat, that war could be fought in turn. Obitus also reported that he had observed logistical plans drawn up at the Olmer Tribunal indicating that Uriel Salazar's Justiciars would be moving to secure a target on the edge of Cygnus X-1. The world was designated as Caria and although it seemed to hold no inherent significance the world was close enough to Sepluchra to be used as a staging base. Golgothos had his doubts about dated and opportune intelligence, but decided to dispatch the Warp Runner "Strix" to investigate.
True to Obitus's reports, Strix found Justiciars ships plying the Caria system. Most were unarmed transports, no doubt moving Auxilia or supplies, but they were watched over by several of Uriel Salazar's deadly Strike Cruisers. The Warp Runner also picked up signals from the planet Caria to the Justiciars ships in system that seemed to indicate the presence of a significant garrison. On its return to Sepulchra, the reports of the Strix hardened Golgothos's resolve. Whatever friendship he and Uriel had once enjoyed was in the past now. The Justiciars had taken part in an attack towards Sol in an attempt to depose the Emperor's designated regent and that made them enemies of the Entombed. If they plotted an attack on Sepulchra, they were fools who should be punished for their insolence! If they were at Caria for another reason, then it was the duty of the Emperor's Space Marines to foil the plans of the traitors. Golgothos and his warriors boarded their warships.
In the Caria system, the Entombed warships brushed aside the Justiciars' cruisers and dispatched boarding parties to secure the transports which could not escape. Orbital picts revealed large supply depots and prepared airfields for shuttles and small craft. Before Golgothos gave the order to commence landing operations, a signal from the surface came through preceded by the personal identification codes of Uriel Salazar. The master of the Thirteenth Legion bade his brother welcome to the Caria System and warmly remarked that if Golgothos had needed more transports he could have simply asked. Uriel politely asked if the Entombed had sufficient supplies and promised to send anything they required up by shuttle, but warned his brother not to send troops to Caria's surface. Golgothos did not reply. He simply ordered his troops to prepare to drop into combat.
Initially, the battle for Caria favoured the Loyalists. The Entombed dropped into the midst of Justiciar concentrations and the Dreadnoughts they so favoured wreaked havoc on Salazar's men. Although the Justiciars favoured close-quarters fighting, they fell back from the intensity of the Entombed assault and sought cover. By now, warriors of any other Legion would have been voicing concerns. The campaign had been too easy, with "fortune" all on the side of the Entombed. War is almost never so kind, unless the enemy is baiting a trap. The Entombed are furious in their wrath, but they are no fools. Golgothos's sons suspected that Salazar had an unpleasant surprise waiting for them and relished the arrival of traitor reinforcements to encircle their landing sites. Once there were enemies on all sides, the Entombed would have no shortage of targets.
Tragically, Golgothos's warriors were unaware that the surprise attack had been among them the whole time. The Life Bringers had seeded Caria with a designer virus, harmless to most organisms but deadly to the Entombed gene-seed. As the Justiciars withdrew from the battle for the landing sites the virus claimed its first victims. Battle Brothers of the Entombed reconnaissance squads were sometimes overlooked, but they played an essential role in a Legion that had become so successful at stand-up battle that few foes would face them. On Caria, the unsealed armour of the reconnaissance squads provided no protection against the Life Bringer's creation. Within a few minutes, all of the Entombed scouts lay dead. Before the Legion's Apothecaries could even come to terms with the danger, Power Armoured Space Marines began to sicken and die. Only the veterans entrusted with Terminator Armour and the honoured fallen interred in the Legion's Dreadnoughts were fully protected. Standing among the bodies of his dying warriors, Golgothos received another message from Uriel Salazar. The Justiciars Primarch expressed his regret for what had happened and suggested that Golgothos leave with what was left of his command. Where others might have gloated, Salazar did not see fit to remind his brother that a warning had been given and promised not to interfere with the evacuation.
For the first time in his life of fierce struggle, Golgothos ordered a retreat.
A Galaxy at War
The Council of Terra voted their confidence and put on a show of support for the Rosskan Primarch, believing that Terra needed a supreme commander to rally behind. However, many were worried. The nickname "Regent" was soon passed around, implying that Alexandri intended to seize power and make himself Emperor. The prospect was frightening, for a coup would leave the Imperium to choose between two usurpers. Yet the Regent's great intellect was focused entirely on the defence of Sol. Alexandri squeezed the worlds he controlled for every advantage over Hektor and made no diversion to increase his own power beyond what victory demanded. By the time the Emperor re-emerged, the epithet "Regent" had become a term of respect for Alexandri's able guidance of the realm.
Despite turning back Hektor's armies at the gates of the Solar Sector, the Loyalist cause appeared to be in real peril. The fortunes of the Loyal Primarchs summed up the situation; Arelex Orannis and Shakya Vardhana had been grievously wounded, Brennus and Golgothos tormented by defeat and the death of their sons, and Tiran Osoros slain. Alexandri of Rosskar and Onyx the Indestructible had yet to suffer a serious reversal, but Onyx had been embarked on a long and dangerous voyage through the Warp when the Astronomican's light was blotted out by Warp Storms. The views of most ordinary soldiers of the time fixated on the actions of a single man: Roman Albrecht. The Lord Knight's loyalty to Terra was taken as an article of faith. His ability to turn the fortunes of war if only the defenders of Sol could hold out long enough was never in doubt, though most popular scenarios never got past the naive belief that Albrecht could end the rebellion with his sword alone. Senior commanders had no less admiration for Roman Albrecht's martial prowess, but believed that the Steel Marshals would need the other Loyalist Legions to find their way back to the fight if they were to break Hektor's chokehold on Sol. While Alexandri's emergency measures had tapped the full strength of the densely populated worlds in the Solar Sector intelligence indicated that the Traitors were tightening their grip on the rest of the Segmentum Solar. Given time, Sol and her nearby neighbours would be smothered by weight of numbers.
However, the Traitor camp had problems of their own. Hektor still held the strategic initiative, but supply depots in the inner Imperium had been exhausted by the first rush towards Terra and forced the great Traitor army to disperse. In their place, the fresh Iron Rangers and Black Augurs deployed to keep Alexandri's forces cooped up. If the Regent had realised the weakness of the Traitor cordon around Sol, he might have been able to send his troops to link up with Roman Albrecht rather than engage in adventures in the Solar System - but we can do no more than speculate about how the war might have gone from there.
Aside from the great battles of this period which still focused on the survival of the Space Marine Legions, a series of obscure clashes were fought to secure sources of desperately needed food, ammunition, and promethium. The stubborn resistance of almost-forgotten Imperial troops, more often than not led by Discipline Masters, significantly delayed plans to attack Terra again. Alongside their supply difficulties, the Traitors also began to suffer from the corrosive power of Chaos. Many of the warriors who had rallied to the Olmer Tribunal had believed that the Warmaster truly represented the ideals of the Great Crusade. These men were horrified to find themselves allied with Xenos psykers. The transformation of Inferox had been even more disturbing than the presence of the Hezeyar. Despite the purges on Crematoria, a minority of the Sons of Fire turned away from their daemonic sire and sided with the War Scribes in the defence of the Atalantos Worlds. These would be the first of a growing trickle of Space Marines who abandoned Hektor's cause and sought out new destinies in the maelstrom of the Heresy. As the hatreds of war grew, the opportunities to change sides shrank and the renegade Marines would often try to carve out realms of their own. Although defections from the Loyalist Legions also occurred, those who had not felt tightly bound to the Loyal Primarchs had mostly thrown in with Hektor when the war broke out. Perversely, the loss of Space Marines to battle and desertion made the Warmaster more and more dependant on the Ruinous Powers.
One last factor remained unknown to both sides. The Military Council had banished Gaspard Lumey's Void Angels to the thinly-inhabited stars in the galactic north before the war began. Though dishonoured, the Fifth Legion were a powerful force, one whose significance waxed as the other Legions spent their strength against one another. If Lumey could be won to either camp, the injection of fresh Marines could decide the war.
The Second Pacification of Luna
By the time the Heresy began, the gene-wrought goddess Pallas Eugenesis had served the Imperium for over two centuries. Yet few believed that she felt any true loyalty to the Emperor or His great design. The Eclipse Queen had simply chosen to side with Terra's rising power when the Unification Wars came to an end. When her consort Hektor came into conflict with the Imperial Government, the same principle put Pallas on the side of the Traitors.
For the Love of Man, why won't you respond? Luna is loyal! Call off your wolves, Alexandri!
- Jadom Hyx, Acting Governor of Luna
Pallas Eugenesis, as Hektor Cincinnatus's titular consort, had been at her husband's side during the Olmer Tribunal and had not returned to the Solar System since. However, her long tenure as ruler of Luna raised such question-marks over the reliability of Selenar troops that Alexandri had left them entirely out of his defence plans. This dubious loyalty posed a definite threat. Even if the garrison of Luna was too weak to launch an invasion of Terra on their own, Loyalist commanders had no interest in leaving Hektor with a source of supply and reinforcements within the Solar System. In addition, Alexandri of Rosskar harboured a deep grudge against Pallas - and if the Regent was not motivated by his personal feelings, there is little doubt that he took great pleasure in attacking Luna. Deciding that a potentially treacherous territory need not be treated with any honour, the Regent commanded a Battalion of his Silver Cataphracts to launch a sneak attack. Their main target was Portus Grimaldi, the city-laboratory that served as the main gateway to Terra's satellite. Entering Grimaldi by merchant transport, the Marines quickly routed the city garrison and began moving on new targets.
Acting Governor Jadom Hyx certainly shared Alexandri's ill-feelings towards Pallas Eugenesis but was appalled to learn that the Regent had attacked. Hyx was a loyal servant of the Emperor and had determined to resist Hektor's forces when the time came. He knew that his mistress was well-loved on Luna and no doubt had agents prepared to stir up discontent, but felt that he could have dealt with such problems and kept Terra's closest neighbour in the Loyalist camp. The Acting Governor spent precious minutes sending plaintive messages to Terra begging the Silver Cataphracts to cease their assault. After receiving no response, Hyx reluctantly entered his secure codes to activate the Selenar Defence Lasers before they could be taken by the Regent's marines. Unbeknownst to the defenders of Terra, Pallas Eugenesis had overseen a covert project to upgrade Luna's laser batteries only a few years earlier. Hyx suspected that his mistress had been planning her treachery for a long time, but under the circumstances he felt no choice but to comply with her plans.
Unfortunately for Hyx, he was a mere pawn in Pallas Eugenesis's schemes. Along with the upgrade to the Selenar Defence Lasers, Pallas had seen fit to install a fail-safe. When the Acting Governor attempted to activate the great weapons they self-destructed. The massive tactical holo-display within Luna's planetary command centre flickered, then switched from dry military information to the mocking visage of Pallas Eugenesis. A recorded message chided Hyx for his folly, informing the Acting Governor that he had only been tasked with the rule of Luna because more competent servants were needed elsewhere. Pallas's tone then warmed to a false kindness as her recorded voice explained that she would still make good use of Hyx, though not in his current form. Before Jakom Hyx could finish cursing his perfidious mistress, bio-transformer cells that had been lying latent in his body went into effect. Along with the rest of Luna's population, her Acting Governor was rebuilt into a mindless horror. Though this scheme destroyed any organised opposition to the Silver Cataphracts, loyalist troops would be bogged down fighting gene-horrors for months afterwards and the fruits of victory were spoiled. Luna's people were dead. Her ruined laser batteries could contribute nothing to the defence of Terra.
The Lion's Cordon
During Hektor's first march on Terra, the Lions Rampant had functioned as a spearhead both on planets and across the stars. Cromwald Walgrun's genius for conducting a swift-moving offensive was on full display, but also carried a heavy cost in Promethium. Both sides had known that the fuel-rich world of Troupo III would be a key battlefield and when the Lions Rampant began their combat drops they found a force of Silver Cataphracts opposing them. Though the armoured clashes here would be dwarfed by the gargantuan tank battles of the later Heresy, they were at the time unprecedented. For all the blood shed on Troupo III's sands, neither side could claim a real victory. After the Silver Cataphracts demolished the planetary Promethium dumps and refineries, Traitor and Loyalist alike left Troupo III to burn.
The Steel Marshals' long delay in coming to Terra's aid was partly a result of their valour. When the civil war began to brew, Roman Albrecht's Legion was engaged in a multi-sector war against the great Domain of Hathor. Although this vast trans-stellar realm was far from the Imperium's centre, it stretched across strategic warp currents at the joint of the Segmentum Pacificus and Segmentum Tempestus. For decades the War Council had put off an invasion of Hathor's empire, but as the Great Crusade neared its end the Steel Marshals were dispatched to eliminate one last hold-out against Terra. The Steel Marshals had made considerable gains before the news coming from the Segmentum Solar became too serious to ignore, but that left Roman Albrecht with a dilemma. If he simply abandoned his campaign against Hathor, the counterattack would surely take hostile troops far across the Imperial border. Yet he also needed to free up his Legion to confront Hektor.
The Lord Knight decided to launch one more great offensive to bring Hathor to the table, leading his best men in person to the doorstep of Hathor's throneworld. Roman Albrecht then conducted a hasty peace that would guarantee the Domain of Hathor being annexed into the Imperium on his return. With their last conquests of the Great Crusade secure, the Steel Marshals set out towards Terra. Their road to the Segmentum Solar would be a long one. Without the light of the Astronomican, Roman Albrecht assembled Astropathic choirs to provide short-range beacons for his fleet's Navigators. By leapfrogging the signalling choirs forward, the Marshals could travel the Warp with relative safety.
As much as he inspired Loyalist hopes, Roman Albrecht haunted the Traitors. None believed that the Lord Knight could be swayed to Hektor's side, even though several Chapters of Steel Marshals had defected. Nor were any of the Traitor Primarchs particularly confident about attempting to slay Albrecht in battle. Eventually it fell to Cromwald Walgrun and his Lions Rampant to contain and wear down the Steel Marshals. The Ninth Legion had already taken significant losses, both at the hands of the Loyalists at Troupo III and through Cromwald's own vicious purges, but their morale was high. Furthermore, it was believed that the fast-moving Lions would be able to secure local superiorities against the more static Steel Marshals.
Roman Albrecht's use of Astropathic Choirs to guide his fleet was a necessity, but it made his position conspicuous. The Lions Rampant, aided by Aubrey's Hezeyar allies, swiftly closed in on the Steel Marshals. However, Cromwald Walgrun did not launch an attack on the Loyalist positions. Instead, he borrowed from the tactics that had thwarted his Legion at Troupo III and set his men to ravaging the systems in Albrecht's path. Astropathic pleas detailing the Lions' atrocities reached the Steel Marshals and the Legion's commanders were eager to intervene, but rushing the fleet forward to help would be gambling with the survival of the Imperium. For several months, the Steel Marshals pushed into the "scorched earth" Walgrun had created. With each advance, the Lions Rampant fell back to keep devastating the systems on Roman Albrecht's line of march. The Loyalist fleet's supplies began to run low. Under normal circumstances, the Steel Marshals could have simply bypassed the area by making a longer trip through the Warp, but without the light of the Astronomican such feats of navigation were tremendously risky.
The Supply Battles: Zhuko V
Zhuko V was an old, heavily populated world when it was brought into Compliance. Two centuries of progress as part of the Imperium saw the Zhukons move from sprawling industrial cities into massive hives separated by ash-coated wastes. Although Zhuko V was not part of the advanced realm of the Mechanicum, it still produced war material in formidable quantities. The Zhukons assembled reliable Tiran Osoros Battle Tanks, massive Gorgon Heavy Transporters, and Thunderbolt Heavy Fighters, along with more humble items of war such as flak armour and lascarbines. Due to the shipping disruption caused by the Heresy, Zhuko V's warehouses were overflowing with material, ready for use by the first taker.
In the name of the Council of Terra and their Warmaster, Alexandri Ibirien, I pronounce you guilty of high treason. The sentence is death.
- Discipline Master Konstantine Maloyar, addressing the corpse of Governor Telesius Secundus
Not all of the battles of the Heresy were fought between Space Marines. In fact, some of the largest engagements were between entirely mortal armies but these are generally lost to history or included only as footnotes to the fast-moving campaigns of the Primarchs. To some extent this reading of the war is justified, because the auxilia were assigned to secondary roles. However, these secondary roles typically included securing key sources of food, munitions, and promethium, the vital supplies that allowed the armies of the Heresy to function. Thousands of conflicts, ranging from regimental-scale battles on Astrariums up to enormous sector-wide campaigns were fought by mortal men and women for the sake of war material, but the best-known by far is the elephantine clash of armour on Zhuko V.
When the civil war began, Zhuko V was governed by Telesius Secundus, a graduate of the Scholae Astartes system established by the Heralds of Hektor. Naturally, Telesius favoured "his own" Legion and intended to provide Hektor Cincinnatus with the full support of the Hive World. However, after the hostilities began and Alexandri of Rosskar gave Imperial Discipline Masters license to police the whole of the Segmentum Solar, Telesius was promptly executed by Konstantine Maloyar for high treason. Maloyar then attempted to establish a military government on Zhuko V, but was opposed by Telesius's partisans. The hab-blocks of Zhuko V's three main hives were the scene of low-level warfare for months while Discipline Master Maloyar and his loyal soldiers fought to secure control. By the time that forces loyal to Hektor arrived to harvest the fruits of Zhuko V's industry, the battles within the hives were drawing to a close. Loyalists controlled Gorbman City and Buzuluk City (the planetary capital), while the Traitors were in possession of Kruppuk City.
This situation was far from what Prinz-Direktor Hermann von Rausendorf expected. The trim and fussy Exiran commander had orders to recruit new army groups from Zhuko V, not to lead a battle for control of the planet. His XXXVIII Grenzer-Korps was a light force by Exiran standards and in any case lacked the numbers to subdue a Hive World. However, failure was not an option. Even if the Heralds of Hektor had been inclined to accept the Prinz-Direktor reporting that he simply could not secure Zhuko V (and this was unlikely), Exiran martial honour demanded that von Rausendorf prove the superiority of his methods. Without any attempt to hide his disgust at the failure of his new Zhukon allies, the Exiran commander landed his forces at Kruppuk City and declared himself Acting Planetary Governor.
Over the next three years, von Rausendorf and Maloyar mobilised the population of Zhuko V and expended its great stores of war material in a brutal conflict. The largest tank battle of the campaign, fought in the Ostrovya Gap, saw hundreds of thousands of armoured vehicles and millions of soldiers committed, and other clashes such as the Vogrovnok Flats, Gebrokye Downs, and the Second Ostrovya Gap were almost as large. Eventually a Battalion of Heralds of Hektor arrived and put an end to the much depleted Loyalist defenders, but the bounty of war they had expected had been sunk into the ruin of Zhuko V. The Traitors left the battered planet with little more than they had sent, though Hermann von Rausendorf's surviving troops were hardened veterans and the Prinz-Direktor had won the favour of the Blood God.
While his gene-sons trailed the Entombed, Uriel Salazar remained on Caria. For weeks, the Primarch walked among the fallen sons of Golgothos, meditating on the paths of fate that had led to this point. He had knelt before Aubrey and accepted the benedictions of his strange Xenos allies for the sake of pursuing the Great Truth of the galaxy, and joined his forces to Hektor's in exchange for further wisdom. Yet for all this time, Uriel had thought himself his own man, an agent that acted apart from fate. Doubts about his role now emerged. He had tried to negotiate with Golgothos and avoid using Johannes Vrach's bio-weapon, but it seemed that his warnings had only invited the Entombed to land and be devastated. Was this the hand of the "Architect of Fate" spoken of in Xenos texts? What, then, was the feeling of free will that he experienced? Uriel pondered the question deeply and finally saw into the heart of the illusion. The Architect's plans were inescapable and bound all beings to the web of fate. But the Changer of Ways gave mortals the freedom to understand their place in the universe and match their wills to His, becoming spiders on that web rather than mere feebly-struggling insects. Exultant, Uriel shed his limitations and became Tzeentch's Chosen.
My old life is at an end. No more shall I fight for pride or greed, no more shall I serve an impure master. Today I am born again, a rock in the great Bulwark against barbarism.
- Oath of the Bulwark
After their fateful attack on Caria, the remains of the Entombed returned to Sepulchra to plan their next move. While they had lost the body of the Legion, the remaining warriors were Terminator-clad veterans and ancients interred in mighty Dreadnoughts. If they could link up with other Loyalist forces to cover their flanks, Golgothos's force could still make an impact. To the Primarch's distress, his warriors would face another sneak attack as they approached their homeworld. Cardinal Obitus had seized power on Sepulchra and turned the planet's defence batteries on his gene-father's ships as they approached. The reasons for this betrayal are lost to history, but Obitus probably became embroiled in Aubrey the Grey's conspiracy at Olmer. Golgothos, already half-mad with grief from the losses on Caria, became completely irrational and screamed orders at his warriors to destroy Obitus and his followers. The Entombed needed little encouragement. Their ships braved Sepulchra's defences and the sons of Golgothos assaulted their homeworld with a silent fury. Whatever reward Obitus had been promised for his treachery, he did not survive to receive it.
After putting down Obitus, the Entombed went on the warpath. No more thoughts of linking up with other Loyalists. No more plan to turn the tide of war. The Legion now lived - or perhaps more accurately, refused to die - only to seek out the strongholds of the Traitors and destroy them. Their rampage south across the Segmentum Obscurus showed little discrimination and many worlds that had declared for neither side in the confusion of the Heresy were attacked. In the wake of the Entombed came the Justiciars, presenting themselves as saviours to terrified Imperial citizens. From this frightened mass Uriel's sons gathered many new recruits for the ranks of their auxilia. Although the Entombed crossed the border of the Segmentum Solar as a small band of elite warriors, the Justiciars followed them as a mighty Legion.
Segmentum Pacificus also suffered the ravages of Space Marines gone rogue. Unlike the berserk Entombed, the sadistic Mastodontii moved systematically and revelled in the fear of their victims. With the Void Angels still missing and the Silver Cataphracts encamped at Terra, Tollund Ötztal's marines were almost unopposed. The only centre of power with the strength to hold off the Mastodontii was the mighty Forge World Al-Sherar. Sheltered behind the long walls of her defensive satellites, Al-Sherar dispatched warships to protect her colonies and allies, affirming that her empire within an Empire deserved the name "Realm of Peace". Of course, there were many more targets than the Kazi could protect and they lacked the doctrine to hunt down the roving Space Marines. When confronted by Mechanicum warships, Mastodontii hunting packs simply turned about and looked to one of countless undefended worlds.
Even where the Space Marines were not taking out their appetites on humanity, the fabric of the Imperium was tearing. Imperial governors and Imperial Army commanders began to act as autocrats, seeking no superior authority. Even where these petty despots claimed to only be carrying out an independent policy "for the duration of the emergency", they also reserved the right to define when the emergency ended. Others unabashedly embraced new masters, making pacts with powerful Xenos or kowtowing to the Ruinous Powers. Much of the vast Ultima Segmentum was beyond even the nominal rule of Terra, but a new empire was rising. Sebastion Rex, formerly of the Heralds of Hektor, was gathering renegade Space Marines and other warriors to his banner. In the reaches of Ultima, Sebastion proclaimed the Bulwark as a shelter for that portion of mankind who wanted nothing of the war between the Primarchs. While the Bulwark would not last, for a few short years it was a vibrant light in the Galaxy, home to refugees and fortune-seekers, pacifists and rogue warriors alike, all under the enlightened despotism of the Rex.
The Atalantos Defiance
Dissent within the ranks of the Thunder Kings had been born at Diamat, where Brennus and his Equerry Ferdiad argued before battle. Defeat at Ostium had widened the rifts in the Legion and although retiring to the Legion Homeworld had allowed for fresh recruits to replace some of those who had been slain by the Black Augurs, the Thunder Kings also suffered fresh wounds on Alessia. Ferdiad challenged his master for control over the Legion, and when he was defeated in an honour duel the Equerry led five of the tribes in revolt. A short, furious campaign drove the traitors from Alessia, but the loyalist strength now remaining at Brennus' command was a shadow of the Legion he had led at the end of the Great Crusade.
SCORCH THE EARTH! BURN THE STARS!
- battle cry of the 8th Conflagration of the Sons of Fire Legion
After the burning of Nahardul, the Eternal Zealots retired from the Atalantos Worlds but the Sons of Fire continued to press the War Scribes hard. Still hurting from Wolzhi Steelblood's betrayal, there was little that the Loyalists could do to stem the tide. Barduvay, the Flower of Atalantos, and her defenders alike were burned by Inferox. Five thousand sons of Arelex Orannis died trying to protect Lorka Minor and as many again on the farm planets that fed the Hive World. Then came the invasion of Atalantos herself. The Sons of Fire smashed through the War Scribes' weakened defences and began to drop onto their homeworld.
Arelex Orannis still lay wounded. The Primarch's god-like vitality allowed him to survive the touch of Phosphex, but healing was a slow and painful process. While Inferox would lead his Sons of Fire in person, Orannis was confined within the War Scribes' Fortress-Monastery. Despite the loss of their advanced equipment and the damage the Legion already taken, the War Scribes were still possessed phenomenal tactical cohesion and their wounded Primarch guided them from his sickbed. Where the Sons of Fire expected heavy resistance, the defenders of Atalantos melted away. Where they felt safe, camouflaged War Scribes burst from hiding to strike at weak points. These expert tactics could not save Atalantos, but they exacted a heavy toll on the Sons of Fire. However, no amount of cunning could overturn the War Scribes' dire situation. Eventually, the Loyalists were reduced to defending their Fortress-Monastery and hoping that its adamantium walls would hold out against Inferox's siege weapons.
Such hopes were in vain. To the shock of the defenders, six Titans from the dread Legio Olitau were sacrificed to breach the War Scribes' walls and Inferox himself led the Sons of Fire into the gap. Arelex Orannis called for his panoply of war and hastened to join his sons in their last stand. Yet the Sons of Fire were also feeling the pressures of war. A great fleet led by the Primarch Brennus had broken warp at the outskirts of the Atalantos System and was speeding towards the War Scribes homeworld. The sacrifice of Olitau's god machines had been a last attempt to finish off Arelex Orannis before the Thunder Kings arrived. Although the Sons of Fire took a fierce toll on the defenders, Brennus and his Déith Cernun teleported to the surface and shored up the loyalist line while Thunder Kings' shuttles and drop pods began their descent.
Inferox felt no fear at the prospect of bloody annihilation, but as the Primarch savoured the prospect of his own violent death, he felt the voice of mighty Khorne. The God of Fire and Blood called his Champion to a greater purpose, far from the ashes of Atalantos. Obedient to his master, Inferox had his Sons of Fire withdraw and leave the loyalists to count their dead.
Rise of the Autopostates
For scholars familiar with the Cult Mechanicus of the 41st Millenium, Kalkas Tygian's fixation upon non-conformism as the Heresy blossomed can be baffling. How could a world like Al-Sherar defy the Martian Parliament, giving adulation to the Machine God in their own rites and even encouraging divergent thought among other Forge Worlds? Yet when we discard our preconceptions the truth is laid bare. The Mechanicum of the Great Crusade held a great many divergent views, even on Mars itself. Tygian could find a majority in favour of political dominance over Al-Sherar, but every attempt to impose one creed across the Tech-Priests of the Galaxy was met with internal opposition. Only after the civil war, when dissent on Mars was a sign of Heresy punishable by death, would the Red Planet seek a final reckoning with Al-Sherar and her Non-Conformist League.
Although individuals, martial brotherhoods, and even whole Forge Worlds had aligned themselves with the Traitors and Loyalists, Mars herself remained curiously preoccupied with internal affairs as civil war erupted. Fabricator-General Kalkas Tygian had been fighting a long war of influence and political calculation against dissidents within the Machine Cult. In particular, the Non-Comformist League led by the headstrong kazi of Al-Sherar were a far greater concern to the Martian Parliament than squabbling among the Primarchs. For decades after its discovery, Al-Sherar had reached out to heterodox Forge Worlds - at first in the Segmentum Pacificus, but eventually across the Galaxy - offering political and material support to those who did not embrace the narrow creed of Kalkas Tygian. Documents of admittedly dubious pedigree indicate that Tygian's advisors were examining plans for limited wars to curb the Non-Conformist League's influence even as the Voidwatcher's sorcery threw the Warp into turmoil. Only once it was no longer possible to look out across the Galaxy as a whole was Kalkas Tygian forced to take stock of the Solar System's troubles.
Unfortunately, Mars was not merely an observer, for the hand of Chaos had touched the Red Planet too. Within the Forge Temple Ubris Tyrrhena, Vilyon Luthier had assembled an army of Abominable Intelligences, each possessed by a daemon of Slaanesh. These vile "Choristers" were able to pervert the Machine God's order and seize control of servitors about them. The first Forge Temple to fall to a Chorister was Urbis Syrtis. Its masters were slain and stripped for components, and its forges set to the work of creating more minions of the Ruinous Powers. As Luthier's onslaught gathered pace, panicked Magoi began to dabble with forbidden knowledge in the hope of finding an answer. Lyster Larrey attempted to unleash a potent virus to destroy the Chorister; his efforts only saw the division of the A.I. into Slaaneshi and Nurgilite fractions, and Larrey's soul lost to the Father of Plague. A more subtle plan arose in the mind of Duniya Kaanesh. Kaanesh discovered that Luthier's Choristers could only interface with a limited number of Servitors and attempted to overload their communications by creating mountains of servitor skulls about a planned battlefield. Although the Choristers were incinerated by Volkite fire on that blood-soaked ground, Kaanesh's blasphemous acts were an oath of fealty to Khorne, God of Fire and Blood.
Not all lost their heads in these dark days, but Kalkas Tygian was forced to admit that the situation was dire. He could not signal Alexandri of Rosskar to offer the aid of the Cult Mechanicus, but perhaps the Regent could lend his Silver Cataphracts to the struggle for Mars.
The Rosskar Atrocities
Pallas Eugenesis and Alexandri of Rosskar had despised one another for decades even before the war broke out. Eager to deliver one more humiliation to the Primarch of the Silver Cataphracts, Pallas called for an attack on Rosskar itself, pleading to Hektor that ravaging the homeworld of the Silver Cataphracts would weaken the Legion's resolve and unlock the defences of ancient Terra. It is unlikely that Hektor Cincinnatus was entirely convinced, but he gave Pallas leave to pursue her vendetta and dispatched a Phalanx of his gene-sons to support the Eclipse Queen's own Selenar cohorts.
Where other campaigns began with some semblance of honour and descended into brutality, the attack on Rosskar was cruel at the outset and became gratuitously sadistic. Shapeshifting Selenar assassins took a toll on the Rosskan commanders; less subtle bio-weapons were unleashed on the population at large. Yet the spirit of Rosskar is fatalistic self-sacrifice and Pallas's attempt to terrorize the world into submission fell flat. Under the command of Konstantyn Ibirien, the mortal men of Rosskar held out. When faced by overwhelming odds, the Rosskan Strelky sold their lives dear. When confronted by the bio-twisted bodies of their former comrades, the Strelky shot to defend themselves but wasted no ammunition on mercy killing. Escalating atrocities only depleted the efficiency of the Selenar host and the Battle of Rosskar descended into a series of mass killings.
The Heralds of Hektor played no part in the attack on Rosskar itself, but their raids throughout the Kuzgeta Sector kept Rosskan colonies from sending aid to their homeworld. Surprisingly, the embattled Strelky still received aid from other warriors in the Segmentum Pacificus. Of particular note was the contribution from the worlds of the Markian Pact. The Pact dispatched four full armies to Rosskar when news of the attack arrived, and the Markian Expeditionary Force would eventually grow to over fifty million men, mainly operating in the battles around Hive Niemen.
Dolsene: A promise of peace?
Many regard Abdul Al-Sherar as the greatest Knight to ever live. Few dispute that he was the greatest Knight of his era. Born as a thrall to the Kazi of Al-Sherar, he escaped his masters and proved his worth as a Freeblade Knight, even courting the Mistress of House Accolon, Arturia Eld. His disgrace in this suit saw Abdul retrace his steps and beg the Kazi for a new purpose. The passionless tech-priests remade their former slave, wedding his iron will to the fierce Machine Spirit of the Knight walker Lord of Bones and putting him into the service of their ally, Gaspard Lumey.
Enjoy your victory while you can. I'll kill what you love the most and you'll wish you'd died on my blades.
- Aubrey the Grey
During the years of Gaspard Lumey's exile, Aubrey the Grey had kept up a steady correspondence with his far-off brother. Even as the civil war began, the two were exchanging letters - though Aubrey was far from candid about the developing conflict. Once Hektor's initial attack towards Terra bogged down, the Primarch of the Eternal Zealots began to disclose a heavily biased version of events and after completing his business at Atalantos Aubrey set out to the galactic north. Gaspard Lumey greeted Aubrey warmly at his base of operations on Dolsene and the two discussed the civil war over the course of three days. During this time, warriors in Aubrey's command renewed their association with old friends among the Fifth Legion and admired the new facilities and fortifications that had transformed Dolsene from an obscure frontier world into a fine Sector capital. Fatefully, the Zealots only paid cursory attention to the newly raised regiments of Dolsene Rifles.
The meeting between the Primarchs was cordial at first but Gaspard Lumey's questions became increasingly hostile. In his closing remarks on the second day of talks, Gaspard addressed the unspoken question of the civil war: who should rule the Imperium? The Primarch answered that the Imperium belonged to Mankind. If humanity had a place for the Space Marines after the Great Crusade, it would be an honour to serve. If not, the Legions could lay down their arms and become a part of history. Although disappointed, Aubrey committed to a third day of talks and argued for a peace plan. He encouraged Gaspard to take his Legion to the heart of the Imperium and impose a cease-fire before compromise became truly impossible. Aubrey would return to Hektor's side and argue for peace in the rebel camp. Hoping to sweeten the pot, he suggested that Shakya Vardhana might play a similar role on Terra. This tissue of lies convinced Gaspard Lumey to end the talks and part ways peacefully.
On returning to his command ship, Aubrey the Grey immediately set in motion plans to decapitate the Fifth Legion. Gathering his personal bodyguard, the Traitor Primarch teleported back to the surface of Dolsene and began the attack as supporting elements followed in by drop pod. The Eternal Zealots had estimated that they would quickly overwhelm the few Space Marines standing guard and carry out a slaughter of Fifth Legion's unprepared commanders. In particular, Aubrey relished the chance to avenge his humiliation at Lazarus and see Gaspard Lumey dead. The decision to dismiss the Dolsene Rifles as an effective combat element was not unjustified, as few mortal formations had even stood their ground against Space Marines during the earlier stages of the war - but it was a mistake. Although the warriors of Dolsene felt the same terror in their hearts as other mortals on the receiving end of a Space Marine assault, their ancestors had become accustomed to terror through generations of siege by the horrors of the galactic fringe. The Riflemen defending Lumey's compound kept their discipline and kept firing for precious minutes. Lascarbines claimed the life of one of Aubrey's bodyguards before the Riflemen were broken, and this affront saw more time wasted on punitive slaughter before the Eternal Zealots refocused on their objective. Thanks to the valour of their mortal allies, Gaspard Lumey's Chosen had time to ready themselves and met Aubrey head-on.
In close quarters, however, the Zealots still held the initiative. Aubrey led his gene-sons unerringly towards Gaspard Lumey, hoping to kill the now-loyalist Primarch and leave the Fifth disorganised in his wake. Despite the courage of the Fifth Legion Marines, they were outmatched in close-quarters and Aubrey was soon face-to-face with Gaspard. Just as quickly, the master of the Fifth was struck down and lay bleeding. Aubrey the Grey allowed himself the luxury of a moment's anticipation before delivering the coup de grace, but in an attack marked by wasted moments this was one delay too many. The great Freeblade, Abdul Al-Sherar, had arrived. Al-Sherar's mighty war machine crashed into the fray, crushing some of Aubrey's best warriors, and shielded Gaspard Lumey while the Primarch recovered from his wounds. Although neither the White Knight nor Lumey could best Aubrey alone, together they forced the Arch-Traitor from the field.
The Warmaster's long absence from the front is an enigma still to be unravelled. What is known is that the Heralds of Hektor were not idle, with small detachments busy across the growing warzone, but their gene-sire was absent for months. When Hektor returned to the Traitor conclaves and battlefields of the Heresy, he had lost one eye and gained a terrible sense of purpose. The new Warmaster no longer spoke of an eventual peace and reconciliation. He called on his followers to tear down the false Imperium and build the future on the broken bodies of their foes.
Hektor's plan to destroy the remaining loyalist Legions had failed. The War Scribes and Thunder Kings, though betrayed from within, had combined their forces at Atalantos and would soon begin attacking into the Segmentum Solar. Golgothos' sons were decimated, but the survivors moved like the scythe of death itself. The grim sons of Alexandri Ibirien held firm at Terra and the Eyes of the Emperor were poised to rejoin the fight. Even the Scale Bearers had begun to rouse themselves from grief and were seeking vengeance. However, the traitors were bolstered by the gifts of Chaos and three of the loyalist Primarchs were far from the main theatre of the war. Cromwald Walgrun had cut off the Steel Marshals' march towards Sol and Onyx's Stone Men still drifted through the darkness of the Warp.
Aubrey's failure to either recruit or slay Gaspard Lumey was particularly galling. Fifth Legion was still scattered among the stars of the Galactic North, but their return to the Segmentum Solar would make an attack on Terra impossible. Given the situation, Hektor set the Traitor Legions to the task of seizing humanity's birthplace. The Iron Rangers and Black Augurs, still holding the blockade lines around the Solar Sector, would launch feints before the Lifebringers, refitted after the battles leading towards Kuniat, launched the main drive to open a road to Sol. Meanwhile, the Lions Rampant, Sons of Fire, Eternal Zealots, Justiciars, and Hektor's new allies among the Mastodontii would gather for the final battle. The Heralds of Hektor themselves would be kept fresh, for they would make the first landings on Terra.
Loyalist councils of war were even less optimistic. Malcador the Sigilite had secretly departed Terra and roamed the Imperium, finally giving Terra accurate reports on the situation in the Segmentum Solar. The Sigilite's reports of the Steel Marshals stalled and the Stone Men missing convinced Alexandri that his position was hopeless, but the Primarch's stubborn nature forbade surrender. Only the senior commanders of the Silver Cataphracts were informed that their new mission was simply to rain ruin upon the Traitors until the cost of war was more than any man could bear. Fearing that the Eyes of the Emperor were too soft to carry out such orders, Alexandri ordered the Nineteenth Legion forces holding perimeter worlds to Mars, claiming with some justification that the Red Planet was key to Loyalist fortunes. The Vardhana, still reeling from the Voidwatcher's brutal psychic assault, did not question the Regent's command and led his men to Mars.
Elsewhere, scattered Loyalist forces drew up plans of their own. Arelex Orannis and Brennus were hard at work bringing the great War Scribes fleet back into service. Not knowing the extent of the crisis, and fearing that his homeworld would suffer Aubrey the Grey's wrath, Gaspard Lumey mustered his men at Dolsene and set forth for Ciban IV. By a quirk of fate, Roman Albrecht had also decided to make for the Segmentum Pacificus, hoping to gather fresh supplies and warships from the loyalist Forge Worlds there.
Battle of Felton's Gap
Before losing contact with the Steel Marshals, Cromwald Walgrun set in motion a plot to kill or at least gravely wound Roman Albrecht. The Lion of Sommesgard was an outstanding swordsman in his own right, but he had no intention of crossing blades with his warlike brother. Instead, Walgrun planned to deploy a trio of Hezeyar assassins. Assisting in this effort would be the traitor Gustav Wild, a warrior from the Steel Marshals who had defected to Hektor's service at the Olmer Conference. Wild had already provided key insights into Roman Albrecht's strategic decision-making, helping to set the trap of the Lion's Cordon. According to the traitor, the Steel Marshals would be most likely to make a sharp course change once they realised the scope of the cordon. Wild saw the Marshals' two most likely destinations as the Atalantos Sector in the Ultima Segmentum and the Al-Sherar Sector in Segmentum Pacificus, but could not pick one or the other. Even had Hektor not commanded the Lions Rampant to muster near Sol for the attack on Terra, the window for attacking the Lord-Knight was closing. Gustav Wild also predicted that the Steel Marshals would split their forces into two groups, each protecting a group of astropaths capable of projecting a short-range beacon for warp navigation. Quick-moving Warp Runners were able to confirm this suspicion: a portion of the Steel Marshals fleet had entered the Warp from the Hebex System while the rest remained in-system to protect a warp beacon on the Feudal World Felton's Gap. Long-distance auspex indicated that the Marshals were encamped at a feudal castle and had butressed its medieval stone with modern plascrete.
Cromwald Walgrun guessed that his brother would take personal command in the more dangerous role, guarding his Legion's withdrawal, and immediately issued orders for an attack on Felton's Gap. Taking advantage of the talents of the Xenos Hezeyar to move swiftly through the Warp, the Lions Rampant broke Warp in the Hebex System with the Marshals still encamped about their beacon. As the Traitor fleet moved toward Felton's Gap, Roman Albrecht ordered his outnumbered fleet commanders to avoid battle, reasoning that his warships were better used threatening the Lions Rampant during their planetary assault than in a futile engagement in open space. This prudent strategy forced the Lions to slowly conduct landings far from the Steel Marshals concentrations, then expend their fuel reserves moving overland to attack. If the Lions Rampant attack had been in earnest, Roman's strategy would have limited their mobility and forced the traitors to fight a static battle of the type favoured by the Steel Marshals. Unfortunately, despite the scale of forces deployed to Felton's Gap, Cromwald Walgrun's attack was only intended to occupy his brother's attention.
The decisive stroke was delivered by the Hezeyar assassins. These strange creatures ritually ended their own lives to bring forth a trio of powerful Slaaneshi daemons. The Neverborn sought out Roman Albrecht in his borrowed keep and attacked the Primarch. Few creatures in the Galaxy could hold their own against three Greater Daemons - but Roman Albrecht was among them. The Lord-Knight met his foes' unnatural prowess with the skill and speed of a thousand men. Honor's Blade struck down one of the three before the Primarch's bodyguard were even aware of the attack, and a second swiftly followed. The third of the would-be assassins fled in search of an easier target. Tragically, the daemon was able to slaughter many of the astropaths who laboured at their psychic beacon before Roman Albrecht could catch it. As the Traitor forces withdrew from Felton's Gap, the Steel Marshals pressed their Librarians to take the place of the fallen astropaths. This desperate effort saved some of the Marshals' ships traveling the Warp, but others were lost forever.
The Vaults of Moravec
Kalkas Tygian's loyalists had suffered severe reverses. A powerful Sonic Disruptor at Pavonis Mons prevented Choristers from controlling servitors on the Tharsis plateau but outside of this protected region, few Forge-Temples had survived the onslaught of the Autopostates. Although the loss in material had been severe, many tech-priests had fled to the great Forge Temples of Tharsis, and the halls of Olympus Mons were crowded by Machine Cultists hard at work crafting new weapons of war. When the Eyes of the Emperor arrived, the most pressing crisis was the fate of the Ring of Iron, the Red Planet's great geosynchronous shipyard. Forces of the Autopostates were storming the Ring's secondary elevator complex and the loyalist defenders were hard-pressed.
Eyes of the Emperor battle-brothers quickly stabilised the loyalist position in the elevator. Unlike the Mechanicum's Skitarii and Taghmata formations, the Space Marines were not reliant on support from robots and servitors, so the Choristers' ability to pervert the Omnissiah's order was less hazardous to them. However, the Eyes of the Emperor lacked the numbers to simply push the Abominable Intelligences from the face of Mars, and new Choristers were being constructed every hour. In order to turn the tide, Shakya Vardhana had been entrusted with a terrible secret - the location and access codes to the infamous Vaults of Moravec. Accompanied only by Kalkas Tygian himself, the Primarch ventured deep beneath Olympus Mons to open the Vaults. Within, the two risked their sanity by investigating lost techno-arcana.
Perhaps sensing the danger to their plans, the Autopostates launched a great attack on Olympus Mons as the Vaults were opened. Although the Fabricator-General's Legate, Zorr Yenser, was a being of profound tactical insight and possessed immense computational abilities, he lacked the intuition and grace of a master general and deferred to Phirun Soun for command decisions. In the second month of the siege, Shakya Vardhana and Kalkas Tygian emerged from the Vaults of Moravec with plans for a great Ordinatus engine, and the defenders desperately held on while the great weapon was constructed. Their sacrifice was not in vain. The newly-forged Ordinatus Mars was unleashed on the attacking Choristers and sundered machine from daemonic essence. Soulless, mindless metal fell to the earth while the daemons were banished to the Warp. Olympus Mons was saved, and with it Mars, but the armies of the Mechanicum would be occupied in mopping up operations for years to come. Meanwhile, their Space Marine allies returned to Terra to prepare for Hektor's coming.
The terrible defeat at Diamat had left the Scale Bearers leaderless, scattered, and almost destroyed. Fragments of the Legion had gone rogue, falling in with the Traitors, becoming bandits, or pledging to the Bulwark. Most planners, Loyalist and Traitor alike, wrote the Scale Bearers off as a significant factor in the war. But Rychad Owain gathered up what was left of Tyran Osoros' great Legion and led them to the Forge World Tigris. For long months, survivors and fresh recruits trickled into the Scale Bearers' camps. Hardly a trace of the old organisation remained, and Owain was forced to create new formations on Tigris. Cloaked in obscurity, the Scale Bearers transformed themselves into a rapid strike force before returning to the war.
Still enraged by betrayal, the Entombed continued their rampage into the Segmentum Solar. Although the main body of the Justiciars had been recalled to prepare for the attacks on Sol, a small force had stayed behind to report on Golgothos' movements. Forewarned, Traitor formations largely avoided the wrath of Golgothos, leaving worlds which had declared neutrality or simply lost contact with the greater Imperium to suffer. The Civilised World Carballido II was among those attacked by the Entombed and, as was common, issued a wide-spectrum distress call - but their plea was answered.
Rychad Owain's Scale Bearers were threading their way into the Segmentum Solar, hoping to link up with a significant Loyalist Force or at least conduct disruptive operations in the Traitor's rear areas. When the Scale Bearer's astropaths picked up Carballido's report of marauding Space Marines, Owain suspected Traitors on the rampage or renegades. In either case, he could hardly stand idle while the people of the Imperium suffered. The Scale Bearers hastened to Carbaillido and briefly clashed with the Entombed there. However, Rychad Owain was able to convince Golgothos to negotiate and the two battered Legions made a cease-fire. In the course of a few laconic exchanges, the Entombed and Scale Bearers reforged their brotherhood and exchanged information. Rychad Owain agreed to use his smaller, more agile forces to cover Golgothos' advance. In return, the Primarch pledged to make his way to Terra to lend his strength to the heart of the Loyalist cause.
While the Entombed departed the system, the Avenger-class Swift Plunderer and its escorts lurked in orbit around the super-hot planet Carballido III. Here, the warpships could vent their heatsinks without drawing undue attention, allowing them to hide and prepare for battle at the same time. Their patience bore fruit when a pair of Justiciars Strike Cruisers and their accompanying escorts broke Warp and vectored in-system to investigate the aftermath of the Entombed attack. Caught off-guard, the traitors retreated towards the sun of the system in the hopes of performing a slingshot maneuver to gain the advantage on their foes. As they rounded the star, the Justiciar fleet found itself facing the bulk of the Scale Bearers fleet, on line and in formation for an assault. The nature of their gambit meant the traitor ships were unable to change their headings ran straight into the ambush fire. The Scale Bearers finished the Justiciars flotilla quickly and left no survivors.
A Hall of Brass
When the Stone Men set off on their long voyage to the Atalantos Worlds, their Navigators had to strain to pick out the light of the Astronomican. Within a week of relative time, the Voidwatcher's sorcery had completely blotted out that reference point and the fleet was blind. With one exception, the ships dropped out of the Warp and made for a planet where they could refit. These scattered forces went the way of many of the Marines who lost touch with their Legion, fighting petty wars with little bearing on the greater strategic picture or turning their coats and going over to the Traitors or the Bulwark. The only ship to carry on regardless was Onyx's flagship, the Mount Everest super-battleship. Propelled by its ancient warp drive and the Primarch's admantium will, the Mount Everest plunged forward through the nightmare of the Warp.
Accounts of the great ship's voyage differ wildly. Although the Mount Everest would not emerge from the Warp for a year by the accounting of realspace, Captain Jabal of the 31st Battle Company recorded a journey of just three weeks. By comparison, Scout-Sergeant Tantalus began his journey as a five-year veteran of the Legion and emerged crippled by old age. It is known that the Mount Everest's Gellar Field fluctuated during its voyage, leading to Warp manifestations that would have destroyed a lesser vessel. A leading explanation for the survival of that Onyx's flagship is that psycho-reactive crystal structures in its armour that hardened against the influence of Chaos in response to the Primarch's own determination, though even more outlandish ideas have been advanced. Regardless, the Mount Everest did not disintegrate, but its complement was harried by daemonic incursions.
Onyx himself was the focal point of the daemons' attention. The Primarch was assailed by waves of smouldering Neverborn under the command of foul Balheizihr, the Brazen Bull of Khorne. As his bodyguard died around him, Onyx fought not only to survive, but also to contain his anger. Balheizihr finally came to grips with Onyx and began to throttle the Primarch, searing the flesh of his thick neck and mockingly asking if Onyx would die or give in to rage. Either way, the Brazen Bull declared, the Stone Men would belong to the God of Fire and Blood. Yet Onyx the Indestructible found a third way. He endured. The Primarch suffered Balheizihr's burning touch for unknown ages, grappling with the daemon until the Mount Everest returned to Realspace in a most unlikely location.
The Fall of Destoona
The Parthorum Stream is a vast Warp phenomena, the convergence of two currents that permit rapid and reliable Warp travel along an area of space 250 light years in length. Although there were other roads to Sol, this was the most easily navigated and significant. During the first decades of the Great Crusade, Hektor Cincinnatus and his young First Legion had led the Imperium into this critical region and the lessons they had learned fighting the Xenos-led Osroene Empire had shaped much of the First's Compliance policy. Throughout the fight for humanity's domination of the Galaxy, the Parthorum Stream had been a critical artery for supplies to the Expedition Fleets. During the Heresy, it was fought over in a long series of battle starting with Onyx's raid at Kuniat and culminating in the horrifying demise of Destoona.
"He wills it!"
- battle cry of the Justiciars
Loyalist tenacity on the edges of the Galaxy meant little to Hektor's drive on Terra. Spoiling attacks by the Iron Rangers and Black Augurs had diverted Loyalist reserves before the full strength of the Lifebringers was committed to capture the worlds of the Pathorum Stream and open the road to Sol. Alexandri of Rosskar was careful to preserve his own Silver Cataphracts through the early engagements. The Regent let the multi-millioned garrisons of the Parthorum Sector fight and die without the support of Space Marines. Despite their importance, most of the worlds in the Sector were ill-fortified. Alexandri gave them up to the depredations of the Traitor Legions without regret, but he could not let the enemy take Destoona, so close to Sol, without paying a steep price. As Johannes Vrach steadily advanced, tens of millions of Rosskan Strelky - Auxilia recruited on Alexandri's pitiless homeworld and hardened by campaigning alongside the stern Silver Cataphracts - were shipped to Destoona to prepare for a climactic battle. As they awaited the coming assault, the Strelky worked tirelessly to build chains of fortified bunkers around massive anti-ship laser batteries. Though the works were a pale shadow of the defences at Terra, Alexandri was confident that Johannes Vrach would have to call on the Traitors' reserves in order to take Destoona.
This confidence was well-placed. After receiving reports from Warp Runners scouting ahead of his Legion, the Lifebringers Primarch contacted Hektor to advise the Warmaster of the changing situation and request support. The Warmaster selected Uriel Salazar's Justiciars to assist in the battle for Destoona. This Legion was hardly bloodied in the conflict to date and had been reinforced by militia caught up from the wake of the Entombed's rampage. Salazar and Johannes Vrach met at Udoya to discuss strategy, and jointly decided that they would try to limit the losses among their Space Marines and keep these elite troops for the terrible fight to come at Sol. Vrach's Lifebringers would secure a landing zone near Destoona's south pole and silence the defence lasers covering the approaches, but the bulk of the campaign would be carried out by mortal forces under the command of the Justiciars.
The Traitor plan had hardly begun when an unexpected complication emerged. While Johannes Vrach's heavy ships engaged Destoona's ground-based defences in support of drop-pod landings, the warfleet of the Entombed broke Warp and, joined by a small force of Strelky warships monitoring the system, started moving in to attack Traitor shipping. Golgothos' sons had suffered terrible losses at Caria, but they still possessed a considerable number of powerful warships. Although the Justiciars' cruisers were on hand to repond, being tied down to slow-moving transports negated their speed advantage and left them in a slugging match with Entombed batle barges. Deft handling under the direct command of Uriel Salazar prevented massive losses, but the Lifebringers ships were pulled off station early, leaving the just-landed Space Marines to carry out their mission without the support of naval firepower. Surprisingly, Golgothos did not continue the fight to the death. The Strelky ships sacrificed themselves to cover the Entombed retreat, and soon the Traitors had complete dominance of the space in the Destoona system.
On the surface of Destoona, Johannes Vrach directed his Space Marines in a hard-fought campaign to secure their objective. The Strelky showed no fear of Space Marines and their heavy fortifications were costly to reduce, but they could not bring their overwhelming numerical advantage to bear without deserting fortified positions elsewhere on the planet. By the time the Traitor fleet returned to Destoona, the Lifebringers had, at no small cost, won a landing zone and the vast ranks of macro-transporters began disgorging Salazar's horde. Even in the face of certain defeat, the Strelky fought coolly, making their foes pay for each inch of Destoona's soil. Finally, as the defeat of the Loyalist Auxilia loomed, the garrison launched a virus-bomb attack and seeded Destoona with tailored pathogens. Of the great horde of mortal warriors brought to Destoona by the Traitors, scarcely one in ten thousand survived.
Yet the gene-sons of Johannes Vrach were immune to such attacks and, led by their Primarch, scoured the acrid wastes for surviving Strelky carrying out irregular attacks. Many point to this period as the time in which Vrach fully embraced his destiny as Nurgle's champion, for he had now felt the touch of devastating disease-weapons and seen the misery of a world stripped bare of its bacteria. Regardless, by the time that Destoona was declared ready to serve as a sterile supply bay for the final assault on Terra, the surviving Lifebringers were changed, grossly swollen with pestilence and revelling in the service of their new god.
The Rosskar Conference
The speed at which the Fifth Legion crossed the stars without the light of the Astronomican and the huge forces that they deployed at the end of the Heresy point inextricably towards pre-planning. But to what end? In the records of the Void Angels Chapter, the answer given is that Gaspard Lumey worried for the safety of his homeworld and made plans to hasten to its defence in the event of a crisis. There is some reason to believe this story. Ciban IV had been invaded by Xenos shortly after its rediscovery by the Imperium, putting a severe test on the then-small Fifth Legion, and Lumey's sons had put their backs to the wall again when WAAAGH! Rok'Ed stormed towards the Al-Sherar Sector. Yet these calamities were long in the past by the time of the Heresy, and some in our Order wonder if Gaspard Lumey been plotting his own revolt while he stewed in exile. And if this dangerous theory is true, then how can such faith be put in the Void Angels and their many descendants?
I have every confidence that this war will be won, so let us think about what comes after.
- Roman Albrecht
While the Pathorum Stream was being secured, three great forces came together in the Segmentum Pacificus. Gaspard Lumey's vast armada arrived in the Al-Sherar Sector and began to learn the truth of the civil war. The Primarch did not long delay before deciding to muster the full force of his Legion and its allies. While great masses of Auxilia were embarked from the populous worlds of the Al-Sherar Sector, Fifth Legion's warships joined forces with those of Al-Sherar and hunted down the Mastodontii still sowing terror in the Segmentum Pacificus. It was in this pursuit that they encountered Roman Albrecht's hamstrung Steel Marshals, and, remembering the long-standing brotherhood between their Legions, lent assistance to the Lord-Knight's fleet. Gaspard Lumey sent a dispatch containing the strategic situation as he saw it and inviting his brother Primarch to Ciban IV to discuss a joint strategy. Roman Albrecht politely refused, explaining that the relief of Rosskar must take priority.
Albrecht's decision to relieve Rosskar makes little sense in terms of the immediate strategic priorities of the war. Although the planet had possessed a substantial population and non-trivial war industry, it had been ravaged by the minions of Pallas Eugenesis and now could contribute little other than what was left of its defending armies. Even these soldiers were of questionable value, as replacements could be raised elsewhere and the Loyalists in Pacificus were constrained mainly by the available shipping. However, Roman Albrecht argued that if Rosskar was left to die, it would poison the fruits of victory. By saving Alexandri of Rosskar's homeworld, Lumey and Albrecht could show that the brotherhood of the Primarchs had been shrunken, but not broken. Largely unmoved but unwilling to directly oppose the Lord-Knight, Gaspard Lumey dispatched his trusted lieutenant, Fabrice Diallo, at the head of an army of forty thousand Space Marines and their supporting Auxilia, to join forces with the Steel Marshals in the Rosskan expedition. The Fifth Legion's Primarch would remain at Ciban IV and supervise the muster of fresh troops for the main campaign against Hektor.
Even without Diallo's contingent, the Steel Marshals would have been more than a match for Pallas Eugenesis' Selenar invaders, and the Eclipse Queen fled the Rosskar System before battle commenced. Roman Albrecht commanded a swift and victorious campaign, though several thousand Space Marines died to end Rosskar's torment. More significantly, even as the relief battle raged, the great bulk of the Mount Everest broke Warp in the Rosskar Solar Duality and Onyx the Indestructible hailed his brother Primarch. The reunion of Onyx and Roman was joyous, and Gaspard Lumey broke his usually sour disposition to travel to Rosskar and meet with his brothers. Although their meeting is remembered as the "Rosskar Conference", the talks were informal and mainly consisted in Onyx and Gaspard Lumey forcing Roman Albrecht to accept formal leadership of their Crusade against Hektor. Less publicly, Albrecht bowed to his brothers' wishes and acknowledged that, if it was necessary after the war was won, he would take the Throne of the Imperium.
The Battle of Terra
Within the Solar System, fevered preparations took place for a final battle. Alexandri's Silver Cataphracts squeezed humanity's cradle for the last scraps of war material. The Regent and his officers operated under the belief that the Space Marine Legions outside the Solar System had either sworn to Hektor or been removed from the calculus of warfare. This fatalistic proposition led the Silver Cataphracts to draw up the so-called Molochansk Plan. The vast forces under Alexandri's command would resist in order to draw Hektor's main strength onto Terra. Once the battle was fully joined, the full range of rad and bio weapons would be unleashed in order to kill everything on the planet. Although some of the Traitor forces - and especially their warships - would survive, the Molochansk Plan was intended to so damage Hektor's forces that they would be unable to hold the Imperium together after winning the civil war.
Two Legions joined the Silver Cataphracts in the defence of Terra. From Mars, Shakya Vardhana and Kalkas Tygian scraped up what forces could be spared from the battle with the Autopostates and led them to reinforce Alexandri. These warriors were well-aware that the battle would be desperate, but they were not informed of the full madness of the Molochansk Plan. However, the last Legion to arrive at Terra drastically altered the strategic situation. Far from Sol, Malcador the Sigilite had encountered the remnants of the Entombed and offered them the chance for more than just blind vengeance. Golgothos and his warriors would have willingly participated in the Molochansk Plan, but they proved that its guiding principle was false. There were still Loyalist Legions fighting Hektor outside the Solar System.
Hektor Cincinnatus was even better-informed of the situation but he believed that his forces could still triumph. Control of the Parthorum Stream brought his warriors to the gates of Terra. True, the Solar System was guarded by a mighty Loyalist host, but once the Traitors had assembled their main strength for a final battle they would hold a decisive advantage in numbers. Time, however, was on the Loyalists' side. Hektor had already committed some reserve forces to containing a Loyalist counter-offensive led by Arelex Orannis and Brennus from the Galactic Core, but a larger threat to the Warmaster had emerged from the Segmentum Pacificus. Three Legions under Roman Albrecht's banner, including the fresh Fifth Legion, were moving to the relief of Terra. Knowing that Albrecht's forces could not be pinned in place and destroyed, Hektor resolved to storm Terra as quickly as possible then face the remaining Loyalists from the security of humanity's birthplace.
Outer System Battles
Commander Kleisthenes was one of the oldest surviving Heralds of Hektor when the Heresy began. He had been recruited to the Legion during the first decade of the Great Crusade and was born on one of the human enclaves in the Outer Solar System. Though no record of his precise birthplace survives, by tradition he is considered a child of Europa. In the 41st Millenium, only the vaguest hints on his true story have survived generations of censorship, but a fair representation of his likeness can still be found on medals of "Saint Kleisthenes" worn by pious Imperial Navymen in the Segmentum Solar. For these loyal defenders of the Imperium, the truth of their hero would be too blasphemous to know, but they are permitted to learn a better story about the heroic Master of the fallen Scions of Europa Chapter. Our Order gives all it can.
It is a common misconception among those who have never traveled the void that attacking a solar system involves fighting for each world from the outside in. Even within the relatively small confines of a solar system is space vast almost beyond imagining, too great to be commanded by weapons based on a planetary body. Furthermore, the attacker need not crawl across the plane of the system, instead breaking warp at the poles of the system and moving directly to the inner system. However, when the Traitor Fleet entered Realspace at Sol, the outer system held important secondary objectives. Hektor dispatched Chapters of Space Marines to subdue Loyalist bases that might otherwise have sheltered light fleets operating against Traitor transports.
Most of the Outer System bases were taken without a shot being fired. Alexandri of Rosskar had drafted every human fit for military service in the Solar System and shuttled his conscript armies to key locations - mostly on Terra herself. Those left behind consisted of children, the elderly, and the infirm, and their fates varied according to the whims of the Traitor forces to whom they surrendered. Perhaps surprisingly, the malevolent Black Augurs proved relatively gentle occupiers who had little time for torturing and abusing prisoners. In contrast, Mastodontii forces taking part in this operation quickly abandoned any sense of military efficiency and wallowed in atrocities.
The main Loyalist redoubt in the Outer System was stationed on Europa, an icy moon orbiting Jupiter. Europa's reserves of water had long sustained human life and farms nestled beneath the moon's thick surface ice. Along with civilian stations, a substantial naval base was sustained on the moon, complete with hardened void shielding that would prevent its destruction by orbital bombardment. Loyalist planners deemed Europa the best prospect for a holdout, but few believed the redoubt could long resist a determined assault. For this reason, Alexandri dispatched a mixed force of loyal Space Marines whose gene-sires had followed Hektor into rebellion, believing that if the seed ran true a betrayal would be less damaging on Europa than on Terra. The force was led by Commander Kleisthenes, a Herald of Hektor who had been present on Terra at the outbreak of the war and sworn loyalty to Malcador rather than his own Primarch. Kleisthenes was accompanied by approximately three hundred of his fellow "Wolves of Dawn", seven hundred former Mastodontii, and four hundred marines who had defected from the other Traitor Legions. This brotherhood of lost men fought on beyond even superhuman endurance, grimly holding Europa Station until they were finally overwhelmed by weight of numbers.
Assault on Terra
The appearance of the Traitor Legions made clear the great gulf that now separated the two sides of the civil war. The Heralds of Hektor had been greatly changed in spirit, no longer humanity's champions but instead darkened and bitter souls who fought more from spite rather than for glory. But they were still recognisable. When Inferox, Uriel Salazar, and Johannes Vrach set foot on ancient Terra, they did so as daemons devoted to the Ruinous Powers and their gene-sons were little better. The Voidwatcher and his Black Augurs had set aside any restraint and let the corrupting power of the Warp flow through them, corrupting and empowering their ranks. The Mastodontii, always fearsome in appearance but gentle in spirit, were now twisted sadists in bestial bodies. More exotic still were Aubrey the Grey's Eternal Zealots who had begun to transform themselves into alien forms, and the Lions Rampant of Cromwald Walgrun who were modifying their own bodies in pursuit of more rarified pleasures. Of the Iron Rangers and Rogerius Merrill, little was seen but the marks of their passage gave no reason to mistake them for their past selves.
Loyalist forces in the inner Solar System were concentrated on humanity's homeworld. Squadrons of military voidships sworn to the Entombed, Eyes of the Emperor, and the Silver Cataphracts had combined with those under the Emperor's own command into a great fleet for the defence of Terra. These powerful warships were supported by thousands of orbital weapons platforms and joined by every civilian vessel that could be converted to military usefulness, but they were still grossly outnumbered by the combined Traitor fleet. Hektor Cincinnatus commanded ships drawn from across the vast and wealthy Segmentum Solar and beyond. Inferox and Aubrey had looted the great shipyards of Nahardul, adding exotic warships born from the imagination of the War Scribes techmarines to the Traitor armada. Due to the great disparity of forces, the Loyalist fleet fought a delaying action and its remnants withdrew to Mars.
The main objective for both sides was the Imperial Palace, a vast hive city that covered half of ancient Eurasia. Within the heart of the complex were the twin keys to the Imperium; the Astronomican and the Emperor of Mankind. Despite more than a trillion Loyalist warriors at his command, Alexandri gave little protection to other areas of Terra. Civilians in old Merica, Afrik and the Pan-Pacific had been issued arms and organised into militia, but if they were attacked no assistance from the Loyalist army would be coming until after the main battle was won. Although the most important installations on Terra were protected by void shields and adamantium, Hektor's campaign for the planet still began with a heavy orbital bombardment. After days of concentrated attack by the Traitor fleet, thousands of drop pods were dispatched to the surface. The battle for Terra had begun.
Hektor had chosen his own First Legion, the Heralds of Hektor, for the honour of leading the Traitor assault. The initial target was the spaceports close to the Imperial Palace, with the Warmaster himself at the historic Lion's Gate spaceport. Despite fierce resistance from the Imperial Army, the Traitor Marines quickly seized their objectives. With these in hand, enormous macro-landers began their slow descent, bearing untold numbers of Chaos cultists and Traitor army regiments. Due to their bulk and clumsiness, the macro-landers were targeted by loyalist defence lasers and the defenders were occasionally bouyed by the sight of a Traitor lander losing power and plummeting to earth. However, such small victories did little to reduce the tide of attackers. As the balance of forces on planet tilted in favour of the invaders, Hektor divided his forces into three. The main force would besiege the Imperial Palace. A secondary element under the command of Aubrey the Grey went into the depths of Terra's catacombs and sought to outflank the loyalist from below. The third element, perhaps self-selected, was made of the Traitors too far-gone to follow discipline. These monsters were unleashed on the rest of the planet, where they committed atrocity after atrocity for no apparent purpose other than the increase of human suffering.
At the head of the drive to the walls of the Imperial Palace strode Uriel Salazar and his grey-armoured Justiciars. Their steely indifference to the arms of the defenders disheartened the warriors of the Imperial Army and Alexandri's plan for a staged withdrawal began to turn into a rout. Only the intervention of the Eyes of the Emperor stemmed the tide. Shakya Vardhana confronted his traitorous brother and the two stood motionless for a few moments as their gene-sons clashed, before Uriel Salazar withdrew from the field. Although the Vardhana's arrival steadied the Loyalist lines, the sheer weight of numbers drove them back. The tens of billions of warriors who had survived the long retreat to the Imperial Palace now grimly manned its outer walls and steeled themselves for the siege.
Beneath Terra's surface, the Traitor advance seemed to be losing focus. The Eternal Zealots faced little organised resistance and mainly contended with problems of navigation in the labyrinths below. However, the Legion did find tens of billions of under-hivers, humans who were beyond the pale of Imperial citizenship and therefore given no protection by the Loyalist armies. Aubrey the Grey commanded that these poor souls be offered up as a great tribute to the Ruinous Powers and hastily constructed altars were soon running with blood. Psychic reverberations from this depravity touched the mind of Malcador. The Sigilite immediately realised the peril of leaving Aubrey to his terrible work: if the Traitors below were not stopped, then they might open up a rift to the warp and give Hektor's Legions an endless supply of daemonic reinforcements. There was no question which of the defending Legions was best suited to oppose the Eternal Zealots. In the cramped conditions of the catacombs, the Entombed would shine despite their limited numbers. Golgothos led his sons into the abyss.
All of the mighty Titan Legions commanded war engines of staggering power, but the three great Legios based on Mars were stronger by far than their cousins from other Forges. Their importance in the Heresy is underlined by their split between the Loyalist and Traitor camps. Legio Tempestus obeyed the commands of Hektor Cincinnatus, Legio Mortis stayed faithful to their battle-brothers in the Entombed, and Legio Ignatum fought for Kalkas Tygian but was partially consumed by the Autopostate's Giorea plague.
The outer walls of the Imperial Palace were a vast and daunting barrier. Indeed, to refer to these structures as "walls" is somewhat misleaing. While they certainly form a barrier to the Palace, the walls are an interconnected series of fortresses that are in places over a hundred kilometers deep. Void shields protected the whole complex from orbital bombardment and most land-based artillery lacked the power to force a breach. Hektor Cincinnatus was under no illusions about the strength of the fortifications he faced, but his plan did not hinge on the walls. The Warmaster believed that the defence of the Imperial Palace depended most of all upon the Loyalist Space Marine Legions, and in particular on the Silver Cataphracts who formed the bulk of the Astartes defending the palace. Rather than concern himself with the reduction of the fortifications, Hektor aimed to force a battle in which the Loyalist Marines would be devastated. Without super-human soldiers on hand to shore up a breach, the Imperial Army and Militia forces would succumb in short order. He chose the ancient Valgrat redoubt as his killing ground and set his forces in motion.
Valgrat had once been a major outpost of Ursh before that despotic state was conquered in the Unification Wars. The excellence of the fortress's construction prompted Mechanicum engineers to simply incorporate it into the defences of the Imperial Palace rather than start anew. By the time Hektor returned to Terra, Valgrat had undergone significant modernisation but the Warmaster's masterful eye was drawn to it immediately. He noted that the fortress provided a great defensive position not only against attackers outside the Imperial Palace but also those within. The Traitors staged a series of deceptions to conceal their true intentions, including major assaults by the Justiciars and Sons of Fire. However, there is little doubt that Valgrat was the main axis of advance. There, Hektor Cincinnatus commanded the dread Legio Tempestus to strike at the fortifications, with the Life Bringers and a great host of mortal soldiers ready to assist them. No few Titans were destroyed by the defenders, but scores of god-machines broke apart the Loyalist defences and in their wake billions of mortal soldiers swarmed into the breach. Alexandri of Rosskar did not hesitate to send his gene-sons into this terrible battlefield and the Silver Cataphracts brought great honour to their gene-father through their feats of arms at Valgrat. But despite the valour of the Cataphracts, they had fallen into a trap. Hektor's own First Legion and the quick-moving Lions Rampant had carried out a rapid redeployment to join the battle. Imperial forces caught counter-attacking into a strong position held by superior forces were devastated. Only the Silver Cataphracts held their discipline in the retreat from Valgrat, and even their casualties sky-rocketed as the Heralds of Hektor and Lions Rampant burst forth from Valgrat. The Imperial reserve was devastated and the main defensive line compromised. In the wake of this defeat, Alexandri of Rosskar worked tirelessly to keep the Loyalist withdrawal from turning into a complete rout. Harried all the way by Traitor forces pouring through the lines at Valgrat, the Silver Cataphracts retreated hundreds of kilometers to their new defensive positions. Only the dense hab-blocks of the Imperial Palace, which prevented accurate strikes from Traitor aircraft, saved the Loyalist defenders from annihilation. Just a few weeks after Hektor's main offensive at Valgrat began, the Traitors had encircled the inner Palace. Of the mighty army that had once stood against them, scarely one in a thousand remained, though the warriors of the Space Marine Legions had fared much better than their mortal comrades.
Perhaps seeking to capitalise on his victory or warned of the imminent arrival of Loyalist reinforcements, Hektor Cincinnatus made a challenge before Eternity's Gate, the great portal to the inner Palace. The Warmaster called on the defending commander to come out and face him in single combat to decide the battle, thus preserving the lives of billions of warriors on both sides. Perhaps Hektor believed that Alexandri would never answer such a challenge and thought to shame him in the eyes of his men, but it was the Emperor of Mankind himself who stepped forth from the Palace, shielded by golden-armored Custodes. The Warmaster grimly saluted his creator and the duel began. Although the two were hardly equals, the Emperor refrained from using the full scope of his power against his creation - his son. So the two fought mainly with sword and spear, treading the ground so recently fought over by their immense armies. By chance, a dying soldier of the Imperial Army reached up to grab Hektor by the ankle, seeking to aid his beloved Emperor in this pivotal moment. The Warmaster glanced down for just a moment, giving the wretch a look of pity before ending his life with a kick. This sight moved the Emperor's heart. His son was trapped in a spiral of darkness, forced by fate to slowly destroy that which had been best in himself. The two warriors caught one another's gaze for a moment, then there was a flash of the Emperor's power and Hektor Cincinnatus was no more.
The Emperor's Sacrifice
Many of the veterans of the Battle of Terra - and bloody as it was, billions survived - would remember the Emperor's great contributions to the defence of humanity's homeworld. Tales of His duel with Hektor and final sacrifice in the depths would become the stuff of legend, then fade to myth and become religion. The horrors of the Heresy mocked the rational ideals of the Imperial Truth and across the stars the people of the Imperium began to embrace the simpler truth that the Emperor was their Saviour and their God.
The Emperor of Mankind had little time to grieve his fallen son. Even as the great Traitor host reeled in dismay at Hektor's death, a new and more terrible threat was unfolding below. Golgothos the Fervent had been defeated in battle by Aubrey the Grey and his broken body dragged from the Dreadnought hulk that had sustained it. The dying Primarch was forced to watch as his Traitor brother's foul sorcery rent the Warp and unleashed a tide of daemons. Leaving Alexandri of Rosskar to oversee the repulse of Hektor's demoralised army, the Emperor and Shakya Vardhana took their bodyguards and teleported as close to Aubrey's position as they could. The instability of the Warp beneath the surface scattered the strike force, leaving each warrior alone to fight against the emerging daemonic horde. Despite the terrible odds against him, the Emperor fought His way to Aubrey's altar to find his former son transformed by the power of Chaos, as much a daemon as the entities flooding through the rift in the Warp.
Aubrey lingered long enough to utter a few mocking remarks then fled to the Warp, his new home. Through a titanic effort, the Emperor was able to seal the breach to the Warp, but doing so exhausted His psychic might and the master of mankind fell beneath the marauding daemons. His torn body, barely alive, was recovered by Shakya Vardhana and carried to the Golden Throne. There, the shriveled form of Malcador the Sigilite was disengaged from that ancient device and the Emperor of Mankind was interred to begin his lonely watch over humanity. For the Loyalists, the day had been won but the price was almost too great to bear. The Emperor was barely alive and unable to guide His Imperium, Malcador had given up his life, and Golgothos had been murdered on an altar to the dark gods. Before the loyalists was the path of vengeance and a new crusade to drive the Traitors into the Eye of Terror. The mighty war-fleets of Roman Albrecht, Gaspard Lumey, Onyx the Indestructible, Brennus, and Arelex Orannis would join the victors of Terra in the Great Scouring, and afterwards the survivors would be left to carry out the Reformation of the Imperium.