The Disciples of the Flames was a rare ad hoc formation of Astartes drawn primarily from the Salamanders Legion following the disaster that shattered the XVIII Legion during the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V. Like many survivors of the three Shattered Legions during those dark years of the Horus Heresy, the Disciples of the Flames attacked the Traitor Legions in service to the Warmaster Horus from behind enemy lines when and wherever they could.
The epic tale of the Disciples of the Flames' sole vessel, the Ebon Drake, illustrates the courage and tenacity with which these scattered survivors of the Shattered Legions still hindered the Traitors' carefully laid plans. Although their decisive actions in the Mezoan Campaign are undeniable and still remembered today, since the Great Scouring, a thick and impenetrable veil of secrecy and mystery surrounds the Disciples of the Flames. All mentions of them have been cleansed from the records of their parent Legion and what information can be gleaned comes primarily from the data-vaults of noble Mezoa itself, the Forge World the Disciples of the Flames helped to save, as well as their own scripture, the Prophecies of the Flames, which is now considered proscribed reading by the Inquisition. As such, the warband's ultimate fate following the Third Siege of Mezoa is currently unknown.
The history of the Disciples of the Flames is complicated, as by the end of the Mezoan Campaign the Disciples numbered not only members of the three Shattered Legions, but also members of the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion. However, at the very beginning, the Disciples of the Flames were all Astartes of a single, newly-raised company of the XVIII Legion.
The Voyage of the Ebon Drake
It is on the bleak volcanic world of Nocturne that the tale of the Disciples of the Flames begins. With no news of the expected victory against the Warmaster Horus and only inconclusive rumours about a great disaster in the galactic north a full standard year after the XVIII Legion's departure for Istvaan V, the keepers of Nocturne began to worry. Before his departure, the Primarch Vulkan had designated the wise Lord Chaplain Nomus Rhy'tan as Keeper of Nocturne and warden of the Legion's future. In his wisdom, the Primarch had also left behind a Reserve Company stationed at the Legion's fortress-monastery on Nocturne's moon, Prometheus, as well as a small core of Firedrake Veterans. In their Primarch's absence, the XVIII Legion's instruction cadre had continued their efforts and as the first anniversary of the savage Drop Site Massacre dawned, several new companies could be formed from those Neophytes having accomplished their training and deemed ready to don their Power Armour. Despite this new influx, the remaining Salamanders were deemed too few to both defend Nocturne and send out a grand expedition, yet Nomus Rhy'tan was fully aware that he must act, for without proper intelligence he was at equal risk of failing in his duties as Keeper of Nocturne and protector of the Salamanders' homeworld.
Unable to send a fleet to investigate the fate of their Primarch and their Legion brothers, Rhy'tan decided to send a single ship. His choice fell on the prototype Assault Cruiser Ebon Drake: the first of a new breed of warships specially designed for use by the Legiones Astartes. His duties preventing him from leaving Nocturne, Nomus Rhy'tan himself could not lead the expedition, so he chose both the members of the Ebon Drake 's company and their commander with the outmost care. As the warship's mission was to discover the fate of their Legion, the Lord Chaplain was careful that each of the seven Realms of Nocturne would be represented, choosing the best and most promising warriors from those Neophytes recently inducted as Legionaries. To make up for their lack of experience, Rhy'tan also detached 30 of his own Firedrakes to the Ebon Drake, all seasoned warriors whose steadfast courage and determination would bolster the yet unblooded Neophytes' resolve should they meet some unforeseen enemies. As leader of this company, Nomus Rhy'tan appointed one of his own students, a promising young officer of Proximal-birth, Lieutenant-Chaplain Xiaphas Jurr. To denote the importance of the mission, Rhy'tan also gifted Jurr with the Burning Halo, an Iron Halo of tremendous power, forged by the hands of Vulkan himself.
Under the impulse of Xiaphas Jurr, the Ebon Drake soon departed Nocturne, the Lieutenant-Chaplain pressing for quick departure as he saw his commission as more than a simple strategic mission, but rather a matter of deep belief in his Primarch -- in other times some would have even called it a sacred errand. From the start of their voyage, Lieutenant-Chaplain Jurr gave his crew no respite, pushing the ship itself, its crew and his Legionaries to the limits of their abilities through a punishing regime of combat-drills. With aetheric interferences and Warp Storms continuously worsening, the crew of the Ebon Drake would not be able to set course directly to its intended location but would need to take a far more circuitous route, only passing short periods of times in the Warp before translating back into realspace to get their bearings. Jurr hoped that this way they might actually gather some useful information and perhaps learn of their Primarch's fate. Unfortunately, much regarding the Ebon Drake 's odyssey has been lost, consumed in the flames of the civil war, or sequestered by writ of the Holy Inquisition. While some on board the Ebon Drake like Jurr himself kept a journal, their knowledge remains untapped. However, a comprehensive search of the Augur logs of the uncounted millions of navigation beacons and astropathic relay stations that dot the Imperium's domains allows at least a partial reconstitution of the route used by the Ebon Drake whose long journey led her across paths rarely trod by other stellar travellers.
From what information could be gathered, it is the general consensus of Imperial savants that the first emergence of the Ebon Drake was at Sulis. In response to the growing unrest and rumours of war and civil unrest, the lords of Sulis had chosen to isolate themselves from their neighbours, enforcing their isolation through the use of heavily-fortified gun platforms and lumbering Defence Monitors. While the Ebon Drake approached with messages of support from Nocturne, the Salamanders' vessel was met with insults and weapons fire. Sulis would recognise the Emperor as its ruler no longer, nor would it bow to the authority of the Warmaster, determined to forge its own destiny amongst the stars, or so the Vox-hails from Sulis claimed. While such secessionist tendencies were quite common during the chaos of the Horus Heresy, with no news of the civil war or the Drop Site Massacre, the Salamanders of the Ebon Drake saw such an affront to the spirit of the Great Crusade to be intolerable. Sulis needed to be punished and crushed into submission. Over the next three solar days, the Ebon Drake would use its superior speed and weaponry to knock out one gun platform after another, each orbital station then scoured clean by vengeful Salamanders boarding parties, Xiaphas Jurr leading many of these assaults personally. The world's Defence Monitors and interdiction barges, while powerfully armed for their, size could not hope to match the prototype Cruiser's sheer speed and the Ebon Drake easily evaded all attempts to run her down or surround her. The Salamanders' final objective was Sulis' principal orbital station, which they quickly cleared of the secessionist Solar Auxilia regiment guarding it before crippling the void station's gravity engines, letting the entire facility crash down upon the golden palace-city of Sulis' ruling elite. When the Ebon Drake left the system, she left behind a world that could offer no resistance to the Imperium, little knowing that this would later lead Sulis to fall without struggle into the hands of the Warmaster.
The Empty Void
Following the events at Sulis, the path of the Ebon Drake becomes even more obscure. What information could be gathered about this part of the vessel's odyssey was compiled from the fragmentary log entries recovered from the Ebon Drake 's wreckage which was discovered during the Great Scouring that followed the Horus Heresy. The ship's log mentions that three Legionaries mysteriously vanished while the Ebon Drake passed through the Warp Storm known as the "Oasis of Nightmare" followed by an encounter with a strange crystalline xenos craft of unknown mark and provenance. While this encounter soon turned to violence, the strange vessel's weapons cut off power on the Ebon Drake, leaving the Cruiser a dead weight drifting in space, but made no attempt to either permanently damage or board the drifting Astartes voidship. It would take several solar days for the Salamanders vessel to restore power, by which time the mysterious xenos ship had long since left the system. Likewise, the annals of the Portmaster of Valthrudnir -- a world only recently brought to Imperial Compliance at the time -- mentions the sighting of "a craft marked with the sigil of a great black dragon crewed by void-devils." This superficial description may or may not refer to the Ebon Drake.
The Ebon Drake continued to circumvent the great Warp anomaly known as the Maelstrom, occasionally encountering other Imperial or Traitor vessels. The chronicles of the IV Legion, the Iron Warriors, state that one of their vessels, the Grand Cruiser Grim Paragon -- one of several line-units left behind to watch over the Legion's homeworld of Olympia -- was heavily damaged as it intercepted a vessel of unknown class bearing the markings of the Salamanders Legion. The Vox-logs state that the unknown vessel entered the system seeking word of the battle at Istvaan V.
Perhaps damaged in its encounter with the Grim Paragon, the Ebon Drake 's next stop seems to have been the great Mechanicum Forge World of Anvillus, a mighty bastion of Imperial might and the greatest storehouse of ammunition and weaponry of the entire Great Crusade. Unfortunately for Jurr and his crew, while still distant from the frontlines, the Warmaster's shadow had already fallen upon mighty Anvillus. The embers of discontent had flared into open conflict between factions of the Machine God's followers. Where the Ebon Drake came looking for resupply and repairs, it found only war and strife. For outsiders, both factions were virtually indistinguishable and soon the Ebon Drake found itself in the crosshairs of both parties. Closing at slow speed with the Forge World, the Salamanders warship witnessed titanic duels between seemingly identical fleets of Mechanicum siege-monitors. The Astartes vessel was bombarded by Vox-broadcasts of seemingly incoherent machine code, interrogative missives from interchangeable steel-faced Magi and other insidious data-djinns intended to subvert the core-systems of the Ebon Drake with the intent of leaving her helpless in the void. Were it not for the unique engineering of the prototype vessel and its own powerful Machine Spirit, such an assault would have surely succeeded. Instead of crippling the vessel, the Ebon Drake suffered only minor damage, such as non-essential systems suffering cascade failures and confusion on the bridge and the ship's Enginarium, but the ship remained largely combat-ready.
Loathe to become embroiled in what he regarded as internal strife, Xiaphas Jurr ordered all available power diverted to the engines and the Ebon Drake soon plotted a course out-system, evading plasma carronades from approaching Mechanicum siege-monitors, but unable to evade a spread of Boarding Torpedoes. Whilst Jurr's warriors cleaned the corridors of the vessel from the frenzied Murder-Servitors that had gained ingress, Jurr assessed their situation. This last in a series of ill-fated encounters had cost the Ebon Drake dearly. The ship's outer hull sustained serious damage and numerous internal systems needed to be repaired or purged from the insidious data-djinns preventing them from working correctly. Worst still, the casualties to the ship's company meant that Jurr was dangerously low on uninjured warriors. It seemed that without refit and an influx of new fighters, the Ebon Drake 's mission would be doomed to fail.
The next reliable data concerning the Ebon Drake places her at Baal, the homeworld of the IX Legion, the Blood Angels. Given the welcome they had received at Olympia, it might seem surprising that Jurr chose to head towards another Legiones Astartes homeworld, yet there is also some reason in it. In contrast to the Iron Warriors, the Blood Angels had not been part of the great punitive expedition despatched to Istvaan V. In fact, acting upon the Warmaster's orders -- who hid his secret intent to overthrow his father under the mask of loyalty -- the angelic Primarch Sanguinius had taken much of his Blood Angels Legion to the outer rim in an effort to pacify the Signus Cluster. With no news of their own Primarch, Jurr might have hoped for some sympathy for their own mission. Upon entering the Baal System, all that remained to greet Xiaphas Jurr was a small garrison under the command of veteran Legionary Warden Arkhad.
The Ebon Drake managed to limp into orbit of the IX Legion's fortress-monastery where her crew was finally able to secure a place at an orbital dock to conduct much needed repairs. Warden Arkhad extended his courtesy to Jurr's company and allowed his ship to be fully resupplied, a decision he would later come to regret. Following the tragic outcome of the Drop Site Massacre, Baal had become a safe haven for a multitude of Imperial formations falling back from the northern edge of the galaxy. Whilst Baal did not feel as isolated as Nocturne and it was bustling with activity from a host of Astartes drawn from different Legions, the world still carried the same despondent air as the Salamanders' homeworld.
It would be on Baal that Xiaphas Jurr and the crew of the Ebon Drake would learn of the horrific truth of what had truly occurred in the Istvaan-system, but even those survivors to whom they talked could only offer fragmentary tales and vague recollection of the events pf the Dropsite Massacre. None of these survivors had been close to any of the Primarchs and so the fates of Ferrus Manus of the Iron Hands, Corvus Corax of the Raven Guard and Vulkan himself were still unknown, but many where those Legionaries to mourn their gene-sire as if he was dead. In fact, Warden Arkhad had even ordered the building of several surrogate tombs in memory of those Primarchs and other heroes of the Imperium that were believed to have been slain on Istvaan V. But even in this bleak hour when the crew of the Ebon Drake learnt the truth about the Warmaster's betrayal, there was a cause to rejoice, for amongst the survivors of the Dropsite Massacre featured also Legionaries of the XVIII Legion.
Readying themselves to sell their lives dearly and make a defiant last stand against the Warmaster's hordes, these battered survivors were led by Praetor-Captain Kar'Tor, once numbered as one of the most valiant sons of Nocturne and heir-designate to the Protectorate of Themis City, the City of Warlords, a warrior and officer for whom Xiaphas Jurr held nothing but utter respect and adulation. But Kar'Tor's warrior-spirit had been broken on the black sands of Istvaan V and seeing so many Battle-Brothers die had filled him with a sombre melancholy. When Xiaphas Jurr announced his intent to pursue his mission and asked for volunteers to join him aboard the Ebon Drake, Kar'Tor went so far as to forbid any of his Legionaries from taking up Jurr's offer. Yet, despite Kar'Tor's harsh words and the grim sense of doom which reigned on Baal, some warriors in whom the fires of hope still burned brightly agreed to follow Jurr. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them -- thirty-eight Legionaries -- were drawn from the Salamanders Legion. Where deemed efficient and possible, these seasoned veterans were put in charge of the still relatively inexperienced squads that made up Jurr's company. With them also came a group of seventeen battered but unbroken Raven Guard under the nominal leadership of Veteran Legionary Aleckto Kirhane.
Most of these survivors had escaped the Drop Site Massacre on-board the fabled Thunderhawk gunship Ohidoran before seizing a Cruiser belonging to the Night Lords Legion, the Warlock, and escaping. Having fought the Warmaster's allies during the Liberation of Numinal, the Warlock had also reached Baal. Her complement of warriors, most of them having recovered from serious wounds, were eager to exact their vengeance on those Legions that had betrayed them. Last to join the new intake of troops were a trio of hulking Terminators in Cataphractii Pattern Terminator Armour bearing the black and silver emblems of the Iron Hands, for they had sworn an oath to re-join their Primarch or die trying.
Kar'Tor was not the only one harbouring resentment towards Xiaphas Jurr, for Warden Arkhad, the Seneschal of Baal who had happily welcomed the Ebon Drake's company to his world was also opposed to a fully-armed Astartes Cruiser leaving Baal. In Arkhad's eyes, Jurr's sacred mission was folly, an unwritten warrant of death that would see them all destroyed, whereas if they stayed on Baal, they might stand a slim chance of holding the Blood Angels' homeworld against the Traitors. Unwilling to acknowledge the importance of Jurr's mission, it was only when the Ebon Drake menacingly pointed its Bombardment Cannon at Baal's orbital docks that Arkhad reluctantly allowed the Salamanders vessel to leave and pass through the defence grid unmolested. As the Ebon Drake broke free of Baal's orbit, Warden Arkhad addressed them with these bitter words of parting: "For the sake of the dead you have damned all those who now stand in the Emperor's name. Do not return to Baal; for you stand no less as Traitors than those who now march under Horus' banner." Pondering the truth of these words, the Ebon Drake reached the system's Mandeville Point and readied itself for Warp translation, its course set for the Istvaan System and the heart of darkness.
From the Ashes of Istvaan
Leaving Baal behind, the Ebon Drake found the Warp becoming ever more turbulent as they closed with the Istvaan System. Yet the Salamanders vessel stayed true to her course, guided as it was by the deft hands and keen eye of its Navigator. Ship logs and other accounts and records from the vessel's crew indicate that the stand-off with his fellow Loyalists at Baal had considerably shaken Xiaphas Jurr. He had intended to make one last stop before setting course for Istvaan at the great Armada Imperialis mustering point of Port Maw, but Warden Arkhad's parting words had stirred the embers of doubt within the Lieutenant-Chaplain's mind. More and more often, Jurr sought counsel not with his fellow Legionaries, but those occult rituals of augury and divination native to his birthworld of Proximal Secundus. In particular, Xiaphas Jurr began conducting rituals of the Drakken-Asca ceremony, the Dragon's Ash Ritual, an obscure practice within the Promethean Cult which was barely tolerated by the Primarch himself. Be it at the hands of one of his rituals or through the benefit of his own intellect, Jurr's choice to avoid contact even with those believed to be his allies proved to be an excellent choice, for unknown to the Salamanders, Port Maw and the entire Manachean Commonwealth had already been conquered by Horus' armies.
Having avoided certain destruction, the Ebon Drake pushed on through the whirling aetheric vortex that later Imperial savants would theorise had been created not to bar passage to those who sought entrance, but to prevent escape, cutting off the northernmost star systems of the galaxy from the rest of the Imperium. The Warp Storms of this region were so fierce they effectively cast an impenetrable veil around the Istvaan System, a veil neither Navigator nor Astropath was able to pierce. Yet, Xiaphas Jurr had sworn an oath to Nomus Rhy'tan, an oath he bore on his flesh thanks to the votive forge inside Jurr's quarters. He would reach Istvaan V and discover the Primarch's fate. Sensor-blind, with its Geller Fields straining under the stress of the difficult crossing, the Ebon Drake punched through the ravening tides of the Empyrean, the violence of the aetheric storms forcing them to conduct an emergency translation back into realspace at the very edge of the Istvaan System. Facing a host of unknowns, Jurr ordered every soul onboard the Ebon Drake to battle-stations even before the ship translated back into reality. With its weapons armed and every Astartes aboard ready to repel boarders, the Ebon Drake entered the Istvaan System ready for battle. While Jurr expected to be greeted by the guns of the Warmaster's marshalled fleet or even a monumental shrine to his great treachery, the Ebon Drake found only the cold remains of a battle long fought and forgotten.
The vista that greeted Jurr and his companions made for a very bleak sight. In the swathes of space between the planets of the Istvaan System, great hulks and debris fields filled the void, the broken remains of once-proud Legiones Astartes starships left to rot in space. Even as they closed with Istvaan V, the crude pits dug by the Traitors to dispose of the bodies could be seen from space, the slain having been stripped of every piece of usable equipment by Adeptus Mechancus reclamation columns. With no vast armada and no grand palace celebrating Horus' victory to vent their rage upon, doubt again began to assail Jurr's mind: Could this be a trap? And if it wasn't, where were the Warmaster's armies? While to those who have studied history or heard the stories of these dark times, the actions of Horus amid the northern fringes of the Imperium and the birth of the Dark Compliance hold no secret, to the crew of the Ebon Drake the Traitor Legions' absence only added to their many questions, none of which could be readily answered. Making its way through the remains of the fierce void-battle, the Ebon Drake reached high orbit above Istvaan V without any enemy waiting for them in ambush. Nevertheless, her crew refused to relax, the absence of enemy vessels only serving to make them more resentful and cautious. Despite the total absence of resistance, it would take Jurr several solar hours to ascertain that they were indeed alone before letting the first dropcraft leave the Cruiser's hangar bays. The sight of the brutalised orb of Istvaan V quickly quashed all hope they had of finding one of the missing Primarchs alive.
For three solar days, heavily-armed search parties roamed the dust plains, witnessing the extent of the losses suffered by the three Shattered Legions. Xiaphas Jurr did not tread the surface of Istvaan V, but chose to remain aboard the Ebon Drake, casting augury after augury while the ship's sensors and Augurs swept the surface in endless new sweep-configuration. All the Loyalist Legionaries found was ruin, wreckage and the silent corpses of the dead with no sign whatsoever of the fates of Vulkan, Ferrus Manus or Corvus Corax. It was only on the third solar day that things changed. Led by the feverish half-dreams of Xiaphas Jurr, who had not allowed himself to rest since their departure from Baal, the Cruiser's sensors detected an anomaly in the geologic strata of one of the glass plains of the Urgall Depression, a testimony to the Traitor's use of atomic weaponry to finish off the last of the Loyalists.
The object shown on the Augur readings seemed to be of significant mass and of unknown composition. Better yet, it was broadcasting a faint, almost undetectable signal on an exotic wavelength known to the highest echelons of the Salamanders' command structure. If it hadn't been for Xiaphas Jurr's insistence and strange practices, they might have missed the transmission, dismissing it as some lingering radioactivity. Morale, which had ebbed considerably since their arrival at Istvaan V, flared to new heights as many Legionaries assembled on the planet's surface. Lacking heavy machinery suited to delicate excavation work, the transhuman crew of the Ebon Drake tore at the fused black sand with their Combat Blades and even their bare hands.
In ominous silence, the work parties laboured for an entire solar day until they uncovered a massive metallic object, blacker even than the black sand they had been digging in. Even revealed, the object was so massive that it took the combined might of three Iron Hands Cataphractii Terminators to heft it from the clutches of Istvaan V's hungry maw, where it had rested for more than a standard year. Even though it had been fused by unimaginable heat, scoured and scorched by atomic fire and abandoned to rot beneath the surface of a dead world, the object they had torn from the dark heart of Istvaan V was still unmistakably the armoured sarcophagus of a Mark IV Castaferrum Pattern Dreadnought.
All its limbs save the stump of its right arm had been shorn away in the gruesome battle it had fought. The ornate heraldry worked into what remained of its hull still proudly proclaimed the identity of the Dreadnought's occupant: Cassian Dracos, the last man to have born the title of Master of the XVIII Legion. Consulting a readout of the Shattered Legions' dead, one of the Legionaries confirmed that Cassian Vaughn had not been confirmed as killed in action. There on the barren grey plains of the Urgall Depression, surrounded by the wreckage and the dead of his Legion, Xiaphas Jurr, with shaking hands, connected the sarcophagus to an external Vox unit, and the haunting, hypnotic voice of a man twice dead rumbled forth over the assembled warriors of three orphaned Astartes Legions:
"You come seeking our father, but he is not here. I searched for him on the field of battle until they struck me down with a sword of flame that scorched the very heavens, and yet I did not die. I searched for him in the endless vaults of the dead where the crushing blackness tore at my very soul, and yet I endured. I was tested once again through the crucible, and I tell you this -- Vulkan does not walk among the dead!"
The Fires of Mezoa
Dracos' words filled the hearts of every Astartes with hope, even those Legionaries not of the Salamanders daring to believe that their respective Primarchs might also have survived. Such was the Venerable Dreadnought's reputation that none doubted his words. Dracos -- who would soon gain the new title of "the Twice Dead" -- had a positive effect on the Space Marines' morale. Where previously they were sulking, brooding individuals, the warriors of the Shattered Legions moved once again with purpose and the easy camaraderie of warrior-brothers. With all the reverence due his rank, the battered sarcophagus of the Iron Dragon was transported to the Ebon Drake. As later pict-captures would prove, those who had trod the surface of Istvaan V also left with numerous memento mori, including pieces of shattered armour taken from the corpses of their fallen brothers and turned into votive talismans. The Ebon Drake lingered for a short time in the Istvaan System, during which Cassian Dracos began to exert his influence upon the Ebon Drake 's company, slowly turning them into the Disciples of the Flames.
Whereas most Dreadnoughts of his age craved a return to slumber, Cassian Dracos refused all offers of hibernation. Without outside help, his Vulkan-forged shell slowly began to restore his systems, a tech-miracle that only served to bolster Cassian Dracos' growing legend. Apart from a changed physical appearance due to the ordeal he had survived, Dracos' mental state was also affected by the isolation he had suffered under the black sands of Istvaan V. He was frequently lost to prolonged periods of near-incoherent prognostications and memories drawn from his centuries of battle, reliving past events with no notion for the present. Many of the ship's company came to him to receive wisdom and prophecy, both from amongst the Salamanders and those of their brother Legions. For the few short solar days the Ebon Drake stayed in orbit around Istvaan V, his followers began to modify their heraldry with a myriad of devotional icons, forged with the greatest of care by the capable hands of the artisans from Nocturne. To further honour the Venerable Dreadnought, many Legionaries scorched their emerald battle-plate black and applied images of fiery flames, glowing embers or artistic renditions of Vulkan upon it. Compiled by the diligent hands of Xiaphas Jurr, who took the title of "The Prophet of Fire," the Ebon Drake’s company quickly changed. Even within their own chronicle, the crew of the Ebon Drake increasingly referred to themselves as the Disciples of the Flames, their nominal leader now Cassian Dracos.
Yet Vaughn's influence and strange charisma did not affect only the living crew of the Ebon Drake, but also the ship's Servitors and Automata, which became unreliable in his presence. Several of the simple Automata that usually performed the more mundane maintenance tasks aboard the Ebon Drake developed anomalous sub-routines in their neuro-cortexes and had to be forcefully reprogrammed to their original task. Seemingly without orders, several high-grade Servitors from the armourium detached themselves from their routine and formed a semblance of a court around the Dreadnought. No explanation for these events is recorded in any official log retrieved from the Ebon Drake and no attempt was ever made by the crew to fully understand this strange phenomenon.
With their original mission fulfilled, many amongst the vessel's crew assumed that the Ebon Drake would eventually head back to Nocturne and report to Lord Chaplain Rhy'tan, but Cassian Dracos would not allow such a course to be plotted. Instead, the inscrutable Dreadnought insisted that they set course for the Coronid Deeps and more specifically the Forge World of Mezoa. Perhaps guided by the hands of the God-Emperor or the Machine God, the Ebon Drake and its Disciples of the Flame would arrive just in the nick of time to participate in the great and decisive battle of the Mezoan Campaign, where they helped to turn the tide in the Loyalists' favour.
- Mezoan Campaign (008.M31) - The greatest victory of the Disciples of the Flames is no doubt their successful defence of the Loyalist Forge World of Mezoa. Isolated following the rapid conquest of the Manachean Commonwealth by the Sons of Horus, the militant Forge World had already resisted two prior attempts to bring it to its knees by the Traitors. Led by Autilon Skorr of the Alpha Legion, the third and final attempt to vanquish Mezoa had led to the creation of one of the largest independent hosts since the Drop Site Massacre. Arriving even as the Traitor armada was closing on Mezoa, the Ebon Drake participated in the void-battle above the Forge World before deploying its troops to the surface of the besieged world. Reequipped with the gifts of Mezoa's Tech-adepts, the Disciples of the Flames were a welcome addition to the defenders' forces, while both Xiaphas Jurr's and Cassian Vaughn's decisive actions helped achieve to this much-lauded Imperial victory.
Notable Disciples of the Flames
- Cassian Vaughn, "The Fallen Master", Avatar of the Sacred Flame - Cassian Vaughn, known also as Cassian Dracos and "the Fallen Master", was the Lord Commander of the XVIII Legion from the time it was founded on Terra during the Unification Wars until the discovery of the Primarch Vulkan on the world of Nocturne during the Great Crusade. After he was mortally wounded in battle against the Orks, Vaughn was interred in an unique Dreadnought sarcophagus known as the Dracos Revenant, or the "Iron Dragon", forged by the hands of Vulkan himself. On Istvaan V he fought with unmatched fury, until he was struck by an orbital Lance strike that glassed an entire part of the battlefield, trapping him beneath the black, blood-soaked sand of the Urghall Depression for several months at least, Cassian Vaughn was unearthed by Xiaphas Jurr and the crew of the Ebon Drake. Whilst Dracos' Dreadnought-shell was badly mauled, the man inside it was very much alive. Taken onboard the Ebon Drake, Cassian Vaighn soon began to exact its influence on both the Legionaries and machines of the Ebon Drake, soon becoming their leader as well as a figure of prophetic wisdom. It was under his influence that the Disciples of the Flames were truly born. Having earned new titles such as "The Twice-Dead" and the "Avatar of the Sacred Flames" Cassian Dracos would direct the company's steps to far distant and beleaguered Mezoa where the Tech-Magii of the Adeptus Mechanicus recognized him as an Avatar of the Machine God and restored his Dreadnought to its former glory. Returned to the battlefields of the Imperium to enact his vengeance, Cassian Vaughn would prosecute his own war of vengeance against those that had sided with the Warmaster.
- Xiaphas Jurr, "The Prophet of Fire" - Initial commander of both the Ebon Drake and its complement of Legionaries, Lieutenant-Chaplain Xiaphas Jurr was a member of the Igniax, the formation that preceded the Reclusiam within the Salamanders Legion. A pupil of the great Nomus Rhy'tan, Jurr had been born on Proxima Secundus and inducted into the XVIII Legion at the end of the Great Crusade. Reckoned amongst the most promising of the officer-recruits who remained on Nocturne in the wake of the muster in the Istvaan System, he was later chosen by Rhy'tan to lead the mission to investigate the Primarch's fate. It was Chaplain Jurr's fervour which drew the dispirited men under his command to him, in the wake of the rumours of the catastrophic events that played out at Istvaan V, and bound them to him in the dark odyssey that followed aboard the Ebon Drake. During their long voyages, Jurr resolved to use practices long frowned upon by his fellow Igniax, such as the Drakken-Asca, an art of divination and augury to plot the Ebon Drake 's course. The Drakken-Asca safely led the Ebon Drake first to Istvaan V and then to Cassian Vaughn's resting place, a feat many saw as guided by the hands of the Primarch. Upon the recovery of Cassian Vaughn, Xiaphas Jurr willingly relinquished command of the Ebon Drake and its troops to Vaughn, becoming both his second-in-command and the Prophet of Fire, the voice of the Disciples of the Flames and the hands that would eventually write down the Prophecies of the Flames. It was Jurr who commanded the Disciples of the Flames in their defence of the Mezoan forge-fanes for the majority of the Mezoan Campaign.
- Nârik Dreygur, Equerry to the Iron Dragon - Former Consul-Praevian of the Iron Warriors Legion and commander of its 114th Grand Battalion during the Mezoan Campaign, Nârik Dreygur was but one of the many converts swayed by Cassian Vaughn to renounce their oaths to the Warmaster Horus and turn upon their former allies of the Alpha Legion. Following his betrayal, Dreygur became the right-hand of Cassian Vaughn, a silent and brooding figure that preferred the presence of his own Battle-Automata to that of his former -- or new -- brothers.
Disciples of the Flames Appearance
Typical of the Legiones Astartes of this ad hoc formation, the Disciples of the Flames were much changed in appearance by the time they arrived at Mezoa. Much of the Salamanders' spartan heraldry that was worn at the outset of the Ebon Drake's voyage was drastically altered. The original drab green armour of these Legionaries was often obscured by patterns of black ash and fire, along with ritual images of the Dragon Revenant and Vulkan. Suspended on chains across their armour were engraved bones and fragments of the battle-plate of the fallen from Istvaan V, each an omen of events yet to pass, cast in the presence of the Iron Dragon himself.
The insignia worn by the Disciples of the Flames consists of a flaming drake's head, similar in appearance to the Salamander's original Legion iconography, but subtly corrupted, wrought by the influence of Cassian Dracos. Often the Legion insignia was replaced by devotional images of the Primarch Vulkan. Suspended from some of these Legionaries' pauldrons were pages from the writings of Xiaphas Jurr, the so-called Prophecies of the Flame, with some affixed with the seal of the Forge World of Mezoa.
- The Horus Heresy - Book Six: Retribution (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 33-53