Lysimachus Cestus was a Captain and Fleet Commander of the Ultramarines Space Marine Legion's 7th Chapter during the latter stages of the Great Crusade and the early days of the Horus Heresy in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia.
He played a pivotal role in leading the valiant interception mission against the Furious Abyss, the massive Battleship of the traitorous Word Bearers Traitor Legion, and though he died valiantly, he ensured the vessel's destruction before it could play a role in the Battle of Calth.
The Furious Abyss
During the latter days of the Great Crusade the Fabricator-General of Mars, Kelbor-Hal, had already thrown in his lot with the Traitor Warmaster Horus and committed to his cause. He had been tasked with the construction of a mighty vessel of unique design, an Abyss-class Battleship, built on a scale never before seen by Man. Kelbor-Hal had allowed the commissioning of vast quantities of material, menials and munitions in the construction of the mighty Battleship because it suited his purposes. Horus had unfettered Mars in its pursuit of the divine machine, countermanding the Emperor’s restrictions on what technologies the Mechanicum could research and develop. For Kelbor-Hal the question of his allegiance and that of the Mechanicum was one of logic, and had required mere nanoseconds of computation. This gargantuan Battleship was christened by the Word Bearers Legion as the Furious Abyss. The ship was commanded by Fleet-Captain Zadkiel, a devout and zealous Astartes and a deep believer in the Word of Lorgar. He was charged by the Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron to lead the assault upon the world of Macragge, where they would strike the first blow against the hated Imperium of Man.
Striking A Blow For Horus
Fleet-Captain Zadkiel had been tasked by Kor Phaeron himself to take the Furious Abyss to the Realm of Ultramar's capital world of Macragge and destroy it in an attempt to create as much havoc and destruction amongst the ranks of the XIIIth Legion as was possible. During its maiden flight, the Battleship encountered an Ultramarines' Lunar-class Cruiser, the Fist of Macragge, which was en route to the Legion's muster at Calth for the upcoming campaign against the Orks of the Veridian System. The Fist was to make a short detour to the Vangelis spaceport to take on some more Battle-Brothers stationed there and the campaign to liberate Veridian would then begin in earnest. The Furious Abyss approached its prey, undetected and unsuspected. As the Imperial vessel finally raised alarms at the massive Traitor warship's approach, points of intense red light flared in unison down the Furious Abyss ' port side as it turned to show the Fist of Macragge its broadside. The terrible vessel that had somehow foiled all of the Fist of Macragge 's sensors, even its astropathic warning systems, fired. The captain of The Fist knew that his vessel was doomed, and sent a desperate astropathic message to the Vangelis spaceport -- warning them of the coming of the Furious Abyss.
A Deadly Warning
The Vangelis spaceport was a vast orbital station built into a large moon and based around several hexagonal blisters into which docks, communion temples and muster halls were housed. The bustling spaceport was crammed with traders, naval crewmen and mechwrights. A large proportion of its area had been given over to the Astartes of the Legions. Vangelis was a galactic waymarker and small numbers of Astartes involved in more discreet missions used it as a gathering point. Once their objective was completed, they would congregate at one of the many muster halls designated for their specific Legion and await pick-up by their warships or other transports. Though little more than a company from any given Legion would be expecting transit at any one time, Sectors Kappa through Theta of the spaceport were at the complete disposal of the Legions. Few non-Astartes were ever seen there, barring ubiquitous Legion Serfs and attendants, though occasionally Remembrancers would be granted brief access in concordance with the Emperor's directive that the Astartes were to maintain good relations with the human populace.
Ultramarines Captain Lysimachus Cestus and nine of his Battle-Brothers had been on Vangelis for over a month. They had been acting as an honour guard for an Imperial dignitary at nearby Ithilrium and were consequently separated from the rest of their Legion. Their sabbatical had passed slowly for Cestus. The fact that The Fist of Macragge was in transit to extract them from Vangelis and ferry him and his brothers to Ultramar and their Primarch Roboute Guilliman and Legion filled Cestus with relief. He longed to embark on the Great Crusade again, to be out on the battlefields of a heathen galaxy, bringing order and solidity. Word had reached them that the Warmaster Horus had already departed for the planet of Istvaan III to quell a rebellion in that star system against the Imperium. Cestus was envious of his Legion brothers, the Death Guard, Emperor's Children and World Eaters who were en route with the Warmaster.
But Cestus would not be reuniting with his Legion. He soon learned of the destruction of The Fist of Macragge through an astropathic psychic death-scream received by the station's Astropaths as well as experiencing, what he believed to be a vision of Macragge. Cestus gathered the nine Battle-Brothers under his command and also acquired additional Astartes support from the Wolf Guard Brynngar Sturmdreng and his Space Wolves and Captain Skraal and his World Eaters, who also happened to be in transition at the Vangelis spaceport. Skraal led 20 World Eaters on the Wrathful and Cestus was determined to make the best use of them. Brynngar had brought the same number of Space Wolf Blood Claws, and while they were raucous and pugnacious, especially when forced into idleness in the confines of the spaceport, they did not harbour the same homicidal bent as the bloody sons of Angron. With 50 Astartes and the vessels of their makeshift fleet at his command, Cestus hoped it would be enough for whatever lay in store.
Captain Cestus also took the initiative and assembled a formidable interdiction fleet from the resources available at Vangelis spaceport and quickly departed in search of any trace of The Fist of Macragge or its killer. Necessity had forced Cestus's hand, and whether he liked it or not, this is what he had been dealt. As Fleet Commander of the Ultramarines 7th Chapter, Cestus was able to use his credentials to requisition elements of the nearby Saturnine Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Kaminska, which included the Imperial warships Boundless, Fearless, Ferocious, Ferox, Fireblade and Wrathful. Cestus was also soon contacted by a Thousand Sons' vessel called Waning Moon, commanded by Fleet Captain Mhotep, who also wished to volunteer his services, though he had no squads of Thousand Sons Legionaries, just cohorts of naval armsmen at his command.
On the Trail of the Furious Abyss
The small Imperial fleet emerged from the Warp in the region of realspace indicated by the co-ordinates provided by Captain Cestus, the supposed site of the destruction of The Fist of Macragge, in short order. They found no sign of the Ultramarines vessel. There was merely a faint energy trace that matched The Fist of Macragge's engine signature. Read Admiral Kaminska's Navigator was able to detect the last vestiges of plasma engine discharge that lingered. Whatever starship had left this wake was clearly gargantuan in size. TheLoyalist fleet followed this energy trail onwards. The Furious Abyss quickly discovered the small fleet pursuing its wake. Within a short period of time, the Loyalist warships made visual contact with the ship that was responsible for The Fist's destruction. They were shocked to learn that it was an Astartes warship and found it difficult to believe than another Imperial warship would fire on one of its own. The vessel was of Mechanicum design and bedecked in the iconography of the Word Bearers Legion.
Cestus was reluctant to attack the vessel, feeling that despite what had occurred the Word Bearers were still considered his Legion brothers. He felt that perhaps they could account for their actions. Cestus ordered his vessel to draw close enough to the Furious Abyss to hail the great vessel and demand to know their business, for the Ultramarines' Captain would not commit his ships to a fight with other Space Marines over nothing. The massive vessel refused to answer the Loyalists' hails. Cestus ordered one of his frigates, the Fearless, to make an approach. Captain Mhotep offered to follow in the Waning Moon, for he had a regiment of Prosperine Spireguard troops standing by to board. The Word Bearers were his brothers; he could not fathom that they had something to do with the destruction of The Fist of Macragge. Such a betrayal was unconscionable and unthinkable.
A Line is Drawn
The Furious Abyss maintained its silent vigil. Its crew identified one of the Loyalist vessels as belonging to Magnus the Red's bloodline. Zadkiel ordered a secure channel be opened to the Waning Moon. The Word Bearer demanded to know what this display of force was all about. Mhotep demanded to know in turn what the Word Bearers knew about the fate of The Fist of Macragge. Zadkiel feigned ignorance, and left the Thousand Sons commander with a dire warning: great deeds were unfolding, lines were being drawn. Flame and retribution was coming, and those who were on the wrong side of that line would be burned to ash. Zadkiel attempted to persuade Mhotep to his cause, but the Thousand Sons commander was unmoved by his entreaties. Mhotep informed the Word Bearers Fleet-Captain that his Battleship was to be boarded by the Loyalists. Having received his answer, Zadkiel ordered the Furious Abyss to fire a spread of torpedoes. They flew from the Furious Abyss towards the Waning Moon, which had positioned itself before the massive warship's prow. Starboard, a bank of laser batteries lit up at once, and beams of crimson light stabbed into the void. They struck the Fearless and the frigate was broken apart in a bright and silent flurry of blossoming explosions.
In the subsequent battle that followed, Cestus' fleet was massacred by the giant Battleship. The Loyalists took disastrous losses: the Fearless and Waning Moon, Ferox, Ferocious and the Boundless were all left as rotting carcasses in the void. Cestus was shocked to his core. The Word Bearers had turned on their own. He had once admonished his brothers for even voicing mild dissent against a fellow Legionairy, and now, here they were at war against other Astartes. Cestus wondered how far such treachery went and whether it was confined merely to this single warship or now permeate the entire XVII Legion. Surely, with the vessel crafted by the Mechanicum, it had the sanction of Mars. Cestus wondered if even the Mechanicum were aware of the Word Bearers' betrayal of the Emperor. Such a thing could not be countenanced. With these questions running through his mind like a fever, Cestus found himself having difficulty actually believing what was happening.
Satisfied with the destruction they had wrought, the Word Bearers aboard the Furious Abyss no longer wished to tarry and instead entered the Warp to continue on to Macragge. As it did so, it deployed a Psionic Mine into the Empyrean in order to disrupt the ability of a Navigator on any pursuing vessel to lead his starship through the Warp. Cestus and his remaining Loyalist vessels gave chase anyway, entering the Empyrean to follow the Word Bearer vessel as best they could. Though Cestus had countenanced returning to Terra to bring warning of the Word Bearers' betrayal, the Ultramarines Captain had decided against this course of action. They would pursue the Traitors and confront them when the time was right. They were now at war with their brothers, and they must prosecute the fight with all the strength and conviction that they would bring against any foe of Mankind. They would do so in the name of the Emperor, as always.
Loyalists Plan their Revenge
Cestus and his fellow Astartes Captains debated on their next course of action to take. The only thing they knew thus far was that the Astartes aboard the massive Battleship had turned Traitor. What that meant for the rest of the XVIIth Legion, they did not know. Certainly, the Mechanicum had built the vessel and that raised further questions about the nature of its construction. The fact its existence had been kept secret from the Imperium suggested complicity on their part, at least to some degree. Something was deeply wrong. It was Cestus' belief that the Word Bearers were allied against the Ultramarines Legion at the very least, and, in so doing, against the Emperor as well. The Word Bearers must have had supporters in the Mechanicum. There was no other way such a vessel could have been manufactured with no one in the Imperial high command knowing of its existence. What the Word Bearers had committed was an outright act of war against the Imperium of Man, but it smacked of something more. Though they had their differences, the Astartes sons of the Emperor were all siblings after a fashion. They would fight and die together against a common enemy. The Word Bearers were now just such a foe. The Loyalists finally determined that they had to find a way to disable the Furious Abyss. Attack it when it was vulnerable. The ad hoc force of Loyalist Astartes agreed that their common enemy in the Word Bearers were their brothers no longer. The Traitors would be destroyed for their treachery, but not before the Loyalists discovered how deep this conspiracy against the Imperium went. Horus needed to know of the enemies arrayed against him. The remaining Loyalist vessels would follow the Furious Abyss and await their chance to strike once more.
Into the Belly of the Beast
The Loyalists soon discovered a moment of opportunity. The Furious Abyss had laid anchor in the Bakka System at Bakka Triumverion's fourteenth moon where there was an orbital dock. Captain Skraal and his World Eaters took the lead in a daring assault mission upon Bakka Triumveron 14. Two flanks branched out from the central avenue of the dock and these channels would be taken by the Space Wolf Blood Claws, led by Brynngar, and a second group of World Eaters led by the only Ultramarine, Antiges, in the raiding party. They had to make the most of the Furious Abyss' current disposition, acting in subterfuge and in secret. The assault force was to infiltrate Bakka Triumveron 14 in three teams in a classic feint and strike manoeuvre in order to get close enough to scupper the massive warship at close-range.
The assault boats managed to dock quickly and without incident. But as they approached their target, the sons of Angron found it increasingly difficult to keep their berserker fury in check. Though the orders of the Ultramarine, Antiges, had forbidden it, Skraal encouraged his warriors to kill any they met as they converged on the Furious Abyss. A spate of bloodletting would sharpen the senses for the battle to come. The only directive was to leave none alive to tell or warn others of their approach. The World Eaters pursued this duty with brutal efficiency and a trail of corpses belonging to the dock's harmless menials littered the ground between the assault-boat insertion point and the World Eaters' advancing position. Such reckless slaying had not, however, gone unnoticed. The Word Bearers realised that they were no longer alone on Bakka Triumverion 14.
The Word Bearers ambushed the Loyalists and quickly overwhelmed them in the slaughter that followed. Brynngar witnessed Skraal and Antiges advancing towards the Furious Abyss with a small combat squad of World Eaters, scattering crewmen from the Battleship as they went. Together with the Ultramarine, Antiges, and three of his Battle-Brothers, the World Eaters captain gained access to the Furious Abyss, entering into the belly of the warship through one of the embarkation ports and heading down into its bowels. The Loyalists' progress deeper into the ship was arrested when the onboard patrols of armsmen and Word Bearers Astartes caught up with them. Skraal alone survived the disastrous mission and remained a stowaway aboard the Furious Abyss. Skraal avoided all attempts to capture or kill him, as well as resisting being suborned by the baleful words of Zadkiel into joining the Traitors' cause. Skraal survived alone and on the run inside the giant vessel for several weeks until he was able to link up with his fellow Loyalists during a second boarding action.
Destruction of the Furious Abyss
Cestus and his remaining Loyalist vessels hid behind the bulk of Bakka Triumveron to keep the Furious Abyss from sending torpedoes after them. Tracking the Word Bearers' vessel, they headed on course for a Warp jump vector intended to take the Traitors on to Macragge. Cestus finally devised the truth of the Furious Abyss ' plans to assault the Ultramarines' homeworld once he saw the intended destination of the massive Battleship. Once in the Macragge System, the Furious Abyss intended to attack Formaska, a dead moon. A direct assault against Macragge would be suicide. But the debris from Formaska's destruction would achieve their ends indirectly. The XIIIth Legion would divert forces from the muster point on Calth to the aid of Macragge and would become caught in the subsequent asteroid storm of the moon's demise once they translated into the Macragge System from the Warp. The Word Bearers would then be able to strike the Ultramarines fleet as it was divided and damaged by the astroid assault, allowing the Traitors to take them utterly by surprise. This assault would not destroy Macragge outright, but it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians and eradicate a good portion of the Ultramarines Legion's strength. The Furious Abyss would then use the debris like a shield, allowing it to get past the warning stations and satellites around Macragge and draw close enough to unleash a viral payload on the world's inhabitants. The juggernaut vessel would be powerful enough to weather the inevitable storm of fire from Macragge's defence lasers. The death toll from the viral strike would be near-total, wiping out the population of the Ultramarines' homeworld, the jewel in the crown of their Realm of Ultramar. Guilliman and the Ultramarines Legion would be divided, some of their forces probably destroyed on Macragge, when the remainder of the Word Bearers' fleet, commanded by Kor Phaeron, would strike at Calth. It would be doubtful if the XIIIth Legion would ever recover its strength should the Word Bearers' plot succeed. Cestus determined that the Furious Abyss had to be stopped at all costs.
The Wrathful limped from the Warp and went immediately to battle stations. Beams of azure light lit up all the way down the Wrathful's flank, and in seconds the blazing fury of her Lances was unleashed. Explosions rippled down the armoured hull of the Furious Abyss, together with the immense blast flares of Void Shield impacts. These wounds were a mere sting to a beast as massive as the Abyss-class Battleship, and the Word Bearers vessel responded with a devastating salvo of its own. As the crimson rays of the Furious Abyss ' broadside cannons bloomed, the Wrathful was already moving, trying to bring the enemy vessel’s prow abeam of its Lances. The shields of the Loyalist warship disintegrated under the Traitor Battleship's assault and the aft decks were raked by deadly fire, explosive impacts sending out chunks of debris and spilling swathes of crew into the freezing black of the void. Still, the Wrathful endured, its last ditch manoeuvre bringing it away from the deadly barrage. With Cestus leading the assault himself, boarding torpedoes soared from the Loyalist vessel’s prow, followed by a second volley from the Lances. The Wrathful endured, despite the brutal barrage it sustained from the Furious Abyss, which allowed the Loyalists' boarding torpedoes to reach the massive vessel. The Furious Abyss turned its full armament against the Loyalist aggressor. The damage sustained by the Wrathful had slowed it, but even then it could have fled if its crew had so desired. Instead, the Loyalist vessel stood its ground, making a defiant last stand. Lances flashing, the Wrathful poured everything it had left at the Word Bearers Battleship. Sadly, it was not enough. The Furious Abyss turned, and unleashed the hell of its own broadside.
Cestus linked up with Skraal within the bowels of the Traitor Battleship and led the desperate boarding action which would ultimately prove successful in eliminating the threat of the Furious Abyss. Cestus, Brynngar and Skraal managed to sabotage the Furious Abyss' plasma generatorium, beginning a chain-reaction that would result in the destruction of the massive vessel. As the massive Dreadnought began to explode around them, Cestus finally confronted the Word Bearers Captain Zadkiel, who was attempting to flee, and managed to kill him, though he sustained mortal wounds himself. As Cestus lay dying, his world quickly turned to fire around him as he fell bodily beside the corpse of Zadkiel. The Furious Abyss was all but destroyed, as was the Traitors' plan to cripple the Ultramarines Legion and destroy Macragge. That thought gave Cestus some solace in the moments before he died, as he thought of Macragge and its glory. His duty done, he was content, as the sweet release of death overcame him. The massive explosion of the Furious Abyss served as his funeral pyre.
Honour Guard Cestus
The following represents the roster of the Ultramarines who comprised what was known as Honour Guard Cestus:
- Lysimachus Cestus: - Honour Guard Commander, Fleet Commander and Captain. Died of wounds inflicted aboard the Furious Abyss.
- Amryx: Amryx was an Ultramarine wounded during a daemonic incursion aboard the Wrathful. He was killed whilst attempting a boarding action on the Furious Abyss.
- Antiges: Second-in-command and friend to Cestus for over 20 Terran years. Killed in action whilst attempting to sabotage the Furious Abyss.
- Excelinor: Killed in action whilst attempting to sabotage the Furious Abyss.
- Laeradis: Laeradis was an Ultramarine Apothecary who was slain during a daemonic incursion aboard the Wrathful.
- Lexinal: Killed in action whilst attempting to sabotage the Furious Abyss.
- Morar: Armed with a Flamer. Killed during a daemonic incursion aboard the Wrathful.
- Pytaron: Armed with a Plasma Gun. Killed in action whilst attempting to sabotage the Furious Abyss.
- Saphrax: Saphrax was an Ultramarines Standard Bearer. He was renowned for being particularly hidebound by rules, to the point where his fellows quipped that he always appeared to be standaing at attention, no matter the situation. Practical and somewhat dour, he was considered the third element in the command trio of Honour Guard Cestus. he was killed whilst attempting a boarding action on the Furious Abyss.
- Thestor: Thestor was armed with a Heavy Bolter. Unusually large even for an Astartes, he expressed disdain towards the World Eaters Legion. He was slain during a daemonic incursion aboard the Wrathful.
- Battle for the Abyss (Novel) by Ben Counter