"Knights of Adrastapol. Noble sires of Houses Draconis, Chimaeros, Minotos, Wyvorn and Pegasson. Honoured allies of the Astra Militarum, of Tanhollis and Mubraxis and Cadia. Today we do the Emperor's bidding. Today, we are the cleansing flame. This world of Donatos has known the insidious touch of the mutant. The heretic. The traitor. But no more! Today the Knights of Adrastapol will march forth and show these turncoats what becomes of those who shun the light of the Imperium. Honoured sires, for Adrastapol and the Emperor. Let them know no mercy, only death!"
- — High King Tolwyn Tan Draconis
The Donatos War, also sometimes referred to as the Donatosian War or the Donatos Uprising, was a hard-fought Imperial victory won over the servants of Chaos on the Industrial World of Donatos Primus largely through the action of the Imperial Knights of the Knight World of Adrastapol. Through the negligence of its rulers, the promises of the Dark Gods were allowed to spread amongst the world's class of labourers, leading to an outbreak of worker strikes and a rise in gang violence in the northern industrial zone of interlinked hive cities.
When Planetary Governor Gnossul ordered the unrest put down, elements of the local Planetary Defence Forces joined the rebels who soon revealed themselves as the members of a hideous Chaos Cult. This cult had ties to far darker masters, the Chaos Space Marines of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion, who they called to their aid. Directed by the battle-hardened Dark Apostle Varakh'Lorr, the Chaos Cultists soon spread their influence across Donatos' principal continent, bypassing a series of extensive fortifications and turning them against the Loyalist defenders of Donatos Primus. Following the death of Governor Gnossul and the confirmation of the presence of Heretic Astartes in the warzone, an astropathic distress signal was sent to which the Imperium responded with uncustomary swiftness.
Tolwyn Tan Draconis, the High King of the Knight World of Adrastapol, led a powerful alliance of Knight Houses and several regiments of the Astra Militarum to retake Donatos Primus for the Emperor. This assault initially met with great success. The balance of power was tipped back in the Archenemy's favour when two previously Loyalist Houses of Imperial Knights, House Chimaeros and House Wyvorn, changed sides in the middle of a decisive battle.
Falling back in disarray, the Imperial forces lost ground to the resurgent enemy before rallying around Tolwyn's successor, his son Danial Tan Draconis. As the Renegade Knights in turn betrayed their Word Bearers allies, the Imperial forces were able to mount a decisive attack on Donatos Primus' industrial heartland and slay both of the Traitors' leaders. Without leadership and abandoned by their more powerful allies, the Renegade PDF forces and Chaos Cultists were slowly pressed back and Donatos Primus was ultimately reclaimed for the Throne of Terra.
The history of the Donatos War is intertwined with the tale of High King Danial's ascension to the throne of the High King of Adrastapol. To the scholar, it comes as no surprise that the writings of the famed Sage-Strategist Sendraghorst hold the most complete account of these dire events.
The rule of the Imperium is a harsh one, especially on those countless worlds subject to the Imperial Tithe, whose taxing demands are to be met in time and in full. Such is the strain put on a world's economy that its population have to toil almost incessantly to meet the Adeptus Administratum's demands. Worker strikes and other forms of civil unrest are far too common and often discipline can only be maintained by the heavy hand of the Adeptus Arbites or local law-enforcers. So when the first signs of trouble emerged within the industrial sprawl of Donatos Primus' northern hive cities, none of the world's rulers were particularly troubled.
Planetary Governor Gnossul ordered the deployment of several squads of Donatosian Planetary Defence Forces -- a force which in the past had often sufficed to quell any civil unrest. Yet this time, rather than open fire on the mob, the men and women of the Planetary Defence Militia joined the ranks of the rioters, for even within the Donatosian military the discontent ran deep. Unsure of his troops' loyalties, the head of the Planetary Defence Militia, Commander Korgh, deployed his troops sparingly. This proved to be too little to stem the spread of open rebellion both amongst the civilian population and Donatos' PDF regiments. As more and more regiments declared for the rebels, the situation became tense.
Despite the scale of this revolt, Governor Gnossul remained confident that he could keep what was beginning to be called the Donatos Uprising a purely internal matter. The Governor's confidence was largely born of experience. As a Class II Industrial World, Donatos Primus had seen its fair share of insurrections, revolts and even civil wars, which had led Gnossul's forbears to seek the help of the Adeptus Mechanicus in erecting a series of heavily armed and strongly fortified keeps known as the Adamant Citadels at strategic locations on the world. Each fortress was near-impregnable and was specifically designed to control and defend its allotted sector from both interior and exterior threats. Even this latest rebellion lacked the manpower or the resources to take on one of the Citadels. Thinking he had more than enough time to react, the Governor gathered yet more PDF regiments and Adeptus Arbites around him, ready to sally forth and crush the rebellion. He could not have foreseen what was to come.
Unknown to the governor and his staff, the rebellion had been kindled by one of the insidious Chaos Cults that fester on those Imperial worlds where the Emperor's servants are too lax in upholding Imperial rule. The cult that had fomented the revolt was itself affiliated with some of the Imperium's most dangerous opponents: the Heretic Astartes of the Traitor Legions. Through means unknown, the cult was able to call upon its dark master: Varakh'Lorr, a Dark Apostle of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion and the lord of a particularly active warband of his dark brethren. As Lord of the Scribed Blade warband, Varakh'Lorr had already devastated seven Imperial worlds on the border of the Crimson Stars and put their populations to the sword, sacrifices to his Dark Gods to fuel his transformation into a Daemon Prince of Chaos Undivided.
It would seem that through sorcerous means -- or the arcane and techno-heretical knowledge of those Magi of the Dark Mechanicus loyal to the Scribed Blade -- the insurgents were able to force the Machine Spirits (artificial intelligences) of several Adamant Citadels to shut down, leaving them defenceless against the frenzied mob that stormed their walls. Once overrun, those same Dark Adepts took control of the Adamant Citadels and turned their impressive firepower against Donatos' defenders, forcing them to retreat. It was only with his defences already breached and the involvement of the Heretic Astartes confirmed that Governor Gnossul realised how perilous the situation was.
Almost immediately, the Governor ordered his Astropaths to send out a distress call. With the Adamant Citadels now in the hands of the enemy, the hordes of Chaos Cultists, Renegade Planetary Defence Militia and Chaos Space Marines spilled out of the northern industrial zone. Where possible, the remaining Loyalist PDF regiments and Adeptus Arbites companies resisted for as long as they could, fighting defensive sieges and delaying actions in order to bleed the foe and hold out long enough for Imperial reinforcements to arrive. With a sizeable army gathered around him, Governor Gnossul's palace became one of the principal Loyalist pockets of resistance.
Thanks to the sacrifice of the entire 19th Regiment of Donatos Planetary Defence Militia, the enemy's advance was blunted: infiltrating the Peninsulum Manufactorii through a labyrinth of decommissioned waste evacuation pipes, the troops of the 19th were able to destroy one of only two generatorium sites charged with delivering power to the Adamant Citadels. Bereft of power, some fortresses were even destroyed by the fatal backlash of energy caused by the Manufactorii's destruction. All of the Adamant Citadels south of Donatos' equator shut down, leaving only the Valle Electrum to power the remaining Citadels.
With their advantage lost, the Traitors had to fight hard for each sector and hive city they took. After many solar weeks of siege, the Governor's Palace was eventually overrun. Governor Gnossul was slain and Donatos' astropathic choir was captured by the Heretic Astartes. As the Loyalists fell back to the Pentakhost Peninsula, holding out in Donatos Primus' primary Adeptus Arbites fortress, they were relieved to see that the Imperium had responded surprisingly swiftly to their distress call.
Hearing Donatos' distress call, the Imperial Segmentum authorities had acted swiftly, rerouting several sizeable military convoys of Astra Militarum-regiments to Donatos Primus. The bulk of these reinforcements were drawn from the Cadian Shock Troops led by the 454th Regiment, three regiments of Mubraxis Dustdogs and the entire 601st Tanhollis Highlanders. To take command of these forces, Segmentum authorities designated High King Tolwyn Tan Draconis, planetary ruler of the Knight World of Adrastapol who would contribute well over 300 Imperial Knights drawn from Adrastapol's five Knight Houses. As usual, the Imperial Navy would provide transportation, warships and atmospheric air support.
Nearly four solar months after the beginning of the insurrection, the Imperial fleet arrived in high orbit above Donatos Primus. Wasting no time, the Imperial forces immediately went on the offensive, acting upon intelligence transmitted by those Loyalist enclaves still fighting back against the hordes of Chaos Cultists and Renegades. As a seasoned warleader, Tolwyn Tan Draconis had perfectly selected his army's landing zone: the Pentakhost Peninsula. Located south of Donatos Primus' equator -- and hence out of reach of the orbital batteries of the Adamant Citadels still in enemy hands -- the peninsula would be easy to hold, as a small number of Imperial forces were sufficient to repel any offensive while the Loyalist troops cleared the peninsula of the enemy.
Using his Knights' Drop Keeps as a new fortification line to the north, the gathered Imperial Knights of House Draconis, House Chimaeros, House Minotos, House Pegasson and House Wyvorn were ordered to push south and west, trapping the enemy between their guns and those of the Imperial troops still holding out in Donatos' Adeptus Arbites fortress-precinct. Hopelessly outgunned, those Chaos Cultists and Renegade PDF troopers encountered by the lances of Knights were swiftly annihilated, as the insurrectionists lacked the firepower necessary to destroy the towering and well-shielded walkers hunting them down. With the siege of the Arbites fortress broken and the Imperial bridgehead secured, the reconquest of Donatos truly began.
For many within the ranks of the Imperial Knights, the landing in the Pentakhost Peninsula was their very first battle. These young Knights -- some having just passed their Ritual of Becoming -- were paired with seasoned warriors, veterans of many conflicts to watch over them and guide them. This was also the case for Luk Tan Chimaeros, son and heir to the leader of House Chimaeros, Viscount Gerraint Tan Chimaeros, and his best friend, Danial Tan Draconis, Kingsward to the High King of Adrastapol. Entering the war little more than Squires, the actions of these two individuals would determine the outcome of the conflict.
Council of War
Almost immediately after having gained a foothold on Donatos Primus, the High King convened a great war council. The High King knew his forces had been extremely lucky, having encountered neither Chaos Space Marines nor the powerful Daemon Engines often employed by Chaos warbands.
The council began with much pomp and ceremony, as befitting the presence of such an august figure as that of the High King of Adrastapol. Prior to the council, a delegation of Donatosian notables had presented their thanks to the High King and his commanders for coming to their aid. First Administrator Hullis of the Adeptus Administratum and Sacred Pulfican, the Ecclesiarchy Bishop of Donatos, had all taken refuge in Donatos' Adeptus Arbites fortress, saved only by the arrival of the Imperial forces. Ever the diplomat, High King Tolwyn thanked Commander Korgh and the High Justice of Donatos for the blood spilled by the Donatosian Loyalists in delaying the Traitors' advance. Despite Pulfican's heavy-handed attempts to put the blame for their current situation solely on Commander Korgh, the High King subtly noted the Bishop's own shortcomings in preserving Donatos' spiritual purity.
As the High King's appointed Herald -- Markos Dar Draconis -- began with an overview of the tactical situation, everyone present watched the great holo-projector underlying the Herald's words with maps, casualty lists and other graphical depictions of the Imperial war effort. Their primary target was the Valle Electrum, a glorified but extremely well-defended generatorium. More akin to a fortified mountain range than a fortress, the Valle Electrum harboured immense Plasma Generators which powered the remaining Adamant Citadels all over Donatos Primus' northern hemisphere.
The most impressive Citadel, known locally as Ironpeak, bordered the Valle Electrum to the north, separated from it by the great Plaza of Unrelenting Toil. Satellite reconnaissance put the Word Bearers and their dark master there, leading the rebellious population in dark rituals of supplication. The Valle Electrum could only be accessed through three ravines, each one heavily fortified and boasting so much anti-aircraft firepower that even the Imperial Navy's heavy Marauder Bombers could not break through.
With no alternative other than a ground offensive, the Imperial forces intended to march up the Pentakhost Peninsula, flushing the dregs of the vanquished rebel army before them and assail the Valle Electrum straight away: a decapitation strike the likes of which the Imperium's armies had relied upon since the days of the Great Crusade. It was only when the High King's plans were outlined that Markos revealed to the gathered assembly the presence of Heretic Astartes on Donatos Primus, raising the regimental commanders and Commander Korgh's clearance level to Crimson so that they might study their foe. Vastly outnumbered and confident that his Knights would be more than a match for the Word Bearers, the High King and the other commanders were confident that their plan would bring victory.
None dared to suspect than amongst their numbers hid a Traitor, one who would pass his extensive knowledge of the High King's plan to the Archenemy.
March on the Valle Electrum
From the bottleneck of the Pentakhost Peninsula, the army of High King Tolwyn pressed northwards. Despite the nature of the terrain -- which was highly urbanised -- the army made good progress, advancing mainly along the great macro-highways linking together Donatos' great concentrations of industry. While the Imperial Knights kept to the main arteries, the bloody business of clearing out hab blocks and manufactoria fell to the men and women of the 454th Cadian, experts in street-fighting. They faced only Chaos Cultists and Renegade PDF, and the Imperial Knights' firepower made short work of them. Yet the enemy refused to let the Imperial forces advance unhindered. On bridges and other chokepoints, the Heretics used groundcars and macrohawlers to erect barricades against the advancing army, but even equipped with more heavy weapons and supported by elements of the Planetary Defence Forces' armoured brigades, these rebels were no match for the Imperial troops.
Over the following solar days and weeks the Imperial forces conquered several key districts: the Magna Destros Manufactorii, the Imperatos Magnificat, the Diocese Promethean and Totalum Hespraxii all fell back into Imperial hands. On several occasions, the Traitors gathered in sufficient numbers to warrant a true battle, but still no Chaos Space Marines were sighted. At each one of these true battles, High King Tolwyn Tan Draconis personally led the charge in his modified Knight Paladin, Fyreheart. Less than a solar month after their initial landing, the Loyalists were in striking distance of their designated target: the Valle Electrum.
For the second time, High King Tolwyn convened his closest allies for a war council where he presented his plan for the coming attack. With the enemy firmly entrenched behind the formidable defences of the Valle Electrum, even the might of the Imperial Knights was not enough to break through. The target would need softening up before High King Tolwyn's Knights could charge through and take the breach.
Being the best equipped for the task, the Mubraxian regiments and the Tanhollis Highlanders would open hostilities with a heavy artillery barrage. This attack would be supported by several runs of the Imperial Navy's bomber wings. Once the outlying defences were sufficiently weakened, the Imperial Knights would lead the charge with the Cadians in their wake. The Knights would lead a single assault carried out by the three strongest Knight Houses: House Minotos, House Chimaeros and High King Tolwyn's own House Draconis. The two remaining Houses, House Wyvorn and House Pegasson, would be deployed on the flanks and tasked with long-range fire support.
With the Imperial commanders in agreement, High King Tolwyn retreated to his personal quarters to spend time with his children, Lady Jennika Tan Draconis and Kingsward Danial Tan Draconis, blissfully ignorant of the fact that even as he gifted his children with family heirlooms the traitor in their midst was already revealing every detail of the High King's strategy to the enemy. At the same time, House Chimaeros' and House Wyvorn's Sacristans readied their lords' mechanical steeds for the coming battle, anointing them with sacred unguent that would shield them from the Word Bearers' weapons.
First Attack on the Valle Electrum
The next morning proved to be a rain-streaked one, the dark petrochemical clouds releasing a steady stream of hissing, acidic rain, perhaps a dark omen of what was yet to come. The Imperial army mustered itself for war, vast columns of infantry and tanks opening the way as the Noble scions of the Knight Houses seated themselves in their Thrones Mechanicum. Well over three hundred Knights mustered outside of the Imperial camp, the Knights of House Minotos filling the air with the heartrousing melodies of their martial symphonies. In great columns and followed by their Sacristan Crawlers, the Knight Houses of Adrastapol assembled according to the High King's plan. Slowly, hundreds of gun barrels -- mainly Basilisk artillery tanks -- were raised skywards, ready to unleash volley after volley against the enemy fortifications which loomed over no-man's land. Far overhead, the wings of Marauder Bombers and Thunderbolt fighters were circling, ready to add their bombs to the megatons of ordinance ready to be unleashed on the Valle Electrum. From the Throne Mechanicum of his own Knight, Fyreheart, High King Tolwyn gave the order and the Imperial batteries opened fire.
For several solar hours, the Imperial artillery pummelled the enemy fortifications until High King Tolwyn gave the order to advance. Linking their Ion Shields together, the lances of Knights were easily shielded from the sporadic counter-barrage fire emanating from the enemy. As the Knight Houses advanced across no-man's land, they lost a single unfortunate Noble of House Pegasson to enemy fire. According to their initial battleplan, House Pegasson and House Wyvorn soon peeled off to take up their predetermined positions as the other Houses charged. The enemy's reaction had remained minimal, neither committing its numbers nor its best troops against the gathered might of the Adrastapolian Knights. It was only as the leading Knights penetrated into the Valle Electrum proper that things went awry.
When the Nobles of House Draconis go to war, they do not do so alone but benefit from the support of their "Heavenly Host," a small army of cybernetic constructs called Cherubim whose Auspex-probes cover the entire battlefield and furnish the Nobles of House Draconis with a detailed and updated map of their surroundings. Once inside the Valle Electrum, the Sacristans around High Sacristan Polluxis noted an unexplainable spike in casualties amongst the Heavenly Host. First analysis suggested a noospheric anomaly, a parasite signal that forced the Cherub-Servitor into paralysis or shutdown. Worse yet, the ghost signal that plagued the Heavenly Host also befell Polluxis' own Crawler and soon swapped over to the Auspex and communication systems of the Draconis Knights. Filled with insane runic gibberish, these systems began an immediate emergency shutdown in the midst of the battle.
Even as High Sacristan Polluxis battled against the invasive scrap-code, House Pegasson and House Wyvorn moved into position, and House Draconis pressed home the attack. As a mark of deference to House Draconis and its High King, House Chimaeros left the honour of the first charge to High King Tolwyn's House. Eager to join battle as soon as possible, House Minotos did not show this mark of respect and pressed on, easily outpacing House Chimaeros and leaving the Imperial rear vulnerable to enemy counterattack.
The Hour of Betrayal
It was in this very moment that the Loyalists were struck head-on by the Chaos-tainted scrap-code. As some of the most complex creations of the Machine God, the suits of Knight Armour were partially shielded from the most extreme effects of the scrap-code. Where the Cherubim of the Heavenly Host had suffered catastrophic system failures, the Imperial Knights' Machine Spirits were strong enough to limit the machine-curse's baleful effects to none essential systems such as Auspex-arrays, communication systems and pictscreens. Others were not so lucky. On several occasions the scrap-code penetrated deep inside the systems of the Sacristan Crawlers, pushing their reactors into overdrive and causing them to explode. Overhead, several Thunderbolts tumbled from the sky, their engines unexpectedly cutting out while on the ground the targeting systems of Leman Russ tanks failed. While the scrap-code did not directly harm the Loyalist Knights, it left them disorganised, confused and in some cases blinded, a confusion the Traitors in their midst knew how to exploit.
Unaffected by the Chaos scrap-code, the Traitor Knights of House Chimaeros opened fire at point-blank range on their former allies, while the Knights of House Wyvorn assaulted House Pegasson. One of High King Tolwyn's bodyguards, Sire Daeved was the first Knight to realise the betrayal. Just before his exterior pic-feed cut out, Sire Daeved saw a Chimaeros Knight preparing to fire upon the High King. Unable to warn his liege or reorient his Ion Shield in time, the king's bodyguard used the bulk of his own Knight to intercept the incoming fire, his steed losing an arm in the process.
A little bit further along the battleline, Danial Tan Draconis, the Kingsward, was also attacked. Still reeling from the unexpected blow, House Draconis had little time to react before House Chimaeros charged into their midst. Sire Rosierre Dar Chimaeros, one of Viscount Gerraint's most seasoned warriors, attacked Danial. Hastily parrying the first blow with its Reaper Chainsword, Danial's Knight Errant, Oath of Flame, was pressed back, the battlefield already littered with fallen Knights belonging to House Draconis. Through a mix of luck and skill, Danial Tan Draconis was able to slay his opponent while his father frantically tried to come to grasp with this new situation.
All across Donatos Primus and even in orbit, the forces of House Chimaeros and House Wyvorn revealed their true colours. On the surface, House Chimaeros' assets had split into two groups. The first had charged at House Draconis, seeking to slay its ruling Nobles while the second assaulted House Minotos with devastating enfilade fire. Within the first solar minutes of the betrayal, fully half of Grandmarshal Gustev's Exalted Court had been slain.
Behind the main advance, the Sacristan Crawlers belonging to the Renegade Houses battled their Loyalist counterparts, while on top of the hab-mountains the enemy revealed an unexpected weapon: Macrocannons large enough to repel voidships. The colossal weapons opened up on the forces of House Pegasson and exacted a heavy toll. In orbit, House Chimaeros and House Wyvorn bastion-ships unleashed the firepower of their batteries against the Imperial ships. Dormant Plasma Torpedoes were reactivated, wreaking havoc on the Imperial flotilla. Even more disturbing was the fact that these torpedoes were seemingly of Astartes design: the Word Bearers had finally decided to get involved in the fight.
With the scrap-code still paralysing all communications save for short-range Vox-transmissions, House Draconis needed an alternate means of communication. The solution was found by Tolwyn's daughter, Gatekeeper Jennika Tan Draconis, who was the first to order her lance to communicate through the ancient Squire's Code. Her Knights raised their auto-pennants in precise order and formation to convey messages to those within their line of sight. Although limited in words, the Squire's Code gave House Draconis the means it needed to reorganise their formation. Luckily, High Sacristan Polluxis had succeeded in warding his Land Crawler and its tactical Auspex from the data-infestation. His Auspex readings showed him what the High King had ignored so far: that the Tanhollis and Mubraxis regiments had been pressed back by the enemy, now led by Varakh'Lorr's warband of Heretic Astartes drawn from the Word Bearers Legion, the Scribed Blade.
With the enemy's best warriors pressing in on both flanks and his supporting troops overrun, the High King recognised that the battle was lost. Of the supporting Astra Militarum regiments, only the Cadians were still in the fight, gathering protectively around Polluxis' Sacristan Crawlers or standing against the turncoat Chimaeros Knights. Finally, using all his technical knowledge, High Sacristan Polluxis managed to reach the forces of House Pegasson and House Minotos and delivered the High King's order: retreat. Gathering around Tolwyn's Knight, Fyreheart, the surviving 57 Knights of the three Loyalist Houses fought their way through the encircling troops.
The Axe Falls
The Loyalist Imperial Knights headed west, wading through a sea of enemy combatants and Chaos Cultists. They died by the hundreds, mowed down like wheat before the scythe by the Knight's coordinated fire or crushed beneath their armoured feet. Those weapons truly capable of harming a Knight -- tanks and self-propelled artillery -- were expertly targeted and destroyed before they could open fire. The true fight came at the rear of the Imperial formation, where a rearguard led by Garath Dar Draconis held back the pursuing Renegade Knights. At the vanguard, Danial Tan Draconis, his sister Jennika and the High King's Herald, Markos Dar Draconis, pressed on. Their target was a wide transit bridge, large enough to allow six Knights to cross it abreast over a deep canal that was half a kilometre wide. If the retreating Imperial troops could cross that bridge and bring it down behind them they still find safety.
A few hundred metres before the bridge's entrance, Lady Suset Dar Pegasson's Knight detected strange energy signatures, largely hidden by the body heat emanating from the human mob surrounding it. She tried to warn her comrades, but her words were cut short as the yet unidentified enemy opened fire. Missiles, large calibre ballistic rounds and powerful energy streams hit the overlapping Ion Shields of the foremost Knights.
One House Draconis Knight, Sire Poldred was destroyed, his Knight's legs blown out from under it. Using their own cultists as cover for their movement, Chaos Space Marine infantry and tanks had deployed across the bridge, hoping to trap the Imperial Knights between them and the pursuing Traitor Knights. With no time to lose, the High King ordered his ranks to charge through the enemy lines. With commendable discipline the Word Bearers held their ground, pouring fire into the advancing Imperials.
In the first line of the Loyalist charge stood Danial Tan Draconis. Oath of Flame’s Ion Shield deflected the twin-linked lasbeams of a Chaos Predator Annihilator, while its armoured legs withstood the powerful blasts of hurled Krak Grenades and Autocannon rounds. Oath of Flame kicked an enemy tank, flipping it onto its turret and causing it to explode. The High King's Knight, Fyreheart, was attacked by an Aspiring Champion in hook-festooned Power Armour wielding a Power Fist. Before the High King could react, the enemy champion ripped off part of Fyreheart’s ankle, crippling the High King's mount. With a shout of anger, High King Tolwyn brought his Tempest Blade to bear, smashing the Aspiring Champion aside with the flat of his blade, its momentum strong enough to send even an armoured Space Marine flying through the air. But the damage had been done.
With Fyreheart crippled, High King Tolwyn knew he would only slow down the escape and possibly put the entire venture in jeopardy. His duty was clear: the collective survival of his Knights was more important than his own. He also had to ensure that his son, the Kingsward, survived so that the Draconis line might be perpetuated and someone might challenge Gerraint's ambitions to the throne of Adrastapol.
With a heavy heart, Tolwyn gave his final orders. Any able-bodied Knight would cross the bridge and cover the Sacristans and Cadians as they readied the bridge for demolition. Sire Garath was relieved of command over the rearguard, which would assemble around Tolwyn and help him defend the bridge from the enemy. Only those Knights crippled or injured beyond their meagre means of repair were allowed to stay with the High King, who would slowly fall back if circumstances allowed. Despite Jennika's and Danial's strident protests, the order was carried out as the High King wished. Markos Dar Draconis, Tolwyn's oldest friend, considered disobeying these orders, but in a private channel Tolwyn tasked him instead with a secret mission: to watch over Jennika and Danial after he was gone.
High King Tolwyn stood proudly on the bridge. He was joined by one of his bodyguards, Sire Daeved in Pyrefang and two other Knights of House Draconis, Sire Natan in Drake Ascendant and Sire Kristov in Crimson Sword. Two wounded Minotos Knights completed their small group, as well as a ragtag assortment of Sacristan Crawlers, Cadian Tauroxes and Leman Russ tanks that had suffered damaged tracks. Against them stood the surging masses of House Chimaeros, their leader, the Traitor Gerraint Tan Chimaeros, at their head.
Drake Ascendant and Crimson Sword were the first to fall, slain even before the enemy charged. In close combat the odds were clearly in favour of the retreating Loyalists, as the bridge funnelled the enemy's numbers so that the rearguard could confront them one on one. In pouring rain, Therianthros, Gerraint's Knight, charged Fyreheart. The two former friends exchanged thunderous blows, but the rain thickened and obscured the duel from sight. An explosion illuminated the grey skies as High King Tolwyn detonated the Demolition Charges expertly planted by Polluxis' Sacristans. The Knights of House Draconis and the two other Houses had escaped the ambush set for them, but it had cost them dearly.
Loyalists in Disarray
In the wake of the disastrous first attack on the Valle Electrum, the tables had been turned on the Imperials. Strengthened by the betrayal of Houses Chimaeros and Wyvorn and with the Word Bearers now unleashed, the reconquest of Donatos Primus hung by a tread. Yet all hope was not lost, for High King Tolwyn's valiant sacrifice had saved the lives of a considerable number of Imperial Knights, a force that -- whilst severely diminished -- was still strong enough to put an end to Varakh'Lorr's schemes and Gerraint's ambitions.
Even in death, the High King watched over his House and its allies, for among Tolwyn's last actions was to upload a crucial data-package that contained the location of a rallying point for the survivors. Designated rally point Zeta-Lambda-Rho, the safe haven was part of Donatos' immense subterranean network of munition warehouses where even the towering Imperial Knights could easily hide.
Thanks to the survival of Polluxis' Land Crawlers, the survivors of Houses Draconis, Minotos and Pegasson could be rearmed and repaired for the next battle. Fortunately, the electrical storms that often plagued Donatos' atmosphere hid their retreat from the enemy and the sector of the city they occupied had been emptied of all troops in preparation for the devastating ambush that had crippled their strength. While facing no immediate threat, a number of problems needed to be solved before the battered survivors could even consider reentering the fight.
The High King's untimely demise had left the Imperial troops leaderless, a fact they needed to remedy quickly. With the Marchioness Tan Pegasson also reported slain, the most senior House Noble present was Grandmarshal Gustev Tan Minotos, a seasoned veteran of several campaigns but not used to commanding anything bigger than the forces of his own House. Moreover, Gustev's closest advisors -- his Exalted Court -- had all been slain and his own Knights barely outnumbered the half a dozen survivors of House Pegasson.
The bulk of the surviving Imperial Knights were those of House Draconis and the High King had also legally appointed his successor -- his son, Danial Tan Draconis. While not formally invested as such, the young Knight had become the de facto leader of the Imperium's armies on Donatos Primus. A war council of leading Nobles soon formed around the Kingsward, ready to assist him.
Danial rightly feared the threat of disunity: whilst his own position was not challenged, the debacle at the Valle Electrum had revealed an unexpected complication in the person of Luk Tan Chimaeros, Danial's closest friend and the son of the Traitor Gerraint Tan Chimaeros. Amidst the fighting at the Valle Electrum, Danial, his sister Jennika and their House Herald Markos Dar Draconis had encountered Luk's Knight Errant desperately fending off attacks from other Chimaeros Knights.
Whilst that betrayal by his own House might have exonerated him from all accusations of treason there were some voices among the council that proclaimed that Luk might still be a spy for his father, the attack on him a deliberate play to allow Luk to earn the survivors' trust. Even though Luk protested his innocence, these voices could not be easily silenced. Only when High Sacristan Polluxis proved that Luk's Knight had suffered from the same scrap-code infestation that had befallen the other survivors was the matter dismissed.
With the question of Luk's loyalty temporarily settled, Danial was careful to reestablish the trust between the Adrastapolian Knights and their Cadian allies, for much of the 454th Regiment had also rallied to Zeta-Lambda-Rho and were now uneasily watching the Knights' war council. As the most senior officer still alive, Grandmarshal Gustev was appointed to lead a delegation of Nobles to the Cadian troopers and convince them of their continued loyalty to the Emperor and the Throne of Terra.
Coronation of High King Danial
With the loss of Fyreheart and Tolwyn's death, House Draconis had been unable to secure the ancestral crown of the High Kings of Adrastapol. But as a matter of tradition, Danial Tan Draconis' rise to power needed to be formally recognised through an official coronation ceremony. While his acolytes saw to the repairs of the remaining Imperial Knights, High Sacristan Polluxis oversaw the preparations for the coronation of the new ruler. Despite their desperate situation, the coronation of the new High King of Adrastapol still needed to be conducted with the proper rituals and much decorum.
Oath of Flame’s Throne Mechanicum was removed from its Knight Errant's cockpit and placed atop a pile of rubble, the reconsecrated and rearmed Knight looming over High King Danial's throne in anticipation of the war to come. Polluxis personally crafted a new crown, a simple circle of polished gold that was placed on top of Danial's brow. And so, from the ashes of defeat, the embers of the draconsfire were stoked again.
Although formally recognised as the new ruler of Adrastapol, High King Danial's depleted forces were in dire need of aid. The loss of the Heavenly Host -- House Draconis' small army of data-gathering Cherubim -- as well as the continuing communication blackout caused by the Chaos scrap-code infection meant that the Knights were cut off from all Imperial forces still fighting on Donatos Primus. With no means to communicate, High King Danial ignored all of Sheik Halna'sir's and the Mubraxis Dustdogs' successes in holding the enemy at bay and reestablishing the siege of the Valle Electrum. At the same time, the Imperial landing zones and bridgehead in the Pentakhost Peninsula had not yet been taken by the enemy.
Focusing his attention on the forces directly under his command, Danial was forced to admit that they had been dealt a terrible blow: together, the survivors of Houses Pegasson, Minotos and Draconis barely numbered fifty Knights, as some of their suits of Knights armour had proved too damaged for the Sacristans to save. While still a potent force, the enemy now easily outnumbered them two to one.
Honour, and many Knights of the old guard -- those Nobles of House Draconis who had fought alongside Danial's father since the Ork Wars -- demanded of the new High King that he ride out and met the usurper on the field of battle. But Danial knew well that to obey the tenets of the Chivalric Code would see their force destroyed and Donatos Primus fall to the enemy. Tempering his thirst for vengeance with reason, Danial ordered his Knights to sit tight and await his orders. To decrease their chance of discovery, all the Knights stayed confined underground with only some sentinels drawn from the 454th Cadian Regiment allowed topside. High Sacristan Polluxis was charged with the dual task of recreating the Heavenly Host and finding a remedy for the Chaos scrap-code that was keeping the Knights from coordinating their efforts with the other Loyalist forces.
The Knight of Ashes
This forced inactivity set the vengeful Knights ill at ease. Those like Sire Daeved or Sire Markos who known Tolwyn the longest and fought alongside him in the Ork Wars were particularly incensed. They incessantly urged the young High King to take more offensive action, to no avail. With no other way to vent their anger and grief, Herald Markos Dar Draconis chose to constantly harass the sole House Chimaeros Knight still among their company: Luk Tan Chimaeros.
As was to be expected, tempers soon flared and matters escalated quickly. An honour duel was called by Markos Dar Draconis which Luk Tan Chimaeros accepted. Like moths drawn to a flame, the idle Knights gathered around, creating a circular space where the duel would be fought. It was clear to all bystanders that the contest would be fought to the death or until one of the contestants yielded. Hastily warned of what was to occur, Danial rushed to the scene, but powerless to stop it, he mutely joined the ranks of the spectators.
Both contestants wielded the traditional weapons of their respective House. Markos Dar Draconis made use of the impressive draconblade, Orksbane -- a weapon that had first tasted blood in the Ork Wars on Adrastapol. When deactivated, a draconblade closely resembled an ordinary broadsword of superior craftsmanship. It was only on second glance that the observer noticed the built-in fuel reservoir that coated the blade in flames when activated. More than a mere theatrical effect, the flames of the ignited draconblade could prove deadly in combat, as even a glancing blow could cause an opponent's clothes to catch fire.
In contrast, Luk tan Chimaeros wielded his far thinner chimersword, a longsword of peculiar design whose blade was said to reflect light as if it was covered in oil. Cutting through the air with an eerie, otherworldly sound, what made a chimersword truly unique was its blade: whereas other swords were made of a single flattened bar of metal, a chimersword's blade was composed of a series of discs, held together by a central metallic cord. By releasing the tension in the cord, the chimersword could transform from sword to whip. This created an incredibly fluid fighting style which relied on defensive pirouettes during which the wielder could unexpectedly transform the sword into a whip and strike out at his opponent.
Far heavier and more experienced than his opponent, to the onlookers Markos' victory seemed assured. Having trained Luk Tan Chimaeros himself, Markos knew his adversary's strength and weaknesses. Igniting his blade, Markos charged, forcing Luk to give ground, but to the surprise of the gathered spectators the son of the Traitor fought well. Soon both combatants were bleeding from a multitude of punches and minor cuts. When first blood was drawn, Danial tried to call for an end to the duel, honour having been satisfied, but neither combatant was interested.
Markos redoubled his attacks, landing several powerful punches on Luk's face, but the last loyal son of House Chimaeros fought on. Landing a cut on his opponent's leg, Luk released the tension on his sword's blade and trapped Orksbane in his chimersword's coils, breaking the blade and finally claiming victory. Looming over the defeated Herald, Luk chose to spare him.
Instead, recognising that his Chimaeros heritage would always make him a target, especially while his father led a rebellion against the true High King of Adrastapol, Luk took a step back and knelt before his friend. Calling upon the High King to witness his oath, Luk Tan Chimaeros renounced his name and identity, officially taking the Oath of a Freeblade. Henceforth he would be Luk Kar Chimaeros Dar Adrastapol, the Knight of Ashes.
In the Shadow of the Black Tower
After days of laying low, still securely hidden at Zeta-Lambda-Rho, two sentinels of the 454th Cadian Regiment reported having seen two wandering Knights in distinctive House Chimaeros panoply. Tracking the enemy, they discovered that these Knights were part of a larger group. The two sentinels reported to their own officers before being heard by the newly-elected High King and his council. The most belligerent Knights sought a reckoning with their traitorous brethren. To deny them such an opportunity was to invite discontent within the Loyalists' ranks. Additionally, Danial feared that if he did not give the order to attack some would simply bypass his authority and attack by themselves.
Reports showed that the party of House Chimaeros Knights only numbered a dozen Knights -- a formation consistent with hunting duties or the personal bodyguard of a ranked Noble. With the very real chance that they might catch Gerraint Kar Adrastapol or one of his lieutenants off-guard and isolated, High King Danial agreed to sally forth. But while the Chivalric Code demanded that he lead the punitive force personally, he was careful to appoint a direct successor should anything happen to him: his sister, Jennika Tan Draconis. Likewise, his base of operations needed to remain a secure fall-back position, so he let Jennika have her pick from the entire force to constitute a small garrison of no more than 10 Knights. The remaining 40 Knights would follow the High King. With both numbers and surprise on their side, the Loyalists were optimistic that they would emerge victorious from the battle to come.
The High King and his warriors followed their foes to a hunting camp, a temporary base established inside the fortified walls of an abandoned Adeptus Arbites precinct fortress located at the base of a series of great cliffs. Thanks to Lady Eleanat Dar Pegasson's Knight, Sagasitus, and its boosted Auspex systems, the High King was able to get a clear picture of what awaited them inside the fortress. The enemy hunting party definitely numbered no more than a dozen Knights, three of them currently standing guard outside of the fortifications. Denying Grandmarshal Gustev's request to intone House Minotos' traditional battle-anthem to retain the element of surprise, the Loyalist Knights launched their attack.
Hopelessly outnumbered, the guards were swiftly destroyed. Even the precinct's armoured walls did not slow down the vengeful survivors of Adrastapol's three Loyalist Houses. Two lances of Knight Errants spearheaded separate assaults on the precinct's walls, their Thermal Cannons making short work of the armoured ferrocrete whilst the force's Knight Gallants concentrated on the keep's gate. Surprised, the Chimaeros Knights within the keep offered little resistance save for a trio of Knights Gallant standing still in the precinct's main mustering ground. At their head stood Hectour Dar Chimaeros, a former Knight of the disgraced House Manticos. And in the palm of his Knight Gallant Blade Aggressor’s Thunderstrike Gauntlet, he held the thin figure of his captive -- Alicia Kar Manticos.
The fighting immediately died down as the Knights reacted with shock to such an unchivalrous act, for every Knight was compelled by the Chivalric Code to let no harm come to any woman. Even outnumbered ten to one, the Renegade Knights haughtily held their ground, demanding the High King parlay with them. Danial accepted this offer with the faint hope of convincing the Renegade Knights to surrender. But wary of a trap, Danial ordered his Herald, Markos Dar Draconis, to gather 10 Knights and guard the Loyalists' back.
The Power of the Warp
With his Knights arrayed behind him, Oath of Flame advanced to the front. It was joined moments later by Sword of Heroes, the Knight of Luk, for the newly proclaimed Freeblade had a personal interest in the outcome of the exchange. Although the Chivalric Code prohibited Luk from calling a mere consort and the daughter of a disgraced House his mother, Alicia Kar Manticos was precisely that. The High King spoke first and formally denounced the Renegades as Traitors to Adrastapol and the Imperium. Yet Danial urged the Renegade Knights not to tarnish their honour any further by endangering the life of a non-combatant. As leader of the opposing Knights, Sire Hectour flatly refused, countering Danial's offer with a demand of his own -- the full and complete surrender of House Draconis and its allies to the true and rightful ruler of Adrastapol, High King Gerraint Tan Chimaeros.
The Loyalists were shocked by the Chimaeros Knights' audacity, and none so much as Luk Kar Chimaeros. Was this the reason for his father's treachery? An ill-advised grab for the throne? Outraged shouts filled the personal Vox channels of many Knights, their focus on Danial. Sire Olric desperately asked for the permission to take a shot at Blade Aggressor, confident he could take out the Gallant's brachial actuators and thus disable his Thunderstrike Gauntlet. On another Vox channel, Grandmarshal Gustev requested the right to duel Sire Hectour for the life of the consort. But Danial dismissed these ideas as too likely to end in failure.
Honourbound not to surrender, Danial had no choice but to refuse the Renegades' conditions. Instead, he offered the three Renegades their lives, promising them only imprisonment for a crime whose punishment would normally be public execution, if not by the hands of their fellow Knights than at the hands of the Imperial Inquisition.
With the negotiations at an end, the Knights tensed in their Thrones Mechanicum, ready for action. After a short silence, Blade Aggressor’s palm opened, leaving Alicia Kar Manticos to stand by herself. Shredding all pretense of fear and weakness, ignoring the rain and wind that tugged at her clothes, Gerraint's consort stood regally, facing the Adrastapolian Knight. She began to speak, and impossibly each and every Knight, even those stationed at the precinct's destroyed gatehouse, heard her.
To the puzzlement of all Knights -- including her own son -- the consort sounded amused. She gently scolded herself for having gambled to high, for which of the patriarchal Knights would have truly placed the life of a mere women over the fate of one of the Emperor's wars? Turning to her son, she reassured him of her personal well-being and expressed her sorrow at her child's fate. For a moment she stared at Sword of Heroes’ new Freeblade livery before congratulating herself for her excellent judgement, for never would Luk have joined his father's and his mother's rebellion.
Luk Kar Chimaeros reeled at the implications of his mother's words. Not only was she a willing Traitor, but she openly proclaimed her adoration of one of the Emperor's greatest enemies, the Chaos God Tzeentch. Too numb to move, Luk did not follow Danial's order to open fire, but when the noise and smoke ebbed he stared on in horror as Alicia and the three Knights at her back stood unharmed, sheltered by a wall of shimmering blue flames. The Knight of Ashes had a final realisation -- his mother was not only a Traitor and a vile adoratrice of Chaos, but also a psyker, a dangerous Sorceress.
With a cry of rage denouncing Alicia as a witch, Thunderhym, Grandmarshal Gustev Tan Minotos' Knight Crusader, charged at the trio of Renegade Knights, firing every weapon at its disposal. Yet even Thunderhym’s mighty Avenger Gatling Cannon proved powerless against the orb of psychic energy protecting the consort.
In response, Alicia Kar Manticos muttered a series of dark incantations in a proscribed tongue. Rising amidst a howling vortex of whirling energy, the witch unleashed a searing beam of blue and purple lightning which sheared mercilessly through Thunderhym’s Ion Shield, striking the great warmachine straight in its helm. Rippling shockwaves of energy danced across Thunderhym’s armoured hull. Wherever the baleful energy struck, the Knight Crusader underwent an impossible transmutation. Adamantium and plasteel were replaced by twisted flesh and jagged bone.
The Vox-link picked up a panicked "Emperor protect me!" from Gustev before being replaced by some horrible gurgling sound as Gustev's own body was consumed. Where once a proud Knight had stood, the ever-mutating flesh of a gigantic Chaos Spawn now squirmed on the ground, dozens of fang-filled mouths tasting the air through serpentine lips or belching streams of lurid fire. Spars of bones and tentacles of rubbery flesh emerged from the twitching masses of flesh, the agonising face of the Grandmarshal -- still screaming -- was repeated at the end of some tentacles and on the Spawn's body itself.
Horror struck, the Imperial Knights under High King Danial's command opened up with every weapon at their disposal but still failed to penetrate the psychic shield summoned by Alicia Kar Manticos. With a final invocation of Tzeentch's name, the witch summoned a geyser of pink flame which engulfed Blade Aggressor and its two companions, teleporting far away. As soon as the Traitors had left the scene, blinding light and thunderous booms overloaded the Loyalist Knights' sensory inputs.
The enemy had laced both the Adeptus Arbites precinct and the cliff overlooking it with Demolition Charges. The roar of the explosions grew into a throaty, powerful rumble as whole portions of the cliffs came tumbling down upon the fortress and the Loyalist Knights still inside. Feeding all their power to their locomotive systems, the Loyalist Knights scattered, desperately trying to outrun the wave of crushing debris about to hit them.
Sire Markos and the rearguard made it to safety, but the others were not so lucky. The thing that had once been Grandmarshal Gustev and his Knight was left behind, its gnashing tentacles and pseudopods still reaching for the Minotos Knight closest to it. Grabbing onto Thunderclap’s leg, the Chaos Spawn let the Knight Gallant topple, consigning Sire Jeremial to a horrible death. With their Ion Shields angled upwards to shield them from smaller pieces of debris, the Knights ran on.
Pushing their generators into the red, Sword of Heroes and Oath of Flames came from behind. Before them, they saw Sylvest Dar Draconis' Knight speared by the Gothic spire of a collapsing tower. Several large boulders, each weighing several hundred tons, flattened the other fleeing Knights. Almost miraculously, both the High King and the Knight of Ashes made it out alive, but twenty of their comrades had been slain by the Renegades' treachery. The Loyalist cause had been dealt another terrible blow.
The Ambition of House Chimaeros
Emerging safely from the passage in the Warp her sorcery had opened, Alicia Kar Manticos and her three bodyguards witnessed the gigantic cloud of dust that heralded the Adeptus Arbites precinct's destruction. Confident that both her son and the boy-king had been slain by her ambush, the sorceress rejoiced. Her life's work had been to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy of House Manticos.
For millennia -- quite possible since the dark days of the Horus Heresy itself -- the cult of Tzeentch had wormed its way through the ruling elite of House Manticos, corrupting them without the knowledge or notice of the other Adrastapolian Knight Houses. In secret these corrupt Nobles had sought to topple the patriarchal and highly conservative society of their Knight World and thus bring change to a society whose ways had not changed almost since its settlement.
Had it not been for the Ork Skarjaw's invasion, the corruption at the heart of House Manticos might never have come to light. But once discovered, the corruption of one of their own had prompted the Knight Houses of Adrastapol into action, purging House Manticos and blaming the desolation thus wreaked upon the Orks. Yet, the Lord of Change had watched over Alicia in the wake of her House's destruction, and she had been saved by none other than the ruling High King himself, Gerraint Tan Chimaeros.
Having fallen in love with her, the High King made Alicia his official consort, their union resulting in the birth of a son -- Luk. With a patience typical of the servants of Tzeentch, Alicia Kar Manticos bided her time, knowing that when the opportunity came, her proximity to the High King would aid her cause. That fateful day came in the wake of the Galhorm Crusade and the death of Gerraint's first-born son and designated heir, Gedric. The strict laws of Adrastapolian succession stipulated that to wear the crown of the High King, the ruler had to at all times possess a male heir to prevent disputes and possible civil war.
Not recognising Luk's status as heir due to his mother's tainted background, the rulers of the Knight Houses had stripped Gerraint Tan Chimaeros of his crown and passed it on to House Draconis. That was at least the official version. But Alicia Kar Manticos had been present. She knew the truth -- that House Chimaeros had been stripped of its title because of the incompetence of its leader during the Galhorm Crusade. Wracked by the grief of having lost his son, stripped of his honour and title by the representatives of an uncaring Imperium, Gerraint Tan Chimaeros was easily swayed to the worship of Chaos.
Alicia had promised him everything he craved: his rehabilitation as High King of Adrastapol and the strength to break ties with the oppressive rule of the Imperium of Mankind. For years Alicia and Gerraint had sought allies within House Chimaeros and the other Adrastapolian Knight Houses, crafting alliances and biding their time until a suitable occasion arose to reveal their true colours. On Donatos Primus, they had both allied themselves readily with the Dark Apostle Varakh'Lorr, though their goals were very different. Where the leader of the Word Bearers warband was only concerned with his ascension to daemonhood, Alicia and Gerraint sought to usurp command of all of the Donatosian rebels and Renegades. They would serve as a powerful army to keep the Imperium's armies at bay should the Emperor's forces then try to invade a newly independent Adrastapol.
Even as Alicia relayed the news of High King Danial's supposed demise to her husband, the last pieces of the puzzle fell into place. House Chimaeros' High Sacristan, Xedediah Kar Mechanicus, had used his techno-arcana to cross-reference orbital scans and Loyalist communication traffic to pinpoint the exact location of the Loyalists' hiding place.
Presenting his results to Gerraint, the Renegade leader of House Chimaeros brought this gift to Varakh'Lorr, convincing him to dispatch a powerful army of Chaos Cultists, Word Bearers and Daemon Engines to break the final resistance of House Draconis. Even as the powerful host departed the Valle Electrum, Gerraint readied his own Knights and troops for their second betrayal -- the elimination of the Word Bearers.
Back at Rallying Point Zeta-Lambda-Rho, Jennika Tan Draconis dutifully watched over the Loyalists' main base. With communications still disabled because of the malign influence of the Chaos scrap-code, she had no way to know of the dreadful turn of events that had taken place at the Arbites tower. Locked in his crawler, High Sacristan Polluxis was still trying to reestablish communications and although he had made progress, his efforts had yet to yield any success.
It was only when the Cadian sentries reported the sighting of a powerful army heading their way that Jennika knew that something had gone wrong. Rushing to her Knight, Fire Defiant, Jennika gathered the two lances of Knights at her command and readied herself for the battle to come. Facing overwhelming odds, the surviving Knights and their Cadian allies knew that they could only delay the enemy at best before having to abandon their temporary base of operations.
Unwilling to leave the field to the enemy without a fight and unsure that they would be able to link back up with Danial's contingent if they left, Jennika organised a vigorous defence of the compound. At the head of her Knights, she intended to march straight into the enemy force, trying to eliminate the Cultists' most dangerous troops -- the Heretic Astartes and the Daemon Engines -- while the Cadians held the southern access ramps and the Sacristans prepared for an emergency evacuation.
With heroic obstinacy, the Knights took the fight to the enemy, never venturing too far from the Imperial perimeter. Where enemy troops were advancing mere seconds before, Rapid-Fire Battle Cannons left huge craters, as nothing in the enemy's arsenal was a match for the Knights' firepower. Even the defiled battle-plate of the Word Bearers' Power Armour was easily overcome by the artillery unleashed against them.
Disciplined fire from the Cadians' Lasguns tore into the mobs of Chaos Cultists, but facing such numbers, even the strictest fire-discipline could only delay the inevitable. It was not long before the Loyalists suffered their first casualty. Taking fire from two angles at once, Sire Petaer let two of the Word Bearers' Daemon Engines, Defilers, approach him too closely, the unholy, piston-legged machines tearing him and his Knight apart with their pneumatic claws.
Rage filling her heart, Jennika redirected her Knight Paladin's firepower at the two infernal engines, destroying them with righteous fury. With only five Knights remaining in her command, the situation quickly worsened. Though the Cadians' 4th and 6th Platoons charged the enemy and re-established the Loyalist perimeter at the southern access ramps, the pressure was simply becoming too great.
Just as she considered giving the Cadians the orders to mount their Taurox APCs, the static within Jennika's communication systems cleared and High Sacristan Polluxis' voice cut through, informing her that he had successfully developed data-wards powerful enough to keep the Chaos scrap-code at bay. At the same time, the incubators had produced the first batch of the renewed Heavenly Host which were promptly released. The newborn Cherubim quickly assumed their positions, greatly enhancing Jennika's tactical view.
For the first time since the battle's beginning, she could properly appraise the enemy's numbers -- and her heart sank at the realisation that they had yet to face the enemy's main strength. Accessing the global Vox, Jennika began cycling through her Vox channels while simultaneously fighting off a Daemon Engine known as a Forgefiend, sawing it in half with her Knight's Reaper Chainsword after having deflected its blasts with her Ion Shield.
Amongst the indistinct but alarming chatter on the other Vox channels, Jennika picked up a familiar voice, that of Herald Markos Dar Draconis leading the vanguard of the High King's troops. Even as Markos quickly explained what had happened to their expedition, the first icons of the returning Knights flashed into view on her strategic display.
With the arrival of Markos' reinforcements, the battle quickly turned in the Loyalists' favour. Markos Dar Draconis and Lady Eleanat Dar Pegasson both led a lance of Knights in a pincer movement into the heart of the enemy's army, cutting it in two. With the Cadians and Jennika's Knight holding firm, the newly returned Loyalist Knights forced the enemy into their allies' guns. By the time the stricken Oath of Flames and Sword of Heroes entered the battle, they encountered only a valley of the dead, the enemy already routed and pursued by a vengeful Markos Dar Draconis.
Council of Despair
Standing in the ruins of their first victory since High King Tolwyn's death, the Loyalist Imperial Knights gathered around their leader. Although they had triumphed, none of the Nobles felt like cheering -- their losses had simply been too heavy at the Adeptus Arbites tower ambush, where they had lost twenty Knights. Twenty invaluable war machines destroyed. The accumulated wisdom of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Nobles snuffed out with the loss of their Knights. At the same time, Polluxis' crawler emerged from their subterranean realm to begin repairs on Oath of Flame, Sword of Heroes, and the other surviving Knights that had been damaged either in battle or during the ambush. With less than 40 Knights remaining, they gathered in council, every Noble remaining seated on their Thrones Mechanicum in case a hidden foe emerged.
Thanks to Polluxis' data-wards, the Loyalists had restored communication with the remaining Imperial forces on Donatos Primus, yet the half-heard conversations over the global Vox network painted a grim picture: the enemy had not yet won, but he had secured a great advantage.
In lower orbit, the Imperial Navy had perhaps fared the best. Even reinforced by the Chaos warfleet of Varakh'Lorr, the bastion fleets of House Chimaeros and House Wyvorn, still outnumbered by the Loyalists, had been forced to retreat. While still contested, lower orbit remained safe enough for the Navy's wings of Marauder Bombers and Thunderbolt Fighters to provide air support for the Imperial ground forces still holding out.
Contingents of the 27th Mubraxis Dustdogs had retreated as far as the Pentakhost Peninsula and were barely holding on to the Imperial landing zones. Dozens of Imperial formations were requesting support from various battlefields all over the continent. The only question that remained was where the Knights of Adrastapol would commit their remaining forces. Their own lines had been severely depleted, but battles had been won with less Knights that they currently had at their disposal.
Miraculously saved by the reactivation of his Knight's generator during the ambush at the Adeptus Arbites tower, Sire Percivane's faith in their victory was unshakable, but his words of encouragement mostly fell on deaf ears. Even with all the losses they had suffered, none of them would have turned tail and fled. Still hurting after the death of her brother, Lady Suset Dar Draconis argued they should abide by the Code and make a glorious last charge which would make the enemy pay in blood for the companions that had been taken from them.
But the diplomatic Lady Eleanat Dar Pegasson pointed out that it had been the Code and their pursuit of vengeance that had led to the terrible ambush at the tower. While it quickly grew evident that most of the Knights were against wasting their lives and last resources in a futile fight, the council could not agree upon a single course of action. Having learned their lesson, the senior members of House Draconis -- the same Nobles that had urged Danial to act in the wake of Tolwyn's death -- were now counseling caution. Better to retreat to Pentakhost where they could be properly resupplied and use the landing zone's strategium to gain a wider picture of the war than to act on instinct alone, argued Markos Dar Draconis. Backed by Sire Garath and Sire Olric, this course of action was almost agreed upon before a single word broke the silence on the Vox: "No." The rebuttal had come from Oath of Flame, the young High King's Knight.
Tired by the paternal attitudes of the old Nobles in his court, High King Danial finally spoke up, chastising himself for his previous unwillingness to rule and the mistake he had made by doing so. The High King's crown rested upon his brow, which made him not a barely blooded young Knight but the lord and commander of this whole war.
The steel in his voice was such that none dared countermand him. In a calm yet determined voice, the High King explained that even if events had taken a turn for the worse, the strategic situation on Donatos Primus had not changed since their first landing. Whilst the Archenemy held the Valle Electrum, he controlled the Adamant Citadels and as long as he controlled those fortresses the Imperials could not advance into the northern regions of the continent.
Likewise, all other Imperial forces would have to brave the Citadels' guns to reach them, which could very well degrade their combat readiness past the point of no return. If the strategic situation was unchanged, then the Imperial forces' objective also remained the same -- to seize or destroy the Valle Electrum. With the element of surprise on their side and the enemy scattered over several warzones, marching on the Valle Electrum provided the best option.
And so, with their young High King at last in the lead, the Imperial Knights prepared to launch a second assault upon the Valle Electrum.
Second Attack on the Valle Electrum
When the Sacristan had finished their emergency repairs, the High King mustered his troops for the long march towards the Valle Electrum. Some of the Knights had proven too damaged for their meager resources to fix and where left behind, safely huddled in the sub-subterranean storage halls of Zeta-Lambda-Rho. For further safeguard, the Thrones Mechanicum of these abandoned Knights were transferred on board Polluxis' Land Crawlers, their pilots having to suffer the indignity of riding to battle on those same machines. Twenty-six suits of Knight armour were all that remained of the combined might of Houses Draconis, Minotos and Pegasson. Twenty-six would try to achieve what more than a hundred fifty had failed to do.
As they marched, both High King Danial and High Sacristan Polluxis carefully monitored the re-established Vox-network. While the global picture was grim, there were also some reasons for hope. Led by the charismatic Sheik Halna'sir, the Mubraxian Dustdogs had linked up with the remnants of the 601st Tanhollis Highlanders and several tank squadrons of the 454th Cadian Armoured -- Colonel Kovash's troops.
The Sheik had been aided in this endeavour by the disgraced Commander Korgh of the Donatosian PDF, as news of his death had proved false. With his knowledge of the local terrain, Korgh had led the charge to capture a hardened Vox-relay bunker whose transceiver was powerful enough to break through the scrap-code veil and communicate with the Imperial ships in orbit. Located roughly seven Terran miles from Nortus Maximal, one of the three mountain passes leading to the Valle Electrum, these Imperial forces were maintaining the siege of the Valle Electrum, coordinating multiple bombing runs to weaken the enemy's defences.
The beleaguered Imperials had already pushed back one assault of House Wyvorn Knights, destroying several of their war machines. The news of this small victory spread quickly and soon other surviving Imperial troops were flocking to Halna'sir's banner. Rumours of battle within the Valle Electrum also reached the Imperial battleline, reports that House Chimaeros and House Wyvorn had turned on their Word Bearers allies.
Yet, because of the continuing scrap-code assault, the Imperial troops were unable to venture further into the pass. Roughly one Terran mile from Nortus Maxima's first line of defence, Vox and Auspex-technologies became unreliable and stopped functioning. Those scout units that had gone the furthest warned that their weapons' Machine Spirits had become unquiet and even turned upon their wielders in some cases. Even the Imperial Navy's Marauder Bombers had been affected, as dozens of aircraft that flew too low lost control and fell from the sky. Danial's only hope was that the data-wards Polluxis had implanted within his Knights would prove immune to the scrap-code once they were within range. The plan was simple; destroy the Nortus Maxima's flak guns and the source of the malignant scrap-code before swiftly retreating so that the Imperial Navy could bomb the Valle Electrum and knock out the generatoria.
Into the Breach
As the Imperium's most powerful units on-planet, the Knights of Adrastapol formed the spearhead of the assault, racing toward the Nortus Maximal while unleashing their weapons. Their main targets were the twin-linked Icarus Autocannons on top of the armoured hab-blocks and bunkers that formed the pass' fortifications. The Imperial Knights huddled close together, their Ion Shields aligned for the reckless charge that would take them through the field of fire of Ironpeak, the mightiest of the Adamant Citadels.
When they crossed the imaginary line of the fortress' arc of fire, the High King fully expected to be annihilated by its heavy ordinance, but the expected storm of fire never came. In their ploy for total dominance, House Chimaeros' Sacristans had temporarily deactivated the Adamant Citadels. This was a happy coincidence that now provided the Imperial troops with a window of opportunity.
The Renegade defenders of the pass were completely overwhelmed. Shell-shocked and facing the towering monstrosities of steel and adamantium that were Knights, panicked gun crews grabbed for their heavy weapons, their opposing fire proving uncoordinated and feeble. Behind the Knights the rest of the Imperial Guardsman charged, Colonel Kovash's Cadians and Commander Korgh's Loyalist PDF troopers close behind. The Cadians' Leman Russes hurled shells at the enemy fortifications while further behind the line, Earthshaker Cannons hurled their shells deep into the pass.
Soon, the Imperial Knights were in range to unleash their most powerful weapons, the Knight Errant's Thermal Cannons. These weapons caused bunkers to melt and mountains to collapse on top of gun-batteries and redoubts. Soon a breach was opened in the enemy lines which was quickly exploited by Commander Korgh's men. As Imperial flags were raised upon the enemy's first line of defence, the Imperial Knights left the rest of the Loyalist army behind them, racing for the next objective. The short-ranged Knight Errants and Gallants moved to the front to shield their longer-ranged counterparts as the line of Imperial Knights advanced into the mountain pass, destroying artillery emplacements, anti-aircraft guns and heavy weapons nests. The remaining twenty-six Knights had taken no further casualties.
The second enemy defence line soon stood before them, though this one had not yet been softened up by the joint efforts of the Astra Militarum and the Navy. But the Knights of Adrastapol charged the defenders without hesitation. Sire Garath Dar Draconis led the best marksman among their number to snipe the foe's largest guns, while High King Danial in Oath of Flames led the charge, the Knight of Ashes at his side.
The incoming fire from the Traitors proved heavier than before, causing Danial's Ion Shield to collapse several times as heavy weapons ate away at his Knight's armour. Status runes soon turned from green to red, as the sympathetic feedback loops of the High King's Throne Mechanicum caused his legs to tickle and sting as Oath of Flames’ shinguards absorbed the incoming fire. Avoiding the next enemy volley, Danial destroyed the offending Turret Emplacement with a shot of his Thermal Cannon.
Before the flames had died, Sword of Heroes charged into the breach, mowing down fleeting cultists with bursts of Heavy Stubber fire and large swings of its Reaper Chainsword. Against such lightly-armoured targets, the merest touch of the weapon transformed the fleeing men into crimson tatters. The Knight of Ashes soon carved through the wall of a looming fortification until it collapsed beneath its own weight, crushing the enemy troops it harboured. As more Knights moved into the breach, the enemy lost heart and abandoned their position.
The Knights finally arrived at the Valle Electrum proper and what they saw disquieted them. Hemmed in by the mountains, the Valle Electrum was supposed to be near-impregnable, yet it resembled a war zone. Huge fires had consumed blocks of hab-towers and manufactoria, filling the air with thick black smoke. At least one Promethium-refinery was burning.
But most terrifying of all, from the valley's centre a pillar of light pierced the darkness, a pillar whose light seemed unnatural. The Knights of Adrastapol would need to hurry if they still wanted to win the war for Donatos Primus. With a renewed purpose and sense of urgency, the Knights marched into the Valle Electrum, racing against time and the insidious machinations of Chaos. The light they saw was the Beacon of Ascendancy, a sacrificial pyre upon which the countless masses of Donatos' "liberated" population were sacrificed to fuel Varakh'Lorr's ascension to daemonhood.
The Adrastapolian Knights formed three oversized lances that advanced on three parallel fronts leading to the heart of the Valle Electrum. In the centre, the High King himself led, whilst his sister Gatekeeper Jennika Tan Draconis and his father's most trusted friend, Herald Markos Dar Draconis, led the other two formations on his flanks. Nine of Polluxis' Land Crawlers still followed them, their ammunition stores nearly depleted, but the High Sacristan's presence was a necessity, as only his knowledge and instruments could track the Chaos scrap-code transmissions to their source.
As they advanced deeper into the enemy's stronghold they encountered little opposition. The signs of battles were many -- mountains of corpses in the defiled uniforms of the Donatosian Planetary Defence Forces, the burned-out shells of their armour squadrons and Daemon Engines. They also passed the shattered remains of Renegade Knights, most of them in the acid-green livery of House Wyvorn. The worst they had to deal with were the city's automated defence turrets which occasionally stalled their advance until one of the Knights could eliminate them. True to their word, the High Kings' troops obliterated every anti-air battery they encountered, but the true enemy had yet to reveal himself.
Soon the three broad avenues crossing the city combined into a great bridge leading over a deep chasm. A quick consultation of their maps revealed that the Knights had reached the great forges of the Manufactorum Omnissi. The forges were burning, spitting dark clouds of smoke which occluded what lay beyond. Wary of a possible ambush, High King Danial halted the advance. The attention they had drawn by activating the city's automated defences had alerted the enemy to their presence, yet they had to press on. The bridge offered the quickest path to do so, but the thick smokescreen would mean they would quite literally be attacking blind.
Danial's Auspex showed him various thermal signatures, but the massive heat output of the city's forges obscured their meaning. With no other path before the Knights, the High King knew he had to risk crossing the bridge, his feelings of foreboding quickly confirmed as the lead Knights came under fire. Their Plasma Reactors having been set to their minimal power settings, and hidden by the dense screen of smoke and fire, a detachment of House Wyvorn Knight stood on the other side of the bridge. Their first volley would have annihilated the High King's small group if a whisper from his Throne Mechanicum had not prompted him to order all of his Knights to turn their shields to the front.
As it was the ambush still succeeded in slaying Sire Jeremial Dar Pegasson and destroying Sire Rikhardt Dar Minotos' main weapon, his Knight Crusader's Avenger Gatling Cannon. Luk's Knight, Sword of Heroes, had also taken damage on the carapace and hip. With the bridge funneling their Loyalist opponents into a congested killing zone, the House Wyvorn Knights fired everything they had at their foes. The Loyalist advance slowed to a crawl as more power was needed for their Ion Shields. The rear ranks of the Imperial formation retaliated in orderly fashion, coordinating their strikes to bring the Renegade Knights down one after the other. In stark contrast, House Wyvorn's fire-discipline quickly broke down. They grew panicked as the loyal Knights crawled into charging distance.
Despite suffering several more casualties, the Imperial line advanced, ever so slowly. The Renegade Knights reasserted themselves, bringing all their weapons to bear, but were suddenly attacked from the rear by Renegade PDF-tanks that had remained faithful to the Word Bearers. Using this momentary diversion for full effect, the Adrastapolian Nobles charged, Danial's and Jennika's lances striking home while Markos' Knights bypassed the melee to rake the foe in enfilade. At the centre of the fight, Oath of Flame, Fire Defiant and Sword of Heroes reaped a bloody tally even as the Traitor militia was quickly annihilated.
With the Loyalists gaining the upper hand at close quarters, those Renegade Knights that were able chose to disengage. Danial's small force had lost twelve of their number, with four additional Knights too damaged to press on. Polluxis' Sacristans quickly set to work, doing what they could, but those four stragglers would remain behind to protect the Crawlers. Only ten Knights still pressed on, pursuing the fleeing House Wyvorn Renegades. Their number included the High King and his faithful friend, the Knight of Ashes, Lady Jennika Tan Draconis and the old herald Markos Dar Draconis. With them came Lady Suset Dar Draconis and Sires Garath and Percivane. A single Pegasson Knight was still fighting, Lady Tamsane Dar Pegasson, as well as the two last Minotos Knights, Sires Federich and Rikhardt. These ten brave warriors pressed on to the Square of Martyrs and the heart of darkness.
The Hubris of House Wyvorn
The great plaza known as the Square of Martyrs was the greatest open ground within the Valle Electrum. To the east and south, it harboured the primary and secondary generatoria that were responsible for powering the remaining Adamant Citadels. It was there that the Dark Apostle Varakh'Lorr had delivered his dark sermons to the uncounted masses of Donatos' population and soldiery, there where he had proclaimed the world's secession from the Imperium of Man.
Lacking any grand cathedral to defile, it was also the location Varakh'Lorr had chosen to place his Beacon of Ascendancy, a bonfire whose flames burned both in this world and the Warp, for it was fuelled by souls, a pyre upon which countless men and women were being sacrificed to fuel his ultimate transformation into a Daemon Prince of Chaos Undivided.
The Dark Apostle was close to his ultimate goal, the baleful powers of the Warp already beginning to remold his body, filling his limbs with strength and enhancing his sorcerous powers. Protecting the Beacon was all that mattered now, for when he ascended his powers would be near-limitless. However, as long as his transition from mortal to daemon was incomplete, Varakh'Lorr would be vulnerable -- a fact his enemies did not ignore.
Even as the High King launched his attack on the Valle Electrum's outer defences, the Square of Martyrs became a battlefield in its own right. Varakh'Lorr had recalled what warbands he could to resist the assault of House Wyvorn and House Chimaeros. Dug-in within the generatoria-complexes none of them could afford to lose, the Word Bearers' defence was costing the Renegade Knights dearly. The Word Bearers and their mortal militia made the Renegade Knights fight for every street they took, Predator tanks laying ambushes for the advancing Knights and even committing their air assets to the fight. Heldrakes and a trio of ancient Storm Eagle gunships hammered the Knights with their heavy weapons. His powered enhanced by the energies of the Beacon, Varakh'Lorr was strong enough to take on a Renegade Knight himself, one two-handed blow of his Accursed Crozius potent enough to shatter the Knight's knee before he killed the Knight's Noble pilot.
In the direct line of sight of the Dark Apostle, Gerraint Tan Chimaeros witnessed the death and was furious. Clearly he and his queen had underestimated the Word Bearers' resilience and their fanaticism. Versed in sorcerous lore, Alicia had warned him that they could not allow Varakh'Lorr to complete his ritual, but what he saw made Gerraint's stomach heave. Word Bearer cultists taking their own lives above blood-drawn pentagrams and eight-pointed stars, the Chaos Space Marines abandoning their allies or willingly hurling them on the Imperium's guns, giving up ground they had fought so hard over just to rush back to the Valle Electrum.
Spread across all of Donatos Primus, House Chimaeros' strength was much reduced. The fight for control of the Valle Electrum had cost Gerraint eleven Knights, leaving him with only nineteen scions of his House. House Wyvorn was similarly hurt, the last of their numbers falling back to the Square of Martyrs after their failed ambush against the boy-king. News of the boy's survival had upset Gerraint even further. Riding in his personal Knight Warden, Therianthros, Gerraint swore that he would personally kill both Varakh'Lorr and Danial Tan Draconis.
He cursed Archduke Duncan Tan Wyvorn for not being present, the leader of House Wyvorn and his Exalted Court having left for the Angellum Stellar spaceport, where Duncan claimed he would awaken his House's hidden strength. But Gerraint could have used their strength in the Valle Electrum. With the Word Bearers and their own mortal troops holding out in the generatoria, even the additional manpower of the Donatosian rebels the Renegade Knights had gained control of did not turn the battle in their favour. The generatoria would have to be cleared out in hand-to-hand combat where the transhuman Heretic Astartes would hold the clear advantage.
As Gerraint's consort Alicia finally joined the fight with the Word Bearers, hurling bolts of exotically-coloured Warpflame at the Chaos Space Marines, the pretender-king reassessed his situation. Fully engaged against the survivors of Varakh'Lorr's warband, he had few troops to spare to face the Adrastapolian Loyalists soon to enter the plaza. Yet, even if it pained him, defeating Tolwyn's son and securing his claim to the throne was more important than claiming the life of the Dark Apostle.
As the last remnants of their armoured support were slowly destroyed, the Word Bearers retreated deep into generatorium two and the fighting died down. Empowered by the gifts bestowed upon her by the Architect of Fate, Alicia Kar Manticos comforted her lover and declared that she would face and defeat Varakh'Lorr on her own. Reluctantly, Gerraint Kar Adrastapol agreed to his consort's plan, readying himself for the next round of fighting.
A Monster from the Past
The battered survivors of House Wyvorn linked up with their brethren of House Chimaeros, both Traitor Houses forming a ragged battleline to meet the High King and his remaining companions. Though tenaciously holding ground, the Word Bearers and their mortal followers were no match for the fury unleashed by the Imperial Knights. Where the House Chimaeros Renegades fought with considerable skill and discipline, forming a perfectly aligned wall of Ion Shields, those of House Wyvorn were visibly panicked, firing in wild abandon at the nearest threat as they huddled closer to the Chimaeros line.
Sensing their opportunity, the Word Bearers concentrated their fire on the Knights of House Wyvorn, focusing the fire of their portable heavy weapons upon a single Knight, stripping it of its shield before bringing it low. As the Knights of House Wyvorn were slowly being torn to shreds, the Adrastapolian Nobles readied themselves to face the Traitors of House Chimaeros.
Knight Gallants to the front, House Chimaeros charged across the corpse-filled battlefield. The Loyalist Knights formed a single line, with Jennika and Markos at its centre while Sword of Heroes and Oath of Flames held the flanks, an enveloping formation known as the "Jaws of the Dracon". Two of the charging Knight Gallants were felled by the concentrated fire of the Loyalist while the Word Bearers took down two more in the rear line of the charge. At Danial's signal, the centre evaded the charge while both flanks pressed in, catching the Chimaeros Knights between them.
A brutal hand-to-hand combat ensured and both sides suffered casualties, but the Loyalists held their ground. Limping forward, Lady Eleanat's hastily-repaired survivors now entered the plaza, adding their fire and reinforcing the Loyalist centre. Suddenly, searing las-blasts ripped out, felling a Chimaeros Knight from behind before killing Sire Federich. Sire Percivane's Knight lost a leg to the same blast as both sides frantically tried to assess what was happening.
From the north, like a giant from primordial myth, a towering figure emerged from the smoke; smaller than a Titan, the figure still outsized any Knight fighting in the plaza. Almost twice as high and three times as broad as a Knight Paladin, the figure's hunched back held row upon row of missiles while both its arms ended in powerful Lascannons. The monster was an Acastus Knight Porphyrion, a relic Knight...and it was wearing the livery of House Wyvorn.
The rumours about House Wyvorn's hidden strength had proven truth. A trio of Daemon Engines immediately turned to face the newcomer, who turned his Twin-linked Magna Lascannons upon them, annihilating them with three bursts of blinding light. Such was the demonstration of power that the fighting momentarily subsided, both factions carefully backing off.
"See your doom!" thundered the deranged voice of Archduke Tan Wyvorn, the stress of controlling such an ancient and powerful avatar of the Machine God having broken his mind. In his deranged state, the Archduke had already slain all the Knights of his own House and sought out any surviving Knights to exterminate them as well. Two more House Chimaeros Renegades were killed by the Porphyrion's vastly superior firepower. Without waiting for his liege's approval, Sire Hectour Dar Manticos led an entire lance of Knights into a thundering charge that broke again under the Porphyrion's guns.
Sire Hectour's brutal demise shocked both sides back into action, all enmity forgotten, as every remaining Knight fired at the rampaging monster. But even their combined firepower failed to do any real damage. The true weakness of the Porphyrion was its size and the absence of melee weapons for close combat, but as proved by the brutal end of Sire Hectour, the Porphyrion Knight's powerful weapons would see every charging Knight reduced to sludge before it could reach it.
Using his high priority Vox codes, High Sacristan Polluxis offered a solution. The Porphyrion's powerful Machine Spirit was rejecting Tan Wyvorn's authority. As a result, with the aid of his data-wards, the High Sacristan could hack the Porphyrion's systems and unleash the malign influences of the Chaos scrap-code, thus considerably weakening its accuracy. The mention of the scrap-code reminded everyone of their true objective. Whilst all the remaining Knights continued to face off against the Porphyrion, the High King and his childhood friend pressed on to find the source of the scrap-code and silence it. The Oath of Flame and Sword of Heroes departed, heading for the generatorium's mighty gates.
Death of the Usurper
Suddenly entrusted with the command of the High King's forces, Jennika Tan Draconis observed the battlefield. Five hundred yards in front of her, Gerraint's Knight, Therianthros, was firing its Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon at his erstwhile ally. With her father's killer in her direct line of sight, Jennika stepped forward, intent on slaying the Archtraitor. She delegated her battlefield command to Markos Dar Draconis, tasking him with destroying the Porphyrion.
As Archduke Tan Wyvorn continued his rampage, Jennika Tan Draconis approached her father's slayer. In accordance with the tenets of the Chivalric Code, she hailed the leader of House Chimaeros and challenged him to a duel. Naming him a Traitor to Adrastapol and the Imperium of Mankind, Jennika carefully aligned her Ion Shield to face Gerraint, almost certain that despite his noble upbringing he would break with the Code. She was not disappointed.
Ranting madly against House Draconis' lack of honour, Gerraint Kar Adrastapol opened fire. Instead of crippling Jennika's mount, the shots simply deflected into the ground. Since her opponent had broken the Code first, Jennika was able to retaliate in kind, her own shots causing far more damage than Gerraint's, for in his arrogance the Archtraitor had angled his Ion Shield away from her. Her first shot destroyed Therianthros’ own Battle Cannon while the second one hammered into its chest. A lesser pilot would surely have failed to regain their Knight's equilibrium and crashed to the ground, but Gerraint was a veteran of many wars and balanced his Knight's legs in accordance. Still armed with the sacred Tempest Blade he had robbed from Tolwyn's Knight, Gerraint charged at Jennika.
In the meantime, Markos Dar Draconis led Lady Suset Dar Draconis and Lady Tamsane Dar Pegasson against the Porphyrion Knight. Markos unleashed a three-pronged assault against Archduke Tan Wyvorn, using a wide dispersal to narrow down the chance of enfilade fire. If they could close with the Knight, Lady Suset's Thermal Cannon was powerful enough to break through the Porphyrion's shield and disorientate it. Markos intended to close with the Acastus at close quarters and bring it down with his Thunderstrike Gauntlet, a weapon also outfitted on Lady Tamsane's Knight.
The delusional leader of House Wyvorn was still focused on eradicating his own Knights, allowing the trio of Loyalists to close with him. However they were quickly noticed. Markos took the centre, drawing the Porphyrion's attention with a concentrated burst of his Avenger Gatling Cannon and Icarus Autocannons, though these failed to do any real damage.
The Porphyrion's response was devastating. Even with his Ion Shield angled to deflect the incoming fire, the Acastus' Magna Lascannons tore into Honourblaze. Markos' Knight was badly damaged, the first volley shearing the Icarus array from Honourblaze’s carapace and penetrating its chin-guard, fusing its motive acuators together. The second volley hit Honourblaze in the torso, blowing out the entire right side of Markos' cockpit, the heat so intense that blisters and burns formed on his face and arms. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Markos nurtured his reactor back to life while simultaneously drawing a respirator over his face as his cockpit increasingly filled with smoke.
Honourblaze’s survival seemed to anger Archduke Duncan even more, the giant Knight stomping his feet like an animal ready to charge. Virtually blinded and almost immobile, smoke gutting from the wound in its torso, Honourblaze only barely stood upright. The Porphyrion's Magna Lascannons charged up, ready to deliver the killing blow. Just before Tan Wyvorn fired, a firing solution was transmitted by Lady Suset. Markos Dar Draconis did not hesitate. He fed all of his remaining power to his Gatling Cannon and opened fire.
Suset's Auspex had discerned a keyhole weakness, a slight misalignment in the Porphyrion's shield-projector. The towering monster recoiled as one of the Gatling projectiles blew out its targeting imagers. Its aim thrown off, the Porphyrion fired regardless, a third torrid volley of las-fire punching through Honourblaze, destroying its close-combat weapon arm. By the grace of the Emperor, Honourblaze’s Plasma Reactor did not explode, but its inner fire was extinguished, leaving the once-proud Knight an immobile, blackened shell.
Finally, Lady Suset closed with her target, her high-precision shot burning through the Acastus Pattern Knight's right knee. Like a giant of myth brought low, the Porphyrion crashed face first to the floor, riddled by internal explosions.
As her comrades battled the remaining House Chimaeros Knights and the towering Knight Porphyrion, Jennika Tan Draconis was still locked in combat with her father's killer. She had expected Gerraint Tan Chimaeros to be an expert swordsman, but she had grossly underestimated Gerraint's true skills with a blade. Since their opening volleys she had been on the defensive, parrying Gerraint's blows with her Reaper Chainsword. At every touch of their weapons, the energized length of the stolen Tempest Blade claimed a few of her Chainsword's teeth, blunting it even though the teeth were solid enough to cut through Ferrocrete.
Weapon against weapon, Jennika would lose the fight and she knew it. Jennika had been unable to land a single blow on her opponent. Gerraint pressed the advantage, cutting with his energised blade before him as with a scythe. Jennika had Fire Defiant take a backward step, giving her enough room to bring up her Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon, shooting Therianthros at point-blank range. Gerraint had anticipated this movement and caught the blast on his Ion Shield, preventing damage to his Knight. Jennika's shot was, however, strong enough to stop Therianthros dead in its tracks.
Reversing the movement, Fire Defiant rushed forward, impaling Gerraint's Knight on its damaged Chainsword. With the Knight's considerable weight behind the blow, the Chainsword pierced the Knight's armour and began to chew at its inner workings before it unfortunately stuttered and died. The helms of their Knights almost touching, both Gerraint and Jennika sought to free themselves, Jennika hammering her opponent with staccato fire from her Heavy Stubber. Designed to mow down unprotected infantry, the heavy weapon did little more than scratch the paint of Therianthros’ hull. Had Gerraint's Knight still possessed its own cannon, he could have disemboweled Jennika's Knight with a single shot, but as it was Fire Defiant was locked onto Therianthros’ limbless side.
The stalemate lasted for precious seconds as Jennika' ammunition-counter wound down. Suddenly, explosions blossomed on the carapace of both Knights. Seeing his lord in a tenuous situation, a Knight Crusader in the livery of House Chimaeros had unleashed its weapons at Fire Defiant. The high-velocity shells of its Avenger Gatling Cannon ripped at Fire Defiant’s swordarm, cutting it in half. Free to move once more, Jennika stepped back, hiding behind her Ion Shield.
The new combatant was severely wounded, having lost both his carapace and secondary weapon. Cursing Gerraint's lack of honour, Jennika had to deal with this new foe quickly least she be surrounded. Through her Throne Mechanicum the spirits of her ancestors whispered urgently to her. The enemy Crusader charged her, gathering speed. Fire Defiant ponderously turned, its Battle Cannon aimed low. Two successive shots boomed, the shells leaving a deep crater in the ground of the Square of Martyrs, just as the Crusader's right foot came down.
With no ground to catch its stride, the Renegade Knight jolted to a halt, using the length of its remaining weapon to stabilise itself. That was all the opening Jennika needed. Fire Defiant rushed forward, straight at Therianthros. With her Reaper Chainsword still embedded in its chest throwing its balance off, Fire Defiant rammed its shoulder into the usurper's Knight. The additional weight made the difference, toppling Therianthros and causing it to fall on its side, trapping its remaining weapon arm beneath it.
Gerraint Kar Adrastapol was nearly cut in half by his own weapon, the still powered Tempest Blade attacking his Knight's armour before he shut it down with a quick mind-impulse. Standing over her fallen opponent, Jennika had not forgotten about Gerraint's companion and quickly turned his way. The Crusader came at her again, blasting with his Avenger Gatling Cannon. Again coolly catching the stream of fire on her Ion Shield, Jennika sidestepped the Crusader, methodically unleashing her own weapons at it. Her ammunition was getting low, but she had more than enough to finish him.
Her first shot slowed the Crusader down and threw its aim off. Jennika noticed the flicker of an Ion Shield close to collapse and directed her second shot at the Crusader's shield array. With a flat boom, the shield collapsed, leaving the Chimaeros Knight vulnerable. The Crusader swung its weapon's multiple barrels like a mace, a clumsy blow which Jennika easily let pass before her. As his Avenger Gatling Cannon was aimed at her Knight, the Crusader fired a small burst, a desperate last attempt to deal her harm. Ramming her Battle Cannon right under the Knight's helm, Jennika opened fire, bursting the Knight's helm apart like a ripe egg before the follow-up shot blew out the Crusader' torso. With no other foe in the vicinity, Jennika turned her full attention back to the fallen leader of House Chimaeros.
Half-expecting Gerraint Tan Chimaeros to have abandoned the Knight by then, Tolwyn's daughter closed with the downed Therianthros. Gerraint was still within, no doubt trapped inside his cockpit by the Knight's phenomenal weight. The would-be-king opened a Vox channel, congratulating Jennika on her fighting skills. His voice sounded pained, the leader of House Chimaeros obviously injured inside his Knight. She did not listen to Gerraint Tan Chimaeros' as he tried to justify his actions.
With all the theatrics of a Commissar about to shoot a fleeing soldier, Jennika raised her Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon. Her first shot dented Therianthros’ armour but failed to penetrate. Her second broke through and destroyed the Knight's cockpit and Throne Mechanicum, spraying shrapnel and human remains across Fire Defiant’s armour plate. Her third shot ate away at Therianthros’ inner workings, as did the fourth. In her fury, Jennika continued to blast away at the fallen Renegade Knight until it was a mangled and burning wreck -- a fitting pyre for Gerraint Kar Adrastapol, the Archtraitor of House Chimaeros.
The Mournful Angel
While the battle between the Adrastapolian Loyalists and the remnants of House Chimaeros still raged, High King Danial and the Knight of Ashes were forcing an entry into the immense building housing the Plasma Generators that usually powered Ironpeak. Adepts of the Dark Mechanicum had altered the machines to maximise their energy output.
Taking control of a mob of Donatosian rebels, Alicia Kar Manticos was pursuing the retreating Varakh'Lorr. The Dark Apostle's warriors -- now almost exclusively Chaos Space Marines -- were mounting a tenacious defence of every corridor, hall and balcony. Their Bolters tore Alicia's merely human troops to shreds. If she had not been using her sorcerous powers to enhance her soldiers' aggression levels and strip away their fear, they would already have broken. Her puppets threw themselves at the Word Bearers in fury, dragging the towering transhuman warriors down beneath their number even as the Word Bearers caved their skulls in with the stocks of their Bolters or dismembered them with their bare hands. In truth the mortal rebels were nothing but a meatshield to absorb incoming fire, leaving the witch to incinerate them with Warp-tainted fire or crush them with waves of telekinetic energy.
Alicia could feel the buildup of energy emanating from the Beacon of Ascension, a sorcerous ritual so powerful it would draw the gaze of the Chaos Gods themselves onto Donatos Primus. From the sorcerous lore she had been studying all her life, the consort knew that Varakh'Lorr would be considerably weakened by this ordeal. Where her lover had always believed in a purely military solution to their problem, Alicia had no such limitation. With the prophecy of That Which Dwells In Darkness exposed as a lie, Alicia intended to murder Varakh'Lorr and claim his prize for herself, demanding from the gods what the daemon failed to deliver.
Suddenly, Alicia felt an acute pain in her breast, the harmonic bond linking her to Gerraint's soul broken. As her lover's soul entered the Warp, tears welled in her eyes and the strength faded from her limbs. The spell keeping the Donatosian rebels fearless broke and they quickly fled the scene of carnage they saw before them. Grief almost overcame her, urging her to take her own life, to join her lover in the Warp, seek out his soul and bring him back with her, but she resisted the Warp's siren's call.
Hate radiated from her heart, psychotic fury filled her veins, an unquenchable fire that filled her with new strength. Her powers enhanced by her rage, Alicia Kar Manticos marched on, her eyes burning with blue fire. The energies of the Warp stormed around her, tearing at her torn garments and letting her raven-black hair fly as if caught in a powerful storm. Where she had held the rail of an ornamental balcony, the metal ran like wax and the carved wood burned with blue flames. Three fleeing mortal Renegades crossed her path, and their bodies were instantly transformed into crystal as they met her gaze.
Inertia carried them over the railing and they shattered on the ground below with the din of shattering glass. Behind the three cowards a pair of Word Bearers pushed through the doorway. Bolts flew at her but crashed against an invisible shield of protective energy. Alicia raised her hand and the bolts' detonations grew into a purple firestorm, trails of living fire running over the Word Bearers as if they were snakes.
These trails of sorcerous fire reached the Space Marines' eyes-lenses and punched through with animal intent, the warriors inside screaming as their flesh was consumed by sudden change, their bodies fusing with their armour. Their bodies swelled as daemons claimed their souls and turned them into Possessed, great horns growing from their helmets, fang-rimmed mouths opening on their greaves and remolding their hands into long claws or chitinous blades. Pleased with the new level of power she had achieved, Alicia sent her two creations to hunt down their former brothers while she ventured deeper into the generatorium. Varakh'Lorr was not far away.
Alicia found the Dark Apostle where she had expected him, at a desecrated shrine to the Machine God, leading his supplicants into the fell ritual that was powering the Beacon. At his feet rested the last required sacrifice, the corpse of his faithful Terminator-armoured bodyguard -- the closest ally whose life had to be taken to power his final ascension.
The transformation was already well underway. Varakh'Lorr now towered above the assembled supplicants, easily twice the size of his former bodyguard. Great bat-shaped wings had emerged from his back and his oversized fist still held on to his Accursed Crozius. Bellowing words in the Dark Tongue, leading his cultists in song, Varakh'Lorr was moments away from his apotheosis. Thousands upon thousands of spirits whirled around the Beacon, souls ready to be released into the Warp to satiate the hunger of the Chaos Gods. Alicia felt their power and without hesitation opened herself up to it. Rising on a pillar of azure flame, Alicia fashioned the power into rays of energy she let fly at the chorus below her. Dozens of them were touched by the flames of change, transforming into hideous Chaos Spawn, statues of solid gold or clouds of crystalline insects.
Crying out in panic, the chorus dispersed. Some raised side-arms and opened fire, others gathered their own meager psychic powers to retaliate, but most fled the scene. With commendable discipline, Varakh'Lorr's remaining Word Bearers opened fire as well. Some of them were obviously Havocs, wielding baroque Lascannons and Flamers. Shielded by a swirling ball of fire, Alicia mostly ignored them. The beam of a Lascannon broke through her psychic shield and she drew yet more power of the Beacon inside of her, transforming two Bolts that were aimed for her heart into light and mist.
Molding the stolen power into small orbs of fire, she let them fly and wherever they landed they detonated with the fury of an artillery barrage. Two Word Bearers were killed, the others hurrying into cover. Wrestling with the Dark Apostle over the control of the Beacon, Alicia Kar Manticos gorged herself upon the souls of a million sacrifices until her body threatened to burst. She felt a presence and readied herself for the final act.
With a thunderous boom, the wall behind the Dark Apostle exploded inwards. Falling debris and metallic shrapnel decimated the cultists that had not yet fled, their blood mixing with the blood of the sacrifices on the shrine's flagstones, their soul siphoned into the Beacon. Two Knights emerged into the great hall, Oath of Flame and Sword of Heroes. Realigning his Ion Shield to the front, the High King barely caught a Lascannon beam before vaporising the Havoc wielding the heavy weapon and two of his comrades with a blast of his Thermal Cannon.
Another Lascannon-armed Havoc fired at him, but his Ion Shield held yet again. The closest Word Bearers threw Krak Grenades at Oath’s legs, the powerful explosives denting his leg armour but not doing any real damage. Danial's sight fell upon the winged monster that obviously was the enemy’s leader. Raising his Thermal Cannon he willed it to fire. His aim was true but at the last moment the energy of the shot dissipated against some shield of eldritch provenance.
Next to Danial, the Knight of Ashes leveled his own Thermal Cannon at his mother while clipping Chaos Cultists with Heavy Stubber fire. Blue fire shone through her mouth and eyes, a demonic scowl marring her once beautiful face. The horror of this sight made Luk hesitate.
"They killed your father," Alicia said to her son, "and yet you still fight for them? For their Corpse-God?" she asked. Her feeble attempts to sway Luk's loyalty bought her the time she needed to mouth a spell, a stream of purple fire suddenly shooting from her. Recognising it as the terrible spell that had unraveled Grandmarshal Tan Minotos, Luk thrust his gauntlet forward. The microwave impellers of his Thermal Cannon roared to life, heating the surrounding air to plasma. The power of a sun battled against Alicia's sorcerous blast, technology defying the arcane.
The pillar of coruscating light pushed the eldritch flames back, the sorceress frantically raising a telekinetic shield. The power of Luk's blast hit Alicia's bubble of protection with its full might. The kinetic force was such that Alicia was blasted through the wall behind her. Luk wanted to go after her, to make sure he had slain her, but a new foe had entered the arena.
From a deep pit hidden between two towering piles of machinery a new monster arose. The thing was massive, easily the size of Danial's or Luk's mount. The mountain of flesh looked as if it had been stitched together from other bodies, an unholy fusion of muscle and sinew, its torso roughly humanoid in shape. Its belly featured a gigantic fanged maw which could easily have fit the front of a Sacristan's Land Crawler within it. Its skin was covered in slime and other body-fluids and it had several flailing appendages. Metallic spikes protruded from its back and a gigantic morning star was hanging at its side, its face a grotesque imitation of a cherub mask.
This was Varakh'Lorr's unholiest creation, his Mournful Angel, the unholy fusion of the Obliterator techno-virus and the bodies of Donatos' astropathic choir. As some of their Knight's higher systems began to fail and static overwhelmed their Vox, Luk Kar Chimaeros and Danial Tan Draconis had no doubt that they had found what they had come here to destroy, the source of the Chaos scrap-code.
Hundreds of tons of flesh surged forwards, hitting Oath of Flame with the might of a mag-lev train at full speed. Danial's Knight's servo-engines strained against the brute force of the monster. Sensing that he was losing, Danial stepped back, giving ground before the monster as Luk hurried to his side. Danial revved his Reaper Chainsword and swung it at the monster's flank. The roaring blade bit deep, ropey strings of gore splattering in all direction. A deafening scream exited from the monster's maw, its spikes blazing with electrical energy as the scream of pain was converted into binaric scrap-code.
Even with Polluxis' data-wards still in place, the scrap-code insinuated itself deep into Oath’s systems, shutting off its Thermal Cannon and causing the Vox-link to crash. Sparks blew from several of the consoles in Danial's cockpit, and Luk's Knight was similarly afflicted. A heavy blow rang on Oath’s carapace, denting the armour inwards and sending rivets flying through the closed confines of the cockpit. The Mournful Angel was drawing its human-like fist for another punch, each finger a mesh of human limbs.
The blow never landed. Sword of Heroes' Thermal Cannon fired and burned the gigantic fist to ashes. The monster cried out again in pain. This time Danial's cockpit lights flickered out as Oath of Flame’s Plasma Reactor momentarily shut down. The reboot of its generator reactivated Danial's Thermal Cannon and he joined Luk in blasting the monster. Withering in pain, the Mournful Angel rolled over, crushing the last few Word Bearers beneath its bulk, revealing several tentacles and other appendages that had been grafted onto its back. The tentacles hammered at Sword of Heroes as Luk desperately tried to sever some of the limbs with his Reaper Chainsword. For every one they cut, two more seemed to rear out from the thing's bulk. The High King and the Knight of Ashes quickly realised that they were not dealing enough damage to slay it.
Daring to look back at the sorcerous ritual, Danial saw that the smaller daemon -- the winged one -- was now levitating at the centre of the Beacon, feeding on the souls trapped in its sorcerous flames, its attention clearly elsewhere. This gave the High King an idea. Shooting the Angel with his Heavy Stubber, Danial began to retreat, a movement quickly imitated by Luk in Sword of Heroes. The monster lurched forward, its limbs flailing, the Beacon of Ascendancy now at their back.
The monster drew itself up to its full height, the metallic spikes of its spine scraping the hall's ceiling, intending to crush the Imperial Knights beneath its belly. As the mountain of flesh came crashing down, the two Knights moved sideways and unleashed the full fury of their Thermal Cannons. This time the twin beams were directed at the monster's midriff, turning flesh, blood, unnatural organs and even bone to superheated steam. Like a falling tree, the monster's bulk crashed between the two Knights, right into the burning beacon. Black lightning exploded from the thing's spine, mixing with the Beacon's energies and corrupting them. With a death scream of scrapcode, the huge Plasma Reactors of the surrounding generatorium complex were snuffed out. At the same time Oath of Flame and Sword of Heroes also shut down, leaving Danial and Luk in complete darkness, with even the familiar whispers of their Thrones Mechanicum absent.
Climbing out of his Throne, Danial fumbled for the emergency reactivation panel, pumping the hydraulic handle several times, while half-expecting a gigantic fist to deliver the deathblow. None came. When the hatch finally opened with a hiss of compressed air, the light of a single auto-lumen almost blinded him. Following the instructions of the panel's interior, Danial began chanting the Mantra of Blessed Awakening as he located and folded out the manual igniter handles. With the Mantra completed, Danial recited a short-prayer to the Machine God before turning both igniter handles clockwise at the same moment.
After a series of clanks and grinding noises, the lights flickered and died twice before Oath of Flame’s reactor roared back to life. With his pict-screen back online, Danial Draconis could see the monster's corpse still being consumed by the sacrificial pyre, the scrapcode beast obviously slain. Danial's eyes opened wide as he witnessed the Dark Apostle's fate: from the body of the beast, a ghost with a cherub-like countenance joined the throng surrounding the almost ascended Varakh'Lorr.
Before his very eyes, the Dark Apostle's bulk began to shrink as a tide of similar ghosts erupted from the twisted body of the fallen scrap-code beast and poisoned the Beacon's energies. Screaming its hatred for the Dark Apostle, one ghost threw itself at Varakh'Lorr, ripping a bloody hole in both armour and flash. Like a school of carnivorous fish finally attacking their prey, the horde of ghosts launched itself at their former tormentor, ripping him apart. The Dark Apostle extended one of its clawed hands towards the Beacon as if beseeching his gods for help, but the Gods of Chaos had abandoned him, fickle as always in the face of failure. With unnatural swiftness, the great pyre waned and extinguished itself, the corpse of the Dark Apostle coming to rest on top of that of his slain bodyguard.
Once Sword of Heroes was similarly reawakened, the Knight of Ashes and the High King of Adrastapol emerged victoriously from the generatorium, the extinction of the Beacon of Ascension having forewarned the remaining Loyalist Knights of their liege's victory. As they were exiting the generatorium-complex, Luk and Danial patched into the global Vox network which suddenly came alive with activity. Most of it was coming from the orbiting warships of the Imperial Navy, whose officers expressed various degrees of disbelief at the Knights' success while simultaneously giving their wings the go-ahead for their bombing runs.
All that remained was to reach the Imperial lines without getting bombed by their own allies. With a sense of urgency, the two Knights linked up with Jennika's group of survivors. Only eight Imperial Knights remained mobile, Polluxis' four remaining Sacristan Crawlers now loaded with the wounded Sires and Ladies of Adrastapolian nobility. Counted amongst them was Markos Dar Draconis, badly burned and suffering from smoke inhalation, but still alive. Several Thrones Mechanicum, including that of Honourblaze, had also been salvaged and safely stored aboard the Crawlers. No enemy had shown its face, be they Renegade Knight or Heretic Astartes.
Racing for their lives, the Adrastapolian Nobles made it out of the Valle Electrum just in the nick of time. True to its word, the Imperial Navy's bomber wings razed the Valle Electrum to the ground, depriving the enemy of its mastery over the Adamant Citadels. With all the enemy commanders slain, the coordination of the rebels was effectively broken. Smaller warlords rose to power and continued to defy the Imperial armies, but without the Chaos scrap-code hindering coordination and reinforcements, the advantage belonged to the Imperium. Linking back up, the Imperial armies pressed the enemy back on all fronts.
Some Word Bearers and House Chimaeros Knights were still at large, namely those that had been unable to reach the Valle Electrum in time for the final confrontation. Whilst the Word Bearers quickly abandoned their allies to their fate, the Renegade Knights of House Chimaeros, now in control of large parts of the rebels' army, fought on. Led by the Mubraxian Sheik Halna'sir and the reinstated Commander Korgh, the last Renegade Knights were defeated at the Battle of Sevenspires.
While the Imperial Aquila still flew on Donatos Primus, the Donatos War yielded its fair share of rewards and bad news. The devastation wrought on Donatos Primus' main continent was extensive and the world would need solar decades to reach its previous production levels. The rebuilding of his world was entrusted to First Administrator Hullis of the Adeptus Administratum, now promoted to the rank of Planetary Governor.
Commander Korgh of the Donatosian Planetary Defence Forces was severely wounded in the last great battle of the war, the Battle of Sevenspires. His heroics during the Donatos War led him to be commended for bravery on five different occasions, including the capture of the Valle Electrum's outer defences. Segmentum Command and the Imperial Officio Prefectus awarded him a full pardon and requested his transfer to the Astra Militarum. Given extensive and high-end augmetic-reconstruction, Commander Korgh was tasked with leading a retaliatory Imperial expedition into the Crimson Stars where the remainders of the Word Bearers Scribed Blade warband were believed to have fled.
The Adrastapolian Knight Houses undoubtedly paid a high price in blood and Knights for the safeguard of Donatos Primus. Whilst the news of Marchioness Tan Pegasson's survival and recovery were welcome, they could ill hide the fact that the three remaining Adrastapolian Knight Houses lay in tatters, all having suffered more than 80% casualties. Yet the ascension of Danial Tan Draconis to the throne of the High King of Adrastapol would profoundly affect the Knight World and the Noble Houses themselves. Under Danial's aegis, Adrastapol would prosper and know change. The considerable build-up of military forces in the early years of Danial's reign would see Adrastapol survive the later Second Ork War where the rule of a more conservative High King might well have seen it fall.
The events surrounding the treachery of House Wyvorn and House Chimaeros also had dire repercussions for Adrastapol as they drew the attention of the Imperial Inquisition. An Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus, Inquisitor Tane Massata, was formally appointed to assess the purity and loyalty of the remaining Knight Houses.
In the wake of the Second Ork War, the Adrastapolian Nobles would be shocked to learn that the entire Donatos War had in fact been the result of fallout from one of Inquisitor Massata's own missions. Whilst hunting for the daemonic entity adored by the disgraced House Manticos, Inquisitor Massata had purposefully let the rebellion fester on Donatos Primus, hoping to draw out and capture Varakh'Lorr, a known servant of That Which Dwells In Darkness. Since the Dark Apostle was too powerful for the Inquisitor to defeat on his own, he had politically delayed Governor Gnossul's initial armed response until the situation became unmanageable. This then required the deployment of a full Imperial Battle Group to take on the Chaos forces.
- House Chimaeros
- House Draconis
- House Manticos
- House Minotos
- House Pegasson
- House Wyvorn
- Knight of Ashes
- Kingsblade (Novel) by Andy Clark
- Knightsblade (Novel) by Andy Clark