The Devastation of Baal, also called the Battle of Baal, was the assault by the single largest concentration of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan ever encountered upon Baal, the homeworld of the Blood Angels Chapter of Space Marines. The battle, fought in ca. 999.M41, was a part of the wider Third Tyrannic War and also marked a key battle of the Indomitus Crusade led by the resurrected Primarch Roboute Guilliman. Due to the temporal distortions unleashed at the time of the eruption of the Great Rift, the exact date of the battle is in question; the combat may have lasted for many Terran years from the point of view of Terra but only solar weeks passed for the participants.
Despite heavy losses, the Blood Angels and their Successor Chapter allies ultimately emerged triumphant, not only because of the timely intervention of the forces of Guilliman's Indomitus Crusade but also because at the moment of the Great Rift's birth the Blood Angels' ancient enemy, the Bloodthirster Ka'Bandha, led a massive legion of Khornate daemons against the Great Devourer on Baal Prime. While the Blood Angels, their allies and the Primaris Space Marines of the Indomitus Crusade cleansed Baal proper of the Tyranid infestation, the daemons destroyed the largest concentration of the remaining xenos lifeforms in orbit of Baal. The daemons left behind only a mountain of Tyranid skulls shaped like the eight-pillared symbol of Ka'Bandha that dominated Baal Prime's southern hemisphere.
The reasons for this intervention by one of Khorne's greatest servants remains unknown and deeply unsettling to the Blood Angels, though it may be that Ka'bandha has determined that he, and he alone, will ultimately be the architect of the sons of Sanguinius' ruin.
In the wake of the Devastation of Baal, Guilliman, in his role as the Lord Commander of the Imperium, named Commander Dante, the Chapter Master of the Blood Angels, as the Regent of the Imperium Nihilus, the portion of the Imperium in the galactic north cut off from Terra and the light of the Astronomican by the Great Rift. After a period of intensive reconstruction of Baal and recovery for the Chapter, the Blood Angels moved out into the Dark Imperium, determined to bring the Emperor's light back to those similarly oppressed by xenos and the servants of the Dark Gods.
In the final days of the 41st Millennium, the largest tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan ever recorded descended upon Baal, homeworld of the Blood Angels Space Marines, and its twin moons of Baal Prime and Baal Secundus. The battle which followed would be the bloodiest and most costly in the noble history of the sons of Sanguinius.
The Shield of Baal
News reached Baal in 998.M41 that the defences of the "Cryptan Shield," the name given to the fortified worlds of the Cryptus System long intended to hold back the might of Hive Fleet Leviathan and shield the Blood Angels' home system, had collapsed. Already Commander Dante had put plans in motion to defend the Blood Angels' homeworld, with detached strike forces fighting hit-and-run battles with the Leviathan's smaller splinter fleets throughout the Red Scar.
Meanwhile, the defences of Baal and her moons were bolstered like never before; indomitable fortresses rose above the sweltering sands, and the might of the Blood Angels' Successor Chapters gathered from across the galaxy. Yet still it did not seem to be enough, for the Tyranids were seemingly without number, and Hive Fleet Leviathan was learning the weaknesses of its prey at an exponential rate.
Knowing that the consumption of the Cryptus System would open the floodgates for an unstoppable Tyranid invasion of Baal, Commander Dante took action. At the head of a mighty strike force later known as the Cryptus Campaign that comprised the 1st and 2nd Companies of the Blood Angels, Brother Corbulo, Captain Karlaen, Chief Librarian Mephiston and the bulk of Gabriel Seth's Flesh Tearers, Dante headed out for the Cryptus System.
This mighty force reached the Cryptus System in time to aid the last, hard-pressed Imperial defenders and avert complete catastrophe. Yet the war that followed was unremittingly savage, with both the Imperial and xenos forces suffering rapidly escalating casualties.
The Blood Angels were eventually forced to unleash an ancient weapon of Necrontyr provenance called the Magnovitrium to annihilate an entire world of the Cryptus System and use its debris to gut the onrushing splinter fleet. Showing his wisdom, Dante accepted that the Tyranids had been slowed but not stopped. The Blood Angels Commander ordered his forces to return to Baal. His Chapter intended to fight for its survival upon the worlds of its birth.
By the opening days of 999.M41, the Baal System had been reinforced like never before. Answering Commander Dante's call, one Blood Angels Successor Chapter after another arrived to lend much -- if not all -- of their strength to their primogenitors. Slab-sided defences were raised upon the blasted sands of Baal Prime and Baal Secundus, and even around the fortress-monastery of the Arx Angelicum on Baal itself. Fleets of Cruisers and Battle Barges gathered in the void around Baal and its moons, their combined might enough to crush star systems and end worlds. Still, as deep-void Auspex screens turned blood red with contact runes, and a ten-thousand-kilometere-wide tidal wave of chitin and flesh surged into the Baal System, it seemed unlikely that it would prove enough.
With the Tyranids closing in, Commander Dante and his closest lieutenants authorised deeds that would have been unthinkable in brighter days. The Blood Angels' precious gene-seed reserves were removed from their storage crypts, packed carefully for transit under the watchful eyes of Sanguinary Priests, and then sent away on a swift starship with a hand-picked complement of guards.
At the same time, millennia of tradition was cast aside as Blood Angels gunships gathered every viable Aspirant they could from amongst the nomadic tribes of Baal Prime and Baal Secundus. These youths were armed, and then ferried to the Arx Angelicum. There they formed defence garrisons whose strength was intended to augment that of Sanguinius' sons. At least forty thousand wide-eyed youths are gathered in this way, and told that any who survived the coming battle would surely prove their worthiness to join the Chapter's ranks.
Of the remaining tribesmen of Baal little is said. Given what extra weapons and rations the Blood Angels can spare, they were left to hide or stand as they saw fit. Any Tyranids they killed would be fewer monstrosities to beset the Blood Angels and their Successors, but the tribesmen were not expected to weather the horrors that followed -- and most did not.
Knowing that the fate of his Chapter, and perhaps of the Imperium itself, would rest upon the defence of Baal, Dante had sent out the call to the Blood Angels' Successor Chapters, telling of the doom that was approaching the homeworld of their beloved progenitor, Sanguinius. All came to the Blood Angels' aid, from the ferocious Flesh Tearers to the noble Blood Drinkers, and even the savage, insular warriors of the Carmine Blades. Every single Battle-Brother would be vital in the upcoming war, for the oncoming Tyranid fleet was enormous, by far the largest Tyranid host ever recorded by the Imperium.
Unwilling to cede void supremacy to the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Leviathan without a fight, Commander Dante ordered his naval vessels to strike at the enemy and slow their advance. Hundreds of thousands of bio-ships, in clusters so thick that the invasion fleet seemed to be one vast, many-limbed organism, surged towards Baal. The Blood Angels' own fleet met them head-on, its numbers bolstered by the presence of several spaceborne Successor Chapters. Across a hundred fronts, the red-armoured voidcraft of the Blood Angels and their Successors struck at the fleshy Tyranid Hive Ships. Lances and gun decks split the darkness with their fury. Ruptured bio-ships tumbled away, slicks of ichor spilling from their sundered innards to freeze in the merciless void.
The sky above Baal erupted in a violent firestorm as the rugged vessels of the Space Marines slammed their way into the midst of the approaching Tyranids, launching devastating broadsides and storms of nuclear-tipped warheads. Valorous as this naval action was, it was also hopeless.
One by one, Space Marine Battle Barges and Cruisers were isolated and overwhelmed, battered by organic missiles and enveloped by swarms of smaller bio-ships. Entering low orbit over Baal and its moons, the Leviathan's vessels began to disgorge clouds of spores and organic transports into the atmosphere. As the void battle raged overhead, the defenders of Baal awaited the first waves of Tyranids, taking up positions amidst Horus Heresy-era fortifications that had been unearthed and rebuilt by Chapter Serfs and Servitors. Baal and its twin moons had been transformed into killing fields, dotted with artillery redoubts, mine-laced choke points and criss-crossing fire zones.
Dozens of Tyranid bio-ships were butchered, hundreds of thousands of warrior organisms slain before they ever saw the irradiated sands of Baal. Still the Blood Angels were driven back, every victory carrying its own butcher's bill in flaming hulks and dead Battle-Brothers. Soon enough the void war became unsustainable as more and more Tyranids emerged from the darkness in squamous waves. With their surviving voidcraft forced to fall back and harass the Hive Fleet's flanks, the Blood Angels now faced the full fury of the Tyranid invasion. On Baal, Baal Prime and Baal Secundus, aircraft-sized Mycetic Spores darkened the skies in their millions. The Shadow in the Warp settled like a shroud around the Baal System, choking off any further hope of reinforcement. The sons of Sanguinius stood alone in the face of the hurricane of death to come.
Against the Swarm
The first few Tyranid swarms to make planetfall were obliterated by pre-ranged artillery bombardments and a blistering fusillade of Bolter rounds long before they reached the defensive lines. Yet with each passing moment, more Tyrannocyte spores rained down from low orbit, their bulging flesh-sacs bursting open to disgorge warrior-organisms into the fray. By the tenth wave, the ground was barely visible beneath a stampede of chitin-armoured bodies. Amidst this carpet of living flesh loomed colossal synapse creatures -- Hive Tyrants and giant Tervigons which spewed out Gaunts by the score. These monsters directed the swarms around them even as they unleashed salvoes of burning bio-plasma, or tore great rents in the fortifications with massive weapon-limbs.
Genestealer broods swept into these breaches, where the fighting descended into frantic hand-to-hand slaughter. At the rear of the Tyranid swarms, a hulking creature surveyed the carnage, observing the Blood Angels' strategies, directing its lesser kin to counter their every move with a cunning born of aeons-long warfare. The Swarmlord, herald of the Hive Mind, had been spawned anew to ensure the Blood Angels' demise.
Tyranids poured from the skies in ever-increasing numbers. Their spores slammed down like hellish seed pods to spill ravenous waves of war beasts directly into battle. Orbital lasers and hurtling gunships took a mighty toll upon the xenos, in some regions wreaking such carnage that purple ichor fell like storm rain across the defenders below. Yet still the Tyranid waves came on, Tyrannocytes falling thicker and thicker while Gargoyles and Harpies swooped between them, spitting acidic gruel that sent Blood Angels aircraft spiralling down in flames.
On Baal and its moon of Baal Secundus, rippling tides of warrior organisms surged onto the defenders' guns and were shredded amidst storms of fire. Their corpses piled up in hideous drifts, yet still they pressed forwards, metre by metre. The settlement of Angel's Fall, where the Blood Angels gathered all Aspirants for the trials to become new Initiates of the Chapter, becane a blood-drenched altar to the gods of battle, its defenders massacred by an avalanche of chitinous bodies and razored talons. Gabriel Seth and his berserk Flesh Tearers led the counterattack, tearing the heart from one Tyranid swarm after another, but their victories do not come without cost.
At the same time, elsewhere on Baal Secundus, the Carmine Blades hold firm in the face of each Tyranid attack. Feet planted, Bolters roaring, they defend Baal's astropathic relay against impossible odds, bringing honour to their names with each bloody day that dawns in the hope that someone, anyone, will hear the astro-telepathic call for help of the scions of Sanguinius. On the moon of Baal Prime the situation was worse still, as the Tyranids hurled overwhelming forces into battle.
Over the course of solar weeks the scions of Sanguinius hurled back nineteen waves of Tyranid assaults, fighting with a valour and skill that honoured the memory of their fallen Primarch. Blood Drinkers fought back to back with Angels Encarmine, forming a circle of blades and Bolters against phalanxes of advancing Tyranid Warriors. Blood Angels Assault Marines leapt into the heart of the enemy swarm, hunting the largest and most ferocious monsters.
Amidst rad-scorched desert valleys, massed formations of Adeptus Astartes tanks and artillery clashed with stampedes of charging Carnifexes in a grinding, churning maelstrom of metal and flesh. For solar weeks the fighting raged on. The Tyranid body count spirals upwards with breathtaking speed, Dante's warriors felling hundreds of xenos for every one of their own that falls. Yet fall the sons of Sanguinius do, as their defence lines are breached and overwhelmed one after another. As brave as the defence of Baal was, it could not last.
With every Tyranid attack, more Battle-Brothers were slain. Five Chapter Masters amongst the Blood Angels' Successor Chapters gave their lives to hold back the surging tide, but as the bodies piled higher it seemed such selfless sacrifice would be for naught. Baal was ready to fall.
The Great Rift Opens
It was at this dark hour that a fresh calamity was unleashed upon the Baal System. In a cataclysmic eruption of empyric energy, the galaxy-spanning Warp Storm known as the Great Rift tore open. The skies above Baal burned with aetheric fire, and within the roiling depths of the Immaterium, ancient, malevolent beings turned their dread gaze upon the material realm.
Upon Baal Prime, the Blood Angels' Successors unleashed the full measure of their hatred against the Tyranid swarms. It was as the fighting upon the moon was at its most ferocious that reality tore open, and the scent of brimstone and burning blood filled the air. With a bellowed chorus of praises to the Blood God Khorne, daemonic legions boiled from the widening rift. At their head came a creature drawn from the blackest of nightmares, a bat-winged monstrosity wielding a rune-marked axe in one clawed fist, and a barbed whip in the other. This was Ka'Bandha, Bloodthirster of Khorne. No foe was more hated by the sons of Sanguinius, for thousands of Terran years before during the Signus Campaign Ka'Bandha had stoked in them the Red Thirst, the genetic curse which had so ravaged the Chapter in the millennia afterwards. Ka'Bandha sought the sole honour of slaughtering the Blood Angels, and had no intention of allowing the Tyranids to interfere before the time of his triumph was at hand.
The Bloodthirster's daemon legions fell upon both Tyranids and the Astartes defenders of Baal, and xenos and transhuman blood was spilled in torrents. Tyranid Warriors hacked and tore at leering Bloodletters, while stampedes of Bloodcrushers swept across the gore-splattered earth, smashing Termagants beneath their brazen hooves. Ka'Bandha stalked through the madness of battle, reaping a devastating toll upon all in his path with great swipes of his dread weapons.
The Space Marine defenders, led by Chapter Master Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers, fell back, harried on all sides. Only the sacrifice of the Knights of Blood, an excommunicated Successor Chapter who had nonetheless been accepted as allies by Commander Dante, allowed the survivors to board their vessels and escape, as Baal Prime was overwhelmed by Warp-spawned monstrosities. As Seth's forces retreated, they caught one last glimpse of the Knights of Blood, hurling themselves into the thick of close combat with mindless ferocity, fully enveloped by the madness of the Black Rage.
In Baal's orbit, thousands of Hive Fleet Leviathan's bio-ships were snatched into the Warp by coils of empyric energy or swallowed by rifts in space. Soon, only the burning remnants of gutted Hive Ships remained, drawn in by Baal's gravitic pull to rain down upon its ravaged surface.
Below this raging inferno, Commander Dante led his few remaining warriors in a fighting retreat to the walls of the Blood Angels' fortress-monastery, the Arx Angelicum. Time itself was a victim of the surging empyric insanity -- it seemed as if the carnage stretched on for Terran years, as xenos and Space Marine fought and slew, racing towards a mutual annihilation. Perhaps it was only solar hours that passed, or days. Perhaps it was Terran years relative to the rest of the galaxy. Amidst the reality-bending energies of the Warp, Sanguinius' sons and the beasts of Hive Fleet Leviathan fought on towards mutual annihilation.
The greatest Tyranid wave yet then slammed into the defences of the Arx Angelicum and finally breached them. Three Successor Chapter Masters fall in the battle of the Dome of Angels alone. Bodies pile high amidst the sundered defences. Still the defenders fight on, even throwing open the gates of the Tower of Amareo and letting the captive members of the Death Company loose. If the Blood Angels were to die, they intended to do so in battle and on their own terms.
Forward strode the Swarmlord, entering the fray at this vital juncture, carving Space Marines apart with every slice of its jagged Boneswords. Exhausted and filled with sorrow, yet defiant as ever, Dante hacked his way through the press of xenos flesh with the Axe Mortalis, seeking the Swarmlord's head. Under the burning sky, the two duelled, until Dante, bleeding from a dozen mortal wounds, cut the creature down.
As Dante collapsed, his anguished warriors straining to reach his prone body, the tortured skies finally cleared. The storm had passed, and where before the Tyranid armada had blotted the sky, not a single xenos vessel remained. In their place were majestic Imperial ships. The Primarch Roboute Guilliman, the resurrected Avenging Son, had arrived, at the head of the great Indomitus Crusade.
Now it was Drop Pods and Stormraven gunships which dotted the skies above Baal, as Guilliman and his warriors crashed down into the midst of the Tyranid swarm. Hive Fleet Leviathan's remaining ground forces still outnumbered the Space Marines, but the death of the Swarmlord and the destruction of the Tyranid fleet left it reeling, as Hormagaunts and Termagants reverted to their frenzied, predatory instincts. With the Primaris Space Marines -- a new breed of transhuman warriors, birthed from the vaults of Mars by Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl -- fighting at Guilliman's side, unleashing devastatingly accurate salvoes from their Mark II Cawl Pattern Bolt Rifles, the mighty host of the Leviathan was cut to pieces.
The salvation of Baal did not come quickly, or without cost. Even as Guilliman's forces rained down to relieve the siege of the Arx Angelicum, even as they joined forces with the surviving sons of Sanguinius and fought to purge Baal and its moons of xenos, still more Imperial lives are lost. Yet hopeless defeat has become a glorious victory against the odds. Meanwhile, if certain grim secrets of the Blood Angels' gene-line were finally laid bare to the eyes of the Ultramarines' Primarch, he chose to keep his own counsel and leaved such things unspoken.
Baal and Baal Secundus were cleansed of Tyranids before a solar month was out. The slaughter was spearheaded by Primaris Space Marines clad in the panoply of the Blood Angels and their Successors. On Baal Prime no such martial efforts were required. The moon had been utterly scoured of life, both Imperial and Tyranid.
Individual clusters of organisms fled into Baal's radioactive wastes. It would take many solar months to hunt down and eliminate them all, but Baal had been saved. Gravely wounded but still alive, Commander Dante bent the knee before Primarch Guilliman, now the ruling Lord Commander of the Imperium. In Dante and the surviving Blood Angels and their Successor Chapters, Guilliman recognised a noble spirit, a flickering flame kept alive from the Imperium's glorious past. His gift to them was mighty indeed: formations of Primaris Space Marines with which to bolster their devastated ranks, derived from the bloodline and gene-seed of Sanguinius.
Of Hive Fleet Leviathan's hundreds of thousands of bio-ships, there was not a single sign. Upon Baal Prime, nothing remained but desolation. Though Gabriel Seth and his last surviving Flesh Tearers had escaped the unnatural cataclysm unleashed by the opening of the Great Rift, the daemons had vanished back into the Warp, leaving behind an ominous warning; mountains of Tyranid skulls, piled impossibly high across most of the moon's southern hemisphere. These ziggurats formed the reviled, eight-pillared sigil of Ka'Bandha, a grim message to his eternal nemeses.
For now the menace of the Leviathan had been defeated, but the trials of the Blood Angels were far from over.
In the wake of the Leviathan's defeat, the Blood Angels begin to rebuild. Their gene-seed stocks were recalled, taking their rightful place beneath the rising arches of the restored Arx Angelicum. The several thousand grizzled Aspirants who survived the siege were all inducted into the Chapter, and those that successfully endured the Astartes transformation were funnelled into the outsized Scout Companies authorised by Commander Dante for his Chapter and their Successors. The great blasphemous sigil erected by Ka'Bandha from Tyranid skulls was scoured from Baal Prime on the orders of Dante by orbital strikes from the Blood Angels fleet.
The ranks of the Blood Angels and their Successor Chapters were further bolstered by a huge influx of Primaris Space Marines, unfrozen from hibernation within the vaults of the Ark Mechanicus Zar-Quaesitoror and produced upon Baal itself using the newly installed mechanisms brought by Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl. With Commander Dante declared Regent of the entire Imperium Nihilus by Roboute Guilliman, the Blood Angels and their Successors were soon ready to rejoin the war for the Emperor's realm. It is well that they were, for the fight had become more desperate than ever before.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Blood Angels (8th Edition), pp. 21-23
- Codex: Tyranids (8th Edition), pp. 28-29
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 52-53
- Devastation of Baal (Novel) by Guy Haley