During an unspoken period of their history (580.M31-632.M32), referred to as the Forgotten Wars, rumours led the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, along with three of their Successor Chapters, the Angels of Vengeance, the Angels of Redemption and the Lions Sable, to embark upon a harrowing campaign to track down multiple Fallen Angels. The clues led them through the Segmentum Obscurus, deep into the Gothic Sector, and eventually into the Eye of Terror itself.
In hindsight it is easy to see that the Ruinous Powers baited the Dark Angels. Only the Dark Angels' irrepressible resolve allowed them to escape, and they paid a high price in casualties. The Lions Sable were completely annihilated. To cover up their immediate losses after their warriors were thought lost to the Warp, the resources of the recruiting world of the Lions Sable -- the ebon orb of Nachwald -- were usurped to replenish the Angels of Vengeance and the Angels of Retribution.
The Dark Angels staged a false plasma explosion aboard their fortress-monastery, the The Rock, to explain their loss of records, for it was decided by the Inner Circle of the Chapter to destroy all documents relating to the event.
They have gone to great lengths to ensure all references to that campaign or to the Lions Sable have been stricken from the records available to the Adeptus Terra. The only remaining accounts now lie in the deepest dungeons of The Rock, and only the members of the Inner Circle ever learn the truth of this ancient and heroic sacrifice.
Across the Imperium, it is no longer known exactly how many Successor Chapters were made from the extant Space Marine Legions. Although many of those newly created organisations still exist, some have since been destroyed, and others have lost their records and history over ages of war and turmoil. This is a convenience which the Dark Angels have taken advantage of, for by claiming their records were damaged in a Plasma Reactor overload as they outfitted The Rock, they could veil a fraction of their past. It was another lie, for the Dark Angels destroyed those records themselves.
The Dark Angels are aware of the scrutiny they are under for the close relationship shared by their many Chapters, but there is another matter that they wish to keep from being uncovered: the loss of the last of the Second Founding Chapters created from the Dark Angels' gene-seed, the ill-fated Lions Sable. Of that time, the Unforgiven do not speak. It was one of their first encounters with the one who was named Cypher, and the history of the long campaign that is referred to as the Forgotten Wars is known only to the highest of the Chapter's Inner Circle. It was only at the end of this gruelling series of hunts and battles that many came to the realisation that Cypher was something more dangerous than just another of their Fallen brethren.
The Forgotten Wars
It began innocently enough. While in pursuit of the remnants of an Ork fleet in 580.M31, elements of the Angels of Vengeance entered the Gothic Sector. Under the guise of scanning for remnants of the Greenskin fleet they had been commanded to destroy, the Angels of Vengeance searched for clues that might lead them to any Fallen. This was standard procedure for all Unforgiven Chapters -- to pursue their secret goals whilst ostensibly following mission edicts as passed down from the High Lords of Terra. Gathering long-range scans and widely collected reports, the Angels of Vengeance Strike Cruiser uncovered nothing untoward save for an encrypted signal beamed from the Mining World of Lemnos. Once decoded, the message described exactly what the Unforgiven were seeking.
The world of Lemnos was embroiled in a bitter war over mining rights -- a battle of greed, rather than ideology. As Imperial Tithes were being met, there were no orders to intervene, and the matter was to be left for the Planetary Governor to handle. Rival noble factions were using private armies to enforce their ownership over the richest veins of mineral wealth. It was of these battles that the signal spoke. The mysterious message was sent in one of the older battle codes used by the Dark Angels and provided just the kind of clues that fit the modus operandi of one of the Fallen.
According to the message, the leader of one of the mercenary warbands fighting on Lemnos was turning the tide of battle almost single-handedly. He also fought in what seemed to be an old mark of Power Armour. The Angels of Venegeance's Chapter Librarians detected multiple readings of Fallen. The original target -- a towering man known as "the Mauler" -- had raised alarms with his superhuman feats of strength in battle. When subjected to a remote psychic probe by an Angels of Vengeance Librarian, the telltale signs of someone bearing Dark Angels Legion gene-seed appeared.
Terminators from the Angels of Vengeance's 1st Company were sent in to apprehend him. There were, however, other readings picked up from the vicinity as well. One of these signals flickered -- a phenomenon associated with Warp Storms, although none were reported at that time. This was the first recorded encounter with the unique signals that would later be associated with Cypher. Whether he had been there first and brought in another Fallen or was working with the Mauler from the beginning is not known. The strike team was successful in capturing the Mauler, although in doing so, they sustained high casualties.
As The Rock was in an adjoining sector, it was not long before the Mauler was secured in its deep dungeons. Persuaded by the harsh methods of the Interrogator-Chaplains and the relentless mind-probes of the Librarians, the Mauler eventually revealed that he had been known by another, older name. Here was Brother Sytrx, a Dark Angel returned to the fold. Before finally recanting and being relieved of the burden of living, Sytrx revealed more. He named a dozen of the Fallen that he had seen in the sector.
Elements from the Angels of Vengeance, the Dark Angels and the Lions Sable followed these trails. Each stop along this new journey -- from planetfalls to the boarding of a derelict Space Hulk floating in the midst of deep space -- led the Unforgiven towards still further clues. At each point, some new revelation was ascertained. As each new scrap of information was reported back to The Rock, a larger and more sinister plot was slowly revealed.
Originally, the Unforgiven had begun their mission seeking only to apprehend individuals. What was revealed was a corruption spread through six star systems of the Gothic Sector. Running through the collusions and inter-planetary trysts was a coherent and sinister thread that bore many of the hallmarks of an elaborate plot by the Alpha Legion -- although that group of Traitors had, at the time, erroneously been declared destroyed by the Inquisition. Weaving through the clues and crisscrossing trail of evidence scattered across the Gothic Sector was the individual with whom Dark Angels Librarians had a fast-growing obsession -- the one called Cypher.
Assault of Brigia
Acting upon the information extracted from the recently captured Fallen known as Brother Sytrx, the Dark Angels and Angels of Vengeance accomplished much deploying strike teams ranging in size from a few squads to a full company or more. This allowed them to continue their secret missions while still fulfilling all obligations assigned by the High Lords of Terra. However, the chase for Cypher stretched from standard years into solar decades, until it came to a grinding halt when the trail led to the densely populated world of Brigia.
It had been determined that the commander of the world's Planetary Defence Force -- Grand Captain Tylius -- was most probably one of the Unforgiven's Fallen brethren. He had certainly been in recent contact with Cypher. As if he had been forewarned that he was being hunted, the Grand Captain was wary. He remained within Brigia's most formidable fortress system, an entire army acting as his personal bodyguard.
With his forces spread thin across the Gothic Sector, Purson, the Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels, gathered all the Unforgiven within range. The Angels of Redemption and the Lions Sable answered the summons. Well-timed Drop Pod assaults swiftly deployed troops and bunker-busting Dreadnoughts. Lance strikes from Land Speeder formations kept the foes on the ramparts down and eliminated key bunker-mounted gun turrets.
With precision timing and deadly accuracy, the Unforgiven made headway through the outermost defences, working their way inwards. They were poised for the second phase of the operation -- a final attack on the central keep where Grand Captain Tylius was hidden -- when the unexpected happened. A new target of opportunity appeared on the battlefield -- Cypher. His appearance in the trench line immediately drew in Purson's Terminator reserves, as they teleported in an attempt to surround their quarry.
Grand Captain Tylius was a cunning tactician, however, and he chose this moment to release his hitherto unsuspected reserve force. A large formation of Chaos Space Marine Terminators from the Alpha Legion teleported to aid his fortress defence, while mobs of cultists were called up from the nearby population centres. The war that erupted over the fortified bunkers was intense, prolonged and destructive. The clash of Terminators was at first evenly matched, but the Unforgiven were driven by righteous fury, and in the end that proved decisive.
Eventually, the last squad of debased enemies was taken out by a single, well-placed burst of energy from a Land Speeder Vengeance's Plasma Storm Battery. Only then could the Unforgiven return to the pursuit of Cypher and the final stronghold assault to pry out Tylius. Both ventures proved too late -- for Cypher and Tylius had made good their escape.
Spiralling into the Eye
Upon Brigia it was established that Chaos Space Marines were deeply involved with the Fallen, and it was no real surprise when the clues that had been leading the Unforgiven across the Gothic Sector now led towards that most hated of refuges: the Eye of Terror. Reports of the Dark Angels' actions on Brigia had already reached Terra and questions began to filter back to The Rock. Even as answers were crafted to explain why elements from their Chapters had appeared so far from their assigned missions, the Unforgiven were plotting their courses towards the forbidden zones.
The most dreaded part of the galaxy, the Eye of Terror is a hole in reality -- a gaping rent where the Warp spills out into realspace. That swirling mass is not only home to raging Warp Storms, but also a relatively safe haven for many of the Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions. It was perilous even to track the signal, for psykers that open their mind in the direction of the Eye of Terror risk falling prey to fell things from beyond.
Dark Angels Librarians, however, dared the attentions of the darker powers in order to achieve the trace -- following the trail to the outermost of the twin planets Cocytus I and II. These were not fully contaminated planets immersed in Chaos energies, but rather astral bodies that maintained orbit at the edge of the Sentinel Sector -- a region of space that was only occasionally enveloped by the Immaterium.
To travel too close to the Eye of Terror was forbidden by the Imperium, yet a council of the Dark Angels' Inner Circle was called to discuss that very plan. That region was notoriously unstable and dangerous, and to enter it they would have to navigate around temporal eddies, space anomalies and perhaps Chaos Space Marine battle fleets. Additionally, an Imperial presence surrounded the Eye of Terror -- from listening posts and floating mine fields all the way to heavily fortified worlds. This made it difficult to enter the Eye of Terror without being observed. After the action on Brigia, several Inquisitors had already been despatched to look into the reported presence of the despised Alpha Legion. The Unforgiven Chapters could ill afford to draw further attention to themselves.
All the Dark Angels Successors had inherited their Primarch's legendary tenacity, however, so they did not back away from the ever-growing challenges. Although of reserved mien, they raged inside at the narrow escape of their quarry. That their long and winding path through the Gothic Sector might end without satisfaction was unbearable. The Dark Angels and their Successors thirsted to respond -- to take the fight to their foe. Supreme Grand Master Purson agreed to send a task force to the very edge of the Eye of Terror.
The Unforgiven sent a single Strike Cruiser, the Lions Sable's Fury of Caliban, into the swirling mists. It carried companies gathered from the Dark Angels, the Angels of Vengeance, Angels of Redemption and the Lions Sable. At first, all went well -- they successfully ran the gauntlet of Warp Storms and emerged in realspace to bypass all of the Imperial stations. Transmissions to The Rock were patchy and unreliable, but the Fury of Caliban had reached the orbit of Cocytus I. A strike force immediately made planetfall.
So close to the Eye of Terror, all readings and ranged scannings were corrupted, and communications faded in and out. Not knowing what to expect on a world that had so often been encompassed within the swirling madness of the Eye of Terror, the first drop team was to probe the site of the last signal emission. They found a mist-shrouded planet, its rocky surface largely barren. Here and there stood stone archways or toppled pillars, the remnants of some ancient culture. Weathered and timeworn, the rocks also bore signs of the corrupting Warp -- leering faces or symbols of death were etched within the stonework itself. Carefully, the Unforgiven advanced through the eerie landscape, unsure of what they sought. When they saw it, however, they knew they were on the right path.
There, towering out of the roiling fogs, was what looked like the same style of fortress stronghold that topped The Rock itself. Clad in plasteel and adamantium, the walls and ramparts bristled with weapons. The great tower bore the unmistakable icons of the Dark Angels -- the hooded and winged figure bearing a sword. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious that the stronghold was constructed not as tribute, but in mockery -- a Tower of Fallen Angels. A grim skull-faced visage peered out of the cowl, skulls adorned spikes and several iron cages hung above the ramparts. No few of these gibbets bore skeletal remains inside mangled Dark Angels Power Armour.
Reinforcements were requested -- for here was found a den of Fallen if ever there was such a thing. Yet the Dark Angels were cautious -- for it was only a matter of time before the ebb and the flow of the Warp once more wholly consumed both Cocytus I and II within its raging storms. When it was reported that the distinct signal of Cypher was on the planet, Supreme Grand Master Purson gave both the order to attack and the command that sent a second warship.
So began the Forgotten Wars -- a raging battle upon Cocytus I that drew in half of the Dark Angels and the Angels of Redemption, three companies of the Angels of Vengeance, and the entire Chapter of the Lions Sable. The corruption grew worse and Warp Storms quickly drew over the twin planets. Battle raged as the Unforgiven razed den after den of Chaos Cultists, mutants and Renegades -- always pressing more deeply into the wasteland continents of both planets.
Twice Cypher had eluded them. What was even more infuriating was that he had sent them messages, urging them to depart and warning that they were heading into a trap. Begrudgingly, Purson had to admit that it looked as if Cypher was correct. He gave the command to retreat as the Warp Storms crashed over the region. He was loath to abandon the battles, but he knew his time was running short.
The Lions Sable, however, refused. Since splitting into Chapters, each Successor was meant to remain autonomous, but the Dark Angels had always maintained more control over their progeny than was laid out in the tenets of the Second Founding -- another secret they kept hidden. So many times had their Primarch Lion El'Jonson stubbornly held onto a position or refused to give ground that the Lions' defiant act seemed more in character with their mighty forefather, and for a moment Purson hesitated.
Taking with him only his bodyguard, the Supreme Grand Master headed back down to the planet. He commanded the fleet -- for there were now six of their warships in orbit -- to get clear of the Eye of Terror. He would contact them when the storm cleared. None knew it then, but that was the last anyone would ever see of Purson or the Lions Sable.
The storms had become so violent -- the ever-spinning spiral arms growing wider and wider as raw Chaos vomited from the Eye of Terror's centre -- that the frigate Vendetta was lost to the Warp. The tumult provided one advantage: the Unforgiven fleet escaped from the Eye of Terror and past the Cadian Gate unobserved in the impenetrable murk. They alone survived to bring word of these events back to The Rock.
They were dismayed to find that although they had been gone for but the span of a few standard years as measured inside the storms, in realspace over a thousand Terran years had passed. Many small sorties had attempted to penetrate that murk, but none ever succeeded. When at last the tempests ceased, a small task force was sent into the Eye of Terror once again -- but no sign of Cocytus I or its twin could be found. It was as if the Eye of Terror had swallowed them.
Cypher, however, did return, and much more quickly. His telltale signal appeared in the same system as The Rock, which quickly scrambled hunt-teams to seek him. Once again he eluded them, but not before leading them into an empty cathedral to the Emperor on a ruined and desolate planet. There, they found neatly placed where they could not miss them the returned Sword of Secrets and the Lion Helm -- the most potent icons of the Dark Angels and tokens carried by their Supreme Grand Master.
Whether trap or test, the Unforgiven Chapters suffered serious losses upon Cocytus, and those events were to have profound effects upon the Sons of the Lion. To cover up their immediate losses after their warriors were thought lost to the Warp, the resources of the recruiting world of the Lions Sable -- the ebon orb of Nachwald -- were usurped to replenish the Angels of Vengeance and the Angels of Retribution.
The Dark Angels staged a false plasma explosion aboard The Rock to explain their loss of records, for it was decided by the Inner Circle to destroy all records relating to the event. In this, they were greatly aided by the distraction caused by the largest Ork invasion recorded in the Imperium and the political upheavals of The Beheading, when Assassins struck at the High Lords of Terra. Unknown to any, they were also fortunate when the three members of the Inquisitional inquiry secretly tasked with reviewing the strange activities of the Dark Angels were lost due to a variety of inexplicable accidents.
As for the survivors of Cocytus that did eventually return, they were spread out amongst the Unforgiven Chapters so their sudden influx would not be noted. For the rest of their lives, each was closely monitored by their company Chaplains to ensure the prolonged Warp exposure had not contaminated them in any way.
Of the Forgotten Wars, the Dark Angels do not speak, nor has it entered into the apocryphal tales told to their Initiates. They have gone to great lengths to ensure all references to that campaign or to the Lions Sable have been stricken from the records available to the Adeptus Terra. Yet it is the custom and battle cry of the sons of Lion El'Jonson to "Never forget, never forgive". Deep in the dungeons of The Rock are secreted the only remaining accounts, and only those of the Inner Circle ever learn of that heroic sacrifice that must forever go untold.
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pp. 16, 22
- Dataslate: Cypher - Lord of the Fallen (Digital Edition), pp. 15, 17-18, 20-22, 28