The Liberation of Numinal, at times also referred to as the Reconquest of Numinal, is a major battle that took place in the distant border region between the Segmentum Obscurus and the Ultima Segmentum in the first years of the Horus Heresy. Known as the Coronid Deeps, this region almost entirely fell into the hands of the Traitors during the first standard year of the galactic civil war known as the Horus Heresy.
Following the defeats of local Imperial Commanders during the dire events of the Scouring of the Cyclops Cluster, the Manachean War and the Treachery at Port Maw, the Liberation of Numinal was the first strategic victory of the Loyalists since the infamous Gethsamaine Raid which constituted, at best, a pyrrhic victory for the servants of the Emperor.
The Warmaster's Talon
Numinal had been conquered early on in Horus' campaign to establish his own empire; however, with his ultimate goal in sight, no Sons of Horus or other Traitor Legionaries would be squandered in the conquest of a mere Agri-world. In 008.M31, Numinal would nevertheless be invaded by Traitor forces, namely Mechanicum Taghmata forces bearing the arachnid-glyph of Forge World Cyclothrathe. Resistance was quickly overcome but never truly eradicated as the surviving defenders of the 1023rd and 2774th Solar Auxilia Obed Cohorts of the Excertus Imperialis had splintered into a resistance guerrilla force, which had the advantage of expertise in the swamps and semi-aquatic terrain that dominated Numinal: terrain that was anathema to the Mechanicum's heaviest combat units.
As a result, the Cyclothrathine forces were entangled in a continued campaign of opportunistic assaults and sabotage which required further deployments to counteract, slowing their plans of attack elsewhere in the region. Eventually, Archmagos Draykavac, Cyclothrathe's principal warlord, was forced to return from his Forge World's recently launched invasion of Cerada Secundus and relinquish command of the Taghmata war fleet to one of his subordinates to deal with a sudden and violent upswing in resistance and civil unrest from Numinal's population in response to an accelerated program of forced Servitor conversion and adsecularis lobotomisation.
Upon his arrival, Draykavac purged the sin of failure from his predecessor in charge of the suppression by ripping out what remained of her organic cortex and resubmitting her for purified reconstruction to the Magos Mortifex. He then immediately formulated a plan for the ordered processing of Numinal's entire population, dividing its many archipelagos and island masses up into sectors which would be dealt with in turn, and ordering the fabrication of huge amphibious crawlers for this purpose, outfitted within with Servitor-controlled charnel-surgery chambers, corpse-sluice and protein recovery vats so that nothing would go to waste.
These nightmarish machines went out with escort maniples drawn from Draykavac's own personal force of covenant-bound Knights, the thrall-House of Atrax. Against the power of these Knights and their hulking war machines, nothing left on Numinal could stand, and under this slow and mercilessly methodical pogrom, Numinal appeared doomed. But unknown to the inhuman Magi of Cyclothrathe, their actions were being observed and other hands were laying plans against them.
Hammer of the Deep
The attack came first not directly to Numinal, but to the system's astropathic relay station, a sprawling complex built into the polar rock plain on the barely life-sustaining dust moon of Numinal V, known as Quachil. The site had been extensively fortified by the Taghmata Cyclothrathe since their occupation, owing its strategic importance to their expansion efforts, and served now as the major Traitor-held navigational and astropathic communication nexus in the region, its transmitting power doubly important given the rising storms and turbulence plaguing the Warp.
The first sign of danger was the arrival of an unexpected ramshackle flotilla of ships, mostly macro freight-haulers and Warp dromons, but identified immediately as being led by the ruby-hulled galleass of the Rogue Trader Militant Charid Undine, a renowned and powerful vessel named the Hammer of the Deep, and one known to the Mechanicum as serving now the Warmaster Horus' cause. The Cyclothrathine Magi on Quachil allowed the flotilla to approach slowly, mindful of their ultimate allegiance but warily so, and even after they were answered by Vox with the relevant code cyphers and requests for trade and resupply, they would not allow the flotilla to close with the station.
When it continued on its course, however, they threatened to open fire; the reply to their ultimatum came from the prow Lances of the Hammer of the Deep. Unknown to the Traitors, the former Rogue Trader vessel had been seized almost a year previously by the Knights of House Orhlacc, when the reckless Rogue Trader had come to their homeworld of Dark Haven to deliver the Warmaster's ultimatum.
Battle was quickly joined, though the out-ranging firepower of the galleass, augmented as it was with technology rumoured to be stolen from the Aeldari, was quickly proven the clear superior. Under the cover of the Hammer 's guns, several of the huge Warp-dromons broke from the flotilla and made assault runs on Quachil's surface. Detaching from the lead dromon where it had hung concealed and limpet-like, a slim and predatory Legiones Astartes strike-craft, a Pilum-class Corvette barely registrable as being clad in the azure and white of the World Eaters Legion, joined the battle.
The strike ship raced ahead on a strafing run to clear the way in the hostile landing zone that had become the plateau directly beyond the relay station. Behind her, the huge dromons came in all but unopposed and landed with ungainly weight onto the dust dunes, creating a minor quake with the force of their impact slamming onto the moon's surface. As the tremors still subsisted, the dromons' vast cargo bay doors opened at once to disgorge scores of Dracosan Super-Heavy Armoured Carriers and dozens of supporting squadrons of Solar Pattern Leman Russ main battle tanks.
This ground attack wave comprised a full armoured cohort operating as a single unstoppable thrust. Roaring into the dust storm caused by their transports' landing that still raged ahead of them, the vehicles approached the fortifications. It wasn't until they emerged from the dust clouds that the enemy could identify them as Solar Auxilia bearing the dull bronze and dark emerald of the long-decommissioned 60th Expeditionary Fleet and the white crested-helm sigil of the Agathean Domain.
Soon the Agatheans came under fire, automated cannon turrets ringing the station's outer wall turning, acquiring targets and opening up on them. Hidden Tarantula-batteries rose up from the dunes, weapons firing wildly in the wall of dust that was approaching. The armoured attack column did not stop, the heavy-tracked Dracosans smashing straight through the Tarantulas, their reinforced superstructures no match for the heavy armoured bulk of the troop transports.
Once pulverised, the wrecks of the Tarantulas were carried upon the mine ploughs of the Dracosans, sending up bow-waves of dust and debris. As they closed in on the complex, Demolisher Cannon volleys battered and broke the station's curtain walls in a dozen of locations, while Leman Russ Vanquishers punched armour-piercing shells through turrets and gun embrasures alike. Under the onslaught, the curtain wall shuddered before suddenly collapsing, the attackers surging through the rubble as the war-scarred corvette hovered low above the station's central compound where its Auspex towers lay.
Grey-armoured figures, undoubtedly Astartes, dropped on Jump Packs towards the devastation unfolding below and quickly secured the relay. High above, in the void beyond, the Hammer of the Deep and its remaining flotilla turned and, powering up their thrusters, made for Numinal with gathering speed.
Five sidereal hours had passed since the attack on the moon Quachil, and now all communication between the relay station and Numinal had been cut. The truth that a full scale counterinvasion against a world they had only themselves so recently conquered had not entered the strategic equations of the Taghmata Cyclothrathe, and the Magi were swiftly being forced to re-assess their position. Above Numinal, the Hammer of the Deep and its charges had already forced their orbital supremacy by destroying the protective Mechanicum Escort squadrons, their Warp-dromons and macro-haulers having proved themselves armed and shielded far beyond what their design and appearance indicated.
To further the unfolding crisis, the Archmagos Draykavac had, only moments before the communications silence with Quachil, been forced to accede even to the retreat of his own orbiting warship, the Mechanicum Forge-cruiser Sacra Astra, after it had proved heavily outmatched by the attacking galleass.
Precipitating direct command override over all Mechanicum forces on Numinal, Draykavac issued rapid commands through his Taghmata's djinn-skein to recall and amass his forces to meet the invaders, dispersed as they had been to carry out his general order for planet-wide population processing.
As a result of this decision, the attackers made planetfall all but uncontested, the invaders concentrating their landings directly on the large and most sparsely populated archipelago chain in the planet's northern hemisphere, a few hundred kilometres from the edge of the island cluster on which the Mechanicum was most densely based. Seven sidereal hours after planetfall, the Taghmata, having amassed a sufficiency of force, responded aggressively to the ongoing invasion, swarming towards the area like antibodies to an open wound.
Slowly at first, but with increasing intensity, the two sides engaged -- the Taghmata sending fast-moving reconnaissance Servitor drones into the area initially to assess their enemy at close range. The invaders were identified as Solar Auxilia forces operating at multiple cohort strength; likely in the region of 30,000-40,000 infantry troops and several thousand armoured vehicles.
Draykavac's analysis indicated that their iconography comported to the long-decommissioned 60th Expeditionary Fleet, but used observed unit markings and numerals which did not match historical records. The invaders were also not, as he had first projected, launching an immediate attack, but rather digging in; rapidly preparing prefabricated defence lines and supply dumps, sowing mine fields and excavating trench works with remarkable speed and efficiency to meet the incoming Mechanicum forces.
This led Archmagos Draykavac to a series of observations from the data: firstly, that this was a hostile Loyalist army despatched from the Agathon Domain and, in addendum to that observation, no known Agathean liveried warships had yet been sighted as part of the force. The attackers had also refrained from the mass use of orbital bombardment, limiting themselves to a few strikes only against anti-orbital batteries which might have impeded their landing and had not yet attempted to breach the Void Shielded bastions of the Mechanicum control centres.
This resulted in a single conclusion; that the Agatheans intended to take the planet in as intact a state as they possibly could. Logic and strategic prediction indicated then to Draykavac that this invasion force was merely a beachhead for a much larger contingent to follow, a force mounted and protected in the absent Imperial Cruiser squadrons the Agathon Domain was still known to possess.
Based upon this analysis, Draykavac then drew his own plans accordingly. Determining that the beachhead should be destroyed at all costs, he reinforced the attacking waves en route to the landing site with the goal of maintaining pressure while he amassed a second force of sufficient power to destroy it.
In the shale drifts and rocky wastelands of the northern archipelago, the Agathean Cohorts awaited their attackers. Cohort Lasrifle Tercios -- interlocking squads of heavy infantry soldiers drilled to the highest order and discipline -- and tracked Rapier heavy weapons batteries dug in, formed up as firing squares and defensive echelons behind prefabricated redoubts and swiftly-dug trench works. Under the watchful eye of Lord Marshal Ireton MaSade, every hill, shale bank and rock gully had been put to its most effective defensive use, providing channels of predicable advance and deadly killing grounds for what was to come.
MaSade had fought upon a hundred worlds and against nightmarish xenos of countless forms and powers, and even the arcane technological might of the Mechanicum did not trouble him, for he had fought beside them in the past and knew both their strengths and their weaknesses. Back on Agathon, he had ensured above all else the manufacture and stockpiling of certain weapons in preparation for a battle such as this, the foremost being augmented blast-charger capacitors for his troops' las-weaponry.
These devices -- issued rarely and in dire resort against the most powerful of alien creatures during the Great Crusade -- vastly increased the effectiveness of his soldiers' small arms, but at the cost of near-disastrously high stresses on the weapons that used them. But against the Battle-Automata and augmented warriors of the Mechanicum, he knew they would prove invaluable. As the first waves of enemy forces began to batter against the Agathean Cohorts' defences, he would swiftly know whether or not his strategy would prove sound.
The Iron Horde
The Battle-servitors advanced pitiless and measured, without fear or remorse; hulking metallic bodies striding from the waters or clambering down from hover barges and short range transport lighters like an army of iron and brass statues come to life. Larger, manta-like Cyclothrathine aerodynes swooped in low, unleashing Triaros carriers and Krios tanks from their cage harnesses directly behind the advancing line. Silent save for the rumble of their engines and the rasp of their servo motors, answering ghost-commands from their djinn-network, which would have been mere howling static to human ears, the Taghmata Cyclothrathe moved by a single all-encompassing will; the will of Draykavac.
Already, long-range barrages from batteries of concealed Earthshaker Cannons were falling among their ranks, sending up great sprays of sand and rock as their shells exploded. But up from the craters the Battle-Automata and Thallaxii rose, scarred but indomitable, all but impervious to wounds that would have torn mortal flesh to rags. The fleshless army advanced across an eleven-kilometre-wide front, through the mines and on into a storm of cannon shells and las-fire that would have melted even a Legiones Astartes attack before it.
Some of the Battle-Automata staggered under the weight of fire; some fell, but few, very few. Now the guns of the Mechanicum answered; thundering bolt cannon spat fire and lightning guns jetted their incandescent fury, blasting gouges in the defence lines and sending sundered bodies spinning into fragments. Through it all, the Agathean Cohorts did not waver, their ranks closing over the breaches made by the dead.
They fired and fired again, answering the disciplined cries of their sergeants with measured volleys, making the very air crackle and burn before them. The duel went on, and the lines began to close. On the Loyalists' side, casualties began to mount as the Mechanicum troops entered optimal firing range. Placed in the first line of the Agathean defences, the 48th Infantry Tercio suffered heavy casualties but steadfastly held its position.
The lines were only a few hundred metres apart now, and from within the Taghmata ranks Vorax-automata darted forward at breakneck speed on their sickle-gaited mantid-legs, power blades humming in expectation of the kill. Then MaSade at last issued the order. With practised haste, power feeds were jettisoned from steaming lasrifles and the bulky blast-chargers fitted in their place. As one, the Infantry Tercio troopers primed, raised and fired. It was as if a destroying hand had slammed down from the heavens as the air burned with a crackling roar.
The Vorax-automata at the vanguard caught the brunt of the fire, all but disintegrating in rippling explosions and sprays of molten metal. Behind them the Castellax stumbled forwards as if they were men caught in a sudden powerful headwind, defensive energy fields snapping like angry hornets and their ceramite plates cracking and splintering in dozens of locations as overcharged las bolts found their way through.
Meanwhile, other Vorax attack-automata had successfully infiltrated the Agathean defence lines, their objective being the assassination of the Auxilia's commander: a task they were ideally suited for. Here the Vorax encountered the vigilant members of MaSade's personal guard, the Veletaris of the 108th Tercio who quickly destroyed the would-be assassins with disciplined fire of their Volkites. Two more attempts on MaSade's life would be thwarted in the same manner before the battle would reach its bloody conclusion.
The Auxilia firing line quickly rotated, one trooper stepping back to eject the smouldering and spent blast-charger as another took their place. Keen-eyed Agathean gunners zeroed in their Rapier batteries on the Castellax which showed the most damage, focusing their heavy weapons fire until they were smashed to debris. Beside them, Multi-Lasers raked their staccato beams back and forth across the beaten ground where damaged Servitors and shattered, smoke-bleeding automata strived to drag their broken bodies towards the Agatheans' lines.
A second wave of blast-charger fire hammered into the Taghmata, then a third and a fourth, until suddenly only the heaviest of the Mechanicum units remained; the few surviving Krios tanks, their overworked flare shields rippling, trading shots with the dug-in Auxilia support tanks, and behind them the hulking Thanatar Siege-automata, scorched-black and superficially damaged, but largely impervious even to the augmented fire of the Auxilia.
The Thanatar held the line, but now advanced no further, their bulbous plasma mortars slinging white fireballs of gelid, high-density plasma into the Loyalist defence works, making a burning hell wherever they landed. The broken ground between the Siege-automata and the Agatheans was now a wasteland of ash, wreckage and fused silica glass whilst behind the bulwark of the Siege-automata, the lesser Magi of the Taghmata Cyclothrathe lurked alongside their baroquely armoured bodyguards, unwilling to risk themselves in the storm before the Agathean fortifications, and unwilling to press forward until further reinforcements arrived. For the time being, the Mechanicum assault had been stymied.
The Warlord of the Web
A little over a hundred kilometres to the southeast, Archmagos Draykavac observed all. His sight was that of a thousand different war machines, Battle-automata and Servitors all over Numinal's surface, relayed to him via his djinn-skein in a myriad of ghostly spectrums and Augury shadows beyond the power of any unaugmented brain to fathom. Warning runes and anathematic equations ran through his Cogitator-enhanced brain; already the first wave of attack on the Agathean landing zone had resulted in heavier losses than all of the Taghmata Cyclothrathe's military operations over the last two standard years combined, the Agatheans having displayed unprecedented and uncalculated levels of close range firepower, as well as superior deployment and tactical cohesion.
Furthermore, secondary landings and incursions were now observed at a number of other locations, and the invasion had not gone unnoticed; native resistance movements such as those led by the Obed Cohorts were showing themselves in wholesale acts of aggression, while riots and revolts were reported at the majority of processing centres and still-extant civilian population centres not yet having undergone total conversion. The data was incontrovertible; the Taghmata Cyclothrathe was losing control of the planet.
Victory, however, Draykavac concluded, was still possible so long as the landing zone could be purged of the invaders, forcing a stalemate in which the Taghmata controlled the surface and the Agatheans the void and outer star system. Matters would then be decided by the scale and frequency of potential reinforcement. Above, if it tried to intervene, the Loyalist galleass could be held back at the cost of his own Sacra Astra and the remaining Mechanicum Escorts' sacrifice if needed to ensure the attack's success. It was the harsh arithmetic of war.
It was now time for Draykavac himself to take a hand. Ascending from the command vault on his battle-Abeyant, he joined his acolytes and bodyguard covenant of Thallax at the centre of the amassed second wave of the assault mustering under a shimmering curtain of Triaros-Testudo generated mobile Void Shields to protect them from aerial attack.
Around him were arrayed the grey-black armoured ranks of his personal cadre of Battle-automata, and beyond them the hulking ranks of the Knights of House Atrax and Freeblade raiders from House Ærthegn, some sixty armours in all. Hovering macro-hauler barges were even now waiting to forge the crossing to the landing zone archipelago, and against this gathering of might, even the firepower and defences of the Solar Auxilia would be as nothing.
Lord Marshal Ireton MaSade, the old general, kept alive by long-implanted augmetics far past a normal human span, watched the gathering of force at the Mechanicum-held dockyards on the occularis viewers of his command tank, as calm and still as if graven in stone. The Magos warlord he faced was carrying out the most logical course of action, and the one most likely to succeed, as against such a concentration of Knights, his own forces, despite their strength and discipline, could not prevail in open battle.
It was exactly why MaSade had formed his forces in this manner, why he had deployed them as he had, exactly why his home fleet was absent, and why the Hammer of the Deep stood ready with her deadliest cargo yet to be unleashed. He wanted such a concentration of Mechanicum forces to engage them when they were together, not forced to hunt them down across an entire waterlogged world where every outpost and processing plant might become a fortress against him, and where his own troops would be at the disadvantage against the tireless superhuman machines of the Taghmata.
He had in his years fought, outnumbered and outgunned, against alien powers in a hundred campaigns; he had fought even at the side of Horus and his Legion in days past, and learned well from the master the value of the decapitation strike in warfare. With the Taghmata and their army of Knights moving towards the waiting hover barges under the rippling shadows of their mobile Void Shields, Ireton MaSade gave the order his staff had been tensely waiting for.
In close orbit, the Hammer of the Deep's drives flared and the galleass' great kilometre-long over-bay doors swung majestically open like the spreading wings of a vast bird of prey. From within, two brutal-looking drop ships, ancient Khobol-class Heavy Assault Landers, emerged -- relics older than the Great Crusade -- and moved to make their burning descent into Numinal's atmosphere. The surviving Mechanicum warships on their own watchful orbit moved to intercept, the galleass turning and offering itself to battle so that the landers would go unchallenged, and the void burned between them.
The twin landers burned down through the skies of Numinal, heavy flak missiles streaking up to strike them, but doing nothing more than adding fresh scars to the slab-like armour plates which covered their blocky hulls. The landers came in fast and low on their powerful engines, but rather than slam directly into the roiling mass of Knights and Battle-Automata quickly dispersing themselves from the crushing attack, they roared overhead, skimming the crackling Void Shield mantle and sending shivers of blistering lightning coursing through the skies.
In the wide scrubland wastes beyond the loading docks, the landers settled their vast bulks, side-ramps splitting open. Then across the wastes came a siren howl older than the Imperium, a complex, eardrum-splitting dirge. It was the ancient challenge, that of Knights to others of their warlike kind to partake in deadly combat.
The ground shuddered as the Knights thundered forth, the bulk -- some fifty armours in all -- cast in quartered sable and deep amethyst blue, bearing the golden Manticore heraldry of the dread House of Orhlacc, missing from their homeworld of Dark Haven since before the Warmaster's talon had touched the Coronid Deeps. They were not alone. With them came Freeblades and outcasts in liveries both gaudy and strange, a maniple of Knights in the crimson-hued armour of House Hermetika, oath-sworn of distant Mezoa, and a warband of House Ærthegn, outcasts from their brethren that had taken up the cause of Horus and now come to make war upon their kin in bitter feud.
It had been the sinisterly told-of House of Orhlacc that had brought to the Agatheans' cause the galleass of the Rogue Trader that had in her folly come to Dark Haven to subjugate them and paid the price. It had been Valdemar Orhlacc, High Seneschal of his House, that Ireton MaSade had bargained with for his might on this day of reckoning, at a price no less than the dominion of the dim world of Wychval, far from prying eyes at the edge of the Agathean Domain, and the Knights of Orhlacc had come to make good that bargain in blood.
There was nowhere to hide from the savagery to come; the wasteland, and the dockyard span upon which it ended were all but featureless, an expanse of emptiness that in an instant was transformed into a killing ground which no mortal creature could have crossed and lived. There was no room or opportunity for trickery or subtle tactic, no time even for orders to be given; there was only the storm of steel and fire. The Loyalists charged, their weapons blazing sun-heat and thundering deadly shell fire, and the Traitor forces turned as one to meet their oncoming attack, answering with their own shimmering arcs of pale Volkite rays and cracking bolts of dark lightning.
The thunderous combat walkers closed the distance between the two and immediately Draykavac saw the danger. His Knights were marginally outnumbered, but his oath-sworn Atrax were primarily equipped with the Mechanicum Styrix and Magaera Pattern armours, superior in their protection from damage, but also slower than most of his foe's forces, many of which were equipped with the swift Cerastus Patterns designed to outflank an enemy at speed.
Even now the Orhlacc Knights and their allies' faster units were breaking into two horns of battle to encircle his own forces, while the Loyalist Paladins and Errants made direct assault on his centre, formed up in fighting wedges so that their Ion Shields created an all but impenetrable overlapping barrier against incoming fire. Draykavac extended his will and his army moved as one, tessellating into a hexagon formation, its own Ion Shields presented outwards, defending the core within, at the centre of which hovered Draykavac and his bodyguard of dark armoured Battle-automata.
The complex manoeuvre was barely complete when the two tides of metal and fire met, the Orhlacc and their allies crushing round the Atrax in a murderous grip. The ground shook and rattled, the air was rent with an indescribable cacophony as Knight met Knight in shattering impact. Battle Cannons roared at point blank range, Power Lances pistoned forth to smash explosively through armour plate, Ion Shields flared and guttered. The white-hot beams of Thermal Cannons speared through hulls, sending adamantium running like molten wax, and mighty metal limbs were torn from their sockets by crushing servo-claws and shimmering Solar Blades.
Where the Atrax fought with cold, calculating brutality, the Orhlacc fought like madmen suddenly unleashed, but the bitterest savagery was the domain of the Ærthegn, as brother fought against brother to the death. In such a tumult of inhuman war and incalculable power even the Castellax Battle-Automata of the Taghmata Cyclothrathe were nothing compared to the fury unleashed, as the Reaper Chainblades of the Orhlacc lashed through them like kindling before a falling axe, and Draykavac's bodyguard of Thallax fell in droves as they were caught in an annihilating crossfire of Castigator bolt cannon shells.
The Archmagos was not without power of his own, however, and the crimson-armoured Knights-Castigator of House Hermetika which had made the attack found themselves slowly crushed under the weight of a fusillade of Graviton Cannon blasts, staggering to their doom. Swiftly they were swamped by murderous Vorax Battle-automata, their sickle-bladed arms hacking and slashing through joints and power cables, crippling them, until Draykavac himself tore the living pilots from the control thrones within and liquefied their bodies to dripping gore.
The clash of Knights, apocalyptic in its destruction, raged on, but even at the centre of this hurricane of chaos, Draykavac's half-machine mind was holding watch over a hundred other conflicts raging on Numinal. On the northern archipelago, his diminished second wave, robbed of their reinforcements, was being driven back into the sea as the invading Agathean Cohorts broke out of their fortified landing zone and attacked in full force. Obedite-led native resistance was destroying the Mechanicum's conversion crawlers all across the globe, vulnerable now that Draykavac had withdrawn their supporting Knights.
New and unknown forces had also entered the fray as a trio of mismatched Javelin Attack Speeders, one in the umbral black of the Raven Guard and the others in the ochre yellow of the Imperial Fists, had flown in under the Void Shield mantle and were now striking at the machines that generated it, threatening the shields' integrity more with each passing attack.
At one primary flesh-processing facility, no more than eleven kilometres away, a lone Space Marine had appeared in armour scoured clean of all markings and was now systematically killing every Servitor, Tech-priest and Automata in the complex.
In orbit, the void battle had proved bloody too, but inconclusive to both sides, and even now the Sacra Astra was badly damaged and on an outbound orbit to effect emergency repairs, and would not likely survive another close pass against the Hammer of the Deep. Were Draykavac one of the Emperor's Angels of Death, defeat would have been impossible to countenance, and he would have fought on regardless of the odds of victory, but he was of the Mechanicum, and the cold equations of bloodshed told him he had lost.
Immediately, the Cyclothrathine Knights' hexagonal formation of defence began to shift, and what was a defiant battle became instead stalled, a fighting retreat with a single purpose, to deliver Draykavac to safety at any cost. Soon the dockyard complex running back to the Mechanicum command centre was a fire-strewn waste, littered with the burning hulls of broken Knight armour and the twitching, dismembered remains of Battle-Automata as the House of Atrax and the Taghmata Cyclothrathe were sacrificed for their master.
Once within the fortified bastion, Draykavac made good his escape off-world, his salvation-rocket blasting off from its position of concealment in one of the bastion's storage silo-towers, leaving fiery ruin in its wake. The last baleful command he issued to each and every surviving Servitor, automata and Tech-priest of the Taghmata was to kill, kill relentlessly and indiscriminately until their own destruction came.
Numinal had fallen to the Loyalists.
The counter-invasion of Numinal would only be the start of a new phase in the ongoing war for the Coronid Deeps. First and foremost, it was the first real victory the Loyalist camp could secure and build upon, which provided a welcome boost to morale. The Taghmata of Cyclothrathe had been quite spectacularly vanquished, which meant that victory was still possible and that although Horus' forces remained undefeated, they were by no means invincible.
Even when Loyalist follow-up actions such as the Raid on Cerada Secundus performed by the remaining Agathean warships proved unsuccessful, the Liberation of Numinal had dramatically changed the situation within the Coronid Deep, Ireton MaSade's victory having shown that the Loyalists were not eradicated and were growing bold enough to strike back.
Having tasted defeat for the first time since the beginning of the galactic civil war, Cyclothrathe's Taghmata would have to temporarily withdraw to reinforce and consolidate its captured domains. The losses suffered on Numinal would also ensure that military actions conducted by the Taghmata would have to be postponed or scheduled down, leaving the free planets time to prepare themselves for the next offensive.
Archmagos Draykavac was, however, still at large and would continue to plague the Imperium in the years to come. Perhaps humbled by this defeat as well as the Gethsamaine Raid, the Sons of Horus-led battlegroups and squadrons would no longer be able to stay put but would need to venture forth in an attempt to hunt down the highly mobile Loyalist survivors that would continue to undermine the Traitors' influence in this region of space. Throughout the Grail Abyss, the Cyclops Cluster and even deep into the subjugated worlds of what was once the Manachean Commonwealth, the Loyalists struck: outposts were raided, planets laid to waste, convoys ambushed and murderous reprisals taken.
Lastly, the Liberation of Numinal also depicts the confused situation reigning within the Traitor Legions after the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V or perhaps even the Istvaan III Atrocity, as it would see both splinter-elements of known Traitor Legions fighting on the Loyalists' side and the first confirmed sighting of the mysterious Legionaries known as Blackshields. On Numinal, the Legionary later identified as "Redemption" would wage a solitary war against the Cyclothrathine Mechanicum, mounting an assault on one of the Cyclothrathine flesh-processing crawlers all by himself, during which he personally killed at least fifty Tech-adepts, Thallaxi and other lesser combat-automata.
So it was within the Coronid Deeps; so it was to be all across what was once the unified Imperium of Mankind. A grim age of war had been born at Istvaan that would never end in the lifetimes of those who were caught in its bloody embrace, an age of war that would outlast the Horus Heresy, outlast the Great Scouring and beyond, an Age of Darkness.
- The Horus Heresy - Book Four: Conquest (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 54-63, 92-93, 216