Chapter I – part 1 – Mantis Warriors – The Descent on St. Ahra

+++ 21 hours since beginning of first engagement in Jorus Campaign +++
+++ Saint Ahra high orbit +++
+++ Incarceration cells aboard Vanguard Cruiser “Sword of Zagul” +++

Darkness swallowed Felario once again. He had his moments, he tasted glory and happiness in his long and accomplished life. But there was also fair share of bitterness. As an almost certain candidate for captaincy of void capable vessel he was “downgraded” to command squadron of system monitors. And not even in the capital sub-sector. It was Jorus, furthest backwater system in the remote Celeres star cluster of Janus sector. What a disgrace, what an affront to his honour. And why? Simply cause he was of not a suitable bloodline. Oh how he hated them, how he despised all those high-born morons who didn’t know a thing about void battles, yet they tried to lecture him. His hatred was but a seed of misfortunes that befallen on him. This seed was recently watered by promises, whispers and visions. Dark whispers, and morbid visions. Felario didn’t regret what he did and what he committed to, even thou he was now locked in this tight and dark room that stank with old blood and fear. It was curious how he actually could smell his own fear. His own and a blend of all those who were questioned here before him in the past year or even centuries. 

– “Vespasian Thramoder, XXVI governor of Jorus system. Is he a part of this pathetic insurrection?” asked figure clad in green power armour, with only his head bare.

– “No he is not, I told you that before didn’t I?” replied Felario. His defences breached, his will broken. Several hours, that’s all that it took to break him. He had to admit that when he saw the tools that servitors brought to the room and how masterfully Astartes wielded them, Felario thought that it will be a matter of minutes before he loosens his tongue. He lasted exactly 5 hours and 34 minutes. Last achievement on his roll of honour, or was it?

Servitor equipped with blowtorch approached closer and burned remains of Felario face with flame. Late Admiral of Jorus system fleet was already missing both legs and both hands. Now one of his eyes literally leaked out of its socket due to burning heat that his face was treated with. The pain was indescribable. Especially due to chemicals that magnified it , with which he was injected at the beginning of the interrogation. Felario screamed so loud and so inhumanly, he was shocked that he was capable of voicing such sounds.

– “What is your name?” asked Felario breathing heavily

– “I am the one asking questions here traitor. Yet since you will answer all of them, now that I see how weak you are, I can grant you this information. My name is Corymbus, and I came here to burn out the cancerous insurrection of yours. Tell me of Thramoder.”

– “He… he is dead. I have seen him die on his knees. He begged and cried. We came for him with commanders of imperial guard regiments and veteran sergeant Tanrus of Guardians of Celeres. Governor was beaten bloody, his wife and two daughters were raped and killed before his eyes.” Felario stopped to spat out the blood that gathered in his mouth. The pain… it was so overwhelming, he hoped to loose consciousness but the drugs kept him on. 
After brief pause Felario continued since he knew that if he stops for too long Astartes will apply more pain.

– “Thramoder died, and was not one of us. He was the one who represented all that we hated and all that we wanted to be pulled down. Filthy Emperor’s …” Felario was interrupted by Corymbus who smashed his armoured fist on his face.

Last remaining teeth fallen out on the ground, and Felario was shocked that his head didn’t fall off. The blow was enormously strong. Yet Corymbus was aware of the necessary application of force, and due to that he applied as much as was necessary to inflict pain, but not more than Felario could take, in order to keep him alive.

Felario spat with blood again.

– “What of Tanrus is he still alive?”

– “Yes, yes he is”

– “Did he talk you into all this madness?”

– “He was just a link between our new masters and us”

– “Who are your masters?”

– “I do not know that in detail, but they are favoured by the pantheon, oh yes they are.”

Corymbus expected as much, yet he was also certain that whoever was behind this he also was careful enough to not reveal his true nature to pawns such as Felario.

– “Did all the commanding officers of ground forces apply to your wretched group of traitors?”

– “No, not all, Colonel Lommut of 13th Baalimm Mechanized Infantry refused to join us…”

– “What happened to him?”

– “He escaped to the wilderness with his men, he is engaging our forces in a guerrilla warfare as far as I know”

– “What of astropathic choir?”

Long pause followed this question. Felario knew that his petty life was measured in minutes if not seconds now. He had to thread carefully. He himself didn’t know why did he even want to stay alive anymore but he craved every breath and every second of his life. Probably the hypnotic effect of drugs he was infused with, he thought to himself.

– “They were… they were , ekhem how to say it… they were…”

– “blow torch” said Astartes towards one of the servitors

– “Compliance” replied lobotomised human.

– “No No! wait No! The choir was sacrificed to our new masters in order to ensure that we receive their favour!” finally admitted Felario.

Corymbus looked at the shell of a man he stood before with utter most disgust. Heresy runs deep in Jorus, and he promised to himself that he will see it rooted out, even if it will mean that he will have to kill every single traitor himself.

– “We are done for now. If you think that the worst is already done to you, keep in mind that Ordo Hereticus will be informed about your transgressions. And inquisitorial interrogators are not so gentle as me.” Promised sergeant

– “No! we had an arrangement, you said you will grant me death upon learning what you wanted! I have told you everything, everything you asked of me!” Cried Felario like a little infant. He wept and sobbed begging for mercy. His bowels emptied yet again and the foul stench increased its magnitude in the room.

– “I did promise mercy of death to the traitor I spoke to before. But now I am no longer talking to just a traitor. You are guilty of heresy and this is not my authority to dispose of your life. Higher authority will take care of you” Answered Corymbus while leaving the room.
Yet before he left he addressed servitors:

– “Constant application of maximum pain. Keep subject alive. Execute order until I say otherwise”

– “Compliance!” replied instantly all five servitors equipped with sophisticated tools of torture.

– “NO! No! Noooooooooooooo…”

Corymbus left the chamber and marched towards the command bridge. Screams echoed in the lower levels of “Sword of Zagul” for hours before the drugs worn off and Felario lost his consciousness.

+++ Saint Ahra high orbit +++
+++ Vanguard Cruiser “Sword of Zagul” command bridge +++

Corymbus entered his ship’s command bridge with unease. He had a feeling of duty unfinished after leaving broken shell of man that was left of Admiral Felario, for further interrogation that will be performed by the Inquisition in the future. 

-“Commander on the bridge!” yelled one of the human officers.

-“First officer Tornton, did you manage to establish a link between us and shrine of Saint Ahra on the planet surface?” Corymbus asked immediately.

-“Yes my Lord! They are responding to our calls and they praise the Emperor for our arrival. They have also updated me with their current situation. The insurrection has taken its root on the planet surface and the Ecclesiarchy is holding against it in two places.” 

As he spoke, another crew-member loaded the gathered intel to the hololithic strategic table which resulted in a display of three dimensional map of planet’s northern hemisphere. 
-“Looks like they are encircled in two places. Throne, it is more of a last stand than a coordinated defence.” Commented Corymbus.

-“That is true my Lord. They are defending the main sanctuary complex over here” Pointed out First officer. “Also they make their stand in separate battle zone to the north, up here. I believe it is a promethium refinery.” Summarized Tornton.

-“What is the troop disposition?” demanded ship-master

-“The sanctuary is defending against one third of a turncoat Imperial Guard regiment, mostly foot soldiers with heavy weapon teams and occasional troop carriers of Chimera pattern. Then the refinery is besieged with armour detachment including Leman Russ’s presence and Medusa mobile artillery. Together with remaining two thirds of the regiment’s troop cadre.” Tornton paused to let the information sink in, and wanted to summarize his conclusions, but Corymbus made the calculations himself and commented:

-“They are unlikely to hold for more than several hours more. This is truly the last stand of loyalist forces on this planet.” Muttered Corymbus more to himself than as a reply to First officer. The time was not in his favour, truly if he would have to wait for the rest of the fleet arrival Ecclesiarchy will be cut down to a man and Saint Ahra will be lost to traitors. Moreover they will even have time to dig in before Mantis Warriors will commit to the planet surface. Not that it will be more than Corymbus’s battle brothers could handle, but it would significantly prolong the operation. And time was the resource they didn’t have in abundance. 

-“Your orders My Lord?” asked Tornton.

-“Olvyi!”

-“Yes Sir?”

-“Prepare both squads of tactical marines as well as our assault squad for deployment within half an hour. We are deploying in full force to the sanctuary battle zone” Ordered Corymbus through clenched teeth, as he was aware that he is acting against the order of Captain Ortuga, to remain idle on the high orbit of St. Ahra. 

-“Very well Sir, who will lead the strike force?” Asked Olvyi already heading towards the exit from the command bridge.

-“I will deploy along with you and lead the strike force personally.” Replied Corymbus and added towards Tornton:

-“First officer you have the overall command of the fleet detachment on St. Ahra orbit. Also forward a message upon the situation on St. Ahra to the rest of the fleet. Make sure to inform Captain Ortuga that I am aware of the consequences and I am willing to atone for it in the future, yet our current situation and the tactical status of our allies demand immediate action.” 

With orders relayed to his subordinates, Corymbus made straight for his quarters and informed Techmarine Grash that he will be needing his artificer crafted jump pack and armour together with his ancient power claws. 

+++ 22 hour of Jorus Campaign +++
+++ St. Ahra surface +++
+++ Ecclesiarchy Sanctuary complex +++

New day was about to dawn on the surface of St. Ahra, and for the first time in months, the war was about to turn its tide against traitors. Or so did Corymbus hope.

For past seven days cold and frozen surface of St. Ahra was experiencing heavy snowfall. This morning, exhausted and bloodied defenders of St. Ahra sanctuary witnessed long awaited deliverance from the skies. They have prayed for months to God-Emperor to save them from unending waves of traitors. This day their prayers were answered. Two Thunderhawks, including one Thunderhawk of Transporter variant delivered payload of two tactical squads, one assault squad and one rhino transporter to the encircled cordon of defenders battlements. 

Gathered combatants watched in admiration as Emperor’s Angels of Death walked down the ramp of Thunderhawks. At the forefront of deployed strike-force of superhuman warriors clad in light green power armour walked with awe inspiring aura, commander of the present Astartes. His armour was an Artificer amour with attached jump pack, his hands were equipped with two power claws and his head was covered with masterfully crafted helmet displaying his rank as Veteran Sergeant of 3rd Company.

-“My name is Veteran Sergeant Corymbus of the 3rd Company, Mantis Warriors Chapter, I came here to perform just punishment on the enemies of mankind, in the name of the Emperor! Who is in command here?” Proclaimed Corymbus.

-“Deacon Pasanias at your service my Lord!” Exclaimed old and fat Ecclesiarchy member who stood among the group of gathered leaders of defenders that went out to the landing zone within battlements to greet the deliverance force. We are honoured by your presence, praise the Emperor our prayers have been answered!”

-“Enough with the formalities, I take overall command from now on, give me all the intel upon besieging enemy forces, now.” Demanded the Angel of Death, while leaning closer to Deacon. Corymbus was twice as tall as hunchback fat man who called himself commander of this defence.

-“We will obey your commands my Lord!” declared another Ecclesiarchy member.

-“See that you do, and now take me to the headquarters we have a siege to repel.” Ended Corymbus and walked after the leading priests towards the buildings of sanctuary complex.

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