Nykona Sharrowkyn was one of the deadliest members of the Legiones Astartes to tread the battlefields of the early 31st Millennium. Deployed with the first attack wave of the Raven Guard during the infamous Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V, Sharrowkyn was able to survive the desperate battles of those dark days, but was unfortunately separated from his Legion with no means to rejoin them. Determined to see the Warmaster Horus' treachery punished, Sharrowkyn would later join other survivors from the Shattered Legions aboard the Iron Hands' Strike Cruiser Sisypheum to continue the fight against the Traitors. As part of the Sysipheum 's crew, Sharrowkyn's actions would prove instrumental in many battles, ensuring the continued survival of the almost legendary vessel and its valiant crew.
Whilst it is unknown if Nykona Sharrowkyn was born on the Raven Guard's homeworld of Kiavahr or on the prison-moon Lycaeus, Sharrowkyn grew up within the confines of the prison-moon's cell-blocks. According to his own testimony, as soon as he was able to walk, he was used as a salt boy, one of the countless children sent down the narrow tunnels leading to Lycaeus' tidal pools to harvest the precious salt for the tool-making factories' tempering waters. This was an inherently dangerous task, as many children died in these tunnels, surprised by the unannounced surge of water that filled a cave in solar minutes or killed by collapsing stone. The mortality rates amongst these children were so high that the saying went that the best salt was the one harvested from the bones of the dead. Through skill and luck, Sharrowkyn survived the salt mines until he grew too big for the narrow tunnels and was transferred to the proper mines. Sharrowkyn was merely thirteen standard years old when he left the deeper parts of the moon for its surface. He nevertheless kept a fond memory of this transfer as it was the first time he had ever seen the sun.
While visibly involved in the rebellion led by Corvus Corax to rid Lycaeus of the rule of the Tech-Guilds of Kiavahr and the cruel overseers that had been oppressing Lycaeus' population for centuries, it is unknown which role Sharrowkyn held within the rebels' army. But his extensive knowledge on Corax's way of war seemed to indicate that Sharrowkyn must have been close to the Primarch, or at least was utilised as one of several decoys that confused the prison's guards. However, it is also quite possible that Sharrowkyn was too young to actively participate in the slaves' uprising and that he gained all the knowledge he possessed on that matter from other accounts or the testimonies of first-hand participants.
After the successful capture of the Black Tower, the same building that would become the famed Ravenspire, Nykona Sharrowkyn was selected after Kiavahr's inclusion within the Imperium of Mankind to become one of the Emperor's Legiones Astartes. He became a warrior of the XIXth Legion -- the Raven Guard.
As one of the most secretive of the Legiones Astartes, the Raven Guard always valued their discretion and many of its greatest victories were only rendered public many standard years after the enemy had been silenced. The circumstances of Sharrowkyn's participation in the Great Crusade are largely unknown. In fact, very little solid information on Sharrowkyn's career within the Raven Guard is readily available apart from his induction into the ranks of the 66th Company. From later testimonies, it seems almost certain that Sharrowkyn was a member of the Mor Deythan, the Raven Guard's elite squads of infiltrators, although Sharrowkyn always publicly denied the fact that he indeed belonged to this august formation. Yet his natural discretion and his excellent marksmanship suggest otherwise. Like all the Mor Deythan, Nykona had been blessed with his Primarch's rare gift to shroud himself in shadows -- an art he allegedly studied amongst the greatest of the XIXth Legion's Shadowmasters. Rumors have it that Sharrowkyn was also one of those select few who had personally been trained in hand-to-hand combat by Corax himself -- his deadly prowess with the short sword certainly gives credence to this tale. Yet his great autonomy in the field might also indicate that Sharrowkyn, in fact, belonged to a previously unknown order of trained assassins and infiltrators, an alternative to the Legion's extensive cadre of Moritat.
While Sharrowkyn's involvement in the Great Crusade will probably never be fully revealed, events placed him on the black sands of Istvaan V during the infamous Drop Site Massacre. A few solar months prior to this military disaster that almost saw the Raven Guard undone, the Emperor's chosen son, the Warmaster Horus Lupercal, Primarch of the recently renamed Sons of Horus, had announced his formal secession from the Imperium of Mankind. Horus rallied three of his brother Primarchs and their Legions to him, names now forever marked with the seal of infamy: Fulgrim of the Emperor's Children, Angron of the World Eaters and Mortarion of the Death Guard. In his first act of treachery, the Warmaster brutally purged those Legions sworn to him of any Loyalist elements during the Istvaan III Atrocity, before entrenching himself alongside the Death Guard, the Emperor's Children and the World Eaters Legions on the planet of Istvaan V, awaiting the punitive expedition that was bound to be sent by the Emperor. The Raven Guard were chosen alongside the Iron Hands and the Salamanders legions to form the first assault wave, with the Iron Warriors, Alpha Legion, Word Bearers and Night Lords forming the second wave. Like the other Legions involved, the Raven Guard would deploy almost its entire military strength, including the 66th Company. As before, Sharrowkyn's actions on this most tragic of days are a matter of pure conjuncture. What is known with any certainty is that the Raven Guard valiantly assailed the enemy positions, and that sometime during the the Loyalist attack, Sharrowkyn was wounded and brought back to a Loyalist camp to be medically treated. He was still there when the Traitors of the second attack wave showed their true allegiance, by callously opening fire on the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard.
To their credit, the Loyalists reacted quickly. The retreating Salamanders and Raven Guard immediately returned fire. The Iron Hands were still mostly battling the Emperor’s Children, fuelled by the anger of their Primarch Ferrus Manus as he sought out his treacherous brother Fulgrim in single combat. The full testimony of this dreadful day is told elsewhere, but for Sharrowkyn, the battle was already lost. Wounded and separated from his Legion -- which sought to escape the deadly trap that was now forming -- Sharrowkyn followed his instincts. The XIXth Legion did not breed common warriors or those Legionaries that would gladly choose to die weapon in hand, hurling insults at the enemy while fighting on till their dying breath. No, the Raven Guard only lived according to one motto: strike, fade and strike again. Despite the pandemonium that reigned in the Loyalist camp, despite the bombardment unleashed by the Iron Warriors and even the Alpha Legion's Headhunter Squads assassinating the Loyalist Apothecaries within the camp, the wounded Sharrowkyn looked for any mean of escaping the camp alive. It was then most fortunate for him that he encountered Iron Father Sabik Wayland of the Iron Hands Legion.
The reasons behind Wayland's presence in the camp are still unknown, but to all evidence Wayland had been wounded at the hand of Fulgrim himself and somehow escaped with his life. Nevertheless, if it hadn't been for the Iron Father's presence, Sharrowkyn would likely have died that day on the black sands of Istvaan V. As it was, Wayland dragged Sharrowkyn to the nearest Thunderhawk available -- by pure coincidence an Iron Hands gunship -- positioned himself in the pilot seat and started the engines. Iron Hands and Salamanders Legionaries, most of whom were wounded, secured themselves in the Thunderhawk's troop compartment before take-off. Despite an impressive amount of ground fire, Wayland's piloting skills saw the Thunderhawk safely reach the stratosphere, where the deadly void-battle between Loyalist and Traitor was as fierce as the combat on the ground. Wayland headed straight to his own vessel, the Sisypheum, which had survived thus far, encouraging the weak, feverish and bleeding Sharrowkyn not to give up on life. Sharrowkyn would later say that Wayland's voice had carried so much authority that he hadn't dared go against his orders to survive.
The Loyalists fared little better in the void than they did on the ground. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, any Loyalist captain knew that to stay was to invite a swift death by broadside or a messy death at the hands of Traitor boarding parties. Despite these risks, many a captain stayed in orbit above Istvaan V in order to allow those survivors from the ground attack to dock. The Sisypheum did so and used the timely arrival of the Iron Hands Fleet to make good its escape. It proved a close call as they relied on the combination of daring escape vectors, periods of silent running, masquerading as one of the drifting wrecks and finally a mad dash to the minimum safe distance to enter the Warp. By that point, the Sisypheum had taken a severe beating -- whole decks having been sealed against the void or ravaged by fire. Its command structure and crew were ad hoc at best, but was still formed in the majority by serfs and Legionaries drawn from the Iron Hands. There were a few Salamanders Astartes, amongst them an Apothecary by the name of Atesh Tarsa, as well as Sharrowkyn, who proved to be the only Raven Guard aboard. Despite the severe casualties taken, those that would soon be called the "Shattered Legions" were resolute to stay in the fight and to avenge their fallen brothers.
Six solar months had passed since the dreadful events of the Drop Site Massacre and the Sisypheum’s escape. Six solar months of nearly continuous fighting, conducting hit-and-run attacks, bleeding the Traitors one cut at a time. Most of the Sysipheum’s crew had been wounded in the escape: those wounds had now mended. Though formed in a time of desperation, the Sysipheum’s crew had become a tight-knit group of survivors and an efficient fighting force. In the early days of the Horus Heresy's Age of Darkness, the Sysipheum’s most notorious success was the infiltration of the Traitor-dominated Forge World of Cavor Sarta. Located in the Thramas Sector of the Ultima Segmentum, not far from the Imperial strongholds of Heroldar and Thramas, Cavor Sarta had been crippled at the outset of the Horus Heresy when the Night Lords Legion attacked it from their newly settled base of Tsagualsa. Yet the VIIIth Legion had not come as conquerors, leaving this task instead to their allies the Word Bearers and the billion thralls of that Traitor Legion's Chapter of the Venomous Thorns. Acting upon intelligence gathered by the Ist Legion, the Dark Angels, which was by then embroiled in the Thramas Crusade, the Sysipheum came to Cavor Sarta in hope of taking possession of one of the Unilingual Cipher Hosts that made Traitor communications impervious to the efforts of Imperial Cipher Breakers. It was Sabik Wayland who first coined the designation of Kryptos for these entities, a name that quickly spread amongst the Loyalist forces.
On Cavor Sarta, Sharrowkyn and Wayland infiltrated the devastated continent-spanning assembly yards and manufactoria, mindful of the new degenerate Skitarii and other aberrations spawned by the Dark Mechanicum. What Loyalist Magi still remained equipped Wayland with their rarest techno-arcana, for against the two infiltrators stood hundred of thousands of enemies, the most dangerous being called "ferrovores". Sharrowkyn's and Wayland's skills were vastly different but complementary. His own warplate having been destroyed in the escape from Istvaan V, Sharrowkyn now bore a reconstituted suit of Astartes Power Armour, a patchwork of marks and pieces that he mused would have seen him expelled from the training regimes or earned him a commendation back on Deliverance. The Raven Guard's skills at stealth and infiltration would prove paramount in this mission, as would Wayland's technical knowledge, but most important was that Sharrowkyn had mastered the tactical knowledge of the XIXth Legion. The Iron Hands' way of war was not a subtle one, and against this number of enemies brute force would not do the trick. Their target was being held inside a heavily fortified forge temple which was protected by defence towers with interlocking fields of fire, pict-scanners, motion detectors and pressure differentials that made every attempt to infiltrate nearly suicidal. The size of the forge temple's garrison was unknown, but at least fifty ferrovores stalked in its vicinity.
Unable to enter the temple, Wayland's first reaction was to call down the Sysipheum’s company and bash their way through the enemy's defences, but Sharrowkyn had another idea. The Raven Guard's credo in this matter was simple: if the position was too heavily defended to infiltrate, draw the enemy out of their stronghold. Cavor Sarta had been heavily damaged in the initial invasion by the Traitors, and the Forge World's planetary network of data trunking had been unearthed in some regions. It was one of these exposed sections of optical cable that Wayland used to commune with the temple's Machine Spirit. Having studied on distant Mars, Wayland had studied Adept Zeth's invention and was able to hack into Cavor Sarta's noospheric communication network. Wayland's ministrations caused the temple's atomic reactor to go critical. Soon the temple's klaxons sprang into life and panicked Imperial Army units and Skitarii began to flee the complex. Only one group, led by a towering Astartes in crimson Power Armour and bedecked in wax-sealed scrolls, maintained its cohesion. Identifying their target, Wayland and Sharrowkyn attacked. Wayland's manipulations had not been confined to the temple complex, for he had also overwritten the trip-triggered mine fields to detonate simultaneously, thus causing pandemonium amongst the enemy. Driven mad by conflicting sensory inputs, the ferrovores attacked their allies, which was exactly what Wayland and Sharrowkyn had hoped for. With a little help from a repurposed ferrovore Wayland had been able to capture, the two infiltrators fought their way to the Kryptos, the temple's reactor only solar minutes away from explosion.
As the ferrovores went berserk, the enemy Word Bearer, most likely one of the dangerous demagogues known as a Dark Apostle, seized the Kryptos and tried to escape,leaving his mortal and Mechanicum troops to be slaughtered. Sharrowkyn could not let this happen, and triggering his modified Jump Pack, he landed a short distance from the fleeing Word Bearer. Shooting on the move, Sharrowkyn clipped the enemy's helmet and shoulder guard, causing him to stumble. Sliding his Needler Sniper Rifle around his shoulder and drawing his two gladii, Sharrowkyn made a second jump just as the Dark Apostle drew his own Bolter. But before he could pull the trigger, his weapon had been pierced by Sharrowkyn’s first gladius, the second one quickly finding its way through the enemy's breastplate. Decapitating the enemy with a backhand stroke, Sharrowkyn sheathed his weapons and took possession of his prize: the Kryptos. Racing back to Wayland with the Kryptos hefted at his shoulder, Sharrowkyn reached his ally just as the temple's reactor core went critical. As they were about to be engulfed in nuclear fire, Wayland activated his stasis field generator. This rare device had the power to stop the flow of time and effectively created a pocket reality entirely cut off from the flow of time. As the wave of roaring devastation rolled over Sharrowkyn, Wayland and the Kryptos, they were safe inside the stasis field. As the timer on the stasis field hit zero, time reasserted its grip on the trio and they stood on a scorched plain of glass. Nothing remained of the forge temple except a deep gouge in the earth and a kilometer-high mushroom cloud. With all evidence and possible witnesses having been disposed of, Wayland activated his Teleport Homer, and the three of them were transported back onboard the Sysipheum, the enemy none the wiser.
To Kill a Primarch
Since the betrayal on Istvaan V, the hearts of the Shattered Legions burnt with vengeance, but when it came to the Emperor's Children, the heart of the Iron Tenth blazed high, for it had been Fulgrim, the Primarch of the IIIrd Legion, who had been responsible for Ferrus Manus' defeat and ultimate death. On several occasions, the surviving sons of Ferrus Manus would put all caution aside and mount inherently dangerous and often unorthodox plans in the sole hope of inflicting damage or casualties on the Emperor's Children, thereby expunging a small measure of hate for their former brothers. So it came to be that when the Sysipheum got word of the conclave between Perturabo -- the Primarch of the Iron Warriors Legion -- and Fulgrim, the survivors aboard the Strike Cruiser could not sit idle. Bound to meet on the world of Hydra Cordatus, Sabik Wayland and Nykona Sharrowkyn would infiltrate the planet and spy on both Primarchs, and if possible, kill them.
With typical arrogance, Fulgrim requested from his brother the construction of a theater especially for their meeting. The imposing building -- named the Thaliakron in deference to Olympia's myths -- had been completed in no less than two solar days. It was a magnificent edifice, a thing of beauty which offered many places to hide, an opportunity which the Iron Hands gladly took. Sharrowkyn and Wayland were hidden in the shadow cast by the Thaliakron's imposing lighting, two towering statues of nymphs bearing bowls of burning fire. The Thaliakron's acoustics were phenomenal, and even from their place of hiding, the Primarchs' words reached them easily. Sharrowkyn eyed the two Primarchs through the targeting reticule of his Needler Sniper Rifle: both Primarchs were at the extreme range of his weapon. Wayland on the other hand was restless with rage, the mere sight of the killer of his genetic father infuriating him. Sharrowkyn tried to calm down his ally and friend, urging him to activate the device given to them by Frater Thamatica: a Vox-thief, a small device capable of capturing and transcribing spoken words and sounds into highly compressed binary cant. Balancing his humours to keep his Medusan anger in check, Wayland installed the device with barely enough time to capture the tale Fulgrim told, the myth of the Angel Exterminatus.
With consummate skill, Fulgrim told this tale of ages never witnessed by man, for the Angel Exterminatus belonged to the legends of a far older race than Mankind: that of the Eldar. Essentially, it was a xenos weapon of terrifying power, allegedly so potent that the greatest of the Eldar gods, Asuryan, imprisoned it in a great rift outside reality, the Eye of Terror. Realising at once that Fulgrim wanted to gain Pertuarbo's support in this venture, Sharrowkyn and Wayland decided to take actions to thwart the Phoenician's plans. Sharrowkyn took aim with his Needler Sniper Rifle, while Sabik Wayland readied himself for a hasty and tumultuous extraction, disengaging and securing the Vox-thief. Sharrowkyn eyed his target through his rifle's reticule and took the shot -- hitting Fulgrim exactly where he had planned: in the Primarch's eye. Without looking back, Sharrowkyn quickly picked up his rifle and made for the rappelling lines fixed at the Thaliakron's outer walls. There was no time to check if he had killed his target, but his aim had been true. The high velocity dart had penetrated Fulgrim's left eye, with just a little puff of blood. Unfortunately for the loyal sons of the Emperor, the Traitor Primarch would survive. Sharrowkyn and Wayland had no time to care about their lack of fortune, for as soon as they had seized their rappelling lines, warriors of the IVth Legion were already in pursuit of the two would-be assassins, wading through the panicked crowd of the Thaliakron. Concerned for their Primarch's safety, most of the Emperor's Children stayed within the theater.
Despite having started his descent first, Wayland was unfamiliar with the Raven Guard's equipment and Sharrowkyn quickly caught up with the Iron Father. Sharrowkyn reached the ground first, having dropped the last twenty metres when a trio of Iron Warriors spotted them and began peppering the Thaliakron's outside walls with shots from their Bolters. Readying his weapon while still in the air, the Raven Guard returned fire, high precision tox-shots making short work of neck seals, visors and speaker grilles and the soft flesh beneath them. Prompted by the gunfire to drop the last few metres, Wayland landed heavily and with a total lack of elegance. By then, the panicked crowd was fleeing the Thaliakron, the resulting commotion a most welcome distraction for the two Loyalists who fled south through the debris field, construction engine parks and abandoned worker camps left in the wake of the Thaliakron's completion. The Iron Warriors, who had not been as changed by their betrayal as other Legions, quickly mounted an organised pursuit, bringing in reinforcements and committing them to a city-wide hunt. But however diligent and methodical, the Iron Warriors were ill-prepared for what came next.
Operating as a single ship and in small numbers had taught the Sysipheum’s crew some valuable lessons -- for instance, to leave nothing to chance and always have a contingency-plan to rely upon. This contigency had taken the form of several cases worth of explosives, buried in strategic locations as to better secure Wayland's and Sharrowkyn's extraction corridor. The first charge caught a band of mortal followers, shattering their cooked and ripped bodies over a wide area, but still the enemy came on. Wayland and Sharrowkyn covered each other, one running, the other gunning down the closest enemies. Against this mortal enemy, the roar of Wayland's own Bolter proved more effective than Sharrowkyn's silent projectiles, but still they were hunted. The sound of approaching engines warned them of incoming Land Raiders, the two war machines quickly appearing on the edge of a nearby pile of debris, bearing the purple and gold livery of the Emperor's Children, proof if needed that the IIIrd Legion had also committed its warriors to the capture of their father's would-be assassins. The Land Raiders' colour scheme were a marked contrast to the utilitarian bluntness of the Iron Warriors, both Emperor's Children tanks bearing confusing swirls of purple and pink which had taken an almost organic aspect, as if the two heavy assault vehicles were scaled like the skin of a serpent. Even more confusing were the glistening banners carried on their topside and the hull-mounted incense burners or smoke dispensers that enveloped the tanks' hulls in a swirl of brightly-coloured fog. Their appearance was in fact so peculiar that Sharrowkyn stopped in his tracks, a hesitation that ultimately saved his life, as the pile of rubble he had selected as his next cover was vaporised by one of the leading Land Raider's twin-linked Lascannons. Thrown back by the might of the detonation, Sharrowkyn landed hard, but was quickly back on his feet. He had lost sight of Wayland, but the still-approaching battle tanks left him no time to think about it. Sharrowkyn jumped inside an excavation trench and followed it, using the trench's depth as cover. More and more shots were zeroing in on him, but fortunately, his armour's inbuilt stealth systems were throwing off the aim of his pursuers. The trench ended in a circular material depot, dominated by sections of wide-mouthed pipe works that were more than a match for the barrels of a Titan's weaponry. Just as he reached the circular area, Wayland's voice manifested itself on Sharrowkyn's voice-link, urging him to take cover. Wasting no time, Sharrowkyn dived for the nearest section of pipe as the earth shook under the might of multiple coordinated detonations. Wayland had just triggered the main and secondary charges. A heavy pall of smoke, dust and sand began to obscure the landscape, leaving Sharrowkyn a small moment of respite after he had despatched a lone Emperor's Children Astartes who had also sought refuge from the blast in the same section of pipe.
Using the confusion around him to assess his position, Sharrowkyn got a clear look at his pursuers: the khaki uniforms of the soldiers of the Selucid Thorakites, oath-bonded mortal warriors of the IVth Legion, led and directed by Iron Warriors Astartes. The enemy was clever, trying to box him in, but they were not privy to the Raven Guard stealth and infiltration techniques, and so Sharrowkyn gradually made for his rendezvous point. Attempts to raise Wayland on the Vox all failed, leading the lone Raven Guard to wonder if his ally might have been caught, but he quickly dismissed the thought. Distracted by his own worries, Sharrowkyn realised too late that he was not alone in the ravine he had just ventured into: someone had followed him. On instinct, Sharrowkyn dived, narrowly escaping the blast of sonic waves that devastated the ravine's wall instead. Rolling on his back he quickly emptied his Needler's magazine on the lone enemy, transforming his breastplate into a bloody mess, but still the enemy warrior did not fall. Laughing hysterically the Emperor's Children Astartes raised his exotic cannon -- which was some kind of Sonic Weapon -- but before he could fire again, Sharrowkyn had drawn his twin gladii and silenced the weapon for good. Even with Sharrowkyn's second blade firmly embedded in his neck, the enemy Noise Marine still lived, letting out an ear piercing shriek before the Raven Guard could punch his first blade into his enemy's brain. Now his pursuers had a fix on his position.
Sheathing his weapons and shouldering his rifle, Sharrowkyn ran from the construction site. Enemy troops were inbound and he knew full well that his chances of escaping were dwindling by the solar minute. In utter desperation, Sharrowkyn violated his Legion doctrines, climbing an earthly ridge to get a better view of his surroundings and possibly make out a path ahead, but this meant sky-lining himself and thus becoming an easily recognisable target. The vision he gained was a grim one: he was surrounded. Nearly a thousand soldiers were converging on his position, some of them carrying heavy weapons such as small-calibre howitzers, quad-lasers or tunnelling mortars. Further out, but rapidly closing, he could see four Land Raiders and at least a dozen Rhinos throwing up dust, all wearing the dull-metal hulls of the Iron Warriors. Swearing, Sharrowkyn made his way back down as the first shots began to pepper around him. Some hit him, mostly laser-shots, but still enough to make his armour’s integrated damage indicators turn an angry red. The Raven Guard was down to his last magazine, mowing down a squad of Selucid Thorakrites.
And then salvation arrived.
Descending on the wash of its powerful jet engines, a multi-spectrally camouflaged Storm Eagle descended on the battlefield, Sabik Wayland at its controls. Wasting no time, Sharrowkyn dropped flat as the Storm Eagle's nose-mounted Heavy Bolters spat devastation. Strafing the ridge several times from left to right, the enemy infantry -- both mortals and Astartes -- perished under the deluge of fire. Thanks to their thick plating and front armour, the Land Raiders had weathered the storm, but Wayland was not finished. Locking onto his targets, the Storm Eagle's missile launchers came to bear, four slender missiles detaching from its avian silhouette which caused the Land Raiders to explode or crash into their own troops. Using the short time they had won, Wayland opened the flyer's assault bay and Sharrowkyn quickly jumped inside. Wayland did not wait for his friend and ally to join him in the cockpit to engage the Storm Eagle's engines and flee the battlefield. Making their way back to the Sisypheum would be a bumpy ride, but they were not flying in a conventional Astartes spacecraft but the only existing Nighthawk Pattern Storm Eagle, personally designed and built by Wayland himself. Despite their best efforts, the Iron Warriors and Emperor's Children would not be able to catch it.
The Folly of Frater Thamatica
Safely back on board the Sisypheum, Wayland took their intelligence straight to the Strike Cruiser's nominal commander, Captain Cadmus Tyro, who acted on behalf of the Sisypheum’s true master, Ulrach Branthan of the Iron Hands' 65th Company. Branthan had been grievously wounded on Istvaan V and had to be put into stasis to keep him alive at all. Whenever the need arose and important decisions had to be made, Branthan was woken for short periods of time. This would be one of those times. With Captain Branthan sanctioning every offensive measure to deny the Traitors the powerful weapons hidden in the Eye of Terror, the Sisypheum set out, led on the secret paths of the Eldar race by a xenos guide. While the combined fleet of the Emperor's Children and the Iron Warriors travelled on a route known as the Paths Above, the Sisypheum would take an alternate route to which their guide referred to as the Paths Below. It was Tyro's hope that by using this secret path of the Eldar Webway, they would be able to reach their destination before the Traitors and either destroy the weapon before the enemy could lay their hands on it, or ambush them and claim the weapon for themselves. However, the voyage to Iydris would not go unnoticed.
While still travelling to Iydris, the Sisypheum’s senior Iron Father, Frater Thamatica, conducted a dangerous experiment whose eventual failure caused an enormous electromagnetic backlash which effectively crippled the warship and left the Sisypheum dead in the void. Worse yet, both enemy fleets and their flagships had picked up the electromagnetic discharge and pinpointed the Strike Cruiser's exact location.The Emperor's Children, determined to get their revenge on the Iron Hands who had tried to assassinate their Primarch on Hydra Cordatus, quickly staged a boarding action. The IIIrd Legion's Strike Cruiser Andronicus soon came alongside the Sisypheum and launched a full boarding assault. Captain Tyro had called all hands to battle stations as soon as Thamatica's folly had been noticed, which meant that when the Emperor's Children came, the Iron Hands were ready to defend their ship, Sharrowkyn amongst them. While the first wave crashed against the defenders, the lone Raven Guard held back, reading the ebb and flow of the battle. As customary in boarding actions, the enemy would try to enter through the Strike Cruiser's landing bays, the sole place on a voidship that allowed the concentrated deployment of troops. This would be where the fighting would be the fiercest. Two targets presented themselves and Sharrowkyn chose to engage the one he judged the most dangerous: a swordsman of infinite grace and speed who wielded two ornate blades -- Captain Lucius. Despite having the element of surprise on his side, Sharrowkyn's first attack did not kill his target outright but merely succeeded in throwing his enemy to the deck. As further proof of his skill, the unknown warrior also parried or dodged the following blows, rolling across the deck and expertly blocking the Raven Guard's strikes until he regained his footing. Having taken the measure of his opponent, Sharrowkyn attacked, lightning-fast, but this time the swordsman was prepared for him and none of his blows were able to pierce his defence. As the duel progressed, the enemy tried to goad him into an impromptu attack, but Sharrowkyn was too experienced to let himself be drawn into such an obvious trap. Like a mortal dance, both duellists circled each other, approaching and exchanging blows and blocks -- both equally gifted. Lucius relished the moment, rejoicing at the very notion that he might have found someone who might actually beat him. Questions followed insults, the swordsman wanting to know the name of his extraordinary opponent, but Sharrowkyn greeted these questions the same as Lucius' more barbed comments: with silence. This seemed to unnerve the Emperor's Children Astartes. His enemy fighting bareheaded, Sharrowkyn exploited this momentary lapse in his opponent's composure to strike at his face, the black gladius opening a deep gash on Lucius' cheek. Astonished by this feat, Lucius took a step back, ecstatic at having been wounded, and thus did not see his "comrade" rushing at him from behind and knocking him over.
Intent on stealing Lucius' kill, the newcomer threw himself at the Raven Guard, swinging both his swords in a beheading cut. Compared to Lucius' skill this one's bladework was clumsy at best and Sharrowkyn almost killed him without effort, instinctively ducking beneath the blow and ramming his left hand short sword into the warrior's midriff, right beneath where his backplate started. Before the Emperor's Children Astartes could react, Sharrowkyn had already struck again, opening his opponent's throat and skull at the same time. Seizing his chance, Sharrowkyn threw himself at Lucius, intent on finishing him while he was still lying on the floor, but before he could reach him, he was thrown back into the air by the shockwave of a teleportation strike: Perturabo and his Iron Circle had joined the attack on the Sisypheum. While the fight for the landing bay was changed by this new turn of events, some separate elements of the Emperor's Children's assault had broken through the Iron Hands' defensive positions. Led by Chief Apothecary Fabius Bile, one party consisting of a collection of Bile's nightmarish creations, including Noise Marines and severely mutated beast-like former Astartes, broke into the Sisypheum’s Apothecarian, where they were met by the two valiant Morlocks that had been standing guard over Ulrach Branthan's body -- Septus Thoic and Ignatus Numen -- and the Apothecary Atesh Tarsa. Realising the danger they were in and the horrors unleashed by Bile, Tarsa called for urgent reinforcements. Intercepting Tarsa's Vox-message, Sharrowkyn quickly rushed to his friends' aid in a desperate effort to save the Sisypheum’s captain. Sharrowkyn wraith-slipped into the Apothecarion, dropping right onto Fabius Bile and piercing his torso with his twin blades. Hurling one of his blades like a throwing knife, Sharrowkyn slew a Noise Marine outright, but before he could finish Bile, the sole remaining abomination threw itself at Sharrowkyn. Rolling over Branthan's casket, Sharrowkyn could only stare in horror as the thing's altered metabolism went into hyperdrive, its muscles and claws growing and its neck thickening under his very eyes. Fortunately, Sharrowkyn had called for aid himself. The backwall of the Apothecarion was suddenly ripped to shreds as the towering form of a Legiones Astartes Dreadnought entered the fray. Too big to fit through the door, Brother Bombastus, "The Iron Thunder of Medusa," had made his own doorway and answered Tarsa's call. Seizing the frenzied beast in his Power Fist, the Dreadnought repeatedly bludgeoned the mutated thing's head into the wall and floor until it could move no further. To be sure of the aberration's ultimate death, Brother Bombastus activated his fist's underslung Storm Bolter and blew its brains out. Captain Branthan and Apothecary Tarsa had been saved, but Fabius Bile had managed to escape once more.
While these dire events unfolded, Frater Thamatica had rushed to the Sisypheum’s Enginarium, the best-suited place from which to nurse some energy back into the Strike Cruiser. In this task, the Iron Father proved lucky: the emergency venting systems had kept the Plasma Reactors operational and these were still producing power. However this surplus of energy was gradually overloading the Sisypheum’s systems. Diverting the available energy to whatever secondary systems were available, Thamatica let the power build up in the generators, simulating an intentional reactor overload. This did not go unnoticed for long, and soon the Iron Warrior's flagship, the Iron Blood, detected this energy spike and alerted Perturabo of it. While the Primarch himself did not believe that the Iron Hands would sacrifice themselves in such a manner, his Triarchs urged him to reconsider his position and take no risks. In the end, the Iron Warriors retreated without warning the Emperor's Children of their impending doom. As soon as he got word of the Iron Warriors' retreat, Thamatica rerouted the colossal amount of energy at his disposal to the voidship's propulsion systems. The engines flared white-hot, their output magnified by the amount of energy that was fed to them. At a moment's notice, the Sisypheum lurched forward, akin to a missile taking flight from its launcher. With phenomenal velocity, it rammed the stationary Andronicus, cleaving it into two drifting hull-portions. The warships' flanks offered no protection at all against the kinetic power of the Sisypheum’s mass launched at full-speed. Most of the Emperor's Children Astartes still on board the Iron Hands' Strike Cruiser where sucked out into space by the unexpected acceleration. Its plasma thrusters blazing at maximum capacity, the Sisypheum made good its escape.
Despite the losses inflicted by the Emperor's Children and the Iron Warriors, the Iron Hands would not relent. The Sisypheum made its way to the Crone World of Iydris where Cadmus Tyro led the Strike Cruiser's entire complement of warriors to the surface, a few warriors short of 150 Astartes against the gathered might of two full Space Marine Legions. As the most experienced team of scouts, Wayland and Sharrowkyn led the way, spying on the Traitors who had already erected fortifications around the central tomb which allegedly harboured the prize coveted by the two Primarchs. Following their Eldar guide's directions, the Iron Hands were able to ambush the Traitors just as Fulgrim was conducting the foul ritual that would see him reborn as a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. Benefitting from the confusion sown by the awakening of Iydris' wraithbone constructs, the Iron Hands infiltrated the tomb complex and were able to gather around the two Primarchs and their personal retinues. What they witnessed was only further testimony to the degenerate nature of the Traitors as Fulgrim and his First Captain, Lord Commander Eidolon, conducted a vile ritual during which Fulgrim absorbed the life energy of hundreds or even thousands of Eldar Spirit Stones. As a further sacrifice, the Emperor's Children began to take their own lives or in some cases that of their allies. But the crowning achievement was to be the sacrifice of a fellow Primarch. At their first meeting on Hydra Cordatus, Fulgrim had gifted his brother a rare gem he had named the Maugetar Stone, an enchanted crystal that had slowly gorged itself on Perturabo's life force, the final piece of the puzzle that would allow Fulgrim to ascend to the status of a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. As both Primarchs fought each other, Perturabo, intent on denying Fulgrim the power residing in the stone cast it away into a great pit.
However, Garuda -- Captain Branthan's cybernetic eagle -- seized the Maugetar Stone as it was dropping into oblivion, revealing the Iron Hands' presence and heralding their attack. Fortunately for the Emperor's Children, the swordsman Lucius was able to clip one of Garuda's wings by a well-placed shot of his Bolt Pistol, starting a desperate struggle for the possession of the Maugetar Stone. Sharrowkyn was also present, hiding in the shadows, covering the approach to the stone with his Needler Sniper Rifle. Acting on a hunch, Lucius sent one of his subordinates to fetch the stone, and the Astartes was promptly downed by two high precision shots that shattered his helmet's eye-lenses and exploded in his skull. Opening fire with his Bolt Pistol, Lucius forced Sharrowkyn out of hiding. Diving forwards, he quickly seized the Maugetar Stone and unsheathed his sword. Sharrowkyn did not wait long, firing his Jet Pack and opening fire on his descent. While every shot hit his mark, no needle was able to penetrate Lucius' Power Armour. Lucius lashed out, cutting Sharrowkyn's carbine in two. "You bring a needle-carbine to a sword-fight?," the swordsman sneered while Sharrowkyn unsheathed his own weapons. Both swordsmen had longed to finish their interrupted duel, and as an act of respect, Sharrowkyn gave his opponent what he had denied him during their last encounter: his name. Sharrowkyn noticed at once that the sword man had changed his second sword for a viciously-looking barbed whip with which Lucius attacked first, grazing Sharrowkyn's eye-lenses before following up with his sword. Aimed at his leg, the swordsman diverted the cut at the last moment, transforming it into a thrust at Sharrowkyn's groin, but Sharrowkyn blocked the sword between his two gladii. Sharrowkyn tried to hammer his elbow into Lucius' face, but the latter had let himself be carried by his momentum, ducking beneath Sharrowkyn's swinging arm while striking out at the base of Sharrowkyn's spine.
The Raven Guard had to use his Jump Pack to get himself out of harm's way, interrupting their duel. The roles were now reversed, as this time Sharrowkyn tried to tempt Lucius into attacking him, but as during their first encounter he refused to take the bait. Instead, Sharrowkyn ignited his Jump Pack again, throwing himself on his opponent. Lucius' whip, possessed of a malicious mind of its own, lashed out and wrapped around the Raven Guard's neck, its sharp barbs piercing his armour's collar seals and even drawing blood, but that did not stop Sharrowkyn. Still flying, Sharrowkyn parried Lucius' sword with his gladii, the block just enough to let the sword tip graze his armour's Ceramite before impacting with his opponent. His enemy relished the clean and honourable kill of a duel, so Sharrowkyn turned their fight into a brawl. Too close for bladework, both warriors exchanged blows with their fists, rolling violently on the floor until Sharrowkyn made his decisive move. With typical arrogance, Lucius had removed his helmet, an error Sharrowkyn would not let go unpunished. Headbutting the swordsman, Sharrowkyn broke the Emperor’s Children's nose, blood flowing freely into Lucius' eyes.
The swordsman tried to anticipate the Raven Guard's moves, thrusting and striking where he supposed his enemy would be to deliver the killing blow, but Sharrowkyn wraith-slipped and eluded all of Lucius' attacks. Lucius relished the first wound inflicted on him by Sharrowkyn, a blade thrust into his flank, savouring the exquisite feeling of pain, but soon changed his attitude when Sharrowkyn's second blade cut into his back. The next blow gave him a new scar on his cheek, one to mirror the one taken during their first duel as Sharrowkyn mercilessly continued to dance around Lucius. His strength slowly ebbing away, Lucius knew the end was near. Sharrowkyn appeared behind the swordsman, pushing him to his knees, poised for the final strike. Both black blades were now on Lucius' neck, their tip nestled into the hollows between collarbone and throat. "It gives me no pleasure to do this," said Sharrowkyn. "You are nothing to me, simply a rabid dog that needs to be put down," he continued, before thrusting both his blades into Lucius' ribcage. With no time to savour his victory, Sharrowkyn took possession of the Maugetar Stone, contemplating what to do with it. Perturabo, who was locked in a duel with his brother, had tried to deny it to the Emperor’s Children, which sort of made him an ally in this struggle. However, Fulgrim was clearly gaining the upper hand. Knowing that no one except another Primarch could oppose a Primarch and hope to live, Sharrowkyn did the only sensible thing: He destroyed the Maugetar Stone and released its energy so that Perturabo might be restored. Seizing the Bolt Pistol of Lucius the Eternal from his cold corpse, Sharrowkyn blasted it apart with precise shots.
As soon as the stone was shattered, its life energy was released, flowing back into its rightful owner. Thus strengthened, Perturabo fought back, his hatred for his brother's duplicity and treachery empowering him further. Hefting Forgebreaker, the mighty warhammer gifted to him by Horus Lupercal, Perturabo struck down Fulgrim. It was, however, exactly what the degenerate Primarch of the Emperor's Children had hoped for. As Forgebreaker destroyed the Primarch's physical body -- the only anchor he still had in the physical realm -- the ritual was completed and Fulgrim was reborn as a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. The energy released by this transmutation was enough to shatter Iydris, great cracks appearing in the planet's crust, forcing both the Iron Warriors and the Iron Hands to promptly leave this doomed world. Of the Emperor's Children no trace could be found, each and every one of them having vanished at the same time their Daemon Primarch had opened a portal into the Warp and stepped through it. While the Sisypheum’s remaining gunships came down to extract the battered survivors, Sharrowkyn quickly recovered Garuda before returning its broken form to Captain Tyro. With all haste the Sisypheum departed the doomed world of Iydris. The Crone World was slowly sucked into the Warp rift, while everyone onboard hoped that this baleful celestial body might also sign the death warrant of the Iron Warrior's fleet.
Allies Unlooked For
With the losses suffered on Iydris, the Sisypheum’s offensive capabilities had been severely reduced. The voidship itself had not escaped unscathed, but as before, the dedication of its crew had allowed the Sisypheum to endure. The Strike Cruiser could still prove a deadly opponent, as isolated enemy ships would soon find out. The Zeta Morgeld, a Strike Cruiser belonging to the XXth Legion, was only the latest vessel to be cornered and boarded by the Sisypheum. While the Iron Hands conducted a more conventional boarding action, Sharrowkyn and his partner, Wayland, chose an alternate route -- running along the Morgeld’s exterior hull to reach the bridge. To gain access to the ship's interior, Wayland carried a Lascutter, a high-powered cutting tool, which would allowed the pair to breach the Morgeld’s bridge and circumvent its extensive defensive measures. However, as the main attack was bogged down by a pair of Alpha Legion Terminators, Sharrowkyn and Wayland stepped in to save Captain Tyro's life. The first Terminator was sucked into the void and the second was no match for Sharrowkyn's deadly blade work. The Zeta Morgeld’s navigational logs held highly classified information -- the future location of the Alpha Legion's elusive Primarch, Alpharius. Though encrypted, Wayland and Frater Thamatica were able to crack the enemy codes thanks to the captured Kryptos. Having been stripped of anything useful, the Iron Hands were about to dispose of the Zeta Morgeld when the Sisypheum unexpectedly came under attack by the Theta Malquiant, another Alpha Legion Strike Cruiser that had just appeared in-system. The Theta Malquiant did not come alone, however, for it had been followed by a Loyalist vessel, the Iron Heart, flagship of the famed Iron Hands Captain Shadrak Meduson.
While the Iron Hands rejoiced at the Iron Heart’s timely arrival and the prospect of joining forces with one of their Legion's greatest heroes, Sharrowkyn was more reserved. Ever suspicious, the Iron Heart’s miraculous arrival and timely rescue of the Sisypheum sat ill at ease with the Raven Guard. The XIXth Legion had always been cautious, and disliked sacrificing its warriors in often costly direct assaults when the same goal could be attained through other means. This same sense of caution lead Sharrowkyn to speak out against Tyro, urging the assembled command council of the Sisypheum to cut all Vox-links to the Iron Heart and rapidly vacate the system. But the Sisypheum was still an Iron Hands' vessel and Sharrowkyn's warnings were easily dismissed by the eager Iron Hands. On a purely rational level, Sharrowkyn could understand the Iron Hands' psychological need to fight together: the Iron Tenth was not used to guerrilla warfare and while they would never openly admit to it, covert operations gnawed at their resolve. Knowing full well that he was still perceived as an outsider, Sharrowkyn departed the bridge. Leaving the Iron Hands to their reunion, the Raven Guard isolated himself on the Sisypheum’s forging decks. He was, however, not entirely alone, for on those decks was another outsider to the Xth Legion: Atesh Tarsa of the Salamanders Legion. Though their mutual appearance could not have been more different, an honest friendship had developed between the stealth expert and the Apothecary. To Tarsa, Sharrowkyn confessed his doubts on the course of action Cadmus Tyro had set them on: to join their meagre forces with those of Meduson and hunt down Alpharius. Sharrowkyn relayed his distrust of Meduson and decided to covertly infiltrate the Iron Heart on his own to ascertain that Meduson was truly who he appeared to be.
While the Sisypheum’s Kryptos was decrypting the data retrieved from the Zeta Morgeld, Sharrowkyn covertly attached himself to a lone shuttle and made his way over to the Iron Heart. Gaining access to the inside of the voidship was simplicity itself, as the Iron Heart was woefully undermanned. Prowling the Strike Cruiser's corridors, Sharrowkyn remarked that the ship had almost been entirely rebuilt from within, a testimony to the Iron Heart’s recent encounters with the enemy. Yet the lay-out of the new cursives and corridors was a far cry from the more common and ordered structures of the STC-template for voidships used in the Imperium's orbital shipyards. Contacting Wayland over a secure Vox-channel, Sharrowkyn gained access to the Sisypheum’s extensive data-logs which contained the initial construction plans of the Iron Heart. What he had seen onboard was a far cry from what the blueprints for the design called for. But before he could investigate the matter any further, Sharrowkyn was discovered by Shadrak Meduson. Having acted without permission or even knowledge from Tyro, Sharrowkyn's presence on the Iron Heart might well have caused further tensions if Meduson had not conceded in revealing the presence of his own infiltrator aboard the Sisypheum. Scolding Tyro for his lack of precautions and inquisitive nature, Meduson let the case rest, but this entire incident only served to strengthen Sharrowkyn's misgivings toward the Iron Hands Captain. No warrior of the Xth Legion, however cautious and well-versed in the art of stealth, would have been able to fool the Raven Guard's senses, and yet Sharrowkyn had not perceived the presence of this infiltrator in their midst.
The Kryptos soon completed its decoding of the information retrieved from the Alpha Legion Strike Cruiser. What it told the Iron Hands was of a most sensitive nature -- the data indicated that the mysterious and elusive Primarch of the XXth Legion was bound to meet with some of their troops in a nearby star system. Thanks to the Kryptos, the Iron Hands now had the navigational logs of the Zeta Morgeld and the means to intercept Alpharius. As Meduson convened with Tyro, the Sisypheum and the Iron Heart readied themselves for a most dangerous venture -- to kill a Primarch. But before the Sisypheum could join the Iron Heart in this joint quest, they had to take the proposed mission to Captain Branthan. So it came to pass that the wounded captain was awakened again from his stasis-slumber. Branthan's words were still law as far as the Iron Hands were concerned, and his commands were clear -- accept the mission, redeem the Iron Tenth's honour, and kill Alpharius.
The data of the Zeta Morgeld took the Iron Hands into an uninhabited and barely mapped star system at the edge of known space. It was then no surprise when the data-logs confirmed that the system had originally been discovered by the Alpha Legion. The navigational charts took the Sisypheum and its partner to the system's seventh world, designated Eirene Septimus. The planet was a Death World whose acidic oceans were utterly inimical to life. Yet it had strategic value, for its precipitation consisted of pure Promethium, a precious resource in this time of interstellar civil war. The sole human structure present on Eirene Septimus was a gigantic hovering grav-plate which harboured almost fully automated refineries, all in service of the XXth Legion. Designated Laerna 2-12, this gravitational plate was to be the place where Alpharius would talk to his Legion. Infiltrating the facility would have been next to impossible if the Iron Hands had not retrieved several suits of Alpha Legion Power Armour from the Zeta Morgeld. Their plan was for an advanced party from the Sisypheum to masquerade as Alpha Legion Astartes to allow the landing parties from both the Sisypheum and the Iron Heart to enter Laerna 2-12. As was fairly common within the Iron Tenth, the Iron Hands' commanders, Shadrak Meduson and Cadmus Tyro, would personally lead their troops from the front. Neither would be part of the infiltration team.
Acting on his own initiative, Nykona Sharrowkyn entered the facility ahead of the infiltration team itself, using his modified Jump Pack to jump from the Storm Eagle's rear ramp while it was still approaching Laerna 2-12. Touching down amidst the rooftops and skyways of the refineries, Sharrowkyn promptly despatched two sentinels to allow the Iron Hands' Storm Eagle and escorting Thunderhawk to disembark their troops. Once the path was clear, Sharrowkyn wasted no time and promptly went in search of a good vantage point from which he would be able to cover the infiltration team's progress. Lerna 2-12 was a massive anti-gravitational plate, an entire city floating above the acid seas of Eirene Septimus, hovering at the very edge of the cloudline where the air was still breathable. As suspected with such a secret facility, much of Lerna 2-12 was automated, a discovery Sharrowkyn quickly relayed to the still approaching Iron Hands gunships. To inflict maximum damage on the Alpha Legion, the Sisypheum’s two Iron Fathers, Frater Thamatica and Sabik Wayland, had developed a chemical compound that would ignite within the Alpha Legion vessels' Promethium reservoirs. But to release the compound, the Iron Hands first needed to gain control of Lerna 2-12's main control hub, which had been designated as the infiltration team's first target. Led by Septus Thoic and Verdana Cybus, two survivors of the Iron Hands Legion's Avernii Clan, the infiltration team initially made good progress, as to the few Mechanicum priests they encountered the infiltrators seemed indistinguishable from real members of the XXth Legion. It was only when the team encountered other Astartes that matters became tense. The infiltration team encountered several Alpha Legion Land Speeders and were challenged by their crews. Having no knowledge of the XXth Legion's secret battle-cant and code-phrases, Cybus managed to approach one of the vehicles by faking a malfunctioning Vox bead before Sharrowkyn intervened -- warning Cybus to shoot when he himself opened fire. A high precision shot from Sharrowkyn's Needler Sniper Rifle took the second Land Speeder's gunner in the eye before the follow-up shots killed its driver, thus giving Cybus the split-second he needed to kill the first skimmer's crew. With the infiltration team's true identity still safe, Sharrowkyn advanced towards the objective.
Lerna 2-12's main control hub was located within a towering ziggurat whose architecture betrayed its affiliation to the Mechanicum rather than the Alpha Legion. Around the ziggurat several Titans marched, but fortunately for the Loyalists, these were not the mighty war-engines fielded by the Collegia Titanica. They were instead workhorses of industrial design whose grappling limbs, fuel connector and lifter rigs were powerful enough to move the immense fuel lines gathered in the central refuelling column that dwarfed the main control hub as a mighty tree might a sapling. To gain access to the control hub, the infiltration team chose subtle misdirection. Still clad in their stolen warplate, the Loyalists hastily staged a fake firefight, tricking the ziggurat's guards into letting them enter the facility. Thanks in no small part to the code phrase they had been greeted with during their first encounter with the Traitors, the team convinced the guards that they were under assault by splinter-elements of the Raven Guard. Opening the door, the Alpha Legion let their "comrades" in, ready to repel the enemy when the Iron Hands turned on them. Sharrowkyn placed the first shot, killing three guards in quick succession as the Iron Hands claimed the control room. The Loyalists used the captured Land Speeders to catch the surviving Alpha Legion Astartes in a devastating cross-fire, shredding much of the far wall with their Heavy Bolters to ensure Cybus' plan remained operational. Sharrowkyn did not stay to watch this, as a sniper needed to move on as soon as his shot had been fired.
As Alpharius' voidship slowly docked with Lerna 2-12, Sharrowkyn found a perfect spot with an unobstructed line of fire to the staging ground where his target would soon appear. Frater Taumatica was conducting the necessary rites to release the explosive compound into the Promethium tanks used to refuel the Alpha Legion ships, turning them into gigantic flying bombs. The infiltration team had also reached the staging ground, Thoic and Cybus leading the party. Sharrowkyn observed all of this through the lense of his Needle Sniper Rifle, attentive to every motion or sign that they had been discovered. A true marksman needed absolute calm to make the perfect shot, and Sharrowkyn knew after the failure of his first attempt how difficult it truly was. Yet, he could not shake the feeling that something was amiss. From his sniper's nest some three hundred metres above the ground, Sharrowkyn had an eagle's view of the control hub and the landing platform on which Alpharius' Thunderhawk gunship was due to arrive any solar minute. Cybus and his infiltration team, now numbering only five warriors, advanced unopposed and were covered by two squads of Iron Hands Astartes from the Iron Heart -- Meduson's men. They moved with far superior discretion and skill than the men of the Sisypheum, and Sharrowkyn found a new respect for these warriors and their commanding officer. Yet doubts still nagged at the borders of his mind. Fixing Thoic and Cybus through his rifle's crosshairs, easily piercing the veil of heavy rain that had begun to fall, Sharrowkyn stared at his comrades-in-arms for a long moment. Fighting alongside someone for standard years bred a special kind of connection between warriors, and Sharrowkyn knew every quirk, every slight detail in the body language of the men he was now observing. Nothing seemed to warrant his misgivings. The rain was obviously washing away some of the blood from Cybus' armour, and other members of his infiltration team had also suffered some wounds in the taking of the control hub. Was this what had tipped him off? A slight limp due to a ricocheting Bolter round or a shallow knife cut? Before he had the opportunity to delve further into the matter, Sharrowkyn's thoughts were interrupted by the screeching sound of a Thunderhawk's engines, as an unmarked gunship approached the landing pad. Alpharius was inbound.
Once his transport had landed, Alpharius stepped from the Thunderhawk, quickly joining the waiting party led by Cybus and Thoic. From the moment he stepped out of the unmarked Thunderhawk, Sharrowkyn had the Primarch in his crosshairs but took no further action. As the sire of the XXth Legion exchanged some words with Thoic, Sharrowkyn could only watch in horror as Thoic drew his gladius and slit Cybus' throat in one deft stroke. As a fierce firefight erupted between the Iron Hands in disguise and Alpharius' escort, Thoic jumped on Alpharius, battling the Primarch in hand-to-hand combat. Sharrowkyn followed the massacre through the scope of his Needler Sniper Rifle. Focussing on the duel between Thoic and Alpharius, Sharrowkyn realised the reason for his earlier disquiet -- the warrior fighting the Primarch was not Septus Thoic, but an imposter. Recalling Meduson's earlier comment that he had infiltrated the Sisypheum, Sharrowkyn realised the full extent of the truth. Cursing Tyro's gullibility, Sharrowkyn clutched his Needler Sniper Rifle tighter and focused on the "Thoic" who was now sparring with Alpharius himself. To Sharrowkyn's trained eye, their similar fighting style was testimony enough that both warriors were in fact members of the Alpha Legion. Reading the ebb and flow of the combat, trying to dismiss the fact that beneath him his Battle-Brothers were dying, Sharrowkyn fired, and Alpharius went down, his brain pulverised by a high precision shot. Sharrowkyn promptly switched targets, aiming for "Thoic" but the infiltrator was already diving for cover while "Meduson's" men were flanking the remaining Alpha Legion Astartes. However, before Sharrowkyn could take his next shot, two Fire Raptor gunships were closing in on his position, their central Avenger Gatling Cannons already cycling. Wondering how they had found him so quickly, Sharrowkyn sprinted towards the edge on the venting tower, jumping to escape the torrent of fire unleashed by approaching gunship.
Forewarned by a last transmission from Sabik Wayland, Cadmus Tyro realized how truly he had been betrayed, for his target had never been the Primarch of the XXth Legion but a dissident from the Alpha Legion's own ranks. The man they had set out to kill and the crews and Astartes that would soon die on the sabotaged ships had all been Loyalist soldiers of the Emperor. And Cadmus Tyro had killed them, manipulated by the Traitors. The true Alpharius had been much closer at hand, masquerading this entire time as Shadrak Meduson. Save for Frater Thamatica and Ignatius Numen, all Iron Hands present in the control hub were in truth Alpha Legion Astartes in disguise, following their Primarch's order. Hopelessly outnumbered and confronted with a Primarch, Tyro knew he had little to no chance of escaping, but he could still buy Thamatica some time to come up with a contingency plan. The Iron Father never failed to deliver and he did so this time when a massive manipulator claw smashed through the control hub's ceiling, causing the entire building to collapse. Still connected with Lerna 2-12's control grid, Thamatica had ordered the industrial Titans to destroy the control hub, allowing the three of them to turn the tables on their enemies. It was not much and arrayed against a Primarch they had no true chance of victory, but it ultimately proved to be a boon as Sharrowkyn was able to join the fight in time to save Numen and Thamatica.
Dropping directly into the combat, Sharrowkyn slammed into the Traitor named Ashur Maesan, a dreadfully agile, swift and vicious fighter who had already killed four of the Sisypheum’s Astartes with his favoured weapon, the Hiebmesser usually favoured by the dreaded Night Lords. Maesan recovered quickly, more quickly than Sharrowkyn had anticipated, lunging at Sharrowkyn before the Raven Guard had assumed his fighting stance. Using his Jump Pack with skill, Sharrowkyn put some distance between him and his opponent and their duel began in earnest. Soon Sharrowkyn was bleeding from two wounds on his neck and hip, disorientated by the Alpha Legion Astartes' fighting style. Feigning exhaustion, Sharrowkyn tricked Maesan into an all-out attack, but rushed him using his Jump Pack. Lightning-quick, Maesan ducked the onrushing Sharrowkyn, just as Sharrowkyn had anticipated. Letting go of one of his twin black swords to free his hand, Sharrowkyn used his free hand to grab Maesan's shoulder guard. Using his momentum to swing himself around like a pendulum, Sharrowkyn triggered his Jump Pack again, reversing his motion and diving onto Maesan. He stabbed Maesan right behind the collarbone, his black sword plunging deep into the Alpha Legion Astartes' vital organs. Making sure his opponent was truly dead, Sharrowkyn readied himself for the next fight.
Retrieving his discarded gladius, Nykona Sharrowkyn readied himself to face the most dangerous enemy he had ever encountered: one of the Emperor's own Primarchs. It was not the first time Sharrowkyn had seen one born of the Emperor's own flesh and blood, and it was not even the first time he had tried to kill one of them. The events on Hydra Cordatus were a testimony to that. But it would be the first time he would face a Primarch in hand-to-hand combat. Alpharius slowly advanced, negligently tossing aside Frater Thamatica who landed close to where the deeply-wounded Captain Tyro laid. Words passed between the Primarch of the XXth Legion and the scion of the Raven Lord, Alpharius praising Sharrowkyn's fighting skills. The Primarch bent over, retrieving Maesan's Hiebmesser and attaching it to his belt. Sharrowkyn tensed, expecting an attack despite the fact that the Primarch was not showing any sign of hostility. "Put your blades away, Nykona," said Alpharius, "I said you were good, but that shadow-slipping trick my brother taught you won't work on me." "We'll see," answered the defiant Raven Guard, gripping his swords tighter. "No, we won't," replied Alpharius, turning around, adamant on not fighting Sharrowkyn for his brother Magnus the Red had asked him not to. Puzzled, Sharrowkyn sheathed his own swords, knowing that he had nothing to fear, for despite his reputation, Alpharius was always true to his word. Sharrowkyn asked the Primarch what this had all been for, why he had entangled the Sysipheum in his plans and brought them to Lerna 2-12, but Alpharius simply answered he should ask Tyro...if he survived. Only now was the Raven Guard aware of Tyro's true condition, his chest pierced by four mass-reactive shells and his skin even paler than his own. That he still lived at all was a testimony to the Iron Hand's stubbornness. Alpharius departed, saying : "I said I wouldn’t kill you, but I think that might." As if on cue, the prow of one of the destroyed Alpha Legion Strike Cruisers fell down onto Lerna 2-12, engulfing the refineries in another explosion. With the help of Thamatica, Sharrowkyn hefted Tyro's body between them and tried to escape the grav-plate's impending death.
Fortunately for Sharrowkyn, Sabik Wayland had survived his aerial duel against "Meduson's" Thunderhawk and despite having taken severe hits, the Iron Father's Storm Eagle was still airborne. As the grav-plate was about to fall into the planet's acid oceans, the remaining four survivors of the Sysipheum quickly embarked. Sharrowkyn rushed to the cockpit to assist Wayland as co-pilot, for Eirene Septimus' atmosphere was on the verge of igniting. Battling his gunship's controls to keep their Storm Eagle on course, they broke the atmosphere just as Lerna 2-12 was erased from existence by the fiery tornado unleashed by the Strike Cruiser's destruction. Cadmus Tyro stubbornly clung to life, even managing to exchange a few words with the lone Raven Guard, regretting that he had not heeded Sharowkyn's advice. Henceforth, Sharrowkyn would be given a voice in the Sysipheum’s councils and be considered an equal in all matters.
- Apothecary Atesh Tarsa - Tarsa's obsidian skin and fiery eyes marked him out as a son of Vulkan, a member of the XIXth Legion of the Legiones Astartes, the Salamanders. Like Sharrowkyn, Tarsa was one of the few members of the Sysipheum’s crew who did not belong to the Iron Tenth. As the former Apothecary of the 24th Company of the Salamanders Legion, Tarsa was the most experienced medical authority onboard, which quickly left him in charge of the survival of the Sisypheum’s heavily wounded captain, Ulrach Branthan, and the numerous wounded of all kind. Yet, when not fighting to save the life of one of his patients, Atesh Tarsa and Nykona Sharrowkyn spent a lot of time together. They made an unlikely pair, the pale-skinned son of Corax and the dark-skinned Salamander, but both of them valued their friendship, having both been spared the trauma of knowing their gene-father had been slain. Sharrowkyn had been surprised when Tarsa had spotted him directly while he was wandering amongst the Sisypheum’s corridors, a feat he believed impossible to those untrained in the art of stealth. When their ship was boarded by the Emperor's Children during the Battle of Iydris, it was Sharrowkyn who saved Tarsa's life, engaging the enemy swordsman about to finish the job. Sharrowkyn also benefitted from Tarsa's friendship, having found more than a friend -- Tarsa taught Sharrowkyn a measure of his skill as a weaponsmith -- guiding Sharrowkyn as he forged his own shortsword to replace his twin gladii.
- Iron Father Sabik Wayland - Sabik Wayland was an Iron Father of the Iron Hands Legion and responsible for saving Sharrowkyn's life on the black sands of Istvaan V. As both a skilled pilot and a great inventor, Wayland was responsible for several powerful additions to the Iron Hands’ and indeed the Imperium's arsenal. In the wake of the Drop Site Massacre, Wayland would play a key part in keeping the Sisypheum combat-worthy and become one of the Iron Hands' most skilled infiltrators, for his skills in technological matters and contingency planning proved to be a powerful addition to Sharrowkyn's own abilities. Wayland and Sharrowkyn would soon become the Sisypheum’s most skilled warriors and accomplished many great deeds together.
- Cadmus Tyro - A line-officer of the Iron Hands, Cadmus Tyro had risen through the ranks of the 65th Company to become Equerry to the illustrious Captain Ulrach Branthan. Following Branthan's wounding on Istvaan V, Tyro became the nominal commander of the Sisypheum and the central figure for the survivors of the Shattered Legions to rally behind. A far more competent officer than any would give him credit for, Tyro would orchestrate the first strikes against the Traitor Legions. Despite his considerable misgivings towards those survivors not originally of the Iron Tenth, Cadmus Tyro was able to forge a coherent fighting force from the disparate survivors of the Drop Site Massacre. A hard man to like, Sharrowkyn and Tyro did not get along very well until the events on Eirene Septimus.
- Alpharius - As one of the Emperor's own genetic sons, the secretive and elusive Primarch of the XXth Legion towered over the average Astartes as a member of the Legiones Astartes towered over the unaugmented human. More than for any other Primarch, Alpharius Omegon's origins and history has always been shrouded in mysteries and half-truth. Sharrowkyn encountered Alpharius on the isolated planet of Eirene Septimus, the Primarch of the Alpha Legion having tricked the Sysipheum’s crew into assassinating an influential Alpha Legion dissident. As Alpharius revealed his true identity, Sharrowkyn readied himself to face the Primarch but Alpharius refused to attack him, making veiled references to Sharrowkyn's importance in a prophecy of Magnus the Red, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons. This deeply unsettled Sharrowkyn, for he had never served alongside the XVth Legion or met the Crimson King.
- Lucius the Eternal - Even before the galaxy-shattering events of the Istvaan III Atrocity, the swordsman known as Lucius, then the mere Captain of the Emperor's Children Legion's 13th Company, was a greatly famed warrior with an impressive records of victories. Amongst the elite swordsmen of the IIIrd Legion known as the Palatine Blades, Lucius had no match, save for his own sire -- Fulgrim, The Phoenician. This led him to issue challenges to the most gifted warriors of all the Legiones Astartes and defeat most of them in single combat. Only the very best of them were able to thwart him : Azkaellon of the Blood Angels and Garviel Loken of the Sons of Horus managed to spoil his victory or even defeat him, but before his encounter with Nykona Sharrowkyn, none had been able to kill him. Unfortunately for the Imperium, the feared swordsman would be revived by the ministrations of the equally dreaded Apothecary Fabius Bile before the dark gifts of his new patron, the Chaos God Slaanesh, made him near immortal ... so long as he continued to please the Prince of Pleasure.
As the sole member of the XIXth Legion onboard the Sysipheum, Nykona Sharrowkyn was mostly considered a loner, drawn from a Legion with no affiliation to the majority of the survivors on the vessel, who were of the Iron Hands. It came as no surprise, then, that Sharrowkyn mostly took to the field alone, often fighting as a stealth and infiltration specialist, a role he was supremely qualified for since he was able to "Shadow-Walk" as only the Mor Deythan could. Sharrowkyn shared many abilities with these elite-infiltration troops of the Raven Guard, including superior marksmanship with precision weapons such as Sniper Rifles. Sharrowkyn preferred the less common Needler Sniper Rifle, valuing the weapon's discretion as Needlers do not create muzzle-flashes. At the same time, Sharrowkyn was an expert in hand-to-hand combat, allegedly trained by Corvus Corax himself, and he used his twin black swords with deadly efficiency.
Like most Raven Guard Astartes, Sharrowkyn was also an expert in the use of the Jump Pack, and it was said that he was one of the few members of his Legion to use the device even in combat, which increased the Raven Guard Astartes' already superlative natural speed in hand-to-hand combat.
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