- "If one wishes to go unseen by devils, one should not place their faith in angels."
The Signus Campaign, also known in some records as the Battle of Signus Prime, was a major Imperial military action conducted at the close of the Great Crusade and the start of the Horus Heresy in ca. 005-006.M31 by the Blood Angels Legion to cleanse the Signus Cluster -- a trinary star system of the Segmentum Ultima near to the galactic centre. The Primarch Sanguinius' IX Legion was ordered by the Warmaster Horus to cleanse the 7 worlds and 15 moons of the Signus Cluster of xenos invaders and release the humans settled there from the Nephilim, their xenos-overlords.
Unaware of Horus' perfidy and determination to betray the Emperor of Mankind, Sanguinius willingly obeyed his brother Primarch and immediately set out for this volatile region of space. Unbeknownst to the Blood Angels, they were blindly walking into a deadly trap, for the Signus Cluster and its central world, Signus Prime, had fallen prey to agents of the Ruinous Powers and become a veritable Realm of Chaos -- a system of hellish Daemon Worlds under the rule of a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh known as Kyriss the Perverse.
After his corruption by Chaos, Horus hated and feared Sanguinius more than any of his brother Primarchs and wove many strategies to ensnare or slay him, though all ultimately failed. The Warmaster hoped to turn the Blood Angels' hidden genetic curses, later known as the Black Rage and the Red Thirst, against the IX Legion in order to enthrall them to the Blood God Khorne and turn yet another Space Marine Legion to his cause.
Ultimately, Horus' plan would fail and the Blood Angels would cleanse the Signus Cluster of its daemonic infestation, but a darkness would forever after stain the souls of the Blood Angels Legion. This terrible curse would continue to manifest in the centuries to come as the great Flaw that would afflict the Blood Angels and all of their Successor Chapters.
When the Imperial Warmaster Horus, the greatest of the Emperor's genetic sons, fell to the temptations of the Chaos Gods and became swayed by their promises of power, he sought to persuade his brother Primarchs to his cause. Horus and Sanguinius, the Primarch of the Blood Angels Legion, had fought many campaigns by each other's side. Their relationship was so close it had even incited jealousy amongst their brother Primarchs on occasion. But in his blackened heart Horus knew that Sanguinius would never willingly betray their father the Emperor, and so he had formulated an audacious plan to either convert the Blood Angels Legion to his cause or utterly destroy them. To this end, Horus made use of a carefully guarded secret of the Blood Angels he had discovered solar decades earlier when he fought alongside Sanguinius' IX Legion in a xenocidal campaign on the world of Melchior.
Horus had come upon his brother Primarch in the sunken ruin of an alien chapel and had witnessed the unthinkable -- Sanguinius murdering one of his own Astartes. Sanguinius had explained to his shocked and bewildred brother the reason for his actions. The angelic Primarch had discovered that within his own genome there was a flawed trait that lay buried and waiting to be awakened. During the Great Crusade, this strange affliction had begun to manifest, affecting some of the Blood Angels Legionaries over the course of several solar decades.
The story was always the same -- a warrior of the IX Legion in the throes of battle eventually succumbed to a rage that continued to build to uncontrollable levels until his reason was lost. When a Blood Angels Battle-Brother succumbed to this affliction, his humanity would be stripped away until only his feral core remained and all the now blood-crazed Astartes wanted to do was kill and kill, satiating himself with blood and more blood. At the end, at the very worst of it, he lost every last piece of himself to the mindless rage, until death was truly a kindness.
Fortunately, only a handful of Astartes had been afflicted over the course of two Terran centuries of continuous conflict. Most would perish in battle without anyone taking note of their growing insanity. But if their degeneration became noticeable, then Sanguinius himself, or the commander of the Blood Angels' elite Sanguinary Guard, Azkaellon, would usually be the one to end the life of the afflicted Battle-Brother. Yet, in the closing days of the Great Crusade, the emergence of this genetic Flaw began to occur more often. Sanguinius feared that, in time, the affliction would grow to encompass every member of the IX Legion.
Sanguinius had been aware of the flaw in his genome and that of his sons in the IX Legion for several years by that time, and had chosen to keep the truth from the Emperor and his fellow Primarchs. He feared to speak of this to any of the others, for to do so would diminish his Legion in the eyes of his brothers and the Imperium. Some of his brother Primarchs would see it as a weakness and seek to turn this truth against him. Sanguinius was afraid to confide in the Emperor for he could not take the risk of being responsible for the erasure of the Blood Angels from Imperial history as had happened to the II and XI Legions.
He was determined to not see a third empty plinth erected beneath the roof of the Hegemon in the Imperial Palace on Terra as the IX Legion's only memorial. Sanguinius continued to search for a solution but ultimately failed in this endeavour. Some of the Angel's sons had learned a measure of the truth, but only Azkaellon, First Captain Raldoron, the IX Legion's Master Apothecary on the Legion homeworld of Baal and a few others were fully aware of the extent of this affliction. They were united with Sanguinius in finding a way to repair this Flaw.
Horus swore to his brother that he would never speak of this matter to anyone, even their father. And he promised that he would keep this promise for as long as Sanguinius wished him to. The Angel was touched by his brother's gesture and expressed his gratitude. Horus solemnly vowed to help Sanguinius deal with this matter, however long it took. Little did they know at that time, that one day a corrupted Horus would take full advantage of this knowledge and attempt to turn the Blood Angels' Flaw against them.
Using his knowledge of the Blood Angels' genetic Flaw, Horus believed he had found a way to sway his "beloved" brother's Legion to his cause and the service of Chaos. In his capacity as Imperial Warmaster, Horus ordered Sanguinus to gather his entire Legion and make for the Signus Cluster, a trinary star system located in the Ultima Segmentum near the Eastern Fringe. His IX Legion was to cleanse the 7 worlds and 15 moons that comprised the Signus Cluster of xenos invaders and release the humans settled there from their xenos-overlords, a species called the Nephilim.
To further entice Sanguinius, the Warmaster informed him that he had found the means by which the Blood Angels would be able to excise the darkness from within their souls, and rid themselves of the Flaw. If Sanguinius obeyed the Warmaster's command in this matter, then Horus promised him that the Blood Angels would find a new freedom. Sanguinius had no reason to doubt Horus, for they were as close as two brothers could be. Many of their fellow Primarchs were even jealous of the closeness between the pair, especially now that Horus was the supreme commander of the Great Crusade. Sanguinius relished the opportunity to once again prove the value of their bond, and so the Blood Angels Legion gathered in its entirety and duly set course for the Signus Cluster, unaware that they were heading into a terrible trap.
For untold generations, the Signus Cluster had been a centre for human civilisation. Great hive cities littered the seven worlds of the Cluster and huge industrial complexes burrowed into the fifteen moons. But amongst the uncounted millions settled within the Signus Cluster lurked sinister Chaos Cultists.
After his own corruption, Horus had set many plans into motion to prepare for his rebellion against the Emperor of Mankind. One of these had been to send agents to Signus Prime, the capital world of the Signus Cluster, from Davin and other worlds with a strong Chaos presence. These agents infested the rabble of the Signus Cluster and in their teeming numbers hid the witch-cabals that later summoned daemons to Signus. When these agents and Chaos Cultists received a signal from Horus not long before the Istvaan III Atrocity in 005.M31, they rose up in a violent insurrection and seized power within the Signus Cluster, summoning daemons into realspace to lead them and rule over the star system.
Daemons soon stalked the hive cities and established foul palaces across the entire star system. The human population of the Signus Cluster was enslaved, reduced to fodder for the minions of Chaos. Powerful summoning spells cast by the witch-cabals allowed the daemons free reign over Signus. In addition to this, thousands of Signan psykers had been possessed by Warp entities and become Daemonhosts.
The Signus Cluster had become a veritable extension of the Realm of Chaos within the Warp in only a short time, and a demesne of daemons. Kyriss the Perverse, a Keeper of Secrets and one of the Greater Daemons of the Pleasure God Slaanesh, now ruled the Signus Cluster. The 7 worlds and 15 moons of the trinary system were in thrall to this mighty daemon lord and its teeming hordes. The daemons were aided by the machinations of the Chaos Cultists. These bands of madmen opened their worlds to the creatures of the Warp, conjuring powerful summoning spells and offering themselves up for possession.
The rest of the human population of the Signus Cluster had been annihilated or enslaved, their only fate to be consumed by the horrors of the Warp. The entire star system became a charnel house, a place of evil and a home for the creatures of the Immaterium. There was never so base a betrayal as this one, for Sanguinius looked to Horus as a brother, and never would have believed he, his Legion and literally billions of people would be sacrificed to the foul denizens of the Warp.
Not long after arriving in-system, the Blood Angels discovered wrecked voidcraft drifting beyond the edges of the Signus Cluster. The IX Legion's scouts found the wreckage of more than a dozen different voidships drifting in the gravity shadow of the Signan world known as Phoros. Civilian haulers, Defence Monitors, and shuttles were found in the drifiting debris. Many of these voidcraft were not even Warp-capable. Their trajectory suggested that they had been fleeing from the inner worlds of the system. Soon the Blood Angels' Expeditionary Fleet was rife with rumour, as stories began to circulate about something unusual that had been discovered by the Blood Angels' scout vessel Numitor.
After docking with the Blood Angels flagship Red Tear, the Frigate Numitor had had the docking cylinder to itself, and as a precaution all auxiliaries and non-combatant mortal crewmen were dismissed to other duties. Meros, a junior Blood Angels Apothecary serving in the 9th Company and a complement of his fellow Astartes Apothecaries were summoned to the Battle Barge's flight deck with little explanation as to the reason. Meros wondered why armed Battle-Brothers were needed to escort a medical party on the deck of the Primarch's own flagship, but no explanations were forthcoming.
Multiple medicae had been gathered from amongst the Blood Angels fleet and assigned a number of bodies to examine, and were then to pool their findings. Donning their full suits of Power Armour, the Apothecaries were to observe all biohazard procedures and report anything anomalous immediately. Each Apothecary found four coffins set aside for him to examine. The medicae wondered why the corpses had been brought aboard the Red Tear, but this was standard operating procedure since the Red Tear had the most advanced medicae laboratories and technical facilities of any starship in the IX Legion's fleet.
As they opened the containers and examined each body in turn, the Apothecaries quickly discovered heaps of clothing, curiously laid out in the shape of a person. Taking samples of blood they discovered that the vitae had somehow been altered. Each vial of blood, when held up to the light, showed that instead of crimson fluid, the matter within the crystal tube was thick and sluggish, an oily paste almost purple in colour. Upon closer scrutiny of the corpses, the Apothecaries quickly discovered that the bodies lacked rigidity as they were sunken and shriveled in a way that suggested a peculiar form of decay. Much to their shock, they learned that that there were no bones within the corpses.
The bodies were little more than bags of skin and meat in the shape of a human being, misshapen under the weight of their own mass. Even more strangely, the Apothecaries could not figure out how the bones had been removed. The assembled Apothecaries were ordered by First Captain Raldoron not to discuss what they had seen without permission from their commanding officers.
As the Blood Angels continued their investigation of the scattered fleet of wrecked vessels, they could not determine why these craft were even in that particular zone of space. The people of those ships had been so terrified that they had willingly sought out the embrace of the deep void in order to escape whatever horror they had witnessed.
By order of Sanguinius, a task force of Blood Angels Astartes were ordered to travel ahead to Signus VI, the Hive World known as Holst by its people, to discern the fate of its people. Meros and a squad of Blood Angels, accompanied by three Word Bearers Astartes who acted as official observers of the campaign for Horus by order of the Warmaster, were sent down to the surface of the planet to investigate. But en route, their mortal pilot was suddenly overcome by the nightmarish visions that continued to plague him and all of the unaugmented humans aboard the IX Legion's fleet since it had entered the Signus System. The pilot succumbed to his madness and shot the Servitors assisting him, the rest of the mortal crew and himself, forcing the Apothecary Meros to pilot the Stormbird and make a crash-landing.
Once they arrived on the surface of the planet, the Astartes quickly realised they had no communication with their fleet and would not be missed for at least ten solar hours. They decided to explore the planet's surface any way, investigating the outer wards of the hive city known as Holst-Prime. During their investigation, the small detachment of Space Marines heard the sounds of gunfire. The Space Marine on point, Brother Xagan, had somehow mysteriously disappeared down a ragged sink-hole within one of the habitat buildings. The only sign of his passing was a discarded Umbra Ferrox Pattern Bolter, vapour still curling from its muzzle.
As the Astartes continued their investigation, the Blood Angels became separated from the three Word Bearers that had been accompanying them, just as they encountered enemy contact from unknown vectors. When Meros and the Blood Angels caught up to their compatriots, they discovered a dead Word Bearer Space Marine. Dark, oily fluid stained the slate-coloured Power Armour of the dead Astartes.
With a start, Meros realised that the purple fluid was the Space Marine's blood -- and the strange vitae suddenly filled his thoughts, his senses. He recognised it as the same strange blood he had discovered in the boneless corpses aboard the Red Tear. Suddenly, and without warning, the Word Bearers' Captain immediately interposed himself between the Apothecary and the mutilated remains of his Battle-Brother before further investigation could be made.
As the contingent of Space Marines attempted to escape from the outer wards of Holst-Prime, the hive city itself came alive, attacking the Astartes in the form of living metallic constructs formed from fragments of wreckage. Surrounded and outnumbered, the small task force was only saved by the timely intervention of Captain Amit and the Blood Angels' 5th Company.
Receiving the strange, but unbelievable reports from the survivors that had been on the planet's surface, Sanguinius ordered the destruction of the cursed planet. Priming their Cyclonic Torpedoes and megaweapon systems, the entirety of the Blood Angels fleet bombarded Holst, subjecting it to the rarely used punishment of Exterminatus. Like a tormented animal, the planet ended with a tortured scream that even the void could not silence.
A Shadow Falls
In the days after the Blood Angels fleet passed inside the orbit of Signus VI and destroyed that world, the mood of the IX Legion shifted. To make matters worse, while the mission to Holst-Prime Hive had been underway, word had come to the Blood Angels of the final communication from the starship Helios, lost with all hands under strange circumstances. The fleet continued to explore the seemingly cursed star system, moving at battle speed towards the inner planets on a direct course for Signus Prime, the cluster's capital world and heart.
Ever since entering the Signus System the Blood Angels had been assaulted by strange occurrences that remained unexplained. A malevolent influence attacked the minds of the non-Astartes personnel. The superhuman will and training of the Space Marines protected them from this psychic attack, though their mortal crew and the auxiliary troops of their fleet faced the power of Chaos for the first time in their lives. There were hundreds of reports throughout the fleet of crewmembers and a contingent of Remembrancers committing suicide, unable to cope with the malevolent, whispering influence of Chaos on their fragile minds.
After they detected a faint Imperial distress beacon, the Blood Angels set down upon the surface of the Agri-World of Signus V, called Scoltrum by its inhabitants. They intended to investigate whether or not there were any survivors aboard a crashed Signusi Frigate called the Stark Dagger which had attempted to flee from the core worlds of the star system. Though Chapter Master Raldoron and Captain Amit suspected a trap, they were determined to not let this stop them from investigating and finally getting some answers to the mystery of the Signus Cluster.
Captain Nakir of the 24th Company had been given the order to investigate and Stormbirds were deployed to the world's surface. Despite being devoid of all life, the Blood Angels managed to discover and rescue a small band of human survivors which included a Pariah amongst their number. The survivors informed the Astartes that the Stark Dagger had been a part of the Signus Cluster's outer defence squadron. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their attempt to flee the system and had crash-landed upon the surface of the doomed planet. They told the Blood Angels that they had been assailed by indescribable horrors, creatures made out of fangs and wings. Horrors that one could not look upon for long without going mad.
As the Blood Angels attempted to evacuate the survivors they were set upon by a large group of Daemonettes and their daemonic mounts. Though a small number of Astartes were lost, the Blood Angels were able to fight their way back to their Stormbirds and make good their escape. Once back aboard the Red Tear, Captain Nakir was debriefed by Sanguinius and an assemblage of the IX Legion's senior ranking officers. Captain Nakir completed his report to the assemblage and there was obvious dissent, even towards the Captain's unembellished description of the enemy engagement on the fifth planet. When inquired as to why he did not bring back one of the fell creatures for examination, Captain Nakir informed his fellow officers that they had attempted to, but the corpses melted, until all that remained was a toxic residue unfit to be analysed.
The mortal survivors of the Stark Dagger were also examined and questioned. There was nothing unusual about them, save that they were still alive while every other Signusi aboard had become a boneless corpse. When questioned about the nature of their attackers, they spoke of armies of beings that were a mixture of life forms -- humanoid-animal amalgams, winged beasts and things of fluid flesh. The people of the Signus Cluster had confronted an army of "daemons" -- there was no other word for what the creatures looked like. Disbelieving these tales, some of the Blood Angels assumed that the sightings of these so-called "daemons" must have been the result of mental manipulation caused by some sort of drug or other chemical weapon.
Yet the survivors firmly believed in what they had seen. They also said that these creatures were led by an inhuman warlord, a being that called itself a "Bloodthirster", a killer that reveled in violence and suffering. A second leader, another creature of mythic appearance and appetites, was also known to exist.
Some of the survivors also spoke of a human, a man name Bruja. He had come to the Signusi claiming to be an agent of the Imperium of Man, but appeared to have been directly responsible for the collapse of the Signusi system-wide government. He was able to perform this feat through the use of "magick," allegedly summoning a creature of the Warp, a perverse mastermind that carried out terrible acts of desecration and cruelty.
Some of the Astartes tried to discount these tales as the stark ravings of troubled minds that could not grasp the scope of something alien. Yet no one present at the assembly could explain the troubling phenomena that the Blood Angels had already encountered since arriving in the Signus Cluster. Whatever the origin of the enemy forces the Blood Angels had encountered in the trinary system, they were still an enemy of the Emperor.
All Captain Nakir had shown was that the Astartes could still fight and kill them, whatever their origin, and that was all that mattered. The IX Legion's orders from Horus were clear. They were to liberate the Signus Cluster from the hands of those who had taken it. Yet whatever name they wished to apply to it, xenos, daemon or whatever, it was now clear that the Blood Angels faced something outside the experience of any son of Baal or Terra.
The warships of the Blood Angels Legion finally moved upon the capital world of Signus III, known as Signus Prime. Mysteriously, the two moons of the third planet were gone, and had been destroyed through clearly unconventional means. The satellites of Signus Prime had simply been stolen from their orbits, lost to the unknown; and with them had gone multiple orbital shipyards, barracks and manufactoria for the Signus Cluster's system defence forces.
The fate of the Signusi defence forces themselves was apparent. The shattered shells of the vessels that had comprised the Signusi fleet were cast adrift across the orbit of the third planet in a thick, ragged shroud. A cowl of dense wreckage from countless obliterated vessels and orbital complexes hung close to the edge of Signus Prime's atmospheric interface -- military and civilian ships alike, everything from suborbital wing-shuttles never designed to venture beyond the stratosphere to interstellar juggernaut haulers.
All had been killed close to the capital world and left to float in the void where they fell. Plasma fires still burned in the cores of some of these wrecks, leaving streamers of radiation in their wake. Great slicks of debris flowed from the insides of cracked hulls and thickened the stew of fragments. But the dead voidships were not just the fallout from the brutal beheading of an entire colony world; the silent vessels had been turned into a barbed shoal of debris, which any who approached would be forced to penetrate if they meant to make planetfall. And more than that, they were there as a silent, monumental threat: vessels broken and skinned alive, hung dead in the sky like the bleeding trophies of a wild killer.
This horror might have been enough to chill the heart of even the most experienced of the Imperium's warriors, but this exhibition was not the end of the bleak, voiceless message left by the conquerors of Signus Prime. For where there were thousands of murdered voidships there were ten thousand times that number of human dead drifting bloated and frozen in the vacuum.
The pilots of the Blood Angels' interceptors brought the images to the Red Tear’s command deck, and Sanguinius looked upon them without speaking, sorrow and anger robbing him of words. Others who saw the same picts were similarly silenced, unable to frame the grotesque reality of what lay before them. Each body had been brutalised in a way that went beyond understanding, their bones subsumed from the meat of them, stolen away like the vanished moons of Signus Prime by the same unknowable process that had claimed human lives on Holst and elsewhere in the cursed star system.
Millions of corpses floated in fusions of flesh, twisted into repulsive monuments, glossy with coatings of frozen blood. They had been compacted into dolmens and rings, carved like soapstone. Some of the shapes had rigid angles and toothed spires made of cut limbs; others were flattened into discs and wicked curves, meat-red and shimmering. The sign of the brazen eight-pointed star that had burned across the world of Phorus was also repeated, over and over, like an offering that only something with eyes as large as mountains would be able to see.
Without warning, malevolent energies surged across the void, attacking the minds of the psychically sensitive mortal crewmen of the Blood Angels' Expeditionary Fleet. Navigators and Astropaths were crippled or killed in the initial onslaught, their brains fried by the dark malice of Chaos. The crew-serfs all around the Astartes on the fleet's warships began to scream in a great cacophony. The Blood Angels fleet had been ready for every form of attack save this one. A psychic cry from Signus Prime that went beyond a voice exploded out into space towards the assembled vessels of the IX Legion.
A vast hurricane of psychic shock, created from the bottled murder-essence of millions of surrendered human souls, resonated out from the shrouded world. It swept across the crimson starships in a shuddering, immaterial wave. Void Shields could not halt the ethereal power of it, and the bulk of adamantium hulls and plasteel bulkheads was penetrated as easily as if they had been made of paper. The sheer, monstrous force of the psychic shockwave battered at every living mind aboard the ships of the Blood Angels' flotilla.
The Space Marines of the IX Legion were able to meet this psychic attack and weather its raw power. It was only later that the Blood Angels would come to understand that they had never been the intended targets of the psychic assault. It was not a force aimed at them, but a weapon of denial seeking the weakest links in their chain of war. Every mortal human -- every unaugmented human but one -- in the flotilla was united for a fleeting moment in a single, soul-tearing scream that burned into their minds and beat them down.
It killed many at the point of contact, those who were utterly unready for such crushing, black despair. Some would live a little longer before their hearts gave out, some would walk into airlocks or use knives and Lasguns upon themselves or others. The psychic screaming went on and on, and none would be unmarked by it. Every heart and mind amongst the Blood Angels fleet was tested to the limit, and many would break under the strain. The strongest would survive, scarred forever, tormented to their graves. The weakest became unhinged, seeing horrors wherever they turned, their minds fracturing like brittle glass. The opening shot in the Signus Campaign had been fired, and would mark the beginning of the first major contact between the forces of the Imperium and the daemonic entities of the Warp during the Horus Heresy.
Daemon Lord Revealed
As the Blood Angel flagship's klaxons blared out their warnings in the wake of the psychic assault from Signus Prime, Sanguinius and his Space Marines took control of the situation. They quickly erected psychic baffles and restrained deranged mortal crewmen. Unbowed, Sanguinius and his senior officers planned their counterattack. Despite the fact that they had never before fought against such a foe, the Blood Angels were sure that they would prevail. But the Blood Angels' fury was soon cooled when the dark power behind the strange occurrences finally saw fit to reveal itself.
A handful of Servitors in the chamber where the Blood Angels officers were assembled stumbled as one from their alcoves and joined in a keening chorus, puking blood and processor fluids onto the mosaic floor of the Blood Angels flagship. The cybernetic automatons died, each falling apart like deconstructed puzzles made of meat and brass. Sanguinius drew his deadly blade and called out for the malevolent presence to reveal itself if it dared.
The remains of the Servitors writhed and conjoined, as the parts assembled themselves into a new body. The torso appeared as an androgynous mutation with four arms and quivering, muscular flesh; a head grew into something like that of a great goat, with horns and a sharp, snorting muzzle. The newborn creature flexed and stood tall, looking down on the Blood Angels. It traced claw-fingers over its form, toying with the bloody meat it was made from, and emitted a wet, orgiastic gasp.
The vile creature revealed itself as Kyriss the Perverse, a Greater Daemon of the Master of Pleasure, Slaanesh. He declared that the Signus Cluster was his demesne in the name of his Dark God and challenged the Primarch to take it back from him. As the last word faded, the broken pieces of metal and meat came apart into an ugly pile, the animating power of the monstrous daemonic proxy abruptly withdrawn. Enraged, Sanguinius ordered his Legion to make for the surface of the planet below. They had walked the road the enemy had laid out for them long enough. Sanguinius was determined to not allow such a vile creature to live.
Battle of Signus Prime
The second phase of the daemonic enemy's attack then began. Concealed in the shoal of spacecraft wreckage that girdled Signus Prime, deformed mutant vessels broke free of the planet's gravity and surged forwards to assault the Blood Angels fleet. At first dormant, dead to all sensors, they now came alive with ghostly energy. The monstrous hell-ships attacked the Blood Angels fleet, and soon a full-scale orbital battle commenced.
The Blood Angels' warships fired torpedo barrages and pulsing blasts from their mega-lasers, stripping all protection from the attackers, but still the enemy came on. The Red Tear opened her gun ports and let her cannons give their all, the brilliant spears of particle beams and the streamers of missile salvoes striking hard across the line of the hell-ships' advance. The flagship sent repeated requests to the Word Bearers vessel that accompanied their fleet, but their calls for aid went unanswered.
As one of the hell-ships approached the Red Tear on a direct collision course, the Word Bearers ship was the only one in position to fend off the assault. In a moment of the basest treachery, the Word Bearers ignited their engines and abandoned the Blood Angels. The hell-ship collided with the flagship and disgorged hundreds of Warp-spawned creatures and Chaos-corrupted, mutant Signusi crew-men. As the servants of Chaos swarmed out into the Red Tear the Blood Angels were there to greet them, but not in great number. Fortunately, the defenders were able to blast apart a small section of bulkhead with a Missile Launcher, the explosive decompression blowing the fleshy monstrosities out into the void.
Meanwhile, on the command deck of the Red Tear, the ship's commanding officer, Admiral Athene DuCade of the Imperialis Armada, was confronted by a demented ship's officer. The Admiral drew her Laspistol and put the maddened officer down. When DuCade looked around, she could see that the bridge crew surrounding her all had the same tell-tale signs of the madness that had possessed the deranged officer. She pulled her other Laspistol and opened fired with both weapons at once.
DuCade blasted her maddened crewmen as they ran, ultimately killing her entire bridge crew. When DuCade caught sight of her own reflection in the navi-monitor, she realised that the infection of madness had afflicted her too. Weeping bitter tears, DuCade sought to make amends for her crimes, and she set the massive flagship a new course towards the surface of Signus Prime. With her guns, she destroyed the command console so that her deed could not be undone. She then placed the Laspistol against her chest and fired point-blank into her heart. There was no stopping the Red Tear from crashing into the surface of the planet.
With nothing to stop its fall, the Red Tear plunged into Signus Prime's gravity well and kissed the outer atmosphere in a flickering cascade of orange fire. The Red Tear was a mighty vessel, built for the punishment of a hundred wars, yet the flagship had been forged in vacuum and made for the deeps of interplanetary space. It was not a vessel configured to fly in a planet's atmosphere and it hurtled towards the ground like a great brick of adamantium and plasteel.
Meanwhile, the Blood Angels attempted to cut through the command bridge's central hatchway. A Techmarine managed to bypass the locking mechanism and gain access to the bridge. The Astartes found a mortally wounded bridge crewman, who informed them of the Admiral's madness and subsequent sabotage of the ship's navigational controls. Sanguinius finally arrived and was informed of the Legion's dire circumstances.
Unable to delay the inevitable, Sanguinius refused to abandon the falling vessel. He was confident that the ancient and mighty starship would survive the fall and crash intact on Signus Prime's surface. He ordered all personnel to make for the core of the starship where the most heavily protected compartments lay. The flagship crashed to the planet's surface, and though broken, it still remained undefeated; the Red Tear had denied its enemy victory.
Within solar hours, the fallen Red Tear was no longer a starship. The Battle-Barge was transformed into a fortress, a vast island of burned red metal in the middle of the dead lands of Signus Prime. The warriors of the IX Legion secured the vessel and assessed the damage. What could be used for war was made a priority for salvage, and what could not be saved was discarded. The survivors amongst the mortal human crew were few; many had died in the fires and the impact, but more from the ultimate effect of the psychic malaise that had infiltrated their minds. They simply died of fear, hearts seizing in their chests as they were consumed by the dark shadow of the forsaken world that had reached out to claim them.
The Blood Angels Legion finally confronted the true enemy that now controlled the Signus Cluster, the daemonic servants of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. Upon the ash wastes later remembered as the Plains of the Damned, the ferocious Space Marines confronted the vast, nightmarish horde of Chaos Cultists and packs of monstrous daemons.
Sanguinius swore to personally confront and vanquish Kyriss the Perverse, the Greater Daemon of Slaanesh who controlled the Signus System, leading his elite companies to besiege the defiled palace composed of the bones of the murdered the daemon had erected as its headquarters upon the world that was known as the "Cathedral of the Mark." Awash in blood, the Blood Angels valiantly fought the Forces of Chaos, cutting them down by their corrupted thousands. The Plains of the Damned became a charnel house as the Blood Angels forced their way into the very heart of the Greater Daemon's realm.
On the battlefield that was Signus Prime, Sanguinius was confronted by the infamous Bloodthirster Ka'Bandha, a Greater Daemon of Khorne. The daemon taunted the Primarch, revealing Horus' planned treachery against the Emperor. Enraged, the angelic Primarch fought the brutal Bloodthirster in single combat. Seizing the initiative during the battle, he surprised Ka'Bandha with his frenzied assault, stabbing his Power Sword into the daemon's chest, ripping open a gaping wound. The massive creature roared in fury and pain, lashing out with his whip at the Primarch's legs. Sanguinius was momentarily unbalanced as his legs were crushed in the whip's coils. The daemon then smashed Sanguinius to the ground with the flat of his axe. The winged hero of the Imperium was stunned, helpless before the Bloodthirster's wrath. As his vision cleared, he looked up at the monster that towered over him. The Greater Daemon taunted the Angel one final time, let out a mighty bellow and then struck out across the battlefield, slaughtering 500 Space Marines with huge swathes of his massive axe. They psychic backlash of the deaths of so many of his sons traumatised Sanguinius, and the Primarch fell into unconsciousness.
Leaderless, the Blood Angels' fury was unfettered. The brutal violence of the Bloodthirster Ka'Bandha unleashed something dark within the psyche and genome of the Blood Angels, a thirst for blood that would not be slaked until the taint of Chaos had been wiped from the planet. The sons of Sanguinius lost themselves in the riot of killing. The careful, drilled lines of the Legion's companies and Chapters became broken and mixed, and from hour to hour, the IX Legion slowly transformed into something wild. Its Astartes became a red hurricane that tore across Signus Prime leaving nothing in its wake. The Blood Angels fought as they had never fought before, not with cool reason and righteous might as their guides, but with hearts beating for vengeance, a berserker's blood-thirst on their lips, their minds consumed by what later generations of their kind would call the "Red Thirst."
Unstoppable, all that stood in their path was obliterated. The foe had gravely miscalculated the will of the Blood Angels. Far from being broken by the vicious, brutal attack upon their beloved Sanguinius, they had been cut loose by it. The bonds that held them in check were slipped, and a darkness previously hidden was fully unleashed. Each of them bayed for the blood of their enemy, but it was a thirst that could not be slaked -- only given respite for a brief interval.
The red tide broke upon the walls of the great, blasphemous cathedral with unspeakable violence and the clash of a hundred thousand weapons. Leaderless and out of control, the Blood Angels acted on lethal instinct, converging at the towers of bone with only one impulse powering them forward. Hate drove them into the cohorts of Bloodletters and Daemonettes defending the approaches to the temple, and they tore the daemonic creatures to shreds. The sons of Sanguinius were no longer a Space Marine Legion, but a force of nature laying waste to everything that stood in their way.
Cathedral of the Mark
The Cathedral of the Mark was a hellish citadel erected on the blighted landscape, and true to its description there was a sigil of immense size cut into the towers that showed itself to the assembled Blood Angels Legion -- a star of eight. To their horror, the Blood Angels realised that the arching, rough-hewn towers of the blood-smeared cathedral were constructed of unnatural materials. With grim understanding they had finally discovered the mystery of the strange corpses they had discovered denuded of bone.
The Cathedral of the Mark had not been constructed from stones and mortar, nor ferrocrete and plasteel. Every metre of its towers, every span and archway was built out of bleached human bone, cemented with fat and gristle. The skeletons of dead Signusi citizens, drawn from every planet and moon in the cluster, from common child to elder noble, had been gathered there to become the raw material for this atrocity.
Miraculously unaffected by the Red Thirst, Chapter Master Raldoron, Apothecary Meros and a small strike force of Blood Angels assaulted the Cathedral of the Mark. As the majority of their Legion was gripped in the bloody throes of their genetic curse, Meros and his Battle-Brothers fought through hordes of daemons in order to infiltrate the profane basilica. In the meantime, Raldoron's Adjutant, Brother Mkani Kano, gathered his fellow former Librarians who had been forbidden to use their psychic abilities since the Emperor's Decree Absolute during the Council of Nikaea in an attempt to use their combined powers to wake their Primarch from his dark torpor. Using their combined psychic might, the Librarians sacrificed themselves with the exception of Kano, and miraculously awoke Sanguinius, bringing him back from the edge of the abyss.
The angel then arrived at the Cathedral of the Mark to confront both Kyriss and Ka'bandha. The Bloodthirster and the angel fought once more, but ultimately, Sanguinius prevailed and cast the Greater Daemon back into the Warp. The Blood Angels then discovered the source of the rage that had infected their entire Legion on Signus Prime.
The Dark Apostle Erebus of the Word Bearers had created a fell device, a psychic construct called the Ragefire, which contained and was powered by the half-dead body of Captain Tagas. Tagas was the former Captain of the Blood Angels' 111th Company, who had been presumed killed in action on the world of One-Forty-Twenty, the planet called Murder by all the Space Marines who had fought there several years earlier.
Through the use of the dark sorceries of Chaos, the Word Bearers had created a psychic conduit of undiluted rage that consumed nearly the entirety of the Blood Angels Legion by enhancing the inherent instability of their genetic Flaw. Driven to uncontrollable rage over the fall of their Primarch, the Forces of Chaos hoped that the Blood Angels would lose control of their noble aspect, and willingly give themselves over to the Scarlet Path and the worship of the Blood God Khorne.
The Red Angel
In bloody defeat, Kyriss the Perverse offered Sanguinius a foul deal: if the Primarch would willingly take the place of the half-dead Tagas within the psychic construct and give himself fully to the Ragefire, the daemon would ensure that his sons would never again be affected by the genetic curse of the Red Thirst. The Primarch seriously contemplated the daemon's offer and finally came to the conclusion that this sacrifice was worth it to save his beloved sons.
But before Sanguinius could enter the construct, Meros made the decision for him, and leapt into the suspended crystal lattice. Sanguinius threw himself into the air in an effort to save his errant son, but was too late. The Apothecary committed the act without uncertainty, for he knew what he did was right. The Angel could not fall to Chaos if Mankind was to survive. When Meros had met the future Blood Angels Sergeant Rafen of the late 41st Millennium in the dreamscape of their joint healing blood-sleep, the Astartes from the future had said a name, a warning. Only at that moment did Meros fully understand. Sanguinius had to live, in order to meet the Arch-Traitor Horus on equal footing. When that terrible confrontation finally came, the Angel had to be there to face him, brother against brother.
Before Meros stepped into the swirling vortex of undiluted rage, he forcibly and painfully forced his cutter to open a jagged tear through his battle-plate's layers of ceramite and into the flesh beneath. Using the Reductor on his gauntlet's Narthecium, he guided the device as it bore through his skin, and removed his own Progenoid Glands. The device sucked the nodules of gene-rich tissue into a reservoir pod, sealed within for preservation. Meros' bequest to his Legion now lay secured. Detaching the medicae module from his armour he tossed it towards his Primarch, who snatched it out of the air, and requested that Sanguinius take it, so that something of him would live on.
The Angel vowed to honour his son's final request. With this final act, Meros stepped into the whirling vortex. Meros transformed, writhing in the grip of an infernal glow as the burning power merged with every atom of his being. The flesh of his face distorted into a hollow mask far beyond the guise of pain. His armour became dark and disfigured, joints steaming, the shell of it trembling as it fought to contain energies never meant to be bound to this reality. In the Warp's shadow, a pair of ghostly, blood-drenched wings briefly unfolded from the wounded Apothecary's back, anointing the ruined bones beneath with a rain of phantasmal blood; then they were gone as Meros' body was possessed by a daemon of the Blood God. Brother Meros was gone, and in his place was the daemonic Red Angel.
Confronting the daemon-possessed Blood Angel, Sanguinius demanded that the avatar of hate release its hold on his son. The Red Angel flatly refused. When the Primarch inquired if there was any small part of Meros that remained, the Red Angel responded that there was a small trace of the former Apothecary. The Primarch told the vile creature to heed his words; whatever Ruinous Powers it served, whatever irrational choice Horus had made to seek a pact with them, they stood defeated this day upon the cusp of victory. Sanguinius vowed that Meros' sacrifice would not be in vain, and that one day, he would find a way to free him from the daemon that now possessed his mortal shell. The Red Angel then took its leave from the Cathedral of the Mark and disappeared into a Warp Gate that it had conjured.
The Blood Angels then completed their purge of the daemons on Signus Prime and even Kyriss the Perverse was sent screaming back to the Warp at the end of the Angel's sacred blade, cast howling back into the Warp to face his master's punishment for his failure.
On Signus Prime, on Holst, and in orbit, in every place where his warriors had set foot, Sanguinius commanded that his sons excise all evidence that the IX Legion had ever come to the Signus Cluster. Over the days that passed after the final charge on the Cathedral of the Mark, an army of Legion Servitors and the Astartes officers known as Wardens had gathered up every Battle-Brother's corpse, every broken vehicle, every torn piece of armour or blunted sword. The work was almost complete, but for the spent casings of a few bolt shells lying lost and buried in the sands, but little more. The Blood Angels would leave nothing behind in that blighted, murdered place. Not their ships, not their relics and not their precious dead.
No one would return to the Signus Cluster. This command was etched into the IX Legion's Book of Hours by the Primarch's own hand. The Blood Angels would not build a monument or grave marker on Signus Prime, as they had on other planets where so much Astartes blood had been shed. The hundreds upon hundreds of honoured Blood Angels dead would be taken home to Baal to be buried on the slopes of Mount Seraph, the injured warships to Imperial stardocks for repair and re-armament.
Warning buoys and automated beacons were deployed all about the trinary star system's perimeter, there to turn back any ships that might come that way in the years ahead. The Signus Cluster was declared Mortae Perpetua; "forever dead." It would be left lifeless and rotting until its suns burned cold, with nothing but the echoes of those who perished there to bear witness.
In the aftermath of the bloodbath at the Cathedral of the Mark, when the witchery of the Ragefire had finally been broken, the character of the Blood Angels had turned to morose mien and the bitter sting of misery. The IX Legion had been wounded on Signus Prime, a cut that had pressed to their very core. Like their Primarch, the Blood Angels had been blindsided by those they called kin. The distant perfidy of the Warmaster Horus and the closer lies of the Word Bearers had brought them to the brink of the abyss. They had been shown the worst of themselves, and it was a sobering truth to behold.
Time would tell if the Blood Angels could heal this wound, or if it would fester within them for eternity. Their genetic curse had been revealed to the Astartes of the IX Legion. Sanguinius had hoped it would never be so, and in his hubris he had tried to hide the truth. Horus had used that deception against him. So many trusts had been broken, but now every Blood Angel knew the burn of the Red Thirst, the shadow on their spirit, and the worst of it was every Blood Angel knew an even greater darkness lay beneath that impulse. The Angel vowed that he would do everything in his power to hold that future at bay.
As for the daemonic entity known as the Red Angel, it soon presented itself to Horus aboard his flagship, the Vengeful Spirit. The Red Angel revealed itself as the Fallen Son of Baal, the Cruor Angelus, the Willing Slave. The Red Angel was a weapon to be used at Horus and the Traitor Legions' disposal, a weapon intended to seize Terra and ultimately throw down the False Emperor in the name of the Warmaster and the Dark Gods he served.
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 171-181
- Fear to Tread (Novel) by James Swallow