"To the darkness I bring fire. To the ignorant I bring faith. Those who welcome these gifts may live, but I will visit naught but death and eternal damnation on those who refuse them."
- —Merek Grimaldus, High Chaplain of the Black Templars
During the Battle for Hive Helsreach, Grimaldus led the defence of the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, which had stood since Armageddon's colonisation. The battle became so heated that the building itself collapsed around the combatants.
It was believed that all had perished in the building until Grimaldus, bloody but unbroken, climbed out of the rubble bearing three of the temple's artefacts -- a column from its Major Altar, the Banner of the Emperor Victorious, and holy water from the Stoup of Elucidation.
Those Black Templars Apothecaries who examined him later were amazed that Grimaldus had survived. When the war ended, the citizens of Hive Helsreach honoured him with the title of "Hero of Helsreach" and bowed before his passing.
No battle is so bleak that Grimaldus' appearance cannot turn the tide and rekindle the fire in his brothers' hearts. Then, an enemy who thought the battle won will find himself beset once more, smashed asunder by a tide of zealots whose arms have been lent fresh strength, Grimaldus at their head carving another victory for his Emperor.
"With faith as your shield and righteousness your sword, no enemy of the Emperor can prevail against you."
- — Chaplain Grimaldus
Chaplain Grimaldus is a veteran of a score of successful Black Templars Crusades. His rise through the ranks of the Chapter was meteoric, for he once stood as the youngest Sword Brother in the Chapter's history. He was soon raised from his Marshal's Sword Brethren and inducted into the mysteries of the Reclusiam after the Battle of Fire and Blood.
The Chaplains were impressed by the faith and devotion to the Emperor displayed by the young Grimaldus, for he had the makings of a powerful warrior-priest. As a Chaplain Novitiate he learned under the venerable and stern High Chaplain Mordred. The young Chaplain took his vows before the shattered Sword of Dorn aboard the Black templars' flagship, the Eternal Crusader, and soon justified the Chaplains' faith in him by zealously leading the warriors of the Black Templars in battle. Many times, he suffered grievous wounds in the thickest of the fighting, but always steadfastly refused to succumb.
Unlike many of his brother Chaplains, Grimaldus preferred to inspire his men through deeds rather than through rhetoric. On those rare occasions when Grimaldus spoke, his voice commanded the attention of all around, the rarity of his speech ensuring not a single word went unheard. Grimaldus' oratory cut straight through his brothers' warrior-spirits and it was no surprise that, upon Mordred's death, the High Chaplain named Grimaldus his successor with his final breath.
In 987.M41 the Shadow Wolves' homeworld of Varadon was ravaged by the foul xenos of a Tyranid splinter fleet. The Shadow Wolves attempted to defend their homeworld from the predations of the merciless Great Devourer. Astropathic distress beacons were transmitted through the Warp solar weeks before the attack, before their fortress-monastery finally fell to the enemy.
Chaplain Grimaldus and the Black Templars swiftly answered their brother Chapter's summons, and attempted to penetrate the swarms of Tyranids besieging the ruins of the Shadow Wolves' fortress-monastery, but the unrelenting ferocity of the alien tide hampered their efforts. Grimaldus had been there at the end, standing witness to the actions of the handful of Shadow Wolves that remained, their blades broken and their Bolters spent. They died in honourable battle as they made their defiant last stand, still intoning the litanies of hate against the alien, chanting their bitter fury at their foes even as they were annihilated.
A lone Shadow Wolves Battle-Brother, though horrendously wounded and on his knees beneath the Chapter's standard, attempted to maintain his Chapter's honour to the last, for the Shadow Wolves' War Banner could not be allowed to fall whilst one of the Astartes of the Chapter yet lived. The doomed Space Marine held it aloft defiantly, keeping the banner upright and proud even as the xenos creatures tore into him. He died in what Grimaldus could only describe as a beautiful death.
After a century of faithful service, Grimaldus was elevated to the esteemed role of Reclusiarch of the Chapter and accompanied High Marshal Helbrecht to the war-torn world of Armageddon in 998.M41, to stop a massive invasion of that strategic Hive World by the Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. Three Black Templars Crusades were despatched to Armageddon and, under the direction of the High Marshal, deployed in the areas where the fighting was thickest. Grimaldus was charged by his Chapter Master to lead one of these Crusades to Hive Helsreach.
Grimaldus' forces were supported by the 101st Armageddon Steel Legion Regiment of the Astra Militarum and Titans of the Legio Invigilata. Before the battle started, The Purest Intent, a derelict Space Marine Strike Cruiser from the extinct Shadow Wolves Chapter that had been recovered by the Orks, was badly damaged by Armageddon’s orbital defences after it drifted dangerously close to the planet and crash-landed just outside the hive city of Helsreach.
The Black Templars investigated the wreckage of the once-proud vessel and performed the distasteful duty of eradicating any Ork survivors. They performed their duty flawlessly, though it left a bad taste in their mouths -- though it inspired confidence and lit the fires of faith in the mortal defenders of Helsreach. Their duty done, the Black Templars pulled their forces back into the walls of the hive city.
Soon Helsreach found itself besieged by thousands of Orks who swarmed the hive from a vast fleet of submersibles launched from the icy Deadlands far to the south. One of the main bastions of resistance was centred upon the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, a vast basilica that had stood on Armageddon since the earliest days of human colonisation.
A great horde of Orks attacked the temple and, for nearly two solar months, the defenders held the Orks at bay before the Greenskins finally penetrated the temple precincts, looting and destroying priceless holy relics in equal measure. The hive militias and Imperial Guard units fled, but the Black Templars would not yield, as Grimaldus bellowed defiantly, "I have dug my grave in this place and I will either triumph or I will die!"
Such heroism hardened the hearts of the fleeing Imperial defenders and they turned and fell upon the Orks. The battle degenerated into a bloody melee in the heart of the building that was only ended when the entire structure collapsed in a maelstrom of rubble and fire. All were feared lost, but a day later the bloody, but unbowed, form of Chaplain Grimaldus crawled from the ruins, bearing the last Imperial relics of the temple and vowing that all would remember the lives that had been lost in the defence of Armageddon.
A retinue of three Cenobyte Servitors -- augmetic servants, vat-grown by the Chapter’s Apothecaries -- emerged alongside Grimaldus, hauling the temple's precious artefacts. These Servitors carried the last surviving relics of Hive Helsreach's Temple of the Emperor Ascendant: a column from the Major Altar, the remains of the Banner of the Emperor Victorious and blessed water from the Stoup of Elucidation.
These were the most precious holy items of Armageddon's faithful, for they were the peoples' by right and legacy of blood. The Chapter's Apothecaries who later treated Grimaldus' wounds exclaimed that it was a miracle that he still lived, let alone had the strength to climb from the rubble of a destroyed building. Upon commencement of the planet's Season of Fire, Grimaldus was gifted with the title, "Hero of Helsreach."
The Mannheim Gap
"Grimaldus. They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us there to die. You know of whom I speak. We cannot outrun the echoes of Khattar. We pay the price now for our virtue in the past. The Celestial Lions will never leave this world. A handful of us remain, but we know the truth. We died at the Mannheim Gap. We died the day the sun rose over the scrap-iron bodies of alien gods."
The Mannheim Gap on Armageddon was a canyon running through the mountains north of Hive Volcanus. It was a rent in Armageddon's priceless earth, torn open by the slow, active dance of the world's tectonics. Any who dwelled there for more than a handful of solar weeks knew that Armageddon was not a world that slept easy, whether due to greenskins, dust storms, or yet another war.
The Celestial Lions Chapter were told the canyon had to be assaulted, for it was a nest of mechanical heresy where the aliens were constructing their scrap iron god-machines or Gargants. Hive Volcanus' forces had to strike before the alien Gargants became active, or the tide would forever turn against the city's defenders. The Astra Militarum could not be trusted to deal such a surgical strike, nor could the hive city organise a mass withdrawal and redeployment of its deeply entrenched Guard elements to make it a plausible option. The task fell to the Lions.
Primitive Void Shielding protected the site from orbital bombardment. The Lions had to strike overland, without Drop Pods, marching into the ravine alongside their tanks, attacking in battalion regiments like some echo of the Horus Heresy and the millennia of crude warfare before it. The Lions reconnoitred, of course. They scouted and watched, deeming Imperial intelligence reliable. None of the alien god-walkers were infused with life. But time was not on their side. Every solar hour they spent behind their fortress walls was another solar hour that brought the Gargant machines closer to awakening.
Five hundred Celestial Lions Astartes attacked. The last half of the Chapter went to war, knowing that the enemy numbers were beyond the capability of the Imperial Guard to confront. They chose to bring overwhelming force and to strike fast and hard, seeking to counter their crippling inability to strike from the skies. Five hundred Space Marines were involved and some Chapters had taken whole worlds with a quarter of that number.
The Lion commanders were right to commit their full fury. Any Chapter Master would have done the same. There was no possible way the enemy could have known such a force was coming to destroy them, and there was simply no way to prepare for an assault by five hundred Space Marine warriors. Strike with ferocity and destroy the enemy and then fall back before getting entrenched in a full-scale battle. It should have worked.
In truth, the Gargants were not sleeping, they were simply waiting. Despite this setback, if that was all they had to deal with, the Lions might still have fought their way clear without being slaughtered. They might have even won, despite dying to the last man. The Lions' gold battle tanks raged skywards, streams of Lascannon fire bursting thin shields and scoring holes in the hulls of the towering enemy war machines. Warleaders shouted orders, in control of their warriors even in the heat of battle, establishing where to strike, where to push through the Orks' lines, where to move in defence of tank battalions threatened by enemy infantry.
Even when the Gargants awoke, the last half of a noble Chapter still fought to win. They would purge the canyon at the cost of their own lives. Dorn himself would have stood with them that day. But the tide truly turned. The enemy ambush unfolded further as Greenskins spilled from the earth, pouring in hordes from warrens within the canyon sides and the rocky ground. There were thousands of them, roaring beneath fanged war banners and standards made from crucified Celestial Lions taken in other battles. This fresh army surged into the ravine, filling it like sand in an hourglass, blocking all hope of withdrawal and eliminating any chance of victory.
Somehow the Orks knew that the Lions were coming. There could be no other reason to bury whole war-clans under the rock, waiting for such an assault. Their overlord was a beast clad in scrapwork armour -- the biggest Greenskin the Lions had ever seen. He ate the dead -- his own, and the Lions. Warleader Vularkh buried the war-sword Je'hara in the beast's belly and carved three metres of stinking alien guts free. It did nothing.
The Lions fought back as they fell, but they knew they were betrayed. A traitor, somewhere, had fed word to the enemy, and the Orks made the most of their ambush. But soon, the extent of the treachery was revealed, as sniper fire, deadly accurate, rained down from the canyon walls. Not the solid shell rattle of Greenskin projectile throwers, for the Lions knew how the Orks fought. This was viciously precise laser weaponry, knifing through their officers' helms from above. Deathspeakers, Warleaders, Spiritwalkers, even Pride Leaders, cut down with fire too precise, too clinical, to be that of the Greenskin enemy.
It took the Lions four solar hours to fight free. They carved their way back the way they came, abandoning a sea of dead tanks, slain Battle-Brothers, and butchered green enemy bodies. The gene-seed of half the Chapter lay rotting at the bottom of that canyon, unharvested by the Lions' Lifebinders and defiled by the thousands of foes they left alive.
The Lions had fled from the field, and the most valiant battle the Celestial Lions ever fought was that retreat. Never had they faced such odds, and the last of them cut their way free, pulling their brothers from the storm of blades and fell back to their fortress with the enemy at their heels. The xenos flooded their forward base before most of their survivors had even arrived. The Celestial Lions had to fight just to escape their own falling fortress. Even then, for every gunship that raced free, another two were shot down in flames.
The survivors of the Celestial Lions returned to Hive Volcanus. Only three officers were left at dusk of that day, three officers above the rank of Pride Leader. Deathspeaker Julkhara, who called Reclusiarch Merek Grimaldus of the Black Templars brother; Warleader Vakembi, the last surviving Captain of the Chapter; and Lifebinder Kei-Tukh, the Lion's only living Apothecary. The Chapter's future rested on his skills.
But the final insult was yet to play out. The last gasp in this drama of shame and treachery occurred later that same, terrible evening. The Lion's territory inside the city was a cold foundry, nearly lightless, with a perimeter of rockcrete patrolled by their remaining warriors.
Lifebinder Kei-Tukh did not survive the first night after their terrible defeat. The Lions found him at dawn, slouched against their last Land Raider, shot through the eye-lens. The gene-seed he had carried was gone, and he would harvest no more.
The depths of the Celestial Lions' plight on Armageddon were dire indeed: they had lost their fleet, their armoury, their officers and almost all hope of rebuilding their Chapter. They couldn't even cling to pride, after the shame of defeat. All that remained to them was the truth. The Lions vowed to survive long enough to speak it. The Imperium needed to know what had happened to them on Armageddon, where they had been betrayed by others who claimed to serve the Emperor.
The Dark Truth
The remaining Celestial Lions then determined to die on Armageddon alongside their brothers, as was right and honourable if the Chapter could not be revived. Deathspeaker Julkhara reached out to Reclusiarch Grimaldus, a fellow son of Dorn, to know the truth behind their coming last stand, and ensure those that shared their Primarch's blood never spoke ill of the Celestial Lions' fall.
Julkhara sent a lone Storm Eagle from Hive Volcanus to seek help from the Hero of Helsreach -- the zealous Chaplain Grimaldus, who had recently held the besieged Hive Helsreach against thousands of Orks. Convalescing for several solar weeks after being buried alive in the rubble of the collapsed Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, Grimaldus soon received word of the discovery of a crashed Storm Eagle. The downed Celestial Lions gunship had fallen victim to the fearful winds and violent storms that wracked Armageddon's skies, heralding the infamous Season of Fire.
Acquiring a Valkyrie from the 101st Armageddon Steel Legion regiment, Grimaldus and his subordinate Chaplain Initiate Cyneric departed the safety of the hive city to investigate the crash site despite the horrendous weather conditions. The air was severe enough to scald unprotected flesh, and while the Astartes' Power Armour offered a shield against the elements, it wouldn't protect them for long.
Grimaldus was unable to determine the Chapter origin of the Storm Eagle from its outward appearance, as whatever colours it had borne into battle were long gone, stolen by the storm. Its symbols of allegiance were similarly eroded by ash and dirt in the turbulent air. Smashing his way through the ship's bulkhead with his Crozius Maul, Grimaldus and Cyneric found the body of a lone Space Marine pilot, clad in burnished gold, lying in ungainly repose where the deck met the weapon-racked walls. The Reclusiarch recognised the Chapter's colours -- the Celestial Lions. But this discovery left more questions than answers.
Grimaldus couldn't understand what this gunship was doing all the way out in this remote location, so far from Hive Volcanus, nearly half a world away from its point of origin. Removing the dead Space Marine's azure helmet, the faint signs of darkening decay in evidence clearly indicated that he had been several solar days dead. Upon further inspection Grimaldus discovered a hololithic imagifier the size of a human fist mag-locked to the dead warrior's belt.
Once freed and activated, it gave rise to a flickering blue image -- the ghost of another warrior in another city -- wearing the heraldry of the Celestial Lions and carrying a skull-faced helmet beneath one arm. Grimaldus recognised the fellow Chaplain as Deathspeaker Julkhara, whose wavering voice brought grim tidings, "Grimaldus. They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us here to die."
Grimaldus and Cyneric departed the crash site and made their way back to the protective walls of Hive Helsreach. Once safely inside, the Reclusiarch sent a secure Vox message to the Eternal Crusader, the flagship of the Black Templars' High Marshal Helbrecht. When he contacted the mighty vessel, he relayed his orders to a Chapter Serf, instructing him to complete four tasks: first, he was to make contact with every vessel of the Celestial Lions Chapter still in orbit so that he could have a full accounting of their war fleet. Second, they were to contact whatever command structure remained in place at Hive Volcanus and to acquire a detailed report of every Adeptus Astartes casualty in that region since the war's commencement. Third, he and Cyneric needed a gunship to return to the Eternal Crusader. If the coming storm hit before arrangements could be made, they would risk teleportation.
For the fourth and final order, the Eternal Crusader was to make contact with the ranking officer of the Celestial Lions, garrisoned at Hive Volcanus. He warned that the transmission would most assuredly be monitored, no matter what encryption processes were run. The following message was to be delivered -- Grimaldus knew he had to be careful how he worded his message -- it was only six words. "No pity. No remorse. No fear."
Back aboard the Eternal Crusader Reclusiarch Grimaldus met with High Marshal Helbrecht, producing for him the hand-held holorecorder which relayed the dire message from the Celestial Lions' Deathspeaker. The High Marshal inquired as to what the Reclusiarch hoped to accomplish. Grimaldus sought to establish contact with the Celestial Lions to take stock of their losses, and if possible to destroy those who had betrayed them.
But the High Marshal knew in his hearts that this would be impossible no matter how much it appealed to him. The High Marshal warned Grimaldus that he risked dragging the Chapter into direct conflict with the Inquisition. The High Marshal sympathised with Grimaldus' cause, for injustice must be stopped and impurity must be purged. But the Eternal Crusader was to set sail in three solar days in order to pursue the fleeing Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the Ork Warlord who had led his massive WAAAGH! in the invasion of Armageddon.
The Reclusiarch requested to be left behind. The High Marshal was surprised by Grimaldus' request. He was caught between the purity of a war against external enemies, and a just war against an internal foe. Grimaldus would fight both, if he could. The Ork Warlord's death, however, took priority over all else. The arch-warlord responsible for Armageddon could not be allowed to flee from their grasp, for retribution called as loud as justice.
But Helbrecht could not overlook that the Celestial Lions' devastating losses were the principal reason he believed his Reclusiarch's concerns were valid. Justice called to them, and at the very least, the Black Templars wished to learn the truth of the matter. He ordered Grimaldus to go to Hive Volcanus to learn the truth of what happened. If the Celestial Lions were destined to die, the High Marshal wished to hear the truth of their tale before it was too late.
The Last Officer
"Anyone who trusts an agent of the Inquisition has earned the right to be named naive, Cyneric. There is a reason the Adeptus Astartes stand apart from the Imperium -- autonomous; loyal to the empire's ideals, but rarely its function. The Lions' most grievous error was forgetting that."
Soon Grimaldus and his charge made their way to Armageddon Prime, where Hive Volcanus was still besieged by the enemy and the winds were more often free of the burning sand and ash that so blighted the other side of the world. The Celestial Lions' firebase was located atop a natural rise in the landscape, supremely defensible, with great battlements and sacred statuary of fallen Imperial heroes staring down at any who would dare bring the fight to those dark walls.
The whole site was already in ruin. The pair of Black Templars were honoured for their presence by the remaining Lions. Grimaldus noticed right away that several of the Celestial Lions were plundering their own firebase's supplies, loading up their surviving Thunderhawks with brutal efficiency. The warriors themselves kept at least one hand free to reach for a Bolter at a moment's notice.
A lone Space Marine came forward, bearing the black helm of a Pride Leader. He knelt before the Reclusiarch and removed his dark helmet. Grimaldus was greeted by the sight of a face that was a warm, rich brown complexion of a human born to equatorial climes. Though he had never been to the Lions' homeworld of Elysium IX, he had met many of its dark-skinned sons. They were a culture of hunters: proud from birth to death, true Scions of Dorn.
Grimaldus did not recognise the warrior who introduced himself as Pride Leader Ekene Dubaku. "Pride Leader" was the Lions' term for a Squad Sergeant. This did not bode well. Dubaku was now the senior surviving Lion who led those that remained. The Veteran Marine explained that there were ninety-six Lions still drawing breath upon Armageddon, and that he had inherited command from Warleader Vakembei, he of the Spear That Hunts Hearts who had been slain eighteen solar days earlier. Grimaldus knew Vakembei, a stalwart Space Marine officer and deadly swordsman.
The Reclusiarch inquired as to the whereabouts of Deathspeaker Julkhara. The Pride Leader replied that he had been slain by the "kine" (a Celestial Lions' term for cattle or beasts -- the Greenskins) nearly twenty-four solar days past. Now the surviving Lions were looting what was left of their supplies at their forward base. They had little choice, since it was overrun. Their fallback stronghold was within Hive Volcanus itself, but they risked raids in this forward area every three solar days.
Ammunition was low -- production and resupply from their fleet had dropped to almost nothing. Grimaldus wondered why the Celestial Lions had not requested aid from the other Chapters present on Armageddon, but understood that Dorn's blood ran thick in the veins of his descendants. It was difficult to lay such pride aside, even in the face of devastation. Especially then, for that was when a warrior was truly tested. There was no other time more fit for proving that a man was strong enough to stand alone.
Dubaku explained that they had swallowed their pride long enough to request aid from the Flesh Tearers and the Black Templars, but the former were as depleted as they were, and the latter were preparing to take the fight out to the stars in pursuit of the fleeing Ork Warlord. The Lions felt they had no right to beg for scraps while being left behind. So they existed by plundering their fallen fortress and looting their own dead.
This confirmed for Grimaldus that Julkhara's summons had been a personal one. It had cost his pride dearly to send it. The Reclusiarch was struck by one thing above all else: the Celestial Lions were effectively dead. While a hundred yet remained, the Chapter operated now without a single voice from their Chapter's high command, and their ranking Veteran officer was a squad sergeant.
Grimaldus ordered the Lions to finish loading their gunships, then he wanted Dubaku to tell him everything that had happened to the Chapter since they made planetfall. It remained to be seen just what Julkhara expected of the Black Templar, or what Grimaldus could actually achieve for the Lions. It already felt less like he had been summoned to save the Lions, and more like he had been called to hold vigil, watching over the Chapter as it died.
The Pride Leader's tale was grim. The Reclusiarch's blood ran cold as Dubaku revealed each new betrayal that had occurred. Grimaldus quickly realised that the surviving Lions meant to die on this world. The Pride Leader confirmed this was true. The Lions intended to die alongside their brothers, as it should be. Deathspeaker Julkhara wished for Grimaldus to know the truth behind their coming last stand, and ensure that those who shared their Primarch's blood never spoke ill of their sacrifice.
Cyneric argued that the Celestial Lions should return to Elysium IX, to endure the shame if they must, as the Crimson Fists endured their shame after the Battle of Rynn's World. They had to rebuild their Chapter -- the galaxy must not lose the Celestial Lions forever.
But the remaining Lions scoffed at this suggestion. Their Chapter had been savaged beyond resurrection. Men, material, knowledge...all of it was gone. They had nothing to hand down to any generation that would follow them. The remaining Lions refused to flee like cowards. But it was not cowardice Cyneric advocated, it was survival -- survival to preserve precious blood, and to rise again to fight another day.
Grimaldus agreed with both opposing viewpoints, for a glorious last stand was no more less respectable than preserving the infinite value of a Space Marine Chapter. But Grimaldus wondered if Cyneric would advocate shame if he were the one facing the prospect of so glorious a last stand. Easier to speak of shame than endure it. And yet Grimaldus was just as determined that the Chapter had to survive.
The remaining Lions explained to Grimaldus that the Inquisition wanted to silence them. But the Reclusiarch assured them that this was not the case. They were using the Celestial Lions to make an example. The Lions were in fact the most recent casualty in the Inquisition's campaign to rein in the political autonomy of the Adeptus Astartes. The Inquisition tolerated no attacks on its sovereign rights -- yet the Lions had challenged them. And now all would bear witness to the price of their Chapter's rebellion.
The sabotages, the conflicting orders, the ambushes, all would lead to the destruction of a Space Marine Chapter. Millions of Imperial citizens would hear of how the Celestial Lions were killed on Armageddon. A mere handful would know the truth behind their deaths, and each of those would be Adeptus Astartes officers who would tread with much more caution when they dealt with the Inquisition in the future. The lesson would be learned, just as Inquisitor Apollyon's cronies wished.
Digesting this information, Pride Leader Dubaku explained to the Reclusiarch that his Chapter would make for the Mannheim Gap and that, though many of the Gargants were gone, it was still a well-defended Ork stronghold. It remained a cancer in Hive Volcanus' territory, and it must fall.
This seemed idealistic at best to Grimaldus. He informed the Lions that in fact, it would not fall. Not to a handful of Lions, no matter how noble and proud they were. Dubaku countered that they would die trying, for this was where the Celestial Lions had chosen to die. It had to be there, for then their bones would lie alongside their brothers. Grimaldus inquired if the Lions would fight alone, to which Debaku replied that they would. Volcanus could not spare its Astra Militarum regiments.
Even with Mannheim emptied of Gargants in the solar weeks since the massacre -- a fact they still could not be certain was true -- it was still a difficult target, rich with the enemy's presence. Five of the Lions' Battle Companies had failed to take it. A few thousand Guardsmen would be nothing more than spitting into the wind. The Lions could not trust any of the Guardsmen in any case, for the Inquisition's talons were everywhere.
After hearing their tale of woe, Grimaldus decided that Cyneric had been right. The Lions' death would be a disservice to the Imperium, no matter the greatness of their glorious last stand; no matter the heroism of individual warriors as they spent their life's blood. The Lions argued that this was how they wanted it to end -- to finish their legacy in fire, not in centuries of painstaking laboratory work to preserve their bloodline. They wanted to die as warriors.
Indeed they would, thought Grimaldus, a hundred warriors, dying in glory...and denying the possibility of thousands of warriors who might be needed in a darker future. It was Dorn's way to fight on no matter the odds. Death against overwhelming numbers was no shame to any warrior born of the Imperial Fists' gene-seed. Yet, those were lessons first taught ten thousand Terran years ago, when the Imperium was so much stronger. The last centuries of the current Dark Millennium had all but bled Mankind's empire dry. Yet the Reclusiarch still admired Dubaku for his hunger to taste a glorious death, even if it was a last charge few would remember.
Dubaku informed the Reclusiarch that they would not delay the inevitable and were prepared to make their last stand almost immediately. His Chapter would gather their resources the next day at their forward base, and make one last scouting run for supplies and survivors. The Lions would then charge to their final war at dawn the day after. The Pride Leader made one last request of the stern Chaplain. He requested that Grimaldus grant final unction to the surviving Celestial Lions warriors.
The Black Templar had only agreed to speak of the Lions' death, and that he understood how it had happened and why they had chosen to act as they did. But now they wished for him to also bless their damnation. The Lions had no surviving Deathspeakers and so they wanted Grimaldus to bless the warriors of another Chapter, sharing the Black Templars' sacred rituals, and vowing before the Emperor and Rogal Dorn that their death would be a noble testament to the Imperial Fists' bloodline.
Grimaldus looked upon the surviving Celestial Lions, standing amongst them during their desperate, respectful silence. Grimaldus felt he had no choice, could not grant his blessing to the suicide of the Chapter and refused to perform the requested rite upon the Lions.
Grimaldus and his charge then departed the Celestial Lions' forward base and made for the Eternal Crusader. He went there to put an audacious plan into motion. The Chaplain knew he could not return to Hive Helsreach, for the Season of Fire played its tempestuous games around the city, harsh enough to kill sky traffic but not quite violent enough to interfere with Vox signals.
Utilising the flagship's powerful communication array, he was able to amplify his transmitter's signal to send a message through. Making contact with the Imperial forces on the ground, he relayed a series of orders to one of the Astra Militarum officers present there. It took several more solar hours of coordinating Helsreach's defences from high orbit. Grimaldus knew a great many Guard officers were going to Vox skyward for confirmation in the hours to come.
Time passed, as Grimaldus spoke with eighty-one Astra Militarum officers and eleven Naval captains. As his clearance was Rubicon-grade, no one dared to question his orders. Cyneric questioned the senior Chaplain's motives, and wondered if he hadn't exceeded his authority. But Grimaldus argued that the Lions' survival would be for the best and he was depleting Hive Helsreach's defences to march alongside the Lions back into the Mannheim Gap.
The Reclusiarch explained that the city was vastly overdefended now, with entire battalions sitting idle and awaiting redeployment. It was an irritating truth; would that they had such a problem when the real war was being fought. The soldiers in Helsreach were actually bored. They did not do well with tedium, especially when left alone with nothing to do and no one to shoot.
Cyneric felt that Grimaldus was playing on the people's regard for him. The Hero of Helsreach called them to war. Of course they would follow. But he was sure it was their war. The Reclusiarch argued that it was their world. And it was the only chance the Celestial Lions had, if they were to survive.
The Lions' unseen enemies might well allow them to die in the glory they deserved. But their deaths served nothing but to ease the soreness of wounded pride. The Celestial Lions must not die on Armageddon and without help, the Chapter was doomed. Everything depended on just how fast Grimaldus' forces at Helsreach could break out from the storm, and redeploy halfway across the world.
The Second Mannheim Siege
"I am remaining on the war-world. Someone must fight alongside the Lions, saving them from futile glory and the worst excesses of their otherwise pure blood... The Lions have no Chaplains remaining, and they are our cousins. Honour and brotherhood demand this of me. The Lions cannot call upon the resources of their hive city, but they will not fight alone...Let Volcanus hide behind its walls. Helsreach is going to war."
Arranging for an Imperial Navy shuttle, both Grimaldus and Cyneric deployed to the surface of Armageddon. Dawn was less than a solar hour away as they broke cloud cover above the Lions' ruined fortress stronghold. Grimaldus wondered if the Lions would have already left their fallen fortress by the time they arrived, marching towards their last stand.
Besides the remaining four dust-blasted and paint-stripped Thunderhawks possessed by the Lions resting upon the wide rooftop platform, dozens of inelegant, blocky troop landers had joined them there. Struggling to locate an unmarked, untaken patch of ground, Grimaldus ordered the shuttle to break off its descent, as both he and Cyneric jumped from the ship's rear bay.
The pair of Black Templars descended from the sky to the ground by utlising their Jump Packs. Pride Leader Dubaku was taken aback by the return of the Black Templars. Grimaldus replied that he thought that the Lions might appreciate the extra bodies. The Reclusiarch was greeted by General Kyranov of the Armageddon Steel Legion, the acting commander of the Imperial military forces at Helsreach. Within the solar hour a war council was called, ordained before a battalion of revving tanks. The plan was simple -- they would march into the Mannheim Gap, and they would destroy anything that moved or breathed.
Dubaku stood with Grimaldus at the heart of the impromptu conclave, his anger a palpable thing. He directed his ire at the Reclusiarch, who he felt had overstepped his authority. The Pride Leader didn't appreciate these interlopers who threatened to interfere with their personal vendetta and their glorious last stand. He argued with Grimaldus that this was the Celestial Lions' fight and no one else's. Dubaku warned Grimaldus that when the time came, when they confronted the Ork Warlord responsible for so many of his Battle-Brothers' deaths, it would be a Lion's blade that killed the creature. Grimaldus vowed grimly that it would be so.
And so, the forces gathered from Helsreach marched in long, armoured columns towards the Mannheim Gap. Every hope they possessed that Mannheim would be near devoid of Ork Titans was crushed before the first Steel Legion soldier had set foot on the loose rock slopes leading down into the canyon.
The enemy was present in grotesque force. Great sockets in the rigging and stanchions along the canyon walls marked the absence of several Gargants, but many more were undergoing repair or reawakening after fighting in recent battles. The ravine was choked by multitudes of Orks going about their work, and thousands of mouldering corpses piled up into a sea of decaying organic matter.
Gold armour, darkened and soiled by waste, showed among the barricades of the looted dead. The dead Celestial Lions had been heaped in undignified repose with their xenos murderers, and their ceramite -- useless to the junkyard heresy that constituted Greenskin technology -- was left to encase the rotting warriors amidst their flesh cairns.
The Imperial force advanced over the sea of the disrespected dead, for tearing the barricades down was not an option. The Guardsmen climbed and waded through the sea of bodies or rode on the hulls of their tanks. Above the advance rode the gunship fleet, all flanking the four remaining Thunderhawks in the Celestial Lions' arsenal. The moment they streaked through the ravine's trench, cannonfire began to bring them down in tumbling fireballs.
The Steel Legion did not baulk at the sight of such a vast enemy horde. They ploughed into the enemy's disarrayed ranks, slaughtering them to make room on fields of their bodies for the gunships to land. The first hours of the battle were unremarkable only for their ferocity. The Imperial Guard's massed cannonades devastated the Greenskin war machines. In reply, the Orks butchered the Guard at every point along the advance where it fell to men and women with bayonets to hold the line. As was so often the way of the Astra Militarum, they had the stronger steel, but the enemy had the stronger flesh.
In such a grinding lock of armies, winning and losing was relative. The Imperial force pushed deep into the canyon as hundreds of men and women fell face down into the dirt. Behind the Space Marines lay a graveyard of tanks, practically all their own, all lost to enemy cannonfire. Lining the canyon's walls were the burning metal corpses of towering god-constructs, holed by missiles and tank shells, melting to slag in the flames of the Imperial Guard's bombardment. Stubber fire rattled against their ceramite harmlessly, but scythed Guardsmen down in droves. Still the Imperials advanced, sloshing through a rising torrent of blood. It was knee-deep on most of the humans, turning all advancement into a sweating wade through filth.
Soon the pivotal moment of the battle came upon Grimaldus, as it had so many times before, his heraldry often drawing enemy commanders to him as often as he fought his way to them. It happened again at Mannheim, though he tried to avoid it. The largest of the Orks, doubtless hunting the Reclusiarch by heraldry, launched itself at Grimaldus from behind. It was a thing of blunt fangs, sinewy muscle and hammering limbs -- larger than Grimaldus, and both stronger and faster than him. A Celestial Lion called out to the Reclusiarch, reminding him that the Ork Warlord was the Pride Leader's kill.
Grimaldus faced off against the massive beast, swinging his Crozius maul at the foul creature, but the powerful Greenskin moved as if immune to everything thrown against it. Las-fire lanced off the creature, going ignored against its armour, and equally ignored as the volleys scored fingertip-sized holes in its flesh. Celestial Lions charged the creature but the hulking warlord countered their feeble assaults with a sweep of his mighty mangling claw.
As Grimaldus was driven to his knees and eventually struck to the ground, Dubaku finally came between the two combatants with a leap and a roar. He held his hand back, bidding Grimaldus to remain away. The Reclusiarch had to force himself to obey, something he would never have countenanced in any other circumstance. But they had fought this battle for a bloodline's pride, and here was the moment of reckoning.
Dubaku beat his blade against his chestplate, staring at the Greenskin lord in its powered suit of tank armour scrap. Despite the cacophony of battle that raged all around them, Grimaldus could hear the Celestial Lion's words as clearly as if they had left his own mouth: "In whatever underworld your foul breed believes, you shall tell your pig-blooded ancestors that you died to the blade of Ekene of Elysium, Lion of the Emperor."
No one knew it then, but at that moment, the Pride Leader was the last Lion still standing. Dubaku attacked, his Chainsword worthless against the beast's claw. He had just as little hope of parrying the creature's cudgel with his Combat Knife. So what he lacked in strength, he poured into speed -- never blocking, always dodging. The battle did not pause around the two combatants. Soon both the Pride Leader and the Ork Warlord were bleeding from a score of wounds.
The Chainsword had found its way through armour joints and plunged into soft tissue; the Power Claw had mangled the Celestial Lion's armour each time it fell. Soon, Dubaku was backing away. Fighting such a beast was no task for one warrior alone, no matter the pleasure of pride. Then came a thunderclap of noise as a massive electrical burst turned the air to charged static. Orks and men in their droves cried out in pain at the sonic boom. The orbital shield was no longer functioning.
Somehow at some point in the hours of melee, while the Reclusiarch fought with the Lions, the Steel Legion had laid explosives at the base of the Void Shield reactor. The Emperor alone knew when, where, and how. No sooner had the shield imploded, spitting its static charge in all directions, than a powerful and priority channel Vox-rune chimed loudly in the Reclusiarch's retinal display. Grimaldus activated it as he watched the Pride Leader and the Ork lord stagger around each other, wounded animals too proud to die.
Soon Grimaldus heard a familiar voice -- it was High Marshal Helbrecht. He informed the Chaplain that the Black Templars were ready to reinforce their position. All he had to do was give the word. Grimaldus informed the High Marshal to blacken the sky. At that moment the severely wounded Celestial Lion was down before Grimaldus could reach him. The beast clutched Dubaku's arm in its mangling claw, crushing it at the biceps before ripping it free. The Pride Leader retaliated by ramming his Chainsword in an awkward thrust into the creature's throat. Deflected by armour, it barely bit. His assault came at the cost of his leg, as the iron claw scissored through the limb at the knee, dropping him on his back into the slime.
Grimaldus was on the beast's back a heartbeat later, securing himself by digging into the creature's armour with his boots as he wrapped his severed weapon chain around its bleeding, sweating throat. The chain garrotted taut, cracking sinew in the beast's throat. The iron claw battered at the Reclusiarch, shearing chunks of ceramite away. It staggered without toppling, gasped without truly suffocating. Even this -- even strangling it with his last remaining weapon -- could not kill it.
All Grimaldus could do was buy Dubaku the moments he needed to crawl free, which he quickly did. And Cyneric was waiting, a Bolter in his remaining hand. The mutilated Celestial Lion reached up for it, clutching it one-handed in a pistol grip, and aimed it up as he lay back in the sludge. Grimaldus dropped back, not completely, but enough to pull the chain tighter, adding his weight to his strength, and wrenching the beast's head back to bare its throat.
The Bolter sang once, and the kick of something heavy struck near the chain. With a muffled burst, the Ork's head came free, tumbling back over its shoulders and landing with the Chaplain in the filth. The armoured body stood there without anything existing above its neck -- still too stubborn, too strong, to fall.
Once he got to his feet, Grimaldus reclaimed his maul from the fallen beast. Then he tossed the thing's slack-jawed head to Dubaku where he lay. The battle continued to rage, as the men and women Grimaldus had led there fought their way further down the canyon. Dubaku looked up at the darkening sky as the Black Templars descended in a massive Drop Pod assault upon the Mannheim Gap. The Lion's only reaction was to rise as best he could, and pull his helmet clear. He ordered the Reclusiarch to help him stand. He didn't want to meet the High Marshal on his back. Cyneric and Grimaldus hauled Dubaku up between them. While they did so, the Guard's Vox link erupted in cheers, as Lord Helbrecht blackened the sky with Templar Drop Pods.
Reclusiarch Grimaldus bid his farewell to the newly-installed Chapter Master Ekene Dubaku of the Celestial Lions, escorted by his surviving few warriors onto the Black Templars Strike Cruiser Blade of the Seventh Son, with its course plotted for the distant world of Elysium IX. Dubaku now bore a bionic leg and a noticeable limp, his physiology not entirely adjusted to the augmetic replacement yet. The armour he wore was gold war-plate of an ancient Imperial Fists champion, granted as a gift from the Eternal Crusader's Halls of Memory. His cloak was that of Helbrecht's own Sword Brethren, red on black, elegantly cast over one shoulder.
It was not known if this was the very same cloak Helbrecht had granted to Dubaku when he forced him to take the oath of lordship over his depleted Chapter. At his hip, bound by chains of black iron, was the flayed, polished skull of the Greenskin Warlord they had killed together. An honour indeed, to be named on a Chapter Master's prime trophy.
The Black Templars Honour Guard comprised to bid him good journey consisted of the Reclusiarch, the newly promoted Chaplain Cyneric, and the High Marshal's household knights, clad in ceremonial colours. The Reclusiarch hoped most fervently, as time passed, that Chapter Master Dubaku's efforts in reconstructing the Celestial Lions and training the generation to follow him continued to go well. Grimaldus knew with grim satisfaction that they would most likely never meet again, as Dubaku was sworn to a life of defending what he could hold, and the Black Templars always sailed forth on the attack against the foes of the Emperor.
Chaplain Grimaldus knows well the power of faith, and to this end brings with him icons of devotional fervour. In battle he is accompanied by a group of Cenobyte Servitors bearing the relics saved from the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant in Hive Helsreach.
These icons are silent reminders that glory and honour are bought through sacrifice, and they are carried into battle in order to spur the Black Templars to ever greater heights of zeal.
- Artificer Armour
- Skull Helm - One of the most iconic elements of a Chaplain's wargear is his macabre Skull Helm, a stern visage that depicts the face of the Emperor mordant, evoking the Emperor's wrath. These helmets may take many different forms and have been crafted by numerous Space Marine Artificers across the galaxy. Universally, however, they are all fearsome in aspect.
- Crozius Arcanum - Shaped in the form of either a staff or a mace topped by the double-headed Aquila of the Imperium or a winged skull that represents the Emperor's sacrifice, the Crozius Arcanum serves as both a melee weapon and the primary badge of office of Space Marine Chaplains.
- Rosarius - Another symbol of a Chaplain's office, the Rosarius takes the form of a gorget, amulet, or signet ring of adamantium usually shaped into the form of the Imperial Aquila or a Gothic Cross with a jewel in the centre, and houses a powerful protective Conversion Field emitter, protecting the Space Marine Chaplain from attacks, both physical and psychic, that might otherwise break through the protection of even the mighty Space Marine Power Armour or the indomitable psychic strength of a Chaplain's own will.
- Master-crafted Plasma Pistol
- Terminator Honours (Crux Terminatus) - This is one of the most famous of all Space Marine icons. Only the honoured 1st Company Veterans of a Space Marine Chapter fight in suits of Terminator Armour and wear this badge. The symbol has various forms and designs but all versions are carved from great chunks of stone with a large skull in the center of it, to signify the rank and authority of the Veterans who have earned the right to wear it.
- Crusader Seals - Crusader Seals are waxen or metallic tokens with vows of piety and Chapter blessings inscribed on hanging strips of parchment that are bestowed upon Space Marines of proven zeal and courage.
- Frag Grenades
- Krak Grenades
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 107, 137
- Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition), pp. 46-47
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 53, 117, 152, 162
- White Dwarf 311 (US), "Chosen of the Emperor" by Nick Kyme, pp. 22-23
- Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Armageddon (Anthology) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Blood and Fire (Novella) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Psychic Awakening - Faith & Fury (8th Edition), pp. 43, 47