Marius Gage, known as the "First Master," was the Terran-born First Chapter Master of the Ultramarines Legion's elite 1st Chapter, the Master Primus of the XIIIth Legion and the Equerry to Primarch Roboute Guilliman during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia. Gage was among the first group of recruits to be taken into the XIIIth Legion on Terra.
Marius Gage's origins lie at the closing years of the Unification Wars on Terra. He was a part of the nascent XIIIth Legion's "Alpha" intake -- the test bed raising of several thousand warriors by which its gene-seed's stability and adaptability was judged -- was passed firmly within acceptable parameters. Soon, the XIIIth Legion, known as the "the War-born" to those whom they served alongside, quickly proved their worth. The XIIIth Legion took part in the earliest phases of the Great Crusade, including the liberation of the Segmentum Solar. During this period the XIIIth, then around 8,000 strong, began to make its mark by taking part alongside other Legions under the Emperor's direct generalship, gaining renown in notable campaigns such as the Liberation of Diurnus and the destruction of the Scorvidian xeno-empire, as well as amassing a string of successful Compliance actions in solo operations on planets such as Lorin Sigma, Sekel's Landing and Ne'deble.
The Osiris Rebellion
By the third decade of the Great Crusade, the XIIIth Legion had begun to develop a distinct character of their own. By the year 833.M30, the XIIIth Legion had increased in number to an active force of around 33,000 Space Marines, whose primary battle group now consisted of the autonomous 12th Expeditionary Fleet. Such was the size, self-sufficiency and stability of the XIIIth Legion that the 12th Expeditionary Fleet was entrusted with the task of exploring the extent of the inner galactic disc and its densely packed star systems coreward of Terra. This was why when a secession crisis unexpectedly flared up close to the capitoline systems of the Segmentum Solar itself, the XIIIth Legion was the closest available Legion and the swiftest to respond.
The Osiris Cluster, a grouping of eleven star systems making up the inner portion of the Segmentum Solar's second quadrant, had suddenly and without warning declared secession from the Imperium. Chartist merchant vessels had been seized, Imperialis Armada naval patrol squadrons fired upon and driven off by system defence ships, and agents of Imperial authority rendered silent and assumed dead. The inhabited worlds of the Osiris Cluster, many technologically advanced at contact, had originally come into Compliance during the Great Crusade's eighth year in relatively bloodless order. It had been viewed as a highly successful campaign in which the XIIIth themselves had a hand. That the Osiris Cluster had now fallen into open rebellion was deemed an affront to the Legion's honour by its Lord Commander, Gren Vosotho, and the master of the XIIIth had vowed to bring the matter to a resolution as swiftly and emphatically as possible. Vosotho, acting on initial intelligence reports, ordered the warships of the 12th Expeditionary Fleet to proceed directly to the halo world of Septus XII, leaving behind the fleet's support elements, lumbering transports and forge ships guarded by its slower combat vessels. The target of this rapid strike force was to be the atmospherically-sealed hive city of Cabasset, located on the night-side of Septus XII, and the economic and political capital of the Osiris Cluster. A strike there before the rebels had time to consolidate their forces, Vosotho reasoned, might end the rebellion in a single, bloody stroke.
Close support fire from the XIIIth Legion's flagship, Sethaln's Thunder, opened up great rents in Hive Cabasset's protective outer shell into which Vosotho personally led his Legion's Stormbirds to the attack. Resistance was immediately far heavier than expected as the landing force became swiftly bogged down in human attack waves made up of at first hundreds and soon thousands of dead-eyed civilians crudely stitched into makeshift pressure suits and armed with improvised weapons of every sort, not least among them explosive mining charges converted to suicide devices. The XIIIth quickly modified their tactics to inflict maximum attrition but, heedless of casualties, the tide of bodies pressed on in cold silence and it was quickly apparent that this was no mere rebellion and no ordinary enemy. Unwilling to allow his attack to be stalled and his invasion force surrounded, Vosotho called down reinforcements and ordered his attacking squads to press on, relying on speed and co-ordination, as well as the superiority of his Space Marines in close quarters, to carry the battle. But unknown to Vosotho, the Legiones Astartes were being led into a cunningly laid trap. As the XIIIth Legion pressed their attack deep into the main hive city, a xenos fleet of unknown type and origin, comprising five vast hour-glass shaped vessels whose structure turned and rotated ceaselessly like clockwork, appeared with great speed from within the fiery corona of Septus' giant star. Realising the disaster that was about to unfold, Vosotho called a general retreat from the surface, but as his forces battled to return to their gunships and transports, the assault on the Space Marines intensified as the nature of the attacks began to change.
While the waiting Stormbirds fell under concerted all-out attack in an attempt to cripple or destroy them, fresh mobs of grasping civilians poured from side-junctures and corridors, their intention not to kill but to overwhelm and pinion individual Legiones Astartes, drowning them in their mass of bodies, heedless of the cost in life. Above them in the void, the two fleets clashed. The great hourglass craft, each easily out-massing the gargantuan Sethaln's Thunder, lashed out with blazing whips of elemental particles, scorching and burning the Imperial warships and engulfing any fighter squadrons or torpedo salvos that came close in collapsing gravitational singularities, annihilating them utterly. The 12th Expeditionary Fleet was overmatched but fought on valiantly, causing one of the titanic xenos craft to fall back, strangely-coloured vapours bleeding luminously from its rent hull, but at the cost of a dozen of its own number, while the Sethaln's Thunder, at that point a burning wreck, tumbled out of control through the line of battle.
It was then that fearful figures, aglow from within with sickly light, began to materialise among the attackers both on their surface and to teleport directly onto the warring Imperial vessels. Wearing baroque bio-mechanical containment suits, the ghoulish shapes of glowing mists used gauntlets that spat ethereal fire and their alien wills reached out to crush the minds of those who resisted them. Vosotho's final command was for the fleet to withdraw with as many of the XIIIth Legion that could be recovered, but withdraw it must. A new enemy of the Imperium had been met, and word of it must reach Terra at any cost. Vosotho committed his life to the command of the rearguard on the surface, taking penance for his error, and his last act was to transfer Legion command to the most senior surviving commander present in orbit, Marius Gage. It was a testament to Gage's swift thinking and tactical acumen that he was able to hold off the enemy vessels until every surviving Stormbird from the ground assault had departed the planet, fighting a swirling three-dimensional battle of thrust, counter-thrust and retreat which held the enemy titan-ships at bay until the 12th Expeditionary Fleet had fought its way clear.
Ultimately, what could have been a disaster had been fought into a mere defeat, and when all was afterwards measured, the XIIIth Legion had suffered a little over 6,500 Space Marines lost, the largest tally of any single battle in the XIIIth's history. Although this was approximately a fifth of its fighting strength in terms of Legiones Astartes, the lost counted among them much of the elite of the Legion, many of them Terran veterans from its founding and its Lord Commander Gren Vosotho with them. Its fleet had also suffered severely, with a quarter of its warships lost or irrevocably damaged, not least of all its flagship. Just as bitter a blow was to the Legion's pride and honour at the defeat to which their overconfidence had led them. They hungered for vengeance but even this was denied them. When the XIIIth Legion returned to the now quarantined and blockaded Osiris Cluster a little under a standard year later with a force heavily augmented from the Solar Armada, elements of the XVIIIth Legion and specialist anti-psyker cadres from Terra, of the xenoforms the Officio Biologis had designated with the cognomen of "Osiran Psybrid", they instead found worlds either left as wastelands of the unburied dead or locked in turmoil and civil strife. But of the architects of these atrocities they found no sign.
In the wake of the short campaign, empty of glory, which brought the remains of the Osiris Cluster back under the Imperium's control for repopulation, the XIIIth swore a blood oath for vengeance against the xenos wherever and whenever they might appear again. The Legion, now under Marius Gage's stewardship, reorganised and sought to quickly replenish its numbers and supplies, and afterwards redoubled its effort in the Great Crusade's service, as if trying with each fresh victory to prove that the defeat at Septus had been an aberration never to be repeated, and the name of its lost master and indeed the battle in which he fell became a thing no longer spoken of but which dwelled as a shadow at their shoulders.
Unification of Body and Blood
Barely a year later, the XIIIth Legion had their unification with their long lost Primarch Roboute Guilliman, who assumed command of the XIIIth Legion of Space Marines in short order. It was a development greeted by the XIIIth with great rejoicing and pride in the honour that Roboute Guilliman paid them in accepting their fealty. The oratory and vision with which their new-found Primarch expounded to them his designs for the future and the righteousness of the Great Crusade filled the Legiones Astartes with a renewed vigour and dispelled any shadows of doubt in their minds, and made Guilliman's takeover, according to official records, all but seamless. In recognition of his great deeds and outstanding leadership in the face of insurmountable odds, Marius Gage was named First Chapter Master of the elite 1st Chapter and Master Primus of the newly renamed Ultramarines Legion.
The Debt of Vengeance
Since his takeover of the Legion in the fourth decade of the Great Crusade, Roboute Guilliman had succeeded in transforming the XIIIth into an intricate and highly functioning weapon of war, and in doing so had built upon a track records of success in battle which held very few stains of defeat. For more than a half a century the Legion had gone from strength to strength, waging Compliance actions and liberating worlds for the Imperium across the eastern reaches of the galaxy, and forging the realm of Ultramar in the process. Yet for all this, Roboute Guilliman knew that a shadow of doubt afflicted his Legion's soul. That doubt had its origins in its darkly storied defeat in the Osiris Cluster Rebllion a few short years before the Primarch's reuniting with his Legion. Marius Gage's tenure in command had commenced with this disaster, and it became a baleful influence in the psyche of the Legion, a thing which while left unspoken nevertheless had power, and that even seemed to cast a pall over the Legion's recruits unborn when the battle was lost. The Primarch knew that the only way to purge his Legion of this shadow of the mind was to find once more the xenos known as the Osirian Psybrids, and with the Ultramarines at his back, destroy them utterly. To this end, ever since he had first reviewed reports of the action when he took over his Legion, Roboute Guilliman had begun planning the Psybrids' destruction.
In the decades as his Legion had gone from Compliance to Compliance, war zone to war zone, the Primarch had never stopped running continued theoretical battle scenarios against the macabre and powerful xenos, knowing that one day they would make their reappearance and that he and his Legion would be waiting. But decades passed and they did not return. Only at Maxilla Veritas near the Maelstrom, twenty-six standard years after the Osiris Rebellion, was the evidence for the Psybrids' involvement considered viable. But by the time fast cruisers from the Ultramarines fleet arrived, the trail was already long cold and the planet's dead bore silent witness to the Psybrids' passing. It was in the closing segments of 899.M30 that conclusive word finally reached the Ultramarines Primarch that the Psybrids had not only been encountered, but met in battle. The Primarch's plan of attack was a shockingly direct one. His fleet didn't pause for a long range bombardment or present a broadside and pound the enemy at close quarters, instead, he ordered his Legion to conduct a full boarding strike without prelude. Guilliman drove the core of his fleet and with it nearly 100,000 Ultramarines into the heart of the enemy.
One by one the towering hourglass vessels of the Osiran Psybrids fell, either torn apart by explosive charges from within, or rent to flinders in the crossfire of the waiting Ultramarines' echelons as they tried to break free. There was no escape. As the Psybrids died, so too did their Ork slave armies still warring on the ground. The blood price of the battle had been high enough, several thousand Legionary casualties, and many among them veterans of his Legion's Terran roots, eager to be the first in battle in order to expunge the failing of the past. But it had been a price willingly paid for vengeance, and it would be a price and more that the Ultramarines Legion would willingly pay again in the future.
Battle of Calth
Marius Gage was present for the Calth Conjunction in 006.M31, the great muster of both the XIIIth and XVIIth Legions. The Ultramarines and Word Bearers were ordered to muster at the orbital shipyards of Calth in order to carry out a joint xenocide campaign against the threat that stemmed from the Orks of the Ghaslakh Empire. But this was merely a pretense, as the XVIIth Legion's true goal was to strike a blow for Horus -- launching a surprise attack on the Ultramarines -- catching them completely unaware while the Word Bearers would use the advantage of surprise to completely annihilate their hated rivals. The assault at Calth would also allow the Word Bearers to reveal that they, too, now served Ruinous Powers. Calth was not chosen as the site of the confrontation between the Word Bearers and the Ultramarines by chance, for the Word Bearers intended to destroy one of the jewels in the Ultramarines' realm of Ultramar (then known as the Ultramar Coalition), just as the XIIIth Legion had destroyed one of the Word Bearers' greatest achievements, the sacred city of Monarchia on the world of Khur, four decades earlier.
Marius Gage was present aboard the Ultramarines' new flagship, Macragge's Honour, when the captured tender, Campanile, was sent careening into the Calth Verdian Anchor, leaving a path of utter destruction in its wake. The shockwave left in the Campanile's wake knocked out the flagship's systems leaving her temporarily blind. In Chapter Master Gage's haste, he simply forgot to open the blast shutters which had automatically closed, blocking the bridge viewports. Once they were reopened, Gage was in shock as he witnessed the absolute devastation amongst the XIIIth Legion's fleet. When vox communications were finally restored, it was readily apparent that the Word Bearers had fired upon some of the Ultramarines' vessels. Upon witnessing the Word Bearers' attack, Roboute Guilliman and his officers concluded that the sons of Lorgar had made some tragic mistake. Some reached the conclusion that the Word Bearers had misconstrued the death of Calth Veridian Anchor as an enemy assault and were firing blindly, their systems or their wits so blasted by the calamity that they were unable to tell friend from foe. Others concluded that the Word Bearers feared that the Ultramarines had taken it upon themselves to censure them again in a repetition of Monarchia, that if the Word Bearers' worst unspoken fears had been confirmed, they saw no alternative but to fight for their very lives. The tortured vox channels were choked with attempts to contact the Word Bearers and restore sanity, but even those few vessels whose hailing systems were functioning were unsuccessful -- the Word Bearers would not, or could not, answer.
From the first moment of disaster, the bridge crew of the Ultramarines flagship, Macragge's Honour, had fought valiantly to restore vox capability and establish contact with the Word Bearers. Now, contact was made, albeit limited to a grainy, flickering holo projection and sibilant audio transmission laced with static and feedback. Guilliman demanded his brother stand his fleet down, swearing to Lorgar that the Ultramarines had played no part in whatever disaster had visited Calth. Lorgar had no interest in conversing with his brother and instead spat a bitter curse before terminating the link. In that moment Guilliman saw that what was unfolding could be no accident. With his fleet burning and the Word Bearers crippling or destroying ever more of his vessels with each passing minute, the Primarch of the Ultramarines gave an order he had never imagined he would have cause to speak. With bitter resolve, Roboute Guilliman ordered his sons to defend themselves, authorising measures up to and including return of weapons fire, thus beginning the Mark of Calth. Beginning at Mark Zero, this was the official time index for the progress of a battle that commenced at the outset of any engagement, thus, marking the official beginning of the Battle of Calth.
The Honour of Macragge
Two hours into the orbital battle, the Master of Vox of the Ultramarines flagship reported to Roboute Guilliman that the Word Bearers flagship, the Fidelitas Lex, had opened a lithocast-hailing channel. The Primarch of the Ultramarines stepped onto the holocaster platform at the centre of his bridge as the hooded figure of his brother Primarch Lorgar manifested before him in grainy hard-light. For perhaps the first time in his life, the famously measured Guilliman was lost to fury. He raged at his brother for his betrayal and swore to exact merciless vengeance. Guilliman denounced Lorgar's very sanity and swore that he and all his sons would be punished. More shocking than Lorgar's manner, however, were the words he now spoke to Guilliman. With scornful derision, he informed the Lord of Ultramar that, contrary to Guilliman's assumptions, Lorgar's treachery was not vengeance for Monarchia and neither was it an isolated event. Rather, it was part of a long-planned scheme of impossible scope and ambition, and that no less than half of their brother Primarchs were complicit in it, including the greatest of their number, Horus. Three of their brother Primarchs, Lorgar claimed, were in fact already dead, a claim that history would reveal as erroneous, yet which he himself had every cause to make at that time. Guilliman was rendered speechless by the staggering hubris evident in Lorgar's words, yet he knew his brother spoke the truth, unpalatable as it may be. In that moment, he swore anew to end his brother's betrayal, even if it was the final act in his long and loyal service. Even if it was revealed as utterly contrary to sound tactics and sane strategy, Guilliman's sole intent at that moment was to hunt Lorgar down and slay his brother by his own hand.
But it was not to be. Lorgar's hard-light avatar suddenly twisted, mutating into a monster torn from nightmare or the imagination of a madman. Guilliman ordered the hololith link terminated in disgust at what he dismissed as grotesque theatricality. Only then did it become evident that the hololithic signal lock had already been cut. The thing of eyes, teeth, tentacles, scales and unreal flesh standing in the centre of the bridge of the Macragge's Honour had transubstantiated from hololithic hard-light to corporeal flesh and the abomination was revealed to the horrified bridge crew and the enraged Primarch as all too real.
An instant later, the entire bridge erupted in an explosion of phantasmagoric viscera, blowing out its armoured viewing dome and blasting its occupants into the void. At a stroke, the Ultramarines were bereft of their beloved Primarch and their beleaguered fleet had lost its flagship. What occurred next had no known precedent in the annals of the Great Crusade, for while the scions of the great Navigator Houses of Terra had some inkling of what lurked beyond, such knowledge was denied to all others, even the Legiones Astartes. The thing that had manifested on the bridge had exploded in a fountain of gore and the force of the detonation had breached the hull. The Primarch, who had been standing at the very eye of the storm, had been blown upwards and outwards through the breach in an instant, the writhing remains of the monster into which Lorgar's lithic avatar had transformed snaring his mighty form in a thrashing mass of spiralling pseudopods and motile shadow.
The bridge crew were given no opportunity to save the Primarch, or even in most cases themselves. A dozen senior officers were swept up in the maelstrom of blood, debris and howling air, and blasted into the void in Guilliman's wake, vacuum snatching the screams from their throats. Shipmaster Zedoff, the veteran captain of the Macragge's Honour, was eviscerated by shards of armoured glass, his shredded body dragged from his command throne in a storm of ruined flesh. Even Space Marines had little chance of escaping the chaos, Chapter Master Vared casting away all void-breach protocol as he was witnessed attempting to aid his Primarch by launching himself upwards into the slipstream of blood and wreckage. He was never seen again. The First Chapter Master, Marius Gage, had been able to grasp hold of a railing at the moment of the breach and pulled himself along the tortured bridge towards the main portal, which was sealing off against the void even as he struggled towards it. Metres from the armoured hatch, Gage came across the grievously wounded Chapter Master Banzor and pulled his fellow Legion officer through the portal as the blast doors lowered. Banzor died soon after, but Gage had no chance to mourn him for the destruction on the bridge was but one torment being visited upon the Macragge's Honour. The entire conning tower was disintegrating around him and deafening howls of bestial insanity were flooding the corridors, accompanied by the screeching of tortured metal, the roar of escaping atmosphere and the wet screams of crew being slaughtered.
Those few who survived the destruction on the bridge, almost exclusively Legiones Astartes, for mortal flesh was too fragile to withstand such hurts, were forced to flee downwards, pursued all the while by death as, deck by deck, the conning tower crumbled into the void. If any expected respite upon reaching the main body of the vessel, they were to be disappointed. The barrel-vaulted companionway which passed along the uppermost decks of the Macragge's Honour presented a scene ripped bloody and ragged from the worst excesses of Old Night. Crew hands were cut down, blood and severed limbs cast in all directions by things of warp-born shadow and searing empyreal fire. The more experienced warriors knew that catastrophic warp breach could bring on chronic hallucination and mass psychosis, while some were party to the theories that certain anti-life forms were able to exist in the shadowed depths of the Warp itself. But this was no warp breach, for the Macragge's Honour was in realspace.
To the beleaguered defenders, it looked as if the entire ship had been boarded by creatures of no catalogued xeno-type at the very height of the battle the Word Bearers had initiated. Only the superior mental conditioning of the Legiones Astartes could bear such a weight of betrayal and horror, and many of the surviving officers reached the immediate conclusion that their traitorous brother Legion had unleashed some form of xenos-terror organism as yet another weapon in their perfidious arsenal. But the Ultramarines had no chance to mount a coordinated defence of the flagship, for the enemy's numbers were simply too great. Human crew were slaughtered, their minds overcome by primal terror at what they were witnessing. Lithe, horned creatures congealed of the roiling energies of warp space, whose skin glowed like lava and who carried wickedly barbed long swords, butchered those too stunned or too slow to flee. Other incarnated entities included bloated, plague-ridden corpse-things, one-eyed and drooling and using rusted cleavers to hew the helpless crew like meat on a butcher's block. Still others were deceptively mock-human, lithe and fleet of foot, possessed of viciously sharp claws that they used to sever and stab and gut foes who were stood helpless and enraptured at their approach. These and a thousand other insanities descended upon the flagship, until soon even the shattered chain of command that had survived the loss of the bridge was gone. It was as if a scene of ancient, apocalyptic mysticism was playing out, and the Space Marines of the XIIIth Legion were confronted with nightmarish foes against which the laws of reality themselves held no sway. Chaos, bloodshed and anarchy claimed the interior of the Macragge's Honour.
The battle devolved into a bitter struggle for survival as individual warriors were cut off from their fellows and swept into the bowels of the vessel or else overwhelmed and slaughtered out of hand. First Chapter Master Gage and Antoli, so far as each knew the only Legion officers still alive, did what they could to restore sanity, ordering the crew to go to ground, to barricade themselves into whatever compartments they could while any and all Ultramarines, naval armsmen and soldiers of the Imperial Army were to rally together. Even this ostensibly straightforward order was almost impossible to enact. Wave after wave of horror flowed through the entire length of the Macragge's Honour, witnesses later describing how the angles of the bulkheads and the spaces between shadows were seen to wrinkle and fold in upon themselves before snapping taut once more to reveal savage wounds in the very skin of reality. It was through these wounds, which later would be described as "micro-rifts", that the creatures came.
Across the ship, individual Legiones Astartes and naval officers fought bravely to repel the invaders. Falling back on long-established counter-incursion protocols, they ordered what responses they could. Entire sections were purged of breathable atmosphere or flooded with toxic gas, while others were plasma-scoured or subjected to worked. The creatures came on and ever on, impervious to effects that would have scoured the ship of any known life form. Such failures were compounded because the vessel's internal command and control systems had been crippled early in the betrayal, and with so many senior Ultramarines dead and lower tier officers isolated from one another, the same mistakes were made over and over. The Ultramarines' famed ability to analyse any challenge and reason their way to victory broke down entirely, through no fault of their own.
Worse still, the creatures were able to shrug off even the heaviest weight of fire from the Space Marines' bolters and other weapons. They swarmed unharmed through hails of fire to fall upon the defenders with otherworldly savagery. The creatures followed no perceivable strategy or logic, and it was apparent they had no objective but to shed blood. It would later be observed that they appeared more to be culling prey than fighting an opponent in any conventional sense, an observation many others would make before the end.
Order from Chaos
As the Word Bearers breacher squads were to begin their attack on the exterior of the flagship, the balance of the battle for the vessel's interior shifted. Pockets of organised and stoic resistance began to coalesce, individual warriors drawn towards leaders able to command the fight-back by their own heroic example. Of all the tales of courage and honour told of the defence of the Macragge's Honour, one frequently recounted is that of Sergeant Aeonid Thiel of the 135th Company. At the moment of the breaching of the flagship's bridge, Thiel was under censure awaiting a hearing with the Primarch himself in an antechamber lined with dozens of Lord Guilliman's personal weapons. Confronted by the first of the attackers, Thiel had reached for the nearest weapons to hand -- an electromagnetic longsword and a Kehletai friction axe, both impossibly rare and incredibly potent examples of lost weaponsmiths' arts. Wielding the Primarch's exotic weaponry, Thiel fought his way through a horde of foes, quickly discovering that the creatures were significantly more vulnerable to the effects of his axe and sword than they were to those of his bolt pistol. Thiel was gifted with the rare ability to think outside of accepted dogma, indeed, it was this very characteristic that had earned him the mark of censure -- the red-painted battle helm which he wore still. Thiel named the invaders "Daemons", recognising that they were something other than aliens, psychic manifestation or even some unknown xenos strain somehow able to reside within the Warp. He saw that they were creatures from humanity's darkest nightmares in a very literal sense.
As he fought, Thiel came upon other warriors fighting back to back against the waves of attackers. He was soon leading an ad hoc force of several dozen Legionaries, armsmen, Solar Auxilia and even abhuman stokers determined to fight for their flagship. He made brief contact with both Empion and Heutonicus, and between them the three were able to coordinate an advance across several decks that would see them converge in the proximity of the conning tower, or what remained of it. It was near this location that Thiel encountered the severely wounded First Chapter Master Gage, saving the senior Legion officer from certain death at the hands of a warp-born horror that had already severed his right arm.
Still fighting off the blood-taint of a warp entity's venom, Gage saw straight away that Thiel's methods were working and should be disseminated throughout the whole force. The First Chapter Master agreed with Thiel's observation that the creatures were more susceptible to melee weaponry, though he reserved judgement on the sergeant's theory that this weakness was derived from arcane rituals used to summon them in the ancient myths of humanity. Nevertheless, Gage was an experienced officer and wise enough to know that in his wounded state he could not lead the force effectively. Tactical leadership was turned over to Thiel while an apothecary stabilised the First Chapter Master, and soon after, the forces under Thiel, Chapter Master Empion and Captain Heutonicus were combined.
Master and Commander
With the immediate situation stabilising, Gage was able to gather information from scattered Ultramarines forces and formulate a plan to retake control of the Macragge's Honour. The fate of the Primarch remained unknown and few allowed themselves to dwell on it lest they be overcome with grief and lose what edge they might have retained. Rather, the First Chapter Master ordered the force to make for the flagship's auxiliary bridge, located several dozen levels directly below the destroyed conning tower. This plan was in itself insufficient to gain anything more than the most superficial control of the massive vessel; for that, the skills of an experienced shipmaster would be required, and the flagship's captain, Shipmaster Zedoff, had been slain along with the majority of the bridge cadre.
Here, at last, the fates looked kindly upon the Ultramarines. Mere minutes before the loss of the bridge, the Macragge's Honour had recovered a number of salvation craft ejected by the Sanctity of Saramanth earlier in the battle, and amongst the survivors was her captain, Shipmaster Hammed. Gage had no way of knowing if Hammed lived or had been slaughtered along with so many others among the crew, but he knew that in the veteran shipmaster lay the best, perhaps the only hope of regaining control of the beleaguered flagship.
It fell to Sergeant Aeonid Thiel to lead the search for the shipmaster, he and his force making for the primary starboard launch deck while Gage and Empion led the remainder of the force towards the auxiliary bridge. The distance was not great and overall the tide of invaders was mercifully receding. Yet many of the warp entities were the equal of a Space Marine and some were considerably stronger, so that even reaching the launch deck cost the Ultramarines irreplaceable losses. When Thiel reached his destination, he found the deck swarming with the same crimson-skinned, horned creatures that he and his warriors had faced in such large numbers at the beginning of the battle. The horde was converging on a single point, which Thiel realised with horror was that occupied by the survivors of the Sanctity of Saramanth. Shipmaster Hammed had survived the destruction of his vessel and the manifestation of an entire army of warp creatures, yet even as the tides of horror receded, the last of the invaders were descending upon him.
In an instant, Sergeant Thiel saw his chance to rescue Shipmaster Hammed, but he had to act without even a second's delay. He led his force out onto the launch deck, ordering sustained and rapid fire even though he knew the bolts would do little more than distract the fiends. But distraction was exactly what the sergeant intended, for as the horde turned upon this new threat, the creatures' attentions torn from the cornered shipmaster to the attacking Ultramarines, Thiel ordered the loading deck platform upon which Hammed and the other survivors were standing to be lowered. The Ultramarines had to keep the warp entities engaged long enough for the platform to deliver the survivors to safety and so they poured a relentless rain of bolter fire into the horde, all the while taking measured steps backwards towards the deck entrance. At last the shrieking horde closed to within metres of the firing line, and Thiel judged that the shipmaster was safe. With a final step back, the Ultramarines crossed through the hatch and the blast door crashed down. The enraged howls of the warp creatures were as loud as the impacts of their weapons and claws pounding upon the other side of the portal. Shipmaster Hammed was safe.
Servants of the Machine
As Thiel's force extracted Shipmaster Hammed, First Chapter Master Gage, now largely recovered from his injuries thanks to the superhuman physiology of the Legiones Astartes, led his own force towards the auxiliary bridge. The route took the column through an area of the Macragge's Honour that was the exclusive domain of the vessel's Mechanicum contingent; one that had clearly seen heavy fighting already, for the deck was strewn with the severed limbs and cyber-organs of scores of tech-adepts, Skitarii, battle-automata and combat servitors. Gage ordered his squads to slow their advance and to remain vigilant for remnants of the wave of warp fiends that had inflicted the slaughter, as well as any survivors that might be there. It was not long before signs of both were detected.
At the heart of the area was a sacred machine fane dedicated to the Omnissiah. The chamber was counted as the holy of holies by the Tech-priests and the only outsiders normally permitted to enter were Techmarines, members of the Legiones Astartes who had been inducted into certain of the mysteries of the machine. The chamber was sealed by an armoured portal two dozen metres high and from beyond this came weapons fire intermingled with the now all too familiar sounds of attacking creatures from the Warp. Gage saw he had no choice but to violate the sanctity of the machine fane, and while he held to the secular Imperial Truth and had witnessed the worst excesses of heathen religiosity, he was wise enough to respect his allies' beliefs as mighty gears engaged and pistons spat great gouts of vented gas as the brass portal ground inwards to reveal a sight unlike any other the veteran Chapter Master had witnessed.
The interior of the machine fane resembled the inner workings of a great engine, a towering altar dominating the central space. About this was gathered a group of Mechanicum Tech-Priests of various Orders, each unleashing a relentless stream of fire into a circle of lithe Daemons capering about them. The incense and smoke-filled air was ravaged by volkite rays and pulsing waves of focused radiation. The attacking creatures, however, were all but impervious to the effects of weapons that could melt the flesh from the bones of mortal men. They shrieked and cackled mockingly at their touch, darting back and forth to deliver graceful, yet utterly deadly caresses with long, razor-edged claws. When the Ultramarines crossed the threshold into the machine fane, the creatures immediately ceased their tormenting of the adepts and hissed in sibilant challenge to this newly appeared foe.
Where Thiel had ordered his Legionaries to fire upon the entities to distract them, Gage's intent was quite different. With a bellowed order, he called for bolters to be stowed and hand-to-hand weapons to be drawn. Combat blades, chainswords and bayonets were all brought forth and the First Chapter Master brandished the Primarch's own friction axe, which Thiel had passed to him, so that all might see and follow his example. Shouting the war cries of Ultramar, the squads advanced in perfect formation to engage the warp things in the measured fury of hand-to-hand combat. Razor sharp claws lashed from nowhere to lacerate power armour and rend Legiones Astartes flesh, and in a dozen seconds the same number of brave Space Marines fell. But more Legionaries stepped into their place in the line. Face to face, the creatures were revealed as nightmarish mockeries of the human form, their faces both alien and androgynous. They were surrounded by a musk of cloying scent which threatened to overwhelm those battle-brothers dispossessed of their helms with lethargy or delirium.
Following the Ultramarines' example, the tech-adepts cornered at the machine altar cast aside their myriad exotic weapons and took up their ceremonial axes and staves. Blurting binaric war-cant across the chamber, the magos ordered the battle-automata and combat servitors to add their weight to the fight, and soon the tide was turned.
The wicked glee vanished from the warp creatures' leering faces as the realisation of their impending defeat came too late. They were surrounded, the Ultramarines on one side and the Mechanicum on the other as the battle lines pressed ever inwards. A minute later the last of the vile warp-things dissipated to nothing as their phantasmagoric forms were hewn apart by chainswords and pounded into the deck by the massive fists of the Castellax-class Battle Automata.
Having secured the shipmaster and the senior Mechanicum magos, the Ultramarines Legion had won a very real hope of regaining control of the Macragge's Honour. It was not until both Gage's and Thiel's forces at last fought their way through what remained of the warp incursion and rendezvoused at the auxiliary bridge that either knew for certain that the other had succeeded in their mission. It was a tense wait for the first squads to arrive at the muster point, but it was soon apparent that both forces had achieved their equally vital objectives.
Almost exactly ten hours after the main bridge of the Ultramarines flagship had been breached and their beloved Primarch lost, Shipmaster Hommed, with the aid of the two most senior magos rescued from the launch deck, gained control of the vessel. The auxiliary bridge was activated and control of the mighty war ship invested in Shipmaster Hommed. Within minutes, vox systems were re-awakening and contact was established with Ultramarines units on the surface of Calth for the first time since the destruction of Calth Veridian Anchor by the Campanile. These facts might have been cause for celebration in any other circumstance, but with the re-activation of the vessel's communications and augur systems came still more dire realisations. There was still no sign of the Primarch, Legion forces on the surface had been worse than decimated and of the fleet that had gathered in orbit, barely one fifth of the original number of vessels were battle-worthy. Furthermore, only now was the full extent of the boarding action against the Macragge's Honour realised.
Roboute Guilliman, miraculously survived the assault on the flagship's bridge, and was eventually able to lead an assault on master control room of the Zetsun Verid Fleet Yard, regaining control over Calth's orbital defence system. Utilising the orbital platforms, the Ultramarines were able to systematically exact punishment upon the Word Bearers' fleet. It was now the crimson-hulled warships of the XVIIth Legion that were annihilated one by one. The dynamic of the entire battle had finally shifted in the Ultramarines' favour. Their victory had come just in time for them to stare ultimate defeat in the face. Though the Primarch and his Legionaries controlled the orbital defence grid, the Word Bearers had turned its potent weapons upon the Veridian System's sun, destabilising it. The stricken star cast a baleful shadow as it prepared to go supernova, unleashing a cataclysmic stellar explosion that would wipe out all life upon the surface of Calth. Suddenly the Primarch’s attention was diverted when he looked below their position and saw half a dozen surviving Word Bearers carrying the bloody carcass of Kor Phaeron. Somehow, the wretched First Captain of the XVIIth Legion remained alive despite the fact that Guilliman had torn out his primary heart. Drawing their bolters, the Ultramarines fired upon the retreating Word Bearers, just as their forms shimmered and vanished in a cascade of teleporter energy.
Guilliman contacted First Chapter Master Gage aboard the Macragge's Honour, and ordered him to hunt down the Infidus Imperator at all costs. He did not want Kor Phaeron to escape his ultimate fate to plague the Imperium once more. Though worried about his Primarch's well-being, Guilliman informed Gage that they would secure one of the Ultramarines vessels docked at the Zetsun Verid Yard. The Word Bearers Grand Cruiser Infidus Imperator turned slowly in the debris-rich field of Calthian nearspace, as the wreckage of countless starships lay dying in flames behind it. It engaged its main drive and began a long, hard burn towards the outer reaches of the Veridian System. As it accelerated away, the Macragge's Honour turned in pursuit, beginning one of the most infamous naval duels in Imperial history.
Pursuit of the Infidus Imperator
Following the orders of his Primarch, Marius Gage gave immediate pursuit to the Infidus Imperator. While giving chase, three Word Bearers Cruisers turned to intercept the Ultramarines flagship to buy time for the Infidus Imperator to escape. Chapter Master Gage, assisted by Acting Shipmaster Ouon Hommed, opened fire upon the three Cruisers, destroying two of them in the first volley and crippling the third in the second. Kor Phaeron, having survived the confrontation with Guilliman, awoke from his grievous wounds and immediately ordered the Infidus Imperator to come about and face the Ultramarines' flagship. Sensing an opportunity to end the duel, Gage ordered the Ultramarines to prepare boarding parties to capture and destroy the Infidus Imperator from the inside. Leading the assault was Captain Aerion Mersaror and a cadre of Veterans in Cataphractii Pattern Terminator Armour. The two warships met, coming alongside each other. Both vessels unleashed a simultaneous broadside into the other. Gage ordered Boarding Torpedoes fired and docking claws and siege bridges extended, disgorging thousands of Ultramarine Legionaries into the Infidus Imperator.
The Ultramarine assault initially went well, quickly gaining ground aboard the Word Bearers vessel, when a build-up of unknown energy was suddenly detected by the sensorum on the Macragge's Honour's bridge. Seeing Chaos Cultists conlcuding a dark ritual, the Ultramarines realised they had fallen for the Word Bearers' ruse. When the ritual was completed, a large burst of Warp energy wracked both warships, causing severe damage throughout the Macragge's Honour. The ritual also conjured Word Bearers Legionaries and Daemons, which materialised within the bowels of the Macragge's Honour, and caused fighting to break out aboard the Loyalist warship. While leading squads of Ultramarines to repel the boarders, Chapter Master Gage came across a Greater Daemon. Realising that they must purge the flagship of the malefic intruders at all costs, Gage and a squad of Ultramarines charged the Greater Daemon in desperation. While the Ultramarines fought to regain control of their vessel, the Infidus Imperator began to break away, shredding the bridges between the two warships. Once he had regained control of his ship, Gage ordered that power be diverted from both the weapons and Void Shields to the flagship's engines in order to pursue the fleeing Word Bearers vessel. Gage reasoned that the Infidus Imperator had neither the time to calculate a Warp jump nor the required distance from the gravity field of Calth to safely translate into the Immaterium. However, Kor Phaeron had another trick up his sleeve.
Using a Shard of Erebus, Kor Phaeron sliced a hole in realspace in front of the Infidus Imperator, allowing it to unexpectedly enter the Warp by arcane rather than technological means. At the protest of Hommed, Gage ordered pursuit of the Infidus Imperator, throwing caution to the wind. Following in the aetheric wake of the Infidus Imperator, Macragge's Honour translated into the Warp. Having successfully jumped into Warpspace, the Ultramarines quickly made a visual identification of the fleeing Infidus Imperator, despite the Navigator of the Ultramarines vessel proving unable to detect the Traitor warship. Once he realised that the Ultramarines' flagship would be unable to track its quarry if it could not maintain a visual on the Infidus Imperator, Kor Phaeron ordered his ship through a shoal of dead suns to try to lose the pursuing Ultramarines. In the course of it spursuit, the Macragge's Honour was suddenly stopped in its tracks by a collision with a Warp anomaly, which resulted in millions of Warp entities attacking the beleaguered Ultramarines vessel. Quickly realising that the Warp anomalies were penetrating the ship's protective Gellar Field, Gage ordered the Ultramarines to the voidlocks to cleanse the daemonic intruders on the hull.
In the process of clearing the flagship's hull of daemons, Macragge's Honour lost its visual sighting of the Infidus Imperator. Kor Phaeron then launched a vicious counterstrike, which resulted in severe damage to the Macragge's Honour. Gage ordered the Loyalist starship's weapon batteries charged and loaded, and he fired a broad spread to hopefully hit the Word Bearers' ship. However, at the last moment, a contact was detected. Captain Mersaror, having survived the Word Bearers' summoning ritual, activated his homing tracer, providing the Macragge's Honour with a signal that allowed it to finally lock on to the Traitor vessel. Diverting all remaining power to weapons, the Macragge's Honour fired upon the Word Bearers warship, stunning Kor Phaeron and diverting his attack run. In order to ensure that the Infidus Imperator did not survive, Gage ordered a second volley, utterly annihilating the Word Bearers vessel and ending the pursuit. As a result, having suffered tremendous damage during the battle, the Macragge's Honour was left stranded in the Warp. Gage realised that it might take many standard years, even multiple lifetimes, to return to the Realm of Ultramar.
- Artificer Armour
- Iron Halo
- Plasma Pistol
- Bolt Pistol
- Power Sword
- Melta Bombs
- Frag Grenades
- Krak Grenades
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Artbook), pg. 155
- The Horus Heresy - Book Five: Tempest (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 45, 69, 74-75, 81, 91, 96, 98
- The Horus Heresy - Macragge's Honour (Graphic Novel) by Dan Abnett and Neil Roberts
- Know No Fear (Novel) by Dan Abnett, pp. 39-45, 115, 132-136, 160-163, 194-201, 307-314, 323-325, 348-351, 358-360, 367-368, 395-397, 401-402