- "Dark star, that hath no light;
Whither shalt thou wander,
If not back into the abyss
Where we must follow?"
- — Attributed to Saint Basillius the Elder
The Broken was a warband of Chaos Space Marines that was once the Viridian Consuls Chapter, a Second Founding Successor Chapter of the Ultramarines. They were corrupted by Chaos after entering the Eye of Terror in 321.M37 as part of the Imperial Abyssal Crusade. It is unknown what horrors they endured during their sojourn in the Eye, but by the time they made their way back into realspace, they had become the warband of Heretic Astartes known as The Broken.
The Broken were encountered by the Ultramarines Chapter in the late 41st Millennium as they investigated the Space Hulk designated Fury that broke from the Warp close to the Agri-World of Iax. As the Ultramarines ventured deeper into the Space Hulk, they were horrified to learn that their foes were once a Loyalist Chapter derived from their own parent Legion. The Broken are believed to have been eradicated by the Ultramarines and their allies amongst the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Inquisition during this campaign.
The Abyssal Crusade
Following the Ecclesiarchal Purges of 321.M37, a dozen star systems were engulfed by Warp Storm Dionys, its echoes rippling along the spiral arms of the galaxy as it raged through the Empyrean. Records of mutation and Chaos Cultist activity quadrupled virtually overnight. Worse yet, it was not only the citizens who were affected by the sudden influx of Chaos. Many of the Space Marine Chapters with homeworlds affected by the Warp Storm found that the secret imperfections in their gene-seed were writ large upon their new recruits, giving rise to a wave of disturbing manifestations both physical and psychological. The Viridian Consuls were one such Loyalist Chapter of Astartes that was affected by this Warp Storm.
When the Ecclesiarchy heard of this sinister turn of events, Saint Basillius the Elder demanded that all those Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes whose homeworlds had been touched by the Warp Storm be rendered unto his judgement. Such was the Living Saint's influence with the High Lords of Terra and the Inquisition that within a standard year this had come to pass. After a series of stringent tests and prognostications, hundreds of Chapters were deemed unaffected by the Warp Storm but no less than thirty were found wanting.
The Judged, as these fallen Chapters came to be known, volunteered for a redemptive Penitent Crusade. The most militant of their number demanded the right to purify their tainted flesh in the fires of battle, to make a noble end from tragic misfortune. To the surprise of his closest advisors, Saint Basillius agreed to this proposal. He saw it fitting to send the accused into the Eye of Terror, taking the fight for the Imperium's future to the Daemon Worlds inhabited by the Traitor Marines.
Representatives from each of the doomed Chapters held an emergency Council of Dismay to discuss the proposed Crusade. After scant solar hours of debate, they acquiesced to Basillius' demands, for they believed that martyrdom was preferable to an existence of suspicion and doubt. The last few days of 321.M37 saw a solemn procession of Strike Cruisers and Battle Barges pass through the Cadian Gate into the Eye of Terror, relay systems dormant and heraldic colours obscured by black mag-plates. One by one, the Chapters of The Judged disappeared into the iridescent dust nebulae that surrounded the Eye. As the Space Marine flotilla entered the Eye of Terror, they were set upon by a massive Chaos warfleet. The resultant battle was so fierce that the warships of The Judged were forced to retreat and were scattered to the furthest corners of the Eye.
After many Terran centuries within the Eye fighting the Forces of Chaos, the Viridian Consuls began to lose all hope and felt that they had been forgotten by the Imperium they served. By that time they had encountered and taken possession of a large Space Hulk designated Fury. Some of their number, including their own Chapter Master Phrynon, lost faith in the cause of the Emperor and turned to the veneration of the Dark Gods.
The rage they felt at their banishment paved the way for the worship of Khorne whilst their despair attracted the baleful attentions of Nurgle. Embracing the teachings of Chaos, Chapter Master Phrynon began to corrupt his own troops, trying to break the Astartes' faith in the Imperium by torturing them through diverse means. For his efforts Phrynon was granted ascension to daemonhood and became a Daemon Prince. He shed his mortal name to become "The Witness", a title taken in mockery of the Imperial justice that had condemned the Viridian Consuls to this fate. Having been broken both in mind and body before succumbing to the corrupting influence of Chaos, the remaining Astartes who became a part of the new warband took the name of "The Broken."
The Fury Comes to Iax
Four thousand standard years after The Broken took command of the Fury, the Space Hulk was detected by the Augur array of one of the many void stations guarding the Agri-world of Iax in the far distant Realm of Ultramar. A patrol ship was sent to investigate the matter, but failed to return, as it was caught in the gravity-well of the enormous Space Hulk, which over the centuries had grown to become the size of a small moon. As per procedure, Iax's void-control alerted the nearest Ultramarines vessel, the Strike Cruiser Rex Aeterna. While monitoring the situation, Iax's security officers received a garbled Vox transmission: a single, short phrase in archaic High Gothic, repeated over and over as if it was whispered by the darkness itself, "Insanista in tenebris".
Commanded by Captain Caius Galenus of the Ultramarines' 5th Company -- also known as the "Black Company" for their distinctive black pauldron rims -- the Rex Aeterna was promptly rerouted to the Iax System. After identifying the Space Hulk for what it was, the only recently promoted Captain Galenus deemed it prudent to relay the information to Macragge, for he had correctly anticipated that both the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Imperial Inquisition would take a keen interest in the Space Hulk. The former because it might house some invaluable archeotech, the latter because its Warp-taint might well endanger the spiritual and physical integrity of the worlds the Fury would pass while in realspace.
Lacking any true experience in inter-Adepta politics, Galenus preferred to defer the matter to his Chapter Master, Marneus Calgar. In the meantime, the Rex Aeterna would investigate the crash-site of the surveillance vessel on the slim chance that one of the crew might yet be alive. This meant landing on the surface of the Space Hulk itself. In order to acquire more data on the nature of the threat the hulk presented, Captain Galenus authorised the deployment of a single squad of Space Marines to investigate the crash-site and the nature of the Space Hulk itself. Terminator Sergeant Caius Starn, formerly of the 5th Company before being promoted to the 1st, volunteered his squad for that mission.
While the initial reconnaissance quickly determined that there were no survivors, the Veterans of 1st Company -- which was still recuperating from the blow dealt to it by the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Behemoth -- found progress difficult and slow. The surface of the Fury was a mangled landscape of voidship wrecks and asteroids, the low gravity powerful enough to trap metallic dust and smaller debris in clouds of micro-particles that disrupted both Auspex-scans and communications. Despite the precautions they took, the Rex Aeterna soon lost contact with the four-man Terminator Squad as they ventured deeper into the Space Hulk.
In the meantime, on Macragge, Calgar had received Galenus' message. The nature of the event was such that he had immediately ordered news of Galenus' discovery to be relayed to both the Forge World of Gantz and the Inquisitorial Fortress on Talasa Prime. Both the Mechanicus and the Inquisition had soon after dispatched their own envoys to push their respective agendas. Calgar knew the first envoy, Magos Explorator Fane, from his previous dealings with the Mechanicus. But the second, an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus who introduced himself as Lazarus Drake, was unknown to him.
Given the sheer size of the Fury, Calgar had ordered the Ultramarines' 7th Company out of reserve and Captain Ixion was already transferring his men and their equipment to the mighty Battle Barge Octavius, the most powerful vessel in the Ultramarines' fleet. Together, the Chapter Master and Captain Ixion would lead the 7th alongside Drake's Inquisitorial warband and Magos Fane's Skitarii to the Iax System. Chief Librarian Varro Tigurius, the Chapter's second-in-command, also accompanied the expedition, as his knowledge of Imperial history and his precognitive abilities would prove invaluable.
By the time the Octavius reached the Fury, Sergeant Starn's mission to the hulk had yielded some rewards. The Terminators had successfully penetrated the Space Hulk, finding a deep chasm which -- with the proper equipment -- might be a point of ingress into the Space Hulk's core. On one of the corridor's walls, they had also discovered a withered inscription identifying this part of the wreck as a former Imperial vessel, the Centurius Sol.
Unfortunately, while venturing deeper into the heart of Fury, Sergeant Starn was lost when a portion of the ancient deck collapsed under the weight of his Terminator Armour. Captain Galenus had then deployed a second team to the Fury’s surface led by Techmarine Salvator to reestablish contact with the lost squad by erecting a communication beacon. Through Inquisitor Drake's contacts, the Ultramarines were able to quickly determine that the Centurius Sol had been allotted to Battlefleet Obscurus at Cypra Mundi before being lost in the early 41st Millennium. This confirmed their worst fears -- that the Fury had emerged from the Eye of Terror.
The Mystery Deepens
As both Inquisitor Drake and Magos Fane argued over the expedition's fate, Sergeant Starn, once feared lost, found his way back the Fury’s surface. In the palm of his Power Fist he held a curious object he had discovered deep in the bowels of the Space Hulk -- a Mark V Heresy Pattern Power Armour helmet of the Adeptus Astartes. The helmet was truly ancient, its original livery long erased by the passage of time, but its discovery could mean only one thing: that Space Marines had been -- and maybe still were -- on the Fury. Yet again Inquisitor Drake's techno-savants proved invaluable, as the helmet's production stamp and number allowed them to trace the helmet back to its original owner.
With no means to determine if these mysterious Astartes were the remnants of some faithful Chapter's lost detachment, or the harbinger of something far more sinister, Marneus Calgar formally took command of the mission. His first orders were for the full mobilisation of the 5th and 7th Companies and the awakening of their Dreadnoughts. The Astartes cyborgs' brute strength would be sorely needed to clear the Fury’s surface and establish a forward base of operations on the Space Hulk.
Led by Sergeant Starn, an expedition composed of the Ultramarines, the servants of the Mechanicus and the Inquisition would venture deeper into the labyrinthine corridors of the Space Hulk and pierce its mystery. Marneus Calgar decreed that he would lead 5th Company's men and their Captain whilst Captain Ixion and his 7th Company would remain on the surface of the Hulk and secure the base. Tigurius would stay on the Octavius and command the fleet while using its powers to forewarn them if the Fury was about to disappear into the Warp again.
As the Imperials cleared the upper levels of the hulk and made their way deeper into the Fury, installing Vox-relays every few Terran miles within the massive vessel's interior to maintain communication with their fleet, Marneus Calgar could not shake a sense of grim foreboding. Darkness was surrounding them, the Space Hulk's metallic dust clouds and radiation levels playing havoc with their Auspexes and even the targeting systems of the Space Marines' Power Armour.
Cut off from quick reinforcements, navigating the dark corridors only by sight, and relying on their built-in illuminators to shed light on the path ahead, left the party extremely vulnerable. Both Inquisitor Drake and Calgar understood that the further they travelled within the hulk, the harder it would be to withdraw. They feared that an enemy might be monitoring their progress and would strike once they had been lured deep enough that easy retreat was no longer possible. At the same time, the further the Imperial party ventured into the vessel, the more signs of deliberate alterations of the hulk became apparent. The interior of the Space Hulk was clearly inhabited, and even the oxygen levels in the interior's atmosphere approached breathable levels. The Imperials were clearly not alone.
As they ventured deeper into the hulk, Magos Fane requested that he be allowed to lead a detachment of his Mechanicus personnel to investigate a chamber from which his superior Augurs had detected the power output of several systems that were still operational inside the hulk. With the Chapter Master's permission, Fane left the main body of the Imperial column. While his Adepts began to work on several Cogitators still drawing power, an urgent transmission for Inquisitor Drake was relayed by the Octavius. Consultation of the Inquisitorial archives had yielded its reward.
Drake's archivists had informed him that the mysterious Space Marine helmet Starn had found within the Space Hulk was nearly three Terran millennia old and belonged to the Viridian Consuls Chapter. That Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes had been declared lost in the Warp in the wake of the infamous Abyssal Crusade. As a gesture of trust between them, Drake shared this information with Calgar, who promptly asked Tigurius to gather further intelligence on the matter.
Magos Fane then presented the results of his own inquiry. Fane and his Adepts had recovered a digital map that laid out the system of tunnels that comprised the upper levels of the Fury. These tunnels were extensive and had been carved out through the bulk of the massive voidship over the course of several Terran centuries. Magos Fane intended to study the rest of the data and the neighboring compartments of the hulk, but Calgar refused.
He ordered the Magos to copy the map and rejoin the main Imperial column, denying him additional time in the Cogitator chamber. Frustrated by this decision to short-circuit his exploration, yet unwilling to openly disobey the Chapter Master, Fane programmed his best Artisan, Alt-seven, to return to the chamber and investigate the rest of the data and especially the hidden chamber they had discovered behind the Cogitator stations when an opportune occasion arose.
The Fury Awakens
The lookouts of the Ultramarines stationed on the surface of the Space Hulk unexpectedly reported movement outside the base perimeter. Two-man teams of Scouts from the 10th Company equipped with Sniper Rifles had taken up overwatch positions and were surveying the surroundings. Brothers Malthus and Huthor were the first to spot the attackers. First in the dozens, then in the hundreds and finally in their thousands, the smaller figures rushed the Scouts' position, forcing them to retreat. The attackers were visibly coordinated for as they gave ground, the two Scouts found themselves outflanked. The enemy rushed on, looking to engage in close combat.
The two Scouts quickly identified the enemy as Adeptus Mechanicus Murder Servitors. Reaching for his Bolt Pistol, Brother Malthus felled many of the deadly cyborgs with headshots, while Brother Huthor's Combat Shotgun prevented them from closing. But once the Murder Servitors were upon them, Brother Malthus was injured by a vicious stab, the blade visibly coated in some kind of poison powerful enough to overcome the improved healing factor of their Astartes physiology. Only the timely intervention of a Tactical Squad from the 7th Company prevented the two Scouts' death. Other teams of Scouts reported hostiles closing in on the Ultramarines' base from all directions.
Captain Ixion mounted a tenacious defence, disciplined volleys of Bolter-fire mowing the mindless Servitors down like wheat in a field, but still the cyborgs launched themselves at the base defences. Even the heavy weapons of the Devastator Marines of the 9th Company proved powerless to stop the enemy tide from eventually reaching the Ultramarines' lines.
Captain Ixion of the 7th Company had little choice but to call in air support from the Ultramarines' complement of Thunderhawk gunships. Overwatch Flight, a trio of Thunderhawks, launched from the Ultramarines fleet above the Space Hulk, and flew over the enemy's ranks. The flight was tasked with identifying and eliminating the enemy positions. After a first strafing run with Hellstrike Missiles, the three Thunderhawks readied for their second pass when one of their number was hit by fire from Heavy Arc Rifles carried by enemy Kataphron Battle Servitors and lost.
Forced to disengage, the two remaining Thunderhawks returned to the Rex Aeterna for rearmament, promising to return in greater numbers. Meanwhile, the Ultramarines found themselves pitted against what they now assumed to be the creations of the Dark Mechanicus. Nine Battle-Brothers were severely wounded by the potent neurotoxins coating the Servitor's blades, two of them succumbing to it before Apothecary Rannick could stabilise their condition. The remaining seven wounded were quickly transferred to the Octavius’ Apothecarion by Thunderhawk extraction. It was only with the battle well underway that Librarian Belisar of the 7th Company revealed to Captain Ixion that the enemy they faced were not servants of Chaos, but forces of the Martian Mechanicus, tremendously old, but untainted by the corruption of the Dark Gods.
Elsewhere, Senior Artisan Alt-seven and his small party continued to explore the Fury. His orders were to gather enough data and return to Magos Fane before his absence was noticed by the rest of the Imperials exploring the Space Hulk. In the course of his wanderings, Alt-seven detected a code signature that had been active for two thousand Terran years. He ordered two of his accompanying Skitarii to investigate the chamber from which the program had originated.
Elsewhere, Alt-seven continued to analyze the traces of an ancient battle within the hulk that he had discovered. Letting his auto-senses range over the area, he detected signs of Warp-damage, as though some gigantic force had taken the very fabric of the Space Hulk and shaken and twisted everything slightly out of frame. But there was more.
As the Tech-priest looked closer, he saw that some of the damage was explosive in nature; hull plates that were torn and blackened as well as buckled, and here and there a line of shell holes in the plasteel -- large impacts that had to be the work of Bolter fire. Interspersed with these traces were other relics of past conflict; including the long, searing furrows of Arc Rifle blasts. There had clearly been a battle fought on the Fury long ago, a combat between his own Adeptus Mechanicus and the Adeptus Astartes. Alt-seven knew Magos Fane needed to be informed of what he had learned. But while the mission lasted he had been ordered to maintain Vox silence. It would have to wait. Impatience seized him as he realised there had been no word from the two Skitarii; they had been swallowed up by the darkness ahead.
Suddenly, Alt-seven felt as if his brain had been filled with insects. Staggering at the sudden onset of the mental assault, he entered the next chamber and found the two Skitarii standing motionless without reacting to his presence. They stood before a vast, looming spire of wire-wrapped mechanica. The vid-screens on the pillar snapped into momentary life and displayed a haze of static. Reams of cable ran serpentine all around a floor from which billowed up a slowly boiling fog of vapour. The great pillar, composed of interwoven components of all kinds and drawn from many different eras, rose before them like some unquiet blinking icon, fifty Terran feet tall, a machine tree with limbs of cable and wire and plasteel supporting struts that rose up to grasp at the tall ceiling overhead.
Alt-seven called up his internal Vox in an attempt to contact Magos Fane, but the techno-tree that stood before him took control of his augmetic components. Alt-seven's cybernetic hardware became useless as his mind was invaded by foreign code. The Mechadendrites attached to his body and those of the Enginseers who had accompanied him fell limp with metallic clangs. Alt-seven's mind became a whirring blaze of uploading data, his head shaking on his shoulders as it flooded him. His warding incantations and protective protocols were swept aside like so much chaff, and a massive, blinding, enveloping stream of data coursed through him, realigning all his thought processes, rerouting programs, rewriting the sacred base code that made him who he was. It was over in only nanoseconds.
The Mechanicus agents accepted the commands of their new master, who had finally shown them the true meaning of perfection. Elsewhere within the hulk, Marneus Calgar reviewed the reports of contact with an unknown enemy while most of his Ultramarines were still fighting the apparently Renegade forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Chapter Master inquired of Magos Fane if he knew anything about these Dark Mechanicus forces that they had encountered. Fane objected that he and his techsorcist had detected no malign code that would indicate that the Heretek forces of the Dark Mechanicus were present on Fury.
But Fane did confess that he had sent a small party to investigate a major logistack of Cogitators nearby, though his servants had strangely not yet returned. Inquisitor Drake accused Fane of withholding vital data, but their quarrel was ended when by Chief Librarian Tigurius contacted Calgar. Tigurius informed his Chapter Master that the Fury was powering up its Geller Field and preparing to make a Warp jump.
Captain Ixion relayed his findings over the Vox to Marneus Calgar. The Chapter Master confronted Magos Fane with the reports from the surface. Faced with the Chapter Master's ire, Magos Fane revealed his duplicity and told Calgar and Inquisitor Drake all about the secret mission he had tasked Alt-Seven with and that whilst he had detected some traces suggesting an Adeptus Mechanicus presence aboard the Fury, he had no means of predicting their reaction. As Alt-Seven had not yet submitted his report, Magos Fane regretted he could not shed any light on that matter.
Inquisitor Drake accused Fane of withholding vital data, but their quarrel ended abruptly when Chief Librarian Tigurius contacted Calgar. Tigurius informed his Chapter Master that power readings inside the Fury were rising quickly, the energy signature consistent with Imperial Geller Field technology. The Fury was obviously preparing to make a Warp jump!
Located roughly 6 Terran miles inside the Space Hulk, Calgar, Inquisitor Drake, Magos Fane, Captain Galenus, the 5th Company and the remaining Inquisitorial and Mechanicus forces had no hope whatsoever of escaping the Fury in time. But those Ultramarines on the surface were not so trapped. With a heavy heart and yet without hesitation, Calgar ordered Captain Ixion to evacuate the Space Hulk. Tigurius was left in command of the mission whilst command of the Chapter would be passed on to Captain Severus Agemman, the commander of the Ultramarines' elite 1st Company.
Not knowing if they would survive entering the Warp or be able to return, Calgar bid is old friend to stand by Agemman's side and advise him as well as he had Calgar. Calgar opened a last Vox-channel to Brother Honorus, the former Captain of 5th Company, now interred within a powerful Castraferrum Pattern Dreadnought. Too bulky to follow them down the deep chasm and narrow corridors of the hulk's interior, Brother Honorus had been standing guard over the expedition's exit route. Calgar ordered him to make all haste to the surface and evacuate as well, an order the Dreadnought tried to fulfill, but he arrived too late.
At the same time Tigurius detected the rise in energy from the Space Hulk, the Mechanicus phalanxes broke off their attack. Unexpectedly freed, Captain Ixion and 7th Company quickly embarked upon the arriving Thunderhawks. They would have to leave most of their ammunition and materiel on the Fury, but that prospect pained the seasoned Captain less than the feeling of abandoning his brothers and his Chapter Master.
With the Octavius’ Augurs carefully monitoring the Space Hulk's rising energy levels, Captain Ixion reluctantly departed on the last Thunderhawk to fly out. With barely sixty solar seconds to spare, the Octavius and her accompanying vessels reached minimum safe distance. With the last words of Tigurius to his trapped brethren -- "Courage and honour" -- still ringing in their ears, the Ultramarines trapped on the Fury braced themselves for Warp-translation before the Space Hulk disappeared from the Iax System in the blink of an eye, its destination unknown.
The Lost Cathedral
With something approaching relief, the members of the Imperial expedition remained alive and unharmed following the Space Hulk's translation into the Immaterium. The hulk's Geller Field was obviously strong enough to keep the denizens of the Warp at bay, for no daemon manifested itself, ready to tear them apart. The translation itself had been mercifully quick, though it had changed the mission's parameters. With the Space Hulk clearly controlled by an unknown and hostile faction, the Ultramarines needed to seize whatever served as a control centre for the hulk and guide the Fury back to Imperial space. This meant venturing even deeper into the hulk's interior. Even as he gave his orders, Marneus Calgar could not shake the feeling that his forces were being herded somewhere, like animals to the slaughter, even though 5th Company had yet to meet the unseen enemy.
The further the Imperials advanced, the more Calgar's experienced eyes could discern the tell-tale signs of conflict. Some walls were pock-marked with small holes, clearly the impact and detonation craters of Bolter weapons. In some instances the party even found spent bolt-casings littering the ground. Had the Viridian Consuls and the Adeptus Mechanicus fought each other? And if the answer was "yes", why?
Another concern was that the Imperial column stretched out though the hulk's depths for the better part of nearly two Terran miles. This left it clearly vulnerable to attack. Marneus Calgar consulted his downloaded map to find any area within the hulk large enough to present decent lines of fire should the worst unfold. The map indicated that if the Imperials ventured further along the corridors they were bound to emerge in a great hall of some kind, a suitable location to rest and reevaluate their present condition. Calgar decided to grant the Terminators who had been taking point for the Imperial party some rest and ordered Captain Galenus to designate one of his squads to carry out reconnaissance of the chamber ahead.
What the scouting party discovered took them by surprise, for whilst the temperature had been steadily rising before, the newly-discovered chamber was ice-cold. Some micro-climatic quirk had even produced a steady fall of snow. At the heart of the chamber, the reconnaissance squad found a structure, obviously man-made, although it lay partially in ruin. Thick columns and walls of carved stone were still standing, an unbroken Gothic arch allowing entrance to the great edifice.
With no enemy found within, the squad gave the all-clear before venturing deeper into the chamber. Their next discovery was more unsettling. Some four hundred Terran yards from the structure, there were eight human bodies, all standing locked in ice. They were the size of Space Marines and still wearing their Power Armour. Beneath the ice, the Chapter badge could still be seen: an Ultima icon like the one worn by the Ultramarines, bisected by a sword and flanked by two wings of flame, on a green background -- the heraldry of the Viridian Consuls Chapter.
Faced with these new revelations, Marneus Calgar, Inquisitor Drake, Magos Fane and their respective retinues quickly gathered at the building's entrance. Magos Fane's scans indicated that the rock used to erect the strange building within the chamber had not been mined in the Ultima Segmentum, as its molecular composition was similar to the rock found at four quarries within the Segmentum Obscurus. The closest match was an old mine in the Dartaris System, not far from the Cadian Gate. He added that while the rock itself was several billion years old it must have been mined only at some point in the previous five millennia.
The building had obviously been desecrated, even though the remnants of an Imperial Aquila were discernible on the arch's front. The keen eyes of Chaplain Murtorius were the first to note that the form of the Aquila was not the standard Imperial icon, but the Imperialis symbol beloved of the Adeptus Astartes, an Aquila centred on a skull, though the skull had been blasted to nothing. In the rubble gathered at the base of the great arch, Chaplain Murtorius further discovered the remains of Imperial statues: an angelic wing and a Bolter-fragment whose votive scroll read Imperator Fidelis. Not a phrase a Heretic would tolerate on his ship.
Understanding started to dawn upon Calgar and his officers. The structures within the large chamber were the ruins of the Viridian Consuls' place of worship, the heart of their Chapter cult, a true Imperial cathedral taken with them during their Penitent Crusade into the Eye of Terror. The hall they were standing in must have once been the cargo hold of one of their Battle Barges. The eight dead Space Marines supported this theory, but there was no indication of what had killed them. Nor was there any evidence of who had desecrated their sacred space.
The Fate of the Viridian Consuls
Almost on cue, the scout party reported contact with a lone Space Marine -- visibly injured -- approaching their position near the eight dead Viridian Consuls. His pauldrons were dirty but one displayed the emblem of a sword. Believing they had located a survivor, the Ultramarines did not open fire at once but let him draw closer. It was only when the unknown Astartes had halved the distance between them that it became obvious he had been corrupted by Chaos.
His entrails spilled openly from a deep wound in his abdomen, a dark red smear on the dirty green of his Power Armour. The arm he was clutching, mimicking a wound, was no arm at all, but a slimy tentacle, coated in some kind of transparent fluid which proved to be acid. Worst of all was his face, the lower part of his Mark V Heresy Pattern helmet replaced by insectoid mandibles. Upon seeing this abomination the Ultramarines opened fire, cutting the Heretic Astartes down. A roar of rage answered from the darkness and soon the scouting party faced heavy return fire.
After requesting support from their brethren, the Tactical Squad of 5th Company moved to hold their position. They accounted well for themselves until Marneus Calgar personally led a demi-Company to their aid. With the Chapter Master's arrival, the remaining corrupted Chaos Space Marines retreated back into the dark, giving the Ultramarines the time needed to analyze their foe -- their first unwitting contact with The Broken. The signs of corruption were obvious and written large on their former brethren's bodies, the curse of mutation running rife among them.
The original heraldry of the Viridian Consuls had been subtly altered, the Ultramarines' own sigil having been inverted to form an Omega, an ancient Terran symbol for the end of all things. Some of the corpses also displayed the mutational "gifts" of the Plague God Nurgle, having been transformed into the feared Plague Marines. Others wore the blood-encrusted crimson armour of the Khornate Berserkers usually encountered amongst the World Eaters Legion and other servants of the Blood God. To see Heretic Astartes dedicated to two separate Chaos Gods fighting side-by-side outside of large campaigns such as the Black Crusades was extremely rare -- and disturbing.
Into the Heart of Darkness
In the wake of this encounter, Marneus Calgar realised that the oppressive atmosphere of the Space Hulk was beginning to affect him. He and his men were on edge, their words often harsher than intended, as if the darkness surrounding them was slowly creeping in, nurturing the embers of hate and sharpening the pangs of desperation. Perhaps the Viridian Consuls been brought low in this same way, affected by the Warp-tainted essence of the hulk. The intensive training and psychological programming of Calgar's Space Marines and Inquisitor Drake's retinue kept the whispers of darkness at bay, whilst Magos Fane's soldiers and Adepts were too far from human to be affected. But if the fate of the Viridian Consuls was a lesson, it would not take long one of their number to fall prey to it.
While Inquisitor Drake and the Lord of Ultramar were planning the expedition's next move, Magos Fane had other preoccupations. His trusted right-hand, Alt Seven, had returned. Though Calgar noticed that the little party was one Skitarii short, he did not press the matter when Alt Seven explained that the cyborg had fallen through the deck plating. Secretly contacting his superior by means only open to the Adepts of the Machine God, Alt Seven informed Magos Fane that he had established contact with the Adeptus Mechanicus faction present on the Fury.
Magos Fane was thus the first to learn the true identity of the Fury, its purpose, its long history and its importance to the far-off lords of Mars. Although motivated by their own agenda, the goals of the Mechanicus and the Ultramarines were aligned: to seize control of the Fury’s main reactor and steer it back into the Imperium. Yet now Magos Fane had become a spy for the Renegade members of the Adeptus Mechancius living on the Space Hulk.
Whilst the wounded Space Marines were treated by Apothecary Philo of 5th Company, Calgar and Drake discussed their options. With the Ultramarines trapped between two enemy forces and in hostile territory, establishing a base at what they were already referring to as the "Lost Cathedral" made little sense. Although the location was easily defensible, it was also too far from their true objective.
The only alternative was to press on, venturing deeper into the heart of the Space Hulk. Calgar conceded the point to Drake that his retinue were far better employed as scouts than his own troops. The Chapter Master allowed the Inquisitor and his Acolytes to lead the way, taking point for the Imperial column. As the Inquisition forces departed, the Ultramarines burned their dead and held a commemorative service under the guidance of Chaplain Murtorius.
As the Inquisitor and his small retinue of Astra Militarum and Adeptus Arbites veterans ventured further into the darkness, they moved forward with caution, for each chamber of the titanic Space Hulk seemed to possess its own ecosystem. After leaving behind the Lost Cathedral, the temperature began to steadily rise as did radiation levels. In some parts of the labyrinth network of corridors and halls, an unaugmented man would have been irradiated to death in only a matter of solar minutes. Calgar's Space Marines could easily ignore this threat with their transhuman physiologies, but Inquisitor Drake's Acolytes could not. Several times, the insistent pings of the Imperials' Auspex indicating lethal ambient radiation levels would force them to double-back and seek an alternative route.
The small party was attacked twice by the creatures that dwelt in the dark bowels of the Fury, great slug-like beasts of slime and filth whose bodies were coated in the same highly concentrated acid as the tentacles of the fallen Viridian Consuls. Bolters proved next to useless against the beasts, so the Inquisitor's retinue had to rely on their Frag Grenades and their sole Flamer to defeat the hungry abominations. Each of these encounters led to the death of more Acolytes, but Drake would not relent. The Inquisitor maintained regular communication with the Ultramarines Chapter Master over the Vox as the Mechanicus Tech-priests continued to establish communications relays through the hulk's depths to guarantee a modicum of coordination between the Imperial forces.
With the inquisitorial retinue roaming ahead, the main column was advancing slowly. Distrusting the Mechanicus-faction within their ranks, Marneus Calgar covertly ordered Captain Galenus to watch over them. Although the short Vox-exchange was held on an encrypted channel, the looming presence of Space Marines in cobalt-blue Power Armour at the end of the column was an obvious reminder of who truly commanded this expedition.
Perhaps surprisingly after his former rebuke, Magos Explorator Fane proved far more conciliatory than anticipated. When his adepts detected a new power-surge in the Fury’s sytems, the Magos immediately approached the Chapter Master to warn him of this unexpected development: the Space Hulk's Geller Field-generators and engines were powering up to full power, the tell-tale sign of an imminent realspace-translation. As the Fury emerged from the Warp, the Imperial expedition bent all their resources to finding out where the Space Hulk's erratic course had taken them. Consulting with Brother Ulfius, the Librarian attached to 5th Company, Calgar wanted to know if his psychic talents could tell them more about their location. Despite his best efforts, Brother Ulfius was unsuccessful, the reality so permeated with the taint of the Warp that his psychic screening was inconclusive. Drawing upon his considerable experience, Magos Fane knew of only two locations where this was the case. Given the time spent in the Warp, only one of them could be considered. His expertise was categorical. The Fury had taken them within the Eye of Terror.
Enemy of my Enemy
Far above, a second column of humanoid figures arrived on the surface of the Fury and began to follow the Ultramarines' trail into the Space Hulk's interior. They were the same foe which had forced the Ultramarines' 7th Company to swiftly retreat from the Space Hulk's surface. The columns of Renegade Mechanicus troops followed the path Calgar's expedition had taken into the hulk. Quite unexpectedly, they were met by the heavily armoured form of Brother Honorus. Too slow to reach the extraction point, the Dreadnought had reverted to his last standing order, determined to defend his brothers' only egress point at all cost.
Lying in wait at one of the corridors' many turns, Brother Honorus rushed into close-combat, his armoured sarcophagus and frame impervious to the Skitarii's melee weapons and the short-range fire of their Galvanic Rifles. Brother Honorus used every choke point to his advantage, and retreated down the corridor, unleashing maximum havoc on the Mechanicus troops. To further delay the enemy advance, the Dreadnought collapsed the entire corridor upon his foes, buying his brothers as much time as he could.
Ultimately, Brother Honorus realised his second life was forfeit. As the Renegade Adeptus Mechanicus brought up Kastelan-class Robots to clear the debris and deal with him, Brother Honorus knew his time had come. Although the valiant former captain of the 5th Company acquitted himself well, ultimately he was pressed back to the chasm leading into the Fury’s inner levels and fell to his long-delayed death.
Blissfully ignorant of the events unfolding several kilometres above him, Marneus Calgar kept his thoughts to himself. While the column came under attack several times by local fauna, the vigilance of Captain Galenus and his Astartes made sure that they never posed a serious threat to the Imperial forces. Yet, invariably, these attacks slowed their advance and were accompanied by casualties. At the same time, the Chapter Master pondered the words broadcast by the hulk at the very beginning of the mission, Insanista in tenebris. Insanista was generally translated from High Gothic as "insanity", a meaning that seemed more than accurate given the maddening variety of micro-ecosystems and baleful creatures the Fury harboured -- former Viridian Consuls included.
And yet, Calgar pondered the words more than he should have. As they ventured deeper into the Space Hulk, his humours became increasingly unbalanced, he could see it in his own actions and that of his men. Anger was quick to blossom and clouded his ordinary so focused mind for longer than it should, the hulk's Warp-taint was clearly beginning to affect him. With a sudden realisation, Calgar knew he had to consider the message in its original context of the 36th Millennium when the Viridian Consuls had first been lost in the Warp.
Four thousand Terran years before, "insanista" had carried an alternate meaning, that of the blind fury that swallowed the warrior in the fit of battle. Perhaps the taint lurking at the heart of the Fury was the touch of the Blood God. If so, this meant that whatever the Ultramarines and their allies would encounter at the heart of the Space Hulk would fight tooth and nail to oppose them. The pragmatic Calgar decided he needed to reevaluate his mission parameters, for their venture might just have become a suicide mission.
The scout-party under Inquisitor Drake soon reached the heart of the hulk, metal giving way to red stone at the junction between the asteroid initially colonised by the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Space Hulk that had formed around it. At the end of the corridor, a sculpted arch of red stone opened into the dark. The arch itself was festooned with a multitude of skulls, thousand of them forming the pillars of the archway into darkness.
Drake saw that a great many species had "contributed" to this macabre edifice, the long, elongated skulls of the Eldar and the brutishly thick heads of Orks lying next to predominantly human and T'au skulls. Here and there, the tell-tale augmented skulls of a Space Marine or a Heretic Astartes could be found. All of the skulls bore the baleful rune of Khorne upon them, confirming Calgar's worst suspicions.
The true horror awaited on the other side of the archway. As they moved through the unguarded entry, the Inquisitor and his remaining Imperial veterans were greeted by a breathtaking sight. Before them stood a gargantuan cavern, a hall so big that it defied comprehension, a hollow world more than a mere interior. By the Inquisitor's estimations and readings the ceiling must have been a Terran mile and a half up, with the total length of the cavern perhaps three miles in length. What from a distance had looked like darkness was in fact filled with light as a shallow lake full of bioluminescent algae stretched before their feet. The lake was riddled with pieces of broken machinery and masonry, collapsed walls and crosses welded from broken girders and stanchions. On each and every one of them, a Space Marine had been crucified.
Drake counted scores, even hundred of crosses while the men of his retinue -- all battle-hardened veterans who had seen the ugliest things the galaxy had to offer -- made the sign of the Aquila or averted their gaze. But Inquisitor Lazarus Drake was made of sterner stuff. All the crucified Space Marines were still dressed in portions of ancient marks of Power Armour, its original color long obscured by spilled vitae and other bodily fluids and moss. Big bolts of crude metal affixed each corpse to its cross by each limb.
In some cases the Space Marines had been disemboweled, their innards spilling from their abdomen, either dead or deep in their Sus-an coma, others had been visibly dismembered and then put back together, a grim mockery of their former form now rotting away beneath the gaze of their brothers. All of the crucified Astartes were unhelmed. On the closest faces Drake could still see the horror in their eyes, the captives screaming in silence, their tongues plucked from their mouths and their vocal cords likely severed. Inquisitor Drake had discovered the fate of the remaining Viridian Consuls.
From the middle of this grim forest of the impaled an island rose from the lake, its shores broken like that of an island battered by the elements on some Ocean World. Unable to ascertain if the island was made of dark stone or metal, the Inquisitor's gaze was drawn to the mighty keep rising from its highest reaches. The fortress' walls rose up like sheer metallic cliffs, their outer layers now stained with filth. At their top, medieval battlements had been hacked from the metal, the work crude but obviously functional. Towers rose from these battlements, some of which bore the aspect of the serrated prows of Imperial starships, while others seemed to have been built out of Imperial shipping containers, the big metallic boxes used as the fortress' bricks.
From the battlements banners of crimson and green rippled in a hot wind. Each was made of skin, their poles of human bone. The symbols they carried were varied. The most common was the skull-rune of Khorne and the three wounds of Nurgle as well as the same sigil borne by the Astartes slain at the "Lost Cathedral," an Omega bisected by a sword and flanked by wings. The rune of the Blood God adorned the keep's gate, a hundred feet high, dabbed in blood and surrounded by skulls.
More skulls littered the floor, much like the currents of a mighty ocean would have deposited fields of sea-shells at the bottom of a beach. Drake's psychic senses detected the great malevolence that radiated from the keep. Here, then, was their true enemy. Here the Broken had built their fortress, watching over the corruption and torture of their former brethren.
Where Drake's group had been small enough not to attract much attention, the main Imperial column did not fare as well. Time and again, the Ultramarines were attacked by the denizens of the Fury, grotesquely mutated Chaos Spawns or packs of almost feral Broken Heretic Astartes attacking the column in waves. Soon, every Space Marine of the expedition sported some wound or damage to their armour. The noble cobalt-blue of the Chapter was stained with blood and pus from their kills, or burned by the acidic touch of the mindless beasts attacking them. Nevertheless, every Battle-Brother reverently cleaned his left pauldron -- the one bearing the sigil of Ultramar.
Only brute force kept the column advancing, Marneus Calgar and his two Honour Guard and Starn's Terminators fighting at its head. Even before reaching the hulk's main chamber where the true battle would be fought, the Ultramarines were running low on ammunition. Ever a pragmatist, their Chapter Master ordered his Battle-Brothers to rearm their Bolters with bolts taken from the slain Renegades. Purified by a short prayer from Chaplain Mortorius, 5th Company and its attached elements continued their advance against the odds.
As the column neared Inquisitor Drake's coordinates, Brother Ulfius came before Marneus Calgar, and warned him that he had psychically sensed a presence approaching the rear of their column. Auspex readings confirmed that a large force was closing on the Imperials. Fearing an ambush, Marneus Calgar made for the rear of the column and ordered Captain Galenus and his Command Squad to take point. When Calgar reached his destination, he found Brother Ulfius and Magos Fane already waiting for him. 5th Company's 2nd Squad under Sergeant Gaden dutifully covered the rear with their Bolters. But the enemy was nowhere to be seen.
Magos Fabe initiated a private exchange with the Chapter Master and confessed that since Alt-Seven's return, he had been in contact with the other Mechanicus elements present on the hulk. The Ultramarines had falsely assumed them to be members of the Dark Mechanicus, but in truth this faction was composed of Martian Renegades, a sub-cult of the Adeptus Mechanicus that had developed in isolation for several thousand Terran years. Although its tenets were a far cry from Martian orthodoxy, these Mechanicus forces were undeniably loyal to Mars and the Omnissiah and free of the taint of Chaos. Their leader, Magos Dominus Hagnon-Cro, wished to conduct a formal parley between himself and the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Although reluctant, Calgar agreed to the meeeting. But before leaving the column alone he ordered Sergeant Gaden to kill Magos Fane at the slightest hint of treachery.
The figure that awaited Calgar was that of a heavily augmented human. His lower limbs had been replaced by four arthropod-like legs, very much like those of a spider. These made the Magos Dominus taller than the Chapter Master had expected. Mechadendrites and other additional limbs had been added to its upper torso, some of them hidden by a ragged robe of Martian red, the sacred color of the priesthood of the Omnissiah. While the Magos hid its weapons so as not to provoke Calgar, the Chapter Master's heightened senses easily perceived them, recognizing the bulky form of an Arc Pistol and the characteristic hum of a Plasma Weapon.
Whoever this Hagnon-Cro was, he had come garbed for war and was better armed than most of his Mechanicus counterparts. More important, one of his many limbs held a staff of office bearing the pure, unaltered form of the Cog Mechanicum. Sensing no corruption in him, Calgar stayed his hand and let the cyborg Tech-priest talk.
Hagnon-Cro greeted the Chapter Master with the detachment so typical of the senior Magi of the Martian priesthood. Within the first solar minute of the parley, Magos Dominus confessed that he had been forced to kill Brother Fortunus, a loss Hagnon-Cro professed to deeply regret, as he regretted ordering the attack on the positions of 7th Company. It took all of Calgar's self-control not to activate the Gauntlets of Ultramar and bash the Magos' skull in.
Believing his continued survival after this admission was permission to continue, Hagnon-Cro explained how he and his followers had originally been sent into the Eye of Terror to capture a living planet and bend it to the will of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Marneus Calgar easily saw through his lies. While Magnon-Cro and his people were members of the Dark Mechanicus, they were indeed Renegades, seeking to regain control of the artefact they had created. For millennia they had toiled upon its soil, the currents of the Warp and the planet's gravity slowly turning it into the Fury, a maneuverable Space Hulk.
In the wake of the Abyssal Crusade, the corrupted remnants of the Viridian Consuls had attacked them, conquering the interior of the Space Hulk, forcing the Magos' followers to move to the outer layers. Both the Martian Renegades and the Broken lacked the strength to completely annihilate each other and claim the Fury as a whole. The unexpected arrival of the Ultramarines had threatened this balance of power. Believing the scions of Guilliman to also be corrupted Space Marines, the Renegade Mechanicus forces had attacked before recognising their error. Hagnon-Cro now intended to convince Marneus Calgar to join forces with his Renegades and defeat the Broken once and for all.
The Chapter Master easily discerned the falsehood in the Magos' words. Whilst Hagnon-Cro's reaction to the Ultramarines' arrival might have been an honest mistake, Marneus Calgar did not believe for one solar second that the Magos Dominus' true intention was to defeat the Broken and destroy the Fury as he claimed. The untimely arrival of the Ultramarines merely had upset the fragile balance of power that existed on the Space Hulk -- both factions were too weak to simply annihilate one another and claim the Fury as their own.
As much as he abhorred it, the discussion with the Magos Dominus was wielding its fair share of mission-sensitive information. While the Broken posed a threat, they were not numerous enough to eradicate the Dominus' own forces, which gave Calgar an estimate of their true numbers. Second, the Magos Dominus was able to confirm that the Renegades they had encountered thus far were indeed remnants of the Viridian Consuls and that they were still led by their former Chapter Master who had been elevated to the rank of Daemon Prince by his dark patrons. Most importantly, Marneus Calgar had learned the true intentions of this Daemon Prince, "The Witness" -- to lure the Ultramarines into the heart of the Fury, defeat Calgar and present him as a dark offering to his baleful gods. The Ultramarines were marching into a trap.
Despite his misgivings, Calgar knew he had little choice in the matter. The grim mathematics of war predicted the Ultramarines' defeat. Even if he agreed to the Magos' proposal of joining forces, the chances of victory were slim at best. Since the days of their Primarch, the Ultramarines' motto had always been "Courage and Honor", as the Chapter was convinced that those two qualities were sufficient to overcome any foe. Now, Marneus Calgar was about to betray that credo. Praying to Roboute Guilliman for forgiveness, Calgar entered into a devil's bargain with the Renegade Tech-priest.
The Chapter Master's decision to ally with those who had previously been their enemies did not sit well with the officers of the 5th Company. Chaplain Morturius was especially vocal about his distaste, but Marneus Calgar did not break his word once given. As a gesture of good faith, the Ultramarines let the Magos Dominus' forces lead the way. For almost a solar hour, several hundred Weapon Servitors, Skitarii, Sagitarii, Kataphron Battle Servitors and Kastelan Robots filed before the Imperial column, the Ultramarines not breaking up their firing positions as their "allies" passed by.
In truth, Marneus Calgar did not trust Magos Dominus Hagnon-Cro. Having atrophied over the millennia, the tactical acumen of Hagnon-Cro was a far cry from that of the Lord of Ultramar. The Renegade Magos wanted to assail the central keep frontally, an undoubtedly costly venture. However, thanks to Inquisitor Drake's forward position, the Ultramarines already had eyes on their target, an advantage the Magos Dominus lacked. Still undetected, Drake's team had discovered a secondary entrance away from the Blood Keep's primary gate. This was a possible ingress into the keep for a small party.
Marneus Calgar chose not to share this information with any Mechanicus-representatives, as even Magos Explorator Fane's Tech-priests had visibly passed under the authority of Hagnon-Cro. The Ultramarines agreed to spring the trap and to turn it against their opponents. While 5th Company under Captain Galenus supported Hagnon-Cro's frontal attack, Marneus Calgar would lead a small team in a decapitation strike against The Witness. As the keep no doubt harboured all the essential systems required to control the Fury, Inquisitor Drake's infiltrators would follow in Calgar's wake and try to destroy the Space Hulk before Hagnon-Cro could seize control of it. While this surely meant death, none of the Ultramarines flinched at the prospect.
Assault on the Blood Keep
Four maniples of Kastelan Battle-automata to the front, the Renegade Mechanicus forces entered the central chamber -- locally referred to as "The Skull Chamber" -- and fanned out. Arrayed against them, the hordes of Chaos brayed their anger. They were mostly Chaos Cultists, the cannon-fodder of the Dark Gods' armies, but at their head their champions, the Renegade Space Marines of the Broken, held the foe at bay. Still hidden, Inquisitor Drake's small party observed as both sides faced each other.
The Ultramarines emerged as well, lead by Marneus Calgar and the towering form of Sergeant Starn's Terminators. The hard march through the Fury’s interior had cost the Astartes dearly and only sixty Space Marines remained ready for the fight. The Ultramarines deployed on the advance's left flank, adopting a checkerboard formation, Tactical Squads at the front and Devastator Squads at the rear.
At the sight of the crucified Viridian Consuls, shouts of anger and cries of outrage erupted from the Ultramarines' line. Anger filled Calgar's twin hearts, a wrath of the kind he didn't knew he could still feel. "Taste the anger. Savour it. Feel the thrill of rage..." whispered a voice in his head, but the Chapter Master quickly silenced it with his iron will. He called out to his brothers to stand fast and ignore the dark whispers filling their heads. Calgar's piercing eyes easily located the postern gate Inquisitor Drake had first detected and the Chapter Master personally briefed Captain Galenus on his part in the battle to come.
As soon as the battlelines were drawn, the Chaos horde surged forward. As they ran at their enemies, the Khornate worshipers brayed their obscene slogans and their hate of their enemy. The Renegade Mechanicus line held their position, discharging their weapons at the approaching mass of warriors. Fully half of the Chaos force disappeared in the actinic blue-white glow of electric discharge, but the remainder continued to advance. Without sparing their crucified former brothers a single glance, the Renegade Space Marines of the Broken urged their followers on and returned fire with their desecrated Bolters. Sporadic Bolter fire claimed the lives of a few Skitarii, but ultimately made little dent in the Mechanicus' line.
Where the Magos Dominus' forces stood their ground, the Ultramarines chose to advance. Staying true to their initial battle plan, the Ultramarines adopted an echelon formation and redeployed on the Renegade Mechanicus' left flank. The Devastators of the 9th Company unleashed a volley from their heavy weapons. Seconds later, the Tactical Squads of 5th Company -- led by their captain -- clashed with the enemy.
After a brief hand-to-hand combat where the Ultramarines proved their undeniable superiority over their merely mortal opponents, the first wave of the enemy's advance was broken. They had not even made it to within a hundred Terran yards of the Mechanicus-line. But the second wave was already in-bound, and this one was far more numerous and better organised.
The second wave's mortal warriors wore defiled suits of military-issued Carapace Armour and carried more long-range weapons than the first. These troops still possessed the remnants of their Astra Militarum training, as they were disciplined enough to advance in sections. As each section moved forward, the others laid down coordinated suppressive fire.
Where the first wave of attackers had been composed entirely of normal humans, this one included slathering Chaos Spawn, other mutant beasts, and even daemons. Rushing ahead of their support troops, a trio of Bloodletters mounted on fire-breathing Juggernauts advanced with murderous intent. At three hundred yards from the Ultramarines' and Mechanicus' position, the human soldiers halted and allowed the daemons and mutants to rush the enemy lines and absorb most of the Mechanicus' fire.
With savage glee, the trio of Bloodletters entered the fray, cleaving wildly with their Hellblades. Each of their swings felled several Skitarii. One of the Bloodletters was engaged by a towering Kastelan, the robot seeming to hold its own against the minion of the Blood God. With the Mechanicus' line disrupted, the Khornate Renegades unleashed their own charge.
The success of their charge had taken the Khornates by surprise, leaving the Ultramarines unengaged. While the enemy was shifting its line to compensate, Magos Dominus Hagnon-Cro urgently contacted Marneus Calgar, bidding him to engage the enemy unless his own forces were overwhelmed. Seeing an opportunity to put his plan into action, Calgar passed battlefield control to Captain Galenus. With the Terminators still in reserve and his own Honour Guard at his side, Calgar slipped away while the 5th Company drew the enemy's attention. Activating the interconnection of their targeting reticules -- so that no two Space Marines would pick the same target -- Captain Galenus deployed his warriors in echelon-formation, maximising their field of fire.
Since the days of Guilliman, discipline and organisational skills had been the hallmarks of the XIII Legion. Now, this discipline was used to bleed the enemy. Short, controlled bursts of Bolter-fire hammered into the Khornate line, mowing down Traitor Guard troopers like wheat before the scythe. Every shot taken resulted in a kill. Not a single Bolt was wasted. Wherever an enemy officer was spotted, coordinated heavy weapons' fire from the Devastators annihilated their Command Squad or cracked open the Power Armour of Aspiring Champions. With pin-point accuracy, a missile from a portable Missile Launcher unseated a Bloodletter, the minor daemon vanishing in a great explosion. To conserve their ammunition, the Ultramarines favored single shots or three-round bursts, and even with this restraint, after the first two volleys they had turned the enemy line into a mire of steaming blood and ripped-off body parts.
Despite the losses they had inflicted upon the enemy, the foot-soldiers of the Broken still outnumbered the Ultramarines at least ten to one. The slaughter on their right flank also diminished the pressure directed against the Renegade Mechanicus. From his position in the rear of the Ultramarines' formation, Marneus Calgar saw Hagnon-Cro himself wading into the fight, smashing the skull of a Bloodletter with his energised staff of office. Only four Kastelan-class Robots still stood tall, but their efforts were enough to hold the line.
As the enemy's numbers dwindled, the Mechanicus' line reorganised itself. Having slaughtered all who faced them, the Ultramarines were free to take stock of the ammunition they had expended and count their wounded. First Sergeant Greynius went from squad to squad, compiling a report for his captain. None of the Ultramarines had fallen and only a few nursed minor wounds. Just as the fighting was ebbing down, the great gates of the Blood Keep opened again and a second army, even vaster than the first one stepped onto the battlefield.
With wild abandon, packs of slavering Flesh Hounds of Khorne galloped across the Skull Chamber and threw themselves at the Ultramarines. Even though dozens were felled by the Ultramarines' overwatch fire, scores more made it to the Ultramarines' line, their powerful fangs able to carve even through ceramite.
For the first time since battle had been joined, the Terminators were called upon to intervene, charging into the melee that had engulfed the foremost squads. Storm Bolters roared their own fury into the face of the hunting beasts. With great swings of their Power Fists, the Terminators helped their beleaguered brothers out. The Terminators' timely intervention helped to turn the tide, their intimidating presence stalling the enemy's advance and allowing the beleaguered Tactical Squads to withdraw. The Flesh Hounds were all dead, but they had taken a toll. Apothecary Philo was forced to bend over three slain brethren, retrieving their gene-seed with his Narthecium, ignoring the shots that whined past and clipped his armour.
The lull in the battle only granted the Ultramarines a moment's respite. More of the Broken emerged from their fortress, directing the lesser warriors toward their Loyalist counterparts. One squad of Chaos Space Marine Havocs established a firing base and soon let loose with their Heavy Bolters while the bulk of the enemy's force advanced, waving their blasphemous banners and icons while hurling insults at their foe.
Calgar understood that no conventional victory could be achieved, for the Broken were only toying with them. Still undetected, Inquisitor Drake and his small retinue were eager to join the fight, but Calgar ordered them to stand down. Calgar meant to upset the enemies' calculations here, on the field of battle, before they moved towards the fortress' postern gate. Put simply, the Chapter Master intended to kill more of the Chaos scum than "The Witness" intended to lose.
As Brother Sergeant Starn's Terminators fell to serve as a reserve once more, Marneus Calgar watched with approval as Captain Galenus detached four brethren of 9th Company with Melta Guns and Missile Launchers to reinforce the Imperials' harried left. He had known scenes like this since he was a boy, centuries of carnage which his cold intellect dissected and analysed. He was able to identify the weak spots that were going to arise in the next few solar minutes of battle, and he was already planning for what moves needed to be moved after them.
The Chapter Master issued his own stream of orders, as squads peeled off by fireteam from right to left, shifting the line sideways to block the enemy's path and goad the Broken to attack them rather than the diminished line of the Renegade Mechanicus. Standing tall atop mounds of dead, Hagnon-Cro's Battle-Automata and Skitarii were still in the fight, but the Magos Dominus had lost a third of his troops. Unless the Ultramarines focused the enemy's attention on themselves, the Mechanicus forces would soon be outflanked, as there was only a slim line of skirmishers left on the Mechanicus' right flank.
Calgar was about to call up the Magos Dominus on the Vox when a strange sight stopped him. From the entrance to the great Skull Chamber at the rear of the Renegade Mechanicus forces, a new body of figures was marching out: columns of fresh Skitarii in scarlet cloaks, fast moving Sagitarii, yet more Kataphron Battle-Servitors and another maniple of Kastelan Robots. Hagnon-Cro was letting his front line bleed so that he could launch a surprise attack with his fast-arriving reserves. It was as well done as Calgar had ever seen, and he made a swift mental reappraisal of the Magos Dominus tactical abilities. The creature was able, cunning and ruthless. He would prove a worthy foe, if it came down to a last struggle between them.
Quickly modifying his initial plan, Calgar contacted the leader of the Renegade Mechanicus forces and bid him to redirect his reinforcement. With the Ulramarines' movement to the left and away from the Blood Keep, they had created a gap between themselves and the Mechanicus lines. The enemy had stretched himself thinly as well, goaded into attacking Captain Galenus and his men. Using the Ultramarines own exposed flank as bait, the Magos Dominus could deliver a punishing counterattack. In this way, the Broken's second army could be thrown back.
While difficult, 5th Company and Captain Galenus performed this delicate manoeuvre superbly. Confident that their fellow warriors would keep the Mechanicus forces occupied, the second Chaos army took the bait. But in the left rear of the Renegade Mechanicus line the reserve was building up, maniple by maniple. Calgar noted it with approval. There was one thing about Mechanicus troops; they could be counted upon to stand and fight, and die where they stood.
The Ultramarines allowed the enemy to close, their lines reforming as they readied themselves to receive the enemy's charge before the Adeptus Mechanicus' countercharge hit home. While the Ultramarines chewed them up from the front, fast-striding Kastelan Robots and rumbling Kataphron Battle-Servitors sped ahead of the main Mechanicus forces and hurtled into the exposed flank of the enemy formations. The Chaos regiments tried to swing round to meet them, but that only confused their ranks more, and soon their battle-line devolved into a brawling, packed mass that the troops of Hagnon-Cro sliced into.
The enemy advance was thrown into utter confusion, and into that confusion, 5th Company poured a torrent of fire, their line now well beyond the foremost enemy ranks. A terrible slaughter ensued, and the battlefield, which had begun to seem fluid, snarled up once more. Calgar watched it happen, saw how the Chaos forces were now irretrievably embroiled in a bitter close-quarters fight on both the centre and right of their formations. Knowing his moment had come, the Chapter Master gave the order to fall back.
Both Chaos armies were now engaged against the troops of the Renegade Mechanicus while Calgar's own brothers were free of that murderous embrace. It was now or never. Calgar contacted Inquisitor Drake, ordering his Acolytes to make for the postern gate. The Chapter Master's own strike force would join them there, Brother Starn's Terminators rumbling into motion, moving as quickly as their cumbersome armour allowed.
Leaving command of the remaining Ultramarines to Captain Galenus, Calgar ordered him to screen their movement and keep the enemy from following. Calgar then joined the six Space Marines making their way for the Blood Keep's postern gate. The final confrontation with the leader of The Broken drew near.
Undetected by both Calgar's hand-picked veterans and Inquisitor Drake's small party, a third group rose from their hiding place. The small knot of figures wore robes that might once have been scarlet, but were now ragged and faded by hard service. They moved with the singular ease of those whose legs were not made of flesh and blood, following discreetly in the Ultramarines' wake.
Inside the Blood Keep
For the Ultramarines Chapter Master, it was hard to walk away from a fight, as hard a thing as Marneus Calgar had ever known. Drake and his five surviving retainers soon joined the Ultramarines, barely able to keep the punishing pace at which the Astartes moved. Were it not for the presence of the lumbering Terminators, the Chapter Master and his two Honour Guards would easily have outpaced them. As their internal Plasma Reactors spiked into the red from the exertion, Brother Starn's Terminators stayed at the rear of the small company.
As they approached the Blood Keep, Calgar had the party stop. With a strain in his voice that even the Inquisitor had no difficulty in making out, the Lord of Ultramar asked Drake to use his psychic abilities to scry the way ahead. Despite the veil of rage and despair that infested Fury like a disease and the tumult caused by the many deaths in the battle for the Skull Chamber, Drake's psychic inquiry discerned a baleful power in the mighty fortress.
Waves of hatred radiated from it which Inquisitor Drake felt as any other man would feel the sun's heat on his face. Though by no means deserted, the massive citadel did not teem with life-signs as did the battlefield beyond. Calgar's plan had worked: most of the enemy forces had indeed been drawn out into the larger battle, but the resolve emanating from the minds still inside the Blood Keep gave away their true nature. They were Heretic Astartes of the Broken.
Though he had been subtle enough to avoid detection, the dark presence inside the citadel felt Drake's psychic probes. Its counter-lunge sent a spike of pain into the Inquisitor's mind. Such was the pain that Drake had to stop for a moment and collect himself, for seldom had he touched such a powerful mind before. With the enemy likely alerted as to their presence, Drake informed Calgar that while the walls were almost unguarded, most of their enemies on the inside had gathered in a central location, around a single, directing presence, a psyche of immense power.
Calgar acknowledged the fact without further comment. Events were unfolding as he had anticipated. In the end, it would be the outcome of his duel with The Witness that would decide the fate of the Ultramarines aboard the Fury. Cold resolve guided his steps forwards, for the Chapter Master had long ago made his peace with the Emperor. If he was to die today, so be it.
They splashed through the shallow, sucking expanse of the grim fortress' moat, the water rising no higher than the Astartes' knees, though it reached well over Drake's thighs. Even through his sealed armour, the touch of the stuff felt unclean and the Inquisitor felt a shudder of disgust crawl up his back. They carefully approached the moisture-covered and slimy exterior walls of the Blood Keep. The walls were an eclectic mix of stone, steel and ferrocrete, all festooned with green moss which seemed to writhe in unsettling patterns, giving the battlements a crawling aspect.
Drake thought he saw bloodshot eyes there, embedded in the very walls, and pink-grey tendrils uncurled to grasp feebly at the humid air. More rose up under his feet, and he crushed them beneath his boots as he splashed along in the wake of Marneus Calgar. When Kastiro, one of his own Acolytes stumbled, those foul tentacles sought to latch onto him, entangling his hands and his weapon. Seeing the danger, Brother Antonus, one of the Terminators, swiftly but delicately picked up Drake's struggling retainer and ripped him free of the earth's foul clutch, his servo-augmented strength easily lifting the fully equipped man. Even without any defenders, the Blood Keep sought to actively kill them.
As they reached the postern gate, the Imperial party saw that it was in fact far larger than they had anticipated. It was around twenty-five Terran feet high and half as broad, welded steel reinforced with bands of adamantium, all caked with filth and fecund growth like running sores. Runes were engraved across it, as was the eight-pointed Star of Chaos and the antler-like rune of Khorne. The Chapter Master eyed the gate before him, saying nothing, his party assembled behind him. Without warning, he charged forward and slammed the Gauntlets of Ultramar into the huge door with two vast hollow booms. The entire structure quivered, and they were all deluged in falling muck and fragments of broken masonry that tumbled from above.
The Gauntlets of Ultramar shook and shimmered as Calgar slammed them again and again into the gate, lightning bolting out of them in a corona of flaring discharges. The disruptor fields that encased the gauntlets made the metal of the gate melt and run, molten rivulets pouring bright and steaming down to the ground, the structure groaning and shrieking in a howl of overstressed alloys and rending steel. The massive gauntlets struck the tall gateway again and again, until it buckled under the relentless blows. Within a few solar minutes, the gate lay in sundered, steaming ruins, the hot metal spitting and creaking as it cooled in broken pieces on the wet ground.
All pretense of stealth abandoned in the wake of their break-in, the small party finally entered the Blood Keep. Across the vast courtyard they had entered, they could see the keep's defenders mustering for a counterattack. A shimmering volley of Lasgun-fire zipped through the party, one shot fizzing off Calgar’s ornate shoulder-plate, leaving a smoking dot of black carbon behind.
Guided by Drake, the Ultramarines dashed forward, angling their progress towards the towering spire that emerged from the middle of the keep's other towers. There was real fighting then, as several squads of Chaos troops began to converge on the interlopers. The Ultramarines stood back to back and let loose, superbly placed volleys of Storm Bolter fire keeping the enemy at bay. The roadways and streets of the Blood Keep, so empty a few solar minutes before, were filling rapidly.
Scores, even hundreds of enemies came streaming out of the shadows, not only cultists, but tall Chaos Champions of the Broken as well. Some of the latter screamed challenges that were barely rational speech, their Power Armour decorated with the skull-rune of Khorne as well as their own defiled badge. Most of the Champions were brought down by well-aimed shots, but even shattered by gunfire, they kept trying to crawl into contact with the Ultramarines. One had his helm blown off to reveal the pale, noble features of a Space Marine, hardly different from that of the scions of Guilliman, before being decapitated by a sweep of Brother Morent's Power Axe.
Calgar's group reached the base of the tall blade-shaped tower, and there they found huge, double hatchways yawning open, and beyond, a wide staircase going up into darkness, fashioned out of immense blocks of unmortared stone. Drake noticed that the spire was once the prow of a Strike Cruiser, now half-buried by other debris.
Without his Chapter Master having to order him to do so, Brother-Sergeant Starn and his Terminators peeled off from their group and took position at the base of the staircase: they would keep the enemies in the courtyard from following and could be trusted to fight to their dying breath. Only the Chapter Master, his two bodyguards and the five men in Inquisitor Drake's retinue began the ascension of the staircase, their common enemy already awaiting them.
Outside the fortress, the main battle raged on. True to his word, Captain Galenus commanded 5th Company and the Devastators of 9th Company with great efficiency. His main concern was ammunition expenditure. He possessed only four remaining magazines for his Bolt Pistol, a total of eighty rounds, after which he would have to depend upon his Chainsword. Though casualties were mounting, almost half of 5th Company, forty-six Ultramarines, were still standing.
Unfortunately the Ultramarines had been forced to abandon the bodies of eight of their brethren on the field, their precious gene-seed lost to the Chapter unless they could claim victory. With fresh regiments of enemies trying to hem the Imperials in, Galenus had no choice but to detach 3rd Squad as to serve as a rear guard, effectively buying time to reform his company with the lives of of his brothers. Yard by bloody yard, the Ultramarines withdrew, keeping the enemy at a distance where their firepower could inflict maximum damage.
The Ultramarines intentionally distanced themselves from their allies, seeking to close on the postern gate of the Blood Keep through which Marneus Calgar had penetrated the Broken's fortress. Galenus was sure that Calgar would need him before it was all over, and he did not intend to let the Lord of Macragge down.
A sense of urgency filled the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines as he ascended the massive staircase with even strides, his Honour Guard on either side. Inquisitor Drake and his men struggled to keep up with the pace set by the three Space Marines' enhanced physiologies. Far below, the sound of the fighting echoed up the tunnel-like space, as Brother Starn and his 1st Company brethren fought to hold the doors against the enemies rushing in from the courtyard.
Each step of the titanic staircase was almost a yard high, clearly designed for Astartes. With detached interest, the Inquisitor noted that the further they ascended, the more the composition of the staircase changed. From roughly hewn stone, it shifted to steel alloy, and cabling ran alongside the stairs in thick snakes, clamped to the walls and ceiling.
The staircase was also free of the fungal growth which infested the rest of the Fury. Other dark entrances, passageways and conduits led off the staircase, and the thrum of power grew under their feet. A few ceiling plates had buckled and fallen onto the steps below, and massive cables hung free of their brackets, but otherwise the keep's surroundings were in good repair.
The staircase opened out onto a vast space like the narthex of a cathedral, a towering emptiness lit by guttering torches and flickering lumens which sputtered and winked high above them. Huge doors were set in a dull bulkhead, still bearing the ancient emblem of the Cog Mechanicum which had now been defaced and almost erased. In its stead, the Broken had carved a central rune, that of the Blood God and seven versions of the tripartite fly of Nurgle. The thick doors were indeed blast doors of the kind used to separate the critical compartments within a large voidship. As the party drew closer to them, vast hordes of fat black flies lifted up and began buzzing in a shapeless cloud. Only then could the Imperials see that the entire bulkhead had been anointed in bright-red blood, from which the flies fed.
Lesser men would have squirmed in horror at this sight, but Marneus Calgar was undeterred. He stood still for one moment in an attempt to raise Galenus on the Vox and order him to disengage from the battle and link up with Brother-Sergeant Starn, but he could not get through. Even contact with the Terminators had been lost. They were alone.
As he readied to penetrate what he supposed to be the throne room of "the Witness", Calgar turned to Inquisitor Drake . While the Chapter Master intended to face the leader of the Broken alone, his companions would help Drake fight through the enemy to the central controls of the Fury. His task was to destroy the Space Hulk by any means necessary. Otherwise all their sacrifices would be in vain.
As he had done before, Calgar strode forward and smote the glistening, fly-spotted doors with one of his energy-wrapped fists. To his surprise, the great doors swung open unhindered, trailing streamers of slime and blood behind them. The Chapter Master entered a vast hall bathed in the red light of flickering flames and emergency lumen. An enormous expanse opened out before them, perhaps four hundred yards long and half as wide, the roof looming up into impenetrable creeping shadow.
On both sides, enormous pillars as wide as a Dreadnought reared up, green with bubbling rot, and beyond them were banks of Cogitators and vid-screens, many dead, others flashing with mechanical and electronic life. The light of the flames created dancing shadows around them while the red lighting gave the false impression that everything within was splashed in gore.
Like the nave of a cathedral, or the baroque interior of an ancient voidship, the way stretched out before them, and at the end of it a dais rose up to a mighty throne, made of skulls and other bones, held together with skeins of decaying flesh, boiling with putrescence. The very air dripped with malice and anger, the stench of an unquiet grave.
From this macabre throne, a towering figure of black and scarlet rose. Its great wings extended thirty feet across, and out of the stench and the darkness two eyes burned, blacker than the darkness surrounding them. In a cruel voice, "The Witness" welcomed Marneus Calgar to his dominion and called him brother. Such was the malice radiating from the Daemon Prince that despite their Ordo Malleus training, Drake's men began to cry out in terror or fall to their knees and pray to the God-Emperor.
Having toyed so long with its prey, the Daemon Prince's gaze fell upon Calgar with undiscerned hunger, for here was the prize "The Witness" had sought for his restored glory: the corruption or death of a fellow Chapter Master, a Chapter directly born of the First Founding.
The thing that had once been Chapter Master Phrynon of the Viridian Consuls was strangely talkative, raging at his Chapter's betrayal by an uncaring Imperium of Man. The Daemon Prince explained how their desperate struggle had lasted centuries before recognising that the Emperor was a false god and that His dream was doomed to fail.
For his part, Calgar couldn't have cared less for the tales of self-justification the master of The Broken was spinning, for he knew he was staring at the very incarnation of evil. The Ultramarines Chapter Master confronted the creature with words of righteousness and valor, berating Phrynon for having let himself succumb to the dark temptations of Chaos rather than die fighting as a Space Marine should. This seemed to anger The Witness even more, his flesh glowing red, his body radiating hatred and heat. The Daemon Prince heaved his immense, smoke-wreathed blade into the air, ready to strike at Calgar.
More a symbolic act than a true attack, the Ultramarines Chapter Master saw the blow coming. Raising one of his fists and the Gauntlet of Ultramar it was wielding, Calgar met the blow. The shockwave caused by the two weapons' impact was enormous, strong enough to knock the other Ultramarines off their feet. Calgar himself was forced down to one of his knees, the Witness' hellish blade sliding along the thick armour of the Gauntlets and sheering away the built-in Bolter whose ammunition began to cook and explode between the two combatants.
Facing such a mighty weapon as a Gauntlet of Ultramar, even the Witness' daemonic blade was no match and it broke in two. Roaring the name of his Primarch, Marneus Calgar raised his other fist and unleashed the fury of his remaining Bolter at the Witness, forcing the creature to take a step back. Throwing away the shards of its blade, the Witness extended his claws, gnashed his fangs and beat his wings as a wild animal ready to charge. The true fight had begun.
The Daemon Prince charged, both gigantic fists sweeping low, thundering into the Chapter Master and flinging him against the throneroom's far wall. His Artificer Armour sizzling and helm badly dented, Calgar was still lying on the floor when the Witness reached him. Putting one of his great forked hooves upon Calgar's backpack, the Witness pinned the proud Chapter Master to the deck, and declared that how he would now offer to Calgar the same choice he had faced as the leader of the doomed Viridian Consuls -- kneel before the Chaos Gods, the true masters of all creation, or perish in the name of Khorne and Nurgle.
Seeing the Daemon Prince standing over the Chapter Master, Inquisitor Drake mobilised his psychic gifts and reached out for Brother Ulfius' mind. Brother Ulfius, he implored the Ultramarine Librarian, you must come to us, all of you. He is going to die here. Calgar needs your help.
Still dazed by the Daemon Prince's blows, the Chapter Master forced the hooved foot away and rose unsteadily to his feet. His ancient armour might have been broken and blood flowed freely from his many wounds, but the Lord of Ultramar was far from vanquished.
To Save a Chapter Master
Ordered by their dark master not to intervene in the duel, the Witness' court of debased Renegades, Khornate Berzerkers and daemons cheered at every blow their champion landed. Inquisitor Drake tore his eyes from the desperate fight to discreetly scan his surroundings. The throne room was far more than just a mere residence or ceremonial prop, it was also the control centre of the entire Space Hulk.
Although desecrated and tremendously ancient, the baroque consoles and machinery of the hall were still what was keeping the Fury whole and under control. Meanwhile, Marneus Calgar's two Honour Guards were ill at ease, but their lord had ordered them to follow Drake's lead and not to interfere in the duel. As he located what he took to be the controls to the Warp-Drive, Lazarus Drake gave the two Ultramarines the order to clear a path towards the tall console with the column of lights and diodes located mid-way through the hall.
Mirroring their lord's battlecry, Brother Ohtar and Brother Morent charged to their left, yelling their Primarch's name. Too focused on the duel before them, the first Chaos Space Marines were cut down before they had even realised what had happened. Four further former Viridian Consuls were slain before the rest of the Broken took action. Drake's remainign Acolytes began laying down covering fire with their Bolters, and two were cut down by the Broken's return fire. The remaining three Acolytes went to ground, seeking cover behind one of the hall's great pillars as they hurled their last Frag Grenades into the middle of the hall.
Advancing closely behind the two Hounour Guards, Drake reached the console, a cluster of levers and spilled cables, as the venerable machine had been gutted by a sword and left to rot. After he cleared away the organic murk that covered the monitors, Drake was delighted to recognise indicators for power levels, coolant injectors and drive initiators. He had been right, this was the Space Hulk's primary control centre.
Thanking the Emperor and the Omnissiah for their guiding hand, Inquisitor Drake intoned the first verses of the Prayer of Awakening, a prayer he believed he had forgotten long ago but whose words quickly rose to his mind. With the Machine Spirit of the console adequately raised, Drake grasped one of the big levers and pulled it down, disabling the failsafe preventing the Plasma Reactor's overload. Then he began feeding even more power to the reactor. Warning runes began to burn yellow, then an angry red as the enormous power source at the Fury’s heart began to reach critical mass.
At the same time, far below the Witness' throne-chamber and on the battlefield outside, Captain Galenus had rallied the survivors of 5th Company around him. The company had lost half its previous number, including Apothecary Philo, to a devastating charge of Juggernaut-mounted Bloodletters. Two dozen Space Marines of the line gathered around their captain, Librarian Ulfius and Chaplain Murtorius, who was bleeding profusely from multiple wounds.
But the 5th Company's standard still flew, firmly grasped by Ancient Ameronn. Captain Galenus himself carried the precious Progenoid Glands of twenty-six slain brothers, all those Apothecary Philo had been able to retrieve before he was slain. Unknown to the Inquisitor far above, his psychic plea had been heard and Captain Galenus was trying to lead the remnants of his company to their aid. Galenus made the hard choice and called for the wounded to stay behind and buy them some time while the able-bodied Astartes would follow him into the Blood Keep.
Meanwhile, the duel between the Chapter Master and the Daemon Prince ground on. Calgar had several fractures in his arms and sternum, but thanks to his transhuman physiology, they were already healing. His first wounds had stopped bleeding but he had earned several new cuts from which his blood still seeped freely. His armor was in even worse shape. The most pressing matter was the coolant leak in his dorsal power generator. Should it overheat, he would have no power left to fuel his armour or even the Gauntlets of Ultramar.
Yet the Witness had not survived unscathed. The creature that had been Chapter Master Phrynon was limping badly, Calgar having stripped his left leg almost entirely of its blasphemous flesh. Several powerful punches had torn the thing's armour apart at the abdomen from where demonic ichor flowed freely, the daemon's innards exposed to the chamber's stale air.
His autosenses damaged and malfunctioning, Calgar ripped his battered and dented Corvus Pattern helm from his head. His skin was now exposed to the Blood Keep's dangerous ionising radiation so he would have to move fast, as even his immune system could not stave off the effects of radiation sickness forever. The Witness knew this as well and smiled through his fangs. Calgar dimly noticed the violence that had engulfed the hall, Plaguebearers and Khornate Berzekers battling Brothers Othar and Morent who were still shielding Inquisitor Drake and the alcove in which he worked.
All his attention fixed upon Calgar, the Daemon Prince ignored their surroundings and the din of battle. Yet again the Witness spoke, offering the Chapter Master the same choice: death or servitude to the Dark Gods. Aware that he needed to buy his companions more time, Calgar let the creature talk, spitting bloody phlegm on the floor. Still refusing to bend the knee to this abomination, Calgar charged the Witness, but this time he opened a priority Vox-link to Brother-Sergeant Starn and his Terminators, calling upon them to join him at the top of the tower.
Calgar opened up with his remaining Bolter, blasting at his enemy as he advanced. Calgar landed a blow, but the daemon's great claws grabbed him by the shoulder, effortlessly hefting him from the ground. Dangling helplessly at arm's length, the Chapter Master raised his other fist, unleashing the last of his stream of bolts into the creature's face before the gauntlet's Bolter clicked empty. The Daemon Prince smiled through broken fangs and a gouged eye, obviously savoring the moment of the kill. Even as his face became the fang-filled snout of some great beast that began snapping ever closer to Calgar's face, the Witness never took his eyes off his target. It would prove to be his undoing.
With the characteristic bang and the ripple of electric fire that charcaterised close-range teleportation, four Ultramarines Terminators appeared at the creature's back. With Warp-energy still dancing around their Terminator Armour, Brother-Sergeant Starn and his warriors opened up with their Storm Bolters. The deluge of large calibre projectiles ripped into the Witness, shredding his wings and back.
With a roar of pain that forced its followers to look up, the great daemon turned, knocking one of the Terminators to the side with his outstretched arm. Focused upon this new threat, the Witness let go of Calgar who rose to his feet. This last ordeal had obviously been too much for his already damaged armour's reactor which began to splutter. Calgar watched as the three remaining Terminators charged the Witness, their Power Fists leaving marks on the thing's flesh and armour.
The Witness fell to his knees and Calgar saw his chance. Without hesitation, the badly wounded Chapter Master launched himself onto the Daemon Prince's back. Using the remains of its wings to maintain his grip, Calgar reached for the creature's head. The Gauntlets of Ultramar closed around the daemon's horns. Calgar began to pull, fueling his failing muscles with all the rage and hatred he had previously so carefully kept under control. In a violent explosion of bone and daemonic ichor, the Witness' head was abruptly wrenched from its torso. Almost instantly the thing's body collapsed as its spirit fled back into the Warp and Calgar crashed to the ground, angling his fall so as not to be crushed by his opponent's corpse.
The sudden death of their leader marked the end of the Broken's cohesion as a military force. Those warriors furthest along the Path of Blood launched themselves at the Ultramarines Terminators in a reckless fury, but were promptly gunned down. The merely human Renegades began to flee the throne room, rushing down the stairs in a desperate attempt to save their lives. Blocked by their traitorous comrades who had been battling Sergeant Starn's Terminators, none of them made it out of the tower before Captain Galenus' group of 5th Company survivors killed them all on their way to the Chapter Master.
Still outside the central tower, Brother Ulfius was contacted by Inquisitor Drake, who told him of the outcome of the duel and the activation of the self-destruct sequence that would soon see them all die. He bade the Ultramarines to make haste for he feared that Calgar might still die from his wounds before the Fury’s reactor consigned them all to a fiery grave. As they approached the first steps of the titanic staircase, the leader of 5th Company could see the foremost elements of the Renegade Mechanicus entering the Blood Keep, obviously seeking the same destination. With their common enemy vanquished, the truce between the Ultramarines and the Renegade faction of the Mechanicus had come to an end. Magos Dominus Hagnon-Cro now sought his prize.
In the throne room, every survivor was gathered around the bleeding Chapter Master. Brother Othar, his armour similarly scorched as that of his master was begging Calgar to dun a reclaimed helmet so that he might be protected from the baleful radiation, but the Chapter Master refused. Either way, he would die long before radiation-poisoning became an issue. Calgar could feel his body trying to undo the damage done to it, but hindered by the radiation and unsupported by his Artificer Armour's reserves of stimulants the process was taking longer than he was used to.
The sombre mood was lifted when Captain Galenus voxed ahead that the Mechanicus' forces were starting to enter the Blood Keep as well. Faced with a purely military problem, Calgar's mind immediately began to reflect on their situation. Calgar asked Galenus how many Ultramarines were accompanying him. When the captain responded that only nine Space Marines were still alive in his group alongside Librarian Ulfius and Techmarine Salvator, the news shook Calgar to his core, though he remained outwardly impassive.
When Captain Galenus' small group reached the top of the tower, Brother Salvator immediately began work on Calgar's suit of battle-plate, nursing a flicker of life back into the battered suit of armour. Calgar was adamant on standing -- and dying -- alongside his brothers, a glorious last stand against the Mechanicus forces.
Several levels below where the remaining Ultramarines mustered for their defiant last stand, Magos Explorator Fane was fulfilling the will of his new master: rerouting the Plasma Reactor's controls to the secondary chamber he and his Adepts had infiltrated in Calgar's wake. They had fought against their fair share of Chaos worshipers, but ultimately the Adeptus Mechanicus would reclaim the Fury for their own purposes. With his role in this grand game of duplicity fulfilled, Magos Fane communed with Hagnon-Cro, calling upon him to honour the bargain they had struck -- the continued survival and well-being of the Ultramarines.
Far above, Inquisitor Lazarus Drake raged at losing control over the Fury’s most important systems. With sudden clarity, Marneus Calgar realised that he had been tricked into doing the Mechanicus' dirty work. From the very moment the Ultramarines had landed on the Space Hulk they had been played by Hagnon-Cro -- even the attack on 7th Company had been no misunderstanding but a ploy to keep their forces small enough to still fulfill their allotted task without threatening the Renegade Mechanicus' strength.
Knowing that he had been beaten, Calgar ordered his men to stand down as the Mechanicus forces advanced. For the second time, Marneus Calgar would parley with the Magos Dominus and confront him with his revelations. In order to save his brothers' lives, and thanks to the intercession of Magos Explorator Fane, a deal was soon struck between them. The Magos Dominus would take control of the Fury whilst the Ultramarines would be given a life-sustaining wreck and marooned in a star system in close proximity to the Cadian Gate, a system well-patrolled by the ships of the Imperial Navy which would eventually locate them and initiate a rescue.
Marneus Calgar agreed to the deal, but he added one condition: that the crucified Viridian Consuls, those loyal Space Marines which had stayed true to the vocation of the Adeptus Astartes, would be granted the Emperor's Peace and a decent funeral. Having retrieved their fallen brothers' precious gene-seed, the surviving Space Marines erected two great pyres, one for the fallen Ultramarines and one for their long-lost Successor Chapter before being led to the surface and turning their back on the Fury and its occupants forever.
After fighting the Forces of Chaos for many Terran years in the Eye of Terror, the Viridian Consuls lost all hope and felt betrayed by the Imperium who they believed had sent them into the Warp Rift only to die. That anger and despair ultimately drove The Broken to turn to two of the major Chaos Gods to seek succor in their angst: Khorne and Nurgle.
The Broken accepted Khorne as the manifestation of their anger towards the Imperium that had betrayed them. Nurgle represented the sense of hopelessness that had come upon the Viridian Consuls as they fought within the Eye. Despite their veneration of the two Ruinous Powers, The Broken seem to hold Nurgle in somewhat higher regard and devote themselves to his worship more fervently. Those Astartes of the Virdian Consuls who refused to accept the Chapter's turn towards Chaos were crucified alive, Nurgle's maggots gnawing within their rotting innards while the Plague God refused to let them die.
- The Witness (Chapter Master Phrynon) - Formerly the Chapter Master of the Viridian Consuls, the noble Astartes once known as Phrynon led his Chapter alongside the other Space Marine Chapters of "The Judged", whose gene-seed was deemed to be impure by Saint Basillius the Elder, the corrupted Living Saint who initiated the infamous Abyssal Crusade. After centuries of warfare against the servants of Chaos within the Eye of Terror, Phrynon lost hope for his Astartes' redemption. He and some of his fellow warriors felt as if they had been abandoned by the Imperium to die a worthless death. Phrynon then began corrupting his fellow Space Marines, seeking to convert them to the service of the Chaos Gods since the Emperor no longer cared for them. Those that did not accept the new truth either fled or were killed. As a reward for his corruption of his own Chapter, Phrynon eventually was allowed to ascend to become a Daemon Prince of the Dark Gods known as "The Witness." The Witness met his end when he confronted Chapter Master Marneus Calgar in the heart of the Space Hulk Fury. Though Calgar was wounded and exhausted by the relentless battles against the Space Hulk's corrupted inhabitants, he was able to slay The Witness with the help of the Terminators of the Ultramarines' 1st Company.
The Broken warband's colours were red and green.
The Broken warband's badge is a subtle but meaningful alteration of their former heraldry. The Viridian Consuls' badge was an Ultima icon like the one worn by the Ultramarines, bisected by a sword and flanked by two wings of flame, on a green background. The Broken inverted the Ultima to form an Omega, a symbol signifying the end of all things and the finite nature of existence.
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 19
- Calgar's Fury (Novel) by Paul Kearny