"Ten thousand blessed saints rest eternal amidst the silent halls of Benediction. It is a world steeped in the blood of the faithful."
The Talledus War was a War of Faith fought in the Era Indomitus between the forces of Chaos and the Imperium of Man to defend the Shrine World of Benediction in the Talledus System of the Veritus Sub-sector.
The Word Bearers, as always, sought to convert the bulk of Humanity to the service and worship of the Chaos Gods. They took great pleasure in furthering this agenda by attacking a world and system that was of such importance to the Imperial state religion that they deemed a fraud.
The fall of Talledus and Benediction to Chaos, and the conversion of its people to the true faith of Chaos, were deemed a potentially major milestone in the Word Bearers' plan to throw down the Corpse God of the Imperium and claim Mankind for the Dark Gods.
The war proceeded on three fronts, on Benediction, on the Astra Militarum Fortress World of Ghreddask and in the void surrounding the asteroid belt called the Tears of the Emperor at the very edge of the system.
On Benediction, the Word Bearers forces commanded by Kor Phaeron nearly seized control of the Grand Honorificum cathedral-city complex. The Loyalists were saved by an unusual phenomenon that was part of the Psychic Awakening when the faith of those gathered in the cathedral summoned forth from the Warp the protective spirits of the sacred Imperial dead.
This supernatural force, later remembered as the "Saints' Wall," surrounded the Grand Honorificum in a protective psychic shield and extinguished the grip on reality held by many of the daemons making up Kor Phaeron's attacking army. This miracle allowed a demi-company of Salamanders Astartes to cut the remaining force of Chaos troops in two and establish a new defensive perimeter for the cathedral complex.
On Ghreddask, the intervention of a Black Templars strike force destroyed the Soul Harvester mobile fortress-factory that had left the Imperial defenders at a loss, though the suicidal counterassault cost the life of the Astartes commander, Castellan Dramos.
In the void, within the Tears of the Emperor, a piratical Night Lords fleet commanded by the battleship Nightmare of Celyx sought to draw in Imperial military and commercial shipping translating into the system from the Warp by using captured Imperial astropaths to throw off their Navigators' abilities. The Night Lords then took the spoils and reaped with great pleasure the terror of their victims.
The arrival of Vanguard Marines from the White Scars' 10th Brotherhood turned the tables on the Heretic Astartes pirates. Their hit-and-run strikes soon transformed into a vicious, void-based guerilla war as each side tried to lure the other into ambushes. The White Scars succeeded in blunting the Night Lords' attacks on incoming Imperial shipping, but were unable to annihilate the Chaos raiding force entirely.
Though the Imperium has so far managed to blunt the Chaos assault on the Talledus System on every front, the conflict is far from over.
In the wake of the birth of the Great Rift, the predations of the forces of Chaos upon the Imperium intensified. Like slavering wolves, the Heretic Astartes and their mortal allies struck at the underbelly of the Imperium, emerging from the roiling stars to raid and pillage across the Segmentum Solar. Many of these incursions were directionless and savage, little more than the servants of Chaos indulging their base desires for blood and slaughter.
Yet they masked a greater plan, overseen by those who served the will of the Dark Gods with a far more insidious agenda. The Word Bearers Traitor Legion sought to spread their heretic faith into the very heart of Humanity's domain. The sons of Lorgar had foreseen a struggle not only for the territory of the Imperium, but its very spirit. The souls of mortals were the currency over which this war of faith would be fought.
Allying with fellow Traitor Legions who served Chaos Undivided, such as the piratical reavers of the Night Lords and the relentless Iron Warriors, the Word Bearers sought to spread fear and hopelessness far and wide.
Through dark ritual, system-wide sacrifice and terror tactics, they intensified the power of Chaos, hoping to break the will of the Imperium's mortal populace. Those who accepted the primacy of the Dark Gods were spared -- their collective damnation empowering the spread of corruption.
Blind to the subtle, hexagrammatic patterns of the Word Bearers' rituals, Imperial forces failed to recognise either the disaster building behind their lines, or the rampant spread of panic and heresy. Planet by planet, the shadow of Chaos spread.
Only the Sisters of Battle, the zealous warrior-champions of the Imperial Creed, foresaw this deadly threat. Many a Canoness of the Adepta Sororitas witnessed the same apocalyptic visions: maws of utter blackness stretching wide to devour the light of the faithful, twin-headed aquilas torn apart by hungering shadows, and stars drowned in the blood of innocents.
The holy orders of the sisterhood could not spread word of the horror they had uncovered, for across the galaxy astropathic communications were drowned out by warp-screams and the howling static of daemonic entities. Word would have to be delivered in person.
Even as the Sisters of Battle brought hope and fierce defiance to scores of war-ravaged worlds, it seemed certain that the Word Bearers' plans would come to fruition. Yet the sons of Lorgar had not counted upon the new and dramatic phenomenon that began to manifest across those contested planets.
The immense eruption of psychic energy unleashed by the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise not only to Warp-spawned nightmares, but acts of faith and wondrous miracles on a scale unheard of. Humble, mortal worshippers of the God-Emperor bore witness to manifestations of the Emperor Angelic, flocks of golden eagles and columns of scintillating flame that seared daemonic and Heretic flesh alike.
These miracles galvanised those who bore witness to them, firming their resolve and filling their hearts with defiance even in the face of the horrors unleashed against them. So began a great War of Faith that set the dark prophets of the Heretic Astartes against the acts of hope and belief inspired by the Sisters of Battle and their allies.
While the rest of the Imperium was beset by ever-growing threats following the opening of the Great Rift, the sanctified Talledus System was considered a safe zone under the protection of the Ecclesiarchy, and by extension, the Emperor Himself. The Shrine World of Benediction in particular stood as a gleaming, golden monument to the Emperor's might.
Perhaps this semblance of peace is ultimately what attracted the Ruinous Powers to it. The psychic trauma wrought by the birth of the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise to increasingly bizarre and terrifying phenomena.
Just as fringe cults began to reveal themselves as servants of the Dark Gods, an armada comprised of forces drawn from six Traitor Legions of the Heretic Astartes, directed by the Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron of the Word Bearers Legion, arrived to destroy the Talledus System once and for all, and deny the notion that anywhere might be safe from the predations of Chaos.
The Sisters of Battle and the Astra Militarum -- bolstered by a massive strike force of Adeptus Astartes led by the Black Templars of the Rutherian Crusade -- stood firm in their creed to defend Humanity, no matter the cost, in what became known as the Talledus War.
As this War of Faith grew ever-more bloody and brutal, the psychic trauma generated by the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise to miracles and psychic manifestations of unrivalled scale and power, an event that soon earned its own moniker among Imperial savants -- the "Psychic Awakening."
To some, these bizarre and terrifying occurrences were yet further proof that the galaxy is approaching its inevitable final hour of doom. To others, these events were proof of the God-Emperor's divine will, actualised through His loyal servants.
Seeds of Corruption
"Talledus is a grand deception, a symbol of the weakness and ignorance that taints the blood of the Imperium. I will visit upon it the truth of the Dark Pantheon."
- —Kor Phaeron, Keeper of the Faith
The ruling Ecclesiarchy priesthood of the Veritus Sub-sector may have believed that their domain was an incorruptible bastion of the Imperial Creed, but in truth the seeds of heresy had lurked unnoticed within its borders for many Terran years.
It was the infamous Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron, Keeper of the Faith and confidant of the Daemon Primarch Lorgar, who plotted the ruin of the Talledus System. None bore more hatred and contempt for the mortal servants of the God-Emperor than Phaeron, who had played a pivotal role in the galaxy-shattering events of the Horus Heresy.
Veritus was the symbol of everything he despised: ignorance, weakness and petty mortal greed. Moreover, he believed that if the great Shrine World of Benediction were to fall to Chaos, it would spread pure terror across the Segmentum Solar, a fear that could be exploited and harnessed to further empower the Dark Gods. One world would fall, then another and another.
Even before the nightmare of the Great Rift, Heretic cults had emerged across the Talledus, Leonus and Keyfire Systems of the Veritus Sub-sector, seeded by the Dark Apostles of the Word Bearers. These prophets and demagogues did not yet encourage open worship of Chaos, for they knew that such overt displays of heresy would draw the full ire of the Ecclesiarchy and the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition down upon them.
Instead, they cultivated certain sub-cults and splinter sects of the Imperial faith that had been barely tolerated, or in some cases actively persecuted, by the orthodox Adeptus Ministorum, such as the Witnessers of Boras Minor, who believed that only by enduring appalling grief and loss could one become close to the God-Emperor.
Other targeted cults included the ascetics of the Pherene Brotherhood, who saw divinity in humbleness and vows of silence, and the Cult of the Cleansing Comet, who dwelt within the deadly asteroid field on the edge of the Talledus known as the Tears of the Emperor, seeking to commune with their beloved deity.
All of these sects had suffered greatly at the hands of Cardinal Morst Bolifax, regent of the Veritus Sub-sector and a staunch traditionalist. Suspicious of the deviations of the Imperial faith that had developed in his domain, Bolifax initiated a series of purges to remove subversive figures who dared to deviate from the unequivocal truth of the Imperial Creed.
He sent his most fervent missionaries forth to cleanse these impurities. Shrines and shantytowns were burned, deviant tomes and scriptures seized, and more than ten thousand apostates were crucified or stoned to death for their heathen practices.
A dozen sub-cults of the Imperial Creed were condemned as heretical by the cardinal's decree. Anyone found practising their proscribed beliefs or rituals was to be subject to immediate torture and execution.
What remained of these sects were then infiltrated by charismatic orators and zealous iconoclasts in thrall to the Dark Gods, and directed by the masters of the Word Bearers. At first these figureheads preached the supremacy of the God-Emperor. They railed against the tyrannical rule of the Ministorum Priests and the purges and executions they had inflicted upon innocent souls, for a simple divergence of belief.
The brutality of Bolifax's crackdown was the perfect gift for the cultist demagogues of Veritus. By playing upon the climate of fear and hatred, it was almost too easy for them to indoctrinate new followers in the worship of the Chaos pantheon, and an ever-growing number of disenchanted pilgrims were driven into their clutches. Patiently, they sowed the seeds of true heresy, hiding the nature of their foul beliefs behind metaphor and rhetoric.
Soul by soul they cultivated flocks of the damned and established cells upon distant worlds, even the gleaming capital of Benediction itself. The Dark Apostles of the Word Bearers continued to direct this shadow war from afar, all the while preparing for their eventual assault upon the Talledus System.
Kor Phaeron, the Dark Cardinal, assembled a conglomeration of allies from across several Traitor Legions and Renegade Space Marine Chapters. The piratical Night Lords warmonger Yharas Kine was swayed with promises of pious souls to torment and the finest pickings of a resource-rich system. The Iron Warriors assented to join the destruction, though they had little interest in the great war of faith espoused by Kor Phaeron, and sought only a testing ground for their latest daemonic war-engines.
The Infernal houses of Vrachul and Khomentis pledged their Chaos Knights to the unholy cause, and millions of Chaos Cultists and traitorous Astra Militarum regiments were readied, ritually scarred, and branded with sigils of conviction.
The grand work gathered pace as the galaxy grew darker. Ruinous hexagrammatic patterns were laid down, monuments of fell power erected, and mass sacrifices prepared. Industrial cults upon the Talledan Mining World of Coras Veltis used immense excavation lasers to burn eight-pointed Chaos stars into the bedrock of the planet.
The Witnessers of Boras Minor, now calling themselves the "Cult of Loss," slipped into the spacelanes of Satropol, infiltrating its tightly packed docking arms and smuggling in weapons and improvised explosives as they awaited the moment of their uprising. Chaos Cults grew in strength, their numbers swelling daily.
And then, with a birth scream that dragged untold billions of malformed horrors into reality, the Great Rift broke open across the galaxy. Proud Cadia fell to the 13th Black Crusade, and with it the last barrier between the Eye of Terror and the Segmentum Solar. Daemonic entities manifested upon Holy Terra, and the Blood God Khorne closed his fist around the heart of Humanity during the Battle of Lion's Gate.
To Kor Phaeron's fury, there were whispers that the Primarch Roboute Guilliman had returned, he who had once driven a Power Claw into the heart of the Dark Cardinal during the Horus Heresy. Only after receiving a Warp-granted vision of the resurrected Primarch departing from Terra, at the head of an enormous crusade, did Kor Phaeron unleash the hounds of war.
No less than thirteen massive Chaos battleships carved into the Talledus System, each blood red and daubed with the iconography of the corrupted XVII Legion. Eight of these planet-killing behemoths made a course for Benediction, while the remainder set out for the system's other prominent worlds.
Accompanying this invasion force was an armada of lesser vessels, night-black reaver ships, rusted hulks and cargo cutters. As the Word Bearers' invasion fleet smashed into the outnumbered and outgunned Battlefleet Sentanis, responsible for the defence of Benediction, it also vomited forth a hail of razor-spiked Dreadclaw Drop Pods. The inhabitants of the glorious Shrine World looked to the skies and saw a rain of fire.
As the Word Bearers commenced their assault, the Chaos Cults they had so patiently seeded across the system rose up in armed rebellion, and the astropathic relays of Boras Minor and Ghreddask fell silent. Talledus was alone in the void, and the enemy was at its threshold.
As the hordes of Chaos descended upon the Talledus System, all hope seemed lost. Yet, even as flames engulfed the shrine capital of Benediction and daemonic monstrosities spilled across the surface of multiple worlds, the faith of the God-Emperor's flock manifested in new and terrifying ways.
Kor Phaeron knew that the success of the Chaos invasion of Talledus relied upon laying claim to its capital world of Benediction. The Dark Cardinal was obsessed with symbology and ritual, and knew that this shining embodiment of the Imperial Creed must burn. Only when the highest spires of the great cathedral complex known as the Grand Honorificum were scrawled with the symbols of the Dark Gods and littered with the impaled bodies of the Corpse Emperor's servants would the will of Talledus' subjects truly be broken.
His own Word Bearers spearheaded the assault on this vital target, slaughtering its defenders and any mortals foolish enough to deny the primacy of the Chaos pantheon. Yet the Dark Cardinal of the Word Bearers was well aware that if the Imperials could isolate the battle at Benediction, then they could bring fearsome numbers to bear against the Chaos invasion force. This was where Phaeron's tentative allies would prove their worth.
Even before the Word Bearers had fired their first shots upon the surface of Benediction, Yharas Kine and his Night Lords warband had drawn the first blood of the Talledus conflict. A Kill-team of Night Lords specialists had descended upon the astropathic relay at Satrapol, butchering its occupants before setting off a cyclonic charge at the heart of the complex.
At the same time, the battleship Nightmare of Celyx slipped from the Warp at the far edge of the Talledus System. This cursed vessel contained thousands upon thousands of captured Astropaths, strapped into engines of torment and watched over by sinister warriors of the Night Lords.
The sons of Konrad Curze had performed the most horrific tortures upon these luckless souls, driving them into a state of constant pain-addled frenzy. Their combined psychic scream echoed out across the stars, interfering with long-range Vox communications and scrambling the minds of ship-borne Navigators.
Imperial reinforcements were dragged out of the Warp into the killing fields of the Tears of the Emperor, the blazing asteroid-field at the rimward edge of the Talledus System. There, the Night Lords' piratical fleet waited, anticipating a feast of terror and plunder.
Meanwhile the Iron Warriors, under the command of Warpsmith Etrogar, were tasked with containing the forces at Ghreddask, the system's formidably defended Fortress World. The Warpsmith saw the outer planets of the Talledus System as the perfect testing ground for newly perfected monstrosities -- the Soul Harvesters.
These horrific creations were spaceborne fortress-factories that consisted of a central Daemonforge, surrounded by snaking tentacles of hellforged metal. These parasitic engines would embed themselves deep into a planet's crust, their boarding tentacles disgorging Iron Warriors into weak points in their enemy's defences. Meanwhile, the roaring furnace at the structure's heart would feed upon flesh, metal and the souls of the slain in order to spew out fresh Daemon Engine reinforcements.
As far as Kor Phaeron was concerned, these assaults were merely a diversion for his grand assault upon Benediction. They would divide Imperial reinforcements, securing him the time he needed to oversee the destruction of Benediction and its rebirth as a shrine of worship to the Chaos Pantheon.
The Imperium Mobilises
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 Imperial Guard regiments fell back to the Grand Honorificum, 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 Pellas 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, Pellas 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.
Whispers filtered out across the tides of the Warp, dark communiques summoning Chaos reinforcements to the Talledus theatre.
Siege of Ghreddask
Even as the fighting for Benediction escalated to new heights of savagery, the Iron Warriors drew Imperial reinforcements into a brutal war of attrition on the world of Ghreddask.
Warpsmith Etrogar of the Iron Warriors had no interest in Kor Phaeron's grand ideological plans for the Talledus System. A ruthlessly practical soul, Etrogar saw the rampant psychic disturbance unleashed by the Great Rift not as a spiritual awakening, but as an infinite source of power to be harnessed.
The Warpsmith entered Talledus at the helm of the Soul Harvester Scarax Krond. More spaceborne factory than starship, this cephalopodic metal monster was powered by an immense Daemonforge. A product of the Iron Warriors' darkest experiments in metallomorphosis and Warp-engineering, it would be the first such creation to be tested in battle.
With its vast alpine ranges and city-sized citadel fortresses, the Fortress World of Ghreddask was the most heavily defended planet in the Talledus System, aside from Benediction itself. Its seven great hive cities provided billions of souls for the Astra Militarum, and its deep reserves of promethium and super-dense minerals only added to Ghreddask's critical value to the Imperium -- making it an irresistible target for Etrogar.
The Scarax Krond latched onto the surface of Ghreddask like an immense parasite, thrusting pseudopods the size of habblocks deep into the earth. These snaking tentacles pulverised their way through rock and stone with siege drills and melta-cannons, before bursting up from the earth within the walls of Ghreddask's citadel fortifications. Heretic Astartes warriors marched forth, unleashing deadly volleys of bolt rounds into their unprepared foes.
At the same time, Chaos Knights of House Khomentis lumbered from the gatehouse of Scarax Krond, bellowing oaths of destruction as they set upon the armoured formations of the Astra Militarum.
Tank after tank was blasted into molten slag, and arcs of heavy bolter fire obliterated entire formations of Ghreddask infantry. All the while the Daemonforge of the Scarax Krond glutted itself upon the aura of death and destruction. Blasted corpses and twisted wreckages of shattered war machines were shovelled into its furnaces, as Etrogar and his fellow Warpsmiths stoked the hellish fires with the souls of the slain.
The Scarax Krond spewed out a tide of Daemon Engines, from scuttling, spider-like Venomcrawlers to hulking Maulerfiends that galloped into battle, eager to mutilate and destroy. Soon the Loyalists were in full flight, retreating to thepolar citadel of Fortress Resolve, where they prepared to make their final stand.
Just as the cruisers of the Iron Warriors prepared orbital bombardments that would blast open the last vestiges of resistance on Ghreddask, the Chaos fleet picked up a surge of Warp disturbance. Two enemy capital ships dropped out of orbit -- black vessels, bearing the stark white cross of the righteous Black Templars Chapter.
Castellan Dramos led a single strike force detached from the Rutherian Crusade, all that could be spared due to the Black Templars' extensive campaigns elsewhere across the Segmentum Solar on behalf of other Shrine Worlds. Fortunately, Dramos could also call upon a cadre of Imperial Knights from House Mortan, commanded by the dour yet ferocious Sir Dirkwald.
Dramos scanned the latest tactical cogitations broadcast from Fortress Resolve. The situation was grim. The Iron Warriors were besieging the polar citadel, pouring daemonic forces against its shield-walls while their siege tanks kept up a relentless bombardment. Yet the true threat, Dramos quickly intuited, was the Scarax Krond.
As long as the Soul Harvester's Daemonforge was operational, the Traitors could replenish their forces indefinitely. Strike Force Dawnhammer would deploy in a decisive attack upon the Soul Harvester.
The warriors of House Mortan made for the surface of Ghreddask in their fortified bulwark-landers, the heavily armoured vessels shrugging off reams of flak fire. Sir Dirkwald led a frontal assault upon the Scarax Krond. From the parapets of the Soul Harvester, Iron Warriors poured a stream of fire down upon the advancing Loyalists.
While the Knights drew the attention of the Chaos defenders, squads of Inceptors descended upon the Soul Harvester like living comets, burning through the upper atmosphere and locking coordinates upon the pulsing shell of the Scarax Krond.
They struck home with shattering force, breaching holes in the fleshmetal carapace with demolition charges, even as they fended off flocks of fire-spitting Heldrakes. Castellan Dramos led the assault into the heart of the Scarax Krond, battling through the innards of theiron monster, alongside a retinue of veteran crusaders.
This assault team suffered grievous losses as the Iron Warriors assailed them at every turn, but in an act of self-sacrifice that would mark their names in the honour-scrolls of their order, Dramos and his Command Squad managed to detonate a cyclonic charge at the heart of the structure.
The resulting Warp explosion swept through the Soul Harvester, immolating Loyalist and Heretic alike and blasting its assembly halls and charnel-factories to atoms. The Scarax Krond convulsed and thrashed its metal tendrils like a wounded animal, but its daemonic furnaces would not be snuffed out so easily. Dramos' sacrifice had bought the defenders of Ghreddask precious time, but the planet's fate still hung in the balance.
The conflict that raged upon Ghreddask was dominated by the presence of super-heavy war machines and enormous armoured battalions. Striding through the hailstorm of shells and rocket barrages came the towering forms of Imperial Knights, as well as their dark mirror, the dreaded Chaos Knights.
Both of these bitter enemies upheld ancient oaths to their liege lords with unwavering certainty. In the case of the corrupted houses, their refusal to break bonds of honour had found them fighting on the wrong side of the Horus Heresy, supporting the traitorous forces of the Warmaster Horus as they made war upon the Imperium of Mankind.
House Mortan provided the majority of the Loyalist war engines on Ghreddask, with no less than six Knights hailing from the darksome world of Kimdaria. Veteran beast-hunters all, the Mortan Knights hailed from a world wreathed in perpetual darkness and ravaged by predatory behemoths, a harsh place that had forged iron-hard souls.
They proved invaluable in the battle against the Daemon Engines of the Scarax Krond, corralling the twisted abominations with fleet Armigers before tearing them apart with Reaper Chainswords and Thunderstrike Gauntlets.
Warpsmith Etrogar had forged pacts with Houses Khomentis and Vrachul, both of whom were sworn to serve the Dark Mechanicum -- the unholy Chaos-corrupted counterpart of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The war machines of Vrachul belched acidic vapours from vents and exhaust ports; a pall of chemical smog wreathed them in battle, dissolving the flesh and armour of anything that strayed within its bounds.
The warriors of Khomentis kept daemonic spirits as hunting thralls and took cruel delight in chasing down and brutalising wounded and damaged Imperial Knights. Both houses favoured the rush and crash of close combat, a craving that the Loyalist Nobles of House Mortan were only too glad to accommodate.
Ghreddask shook to the impact of Titan-killing weaponry as these two ancient foes duelled, prepared to fight to the bitter end.
The Chaos Lord Yharas Kine and his Night Lords warband found rich pickings amidst the Talledan asteroid field known as the Tears of the Emperor. Broadcasting a terrible psychic signal, they lured their prey into darkness before hunting and tormenting them with sadistic delight. Their latest quarry, however, would not prove such an easy kill.
The Nightmare of Celyx drifted through the Tears of the Emperor, broadcasting its terrible signal across the stars. Following the siren ship closely were the shadowed hulls of Night Lords vessels. As Imperial cruisers and escort ships were dragged off course into thebelt, these reaver ships would strike hard and fast, firing boarding hooks and unleashing hunting parties of Heretic Astartes upon their stricken prey.
Such was the horror let loose by the Night Lords that the Tears of the Emperor burned blood red. The asteroid field was visible from the surface of Talledus' war-torn worlds, a ragged wound in the sky that promised a bloody and terrible end.
As the battle for the Talledus System raged on, more and more desperately needed reinforcements disappeared. Driven mad by the strength of the psychic broadcast, Navigators were drawn unerringly into the Night Lords' trap. Astra Militarum generals and officers of the fleet despaired, for every lost ship was a heavy blow to the Imperium's hopes of containing the Talledus conflict.
Salvation came from an unexpected quarter. A strike force of Vanguard Space Marines from the White Scars Chapter, under the command of Jodagha Khan, the Captain of the 10th Brotherhood, had been tracking the movements of Yharas Kine's Night Lords for several solar months, following the psychic spoor of the Heretic Astartes' tortured victims.
The White Scars had witnessed first-hand the trail of horror that the Heretic Astartes had left in their wake, and their revulsion at the depravity of their fallen brethren was absolute. The Khan's stealth cruisers followed the flight of the Nightmare of Celyx straight to Talledus, and to the Tears of the Emperor.
There the Khan and his Battle-Brothers found a graveyard of tornand twisted vessels, orbited by flayed, vacuum-frozen corpses still wearing expressions of agony. There was no sign of the siren ship itself, but the sudden shriek of proximity sensors revealed a host of incoming vessels -- dagger-shaped Night Lords strike craft raging toward them at full speed.
The resulting void battle was swift and brutal. The smaller Night Lords force had approached under thecover of drifting asteroids, and was upon the White Scars before the Space Marines could bring their lance batteries to bear. The cruiser Thunderstone was boarded by several kill-packs of Raptors, who wreaked terrible carnage upon the crew and sabotaged several motive systems before being driven off by squads of White Scars Infiltrators.
As soon as the tide of battle turned, the Night Lords vessels slipped back into the impervious cover of the asteroid field.
The Night Lords had turned the Tears of the Emperor into theirhellish playground, mastering the deadly, shifting battleground and turning it against their foes. The White Scars found themselves not only assailed by the Heretic Astartes, but staggered by the devious traps and lures that the Night Lords had assembled throughout the asteroid field -- planetoids laced with cyclonic charges and astropathic signals that drew the White Scars into pre-prepared killing zones.
Only the multi-spectrum precognition arrays of the White Scars' stealth cruisers allowed them to navigate a path through the haunted darkness. So began a shadow war of escalating brutality, as the warriors of Chogoris sought to track down their hated foes through a maelstrom of blazing rocks and ruined spaceships. The Night Lords had spared the lives of the Navigators from these gutted vessels, though the survivors found themselves subject to a far worse fate than death.
Flayed, agonised and kept alive and conscious by Warp magic, they howled their torment into the void. These disruptive, psychic screams obscured the siren signal broadcast by the Nightmare of Celyx, rendering it all but impossible to discern the ship's exact location.
Each of these lures was an ambush site guarded by kill-packs of Night Lords Raptors, Chaos Space Marines and Daemon Engines. Whether they were located on drifting asteroids or the skeletons of dead vessels, every inch of ground was rigged with las-grid traps, scatter mines and booby-trapped corpses.
Incursor Squads paid a heavy toll to clear out each ambush site, utilising their Divinator-class auspexes to fashion a full-spectrum analysis of the battlefield and disperse this vital combat data to their Battle-Brothers.
Infiltrator Squads breached the lightless halls of dead ships, hurling Smoke Grenades and firing disciplined bursts from their augur-scoped marksman Bolt Carbines.The tenets of speed and constantmovement, central to the art of warfare practised by the warriors of Chogoris, were stymied by the Night Lords' devious tricks.
Yharas Kine and his contingent -- masters of the art of stealth and subterfuge -- delighted in the challenge provided by the Vanguard Space Marines. Claws of elite Chaos Terminators launched short-range teleportation strikes into the hearts of the White Scars formations, butchering and eviscerating with Lightning Claws and Power Axes.
Heldrakes preyed upon the White Scars' dropships in the vacuum of space, and the nightmarish fiends known as Warp Talons breached the hulls of Space Marine cruisers, running amok in the darkness.
For all the cruel ingenuity of the Night Lords' attacks, the White Scars, under the command of the Khan, adapted with remarkable speed. They feigned desperate retreats, drawing the Traitor forces into kill zones of their own. Damaged ships were sacrificed to lure in those Night Lords drunk on the thrill of murder and torture.
The ambushers suddenly became the ambushed as White Scars warriors appeared in their midst, yelling blood-curdling war cries and engaging the Heretic Astartes in brutal, close-quarter battles.
Yet even as the momentum of battle shifted from hour to hour, the Nightmare of Celyx remained unseen, still broadcasting its demented song. Until the White Scars had cut off every false signal, the desperate fighting within the Tears of the Emperor would continue, as the Talledan War raged on with no end in sight.
Imperial Order of Battle
Defenders of the Grand Honorificum on Benediction
- Order of Our Martyred Lady - 3 preceptories
- Ghreddask Illuminators Armoured Regiments - 13 regiments
- Ghreddask Illuminators Artillery Regiments - 9 regiments
- Ghreddask Illuminators Infantry Regiments - 26 regiments
- Cadian Auxilia - 14 regiments
- Sentae Honorifica - 50,000 personnel (est.)
- Pilgrims of the River - Unknown numbers
- Trevortian Gladii - 177 scratch companies
- Censerhosts - 36 formations
Talledus Relief Group - Battlefleet Pharas
- Salamanders - 1 demi-company (50 Astartes)
- Black Templars - Gladius strike force of the Rutherian Crusade
- White Scars - 3 Vanguard Space Marine strike forces of the 10th Brotherhood
- Cadian 17th Infantry Regiment
- Cadian 567th Armored Regiment
- Cadian 991st Armored Regiment
- Battlefleet Pharas
- Battlefleet Sentanis
- Battlefleet Ios
- Battlefleet Cemeres
Additional forces dispatched to Talledus System according to Priority Order Sygna//X32
Chaos Order of Battle
Benediction Invasion Force
- Word Bearers - 1 company
- Brotherhood of the Knife (Chaos Cult) - Unknown numbers
- Cult of Loss (Chaos Cult) - Unknown numbers
- Bloodhounds - 13 war parties
- Gore Legion of Khoros - 1 host
Siege of Ghreddask
- Iron Warriors - 1 company
- House Khomentis - household strength
- House Vrachul - household strength
- Rusthammer Traitor Artillery (Traitor Astra Militarum) - 3 regiments
- Vrachul Dragoons (House Vrachul auxiliary infantry) - 2 regiments
- Wyreblood Combat Servitors - 45 packs
Chaos Teras of the Emperor Void Raiders
- Night Lords - 3 warbands (approx.)
- Siren Fleet - Unknown numbers of voidships
- Sons of Vengeance - Sightings reported
A full analysis of Heretic forces is unavailable due to extreme Warp distortions. The above record has been gathered from intercepted vox transmissions and astropathic messages.
- Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury (8th Edition), pp. 8-19