Story:Warhammer 60K: The Age of Dusk

From 1d4chan
Jump to: navigation, search

The following was written and posted by LordLucan, of the forums. The Age of Dusk is his imagining of how the universe of Warhammer 40,000 would change by the year 60,000.


The Age of Dusk[edit]

It is the 61st Millennium. The galaxy has been moving at a blistering rate. Ancient prophecies are being fulfilled; grand engines are grinding into gradual and unstoppable motion, finally free. All across the galaxy, forces and factions mobilize. Some are old beyond comprehension, and others are so young that the terrors of a Second Age of Strife are but troubling, primordial dreams.

Little can they know that those dreams are all horrifyingly true, and those things that have been thirsting and fasting for so long finally see their chance to inflict themselves once more upon a generation of beings only just recovering from the trauma of a galaxy gone mad. For the old legends were wrong; the tumbling of mankind into the pit was not the herald of the End Times. It was merely the beginning of a wider game.

On the world named after a site of Apocalypse, Armageddon, one of the lost Sons had returned. Vulkan, the Father of Salamanders and one of the Primarchs from long forgotten myths, appeared to the broken people of that world, and began to forge the Empire of Man anew, as a smith might reforge a blade, founding a new Imperium founded upon his humble and earnest ideals. His Imperium has reignited a zealous crusade of reunification across the stars, yet progress is slow. Robbed of the Astronomicon, and determined to ensure every world he takes is a secure bastion of his new world order, Vulkan’s millennial advance has yet to expand his realm to encompass more than a scant fraction of the worlds the former Imperium held dominion over. His most important contribution, however, is not the realm he creates, but his own genetic legacy. A new Astartes Founding has begun. The Space Marines rise again! A new breed of Space Marine, to sweep away the corrupt and putrid Space Marine ‘free companies’ as they bring Vulkan’s word to the galaxy.

Other bastions of man, over the endless centuries, also started to consolidate, as the hundreds of Petty Imperiums began to swallow each other in colossal cannibalistic wars. The Tallarn and Ophelian Imperiums merged after hundreds of years of bitter conflict, forming a vast human realm, founded upon unthinking obedience and religious mania, and with a unique form of warp travel developed through mass witch incinerations; their death screams propelling fleets further than normal non-navigated flights. They worship ‘The Emperor of the Wasteland’, a bastardized belief based upon the Emperor they had never known. The twisted realm of Grand Sicarium, after war after war, has been tempered into a diamond hard series of systems, each world an impregnable fortress, populated by insane humans with near psychotic siege mentality ingrained on their souls. Led by despicable remnants of the once noble Astartes founded before the fall of the Imperium, this realm is one of evil and oppression. Astartes are worshiped as gods, and they in their hubris believed their idolaters. Sicarius, the ancient villain on the throne, has looked upon the Vulkan Imperium, and deemed it a ruse, and has begun to plan against this. The black-fleshed daemon is no Primarch. It cannot be...

Both the Eastern Chaos Imperium, under the Megalomaniac Huron Blackheart, and the Western Chaos Imperium under the eternal traitor Abaddon the Despoiler, have been steadily growing. Their influence spreads, and more and more worlds fall to the worship of the transcendent warp powers. Yet, Chaos is as Chaos does, and these realms are constantly in flux. The two powers detest each other, and have engaged in constant blistering wars. Not only this, but each Imperium also suffers internal conflicts at all times, as the inherently individualist warlords of chaos vie to ensure their own dominance. Abbadon’s rule is constantly opposed by the squabbling Daemon-Primarchs. However, while he spreads his influence outwards, they remain contained within their own hellish dreamlands, fighting like the brothers they are. Yet, more worrying reports have begun to reach Abbadon upon his dark capital of Cadia: the ancient Wulfen are abroad once more, led by the largest and most fearsome of their breed yet to emerge. Some claim it is Russ himself, returned to the realm of flesh for some coming conflict, so vast it is too large for mortals to perceive as it comes into being. Not only this, but Abbadon also has further concern regarding the foe he bound within the Solar System. The devices created to contain the unnatural potency of the Void Dragon have finally begun to crumble. Even now, previously orphaned Tomb Worlds and world engines are shuddering to life once more, hollow eyes gazing upon the world of flesh with disdain and hatred immeasurable.

Just as the force of dissipation and entropy grows in power, its opposite paradox builds in influence. The Star Father, the dread Lord of Obedience and Blind Faith, is now a great galactic titan. Every mortal, no matter how corrupt or defiant, has a niggling urge, buried in their primal brains, to kneel before the Forces of Order. The Angyllic Hosts and their Angyl-Worlds spring up everywhere. Yet, it is claimed the Star Father is searching for someone. A being, an avatar capable of channeling a significant portion of his power. That way, he may manifest upon the world of flesh, and hence dominate both the material and immaterial dimensions. A fate no sane being should desire.

In the Eastern galaxy, the greater part of the Ultima Segmentum is now Tau-space. The Tau terraformed on an unthinkable scale throughout the 51st millennium, and the fruits of their labors showed. The Council of Tau’Va now could call upon untold billions of Tau, Gue’Vesa and other vassal races. Yet, their rule is not the idealist paradise they once promised. It is a rule of enforced Unity under the Tau, who some say are seeking to eliminate all thought that does not conform to proscribed philosophies of the greater Good, and destroy the dissent of freedom. Nor is the Tau Empire a peaceful one. Unseen by the Western Powers of the galaxy, the Tau are grappling with something immense and ungodly. Garrison-Septs to their western flanks are being drawn away to reinforce the eastern Septs. The Tau and the bloated Thexian Trade Empire have even signed truces in order to provide a united front against their newest foe. Worlds are dying, suns splutter and dim, as the endless and eternal Silver Hordes finally mobilize for full scale war, for the first time in millions of years.

The C’tan dropped the facade. They hide no more. The War in Heaven is renewed. The Golden-Skinned Jackal has not only the immortal machinery of the Necron at his disposal, but also his other unspeakable allies. The Ophilim Kiasoz is moving, and systems simply end when it passes. The splinter entities of the trans-dimensional non-place are no longer bound by their exile, and their temporal holocaust effects have chronologically crippled entire planetoids at the behest of the Star God Deceiver. The Lord of Death is abroad also, a black shadow that kills simply because it IS death itself.

Even the greenskins, long presumed extinct and consigned to legends and cautionary childhood fables, return inevitably for the great conflict to come. The tiny spore-morsels, left on worlds the galaxy over, slowly spread and developed over the millennia. Gradually, feral Ork tribes began to spring up on even civilized worlds. Officials, dismissing these feral beings as mere savage beasts, simply began to cull these Ork nests with military force. Thus, the feral Orks grow and spread, fueled by war once more. For the first time in twenty thousand years, the galaxy rang to the sound of Waaaaaaagh once again. However, not all the Orks returning were feral. Some were anything but. A new breed of Ork emerged. Fully-armoured in heavy armor of high quality, with potent weapons and flawless discipline, these elite bands of Orks emerge from strange portals or from well-maintained warships, taking and holding worlds with horrifying efficiency, turning a world into a fortress within days. These Orks are like no Ork ever encountered. It is claimed that they were exiled Orks who found their brainboys. Others claim they are in thrall to a powerful warp being. Others claim a being may have figured out how to ‘pilot’ the Ork Gods themselves, wielding the entire Orkoid race as a single vast weapon. Either way, the Orks are amassing for some purpose, as yet unseen.

Not only this, but the Eldar also gather, returning from their shadows with new insights. Some intensify their spiteful wars against the galaxy, while others take the long view. The fallen Craftworld of Malantai stirs. Something is building within its nexus. Something vengeful...

Fate is weaving these rising empires into a great and deadly embrace. As each grows, the inevitability of the coming conflict is rising and building. We cannot escape it, nor can we oppose it. We can only try and survive it, and hope against hope, that when the end comes, it will drag suffering and pain into its fires as well.

It is the 61st Millennium, and the Age of Dusk is upon us. Let us hope dawn will break on a new universe. For hope is all we have, screaming against the storm.

Additional Background Section 1: Armageddon Rising[edit]

The rise of the Armageddon Imperium is one of the most important events of the ten thousand years following the Second Age of Strife, and is a truly inspiring tale. However, the story begins within the darkest period of the troubled world of Armageddon’s history. As it had always been, the polluted hive world had been a site of sporadic warfare during the collapse of the Imperium. On the eve of M51, the world’s population found itself speared between three dreadful and relentless foes. The Kazan Imperium, a culture of men driven to madness and narcotic indulgences, filled the system with their narc-barges and gunships, pounding and assaulting the worlds of the system relentlessly, pillaging the supplies of the beleaguered realm in order to create more drugs to ship back to their crazed populace. The second foe was the Rand, an Imperium of rebellious abhumans and mutant freaks, who wished to annex the hive world and steal the world’s military manufacturing capabilities for their own ends. Wild beastmen hordes and serf-ogryns were common amongst the armies of the Rand, who butchered and performed the cruelest of acts upon the cowering people. Not only did these Imperiums relentlessly assault the planets, a far worse force was drawn to the scent of battle, and the opportunity for sadism:

A warband of the Emperor’s Children, which dragged a dozen enslaved chaos warbands in their wake as they burst from the warp to partake in the debauchery and torment such a war offered the chaos-twisted superhumans. The Steel Legion and the Hiver Militias tried their best to hold off these forces, but there was never any real hope. Slowly, over almost three years of horrendous, murderous fire-fights and blood-drenched desperate struggles in the dirt and rubble of Armageddon’s countless smashed hive spires and ruined homes. Bodies were piled high in the streets. The pavements and pathways ran a dull black-red, the taint of congealing blood filling every nostril.

The Emperor’s Children bestrode the battlefields like malevolent gods. Their noise marines deafened and liquidized fleeing remnants of humanity, while other deranged elements of the twisted monsters stalked men through the streets like animals, before putting them down with fitful giggles, pulling out eyes while men flailed uselessly against them. Many dark legends began to form amongst the despairing populace, some fair, some ill.

Across every world of the Armageddon system, one name was spoken with quivering, fearful whispers. The Eternal one, Lucius. Lucius the Eternal was a nightmare by this period, a towering giant covered in the screaming faces of those slain by the Eternal beast’s blades, or subverted by his blessing. He traveled from world to world, challenging and murdering the greatest heroes and leaders of the near-broken defenders. Over the twenty thousand years of his vile existence, Lucius’ body had stretched beyond his natural physique, his body expanding to accommodate the hundreds upon thousands of agonized faces bound within his accursed battle plate. His lash whipped about him like a viper, slaying men and women with every venomous, languid stroke of its barbed tendrils, while his glittering blade cut down warriors by the score, his skill beyond anything a mere mortal could hope to match.

Yet, there were other stories propagating through the misery. A giant, with eyes like the fires of hell, was fighting across the system too. Where ever the resolve of the defending humans seemed weakest, this hooded titan of obsidian flesh would appear; the hermit of glorious myth, now made flesh. Where he appeared, the tide of battle turned. His strength and power was unthinkable and wondrous; tanks were ripped apart, entire brigades of narc-mad berserker men from Kazan slain by his fists and his flamers, even the howling warriors of the Emperor’s children felt the brutal exactions of the hermit who killed them like presumptuous bastard children.

Eventually, the last of the Defenders were pushed back to the blazing ruins of Hades hive. Backlit by endless purple flames, the last of the Steel Legion formed up into a defensive ring, using their Chimera as barricades, while their basilisks and Russes unleashed a constant barrage of ordnance into the onrushing hordes of madness and despair. Lord Delorr, the last of Armageddon’s ruling leaders, bedecked himself in the ancient Imperial guard navy of his ancestors, his power sabre flourishing as he rallied his defenders with an impassioned speech where he called upon his people to put up such a fight, that they would be remembered forever in infamy amongst their enemies, as the last true Imperial outpost. His men cheered bitter cheers, as they shouldered their las rifles one last time.

Delorr was dragged from his lines as the hordes overran the Chimera blockade, by the brutal lash of Lucius the Eternal, who chuckled with a sadistic arrogance which did not cow Delorr, but drove him into a rage. Lucius dropped the mortal man into the dust at his feet. Both sides paused, as Lucius demanded all to witness the death of hope on Armageddon. Delorr, unafraid despite his broken arm and the many cuts ripped into his side by the vicious lash of torment. He spat blood, and slowly raised his sabre into a guard position. His arm was shaking with pain, and the defending men, women, and war-haunted children of Armageddon looked on with internal groans of anguish. Lucius towered over three meters above the frail, wounded old man who vainly raised his blade to challenge his foe.

Lucius smiled a hideous smile, his overly scarred features splitting like the glaze on an old piece of pottery, his fangs and serpentine tongue flicking around his jaws. Delorr attacked with all the skill he could muster, and Lucius lazily blocked and deflected every single blow without even effort. Each time, he would gift Delorr with another shallow cut, and the leader would stumble to his knees, before slowly rising once more. Finally, Lucius split Delorr from head to foot with a single stroke of his blade.

“And so, mankind falls to the eternal blade of the Emperor’s Children, never to rise!” Lucius the Eternal was recorded as cackling across the battlefield, his daemonic voice carrying across the entire field easily.

“There is only one Emperor’s child upon this world, and you are not him. I have fought from the shadows for too long. I decree that this shall continue NO MORE.”

The voice which replied was effortlessly powerful, and filled with a humble yet firm authority which evaporated the effect of Lucius’ vile tirade. It is said every warrior on the field that day was briefly knocked into silence for a few moments, as the hermit himself emerged from behind the ranks of the Rand, tossing the abhumans aside as he burst into the forefront of the battle, striding forwards to point at Lucius directly.

Lucius turned and cursed the presumption of the pathetic beast who thought to challenge him, drawing his sword once more. His venomous words caught in his throat, as he realized who removed the hooded cloak from around his shoulders, revealing a giant armored in dragon-sculptured emerald and glittering green plate.

The Primarch, the demi-god of War, Vulkan. Though Lucius still rose to a greater height than Vulkan, the Primarch was powerful and filled with a presence the Eternal One couldn’t hope to match. Vulkan raised his burning spear in one fist, aimed at the Chaos marine. Lucius grinned in response.

“At last,” was all the monster said, before charging to engage.

The swirling melee lasted for almost twelve hours, daemonic energies and light spilling from the conflict in great boiling waves. The arena of conflict which sprang up between the defenders and attackers was turned molten by the fury of the conflict. Vulkan’s spear was like a living being in his grasp, darting and spinning to engage Lucius with ever more complex assaults. The Eternal One, for the first time in millennia, was struggling to defend himself and counterattack, simply trying to defend himself. He however, was simply weeping with joy. At last, a true challenge.

Yet, for all Lucius’ hateful abilities, Vulkan was the greater. He hacked off the legs of the chaos marine, before slicing through his arms from his torso contemptuously. Lucius merely giggled, spewing black blood from his mouth in a great torrent. He jeered at Vulkan, even as the primarch stood over him.

“Go on, slay me Salamander prince! Just like we slew your Legion on Istvaan! Finish your victory, take your bloody vengeance! Feel the pride and joy of avenging your fallen brothers, your fallen Imperium, your broken father! Kill me, and learn of your folly!” Lucius pleaded, with malevolent eyes.

Vulkan slammed his boot down onto Lucius’ head.

Except, he didn’t. His boot paused inches from the killing blow. The arrogance drained from Lucius’ face, as Vulkan smiled humorlessly, and turned back to face the hordes of enemies who were ready to murder every defender of Armageddon without mercy. He raised his spear, twirled it in his hand, and plunged it six feet into the ground, before raising his arms up from his sides. He declared his name, what he was and what he represented. He declared how he would rebuild the old Imperium, and drive despair kicking and screaming from his new realm. His speech resounded across the landscape, as his passionate voice reached the men who stood poised to destroy the last remnants of resistance.

The Emperor’s children however, cared not. They advanced once more; weapons raised... and were then assaulted by the Rand Imperial forces, who threw themselves into combat with the superhuman butchers with rekindled zeal at the words of the Emperor’s true child. The Emperor’s children, believing both of their allies had turned, attacked them with spiteful vengeance. The Kazan, Rand and Emperor’s Children thus turned upon each other, and this conflict expanded out into space and unto every planet in the system. Enemies divided, Vulkan led, at last, a counter offensive. He battled in person where he could. The few surviving Steel Legion desperately followed him, and as he engaged the enemies across the system, he gathered more and more supporters from the local populace. Those soldiers and people who had hidden from the onslaught of the Astartes now rose up, buoyed by the arrival of their new champion.

After a decade of further conflict, Armageddon was reclaimed, and those who opposed Vulkan were forced to withdraw. The Daemon Prince Kadious, who led the Children from his Pleasure fortress in orbit, fled from the might of Vulkan, his howls echoing throughout the warp as he chose to abandon his physical form rather than risk defeat by the Primarch. His howls of hurt pride reverberated throughout the warp. Somewhere, deep within a daemon world formed from tattooed, mewling flesh, an ancient serpent-thing’s eyes flicked open, in recognition of the word ‘Vulkan’. A slow smile spread across its distorted face, as it recalled its brother. But this story will be told later...

Vulkan’s consolidation of Armageddon ended when he returned to that world, and returned to Hades Hive, at the head of an army of refugees and grizzled soldiers, some Kazan, some Randian, others genuine surviving Steel Legionnaires and citizens of the planet. Here he found Lucius, howling and cursing. He had been guarded by a dozen soldiers while Vulkan had been at war. They had each shot themselves, as the influence of Lucius corrupted their minds. Still, the Eternal one was alive. Limbless and broken, but definitely alive.

When Vulkan returned, Lucius cursed and spat his name, eyes wild with malice. “I shall never die dog of the Emperor! I am eternal! Even in defeat, I am made stronger! You cannot slay me, or you will fall just like your fallen brothers!” Lucius cackled manically.

Vulkan’s face, it was said in later Legends, was set like stone as he responded coldly. “No, Lucius. You will not die. You will live forever. My subjects; dig a pit,” Vulkan requested, as he hefted Lucius up to his eye level.

“You will live your corruption in darkness and impotence! You shall be Eternal, I promise you that. Yet, should you suffocate in your living tomb, and your soul once more seeks reincarnation, know this: I take no pride or pleasure in your demise, for you are beneath me. I feel NOTHING for you.”

Thus, as Lucius screamed his defiant misery through his bleeding jaws, he was entombed within a bladed coffin of admantium, and was tossed into the vast pit delved into the crust of Armageddon by the adoring allies of Vulkan, before being buried forever.

Lucius the Eternal was finally bested, forever.

Vulkan turned his attentions inwards, and he remade Armageddon from the foundations up. Militarily secure, the Primarch had the structures of the planet rebuilt; he enforced mass infrastructure renewal projects, including increasing agriculture, both on the surface and in dedicated underground greenhouse vaults. As food and security increased, manpower increased and the population slowly began to recover. He formed enforcer units to keep the peace, had medical facilities and factories constructed, and the people of Armageddon began to prosper over the decades, under their immortal Lord’s rule, who ruled alongside a council of Senators and celebrated thinkers. Eventually, this rebuilding spread to every planet in the system. Once his world was secure and as perfect as his vision could imagine, he began to look outwards.

His new armies, forced to utilize the captured barges and warships of the Kazan and Rand, progress was slow. Yet, as he made short warp jumps to the nearest systems, he began to encounter and defeat realms with useful technologies, knowledge and equipment which he could utilize to reclaim much of the lost information of mankind at its height. He liberated scores of Tech Priests and their acolytes, bringing them to Armageddon to found the first of Vulkan’s Promethean Technocratic Academies, where the cult mechanicus was reborn upon the world. Using the rebuilt factories and industrial equipment of Armageddon, the Academy began to produce many new and glorious technological wonders. After a century of campaigning and reconquest, Vulkan had brought a dozen star systems under his rule, and the Academics cloistered within the Tower of Knowledge, situated upon Armageddon, had designed and had constructed three vast battleships, by disassembling dozens of older vessels, and using those parts in conjunction with newly designed equipment.

These were soon used to lead the fleets of captured vessels Vulkan had brought under his heel, a million different hulls and weapon load-outs for a million different purposes and wars. Old, disbanded remnants of old Imperial Guard regiments and recruiting worlds also began to be incorporated, adding to the skill and effectiveness of Vulkan’s armies.

Each world Vulkan took, he would stay upon for almost a decade, carefully rebuilding much of what he destroyed, and converting the populace to his views using his powerful rhetoric and skills as a diplomat and orator. Yet, despite the influence and power of Vulkan, he could not lead every fleet of his, and his mortal armies were struggling to advance his new Empire, as many other older petty Imperium began to oppose them with ever greater stubbornness. This would not do.

As Vulkan’s Imperium became better known amongst the galactic population, he began to encounter Space Marines, in various guises. On the worlds of Domhald, Vesker and Hoinkaz respectively, Vulkan found these fortress worlds were defended by fearsome defenders, who would not yield to Vulkan’s armies. Eventually, Vulkan realized these were Imperial Fists. After much argument and war and debate, the Fists were persuaded that Vulkan was, indeed, who he said he was, and they reluctantly agreed to an alliance, finally relieved after their lengthy sieges. Every few decades, Armageddon would be visited by black-skinned warriors, clad in faded, cracked green armor, tears trailing down their features as they made pilgrimage to Vulkan’s residence, a relatively mundane tower within the vast rebuilt Hades Hive. The surviving Salamanders returned to their father. Vulkan joyfully accepted the refugee Salamanders into the fold once more. Occasionally, word reached Vulkan’s campaign forces of bands of rogue Space marines raiding and pillaging various human worlds across the segmentum. When Vulkan actually encountered many of these bands, he discovered most were not actually chaotic renegade marines, but were actually simply rogue aimless Astartes causing trouble and starting wars simply because they wanted to. Doom Eagles, Marines Malevolent, Dark Star marine, Minotaurs, White Scars, and a hundred different chapters had elements running rampant and uncontrolled across the void. Vulkan forcibly brought these warbands to battle. Those who did not submit to his Imperial rule were defeated and their arms and armor was captured. Those that realized who this Vulkan was, eventually submitted to his will. Yet, despite these recruits and converts, the Vulkan Imperium could only boast around three hundred aging Astartes, and this was simply not enough to be useful to the ever expanding realm.

By 006.M52, Vulkan’s Imperium spanned roughly one thousand worlds. Each world was well fortified, and his army was still expanding and re-organizing into a more unified galactic fighting force. Institutions and bureaucracy sprang up, and many complex industrial and social systems developed, turning Armageddon into a bustling metropolis of Vulkan’s new Imperium.

Not only were the mortal armies changing, but the forces of the Astartes began to be remade according to Vulkan’s new plans. He used genetic information from his own flesh, combined with much of the geneseed of those Astartes who came to him, to begin a new project of Astartes-creation. Countless boys and families begged to join this new revolution of god-making. These new Astartes were formed into forces known as Commanderies, each two thousand marines strong. They were led by veterans of the ancient old Imperium’s previous Astartes Chapters, who knew of the intensive training required to make these superhumans into true Astartes killing machines. In total, two hundred Commanderies were formed, and many would be remembered with infamy amongst the foes of Vulkan; the Jade Princes, the Supplicants, Nemenmarines, the Dorn Revenants, and countless others (which we shall not go into here). Those Salamanders who returned to Vulkan formed the first Commandery, and kept their title. They devoted themselves to protecting their Primarch. They became a force of guardians and counter-insurgent force, used to stifle any violent revolutions against Vulkan’s regimes. However, Vulkan had no desire to crush all dissenters. Those who had concerns over his rule were allowed to have their opinions voiced in the councils of the Vulkan Imperium. While most concerns are ignored, at least they are acknowledged.

With the Commanderies at the forefront of the reconquest, the Vulkan Imperium expanded to almost three thousand worlds in half the time it took to claim the first one thousand. As the Vulkan Imperium expanded, Vulkan encountered the larger menaces that filled the galaxy. South of his realm, the vast Theocractic nightmare realm of the Tallern-Ophelian Imperium resided. It was a dark realm of suspicion and hatred, where witch hunters and preachers drove the realm into religious mania. The Ecclesiarch was the highest authority there, and he declared, from his monolithic Cathedral world, that Vulkan was no Primarch, but was instead a daemon in disguise. Those that face the daemonic red eyes of the warrior king of the Vulkan Imperium, could hardly deny he seemed truly diabolic. To the North and West of the Vulkan Imperium, the two Chaos Imperiums began to react to his consolidating actions, and many were the vicious wars fought between these three powers, in anticipation of some vast unseen engagement yet to come. To the east, Vulkan received emissaries from a realm he had never known before; Grand Sicarium. The multi-colored Astartes to arrive in Vulkan’s court were clad in fine burnish armors, expensive furs and jewelry, and bore ornate bolters across their chests. They declared that King Sicarius, being King of all Astartes, would be happy to accept the Commanderies of Vulkan into their Empire, as long as they accepted Sicarius as their lord and master.

Needless to say, Vulkan was not pleased, and demonstrated great restraint by only killing one of the emissaries of Sicarius, sending the second one back to his master, to inform Sicarius that no, the Commanderies would not join his den of infamy and oppression. They would fight them to the very last.

For, amidst the growing tide of dangers throughout the galaxy, Vulkan had formed a solid core of sanity in the middle of the former Imperium’s heart.

Additional Background Section 2: The Greater Good Drives On[edit]

By the dawn on the 61st Millennium, the Tau had truly learned their place in the great tumult of the galaxy. Spread across a thousand sectors, and hundreds of sept colonies and systems, the Tau were an industrial powerhouse of the like not seen in almost ten thousand years. Their technology had reached beyond what the original Tau, in their naive ignorance, believed was possible, and client races by the dozens have integrated into Tau culture (with varying degrees of success. The Hu'sta Gue'Vesa Colonies of To'Kann had become almost identical to most Sept worlds, filled with beautiful white cities and wondrous technologies, while the Kroot worlds remain semi-civilized auxiliaries, still on the fringes of society despite their ancient pedigree.)

The furious process of Terra-forming enacted throughout the second Age of Strife has worked in their favour; while other cultures faltered and disintegrated, the Tau fashioned themselves into an ever harder force. Their cutting edge weaponry was awe-inspiring to behold; it was noted during the protracted war with the Zaffian Independent Human League (in 473.M55), how their newest gunships could move so fast and strike so lethally, entire battalions of foes were vanquished before the order to retaliate could be given, their armored columns instantly shattered into molten slag by a hundred thousand simultaneous missile barrages, followed up by direct engagement by agile battle suits that never seemed to miss.

Yet, as we have seen, all this technology was painfully necessary simply for the Tau Meta-Empire to survive. In the Northern and Eastern sept clusters of the empire, and beyond, titanic forces were arrayed against them. A great silver tide threatened to drown them all, and undo their bitterly difficult expansion before it could be completed. The Necrons (or the Mont'Ka'Vesa, as they were known by the Tau) were at full gold mobilization. Titanic spider constructs bestrode worlds, drinking them dry of life, before spewing green oblivion into their fleets. Endless tides of Necron warriors and Immortals lived up to their undying titles; the constructs repaired almost all damage, and those Necrons truly destroyed were ripped from the very air, repaired by a million machines upon their tomb worlds, and spat back to another war front to fight again, all in the space of hours!

In early phases, the Tau lost hundreds of worlds to these terrors, entire planetary populations vanquished before they could be evacuated to safety. Billions died, and the Tau empire wept for these horrendous losses. The Water Caste propaganda machine had a pitifully easy task uniting their entire empire against this nightmare; made all the simpler when even the most secure sept-dwelling, Tau from the safest, most peaceful worlds, only had to look into the sky and notice that stars were vanishing from the skies before their own eyes. For this menace was not some petty dynasty looking for land and a galaxy to rule. It was a force of utter oblivion, led by the personification of such nightmarish ideals; the Nightbringer himself. Many times had the Tau mobilized full battlefleets of the new 'Avenger' class warships and millions of Fire Caste warriors, to fight the Necrons in open war, only for a great black cloud to enter the system, and drink the local star dry. This doomed a system, and made defending such places pointless. Many were the solemn poems written at this time upon Elsy'eir, about the terrible agonizing decisions Sphere-Maintenance Commanders had to face by leaving so-called 'dark-septs' to their doom.

Yet, by 972.M55, the Tau had somewhat found a method of holding the darkness at arm's length. Munitions were developed that burrowed into Necron constructs, and continually burned no matter how many times they were repaired. This forced Tomb Worlds to abandon seriously damaged Necrons and to build entire new Necron bodies for the consciousness stored in the nodal grid. This took time, and allowed Tau Sept colonies to summon aid through the immense waystation grid network. When Necron forces transported their swarming monoliths upon a planet or station, they found the Tau were ready with all the fearsome weaponry their Empire could fashion. Fighting in such wars, with such hideous and unthinkable powerful weapons was always a harrowing experience, and Earth Caste specialist hospitals were set up by the thousands to deal with the influx of battle-damaged and mentally scarred soldiers evacuated from such warzones. In many cases, these hospitals became euthanasia centers, due to the unnatural and sometimes impossible conditions of some soldiers. The things they saw could not be unseen, and their bodies and minds were consumed by the revelations that gnawed upon their very souls.

The Tau had also made a grand alliance with their old foes, the diverse and fickle Thexian Trade Empire, which had also suffered painfully at the Necrons' silvered hands. The Concord between the two great rivals was binding so long as the Necrons remained 'a credible and pressing danger to the survival of the overall galactic community'. Little could the two factions realize how many thousands of years this would remain the case. One must also note that though the Thexian Elite did sign this treaty, many of their less controllable elements still cause problems in northern Sept districts, where the rule of the Tau is lax...

The great Necron wars affected a great many aspects of the Empire throughout its history. There was much desperation amongst the corporate leaders of the Grand Septs (such as T'au and Bork'an in particular). New weapons and means of combating the silver dread were demanded at all times. In particular, the dreadful loss of life resulting from the war (an attrition rate of almost 80% throughout the years 387.M54-999.M57) was widely decried by most non-military elements of the Empire. Bork'an made tentative attempts to develop pilot-less drone controlled Battlesuits for mass-production. However, such machines had slow reactions, and were generally deemed useless. Reluctantly, the secret projects which had depopulated the ancient world of N'dras were ordered by the council of Aun'Va to continue their old research into hyper-sophisticated drone processing and development. This led to the terrible events of the N'dras conflagration in 555.M57, but we shall come back to this at some future date. However, before that date, the N'drasian 'Cold-suits' became an essential element in future Tau conflicts; they could be deployed by the millions directly from Demiurg factory vessels, into combat. The distinctive blue-grey form of the N'drasian XV333-78 combat battlesuits were far more slender and maneuverable than their predecessors due to their lack of a pilot. They could accelerate more quickly and were more agile, as they didn't risk the well-being of their occupants. Also, each suit could contain greater payloads and more weapons and more complex targeting systems, and had extensive sophisticated drone networking systems, allowing drones to become an extension of their own minds. What was more was that rather than being mere programs, the CPUs of the XV333's could actually think for themselves; Artificial Intelligence. A whispered abomination in the old spluttering cultures of the Gue'Vesa, the Tau did not fear these thinking machines. Their arrogance and ignorance would later serve as a warning to all. Beware the Ghost in the Machine...

On 397.893.M54, the single most important development in Tau culture and their wider society came to pass. It was on this day, upon the world of Jaa'Vorl, that a Tau child known to history as Kor-Pivin, was the first Tau to undergo experimental Earth Caste genetic tests. These long and grueling tests had been begun barely seven kai'rotaa (each equivalent to 50 Terran Days) previously, after reports across the empire spoke of strange Tau who could perceive the world in a way never before seen, and could even manipulate local physical constants to a minor degree. On some of the more far distant Sept colonies, such talents would often go unexplored, but the pattern began to reoccur within the more metropolitan sept worlds and sept-dominated colonies. Once the tests were completed, the results were revealed to the Earth caste much to their astonishment. They had confirmed the existence of the first ever Tau psyker. This information was of course withheld from the majority of Tau society for almost a hundred years. By the time the Ethereals had properly 'prepared' society for this revelation, Vior'la and several other military academies across the Empire had already performed their own hunts for psykers (or 'vortex singularities' as the Tau propaganda machine hurried to call them to avoid unpleasant associations with the destructive and insane warp-user strains of humanity, who had caused so much destruction of the millennia), and had gathered them together into secret breeding programs.

In typical Tau fashion, these psykers began to be developed into a distinct caste, the M'yen caste (aptly translated as 'the unforeseen' caste, as one could easily argue none amongst the Tau predicted such a development). Clad in strange purple robes, and utilizing odd energy focusing crystals in their ornamentation and armaments, these figures became a strange and unsettling presence within Tau society. Most were hastily deployed to the eternal Necron front, bolstering the other psychic races of the grand alliance, which were essential in keeping the silver menace at bay. The rest were used by the Ethereals, to ensure the compliance and adoration of sept worlds and those living within them, to the Greater Good. The M'yen'Vre were the perfect tools for the Ethereals to enact their dominion over all living being beneath their united facade. And dissidents would give themselves away simply by thinking against the system. Such dissidents were taken from their homes and taken to re-education centers, where a combination of M'yen hypnosis techniques and powerful chemical olfactory were employed to re-align the loyalties of the discordant elements. They returned to their home worlds speaking of the beautiful verdant lands they had visited, and how they had spoken personally to Aun'Va, who told them the true meaning of the greater good. So far, not one of the re-educated citizens of the Empire has ever been known to re-offend. Such is the destiny of unity.

On the western borders of the Tau Meta-Empire, things are rather different, throughout this period. Growing mobilization on the eastern borders meant the Tau could not afford to supply these colonies and distant Septs with the latest technology and weaponry. On some worlds, they were even still using old devilfish chassis and gunship variants, as well as the old battlesuit designs. These colonies shared greater trading and cross-cultural exchange with outside societies than the very insular inner colonies of the Empire. Numerous human Imperiums and civilizations trading ideas and technology with these colonies, or, more often, would raid or make war upon these weaker Tau societies, thinking they were unable to defend themselves. Sometimes this was accurate; most of the time it was not. Many were the foolish brigand-captains who, clad in their stolen finery and armed with pillaged vessels, sought to blast the Tau into submission. Tau rail guns and Hero-class cruisers often demonstrated with defiant clarity just who was the real power in the area.

The semi-independent Enclave known as the Farsighted Enclave, is a rare example of a truly independent Tau civilization, completely distinct from their authoritarian neighbours. It is a bizarre feudal culture centered around archaic battlesuit-wearing Kasar-princes, who maintain personal armies and vie with one another for influence. There's is a bastard culture of many different origins, which can only really unite when under threat by a faction more powerful than all of the princes combined. Such a foe reared its head in 222.M53. In this year, the outer waystations of the Enclave picked up the distinctive signature of a large battlefleet entering realspace from the warp. Accordingly, Kais'Kasar'Koilgu, the local Kasar-prince, gathered his forces and his battlefleet and thundered to intercept this fleet. Over the moon of Jubza, the two fleets met. The enemy fleet didn't even attempt to communicate with Koilgu. Instead, the vast fleet of boxy, bulky vessels, each distinctive and colorful in its livery and decoration, opened fire upon Koilgu's armada. The battle raged for days, until the flagship of the mysterious fleet fired boarding torpedoes directly into Koilgu's own command vessel. The Enclave Tau fought hard with pulse rifle and bloody-minded determination, but they were easily cut down by the arrogant giants who rampaged through the ship, accompanied by flocks of adoring human worshipers who fired lasguns and cried prayers to their masters. Eventually, the leader of the foe burst onto Koilgu's bridge. Koilgu was armoured in a beautifully maintained battlesuit, covered in honor markings and inscriptions of glory. Before him, God-Captain Flaegren, Astartes-Under Lord for the seventeenth crusade of Grand Sicarium stood in ornate power armor with glittering power fist, his shoulders swathed in a thick lion pelt, his head covered by ostentatious jewelry of the most garish kind. The two opulent and corrupt figures stared each other down for but an instant before the charged. Bolter and melta raged against plasma rifle and burst cannon, crackling power fist clattered against a sparking Mechanicus power glaive, granted to Koilgu by a captured Adept long ago. Though the battlesuit made Koilgu fiendishly strong, Flaegren was a veteran of almost a millennia of bloodshed and warfare. His skill was phenomenal, and the duel ended which the psychotic marine carving open Koilgu's chassis, before having his sycophantic minions pour molten gold inside the suit with the screaming Tau still inside.

Koilgu's gilded corpse was delivered to the Grand Kassar of the Enclave scant months later. The retainer who brought the grisly trophy to the Kassar arrogantly recited the God-Captain's message.

"Here is a valuable gift to the great Kassar of the Farsighted Enclave. A token of the benevolence of Lord King Sicarius and the Grand Sicarium. You shall receive more of these mighty gifts, should your foolish peoples choose to oppose the dominion of the true master of the Galaxy, and the King of all Astartes!"

Needless to say, but the remains of the retainer, after the Kassar was done with him, would have barely filled a small paper cup. The challenge of Flaegren had been accepted, and it would be many years before his crusade could be stopped by the Enclave. Over a dozen worlds and a hundred battlefronts, the insane Marines of Grand Sicarium and their men at arms fought bitter world to world wars with the Enclaves. Each side fought like smoke, fluidly attempting to out maneuver their opponents before delivering a killing blow. Guerrilla campaigns were launched by desperate or hate-fueled enclavers, and the Astartes responded with vast bombing runs over civilian population centers. The sheer number and variety of conflicts that raged for decades throughout the lawless border regions could fill a library themselves, but eventually both sides were exhausted, numbers dwindling to but a fraction of their previous forces. Bitter and driven by a blinding arrogance, Flaegren continued his campaign, initiating a blistering and penetrative offensive with his remaining fleet, which plunged like a spear deep into the soft tissue of the farsighted Enclave. The capital world itself was besieged by two great battlebarges. These massive floating cityscapes were almost impossible to destroy; time and again dedicated bands of battlesuits and drones would sally forth on covert missions to infiltrate and destroy the colossi, but to no avail.

Then, something truly disastrous occurred. In his hubris and mania, Flaegren had neglected to maintain his stocks of ordnance throughout the war. His logistical lines were stretched to breaking point, and this breaking point came sixteen months into the final siege. A vast Astartes supply vessel, the bride of Sicarius, burst into the system without escort, hoping to resupply the vast barges who had been constantly pounding any large cities or settlements they could find upon the surface. Before it could reach Flaegren's vessels however, the Kassar's men finally leapt into action. Over seven hundred battlesuits, three hundred orcas filled with loyal fire warriors, supported by a tribe of the mercenary Kroot, boarded the vessel, and destroyed all the munitions in a great storm of gunfire and screams. Now helpless and unarmed, the battle-barges were easy meat for the reinforcements that came to wreak their terrible vengeance upon the hated Astartes. Kasar-princes from across the Enclave burst into the system with their attendant fleets, spewing glistening arcs of blue and purple energy into the stricken behemoths. Missiles and ion batteries of a dozen different configurations and designs pumped their destructive force into breaking apart the ancient Terran constructs. Armour plates splintered and blistered, men and women howled as the void reached in to snatch away their lives in a fiery instant, and slowly but surely, both the great ships collapsed under the pressure, tumbling into pieces like the decomposing corpses of whales.

It was said Flaegren went down with his ship, insanely ordering his men to stop dying, as the air was sucked from the bridge. He died hacking apart his own minions as they asphyxiated on the floor at his gilded boots.

This is, of course, but a brief glimpse into the actions of the Tau of this period, as destiny called out to all races in the wake of building giants in both the void and the warp. Soon enough, the Tau, the young race turned into a cynical monstrosity by grief, were forced to reassess their place in the galaxy, and to choose a side in the final great and enduring conflict of our, and indeed all, times. For it was coming, and no dynasty would be secure from it in the end...

Additional Background Section 3: The Asur Revenant: The Actions of The Eldar[edit]

It would be remiss of this history to ignore one of the prime movers throughout the Eternal War. By the close of the second Age of Strife, to an outside observer, the Eldar race would have seemed utterly extinct, save for those last few burning embers. Indeed, most of the vast Craftworlds were naught but ghost ships, rumbling silently with the souls of the countless dead Eldar slain in the hopeless task of awakening their god of the Dead, while others were victims of the great Chaos Empires and Necron uprisings in the ascent throughout that darkest of times. Of the Craftworlders, only Biel-Tan remained active and defiant, attracting those few outsiders and rogues of their race to them, and forging a moderate empire of hundreds of worlds (though these remained scattered across the galaxy, thus making their empire seem impossibly diffuse and hard to notice).

Yet, this is but a fragment of the Eldar race in total. For, running through the veins of the Webway like black Tar was a realm which had never stopped, and never repented of their actions.

Commorragh. The Second Age of Strife had a different name in the Dark City of Sin. It had been considered a golden age. With the fall of the Imperium, all order vanished and collapsed. Once secure worlds across the galaxy were now helpless before the Dark Kin and their ever-draining souls. Worlds were repeatedly ravaged by the Dark Eldar Kabals. Slaves souls and tortured screams filled the City in a great tumult. Yet, for all their building prosperity, the drain upon their own gangrenous souls grew too. Their raids were ever more frequent as the coiling embrace of Slannesh tightened as her power built in the anarchy of the wider galaxy.

The Dark Eldar continued on as they had always done, driven by insanity and malice and utter evil. They continued to conspire against one another and the dark pits were ever-filled with the shrieks of the damned and the dying. And at the center of all this, was Asdrubael Vect. The Overlord of Commorragh, however, was truly mad. One of the eldest beings alive, the Dark Lord's life drew on long beyond his ability to rejuvenate his soul; millions upon millions of slaves and minions had to perish every day to keep his soul from being drained away like bile in rainwater. He grew desperate and ever-more dangerous as his mind began to slip from him. To begin with, this mania was merely a deception; a lure to draw out conspirators against his position. But after thousands of years, deception became truth, and Vect became something far worse than a monster and a Tyrant to the Dark Eldar; he became a liability and a threat to all Archons.

Kabals who didn't bring back sufficient souls were destroyed as they entered the Port of Lost Souls, and their ruins were picked over by the parched and rival Archons alike. His punishments for perceived slights and threats against him were brutal even by his own standards. Some Archons were carved up into a thousand parts, re-grown through the oceans of agony generated by the Haemonculi, and each one was then butchered and tortured, before being deposited upon Slanneshi daemonworlds.

Yet, there was but one Archon who could hope to challenge Vect's entrenched position. Lady Malys. Disgruntled Kabals flocked to her banner secretly, and the old Noble houses slithered to her throne with tributes of the caged screams of billions of wailing infants and the hearts of an entire race made extinct in her name. And it was not just they who had her ear. The Harlequins, it was rumored, came secretly to her chambers, and danced the secret dances that nobody knew. Secrets and prophesies and words uttered only once and never uttered in all the countless eons of existence before or since. (The rumors of bladed shadows that descended upon worlds assailed by the Nightbringer's forces during the eastern campaigns are perhaps not so far-fetched as once believed... but this is another story...)

Yet the Dark Lord was not without his own allies; his sycophants and those Dark Eldar who truly wished to see the galaxy sicken and misery to reign, simply to see what would happen, and how it could be rebuilt in a vile manner of their own choosing. At every level of the twisted Hierarchies of Commorragh, a new division was brewing, amidst the various and multifaceted feuds and ambition which was normal and encouraged across the twisted realm.

Of course, to the outside galaxy, this was an unseen war, but it was not unnoticed. The Dark Eldar were being bred on an unprecedented scale, and the Haemonculi rejoiced as they could breed more eventual fodder for their labs. Abominations were released on millions of worlds across the galaxy, and no one could comprehend what these misshapen things were, or why they so desperately tortured, raped and destroyed them. Raids became even more frequent, as the raw material that formed Commorragh's bedrock was in ever greater demand.

While ambition brewed in the Dark City, the rest of the Eldar race was not idle. Biel-Tan engaged in a war against the Eastern Chaos Imperium. The realm of renegades and brigands was vast, bordering both Vulkan's new Imperium and the western domains of Abaddon himself. Yet, it was a cumbersome beast, with little order beyond the great fleets of Huron Blackheart, the rotting heart of the Chaos Imperium. The war was predominantly a naval conflict, as the Eldar made up for their lack of numbers by using Waystones and spirit gems to guide and control the massive numbers of orphaned craftworld fleets, greatly bolstering the numbers available to Yriel. Yriel was a genius in void warfare, yet Huron, despite his age and his increasing chaotic taint, was also a master of fleets.

There were far too many naval actions, spread across centuries upon centuries, to document in their entirety here. For Yriel was a persistent threat and nuisance to Huron. His ships were arrow-swift and they only fought battles when they had no other choice. Most of the time, they avoided his great Corsair armadas. When they did strike, it was while Huron's armies were occupied in other wars against lesser Imperiums and against Abaddon and his Legions or the Astartes Commanderies of Vulkan. Whenever Huron was weakest, Yriel struck. It is testament to the skill of Huron and his Lieutenants that these battles were rarely one-sided; they always knew of some means to reply to the Eldar. Indeed, Huron's familiar whispered of coming threats weeks before they arrived.

One such battle was in the system of Maniforge, where Yriel came close to being destroyed. The world was a Dark Mechanicus forge world; a world infested with the Obliterator plague right to its very core. Huron's vessels, limping back to an allied port after a failed campaign against the Lead Bastion, one of Grand Sicarium's core worlds, were attacked by Yriel's hidden Void Stalkers, cruisers and wraithships as they burst into reality. Like daggers through silk, the Eldar engaged the chaotic vessels, laying waste to hundreds of vessels within hours. But Huron had picked the Maniforge for a very particular reason. He had made a pact with the Deep Entity known as Valchocht the Maker, the Ravager of Terra, Lord of the Obliterator contagion. These great Daemon was promised all of Maniforge, as well as the sanctified sacrifices of two hundred betrayed Red Corsairs. But what really sealed the pact was the promise of bright Eldar souls to devour. Eldar were so very rare, and it would please Valchocht to deny the young upstart God Slannesh some of her prize delicacies. When Yriel destroyed the first wave of chaos vessels, he sealed the deal, and Maniforge opened. Valchocht and his ilk were daemons from the deep warp; ancient and vast beyond all imagining. When he was reborn upon the plane of flesh, he bodily possessed all of the wrecked hulks at once. Vines of sulfurous daemon flesh and churning technologies flowed between the ruins, knitting them together into an behemoth as vast as a star fort. Huron eventually arrived hours later, and the battle of Maniforge began anew. Both sides were heavily battered and brutalized and not one vessel escaped unscathed. Yriel's flagship was almost consumed by a great destroyer-wide maw which burst from Valchocht's stolen flesh of steel and souls, but skillful piloting and the spear of twilight spared him of this end.

Another engagement in the long war led the two enemies to almost be destroyed by a third force, when they became becalmed in the dead warp around the Angyl world of Zone. Their engines failed and their crews became sluggish and weak, as the cold influence of the perfectly symmetrical world of order and obedience spread out from it like a vile halo. Luckily, they managed to repair their vessels just as their sensors picked up the great silver pinions of the Angyls of the Star Father, come to break their spirit and enslave their minds. Biel-Tan would never bow.

The hollow carcasses that were once the Craftworlds echoed with the sounds of skirmishing and violence. Bands of looters and pirates attempted to ransack these ancient worldships for their hidden technologies and the secrets that lay within them. They often learned too late that the capering ones in their cloaks of many colors still defended their kin's graves. And yet, Craftworld after Craftworld were pillaged by some great force, which could evade the defenders easily. They did not cause damage though, and they only took one thing. Each Craftworld found their Avatars spirited away. Only gory offerings and broken spirit stones marked their passing.

When the war of Commorragh finally came in M67, there was carnage (which will be detailed further in later parts). Yet, soon, the two rivals found that a far greater war had come to the galaxy, and for once, they could not hide from it, for it came for them. The full extent of this war will become apparent in later sections, but the Dark Eldar experienced their first real taste of this conflict when the great Jackal God began, in earnest, his war upon the Webway. Though the deceiver had little power there, the greater war had begun to awaken his more... esoteric allies from their slumber/imprisonment/banishment. The Ophilim Kiasoz, that great unknowable terror, had dimensions that bisected the Webway in certain sections. What is more, it had allies amongst the Dark Eldar themselves; creatures that had bonded themselves to the anomaly through some means mortals were not meant to know.

The Dark Kin would fight in the war for existence, or they too would perish.

And of course, all true Eldar grew to fear and despise those who rose from the Crone Worlds. Those who were Her favorites, brought back to drink deep of the fall of flesh and the accent of excess. The Chaos Eldar, who would attempt to bring the galaxy to its knees, at the head of the impossible legions that gathered for the End.

Additional Background Section 4: The Blind Eagle: The Empire of the Theologian Union[edit]

At the close of the Second Age of Stife, the very heart of the Ophelian Imperium was suddenly and violently ripped out by the sudden and thunderous birth of the Star Father. The entire world was dragged into the warp and becalmed by legions of Angyls. It became the Angylworld of the ArchAngyl Malcador, and reappeared as a world of thoughtless drones deep within the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath, many thousands of light years removed from its former location.

This loss was a near fatal blow to the Ophelian Imperium. In one fell swoop, over half the Sisters Thanatine (the Elite monastic Military Order which formed the elite core of the petty Imperium's colonial forces), as well as the Ecclesiarch and most of the Cardinals versed in Saint Karamazov the Martyred's Doctrines of the faith, enforced as the official faith in the manic realm. The Imperium's precarious administrative organization was compromised and rendered inoperative.

Within ten years of M51, the Ophelian Imperium had descended into anarchy, as the Governor-Kings of the thousand-strong Empire fought and bickered in bitter conflicts of succession between each other, sometimes besieging their own fellow Imperial worlds with their PIFs (Planetary Invasion Forces) and what ships they could spare. Though trade continued betwixt the realms, it was carried out with paranoid wariness; much revenue being expended on simply defending cargo fleets from attack during their long short-warp jump journeys between the strongholds of each individualistic despot. Some Governor's were utterly unscrupulous, hiring outside human and alien mercenaries (even Krieg Serf soldiers) to overcome their rivals, often entering into surprisingly disadvantageous alliances in order to assert their claim Capital-status for their own world, and desperately each tried to get their own candidates elected by the Cardinals to become Ecclesiarch.

This of course meant that the Ophelian Imperium was much weakened at this time, and many of the border worlds were sacked by opportunistic enemies, such as the carnivorous amphibious Cythenan empire, and the Vazineren Imperium, with its cadres of Psychons, terrible soldiers recruited solely from the mounting Psyker population of that particular Imperium (which was formed around an unstable warp rift known as the Kazid). It was at this point, after years of anarchy, that the Tallarn Imperium really began to take an increased interest in their troublesome neighbour.

While the Ophelians had been laid low by the events of the Age of Strife, the Tallarn Emperors and their Nobles ruling over their many thousands of worlds managed to endure the terrors which destroyed many of their weaker neighbours. Through a combination of cunning and logistical might, they fought off hundreds of major invasions during the first century of the Age of Dusk. The rise of the Vulkan Imperium was fortunately timed, its expansion drawing the hateful eyes of many of the worst and most powerful nations and races of the galaxy, including the Twin behemoths of the Eastern and western Chaos Imperiums.

Thus, they were in a strong position to take advantage of the Ophelian Imperium, orphaned of its former Capital. It began under Emperor al-Fonze Ma'karib II of Tallarn, in 132.M52, during his campaigns of reconstruction in the northern fringes of the Ophelian Imperium. He besieged and took these worlds forcibly, but was incredibly merciful in his treatment of these worlds after their defeat. He permitted the terrified Lords of the Hive cities to buy their passage of retreat from the worlds, and he did not install massive colonization forces on the captured worlds, but instead sent preachers and supplies to help rebuild the smashed and in some cases starving populations of these worlds. Forced conversion was kept to a bare minimum. Yet, al-Fonze's assassination by one of the mysterious 'Heracles' Faction of ex-Temple assassins meant his campaigns were halted after only seven years. Nevertheless, the impression was made upon the Ophelian population (at least in the outer worlds).

In the 160's of M52, the Governors of the outlying Ophelian worlds began to cooperate to a greater degree against the old guard of the Inner worlds, who still looked inwards in despair of their lost capital world. They looked to the Tallarns to aid them in this task. They offered the Tallarn ruling aristocrats trading privileges and even lands and estates upon their worlds, in exchange with funding and weapons in order to face the inner worlds, who maintained most of the Ophelian Imperium's manufacturing worlds and subordinate Forge Worlds. The many fleet engagements, pitched planetary sieges and raids that ensued could fill a dozen history books themselves, but in the end, the core worlds were driven into a corner and forced to sue for a truce. The Thrarantine Guard (who had expanded to a massive size during this period, as they were seen as the most Theologically 'pure' force in the secular conflict) arbitrated the terms of the treaties, and there was a semblance of peace. Nevertheless, the Tallarn were now intrinsically involved in the diffuse and fractious politics of the Ophelians.

Over the centuries, the two Imperiums began to merge, via dense trading corridors that (though they took many years to traverse) provide wealth and prosperity to the rulers and their magnates. At the council of Thezibebe, hundreds of Tallarn-orthodox, Ophelian Kazamarovite and Ascensionist Cardinals gathered to discuss the election of a new Ecclesiarch to once more unite the faith of the 'true' Imperium. The debate was not a success, and had to be called off after many of the lesser radical sects tried to set fire to the debate podiums, and the Ascensionists caused a planet-wide riot in which four hundred thousand acres of industrial sprawl became a mangled warzone as vast hordes of zealots and fanatics battled like insane animals in the streets.

Between 100.M53-200.M53, it was said that at any one time, five Ecclesiarchs and 'anti-Ecclesiarchs' were in place on Pontifical thrones from Tallarn itself to at one point a small mining colony in an unstable star system. Each claimed to be the true Ecclesiarch. Despite this schism amidst the clergy, the worlds themselves became closer, and their cultures began to merge and develop. Fear of the outsider and the xenos began to mutate into a creed of 'Humanism Absolutism'; that is, the creed of Human survival at all costs. Humanity must survive, and let everything else be damned.

In 487.M53, Emperor Santargo III of Tallarn crowned himself 'Lord Protector of the Imperial Mysteries'. This strategically side-stepped the theological issues of the newborn super-bloc of Imperiums, and allowed him to justify his secular campaigns, and to impose military tithes upon the worlds nominally under his thrall. Though the worlds of this Imperium were still bitter rivals for the most part, Santargo could still launch his huge crusade to expand the realm in 568.M53, gathering together a force of diverse colonial troops and mercenaries, held together by the Thrantine Orders, other growing religious warrior fraternities and sororities, and the iron will of the Emperor Santargo himself, who went to war in one of the perishingly-rare Leviathan Moving fortresses. Though he died before even his first crusade could be completed (due to the monumental distances involved, and the poor quality and pitfalls of Astronomicon-less warp travel) his sons and grandsons managed, over the next hundred years, to swallow up a dozen other Imperiums that bordered the Ophelian/Tallarn alliance, subsuming them into the great web of commerce and religious violence which codified the realm of 'Imperial Mysteries'. Also, during this period of expansion and conflict, a center of commerce built up around the ruins of a former Star Fortress known as Haanab the Ravaged. Here, trade from across the sprawling realm came, and the ruler of the space station was often a key figure in wider decisions on tithes and tax and what could be imported. Santargo XXII had this fortress massively expanded with subsidiary-stations and had asteroids towed into orbit with this expanding colossus of industry and trade. He then declared Haanab the new capital of the realm of Imperial Mysteries and himself its governor (even though he was on campaign for his entire life, and never once visited the fort himself), with little objection from the powerful nobles and Governor-Lords of the Imperium, as it was relatively neutral.

It would be a mistake to consider this realm of captured and consumed Imperiums to be a singular super power at that point. It was a huge area of space, covering a huge swathe of the south-west of the galactic plane. Such a realm could not be administered by a government with such slow FTL-capable vessels, and for much of the time huge sections of the 'Empire' were like lawless realms of border princes and robbing Wolf Packs of bandits, and squabbling Governor-Lords vying for advantage or pressing assumed claims of heritage. Amidst this anarchy and misery, there was the undercurrent of a building popular faith. The Emperor of the wasteland.

There were no longer any survivors from the time before the Second Age of Strife, and no man had ever seen or heard of the Emperor's actions beyond vague recollections of priestly chroniclers, who had hastily scribbled down scripture from memory after the loss of all the written records of the Ministorum upon Ophelia. Thus, the image of the Emperor became horribly distorted. The vile concept of the Corpse-Emperor merged with the creed of human survival at all costs, turning the Emperor into some legendary undead figure of vengeance and pragmatic, who ruled a universe of broken worlds and failed systems, yet refused to relinquish them, like a jealous child. This creed was paradoxically both horribly cynical yet fervent in its prosecution and practices. A faith of nihilistic mania, where only suffering and miserable stubbornness could get one closer to your god. So what if his empire was of ashes and ruins' It was still HIS. His ashes. His ruins.

When a necrotic warp plague ravaged the allied Imperiums in M54, the tenuous hold of the Tallarn Emperor's was undone, and a power vacuum was soon created with their failure.

The Cardinal known as Ceylan was to be the very man to fill this void. His name would grow to be one whispered in awe and utter terror by his subjects. This cardinal began his life as a mere clerk in one of the priestly houses of sanctioned invention, where he made friends easily and swiftly, due to his serpent's tongue and charming demeanor. All of which hid his great pathological personality and truly evil ambition. Through a series of coincidences and sinister ploys, he manipulated his way into the priesthood, worming his way right into the meat of the Ecclesiarchy like a maggot in meat.

He used his power and influence to place his friends into powerful offices and in particular patronized the work of his questionable-disciple Deng-Vaal. This man claimed to be a warp scientist, and made a major breakthrough in the method of warp travel. He found if one could torture psykers and witches sufficiently, and somehow captured and stored their torment and lingering death-screams, one could power a ship through the warp at tremendous speed. Ceylan quickly seized upon this idea, taking it as his own and tying it into the natural distrust for psykers prevalent in the realm. He turned this process into a form of benevolent penance; the death of the psyker would purify both their soul, but also allow the Emperor's children to spread to the very furthest reaches of space. He managed to acquire Secular support from a number of prominent Tallarn old-born Noble houses, as well as the favour of some of the radical factions who desired to build a stronger Empire, under a powerful leader.

As reward for his discovery, Ceylan was granted the position of Ecclesiarch by his fellow Cardinals. His exact theological leanings were always slightly in question, but the devious man could never be pinned down to a single definitive answer, and thus was elevated to the post without noticeable opposition. For the first time in a long time, there was only one Ecclesiarch of this Imperium. As the 'Excruciator' Engines were being created and tested by the forge worlds under Vaal's watchful gaze, Ceylan subtly and smoothly began to undermine the central faiths of the Cardinals, playing them off against each other, but avoided any responsibility himself by claiming he was merely arbitrating between wronged parties. As he sowed discord there, he discreetly promoted the more popular faith of the Emperor of the wasteland. He stealthily inserted known rhetoric used by the Creed in his sermons and speeches. Just as the faith of the Imperium was becoming unified in religious wars and reform, the means to propagate this faith across the entire Imperium was finally completed and made widespread use of. His influence grew as the Imperium consolidated itself via the new cruel means of breaching the warp.

Eventually, with this greater unity there came a chance for a new Emperor to take over. Naturally, Ceylan manipulated the processes of selection and influence, until a candidate of his preference was selected. Ceylon made sure never to publicly claim leadership or secular power over the Imperium, but rather worked behind the scenes. The Tharantine and his own spy network, known unofficially as the Aquila-men, discreetly carried out his orders and kept the various other armies and factions within the Empire under control. As a final demonstration of the new focus of human unity of purpose, the Emperor renamed the Empire the Theologian Union.

By M55, the Theologian Union was the third largest human Imperium in the galaxy, able to hold its own in campaigns against the very largest of empires. Initially, the Union struggled to maintain a strong focus, for the source of direct outside enemies to attack were few. They were engaged with semi-persistent wars with Pirate nations, Hybrid Cults of strange aliens with bulging heads and snapping claws. And a large scale siege of the world of Rokfal, where the race of feral greenskins had made a sudden and unheralded resurgence, smashing the industry of the planet almost annually, as the force of barbarians continually threw itself against its attackers with mindless vigor, getting stronger every time, as if feeding upon warfare itself for nourishment.

However, Ecclesiarch Ceylan the first Found the perfect foe when Vulkan sent his envoys to the Theologian Union, bearing banners of compromise and hope. When the envoys refused to show fealty to the Ecclesiarch (the Emperor's representative), the Emperor cast the ambassadors out. Ceylan began to order the preachers of the Union to spread themselves amongst the people, and spread the word. There was no Primarch upon Armageddon. There couldn't be. They were dead. This 'Vulkan' was a daemon disguised as a Primarch, they claimed.

And so it was that the blind men of the deluded realm of the Wasteland Emperor turned their hand ever against their own kind. In their own way, these vainglorious zealots brought upon themselves the terrible events that marked the Dusk of all things, in the final war of conclusion and defiance.

Additional Background Section 5: The War-Race Tempered: The Ork Risen[edit]

In the opening years of the Second Age of Strife, the orks as a race battled their nemesis, the New Devourer, and in doing so were destroyed in that titanic struggle which raged across hundreds of sectors. Though they had not been aware of it, their actions had inadvertently saved the entire galaxy from the New Devourer. While their war had been futile, it had delayed the hybrid Tyranid-Ork menace, which eventually found itself drawn away to fight some unseen foe beyond the galaxy. In the midst of the horrors of the strife age, people dared to hope that perhaps the orks themselves were made extinct in this great conflagration.

The audacity of hope is so easily quashed, for the Orks yet lived.

Minute spores and fungal helixes were left behind on the millions of abandoned greenskin worlds. However, it would take many thousands of years before the spores could fully recover, and spread like a bacterial plague through the undergrowth and organic matter which flourished on their former worlds. One such planet was the world of Lexin Fidorich. The humans there had come from the nearby Feudal Technocracy known as Shunter-Beerne, who had eagerly captured this nearby world, which was impossibly fecund and fertile. By M52, Lexin was a flourishing world of diverse environments made tame by the sterile crop-science of the cybernetic humans who tended this veritable garden. However, the Feudal Hyper-Lords of the Shunter-Beerne soon found their woods and forests infested with strange red beasts with ugly tusks, and a belligerent attitude. This was intolerable, and long-limbed game keeper constructs cleansed the biomes of these beasts with gunshot and flame.

This was a mistake. Smaller green creatures began to appear in the woods. They watched and scurried through the woods. Occasionally they would steal children or set fires, and stole massive quantities of metal sheeting and cut down sections of woods. Again, the long-striding machines killed most of them; but not all. Those who were birthed afterwards filled in for their fallen, and the building of crude settlements began.

Within the space of a decade, Feral monstrous warbands were roaming across the planet. Tranquil glass cities were smashed by the tread of hundreds of vast squiggoth beasts, and the crude firearms of their riders. Throughout the now-infested woods, an ancient cry not heard in millennia rang out; waaaaaaaaagh!

More and more powerful constructs were deployed on the surfaceby the Shunters, with ever deadlier weapons, but this only speeded the advance of their foes. Soon they had to abandon their planet. They did not possess exterminatus grade weaponry however, and thus they could not prevent the feral ork's spread.

This story reoccurred on dozens of sectors and systems across the galaxy, followed by hundreds upon hundreds after that. In particular feral orks tended to thrive just on the cusp of the various inter-power struggles which were ongoing across the galaxy; there were veritable masses of feral orks on the border with Grand Sicarium and the Kassars, as well as the unruly space between the Thexians and the Tau, and on the fringes of maelstrom space. One of the Demiurge Brotherhoods (The collective of Hashut) even began to enslave feral ork bands for use in their schism against their rival Brotherhoods. As the shattered galaxy had no singular authority to recognize this building force, every lesser faction assumed these were localized threats and barely contained them.

However, these feral bands of barbarians were naught but the wisps of powdered snow before an avalanche. At the close of the 52nd Millennium, there were signs across the galaxy. Feral orks were driven into fits of prophetic madness, and weirdboys chanted and babbled insanely. Something churned up the warp, and the powers realigned, for they could sense what was coming back.

The orks were returning. But not simply orks...

It began on the planet of Galgoroth, a rich mining world which had the protection of a coalition of minor xenos and human enclaves. The year was 999.M52, and the world reported fearsome warpstorms; the biggest seen since their records had begun (in practice, their records hadn't begun until M50, during its founding). It was then that they detected that a space hulk had translated into the system, a hulk known as St. Jollepur's Bane.

Their Managing Governor-Director was not pleased. Hulks were dens where minor xenos (perhaps even an isolated gang of feral orks had managed to survive in the warp upon the hulk') and pirates infested the hideous amalgams of vessels and asteroids. He had experienced hulk-drift while on another core-wards world centuries before, and he disliked what they promised. The world's PDF and system ships would have to be diverted from guarding his planet from real threats, to mop up the degenerate scum that would surely be squatting within its haunted depths.

So, reluctantly, he unleashed his large fleet to engage the hulk on its brief incursion into his planet's local area. His fleet was composed of old mass produced Tau cruisers re-fitted for human use, Vulkanian vessels traded with the rising human power, and even some antique Mars Cruisers were amongst this diverse and lethal armada. On board the transport vessels, Krieg Serf Soldiers, Kroot and Fremen were hired on Galgoroth's ruling Corporation's expense, alongside a Free Company of Obsidian Falcon Astartes and as much of the local PDF forces he could afford to send in support.

Eventually, the fleet reached the hulk. Initial scans and intel gathered by the fleet showed that the hulk was like nothing they had ever seen before. The hulk was no longer merely a mass of weaponized ruins drifting through space; it was a warship. Uniform, sturdy armour covered its colossal flanks, alongside thousands of rows of vast weapon batteries and gun emplacements. And jutting from its shark-like sides were great spurs and towers, from which it seemed an entire fleet was at dock. That was when the firing started, and communication was lost with Galgoroth. The skies were aflame as the battle raged for almost three days. Ships were blown apart, or pulled open by tractor beams and high explosive ordnance, as well as more arcane and strange weaponry deployed by the new foe. Enemy soldiers were teleported directly into the stricken human vessels, and proceeded to massacre everyone with extreme efficiency, barely a sonorous growl escaping the butchers' lips as they killed.

Only a handful of vessels returned to the mining world, including the utterly-mauled Strike Cruiser of the Obsidian Falcons. Their leader, Captain Eregious, immediately deployed one of his squads to the surface of Galgoroth. The Governor demanded to know what was attacking them. Was it xenos, pirates, enemy marines, orks?

Eregious responded with a simple phrase. "Those are not Orks..."

His squad attacked and broke into the treasure vaults of the world, securing their payment before deploying back to their Cruiser. Eregious refused to stay and defend the world, because he wished to preserve his brothers. For the foe arrayed before them was too powerful and too numerous to defeat; not with such depleted resources.

So, the Galgorothans waited and fortified their planet as the bulky, well-constructed warships of the enemy hurtled towards them. The Kill Cruisers and huge battleships of the enemy easily swatted away the System Defence Ships, and deployed their ground forces after a bombardment of all the centres of military resistance. City-scale factories were dropped directly upon the planet, and began to work as soon as they slammed to the ground with a thunderous rumble that resounded across the mountains themselves. The few pockets of resistance remaining were dealt with by hulking armoured figures that deployed right at the heart of their battlelines, stepping through warp portals with ease. They wielded weapons like bolters, but far more destructive, alongside strange weapons, such as a device which teleported not gretchin, but miniature plasma warheads inside the bodies of their opponents. After barely two days, the planet was conquered, and those humans not slain in the bombardments were rounded up and used as slave labor in the mining districts, which were expanded and enhanced by the mysterious foe, who deployed huge titan-scale excavators and walking machines to heft out vast quantities of raw material for the hundreds of factories deployed by the orbital fiends.

This was the galaxy's first taste of the new greenskin race. Ten hulks at least were reported with similar modifications, but that first hulk remained the largest of this new phenomenon. These creatures did not call themselves the orks, but rather merely called themselves 'War', or at most 'the War of the Krork'. Few people have subsequently breached the armoured hides of the War-Hulks, but it is claimed that the Krorks are in fact the commanders and driving force behind this new breed of elite Ork. It is theorized that these new creatures are in fact modified gretchin or grots, altered to be tacticians and schemers beyond the ken of the larger breeds; it has to be noted that no smaller greenskins have been sighted within the battle-hosts of 'the War'. Who manipulated them or remade these intelligent creatures remained unknown for many millennia, during the Age of Intertwining Fates, but we shall get to that in due course...

The warriors of the Krork were a distillation and perfection of previous ork concepts and natural abilities. Each warrior wore flexible powered armor, which captured the spores released by them and sealed them in flame-proof canister inside the suits. These canisters were collected after a battle, and were taken to their manufacturing shops or their hulks, and dozens more generations of orks were thus spawned, or the spores were carefully cultured and spread upon worlds deemed perfect for ork-forming. The powered armor also further enhanced each ork's strength, and was flexible enough to expand as the ork expanded.

Each soldier ork was first forced to fight against hundreds of its peers inside the war-hulks, and this swelled each beast to vast scales. Most were taller than even an Astartes warrior when they were finally allowed to construct their armor and weaponry, which each and every ork instinctive knew how to build, unconsciously building their gear according to the exact specifications of higher authority, tailoring their weaponry to be optimized for whatever battlefield they found themselves on.

Though the unseen brainboys of the numerous hosts were never seen on the battlefield, powerful War-Bosses led the armies of each Hulk, and were brilliant tacticians, as their size naturally made them more intelligent, each war making them more efficient and more intelligent. Each Hulk, though separated by lightyears, had some means of psychic communication with their fellow Hulks, due to either the psychic might of the brainboys, or their manipulation of psyker Orks placed upon modified warp-reading thrones as a form of telepathic network.

Needless to say, these Krork hosts spread quickly, and created numerous huge empires. The thirsting Bloodknights of Baal were fought to a standstill around the Juerellian Warp Gate by the Krork, denied their prize of a whole world of mortals which they could taint and then drain to stave off the black rage. A task force comprising of two whole Commanderies had to be deployed to drive off an armada of krork who had managed to cripple the logistical supplies of dozens of Vulkan's systems. That war was known as the War of Renewed Vengeance, and eventually the forces of Vulkan (only after the sacrifice of the legendary hero Lord Captain Hexatrin of the Silent Panthers Commandery) prevailed, but the Krork could not be finally defeated, as they divided their fleet and began a guerrilla campaign which lasted for five hundred years. Numerous battles and wars were found against krorks across the Western and Eastern Chaos Imperiums, and both factions lost dozens of worlds to the disciplined invaders. Abaddon managed to defeat a Krork force by utilizing the planet-killer's awesome firepower to destroy a war-hulk, which seemed to be the only method of permanently crippling a Krork Armada.

The Krork had a surprisingly special hatred for their feral brethren, and often accelerated asteroids into planets they were on, or made a special effort to exterminate the entire population of feral greenskins on the ground, before burning the mountains of corpses.

The Krork were a menace to all factions, for they seemed to have declared themselves to be a war against all elements of the galaxy. From the Star Father's dread Angyl-Worlds, to the blasted ruins of the Shatter-Wake and their bone-feeders, the Krork were fearsome opponents. In particular, they seemed to lose some of their cold demeanour when fighting the Necrons. On some instinctual level, they knew what their eldritch function was, for it was encoded into every fiber of their green, war-forged, flesh.

Their faith is unknown. All that the world at large could decipher of their brutal, complex language spoke of awaiting the two, the facets of the god-mount. Some claimed, in those early years, that they were merely referring to their primitive ancestor gods, Gork and Mork.

Alas, if only it had been that simple. The true relevance of their creed would not become evident until it was too late to stop what had been started. But that conflict shall be documented in a later section, once these chronicles have been properly reinforced to withstand the telling of the tale of the Nex-


Additional Background Section 6: The Despoiler’s Demesne[edit]

For ten thousand years, the Despoiler had spread across the entirety of Segmentum Obscurus, breaking each system in turn with his vast fleets of chaotic beasts and loyal minions. Endless regiments of the Dark Cadians known as the Despoiled marched under the dark banners of cleaved-aquila, and murdered those who opposed the Chaos Emperor ruthlessly. Leading these vast armies were the Black legion, who formed a diamond hard center to the great Despoiler’s regime.

Abaddon forged a new empire from the splintered marrow of ruined Imperial domains and xenos empires, crushing each in turn and forcing their broken populations to kneel before him and his diabolic forces. Many did so willingly, for though the Despoiler was a butcher and a madman, he wished to rule a powerful and unified Imperium of darkness, rather than a shattered ruin of roving warbands and screeching devil-spawn. Agri-worlds were enhanced by warp-tainted contagions that infested their crops and their forests, forming great tangled masses of man-eating mangroves across thousands upon thousands of miles. Captured forge worlds and enslaved hive worlds churned out towering daemon engines of ever-more grandiose and insane designs, concocted by the Dark Mechanicus of the putrid, poisoned worlds of Lathe and their vassal forges. In some of the more vile and odious hives, those who toiled in their factories barely registered that the Imperium of old had ever gone.

Yet, to maintain the great Western Imperium required constant warfare and cruel reprisals, for many and powerful were the supposed Vassals of the Despoiler. Kharn the Betrayer was a constant irritation to the Dark Lord; smashing apart worlds at random as he howled his frustration into the void. Abaddon and his allied forces engaged warbands associated with Kharn over a hundred times throughout 273.M52, and during the great uprising of M55, Lord Ulvenial of the Screamers (a warband of Fallen Iron Knights who owed feudal obligation to the dark Lord) were almost constantly in pursuit of the Betrayer’s charnel-barge and those crazed vessels full of madmen who pursued him like hungry hounds lapping at the frothing gore left in his wake. Ulvenial was finally brutally butchered during the siege of Mordia, by Kharn himself who rammed his brass-fanged battleship straight through Ulvenial’s grandcruiser.

The Word Bearers, who had at first allied with the Despoiler, had gained much influence and power over the millennia, and their hellish Daemon Worlds were the largest and most fearsome in the Eye of Terror, some claimed. The Word bearers were useful to Abaddon as orators and enforcers of the profane creeds of the desperate factions of the Chaos Imperium. No consensus could ever be reached between all the various insane demagogues and slavering monsters that dwelt within the deep pits of these worlds, or ruled from obsidian thrones like dark heralds, but nevertheless the Word bearers made sure that unrest and insurrection remained a localized affair; Abaddon encouraged coups and bloody uprisings, as long as they were never against himself. Altarships full of Dark Apostles and their familiars roamed the void between enslaved worlds of the Chaos Imperium, preaching and summoning daemons into reality as they passed by. Abaddon expressly forbade the Word Bearers’s dark star-shaped vessels to enter the systems of any of his major powerbases, on fear of unmaking in the great swirling heart of Barbaritan. Barbaritan was a daemonship which had crashed into a star and poisoned it, turning it a vile green. Anything which fell into the warp-plasma vortex was utterly destroyed, body, essence and soul.

In 173.M53, the Despoiled, alongside a veritable tide of mercenaries and mutants and fallen Astartes, conquered the Q’orl Swarmhood. The final siege of their honeycombed homeworlds was performed by the great spider-like Daemon King Xexes, another of the deep-warp daemons (a brother of Valchocht the Maker). The titanic spider’s hulking form toppled the towering funnels of the Swarmhood to the ground, and the capering daemons and mad humans who flooded the world in his wake overwhelmed the insectoid empire after a bitter campaign of destruction, which cost billions of lives on both sides. It ended when their queen was captured, and infected with warp-tainted blood. These plague flooded her systems and internal juices, and the pheromone stench which allowed her to enthrall her drones turned the entire realm into an eager ally of the Western Chaos Imperium.

On the moon of Threnbane, a psyker fraternity had spun a world-wide tapestry from psychic threads. Without the Imperium, they had flourished, and their seers had constructed this great warp-empowered edifice, which they used to divine the future strands of history like some great humming orchestra. Such rippling waves of psychic energy soon attracted the attentions of the Despoiler and his cohorts, for Abaddon very much desired to learn of his own fate in the destiny of the universe. However, a great fleet of Iron Warriors fell upon the world, in alliance with the Beasts of Annihilation; creatures bound to Angron. The Iron warriors determined to deny Abaddon his desires, in vengeance for his defeat of their Primarch many thousands of years ago. They fell upon the witch-world like grim mechanisms of steel and hate, burning and gunning down all they could find with pitiless cruelty. Threads were severed, and settlements blasted into blackened craters. Their warsmith, a villain known as Kadvein, smirked humourlessly as he destroyed Abaddon’s new toy.

By the time Abaddon arrived with his fleet, almost every thread of the world-weave was ruined, and the Iron Warriors were fully entrenched in their grand bastions; impervious to orbital or ground assault, and patrolled by the frothing mongrel war hounds of Angron. The siege nevertheless lasted only a few days. This was because Abaddon, in his paranoid wisdom, had installed numerous mercenary Callidus assassins and Alpha legion infiltrators amongst the population of Threnbane. On his command, they unleashed life eater capsules inside the shielded Iron Warrior bastions. Contained inside the void shielding, the virus did no harm to Abaddon’s landing forces. However, battle was soon joined on the ground as the Beasts of Annihilation charged into the fray with infinite fury, their possessed marines ignoring tempests of weapons fire and blades to reach the Despoiled’s lines. The Dark Lord personally carved his way through masses of half-daemons and freakishly mutated Astartes as he made his way through the dense foliage of fallen threads. Finally, he reached the final enclave of psyker-monks, and their last functioning seer-loom. Before he destroyed them, he demanded to know his future. No one knows what prophecy they imparted to the Chaos Emperor, but soon after he massacred them all, and bombed their world into dust, before the planet killer destroyed it utterly.

Daemonic agents, lacrymole, Callidus fiends and other shadowy agents employed by Abaddon were later instructed to scour the Chaos Imperium for ‘good, honest men’, whom they were to eliminate with maximum misery and pain inflicted upon them. Some say the monks told Abaddon who it was that would finally kill him, while others claim they merely revealed to him the final piece of the great engine of destiny which was guiding the galaxy to some great climax. Whatever it was, Abaddon grew obsessed with altering the outcome foretold in the legends.

If the prophecy was indeed related to his death, he perhaps had cause for alarm, for he had narrowly avoided death on several occasions. The closest the Despoiler came to being destroyed was during the siege of the Nemesis Vault; an Inquisitional fortress located on the borders of his expanding Empire. The fortress was one of the most formidable of its kind, and had been held in a planetary stasis field for almost 20,000 years when Abaddon finally disturbed the relic of the Old Imperium. The highly advanced world boasted a full Titan legion, many Deathwatch kill teams, ten regiments of Inquisitorial stormtroopers, Sororitas Convents and a full squad of Grey Knights (one of the few contingents of Grey Knights who were not trapped upon the unbreakable fortress of Titan, at the heart of the Void Dragon’s prison). The great bastion contained many dark and forbidden artefacts held under lock and key forever. The Despoiler and his allies desired them, and he persuaded many hundreds of divergent chaos factions to fall upon the world. Ram-faced beastmen and tides of mutants from the Brotherhood of the Foul, the towering Daemon-Knights of Securilan, hundreds of Vampyre Covens of possessed monsters, a billion strong force of plague zombies shipped into combat by Death Guard under the silent glare of Typhus, half-beetle barbarian mutants and schaephylid swarms, war machines and hell-engines of the Lathe, Relictors, Dragon Warriors, Kol Badar and his personal army; and finally the grand Imperial army of the Despoiled and its subordinate legions of twisted mortal soldiers.

The skies burned and the walls ran molten, as these great forces all bombarded and invaded as one discordant mass. Abaddon tried to force some order upon them, but chaos is as chaos does, and it was utter anarchy. This, ironically, played to the strengths of the Inquisitor Lord who commanded the Vaults, for the warbands began to fight each other as much as the defenders. In an effort to bring order to the madness, the Despoiler brought the Vengeful Spirit closer to the world, as a visual symbol of his continuing presence.

This was an error. As soon as his ship entered low orbit, the last of the defense lasers simultaneously pounded the vessel, knocking down its shields for five seconds, before they recharged. This was all that was required, for in that instant, the grey knights teleported aboard. They struck the reactors first, and the Black Legion stationed there barely managed to prevent them sending the engine critical. Nevertheless, the generators lost power, much to Abaddon’s fury. Gathering his most fearsome chosen around him, he rushed to butcher the fools who thought to deny him his prize. The Grey Knights were waiting, and ten gleaming terminators fell upon the huge tusked chosen and the Despoiled who rushed to aid them. The leader of the Grey Knights was a thing of epic legends; Brother Captain Stern, long thought lost, towered before Abaddon, clad in a vast dreadknight fighting suit. Abaddon’s champion, the daemon prince Belpharoc, brayed in loathing and dread as he threw himself into combat with the hulking war machine and its holy occupant. Two giants clashed in the light cast by a dying plasma reactor; daemon claws against force sword, kai gun against psycannon. Fencing became wrestling, became frantic clawing and punching. At last, Stern broke the prince in two with a single vast sweep of his force sword, before obliterating the body with bolts of psychic lightning which flared from his eyes like a holy beacon.

Abaddon recoiled from the towering silver god of war, who bellowed the 666 litanies as he proceeded to aid in the slaughter of the rest of the Chosen. Abaddon fought alone now, slaying each terminator with ever increasing difficulty. His daemonic runes flared in protest and his sword churned with hate and terror as it felt the holocaust building.

“Your world is dead, failed bastard of my father’s loins! Your Imperium toppled into the abyss. You are alone in this galaxy! You are nothing now!” Abaddon defiantly screamed, as he prepared to fight his final battle. A psycannon bolt blasted his helmet from his shoulders, and snapped his head backwards, unleashing his extravagant topknot from the barbed braid at the top of his skull. Blood frothed from his mouth, and he fell backwards roughly.

Stern advanced, smiling grimly as he removed his helmet. “My brothers survive in me. The Emperor is avenged in me! The bastard of Horus is punished by me!” he howled, raising his blade high.

A las bolt struck his uncovered head. And another, followed by another. Stern’s head was ruptured by the searing blasts, and his concentration was lost. In his dying flourish, a great blast of white light erupted from Stern as his dreadknight simply toppled to the floor. The psychic backlash stunned the terminators, and the daemons bound within the vengeful Spirit took this chance to vanquish their hated foes. Tendrils and oily monstrous sphincters closed upon the defiant knights, who died fighting one and all.

Abaddon rose from the ground, and turned to observe the quivering Despoiled soldier, who lowered his smoking lasgun unsteadily. Abaddon, for the first time in many centuries, cracked a sinister smile. It is said that when on the field of battle, Abaddon is now accompanied by a towering dreadknight, bound and deconsecrated by the greatest of Dark Mechanicus, and piloted by a mortal man, bound into the machine by disciples of Bile in such a way that every death inflicted by the knight sends a shiver of pure pleasure into the spinal cord of the loyal Dark Cadian; a grandiose and disgusting reward for saving the Dark Lord’s life.

The Nemesis Vault was breached after half a decade of furious siege. The defenders were defeated after most of them starved to death, or were poisoned by the plagues and noisome elixirs of Typhus that cleared them out or turned them into shambling monsters. The artefacts within were fought over by the assembled forces, and a furious naval engagement ensued. Some say the greatest artefact in the vault wasn’t a chaos item at all, but rather some great xenos blade, which vanished as soon as the stasis field was lowered. Others say it was stolen by agents for the Heracles cult or the Sons of Magnus. None can be sure.

The Chaos Imperium found foes from without as well as within. Angyl worlds began to form in some areas, and specially-bred new men, bound with daemons and weapons of profanity, were sent to cleanse these worlds and banish their Archangyls. These elite possessed warbands were known as the Blasphematii, and modeled themselves in ironic mockery of the almost-extinct Grey Knight order. Not only this, but the Vulkan Imperium and Huron Blackheart’s mongrels pressed against his border regions. And, with almost unnoticeable progress, the seals around Solar began to loosen, like the old threads in a tarred rope...

The worst of Abaddon’s foes remained an elusive element for many millennia however. The Alpha-Wulfen and its frenzied inhuman Fenryka who followed the beast destroyed armies and butchered worlds at the heart of the Eye of Terror, and seemed to expand their influence once Abaddon left the Eye, as if pursuing him and his forces. All efforts to hunt down this unseen beast had ended in failure, and those malatek stalkers and assassins sent after the Wulfen-king never returned. It was claimed to be some sort of old-daemon from the Eye, summoned and bound by Lorgar to unnerve Abaddon.

However, the truth came some time later, when the threads of eternity pulled more tightly together, and the true conflict became disturbingly apparent.

Additional Background Section 7: The Dread Marshal and The Tide of Wrath[edit]

“In the name of nothing, I purge you and this whole world. For it is good. It is very good. Time to burn! Time to pray! Hope your heathen gods are listening, otherwise... this’ll be quick...”

(recording degenerates into uncontrollable bitter laughter)

[Last audible transmission received by the unarmed agri-world of Fensidal, hours before being invaded and razed to the ground.]

Twenty Thousand years is too long for a crusade of punishment. Yet still the crusade of the High Marshal of the Black Templars continued. Even as new warp gods rose and fell in the firmament, the Templars continued to purge world after world, converting or destroying every planet they could reach. For countless centuries the grief-maddened Templars degenerated and slaughtered. They recruited more and more eager and insane converts into their furiously propagated faith. They preached a creed of self-mortification, punishment and eventual death. For the Emperor was dead, and the world would know of this fact through pain.

Such nihilism numbed them to their own casual heresies. They converted any Astartes who willingly joined them. Night Lords, amused by their terror-tactics, threw in their lot with the maddened monk-knights, as did many desperate Sororitas and a great multitude of foolish men from across a thousand worlds. Sons of Malice fought with and joined the Crusade in their own paradoxical glee, and the agents of The Hydra found it pathetically easy to infiltrate the crazed warriors. The Templars were no more. They embraced their own self-destruction, and the distinction between man, Astartes and blood-mad butcher dissolved in the melting cauldron of war.

This was the Crusade of Madness. They increasingly referred to each other as Oblivionites; agents of sweet annihilation. For only in destruction on the battlefield, surrounded by thousands of slain foes, could they find peace.

Chains and fire was their legacy. Populations were bound in chains, alike and screaming in misery across the Oblivionite vehicles and ships. Their artificers crafted warped and bizarre dark armor that molded to the forms of the Crusaders; armor that coiled about them like disgusting bleeding vines, which merged with their chains and braziers. Oblivionite initiates and serfs had wailing sirens stitched into their throats, that blared old imperial hymns, horribly distorted and modulated until all that could be made out was the underlying hate that fed the vox hailers. Immolator tanks and Crusader Land Raiders pulverized settlements and ruined lives on the whims of this crazed order. Some of the more insane and formidable Oblivionites had their limbs elongated and bonded to blades and pincers and serrated flails, with cyclone launchers that flung hate speech and frothing oil as frequently as krak missiles. These were known as the Lange-Mensch, and where they fell nothing lived. Even themselves.

The Eternal Crusader expanded with each passing year, as did many of the barges that followed in its wake; expanding to accommodate more prisons and churches filled with spinning blades and grinding drills; where pious men would fling themselves into the churning mass of metal, and their fleshy pulp was then sprayed over new recruits through thick hoses.

The Oblivionites were led by the former High Marshal Kanan, who became known as the Dread Marshal. He was bound within a Dreadnought sarcophagus. Some claimed it was this that drove him mad, and contributed to the rapid degeneration of the Crusaders. Others claim the turbulent warp was to blame for their madness; its conflict between the Star Father and the other powers warping the minds of the Astartes, who were both furious figures of hate and adherents of Imperial domination, which split their minds into things of shattered glass and deluded perception.

Kanan dwelt within the Eternal Crusader almost exclusively, conversing with shadowy figures who shifted in the gloom of his Reclusium. Chaplains brought adherents to his chambers every month, and these quivering men were rarely seen again alive. Those who left his chambers were dark-eyed and crazed; spouting philosophical nonsense as they calmly carved their names on the faces of their friends, or opened airlocks and jumped out. The only thing they all ranted about equally was a singular word; Malice. Dark pinions could sometimes be glimpsed on the battlements; flashes of shadowy shapes on the periphery of vision.

The Oblivionites terrorized the galactic north in a wide arc, which infringed upon both Chaos Empires, bordered the conflict in the East, and even affected the outer territories of the Vulkan Imperium. They were narrowly driven from the Ryza-Catachan Alliance’s sector, after repeated raids by the cybernetically-enhanced Catachan ‘Plasma-Commandos’.

However, in most cases, the worlds they invaded were woefully unprepared for the enemy who descended upon them. Even if prepared, the mercenary armies of private worlds often deserted rather than risk themselves fighting mad superhumans. Even the few remaining free Companies were reluctant to waste resources fighting such monstrously destructive foes. Worlds would surrender pitifully, and their people would suffer for it. Hunted in the streets, and burned from orbit, or taken and indoctrinated in a creed which compelled them to murder everyone they loved, men suffered and died in great masses. The Oblivionites would then erect titanic monuments on each world they converted; mile-high statues built from filth and the wreckage of smashed cities, which proclaimed the crusaders’ own glorious disregard for everything and everyone in existence.

Valhalla was not such a world. When the Oblivionites burst into their system, their system defense fleet immediately charged to attack the incoming obsidian vessels, initiating a vast naval battle which lasted for almost a month before the SDF were eliminated. This bought the Valhallans time. Distress signals were hopelessly flung out into the void, trenches were dug, supply lines and armories were stocked and prepared. The Draft saw almost every man and woman not employed in factory work thrust into the military. Orvec Chenkov, the Grand Dictator of Vahalla and a distant descendant of the infamous M41 Colonel that shared his last name, would not accept invasion or subjugation. Valhalla had weathered the Second Age of Strife and the decade of a thousand invasions from 234.M53-244.M53. They would not bow or prostrate themselves before nihilistic psychopaths. Valhalla would endure, always.

The massive icy cities of the Valhallan, built into mountainsides or beneath mile-thick ice sheets, were ever-more fortified. Seven Armored Companies were stationed outside the city of Invenka, where the towering gold Dome of Saint Ciaphas rose majestically atop a volcanic ridge that jutted from beneath a glacier. Serf Soldiers of Krieg were placed in the most hazardous and inhospitable areas. Militias bearing the banners of their cities flooded the training barracks in their millions. All leave from factories was revoked, a worker worked 22 hours a day producing war materiel for stockpiling. It was said that there was an ammo dump on every street corner, and even the children had autopistols tucked in their belts.

On the evening beginning 284.399.M54, orbital bombardment began with a firestorm of fearsome scale, followed by kinetic barrages of kill-rods and heavy macro-cannons. The very tectonic plates themselves shuddered with the force of the assault. Earthquakes and fires erupted across Valhalla, but the forces simply dug themselves in. Defense Lasers stitched flaming patterns in the heavens, and wounded the sky until it seemed to ripple red with the onslaught. Torpedo silos embedded in cliff faces dueled with the enemy vessels also, hurling munitions the size of castle turrets towards the void-bound foe. Heedless of risk, many of the smaller Oblivionite vessels were struck and crashed onto the surface like city-sized meteorites. Mushroom clouds of plasma fire scorched the glaciers, and great rolling banks of nuclear steam, that boiled thousands of Conscripts and Serf soldiers as they ran for cover.

Soon after, the drop pods came, plunging through the fire and fury and punching holes through the glacial ablative armour which protected the cities. The ice confounded several pods, trapping them halfway between the sky and the crust in frozen tombs. Heavy weapon teams soon destroyed those immobilized invaders with their lascannons and missile pods. Others however, penetrated the ice and struck like lightning swift daggers at the heart of cities. Superhumans stormed bastions and charged through the streets with furious abandon. Their physical perfection and murderous might overcame the discipline and bloody-mindedness of the defenders, and they were forced on the back foot throughout.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the conscript armies in their countless millions clashed against the human Oblivionite neophytes who swarmed from their large-bellied landing craft, while Thunderhawks covered with chained, wailing prisoners strafed the human waves of gun fodder, and delivered more Astartes into the fray. But the skies were contested. Valkyries and vendettas also blasted the invaders, while Marauder bombers dropped thousands of tons of high explosive across the blood-drenched glaciers. The Serf Soldiers showed their worth, demonstrating utter fearlessness in the face of battle. Those who died made sure to kill their slayer, or at least encumber the enemy enough to allow their vat-born brothers to finish them off. Basilisks and even larger fixed artillery positions cast an endless deluge of ordnance into the fray, and continued firing even when their defenders desperately tried to fend off strike teams of Night Lord Oblivionites, who crawled down the cliffs like spiders to reach them.

The Oblivionites were posthuman gods of war, bred to destroy, and backed by legions of zealots and gigatons of ordnance. But they faced an entire world of Valhalla soldiery, entrenched with an armory which could last for months. The war drew on, and Valhalla soon became a world of crumbling icy slush, jagged mountain fangs all surrounded by oceans made from the melted remains of the ice world’s crust of permafrost. The Ice world became a waterlogged nightmare. Battles raged through the catacombs and sewers. Artillery dueled from the peaks of opposing mountains. The Tank Battalions clashed with the predators and raiders of the Oblivionite crusade in the shadow of the glorious golden dome, which was soon smashed into glittering shards amidst the fury of exchanged ordnance.

Every week the war dragged on, more commanders began to question Chenkov’s attrition-based approach. Every week, more and more commanders were executed, and more and more soldiers were drafted to face off against the might of the vast crusade force of the Dread Marshal. The factories began to use up the stocks of adamantine and promethium which had been gathered the previous year from nearby trading worlds. Valhalla was being bled dry, and still the mad Astartes poured all their fury and self-destructive hate into the war, which had spread to the other planets in the system, which each fell one by one, until Valhalla was all that was left. Newly deranged converts to the Oblivion cult flocked to Valhalla from the other planets, eager to die in the fires of warfare. Chenkov obliged of course. There were so many water-logged corpses upon Valhalla, which they formed vast battlements of dead that stretched for miles around each city.

After a year of grueling sieges and desperate battles fought in the shallow war-born oceans, the dread marshal’s heralds began to address the world on an open vox, carrying across the system to every commander that could receive such signals. It was a voice of cruel mockery and merciless intent. The heralds screamed from their fleet-ships:

“We shall carve you into bloodied ribbons of flesh, and pound your world to dust. The Emperor’s sight has been put out, and deviancy reigns in its stead. There is no guiding Astronomicon beacon! We are alone in the dark! You shall die here, and you shall welcome it! Oblivion has come to your world. We feast upon your flesh tribute, and we grow strong from this destruction, while you grow weaker. Offer your bodies, your flesh, unto the wardship of the herald of the End, and he will ensure its passage is a swift and glorious one! With your flesh and your strength, we may put out the eyes of man’s foes, and gain apotheosis in degradation. The flesh is strong, and you can be strong!”

Before the defenders could reply, another message cut into the transmission. It was a harsh, metallic tone.

“Nay, heathen dog; the Flesh is Weak. Lord Vulkan sends his regards,” the Iron Hands Force Commander responded bluntly, as his vessels emerged from interstellar space, where they had lain in wait for a year, slowly re-entering the system under minimal power. The perfect sneak attack.

Chenkov had never intended victory over the Oblivionites. Chenkov’s strategy had been one of containment; he had been ordered to keep the focus of the crusaders upon Valhalla, and to ensure that all the Oblivionites converged upon the system. He had been ruthless in his acceptance of this plan, and the sacrifice of his people to achieve it. He had known they would suffer, and he cared not; a legacy of his ancestor’s bloodline. Apparently Chenkov died in his sleep shortly after the liberation of the ruined Valhalla.*

The Dread Marshal’s fleet was caught off guard by the Iron Hands and their cold metal vessels that soon shuddered to life and unleashed hell on the twisted Astartes. Battlebarges and cruisers dueled in the heavens at colossal distances, and ships burst apart like stricken whales in the deep, spewing fiery viscera from mechanical bowels.

Yet, for all their joyless mechanical power, the Iron Hands could not contain the Eternal Crusader. Battered and bloody, it fought its way clear, almost breaking the iron hands fleet on its own. The Iron Hands Commandery Master, Murgon, managed to destroy the Crusader’s warp drive, and forced it to flee into the void itself. Wounded but still very much armed, the crusader was harried from the system. Yet, the Iron hands could not sustain any mere losses in pursuing the stricken craft any further. They left that seemingly-banal mission to the Fire beasts, who translated into the system alongside the Purple Vipers and Heartrenders Space Marine Commanderies to mop up the surviving crusaders.

When the Fire Beasts finally caught up with the Crusader, it was running on minimal power. Hoping to capture the vessel for Vulkan (as the Primarch had done with Phalanx during the Battle of Falling Skies a century before), the Fire Beasts eagerly boarded the vessel. What happened on board the Eternal Crusader is a mystery, but many hours later, the Astartes left the ship, and bombarded it until it collapsed upon itself and was finally wrecked. The Fire Beasts rarely speak of what occurred inside the vessel. All that is known is that they lost almost 200 Marines inside. All they say when explaining what happened there is the simple phrase; ‘Malice has seen the wheel behind the world,’ and that is all they ever say in reference to that dark day. The day the Black Templars were put down.

  • [It took several dozen disgruntled soldiers, fourteen rounds of a heavy stubber, an overdose of tranq, a vial of neurotoxin, a hatchet and three bayonets to make sure he died in his sleep, but eventually he did. The legend of Chenkov’s death subsequently did get amplified in the telling, but his remains suggest at least the stubber shots were accurate...]

Additional Background Section 8: The Burden of Restraint: Gathering Allies[edit]

Though innumerable were the wars and campaigns of conquest conducted by the Vulkan regime, such constant antagonism would be futile if he wished to unite and make prosperous his new Imperium. Born upon Vulkan, he and his Salamanders knew all too well the values and limitations of empathy, and were almost as eager to forge alliances and treaties with those divergent realms they encountered as they were to defeat and occupy them. Some, such as Grand Sicarium and the Ophelia-Tallarns, did not wish to join with Vulkan’s project, while others, such as the monstrous Chaos Imperiums, or the vile Tenabrian Contingent, were too repellent and evil to parley with, and could only ever be enemies. However, not every rival power was such.

In the middle decades of M53, the Empire of Vulkan was a vast and glorious thing; perhaps a golden age. The Promethean Lodges on Armageddon collected and deciphered more and more captured technologies from colonized worlds. The Shipyards of The Fifteen Thousand World Empire were in constant use, as were the Commandery worlds. Artwork and architecture was at its height, and every city and every world were strong and somberly beautiful places; as glorious as only the master Artisan-Primarch could make them. Every year, word would reach the civilized interior worlds of new members of their Imperium, and there was rejoicing. Warp travel remained ponderous in the continued absence of the Astronomicon, but Vulkan had already begun a project upon the world of Venlaik to attempt to create a form of psychic beacon. Though the projects ended in failure and The Year of Nightmares seven years later, the fact he was confident enough to attempt this project while still at war demonstrated how secure and entrenched the Vulkan Imperium had become.

There were several empires of note that were brought into the fold relatively peacefully. The so-called Ryzan-Catachan ‘Oath-worlds’ were a cluster of six dozen systems in the local sector directly around the two main worlds. They were relatively easy to bribe and coerce into the fold. The Ryzan tech priests were bribed with Archeotech and a promise to allow their Forge-world Noosphere to link up with the Noospheres of other liberated Forge Worlds, allowing them to share data. The Catachan side of the alliance merely joined because they saw little difference between working alone with the Tech priests, or with the Black Giant’s folk. They just liked warfare.

The Confederation of Justice was harder to convince. They were the remnants of the Elysian, Harakoni and Varseen Droptroops, who over the millennia had morphed into an elite band of peacekeeping thugs in the southern Segmentum Solar region; attacking worlds and shipping at random on the assumption they had ‘subversive’ elements amongst their populations. When Vulkan’s soldiers eventually encountered these men in battle, it was through ambush. The world of Kaniir was in the process of being brought into the Imperium through the signing of a treaty at their capital. Clerks from one of the many Councils of Armageddon had arrived on the war-battered world, guarded by two Companies of the Commandery of the Dorn Revenants, in their burnished war plate.

Halfway through proceedings, the warships of the Confederates arrived and declared the Vulkans traitors to the original Terran Imperium, and attacked the Revenant Fleet. The Confederates were outnumbered and their ships were under-gunned, and Vulkan’s troops easily routed the fleet. However, their ships were converted to carry large troop transport facilities, and they swiftly deployed their drop troops onto the world before they retreated. The battle raged for weeks, and the skilled mortal soldiers, despite being attacked by the PDF of Kaniir and the might of Mark II Astartes, they held their own. Kowl, the Commander of the Dorn Revenants, was quoted as saying;

“Determined as Fists. Damn them, but you cannot help but admire their conviction!”

Eventually their forces were surrounded and captured. They surrendered honorably, and congratulated the Revenants for their well-earned victory ( which unsurprisingly took the Astartes aback somewhat, for they were rarely praised by their foes). After questioning, the prisoners would not give up their homeworld, claiming ‘every world that needs us is our home, for home is where the honor is.’

As it transpired, Promethean Cultists with the fleet managed to track the warp trails of the retreating fleet (though they were masked well), and found the location of their base of operations; a vast Ramillies class star fort, which had become clad with additional living quarters and blister-like bio-domes that made the space station look like a vast shanty town. Kowl and his negotiators managed to gain an audience with the Muster-Lord of the Confederated Drop-Troopers, who listened to their proposals, and perused the files given to him that proven the Vulkan Imperium was a worthy successor to the Terran Imperium, which had fallen long ago.

The Muster-Lord listened and took it all in with patience and good grace, before calmly pointing out that his men had discreetly infiltrated the Vulkan ships, and had taken over the engineering sections and gun batteries. Elite assault boat teams had stormed the ships, and the prisoners held in the vessels had rigged an explosive from inside their cells, and had blown themselves free, before coming to the aid of the strike teams. The Muster-Lord, after informing Kowl of this fact, then requested that the Revenants surrender. Kowl snarled, explaining that his men could rip apart his paltry boarding forces and retake the ships within half an hour. The Confederate Lord then countered by explaining simply;

‘That is half an hour without motive power or guns, while being within range of the full firepower of a star fort. I hope your men could re-take the vessels in less than half an hour; otherwise your vessels will be scrap. I humbly request, therefore, that you surrender, and save us having to slay brave Astartes.”

Kowl had little choice other than to surrender to the mortal General. Word reached Vulkan of this setback, and he deployed two battlefleets to the area, to locate and free his men, before destroying the enemy. In the year it took for this force to be assembled and deployed, Kowl and his men were imprisoned, and learned of the culture of their foes. They were not degenerates or villains, but merely broken soldiers, desperate for a central command and a reason to fight on. Everywhere they looked over the millennia had been horror and war; the ophelians were murderers and maniacs, and their worlds burned with hate and misery. Space marines rampaged and laughed as they torched worlds at random. Daemons and twisted xenos fiends capered and spread their malice across countless worlds. The confederacy had looked upon the Vulkan Imperium, and they refused to believe that such a realm could exist in such a galaxy of horror. Kowl explained it was so, but it was only once his men had broken free of the prisons and had efficiently taken over the star fort by force, that the Muster-lord reluctantly heeded his words.

When Vulkan’s twin fleets tracked the star fort down amidst the swirling eddies of the warp lanes, they found that Kowl’s men had made an ally of the Troopers, who eagerly pledged oaths to the new Imperium, and sent delegates to Armageddon for formal training and establishment of their official regiments. In exchange, clerks and administrators were brought to the fleets of the Drop troopers, to help them organize their new territories. The planets that they had madly protected against all-comers for centuries, became their official domain.

Vulkan himself parleyed with the leader of the World of Secae; a world of shadowy smog and blazing lava-canals and plasma pits that fueled its sparse industry. The world was almost useless in almost every way. However, the world was a known hub and control center for the Order of Heracles. This Order was a group of fearsomely competent assassins and spies that bore the heritage of the once-infamous Officio Assassinatorium. Vulkan met with veiled associates of the Order here, and they agreed not to target Vulkan’s officials in exchange for Secae being left as their personal dominion, and unmarked properties upon Armageddon. Vulkan agreed, but it was an uneasy truce. The unmarked towers of the Assassins are discreetly spied upon by Salamanders and Imperial operatives daily, while Secae is a forbidden zone for diplomats and reporters for the Grand Journal (a journalistic mega-project devised by experts of the Gathanar system to document the entire history of the Vulkan Imperium). What the Heracles agents are actually up to is known to a scant few people, and will be covered in a later section.

A Sector spanning Human Empire known as the "Realm of Fathers" (this is a rough translation) was encountered by the Vulkan Imperium on its fringes, close to the Ophelian area of influence, but beyond their control. This realm was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of productive, peaceful and efficient worlds, full of quiet, diligent workers and citizens. There was no unrest, and everyone seemed to be happy and content; they rarely even seemed to speak to one another. When Vulkan’s armies came, they were welcomed by the Court of the Regents, and within a few months of their arrival, had signed treaties and pledged oaths in blood and stone. Their factories and produce yards were so very efficient that they had a major surplus of materials, which they traded within the Vulkan Imperium and provided a massive amount of goods to the expanding Imperium. They even paid double the standard tithes asked of them.

However, the Eealm of Fathers held a terrible secret. For they bore a legacy of ancient corruption in their very blood; they were, to a man, all genestealer cultists. With the abandonment of the genestealers by the Hive Fleets thousands of years ago, the genestealers had merely continued to do what they were born to do; survive and reproduce. Every other den of genestealers had been eventually slain over the years by various powers. Yet, one cult had survived. And, surprisingly, without the Hive Fleets, the genestealers were allowed to flourish. Nobody had ever seen how far a genestealer infestation could develop, until then.

There were hundreds of Patriarchs ruling the Empire in well shielded bastions within the main capital worlds of the Empire. Every single human was a hybrid to some degree, even if the vast multitude were merely smiling drones, infested at birth with the love of the bulbous beasts that ruled from the depths of their worlds. Every mind was linked by the fearsome brood telepathy of the Patriarch Prime and his brothers and sons. There was no dissent or hate between the people, for they knew each other as well as they knew themselves, and they all loved the Patriarchs. As every mind was linked, they produced mega projects and vast quantities of material with frightening speed. Though no one had ever seen the Prime Patriarch, it is said he swelled to an impossibly vast scale, bloated with psychic power until his magnificent potential made his presence visible to Vulkan himself.

If Vulkan had known of the nature of his new ally, he neglected to mention it to his own Councils, who only learned of their nature after an accidental shuttled crash had dropped one of their officials into the subterranean feeding pits for the Purestrains. There was outrage and furious debate amongst the rulers of the Imperium. The Commanderies were in two minds over the matter; some wished to invade at once, others wanted to wait for Vulkan’s decree. Some of the mortal rulers debated over the matter with more nuance; they had become reliant upon the exports and tithes of this new allied territory, for good or ill. Humanity had a long history of hatred for the xenos, but the genestealer held no specific dread amongst the Councils of Armageddon; most were too young to remember the Tyranids as anything other than mythical monsters from the primordial times (from their perspective); creatures as far distant and irrelevant as the dinosaur of the long-forgotten home-world of Terra. Indeed, there were carnifex bones in several museums across the central worlds of the Vulkan Imperium. In the end, it was Vulkan that decided what happened next; he arrived unannounced into the council halls of the Tower of Governance upon the rebuilt Hades Palace, flanked by his robed Salamander Custodians, interrupting a policy meeting of the Grand Lords without a single care. He asked them to show leniency to the Cultists; they had never made war upon him, and their industry was required if the Imperium was to face the ‘troubles ahead’ effectively. Not only this, but a war with the cult would cripple his fledgling Imperium even if they won; the cult had a vast military machine of elite fighters and abundant equipment, supported by legions of Purestrain Shocktroops to serve as their Praetorians. Vulkan asked this of his councils, but never made an order. He desperately wanted his mortals to run their own Imperium; he was merely the agent of their survival.

The Councils agreed. The cultists were to remain upon their worlds, however; they were not to interbreed and subvert any humans in unwilling communities. Every world and every merchant vessel that traded with their realm was required to take genetics screening to detect any possible infections. Additionally, their status as xenos hybrids was to be suppressed and classified; normal citizens need not know that aliens supplied much of their products. Indeed, did not Jokaero smiths make many of the esoteric items of the Imperium of old?

Why Vulkan championed the cultists remains a contested topic. It was claimed he had foreseen the Time of Alignment, beginning M55, which threw the galaxy into the greatest conflict in all the eons of galactic history before it, and saw the worth of the cult in this Great War. Others claim it was a more personal reason. They claim Vulkan traveled into the heart of the Cult’s sector, and straight to the heart of the Chitin Keep, the throne-city of the Patriarch. It is claimed he looked into the golden reptilian eyes of the patriarch, and confronted it, ignoring the oceans of Genestealers that surrounded him silently. The patriarch, they say, promised Vulkan a mighty prize in exchange for a union. It claimed (through its Magus proxy, which allowed it to speak as men speak) it had had a vision of a world of pulverized stone, and an empty throne, guarded by sullen Angels. It had seen some great force sweep in and take the unmoving King. It had witnessed the Obsidian Juggernaut, Vulkan himself, arrive and find the tomb empty. The Patriarch knew what Vulkan so desperately searched for, but could not find. Something the Patriarch alone knew.

For it knew who had stolen the Lion of Caliban from his undying slumber. And what was more, the Patriarch knew, with all its psychic might, where he had been taken...

Additional Background Section 9: Shadow Play: Espionage and Unknown Missions[edit]

The galaxy in The Age of Dusk was one of great bombastic light; the light granted by great wars, and the glow of towering civilizations rising to their very heights, moments before the precipice. Yet, a bright light casts long shadows. And just as light casts a shadow, so the vast battles and politics of the struggled for reality conceal lingering oceans of events, betrayals and schemes unseen and unrecorded by the histories of man and beast.

Until this day, where I was able to breach this vault’s walls and-

I say too much. How this history has come to you, my surviving readers, shall be related in due time. But this section shall cover the hidden missions and events that guided events throughout this time.

The Heracles Cult continued a secret war against the agents of the Hydra-Lords and their infinite familiars and ciphers. But the Order of Assassins Heracles was not solely interested in thwarting the Hydra. They loaned their services as spies and killers to the highest bidders; moving discreetly through human and xenos societies alike in their desire to achieve their mercenary ambitions.

Other assassin cults worshiped the Murder God Khaine, and spoke forbidden words and performed rituals which they hoped would bring them closer to the eternal kill. These cults were not species-centric; if you could kill one of them, you were worthy of becoming one of them (provided you survived the reprisals). Dark Eldar sometimes sponsored such cults (but invariably ended up hunting them for sport within Commorragh once they were bored with them).

Yet, there was talk of a dark force; a shadow unseen, which was moving through the disparate fraternity of slayers, be they Heracles-bonded killers, freelancers, or even the Malicite Stalkers and semi-daemonic assassins employed by the Ordo Hydra and the Chaos Imperiums in general. The Grand Lords of the Orders became paranoid, desperate and ever more deadly; for there was naught more dangerous than a cornered assassin.

They gathered clues and snippets of information from across the galaxy on news of this killer and where it could be located and destroyed. From the sterile, drug-controlled ‘lobotopias’ of the Tau Empire’s capital septs, to the badlands and feral outlands of trading posts and warp-tainted drinking dens, the agents of the assassins exhorted information from contacts by force, murdered and stolen data-cores, or otherwise overheard conversations and conspiratorial whispers. All in the hope of finding their elusive predator. The rumors and whispers spoke of a cluster of grim worlds, in the shadow of the ancient star of Tovinas. The rain-racked world of Colobar was a world of miserable citizens leading pointless, short lives beneath the lash of bureaucracy for all eternity. In the year 883.M53, monsters descended upon Colobar. Some had arrived years earlier, disguised by chemicals or more paranormal techniques. Others slinked amongst the sewers and rooftop gutters of the grey cityscape, hungry for the blood of their foes. They each came of their own volition; each supreme killer had followed their own trail of clues and brutally-obtained truths. Swiftly and silently, they closed in upon their target.

It was known as the Collectioner’s Court; the tax offices of Colobar city. This was where the dark force was hiding, and they attacked with fury born of selfishness. The carapace-armored Enforcers guarding the lobby were suddenly assailed by blood-drenched beasts with crazed Eversor-descendant strains. With a howl and a storm of blades, the assassins butchered the enemy even as they screamed in terror and unloaded magazine after magazine of shotgun and autogun shells into the blood-maddened killers. The place was a charnel house.

The windows of the offices high within the Taxman’s tower splintered as high-velocity rounds punched through them, pitching scribes and clerks from their feet in puffs of blood and vaporized bone. Some office workers turned on their own, blades shuddering into existence in place of their hands, before they slaughtered everyone they could find. Some, bearing serpentine tattoos, pulled handcannons and boltguns from their desk drawers, and gunned down their fellows at random. Though the assassins worked individually, the fact these individuals attacked at once meant the tower was swiftly depopulated. After ten minutes, the tower was full of nothing but corpses.

The assassins coldly began to search the offices, for the chamber they all knew was hidden within the labyrinthine complex. They tore the place to shreds, keen eyes glowering as they scanned every document and schematic they could find. Eventually, they found it; a chamber which was not found upon the plans, or marked in any way by the former staff of the Collectioner’s Court. They converged upon this prize like a pack of jackals brought together temporarily for a great feast.

Melta bombs boiled away the heavy adamantine doors, and the assassins burst into the darkness eagerly. There was darkness there, and little more. Darkness and a series of heavy crates that is. The more prescient assassins instantly leapt from the room, as the bombardment cannon shells in the crates, rigged up to simple proximity fuses, detonated with the thunderclap of titans. The grey skyline of Colobar was illuminated for several long seconds, as the fusion fires boiled away the storm clouds above the tower for miles around.

Within the burning crater that was once a hab block, those surviving assassins pulled them-selves free of the flaming debris; skinless and screaming in fury. They noticed the ring of hulking shadows surrounding the crater far too late. Bolters rang out in the night, as the dark-armored Astartes murdered the assembly of assassins with thoughtless efficiency. Only two figures did not add their weight of fire to the fusillade; both were hooded, both were faceless. The first was a giant amongst giants, and bore a mantle of wilting midnight feathers about his vast shoulders; his identity remained a mystery to the wider galaxy until the War fought upon the armored skin of a god (which shall be related to you in due course, once my surviving servitors can traverse this... realm... if I could truly call this place a realm). The other figure remained a mystery; we have no information upon him. We only have the whispered intrigues of clerks and scriveners the galaxy over, who speak of a man without fear. A man who, they say, was like water; un-trappable, and unstoppable.

Within the Tau Empire’s tightly controlled society, the Psyker-Caste of the M’yen were used to locate and eliminate subversive elements within their great worlds; using their gifts to probe the minds of all who fell beneath their gaze. They also helped run the re-education centers, and used telepathy to perfect the correct drug cocktails required to crush any un-unified thoughts within the tau and their closest vassals. The M’yen were also essential in combating the Deceiver’s infiltrator units of modified Necrons, who constantly sought to undermine the war effort of the Tau and their allies, who were still engaged in a vast, desperate war to contain the Nightbringer and his Legions of silver destroyers. Ammunition factories that supplied specialized Necron-slaying rounds to the front-line military units were often singled out for destruction by Necron doppelgangers. Only a psyker’s second sight could reveal the cold stunted souls that writhed beneath the stolen facades worn by the nightmarish creatures.

Unbeknownst to the Thexian Alliance, members of their own race began to parlay with Necron envoys; each desiring to gain economic or social dominance against their rivals. In particular, a rogue group of Thexian Elite that called themselves the Prospectors of Cythor, made a terrible pact with the smiling silver fiend known only as Ralei; in exchange for Necron immunity, the vile shape-shifting fiends would let Necrons build Tomb complexes beneath the surface of almost a hundred of their worlds, and would provide the souls necessary to pilot the Necron constructs that would rise from these tombs and bolster the swelling Legions of the Deceiver (who had always had the least Necrons under his control, compared to his more powerful brothers). This betrayal was only revealed when the Thexian Alliance began to collapse in M55, after their heartlands were ripped out by Necrons phasing into battle from nearby turncoat worlds. It is thought the Cythor Fiends helped prolong the war for millennia, counteracting the sudden appearance of elite Ork War-Hulks in Tau space, who had aided in pushing the Nightbringer’s forces back slightly on multiple fronts.

During the first half of the Age of Dusk, worlds, at random, were often attacked by bands of towering, howling mutants of twisted flesh and gnarled claws; sometimes two factions of monsters descended upon them, and proceeded to tear themselves apart alongside the helpless natives. There was no order to these incursions, and no pattern. Random Imperiums and Empires across the galaxy suffered these bizarre terrorist assaults. As it transpired, what was happening was at once horrifying and surprisingly mundane; it was a competition. This was a contest between artists; each as twisted and unthinkably horrifying as each other. One was a perversion of human science and daemonic cunning, the other the pinnacle of xenos perversion.

Urien Rakarth and the Coven of the Flesh Tower of Commorragh had built monsters and living flesh-sculptures since the fall, and they had become supremely inventive in their creations over these long millennia. Yet, they had a rival who had learned at their withered feet in the Age of Imperium. Fabius Bile and his cabal of degenerates were also makers of monsters and animators of unclean beasts. The two factions developed an obsession to prove they were the most original of flesh-smith. Thus, over the years, they unleashed their grotesques and their ‘new men’ out into reality to test them. Wherever Bile traveled, he was pursued by slavering beasts that sought to protect him, and others to kill him. In turn, he would allow his own creations to be captured in Dark Eldar slave raids, and into the hands of the haemonculi, who were often temporarily slain by cunning chaos-abominations. Each time an attack failed, the creators would send polite notes to their opposites, explaining why their monsters had failed, and pointers on how to improve their art. This was the correspondence of scholars, delivered by monstrous couriers, who tore apart thousands of innocents over the years.

Yet, not every covert action in the Age of Dusk was born of spite and menace. The Councils of the Vulkan Imperium created ‘The Brethren of the Willing’. This was a group of adventurers and investigators, founded in M55, to uncover the dark secrets of the galaxy, and figure out a way to defeat them, or to prevent their terrible prophecies coming to pass. Their leader was Imogen Kaltrane, a female scholar of stupendous intelligence and matchless bravery. The group she gathered was recruited from many diverse sources across the Imperium; outcasts and heroes, mercenaries and ideological prodigies. At one time or another, several Mk I and Mk II Astartes were known to have joined the brethren at one point. It was never a big group, and its membership altered several times over the course of history. However, they were clever and brilliant to a man; they worked to save and protect Vulkan’s people. They had unofficial sanction from Vulkan, which often meant they had to avoid censure by unwitting local authorities, but this was how Imogen preferred to work; ‘on the seat of my britches mostly!’ she was quoted as once explaining to a bewildered scribe who attempted to collate her history.

They discovered much during their time; they helped decipher the various prophecies of the old races, they discovered and fully realized the dark potential of the Necrons and proved the existence of their Gods once and for all, they who helped gather the various artefacts scattered across the galaxy. This account can only give a few examples of their many missions, but there were far more, all hidden from the eyes of history by centuries of secrecy and the gulf carved into history by this war which still threatens to engulf us all. But they were as heroic in deed as any of the expeditionary leaders of Vulkan’s many armies.

Additional Background Section 10: Raising The Siege[edit]

Titan’s surface is barren and burnt, and daemons crawl across its surface. But the daemons never concerned themselves with the surface, which was constantly scoured clean of life by the regular sweeps of the Dragon’s Silver Annihilators. No, the daemons burrowed and crawled, down and down into the dark catacombs and secret tunnels that perforated the Saturnine Moon like a honeycomb.

And there they died. In their endless droves. It was there, deep inside, where the psychic screams of ancient heroes reverberated, and where the sonorous ringing of talons against glinting plate filled the air. The Grey Knights and the Custodians still fought, with the tireless courage of doomed men driven beyond extremity by their prolonged test. Purifiers and Paladins formed choke points in the narrow tunnels, and they butchered every wave of daemons. Century upon century upon century had passed. The armor of Grey Knight and Custodian were indistinguishable; each was pot-marked, torn and dull. Each warrior was coated in a hundred years of gore and bubbling nightmare spoors. They had long ago fired their last bolts, every psycannon was spent, promethium had long since been poured, burning into the faces of veritable tides of daemons. Even their power armor had run down, and the energy fields on power weaponry sparked and flared no more. Only the psychic will of the Knights remained undiminished by age or the crushing embrace of time. Nemesis weapons still flickered with soul fire, and the psychic counter attacks of the daemon hunters persisted.

Monsters of every patron came, from juggernauts to winged furies, and more indistinguishable creatures loped from the gloom; pseudopods lashing and beaks scratching. The Knights held them off. But they were constricting and contracting. More and more of the valiant superhumans died every year; their armor stripped and blessed, their bodies anointed in ornate rituals, before being used as blocks in flesh ramparts and barriers to prevent daemonic outflanking in the narrow warrens of the inner sanctums. Only their psychic might sustained their bodies, and even this and their miraculous genetic form could not sustain them indefinitely. Slowly but surely, they began to fall.

Many fell to the ravenous maws of spawn and daemons, others collapsed under the strain of their armor against their ravaged muscles. Others destroyed themselves in psychic implosions, simply to buy time for their brothers to fall back into ever tighter and more dense defensive positions. Eventually, a mere hundred were left, led by the ravaged Custodian Chief and the Castellan known as Obex. Crowe had been lost a decade previously; his malevolent sword, sensing a crack in his resolve, failed him as he clashed with the blubbering Morass of a Great Unclean One. His armor, split and broken, was flooded with entities of the destroyer hive. After a horrifying moment of rigid resistance, his armor fell to the ground, empty.

But the Knights would not break. They could not break. The names of every one of the Million Martyrs of Titan were etched into their ceramite, and branded upon their skin. After long last, they fell back to the only chamber left unsullied by daemon flesh; the Vaults themselves, where all the most arcane and forbidden of artefacts were stored. Strange devices and structural masterpieces haunted the pitch black chambers, and the air was impossibly chill. At the very rear of the vault, the embalmed corpse of the Emperor sat, perched upon an Obsidian Throne, threaded with green-veined marble. While they still lived, the memory of his existence and his works would forever be preserved, and he could never truly die. They cared not what his deformed godhead had become in the warp. They were not ignorant however; they had felt his ascension just as the Astropaths had. But they were not duped by the Star Father’s apotheosis. The Knights and the Custodes knew what the Emperor was; he was no god of the warp. He was champion of humanity; champion of mankind’s dominion over the real, over the sane. The Star Father was a distortion; a monster borne in the minds of the deluded and the weak-willed. Not like the true heroes of the Dead-Imperium. For the true heroes knew that the creed was merely the rallying cry of all of man, and could not be undone by the removal of the greatest man amongst them. No man, no matter how great, could match the collective resolve of humanity united. The Star Father was a disgusting parody of this; a reciprocal entity which devoured its own worship, and created itself. He was not worthy.

And so they fought on. Obax strode out into the arming hall before the chamber’s doors, flanked by the last two functioning dreadnoughts, Alaric and Tancred, to face the onrushing horde, which had swelled to an ever greater size, for the daemons knew the end would be coming soon. The rest of the knights followed them out, but just as ten of them marched out to join their liege, Lord Obax turned and uttered the Command ‘Terminus’. The vault doors sealed, and the majority of his knights were sealed within, leaving but a token force to hold the great hallway before Titan’s final vault. The Custodian screamed and yelled down his vox, pleading with his millennial friend and brother to open the doors, to let him aid in driving back the daemons.

“Together, we may face our glorious doom together!” the Custodian declared in a fierce yet mournful voice.

Obax’s reply was brief. “The tarot has been set, but the last cards are yet to be dealt. Stay by the Emperor’s side Custodian, as you were ever-destined to.”

With that, the vox link was finally severed, and Obax charged into the ravening mass of tendrils and oozing flesh that greeted him. His broken sword was raised, and he screamed the 666 Litanies of Hate as he fought. The dreadnoughts followed suit, smashing apart daemons with their claws and even with the barrels of spent-assault cannons and plasmaguns. Blades flashed and daemons died. Oceans of corrosive sludge pumped from severed heads and bisected maws. It was then that Tancred was hacked in twain by the black blade of a most dreadful of daemons; M’kar itself capered into the fray, at the head of the horde of horrors. The dreadnought Alaric was the first to notice this foe of long years past, and he instantly clashed with the Daemon Prince’s smoking blade. The two giants wrestled as the others fought with all their hearts and all their souls; they wielded their hate as shafts of searing faith, drenched in gore but cackling all the same. They were wild in their frenzy.

But, it was to no avail. Alaric banished M’kar, but standing over his disintegrating form was no victory. The daemon-thing laughed even as it was wrenched from reality. “Your time has ended. Your end was determined long before you were created,” it has hissed as the daemon perished. Soon after, Alaric fell, dragged down by thousands upon thousands of furies that wriggled through the constricted tunnels like maggots.

The tides of damnation flowed over the tarnished Knights and nothing could prevent what came next. The Custodian listened through the six metres of adamantium separating him from the combat. He heard them all perish, one by one. Defiant screams replaced by gurgling laughter spat out of inhuman jaws. Then, the mockery turned to a sinister murmur, as the daemons turned to the task of opening the vault. Boom after boom resonated through the door. The remaining defenders merely listened to the sounds with downcast helms, sitting amongst the antique items which had never been used, nor could be used. They sat awaiting their fate in a veritable museum of their own history, their own purpose.

It was then, as even the resolve of the greatest collective wills in the galaxy faltered, that something changed, and a sound which had not been heard for a very long time upon Titan roused them from their misery.

Bolter fire.

Masses of concentrated bolter fire came from beyond the vault door. Now it was the daemons’ turns to scream. The Custodian located the few remaining techmarines, and demanded to know what was happening beyond the door. Eventually, the Astartes and Custodes managed to rig up a makeshift picto feed to a dead pict-servitor out in the hallway. What they saw confused them, for their reinforcements were Astartes clad in flaming black armor and helms that were the shape of grinning Chaplain death masks. They were the Legion of the Damned. A myth no longer. They killed the daemons in their droves, each silent as the grave as they killed.

So rapt were the Knights that only the Custodian himself noticed that one of the ancient artefacts in the vault was reactivating. It was one of the ancient portals of the Eldar, and it began to shudder into life. As it grew in power and glowed with new found vigor, the Knights and Custodians turned to face this new apparition. Had they not faced enough foes now? What was this new devilry? These questions plagued their war-ravaged minds as the portal, with a final lyrical crescendo, activated.

Out stepped two little girls. They wore their hair in pigtails, and their simple cream robes were the mirror of one another, as they walked from the webway gate hand in hand. Their power was instantly unmistakable. Every Knight in the room involuntarily shivered at their psychic presence; it was rare to be in such close proximity to one Apex level psyker, let alone two. The girls smiled at the assembled giants that surrounded them. One of the Knights managed to bite back his delirious sense of awe and spoke first.

“Why have you come?” was all he could manage.

“We opened the doorway which only we can open, to make Uncle happy with us. You must all come along with us now. Uncle is ever so friendly. But he needs all his pieces if we are to play his game. We so like his games. Come along. The Mad One will wake soon; that’s when it’ll start. We don’t want to miss it,” they replied cheerfully, in unison.

The fact I am aware of this story at all should suggest to you that the Knights and their allies took up the diminutive Apex Twins up on their enigmatic request, and at least survived long enough to tell other souls; other chroniclers of their deeds. So it came to pass that Titan was relieved, and the body of the Emperor was snatched from the jaws of heretical defilement.

Ha, heresy. Such an odd word to use now. Now that I know what is coming.

Additional Background Section 11: The Cradle of Putrescence: Return To The Solar System[edit]

Where once there was Terra, there was now the sphere. A great ball of unnatural colors and horrific warp-light that spread across a light-year of space, the sphere clung to the very borders of the Western Chaos Imperium like a vile malignancy. Even veterans from the eye feared this realm. Like the warp storms before it and since, it was a swirling mass of madness and warp energy, filled with daemons and degenerates living upon filth and bred on horror. But unlike all the others, this was a storm that had been manufactured by Abaddon himself, by poisoning the Oort cloud and seeding a self-consuming daemon-virus into the very atoms of the star system.

In the Age of Dusk, only those who had failed Abaddon, the banished, or those insane beyond all reckoning, ventured inside the Storm of the Emperor’s Extinction. For too long the warp had saturated the worlds within. Jupiter churned with a billion impossible colors, and coiling monsters writhed unseen within its endless banks of mutagenic cloud. Its moons were twisted into daemon worlds that cast vile energies upon one another and warped constantly. Neptune, Uranus and Saturn suffered similar fates. This was a realm where even the Chaos Space Marines were near-helpless. No vessels could enter the sphere’s warp shell without being damaged beyond repair; they soon crashed upon the daemon moons, or were dashed into formless energies by the warp currents, and were there suckled upon by foul things of putrid geometry and biological abomination.

Terra was a dark crown rotting towards the center of the horrific churning nightmare. It had consumed its sister Venus and Mercury; huge chains and hooked fronds had drawn them into the world and pounded them like clay, into new and dreadful forms. Luna was swallowed whole, before forming a giant lidless eye that wept oceans of pus into the void, which formed wailing pus-devils of nuglitch heritage that consumed themselves within moments.

Mars was no longer red; it was silver and shimmered with arcing patterns of green grave-light. Endless forests of pylons and nightfield generators swathed the world in a cloud of soulless sanity that turned daemons into faded vapor within seconds of approach; for it was the world of the Void Dragon, and he was Oblivion itself, rendered in living metal flesh and pulsating starlight. His Necron Armada had been trapped there through the ploys of Abaddon, but he was far too powerful to defeat. He could only be contained, and contained barely. Every five days, his fleet would dart between every single world in the Solar System. His constructs would utterly scour every single world completely, leaving them as sterile balls of rock. His Necrons killed everything. Then, they would orbit Sol, drink deep of its ancient energies, before returning to Mars to feed their great C’tan master, who grew more powerful and more frustrated every single day. This was because, barely a day after killing every daemon in the Solar system, the daemons would return, and remake their worlds anew. These purges became known as the Dragon Tides, and are the only reliable means of time keeping inside the Storm of the Emperor’s Extinction. They are treated almost like tropical storms by the daemons and degenerates of the Solar realm. They hide before he reaches them. Some survive. Most don’t. But it matters little either way. Chaos always returns, feeding on the misery of those who yet live to fuel it to ever greater feats of madness.

Despite the horror of the Sphere, there are treasures to be plundered by those brave and deranged enough to venture within. Terra’s vaults were always warded with unbreakable seals, and they are filled with a wealth of knowledge beyond reckoning, perhaps second only to... this place I find myself within...

Ahriman was such a seeker of knowledge. He desired to finally breach the secret vaults, and plunder Terror’s heart. The great sorcerer gathered together Rubric Marines and fellow practitioners of warp magic from across the Chaos Imperiums; not only Thousand Sons, but many psyker cults from every creed and diabolical culture flocked to his Library vessel, formed from the captured hulk of a dead Void Stalker. His Cabal tried a hundred different rituals to breach the impenetrable cloud of warp storms that sheathed the Solar system in both the Materium and Immaterium; millions of their moaning acolytes perished in these attempts, but to no avail. The madness spewing forth from the Oort Cloud was too dense and too nonsensical. Even the most powerful mage’s minds were simply too mortal and too logical to truly perceive a safe route through the tundra of psychosis.

All, that is, save for one vessel. The Tersis, the fallen Black Ship had plunged into the very depths of the warp, beneath the undulating incorporeal realms where flesh ran fluid and matter was a myth. In the millennia since that time it had roamed the warp like one of the many warp predators that hunted alongside it. The ship was a living warp vessel, infused with warp energies in every atom of its being, some even claiming is stored a fragment of the pure, deepest warp inside its engine room, which powered the vessel indefinitely. Such was the potency of its corruption; it could remain in the Materium only for brief intervals of days to capture new crew to replace those daemonhosts onboard whose bodies had finally come apart under the strain of demented devilry, before returning to the warp. Ahriman had to use all his esoteric knowledge to predict when the Tersis would next rise to the Materium, and set a watch over the region.

When the living, writhing vessel finally did emerge, he instantly opened a warp portal inside the daemon-sub, and deployed his elite retinue within and led the incursion force himself. The Tersis was a nightmare inside and out, and as soon as he boarded the vessel, he was attacked by the gibbering hordes within. Monsters with too many limbs and disjointed bodies wracked by taint drooled through the very walls themselves to attack Ahriman’s band, but his powerful spells managed to ward off much of the onslaught. The mortals of his retinue, protected from harm by the Rubric Marines, wailed and wept in agony simply through looking upon the fluid walls and raw madness that formed the structure of the Tersis. Geometry meant little to this vessel, and Ahriman’s loyal minions traveled for mile upon mile through the cavernous guts of the vessel, wading through bile and burning their way through bulkheads that gnashed and growled at them. Every step of the way, they were followed by loping daemonhosts and scuttling spawn-things. For days they traveled, and no matter how hard Ahriman’s scholars tried, they could not decipher a path through the maze.

Ahriman at last used a powerful spell to summon his patron’s own daemons, who managed to break through the cloying masses to send word to the Lord and Lady of the Tersis. They bore the message of the master of the Rubric; Ahriman wanted to parley with them, not to fight them. Instantly, a passage formed, cutting through the maze, directly to the central chamber of the Tersis, where the Lord and Lady presided.

Lady Medeline and her nameless Witch-lord spouse presided over the vast throne room of ossified corpses that Ahriman’s Cabal found itself upon; the terrifying rulers of the Tersis seated upon a glowering throne of writhing beetles and fused bulkhead. Medeline perhaps had once been a Sororitas, but even the barest caress of the Nex [ACCOUNT CORRUPTED, SEEK HELP] beyond all recognition. She sat in her bio-mechanical daemon armor, perched upon the lap of the silent, hooded form of the Witch-Lord, the Psyker formerly of Cell Primus, who petted her multi-hued hair, which wriggled with inhuman life as his talons touched it. Medeline spoke for both of them as she asked for Ahriman’s terms.

Ahriman asked for passage on their vessel, as it passed deep into the upper pinnacle of the deepest parts of the warp’s non-existent architecture; the Thousand Son knew that the only way to bypass the Solar warp shell was to travel ‘beneath’ it. (I hesitate to utilize the term beneath, for the realm of the warp bears no such physical dimension. Forgive my colorful analogues. They are my only method of coping with such an impossible realm).

None are sure what Medeline asked for in return for her services, but it seems Ahriman readily accepted and gathered the remainder of his Cabal unto him as the frigate-scaled Tersis returned to its unnatural habitat.

(The journey through the deep warp remains unrecorded here. I have read previous chronicles which attempted to depict such things, but this often renders said documents unreadable and, in some rare cases, unbearably sentient...)

Eventually, the Tersis emerged in a blossoming scream of darkest glare, and the firmament itself bled as its fins ripped their way into reality. Beneath them turned the hellscape of the Sphere, the nightmare which had once been Terra, the cradle of mankind. Ahriman deployed onto the surface almost immediately alongside his elite Rubric marines and one of his Acolytes; a young, ambitious woman known as Crolemere. The rest of his thousand strong Cabal did not land upon the surface. It would have seemed that the Tersis had its prize as it returned to the warp and left the Astartes Sorcerer to his own devices.

Ahriman instantly got to work, for he had no time to dally; he had but five days before the next Dragon tide, and he also knew he was not the only deranged plunderer who had come to pry the Emperor’s vaults open and sample the putrid fruits within.

He and Crolemere cast a runic enchantment about their retinue, which cast out the questing talons of passing daemons birthed in the sour wombs of the Storm of the Emperor’s Extinction. The place that was once Terra was a place much-changed. There were semi-organic citadels that crawled across its surface like impossibly vast hermit crabs. Whole civilizations of mutants lived and died in the span of hours. The surface constantly shifted and rolled like an ocean of swarming locusts, and it took a great force of will for Ahriman’s disciples to merely avoid being swept away into nothingness by these buffeting tides. Yet it was the woman Crolemere who discovered a means to navigate the blasted orb. Though it was an impossible wasteland, beneath the surface, the ancient passages and subterranean boulevards of Luna, Venus and Terra remained in a semblance of order, even if they were hopelessly ruined. Using this sanity like a divining rod, Ahriman moved at a brutally brisk pace.

Yet, he was not the only faction of power hungry travelers to reach the sphere of madness. The Mage Mistress Vaxigotsh, one of the most powerful chaotic warlords in the Segmentum Obscurous, had breached the Oort cloud through sheer attrition; sacrificing a fleet of fifteen thousand of her best ships. Only her burning flagship, the Delirium, pierced the veil, and filled with her cybernetic legion known as the ‘Host Divine’; degenerate killing machines one and all. They too desired the secrets of the Revenant Vault; the Emperor’s Laboratories.

Her vessel crash-landed in a collection of fang-like mountains, and emerged on foot at the head of her vast army. She happened to land closer to the great heart of the Terran daemonworld, outside the palace itself, where the rift itself was ripped open and raw with the passing of innumerable daemons and nightmares from the very deepest descents of the warp. And it was she who had the dubious privilege to encounter the new master of Terra personally.

Where once the majestic Imperial Palace had crowned the Himalayas, now there stood a towering keep of dull stone and weeping brass which shuddered as if laughing as if laughing in mockery of its former glory. As she approached, she found the blood-filled moat surrounding this keep grew into a vast and terrible ocean, filled with sharks and betentacled things that gnashed and wailed in agonized fury. The only way across the blood sea was a narrow bridge formed from the rib cages of vast beasts. Her army ignored these omens and plowed on ahead in their column of befouled armored vehicles and super heavy tanks. Every step on their journey was watched by skinless shrikes, that instantly reported all they saw to the Prince of Terror; the regent of Terra.

When the army was halfway across the bridge, the Daemonic legion struck. Bloodthirsters soared overhead, landing before and after the army, trapping them upon the colossal bridge. Meanwhile, veritable tides of Bloodletters charged along the bridge, growling and snarling with eager bloodlust, while juggernauts stampeded in their midst. Battle was suddenly drawn, and both sides fought with savagery; one warp born, the other induced by cybernetic implants and slaught infusions. Vaxigotsh’s champions were beheaded one after another by the Skulltaker herald of Khorne. Meanwhile, daemon engines of truly colossal scale rose from the depths like legendary leviathans, and ripped the bridge itself apart, tossing both sides into the boiling torrent of scalding blood. When the skull taker finally took Vaxigotsh’s head, he was bidden to keep the severed organ quite alive, so the master of Terra could witness her destruction in close proximity.

Ahriman chose a different path through the hellscape. He traveled beneath it, hugging sanity like a crutch. All the while he weaved his sorceries, and the realm above was in flux, changing according to conflicting whims. The Thousand Sons Marine summoned daemonic allies and entire warp portals on the surface, instigating titanic wars and conflicts that sundered the mountains themselves with their fury; all this was to distract the Daemon regent of Terra. Doombreed, the first and eldest mortal daemon ruled Terra with the bloody claws of a tyrant, but even he, most powerful of daemon princes, was not omnipotent.

Yet, even as he grew more and more frustrated with the sorceror’s feints and illusions, Doombreed knew Ahriman was there.

“Do you think to confound me Astartes whelp? This is my world; my home. I tainted this planet’s soil with blood and pain long before the Anathema’s folly of an Empire arose! I arose long before he bred his sons, and their polluted little mongrels; mongrels like you. I shall swat you as I have swatted all who came before you little mortal. You and your race of posthumans are not worthy of the fruits of the Gods’ power!” he bellowed, his dread voice carrying to every corner of the world.

Crolemere cowered at the din, but Ahriman dismissed her fears; he would ensure her safety, until she had completed her part of the bargain.

The image of the Doombreed was burned into Ahriman’s mind as he silently fought a battle of wills with the Khornate daemon prince. The daemon appeared as a terrible mirror image of the Emperor; where his armor was gold, the Doombreed’s was brass, and wept oily pus and stinking venom, and where the Emperor’s shining features (for all his faults) had appeared majestic, Doombreed’s face was a contorted mask of patchwork flesh and burning charcoal eyes, topped by a crown of obsidian spines.

But Ahriman’s mind, while weaker than the ancient daemon’s power-glutted essence, was by far the more agile, and he avoided Doombreed’s fiery gaze. After four days of battle and stealthy infiltration, Ahriman’s band reached the catacombs of the Dark palace. It was here that Ahriman needed his minions more than ever. He was drained from his relentless mind war with the prince, and only his Rubric marines could defend him from assailing daemons and maddened degenerates that assailed them from every angle; each new wave was gunned down dispassionately by the undead automatons. At long last they reached the desired vaults. At the foot of the vault doors, dried husks marked the manifest failure of previous tomb raiders.

Only Crolemere’s touch could open the vault, for she was of the purest blood and an innocent who was immune to the effects of warp taint; one of the few grey Sensei ever to have existed. Only the Emperor’s blood could open his most secret vaults, and part of his blood flowed in her rebellious veins. Her touch opened the bio-coded seals, and granted Ahriman access to the shrouded labs.

As it opened, the stasis field inside disengaged. As Ahriman stepped inside, he was staggered by what he found. Mortal scientists, clad in pristine white robes of plastic and rubber, and towering machines of unique and intriguing designs, most of them alien in nature. It was then that he felt his powers suddenly leave him, and he staggered to his knees. From behind a cable-veined column stepped a woman in ornate armor, clutching a wickedly sharp silver broadsword in her delicate fingers. Her mouth was covered with a grill, which only a veteran of millennia long past could ever recognize; she was a sister of silence. The Rubric marines were slain as further Silent Sisters cut down the giants as they slowly reached to this new menace. The Emperor had planned against plunderers a long time ago.

But Ahriman was not so easily cowed, not when he was so close to his ultimate goal. Slowly, he rose to his feet, snarling with indignant anger.

“I am the Outcast of the Cyclops God, and the scion of the Rubric! I shall not be denied that which shall save us all! All is Dust, but from dust rises... everything!” he declared in a loud voice before the Sisters descended upon him.

He and the Sensei battled them furiously, ignoring cuts which would have slain lesser men a hundred times over. His staff was hacked apart, and his helm ripped away. His own blood ran freely, never getting a chance to clot as he threw himself into combat. As the last Sister of Silence died, his powers flooded back to him with a vengeance like an ethereal gale, which blew the vault closed behind them.

What happened within with the Emperor’s surviving scientists cannot be fully known for certain, but it was known that Crolemere and Ahriman bore extensive tomes and texts with them into the vaults. Ahriman drained the vaults of their knowledge some say, while others claim he merely completed the incomplete knowledge which resided within those hallowed halls of learning and research.

All that is known is that, Doombreed registered a sudden surge in warp energy beneath Terra’s crust, which alerted him to Ahriman’s presence. However, when his legions reached them, they were nowhere to be found. Not only had Crolemere and Ahriman vanished, but so too had the entire vault, leaving a perfect, square kilometer cube of empty space in its place.

Doombreed howled his frustration to the bruised skies, even as the Dragon Tide swept in and scoured his world clean of all matter once more.

What Ahriman couldn’t have known at that time, of course, was that his dramatic exit had punched a hole not only through real-space, but also pierced the Oort cloud shroud.

The prison walls broke on that year; a year forever known as the year of the Dragon, which would be the catalyst of all that was to come.

Additional Background Section 12: The Warpish Tumult[edit]

The sea of souls is not a place of form or structure. We gaze upon it through a distorting lens of sanity and analogy which conjures up the false images of alien vistas and towering edifices; mythology and metaphor become stark and real in our minds, for this is the only way we can perceive it. This... repository of information which I find myself within likewise records events ‘within the warp’ in this same legendary and somewhat baroque style. Therefore, I shall use a similar style to explain the far-reaching effects of the expanded war between Pantheons which had been building ever since the birth of the Star Father, the paradoxical master of order within madness.

Older accounts depicted how he fought the chaos gods into a stalemate, and became part of the great game, but his legacy went further. Throughout the realm of chaos, the forests of decay constantly shifted and groaned as Nurgle’s power waxed and waned. Likewise the sensory vistas of delirium conjured by Slannesh easily faded or flourished depending upon which god was master at the time. The same went for the crystalline Tzeentchian mazes that shattered and constantly realigned themselves, and the war industries of Khorne.

The great irony of chaos’ game was that for the most part, between their realms, there was utter formless howling wilderness; only the most bitter of furies could maintain their forms within the fluid border regions; no god laid claim to them, for no god could. Thus, when the souls of mortals were tossed from reality into the churning sea of souls, they mostly dissolved; their component parts being then picked over and parceled off into the bellies of opportunistic daemons, or eventually coalesced into the great form of the chaos realms; disembodied anger washed onto the bloody shores of Khorne’s realms, and formed the foundations of his factories of annihilation, for instance.

But the Lord of Order disrupted this imbalance. He had great spires which never changed, but rather they loomed over all like heavy steel turrets in a fast flowing river. Great rigid bridges joined them like a box web, as unchanging and horrifically deranged as any hellscape conjured by his rivals. Upon these bridges, souls were trapped; they never moved nor did they so much as scream in torment. They whimpered and mumbled mindless praises to the living embodiment of Domination. The Star Father would roar ‘OBEY!’ and they would chime their approval, while the Angyls flitted amongst them, slowly draining them and feeding them to the Star Father. This denied them to the chaos gods. It was but a negligible drop in the vast intake of souls the chaos gods constantly gorged upon (and, contrary to the belief of some, even if all life was erased from existence, the chaos gods would still persist, for the souls they had already consumed would sustain them indefinitely. How I know of this warp metaphysics cannot be related here at this moment. I fear you may try to emulate me when the time comes, and that should never happen...)

In the Materium, the effect was if anything, even more horrific. Some mortals, when they died, remained conscious, for their soul was trapped and fixed in position; becalmed in the warp. Thus, as their bodies died, decayed and were buried, their souls and minds remained, screaming silently in the worst kind of horror imaginable.

However, this denial of souls to the other gods did not go unnoticed by the rival powers. Slannesh grew petulant at being denied even more sweetmeat morsels, and chased his daemon princess concubines from his palace, before demanding answers from the most ancient serpent daemons; Shaimesh, Lhiemeth, Fulgrim and others too numerable and profane to name. He gathered his most beautiful of creations, the daemonette Illuria, and infested her with fearsome venom crafted by Shaimesh. The dark prince set her out to the Star Father’s bastion, in an attempt to seduce the monolithic God-King. Though he was a God of oppression and control, his molten Gold flesh bore emotional chinks, too small for all but the lord of perversion to see. Illuria playfully submitted to the Star Father, begging to be bound and dominated, all the while hiding a venomous bard beneath her flesh. As he bound her and dragged her before him, she struck. Though she was immediately obliterated by his merciless power, the poison took effect and distracted the Star father for long enough for the other Gods to gather against him.

Tzeentch gathered them together to decide upon a means to rob the Father of his sedated souls, but Tzeentch himself was of little use; his plans were too complex, contradictory and multifarious to have a lasting effect. Khorne favoured a frontal assault, but he only desired a war if he could face the full might of the Star Father, with all his Angyls at his side; he wished to pit his daemonic herald Skulltaker against the Angyllic herald Draigo, the faceless champion of the grand Star-Gate. However, Draigo was not present then for he was in the Materium on an errant for his master which he hardly disobey(his story shall be related later in this history).

Yet it was a most unusual ally who devised the most cunning plan. Malice, the outsider God, approached Nurgle’s spouse, Isha the mother, in the form of a black pinioned raven, and whispered to her many dark and dreadful secrets. Isha, at the secret behest of Malice proposed a most radical of ways to denying the Star Father his captive prizes. She, lover of life, pleaded with Nurgle to unleash a warp infection into the Materium which would raise the helpless souls from their living death. They would not die, they would live. And Nurgle did so, through his mortal agents. In the Materium, the decade of the fifteenth zombie plague was the result; billions upon billions of mortal creatures who had died but not passed dragged themselves from graves and funeral pyres in a single great epidemic of horror spanning light-years. In the warp, the Star father howled in frustration as his bridges collapsed for it was no longer supported by the mass of souls beneath them. This frustration made Khorne swell in power, and led to his great war against the Star father, or so they say. Khorne may have won that war if it had not been for the theft of his great black sword by Malice, who tossed the Sword into the wilderness.

The reason for the absence of the blank visage of Draigo in this calamitous war may seem strange, until we access another one of the accounts that linger in this great place.

We must look to the Chronicles of Telion, and the mythological cycles surrounding this account. Particularly, we must look to the most important sections of his Chronicles; those that depict the fall of Grand Sicarium and its deranged Astartes King.

Additional Background Section 13: The Fall of Grand Sicarium[edit]

Much occurred in the one thousand years that directly preceded the Vail-Fall of M56. Already I have gleaned vast reams of information from the archives here (though it is a challenge to decipher the many diverse and complex meanings of the ‘tomes’ written here), a fraction of which I have shown you so far. But I had to look to other historians and chroniclers for this tale. In an effort to glean the truth, I have merged the testimonials of Loyalists, Star Cultists, as well as various sections from the galactically-famous ‘Chronicles of Telion the Grey-Hood’.

As previously iterated, the dreadful forces of the Star Father remained exceedingly strong during this period; the warp was in turmoil as never before, and the chaos gods were almost obsessive in their desire to overcome their youngest and most abhorrent of siblings. But this was in the metaphorical apocalypse of the sea of souls. In the Materium too, the Star Father’s influence was expanding. More and more worlds within the most oppressive of regimes felt the intangible will of the God of Domination bearing down on their very souls, and witnessed the grand Angyl armies descending upon their worlds, turning those planets into near-lifeless automations of life.

But this was not enough for the Star Father; it was never enough. So long as there was a will in the world to defy him, he was restless. His dominance needed to be final and everlasting. He needed something that the scholars of the long-extinct Thorian cult had predicted countless millennia ago; an avatar for his will, a means by which he could channel a significant fraction of his power into reality. If he could do this, he would be almost unstoppable. Thus, he sent forth an Angyllic host, headed by one of the Angyllic Heralds, known as Draigo, while the Archangyls (including Malcador and the Goge-Lord) led the other hosts as they dueled the daemons in their hell-realms. Draigo was sent into reality with a mission: to find a being with a body sufficiently strong enough (physically and intellectually) to contain the essence of the Star Father, and to destroy or enslave any who sought to protect the avatar.

Draigo was more than enough for the task set for him. He was the Star Father’s champion and one of the most formidable creatures to step into the Materium. He bore the soulless mockery of Grey Knight armor, which had become an enclosing fluid skin of silver and grey metal flesh, animated by the churning soul of a warrior forged in hatred for all daemonkind. His soul was golden and luminescent, blinding to all who witnessed it. But brightness does not denote righteousness, for he was a nightmarish and profoundly destructive being. His vast blank shield could smash aside whole phalanxes of foes, and his sword drank souls as it obliterated flesh.

After centuries of searching and the destruction or enthrallment of billions of souls, the Herald found a potential avatar; one that he had overlooked for far too long. On the world of Varigen, after the world’s crust had been coated in Angyllic steel-flesh, and all its inhabitants had been placed upon the ever-marches, Draigo found a survivor. He was an Astartes Free Captain, calling himself a Warrior King of Ultramar-in-exile. He tried to resist Draigo, but he and his Oppressi-seers soon broke the man’s spirits, and demanded the Astartes give them all the knowledge he had. Yet, when Draigo spoke of avatars, the Marine spat.

“We need no avatars. Guilliman is the only Father we ever needed, or ever will!”

Draigo then obliterated him with a gesture, but his statement made the Angyl ponder.

And it made him plan.

Several thousand light years distant from this, Grand Sicarium continued on as it had done for thousands of years. It was a hellish realm of cramped urban dwellings, fortresses, factories and propaganda offices filled with Astartes-worshipping sycophants and ideologues. The people starved regularly across this sub sector, but still they adored their superhuman masters, who in turn ruled over them like feudal kings. Each Astartes maintained a veritable army of retainers and warrior-retinues of mortals and advisors.

All surplus trade produce and tithe payments were sent to the capital world of Grand Sicarium; Macragge. Here lay the incalculably vast Citadel of Sicarius. This fortress perched like a spider across the mountains of Hera, and was flanked by mile-high statues of King Sicarius himself. He was supposedly the Father of All Astartes, tasked by his own father, Guilliman, to create a race of warrior giants to watch over humanity. According to his propaganda, he cut the flesh from his left hand, and used powerful magicks to summon the Astartes into being, born of his own flesh. First he created his Council of Elders, then they in turn brought forth their own Astartes, who then flourished and drove back the darkness that had fallen over creation. We can see that this is at least partially a corruption of the concept of geneseed transference, and the process of Astartes creation, but to the ignorant inhabitants of Grand Sicarium, they believed this tale wholeheartedly (even if some or most professional mortal practitioners knew the truth of biology and Astartes physiology, they paid lip service to this creed to maintain their own positions).

Sicarius himself grew ever more deranged and paranoid, locked in his towers scheming. His Praetorian Draconis (the title of his second in command), Titus, formerly of the Genesis Chapter, enacted the orders of Sicarius with an ideological zeal that bordered on mania. Potential enemies were executed regularly, before being spitted upon pikes outside the walls of administration buildings across the sub sector. Ever-tighter rules and laws were placed upon the populace each year, until Sicarius could not be named directly by anyone, on pain of torture. This was because he had a cabal of psykers and sorcerers in his court, who told him about the concept of true names and daemonology. He feared having his name used against him, almost as much as he feared dying. He had heard what the afterlife consisted of in these terrible times, and he had no wish to meet his fate, not when either oblivion or abomination awaited him. As to why he could conceive of fear, none can say for certain. His followers claimed it was some sort of venom which his foes had created. Others contended that it was merely his advanced age breaking down his psychological conditioning. Others go further. They maintain that Astartes could always feel fear in extreme cases; Sicarius merely had no reason to disguise his fear.

He did, however, maintain Guilliman’s shrine, and the Primarch within. Ever since he had learned of Vulkan’s return and rapid spread throughout the galaxy, he had grown afraid of what the Primarch may try to do. He also resented the fact that it was not his Primarch uniting the galaxy. He preserved Guilliman in the vain hope he could be used as a weapon against Vulkan, but also because, deep down, he still loved his gene-sire.

But there was resistance. The mysterious brethren of the exile Telion were a constant thorn in Sicarius’ side. In the early years, the grey hooded mortals and Astartes in the brotherhood attacked factories, destroyed legal records and robbed from the estates of the Astartes-Lords, sometimes slaying the most abhorrent of landlords. But Telion’s allies, and Telion himself, lost the stomach for such radical rebellion when they learned of what it was doing to the citizens of Grand Sicarium. When bridges were bombed, Sicarius would punish whole hab blocks as an example, denouncing them as degenerates and rebels. When one Astartes was killed, whole countries burned in the ‘justice runs’ of Thunderhawks. Telion could not bear to see the people of Ultramar suffer due to his petulant resistance. If he was incapable of destroying the real root cause of Ultramar’s woes (Sicarius and his coven), then what was the use in provoking the Space Marine King to ever greater acts of paranoid horror? He had tried to assassinate Sicarius several times before, to no avail. Thus he changed tact, using his underground conspiracy of rebels to protect those persecuted by Sicarius; snatching them from the authorities and inducting them into his cult secretly.

This changed when Telion learned (though information smugglers trading with the Realm of Fathers) about the existence of Vulkan’s new Astartes Commanderies. This kindled new hope in the ancient marine. He placed his most trusted Lieutenant, Folkar, in command of the Grey Hoods, before he raised his own hood, and vanished into the night, ignoring the pleas of his men for him to stay. Telion told Folkar to look after his men, and to be ready to strike at any moment, and at any time. He promised to return. When his men checked his simple quarters of his hidden bastion, they found only his weapons and a single scroll missing from his rescued archive of writings and treatises.

Around this time, trading barges from neighboring Petty Imperiums began to enter Grand Sicarium. When boarded by the navy of Brother-Captain Artegan, they found the crews all dead. None were butchered, or suffocated or in any way harmed. The ship’s air recyclers were functioning, as was every system. However, every single person on board lay dead. When examined by the Apothecary, Tyron Prince of Prandium, they found that everyone on board the vessels had died either of malnourishment or of exhaustion; muscles were torn through exertion, and every belly was empty. At first this was dismissed as one of the many dreadful mysteries of the galaxy outside Grand Sicarium’s safe borders.

Then came more. And more. And more.

Hundreds of ships, every year came bearing dead crews. But what was worse was that those few merchants granted licenses by Titus to leave Grand Sicarium on limited trade missions, found that their warp drives were seemingly malfunctioning. They entered the warp; then they exited it a month later, finding that they had traveled only two light years. Something was making warp travel impossible. Navigators soon had an answer for the Space Marines of Sicarium. The warp, usually rolling and tumultuous, was growing stale and static in a great bubble around the entire sub-sector, as if some great hand was squeezing the usually fluid into a solid shell.

Meanwhile, Telion alone had left Grand Sicarium just before this event, and was making slow progress across the galaxy. He hitched rides on transports and warships, and smuggled himself through border patrols and the various security forces of hundreds of diverse human and alien realms. The ancient marine, after twenty thousand years of existence, was a ruin of an Astartes, and was truly testing the limit of Space marine longevity. Every year he felt weaker. Every year his bones and body lost some of their superhuman vigour. But he persisted, and fought on, clutching a scroll to his heart.

Almost three years after the first ship entered Sicarium dead, the host came. The first world to fall was Tanesburg, one of the outer worlds of the stellar realm. The warp opened suddenly in a great torrent of golden and black light, like glinting metallic veins spreading across the fabric of space itself. Then, the fleet of the Adorants emerged in a storm of silver flames and oddly regulated warp tendrils. The Adorants were the mortal warriors who served the Star Father in realspace with unthinking loyalty. Their cruisers were like blank slabs of grey and gold, blocky and vast. How these blank, almost featureless vessels navigated through the void was a fact nobody had time to consider, before they instantly engaged Artegan’s armada, which rushed to intercept them. Weaponry emerged from concealed gun ports along the flanks, dorsal ridge and prows of the blunt vessels, unleashing weaponry just as fearsome as Ategan’s battle barge and strike cruisers. The war in the void raged for days, with more and more vessels emerging to reinforce the Adorants.

But Artegan, despite his ostentation and pampered finery, was still an Astartes Captain, and a gifted naval commander. His fleet was relentless in its attacks, sweeping in to strike from unpredictable angles of assault, and destroying more than a few Adorant vessels. Each time, the fleet would return to Tanesburg to rearm hastily, before rushing to continue the assault. The people looked to the night’s sky with fear in their hearts, as they saw the stars themselves flaring and flashing in and out of existence. New constellations appearing and vanishing. To them, it truly seemed that their Angels were remaking the sky in their war against the Angyls. In a sense, they were correct, but their faith in their protectors was soon to be tested.

Artegan’s warriors constantly launched boarding actions against the Adorants, who always responded to attack in pre-determined ways (presumably on the orders of their masters), and initially, Artegan’s brother Space marines made good progress. The uniform corridors of the Adorant vessels were coated in the blood of the blank-masked army of the Star Father.

Then came the Angyls. They folded out of the walls like phantoms, remolding metal and flesh into new, Angyllic material which was neither. Forests of bladed wings and tendrils writhed amongst them, and they attacked the Astartes with terrifying speed. No armor could stop their attacks, and not even enhanced biology could save the space marines from dying in droves. Lightning and coiled silver bolts of energy were unleashed in response to bolter fire, and the latter was far less formidable than the former.

Not only were there the winged Angyls, but the strange scuttling throngs; spinning creatures composed of bladed wheels within wheels, that breathed awful beams of fire that slew within moments of striking an unfortunate victim, as they burned not flesh, but soul-stuff. Then came Draigo himself. He walked through the combined fire of an entire company of warriors, his blank shield utterly unmarked as he deflected every blow. His sword destroyed life with every deft blow, drinking deep of the life force that sought to resist him.

Suddenly, the tables were turned. Artegan saw his ships falling, one by one, as Angyls of all varieties invaded them. To his horror, every defeated ship began to be covered in that same silvery Angyl-flesh that clad the Adorant ships; each vessel then began to lose all definition, until they were all near-featureless blocks of adamantine. Ategan, snarling, ordered his Gellar fields activated, for the first time in realspace. His barge, the Victorum Ultra, then powered itself into the enemy fleet, guns blazing in all directions as he forced the vessel into a corkscrewing maneuver. Even as the Adorant ships around him wallowed with the damage inflicted by his vessel, he knew he was doomed. His Gellar field finally faltered under the momentous strain inflicted upon it by the Angyllic incursions striking at it. Moments later, his vessel was flooded by many-winged Angyls.

Sighing in resignation, the veteran Astartes drew his twinned power swords. He fought through the Angyls that surged onto his deck and slew his bridge crew. His blades shattered the unreal bodies of almost a dozen of the creatures. Each time, they’d shrivel into their true forms; uniform adamantine blocks, which fell to the ground, inert once more. At last, he was alone on his deck. His sword smoked from overuse, but the Angyls were gone. Or so he thought. Draigo burst through the sealed portal to the bridge, and stood before Artegan. Draigo was almost eight feet tall, and his blank helm regarded his new opponent callously.

“KNEEL!” Draigo demanded with simple, brutal clarity.

Artegan stabbed him in the chest. Kaldor Draigo swept his shield across the blade, shattering it in one blow. Artegan raised the other sword, but he dropped it as his head fell away from his body, without truly registering Draigo’s lightning-swift blow.

Tanesburg was taken a few weeks later. The Adorants did not wait for surrender; they simply invaded, killing and chaining the entire populace. Those few soldiers and marines still alive resisted for a while, but soon even they knelt before Draigo, who killed them and pressed their souls into the ground with the force of his will. Then the populace were sent into motion; forced to walk across the face of the planet forever, for no other reason than the Star Father willed it, and he should be obeyed.

This story recurred across the realm. From multiple angles of attack, on several fronts at once, the eerily precise armies of the Star Father invaded. Every soldier was brought into battle to defend their God-King’s realm from its greatest threat. Even Folkar’s men were attacked by the Host, and only just managed to escape the world they had hid upon before the Angyls remade it into an Angylworld like Tanesburg.

Yet, for the most part, Draigo’s host seemed impatient. They did not take the time to convert every world. They simply smashed aside the fleets of most, and pounded their militaries into ash from orbit. Only Prandium, the second largest fortress world of Sicarium, held the fleet up significantly. This was because Prandium had a planetary shield of intense power, built from the scavenged remnants of an alien vessel which had crashed in-system two thousand years previously. Their fleets could fend off the Adorant fleet indefinitely; even the largest shipbound weaponry simply rippled across the energised skin of the Prandium shield harmlessly, its generators barely even taxed by the bombardment.

Yet, the greatest threat of the Angyls came not from their mortal arms, but from the hollow, heartless essence of the Angyls themselves. Upon seeing their will denied, the Angyls began their chanting, gathering together their will until their litanies carried through the void, and echoed across airless vistas across the system. Draigo, in all his blinding majesty, rose from the lead Adorant vessel, soaking in all the power of the Host, focusing and channeling all that raw authority and megalomaniacal power into a tight column of psychic force, thin as a laser but with all the awesome power of a collapsing sun.

He screamed once, his blank helm rippling into a great maw in order to give voice to the unnatural utterance. The blast struck the shield on the equator, and for a few minutes, Prandium had a new star in the sky, as radiation and rolling banks of fire flooded the heavens. In that single blast, the shield was rent asunder. Across Prandium, shield generators exploded with the force of the psychic blow, erupting like volcanoes across the skin of the armoured planet. With the defenses spent, the Adorant vessels could enter low orbit, and deploy their lethal cargo. Legions of soldiers and rolling superheavy tanks stormed across Prandium, and battle was joined between the faceless Adorants and the defiant armies of King Malfodius alongside the Prince of Prandium’s forces. Caught in this crossfire, millions upon millions of men women and children died. The Adorants were the mentally-dominated inhabitants of an entire system full of people, and they knew no mercy. They were like automatons as they calmly moved from city block to city block, exterminating anyone who raised a weapon, before they dragged off those who surrendered, and shackled them to strange multi-limbed constructs. None knew whether they were Angyls or some sort of machine-creature, but everyone who witnessed them had their own names for them regardless; dissent-leeches. The towering, tracked edifices rose up like trees, and to each limb a human was bound. Their brains were plugged into the device, which coldly drained their minds of the will to resist. Once they were drained, the machine simply let them go. The victims filled the streets, wandering around aimlessly, mumbling wordless prayers to something they didn’t know nor could name. These zombies could never again feel rage, hope, despair or any desires, beyond a desire to serve.

After three weeks, Prandium was pacified, and only Macragge stood in opposition; all the worlds spared the Angyl attack lacked a fleet to come to Sicarius’ aid (despite his furious demands and panicking couriers).

As this fight raged, Telion neared his destination. He came to a world called Fenkic, when he finally keeled over from exhaustion, old bones almost totally ruined by fatigue and age. The natives were savage and fierce mutant creatures, with crimson flesh and bony spines, and looked almost like devils to Telion’s weary mind. They considered killing him and drinking the powerful blood within his flesh, but more sober minds prevailed. These stone-age savages on the world took him bodily to their ‘Star Chief’ at his great tent-city to the north. Their chief was, in fact, a delegation of Ryza-Catachan soldiers. Their leader was known as Morn, and this cyborg super-soldier recognized the inverted Omega sign emblazoned upon the old marine’s pauldron; a symbol not seen in the Vulkan Imperium for countless millennia. As soon as possible, the warriors abandoned their recruitment mission on Fenkic, and took Telion directly to Armageddon on the next earliest voyage. All the while, he clutched his scroll tightly in his vice-like grip.

Back in Grand Sicarium, the long shadows of the Adorant fleet swept over Macragge. Ancient defensive structures unfurled at the approach of the enemy, and unleashed gigatons of firepower into the approaching vessels. The skies turned red with fires burning in the hearts of ruined naval vessels, and earth was thrown up into the sky as kilometer long vessels plummeted to the ground and detonated spectacularly across the landscape.

From the burning mountainsides came armored columns of Predator tanks, whirlwind artillery vehicles, and all manner of fighting machines, all clad in the midnight blue of the Sicarian High Guard; the God-King’s personal bodyguard. As the surviving Adorant soldiers and tanks stumbled from the ruins of their many fallen craft, they were destroyed by the contemptuous barrages of Macragge’s finest warriors. Yet, those Adorants who escaped the bombardment sacrificed their souls in order to animate the perfect metal cubes lying in their ship holds. Just as it seemed the Sicarian High Guard could carry the day, Angyls emerged from the flames, screeching in dreadful tones that spoke of an eternity of servitude. These were vast creatures, easily the match in scale of a Stormbird or Thunderhawk, and they soon turned the tide back in favour of Draigo’s forces. Tanks were tossed like toys across the plains, while others were hacked into blazing segments by the Angyls’ unnatural wings. Even High Guard aerial units struggled to contain the flying abominations, and slowly but surely the Space marines fell back in an orderly fashion, forming ever tighter and tighter rings of defense. As they retreated, they destroyed any passageways and access routes through the mountains, hoping to slow the faceless monsters that hunted them.

Sicarius himself witnessed events form his vast bank of pict screens and cogitators, eyes wide in disbelief and hate. This was the single greatest seat of Space marine power on the Eastern Fringe! How could his empire be sent reeling so swiftly? Rage overcame his suppressed fears, and he rushed to his armory, arming himself with his Talassarian blade, and the sole surviving gauntlet of Ultramar, ripped from Calgar’s poisoned corpse long ago. For the first time in over seven hundred years, he threw off his Donorian pelt cloak, and armored himself in the mantle of the Suzerain, donning his ornate crested helm once again. He was Cato Sicarius, and he recognized only one master of Macragge!

Soon enough, the corridors of his own citadel echoed to the din of gunfire, and the toneless screaming of the Angyllic host. Regiments of Men at Arms, Sicarium Serfs and the Honor Guard themselves dueled with the rampaging monsters, blade to bladed wing, bolt to arcing beam. The relic blades of the Honour Guard sang as they shattered Angyllic essence, as they denounced the winged things as abominable daemons and false idols. Titus, clad in his crimson armour, left his master’s side, vanishing into the citadel's labyrinthine expanse.

Sicarium watched as his mortal followers and Astartes brothers alike fell to the blades of the Angyls. In particular, he noted Draigo’s presence with particular loathing; the Herald looked like a blank-faced mockery of an Astartes warrior, yet he found with a speed and power that shocked him. Everyone who faced him died. Even after the dreadnought Cassius ripped away the silver warrior’s shield with his energized claws, Draigo returned the favour tenfold, carving the venerable war machine asunder with the force of a dozen searing blows.

Sicarius grew desperate now, and fled from his throne room, ordering his Librarian coven to eliminate (or at least weaken) the rampaging Angyl-knight. Solemnly, the psykers, mortal and Astartes, agreed, and they faced down the host with all the warp-spawned magic they could muster. No one living was present for their confrontation with Draigo, but it is said that a hundred Angyls were banished in the battle, and the tower of Librarians exploded spectacularly, a sight which could be seen from orbit apparently. Sicarius did not notice, but rather fled to the only place he considered safe, in all Macragge.

He fell at the feet of Guilliman, who remained frozen at the brink of death behind a shield of azure energies; unchanging and impassive, like some living statue, a monument to all Ultramar stood for. Sicarius asked for guidance, even though he knew his father could give him none. He prayed for forgiveness, but knew he did not deserve it, not truly.

The heavy footfalls of Draigo’s metallic form were ominous as they were sonorous, heralding his arrival as surely as a triumphal fanfare. The doors to the chamber were blown off their hinges, as if ripped up by a sudden gale that blew every artefact across the room with the force of Draigo’s entry. Shivering, Sicarius rose with weapons raised in challenge. Draigo bade him kneel, but Sicarius defiantly demanded Draigo kneel, for,

“I am master and king of all Space marines. Though you have cast aside your humanity, you are still Astartes, and you! Will! Kneel!”

With that, Sicarius charged into battle with Kaldor Draigo. The two blades were quicksilver and fire in their hands, and the blows exchanged set alight to the tapestries and murals lining the temple, wreathing the immortal combat in flame. The gauntlet of Ultramar was the only weapon capable of blocking Draigo’s blade, and Sicarius used this to his advantage, swatting aside the blade before chopping at Draigo with his ancestral Tempest sword. But Draigo was empowered by a fraction of the will of the Emperor-Ascendant, and no blade crafted by mere men could truly slay the fiend. Sicarius was a very old man, and though he fought with indignant fury, he was weakening. At the height of the battle, Draigo suddenly lashed out with his sword, and hacked the Gauntlet of Ultramar from Sicarius’ arm, before smashing the Astartes King upon his back with the back of his hand, almost dismissively. Sicarius crashed to the ground, his helm spinning away into darkness.

Surprisingly, Draigo then spoke to Sicarius (it is claimed).

“I COME ONLY FOR THE AVATAR. THERE NEED BE NO FURTHER INCIDENT,” he declared in a clarion clear voice.

Sicarius replied through bloodied lips.

“You wish to take our Father, and make him a puppet of a mad daemon god? You wish to destroy the minds and souls of MY men, and MY mortals? They shall be further incidents! Guilliman is not a prize to be captured! Titus!”

At his signal, Titus emerged from the shadows, detonating the charges placed around Guilliman. Sicarius would rather destroy Roboute than let him be used against him. The blast blew the roof from the temple, and burned away Sicarius cloak and most of the left of his face. Even Draigo rocked backwards from the force. Machinery lay shattered and sparking across the floor, ancient forgotten technology destroyed forever, never to be re-learnt or rebuilt. Yet, Guilliman’s body remained. Sicarius groaned miserably, as Draigo stood over him once more. Sicarius raised his blade, Draigo chopped away his other arm. Sicarius spat venom at the herald, he ignored it, and stabbed Sicarius in the chest, piercing a heart and two lungs, and burning his other organs additionally. Sicarius howled in pain, and he fell upon his back, smoking, arms cut away and flesh smouldering. In a surprising and fleeting display of emotion, Draigo gloated, thanking Sicarius for his assistance. Guilliman’s body would make a fine host for Him on Terra. However, Sicarius, due to his repeated defiance, would not be permitted an audience with the Star Father Reborn, Draigo declared.

His blade did not fall. Perplexed, Draigo turned to look at the vast blue gauntlet that held his silver wrist in a crushing grip. Draigo raised his other hand, energies already building from within him, crackling in arcing bolts across his hand. Another fist connected with Kaldor, but this one punched through his chest, and ripped out his beating human heart, heedless of the molten metal that ran from it like blood. Draigo staggered backwards, but did not fall. He raised his blade again, but this time another blade connected with it. Guilliman’s golden sword shattered Draigo’s in a single blow. Dumbstruck, Draigo had nothing to say before the Primarch beheaded him. Body broken, the being simply melted like wax.

“I... decline your offer...” Guilliman is quoted as stating bluntly, before falling to his knees. Already the Anathame’s poison, used by Fulgrim in their duel, was finishing its task of utterly killing him.

Sicarius had nothing to say. He simply looked upon Guilliman, tears in his eyes. The Primarch looked across the burning temple, and the bejeweled Astartes before him, and his superhuman mind assessed what his world had become and the state of the Imperium with astonishing speed. He stared upon Sicarius for a long time, burning through the old man’s mind, and seeing the truth of him as only a demi-god could know.

Weeping, Sicarius begged Guilliman’s forgiveness, but Guilliman was not a sentimental man. He spoke quietly but forcefully, forcing air through his ruined throat as he did so.

“This... is incorrect. I had... contingencies in place. Follow the... contingencies. The scrolls...”

That was all Sicarius heard, before Guilliman’s voice became a strangled gargle, and he fell to the ground with a dull clang.

Guilliman, the Primarch of the Warrior Kings of Ultramar, and founder of the Imperium Secundus, was dead. Sicarius was soon to follow. Titus stood over his dying lord, overcome with emotions. He took up Sicarius’ sword, plucking it from his severed arm gingerly. He listened to Cato’s last words, but he ignored them.

“We were not wrong my lord. When my reign starts, I will prove it,” Titus promised his master, even as Sicarius finally perished.

Draigo’s destruction had sent a feedback wave across the Angyllic host, unbinding them and turning them inert once more. Finally, the Astartes were triumphant. However, Titus emerged, clad in the mantles of the God-King, bearing the sword and the seals. His face was a pious and concerned mask that disguised his inner ambition and scheming. He bore the news of Guilliman’s death to the battle-weary survivors, but added that he had been granted leadership with Guilliman’s dying breath himself. However, a voice amongst the crowds challenged him. Folkar and his men appeared from the assembled group. Instantly, the High Guard raised their bolters, only lowering them slowly when they saw other Sicarian Astartes and their retinues from other besieged worlds in the subsector marching at Folkar’s back. As Macragge had been besieged, Folkar had moved amidst them, preparing and paving the way for this moment.

He declared the rule of Sicarius and his associated regents and coven members was invalid. Titus sneeringly decried Folkar as a malcontent and a trouble-maker; who was he to challenge him? Who dared contradict the words of Guilliman himself?

Unfortunately for Titus, Folkar explained exactly who: Guilliman himself. The Nocturne contingent, the ancient scroll kept safe by Telion, had finally been delivered to its intended destination, after thousands of years of neglect and more pressing events. The scroll had been written by Guilliman, in the event of the complete death of the Emperor, and of his own incapacity. In the document, he ceded control of Ultramar to the Lion, but in the event of the Lion’s incapacity or death, the realm then passed to Vulkan, for it was believed a single Primarch could unite the Imperium. Any more Primarch regents, and they would simply squabble (as brothers are sure to do), and would bring about further strife. Therefore, Ultramar would become a vassal state of the Vulkan Imperium, and become part of this new empire of prosperity and hope.

Titus, feeling his authority slipping, argued that he was still acting Master of the Ultramarines, and until Vulkan himself came in person to confirm this, he would not bow to him. Folkar cursed Titus, but Titus was correct.

However, Folkar had one final ploy. He challenged Titus for the right to rule Ultramar as its regent. He put himself forwards as a candidate. The rule would be decided by a duel. Titus called for the Chapter Champion to slay this fool, but Hektor stood back, sheathing his dagger and sword in protest. Titus cursed, as he threw back his cloak and hefted the Tempest Blade between his gauntlets. Folkar took off his grey cloak, tossed his bolt pistol away and drew his combat knife. There was to be no interference, no firearms, and no quarter. These were wordless rules the crowd abided by, and unconsciously stepped backwards to form a rough circle around the two warriors. Folkar was a talented scout and guerrilla fighter, but he was only in carapace gear, and was dwarfed by Titus in his power armor, with the vast sword of Sicarius clutched in his hands. Both were of course consummate warriors, but Titus was at heart a politician, not a born killer. Still, his blade made him formidable.

The crowd was silent as the two clashed. They were cautious, swinging and jabbing at each other at first, as they circled around the impromptu arena.

Then, they clashed. The power sword struck nothing as Titus flew into combat, swinging furiously. Folkar stabbed him behind the left knee joint, then the hip joint, then beneath the armpit, cutting into the weakened rubberized areas between armor plate. Titus staggered away, bleeding. Folkar could not relent, not now. He charged in cautiously, ducking back to avoid a fearsome swipe of the Talassarian blade, that cut a shallow grove across his breastplate. He side stepped another lunge, before he pounced again. He sliced behind the knee, severed a cable in Titus’ power pack, and hacked through the other shoulder joint. Titus fell to his knee, and Folkar rammed home his combat blade into Titus’ left eye, impaling his brain. Instinctively, Titus swung his blade up, and hacked Folkar’s arm off at the elbow. The scout staggered backwards in agony, but the end had already come. Titus fumbled pathetically at the blade in his brain for several moments, before he keeled over and died.

The regime of Grand Sicarium was ended. From the ashes rose Ultramar once more.

This was not the end of the woes inflicted upon Ultramar, but it was the end of woes inflicted upon its people by its supposed protectors. Only an uneasy unity with Vulkan’s empire remained; an alliance that would be tested in the dark days ahead.

Additional Background Section 14: Artificial Bodies; Birth on N’dras and The Flight of The Idealist[edit]

The Tau reached the peak of their powers at a time where extinction came closer than ever before in their history. The desperate stalemate inflicted upon the Nightbringer's undying Legions was breaking down, and the grand alliance of xenos races began to splinter under the furious strain of the endless war. Billions of Drone-Battlesuits were produced every few minutes, flooding into hundreds of diverse warzones simultaneously across a front fifteen hundred light-years across (though, as with any space-based campaign, in reality battles were fought by leapfrogging between embattled systems endlessly, from every vector possible.)

The Tau civilization continued to develop apace however. New machines and inventions were crafted every year. Earth caste and Fire caste funding was near limitless; nothing was denied them. N’dras became the central R and D centre of the Meta-Empire. Scientists from every vassal race flocked to the Sept world to help develop the next generations of hyper-advanced war machines.

In 823.M55, the first of the Shas’N’drassir’Kais’Por’Vanos (known unofficially as ‘the Idealist’ by its builders) Class of starship was finally commissioned. It was the most advanced Tau vessel yet built. It was completely drone-controlled, with an extensive super-mind governing every aspect of the ship, only a small crew of maintenance staff was required to remain on board the sleek yet substantial craft. With the space saved by reducing crew numbers, the ship could mount sophisticated and experimental FTL sensors, as well as an upgraded armoury of the most powerful weapon systems yet devised by the Tau’s genius. The idealist also had an engine which was capable of performing multiple ‘warp dives’ in quick succession, making the vessel faster at FTL than even the Imperium vessels of old. The Earth caste were eager to get it mass produced and exported to the front lines asap, but Aun’Va overruled this order directly. The Idealist needed to be tested on a warzone away from the Necrons (otherwise the C’tan may learn of its capabilities early on, and devise a counter to them). Fio’Tunsenig protested most strongly. How were the Tau to test a weapon away from Necrons? The entire eastern fringe was part of the warzone, he argued.

The Earth Caste engineer could not have realized at the time (or afterwards to be honest, after his mind was cleansed of unorthodoxy by members of the M’yen psyker caste), but the Tau did have a means of finding a warzone beyond the fringe; the Jericho gate. This ancient interstellar transit path, devised by the Old Ones for a purpose not recorded in this archive, connected the Tau Empire to the Calixis sector, on the opposite side of the galaxy. Massive effort had been expended over the years ensuring the gate was never located by the C’tan, but it was deemed by Aun’Va a worthwhile cause. Thus, the Idealist was sent through the gate. Its mission was to defeat local forces, and store telemetry on its performance, before returning safely to Tau space, with its crew intact.

And thus, barely a week after this decree was issued, the Calixis gate flared into life once again, and the idealist emerged into the sector in a shimmer of baleful energies. For many centuries, the Tau had complied telemetry and stellar models of the Calixis sector, and had trawled third sphere expansion accounts to prepare the Idealist for its maiden voyage. Such efforts were futile, for Calixis was much changed.

Men did not dwell upon the worlds of Calixis. At least, not true men. Only the maggot men, who spawned and writhed across the face of the darkened hatchery worlds of the Slaugth. As soon as the Idealist entered the sector, passive sensors detected it, and messages were scattered amongst the Slaugth terror-form vessels, that mustered to locate the interloper.

The idealist was waiting for them. It used its specialized sensors to detect the enemy vessels before they arrived, and timed its salvos for maximum damage as soon as the unsettlingly-angular vessels of the worm-men exited the warp. Particle beams sheared through the first squadron for vessels, and these beams were then used as a designator for follow-up salvos of phase missiles and gravitic mines, that pulverized the enemy vessels one by one. The engineers on board were terrified and awed in equal measure, as they watched their creation wreak terrible destruction upon the abhorrent alien craft with cold professionalism. The battles between Slaugth and the Tau craft continued for many months. Whenever the press of Slaugth ships was too great, and their esoteric technology seemed to be carrying the day, the Idealist would effortlessly deny them a target, and skim-warped to a different location with regularity.

Yet, each time it escaped, it left dozens of damaged or crippled enemy vessels in its wake. This weakened the Slaugth notably, and this bitter combat reached a climax in Lathes system. The Lathes were vast world-prisons, where the Slaugth tortured and experimented upon the former inhabitants of the sector. It also happened to be one of the most well defended worm-man installation in the region. When the Idealist warped into its space, the Slaugth were ready, unleashing a strange crackling field of energy that prevented warp breach in the local vicinity. It was then that their hateful leviathans of capital ships closed in upon the Idealist. Each of the three titanic craft were like great floating hive cities, swarming with attack craft and subsidiary escorts. The Idealist, despite the desperate protests of its frantic engineers, declared that it would give battle. It was the logical course of action, despite appearances; whatever kept it chained to the Lathes was a function of Slaugth technology. Thus, all of their technological assets had to be eliminated if they were to be free.

What happened next is a source of many legends amongst the annals of the oppressed peoples of Slaugth-Calixis. The Idealist drove for the centre of the Slaugth system, where the various gravity wells and astronomical phenomenon were at their fiercest. The three enemy vessels had no choice but to follow and engage. The Idealist brought itself within range of the formidable orbital weapons of the three primary worlds, as well as the three worm-hive ships. It was a suicidal run.

For a ship with a limited biological brain. But the Idealist had weapons which could further distort and manipulate gravity, and systems capable of cogitating on a scale not seen since Iron men walked amongst the stars as Stone Man’s equals. The Tau super ship deflected and dodged the fearsome fusillade, directing their weaponry to strike at their own vessels as they attempted to maneuver within the intense gravity fields. At one point, the Idealist dueled three capital ships at once; lance beams and ion cannons flaring in all directions as it span and swam through the void like some oceanic predator. Finally, through a complex system of tractor beam strikes and immobilizing volleys, the Idealist dragged one of the leviathan vessels into a terminal orbit around one of the lathes. The worm men within screeched and flailed with anguish, falling into masses of writhing maggots as they looked on in impotent panic, the ground looming large in their viewscreens.

The impact shook the very foundations of the prison world, and for a moment, a new star was born upon land. An entire factory-spire toppled into the corroded depths of the lathe’s mantle, and a volcanic blast fourteen miles high thundered into the stratosphere. Tectonic plates shifted, and prison walls across the planet broke as one, as if shook to pieces by the daemonic din of impact. Many beings escaped those prisons that day. Many went on to join resistance movements or neighbouring stellar empires, while there was one who was freed, who should never have been freed. Hindsight allows us to see what he would create in the Last of Days, but that time he was barely a footnote in history. We were not to know that it was he who engineered the collapse of so many nations, and brought about the abhorrence-ascendant. But that is another tale to be told at a later point.

To return to the naval battle raging in the shadow of the Lathes, the Idealist had broken the Slaugth dampening of the warp, and managed to slip away from the furious Slaugth reinforcements. It was a victory of sorts, but it left the vessel damaged, and its navigation threw it out of Calixis entirely, into space uncharted by any Tau scholars. It is likely that the Tau would have prayed for a chance to lay low and repair itself, before attempting to return to Jericho. But alas, it was not to be; word had already spread to the Imperium of the Expanse, of this single vessel which could take on the might of the entire Slaugth armada, alone, and triumphed. Under their High Chancellor, Verridium Silon XXXXVVXIII (a direct descendant of the first Emperor of the Expanse, Ambraesk Silon), this Imperium had formed strong trading links with every civilization and empire for four hundred light years. Now, every faction in the area hunted them; some in order to plunder and study the ship’s technology, such as the Vulkan Imperium or the Viae Confederate of Alien dependencies. Others simply wished to hunt them for the sheer thrill. These included the Bloodknights of Baal, and the Khornate Reaver Mawdredd, one of Abaddon’s most infamous Admirals.

The Tau vessel’s engineers attempted to reason with the Idealist. It had to make full speed for the Calixis gate, and back to T’au. Surely it had enough data. However, the ship’s systems decided it needed to defeat the local threats. All of them. The tiny crew of the vessel suddenly realized, with mounting dread, what the ship intended. It would kill them all. Desperately, Gue’vesa and Fio engineers tried to break into the ship’s computing systems (for it was suspected that the damage done by the Slaugth had somehow made the vessel lose track of the Greater Good). The vessel almost killed them in resisting them; venting atmosphere in an attempt to subdue them. When the ship realized what it had almost done, it realized its crew were not safe onboard. It forcibly deposited them upon the nearest habitable world, and sped off into the void, to search for spare parts.

It found them upon the civilized world of Ganner Haktar. Ironically, the Idealist’s entrance into that system was a blessing for the Haktarians. This was because they were under attack by a mercenary fleet of hostile xenos races, who were trying to plunder the world for its materiel. The Idealist’ arrival instantly turned the tide of the naval engagement. Within an hour, the enemy fleet were limping back out of the system, while many simply smoldered in orbit, adrift and powerless. In gratitude, the Haktarians ferried supplies up to the Idealist. Bizarrely, the idealist responded by crippling the ferries and tugs, and taking their supplies anyway, before neutralizing the Haktarian orbital defenses. The Tau vessel recognized them as combatants to be eliminated. Yet, once these were destroyed, it spared the citizens below; it was a military vessel, not a tool of butchery.

In contrast, Mawdredd’s battle-barge, the Ossified Jaw, was very much a tool of butchery. IT had a legacy of carnage woven into its very hull, for it was a snarling patchwork vessel, consisting of various stolen ship components, roughly bonded to its own form. The battlebarge looked like a great serrated lance, clad in the armor of its foes and somehow drenched in fresh blood, which never tarnished or froze in the airless vacuum. The Ossified Jaws burst into the system, and instantly its vox channels were alive with braying roars and bestial challenges. Flanking the snarling barbed giant came smaller sibling vessels, similarly ramshackle but almost as fearsome. Mawdredd’s fleet didn’t hesitate. The vast majority of them made for the planet below, seeking a chance to pillage and murder the populace. Yet, the Ossified Jaw and its escorts had eyes for only one prize; the Idealist.

Mawdredd stood up from his throne, throwing off his cloak of flayed man-skin, and howled like some canine maniac, before he ordered the boarding torpedoes manned, the main batteries armed, and the assault boats ready for close assault. Then, the Ossified Jaws turned its prow, shaped like a fanged maw, directly towards the Idealist.

Ramming speed! Ramming speed! Ram them! Pierce them curse you all! Kill its guts!!” was screamed over the captain’s personal vox, echoing throughout the hellforge of a vessel, and his (somewhat unclear) orders were obeyed as best his slavers and pit bosses could fathom.

But the Idealist did not fight like that. He did not fight at 6000 kilometers; such suicidal distances were almost knife-fighting range in naval terms. The Tau ship kept its foes at bay with controlled and blisteringly accurate salvos and perfectly timed barrages. It insured the engine blocks and the drive systems of the Khornate armada were targeted first, deftly keeping out of range of the relentless broadsides of the chaotic vessels. Mawdredd grew delirious in his frustration, as his ship continued to lose power. He randomly ripped apart several of his attendant staff, and put his fist through his own viewscreen (for the rest of the battle, he had only the word of his helmsman to help him determine what was happening outside his bridge). Systematically, the Idealist weathered the hail of fire from the outclassed escorts and battlebarge, while systematically slaying the Ossified Jaw’s escorts. Finally, the Idealist took on Mawdredd’s vessel. It closed in upon the barge from beneath it, forcing the barge to spin upon its axis to attempt to cap its tee with its broadside, but the Idealist avoided this onslaught with calm grace. Railguns and lance beams carved into the Jaw’s flanks, blasting away its shields within a few hundred shots. Then, the energy weapons began to burn through into actual hull sections. Whole decks were voided, others burst into flames and roasted their inhabitants alive.

But still the Ossified Jaw fought on. Worst of all for the Idealist, it had to move in close to aim more precise shots with its ion cannons. This allowed waves of assault boats to strike back. Boarders found there were virtually no internal spaces to gain entry to the ship, so they merely clung to its skin, and blew chunks from its hull armour with their saboteur charges and melta bombs; futile, but irritating nonetheless. Such distractions taxed the Idealist’s turrets, and made it harder to concentrate on annihilating the Ossified Jaw, which still refused to die. With a final devastating volley of missile waves, the Idealist destroyed the starboard weapon batteries in a great conflagration. This effectively gutted the Khornate barge. With that, the Idealist fled to the outer system, and then warped to freedom.

The Idealist found no peace amongst the western galactic plane. At Elebor, it evaded the watch fleets of the Q’orl. The vessel fought off a pursuing fleet of Iron Hands that detected it on the fringes of Armageddon, and it destroyed a wolf pack formation within uncharted space. Soon enough, the Idealist became an infamous legend; the ship of the dead. The ship that could see everything, the ship that could not be slain.

One could be forgiven for thinking the Ossified Jaw, unlike the Idealist, was very much mortal, and had died in orbit around Haktar. Such views do not take into account the bloody-minded determination of Mawdredd. Even as the ship suffered massive flash firestorms and collapsing bulkheads, he furiously led his minions into the lower decks, dragging captured engineers and tech seers along with him. The fires were brought under control, but the Ossified Jaw remained without any forward drives, and its gun decks were almost completely destroyed. It was a hulk in all but name. It is said that when one of his command staff suggested they abandon ship and conquer the world below, instead of chasing ‘that devil of a ship’, Mawdredd carved him open from neck to navel.

“Khorne damn your eyes! I am not dead yet. I have its scent in my nostrils! The Jaw will ride again, even if I have to drag it in my wake!”

He eventual solution was barely any less insane, one would argue. Amidst his bloody dreams of vengeance and burning hulks, Mawdredd recalled the legends of the very oldest human vessels; stories ripped from the minds of ancient mariners long since brutalized by the old reaver over the years. The oldest of ships; the bomb-riders of Orion. Mawdredd ordered the remaining munitions in the armoury and vaults to be brought forth; heavy duty mines, fission charges, magma bombardment munitions, and various other high explosive devices and technologies. Even his torpedo stores he ordered pillaged. After this, he ordered the rear of the vessel reinforced with vast adamantine plating, the thickest possible. No one dared question him, and his brass-clad daemon hybrid bodyguards ensured his orders were carried out without hesitation. Nevertheless, when he finally revealed his scheme, most of his crew thought him insane (The rest of the crew also thought he was insane, but these slavering fools were just as mad as him, and they wished to get the vessel moving once more, no matter the cost). Mawdredd ordered bundles of his surviving munitions to be ejected from the rear of the Ossified Jaw, and ordered them to be detonated sequentially. The Jaw would they ride the nuclear force of this blast, allowing the vessel to reach the distance necessary to engage its semi-functioning warp engines.

The people of Haktar watched in disgusted awe, as the night’s sky was illuminated by hundreds upon hundreds of spectacular blasts, which seemed to ripple across the heavens in a wide arc of fire. Mawdredd cackled praises from his ruined bridge, as the Ossified Jaw sped from the system on the crest of a nuclear conflagration. He ignored the pitiful shrieks of the ratings burning in the rearmost sections of the vessel, and the insidious groans of the tortured metal of the ship as it suffered from the titanic strain of blasts at such proximity. The Ossified Jaw rode again! The ship only increased in speed through the warp. Mawdredd sacrificed thousands of his own crew, drawing a veritable tide of daemons alongside his vessel, thrusting him forwards through the Immaterium with all the volcanic power his suicidal rage could conjure in the sea of souls. The hull burned with the talons of clinging, formless daemon-things. Mawdredd’s hateful mind focused upon only one thing; the Idealist. That accursed ship would not escape him. Not while his skull remained affixed to his spine!

The Idealist fought over seventy engagements in the western fringe over just three years. Not once was it defeated, though it found itself severely damaged. Its tractor beams were ruined, its missile stocks were utterly depleted, and its shielding was sporadic and faltering. Maintenance drones produced from within its vault-holds tried their best to fix the many varied malfunctions and near-crippling damage; they lacked the imaginative and sophisticated skills of it human and tau engineers. The Idealist warped with all haste to the world it had deposited its mortal cargo upon. However, when it arrived, scans showed they were gone. But they were not dead, for the Idealist detected further signals; the telltale contrails of ships recently breaking warp. The Idealist’s engineers had been taken. It had to save them, no matter the cost, for the technological miracles that allowed the Idealist to exist was contained within their minds. Should any rival enemy gain such knowledge, it would be a dark day for the Tau Meta-Empire. The Drone-ship instantly set in a pursuit course, intending to reach the kidnappers destination before they did, and cut them off before they reached their homeworld. However, the Idealist was damaged, and could not make those kinds of immense speeds any more. It barely managed to keep up with the speeding vessels as they fled with their prizes sealed in their holds. The enemy employed strange warp drives that spewed forth hundreds of miserable souls in their wake, like vapour trails from a jet craft. The Idealist did not know of the excruciator engines of the Theologian Union, or how they powered their vessels through the screaming of psykers fed into their soul furnaces like diabolical coal-dust.

The speeding cruisers of the Theologian Union arrived first, and their new slaves were taken to the star fort of Von Drannen’s Purgation, the fortified laboratory of Eccliesiarch Ceylan’s most trusted and vile servant; the demented Mechanicus priest Deng Vaal. Within his chambers, he began his many hideous torments upon the Tau’s quivering blue flesh. Ceyland desired a fleet of ships, powerful enough to break the back of the Vulkan Imperium, allowing him to unite humanity in the worship of the Emperor of the Wasteland. Von Drannen’s Purgation was guarded by an entire sector fleet detachment, including cruisers personally modified and up-gunned by Deng Vaal himself. This was Lord Vaal’s own personal demesne, and the seat of his power. If he could develop a fleet of advanced weapons, he need no longer bow before Ceylan. He could take the Theologian Union for himself. He had also instructed his cruisers not to hide the course they had taken to his star fort; he hoped that the Idealist followed them. If he could capture both the ship and its engineers, his task would be all the simpler.

Soon enough, his hopes were fulfilled, as the Idealist burst from the warp, all its functioning guns blazing. However, this time it was the idealist’s time to be outclassed. The Tau ship was battered and wounded from a thousand cuts, while Vaal’s ships were fresh and well-stocked. They surged into combat, one after another. Though the Idealist outranged them, they did not fear remaining within range of the craft, as they closed with their own shorter ranged ordnance. Torpedoes burst across the skin of the Idealist in searing blossoms of plasma fire, as lances thrust into its flanks from every angle. But the Idealist fought on, fear unknown to its artificial brain. Inside, drones exploded and storage holds were split asunder by the bombardment of the Theologian vessels. But onward it came, launching all the ordnance it still possessed. It killed several smaller craft with the last salvo of phase missiles that bypassed armour and shields, detonating inside their very decks. Deng Vaal watched this battle unfold from his personal chambers onboard the star fort, his fingers clenched like claws into the arms of his chair, eyes intent and straining to make out the status of the enemy vessel. He had ordered the idealist crippled, not destroyed. He needed it relatively intact.

But the fight was leaving the idealist. Its maneuvering thrusters were almost all destroyed beyond repair, and its weapon banks were now dry. Unable to defeat its foe, it simply diverted all its power to its shields, as it desperately tried to calculate a method of victory.

The lead Theologian cruiser turned about then, moving in close for a full broadside. Macrocannons were primed and activated all along the human vessel’s starboard flank, and firing solutions were calculated as quickly as its servitors and cogitators could manage. It was then that reality seemed to distort and warp in a space fifteen thousand kilometres to port of the Theologian warship. Moments later, the fanged snout of the Ossified Jaw punched its way out of hell at tremendous speed. The Theologian Captain screamed for evasive maneuvers, but it was hopeless. The Ossified Jaw ploughed through the portside of the cruiser, before erupting spectacularly from the starboard flank. The Theologian vessel was thrown off course by the force of the battlebarge’s blow, and the two vessels seemed locked in a silent waltz in the void as they tumbled over one another. Mawdredd, desperate to slay his foe, actually boarded the vessel he had just rammed. He and his brass-daemons slew the Theologian crew, and set his few surviving technicians to work controlling the vessel’s main drives. This event made for a rather perplexing sight; in the middle of a naval battle, the Theologian’s flagship sped towards the Idealist, with a multiple-kilometres long battlebarge lodged like a cross-bar of a cruciform in its belly, while both vessels blazed.

The attentions of the Theologian fleet turned towards this new and surreal threat. But even as their broadsides ripped great chunks from both the trapped vessels, they continued to power towards the Idealist. Mawdredd opened all his vox channels, and began to scream with murderous joy for all to hear. His bridge was chopped away by the sweep of a lance beam, but Mawdredd cared not, as he rose in his seat. The air was blown from his bisected bridge, and all his crew was instantly sucked into the void save for himself, thanks to his prodigious strength. This mattered little to him; he could now see the idealist looming large before him, barely six kilometres away, and he hissed a shuddering breath of pleasure into his respirator mask. It was then that the Tau vessel lowered its shields. Too late, Deng Vaal realized what the drone-ship intended, and desperately ordered his vessels to tow it out of harm’s way.

The Ossified Jaw was barely a kilometre from the Idealist when it detonated its warp cores as one. For the nanosecond before Mawdredd the Reaver was utterly atomized, it is possible he realized that he had been denied his quarry, as his soul fell screaming into Khorne’s lake of fire. Deng Vaal had been glaring at the Idealist through his observatory telescope when it exploded in a blinding flash. This blinding was quite literal in Deng Vaal’s case, and he whimpered as he staggered from his observatory, retinas boiled in his skull. He was robbed of his sight and his ultimate prize.

But still, he possessed the tau.

[Compiler pauses. The chamber is breached. Relocating archive documentation facility. Please wait.]

Forgive me. The Draziin-maton have found their way in. Time is short. I must relocate to a deeper gallery of this archive. Pray for me, O ye future readers. I see the black shapes crawling. I am certain the library’s sentinels can handle them for now. But I must escape. This is too important.

[Chronicle paused.]

Additional Background Section 15: The Chaos Imperium in Turmoil[edit]

Even in desolation I rise, for there are naught but the shivering souls of the unmasked, wailing as they cower before my majesty!

[Editor’s note: Something has written in my chronicle! My hand was not the author of the above... what else is in this place? This place breathes with too much history. I can hardly bear it...]

As alluded to in previous sections, the Western Chaos Imperium was no stranger to upheaval and the dynamic, ever-shifting political composition of a realm in eternal flux. Nevertheless, though each world was a barely held together mess of tyrannies and anarchies, there was a certain security provided by the Despoiled and the Despoiler’s chosen that meant life was almost tolerable, even for the relatively mundane citizens of his realms. Tolerable, but never safe of course.

But trouble built in those closing years in the very middle of this Age of Dusk. Not even the infamous Despoiler was impervious to the great changes and conflicts ripping through the galaxy at this time. But, unlike so many other realms, the threats to Abaddon came not form without, but firmly from within.

The Wulfen had been a nuisance to the forces of Chaos for almost twenty thousand years. They were persistent and tenacious in their animalistic fury. Goaded into battle by the battered remnants of the forgotten 13th Company of the Legendary Fenryka, they seemed to appear on battlefields across the Chaos Imperium, almost at random. No one knew how they could move from world to world without any notable starships in their possession, yet they did. They were almost always outnumbered, and yet they always forced their foes to quail before them. There was something about the wolfish Fenryka, and the blood-maddened Fenrisian hounds that loped after them, that unsettled and unnerved the profane and the daemonic; it was as if the image of the wolf was a primordial image of the hunter of monsters, imposed upon the psyche of all humanity from their earliest years. This common belief and unspoken assumption gave the wolf their power. But it was of course not simply their psychic signatures that were uniquely powerful. Their bodies were fueled by the superhuman stuff of Astartes, but twisted by genetic mutations to be even more fearsome. They were what the Astartes had the potential to be, if only they forgot their entire human soul, and lost themselves to the beast.

Abaddon tried for century upon century to exterminate the Fenryka. His twisted Dark Mechanicus devised neurotoxins and warp-enhanced viruses to pass contagions amongst the Wulfen. This failed, for the Wulfen spelt the Maleficarum on the flesh of the tainted, and abandoned them. On Maldain, the world built within the hollowed out carcase of a void whale, Abaddon captured Kharn the Betrayer and his blood-greedy coven within cages constructed by Iron Priests. He used these Berserkers during the siege of Mordia, when his generals informed him that howling Astartes-wolves clambered over the barricades of the Mordian Iron Guard to rip apart an entire regiment of the Despoiled in a night of terrible bloodshed. Abaddon dropped Kharn’s Berserker horde into the heart of the war. The carnage that ensued engulfed the entire night-side of the tidally-locked hive planet. The two races of monsters hunted one another in the shadowy places, and the howls of wolves merged with the hoarse screeching of the truly demented disciples of Kharn. Chainblades clashed, and when they shattered or broke, fingers, claws and bloody teeth were used to rip one another to shreds. The few Despoiled troopers stranded below died hideous deaths, as did many of the Mordians. But, unlike the despoiled, the Mordians were never running when they died. They were standing, and they were reloading...

In the end, the Wulfen and Khornate butchers gutted themselves, forcing a stalemate that ended with mutual destruction. As stated earlier, Kharn himself eventually escaped the planet, by storming a battleship in orbit, and breaking through the Chaos blockade by ramming through Ulvenial’s command ship, killing the Betrayer’s rival in the process. Yet Abaddon assumed this was a price worth paying; for surely the Wulfen were all exterminated now? But no, a few years later, and that familiar, frustrating howl echoed once more upon the battlefields of the Chaos Imperium. Not only this, but there were reports that there were many different variants amongst the Wulfen; Wulfen in various stages of animalism, full horse-sized thunderwolves and Fenrisian hunting hounds, and other, strange beast-Marines; clad in tattered, ruptured armor of the deepest black, with distorted, twisted flesh filled with thorns and grasping claws. Abaddon determined that the Wulfen must be spawning somehow. He had to determine where and what was creating more of his most persistent enemy.

But Abaddon’s resources were stretched by this point. Not only were his forces policing and controlling the Eye, his semi-loyal followers were keeping the Word Bearers in check (who were quietly spreading their influence amongst the worlds furthest from Abaddon’s iron claw). Abaddon could not even call upon the vast array of pacts he had with the chaotic warbands that positively infested his Imperium. Most had been dragged along in the wake of a vast armada that had surged from the eye, and made full speed towards the galaxy east of the Imperium’s western border. Billions of warriors, soldiers, psychopaths and all many of daemonic mutations and malignancies, all clustered and gathered around this fleet, until it was a behemoth of almost Heresy-era proportions. At the heart of this fleet, truly vast pleasure barges and twisted daemon-yachts moved at a stately, languid pace. Though few ever ventured within such chaos-tainted vessels and survived, it was obvious who led this fleet of extravagant excess; whole planetary populations felt his oily presence slither through their souls as he passed by. Fulgrim rode to war once more. His motives, and his war upon Vulkan, shall be elaborated upon in later sections.

But to return to the matter at hand, this unprecedented situation meant Abaddon could call upon few of his usual minions to do his will. He desired the Wulfen-den found, and its propagators destroyed. It was, in all honesty, likely a suicide mission, and those few chaos forces who remained behind would not be bullied by the weakened Abaddon, and sneeringly defied their Chaos Emperor. Some idiots even attempted to usurp the despoiler. They were tossed bodily into the baleful warp star for their foolishness, and not even this chronicle is capable of remembering their names, for they were utterly expunged mind, body, soul and memory. Nevertheless, Abaddon was forced to call upon outside assistance to achieve his goals.

Bizarrely, it was a battlecruiser of mercenary Blood-knights of Baal who answered his call.

The baroque vessel entered Chaos space at Abaddon’s behest. The only payment they asked for was a world of fresh mortal humans, untainted by chaos, for them to feed upon. Abaddon was surprised that their wishes were so very easy to satisfy, and he agreed warily. The Bloodknights were fearsome, cold-hearted warriors. Like the Wulfen, they had once been Astartes. But the dread techniques used to stave off their twin afflictions had molded them into something quite different. They were pallid and dreadful to look upon, clad in armour sculpted like skinned flesh, and the image of a fountain of blood gushing from a wailing skull was a common motif across their strange Artificer armour. Hooded degenerates and slaves, dregs from Baal elevated into serfdom, accompanied them wherever they went; spared their master’s hunger due to the teardrop mark branded upon their flesh. The leader of this band was known as Tychellus, and he wore a cloak of stitched together human leather and wielded an Obsidian blade plucked from the fist of a Dark Angel in long centuries past.

Though Abaddon was wary of ancient foes being his allies, the Bloodknights knew nothing of the old antagonisms, beyond stories. The Knights owed fealty to no one in their view; they had each overcome the failings of their flesh, and were free agents in a galaxy devoid of control. They were predators; harbingers of their own destinies. They fought whomsoever they pleased, and made feasts of it. Tychellus claimed he knew where he could find the Wulfen. The Black Legion who met him as envoys scoffed at this notion, until Tychellus tossed the fanged skulls of several Fenryka at their feet, each bearing the tell-tale signs of being cut from bodies violently.

And so, with a soul-gem of Abaddon as their safe passport through his realm, they began the hunt. There were merely twenty Bloodknights upon their vessel, known as the Unquenchable; each warrior was a legendary fighter and slayer. Each warrior bore a trophy room stacked high with the broken bodies and captured trophies of slain monsters and vanquished foes. They were skilled in the art of tracking and especially in the kill. Tychellus made sure to capture some slaves from amongst the Chaos Imperial populace, and laced them with a unique blood toxin his Vitae-crafters had specially developed. The Bloodknights were experts in manipulating the fundamental components of bodily plasma, and this compound could be tracked across astronomical distances by Tychellus’ chief Librarian, the sallow-featured Mordifax, for the signal it produced propagated across the warp itself. The Bloodknights released their unwitting pawns back into the Imperium at large, and hid themselves; watching their tainted captives return to their chaotic ways of ravaging, torture and murder. They were close to a site of previous Wulfen sightings, so Tychellus did not have to wait long before the Wulfen took the bait. They fell upon the tainted slaves, and ripped them to shreds. The bestial fiends did more than just kill; they gulped down great mouthfuls of gory flesh and chewed through bones to reach the marrow. All the while, the blood toxin infested them. The toxin was not a venom crafted by daemons, and thus the wolfish Astartes suspected nothing. When the Wulfen suddenly vanished from the world, the Bloodknights were already tracking them.

Deep did the Baalites delve into the outer circles of Hell’s Iris, almost into the Eye of Terror itself. Within this desolate region, the scattered, mewling empires of mutants and twisted things scrawled and brawled with one another in the darkness. The stars were dim here; girdled with greasy daemonflesh or else obscured by tides of impossible flies and roaches, that coated the worlds in ever-present gloom. Those forces that were foolish enough to cross Tychellus’ path learnt why they were feared half the galaxy over. The bodies of their defeated foes had to be removed in buckets. Drenched head to foot in blood almost constantly, Tychellus grinned a mirthless grin. He noticed how the warbands grew thin here, and ever more cautious.

They were afraid, and not of his men.

He was close.

But the Baalites were themselves being followed. The notorious king-maker and schemer Erebus watched them from afar, and sent an army of his Word bearers to follow them, led by Apostle Vesk. Erebus wished to know what Abaddon was planning, and how to turn it to his advantage. The Apostle was to follow the Knights for as long as possible, and eliminate them if they seemed to be gaining any powerbase within the outer rings of the Hell-Iris.

The Baal Knights began to see curious scenes as they delved deeper. There were the scenes of old battles, and many more recent ones. But this was not what made them pause. From world to world, they began to notice the abundance of ancient sites, many buildings and collapsed towers that seemed to have once been laboratories and research facilities. Tychellus and his men set down amongst the ruins of the most prominent site yet. They found smashed incubator tanks, shredded document wafers and the desiccated remains of un-used tissue samples and biological detritus. Though the former loyalists did not realize this, this was a former lair of one of Bile’s many heinous endeavors. But whatever vile sorcery he had enacted there had been long ago stripped out. Yet, some of the machines seemed too new, too unblemished to be relics of past activities.

Someone had repurposed them, that much was clear. It was then that the Bearers of the word confronted them. A whole company of Astartes, clad in the dried blood-colors of Lorgar’s Legion surrounded the Knights, demanding to know what they were planning. Vesk himself strode forth and gestured with his cursed crozius threateningly. It took approximately five minutes for Vesk to die, as Tychellus pulled his dark blade from the throat of the stunned Apostate. The Bloodknights of Baal were far, far more than Astartes, and it showed. They were hideously fast and stronger than any of their foes. They instantly leapt into combat with the Word Bearers, dodging the hornet’s nest of buzzing bolter fire that pelted their positions. Each of the Knights wielded unique blades and weapons crafted over long years of slaughter; honed to be implements of execution and destruction. The Word Bearers recovered from the initial shock of the Bloodknights, and fell back to make use of their heavy weapons, and the knights were beaten back themselves. But they were fewer in number, and more effectively utilized the dense cover of the ruined factories and labs around them.

They hunted the Word Bearers, and only the possessed Astartes could match their brutality and power in combat. The Word Bearers were soon routed, and they fled to their transports, more out of practicality and a selfish desire to capitalize upon their Apostle’s death than through fear. Still, this gave the Bloodknights a chance to escape on their own ship, before the Word bearer fleet could enact vengeance upon them. Onward they sailed through the semi-madness of Eye-space. Soon, Mordifax’s blood trail led them to a unsettling quiet world.

Chronicles do not name the world, but it was said to be a world of battles past; carcass of a billion tanks littered the rust-dust deserts, while bodies and the remains of buildings formed drifts of dust and ashes thousands of meters high. Only the laboratories seemed to remain in working order, with only superficial damage and wear. This was the place, and Tychellus eagerly descended with his warriors.

The world was a tomb; silent and cold. But it still tingled with trace heat; the faint glow of lingering presence, like the warmth of a new corpse. The Wulfen were there, and they were in vast numbers. Mordifax could feel their blood in his own terrible veins, and Tychellus could almost taste them. Incubator tanks and the myriad apparatus for some crude form of post-human creation were still there, and were still sticky with fresh bodily fluids and the mucus of false wombs. Carefully, the Bloodknights had their acolytes set up their equipment. As they did so, the Bloodknights drank in the fresh scents on the wind as they unsheathed a wide diversity of weaponry; billhooks, power blades, stabbing daggers, snarling chain-flails and baroque, ornate scythes amongst their menagerie of implements.

It was then that the Wulfen’s sonorous howl echoed across the dead world, and they charged into combat. At his signal, Tychellus ordered the sonic weaponry brought to the surface activated, and the Wulfen staggered moments before entering the fray. The Bloodknights sniggered as the olfactory and sonic distortion weapons confused and bewildered their demi-canine foes. The Knights were merciless as they launched themselves into battle. Blades clashed, and claws slashed, and there was death. Even near-crippled, the Wulfen were formidable, and five of the knights fell to their jaws and bloodied talons. But Tychellus was a storm of obsidian death, his angel blade carving through hairy pelt and ceramite with equal ease. Mordifax used his dark powers to combat the Rune Priests who supported the beasts, and ethereal energies crackled across the battlefield.

Shortly after that the Alpha Wulfen made his presence felt. It bounded through its pack on all fours, slamming straggling Fenryka and wolves aside as it loped forth, slavering. It was a vast beast, easily dwarfing all others, but that was not what made it distinct. It was punctured by spines and its flesh undulated with black blood. Its eyes were red as fired coals, and its breath was like green smog from a corrupted bellows. It jumped between the sonic beacons, shredding the acolytes and their diabolical tools with equal savage joy. As it howled in triumph, the Knights flinched, for it was truly a sound to inspire dread. But, worse than that, the howl was a psychic shockwave, that seem to ripple throughout the bestial Astartes, making them expand in some cases, while others grew sharper claws, or lost more of their fleeting humanity. It was as if the Alpha Wulfen bled warp power like a nuclear reactor bled radiation.

Only Tychellus remained un-cowed by its dread aura, as he hacked his way through the press of bodies to reach this ultimate animal. He was almost as animal in his own way; ripping apart those wulfen in his way with his bare hands, savouring the tangy blood of the mutant fiends on his venomous tongue. Their final clash was over after barely ten minutes, such was their speed and skill. If it one had slowed time, as the Mirror Devils can, one would have seen a sword-wielding devil in garish red ducking, blocking and swiping, while a towering black-mantled beast of flesh and bladed bones returned every blow with a forceful counter blow. But for all its strength, it was an animalistic monster, while Tychellus was a supreme blademaster. He parried a downward swipe of a great paw with his sword, hacking the hand away in a shower of blood. Before it could recoil, he had leapt atop its head and slammed the angel sword hilt-deep in its collar, and rode his blade down the beast, as it levied open the beasts chest with a gurgling creak. The alpha wulfen fell upon the ground, gore pumping furiously from its mortal wound.

At once, the monster began to shrink to a still formidable, but hardly colossal scale. To Tychellus’ surprise, he noted the great beast wore scraps of Astartes battle-plate still. But this armour was also notable not armour of the Fenryka. It was black; black as deepest pitch. Only the white pinions of a bird emblazoned on its pauldron revealed the identity of the so-called Alpha-Wulfen; the scourge of a sector and the monster most hunted and reviled across the Western Imperium of discordance.

“What is this? You are not one of the Wolves...” Tychellus hissed quietly, licking his long ivory incisors with frustration and confusion.

The dying monster spluttered black gore as it began to laugh uproariously, even in its death throes.

“You are fools! I am a broken son of a Heartbroken father, driven to lengths he should never have had to go, and never should have suffered. They are the ones you seek,” it muttered as it died, and gestured to the towering figures who had appeared behind the Bloodknights as if walking upon air. They only realized the threat when the two giants began to roar with all the dread hate and wrath he could muster.

For the ‘Alpha-Wulfen’ was just one of the many loyalist monsters abandoned within the Eye. It had become a leader of the wulfen, unfleshed refugees from failed chaotic experiments who had refused to repent their faiths, and all those penitent Astartes lost in the eye for so long, their minds had broken, and they had become the monsters that their psycho-indoctrination had kindled in their hearts.

But the Alpha Wulfen was not the creator, nor gatherer of such forces. The two titanic figures who now circled them were, however. Both were utterly ramshackle in their appearances. One was utterly naked save for scattered shreds of clothing and masses of blood-matted fur. In his hand he wielded an ancient alien bone sword, ripped from the body of some biomechanical Tyrant beast so long ago. It was a force blade, and glowed with the reflected rage of its owner. His face was bestial, yet noble all the same. While he stood tall, the other giant was hunched, almost prowling on his hands and knees. While he wore marginally more armour and clothing, he was much less sane. His pallid flesh was tarnished by self-inflicted scars and smeared with blood and dust, and his hair was ripped out in clumps. While the noble wolf-giant stood tall and snarled indignantly, this one babbled and growled with misery.

For these were the two wanderers; the loyal sons of the Emperor who had vanished into the warp like myths on the breeze. One, the great Raven King, had fled in same and self-loathing, dragging the monsters he couldn’t bear to destroy with him into self-imposed exile. The other was the Wolf King, who had given no reason for his exile. The truth is complex (too complex to summaries here), but part of the reason for this absences was that Leman had heard of the Saga of the Weregeld, and of the Raven’s flight. He had determined that he would lose no more brothers. Too many had died; some by his hand, some through treachery, others still through folly. Russ was followed into hell by his own army of monsters; those marked by the ultimate expression of the Canis Helix. He was convinced that the raven Guard’s monsters were not monsters, but were manifestations of the powers necessary to drive out and destroy Maleficarum in all its myriad forms.

Eventually he had found him, but by then, they were trapped. The only way out of the Eye was to fight; something the two brothers were extensively good at.

“What are you? Blood Angels? Is that one of the Lion’s swords?” Russ demanded forcefully.

Tychellus was not intimidated by the two Primarchs. He was far beyond fear. “Blood Angels? Those words are blasphemy! What are you? I see before me two monsters. You linger in your pits like cowards, while the world turns without you! You have failed, and all your works are dust! Dust!” he hissed furiously. “The Emperor is DEAD!” he added with a spiteful flourish. “All your efforts are for naught, for he returned to the world a greater monster than his foes. You are finished!”

Russ listened to this tirade carefully, his teeth clenched tightly together until Tychellus stopped, holding back Corax, who desperately wished to ruin Tychellus’ body.

Russ then shrugged. “Be that as it may,” he began, before leaping forwards and hacking Tychellus’ head from his body. Tychellus stumbled backwards, and Russ easily caught the Dark Angel blade as it fell. “I do not like thieves. Brother, let us finish this.”

No Bloodknights escaped that world. Nor did the Unquenchable. For some reason, it charted a course directly into the System’s star.

Perhaps you, my readers, question why I did not add specific emphasis to the first confirmed reappearance of two Primarchs in this section of my chronicle? As will become apparent in upcoming additions to this Chronicle, the Eye at this time was undergoing a great upheaval, which truly dwarfed this comparatively low-key event.

For it was not just the mortal Primarchs who were preparing for battle once more. The Pantheons convulsed, and not even the Monarchs reigning in Hell could ignore it.

Additional Background Section 16: Unto The Anvil Rides The Serpent: Fulgrim’s War, and The Seventh Great War of the Janus Heresies[edit]

Vulkan’s return was a mighty symbol of the beginning of the Age of Dusk, and the turning point in the great disintegration of society that afflicted the galaxy for long millennia. His name and return was both praised and cursed across the breadth of hundreds of Imperiums and millions of worlds.

Yet, the first being to realize the Smith-Lord’s return (besides the tearful people of Armageddon and their direct foes), was that most corrupt of creatures, Fulgrim . He felt his brother’s presence over five thousand light years away, at the instant when Lucius the Eternal was defeated. Fulgrim, the serpentine daemon Primarch, was a being of the ether, and he could sense the souls of his entire Legion of Emperor’s Children. For the most part, he cared little for their actions and antics across the wide expanse of the galaxy; he lounged upon his palace-world of perfumed flesh and disgustingly complex implements of pleasure and pain. Yet, like a petulant, greedy child, he noticed the absence of one of his favored toys only when it was denied to him. Lucius was defeated, and he was not slain (as we related before). No, Lucius had a far, far worse fate. As he lay buried deep beneath the toxic earth of Armaggedon, his terrible will became weaker and weaker, just as his body grew malnourished and withered in its armor. Soul weakened, Lucius was unable to control the souls trapped within his body and living battle plate. He became a mutated, demented thing as a hundred million souls all scrambled for purchase upon his flesh. Thousands of chaos warlords slain, orks bested, Imperials humbled and even daemons denied fought within his body for ownership of the husk. Together, they consumed him.

Fulgrim heard Lucius’ misery, like a chorus of tinny voices. While the great daemon that possessed his flesh ignored the cries and continued in its revelries, it couldn’t ignore Fulgrim’s anguished cries, that grew stronger every day. Eventually, the daemon decided to gather its forces to strike at the heart of the Vulkan Imperium like serpentine neurotoxins in a man’s veins. But the daemon did not do this through any sense of fairness or justice for his host’s wrong child, or for the glory of the Chaos Imperium, or even the Daemon Primarch Diaspora (the name granted to the areas of the Eye of terror where Abaddon could never rule). When timidly asked why he was doing this by a servant, the thing-called Fulgrim responded (before flaying its presumptuous servant alive):

“I come to welcome my brother to this new realm of our design. Then, I shall kill him, as I killed so many of his brothers before him. His Imperium has begun to entertain the notion that they can see through this Dark Age in safety; safe behind their little walls of civilisation and moderation. It is time to crush their dreams, and the truth shall set them free. We are very interested in freedom, are we not?” it had chuckled sardonically, directing its speech to the shivering soul trapped with its glorious serpentine body.

Fulgrim had a tool to achieve his aim of slaying Vulkan. The blade the daemon carried was a dreadful alien blade known by several names throughout the history of the galaxy. Some called it Kulgach the Ravager, others called it the Hillexix, in some of the oldest texts; simply the blade of midnight. The one you, my readers, are likely most aware of is a name given to it by the Interex culture; the Anathame. This was the weapon which almost slew legendary Horus with a single blow, it was the weapon used to gut the Lord of Veshin and all his priests, and the tool which struck down Guilliman with its venom-coated edges. In the hands of Fulgrim, easily the greatest duelist amongst the Primarchs, enhanced by chaos to be further deadly, it would be a deadly tool for evil within the Vulkan Imperium.

Fulgrim took time to build up his forces. He traveled from world to world in the Chaos Imperium, gathering thousands of warbands and billions of troops. Mercenaries, degenerates, warp-tainted aliens and even Corsairs from the eastern Chaos Imperium; all flocked to his banner with the promise of expansion, power and above all, the spoils of war. The daemon of the Laer sword cared naught for trinkets and jewels. It cared only for slaying Vulkan, and undoing the abhorrent progress he had achieved there. At the close of M55, the war began with a sudden storming offensive, a fleet action involving three distinct fleet elements.

The Vulkan Imperium was nothing if not resilient however. Vulkan had in place multiple lines of defenses each world was within distress-signalling distance of over five Commanderies, and at least two Imperial garrison muster points. As soon as the titanic mass of Fulgrim’s crusade smashed aside the defenses of the first few worlds through sheer numbers and the ferocity of his near-feral pleasure cultists and degenerate mutants, he swiftly found that multiple raiding forces attacked his fleets from multiple vectors and over several weeks of coordinated and vigorous harrying attacks. The Angels of Retribution and the Brass Ravens called off an expeditionary campaign to the north to lead the main counter offences. Whenever a world was ravaged, the Astartes would strike like quicksilver at the departing ships of the greedy pillagers, boarding and ripping the stolen cargo from the cold, dead fingers of those who presumed to plunder Vulkan’s domain.

Soon after that, the myriad forces of the fallen Primarch found worlds that were supposed to be defenceless defended by PDF forces bolstered by whole regiments of the Steel Legions of mother-Armageddon, or even the specialised Plasma-commandoes of the Ryzan Alliance. The complex defensive structure of the western border of Vulkan’s realm focussed upon the primary thrust of the offensive, and this huge crusade force began to slow to a murderous crawl within a year of fast-paced attacks and counterattacks. But to combat this threat, the defenders were pulling in their garrisons not just in the path of the tendril, but in its wake and in surrounding space. This meant the lesser tendrils of the offensive were perhaps not as well stocked with soldiers. Ordinarily, this would have made little difference. Ordinarily, the lesser offensive were merely diversionary attacks used to harass outlying worlds and drain resources, and could be easily dealt with by Vulkan’s internal reinforcements, that could be brought up from Armageddon’s core regions.

Two things were different about this offensive. Firstly, the third of the offensive battlefronts was not just led by minor crusade elements like mutants or dregs; Fulgrim himself led this attack, upon mediocre defences and startled garrisons, easily smashing them wherever he found them, before putting whole worlds to the torch, leaving only enough survivors to send this message to the next world they came to;

“I shall kill all your children brother, one by one, until you face me.”

The second complication that made defence of the realm more difficult was the fact Vulkan found himself fighting two wars, launched at disturbingly similar times; the seventh great War of the Janus heresies. This was a war against the Theologian Union, and one that no one had anticipated.

The notorious scientist Deng Vaal, his scorched eyes replaced by glowering red bionics, had tortured and extracted the knowledge from his captured Tau victims. Though several tau were freed by strangely colourful xenos interlopers that promptly vanished from Deng Vaal’s fortress through a portable web-gate, the mad man had what he desired. Soon enough, he began to design ships that would emulate his captors’ ship. However, without the physical ship’s remains, it took him much longer to produce ships that were anywhere close to being stable.

But, after years of research, he created the Witchfynder class of Grand Cruisers. With his new fleet of ships, he expected his position in the Union to expand rapidly; his star was at last in ascension. He eagerly travelled to the capital of the Union, outpacing all the ships sent to shadow him and his new grand armada. When he arrived on the Station, he was welcomed with open arms by Elimia Ceylan, the new ruler of the Theologian Union.

After the death of the original High-Eccliesiarch Ceylan, his children and wider familial group began to adopt an almost aristocratic dynastic system; every rule rof the Union after his death was officially named Ceylan, each had his bloodline in their veins and, generally, each one was as devious and ruthless as their namesake. Elimia was no different. She was the young and beautiful heiress of the Union, and had swiftly elevated her lover (the warmonger General Treghan) to the role of the Guardian of the Realm, the highest military office. She used her relative youth to cultivate an illusion of innocent naivety that disarmed her political rivals. Deng Vaal was no different. When she meekly congratulated him, and promised him fund to rapidly expand the production of the Witchfynders, he decided that he could manipulate her for his own ends. Thus, she prevented a coup simply through subterfuge. But as Vaal produced more and more vessels for her expanding armed forces, the child-like Empress’ cold, devious mind concocted a means to turn the situation to her advantage.

In public sermons, she encouraged her preachers and missionaries to enter into Vulkanian systems, and begin to preach the sermons of the Emperor of the wasteland and his creed of futility and reckless zeal. Not only this, she demanded that they actively prevent rival creeds from contradicting the ‘precious words of the Great Dead God. For his wasteland is of the body and the soul. Let no false dreams of heretics dispute this message’. Soon enough, her preachers became religious terrorists within the Imperium of Vulkan; they destroyed rival churches, murdered other clergymen, and hired various fiends and villains to go on state-sponsored rampages. Needless to say, Vulkan’s reaction was swift and brutal. His security forces hunted down the preachers, and put them on trial. The most prevalent of his warriors to enact his will were the Fire Beasts, and the ever-enigmatic Realm of fathers auxiliary forces. The Realm of Father’s soldiers were all mildly psychic, and they worked swiftly to uncover preachers in the midst of otherwise peaceful communities, and brought them to justice. The Fire beasts were brought in for more direct missions, such as the boarding and destruction of a Theologian pilgrim barge, and the beheading of the Clerical terrorists’ command structure in one swift and pragmatic swoop. After a year of hunting, all the preachers were dead or imprisoned.

The ‘Heavenly Child’ Ceylan made the most of this political ammunition. The entire Union was whipped into frenzy by the propaganda coming from her offices. Some said Vulkan himself murdered the priests when they tried to make him reconcile with his father. Others said the daemon Vulkan desired to see the sweet little Empress shed tears of woe, so he may break her spirit and take her throne. The Theologians, protective of their almost infantile ruler, demanded justice and blood. To the untrained eye, it almost seemed as if Ceylan had not orchestrated the entire grotesque charade. Alas, however, she had, and her people eagerly fell for her misdirection. Elimia ‘reluctantly’ called for a Holy War upon the Vulkanian Imperium, and invoked the thrice-blessed scriptures, that required all loyal subjects of the Church to supply their finest forces to the cause, or have their souls cast upon the thorny expanses of the Emperor’s wasteland when they died. Deng Vaal was bound by these scriptures to supply Ceylan with the ships (his Witchfynders) that she required. She sweetly accepted them from Deng Vaal, and blessed with saintly oils in a lavish ceremony before a titanic crowd of wide-eyes subjects, mindlessly praising them. Unseen to all, Deng Vaal masked a terrible rage behind his falsely serene smile. Ceylan had neutered his coup before he could start, without raising a single soldier against him. All it had taken was throwing her Union into a horrendous war with her larger Imperial neighbour, that would cause untold death and misery for her already bitter and demented people; a price she was willing to pay with a timid smile on her cheeks.

The fleets of the Theologian Union ripped into the underbelly of Vulkan’s realm with the ferocity born of madness. Witchfynder vessels led each fleet, alongside older witch-burning vessels and the vast pilgrim vessels no doubt crammed to capacity with millions of fanatics and crusaders, while more elite transport vessels carried the huge professional armies of the Union into battle. Likewise with the chaos forces to the north-east, the Vulkan Imperium’s dense defensive structure was an instant obstacle to the invaders. However, the Witchfynders made up for this by being virtually untouchable in most naval engagements. While the rest of Ceylan’s naval assets were utterly out of date and outclassed by the Promethean court’s brilliant cruisers and battleships, the Witchfynders could go toe to toe with the largest vessels, and in most cases hurt them severely. While not as manoeuvrable or as heavily armed as the Idealist, they were fast and they were armed with advanced sensory equipment and complex weapons of ‘sanctified’ xenos design. The defenders of the Imperium were sent reeling by this force. Only the insane actions of a Sons of Thunder Captain, who drew a Witchfynder into the Corona of a star (which baffled its sensors and allowed him to ram his vessel through its stern) allowed the embattled Vulkan forces to fall back to the ‘second line’ of defences (though, as mentioned before, battle lines in space engagements are not like the wet navy’s conceptions of boundaries and fronts. This was a vast three dimensional series of skirmish raids and engagements spanning several hundred light-years). Drastic measures were required.

Thus, Vulkan was forced to come to this battlefront in person to confront this new and powerful foe. He brought with him several Commanderies, his own Nocturne Praetorians in large numbers and masses of soldiers from the Steel Legions. He also authorised the Patriarchs of the Realm of fathers to switch their economies to instant war footing, which they could achieve in record time.

He struck back like the fist of an angry god. Vulkan had always preferred to be a builder, and artisan and a politician to a warrior, but when his ire was raised, he was the stuff of dark legend. He moved from front to front, world to world, and wherever he joined in battle with his men, the crusading Theologians were smashed. Initially, numbers had carried the day for the Theologians, but this changed when Vulkan was there. Strategies became firmer and more skilful, and his soldiers fought with the vigour of men with a god incarnate at their back. He was legend, and he was fury and the fires of the forge flowed through his wrathful veins. The Theologians were no match for Primarchs and Astartes on the ground, and they began to lose ground on every world, slowly but surely. Though each world took gruelling sieges and bitter street-fighting to clear them, eventually they were cleared, and the enemy were destroyed en mass.

Yet still in space the Theologian held onto territory, and no one in the southern Vulkan Imperium could feel safe until the Witchfynders were all destroyed, and Ceylan’s champion General Treghan was finally defeated utterly.

At this inopportune moment, word reached Vulkan of the boastful challenges of Fulgrim, and the utter horror he would surely be unleashing on his new Imperium. No matter Ceylan’s pretentions, the Theologians were small; Vulkan knew that Fulgrim was the real and only true danger to his Imperium. He ordered the Commander of the Iron Hands, Borund Epsilon, to take control of the southern front, while Vulkan and his Praetorians swiftly rushed back to Armageddon to face his wayward brother.

Meanwhile, the war raged close to the heart of the Vulkan Imperium. The war could be described as akin to a series of isolated island chains, fought over by constantly-moving and shifting fleets of Reavers and warriors. Yet, undeniably, the Vulkanians seemed to be being pushed back by Fulgrim’s vast armies. But this was stalled by the Dorn Revenants and their allies; they were masters of the siege, and their worlds formed a patchwork web of bulwarks, that drained any of Fulgrim’s pleasure fleets who strayed too close. This forced fleets to make massive detours around the Mk II Astartes. Conversely, the Confederation of Justice, the fanatical Droptrooper Legions, were ever mobile with their fast ships. They fought behind the scenes; destroying supply ships, savaging logistical trains and ammunition dumps wherever they found them. Though the current Muster-Lord was an Old Man by that point, he still fought with vigour, clad in his magnificent suit of burnished varseen eagle-plate carapace armour. Truly, he looked like a Saint reborn, as he rode his personal Valkyrie, Icaria, into battle after battle.

What history did not mention in as much detail was the fact the Muster-Lord also ferried the Brethren of the Willing, and other members of Imogen’s daring spies and adventurers. At this time, her associates numbered in the dozens, and each was unique and exotic in their styles and abilities. Some were researchers beyond compare, others tacticians and engineers who were invaluable in pinpointing weaknesses in enemy vessels and daemonic war engines. But at heart, she was a researcher and a fiercely intelligent woman. Her time was split between gruelling combat missions, and hours upon hours in the various libraries and vaults across the Vulkan Imperium (a girl after mine own heart I should think! I apologise... forgive that personal interlude...). She discovered many disturbing facts about the galaxy she was raised within; in the chaos of war, no archives and no information was forbidden to her, and she learned swiftly. She uncovered the foul-power of the Anathame, and of the correlations between the various mad prophecies of countless ‘heretics’ over countless years. She spotted, with the help of her allies that the patterns of chaos uprisings across the galaxy were not random, that chaos, for all its mania, was being all too ordered. But it was a complex pattern she suspected even the followers of chaos didn’t realise was occurring; as if a great steel trap was slowly closing upon all creation. But her mind was forced to focus upon the immediate threat of the Anathame.

If Vulkan were to face Fulgrim while he was armed with that, Vulkan would surely die. Imogen made a fateful decision that day; she would have to steal it from Fulgrim. Even for Imogen, this was madness. Luckily, the majority of her brethren were rather profoundly mad themselves.

Fulgrim’s flagship, Sodominus, was a corpulent mass of a vessel; a bloated and ostentatious pleasure barge almost as large as the Eternal crusader once was. Tentacles and frills jutted out from between decks crammed with jewels and naked slaves, while mighty spires and domes of varied hues dominated its dorsal superstructure like some surreal oriental metropolis. Warp enchantments scrambled any teleport signals that attempted to breach his vessel, his heavy armour and shielding preventing bombardment or physical boarding. This was combined with the masses of daemons and corrupt Astartes that prowled his barge’s stifling interior. His security forces were led by Illirus the Mistress of the Carnal hunt, a female warrior clad in demonic war-plate, which she wore while sitting astride a great serpentine Fiend of Slannesh. Sodominus seemed impregnable.

Imogen did manage to breach the defences however, through her illicit links to the Relictor chapter remnants. This tightly knit brotherhood ferried her into the heart of Fulgrim’s fleet inside a stolen null-ship. Once they got close to Sodominus, the Relictors unleashed their secret weapon. It was known as the blood-drench; an ancient chaos technology crafted by some warp-tainted culture before humanity could even speak. The devices rendered Imogen and her minions, as well three squads of Relictors, into a living soup of bloody gruel. This gruel, empowered by a tide of daemons, was swept through space, and bypassed the runic defences of Sodominus. Once inside, the artefact’s power was broken, and they became physical mortals once more.

Ancient Captain Wallachia of the Relictors grinned savagely at Imogen, before he led his Relictors on a furious charge through the ship. Wielding powerful dameon weapons and charms from across the galaxy, his three squads blazed through the vessel, getting stronger by feeding upon the profane offerings on offer inside the Sodominus; they burst into wild orgy-chambers, and gutted everyone they saw. Daemonettes were shredded by kai guns and blades bound with bloodletters, that revelled in the exorcism of their hated rival patronised daemons. Wallachia’s men raided the well-stocked daemonic armouries of the Sodominus, and forced Illirus to muster her forces for a hasty counterattack.

Meanwhile, Imogen and her men headed towards the real prize. Her three most powerful blanks strained with herculean effort to hide their presence from the volcanic essence of Fulgrim, that pervaded every molecule of the Sodominus. Fulgrim himself was coiled upon a throne of stitched together nudes, while he watched two painted figures devouring each other; stomachs undulating and pulsating as they exchanged fluids and fed upon each other without once drawing blood. For a second he thought he felt a shadow pass behind his eyes. The daemon within him felt weakened, just for a second. Fulgrim seized his moment, and clawed back a fragment of his will, forcing the daemon of the Laer sword to focus upon controlling him. All the while, Imogen and her bold followers were breaking into his crypt-vault.

The defences within were formidable. As soon as Imogen’s meme-virus infected scholar friend managed to break the code upon the vault door, skinned monsters leapt from the walls to engage them with blackened, sharpened bones. Her Kroot and Realm of fathers Cultist bodyguards erupted into battle, weapons flaring wildly, while Imogen and the Valhallan Veteran Tronskil rushed towards the centre of the chamber. Her blanks activated their psyculum null-enhancer devices, and began to actively burn away daemon flesh all around them. At the heart of the chamber, suspended in a glittering power field, was the gigantic Anathame sword. Not a single blemish tarnished the weapon in any way; not a single vein of warp-flesh or hideous chaotic decay affected its finish. Imogen reached for her data-jack, and deactivated the field by pounding the re-purposed harlequin kiss into the power field control terminal, injecting it with serrated wires that shredded its internal workings, and deactivated the field for a few precious moments. As the field shut off, the blade fell straight down, and embedded itself into the fleshy deck with a wet whisper. In response, a cavity in the wall unfurled, and the rampaging Chaos Dreadnought caged within almost severed Tronskil’s head as it charged them with its power flails and juddering autocannon. Imogen fearlessly jumped for the blade, snatching it from the deck before rolling to avoid the hail of gunfire ripping up chunks of the floor in a gory drizzle. Tronskil struck the dreadnought with five perfectly aimed blasts of his meltagun, but was bisected as he fumbled to reload. But the creature was now blind, and his melta-blasts had crippled its guns. The leader of the Brethren of the Willing screamed a curse at the thing, which leapt for her instantly. Seconds later, the power field reactivated, and impaled the war machine through its sarcophagus.

Imogen sounded the retreat, and her Brethren efficiently fell back into a rearguard action. She would have looked a strange sight if anyone had witnessed her then; a short woman clad in a privateer’s attire, dragging a sword twice as long as her, all the while cursing in every language spoken across the Vulkan Imperium and beyond. But her blanks had done something terrible; they had made Fulgrm aware of a black hole of psychic horror at the heart of his own vessel. He ripped his throne apart as his many limbs snatched up his scimitars and hooked-bladed daggers. By this point, Wallachia and his Relictors had become trapped inside the aft armoury, surrounded by daemons and heavily armed legionnaires. Their terrible sonic weaponry pulverised their minds and their flesh. Wallachia died last, dropping his dreadaxe from nerveless fingers.

Imogen was desperate for an escape route; as usual, she had not considered what she’d do AFTER stealing Fulgrim’s prized possession. Crossing her fingers, she rushed to the flight deck. As her Brethren fled, her blanks felt the magnificent presence of Fulgrim, which blasted their abhorrent minds into a bloody mess as he closed upon them, slithering with a blistering pace.

Imogen found the flight deck converted into a bizarre makeshift jousting arena, where foal-headed beastmen rode lobotomized Mk II Astartes like horses, and charged at each other with lances made from fused femurs and phallic flesh. Though disgusting and intriguing, Imogen ignored this spectacle. She noticed that there was at least one dreadclaw assault module still sitting idly upon the deck.

Fulgrim was moments too late, as Imogen and her men escaped his vessel by firing one of his own Dreadclaws into the flank of her stolen Null-ship, before ordering the ship to make full speed towards Armageddon. But Imogen was far from safe, for the entire Slanneshi fleet turned to chase after her vessel at the psychic impulse of Fulgrim, who dominated their captains’ minds. Such was his towering fury, he fed Illirus to her own mount for her failure.

Just as Fulgrim and the Sodominus charged full steam towards Armageddon, so too was Vulkan speeding towards his capital aboard Phalanx, with the Sons of Polyphemus and the Scar-Branders (a Commandery founded by former White Scars) to keep up with his pace. The two were heading for conflict at last.

The sectors in the southern fronts suffered long years of insurgency, bombardments and murderous meatgrinders across bone-strewn plains and glittering cities formed by Vulkan’s greatest artisans. The Theologians, though on the back foot, remained a tenacious and disturbed adversary. They fought hard to hold onto every world they had built garrisons upon, and the Witchfynders prevented the Iron Hands, Fire Beasts and the various allied sector forces from effectively bombarding those resistant worlds flat.

During this time of disorder, the Carnivas sector fought its war for independence. The Carnivas sector was located in one of the most unstable and volatile regions of space. It lay within the territories claimed by the Western Chaos Imperium, the Theologian Union and the Vulkan Imperium. The sector capital, Lychen, had been ruled by the Haemovore cult for many thousands of years, and their fanatical Lychen Guard had brought the surrounding systems to heel simply through their terrifying reputation (that, and any worlds who even thought about sedition were punished... severely). Rather than remain neutral during this time of chaos, the Lychen took a very different route; they declared war upon all three super states that bordered it, simultaneously. The three were occupied with their wars at this time, and could hardly spare the forces to defeat the Lychen. Those forces that tried to invade Lychen space regretted it instantly. The Lychen were both psychopathic butchers, and masterful pragmatists. Over the years, the state had forced its populace to eat mildly poisoned food, until native Lychens and lichen-subjects developed immunities to the chemicals tainting their Felshan meat (the primary export and food product of the region). And invading army found no unpoisoned food to eat or steal, every city were turned into death traps (being virus bombed if they were taken by the enemy), while the Lychen themselves were rightly feared for their almost mythical combat prowess. The Lychen Guard defeated several expeditionary forces in the course of the two wars on Vulkan, and carved for themselves a small independent state, at the crossroads of empires.

But still, the Theologians resisted Epsilon’s men. It was then that the true scale of the Realm of Father’s industrial capacity was dramatically demonstrated. Every single day, the Realm produced a dozen naval vessels, every second a thousand lasguns. Billions of perfectly drilled cultists were ferried to the battlefronts like a veritable tide of foes that dwarfed anything the Theologians could field. The Witchfynders could reliably destroy ten enemy vessels for every one of their own destroyed. They were outnumbered (at least) seventy to one. The results were inevitable. On the ground, Cultists armies were supported by thousands of geanstealers that infiltrated behind enemy lines and wreaked havoc. The Fire beasts refused to fight alongside purestrains, but reluctantly joined with human cultist armies if it meant killing Unionists.

On every front, the Theologians were murdered, and their surviving ships scattered across the void, gunning their super-powered engines at maximum capacity. Some managed to return to the Union. Most did not.

Some found themselves beached upon angry planets of indignant Vulkanians. Some collided with Wolf Packs from the Chaos Imperium, on the prowl for weakened prey. Some roamed east. These were hunted by the Ultramar remnant; forces that used these enemies as training for Regent Folkar’s campaign of rearmament and rebuilding of his sundered realm.

Fulgrim laid siege to Armageddon for fifteen months, furiously attempting to break the world and retrieve the Anathame from where Imogen had hidden it. He threw all he could spare at the stalwart defenders of Armageddon, but they held. Vulkan’s greatest ships and most dedicated warriors fought within the final circle of defenses (known as ‘The Anvil Imperious’ colloquially). Devastating orbital laser silos and torpedo tubes buried inside asteroids and moons blasted at his fleets constantly, while reinforcements from across the Imperium constantly harried his siege force. For the first time in many centuries, Fulgrim’s daemon grew truly frustrated.

All it could do was throw its forces against the great shields and defiant armies of Vulkan. It needed a minion on the inside; a being capable of bringing down the web of fortifications from within. Then, the daemon realized it had such a creature already.

The daemon of Fulgrim reached out with its dark powers, and channeled a tide of warp power into the ruined, mewling body of Lucius, buried deep within Armageddon’s crust. Lucius was reborn as the Revenant; a creature which should not have existed. It was a nightmare of amorphous flesh and gnashing tendrils, chained around a daemonic skeleton of blasphemous ivory. Soon enough, the monster began to burrow upward through layers of rock and soil, screaming with a million voices as a tide of daemons was added to the choir already scrapping to claim Lucius’ flesh once and for all. Eventually Lucius the Revenant erupted from the cobblestones of victory square, flinging hundreds of startled soldiers aside as the blubbery mass of insane flesh ripped its way free of its earthen womb. Like a tornado of viscera, it shredded the Steel legion that vainly attempted to slow it. Relentless as only the insane can be, Lucius headed towards the building imprinted upon his soul by Fulgrim; the Temple of Grimaldus, the place where the central shield generator was located.

Lucius was not only brutally strong, but also insanely fast. The creature grew long, equine limbs, and threw itself forwards at a hideous pace. Within minutes, it was slamming against the reinforced temple gates with all its warp-spawned bulk. The doors were blessed and burned Lucius’ flesh with their faith, but they could not hold the beast back for very long; moments at most. There was mass panic and confusion amongst the defenders, who rushed to try and locate the rampaging daemon-thing. Only one figure seemed disturbingly calm, as he placed his helm upon his head and drew Grimaldus’ relic Crozius from its sanctified case, nodding with respect to its long-dead owner. Though this figure, Praetorian He’stan, was no Templar, he knew the importance of relics (even though he had given up all his relics when master Vulkan had returned). He’stan hefted the heavy power weapon with ease, his aged body enhanced and invigorated by the promethium Court’s scientific genius, returning his physique to its long-forgotten M41 years. When Lucius finally burst through the gate like a tidal storm of gnashing mouths and claws, ripping apart the other defenders, He’stan was ready for him. The Astartes launched himself bodily from the raised Pulpit of the temple, and met Lucius in mid air. He made no war cry, for he had nothing to say to the thing which was less than Astartes at that moment.

Meanwhile, in orbit, Fulgrim’s Sorcerers detected the approach of Vulkan and the Phalanx, for they parted the sea of souls like a vast dreadnought at sea parts water. Fulgrim’s daemon believed Vulkan came to take up his Anathame and use it against him. He could not let this happen, and ordered the Sodominus to engage the Phalanx as soon as it broke warp.

His minions did as he commanded, and the heavens were once again ablaze, as the two titanic vessels clashed at the edge of the system, like titans locked in a wrestling match. The two giants ripped chunks from one another, but they were too vast and too tough to be truly damaged by their own broadsides. Though fires raged and thousands upon thousands of crew perished, the vessels remained intact. Vulkan armoured himself as his chambers burned, and he ignored the fire; he let it wash over him as he sealed his dragon-scale suit over his charcoal-black form. Then, with a sudden rush and scream of tearing air, Vulkan was ripped from the Phalanx, and toppled into the undulating throne room of Fulgrim; a blistering teleport, guided by the gods themselves had drawn him there specifically. Vulkan grimly rose to his feet as Fulgrim’s serpentine form writhed before him.

Vulkan’s spear and shield were hooked to his sculpted armour, and he looked for the entire world like a dragon knight of myth. Fulgrim meanwhile was the height of corruption. He towered over even Vulkan, and his many limbs sported a menagerie of weapons taken from his greatest conquests. His naked body was clad in oily scales, and studded with coins and gemstones that glittered in the half light. Fulgrim cursed him furiously. Did this Blacksmith believe that taking his sword, like a cowardly thief in the night, would save him? The daemon, in Fulgrim’s voice, boasted that even without the sword, none could best him, for no one ever had.

Vulkan was still, and replied succinctly.

“You shall die daemon. If it is possible for you to die, I shall make it so.”

The thing cackled as it circled him, clashing its blades together hungrily. It challenged Vulkan for his insolence; did this fool not know his brother when he saw him? Vulkan, it is said, refused to accept Fulgrim as his brother; his brother was dead.

The daemon’s smile was indulgent cruelty incarnate, and it relished its chance to reveal the truth. Fulgrim was alive, but the weakling had, at the crucial moment, refused to slay Ferrus, and his weak soul had been swallowed whole and subsumed like the wretch he was.

Vulkan lost his composure.

“Your words are poison!”

“And yours are folly.”

Vulkan hesitated no longer and he raised his gauntlets, before launching twin streams of searing fire into the serpent, that recoiled and threw its blades up to deflect the scorching torrent. The heat was like a star’s heart itself, and the walls began to run molten, as the fleshy floor blackened and squealed in heinous agony. Fulgrim threw his arms out wide, and deflected the flaming blasts aisde, before lunging directly for Vulkan himself. The two Primarchs clashed with a sonorous boom, blasting out all the windows of the throne room. Their bellows and screeching curses were lost as the atmosphere vented from the chamber, blown from the ship by the void.

They duelled in silence then. Vulkan’s spear and mighty shield were drawn, and the two slashed and parried every blow that sought to maim and to slay. Sparks flew from Vulkan’s salamander mantle and from his great shield, while Fulgrim’s blades fizzed and belched evil smoke as they flared with unholy life. It was a forest of blades, and the Forge father was forced backwards, step by step. Each deflected blow of the battling Primarchs destroyed something; statues were bisected, bystanders vaporised, sections of hull burnt away or chopped apart. But Vulkan could not best Fulgrim; Fulgrim’s daemon was right in that regard. Vulkan was no duellist. He was certainly better than any mortal man, but Fulgrim was something entirely different. His blades were omnipresent and unrelenting; wherever Vulkan’s guard was not, they were. His armour was battered by torrential blows, blows that burned despite his armour’s apparent imperviousness to thermal damage. This was hell-fire, and Vulkan could barely hold back the destruction which was coming.

Snorting like a bull, Vulkan set his feet, and powered his body forwards. Fulgrim was sinuous and lithe, but he had sacrificed bulk for this new form, and he was forced backwards by Vulkan’s rampaging charge. The two crashed through bulkhead after bulkhead, setting off maintenance alarms and the wailing of daemons still embedded in said walls. Vulkan powered onwards, forging his way towards the hexagonal chamber where the teleportarium would be located. Stunned, Fulgrim almost failed to block one of Vulkan’s spear thrusts, and instead swayed backwards to avoid the strike. Vulkan hurriedly slammed his fist upon the controls of the teleportarium, and the two were ripped from Sodominus, and returned to the last location the homing signal had been attuned to; the Phalanx.

Vulkan’s crew suddenly retreated as the two giants exploded into existence in the heart of the vessel. They no longer duelled like warriors; they ripped each other apart like savage dogs, mindless with rabies. Fulgrim’s swords were smashed or broken in the fight. Vulkan’s spear dulled and shattered, and his shield perforated and ravaged by claws. Gripping his brother by his bull neck with three hands, Fulgrim slammed him this way and that, ramming him through air locks and pulverising stone with his black cranium. The serpent coiled around Vulkan like a constrictor, and squeezed with all his might. They rolled on the floor like inhuman beasts. Inch by inch, Vulkan dragged himself deeper into his ship, wheezing as Fulgrim tried to suffocate him. As he choked, he in turn throttle Fulgrim. Order was lost, and any noble ideals were forgotten for a time; lost amid the red msit and the desire for revenge. Revenge for all the wrongs Fulgrim had done. Istvaan, Guilliman, Ferrus, Fulgrim’s own suffering; the monster before him was the architect of it all. For a time, Vulkan lost his mind.

Within the Temple of Grimaldus, Lucius swirled like a vortex. Faces flashed and rippled within its mass, as claws lashed and scrabbled for purchase. And, at the heart of the flesh storm, He’stan still fought. Everywhere a snarling head emerged from the storm, he would smash it apart with a brutal blow of the Crozius, while his bolter barked as it unleashed volleys of shell fire into the morass. He fought even as it stabbed past his guard over a hundred times, piercing his flesh and draining his blood. His glowing red eyes glared with righteous anger and he fought on. He had to fight. The longer he fought it, the longer he bought his Primarch and his people. He fought on, even as his bolter-arm was ripped free in a gory fountain of dark arterial blood.

Vulkan burst into the mustering hall, throwing Fulgrim across the packed cavern, impacting a thunderhawk with a deafening detonation. Aflame, Fulgrim leapt the hundred meter distance between them, and smashed Vulkan from his feet. The battle was fought at a speed his men could barely follow, and they dared not fire into the tumult, lest they weaken their Primarch at an inopportune moment. With a great lash of his tail, the Fulgrim daemon cracked Vulkan’s breast plate, and sent his stumbling backwards, into another chamber. Eagerly Fulgrim slithered in to deliver his killing blow.

It was then he felt the familiar disgust of the blanks anathema presence. But this was greater. This was a great nullification. The Fulgrim daemon glared into the chamber it had found itself in. Two dozen Culexus operatives emerged from the gloom. Fulgrim noted that Vulkan too was suffering in their presence. He lay upon his back, spluttering and hissing in agony; for every Primarch was a thing of the warp, whether they realised it or not. Yet, Fulgrim’s daemon realised too late what Vulkan actually intended. The untouchables were weakening it massively. More so than Vulkan. More so than even Fulgrim himself...

The serpentine chimera squealed as if electrocuted and collapsed to the ground in a fit of spasms, right before Vulkan’s bleary, glowing eyes. With great effort, Vulkan rose to his knees, spitting out gobbets of gore with every breath. He watched, amazed, as the serpent’s skin seemed to bulge and expand. It also paled and seemed to lose its oily lustre. Something was moving beneath its flesh. Snake shedding winter skin, a body pulled itself free. The body was sickly and covered in black veins, but Vulkan recognised the face.

The two looked upon one another as brothers once again. Fulgrim had tears in his beautiful eyes.

“You must... do it now... Slay me... now...” he whispered softly.

Vulkan protested. “I can save you! Let me try!” he hissed in agony. Fulgrim shook his head.

“You cannot destroy it. It is fused with me. We are as one. When we ascended... two souls... merged...” he pleaded. “Kill me. Banish it along with me. Your time is short...” Fulgrim continued, nodding to the Culexus, as they began to die one by one. They slumped to the ground, blood drooling from their helmet eye sockets. Even Pariahs had limits. It was not wise to subdue a Primarch’s aura, let alone two. Vulkan indeed had so little time.

Fulgrim opened his arms wide, and bared his body for Vulkan.

“Make it count,” was the last thing Fulgrim said to his brother.

“I... forgive you... your penance is eternal... that is enough. I cannot add my personal miseries to your punishment,” Vulkan added, sobbing as he pulled his spiked helmet from his head. “I WILL find you again... I promise you this.”

And with that, he used his helmet to dash his brother’s head to pieces. He didn’t stop until that beautiful alabaster face was nothing but a gory ruin. Crowds of surviving crew members watched on in sorrow and hopelessness. They cared not at all for Fulgrim, but only for the obvious pain his passing had caused their leader.

With his host destroyed, Fulgrim’s soul flew screaming back to the eye like a black winged angel, dragging its daemonic counterpart back into hell with him. With the power of the Primarch draining away finally, his armies fell apart into their component warbands, and were hunted to destruction. Lucius lost his patron’s favour and collapsed upon himself; disintegrating into madness and formlessness once again. However, his last conscious act was to slay He’stan, and for this, Vulkan had the writhing body of Lucius cast into Armageddon’s star; there to burn for as long as the Eternal one persisted.

Vulkan did not break down over his brother’s eternal torment. It made him instead resolute; he would find his remaining brothers and he would save them. Yet when he returned to his throne room, he found Imogen sitting at the foot of his throne, clutching the Anathame, her eyes wide with fright.

“We have to talk about the three Master. There were always three of them, but we just never realised because we never had one in our possession. Blade of the morning, blade of the twilight, and this, the blade of midnight...”

In the South, the Theologians fled on all fronts. Elimia Ceylan of course blamed her failure upon her husband, and when he returned, he was hanged until dead for the crime of embarrassing her. Swiftly losing support of her cardinals, she was forced to welcome the twisted scientist Deng Vaal back to the fold, and into a greater position of power (much to her disgust and his pleasure).

The Fire Beasts chased the last straggling Witchfynder vessel into a region of space near the bottom of the galactic plane. As they destroyed it, their Captain paused. His sensors had detected something. Something vast and dull, in the very coldest depths of space, far from any star. The thing was invisible to their Librarian, and gave off almost no heat.

And it was big. As they neared it, they realised just how big. It was on the scale of astronomical units. A perfect, colossal, sphere; except for a split as long as Terra was wide, which was barely a hairline fracture to this colossal hyper-structure. They reported their findings to Vulkan as soon as they could.

The old saying didn’t make sense till those days of awakening. I always found this note in the old fairy tales and children’s stories across the galaxy, in every language. The phrase goes:

‘When we walk on a god’s skin, we let the madness in. But is it such a sin, to let the madness in?’

Additional Background Section 17: Gathering The Pieces; Fragmentary Data[edit]

I cannot place these sections. I haven’t the time. I am being hunted. I know this now. I only just managed to rip these fragments from a matrix of data before I saw them, loping through the fog for me; silent, slender and tall.

All I can say with certainty about these sections is that they all occurred roughly concurrently with the five year period of re-conquering that followed the short Vulkan-Fulgrim war, and the much longer war of insurgency fought against Ceylan’s Theologians.

Make of this what you will:

1) The warriors of Castervoss.

[Fairy tale or chronicle? It seems a bit like both to me]

The warriors of the Gene-Prince Kadance were vicious and cruel; strong of arm and mean of spirit. They stepped over the abused heads of the lesser workers and slaves of the world Castervoss. Many heroes rose to try to topple the terrible Tyrant. Clever men built war machines of wonder to siege his cities. The warriors tore them down and bested the clever men. Bold men clad in shining plate led their armies to valiantly do battle with the evil creatures. They were bested, and their bodies spitted upon his pikes. Even gods in their sky-boats could not best the Prince, for he was a thing enthralled to elder daemons, and they would not let him lose.

The people grew desperate, and looked no more to heroes to save them. Instead they turned to a twisted man with a glinting smile. He promised them a victory, if only they would a simple request; he wanted the vaults beneath the Prince’s palace for himself. The people agreed, and the stranger set off.

He came to the Prince clad in blasphemous attire; drenched in blood and evil runes. He called himself a sorcerer, and claimed he could enhance his warriors until nothing could kill them. Not even the gods of Chaos. Hungry for more power, the Prince agreed, and the sorcerer set to work. He used dark magicks and sly technological sorcery to make the warriors swell and grow in power and malice. These warriors rampaged through the lands of the helpless, and the people lamented.

But this was more than just a betrayal of them. For the giants continued to grow; they swelled and bulged and expanded. Rolls of fat flooded streets and corridors; blubber and bones split towers asunder as they grew to the size of cathedrals and larger. Their eyes and brains burst in their over-worked skulls, and they mewled for a death which wouldn’t come soon enough. The Tyrant cursed the name of Caleb the liar, the dark sorcerer, even as folds of greasy flesh entombed him in his palace. The world was drowned in meat, until a blistered layer of glistening skin and muscle coated the entire world. It was then that the sorcerer unleashed the virus weapons from the gene-Prince’s vaults; necro-toxins joined the chemical contagion, and it consumed the flesh of the world. Then, from Castervoss’ moon, the liar dropped eight burning shuttles to the surface. When they set the noisome soup of decay alight, it formed a mighty star pattern across the night time hemisphere. When the fires subsided, the once smog-filled skies were clear as crystal; clear to see the Eye as it rose from the horizon.

Nobody came to Castervoss again. For it is said every single person died in the exact same instance, and their souls all leaked out at once. This was the worst of omens. Or such souls remained whole as they fell into the abyss.

2) A deal brokered: [I cannot confirm this event. Supposedly it had an eye-witness but frankly, why was he not killed instantly? Either this man is a lying braggart. Or, more sinisterly, these monsters let him escape...]

Menantus was a merchant captain in the newly formed Vulkan Imperium’s attempts to unite wayward, lesser Imperiums with his own without warfare (because, despite what histories tell you, most empires would very much like to avoid wars. Chaos is an exception, but chaos is, as the name implies, not the most stable of mindsets...). Unfortunately, he became becalmed in the warp.

Menantus had been foolish, and had travelled perilously too close to the Storm of the Emperor’s wrath. This warp overlap had become a dead zone, where reality stagnated and time slowed. This was because the Angyls were known to exist in vast concentrations there and their influence was obvious. After several decades trying to move a few thousand miles out of orbit of a dead world, Menantus gave up, and let his ship crash to the surface. Miraculously (perhaps), his vessel survived the impact. As did much of his crew.

Feverish and freezing, they stepped out from their vessel in the vain hopes of finding materials to repair their ship. Hundreds died as they wandered across the frozen tundra of the planet. Supersonic winds ripped their environmental gear from their heads, and radiation bred tumours in their guts and flesh. But these were but the beginning of their woes.

Because, soon enough, they came across the Angyls. They appeared to them as beautiful beacons of warmth and safety, and welcomed them with long open arms. But there was no joy or warmth there. It was a cold light, and those who came to them lost their minds and became adoring drones, who smiled stupidly as they bowed in the dust, uncaring that their naked bodies were crystallizing through chill. The Captain hid, and he watched helplessly as his men were enslaved and broken.

Yet, the Angyls had not come specifically for this paltry prize of measly half-starved ratings. They had been on the planet first. They had been waiting. Eventually, Menantus realised who they awaited.

The dark veined craft were heralded by churning thunderstorms that flashed with lightning as they slowly descended upon the becalmed world. They were larger than cities, yet the ships did not seem to suffer any strain as they effortlessly held low orbit over the planet. Menantus recognised the deep crescent shapes of the craft from the dark legends coming out of the Eastern fringe; these were mirror-Devil ships. Necron Tomb Vessels. But these did not bear the etched symbols of C’tan allegiance, but instead were covered in algebraic patterns of maddening complexity.

Menantus hid himself from sight, but he could not help but watch as skeletal silver phantoms shimmered into existence beneath the ships. All of them were uniform and cold, crackling with green corpse-light. All save their leader. This figure was bedecked in golden plate and a living cloak of smoke-like steel. Lightning coursed through its body, flaring from the tips of its claws to lash the ground as it walked. This was almost certainly the Storm Caller; a renegade Necron who led a significant faction of the metallic soul constructs. But it was said that he had been forced to endure the storms of Medusa V, and there he lost what little remained of his once mortal mind. But, he had been saved from destruction by other unaligned Necrons, who saw him as their champion (or perhaps, their pre-programmed minds were simply malfunctioning. Who can tell with these inscrutable fiends?). The Storm Caller’s time in the warp had also given it an insight into the realm of the soul. It decided that it needed allies on both planes.

Only one warp faction could ever satisfy his need for a sterile materium AND immaterium. Thus, it would seem, the Renegade Lord came before the Angyls to parlay.

Unbeknownst to Menantus, the world he had crashed upon was no mere wasteland, but was Ophelium itself; the Stolen heart of the old Ophelian empire and the first of the Angylworlds. As he watched, horrified by the way the Necrons calmly flayed the few surviving members of his crew with arcs of incandescent death, the Angyls began to appear. They folded upwards out of the solid ground itself; creatures of blades and rolling, snapping wings. The Angyls squealed, their voices like church organs raised in pitch to painful levels. The Necrons in contrast were utterly silent. Slowly, they advanced upon one another, each side glittering with barely contained energies; one warp-bound, the other born of ancient science beyond mortal ken.

As they approached, the Storm Caller’s lightning clashed with the electrical discharges of the lead Angyl, causing both sides to pause briefly. The leader of the Angyls rose up, buffeted by its own ethereal energies. Slowly, its wings peeled open like a lotus, to reveal the slowly forming features of one of the Archangyls. Soon enough, the enchantingly beautiful features of Celestine the Pure Flame rippled into existence before the assembled aliens. She glared down upon the Necrons before her with no hint of emotional response. The Storm Caller raised its clawed hand. As it opened its claws, a hologram was called into being between the two forces.

It is glowing green depths, the entire galaxy was displayed; spinning slowly as the central stars churned the stars like a ladle. Soon, it dissolved into the form of a humanoid figure, streaming with soul fire. With a harsh clawing gesture, Storm caller ripped the burning soul away from the hologram, and let it drift... into the open fist of the Star Father, who reared up within the display. The shrivelled body of the now-helpless mortal was then pressed into vast constructs of Necrodermis and green fire; their vital energies drained from them over what seemed like eternities.

Menantus’ account then descends into rants and incoherent ramblings, many of which may have been waking nightmares tainting the veracity of his vision. We do not get to witness how the two forces communicated beyond this hologram, nor whether they managed to reach agreement.* Menantus was eventually found naked upon Valhalla’s arid nuclear desert, calmly carving his tale into the irradiated bedrock with a broken femur. How he got there is unknown.

  • (But we can assume they did, considering the events that would later unfold...)

3) Capturing Anarchy’s Child.

Four Battalions of bounty hunting Fremen, backed up by expensive Krieg Serf Soldiers bought by the Mercenary Captain, attempt to capture the legendary Malalite Sparrod during the siege of a rebellious planet in the Theologian Union.

Needless to say, they fail, and are destroyed when Sparrod uses his position as chief Planetary administrator to destroy the force-field dams keeping the planets magma rivers in check. There are no survivors. Also, they inadvertently unleashed a toxin into the planet’s merchant navy, which poisoned up to a hundred neighboring worlds with a form of Khornate murder-meme contagion, which led to years of pointless civil wars across an entire sector. The Fremen were said to have all died just as dusk fell, and the Eye of terror peeked over the horizon. The Krieg continued to fight the rebellious lunatics, ignoring the magma as it burned them to their bones.

4) The Fall of Thex Prime.

Thex Prime was a gaseous giant, surrounded by dozens of inhabited blood-red moons; each world was spanned by continent scale cities and titanic trading ports. The Blood Moons, even at this time, were one of the three great cosmopolitan metropolises in the entire galaxy alongside the ruined city of Freegeld, T’au Sept and Commorragh. Only the spectacular black cancer that was Commorragh had a larger diversity and profusion of races, creeds and species than the bustling trade centre of the Thexian Trade Empire. The deep caverns where prehistoric Thexians once dwelt were hollowed out into giant factories and mines for the hunched Grongolem race. Spires and fantastic spiraling mesh-cities floated in the skies; home to the sinister spindly Ulthian Bone Eaters. In orbit, Drong Monasteries and Nisscassar Dhows plied the congested void, amidst Actorian merchant barges and the barrel-like vessels of the venomous acid Fulgars.

Within a hundred different cities, creatures and species of all shapes and sizes flooded the streets, hooting screeching and bawling bets, debts and haggling for parts and goods. Tau Water Caste envoys remained inside their chambers, relying upon Kroot and N’dras drone-suits as bodyguards. Lumbering purple L’Huraxi rubbed shoulders with Tarellian dog soldiers and Nekulli warriors, while Loxatl scuttle amidst the rooftops like gargoyles brought to life. Truly, the cities of Thex Prime were the most bustling and vibrant civilizations in history. And this was down to the influence of the Thexian Elite. Though the highest amongst them lounged within palaces of polished precious metals, the vast majority of the infamous Thexian Elite were hidden amongst the populace themselves. While all of the Elite shared the same bat-like battle-form, their secondary forms could take on the form of any species. They had used this species imitation to infiltrate hundreds of races; bringing them all into benevolent competition with each other. Each race fought and struggled to make their own races profit and flourish, but they remained united militarily against the silver outsiders. All the while, the Thexians played them all, and made themselves obscenely rich in the process.

This prosperity may seem strange to my readers of course, because this metropolis survived within a vast Empire in a state of constant war with the Nightbringer’s forces. Indeed, even a couple of systems away from the Bloodmoons, wars were raging on a horrifying scale; entire populaces were being eradicated, and stars were becoming sick under the C’tan’s influence. But the Thexian Elite used this conflict to keep their own factional races distracted, while they calmly maintained their empire from unassailable thrones, only feasting upon convicts and enemies of the state when their blood-drinking lust became too much to ignore.

Or so they thought.

For in fact, they too were being played and deceived. The Elite were not immune to manipulation; all it took was finding where the kinks in their armour were. The most obvious candidate were the unruly cousin-species of the Thexian Elite; the self-titled horrors known as Cythor Fiends. In contrast to the Elite, the Cythor Fiends had no desire to intermingle or imitate the lesser species of the Empire. The cythor fiends remained in their black-pinioned battle-forms at all times, clad in finery that seemed to contradict their monstrous forms.

The Cythor Fiends did believe in manipulating and shrewdly outmaneuvering their opponents politically and economically however, and they did so enthusiastically in the latter years of M54- early M55. They clashed with the Elites over numerous perceived slights; there were Thexian Elite politicians such as Tomork, who called for the disbanding of the Elite, and their full assimilation into the Empire’s species, while other Elites tried to freeze Fiend assets, or actively intercepted contracts and tenders meant for their own shell-companies and economic endeavors.

The Cythor Fiend retaliation surprised even the Fiends themselves. One rogue Fiend actually unleashed his fury in a public place, ripping apart a hundred citizens, and fatally wounded one of the Elites themselves, who had been discreetly monitoring the situation. There were voices amongst the Elites, and from the other races for the Cythor Fiends to be censured; they were a menace to the peace the Empire required to survive during the Long War. This culminated in the arrest of Barosk, the Chief Executive of the Cythor Fiend coven, who was tried and imprisoned for inciting reckless, economically suicidal laws, and failing to condone his faction’s violence.

Meanwhile, an Ulthian Bone-Eater (a member of the race which the Fiends were more closely affiliated with than any other), put this censuring in a different light; it pointed out how the Elites were forming ever-closer ties with the Tau Empire through the Nisscassarian elements. This sparked a kind of subtle paranoia in the Fiends, as they started to see the rest of the Empire as being against them; a menacing multitude of aliens, waiting for their chance to topple the Cythor Fiends. The Tau seemed to grow in their estimation as an enemy; they were indeed the eldest foe of the Thexian Trade Empire, except for the Nightbringer. They felt trapped, and desperate. So much so that, when a golden stranger appeared to Barosk in his cell, he actually listened to its offer.

Mephet’ran countered the Cythor Fiend’s scepticism of its motives by reminding the alien that the C’tan’s own, personal forces had never once attacked the Thexian Trade Empire; in fact, his Necrons more often than not fought his fellow Star Vampire Nightbringer and the tau. But never the Fiends; for Mephet’ran understood Barosk and his race of monstrous terrorgheists (terrorgheist is the true name of theirs and the Elite’s species, or so a dozen roughly-complimentary biologus reports collected over the years suggest). The bat-like aliens were a Vampiric race of blood drinkers, and they understood the vampiric urge to enslave their cattle for an easy feast. Mephet’ran was a vampire too, and he felt the Cythor Fiends could be a valuable ally. He offered to aid them in toppling the Elites, and let the terrorgheists lead the Trade Empire in the last war against the tau.

Barosk immediately demanded to know the price in exchange, making the Deceiver smile a wicked, inhuman smile.

“Facilities, dearest Barosk. If I am to help you topple your wayward siblings, I shall of course needs the tools to do so.”

The Deceiver wanted a weapon factory, installed within Thex Prime. In exchange, the weapons would be given to selected Cythor Fiend mercenaries, who would storm the Elite Palaces and slay the rulers. Then, the Cythor Fiends would use their neglected shape shifting ability to assume command of the Empire.

Cautiously, Barosk agreed to the deceiver’s terms, and got to work. Through coded messages delivered via visitors to his cell, the Executive organised for one of the Grongolem families to be shifted around, and discreetly, several hundred vast warehouses and storage yards were rented out to a rich aristocrat, calling itself ‘the King of Silvae’.

This figure was the Deceiver itself. This transaction was hidden from the ruling elites by the cunning Cythor fiends, behind oceans of bureaucracy and proxy accounts. Of course Barosk was not completely gullible however; he didn’t trust anyone, especially not one called ‘the deceiver’. To do so was immensely foolish. But Mephet’ran could be useful, so he indulged the Star God somewhat (even if he did implant high explosives into the warehouses he loaned the C’tan, just in case...).

Eventually, the Deceiver entered the system unseen, and his factories activated quietly. Slowly at first, but soon every warehouse loaned was full... of something. Years passed, and slowly the presence of something dark at the heart of the Empire became apparent. Convicts were dying. Not only were they drained of blood, their bodies were turning to dust in the bowels of the deepest prison complexes.

Even while the Cythor Fiends were deflecting attention away from the warehouses, they themselves sent spies into the cavernous complexes to see for themselves what was occurring. What they saw terrified even them.

There were not just advanced gauss weaponry down there in the depths. There were Necrons. Millions upon millions of Necrons. These were not the ancient warhorses of the Nightbringer’s cadaverous legions; killed so many times over and over, they were now a legion of automata. These were brand new Necron warriors. Barosk could not think how they were powered. Then he recalled the convict-deaths, and groaned. Before he could warn anyone however, his prison was assaulted from below by coiling Wraiths and burrowing Flayed Ones. Though he found with terrible fury, he was slain, alongside the entire prison population. This could not be ignored.

But by then, it was too late. The Cythor Fiends desperately tried to reverse what they had done, and detonated the thousand megaton warheads they had implanted within each Necron. To their abject horror, they watched as the weapons, which had long ago been moved by the Deceiver, exploded within the Grongolem factory complexes, collapsing the caverns and entombing millions of Grongolem within.

The surprise of the Necron ambush was utter and complete. The citizens and warriors of Thex Prime were slaughtered over five full days of carnage, as the Mirror Devils rampaged through every city. These necrons were new, powerful and utterly demented. They vividly recalled the pain of their passing, and had a disgust for all the fleshy enemies around them; those organic swine who had imprisoned them and fed on them for centuries. Vengeance drove these new necrons to extremes of cruelty not seen in the necron constructs since the early decades of the War in Heaven. The Deceiver did curb their slaughter somewhat; a selection of Thexian Elites and various species members were spared and enslaved by the C’tan, while the Ulthians, the deceiver’s true allies, feasted upon the atomised bone dust of an entire murdered civilisation. For the Deceiver had planned it all. He had played both sides, for he was a shape-shifter beyond compare. He had been the rogue Cythor Fiend, he had played the part of Tomork also, and he had advocated Barosk’s arrest and show-trial. And he was not done yet.

The Golden Star God twisted into the form of the President of the Thexian Elite Council, and summoned up the fleets of the Trade Empire to gather together in the Vellan system. He claimed they were gathering for a decisive push into the Reaper-space. He claimed he ‘would end the war in a matter of weeks’. For once, horribly, he was not lying. When the fleets of Tarellian, Gorngolem, Fulgars, l’Huraxi and Nekulli gathered around Vellan’s baleful star, the trap closed. The deceiver, using his powerful technologies, caused the star to go supernova, destroying the entire system. Only the toughest Grongolem forge-ships were hardy enough to survive the blast, but they still all burned inside their vast ships helplessly. Some ships avoided the rendezvous, and were hunted down by the Deceiver’s vessels.

In one fell swoop, in the year 998.M55, the weakest Star God ripped the heart from the Thexian Trade Empire. Within weeks, thousands of helpless worlds in their empire were purged of life by the Nightbringer’s now-unstoppable forces. Such carnage had not been seen since those dark days of the New Devourer. After a few more weeks, the Thexian Empire had fallen. It is likely most of the terrorgheists fled the Empire and infiltrated other civilisations far from the Eastern Fringe, while others hopelessly sought shelter with the only faction that would take them; the Tau.

But now the Tau faced the unenviable task of facing down the entire might of the Necron hosts, alone.

This war is of too large a scope for this fragmentary section, but to illustrate succinctly the Tau response to this horror, I have recovered some telemetry from the bridge of ‘The Transcendent Path’, Kor’O’Vana’Va’Shas’s (translation: Admiral Firesoul’s) capital ship, and the flagship of the Tau High Fleet, barely a month after the fall of the Thexians;

[Telemetry 0:04837:2847 to 0:14382:2847. Transcript begins]

[Primary, weightless air caste bridge.]

Admiral: Please repeat report helm.

Helmsman Kor’la: Reports coming in across vectors 2,3,4 through to 9,9,9, every elevation. Mont’ka in-bound. First and second picket fleets insufficient. Moving to mobilize cadres seventeen through four thousand-eight. Helmsman Kor’Ui: Negative, insufficient, we have Necron vessels coming in plane-wards and spin-wards.

Admiral: [sighs, rubbing nostril slip and forehead wearily.] The Mont’ka and its devils are ever inbound; we are the Undying Light. We can hold them back. Call up secondary and tertiary reserves. Contact N’dras; we need another hundred thousand Idealist class shipped up and mobilized by the end of this week.

Helmsman Kor’la: But sir, the testing-

Admiral: [Calmly] I do not care if they are not up to level Sigma safety standards; needs must. By Aun’Va, I don’t even care if they are unpainted. We just need to hold the Necrons here, then we can fall back to the Perdus Rift line; there we can crush this incursion. [Smiling encouragingly.] We can do this my caste-men. Have faith in our Ideals and we cannot fail.

[Crew cheers. One of the Gue’vesa at the sensory pit on the 1 G secondary deck is not cheering. He is instead extremely pallid, with lips quivering. The Admiral notices.]

Gue’vesa’Ganon: The Necrons... they are coming...

Admiral: Human Helper Gaxon, are you ill? Of course they are coming. Do you have a lock on FTL sensors? How many are coming?

Gaxon: ...

Admiral: Ganon, I order you to tell me now! How many?

Gaxon: ... All of them...

[The Admiral’s smile fades.]

5) Containment.

On the world of Jokven, the malalite cultist smuggles the cargo stolen from the vaults of Castervoss into the Governor’s personal menagerie. The item taken from the vaults was a preserved one eyed monster, which the gene-Prince had apparently bought from Grand Sicarium at some point in the past. This horrific regenerating beast was unlike anything the people of Jokven had ever seen, and they struggled to contain its rampages.

Eventually they decided to pump a paralysing nerve agent into the zoo-complex that had cornered the bellowing carnifex within. Unfortunately for them, the malalite’s minions caused the nerve agent canisters to be ruptured in transit to the site, and the planet’s PDF unwittingly spread the chemicals through the streets from their half-tracks and chimeras, and tainted the water supply in the process. The entire capital city slowly began to lose the ability to move their bodies under their own power.

The people were terrified that they would all die slow, agonising deaths through starvation. This was not to be however, as soon enough the ancient one-eyed beast was released from the zoo’s containment, and hungrily began to devour every last human within the city. By the time the other settlements of Jokven arrived, there were only the mewling carcases of a million half-eaten citizens left alive. The horrified rescuers looked up from the carnage to the evening sky, just as the Eye of Terror made its daily transit across the heavens...

6) Iacob and Crolemere.

Around this time period, there developed tales and stories across the Vulkan Impeirum and beyond about a strange, perfectly symmetrical cube that would appear upon a planet, then vanish once concerted forces came to investigate its purpose and form.

This was of course Ahriman’s doing, for he had escaped from Terra by shifting a perfect cube of Imperial Palace into the warp. What his purpose was as he jumped from planet to planet is unknown. He was almost certainly researching or studying something integral to the cube’s interior itself (indeed, he wasn’t actually noted leaving the cube in any of the previous legends). Yet, every time he shifted the cube, the planet he departed would suffer tectonic disturbances, and an increase in psyker/daemonic incursions, due to the unfortunate consequences of creating warp portals in gravity wells.

However, Crolemere, his mysterious Grey Sensei ally, did seem to leave the cube. She was a figure of fear amongst many worlds as they did not understand the meaning of the cube’s arrival. Some believed the golden haired woman was a ghost or a phantom, as she never seemed to age, and always vanished with the cube.

What most histories do not record is that she was actually acting as an assistant to Ahriman; acquiring ingredients and artefacts for his experimental warp science and sorceries. She was also looking for something else; some figure who was essential to the unfolding events spreading across the galaxy like wildfire. Crolemere would be sent out to infiltrate the planet, and locate potential candidates; subtly questioning the motives of those she met and noting their responses to her.

On one world, her mission was interrupted however. As she tried to gain access to a city, she was caught up in a fire in one of the planet’s subterranean transit systems (caused ironically, by the cube’s gravitational disruption effects). Everyone on board the tube engine were burned to ash, but she managed to crawl free, skinless and burning from the wreckage. As emergency units of re-purposed PDF tried to douse the blaze, medicae units tried in vain to locate survivors. Crolemere slipped away, whimpering in agony as her flesh smouldered and her bones ground together like burnt driftwood in a furnace.

She was taken in my a man named Iacob. From what we know, this man seemed unremarkable, even at this early stage as a young man. But this man took her from the street. He was a medicae, and he tended to her wounds.

Yet, as he took care of her, it became apparent she was no normal human. She healed rapidly, her flesh knitting together seamlessly without even scarring. Soon enough, her beautiful golden locks sprouted from her scorched scalp as it regenerated her warmth complexion. Within a week, she seemed utterly unharmed.

Unlike on a hundred other worlds, Iacob did not fear her supernatural abilities. Across the galaxy, most humans were superstitious, malevolent or just insane. Even upon his own world, the witch-hunters and demagogues were out in force; hunting for the ghostly occupant of the Cube, which had appeared upon a nearby hillside like a bad omen.

Iacob was nothing like those cowards and monsters. He saw her healing as miraculous and something he found mystifying. He eagerly asked her questions about her abilities and her purpose on his world, all the while hiding her from the roving bands of red-clad redemptionists, who began to scour the city for blonde females, for the prophecies always mentioned the blonde immortal witch...

She answered Iacob’s questions as best she could, because the man, while enthusiastic, could not really understand the warp metaphysics involved. She spoke of her mission for a great entity known as the Rubric Sorcerer, and how they intended to defeat the dark forces rising up to consume reality. In turn, Crolemere asked questions of her own, and over the course of months, discovered that this man was a possible candidate for Ahriman’s purposes; Ahriman needed ‘a truly good man, unburdened by affiliation to any faction or power’; she rejected the oppression of the ancient powers and wished to create a new culture. Crolemere refused to believe that in the galaxy there was only war; there had to be more. Discreetly, Crolemere signalled her success to the Sorcerer.

Before she could get Iacob to come with her however, events overtook her. The Redemptionists, in their conical hoods and brandishing their flaming weapons, cornered Iacob at his home, after they discovered that he had sheltered the Grey Sensei. They tried to force their way into his home, but he went out into the street to confront them, unarmed and smiling. He called upon his neighbours to depart, and he promised the Redemptionists that Crolemere was no threat to them. The cultists did not believe him, and struck him down. Though her purpose was to be discreet in all things, Crolemere was running out of time, and she could not bear to see one of the few truly benevolent humans alive killed by fools. She leapt from the roof of Iacob’s hab quarters, and into combat with the robed zealots.

Though unarmed, Crolemere was a wayward scion of the Imperator’s bloodline, and her abilities were formidable 9especially after tutelage by Ahriman himself in tapping into her power). Her body glimmered with starlight as she ripped the cultists apart. She dodged and deflected their chainblades, as she ripped flamers from their hands and tossed them aside with contempt. Within moments, the cultists were all dead or fleeing, screaming, “The daemon! The witch! She is risen!”

Even as iacob was gathering his wits once more, she grabbed him and tried to force him to come with her; they had to escape, now the whole city would be after her, and Ahriman’s Rubric entities would be preparing to secure the area. But Iacob resisted, challenging her convictions as a self-proclaimed saviour. He was still drenched in the blood of a hundred men slain by her, and he would not go with her. She implored him desperately; she explained that if he didn’t go, Ahriman’s men would kill everyone in the city to protect his prize. Iacob had no desire to be a prize, nor did he like the sound of this Ahriman; a man who would calmly order the deaths of millions of scared people just because he was in a hurry. In the end, Crolemere gave him little choice; rendering him unconscious before throwing him into the back of an idling half-track and setting off for the cube.

Ahriman was as good as his word and the outskirts of the city were ablaze, as the immortal Rubric Marines clashed with the PDF of the world in a storm of fire, steel and ethereal energies. Crolemere drove her stolen vehicle through the storm of mud and fire, as the city’s forces laid siege to the Cube, and the hill it stood upon.

Marauder bombers dropped thousands of high explosive bombs upon the shielded edifice, while infantry marched fearlessly up the hill, walking over the bodies of those soldiers who fell to bolter fire before them. They fought to (in their mind) defend their city from an out of context menace that would threaten the lives of all who walked upon the planet’s surface. Crolemere tried to ignore the carnage, and the brave soldiers dying by her ally’s hand, but she couldn’t. Her eyes were moist with bitter tears, as her half-track finally ran out of fuel. Arms around his shoulders, Crolemere desperately dragged Iacob through the mud and the ruined carcasses. Her fine features were tainted by the detritus of blood and dirt that splashed across her as she fought to reach the cube.

She was interrupted in her flight by a peculiar sight. The heavens suddenly burst into flaring color just ahead of her. Moments later, an eldar venom anti-grav craft careened through it. It was missing a fin and burning from several places, but still it somehow managed to stay afloat long enough for its strange crew to leap from it before it crashed into the ground with a mighty detonation that flung Crolemere upon her back. She dropped Iacob as she fell.

The vessel had three crew members, according to the accounts of this confrontation. None of them were eldar. Two were obviously old men arguing furiously, the eldest chastising the younger man in a cloak of shifting color on his recklessness. The third figure was a sinister man, clad in dark clothes with glowing eyes that shone with a piercing blue. Yet, it was not a man at all,and it moved with slick, deliberate precision no human could emulate.* The artificial being gunned down Crolemere with a dozen las bolts to the heart and temple. As she lay healing in a pool of her own congealing blood, they abducted her captive, before the colorful man stumbled back into the rent in reality, closely followed by his allies.

Ahriman dragged Crolemere from the battlefield using his formidable powers, and moments later, the cube too vanished in a storm of screaming warp fire.

Why Ahriman wanted Iacob was unknown at the time. But he seemed key in one of the Sorcerer’s schemes. Yet, that encounter did plant the smallest seeds of doubt in Crolemere’s mind; what was the Astartes Sorcerer truly up to. It lead her to iinvestigate her ally. It was then she learnt the horrific truth of the Thousand Sons renegade.

7) Oblivion’s pattern.

For over three thousand years, there had been no word or rumor of it being active. Many hoped that it had left the universe, as the New devourer had done, or had consumed itself in some dark corner of the galaxy. But, like a shark flocking to a sinking ship, the manifest disasters and misery at the close of M55 almost seemed to summon it back into our reality.

Navigators noticed its presence during their annual charting of the warp lane’s of Vulkan’s Imperium. Planets, systems and at one point an entire sector; all went missing. Patrol ships who investigated found their former locations utterly empty. Psykers hadn’t even detected the telltale warp howl that always accompanied planetary destruction. It was as if they were unmade a some fundamental level.

The Ophilim Kiasoz was mobile. Hopes were dashed; it was back. Only the oldest members of the galaxy realized what this entity promised; they had known its destruction in the previous ten thousand years.

Imogen of the Brethren of the Willing would not be perturbed by this entity. As soon as possible, she gathered all the data she could on the attacks; those of the past, and those of her present. She had locked herself into her chambers after she had stored the Anathame, and her fevered mind was still reeling from the apocalyptic conspiracies and revelations she was discovering. The Ophilim Kiasoz was the most unfathomable and potentially dangerous of them all, and she knew she had to find out where it was going.

At first, as she looked upon her updated galactic charts, the Ophilim Kiasoz’s path seemed utterly random; it appeared to move for a couple of hundred years at half c. For a couple of lightyears in one direction, before appearing at an entirely different site and continuing on a sub-light path for another couple of centuries, and so on. It was not until she began to calculate the likely locations of black holes and neutron stars, and folded her maps along geometric lines linking these phenomenon, that she realized that the Ophilim was not moving randomly. It was moving in a perfectly straight line, roughly towards the western edge of the rim-wards galactic plane. But the Ophilm Kiasoz was not travelling through space. Instead it was somehow bypassing vast swathes of space; travelling through some other medium Imogen could not fathom.

However, she could predict where it was going to appear next. She took her findings to the ruling Councils of Armageddon with all haste. She implored them to begin the evacuation of those systems that fell beneath the pattern of the Ophilim Kiasoz’s path. However, during this time the Vulkan Imperium was rebuilding itself after a major war, and Vulkan was out re-conquering swathes of the Empire. The council argued that it required all the border worlds it still possessed, in order to survive. Imogen countered that those systems were doomed either way, with or without defenders there; for the Ophilim could not be stopped by mortal means of war. Yet, there was a member of the Promethian Court who argued otherwise; a brilliant scientist known as Cayden, who had looked at Imogen’s findings and noticed that the Ophilim Kiasoz only made its ‘jumps’ when it neared a gravitational/solar anomaly. He boldly requested that the Council of Equals allow him to access the forbidden armoury, beneath Hades Hive; the location of the ancient Nova weaponry of the long-dead Dark Age of Tech culture. He claimed he had a method of diverting the Ophilim Kiasoz away from allied worlds. All he needed to do was conjure a celestial anomaly.

Eventually, the Council narrowly voted to give the scientist’s plan a chance. However, they also sent word for Imogen’s plan to also begin to be initiated, should Cayden fail.

The two distinct rescue forces rushed to the western marches of the Imperium; one a fleet of millions of repurposed merchant vessels and grain storage vessels for carrying billions of potential refugees, the other a military armada of mothballed vessels and reserve ships, hastily called up for Cayden’s scheme.

Cayden’s fleet amassed in the Deimia system, where a super massive blue giant burned erratically and with a fierce light bright as a million Terran suns. It was here that he began to install the nova bomb dischargers, in a loose ring of heavily shielded satellites around the star’s equator. This system was chosen for his operation because it was in an isolated sector far from any neighbouring friendly systems; the resultant nova kindled in its heart would not scorch any Vulkanian worlds inadvertently.

It took his teams weeks to set up the optimal configurations and calculate the resultant blast that was going to be produced. This was too long, and soon they were running out of time. As the Ophilim neared, strange things began to occur. All their chronometrical readings and time keeping devices lost their consistency, fluctuating wildly with discrepancies. The planets orbiting the star changed their orbits; some became elliptical, others failed to complete their orbits, and simply began to turn back upon themselves in a spectacular display of astronomical readjustment. The pressure began to mount onboard his vessels, but Cayden pressed on with his work. Every psyker on his ship inexplicably went mute and deaf, and all the food supplies went stale overnight. One of the frigates escorting his flag ship drove all ahead full into the heart of Deimia; their void shields bursting like a soap bubble within the crushing, blazing embrace of the fusion furnace. There was no explanation why.

Then things began to get stranger. The star itself began to fluctuate in its readings; not just radiation levels, but actual surface details changed. Lines and patterns formed in the sun spots, which preceded gigantic tidal shifts in the sun, with huge sections of plasma sliding out of the star like stone blocks, much to the crew’s utter bewilderment and wonder.

They could wait no more. They set the nova weapon dischargers on a timer, and fled the system as fast as the warp would carry them. Only Cayden and a handful of warships remained behind, to ensure the weapon detonated. Nobody knows what happened to them. Cayden’s last message to Imperial space was a garbled signal relayed by a deafened psyker, of his last words (it would seem).

Even this archive couldn’t scrub the entire message clear of distortion, but a single sentence was made out (though it still makes little sense to this day. I suspect Cayden merely wished to say something enigmatic before he died, to preserve his legend.)

His final message is short. The majority of the ten minute burst was static and bizarre noises that might have been the sound of a hull ripping, or rapid temperature change causing micro-fractures and plasma container rupture. I cannot be certain. But here are the clearest sections:

[Distorted]... Can’t-[distorted]-I- [distorted]-ull integrity fai-[distorted/corrupted section]-All follies come home. All- [distorted. Metallic din? Static distortion?]

In the end, the worlds in the path of the Ophilim were saved. However, it took Imogen a while to recalculate the Ophilim Kiasoz’s new multi-dimensional path. Five worlds were nullified in that time. This led to any further attempts to divert or attack the Kiasoz anomaly to be called off by executive order of Vulkan himself.

Some things should be left alone...

Additional Background Section 18: From Ashes Born: Eldar Recent History, and Tales of The Phoenix Lords. [Part One][edit]

We must speak of the Eldar at this point in the history. At no point since the direct aftermath of the Enslaver plague had the Eldar been at their apparent weakest; all but two of the Craftworlds lay devoid of life and the promised salvation of the Ynnead entity was stalled for reasons unknown.

The Eldar race maintained but four strongholds in the Age of Dusk; the Black Library, Commorragh, the defiant Biel-Tan survivors and finally the cursed Craftworld, Altansar.

The first was the ever-elusive domain of the Harlequins, sightings of whom had become more and more common across the galaxy.* By far the most enigmatic of the Eldar factions, their true goals and intentions a mystery to all those who could only see the wider web of interrelationship between dimensions.

The second was the sprawling nest of cancer that was Commorragh, which fed like a parasite upon the death and anguish of the war-ravaged races of the Age of Dusk era. They preyed upon the refugee colonies, the abandoned worlds, and those who could barely defend themselves. In addition to the normal divisions and everyday schisms of the Dark Eldar, the factionalism of the Kabals themselves was at an all-time high; once the Kabals were all so depraved and diverse in their cruelty that one faction was indistinguishable from the other. Times had changed.

The youngest generation of Archons were rash and incredibly impulsive in their enacting of cruelty and sadism. They would attack the most heavily-defended worlds of the material races, and would hunt anything and anyone who got in their way. They were loathed by the older Archons, for they brought irritating attention to their realm. Though the older Lords did love to torment those fools who presumed to invade Commorragh, even they knew their place in the galaxy was not just born of their superiority, but also their ability to weave the fact of their existence into the fabric of the galaxy’s nightmares; the Dark Eldar could not be seen as merely an invading xenos that could be fought. They had to appear to be creatures from dark fairy tales; they were the monsters nobody dared to admit were real. The Young Archons (adherents of the shadowy Baron Sathonyx) ruined this image by being overtly and blatant in their raiding. Where was the artistry? Likewise, the eldest pre-Fall Commorrites began to split off from the Kabal system altogether; the Lords of Twilight, locked off in their sub-realms, had not been seen outside the Webway (or even on the Streets of Commorragh) in seven thousand years. Rumours abounded, but nothing was provable. Then there were the Archons illicitly supporting the Lady Malys, as she sought to undermine the leadership of Vect, the only figure above the politics of Commorragh due to his own unassailable position as Overlord. Meanwhile, Vect made his own plans; plans so subtle even his fellow Archons had no inkling of his intentions.

The Incubi too began to distance themselves from the rest of the Commorrite rabble; several Hierarchs of the largest temples covertly sent forth Incubi mercenary bands to join specific realspace raids. These were raids that were close to former Eldar colonies and Crone worlds of various forms. Each time, they returned with fragments of technology, utterly uninteresting to most of their kind. Only the Underseers of the Commorrite factories could be coerced into deciphering their meaning and function; they were elements of a vessel. A vast vessel. On a world of broken glass, hidden within a Webway fold, they worked in secret. Guarded by the Incubi warriors, they worked to repair and re-forge this titanic vessel. Its name was unpronounceable to humans, so I shall utilize its translation for the rest of this chronicle; it was known only as ‘The Wailing Doom’.

Biel-Tan also suffered internal strife and schisms. War with Huron Blackheart was not going well, for it was proving impossible to kill the ancient Chaos Lord. Even when he was seemingly destroyed beyond all reason, he would cling to life long enough for his Corsair rabble to patch him back together like some grotesque mannequin. The warriors of Biel-Tan could not understand how he could survive such punishment.

They eventually realized that the Hamadraya was the key. Huron’s strange jaundice-coloured familiar was no mere acolyte. Somehow it was linked to Huron at the level of both the mind and the soul. As he lived and perpetuated his villainy across the Eastern Chaos Imperium, so the Hamadraya reflected his expansive presence, swelling until it was a towering, diseased nightmare of claws and gnashing jaws. Using warp born powers it hid in plain sight, always just out direct eye line. It was the unseen force at the right hand of the cybernetic Tyrant. Under its influence, Huron persisted, a product and creator of its indomitable will. The Eldar were desperately short on resources, which began to seriously hamper their guerrilla war.

The rule of Autarch Asitar, her council of allied Farseers, and Prince Yriel were threatened at this time by the influence of more sadistic minds. Factions within the craftworld’s diverse fleet thought the best way to win their war against Huron was to abandon all pretense to honorable war; poison the Tyrant’s lands, sow true terror and misery amongst his petrified populace. Make serving Huron the most feared option available to subject worlds. This faction rallied around the Corsair Duke Sliscus. Though he was a fickle and monstrous Dark Eldar, his fleets were formed from all manner of rogues and cunning forces, and the distinction between Biel-Tan guerrilla fighter and lapsed Dark Eldar was becoming extremely slim indeed. Not only this, but the Duke was charming and charismatic, rivaling Yriel’s own roguish charm.

His fleet, centered around his trio of captured flagships, often appeared to reinforce critical Biel-Tan assaults. Sometimes he’d strike at Huron’s own corsairs with all his naval acumen, performing his famous low orbital raids upon unsuspecting supply worlds. He enacted a terror campaign even a Night Lord would envy. On one world, he captured the entire populace, and stitched them inside one another like some deformed mon-keigh doll-ornament. He had one planet infested with a glass plague that slew everyone with blue eyes on the planet over the course of a month, before changing genetic markers at random to effect a different group. This act sowed paranoia and discord among the populace until they became gibbering wrecks, jumping at their own shadows, when the combined Eldar fleets came to plunder their world. Though it was downplayed, the Duke attacked his own supposed allies almost as much as he did Huron. Occasionally he’d give the Craftworlders false jump co-ordinates, or redirect their Webway portals into damned sections of the Labyrinth dimension. He was a force of inconsistency, polished by a crafty smile and a swift wit. Asitar herself was never made aware of the Duke’s excesses; nor the fact many of his rival captains within the Biel-Tan fleet were apparently joining his fleet, along with their ships...

Though he was sometimes loathed, Sliscus was mostly loved by the embittered Eldar populace, because he empowered the Eldar at last after long years believing in their own futility. He gave them purpose. Yriel despised the Duke, who hated him in return. Yriel did not want to see his race become monsters like Sliscus and his Kabalite contacts. He did not wish to win the war against Huron, only to replace one monstrosity with another one. He and the Duke competed for the favor of the Autarch and her court; this inevitably led to clashes.

This tension came to a head during the terror campaign against the world of Mulvene. This world was used by Blackheart as a weapon range. The few settlements scattered across the wide plains, jungles and mountain reaches of the planet were regularly bombarded, raided and attacked by the Tyrant of Badab, simply for him to perfect his techniques of planetary assault, and test the latest weapons churned out by his Techmarines and obliterator-priests. Oddly, Sliscus chose this planet as a focus of one of his campaigns of whimsical vindictiveness. The Duke’s fleet hung in low orbit, destroying the meager defences with ease. Then he started to play games with the miserable mon-keigh below. He ravaged whole settlements, then as the people sheltered, he would return to them with the promise of mercy; his holographic projection claimed he wanted no further culling. He was not the Tyrant, and they were inclined to trust him, with all the desperation of a beaten dog hopefully submitting to the promise of a new, better owner. He asked for negotiators to come to him, and they duly did so. These unfortunates were hideously tortured, before being skinned and nailed to the hull of the Duke’s flagship. Once this was accomplished, the Duke resumed his attack, claiming that one nation of the Mulvenians broke the truce and fired upon his vessels. Once they were only just defeated, the Duke allowed them to retreat to their bunkers in terror. Then, with the seeming patience of a saint, he asked for peace again. This cycle of lies and torment continued for over six years.

When Yriel arrived in-system to see why the Duke had not bothered to attack more important targets, he was horrified by what the Duke and his Corsairs were doing. Yriel saw humanity as a form of semi-sentient animal, but that was no justification for such pointless cruelty. He was once a Pirate Captain, but even he was never so base and evil. He did not want his race remembered as monsters; something had to be done.

By now, Sliscus had grown bored of tormenting the Mulvenians, who continued to send envoys in vain hope to an end in the hostilities. He ordered his Razorwings and Voidraven craft to descend upon the world, and unleash the glass plague upon them. This would render every living thing upon Mulvene into a glass statue, contorted in abject horror.

The Mulvenians emerged from their hovels and bunkers when they did not hear the cruel laughter of the usual full-on Corsair assault. They watched in muted dread as vast flocks of sleek Dark Eldar aircraft swept across the sky. Their dread turned to bafflement, when other sleek shapes intercepted them barely thirty thousand feet above them. Soon the sky was ablaze with streaking missiles, silver and black lance beams and the whining sound of splinters and shuriken splitting the air. The Prince’s fighters cut down the enemy craft with ease; the Dark Eldar were unprepared for his treachery, but also their ships were configured for attacking ground-based infantry targets, not equally maneuverable Eldar attack craft, perfectly suited to dog-fighting.

The Duke looked on from his flagship with an amused smile as his fighters were forced to flee without their prize, but even his newest minions knew this smile of his was a bitter forgery; he was seething with hatred. Calmly, he requested for his ‘Dearest sister’. This was a signal for his men to communicate to his agents aboard Yriel’s craft (placed there to keep tabs upon Sliscus’ rival). He ordered them to execute the pirate Prince.

Yriel had predicted this move, and had had his First Officer hunt down Sliscus’ agents months before, forging their replies to the Duke to make him think they were still alive. Yet, Yriel had underestimated the cunning of Commorrites. One of them was a Lhamaean priestess, and she had seduced the first officer. He had promptly hidden her from the purge aboard the ship. The venomous Dark Eldar had then infiltrated Yriel’s bridge crew and she found herself in the perfect place to strike down Yriel. But Commorrites have a disadvantage other Eldar lack; a shriveled psychic potential. Yriel felt her approach moments before she struck. Moments was all he needed as he span on his heel and beheaded her with his Spear of twilight in one smooth motion. Yet as she died, her toxic blood exploded in all directions (a modification installed by a Haemonculus long ago). Half the bridge crew collapsed, gasping as the venom touched their skin and turned their blood to fire in seconds. Yriel was in armor, so he was protected somewhat, even if he had to rip his armor from his chest as the acidic venom corroded it.

Simultaneously, Sliscus’ reserve fleet lunged from the shadows, only to be struck in the flank by Yriel’s own reserves. The naval battle that followed was one of the most complex and sprawling of engagements yet recorded in space combat history. The two fleets chased one another across five star systems. Their capital ships and arrow-swift escorts exchanged fire from myriad angles, as their mimic engines and holofields fooled their counterparts with ever more complicated illusions. Maneuvers had to be planned to the exact centimeter as the fleets danced between each other. Several times, the two flagships passed within ten miles of each other, the two vessels each fractionally too slow to bring their weapons to bear before the other evaded them.

The Duke and the Prince were two of the greatest naval strategists in the entire galaxy; pinning one down was like trying to ensnare mist, whilst the other was a coiled viper, which would turn in its skin to punish any who grasped it. Each counterattack was met with counter-counterattacks, every ploy and stratagem was defeated by a perfectly executed riposte. Their florid stalemate only ended when Yriel’s flagship plunged into the churning atmosphere of a gas giant, destroying several pursuing ships in the process. As for the fate of Yriel, no Eldar present could tell. Sliscus took this as a triumph, and returned to Biel-Tan proclaiming his victory over the turncoat Yriel. He was forbidden from entering the internal reaches of the Craftworld, for he was one of the unrepentant Dark Eldar, and his soul was polluted. Nevertheless, he was congratulated by the Craftworlders, who were desperate for all the military experts they could muster. However relations turned sour almost instantly, as one of the Farseers forgot to call Sliscus ‘Duke Sliscus’. The insane Commorrite took instant, irrational offence, and cursed them all. Asitar the Autarch, ruler of Biel-Tan, demanded to know the meaning of Sliscus’ outburst, but her words were lost on her tongue, when she looked upon Sliscus’ latest fashionable costume. She looked upon the strange multi-colored leather, and could make out the tribal markings of several of her naval captains. The full horror of their deal with Sliscus was revealed to them.

Asitar ordered the Duke destroyed, but he escaped her aspect warriors and Guardians, carving his way through the press, before stealing one of Biel-Tan’s own Void-Stalkers at harbour in the aft docks. He fled, cackling with glee at the misery he had wrought.

Some months later, the battered fleet of Yriel returned, but their leader and his ship were missing. Biel-Tan had been weakened. News of Sliscus temporarily allying with Huron simply compounded the ill omens. The Farseers of the last Craftworld cast around desperately for any clues on how they were to survive the coming storm.

A significant fraction of their vision quests told them the most likely path to survival lay upon the dead world of Pax Argentius, and the catacombs that dwelt beneath its surface.

What the Eldar desperately needed at that moment in history were heroes, nay, champions. Fate (or possibly design) answered their unvoiced plea. It was answered in the form of the Phoenix Lords. While most figures weakened and suffered the degradation of age throughout our history, the Phoenix Lords experienced the opposite. These ancient supernatural soul constructs were the sentient armor of the most ancient and powerful of Eldar heroes, infused with the souls of all who since donned their ornate war-suits. As the centuries went on, more and more occupants took up their armor, and with them their power grew. By this point in history, millions upon millions of Eldar had taken on the form of the Phoenix Lords; every mortal death it was possible to suffer in combat had been endured by these legendary figures. And with each death, they had learned and expanded their knowledge. Likewise, their souls had been bolstered by the new souls assimilated, until wheeling constellations of souls churned within their bodies. They blazed with baleful soul-fire that was blinding to anyone with the psyker-gift. Even warp neutral figures could taste the power emanating from them.

They could dance between volleys of fire, their blades and weapons moved like quicksilver. It was said they could pluck bullets from the air, read the language of battle with such perfect clarity that it seemed they knew precisely what their opponents would do before even they knew.

Each of the Phoenix Lords traveled the galaxy, dueling monsters, rescuing civilizations and generally fulfilling their own personal agendas.Though the following individual accounts cover the seven primary Asuryana, one must remember there were more Phoenix Lords aboard at this time too, including Zandros of the Shrine of the Slicing Orbs, as well as the mysterious Lords of the Shining Spears and Warp Spiders respectively. We know the Warp Spiders battled the Mandrakes across the Webway, desperately trying to prevent them from sundering the Labyrinth dimension in their efforts to free their mysterious dark patrons. It is likely their Phoenix Lord was leading them in this secretive conflict, but no records exist for him during this period.

The Asuryana generally traversed the galaxy alone; the only company the billions of lost souls swirling within their impossible interiors. Sometimes they traveled with retinues of their most dedicated and powerful of Exarchs, who acted as their vassals and as their chroniclers. The data I have located upon the Phoenix Lords abroad at this time was culled from not only the eye-witness accounts and histories of the Asuryana’s ‘victims’, but also from the oral ballads the exarch-retainers shared with the Harlequin mimes and their allies. Combined, I feel these accounts represent the most accurate portrayal of the Lords of Asuryan/Khaine yet constructed. Any obvious hyperbole has been scrutinized and cross-referenced. Surprisingly, much of the more insane feats of these figures seem to be corroborated by bystanders and their enemies.

Baharroth, the Cry of the Wind; Lord of the Swooping Hawks Aspect.

In the demented realm of the Theologian Union, following the war against Vulkan, there was civil war, fire and death. Deng Vaal, the blinded genius that developed the Witchfynder warships and countless other infamous inventions of torture and pious excruciation, was leading a coup against the ruling Ceylan family, who had come under the control of the violent bastard child of the last Ceylan scion. Doloriad Ceylan was a foolish and vain man, but he was also supported by a military council of Tallarn Generals who supported his rulership of the spiritual Conclave. Both sides created Inquisitorial orders of watchers and spies. The Persecution squads of Deng Vaal were cybernetic super soldiers, designed to conceal their power in plain sight. But when they found political or religious dissidents, their implants activated; blades, whirring saws and poisoned injectors unfurled from them to unleash hell upon the impious.

Doloriad’s men were less technologically minded; their soldiers were highly trained elites from the worlds of Scar-Vein and Temalri; death worlds that bred psychotic crusader henchmen for the Cardinals Crimson, a powerful ally of the illegitimate Ecclesiarch. They also hunted within the populace, murdering and burning the suspicious at the sake for the smallest provocation. As power constantly fluctuated between factions, everyone became a target.

Then word reached the Theologians of the Warrior-Angel, who leapt between worlds, destroying armed mobs and soldiers, before simply leaving. At first, the Unionist soldiers merely increased the number of psyker-weapons that accompanied each expedition and witch-hunt by necessity. They believed these sightings were either illusions, warriors in the employ of a rival faction, or at worst minor Angyl incursions.

It was none of these things. Deng Vaal himself realized this when he began the invasion of Lambast. The somber monk-knights of Lambast were no match for the Power-Armoured Sisterhoods, or their cybernetic allies in the Persecution units. Then, the central library archive of the planet exploded, as if a line of explosives had been planted down its flanks. It fell away in two halves, showing all combatants with a fine film of silver dust and rolling smoke. The vaults of the building had contained a captured Eldar portal, and it had reactivated spectacularly. And from this gate, a blazing angel of glittering silver and polished sky blue armor burst forth like the first rays of a new dawn, soon to be followed by half a dozen similar winged figures.

Baharroth, the Cry of the Wind, was unleashed. His luminous soul made the psykers flinch before him, and the sun reflected form his shimmering pinions in all directions. Alone, he swept into the battle against Vaal’s power armored cronies, while his fellow Hawks battled to take down the heavy artillery of the assaulting force. Baharroth was a storm of blades and laser bolts fired from hawk’s talon. Anyone who so much as raised a weapon against him (be they natives, or Vaal’s own minions) were cut down with cold skill.

Soon, Deng Vaal’s cybernetic persecutors located the single figure amongst the sprawling chaos of the city-wide melee. Unfurling their plasma-blades and sonic exterminator cannons, they closed upon Baharroth. In the shattered ruins of the Lambastian Lord-Marshal’s own palace, they finally located the Phoenix Lord of the Swooping Hawks.

In the smashed citadel, two supreme warriors dueled. I am not certain of the nature of the Marshal of the Lambastian Monks, but he was a powerful warrior in his own right; a warrior psyker skilled in the art of the Kine-blade. When the Persecutor cyborgs located them, Baharroth was surrounded by a storm of silver daggers and serrated blades, twirling like a tornado around him, as the Marshal advanced upon him, hands crackling with telekinetic energies. Amazingly, not a single one struck the Phoenix Lord; his glowing sword shattered each blade as it struck, before deflecting each of the resultant splinters with equal ease. The confidence of the looming warrior Monk evaporated. With a final flourish, Baharroth swept his wings around him. His grav-engines flung the kine-blades back towards their master with the force of bullets. Only the hasty unsheathing of his force sword saved the Marshal’s life. Now the two warriors fought blade to blade.

The fight lasted three sword strokes. The marshal fell to the ground; first his two severed arms, followed by his head, then his dismembered corpse. Slowly, Baharroth turned to face the persecutor squads, who warily cycled their weapon systems. They hesitated before striking the cry of the wind. Deng Vaal, who was in orbit on board the Witchfynder vessel ‘Excruciator’, grew impatient with his minions. He demanded to see what they were frightened of and he used an override over their pict-sensors; rerouting the feed direct to his command bridge.

Deng Vaal’s bionic eyes narrowed to focus upon the bright figure standing over the Marshal, framed by the sun streaming through the broken palace windows. He knew the Phoenix Lords, for he had researched much in his long and abhorrent life. He grew pale and quivered with terror.

“Kill it! Kill it now! Fire!” he screamed, and the persecutors were mechanically obliged to follow his orders. Plasma bolts, sonic shockwaves, snarling bolt shells and streams of toxic needles flew from them as one, obliterating the throne and most of the back wall in a great fusillade of high-powered weaponry. But Baharroth had taken wing, and plunged amongst them with the force of a comet. The hulking half-machine monsters were sent sprawling across the tarnished marble. Even as they rose, ten of their number were felled by perfectly placed laser bolts that pierced hearts and vaporized minds with every shot. Hastily, the rest rushed to engage him before he gun down any more of them. Baharroth had expected this, and his wings shivered in anticipation. The Swooping Hawk used his own wings like vast vibro weapons, carving through carapace and ceramite with a similar ease to his own power weapon. The persecutors were cut down in their droves, bisected fragments of their bodies still glowing as they toppled to the ground.

The battle was over within minutes, ending with Baharroth plucking a severed head from the ground. His steel-grilled mask appeared to be grinning, and dominated Vaal’s pict-screen as he stared into the eyes of the dead Persecutor. Though no words left the Phoenix Lord’s lips, everyone on board knew what he had said to Vaal;

You are next.

The terrified scientist immediately ordered a bombardment of the city; it was to be razed. Plasma fires and the blast waves of kinetic impactors flattened the city barely an hour later, but already it was too late. Baharroth rose above the flaming city, surging through the air towards the upper edge of the planet’s atmospheric shell. He was too small to target with orbital weapons, so fighters were scrambled at once.

Baharroth and the Hawks engaged the hypersonic fighters in the thin atmospheric ceiling, battling their high powered foes in a silent ballet of laser discharge and darting maneuvers. Even the Swooping Hawk Exarchs were no match for Lightnings and Furies. They were slain one by one, until only Baharroth remained. He leapt from fighter to fighter, carving through cockpits and slaying all within, before jumping from the pilotless aircraft and engaging another.

It was a kind of confused bemusement when the Cobra class destroyers escorting the Excruciator were ordered to engage a single figure, flying through the void. Nevertheless they diligently acquiesced. Their small anti-fighter turrets filled the void between them with a terrifying volume of firepower, but they were not designed to target such an incredibly tiny target. Not only this, but their own turret weapons were impacting (harmlessly) upon their fellow destroyers’ shields. These impacts did not harm them, but it send up walls of glowing impacts across their shields, making any sort of targeting all but impossible.

They lost the Phoenix Lord. Hours passed, as Vaal’s enginseers and helm sensor officers scanned every square inch of space in orbit. Some claimed the Phoenix Lord was adrift in space, helpless. Others claimed he was dead finally. But Baharroth’s wings were did not function as a real hawk’s do. They were grav-engines; void space made little difference to him. Of course, no Swooping Hawk would be used in a naval battle, as they could do no damage to even the tiniest naval vessel as a rule.

This rule however, did not apply to a Phoenix Lord, carrying a Webway portal. Ten hours into the search, Baharroth re-emerged, inside the Excruciator. Reports began to flood in of some great killing machine sweeping through the decks, destroying all the armed personnel who tried to stop it. Deng Vaal fled the bridge immediately, ordering two of his guards to follow him to the Null Vault. This was the location where all the heretical and tainted artifacts confiscated from condemned witches were stored during witch hunts. Ironically, Vaal’s only hope lay in the nightmarish devices he had long condemned his victims for possessing. He opened the vaults, and thrust whispering daemon weapons into his guards’ startled hands. Instantly, the female crusaders twisted into black-veined nightmares, who instantly tasted the scent of Baharroth as he closed upon their position. The twin Slanneshi daemons who possessed his guards eagerly rushed to taste the soul of the Phoenix Lord. Meanwhile, Vaal frantically searched for something to save his own worthless life.

As Baharroth slew another armsman patrol, the daemons found him. They mocked him for his futile defiance; didn’t he know that his death was foreseen before his birth? Baharroth psychically dueled with their venomous words.

She Who Thirsts will thirst no longer, soon. Soon, she will suffer extinction, just as all things do.

The daemons laughed. “Do the Lords of the Phoenix King not know? Simple creatures, spears with souls; weapons and nothing more. They don’t see what we have planned. Silly little Eldar. You still think you can win the great game? The great game is ending; the board will be flipped, and the pieces scattered. It has already started.”

And with that, both daemons lunged. Daemonic weapons clashed with supernatural metal. Only the devils of the great enemy could hold the Lord in deadly combat. For a moment, it seemed as if Baharroth would fall. But he returned, full of all the fury of Khaine and all the majestic power of Asuryan. Like the phoenix, his blade burned as he beheaded the possessed humans, before he shattered the daemon blades one after the other.

Baharroth was advancing, and Vaal grew desperate. He took up a warp jump generator, itself an Eldar artefact. Baharroth arrived mere moments too late. Deng Vaal smirked as the generator activated. His expression turned to horror as he saw something within the nightmare realm he had foolishly flung himself into.

“Oh God-Emperor, I see it. I see the N-“

Those were his last words, before Vaal was consumed by the warp portal, leaving nothing but the scent of ammonia on the air.

Baharroth disappeared from the ship soon after. He had killed only the armed soldiers inside the vessel and no one else.

The Cry of the Wind appeared numerous other times over the following five years; each time destroying the forces on both sides. Yet, without Vaal, Doloriad’s forces inevitably triumphed. As for Doloriad, he was assassinated soon after by the Tallarn Junta, who grew tired of his extravagant lifestyle and a petty cruelty that was too much even for the church of the Wasteland-Emperor. Several Ecclesiarchs and would-be Emperors followed, but the Theologian Union never again rose to become a threat to the galactic community. In the years that followed, they would be utterly overshadowed by the greater menaces that moved against the forces of sanity.

Jain Zar, the Storm of Silence; Lord of the Howling Banshees Aspect.

This Phoenix Lord was involved in running conflicts with the forces of Chaos. In both the Western and Eastern Chaos Imperiums, she was a stalking silent force of swirling destruction. Her weapon, the triskele known as the Silent Death, was a recurring theme in the mythology of a dozen chaos civilizations; it was the representation of vengeance, and of the punishment of lost gods.

On the blade world of Kalderus, she faced the entire population of the Khorne-tainted hive cities, who had been reduced to naked savages clad only in blood, wielding chainblades and axes of a wild profusion. It is said that she and her daughters battled atop a mountain fashioned from the millions killed by her in this grand battle. Though none of her seven dozen Howling Banshees survived, she stepped from the world, victorious and unbowed.

Her screaming war cry made a battalion of the Despoiled fall upon their bayonets, rather than face her devastating fury. During the brutal war of Kalnendris, she intervened to aid the human Imperium of Garrosynx (secretly a world ruled by an underground cult of Exodites) in their war against Huron Blackheart, who sought to open the Dark Gates of Rhidhol. She appeared as if from nowhere, and she struck at the heart of the Tyrant King’s fleet. His Corsair Chosen clashed with her handmaiden Banshees, lumbering Terminators dueling with lithe armored females in a dazzling display of power weapon blade work. She evaded their blows, and clashed with Huron himself. As witnesses from both sides of the combat were busily killing each other, the account of their duel is fragmentary. Both the Phoenix and the Tyrant struck blows against one another, but the disciple of Morai Heg and the war god Khaine was the more proficient combatant, and defeated Huron, hacking what little flesh remained on his body until it was naught but bloody ribbons. Of course, weeks later, Huron’s surgeons had once more brought him to life, and replaced yet more of his flesh with bionic augmentation. Meanwhile, the Hamadraya swelled in size, unseen by all but Huron himself.

Jain Zar seemed to particularly come to the aid of all seers and warp-prognosticators. Surprisingly, even non-Eldar witches were aided by her enigmatic presence. She cut down the Daemon Prince N’Kari as it sought to devour the soul of Prognosticator Alcain of the Silver Skulls’ 8th, during the infamous four-day siege of Varsavia. It seems that she was a patron of all those who utilized Morai Heg’s gift.

Fuegan, the Burning Lance; Lord of the Fire Dragons Aspect.

Fuegan and his Dragon Disciples fought the Necron onslaught on the moons of the Hex-Fort, and held off the newly risen Legions of the Deceiver, giving the Farsight Kassar Enclave the precious time needed to build their defences in the wake of the invasion. Fuegan’s fire pike, and the fusion blasters of his minions were some of the few weapons capable of severely disabling Necrons; forcing them back to their Tomb complexes on Thex Prime time and again. He did this not to defeat the Necrons (who he could not defeat alone, even enhanced as he was by countless ambient souls), but to corrupt their programming through the constant need for Necron revival. The deceiver’s once disturbingly sentient forces began to degrade.

Fuegan was cornered by the Deceiver’s forces around the world of Kanus. Fuegan walked among the Tau defenders, pointing out weakpoints in Necron shells and blazing his own path of destruction against the enemy. But the Necrons could not be held back for long. Entire nations of Tau and Gue'Vesa defenders were utterly wiped out; settlements, buildings and people all atomized within minutes by powerful gauss pylons and destructive aeonic discharges. At the height of the siege, a new vessel appeared over Kanus. It was a vast tomb ship, dwarfing the Cairn Class vessels that moved out of its way. The vessel was golden and silver, glittering with crackling green fire. This vessel was evidently the flagship of the fleet, and it instantly destroyed the remaining defenders’ vessels in orbit.

Then, at the peak of the battle, Fuegan vanished in a shimmer of green energy; he had been phased aboard the mighty tombship. He and his retinue reappeared inside one of the strange alien laboratories within the ship. Fuegan’s weapons were absent, much to his silent fury. He attempted to leave, but a powerful field of azure energy enshrouded him. Eventually, a Lord of the Necrons emerged. This figure was obviously one of the elder Necrons, for his form was adorned with all the decoration and fine artifice of a long-forgotten culture, while the newer Necrons bore no ornamentation whatsoever; they were purely functional new recruits. This Necron was clad in a thin film of microscopic scarabs, that rearranged themselves at a molecular level to allow the entity to take on the form of any living humanoid. Somehow, Fuegan knew this entity. Its actual name goes unrecorded, but humans knew it simply as Ralei at some points in history.

The entity was intrigued by Fuegan, as he was essentially a soul construct housed in an artificial body, much like the Necrons themselves. Fuegan watched as all but one of his Exarchs were slowly flayed, to see whether their internals were biological. To Ralei’s disappointment, they were.

“You are different. You are not alive. The creature you call your god was cunning, despite his emotional instability. The molten shards of the Reaper must have contained elements of Kaelis Ra’s dark knowledge. You are a product of his tinkering. Kaelis Ra was inspired by Drachen of the Void to create our mirror-bodies, and your warlord was inspired to make an image of us for his own wars. How quaint. I will ensure you are exterminated at the close of this procedure,” Ralei informed Fuegan, who burned with an incandescent rage.

“I will not die here. Only I call the final dance of the Asuryata. It is fate,” he rumbled, his voice like a stoked furnace.

Ralei’s scarab-face twisted into a smile, as he took on the form of an old Eldar hero. “Fate is a lie. The greatest lie. Sentiment and mysticism are foolishness. We built our gods, both of us. The path of existence is not fixed.”

“The End is foretold. All paths converge.”

Ralei, luckily, had not fully disarmed Fuegan; his concealed melta bombs were still fixed to his armor. With a sudden jolt of movement, he threw one. The blast momentarily shorted out the containment field, and Fuegan took this opportunity to leap free. Ralei advanced upon him, but Fuegan thrust a second bomb into Ralei’s face, and turned it into molten slag within moments, before he fled the chamber, pursued by questing gauss rays. Ralei reformed soon after, unleashing a piercing metallic scream which activated every Necron inside the tombship.

Fuegan was hunted through the labyrinth of conscripting metal corridors and passageways, that actively sought to ensnare him as he fled from the screeching gauss beams that shredded all in their path. Somehow, he regained his fire pike and his axe during his headlong flight. The twisted geometries of the Necron vessel would have drove a lesser entity insane within a few minutes, but Fuegan was a veteran traveler of the Webway portal system, a network so infinitely complex, even the old Eldar Empire had failed to map its full extent. Only the Phoenix Lords, the Harlequins and the Atlas Infernal were proficient enough to traverse this realm. The dimensional games of the Necrons were as naught compared with the impossible realm; their tricks were still anchored to reality and could never reach the height of true insanity.

The Burning Lance stabbed at the many hearts of the tombship; destroying nodes with pike and axe, and piercing gauss matter reactors by the score. His skill and dexterity allowed him to avoid the disintegrating energy-meshes of the internal defences and the frenzied talons of the Wraiths that drifted after him. Finally, Ralei caught him, at the heart of the vessel; its aeonic core. The core was a star caged and consumed by the internal workings of the vessel. It seemed impossible that a class M star could fit within a vessel so comparatively small, but it was so; green veins of energy poisoning the fusion furnace as its energies were extracted with 100% efficiency.

The Necron Lord was a terrifying opponent, and the two clashed in silhouette before the colossal star. Its energy and lethal heat was barely contained by force fields, and the battlefield of the Necron and the Phoenix Lord was constantly bathed in gouts of plasma fire and radioactive discharges, that blasted any Necrons who sought to intervene in their fight to atoms.

Ralei was a puppeteer of time, and he moved with a speed which was impossible for anything mortal. Fuegan somehow matched him, but was forced backwards with every flourish and every blow. His fire axe avoided clashing with the warscythe of the Deceiver’s herald, for nothing would stay the blade of a Necron Lord. These were two soul constructs, built in olden days; perfect killing machines, bred for war and extermination respectively.

Ralei was gaining the upper hand, but he had failed to take into account Fuegan’s true motives. He was never interested in dueling Ralei. The Burning Lance was a destroyer, and no vehicle was too large for him to slay. As they battled, Fuegan's weapons had also been firing all around him; it seemed to Ralei that he was continually missing, when in fact Fuegan was hitting his targets every single time. His targets were the force field generating pylons.

Too late, Ralei realized his mistake, screeching in impotence as the star surged into life. Finally allowed to progress in its timeline, it began to expand. Ralei’s body was vaporized by the swelling giant, and he was forced to be reborn in a newer, plainer shell (to his cold distemper). Coronal mass ejections gutted the tombship from all angles and directions, as the star slipped its bonds and punished the Necrons for their hubris. From the outside, the tombship appeared to distort horribly, before great shafts of light and plasma fire stabbed outwards like sea urchin spines made of fire. Then, the ship collapsed into nothingness, and a great star was sudden born in the heart of the Necron fleet. The gravity pulled in the closest vessels before they could engage their inertia-less drives. The rest vanished, as their engines effortless carried them from the system.

Of Fuegan, we know little after that. But I know that he survives. For he must. For he will. For he has.

No one is more pivotal than the Burning Lance in the coming events. Somehow, I know he has not perished.

Additional Background Section 19: The Tales of The Phoenix Lords [Part Two][edit]

Maugan Ra, the Harvester of Souls; Lord of the Dark Reapers Aspect.

Maugan Ra entrenched himself in the heart of the western galaxy during this time of strife and terror. Much like the Reaper, he was death in physical form. Anyone foolish enough to enter the systems bordering the ancient dead world of Stormvald were never seen again; Ra destroyed them, and his gloomy grandeur drew more and more Dark Reapers to his cause. The planet of Stormvald was a world of airless skies, and ossified remains, as far as the eyes could see. Some bodies were of men and aliens slain in recent years. Most were the bones of long dead monsters, some larger than titans even in their deathly repose. Some claimed that these were the bones of a flight of dragons destroyed by the master of death. In many ways they are correct, I suppose.

Yet, he was not the only Eldar battling in the twisted western marches of the galaxy. Lingering in the nightmarish shores of the eye of terror, the beleaguered craftworld Altansar lingered. To look upon it was to look upon a tragic site. It was a craftworld in ruin; its towers were smashed in several places, while fires and destruction tainted many of its gardens and fortresses within. Altansar had returned to reality during M41. But ever since it had escaped the eye, its people had been pariahs among the other craftworld Eldar, and thus had not been included in the grand council’s vision of the resplendent Ynnead; in their eyes, the Eldar of Altansar were forever tainted.

Yet, ironically, it had been this craftworld which fought the most desperate and endless of garrison actions in the history of their race. The Eldar of Biel-Tan called them ‘mon-keighyana’ due to their almost human-like stubbornness. They had faced down daemonic Legions of mutated warships and vile writhing monsters. The chaos-possessed void whale Charybdis had ripped almost fifteen miles of hull from its left flank, killing a million Eldar in one evening of freezing hell. The few Imperiums still not aligned with one of the great Imperial powers of the ends would throw whole fleets of mercenaries and charlatans against Altansar, in the vain hope of stealing some valuable technology which would give them an edge. Rak’gol Marauders made raids into the craftworld only to murder and to pollute the soil of the Eldar city. Even the near-mythic K’nib were known to occasionally sharpen their claws upon Altansar’s metaphoric whetstone. All but a handful of their Webway portals remained viable for transport, and even then only the larger passages; the others were constantly besieged by opportunistic corsairs, Commorrite madmen and daemonic unlife that crawled out of the darkness between Webway and reality.

The few non-martial paths still followed by the Eldar of Altansar were morbid figures; sculptors who only created works of screaming despair, with grasping fingers and sallow features. The few preserved parks and gardens were requisitioned by the most influential of the Eldar leadership, for their own needs. Exarch levels were dangerously high within the craftworld, and the stink of Khaine tainted the valleys, streets and cities within. The majority of the Aspect Warriors were Warp Spiders and Dark Reapers; for these two reflected the group animus of this Craftworld under siege.

They still had Farseers, but the ‘Parliament of the Potentialities’ was a coven of psykers who had been overworked to the point of mania. Yet, their guiding visions had allowed desperate fleets of Altansar vessels to attack and weaken their enemies just before they attacked. No invader was quite powerful enough to fully best Altansar, and every enemy that tried always came back bloodied and battered. Every year, Abaddon would send his newest generals to cut their teeth on Altansar. Most died, but those that didn’t learned fast, and made other worlds suffer soon enough.

Yet the Eldar of Altansar, for the most part were not monsters, as the old Craftworld civilization would have them portrayed. Most still worshiped their old gods, and looked to Khaine for defence against the Annihilator. In the highest echelons of the leadership of Altansar, there were hidden groups, rumored to be led by the Farseer Malytaes, with ties to Old Commorrite Noble Houses (and secret portals leading to the dark city), and possible links to the dreaded ‘Council of Old Follies’ (more upon these terrible beings in a later section, when I have built up the courage to depict them). However, this was the silent minority in a race of stalwart warriors.

The most notable of their invasions was also one of its last (last before the spectacular final year of M55, when men walked upon the silver skin and when nothing in the galaxy could ever be the same again...). The last great siege of Altansar was not precipitated by some dread daemon or blasphemous entity, but by two figures more deadly than either. The Wolf and the Raven; the two Primarchs of the wilderness attacked Altansar, with all the power and cunning they could muster.

They preceded their attack with dozens of smaller assaults and skirmishes across a wide area of space. The over-worked farseers struggled to define which attack was pivotal in the coming conflict. Corax led his Weregeld on raids against neighboring chaos warlords, who in turn spilled across Eldar defenses, while Russ lured enemies towards him, and made the attacks he committed look like the work of random raiders, not the coordinated ploys of a master general.

Slowly but surely, the roving bands of beasts managed to close upon Altansar with their stolen vessels, and Altansar was almost unprepared for the eventual strike which came out of the blue.

It began with refueling ships entering the system en mass. Defensive weaponry blasted them into flaming blasts, but these blasts concealed the dagger-like form of long-dead Tychellus’ battlecruiser, as it ploughed through the gaping wound in the craftworld’s port side. The ship wrecked itself in one of the ash gardens of the upper levels, and like rain, the Wulfen descended from this high point down into Altansar’s bowels.

However, Altansar had the perfect response to terrifying close combat opponents; they fought them at range. Millions of Reaper missiles screeched into the Wulfen and wild-human allies of Russ and Corax, and once more Altansar burned with war.

Amazingly, the human forces had vehicles and guns never before seen by Eldar or possibly even the old Imperium; the Primarchs, despite their near-feral lifestyle, still had the ability and the knowledge to create weapons and war machines of such quality they were only slightly weaker than true Imperial vehicles. Those this was truly impressive, their weapons were still rather ramshackle, and the war-hardened skimmers of Altansar hunted their armor through the bone-groves with wild glee. The Aspect of the Vaunted Warhorse (an Aspect unique to Altansar, based upon the art of Falcon Grav-Tank warfare) led these hunts from their beautifully-crafted skimmers, destroying each human tank and APC with the perfect execution.

Russ and Corax were not interested in conquering Altansar. They both converged upon the Autarch’s Dome of Sapphire. Here was where the leadership of Altansar dwelt, and where the majority of their portal chambers and soulstone vaults were to be found. As The Primarchs approached, wraithguard and gliding Titans folded into their path, as the Autarch Arius the Stinging Song altered his fluid battle plan to accommodate the terrifying force of the Primarchs. Any warriors or vehicles that stood in their path were destroyed with almost casual ease, and it was only when the D-weapons of the Eldar constructs appeared that the Primarchs were forced on the defensive. They had to dodge and flee from the scouring warp weapons, lest their bodies be destroyed utterly. In the end it was Russ who bested these foes, by drawing them into the dome of crystal seers. The Titans refused to fire inside the chamber, as did the wraithguard. Russ outflanked them inside, and he climbed the titans in turn, ripping their pilots away as he howled insanely. His captured bonesword blazed with the fire of his soul, and it consumed the bodies of those it slew. Eventually, he stood atop a pile of broken wraithbone and ruined Eldar flesh. It was only when he heard the thunderous footfalls of the Avatar that he stopped his grinning, and turned to face a true foe.

Meanwhile, Corax entered the Dome of Sapphire undetected, his shadowy form slipping between the guard patrols effortlessly. When he finally revealed himself, it was only to rip the Autarch asunder, before he slew all his disciples. The farseers, despite their ethereal and aloof natures, grew truly afraid as Corax advanced upon them. Only Malytaes seemed utterly unfazed by the bestial Primarch. He merely smiled upon Corax, before he slipped from the chamber.

Lightning and psychic force blossomed across Corax, but he would not be denied. The magicks of the farseers were failing to stop the post-human demigod. Then, a flight of reaper missiles struck his flank in a catastrophic blast, flinging the Primarch away with a screech. From the rising smoke stepped ten Dark Reapers, clutching their steaming weapons with grim finality.

Russ cross blades with the blazing giant, swelling to match the metal warlord in stature as he grew more engorged with warp power. The two beings clashed like dueling gods, destroying everything in the way of their fight. The screaming spear of the Avatar met the bonesword, and their energies fought for supremacy as much as their owners did.

Altansar’s Avatar was a true monster; fed on an endless diet of death and destruction, until it was a true reflection of Khaine as the demented nightmare he had always been before Slannesh was even a dream. Wailing Doom moved faster than a man’s mind could follow, and almost faster than a Primarch’s. Suddenly, as Russ’ alien sword was turned aside, the Avatar thrust his bloody hand forwards, and grabbed the wolf king by the throat. Russ roared in pain as the fragment of Khaine turned his blood into boiled vapor in his veins, and cooked the flesh around his neck.

Slowly, Russ’s strength seemed to wane, and he was slowly hoisted into the air, before he was unceremoniously slammed into the ground with enough force to splinter the ground beneath him for forty meters in every direction. Russ made to stand, but a burning boot slammed his head into the ground once more as it stamped down. Briefly stunned, the Khaine-like abomination turned, sensing Corax.

Corax had recovered from the missile assault almost immediately, his power whip taking the heads of most of the reapers with one flick of its coils. The Avatar saw him, through all the walls and bulkheads separating them, and across the half a mile expanse between them. With an inhuman howl, it cast its spear at Corax. The blade punched through a dozen walls and wraithbone struts, before it stabbed Corax in the shoulder. The giant was more surprised than hurt, but surprise turned to alarm when the Avatar called its spear back to its hand. The weapon instantly retracted, dragging Corax back with it. When it finally returned to the statue’s grasp, it swept the blade up, and flicked Corax from the tip. He slammed to earth with similar force to Russ. Molten steel flowed from its open jaws like daemonic saliva as it hungered for further combat.

It had become too powerful. The souls of the dying and the dead were fueling it, feeding its rampages. The wraithbone of the craftworld glowed a dull red, as if it was conducting its insanity into its own heart. Eldar across the craftworld dropped their weapons, clawing at their eyes and the eyes of their fellows as they snarled and cursed with murderous hate. Their blood thundered through their veins, until they heard naught but the rushing of it, and saw nothing but the red of the ruptured blood vessels in their eyes.

Corax and Russ realized something was wrong with the Avatar. They had to destroy it now. Together they assaulted it from multiple angles. But the creature was too powerful; it was fueled by something else, something powerful. In their minds, Russ and Corax saw images of a dismembered body, crawling back together. Viscera and intestines knitting back into a single body. A crown of steel and a hand of red.

They battled the Avatar with all their might, and eventually forced it back towards its Shrine. But with a final flare of power, the Avatar threw them backwards. It gripped its spear ever more tightly, as it growled in a hate borne of some terrible truth. Then it screamed. A burning line of blinding light raced up its torso, from its groin up to the top of its head. The line was the tip of a blade, erupting from its molten flesh. With a final hideous roar of frustration, the Avatar fell, bisected perfectly. The two halves of the statue struck the ground with dual clangs, inert and lifeless. The entire craftworld seemed to shudder, and cool.

Standing behind the fallen Avatar stood a grim figure in armor of pitch and bone, a gleaming scythe clutched in his grip. The Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra stood before them now. He was silent, and simply stared at them with a passionless skull mask. He was barely taller than a human, yet his presence equally matched that of the Primarchs. Russ and Corax’s true target and purpose upon Altansar had at last appeared.

“I thought an attack upon your homeland would draw you here. In elder days, I would have ripped the eyes from anyone foolish enough to defile Fenris. You think like a man of honor,” Russ grinned, and he loosened his joints as if preparing for a sparring match. Corax merely glared as Ra from beneath his mess of bedraggled black hair.

Russ tossed aside his bonesword, and drew the blade Ulfskarl; a blade he had fashioned for himself while in exile.

“Let us see if the sagas of your deeds are as justified as mine,” Russ stated simply, before charging towards Maugan Ra.

Maugan Ra shot him. Dozens of perfectly placed shuriken, that struck him in every one of his yet to be healed wounds from fighting the Avatar. Russ dropped as if winded, falling to his knees across the steps leading to the Shrine. Corax closed the distance more quickly than Russ, but Ra caught him with a volley from Maugetar, which caught his shoulder wound, thus causing him to flinch and narrowly miss Maugan Ra when his charge reached the Phoenix Lord. Ra stepped aside, and deflected the Raven’s power lash with a flick of his scythe. With a thunderclap of discharge, the two weapons recoiled from one another. At point blank range, Maugetar fired directly into Corax a hundred times. This was enough to stagger even the Lord of the Raven Guard, who fell back slightly.

“I like him,” Russ laughed, as he pounded his fist into the craftworld’s hull with the force of a vengeful titan. The force of the shockwave unsteadied Ra for a moment, and that was all Russ needed. He rushed the Phoenix Lord, and slammed his shoulder into him as he swept his blade around to finish the fight.

Ra rode the shoulder barge, and swayed aside to avoid the frostblade’s chilling touch. His own blade hooked behind Russ’ knee, and slashed away the tendons there. Russ backhanded Ra around the face, and the Lord was sent sprawling. Maugan rolled to his feet, his legs setting as he stood. Ignoring the immobility a normal man would have experienced, Russ too rose to his feet.

Russ raised his sword to point at Ra. Ra in turn, had his weapon aimed squarely at Russ’ neck. Russ knew if he lunged, he would be instantly killed; decapitated by a volley of screaming shuriken. But Ra did not shoot, for Corax stood at his side, his own sidearm pressed against the Lord’s Temple. Corax had outmaneuvered him, as the raven was perfectly suited to do.

A stand-off.

Leman Russ raised his hands in a placating manner.

“This gets us nowhere. You know why we have come, Reaper,” Russ explained, and Ra knew then that Russ spoke the truth. He did know why they had come to Altansar, just to gain an audience with him.

Ra lowered his cannon, and Corax soon followed suit. Maugan Ra walked away from the Shrine’s steps, gesturing for the Primarchs to follow him. It was only then that Corax noticed that his sidearm had a shuriken lodged in its firing mechanism. Maugan Ra had already disarmed him, before he had even drawn the pistol. Russ quelled his brother’s wrath, and bade him to follow him after the Eldar warrior.

For only Maugan Ra could help them enter Commorragh. Only Ra could help them save the last surviving member of their broken family...

Additional Background Section 20: The Tales of the Phoenix Lords [Part Three][edit]

[Open visual field:]

Interior, Archive of Shriven Plains.

Shelving distorting. Query: melting? Incorrect.

Chronicler returns to upload station, carrying heavy load of tomes (speculation: scrolls and vellum). Reverberating tone throughout archive.]

I have saved what I can. I fear the last armfuls of knowledge I have just pulled from the contamination is enough.

[Slows breathing]

Must remain calm. I have to impart this knowledge clearly as possible. I can’t let my pain give way to malicious bias. These threads of fate are special.


Breathe... regulate... stabilize...

Log; begin upload.

[Uploading. Visual query for storage: Is chronicler alone? System detects second life sign in chamber...]

Additional Background Section 20: The Phoenix Lords (Cont’d):

Karandras and the Fallen Phoenix.

Much of the Shadow Warrior’s history is lost to the natural stealthy and elusive nature of the Phoenix Lord himself. He moved unseen through across the battlefields and bone yards of the galaxy, ending the lives of the evil or simply the powerful. Many are the accounts of generals and whole divisions of soldiers being butchered in the midst of battles, or unexpectedly slain by shifting green shades in the depths of jungle roads.

He emerged but rarely into the light of history throughout the chronicle accounts. There are only two occasions when this was the case. The first was when he was discovered inside the central chamber of a Krork hulk, and only the concerned effort of all the ‘War of the Krork’ soldiers on board the vessel which forced the Phoenix Lord to depart, but not before recapturing the huge gemstone the Krork elders had stored in their vaults, along with an entire library of Krork datacores, that documented the accumulated knowledge the Krork had on the creatures whose names had long been lost. These entities were the so-called ‘Old Ones’; the term granted to the First Races to evolve upon planets.

The second time was through his own choice. He chose to challenge his wayward mentor for the third time in their long existence. The First time had been during the fall of the first Temple, where Arhra turned upon his brethren, and Karandras had had to turn from his master in order to drive him out. The second time was during the Age of the Mon keigh Imperium, in the temple of the Slicing Orbs of Zandros; an indecisive duel in which neither warrior could gain the upper hand. The third clash was different. Both Lords had expanded their powers greatly since their last encounter, swelled by the captured souls of their willing servants and followers until they were luminous beings barely contained by their ornate runic armour.

Arhra sent out a clear signal to his nemesis so Karandras could find him. Upon the xenos city-world of Intrazzi, a vast army of murderers and warriors had gathered, butchering the populace in evermore violent and cruel ways. This vast murder cult was billions strong, and headed by the silent Incubi, who discreetly lead the slaughter squads as they went about the business of killing everyone on the planet, be they the native aliens, or the human dignitaries and merchants who also made their home upon the vibrant trading hub on the south-west border between the Vulkan and Transgovian Imperiums. The world was located in the Rift of ‘Creed’s Command’, an artificially induced warp rift which protected the region somewhat from the Dragon’s ships at this juncture in galactic history.*

For some strange reason, the Incubi warriors had also caused the primary plasma reactors of the world city to go into meltdown. The reactor core, enhanced in its blazing power by a vial of exotic dark matter, burned down through into the mantle of the planet, until it created a titanic volcanic structure at the heart of the city, spreading a dense cloud of smog and ash across the entire world. Every day, forces from Commorragh and other pirate enclaves dragged in artefacts and strange objects, which were tossed into the molten core and there they ran fluid in the flaming heart of the planet.

Karandras made all speed to the system via the webway. But another force had beaten them to the planet. The refugees from the Necron-destroyed Transgovian Imperium had formed a mighty warfleet, supported by the allied Commanderies of the Bulls Repentant (formed from the smashed remnants of the Minotaurs, who had long ago placed an eternal penance upon themselves, for their part in the horrific Nyx Incident. Long may that event be remembered...) and the Fire Beasts, who themselves were supported by the Nocturne Legio Titanicus and the ‘Thunder Lizards’ Legion of tankers, in their powerful MkIII Blant Tanks. The Vulkan Imperium, under the emergency absolute rulership of Vulkan during the Dragon War, had promised the Transgovian remnants a place within his Imperium should they snatch back Creed’s Command from the heretics and maniacs who infested it. They had leapt at the chance with all the desperate courage of men who had nothing whatsoever to lose.

By the time Karandras reached Intrazzi, it was a vision of hell. Titans and tanks duelled with the captured defence guns of the city, and the huge dark Eldar Void Barges, that hung in low orbit as they pounded their foes with vast dark lances and void munitions that swallowed whole companies of their foes.

The human khainites were bedecked in spiked and bladed armour in crude imitation of their alien masters, and fought with psychotic glee with chainblades, lashes axes and swords of a wild variety. Kabalites fought alongside them, occasionally maiming one of their Mon Keigh allies, just to see the look of confused betrayal on their faces.

By all rights of course, the battle for the planet should have been won easily by the Vulkan-loyalists. However, the other side had Drazhar Arhra on their side. Intrazzi was infested with tainted webway portals that criss-crossed its surface with endless complexity. From these passages, the Phoenix Lord of the Incubi struck at the enemy from all sides. His demi-klaives ended lives with every blow. Tanks were immobilised and carved open by the consummate killer, before he filled the vehicles with a psychic onslaught which melted the men within into the hull itself. He fought without honour, striking foes in the back or blinding them just before a fight. His power was staggering and terrifying in equal measure, for he was being powered not only by his captured souls of fallen Incubi, but by the pain and suffering of everyone on the surface of the churning, industrial hell.

The Lord High Emperor of Transgovia was killed after a single dismissive blow of Arhra, and his elite half-ogryn bodyguards followed him minutes later. Amber lightning pierced the red and grey ash clouds over the city, and the streets literally flowed with blood and broken bones. Khornate daemons were drawn to the feast, alongside Khymerae and their beastmasters and a crazed assortment of warp-creatures we still don’t have names for. The Transgovians carried on with relentless determination, heedless of their mounting casualties. Went their banners fell or their commanders were broken, others stepped over their bodies and picked up the banners from cold dead hands.

The tide was against Arhra’s men, but he cared not for his mortal dupes. They craved a bloody end, and the Fire beasts in particular seemed all too willing to oblige. Always the most ruthless of the Commanderies, the Fire beasts broke their enemies with savage glee, ripping them apart with their hands in some cases.

And the titans walked. It was a spectacular sight according to surviving witnesses. Dozens of giants stomped across the field; Warhounds, Warlords and even their command Titan (the Imperator known as ‘Tychus Rex’) crossed the city like bespoke gods. Their scorching beams and megaton warheads scoured life from the planet in vast conflagrations of nuclear force. Defense emplacements were burned to bedrock, and millions died under their relentless bombardments. Tanks were nothing to them, and they crushed them beneath their huge heels like beetles. The Nocturne Legio had been created at the behest of Vulkan at the beginning of his Imperium. They were the battle-scarred veterans of the frontlines of hundreds of campaigns. At this time, the Legio had only just returned from a long stint on the frontlines against the Dragon, and were under-manned. Nevertheless, they were devastating on this battlefield. Karandras burst from his webway portal in silence, backed by his Exarchs. The first beings that leapt at him were Flesh hounds that rattled their frills as they sought to rip him asunder. They died within seconds and Karandras was already rushing through the bloody mist of their corpses before they had a chance to sink their claws into flesh.

He carved a path through Imperial and cultist alike, on a direct beeline towards the colossal volcano that the Titans were attempting to scale as it towered over even the tallest spires. It was topped with a dark crown of a fortress. This was where Karandras knew his foe would find him, and there was the only place where he could end it.

The sound of battle was a riotous booming that rattled the very earth. Whole blocks of alien towers toppled as the ground rippled beneath them. Karandras rode the buildings as they fell, leaping form one collapsing ruin to another with the grace and fluidity of a swooping bat. His cadre of Exarchs followed suit, claws snapping and chainblades purring hungrily.

And through all the thunderous cacophony of the swirling, endless war, there was a deeper rhythm; a great pulsing sound, just below mortal hearing. Thumping and rumbling with a regular beat...

Adderkavada, the Commander and Master of the Bulls Repentant, stood alone amidst the remnants of his battle brothers’ ruined predator hulls. His great fail flashed with lethal energies as he held off a dozen Klaivex, led by one of the High Hierarchs of the Incubi temple. The Klaives and the power blades of the flail clashed in endless complexity as their energies discharged in all directions. It was said the battle looked like a living thunderstorm, as power field lightning flashed within the billowing smoke and dust clouds whipped up by the combat. He held back the Incubi, as his men clashed with the speeding raiders that sought to outflank the Transgovians.

Adderkavada knew he was doomed but he fought on. He lost a leg, and fought on. He was cut and slashed in a dozen places, but he fought on. Some (spurious) legends claim he fought on after the Hierarch beheaded him with a scissoring flourish of his demi-klaives, and lived long enough to bisect the offending eldar before he too perished.

Kaa, the Captain of the Fire beasts, fought his way to his thunderhawk, and flew the machine personally through the chaos of the battle, directly towards the looming Volcano that sought to pierce heaven. As he flew towards the fiery summit, he was intercepted by a great beast that soared on terrible pinions. The Captain felt heavy hooves crashed against the roof of his flyer, followed by the hideous shriek of metal being torn away by a great burning axe head. The roof was torn away, and the leering daemon plunged into the hold. The Fire Beast Chapter watched from afar as the aerial drama unfolded. A bloodthirster of Khorne, drawn to Intrazzi by the waves of hate and anger radiating out into the warp, had leapt upon the thunderhawk, to prevent any interruption of the ritual within. (At this point, it would be foolish not to acknowledge the overlap between Khaine and Khorne, though so many eldar have long tried to deny it.)

Kaa’s command squad, who flew with him, took up their weapons, and prepared to face the embodiment of rage with their own form of bestial wrath. They looked up through the torn roof, and they climbed out to clash with the hulking daemon that stood upon the wings of the Astartes flier defiantly.

Karandras reached the summit first. The temple-fortress was guarded in all approaches by the Incubi; the Aspect killers. The hate for the fallen ones was incandescent amongst the Striking Scorpions, and they fought like men possessed (and, I suppose, they were precisely that in a way...).

The temple, which was filled with winding, complex gantries that crossed between vast reservoirs and rivers of siphoned magma, became an arena for a hundred separate duels and battles; some where Incubi and Scorpion were evenly matched, others where several Incubi fought one Scorpion, and vice versa. The hellishly hot chambers resounded with the sounds of blade upon blade, and the exultant howling of Incubi, or the wet gurgles of slain ones. Karandras moved through them like oil. Most of those he killed didn’t raise a blade against him, for they didn’t realise he had even struck them until he passed them by, and they collapsed into a dozen pieces. These fights were afterthoughts to the Phoenix Lord; only reaching the inner sanctum of this abomination mattered.

What he found was horrific.

The inner chamber was a mesh of bridges that spanned a half-kilometre caldera that fumed with molten rock dredged up from the bowels of the earth, held in place only by a forcefield. The bridges were built of bone and the old metal of the once proud city, fused by a lattice of ugly veins that pumped ichors throughout the unnatural forest of gantries. Upon the bridges, gangs of slaves struggled to carry hundreds upon hundreds of statues of dark metal. Once they reached the desired location, their masters would butcher them, and cast them and the statues into the fire, their screams nectar to the bladed fiends that cackled with glee. The walls were lined with skins; the living skins of the previous occupants of this world. The purple hides of the creatures undulated and gurgled with disgusting, impossible life. The living tapestries were branded and cut by the Dark Eldar, who revelled in the depravity of the desecration. The descending crater of the volcano was a forest of jutting rocks and serrated fangs. It was like no volcanic structure every known. It was more like some fetid womb of a daemon spawn

But this was not the worst sin Karandras witnessed.

The Hierarchs stood at the edge of the blazing spectacle, and they opened their soultraps, unleashing all the aspect warrior souls ensnared by them over the millennia. These mournful ghosts surged into the molten horror below. At the heart of the volcanic structure, the thunderous rhythm was impossibly loud yet inaudible to those who had no connection to Him.

To Khaine.

Karandras threw himself wordlessly into combat. He cut down everyone he could find, be they slave or Incubi, Kabalite or Corsair. He only paused when Arhra finally showed himself.

Arhra had fallen far in the years since his original creation. His ornate armor glowed with a dark light in the spaces between plates. A complex headdress of interlinking horns adorned his narrow war mask, which looked almost gaunt in the flickering light of the lava-fire. His Demi-Klaives were gripped like mantis claws in his gauntlets. Mantis faced down Scorpion across the expanse.

Drazhar Arhra, famous for never uttering a single word, raised his hand and took over the mind of a lesser eldar, who sudden writhed in terror as his vocal chords were manipulated by the silent menace

“You came,” Arhra forced him to state in a voice so deep and unnaturally resonant, it easily carried across the vast distance between them.

“I did. What is rising here shall not. It is a twisted shade of a God long gone.”

“Nay, He shall be born anew; a god raised from the ruins. You should be proud, for he is reborn as a Phoenix should; from the ashes.”

Karandras shook his head. “The thing that resides here is not Khaine. It is a fractured, mad thing. A thing born into madness and destruction without focus or control. The Master of death saw this upon Altansar. I saw it within the datacores of the Krork,” the Phoenix Lord explained coldly, his voice a silken whisper compared to Arhra’s.

“And that is not Khaine? You cast me out, so long ago, when I was Khaine’s most loyal follower. Your Aspect temples are tainted by Asuryan and his nobility. Do you so readily forget the name Kaela Mensha Khaine? The bloody handed god! The kin-slayer, whose most famous act was the slaying of an eldar hero! I do him homage!”

“You follow the Aspect of the Murderer. The eldar must be more than this. This cannot come to pass.”

Arhra’s response hasn’t been recorded, but the two beings soon clashed, on the overlapping bridges that loomed over the volcano’s mouth. Karandras’ maniblaster was utterly harmless to his foe, pattering against his armored skin like drizzle. His shuriken pistol likewise had little effect. The battle came down to blades and claws.

The chainsword, the snapping claw and the slicing Klaive blades. They exchanged a wild flurry of blows, and each flourish of swirling arcing patterns was ever more complex. Those blows that missed carved through bridge after bridge, sending the ruins clattering into the lake of fire. They leapt like acrobats between the remaining bridge spars and mangled remains of railings, crackling energy fields rebounding with concussive repetition.

For all Karandras’ skill and subtly, he could not overcome the terrible power of Arhra. He realised then, as he was battered from pillar to pillar, from bridge to bridge by his former master, that he could not hope to best the dark father alone.

The thunderhawk, meanwhile, plummeted to the ground in a shower of flames and debris. The impact threw the Bloodthirster across the sloping ash plain, but also crippled many of the command squad. Only the Captain managed to haul himself to his feet. His left arm was torn away, but his right still clutched a storm bolter, which he fired relentlessly at the towering red fiend. The damson howled in pain as the bolts struck, but it didn’t even stagger the creature. With a hideous roar, it prepared to charge.

Then a deeper, louder roar drowned its own out. The Bloodthirster turned, only to be suddenly struck by the descending foot bastion of the Tychus Rex. It blared another discordant bellow from its war horn as it held the daemon pinned, while its bastion gunners fired everything they had at the struggling monster.

From the unnamed captain’s report, he watched as the Tychus Rex began to scale the volcano itself, one bone shuddering footstep at a time, volcano cannon blazing, while missiles streamed from its shoulder bastions, and its vast combat weapon roared with a deafening voice. Its armour was rent and torn by constant Ravager assaults, but it remained unbowed.

The engine marched.

The duel of the Phoenix Lords was interrupted by events that occurred in the volcano below. The molten abomination beneath them began to rise. The first thing to emerge was a titanic claw, wreathed in blood and smoke. But it was not Khaine. The churning nightmare was metal and fire and covered in screaming, angry faces, but it could not settle upon a form as it rose from the summit at speed. All the bridges were dashed into atoms as the metal flood erupted from the mountain.

A swirling column of silver punched its way skywards, till it appeared to be a mighty steel tornado.

The Princeps of the Tychus Rex was the only one to see the entirety of the abomination form the chin of his titan. It quivering hands he raised his vox pack to his lips, and signalled to the Fire Beast Captain to signal a full retreat. He ordered the Astartes to get as many people off the planet and away from there as possible.

“This is Tychus Rex. Wideband signal to all Engines and supporting units in area; fall back. The target cannot be fought.”

“Then what are you going to do?” the captain responded on his vox.

“Us? We’re going to fight it! All weapons load for bear!” was the last known transmission of the Tychus Rex. It was claimed the Princeps was driven mad by the creature, or possibly his Titan’s machine spirit had invaded his own mind. However, I believe he decided to fight in order to save his Legio and his allies from the thing which was Khaine

The forces of the Imperiums did retreat, as too did the eldar forces, in the wake of the thing they had given life to. The records of the Emperor Titan’s final battle are sketchy. The mountain was wreathed in smoke and fire, and it constantly blossomed with colours of a million different hues. This continued for well over an hour, before a great blazing sword was seen carving through the cloud, and all signals from the Titan went dead.

[Warning! Runic defenses are down! Incursion imminent! Sentinels are being summoned!]

Little human! So limited by his frailties of knowledge. I know of the battle. I tasted the battle! The Titan dueled a God that day! A true god, in all its terrible majesty. I saw the whirring teeth of a blade larger than a castle’s turret, lock with the screaming blade of a caged devil. The giant of molten hate stepped from the torrent unblemished by heat. Its words were a stream of hellish language that scorched the hull of the Rex.

I felt its crew massacring one another in its bowels, like maggots turned feral in desperate hunger. I saw its weapons fire with the blinding light of suns, boring holes through a god incarnate. It pressed ahead against the God of all War like a wrestler in a hopelessly outmatched gladiatorial contest. The fierce animal heart of the titan struggled to burst free of its artificial moorings; to rip the god-Bloody Handed apart with its non-existent fangs

Karandras and Arhra went missing, though it is obvious they survived the encounter. Fool on a throne of ignorant knowledge. Shields himself in knowing, but he fears to look into the Architect’s face; the great Schemer, who sees all and knows all. I alone can see the turn of the fates. I saw what no mortal being saw, on that field of bones and pain.

As the God of war broke the back of the God-Machine, the Phoenix Lords took to the skies. They climbed the two burning combatants. They clashed between the vast battlements of the Titan. They even braved the apocalyptic flesh of Khaine as they climbed. Karandras’ armour was torn and fuming with leaking energies. The Dark Father burned with his dark light. His blades screamed as they severed the air itself in their haste to kill.

Every clash of blades was a detonation of such monumental force it floored both combatants. The Scorpion, in his desperation, struck the fallen a mighty blow with his boot, sending the Fallen crashing through the eyes of the god-machine and into its mind. He followed suit, but the Fallen was the faster. His blades turned aside Karandras’, and dealt him a dozen mortal blows, that would have slain anything that lived. But Karandras had not been alive, truly, for millennia. But his armor clattered to the ground, dust pumping form the grievous wounds.

As a reflex of his terrible nature, Arhra reached out and destroyed the Titan crew, sweeping his blades about himself with such speed they died before they could even scream.

But he could not finish Karandras. As he advanced upon him, he felt the strings of fate that linked all the Lords of the Phoenix. He felt all his brothers and sisters turn their psychic gazes towards him. The weight of prophecy loomed large, and the flames of the psychic backlash made the Dark father afraid. This was not the time; the Rhana Dhandra was not risen, and the Last Good Man had not silenced the ever-bitter son. Mon Keigh had not trod the silver skin of a God, and the Gate did not beckon. The warp fluctuated, and Arhra recoiled. He saw a Phoenix; titanic and incandescent, screeching for his defeat. This was not how he was to die either. In desperation, he called out to whatever god would listen to his plea. Khaine was deaf to his pleas, for the thing which rose was not Khaine. He knew that now.

In that instant of savage realization, time and the warp folded into one; a perfect moment of timeless horror. Arhra was alone. He realised that now. For so long, he had been called the champion of chaos and he had rejected that path. He had called himself the last true Khainite; the perfect killer, and nothing else. But he was more than a Drazhar; more than a Master of Blades. He had a greater destiny. The Farseers had been right, in a fashion. He did burn with the Dark Light of Chaos. But he was no pawn.

He was the gatekeeper to the Well of Eternity. He was the point of calm at the heart of the pattern.

In that moment, reality convulsed again, and some mighty force ripped him from reality, saving him from the Revenant entity conjured by the Phoenix Lords.

He was taken to-

[Runic defenses re-initialized.]

Of the liquid metal entity which beheaded Intrazzi’s artificial mountain, not a great deal is known.

What is known is that the vast warship the Commorrites were rebuilding, the Wailing Doom, vanished a few months later with no explanation.

  • Note: This section has numerous references to the Dragon War. This was a recent cataclysmic conflict, following Ahriman’s weakening of the Void Dragon’s prison. Upon being freed of his prison, the Dragon instantly sent ships to every corner of the galaxy. Within five minutes, he had begun to lay siege to the capital worlds of almost five thousand Empires and Imperiums, including Seraph Nox, Armageddon, the Licentious Bastille, Macragge, Cadia, Terra Nova, the besieged inner-Sept worlds of T’au, the Octavarian Krork Holds and many more, whilst simultaneously activating many of his dormant Dragon cultists and Tomb Worlds across the galaxy. For reference, subsequent chapters will obviously make extensive reference to this continuing event, which happened concurrently to the other major events that shaped the destiny of all at this time. I do not wish to recall these times, but I must. I must tell you everything. It is imperative you know the face of the foe of Life, and learn its ways. How else can we win? How else can we-

Wait, what is that?

[Image feed initializing. Attempting to identify anomalous visual readings. ‘Melting’ effect more pronounced. Query: humanoid? Query: Query? Multi-limb form approaches. No recognition. Files not on record. Chronicler backs away from distortion, which unfurls many limbs/appendages/phenomena.]

No! No! Draziin-maton! Back!

[Weapon Discharge. No noticeable effect.]

[Record degrading. Emergency! Emergency!]

[Visual feed corruption. Serpents loose on archive floor! Temperature reaching maximum levels! Multiple contacts- Zero contacts. Lowest temperature. Absolute zero! Incorrect! Entity advances. It wants to be born. It wants to exisssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss####ERROR-ERROR-ERROR...]

[D-cannon discharge. Second beam engages target. Third beam engages target. Entity (unknown-classify: ‘Draziin-Maton) is destroyed. Volume reaching 100000 Decibels. ALERT!]

[Entity: query. Chamber is clear. No unauthorized entity detected. Only Chronicler and two new arrivals, designated subject 1=Krork Soldier-bred Gorverial, and subject 2=Brother Captain Tolrego.]

[Chronicler talks with two figures for a few moments, before they depart.]


I... pause and run diagnostic through the chronicles’ systems.

[Running Diagnostic.]

[Chronicle Paused.]

Additional Background Section 21: The Final Phoenix [Part Four][edit]

Asurmen, the Hand of Asuryan; Lord of the Dire Avengers Aspect.

Asurmen, the first of the Phoenix Lords, led the most Exarchs of his brethren. He visited every one of the dead craftworlds. He searched the ruins, slaying any who sought to defile the empty tombs. Some say he was following the aspect of the Phoenix; trying to figure out a means to release Ynnead from its limbo, trapped within the Infinity Matrix of souls. There was a story which told of an ancient trickster king of the Ulthran clan, who had been swallowed whole by a Slanneshi leviathan, but that his fingertips had been severed by the beast’s jaws, and had maintained an anchor within the realm of the living; these fingertips became jewels, which were absent from the ruby scepter of the Queen of the Dead; without which, she could not break free into the endless labyrinth. We cannot know whether Asurmen knew these tales (or possibly, whether he started them). We do know that he inspired valor and bravery wherever he went, even among those who were not children of Isha. He had the bearing of a King, not merely a Lord among Phoenixes.

He followed the calling implied by his Temple’s name. He was the Avenger; fighting with valor and honor as he bested the greatest champions of fetid empires, or slew their Tyrant kings upon their thrones. He brought the empire of Fallen names down in a day; a single shuriken cutting the precise artery which caused the towering daemon engine which ruled the world to collapse in upon itself, crushing its entire army beneath its bulk. In a spectacular move, he led an entire flight of Exodite Dragon riders against the Slaugth Empire, and shattered its power forever. How he managed to transport the Exodites fully ten thousand light years across the galaxy to reach the Callixis sector from the northern reaches of the galaxy is unknown, for no known Webway gates led there.

Asurmen, unlike his fellow Asuryata, made no secret of his movements across the galaxy. He moved between the incredibly sparse Eldar fleets, and where he arrived, the enemy died. Much of the time, he had no need to draw the sword of Asur at all; his skill with the shuriken was unmatched across the entire galaxy.

At some point in the latter centuries of the 55th millennium, he sought out a small Empire of allied aliens, deep within a hidden region of space (called the Veiled Region Belt to humanity). This Empire, the Heketamon, had been at war with a most bizarre foe for countless centuries.

The Thyrrus were a truly alien race of squid-like entities, bedecked in elaborate and complex costumes. They fought with weapons of exquisite beauty and confusing application. When Asurmen arrived in the system at the head of a flight of unmanned Ghostships, what he saw was simultaneously beautiful and tragic. Entire worlds were engulfed by wars that spread a profusion of fantastic lights and fires across their surface. When Asurmen descended into the atmospheres of these worlds, the beauty of the light-shows projecting into space paled in comparison to the wonderful din of the war against the Thyrrus. The artillery strikes of both the Thyrrus and their foes seemed to be modulated and directed so they accompanied each other perfect. Base notes of throaty macro shells countered the delirious chorus of high pitched laser batteries and streaking hypersonic weapons. Weapons of pure sound blasted buildings into ruins, which fell in an exact pattern each time.

From low orbit, the Phoenix Lord could see that even the corpses and fallen formed a pattern; poetry had been written across the crust itself. Ancient legends, of the Old Eldar Empire and other prehistoric species’ myths were emblazoned in cursive script spanning kilometers. His Exarchs were almost overcome with the orchestral wonder of the scenes below, for the souls of the dead were mingled with the spectacle in obscene combinations that tugged the heart strings and inflamed the humors.

Only Asurmen seemed unmoved; his slender arms folded across his chest forcefully. He ordered his vessels to scan the systems of the Heketamon and find the largest concentration of Thyrrus.

The Heketamon were losing the war, but could not understand why. Their tactics were sound, they fell back when necessary, their pressed their advantages where the enemy was thinnest. Nothing seemed to work.

On the world of Illustris, their ruling council had been entrenched for almost a millennium. They didn’t understand how their final major fortress kept their bewildering foe at bay, but they were thankful for it. Asurmen could see why they had survived however. From the air, their last fortress, built and rebuilt according to the concentration of assaults striking particular areas of the fort, was formed into a titanic, stylized face. A face half white, half black, surrounded by a spider’s web. The symbol of the Laughing God.

Asurmen wasted no more time looking upon this work of demented theatricality. He flung himself from low-orbit, plummeting directly towards the Thyrrus hordes. His gauntlet avenger catapults unleashed a storm of glittering shuriken rain upon the colorful monsters. As he fell, banners and cloak flapping about his armored form, he linked his mind with his ghostships and Exarchs, informing them instantly of his designs for the coming battle.

The corpses of the soft-bodied squids built up beneath him, while their spectacular weaponry pierced the sky with a forest of luminescence in a vain effort to destroy him. When he finally slammed into the ground, his final descent was cushioned by a thousand soft Thyrrrus corpses, that exploded as he crashed into them at terminal velocity, followed swiftly by the grav-tanks of his Exarch followers.

As a tide of glittering Thyrrus ichor splashed over the horde, Asurmen was already moving, the Diresword Tethesis in hand, while his catapults filleted any who even thought to raise a weapon against him.

The sword was alive, and responded to Asurmen’s thoughts with empathy only a brother could know. The blade severed Thyrrus bodies with every arcing stroke and energized thrust. Within moments, the Thyrrus force was already spreading outwards, away from the eternal warrior.

As he fought, the Ghostships fired according to Asurmen’s orders, burning away millions of Thyrrus with their precise pulsar bursts and vibrocannon barrages. To the defenders of the planet, this assault was as baffling as that of the Thyrrus monsters; their mysterious ally had picked an apparently arbitrary point to attack the squids. There was no strategy to this.

Little did they know that the destruction Asurmen wrought was tightly controlled and purposefully limited. From above, it was obvious. He was carving the Eldar tale of the Asuryana into the Thyrrus horde, in blood and blackened corpses.

Once he had completed his attack/artwork, he called out the servants of the Laughing God in a loud voice, before throwing his sword towards an empty patch of sky just above the remaining Thyrrus. The sword of Asur... stuck.

The Thyrrus paused, turning as one towards the sword, which had pierced a patch of air just above their heads. Moments later, the holofield unfurled before the assembled crowds’ eyes, revealing the wondrous Eldar grav-barge that was anchored there. In a single bound, Asurmen leapt towards the craft, using his sword as a stepping stone onto the hull, before he pulled it free with a whine of ruptured psycho-plastic.

“Enough of this, you harlequin dolts.” He stated simply.

The Eldar within allowed Asurmen to enter the vessel. But these creatures were not Harlequins. They were a far rarer faction; the impossibly-ancient Choral players of Cegorach. These strange beings were not mute, as the mimes of the Harlequin troupes. These beings spoke constantly, speaking the lyrics of an endlessly complex song without conclusion. After long hours of difficult attempts at communication, the dour Asurmen and the lilting, whimsical Chorus were eventually able to make themselves understood.

Amidst their rambling, Asurmen was able to discern that Cegorach was enjoying the plight of the galaxy, and that he had installed more and more distractions and conjurations to ‘improve the great display’.

Asurmen cursed them for their flippancy; Cegorach was the last of the Gods! He should be fighting and aiding his children, not dallying with cruel shows and oddities!

They enigmatically referred to the Harlequin God’s ‘dazzling displays’. They were too fool and to misdirect. The glittering lights were the facade; lights that cast a shadow. And in the shadow was where the tinkerer worked. The most cunning and ruthless of the First. So very secret he was, only the forgotten children of troglodyte still remembered him.

Asurmen realized the importance of this information, and thanked the Chorus. They responded with mocking laughter and derision; they claimed that when the truth finally unfolded across eternity’s well, the Phoenix Lord with a King’s mantle may not be so understanding. As Asurmen made to leave, they asked whether he would punish them, would he avenge those who had been wronged? He replied;

“No. But you have not wronged me... yet...”

And with that, he vanished; teleported back into his ghostship’s hold. It was only then that the Chorus realized their vessel was still uncloaked. Seconds later, a flight of Heketamon deathstrike missiles plunged into the Choral vessel in a blinding flash of white oblivion. This broke the back of the Thyrrus, and the counterattack could finally begin.

But the Lord of Dire Avengers was already looking to a different target; his new plan forming within his glorious golden mind. He journeyed into the heart of the Major Krork-hold of Vandergloin. This journey would have been impossible without the Webway; the only route not clogged with death and bloodshed. The warp was alive with warfleets, as they constantly criss-crossed the galaxy responding to incursion after incursion. Realspace was a confused realm of battles occurring across every sector in the galaxy; few ships could hope to cross the galaxy without being attacked by monolithic silver vessels, or torn apart by paranoid planetary defenses. 11 Nevertheless, Asurmen reached his target. He broke into the vaults, freeing a waifish human psyker from the slave pens beneath the central bastion. When confronted by the towering wardens, he (surprisingly) surrendered. He allowed himself to be directed towards the heart of the complex. Deep in a shadowy vault, stood a great throne room, filled with ten mighty thrones. Upon eight of the thrones, a psyker Krork creature (known to antiquity as ‘weirdboyz’) was sat. Their brains were plugged into some sort of matrix, which Asurmen could sense instantly. He felt the legendary ‘War Field’ of the Krork, pulsing through the chamber; the vigorous life-blood of an entire species. Asurmen saw other Krork, of the Mechanical class, fiddling with complex force field arrays around the thrones. These were Krork force fields; the most powerful and complex energy fields the galaxy had ever known. Even Necron force fields were not as powerful (though the Necrons have many other advantages over ‘The War of the Krork’, as demonstrated in other sections). The figures within the field were utterly safe from anything Asurmen, or indeed an entire warfleet, could throw at them. In addition, ten foot tall warrior class Krork beasts stood to attention all around the chamber, advanced energy and projectile weapons held close to their vast chests. Their leader was not present, for the planet was still being rocked by the renewed assaults of the Necrons, who were besieging this and indeed most of the Krork bastions in the galaxy at once.

The shivering psyker was terrified, but only marginally less terrified of the golden Phoenix Souls that clasped her shoulders gently, holding her steady in the face of the Krork. Upon the final two thrones sat two diminutive creatures. In another life they would be dismissed as snotlings, but in that period they were the most feared entities on the planet. These were the brains of the Krork war machine; the guiding force behind its great green might.

“Why, Eldar, do you plunder our vaults and presume to relieve us of our slaves?” the first asked, its voice oddly amplified by unknown means.

“I do the bidding of those who come first. Those who Linger.”

At Asurmen’s words, the Brainboys chuckled. “You did not meet those who came first. You are young. We fought at their side. And now, when we awoke after long in the wilderness of battle-lust, we found them all gone. All dead. Swallowed whole by your venereal madness!” the other brainboy growled, his voice instantly translated into the dialect of Ulthwe (for some reason).

Asurmen shook his head. “There are those that linger still. Who brought you out of the wilderness? Who fixed you?”

The Krorkish goblinoids waved their hands dismissively. “That trickster did not raise us from madness out of good will. He is a demented glimmer, spread out across the galaxy. He remade us to be another plaything in his selfish games; we are under no illusions about his motives. He meddled with the blue fiends just to see how the Sapiens would react; he crafted them as a taunt! He is a fool and a terror. We and we alone are the ones who remember why we are fighting this Long War against the Mirror-Devils. And we will fight! Fight and win! This is our purpose, ingrained on every single one of our fungal augment-warriors.”

Asurmen was quite for a moment before replying. “I do not speak of Cegorach. His purpose is not to unite and lead. It is to trick and distract; to confuse and confound. I speak of the shadow, that grows and lingers in the spaces between the light.”

Both sides knew who he referred to. The brainboys sniffed. “You are more deluded than I thought. He is dead, just as the others died.”

But Asurmen revealed the truth. The shadowy one, the unseen God, forgotten even in the old Eldar pantheons. Qah had long been active, even when shattered. However, at some point in the Second Age of Strife, unseen by all, he had been healed, and had begun to scheme and plot.

The brainboys scoffed at this, until Asurmen questioned them about their lighting; why did shadows linger in their own throne room, when they had the power to illuminate the room fully? Before they could answer, Asurmen used his inner constellation of souls to illuminate the chamber fully. Only his light could pierce the deepest shadows. For a few brief seconds, the chamber had no shade, revealing dozens of scuttling shapes, clad in mouldering suits of meat and chitin. Seconds later, the shadows returned, and the shadowy figures were gone; scuttling away in fear. The Hrud were Qah’s minions, and they were everywhere. They were the watchers, always in the dark. Ever vigilant, they noted everything they saw. While the Laughing God caused havoc, they moved in the wake of the chaos, manipulating and directing events without ever getting involved. They were maligned as a pest for thousands of years, but Asurmen revealed them for what they were.

(I suspect they even dwell in this place, though they seem content to let me continue this chronicle unmolested. To be honest, I do not fear them. I fear the Draziin-Maton, and what they plan on doing. But I must continue.)

His actions proved to the Brainboys that Asurmen was honest and they reluctantly let him leave with his psyker prize. The girl was a particular kind of psyker; a sort of telepathic ‘battery’, she could store the dying recollections of any living thing which had passed away into the sea of souls. This had driven her insane, but it made her useful to the Phoenix Lord (whom she continually called ‘King Fire-Bird’ despite his stoic condemnation of this nickname.)

His next destination was a realm which had survived and thrived for twenty thousand years on the blood of men and the screaming madness of superhuman monsters. His target was Baal, the Throneworld of the Bloodknights, and the lair of the first of their number.

If Asurmen wished to further his enigmatic scheme, Mephiston and his twisted Librarians would be the greatest obstacle. Asurmen needed to bring back the dark memories long-repressed by the vampire Astartes and he would have to fight to the death to retrieve it.

Additional Background Section 22: The Uncle and The Wandering Knights[edit]

I awoke from fitful slumbers in the crystal halls, to find I had written... this. The stylus was in my hand, the nip dipped in my veins. I wrote this is blood, but the interface seems to have transcribed it all the same into the chronicle. Am I writing this chronicle, or is this chronicle writing itself, using me as a puppet? I know not, and dreams of the Draziin-maton still plague my sleep. Will their relentless advance ever cease?

He is no god, but wanders where gods may. He is a hushed whisper amongst bombastic legends; he determined it would be so. If I was not guiding the hand of this scholar, it is likely he would never have mentioned this figure at all. His title was first spoken in the chronicles of the Grey Knights, as a figure playfully referred to by the Apex Twins, who seem to be his allies. There are other accounts, such as the fevered dream-quests of the Fenrisian Priest Karnos; the ‘cousin-father’ who plies the vagrant web, snatching away heroes in their desperate hours of need. He saved the Sisterhood of Elusive Blades from certain destruction by the Bloodtide swarm, as it quenched the Far-Veil system, and drank the entire civilization dry. His minions were key to turning the tide in Vaxenhide, when it looked as if the dark eldar were going to torture and murder the entire populace.

It was he that crashed the floating basilica of Ceylan into Sirius B, killing a future Tyrant in its infancy. He was the rumored ‘confidant Primus’ of Vulkan’s diligent minion Imogen, who herself gathered information and tried to right the wrongs of the murderous galaxy.

His story and that of the Custodians and Grey knights also seem eternally intertwined across the sporadic, galaxy-spanning narratives of this history. As previously iterated, the Custodians and the Knights followed the Apex Twins into the webway, escaping Titan with the Emperor’s desiccated corpse in tow.

The Apex twins chattered to each other and the Grey Knights with excitable glee. How they knew their way through the webway was unknown, but it is said they followed a ‘trail of psychic breadcrumbs, left by a kindly entity’. The Custodians and Grey Knights would be utterly lost without their guidance, so they allowed themselves to be led.

At one point, the Twins stopped the Knights in their tracks, calling for quiet and a halt. When challenged they simply stated.

“It is not their time yet. Their destiny is the past. We aren’t allowed to fiddle; Uncle would be upset if we did.”

As they said this, the Grey Knights watched the webway thread ahead. An entire army of orks stumbled through the webway, arguing and grunting at each other like beasts, as their trucks belched fumes that fizzled against the webway’s runic defenses.

“Dun’t touch nuffin’, ya hear me?” their commander growled at them. This was the infamous Mad Uruk; the scourge of Armaggedon. Several grey Knights had to be restrained from obliterating the warlord as he passed by. The brawling orks did not notice them, and wandered off into another intersection, and another time. For the labyrinth dimension was a maze of both time and space, which twisted both into unknowable patterns.

Onward they trekked, and it soon seemed that they had left realty forever. Their ancient armor was still in tatters; their swords were broken, their bodies worn and weary, and only their glimmering powers remained undulled over the long millennia. Who would require the aid of these ancient, weary souls, they wondered?

As they wandered, they came across a mysterious figure, armed with twin pistols. He hailed them in the manner of a vassal to a king, with perplexed the Grey Knights. The Apex twins seemed suspicious of the figure, but he was painted in the colors of the Dark Angels, so the loyalists eventually accepted him, and allowed him to travel with them for a while. As they walk, the figure told them tales of what had happened to the universe while they were trapped upon Titan. He spoke in half-truths and with vague answers. Even when asked his name, he replied ‘My name is merely part of the greater cipher he must solve.’

“Uncle’s?” the twins asked expectantly. The figure (we know him as Cypher, so I suppose his cryptic answers bear some truth...) did not reply to them. When they tried to fish the answer from his mind, they were bombarded with further questions. He never resisted their powers (it is unlikely anyone could), but his mind was encoded and locked away in riddles and mysteries. The Twins grew bored of puzzles, and soon turned their attention back to leading the Knights to Uncle.

Occasionally the group would pass by webway portals, invisible to outside observers. They saw endless wars through hundreds of time periods across many ages. Most were battles between creatures and people the Knights had never seen; never known.

However, at one point, they passed a terrific battle, where they saw their old foes, the Necrons, surrounding and slowly slaughtering a brave band of Space Wolves, led by a screaming giant with a mighty grey bear that dangled from his terminator armor, as he wielded a mighty axe; the famous axe Morkai. The wolves were as battle-weary and worn as the grey Knights it seemed, and the Knight Master demanded they help the wolves. Cypher refused, arguing they were fated to die. The twins petulantly stamped their feet, saying ‘We’ll be late! We want to go home NOW!’; only the formidable psychic powers of the Knights preventing their tantrum from dissolving the bodies of everyone in the tunnel. The Knights refused to leave; they’d not come another step with either marine of alpha plus unless they could help the Wolves.

With a weary sigh, Cypher carved his way into the materium, leading the Space Wolf survivors into the webway too.

The Space Wolves followed Cypher reluctantly, but grew more certain of their course of action once they saw the Grey Knights, who nodded to the Astartes solemnly. Their leader, Grimnar, was not amongst the survivors. Morkai was now wielded by the Long fang known as Brynisson.

Together, the strange band of battered figures moved through the capillaries of the webway like starving pilgrims, following the capering footsteps of the Apex Twins.

The surviving Grey Knights, Custodes and their confused Fenryka allies traveled the webway for many centuries, dialing back the years like an hourglass spinning on its fulcrum, until they reached a chamber, unexpected amidst the strange alien geometries of the labyrinth dimension; a disheveled little chapel, floating slowly through the capillaries of the system. It was filled with all manner of strange scholars; aliens and men, young and old. Some men wore the silvery uniforms of those who came before the first great Strife, while other men looked like horrendously scarred battle veterans clad in converted mining equipment with picks and drills.

Relictors sneered at the passing Grey warriors, but kept their cool as they sharpened blades or read furiously through black tomes. Damned Legionnaires of the Fire Hawks, remained as inscrutable as they were ethereal, shifting in and out of corporeality even as the newcomers observed them. Pre-Unification Thunder Warriors sparred in halls of carved teal and polished ivory. Mechanicus and strange little men in cloaks of white (near mythical cultists known as ‘scientisks’, if my translations are accurate) argued furiously behind forcefields, as otherwise the Machine Cultists would kill these Logician-like figures. The chapel was smaller on the inside, but it seemed to branch off into newer chambers, beyond the scope of the outside facade. The planes of the webway intersected to remove chronology, making the realm the one timeless place; the singular spot where all existence span around them like a top. The Custodes and Grey Knights followed them. For once their destiny was unknown to them.

The throne was stacked high with books on all sides, like a monument to literacy. To the right, a tall, perilously slender figure stood, glowering blue orbs shimmering in its head. To the left of the throne, a harlequined man with a weary smile sat pouring over the texts, while a stern old man aimed a short shotgun at the newcomers. Upon the throne itself sat a man; he flickered in an out of existence, as if he were a mere hololithic projection.

“Lord Cypher, what brings you here? You were not part of my design,” the strange apparition on the throne asked gently, like a kindly old man. The Apex Twins rushed to the foot of his throne and sat upon the steps of tomes, looking to the flickering image for approval. He smiled at them and made them chuckle.

Cypher replied with a self-satisfied smile. “A mere quirk of the journey. Your protégés would not come to you if I had not brought these wolves. You owe us a debt, if anything.”

“And where is your sword? The Lion Sword, that was re-forged? The sword you slew the God-Emperor on Terra with?” the figure replied simply. His voice was perfectly charming and utterly harmless.

The Custodians tensed as they heard this. Only the Chief custodian seemed unperturbed by this new knowledge. The Space Wolves and Great Knights were not listening; they could only stare in disbelief at the flickering figure.

Cypher’s smile faded. “Stolen, alas. The Crypteks wield powerful sciences. It could not be avoided. But the sword served its purpose. It has triggered off a course of events that will see the Mirror Devils rise up, the Yngir too. Then, they will destroy each other. The acuity’s visions are flawless in this regard.”

In response, the flickering image simply shook his head disappointingly. “As ever, your visions are narrowed by your ignorance. There are competing prophecies, dueling across the stars now. You have been drawn into the two dazzling tricksters and their games. The two liars have been playing their factions for longer than you know. As apocalyptic as this seems, this is only the beginning. Your master is wrong to assume his role is done now.”

Cypher replied with a curse from old Caliban, before he vanished in a swathe of conjured shadow.

After several minutes of mute awe, the Knights and the wolves finally found their voices once more.

“What... what are you? Maleficarum? How can you exist?” Brynisson muttered.

The figure spoke softly. “In a sense, I do not exist... yet. But this place; this specific place, permits me to. Honored Grey Knights, you seem concerned?” he gestured with unreal hands towards the Master of the knights, who pulled his helmet free.

“This is impossible! Impossible! What are you?” he hissed angrily.

The figure laughed. “Who and what I am would be exceedingly complicated to explain. But judging from your expressions, you may call me Revelation. Now; I believe I left a box under your care daemonhunters. A great many lives depend upon the information contained within,” the being replied matter-of-factly.

Additional background Section 23: Slipping The Leash: The Great Convulsion and The Dreaded Draziin-Maton[edit]

It is not an exaggeration to say that the galaxy faced, at the close of M55, the greatest continuous period of war in its history. Though the Ages of Strife and the Age of Imperium experienced countless localized conflicts for extended periods of time, none of these periods can compare to the sheer intensity of the battles raging at this time.

The Necrons ran rampant across the galaxy. Their goals were unfathomable; most of the time, their vessels scoured worlds of life or blasted warfleets into ashes before the fleets even registered what had stuck them. But there were accounts of silver vessels silently dueling in deep space, far from any stars, and whole hordes of the silver abominations battling near identical armies. Though it seemed impossible to the mortals who writhed beneath the gaze of these dueling, eldritch beings, the Reaper seemed to fight on multiple fronts simultaneously. Increasingly vast pocket empires of entrenched Necrons and Krork battled one another for ever greater territorial gain. World ships and Krork-modified Hulks battled one enough in spectacular duels across the stars.

As it would transpire, the galaxy’s mortal population had made several terrible assumptions about the nature of the unloving menace that blighted their lives (but we shall cover the precise history of this colossal Necron campaign in the next section).

While this was occurring, it would be advantageous to look at the galaxy on a macroscopic scale. If it were possible to observe the galaxy in this manner, the Necron wars would have appeared as a great mesh of eternal battles, raging and fluctuating across the galaxy. But equally, many other wars were being sparked off by this sudden influx of carnage. The resources of the main powers were stretched to near breaking point; the colossal Tau Meta-Empire, one of the greatest military empires in the galaxy, was slowly contracting, tightening its defenses against the assaults of the seemingly limitless necron armadas. The Vulkan Imperium increased military output ten-fold, and the Realm of fathers twenty-fold. Yet still there were worlds they simply could not reach; they had to trust in the fantastic infrastructure left in place by Vulkan to see those worlds through that dark century of conflict.

Everywhere, there was a sense that worlds were falling between the cracks left by overstretched militaries. One many worlds, there was lawlessness, and where there was lawlessness, there was anarchy. And where there was anarchy, there was chaos.


I feel sick to the stomach as I write this. I fear what we had forgo[...]may [...] killed us. We forgot that which is most insidious. In their hubris, all the empires forgot the corrupting power of the daemons and their dupes. But it was more than this. A great pattern was set in motion. Only now, here, in this forsaken place [narrator seems to visibly pale. His implants seem to partially corrode?] Have I been able to piece together the pattern, the grotesque scheme, that underpinned the seemingly [...]the great irony; true chaos is inevitable. What I will relate to you in this section shall sound [...]of chaos, but you forget [...]ll planes. This always [...]ed!

[Distortion reaching tolerable levels.]

Ahriman had set into motion the Dragon’s freedom. It had seemed like chance, but perhaps it was indeed fate (a most monstrous fate!) which saw his cube breach the warpish barriers around Terra? Ahriman, with his new-found powers thanks to the knowledge stolen from Terra, went about saving the galaxy as he saw fit. But he was no savior of man. For all his cunning and all his devious scheming, his plan was a mere mutation of his original plan to save the galaxy from mutation and destruction. He enhanced his Rubric. But his great incantation was extended. He began to create more Rubric Marines. He actively attacked the mark II Astartes wherever he found them, provoking them into battle. No army of Space marines could face the Sorcerer however. An entire company of the Crow Knights Commandery, at the battle of Vanner’s Blockade, were instantly turned into empty suits of dust-filled armor, which then turned upon the human allies of the Crow Knights with heartless ruthlessness. It was a terrifying sight to behold, and all who witnessed it grew very afraid. His misguided apprentice, Crolemere, soon learned the new nature of this Rubric. The souls and energy of those bound by the Rubric had been hijacked by Ahriman. With this captured warp energy, and with the Primarch machines in his possession, he began to turn himself into a being which could challenge even the mightiest Primarch.

“For else how may we defeat the foes arrayed against us, if we do not utilize the knowledge we possess to make ourselves superior?” he is recorded as saying, his ordinarily level and calm voice rising to a hideous mocking sneer.

Crolomere tried to stop him, but barely escaped with her life. She was cast from his presence, and tumbled through the warp. (Her eventual destination shall be revealed in a later section).

As Ahriman gathered his powers, at the same time there was a noticeable expansion of the famous warp storms of the galaxy. The Hadex rippled with further waves of psychic force, consuming a dozen star systems in a single week. The Eye too, like some colossal avalanche of madness, swallowed sectors as it hungrily swelled. Pylons upon Cadia began to show signs of major structural fault lines. The Maelstrom spread northwards, like an infected blister.

The mechanations of the Doomed one, Sparrod, coincided perfectly with the new phase of the Eye of Terror; every world the cultist had caused to destroy itself was destroyed according to a very specific date. In 834.M55, the Eye glowed at its brightest. The first world attacked by Sparrod was a light year away from the eye’s edge. He attacked it in the year 835.M55. The next world he attacked was two light years away. He attacked the world on 836.M55. And so, and so on, for decades. He killed the populace, making them focus all their dying sights upon the Eye. This psychic feedback rippled backwards through time and space, resonating with something deep beneath the tepid shallows of the eye’s warp space. Billions of dying mortals peered hopelessly into the pit.

And something looked back. We assumed the great feeling of nausea which passed through all living things that year was due to the rising Necron threat. It was not. The Doomed one had opened the door, if only for a second. At who’s behest will eventually become apparent.

[Archive walls shiver. Tremors disturb the shelves. Reactive structures in anguish. Hallway darkens noticeably. Chronicle must be paused! Chronicler will not pause! Emergency! He won’t stop!]

... Nay I must continue...

Even... [pained panting] Even the denizens of the Eye suffered at this time. Abaddon, just after rebuilding his keeps on Cadia following the Dragon Siege, found his realm inundated with the lost and damned scum of the eye. They were not surging from the eye on a war path or at the behest of some invading warlord. They were fleeing, in their droves. And not just mutant scum; Word bearer armies and even the anti-Angyl fighting forces of the Elite Blasphematii Knights fled. Abbadon ordered the Word bearers to control the mobs and rag tag fleets that were fleeing, and bring them to heel.

He then demanded that the leader of the Word Bearers come before him, and explain what in the seven hells was happening in the eye.

Eventually, Erebus teleported into Abaddon’s throne room on Cadia, much the worse for wear. His armor was not the usual dark, scriptural beauty it had once been. It was ravaged and torn, burned and melded hideously. He looked more like a noise marine or Death Guard veteran than a word bearer.

“Speak,” Abaddon bade him imperiously.

And Erebus told him what he knew. A new force had arisen, deep at the Eye’s heart.

There was a new planet in the centre of the Eye. It had been dragged from a realm unknown, and it stank of wretchedness. Even the furies sled before it. Upon its surface, impossible fortresses reared from lakes of sky that fell upon stone atmospheres and crawled up through fields of glass like worms in meat. Within these haggard heathen towers, the Draz... the Draziin-Maton crawled free.

It was said the warp itself convulsed in agony at their birth.

This unloving army spread out from the planet like locusts; clambering across the tainted void itself. They did not need ships. They could crawl upon the half-real space of the Eye physically! At the behest of their lords and masters, they attacked all the other daemon worlds. Daemon prince after Daemon Prince fell to them; their armies of daemons could not strike these beasts. As soon as they approached, the daemons’ forms lost all coherency and collapsed into listless chaos, pure and incomprehensible. The Daemon Princes, used to being gods of their own worlds, were soon humbled. They were not devoured or killed by the Draziin-Maton; they were chained. Great collars, like Khorne’s but infinitely more surreal, were placed upon them and they became the property of the Draziin-Matons’ unseen patrons.

The first realm to fall was that of Fulgrim. The daemon which had stolen Fulgrim’s body sent countless forces against the Draziin-Maton. His daemonettes were useless, falling apart before they could strike. The Keepers of Secrets were little better, only able to fell a few of these creatures before they too became formless. Yet, Fulgrim commanded more than just daemons. A wall of annihilating sound shredded hundreds of the Draziin-Maton, as noise marines and Emperor’s Children ascended the battlements of Fulgrim’s decadently-lovely palace. But the fiends could only be held, not stopped. The wonderfully-scented woods and gardens were ransacked and dissolved by the raw stuff of imagination, unmade and remade a billion times. Fulgrim himself battled the creatures. He was unstoppable in combat, and all who faced him perished. But the Draziin-Maton were not foes one could merely duel. They laid him low with their binding sorceries, and soon the daemon-Fulgrim was ensnared. Fulgrim, his human half, cackled with cruel glee as his daemon was itself bound and humbled, as he had been. Only one entity apparently escaped the Draziin-Maton’s clutches; a single marine, apparently a rider. The only trace it left of its passing was a mile-long burning tyre mark, scarring Fulgrim’s world as it fled through the warp.

Angron fell next. His berserkers were harder to overcome, but the Draziin-Maton were patient. They drowned his worlds in sorcery, until even his followers were hopeless mutated until they were barely even human. It took a hundred strong snares to bring the Bloody King to his knees, the force of which shattered his brass-coated throne room as he roared deafeningly.

Mortarion was the hardest to defeat, for his realm was death and decay. Draziin-Maton withered like grapes on the vine as they approached. But it was only a matter of time until the plague world too would also fall. He was silent as they neared his throne. When they attempted to cage him, Mortarion suddenly rotted away to nothing; he had slipped past them and fled. No one knows where he fled. Erebus speculated that Isha, the plague angel, had snatched him away to hide in Nurgles dank wilderness in the true warp.

Magnus could not be conquered, for his realm was already akin to that the Draziin-Maton brought with them. His land of eternal change could not be further changed.

“One cannot grasp that which has no form...” was all he chuckled, as the formless daemons and the Tzeentchian daemons mingled. He never fell to the Draziin-maton, for he was always on their side... or so it would seem...

Perturabo’s daemon world, for all its cunning defenses, keeps and bastions, was no barrier to things that could swim through adamantium, and disrupt the very nature of matter itself. He was bound over the broken corpses of thousands of Iron Warriors and those Draziin-Maton rendered inoperative by his violence.

Slowly but surely, they were all brought low by the Draziin-Maton. Those who did not flee became strange, demented things. And soon enough, the Draziin-Maton turned their attentions towards the realm of reality. Through the warp, they contacted their spy within the eastern Chaos Imperium; the Hamadraya responded and Huron was brought under their control without them having to lift a single one of their terrible limbs.

Abaddon listened to this tale with growing suspicion and dread. They would surely come for Cadia next. He asked to know the weakness of the Draziin-maton from Erebus. The devious demagogue smiled, almost coyly.

“I suppose they cannot function beyond the eye. They require mortal minions to conquer reality. Then, they can truly spread chaos. True chaos, as the Primordial Annihilator has always planned for us.”

It was then, with a groan, Abaddon realized where the serpent Erebus’ allegiances had fallen. He had not mentioned his own Primarch, Lorgar. Abaddon knew why. Lorgar was in league with them, and his Legion had followed him. As one, the Blasphematii attacked Black legion bases across the Sector, and then across the Western Imperium in a chain reaction. Normal Word Bearers and corrupted assassins turned upon their Despoiled and Black Legion rulers in great orchestrated coups across the entire Imperium. Abaddon’s astropaths and sorcerers, located next to his throne, all screamed in distress as they relayed this information from across the empire, directly to Cadia. In every pict display, Abaddon saw Word bearer vessels, supported by the huge armies of fleeing pilgrims, and other Chaos Legions united by the Draziin-Maton’s campaign, as they bombarded his fleets at high anchor, blasting them apart in great silent clouds of molten adamantium.

“You are a traitor amongst traitors Erebus! I always knew you were a pathetic creature! What did they offer you? Power? Gutless beast!” Abaddon screamed furiously, thrusting his daemonsword into Erebus.

The hololithic image flickered. Abbadon screamed in demented fury.

Erebus shook his head condescendingly.

“Why Erebus? We had won! Chaos triumphant! No more grovelling to mortal whelps! We were glorious! We were victorious,” Abaddon snarled, as he smelt the scent of possessed marines, who slowly filled the chamber, their eyes glowing in the shadowy galleries around the throne. Abaddon stood from his throne, staring up at the beasts.

The first barrage of their kai guns struck his corrupted Dreadknight bodyguard. The giant bucked and roared in fury, ripping apart several possessed before he fell with a thud; a smoking ruin leaking greenish ichor.

Erebus’ image growled. “Not our victory! Yours! You have no imagination! Look what you did; you ripped down the Imperium, and built a new one in its place. You betrayed chaos’ very ideals. The Eldar resisted their fate and look what happened to them. Now you’d deny our true nature? We are beings of anarchy. That is what we desire!” Erebus countered.

“Anarchy?” Abaddon suddenly smiled. “You want anarchy? Then you must learn to accept even the best laid plans will have complications; things you simply forgot about in the heat of the moment.”

Erebus snorted. “I am not playing your game Abaddon.”

Then the possessed pounced. But the Chaos Emperor was no mere mortal despot. He was still a champion of chaos, possibly the most powerful champion not to ascend. His storm bolter chattered death, churning the bodies of dozens of the possessed scum, as more leapt over their corpses to finish the job. His sword shivered with colored smoke as it carved souls in half, while the Talon of Horus crushed the life from marine after marine.

“You still forgot one thing,” Abaddon sneered, as the bodies mounted around him. More and more turncoats burst into the chamber, pouring fire upon the Emperor of Chaos. They prepared fire points for the havocs to finish the job of killing Abaddon from afar.

“What is that then?” Erebus shrugged from his safe location.

“The rider of course. The one who escaped first,” Abaddon suddenly chuckled, his laugh disturbing even to daemons. As he laughed, the great crystal ceiling of his throne room burst asunder, as the legendary Doom-rider plunged downwards as if from no where, howling his own name as his body was wreathed in unholy fire. His bike landed in the upper galleries, and he gunned the daemonic engine with all his power, running down those Word Bearers he did not cut down with his sword.

Then, as suddenly as he appeared, the rider vanished, as if his bike had punctured reality itself. When the dust settled, Abaddon was gone. He had fled when the turncoats had taken cover. The Dark Lord fought his way to the orbital docks, battling through the human hordes that vainly tried to slow him down. As he rampaged through his own fortifications like a wild beast, a blood-crazed band of his Despoiled, and some of his Black legion formed around him. Together, they launched a lightning raid upon the Planet Killer. They killed those who tried to capture the vast world killer and he took it for himself. The warp weapon easily blasted its way through the hasty naval blockade set up to stop him, and with that he fled the Cadian system.

Yet it mattered not to Erebus, who teleported down to Cadia, followed by Lorgar. He placed a great black crown upon his Golden-skinned Primarch’s head, who smiled quietly as his forces spread throughout the Western Chaos Imperium like venom. Lorgar then raised his gauntlet high and clicked his fingers once. As he did so, high explosive charges planted at the base of every pylon on Cadia detonated at once. The skies darkened, as the warp flooded the world for the first time in millions upon millions of years. The Dark Cadians looked to the heavens in terror, as the sky was full of daemons, who leered with unbound glee. But worse was to come, as things clambered down from heaven, and unmade flesh with ever slash of their limbs. The Draziin-Maton were rising.

Abaddon became an outlaw in his own empire. Once again he had felt the cold hand of betrayal. He realized the folly of civilization. The only path left was that of the barbarian. If that was what they wanted, then so be it. As he left his Imperium, he raided his own planets for resources and ships, in preparation for his new war. He even bombarded the tower of stitched flesh, snatching away one of the crazed clones of Bile. Once that was done, he escaped over the border into the Vulkan Imperium.

Kor Phaeron, who had managed to capture the Vengeful Spirit, gathered about himself a mighty fleet of chaotic daemonships and warships of a million different varieties. He was bidden by Lorgar to pursue and destroy Abbadon, wherever he fled to. Kor Phaeron set about his task with relish, eagerly chasing Abbadon into Vulkan space.

A Note on the Draziin-Maton:

The Draziin-Maton appear to be the primary military forces the Nex- [Sobbing picked up on audio track. Query: malfunction? Tapes corrupted?]. They are loping, elongated nightmares composed of glistening purple flesh, unnatural limbs and alien weapon systems that twist and coil from their imposing, vaguely humanoid forms. They exhibit a wild variety of weapon systems and devices and indeed can grow and change their forms in the heat of battle itself. This versatility is a result of these entities being some form of proto-wraithbone, which encases an internal warp entity. No two Draziin-Maton are alike, but all are uniformly deadly; able to crush an Astartes with ease with limbs that evolve new methods of creative death almost instinctively. Reports from the most ancient of eldar suggest that these constructs were once ghost-machines used by the old Eldar Empire to fight their wars and extinguish troublesome civilizations. That they are now the shock troopers of a rising new power of utter entropic disorder suggests this new foe is far more ancient than anyone could guess.

The nature of the entities that empower and drive these corrupted war-robots is not known, but much speculated upon. It is said that the warp contains the emotions and consequences of every decision and thought conceivable in reality; every possible idea or emotion that could ever exist. Some say that, deep in the very depths of the warp, beneath layers and layers of demented pantheons and roiling storms, lay the forgotten; the raw elements of existence. Every aborted timeline, every step not taken, every deferred dream and every child unborn; all came to rest in the quagmire of non-existence. The most popular (and horrifying) theory about the Draziin-Maton is that they are powered by these impossible entities. Of course much like deep warp daemons (and the Nex- [archive groans as if under strain. Author drools vomit slightly] for that matter), such intrinsically unstable entities would last a fraction of a second within the material realm. In that second they would irrevocably damage the materium, but otherwise their effect should be slim unless powered by a warp rift. In the case of the Draziin-Maton, this impossible existence could theoretically be maintained within a sufficiently-polluted wraithbone matrix.

The N- the deep warp may not appear to have any overarching strategy beyond dissolution, but someone designed these abominations, and someone has been planning this incursion for a very, very long time.

Additional Background Section 24: The Dragon Ascendant, The Necron Wars, and The Sixteenth, Final Siege of T’au[edit]

[Chronicler unconscious at desk. Hands show signs of activity. Auto-stylus activated.]

He... sleeps... yet his hand is mine... to control...

[Chronicle Resumes:]

Long have we feared the Necrons. They are destroyers, defilers and Imperialistic on a grand scale that even the infamous M31-M42 Imperium never was. In dread legends in countless cultures we heard of the ‘Mirror Devils’, ‘The Dolmen Giants’, 'the undying hosts of silvered death', and so forth.

Long have I sought to avoid telling the full extent of their terrible wars against the Empires of flesh and blood, of their dark deeds and actions unjust and monstrous. The archives of this vault are expansive and exhaustive; every document or scrap of information deemed relevant to its Sentinels has been gathered here. It is a great hive of knowledge the likes of which I certainly could never have compiled in my own lifetime. Also half of the collective documents of this entire library depict the colossal wars of destruction that occurred in the Dragon Wars, the Reaper massacres of the M44-M48 period and the monumental ‘War of Hope and Despair’, the colloquial term used to describe the war between the Tau meta-Empire and its allies against the endless Necron hosts.

Such a relentless dirge of information would swamp the minds of normal men. Most mortal scholars and chroniclers would be fatigued by such endless chronicles. Indeed, so fatigued were they, most historians I have read upon the subject conflate the Necron into one homogeneous mass of silver-skinned oblivion. They assume all the Necrons were bent towards the subjugation and annihilation of all living beings, or were otherwise obsessed with feeding C’tan entities. Most readers of galactic history simply cannot comprehend these ancient beings as being anything other than a monolithic terror.

But I am not most scholars. When his mind touched my own, his tendrils of elucidation suffused me. I was forever altered. Even my own waking mind rails against this knowledge. He fears the Draziin-maton, and this makes him weak, and distracted. I fear naught but failing in my appointed task.

But I digress. To truly understand the nature of the menace which has befallen us, we must realize its true origins and motives. Only then can these factions, Tyrants and psychopaths be overcome.

1) The Necron Wars.

Due to the actions of Vulkan’s brilliant politician Darnal Taq, in the year of illumination (a tale we shall tell at a later date), it is now common knowledge that the C’tan helped craft the Necrons from the cancerous ruins of a once biological race millions of years ago, and led them to defeat the Old Eldar empire and their unseen Creators (do not peer into the minds of the First, for therein lies the mad cruelty of first creation!).

Yet, after their years of slumber and through the fiery galactic disaster we call the Second Age of Strife, the unity of these fiends was forever lost. Though the diversity of this race is surprisingly extensive (with more factions than it would be feasible for me to elaborate upon), I have identified five prominent Necron factions that participated in the Necron wars (and the Dragon conflict which followed).

The first and most prominent was the army of the Triarch. The Silent King had quietly reintegrated himself into the old hierarchies of the surviving Necron Dynasties.** He acted through his Praetorians, for he had voluntarily destroyed his own authority millions of years previously. This imperialistic faction had been slowly and methodically swallowing up Petty Imperiums and minor xenos empires for millennia since the death of the Corpse-Emperor. The Triarch Necrons, however, had come under assault by the fearsome ‘War of the Krork’ as soon as they attempted to enslave any planets that fell within regions they had once known as the Old Ones' fortress worlds. Those humans and aliens upon those select worlds were baffled why the Krork leapt to their aid; unaware of the ancient pedigree their worlds had. Some of the Crypteks were intrigued; where had these Krork come from? Were the Old Ones risen? But they dismissed such thoughts as lunacy. They had seen the last of the First Fall ( I warned you. Speak not of the Old Ones! Curse you!) and knew they were gone.

Though the Necrons did not attack the Vulkan Imperium directly, that is not to say they were completely untouched by the devious Mirror devils. At the beginning of M55, the Vulkan Imperium was in the process of reaffirming alliances with the various demi-empires and Imperiums that were under the protection of the Promethean Courts. The famous politician Plevian suggested this could be achieved by creating a court on Armageddon formed from representatives from across the diverse empire. They later became known as the ‘Glorious Cooperative’, and were housed in a beautiful ovoid building at the heart of Tu’Shan city, one of the most spectacular and beautiful cities in the known galaxy. Multiple gardens were held within the vast dome which covered the city, providing the citizens with clean, perfume-scented air, at odds with much of the rest of Armageddon.

In any case, initially the Glorious Cooperative was a success, and every faction sent a large delegation there. Amongst the most notable included the towering figure of the Ryzan Tech-Prince Ulluxious, with his honor guard of Plasma Commandos and hooded Adepts, the Commerce Marshal of the Confederation of Justice with a Platoon from the Administration brigades, bondsmen from the wild Khureshi Hinterland sector, not to mention the Advisor to the Governor of the Nocturne Domain with his assistants (including a man named Iacob. Oh how we would later remember that name...) and Kaltrun, the designated representative of the Commanderies, an abrupt and practical man clad in the gold armor of the Dorn Revenants. The Realm of Fathers also sent a group of Cult Magi, who were watched closely by the Steel Legion internal security. But it was from the recently-acquired Lussorian Empire’s delegation where the true trouble came.

The Lussor Imperium was founded many thousands of years previously by a fabled Rogue Trader known as Lussor. They were a bizarre throwback to the early colonial years of the first Imperium; a strange parody of greater realms. They even possessed special forces audaciously referred to as ‘Space Marines’; gene-bulked ex-penal inmates pumped with addictive narcotics until they were fanatically loyal to those who supplied them with the drugs and even more dangerous. They were armed and armoured similarly to Space marines, but their long time apart from other human settlements meant their armour had changed drastically; vaguely like Corvus armor mixed with newer, cruder carapace plates. Nevertheless, their leadership was cunning and leapt at the chance to become part of the Vulkan Imperium. However, unbeknownst to all, the Necrons had reached them first. The Nekthyst Dynasty of Necrons infiltrated their ruling echelons using mindshackle scarabs. When their delegate was sent to Armageddon, his mind was filled with these scarabs, ready to infest the entire Vulkan Imperium’s leadership. Once the Glorious Cooperative gathered, the scarabs waited until several decades of discussions and talk of commerce and trade until it found the perfect moment to strike. The vast amphitheater was filled to capacity with the politicians; the mindshackles prepared to burst free from their host and infest everyone.

However, at that moment, the Realm of Fathers’ chief Magus stood up from his gallery, raising a hand drenched in witch-fire. The Commerce marshal, sensing a threat, moved to draw his ceremonial laspistol, but Kaltrun deftly disarmed him as he realized the Magus’ target. The chamber was in uproar as the Magus launched a fiery blast across the chamber, striking the Lussorian in the face. His head exploded, a millions burning scarabs swarming from their dying host like locusts fleeing burning wheat fields. The Steel Legion opened fire upon the other Lussorians instantly, killing them in a hail of laser bolts. The Magus said nothing, but merely nodded to the Astartes before sitting down once more.

This caused an outrage across the Imperium. The Glorious Cooperative did not meet again, for fear of infiltration. Yet, despite this provocative action by the Necrons, Vulkan avoided attacking known Necron worlds during the expansive phases of his Imperium. Instead, he set up forces whose sole purpose was to watch over the Necron, and warn off any foolish adventurers from being ensnared by such disturbing worlds. He would not commit himself to a war with the Silent King until he had the soldiers required to win it. When he finally decided to attack the Necrons, it was for a prize more valuable than can be measured easily in words. But that is a story for a later section [cross.ref: ‘The Dolmen Raid’/Conclave of the Ravens.]

The second faction of the Necrons was the rebellious minions of the Storm Lord, the Herald of Lightning. He was crippled by a shimmering golden being* upon Medusa in M41, just as Van Groethe’s Rapidity swept through the system. He was driven quite insane by the warp storm, but he was not consumed by the ravages of the Primordial Annihilator; a force of static warp somehow protected him. This was the Star Child, before it had risen to become a full god. It told him of the Silent King’s desire to return to the realm of flesh and blood via the dabbling of his Crypteks and the Blood Vats of Zantragora, and slowly warped Imotekh’s mind. Imotekh desired to remain a deathless machine! He wished to be obeyed by his mindless minions for all eternity! It is unsurprising that he found common cause with the Angyls and their mad God when he was finally free of the storm. In exchange for aiding in the search for an avatar of the Star Father, the Angyls would aid Imotekh in his bid to rule over all Necrons and all life.

The third can hardly be called a Necron faction at all. The technological contagion of the so-called ‘Sarkoni Emperor’ had already consumed over five hundred tomb worlds. The deranged Master Program of the Sarkon Tomb World actively murdered slumbering Necrons, wiping their minds and replicating its own Abhorrent Intellect in their place. Its empire was one of silence and utter destruction; those it didn’t enslave, it utterly destroyed. The Necrons themselves could not stand against this sentient virus lest they be rewritten. They instead had to rely upon the mortal races to eventually challenge this menace. [cross.ref: Iron Hands/Battle of Drultevar Forge.]

The fourth faction we have already discussed. The bio-transferred Thexians were created by the Deceiver and his loyal cultist, Ralei the Ever-Shifting. This was a race he had made sure were utterly enslaved to his will, unlike the unreliable Necrons. They were fresh and uncorrupted by years of stasis; a new race of beings to harvest worlds for him. They were his foot soldiers in the terrific wars which he fought against Necron and mortal alike. His fleet assaulted the fastness of Atreborn, which reawakened the slumbering Yu’Vath who lingered there. He deliberately led these warp-smiths into the domains of the Atun, sparking a three way conflict which consumed suns, sterilized worlds and even began to draw the attention of the Eye itself, which was expanding at a terrible rate (now we know why of course...). This entity was a constant thorn in the side of the Necron Dynasties, preventing them from uniting at every turn. Some say he knew his brother was stirring at the heart of the Terran warp bubble, and he was paving the way for him; thus seeking to become his vizier and hence gain ever more power.

But the Deceiver’s real trump card was the Ophilim Kiasoz. The Ophilim Kiasoz was a device/entity/force of nature/object/trans-dimensional phenomenon (I am still not certain...) which had first come into being in the first war to ever take place in this universe. There is only one story which mentions the Kiasoz directly in the entire combined mythology of the whole galaxy (or beyond, I suspect). It supposedly predated the Necrons by almost a billion years. No matter the power of the Necrons, any worlds in the way of the Ophilim Kiasoz were undone at a fundamental level. The only known ‘survivors’ of the Ophilim Kiasoz were the Deathmark sects of the Tomb World of Uttomekh, who leapt into a dimensional oubliette to escape. Only five of the five hundred thousand Deathmarks of that world survived. Nobody knows where they went, but it seems likely Trayzn the Infinite collected them, for they were unique in the galaxy; no one else had ever survived the Ophilim Kiasoz up to that point.

The fifth faction of supposed ‘Necrons’ is obvious. They were the forces of Oblivion itself. They were the minions of the Unshattered One. I speak, of course, of the Dragon Tides.

Before I elaborate upon the full extent of the Great Dragon War, I must first depict that most famous of conflicts and a tale which is in most history books across the galaxy; the fall of T’au.

  • This was likely the Deceiver himself, or one of his devious splinter entities; fragments of his own consciousness, scattered across the galaxy, doing his bidding. Despite the best efforts of the Necrons, they could never find all of the Deceiver’s shards. It is further claimed that each of the Phase blades of the Callidus are shards of his being and secretly do his bidding as well. Sometimes, I fear we attribute too much to this fiend. Sometimes, I feel we do not give him enough credit. Imagine being imprisoned for millions of years, with nothing left but your fragmented memories, and the desire to overcome your captors? Is it really so far-fetched that he had planned for every eventuality?
    • Some scholars conflated the forces of the Triarch with those of the wild Destroyer cults of the north east that sparked off the original Tau/Necron war. This is exacerbated by the presence of the various shards of the Nightbringer and other C’tan, which gave the impression that the Nightbringer was in charge of every one of the Necron armies. In fact, only one of his shards had control over Necrons. This was the Nightbringer shard which had retrieved its tombship (its so-called scythe’) from the Warp. This Shard could not be so easily removed from power. Luckily for the Triarch Necrons, this C’tan seemed content to simply commit genocide upon the survivors of the Thexian Empire.

2) The Sixteenth and Final Siege of T’au.

The Silent King’s advisers and Crypteks watched the Tau/Necron war intently. The Tau were easily the most advanced and largest rival Empire to the Necrons. If the Silent King wanted to rule the galaxy, they had to be humbled and enslaved. Indeed, his advisers warned that if they were not stopped abruptly, there could be a ‘Rise of the Tau’, a future where the Tau were dominant and drove all before them, with one of the dreaded star gods secretly ruling over them. Such a future could not be allowed to transpire. However, the Silent King had a darker intention. He looked upon the Tau, and he saw a vital race of flesh and high technology; a healthy race of biological beings not blighted by scourging stars. Long had he desired to find his metallic race new bodies to inhabit. He wished to reverse the mistakes of his past, and correct the immortality of his race. The Tau possessed a being which hadn’t aged in thousands of years: Aun’Va. Illuminor demanded this specimen, for there was something locked within the ancient Ethereal’s body that could re-shape the Necrons and the Tau.

As Thex Prime fell (few knew that the Deceiver’s liberated shards had caused this collapse for the sole purpose of building his own personal army of loyal slaves), the Necron, once a disparate horde of psychotic destroyers, seemed to unite as one to attack the Tau empire. The Nightbringer’s armies had been brought under the control of the Phaerons once more. It was said that there were so many Necron ships in this grand armada that they appeared like an impossible silver cloud in space, light-years across.

But the Tau would not be cowed. The Meta-Empire was a densely-populated leviathan of a civilization, built up and reinforced over twenty thousand years of permanent warfare. Their creed was impenetrable and their armies were the wonder of this galaxy. The Tau hastily called in support from every dedicated fighting world in the Meta-Empire to face down the Necrons. The Idealist-class cruiser was mass-produced on a monumental scale, alongside a dozen newer marks of vessel that eclipsed the Idealist in every way. Carriers bearing flight decks of millions of Cuttlefish elimination craft, battlesuit deployment barges that spanned multiple kilometres and could deploy battlesuits across up to five light-years of space from their motherships using experimental ‘Portal Shift’ devices (a kind of teleporting gate system, in a facsimile of the Necrons' own devices). This grand fleet was led by the ‘Transcendental Path’, the largest and most powerful Tau vessel ever constructed. It was more like a mobile garrison world than a mere vessel, for it had the facilities to maintain hundreds of individual armies for rapid deployment in any environment.

But the fleet of the Triarch did not engage in a single mighty fleet action. When the Transcendental Path and its armada engaged it, the swarm disintegrated, flinging off fleets in all directions throughout the Meta-Empire. The Tau were likewise forced to split up their fleets in order to hunt these diverse elements.

Surprisingly, it was the Tau that had the tactical speed advantage in the early stages of the war of Despair and Hope. In the Tau region of the galaxy, most of the Dolmen gate network was destroyed by Harlequin-led Eldar raids millennia previously. The Necron fleets had to attack worlds that the Dolmen reached, and spread out slowly from these beachheads into the deeper guts of the Tau. The main focus of this attack came from planets close to Sautekh Dynasty holds captured in the early Necron wars from Imotekh. The Idealists and their descendant crafts were not so restricted, and they could rapidly bring these fleets to battle. On a thousand fronts, the wars raged. Necron forces descended upon worlds in a tide of scarabs and silvered skeletal death. Worlds that were not evacuated were infested and their raw materials were broken down for the purposes of creating new Necrons. These Necron foundling worlds were then assaulted by hyper-velocity cannons, plasma lances and all the myriad ‘jumper’ munitions the tau deployed to ensure Necron bodies were incapable of being repaired.

N’dras drone-suits were mass-produced just as rapidly as new Necrons. However, where the Necrons had to rely upon the timely soul furnaces to create new Necrons, the N’dras forges pumped out millions of new drone warriors every few hours. The early stages of the war seemed to be going well for the Tau, even if reinforcements from the central septs (and even from some of the eternally-blissful Lobotopias) were being called up with altogether too much regularity.

In space, the FTL sensors of the Idealists and their long-ranged weaponry matched the sheer mind-boggling firepower of the slower Necron tombships. Teleport boarding assaults occurred silently, as whole armies were transported directly into Necron and tau vessels alike. Hyper-swift battlesuits carved out the glowing hearts of cairns, while deathless Lycheguard and ever-shifting wraiths soberly dismantled the crews of tau warships with horrifying ease. Whole worlds were consumed in these wars. At one point, an entire Necron fleet unleashed a billion trillion scarabs upon a world. These endless entities multiplied by breaking down matter into energy, before assembling a dozen of identical copies of themselves. Like a necrotizing phage, the scarabs dissolved the planet entirely, leaving nothing; not even the molten core.

Wherever the Transcendental Path appeared, the tide turned in the Tau’s favor. Its weapons were a match for any of the Triarch’s vessels and it outmassed all save the Silent King’s flagship. After deploying a veritable army of water caste envoys to all the known Krork stronghold worlds in the area, the greenskin elites were brought to bear as allies of the Meta-Empire (though they refused to fight alongside the Demiurg, oddly). Antique auxiliary Gue’vesa vessels bravely stood against the might of the Necron armadas, as they guarded refugee fleets that were flooding into the iron-hard core of the Meta-Empire in ever greater numbers.

Admiral Kaustran, the commander of these vessels, was typical of the human breed. He was a stubborn and wrathful as any gue’la, and for once that intransigence was of use to the Tau Empire. Luna class cruisers, mars class battlecruisers and even a near-mythic retribution class battleship were deployed in convoy defence. This ragged fleet of ancient vessels engaged in a naval engagement over the world of Dal’my’therr. The Necron vessels were vast and massively powerful; within the sub-light domain, there were few vessels faster or more powerful. The humans had no chance at all; even at the old Imperium’s height, it couldn’t face off against such numbers.

This changed nothing in the old Admiral’s mind. At the height of the battle, as the battleship ‘Panthers Rampant’ dying from a thousand catastrophic wounds, Kaustran ordered the vessel forwards.

“All ahead full! For the Greater Good, and the hope of a new dawn rising!” he was recorded as screaming over the vox.

The prow, with its vast ram, turned towards the Necron flagship. Flayer arcs and particle lashes stripped the vessel apart as it closed, wreathing it in fire and venting plasma. With almost dismissive ease, the prow ram was ripped away by a carving beam weapon. But beneath the ram, hidden for decades, Kaustran had hidden his farewell gift; a nova cannon, which had been charging throughout the battle. All control measures were disengaged, and all limits on its capacitors were forgotten. The weapon fired at full power, a sight never before seen. There was a good reason for this. The feedback of the nova cannon’s blast disintegrated the Panthers Rampant. However, the projectile launched was launched with colossal ferocity, and blew the heart from the Necron ship in one glorious detonation. Secondary explosions rippled from within, and the ship was crippled, allowing the last of the refugee convoys to engage their jump drives and escape.

For a time, as Tau, Krork and Demiurg forces countered the enemy on every front, the Fire Caste Grand Council entertained the hope that they could actually win.

But such arrogant assumptions are soon turned to ash in this galaxy. By this point, the Necrons had completed their portal network. Every world they conquered could be instantly reached via the portals, and this shifted the tactical advantage to the Necrons once more. Even the Krork could not prevent the Triarch as they rampaged across Tau space. The Tau were outmaneuvered at every turn. Not only this, but new Dolmen gates were also under construction, and these expanded the naval prospects of the Necrons ever more.

Slowly but surely, world after world fell to the advancing hordes. The Necrons needed no rest or food or logistical trains of supplies. They feared nothing and they conquered every world that they loomed in orbit over.

The Tau retracted under this pressure, forming even more dense military installations as each line of defence fell, one after another. The Air Caste Admiral of the Transcendental Path was slain in his own personal chambers; slain by shifting cyclopean assassins that stepped between dimensions as we would walk between rooms. This vast vessel soon returned to T’au to rearm, and to find a new commander.

Shas’O’Kotar’shi, a Fire Caste general, took up the mantle of leadership in this desperate time. He was a comparatively young Commander. As the war progressed, he came to e known as ‘Commander Hopeshield’. Fal’shia was the first of the main Sept Empire to collapse under the relentless onslaught of the Silent King’s forces. Its Earth Caste scientists and engineers were some of the greatest in the meta-Empire. As the invasion reached their doors, they had just completed the design of a revolutionary new manned battlesuit called the mark XXV ‘Gallant’ suit. These were built in cooperation with the fire caste and the research scientists investigating Van Groethe’s Rapidity. Each suit could channel warp energy and incorporated this energy int he inner workings of the suit.

Alas, Fal'shia had created this marvel too late. Even as the first seven prototypes were built, the laboratory the suits were being built within was brought down upon the heads of the earth caste by the fearsome heat rays of the Triarch Stalkers. With their final act, they transported the weapon from Fal’shia, in the hope they could be used.

And used they were; Hopeshield immediately took the suits and armored his greatest pilots (and himself) with the Gallant class suits. Furiously, he fought back against the Necrons wherever they rose, throwing himself into the heat of battle armed with the sophisticated weapons and mysterious warp projectors of his new suit. But no amount of personal bravery could stem the tide. Bork’an fell next, and the slaved Lobotopias of that sept burned for fifteen days; their populace smiled with contentment as they cooked, their brains so destroyed by psychoactive drugs to care anymore.

The tidally-locked D'yanoi was the next to fall. Many of its outlying colonies surrendered to the Necrons, and were whisked from their worlds, never to be seen again. The D’yanoi Ethereals killed themselves with nerve-toxins moments before the Crypteks of the Necrons arrived to claim them. In frustration, the Necrons scoured the world clean of life.

Au’taal, much to the shame of the Empire, surrendered to the Necrons quickly and were swiftly enslaved by the mindshackle scarabs.

The Vespid homeworld became a quagmire of guerrilla warfare, for their strange gaseous world was a nightmare for ordinary Necron warriors to navigate. Their female rulers remained at large, while their winged minions punished the Necrons with their strange crystalline munitions and diamond-hard claws.

Pech was left unmolested, for the Necrons saw nothing of value on that swampy, vile forest world. Unbeknownst to them, the Kroot had taken it upon themselves to evacuate every child from the Dal’yth Water Caste academies. To this day, I do not know why the Kroot did this, but it certainly reveals they are perhaps not the barbarians the Tau had always considered them to be.

The so-called ‘Gue’vesa Sept’ enacted a policy of scorched earth, and destroyed anything of use to the Necrons. They then, in a desperate frontal charge, tried to storm the monolith portals of the Necrons. They died to a man, but they died with curses on their lips. Many fell while waving ancient flags all but a few understood the relevance of; a two-headed eagle, with one blind head...

The Necrons came to Arthas Moloch led by the Overlord Jorunkekh and his glittering golden Necrons. The artefact world was silent and cold, filled with lingering shadows. No Necrons returned from that place. No fleets were ever sent there again.

Vior’la didn’t go down without a fight. This Sept empire was formed of a great many warrior worlds, and they made sure no Necrons that attacked their worlds left undamaged at the least. Young warriors, fresh from the academies and unbloodied, were thrown into this sudden and nightmarish trial of fire.

And so this went on; each of the major worlds of the Tau were besieged and overcome in apocalyptic battles. The number of well-known accounts of these battles fill many libraries; the Polemic epic of the Sack of Sa’cea, the legend of the poet of Elsy’eir (who supposedly saved the planet from the Necrons through his beautiful lyrics, which attracted the eye of Trazyn the Infinite. Trazyn spared the world, as long as the poet came with him to his vaults), Tash’var and the sky serpent, and many more tales.

But of course, the greatest battle was the one for the cradle of Taukind: T’au. It was here where all the survivors fled; the last stronghold of the Tau. It was here where the Silent King’s armada gathered its full strength.

T’au had been besieged fifteen times previously to this siege, during the Thexian wars and various other conflicts. As such, it was a fortress and metropolis like no other. Every planet in the system was shrouded with thousands upon thousands of orbital platforms that formed a coherent grid of overlapping firepower for a sphere a light year in diameter around the entire system. Idealists and even better craft flooded the system and could sense the approach of any unauthorized vessels from billions of miles away. Every Fire Warrior that could be armed, was armed. Even the Earth caste took up arms; breaking into the research labs and taking out the weird, esoteric weapons they had deemed too insane to use before now; quantum whips and retro-engineered Ork weapons of countless variety and varying levels of madness. Two Krork War-Hulks anchored themselves on the outer reaches of the system, alongside their attendant fleets. Six Kroot warspheres also landed upon T’au’s soil, depositing several large warbands of Kroot carnivores, alongside a whole host of exotic xenos mercenaries including the serpentine Sslyth, Loxatl creatures, Groevian fiends and multiple Viskeon clans. They were promised extortionate fees if they could ensure the safety of the Ethereal caste and all non-combatant Tau on the surface.

The Necrons had no localized Dolmen gates in the region, so they approached the world at sublight speeds, striking the outer defences like a nova strike. The two titanic fleets clashed in glorious war in the chilling void space between worlds. From T’au, the opening phase of the battle was a dazzling celestial display, which filled the evening skies with multi-hued lights. The defenders could not help but stare at the grand spectacle with awe and fear plain on their eyes. Infant Tau were taken by their loving tutors deep into the bowels of the grand libraries of T’au, in the hope they could be spared the horror.

The naval war was fought across a light-year of space. In reality, it was really many individual fleet battles fought in close proximity, but were classed as one action as each fleet merged and mixed with one another as damaged ships were rotated out of fights, as reinforcements arrived in other engagements. The two Hulks were like vast segmented beasts from the deep seas, set upon by a shoal of ravenous predatory fish, as they battled dozens of Necron warships at once. Lances and gun batteries fired continuously in the void, silently bisecting and blasting asunder ship after ship. The Idealist vessels tried to keep the Necrons at maximum range with their advanced munitions, but inevitably some broke through their gun-nets; gutting the speedy vessels with concentrated lightning arcs that shredded armor as if they were not there. But Idealists were unmanned, and few Tau were lost with their destruction.

Yet the Silent King had fought naval engagements against the Ever-ships of the First Kind (be silent! Speak not of them!) and the might of the K’nib Grendel-kesh. He was a master of void warfare. Where others saw a confused mess of individual naval actions, he saw a grand web of interlinked battles and he orchestrated it perfectly. After days of battle, his forces drew the defending fleets into fire traps and outmaneuvered the Tau comprehensively. The final death knell of the fleet came when the Tau flagship was destroyed from within by the invasion beams of the Megalith. It was also said the Necrons walked across its outer hull, unconcerned by the void, calmly destroying each weapon system with their annihilation barges, pylons and doomsday arks. Like a mighty fallen bear, the craft drifted in space as a blasted ruin, gutted and burnt within and without.

So, the Necrons continued in-system, while their rearguard finished the few remaining fleet elements. The orbitals pounded them continually with perfectly timed barrages. Flights of missiles, torpedoes and hyper-velocity rounds joined the constant searing onslaught of energy rays and weaponized tractor beams. The Necrons were stalled in their advance here, for they had to manually destroy each orbital before they could continue. This took time, and gave the defenders time to plan the defence.

As Hopeshield organised his troops, the Councils of T’au argued over what was to be done to preserve their culture. The entire Tau Empire faced extinction, they needed to save at least part of it. Some of the elders demanded places on fleeing ships, but they were ignored. Others suggested Aun’Va and a cross-section of the Tau civilization must flee in order to propagate their culture. But where could they flee to?

It was a low-level, unnamed Por’la who spoke up then, despite the harsh looks of the elders and the high ranking masters. Before she could be silenced or chastised, Aun’Va himself appeared and silenced her critics with a gentle raise of his hands. He then bade her to speak.

Por’la suggested the gate which had been found in the human domain of Jericho’s Reach. As far as Por’la knew, the gate would take them far from the Necron menace in the Eastern fringe. And, frankly, anywhere was safer than on T’au if it fell. Her words were wise ones and the council began to plan; plan for the secret evacuation of the spirit of Tau’Va.

Meanwhile, the Necrons had reached high orbit, under fire the entire way. Naval warfare gave way to the furious din of aerial warfare, in the heavens above the first Sept world. Fighters and scythes dueled, while bombers reached high orbit to assault the enemy starships. In turn, the Necron fighters fired hideously powerful arcs of energy into the cities below. Amidst these dogfights and strafing runs, the megalith descended. It was impervious to any assaults upon it, and as he came down, it cast forth invasion beams that allowed the Necron ground forces to deploy directly.

Phalanxes of Necron warriors fought blocks of Fire warriors protected from the flayers by overworked shield drones on an industrial scale. Already, the air was filled with sulfur and the screams of the dying. The Necrons themselves were silent.

Nemesor Turenekh, the mouthpiece of the Silent King, appeared to Hopeshield as a hologram. He demanded only Aun’Va and his priests; if the tau meekly bowed down now and gave up their silly little demagogues, the Silent King may only decimate the populous, rather than annihilate them. Hopeshield cursed his name, before ramming one of his warp cannons into the hologram. Much to the Nemesor’s surprise, the holographic feed somehow transmitted the warp energy and obliterated his body. (Some claim that was a miracle; though I do not believe in true miracles, the Warp has caused stranger things to occur...)

Hopeshield fought the Necrons, leading from the front. He led a flight of battlesuits, which scaled the Megalith and found his way inside. Within the ancient craft, a demented Nemesor that ranted of wars long forgotten, leapt into combat with him, accompanied by another Necron which was callous where his master was brave, and somber where his master was disturbingly cheerful.

This duel was seen as a great technical battle, where precision gunfire battled ancient close combat fighting techniques. The battlesuit and the war machine leapt from pillar to pillar, exchanging blows and rounds with reckless abandon. The outcome of the duel would never be known, as it was abruptly interrupted by an artillery strike against the Megalith, giving Hopeshield a chance to retreat.

Across the world, each city was besieged by the endless metal hordes. Stalkers were a constant presence, as they picked their way through the vast mounds of dead. Doomsday cannons blasted chunks from the cities, toppling spires like matchstick houses.

But on the plains was where the real battles were fought. The fluid formations of the tau swept around the rigid Necron forces that weathered their attacks with silent stoicism. The skies glowed a horrid green and the world slowly began to be poisoned by Necron infestation.

The Temple of the Undying Spirit, the seat of Aun’Va himself, was placed under siege last. On the grand white steps of the temple, a host of Lychguard marched towards the great gate. There, standing between them and the gate, stood the massed forces of the Honor Guard. Their blades shimmered in the green glow of the Necron-induced dusk, but they felt not one shred of fear, for they knew the price of failure. Around them, Fire Warriors poured supporting fire into the Lychguard, but much of this was deflected or ignored. It came down to the blades.

M’yen’shas’Va, the head of the Honor Guard, led the charge. He wore a shield generator upon his back, but no armor at all, only his ceremonial robes and his vast two-handed blade. The Melee of Steps is yet another legend that arose from this siege, for it was claimed the honor blades matched the warscythes for over an hour. This seems impossible, for honor blades are unpowered weapons of almost medieval simplicity. Yet, they somehow stalled the Lychguard, bringing down more than a few of them before they themselves fell.

But as the Necrons besieged the temple, its master was in flight. A simple, ancient Explorer class had been picked as his chariot, filled to the rafters with the collected knowledge of the Tau. This old ships was escorted by multiple Idealist class starships, as well as multiple other transport vessels, carrying hundreds upon thousands of Tau in their holds. Their destination was the Jericho Reach, and they sped towards the gate at a desperate pace.

At the temple, the Silent King himself had come to the surface. The technology, hidden within his monumental form was beyond even the reckoning of the Crypteks. He vanquished entire squads with a gesture, or simply shut down weapon systems with a press of a button. His staff carved apart anything which it struck, sending feedback waves of energy outwards, killing even more of his foes. He was the King of all Necrons and he was mighty.

When at last he burst into the chamber of Aun’Va, he found Hopeshield standing there. He had long ago spent all his ammunition and stood before the Silent King defiantly. In his gauntlets, he clutched the broken halves of a bisected honor blade, each end tipped with a curved edge. He bowed to the Silent King, before he launched himself into battle.

The two towering figures clashed, energy discharges shattering the windows and melting the floors as they fought. Hopeshield was no swordsman, but he was driven by desperation and hope. The Silent King was driven by self-loathing and disdain, but he was always the stronger. Every flourish from Hopeshield was countered pathetically easily. His counter-strikes carved deep wounds into Hopeshield’s flanks, shorting out his shield generator within minutes.

Aun’Va’s convoy burst from the Necron blockade, but it had not gone unnoticed. A Necron harvest fleet broke off from the main assault. Its Lord was compelled by programming to crave the praise of his Overlord. Surely such a prize would warrant acknowledgement?

The captain of the explorer vessel pressed on all ahead full, and broke for the semi-warp; though slow, it was safe, and it was quicker than a Necron vessel without faster than light travel. Unfortunately, this Lord knew the location of the requisite Dolmen gate, and burst into the stolen Webway section as fearsome speed. The Necron fleet would have reached the Tau convoy within seconds. They would have, that is, if another force hadn’t come into play at that very second.

As they breached, the Necrons had not expected another fleet to be in the Webway. This was a fleet of shadows and blades and it stalked them as they continued.

Suddenly, a strange voice was detected in their communications array. A serpentine, oily voice, laden with evil and malice.

“You may be almighty out there, but this is my realm, little silver devils. This is our Twilight realm, and we want to play...” the voice explained, before breaking down into demented laughter.

Lady Malys’ fleet, supported by the capering harlequins, attacked the Necrons inside the Webway. The Necrons were not used to such an attack and fought back feebly. But even worse for them, distracted by this attack, they did not realize the Webway had diverted them. Soon enough, the small Necron fleet emerged into a strange realm they had never seen before.

And there, in Commorragh’s heart, the ancient aliens learned why all the young races, across the entire galaxy, dreaded the name ‘Dark Eldar’ more than any other...

As the Necrons were taken, Aun’Va passed through the great gate, into the Koronus Expanse.

T’au was falling. Its armies were in retreat, desperately trying to keep on the move, but with no home bases, they were being ground down. The skies were now the Necrons’ and they poured down hellish green fire like rain. The Kroot and xenos were barricaded within their ships, fighting like medieval barons against an unstoppable foe which wouldn’t stay dead.

Hopeshield lay bleeding upon the floor, at the feet of the mute Necron Monarch. His blades were broken, his hopes dimmed.

Then, as the Tau looked on in misery, it became even worse.

Another Necron fleet surged into the system with impossible swiftness. One moment there was empty space, and an instant later, a truly colossal Tombship loomed. Silently it drifted into orbit. It was black of hull, veined with green and purple light. It dwarfed all save the Silent King’s flagship. Minutes later, it fired. Its towering beams of energy pulverized six of T’au’s cities at once, utterly obliterating them with a single shot each.

A terrible image then psychically flashed across the minds of every living thing on the surface.

A red world fractured. A great howl of pain and monstrous joy. The last unbroken? Siblings lost; brother flayer slain. Rage. Hate, all consuming. The night’s sky forms the wings of it; that great nemesis. That ultimate doom. The Great Wyrm. The Dragon. Oblivion. Machine Gods and Machine monsters; he is all and he is hungry. The galaxy is His. The universe to follow.

And with that, the vast vessel (a mere herald ship of the Dragon) vanished instantly.

The Silent King disappeared in a flash of green light. Much to the bewilderment of the Tau, the Triarch Necrons began to fall back, fleeing to their waiting ships. These ships then accelerated away from T’au at phenomenal speeds. By the time the sun rose over the Temple of the Undying Spirit, the Necrons were gone. They had left no trace they had ever been there, save for the ruins.

While the few million survivors rejoiced and thanked the path of the Greater Good for guiding them to deliverance, Hopeshield was not so blind. He looked form his window, towards the stormy skies.

Whatever the Dragon was, it terrified the Triarch. What nightmare could possibly terrify the King of the Necrons? Whatever it was, the galaxy and the tau were far from safe.

And, alas, he was quite correct...

3) The Void Dragon Ascendant

The Void Dragon. The Dragon of Mars. The Great Wyrm. The God in the Machine. Oblivion.

Many are the names of this, the most infamous of the C’tan. All of these names are those granted to it by its fearful foes and quivering subjects. The Dragon was the first of its kind; gaining its sentience when the universe was still fluid. Many of the other C’tan followed; bound to the very substance of reality as surely as the very stars that served as their cradles.

In the many wars in heaven, the Dragon was at the forefront for it had an affinity for the fundamental cause and control of the realm of the real in a manner few of even his fellow C’tan possessed. It knew nothing of science, for science was the work of those who wished to learn of the universe’s secrets through observation and experiment; the Dragon knew how the universe worked completely. Nothing was theory to this being, for he could confirm it by simply making it so. It was the undisputed master of the Void.

But his knowledge was not limitless. There were things that eternally baffled him. The primary area of ignorance for the Dragon was the squalid, squabbling emotions of the races that came in his wake. Its emotions were easily controllable, yet they were colossal. It could not understand the eternally modifying and moderating emotions of the shorter-lived entities that scurried in his wake on balls of rock and molten metal. Consequently, when the eternal rivals of the C’tan, the [if you speak their names, I shall end you! I swear it!], discovered that the immaterial dimension was governed not by logic but by the madness of emotion, he grew incoherent and dreadfully wrathful.

The C’tan began to burrow, coiling through the bonds of reality itself. They desired to reach their foes, for the Old Ones knew the secret. They knew-[FRAGMENT MISSING]

It lurks, and none can see, for it permeates, lingering yet it persists forever, but it only existed a few moments ago, and it no longer exists, but it always will. Oceans upon oceans, and the islands float within. Branes upon branes; membranes like soap that bubbles. And flowing between, the ever-colored streams, feeding the deep ocean. None can see it till all is mad, and none can know what madness knows. All decisions and all despair; lust and rage and fear and hope are mere pillars of the true temple, pushing up like fingers through fine mesh. See it! Blinds you it shall! Blinds you it shall! It is too deep! Too deep! They all saw it!

[FRAGMENT MISSING]- but the Dragon was not shattered. It was spared this fate, ironically, by the weapons of its own foes. The Talismans of Vaul; weapons crafted to confound the beast, were brought forth to vanquish the Dragon.

The weapons had struck it, but it had not been enough. Something had softened the blow; many of the old legends speak of a being that appeared upon the Talismans; a Diviner or a seer or a monster. It destroyed the Wraithbone choirs that guided the Talismans, causing the artificial minds crafted within the so-called ‘pearls of Vaul’ at the heart of the space stations to malfunction. The Dragon was wounded, but managed to battle its way free of the ambush, dragging a constellation of asteroids and comets in its gravitational wake as it fled to the red world.

Though the Dragon was the greatest of its kind, it fled into shadows, wounded and ashamed. There, the Dragon slept for long eons. The colossal entity was, after many millennia of futile searching by all factions, from the Alaitoc to the Triarch, to even the Daemon King Malfus Taarl, the Dragon was forgotten.

But when the Second Age of Strife descended upon the galaxy like a bloodied veil, the Dragon began to stir once more. We have spoken at length of the humiliating second imprisonment of the Dragon; chained in a sphere of warp energy that Abaddon has summoned around the Solar System. This incensed the C’tan more than any mere defeat could ever do. It was not his imprisonment which frustrated him; it was the knowledge that he could not understand the energies that were being unleashed across the system. All the Void Dragon could do was destroy it, but each time he did, like lumps of sand crumbling into nothingness, the warp energy merely flowed away and reformed after destruction; ever mutable and as immortal as the Dragon itself was.

When at last it was freed, the entire galaxy shuddered. Images of oblivion and destruction flowed into the minds of all sentient beings. It was a vision of triumph and yet confusion. The Void Dragon resolved to renew the War in Heaven; if his old foes thought they could prevent the great warding, they were mistaken. But when the C’tan finally arose, the galaxy was so very different.

It cast its mind wide across the galaxy and found a furnace of eternal war.* The Necron slave race persisted, but they fought and squabbled like the pathetic flesh weapons of the First Ones. Why did they not work towards the goals of the C’tan? The remnants of the Old Ones’ weapons still festered across the galaxy, spreading like fungus. Had the C’tan lost? Impossible!

But then the Dragon searched for its fellow C’tan. All it could find was broken, demented fragments; ghosts of their former magnificence. But there was something worse. The Dragon felt an absence; a gap within the fabric of actuality. The Dragon searched for its brother C’tan known as the Flayer, it found nothing. When the Dragon caught one of the Necron Praetorians, it learned the truth.

Betrayal. The Necrons had been given eternal life and a glorious empire of glittering magnificence and they had betrayed the C’tan. The C’tan had saved the Necrons from certain destruction by the morose and coldly merciless Old Ones; yet still they had betrayed them. The C’tan were shattered.

I do not believe a mortal chronicler such as myself, with such a limited palette of fears and passions, could adequately express the Void Dragon’s towering, terrifying emotions at that moment. I fear I would damage this chronicle (even more than I have already done so) in the attempt.

The Void Dragon, in that moment, declared war upon everything that dared to exist in defiance of the Star God. But it did not attack straight away. First, it sent fleets to those forge worlds of the Mechanicus that it knew had Dragon Cults flourishing upon them, for upon these worlds, his minions had crafted teleportation portals, both planetside and in high orbit. Suddenly, to the surprise of many of the Magi, the Dragon’s vessels flashed into orbit almost instantly, destroying any monitors who got in their way. Then, it revealed itself to these worlds of adamantine and steel. No one can say what the Void Dragon actually looked like; some saw it as an amorphous cloud of shadow, others saw a new star in heaven. Others saw a colossal writhing mass of mechanical tendrils, cloaked in red with colossal wings formed of shimmering blades that spread from horizon to horizon. It is possible the Dragon had no set form, but this was immaterial to its goals.

To these Mechanicus cultists, it was the Omnissiah. No, more than that; the Machine God itself. Even those who once revered the Emperor as the Omnissiah turned to this new entity. It repaired their machines with a gesture and it spoke the words of prophecy. What was more, unlike the Emperor, this thing of the Void was as deathless as knowledge itself. Mindlessly they began to convert factories into replication machines. From these machines, scarabs swarmed and consumed most of the inhabitants. Those who survived became ever more convinced of their destinies. The Techpriests were the true servants of the C’tan. Unlike the Necrons, they knew what the Void Dragon offered them, and they joyfully accepted. The Flesh was Weak and they became so much more.

The Slaugth came to the Dragon in tatters. Their fleets were ruined by wars with the Krork and the Phoenix Lords of the Asur. They had been cast out from their territories and were now little more than a nomadic fleet of reavers and scavengers, feasting upon the resources of unsuspecting worlds as they desperately sought to escape the attentions of the ‘Knights Griffon’ Commandery, which had made it their sworn mission to eradicate the worm-men, after the hated Slaugth murdered their recruitment worlds with a ravenous plague. They were almost caught by the impromptu crusade gathered by Commander Elikos of the Griffons. Only the experimental drives that the Slaugth had crafted kept them from being encircled and destroyed. But unknown to both sides, the Dragon’s fleet had captured the forge world system the Slaugth had fled to for emergency repairs. When Elikos finally burst from the Warp into the system, his fleet was met by a colossally powerful force of living metal vessels, surrounded by a dense cloud of scarabs like flies around rotting meat.

The resulting fleet action was as short as it was recklessly brave. The Mk II Astartes could not back down from this battle, and the Griffons and their mortal allied fleets were destroyed; their vessels were then consumed and remade into the image of the C’tan's own vessels.

The Slaugth, pathetically grateful to the Star Vampire, pledged their entire race to the cause of the Void Dragon. The Dragon spared them, for they provided it with their innovative drive system. After they were incorporated into the Dragon’s faction, I have noticed that most of the C’tan-allied Necron vessels became modified to mount similar engine systems to Slaugth vessels; however, these drives were vastly improved by the C’tan itself and were superior in almost all respects.

It was then that the Dragon swept out across the galaxy. Its vessels were powered by these new drives. As previously related, the Dragon launched an offensive on an unprecedented scale. From the Western Chaos Imperium to the Tau meta-Empire, these fleets spread outwards, gifting each capital world a brief taste of the C’tan’s terrible power. The galaxy could no longer ignore this entity; after long eons of degradation and humiliating imprisonment, the master of the C’tan was transcendent as the new dawn. Yet, what a terrible dawn this was!

This grand armada came to be known as the Dragon Tide, and it smashed aside all who opposed it. It spanned the galaxy in its reach, and some accounts of worlds on the edge of the galactic plane claimed they observed vessels plunging into the interstellar void, but this cannot be confirmed (I have no idea where I would start. Who could claim to have traveled the deep void, where dead stars and orphaned worlds drift in utter blackness? I cannot claim to know of the galaxies beyond this one. There are some who do, but one does not talk to those entities. Never.)

Across the Vulkan Imperium, servitors had to be repaired en masse, as they all began to shudder and moan. They gibbered in an alien tongue no being in the universe was old enough to remember. The metropolis of Armageddon was struck a blow by a tomb ship, which destabilized the crust on the southern hemisphere of the world. The resultant volcanoes leveled entire cities before the Salamanders (experts in this field of geological engineering) managed to bring the firestorms and tectonic destruction under control. This period became known as the time of the waking serpent, or the great first season of fire.

Abaddon’s capital of Cadia was attacked with great force, but the Dragon’s forces spared the regions located close to the pylons from attack. And, thankfully for the corrupt Chaos-worshipers, Abaddon also had the forethought to hide his greatest assets from this terrible foe. The Blackstone Fortresses were hidden within a fold in Warp space until the Dragon Tide departed; the only place the Void Dragon’s sight did not reach.

The Dragon Tide did not spare Nova-Ultramar in a similar fashion. Calth was mass-scattered by the tide, and Macragge’s citadel of lead was turned to molten ruins with an almost dismissive onslaught.

Tales of epic battles with the Void Dragon abound throughout this period. Many primitive pre-blackpowder feral worlds recorded the period with images of shooting stars and skeletal knights wrestling with a serpent that encircled the world. The Eldar remnants composed new ballads of woe as the Void Dragon rampaged with wild abandon across the galaxy.

But then, after seemingly dealing every faction a tremendous blow that sent them all reeling, the Void Dragon paused. This has been a mystery for chroniclers for hundreds upon hundreds of years. But I feel, in this... place [chronicler shivers], I have uncovered why the Dragon did not press on with its assault.

The key is its brother C’tan. While it slept upon Mars, the Void Dragon had believed that the forces of the Eldar and their ancient allies were the primary threat to the C’tan's survival. However, surely, once it had seen that the Necrons, its own servant race, were capable of shattering its fellow C’tan, then they became the primary threat to its existence. The Necrons and the Krork were equally persistent threats to the Dragon, and it could tolerate neither gaining the upper hand in the coming conflict. The Void Dragon could not simply take over the Necrons directly, for the Silent King had long ago destroyed the central command protocols. They would have to be fought.

So, the Dragon threw his forces into a colossal galactic war against both factions. He besieged the Krork on their great fortress worlds. The worlds burned as the two races ripped each other into ruins and cast fire upon the wreckage. The ‘War of the Krork’ were a breed of creatures born to be weapons, while the mechadendrite-clad new war machines of the Dragon were horrifying entities that could channel energy through their bodies and could lay waste to hundreds of Krork warrior-born before they themselves were destroyed by specialized anti-Necron munitions. Tesla Prime, the Krork capital world, was the second greatest fortress in the entire galaxy, second only to the Fang (to give it its primitive, Fenrisian title). This was where the main concentration of combat was focused.

During this period of crisis and woe, many of the galactic powers weathered the storm through contracting their forces into tight defensive spheres around their inhabited worlds. The Dragon Tide could strike anywhere, and a relief fleet could not hope to arrive before the Dragon’s force had already departed; every world needed to be defended at once. This was a tactic where each world was reinforced by as much force as they could support, while the great roving fleets of conquest and counter-assault were kept to a bare minimum, as were the trading fleets. Vulkan was the first to enact this policy and it certainly kept his worlds safe for a time. However, it did isolate them. Opportunistic factions flocked like vultures to take advantage of this brief period of isolation (know as the Contraction). This necessitated the Nocturne and Armageddon councils sanctioning several daring missions by small fleets of some of his and his allies’ most elite and courageous units, to maintain the peace and security of the Primarch’s domain (this period shall be covered in the next section).

The Dragon Tide was an irresistible force, but Tesla Prime was utterly unbreakable. How many human and other alien lives did the Krork inadvertently save simply by maintaining that siege? I hesitate to speculate, as it is surely in the regions of quadrillions; never underestimate the value of sacrifice. Of course, some unfortunate worlds on the fringes of this world were stripped of resources by both sides as the war escalated, but compared to the damage the C’tan could have inflicted on the rest of the galaxy (already weakened by millennia of grinding attrition warfare), it is unthinkable.

But as this war continued, the Dragon also sought to confront the Necrons. The C’tan traveled the galaxy, snatching up those shards of his fallen brethren, consuming them and building his own power. It was better for them to be absorbed by the Dragon rather than used against him, presumably.

Whenever the two forces clashed, the Dragon Tide warriors would purposefully target the shards first, capturing them in Labyrinths before delivering them to the Dragon itself. But there were two shards that it desired to acquire desperately, for they were shards of the Dragon itself.

As he slept upon Mars, the Dragon had shed three parts of itself willingly, in order to facilitate its own escape. One was sent to Terra to consume human energies (but this was vanquished and cast out by a legendary warrior spirit we have yet to identify). This large shard was recovered from Terra when the Emperor fell; Techpriests from Terra discreetly fled to Mars, bearing a strange sarcophagus of unknown providence...

The second took the form of a book, and his minions within the core-world abhumans were consequently lost during those Tyrannic wars (another period of history I know little of. Even this grand archive has scant reference to that unfortunate civilization). The final self-shard of the Dragon was cast out further than the rest, to a far flung world away from any major civilizations. People would later call this world Medusa. And, once again some misfortune befell this, the smallest fragment of his essence. It was not until the Age of Dusk that the wise of the galaxy finally realized what this meant and who took the shard. But by then, it was too late to stop what was happening. The Dragon desired these shards, for each contained vital elements of its psyche; without them, the great warding project could not be completed.

The Necrons reacted with unprecedented panic when the Dragon arose. Ordinarily docile and insular tomb worlds mobilized for full scale war and instantly began mass-teleportation assaults on facilities and sites known to be tainted by the Void Dragon’s influence. Others were forced on the defensive by the Dragon’s armies. No fleet or convoy was safe in real space, as ancient empires dueled in silent wars of mutual annihilation. Only Imotekh and the rebellious Necrons that worked with the heralds of the Star Father seemed limited in their engagement with the old foe; perhaps the Void Dragon’s rise had confused the Star father with old memories of a life long forgotten? Or maybe Imotekh was waiting until both sides were weakened enough for his forces to deal with them.

Only Szarekh, the Silent King himself, knew how much danger his race was truly in. He had made the initial pact with the C’tan. He had seen them in their full power; he had seen what the Void Dragon could do.

Yet, most importantly, he knew how to shatter the Dragon.

Time was of the essence. As soon as the Dragon Tide came to T’au, Szarekh departed with his fleet at full speed to the place where the C’tan had first been undone, where the Necrons had unleashed a power not even the Crypteks fully understood.

The Tomb World of Thanatos; the home of the Celestial Orrery.

They had precious little time to spare; the Void Dragon was the most powerful and concentrated C’tan and would take tremendous power to splinter. The Silent King’s vessel sped ahead of the rest of his fleet, engaging a mysterious drive that was faster even than Dolmen gate travel. Stars wheeled past the vessel as it smashed through the light speed barrier and plunged into a slipstream of compressed space and time. Every faster and faster the vessel sped. Portal travel would have been quicker, but the Necrons of Thanatos were reclusive and prone to invasions, and had thus disabled all incoming portals. Szarekh had to get there physically.

Moments before the vessel reached Thanatos, the ship began to slow. The deceleration was sudden and impossible. The ship groaned in protest as it slowed, sentient metal shifting and warping under immense pressures. At last, with a fearsome jolt, they came to a stop, deep in the interstellar Void.

With a gesture, the Silent King ordered his vessel’s world-ending weapon systems to shudder into activation. The entire ship gleamed with energy as veins of glowing power ran across its glinting hull with spectacular intricacy.

“Destroy any vessel which enters the range of our batteries,” Szarekh’s Nemesor ordered. She would destroy any craft foolish enough to duel with the Triarch’s very own flagship. No vessel in the Dragon’s entire fleet could face the Silent King’s ship one on one.

Unfortunately for them; a Star god needed no starship. The Void Dragon had come for the Silent King personally. The void itself seemed to split asunder as the Dragon shimmered into existence before the grand tombship. The Void Dragon took on the form it had possessed when Szarekh had first met the C’tan; an entity made of a thousand bladed wings, covered in glittering stones that looked like the starry sky itself, or great green gemstones of amazing scale; beneath these winged layers, a terrible brightness, at once oily and majestic. It was a light that coiled and writhed like a phosphorescent jellyfish or cephalopod of the ocean’s depths. It was a sight few in the galaxy could ever bear witness to; a full-bodied C’tan, glutted upon the consumed bodies of its brother C’tan.

The Nemesor cared little for this display, and merely ordered the lightning arcs to obliterate the Void Dragon.

Nothing happened. Necron pilots mindlessly turned to their overlords for guidance. Across the ship, systems were shutting down.

“Did you think you could take our gifts, take our knowledge and then cast us aside?”

The voice came from the very walls themselves, vibrating to produce the exact replication of a mortal’s voice. The Void Dragon spoke to the Necrons within directly, using their own vessel to do so.

“You dared to rebel against us, when we granted you vengeance and immortality? You pathetic little imperialists; consumed by your own petty ambitions! You shattered my brethren; obliterated my Flayer. But you always feared me. Above all others, you feared my retaliation. That is why you waited until I was overcome by our foes. Cowards! Your bodies are deathless, yet you still think like the putrid mortal scum you ever were!”

The voice shook the ship, as strange signals and energy surges rippled throughout the tomb vessel. The Silent King stood before this onslaught, peering at the C’tan that loomed colossal in the viewscreens. He had nothing to say to the old Drake, the god of Oblivion. The Silent King hated this being as surely as the Void Dragon loathed his kind.

But before the Silent King’s very eyes, his Necrons began to unravel at the atomic level; one by one they were falling. They were being willed into oblivion. The Silent King could be quiet no longer. With a metallic roar, he punched his staff into the command console, activating the secondary programming of his minions, overriding the Void Dragon’s terrible powers. Freed of this assault, the Nemesor powered the ship’s weapons and turned about to face the magnificent C’tan.

The battle was the stuff of dark legends. Whole worlds had bad dreams millennia later, when the light from his void conflict reached their skies. This was a clash of gods and the deathless demi-gods. It was a story told and retold for all of time. Arcing beams of energy struck the writhing being, as flayers and nightscythes sought to destroy the shell which contained the C’tan. It retaliated with all its dreadful repertoire of powers; fighters were tossed through time to crumble, bolts of incandescent power obliterated the bodies of Necrons utterly, and immense gravimetric forces pulled and ripped at the living metal craft, ripping great chunks from its sides. Finally, the Dragon folded in upon itself; compressing into a singularity. Slowly but surely, the tombship began to come apart, layer by layer. The hull was breached, peeled backwards like the petals of flower, to reveal the Silent King, who stood before the monstrous C’tan steadfastly. His face could bear no expression, but he surely felt great fear at that moment.

“You are destructive and glorious, Mag'ladroth. But you have slumbered too long. Your knowledge is out of date; you know nothing of the true dangers this galaxy faces,” the Silent King finally exclaimed. Though his voice was rendered silent by the void, he knew the Dragon could hear him somehow.

The Dragon simply shuddered and flared with more burning light. It would not answer him, but the entity was intrigued. Thus, Szarekh continued.

“You have struck a blow against the wrong foes. You were not there in the closing years of the war. You did not see what the Old Ones awoke in the deep places. The terrible dissolution came; the first phase of its manifestation. It rose up and destroyed the Old Ones.”

The Dragon rumbled then; an expression of bemusement dreadful too behold. “The Throne-Dwellers, dead? You know so little of reality, little Necron. Despite your grand airs, you are an insect. I would know if they were dead. You can be certain of that. They did something far worse than merely dying...” the being exclaimed, resounding within Szarekh’s machine mind.

“Whatever they did does not matter. What matters is that whatever seed they played is taking fruit. You must have felt the pantheons rising.”

The Void Dragon did not respond, for it likely had felt the new powers of the Warp, since the more they pushed into reality, the more his power of reality fluctuated; for the Warp was anathema to the physical laws and disturbed them on an intolerable scale. But still the Void Dragon dismissed the Necron King’s words.

“I shall ward this galaxy. The dissolution shall be starved at its root.”

“It will not work. The wards are falling; the seals are breaking. Even now, a warp entity known as Lorgar is destroying your edifices upon the world of Ar’Cadia.”

For a moment, it seemed as if the Void Dragon would heed the Silent King’s words. However, it was at this inopportune moment that the Triarch’s fleet finally caught up with their master. The Void Dragon cursed him as the fleet began its assault. The Dragon fought its way free of the blockade with a great lash of starfire a light-minute long. Thousands of Necron ships were sundered at the sub-atomic level as the Dragon fled; those vessels could never be repaired. However, the Dragon was driven off, even if the cost was great. But when Szarekh’s ship was searched, he was nowhere to be found. His home tomb world was searched, but from there too he had vanished.

Though the Dragon Tides continued for centuries afterwards, the Dragon itself vanished from chronicle accounts for a time. I cannot guess what the great and final unshattered C’tan planned in those years of silence. Did it heed the Silent King’s warnings? Did it come to some sort of epiphany? I only know that the Void Dragon is to play a key role in the events that are to come soon. So very soon...

[Chronicler looks behind pict-screen at unregistered imagery.]

I am not ready. The chronicle must be completed. I shall not let them win. They will not silence me.

  • [Please note, I have ‘creatively’ reconstructed the possible thoughts of the Dragon here, through the extrapolation of a hundred thousand fragmentary reports gathered form the broken minds of countless members of the Dragon Cult, as they channeled minuscule portions of his consciousness through their tiny brains. Most died as they transcribed their last thoughts.]

Additional Background Section 25: A Time of Contraction: The Cult Forgotten and The Necromundan Alliance [Part One][edit]

My memories; they are not my own. No, I oversimplify; they are mine, but I possess the memories of others as if they were mine. As I read these archives, these histories flow into me like some terrible torrent. I recall things history couldn’t know, yet I remember them alongside the historical accounts; I am participant and observer.

Has this twisted den of living bone finally taken by sanity? Or was my mind never my own? I do not recall how I first began this chronicle; I do not recall how I came to be here, besieged and surrounded by things I cannot fathom. I recall my allies, but why do I know them? Are all my memories ripped from these pages and etheric repositories?

There was another voice in my head. Is that my true voice? These thoughts disturb me; I must continue. Knowledge and the reiteration of history will quell my dread. Asurmen promised...

Sweet knowledge, caress me...

The period of Contraction was a controversial policy enacted by various galactic powers during the rampaging conflict brought to the galaxy by the Dragon Tides. The Vulkan Imperium concentrated their forces around each of the worlds of the empire densely, combining powerful patrol fleets with regiment upon regiment of soldiers. This allowed each world in the Imperium to weather the Dragon Tides effectively. This policy was taken up by some of the neighboring empires to the Vulkan Imperium.

Yet, in exchange for security, the Vulkan Imperium paused in its gradual, methodical expansion. Contemporary scholars likened the action to that of a bear hibernating (or a cockroach being frozen, according to less sympathetic historians). Interplanetary traffic was reduced to a minimum; any vessels which were permitted to travel between worlds had to remain in the warp for vast lengths of time in order to reach their destinations without risking entering realspace and suffering raids by either the Dragon Tide, or the demented fleets of the Storm Lord, that crackled with strange energies both in realspace and the immaterium (due to the present of his Angyllic allies onboard those corrupted Necron craft). This was obviously more risky, and meant only the most essential and important missions were undertaken as otherwise this would represent a waste of resources if trading fleets had to constantly risk enhanced warp threats every time they left their systems.

Luckily, a significant fraction of the worlds pacified and administered by the government of Armageddon were self-sufficient worlds, each well-stocked for centuries of isolation. A slow pace of expansion had been a wise move on the shrewd Primarch’s part. For a hundred years into M56, there was paranoia and subconscious unease within the populations of the Vulkan Imperium, but relatively few direct wars. Ironically, the threat of sudden and arbitrary destruction fostered a form of wary peace (how history runs in its little cycles...).

In this climate of reduced military campaigning, those few major events have since gained increased prominence, and the heroes of this time became legendary. There was Temestor Braiva, the handsome General of the Federation of Justice’s rapid counter-incursion taskforce; tales of dashing heroism and bravery that still stir the blood. Darnal Taq was another legendary figure, but his fame was as much for his politics (and his personal championing of the now-famous figure of Iacob) as for any personal feat of arms. There was the notoriously fearsome Warmistress of the Ryza-Catachan Plasma Commandoes; she was famously unattractive, but also phenomenally formidable in combat (a legacy of her mythical namesake, Saint Harker the indestructible). And of course the Brethren of the Willing under Imogen, who had become almost completely bionic by this point due to her advancing age (Some speculate Vulkan himself devised a means to keep her alive, for she was a most useful servant and friend to the Primarch), and limited Astartes kill-teams operated throughout the period. The exploits of these famous figures are intrinsically linked to the major events afflicting the Imperium during this century of tension.

As the Contraction drew on, the Vulkan Imperium began to lose contact with neighbouring empires and trade partners with alarming regularity. Some just entrenched themselves like the Imperium had done, while others simply vanished. Large predators were consuming these realms. The Western and Eastern Imperiums of Chaos consumed worlds by the thousands. Rumour trumped truth in these cases. Some claimed Abaddon had united the two realms and had begun an offensive, others claimed he had been usurped and even darker forces were at work.

A new power was growing within the carcass of the Theologian Union; a realm of deathless titans clad in runic armour conquered worlds and enslaved their populaces. Flickering warp fires burned multi-hued in their former witch furnaces. The witch-hunters were themselves hunted, by the very witches they had once destroyed. These liberated psykers and warp witches all bore the sigils of the Godmaker Ahriman. The Sorcerer King was growing in power and no human realm dared challenge him, for he possessed the Obsidian Cube; his grand fortress of forbidden knowledge pillaged from Terra itself. Any Astartes kill teams were rapidly humbled by his Rubric; simply adding to his mounting power. He was becoming something new, something terrible. He wished to see as Magnus had seen, and avoid his former master’s mistakes. He would become omniscient (or so he desired). The only one brave enough to challenge him, Crolomere the Grey Sensei, had been cast from his sight. She was presumed lost for many years, but this was untrue.

All these great foes were beyond the scope of the contracted Imperium. However, the Vulkan Imperium had troubles within its own borders. It would be easy to trivialise such conflicts, but they meant life or death for billions and the small strike forces sent forth to deal with these problems were tremendously brave, for they knew no support would come to their aid should they fail.

First, we must talk of the Cult Forgotten. The Cult was as ancient as it was secretive. The Temple of Vanus had been destroyed many millennia previously, but their agents had remained; dissolving into society. They were tailors and surgeons of media and information. Originally, they had been created to eliminate political foes completely; to not only kill them, but to erase their very existence from all documents, records and even the memories of their closest friends. It would be as if they had never existed at all. And the Vanus did this so discreetly, most members of the Old Imperium never knew of the Vanus at all; they were data-ghouls, ghosts in the machine, errors in computation and cogitation.

But they were real, and they survived. The Cult was founded upon the idea that knowledge was the route of evil; under the God-Emperor, the populace stayed ignorant and it was relatively safe. Heresy would be impossible for a mind made small by ignorance and fear. The Cult Forgotten spread like an illness; they destroyed any libraries that even mentioned C’tan. They killed scholars and erased their teachings about chaotic pantheons or the manifest forms of the xenos.

Darnal Taq (remembered fondly in many histories simply as ‘the Wyvern Scribe’) and his political disciples had decided that the Vulkan Imperium would best serve its people if they knew the nature of the threats they faced. Ignorance caused fear, and ignorance was seen as a blight upon the first Imperium. The Cult Forgotten had to be challenged. Thus, thorough psychic relays and urgent delegations of scribes and scholars began to travel the Imperium, risking life and limb to rekindle the knowledge being lost.

As this went on, the Brethren of the Willing began to search for this hidden cult. In conjunction with the Order of Heracles, they engaged in a covert war of espionage and discreet assassination. The Vanus were cunning and devious. Sometimes their enemies would forget they had ever seen them, or were subtly reprogrammed to hunt down other assassins on the Cult Forgotten’s behalf. Yet, slowly, the Vanus were hunted down and destroyed. The final official Vanus was slain by The Wyvern Scribe’s own retinue, after it transpired that one of his closest friends was a Vanus grand master. Though he nearly died in the attempt, Darnal himself put a bolt between her eyes, but not before she had put half of his personal staff into paralytic comas from which they never recovered.

It was said that the Vulkan Imperium was a realm of valiant comraderie and good nature. But there were elements of their population who were just as sordid, greedy and cruel as they had ever been. There were some people who were always the lowest, base figures in history; the cowards, backstabbers and thieves that plagued history books with squallid tales of petty criminality and violence. This was the ugly underworld of Vulkan’s semi-utopia. This amorphous force was later known as the Necromundan Alliance.

It began with the Savlar Chem Dogs way back in the Second Age of Strife. Their homeworld had been destroyed, but they themselves were spread out across the galaxy as former guard regiments. The Chem Dogs were drug-dealers and criminals and they took advantage of any period of hardship and weakness. They formed protection rackets on countless backwaters and in the stinking underhives of more civilised worlds. They smuggled in illicit spices and narcotics, all the while bullying and brutalising the weak. The Chem Dogs became a loose dynasty of vagabonds and filthy crime lords, overshadowing even the most infamous of Malfian families.

When Vulkan swept out on his new crusade of Unity, the Savlars resented his concepts of helping their common men and building a new world of justice and dignity for the human race. Like cockroaches, their empire hid itself from the scrutiny of the righteous; infesting the dark places where law was but a memory. Their diseased influence spread throughout the new Imperium, expanding after allying with the Necromundan Spiders, a similarly brutal culture born of ex-Guard lineage.

However, it was not until the Contraction that these crooks and villains resurfaced. For some reason, their ambitions had grown massively. They not only dipped their snouts into petty planetary crime, but they began to rob from forge worlds and raided the vast storage units of the most important of Imperial organisations and clients. This was especially bizarre, for no one could explain how they could pull these crimes off. Each crime scene looked like a horrific warzone; guards were ripped to shreds, pulped by bolters and whirring blades. Investigators of these crimes knew only one force was capable of such swift and brutal destruction. A Space Marine Free Company must still have existed (even though, at this point, these companies were believed to be extinct). The Promethian Council dispatched an Astartes Kill Team to locate this rogue criminal Astartes organisation. The kill team consisted of ten Marines selected from across the Commanderies for their knowledge of Mk I Astartes lore and their infiltration abilities. This new investigation took them from world to world of the Imperium.

They braved hideous warp journeys through suspended animation, and faced down the underworlds of the Imperium with particular relish. Their leader, Broxon Timbor, was a Steel Wolverine, a Commandery which particularly despised those who dared to carry arms against fellow citizens. His men were brutal and ruthless in their interrogations and their search for the heads of this amorphous criminal entity. But while their work was effective, it was also noisy. Somehow, the dealers and villains got word to their masters of a band of (they assumed) rogue Astartes who were apparently after their blood. Though the Criminal Alliance knew these superhumans were after them, they did not suspect these were men sent by Vulkan’s government itself.

After years of breaking heads and examining crime scenes, it seemed clear that the heart of the criminal enterprise was the Hive World Necromunda. Necromunda had been declared a failed planet centuries previously. The ruling Nobles had been toppled by warring gangland factions, bringing down the Brass-top Enforcers and even the Spryer families. Necromunda became a battleground of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, as Goliath gangs clashed with Van Saar bands and even the mutant population muscled in on the uprising. Some suggested the world simply be bombed, but others argued that without any food imports, the world would collapse in upon itself. Yet, the planet had, unaccountably, survived; shipments were smuggled in from across the sector and beyond. The Kill team realised that the Savlar Chem Dogs and their allies had been the ones to bring in these shipments. This was the rancid heart of their corruption. The Kill Team hid themselves within one of these shipments and prepared to take down their foes.

Even amongst other hellish hives, Necromunda was a special kind of horrible, for the distasteful bowels of the underhive were no longer confined to the pit; they had risen up to infest the entire planet. Poverty and sickness was rife everywhere, and not one building was left undamaged. Sewage overflowed in the streets and every man, woman and child looked to each other in suspicion and hate. The Kill team fought its way through these endless slums, for the only way to learn new information was to beat it out of defeated warbands. Slowly, they came to learn of the Savlar families. No gang could take them down because their heavies were unbeatable, or so it was claimed. Even the Goliath admitted these thugs were harder than them.

Every gang pointed the Kill team towards their bastion, located high atop the hive spire. It had once been the opulent home of the nobility and the Lord-Governor; a glorious palace of fine furniture and lavish decoration. But it was no longer.

The palace had become a grim fortress, reinforced with stolen macrocannons and titan blasters foraged from across the galaxy. Iron spikes and battlements of riveted adamantium were bolted to the architecture garishly. The kill team chose to attack the fortress at the same time that a major Goliath-led assault was undertaken. As the Savlar emplacements slaughtered the gangers, the kill team smashed its way through the blockade, losing Broxon to a stray mega-bolt round that pulverised his body utterly. Callan the Fire Beast took up the team leader position and stormed into the fortress with a curse on his lips, lashing out with the blades on his armour and his own consecrated boltgun. The Chem Dogs and the tattooed spider Guardsmen couldn’t stand up to Astartes in such close quarters. Though Braman the Bull Repentent fell during the battle, they nevertheless pressed on through the mass of soldiers, until they reached the rotten heart of the fort. Beautiful tapestries hung in tatters, chests of treasure were torn asunder and even the fine carpets had been ripped out and unceremoniously tarnished by thugs and gangers. It was then that the Astartes met their match.

Rogue Astartes burst from concealed positions of ambush to assault them. Bolter met bolter and blade met blade in the close confines of the tainted palace. These Astartes were clad in patchwork power armour, crudely painted in garish yellow and black strips, while some sections of newer armour were still grey and unpainted; fresh from a liberated forge. Likewise, their looted weapons were diverse as they were deadly. Two more of the kill team fell, but not before taking a heavy toll on those Mk I Astartes that attacked them. After a short skirmish, the other six super soldiers were subdued and incapacitated, before being dragged to the governor’s throne room.

Their assailants were the Marines Malevolent. These posthuman warriors had rejected Vulkan’s rulership for as long as they had existed. They would not bow to weak humanitarians. It was they who had added their might to the Savlar cause, in exchange for dominion over the pathetic mortal beasts. Yet, strangely, it was no Marine Malevolent who leered at the captured Mk II Astartes. He was certainly a Space Marine, but his armour was the colour of midnight, streaked with lightning and dried gore. He bore no helmet, and his pallid features were streaked with black veins, as dark as his black eyes. The throne he sat upon had been smashed onto its side, and he merely perched atop it like a vulture.

At his command, the Marines Malevolent began to carve open the helpless Astartes before him. Their geneseed organs were ransacked, one by one. The midnight-clad Warlord hissed with laughter as the deed was done. Codar the Son of Thunder was one of the last marines left and he spat curses at the Night Lord. The villain barely paid attention as he surveyed his kingdom of corruption from his grand panoramic windows.

The terrible figure muttered about ‘Nostromo reborn’ and ‘the realms of chaos falling into dissolution; a terrible fate for such a glorious enterprise’. Codar knew the foul marine was quite profoundly demented. The Night Lord spoke of quenching Necromunda’s sun eventually.

“Then!” He hissed. “Then, these people shall know fear!”

But the kill team had been cunning. Their purpose had merely been to chase the unseen menace into the open. As the Night Lord watched, the smog-filled heavens of Necromunda began to glow. Then, like avenging angels, the Valkyries descended, unloading their cargoes on the move. Half-tanks and buggies clattered into the spire on grav chutes, alongside the Confederation strike teams of Temestor Braiva.

Codar took this moment of distraction to detonate his own armour's power pack. The blast floored his nearest assailants, but he rose from the fire first. Snatching up a bolter and a chainsword, he launced himself at the Marines Malevolent. It was an uneven battle, but he knew he had to act fast; if the Necromundan Alliance was not beheaded swiftly, the entrenched Necromundans would repulse the strike force. Far above, Braiva’s strike cruiser played a game of cat and mouse against the vast, decrepit Malevolent battlebarge in orbit.

Codar swiftly ran to Callan, releasing him from his bonds. The two Space Marines fought desperately against the rogue Astartes opposing them. The captain of the Marines Malevolent was armed with a mace, which crackled with ethereal energies. Together with the now-frenzied Night Lord wielding his claws, they began to overcome the two surviving Imperial Astartes. Callan’s throat was ripped out, but he spewed acidic bile from the wound which destroyed the optics of the Malevolent one’s helm. Codar was struck in the chest with the mace, flinging him bodily through the throne room’s window, clattering to a stop on the windswept balcony beyond. He watched with numb disgust as the Night Lord raised Callan above his head, and broke his spine across one knee.

Before Codar could follow his leader into oblivion, a Valkyrie hovered into view behind him. The two enemy leaders and their remaining squadmates dropped to the ground, before a sudden barrage of fire shredded the entire throne chamber with bolt rounds and scything beams from lascannons. Before they could recover, the Varseen deployed directly from the Valkyrie; jumping from gunship to balcony via high-tension cables clipped to their belts. At their head, Temestor Braiva charged, raising his laser gauntlets as he did so. The human soldiers battled with cool, calm precision, even as many of them were quickly slain. The combat was short and brutal; Braiva faced down the Night Lord, as both retinues lay dead about them. The Astartes was impossibly fast and the human hero struggled just to avoid the monster’s claws. His laser gauntlets merely carved smoldering lines in the Astartes’ battleplate. Sensing victory, the Night Lord closed in for the kill, but Temestor Braiva had a plan. As the Astartes grabbed him, he lunged forwards and slammed a grenade into the brute’s open mouth. The grenade was a mere flash-bang model charge, but it had the desired effect after exploding. The Night Lord recoiled, retching and oozing black blood from every orifice in his face. Using this momentary distraction, Braiva unclipped his harness and attached the cable to his foe, before rolling aside.

The Valkyrie pilot pulled back on his stick, dragging the Night Lord from the chamber violently. As his foe dangled helplessly from the wire, Braiva took up one of the oversized Astartes weapons laying upon the floor and gunned the villain down in three deafening volleys.

The death of that Night Lord tore the heart from the cowardly gangers, who were driven before the peerless elite of the Imperium’s mortal soldiery. The droptroops of Braiva had to extract themselves soon afterwards due to the enemy's overwhelming numbers. However, the damage was already done. It is said for the first time in millennia, the gangs of Necromunda rose up as one, sensing the weakness of the Savlars after their mauling. In the decade that followed, the Savlars were hunted down like the dogs they always claimed to be.

The Marines Malevolent were no fools; when they learned Necromunda was lost, they fled in the battle barge as fast as they could, after bombarding Necromunda’s main spire with nuclear fire. They later joined Abaddon’s exile fleet, participating in the legendary Battle of Palanium.

As for Codar, Braiva had him conveyed to Armaggedon. Meanwhile, Temestor Braiva remained active throughout the period, fighting alongside his elite taskforce. His many daring deeds could fill a library by themselves.

In the next part, we shall see some other notable acts that defined the Time of Contraction as a conspicuous period of heroism amidst a galaxy swiftly darkening with evil in all quarters.

A Note On The Various Military Units Classed as ‘Super Soldiers’ Within The Vulkan Imperium:[edit]

We must specify at this point the specific nature of the diverse range of superhuman soldiers utilized by the Imperium and its allies. In particular the nature of Space marines is an important distinction, as there are several different types of being that claim such a title. What follows is a brief summary of each variety of soldier.

The Mk II “Nova Astartes” – These are the beings created by Vulkan and his scientists, based upon surviving Crusade-era science and Vulkan’s own prodigious knowledge and blood. These Space marines make up the majority of the Commanderies of the Vulkan Imperium. Fractionally larger than their predecessors, many consider these Angels of Death to be superior in every way. In fact, the truth is somewhat more complicated. They bear some advantages over the original Astartes, such as slightly more rapid reactions and resilience, but also possess disadvantages, s been overemphasized for two reasons. The first is that there are simply more of them in the Age of Dusk; consequently their feats are more notable and widespread. The second is that most of the original Astartes are ancient relics of the past; held together by their strong will and extensive cybernetics. Therefore, these slower, less capable Marines make the new ones seem that much more fearsome.

The Mk I “Adeptus Astartes” – Sometimes known as Old Imperials or Chapter-Born, these are the original Astartes created during the Terran Imperium’s ten thousand year reign. The majority of these Astartes are ancient and supported by cybernetics. Unlike newer varieties, their creation is time-consuming and arduous. Few Mk I Astartes are created due to lack of facilities. Grand Sicarium (later conquered and given its old title of Ultramar) is famous the galaxy over for having intact Mk I gene labs and an extensive geneseed library stored in a secure secret bastion.

Lussorian Narc-Warriors, or “Space Marines” – These soldiers are chemically enhanced to the peak of human fitness, bear power armor and bolt weaponry amongst other things. However, they are not genetically mutated or significantly altered mentally by these processes (aside from developing rather psychotic tendencies and an addiction to the drugs which maintain their form). Consequently, they are much shorter than other Astartes and are significantly weaker. They can only wear specialized power armor crafted to fit their svelter forms. It incorporates a corvus-style helm, but for the most part hardly resembles Astartes plate, and looks more like extremely heavy carapace armor. Their creation process takes a fraction of the time for Astartes and can be rapidly mass-produced (recruitment from prison populations is common, as they tend to contain a mass of human who would otherwise be deemed useless in society).

Ryzan-Catachan Plasma Commandos – These warriors are the pinnacle of Skitarii combat technology. They are a step above the ordinary cybernetic sentinels that guard the forge worlds and dockyards of the Vulkan Imperium. Created in conjunction with the Catachan Jungle Fighters, each Commando is a powerhouse in its own right. Recruits tend to be Catachans or humans from worlds under the Ryzan-Catachan Alliance’s direct protection; only the powerful and resilient physiques of the jungle fighters can cope with the extensive surgeries undertaken by the Ryzan Tech Priests.

Each limb is filleted and internal bionics are installed to enhance the strength and speed capable. Anchor-points of armor plate are installed on the skin to allow for ease of attachment. Cogitators and electronic auto-senses are installed behind the eye sockets to enhance sight. Potentia coils and autosanguine circulatory systems are also installed. A kind of highly advanced biological agent is then introduced into their blood, allowing their flesh to heal over these implants and recover quicker following surgery (this healing also allows them to survive wounds other Skitarii could not withstand). Thanks to coolant systems in place on each warrior, each commando is able to wield plasma weaponry without fear of imminent overload.

Each Plasma Commando is an incredible investment, far more so than the vast Skitarii Legions. This makes them almost as rare as a Mk II Astartes. Debate rages amongst scholars and even the general populace of the Vulkan Imperium, about whether the Astartes or the Commandos are the superior warriors. This question is difficult to answer as each conflict or situation is different. Astartes are the more versatile unit, which in the end I value more.

“The Legion Trygonis” of the Realm of Fathers – This realm has ever been a mysterious and vaguely sinister partner of the Vulkan Imperium, and their special forces are equally mysterious. It is rumored that the Legion Trygonis numbers in the billions, with each soldier armed to the teeth with sophisticated carapace armor and the most advanced weapons the Patriarch can mass-produce. The dark purple-armoured Trygonis Legion never remove their uniforms or fully-enclosed helmets in front of allies, but it is speculated that each soldier is a result of extensive selective breeding amongst the hybrid population, in order to produce the ideal specimen. They possess a portion of the terrific strength of their Genestealer overlords, as well as the biological resistance to all forms of infection or virus (save of course, for the Life-Eater virus. Long may we fear that contagion above all others) and a prodigious healing ability. Reports from human soldiers fighting alongside the legion claim they refuse all medical assistance, relying instead upon their own hooded priests. Other, more hysterical soldiers claim their blood is highly poisonous and corrosive. Each Legionnaire is generally silent; only their Colonel-Magi see the need to speak and speak only to their fully human allies (I suspect for their allies’ convenience).

But it is their unparalleled military precision which marks the Trygonis as one of the best fighting forces in the Imperium; their brood mind link allows them to instantly communicate to every member of their sentry and in a wider sense, their legion. This is true of all Realm of Fathers armies, but the Trygonis remain the elite of their forces.

Additional Background Section 26: A Time of Contraction: The Invasion of Drultevar Forge [Part Two][edit]

As iterated before, the forces of Vulkan engaged in multiple raids and limited assaults during the *Period of Contraction*. This part continues to relate the most prominent events of the century, culminating in that great event which changed the galaxy. The day man walked on the skin of a God.

It is easy to forget, in reading these tales of war, heroism and gargantuan villainy, that there were real worlds behind these conflicts. Throughout the **Age of Dusk** I have spoken of so many wars that my heart threatens to break; but we must remember that war is not limited to those planets unfortunate enough to be warzones. Every war requires logistics, and for every planet engaged in combat, a dozen worlds exist to support their war effort with supplies, men, and staging points for further conflict.

There was a much more invisible yet all-pervading menace that afflicted these worlds. This menace had the names famine and poverty. The manufacturing worlds of the galaxy were worked for thousands of years, consuming generation upon generation of workers. These worlds were known as the *Exhausted Realms*, for the strain was too much. The *Second Strife* and the *Age of Dusk* had crippled them, but these broken worlds were forced to run on shattered limbs to keep their empires functioning on the brink of collapse. Had it continued longer, quadrillions of men and women would have perished, not through battle, but stress, hunger, and drudgery.

Still there were some who had not forgotten the exhausted realms. The most famous of these figures was known as Iacob. It is rumored he gained a prominent place in the Promethian Government thanks to his own passion and oratory. He is said to have appeared in Darnal Taq’s estate. He was a nobody; a simple man, but a man with a desire to help, inspiring compassion into all who met him. He avoided being arrested by the Wyvern Scribe and actually became one of the politician’s aides. He rose slowly through the political ranks, giving speeches and talks to various august bureaucracies. But it was not this that made his name.

He commissioned a great tour of the exhausted realms (sometimes called the worlds of fatigue), at the height of the contraction. When no oen else dared leave their worlds, he bravely took tot he stars in a tiny flotilla of barely warp-capable craft. He visited hundreds of planets, and he watched them. He noted down the problems of these worlds and he began to devise their solutions. When he eventually returned to Armaggedon, he threw himself into a grand project amongst the administrators and merciful factions of the Imperium. Unlike the other charities, who sought to spread creeds of ideologies alongside their aid, he genuinely wished to help. He used his political connections, and his sheer charisma, to gather a huge fleet. However, this was no war fleet. It was a fleet of re-purposed merchant vessels and tankers of supplies and emergency aid, alongside genetically modified syn-food crops and servitor parts. This was a fleet intended to create.

But this fleet was unsanctioned, and hence lacked all but the most rudimentary defenses. Hungry piratical eyes fell upon this ripe, nigh-defenseless prize. However, there were other forces at work here. Each privateer fleet or xenos raiding force were mysteriously attacked just before they launched their assaults. From the stories and reports I have gathered, it seemed that figures in grey, and dark knights in flaming armour appeared as if from nowhere, destroying each raiding force, before dragging the survivors off into the darkness. War and pain raged alla round them, but Iacob’s fleet of mercy managed to get through by the skin of their teeth, passing from world to world. Iacob’s crusade was highly lauded across the Imperium, and indeed the wider galaxy.

Iacob himself was depicted in most legends as ‘the Last Truly Good Man in the galaxy’. Alas for the Despoiler, his renegade fleet did not receive this information. The Despoiler would not learn that his prophecy was coming to fruition...

The sector on the border between Vulkan’s realm and the broken, lawless regions once known as the Theologian union, was a region of particular anarchy reminiscent of the worst days of the Second Strife. But there was an area peculiarly lacking in large scale warfare.

A reigon of space where there were no nearby stars, hostile xenos or traitorous brigands. There was, however, something present in this lonely area of space. There was a fleet; two battlecruisers, ten destroyers and a dozen frigates, stationed in an area of warp-dead space. They were scions of Vulkan’s military, sent to this region specifically. It had been incredibly difficult to reach, for a one hundred lightyear radius area of space was utterly warp-dead. They had come out of the warp in a neighbouring sector and had had to utilise their plasma drives to travel to this region.

Their crews had almost rebelled in indignant rage after supplies ran low after thirty years of inactivity. Strict recycling and forced-breeding programs had allowed the ships to survive for the next seventy years. Half-starved and dazed, they had reached the centre of this silent void.

A previous war against the old Union had uncovered this region on scanners by chance long before a mission had been sent. It was perplexing due to its sheer... absence. Empty space was actually perishingly rare in the galaxy (despite what some might assume); nebulous gas clouds, asteroids, interstellar orphan worlds and aborted brown dwarf stars populated the silence and the cold. But not here. There was nothing larger than celectial dust particles in this void region.

Nothing, save for the sphere. It was colossal. The explorer fleet was like a krill staring down a blue whale; no, a void whale. The difference in scale was that pronounced. It was utterly dark, except for the haze of an electromagnetic field rippling silently across its vast form. To the arriving fleet, the structure appeared to be a vast wall, spreading out 180 degrees both ‘left’ and ‘right’ (I am aware of the futility of using such terms in the void, but forgive this old chronicler its indulgences...) as far as they could see, and their sensors could scan. It was only about one lightyear out that one could truly take in its spherical nature. But they were too close.

Hull-mounted searchlights a hundred metres across stabbed their piercing white beams towards the vast structure. Oddly, its crust was pitted with marks. These were not the haphazard wounds caused by asteroids and impact craters. These were regular; geometric.

As the ships studied the structure over the next few weeks, strange things began to happen. Crew members began to lose their mind,s turning upon their fellow ratings in furious assaults, mouths foaming as they ranted about ‘She an’ all the rest!’ Things went missing from the storerooms, and the corridors running through the ships were re-written; no long leading to the same areas of the vessel they once had done.

They continued to send out logs of their studies into the void, but they became increasingly strange, as the men and women of the fleet succumbed to this all-consuming madness. But these messages would not be received by their superiors until they reached the telepathic relays located at the border of the dead space, one hundred years later, at the close of the Peirod of Contraction.

Elsewhere, before that point, the Brethren of the Willing remained active on a hundred fronts, searching out forbidden knowledge and dread lore. Imogen found numerous valuable artefacts and iconic weapons on her travels, including special stasis crypts on the Prison World of Goethe, a specialised form of warhead on the Glass-lands of Kivvidix, and the Great Burrowing Pahge device, amongst other things. But many of the most important devices were already taken. It was a great mystery, for it seemed as if there was another thief working against her, stealing things before she arrived. Artefacts were replaced by different items, with strange alien runic notes left alongside them. She knew not what this ‘Trayzn’ entity was (or if she did, she did not make a note of her thoughts on its nature in her accounts), but she became determined to outwit it. Some say this rivalry was enflamed when, returning to her headquarters, she found the Anathame missing, replaced by a dozen frozen catachans and a tesserarch Labyrinth. Her attempts to find the Kassarian dawnblade were equally fruitless due tot his strange phantasm of an enemy.

The borders of the Vulkan Imperium became increasingly terrifying places; the other empires of the galaxy were collapsing, beset by chaotic forces and eldritch horrors both warp-bound and otherwise. Most telepathic messages received were merely long-winded screams of unadulterated horror. The Two tau empires fought desperately on each side of the galaxy to maintain their empires, while the Kassar Enclaves disintegrated into further factionalism after the dawnblade was lost. C’tan, and monsters very similar to C’tan, began to devour planets and quash armies, while they duelled with each other and the legions of krork and Necrons who sought desperately to make each other extinct. Several worlds caught fire, and their flaming populations killed each other in mindless wars, as a titanic armored figure fought with a wailing spear against a shadowy reaper. And the Eye opened ever wider, swallowing sector after sector as the overlap between realspace and warp space became ever fainter.

Oddly, throughout the Contraction, Vulkan was absent for the most part; leaving his government in charge. In hindsight, it seems obvious where he and his selected Astartes retinue had vanished to. With a Realm of Fathers Patriarch in tow, the Primarch was on the hunt. He was hunting the most important prize of all; his brothers. Only the Patriarchs were powerful enough psykers to track the signature of a Primarch across intergalactic space. The Lion’s trace was faint, but it was still there. He had been moved (or was moving of his own accord). This meant he lived, or at least he was active somehow. This was enough for the coal-black Primarch.

Yet, the largest battle the vulkan Imperium fought in the Period of Contraction was a war they had never contemplated. Drultevar Forge. Drultevar had been a loyal, isolationist forge world since the very foundation of the original Imperium, so many millennia ago. They were a quiet sect of tech priests that believed knowledge and the ability to preserve the soul within machinery was all they required; they sought no outside interference. In exchange, they freely gave away their surplus weaponry and servitors to any who asked or demanded such things from them.

No one expected them to suddenly declare war upon their closest allies. Yet, they did so, on a truly bizarre scale. Their Ark-Mechanicus vessels quietly departed from their forge, laden with world-ending munitions. They struck at every world within reach of a short-scale warp jump, which happened to include several Realm of Fathers worlds as well as more mainstream Vulkan worlds. Their allies had expected no attack from them, and hadn’t raised their defenses sufficiently. Billions upon billions died in a few days, as macrocannon barrages ravaged continents and vaporized countless civilians and the armies that lay planet-side for their protection.

Why Drultevar performed this heinous act baffled scholars for years (but scholars did not possess my talents or resources...). The reason was that they had been talked into this by a silver-tongued devil; a titan clad in a cloak of midnight feathers (always the cloak! It is as if they want me to find them in the chronicles. Is it their signature? Are the twins facetous, or are they at war with themselves? I cannot tell). This giant lied to them; implying that Vulkan intended to pillage their vaults. The thought of Vulkan gaining access to their vaults terrified the otherwise impossibly stoic Tech Priests. The cloaked giant and his shadowy armoured minions suggested a preemptive strike. Ordinarily a suicidal action, but the Tech priests were desperate to hide their secrets by any means.

Their actions were unforgivable. A response was a decade in the making, but it eventually struck them with the force of a meteorite. The Iron hand Commandery, experts at Forge World combat, were organised to be the vanguard of the assault force. With them came a vast force of allied Mortal regiments from their tithed domains, armed to the teeth and enhanced with bionics to almost the level of Skitarii. For ten years, the Iron hands gathered armies from the closest worlds to the Drultevar Forge’s sector. Ryza, seeing the Drultevarans as malfunctioning pieces of the Imperial machine, sanctioned Marella harker to unleash her Plasma Commandoes upon their enemies. Not only that, but the Ryzans authorised the use of the full might of their Titan legion and its feudal Knight legions. The Realm of Fathers also added the weight of its Legion Trygonis and the might of the super heavy tank battalions.

Drultevar would be shattered utterly.

Yet, the forge was far from defenceless. It had survived for so many thousands of years by being a fortified as physically possible. It had its own Titans, and its own cybernetic killing machines, as well as the technological marvels hidden deep in their forbidden chambers.

The first phase of the war came in 889.M56, with the Iron Hands’ initial assault. They struck methodically with cold precision; no hate, no rage. It was a war of dismantling to them. They attacked the world’s shields first. Their entire fleet unleashed a bombardment of fantastic scale; many serfs onboard their flagship, the Industrious, were blinded by the catastrophic assault. Gigaton-level blasts rocked the planetary shield like a hurricane of nuclear fire, which rippled across the entire world’s surface. This entire orbital assault knocked the shields down for ten minutes.

It was enough. The Iron Hands’ Terminators teleported directly into the defence laser emplacements and planetary torpedo silos of Drultevar. Smashing through the Skitarii defences in this lightning raid, they rapidly took down the cannons trained to the heavens. However, the Iron hand fleet found the artificial moons of Drultevar to be a challenge, which kept their main fleet at bay. Only the Thunderhawks and Scryer Sweep-wings (a new type of combat shuttle craft) were swift and small enough to evade these big guns.

But the Iron hands were a force to be reckoned with, and soon carved out a landing zone in the midst of the Forge World’s vast factories and mining facilities. They held off the vast swathe sof murder servitors unleashed upon them in terrific waves. Their bolters glowed red hot as they unleashed hell upon the steel-clawed monstrosities. They were supported by strange hulking cyborgs, hefting heavy cannons on wide tracks, alongside automatons and Tech-Guard Regiments from across the world. Thunderfire cannons, conversion beamers and all manner of experimental technologies were unleashed by both sides.

But even Astartes had their limits. Soon, they were stretched, as millions of soldiers flooded to face them. Soon, the Titans of Drultevar had begun to walk. Astartes alone could not hope to best a fully-armed titan legion, even ones so venerable and skilled as the sons of Ferrus Manus.

But the Iron Hands were not alone. The artificial moons had been invaded by Plasma Commandoes simultaneaously. These fearsome cyborgs slowly purged the moons of defenders, allowing the greater body of the invasion force to descend. Realm of Fathers frigates flooded in, sheathing the capital ships of the primary force in a near impenetrable escort shield.

Drop pods the size of colossal towers descended fromt he digital skies of Drultevar, each bearing a god-machine and its attendant Skitarii defenders. Each pod screamed as retro thrusters scorched the air beneath them, arresting their terminal descent and allowing them to punch into the metallic ground with minimal force. Even as the blast doors fell away, the Titans began their assault.

Two armies of staggeringly huge engines clashed withint he forest of shielded towers and bastion-factories that covered the northern hemisphere of the Forge World like some colossal crown. Their ordnance turned the very air to poisonous vapour and churning plasma fire, while the bellow of war horns drowned out any possibility of verbal communication between mere mortals. The Superheavy tanks of the Hybrids followed the Ryzan Titans, alongside a veritable flood of half-breed warriors, silent and merciless as only the genestealers could be.

The Patriarch, bedecked in polish obsidian war plate, was a terror to behold; a towering genestealer purestrain that stood almost as tall as Vulkan himself. Its huge claws peeled open tanks with a gesture, and eviscerated whole squads of soldiers with every blow of its rending talons. But its real weapon was its mind. Great bolts of purple lightning flared form its eyes and slavering jaws, pulverizing flesh and bursting apart armor with pathetic ease. Its roars were like the howl of a daemon, easily the match for a Titan War Horn. Its retinue of purestrains killed anything which their master failed to, while the Legion Trygonis calmly moved between buildings with unnerving precision and order. They fell back and regrouped at exactly the right moment, flowing around strong points to attack where the Drultevarans were weakest.

Lord Morsan, Commander of the Iron Hands, likewise fought effectively in the shadow of the God-Machines. The press of combat was close in the confine s of the refineries, mining districts and claustrophobic manufactorums. In the shadows and amidst the sparking, whirring technology of the Drultevarans, combat was decided within the reach of blades and pistols, pistons and flamers. Each side seemed fearless; almost dispassionate. His axe crackled with fizzing blood and oily fluids, while his servo arms snapped like hungry serpents as they ripped away spines and crushed skulls.

The Drultevaran Tech Guard began to use increasingly bizarre weapons as the armies closed upon the Temple-Fort of the Deus Mechanicus, the void-shielded central bastion of the rebellious Tech Priests. Tractor beam weapons that pulled victims in half messily, before tossing them miles into the stratosphere, or weapons that turned enemy armor inside out, before rusting the technology beyond belief. Weapons that fired darts of metal, that struck the enemy before they were even fired; laser grids that diced Imperial troops by the thousands. Esoteric graviton guns which caused those struck bythe weapon to collapse into short-lived singularities; these implosions then dragged in everyone nearby before dissipating. Trans-dimensional energy weapons that bypassed all forms of armor. There were even sonic weapons that caused foes to vanish at the atomic level, simply due to the manipulation of their fundamental quantum structures. Morsan and his Iron Hands recognized some of these weapons. From the archives of old Medusa, their bionic minds could instantly recall the designs and plans for several weapons. Weapons Ferrus Manus himself had devised.

The fiends had stolen from Medusa! The Iron hands were spurred on by indignant outrage, pushing ever harder against the hardened bastions of the Tech Priests. The entire planet turned into a terrible metal meat-grinder; neither side was capable of retreating and neither force was willing to give up the battle for anything. The vast armies of cyborgs and hybrid freaks smashed each other with weapons of world-ending force. By the first week, the surface of the world looked as if it had been bombarded from orbit. However, this was simply the effects of prolonged Titan-on Titan warfare. The duelling Warlords and Imperators glassed the very ground itself as they battered against the void shields of each bastion and war machine on the surface. Squadrons of baneblades and stormlords exchanged fire with the hunched warhounds beneath this seething mass of plasma fire and solid munitions. Ammunition factories were raided by both sides in their eagerness ot resupply, only to throw themselves back into combat.

The Plasma Commandoes performed aerial raids on wounded enemy titans; as soon as their shields were battered down, their flying vehicles would swoop onto the crenelated shoulders of the god-machines, before storming the giants’ innards and planting demolition charges in their vulnerable hearts. However, for every titan they felled, Marella Harker lost thousands of her soldiers, and almost as many aircraft. She was herself a terrifically powerful warrior, felling enemy after enemy in quick succession with her forearm blades and twinned plasma blasters.

No building could be cleared without physically storming it and killing every Tech-Guard within. They always died to the last man, woman or androgynous synth-flesh servitor. Dawn was quenched on Drultevar, for the pollution thrown up by the conflict drowned the sky in toxic smog and stinging acidic rain. The oxygen of the world was being consumed at a frightful rate. Soon enough, all external atmosphere was unbreathable to those without rebreathers or advanced biological/mechanical lungs.

Yet, slowly but surely, the invaders claimed the city; block by block, bastion by bastion, factory by factory. They spread out form the landing site, until a tight defensive ring five miles in diameter around the Temple-Fort of Deus Mechanicus was all that remained of the surface defenders.

Morsan fought relentlessly to punch through this ring of adamantium, leading numerous daring assaults and raids into the enemy’s clutches, before breaking back out of these defences to attack again at a later date.

The Legion Trygonis were the perfect support for these actions, for they flooded into the smashed gaps punched into the enemy lines, setting up intersecting arcs of fire and emplacements set up to maximise the damage done by these assaults. While the Iron hands were like a rapier-point, piercing the flesh of the beast, the hybrids were the hooks and pegs which forced open these stab-wounds, ripping them open until they were full, disembowelling lacerations. All the while, the titans pounded the Temple-Fort with their volcano cannons to prevent the mile-high fortress and its big guns, from supporting its beleaguered defenders in its shadow.

Finally, after a gruelling siege which claimed more lives than the administrators could tally accurately, the invaders reached the Temple-Fort itself, pounding through the main gates using a massed vindicator bombardment at close range. The Iron hands charged through the sundered gates at the head of a massive tank formation. Their predators and Land Raiders led the way, followed by ancient Russ designs of a wild variety, alongside Thunder Lizard model tanks, followed by the artillery and super-heavies of the Hybrids. The bastion as so vast that it could easily fit these tanks, for the Temple-Fort was a cathedral, with chambers that rose up hundreds of metres, with wide avenues and echoing hallways filled with construction equipment and killing machines in their hundreds of thousands. Only the Ryzan Titans were too large to fit inside the belly of this beast. But the Iron hands cared not, for they were performing a tactic which had proven effective ever sicne its invention in the dim, forgotten past: the Thunder-Run.

The defenders struggle dto handle the speeding tank formations that gunned their engines furiously as they unleashed the full power of their munitions in the heart of the enemy fortress. The Drultevarans were resourceful however. Collossal cranes and construction vehicles turned their heavy scoops, dozer blades and clawed-winches against the invaders. Wrecking balls the size of land raiders flipped baneblades onto their sides, or pulverised mundane tanks into flattened ruins that leaked with oil and the blood of their former crews. Praetorian warrior servitors rolled up to defend key installations withint he factory, but were swatted aside by the relentless pace of the charging tanks. Witihn a few hours, the ground level of the Temple-Fort was in the hands of the Vulkan Imperium. However, the Tanks could not break into the vaults, or scale the internal labyrinth of the upper galleries of the Fortress.

Harker and the Patriarch led their infantry forces upwards to take down the vast army of Tech-Guard holding out above their heads, while Morsan and his battered Iron Hands penetrated the underworld, deep below.

Marella was famous for her dislike of aliens, but she admirably bit back her revulsion as she organised the attack with the Patriarch and his Magi. She hadn’t the luxury of time to waste hating them. The Tech Guard had blown up all the lifts and stairwells leading upwards. But worse than this, they were attacking the superstructure of their own fortress; they meant to collapse their own Temple; thereby destroying the bulk of their enemies in one fell swoop and trapping the Iron Hands underground; forever entombing the cybernetic Mk II Astartes. The Tower had to be taken, and quickly. Eventually, the odd couple of Marella, a bulky cyborg woman, and the towering chitinous mass of the Patriarch, came to an agreement.

Meanwhile, outside, the Titans had finally battered the Temple’s cannons into submission. Yet, even as they did this, a new threat emerged from tthe churning, oily skies. The bulky shapes of monoliths descended in their thousands, alongside a swarm of scarabs and necron fighters. Sighing with resignation, Princeps Gorios of the lead imperator ‘Ryzan Dawn’, ordered his Legion to turn face and target the interlopers.

The Necrons shimmered into existence like a phantom from the mist. Gorios suddenly felt his Titan’s vox groan in pain, as an alien signal rippled through every vox in the Legion.

“Surrender and die. This world is now ours. The Host of the Stormlord have come. Perish in silence. You were foolish to believe you coul-“

Gorios emitted a vox signal to his Legion, as he neatly cut off the necrons in the midst of their ominous speech.

++ Enough of that nonsense. Gorios to all princeps; the enemy think they can let us lose engines to take this world and then take it for themselves, without sacrifice? I believe their logic is profoundly faulty. Let us educate them. Legio Tyberos; we walk. ++

As the Titans marched to war, the Iron hands penetrated ever deeper into the core of Drultevar. With melta and chainfist they literally carved their way through sealed portal after sealed portal, gunning down the crawling killing machines that sought to drag them into darkness. Stubby walking cannons spluttered with fire, while murder servitors dropped form the ceilings to slash at the Iron Hands and their serf soldiery that followed them into lightless shadow. Of course, neither side required visible light to see. The Drultevarans had destroyed all the lumen globes in the vaults to no avail. The only light in the vaults was the crackling energies of power weapons and storm shields or the chattering exchanges of gunfire. Robed priests brought forth experimental plasma flamers, huge weapons that spewed gouts of blinding blue energy in a destructive cone of scorching energy. Even power amrour was of no defence against these weapons. In the close confines of the tunnel, many Iron hands died. Eventually, the Assault Temrinators formed a shield wall with their storm shields, protecting those behind them as they advanced on the flamers. Missiles flew over the head sof the tactical dreadnought armour, as their allies supported them as best they could.

The deep places of Drultevar echoed with the shouting and static screeching of battle.

Meanwhile, the Plasma Commandoes and their allies had devised a way to reach the Tech Guard above. Purestrains led the charge, clambering up through the lift sharfts and tunnels between floors. Each alien beast had climbing cords attached to their backs. These cords were secured to the walls of the fortress, and Harker’s men followed them up eagerly, clambering up the wires with the agilty of tree-apes. They were followed by the Legion Trygonis, who also hauled up heavy weapons to aid in the room to room fighting which would certainly ensue above.

The battle within the tower was utterly chaotic, for friend and foe alike fought through increasingly narrow corridors and rooms. Frag grenades blasted through thin dividing walls, while storm bolters and heavy stubbers chewed through the rest. Hellguns cracked and hissed as they fired over and over again, until their power packs fused with the relentless heat. Plasma bolts burned whole squads of troops alive, or otherwise ripped holes through walls and Praetorians alike. The purestrains were a nightmare to face; a storm of clawed limbs that eviscerated anything which got within range with the space of seconds. They were so fast; the Skitarii could barely track them with their weapons before they were ripped asunder by alien monsters. Each gunfight was brief and brutal; either the Skitarii killed every squad within moments, or the invaders killed them just as quickly. There were frantic skirmishes occurring on every level of the fortress. Elevators became lethal chokepoints for gun emplacements and ambushes, while adamantium-coated work-desks became makeshift barricades, or simply cover from the relentless gunfire criss-crossing between each room.

The Patriarch led the way up, leaping between floors, smashing through ceiling sto emerge through the floor of the level above. The Patriarch also bore a rope upon his back, to which Marella and a handful of the Trygonis command squad clung to. She would gun down anyone who attempted to target the clawed purestrain with ranged weapons. Rapidly, they ascended the tower. Soon, they would reach the last of the defenders, and could eliminate the Arch Magos of Drultevar once and for all.

The vaults had grown quiet. The Iron Hands had killed their way into the deepest of the underground bastions. However, their Techmarines grew concerned. Their auspex told them they had descended many hundreds of miles. They should have been hitting mantle, yet they were not. They moved down even deeper, down through the levels with ever greater rapidity. The Techmarines raised their concerns to Morsan himself, when they showed him their findings. They were now deeper than Drultevar was wide. They had entered the realm of the impossible. Morsan ordered them to explore the tunnels around them. The Astartes easily fought off the surviving Tech Guard ambushes. However, no matter what direction they travelled, the auspex told them they were going deeper.

But as they marched in darkness, they continued to find vaults and storage chambers filled with strange mechanical designs that the Astartes could only recall from Ferrus Manus’ notes. Yet, they could find no such notes. Eventually, the single-minded will of Chaplain Korbin allowed the Iron Hands to navigate the perplexing maze and find the one vault they had wished to locate above all others.

The Patriarch burst through the floor of the final floor, into a screaming null field. The giant monster toppled onto his back as soon as he emerged. Marella entered the chamber soon after, but as barely troubled by the field. The three Leigon Trygonis troopers staggered as they entered this field; their telepathy was cut off. They were forced to talk to Harker, requesting instruction as they rushed to their colossal father’s side. The Patriarch could not speak to them, but merely gestured for them to follow Harker. They nodded, before they helped their genestealer brood-father back down to the level below. Harker would get no aid from the Father.

Harker nevertheless fought her way through the Tech Guard with brutal skill. The hybrids fought effectively with their laser rifles, but had lost much of their unnerving coordination. The Arch-Magos was a giant, a robed beast set upon great steaming bionic legs, that gave him the appearance eof a great spider wreathed in whirling metallic tendrils. The three emptied their weapons into the Priest, switching between magazines until their weapons were spent. As they fired, Harker leapt into close combat. Her blasters ripped a hole into his chest, which she opened up with her crackling blades. Each snapping claw and mechandendrite was blocked or dodged by the superhuman killing machine as she set about taking the Magos apart. But the ruler of Drultevar was not without his own defenses. Sonic weaponry drove Harker back and the Arch-Magos almost destroyed her there and then. But the hybrids intercepted the towering machine-prince. Tossing aside spent rifles, they all drew the swords from the scabbards on their backs.

They were skillful opponents; stronger and faster than any human, and even though they had lost the fearlessness which came with the collective, they fought on bravely. They slashed at vital systems; cutting cables and breaking pistons with their power swords. Slowly, the Magos was driven back, at the cost of their lives, which they gave gladly. This gave Marella a chance to line up a final devastating shot with her plasma weapons. The vast ball of energy burned a six foot hole through the Arch-Magos, killing him in seconds, before blasting the outer wall away with the force of the blast.

Through the hole, Harker noted the necrons battling with the Titans in the distance. Her words at this point were not recorded (but I suspect they were expletives...).

Morsan received word of the situation above ground. Yet, he could not care less for the surface at that moment. For, in the centre of the last vault, he saw a great body, sitting upon a throne in a stasis field. Robed Tech priests surrounded the figure, tapping at keys and scribbling with stylus upon dataslates. They turned at the sound of the Iron Hands, pleading for them to keep the field active. Morsan killed them all without a second thought, pulverising their corpses with manic fury.

The ordinary stoic Iron hands were all desperately holding back tears. Tears of great, abiding sorrow.

For upon the throne sat a headless giant. A giant with forearms bonded in flawless silver. Wires and cables sprouted form the stump where a head should have been, and fed into a hundred cogitator devices around the room.

This was Ferrus Manus, and he was dead. The Iron hands had always suspected his death, but to see his body, and know it had been desecrated, was almost too much to bear. Furiously, they destroyed the stasis field holding their Primarch. But as they did so, they watched in horror as he crumbled into dust before their eyes. His two metal-clad arms fell to the ground with a sonorous clang.

Despair seized Morsan then and he fell to his knees. The Astartes were broken by this revelation. Korbin, wailing in demented madness, unleashed his flamer upon the metal arms, screaming hopeless litanies. He cursed the name of the legendary silver Wyrm; the beast which Ferrus had killed. But in melting the metal, Korbin had done something unexpected. He had woken the metal up. The molten pool suddenly began to take shape. Within moments, the metal leaped at the chaplain, plunging through his armour as if it was not there. Korbin began to scream, light and metal roiling beneath his armour like a subterranean storm. The others furiously fought to restrain him, but he thrashed like a madman, flinging Astartes away from him. After a lengthy battle, Morsan eventually restrained the fiend. It spoke with many voices; an inhuman roar, like that of a great repitilian monster a scream of static and disassembled code, Korbin’s own demented ravings of the Emperor undying and of horrific visions of terror. Also, there was a final voice, a voice which they thought may have been Manus. It was as if the shard-entity could not remember which entity it was; was it a Primarch, a Marine or the God of knowledge? It squealed and wailed in confusion, detonating meltaguns with a thought and growing long talons that ripped chunks from the floor.

Playing upon the thing’s confusion, Morsan persuaded it to aid them. He told the entity of the Necrons, coming to claim it. Mention of the Necrons inspired loathing in the creature, deeper than any hate a mortal may know.

I would suggest that it was this entity which caused the famous ‘Drultevar incident’. Until now, we had no explanation how the entire Vulkan army assaulting Drultevar vanished from the planet and appeared inside the holds of their ship, allowing them t just barely escape Drultevar with their lives.

Drultevar itself was slowly turned into an Angylworld, for the Necrons of the Stormlord lost any interest in the planet once the C’tan shard was stolen.

At the close of the Period of Contraction, Vulkan felt lost; alone. He had returned from the hunt for the Lion without success. He had learned that Ferrus’ body was destroyed. The enemy were at the proverbial gates; Ahriman in the south, Baal’s Bloodknights in the south-west, the demented forces of Lorgar and the Blackhearted one closed in from the north and west, the rogue Despoiler somewhere within his own borders, maiming at random as he battled anyone in his way, while the Necrons threatened his worlds from every angle. Darnal Taq was dead; old age claiming him. He had refused artificial rejuvenation. We know from the sources that the Iron Hands’ capture of a C’tan shard would have given him a valuable intelligence source, but I...

... I feel his despair. In that moment, thought it was many decades ago, I FEEL his despair, as if it was happening right now. My mind... it...

I saw Vulkan upon his throne, in an empty council hall; the other rulers were planning various campaigns of expansion, to try and drive off the enclosing forces of madness. He knew the galaxy was coming apart. His imperium couldn’t last; not against such crushing numbers. It seemed like insanity was the default mindset of the universe. His realm of civilization and sanity was the last sane man, shouting into the wind. There was something just beyond his sight; some grand pattern. It was ethereal, lost to all without the sense to see it.

Then, he received a vox signal. It was re-directed from the southern border region and delivered to him personally by Imogen. Temestor braiva accompanied her; limping from an old war-wound. The message was from the fleet orbiting the sphere. It spoke of their plight and of their madness. It spoke of how some of the crew had stolen shuttles from the hangars. They had exited their shuttles without space suits. They had walked out across the surface of the sphere, chanting even as they suffocated. The sphere was called ‘God’ to the demented crewmen. They wished to walk upon a God’s skin...

Yet, thanks to the C’tan shard, Vulkan at last realised exactly what this ‘God’s Skin’ was.

He knew how he could save his people from the coming apocalypse. But Vulkan also knew that he could not join them. He could not leave his brothers to the predations of chaos.

If anyone was to survive, Vulkan himself would have to fight. With his people safe, nothing would hold him back.

Additional Background Section 27: Baal, The Nation of Red Fangs, and The Demon-Knight Mephiston[edit]

The Thanatos Tale

It begins with the cataclysm. It is the birth of stars infantile, He, the great [untranslatable] tends the darkness and kindles them; He guides the stars and the rocks, Rocks which are the Paiges of the suns; second-born descendants of plasma furnaces. Life is risen from the lifeless garden. The [untranslatable] dies away, remembered by all save a few The Lonely souls; Celestial gatekeepers who take his mantle. There is strife; recursive forever. It begins with the two ancient breeds. They foster hate in the hearts of lesser things, They cast the Kiasoz upon the beast between planes, and drive it into nothingness, They bring war but are themselves overcome by their lowly allies. Unforeseen consequences. Butterfly wings. The first-born children of fire are usurped. Splintered into prisons. Two sleep long eons The Second-born bring forth that which was always sleeping. The permeation between worlds, The Long-scream. It turned from a mirror to a pit. The Madness of [untranslatable] once lived in every world, Permeating all through this mirror of soul-fire. But the strife brought forth the first of them. The second-born died away, but they did not perish. Once the wheel is turning, nothing can stop it; the more it grows, the more it feeds, the more it grows. The warping realm, the Ne-[DO NOT TRANSLATE!] The first is shrouded and quiet; malignancy shrouded. It causes the conflict; sets up the great game. It is the number ten, for it is the tenth movement, but the first chronological step on the road to dissolution. Then comes transmutation. The changing of borders and alliances, of friends and foes and family. Change and change until nothing can catch you. It is hope, but bears the visage of the vulture, for it feasts upon the folly of this futile desire. It is the ninth. War. The horns of the beast take shape, pushing up further from the deep. Blood and pain and the hands of a murdered brother. It bears the holy number eight. Faster now, they build. Pestilence. The mortals become aware of the pattern, in their hearts if not their minds. Woe feeds, pulling itself up, upwards ever spiraling. The seventh movement is revealed. A pregnant pantheon eats itself from the inside out. Its remains infest the shadows while She Thirsts for more. A sixth movement. Holy number six. Faster, ever faster. The manifold man bearing a fist of star-forged Iron. Five fingers of the fist, fifth movement through the pattern. Faster still, dissolution spreads. The one named Maker makes his greatest work. A forge of souls births a golem of utter-[the translation totally breaks down here, but I think this is the fourth movement. I cannot make out the rest of the text. But look! See what everyone else has missed! The numbers! The holy numbers are getting smaller, everytime. What does this mean? And what will happen if we reach the final number? I dread to think...]

[Chronicle Pauses]

[Chronicle resumes.]

How long was I sleeping? I feel as if I have slept for centuries. I had troubled dreams; shapes that hide just out of sight. They cloy like melting tar in my mind. I look upon my notes, and see I have written many sections since my last. But they are not in order. But I am drawn to the account of Mephiston. I feel... I have to begin here before I can categorize the rest of my notes. (Where are my guards? They were here before I slept. I do not recognize this part of the Library...)

The realm of the Blood Knights of Baal stretched between the eastern borders of Huron’s realm, and the desolation of the north-eastern fringe of the galaxy, long ruined by thousand sof years of horrific warfare between the great xenos empires of the Thexians, Tau and Necrons.

Unlike many of the human empires that survived the Age of Strife, this realm of blood and twisted grandeur was neither destroyed nor subsumed by the expansive efforts of the Vulkan Imperium or its more malevolent neighbours.

The gore-soaked domain of the Baalites was independent of its fellow powers, a unique realm which was simultaneously terrible yet organised. Upon every world, there rose towers and bastion sculpted in baroque fashion. They loomed over every settlement and establishment where the humans thralls of the Blood-Knights lived. There was precious little crime or discord within these thrall settlements. Those foolish or incautious enough to make themselves known as criminal elements vanished in the darkness soon after; dragged into the draining pits below the towering Sanguinary towers, where their blood was used to feed the inhuman rulers of this realm.

For the Blood Knights, though they had once been Astartes, were Astartes no longer. Their Red Thirst, the desire for drinking human blood, had become an all-consuming necessity amongst their kind. The Priesthood of Baal, under the direction of the monster Mephiston, had crafted a mutagenic virus which had quenched the Black Rage amongst his brothers entirely, but this has somehow driven their thirst to become something different. It became a psychic contagion, fuelling and distorting the Blood Angels and their cursed siblings. They no longer fed upon flesh, relying only upon human vitae to sustain their forms. This subsequently altered their physical appearance.

A diet of blood could not sustain the hulking form of an Astartes; only masses of protein could do this. Instead, the Bloodknights became lithe, muscular beasts. Psychic energy kept their bodies strong as adamantine, and made their red eyes weep with blood constantly. With such a major change in their physiology, their armour was also altered to fit this lithe form. They remade their power armour in the style of gothic knights of old, wreathed in sculpted suits that looked like skinned bodies threaded with horns and whimpering faces.

They expanded their realm rarely, but when they did the Bloodknights were a nightmare. First they would thread the atmosphere of a world with iron oxide. Once the skies turned the angry red of spilled blood, the Knights would descend on their gunships like a swarm of hungry bats, followed swiftly by their demented Thralls. Cities became terrible charnel houses as they fed upon half the planet’s population in a single week of bloodletting. The survivors were spared, and converted to the cause of the Bloodknights by prolytzing thralls and Sanguinary preachers. Each world would rise from the blood-hungry destruction inflicted upon them by their new masters. New artwork and sculptures would be commissioned and set up. The Bloodknights believed themselves to be civilised creatures, and desired a realm of culture, no matter how perverse or bizarre it seemed. This realm became known to many across the northern rim as the ‘Nation of Red Fangs’; a realm of contradiction and fear. Yet, it was a functioning one all the same.

The average mortal citizen of the Nation was strange indeed. Brought up on the concept of violence and death, they were a servile and death-obsessed folk. Yet, they remained cheerful and adoring of their monstrous masters, yet were easily swayed by any sufficiently terrifying figure.

But even this realm could not remain unchanged by circumstances occurring across the galaxy. When the Thexians fell, the Nation of Red Fangs saw a steep increase in Cythor Fiend infiltrators. These shape-shifting vampires were oddly suited to hiding amongst a populace of humans willing to bend their knees to vampiric beasts. These terrors set themselves up as underground figures of myth. Many times they attempted to infiltrate and subvert the Bloodknight elite, but they failed consistently, remaining as mythic ghoul-kings hiding in plain sight within the looming gothic towers and oxidised skies of the Red Angels’ realm.

The vast alien vessel, known only as ‘wailing doom’ passed through this realm during the wars between the arisen Khaine-beast and the Destroyer cults in the eastern regions. As it passed, it spawned a madness in the human populace; a peculiar visciousness which even surprised the Bloodknights. Families murdered one another and streets within cities became impromptu battlegrounds for surreal and pointless kin-strife. Only the severe punishment of all involved quashed this demented psychic plague. The Knights fed well that year. Some chroniclers assumed these were Khornate cults, but Khainite cults are subtly different. They did not kill in Khaine’s name, but rather killed because Khaine’s fractured mind touched theirs. It wa snot worship, but rather compulsion.

(I find it disturbing that so many vampiric races make their homes in this region. Not just the Bloodknights, Cythor Fiends and the Khainite cults; there were also the Thexian Elites and even the realm of the Flayed Ones. Why do they gather around the Ghoul Stars? What is it about those sectors? I may never fully understand. Perhaps this is for the best?)

The greatest threat to this empire however, came from their western neighbor; the Blackheart himself. This threat came not through war as one might expect. The warp, as ever, is nothing if not subversive. The Maelstrom expanded greatly, until even the shallows of the storm spanned the Eastern Chaos Imperium, and lapped against the borders of the Bloodknights. Cults and mutants grew in frequency and potency during this nightmarish expansion. In the wake of this tide of dissolution came the Red Corsairs and their minions. But instead of war, they spoke of alliance. They spoke of the spoils of war and the feast of a lifetime.

The leader of this band of savage ambassadors was a creature known as Zelphagor, a Corsair Captain of some renown. Upon his belt he bore the helmets of many slain Astartes; unspoken testament to his power and prowess. But he also brought with him the word of a new faith; a new patron unlike anything which had come before. On one shoulder pad he bore Huron’s insignia, but upon his other shoulder was a tome. And within the tome was a yawning abyss, which seemed to burrow through his entire body and into another, unknowable realm. Zelphagor had once been a Word Bearer, then a Corsair. At that moment, he was both, but also something greater. A herald of a new word. Long had there been rumors that Lorgar the Golden was writing a new book; a new revelation granted him by the deep warp itself. The final testament of the Word.

To Mephiston’s credit, the demon knight tried to kill Zelphagor as soon as he entered Baalite-owned space. Few of his Corsairs survived the naval action, but somehow the vile Chaos marine managed to stave off destruction. He even managed to get the inhuman beast Mephiston to bend his ear to him.

The Corsair captain spoke of a galactic endeavor; a great undertaking which would sweep the galaxy free of the hated Necrons, the warmongering Krork and even the crushing fist of the Star Father. He spoke of liberation, but the subtext was that those who chose not to be ‘free’ in this manner, would be enslaved. Thus the wishes of all would be ‘granted’ either way. The Bloodknights could lead this new, final Black Crusade. In exchange, they could feast upon the galaxy and finally quench their thirst.

Such an alliance would have obviously been a nightmare for the galaxy at large. Thankfully, there were factions working against the Demon Knight. The King of the Fire-Birds (no; Asurmen. Why did I...?) had arrived within the Nation of Red Fangs, with his psyker prize and his Avengers in tow. But they were subtle and hid themselves at first.

It was here that the waifish psychic child that Fire Bi- that Asurmen saved from the Krork, demonstrated her usefulness beyond her ability to absorb the dying memories of the dead and passed-on. Using her psychic abilities she could fit into Baalite society without suspicion; bringing Asurmen’s Avenger’s supplies and information about the empire while the eldar remained hidden. They, in turn, grew fond of the childish mon keigh. I remember how the Aspect warrior, when their war masks were removed, would teach the witch of eldar runic language and of the myriad shapes a psychic projection could make. It was a friendship, of sorts as I recall.

But the forces of Lorgar were hungry and hunting. Huron had an alliance with a vile Eldar renegade known as Slicus, who Zelphagor had on the hunt for the Phoenix Lord. His dark eldar prowled the shadowy crimson cities of the Red Fang Nations, utilising unknown technologies to track the eldar hidden in the grimly ornate cities of Mephiston’s minions. The Bloodknights despised eldar, but Mephiston insisted on their cooperation... for the time being...

Asurmen and his small band of warriors made their way across the sector by hiding their wondrous armour beneath drab sackcloths, or sequestered themselves amongst storage units and onboard merchant freighters. Their target was the gory metropolis of Baal itself, and the tower of the infamous Master of Death. Only the psyker could move through the streets relatively unmolested, for she was small and her telepathy allowed her to mask herself from casual observation.

But the forces of the Corsairs were more far reaching and terrible than the child could have forseen. Daemons oft he undying vortex tracked the psychic emanations of Asurmen’s hunting party like sharks sensing the passing of a shoal of prey animals. Even the Librarians of the Bloodknights were not adept enough to find the soul-light of a handful of souls amidst the supernova-glare of the teeming billions of thralls who toiled beneath their capricious yoke.

Asurmen was finally cornered at the Port of the beheaded, a starport on Baal’s southern hemisphere. Thousands upon thousands of Thralls assaulted his position. Thousands died, as the Phoenix King threw off his disguise. Shuriken filled the air in a great storm, slaying all who closed upon his position. At his side, his Avengers fired their own catapults, adding to the furious deluge. In terror, the child hid herself. I remember how she threw herself beneath a mountain of cold cylindrical containers, covering her eyes to block out the images of death and ruin that flooded her mind. But her mind was a psychic battery, capturing the dying moments of so many mortal souls. The thralls each had hopes and dreams, each were quashed as they died. They were crazed in their devotion to their demi-god masters.

But in death, everyone was the same, no matter what they claimed. No matter how stoic or brave a being became, in that last instant of life, there was always a shriek of formless panic; futile as it was heartbreaking. Even the worst monster felt fear at the end.

However, amidst the deathly howls of the thralls, the witch picked out the final thoughts of the commanders and generals of this doomed army of mortal men.

They were there to pin the Phoenix in place. Before I could warn them, the trap was sprung. Zelphagor’s priests had placed offensive obelisks around the port, carved from the very stuff of nightmares. They fused and poisoned the ground itself as packs of possessed monsters and mutants hauled them into place. Their couriers died moments later; flesh puckering and flowing into impossible forms. But once in place, the veil weakened, like rubber stretched beyond its elastic limit.

Within this octagonal region, the barrier between worlds was sundered. Daemons flooded into the area, ripping down the grand towers like locusts eating corn. The surviving thralls were toyed with by the daemons before their bodies and souls were devoured. The Avengers fought back to back, taking up human weapons when their own were finally spent. Dameons flooded their ramparts and scratched at their minds. The girl wailed in pain, as I felt the dreadful essence of the warp fiends pushing their way from nightmare into actuality.

But Asurmen was with them. Wherever his blade fell, no daemon could survive. Burning devil-flesh splashed and scorched the flasgstones in hellish rivers of sulphur and liquid madness. The things shrieked, not only in pain. They cackled in mockery of the undying Lord of the Asur. For the obelisks were not intended to bring forth mere daemons, no matter how deep within the warp they had dragged themselves up from.

The Draziin-Maton came. They stepped from the walls themselves, formless yet physical beyond measure. There were three of them, but there were ten of them, but there were more. Numbers were impossible to calculate. Purple flesh that was wraithbone but hideously distorted punctured reality and pumped its venom into our universe like the stinger of a wasp. Hideous forms, skeletal spiders with tendrils and frond; but they had no faces. Only horror. The air rebelled at their presense, turning to black ash, or sprouting wings itself somehow.

Asurmen fought them at once, a glimmering figure eof golden fire amidst the enclosing nightmare. Time spooled back upon itself. Asurmen fought them in the period before life evolved, and into the far future, after the death of the black dwarf stars. The girl survived; clasped to the bosom of a sole-surviving Dire Avenger, whose eyes bled as he whimpered ancient eldar myth songs into my ear.

Somehow, amidst this furious assault, Asurmen managed to destroy the obelisks, one after another. Robbed of their sustenance, the Draziin-maotn fed upon the wailing daemons who still lingered on this plane, before plunging into the warp after their newfound prey.

Battered but unbowed, Asurmen advanced through the city, with his final two companions trailing in his wake.

He turned his attentions towards the spires of the Bloodknights. But the Knights had already anticipated his attention. Devastator squads and orsair havocs poured fire upon Asurmen from every angle. Missiles corkscrewed through the burning air, las bolts flashed in the darkness and bolter rounds unleashed a nightmarish chorus as they surged towards the stricken Asur. He was too weary to deflect or overcome all of this ordnance. Not even the eternal warrior could best an arsenal.

He was struck, again and again. The witch-girl shrieked, but was held back by the last Avenger, known as Kassosril. He wept as he watched his master fall to his knees. Plasma bolts encased him in blinding fire, as missile impacts broke apart his armour, scattering the bejewelled fragments across the ground like discarded trinkets. His helm was the last to fall. His body was dust and his armour was left in a mangled heap.

Kassosril leapt up, charging towards the battered armour, but he was brought down by Bloodknights, who swept down to street level on their winged jump packs, before they beat the alien warrior into submission. The girl struggled hopelessly in the grasp of her captors but to no avail.

Asurmen was dead.

The girl was taken into captivity like a troublesome wild cat, scratching ineffectually at the huge vampire beasts that handled her. The last avenger suffered a far worse fate. Upon an altar of ossified bone, before a vast crowd of jeering thralls, the eldar was chained, stripped and brutalised. Pict images of the captured eldar were shown across Baal, whipping its populace into a hateful frenzy of feasting, bloodletting and the drinking of fluids, narcotic and otherwise. Even the twisted eldar nobleman watched this spectacle from his ship. Yet, this amateurish scene of depravity barely fired his soul and the Duke swiftly grew bored. He summoned one of his Trueborn minions, known as Korsha; a clawed fiend modified by the Covens to be a master of infiltration and base larceny. The Serpent knew his alliance with the humans would not hold for long. Soon, he would have to flee, or be destroyed. Yet, Sliscus would not leave Baal empty handed.

The baalites and their Corsair allies were more easily enamoured by the public torture; cackling and cheering with every fresh spasm of misery that erupted from the broken alien. Their sneering mockery was only silenced when Mephiston himself appeared.

A slender figure, Mephiston moved with perfect posture. He looked like a statue of alabaster; only his crimson, weeping eyes tarnished his perfect image. Great skull pauldrons adorned his sculpted armour, while a psychic hood reared from his back, forming a crown of horned skulls. A cloak of deep purple and red whipped about his body with a life of its own. Flanking him, the Librarians of his court came, each bearing a winged skull helmet painted in the colour of dried blood. The very air crackled with lightning. His mortal followers fell to their knees as if compelled by his mere presence, while his assembled Bloodknights merely saluted him silently.

Zelphagor followed him. The captain was a hulking, hunched beast, easily larger than Mephiston, but Mephiston’s power was undeniable. He made Zelphagor seem so very small in comparison.

The Master of Death gently placed his massive gauntlet beneath the chin of the dying eldar. His merciless features burned into Kassosril’s own.

“Know this,” Mephiston said softly, his voice effortlessly powerful despite this. “When the seed of your race is wiped from this galaxy, and it shall be, be certain that you will have achieved nothing of worth. Your sacrifice shall be so wonderfully... futile.”

And with that, Mpehiston ripped the soul stone from the avenger’s chest, and destroyed it with a gesture. Kassosril shrieked with a pain no mortal wound could ever match. Mephiston silenced the soul-banished thing with a gesture. A single backhanded sweep took his head from his shoulders, and pitched Kassosril’s body from the altar, into the crowd. There, he was torn apart.

Mephiston took the armour of Asurmen to his vaults. Zelphagor protested. He claimed the Phoenix Lord’s armour was Lorgar’s. Zelphagor confronted the Master of death within his own throne room, at the apex of the spire

“You would deny me my prize?” Mephiston replied coldly, inhuman eyes regarding the chaos Lord dispassionately.

“If it were not for the actions of my patron’s allies, you would have no prize at all.”

Mephiston snarled. “Yes, allies; allies who created a warp vortex upon my throneworld! Allies who seek to corrupt my people! Those allies?”

Zelphagor was unfazed by the Bloodknight. His Corsairs trained their bolters upon the Bloodknights, who prowled on the periphery of the chamber.

“The primarchs compel you... nay, the very gods compel you!” the twisted preacher hissed.

Mephiston gestured to an archway, that loomed high above his own throne like a terrible banner. As he did, lumen globes ignited around the grotesque spectacle. Bound with bonds of serrated iron and runic wards that burned eternally, Zelphagor saw a figure. A winged figure. A winged figure that seemed to phase in and out of reality. Only its immortal expression of sheer agony and horror remained a constant. It was the Sanguinor; humbled and broken by profane sorcery and mutagenic viruses.

Even the vile Zelphagor was taken aback at this sight.

“You tell me Corsair; how much do I care for Gods and Primarchs? How much do I care?” Mephiston shrieked, his fanged jaws distending as he bellowed in the chaos space marine’s face.

“You are insane! You would mutilate the memory of your fallen primarch! You are a godless heathen!”

“Nay, I am a saviour. The black rage can touch us not, for we have forgotten our father’s doom. We banished it from our very blood. I mastered the Black Rage. And I recognise no higher authority.”

As Mpehiston revealed his true nature, Zelphagor’s Corsairs realised the danger. But even as they targeted the surrounding knights, it was too late. Bolters boomed in the gloomy half-light. The gun battle lasted barely five minutes. By the end, Zelphagor’s upper echelons were slain. In orbit, defence lasers scythed his capital ship in half, and scattered his escorts into the void. The Corsairs were destroyed, and it appeared the Duke had fled also.

But the agents of the Duke were not vanished. Korsha moved through the dungeon vaults of the tower of Mephiston, modified claws silent as he scuttled through the shadows, searching out his prize. The girl sensed the eldar nearing her, but she recoiled as Korsha passed by, for she saw with her witch’s sight the true nature of the outwardly beautiful monster; a withered husk of hate and loathing, coiled around a vile shard of a soul. Like a cloud across the sun, a chill passed through her at his mere presence. But, he had not come for her. He had come to steal the armor of Asurmen. Sliscus greatly desired the Phoenix Lord’s bodiless form, for then he could torment the helpless demi-god for all time.

Korsha was a being crafted to be a pure killing machine. It killed the guards around the vaults one after another; striking like a viper form the shadows, before dissolving again each time. His soul was invigorated by each kill, only making the leech stronger and stronger. Finally, he used his cunning to baffle the defenses of the tech vault. At last, he held the sculpted helm of Asurmen in his hand.

Ambition and inspiration struck then. What if Korsha could take the armor for himself? Then he would gain the power of a god, and strike down the Duke and all his rivals in one fell swoop. The corsair fleet would be his! With malicious glee, the dark one donned the armor of Asurmen, cackling as he finally placed the helmet over his scalped head slowly.

In that instant, the armor sealed itself in a blaze of glorious golden light. Korsha’s scream of alarm lasted but a moment, before he was instantly consumed within the great meta-soul of Asurmen himself. With a gesture, the diresword swept into his hand deftly, throwing itself through the air in response to its summons. Already, the Bloodknights were gathering to oppose Asurmen, drawing their bolters as they massed before the thick vault doors. Asurmen carved his way through the door with only three mighty blows, sending the lump of metal careering into the massed vampire formation. It took them barely a second to recover, but by that time Asurmen had leapt into combat with them.

Each bloodknight was a slender fiend, stronger and faster than most Astartes could hope to be, but Asurmen was faster. Bolters chattered and roared in the gloom of the deep vaults, their flashing discharges illuminating the corridors in strobing madness. The bloodknights roared in bestial fury, their human faces contorting as glistening fangs were barred in bloodied maws.

Asurmen fought with an economy of moves, slaying each foe as quickly and decisively as possible, before sprinting away from any counterattack, before striking at another foe with fluid grace and merciless efficiency. The combat was almost like a dance, with only one performer hitting all the correct marks, while the others floundered in his wake. A human watching this battle would have scarcely followed the movements at all, lost in the frantic chaos unleashed all around the lightning quick melee.

Asurmen fought his way back through the vault. The child was saved. I remember his glorious golden form, carving through the misshapen demons in their gargoyle-plate, screaming monsters utterly unafraid of the Phoenix Lord, even as his glowering blade severed their heads and pierced their hearts. The child followed the deathless warrior, like a ship caught in a tidal wake.

The Phoenix Lord was rising through the tower, attracting ever greater resistance. Heavy weapon teams locked off access points, while fire teams sought to outflank him. Asurmen could not be contained or herded however; he carved through the floors themselves, unleashing whirlwinds of shuriken, scything down his foes were perfectly placed incisions that cut arteries and severed joints.

Eventually, the Bloodknights were called off; Asurmen was given a free route straight towards his target; Mephiston.

The King of Baal sat aside his throne of polished basalt, a sinister grin stitched across his face like a bloody wound. In the half-light, he seemed at first to be alone, but once Asurmen and the girl entered, he was clearly not.

His fellow Librarians emerged from their hidden shaded dells. The chamber was sealed, and Mephiston instantly launched his assault. A tidal wave of fire flowed from his eyes as he screamed a monstrous challenge. Asurmen was flung backwards with the force of a battlecannon strike, but Tethesis broke the flames around him, protecting the girl as she bolted into cover.

The other Librarians of Mephiston unleashed their powers upon the eldar demi-god at once; lightning arced fromt heir hands, clouds of biting imps and scorching blizzards of blood seared his ornate form. Esoteric energies played over the blade of the Phoenix Lord. His catapults were firing, but the fiery deluge melted each implement moments before they struck. Only his armour and his blade were proof against such a bombardment. Mephiston laughed maliciously as he slowly rose form his throne, drawing his own psychically-attuned blade from its scabbard with a flourish.

The psykers held back further assaults once their master entered the fray. But they were not idle. They weaved their enchantments and warpish techniques, slowly the flow of time for all save their Lord and master.

Mephiston raised his plasma pistol, and Asurmen was only just able to dodge the searing energy bolt as it whistled past his helm; he was slower. Time was against Asurmen, he realised then. Nevertheless, he attacked. He was still a ferociously swift fighter, even if he was no longer impossibly agile. His first blow hacked the pistol in two. Mephiston turned aside Tethesis, bisecting the catapults upon the Phoenix Lord’s wrists in the process. Psychic blade met psychic blade, a duel of minds as much as a physical contest and Mephiston was powerful. He had experience and the support of ancient psykers who had knowledge to rival even Tzeentchian sorcerers. Asurmen had the might of a million churning souls in his furnace of a soul, but psychic duels were not his natural habitat.

The walls melted and crackled with fire as they wrestled and fenced between scorching pyres and ruined decorations.

“Why must you torment me so xenos?” Mephiston hissed, in soul and through voice. “Why must our lives be defined by violence and destruction? I built this empire and saved my people!”

Asurmen spoke calmly, even as he deflected a flurry of terrible blows that should have beheaded mountains.

“You saved no one. This is a lie. You have forgotten...”

“Oh how I loathe you and your kind; idealists and demagogues! Spare us your morals! We wish to be left alone! Who are you to judge us, oh alien abomination? You birthed a hell god, and I fostered a stable realm!” Mephiston interrupted defiantly, kicking Asurmen across the chamber.

Beyond this phenomenally rapid duel, the girl crawled towards her objective. She could see it; the caged angel. The forgotten despair.

Mephiston and his acolytes poured more power into the combat, empowering Mephiston as Asurmen backed away, furiously deflecting countless attacks. The librarians engaged in combat now too, force swords and staffs pummelling Asurmen’s defences from all angles of approach. Even the swiftest warrior could not weather such relentless attacks. Asurmen began to falter.

The girl; Vasiri. That was her name! I know it as well as I recall my own name. She was safe from the Librarians, for they were too consumed in defeating the alien warlord. Vasiri placed her hands upon the figure of golden light, with wondrous wings of swan-like white. It was not real, but real at once. She knew then what her purpose was. Why Asurmen the fire-bird brought her to such a dismal, hideous place of grandeur and gore.

Her power was to commune with the dead. My power was to absorb the dying memories of those departed fro the endless sea. I... I...

I see it! With my waking eyes! Baleful eyes everywhere! The dead and the dying mewling on the floor of this ship. It writhes like a maggot; alive and hungry for souls. Discordant doom blaring. I am strong; heinously strong, but I am losing. My might is crumbled, like castles in decay. It rises, a behemoth. I know his name, but i cannot speak it, nor think it through the pain! The claw closes, the worlds are swirling now.

Chink in the plate. Meaningless but forever recalled. I fall, rebounding from the putrid floor. Feathers flutter by my side, to fall and settle upon expanding pools of viscous blood; my own. Through bleary eyes and seared soul-flesh, I see fate decided upon a father’s love. Golden-white light, versus the spectrum shattered into impossible hues. Titans duel and gods wrestle. Minds burn each other as bodies break. Crystal tears fall from both sides.

A sliver of compassion and hope trickles away; tossed aside by the towering figure of gold. All that is good is gone, leaving only an unbreakable core. The Anathema rises from the ruins of the one who was once a father. It is glorious and terrible, and it destroys the behemoth for all time, in all planes. The action makes the ruinous ones wail and flee. Two husks fall. Only one is alive.

There is another giant. He enters the fray too late; far too late. His black blade his broken over his knee, as he wails like an orphan, clutching at the husk-father. As the winged angel dies in a cloud of feathers, he witnesses the final speech of the Anathema. The Bastion-keeper listens well, but unknown to all, the Angel hears this too. I hear what he hears, feel what he feels at the end of time. The end of his time. He knows the inner workings of the throne. He knows how to build it. He knows the secret to creating one of the God-maker thrones. One of the Golden Thrones of the Old Race. Yet, his learned knowledge died with him. No one was there to take his thoughts.

Until now...

I recoiled form the memory, drawn across time and space in a perfect line connecting eons. I now knew all that Sanguinius had known in his final moments. But with this knowledge came a terrible price. Alongside the awaken dream flooded the horror of his earlier doom.

Mephiston staggered back from Asurmen, his eyes wide with fright.

“Horus! HORUS!” he shrieked, desperately shielding his throat from phantom, grasping claws. The Librarian felt this too, screaming as they ripped each other apart, calling out the Arch-traitor’s name as they destroyed each other.

In the confusion, Asurmen swept me from the tower. The realm of Red Fangs did not last long after that day. It broke down into factions; many of the Bloodknights lost their minds to the Black Rage, effectively beheading the leadership of the realm. Only the youngest Knights were spared, and their inexperience led to years of conflicts. Mephiston and his minions were sealed in their tower by their more sane brethren, there to languish in madness for the rest of their days. Even those spared the black rage were doomed however, for without the techniques Maphiston had learned to control their rages, their twisted geneseed began to fail en mass. The humans of this realm began to see their leaders as the flawed, defeated monsters they were, and drove them out. A few repentant creatures threw themselves on the mercy of Vulkan’s Imperium, while others lost all trace of humanity and became ghoulish demons in tattered armor, haunting the ghoul stars alongside Cythor fiends and Khainite cannibal cults.

As for me, I remember now where I went; where i was taken. I recall the three men who met me. A harlequin man in shimmering garb, a man named Jack the Dragon who bore dark eyes, and a third man who was no man at all. They took me through the webway. My knowledge was valuable beyond measure.

I was to guide in the reconstruction of the Golden Throne; I was to bring back he who was lost.

How can I know this? I am not this girl, yet I feel as if I have lived her life. I am confused.

I shall brood upon this matter.

I must finish my chronicle, but I fear what will happen to me now, once I complete it.

Additional Background Section 28: Commorragh and The Dissected Agonies[edit]

[Chronicle Paused.]

[Chronicle Resumes.]

[Archives collapsing. Emergency! Emergency!]

[Visual Feed: Wraithbone shelves and vaults crumbling to dust, as white light and multi-hued anomalies twist and turn between them. Multiple-limbed creatures engaging with Revelation Shock-troopers (cros ref. Fenryka/Adeptus/Legio Custodia/Commanditarian. Including multiple unknown compositions).

[Audio: Unidentified audio distortion throughout. Gunfire and D-cannon discharge occurs part-way through recording.]

[Visual feed: Figure in gold and grey fatigues crawls towards Chronicle device. Accompanied by Revelation troopers, providing covering fire against unidentified creatures (monstrous! Impossible creatures! ERROR ERROR=====), slender xenos entities and anomalous human warriors.]

[Audio: Subject 1: “Frak it! Keep them off of me! I need to retrieve it!” Subject 2: “Why? She’s dead. It’s no good to Revelation incomplete! Get out of here! We have to fall back!” Subject 1: “No!” (high pitched whining gunfire) “She finished it. She left the documents in her chamber damn it! They show everything. She was recording stuff past, present and future. She knew what was going to happen... how this was going to end... (Impossible noises. Heavy distortion. Void shielding holding. Down 34%) Subject 2: “We do not have time! Take the thing with you if you must, but I am not dying for the words of one mad seer.” Subject 1: She wasn’t a seer. She was a chronicler, but she had access to all records. This library... it exists outside time, it-“ Subject 2: “Enough! Grab it!”]

[Visual feed: Astartes (subject 2) bodily carries Subject 1. Chronicle moves with them. Corridors of swirling colors as the portals die. Subject 1 and the chronicle are thrown. Airborne approx ten seconds before impact upon solid surface.

Image inverted 90 degrees. Last sight of closing portal behind subject 1. Subject 2 turns from subject 1 as portal closes, drawing his nemesis weapon with two hands, before charging into the collapsing library.]

[Audio: Subject 1: “Brother Athun!” Subject 2: “Upload her files. Then leave. Follow the Iron Man. It know the route to sanctuary.” Subject 1: “Athun! Damn you Athun! Athu-“ (Load tearing noise, as portal seals)]

[Chronicle paused.] [Chronicle Resumes.]

[I do not know who I address. Your chronicler seems to have written her history in the assumption that she knew its readers. I suppose I shall continue in that tradition.

I also suppose that it doesn’t matter what the context of my hasty preface is being written at this very moment, because ‘this very moment’ might be many centuries in your past. But as I write, such terrible things have happened, but also such beautiful things. Though the deep is arisen, we are not without allies of our own. The galaxy seems discoloured now, for there are so many rents in realspace now, all leaking their poison into the materium.

The heroic alliance departed at some point last year. If I looked through the remaining sections of this history I might learn of the outcome, but I fear to. If I do, and the outcome is terrible, will I lose my mind to despair? I cannot imagine that this history will have a happy ending, but my imagination is a weak and putrid thing in these days.

Your chronicler is dead. I am sorry to tell you this; she killed herself as soon as she completed the final parts of her history. As she died, bleeding in my arms, she begged me to upload her final sections into her recording machine, in full and unread by myself. Then, she told me to hide it away from prying eyes, in a place which would endure for countless eons unchanged. And so I shall.

I do not know who will read this account, but nevertheless I will present the remaining background sections, in the order specified in the notes of Vasiri the Watcher.

If you are reading this, my task was completed.

Final regards,

Lord Volsanius Greal, the Lion’s Scribe.]

In the final weeks of the fifty-fifth millennium, upon the very cusp of the fifty-sixth millennium, it was said the endless Eldar clad in Reaper’s garb led the Wolf and the Raven into Commorragh. We can be so unusually precise upon this date, for this event caused a strange psychic backlash as Maugan Ra forced one of the ancient webway seals into Commorragh. Billions of contemporaries claimed that they had bad dreams in those weeks; dreams of a raven and wolf searching through an endless black patch of brambles, plucking scarred chunks of meat from the thorns, as a reaper shepherded them through the maze, avoiding the droplets of black, poisonous blood that oozed from a great ebony heart that wept above them all.

The two primarchs required the aid of the Phoenix Lord due to his skill at navigating the Labyrinth. Why Ra led aliens against his own race is not clear, though it is self-evident that the parasitic Dark Eldar could not be reconciled with the ultimately-selfless goals of the craftworlders and those who sought to aid them.

Nevertheless, Ra managed to breach Commorragh’s defences easily, and Leman Russ led his brother and the remaining abominations they called their children, into Low Commorragh. They had one goal; to find their lost brother, and deliver him from shadow into light.

Of course, getting into Commorragh was always the most straightforwards part. Leaving the city would be the true test of their abilities. And test them it most certainly would. For, unbeknownst to them, the two Primarchs had set themselves against one of the greatest minds in the entire galaxy; Asdrubael Vect, Archon of the Black Heart, supreme overlord of Commorragh and architect of the Thirteen Principles of Vengeance. As soon as the two Primarchs and their allies entered Commorragh, and felt the feeble light of the stolen suns upon their bodies, they came under attack. Rogue bands of starving hellions swept down upon them, screaming manically as they hacked and slashed at the assembled army of beasts that had arrived in the eternal ruins of Low Commorragh. With them came hundreds of Commorrite Eldar, bedecked in a wild profusion of arms and armaments, from splinter rifles to shuriken catapults, to converted human projectile rifles using bullets and shells impregnated with toxins. These wild savages scuttled through the maze of ruins with great speed and ferocity, organising themselves into squads and formations with surprising competency.

But they fought foes far beyond them. Leman Russ and his cohorts of feral warriors took the battle to them instantly, outmaneuvering the rabble; countering their base hunger with sheer brutal power. The Commorrites were slain swiftly, but a few of the hellions almost made good their escape. It took the precision strikes of Maugan Ra and his Dark Reapers to ensure none of their foes escaped to warn any forces who might be nearby.

“How did they react so quickly? Did they know we were coming?” Russ asked fiercely, accusation in his voice.

Ra explained that everyone was attacked in Low Commorragh as a matter of course. When asked why, he simply responded. “Because you were there.”

Catacombs and minor Kabal spires stabbed up from amidst the endless decrepit corpses of former port cities and scavenger docks, and this desolation spread out as far as the eye could see, and seemed also to curve upwards and loom impossibly over the heads of the rag-tag army of aliens and beasts. The air was alive with distant screaming and gunfire of every variety; with their enhanced senses, Russ and Corax could make out the light of burning strongholds and collapsing towers, and the tiny shapes of swirling flocks of hellions, picking off warriors from both sides of each conflict, without regard to alliances or allegiance.

“This is a den of the mad,” Corax said darkly, his words almost a whisper.

“It is a prison, of sorts,” Ra replied without emotion. “Through their own malice and cruelty, the monsters that live here trap their fellow abominations in endless cycles of violence, recrimination and torment. No one escapes the Dark City. Welcome to Commorragh.”

Ironically, the constant warfare was an advantage to the invading Astartes, for their violent escapades were masked amidst the background noise of constant murder. Through the faltering dawnlight of poisoned grey stars, and through the all-consuming shadowy dungeons, from where no light had ever reached, the Primarchs fought. They were guided by the Phoenix Lord, for only one who had visited the city countless times could learn its ever-shifting routes and passages with any degree of accuracy. There were not only eldar dwelling within the ruins; twisted things from the Fall scurried through the collapsed citadels and forgotten nation states of the Desolation. Not only them, but older beings, survivors of times before man even existed, made their dens there. The two brothers were forced to utilise all their might to vanquish the monsters they dueled in those terrible places, and they lost many of the Weregeld in these brutal confrontations.

Each time they fought, they took whatever weapons and armour they could find; repurposing it and using it against future foes. As they fought, they gathered unto them the disgruntled and the vagrant; hopeless creatures trapped within the city through no fault of their own. They hated the Dark Eldar more than any sane mind could ever fathom, and they desired vengeance; Russ, in arming and leading them, gave them this chance. Soon, they were fully armed and reinforced. Leman Russ was ready.

In the shadow of a collapsed eldar titan, Corvus Corax and Leman Russ each took the other’s arm in a warrior’s embrace, staring deeply into their eyes. Russ knew what Corax intended to do before his brother even spoke.

“Find our brother. You were always the most subtle of us Corvus. Go; penetrate the black heart of this realm. When you return, we shall take back Jaghatai once and for all.”

Corax nodded solemnly. “What do you intend to do?”

Russ smiled his usual savage grin. “I am the Emperor’s executioner. I intend to follow my calling. Can’t you smell the reek of it? The congealed remnants of such maleficarum I can scarcely conceive of it. Their are creatures here that have survived on the misery of the galaxy for countless millennia, that have feasted upon the weak while they remained safe and unassailable. That will not stand. I will not allow it!” Russ hissed. Corax returned his grin, but the Raven knew that Russ’ barbarian smile was a mask for the cold-blooded destroyer that dwelt within. Russ had always been this way. Corax had never liked to mention it, but he had seen a fraction fot he Emperor’s mind long ago and he had seen much... perhaps too much. He knew that the Emperor had never considered the Fenryka to be his executioners. Russ had created his own role in the Imperium; he knew his role in the coming events of the galaxy, even if nobody else had marked him out for this. But Corax held his tongue, casting out such morbid thoughts, and simply allowed his brother to embrace him. Both of them knew that the endeavour they had undertaken could very well be the death of them both. They might never see one another again.

Then, they parted, and the war began in earnest. Corax shrouded himself and disappeared into the ruins of Commorragh. Meanwhile, Ra led Leman Russ’s forces through the labyrinth of caverns and passages, towards the holdings of the Kabal of the Hidden Blade. These fortified sites were utterly invisible to the eye at certain angles, and could only be seen on very specific avenues of approach; approaches which were guarded by heavy emplacements and scores of barracks hungry to spread mayhem. Their asymmetrical fortresses were home to a vast army of Kabalite soldiers, with full air support in the form of wing upon wing of Voidraven Bombers and Razorwing Fighters. These aircraft constantly flew sorties across the desolation, destroying settlements at random and hunting down any hellions who dared enter their air space. Hunting parties of Kabalite warriors prowled the ruins too, killing and capturing any unfortunates who got too close, before dragging them back to their citadels for torture. This kept the garrisons fed and also amused the Hidden Blade’s Archon, Olbridesh Suul.

Russ moved carefully in this region, for he wished to avoid detection by the screaming fighter craft that patrolled the skies like hungry vultures. He began his campaign by using his men to draw the hunting parties out of their holds. The Dark Eldar saw the wulfen and weregeld as mere escaped slaves, or possibly rogue pit beasts from the Wych Cult arenas, and eagerly pursued them whenever they could. Russ lured them into carefully constructed ambushes, slaying them and casting their broken bodies across the ruins. For months he continued this campaign of ambush and retreat. The Hidden Blade unleashed hell upon the surrounding region, pulverizing great swathes of city with their void mines and scourging missile bombardments. Suul and his Dracons had perceived of a pattern to the assaults; they were more than mere slave revolts. It was an insurgent army. In their indiscriminate destruction, the minor Kabal made few friends amongst the unaligned corsairs and Commorrites who dwelt in the desolation.

But even as they increased the power and frequency of their sorties, they left their garrison with fewer and fewer defenders. Finally, Russ led a surprise assault on the bastions. Dark Reapers and ex-slaves armed with captured disintegrators and heat lances dueled with the perimeter turrets, as Russ broke down the doors of the forts with massive assaults. Once a fort was captured, the weapons mounted within were used to bombard its neighbours, spreading confusion and fury amongst the Kabalites. Suul sped back to Hidden Blade as swiftly as he could, assaulting the invaders with his fleet of fighters, shattering fortresses left and right. As the battle wore on, it seemed that the enemy were weakening; Suul ordered his barge to descend, so that he may feast on their miserable life essences. As soon as he did, Leman launched his final attack. His strongest men cast grapples against the hull of the barge, dragging it down. These men only managed to slow the barge for a second before its scythes cut through the chains, but a second was enough. Russ jumped aboard the ship, roaring with demented hatred. Suul and his bodyguards were slain by the rampaging Primarch, and Suul himself was ripped apart as he wounded Russ in the shoulder with an envenomed alien spear.

Archon slain, Russ ordered his army to retreat; it was futile to hold ground when the enemy outnumbered you. Yet without their Archon, and with their fortresses ruined, the Kabal of the Hidden Blade were easy prey for those Commorrites waiting int he shadows for their chance to steal their lands. Hidden Blade fell within two weeks, as the nearby Kabals of the Poisoned Tongue and the Stolen Conscience ripped them apart and subsumed their defeated members.

Russ continued this sprawling war across the Sprawls of Port Carmine and Sec Maegra, yet Corvus Corax had other plans. He passed into the very centre of Dark Eldar civilization. He could move between the inky black streets without being seen, even when in plain sight. This let him eavesdrop upon the scourge messengers and the other spies and calculating politicians of High Commorragh and the more affluent satellite realms. He witnessed sights and horrors that would make a lesser man weep, but he remained stoic and unmoved; his mind was utterly focused upon his goal. He could move almost as he pleased within the City; no door or sight was barred to him. That is, save for the City State of Aelindrach, and the realms of the Wraith-Kind. There, the shadows lived and coiled like serpents, shielding all from physical and psychic sight. When Corax attempted to approach, he felt the presence of the Mandrakes. These half-daemon monsters prowled the places between light and Corax was certain they could somehow track him if they spotted him. But the rest of Commorragh was not so psychically veiled.

Amidst images of hideous depravity and excess, Corax learned of rumors which spoke of ‘the Dissected Agonies’; artefacts of unprecedented value to some of the highest Archons. The master of the Raven Guard began to plot. If he and Russ could steal these artefacts, the Archons and the immortal Haemonculi Covens would pay a high price to get them back; Corax had heard of entire sub-realms being traded for but a single Dissected Agony.

Russ’ war against Low Commorragh continued, but soon it was clear, after several months, that he had reached an impasse. His building armies had become powerful enough to gather alien mercenaries and followers from Sec Maegra, the Null City and form a full army with heavy weapons and armoured support; he had even managed to liberate armed gangs of Astartes from slave pens, who realized he was one of their lost fathers after his blinding psychic presence touched their minds. Russ’ armies were growing, but Russ himself was suffering. His festering wound was not healing; even his perfect physique was struggling to repel the Lhamaean venom. But he hid the wound beneath layers of heavy power armour he had built while on campaign.

Russ was able to engage in running battles with the minor Kabals of the desolation; both sides constantly on the move so as not to get pinned down and murdered in a punishing siege. Both sides were followed by thousands upon thousands of the Parched, cadaver-like Dark Eldar withered by lack of sustenance. They fed on the waves of pain caused by the continuous battles and were a constant source of irritation to Russ (and food to the ruthless Kabalites). Yet, this was a mere side show within Commorragh; war was a fact of Low Commorragh and mattered little to those who dwelt in High Commorragh in their impossibly vast towers that simultaneously towered above and plunged down from above. They were always looming just over the horizon, no matter where you stood in Low Commorragh. Russ had no way to pierce the portals leading to High Commorragh; those few Maugan Ra had found were sealed tight.* If he was to breach them, the Corespur Nobles would have to descend into Low Commorragh themselves.

But how would they incur their wrath? How would they force the great Kabals to engage? Russ had a plan; a merciless, cruel plan that proved just how ruthless the Great Wolf could be.

Every few weeks, convoys of sleek slave barges would return to Commorragh, and head towards the arenas of the Cult of Strife, heaving with slaves and fodder for their gladiatorial games. Inevitably, some slaves and beasts escaped from these barges, only to be recaptured by teams of beastmasters and Wych retrieval squads armed with their shardnets and agonisers. Once, the retrieval took slightly longer than before; it seemed the slaves had found better hiding places, but they still failed to elude the relentless cackling gladiators.

Unbeknownst to the slavers, Leman Russ had gotten to these slaves first. The slaves were dragged across the Bone Middens, through the portals, and straight towards the greatest of Cult Strife’s magnificent ziggurat-arenas. Once the crowds had fully gathered for the coming show, and the first of that evening’s grand spectacles was underway, the slaves began to explode. Void munitions, stitched into their very bodies, detonated in huge conflagrations that ripped the foundations from the arena. The entire structure began to sag, as thousands of slaves and Dark Eldar were killed in the colossal blasts. But the final slave had one last gift for the Eldar. Russ had located a shattered Imperial vessel in the ruins of Low Commorragh, and had liberated a single weapon from it; a virus bomb. Specifically, the world eater. This final detonation unleashed a black cloud that consumed all life within a hundred miles of the arena. Webway failsafes sealed the expanding cloud with a force field, before venting it into the heart of a stolen sun. However, the damage was done. Millions killed, and what was worse, an entire City State was horrendously damaged.

To say the Dread Archons of High Commorragh were apoplectic with rage would be a gross understatement. The arenas of the Wychs were the lifeblood of Commorragh, where the common Dark Eldar could be sated. The loss of such a large one was a terrible blow to the Kabals, and one they could never have ignored. The most powerful of the Lords joined in an uneasy truce, brokered by the Archons of the Black Heart; under the thirteen statues of sorrowfell, they swore lasting vengeance upon whoever was foolish enough to cross them.

They burst from their runic portals in waves millions upon millions strong. Venoms and raiders filled the dark skies like undulating flocks of starlings, alongside countless screaming hellions and scourges, and a veritable tidal wave of capering Wyches. It seemed as if some grand hornet’s nest had been pierced by an arrow, such was the grotesque display.

The spectacle was as spectacular as it was terrible. Russ smiled wryly from his hiding place. “So many... I thought yours was a dying race?”

“They are dying, merely in a different way,” Ra responded coldly.

The grand Kabalite alliance acted swiftly, destroying great swathes of territory with merciless precision and relentless vigour. The howling cackles of the monstrous sadists carried for countless millions of kilometres through the demented, impossible city. Aircraft turned whole generations of Low Commorrites into anguished glass statues. Some hopelessly threw themselves into the acidic green River Khaides to escape the terrible horde.

Russ, meanwhile, took the opportunity of the portals opening to force his way through. His embattled men fought a hopeless rearguard to allow the Primarch to breach Corsespur’s high towers. He'd memorized the faces of every man who fell in his service, be they beast, alien or man; allies were allies, and he’d no sooner forget their sacrifices than he’d forget the treachery and base cowardice of his enemies. Maugan Ra disappeared during this battle, melting into the shadows like the ghost of a whisper on the wind. **

Feverish and sickly from the venom in his blood, Leman Russ nevertheless fought his way free of the portal guards, and descended into the narrow alleys and bottomless pits that lay between the infinitely looming black towers of the city states. This was the vile core of the Dark City. If he was to find his brother, it would be within this terrible realm.

It was Corax who found Russ first. He told him of the Dissected Agonies, and his plan to blackmail the Archons of High Commorragh with them. The two faced the city together, fighting through the degenerate scum that clung to the tower districts like algae to the skin of a behemoth. Bounty hunters and xenos killers of all varieties were hired to track the Primarchs. Each foe would die, but each time the fights grew harder and the superhumans gradually lost their allies to the predations of Commorragh.

The Haemonculi in particular were amused by the increasingly infamous actions of the human giants. Urien Rakarth created grotesque abominations to sniff them out and duel with the Primarchs. Russ was nearly throttled to death by a great serpentine flesh-fiend on the banks of the avenue of blades, and Corax barely survived an encounter with the Shredding engines of the Everspiral Coven. But as they suffered, the sons of the Emperor were unrelenting in their mission. Systematically, they located each of the Dissected Agonies; breaking into the private holdings of their jealous Archon owners, killing anyone who got in their way. In vain, the armies if the Kabals searched them out, but each raid left their victims’ holdings ruined, but left no trace of the culprits. Archons from rival Kabals blamed one another for directing the Primarchs towards them, while others simply used the situation to score political points against hated foes.

Several times, a shadowy figure tried to contact them. He said he had seen their fate ‘in the bones’. He warned them they were being credulous fools. The Primarchs ignored this enigmatic being, known as Sathonyx the Lord Hellion, each time fruitlessly trying to kill the so-called Baron. Another trickster was just what they did not need in a city of liars and cheats.

Each dissected agony was a sealed casket, bound with hideous runes of pulsating evil. Leman Russ and the Lord of Deliverance opened each one in trepidation. Their revulsion and horror is beyond my ability to adequately convey. Each casket bore part of a living being. But these were no mere dead limbs; they still writhed in a horrible mockery of life. Yet this was not the worst of it. Leman and Corvus knew these body parts; they knew the markings carved into his flesh. They recognized the ritual scars, daubed in white...

Desperately, they tried to figure out how much of their brother still remained. To their horror, they lacked the final part; the great Khan’s head was missing. Somehow, they knew which Dark Eldar held the final piece of the puzzle. Supreme Overlord Vect became their target.

Russ, now almost putrid with sickness, determined to penetrate the vaults of the Kabal master’s grand holdings. Corax wished to go with him, but Russ needed Corax for a different task. Only Corax had the knowledge to attempt to repair the Khan. Russ made his brother promise to heal him. Corax could only agree. Corax took the dissected agonies, and vanished into the shadows. He promised that he would “not let another brother fall. Not one more! No more shall die this day! I promise you that, Leman. Nothing less.”

The principle citadels of the Kabal of the Black Heart were the greatest and most elaborate fortifications in all of Commorragh; limitless turrets, twisted battlements and endless galleries and chambers filled with all manner of horrors that could set the mind aflame with trepidation. Besides the more obvious horrors, there were the subtle defences; force fields of silent potency and labyrinthine passageways that led off into nothingness, or transported the unwary through dark gates beyond the veil.

But Russ was as cunning as he was formidable, and he seemed to make swift progress through the devious towers. He avoided traps and snares which had claimed generations of assassins and revolutionaries. He bested the skeleton force of defenders through sheer defiant fury. The defenders grew strong on his pain, and they did not die easily, but die they did.

He used his psychic ability to scent his brother through layers of pheromone camouflage and countless vault walls. He followed his senses, plunging upwards through a tower which dangled above and below Commorragh. No twisted geometry could hold him back. Eventually he reached the final chamber, and ripped the doors from their hinges with all his strength.

Inside, a slender, unremarkable Dark Eldar clad in thorny ghostplate armour lounged upon a grandiose throne. Even Russ wasn’t quick enough to stop the Lhamaean priestesses that rushed at him from the gloom. Even as he slaughtered them with his bare hands, their poisoned blades and tainted blood infested his wounds, enhancing the agony which he was experiencing. Gasping for air, Russ fell to his knees.

From either side of the Eldar’s throne, serpentine Sslyth warriors slithered into view. All around the Primarch, Kabalites began to emerge, giggling cruelly at Russ’ fate. Silent Wracks stood sentinel at the side of Haemonculi, who drifted eerily just above the ground, like terrible witches from some fairy tale. The Eldar upon the throne raised his hand for silence, and instantly got it. Russ fixed his hate-filled gaze upon this Dark Lord. As he tried to rise, Trueborn stabbed him with agonisers, robbing his limbs of motion through awful pain.

The leader leaned forward fractionally, revealing a flawless face, unmarred by even a single scar.

“You know who I am?” he asked simply. Russ nodded.


Vect smiled in response. “Quite so. You have been rather entertaining, I have to admit. However, I feel this charade must come to an end now. But truly it is a delight to see the Wolf King... in the flesh.”

Russ realized then that it had been a trap. It had been too easy to penetrate Corespur. Vect had granted the Dissected Agonies specifically to his enemies; those who served Sathonyx in particular.

“You were good though. The arena trick was inspired,” Vect continued. As he spoke, the entire chamber rose up from the bowels of the tower, and into the failing light of a Stolen Dawn. The chamber was a glass dome, which revealed the whole of Commorragh from its windows. A star fleet was in high anchor on spurs opposite the tower, surrounded by shoals of support craft and slave barges ferrying the doomed from their holds. Russ saw the huge viewscreens and projectors filling the squares and open spaces beneath the fleet too. Crowds of Eldar, millions strong, cheered and jeered as they watched Russ slaughter and maim countless foes. It was a recording of almost his entire campaign.

“We’ve been growing fat from your exploits on the vid-steals. Your brutality is a joy to behold and consume! It should last us until... next week, probably. It almost makes up for the ruination of the Cult of Strife. Almost.”

Vect rose from his throne, supported by his tall sceptre, though Russ could tell the ancient devil was pretending to be far feebler than he truly was. “I know why you came here, mon keigh. You wish to rescue your fellow construct.”

“My brother, you cur!” Russ snarled, his hatred a physical thing, darkening the floor beneath him.

Vect nodded. “Indeed. I entertained your incursion for two reasons. Firstly, I was curious; what drives such a being as you? But more than such fleeting fanciful notions, I can see your place in this saga. I know you know of what I speak.”

Russ chose to be silent. Vect continued, condescendingly talking of the forces gathering in realspace as he simultaneously belittled the Primarch and listed what he conceived of the coming apocalypse. The daemons of the deep-warp had to be stopped; Vect above all desired to live. The [REMOVED] would cause all life to fall into the abyss. Russ was unconvinced, until Vect pointed out that in over twenty four thousand years, Asdrubael Vect had never once attempted to invade or destroy the Imperium or any stellar empire on any significant scale. Eventually, he produced a casket and presented it to Russ. He showed Russ the head within, which blinked and screamed silently.

Leman demanded the head. “If you do, I might only cut you,” he grinned.

Vect however, could never be fazed by such a threat. He was the bane of all races.

“If I give you the last of my Agonies, I will have lost my toy. That holds no interest for me. I shall require compensation. A Primarch for a Primarch. I will free him and heal all his wounds. All I ask is that you give yourself to me. It is not a great deal to ask.”

Russ looked into Vect’s eyes; he came close to despair for the first time in many years. But then his gaze caught something else, beyond the dome.

Outside, the fleet was moving. One of the ships was turning about, ripping free of its moorings. It opened fire on its docking supports, pulverizing the towers that shackled it, before turning its guns on the city below. Corax had made good on his promise. His brothers would not die that day.

Russ rose from his seemingly prone position. The Trueborn tried bringing him down again, but the light of the warp shone in his eyes, and he began to swell with power. A blast struck the dome, shattering it and subjecting the Court of Vect to gale force winds. Russ set upon the Eldar with claw and fang, channeling all his psychic might into his body. Though poison still wracked his body with pain, Russ fought the pain, ripping out its throat and stomping it into the earth. The Sslyth intercepted him as he lunged at Vect, but were ripped asunder. He reached for Vect, but the Dark Lord struck him with an obsidian orb. The black sphere sent Russ reeling for a moment, which allowed the Wracks to swarm over him. With a last burst of strength, he shrugged them off of him and snatched the last fragment of Khan from Vect’s grasp. The Dark Eldar chopped away Russ’ left hand, just as Russ swept a claw across his face.

The Supreme Overlord fell back into his throne, as Russ leapt bodily from the shattered dome, onto the hull of the approaching starship. Commorragh’s defenses were already coming online. The Primarchs had to be quick. Russ clung to the hull of the cruiser, as it punched directly through a sealing portal at full speed. Though his flesh caught fire, Russ refused to let go as the ship fled into the Webway.

Vect slowly rose from his throne. His face was scratched; his flawless countenance now tarnished by ragged wounds.

His retinue stood back from him in abject terror. They saw the building emotions in his dark, bottomless eyes.

Vect roared then; a sonorous, baleful noise which seemed to carry and echo around all of Commorragh. All living things in the Dark City cowered instinctively. Vect would punish them all now, out of sheer malicious spite.

Vect, for the first time in his entire life, had been bested.

  • (How Corax breached the portals, no records tell. I suspect he waited for Kabalite Trueborn to pass through the portals on the way to Port Carmine.)
    • (It seems the Phoenix Lord peeled off from the Primarchs to follow his own agenda. As the battle of wits and carnage of the Primarchs brought welcome mayhem to Commorragh, Ra’s investigations would uncover the birthplace of the conspiracy which had brought forth the Nex- [unintelligible madness. Vasiri deleted most of this before it caused a warp breach inside the Library]. The Lords of Twilight listened for too long to those that dwelt in the shadows. They thought they knew the name of the being that called to them from beyond the universe, but they were deceived. The full story of the rise of the Draziin-Maton and their masters will be told in the next background section. )

Additional Background Section 29: The Building Dissolution; The Bane of All Creation. An Overview[edit]

No living creature in the galaxy of 60K could possibly ignore the dissolution; the name sane men gave to the Ne-[REMOVED] and its building influence upon reality. Every living thing that had a connection to the sea of souls could feel the sickness working through it like venom in the blood. The barriers between warp and realspace grew ever thinner, tearing in some places like a moth-eaten satin veil pulled taunt across the thorny plate of a beetle. Sometihng from the deepest warp was rising and descending, everywhere and nowhere at once. No one could say what had caused it, for to know such things was to go utterly insane. However, I have gleaned much (and my sanity was never in peril; I lost it decades ago... but I digress). (Author’s note: This section is written, for the most part, in overview, for even a demented fool such as myself cannot begin to explain the intricacies of gods and daemons who boast such labyrinthine minds that I might become lost in them should I attempt to consider them. Yet, I will continue, for I feel this information is essential for my readers, so that they might fully appreciate the events which saw the close of the Age of Dusk, and may yet lead us to extinction...)

To explain what caused the first warp rifts, and what set the great game into motion cannot be fully explained until I depict the crossing of the Well and the charge of Revelation’s Host across the plain of Geometry-Abominable. However, I can divulge here the course of events which brought forth the Draziin-maton and the latter stages of dissolution.

It began with the Lords of Twilight; the most ancient and proud of the Eldar that still festered in Commorragh. They scorned Vect and his new order of the Dark Eldar, and resented the Dark Lord’s ban upon the old, forbidden arts. The Lords of the Iron Thorn and many senior members of the old Solar Cults were members, as well as the scions of the long-vanquished El’Uriaq dynasty of Shaa-dom. Their unofficial ruler was the warp-scarred Archon Ysclyth. Many had thought he had been destroyed in M41, when Vect collapsed his sub-realm of Talon Cyriix, and allowed the daemons under his command to usurp his kabal. But he had escaped, and he fled to the deepest and most secluded corner of the Dark City; deep in a realm which was not fully in the webway, or fully in the warp.

There, amidst wraith-kind and mandrakes, his mind was warped, and his body was disassembled and remade a thousand times. When El’uriaq returned to the world of the living, his lacerated soul was forever changed. He had witnessed such horrific and glorious sights in his hellish limbo that they alone could fill a dozen madmen’s libraries of scribbling. He was reborn as El’Uriaq the Daemonmancer, and when he returned from that dark place, he took his Lords of Twilight into council. He had found a way to control daemons, and to bind them to his will.

He knew this, so he claimed, for there was an entity that lingered beyond the warp, beneath and above it, beyond the endless deep; trapped but ever-living. This creature was known to the Eldar as Eldanesh the God-Caller, the mythical first King of the Eldar race. Gods and devils had once bent the knee to Eldanesh, yet Khaine had slain him long ago. El’Uriaq came back to reveal the truth. Eldanesh died yes, but El’Uriaq claimed that his death was not like that of a Dark Eldar, to be consumed by She Who Thirsts, nor to dissolve like the mon keigh’s putrid little soul embers. His soul when to the place where the Unborn and the neverwere held court, like impossible kings over a realm which did not exist, nor could exist. A realm where all the paths never taken resided.

The daemonmancer promised the lords of twilight the universe. They would become gods, more powerful than the Dark Muses. More powerful than the old Gods, or the Primordial Usurper Gods combined. They could drink the life of entire galaxies with the power El’Uriaq envisioned. His plan was one on a truly impossible scale, and he drew them in with his serpent words.

Thus, they set their plans into motion; plans which began in the dimly remembered times of the Imperium of Man, in M41. Throughout this period, their primary aim was to hide their efforts from Vect’s spies, they did manage to install a daemon, Hamadraya, to guide Huron Blackheart, and made pacts and brought to heel many daemonic forces. In the darkest of ceremonies, the Lords of Twilight allied with the Crone World Eldar; the Eldar who had fallen to chaos and become terrible daemonic caliphs of frightening power. Yet, it wasn’t until the fall of the Imperium that their plans could come to full fruition.

Using their agents across the galaxy, El’Uriaq’s minions located the old warrior machine sof the once mighty Eldar Empire. The machines had once laid waste to entire armies on the orders of ambivalent eldar, and quenched suns with their power. The Lords of twilight would bring them back, more powerful and terrifying than ever.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed however. A mysterious being with no name and no face came to them in the guise of a captured slave, yet it spoke with the words of a daemon of frightful power. It called itself the Changeling, and it claimed that the Lord of Change was with them. Through this creature, a galaxy-spanning conspiracy was hatched. Kor Phaeron, the Black cardinal himself, grew to learn of this scheme of conquest and desecration, as did many others. Schemes within schemes were born in the years following the New Devourer and the collapse of civilisation. Warlords betrayed Archons, who swindled sorcerers, who vanquished expendable pawns on the deceitful words of daemons. Ahriman sought to pre-empt the Lords of Twilight, and took the opportunity to raid Terra, stealing its secrets while their plans were still in motion.

Through subtle manipulation, the Anarchy Child, Sparrod, caused oddly-specific acts of demented carnage and chaos on many worlds that bordered the Eye of Terror. As previously mentioned, these attacks were not random, but they formed a pattern; a ritual. A symbol; eight hundred and eighty eight worlds all dying in sight of the light coming fromt he Eye at a specific date, at a specific location in the eye. And on that date, through the massive soulstorm caused by the Anarchy Child, time was paused at the heart of the Eye. At the centre of a rift that plunged into the very heart of the warp, time and space were obliterated utterly. The soul storm... burrowed through the warp, piercing it utterly. Such an event had occurred only twice before; the first came before the birth of Man, the second came at the fall of the Eldar. But for a brief instant, the Deep Warp was opened. And from there, the-



THE NEX.............................T! PHASEEEEEEEEEE, OF- of-OF.]

[Chronicle repaired. Strange malfunction.]

-and the Crone Worlders managed to finally store them, though it cost so very much. Nevertheless, the automatons of the Old Empire were now filled up with the stuff of the madness within madness; the warp beyond reckoning. But this was jsut the start.

For the Lords of twilight were deceived. Tzeentch was never a servant or ally of theirs. Tzeentch had set into motion the great game, and all the playing pieces were his. The newly-born Draziin automatons, or Draziin-maton, were no slaves for disgruntled eldar nobles to toy with. Tzeentch was a mere facet of their master, who lay beyond the veil and had no form, for it was a being born to end form and function and sanity.

The Draziin-Maton had animus and purpose now, but they were trapped in their impossible world at the heart of the Eye. El’uriaq was, in fact, one of their agents, and he used his twisted, half-shade form to destroy the Lords of Twilight. The Decapitator was unleashed upon them, and though their Kabals vainly sought to ward off his attentions, he found them all in the end. As Commorragh fought the Wolf and Raven in bloody combat, the Lords of twilight were quietly, silently killed. Their skulls were taken into Aelindrach, and there, the Decapitator added them to his collection. Unbeknownst to all Commorrites, Aelindrach would prove to be the weak chink in their City’s armour...

Meanwhile, beyond the webway, the Draziin-maton and their allies in the material universe conquered the Eye. El’Uriaq allowed himself to be ‘captured’ by the Word Bearers. He was tortured, and eventually gave the greedy heretics access to many sorcerous secrets even Lorgar did not know. He taught them new powers and divulged information. Entranced by the thought of an ever deeper understanding of the Sea of Souls, the Word bearers threw in their lot with the Draziin-maton, and together they usurped Abaddon, and chased him from the Western Chaos Imperium, while they remotely controlled the Eastern Imperium. As the power of Lorgar the Annointed King grew, so too did the warp’s grip on realspace.

Across the galaxy, they attempted to weaken the veil, to flood the warring galaxy with warp energy, until there might occur a total event collapse; the end of the materium entirely. This total event collapse had begun with the first chaos god, and with every new god born, the veil grew thinner and thinner. As the galaxy fought itself; as Angyls fought daemons, Krork fought necrons and man fought man, more terrible things were being born. Valchocht the maker, the Daemon King of the Soul Forge, finally constructed for itself a body of purest warp stuff. Through this new grand vortex of a body, it became another Chaos God, and the galaxy got a little darker. Everywhere, the universe was unraveling, slowly but surely.

However, the Draziin-Maton did not understand the minds, or the natures, of their foes. They were beings of potential, not fact. They had no idea that there were forces arrayed against them, with plans in place to take the fight directly to their very heart.

When retaliation came, when the final war was launched, it would be a great Revelation to them...

Additional Background Section 30: The Lion’s Cage[edit]

The Lion awoke, eyes snapping open as the smell of burning reached his superhuman senses. He felt the Rock beneath his body, the familiar stonework, but somehow changed. The Primarch woke in the midst of a siege. The walls were coming down in sheets of flame, revealing Caliban’s great forests in all directions.

They too were burning, as orbital munitions fell like meteorite strikes, vaporizing acres of woodland in the time it took the light of each blast to reach them. Mountains were pummelled to plasma, which drifted across the world, killing everything in its path.

“Who... attacks us?” the Primarch demanded, his mind fighting to regain its composure. He was disorientated, a sensation he had never felt before. Not truly.

“Russ’ wolves have broken through the second cordon! The Fists have taken the orbitals! We’ve lost the ability to contest space!”

This was the voice of countless Dark Angels, who rushed from one console to another. Each was marked with eight pointed stars upon their foreheads, and each one spoke with a voice of sulphurous corruption. One turned to the Lion.

“My liege, you wake! We cannot hold them off my Lord and Master! What are your orders?”

“The Wolf attacks us? Dorn too? But Horus... his allies were vanquished. The war is... concluded.”

“It shall never be concluded. Not while we still draw breath; those were your words sire. That was your decree.”

The Lion was horrified by the words of his heathen children. He looked for his sword, but when he found none, he threw himself upon them with unrelenting fury. He broke them, tossing their bodies aside before he signalled the planet-wide surrender of Caliban. He then signalled Russ, and declared his intent to surrender himself to his brother.

Russ teleported to the surface personally, flanked by the Custodians and his own Fenryka bodyguards.

“What madness drove you to this Jonson?”

“I promise you, the crimes of these fallen are not mine, I swear to you brother, on my honour.”

Russ snorted. “Honour? Honour means very little in these dark days, would you not say? Besides which, this is not the heresy that we condemn you for. You have orchestrated something far worse,” Russ replied ominously.

The Lion was brought onboard the Space Wolf flagship in chains, forged by the Lion’s lost brother Vulkan himself to be unbreakable by even the strongest creature. He was thrown into the bowels of the ship, alongside mewling, broken traitors, begging for death. While the ship travelled through the warp, in the pitch darkness oft he cargo holds, the Lion granted them their wishes. He killed them all with the loops of his chains and the strength of his arms, till there was nothing but human paste remaining.

The Lion was being brought to Terra. The Lion knew the palace to be a tumbled ruin, filled with corpses five meters deep in all directions. Industrial excavators worked day and night to dig out pockets of defenders from amongst the siege’s endless swathes of dead. Yet, in his dank, lightless cell, he saw nothing, until he was dragged on-board a thudnerhawk and shuttled to the surface; to the Throne room itself.

The throne room was a mess of smashed artifacts, and suffered vast scratch marks and gouges, caused by creatures most foul and impossible. Around the chamber, Imperial fists and Custodian Guards stood in neat rows, silent and stoic, with bolters and spears clutched tight to their chests. The Lion was ushered into the chamber by four Custodes, whose guardian spears glimmered with deadly promise as they hovered mere feet from the chained Primarch. The Lion looked ahead, and saw a sight which broke his hearts.

Upon a small, unadorned throne, Dorn sat, his left gauntlet clutched to his face, as if suppressing tears. His armor, once lustrous gold, was now as black as night. It was darker even than the battle plate of the Dark Angels themselves. To his left sat the Emperor. The Emperor no longer glowed. His body was broken, a cluster of scars and cables that punched through his flesh and fed into the strange alien device that dominated the chamber. A throne of gold, that formed the heart of a vast ring of ritual stone and psycho-plastic embedded in the wall. All manner of horrors throbbed beyond this gate, held back only by the cabal of psykers who were suffering just behind Dorn. The Emperor was dead. Not just the living death inflicted by Horus. The Emperor was completely dead. What was worse was that the Lion could see why.

The Lion Sword stood embedded in the Emperor’s chest, protruding like a vile banner of treachery, more foul than any could contemplate. Tears began to spring to the Lion’s ordinarily inscrutable face.

Dorn rose from his throne upon hearing the name of the Lion announced by the serfs and clerks who lingered on the periphery. He had a cold expression; as if his soul had died alongside the Emperor. His head was bald in patches, for he had torn great chunks of his scalp away in demented frustration. In his right hand, he clutched a handful of great white feathers, alongside a teardrop of blood fashioned into an amulet.

He cursed the Lion for his manifest heresies, for his cowardice and his evil. Leman Russ, who prowled behind the rows of Astartes and Custodes, simply glowered at him with animalistic loathing.

The Lion protested his innocence. He recalled returning to Caliban, to punish Luther and the fallen. He admitted some of his Legion had fallen, but he swore he had destroyed them. Dorn told him that in fact, the loyalists of the Dark Angels had returned to Caliban to defeat the Lion and his rebellious kin. There was no Luther. None of the assembled Imperials had ever heard of a man called Luther.

“Luther was only part of your madness; your sickness,” Dorn explained without emotion. He couldn’t even bear to look at the Lion.

Dorn then explained that the Lion had shown his betrayal only after he had sent his agent to greet the Emperor.

“-and there, your fallen Angel, using your own blade, pierced the Emperor’s heart and struck him dead, before your Astartes pawn was moments later cut down himself.”

“Impossible! This is impossible!” the Lion began to scream. He couldn’t be a traitor. He simply could not comprehend such a thing, even after the Heresy.

Dorn lost his patience, snatching the Lion Sword from the Emperor’s corpse, and flinging it across the chamber. It landed with a deafening clatter across the marble floor at the Lion’s feet. “See the truth of your treachery written in the blood on your own blade!” Dorn howled.

Gently, the Lion plucked his sword from the floor. He gazed long at the workmanship of the weapon, and the delicate spider’s web of drying blood that traced a pattern across the blade. It was real; it was definitely his sword. Convulsing in disgust, the Lion threw his face upon the ground, his free hand splayed across the throne-room’s floor as he sobbed, golden locks falling over his face.

“Yet, brother, you can still be redeemed; if not in our eyes, then in His,” Russ finally spoke, shoving through the crowd, before coming to a halt before the Golden Throne. “Your life is forfeit, of course, but your death need not simply be oblivion. Your death can mean something.”

“Indeed,” Dorn began. “We can bring Him back. The Emperor can yet live. A soul such as His cannot simply be dissolved into the immaterium like a mortal’s. It is out there, waiting for a means to be reborn into the realm of flesh, to save us all. The Librarians say all we require is a host; an avatar for his being. If you are truly penitent, truly loyal to our cause, you will give yourself freely to this task. What else do you have? Your Legion is dead, as is your honour. You are alone now. Return to the fold, and be who you were born to be!”

The Lion stopped sobbing instantly, for he was never truly crying.

“I have been here before. This chamber; this exact room,” the Lion began.

Russ shrugged. “Of course, this is the throne room of the E-“

“No no, I was here in the throne room, after the lifting of the siege. I remembered every square millimetre of this chamber. I have a Primarch’s eyes, you forget. I do not forget a single detail; I cannot forget any detail. Your illusion is good, very good. But In using images I am familiar with, you made your first mistake. Everything you have conjured here is almost perfect. But I can spot the errors; the mold lines and seams that bind this lie together. It was a nice touch using my real sword, but I see through this facade.”

The entire chamber shuddered. The golden light of Terra’s Star turned a ruddy red as it shone through the high windows each side of the throne.

“What was our second mistake?” Dorn asked with a metallic, deathless voice that dripped with condescension.

The Lion looked up and smiled. “You gave me my sword back.”

The four Custodes launched their attacks with their spears, but the Lion was phenomenally fast. He shattered the false chains that fettered him, bringing his sword around to block the precise and relentless blows of the Custodes. The duel did not last long. Energised blades carved through Lion El Jonson’s body in a dozen places, but each cut was barely a scratch to the greatest swordsman amongst the Primarchs. Blade in hand, the four Custodes could not best him. He ended the contest in a dozen precisely placed blows. Each Custodes fell, decapitated.

Four headless Lychguard crashed to the ground, warscythes falling from their metallic digits, before both weapons and necron teleported away in flashes of green light.

Shuddering and smoking from his cuts, the Lion rose to his feet, holding his blade in a double-handed grip.

All around him, molecule-sized scarabs crawled from the walls, ceilings and floor, and every Imperial present was stripped of their metal scarab-skin. Now, the true nature of his foes was revealed. Necron Immortals replaced the Fists, and Lychguard the Custodes. A grinning necron that towered as tall as the Lion stood in place of Dorn, as scarabs still fell from its skeletal form like sparkling particles of metal dust. The thing that was Russ had no scarabs hiding its form. It simply turned molten, and the living metal of its form returned to its natural state of being. The faceless Angyl turned its head slowly towards the Lion, bladed wings unfurling like the petals of a flower.

As one, the necrons raised their gauss weapons. The Lion saw his end, and simply grasped his sword tighter.

“What are you? What monster wishes to possess my form? Speak you honourless dogs!” the Lion roared.

“The Star Father demands a body. You bear the mark of his flesh seed, and element of his being and soul. You will be his vessel. Obey! Obey!” the Angyl demanded. Its voice was a sonorous monotone that rumbled with irresistible force. But resist it the Lion did.

“You are nothing to me. Daemons lie, as you lie. Where is this place?”

It was the necron’s turn to speak. “This is the Lori Delta Trove. You, little puppet, will show respect to your betters. This is my domain, and the Father of Stars is a force for Order in this dark time. I am the Storm Lord Imotekh. You have no clue what forces you rail against here. I tire of your petulance.”

“You speak as if I have not destroyed countless xenos warlords who believed they were my match before. It is you who does not know me!” the Lion sneered.

“It is disobedient. Destroy the vessel; it is false,” the Angyl stated blandly. The necron gauss flayers began to crackle with power.

“Fight me! Blade to blade! Prove how powerful your Lord is! Come, test your steel against mine!” the Lion shouted. He knew that he would perish if the gauss weapons struck him, and he had no avenue of escape.

Imotekh stopped his necrons with a gesture. The Phaeron crackled with the power of both the Star father and the miracle science of his race. Lightning played about his head like a halo, as his fingers glowed with building power.

“This whelp will not have a clean, honourable death. He is unworthy of it. I will best him. I will enjoy taking your hand. Then, when you are broken and sobbing like the infant you truly are, then you shall die,” Imotekh explained, his tiny flickering soul briefly flaring with life as he described how he’d destroy the Lion.

“You are a soulless machine of evil craft, yet I pity you. You are pathetic. I hear your mortal voice quivering inside your living metal shell. A little thing that thinks it is a god. I shall educate you otherwise,” the Lion replied with similar calm resolve.

The Lion charged. Imotekh’s staff was raised, and a bolt of indescribable power struck the Primarch. He howled in agony as his flesh was seared by the scourging bolt. Flesh melted in some places, while blood boiled and burst in its veins in others. The Lion staggered to his knees as the onslaught intensified. His organs were burning, his lungs were charcoal.

Yet, he rose, first to one knee, then to his feet. He swung the Lion Sword into a guard position, and the lightning of the Stormlord was drawn to the tempered metal of his relic blade, channelled away from the Lion’s body until his own blade’s energy field crackled and sparked like a malfunctioning fusion furnace.

Finally, with a hastily thrown kick, the Lion knocked the lightning stave aside, disrupting the electrical storm finally. Imotekh did not give the Lion a second’s respite. He instantly lunged into combat, bladed staff twirling in his lifeless claws. Imotekh’s every blow was countered by the Primarch, the two weapons both blurs of silver as they exchanged a multitude of strikes and counterstrikes every second. Despite his grievous wounds, the Lion was impossibly fast and tireless as only a Primarch could be.

Yet, Imotekh was immortal and easily his match attritionally. The necron lord could fight forever, until the last star went out. Even a Primarch had limits. The Lion could not simply outlast him in a duel. He had to end it somehow. The necrons formed a circle around the combatants, while the Angyl shimmered with what one could describe as rage; Imotekh had not followed its instructions. Disobedience was anathema to the Angyls of the Star father; utterly unthinkable. Yet, Imotekh had disobeyed...

The duel between the two giants continued without a single pause or hesitation. Every move was fluid; precision born of instinct and programming. Every blow landed by the Lion was repaired within moments by the alien war machine, while the wounds inflicted by the necrons refused to heal, some effect of their unholy sciences no doubt. The two beings threw themselves into a final clash of blades, throwing their weight into the crunch of staff against sword, mechanical versus biological perfection. Both Imotekh and the Lion forced their opponent backwards for an instant. As their blades parted, Imotekh plunged his staff into the floor, unleashing a catastrophic blast of electrical force. The Lion’s senses were overloaded for an instant, and he dropped his blade. As he dropped to snatch it up, the Necron lord’s blade fell.

With his left hand, Lion El Jonson caught the blade. The energized weapon flashed lightning through his body, and his hand began to burn, first flesh, then bone. But Imotekh’s blade was stopped. In that millisecond seemed to last an age. Even as Imotekh was disentangling his staff from the Lion’s destroyed left hand, the Lion had already picked up his sword. With one almighty blow, the Lion chopped off the Stormlord’s arm. The necron tried to grab his falling staff in his other arm, but the Lion hacked that arm away too, before he carved Imotekh in twain with an upward, double-handed swing of his legendary sword. The alien unleashed a hideous metallic shriek, which continued long after the Lion pulverized his head with the pommel of his blade.

The necrons registered their Lord’s demise. In the moments it took them to formulate the ‘kill’ response, the Lion had taken up the Stormlord’s staff. As his hand still clutched the weapon, it remained active. A screaming, living thunderbolt wriggled free of the weapon t the speed of light, leaping form necron to necron in a blinding series of flashes. The Lion only got one shot off before the staff phased out alongside its owner’s body, but it was enough to stun the assembled killing machines. He leapt into their midst, carving his way through the silver masses until he reached what seemed like a door.

The Lion fled through the Lori Delta Trove complex in a daze, his hideous wounds afflicting him more than he realised at first. The Angyl chased him, turning the smashed remains of the fallen necrons into hosts for new angyls, who flew at its side.

The Lion could not escape. It reached a chamber open to the dying red sun that the tombworld orbited, before the bolts of the Angyls struck him, and he fell to the ground. Bladed wings stabbed into his flesh, and he was tossed around like a ragdoll by the horde of anti-daemons. Finally, he slumped onto his back, sword just out of his grasp.

His vision swam, and his mind reeled once again from the horror before him. Then, he heard bolters; distant, as if underwater. Dark shapes fought off the glowing silver apparitions, flashes of orange and blue turning the angyls to molten ruin. The entire world seemed to shudder and convulse. There was an attack. Something was attacking the Necrons and the Star father’s minions.

His eyes focused upon the giants who surrounded his prone form like a congregation.

They were hooded and robed, but their dark-green armour gave them away as Astartes. Winged blades etched into ceramite. The Lion cackled bitterly through mouthfuls of blood.

“More tricks. More lies! Ghosts of my past come to haunt me!”

One of the giants was slightly taller than the others. His face was shrouded in shadow, and a cloak of midnight feathers wreathed his hooded head.

“Hail Lion El Jonson, Knight of Caliban, Lord of the First and defender of the realm of Man,” a firm yet melodious voice called out.

“Begone ghosts. You are taunting me with visions of my lost children. I do not appreciate it,” the Lion gargled deliriously.

“Most of your organs are dying. You need our help.”

“You expect me to believe my legionnaires would appear at my point of death to save me? Your head is full of fairy tales, apparition!”

“Look upon these men closely,” the cloaked man implored gently. “They are your kin. Every one of them is a Dark Angel, though a significant few are also Alpharius, in addition to being Angels. I must confess, we did not come here on our own. We were opportunistic, striking when an assault upon the Delta trove was already underway.”

The Lion shook his head. “No, no. Alpharius is a heretic! You are damned fallen; Luther’s progeny! And who are you, faceless one? You have the countenance of Corax, yet I know you cannot be he. Are you Alpharius too?”

The giant shrugged. “More than most...”

The world shuddered again.

“We have no time. Things are not as you remember. You have slept for long ages of the galaxy. These men are not fallen. They are Unforgiven, but they know their place. The Watchers in the Dark sent them to me. There is more to this situation than simply humans. So much is at stake.”

“Whether you serve xenos or daemons, it matters not. I would die before I betrayed my Imperium!” the Lion spluttered.

Green flashes flared somewhere close by, followed by angry screaming and the roaring retort of boltguns.

“The Imperium fell, as it was destined to! But you do not understand. Let us help you. We are not alike. My brother and I, we have walked both paths, for we alone could take the road no loyalist or traitor could travel. You must come with me! Take up the feathered mantle with me! We are poised now at the very precipice; we need you. The necrons war with each other, and the Krork war with everyone. They both enslave worlds for their wars, but they cannot touch us, because they do not know we exist! We are shadows, and from the shadows, we can take them down. Please brother, forget the old animosities. Take my hand brother!” the man in midnight feathers pleaded, reaching out to the Lion.

The Lion spat in his face. “You’re no brother of mine.”

And with that, the shadowy forces of the Unforgiven and their Hydra cult allies melted away.

Soon, the sound of battle became a relentless, all consuming roar, filling the head and cleansing the mind. Necrons falling, fire and flames. The crack of lascannons and corkscrewing missiles bisecting silver walkers. Multi-limbed monsters leaping between towers, bony claws ripping through living steel. The Lion was fading. His organs were failing; most were simply charcoal in his chest.

He could barely see now. Everything was falling away, like wet sheets of paper.

Then, a monster appeared before his eyes. It was a snarling dragon’s mouth, filled with slavering teeth set into an unforgiving mask, with glowing yellow lenses that pierced his soul. The dragon ripped away its face, revealing a face beneath that was just as fearsome.

The Lion felt two vast hands upon each side of his head. The stink of promethium on the dragon-man’s breath began to rouse him.

“You stink... you always stank. I missed it...” Jonson slurred, with a weary smile.

“Stay with me Lion. I’ve got you brother. I’ve got you,” Vulkan called out breathlessly to his brother, as he held him in his arms. “I’ve got you now.”

A Note on ‘Braiva’s Best’[edit]

This force was famous across the Vulkan Imperium during M56, the period upon which the largest military mobilisation in Vulkan Imperial history was undertaken in its latter years. This is particularly important when we consider that this fleet was famous across the Imperium, even during the homecoming years, when actual demi-god Primarchs were being returned to the Imperium from across the galaxy and major Commandery missions were undertaken against Krork, Chaos and Necron forces on a huge scale following the end of the age of Contraction.

Officially, the force was first known as the 456th Armageddon/Varseen Expeditionary Force, under the direction of Admiral Vartoon of the Steel Legions. This was a fleet that was cut off from resupply due to the century of contraction, but valiantly continued as a military force, despite being decimated by Necron and Krork forces and losing most of its commanders. This force would have vanished into obscurity if it wasn’t for the fact Temestor Braiva, Legendary commander of the Federation of Justice Troopers, stranded far from Armageddon, took the burden of command upon himself, and utterly renovated and reformed the force.

Braiva knew the fleet could not be resupplied in a standard manner. So, the fleet took a tithe of soldiers, materials and ships from the planets they liberated or saved as they made short warp jumps between embattled systems. Though they lacked much of the more sophisticated materiel larger, Astartes-led missions possessed, Temestor innovated; using non-standard tactics, daring manoeuvres and creating war machines out of whatever he could find. His fleet defeated the Krork War-Hulk ‘The Elder King’s Retort’, by luring it into close proximity to a star, before unleashing gravity mines that caused a coronal mass ejection within the star. His cunning Promethean tech savants used starship parts to scratch-build grav tanks for the siege of Morellen’s escape, which was otherwise impenetrable by orbit or via ground-based assault. The fleet penetrated the defences of the Dogorel Traitor Clan worlds by deactivating their engines and disguising their approach inside the icy tail of a comet. History books fail to mention that often, Braiva won through avoiding fighting the most powerful enemies, such as the Dragon Tide, attacking only their weakest elements.

Nevertheless, many are the legendary victories achieved by this force. They were considered one of the best armies in the Imperium, and soon became known as ‘Braiva’s Best’. Temestor Braiva himself became the poster-boy for the war effort; a symbol of mortal fortitude and cunning in a galaxy of superhuman heroes and monsters.

Braiva’s force expanded every year, as their losses were replaced and soon surpassed by men and materiel they picked up along the way. The core of his ground forces consisted of;

-Braiva’s own Justice Troopers, who formed the vanguard of most attacks.

-Plasma Commandos picked up from various worlds where they had been stranded following abandoned campaigns centuries earlier.

-The Tempered Edge veterans. These were the battle-hardened, battle-scarred veteran Steel Legionnaires of the original expedition. Their numbers were ever-dwindling due to war losses and injury. Bionics were strictly limited within the fleet, thus many of the Tempered Edge continued to fight with hands replaced by hooks or blades, or with their damaged eyes simply replaced by glass or steel replacements. The Tempered Edge were always doped with pain numbing narcotics in order to continue the fight. Famously it was said you could chop bits off them and they’d still run you through with their bayonets.

-Serf Soldiers of Krieg. Several merchant worlds paid their tithes to Braiva’s Best by simply buying them a battalion of Serf Soldiers from Krieg. These grim figures were unsociable but undoubtedly effective.

-Valhallan Remnants.

However, these forces were supplemented by a diverse range of exotic troopers from minor worlds and domains aligned to Vulkan’s cause, such as a Chapter of Chevantai Knight-Princes with their powered armour and legendary sword-skills, psyker Guardsmen of Gamma-Meson, Rough Riders of Attila and many more. In addition, mercenaries joined Braiva’s Best, for albeit less noble intentions. The most bizarre and striking of these were the savage Lychen Vashiri*; these men and women were essentially ‘murder-tourists’, travelling from their home empire of Lychen purely to sample the various interesting things the galaxy had for them to kill. They didn’t fight for money or materials; only flesh and glory.

The fleet itself was a ragtag assortment of powerful Vulkanite capital ships, Ryzan forge ships and countless vessels of differing designs from across the galaxy. Some were converted merchant vessels and cruise liners, others were alien vessels stolen and repurposed by opportunistic crews. Some had been designed by their home worlds themselves, ignoring the defunct decrees of the long-extinct Mechanicum. Braiva’s flagship, Tyme’s Absolution, had once been a Hades class Battle Barge, but centuries of refits, embellishments and additions created a truly unique vessel of vast scale and formidable firepower, with deck upon deck of bomber wings and fight craft, as well as a fully functioning forge section installed by devious Promethean Cultists.

Braiva himself was almost as much of a relic as the rest of his fleet. He was ancient for a mortal, his hundreds of years of life maintained by the bare minimum of bionic and rejuve techniques; only his face maintained a facade of youthfulness, in order to match his poster boy image. He no longer fought from the front however and was instead a master of tactics and logistics, orchestrating campaigns from his private chambers onboard Tyme’s Absolution.

Braiva’s Best’s fame was cemented through taking part in the Cyclopean War, launched against Ahriman’s dominion. No Astartes could fight in this war against the sorcerer; only the cunning of the unseen and the courage of mortal men stood against the deathless Legions of the Rubric.

  • (This roughly translates as ‘Kin of the Onslaught’. Vashan, the root form of the Lychen word ‘Onslaught’ is a mysterious grammatical construction which didn’t exist in Lychen language until sometime in M42.)

Additional Background Section 31: Despoiler’s Flight, Despoiler’s Fight[edit]

Abaddon the Despoiler entered Vulkanite space in 145.M56 approximately. One cannot be sure precisely where he penetrated the Imperium, as there were no sensor monitors or major fleets to mark his presence within the realm and indeed, one does not measure interstellar territory in the same way one would mark a land border. The only reason we can be so precise on the year is because he happened to have entered the Vulkan Imperium at a time when it was only just recovering from the period of contraction; relief fleets and battle groups were only just being dispatched from Vulkanite strongholds in order to reconnect the isolated bastions of Armageddon civilization.

Thus, there were scarcely any forces to actively oppose the Despoiler’s fleet of rabid killers and battered relic-ships. However, some psyker-seers in the employ of the Commanderies had predicted Abaddon would attempt to enter Vulkan space ‘not as conqueror, but as vengeful refugee; pursued by a Cardinal of ever-darkness’. Thus, the battlefleets of the Mk II Astartes Legions were poised to converge upon any suspected sighting of Abaddon’s force.

Yet, once again the Despoiler’s cunning was overlooked. He had devised a way to pass undetected and unmolested through Vulkan space, whilst also plundering it for the resources his minions so desperately needed. Abaddon would enter a civilized system with his dread Planet Killer, and announce his presence openly on all vox channels. He also made it clear that if the planet alerted anyone outside the system of his arrival, he would destroy their world instantly. If they resisted his forces when they landed, he would kill their world. If the governments of the planet did not give his vessels all that he desired, their world would also die. Most worlds were cowed by this stark, uncompromising stance. He made sure to send small forces of Black legionnaires and Despoiled to the planets, so that if the planet’s populace did resist, he would not lose too many of his men when and if he unleashed the Planet Killer’s terrible power.

Using this tactic, his forces stole decades’ worth of war materiel and food supplies. They had unfair gladiatorial contests staged in the capitals of the worlds, where hundreds were killed by Black Legion champions. Thousands upon thousands of children were taken as slaves; the strongest and most vicious boys were used for geneseed implantation, while the rest were forced to toil in the bowels of hellish grand cruisers, or even within the Planet Killer’s inner workings themselves. He even had some worlds build him whole warships using their orbital docks.

Yet, despite all this misery, Abaddon did not unleash his war machines upon these worlds; his vessels did not pulverize cities, nor did his armies destroy any more than a few million people on the surface of each world. Once sated, his fleet hastily fled, warning that his sorcerers would be able to tell if the world they had attacked had sent for help; he promised to return and destroy them all if they gave him up to his pursuers.

This peculiar method meant the Despoiler could milk a great swathe of worlds without arousing unwanted attention.

The reason for this secrecy was because he was being hunted. Kor Phaeron was heading for the Vulkan Imperial border, at the head of a grand armada of chaos warships from across the Western Chaos Imperium, along with all manner of daemons and traitors, all desperate to be the ones to earn the glory of finally killing off the legendary Abaddon.

But Abaddon was building his forces too.

The toppled Chaos Emperor had changed much since his fall from diabolical grace. He sat upon a simple throne at the heart of the Planet Killer, consumed by constant hate. His hair was unkempt, the infamous topknot was undone and his great mane of black hair was allowed to spill across his shoulder pads and vast, armoured arms. His face was painted in sigils of blood and loathing. He bore the frustrated rage of Khorne, the despair of Nurgle, tempered by the dark schemes he planned to topple Lorgar in Tzeentch’s name, while he took great pleasure in imagining the horrible mutilation of Erebus and all his kin, a gift of Slannesh.

He brought the few surviving Word Bearers he had captured to his throne room, and had them messily dispatched by ravening daemon-worms pressed into their eye sockets and allowed to wriggle through their bodies, slowly melting them from the inside. None of this torture, or the gory duels and heinous sculptures brought to entertain him so much as lifted his dark mood.

As their rampage continued, Abaddon picked up roving bands of Slanneshi marauders and even some Emperor’s Children; remnants of Fulgrim’s failed crusade long ago.

When his force had grown to a fleet of almost a hundred capital ships, and countless smaller escorts and hangers on, his Lieutenants and War Chiefs gathered to debate what was to be their next move. Where would he take his armies? Some argued he should head south to the Segmentum Obscurus and demand a truce with the Sorcerer Ahriman. Most scorned this idea as folly, for they all knew Ahriman would use the rubric upon them and use them as pawns in his wars with the Vulkanites and the Tau Exile-Empire. Others suggested he could join his banners in alliance with the Blackheart, and cripple the entire northern rim. Many of the strongest voices in the dank, daemon-infested muster hall suggested they could cross the galaxy and take control of the Hadex Multitude; a disparate group of over a hundred chaotic territories focused around the Hadex Anomaly and the ruins of the shattered Meta-Empire. All they need do was destroy that hundred-headed Daemon prince which held dominion over that rabble. Yet still, to travel the entire length of the galaxy would have depleted their resources intolerably; leaving them vulnerable to being themselves taken over once they reached the Hadex.

An Astartes named Vultiari (a traitor mark secundus Astartes from an indeterminate Commandery) spoke up then. He suggested that Abaddon’s growing armada did not need to join their banners with any other chaos power, or bend the knee to lesser. He praised him as being the ‘true son’ of Chaos; Abaddon’s fealty to the gods was pure.

“Then why was I not rewarded? Why do I fall, while ‘lesser whelps’ rise in power and prestige? Why should I choose to relinquish the glory of an Imperial dominion?” Abaddon responded, his face a mask of loathing and ancient evil.

Vultiari chose his next words carefully.

“For a Chaos Imperium was not the will of the gods. The Glorious Four desire disorder and anarchy. You are their champion. You despoil, you need not build. You ravage, you need not cultivate. You are destined to destroy the Imperiums of chaos my Lord, for you are Abaddon the Despoiler, and you shall see the galaxy burn!”

Abaddon rose from his throne, and seized his Second in the talon of Horus. He pulled the Astartes close, and grinned at him with all the warmth of a shark’s soulless grimace. “That is the correct answer boy.”

Thus, Abaddon’s armada began to make plans to make war upon the Eastern Chaos Imperium; they reasoned that once Huron’s realm was ravaged, they would have enough resources to engage the Vulkan Imperium and smash that in turn.

However, even as their fleet dreamed of galactic war, they were themselves being hunted. Kor Phaeron crossed over into Vulkan space roughly two years after Abaddon. His fleet was a veritable behemoth, easily twice the size of the Despoiler’s own force, not including the vassal fleets that followed this huge armada like pilot fish. This meant that the fleet moved more slowly, as it had to continually wait for all elements of its fleet to assemble between warp translations. Yet, inexorable as the tide, Kor Phaeron’s behemoth was closing on Abaddon. His daemonic allies had the Despoiler’s scent and chased him remorselessly. Wishing to prevent Abaddon going to ground, Kor Phaeron mercilessly attacked and massacred the worlds Abaddon had previously taken supplies from. Kor Phaeron unleashed (almost literal) hell upon these worlds; turning their skies into warp-swathed nightmares, and turning their seas into oceans of acidic bile as his vessels destroyed cities and butchered billions. This plan however drew attention to the chaos invaders. Kor Phaeron’s flagship was the stolen Vengeful Spirit. Thus, when reports from psyker-choirs began to report these attacks to the local Commandery Fortress-Monasteries, the Space Marine commanders believed they had finally started to gain a rough location for the infamous Black Legionnaire.

Abaddon could not deny Kor Phaeron’s obvious challenge. Though Abaddon cared little for honour, if he fled from the Black Cardinal of the Word Bearers, he would lose the fearful obedience of his minions, and lose any hope of gathering further allies. Who would follow a cowering lord who fled from a Legion which had once bent the knee to him? Thus, Abaddon determined to meet Kor Phaeron’s fleet in battle. Abaddon was banking upon the Planet Killer’s primary armament being enough to swing the engagement in his favour. In the dead system of Qualtha, amidst the toppled ruins of a xenos empire snuffed out by soulless Necron omnicide, the despoiler broke from the warp, and began to organize his forces. In the system of Qualtha, every planetary body had been pummelled into dust, small asteroids and charged ionic clouds of plasma and gas that drifted in lazy orbit around a dwarf star, alongside the remnants of a fleet mass-scattered by the Dragon’s Necrons. The naval battle that was to take place would forever be known as ‘The Battle of Qualthan Dust’, one of the largest naval engagements in the entire history of mankind.

The first stage of the battle occurred before the cardinal’s fleet even translated into the system. Balefire and twisted monsters began to form inside the Planet Killer’s central weapon array. The gigantic warp cannon’s bonded daemons came under attack by rival daemons. The daemons of the soul forge had allied with Kor Phaeron, and were assaulting the very bonds that held the Planet Killer’s weapon together. Vast soul grinders and obliterators began to emerge from the walls themselves, ripping apart ritual circles and devouring sorcerers and cultists whole in their ravenous daemonic hunger. Furiously, Abaddon ordered the ship purged of hostile daemons. His own witches and shadowy daemonic patrons summoned their own daemons to battle the minions of Valchocht the Maker. Meanwhile, Grenthos of the Black Legion, an imposing Exalted Champion well on his way to becoming one of Khorne’s Princes, led a force of Possessed Marines into the depths to clear out the rampaging enemy. The battle raged for almost a day, but by the battle’s end, the Maker’s creatures were banished and broken. Yet, the damage was done; the Planet Killer’s weapon was temporarily offline as his sorcerers had to remake the ritual stone circles and reconsecrate the hellish device with human blood and human misery. This would take time; time Abaddon now lacked, as Kor Phaeron’s armada gradually emerged from the warp like a tidal surge of madness. Then, ponderously, the colossal fleet began to order themselves for battle.

Both fleets remained at maximum sensor range, while their allied daemons tentatively probed one another’s defences. Kor Phaeron’s daemons were empowered and flushed with armoured scales of pride, while Abaddon’s burned with a desperate black hate that flared from their nostrils and fetid, unreal maws. Psychic duels flashed between the two fleets; invisible yet lethal. Psykers on both sides began to fall, flesh peeling or blood boiling whenever their enemies gained the upper hand.

Abaddon’s own rune-encrusted armour glared a startling white it was claimed, as it deflected repeated psychic attempts to crush his mind and flay his flesh. Even Kor Phaeron’s withered features showed strain, as his sorcerous enchantments and learned techniques were stretched.

Abaddon’s fleet was the first to engage as their enemy closed upon them. Streamers of silent fire erupted between the massed fleets, ruby columns of lance fire joining the steady flaring of main batteries unleashing hellfire. Each fleet soon split up into different formations, millions of kilometres apart, attacking one another from every angle possible in the three dimensional arena of void space.

Truly, the real Battle of Qualthan Dust had finally begun.

One may imagine a naval battle to be a frantic, demented affair, where captains darted between their foes like sailing ships passing at sea, gutting each other with murderously close broadsides. In fact, a naval battle of the size and scale of the Qualthan Dust engagement was a tense yet well-ordered affair, where ships that could barely even make one another rout against the starry void would trade gigatons of ordnance and battery fire across unfathomably long distances; often, the only sign of victory being a slight flare in the light of the distant vessel, and a bleeping ‘ship kill’ confirmation from a cogitator or whisper-daemon. The most difficult and challenging aspect of a naval war was simply keeping track of the ships both you and your enemy had at any given moment, and where they were precisely in the colossal engagement volume, and what exact firing vectors they could conceivably achieve without striking one of their own vessels.

This said, there were a few instances when ships closed to within six thousand kilometres and closer; the ship ‘Death’s Tusk’, a World Eater cruiser, rammed through the starboard side of a Black legion vessel, the Artistry of Death. Though most of the Berserkers were killed on impact, the survivors battled with the Legionnaires and their Despoiled underlings until both sides suffocated due to the lack of air, which had vented out during the crash.

As the capital ships traded long distance broadsides, the escorts rushed in between them like protective nursemaids, intercepting torpedoes and broadsides, while launching attacks of their own, as well as killing the vast swarms of Hell talons and other fighter craft, who in turn sought out the thousands upon thousands of bombers and assault boats that attempted to cripple unwary capital ships. Across the two fleets, hundreds of boarding actions involving whole armies clashing between the decks of ships raged, led respectively by Astartes and other, altogether less human beasts. These roving, miniature wars lasted for hours upon hours, as boarders and the security teams opposing them chased each other through the lightless bowels and gun decks of the ships, exchanging fire and blood in desperate struggles in the airless, sightless void.

Amidst the calmly ordered carnage of the capital ships, the two flagships, the Vengeful Spirit and the Planet Killer, sought each other out across the light minutes of space between them. While the Planet Killer was by far the more massive of the two void-swimming leviathans, with its primary weapon system offline, the Vengeful Spirit outgunned the wallowing giant. Nevertheless, the Planet Killer was no helpless target, and the two vessels battered against the shields of their foe. Both ships moved through the void with the sloth borne of grandeur, sliding with dark majesty through space as they sought the optimal firing solutions that would grant them victory. Abaddon knew the Vengeful Spirit, and despite all the blows Kor Phaeron’s vessel inflicted upon him, he could hurt the Vengeful Spirit far more with less ordnance. It seemed as if the Planet Killer might take control of the duel.

Then, the cruisers Banefire and Caustik entered the fray like opportunistic wolves. They raked the rear of the Planet Killer with their dorsal batteries, and unleashed a storm of boarding torpedoes and dreadclaws, injecting elite strike teams into the flagship’s unprotected aft sections. Vultiari and the beast Grenthos eagerly took up arms and marshaled the frenzied Black Legion that still lived, and led them into battle with the Word Bearer boarders.

Grenthos gave but one order to his Legionnaires.

“Murder them!”

It is said that, while the battle raged, Abaddon and Kor Phaeron spoke to one another, through either vox or some other, blasphemous means. They cursed and chided, mocked and prattled; two ancient veterans of a war of hate long forgotten. Kor Phaeron, ever the firebrand preacher, tried to convert Abaddon even then. He claimed that if Abaddon merely pretended to bend the knee, he could return to the Western Imperium, and together, they could topple Lorgar. Abaddon saw through Phaeron’s lies and created deceits and promises of his own. Three ships now pounded the Planet Killer from all sides, and soon its shields were battered down, as deck by deck, fires raged, and the enslaved innocents within burned, screaming as their meat was cooked.

But Abaddon was clever, and he had picked Qualtha to be his battlefield for a very specific reason. Before he had exited the warp, he had murdered his chief Seer, the blind serpent Alkazzar. He had strangled the sorcerer slowly, and let the man’s dying soul leech from his body into the warp like some foul beacon. Not only had it alerted Kor Phaeron to his location, but it had also alerted those other warriors who hunted him, and emblazoned his face on the dying mind of Alkazzar, so that all who saw it knew who was killing him...

Soon, Kor Phaeron’s Captains reported that another fleet had entered the system. It was the fleet of the Dorn’s Revenant, led by their Lord Commander from the battle barge, Resplendent. He had brought with him elements from dozens of colony worlds that Abaddon and Kor Phaeron had befouled; each ship’s captain hungry for vengeance. Now the Battle of Qualthan Dust entered its final, confused phase, as a three way duel erupted between the enemy fleets. The fleet action raged for two days, across half a light year of Qualthan space. The Planet Killer broke from the battle with the Vengeful Spirit and was harried by Banefire and Caustik as it made a close orbit of the Qualthan sun. Yet, when they finally closed upon the Planet Killer, its reply to their broadsides was terrifying. The doomsday cannon fired at them, with three percent of its total firepower. Caustik was blasted first, and simply ceased to be. The beam of warpfire continued and struck Banefire amidships. It shattered like glass, before a secondary explosion rippled out from it like a newborn sibling for the Qualthan star. Both enemy fleets saw this display, and they scrambled to take down the Planet Killer. However, several of Kor Phaeron’s own allied vessels turned upon his fleet. They knew the tide was turning and wished to be on the winning side.

Soon, the Vengeful Spirit, mauled after a duel with the Resplendent, turned about to face the Planet Killer. Kor Phaeron sought to bring it down before it could charge another shot. The weapon built in power, driving a thousand crew members utterly mad. Vengeful Spirit increased speed, accelerating towards the Planet Killer recklessly.

“You will not kill me,” Kor Phaeron explained, with the certainty of the eternal fanatic. “I cannot die. You shall see. The Gods shall pluck me from danger. I am too valuable. But if this ship is to die, it is fitting it takes you to the warp with it!”

“What makes you think you shall live?” Abaddon replied coldly to his enemy’s words.

“Faith,” purred Kor Phaeron ecstatically.

Abaddon had no fear. “Faith must always... be tested.”

The Planet Killer fired, striking the Vengeful Spirit seven seconds later. The blast was glorious, rendered oddly beautiful in its silence. For several minutes, the glare utterly blinded anyone who looked upon it, and baffled any sensors with the sheer level of output. Even daemon eyes recoiled from the warp-tainted blastwave.

Then, through the rolling banks of plasma, the Planet Killer emerged, like some legendary monster breaching the surface of the sea. Its prow was burning, but the ship seemed unharmed. The Dorn Revenants broke off their attack, and fled for the edge of the system; they could not face both enemy fleets now. Not when the Planet Killer was unopposed. They vowed to return with greater numbers, to finish Abaddon off once and for all.

The remainder of Phaeron’s Captains hastily voxed oaths of fealty to Abaddon then; those who refused were turned on by their capricious allies. The fleet was united under an uneasy truce, brokered by the nightmare power of the Despoiler’s flagship.

If only they had known it was a bluff. Abaddon’s main weapon had been damaged by the vaporization of the Vengeful Spirit. Inside, the ship was in a terrible shape; half the crew were dead, most systems were at least partially damaged, and Abaddon himself was gravely wounded by the impact of the Vengeful Spirit’s ruins upon his throne room. Nevertheless, Abaddon now had a fleet to truly be reckoned with. His next target was clear.

Huron Blackheart would fall, and his Imperium alongside him.

Additional Background Section 32: The Battle For Varsavia’s Soul, and The Return of Heroes[edit]

Across the galaxy, in the silent places where no one lived, the craftworlds drifted; lifeless and guided by nothing but the faint tides of unseen energy that still washed at the psychic shores of the infinite matrices at their hearts. They were filled with billions of the dead; their entire populations drawn into the infinity circuits as one, leaving naught but miles upon miles of silent crystalline statues. They were translucent and eerie in their immobility, for they were paused in mid action like the dead of ancient Pompeii.

Around them, empires were falling and worlds unnumbered burned in the pyres of madness. This was the closing years of the fifty fifth millennium; the final screaming challenge before reality and oblivion met in single battle, with the fate of all existence as a prize. Things were finally coming to pass that had been predicted by madmen, while other prophecies were utterly ignored and voided by destruction.

Yet, the craftworlds were still moving. Despite the assumptions of all who still lived, the craftworlds were moving. Yet, so far apart were they, that no one could see the pattern or direction of these living tombs.

No one could fathom why a vast Eldar ship, covered in the scars of battle, headed towards the heart of Vulkan’s Imperium armed for bear and at full cruising speed.

Nor could anyone have predicted that the ultimate fate of the entire Eldar race would be determined upon a cold and unassuming world called Varsavia.

The Eastern Chaos Imperium was embroiled in many minor wars throughout its history, as the Blackheart attempted to defeat, conquer or otherwise subvert entire sectors and regions to his demented will. Huron Blackheart, despite his reputation as a butcher, always preferred to break his enemies and turn them into his dark allies.

There was only one exception to this rule and they lay at the heart of his Corsair Empire. The Silver Skulls had been a chapter during the First Imperium, and were ever Huron’s most bitter of opponents. The Silver Skulls’ Prognosticator Librarians had foreseen the fall of the Emperor at the opening of the Second Strife. Their warnings had been ignored by their fellow chapters, so rather than convince them; they instead built up their forces and the surrounding sector in anticipation of a large scale collapse, swelling their ranks and stepping up their recruitment and training procedures.

Once the Emperor’s death washed through the galaxy, and the madness descended, they were prepared and they held out. Their fleet battled marauders, invaders, and desperately they held their empire together for thousands of years and many generations of Astartes.

They had received the news of Vulkan’s return via intercepted chaos courier ships bound for one of Huron’s thrall worlds, and had eagerly offered themselves to Vulkan, who had made them an honourary Commandery. However, Vulkan could send no real material aid to the Skulls, for they remained trapped and surrounded by the chaos empire of Huron, who made every effort to exterminate every last Silver Skull. He offered rewards to the various champions in his army for the destruction of the Silver Skulls, and amnesty from invasion to several Petty Imperiums, if said Imperiums managed to destroy the Astartes, whilst simultaneously promising terrible punishments to any who allied with his nemesis.

These ploys failed, yet over time, as the intensity of wars between not only chaos but the xenos interlopers and ancient empires increased, the Silver Skulls were weakened; gradually drained of surplus resources and stripped of many of their allied worlds.

It was then that Huron unleashed hell upon them. He sent his most powerful Lieutenant, Katan of the Pyre, at the head of a huge invasion fleet, to destroy Varsavia, the homeworld of his hated foe. Soldiers from across the empire were dragged to Katan’s banner. Merchant vessels, converted into hateful steel sharks with bellies full of millions upon millions of heretical cultists, joined midnight-clad Night Lord Vessels, the barbaric bone-coated berserker barges of the World Eater Skrax, oddly spartan cruisers from the planet of Hopegone and the gloriously depraved flagships of Huron’s Fifth Corsair Fleet.

Various xenos mercenary armies were also drawn to this coming battle like crows to a corpse. Chaos-tainted Kroot followed the fleet. These Kroot had become servants of chaos unwittingly, and wished to kill and devour the Silver Skulls for the simple reason that their shapers hoped eating the pious Astartes flesh might ‘cure’ them of their blasphemous infestations. The heavily-armed, blunt-nosed Harn Skiffs of the crocodilian Groevians also joined this armada. Their leader was called the Junnergan, which translates roughly as ‘the armoured carapace upon which foes shatter’. The Groevians had thrived after the fall of the Thexians, and were cold-blooded and callous, uncaring of whom they chose to kill. Groevian Breaker troops were well feared across the former Thexian region of space, but were a relatively unknown element to those not from the eastern fringe. The final faction of alien mercenaries were Khornate Viskeon warriors, recruited by Skrax for their martial prowess in melee and their fanatical desire to sever limbs and take heads.

Together, this was a fleet not of invasion, but of annihilation. The Silver Skulls sensed this fleet approach, and knew its purpose. Gathering what few forces they had left, the Silver Skulls began to ready the defences.

Chapter Master Argentius traveled from ship to ship, from orbital battery to orbital battery, inspiring the mortals there and organizing the defences in exacting detail. The Prognosticators informed him and guided his actions, making sure areas they knew would be attacked were more heavily defended than others. Weakpoints in the defences were identified and Argentius, in his genius, turned these areas into traps to lure in overeager enemies and neatly surround them.

Every last one of the dreadnoughts in the vaults of their fortress monastery were roused for battle, and the two eldest venerable dreadnoughts, Ikek and Gileas, took overall command of the defence of the main gates, while the rest of the dreadnoughts were assigned to various battle companies across the planet’s surface and in orbit. Every ship they could find, steal or scrounge was gathered in system for the coming battle, placed in areas of space where they would do most damage to the oncoming horde of vessels.

First Captain Jonal was entrusted with overall of the Fortress-Monastery, alongside his psychic warrior champion, Prognosticar Grold. Meanwhile, Argentius took command of the fleet, while the Chief Prognosticator Allaten, took to his cell and sealed himself inside, as he began the rituals needed to summon his greatest abilities as a Seer.

They knew the battle was inevitable, and all they could do was wait.

They did not have to wait long.

Searing through the warp, ahead of the fleet, came a rolling tide of daemonic abominations. Every Librarian and psyker in the Silver Skulls recoiled from this dark presence, which blunted their abilities to predict the future with their sheer proximity. Though this deep-warp barrage lasted only a millisecond, it was enough to cause the crew of the cruiser Gleaming Blade to go mad, and steer their ship into the heart of Varsavia’s sun.

Barely an hour after this, the main Corsair fleet and its allies began to burst into the system in wave after wave. The two fleets clashed, and a running naval battle ensued, with each fleet hunting each other across the void. Slowly but surely, the Silver Skulls made a controlled retreat towards Varsavia, drawing in and destroying the enemy even as they contracted their defensive lines every couple of hours. Despite the consummate skill of Argentius, the enemy were simply too many to stop them all. Some of the fat-bellied chaos transports broke through the naval cordons, speeding towards the planet. The orbital defences gutted several vessels before they even came close to the atmosphere, spilling their corrupt human cargoes into the chilling void. Others managed to get through, but crashed on the northern hemisphere, the Fortress-Monastery’s void shields burning their hulls black as they crashed. Yet, those crashed transports had survivors, who issued forth from the downed transports at the behest of Red Corsair slavers behind them. Even more managed to land on the surface relatively unscathed. They did this by landing on the southern hemisphere instead of battling through the void shields defending the north. They would march on Varsavia’s capital on foot. Sorcerers with this force also subverted the hateful Xiz who lived in the south, using them to summon horrendous daemon allies from the heart of the world.

In orbit, Argentius found himself battling countless capital ships and boarding actions against his battle barge, repelling their invaders whilst simultaneously organizing his fleet in opposing the Corsair vessels. His mighty flail, the Grinning Death, reaped a bloody toll on any who fell beneath the double-headed skull-topped weapon, while his storm bolter chewed through those who avoided his blessed relic weapon.

Skrax and his berserkers succeeded in weathering the barrage of the orbitals, and eventually managed to disgorge Dreadclaws filled with his berserkers and Viskeon warriors. The humans and Astartes on board the orbitals fight bravely in the close confines of the space stations, but are forced to abandon their guns in order to prevent the capture and repurposing of their orbital weapon grid. Seventh Company Captain Piet personally took up his chainsword, and led the defence personally, engaging in a furious close quarter battle between his men and the frenzied foe. The horrific bloodbath inside those chilling, lightless corridors lasted many hours and effectively knocked the orbitals out of the battle.

Meanwhile, on the northern hemisphere, the tundra of Varsavia was alive with criss-crossing gunfire and the endless din of battle, as the Silver Skulls main battle companies rode out from their mountainous Fortress-Monastery mounted in Predators, land raiders and Rhinos, supported by armoured companies of PDF. They clashed with the half-burned survivors of the transport crashes, who used their downed vessels as fortifications against the furious blitzkrieg. The Silver Skulls knew just where to smash the invaders to cause maximum damage, and the leader of the force, Captain Trelvuge, howled like an animal as he rode in the cupola of his land raider, blazing away with his storm bolter at the masses of jeering mortals and their handlers.

However, even though the main body of the mortal force was already landed on the southern hemisphere and unable to yet join this fray, the orbitals no longer protected the skies; only the void shield prevented enemies from landing upon the monastery itself. Nevertheless, the Silver Skulls leading the armoured assault were not under the aegis of the void shield, and the Chaos Space marines and Groevians could deploy rapidly onto the planet’s surface in support of the traitors already deployed. Dreadclaws and drop pods slammed into the ground, deploying hundreds upon hundreds of traitor Astartes, while the brutal Groevian landers followed the Red Corsair and Pyre-marine Thunderhawks down through the rising smoke of battle. The snow on the tundra became a scorching steam as the intense gunfire continued, scalding anyone not sufficiently armoured. Corsairs and Pyre-marine clashed blades and exchanged bolter fire with the Tactical marines of the Fourth, Third and Second companies of the Silver Skulls, each combatant a living maelstrom of destruction. Each clash of bodies was like the clarion call of a struck bell, followed by the crushing crunch of bone and muscles being torn or shredded. The Groevian Breaker Troops were surprisingly dangerous to even hardened Astartes, for the older a Groevian got the larger and stronger they became, and each Groevian was a veteran killer, slashing with their super-heated thermoglaives and unleashing kinetic hell with their belt-fed gatling pistols. Men were ripped limb from limb, and tanks were flipped and melted by sudden barrages, before their slayers were in turn slain by vicious counter attacks. Despite the madness and seeming chaos, both sides attacked and counterattacked with a precision which would not be out of place on a regicide board; each ploy was punctuated by a powered fist, and every deft move by a screaming, fiery retort. Despite the carnage, the Skulls held their own.

To the south, the horde of chaos-bred killers marched forth, the very ground itself rumbling at their passing. Entire forests were torn up, villages were swallowed whole by the swarming mass of murderers; the Xiz took great delight in maiming and torturing the native Varsavian tribes, for the Xiz tribe had long been their foe. These poor ruined souls were then offered up to the building numbers of daemons attracted to the carnage. Furies capered through the woods wearing the skins of children, and lakes and rivers were poisoned by their bile and unnatural juices. Only one natural barrier posed a significant problem for this grand army; the sour sea, the great equatorial ocean which girdled the planet and divided north from south in a rough, jagged line from east to west as far as the eye could see. There was only one path across the sea; a colossal bridge, seventeen miles long and wide enough for two land raiders to drive along it abreast. This bridge was known as Ur’ten’s Crossing. Both sides were desperate to reach the bridge first. The forces of Katan wished to capture it, while Argentius’ men needed to put the bridge out of action. It became a race across the planet between the two foes. Fortunately, the Silver Skulls deployed their fastest elements to race ahead of their main southbound forces; Thunderhawks and Stormravens, supported by hundreds of land speeders and attack bikes, which bore the majority of the Tenth Company scout forces. Millions of Varsavian tribesmen from the Hotzi plains looked out from their huts, to witness this glorious aerial convoy speeding towards Ur’ten’s Crossing. They realized something was gravely wrong. The gods were at war. The storm class land speeders arrived on the bridge just before the vanguard of the chaos horde, disembarking their scout marine cargoes before speeding off to harry the approaching vanguard of daemonic wolf riders and bikers that served as the chaos army’s advanced guard. As the scouts frantically attached their demolitions charges, they were covered by their sniper teams, who picked off any foe who came too close, and by the Thunderhawks, who strafed the enemy lines with laser fire and flights of missiles. Yet, the enemy could only be delayed and for every howling cultist vaporized, there were a hundred more scrambling over the hissing puddles of fat that had been their comrades. Defilers and corrupted Russes sped forwards, belching multi-hued smoke from their daemon-snouted exhausts as they came. Amidst the barrages of heavy fire, most of the scouts were evacuated once their charges were set. The last scout to depart was Scout brother Kelfdon, who managed to set his final set of charges amidst the maze of cables that streamed from one of the great suspension towers. With impressive dexterity, he managed to avoid the talons of a defiler which had ascended the cables in order to kill him. As his brothers gave him cover fire, he hopped between cables with the agility of a great ape. Each time, he narrowly avoided the claws of the frenzied defiler. Finally, he dodged aside one of the beast’s clumsy swings, causing the daemon engine to overbalance, and topple onto the bridge below with titanic force. Sundered, the defiler could only roar impotently as a land speeder Typhoon finally plunged a barrage of missiles into its heart and slay the festering nightmare. Kelfdon was picked up by the speeder, which escaped just as the final charges blew, plunging the bridge into the choppy sea below. Kelfdon returned to his fellow scouts amidst a clamour of cheers. However, he and his comrades knew they had bought their northern allies time, nothing more.

Back in space, and Argentius’ battle barge was in trouble. Upon every deck, desperate rearguards were being fought, as five cruisers and Katan’s own battleship flooded the ship with boarders. The ship was out of control, as those who guided the ship were forced to fight for their very lives. Eventually, even the bridge, located at the heart of the ship, was breached, and Argentius’ personal retinue battled those who would seek to destroy their master. However, there was one foe they could not hope to best. When Katan of the Pyre took to the bridge himself, he crushed his foes. Katan had once been one of Bile’s ‘New Men’, but centuries of diabolical sacrifices and carnage had bloated his soul with warp power; he was on the cusp of daemonhood and his power was beyond anything Argentius and his retinue could throw at him. He towered over them, his dark scaly flesh fused with his armour, while his mouth and eyes glowed with his internal fire. When faced with the command squad, the traitor laughed in their faces. Showing casual disdain for their fighting prowess, Katan cast aside his weapons and fought them with his bare hands. His flesh was proof against the veteran Sergeant’s bolter fire, and soon the marine was broken and sodomized with his own firearm. Katan broke the Apothecary Julivan over his knee, and used his broken corpse to beat the banner bearer Goltran to death. His hellish daemonflesh was immune against Prognosticar Ulfun’s power weapon, but the Company Champion nevertheless fought with all his physical and psychic might. He lasted barely a minute longer.

Katan exhaled in the carnage, chuckling as the blood flowed across his face. His laugh was cut short by a brutal blow to the face by the heads of the Chapter Master’s flail, which made the giant stagger backwards; the first blow to truly hurt him since the battle had begun. He avoided the second and third sweeps of Argentius’ weapon, and launched himself bodily at the Chapter Master, who rode the impact and added his momentum to Katan’s own. Together, they slammed through a bulkhead at some force, but Katan bore the brunt. As the giant rose, Argentius used his storm bolter to disorientate him; firing point blank into the monster’s face as he rained blow after blow against Katan’s chest and shoulders. A backhand shattered the storm bolter, and a follow up punch sent Argentius crashing through toughened glass, to fall thirty metres into the flight deck below. Katan leapt after the Silver Skulls’ commander, heedless of the battles being fought across the ship. Only killing Argentius now mattered. Loading servitors automatically turned to attack the giant, but he swatted them aside like troublesome children, shattering them against the walls with the mindless force of his blows. Argentius rose from the crater his fall had smashed into the deck, and rotated his shoulders in readiness, his grinning skull helm glaring at the festering muzzle of the Aspiring Champion of chaos. Slowly, he began to swing his flail.

On the plains and pine forests before the Fortress-monastery, the battle continued to rage. Though the Skulls were masterful fighters, the sheer scale of the attacking force had a quality all of its own. The Pyremarines poured daemonic hellfire across their foes from corrupted flamers, while Corsairs got close with knife and bolter and poisonous daemonic barb. Also, the open-topped marching tanks of the groevians, though lightly armoured, possessed extremely powerful weaponry. As they fought, the Librarians and sorcerers dueled in spectacular rippling conflagrations of psychic power. The armoured might of the Silver Skulls was a force to be reckoned with, but they had lost momentum, and Captain Trelvuge knew his forces needed to return to the monastery.

This was not to be. For the chaos Kroot utilized the disturbing camouflage granted by the daemon-tainted flesh they had eaten, allowing them to circle around the Space Marines and attack their rear. Constant bombardment against the fortress-monastery’s void shielding prevented the garrison from providing sufficient artillery support to the beleaguered sally force, and they were forced to watch as their soldiers were pinned into a defensive ring, centered on their tanks. Warp-tainted gnarlocs and twisted krootox abominations attacked without fear or reason, as the other chaos forces trapped them with sheer firepower. But worse was to come. Trapped in one location, the Silver Skulls force was easy pickings for the orbital weapons of their enemy, who unleashed terrible lance bombardments directly into their lines. Fire and confusion took hold, as their leaders were melted and tanks were turned into superheated plasma. The screaming and cursing over the vox lasted long after the heartbroken defenders shut off their links to the massacre. In blind fury, the first captain ordered the defence lasers to fire upon ground positions, extending their range for a few moments. This was long enough to give the murderous Corsair forces pause, as thousands of their men were destroyed in a few seconds. But it was not enough. Inevitably, more landing parties began to deploy unopposed to Varsavia’s surface, protected from the defence laser bombardments by a theatre shield the heretics had finally managed to set up. Unharmed by the megaton bombardment, the chaos siege force approached the shimmering force shield of the Fortress-Monastery.

Eventually, the two force fields met and like two water droplets meeting upon glass, they merged. The defence lasers and anti-orbital torpedoes of the Fortress could no longer engage the enemy; they were too close now. Only the First Company and the reserve companies manning the defences could hold them back now.

Katan was sent reeling after Argentius pummeled his head with the Grinning Death, howling curses as he did so. As Katan tried to compose himself, the Chapter Master unleashed volley after volley of bolt pistol shells into his eyes, forcing the stone-skinned abomination back.

Katan and Argentius fought across the entire flight deck, Argentius barely able to avoid the monster’s furious blows as he flipped Thunderhawks and smashed servitors with every sweep of his claws. Katan, swollen with power, had sprouted all manner of terrifying daemonic weapons with which to destroy his troublesome foe, but Argentius would not yield, even as his armour was torn and his helmet dashed from his head, revealing the adamantine of his polished bionic face, etched in a permanent, joyless grimace. Eventually, their relentless battle took them down into the drop pod bays. As they wrestled like gladiators of old, they fell into one of the drop pods, and together triggered the pod’s fiery descent into the storm-wracked skies of Varsavia, hundreds of miles below.

In the south of the world, the dread forces of the invaders found themselves trapped on the banks of the sour sea. However, such an obstacle could not hold them for long. They scoured the surrounding villages and settlements, raiding them for all the building material they could find, even going as far as using the gory bones of their slaughtered victims. With this cruelly-obtained materiel, the chaos horde built vast ocean-going barges, which they crammed with braying cultists and screaming madmen clad in the fresh skins of their foes. As this huge armada crossed the sea, daemons swam in the cold depths; spiny, segmented forms impossible to identify yet lethal beyond reason. Overhead, the fliers of the force covered their approach, for this fleet could not pass unopposed.

The Hotzi tribesmen, desiring to aid their godly heroes, took to the sea on their long ships, great red sails stretched tight by the fierce southerly winds blowing down from the north. The Hotzi fleets were huge, for they traded with every nation of Varsavia, and were built to resist the worlds unforgiving seasons. The tribesmen were armed with weapons granted to them by the Skulls. They were not alone; a flight of land speeders swept across the sea alongside them, as the Thunderhawks soared high to engage the enemy flyers. There, in the middle of the churning sour sea, the two fleets clashed, in the largest wet naval engagement in living memory. Thousands of ships clashed in glorious combat. Though the chaos barges were of poor quality, their passengers were deadly as only chaotic servants could be. The battle was close ranged, as each ship drew to within pistol-range of each other, with boarding parties leaping between vessels. Assault marines ignited their packs, to clash with raptors and impromptu chaos seamen, who were slaughtered in droves by the furious Astartes. Occasionally, a Hotzi long boat would sink beneath a deluge of thrashing tentacles, or be swallowed up by the ravenous maws of devils who imitated the forms of sea monsters dreamed up in the nightmares of sailors across the millennia of human experience; every kraken, daemon whale or oceanic leviathan emerged to plague the brave loyalist fleet. The battle of the sour sea was one legendary conflict out of several that occurred during this dreadful siege. During this battle, the scout captain of the Tenth was slain, swallowed whole by a daemon-whale with whirring buzzsaw-jaws a hundred feet wide. Kelfdon found himself and his scout squad trapped in the middle of this naval engagement. Fuel oil had leaked from the barges and had ignited due to the withering gunfire being exchanged all around. Sails were engulfed, bathing the sea in smoke. Men screamed and daemons squealed or groaned with the voices of a billion damned souls. The only constant was the bodies, floating face down in the rolling waves. The parts of the sea not aflame seemed to boil with the thrashing of drowning men, who were continually killed by opportunists hanging from the sides of boats or sharpshooters high in the masts.

There were scattered reports of ghosts in the rolling fog; shimmering green phantom ships that sailed through the air above the water, and killed silently, hampering the chaos armada’s rear and flanks. But inevitably, the Silver Skulls and their allies were forced to land back on their beaches, and soon set up emplacements and trenches, to meet the onrushing amphibious assault. The cost in Hotzi lives can never be accurately measured, as the Astartes did not keep accurate or up to date records of the local population numbers of the natives, but it is speculated that throughout the war, seventy percent of the Hotzi people were slain in this bitter planetary war.

Battered, ammunition spent, the defenders prepared to take on the enemy with combat knife and gunstock, fist and tribal axe. What happened next was as swift as it was unexpected. Unexpected, that is, by everyone save the Prognosticator Librarians themselves...

Back in the north, the siege of the Tower of Skulls began in earnest. The Space Marines had sensibly destroyed the bridge which spanned the great chasm before the main gate, and had heavily mined the eastward mountain ranges that formed the spine of the mountainous fortification. The invaders formed their men into several discreet forces that constantly probed the defences of the tower for any weaknesses. The Pyre-marines and Corsairs ushered their more expendable allies ahead of them initially; the cultists, Kroot and various breeds of xenos mercenaries. The mortal cultists, barely clothed and armed with whatever weapons they could scrounge or salvage, were shunted forwards first as living shields from the lethally accurate devastator teams manning the towers and ramparts of the lower keep. Whirlwinds and basilisks took to the high keep, and rained down thunderous barrages of high explosive on the enemy. As the siege went on, the chaos forces brought forth great infernal engines; living siege towers of bone and living brass, or bridge-laying machines that slavered like hounds as they scrambled to span the cavernous chasm dividing attackers and defenders.

First Captain Jonal directed the defence from the high keep, mustering tactical and assault squads to sally forth and attack each of the bridge-layers before they could reach the wall. The central conflicts of the battle were concentrated around the capture and recapture of these bridges. Silver Skulls would rush forth and slaughter the operators of the bridges, before being beaten back by the frenzied offensive forces. Prognosticar Grold led several of these sorties, the twinned force swords he had liberated from the vaults glittering as he cut down enemy after enemy. The only time Grold came close to death was when his force clashed with the host of the Groevians, and he was nearly crushed by the relentless onslaught of the Junnergan on bridge seven, known as the ‘Luscious Rapture’. The reptilian beast’s sloping armour plate was tough as dragonscale, and his jaws and thermo-glaive carved a bloody swathe through those who sought to bring him down.

But the Corsair horde’s vast scale hampered their ability to react swiftly to tactical changes, which Jonal took advantage of this, and herded the enemy where he wanted them to go. He did this by using his whirlwinds to seed minefields ahead of the enemy. The mob of deviants, though fanatical, were not all suicidal, and they avoided these areas. Slowly, imperceptibly, the horde was channeled towards the main gates of the Tower of Skulls, where most of the Silver Skulls’ prodigious arsenal was focused. Whirlwinds, basilisks, hydra batteries, devastators, Icarus lascannons; all were trained upon the great mass of deviant flesh. They did not even need to target specific figures in the horde; every shot struck something.

The tower, in turn, weathered relentless bombardment, not only from the artillery of the Corsair force, but also from flaming debris falling from orbit, that was set alight by the void shields as they crashed into the upper galleries of the colossal fortress. Amongst this debris was a drop pod, which smashed through roofs and floors and shattered flagstones as it crashed into a hold deep inside the monastery. The pod’s shattered doors fell away, as Katan threw Argentius bodily across the cold marble floor of the pillared chamber they found themselves in. Katan was getting less and less human by the minute; great tusks erupted from his jaws and horns pierced his shoulder blades at odd angles, and the stuff of the warp literally drooled from him as acidic ichor. Argentius, by contrast, was near-broken. His armour was mostly ripped off save for one pauldron and his greaves. His body was blackened and scarred by heinous wounds inflicted in the close confines of the pod. Yet still, he raised the Grinning Death, and charged into battle once more. Yet, just as he swung the flail, Katan caught it in one of his hideous craw-claws. With a sickly cackle, Katan hoisted Argentius from his feet, dashing the Chapter Master against the pillars in the chamber by his flail, before tossing him against the far wall like a ragdoll. Argentius crashed into the wall, ripping away the polished, silver-plated trophy skulls that hung upon the walls by thick chain links.

He slowly rose to his feet, spitting out a mouthful of silver teeth, and resetting his dislocated shoulder with a dull crunch. He had a plan.

Under a withering onslaught, the chaos forces forged ahead with an assault on the main gate. Their last bridge-layer managed to latch its claws onto the sheer cliff face of the outer wall, and spanned the gap between the gate and the opposite cliff with a bridge reinforced against the bombardment of the Skulls. Soon, thousands of cultists, traitor guard and leering daemonspawn scrambled across the walkway; desperate to be the first to breach the gate and earn the gaze of the Nex-[CHRONICLE SHUDDERS]. However, to their surprise, the great silver/white gates opened before they reached them. And from those doors, two venerable dreadnoughts emerged, assault cannons already primed and whirring.

Ikek and Gileas’s weapons chewed through the compressed mass of flesh, liquefying hundreds of enemies on the spot, with hundreds more dying as they were trampled by their panicking fellows, or pitched over the side of the bridge in the confusion. Those who escaped their assault cannons were roasted by their flamers, or crushed between energized claws. Gileas roared with mechanical laughter, while Ikek carefully counted his kill tally in a somber tone. The two had been rivals in life, and remained rivals in the half-life of the sarcophagus. Yet, together, they were unstoppable. They cleared the bridge within minutes, leaving a carnal house of pulped organs and pulverized bone decorating the vile bridge.

The dreadnoughts had a brief reprieve then, for the enemy fled before their might, leaving the bridge an empty butcher’s yard for a moment. Using the time fate and the fists of dreadnoughts had given him, Jonal himself took to the bridge alongside the best men his First Company could muster. Each veteran was mounted into tactical dreadnought armour, and had armed themselves with hammer and claw. Jonal himself bore a dual set of lightning claws.

“Not one step back,” was the only order he needed to give his men. They knew their place was at the dreadnoughts’ side. Their role was simple; hold the enemy on the bridge, while the gate’s emplacements cut off the attackers on the bridge from any support.

But the attackers were not done yet. There was a stirring within the chaos horde, as a column of armour approached the bridge, meaning to break the embattled dreadnoughts in one concerted assault. A phalanx of eight clanking, bellowing dreadnoughts marched towards the fortress, the demented chaos walkers clad in chains and monstrous fetishes that hurt the eye to see. They were madmen with broken minds, unlike the fearsome discipline of the two Silver Skull veterans. If the chaos dreadnoughts had come alone, Ikek, Gileas and their Terminators could have easily held off their degenerate sarcophagus-kin. Alas, the enemy did not come alone. With the dreadnoughts came a snarling menagerie of daemon engines; not only the scuttling Deviler Engines, but Banelords, thrashing Khornate Blood Slaughterers and even towering Brass Scorpions, which ripped through their own allies in their haste to shed fresh human blood. The Corsair forces gave them a wide berth so as to avoid the directionless wrath of the daemons and madmen trapped within these coffins of adamantine. Leading this force of primal destruction and ruination strode a monstrous Decimator Engine. Taller and broader than any dreadnought, the thing walked with the monstrous arrogance of a gladiator, and its great helmet set beneath its huge armoured shoulders glowered at the defenders, its eyes slits blazing with internal flame. Even over the deafening din of the war horns, Ikek and Gileas could hear the rumbling laughter of the Decimator, reverberating within their very souls. Nevertheless, the defenders set their feet and prepared to sell themselves dearly. If it was to be their final battle, they would make it a battle that no one, be they man or god, would forget it. Meanwhile, in the trophy vault, Argentius fought for his life. He was unarmed now, his flail destroyed. Katan was fast and terrible, striking out with ever greater speed and power. His claws raked the walls and pillars, desperate to catch Argentius. The chapter master denied the aspiring champion each time, deftly leaping aside moments before the claws disemboweled him. Each time, he waited until the very last moment before rolling away from the blows. Each time, he darted to a new location behind Katan and each avoided attack dislodged another trophy display. Soon, the chains and skulls that had been on the walls had been ripped away, tangling around the prospective daemon prince and the pillars themselves, like a great web of clanking adamantine hoops and silver-plated bone. It was then that Argentius took up the master chain, winding it around a dozen pillars to give him leverage.

For the first time since the battle had begun, Katan felt the balance shift against him. Too late, he realized he was entangled. Before he could free himself, the chains pulled tight as a noose. Katan roared, his daemonic voice deafening in its affronted wrath. He writhed and struggled in his bounds with all his might. Argentius responded with pulling ever tighter. His muscles bulged until his blood vessels burst under the pressure. Argentius hissed in pain as he dug his heels into the flagstones for more purchase. Each time Katan pulled, he was almost dragged form his feet, but he recovered and redoubled his efforts, screaming in hatred as he did so. Argentius had planned this end game. Every since Katan had entered the system, his Prognosticators had envisioned Argentius’ death at the monster’s hands. Katan could not be pierced by blade or bullet, and they saw visions of the Master broken upon his own bridge. Thus, Argentius ensured he had an escape route. He also ensured that he could reach the drop pod bay easily, and that he and his foe could reach the pre-programmed drop pod at the appointed time, and land at the precise location he needed to defeat Katan once and for all.

Argentius wound the chain around his left bicep and pulled the chain tighter. Finally, the chain around Katan’s thick trunk of a neck constricted. The titanic Pyre-marine was still struggling, even as he fell to his knees in an explosion of pulverized marble. Argentius was mindless in his fury now, pouring every ounce of strength he could muster into his final gambit.

“You cannot kill me, mewling mortal! You may break and die, but I live forever! I am a daemon prince!” Katan howled, spitting molten steel from between his tusks.

Argentius ignored him, and pulled for the last time. Though he felt his rib cage crack from the strain, Argentius felt Katan’s neck vertebrae weakening. Then, with an audible scream of released warpstuff that shattered every window, his bones snapped. Katan screamed for several moments, even after his head and spinal column were ripped from his body. His burning eyes widened for a moment, before they went dull, and Katan perished.

“Not a daemon... yet...” Argentius panted, spitting on the Pyre-marine’s corpse, as other Silver Skulls burst into the chamber. They found him standing over a vanquished Katan. He managed to remain standing for almost a minute longer, before he collapsed into his brother marines’ arms. He died several hours later.

As the siege continued, the Corsairs focused their attention upon the Tower of Skulls. They were slow to respond to the arrow-swift assaults upon their command echelons and logistical bases by darting figures emerging from the rolling fog of the vaporized frost. By the time the Corsairs brought sufficient forces to bear, the enemy was gone, leaving dead Red Corsair commanders and smashed theatre shield generators in their wake. The only sight of the mysterious foe was the many hues of their individual squad colors, capering into the mist aboard their sleek ships.

The battle on the bridge was the stuff of legends. It was a clash of gears, armour and powered claws, of the throaty roar of engines and the dissonant screaming of caged daemons, merged with the augmented yelling of posthuman warriors. The bridge was only wide enough to permit two of the daemon engines to travel abreast, granting the slightest advantage to the two venerable dreadnoughts and the terminator‘s storm shield wall. But it was still only a slight advantage. Assault and autocannons barked and whirred deafeningly, their fire pattering against the armoured skins of the combatants. Flamers and meltas hurled fiery death, but the clashing metal beasts on both sides weathered the blows until they finally clashed in epic close quarters. The sonorous clang of clashing sarcophagi and the thunderclap boom of dueling power claws echoed for miles in all directions. Throughout the halls of the Skulls, the marines could hear this battle as an ominous dirge, while across the plains the sound instilled fear in the mewling, vile masses, who quailed before this din. Each time power weapons and shields crashed together, lightning bolts and flashes of electrical discharge flickered across the bridge; caged thunderstorms unleashed. There was no finesse, only mechanical carnage and the pealing sound of torn metal as the combatants tore chunks from each other. Blood Slaughterers were pitched from the bridge, or had their legs smashed apart by opportunistic Terminators. Ikek plunged his assault cannon into the gaping maw of a Brass Scorpion, emptying his gatling gun into its fiery heart even as it wrenched the weapon from his shoulder mount. Gileas’ siege hammer cracked open the sarcophagi of five of his brother dreadnoughts; the former veteran sergeant relived his glory days in the combat cages, imagining his metal targets were the old foes he fought in centuries long past. Terminators were broken like dolls by some of the enemy engines; a berserker dreadnought cackled in mindless triumph as it cleaved apart half a dozen terminators in as many seconds, before Jonal himself managed to silence the fiend with a well-placed thrust of a lightning claw into the broken hull of the traitor. The combatants clambered over the broken husks of their own dead and those of their foes, simply to reach their targets, and the stink of promethium and ichor clung to the air. Fleshy innards were ripped out alongside clawfuls of gears and snaking cabling, that sparked as it was ripped asunder. The Decimator waded through this walker’s graveyard to reach Ikek and Gileas, its siege claws shredding terminators almost dismissively. The bipedal war machine looked like some grotesque caricature of an Imperial dreadnought, yet dwarfed both of the venerable machines before it; even a Contemptor was small compared to this goliath. Only Jonal survived of his hand-picked retinue, and the Decimator passed him by without giving him a second glance, instead focusing upon Ikek and Gileas, who still stood sentinel before the main gates. Jonal, in indignant fury, snatched up a fallen thunder hammer in one of his fists (having lost one of his lightning claws to the berserker dreadnought) and struck the Decimator with the deactivated weapon.

“You will not ignore me, vile spawn of the pit! You will face me!” he roared at its back.

The Decimator rotated its torso around one hundred and eighty degrees, and with a single blow, bisected Jonal from armpit to opposite hip, killing him in moments.

In fury, Ikek charged the behemoth bodily. Sarcophagus plate and helmeted head collided with a great clang, like the ringing of some cathedral bell, sending the Decimator staggering backwards several paces. The three walkers battled alone on the bridge now, like cumbersome wrestlers or boxers in an arena of the dead. Claws clashed and legs struck hulls. They ripped each other open with relentless fury; taking punishment that would have slain a normal Astartes ten times over, and giving back just as much in return. They were consumed in their duel, that the two venerable warriors could not see what the rest of the garrison witnessed, out on the plains before the Tower.

The siege was being lifted. The corsairs’ leadership had been slain, and their theatre shields had been destroyed, and the culprits now flanked the horde with hawk-like speed and grace. These newcomers were Eldar, in the green and white livery of the Biel-Tan, though many of their warriors wore the various colored suits of Aspect Warrior armour. Dark Reapers had taken positions on the periphery of battle, launching constant salvos, while Falcon grav-tanks and wave serpents deposited lethal banshees and Avengers into strategic positions, before speeding off to engage and destroy any armour foolish enough to try and engage them. Without the protection of the theatre shields, the Tower of Skulls further punished the chaotic invaders by unleashing their defence lasers upon them. The Eldar flowed between these megaton barrages with consummate ease, as if they were fighting a choreographed, stage battle. Wherever the las bolts landed, they were not.

The chaos army turned to rout, heading south to meet up with the chaos force heading north. However, the Eldar had gotten to the south army first, sinking their barges before they had reached the northern shores in any great numbers. Instead of allies from the south, more enemies came to finish off the corsair ground forces. The southern force was a glorious sight to behold. It crested the mountains as one great mass, silver-painted hulls glimmering int he early light of dawn. Void dragon bombers and other Eldar flyers soared across the sky, alongside many hundreds of land speeders, both combat and storm speeders, as well as dozens of Thunderhawks, Stormtalons and Stormravens. Without air support, the forces of chaos were helpless as this air force unleashed a withering payload of missiles, rockets and laser bolts into the masses. Rippling explosions convulsed across them, as strafing run after strafing run turned the tundra into one rolling firestorm.

Upon the bridge, Ikek laid broken open on the floor, his semi-living flesh wrenched out of its shell violently. The Decimator itself was smashed and empty too, its daemon departed in screaming agony. Only Gileas remained standing, a severed Decimator arm impaling him through the primary hull section of his torso. The vox unit of his dreadnought was broken, so all he could do was open and close his claw in a symbol of triumph.

Oddly enough, the Junnergan was the closest thing to a leader the remaining chaos curs had, and the human and Astartes refuse scuttled after the Groevian, as it fought its way back to its transports and fled the system with the remainder of the routed Corsair fleet, picking up Skrax and the Viskeons on the way.

It had been a hard fought victory across Varsavia, and much of the planet lay buried under soot and ash, or else drowned by the sudden downpours of precipitation following the condensation of all the evaporated snow. So many were dead, and had the Eldar not aided them, it was likely all would have perished. But the reasons for the aliens’ sudden generosity were their own. It was said Chief Librarian Allaten held a secret meeting with the farseers of Biel-Tan; both factions eagerly peering into the raw potential of the future. The Eldar had come to Varsavia to retrieve something, but also to guide the Silver Skulls (who had felt lost ever since the Emperor’s light had failed). In exchange for an artefact, the Eldar would give the Silver Skulls an opportunity to finally kill Huron Blackheart once and for all.

Allaten gathered his surviving men to a muster hall in the Tower, where the Eldar and Astartes mingled awkwardly after the battle was won. Their stilted conversations were halted when the Librarian and the farseers emerged. There was an artefact on Pax Argentius, the cemetery world that could only be accessed through the internment of the latest dead Master Argentius. The Eldar explained that the artefact looked like a stone circle, but was in fact an ancient Dolmen Gate. The Eldar requested that they be allowed to accompany Argentius as he was taken to the cemetery planet, so that they might access the gate and travel to the Necron Tomb World that lay beyond.

In exchange, the farseers informed the Silver Skulls of the exact day they needed to attack Huron; it was a very specific window of opportunity which, if missed, would mean they would never get a chance to take down the Blackheart. Upon this day, as the Eldar legend went;

The Favoured Son of a Favoured Son, Foe to All and Friend to None, Rode to the Ruin of a Black Heart.

Meanwhile, on the approach to Armageddon, another Eldar vessel rushed forth, armed and bristling with weaponry and battle damage. It was leaking fuel and its sails were shredded, but momentum carried it forwards.

In response, the Vulkan Imperium sent forth a picket fleet to surround and, if necessary, neutralize the threatening ship. For a tense hour, it seemed as if the fleet would launch an attack upon the ship; the Fire Beasts vessel ‘The Loyal Fiend’ threatened to board the vessel, and do... unpleasant things to the aliens within.

Then, a voice began to sing, rising in volume as he bellowed his boisterous, guttural song down the vox link. The song undulated and echoed across every vox link in the fleet. At first the Steel Legion thought it to be some brutish xenos war song, but when the song was taken up by the Wolf Brothers Commandery's marines, they hesitated in ordering a strike.

It was the song of the Wolftime, being sung in the nominally dead language of Old Fenrisian.

Eventually, Vulkan’s voice cut into the vox link, interrupting the song.

“Hold fire. I know that voice... Leman? Brother?” Vulkan said, his voice sounding shocked.

The singer’s harsh voice paused in mid song. “I am surprised the din of the forge hadn’t dulled your sense entirely brother. It is I,” Russ replied, his voice strained and in great physical pain. “I return, and I do not do so alone. I fear... a boarding party by your 'Fire Beasts' would have been... foolish on their part...” Leman Russ laughed through the vox, as Imperial shuttles came in to dock with his stolen Eldar cruiser.

Additional Background Section 33: The Four Brothers[edit]

(Chronicler’s note: Though I possess the notes of my predecessor, which detail his event, it must be noted that I was a young boy during these events; I witnessed events across Armageddon from the ground up. I have hence combined my recollections and those of my relatives with the histories of this chronicle.)

The Primarchs returned to Armageddon to a heroes’ welcome. The docks and shipyards surrounding the Armageddon system and within unleashed low-powered lance fire in salute, as Vulkan’s flagship entered the planet’s orbit. Onboard, there were four timeless living legends. There was Leman Russ, the Great Wolf himself, King of Fenris and father of the Vlka Fenryka and the ultimate gene father of the Wolf Brothers Commandery. Then, there was Vulkan, the Emperor of the New Imperium, Primarch of the Salamanders and the vast majority of the Commanderies, Cousin-Champion to the Realm of Fathers, Master of the Promethean Cults of Nocturne and Armageddon, Superintendant of the Confederation of Justice and Chairman of the Ruling Council of the Vulkan Imperium. Alongside him was Corvus Corax, the repentant Master of the Former Raven Guard and of the Sons of Corax Commandery and prime-beast of the Weregeld. The final passenger was far more tragic. Jaghati Khan, Primarch of the White Scars, returned to Vulkan’s Imperium in pieces. What was worse was that he remained alive and in endless, monstrous pain. This fact was kept from the adoring crowds who lined every street of every city on Armageddon, who cheered till their throats were red raw as the Primarchs descended on one of Vulkan’s personal transport that flew low over each city, before rushing off to the looming, unadorned Hermit’s Tower, built near to the site of Hades Hive, amidst the grand splendor of the central palace. The tower’s lack of decoration set it apart from the rest of the city, but its artisan craftsmanship was always well known.

Only Vulkan, amongst the returning Primarchs came back unharmed in some way. The Khan was a ruin of mewling, silently screaming flesh, Russ was weak from the fire of the eldar venom coursing through his veins, while Corax bore psychological scarring that would take many years to truly heal, even though his exhausted body was barely damaged. Russ was taken to the grand Apothecarium, where Corax and its doctors worked together to devise a cure for his poisons, utilizing the extensive libraries of the Promethean Cult. He was later housed in one of eight Primarch scaled bed chambers, alongside another of his brothers he had not seen in thousands of years. For the Lion, Primarch of the Dark Angels and appointed protector of Ultramar, had also been recovered the year before.

Meanwhile, Vulkan rushed the Khan down into his forge vaults beneath the Hermit’s Tower; desperate to find a way to save his brother. He would not be reunited with him, only to lose the Khan again. In those dread vaults, Vulkan stored the relics and artefacts the Brethren of the Willing had gathered for him across the millennia, but were too dangerous to let out. One of those nightmarish things was the abomination of living metal known only as The Shard. It was some faded echo of part of a C’tan immortal consciousness, tainted and driven mad by the memories of Ferrus Manus and the Iron Hands it had slain. It was demented and delusional, but it had knowledge of technology and the universe to rival that of the Emperor himself. Vulkan brought Khan to this entity, and through coercion, trickery, and dark promises that Vulkan never spoke of to any outside the chamber, he gained the assistance of the shimmering star shard. Alien science from the dawn of time was married to the genetic and artisan craftwork of the Lord of Armageddon as Vulkan fought to revive and restore his brother. Eventually, after many weeks of seclusion and work in the cold darkness of the deep vaults, the Khan was rebuilt.

Yet, the creature Vulkan beheld was not the same figure he had known; not truly. The Khan’s blood was shimmering silver, and the layered armor and machinery that infused his new form could never be removed. Vulkan stayed at his brother’s side for another month, as though the Khan lived, he had mercifully lost consciousness, for the first time after millennia of torment.

Meanwhile, Corax had new armor fashioned for him; the Sons of Corax and the other Commanderies who took him as their liege lord insisted on aiding him in building new arms and armor. His armor, once finished, was a sight to behold. It was black; so dark it seemed to darken the rooms he entered. Yet, if you looked closely, you could make out the intricate patterns and designs inscribed upon it; only an Astartes’ eyes could fully appreciate the glorious nature of his great winged armor. Corax, though he could move between cities without ever being observed, chose to travel as part of a convoy, making sure that his face and his presence was witnessed by everyone on the world, holding aloft his great lash and sword as he met with the people. He gave many a famous speech throughout that year, and each one was recorded for prosperity and stored within the Domed Librarium of Saint Grimnar, where all the most momentous events of the New and Old Imperium were stored on electronic plates, or carved into the flagstones themselves.

Corax no longer desired to hide in the shadows. He wished that he would never abandon humanity again, nor let it suffer tyrants or slavery while he drew breath. Only his Nova Astartes honor guard saw his private face; his doubt and his great abiding guilt.

The Wolf and the Lion recovered together, out of public sight for a time. As their wounds healed swiftly, they also began to train and spar with one another. Harsh words were said to each other, and each brother bested other in alternating, hard fought bouts. The Lion confided in Russ about the figures that had came to him as he lay dying upon Lori Delta Trove, and of those Unforgiven figures who yet haunted him. In another time, another place, Russ would have tried to slay the Lion then, in a demented lust to purge the Imperium of liars and traitors, but he knew that his actions had set terrible things into motion long ago, and he did not wish to repeat the old mistakes of the past. However, the two brothers, the closest of kin, remained antagonists and rivals. The Lion claimed that, though Leman judged him for his coldness and moral weakness, the Wolf King was just the same as him. The only difference was that Russ had cultivated an image as the loyal executioner; the honorable, mighty warrior king of feasts and fighting. Despite their mutual disdain, when it came to war and combat, their styles were oddly harmonious. When they tested themselves in the great fighting basin, against countless servitors and simulated enemies, when they fought together, they found they could vanquish almost anyone. Woes betide any who thought to face the two Primarchs in battle. Both brothers built their own armor in tandem with each other, tweaking and adjusting their suits based upon the reactions of their sparring partner. Likewise, Russ refined his new blade by testing it against the ancient Lion Sword that Lion El’Jonson wielded.

Almost seven months after being returned to life, the Khan awoke. With a weary voice, he asked after his chapter and his brothers, amidst strange ranting where he cursed and gibbered in the language of the eldar. Vulkan comforted him, informing him that his brothers were with him now. However, Vulkan could not lie about the fate of the Khan’s White Scars. The White Scars had fallen into the life of the savage free companies all too well. When Vulkan had begun to reunify the Imperium, the White Scars, like the majority of the Black Templars, were beyond salvaging, and fought him. The White Scars had been destroyed; only a scant shadow of them survived, to form the moribund Scar-Branders, who had perished to a man defending the planet of Joffen's Throne from a Krork fleet, half a century earlier. But worse, was that through the procedures used to save his life, Jaghatai Khan could no longer pass on his geneseed and sire a new chapter to replace those he had lost. In fury, the Khan leapt from his bed, and snatched Vulkan by the throat, screaming in despair and misery. The Khan’s strength was always great, but his Primarch-born power was further enhanced by the xenos machinery which had brought him back.

“You have killed the Scars! Your murder of them is twofold!” he howled in Vulkan’s obsidian features, his glowing red eyes meeting the Khan’s tainted, silver-veined ones. It took the Khan a moment to realize that he was throttling his brother and instantly released him in shame, before collapsing to his knees. The Khan then cursed himself; he had left his children behind in his folly to reach and destroy Commorragh; he was the one who had failed the White Scars. Recovering swiftly, Vulkan placed his hand upon the shoulder pad of Jaghatai. What words could comfort one such as him? One so wronged for so very long?

But Vulkan knew his brother, and told him what he needed to hear. He reminded him that the hunt was not yet concluded; Lorgar yet lived and his blasphemous works threatened to destroy all things. The Khan had promised to slay the traitors; he had sworn this oath on the walls of the Imperial Palace itself, countless centuries in the prehistory of the Old Imperium. While they yet existed, he could not give into despair. Though the Scars were gone, the great hunt could never be forgotten. Vulkan had built Jaghatai a magnificent blade, based upon the design of his curved horseman’s blade. As the Khan rose, he placed this blade in his brother’s armoured hand. They stood, eye to eye, and nodded to each other. No words were required in that moment.

Eventually, the five brothers reunited, meeting in Vulkan’s sparse throne room; the first time they had gathered together in uncounted ages. Here, they spoke of a wild array of topics, but the topic that continually came to the forefront of the conversation was that of war. Vulkan brought them up to speed on the state of the galaxy over a week of extensive discussion, where the five contemplated a myriad of tactics and the disposition of their brother’s many forces.

In the year it had taken the Primarchs to recover and reach this point, news of their return had spread, via Vendrial psyker beacon, to every corner of the Vulkan Imperium, and beyond (for the Vendrial beacons were nowhere near as secure as the Astropathic grid used in the ancient past, and friend and foe alike found it rather easy to decipher the broad meanings of the beacon messages). Understandably, this caused a great stir within the Vulkan Imperium; this was no mere victory, but represented the turning of the tide in many eyes. A new era in the history of their empire, for at last, the worlds allied to Vulkan believed that they could take the fight to the gods and monsters surrounding them, for they now had a living Pantheon of their own to match them. Spontaneous festivals broke out on many worlds not at the forefront of battle, and even the frontier worlds celebrated this news, even as they defended their homes from aliens and rampaging warp-allied empires. When Vulkan summoned representatives from his various governments and armed forces, the response was a thing to behold.

The Nova Astartes were always at war, as was their purpose, but even single Commandery that could be contacted managed to send a token force to Armageddon; they could not pass up the opportunity to see the Primarchs for themselves. These included the Salamanders, adorned in their ceremonial garb as Vulkan’s bodyguards, the camouflage-wearing Nemenmarines*, the Knights Supplicant, the Jade Princes, the Sons of Corax, the grey-armoured Vulkan Praetors, the golden-clad Dorn Revenants, the vigilant Iron Hands, the fearsome Fire Beasts, the mute marines of the Vanquishers in their deep crimson armor, the Brass Ravens, the Blood Ravens, the Wolf Brothers’ rabble (who, I recall, were almost deafening as they played raucous instruments through the streets at any opportunity, for they were half-mad with glee at their genefather’s return), the Sons of Thunder, the Esoteric Commandery (formerly known as the Fatemakers of old), and many more Commanderies sent small delegations to Armageddon. These ranged from a single squad, in the case of the Fire Beasts (who, being the smallest Commandery due to their high-attrition recruitment processes, could hardly spare many soldiers for this gathering), to virtually the entire Commandery strength of two thousand five hundred marines, in the case of the Salamanders.

Representatives of each of the allied realms likewise sent their own delegations, complete with honour guards of their best and most renowned units.

The Ryzan-Catachan Oathworlds sent forth their most senior Skitarii-Magos, Alpha-Muon, alongside a force of a thousand Plasma-Commandoes in full battle-garb. They lacked the polished extravagance of some of the Commanderies, but they made up for this with discipline and the naked power of their plasma weaponry.

A Gladius class frigate from Ultramar-Reborn also made its way to Armageddon. This delegation consisted of Folkar, who was then one of the five new High Lords of Ultramar, alongside a company of Adeptus Astartes, the older breed of posthuman made legendary through the Ages of Imperium and the Second Age of Strife. Each of these marines bore the colors of the Ultramarines. Upon their right shoulder pad they bore the symbol of Ultramar, and on their left they wore the symbol of their individual chapter house, be they Novamarines, Sons of Orar or otherwise. Folkar came to discuss military matters, as the other delegates did, but he had further business to attend to. He knelt before the Primarchs, and reaffirmed his oaths to the new Imperium and to the Lion in particular (the Lion was momentarily confused by this action, until Vulkan explained the nature of Ultramar’s liberation from Sicarius the Mad). Master Folkar also brought with him a great urn of Guilliman’s precious geneseed, along with almost two thousand young boys from Ultramar, the best of the latest recruits from the stellar realm (the reason for this shall be explained later in this section).

The Muster-Lord of the Confederation of Justice sent an envoy to the plane, along with a regiment of his drop troopers, and several dozen examples of his Confederations new Individual Engagement Units (IEUs); these were combat machines designed for a single drop trooper to operate, based upon development of the Stormtalon and Sentinel STC designs, adapted to function as a form of battlesuit. Though they were nowhere near as advanced as the Tau equivalents, these bulky IEUs were excellent as frontline spear tip units, and shocktroops for orbital insertions, second only to the Nova Astartes themselves.

The mysterious and ever-sinister Patriarchs of the Realm of Fathers also sent a cabal of their cult Magi to meet with the Primarchs; each magus had a direct psychic link to their leaders, so whatever was heard by them was consequently heard by their progenitors. The Realm’s delegation was colossal, reflecting somewhat the sheer scale of one of Vulkan’s most valuable allies. A ten thousand strong force of the Legion Trygonis arrived in system with the Magi. They moved in a perfect unison which bordered on the disturbing. Even the Ultramarines, who appreciated order and discipline more acutely than most, were suspicious. But the realm of Fathers had ever been loyal to the Armageddon Emperor, and Vulkan welcomed them alongside the others.

The Legions of Steel did not need to send delegations to Armageddon however, for the Steel Legions were the beating heart of the Vulkan Imperium, and were present upon every world in his domain, including their homeworld of Armageddon. Though the air had long since been cleaned of poisonous fumes, they still wore their ceremonial respirators with pride as they saluted their lord and master.

There were many other military delegates from the lesser Realms of the Imperium who also eventually made their way to Armageddon, braving the numerous wars and conflicts raging across the Segmentum to reach the beating heart of their empire. From the glorious, ostentatious Knight-Princes of Chevantai, to the grim and functional Thunder Lizard Tank Legions, even the bitter Valhallan remnant; all came to pay homage to the Primarchs, and parade the military might of the Imperium before their eyes. Not only land forces, but ships from dozens of battlefleets gathered in orbit, including the legendary Phalanx.

This great parade would come to be known as Vulkan’s Muster. It would not be an overexaggeration to suggest that this military review was the largest concentration of Imperial strength since Ullanor itself, and certainly the greatest single concentration of Primarchs gathered in an age.

Such a gathering attracted the attention of the Imperium’s rivals. Assassins were sent regularly to try and destroy this gathered force while they wallowed in orbit, but each attempt to rip the heart from the new Imperium was thwarted by the Primarchs and their paranoid minions. Fortunately for them, at this time their rivals were preoccupied with the fall of the Baalites in the north, the mounting power of the Krork, the Nightbringer and the Hadex abominations in the east, and the Necrons in isolated pockets across the galaxy. However, some of their rivals, realising the importance of the returned Primarchs, sued for truce. The most prominent of these were the twin Tau empires; the Meta-Empire of the east, and the Calixis-centred Tau empire in the west; they had their own bitter wars to fight, and had no desire to kill an empire which they saw as similar to themselves. Why threaten a growing beast, when that beast was poised to strike at one’s own foes?

This grand gathering of military might was more than just a mere exercise of sabre-rattling. It was an opportunity to both gather information on the current state of the galaxy at large, and more importantly, it was a chance to begin large scale military planning and the logistical preparation. They learned of the swelling power of Lorgar and the unification of the two Chaos Imperiums. Lorgar had created a new Book of his Word, filled with secrets given to him by the deep warp’s unfathomable minions. The Alliance between Aurelian and Huron was forged on the rad-blasted wastes of Hektartrus; an army of Red Corsairs and Word Bearers, led by both the respective Emperors, reduced the planet’s cities to rubble, and then, from orbit, poured a thousand megatons of molten gold across the planet’s surface. This killed every living thing on the planet, and when the gold finally solidified, it formed the words of Lorgar, each character five miles wide. Above this dead world, Huron Blackheart knelt before Lorgar and was made into Lorgar’s regent across all the north eastern reaches of the galaxy. Word also reached them that Lorgar’s military machine was in motion, backed by the dread Draziin-maton; a foe no one yet knew how to truly defeat. Though the Krorks and Necrons were similarly fearsome and powerfully dangerous, the Chaos Imperium was a nightmare born of human weakness, and the Primarchs felt a particular responsibility for this realm. They had to defeat it somehow.

The five Primarchs assembled the leadership of the entire Vulkan Imperium in a specially-built orbital station over Hades. There, in the central hall they discussed a most momentous topic. The time for consolidation was over; the Vulkan Imperium was as secure as it was ever going to be. Now, the time had come; the Imperium wanted not only to survive, it wanted to win. The Primarchs were the most qualified entities the Imperium possessed on this topic, for they and they alone had come close to conquering the galaxy before. But this time, they had an additional advantage they lacked before; they did not have to concern themselves with garrisoning and creating compliant worlds, for the Vulkan Imperium already possessed them. They could focus all their effort upon the military objective. They would make war upon the Chaos Imperium, and once and for all defeat their ancient nemesis.

However, such a lofty goal would take tremendous planning. The war council lasted almost half a year, and covered every aspect of a prospective war; who would be providing the supply ships, and how they would eb escorted and themselves refuelled, which planets close to the Chaos Imperium could be relied upon to grant them docking rights and support their war effort, even specific planetary invasion tactics were debated and exhaustively discussed over this time. The Five sat in large thrones to accommodate their bulk, but otherwise, they remained on the same level as their mortal allies, and no speaker was denied the chance to make their point.

The worlds of Vulkan were ordered to up their military output by one percent, and to siphon off that one percent directly to the mounting crusade, which was code-named as ‘Tusk’. Additionally, there was a new founding of the Nova Astartes. This was the fifty fifth founding (later infamously known as ‘the Final Founding’ for reasons which will later become apparent). Folkar’s aspirant and Guilliman-sourced geneseed went into creating the Warrior Kings Commandery, the first and last Ultramarine Nova Astartes. Russ had a new Commandery, known only as the Rout, created to join his Wolf Brothers, while the Lion helped the Khan create the White Lancers, the first Commandery to recognise two Primarchs as their direct founders. I recall the excitement of those days of preparing for crusade. At that time, the entire Imperium went through a massive upheaval; no longer the Vulkan Imperium, but instead Imperium Pentum.

Even with an expanded military force and a vast crusade, the Imperium Pentum was still outnumbered a thousand to one by the Chaos Imperium of Lorgar. Yet this changed nothing. Lorgar had to die, and his allies had to be pushed back if mankind was to survive in this universe.

Meanwhile, the venerable Lady of the Brethren of the Willing had her own battle to fight. The Brethren was, by this point, a vast, Imperium spanning organisation dedicated to protecting the Imperium from insidious internal threats, and also gathering what artefacts and mystical lore they could. However, there was one foe Lady Imogen could not defeat; time itself. She was dying; her cyber-enhanced form had lasted her for centuries, but even Vulkan’s science could not preserve her frail body. Her mind remained as devious and razor sharp as in her younger days of adventuring, but now this brilliant organ was trapped within her elderly frame; bedridden. Nevertheless, she still looked over most of the reports sent to her by her ever-increasing number of exotic agents, both xenos, human and otherwise.

Imogen’s Brethren of the Willing had been tasked with solving the problem of the Red Sorcerer in particular. His Rubric Empire in the south would be a thorn in the side of any attempted offensive into Lorgar’s territory; Ahriman was growing more powerful with every passing day, and the Vulkan Imperium could not bring its full might to bear against Ahriman’s Cabal, as any Astartes-led invasion would fail utterly.

One night, as she fell into sleep, a presence came to her. It came as an elderly, kindly faced man. She found herself upon a field of bones, piled a mile thick, with only vast, cyclopean towers to break up this endless expanse. The skies were dark and veined with pulsing green light that hurt one’s eyes to perceive.

“Where am I?” Imogen asked; her voice was young and powerful in her mind.

“They call it the Bone Kingdom, though it has a far older name only the Flayed Ones recall,” the Old Man replied, his soft, rasping voice accompanied by the dull humming of distant flies. This was no mortal.

“You are one of Nurgle’s kin,” she replied warily. She had lived long enough to know their stench. “I have been Illuminated, I warn you. You will gain no possession over me.”

The man smiled, his face rotting away. “You are almost correct, but I am no child of his. He is no less a tyrant than my own father,” the figure continued, his voice rising in power, though not in volume.

His frame rotted away, and a throbbing chrysalis of distended flesh swelled up from the ruins, bursting open like an orchid formed of plague rot. Beneath the leaves of blistered skin was a giant, in the garb of a fetid reaper of souls, complete with a great scythe. It was Mortarion.

“You seek to break me do you? Subvert me and use me against my master? It will not work. I shall never serve the deep madness as Lorgar does!” she yelled, spitting at Mortarion’s feet.

Mortarion shook his head. “Nor do I wish to, but it is not my decision to make. Not anymore. I have so little time, for I am being hunted, even now; hunted through dreams and nightmares like a fox through a fen bog. You must listen now. Look.”

With that, the vision shifted, to reveal a woman on the plain of bones; a broken woman in bloodied rags. She stifled her sobs as she crawled through the nightmarish landscape, her golden hair matted to her skin with sweat and grime. Crolomere, the Grey Sensei. Imogen watched, as she scuttled into a culvert, as a roving band of screeching flayed ones skulked past, babbling in the mad tongue of Llandu’gor the Flayer.

“She was cast here by Magnus’ cursed scion, for failing him. You know her importance; I know you know the providence of her birth. She is a Perpetual, but if she dies at the hands of the Necrons, she will be lost forever. If you want to defeat Ahriman, she must not perish on that world.”

“Why are you helping me?” was all Imogen could ask.

Mortarion smiled, a torrent of flies streaming from his rotten jaws. “My brothers must fall; all of them. Know despair child, for they will die. I cannot escape the inevitable, and neither can Lorgar, Angron, Russ, Vulkan or any of the others. They were not born for a peaceful life; Nurgle will have his due, but if your Imperium falls, Lorgar will win. Death in battle is preferable to oblivion. If the Deep Ones triumph... everything will vanish. Not just vanish; it shall never have existed at all. You will wake soon, but if you remember nothing else from this dream, remember this; save the girl.”

Imogen then awoke, and sent urgent summons to Vulkan; she needed to send a mission to the Bone Kingdom of Drazak. However, Vulkan refused to send a fleet to attack a Necron Tombworld, deep in hostile territory, simply to recover one woman. It would be a suicide mission for little gain. However, the Khan argued with his brother then, and suggested she should be given non-essential soldiers and equipment. If she failed, then nothing of value was lost. But if she succeeded, then what a glorious victory that would be! Vulkan accepted.

Thus, even as she lay dying, Imogen began organising an impromptu rescue mission. She gathered together inmates from the penal colonies and criminal worlds of the Imperium, as well as thugs and mercenaries looking to prove themselves to the Imperium as valuable auxiliary units, worthy of sponsorship. Likewise, obsolete hulls of old Imperial vessels were saved for use as transportation to and from the Necron planet. Yet, this brigade of no hopers lacked leadership.

You may recall, dear reader, that Imogen had acquired two stasis pods after the sacking of Drultevar as the spoils of loot. Of course, the stasis pods themselves were valuable, but not quite as useful to Imogen as the people preserved within. At last, she had a reason to release the men inside. Imogen died in her sleep the night before the reanimation, but her loyal minions deactivated the stasis pods on her orders. The pods opened with a hiss of steam as air, preserved since the end of M41.999, condensed as it was released from its imprisonment. The cigar in the mouth of one of the preserved men was still smoking between his teeth. Slowly, he rose from the pod, and flexed his bionic arm several times.

The clerks that beheld the tall, stern-faced guardsman flinched as he looked their way.

“What’s the mission?” was all Colonel Schaeffer asked.

*(The Nemenmarines, following in the footsteps of their founding Force Commander, Heldrik Nemen, do not believe in personal heraldry, or having a Commandery-wide colour scheme for their force. Nemen saw no need for this because ‘every heathen, monster and madman is already after us; why make ourselves easy targets? I intend to surrender no advantage to my enemies.’ Of course, ironically, being the only Commandery to adopt this stance, their camouflage itself was eventually treated as their heraldry by their brother Astartes, to their mild irritation.)

Additional Background Section 34: The Empty East; The Desolation of The Fringe and The C’tan’s Revelation[edit]

... poor lambs... abandon hope, all ye who...

[Raucous laughter... unconfirmed audio interrupt.]

Nowhere was the futility of war more aptly demonstrated than across the eastern spiral arm of the galaxy. Necrons and Krork, C’tan and daemons; all fought over this region to determine the destiny of the galaxy.

The wars that raged across this realm dwarfed the conflicts of most past ages, save for perhaps the original War in Heaven. Trillions of Krork were born and directly fed into this brutal, colossal war. They did so gladly and without fear. Just as the Necrons were compelled by their programming to reconquer the galaxy and enslave all, the Krork were programmed on a genetic level to thwart them.

Khaine and the Nightbringer, being both ageless and tireless, constantly clashed across planets and beyond space, in a futile attempt to destroy one another. Meanwhile, their minions, the Destroyer cults and the Khainite slaughterkin, destroyed every living thing they could find. When they killed everything living, they turned upon each other.

The C’tan took neither the Triarch nor the Krork’s side in this war; they gleefully attacked both sides, feeding greedily upon the flickering embers of escaping mind essences, like vile suckling leeches.

Fifteen thousand years of war. One can scarcely even conceive of such a lengthy period of constant conflict. These battles were not just local bushfire wars, but all part of a single conflict, on a massive scale. Everyone lost.

The remains of the Tau Meta-Empire were reduced to a handful of isolated pockets; besieged Sept worlds turned bitter after the hope of a greater good turned to ash before their eyes. Ultramar survived, but it was a declawed creature. Despite token support from its western Imperium Pentum allies, there were barely enough soldiers and logistical supplies to protect the realm from the monstrosities of the Hadex Anomaly, which had expanded in that time to consume the Black Reef and turn every world nearby into hellish worlds of splintered timeframes and rampant mutation.

Pech, surprisingly, was spared any major invasions, for it was seen as utterly worthless by most. The Kroot, ever the pragmatic survivors, continued to scour the nearby regions for new meat. Meanwhile, the Tau children the Kroot had saved from the Necron invasions a generation ago had formed an odd sub culture within Pech’s forests. The castes interbred, and formed a culture quite independent of any notion of the greater good (aside from the relics of past years that had survived with them, which they considered sacred). The Kroot fostered these tribes, and sometimes even allowed them to aid them in their mercenary missions beyond Pech, in a surreal parody of the old order of things.

The Krork were severely weakened, despite their superhuman resolve. Though the will was still there, the Necrons had killed billions of their race; their ships all showed signs of extreme damage. The Necrons had also been given a contagion to use against the Krork, which compromised their spore-based life cycle. Every year, fewer and fewer Krork were being born. For centuries the Krork tried to find out who this shadowy ally of the Triarch was, but they could not be traced (though I personally suspect the denizens of Commorragh had a hand in this. The motive, we shall never know; probably sheer amusement.)

However, the Necrons were in poor shape at this point too. The Triarch Praetorians were struggling to gather large enough forces to adequately fight their multiple foes. Those Necrons not destroyed by Krork and C’tan, or subsumed by the demented Empire of the Severed, were going mad. The Destroyer Cults could not be controlled or relied upon, and the Flayed Ones were a hideous blight upon the Necron race as a whole. By this point in history, the original Necrons had been reduced to a mere billion individuals (though their android bodies could be replaced rapidly by their surviving tombworlds).

The vast majority of the Eastern Fringe, by then, was hollow. Virtually every system was left eerily devoid of life. Not only were their worlds shattered by doomsday weapons or scoured clean by gauss, but there were some worlds that were simply empty. Cities and settlements covered the worlds, but the people who once lived there had simply vanished. Most had abandoned their worlds in abject terror, uprooting their entire populations upon hastily built refugee arks that fled westwards. They had nowhere to go and precious few supplies to sustain their numbers. The misery and suffering they endured was heartbreaking to behold.

Other worlds had been depopulated through the fallout from the wars of others, sterilizing their planets by accident. These worlds had slow deaths, where the despairing populations eventually detonated nuclear munitions under their own cities, simply to end the anguish.

Even Nurgle had no hold over this region, despite the great oceans of despair which permeated the Fringe, for there were no longer men there to experience such emotions. I cannot accurately inform you how many alien races went extinct during that period, but I can tell you the number was depressingly high. Such was the desperation of those few aliens left; they threw themselves upon the mercy of the Tau and the Astartes’ embattled bastions. To their credit, even the Astartes, taught from birth to regard xenos as their foes, allowed them to take shelter and bolster their numbers.

There were other worlds, beneath the baleful glare of the Red hole of Hadex, who suffered horrendously. Daemons and cultists descended upon them and violated them in every way you can imagine. They were defiled and ruined by the horrendous cruelty of their enemy. Any thought of freedom or free will were forgotten. They wished only to be safe. Foolishly (or perhaps rightfully; who can tell?), they turned to the one god who despised anarchy above all else. The Star Father.

Upon these worlds, the daemons found themselves cast back by Angyls of blinding light. The Angyl Prince Draigo led the charge against the mewling abominations, battling daemons in single combat and dragging them kicking and screaming into the hell that had spawned them. The people of those besieged worlds praised and fawned over their Angyl saviours. They eagerly accepted the demands of the Star Father; they were told to kneel, and they knelt. Soon, their worlds were safe, and as silent as all the rest...

... I see another event, unfolding at that time, but at other times and places, all at once. A confluence of minds, a bending of the rules of the cosmos...

Amidst the silence, the eldest beings took their fill of energy; when the minds of sentients ran low, they gorged upon starlight and lingered in their coronal halos like languid dancers made of naught but glittering glass shards. The Dragon returned in this time, alongside his broken brethren. Yet, thought the various C’tan shard entities fed and rampaged in glorious freedom from Necron bondage, they sensed a signal; a message written in decades-long syllables only the first races knew. The Nyadra’zatha the Burning One’s many forms sensed this, as did the Endless Swarms of Iash’uddra, the capricious many-selves of Mephet’ran and even the ancient bane itself, the Void Dragon. Though space and time separated them in vast gulfs, the C’tan nevertheless stepped across these gulfs with ease. They came to heed the words of the one who thought to speak their tongue; Orikan the Diviner.

The plane they met upon was a planet, but it was somehow utterly two-dimensional, and sliced through realities like a worrisome splinter lodged in flesh. Terrible winds of desolation wracked its surface, destroying the disk-entities that scurried across its depthless surface. As the glittering shards arrived, the world extruded into three dimensions with frightful, mind-shredding power. Together, they built a hall upon which to have this dread conference.

(The following is a mortal’s approximating and abstraction of what occurred on that artificial planet. There were no witnesses to this event, so I must assume the previous scribe of this tale tapped into some upon wellspring of knowledge in order to speculate upon these events... or else she fabricated the event entirely; another fabrication within her ill-mind. I cannot be certain.)

Each C’tan crafted thrones of starlight and condensed time, conjuring grandiose forms to inhabit simultaneously. One cannot say where this realm was, or even what dimension they deigned to meet upon. I do know that at the time of this meeting, three planets in the Eastern Fringe imploded upon themselves, without any obvious reason. If the two events are linked, then the Fringe was the most likely location/primary time period of this meeting.

Orikan appeared before them, a tiny entity compared to the colossal entities that glowered at the Cryptek, who vainly clutched a staff of tomorrow in his claws, as if the totem would protect him should he displease the Star Gods.

However, the Stars were right. Their light shone through the great windows that rose like mountains upwards and descending. The golden light made his form indistinct, ever-shifting. However, the Dragon knew this being, no matter what form he took.

It named the being Orikan, shard of Mephet’ran, one of many. “But why seek to lie to us? Or to yourself?” the Dragon contemplated.

The Cryptek laughed, and the laugh was mockingly imitated by the other Deceiver shards that sat upon their thrones, each a slightly different prince with a different crown of golden horns, but always with the same smirk.

“I am a thing of lies. It is always my way. In truth, the Necrontyr did me a service, in shattering me...” Orikan Mephet’ran chuckled.

Another Deceiver, in a form like a robed daemon prince covered in golden feathers, spoke up. “How else may I play my little games, when caged in dull... singularity? How else may I lead the Despoiler to his pet sword?”

Another Deceiver rose, with a jackal’s head instead of its own. “Or guide the First Born's children on a merry dance...?”

“... a dance without end?” another Deceiver laughed, laughing until his crystalline form shattered and fled away on the wind.

The other C’tan were unmoved, simply asking whether the Deceiver even knew which side he was on anymore. The Orikan Deceiver shrugged theatrically, twirling its staff like a baton.

But why had he gathered them there? A trap?

“It would be a foolish trap, to ones such as us, Lord Oblivion,” the Deceiver grinned. “We see the turn of eternity; you would see the outcome of such a trap eons before I set it. No, I have set no trap." However, if the C’tan did not follow his instructions, they would perish.

The Dragon scoffed. Nothing in his calculations hinted at such a destination for the universe. The Deceiver mocked him for his willful ignorance. “You have been asleep too long, Dragon. You, as ever, refuse to acknowledge the immaterial realm. Reality is your dominion, but you see nothing else beyond it. No matter how omnipotent you consider yourself here, amidst the membranes of reality, the warp shall ever elude you. You fail to see what is at stake.”

The Dragon rooted Orikan to the spot, and for a moment, the Deceiver knew true fear, as the Dragon pulled more of his essence into the hall; the shadow of many wings loomed. “You speak of the warp’s looming apocalypse. Do not presume ignorance ancient perfidity,” the Dragon explained coldly.

“I speak... of the destruction of actuality...” the Deceiver replied. The suggestion stunned the Oblivion entity enough to release the silver-tongued one.

The others denounced this claim; nothing could destroy actuality. Even the Necrons, with all the might of the living universe, could not damage actuality. It was impossible.

“I have seen much, my brethren of the star-smith. I know the true path of destiny. My predictions are never wrong.”

“They are never wrong, for you alter reality to suit your whims,” another shard replied. “You are tainted by the madness of the planet-born organics. We know you awoke the Ophilim Kiasoz; even Aza’gorod, childishly infatuated with mortal death as he is, was not that foolish. Do you think you can control the broken spiral at the heart of the pattern? It would devour you whole...”

The Deceiver ignored the barbs. “Be careful how you threaten me, my beloved ones. The One Who Dwells Outside once thought she saw the weave of my patterns and it drove her mad. She welcomed her prison by the end. Now, heed me.”

The C’tan, without any words we would understand, eventually subsided in their retaliations, and allowed the liar to set up his con. They asked him how reality would perish.

“The dissolution will spread like a cancer, feeding and drawing itself up by the hooks it has in mortal souls. First it will consume heir souls, and then it will pierce reality. Then... it will breach the Orrery.”

This got the attention of the C’tan. If the Orrery was turned into a plaything of the Nex-[PAINENDLESS], then the warp would become a self-sustaining contagion of ever magnifying destruction. Omnipotence in the hands of perfect madness from the time before and after time was time.

“If this lie is true, then we face a total event collapse. This universe will die; as a contagion storm expands from this galaxy, to devour all galaxies. But I have devised a solution," the Dragon claimed. "Without life, the monster will be strangled at birth. My tides will sweep the galaxy clean.”

The Deceiver shook its head condescendingly. “You will only speed its passage, and feed it souls ever swifter. You must stop your rampages; if you stop, you know that our opportunity will come.”

The Dragon, intrigued, asked him what opportunity.

“The opportunity? The opportunity to escape of course. This realm is beyond saving. I turned upon you, in the last years of the War in Heaven. You recall that I turned upon you. Played both sides. Or perhaps, I was never on your side? I forget... sometimes, my memories... but nevertheless, I joined our cold nemesis. I became their champion. Or rather; a renegade shard of me became their champion. It is so much easier to thread the way of webs into my veins as an ally than as a foe; you were clumsy when you breached their Webway, Nyadra’zadra,” Mephet’ran added as a spiteful aside. “I promised to defeat you; I drove her into the sphere and made her mad. I betrayed the shards of Nightbringer and I told the Eldar where the Necrontyr whelps slept. But our old enemy... tricked me.”

The confession intrigued his brothers. “You were... deceived?”

“The irony is not lost upon me either. But I was indeed deceived. The Old meddlers did not perish.”

“They fled into the warp; ascended beings. We know this. We are C’tan,” another star god interrupted.

“Your memories are shattered, like your body, Jek’thalzar the Frost! They did not ‘ascend’, but they did flee. They-”

The C’tan as one realized what their hated foes had done. Eternal gates crashing down. Barriers crossed; safety compromised. The C’tan lived, at least partially, in every moment in reality. However, only the Deceiver avoided the Tesseract Labyrinth prisons of their foes. Only he was conscious at the time of the Old Ones' final sins; the sins which saw them vanish, and saw the Eldar rise into an inevitable fall.

The Laughing God, Cegorach, the rebellious shard, empowered by actuality and the warp, had tricked them for millions upon millions of years. This was in an attempt to keep the C’tan distracted. But the Laughing God could not trick his own shards forever; the Deceiver knew what the Old Ones [first and forever ancient. Worship them!] had done. But what was more; Mephet’ran knew when and where they had performed this act.

The conference lasted for millennia, but the time passed in only a year of subjective time. In that time the C’tan endlessly argued and discussed their schemes; some fought each other, and consumed their fellow shards in order to gain more complete mental faculties. Eventually, they reached a consensus; the opportunity would occur on the seventh year after the five Golems of the Anathema made their climactic war upon the Draziin-maton never-borns. At that time, the Lord of Compassion and His cronies would at last find the Well of Eternity.

And when He did, the C’tan would be there to murder Him, and take the prize for themselves.

Orikan had seen it, and he was never wrong...

... Or so the Star Vampires believed...

Additional Background Section 35: The Last Chance; The Drazak Raid[edit]

The Bone Kingdom was aptly named, for it was an ancient city literally submerged beneath layers upon layers of dry, dessicated bones, picked clean of flesh. This ossified desert was almost a mile deep, burying all but the tallest pyramids and tombs that erupted from the tomb world’s surface.

There, upon those fields, was a legacy of murder and mindless bloodletting stretching back millions upon millions of years. This was where the flayed ones, the miscreant progeny of Llandu’gor, made their lair. The flayed ones were mad necrons, who had modified themselves for the purpose of flensing flesh, and modified their skeletal heads with snapping jaws, to rip off chunks of meat they could never eat. They were compelled to drape flesh over their bodies, as if desperately trying to regain their stolen physical forms. Only automated systems could reliably control their tomb fleets and technology, for every other necron upon that blasted nightmare realm was utterly, irrevocably, insane. For light-years around the world, there were worlds depopulated by the flayers, seemingly isolating the flayers form the greater events of the Second Age of Strife and all that came later. These necrons were nothing but predators, and it didn’t matter to them who or what they killed.

No one could invade the planet and hope to be victorious. Those who somehow bested the orbiting harvester fleet of Valgul the Fallen Lord would find nothing to capture or occupy upon Drazak itself. They would land and be consumed by wave upon wave of silver berserkers, glistening red with fresh blood. No matter how many shots you fired, they flayers would eventually reach your lines, and reap a terrible toll upon you. Orbital bombardment was futile, for what was there upon the surface for the enemy to destroy? Bones, or perhaps one could burn off the air which the flayers did not need? This was known to all sides in the Age of Dusk. It was suicide to invade the flayer’s realm.

Ahriman knew this also, when he took Crolomere, the grey sensei, to this damned place. The warp around Drazak was always churning; ironically, the massive numbers of mortal deaths on the surface greatly fed Khorne and the rest of the expanding Pantheon of the primordial annihilator. This made ordinary warp flight into the realm incredibly difficult. However, Ahriman was a master of the warp now, a genius on a par with his former master Magnus. He guided his great black cube through the warp’s turbulent tides with ease. All the while, he tortured Crolomere.

The woman was a perpetual; an immortal and one who possessed the blood of the Anathema in her veins; the same blood which flowed through the first perpetual shamans, at the dawn of mankind. But she had abandoned her fellow perpetual long ago, and she had taken upon her the mantle of one of the Grey, foes of chaos and Imperium alike. Ahriman could never corrupt her soul to chaos, but he had managed to deceiver her mind long ago into aiding him. It is claimed she knew Ahzek Ahriman before even the mythical Horus Heresy and had been heart-broken at his betrayal by the Wolves. This made her more willing to believe his lies of being repentant and contrite in the Second Age of Strife and beyond.

However, when he had seized power in the Theologian Union, and had created the Golarch abominations and had begun to expand his Rubric to consume new victims in its magical bindings, she instantly recognised that Ahriman was no changed man. He desired to be a god; more than a mere daemon prince, Ahriman wished to be a daemon Primarch. Nay, he desired to copy the Emperor’s works and thus become a new power within the pantheons itself. But Crolomere’s ancient eyes saw that he was merely a pawn of Tzeentch, as he had ever been, and Tzeentch itself was the architect of a new power’s rise; a power which embodied all the endless depths of madness, of which the chaos gods were simply the first part. She likened the chaos gods to the fins of a shark, protruding from the opaque surface of a black river; to anyone observing the fins, they seemed like several independent creatures, moving together but distinctly separate. But to those who could see beyond the surface, they would see the full body of the shark, and realise how impossibly large and dangerous it was. That was how she perceived the Deep Warp and the Draziin-maton.

She sabotaged one of Ahriman’s experiments, and had stolen a ship and attempted to flee from his Realm. But he had caught her, and took his time in tormenting her. She could not die (save if her soul was obliterated), but Ahriman could harm her greatly. Never once did he raise his voice as he subjected her to his secret torments, and she whimpered in sorrowful agony as Fabius Bile was unleashed upon her flesh over and over and over again. But she always healed, and she refused to tell Ahriman what she had done to ruin his experiment. Thus, he decided to banish her, to the worst place he could conceive of for one with latent psychic empathetic psychic powers and the ability to suffer an eternity of being flayed and ripped asunder; Drazak the Bone Kingdom.

He slipped past the defences of Drazak, and cast Crolomere to the surface, before he and his cube simply dissolved into the warp, returning almost instantly to his unassailable empire. She was stranded amidst a cauldron of churning misery. She witnessed weeping infants peeled by the flayed ones, and saw entire generations of xenos and human races butchered in mindless orgies of cacophonous death. She could do nothing to save these people, or their souls. She hid herself amidst the cathedrals of bones and she wept for them. Her heart was broken. No one could save her, because to do so, one would have to invade Drazak, and only the mad or the doomed would attempt such a thing...

... Or so she thought.

Six years into her ordeal, Drazak received visitors. This was unprecedented; no one came to them, for flesh bound races would surely be slain, and necrons did not visit, for fear of contracting the flayer virus.

The ships were human; medium sized freighters and merchant shipping vessels, old and decrepit. Perhaps they were a human convoy, blown off course by warp tides, and stranded in the worst possible place? Or maybe they were foolish explorers, eager to become famous? Either way, this handful of ships seemed doomed, as the flayed one fleet descended upon them. What scant defences the ships had were disabled within minutes. The ships only managed, collectively, to launch a single torpedo, which missed the necrons entirely, and spiralled off towards the inner system, and the dead worlds and dying sun that had residence there...

Minutes after that, the necrons carved their way inside the vessels, and swarmed inside, hungry for flesh and blood, their desire for real bodies manifesting as a cannibalistic urge to eat. They shredded meat with their long clawed limbs, and ripped servitors apart with casual ease. So consumed with madness were the flayed ones, that they did not realise the ships were almost entirely manned by servitors, or that the few truly living beings on board had barricaded themselves around the warp engines. I could find no record of the names of these men, but they must have been devoted to their cause. They stubbornly held off the waves of flayers for about an hour. This was just enough time for each of the ten ships to trigger warp core breaches. As each vessel imploded, they took with them scores of necron ships, and millions of flayed ones.

Soon after, another wave of ships broke from the warp. Unlike their predecessors, these vessels did not slow down as they entered the system; they flared their plasma reactors to capacity, their crews offering silent prayers to the Five Brothers and the Emperor Revenant, or whatever other deities these doomed souls prayed to. All ahead full, this fleet of old and outmoded vessels surged. Within a few minutes, they reached a significant fraction of c. The necron vessels were faster, but their automated systems were still reeling from the initial assault. Only a handful of alien ships managed to reach the speeding vessels. Half of the human ships were blasted asunder by powerful arcs of azure energy, while others ploughed into the orbital defence platforms of Drazak, even as they roused themselves to activity and blasted another dozen foes apart. However, all of this occurred within less than three seconds, such was the unfathomable speed these ships were travelling. Even those ships destroyed by the necrons couldn’t hope to arrest their momentum, or the unbelievable kinetic energy unleashed by their reckless manoeuvre. Ships were turned to clouds of plasma and glittering metal wreckage, which all struck the necron ships and defences at roughly 0.6c. The effect would have been spectacular; like a new sun rising a few million miles above Drazak’s necropolis surface.

One ship, amidst the searing chaos of the naval ram raid, did not destroy itself in explosive fashion. A solitary Luna class cruiser, the Triumph of Salazan, one of the most ancient and famous designs of vessel still maintained by the Imperium Pentus, used the bombardment to cover its advance, for the commander onboard had executed his plan perfectly, with the aid of naval advisors. It made an initial burn towards the centre of the system, but then the vessel let its own momentum carry it forwards. This minimised the energy signature of the ship and avoided the unwanted attention of the flayed ones. On the bridge of this vessel, Colonel Schaeffer stood by the Captain’s chair, watching the penitent fleet burning. A cigar was always smoking in his clenched teeth, and his semi-bionic form was unmoved by the sight of such death. Yet, for those who were unused to such carnage, it was a harrowing sight.

The Captain balked, expressing shock that so many people could perish so swiftly all at once. One of his helmsmen sneered.

“They were criminals and degenerates. It is no tragedy that they are destroyed.”

At this, the Colonel of the 13th Legion hoisted the helmsman from his chair, and drew his plasma pistol threateningly.

“Though scum in life they might have been, in death they find redemption, and sit at the Emperor’s side as Imperial heroes. You will not speak ill of the glorious dead again.”

It was a statement, not a request.

The remainder of the Thirteenth Penal Legion, all four thousand of them, were crammed into every available spare room or open space on the Triumph. All manner of scum made up this reformed regiment of the Imperium of Old. There were demented engineers skilled in illegal technological experiments. There were hundreds upon hundreds of penal colonists, armed by Vulkan’s smiths and trained by life times fighting for their very lives in the dark pits of prison. Salvar Chem Dogs spared destruction from the Necromundan war made their bunks beside captured prisoners of war too proud to swear fealty to the five Primarchs. Cults of redemption captured in the Theologian war readied their flamers for one last, glorious purge. Necromundan nobles, claiming to be children of the Illustrious, Infamous House of Jericho, found themselves slumming it besides mad men liberated from asylums across the Imperium Pentus. The journey was a long and violent one, as so many violent thugs in such cramped conditions was bound to create tensions. Only the mercilessness of Sister Agravain and her hastily-assembled force of former commissars and ex-Arbites, kept a semblance of peace, by beating any dissenting figures and keeping the ‘Last Chancers’ away from the crew sections of the ship.

There were only two figures in this army who remained unmolested by either their boisterous fellows or Agravain’s goons. One was a figure infamous for being the closest thing to a friend the colonel still had in the galaxy; a knife-wielding figure known only as Kage. Rumour had it, he had freed his soul from the clutches of a daemon long ago, while others claim he merely made a pact with it to spare his worthless carcass from the warp’s fires. The second figure was unusual, in that he was not a mortal at all. He was an Astartes; his armour stripped of paint and all chapter markings removed. This strange figure kept to himself, in a lightless, sparse cell at the aft section of the Triumph. No one dared disturb this superhuman, until the time came for battle. And even then, only Schaeffer had the sheer adamantine balls to do so.

After several weeks of tense, silent running through the newborn debris fields of Drazak, the Triumph was close enough to deploy its attack craft. Its old compliments of fighters and bombers had been stripped out, in favour of flight upon flight of modified thunderhawks, enough to transport the entire Penal Legion to the surface. Once the Triumph was roughly twelve thousand kilometres from the atmosphere of Drazak, it suddenly flared back into life and launched a furious salvo of macro cannons, plasma bolts, and lance strikes, directly towards the surface of Drazak, followed soon after by a mighty swarm of Thunderhawk gunships. Once it had delivered its cargo, the chase was on, and the Triumph fled from rapid necron naval retaliation. It was up to the Last Chancers now.

The descent to Drazak was like a descent into hell itself. The clouds churned with green grave-light, and the scuttling silver of canoptek scarab swarms. Dozens of thunderhawks perished as their squadrons made for the surface as swiftly as they could. Dozens more were destroyed by opportunistic tomb blade fighters or linked pylon gauss weapons, or the living lightning of the few land-based defences not destroyed by Triumph’s first orbital salvoes. Though hundreds died, thousands still got through the aerial death trap. They were rewarded with a clear view of the ossified nightmare of Drazak’s continental bone fields, stretching as far as the eye could see, illuminated only by the dull red light of a dying star. Almost straight away, flayed ones began to shimmer into existence, on the very wings of the thunderhawks themselves, scratching and tearing at the adamantine hulls with mindless fury. The guns of the hawks blazed red hot through constant firing, as they fought to destroy the necron attackers, and even so, fifty more spacecraft corkscrewed burning from the sky, to destroy themselves on the bone yard far below.

Yet still, onwards they flew. Crolomere, the only living soul amidst the necropolis, was not hard for the Penal legions psykers to locate, and they made all haste towards the outcrop of sundered ruins that she had hidden herself. The thunderhawks landed, forming a rough perimeter using void shield pylons and the hulls of damaged thunderhawks as barriers against the incursion of the flayed ones.

The necrons, unlike their more sane fellow androids, attacked the Thirteenth Legion in waves, millions strong. They had no ranged weapons, but with such numbers of deathless killing machines, they almost didn’t need them. Schaeffer led the Penal legion gun lines from the front, bellowing orders as his plasma pistol blazed in the haunting half-light of Drazak. Lascannons, autoguns, missiles and mortar shells repeatedly scythed down hundreds upon hundreds of the psychotic flayed ones, but still more foes clambered into the fray behind them, and most of those who fell simply rose again, pulling their shattered limbs back together carefully, with the calm precision of a clock smith.

As the colonel fought on the surface, Agravaine and Kage led forces into the smashed catacombs beneath the ruins they occupied, searching for Crolomere. In these depths, wraiths and scarabs crawled through the very walls to attack them at every turn. It was close quarters carnage. Demented knife men and convicts clashed in the darkness with blade-limbed nightmares from the dawn of time that parted flesh and armour alike with equal, disdainful precision. Terror gripped many of these criminals, but they were trapped in the dark and only fighting the enemy would ensure they could escape. These were hard men and women, who had fought all their lives to avoid the death by their fellow prisoners or the hangman’s noose; they were frenziedly determined not to die in this foul underworld.

Kage was the first one to smash his way into the old armoury of the crashed ship that formed the heart of the ruined complex. Inside, he found a woman, bloody and sobbing. Her flesh was covered in bloody gashes, and her eyes were red raw with bitter tears. Even an immortal like her could only take so much punishment before her body began to fail, and she seemed close to a true and lasting death. She hadn’t long and she could no longer walk unaided. Thus, Kage determined to carry her back to the surface. It was said that when Kage lifted her from her gory resting place, her eyes briefly looked into his, and she whispered ‘Illuminatus’, much to Kage’s confusion, before passing into unconsciousness. With that, Kage and Agravaine desperately fought their way back the way they came, clambering over the many corpses of former allies. These bodies were piled five men deep in some places, faces ripped off and bellies slit open like abattoir fodder.

Meanwhile, the surface battle had become a desperate, hopeless affair. The Flayed ones had burrowed beneath the forcefield pylons, and had destroyed them one after another, before swarming into close quarters with the Penal Legionnaires. Fires raged all around, as the soldiers and their few remaining military vehicles fired at near point blank range at the terrible silver phantoms, clothed in the still-wet skin of their fellow soldiers. But if the Flayed ones thought they might break, they were wrong. The necrons never did fully understand the psyche of humans, and in particular the psyche of those of the criminally insane. Both sides fought with animal ferocity. When lasguns were spent, they were thrown into the fires raging all around, and their owners leapt into combat with knives and pistols, clubs and even crew suicide weapons built from demolition charges draped over their fists. The few survivors would then snatch up the lasguns form the fires, and unleash the last remaining las volleys upon their murderers.

The Colonel was unfazed by the insane carnage raging around him. He fired his pistol into close combat without a second thought, his power sword also flashing relentlessly as it carved apart his foes. He was almost as much metal as the necrons he battled, but his machinery could not repair itself as readily, but this would not stop him. As a deep and terrible night descended, the fiery battle continued to rage. Kage and Agravaine eventually reached the surface, alone save for the prone sensei. Agravaine formed a rearguard to Kage, blazing away with her bolter at the pursuing canoptek constructs. Escape from one hellhole led only to another; out of the frying pan, into the fire. Kage cursed as he stumbled into the chaotic battle with the flayed ones, hellpistol drawn in his one free hand.

The Lieutenant instantly began to make for the one Thunderhawk left undamaged by the anarchy engulfing the ruined starship. He and Agravaine didn’t even spare a backward glance towards Schaeffer and the few hundred surviving Last Chancers dying behind them (one must remind oneself that these two were not good people, even though their heroic actions may sometimes fool us).

However, before they could reach the Thunderhawk’s ramp with their prize, their hopes were dashed. A flayed one, larger and more ornate than any they had yet witnessed, emerged from the shattered bones between them and their craft. Valgul; the lord of the flayers himself. The towering silver figure had perfectly articulated claws and fangs, and its eyes glowed with a terrible green fire. Blood stained the creature’s fine ornamentation, and desiccated skins were stitched across its shoulders like some madman’s cloak.

Kage fired his hellpistol, but the las weapon’s wounds healed almost as soon as his mag was spent. Agravaine also squeezed the trigger of her bolter, but the weapon clicked empty. The flayer lord said nothing as it charged the short distance between them. Kage’s face set in cold resignation, and Agravaine’s jaw clenched in reflexive fear. Death came for them.

It came as a shock to both of them when the flayed one was smashed aside by a great, grey mass of ceramite. The Overlord was sent sprawling for a moment. Kage’s savior rose first, his unpainted armour pitted and scarred by many blows. The towering Astartes rolled his shoulders, keeping his eyes at all times upon the rising Necron killer.

“Depart with her, and redeem us all,” the space marine rumbled, his voice rendered inhuman by his helmet’s snarling grille. Kage and Agravaine didn’t need to be told twice, and virtually sprinted to the Thunderhawk with all haste.

“I shall spill your blood and flay your flesh. You shall be deboned and your body will be peeled,” Valgul explained to the Astartes callously, as his claws began to crackle with energy.

“Your bloodlust is but the shadow of a memory,” the Astartes growled, as he began to draw his melee weapons from their sheaths. “I have known true berserkers, former brothers; men with true mortal lust for death and the flesh of their foes. And you, xenos, are a pale facsimile,” he snarled, grinning beneath his helm, as the implants at the bas eof his neck filled his mind with nothing but the white noise of mindless wrath.

The Astartes revved his twin chainaxes as he charged into battle with the Lord of the Flayed Ones. It took several minutes to start the thunderhawk’s engines, and Kage desperately watched the epic clash of demi-gods from afar as he waited for the ship to power up. They had to escape Drazak this evening and every single second counted.

Schaeffer eventually found himself stood atop a pile of corpses; his own soldiers, dead all around him. Every one of them had died with a weapon in his hands, and everyone was thus saved from damnation in the Colonel’s mind. There was only one sinner left, he noted as he fought on against the encircling foe. His pistol arm had been severed, and he had been burnt, disembowelled and most of his remaining skin had been ripped off. Yet still he stood, hacking and slashing apart foe after foe with his glittering powersword. He even continued to cut down his foes after the sword’s power supply had been severed, leaving it just a sharp, sparking length of adamantine. Soon, even this was shattered, and he continued to punch ineffectually at his enemy as they bore him to the ground, impaling him over and over again with energised claws.

Valgul and the repentant World Eater fought like legends from the lost millennia. The Astartes bled from scores of wounds, but shedding his own blood simply sent him into a deeper frenzy of blows. His axes carved deep wounds into the living metal skeleton of Valgul, and his blows never stopped falling against the necron. No matter how many wounds Valgul inflicted, the Astartes would not fall, just as Valgul’s reanimation protocols prevented him from collapsing under the weight of so many furious, powerful strikes. As they wrestled through the bones like wild terrors, kage and Agravaine’s thunderhawk at last began to rise, banking and deftly soaring between the arcing energy lashes of the necron defence grid.

Schaeffer, broken and bleeding upon a mound of the dead, looked up to the early morning sky, and saw the hawk rising, leaving contrails in its wake. He could not talk, for his lungs and mouth were full of blood, but he did grin, for perhaps the first time in living memory, the colonel of the thirteenth grinned with genuine happiness. Soon, Valgul appeared before him. The Overlord was a sundered ruin, his head cloven half in two, his broken mechanics sparking and ruined beyond even his reanimation protocols could repair. Nevertheless, the Lord was still very much alive, and he gently pressed his metal foot onto Schaeffer’s chest, making the ancient human to wince in agony. Hatefully, the Colonel spat his still-lit cigar into the necron’s blank face. But when the necron pressed his foot harder into the Colonel’s chest, he did not wince, or scream or curse Valgul. He simply smiled, his eyes fixed upon the rising sun. The sunrise was bright, brighter than it had been in Drazak’s entire history. Valgul watched in confusion as the human flesh beneath him began to blacken and burn. Likewise, all the flesh draped over his fellow flayed ones was burning and melting before his eyes. It was then that Valgul realised what had happened, and turned towards the rising sun, that loomed vast and white in the sky.

That one torpedo, the stray torpedo his fleet had not troubled themselves with destroying in the opening few minutes of the initial naval battle, had reached Drazak’s dying star. Ordinarily, that would have meant nothing, but that torpedo bore no simple plasma warhead.

It was a nova bomb.

In orbit, the triumph received a single thunderhawk, and instantly made its way towards the edge of the system. Behind them, Drazak’s star was going supernova, not merely nova. They had barely ten minutes to reach the translation point before the radiation of the explosion crossed the void and reached them. The necron fleet was rushing towards the nova. Perhaps they were attempting to quell the nova using their miraculous science? We shall never know, for all history remembers is that, on that day, as the Triumph made an emergency warp jump inside a planetary system, Drazak the bone kingdom, and all the planets and ships still inside the system, were consumed by a colossal supernova, which, after seven years, expanded to depopulate many neighbouring lightyears of space. At a stroke, the flayed ones were almost entirely wiped out by the most powerful natural force in the entire universe.

However, all was not well aboard the retreating Triumph of Salazan. For, just before they had translated into the warp, a pack of desperate flayed ones had teleported on board, just as the triumph had lowered its shields to allow Kage’s ship to dock. In the warp, isolated from any help, the crew of the Triumph were easy prey. The flayed ones stalked the corridors like ghouls, ripping apart crew members and any armsmen who attempted to hunt them down. They left gory, skinless corpses as the only mark of their passing. Desperate and terrified, the crew attempted to barricade themselves in various fortified areas of the ship, and hold out the storm of carnage throughout heir ship. Crolomere was only just recovering, as this new horror befell them. She could feel the warp churning with hungry daemons, like sharks around a boat spilling fresh blood behind them.

The low calibre weaponry of the naval security forces were in no way adequate in taking on reanimating necrons, for even the mighty shotcannons were insufficient to permanently put down a fully-powered necron android. In the first few days of warp travel, almost half the crew were dead, left to their own defence by the captain’s armed forces, who focussed on protecting the navigator and the warp engine block.

It seemed as if the Triumph would die an ignominious end, slain with pathetic ease by the remnants of their vanquished foe. However, the beleaguered Luna class cruiser had one weapon left in its arsenal; Crolomere the Grey. She was healed, and she had a plan. She escaped the infirmary, moments before it was overrun by flayed ones, and made her way to Kage’s quarters. Eventually, she had gathered together Kage, Agravaine and some of the surviving crew; men in tattered rags, desperately following whoever looked like they knew what they were doing. Together, Crolomere explained her audacious plan to them all.

She, Kage and the crewmen made their way towards the bridge, making as much noise and commotion as possible. Her intention was to draw the flayed ones towards them, and it worked horrifically well. Within an hour, the flayed ones could be heard approaching, metal clattering against metal as they ran through corridors and scuttled through vents to find their quarry. Meanwhile, Agravaine made her way towards the aft sections of the ship, fighting her way through any misguided defenses the paranoid crew had erected to prevent anyone from passing. She didn’t think twice about murdering the crew in her way; she was a psychopath, without the burden of empathy that afflicted her fellow, lesser humans. She eventually reached her destination, and pressed her bolter to the Magos’ temple.

“Do exactly as I say,” she purred. “Or you might be meeting your Omnissiah sooner than you would like.”

The flayed ones were fast and lethally efficient in their killing, and Crolomere had lost half of her allies after barely ten minutes of battle. Eventually, the survivors made a last stand in one of the ship’s mess halls. They made makeshift barricades with the long benches and tables inside, and engaged the flayed ones with the few autoguns, shotguns and handcannons the crewmen had been able to salvage from their dead comrades. It was not nearly enough. The necrons shredded the crew like blind cattle. Their feeble weapons barely even scratched the undying abominations that eagerly skinned them alive for their trouble. Kage’s stolen shotgun was soon spent, and he instead drew his inferno pistol, and began to fire at the surrounding monsters, backing away towards Crolomere, who likewise emptied a magazine of her bolt pistol into the undead aliens.

“Hold me. Close,” Crolomere panted to Kage.

The convict almost laughed, thinking she was scared and looking for his comfort. “When your plan goes down, we’re dead. I’m no comfort to you, I promise you.”

However, when he looked into her eyes, he realized she was not scared, but was coldly determined, her will like Iron. Her plea was not a request, but an order. He had only seen eyes like that once before, on old Schaeffer himself. Kage did as he was told, and she hugged him close to her chest. The flayed ones closed in.

“Agravaine! Now!” Crolomere yelled into her vox.

For roughly five point seven seconds, Agravaine had coerced the magos controlling the ships Gellar field, to lower the shield, before raising it again. In that moment, a veritable avalanche of warp entities flooded the ship; a billion monsters drawn to the Triumph by the slaughter of the flayed ones. The necrons recoiled, as they felt the flayed skin draped over their shoulders begin to writhe with unnatural life. The flesh coiled and constricted, mutating as it flowed like wax into new and obscene forms. The androids screeched with their rasping, artificial voices, but to the horror of Kage, their machine voices morphed into real voices. Their living metal was flooded with horns and tendrils, rippling with newborn nightmares that burst and crawled across their glossy surfaces. He watched the machines regain their souls, only for them to be devoured and shredded all over again. Even kage, the hardened criminal, turned from this horrific sight, and buried his face into Crolomere’s shoulders.

The warp and all its madness washed through the ship, destroying hundreds of the crew, and driving even more of them utterly mad. Yet, the tide of damnation was all flooding in the same direction; towards the sensei. The warp churned around her like a great whirlpool. She was the becalmed heart at the centre of the storm, the eye of the hurricane. Daemons rushed to consume her, and were rebuffed by her raw power. She called upon all her powers. She was grey no longer, as she silently screamed out to her father and his power, infused in her blood, was unleashed.

The Gellar field reactivated, and the daemons, cut off from their power, dissolved and withered in Crolomere’s presence. She released Kage, who stumbled backwards onto his rump. For a few moments, he was dumbstruck as he beheld Crolomere. She shone golden as the dawning of Sol, for an instant before the shimmering halo of power dissipated. Power spent, she collapsed.

Several months later, the Triumph broke into realspace, on the edge of the Armageddon system. The ship was battered, ravaged by huge claws marks, and part of the hull seemed to have fused with a fungal warp entity. Inside, almost the entire crew were dead; the few survivors were gibbering lunatics, running naked through the haunted corridors. These men were put out of their misery by the Steel legion rescue teams sent in to investigate the wreck. However, locked inside the navigator’s chamber, the team found the navigator, alongside Crolomere, Kage and the now-lifeless Agravaine. They were sane and quite alive.

I must confess, as I write this tome, I search my study for further histories about this event. There are none. No legends or epic poems were written about these unsung heroes, and the Imperium kept no records of this black ops event after it had returned successful. To the wider galaxy, the Last war of the Thirteenth was a merchant fleet, which had died with all hands during a freak warpstorm. However, now the truth is known. This was a pivotal battle for many reasons. Firstly, after returning to Armageddon, Crolomere was spirited away by the brethren of the Willing, to an audience with Vulkan and his advisors, to aid in the war against her former ally, Ahriman the Sorcerer. The second reason is less obvious at first. I only discovered it truly after we access the Black Library’s Cognate crystals, where the jumbled memory of all sentient life were stored haphazardly. The memories I accessed there, relating to Kage, were rather revealing.

Kage was given his freedom at long last, but the borderline madman found himself lost, cut adrift in a world he no longer recognised. The past is a foreign land, some scholars claim, but the future is just as alien. Kage was a man out of time and recognised nothing. He had been given a monetary reward for his efforts on Drazak, but no recognition by the general populace. He was merely a violent ex-soldier to the Imperium. He could get no work in the Steel Legion, and he had no skills that he could turn to peaceful work, beyond becoming a labourer. Instead of this drudgery, he turned to drink, frequenting various bars across Armageddon’s cities, recounting tales of when he killed the rogue Governor of Armageddon when the world was still a toxic hellhole. He became some forgotten, drunken derelict, feared and detested by the common man.

However, one night, when he was at his lowest, he was visited at his table by an odd gentleman. This man was youthful, but his eyes were ancient. His coat was multi-coloured, and Kage found he could not follow the swirling colours, but dismissed that as his own bleary vision playing tricks on him. The man was accompanied by a tall, slender figure; a bipedal machine, which stood attentively at his master’s side like a butler. The mysterious man smiled warmly as he sat down opposite the bearded vagabond Kage, setting a book down on the table, just to his side.

“Hello Lieutenant,” the man began, catching Kage’s attention almost instantly. “My name is Bronislaw. We’ve been looking for you for quite a while now.”

“Why?” Kage said bitterly.

“You were possessed.”

Kage said nothing, glaring at the colourful man threateningly.

The man continued. “Of course, many people are possessed. However, very few manage to toss their unwanted lodger back out again. The Exorcist marines managed it, and the Illuminati, but they are out of our reach presently. But you did it alone; a mortal man, alone against the might of a daemon, and succeeding. That is very interesting to us. To the Throne.”

The last sentence was spoken quietly. Kage grinned at the man spitefully.

“The Emperor is dead, friend. What millennia are you living in?” Kage laughed mirthlessly.

“M56 I believe... or is it M55?” the man chuckled. As Kage got up to leave, the machine man placed a hand on his shoulder, urging him to sit down again with silent insistence. He did so.

“I think you know that isn’t true my friend; what you said about Him I mean,” the stranger clarified, like a scholar chiding a wayward student. “You felt her power, firsthand, didn’t you?”

Kage said nothing. He didn’t need to.

Bronislaw nodded. “You tried to rationalise it as her being a latent psyker, but you’ve felt psykers before. You’ve felt daemons before too, closer than most mortals could dream of. She’s neither. Her blood is His, and if she still possessed power, then he is not dead.”

Kage considered this, and the revelation nearly floored him. He had never been particularly pious, but this was different. So much different.

He took a moment to respond, wetting his dry lips and running a hand through his scraggly beard. “What... what do you want with me?”

Bronislaw smiled, his expression full of expression and excitement. “You have a strong will; possibly one of the strongest in a normal human. We need men like you, where we are going.”

“And where are you going?”

After hearing this question, Bronislaw Czevak opened the book on the table, and then he told former Lieutenant Kage their destination.

Additional Background Section 36: The Solemnace Galleries[edit]

For well over twenty thousand years, the world of Pax Argentius had been a dead world; not only a lifeless world, but a world centered upon death and its remembrance. It was a silent cemetery, carved from lifeless bedrock. Catacombs and graves, dedicated to every single Silver Skulls Chapter Master to bear the inherited name of Argentius were interred there, alongside their most loyal serfs. It was a solemn and near-silent place and the few sounds that permeated the quiet were the hum of shield generator pylons, built to ensure the planet remained forever pristine, and the turgid motion of the thin atmosphere captured by this force field.

However, following the Grand Siege of Varsavia and the death of the last Argentius, this silence was to be disturbed.

(The following narrative account has been created through cultivating numerous memory crystals from the Black Library, combined with what few eye witness accounts survive into antiquity and were stored in libraries I had access to. I have attempted to avoid embellishment, but as ever, with incomplete accounts, such things are inevitable. However, this account is easily the most complete account on this matter.)

The strike cruiser Lucianus carried Argentius’s body to Pax Argentius, for it was apparently the first ship he had commanded as a Captain, when he was still called Brother Luk’venner. This vessel was escorted by a large host of Silver Skulls vessels, but was also accompanied by another force. These vessels were green, and clad in stylized thorn-patterns, and sleek beyond the dreams of any human craftsman. These were Eldar vessels of the Biel-Tan alliance.

It had taken Eldrinoth the Farseer weeks of psychic debates with Chief Prognosticator Allaten, before the post human had consented to the Eldar landing upon the sacred ground of Pax Argentius, and soiling its earth with their perfidious forms. But Allaten had been convinced by the Eldar’s quest. The Eldar had rescued Varsavia from the Corsairs, and had given the Skulls the coordinates and time that Huron was going to be at his weakest. Letting them into the basilica of Ossified Argent was the least the Astartes could do to repay them.

Allaten led his honor guard, who bore Argentius’ body on a litter between their shoulders. Behind them, a small task force of Eldar, composed of rangers, guardians and a handful of Striking Scorpions, followed at a respectful distance. The Eldar understood the need for the dead to be respected; perhaps they knew this better than most. Though Argentius was a stranger to them, they had to stifle empathetic tears, conjured by their proximity to such raw, human grief.

Once Allaten reached the inner sanctum, he spoke the ancient words of remembrance and mourning, and he allowed the gene-vault to sample his blood to confirm his identity. With that, the vault opened, and the great spiraling casket-hold allowed them to enter, ushering the slender aliens to enter the tomb alongside them, before the doors sealed themselves once more. I have no records of what the funeral rites of Argentius entailed, but after this was concluded, the Eldar began their search. They examined every carved surface, and their minds slid from their bodies, to roam over the residual psychic imprints that formed the luminal architecture of the tomb.

As they searched, Allaten formed a rapport with one of the rangers, known as Myrinmar; this was mainly due to the fact that both of them were two hundred years old, born in the same year. Allaten considered this an omen, as did the Eldar female. Both the Silver Skulls and the Eldar were superstitious and cognizant of prophecies and their import.

Eventually, Eldrinoth and his warlocks located what they were looking for; a vast stone ring, half-buried in the carved structures of the planet’s inert crust. This ring was no ordinary sculpture of simple carving. It was a Dolmen Gate, one of the invasive gates designed by the Lord of Fire to invade the Webway, and form a network of tunnels independent of the Old Ones’ system. In the end, they were not fully successful, but nevertheless the Necrons still had an extensive grid of interlinking junctions in the Labyrinth dimension. Eldrinoth explained that this portal was hard-linked to one Tombworld in particular; Solemnace. This name meant nothing to Allaten, but the Eldar knew this realm well, for it was the location of the galleries of Trazyn the Infinite. Trazyn was a mad creature, a Necron by quirk of fate but quite unlike the rest of his species in cognition, if not appearance. He was a collector, not of mere artefacts, but of great swathes of living beings and their associated artefacts. Like some avaricious miser, this mad mechanical entity had spent eternity discreetly stealing people and creatures to turn into hard-light statues at the heart of his enslaved Tombworld. Unlike other Necrons, this one was capricious and prone to flights of whimsy. Myrinmar, an ancestor of Alaitoc stock, was greatly concerned about this destination, but she said nothing. She trusted the elderly Eldrinoth, even though the Necrons were her most bitter of antagonists.

Eldrinoth and his assistants activated the Dolmen Gate after weeks of arduous psychic labour. They intended, with Allaten’s aid, to steal something from Trazyn. Trazyn the Infinite’s realm held many treasures, stolen over millions of years of larceny. The most valuable artefact to the Eldar was the infamous Wraithbone Choir of Altansar. The choir had become a myth, and few knew what the Choir actually consisted of, but the seers of Biel-Tan felt, with all their hearts, that the Wraithbone Choir was essential to the continued existence of the galaxy. They had to retrieve it, no matter the cost.

Though skeptical of the Eldar's mission, Allaten had cast the runes upon Varsavia, and destiny had determined he would aid the xenos in this endeavor. The Dolmen Gate opened with a great rippling of color, shining with every shade conceivable to a mortal eye. Then, the portal between the ring of boundary stones seemed to fall away into a deep pit or tunnel, stretching beyond sight into a place unfathomably distant. Casting aside doubt, the allied force stepped through the gateway. The tunnel constantly groaned and sighed, flickering runes sliding around them like oil through water. They were flaring red, and they all felt a sympathetic pain gnawing at their heads. They felt the wrongness of the portal, and how it violated the Webway. The Labyrinth dimension itself was fighting to destroy the passageway, and its instability was a concern for the force that traveled its length. They quickened their pace, lest they be consumed by the aborted Dolmen route.

Both Allaten and Eldrinoth found that their powers of foresight and divination were stymied; something shrouded the future from their sight. Were they destined to die there, or was some malevolence working against them? They had no answers at that time.

Yet, eventually, they reached the other side, clambering upwards as if ascending from a pit they had fallen into. The Eldar and Astartes emerged into a grand hall of pristine living metal, with infinitely intricate patterns carved into it at a subatomic level. The Dolmen Gate was but one portal amongst hundreds that were set into the walls like mirrors, which reflected far distant realms within their shimmering depths. The place was cold as a tomb and almost as silent. The glittering scarabs that crawled along the walls barely seemed to notice the intruders. Some bleeped and hissed, glowing green, but they seemed content to watch the intruders and do nothing. However, even as the force of men and xenos spread out to begin the search, they felt the familiar, acrid tang of an invasion beam engulf them and whisk them from the portal chamber.

Suddenly, all around them, there was a ring of Necron Immortals, weapons held as if in mute salute. They were no longer in the portal chamber; they had been transported to some far corner of the great tomb complex, which, in contrast to the cold and dark portal chamber, was alive with sinister green corpse-light. At one end of this new hall, the walls formed a smooth, ornate throne, built in mockery of the austere thrones of human kings. Upon this throne sat a Necron Overlord, ribs a deep azure, swathed in a segmented cloak of living metal.

“Did you think you could simply stroll into my collection... unmolested?” the Necron asked. Its voice, while obviously artificial, sounded almost scholarly, as if the Overlord had an academic interest in the question it had asked.

Allaten and his men instantly reached for their weapons, but were transfixed in place; beams of energy from the vaulted ceiling struck their limbs and made them leaden. All vitality was drained from the Astartes, and they found themselves fixed into place, like living statues. The Eldar warlocks were also still, but this was out of choice. The other Eldar, confused, also raised their weapons, ready to attack the looming immortals. However, Eldrinoth stopped them with an impulse, his thin hand raised gently. “Hold your fire, my children. Everything is under control now.”

The Silver Skulls had been betrayed.

Trazyn rose from his throne swiftly, leaping down onto the hall’s floor like an excited child. He walked over to the Space Marines, and carefully examined them. “Adeptus Astartes, First Age Imperial armour. I had thought the Silver Skulls vanished. That would have been a tragedy,” Trazyn explained to no one in particular. Eventually, after Eldrinoth’s insistence, the Overlord returned to his throne, to hear the traitorous farseer out. As he sat down, the Astartes vanished; transported to another section of the archive.

“We have held up our side of the bargain; Silver Skulls of Imperial vintage. Now give us the choir, and let us be rid of each other,” Eldrinoth explained with distaste.

As they awaited the Necron’s response, Myrinmar cursed the farseer; even for a race as naturally duplicitous as the Eldar, making deals with the Necrons was simply one compromise too far. Eldrinoth ignored her as he patiently awaited Trazyn’s verdict.

Trazyn withheld his reply for several agonizing minutes, before his green eyes glowered once more upon the farseer.

“I am loathe to part with any elements of my collection, even if it is by trade. Yet... your offer is so intriguingly desperate, I was persuaded to honor our concordance,” Trazyn explained carefully. “Until, that is, I got offered a far better deal.”

Eldrinoth’s blood ran cold. “There is no better deal. You need us; if you betray us, we shall thwart your attempts to add anything further to your collections. We know where all the greatest artefacts of this universe are located. We would destroy the, and ruin any hope of your recovering them,” Eldrinoth hissed through clenched teeth.

“Your powers are much diminished of late, Eldar, if you think you have the power to control all the artefacts of the galaxy. Only Lorgar the Magnificent possesses such power.”

This third voice was wet and odious, with the crude cadence of a mon keigh beast. Eldrinoth sneered when he saw the ragged forms of cult soldiers of the Imperium of Travesties appear in the gallery above them, clad in all manner of strange and disgusting garments. Their leader, Prenterghast, grinned with a mouth too large for his skull, a blade of living bone oozing black foulness at his side.

Prenterghast’s master, the daemon Cherubael, had promised Trazyn much more than merely Astartes. He promised the Necron an entire Commandery, once the Imperium Pentum fell. In exchange, Trazyn need simply renege on his offer to the Eldar, and nullify their truce.

It was a simple choice, in the end.

The Eldar fired first, despite their shock, shredding dozens of Prenterghast’s minions, and striking down several Immortals, before they slowly rose to their feet once more. The warlocks unleashed an electrical storm upon the Lord of Solemnace, but his Lychguard interposed themselves between him and the warp energy. The return fire was lethal as it was brutally brief. Autoguns barked, as tesla carbines unleashed living lightning amidst the Eldar, who vainly sought to leap into cover. A Striking Scorpion managed to leap between the Lychguard, but was soon transfixed upon the end of Trazyn’s stave. The ancient weapon destroyed the mind of the Scorpion, and the mysterious power of the staff meant all the other Scorpion warriors fell to the ground moments later, their minds destroyed utterly.

Soon, Eldrinoth found he was standing alone, disarmed, surrounded by his many foes. But the old Eldar would not beg or cower before his enemies.

“What now, mirror-devil?” he spat hatefully. “Am I to become one of your exhibits?”

“Hmm? What? Oh no, I already have a farseer,” Trazyn replied dismissively, as if he hadn’t been paying attention to the Eldar’s defiant last words.

Before Eldrinoth could say another word, his fate was revealed violently, as he was stabbed in the back. In horror, the farseer watched as a great bony blade erupted from his chest, and shattered his soulstone in that same instant. “My blade is named Sesith’slethil, for she is home to a handmaiden of the Prince. Can you feel her hunger now, at the end, as she drinks your soul down in one gulp? Oh... She is Thirsty...” Prenterghast purred in Eldrinoth’s ear, as the ancient Eldar died the true death, an expression of horror etched upon his face.

This sorry tale might have ended right there, in the Infinite Hall of Trazyn, except for the fact not every Eldar perished in the skirmish. Myrinmar and her team bore shifting cloaks of a most fantastic camouflage. When the battle began, they slipped from the chamber in desperation, fighting the urge to aid their brothers in their final fight. But she knew she had to survive. Fate had linked her with the Prognosticator Allaten, and she knew that the only way to survive Solemnace rested with this mon keigh, wherever he might be.

Alaitoc rangers were skilled in hiding themselves from Necrons, for their craftworld had long been the nemesis of many a Necron Overlord. Myrinmar and her siblings were no different, and soon Trazyn himself had lost track of them within his endless galleries. However, Prenterghast’s daemon sword was Slanneshi, and she could taste the souls of the Eldar. Eager to be rid of unwanted additions to his collection, Trazyn allowed the human cultists to stalk the Eldar through Solemnace, and drive them into the open, where the Immortals and the Canoptek swarms would surely flay them.

Myrinmar, however, was cunning and she led the cultists on a winding chase through the labyrinth of exhibits and exhibitions Trazyn had carefully poised in countless dioramas and strange shapes. The rangers passed through frozen battlefields of strange xenoforms dueling, ancient human armies silently standing to attention for all eternity, and between strange devices that sparked and glittered and hummed in a wild perfusion of different actions. She passed by an empty plinth that had once held a giant in ornate armor. Later, she saw the head of a mon keigh priest-born writhing in a horrible mockery of life, held in mid-air by a glimmer-field. Every gallery, every collection, was unique. At first it was confusing for both sides, but soon, the rangers recognized each exhibit, and used them to aid in navigation. They constantly turned back upon their foes, taking pot shots at the rearguard, before dissolving back into the shadows. Yet, the Eldar took casualties, regardless of their cunning. Each time one of them fired, the Spyders were alerted, and they unleashed their interceptor machines, and that Eldar perished.

Myrinmar knew her days were numbered. She had not eaten in weeks, nor slept for more than a few scattered hours each day in that strange, permanently illuminated museum of curios and stolen mementos. Her long rifle was spent, and she stalked the dark with a Scorpion’s chainsword clutched to her chest. She knew she had only one hope of escaping Solemnace. Allaten had to be freed.

The brief moment of connection she had felt earlier between them was only a minor psychic impulse; barely a single, flickering ribbon of ethereal energy. But she held onto that, and used it to guide her towards the Silver Skulls exhibit. The exhibit was fifty meters square; depicting a battle between the Skulls and the Red Corsairs, locked in some sort of recreated naval boarding action. The plaque beneath it read ‘Gildar Rift’ in Necron glyphs, but the name meant little to the Eldar. With the discordant shrieking of Prenterghast’s cultists echoing as they closed in on her surviving rangers, she reached into the hard-light tableau, and her mind joined with that of the Astartes witch-knight. At first, there was nothing but white-hot rage seething in the mind of Allaten, but as the link deepened, he learned of Myrinmar’s innocence, and her desperate need of his help. Slowly but surely, she drew the human’s mind to the fore of his immobile form.

The cultists fell upon them like mad savages. They rangers were skilled, but even the most adept combatant could fall to superior numbers, and fall they did. Myrinmar found herself alone again, her blade purring as it carved apart foe after foe, her fusion blaster immolating any who escaped her fell sword. However, Prenterghast was no mere human; he was empowered by his wicked Slanneshi blade, and it carved burning trails through the air as it swept towards her, again and again. Soon enough, Myrinmar's chainsword lay bisected at her feet. Prenterghast was ready, hungry to drink the ranger’s soul. His mouth opened wider than a human was capable. His men closed in all around her. They raised their autoguns, and fired.

Their bullets struck ceramite pauldrons and armored greaves harmlessly, as Allaten interposed himself between Myrinmar and the cultists. His mind had been set free, and the first thing it had done was cast a machine curse upon the hard light prison which held him. Soon enough, he and his honor guard were free, and they murdered the mortals who sought to destroy them. Only Prenterghast escaped; his sword shattered over Allaten’s knee, and his face shredded by shrapnel. The Skulls’ easy victory was cut short by a hail of bolter fire from behind them. Five Corsairs had been freed from stasis too, and they knew only to murder. This skirmish was far more brutal and bloody for both sides, but was equally brief. At its close, Allaten’s men had been reduced to four, and the corsairs were destroyed, burnt to ashes by Allaten’s furious force bolts.

“Disrupting the hard-light emitters frees both sides,” he nodded coldly.

When Allaten explained how he had cursed the Necron machinery, Myrinmar had but one question for the Space marine.

“Can you do it again?” she smiled.

The battle with Prenterghast alerted Trazyn’s automatons and Immortals to the location of his foes, and the alien allies found themselves fighting off tides of scarabs and hundreds of lumbering silver killers. However, Trazyn had not considered that Myrinmar and Allaten would be so uncultured, so base and vulgar as to remove his display pieces from their hard light packaging.

Allaten released everything he could. Ambulls and clawed fiends howled in animalistic fury as they ripped through the galleries. Hellions and furies wheeled overhead, ripping at cables, dueling each other in the air and shrieking in glee. The halls shook with the footfalls of a squiggoth, the caustic cracking of Imperial lasgun fire, and the deafening challenges of Kroot war parties and Groevian shredders. Trazyn’s menagerie had never been awoken all at once, and the effect was... utter carnage. They fought with the Necrons as much as each other. Spiraling missiles shattered against hard Necron bodies, blood flowed in streams down wide boulevards, and all the name plates were buckled and ruined by sudden, violent conflict.

It is said, as Trazyn witnessed this chaos, he screamed, declaring everything was ‘out of place’ and ‘spoiled’.

Amidst this colossal clash of divergent forces, non-combatant exhibits fled in all directions, weeping, hooting or cowering. Jokaero built force fields around themselves instinctively, and weapon impacts bounced crazily from these fields, striking other combatants at random. Orks bellowed for waaaaagh, while nephilim ripped off portions of their towering forms and made serfs of whoever they ensnared. Tyranids, preserved examples of their kind from millennia past, were awoken, and began to do what they were bred for; they killed. Gaunt packs dragged down Krieg soldiers, while a Harridan ripped the throat from a squiggoth, which crushed a dozen Spyders beneath its scaly bulk as it fell. Some forces retained a semblance of order, like dense islands of sanity carefully dispatching disruptive elements. A battalion of Mordians formed a tight square, presenting a hedge of steel as they fired over and over into the baying mobs of aliens and traitors and cyborgs that scrambled and clawed at them. Elsewhere, a company of white-armored Astartes in vintage plate fought with fluid grace and brutal, efficient force; bolter and knife defeated what arcane science and monstrous maws could not.

It would be hollow on my part to attempt to depict every furious skirmish that raged amidst this rout, but suffice to say the Necrons were taken aback by this turn of events, and it took their programming a while to react to this rapidly developing situation.

Even Allaten wasn’t prepared for the sheer madness he had unleashed, and he sprinted between dozens of running battles with a sure-footedness he did not feel in his heart. Myrinmar seemed to know the way better than he, but in the end, he followed her simply because he had no other sane reference point. They picked up stragglers along the way; confused former exhibits roaming the blood-soaked galleries in stupefied wonder and awful dread. One such figure would be known to history as Julius Hawke.

But as they traveled through the murderous melee raging on every level of the complex, their numbers were thinned; stray shots killed the unwary and lucky blows made some fall behind and become lost. Eventually, only the three remained, and things were getting desperate. Myrinmar insisted that they search for the Altansar Wraithbone Choir; their ordeal could not be for nothing. Desperately, they clambered up library shelves fifty meters tall, leaping between stacks with as much agility as they could muster. Below, a phalanx of Necrons began to march, gauss beams slashing a path forwards with relentless purpose. Trazyn was in no mood to play games now. They had mere minutes before Trazyn’s forces carved their way through his collection, and reached them.

Myrinmar eventually reached the Eldar section of the gallery, and frantically gathered all the artefacts, totems and jewels she could find. She did not know what to look for, or indeed what a Wraithbone Choir even was; only Eldrinoth had known what to look for, and he was dead. More than dead; he was banished to hell. Allaten helped in the search, and as he searched, he found something he did not expect. A sword, vast and flawless, lay before him. It shrank to fit the scale of the Librarian’s hand, as if it desired that he liberate it from Trazyn’s prison. Allaten had no idea what the Anathame was, nor that it was also known as the Blade of Midnight. All he knew was that he needed a sword.

Suddenly, a Spyder burst into view. Without thinking, Allaten unleashed a bolt of lightning from his outstretched palm. This merely slowed the towering machine, and its claws narrowly missed his exposed head. Hawke fired with a stolen hellgun, but the fat ruby sparks didn’t even give the mechanical abomination pause. However, when a slender giant of bright yellow Wraithbone leaped from its hard-light prison, and punched its three-meter blade through the Spyder’s glowing power orb, the Spyder noticed. It flailed frantically at the wraithlord, but to no avail. With a solemn twist of its scimitar sword, the wraith dispatched its foe, saluted awkwardly, before it leapt off the shelf stack, into the swirling, demented melee below.

“That was odd,” Hawke noted blandly, instinctively sheltering behind Allaten’s armored bulk.

Bedecked in Eldar ornamentation, Myrinmar beckoned for them to flee; she felt, in her strange xenos heart, that one of these artefacts was the choir. The choir was a simple pendant, containing the combined spiritual essence of seven hundred generations of Altansaran farseers, all trapped singing the final lament; the tune of the risen dead. The song that would wake the Revenant hosts and purify the soul. The song of the dead Goddess; Ynnead. It had to be returned to her people. It had to be released into the Infinity Circuit. Only then could the awakening begin, and hope be renewed...

But the trio could not simply leave with their prize. The galleries had been sealed, and Trazyn’s phalanxes had set up defensive formations around the main processional hallway gates (inadvertently indicating precisely where the portal chambers would be located). Trazyn was happy to simply trap the trio inside their self-created hell; let them be destroyed by their fellow freed inmates. Three people alone, no matter how mighty, could not hope to break through the ranks of a Necron phalanx. Well, Allaten thought, except for perhaps a company of Silver Skulls. In fact, any company of Astartes, if sufficiently skilled might be able to do so, he corrected himself. Then Allaten noticed the pale white Space Marines methodically cutting a swathe through the unruly mobs. He did not recognize their canine iconography or their plate colors, but they seemed righteous enough.

Allaten braved mobs of Orks, flights of Vespid and tides of slithering Thyrrus to reach his fellow marines, desperately shielding his two allies as he did so. His armor was soon blackened and torn in many places, leaking coolant and blood in equal measure. His psychic powers were stretched to their limit, and he simply battered aside his foes with great two-handed sweeps of the Anathame.

“What mad realm is this? Throne, has every damn xenos in the galaxy come to make sport with us?” a Captain in a plumed helmet bellowed to Allaten, evidently recognizing only the Silver Skulls armor, assuming the two were allies.

“Heed me, Allaten! We are captured by a xenos overlord brothers!” Allaten bellowed over the din of battle, gesturing towards the Necron forces gathering at one end of the huge gallery. “See there is the key! We need to make a breakout there, or else we will be crushed by the weight of this savage multitude!”

No further discussion was required; the white-armored commander simply nodded, and relayed orders through his vox channel.

The Astartes surge came swift and suddenly against the slow, deliberate Necron host. For all their lack of haste, the Necrons were no less lethal. Their flayers stripped marines to the bone as easily as if they had been unarmored. But the Space Marines were not fools. They did not march to their death like men of Krieg or Valhallan conscripts. They took to barricades, and each element covered the advance of another, lascannons and missile pods dismantling Necron heavy weapons long enough to allow the post-humans to advance again, and again, and again. With a final great roar, the marines surged into combat from two directions. Ceramite smashed into necrodermis, bolt pistols barked, flayers screamed with a dry hiss, and knife met axe in sonorous melee. The Necrons were the toughest opponents these pale Astartes had ever encountered, yet this only pushed them on to insane lengths. They did not fear these death-faced androids, but neither did they spend their lives in hopeless battle. When the Lychguard entered the fray, melee ceased, and the soldiers opened up with full force upon the royal guardians.

The skirmish was close and brutal, but surprisingly bloodless, almost sanitary in its carnage. The Necrons had no blood and their weapons left no blood when they stripped flesh to bone, then bone to nothingness. The Commander struck a Necron Lychguard square in the face with a head butt that rang like a church bell, as he bisected it with his powered dagger and short sword. Allaten found the Anathame a mighty weapon. His hatred of the Necrons lent his blade a peculiar power. He felt it, in the back of his skull. It was the bane of whatever its master demanded. Those Necrons the Anathame struck down did not rise again...

Though the battle was arduous, eventually they reached the gate that barred their path. Melta barrages and krak mines bored white-hot holes in the metal, which were widened by power swords even as the living metal sought to heal. Myrinmar leapt bodily through one of these holes, while Hawke gingerly clambered into another, taking an occasional potshot at the Necrons at his back. Allaten and the surviving marines took up their rearguard, firing in a steady stream as they executed a perfect withdrawal. Half-skimmer Necrons gave chase, cutting down a dozen with their questing green gauss beams, but the Astartes kept up the pace as they neared the portal chamber. As they finally reached the room, the Astartes barred the entrance as best they could; it was not much, but it would buy them time to escape home through the portals. However, the room had changed. No portal was the same as before, for they led to places Allaten had never seen before; battlefronts he had yet to fight upon, and enemies he’d yet to face. Myrinmar was likewise baffled. I suspect that the group simply found the wrong portal chamber, as Solemnace was a vast world with many wormhole portal nexuses scattered across its surface and beneath its armored skin.

There was no time to deliberate on this though. Allaten could sense something coming. All the thousand garrison of the Infinite One was descending upon them. If they dallied for too long, they would be crushed, for not even a company of marines could hold against so many Necrons at once. The Commander, who identified himself as Captain Kaidmus of the Luna Wolves (a chapter Allaten did not recognize), offered to accompany Allaten, but the Eldar insisted she needed to reach Altansar.

“We must go our separate ways brother,” Allaten explained to the Luna Wolves.

“Where do these gateways lead?” Kaidmus asked.

Allaten didn’t know, and told him as such.

The Commander laughed then; a rare sound coming from an Astartes. “Ah to hell with it,we’ll take our chances. Well met, my Silvered brother. I pray you return to your Legion in time. Now, brothers of the 118th, with me! For the Emperor!” the commander bellowed, gesturing towards a portal, selected seemingly at random.

“For the Emperor!” they echoed their master.

“For Horus Lupercal!” he bellowed, as he plunged intot he rippling gateway’s mouth.

“For Horus Lupercal!” the ancient, temporally dislocated Luna Wolves echoed, before they charged in after their leader. Soon, the chamber was empty, save for Myrinmar, Allaten and Julius Hawke.

They looked to each other, a moment of confusion evident on all their faces.

“Did he say Horus? He said Horus...” Hawke was the first to speak, his voice incredulous and bewildered in equal measure.

Further discussion was cut short, as the entire chamber rocked with an unnatural force. Trazyn was coming. One by one, the portals began to go dark and deactivate. He sought to trap them. The trio wasted no more time. As one, they leapt into the last portal, spanning impossible lengths of space, and into the unknown.

It took Trazyn months to cleanse his galleries of the menagerie of fiends unleashed by Allaten. Only then, when the unruly were dead, could he catalogue his surviving collection, and mark down what needed to be replaced. The number of artefacts that escaped Solemnace cannot be easily estimated; it is known that there were legends of a great, plasma-spewing drake that terrorized several worlds for centuries after these events, which matches the descriptions of a Harridan, and the archives have accounts of Imperial Guard armies and extinct alien forces striking at the fringes of Pentum space and the Eastern Desolations for many decades, despite the fact none of them should have existed at that time. For instance, the account of Krorkish Warlord Ulchaeru’s notable victory over the forces of the Destroyer Lord Imovehki, mentioned a strange auxiliary unit allied to the Krork; a band of humans who fought with primitive autoguns and marched beneath a striped banner. One must also question why there were persistent reports of Atheist cults preaching about a ‘Great Crusade’ which never seemed to materialize.

The living head also went missing, and by all accounts I suspect the Exorcists* managed to find it and deliver it to their patron, Kaldor Draigo, the faceless lord of the Angyl host.

As for Trazyn, eons-old hatred for the living races burned anew in him; a feeling he had thought lost after so many years of soulless immortality. He cursed the three who had stolen his trophies and spoiled his collection, and he summoned the Deathmarks to him. The silent, cyclopean fiends were assassins beyond compare. Once their targets were implanted by Trazyn, they would never stop hunting Allaten or the liberated Wraithbone Choir.

  • (The Exorcists were also known as the 'Legio Illuminatus’ during this period, as their numbers had expanded rapidly under the Star Father’s Patronage.)

Additional Background Section 37: The Dark Before The Dawn[edit]

(Chronicler’s note: This account is close to completion. I feel the weight of history pressing down upon me. So many died, I cannot get this wrong. God’s womb, I refuse to dishonour those who sacrificed all for our sake! )

Before I can adequately relate to my readers the greatest war in human (and perhaps even in xenos) memory, the pieces must first be set, so that one can comprehend just precisely what was happening at roughly the same moment across the galaxy. The following three sub-sections attempt to apply context to two out of the four primary battlefronts of the Last War, namely the Kaela Mensha War and the Cyclopean War. This section does not cover the opening gambits of the Despoiler/Blackheart War which engulfed the northern reaches of the galaxy, or the Primarch War in the west. However, all four will be covered in detail in later sections. 

1) The War of the Bloody-Handed: Khaine’s Triumph.

The Eastern Fringe, as mentioned before, was in ruins by the start of M56. Countless billions were dead, and the military forces still defiantly fighting on were battling through a multi-sector meat-grinder of planetary invasions and counter-invasions, naval engagements and pitiless sieges; fighting like starving dogs over the rancid meat left hanging from the corpse bones of the Fringe. Nothing was worth the hate and fury that went into that war. Nothing.

As mentioned before, the Necrons were depleted, the Krork were battered, and the Tau and human realms (including Ultramar) had retreated to defend their fortresses against the encroaching hordes. There were no bystanders in this war; those who wouldn’t fight were enslaved by either Krork slavers or by the numbing influence of Angyls and their Exorcist minions. Amidst this carnage, there rose the Hadex Multitudes. The region around the anomaly had ground into an ugly bruise on the face of the galaxy, close in scale to the Maelstrom itself. Here, countless different warbands of corrupted Tau, humans and various other xenos struck out and claimed worlds for themselves. Their daemon patrons fought with each other for supremacy, leaving the Multitudes leaderless.

Leaderless, that is, until a champion of sufficient power and influence commandeered them. On the Eastern Fringe, there was only one such entity of sufficient skill, tactical prowess and sheer monstrous fury. This monster was one of the oldest and most unique of warp entities; Kaela Mensha Khaine. Khaine was fueled by madness and fury, chained within an unloving host, churning with internal furnace light that glowered infernally beneath his cracked steel flesh. He had led his army of Khainite cultists into glorious war with the Nightbringer, but his cult was insufficient. Thus, he had traveled to the Hadex Anomaly aboard the Wailing Doom, his living flagship, and there he had set to work. He bested and enslaved every Daemon Prince and any Greater Daemon that sought to challenge his supremacy as the God of War and Murder. He was a thing of Khorne. He was both the ancestor and the descendant of the King of Skulls and in a galaxy of war he was Khorne’s mightiest ally. He smashed the leadership of every warband, and took its warriors for his own, alloying them together like a blacksmith working metal in a forge.

Khaine, unlike any other warp entity in the arsenal of the Ruinous Powers, was resistant to being banished back to the Immaterium, for his body was made of immortal, living metal. It was an open wound that couldn’t be closed. With a vast army of warriors at his behest, Khaine felt complete again, and he waged his war anew. The galaxy had not seen the likes of Khaine since the Emperor walked, clothed in flesh. He led his armies to victory after victory that left the broken survivors cursing his name. Khaine, anointed in the blood of a thousand extinguished civilizations, fought with the fury only a living weapon, nay a God of weapons, could.

It was said that Khaine could alter his size at will; sometimes he was barely taller than a Primarch, other times his blade was said to be large enough to behead mountains. He routed seven Krork forces at the battle of Aemorvast, and some say at the climax of this war, he saw a war hulk in orbit with the planet, bombarding his frenzied ground forces. With a mighty roar, the weapon in his hand became a colossal javelin, as long as a naval torpedo. He cast the javelin into the heavens, surging through the firmament like a newborn comet, before it plunged through the flank of the hulk, and erupted from the opposite side in a tide of molten metal and frozen Krork corpses. The hulk was gored a second time, as the javelin was recalled to Khaine’s fist, and pierced the vessel once more. The hulk, sundered beyond repair, exploded like a new star in the sky, and Khaine saw that it was good.

Khaine rejected the whispered deals and promises of the lingering Umbral shade; Khaine was no longer an ally of those who had abandoned him to his fate. No elder god or Eldar whelp would know his friendship now. He perceived the Aspect Temples, and they disgusted him. The Exarchs, creatures bound with a thirst for battle akin to his own, served the Eldar. Those sense-whores had brought about his sundering during the Fall, and one of their champions had even raised Anaris against him; yet they'd now had the temerity, the gall, to steal his broken fragments? Khaine would extinguish the Eldar in time, and break them, just like he shattered Anaris into three murdering Eldanesh.

Ultramar’s Librarians vomited blood for weeks each time they tried to observe and report on Khaine’s whereabouts, and many M’yen Tau psykers died trying to guess where Khaine would strike next. Fortunately for them however, Khaine did not notice the realms of the mortal races, at least initially. He had bigger game in mind. Once again, Khaine made war upon the Nightbringer and his Destroyer Cults. This was a longer, more arduous war, but Khaine did not relent. His warp-born allies and his many fleets of ravenous chaos warbands consistently outmaneuvered the single-minded, nihilist Necrons. They were destroyers, but they didn’t care about war, only ending lives. Victory didn’t matter to these Necrons, only extinction. Khaine eventually defeated the Nightbringer’s united shards via a trap.

The C’tan attempted to face Khaine upon Galverra, a dead world which had once played host to a federation of a hundred peaceful alien races (all long since destroyed by the Necrons). Khaine used the world itself against Aza’gorod the Nightbringer. He inflamed the cloying souls of the murdered aliens, until the world itself split asunder, Warp portals unleashing the ghosts of the dead and the hungry daemons that hunted them, onto the surface of the world. The Warp weakened the Nightbringer’s powers, and Khaine wrestled with the C’tan, toppling towers and crushing armies in their wake. But even Khaine could not slay the Nightbringer, nothing could slay death itself. However, the Warp did manage to drag the Star Vampire down, down into the screaming, fanged reaches where sanity is a myth and dreams are solid and carnivorous. In that realm, the Nightbringer became something... else. I think perhaps words are not adequate to describe what happened to the majority of the Nightbringer’s shards when they fell into the Warp’s cauldron that day. If you can, imagine a patch of reality, folding in upon itself a trillion, trillion times, as the Warp unraveled it molecule by molecule. Yet, the C’tan cannot be dissolved, and eternally destroys the ethereal energy it imbibes, rebuilding itself in ever more contorted forms. Impossible to unmake, yet rooted in a dimension without form or physical laws. In a way, the Nightbringer became Khaine’s counterpart in the warp. Khaine was a Warp entity trapped in the Materium, while the Nightbringer was a material entity trapped in the Immaterium.

With the fall of the Nightbringer, it seemed as if there was now nothing and no one to oppose Khaine in the eastern galaxy. Khaine’s army grew daily, as he consumed any refugee fleets who hadn’t escaped the Fringe in time, and all the murderers and monsters of the Eastern region of the Segmentum Ultima were gathered unto him. There stood then only a few hard centers of resistance. Regent Folkar of Ultramar, the Patriarch of the Realm of Fathers, Commander Hopeshield of the Tau Meta-Empire and Warlord Ulchaeru of the War of the Krork, knew that this was their moment. As the war between Pentus and the Imperium of Travesties would decide the fate of the western galaxy, so this coming conflict would determine whether sanity and life could triumph, or whether madness and the great Dissolution would unmake all.

2) The Sorcerer’s Desolation: Dominion of Change.

This section covers the basic structure and form Ahriman’s southern empire took during the period directly proceeding the war between Imperium Pentus and the Imperium of Travesties. This section also notes the final phase in the turbulent history of the Theologian Union and the greater Segmentum Tempestus, which had played host to countless regime changes and vast cultural transitions over the course of twenty thousand years of history and strife.

The Segmentum Tempestus area had long been a place of failed empires. In the period of the Petty Imperiums, this Segmentum had always contained the most fractious and numerous Petty Imperial domains, ever striving to place their own Emperors upon the throne of the one true master, long since past. The one time this realm seemed to unite under one banner, it was under the banner of the ideologically insane and the corrupt. War and fear had brought the Theological Union into being. On a personal scale, the political and religious union of Tallarn and the Ophelians lasted for hundreds of generations, and perhaps thousands of years. But in the end, it was no more lasting than a castle of sand in the wind, when compared with the great span of history covered by this account of the Age of Dusk.

Some say it was the war with Vulkan which was the final deathblow to the Theologian Union, and in many ways they are correct. The loss of this war, and the subsequent destruction of the Ophelian shipyards (by infiltrating Sons of Corax strike teams), meant that the power of the Theologians was broken and the rule of Ceylan the Pure was fatally weakened. She had bet all her dogmatic capital on her holy war, and her defeat was seen as a sign. There were many rebellions at that time, and the Imperial metropolis worlds lacked the manpower to stop them. This disorder reached a climax when the Imperial family had to flee from their palace-ship as rioters and turncoats ransacked it. The Union had decapitated itself from within.

In this weakened state, the Union was infected with the poison of chaos. At first, it seemed that the preachers of Erebus might be the first to install their cults within this realm, but it was in fact Ahriman who came first, with his black cube fortress. His cabal of Sorcerers and their vast army of Rubric Marines struck at the hearts of the anarchist cults that had caused the discord across the Union. They appeared before the stunned populace, wreathed in multi-colored fire. Their voices were loud and clarion clear. The Cabal destroyed those who opposed them, and seemed to induct those that prostrated themselves before them as acolytes and lackeys, who went on to build their huge sorcerer’s towers in the years to come.

Ahriman, however, had no desire to rule this realm of credulous idiots and superstitious cowards. His sorcerers took what they wanted from the worlds of the Union, and gave them nothing in return.

But the people now had hope (albeit false hope). Ahriman’s cabal had met with the planetary governors of every single world in the empire. They simply declared each Governor as the rightful Emperor of the Theologian Union. The sorcerers claimed they had no wish to administer an empire, and needed these men to be a single, strong voice who spoke for every world. They told every planet that they were the new capital world, and they psychically insinuated that all the other so-called Emperors were impostors, who were jealous of the rightful heir to the throne. If each governor could only subdue his wayward subjects, then peace would come, and enlightenment...

It was a cruel trick. The Thousand Sons offered hope, and the people believed them, when all their talk had achieved was a war on three thousand fronts; every single world’s Governor was at war with every other governor for control of the empire. Trading merchants found themselves paying extortionate tribute to every world they visited, or else declared enemies of the state. Some worlds starved, others were consumed by civil war and interplanetary strife. And, amidst all this, Ahriman continued to research his unholy sciences and forbidden lore, uncaring of this misery inflicted on his orders. Tzeentch, conversely, gorged hungrily upon the hope of the power hungry, and the constantly changing political landscape. The Union became known to its former allies* as the ever-changing Dominion, a place of terrible desolation.

Ceylan’s heir had survived and went into hiding alongside his loyal minions. This organisation became known as the Disciples, a hidden group with cells across the three thousand worlds of the ‘Union’. Though they claimed to be freedom fighters, in practice they were nothing but terrorists, punishing those they perceived to have turned their back upon the old regime. They bombed the schola of politicians and any fools who thought to worship some other god than the Emperor of the Wasteland. They also kidnapped so-called ‘demagogues of the heathens’. These supposed demagogues were any people who the public seemed overly fond of; celebrities, political personalities, preachers, parish wardens, satirists, scribes and actors from state-sponsored holo-films. They burnt down churches, vandalised any post-Ceylan public works, and occasionally launched ineffective guerrilla wars against the Thousand Sons themselves. If Ceylan could not rule the Dominion of Change, then the Disciples would rather ruin the place for everyone else.

Ahriman was allied with Lorgar’s Imperium tangentially, through ancient pacts and rites sworn under the despoiler’s regime, but the Imperium of Travesties had no physical presence in that region (except for within the warp storms Belphoman and Vulfustan, where Draziin-maton were said to linger and- [chronicler spits out black fluid from his mouth. Not saliva-analogous.], but I digress.)

Ahriman was close to apotheosis. He had modified his mind beyond the scope of a mere Astartes, and he had employed Fabius to utilise the Emperor’s laboratory to enhance his form. He and Bile also used the black cube’s labs to create a terrible desecration of life. Ahriman, thinking himself as powerful and knowledgeable as the Anathema himself, sought to build Primarchs of his own. However, the Primarchs were never merely miracles of gene-tampering. The creatures he and Bile built were wrong; mindless, hulking things. Larger than even Magnus the red, these things were pale and hairless. Where Primarchs had souls of star-like intensity, these monsters had merely husks of souls. These things were known as the Golarches; failed paragons and pitiable nightmares. Though brain-damaged and mad, a Golarch was phenomenally strong and fast, able to shatter fortress walls with but a blow. They were thus tamed and enslaved by the Cabal of the Rubric, who used them to guard the Black cube.

Before Temestor Braiva attempted to defeat Ahriman, the Imperium Pentus had sent an earlier force to accomplish this task. However, Ahriman had sensed the coalition of Nova Astartes coming from half a sector away. Their commander, Gregory the Forgefiend, was a brave and ruthless Fire beast Captain, and he sought to strike at the heart of Ahriman’s realm directly.

Ahriman left him. However, the Sorcerer manipulated the warp tides, and made his vanguard arrive long before his support fleet. When the support fleet caught up to Gregory’s fleet, they found the system smashed by the fire beasts, their ferocity unbound. However, soon, the Astartes coalition cold and calmly turne dupont heir support fleet. Their guns pounded ships to scrap, and their boarding parties callously despatched every living person on the surviving support elements. They never removed their helmets, and they killed without passion or rage. They were puppets; new Rubric marines created through Ahriman’s megalomaniacal genius.

  • (The most prominent of the Union’s former allies was the Praetorian Kingdom, which was virtually next door to the Theologian Union in astronomical terms. This was a realm which had built up around the world of Praetoria. During the Age of Strife, Battlefleet Gothic went into exile to escape the flood of madness which overwhelmed their sector, as did Battlefleet Obstiresi, after the Despoiler had their naval dockyards atomized. These fleets came out of the warp near Praetoria, and the wealthy merchant houses and nobility of Praetoria allowed them to stay. Without the Imperial Guardsman tithe, the Praetorian redcoats and this new, huge navy were able to take and hold a whole sub-sector, and keep hold of it through the millennia. Many of these worlds were industrial planets, with downtrodden populations toiling beneath aloof nobility; it was a simple matter to replace one set of native nobles, with the Praetorian nobility. Most of the common, pale-faced serfs of these worlds didn’t even notice the political shift. The praetorian Kingdoms maintained tight trade agreements with their neighbors, but rarely engaged in war with them; so long as the trade routes survived, they didn’t care. Equally, the Praetorians continued to trade with the Dominion of Change. The Mad King Harold XII had no intention of aiding his stricken, fundamentalist neighbors.)

3) Szarekh Returns:

As mentioned in a previous section, Szarekh, the Silent King’s attempt to use the Celestial Orrery to destroy the Dragon’s united shards failed, and the C’tan caught the master of the Necrons. Szarekh had tried to make the C’tan see reason, but the Dragon had not listened. The C’tan cast Szarekh, bodily, through time, there to erode away to nothingness in the wasteland at the end of the universe.

Yet, somehow, through means unknown, the Silent King managed to return from the far flung future (a time, apparently, long after even the present period of time in which I am compiling these notes, my predecessor’s life’s work). He had seen a future that was nightmarish to behold. No archive is strong enough to contain the psychic visions he witnessed, so I will not utter them here for the sake of my historical document. Yet, somehow, Szarekh had found an ally in that gods-forsaken time, which had drawn him back to the Age of Dusk. He had witnessed the future, and knew that his Necrons* had some role to play in the coming confluence of events.

He at first came to Szeras the Illuminor, for he was the original architect of the Necrons, and shared Szarekh’s desire to ascend beyond their soulless android bodies. However, when Szarekh traveled to the Flesh Pits of Zantragora, his old allies were dumbstruck when they saw him. It was only then that Szarekh realized his android body was changed. He was no longer machine, but equally he was not flesh; he had become some strange amalgam of the two. Veins made of cables and translucent capillaries pumped blood that was not blood through to false muscles that grew like fungus between his servos and living metal bones. His immortal jaws were filled with a writhing, living tongue. He desperately tried to communicate his dire warnings to Szeras, but the Illuminor saw only the melding of living and Necrons; this was a chance to become more than machines, and Szeras captured his king for science. For a year, the insectoid Cryptek subjected Szarekh to coldly calculated tortures and bisections. Szarekh, meanwhile, wept openly. Not because of the pain, but for the fact he could now feel pain, for the first time in millions upon millions of years.

Szarekh was eventually liberated from his prison by a fleet of Triarch Praetorians. They swept into the Zantragora tomb fleet, smashing aside any resistance. With a kind of cold fury, the Triarch Praetorians unleashed their Stalkers and Doomscythes against Szeras’ assembled legions. They carved open his laboratories, and plucked Szarekh from captivity. The Silent King instantly ordered them to take the fleet southeast, towards the Krorkish bastion worlds of the fringe.

However, as the Praetorians retreated, Szeras took his revenge. He was the architect and designer of the original Necrons, and such blatant violence against him could not go unpunished. He downloaded a custom-made virus into the android brains of the departing Praetorians. Slowly, over the next few months, the Necrons of Szarekh’s fleet started to collapse and fail. Their own reanimation protocols had been compromised, and they began to crumble in mind and body. Only the semi-organic Szarekh was immune to this horrific plague, but when his fleet of ruined Necrons eventually exited from a Dolmen Gate, they found themselves surrounded by a fleet of Krork Cruisers and war hulks. Szarekh was soon captured by the martial xenos. He requested that he be allowed to parlay with the leaders of the fleet. This wish was granted, and Szarekh found himself face to face with the two Gretchin commanders** of the war fleet. But when he was taken to this place, the broken, half-demented, bleeding King of the Necrons did not speak with the Gretchin, but instead looked into their eyes, and spoke directly to the shadowy force that seemed to guide the ‘War of the Krork’ from afar; the Shadow Master, He Who Had Lingered, he who was allied to the Jackal, the Stranger and the Serpent Beneath.

Szarekh’s ruined biological eyes watered as he slurred vocalized words past his sodden grey tongue of meat.

“We have been at war. For so very long, we have turned our minds to each other’s defeat, at the exclusion of all else and it has achieved nothing. Look at this galaxy; this is a realm built upon our fallout, and populated by the abortions and monsters we called into being, we allied with, in order to win. Every victory we win, every defeat we suffer, feeds something... else. Something so primordial, it existed before it was created. This is our enemy; it always has been.”

“What do you propose?” the Gretchin asked in unison, the power of their voices unnaturally resonant.

“Help me free my children,” Szarekh wheezed. “And the War in Heaven ends.”

  • (His Necrons referring primarily to the Necrons allied to the Triarch. The Destroyers were a lost cause, for they were nothing but exterminators, and the warrior androids of the C’tan were Necrons in appearance only, for the C’tan had built them from the hollowed-out souls of countless dupe races.)
    • (Every Krork battlefleet is commanded by two Gretchin. These highly-psychic creatures form a sort of biological battle computer, relaying instructions and orders from central command. Each Gretchin is ceremonially given the title of either Gorcanus or Morcanus, the names of the first of their kind.)

Excerpt of Transcript: Log of Captain Trechous of The Magella, Flagship of The Pentus Grand Relief Fleet[edit]

>>>>Downloading... >>>>>>

Download complete. Display? Y/N Y Displaying...

[Day 50]: [section missing] but there is news from Armageddon, in the form of the man from Hades. He calls himself Iacob; some menial no doubt, but he and his entourage seem well-meaning enough. They have a mandate from the five Primarchs themselves it seems, though I suspect only Vulkan truly cares for the plight of the refugees and those who suffer in these wars. His brothers are warriors and heroic as no mortal may be, but they are not humanitarians. If the death of eighty five percent of humanity was needed for them to achieve victory, I am sure they would pay that price gladly. What is man but a statistic to the gods of battle anyway? [Section missing] along with all necessary provisions. This fleet is perhaps the largest I have ever commanded, and what is more amazing is that it is, technically, on a mission of peace. Of mercy. [Section Missing]

[Day 1,899]: [Section Missing] which is beyond all reasonable expectations. We are not a gyptic caravan for Pentus’ sake! I am not sure this was the mission agreed upon by our masters back in civilized space. This Iacob is earnest, I’ll give him that, but he doesn’t understand that we cannot keep accepting these refugee fleets into our own. Our force is vast now; several million ships. I have been forced to forbid any deep warp translations, in case our fleet gets separated. At this rate, we shall be slowed to a crawl, and become a sitting target for the terrors of the galaxy. I would ask for guidance from the Primarch, but no communications are forthcoming. No one is answering, and all I get from the seers onboard is weeping and ranting! Ultramar’s gone quiet; I hear of a daemon king marshaling for some great war there. The North is on fire; a hundred thousand worlds consumed by infighting and Pentus-knows what else. The southern rim is just as bad; I dare not search out Braiva’s Best, lest I get this fleet embroiled or recruited in some damn-fool expedition against the Sorcerer-King. I cannot allow[Section Missing]

[Day 17,273]: I must open this report with an update on the refugee situation. Fifty thousand Covegan skiffs, nineteen thousand Tau seeder ships, primed for terraforming, countless colony hives of Q‘orl and Norkla wasp-men, five Kroot spheres, Exodite solar sailers numbering in the millions. Broken merchant vessels from human empires across the galaxy have come too. Their innards are gutted of cargo space, and their holds are filled to the rafters with billions of humans, filthy and scared out of their minds. Most must be scarred, if not physically then surely emotionally. We are out of supplies. We are relying upon what passing worlds can offer us when we stop in their systems. We are become beggars! Vulkan’s grand relief fleet; beggars! I’d have us return to Armageddon, if it weren’t for this menial clerk, this damned official. Iacob is a glorified medicae of average ability, and yet the refugees love him, as he tries his best to organize medical teams to tend to all the countless sick and the wounded. He’s got no supplies, but is running on sheer willpower and luck more than anything. As for naval maneuvers today, I instructed under-helmsmen Griegor and Clavin to correct our course to[Section Missing]

[Day 39,283]: Rendezvous with the ‘Micarno’. The ship was part of a picket fleet entering the basin; the great wilderness that forms the underside of the galaxy. Deep below the habitable worlds, are worlds scoured to the bedrock tens of thousands of years ago, and left abandoned and cold around their orphaned stars. Their Captain, Trenkin, tells me his fleet detected something. A dead spot, at the heart of the basin. It is a black mass, where no warp traffic travels. If we enter this region, warp travel will be painfully slow. But we must investigate; we have been sent by[Section Missing] a great sphere at the heart. It blinds all who[Section Missing]like a god’s skin almost... [Section Missing.]

[Day 200,345]: [Section Missing] Damn these dregs! Ruins of society! They struck from the warp like thieves in the night! There must have been men on the inside; perhaps some of the cruder refugee ships tipped these pillagers off? If I do not complete tomorrow’s report, know that I abominate all pirates, and when judgement comes in the next life, may their souls be rent asunder, and their[Section Missing]

[Day 200,346]: Thousands are dead, and we are dead in the water, as it were. If the flagship does not cruise, then the fleet must stop; we haven’t enough warp beacons left. If we stop in this system, this fleet will starve. It is small comfort that we captured their Pirate bitch and her sloop. I shall reap a just reward on this ‘Lady’ Cassion’s flesh. [Section Missing]

[Day 200,347]: There are no words. Iacob... let her go. He had kept her alive all through our interrogations. He fought and bled to keep her alive. In return, all he asked of her was “Why? Why did you do this to us? We were willing to give you supplies, and to provide you with whatever you needed on the way. There was no need for conflict; there needn’t have been a battle this day.” The vile pirate Queen looked at him, glaring. Her expression... I couldn’t read it. It was hateful, but not towards him. She held his gaze for what seemed like forever before she replied. “It is the nature of things. I am sorry for your losses, but it is ever the way of the galaxy. In this grim darkness, there is only war.” “No! No that is not good enough!” This was the first time I had seen this small, unimposing man get angry, or even so much as raise his voice. This time he was loud and clarion clear. “For too long we have heard this. ‘I must be monstrous, for that is the tradition’, or ‘We must destroy you, lest our enemies see this as weakness, and strike us down’. We are not machines, built to slay! I will not be a tool of murder and destruction. Look upon this fleet; we should all have been enemies, and yet, though we are afraid, we have not made this relief fleet into an armada. We could have used this fleet to conquer all who stood in our way; this fleet is larger than the greatest Krork navy. There is too much death now. How many die every single day, for no purpose whatsoever? On the whims of people who do not deserve their loyalty? The more we fight and suffer and die on behalf of brutes, the more that black parasite of chaos feeds; suckling on our misery. We will find salvation, and we will do it through peace.” “This is insanity. Your cowardice will kill you all,” the pirate hissed, in a curious mix of dismay and perhaps awe. “I am not speaking of cowardice. What we are doing is what goodness is, and what is just. To let a foe strike you, so that that foe may realize their errors, is the bravest thing one can do. It is braver than a war, where one side desperately tries to kill the other, before their foe destroys them in turn.” “You consider your pompous self sacrifice to be good? Then you, medicae Iacob, are the Last Good Man in this galaxy” scoffed the pirate woman. Iacob responded by letting her go, and forbidding his men from impeding her, as she fled to her sloop and escaped our clutches. Our weapon stores are depleted (because we stripped out our guns to fit in more space for our building cargo of living refugees). I could not destroy her before she went to the warp. Truly, we are doomed. [Section Missing]

[Day 200,499]: All correspondence with Armageddon is lost. The Primarchs had rode out to meet the Imperium of Travesties in open war, fleet against fleet and Primarch against Primarch. We are alone. My ship is still damaged, and our situation is bleak. I only hope that[Section Missing]

[Day 200, 500]: The pirates returned. I recognized their vast, dagger-shaped prows anywhere. I readied my empty guns, and marshaled my nearly non-existent soldiers for the coming massacre. But as I spoke to my absent gods, something unexpected happened. The pirates moved into formation with us. My Promethean Cultists say the engines they have supplied us with will help the fleet leave the system, and head towards the Dyson Sphere at long last. Once again, words fail to express my astonishment. I head into an uncertain future, and I am filled not only with dread, but, dare I say it, hope? A treasonous hope which whispers to me ‘perhaps he is right? Perhaps there is hope for us yet, even as the universe consumes itself? Just perhaps...’ [Section Missing- Significant amount of data corrupted. Salvaging closest remnants...]

[Day 378,893]: Gods alive no![Garbled]... he’s walking on it! No! No! NO! NO! [unintelligible]d’s skin; it lives! Oh ch-[garbled] there-[unintelligible]- opening up! All stations, prepare for evasive-

[Transcript Ends]

Additional Background Section 38: Blackheart’s Diaspora and The Incarnation of Stars[edit]

While the Eastern Fringe suffered the attentions of Khaine, and the Primarchs of both Pentus and the Travesty mustered their forces for the great Western Conflict, Huron’s wild realm also began to feel the first nauseating pangs of the escalating war betwixt sanity and madness that was rapidly encircling the galaxy like some monstrous girdle.

For many thousands of years, Huron’s realm was kept in a state of obedience, if not order, by the might of the Corsair’s great raiding fleets. The Red Corsairs dominated the spaces between worlds, and prevented any significant consolidation of resistance to his misrule. For a long time, only Biel-Tan and Varsavia put up any sort of meaningful opposition to his rampant abuses. Huron Blackheart reigned as a mad and capricious Emperor. After the fall of Baal, he expanded his empire eastwards, consuming many of the surviving Bloodknights into his own ravaging armadas. Worlds quaked in fear at his passing, and the Maelstrom spread northwards like sepsis through an infected cut. Even his alliance and fealty to Cadia did not lessen his power and influence. He ruled from the throne chamber of the Astral Maw, his flagship. The ship had once been a vast Necron tombship, before the Hamadraya had unleashed a daemonic contagion into the silvered veins of the living metal ship, and his own Corsairs had stripped out the Necron ostentation in favor of the charnel vileness of a true chaos space marine flagship.

Huron’s Corsairs were a black legend amongst the cowed populace. His fleets regularly visited each world of his Imperium, raping them of their human and mineral resources. However, the Blackheart was not a simple predator, he was a game keeper. He made sure not to visit the same world twice within ten years. Savaged worlds were given a decade of paranoid peace in which to rebuild their cities, and replenish their stocks, before the dreaded crimson ships loomed over them once again. Then the nightmare would play out all over again. With space superiority, the Red Corsairs and their Eldar Corsair allies could violate planetary populations at their leisure. This method of Imperial rule had advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, Huron had no singular metropolis, where he could be trapped, besieged or starved out of; he was mobile and slippery as he was invulnerable. On the other hand, he relied heavily upon his large Corsair fleets to do not only all the resource gathering, but also all the planetary defence, as the terrorized cattle worlds he ruled over were too broken and weak to defend themselves, their PDFs little more than ceremonial after constant massacres every decade.

These weaknesses were never truly tested until after the Varsavian massacre. At Varsavia, Huron had gambled a large fraction of his total fleet power on breaking the siege of the Silver Skulls. However, the Eldar/Astartes alliance smashed Katan’s fleet. The remnant fled with the Groevian known as the Junnergan, who seceded from the Eastern Chaos Imperium, taking a large chunk of the far eastern Imperial/Baalite border region with him, forming the Groevian Empire. Suddenly, Huron had lost many hundreds of thousands of ships, and countless millions of Marines and warriors. With his fleets weakened, Huron could no longer send his fleets to every corner of his Empire, and insurrection and multiple xenos invasions became commonplace. For every one enemy he squashed with his arrow-quick naval actions, three more sprang up. Duke Sliscus, unpredictable as ever, turned upon the Blackheart at the first sign of weakness. The piratical Dark Eldar allied with dozens of different allies every year, and betrayed them as soon as he got bored with them. Soon, Sliscus was attacking Red Corsair fleets as much as he was devouring prey worlds.

In the west, the Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath had expanded noticeably. However, this was no boon to the Pirate King, for it was not daemons who made their lair in that warp storm. It was the haunt of the Angyllic hosts, and as the storm expanded, so too did the number of Angylworlds and Adorant slave-planets; worlds covered in towering monuments to the Star Father, filled with mindless cultists who constantly exalted their God, throwing themselves and everything they had against the Corsair fleets in the hopes of proving how obedient they could be to the Angyls’ cause. Necron raids increased during this time as well; this was likely a result of the monumental events taking place within the Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath.*

The Eldar of Biel-Tan took this opportunity to increase their precision strikes against the Blackheart's infrastructure, stretching his resources even further. Huron felt his control slipping, and his actions got progressively more extreme. He burned planets and smashed cities into embers. He put entire worlds to the torch and everywhere there was horror.

In his mad rage, when a festering plagueship from the west entered his territory at the head of a fleet of daemonships, Huron almost fired upon it. That was, until he heard the hollow voice of Typhus across the vox channel.

“Salutations, Lord Corsair.”

“Why do you sully my empire with your putrescence this day, herald of Nurgle?”

At this challenge, Typhus chuckled heartily. “Perhaps I have come to observe your empire rotting? Your realm is in sweet decay after all. Or perhaps I come bearing word from Erebus? Which would you find least repugnant?”

Huron permitted Typhus to enter his realm. The host of the Destroyer hive had been sent by Erebus to reinforce Huron’s realm, as concern was building that the Blackheart was the weak link in the noose around Pentus’ neck. Typhus spread his zombie contagion far and wide across the Eastern Chaos Imperium. Worlds who had once tried to break away from the fold became nothing but stagnant monuments to apathy and decay, peopled by living corpses growling with mindless hunger.

Ku’Gath the Plaguefather was summoned, and the plaguebearers bound this crumbling empire with putrid sinews. The Terminus Est and its crusade of filth reinforced the stretched Red Corsair fleet.

As it turned out, Typhus’ intervention had come at just the right time. For within months of the Death Guard’s arrival, the Planet Killer was detected, crossing the indistinct border into the Red Corsair’s domain.

  • A note on the Angyl/Necron alliance, and its annulment:

Draigo had returned to Ophelia at the head of a vast Angyl-host, bearing a great prize for the Arch-Angyls. The prize had been taken from Trazyn the Infinite’s vaults in Solemnace, and was utterly unique. It was the still-living head of Sebastian Thor. The head had been stolen from its tomb on Dimminar by Trazyn, who had heretically reanimated it, solely for aesthetic reasons, when he had set it amidst his other exhibits. Who knows what madness Thor had suffered in those twenty thousand years of disembodied immortality?

Nevertheless, Draigo, guided there by Imotekh’s knowledge, had freed the head and he took it deep into the heart of the Ophelia’s vaults. There, the arcane sorceries of the Thorian cultists, the impossible science of Imotekh’s Crypteks and mysterious Angyl magicks combined to grant the living head new flesh, new muscle and new power. But the Thorians were not finished there; they had constructed a great throne, capable of channeling a vast portion of warp energy directly into the regenerated host. Like some perverse lightning rod, the central bastion of Ophelia was struck millions of times by ethereal warp bolts and electrical power from beyond the materium. For almost an entire year, the warp was funneled through the throne and into the Thor avatar. The planet groaned and thrashed tectonically under this divine onslaught. Thousands of Exorcists from the Legio Illuminatus flocked to the bastion, led by Grand Master Trenchard, clad in his finely sculpted Cataphractii armour that glinted red and silver in the blinding glare of the bastion’s building light. The battle sisters of the Weeping Brides came too, and all fell to their knees in sheer ecstatic fervor. Adorants and lesser men simply died, bodies destroyed by psychic fallout. The Necrons watched this event with stoic disdain, for they had seen such concentrated power before, when they had incarnated the C’tan.

Eventually, the great gates of the bastion opened, and the slaves of the Star Father, Angyl and mortal alike, knelt as one. Only the Necrons remained standing. The figure was a giant, tall as a Primarch and bathed in a psychic brilliance which was awesome to behold. His face was beautiful and terrible to behold, for his golden eyes shone with callous might and monstrous indifference. Sedition and thoughts of free will melted like steel before a fusion furnace. His form was that of a man, but his flesh was like sculpted stone, hard and unyielding.

“I Am!” the creature said. As he spoke, his words carried like the greatest clarion horn, dynamic and sonorous. “I Am Thor Incarnus, And I Am The Way Of Might! Glory And Humanity Is Mine. The Father Is Incarnated, And Fealty Is Owed.”

Imotekh watched this display with supreme indifference. He observed Draigo, who beheld Thor Incarnus with his featureless helm. The Angyl-Prince rose from his kneeling position.

“I am Kaldor Draigo,” he declared.

“You Are My Armour Of Contempt,” the giant boomed, and raised his hand. Draigo nodded in acceptance, as Thor melted the adamantine-skinned Angyl Prince. Soon, Draigo was naught but a molten puddle of silver. Moments later, the liquid metal flowed across the floor, and climbed onto the giant’s flesh, coating it organically, as an assassin may don a synthskin bodyglove. Draigo sculpted himself into an ornate suit of pristine perfection. In Thor Incarnus’s hand, Draigo’s sword and shield became a mighty hammer; a hammer of witches and deviants.

Imotekh took this moment to speak out.

“Young Trenchard,” the Phaeron began, his voice metallic and almost weary. “Enough of this pomp; we helped you construct your warp weapon, now it is time for recompense. You and your hosts shall hold up your end of our agreement. These are fine words your puppet speaks, but we have a war to win.”

Imotekh spoke like a teacher chiding a student for self indulgence.

The Astartes, still kneeling, turned to face the Necron. He scowled at the alien android. However, Thor answered for the Space Marine.

“I Am No Mere Instrument. I Am Anathema Incarnate; The One True Emperor. I Am Your God. Kneel.”

There was silence for a moment; a silence pregnant with terrible promise. This silence was eventually broken by a dry, rasping, incredulous laugh, which rattled from the Storm Lord.

“The Necrons have no gods. We need no gods. We have outgrown them; you are a pretender. We were already ancient when you were but mewling babes,” Imotekh growled mechanically. “Gods? We shattered our gods, and chained them to our anvil of war. You dare speak of godhood? You stand before your betters!”

Thor seemed hardly concerned, his expression impossibly stern. “Discordance Cannot Be Permitted. Our Concordance Is Nullified.”

With that, Trenchard rose from his kneeling position. “Brother Izrale.”

With that curt order, one of the Exorcists rose, his meltagun rising to his shoulder in the space of less than a second. Imotekh was fractionally quicker. The Phaeron turned the marine to ash inside his armour with a single bolt of his lightning. The electrical surge leapt between marines, striking them even as they rose into attack formation. A dozen were dead within a minute. The other Necrons fell upon the Astartes and Angyls, and soon battle was joined.

Through all this, Thor Incarnus stood impassively. Imotekh, full of rage at being betrayed, turned his staff towards the giant, and unleashed the full power of his technological sorcery. The air turned to plasma, as the lightning of the Storm Lord surged towards Thor at the speed of light. Impossibly, Thor Incarnus was quicker. He raised his hammer, and the lightning was channeled into the great eagle-headed weapon. Charged particles and plasma fire wreathed the Incarnation, but it remained unharmed. Even as the lightning sheathed him, Thor spoke clearly and calmly.

“When I Was A Boy, When We Were Merely Sebastian, We Read Of The Father. He, Now We, Were The Father Of Arik Taranis And His Brothers. You Are The Lightning,” Thor began, as he lunged forwards and dealt Imotekh a single mighty blow, which sent the Phaeron bodily across the chamber, to shatter against the far wall like some broken tin toy. “BUT I AM THE THUNDER!” the giant concluded, his face wreathed by a burning halo.

Imotekh survived this encounter, and the Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath became a battleground between silver automatons, between Necron and Angyl. Eventually, Imotekh fled from the Storm, and departed the region aboard his command ship. There, he returned to the Sautekh Dynasty, and began a campaign of vengeance against all life.

As for Thor Incarnus? He and his Legion of mindless adherents played their own part in the Primarch War, for He was the One True Emperor, and would permit neither the vile pretender Lorgar nor the sentimental coward Vulkan to sully the title with their existence.

Additional Background Section 39: The Primarchs’ Muster[edit]

Part One: Pentus

A galactic war is a colossal feat of warfare, but more than that, it is a near-insurmountable logistical challenge the likes of which few men have ever been faced with before. For much of the galaxy’s history, the largest empires were conquered for the most part though political maneuvering and coercion; fear of orbital assault and economic pressures force the hands of planetary rulers to throw in their lot with the more powerful faction.

Few men are capable of performing a prolonged and adequately coordinated campaign for widespread interstellar combat. The legendary Macharius was one, Temestor Braiva was rumored to be another. Only the Primarchs, through their might and cunning and warp-born power, had proven themselves capable of such a monumental war.

They had done so before; before the Second Strife and before the Imperator perished. They would do so again. This section shall try to convey the extensive preparatory efforts of both factions of Primarchs before they met on the field of battle. The Primarch War actually began half a decade before the first macrocannon batteries fired in anger.

First, we shall look at the Imperium Pentus’ marshaling of their forces.

The primary concern of the Pentus forces in the run up to the war was disguising their military buildup from their ever-vigilant rivals in the west. Munitions were shipped amidst food shipments between the Imperium’s twenty thousand worlds. War machines were built in modules, with multiple different worlds constructing various parts of these machines without ever meeting one another. Gun barrels would be forged upon one industrial world, while the track links or engine systems were crafted on another and the armor plating fashioned by yet another desperate planet.

The five brothers and their most trusted generals made numerous unofficial ‘planetary festivals’ in their honor over this period as well. These apparently social events were, in fact, opportunities for the generals and their staff to select the cream of the armed forces of the Imperium, discreetly siphoning these units and regiments towards their gathering forces, that began to congregate around the prosperous Elysia system. Elysia was a major CoJ (Confederation of Justice) stronghold sub-sector, alongside Harkon and Fentaine. Their agricultural tithes were marginally increased; a tax artfully disguised by Imperial bureaucrats. This additional yield from the tithe was channeled towards the growing fleet anchored there. The great supply ships of the fleet were piled high with food and munitions, as were each of the larger warships and escorts.

The force was not solely assembled at Elysia however, for Vulkan and Corax expressed concern that should they amass forces in a single location too early, Lorgar’s spies might suspect something. Thus, Leman Russ gathered a large crusade fleet around the Nocturne sector, which lay close to Ahriman’s empire, while the Lion and the Khan began to muster around Ryza and Catachan respectively. Splitting the force into three was intended to fool the enemy into thinking Vulkan meant to strike out at all three chaos empires at once, when in fact the Primarchs intended a far more concentrated assault on the Western Chaos Imperium. This split mustering also meant that each third of the force could assemble supplies from their local sectors, and spared Elysia from shouldering all of the burden.

The majority of the Nova Astartes Commanderies remained on garrison duty, acting as security to maintain the Imperium Pentus while the Primarchs prosecuted the war. However, seventeen Commanderies were able to provide almost their entire compliment of Astartes to the war. The Commanderies present were as follows:

The Salamanders – Twenty Double-Strength Companies. A hundred Salamander Forge Guards remained with Vulkan at all times.

The Camouflaged Nemenmarines – Nineteen Companies.

The Dorn Revenants – Sixteen Companies.

The Fatemakers – We cannot be certain how many companies the Fatemakers committed to the final war. It must have been more than five though, after the Saranus event early on in the war.

The Iron Hands – Fourteen Companies.

The Fire Beasts – Seventeen Companies.

The Sons of Corax – Twelve Companies.

The Jade Princes – Ten Companies.

The Wolf Brothers – Seven Companies. They also took their most holy relic, the Mjolnir stone, into the war. This stone was a fifty meter slab of rock from their former homeworld Fenris, and they vowed to return the stone to Fenris after the planet’s liberation.

The Brass Ravens – Seven Companies.

The Sons of Thunder – They brought with them Nineteen armoured Companies, which included many of the brand new tank variants from Armageddon’s Promethean Cult forges. The majority of their fighting strength was mounted in some sort of vehicle.

The White Lancers – The Khan and the Lion’s shared Commandery. It consisted of sixty Companies, and was by far the largest Commandery. It committed almost fifty Companies to the war.

The Rout – The Wolf King’s newly formed Commandery. This Commandery had no homeworld, being fleet-based nomads. As such, they committed all twenty of their Companies to the war. They formed the diamond-hard core of Russ's fleet.

The Warrior Kings – A new Commandery, formed with Ultramarine geneseed. This Commandery could only spare five Companies, led by Sub-Commander Gaius Tolvanus Marius, to fight in the Primarch War, as the majority of the Warrior Kings were required in the war against Khaine in the east. Nevertheless, Gaius Tolvanus Marius was a formidable leader of Adeptus Astartes stock, known to the men of Ultramar as the ‘Hammer of the Angyls’ due to his role in the Rout of Celestine a dozen years prior.

Almost all factions within the Imperium Pentus provided forces, ships and manpower to the conflict. Those that could not formed the hubs of colossal freight fleet routes, that utilized the least-congested warp portals and merchant shipping lanes to slowly and quietly resupply those worlds whose resources were depleted through fitting the fleets. Only the Realm of Fathers refrained from doing so, for they were the key force required to hold the eastern reaches of the Imperium from Khaine’s rampages.

However, manpower and the multitude of ground forces available to the Imperium of the Five Brothers would have been all but useless without the massive shipbuilding projects undertaken by the primary manufacturing worlds of Ryza, Nocturne, Necromunda, Armageddon and Balor Barrasis. It would take countless pages to name all these thousands upon thousands of ships. However, some vessels demand observation and recognition.

In honor of Leman Russ, the people of Nocturne helped construct his mighty battle barge and flagship. This unique battle barge, named Sleipnir by Russ himself, was a savage wonder to behold. It was built to resemble some ironclad mountain peak, festooned with weaponry, launch bays and nova cannons of a glorious plethora. This was to be the Primarch’s steed into battle, and the Nocturne people made sure it was a kingly mount.

Antioch was the Lion’s vessel, which was converted from a mighty Ark Mechanicus explorer vessel, expanded and refitted by dedicated armies of Ryzan tech priests. Upon its prow was fitted the White Spear. The White Spear was the pinnacle of Ryzan plasma weapon science; the largest lance beam weapon ever built by the hand of man. The White Spear of Antioch would soon become infamous among the forces of the Imperium of Travesties.

Ryza also constructed a vast command carrier for use by the crusade fleet. Known as the Devil of Catachan, the vessel was phenomenally vast; it was said a battlecruiser could fit comfortably inside its cavernous hangar bay alone. On-board it held hundreds of thousands of fighter craft, bombers and combat shuttles, and the facilities to maintain an entire forest environment inside it for training purposes. This vessel was a factory, a carrier and a command center all in one, all built under the watchful gaze of the Techno Magi of Ryza.

Lastly, Vulkan had the Phalanx resupplied and renovated in anticipation of the coming war. He had heard rumors that Perturabo had managed to rebuild the Goliath Engine; the spiteful Iron Warriors Primarch would no doubt attempt to destroy the pride of Inwit, the last monument to dear departed Rogal. Vulkan thus had the Phalanx’s void shields enhanced, with multiple redundancies and generators that could withstand the torments of a world-rending daemon cannon. He also had a shrine and statue to Dorn built deep in the Phalanx, which Vulkan would visit (it was said) every day, giving thanks to his brother for the continued use of his vessel.

As these ships were being built, the training of the billions-strong invasion force began in earnest. Corvus Corax insisted upon inter-factional and inter-Commandery training exercises. Overspecialization and inflexibility would be the death of armies if they ever got split off from the main crusade. He wanted the Pentus Crusade’s armies to be self-reliant and ready for any situation. Plasma Commandos fought in complex Harakoni rapid reaction warfare, Kalthonian Light Infantry learnt how to defeat tanks while training with the Thunder Lizard Tank Legions, while the Tank Legions in turn discovered means of flushing out guerrilla resistance without risking their tanks in ambush.

One of the most famous cross-discipline training events involved the Nemenmarines and the Fire Beasts. The Nemenmarines were known for being somber and sensible, and indeed were the only faction of Space Marines to wear camouflaged armor. Famously, they would never commit to battle unless they had every minuscule detail of the battlefield mapped out. They thus required a significant amount of preparation time before they prosecuted an attack, but when they did, their plans were usually flawless. The Fire Beasts, in contrast, were consummate improvisers. They threw themselves headlong into battles, even when the odds were not in their favor, and relied upon their ferocity and destructive power whenever their battle plans went awry. These were two fundamentally incompatible military philosophies. Not only this, but when forced to train with one another, the two forces would invariably come to blows. The Nemenmarines saw the Fire Beasts as simpletons, all too eager to leap into battle with nothing but a dagger and a forlorn hope. Conversely, the Fire Beasts constantly goaded the Nemenmarines, deliberately spoiling their carefully laid plans in favor of their own boisterous tactics.

The two seemed deadlocked, until Corax devised a solution. He organised a wargame upon a death world known as Kanvar’s Doom. The Fire Beasts and Nemenmarines would attempt to wrest control of the world from the Sons of Corax. However, Corax ordered that the two Commanderies pair off their Nova Astartes with a Space Marine from the opposing Commandery, one Fire Beast per Nemenmarine. These small teams would have to cooperate in order to defeat the Sons of Corax. Initially, the wargame went poorly for the impromptu Nemenmarine/Fire Beast alliance. Lack of cohesion meant the black armoured Astartes could easily outmaneuver and ambush the attacking force piece by piece, team by team, as they marched through the fetid jungle. However, one team of two managed to evade the Sons, and were forced to confront their differences. The fortunes of the Sons of Corax were reversed when a small alliance of Nemenmarines and Fire Beasts, led by two tactical marines from each Commandery, managed to infiltrate the primary fortress of the Sons. First, they sabotaged the generators for the sentry guns, then entered the fortress as the guns exploded. They utilized the local flora, by tossing five meter tall seed pods from Kanvar’s jungle into the compound. The plants rapidly grew and spread through the fortress. However, as the Sons of Corax began to recover and bring the situation under control, the alliance rushed their foes, storming the breach from the undergrowth, throwing aside the mud and plant matter they had used to cover their initial advance. Within two hours, they had cornered the Sons of Corax Command HQ, and victory was declared. Brother Alistor of the Fire Beasts, and Brother Castron of the Nemenmarines, were subsequently promoted to line sergeants in light of their innovation and skill. Despite developing a form of friendship on the field of battle, the two continued to outwardly display contempt for each other throughout the rest of the war. Alistor decried Cas