The assault upon Talledus came entirely without warning, and the system's significant Astra Militarum presence was left reeling before the Chaos onslaught. On the surface of Benediction, a makeshift coalition of shattered Astra Militarum regiments fell back to the Grand Honorificum cathedral city, there uniting under the command of Canoness Serita of the Order of Our Martyred Lady.
The Imperial Navy Battlefleets Ios and Cemeres -- orbiting the bastion world of Ghreddask prior to the assault -- suffered terrible losses as they attempted short-range Warp jumps to the embattled system capital planet. Warp interference claimed the lives of dozens of Navigators, their skulls bursting in a shower of bone and gore, unable to contain the magnitude of the Night Lords' corrupted signal. Others felt themselves inexorably drawn towards the psychic scream of desperation.
On all fronts the Chaos forces surged forward, their momentum terrifying to behold. Upon the surface of Benediction itself, the Word Bearers -- under the direction of Kor Phaeron -- committed terrible atrocities and mass executions, weakening the fragile membrane between reality and the Warp.
Within the Sanctum Solaris, at the heart of the Grand Honorificum, more than ten thousand priests, acolytes and non-militant Sororitas gathered in communal prayer, not moving, eating or taking water for solar days, even as the guns of the Word Bearers thundered relentlessly. They prayed to the God-Emperor for salvation and the light of their faith was a furious beacon, visible from far across the cold blackness of space.
Just as the hour seemed darkest, the Honorificum's long-range prognosticator arrays picked up a surge of activity on the coreward edge of the Talledus System. At first it was feared that this new presence was merely another fleet of Chaos warships, but a macroencoded Vox transmission from the Strike Cruiser Fulminating Hammer brought the first signs of hope to the beleaguered defenders of Benediction; Captain Mir'san of the Salamanders Chapter had heard the pleas of the faithful, and led a spearhead of Adeptus Astartes warriors to the defence of Talledus.
At his ritual site on the banks of the River Carmine, within an eight-pointed star of Chaos made up of the bloodied corpses of saints and warriors, Kor Phaeron saw the arrival of the Imperial warfleet. Such a response had been expected, of course, and the appropriate preparations had been made.
As far as Phaeron was concerned, it was all the better that the Corpse Emperor's lapdogs were here to witness the brutal fall of Benediction.
The Word Bearers converged upon the Talledan capital world of Benediction with the full fury of their blasphemous hosts, unleashing hordes of ravening daemons and frenzied cultists upon the unprepared Shrine World. Yet Benediction was not without formidable champions of its own.
The fury of the Word Bearers' assault brought terror to the surface of Benediction. Dreadclaws punched through the stained armaglass ceilings of mausoleums and devotional halls, and access hatches slammed down to reveal warriors in blood-red, antique Power Armour. Scraps of parchment scrawled with profane runes dangled from their battle-plate and their eyes blazed with conviction.
These killers marched beneath the banners of the Dark Gods, bellowing catechisms of hate as their Bolters unleashed a hail of devastation upon the world's overwhelmed Astra Militarum garrison. The Ghreddask Illuminators 37th Armoured and 101st Infantry Regiments -- whose impressive battle record had granted them the honour of maintaining a permanent guard over the Honorificum -- were taken entirely by surprise at the speed and brutality of the assault.
Worse still, hidden Chaos Cults emerged to throw themselves upon the defenders, spilling from the planet's underwarrens in their millions to join their masters in sacred battle. In little more than half a solar day, the grounds surrounding the Honorificum complex were in Chaos hands. Amidst the shattered skeletons of cathedrums and shrines, rituals of mass sacrifice and slaughter were being performed on an industrial scale as the Word Bearers sought to draw forth daemonic reinforcements.
Kor Phaeron himself oversaw these occult ceremonies, even as batteries of corrupted artillery hurled a ceaseless barrage of Warp-laden shells into the psy-tech force field that surrounded the Honorificum.
Captain Mir'san's demi-company of Salamanders was greatly outnumbered by the Word Bearers host. The sons of Vulkan nonetheless went about their craft with stoic efficiency, clearing a beachhead amidst the mausoleum complexes of the Honorificum's outer grounds with flame-spewing Aggressors and Devastator Centurions.
Captain Mir'san desired to dictate and confine the flow of battle by harrying the main concentration of the enemy, attempting to draw them into diverting their strength to engage the Salamanders. In this way further civilian casualties could be lessened, and the Space Marines could bear the brunt of the assault.
However, attempts to reinforce the eastern flank of the Loyalist defenders were driven back by kill-packs of Possessed Heretic Astartes warriors and a fresh surge of cultist forces. Kor Phaeron would not take Captain Mir'san's proffered bait; the Grand Honorificum remained his focus, for with its fall the Dark Cardinal would deal a mortal blow to the Imperial faith.
Although they were sorely pressed, the warriors of the Order of Our Martyred Lady defended the four great bridges leading to the heart of the Honorificum with stubborn resolve. Warriors clad in obsidian Power Armour sang hymnals to the saints of Benediction and to their beloved God-Emperor as they fired back against the blasphemous horde.
Exorcist tanks sang, unleashing spiralling volleys of sacred rockets that pulverised entire formations of Heretic invaders. The roar of Heavy Flamers and the thunderous bark of Godwyn-D'eaz Pattern Bolters formed a deafening percussion to accompany the psalms of the faithful.
It was a brave and spirited defence, but it could not last. The blood of thousands of flayed Ecclesiarchy priests spilled into the crystal waters of the River Carmine as Kor Phaeron's rituals came to a gruesome crescendo. As the river turned crimson, it began to bubble and boil with motion.
Hideous shapes crawled from the corrupted waters, wielding brazen blades and howling in savage delight. The River Carmine itself broke its banks and surged forward towards the psy-shield of the Grand Honorificum. A tidal wave of superheated gore swallowed hundreds of Battle-Sisters and guardsmen, and turned battle tanks and artillery emplacements alike into iron slurry.
The moment it struck the shimmering shield of the Honorificum, the defences of the great cathedrum fizzled and died. The way to the heart of Benediction was open and Kor Phaeron led his warriors forth with bellowing praises to the Dark Gods, they themselves taken aback by the sheer potency of their Warpcraft. Breaches in reality torn open by ritual and incantation continued to grow, drawing forth not just hordes of minor daemonic entities, but the leathery, batwinged shapes of Greater Daemons.
Bolts of summoned Warp energy erupted into coruscating fireballs, and in the heat of battle several Word Bearers fell, convulsing as hungering mouths and other strange mutations burst through their skin and ceramite. Entire districts of Benediction were overrun, and daemons spilled into the halls of the Grand Honorificum itself, where the Sisters of Battle staged a desperate, room-by-room stand.
Miracle of the Saint's Wall
With the collapse of the last bastion between the Word Bearers and the heart of Benediction, the battle for the capital world of the Talledus System seemed decided. Yet Canoness Serita and her warriors refused to give in to despair. They fought with selfless dedication and fury, striking out with gun butts, blades and Chainswords when ammunition ran dry. Those who looked upon this valorous stand were filled with a holy fire.
Civilians and cosseted ministers alike took up weapons against the forces of Chaos. At first, the Word Bearers and their daemonic allies laughed at such pitiful defiance. Yet, as the blood of the faithful spilled, spears of golden light broke through the stained armaglass windows of the Honorificum. As the prayers of the God-Emperor's servants echoed over screams and gunfire it seemed, to astonished onlookers, that the dead souls of Benediction arose to protect the living.
Golden, skull-faced spirits swept forth from ancient tombs and reliquaries, rising high into the heavens to encircle the Grand Honorificum. These manifestations formed a shield of impassable light, a radiant halo that filled the faithful who looked upon it with renewed hope. Daemons and Heretics that attempted to force their way through this aegis of faith were burned to ashes.
Even the Word Bearers' artillery could not force a breach in the shield. Where the golden light of what was later remembered as the "Saint's Wall" shone, the barrier between reality and the nightmare realm of the Warp was remade.
Kor Phaeron could only look on in fury as great swathes of the daemonic army he had summoned disintegrated back into nothingness, howling in impotent rage as their connection to the material realm was severed.
Inspired by the bizarre phenomenon they had witnessed, Mir'san's Salamanders launched fresh assaults on the advance formations of the Word Bearers, breaking through to the bridge over the River Carmine and cutting the Heretic force in two.
The battle for Benediction had not been decided by any measure, but the momentum of the Word Bearers' assault had been repelled, and the Grand Honorificum remained in Loyalist hands. Still, the Dark Cardinal had no intention of retreating, not with Benediction so nearly in his grasp.
- Psychic Awakening - Faith & Fury (8th Edition), pp. 13-15