"Why do I still live? What more do you want from me? I gave everything I had to you, to them. Look what they've made of our dream. This bloated, rotting carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fires of Horus' ambition than live to see this."
Roboute Guilliman, sometimes referred to as the "Avenging Son," "The Victorious," "The Master of Ultramar" and "The Blade of Unity", is the Primarch of the Ultramarines Space Marine Legion and its myriad subsequent Second Founding Successor Chapters. Held by some as a paragon among the Emperor's sons, Roboute Guilliman was as much a patrician statesman as he was an indefatigable warrior. A being of preternatural intelligence, cold reason and indomitable will, Guilliman forged his XIII Legion into a vast force of conquest and control, a weapon by which he made himself the master of a stellar domain in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy, the Realm of Ultramar, which during his lifetime spanned five hundred worlds.
Before He began His conquest of the galaxy, the Emperor of Mankind created the Primarchs. Utilising incredible genetic sorcery, and the phenomenal psychic power bound into His own form, He forged twenty demigod sons. These were superlative transhuman warriors, strategists and leaders, the finest qualities of Humanity refined in the crucible of science and magnified through the lens of divinity. The Emperor intended the Primarchs to stand at His side during the Great Crusade, each leading one of the twenty Space Marine Legions to glory beyond imagination.
Before that plan could come to pass, the Dark Gods of Chaos intervened. They snatched up the nascent Primarchs and scattered them through the Warp, so that each came to rest upon a different one of Humanity's far-flung worlds. Some say that it was at this time that the Ruinous Powers left their mark upon the Emperor's gene-sons, and that this is why fully half of the Primarchs betrayed their father and the Imperium during the Horus Heresy.
Whatever the case, Roboute Guilliman was not tainted in such a fashion. The being that would become the Primarch of the Ultramarines Legion came to rest upon the Feudal World of Macragge. There he was discovered, and adopted, by a local warlord named Konor. Growing and developing at a superhuman rate, Konor's adoptive son soon surpassed all those around him, and came to be the greatest warrior, strategist and statesman upon Macragge. After Konor was slain by a treacherous ally, it was Guilliman who avenged his foster father, before taking upon himself the mantle of kingship. The entirety of Macragge was swiftly unified beneath the banner of Roboute Guilliman, becoming a world of peace, civilisation, wisdom and strength. Guilliman was a charismatic and gifted leader, beloved of his people and singularly capable of compartmentalising incredible quantities of information. He was an organiser, a logistician, one capable of turning the wildest theories into practical reality and rendering order from chaos.
When the Emperor's crusading forces finally reached Macragge in the late 30th Millennium, the son was reunited with his true father. Guilliman was given charge of the Ultramarines Legion, and wasted no time in putting his stamp upon it. In the conquests that followed, the Ultramarines became renowned as exemplars of what it meant to be a Space Marine. Under Guilliman's leadership they became arguably the most strategically gifted and tactically balanced of all the Legiones Astartes. Working on the basis of theoretical situations and practical solutions, the Ultramarines fought with exceptional efficiency. They drove the foes of Humanity before them, their armies fighting like intricate and perfectly tuned machines to swiftly and decisively outmanoeuvre every foe.
When the Horus Heresy set the galaxy ablaze, Roboute Guilliman fought with loyalty and determination for the Imperium that he believed in with all his heart. When he thought that the Emperor had fallen, the Primarch established a new seat of power on Macragge, planning to preserve the Emperor's secular purity and Imperial Truth within his own Realm of Ultramar as the Imperium Secundus. When Guilliman later learned that Terra still stood, he did everything in his power to ensure that he and his loyal brothers could fight at their father's side in the final battle against Horus. Though his efforts benefitted many, Guilliman himself reached Terra too late, a fact that would torture him for solar decades to come.
In the wake of the Horus Heresy, it was the Ultramarines Primarch who wrote and instituted the Codex Astartes, a key volume that laid out the proper tactics and military organisation for the majority of Loyalist Space Marine Chapters now in existence. Guilliman is the Primarch who took up the Emperor's burning blade and became the Lord Commander of the Imperium of the Imperium of Man, serving amongst the High Lords of Terra during the period known as the Reformation. Guilliman single-handedly reshaped the Imperium, taking the lead role in reforming its administrative and military apparatus following the internment of the Emperor of Mankind within the Golden Throne on Terra.
Roboute Guilliman is also one of the few Loyalist Primarchs still alive. Following the Great Scouring, Guilliman and his Ultramarines met the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion at the Battle of Thessala in 121.M31, where his corrupt brother Fulgrim mortally wounded him with a slice to the neck made by that Daemon Primarch's Chaos-tainted blades. So it was that the dying Roboute Guilliman was put into temporal stasis on the verge of death and his body placed upon the throne that lay in the Temple of Correction on the Ultramarines' homeworld of Macragge. For the last ten millenia many pilgrims of the Imperial Cult travelled across the galaxy every standard year to visit the temple and see the body of a Primarch, a blessed son of the God-Emperor Himself. Some pilgrims claimed that the grievous wound was slowly healing, though such an action was physically impossible within an activated stasis field. The Avenging Son was silently enthroned through the millennia as his father's Imperium decayed around him, waiting until such a time when one could come with the power to restore him. And that time has come.
The Primarch was resurrected during the Ultramar Campaign of the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41 by the technical prowess of Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl and the power of the Aeldari god of the dead Ynnead through his priestess Yvraine. Soon after, Guilliman launched the Terran Crusade from Macragge through the growing Warp instability of the galaxy as the power of Chaos waxed mighty once more with the birth of the Great Rift. After nearly being imprisoned for eternity in the Maelstrom and then almost slain by his brother the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red on Luna, Guilliman finally arrived at Holy Terra. There, he entered the inner sanctum of the Imperial Palace and met with his father the Emperor for the first time in more than ten thousand standard years. What passed between father and son at that meeting is not known, but when he emerged, Guilliman announced that he was once more assuming the mantle of the Lord Commander of the Imperium, the first among equals on the Senatorum Imperialis and the de facto ruler of the Imperium.
As the Great Rift's cataclysmic birth following the fall of Cadia disrupted interstellar travel and communications and the Noctis Aeterna closed like a shroud upon the galaxy, Guilliman moved swiftly to stabilise the faltering Imperium. He turned to Belisarius Cawl once more to complete a plan that had been over 10,000 standard years in the making, since the end of the Horus Heresy and Guilliman's last tenure as the Imperium's Lord Commander. Cawl had spent that time "perfecting" the Emperor's original genetic template for the Space Marines laid down before the Great Crusade, creating a new legion of hundreds of thousands of improved Astartes deep beneath the surface of his forge on Mars. This new breed of transhuman warrior, the Primaris Space Marines, were bigger, more physically powerful and possessed faster reaction times than their original Astartes counterparts. Cawl had also spent the intervening millennia pushing the very boundaries of Adeptus Mechanicus dogma in search of "innovation," creating new, more advanced Power Armour, wargear, and vehicles for the Primaris Marines.
But before Guilliman could move to make use of his new armies, the Chaos God Khorne took advantage of the Noctis Aeterna to launch a daemonic assault upon the Throneworld of Mankind, initiating the Second Battle of Terra. Though Guilliman led the Imperial defenders, including the Sisters of Silence and the Adeptus Custodes, in throwing back the howling servants of the Blood God, the brazen assault shocked the High Lords of Terra to the core. They realised that in this new age, no world was safe from the Ruinous Powers and the other foes of Mankind.
In the wake of the Second Battle of Terra, Guilliman gathered the greatest fleet of Imperial warriors that had been seen since the Great Crusade. The largest component of this force included a massive new host of hundreds of thousands of Primaris Space Marines, divided half into new Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes and half into 9 Space Marine Legion-sized formations known as the Unnumbered Sons. The Primarch launched this massive Indomitus Crusade out into the void, determined to throw back the Forces of Chaos and the xenos hordes wherever they threatened the worlds of humanity. Guilliman set a winding course. Strike forces from over a dozen pre-existing Chapters of Space Marines, led by the Imperial Fists, also joined the fleet. Thus began many new legends as Guilliman travelled to aid beleaguered planets, breaking sieges and sweeping away Chaos and xenos invaders alike to bring hope back to the desperate defenders.
The Indomitus Crusade would reach its end over a century later at the Battle of Raukos. Afterwards, Guilliman would turn his attention to helping his Realm of Ultramar defeat the forces of the Death Guard Traitor Legion and the servants of Nurgle in the Plague Wars, driving his traitorous brother Mortarion and the Death Guard Traitor Legion from the region in ca. 111.M42. Before the conflict had ended, Guilliman announced that he had made a grave mistake when he had allowed the official borders of Ultramar to shrink so drastically in the days after the Horus Heresy. Instead, he reestablished the ancient ruling Tetrarch Council for Ultramar, and tasked its newly-appointed Tetrarchs, including his Primaris Space Marine Equerry Captain Decimus Felix and the Ultramarines First Captain Severus Agemman, with beginning to expand the territories of Ultramar to include all of the star systems that had once comprised the Five Hundred Worlds.
"The warrior who acts out of honour cannot fail. His duty is honour itself. Even his death -- if it is honourable -- is a reward and can be no failure, for it has come through duty. Seek honour as you act, therefore, and you will know no fear."
- —Primarch Roboute Guilliman
The Son of Macragge
Thanks to the widely distributed efforts of numerous Imperial Iterators, the story of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman, his early life and his finding is widely known and well accounted for, in stark contrast to certain others of the Primarchs. Much of these accounts have of course served the role of edification for the masses and the demands of propaganda, but between the accounts, variously embellished, a number of consistent facts and themes emerge. According to Imperial legend, the Emperor of Mankind created the Primarchs from artificially-engineered genes using His own genome as a template, carefully imbuing each of them with unique superhuman powers. Imperial doctrine goes on to tell how the Ruinous Powers of Chaos spirited away the Primarchs within their gestation capsules, scattering them widely across the galaxy through the Warp. More than one of the capsules was breached whilst it drifted through Warpspace -- the forces of the Immaterium leaked in, wreaking havoc on the gestating being inside the capsule. Undoubtedly damage was done and Chaotic corruption affected several of the Primarchs, although the nature of that corruption would not become apparent until the Horus Heresy.
After drifting for decades, or in some cases even hundreds of years, the twenty gestation capsules came to rest on human-settled worlds throughout the Milky Way Galaxy distant planets inhabited by a variety of human cultures, and whether by fickle fate or cruel design, each world would provide a crucible which would temper the child into the Primarch he would become, be that hero or monster, tyrant or liberator. The capsule containing the developing form of one Primarch fell upon the world of Macragge in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy. Macragge was a bleak but no inhospitable world, part of a decayed star empire of ages past that Mankind had inhabited for many centuries since the time of the Dark Age of Technology. Its industries had survived intact, and its people had retained an authoritarian but cohesive society. It had remarkably preserved a number of antiquated short range Warp-capable craft which could be utilised for near-stellar transit -- conditions permitting -- and its people continued to build sub-light spacecraft even during the time of the most intense Warp Storms. This had allowed the people of Macragge to maintain contact with several neighbouring human-settled star systems, despite the storms' fury, and so retain a tenuous link to the rest of human space and the knowledge that it was not alone in the darkness.
So it was that when the Primarch's fallen capsule was discovered by a group of magnates who were on a hunt in a local forest, they knew it immediately for a device of advanced technology rather than a thing of superstition and magic. The magnates broke the capsule's seal and discovered a strikingly beautiful and perfectly formed child within it who was surrounded by a glowing nimbus of power. The child was brought before Konor Guilliman, one of a pair of nobles who bore the title "consul", whose authority governed the most civilised and powerful region of Macragge, and Konor adopted the infant as his own son in a manner not uncommon to his culture, naming him Roboute.
The young Primarch grew unnaturally quickly and as he did so, his unique physical and mental powers became obvious to all. It is recorded that by the time of his tenth birthday, Guilliman had mastered everything the wisest tutors of Macragge could teach him. His insight into matters of history, philosophy and science astonished his teachers, while his recall was absolute and his ability to extrapolate accurate conclusions from fragmentary information was said to border on the inexplicable. His greatest talent, however, lay in the art of war, which was itself treated as a high and lauded science in Macragge's culture. As soon as he had attended his legal majority, Roboute's foster father Konor immediately granted him command over an expeditionary force sent to pacify the far northern lands of Macragge. Named Illyrium, it was a barbarous land of outcasts and petty, warring micro-states that had long harboured brigands and mercenaries who raided more civilised lands as often as they hired themselves as foot soldiers to fight their neighbours' wars. Roboute fought a brilliant campaign and won both the submission and the respect of the fierce Illyrium warrior bands, but when he returned to his home from the northern frontier, Roboute found the capital of Macragge Civitas in turmoil.
The Death of Konor
During Robout's absence, Konor Guilliman's co-consul, a man name Gallan, had unleashed a coup d'etat against Konor -- a development far from unknown historically, if in this instance a surprise. Gallan, it transpired, had long harboured designs on undiluted rulership and had conspired with those amongst the wealthy nobility of Macragge who were jealous of Konor's political power and popularity, and also increasingly afraid of his preternaturally precocious foster child's future. These malcontents represented Macragge's ancient regime, an aristocracy whose wealth was manifested by vast estates which were supported by the toiling of a multitude of impoverished vassals. Konor, backed by Macragge's industrial magnates -- rivals to the old regime -- had moved to challenge this balance of power, forcing the aristocracy of Macragge to provide their vassals with increased living standards and rights before the law, weakening the aristocracy's stranglehold on the polity. Konor had also passed legislation that obliged the nobility of Macragge to begin an ambitious programme of improving the long neglected infrastructure of their nation and enlarging the capital city at their own expense. These reforms made Konor Guilliman all but unassailable in the common people's eyes, but were highly unpopular among all but a few of the more far-sighted aristocrats.
As Roboute Guilliman and his triumphant army approached the city of Macragge Civitas, they saw the smoke form a multitude of fires and encountered citizens fleeing from the city in anarchy, and Roboute learned that Gallan's private army had attacked the senate house while Konor and his loyal bodyguard troops had been inside. The refugees each told the same story; that rebel soldiers had attacked the senate, whilst a drunken mob, instigated by Gallan but now out of anybody's control, roamed the city burning, looting and murdering. Roboute hurried to his foster father's rescue. Leaving his own troops to deal with the drunken rioters without quarter, Roboute personally fought his way towards the centre of the city, passing the bloody work of rebel firing squads everywhere in the government district, but at the senate house, found himself too late. All was a bullet-ridden and blasted ruin, and even the rebels it seemed had fled the scene to join the looting. There, in the half-collapsed shelters beneath the building, he found his father dying. For three days the wounded Counsul had directed the defence of the besieged senate house, even as surgeons fought for his life following a botched assassination attempt on the senate floor which had touched off the conspiracy's chaotic attack. It is apocryphally said that as he gasped out his last breath, Konor detailed the extent of Gallan's betrayal to his beloved foster son and named those whose hands were stained with his blood.
Roboute Guilliman's cold rage at his foster father's death was unstoppable. With the full backing of his army and the beleaguered citizens of Macragge Civitas, Roboute crushed the aristocratic rebels, scattering their hireling armies and lined the streets with the hanging bodies of the rioters, thereby quickly restoring order to the capital city and the surrounding lands. Thousands of citizens flocked to the senate house and amidst a wave of popular acclaim, Roboute assumed the mantle of the sole and now all-powerful Consul of Macragge. The new ruler broke the old, aristocratic order and stripped from them their lands and titles. Gallan and his fellow conspirators were seized, the ring leaders publicly executed and the rest sentenced to hard labour rebuilding the city they had ruined, stone by stone, by hand. It was not a sentence they would long survive. In the new order, loyal soldiers and hardworking settlers were granted rights where the oppressive aristocracy had once held sway. With super-human energy and the singularity of vision only a Primarch was capable of executing, the new Consul reorganised the social order of Macragge, creating a ruthlessly enforced meritocracy where the hardworking prospered and the honourable received positions of high office, and those who shirked the law or worked against the good of the whole faced draconian, but faultlessly even-handed punishment. The stagnated and uneven economy was re-ordered, technology disseminated rather than horded by the elite, and the armed forces were transformed into a powerful and well-equipped force. Macragge flourished as never before -- one people and one order, united under the people and one order, united under the unchallengeable rule of Roboute Guilliman.
Around the time that the young Roboute Guilliman waged war in Illyria, the Emperor's fleet had reached the planet of Espandor at the outer edge of the network of worlds with which Macragge had maintained tenebrous contact. From the Espandorians the Emperor learned of the existence of Macragge and the extraordinary son of the Consul Konor Guilliman, and from what He learned He knew that this child could be none other than a missing Primarch. There have been some who have suggested that the Emperor's arrival at Espandor and the isolated region so far from the frontline of the Great Crusade's main spur of progress was no accident, and that by some arts He had perceived or had foreknowledge of what He would find. Regardless, what followed was certainly not foreseen. As the Emperor's fleet quickly moved on to Macragge, it was almost immediately deflected by violent warp squalls which had risen up to separate Macragge and a handful of nearby systems from approach. Thwarted by a power even the Emperor could not readily ignore, it would be something in the region of five standard years before contact could be successfully attempted.
In the years that intervened, Macragge had undergone a striking transformation. It was now a world of uniformity and order, prosperous and productive. Its cities had been rebuilt in glittering marble and shining steel, and the serried ranks of its armies were well armed and well equipped, and outfitting themselves now for operations beyond their own world. For even before the Emperor's arrival, Roboute Guilliman, it is said, had dwelt much on the ancient histories contained from his world's deposed aristocracy, and the fragments he found there telling of the ancient domains of Mankind, and he had begun to dream of new horizons and new worlds to conquer, of a domain "beyond the seas of night" or to use the ancient scholarly form found in the text -- "Ultramar". By his will, he made it so and within their warp-sealed enclave, vessels from Macragge now plied regular and well-patrolled trade routes with local star systems, bringing raw materials and people to the flourishing world, while against some of its neighbours, short, victorious conflicts had already been waged to pacify the strife they had found there. It is said that when the Emperor saw what His lost son had wrought, He was indeed pleased, and that He met with Roboute Guilliman without the dissembling that had been needed with those Primarchs He had found of more savage timbre. It is further more recorded that once Guilliman learned the truth of his origins, he immediately swore his fealty to the Emperor, who he knew was his true father, for he had already theorised correctly the purpose for which he had not been born so much as deliberately created. It was immediately apparent to Imperial observers that Roboute Guilliman possessed a powerful analytical intelligence, even when compared to the superhuman cognitive abilities of his peers, as well as talent for statecraft and macro-organisation of staggering potential. Yet few could then guess what such talents harnessed to the Great Crusade would go on to achieve.
The Unification of Body and Soul
The XIII Legion of Space Mairnes was assigned to Guilliman in short order, for the Primarch needed little urging or aid in the assimilation of knowledge of the wider galaxy, the Great Crusade and the many technological wonders of the new-born Imperium of Man. It was a development greeted by the XIII Legion with great rejoicing and pride in the honour that Roboute Guilliman paid them in accepting their fealty. The oratory and vision with which their new-found Primarch expounded to them his designs for the future and the righteousness of the Great Crusade filled the Legiones Astartes with a renewed vigiour and dispelled any shadows of doubt in their minds, and made Guilliman's takeover, according to official records, all but seamless.
Roboute Guilliman did far more than merely take command of the XIII Legion, he set about transforming it. His vision was for a Legion that was more than simply one army among many, however exceptional, but a self-sustaining power for conquest, order and expansion; the strength of the body and blood of the Imperium made manifest by the will of the Emperor through His servant Roboute Guilliman. To him, a military force was more than the warriors who wielded arms -- it was their chain of supply, the ships which carried them between, the manufactora which supplied their munitions and the worlds which bred their recruits; they were indivisible and equally vital. To Guilliman's mind, all of these things made a Space Marine Legion, and he meant to control them all so that his own would prosper and the Emperor's will be done.
In accordance with his grand design, he planned to not merely take the world of his fosterage as his headquarters and recruiting ground as his peers had done and would continue to do, but from the start set it up as merely the fulcrum of a far larger network of provender and support. The basis of this network would be the worlds Macragge had long maintained links with, but they would merely be its first components, not its fullest extent. This would be the start of Robout Guilliman's "Ultramar" and it would be a project of decades, and continue to expand right up to the first treacherous blow of the Horus Heresy.
The Eagle of the East
As swiftly as he put his plans for Ultramar into action, he embarked on the root and branch reorganisation of his Legion. Adopting an extraordinarily detailed plan which drew from both the military doctrines and political philosophies of his surrogate home world, a detailed study of the history of the XIII and each and every other Legion and armed force under the Emperor's banner in their then current form, he remade the organisational structure and tactical doctrines of his Legion accordingly.
The result was an elegantly structured but elaborate and highly meritocratic force. It unsurprisingly built on much that had already been evident in the character of the XIII Legion, as their Primarch's gene-seed had already partly shaped them, however unconsciously, and through the application of analysis and reason sought to purge any weaknesses or deficiencies to achieve the optimal military outcome. This, as with so much of the Legion's affairs, was considered by the Primarch an ongoing project, and it evolved quickly into a dual doctrine which embraced in parallel on one hand what were the ancient and deterministic values of the warrior: courage, discipline, skill and adaptability, defined as that which was "practical", and on the other: planning, precedent, analysis and assessment, defined as that which was "theoretical". Both were of equal weight and value, one complementing and informing the other, blending together as the metals which made a fine blade. This became the Legion's doctrine and creed. As with the society Roboute Guilliman had built on Macragge, the XIII Legion under his mastery would be as ruthlessly even-handed as it was efficient, with the needs of the individual sublimated to the greater whole, but the life of the individual never spent wantonly or without purpose; for the doctrine stated that each Legionary lost weakened those who remained. Within the Legion, the valour and the achievement of the individual were rewarded with honour and responsibility, but the obedience to hierarchy and order it demanded of its members was to be unquestioning and unchallenged. The outward signs of this transformation were striking, the livery of the XIII was altered to a deep blue, chased with gold, while the symbol of the ancient "Ultima" glyph found in the pre-isolation stellar charts of the region was adopted as its icon and seal to tie them to the newfound realm which they embodied, and with it the cognomen "Ultramarines", perhaps as one monography attributed to Remembrancer L. Amphidal suggested, "Roboute Guilliman and his Legion would vow to take the Great Crusade beyond the stars themselves if needed to see its completion."
With its forward base relocated to Macragge, Guilliman was granted independent Crusade command for the region, and quickly set about a series of fresh conquests. His 12th Expeditionary Fleet reformed under his command and supplied with warships of the latest designs from Mars as a boon of the Emperor. Fresh conquests were immediate, as the newly named Ultramarines rapidly expanded their range out from Macragge, identifying suitable targets for Compliance and singling out xenos holds for eradication. Interrupted only when called upon to join larger campaigns by the will of the Emperor, for nearly a century the 12th Expeditionary Fleet ranged as far to the galactic north as the dead expanse where the Dominion of Storms ended and as far to the galactic east and south as the point of Ultima Thule, where the stars paled and emptied out into the limitless darkness of the exo-galactic void.
During this period, the Ultramarines, by some records, succeeded in liberating more worlds than any other single Primarch's forces, and the planets Roboute Guilliman brought within the Imperium always benefitted from his intense passion for efficient and ordered government. Whenever Guilliman and the Ultramarines made a world Compliant, his forces spent as much effort in establishing it afresh, setting up self-supporting defences, and ensuring that in his wake, the agents of the Imperial Truth and industry would firmly seal the world's place in the fabric of the Imperium. This spread of cohesive civilisation in the Legion's path served both to solidify and expand supply lines for its advance, facilitating in no small part the great speed and range of the Ultramarines' conquests.
Within months of the Legion's establishment on Macragge, the first influx of new recruits had arrived at the Fortress of Hera, the Legion's fortress-monastery and new headquarters, and the process of renewal and increase in the XIII Legion's fighting strength had begun and never since had ceased. Wave after wave of recruits were taken in and processed, not simply from Macragge and the surrounding worlds of the slowly expanding Ultramar, as numerous as they were, but from scores of worlds and colony outposts where the conquering fleets of Roboute Guilliman had gone. By the time Horus was appointed Warmaster, the Ultramarines were by any official assessment the largest single Space Marine Legion by number of Legionaries with a considerable margin. Owing to this expansion, the now massive 12th Expeditionary Fleet was sub-divided into a score of smaller Expeditionary and Persecution fleets, allowing the Legion to range further, each still numbering scores of vessels and thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of Legionaries. The numeric strength of the Ultramarines Legion, in excess of 250,000 Astartes, would be an achievement that would not be surpassed, though in secrecy the late expansion of the Word Bearers, who originally numbered approximately 100,000 Astartes, would come to rival them by some assessments, while the wilder claims as to the strength of the Alpha Legion also have them run closer than official records would indicate.
This scale of military force and the near autonomous "empire within an empire" that maintained it, Ultramar having reached a dominion popularly ascribed as the Five Hundred Worlds before the outbreak of war, would have dire and unforeseen consequences for the Ultramarines and their Primarch. Separate and inviolate in the east, and a great power within their own right, the Legion's very existence made them a threat to the Traitor's conspiracy that could not be ignored, and on Calth would the Warmaster's plan and the Word Bearer's desire for revenge see that threat destroyed.
Triumph of Ullanor
In the latter years of the 30th Millennium, forces of the Imperium undertook the Ullanor Crusade, a vast Imperial assault on the Ork empire of the Overlord Urrlak Urruk. The capital world of this Greenskin stellar empire, and the site of the final assault by the Space Marine Legions, lay in the central Ullanor System of the galaxy's Ullanor Sector. The Crusade included the deployment of 100,000 Space Marines, 8,000,000 Imperial Army troops, and thousands of Imperial starships and their support personnel. The Ullanor Crusade marked the high point of the Great Crusade's vast effort to reunite the scattered colony worlds of humanity. The Orks of Ullanor represented the largest concentration of Greenskins ever defeated by the military forces of the Imperium of Man before the Third War for Armageddon began during the late 41st Millennium. Following the defeat of the Orks of Ullanor, the Emperor of Mankind was to return to Terra to begin work on His vast project to open up the Eldar Webway for Mankind's use. In His place to command the vast forces of the Great Crusade He left Horus. In the aftermath of the Ullanor Crusade, Horus was granted the newly-created title of "Warmaster", the commander-in-chief of all the Emperor's armies who possessed command authority over all of the other Primarchs and every Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade. When the Emperor proclaimed Horus, Warmaster of the Imperium, Guilliman accepted the news without resentment, and Horus continued to seek his counsel. However, Horus believed that Guilliman felt that he had deserved the honour of being named Warmaster just as much, if not more. Before returning to Terra to oversee the next phase of the creation of His stellar empire, the Emperor suggested to Horus that he rename the XVI Legion the "Sons of Horus", in honour of their Primarch and to show his preeminent place amongst the other Primarchs. Horus initially declined this honour, not wishing to be set above his brothers, and so his Legion continued as the Luna Wolves for a little while longer. But Horus and the other Primarchs never came to terms with the Emperor's absence. Their hurt feelings over His seeming abandonment of the Great Crusade to pursue a secret project whose purpose He chose not to reveal to His sons laid the seeds of jealousy and resentment that would ultimately blossom into the corruption that begat the Horus Heresy.
Battle of Calth
"Space Marines excel at warfare because they were designed to excel at everything. Each of you will become a leader, a ruler, the master of your world and when there is no more fighting to be done, you will bend your talents to order, governance and culture so that the Imperium will stand eternal."
When the Warmaster Horus turned his back on the Imperium, swore his allegiance to the Ruinous Powers of Chaos, and began the Horus Heresy, his first act before making his break with the Emperor of Mankind open was to lure away as many Loyalist Legions from Terra as possible. Horus ordered Guilliman to lead an expeditionary force to the world of Calth in the Veridian System in the Realm of Ultramar to prepare for a campaign in the Eastern Fringes of the galaxy, where, Horus claimed, an Ork WAAAGH! was massing. Horus expected the Ultramarines to await the arrival of the Word Bearers who would join with the XIII Legion in prosecuting a campaign against the Ork menace. Unknown to Guilliman, the XVII Legion had long before turned Traitor in service to the Chaos Gods, and its Primarch, Lorgar, gleefully accepted Horus' orders to close the trap on his Legion's long-hated rivals. The Word Bearers' sudden attack decimated Guilliman's Legion fleet, and the Ultramarines' ground troops quickly found themselves impossibly outnumbered by their former allies as the infamous Battle of Calth erupted. The Word Bearers slew their Loyalist foes in droves in the early stages of their surprise attack and pushed them back over huge stretches of territory. The Traitors rejoiced at the terrible blows they were inflicting upon the Legion that had once aided the Emperor in humiliating them upon the world of Khur decades before the start of the Heresy when they had been taken to task for repeated violations of the atheistic philosophy known as the Imperial Truth. Unknown to them, Guilliman's flagship, which had survived the initial Word Bearers' attack on the Ultramarines fleet, effected emergency repairs and regrouped with the other surviving Ultramarine starships in space. Having taken stock of his remaining forces, Guilliman sent an immediate astropathic distress call to Macragge.
The Loyalist Marines on Calth, Ultramarines all, had been forced into a fighting retreat, but soon occupied fortified positions. Many Ultramarines had been born on Calth, and proved more resolute than the Word Bearers anticipated. In space, Guilliman's vessels began hit-and-run attacks on their over-confident enemy. Guilliman assessed his ground troops' positions and broadcast clear, concise orders to each pocket of defence, coordinating them into a cohesive force. One Ultramarine force led by Captain Ventanus led a breakout and retook Calth's Defence Laser silos, aiding the sorely-pressed Ultramarines fleet from the surface of Calth. Guilliman's depleted forces slowed the Word Bearers down long enough for the remainder of the Ultramarines Legion to arrive and rout the Traitor Marines from the system, though at a heavy cost. The Word Bearers turned Calth's own orbital defence platforms on the Veridian star, stripping away the outer layers of its photosphere and destabilising it, ultimately rendering the surface of Calth uninhabitable. At the same time, the Word Bearers had used the battle taking place on Calth to summon a massive Warp Storm called the Ruinstorm, that was intended to cut off Ultramar from the rest of the galaxy and prevent the Ultramarines from providing any reinforcements to Terra as Horus made his assault upon humanity's homeworld. The eruption of the Ruinstorm cut off Calth from the main body of the Ultramarines Legion and left the Astartes of the XIII Legion trapped on Calth locked in a brutal subterranean war with those Word Bearers units that had also been left behind when their Legion retreated from the Viridian System. Yet Roboute Guilliman and a large portion of his Legion had remained off-world as a result of the Word Bearers' devious assault upon the Ultramarines fleet. Bloodied but unbowed, the Ultramarines received the orders of Malcador the Sigillite, the Emperor's Regent, while he was indisposed pursuing the secret Imperial Webway Project, and prepared to meet the needs of the Imperium's defence against the Traitor Legions as best they could.
In his wrath, the Lord of Ultramar had gathered what vessels he could spare after Kor Phaeron's ambush, drawn additional numbers from the first Ultramarines relief fleet bound for Calth after the massacre above that world, and tracked Lorgar directly through the use of the XIII Legion's own astropathic choirs. In the wake of the Battle of Calth, the Word Bearers Legion, led by Lorgar, linked up with Angron and his World Eaters Legion to launch a Shadow Crusade against the Realm of Ultramar's Five Hundred Worlds in an attempt to spread the massive Warp Storm known as the Ruinstorm that had been conjured by the Word Bearers' First Chaplain Erebus at Calth across the Eastern Fringe. This prodigious Warp Storm would effectively split the galaxy in half and deny needed reinforcements to the Loyalists as Horus drove on Terra in an attempt to overthrow the Emperor of Mankind.
The Shadow Crusade laid waste to 26 worlds until Guilliman's retribution fleet finally caught up to the Traitors upon Angron's homeworld of Nuceria, which the World Eaters Legion was preoccupied with wiping clean of all life in vengeance for the treatment the Nucerians had merited out a century before to Angron. The XIII Legion warship Courage Above All, Guilliman's temporary flagship, broke Warp at the system's edge, at the head of a large void armada consisting of 41 vessels. The Ultramarines armada looked wounded, cobbled together from separate fleets. It was not a dedicated interdiction war-fleet, but clearly a ragtag strike force, a lance thrust to the enemy's heart. Guilliman himself had done the best he could with limited resources. The XIII Legion's Cruisers and Battleships ran abeam of the enemy fleet for repeated exchange of broadsides, offering targets too big and powerful to ignore, while the rest of the Ultramarines fleet used calculated Lance strikes from safer range. The armada then divided its assault potential, doing its utmost to destroy Lorgar's flagship Fidelitas Lex, and attempted to take the World Eaters' flagship Conqueror in a boarding action.
But the Ultramarines' warships not only fought a void war, they also attempted to take the fight to the surface of Nuceria, for this attack was personal. The Ultramarines had come for revenge against Lorgar and the Word Bearers, just as they had pursued Kor Phaeron all the way to the Maelstrom on the other side of Ultramar. Several Ultramarines warships attempted to make a run on Nuceria, haemorrhaging Drop Pods, landers and gunships, forcing planetfall by any means necessary. The Ultramarines fleet swept over and against the Traitors like an insect horde. But the tenacious commander of the Conqueror, Lotara Sarrin, put up a difficult fight and destroyed a number of Ultramarines vessels that attempted to make a run for the surface. Though the World Eaters' flagship transformed a number of the smaller vessels into flaming wreckage, the Ultramarines eventually punched through her tenacious defence and managed to land troops on the surface of Nuceria.
Meanwhile, the Fidelitas Lex was already a ruin, its armour pitted and cracked, its shields a memory. The cathedrals and spinal fortresses barnacling along its back were gone, laid waste by the Ultramarines' incendiary rage. The XIII Legion's armada attacked in strafing runs and protracted exchanges of broadsides, trading fire with the superior warship and accepting their own casualties as the cost of bleeding the bigger vessel dry. Each assault left the Lex weaker, firing fewer turrets and cannons, taking punishment on its increasingly fragile armour. But she fought on. Crawling with smaller ships, the Lex lashed back with its remaining Macro-cannons, rolling in the light of its own burning hull. Guilliman guided the battle from the command deck of Courage Above All, and had decided that the Lex would die first, killed in the death of a thousand cuts and swept from the game board, while the Conqueror would be boarded and killed from within. In the course of the battle in Nucerian orbit, the Conqueror could not rise to its sister-ship's defence. Both Traitor Legion flagships fought alone, starved of support and suffering the endless attacks of the XIII Legion's ragged armada. Salvation Pods streamed from the Lex' sides and underbelly, along with heavier Mechanicum craft and bulk landers. With the Legionaries of the Word Bearers already on the surface, the ship's human population fled in the vessel's final minutes. And still the great vessel fought -- rolling, turning, raging. The Ultramarines Cruisers that drifted past burned as badly as the warship they were killing. This void battle was a form of dirty fighting between warships, too close for the neat calculations of ranged battery fire. Instead, it was an up close and personal slugfest.
The Ultramarines Battle Barge Armsman intercepted the Conqueror and came abeam, launching Assault Carriers and Boarding Torpedoes. While the World Eaters flagship was busy repelling boarders, a number of smaller XIII Legion vessels slipped past her defences and launched Drop Pods, gunships and troop carriers. The first Drop Pods hammered home on the planet's surface. Sealed doors unlocked and the first Ultramarines poured forth, Bolters raised, moving in perfect and well-trained unity. But the World Eaters were waiting for them. Those not lost to the Butcher's Nails at once had the presence of mind to note that these Ultramarines were not the pristine cobalt-blue warriors they had previously faced on the War World of Armatura. These Legionaries of the XIII wore cracked Power Armour, still scarred and burnwashed from some horrendous battle weeks or months before. These were hardened veterans of the Calth Atrocity. They burned with a cold intensity to carry out the vengeance in their hearts, and were intent on getting to grips with the Word Bearers.
As was their way, the Ultramarines established footholds at defensible positions, clearing room for their reinforcements to land. For every position they held, another was overrun by the World Eaters in a storm of roaring axes, or lost to the Word Bearers' chanting, implacable advance. The XII Legion crashed against the XIII in rabid packs, showing why Imperial forces had feared to fight alongside them for decades. Uncontrolled, unbound, unrestrained, they butchered their way through Ultramarines strongpoints, enslaved to the joy of battle because of the Butcher's Nails cortical implants sandwiched within the meat of their minds. The XVII Legion also met their Loyalist cousins, replacing ferocity with spite and hate. The Ultramarines returned it in kind, hungry for vengeance against the vile Traitors who had defiled Calth and damaged its star. Word Bearers units marched, droning black hymns and chanting sermons from the Book of Lorgar, bearing corpse-strewn icons of befouled metal and bleached bones above their regiments.
As the fighting raged, the burning shell of the Fidelitas Lex cut through the clouds into the planet's atmosphere, shuddering on its way east, rolling ever downwards, achingly slow for something of such scale. The weight of the Lex' massive plasma engines dragged the stern down first, colliding with the Nucerian ocean's surface far from shore. In the meantime, the demigod in gold and blue had finally found the object of his obsession amidst the clamour of war. Guilliman confronted Lorgar, possessing the advantage of two weapons, but Lorgar's Crozius gave him a reach his brother lacked. When they first met, there was no furious trading of frantic blows, nor were there any melodramatic speeches of vengeance avowed. The two Primarchs came together once, Power Fist against War Maul, and backed away from the resulting flare of repelling energy fields. Their warriors killed each other around them both, and neither Primarch spared their sons a glance. Lorgar flicked the clinging lightning from the head of his Crozius, shaking his head in slow denial.
Both Primarchs fought without heeding their warriors, their godlike movements an inconceivable blur to the Space Marines fighting around them. None had ever imagined the heroes of this new age would take the field against each other, nor could they have predicted the wellsprings of spite between them. Guilliman confronted Lorgar for what his Legion had done across the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar. In his righteous anger the Ultramarines Primarch struck Lorgar with one of his fists, battering the Word Bearers Primarch's sternum. Lorgar repulsed him with a projected burst of telekinesis, weak and wavering, but enough to send his brother staggering. The Crozius followed, its power field trailing lightning as Lorgar hammered it into the side of Guilliman's head with the force of a cannonball. Both Primarchs faced each other beneath the grey sky, one bleeding internally, the other with half of his face lost to blood sheeting from a fractured skull.
As the two Primarchs were locked in their furious life-and-death struggle, they were oblivious to the destruction being wrought around them. Suddenly, Angron burst forth from the Ultramarines ranks, his armour a shattered wreck, and both of his Chainswords spat gobbets of ceramite armour plating and scarlet gore. Angron was plastered with the blood of the slain after hours in the crush of the front lines of intense combat. On his chest hung a bandolier of skulls taken from the mass grave at Desh'elika Ridge. Blood painted them as surely as it marked Angron. Even through the constant pain generated by the Butcher's Nails, that pleased him. He wanted his deceased brothers and sisters to taste blood once more. He had carried them with him across Nuceria, letting their empty eyes witness the razing of his former, hated homeworld. The World Eater launched himself at Guilliman with murderous hatred. The two Primarchs fell into a seamless, roaring duel where Lorgar and Guilliman had abandoned theirs. Guilliman was forced back by the storm of Angron's blows.
As the two Primarchs fought, Guilliman landed a glancing blow, his fist pounding across Angron's breastplate. One of the skulls of Angron's fallen kinsman that hung from the chain worn across his breastplate was partially shattered and scattered across the ground. Guilliman stepped back, his boot crushing a skull's remnants to powder. Angron saw it, and threw himself at his brother, his howl of wrath defying mortal origins, impossibly ripe in its anguish. Lorgar saw it, too. The moment Guilliman's boot broke the skull, he felt the Warp boil behind the veil. The Bearer of the Word started chanting in a language never before spoken by any living being, his words in faultless harmony with Angron's cry of torment. Lorgar enacted his dark plan to save his brother's life, summoning the Ruinstorm to the world of Nuceria, tearing the sky open and unleashing a crimson torrent, formed from the ghosts of a hundred murdered worlds, raining blood. Guilliman had been holding his own against both Traitor Primarchs, until Lorgar ceased his attack and started his achingly resonant chant. Angron and Roboute still fought, with the Lord of the Ultramarines giving ground each time Angron landed a blow. Angron plunged his Chainsword up under Guilliman's breastplate -- a shallow stab, but a telling one. The Ultramarines Primarch crushed the impaling sword in one fist and staggered back, truly bleeding now.
Despite the maelstrom of combat and sorcery raging around them, Angron still fought Guilliman, standing above the kneeling Ultramarine Primarch. He had not even noticed the storm of blood streaming from the sky in a red torrent. Sparks sprayed from Roboute's raised gauntlets as he struggled to ward off blow after blow. He was beaten and down. His wounds bled profusely, a palette of proud defeat. His warriors fought desperately to retrieve him. Fortunately they were granted a brief reprieve, as Lorgar's incantation locked up Angron's muscles, and began to transform the Red Angel into a new form as a Daemon Prince of Khorne. Guilliman took the opportunity to escape into his sons' defiant phalanxes, retreating in enviable unity. Lorgar saw the expression of disgusted awe on his brother's face as the wounded Ultramarine stared at Angron's metamorphosis atop the mound of dead sons from all three bloodlines of Space Marines. The XIII Legion continued to fire even in retreat, leaving the world of Nuceria battered and bloody. Their campaign against the two Traitor Legions was over... for now.
Roboute Guilliman escaped from Nuceria, unable to face or even fully comprehend what both of his brothers had become through their corruption by the Ruinous Powers. The World Eaters completed their purge of Nuceria until not one human life remained on the benighted world. Angron, now the very embodiment of the Blood God's Eight-Fold Path, shook the dust of the world from his feet and did not think of it again.
Battle of Terra
Whilst the Horus Heresy plunged the Imperium into savagery and civil war, the Ultramarines were engaged on the southern edge of the galaxy. Their very success had carried them far from Terra and isolated them from the conquering Traitor Legions of the Warmaster Horus which had been concentrated in the galactic northeast. News of Horus' treachery did not reach the Ultramarines until the attack on Earth was underway. Thanks to the speed of Horus' attack there was little that Roboute Guilliman could do in support of his Emperor during the crucial Battle of Terra. None of the worlds already liberated by the Ultramarines were in serious danger from the Forces of Chaos. Consequently, the Ultramarines were poorly placed to contribute during the early stages of the Horus Heresy.
As the long and bloody years of the Horus Heresy passed, the Traitor Legions under the command of the Warmaster Horus finally closed on the homeworld of Mankind and launched their great assault against the Imperial Palace while they believed a good portion of the Loyalist Space Marine Legions remained occupied in other regions of the galaxy. While the Forces of Chaos came close to battering down the gates of the Palace, the Loyalists' stout defence managed to hold the line long enough for Loyalist reinforcements to drop from the Warp on the edges of the Sol System. Salvation was coming. In orbit of Terra, Horus' allies delivered the fateful news to the Warmaster while he sat directing the battle for the Imperial Palace. The Ultramarines, Dark Angels and Space Wolves Legions were only hours away from reinforcing the Emperor and His Loyalist defenders. Horus knew that his gamble had failed. What happened next is disputed. Some believe Horus disabled his flagship's shields because he experienced one last moment of regret for his great betrayal, while some believe it was a personal challenge to the Emperor. Nevertheless, Horus lowered the shields of his flagship -- the Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit -- allowing the Emperor, the Blood Angels' Primarch Sanguinius and a company of Imperial Fists to teleport aboard and slay him, ending the Horus Heresy. The Emperor was mortally wounded in the exchange and interred in the Golden Throne immediately afterwards by the Primarch Rogal Dorn, leaving a dangerous void of power and authority in the Imperium.
The Ultramarines did not arrive until after Horus' defeat, and they found Terra and the Imperium in ruins. Guilliman steadfastly refused to allow the Imperium to fall, and began dispatching elements of his Legion to all corners of the galaxy to stem the tide of invasion and unrest as the other Loyalist forces recovered and rearmed. After a decade of intense fighting, stability was restored. To prevent a single commander having as many superhuman Astartes at his command as Horus had, Guilliman reformulated the sizes of all of the Loyalist Space Marine Legions into thousand-man Chapters, breaking apart the 9 original Loyalist First Founding Legions into the much smaller Second Founding Chapters. Never again would one man, no matter how noble and unblemished his motives, wield the power of an entire Space Marine Legion. The rationale and proper organisation of Space Marine Chapters are the main topic in Guilliman's masterwork of strategy, the Codex Astartes.
Post-Heresy Imperial Reformation
The Loyalist Space Marine Legions had lost tens of thousands of troops during the fighting of the Heresy, and half of the original 18 Legions had sided with Horus and been corrupted by Chaos. As a result, the number of Astartes left to the Imperium after the end of the Heresy was very few, yet never were they more needed.
The confusion and disorder following the Horus Heresy had left the Imperium weak and vulnerable. Everywhere the enemies of mankind prepared to attack. Many worlds remained in the grip of Chaos. Into this breach stepped Roboute Guilliman and the Ultramarines. Always the largest of the Astartes Legions, the Ultramarines found themselves divided and dispatched all over the Imperium in a desperate effort to stem the tide of invasion and unrest. The Ultramarines successfully held the Imperium together during a time of intense danger. Macragge was able to supply new recruits at such a rate that before long the Ultramarines alone accounted for more than half the total number of Space Marines, and few were the star systems where their heroism went unnoticed. Within a decade, order was restored to the Imperium. Even as the Ultramarines reconquered, a new theory of warfare was emerging. Under the guidance of the Ultramarines' Primarch, the Codex Astartes was taking shape. Its doctrines would reshape the future of all Space Marines and forevermore dictate the foundation for the Imperium's military strength and the ultimate survival of Mankind.
The Second Founding of the Space Marines was decreed seven years after the death of Horus and the end of his Heresy. Most of the old Loyalist Legions divided into fewer than 5 Successor Chapters, but the Ultramarines were divided many times. The exact number of Successor Chapters created from the Ultramarines is uncertain: the number listed in the oldest copy of the Codex Astartes gives the total as 23, but does not name them. With the Second Founding, the size of the Ultramarines force was much reduced. Most of the Space Marines left Macragge to establish new Chapters elsewhere. The Ultramarines' fortress-monastery was built to accommodate more than ten times as many Space Marines as now remained on their homeworld. As a result its arsenals and weapon shops were partially dismantled and taken by the new Chapters to found their own bases. The genetic banks of the Ultramarines, and the huge recruitment organisation, were similarly reduced. As a result of the Second Founding, the Ultramarines' gene-seed became pre-eminent across the Imperium. The new Chapters created from the Ultramarines during the Second Founding are often referred to as the Primogenitors, or "first-born". The lasting heritage of Guilliman was not only genetic, but spiritual. Even to this day, 10,000 standard years later, all the Primogenitor Chapters venerate Roboute Guilliman as their own founding father and patron, and hold the ruler of Ultramar, whoever he be, as the exemplar of all that it means to be a Space Marine. So did the Ultramarines rise to become preeminent amongst their brother Chapters.
Death of the Avenging Son
Roboute Guilliman continued to serve with the Ultramarines Chapter, leading them for a hundred years after the Second Founding. It was said that during those years, Guilliman led several incursions alongside his brother Primarchs against the remaining Chaos Space Marines. During one incursion, Guilliman faced his former brother Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion, and slew him in single combat (though the precise details of this event remain in doubt, even to the Ultramarines). The Ultramarines, however, were forced to withdraw from the combat, as to their shock the Alpha Legion's Traitor Marines fought on despite the apparent loss of their Primarch. Guilliman would eventually meet his ultimate fate during the Battle of Thessala in 121.M31, when he was laid low by the Traitor Daemon Primarch Fulgrim of the Emperor's Children, who had become a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. During this encounter with his former brother, Fulgrim managed to fatally injure Guilliman in the neck with his poisonous blade (which was remarkably similar to the Anathame sword that was used by Dark Apostle Erebus to fatally wound Horus on Davin's moon).
Fatally poisoned by his one-time brother, Roboute was transported back to Macragge in a stasis field, and has remained entombed in the field for 10,000 years, frozen in time. Although physically impossible within the null-time of a stasis field, it was believed by many pilgrims to his shrine that his wounds were healing, and that one day he would awaken again when the Imperium needed him most. The Shrine of Guilliman built to contain his body was one of the most holy places in the entire Imperium, and one which welcomed millions of pilgrims every year. It lay within the Temple of Correction, a vaulted sepulchre forming a small part of the Ultramarines' vast northern polar fortress on Macragge. The temple was a miracle of construction and typical of the attention to detail to which the Ultramarines apply themselves. Its proportions defied the human mind by the scope and grandeur of its design. The multi-coloured glass dome that formed the roof was the largest of its kind. Even the Techno-magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus came to marvel at the structure said to have been designed by Roboute Guilliman himself. According to the Ultramarines there was enough marble within the temple to build a mountain, and sufficient adamantium and shining plasteel to construct a sizable Imperial warfleet.
Within this edifice was the great marble throne of Roboute Guilliman, and upon that throne sat a regal corpse. Though the best part of 10,000 years had passed since his death, the Primarch's body was perfectly preserved. Even his death wounds from Fulgrim's blade were visible upon his throat. His mortal remains were preserved from the ravages of time by means of a stasis field that isolated the Primarch from the time-stream of normal four-dimensional space-time. Everything encompassed by the field is trapped in time and can neither change nor decay. There are some, however, who claimed the Primarch's wounds did change. They said that Guilliman's body was slowly recovering and that his wounds showed mysterious signs of healing. Others denied the phenomena, and pointed out the sheer scientific impossibility of change within the stasis field. Yet enough believed the stories to come and witness for themselves the miracle of the Primarch, generation after generation.
Resurrection of a Primarch
The 13th Black Crusade
For 10,000 standard years the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Terra, His withered body little more than a husk of the great man that He once was. His grand vision, the Imperium of Man, endures -- yet it does not prosper, for it lingers under a pall of misery and persecution, suspicion and mistrust. It is assailed on all sides and from within by Heretics, witches and aliens, and only by the endless sacrifice of countless citizens does the Imperium continue to exist. Yet now, at the close of the 41st Millennium, the people of the Imperium face their greatest trial. Orks wreak havoc across the galaxy, the Tau Empire expands in the Eastern Fringe, the Tyranids send vast alien swarms from beyond the stars to consume all in their path, and the Necrons awaken to reclaim what was once theirs. And above all, more deadly than any other foe, the Forces of Chaos choose this moment to begin their most concerted invasion of the Imperium. Under the eye of Abaddon the Despoiler and his 13th Black Crusade, countless worlds have already fallen. Madness and heresy are rife and violent Warp Storms tear great rents in the galaxy. Blind in their ignorance, the High Lords of Terra send billions to their deaths in a bid to save the Imperium. Yet it took the Eldar, a more far-sighted race, to realise that what the Imperium needs now is a hero, a symbol of the Emperor's will made manifest. The Imperium needs a Primarch.
The full might of the 13th Black Crusade assailed the Fortress World of Cadia, which stood as the lone sentinel of the Cadian Gate, the only predictably stable way out of the Warp maelstrom known as the Eye of Terror. Though severely outnumbered and assailed on all sides, the Imperial defenders held their ground, mounting a valiant defence under the superlative leadership of the Lord Castellan of Cadia, Ursarkar E. Creed. As the conflict became increasingly desperate, many heroes of the Imperium gathered on Cadia. Space Marines from multiple Chapters lent their strength to the defence, including the Black Templars of Marshal Marius Amalrich, and the Imperial Fists of Captain Tor Garadon, who brought the Star Fort Phalanx into the war. Saint Celestine swept down upon Cadia in its darkest hour, her miracles instilling faith in its ragged protectors. Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax, long a prisoner of the Necron Lord Trazyn the Infinite, was released from captivity to lend her prodigious will and talents to the cause. Yet the key to victory upon Cadia was discovered by the ancient Martian Tech-priest, Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Urged on by the Harlequin Shadowseer Sylandri Veilwalker, he had unlocked the secrets of the Necron-built black pylons that studded the surface of Cadia and other worlds throughout the Cadia System. Abaddon had long sought out these ancient and mysterious structures to destroy them during his many Black Crusades, which weakened the veil between reality and the Immaterium. In truth, Cawl had been en route to honour an ancient pact made with the Lord of Ultramar many Terran millennia ago, but on Cadia he saw a chance to reverse the Despoiler's work and perhaps close the Eye of Terror forever. But it was not to be.
Though the servants of the Emperor fought with dogged determination and courage, Cawl's works were undone when the pylons were destroyed and Cadia was dealt a final death blow. Those few Imperial defenders that were left alive were forced to flee before the flood of the Forces of Chaos that assailed the doomed world. As they did so a terrible Warp rift yawned in their wake as the Eye of Terror actually began to expand. Yet there was still one chance of salvation that remained -- Cawl's ancient pact and the mysterious artefact that he transported within an armoured auto-reliquary. Declaring themselves the Celestinian Crusade in honour of the Living Saint who still lit their way through the darkness, the surviving warriors of the Imperium made for the Macragge System within the Realm of Ultrmar, with the forces of the Despoiler hot on their heels.
At the same time, the Eldar race had been rocked to its very foundation by a cosmic upheaval of great significance. Ynnead, the Eldar God of the Dead, had awoken in the æther and chosen a former Eldar of Craftworld Biel-Tan to be his prophet. Yvraine, the Daughter of Shades, had walked many Paths during her long life, from that of dancer to Warlock to Aspect Warrior. She eventually had become a famed Corsair leader until a mutiny forced her to flee into the Webway, where she ended up in the Dark City of Commorragh, the primary home of the Dark Eldar. Fighting as a gladiatrix in the dark city's infamous Crucibael arena, she defeated many foes before having fallen to a priestess of Morai-Heg, however, while she lay between life and death, she was resurrected by Ynnead and chosen to act his prophet in the material realm. Her rebirth caused a great Dysjunction within Commorragh, and the Dark City was beset by the daemonic servants of Slaanesh. Fleeing the Dark Eldar forces of the Dark City's Supreme Overlord, Asdrubael Vect, Yvraine, aided by the mysterious warrior known as the Visarch, and followed by some of the Dark Eldar who believed in her cause, successfully brought word of the Whispering God's awakening to Craftworld Biel-Tan. While there, the Craftworld underwent a swift and terrible cycle of death and rebirth that brought the Yncarne, avatar of Ynnead, into being. Some amongst the Eldar embraced Yvraine's belief that the cycle of death and rebirth would be their salvation, and became her followers, known as the Ynnari -- the Reborn. Others rejected this upstart's teachings as arrogance and dangerous in the extreme. But Yvraine pressed on regardless, and departed Biel-Tan in search of the time-lost artefacts known as the Croneswords and formulated a desperate plan to turn back the tides of Chaos.
It was this mission that brought Yvraine through the Webway to the frozen moon of Klaisus in orbit of the Fortress World of Kasr Holn in the Cadia System, leading an army of the Eldar from every faction who once more laid claim to the ancient name of Aeldari. They emerged from the moon's Webway gate just in time to rescue the Celestinian Crusade from their pursuers. Driving off the Heretic Astartes of the Black Legion, the Ynnari negotiated common cause with the Celestinians, agreeing to aid them in reaching the Realm of Ultramar. Thus, as Warp Storms billowed and spread across the galaxy, the assembled pilgrims hastened through the Webway, bearing a thin sliver of hope between them.
The Invasion of Ultramar
In the closing years of the 41st Millennium, the stellar realm of Ultramar came under sustained attack from myriad foes. Menacing shapes stirred in the intergalactic void, the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Leviathan drifting inexorably towards Guilliman's realm. The Arch-Arsonist of Charadon, one of the greatest Ork Warlords in the galaxy, led a monstrous WAAAGH! from his anarchic domain with the intent of overrunning the Ultramarines' eastern defences. Yet the greatest threat of them all was that posed by the dark servants of Chaos.
A vast horde of Traitors, Renegades, mutants and madmen fell upon Ultramar under the leadership of the foul Daemon Prince M'kar the Reborn. That invasion plunged dozens of worlds into bloody battle, war raging from the worlds of Espandor and Tarentus to oceanic Talassar. Yet eventually, after long solar months of sorrow, bloodshed and loss, the Ultramarines prevailed. M'kar was defeated and his armies driven off, pursued to the stellar void beyond the bounds of Ultramar.
So began a period of rebuilding and consolidation across Ultramar, as Marneus Calgar and his Chapter led their peoples' efforts to shore up the battered defences of their realm. It was a period of repose and recovery that was to be all too swiftly ended.
Acting upon the prophetic revelations of the Sorcerer Zaraphiston, Abaddon the Despoiler hurled a fresh coalition of Chaos Space Marine warbands against the defences of Ultramar. Though the Despoiler himself was engaged in the ongoing fighting of the 13th Black Crusade around the recently-shattered Cadian Gate, his influence as Arch-champion and Warmaster of the Dark Gods extended far. So it was that he was able to muster a sizeable force of warriors from the Black Legion, the Iron Warriors, the Night Lords and a number of other Traitor factions, and hurl them against the worlds of Ultramar. While some warbands struck at the outer star systems in an effort to tie up potential Loyalist reinforcements, the main Traitor horde rode the tempestuous currents of the Warp straight into the Macragge System itself. So began a desperate and bloody invasion...
"They shall be pure of heart and strong of body, untainted by doubt and unsullied by self-aggrandisement. They will be bright stars upon the firmament of battle, angels of death whose shining wings bring swift annihilation to the enemies of Man. So it shall be for a thousand times a thousand years, unto the very end of eternity and the extinction of mortal flesh."
- —Primarch Roboute Guilliman
A Realm at War
High in the Atheron Mountains of the Shrine World of Laphis in the Macragge System, unearthly energies stirred. They flowed in barely perceptible currents, whipping up dust and ash as they washed across a corpse-scattered plateau. Gradually they picked up pace, invisible forces tugging at the flames that licked from wrecked main battle tanks, and causing billowing smoke to curl into sluggish vortices. A handful of living warriors remained on that arid mountaintop, Chaos Space Marines clad in the brutal armour of the Black Legion. They stood amidst the mounded dead of recent battle, a few of their own fallen scattered amongst heaps of Ultramar Defence Auxilia. The Traitors checked handheld scrying devices and raised spiked Bolters, panning their weapons as they sought the source of the aetheric buildup. Harsh voices barked challenges through fanged Vox grills, while sensors swept the cobalt-blue sky above and the hulking forms of mountains that rose beyond the plateau's edge. Still no enemy revealed themselves.
With sudden fury the building energies roared, hurling Heretic Astartes from their feet. The surging power was dragged inwards to a tight point, and there it coalesced into a towering structure. Tall and elegant, the curved edifce shimmered into view as though it had stood atop the mountain for a thousand standard years. The air swam around it, and from within spat a hail of firepower. Roars of anger and pain rose from the Traitors as monomolecular discs cut through armour and shattered eye lenses. Blood sprayed dark across sun-bleached stone. Severed limbs encased in black Power Armour clanged to the ground as ancient Heretics were cut to pieces by the sudden firestorm.
As the Chaos Space Marines reeled, the Ynnari and Celestinians burst from the Webway entrance. Yvraine and the Visarch led a force much reduced; deeming it unwise to appear suddenly in the bounds of Ultramar at the head of an entire warhost, many of their followers, guided by the Farseer Eldrad Ulthran and the Autarch Meliniel, had departed on other crucial missions. The two remaining Eldar leaders sprinted across the plateau with breathtaking speed, empowered by the deaths of their enemies and weaving like dancers around the bolt shells that roared in their direction. The Visarch skidded low, sliding under a thumping volley of fire to ram his blade through a Traitor's breastplate. Yvraine, meanwhile, leapt nimbly over a hail of shots, planting one foot atop a Black Legionary's Bolter and vaulting over his head. The Prophet of Ynnead swept her blade in a flashing arc, and her victim's helm left his neck an instant before his form crumbled to glowing ash.
More warriors surged from thin air to join the Ynnari charge. Swift-footed Dire Avengers and Klaive-wielding Incubi charged out alongside bellowing Black Templars Space Marines, their ingrained hatred for each other put aside. Marshal Marius Amalrich and Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax stormed out of the Webway side by side, blades lashing out to shed Heretic blood once more. The winged figure of Saint Celestine soared above them, her Geminae Superia leaping at her side with Bolt Pistols blazing. The Battle-Sisters of the Order of Our Martyred Lady followed them into battle, guns flaring as they spat fire at the traitorous foe. Behind them all came the Magos Belisarius Cawl, skittering on his many mechanical legs as his precious auto-reliquary trundled along behind him. Skitarii and Kataphron Battle Servitors advanced with him, and the ground shook at the tread of a pair of towering House Taranis Knights that brought up the rear.
The Black Legionaries did not panic at this sudden assault, as lesser warriors might have. Their numbers were few, however, and their attackers had the advantage of complete surprise. Mass-reactive bolts blew a handful of Skitarii apart, and two of the Visarch's Incubi were beaten down and bludgeoned to death at close quarters. Yet between the flashing blades of the Celestinians and the Ynnari -- who seemed to move with greater speed and skill by the moment -- all but a few of the Black Legionaries were swiftly cut down.
The last of the Traitors fell back in good order, determined to bear word of what they had seen to their masters. It was not to be; none escaped the howling firestorm as the Knights braced their legs and let fly with gatling cannons and armour-piercing missiles. Fire billowed, shrapnel flew, and the fleeing Traitor Marines were reduced to bloody tatters.
As quickly as it had begun, the one-sided battle was over. The Celestinians and Ynnari were left standing amongst the freshly fallen dead with their weapons smoking in their hands. Terse orders were given, warriors jogging out to establish a bristling perimeter of guns around the Webway portal. The Eldar and humans had fought together, yet they remained wary of one another, leaving tacit gaps between their formations as they deployed.
Thus shielded, the leaders of the Ynnari and the Celestinians gathered beneath the harsh blue sky. Questions needed to be asked, and facts established. The Imperial Vox channels were found to be thick with clipped exchanges between Space Marine offcers, Defence Auxilia regiments, starship captains and countless others. All were clearly engaged in fierce battle against Chaos forces, with dread names such as the Black Legion, the Alpha Legion, the Iron Warriors and the Emperor's Children ringing through the Vox. Palls of smoke rose from horizon to horizon, while the skies above were crisscrossed with contrails. Ultramar, it appeared, was a realm plunged into a desperate war for survival.
Hot winds hissed across the barren plateau, bearing the distant rattle of gunfire and thump of explosions to Katarinya Greyfax's ears.
"Macragge is invaded," she said dourly. "This is grave news."
"You are labouring under a misapprehension," said Cawl. "According to my internal gyro-cartolog, we do not stand upon the surface of Macragge. We are located one hundred and sixty million miles spinward of our intended destination, allowing for variable positioning and empyric distort."
"Then where are we?" demanded the Inquisitor, rounding upon the tall xenos priestess standing nearby. Yvraine turned to Greyfax with a cold, imperious look. The Ynnari leader lowered her blade with slow deliberation, her head cocked to one side as though listening to something only she could hear. When she spoke, her voice was cold as the grave, and Greyfax felt a shiver at the faint, insectile susurrus that scratched behind the alien's words.
"Would you have been gladdened, Mon-Keigh, to find that my people kept a hidden way upon the surface of one of your most prized worlds? I think not."
"No," growled Marshal Amalrich, "we would not." The Black Templar had been more grim than ever since the battle on Klaisus. Greyfax knew that he had taken the fall of Cadia, and the subsequent alliance of the Celestinians with the xenos, very badly.
"The Marshal is right," said Saint Celestine. "Such knowledge would have unsettled us. But it would, perhaps, have eased our road. Where, then, do we stand? And how shall we proceed along our appointed path?"
All looked to Yvraine. The Daughter of Shades made a show of staring off to the far horizon, her Gyrinx winding around the train of her dress, rumbling a leonine growl.
"This is the world that your species calls Laphis, in the star system of Macragge," she said, her voice drifting around them like cold mist. "In order to proceed, we need only locate representatives of the Ultramarines present upon this world."
"And what if they are disinclined to lend us their assistance?" prodded Sister Eleanor, one of Celestine's Geminae Superia. "We walk with xenos at our side, and come uninvited to their world. Are they not as like to shoot us as to offer welcome?"
"That is your concern, not ours," replied Yvraine, her tone dismissive. "These are your Emperor's finest warriors, are they not? Surely they have the mental discipline to discern friend from foe."
"They have the mental discipline to remain wary of xenos trickery," rumbled Amalrich. "And to suspect those who traffic with such creatures."
"We pilgrims will convince them that our cause is holy and just," said Celestine forcefully, shooting a stern glance at the scowling Marshal. "And that our alliance is an honest one. But not by standing here and arguing. We must move at once, for darkness draws close, and time grows short."
Through the Flames
At Saint Celestine's urging, the Crusade forces and their Ynnari allies moved off through the Atheron Mountains. Events were moving quickly now, accelerating like a river in full flood tide, and the pilgrims did not have the luxury of time. Cadia had fallen, but worse -- judging from the ferocity with which he had pursued his broken foes, and his knowledge of their intended destination -- Abaddon the Despoiler knew something of their mission.
From the heights of the plateau, a broad, packed-earth roadway led down the mountainside. Wide enough for several Baneblades to pass side by side, the roadway angled steadily downward between taller mountain peaks, and its entire length was lined with ancient stone supports. Atop these stood sombre statues of robed figures with the unmistakably oversized features of Space Marines. Lit braziers in the statues' hands trailed streamers of incense, and the allies saw heaps of devotional offerings and prayer papers piled at the effigies' feet.
As they travelled, the Celestinians and Ynnari kept their weapons ready and their eyes fixed warily on the horizon. They threaded their way between occasional wrecked tanks and scattered corpses, both of Defence Auxilia and traitorous Chaos Cultists. The bodies looked to have fallen a matter of solar hours earlier, their blood still congealing around them and local insects only just beginning to settle, but the pilgrims saw no sign of living beings along their road, whether friend or foe.
Archmagos Cawl assured his comrades that they were travelling in a favourable direction, their road carrying them towards a large urban centre and -- if his Vox-thieves and the local cartographia inloads were accurate -- the Ultramarines fortification that watched over it. The extraordinary allies spoke little as they pressed on. They listened instead to the sighing of the wind through the high places, the crunch of their footfalls on dry earth, and the distant clangour of battle borne to them through the thin mountain air.
Those sounds grew suddenly louder as the road wound around the towering flank of a sun-scorched mountain. Ahead, less than a Terran mile distant, a ferrocrete bastion loomed over the roadway, built into the mountainside itself. The stylised U of the Ultramarines was embossed proudly upon the structure's flank, and twin Icarus Autocannon arrays swivelled back and forth atop its battlement, barrels pistoning as they hammered fire into the sky.
The barrage of shots was aimed at a brood of Heldrake Daemon Engines. The draconic war machines swooped and circled, diving down to gout baleflame across the bastion's ramparts before soaring away again with soul-chilling roars.
One of the Heldrakes broke off in the direction of the pilgrims. Marshal Amalrich was the first to react, yelling for everyone to spread out and run for the cover of the Imperial bastion.
The Knights of House Taranis swiftly overtook them all, their Noble pilots spurring their mechanical steeds into a loping run. The massive war engines shook the ground as they advanced, guns swivelling skywards with ominous menace. One of the Knights bore an Icarus Autocannon array atop its broad carapace, and as the Heldrake swooped into range, the towering construct let fly. Avenger Gatling Cannons and Heavy Stubbers joined the fusillade, filling the air with a storm of projectiles that ripped the wing from the approaching Daemon Engine and sent it spinning down to detonate against the mountainside. Another of the roaring Heldrakes was blown apart as it banked around to attack the pilgrims, while the third broke off its attack and jetted away into the hard blue skies, dwindling until it was nothing more than a speck.
The Knights stomped to a halt, weapons ticking as they cooled, and the rest of the pilgrims quickly caught up to them. Moments later, the armoured portal set into the bastion's feet hissed as its pressure-locks disengaged. The heavy door swung open and a trio of Ultramarines Battle-Brothers emerged, Bolters raised. The Space Marines advanced, pacing carefully forward with their weapons trained on the Ynnari.
Voice amplifed by his Vox grill, one of their number barked a challenge to the newcomers, asking who they were, where they hailed from and why they travelled in the company of xenos.
The conversation that followed was tense, but measured discipline prevailed. Perhaps if the allies had come to a world of a less rational or temperate Chapter, matters might have escalated towards violence.
For the Ultramarines, the combined presence of an Inquisitor and the Living Saint -- albeit appearing less than cordial towards one another -- was enough to offset the presence of the Eldar at their side. Saint Celestine explained that their mission was a divine pilgrimage ordained by the Emperor Himself, and that Archmagos Cawl and his autoreliquary must reach the Lord of Ultramar with all haste.
The Living Saint smiled in an entirely unsurprised fashion when the Ultramarines revealed that a flight of Stormravens was even now en route to their bastion. The gunships had been requested to provide air interdiction against the packs of Heldrakes harassing fortifications in this region. However, two gunships could be spared to transport the leaders of the Ynnari and Celestinians up to the Strike Cruiser Sword of Honour, which in turn could bear them on to Macragge. The Ultramarines explained that the Lord of Ultramar had, indeed, returned to the Fortress of Hera just solar days earlier. They would see Cawl and his allies there safely.
While they awaited the inbound gunships, the pilgrims split their forces. All of the Ynnari, save Yvraine and the Visarch, would return to the Webway portal, departing this world to spread the word of Ynnead's awakening amongst their people.
As a gesture of good will to their hosts, Celestine asked the Battle-Sisters of Our Martyred Lady to remain on Laphis. Along with the Knights of House Taranis, they would place themselves at the disposal of the Ultramarines, and aid in the ongoing defence of the planet.
So it was that, as the Ultramarines Stormravens burned hard for orbit just solar minutes later, they bore a much-reduced company up to the waiting Strike Cruiser. From the Celestinians came Greyfax, Marshal Amalrich and a handful of Black Templars, Celestine and her Geminae Superia, and Cawl, accompanied by Kataphron Servitors and Skitarii.
The gunships docked with their parent warship and, once they had been formally introduced to the cruiser's captain, the allies were ushered into confnement quarters under heavy guard. The Eldar bristled at this treatment, as did Marshal Amalrich and his Astartes, but Saint Celestine pacified her comrades once more with firm words of faith and acceptance.
So began a grim and frustrating journey, trammelled in a spartan suite of brushed steel chambers and corridors, watched constantly by silent Chapter helots armed with heavy naval shotguns.
Solar hours ran slowly into solar days. The omnipresent rumble of the ship's engines, and the sluggish stirring of artificial gravity and recycled air, became simple facts of existence. The Visarch trained endlessly, even deigning to spar with Marshal Amalrich. Inquisitor Greyfax, meanwhile -- with the aid of Archmagos Cawl -- was purged of the Necron Mindshackle Scarabs that had enforced her captivity. This process was effected over several solar days, and wracked the Inquisitor with terrible agonies as the invasive cyber-parasites were strained from her blood stream.
Despite the pain that she endured, Greyfax's iron will never faltered, nor did she show any but the most minor outward signs of pain. Instead, she concentrated on keeping a wary eye on Saint Celestine. In private, Greyfax was beginning to suspect that Celestine's apparent divinity was more than a sham. She had seen the Living Saint battle against Arch-heretics and twisted Traitors; she had seen her predict events about which she could not have known in advance; she had seen how the light of Celestine's faith repelled the wicked and brought new strength to the righteous.
Yet Greyfax was an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, a Witch Finder whose first duty was to doubt and to suspect all that seemed fair in case it concealed foulness at its heart. In Greyfax's long experience, true miracles were few and far between, and that which seemed a gift from the Emperor was, more often than not, a tainted temptation laid by the Gods of Chaos. Thus, even as the seeds of hope grew in her heart that Celestine might be uncorrupted, and even through her own agonies, Katarinya Greyfax kept watch over the Living Saint, alert for the slightest hint of duplicity.
Amidst the enforced tedium, none noticed when Yvraine beckoned Cawl away into a recessed cargo bay in which his auto-reliquary had been stored. Beneath the mindless gaze of Cawl's Kataphron Servitors, the Emissary of Ynnead spoke earnestly with the Archmagos Dominus.
The mysterious discussion waxed long, Yvraine labouring to convince the intractable Magos of certain unpalatable truths. Eventually, Cawl nodded his cowled head in agreement, a single, curt gesture that brought the clandestine meeting to an end. Satisfed, Yvraine swept away in a whirl of whispering skirts, leaving the looming Archmagos Dominus to contemplate the ramifications of their meeting.
The Siege of Hera
At last, after solar days of realspace transit, the Sword of Honour reached Macragge's orbital envelope. The Celestinians and their allies were hurried through the starship's corridors under armed escort. The Strike Cruiser shook around them, the unmistakable shudder of gun batteries discharging and Void Shields soaking up monumental kinetic impacts. As they boarded their Stormraven gunships once more, the pilgrims saw through the embarkation deck's shimmering Void Shields that their craft was under heavy attack. The Stormraven pilots reported that a sizeable Chaos armada was even now engaging the Ultramar Defence Fleet over Macragge, the two factions' lumbering Battleships and blade-fast Escorts filling the void with Lance beams and torpedoes. The Chaos attack was focussed primarily upon the Fortress of Hera itself, the titanic fortification covering much of Magna Macragge Civitas, capital city of the Ultramarines Chapter planet. Regardless, the gunship pilots vowed to get their charges down safely, and deliver them for their audience with the Lord of Ultramar. Marneus Calgar had been alerted of their coming via heavily encrypted Vox communiqué, and awaited their arrival with interest. This last comment was delivered in a flat tone which suggested that perhaps the Lord of Ultramar felt he had more pressing matters to attend to than their mysterious, holy mission.
Nonetheless, the Stormravens lifted off with a scream of powerful thrusters. With their passengers strapped in and Cawl's auto-reliquary firmly secured, the pugnacious gunships fired their ramjets and shot out into the fire-lit void of space. Macragge turned slowly below them, a vast orb of blue, white, green and grey. Closer, bedlam lit the blackness. Lance beams stabbed and seared. Broken wrecks of onceproud warships tumbled through the void, chunks of metal and globules of liquid spreading slowly away from their blazing carcasses. Entire wings of Stormhawk Interceptors hurtled through blizzards of flak fire to execute daring strafing runs upon lumbering Chaos Cruisers.
From what sigils the pilgrims could make out, it appeared that Abaddon and his Black Legion were attacking Macragge in significant numbers. Nor were they alone. Spacecraft bearing the icons of the Iron Warriors, the Purge, the Night Lords and many more clove through the gloom above the planet. Glinting specks rained from their flanks, swarms of Dreadclaw Drop Pods and armoured Attack Craft arcing down on invasion trajectories.
Accompanied by an escort squadron of Stormhawks, the Ultramarines gunships turned their noses downward and dived through the madness of battle. They hit Macragge's upper atmosphere travelling at immense speeds, and flame washed across their hulls as they shuddered and shook with the violence of re-entry.
Watching through external pict emitters, the Celestinians and Ynnari saw the flames flutter away. They were replaced by a dizzying vista of towering mountains that grew rapidly larger as the Stormravens hurtled downward. In the midst of the mountain peaks sprawled an immense, fortifed cityscape, lit from end to end by the muzzle flare of flak batteries and missile silos all hurling their wrath up into the skies. Heldrakes and Traitor fighter craft swarmed thick above the Fortress of Hera, weaving at speed between towering statues and monolithic buildings to strafe the defenders, or dump tons of ordnance onto ground targets. Explosions brought down colonnaded templums and looming hab-stacks throughout Magna Macragge Civitas, while the Ultramarines' withering return fire saw dozens of Chaos Attack Craft blown apart with every suicidal pass they made. Even as they fell, Heretics steered into the Ultramarines' defences, demolishing gun towers and massacring warriors.
The Stormravens sped downward, making for the immense fortifications that dominated the heart of the city. A wave of Renegade Drop Pods thundered around them, speeding past like meteors and almost knocking one transport from the sky. Wings tucked tight to their metallic bodies, a pack of Heldrakes dropped behind them, and the escorting Stormhawks peeled off to intercept as the metallic beasts tried to latch onto the diving gunships.
Surrounded by streams of cannon fire and tumbling comets of metal and flame, the Stormravens screamed onward. They plunged headlong through their comrades' curtain of anti-aircraft fire, only the superhuman reflexes and skill of the Ultramarine pilots preventing their craft from being torn apart by the countless threats through which they flew. The pilgrims clung onto their restraining straps for dear life as they were shaken violently back and forth while the gunships ran the gauntlet of aerial approach to the Fortress of Hera. Then, finally, the gunships decelerated, raising their noses and arcing gracefully into an armoured hangar set into the flanks of the edifice. At last, the Celestinians and the Ynnari had reached their destination.
The pilgrims emerged from their scorched, battered gunships into one of the fortress' many embarkation hangars. They found themselves surrounded by urgent bustle on every side. Around the hangar entrance, Chapter Serfs crewed thumping anti-aircraft cannons that swivelled within gyroscopic cages as they chased their targets across the skies. Bulky Servitors lumbered back and forth, hauling carriages of ammunition to keep the guns fed. Further back within the hangar, Stormtalon and Stormraven gunships were refuelling, re-arming and undergoing swift binharic baptisms beneath the ministrations of Chapter Techmarines. Servo-arms whined. Welding braziers sparked and flared. The sound of rivet cannons buzzed and thumped through the cavernous chamber over the clipped voices of Defence Auxilia and robed serfs. Hundreds of men and women went about their business within the hangar, grim-faced and determined, and this was but one chamber within a fortress the size of a city.
Through the military bustle marched a band of Chapter Serfs, led by a single Ultramarines Battle-Brother. The warrior's helm was white and gold, and his armour bore numerous oath papers and honour markings. The helots who followed him bore gilded Autoguns and stern expressions -- the uniform tabards of several were spattered with what looked like fresh blood, and it was clear to all that these soldiers had come directly from the defence of the fortress' walls.
Announcing himself as Veteran Sergeant Cassean, the Ultramarine welcomed the Celestinians to the Fortress of Hera. He took a moment to nod respectfully to Marshal Amalrich and his Battle-Brothers, then requested that Cawl and his companions follow. Cassean turned briskly without waiting for an answer and marched away across the hangar floor. Left with little choice, the uneasy allies followed the brusque sergeant as he ascended a long, granite ramp and led them into the corridors of the Ultramarines fortress. They marched along at a brisk pace, through grand chambers of marble statuary and gilt ornamentation, across railed walkways hung with magnificent Ultramarines banners, and across void-shielded courtyards where Battle-Brothers blazed Bolter fire from the fire steps above. The din of battle was never far away. Thunderous explosions shook the walls around them from time to time, causing dust to fall like snow and electrosconces to flicker.
Making their way across an armaglass-shielded sky bridge, the pilgrims got their first clear look out across the fortress proper. Towering fortifications sprawled away in all directions, their guns pouring fire into the sky and spitting death at the foes that pressed close outside the walls or landed within the fortress' grounds. The pilgrims saw Ultramarines Terminators striding relentlessly along armoured battlements, driving back Jump Pack-wearing Traitors with storms of fire. They saw squadrons of anti-aircraft tanks drawn up amidst ornamental gardens, launching missiles skyward to blast plummeting Chaos Assault Craft from the air. In the distance, a monstrous Traitor Titan was framed by the breach it had torn in the fortress' outer curtain wall. The great war engine's guns blazed like poisoned stars, and its Void Shields flickered and burst as the phenomenal firepower of the Ultramarines hammered into them.
Hastened along by Sergeant Cassean, the Celestinians and Ynnari climbed a statue-lined stairway of marble and brushed steel, passing a squad of battle-scarred Ultramarines jogging the other way. At the stairway's head, the party emerged into a broad circular chamber with a frescoed floor, and walls and ceiling of void-shielded transparisteel. A massive bank of ornate consoles and holomaps dominated the chamber's centre, Servitors wired into its inset thrones and chattering binharic cant back and forth to one another. Dozens of robed functionaries, Quill Servitors, Chapter Serfs and strategos talked animatedly as they hurried around the central hololith, which projected a real-time map of the entire complex into the air. Runes and signifers swarmed across it in such profusion that the Fortress of Hera appeared to be caught up in a cyclone of data.
Standing before the display, faces set in frowns of concentration, were Chapter Master Marneus Calgar, First Captain Agemman, Chief Librarian Tigurius, and a Grey Knight whose scrollwork chest plate announced him as Grand Master Aldrik Voldus. As Cassean led the pilgrims around the table, the hubbub died away, all eyes turning toward the extraordinary group.
Solemnly, the Chapter Serfs moved aside and knelt with their heads bowed to the Lord of Ultramar, forming a corridor through which the pilgrims advanced. As they drew to a halt before Calgar and his assembled advisors, Marshal Amalrich too dropped to one knee with his sword held out before him, its point to the ground and his hands resting on its cross guard. His Battle-Brothers followed his example, showing their absolute respect for a hero of the Imperium. Inquisitor Greyfax bowed deeply, as did Celestine and her Geminae Superia. Only Cawl and the Ynnari remained standing, impassive despite the gravitas of the moment. Behind them, Cawl's auto-reliquary hissed and hummed, its mysterious contents still veiled by thick armour plates.
In a clear voice, Cassean announced the pilgrims one by one. As the sergeant finished speaking and stepped back, an expectant hush fell. Explosions blossomed in the sky outside. Gunships and Heldrakes raced past, the chatter of their guns muted by the thick insulation of the strategium. The huge strategium console continued to rattle and hum with flowing information. Finally, Calgar said that he had no notion of who Belisarius Cawl might be, nor had he ever made any sort of pact with any Priest of Mars. On Saint Celestine's face there dawned a look of calm revelation, but the rest of the Celestinians turned their horrified expressions upon the Archmagos in their midst. Yet Cawl's next words caused greater consternation still, for he stated flatly that he had not come to see Marneus Calgar. Cawl had travelled across the galaxy to attend the Lord of Ultramar, and now demanded to be taken to him at once. The auto-reliquary, he stated, must be delivered to the Shrine of Roboute Guilliman.
The outcry that followed Cawl's demand was immediate and intense. Marneus Calgar's expression grew thunderous as his advisors and Chapter Serfs cried out in shock. Auto-quills scratched a mad tattoo upon reams of parchment as hooded scribes frantically recorded every detail of this dramatic moment. The pilgrims exclaimed in anger and confusion, Greyfax turning upon Cawl and squaring up to the looming Magos as she barked a demand for immediate explanation. Only the Ynnari seemed unsurprised by this development, the Visarch standing statue still while Yvraine wore a faint smile upon her alabaster features, as though enjoying some private joke.
From amidst the tumult of voices, First Captain Agemman's voice rose in a Vox-amplifed boom. The Ultramarines First Captain issued a demand for calm, urging those around him to remember where they stood and the conduct that was expected of them. As quiet was restored, Agemman turned to Calgar and said in no uncertain terms that he did not trust these newcomers, nor the mysterious device they brought with them. The First Captain counselled that, with such immediate danger all around and a furious battle to win, there was only one viable solution at this time. The pilgrims should be put into confinement, and their mysterious package locked down in a stasis vault until its contents could be safely examined. As for the xenos, Agemman counselled that they be swiftly destroyed lest they pose a threat to the safety of the Chapter Master or the Fortress of Hera.
Saint Celestine spoke up then, attempting to explain the divine nature of her mission and the revelations she had received from the Emperor. She found herself staring into the muzzles of several Honour Guard Bolters -- not to mention the Condemnor Bolter of Inquisitor Greyfax, whose Puritan suspicions had been fired anew -- a clear indication that now was the time for the rulers of Ultramar to speak, and not their visitors.
All eyes rested upon Calgar as he looked to Chief Librarian Tigurius for further counsel. Though not even the vigilant warriors of the Honour Guard saw it, in that moment both Yvraine and the Visarch tensed themselves in preparation for battle, subtle muscle contractions and minuscule alterations in posture leaving the Ynnari poised to fight their way out should matters turn against them.
The Librarian remained silent for several long heartbeats, his weathered features contemplative. When he spoke, Tigurius' voice was deep and resonant, rich with power and wisdom. He reminded his Chapter Master that he had experienced troubling visions in the solar days leading up to the attack upon Macragge. Tigurius had seen a flight of iron birds take wing from a distant, crimson orb full of churning cogs. In the visions, those avian shapes had soared through fire and shadow that spilled from a ruptured castle gate of vast size. They had clutched a blazing sword in their jagged claws, and their wings had shone with holy light as they flew toward Ultramar. Through the ruptured gateway had been visible a staring, slit-pupilled eye, and as the birds neared Macragge, a giant maw full of blooded fangs had yawned wide around them, ready to bite down with crushing force.
The Chief Librarian had believed that his visions concerned the fall of Cadia and the subsequent attack by the Black Legion upon Ultramar. Certainly they had spurred the readying of the fortress' defences, and the sending of astropathic communiqués that had brought the Ultramar Defence Fleet back to the Chapter planet at the critical moment.
Now, though, Tigurius declared himself convinced that the visions pertained also to these travellers. The Chief Librarian said that he was willing to vouch for their presence, even that of the mysterious Eldar, and that he believed their arrival to be the Emperor's will made manifest.
Hushed whispers ran through the strategium at this pronouncement, and Calgar nodded solemnly. Without further comment, the Chapter Master bade the Celestinians speak, and explain their presence in their own words. Between them, Inquisitor Greyfax, Marshal Amalrich and Saint Celestine did as they were asked, relaying the bloody tale of Cadia's fall and their subsequent flight. Even Yvraine of the Ynnari deigned to speak a little, providing a few, scant details that went some way toward explaining the aliens' presence amongst the group. The only one who refused to divulge further information was Belisarius Cawl; despite Marneus Calgar's repeated questioning, the Archmagos would not elaborate upon what his auto-reliquary contained, or what he expected to occur within the shrine.
While the pilgrims spoke their piece, the war raged on. Information continued to stream in regarding troop deployments, attack and counterattack patterns, enemy drop sites, ammunition counts, and endless other articles of strategic intelligence. Marneus Calgar absorbed them all even as he listened to the pilgrims, issuing curt orders where required and keeping one eye always fixed upon the ever-shifting holomap that hung overhead. The Chapter Master wished to understand these strange visitors and the supposed pact they served, but he would not neglect the defence of his fortress while he did so.
Finally, Greyfax concluded their tale, adding that she was empowered to act as the Emperor's representative in this matter, and that she would gladly take responsibility for Cawl's summary execution should he prove false. Calgar raised a hand to forestall further comment, both from the pilgrims and from the frowning Captain Agemman. Then, in a sombre voice, Calgar pronounced his verdict.
The Chapter Master would permit the Celestinians to bring their auto-reliquary to the Shrine of Guilliman, though they would do so under heavy Ultramarines guard. Calgar said that while he understood and welcomed Agemman's prudent counsel, they lived in unusual days. The worshippers of Chaos had set foot upon the bedrock of Macragge once again, while the Warp churned to madness all around them. Calgar judged that the foe had been aided greatly by the supernatural beings they worshipped in this desperate endeavour. He would not turn his back upon the precognitive powers of his own Chief Librarian, or the wisdom of the Living Saint, at such a time as this, even if he had been given precious little reason to trust Archmagos Cawl.
Had Agemman been a hot-tempered Space Wolf or relentlessly logical Iron Hand, he might have contested such a ruling. Instead, he accepted his lord's judgement with stoicism. Belisarius Cawl went to speak, but Calgar forestalled him. The Chapter Master gave his permission for the Ynnari to accompany their allies, for it seemed clear to him that great events were afoot that bore the hand of the Emperor upon them. The presence of the Ynnari could be no accident, and whatever the Emperor's will was in this matter, Marneus Calgar would not be the one to contravene it.
Wasting no time, the Lord of Macragge issued his orders. He charged Agemman to remain in the strategium, taking personal command of the defence of the Fortress of Hera. Tigurius and Voldus would accompany the pilgrims to the Shrine of Guilliman, as would a heavily armed complement of Honour Guard, 3rd Company Battle-Brothers and 1st Company Terminators. Should the Celestinians or xenos prove treacherous, they would not find themselves short of executioners.
Celestine spoke words of thanks to Marneus Calgar, praising his sagacity. By comparison, Yvraine's features were inscrutable, while Cawl merely seemed impatient, as though irritated by such petty wrangling and keen to be about his business. As the pilgrims set off once more, Inquisitor Greyfax and Marshal Amalrich exchanged a loaded glance, before moving to position themselves at the very rear of the motley procession with weapons ready. The Ultramarines would not be the only ones to turn guns upon Cawl and his questionable choice of allies if their intentions should prove false.
Outside, the battle raged on as Macragge's sun dipped slowly behind the Crown Mountains. Fire lit the twilight as wave upon wave of Heretics plunged down from the firmament. As the pilgrims and their armed guards made for the Shrine of Guilliman, the Traitors without redoubled their efforts, the outcome of the battle hanging in the balance.
Revelation and Rebirth
Entering the resting place of Roboute Guilliman was like stepping into some doleful warrior's afterlife. The chamber itself was enormous, a vaulted sepulchre through which a Warlord-class Battle Titan could have strode without hindrance. Marble columns held aloft a ceiling of stained armaglass and obsidian inlaid with theldrite moonsilver. Guilliman's greatest deeds were depicted in spectacular friezes and statuary, arranged around the chamber and lit artfully by flickering electrosconces to lend the images the greatest possible gravitas. Huge braziers of devotional incense burned throughout the shrine, lacing the air with subtle scents, while from cherub-visaged laud hailers spilled a steady background murmur of martial arias and reverent prayer.
Despite the grandeur of the shrine, the pilgrims' eyes were drawn to the splendid figure enthroned within a pool of stark white illumination at one end of the chamber. There, upon a throne of marble, gold and finely worked adamantium, sat Roboute Guilliman. Esoteric machineries loomed over the Primarch's throne, thrumming and whispering as they fed remarkable energies through ribbed cables to enfold him in a rippling stasis field. Guilliman sat as though in repose, his eyes closed and his blood glinting jewel-like in a delicate necklace about his throat. Guilliman wore his finely-crafted Power Armour, still marred by the damage it had sustained during his final duel with the Daemon Primarch Fulgrim. Across his knees was laid a grand blade of prodigious size, the "Emperor's Sword", once wielded by the hand of the Master of Mankind Himself. Though the Primarch sat peacefully upon his throne, the force of his presence was palpable.
The pilgrims approached the throne in reverent silence, their Ultramarines escort marching alongside them and Cawl's auto-reliquary at their rear. The group drew to a halt near the foot of the steps that led up to the Primarch, where countless Ultramarines had knelt in communion over the millennia. Marneus Calgar moved forward to stand at the very base of the steps, bowing his head reverently to his Primarch for a moment before turning to face the assembled pilgrims. The sounds of furious battle were still audible, even in this sacred place, muffled and distant but inescapable.
Calgar drew a deep breath, and then asked once more for Belisarius Cawl to state his business here. The Chapter Master had indulged his visitors thus far, but with a desperate battle raging outside his fortress' walls, he could offer them no more time or patience.
Magos Cawl inclined his head, and told an incredible tale. Cawl explained that, in the years before Guilliman was mortally wounded, the Primarch had summoned him into his confidence. Cawl's memengrams of that meeting were eroded and incomplete, but he believed that Guilliman had seen in him the potential for great things. The Magos had been charged with a great labour by Roboute Guilliman, one for which he would be richly rewarded with information that only a Primarch could provide. Cawl stated that he was not at liberty to reveal the nature of his task, forestalling Calgar's angry response by explaining that his labours had been divided into two distinct parts, and that he was here to deliver on the first of those. He brought a magnificent new suit of armour fit for the Ultramarines Primarch, one whose ancillary systems possessed the power to heal Guilliman's grievous wounds. Stunned silence reigned at this announcement. To bring back a living, breathing Primarch, to restore one of the Emperor's greatest sons to the Imperium in its hour of need; such a notion filled the Imperial warriors with awed wonderment.
Yvraine spoke up, explaining her presence at this seminal moment. She was the Emissary of Ynnead, the Eldar God of the Dead, and her powers would be vital to Guilliman's restoration. Reading the puzzlement on her audience's features, Yvraine explained with sharp impatience that such a miracle could not be brought about without sacrifice. Cawl had laboured long and hard to fulfill the Primarch's request, but without Ynnead's aid, the fruits of that labour would not be enough. In order for Roboute Guilliman to live once more, first he must die.
Where Cawl's words had been met by shocked silence, Yvraine's raised a storm. Calgar exclaimed his fury at such a notion, vowing that no xenos witch would ever lay hand upon the Primarch while he drew breath. Grand Master Aldrik Voldus moved to stand alongside Calgar, his expression grim, and Greyfax and Marshal Amalrich followed his example. The surrounding Ultramarines raised their weapons, pointing them at Cawl, the Ynnari, even the hulking shape of the auto-reliquary itself. They awaited only their master's order to open fire.
Yet others raised their voices in support of this apparent insanity. Cawl blurted loudly that he was bound by the terms of his pact with Guilliman, and that he must bring it to completion. Saint Celestine too spoke up, imploring those around her to have faith, and asserting that this was, indeed, the will of the Emperor. Most unexpected of the proponents was Chief Librarian Tigurius, who strode, Force Staff ringing against the stone floor, to stand alongside Magos Cawl. Tigurius spoke in a calm voice that cut through the clamour, asking Lord Calgar to trust his counsel and saying once more that he had seen hints of this future in his visions. It was a scene of anger and confusion, but it was about to get worse.
Amongst the storm of angry voices and brandished weapons, Marneus Calgar's Vox chimed insistently in his ear. Angrily, the Chapter Master accepted the priority Vox hail, but his words of rebuke died on his lips. Calgar's voice boomed over the commotion, his shout of warning coming a split-second before the stained armaglass of the shrine's ceiling exploded inward.
Shattered crystal filled the air, shards the size of Storm Shields embedding themselves in walls, floor and armoured bodies. A huge shape smashed through into the shrine, a plummeting mass of blue metal travelling at the speed of a runaway mag-train. Hurtling down at an oblique angle, an Ultramarines Thunderhawk gunship slammed into the shrine's floor and skidded out of control. The aircraft was badly damaged, flames pouring from rents in its hull, one wing ripped away. It slewed drunkenly across the shrine's floor, away from the pilgrims and their Ultramarines guards, ploughing through a marble column and bringing it down in a thunderous avalanche of precious stone. The Thunderhawk slammed into the shrine's far wall, demolishing a statue of Guilliman battling Alpharius, before listing onto its side with a deafening clang.
Even as the stricken vehicle was settling to a stop, its assault ramp burst open with a shriek of torn metal. Spilling from within came Chaos Space Marines in twisted armour of black and gold, spiked Jump Packs melded to their backs and deafening war cries ringing from their Vox grills.
The Ultramarines responded with instant efficiency, Bolters and Assault Cannons roaring to life. A hail of shots ripped into the Black Legion Raptors, puffs of blood bursting from their avian forms as they jerked and danced amidst the fusillade. Still the Ultramarines were not quick enough to prevent catastrophe. Screaming their defiance, a trio of Raptors jetted through the rain of fire to slam spiked icons into the temple's floor. Tall spears of adamantium and iron, the icons were festooned with macabre trophies and anointed in daemonic gore. Empyric energies whirled around them, and reality rent apart with the calamitous thunder of teleportation flares.
With exemplary discipline, the Ultramarines coolly shifted their aim. Bolts and blasts tore into the Black Legion Terminators, ringing from their armour with cacophonous fury. Yet these were chosen warriors imbued with the daemonic gifts of the Dark Gods. Though several of the massive Black Legionaries stumbled or fell, the rest shrugged off the salvo and began a grinding advance, firing back as they came.
Marneus Calgar looked about himself aghast. The Shrine of Guilliman, the sacred heart of the Ultramarines Chapter, had been profaned by the minions of Chaos. Already a thunderous gunfight was erupting, Ultramarines hurling themselves into cover, returning fire at their attackers from behind columns and statuary. It was clear to all that the enemy were driving for the fallen Primarch. Calgar was forcibly reminded of a prior warning given by Aldrik Voldus in the astropathic communiqué he had sent to Macragge telling the Ultramarines that the Grey Knights would be offering their aid because they feared that Chaos planned an assault that could impact the entire Imperium's future. Calgar was still deeply suspicious of Cawl, the Ynnari and those who had accompanied them, yet here was a threat far clearer and more diabolical than them. With a stern demand that his visitors refrain from acting until he had the situation under control, the Chapter Master activated the energy fields around his Power Fists, known as the Gauntlets of Ultramar, and strode into the fight.
He was not alone. Turning from the shrine, Saint Celestine drew her Ardent Blade. With a hymn of battle upon her lips and her Geminae Superia at her side, the Living Saint leapt toward the foe. Amalrich did the same, bellowing oaths of hate as he and his last few Battle-Brothers ran headlong at the Black Legionaries.
Grand Master Voldus, too, moved to join the fight. He bit off orders into his Vox bead as he advanced, loosing shots from his Storm Bolter even as he called in reinforcement from his Grey Knights Battle-Brothers. The Imperial counterattack met the Black Legion assault in the middle of the shrine with a rending crash of metal on metal, and blood fell like rain as the two forces tore into one another.
All throughout the shrine, tales of heroism and sacrifice played out. Inquisitor Greyfax took a glancing shot to her ribs in the opening moments of the fight. The bolt shell dented her armour, driving the air from her lungs, but by the grace of the Emperor it failed to detonate. Greyfax, seeing black spots before her eyes, dropped hastily into the cover of a marble pew only a few dozen Terran feet from the base of Guilliman's throne. Sucking down several deep breaths, Greyfax leant around the edge of the pew and fired off a tight burst of shells from her Condemnor Bolter. The rounds roared across the shrine, punching into the faceplate of a Black Legion Raptor and blowing his helm apart in a bloody spray.
Greyfax' bionic eye switched rapidly through multiple scrying filters, collating tactical data and cogitating threat assessments at the speed of thought. To her fore, the Inquisitor saw Saint Celestine slicing her way through the Black Legion Terminators, spinning and leaping through the air as she clove the Traitors apart with her blade. One of the Geminae Superia was badly wounded, the armoured Seraphim sprawled in a slick of blood. The other was still fighting, emptying her Bolt Pistol into the foe. Greyfax still did not fully trust the Saint, but she could not fault the woman's selflessness or skill.
Nearby, Marneus Calgar and Grand Master Voldus fought side by side, weathering the thunderous blows of their hulking enemies as they smashed and impaled one Traitor after another. As Greyfax watched, Voldus loosed a ruinous shock wave of psychic force from his outstretched gauntlet, hurling a Chaos Terminator through the air to demolish another towering statue. Still the Traitors pressed forward, and as they did so new warriors appeared to fill the gaps in their ranks. Teleport energies flared again, clearing to reveal a trio of Terminator-armoured Black Legion Sorcerers, flanked by monstrous warriors of fleshmetal and living weaponry. At the same time, Dreadclaw Drop Pods plunged through the shattered armaglass above, slamming into the ground behind the advancing Black Legionaries. From within spilled more of Abaddon's chosen warriors, Heretic Astartes including bellowing Khorne Berzerkers charging forward to join the fray.
The Ultramarines stood their ground, despite being increasingly outnumbered. Veterans rattled volleys of fire into the advancing foe, ripping Black Legionaries off their feet or blasting them into glowing ash with bolts of plasma. Blue-armoured Terminators duelled with their blackarmoured counterparts, Heavy Flamers spewing fire across adamantium and ceramite as Power Fists delivered crushing blows. Marshal Amalrich and his brothers hurled themselves in alongside the Ultramarines, howling Chainswords and lashing Lightning Claws reaping a tally of Traitor lives. One Black Templar fell to a Chainfist's swipe, but still his brothers fought on.
Greyfax' Psyocculum chimed a warning as Warp energies built amidst the battle. Following the device's quavering brass needle, the Inquisitor saw the trio of Black Legion Sorcerers with their staves raised, black fire boiling around them. Greyfax lined up her Condemnor Bolter and launched a blessed silver stake at the nearest Sorcerer. She cursed as the holy projectile impaled her target but did not fell him, then she ducked down to reload as bolt shells blew craters in her cover. As she did so, Greyfax saw that not all of the pilgrims, nor indeed all of their hosts, had joined the fight.
The Inquisitor swore again as she saw Cawl hunched, spider-like, over the controls of his auto-reliquary. The Magos' metallic fingers danced across runic keys, his Mechadendrites slithering from one socket-port to another while the Ynnari and Skitarii stood guard over him. Beside them stood the Ultramarines Chief Librarian, Warp light glowing from his eyes and weaving around his skull-topped stave. As Greyfax watched, several frothing Berzerkers charged at Tigurius. The Librarian barked a string of syllables that caused the Khorne-worshippers to implode in a crumpled mass of flesh and metal. Greyfax's Psyocculum burbled confused readings as the life energies of the three Berzerkers left their bodies but did not vanish altogether. Ghost returns flickered around the two Ynnari, and Greyfax' suspicions of the Eldar deepened as she realised that they had -- in some fashion that she did not yet comprehend -- been empowered by the stolen animus.
Greyfax pushed herself to her feet again, intending to dash across the open ground and command Cawl to cease in the name of the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition. At that moment, a stitching line of Autocannon fire marched along the top of the pew. Explosions of fire and shrapnel burst around the Inquisitor, hurling her from her feet. Greyfax fired back at her attackers, lashing out with her telepathic powers as she did so, but she was -- for the moment -- pinned in place.
Marneus Calgar swung his right gauntlet in a punishing arc, hammering it up through his enemy's guard and catching a Chaos Terminator square under the jaw. His enemy's helm disappeared in a blizzard of metal and blood, his corpse slamming down onto its back with bone-breaking force. Before the Traitor even hit the ground, Calgar was already turning on the spot, both gauntlets held out from his body and bolters thundering. The Chapter Master revolved in a half-circle, blazing rounds into the Black Legionaries on every side and eviscerating another of them with explosive shells. Blocking the return swipe of a crackling Power Mace, Calgar prepared to swing another titanic blow into his enemies. Then he caught sight of movement at the base of Guilliman's throne, and cold horror clenched in his chest.
Calgar saw the Martian Tech-priest step back from his auto-reliquary with the air of one completing a satisfying task. The dome-shaped device hummed forward, unfurling like the petals of some huge, carnivorous flower. The watching Chapter Master was at the wrong angle to see inside the machine, but he had a fleeting impression of glowing energies, unfurling Mechadendrites, clamping pincer-limbs and whirring bone-drills that filled him with revulsion.
The auto-reliquary was rising and stretching out, enfolding the Primarch's form in its metallic embrace. At the same moment, the xenos witch-priestess lunged with preternatural grace, evading whistling bolt shells as she raised her blade high.
"No!" bellowed Calgar, finding his voice. "I command you to stop! In the Emperor's name, Brother Tigurius, stop them!" The Chapter Master's dismay rose to new heights as Tigurius looked straight at him, and shook his head.
"Do it!", shouted the Chief Librarian, blazing psychic energies into the foe that pressed close all around. "And may the Emperor condemn me if you have played me false, xenos."
In desperation, Calgar raised his Bolters and prepared to fire at the Eldar witch, but Yvraine's blade fell lightning fast, hacking through the cabling that fed power to Guilliman's stasis field. Energies flared, and from within the closing arms of the autoreliquary, Calgar heard a rattling sigh that would haunt him until his dying day.
"What have you done?" he roared, despair and fury blazing through him like a firestorm. Fists clenched, Calgar turned upon the Traitors that had forced this terrible tragedy to come to pass, and waded back into the fight with unstoppable fury.
The auto-reliquary engulfed Roboute Guilliman and his throne entirely, runic designators and auto-lumen flickering in mesmerising patterns across its surface. As though spurred by the sight, the Black Legionaries redoubled the intensity of their attack.
Bellowing war cries, the Black Legion Terminators drove hard into their foes. Marneus Calgar was pushed back by his enemies, his battle plate cracked by the crunching blow of a Power Maul. Braving the Chapter Master's lashing gauntlets, a band of Traitor Terminators surrounded him entirely so that their brethren could break away towards the auto-reliquary. Gunfire echoed thunderously around the shrine as the Traitors let fly into Cawl's unfolded device. Bolts and shells alike exploded harmlessly as they struck hardened void shielding, unable to punch through the Archmagos' data-wards to damage the device behind.
The last of the Raptors formed into a single talon and bounded across the shrine. Their Jump Packs howled, and terrifying screams burst from their Vox grills. They were met by a thin line of Ultramarines Veterans, the Loyalist Astartes abandoning cover to interpose themselves between the Chaos assault troops and Guilliman's throne with Bolters blazing. Several Raptors fell, but the Ultramarines paid for their bravery as the enemy's Obliterators opened fire. Plasma blasts and Lascannon beams smashed the Veterans from their feet, reducing chest cavities to blackened craters and helmed heads to scatters of ash.
The Chaos Sorcerers leading the attack drew deep upon the energies of the Warp, risking damnation in their haste to break through. Two of the psychically-empowered warriors unleashed a storm of crackling black lightning at Grand Master Voldus, driving the Grey Knight to one knee with their combined fury. The Grey Knight's eyes glowed and the runes on his armour shimmered with power as he roared counter-incantations. Meanwhile, the last of the Sorcerers stormed toward the Primarch's throne, arms raised above his head and voice booming from his Vox grill. As the Sorcerer chanted, so the Temple of Correction began to shudder and shake. Pillars split from bottom to top, chunks of marble the size of Drop Pods shearing off to crash down into the fight. Gaping rents yawned wide in the floor, swallowing warriors from both sides, and the frescoed ceiling became webbed with cracks.
Realising that the Sorcerer was attempting to bring one end of the shrine down upon Guilliman's throne, Tigurius brandished his staff and focussed his psychic energies to unmake the Chaos worshipper's incantation. Yet the Chief Librarian's concentration was shattered as a fresh wave of Khorne Berzerkers hurled themselves at him. Tigurius frantically parried one roaring Chainaxe after another with his staff, cursing as he felt the powers of the Empyrean draining away from his touch. The Ynnari were suddenly there beside him, fighting with blistering speed. Never had Tigurius seen living creatures move with such swiftness and grace, Yvraine and the Visarch blurring through the air and leaving greyed-out after-images in their wake as they ruthlessly laid the Berzerkers low.
All across the shaking temple, the dwindling forces of the Imperium fought like lions to hold back their foes. Celestine still hacked and cut, span and leapt, leaving a trail of slain Black Legionaries in her wake. Archmagos Cawl sent blasts of searing energy ripping through the Chaos ranks while intoning binharic psalms to fortify his allies' weapons and wargear. Marshal Amalrich, accompanied now by just two remaining Sword Brethren, fought tirelessly atop a heap of Black Legion corpses. Teleport energies flared once more and a squad of Grey Knights Paladins flashed into being, bolstering their Grand Master's psychic defences with their own.
For a moment the battle hung in the balance. Then a second flight of Dreadclaw Drop Pods began their descent upon the shrine, fires billowing around their hulls as they fell. No scattered handful of reinforcements was this, but a pinpoint attack wave of ten armoured pods, held in reserve by the masters of the Chaos invasion and hurled in to strike the killing blow. Heldrakes dived alongside them, jaw cannons chattering to tear a path through Ultramarines interceptors and gunships. More than one of the plummeting Daemon Engines hurled itself into flak fire, compelled to self-sacrifice in order to shield the Dreadclaws from harm. Thus protected, all ten pods flashed down through the sundered dome of the Shrine of Guilliman, touching down amidst billowing clouds of smoke and sulphurous flame.
As one, the Dreadclaws irised open to disgorge squad after squad of heretical killers. An entire Traitor warband surged into battle, the Talons of the Despoiler deployed en masse to sweep away all resistance in the shrine. It was a force whose combined strength could subdue worlds, one hundred super-human murderers, fresh and ready for battle. The Black Legion reinforcements struck the Imperial defence like a battering ram.
Ultramarines Veterans and Honour Guard fell as they were riddled with overwhelming bolt fire. Courageous Terminators crumpled, even their potent armour unable to withstand the hammering volleys of Bolter, Melta and plasma fire that engulfed them. Marneus Calgar roared in defiance as he was borne to the ground by a surging mass of foes that swung, stabbed and stamped at him. Marshal Amalrich and his brothers charged down the mound of corpses rather than be caught in the open by the foe's massed firepower, determined to hack down as many of their tainted kin as they could before they were slain. Saint Celestine, too, swooped down upon the mass of foes. Her remaining sister had been smashed from the air by a plasma blast, and even the Saint herself was now fighting one-handed, her left arm hanging broken at her side. Still she sang out a hymn to the Emperor, determined to meet death with words of purity and hope on her lips.
Everywhere the massed Chaos worshippers pressed forward, engulfng the shrinking islands of Imperial resistance, while sorcerous energies continued to tear at the shrine itself. Not a single defender took a step backward, but it was clear that their lives could now be measured in solar minutes at most.
The Avenging Son
The foremost Black Legionaries were mere Terran yards away from the foot of Guilliman's throne when the rune-panels on Cawl's auto-reliquary flickered from red to green. A single chime sounded, a clear, pure note that cut through the clangour like a knife. The Archmagos himself, fighting back-to-back with the Ynnari and Chief Librarian Tigurius, emitted an uncharacteristic blurt of binharic triumph. The next moment, the outstretched armatures of the auto-reliquary folded back with a gaseous hiss to reveal a sight of breathtaking splendour.
Where before Roboute Guilliman had sat, a pale, stasis-locked revenant, now the Primarch stood awake, alert and very much alive. His presence was immense, dominant as a thunderhead suddenly filling the shrine with its crushing pressure. Guilliman was clad in a magnificent new suit of Power Armour, an ornate masterwork that had travelled all the way from the forges of Mars within Cawl's auto-reliquary. In one hand the Ultramarines Primarch held the Emperor's Sword, lit now from hilt to tip with leaping flames, and in his eyes was a look of such murderous intensity that even the Loyalists within the shrine quailed to see it.
It was as though a spell had settled over the shrine. Though outside the din of war thundered on, within that echoing chamber friend and foe alike stared awestruck at the legendary figure reborn in their midst. An incoherent scream of rage shattered the silence, a single Khorne Berzerker charging headlong through the stunned combatants to launch himself in a flying leap at the Primarch. Guilliman moved with such blistering speed that the Ynnari themselves would have struggled to match it. His burning blade drew a pyrotechnic arc through the air as it swung, bisecting the Khorne Berzerker at the waist and hurling his severed halves to the ground.
As the Chaos worshipper's armoured corpse crashed to the floor, the spell was broken. With a great howl of hate, the Black Legion warriors surged towards Roboute Guilliman. Wordlessly, the noble demigod strode to meet them, and the carnage truly began.
Saint Celestine looked upon the towering form of the Primarch reborn, and knew the abiding satisfaction of her faith being borne out once more. A son of the God-Emperor Himself, a demigod of battle to lead the Imperium out of the darkness that, with each passing solar day, seemed more certain to engulf it entirely. In what greater endeavour could she have played a part? What single event could possibly be more important than the manifestation of this breathtaking miracle? Humbly, Celestine offered up her profound thanks to the Emperor for permitting her to be a part of such a wondrous thing.
Around her, the battle still raged, yet every aspect of the conflict had changed for Celestine in that singular moment of rebirth. The strewn corpses of Imperial warriors were no longer a tragic waste, but instead the fallen bodies of martyrs whose sacrifice would be immortalised forever. The traitorous killers filling the shrine were no longer hated despoilers, but instead merely the first of an endless tally of Heretics that Guilliman would lay low. Her own hurts no longer mattered, whether the physical wounds to her own body or the spiritual rents opened by the deaths of her Geminae Superia.
"Thank you", intoned Celestine, a single golden tear rolling down her cheek as she turned her face to the heavens. "Thank you, my Emperor. He is a blessing we do not deserve."
Snarling, a Black Legionary lunged at Celestine with a serrated blade in hand. Presumably he thought her distracted in her moment of sublime gratitude, but he could not have been more mistaken. With the fires of faith searing through her veins, Celestine turned the golden radiance of her gaze upon the Heretic and smiled beatifically as she felt her broken arm heal itself anew. The Ardent Blade came up in a single, swift movement and ran the Heretic Astartes through.
Even as her assailant fell back with blood gushing from his mouth, the Living Saint launched herself skyward and soared across the shrine. She alighted beside Inquisitor Greyfax, who was stood atop a sarcophagus pouring Bolter fire into the Heretics massed on every side.
"I erred", shouted Greyfax over the roar of her Bolter. "And I shall do penance. You truly are an instrument of the Emperor's will."
"Vigilance is not a sin, Katarinya Greyfax", replied Celestine, slashing her blade through the enemies before her. "You serve Him as surely as I."
"Indeed", said Greyfax with a curt nod. "Then let us serve him together, as true warriors of faith." With that, she raised her blade and lunged into the foe, Celestine leaping at her side.
First to die was the Sorcerer whose powers had shaken the temple to its foundations. Guilliman raised his mighty gauntlet, the Hand of Dominion, and a storm of armour-piercing fire erupted from beneath it to rip the tainted psyker to pieces.
Next to fall were the remaining Black Legion Berzerkers. Following their comrade's example, they flung themselves screaming at the reborn Primarch. Like their fellow, they were reduced to so much armoured meat, smashed from the air with terrifying speed. Guilliman was running now, storming forward through the hail of bolts and shells unleashed by the Black Legionaries. Rounds exploded against the Primarch's armour, but none could pierce its inviolable plates.
As he crashed into the front ranks of Black Legionaries, Guilliman let out a building roar of pure, undiluted fury. The Primarch's first blow threw a Black Legionary high into the air, blood streaming behind the corpse in a red trail. His second strike smashed a Traitor Terminator into a bronze and marble column with enough force to drive the Chaos worshipper clean through it, and out the other side. A spiked Power Fist swung for Guilliman's chest, only to be lopped from its wielder's arm before the blow could land. Guilliman's return swing parted his attacker's head from his shoulders, cauterising the stump of the Traitor's neck as the body crumpled to the floor. On it went, the Primarch moving with such speed that even the Heretics' superhuman reactions couldn't save them. None could match Guilliman. None could even come close, and the few opponents that landed lucky blows found their weapons turned aside by the Primarch's masterwork armour.
As the Black Legion hurled itself towards the towering warrior in its midst, so the pressure lessened upon the surviving Loyalists in the shrine. Full of vengeance, inspired by the spectacle of the Primarch, the last of the Celestinians and their allies threw themselves back into the fight with renewed vigour.
As Guilliman cleared the foes from around the foot of his throne, Tigurius, Cawl and the Ynnari followed him into the gap. Yvraine blurred through the air, felling a Chaos Space Marine before cart-wheeling between two more and leaving them as crumbling statues of dust and ash. A Traitor raised his Plasma Gun to blast the whirling priestess, only for the Visarch's sword to lop his arms off at the elbows. The Champion of Ynnead reversed his grip on his blade, ramming it through his victim's helm before basking in the escaping psychic energies of the Traitor Marine's corrupted soul.
Tigurius released a thunderous barrage of aetheric energies, thumping tectonic shock waves that hurled Heretic Astartes from their feet and shattered their armour like porcelain. The Chief Librarian felt Guilliman's gaze upon him then, for just a heartbeat. The Primarch's appraising stare seemed to strip Tigurius down to his soul. Then Guilliman stormed on through the enemy ranks.
With every blow, the Primarch of the Ultramarines sent mutated corpses tumbling through the air. His expression was graven granite and frozen hate, a mask of vengeful anger that had endured millennia.
For Guilliman, his last memory was a desperate battle against a tainted brother, a fraternal contest of godlike strength and barbed, hateful taunts -- then poison and pain beyond endurance. Now he found himself in strange surroundings, facing a twisted horde of creatures that were nightmarish parodies of the Adeptus Astartes ideal.
Not that his apparent allies struck Guilliman as much more familiar, but he could at least detect who in this vast sepulchre was tainted by Chaos and who was not. For now, that was enough. The Primarch compartmentalised his questions for later, and concentrated solely on the battle at hand.
The Black Legionaries continued to hurl themselves at the reborn Lord of Ultramar, clearly willing to sustain any amount of casualties if it meant laying Guilliman low. Yet they were laughably outmatched in almost every regard. Sweeping the Emperor's Sword in wide arcs, firing off hammering volleys from the Hand of Dominion, the Primarch reaped a bloody tally as he drove the Traitors back. As they retreated, so the prone form of Marneus Calgar was revealed, his armour cracked and his face beaten bloody. Guilliman paused for a moment in his rampage, looking down upon this fallen son with an unreadable expression on his face.
Calgar stirred, one eye opening to look up at the Primarch reborn. Satisfied that his scion lived, Guilliman pressed on, leaving the fallen Chapter Master to stare in disbelief at his resurrected gene-sire.
Across the chamber, Grand Master Voldus and his Paladins were driving the surviving Chaos Sorcerers back. The Heretics were powerful psykers both, but neither could hold a candle to Voldus' preeminent power. Surrounded by a crackling vortex of empyric energies, the Grand Master strode through the dark flames and molten lightnings conjured by his foes. Propelled as much by thought as by his steely sinews, Voldus' lightning-wreathed Nemesis Daemonhammer Malleus Argyrum swung in an unstoppable arc and slammed into the helm of the closest Sorcerer. Ceramite, flesh and bone exploded in a crackling spray, and the Traitor toppled backwards as a headless corpse.
The last of the Heretic leaders lost his nerve, barking orders at his underlings to cover his retreat from the shrine. The Sorcerer turned, lumbering in his Terminator Armour, and found himself face-to-face with Roboute Guilliman. Screaming witch-light rushed in as the Sorcerer attempted to conjure a potent curse. Before he could even spit the jagged syllables to unleash his power, the Sorcerer was hoisted bodily off the ground, Guilliman's Hand of Dominion clamped firmly around the Traitor's gorget. In a breathtaking display of strength, the Primarch lifted his foe high into the air, Guilliman's face a cold mask of disgust. The Sorcerer made a last, croaking attempt to speak before the Emperor's Sword slammed through the Traitor's midriff, and ripped it swiftly upward. Ancient armour and corrupt flesh parted as easily as silk, and the Sorcerer's innards spilled out in a rush to splatter upon the flagstones.
Leaderless, reaped like corn by the seemingly unstoppable Primarch and his allies, the last of the Black Legionaries turned and fled. Not a single one of them would escape the Fortress of Hera alive.
By the time reinforcements reached the Temple of Correction, the fighting was done. Every single Ultramarine who rushed into that vaulted space dropped to their knees in worshipful awe at the sight of their Primarch reborn.
Calm now, Roboute Guilliman took charge of his warriors. He asked no questions, save those of a purely strategic nature. He made no reference to the circumstances of his rebirth, his long repose, or the strangers that he found himself surrounded by, and none dared raise such matters with him. The Primarch would doubtless seek answers, but caught between wonder and a kind of overawed fear, the Ultramarines, the Celestinians, and even the Ynnari kept their own counsel. Besides, war still raged outside the shrine.
News of the Primarch's rise spread like wildfire through the Fortress of Hera. It was proclaimed from every Vox speaker, shouted from every rampart, and broadcast from the vocal emitters of countless Cybercherubim that fluttered through the cauldron of war. Guilliman ensured that it was so, for he understood well that his living presence would embolden his armies and cow his enemies. Ultramarines and Ultramar Defence Auxilia alike knew first bewilderment, then newfound strength as they processed this incredible news. The Chaos worshippers, by comparison, faltered in their attack. Even the most feared of their Champions were eclipsed by the martial glory of a living, breathing Primarch, and ripples of unease spread through the Heretic throng at the thought of facing him.
Guilliman made straight for the fortress' strategium, and -- in a dramatically charged moment that would become enshrined in statuary -- formally accepted command of the defence from First Captain Agemman. Marneus Calgar stood at his Primarch's side during this exchange, sorely wounded and supported by two Honour Guards, yet determined to be present all the same. Guilliman showed his nobility by humbly requesting the Chapter Master's leave to assume full command of the Ultramarines at that time. Calgar shrugged off his Battle-Brothers and, grimacing in pain, knelt before his gene-sire. He matched Guilliman's solemnity as he offered unending fealty to the Primarch, and bequeathed full control of the Chapter to him in perpetuity.
Like an impresario settling before his instrument, Guilliman spread his hands upon the strategium table and took a deep breath before beginning to command. With his every utterance, the invaders' plight became more apparent. The Primarch's strategic acumen, his tactical genius and miraculous mental acuity were unmatched. The leaders of the Ultramarines looked on in amazement as Guilliman marshalled the defenders like regicide pieces, drinking in reams of strategic data and issuing a steady stream of orders that turned one fight after another in the defenders' favour. Calgar and his lieutenants had executed a superhuman campaign of defiance against the invaders, but the Primarch was operating on a different mental plane.
At Guilliman's command, thunderous overlapping firestorms and interlaced webs of interceptor strikes cleared the airspace over the Fortress of Hera. No longer threatened from above, Ultramarines reserves and vast numbers of Defence Auxilia flowed into the fight in masterful deployment patterns. Feints, ambushes, false retreats and sudden, overwhelming counterattacks ripped through the Chaos forces and drove them from within the fortress' grounds. Guilliman wielded hundreds of thousands of warriors at once, predicting every move his enemies made and countering before they had even thought to act.
By the time the Primarch and his coterie strode out to lead the fight in person, the Chaos attackers were reeling in disarray. The attack led by Guilliman into the heart of their lines was like a final bolt round placed between the eyes of a wounded enemy. Black Legionaries, Iron Warriors, Alpha Legion and Night Lords -- all were hurled back from the walls. Traitor Titans toppled like vast, flaming trees to smash down in ruin. Just three solar hours after his resurrection, Roboute Guilliman concluded the wholesale purge of Chaos invaders from the Fortress of Hera, and confidently proclaimed the Ultramarines' stronghold secure.
There now came a time where breath could be drawn, and stock taken. Even as lumbering Servitors and Chapter Serf work gangs laboured to shore up the fortress' battered defences, Guilliman summoned a select company to attend him in the Chapter Master's sanctum. This had long been the domain and throne room of Marneus Calgar. Now it would become the sanctum of the Primarch himself, and it was here that he was formally invested as Lord of Ultramar and Master of the Ultramarines once more. Calgar, Tigurius, Agemman and their closest lieutenants were present for Guilliman’s elevation, as were representative brothers from every company of the Chapter. The Celestinians, too, attended Guilliman's formal coronation, the Saint herself ceremonially bestowing her blessings upon the Primarch. Even the Ynnari watched from the sidelines as this momentous event occurred; they lurked amongst the shadows, a silent and staunchly unremarked-upon presence whose expressions remained cold and watchful.
As the ceremony concluded, Guilliman rose and addressed the assembly. There was much to be done, and countless questions to which the Primarch required answers. Before he could act further, Roboute Guilliman needed to know everything that had occurred during his long absence.
The Terran Crusade
"Even gods have their limits. Mortal weapons may fail to harm them, this is true. But pride, arrogance, an excess of devotion to their mortal servants -- these are barbs with which even the most divine of beings may be brought low."
The Warp is, in many ways, a mirror of our reality. Like a dark and fathomless pool, its surface ripples with the impact of momentous events, or great outbursts of passion and emotion. The resurrection of Roboute Guilliman during the Ultramar Campaign sent bow waves of psychic energy rolling outward through the Immaterium, racing tsunamis of turmoil that did not go unnoticed.
One by one, the Champions of the Dark Gods of Chaos became aware of the resurrected Primarch. Reclining amidst an endless banquet of souls, Fulgrim pouted in displeasure as daemon imps whispered the news into his ear. The Daemon Primarch of the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion bestirred himself from his velvet throne, vowing to his depraved god Slaanesh that this time, he would ensure Guilliman's eternal fall from grace.
In hidden fanes and crystalline mazes, the greatest daemons of Tzeentch watched as the weft and weave of fate rippled and changed with the implications of Guilliman's return. Reading their master's will in the shattered facets of the future, each set itself to the task of tainting, tempting or destroying the Ultramarines Primarch in a myriad of subtly varied fashions.
Deep within the noisome swamps of Nurgle's Garden in the Realm of Chaos, a conclave of Great Unclean Ones listened indulgently to the frantic babbling of messenger flies. They leered in delight, bile and maggots slopping down their festering chins. A Primarch! One untouched and untainted by any of Nurgle's brothers. Their pestilential master would no doubt value such a prize most highly. Perhaps, they chortled mockingly, they might even arrange a final reconciliation between the bitter Daemon Primarch Mortarion and his brother. Such an opportunity had not presented itself in thousands of standard years, and the Great Unclean Ones hummed a cheerful ditty as they began to concoct a sickness fit for a demigod.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Mendox Cataclysm was coming to its hideous conclusion. Along a war front that spanned entire star systems, the Champions of Khorne burned eighty-eight Imperial worlds at once. Amidst the rising flames of their genocide, Champions of Khorne both mortal and daemonic witnessed visions of their furious deity, raging against Guilliman's return. His apoplectic bellows rang as thunder through the skies of the dying planets, and Warp Storms shuddered into being through rents in reality as though the Blood God was hacking at the stars with his ruinous blade. The servants of the other Dark Gods might try to corrupt Guilliman, to mislead or despoil him. Yet Khorne's servants knew that their master had no patience for such things. Instead, they fell to battle amongst each other, warring for the right to hunt down the reborn Primarch and claim his skull.
Other dark lords, too, saw the glowing beacon of Guilliman's rebirth from afar and began to marshal their forces accordingly. Forewarned by the prophetic visions of Zaraphiston, Abaddon the Despoiler had fashioned a loose alliance of Traitor Marine warbands to strike Guilliman down before his resurrection could occur. It was this that had spurred the sudden, frenzied Chaos invasion of Ultramar, but -- even with the aid of a sizeable force of Black Legionaries -- Abaddon's vassal warlords had failed in their initial gambit. Furious, Abaddon summoned and bound the Lord of Change Kairos Fateweaver, sending him winging his way across the galaxy to gather fresh forces against the Primarch.
Upon far-flung hell worlds, Magnus the Red and the Death Lord Mortarion received word of their brother's awakening. Their reactions were as different as fire and ice. Mortarion raged, a cold and virulent storm of anger whirling around him until its echoes in realspace seeded seven new and terrible plagues upon luckless Imperial worlds. Mired amid plans that were nearing fruition, the Daemon Primarch of the Death Guard Traitor Legion could not yet act to strike at Guilliman. Instead, as he stared with glowing eyes across the mist-wreathed parade grounds of his Plague Planet, and the massed ranks of Death Guard there assembled, Mortarion vowed that he would render Guilliman and his empire to rot soon enough.
Magnus, by comparison, gave a booming laugh of utter delight. Like a fortune teller who flips their final tarot card and gains sudden insight, the Crimson King saw now before him paths of glorious fate, where before had been a wilderness of confusion. Magnus began to issue orders, his words bursting forth as swarms of crystalline insects. They flitted away to marshal the thrallbands of his once proud Space Marine Legion, the Thousand Sons. Already, the cyclopean Daemon Primarch had revenged himself upon one hated foe of old, setting the Fenris System of the Space Wolves alight in the fires of retribution. Now, he saw a chance to punish another.
So the might of the Warp began to gather, coiling and writhing like a serpents' nest. Traitor Marine warbands rode the dark tides of the Empyrean toward Ultramar, howling with naked bloodlust and swearing vows to strike Guilliman down in the name of the Ruinous Powers.
Swathes of the galaxy were already riven with Warp Storms that had spilled through the Cadian Gate with all the ferocity of Old Night, or been unleashed by the shattering of the Eldar Craftworld Biel-Tan. Now those tempests spread further, as the Primordial Annihilator turned its full attentions upon realspace. Screaming maws burst open between the stars, horrifyingly immense, yawning gulfs ringed by mountainous fangs and coiling, ectoplasmic tentacles. Dozens of worlds were plunged into darkness and terror as time shattered apart around them, and the energies of the Immaterium burst their banks to flood into realspace.
Within the Warp, wars ended even as fresh ones began. Daemonic legions were pulled away from nightmarish battlefields and hurled through breaches in the veil of reality, charged with hunting down and putting an end to the reborn Primarch. Yet the servants of the Dark Gods are ever opportunists, and believed that this moment of distraction could be used to strike at their respective masters' rivals amongst the Chaos pantheon.
Mounted upon a cogwork scorpion the size of a city, Khorne's blood legions drove headlong into the winding edges of the Lord of Change's Crystal Labyrinth, swarms of flame-belching Tzeentchian daemons pouring out to meet them like insects defending their kicked hive. At the same time, Slaanesh's cavalcade of hedonism hacked its way into the Garden of Nurgle, even as the Plague God's infamous Sluggardhost came squirming through the brimstone caverns beneath Khorne's Ironfire Bastion. Soon enough, fresh wars raged throughout the domains of the Chaos Gods, their eternal rivalries stoked by the momentous events, yet still a portion of their attentions were focused upon the fate of Roboute Guilliman, and upon their worshippers' schemes to lay him low.
As for the Primarch himself, Guilliman was, as yet, unaware of the daemonic madness that his return had spurred. This was a mercy, for the Lord of Ultramar already had a crushing weight of questions and shock to deal with. Everything Guilliman knew was gone, replaced by the madness and horror of a future he had tried so desperately to prevent ten thousand standard years before.
Roboute Guilliman settled heavily into his new throne. The Primarch had despatched all of his attendants and advisors, even sending his Honour Guard to wait outside the sanctum. At last he could allow a little of his sorrow, trauma and pain to show, and Guilliman let his mask drop with a sigh of relief. Whatever had been done to him to bring him back, it had left the Primarch with a constant, gnawing ache that radiated from deep within. He suspected that pain would never leave him.
Physical hurts were the least of Guilliman's troubles. One by one, the Primarch had spoken with each of the Celestinians, the lords of the Ultramarines, and even Yvraine of the Ynnari. Solar days had been spent in deep, earnest conversation, Guilliman using every iota of his statesman's guile to set his guests at ease, to tease from them as much information as he could, and to hide his reactions to their words. Guilliman had thanked each of his visitors for their insights and their service to the Imperium, inwardly assessing each of his guests and showing them whatever aspect of his personality was surest to render them sympathetic and voluble.
Though he had not shown it, each fresh revelation struck the Primarch like a cannon shell. He was exhausted from staving off bewilderment and horror, hollowed out by pain. Guilliman groaned and placed his head in his hands, his new suit of armour hissing and humming with the motion.
"Millennia have passed", he murmured, unsure to whom he spoke. He knew only that he had to vocalise his situation before it drove him mad. Not for the first time since his return, Guilliman wished for one of his brothers to speak with. They, at least, might have understood.
"Thousands of years", he said. "And look what has become of them. Of us. Idolatry. Ignorance. Suffering and squalor, in the name of a god who never desired the title."
Guilliman shook his head and stood, pacing across the Chapter Master's sanctum to stare up at the banners hanging on the western wall. Each was the height of an Imperial Knight, a cascade of masterfully woven cloth depicting the glories of the Ultramarines.
Slain alien beasts, executed Heretic despots, worlds saved and worlds burned. The Chapter's proud iconography was much in evidence, but so was the Aquila of the Imperium and there, presiding over several of the heraldic designs, a figure with throne and halo who must surely be the Emperor.
"We failed, father", said Guilliman, his words tired and leaden with sorrow. "You failed your sons, and we, in our turn, failed you. And now, to compound our arrogance and vainglory, we have failed all of them, too. Did Horus not say that you sought godhood? He built a rebellion upon that claim. How he would gloat, to see the Imperium now."
Anger surged through the Lord of Ultramar, and he clenched his fists with the effort of self-restraint. He imagined destroying this chamber, tearing it apart and hurling its wreckage around like a wild beast. He dared not, lest these strangers in his Chapter's livery see through his facade. Though he wrestled with despair, the Primarch knew that he could not let his weakness show. Marneus Calgar, Tigurius, Agemman, all the others -- they looked at him as though he was the Emperor Himself. Guilliman was painfully aware of his symbolic quality, and of how desperate and dark the hour had become. He must show nothing but strength to his gene-sons, lest his despair taint their hearts, too.
"And yet, would it really matter," he sighed, turning his back on the banners and pacing across the chamber to stare through a stained glass window. Out there, across the war-torn immensity of the Fortress of Hera, Guilliman saw the sweeping bulwark where his old chambers had once been. They had belonged to his father, even before him. He had laid his plans there, spoken to his brothers, laughed and raged and -- on one occasion -- almost died. Now they were gone, buried beneath ugly agglomerations of buttressing and gun batteries. It was apt, he thought bitterly.
Guilliman's anger spilled over, and he spun on his heel, staring up at the woven Emperor with accusing eyes.
"Why do I still live," he snarled. "What more do you want from me? I gave everything I had to you, to them. Look what they've made of our dream. This bloated, rotting carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fires of Horus' ambition than live to see this." Even as he said it, Guilliman heard the lie in his words. Amongst his brothers, none had been more idealistic than Roboute Guilliman. None had envisioned a brighter future, not just for Mankind but also for the warriors of the Legiones Astartes. That flame of hope had been a part of him for as long as he had lived. Even now, as it was smothered by darkness and woe, Guilliman realised that his flame endured.
"There's hope still," he told himself, turning back to the window and placing one armoured palm against it. He stared out at the work gangs, labouring to repair the damage of war, and the Ultramarines stood proud and determined upon the ramparts. They had been born into this dark millennium, and had known nothing but the hardship, suffering and despair of unending conflict. Yet still they struggled on unbowed, despite the countless enemies ranged against them. Guilliman had seen a better age, one of hope and triumph. What right had he, a superhuman son of the Emperor Himself, to show any less strength and courage than his followers born in darkness?
Guilliman had seen what Humanity could achieve. Moreover, he knew what fruits Bellisarius Cawl's labours had borne beneath the surface of Mars. He believed that a better future for the Imperium was still possible. But only if those who tormented Mankind were first defeated.
"All of this misery", said Guilliman. "All of this suffering and pain. It is not the doing of Humanity, but of those who have betrayed us. Too long have the pawns of Chaos dictated our species' fate. That must end."
Guilliman felt new strength fill him. Inspired by it, the Primarch took his pain, and his desolation, and locked them away deep within his mind. But his rage he kept. That, he would have use for.
Later there would be time to mourn, to reason, to plan anew. Now was the time to fight, and to make his father's enemies pay for every horror they had inflicted upon the Imperium.
Battle for Macragge
Four solar days and nights after his coronation as the Lord of Ultramar, Roboute Guilliman emerged from seclusion. In his absence, Marneus Calgar had continued to lead the fight, ignoring his injuries as he coordinated the Ultramarines' war effort. Now, though, Calgar willingly ceded control of the campaign to his gene-sire. Recognising the vastly capable Chapter Master for the asset he was, Guilliman kept Calgar close at hand in the battles that followed, and asked his counsel constantly. Brother-Librarian Tigurius, too, swiftly became a trusted advisor, the Primarch accepting that in this darker age, the trappings and powers of the Librarius had -- by necessity -- also become darker. In a move that surprised many, Guilliman also included Voldus, Cawl, Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax amongst his coterie of lieutenants. The Primarch sought the insights of every arm of the Imperial war machine, recognising that in unity lay strength.
With his advisors at his side, and the unbowed might of the Ultramarines at his disposal, Guilliman began the reconquest of his homeworld. Wider galactic matters would have to wait; Macragge was still beset from every side, and if the Chapter planet fell, then even the resurrected Primarch would surely be dragged down by the tide of foes.
The war for Macragge lasted a little over a solar month, and its pace was blistering. Roboute Guilliman was a force of nature, an unstoppable avatar of the Emperor's will who drove his enemies before him like cattle. First came a series of lightning-fast offensives to clear the Valley of Laponis and the partially ruined city of Magna Civitas. Batteries of Iron Warriors siege guns were overrun. The semi-sentient artillery engines were blown apart by Melta charges, their whip-fisted overseers executed with swift efficiency. Chanting masses of Chaos Cultists were surrounded inside gilded domes and soaring habblocks, before being systematically cut apart. Agemman, Celestine and Greyfax led pinpoint strikes to take back the city's primary orbital batteries. Soon enough, ruby columns of light were spearing up into the heavens to drive the Chaos warships out of their geosynchronous orbits above the Ultramarines' fortress-monastery.
This was only the beginning. Led by the famed tank commander Antaro Chronus, roaring columns of Ultramarines armour swept the Traitor battle groups from the Magletine Highlands, and drove their survivors into the storm-tossed Pharamis Ocean. Grand Master Voldus and his 3rd Brotherhood of the Grey Knights lent their might to the reconquest when they spearheaded the strike against the corrupted city of Collosae. Here the silver-armoured Daemon Hunters fought a cat-and-mouse battle with cruel bands of Night Lords, who had veiled the city in an unnatural gloom. The Traitors were eventually driven out, and a mysterious blood ritual halted before it could come to fruition, though the entire city had subsequently to be levelled from orbit for fear of its Chaos taint.
Guilliman led attacks against Valmari, Mount Tarphus and the snowy Gallinus Pass, emerging triumphant at every turn. The Ultramarines swept all before them, combining their exceptional skill and discipline with the visionary battle plans of their Primarch into an unstoppable whole. The Ultramar Defence Auxilia followed up each new conquest, digging in and fortifying in great number so that any attempts by the Forces of Chaos to counterattack were met by overwhelming resistance. Though the Heretic Astartes fought furiously, and inflicted sore losses upon the Loyalists, they simply could not match the strategic acumen of Roboute Guilliman, and one Chaos warband after another was defeated. Even those who fled Macragge found no haven in the void, for their invasion craft had been surrounded and reduced to burning scrap by the Ultramar Defence Fleet.
Finally, after long solar weeks of vicious battle and a vast toll of the dead, the world of Macragge was liberated once more.
The Crown of Glories
The first steps had been taken upon the road of reconquest. Macragge was free of Chaos taint. Guilliman wished to press on, consumed by his desire to drive the Ruinous Powers from Ultramar. However, those he led needed time to regroup and consolidate. Countless wounded required attention. Hundreds of war machines needed repair.
Guilliman was wise enough to give his followers the time they needed. Meanwhile, Imperial reinforcements gathered around Macragge. Braving the Warp Storms raging through local space, Space Marine craft by the dozen assembled above the Ultramarines homeworld. Delegations from many Primogenitor Successor Chapters of the Ultramarines had ploughed through the Empyrean, risking terrible danger to see for themselves that the Primarch had returned. Novamarines, Sons of Orar, Genesis Chapter and countless others joined the growing throng, kneeling before the Primarch and swearing allegiance to him.
While the armies of the Ultramar Reconquest were gathering, a further opportunity presented itself. It was the Arch-Consul of Magna Civitas -- the closest Ultramar had to a conventional Planetary Governor -- who suggested that a grand victory parade could be held, and its majesty recorded on pict casts to be sent far and wide through the Imperium. The Consul said that people needed the light of hope in this dark hour, a shining example of victory to renew their faith not just in the Emperor, but in Guilliman reborn.
The Primarch acceded to this demand, though it sat ill with his bleak inner mood. Guilliman saw the wisdom in it, but he accepted such aggrandisement only grudgingly. Mere solar days after victory was declared, a grand triumph swept up from the Titan Gate to the very steps of the Fortress of Hera. Thousands of war engines and millions of warriors presented their colours and raised cheers and horn blasts to the skies. A seething sea of the city's residents packed the crater-pocked processionals and plazas to watch the proceedings, and voices beyond count rang out as one to cry Guilliman's praise in a single deafening roar.
Standing upon a marble-columned platform with his closest lieutenants at his side, the Primarch dutifully presented the most magnificent spectacle he could for the assembled masses. The Arch-Consul himself presented Guilliman with a stunningly wrought laurel wreath crafted in gold, urging the Primarch to don the gilded crown at once. The moment Guilliman did so, he found his mind filled with thoughts of future glories. This paltry triumph would be nothing compared to the breathtaking spectacle of his galactic conquest. The Primarch's armies would be beyond number, their adoration for their heroic lord so great that they would die for him gladly. Planets, systems, whole Segmentums would be renamed in honour of he who had liberated them, and the whipped dogs of Chaos would flee before him like the curs they were. Statues would be raised to commemorate Guilliman's majesty, and eventually even the Golden Throne of Terra itself would be his to mount. The Emperor's most loyal son deserved no less an inheritance, and he would have his due.
It was this last thought that wrenched Guilliman from the wreath's insidious curse. With a gasp, he tore the gilded crown from his head and bellowed a command for the Arch-Consul to be restrained. It was Grand Master Voldus who grabbed the robed dignitary, and as his blessed gauntlets touched the man's flesh it sizzled and crisped. The din of the triumph was colossal, an ocean swell of noise that hid the Arch-Consul's shrieks as the illusions that veiled him were unmade.
Guilliman and his lieutenants recoiled at the misshapen mutant thing that was revealed. Bulbous and deformed, the keening, fleshy abomination wore a glowing amulet about its neck on a thong of human skin. As Guilliman stared in disgust at this cursed fetish, he heard a susurration hissing within his mind that he had not heard since that fateful encounter on Thessala ten millennia before. In mocking tones, Fulgrim welcomed Guilliman back to his beloved Imperium. The Daemon Primarch revealed that he had concealed a fragment of his own animus in the amulet that his servant wore, and confessed disappointment that Guilliman had rejected his gift, the Crown of Glories. Many heroes great and pure had fallen to the trinket's blandishments, and Fulgrim had hoped that he could corrupt Guilliman in the same fashion. Yet the Slaaneshi Daemon Prince assured his brother that this was but the first of endless temptations that Guilliman would have to face. Laughing cruelly, he taunted that the Lord of Ultramar would never be able to trust any feeling of triumph or self-satisfaction again.
Disgusted, Guilliman drove his sword through the amulet and into the hideous creature that bore it, silencing the voice of the damned brother who had laid him low millennia past. Yet as the triumph rumbled on, Fulgrim's words continued to echo in Guilliman's mind. They would do so for many solar days to come.
War Zone Ultramar
As the armies of reconquest gathered upon Macragge, so ever more Imperial forces came seeking the Primarch. Some, like the Dark Angels and the Raven Guard, sent small delegations to determine the veracity of this miracle. Others came in hope and celebration, bands of Space Wolves, White Scars, Black Templars and others hastening to the Primarch's side. A glorious moment came to pass when the Black Templars made planetfall, for they were reunited with Marshal Marius Amalrich, who alone of his brotherhood had survived the battle in Guilliman's shrine. Taking one look at the zealous light in Amalrich's eyes, the Black Templars Chaplains declared him touched by the hand of the Emperor. The Marshal was brought aboard the Strike Cruiser Scourge of Heretics, and girded with the armour and the Black Sword of the Emperor's Champion.
Others, too, came to Ultramar upon the insistence of their seers, Astropaths, soothsayers and lords. Battleships of the Imperial Navy, regal Barons of Imperial-aligned Knight Worlds, fleets of warships from the Adeptus Mechanicus and their Titan Legions, processions from the Adeptus Administratum; all came to offer fealty to the Primarch.
A grotesque cyber-synod of the Adeptus Ministorum descended upon the Fortress of Hera and insisted upon first confirming, and then proclaiming, Guilliman's alleged divinity. The horrified Primarch agreed to such beatification only after Celestine and Greyfax impressed upon him just how powerful the Ecclesiarchy was in the Imperium of the 41st Millennium. Better to have them as a firebrand ally than an obstreperous foe.
Before his departure from the fortress, Guilliman had one more order of business. He decreed that now was an age of wrath and war, in which learning and lore must be set aside. The Primarch shocked his Chapter by ordering the great Library of Ptolemy barred to all comers on pain of death. Every last tome, every lingering, dangerous secret contained within that ancient repository was locked behind adamantium bulkheads and Servitor guns. At the same time a new war room was built. This was the Strategium Ultra, from where Guilliman's reconquest could be plotted, tracked and coordinated.
When finally the armies of reconquest were ready to set out, Roboute Guilliman led them into battle with something akin to relief. After the endless political infighting and bureaucracy of this turgid new Imperium, the thought of a battlefield seemed almost welcoming.
Guilliman began with the Macragge System itself, several of whose worlds were beset by the Forces of Chaos. A warband of Iron Warriors known as the Bitter Sons had invaded the Hive World of Ardium, conquering one of the planet's three subterranean hive cities and fortifying its winding tunnel networks. Linking up with the surviving Auxilia garrisons of Hives Geodrane and Tarnis, Guilliman led elements of the Ultramarines 4th and 6th Companies through a subterranean hellscape to assault Hive Magmaria. The fighting was savage in the extreme, the outnumbered Iron Warriors clinging tenaciously to their defences until the last man. Corpses choked entire magtunnels, and blood filled the undersump until it overflowed through the hive's drainage grilles. In the end, Guilliman and his gore-drenched followers emerged victorious.
The Shrine World of Laphis became the site of the liberation's greatest naval engagement when the Ultramar Defence Fleet engaged the ships of the Alpha Legion blockading the planet. Marneus Calgar commanded the offensive, seated in the captain's throne aboard the ancient flagship Macragge's Honour. The Ultramarines vessels swept in through the void with their guns thundering, successfully driving back those Alpha Legion voidcraft engaged in surface bombardment. Triumph turned to horror when a flotilla of fleeing Imperial bulk carriers were revealed to be crewed by Alpha Legion Chaos Cultists. Packed with explosives, the lumbering haulers ploughed into the Ultramarines starships and crippled several. Calgar had expected treachery from his foes, however, and now revealed his own masterstroke as a second, reserve fleet of swift Strike Cruisers and frigates swept in from behind Laphis' third moon, Aurora. At the same time, elite strike units containing Ultramarines Techmarines dropped onto Laphis' surface and succeeded in awakening the world's battered orbital defence grid. Caught from three sides, the Alpha Legion warships were torn apart, left as a belt of drifting wreckage above the Shrine World.
Through such heroic actions was the Macragge System made secure, allowing the armies of Imperial reconquest to sweep on towards the neighbouring star systems that made up the Realm of Ultramar. That stellar domain had once comprised five hundred human-settled worlds, before Lord Guilliman had granted many their own sovereignty after the Horus Heresy. All such treatises the Primarch now declared null and void, the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar reborn like their ruler. In such grim and desperate times, he would see his personal empire forged anew, for in this, as in all things, Guilliman desired strength through unity.
Onward through shuddering Warp Storms and Traitor hosts swept the armies of Ultramar. Not once did they falter. Iron Hands fought alongside Praetors of Orpheus on Talasa Secundus. Dark Angels went to war beside Titans of the Legio Fulminari to liberate Ischara. The chanting processions of the Cult Mechanicus fought shoulder to shoulder with Novamarines and Battle-Sisters of the Order of the Ebon Chalice against mutant hordes on the killing fields of Konor Prime. Unified and elevated by the leadership of Roboute Guilliman, their war efforts coordinated with clockwork precision from the Strategium Ultra on Macragge, the armies of reconquest overcame Warp Storms, Traitor armies, and even daemonic incursions in their battle to drive the ravagers of Chaos from ever more worlds. Yet still the fight ground on, solar weeks becoming solar months, for Ultramar is a vast stellar realm and its numerous invaders, the fires of their old hatred stoked, were obstinate. The Long War raged, worlds burned, and blood stained the stars.
It was during the seventh solar month of the campaign to reconquer Ultramar that the first cases of a mysterious new sickness were reported. Throughout the Drohl, Talassar and Parmenio Systems, Ultramar Defence Auxilia found themselves weeping uncontrollably. In the midst of battle, warriors were blinded by endless streams of viscous, stinking tears that gummed their eyes open and soon turned them red raw. Overcome by sorrow, sufferers wailed and wept for solar days on end. In the worst cases, the so called "Weepers" were permanently blinded as their infected eyeballs festered and rotted from their skulls.
The disease, soon named the Sorrow, or the Weeping Plague, spread with alarming rapidity. Its vector was believed to be an infestation of tiny, biting mites that were found amidst rations, squirming inside uniforms and ammunition packs, and even spilled from the pages of opened Imperial Primers. Nothing stopped the mites from multiplying, and no sanitary measure could long keep them out. The siege of Leotold's Keep collapsed thanks to the pernicious influence of the Sorrow, while the previously devastating Ravishol offensive ground to a halt as its human soldiery were reduced to blinded, wailing revenants.
Roboute Guilliman hastened to Talassar, leaving the war in the Prandium System to the command of Chief Librarian Tigurius and Inquisitor Greyfax. Guilliman knew that only mortal soldiery had been afflicted with the Weeping -- no warrior of the Adeptus Astartes or tech-thrall of the Mechanicus had fallen prey to the sickness as yet. Furthermore, though they were not absolutely immune, only a very few cases had been reported amongst the ranks of the Adepta Sororitas. Some ascribed this to the presence of the Living Saint amongst the reconquest forces, but more believed that it was the enduring faith of the Battle-Sisters that protected them from sickness.
Whatever the truth, Guilliman did not fear the terrible disease, but was instead far more concerned for the fate of his mortal soldiery. The Primarch arrived upon the world of Ravishol expecting nothing but sadness and horror. Guilliman's shock, therefore, was as great as anyone's when instead he brought a miracle.
Braving the hammering flak screens of the Iron Warriors encampments on the circuit-plains, Guilliman had his Thunderhawk deliver him to the fortified Imperial encampment in the Soldermask Valley. Over the thunder of the encampment's Servitor guns -- busy keeping the enemy Daemon Engines at bay -- Guilliman ordered the camp's Ultramarine commander to lead him to the sick. There were several thousand of them in this encampment alone, tank crews, artillerymen and infantry soldiers trammelled for their own protection within huge prefabricated sheds. From outside, the muffled cacophony of the Weepers' lamentation was unsettling even for Roboute Guilliman, yet as the shed's armoured doors swung open, the sobbing slowly died away. One by one, the stricken Auxilia rose from their sick beds, blinking in amazement with eyes that could see once more. Even those who had lost their sight altogether subsided with sighs of relief, knowing their first true sleep in weeks. None could explain how, but Guilliman's presence had healed the Weepers.
The same thing occurred in three more encampments along the offensive's stalled front. Wherever Roboute Guilliman walked, the Sorrow was driven out and the mites that spread it died until they piled up in black drifts. The medicae and Apothecaries were at a loss, but the Ecclesiarchy were quick to declare the phenomenon miraculous. It was the Emperor's mercy, they bellowed, brandishing their Aquilas, and it shone from His son as healing light.
So began long solar weeks of relentless pilgrimage for Guilliman, as he rushed from one site of sickness to another. The Primarch knew that while he was engaged in healing his followers, his attentions were drawn away from the wider war. Yet of all the Emperor's sons, Guilliman was perhaps the most human, and his compassion would not allow him to ignore his followers' plight if he could heal them.
Solar days became weeks, during which the Weeping continued to spread and -- worse still -- recur at sites that the Primarch had already cleared. Without Guilliman's peerless genius the reconquest began to suffer, the Chaos forces overturning Imperial victories in the Veridian and Tarvan Systems. All the while, the dreadful Warp Storms that had riven Ultramar and its surroundings worsened further. Soon, whispered the Navigators, the empire of the Ultramarines might be cut off from the wider galaxy altogether, just as it once had ten thousand Terran years before during the time of the Ruinstorm.
It was Grand Master Aldrik Voldus who finally confronted Guilliman. In a heated argument, during which the Grand Master dared the Primarch's wrath, he forced Guilliman to acknowledge that which he already knew. Weeks of labour had been for nought. Guilliman was not healing his subjects, for such was not his gift. In the Weeping Plague, Voldus recognised all the hallmarks of Nurgle. Most likely, the Plague God was simply withdrawing his dubious blessings from his victims upon Guilliman's arrival, then gleefully restoring them once the Primarch had moved on. The Lord of Ultramar was playing into the Plague God's hands, his desire to save his people perverted into a never-ending trap of entropy and despair.
Though furious, Guilliman accepted Voldus' wisdom. Further, he saw that Nurgle's desire had been to trap him within his own realm, and to keep him from the wider galactic stage. The Primarch realised then that his desire for completeness, for a neat solution and an unsullied Ultramar was, in itself, an echo of mistakes he had made long ago. Nurgle did not wish Guilliman to leave Ultramar because there, the Primarch could be contained like a wasp in a bottle. But this war did not belong to Ultramar alone -- it was a war for the entire Imperium. Guilliman saw that he could waste no more time focussing solely upon his own stellar empire. He must tend, instead, to his father's.
With a heavy heart, Roboute Guilliman stopped his efforts to end the Weeping Plague, instead charging his Apothecaries and Chaplains with finding a spiritual cure for what was clearly a spiritual affliction.
The Primarch announced his intention to set out upon a great journey. Once before, when the Dark Gods had threatened the Imperium of Mankind, the Primarch of the Ultramarines had reached Terra too late to do his duty. He would not make that mistake again. Guilliman intended to journey to Terra, to kneel at the foot of the Golden Throne and ask his father for guidance.
Conscious of the worsening Warp Storms lashing the space lanes of Ultramar, Guilliman announced his intention to make for Terra as soon as a suitable force could be assembled. The Primarch would not travel alone; the galaxy had become a dark and dangerous place, while the attempts by Slaanesh and Nurgle to tempt and trick him had shown Guilliman that his resurrection had drawn the eyes of the Ruinous Powers.
The war across Ultramar was still ongoing, however, and with Guilliman leaving, it would require strategically gifted warriors to keep pushing the Forces of Chaos back. As such, Guilliman gathered a select force of Battle-Brothers from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Companies of the Ultramarines to accompany him to Terra, and gave the honour of their command to Captain Cato Sicarius. He further requested that Grand Master Aldrik Voldus and the Grey Knights of the 3rd Brotherhood join their Crusade. Others pledged their aid to the Primarch's cause, including the assembled strength of the Primogenitor Chapters, and Emperor's Champion Amalrich and his Black Templars brethren. The Living Saint, the Inquisitor and Archmagos Dominus Cawl accompanied the Primarch also -- whatever aid they or the military forces under their command could provide the Primarch would be gladly given. Guilliman gratefully accepted all offers of aid before commanding Marneus Calgar, Chief Librarian Tigurius and Captain Agemman to remain and lead the reconquest of Ultramar.
The Ynnari, meanwhile, chose this moment to depart. The Eldar had their own wars to fight, and had already lingered overlong amidst human affairs. Though Cadia had fallen, worlds still remained upon which the Necron-built black pylons stood strong. It was to these that the Ynnari would now attend, directing those of their race who would listen to defend them and thus hold back the expanding power of the Warp.
The Celestinian Crusade had come to its end with its objective met beyond its heroes' wildest expectations. In its place, the Terran Crusade would begin. Mere solar days after Guilliman made known his intentions, the Imperial fleet set out, engines burning hot as they began the long journey to the cradle of Mankind.
The audience chamber in the Fortress of Hera was empty but for Yvraine, the Visarch, and Guilliman. In a matter of solar hours, the Terran Crusade would depart Macragge, yet the Primarch had found a few moments to speak to the Ynnari leaders alone. Even after solar weeks of mutually fruitful alliance, most warriors would have been cautious of standing alone in the presence of two such sinister and powerful xenos. Guilliman was not most warriors.
"It will be a long and dangerous journey", said Yvraine. "The galaxy grows darker by the day. Have a care, Primarch. You may have cheated death once, but you are not invincible."
Guilliman nodded solemnly. "Can I say nothing that will convince you to join us on our road? I have come to value the strength of you and your warriors greatly these past weeks."
"You cannot", Yvraine replied. "Already we have given you the gift of rebirth, not to mention a number of our peoples' lives. Is that not enough?"
"It is a debt I'm sure won't be forgotten", said the Primarch. "Before you depart, tell me this. Cawl may have fashioned the armour that I wear, but it was not he alone who ensured my resurrection, was it?"
Yvraine smiled demurely. "His technology would have healed your physical wounds, Roboute, but you and I know that the worst damage had been done to your soul. So no, Primarch; it is by the grace of Ynnead that you stand once more amongst the living. If you wish to remain, however, I would caution you against removing your war-plate. Not that you could easily do so."
A flicker passed across Guilliman's features at this, a faint ghost of pain well-hidden, swiftly replaced by a stony mask of duty.
"I could press you for greater insights into the powers that brought me back, and assurances against any taint in their nature", said Guilliman, noting how the Ynnari stiffened their postures at this. "But I suspect that our newfound understanding is of more value to my father's realm than my own satisfaction. And that those answers would not come easily."
Yvraine inclined her head, while the Visarch silently eased his hand away from the hilt of his blade.
"Thus, instead, I shall simply wish you victory in your ongoing battles against our mutual foes."
"May you walk with fortune, Roboute Guilliman", said Yvraine. "And know that we shall stand together in battle again, before whatever end befalls us."
The Visarch offered an elaborate warrior's salute to Guilliman, who nodded curtly in return before the Eldar turned and swept gracefully from the chamber.
"No doubt we will", murmured the Primarch thoughtfully, watching the enigmatic xenos withdraw. "As long as it serves your needs..."
Across the Void
"The Warp is our greatest gift, and also our greatest threat. It is curse and boon, hope and terror, a raging inferno through which we must plunge, or else be lost."
- —Navigator D'Halnari
Once the great fleet of the Terran Crusade was assembled in orbit of Macragge, Roboute Guilliman made for Terra. The Warp churned. It roiled and raged. Temporal rip tides and squalls of insanity wrenched and battered at Guilliman's fleet. Whirlpools of arrogance; frenetic storms of anger and lust; becalming straits of misery circled by hungry daemonic entities; all had to be braved as the Terran Crusade pushed on.
On the pleas of their Navigators, the starships' captains dared only short jumps through the Warp. These quick and terrifying sprints ended -- more often than not -- in frantic crashdives into realspace as the dangers became too great. Several voidcraft were lost, and many captains beseeched Saint Celestine for her blessings to safeguard their passage. The Pride of Hera suffered a Gellar Field breach that saw the slouching daemons of the Plague God spill like animate pus through its corridors. Inquisitor Greyfax rallied a force of Adepta Sororitas and Praetors of Orpheus Space Marines to fight back against the monstrous creatures. Cleansing flame and sanctifed bolts were used to drive the daemonic infestation back deck by deck, forcing them away from the life support systems that they had sought to befoul with spores and infectious filth. Greyfax herself ended the incursion in a swift duel with the bloated Plague Daemon that led the invasion, leaping from a gantry down onto the thing's Nurgling-borne throne and slaying the abomination with a single blow.
Despite many such horrors, and an ever increasing toll of lives lost, none in the Terran Crusade so much as spoke of turning back. They braved the Warp Storms at the behest of a living Primarch, on a mission to Holy Terra itself. Those who quailed in the face of such a momentous calling would surely be damned.
Guilliman travelled aboard his Chapter's ancient flagship, Macragge's Honour, a craft that -- unlike so much around him -- provided the Primarch with a welcome haven of familiarity. He had hoped that the Warp Storms around Ultramar were sent to entrap him. As the Crusade fleet travelled ever further from his realm, and the storms continued to rage, the Primarch was disabused of this hopeful notion. Every time the fleet dropped out of Warpspace, Guilliman had his Astropaths comb the darkness of the void, seeking to ensnare every fragment of information he could about the state of the Imperium.
With the Immaterium in turmoil, those astropathic communiqués that made it through were jumbled, and nightmarish to interpret. What news the Crusade fleet managed to gather was uniformly dire, and left all who heard them cold with dread.
Whole star systems were being ravaged by unnatural phenomena, daemonic incursions and plagues of mutation. Psykers proliferated, bringing with them horrifc manifestations and outbursts of terror and madness. Loyal populations rose up as howling mobs of mad-eyed Chaos Cultists. Entire armies of xenos, saturated in the energies of the Warp, fought alongside daemons to bring death to the worlds of the Imperium. Star forts cried out for help, their corridors prowled by unnatural Warp entities that preyed upon their garrisons. Imperial fleets and convoys flung distress calls into the Empyrean as they were dragged light-years off course, or were beset by terrifying empyric predators.
Despite the lethal roiling of the Warp, the Terran Crusade forged onward. For the soldiery aboard the ships, the weeks crawled past in an agony of inactivity and agitation. A constant state of high alert was required fleetwide, for at any moment they might come under sudden attack. Yet for all their constant training, drilling, patrolling and waiting, still nothing occurred. Even amongst the superhuman warriors of the Adeptus Astartes, tempers frayed and inaction chafed. For the thousands of helots, naval armsmen and Chapter Serfs who crewed and garrisoned the vast warships, the constant state of readiness inevitably took its toll. The expectation of danger became the norm, to the point that laxness crept in and awareness slipped.
When at last the fleet was threatened, it came so suddenly that even the Adeptus Astartes and Cult Mechanicus were caught off guard. The Terran Crusade had reached the trailing edges of the permanent Warp rift known as the Maelstrom, and had found it swollen with fearsome new power. The fleet's Navigators moaned and screamed, describing something akin to an endless, impossibly immense tornado thundering in the Warp. Where safe channels should have existed, the billowing fringes of the Maelstrom had consumed all. Even the light of the Astronomican became faltering and nigh impossible to see.
Fearing for the safety of their brutalised craft, the fleet's captains ordered immediate translation to realspace. One by one, the Imperial warships tore through the meniscus of reality, streamers of glowing ectoplasm trailing from their hulls as they plunged back into the cold darkness of the void. Yet the thunderous shuddering on board each voidcraft continued, intensifying violently as impacts flared upon Void Shields and smashed through armoured hulls.
The Hawk Lords frigate Wings of Glory was ripped apart by a string of punishing explosions before its crew even knew who or what was attacking them. The Ultramarines Strike Cruiser, Primarch's Wrath, sustained crippling damage after colliding with the White Consuls Cruiser Hope and Fire as both voidships attempted blind evasive manoeuvres.
Frantic orders filled the Vox net and echoed through cavernous ships' bridges as furious captains attempted to establish the nature of the threat. Had the fleet dropped out of the Warp and straight into an asteroid field? Had they, by some horrible chance, emerged into the midst of a hostile foe?
As Auspexes awoke and observation decks were unshrouded, the bleak truth became clear. The scattered ships of the Terran Crusade had indeed exited the Immaterium straight into the thundering guns of an enemy armada, but it looked as though this was no accident of chance.
Arrayed in perfect ambush formations were dozens of Traitor warships bearing baroque and ancient markings upon their hulls. The Loyalists realised that a vast fleet of the Thousand Sons surrounded them, deployed as though they had known precisely where and when the Imperial forces would emerge from the Warp.
At the heart of the enemy hung a strange craft of surpassing immensity. Only Guilliman truly understood its appearance, recognising a vast silver facsimile of the Great Pyramid of Tizca. That cyclopean crystal structure had once stood as the crowning glory in the Thousand Sons Legion's capital city of the same name, upon their lost homeworld of Prospero. Now it was resurrected in this monstrously magnified new form.
Vast as a planetoid, bristling with gun decks of baffling shape and function, and boasting an immense red crystal eye upon one flank, the insane structure was clearly both flagship and star fort for the enemy fleet. Guilliman knew his brothers well, and here, in this grandiose war engine, he saw all the hallmarks of the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red.
To the Loyalist fleet's rear loomed the squirming spiral arms of the Maelstrom, a towering wall of unnatural energies and whirling psychic sorcery that promised madness and death. To their fore was the titanic pyramid of Magnus, its attendant warships already pummelling Guilliman's armada.
With little choice, the Imperials fought as best they could in their scattered dispersal. Torpedoes fired from launch tubes, streaking through the void to blast ragged holes in Heretic warships. Fighter squadrons scrambled, jetting out into the darkness like swarming insects. Lance arrays spat ruby light, and gun decks thundered as the Imperial ships frantically attempted to fight free of their ambushing foes.
Yet the Imperial craft were taking a terrible hammering, Void Shields collapsing and ruptured decks venting screaming crewmen into space. Engines flared out and died under volley after volley of macro shells, while rune-inscribed torpedoes swept in to fill Loyalist bridges and magazines with Warpflame.
Guilliman issued a steady stream of orders to his captains, doing everything in his power to gather his ships and fight back. Inwardly he raged, both at his fallen brother's deviousness and his own failure to foresee the ambush. By comparison, Magnus watched with amused satisfaction from the grand observation gallery aboard his pyramidal flagship.
He had fashioned the vast voidcraft, named Tizca's Revenge, using the plundered resources of an Imperial world and the nameless energies of the Warp. Now he conjured those empyric powers again, for an altogether different purpose. A cabal of powerful Chaos Sorcerers stood around Magnus, chanting ominous words as he raised his arms high and cried out in stentorian tones.
The Crimson King called and the Warp answered, coiling tendrils of power coalescing to surround Guilliman's battered fleet. Magnus judged the damage done to be sufficient. He had no desire to kill his resurrected brother. Not yet, anyway. Thus, with a final booming incantation, Magnus completed his spell. The empyric tendrils clamped tight around the starships of the Terran Crusade and, with a vast convulsive wrench, dragged them deep into the raging heart of the Maelstrom.
Into the Maelstrom
Pandemonium seized the voidships of the Terran Crusade. Crushing tendrils of empyric energy wound about the craft like the tentacles of some leviathan beast. Bulkheads crumpled. Shields blew out. Raging fires and punishing gravity fluctuations tore through decks. Powerless to resist, the warships were plucked from reality and dragged into the Warp. Desperate Tech-adepts stumbled over their rituals as they strove madly to raise their ships' Gellar Fields. Some succeeded, but other craft were inundated with howling masses of daemons as they were dragged, unwarded, into the Warp. Madness and slaughter ran rife, and only the staunch determination of the Imperial armies aboard each ship prevented the Terran Crusade from being utterly annihilated.
By the time Magnus' spell ran its course, the starships of the Terran Crusade had been cast deep into the Maelstrom. Guilliman's fleet had, at least, been spat from the maw of the Warp once more, but the region they now found themselves in was a cursed one. Within the Maelstrom, reality and the Immaterium melted together in a strange morass. The stars were lost behind drifting veils of unnatural energy, and twisted worlds hung amidst the shimmering gloom.
While Belisarius Cawl coordinated emergency repair crews to shore up mauled ships and save the worst damaged voidcraft from destruction, Guilliman and his captains tallied the cost of the ambush. Their losses were sobering. From a vast fleet of one hundred and twelve Space Marine, Imperial Navy and Adeptus Mechanicus warships, barely half remained. Some had been lost during the Thousand Sons ambush, blown apart by blistering firepower. More had vanished during the subsequent mayhem, cast far adrift upon the tides of the Immaterium. Some, doubtless, would have made it to realspace, scattered distant from the main body of the fleet. Others were surely lost or worse.
All of the fighter craft launched during the brief battle were gone, their crews doomed to a cold and lonely death in the void of space. Hundreds upon hundreds of Chapter Serfs, human crewmen and Servitors were injured, insane or dead, and even the Space Marines had taken substantial casualties.
The Terran Crusade had been reduced to a shadow of its former military strength. Not one warship had survived the ambush unscathed, and many were sorely damaged. Crushing though the sudden losses were, they were still not Roboute Guilliman's greatest worry.
Meeting in his strategium with the assembled Imperial and Space Marine leaders, Guilliman expressed his belief that the Thousand Sons must have known, by some infernal means, where and when the Crusade would break from the Warp. Guilliman's fleet had been surrounded. Why not strike the killing blow? The Primarch knew all too well that Magnus did nothing without a plan, so why had he allowed his erstwhile brother to survive? It was a question that returned to torture the leaders of the Terran Crusade again and again in the dark days that followed.
Stranded deep in the Maelstrom, with no sight of the Emperor's Astronomican to guide them, the surviving warriors of the Terran Crusade required some means by which they could determine their location, and find their way back into realspace. Seizing upon the faint transmissions emanating from a nearby moon, the Crusade made for the dark planetoid in the hope of either capturing a Traitor who could act as their unwilling guide, or else gaining access to Heretic astrogation instruments hardened against the roiling energies of the Warp.
Landing parties mounted gunships and Drop Pods, streaking down through thin, pale skies onto a dark and glassy world. The Loyalists found vitrified continents, barren of life and tormented by powerful, screaming winds. An unnatural light glowed deep within the world's glass heart, and left all who glimpsed it with an ominous sense of dread.
The Crusade strike force located an armoured fortification amongst a range of mountains, clinging limpet-like amidst glinting peaks. Guilliman himself led the attack that breached the defences, finding to his disgust that a ragged band of Renegade Space Marines garrisoned the fortress. Crosses daubed over these warriors' Chapter iconography identifed them as Red Corsairs, and the Primarch vented his pent up anger and frustration upon the luckless Traitors. The battle was brief, Guilliman and a trio of Aldrik Voldus' Dreadknights slaughtering the Renegades' leaders. However, when Guilliman successfully seized the last Traitor alive in the fortress' Vox array, a diabolical manifestation occurred. The air crackled and rime crawled across the metal walls of the chamber as a menacing daemonic presence spoke through the captive's mouth. In two mocking voices, the presence told Guilliman that, even now, Ultramar burned. The evil thing cackled that the Primarch had abandoned his people to wander the Maelstrom forever. Then, it twisted the head of the captive around with a sickening crack. Guilliman cursed as his only lead expired amidst the sizzle and bang of overloading Vox banks. He vowed to locate the daemon, and wring the truth from it no matter what he had to endure.
After their encounter on the glass moon, the Crusade fleet wandered aimless. With no indication of the course that would take them to Terra, Guilliman picked a direction based upon his best guess, and instructed his captains to turn to that heading. For the moment, hoping to reach the Maelstrom's edge seemed the only available plan.
How long they journeyed, none could say, for time did not pass normally in that sanity-defying place. The Primarch was tormented by the words of the daemon, and sought any opportunity to discover what might be occurring outside the Maelstrom. His opportunity came when scout ships reported Heretic voidcraft patrolling a twisted, fleshy planet that hung amidst a cloud of huge crystalline skulls. Ordering an immediate attack, Guilliman commanded that the gathering of intelligence should be treated as priority. Maps, charts, cartographic hymnals, Traitor Navigators or whatever passed for Astropaths in this hellish place, were all to be seized.
The fleet swept down upon the fleshworld, only for the planet to fight back. The Renegade starships belonged to a warband of Emperor's Children, who began a thunderous empyric resonance that caused devastating sonic shock waves to burst from the mouths of the crystal skulls. At the same time, the planet itself unfurled augmetic tentacles, sutured onto its living surface. These monstrous appendages snatched several Mechanicus starships from the void and stuffed them into a continent-sized maw that unpuckered at the planet's northern pole.
Sustained torpedo bombardment finally severed the world's ironclad tentacles, while Lance fire shattered dozens of the crystalline skulls and crippled several of the Emperor's Children warships. The remaining Traitor craft turned tail, leaving their comrades to be boarded. Yet Guilliman's sense of triumph was once again short-lived. Though dozens of star charts and maps were recovered, all were blank save for the daemon's mocking words to Guilliman in the Red Corsair fortress, repeated over and over again. Whatever this entity was, it clearly sought to torment the Primarch personally.
On Darker Paths
Amidst fluctuating time streams and reality-warping energy storms, the damaged ships of the Terran Crusade struggled on. Within the Maelstrom lurked countless foes, for this was a region that had long harboured the warring minions of Chaos.
More than once, the Imperial ships were forced to fight off opportunist raids by sleek hunting packs of Traitor warships. Amidst a thousand-mile-wide cloud of corrosive spores, the Crusade ships found themselves beset by swarms of vast plague flies as large as frigates. The monstrous insects took a savage toll upon the smaller ships of the Crusade, until Saint Celestine took to the Navigator's observation blister of the Macragge's Honour. Unleashing her holy light in a blazing psychic shockwave, the Living Saint purged the hideous daemon beasts from the void.
In another uncharted reach, the Crusade craft found ghostly phantasms whirling around their hulls. Howling Warp ghosts screamed through the corridors of the Space Marine craft, swarming around the ancient relics and honoured banners of their Reclusiam shrines. The Adeptus Astartes realised, to their horror, that these aetheric leeches were draining the holy energies from their treasured relics, dragging faint, screaming ghosts from the enshrined helms, blades and scrolls. In this fight, the Grey Knights came to the fore, Aldrik Voldus swiftly splitting his brotherhood and deploying them by rapid teleport strike into his allies' shrines. Fighting alongside the outraged Chaplains who guarded the relics, the daemon-hunting warriors drove the Warp leeches back and banished them to the void.
So it went on for an indeterminate and bewildering span of time that felt like impossible centuries. As the Terran Crusade fleet forged on, their supplies running low and their crews exhausted by constant battle, Roboute Guilliman became ever angrier and more distracted. Unbeknownst to all, the Primarch was bedevilled by horrific visions.
Guilliman saw the Realm of Ultramar in flames, and the bastions of Mankind blowing away as ash upon the blood-wet winds of change. He was tormented by images of Mars, shattered into hundreds of pieces and raining down as flaming meteors upon the once-proud ruin of Terra. He saw the Golden Throne as a sparking, fire-wreathed wreck, the Emperor's blackened corpse burning within it.
Daemonic voices whispered into Guilliman's mind, day and night. If they had told him the scenes he saw had already come to pass, that would have been cruel enough. But this torment was more cunning yet, for instead the voices told Guilliman that the visions were flashes of foresight.
They were glimpses of a singularly dark fate that would transpire only should he escape the Maelstrom and complete his journey to Terra. Relent in his attempt to escape, accept his Warp-tainted prison for all eternity, give in to madness and despair, and he would spare the Imperium from coming to this terrible end.
Guilliman wrestled internally with each passing solar day, yet he showed no sign of his struggle to those who looked to him for leadership and hope. The Primarch maintained his veneer of strength and continued to pursue his goal of escape, determined that he would not believe the lies of any entity that inhabited that hellish place. Still, the Primarch's resolve eroded slowly, as a cliff washed away by the endless ocean waves.
Long had the Crusade fleet sailed the Maelstrom’s corrupted tides when they came to Bathamor. In the solar hours before they hove into orbit, the name of this cursed world leapt into the mind of every psyker in the fleet, repeating over and over in a malicious whisper until those that heard them cried the planet's name aloud. Auspex scans revealed an infernal world of kaleidoscopic crystal jungles, laced through by glimmering rivers of fire. They also showed Vox signatures and energy readouts commensurate with a sizeable Renegade presence, and so Guilliman ordered the captains of the Terran Crusade fleet to prepare their forces for an immediate combat drop. Once more, intelligence gathering would be paramount -- with their sanity and resolve weakening by the solar day, the Crusade's members knew they must escape the Maelstrom soon or perish within this seemingly endless expanse of tainted space.
Sweeping down from on high, the Imperial armies slammed into the crystal jungles amidst explosions of jagged shards. Advancing upon the greatest concentration of energy signatures, the Loyalist forces cursed in anger and bewilderment as their Auspex readings winked out like will-o'-the-wisps. The next moment, Tzeentchian daemons attacked from all sides.
Barrages of sorcerous flame and mutating energies clawed at the Ultramarines and their allies. Crystal trees detonated like huge fragmentation bombs, lacerating all who fought around them. In the midst of the madness, Roboute Guilliman found himself face to face with the architect of the devious ambush. A croaking, two-headed nightmare clad in shimmering robes and wielding a potent staff of temporal power, Kairos Fateweaver coalesced from amidst a glittering storm of crystal shards. Confronting Guilliman, one of the hideous Greater Daemon's avian heads mocked the Primarch's continued efforts to escape, sneering that he had scried every possible strand of the future and every last one ended in his failure. Kairos' other head crowed that Guilliman had always been the most unremarkable of the Emperor's sons, and was as incapable of saving the Imperium now as he was when he fell to his superior brother. Guilliman bellowed in fury and drove Kairos back with swings of his burning blade, before leading his stricken forces in a fighting retreat. The Terran Crusade and its leader would not fall to the Oracle's manipulation so easily...
Anxious as to the fate of the wider Imperium, and with several ships now left scuttled in their wake due to accumulated battle damage, the Crusade fleet came upon a world of black marble and bloody seas. They struck hard and fast against several Red Corsairs strongholds, eliminating outlying enclaves before finally laying siege to a fortified palace upon a claw-shaped headland above booming, gory waves. While Archmagos Cawl coordinated the siege, Greyfax and Captain Cato Sicarius led a daring raiding party that threw open the palace's main gates and sealed the Heretics' doom.
Guilliman knew that this victory offered a brief respite at best. The screaming of the bloody ocean was eroding his followers' sanity, and amongst the ashen skies overhead, huge, dark shapes stirred with the promise of terrible danger. Yet the logistics of stripping the Corsairs' fortress would take time, even with the Primarch's meticulously efficient plans. Thus, as Mechanicus bulk haulers rumbled back and forth through the planet's atmosphere, Guilliman found himself wandering alone through the twisted citadel's corridors. It was as he entered a chamber of crystal statues that a shimmering mist rose before the Primarch's eyes. Amidst the swirling patterns of light and shadow, a slender figure flickered into being. Guilliman caught the suggestion of willowy limbs and billowing cloth, a curving alien helm and a long stave, before the figure spoke. Like its image, the manifestation's voice swam in and out of Guilliman's perception. Yet the Lord of Ultramar was able to decipher instructions from the figure's words.
Guilliman was wary of further trickery, suspicious and plagued by echoes of the daemonic whispers that Kairos Fateweaver had projected into his mind. Yet he sensed no taint of Chaos in this manifestation; the energies given off by the shimmering vision were more akin to those of the Eldar who had aided his resurrection. At last, after repeating its message several times, the figure vanished, leaving the Primarch with a new sense of purpose and, perhaps, even a sliver of hope. Here, at last, was a heading, and Guilliman meant to follow it.
Through the Storm
"You are a relic of a bygone age, a footnote to your father's failures. You should have stayed in the past where you belonged, Primarch, for you have no place in this future!"
Upon leaving the unnamed world of black marble and blood, the remnants of the Terran Crusade fleet set out with new determination. The Crusade now numbered a third of the ships that had departed Ultramar, but they were still led by Guilliman's flagship, Macragge's Honour, and they still stood ready for battle at any moment. They had a heading at last, albeit one derived from the omen-laden whispering of an unknown figure.
Plasma Drives lit with thundering flame, the warships of the Imperium clove through veils of frozen ichor and showers of meteors encrusted with staring eyes. They followed a distant, glimmering star of pure white, until it resolved itself into a massive flaming hole in reality. Turning to a new heading as this prophesied landmark was reached, the Crusade swept next through a sprawling region of mauve gas clouds that formed into unrecognisable sigils and shimmered with the eldritch power of change.
Emerging from the far edge of the gas belt after many solar days, the Crusade's Auspexes detected a triad of planets, all whirling around one another in an endless dance. This, again, was just as the mystical interloper had told Guilliman it would be, and the Primarch's hope swelled within him at the promise of escape.
Following the hidden stranger's directions, the fleet changed its heading once again, angling away from the spinning mass of planets and making for a distantly visible constellation of jade green glimmers. Soon, if the Eldar apparition was to be believed, the Terran Crusade would at last escape from the Maelstrom, but they would first have to brave what the figure had described as the resting place of hollow ghosts.
At first, the region appeared as a silvered speckling of space, stretching out in all directions ahead of the fleet. Gradually, those glimmering motes grew in size and definition until, at a distance of no more than a few thousand Terran miles, they resolved themselves into a breathtaking and eerie sight. Thousands upon thousands of wrecked starships drifted here, their hulls linked together by vast webs of brass chain. Lit by the jade stars that loomed in the middle distance, derelict voidcraft of every sort trailed wreckage behind them as they hung silently in their cursed afterlife. Some were familiar: ancient marks of Imperial warship, splinter-boned Eldar wrecks, hollowed Kroot Warspheres, broken-backed Hrud Warrenships, and the empty remnants of Nicassar Dhows. Others were unidentifiable: black needles of glassy material, ravaged structures like space-borne hive cities, vast, angular leviathans and tiny, ellipsoid ships little bigger than a Drop Pod. How they had all come to be abandoned here was an unsettling puzzle. The hazard that they -- and their binding chains -- presented was clear enough, however.
The first thought of Guilliman and his captains was to attempt to circumnavigate the starship graveyard. Yet the ghost vessels trailed away, seemingly into infinity above, below and to either side. If the Terran Crusade wished to pass this way -- and it seemed that they must if they wanted their freedom -- then they would have to push forward between the wrecks.
Guilliman gave the order. Spreading out with their Battle Barges to the fore, the Crusade ships engaged their drives and raised their Void Shields before edging into the starship graveyard. Progress was painfully slow, for in places the wrecks were chained just a Terran mile or so apart, tangled in vast chain webs like the prey of some cosmic arachnid. Tech-Magi and Chapter Serfs flinched and sweated at each new scrape and groan from their voidcrafts' hulls as the ships forged their slow and steady paths forward.
Despite exercising every caution, the larger ships could not completely avoid collision. Ice-cold chain links left vast gashes and dents as they skidded across reinforced exteriors. Ancient wreckage broke apart and scattered into the void as, here and there, a Battle Barge or Strike Cruiser nosed aside a drifting ship that blocked its path. Each fresh collision, each breathless near-miss, left the crews' nerves frayed and passengers on edge as the solar hours crawled past.
Finally, after a torturous stretch of time, Archmagos Cawl announced that he was reading clear space ahead. They were nearing the edge of the debris field and, more relieving still, it appeared they were nearing the edge of the Maelstrom. Past the last chained wrecks, the Navigators, who had been near-comatose for many solar days, could perceive a distant flicker. They awoke, muttering with increasing excitement that they could see once more the barest shred of the Astronomican's light, as though it shone through the gap in a partly-opened door.
Guilliman counselled caution, and ordered his crews to continue their careful, steady progress, yet he too grew more hopeful by the moment. At last, they would escape the hellish region into which his brother Magnus had hurled them. At last they could continue on their road to sacred Terra.
It was as the Macragge's Honour thrust aside the ravaged hulk of an Iconoclast-class Destroyer, and an open path to the edge of the graveyard yawned before it, that the attack came. Cries of alarm rang through the flagship's bridge as power spikes flared amidst the derelicts on every side. Drifting Chaos warships lit their drives and unshrouded gun decks, as their internal power sources thundered to life.
It was an ambush!
The Red Corsairs had laid their trap with cunning and skill, guided by the precognitive powers of Kairos Fateweaver. They had inveigled their ships into the far edge of the starship graveyard, precisely where Kairos foresaw the loyalist fleet would pass through. With the careful application of cosmetic hull damage, and all internal systems shrouded to minimise emissions output, they had magclamped severed links of chain to their hulls and posed as just another scattering of lost voidcraft. Now, rumbling back to life all around the shocked Loyalists, the Red Corsair ships launched an ambush of the enemy in their midst. Lance beams seared through adamantium hulls. Noble warriors who had survived countless trials were obliterated by raging firestorms, or sucked helplessly out into the void.
Guilliman cursed at what must surely be further Tzeentchian machinations. Hemmed in and outflanked, his fleet was at a catastrophic disadvantage. Several Imperial warships attempted to break free of the starship graveyard; these voidcraft were quickly targeted and, in the case of the Raven Guard frigate Silent Blade, shorn clean in two. The rest fought back, hammering fire into the void and tearing chunks from their attackers' warships at point-blank range.
Chaos firepower continued to rain down upon Guilliman's fleet in a veritable storm. The Primarch saw that the foes -- secure in their numerical and positional superiority -- were aiming to cripple his ships rather than destroy them. Weapons batteries, Auspex arrays and enginariums were blasted one by one, leaving the Crusade ships drifting and defenceless. Guilliman knew what must surely come next, and cursed aloud as he saw wave after wave of Boarding Torpedoes released from the launch decks of the attacking craft. The Red Corsairs were, first and foremost, pirates. Now they sought to steal as many of the Terran Crusade's warships as they could, along with the arms and armour within. Barking orders for his warriors to prepare for boarders, Guilliman's mind whirled with counter-ambush strategies and breakout plans.
Defence batteries studded the miles-long flanks of the Macragge's Honour. As the enemy boarding craft streaked closer, those guns roared to life, filling the void with sawing streams of firepower. Guilliman watched the external pict feeds intently, reading the patterns of destroyed foes and near-misses, and determining where the enemy's forces would hit his ship the hardest. The Primarch narrowed his eyes as the vessel's primary Auspex array took a direct hit, and the pict feeds drowned in sudden static.
Turning away from the useless datafont, Guilliman issued a calm string of orders that were circulated fleet wide. For all those who could still hear him, the Primarch commended their remarkable courage and strength. He gave the order that all ships deploy their forces to defend their bridges, primary magazines, shield generators and Warp engines, then -- swallowing his own distaste at the religious connotations of the term -- wished the Emperor's blessings upon all who were about to engage the foe. Those who repelled boarders were to break free, and rendezvous beyond the edge of the Maelstrom as best they could.
His orders issued and Captain Sicarius, Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax at his side, Guilliman donned his helm and joined the warriors he had deployed to defend the bridge. He listened intently as Vox transmissions flew back and forth throughout the ship. Boarding Torpedoes impacted by the dozen. The lower crew decks were overrun. Sergeant Apstrophis' Devastator Marines held the bulkheads before the Enginarium Primus. Then came the news that a daemonic creature had manifested aboard, sweeping towards the bridge at the head of a Chaotic horde. Mere moments later the bridge bulkheads shuddered, then exploded inwards upon a bow wave of unnatural flame.
The Chaos onslaught was swift and savage. It had to be, for though the Ultramarines were outnumbered, they held an incredibly defensible position against the enemy boarding parties. Guilliman's gene-sons crouched behind consoles artfully designed to double as barricades in the event of a breach. More of their number occupied elevated positions on gantries and balconies overlooking the bulkhead, taking up positions amidst the looming grandeur of the bridge.
The first servants of Chaos to bound and cartwheel onto the bridge had absolutely no cover whatsoever. Pink Horrors of Tzeentch were engulfed in a storm of disciplined, expertly aimed fire that ripped them to pieces. Into the meat grinder poured more and more daemons, while behind them squads of Red Corsairs lunged through the blasted bulkhead and dashed for any cover they could find.
Bolters roared, their massed echo and strobing muzzle flare rolling around the bridge like a raging thunderstorm. Daemons exploded in puffs of ectoplasm, smaller simulacra bursting from their corpses to be mowed down in turn. Traitor Space Marines clad in the defaced liveries of a dozen Chapters fell dead upon the killing ground, their armoured corpses continuing to twitch and jerk as more rounds struck them. Bolt shells, plasma blasts, las beams and missiles fell like hailstones, ripping the deck plates to blackened ruin and annihilating dozens of invaders.
Inevitably, though, the boarders began to gain ground. A jetting blast of purple fire leapt out to turn a gantry to slime, sending a squad of Red Corsairs Terminators tumbling a hundred Terran feet into the Vox pits below. A cluster of Krak Grenades rained down upon a console-barricade, their detonations killing one Veteran and forcing two more to beat a hasty retreat. In the moments before he fell, a Red Corsair unloaded his Plasma Gun into another barricade, killing several Ultramarines before being killed by his own overheated weapon exploding in his hands. So it went on, the enemy eroding Guilliman's defences through reckless assaults.
Then came Kairos. The first warning the Loyalists had of the Greater Daemon's onset was a thickening of the air as the Empyrean stirred. Librarian Pollonius cried out in sudden agony, hands clamped to his skull and eyes bulging as the energies of his own mind were turned against him. Fast as lightning, Guilliman hurled himself aside, barging Captain Sicarius clear in the instant before Pollonius' body detonated in a wave of blue fire. Several Ultramarines were not so lucky, their armour dissolving and flesh turning to ash as the flames washed over them.
As the commanders of the Ultramarines reeled, the next rain of firepower to fall upon the kill box was transmogrifed. Instead of mass-reactive shells and whistling grenades, all that struck the attacking hordes was shimmering starlight and wisps of silver steam.
A fresh wave of leaping Flamers and cackling Horrors surged through the bulkhead and leapt to the attack. More Red Corsairs came with them, lumbering Chaos Terminators and fang-helmed warriors with Bolters blazing. At their back, his ragged wings spread wide and his staff tapping before him, came Kairos Fateweaver himself.
Seeing the Lord of Change, Guilliman roared a battle cry and charged. Cato Sicarius and his warriors followed close on their Primarch's heels, while Greyfax and Celestine hurled themselves into the foe to either side.
Guilliman stormed through daemons and Traitors alike, his flaming sword swiping in unstoppable arcs. Volleys of shells thundered from the Hand of Dominion, while the crushing fist obliterated an enemy with every blow. Daemons exploded in sprays of unnatural ichor before Guilliman's fury, while those Traitors foolish enough to stand in his path were smashed aside like rag dolls.
Following the trail of carnage wrought by their Primarch, Sicarius and his Battle-Brothers hacked and blasted those enemies who tried to encircle Guilliman. Sicarius himself was a blur, his Talassarian Tempest Blade drawing golden arcs through the air as it lopped horned helms from armoured shoulders, and split daemons in two. At the same time, blinding light shone from Saint Celestine as she carved her way through the Warpspawn, and Inquisitor Greyfax sent one Traitor after another crashing to their knees as she crushed their minds with her telepathic powers.
It did not take Kairos' matchless future-sight to foresee that his enemy would attempt to reach and slay him. The Lord of Change was no match for Guilliman in battle, but armed with his faultless precognition, he had long prepared for this moment. Now, as the Lord of Ultramar smashed his way closer, Kairos set his devious scheme in motion by unleashing a pulse of blue flame from his staff.
Nine Heralds of Tzeentch had worked their way through the press of battle, concealed behind shimmering spells of illusion. At Kairos' signal, the leering daemons cast aside their sorcerous shrouds and began a babbling incantation. Bolt shells whipped in towards the Heralds the moment they appeared, but their daemon minions leapt willingly into the path of the shots. Shielded by the shimmering flesh of their underlings, the Heralds continued their chant, nine voices rolling and twining with each other over the cacophony of battle. Raising the Staff of Tomorrow high above his heads, Kairos joined his croaking voices to the burgeoning spell.
Since Guilliman had first entered the Maelstrom and begun to hear Kairos whispering in his mind, the Greater Daemon had been planting traps in the Primarch's subconscious. It had not been easy, for Guilliman's mind was a pristine fortress of order and rationality, and his mental defences were formidable. Yet slowly, carefully, the deed had been done. Kairos had teased forth Guilliman's guilt, his anger and disappointment at what remained of the Imperium, his fears for its future. The daemon had intended to continue his work until the Primarch was quite mad before attempting this ritual, but the intervention of the interfering Eldar had forced Kairos' hand. His preparations would have to be enough, or else Guilliman would surely banish him back to the Warp and escape.
Swaying and gibbering, spinning and leaping, the daemons worked their spell and dragged forth the incantations laced within Guilliman's mind. The Primarch stumbled, bellowing in pain as streamers of incandescent energy poured from his eyes and open mouth. Squirming tendrils of green, psychic guilt twined around serpentine streamers of disgust and surging red tendrils of anger. Engulfed by the whirling storm of psychic energies, Guilliman tried again to forge a path forward, but with a howl of pain he went down on one knee. Greyfax, bogged down in the morass of combat, could only watch helplessly, while Celestine's attempt to fly to the Primarch's aid was thwarted as several daemons latched onto her wings.
Sicarius and his Battle-Brothers, crying out in impotent fury, tried to cut their way through the foe, hoping to stop the incantation in any way they could. The 2nd Company Captain ordered all fire concentrated upon the daemons tormenting the Primarch. It did no good. Those shots aimed at Kairos puffed away as clouds of glittering dust, while the Heralds remained shielded behind squirming bulwarks of daemonic flesh.
Though the outnumbered Ultramarines fought furiously, they could not reach the daemonic sorcerers to stop their ritual. Roaring his anger, Guilliman surged to his feet once more, hammering off a volley of shells that struck Kairos Fateweaver and ripped bloody chunks from his gaunt torso.
Though the daemon was wounded sorely by the explosive impacts, his chant did not stop. Instead, it redoubled in intensity, the daemon's voices ringing out cruel and cold. Whirling and lashing, the coloured streamers of ectoplasmic energy surged from the Primarch's mind. All of Guilliman's negative emotions, all of the threads of madness and wrath and fear that Kairos had seeded into his mind, blossomed forth and wrapped themselves like vines around the Primarch. They thickened and twisted, pulsing with power as they hardened into heavy crystal chains.
Arms and legs bound tight, Guilliman crashed to his knees once more. This time, held firmly by Kairos' spell, he was unable to rise. The Oracle, projecting his voices to every warrior upon the bridge, commanded the Ultramarines, the Living Saint and the Inquisitor to lay down their arms at once. If they did not, the Primarch would be crushed and throttled to death before their eyes. One by one, the guns fell silent as the horrified Ultramarines complied. The battle was over, and Kairos Fateweaver stood gloating and victorious.
"They shall be my sons, and in them will live the hopes of a unified humanity. Theirs will be the strength to prevail, not only when victory lies within easy reach, but even when it seems unattainable, when doom settles like a shroud all about. In those times of darkness, my noble sons will shine the brightest of all."
- —Attributed to the Emperor of Mankind
With Guilliman's capture, the battle of the starship graveyard was lost. Those Imperial warriors who did not surrender under threat of the Primarch's death were killed, or forced to capitulate. Champion Marius Amalrich was amongst the latter, wrestled down and beaten unconscious by a mob of Red Corsairs as he single-handedly held the breach into his ship's enginarium.
The Loyalists and their stolen warships were taken under heavy guard to the nearest Red Corsairs stronghold. To their shock, this turned out to be one of the ancient Blackstone Fortresses. How such a mighty structure had found its way onto the tides of the Maelstrom, none of the Imperial warriors knew. Ultimately it mattered little. Stripped of their weapons and their honour, Guilliman and his surviving followers -- a force that included hundreds of Space Marines, Grey Knights and Skitarii, along with their engines of war -- were dragged into the depths of the Traitor fortress and hurled into psychic spell-shielded cells. The Adeptus Astartes were chained with adamantium links, while their leader still languished in the awful bonds of crystallised guilt, anger, sorrow and madness that Kairos had forged from his psyche.
Led by the piratical Chaos Lord Verngar the Apostate, a huge warband of Red Corsairs garrisoned the Blackstone Fortress. Much of the structure slumbered, for the Traitors lacked the knowledge to awaken the ancient alien construct or access the shrouded regions near its heart. Still, their fortifications were well-built, their numbers huge and their fleet powerful. Kairos Fateweaver deemed that this would be as good a prison as any to leave Roboute Guilliman in to rot. Though the Lord of Change had been vehement in his efforts to remove Guilliman from the galactic stage, he did not wish the Primarch dead. A chained demigod was too rich a source of power to simply cast aside, and Kairos planned to keep his victim hidden away in the Maelstrom until certain future junctures were reached. Already, the daemon could see several moments where unleashing a Primarch driven insane might produce most intriguing results. The Red Corsairs, for their part, would readily act as Guilliman's gaolers in return for the boons of foresight that Kairos could grant, and so the Fateweaver felt confident that his captive would remain locked away.
Perhaps it was the mysterious influence of the fortress itself; perhaps Guilliman's anomalous presence within the strands of fate distorted them in ways that even the Fateweaver could not perceive. Whatever the case, as he made preparations to leave the Blackstone Fortress, the daemon did not foresee the vast horde descending upon him.
From the depths of the Maelstrom came an enormous armada. Dozens upon dozens of warships thundered toward the Blackstone Fortress, their hulls encrusted with gore and skulls. The rune of Khorne was branded upon these spiked Battleships, and daemonic fires danced in their wake.
Before the fleet blazed a monstrous, blood-red comet wreathed in furious black flame. A fanged maw yawned wide upon that hurtling fireball, and eyes swimming with insane fury stared from its depths. So came Skarbrand the Exiled One to the Blackstone Fortress, blazing through the void to crash with explosive force into the station's outer hull. Khornate warships sped in his wake, fanning out to hammer the battle station with firepower even as teeming swarms of landing craft spilled from their flanks.
The Red Corsairs, first surprised and then outraged at this sudden attack, rallied swiftly and fought back. Even as their fortifications were opened to the void and blasted to blazing scrap, the Corsairs' gun batteries cycled up and filled the void with fire. Havoc squads sent volleys of shots lancing out to blast landing craft from the air, while Obliterators directed withering fire into the Khornate hordes already spilling across the fortress' outer hull. A furious battle raged in the silence of space, thumping explosions plucking Khorne Berzerkers from the fortress' night-black skin and sending them tumbling away into the void.
Within the Blackstone, flashes of pale green luminescence danced along darkened corridors, the ancient structure warning its denizens of danger. Red Corsairs deployed in disciplined firing lines, then filled entire passageways with crashing Bolter fire as masses of Khornate warriors charged towards them. Chainaxes carved through armour and flesh, while bolt-riddled corpses crashed to the ground aflame.
Through the mayhem stalked Kairos, screeching with dismay at this unforeseen turn of events. Conjuring forth masses of Tzeentchian Daemons, he hurled them into battle in an attempt to drive back the invaders. Yet bloody mists were gathering as the slaughter continued, and from their depths sprang red-scaled cohorts of Khornate Daemons that eagerly joined the carnage.
Meanwhile, deep within the Blackstone Fortress, Guilliman listened to the distant clangour, and gathered his strength in case a chance to escape should arise.
Furious battle spread like wildfire through the outer corridors and Imperial structures of the Blackstone Fortress. Meanwhile, deep within the fortress' hidden core, eldritch energies flickered into life. Unseen by the warring armies, a band of figures slipped from a Webway portal that had lain at the fortress' heart since the dawn of its existence millions of Terran years before. They moved swiftly and silently, a lithe procession of shadows accompanied by a larger, robed figure that moved with the stealth of a ghost.
Guilliman and his Ultramarines were shut inside cells that lined the circular walls of a huge, cylindrical chamber. These alcoves were closed off not by metal bars or locked doors, but by flickering sheets of sorcerous, mutagenic flame. A full squad of Red Corsairs stood guard over them, their guns trained unwaveringly upon the one functional doorway that led into this shadowy prison.
Unseen, another doorway slid open in the chamber's curving wall, directly behind the guards. In absolute silence, the Harlequins of the Laughing God rolled, tumbled and span from within, their movements a sinister dance to some unheard song of the dead. They drew closer to the Renegade Space Marines with every graceful step, naked blades held ready for murder.
The first the Red Corsairs knew of their peril was a sudden, whirlwind attack from behind. Perfectly dispersed and lethally poised, the Eldar struck with murderous grace. Rapier blades punched out through chest plates in sprays of blood. Monoflament needles slithered through the chinks in their victims' Power Armour, liquefying organs in Terran milliseconds. Point-blank hails of shuriken and fusion energies hurled Traitor corpses to the floor in mists of blood.
A single one of the Traitors -- unhelmed and horn-headed -- roared in pain as a Harlequin drove her blade through one of his knee joints, then cart wheeled around him to kick his Bolter from his hands. She completed her attack with an elegant back flip, one foot catching the Traitor under the chin and smashing him onto his back.
The Harlequin sprang away, and the Red Corsair fumbled for his side arm. He froze as a robed figure in ornate Power Armour loomed over him. The Traitor had never heard of Cypher, for the Fallen Angel was an enigma whose existence was hidden from most. He did, however, recognise the threat of the two heavy pistols now hovering before his face.
Wordlessly, Cypher stared down at the Red Corsair, his eyes glinting beneath his cowl. The Traitor stared back, yellowed gaze burning with defiance and hate. Cypher gestured with one of his pistols towards the cells that lined the walls. The movement was minimal, but the meaning clear. Growling low in his throat, the Corsair reached slowly into a pouch at his belt and drew forth a rune-inscribed amulet. The key to dispelling the psychic magics that held the cells closed.
Cypher nodded his gratitude, then raised one booted foot and stamped down on the Traitor's head. Bone smashed and blood sprayed, the Red Corsair's body twitching then lying still. Holstering his Bolt Pistol, the Fallen Angel plucked the key from his victim's open gauntlet, and then straightened up. He found himself staring into the shifting mask of the Shadowseer, Sylandri Veilwalker. She who had contacted Guilliman as he wandered lost in the Maelstrom. She who had enlisted Cypher's aid, and instructed Belisarius Cawl to leave his forge on Mars. Veilwalker sketched a mocking bow to Cypher, then pointed her staff towards a distant cell. With a nod, Cypher turned and strode towards it.
Through dancing flames, Guilliman watched the robed figure approach.The Primarch did not recognise this cowled Space Marine, but he knew the Legion whose colours he wore.
"You are Roboute Guilliman", said the mysterious Space Marine as he stopped outside the Primarch's cell.
"I can free you," replied the hooded figure, deigning not to answer the Primarch's questions.
Realising that no further explanation was forthcoming, Guilliman frowned. "Can", he rumbled. "Not will. What do you want in return?"
"You will take me to Terra", replied the Dark Angel. "To the Throne."
The malefic flames crackled and the distant sounds of battle rumbled on as Guilliman's silence stretched long. Even bound in sorcerous chains, the Primarch's presence was immense, his steady glare thunderous. Yet the Dark Angel stood unwavering, like a statue carved from granite. Guilliman strained once more against his bonds, and again found them unyielding.
"It seems that my choices are to rot here, or accede to your demand", said the Primarch slowly. "The former would be to fail in my duty, so I suppose it will have to be the latter. But understand this, Dark Angel. If you seek to trick or manipulate me, nothing in this galaxy will save you."
One corner of the stranger's mouth lifted into a small, bitter smile. "As you say", he muttered, then brandished the runic stone held in his off-hand. The flames of Guilliman's cell died away in response, followed by the fires of every other cell around the chamber's edge.
As the fires flickered out, Sylandri Veilwalker stepped forward and began a weaving, elaborate dance. Guilliman's eyes widened as he recognised the figure who had appeared to him in his vision, and directed him towards freedom. Had the Eldar meant for him to escape the Maelstrom, or had she always intended the Terran Crusade fleet to be ambushed and brought here? Such questions would have to wait, realised the Primarch as the Shadowseer's psychic magics went to work.
Shimmering lights coiled around the dancing Harlequin. Where the witch-light fell, the chains binding the Loyalist Space Marines fell away as dust. Even the devious sorceries of Kairos Fateweaver were undone, and Guilliman smiled a dangerous smile as his crystal fetters shattered.
The freed Ultramarines still wore their armour, but were unarmed. Answering their questions before they could be asked, the Shadowseer revealed that the Loyalists' weapons, their vehicles and their allies had been locked inside a string of stasis vaults some distance from their cells, but that she could lead them there. Guilliman gestured for his mysterious benefactor to lead on. The Primarch did not trust the Eldar, nor the shadowy Space Marine who had come with them, but while his brilliant mind worked out the angles of their involvement, he would allow them to lead him to the rest of his forces. After all, Guilliman would never abandon his father's sword within this den of snakes, nor the courageous allies who had accompanied him upon his quest.
Veilwalker and her Harlequins led the Loyalists out of the doorway through which she had entered the prison. Several hundred battle-hungry Ultramarines followed her lead, with Guilliman, Cato Sicarius and Cypher at their head. It was a capable force, even without guns and blades, and they travelled at a run down shadowed corridors and stairwells. Haste was more important than stealth; even with the battle raging above, their escape would soon be noticed.
The first stasis chamber they broke open contained Saint Celestine and her Geminae Superia. The second brought a reunion with Archmagos Belisarius Cawl and his Mechanicus forces. With Dunecrawlers stalking at their backs and ranks of Skitarii and Kataphron Battle Servitors lending their firepower, the Loyalists swiftly overwhelmed the Red Corsairs standing guard over the final stasis chamber. Within, they found not only Aldrik Voldus, his Grey Knight brothers and their Dreadknights, but all the other Space Marines of the Terran Crusade, as well as the dozens of tanks and Dreadnought brothers they had brought with them in their warships.
Captain Sicarius now suggested that they cut a swift path through the battle to reclaim their starships. Veilwalker shook her head. Thousands of Heretic Astartes and daemons battled across the fortress. Fighting around the docking spars was thick. Any attempt to recover the Terran Crusade's voidcraft was doomed. The Loyalists still might have attempted to recapture their fleet, until the Shadowseer told them that the human crews who had kept the starships operational were all dead, sacrifced alongside the Crusade's Imperial Guardsmen and Battle-Sisters. Worse, the fleet's Navigators had been spirited away in chains upon a fast voidship, bound for Huron Blackheart's personal fortress.
Fortunately, Veilwalker knew another way to escape -- the route Cypher and the Harlequins of the Masque of the Veiled Path had used to reach Guilliman, and the route they would use to lead him on towards Terra. At the fortress' heart, trammelled by ancient technology and still operational after many standard millennia, was a stabilised route into the Webway. The pathways it led into were huge, arterial routes that even starships could navigate -- they would accommodate the Imperial war machines with ease.
Bursting from the armoury, the Imperial army and their guides made for the lower tunnels. The awakening of the fortress' deeper chambers had not gone unnoticed, however. As they hastened further into the ancient structure, the Loyalists encountered stiffening resistance from bands of Red Corsairs and Daemons sent to cut them off.
Though Guilliman and his followers fought furiously, their advance slowed to a crawl. Pushing through a vast chamber of twisting bridges and black chasms, they found themselves surrounded on every side. Matters looked grim, but it was in that moment that spectral flames leapt amidst the foe. Auspex readings flickered wildly, and ghostly voices whispered and hissed through the Vox networks as shadowy figures stepped from the inferno and opened fire. Clad in black and bone, wreathed in aetheric fire, the Legion of the Damned had arrived in the Terran Crusade's hour of need. Their thunderous volleys swept the Chaos forces from the bridges to Guilliman's fore, and, with Veilwalker whirling and leaping at his side, the Primarch led the advance once again.
Long, bloody solar minutes of battle followed, gunfire flashing back and forth in the gloom. Though both sides raced as fast as they could to beat the other to the prize, Guilliman and his army reached the heart of the Blackstone Fortress at the same time as their foes. The chamber itself was vast, easily a hundred Terran miles across. Both its ceiling and its floor were lost in shadow. Entrancing patterns of shimmering lights crawled across the walls, and flickered up and down the titanic black column that rose at the chamber's heart. Out from that column, like the distorted branches of some dark arboreal deity, radiated hundreds of bridges, stairways, platforms and gantries, all shimmering with the same, vaguely bioluminescent lights that danced across the walls.
Countless dark doorways opened onto the Blackstone Fortress' heart, huge portals that seemed wrought for giants. From some spilled daemons of Tzeentch, fires flaring amidst the darkness. Others vomited the daemons of Khorne, loping in snarling packs across soaring bridges wide enough for Titans to cross.
Many of the massing daemons were still distant, small figures rendered insectile by the scale of the chamber, but great hosts of them would still intercept Guilliman's forces before they could reach the heart of the chamber. That was where they must go, however -- Veilwalker indicated a distant platform set into the black column's flank. Upon it, Guilliman could see the faint shimmer of esoteric energies dancing, and knew that this was the Webway entrance of which the Shadowseer spoke.
Guilliman ordered the advance. His forces flowed out across the nearest bridges, guided through the labyrinth of interconnected platforms and arc-bridges by the Troupes of the Veiled Path. Loping Dreadknights and roaring Space Marine tanks led the way, squads of Adeptus Astartes, Grey Knights and Skitarii advancing behind them.
The crossing became more dangerous as firepower whipped across the yawning gulfs to tear at the Loyalist ranks. Fights broke out as Red Corsairs let fly from higher walkways and Cannons of Khorne spat screaming skulls. Platforms as broad as parade grounds played host to crashing battles as packs of Daemon Engines clashed with squadrons of Ultramarine main battle tanks. The Loyalists fired as they moved, blasting paths through the massing foe. At the same time, the forces of Khorne and Tzeentch fell upon one another, Bloodletters hacking their way down ichor-slick stairways while Horrors scoured platforms clear with shimmering flame.
Far away across the chamber, Guilliman caught sight of Kairos Fateweaver, exhorting his followers into battle and hurling bolts of psychic sorcery at the Loyalists from afar. Yet the Lord of Change clearly did not care to face Guilliman's resurgent wrath, for he stayed far removed from the white heat of the battle.
Not so Skarbrand. Hacking his way through a gaping portal in the chamber's wall, the Bloodthirster blazed like a furious pyre. His bellows echoed through the cavernous space, primal roars of bloodlust that infected the minds of all who heard them.
Under Skarbrand's influence, Guilliman's Battle-Brothers became more reckless and aggressive by the moment. Contaminated by the daemon's psychic fury, Marius Amalrich and the last of the Black Templars turned aside from their route and hurled themselves into an onrushing mass of Khornate daemons. Blood sprayed as a savage melee broke out. For a moment the Primarch considered diverting his own forces to help Amalrich's, but with Skarbrand storming closer and daemons swarming on every front, there was no time. With a heavy heart, Guilliman barked orders through the Vox, steadying the Ultramarines and their Primogenitor allies with the sheer force of his will. Bellowing, Amalrich hurled himself into battle with mighty Skarbrand, his Black Sword clashing with the Bloodthirster's twin axes again and again.
With Voldus and his Dreadknights leading, and the relentless spectres of the Legion of the Damned fighting a silent rearguard, the remains of the Terran Crusade closed on the Webway entrance. Belisarius Cawl and his Skitarii mowed down rank after rank of daemons. Novamarine Vindicators blasted a trio of bridges that the enemy were using in an attempt to outflank, sending flailing Horrors plunging into the void. Inquisitor Greyfax and Saint Celestine fought side by side, hacking down a trio of Tzeentchian Heralds in as many solar minutes. The Harlequins were everywhere at once, sprinting along walkways, bounding between bridges, hacking and slashing with breathtaking skill as they wove a dance of battle around the Loyalists.
That was when Skarbrand gave a deafening bellow of fury and took a running leap. The cursed Bloodthirster sailed across the gulf, trailing boiling ichor from a terrible wound in his chest. Guilliman's eyes widened as he saw Amalrich's black blade, driven into the Bloodthirster's breast. It was the only remaining sign of the Emperor's Champion, bloody atonement for his failings on lost Cadia.
Skarbrand landed with a tremendous crash, hooves striking sparks as he slammed down on the bridge amidst the Legion of the Damned. His axes, Slaughter and Carnage, swept left and right. Fire-wreathed spectres were smashed aside, their broken bodies tumbling away like embers into the darkness below.
Already the rearmost warriors of Guilliman's force were turning back, tanks and Battle-Brothers alike lost to the Bloodthirster's madness. Realising control was about to slip from his grasp, Guilliman commanded all the remaining Imperials to make for the portal. A final bridge leapt out across the void to connect the platform on which Guilliman stood to the one where the portal flickered. The Primarch took position at the head of that bridge, standing firm with blade drawn as all who could still follow his orders did so. Infantry and vehicles streamed past him, following the Harlequins into the Webway, until only Cato Sicarius and Celestine remained, waiting by the portal's entrance.
Skarbrand stormed through the last of the Legion of the Damned and onto the platform. Guilliman felt the structure shudder and flex beneath the Bloodthirster's weight. Then the Greater Daemon's burning eyes found Guilliman's, and the Primarch felt unreasoning fury surge through him. Skarbrand had come for Guilliman's skull, that he might honour Khorne with it, and the daemon did not intend to allow his quarry to escape now.
In Guilliman's mind, hellish fires rose up on every side, full of the leering faces of his brothers who had fallen to Chaos. With every step that Skarbrand took towards him, Guilliman's ire grew, while at his back the bridge seemed to melt away as molten slag until there was nothing but the Primarch and the Bloodthirster, trapped together in an arena of roaring flame.
Unable to stop himself, the Primarch bellowed a war cry and leapt to meet Skarbrand's charge. The Emperor's Sword met Slaughter with a dolorous clang, while Carnage whistled over the Primarch's head by a hair's breadth. Guilliman drove his shoulder guard into his opponent's midriff, then span on his heel and backfisted Skarbrand with the Hand of Dominion. The blow would have punched straight through a tank hull, yet the Bloodthirster merely rocked back on his heels before launching himself forward again. Hellforged axes hacked and lashed in huge, haymaker arcs, Guilliman barely blocking or evading each blow.
The Primarch could feel his hate and rage building to new heights, eclipsing his strategic sense altogether. Dimly he realised that, soon, he would hurl himself at Skarbrand, hacking madly until his head was struck from his shoulders.
With a titanic effort of will, Roboute Guilliman forced down the supernaturally-created rage that was drowning his rational mind. Gasping with effort, the Primarch trapped the furious fires in a ring of cold, mental steel. Even as he continued to fight his monstrous foe in reality, he fought a second battle in his mind. Step by step, he pushed back against his blazing rage.
With a final scream of mental anguish, Guilliman forced down all his fury and hatred, and locked them away behind impenetrable mental fortifications. As he did so, the fires that he perceived around him died away, and the bridge to safety swam back into focus. Beyond it, Sicarius and Saint Celestine were exhorting him to move before it was too late.
Unwilling to let his enemy escape, Skarbrand hurled himself in a wild lunge with axes raised high. Guilliman coolly assessed the threat, raising the Hand of Dominion and blasting the daemon backwards.
Skarbrand bellowed in anger as explosive shells tore into his cranium and blew fleshy gobbets across the platform. Step by step, the daemon was driven back, yet still he did not fall. Gritting his teeth at the sight of the enemy drawing close, Guilliman fired the last shells from his magazine, aiming for Amalrich's Black Sword. A single bolt struck the weapon and blew the ebony blade apart in a storm of deadly shards. Skarbrand's torso was shredded, and he toppled backwards off the platform with a final, furious roar.
Immediately, Guilliman turned and sprinted across the bridge, hurling himself into the Webway after Captain Sicarius and the Living Saint. Behind him, the portal's warding runes sealed with a sharp crack, denying the surging tide of daemons at the very last second.
The Hunter's Labyrinth
"The history of the galaxy is a tapestry woven from terror and blood. Yet amongst the countless threads of darkness, there gleam thin strands of light, moments of selfless heroism and bravery that shine out all the brighter for the shadow that surrounds them. Through such desperate deeds is the future wrought. Through such desperate deeds does hope endure."
Space Marines, Grey Knights and the warriors of the Adeptus Mechanicus stood amidst the shimmering mists of the Webway. They were gathered in a vague space, its dimensions vast and confusing. Lights glimmered around them, and a distant booming rolled through the air, akin to a titanic heartbeat, or the sound of waves washing upon a rocky shore. Of the Imperial warriors who had escaped their cells, around two-thirds remained alive. Voldus and his Grey Knights had taken only a handful of casualties, and the same was true of the Harlequins. Cypher, too, had survived the desperate running battle through the fortress, and stood now at the head of a band of dark-armoured Space Marines who had clearly awaited his return. As Guilliman's battered warriors regrouped, Sylandri Veilwalker came before the Primarch. She paused for a moment to share a long and loaded look with Archmagos Belisarius Cawl before turning to Guilliman without a word of explanation.
She counselled that they could not tarry for long. She had laced this region of the Webway with scout parties of Skyweaver Jetbikes. Those scouts were now reporting back, warning of heavily-armed intruders wearing ornate Power Armour of blue and gold. The warriors had the stench of Chaos sorcery on them, and the unmistakable mark of Tzeentch.
Guilliman's mind raced, weaving fragments of fact and glimpses of information with his peerless strategist's intuition. It was Magnus, realised the Primarch. His manipulative brother -- who must have somehow known precisely how matters would play out for Guilliman -- had sent his cursed sons to intercept the Imperials.
Events began to fall into place in Guilliman's mind. Magnus had hurled Guilliman's Crusade into the Maelstrom not to destroy it, but to weaken it. He had propelled the Lord of Ultramar onto a particular path of fate that Magnus had either hoped or known would lead him to his capture, incarceration within that very specific gaol, and eventual escape into this section of the Webway. Guilliman could not know that the Crimson King had called upon his greatest champion, Ahriman, to aid him with his stolen knowledge of the Webway's paths, but otherwise the Primarch's conclusions were entirely correct.
Swiftly and earnestly, Guilliman sought the counsel of his closest lieutenants. They had to determine what Magnus planned, and quickly, before they stepped straight into the Daemon Primarch's trap. It was Aldrik Voldus who -- drawing upon his knowledge of Titan's ancient libraries -- made the intuitive leap. There was a warded entrance to the Webway within the Imperial Palace. Voldus believed it to be heavily defended, bound shut with the most potent abjurations that the Imperium could muster, but still it existed. Perhaps Magnus knew of that gate, and sought to follow them to it?
Guilliman's strategic brilliance leapt ahead again, tracing patterns within patterns and perceiving the truth. Magnus already knew where the gate lay, he realised. There had been whispers that the Crimson King had passed that way before just before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, and in so doing unleashed the catastrophe that fell upon him and his XV Legion.
Magnus did not need them to lead him to the gate. He sought instead to follow them through it, clearly hoping that the gate's defences would be deactivated to allow for Guilliman's arrival. The Daemon Primarch wanted to strike at Terra, at the very Golden Throne of the Emperor of Mankind, and he hoped to launch his attack as the gate was thrown open to permit the Ultramarines Primarch passage.
The Terran Crusade, ironically, could not emerge at Terra, Guilliman realised with something like despair, not if it meant allowing Magnus to strike at the cradle of Humanity. Yet Sylandri Veilwalker had never intended for them to take that road. Instead, the Shadowseer revealed a secret that the Eldar had long guarded.
Lying dormant for millennia, hidden behind a veil of wards that even Humanity's greatest psykers could not pierce, a lonely spar of the Webway stretched out upon the border between realspace and the Warp to connect to Luna, Terra's only natural moon. It was to that illusion-veiled gate that the Crusade must now make haste.
With their path chosen, the survivors of the Terran Crusade set out at once. Already they had crossed great gulfs of space, and fought their way through hellish environs, yet they began this new and arduous leg of their journey without complaint. All who had set forth from Ultramar had been prepared to give their lives for this cause, and to endure any hardship they must in order to see the reborn Roboute Guilliman safely to Terra. Nothing had changed.
Travelling fast, the Harlequins of the Veiled Path lead the way. They progressed now through territory that was theirs alone, moving with ever greater speed and confidence as a result. Bands of Harlequins split away into half-glimpsed side passages, or slipped through hollow archways graven from stone. Others returned in similar fashion, filtering in before or behind the massed Imperial tanks and foot troops. Harlequin Jetbikes sped overhead from time to time, hurtling down the wider passageways in polychromatic blurs. All the while, Guilliman and his followers kept up a relentless pace, their tanks moving in the vanguard while loping infantry and stalking Dunecrawlers brought up the rear.
The Webway changed and shifted around them, from misty passages to dark and echoing tunnels, brightly lit expanses of polyhedral crystal to weirdly fleshy spirals that pulsed with peristaltic motion. The Loyalists surely would have been lost within solar minutes, had they travelled alone, or else set upon by the predatory entities that haunted the Labyrinth Dimension. Yet with the Harlequins as both guides and escorts, the Imperial forces were able to proceed unchallenged.
All that changed when frantic reports reached Sylandri Veilwalker of familiars that had espied the Loyalists and eluded the pursuing Jetbikes. At the Shadowseer's urging, the punishing pace increased still further, until the slowest Servitors were abandoned altogether. As Guilliman and his warriors thundered across a hazy, crystal-studded cavern, sudden volleys of firepower scythed into them from the flanks.
Fifteen warriors fell to that first volley, punched off their feet by bolt shells wreathed in coruscating flame. Rhinos exploded amidst leaping blasts of psychic sorcery, while Skitarii degenerated into howling mutant flesh as the fires of change washed over them.
Guilliman barked his orders and the Loyalists fanned out as one, dropping into firing crouches amidst the crystal outcroppings. From all around, swimming into focus through the veiling mists, came the plodding automata of Thousand Sons Rubricae. The armoured golems played their Bolters right and left as they advanced, laying down a steady hail of ensorcelled bolts. Hordes of shrieking Tzaangors moved amongst them, brandishing silvered blades.
Guilliman's warriors fired back, sending many of their ambushers reeling as their armour was rent and the dust that animated it spilled onto the ground. Cypher span and dove through the mayhem, evading every shot fired his way and reaping a tally of the foe with his blazing pistols. Aldrik Voldus, too, wrought havoc as he led a counterattack against the Thousand Sons. His warhammer swung in lightning fast arcs, battering Rubricae to the ground amid clouds of glittering dust.
Still more Rubricae closed in, their sorcerous masters upon their flying discs hurling their spells into the Loyalist ranks. Guilliman realised that to stay here was to fight an impossible battle, and to be lost with his goal in sight. It infuriated the Primarch to run yet again, for it seemed to him that, since leaving Ultramar, he had done little else. Yet the greater goal was of more importance, and he knew that he would not aid his father's Imperium by dying here.
Blade raised high, Guilliman led the movement to break out of the Thousand Sons ambush. Not all of his Battle-Brothers could extract themselves from the fight safely, and more precious lives were lost -- along with the gene-seed within them -- as Space Marines were cut down by the enemy's fire. Yet with the winged Living Saint cutting a path at their head, the Loyalists broke away from their attackers and fled deeper into the Webway.
They found themselves beset at every turn, Rubricae and braying Tzaangors bursting from side passages or holding junctions against them. Still the Loyalists pressed on, smashing headlong through every ambush and blockade with Guilliman, Voldus, Greyfax, Celestine and Cypher at their head. At last, the Imperials reached a rune-sealed portal, fixing helms and rebreather cowls in place. Then, led by the Shadowseer, they stepped from the Webway and onto the surface of Luna.
Amidst the Sea of Storms
Guilliman stepped through the shimmering lights of the Webway gate, enduring the unsettling doubling of reality that it created. He passed from soft illumination into harsh black shadow and searing glare, from air and gentle warmth into the frozen, airless lethality of near-vacuum. Gravity bled away around him, and with a single step, Guilliman launched himself away from the Webway gate into the billowing moon dust beyond.
The Terran Crusade had emerged into a deep crater, much of which was immersed in inky blackness. Shafts of stark illumination fell from above, where the rays of Sol itself spilled over the lip of the deep pit. Conscious of the foes following close on their heels, the Loyalists climbed quickly up the pit's sides. Space Marines sprang upwards hand over fist in the low gravity, only one-sixteenth that of Terra.
Tanks threw up drifting fans of moon dust as they powered up the rocky slope. Skitarii marched relentlessly upward, ignoring their blackening and freezing organic components. These latter soldiers would not last long on the lunar surface, but they would endure long enough to serve the Omnissiah's needs.
Above them, Celestine soared upward into the dark skies -- her Geminae Superia had donned their helms, but the Living Saint had no need of such apparel. Behind them, Veilwalker and her Harlequins lingered by the Webway gate. The Shadowseer gathered her powers, levelling her staff towards the Webway portal and beginning a whispering chant. The runes upon the structure's flanks glowed fiercely with a searing light.
Before Veilwalker could finish her ritual, the gate pulsed with dark energies. Blue fire billowed, its roar sounding as a dull rumble in the airless conditions. Veilwalker span clear at the last moment, but many of her Harlequin followers were not so fortunate. Their lithe bodies were engulfed in flame and, as their dathedi suits burned away, so their bodies melted like wax or froze and died.
From near the lip of the crater, Guilliman looked back to see the corrupted Webway gate glowing with dark fire. Streamers of energy leapt and coiled, dancing across the walls of the pit and blasting the Eldar corpses to ash. Out from that crackling storm stepped the first Rubric Marines, their footfalls muffled as they advanced across the crater floor. They raised their Bolters and opened fire, cursed shells roaring up from below to slam into the Imperials.
Armour ruptured and souls burned. Bulky bodies in the colours of the Novamarines and Mortifactors tumbled in slow motion down the slopes, clouds of chalky dust cascading around them. A Dreadknight toppled backwards, its pilot slain. The remaining Loyalists kept moving, over the lip of the crater and out of the Thousand Sons' line of fire.
Here, the retreat stopped at last. Guilliman and his surviving followers stood upon the surface of Luna itself, near the heart of the Mare Tempestus. On every side loomed the rusted hulks of old and broken Imperial voidships, a graveyard of junked and decommissioned spacecraft left there to moulder. Overhead, the blackness of space was speckled with stars while closer to hand, huge orbital docks and defence platforms filled the sky. Gothic leviathans swarming with voidcraft and covered in glaring lights, the grandeur of the Luna docks still faded against the breathtaking sight of Terra itself, hanging stark against the blackness above. There was the destination that Guilliman sought, the end of his journey at last.
Yet a deadly foe still chased at the Primarch's heels, and could not be allowed to work his malefic will within sight of the Throneworld. Guilliman knew that the Warp phenomena currently erupting in the crater's depths must surely have triggered every alarm and emergency Augur within a dozen terra-sols.
It would not be long before overwhelming Imperial forces raced to investigate, but there was no telling what irrevocable havoc Magnus could cause before they arrived. Guilliman saw again the visions Kairos had sent him, of a shattered world crashing down upon a fire-blackened Terra, and shuddered. He and his followers must hold the enemy here, driving the Thousand Sons back or -- at the least -- keeping them suppressed until aid could arrive.
The Thousand Sons were spilling from the Webway gate in increasing numbers, Scarab Occult and Rubricae driven forward by Chaos Sorcerers on their flying discs. Their advance was steady but unstoppable, pushing up the crater walls with their guns blazing. Recognising that the crater itself offered the best chance of containing the foe, Guilliman spread his warriors, combat walkers and tanks around its lip and commanded them to pour fire down into the advancing Thousand Sons.
Space Marines, Skitarii, Dreadnoughts, Land Raiders, Vindicators, Dunecrawlers, Battle Servitors and more opened fire. Using the lip of the crater for cover, and making the most of the higher ground, the Loyalists sent volley after volley ripping down into the Heretic Astartes. Striding automata were knocked back into the crater by devastating explosions. Glittering dust drifted from rents in ancient, ornate armour, floating free in the low gravity and leaving once-animate undead armour suits to crumple and collapse.
Sergeants barked orders through the Vox, coordinating volleys of Lascannon blasts and Demolisher shells to rain down upon the Rubricae. Cypher and his shadowy companions rained fire down upon the Thousand Sons. Greyfax slammed silver stakes through one Rubricae after another from her Condemnor Bolter. Aldrik Voldus tore Traitors apart with the potent powers of his mind.
Armoured corpses piled in heaps at the bottom of the crater, surrounding the Webway gate with carrion remains. From cracks and rocky outcroppings around the crater's edge, the last of the Harlequins added their own fire to the fusillade, hails of monofilament discs cutting through Power Armour and the flesh of living, daemonic discs.
For a time, it appeared as though the Thousand Sons would be bottled up in the crater. Though their return fire caused slow attrition amongst the Loyalists, the Traitors were losing far more warriors than they slew.
Then a fresh pulse of dark power surged through the Webway gate, its energies whirling faster and faster until they formed a flaming vortex. A wave of supernatural dread swept over the loyalist Space Marines as a huge, hornheaded figure stepped through onto the surface of Luna. Spreading his wings wide, Magnus the Red looked up at Guilliman with a mocking smile.
Gods of War
Drawing himself up to his full height, Magnus the Red raised his ensorcelled glaive and spoke dolorous words of power that rang out in defiance of all natural law. Purple flames leapt, forming shimmering shields and warding the Thousand Sons from harm. Suddenly, the Rubricae and Scarab Occult could advance unharmed, striding upwards as their foes' shots exploded upon Magnus' psychic shields. The Thousand Sons suffered no such obstruction, and dozens of Loyalists were sent tumbling back from the crater's lip, blood and shattered bone spraying.
Seeing the sudden shift in the situation, and knowing that they must hold out no matter the cost, Guilliman ordered his surviving warriors back. Moments later, the first ranks of Rubricae crested the lip of the crater and strode out with their gun muzzles flaring. More Thousand Sons marched behind them, and the surviving Loyalists fell back to voidship wrecks and rocky craters to gain cover while their tanks backed steadily away with their guns thundering.
Magnus rose from the crater. With a word, the Daemon Primarch unmade a trio of Dreadknights, burning out their psychic wards and crushing their armour. With a gesture, he telekinetically plucked an Ultramarines Land Raider from the ground and slammed it through ranks of Skitarii like a cannonball. Magnus brandished his staff and reality rent apart, a tide of cackling Tzeentchian daemons boiling from the Warp to join the battle.
Recognising that the Daemon Primarch would swiftly destroy his army if allowed free reign, Guilliman broke into a headlong charge. Giving vent to a booming war cry, the Primarch of the Ultramarines smashed a path through the Rubricae before him and launched himself into a heroic leap from the lip of the crater.
Guilliman soared, burning blade leaving a trail of flame behind him. Magnus saw his brother coming and began an incantation of pain, but before he could finish it the Lord of Ultramar struck. Magnus managed to parry his brother's arcing blade with his glaive, but the battering ram impact of Guilliman's leap carried the Crimson King backward, away from the fight. The two Primarchs tumbled across the lunar surface, dust billowing around them, and smashed into the rusted wreck of an Imperial frigate. Slabs of metal and corroded ironwork crashed down around them, burying the fighting brothers in an avalanche of wreckage. Meanwhile, the battle around the crater raged on, the last remnants of the Terran Crusade fighting furiously to survive.
Guilliman fought his way to freedom, hurling aside a slab of rusted metal and ignoring the alarms ringing within his helm. His armour was compromised, its air supply venting and the cold of the void leaking in. Were it not for his god-like constitution, and Cawl's life-sustaining technology, Guilliman would likely have been dead.
Instead, he raised his blade and kicked his way clear of the scattered wreckage.
"Magnus", he shouted through his Vox grill, searching around him. The Primarch knew his dubiously gifted brother could hear his words, even in the void of space. "I know better than to think you dead. Face me!"
Deep laughter rolled around Guilliman, a sound redolent with ancient malice. As he watched, Magnus' ethereal form rose from the wreckage and drifted down to loom over him. The Daemon Primarch solidified once more, huge and menacing.
"Very well, Roboute", laughed Magnus, and his words conjured crystalline showers that rained down upon the pale ground. "Here I am, in the flesh. And -- somehow -- there you are." Magnus cocked his head to one side and smirked. "I don't remember you seeming so ... insignifcant."
"Ten millennia have made you no less arrogant, then?" asked Guilliman, warily circling his towering foe. Inside his helm, a look of disgust twisted his patrician features as he regarded the monstrous form of the Crimson King. "Certainly those years have done you no other kindness."
Magnus sighed. "How you can have such grand plans and yet such scant vision has always eluded me. This", the Daemon Primarch said, empyric energies stirring as they gathered around his levelled glaive, "is what true power looks like."
"I see no power here", said Guilliman, shaking his head in dismay. "I see corruption, and enslavement to monsters that are worshipped as gods."
"On that, Roboute," Magnus laughed, sparing a glance at the Loyalists fighting nearby, "perhaps we can finally agree."
The cyclopean Sorcerer's smile turned into a sneer when he noticed his brother glance to the skies above. "Hoping to keep my sons and I occupied until the remnants of this palsied Imperium come to save you? I may not reach our father's throne room today, but I promise that you won't either. You will be dead long before help arrives. That alone will be worth all this trouble."
With that, Magnus attacked. The giant moved far faster than even Guilliman could have believed, his ensorcelled glaive lashing out to split the Lord of Ultramar in two.
Guilliman leapt backward, pulling his midriff in as he did so. Magnus' weapon drew sparks from his armour as it whistled past, and Guilliman landed atop the crumpled prow of a nearby frigate.
Before he could take stock, Magnus was hurling balls of blue psychic flame at him. Guilliman threw himself out of their path, sliding down the prow's rusted flank and dropping into a crouch at its feet. He broke into a charge, bursting from the drifting cloud of dust raised by his landing and weaving skillfully around his brother's sorcerous projectiles.
The ammunition in the Hand of Dominion was spent, but it was still a phenomenally powerful weapon. Sidestepping a downward cut from Magnus' glaive, Guilliman slid inside his brother's guard and delivered a thunderous uppercut. The impact lifted Magnus from his feet and sent him tumbling upward into the inky blackness. Fiery blood drifted in strings from Magnus' shattered jaw, causing kaleidoscopic fungi to sprout from where it spattered on Luna's surface, the power of change embedded even in the Daemon Primarch's blood.
Roiling psychic energy wrapped around Magnus, arresting his motion and righting him as he howled in anger. The Daemon Primarch stared hatefully down with his single eye, and Guilliman knew fresh sorrow as he realised how truly mad and lost his sibling had become.
"Arrogance", shouted Guilliman. "It was always your undoing, brother. You thought this would be an easy fight, that the gifts of your so-called gods would render me impotent. Perhaps those you serve are not all you believed them to be?"
Magnus' rage vanished in an eye-blink, and he laughed scornfully in response to Guilliman's jibe.
"You would like to believe that, wouldn't you? That the dutiful Roboute Guilliman was justified in his loyalty? That, now the ramifications of our choices have become clear, you can look down on me as you always did?"
With sudden violence, Magnus jabbed downward with his glaive. Multicoloured flames exploded from its blade, engulfing Guilliman and the bedrock upon which he stood. Moon dust exploded upwards in crackling clouds. Fire danced across scrap iron, and Roboute cried out as agony wracked his body.
Crackling with raw power, Magnus descended, still pouring Warp fire into his brother. Guilliman screamed again, dropping to one knee as his armour blazed with searing energy. Sparks burst from the overloaded systems of his Power Armour, and the smell of his own, cooking flesh filled his nostrils.
Desperate, Guilliman drove himself backwards in a graceless leap. He flew in an arc to smash down amidst a tumbled heap of enginarium debris, armour still flickering with flames.
Magnus landed, chuckling cruelly. Sprawled amidst the tangle of wreckage, Guilliman tried to push himself to his feet. The Primarch's body was a mass of pain, and his armour responded sluggishly, a number of its servomotors burned out.
"No, brother," said Magnus. "You stay where you are."
The Daemon Primarch gestured, and spectral claws tore several hundred tons of machinery loose from a nearby wreck. Guilliman had time to brace himself before the ungainly mass impacted like a comet, burying him completely beneath an avalanche of crushing metal.
Guilliman was entombed. Alarms chimed in his ears, red warning signs flashing in his peripheral vision. The pain of lacerated organs and shattered bones dragged at him, and for a moment the Lord of Ultramar was tempted simply to give in. Then he thought again of his long-suffering sons, fighting so hard for the ideals of an Imperium they had never even known. He would not betray them. He would not let one of his degenerate brothers keep him from his responsibilities -- not again.
Muscles tensing, strength surging, Guilliman ripped his way up through the tumbled mountain of wreckage. He roared as he hurled aside a capacitor unit the size of a Land Raider, and stepped, bloodied but unbroken, into the hard light of Luna. Magnus arched an eyebrow at the sight, and braced his glaive to hurl another spell.
And then the void lit with fire.
The Emperor's Wrath
Grand Master Aldrik Voldus looked up and gave thanks as the Emperor's deliverance rained down upon the battlefield. The Terran Crusade forces had broken into small islands of resistance, some hunkered down amidst spacecraft wreckage, others crouching behind jutting Luna rocks. The Thousand Sons had surrounded them, relentlessly pouring fire into the Loyalist positions while Tzeentchian daemons hurtled overhead on golden discs to rain Warpflame upon them.
Now, though, help had arrived. Gilt-chased fighter craft screamed down over the lunar landscape. As they did so, rippling lines of fire exploded amidst Rubricae and Horrors alike. Las blasts and hails of explosive shells tore the Tzeentchian footsoldiers apart. Bombs fell amongst them, sundering armour and flesh.
At the same time, vast leviathans of adamantium and plasteel rumbled in overhead. Naval system monitors of the Imperial Navy's Terran Defence Fleet hove into low orbit, their enormous forms swamping the battlefield in shadow as they came. Aided by triangulatory targeting data transmitted by Archmagos Belisarius Cawl, the voidships rained pinpoint-accurate fire upon the foe.
Lunar dust whirled in sudden vortices as teleport energies snatched it up. Bright light flared, and the golden giants of the Adeptus Custodes stepped from it with their Guardian Spears levelled. Hails of bolt fire ripped into the Rubricae. Cursing, the Sorcerers ordered their undead golem warriors to turn and address these new foes, but to no avail. Moving with breathtaking speed and skill, the Custodians hacked their way into the Heretic Astartes. Each fought like a hero born, their blades splitting ancient Power Armour like firewood and sending empty helms spinning lazily away across the lunar surface.
Rallying as aid appeared, the last enclaves of those warriors who had set out from Macragge fought back with renewed fury. Aldrik Voldus stepped out from the wreckage of a bulk carrier, leading his remaining Grey Knights and Dreadknights in a valiant charge. His hammer smashed apart ceramite wherever it connected, and psychic lightning danced about him despite the Chaos Sorcerers' best efforts to banish it. Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax fought alongside him, her iron will bringing Tzeentchian conjurers to their knees before she struck off their heads with her masterwork blade.
Seizing the moment, Saint Celestine swept through the enemy ranks, the Ardent Blade slashing left and right as her Geminae Superia raked the daemons with bolt fire. Captain Cato Sicarius followed in her wake, rallying Ultramarines and their Primogenitors behind him as they cut a path towards the Adeptus Custodes.
The muffled boom of engines sounded overhead, heralding the arrival of further Imperial forces. Stark yellow Drop Pods slammed down, thrusters flaring. Their hatches opened and squads of Imperial Fists Space Marines emerged from within, Bolters blazing at the enemy. Gunships rumbled overhead, yellow-hulled Stormravens and Stormtalons whose weapons tore through the Thousand Sons. Several were swatted by bolts of sorcery and hails of rotary cannon fire, flames belching from ruptured hulls as they span down to crash amidst the wreckage of starships.
Amongst these craft flew a trio of Valkyries with hulls of crimson and black, the sigil of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica emblazoned upon their flanks. Arcing through the explosions and mayhem above the battlefield, the gunships made for the point some way distant where Guilliman still battled his monstrous brother.
Purple fire speared upwards, ripping the wing from the leading craft and sending it rolling to a halt in a blazing fireball. The other two swept on towards their quarry, and as they came in low, their side doors slid open.
While their brave pilots blitzed fire at Magnus the Red, two squads of helmed Sisters of Silence dropped from the gunships. They landed near Guilliman in fighting crouches. Angrily, Magnus swept his clawed hand through the air, dragging one gunship sideways with telekinetic power and smashing it into the other. Both Valkyries exploded and tumbled downwards, but the Sisters of Silence leapt nimbly aside. Magnus glowered, jabbing with his glaive and sending tendrils of green and yellow psychic flame spiralling in their direction. The sorcery sputtered and died before it reached them, undone by the empyric dead zone around the warrior Nulls.
Seeing a strategic advantage at last, Guilliman leapt down from the mound of wreckage and landed amidst the Sisters of Silence. They would shield him from his brother's fell powers. Together, the Primarch and the Sisters charged towards Magnus with their blades at the ready.
The Daemon Primarch hurled another volley of psychic destruction, growling in frustration as it flickered out like the first. Angrily, Magnus hefted his glaive and swooped forward to meet his enemies at close quarters. If he could not destroy them with the powers of the Warp, he would hack and crush their mortal bodies until nothing remained but meat.
Beneath the dark lunar sky, with Terra hanging, ancient and hallowed above them, the two Primarchs crashed together once again.
Syndri Veilwalker bounded into the air. She drove one foot into the side of a Rubricae's helm, ripping it free with the force of her kick. The Shadowseer pushed off from her first victim, spinning through the thin air to hurl a bewildering glamour into the face of a nearby Sorcerer. The Tzeentch worshipper howled in panic, clawing at his helm and ripping it free. His flesh froze in solar seconds, his eyes bursting as bloody puffs and gore squirted from his nose, mouth and ears. The Shadowseer trilled a mocking laugh as she landed, spinning her stave low to sweep the legs from two more Rubricae, before sketching an elaborate bow to their fellows.
Amidst a hail of ensorcelled bolts, Veilwalker sprang away, as her kin cartwheeled into the enemy's midst from another direction. In such low gravity conditions, the Harlequins could achieve feats of agility and grace beyond even their normal blinding skill, and Veilwalker laughed again as she saw the Rubricae rendered clumsy by comparison.
Bounding in a high pirouette over the battle, Veilwalker sought he who wore the Armour of Fate. There he was, amidst the wrecks of crude human spacecraft, battling his monstrous brother alongside a band of warriors. Even from here, the mere presence of the psychic Nulls made Sylandri shudder.
Guilliman and Magnus were trading hate-filled blows, their weapons crashing together with titanic force. The Nulls were doing what they could to aid the fight, stabbing blades at the daemon in their midst or pouring Bolter fire into him. Already, several lay as broken corpses for their troubles, but the rest were doing an effective job of deadening Magnus' sorcerous powers.
Veilwalker landed gracefully, ignoring a storm of magical flames that exploded away to her left. Daemons, befuddled by her Domino Field, cast their spells at where they believed her to be. With a thought, Veilwalker activated the communications inlay in her helm, communing with her Death Jester, the Hollow Prince.
"The moment has arrived," she said. "Our drama has played out, and the brothers' enmity burns anew."
"Now the final curtain, then?" whispered the voice of the Hollow Prince, rich with wicked mirth. "Indignation. Outrage. Vendetta."
"It must be thus," agreed Veilwalker. "I shall ready the gate, for truth this time. You deliver your lines, and let matters play out."
Without waiting for an answer, Veilwalker cut her communications. She sprinted for the crater from which they had all emerged. She wove and sprang, dodged and tumbled through the raging battle, finally throwing herself into a feet-first slide over the crater's lip. Veilwalker arced gracefully down, moon dust falling about her like snow, and landed in a crouch amid the mounds of armoured corpses. Across the crater floor, the darkness was lit by the whirling storm of purple light that spat from the corrupted Webway gate. Magnus had done that, cursing the portal to permit his unnatural passage. Veilwalker smirked coldly behind her mask; he would pay for that hubris.
Across the field of battle, she knew that the Hollow Prince would be communicating with Guilliman, explaining their plan to the Primarch. The Death Jester would be telling the Primarch that Magnus could be destroyed only by casting his body into the corrupted Webway gate. If Veilwalker's visions were correct, Guilliman would believe him.
Meanwhile, she had to prepare the gateway, which was currently guarded by a pair of Chaos Sorcerers. Ghosting closer through the bodies with illusions flickering about her, Veilwalker drew her Shuriken Pistol. A gentle squeeze of its trigger, a flick of her wrist, and several more gentle depressions; first one Sorcerer and then the other staggered as rounds struck them, perfectly placed to puncture their gorget seals and open their jugular arteries.
The two Sorcerers crumpled, and Veilwalker hurriedly began her incantations. The energies around the Webway gateway pulsed and shuddered, the runes on its sides glowing brighter as a keening vibration shook the dark pit.
At that moment, battling demigods appeared upon the crater's edge. Guilliman and Magnus, both bleeding from the wounds they had dealt one another, still flanked by a last handful of the Null warriors. Magnus bisected another of the women with a brutal swing of his glaive, which lashed around to hack a chunk from Guilliman's breastplate.
In return, the Lord of Ultramar drove Magnus back with hammer blows from the Emperor's blade, then slammed his shoulder into his brother's chest and sent the Crimson King crashing down the steep slope.
Guilliman leapt after him, not giving Magnus a chance to recover. The Primarch's onslaught was punishing, the wounded Guilliman visibly pouring everything he had into this last storm of blows. Veilwalker melted away into the shadows as the warring brothers neared the Webway gate, still muttering her incantations and weaving her staff back and forth.
Magnus conjured a deadly sphere of Warp energies and hurled it at his brother with all his might. Guilliman's Iron Halo absorbed the worst of the blast, but still he was sent staggering back. With his back to the gate, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons conjured a wave of telekinetic fury and used it to fling a mass of Space Marine corpses -- Loyalist and Traitor alike -- at the last few Nulls. They vanished from Sylandri's sight, their contra-empyric drag blinking out as they were buried beneath a macabre heap of the dead.
The Shadowseer started forward, fearing for the fate of the Final Act. Then, with a roar of hate and rage, Guilliman struck. The Lord of Ultramar lunged at his brother. The burning blade drove in, under the Daemon Primarch's guard, and sank deep into his chest. Golden flames leapt, and Magnus howled in agony as they chewed hungrily at his flesh. He unleashed his powers in an uncontrolled sorcerous blast, its shock wave racing out across the crater and throwing Sylandri from her feet.
The burst of power hurled Guilliman onto his back, blade in hand, and sent Magnus staggering free, back through the pulsating Webway gate. Sylandri had one chance, a single moment in which to alter fate. With a final word, she shattered the runestone that glowed hot in her palm, and severed the Webway gate to Luna forever. Power surged, Magnus roared his fury, and then was cut off from Luna, his warriors and his brother, banished to the depths of the Labyrinth Dimension.
Dust to Dust
"The battle is not over when your enemy is beaten. He must be crushed utterly. And every trace of his works and deeds expunged. His spirit, and that of his people, must be broken beyond repair. Only when your enemy has been eradicated altogether, and burned from the pages of history, is the war at its end."
- —Roboute Guilliman, the Codex Astartes
Guilliman staggered to his feet, limping and wounded underneath his smouldering and blackened armour. The Webway gate rose before him, and no trace of his brother remained. Had Magnus been destroyed? Guilliman hoped so, but he did not believe it. The Harlequins' sudden plan for victory had been too convenient, the disappearance of Magnus too abrupt. The Primarch cast about for Sylandri Veilwalker, but found that she too had disappeared. A swiftly voxed question to his warriors revealed that the remainder of the Masque of the Veiled Path had vanished with her, though none could say how. If it had all been a trick, Guilliman could not fathom its intent, but for now at least, Magnus was gone.
Listening to the voxed reports of his lieutenants, Guilliman realised that the battle was as good as won. Even while fighting his brother, Guilliman had kept a portion of his mind upon the wider strategic picture. It took him only moments to piece together the battle's events.
Bolstered by the sudden arrival of the Adeptus Custodes and the Imperial Fists, the Terran Crusade had driven the Thousand Sons back. Tzeentchian automata lay scattered across this region of the Mare Tempestus, little more than vacant suits of ornate armour tangled amidst the wreckage. The daemons that Magnus had summoned were gone also, banished along with their master.
With orbital barrages and hurtling fighter craft annihilating any Traitors who attempted to break for freedom, the last of the Sorcerers had gathered their Rubricae and their Scarab Occults, and were driving -- steady and relentless -- for the crater's edge. They had sensed the banishment of their lord, but they did not know that the Webway gate had been severed. The last of the Traitors were making a bid to escape, and Guilliman stood directly in their path.
Wearily, the Primarch squared his shoulders and shrugged off his hurts. Walking with a limp, armour sparking and dented, Roboute Guilliman made for the crater's edge. His helm's Auspex showed him the route of the incoming Traitors, and the Imperial forces harassing their flanks. Though badly mauled, the Thousand Sons still had numbers, and had broken through the last, faltering ranks of Belisarius Cawl's Skitarii.
Guilliman strode up the crater wall to meet them, and as he did so the mountain of corpses behind him stirred and shifted. Heaving themselves to freedom, three tenacious Sisters of Silence escaped their gruesome cairn and hasted to stand at Guilliman's side.
The remaining Thousand Sons were several hundred Terran yards from the crater's edge, marching relentlessly in Guilliman's direction. They travelled in a loosely circular formation, the Rubricae facing outward in a ceramite ring and moving in eerily perfect lockstep. Loyalist forces surrounded them, squads of infantry and scorched battle tanks pouring fire into the retreating Traitors. More Rubricae fell by the moment, but with their Sorcerers safe at the heart of the formation, the Thousand Sons' momentum was hard to stop.
They would come no further, resolved Guilliman. Voxing orders to every Imperial warrior, the Primarch instructed his followers to charge the Thousand Sons from every side, and all remaining vehicles to provide supporting fire, Guilliman brandished his flaming blade and swept into battle. The last of the Sisters of Silence ran at his side, their Bolters thumping.
The Imperial forces closed upon the Traitors like a clenching fist. The muffled thunder of gunfire carried across the Mare Tempestus as a devastating storm of shots engulfed the Thousand Sons. At the same time, Aldrik Voldus, Cypher, Greyfax, Belisarius Cawl and Saint Celestine charged into the enemy's midst with their guns blazing and warriors at their backs.
Thunder Hammers swung, connecting with tectonic force. Power Swords slid through armour like knives through silk. Sorcery transformed noble warriors to crystal statues, or collapsing heaps of mutated flesh. Through the mayhem waded Roboute Guilliman, hacking and bludgeoning his way towards the Sorcerers at the heart of the enemy formation. Enough loyal blood had been shed. Enough brave warriors had been slain, and more besides, to bring Guilliman within striking distance of the Throneworld. The losses ended now, and Ultramarines Primarch would be the one to end them.
The first Sorcerer he met was backhanded from his disc, tumbling away like a ragdoll. The next two fell to lethal sword thrusts, their blood puffing out into the void slow clouds. Three more turned their powers upon the Primarch, only to find hexes faltering and hellfires flickering to nothing as the Sisters of Silence joined the fray.
One Sorcerer succeeded in driving his sword through Guilliman's pauldron and drawing the Primarch's blood. Another cracked one eye lens of his helm with a desperate thrust of his stave. No other harm did the Sorcerers cause to the Lord of Ultramar, who passed through them like a storm of death and left all as drifting corpses.
At last the battle was done. The final Rubricae, leaderless and without direction, were cut swiftly to pieces. The whirling storm of moon dust settled as the battle's fury abated. With his loyal warriors kneeling around him and his foes destroyed, Guilliman allowed himself to lean for a moment upon his blade, and to feel the pain of both body and soul.
After the Battle of Luna, matters moved swiftly. Fresh waves of craft descended to scour away the Traitor corpses that littered the region. Inquisitorial agents and teams of Mechanicus Magi Xenotechnologis swarmed the battlefield, the former seeing to matters of containment and secrecy while the latter fell upon the deactivated Webway gate like vultures. Guilliman ignored them all. He allowed the senior Apothecary amongst the Imperial Fists to tend to his most immediate hurts, and then insisted that he and his companions be allowed to press on. None was foolish enough to gainsay a living Primarch -- indeed, few save the Custodes could stop staring in wonderment long enough to communicate with him -- and so Guilliman's demands were soon met.
Down from on high came an enormous lander of remarkable design. Glimmering gold in the harsh light of Sol, the craft resembled the two-headed Imperial Aquila writ large. Gouts of flame leapt from its wings, slowing its descent, and it landed on heavy, taloned struts just beyond the field of battle. More warriors of the Adeptus Custodes strode down the ship's boarding ramp, joining with their battle-scarred comrades and lining the route on board. Guilliman and his surviving warriors passed between them with their heads held high, Space Marines, Grey Knights, and the once-leaders of the Celestinian Crusade marching into the capacious hold of the Aquila craft.
Only once the ramp had whined shut behind them, and oxygen flowed back into the chamber, did the Custodes remove their helms and bow low to Guilliman. As the craft shuddered and lifted off, the Shield-Captain who led them introduced himself as Ty Adronitus, and explained that Guilliman and his warriors would be borne to Terra with all haste. They were to put down at the Eternity Wall spaceport, and from there would travel as part of a triumphant parade to the Imperial Palace. The High Lords of Terra had anticipated the Primarch's desire to stand before the Golden Throne, explained Shield-Captain Adronitus. They would do everything they could to facilitate it, and to fete the living Primarch's return to the Throneworld.
Guilliman approved the arrangements that had been made for him. Though they would have fought on stubbornly until their dying breaths if the situation had demanded it, Guilliman and his warriors were wearied by the constant hardships they had endured since setting out from Macragge. Thus, as the Aquila craft swept up from Luna's surface and away towards Terra, Guilliman and his comrades settled back in flight thrones and simply watched the external picters. Many reflected upon the astronomical losses the Terran Crusade had taken to get the Primarch here, but none could be altogether distracted from the breathtaking sights that slid past.
As the ship rose up away from Luna, the orbital docks and shipyards of the Moon spread out in all their industrial grandeur. Hundreds of voidships, thousands of forges, weapons platforms, grav habs and docking spindles sprawled through the void above the Moon's chalky white surface, while swathes of the Moon itself were carpeted in macrohives and sprawling junk yards like the one the Terran Crusade had so recently fought amidst.
Further out, the void teemed with spacecraft and defences of every sort. Dense minefields filled hundreds of Terran miles of space, every charge crafted to resemble a brushed steel skull. Vast battle stations and deep space weapons platforms hung menacingly, each one a gun-studded cathedrum the size of a city. Immense spacecraft of the Adeptus Ministorum plied the darkness, penitence arks and solar reliquaries dozens of Terran miles long; within those cold, dark halls, the faithful wailed prayers and self-flagellated for the Emperor's glory. System monitors prowled the heavens in vast numbers, swarming like stinging insects around their hive. All were eclipsed in size by the immense, mobile star fort that hung halfway between Terra and Luna, engulfed in repair cradles and servo-armatures. The Imperial Fists' mobile base of operations, the star fort Phalanx, undergoing much-needed repairs, had returned from the Cadia System to watch over the Throneworld like an eagle over its nest.
Far distant, further out towards the Sol System's edge, could be seen the angry red glint of Mars and its attendant orbital platforms, the so-called Ring of Iron. Closer to Terra, Guilliman was disquieted to see the drifting wrecks of warships both Imperial and Traitor being picked over by heavy Adeptus Mechanicus dredgers and scavenger-factorums. The war, it seemed, had reached Humanity's star system of origin before them, and would surely only become worse in the solar days to come.
As they began their final descent, Terra swelled in the picters. It was a bloated giant, its natural resources expended, oceans long boiled away and landmasses covered entirely in never-ending cityscapes. Lights beyond count burned all across the planet's surface, while macrostructures and super-statues pierced the Throneworld's pollution-choked atmosphere. Spaceport spires rose into the darkness amidst swarming masses of cherub-satellites, electro-sermon beacons, Servitor defence platforms and millions of Administratum transport ships.
Their craft swung down through the organised bedlam, its route given the highest priority clearance, and descended into a haze of chem-smog and glaring, artifcial light. Towering structures of grey, gold and brass rose on every side, encrusted with grime-streaked gothic architecture and studded with cold electrical lights. Servo-skulls and Cyber Cherubs, gunships and bulk haulers, transporters and prison barges, patrol ships of the Adeptus Arbites and bell-skiffs of the Ministorum, all whirled around the Aquila craft in a storm. Downward it flew, until the towering, gargoyle-topped spires that rose on every side completely obscured the fading darkness of space.
Finally, Guilliman's transport swung in to dock on a dedicated platform set into the flanks of the Eternity Wall spaceport. It put down upon a dais of age-worn marble, surrounded on all sides by verdigrised and heavily weaponised statues, from which hung burning braziers of incense. Robed figures were gathered on every side to witness and honour the Primarch's arrival. Servo-choirs sung out hymns to the Emperor while autoscribes scribbled with eagle-feather quills in iron tomes borne by chained slaves. Dignitaries of the Administratum and the Adeptus Terra flocked close, mingling with bombastic priests of the Ministorum and Terran nobles garbed in outrageous finery. All bowed to Guilliman as he emerged from the transport, forming the sign of the Aquila with their hands and vying to cry out their devotion the loudest.
The Primarch did his best to smile, and to acknowledge the clamouring masses with dignity and respect. His mind was a whirl -- the last time Guilliman had seen Terra was many thousands of standard years before, and where once there had been industrious, high-technology glory, now all was buried in grotesque layers of gothic over-construction, industrial sprawl and macabre religious ornamentation.
The Primarch's sense of dislocation and sorrow only increased as he and his followers were led through the masses, and descended in mag-lifts to what passed for ground level. They passed through a cavernous space of gloomy Administratum offices, where queues of petitioners stretched away into the hazy middle distance. Men and women, young and old, called out their devotion and wept for joy to see the Primarch pass, yet even his presence could not draw them from their places in queues that their ancestors had first joined, and that their progeny one day aspired to reach the front of.
Guilliman and his warriors, still accompanied by their Custodes guards, emerged from that impossibly vast structure to find themselves in a plaza packed out with droning, shuffling, downtrodden crowds. On every side rose mile-high stained glass windows, each depicting a different Primarch. Guilliman saw Sanguinius, wings spread atop a mountain of mutant corpses. He saw Jaghatai Khan, riding upon a skull-faced comet that sped between the stars. There was brave Vulkan, grasping an impossibly huge hammer as he used a world for his anvil. And there, Guilliman stared up at a distorted image of himself, haloed in light with his Codex Astartes in one hand and the severed head of a horned daemon in the other. He was depicted as a giant amongst worshipping crowds of angelic figures, and for a moment Fulgrim's words to him at the parade on Macragge echoed in Guilliman's mind. All of Humanity would worship him as a living god. Guilliman must never come to believe it himself.
Mounting up in ornate, super-heavy transporters, Guilliman and his companions were borne through endless streets and transit-ways, boulevards and processionals. They passed tribes of itinerant petitioners and clans of indigenous priests, faceless masses of Administratum drones and ragged shanties in which the poor and the maimed crawled like maggots in a wound. Billions watched the procession's progress as they passed through the dark heart of the Emperor's realm. The mountainous structures of the Imperial Palace loomed ever larger upon the horizon, a vast structure from which could be seen the cloud-piercing light of the Astronomican itself. For two solar days, Guilliman and his followers travelled through endless crowds and places of grandeur and grim horror.
They crossed a vast bridge that spanned for fifty Terran miles over a smog-laden trench, whose walls were formed from manufactoria and smelteries beyond count.
They travelled beneath the titanic guns of orbital defence silos that dwarfed any weapon even Guilliman had ever seen.
At last they passed into the palace proper, by way of a dizzyingly tall gate graven with warring angels and daemons. There they dismounted their lumbering transports, and Guilliman was glad to proceed on foot through the precincts of the Inner Palace. More gates and splendour flowed past, so much that it all blurred into an impossible assault upon the senses. At last, feeling more exhausted by his homecoming than he ever had by any battle, Guilliman came before the final gate. Beyond that expansive arch lay the Emperor's throne room, and there, the Golden Throne of the Master of Mankind.
Before the Golden Throne
There were many routes to the Emperor's throne room. This gilded doorway stood at the end of a towering cathedrum processional. Its worn flagstones thronged with millions of desperate petitioners and pilgrims. Golden light filtered through immense stained glass windows that depicted the Emperor's greatest deeds. Innumerable candles burned in that cavernous space, filling the air with greasy smoke, and hymnals rang from the mouths of hunched cyber-cherubim. Incense billowed and bells tolled, while Ministorum Priests delivered wrathful sermons from servo-pulpits. Throngs of Tech-priests muttered and swayed in shadowed corners. Officers of the Imperial Navy and Astra Militarum spoke earnestly together, gesturing to dataslates held up by robed menials. Penitent nobles dangled in golden pain-cages, whimpering promised blandishments to the Custodian Guards who walked their patrol routes below.
The doorway itself was beautifully worked in gold, bronze and precious stones, though it had the look of ancient, faded grandeur. It stood fifty Terran feet high within an arch of black marble, atop a flight of stone steps into which deep grooves had been worn by the passage of countless feet. The edges of each step were piled with petitioners' bones. Atop the steps stood twenty of the Adeptus Custodes. They were accompanied by a Martian Tech-priest, and led by a regal warrior in a high-plumed helm, golden armour and an ermine-trimmed cloak.
Roboute Guilliman strode up the processional, through masses of pilgrims and petitioners who reached out quivering hands to touch his armour as he passed. With him walked Captain Cato Sicarius, Grand Master Aldrik Voldus, Shield-Captain Adronitus, and the mysterious Cypher and his Battle-Brothers, along with Belisarius Cawl, Katarinya Greyfax and Saint Celestine. This last figure was scarcely less adored by the crowds than Guilliman himself, and she turned aside before the steps to offer her blessings to all. Behind them marched the last Battle-Brothers of the Terran Crusade, footfalls crashing and weapons held at parade ground readiness. Despite all they had endured, the Space Marines and Grey Knights still made for a magnificent sight.
Guilliman halted at the foot of the stairs, and looked up into the steely eyes of the Custodians. Their leader stepped forward, rapping his ornate spear thrice against the top step and announcing himself as Aquila Commander Kalim Varanor. In formal High Gothic, Varanor asked who came before the throne room of the Emperor of Mankind.
Equally formal, Shield-Captain Adronitus announced the leaders of the Terran Crusade, one by one. Further words were exchanged, ancient forms repeated by rote, but lent gravitas by the arrival of a living Primarch. Guilliman's purpose was demanded and given: to gain an audience with his father, the Emperor. The air thickened with tension, millions of onlookers holding their collective breaths as the Aquila Commander held the gaze of the returned Primarch. Would Kalim Varanor suspect some treachery? Would he decry Guilliman as false, or demand further proof of his identity?
The Aquila Commander looked to the Martian priest hunched at Guilliman's side. The robed figure inclined its head in assent, and Varanor announced his verdict. The Primarch would be permitted to pass, alone, into the throne room. All others would wait outside.
At this, Cypher stiffened, his hands straying towards his holstered pistols. Guilliman had expected this moment, and had planned for it accordingly. The hooded Dark Angel and his men had upheld their end of the bargain, granting Guilliman his freedom on the Blackstone Fortress. Yet the Primarch was not fool enough to trust such an ominous figure blindly. He might not have recognised Cypher, but he knew the blade on the Dark Angel's back. The sight of it made him shudder with dread. He would not permit such a thing into his father's presence.
Stepping aside, Guilliman commanded the Custodian Guards to apprehend Cypher and his warriors. Their presence was a riddle, one that could be solved once more pressing matters had been attended to.
Cypher responded with the first show of emotion any there had seen from him. He snarled in anger, ripping his pistols from their holsters before hesitating for one crucial moment, visibly torn between attempting escape and making a doomed lunge for the doorway above. In that second, the Custodians closed in with their Guardian Spears levelled. Cypher and his followers found themselves surrounded in a ring of crackling blades. Slowly, his half-seen expression grim, Cypher holstered his weapons, and he and his brothers knelt in submission before their captors.
Wrists bound with electrocuffs, they were led away by stern Custodians and locked away within a warded prison block that, for thousands of standard years, not a single inmate had escaped. In just a few short solar hours, however, Cypher would do just that, and in doing so leave no trace of his passing. For the moment, though, Guilliman knew only that the sinister figures were dealt with, and more pressing matters could be attended to. Face solemn, blade sheathed and helm tucked under one arm, the Primarch ascended to his father's throne room.
At the top of the steps, the Custodian Guards parted to allow the Primarch passage. The Tech-priest stepped forward, however, emitting a blurt of binharic cant and bowing before Guilliman. With skittering haste, Archmagos Belisarius Cawl swayed up the steps behind the Primarch and came to his side. Guilliman waited, impatient, as the two Martian priests exchanged encoded binharic blurts, then Cawl turned to him and spoke cryptic words. Only the Custodes heard what was said, of secret pacts on Mars, and long works drawing at last to their conclusions, but -- as with so many dark secrets exchanged over the millennia upon these very steps -- they affected deafness and ignorance.
Their exchange concluded, Cawl turned without comment and swept down the steps, his acolyte in tow. The Tech-priests vanished through the crowd and thence from Terra entirely, for they had matters of significant import to attend to upon the Red Planet.
Guilliman was left standing alone before the ornate doorway, dwarfed by its immensity. A single, booming chime rang through the cathedrum processional, and a collective sigh of wonder and fear escaped the pilgrims gathered there as the doorway cracked open. Slowly, silently, the tall doors swung inwards to reveal only darkness and drifting mists beyond. The vapours twined about Guilliman's limbs like serpents, and spilled down the steps behind him amidst the faint echo of sorrowful, ghostly voices. Noble features set in an implacable mask, Guilliman took a slow, deep breath and stepped into the Emperor's throne room.
As silently as they had opened, the doors swept closed behind him, and Roboute Guilliman was lost to sight.
Solar hours passed, during which the warriors of the Terran Crusade stood silently to attention before the throne room doors. Awed murmuring amongst the crowds turned to fervent prayer, and more than one petitioner ventured forward to present Captain Cato Sicarius, Grand Master Aldrik Voldus and their brothers with meagre devotional offerings and words of thanks. Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax chose this moment to depart, the former to spread her blessings, and the latter to report to her Ordo Hereticus superiors for the first time in many standard centuries.
The Imperial Palace had no natural cycles of night and day, the sky of Terra long lost amidst a miasma of artificial light and swirling pollutant clouds. Instead, the electrosconces and lumenchandeliers dimmed low at the tap of Lamp-servitors' wands. The petitioners huddled around parchment fires, still intoning prayers for the Primarch as they forced down the bowls of nutrient gruel brought to them by Ministorum Alms-servitors. Many lay down upon piles of threadbare surplices to sleep, while the Ultramarines kept their tireless vigil at the base of the steps as they waited for their gene-sire to return to them.
Only when the day cycle dawned again with soaring hymns and a swelling glare of lumen-light did the doors finally swing open. Glowing mist spilled from within, silver now like the cold shimmer of moonlight on bones, and from the cold radiance stepped Roboute Guilliman.
The Primarch's expression was unreadable as he strode down the steps to rejoin his warriors. The crowds cried out in awe and dread, begging the Primarch for enlightenment. Instead, Guilliman gathered his warriors around him, and bade Aquila Commander Varanor to attend him also. Guilliman demanded an immediate assembly of the High Lords of Terra, stating that he intended to resume his seat upon that august council. Roboute Guilliman would become the Lord Commander of the Imperium of Mankind once more. Of his meeting with the Emperor, Guilliman would say only that he had received all the enlightenment that he required.
There was much now to be done, for the threat of Chaos grew greater by the solar hour. But Guilliman knew what must be done, and he would not shy from doing it.
In the solar days that followed, the Primarch became the centre of a whirlwind of activity. He addressed the High Lords in the Senatorum Imperialis, claiming the Emperor's personal mandate as he forcibly removed several of them from office and replaced them with individuals of his own choosing. Guilliman warned the High Lords of an encroaching darkness, a terrible Warp phenomenon that was even now manifesting itself across the galaxy from end to end. The war against the Dark Gods was entering a new phase, more desperate and doom-laden than ever before in human history. The Great Rift was opening.
The ever-growing flood of astropathic distress calls reaching Terra supported the Primarch's warnings. Cadia had been only the beginning. From the ravaged Fenris Sector and Ork-infested Armageddon, to the systems of Attila and Balor -- all felt the grasping claws of Chaos. New Warp rifts were splitting the void in terrifying number, while existing Warp phenomena roiled outwards like the pyroclastic clouds of volcanic eruptions. Witch-lights swam between the stars, and monstrous things moved behind the veil of reality, all gnashing fangs and glaring eyes.
Whole sectors of the Imperium were going dark, while others reported the onslaught of rabid Greenskin hordes, aggressive Tau fleets or deathless Necron hosts, seemingly driven to conquest in the face of the expanding Warp Storm fronts. Heretic Chaos Cults and rogue psykers rose up in their billions, and every Imperial world now seemed set to burn in the fires of unending galactic war.
For all these disturbing omens and disastrous losses, Guilliman urged Humanity's leaders not to give up hope. The Emperor of the Imperium was not blind to their plight, and neither was its restored Lord Commander.
New armies would be raised, in breathtaking numbers. From Belisarius Cawl's forges on Mars, Guilliman planned to bring forth new and terrible weapons whose fury even the worshippers of the Chaos Gods would be unable to withstand. Fresh fleets would be built, grand war engines consecrated in the Emperor's holy name. The manufactoria would labour like never before, and every single servant of the Emperor would do their part. The Imperium faced total war on a galactic scale; with Warp Storms spreading and intensifying, no world was safe. Yet Humanity would not drown in this tide of warfare, but instead would ride upon the crest of a bloody wave to triumph once more against the darkness.
Roboute Guilliman vowed that he would not cower behind Terra's walls and wait for Mankind's oppressors to bring death to his door. He would stride out amongst the stars and meet the enemy in the Emperor's name, as he always had. The Imperium would unite as one in the face of mutual annihilation, and take the battle to the mutant, the Traitor, the alien and the Heretic. So commanded Roboute Guilliman and thus, even as the Warp Storms raged and the Astronomican itself strove to pierce their ever-blackening clouds, vast armies and armadas were raised in numbers not seen since the Great Crusade that had founded the Imperium ten millennia before. A dark new age called from amidst the fires of endless war, and the Imperium of Man would answer.
The long-feared End Times had indeed come to claim Mankind. But Roboute Guilliman, the Avenging Son, was ready to move the stars themselves to ensure that, perhaps, they birthed a new beginning.
For ten millennia, the Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl had been working on a task set for him by Guilliman before he was mortally wounded by the Daemon Primarch Fulgrim in the days after the Horus Heresy: a new legion of transhuman warriors. In the days after the Terran Crusade, though the Imperium was poised on the brink of annihilation at the hands of Chaos, his task was at last completed.
The Primaris Space Marines are a new breed of transhuman warriors developed across the span of ten standard millennia by Cawl on Mars. Cawl used the genetic template of the original Space Marines created by the Emperor for His Great Crusade as the starting point for the development of the new Astartes. The Primaris Space Marines are bigger, more physically powerful and possess faster reaction times than their original Astartes counterparts.
The Primaris Space Marines are new heroes for this, the darkest age in the Imperium of Man's history. These warriors were the next step in the evolution of the Emperor's Angels of Death, and were timely reinforcements for the Imperium's armies as their enemies closed in for the kill in the wake of Abaddon the Despoiler's 13th Black Crusade and the birth of the Great Rift dividing the Imperium in two.
To aid them in battle, these gene-forged warriors were equipped with new arms and armour forged on Mars itself, such as the Mark X Tacticus Pattern Power Armour worn by the Primaris Space Marine Intercessors, which combined the most effective elements of ancestral Horus Heresy patterns of battle-plate with more recent developments in Power Armour technology; the Mark II Cawl Pattern Bolt Rifle, the archetypal firearm of the Adeptus Astartes, now re-engineered, re-crafted and perfected, and the new Redemptor Dreadnoughts.
At the dawn of the Indomitus Crusade called by Guilliman to throw back the Forces of Chaos, these phenomenal new warriors joined the Lord Commander of the Imperium as he fought to liberate the scattered bastions of the Imperium. Some, Guilliman forged into new Space Marine Chapters, whole brotherhoods comprised only of these new transhuman warriors. Others he offered to the existing Space Marine Chapters. Many Chapter Masters welcomed their Primaris brethren into their ranks, accepting the new reinforcements gladly. Others, though, viewed these new creations with suspicion or outright hostility, claiming that the Emperor's work should never have been meddled with by mere mortals.
Though they are a step removed from their brothers, the Primaris Space Marines still bear the gene-seed of their Primarchs, and some dissenting voices worry how this new type of warrior will react with the known genetic quirks and flaws of some of the more unusual Chapters, such as the Blood Angels and the Space Wolves.
But before the Crusade could begin, Guilliman would be forced to defend the homeworld of Mankind for the second time from the Forces of Chaos during the Second Battle of Terra. As the first Warp Storms of the Noctis Aeterna broke over Holy Terra in the wake of the Great Rift's birth, its pollution-filled skies turned a roiling crimson. Khorne, heedless of the plans of his brothers and hungry to prove his superiority, sent forth eighty-eight cohorts of his daemon legions to assault the Imperial Palace. The Blood God wanted the glory of tearing down the Golden Throne for himself, and so the skies of Terra congealed into bloodclouds that deployed the Red Host directly before the Lion's Gate.
The gun batteries of the Imperial Palace are second to none, yet they alone could not halt this red tide. Led by Roboute Guilliman, the Primaris Space Marines, Adeptus Custodes and Sisters of Silence fought side by side. Although the rash Chaos assault was turned back and broken long before it could reach the Eternity Gate to the Inner Palace, the High Lords of Terra were shaken at the boldness of the foe. Without the beam of the Astronomican, their arcane machinery and protective devices were not enough to halt the fell powers from materialising even on Holy Terra. Khorne, upon receiving the returning forms of his slain, grew so apoplectic in his rage that his fortress in the Realm of Chaos trembled. So great was the heat from his outburst that the essences of the eight Bloodthirsters that led the failed attack were wholly obliterated.
After his defence of Holy Terra, Roboute Guilliman gathered a new armada that he named the Indomitus Crusade, the largest concentration of Imperial military forces seen since the original Great Crusade over ten thousand standard years before. Along with elements of the Adeptus Custodes, a small contingent of the Silent Sisterhood, and a vast war host of Primaris Space Marines from many newly founded Chapters and the 9 Legions of the Unnumbered Sons, the Primarch set a winding course. Strike forces from over a dozen pre-existing Chapters of Space Marines, led by the Imperial Fists, joined the fleet.
Thus began many new legends as Guilliman travelled to aid beleaguered planets, breaking sieges and sweeping away Chaos and xenos invaders alike to bring hope back to the desperate defenders. Among the many worlds aided by the Crusade was Baal, the homeworld of the Blood Angels Chapter, which had come under assault by Hive Fleet Leviathan. During the so-called Devastation of Baal, the fleet of the Crusade arrived in orbit of Baal after the Warp Storms had already consumed the bulk of the Hive Fleet. The Imperial reinforcements aided the Blood Angels in cleansing Baal of all remaining trace of the xenos before helping them rebuild, for the strength of the Blood Angels and their Successor Chapters were sorely needed elsewhere in the beleaguered Imperium.
It was not long before word began to spread, as all those planets that could still receive astropathic messages hailed the return of a hero out of myth. Once more, one of the demigods of the past fought for the Imperium of Mankind. The Indomitus Crusade would reach its end over a century into the 42nd Millennium at the Battle of Raukos. Afterwards, Guilliman would turn his attention to helping his Realm of Ultramar defeat the forces of the Death Guard Traitor Legion and the servants of Nurgle in the Plague Wars.
After the birth of the Great Rift at the climax of the 13th Black Crusade fractured the Imperium of Man in half, Ultramar came under assault by the servants of the Plague God Nurgle, who had decided to add the whole of Ultramar to his Garden in the Realm of Chaos. Three star systems to the galactic north of Ultramar, the so-called Scourge Stars, were corrupted by the influence of Nurgle and its planets were transformed into staging grounds for the invasion of Guilliman's stellar empire.
The worlds of Ultramar were attacked from within and without by Nurgle's forces, including an invasion led by the Daemon Primarch Mortarion and his Death Guard Traitor Legion and the daemonic legions of Ku'Gath, a Great Unclean One. These so-called "Plague Wars" lasted for solar decades, until following the official conclusion of the Indomitus Crusade at the Battle of Raukos in 111.M42, Roboute Guilliman, now the ruling Lord Commander of the Imperium, finally arrived with reinforcements to aid his beleaguered home.
Mortarion's already large invasion force, bolstered by mutants and Chaos Cultists from the Scourge Stars, was accompanied by Typhus and his Plague Fleet alongside a Great Unclean One named Ku'Gath who led a host of 7 Greater Daemons of Nurgle called the "Plague Guard". Their strategy concentrated on taking and holding a few of Ultramar's major worlds such as Iax, Espandor and Konor. The Nurglites only launched smaller raids on the more minor worlds of the sub-sector, always withdrawing before any Ultramarines Astartes were deployed.
The Espandor System was the first to come under siege. All the worlds in the system other than Espandor itself fell to the Forces of Chaos; the Ultramarines bitterly contested Espandor Prime until they were later relieved. One of the Greater Daemons of the Plague Guard, Qaramas, lead this attack, and his partial conquest of the Espandor System prepared the way for the rest of the Nurglite invasion fleet to surge into Ultramar.
Iax was overrun by the daemons of Nurgle led by Ku'Gath as the bulk of the invasion force came to bear upon it. It had been converted into a so-called "Hospital World" earlier in the conflict to deal with the spread of Nurgle's pathogenic "gifts" across the sub-sector and was therefore susceptible to infiltration by the heralds of Nurgle despite its stringent quarantine measures. Iax would serve as the base of operations for the Nurglite conquest of Ultramar as Mortarion, the Death Guard and the rest of the Plague Guard ultimately concentrated their forces there late in the conflict.
Macragge suffered from bouts of Chaos-induced unrest as Mortarion led probing attacks on the Ultramarines homeworld. While this did not lead to any widespread destruction or damage to critical facilities, these incidents caused a drop in civilian morale and forced the Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar to waste precious time and resources on peacekeeping missions and displays of force to shore up the morale and confidence of Maccrage's suffering civilians.
Typhus and his Plague Fleet overran and captured one of Ultramar's star forts. He was later directed by Mortarion to attack the Ultramarines training world of Parmenio.
Konor came under assault by the forces of the Death Guard, their objective to conquer the crucial system and use it as a springboard for a final attack on Macragge itself.
At the end of the Indomitus Crusade, Guilliman announced his intention to return to his home realm with thousands of Primaris Space Marine reinforcements and drive back the Chaos assault. First, he cleansed the Hive World of Ardium in the Maccrage System of its Death Guard occupiers. In the course of that operation he learned that Mortarion was using the ancient artefact known as the Hand of Darkness to craft Plague Engines that were re-animating the dead and turning them into Plague Zombies. Guilliman destroyed the Plague Engine on Ardium and freed the world from the influence of Nurgle.
His next destination was Maccrage itself, his ancient homeworld. He and his Astartes reinforcements, including the Primaris Marines, brought much-needed relief to the weary populace and defenders. Arriving on Maccrage, Guilliman announced that he had made a grave mistake when he had allowed the official borders of Ultramar to shrink so drastically in the days after the Horus Heresy because of his belief that the Space Marines should not rule over large swathes of Mankind. Instead, he reestablished the ancient ruling Tetrarch Council for Ultramar, and tasked its newly-appointed four Tetrarchs, including his Primaris Space Marine Equerry Captain Decimus Felix and the Ultramarines First Captain Severus Agemman, with beginning to expand the territories of Ultramar to include all of the star systems that had once comprised the Five Hundred Worlds.
After taking stock of the dire situation, Guilliman reorganised the Ultramarines and their mortal auxilia and launched a large-scale counterattack against the invaders. Several Ultramarines Successor Chapters also joined the fight at their Primarch's behest, their Chapter fleets engaging the Death Guard and doing their best to keep Ultramar's shipping lanes and supply lines to the broader Imperium safe and secure.
Guilliman first set his eyes on the Espandor System as part of what he named his "Spear of Espandor" campaign, because it served as the main supply line for the Death Guard invasion from the Scourge Stars. He retook each of the lost worlds in the system and destroyed the Plague Engines that were raising the endless tide of Plague Zombies on each of its worlds. After a ferocious battle in which the Ultramarines Chapter found itself fighting side-by-side with their Primaris Astartes brethren for the first time, the forces of Nurgle were routed from Espandor. Guilliman decisively ended the battle by slaying the Great Unclean One Qaramas with the Emperor's Sword and destroying the last Plague Engine in the system. The Espandor System had been cleansed of the taint of the Plague God and the forces of Nurgle were now cut off from their base in the Scourge Stars.
With their supply lines to the Scourge Stars cut, their Plague Engines disappearing and slowly eliminating the constant tide of undead reinforcements, and new Imperial reinforcements pouring into Ultramar with each passing solar day, Mortarion found himself on the wrong side of what had become a war of attrition. Guilliman had successfully cut the Death Guard off from resupply and would now proceed to cut their forces to pieces, one system at a time. With this in mind, Mortarion decided to throw all his remaining forces at a single target in the hopes of reversing the tide.
Maccrage was still too heavily defended for the forces of Nurgle to carry out a successful assault, so Mortarion decided that the Plague God's servants would target the Ultramarines training world of Parmenio. This battle saw the biggest armoured clash between the Chaos and Imperial forces during the war. The largest star fort in Ultramar, Galatan, attempted to provide support but was engaged by Typhus' Plague Fleet and was boarded by a contingent of Traitor Marines, leading to the death of the Novamarines' Chapter Master Bardan Dovaro in the vicious fighting. On the surface of Parmenio, however, the Ultramarines slowly gained the upper hand. Guilliman killed Ku'Gath's lieutenant, Septicus, and shattered his daemonic Plague Guard, an action that finally gave the Emperor's servants the upper hand in the conflict. With the campaign at last in hand, Guilliman turned to the hunt for his traitorous brother.
Guilliman then finally led a relief force to benighted Iax. Having not discovered Mortarion leading his forces on either Parmenio or Espandor, the Lord Commander of the Imperium was determined to hunt down his traitorous brother once and for all.
The climactic battle of the conflict took place on Iax, where Guilliman and Mortarion personally fought each other to a brutal stalemate amongst the ruins of the Hospital World. In the wake of this battle, as the Nurglite forces in Ultramar continued to lose ground on every front, Mortarion and the Death Guard were summoned back to the Scourge Stars, for Nurgle's outpost in realspace had come under assault from the forces of Khorne in what would become the War in the Rift, another campaign in the endless Great Game between the Ruinous Powers as they maneuvered for advantage against each other. The Death Guard withdrew from Iax under the cover of a Virus Bomb attack on the Imperial forces and Nurgle's remaining servants ultimately retreated from Ultramar, but the threat of a renewed attack from the Scourge Stars was now a persistent threat.
- Armour of Reason - Known in the legends of his Legion as the "ever-reforged" armour, it was said that Roboute Guilliman himself had this set of Artificer Armour remade and adapted countless times if ever a flaw or weakness was discovered in battle, and at various times the artisanship both of Mars and his fellow Primarchs Vulkan and Perturabo influenced its design in the days before the sundering of the Imperium in the fires of the Heresy.
- Gladius Incandor and the Hand of Dominion - As with many of his brother Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman possessed a vast selection of weapons and wargear, both to wield on the battlefield as desire and need dictated, and in Guilliman's case also to study and contemplate, so that his arts of war and that of his Legion could be continuously honed and improved. Perhaps the most iconic of these arms were the Power Fist known as the Hand of Dominion and the glittering master-crafted Power Sword known as the Gladius Incandor. These were not merely weapons of surpassing quality, but symbols for the Ultramarines Legion of its master's might and authority.
- The Arbitrator - One of Roboute Guilliman's favoured side arms when in open battle was a heavily customised Combi-Bolter which he was able to wield as deftly as one of his Astartes might handle a pistol. Dubbed by him the Arbitrator for the matters it settled, it was tooled to tolerances beyond any but the Archmagi of the Mechanicum could fathom, while its bolt shells were hand-crafted by the finest Ordnancer-wrights of the XIII Legion's forges and fitted with micro-atomantic compression warheads.
- Cognis Signum - The Cognis Signum was an advanced array of sensory devices, Cogitator-assisted communications, and telemetry arrays built into the suit of Power Armour worn by the Primarch by the Mechanicum, and was similar to those used in its own Thallax cybernetic warriors.
- Frag Grenades - The Primarch always made sure to keep several of the simple, but effective, Frag Grenades on his person for use where appropriate during battle.
- Armour of Fate - Crafted by the armourers of the Adeptus Mechanicus, its inner workings enhanced with advanced life-sustaining technologies, this glorious suit of highly advanced and unique Artificer Armour fits Guilliman perfectly, and protects him from even the most dolorous of blows.
- The Emperor's Sword - This famed sword was wielded by the Emperor Himself during the Great Crusade and was passed on to Guilliman after he assumed the mantle of Lord Commander of the Imperium. Touched by the Emperor's own psychic might, this finely wrought, master-crafted blade is lit from hilt to tip with leaping flames. When it is swung, the burning blade draws pyrotechnic arcs through the air, able to slice through the stoutest of armour with ease.
- Hand of Dominion - A more advanced version of the mighty powered gauntlet worn by Guilliman during the Horus Heresy, this godly Power Fist not only allows the Primarch to crush the life from his foes like its original incarnation, but to annihilate them in storms of armour-piercing gunfire with its built-in Bolter.
- Iron Halo - The Iron Halo is a halo-shaped ring that is positioned above the head of the wielder, usually mounted on the backpack of Space Marine Power Armour but sometimes mounted in the gorget. The Iron Halo is a prestigious honour that is granted only to the most exceptional of the Astartes within a Space Marine Chapter as a reward for uncommon initiative and valour. It is most often worn by the Chapter's Captains and Chapter Master, though Veteran Astartes and Sergeants can also earn the right to add it to their armour in certain circumstances. The Iron Halo appears to share the same basic technological mechanisms as the Space Marine Chaplain's Rosarius, as they both produce a protective effect using gravitic and now poorly-understood Conversion Field technology. Guilliman wears a specially-crafted Iron Halo whose protective field has been resized for his greater height and mass than a normal Astartes.
- 13th Black Crusade
- Ultramar Campaign
- Terran Crusade
- Primaris Space Marines
- Indomitus Crusade
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 7-9, 12-15, 24, 84
- Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition), pg. 36
- Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pp. 4, 7-9, 11-13, 15
- Dark Imperium (Novel) by Guy Haley, Chs. 10, 17, 20
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 53-54, 200
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 67-73
- Horus Heresy - Volume II: Visions of Darkness
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
- Index Astartes III, "Warriors of Ultramar - The Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter"
- Insignium Astartes: The Uniforms and Regalia of the Space Marines
- The Horus Heresy - Book Five: Tempest (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 70-82, 96-99, 238-239
- Gathering Storm - Part Three - Rise of the Primarch (7th Edition), pp. 4-93
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 50-53, 154-159, 167
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 161, 187, 403
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 134
- White Dwarf 264 (AU), "Index Astartes - Ultramarines"
- White Dwarf 263 (US), "Index Astartes - First Founding: Warriors of Ultramar - The Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter", pp. 18-25
- White Dwarf 97 (US), "Index Astartes - Ultramarines" by David Wise & Rick Priestley, pp. 39-49
- Defenders of Ultramar (Graphic Novel) by Graham McNeill, Issue 1, pg. 5
- The First Hertic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Age of Darkness (Anthology) edited by Christian Dunn, "Rules of Engagement" by Graham McNeill
- Know No Fear (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Betrayer (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar (Novel) by David Annandale
- Forge World - Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines
- Warhammer Community - A New Breed of Hero
- Warhammer Community - Primaris Space Marines: FAQ.
- Warhammer Community - Black Library Live: The Big Reveals
|Horus • Leman Russ • Lost Primarchs • Ferrus Manus • Fulgrim • Vulkan • Rogal Dorn • Roboute Guilliman • Magnus the Red • Sanguinius • Lion El'Jonson • Perturabo • Mortarion • Lorgar • Jaghatai Khan • Konrad Curze • Angron • Corvus Corax • Alpharius Omegon|