Category Archives: Bez kategorii

Chapter I – part 4 – Chaos – Shattered alliances

+++ 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.

-“Speak”

-“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”

+++

Advertisements

Chapter I – part 3 – Mantis Warriors – Alienation

+++ St. Ahra suborbit +++

+++ Thunderhawk “Green Claw” +++

The Thunderhawk penetrated the atmosphere of St. Ahra with great speed, heading towards docking bay of Vanguard Cruiser “Sword of Zagul”. On board Veteran Sergeant Corymbus and Apothecary Otis were silent as graves. All the remaining members of Squad Treonor watched their fallen battle brothers in silent contemplation. Beside them three bodies still clad in green power armor of Mantis Warriors Chapter, lied on the medical harnesses, strapped so that they do not slip off during the transition to space ship waiting in orbit.

Work that was ahead of Apothecary Otis reminded him of dark days, of rather recent transgression they have committed. The Badab war. Turning against the Imperium, or as Mantis Warriors thought back in that time, turning against usurpers that tried to challenge Astartes authority, it all made sense at some point. Although Otis knew now how deep they were wrong, it was not the attacks against Fire Hawks or other Chapters that made him feel regret.

It was almost heretical to think that way, but Otis regretted the most – all those who he had to bid eternal farewell. All those extracted progeniods. All those lost Battle Brothers. Almost half of Mantis Warriors died in the Badab war itself. Many followed in an attempt to atone for their sins afterwards, during penitentiary crusades. And yet for almost half a century already they were not allowed to replenish the loses.

By the final command of Mantis Warriors Chapter Master before his incarceration by the Salamanders, the entire Chapter was reformed. It was no longer reasonable to maintain Company based organisation, since all the companies were shattered into grotesque image of themselves. Three crusade fleets were formed. In a fashion resembling organisation of Black Templars or maybe even some other fleetborne chapters Otis didn’t know of. Three crusades were launched, one towards Halo Stars, one into forgotten depths of Segmentum Tempestus, and the final one into abandoned depths of Ultima Segmentum.

The latter was led by Captain of 3rd Company Tagon Ortuga, it was the one currently present in the Jorus System. It consisted of elements of 3rd, 4th and 10th companies respectively, initially amounting to about 150 marines. Now they were down to 124, which was in itself a good result, given the fact that they were crusading for almost 30 years now.

“121, now it is 121”. Corrected himself Apothecary.

Three more battle brothers dead. Three less battle brothers to sustain the lineage of the Chapter. And it was Otis’s duty to be custodian of this passing. Although Otis loathed the idea of preparing the funeral rites and prior to that – extracting geneseed from fallen battle bothers, he was well aware that Corymbus was about to face something much more disturbing. He will have to answer for their death, in a context of overstepping his orders to stay on the orbit.

Death Warden Galfridus and Captain Ortuga will not take the news of Corymbus disobiedience lightly.

They would have been furious even if there were no casulties on Astartes side. Yet now, after a sergeant and two battle brothers were dead, Corymbus was about to face wrath incarnated from the Reclusiarh and probably Captain too.

Otis kept his thoughts to himself and spent the last few minutes of approach towards the Vangurd Cruiser in silence.

+++ St. Ahra orbit +++

+++ Vanguard Cruiser “Sword of Zagul” +++

Hangar bay was filled with Chapter serfs awaiting the shuttle. They were prepared to receive not only Corymbus with all due honors (since he was a leader of a strike force that have just won a battle against Archenemy), they were also prepared to mourn and take care of the fallen.

After brief ceremonial welcome by First Officer Tornton, Corymbus, Otis, Squad Treonor members: Tyon, Pratio, Numides, Galash and  Fohan, several servants accompanied by specially modified cargo lifting servitors begun the ritual procession towards the furnace chambers on board the vessel. Throughout the entire journey, chapter serf dressed all in black, read out loud entire roll of honors of all the fallen. It all ended after about an hour when they have reached massive incineration chamber, which was not only unusually clean, but also adorned with Mantis Warriors livery. Standards hung from  all the walls and ceiling.

It was no ordinary furnace, of a kind that was on every Imperial Ship. Garbage and waste was not burned here for heat and CO2 used elsewhere. This was a ritual funeral chamber. Techmarine Grash was already at the furnace operation control panel. His head was bowed down and his face shown deep contemplation.

Servants without need of any orders placed (with a help of servitors), all the fallen marines on ornamented tables and begun to strip them off armor.

-“Otis, prepare for the rituals of passing. From what Tornton  informs me, Reclusiarch and Captain will join us shortly. Grash I command you to go to the surface of St. Ahra immediately and assist Sergeant Olvyi in fortifying the Sanctuary.” Then he turned to gathered space marines from Squad Treonor:

-“Brother Pratio and Brother Numides, maintain watch over the bodies of our fallen Battle Brothers. Brother Fohan, Tyon and Galash report in at Apothecarium. We have about 3 to 4 hour before our company command arrives, I want you checked and attended to by that time, when you are done join Pratio and Numdes. Brother Tyon I choose you to hold company banner we have on board for the ceremony. I need to take care of few more things before we can proceed with the rites, but I will be back here within 2 hours maximum.” After informing everyone what is expected of them, Corymbus walked out of chamber and proceeded towards his private quarters.

Techmarnie Grash greeted his brothers and followed sergeants command. Before the funeral rites started he was already on the planet surface together with 30 engineering servitors he took with him.

Apothecary Otis managed the process of reclaiming the fallen battle brothers armor and after that he begun to do thorough examination of Astartes corpses. While he was examining the plasma burns on Brother Atrion’s body, a shadowed figure stepped closer and extended his mechanical limb.

-“By the will of Ommnisiah! Honored Apothecary Otis, hand me over the sample. Please!” the last words were nearly spat out by the Cult Mechanicum priest of biologos specialty. Utrax Ichto was seconded to the crusade fleet about 30 years ago by the Mechanicum of Mars in order to perform first in centuries thorough check of chapter’s geenseed purity. He was loathed as an outsider at first, and after he requested the first samples after his arrival during one of funerary rites he was nearly beaten to death by Veteran sergeant Jehol who was only stopped by his fellow battle brothers. From then on Utrax always approached only the Apothecaries and added the usually unfamiliar word for Cult Mechanicum priests : “Please”.

-“Here it is, Brother Atrion’s, of 3rd Company Mantis Warriors Chapter, Squad Troenor, tactical marine, 97 years of services. Geenstock of Takoma Feral World in Endymion star cluster.” Recited Otis handing over the sealed geneseed sample extracted from his fallen battle brother.

-“My thanks Apothecary, as always, Mars is grateful for your compliance!” replied magos biologos and instantly retreated the chamber towards his own laboratory set up in the lower levels of the ship.

+++ St. Ahra Orbit +++

+++ Vanguard Cruser “Sword of Zagul” +++

+++ Veteran Sergeant Corymbus private quarters +++

Corymbus thrown his helmet on the floor and took off his power claws and then handed them over to servants who will then take them to armory.

-“Leave me!” demanded Astartes and servants obeyed immediately.

After he ensured himself that he was left alone, Corymbus approached a window in the wall of his chamber and with a great effort restrained himself from smashing the reinforced glass into shards.  He was furious, although he managed to hide it from his subordinates he was in fact on the edge of succumbing into bloody rage. He pressed his head onto the window and stared on the St. Ahra surface passing by below. White ball of snow and glaciers. With very few settlements to light its now visible night side. Corymbus sighted, he was not of Sanguinus gene lineage, yet he was fully aware that it didn’t necessarily take pre-set gene configuration to be vulnerable to blinding rage outbursts.

He breathed heavily and focused on calming himself. It took several minutes before he started thinking clearly. And there was much to think about now. His orders were clear, he was supposed to maintain orbit vigil above St. Ahra, yet he chose to deploy to the surface and lift the siege of Sanctuary.

His mission was a bitter success. The fight itself was bloody and the foe was not very demanding, just a regular damned human fools who abandoned the Emperors light. They were slaughtered without mercy and sanctuary was saved. His actions saved lives of about 100 remaining defenders, but the cost was far too great for that. Three battle brothers dead and a sergeant among them… Treonor was an exquisite fighter, exceptional swordsman and a solid tactician. Such a bad luck, such a shame to loose him in accidental fire exchange. Lucky shots from a dying tank gunner that struck him in neck armor joint. And then his two subordinates Atrion and Borgas. Their death was a usual battle misfortune. Their bodies were smashed by tons of rubble from downed building struck with plasma  cannon of traitor Leman Russ tank. Plasma discharge also burned their armor joints and melted parts of their flesh. That was not unheard of, but still unfortunate.

Corymbus blamed himself for the outcome, yet initially he sought flaws in sergeant Troenor approach to the battlefield situation. There were no errors on Troenor’s side. He had to procure his plan the way he did, or else the bunker would be lost with all hands. Leman Russ’s plasma cannon would tear through the defenses on the entrenched defenders position if not for the sergeant Troenor and brother Tyon assault with melta charges.

It was nonetheless irreparable loss. A loss he will be accounted for. Truth be told Corymbus was not afraid, he was shamed. Shamed that we was faced with s situation in which he had his honor or orders at stake and he could have emerged only with one of them unbroken. He chose his honor, and was dramatically shocked by the feeling he was now experiencing. Since he never before thought that he will feel shamed in a situation when his honor prevailed.

But then again, wasn’t it what nearly all of his battle brothers felt right now? After the Badab war, Mantis Warriors could undoubtedly say they have stood up to their honor bounds towards the Astral Claws and Lamenters, yet their eternal order to maintain service to the Imperium of Mankind and Emperor himself was broken by their actions.

Corymbus contrary to his fellow battle brothers was not present in the Mealstrum collar area (or the Endymion star cluster) where Badab War took place. He was then on long range patrol duty on board of his vessel “Sword of Zagul”. He was accompanied by Squad Olvyi alone. His strike force consisting of 11 Battle Brothers together with himself travelled across the void and inhabited star systems, accompanied by 3 destroyers and provided deliverance to remote colonies from Dark Eldar riders for 22 years. That resulted in “Sword of Zagul” return to Endymion Star cluster in the last year of the war.

For that matter he stood apart from the bulk of Mantis Warriors force, and felt like he was not as bonded to them as he was when he embarked on his last patrol duty. Sometimes, he even thought that he was an object of envy by few of his Battle Brothers as he didn’t bear the shame they all had to bath in, in the aftermath of rebellion.

Although Mantis Warriors were spared the Emperors wrath, they were ordered to perform 100 years penance crusade, and were striped of the right to recruit new battle brothers. During the 30 years’ time of ongoing crusade Corymbus felt and born the penance as his own, as he was also the one who took part in the shameful transgression his brothers committed. Yet his penance was a thorn in the eye of some, since he actually had nothing to atone for, and that magnified the burden of penance of those who had their brothers blood on their hands.

-“Death Warden Galfridus will enjoy himself soon I guess, now that I have given him excuse to feast on my disobedience.” Thought Corymbus to himself.

Galfridus… he was not the man Corymbus knew before the war. They both met each other for the first time some 180 years ago. When Galfridus was freshly appointed death warden and Corymbus just recently received his promotion to Sergeant rank. Galfridus was always zealous. He learned that path to be his own during several penal operations on the heathen star systems near Mealstrum. The campaign was fought with assistance of Lamenters Chapter and Black Templars Chapter. Galfridus absorbed their zeal and soaked with their preaching techniques.

But never had he fallen into the claws of fanaticism and obsession of self-annihilation as a form of absolution. Not until the aftermath of Badab… Now Galfridus was raving mad lunatic hoping only for death to absolve his own sins. He loathed his life as worthless and thought of himself as a failure in the eyes of Emperor, due to his excessive actions during Badab War.

In fact both Star Phantoms and Fire Hawks chapters petitioned to punish Galfridus with death, as a retribution for butchery he performed on their battle brothers. Truth be told attrition rate on the side of loyalists that fought with Galfridus strike force during the Badab War, was exceptional.

Since it was not a secret that he was a gifted tactician no one in the Mantis Warriors Chapter was surprised by it, yet the sheer brutality Galfridus promoted in his subordinates shocked both Fire Hawks and Star Phantoms. There were no prisoners taken, only the disembowelled corpses spoke testament to his actions.

Corymbus approached Galfridus, previously considered an avatar of vitality and fearsome warrior, about 1 year after the conclusion of Badab War, and Veteran sergeant was shocked by the shell of a man he looked upon at that time. Hollow eyes, visible cheek bones and snow white pale face. Galfridus changed, not only on the outside, but also his psyche was broken. All he stood for in the past, was a lie as it appeared, all action he considered right for the 12 years that the war took, were now the source of his shame. He was a broken thing. But since he had a real predispositions to be a Death Warden, he hammered his shame on the anvil of self-mortification into the weapon of purest hate imaginable. He didn’t hate anything in particular, he hated the “existence” itself.

Corymbus on the other hand, as he didn’t share the shaming experience of his battle brothers, remained practical and subtle warrior, a cold master of void battles and incredibly fast hit & run attacks on the surface of planets.

Like a water and fire, those two elements had to collide in the devastating manner, one of them will prevail yet it was far from concluded, if either will surface his approach as dominating and be considered victorious in this conflict of characters. One might ask why would they face each other at all? Yet it was apparent for many in the Chapter that common Astartes looked for a figure to follow  in a spiritual way. Be it zealous fanaticism of Galfridus’s teachings of self-mortification and imposed morbid atonement, or Corymbus’s practical and tactical, cold war-craft in which a true warrior could pay his debts to Imperium using blood of his foes as currency.

Time will tell, yet for now, Corymbus must face another of Company Command members, who as he was informed, was inbound to dock on “Sword of Zagul” within half an hour. Captain Tagon Ortuga known both to his subordinates and outside of his chapter as the “Lord Reaper” or “Scythe of Endymion”.

+++

Chapter I – part 2 – Mantis Warriors – Siege of St. Ahra Sanctuary

+++ Jorus System +++

+++ St. Ahra planet surface +++

+++ Ahra Primus settlement battlezone +++

+++ 14 hours since Vet. Sergeant Corymbus deployment +++

Corymbus evaluated all the assets at hand in the St. Ahra Sanctuary siege. The result was promising. If they would not be able to repel the attackers completely, they should be able to survive until reinforcements arrive. That of course only due to the presence of Space Marines on the field. If not for them the besieged Ecclesiarchy militia would be obliterated.

Deacon handed over to Corymbus the entire command authority and committed himself to fulfilling the Astartes orders.

And so did Corymbus begin to turn the tide of battle. The attackers, used to easy prey after months of hunting down unorganized sorties from militia, now had repeatedly fallen into a dozen of ambushes in the ruins of a city surrounding St. Ahra Sanctuary. Today they will try to end the fight.

It was a bad day for an assault on the defenders positions, due to the clear sky and long view distance, thanks to the end of the snowfall. Yet city was still covered in fresh snow, but thankfully for the defenders, no new flakes where falling from the sky.

City… A past and long gone name for the sea of rubble and ruins that encircled the still standing Sanctuary complex, once in the middle of the urban zone, that used to be called Ahra Primus. Half a million souls inhabited its hab blocks. Half a million souls used to dwell here and cherish and praise the Saint Ahra in his temple.

Now a distant memory for the defenders who mostly constituted from the temple guard (retired imperial guardsmen for the most part), or in other case the remnants of city population. They have struggled to defend the city at all costs, and they failed. At the time of Corymbus’s arrival the Ecclesiarchal militia held only narrow perimeter around Sanctuary building complex. Its strength could be estimated at about 200 men and woman. Yet the shortage of supplies was close at hand. Several more days and the food would have to be rationed and ammunition given out in smaller amounts.

“Good timing” Thought to himself Corymbus looking at the militia men exercising his orders and getting into positions. Barricades were being reinforced, strongpoints resupplied, shifts and patrols rerouted and put to maximal efficiency. Truth be told Corymbus was sure that the defenders survived only due to strength of will, rather than martial prowess, since their commanding officers had no clue how to deal with siege craft.

After 14 hours of preparations Corymbus was informed about massive hostile activity from all directions. “Well, looks like they have someone with a brain in proper place.” He thought to himself.

-“They know, that if they do not attack immediately the defenders would get even more reinforcements. Strike now or never, that was the dilemma the enemy commander had…” spoke aloud Astartes commander

-“Colonel Marton and his lackeys.” interrupted Deacon

-“What?”

-“That is the name of enemy commander” he clarified.

-“Ah yes, anyway Deacon, they are approaching, you know your orders, now move” Corymbus turned away from the priest and put his helmet on, it was time to enter the field.

He voxed to all his marines present at the planet surface.

-“Battle-Brothers! It is time to execute your orders. Proceed with caution and brutal efficiency. There is no need for martyrdom nor for any sacrifice at all. We just need to hold them off. It may sound… bit too cautious but mark my words: we have no one to spare! You would do well to remember that. Your lives are now more important to the chapter than they ever were. Do not dispose them to a fight such as this. That would be unnecessary. Caution and efficiency. For The Emperor! For Redemption! For the Mantis Warriors!”

Finishing with the Mantis Warriors battle cry, Corymbus activated his jump pack and flew away from the main building of Sanctuary complex. He landed a fair distance away where his battle brothers of assault squad where already waiting in hiding.

-“Sergeant LaMans divide your squad into three groups, ill lead one, you will lead the the other, and last one will be led by the men of your choosing. We launch in approximately 2 minutes and enforce protocol Headbite.” Corymbus relayed his orders.

-“Sergeant Olvyi? Do you read me?”

-“Loud and clear commander, we are at the position. Reporting enemy armour approaching, just as you predicted, through the ruined avenue, melta charges are in place.” came a quick reply.

-“Very well, inflict maximum damage and pull back. Remember the Mantis way, do not risk unnecessarily.” Warned Veteran Sergeant.

-“Understood commander” replied Olvyi.

-“Troenor what is your status?” Corymbus continued assessing his teams.

-“Multiple targets ahead of us. We are already under fire, we are repelling them together with militia. They are trying break our strongpoint, but that is not going to happen.” reported sergeant Troenor.

-“Very well, your retreat would cost us ammunition stockpiles and food resources that are left for the defenders at your bunker. Yet I strongly order you to fall back when the situation will get out of hand. Remember we cannot afford any loses.” Summarized Corymbus.

-“Commander… the situation will not get out of hand… orders received and understood” Sergeant Troenor replied, with bitterness loudly voiced in his words. He felt insulted by Corymbus, that he could have let the situation to get out of hand.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ north eastern battlezone +++

First salvoes of Leman Russ’s battle canons roared over the battlefield. Squad Olvyi answered with a chain of precisely coordinated metlaexplosions that tumbled multi-storey buildings on approaching armour squadron. Three Chimeras and a Leman Russ battle tank  were buried with its crews and cargo under hundreds of tons of rubble.

Coordinated bolter fire followed from multiple directions and obliterated any escaping traitor guardsmen not caught in detonation.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ western battlezone +++

Divided among three sub-squads, the assault team of Mantis Warriors detachment hovered above the battlefield towards the predicted avenue of approach of line infantry troopers marching towards the Sanctuary of St. Ahra from the west.

They have landed, each team on different rooftop of multi storey buildings that miraculously survived the onslaught, and then they waited, like a stalking predator of death world jungle.

Traitor guard didn’t allow them a long wait. First, Astares heard Chimera engines, undoubtedly covering the approaching units from heavy weapon emplacements, rather than transporting the bulk of the troop amount. Behind them marching in a cohesive lines, about 400 guardsmen who turned traitor where now heading for one of two last places of resistance on this planet. Undoubtedly they wished to finish this soon and be done with resistance on St. Ahra once and for all.

Unfortunately for them, Corymbus and his Battle-Brothers were far from giving up on the populace of this planet.

-“Ignite in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – blast them!” Roared Corymbus. Exactly same mechanics of trap that was launched upon the tank column by Squad Olvyi, now was unleashed upon the marching traitor troops. Buildings tumbled and fallen covering approaching enemies in rubble and dust.

The detonation was architecture to be fired when the marching column could be split in two. In the aftermath of the explosion about a hundred guardsmen were dead or grievously wounded. Yet about 300 of them were still battle worthy. Fortunately for the defenders nearly half of traitors was cut away from their comrades by the fallen building that would take some time to breach.

Corymbus issued an order: “Headbite”, and all three groups of assault marines ignited their jump packs and assaulted designated targets.

A bloody fight unfolded due to the massive number advantage on the said of traitors resulting in a 15 guardsmen against one Astartes situation. Yet due to the fact that the fight was a brutal close quarters slaughter, traitors didn’t stand much chance against Assault Marines equipped with chainswords and power axes. Corymbus himself was tearing to shreds everyone he stood against, with his two power claws crackling with blue ribbons of energy.

The odds were turning into the favour of attacking marines not only in the brutal melee that unfolded after the ambush. Squad Olvyi reported complete annihilation of tank squadron that approached the sanctuary via north eastern avenue. Although enemy was destroyed Olvyi reported as well that they have taken heavy damage. Unfortunately one of the Leman Russes was not entirely covered in rubble and destroyed. Somehow one of the heavy bolter sponsons survived together with traitor that manned it. When Squad Olvyi members Dreus and Garin approached the crushed vehicles to execute any surviving crew members or transported troops (that were buried inside Chimeras), heavy bolter spat fire and damaged both Battle-Brothers. Thanks to rapid response and their enhanced biology, both Astartes survived unexpected bolter fire and finished heavy bolter emplacement with precise throws of krak grenades, yet they still they got heavily wounded and had to be extracted to fall back point Zeta.

Due to the fact of infantry charge with a backup of Bane Wolfs and in consequence passible loses Olvyi decided to retreat his squad and bring the wounded Battle-Brothers under the care of Apothecary.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ southern battlezone +++

Squad Troenor was experiencing heavy fire from enemy forces storming the southern approach to the Sanctuary. Ruins of a warehouse served Sergeant Troenor and his Battle-Brothers for a bunker. He was also accompanied by about 50 militia members, initially. Now his auxiliaries were down to 4 standing on their own and 12 heavily wounded.

-“Brother Tyon bring your rocket launcher to this avenue take this damned Bane Wolf down. Brother Numides cover him with stalker bolter. Brother Atrion and Brother Borgas retreat to my position I see Leman Russ approaching your location” Troenor issued his orders in a heartbeat.

Atrion and Borgas where send ahead of the strongpoint Squad Troenor was defending, in order to take enemy infantry into cross fire. They both got “waist deep” in gore, and thy have switched their bolters for chainswords to wreck even more havoc at melee.

Now they were fighting their way back due to the unending flow of traitors that engaged them in melee and threaten to hold them long enough to be targeted by Leman Russes that approached their position.

-“Tyon what is your status?” asked sergeant Troenor.

Laud explosion answered the question, covering with its blast radius the surrounding buildings with chemical waste that was left of Bane Wolf main turret supply tank. Screams of contaminated traitor guardsmen that hid behind the vehicle followed the sound of explosion.

-“Target down” reported Tyon

-“Good shot Brother!” praised Troenor

Suddenly, even lauder explosion followed brief conversation and in the same instant, status icons displaying health condition of Brother Atrion and Brother Borgas flashed away and vanished.

-“Atrion! Borgas! Report in!” Yelled Troenor, fully aware that the sound of explosion heralded the least anticipated vehicle on the battlefield. Traitor guard, contrary to the gathered intel, was in possession of Leman Russ Executioner – a variant of that tank that replaced main battle cannon with plasma  cannon . A deadly foe indeed.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ western battlezone +++

-“I see him! He is mine!” Roared Corymbus already entirely covered with traitor guardsmen’s blood. He already has slain about 50 of them and was not going to stop before protocol “Headbite” was enforced.

Mantis Warriors relayed on very practical and cunning way of procuring warfare. Minimal losses and maximal damage inflicted upon their foes was a result of adhering to the axioms of Great Khan’s teaching favouring rapid and merciless strikes. Yet to their speed and agility, Mantis Warriors also incorporated tactical solutions favoured by the sons of Corax – ambushing and striking where they were least expected. Such was the path of Mantis.

Corymbus understood it and embraced it completely, fighting in a way that would make his predecessors proud. Now that the most of the infantry column approaching defenders position was eradicated and only those quickest to flee were still alive, Corymbus noticed command Chimera trying to retreat together with the remnants of attacking force.

-“Squad Olvyi you are clear to advance from point Zeta after the fleeing hostile units, yet no further than the city borders” Ordered Corymbus.

-“Sergeant LaMans, finish those traitors and join Squad Troenor, from last report I understood they are under heavy fire” Continued commander

-“And you Cor?” asked sergeant LaMans on a private vox channel, who knew Corymbus long enough to address him in such informal way. And as to Astartes standards long ment about 150 years of service in the Chapter

-“I have a head to bite off!” replied Corymbus, and ignited his jump pack taking him in to the air towards the fleeing command chimera.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ southern battlezone +++

-“Sergeant! Brother Atrion and Brother Borgas are down. They got incinerated by the plasma explosion.” Confirmed Brother Pratio, yet Troenor already knew that. He was furious. This tank should not even be here. The traitors will pay bloody toll for taking lives of two of his battle brothers.

Troenor evaluated his options and acted a second later.

-“Brother Numides, cover me and Brother Tyon with bolter fire, while we approach the damned tank with melta charges. Tyon on my mark we run towards this rubble, we wait there till he approaches and blast him to pieces. Brother Pratio you take two of our wounded Battle brothers and retreat along with humans to point epsilon” ordered Troenor pointing towards two heavily wounded Astartes: Galash and Fohan.

Brief confirmation reached his ears from all the Battle-Brothers. Everyone knew their place.

Sergeant Troenor together with Brother Tyon approached tall cover of a downed building rubble , that seem to be a canteen in the past. They hid behind high pile of what was once a wall of the main guest room and awaited the approach of Leman Russ. Just as they were preparing for the run towards the rear of the tank that has passed their location. A soldier in the uniform of traitor imperial guard regiment closed in on their location. Troenor heard him before he crossed behind a wall and, when the soldier came into view he was stabbed with a combat knife through his face. He didn’t have time to scream and warn his comrades of hidden Astartes.

Troenor and Tyon ensured that their position is not compromised, begun to run towards the back of Leman Russ with melta charges. Then to their surprise, they came under inaccurate sniper fire from one of the higher levels of former hab block. Although sniper was a poor marksman, the shoots alerted Leman Russ crew and tank started to tilt on its axis towards the sudden danger. Before Astartes made it to the tank side (since it has already turned a bit) to plant meltas, Leman Russ’es sponson mounted heavy bolter tore Sergeant Troenor head apart from his body with a salvo surprisingly precise enough, that was aimed at Marine’s neck join. Sergeant fell in an instant and never moved again.

Tyon, who was an experienced veteran instantly picked up sergeants melta charge and together with his own, planted them both on the tank’s engine vents and jumped away, sprinting behind nearest cover.

Few seconds later, last serious threat to the defenders was blasted to pieces in melta explosion.

The blast radios managed to embrace Brother Tyon, leaving him wounded but alive.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ western battlezone +++

Diving from the air, Corymbus landed with a loud thud on the top casing of Chimera command vehicle like a bird of prey. Instantly he started to rip armour plates apart with his power claws. It took him 4 blows to “open up” the Chimera and look through his blood red visor lenses towards the frightened-to-death traitor Colonel.

-“Colonel Marton, you have deviated from the path of righteousness and fallen away from Emperors light. I hereby sentence you to death!” Proclaimed towering Angel of Death. It was the last thing both the Colonel and the rest of the crew have seen and heard in their lives, as the carnage that followed was too fast to be observed with human eyes.

And so did the assault on the St. Ahra Sanctuary end. With blood and death on both sides of the conflict, yet the defenders emerged victorious due to the decapitation of enemy force thanks to the execution of command personnel of the regiment that besieged holy place. Remaining traitor forces that managed to flee the ruins of the city, headed north towards the encircled refinery of promethium, to join with other renegade forces.

+++ Ahra Primus Settlement +++

+++ Sanctuary building complex +++

In the main chapel of the Sanctuary three bodies clad in green power armour lied on the marble floor among crushed pieces of stained-glass windows destroyed by the heavy shelling of the building.

Over them stood three other figures clad in the same green power armour.

-“They have not died in vain, Commander. And their geneseed, miraculously but nevertheless, can be recovered.” Stated apothecary Otis.

-“You have my thanks Otis. As to the fallen, they shall be forever remembered in the halls of glory upon the deck of “Sword of Zegul”.” Proclaimed Corymbus.

-“Troenor was a hardened veteran, Chapter will grieve his loss” stated sergeant Olvyi.

-“As were Brother Atrion and Brother Borgas” added apothecary Otis

-“Indeed Otis, indeed. They will be missed but their legacy, Thank the Emperor, will leave on! Now we need to prepare for the arrival of the rest of our fleet. We cannot assault the second enemy battlegroup but we can maintain watch in here. Sergeant Olvyi you are from now on in command of this city. Make sure it never falls in enemy hands again. I and the remnants of squad Troenor will return to the orbit, apothecary Otis you will join me. Some of Troenor battle brothers need your attention, I heard Brother Tyon lost his hand in melta discharge while destroying the Leman Russ Executioner tank. He will need a bionic replacement. Also I will order Techmarine Grash to come down to planet surface and help you Olvyi with reinforcing this position.” Ordered Corymbus.

Acknowledgements were issued and veteran sergeant walked towards the awaiting Thunderhawk that will take him back to his ship.

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.

Prologue IV – The Mantis Warriors

+++ Saint Ahra orbit +++
+++ command bridge of “Sword of Zagul” +++

– “This is commander of “Sword of Zagul” sergeant Corymbus acting within the authority of Captain Tagon Ortuga, answer our hail or condemn yourself to obliteration, this is my final warning” Said Corymbus and then he turned to one of bridge human officers:

– “Time before they are in firing range?”

– “Two minutes my Lord. They are all burning their engines towards us with full speed”

– “Gunnery decks ready my Lord, awaiting the targets approach” reported another crewman

– “Sergeant Olivyi to the bridge. We are ready and waiting, boarding torpedoes loaded with Battle Brothers!”

– “Very well Olivyi await my orders.” replied Corymbus

– “My Lord they are hailing us!”

– “Put it through on main screen”

The main screen filled with an image of an old man wearing Imperial Navy livery of the Admiral rank. His face was rugged and his overall look was of a man that gave up on his life, sorrow and bitterness dripping form every word he spoke.

– “This is Admiral Felario of “Rightful Glory”, 1st Jorus monitor squadron. I see the false Emperor has send his curs to bleed us yet again. Face me lapdog, I hope you will make for better sport than your lousy brothers did on the surface of Baalimm, and …”
– “Cut the link. Forward the orders to our accompanying destroyers that all but the command vessel are to be obliterated into oblivion. “Rightful Glory” is to be taken by boarders. Sergeant Olvyi this is bridge – you have clearance to slaughter everyone on your way save for the Admiral Felario – I want him alive. Enginarium, full speed ahead” Corymbus – veteran of countless void battles, for more than two centuries serving as one of the most gifted battleship commanders in the Chapter relayed his orders in a heartbeat to his subordinates, content that he will finally see some action after nearly a year without firing his ships weapon systems.

– “My Lord, it looks like Lord Jehol was right, entire system thrown into madness of insurrection, abandoning Emperors light.” voiced his thoughts one of crew officers.

– “Yes, that is likely the case now that I have seen his defiance I have no doubt that the insurrection runs deep within Jorus, and most probably was planned with care. The real question yet is not that of how many of them there are already turned traitor, what is most important is the figure of the leader – who is behind this madness? My intuition tells me we will find out soon enough, and when we do there will be no mercy…” Proclaimed Corymbus

– “My Lord? Permission to speak freely?” Asked First officer of “Sword of Zagul” greybeard man who often provided Corymbus with valuable council.

– “Granted”

– “Honor demands that we serve void kill to “Rightful Glory” and its crew, why would you board it and why would you keep its captain alive?”

– “Felario is by the right of his rank a commander of system bound fleet, that means he was allowed to attend council meetings consisting of system governor and other military commanders, and that means he is very well informed. Also if we can assume that land forces are all dedicated to insurrection, and now we know void forces are also taking apart in it, it leaves a question of the role of system governor. Our interrogators will have plenty of questions for Felario. That is why I am not killing him where he stands – and truth be told I would gladly obliterate his ship with barrage of our weaponry but efficiency of campaign ahead of us is more important that my personal pleasures” Corymbus grinned towards first officer after finishing.

+++ two hours later +++
+++ “Sword of Zagul” command bridge +++

Wreckage of system fleet slowly drifted in the void towards the Saint Ahra due to its gravitational pull. Veteran sergeant Corymbus added another victorious battle to his honour roll.

– “My Lord, sergeant Olvyi reports that mission was successful, Admiral Felario is captured and his crew is dead to a single men. Also sergeant Olvyi reports that mission was carried out without any losses.”

– “That was expected of him, very well let him bring his captive onboard.”

– “Sergeant Olvyi is trying to establish vox link with the bridge”

– “Put him through”

– “Sir this is Olvyi we are onboard Thunderhawk and coming back to “Sword of Zagul”. We need to speak privately … there were things onboard captured vessel… you might want to know about it, I mean you should know about it … this was unexpected”
The vox connection crackled and made Olvyi sound like he was more worried than he actually was.

– “Very well Olvyi, meet me in my quarters as soon as you will be able to. First officer Tornton, you have the bridge. Also complement our escorts on their prowess, it was perfectly executed operation” Replied Corymbus before leaving the bridge.
+++ half an hour later +++
+++ “Sword of Zagul”, Veteran sergeant’s Corymbus private quarters +++

– “Corymbus I will get to the point…”

– “Please do”

– “Onboard the command vessel squad Olvyi encountered blasphemous shrine devoted to the pantheon of Chaos. Corymbus! By the THRONE they worshipped ruinous powers!”

Corymbus’s features darkened. As a true servant of the Emperor he hated pawns of chaos above all other foes that humanity encountered in the vastness of galaxy’s void and he sought every occasion to deliver just punishment to the misguided and fallen. But now he also knew that this was bad news. Not out of fear, but rather out of carefulness he wanted to avoid meeting the inquisition. Now that the nature of the foe was revealed it was a matter of time that this bloody bastards will also arrive in the system.

– “Olvyi keep this information to yourself and order your squad to not spread it even to other battle brothers. For now it’s better to await Captain Ortuga’s decision of how we will handle this war. And also we should wait for Admiral to voice his reasons for treachery. Thank you Olvyi, you may go now.

Olvyi bowed his head and left the room. Ship-master reached for his helmet lying on the desk and put it on his head.

-“This is Corymbus, prepare the prisoner for my arrival. I shall question him personally. Make sure to have all the necessary tools and servitors ready within twenty minutes”.

Short confirmation followed, and then Corymbus walked out of his quarters towards containment cells, with dark thoughts and even darker mood.

Prologue III – The Mantis Warriors

+++ Jorus System +++ 
+++ System’s Oort cloud region +++
+++ Strike Cruiser’s “Venomous” command bridge +++

Seven figures clad in power armour and one in terminator armour all in Mantis Warriors livery stood around strategic table with hololithic representation of Jorus System. Death Warden Galfridus called a meeting of company commanders before reaching Jorus system, just after they received the distress call from planet Baalimm. Company commander Captain Tagon Ortuga didn’t hesitate to commit to Jorus system investigation even though some company members pointed out that strike force should first replenish the supplies. Strongest plea came from company’s chief Techmarine Yagnar – Master of the Forge of “Devourer” battle barge.

Captain Ortuga dismissed the pleas for resupply much to satisfaction of Death Warden. Now that the matter was not any more debatable since they already were in the system, the plan of actions to be taken was about to be agreed upon. 

– “What we know so far is that our brothers from Guardians of Celeres Chapter were attacked by insurrectionists. There is also talk of traitor within the ranks of the Guardians that led the insurrectionists and prepared a trap that has seen most of the Astartes forces on the ground of Baalimm brutally slaughtered. Planet Baalimm is a Hive world that serves as recruitment world for Chapter which means its importance is unquestionable.” Captain Ortuga paused and awaited replies from his officers.

– “What we do not know is the exact troop disposition of the enemy and their strength. So far we may speculate that Imperial Guard regiments and planetary defence forces are all committed to the treachery. This leaves us with probable troop disposition of six Mechanized infantry regiments of Imperial Guard and two regiments of planetary defence forces.” Added veteran sergeant Jehol clad in terminator armour. His booming voice echoed in the chamber even though he wore no helmet.

– “This pests will be dealt with quickly and mercilessly, although we cannot afford to wipe out entire population of the planet since our brothers of the Guardians of Celeres find the genestock of its population worthy for recruitment. This means we should eradicate the enemy while trying to avoid any collateral damage to the planetary population.” Pointed out Chief Apothecary Hankin.

– “Initial scans of the system show that we may encounter void opposition from 5 system monitor ships, yet I would not call it anything more than a nuisance. But then again we do not know if the Jorus fleet also committed to the insurrection.” Spoke veteran sergeant Corymbus commander of vanguard cruiser “Sword of Zagol”.

– “That is a thing to consider, shall we strike with high prejudice or should we hail them first. Then there is the matter of other planets that are home to smaller human populations and may or may not be also infested with the insurrectionists influence” Voiced sergeant Anfroy

– “Yes we need to consider that, but for now we assume that entire system has fallen into the claws of treachery. We should…” Captain Ortuga never finished the sentence due to incoming hail from the flagship of Mantis Warriors gathered fleet – the “Devourer”.

– “Captain, this is Branwen forgive me the interruption of war council, but there is something that demands your attention.”

– “Speak sergeant” 

– “Our long range scanners and navigators are registering warp translation of significant size that will take place in a matter of hours” 

– “Who do we expect?” Asked veteran sergeant Jehol, “More traitors?”

– “No, sir we are receiving signatures of broadcasted messages preceding the incoming fleet arrival”

– “What is the meaning of them”

– “It is a looped warning that says: <Be ready for the wrath of Sons of Sanguinus> therefore I am guessing we can expect Blood Angels Chapter or their successors in system within several hours”

-“Very well sergeant, thank you for that”

– “At your service Sir, Branwen out”

Captain Ortuga looked around on the gathered Astartes and said after short while:

– “Looks like we have to postpone our war council since there will be need to coordinate our actions with our cousins from Baal. Yet meanwhile sergeant Corymbus shall take “Sword of Zagol” and two destroyers of your choosing and scout ahead. Shall you encounter and hostilities from system fleet, crush them with all your strength, otherwise do not engage them. We will join you shortly, but until then maintain high anchor above the Saint Ahra. Also try to establish communication with Ecclesiarchy on the planet surface since as far as our information goes, this planet is committed to worshipping Saint Ahra which suggest clergy presence and they may be a source of valuable intel.”

– “As you command Sir” Veteran Sergeant Corymbus bowed his head and left the meeting in order to get back on his ship.

Prologue II – The Mantis Warriors

+++ Year 950.M41 Ultima Segmentum +++
+++ Mantis Warriors 3rd penitentiary crusading fleet on route to Fargo –  Sector capital +++
+++ Strike Cruiser “Venomous” +++

Oliphias was running as if hosts of hell were after him. In fact that was not far from truth. His descent to the lower levels of strike cruiser “Venomous” was marked with several accidents of which crossing ways with gun loaders gangs was most troubling for him. He had a blood feud with several members of this aggressive organization and was promised a brutal death on many occasions by its members.

Yet since he was a chapter servant, and one seconded to 3rd Company Reclusiarch Galfridus, his mind was troubled with more urgent matters than the revenge of gangers. Two hours ago the bridge received distress call from neighbouring star system named Jorus. Since penitent crusade that Mantis Warriors were currently on, brought the Chapter’s 3rd Company to this region of space they have battled every foe they came across as an effort to repent for their transgressions in the past. Most recently they have purged Ragas sub-sector from Orc infestation, and after successfully completing the task they embarked on a journey to Fargo in order to resupply the fleet. By the judgement of Inquisition and their brother Chapters Mantis Warriors were not allowed to draft new recruits until they were not done with their penance, yet they were still allowed to resupply when needed.

Oliphias kept running through narrow corridors in an effort to reach Reclusiarch in his private quarters and deliver urgent news about received distress call. Galfridus was not responding to any vox hails from the bridge therefore Oliphias had to deliver a data slate with the message in person.

When he finally reached the chamber doors, he stopped to catch his breath and look around if he was not followed by the gang members. The protective aura of being Reclusiarch’s servant kept him alive yet again and he eluded death one more time.

After short while he pressed the console on the left side of bulwark doors and waited admission. Doors parted and allowed him entrance. First thing he noticed was the irritating smell of incense and thousands upon thousands of candles lit in the chamber. He left antechamber and followed in to the main room. The heat from the candles made a pleasant difference compared to the cold of lower level corridors.

A lone figure was kneeling in the room’s center. Surrounded by candles Reclusiarch Galfridus was occupied with self-flagellation. Blood dripped from his back and made a small pool of quickly coagulating fluid around his feet and knees.

“He must be doing this for hours now, if not days!” Thought Oliphias to himself. Astartes wounds heal incredibly fast, but Galfridus kept on flogging himself to prevent the coagulation. His back bore evidence of countless hits form of both fresh wounds and old scars of various origin.

“Master Galfridus I have urgent message that you need to be informed about, let me…” Oliphias was interrupted by Galfridus who tossed the flail to the ground and stood up, still standing with his back to the intruder. Then Oliphias realized Astartes was completely naked but for the peace of cloth around his waist. “His head is bare!” Oliphias realized with horror, “That’s not good, no not at all, warp damn it!”. Death Wardens as Mantis Warriors called their Chaplains, wore helmets with a representation of bone white skull on their heads at all times. No-one, especially those not of Adeptus Astartes were allowed to see faces of Death Wardens. Looking upon the face of one of them was considered grievous disrespect.

“Master I didn’t know you committed to the meditation…” Started Oliphias and was brutally interrupted once again.

“Silence!” Spoke Galfridus with a voice demanding immediate and unquestionable obedience.
Oliphias bowed his head as low as he was able to.

Galfridus turned around and walked towards standing serf.

“You know the rules Oliphias, yet you disrespected me with disobedience. Disobedience is a sin, committing to sin is heresy, and heresy is treason in the eyes of God Emperor. Treason should be punished.” Death Warden made a pause, and in the silence Oliphias loudly swallowed salvia that gathered in his mouth out of fear.

“The only punishment adequate for treason is death” Recited Galfridus, and while he spoke the last words he crushed Oliphias skull with his bare hand. He watched convulsing body of his servant fall on the floor and he shake bloody pulp of Oliphias’s brain-matter and skull fragments off of his hands. Then he took data slate that Oliphias brought with him and started reading through the report.

“Your soul will be grateful to me Oliphias. Your transgression was justly served with punishment. Justice that we were denied after our own treachery. We must bare eternal shame of being treated mercifully. Even though we never asked for one. We should all be already dead, and your death was a privilege that we were deprived.”

Galfridus stood there analysing the details on data slate for several more minutes and afterwards he turned towards his armour and prepared to meet the company commanders. Oliphias was right after all, the matter was urgent.

Prologue I : Fate of Guardians of Celeres

Early 950.M41

Planet Baalimm, Jorus System

Regular military exercises performed by the elements of Guardians of Celeres 10th Company on their recruitment world Baalimm went horribly wrong. During troop deployment as a part of the drill, novices where supposed to sweep through Gortanis Hive lowest levels and practise infiltration of Hive environment.

Baalimm’s10th Mechanised Inf Regiment was to assist Astartes scouts and deployed few days earlier to the field. Yet as it was revealed to the marines novices, Imperial Guardsmen turned traitor and ambushed the scouts. On the Astartes side the looses were drastic. Not only 58 chapter initiates have fallen in the initial exchange of fire but also accompanying Tactical Squad Singrog was cut down while covering the retreat.

Astartes were outnumbered 30 to 1 and had to withdraw to chapter fortress monastery located on the edges of the Hive. Yet before they got there second in command of the planetary Guardians of Celeres detachment veteran sergeant Tanrus was shot down during organised retreat. Or so did the report say. Much darker truth has been later revealed towards his fate.

During the retreat Marines realised that whole hive went mad. It looked like pre-organised planet-wide insurrection against the rightful rule of the Imperium.