+++ Planet Baalimm +++
+++ Former palace of the planetary Governor +++
+++ Two days before the battle of St. Ahra Sancturay +++
Human skull cracked and splintered into tiny bits in the armoured hand, wine that was held within it splattered on ceramite armour. Shortly after, a large figure rose from his throne, assembled from human bodies and stepped forward.
– “What do you mean – they have come? Speak plainly Zofon or I will have you gutted, maggot!” Demanded Xerdach.
Seneschal risen his head. He was kneeling before the giant clad in Astartes power armour, yet Zofon was well aware that this warrior’s similarities to the Emperors Angels of Death resided upon two things only: his inhuman strength and the armour he carried. By all the other measures of comparison Xerdach was so unlike his loyalist Brothers, as it was possibly imaginable.
– “I mean my Lord, that contrary to the promises of the cabal of sorcerers that serves our Master, the Emperors dogs have arrived before we could finish the initial preparations. They are early to the conflict, earlier than we expected them. They must have received the distress call and answered it immediately. Also they must have been in one of the neighbouring systems by chance, as our intelligence do not mark their presence in the surrounding systems.” Explained Seneschal Zofon, broken and withered old man, with unhealthy skin and long white beard, entirely covered in his vast orange robes of a scholar-monk of Gertuna V, that he once was.
Now he served different purpose than gathering knowledge. It all begun with the coming of Mechanicum expeditionary fleet that deemed their entire world and culture – a tech-heresy dedicated to uncovering the forbidden paths of wisdom and technology.
Gertuna V was obliterated within several months together with the majority of its population. Those unfortunate to survive where turned into slaves or servitors. Only a handful escaped in one of the only warp capable vessel that their cut-away-for-millennia civilization possessed. Their vessel was later on captured by roaming cruiser of Chaos warband. Zofon sworn fealty and sold his soul for exchange of sparing his life. Now the tides of faith have brought him to Baalimm, together with Chaos forces.
-“Who are they? Which breed of this cowards crawls here?” Asked Xerdach.
-“By the data I was given it is safe to state that this are the forces of Mantis Warriors Chapter. Crusading fleet. They are on the way to St. Ahra as we speak.” Summarized Zofon.
-“Maelstrom wardens stripped of honour, interesting… Inform my brothers that we will have visitors sooner than expected. Be sure to bring me Saeromohr and Qeonah we have a war to fight and I need those two as soon as possible.” Ordered Xerdach.
-“Very well my Lord, as you command” Replied Zofon, walking backwards and bowing all the way to the exit he left the grand chamber of governors palace.
The palace… truth be told it was no longer Governor’s, and no longer a palace. few months of rebellion turned the entire hive into incarnation of madman’s dreams. No order was enforced, but for the bloody demands of Chaos warriors who appeared on the planet from out of nowhere. Initially there were 8 of them, led by champion Xerdach, yet after several days, more of them landed in various regions of the planet. For those human citizens who had any chance to stop by and think clearly about what happened, the realization of that the Xerdach and his warriors had to be on the planet before the actual invasion, spoke volumes about the scope of treachery that unfolded in Jorus system.
Now Xerdach was tasked with coordinating the acquisition of manpower to be assembled and sent to the southern steppes of the continent. Demands of Xerdach master were clear, they are to dig something out and meanwhile provide thousands of victims for sacrifices. Xerdach gladly obeyed. His lieutenants: Saeromohr and Qeonah took the roles of overseers upon traitor imperial guard who handled the hive city population like cattle and herded them towards their final destination.
Another from among Xerdach warband – Degor entered the “throne chamber”. Without hesitation he walked towards Xerdach not speaking a word. The entire room was covered with remains of what was once furniture, but was destroyed in a brief fight that engulfed the palace in the initial stage of the rebellion. During that time, a grenade shattered the original throne and Xerdach after ensuring he has a command of the Hive city, ordered his slaves to craft him a throne made of high officials that once ruled the planet. The effect was pleasing to him, and the throne made of 50 bodies moulded together by nails, ropes and other things, served him well so far.
-“We might have a problem Xer” spoke the newly arrived warrior. His voice sounded angry, rough and barbaric. Like he had a real problem with voicing his thoughts into human language. His Dark red armor was adorned with a dozen of skulls and together with a huge chain axe, and characteristically fashioned horns it was no mystery that he was a follower of the Blood God.
-“Our unpredictable allies from Iconoclats warband holding together with the rest of the fleet, behind the binary stars to avoid detection by the fleets arriving in the system, suddenly decided to seize their prize – St. Ahra.”
-“We had an arrangement that they will scourge this world AFTER we are done on Baalimm, warp damn it… this will devoid us of ambush advantage. I had a feeling that we should have let them scourge this shrine world before, and now that there is a good chance that Mantis Warriors will reclaim it, Iconoclasts could not restrain any longer. Fools!” spat Xerdach
-“As to The Iconoclasts strength it is doubtful that they will alone manage to overwhelm Mantis Warriors. From what I have gathered they are present in numbers greater than a single Company. Xer, unleash the hounds, it is already too late to hesitate.” Suggested Degor.
Xerdach considered Degor words for few moments. Then he concluded.
-“Take 100 berserkers and twice that number of guardsmen. Board and take command of “Bloodspill” cruiser and join Iconoclasts. Your orders are to butcher Mantis Warriors to a man and prevent them from going any further into the system. Kill them all or dig in and stale them, I care not. The point is to hold them at St. Ahra as long as possible.”
-“I will crush their bones and claim their skulls, Khorne wills it.” acknowledged Degor and directed towards the exit.
It took two days for the assembled Iconoclast fleet to gather above Baalimm, they were accompanied by Slaughter class cruiser “Bloodspill” that was boarded by Degor and his berserkers together with about 200 renegade guardsmen.
Iconoclasts fleet was second major fleet dedicated to the Chaos in Jorus system, yet it was the first that left their ambush and decided to go head forth towards the enemy. It consisted of a grand cruiser, cruiser and 6 destroyers. Ground forces that were carried on-board the fleet elements could be estimated to about 150 chaos marines and uncounted human and mutant followers. They were led by a leader who styled himself with a name Lord Alheron.
Of iconoclasts little was known save for few facts. Those that were aware of their existence knew that they harboured a very deep hatred towards Ecclesiarchy, and never abandoned a chance to conquer and obliterate an encountered Shrine Worlds of the Imperium. Better informed members of the military highest personnel as well as some Space Marine Chapters knew that Iconoclasts were in fact a former Adeptus Astartes Chapter that belonged to cursed founding and was turned traitor after unsuccessful crusade to the Eye of Terror.
+++ Planet Baalimm high orbit +++
While the fleet was on the orbit of Baalimm, Xerdach contacted Lord Alheron and tried to reason with him for the last time.
-“Cease this foolishness and remain on high anchor above Baalimm, or you will doom as all, are you mad Alheron, what is this insubordination, eh?” Shouted angered Xerdach residing in former palace interplanetary communication room.
-“Our deal shall be considered null and void. We are no longer obligated by the oaths we sworn to your master, since you failed us Xerdach the Pitiful. You promised us our prize, yet your cowardly underlings didn’t manage to hold St. Ahra. Now it is time for us to do the Gods work. My seers have spoken, they claim that if we do not act now, there will be no chance in the future to claim this shrine world and offer it chaos, as our oaths to the pantheon demand. Those are much stronger than those we shared with your lot, as you can probably image. And as to you, do not dare to lecture me upon the craft of war, coward. Preying upon civilians is all that you are capable of, from what I gather.”
-“Lord Alheron!” Xerdach spat the other chaos warrior name like a curse. “No one calls me coward and lives to tell the tale. I will claim your skull, if the Mantis Warriors will not get it first…” he promised.
The link was cut, and the two traitor marines contrary to the threats they exchanged never spoke to each other again. The reason was simple, in a matter of days one of them would be already dead.
Meanwhile Iconoclasts fleet ignited their engines and begun their journey towards St. Ahra., “Bloodspill” followed in their wake.
+++ An hour later +++
+++ Planet Baalimm +++
+++ former Governor’s Palace +++
+++ Throne room +++
Xerdach was standing by the huge window in the throne room. He looked down on the hive and committed himself to memories. It was so long ago, when he styled himself a defender of humanity. A bulwark against the evil and twisted forces that endangered it. He never considered himself a Fallen or Damned. No he, rather thought about himself as the enlightened and freed.
Now that the shackles of false Emperor no longer limited him, he could reflect upon those decades of service to the Throne of Terra as years wasted in vain. Probably save for his training. Yes that he was grateful about. His teachers were exquisite, his training was thorough and hard, but he made it through and now could consider himself a truly deadly warrior.
It is obvious that his previous teachers would not be proud about what or who he has become. If they were still alive that is. Since he made an effort towards ensuring himself of their death at his own hands, he had no one to judge him any more. No one worthy that is.
His former Battle Brothers were dead, and those that now bore the colours of his former chapter had no right to judge him, none at all… so he thought.
The only thing that he left himself from among his former belongings was the power sword he wielded and carried into the countless battles he has fought. The handle was crowned with a styled wings symbol, between which a sword was rested. The Dark Angels symbol, for possession of which Xerdach was recognized as the Fallen by his former brothers, yet he thought about himself rather as the one who stood up from his knees.
-“You summoned us.” Spoke Qeonah breaking the silence. Of course Xerdach heard them approach through the chamber, yet he chose not to turn to face them until now. Saeromohr and Qeonah both fought under his command for more than 50 years now, and were considered most valuable of his small warband. Both of them wore black and red armour, that was becoming more and more common among the renegades of the Maelstrum for some year now.
-“Saeromohr, Qeonah it appears this war will change its manner in several forthcoming days, the Iconoclasts are rushing towards St. Ahra as we speak, and that is due to unexpected rapid response of loyalist forces from Mantis Warriors Chapter that translated to the system.” Xerdach briefly summarized.
Both newly arrived marines exchanged glances.
-“We have heard that Degor was dispatched along the Iconoclasts, do you deem him worthy of the fight and take us for less capable?” asked Qeonah with disdain in his voice.
-“Quite the contrary. I consider Degor to be entirely expendable, that’s why I have send him there. You are both well aware that also those who I sent with him – the berserkers, were on the edge of succumbing into blood orgy upon the population of this world. Not that I hold the lives of this maggots dear, but we need subordination in check and this population put to our use in ways more sophisticated than butchering them with chain axes. I would rather send this… hazardous element of from our forces, towards the Emperors lap dogs later, but the time is not in abundance right now.” Explained Champion.
-“What do you require of us then?” Asked Saeromohr.
-“I want you to make contact with Night Lords forces that descended on the second hive – Hive Tarentus. As far as I know they have made short work of its defences, yet I have no idea what are they doing now, since they do not answer my vox hails. We need them ready when the enemy will arrive. I don’t want them to hide or flee, they have to join us, yet it may come at a price but that is also your order. Since they and our Master were agreed upon Night Lords participation in initial stages of the war, I want you both to find out what will convince them to stay longer.”
-“Do you know any of their leaders by the name?” this time the question came from Qeonah.
-“Yes, try to find Lord Thurservor, or any of his comrades, although he is not in overall command, nor is he representing the only band that there is, he will remember me, ask him of Thramas Crusade, he will recognize my name for sure. Be cautious, he is a veteran of the Long War, and he should be addressed with respect” Concluded Xerdach and added:
-“Now go, and do not disappoint me, I want the remnants of VIII Legion with us when the time comes”