This page details the Terran Crusade of Primarch Roboute Guilliman in 999.M41 after his resurrection on Macragge. For the first Terran Crusade led by the Black Templars Chapter during the 36th Millennium, see Age of Apostasy and Reign of Blood.
- "Why do I still live? What more do you want from me? I gave everything I had to you, to them. Look what they've made of our dream. This bloated, rotting carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fires of Horus' ambition than live to see this."
The Terran Crusade was an Imperial military campaign in 999.M41 led by the resurrected Primarch Roboute Guilliman after his victory in the Ultramar Campaign and the fall of Cadia during the 13th Black Crusade. Following the destruction of Cadia, the Warmaster of Chaos, Abaddon the Despoiler, had learned that the Imperial survivors of Cadia's fall, known as the Celestinian Crusade, had been rescued by the Eldar Ynnari. Fleeing through the Webway gate on the ice moon of Klaisus in the Cadia System, the Imperials made their way to Macragge, the capital world of the Ultramarines Chapter's Realm of Ultramar. The Despoiler was warned by one of his Chaos Sorcerers, Zaraphiston, that he had foreseen in the Warp that this escape could lead to a series of events that would turn the tide against Chaos' ultimate victory in the Long War. To prevent that outcome, the Despoiler ordered a full-scale Chaos invasion of Ultramar and the destruction of the Ultramarines.
But Zaraphiston's warning proved prophetic. The Celestinians convinced Marneus Calgar, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, to allow them to attempt to resurrect their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, who had been trapped in stasis in the Temple of Correction on Macragge for ten thousand standard years. Despite a belated and desperate attempt by the Despoiler's forces to stop the Loyalists from acting, Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl of the Adeptus Mechanicus, in conjunction with the power of Yvraine, the Ynnari priestess of the Eldar God of the Dead Ynnead, succeeded in melding technology and psychic power to restore Guilliman to life.
With a Primarch back in command of the Ultramarines' defence of Macragge, victory came swiftly. Guilliman succeeded in driving the Forces of Chaos from his homeworld and then, over the course of seven standard months, from the rest of Ultramar. With Ultramar back under Loyalist control, Guilliman had time to come to terms with what the Imperium of Man had become in the ten thousand standard years of his absence. Far from the golden rule of prosperity, scientific wonder and freedom promised by the Emperor, the Imperium in His absence had degenerated into a despotic, tyrannical regime defined by ignorance, fear and superstition. At first despairing, Guilliman finally found hope for humanity's future once more deep in his heart and declared that he must make his way from Macragge through the roiling tides of the Warp to Terra. There he would consult with his father, the Emperor, and determine what must be done to save the Imperium from the servants of the Dark Gods.
Gathering forces from all across the Imperium who were able to reach Macragge as the Warp grew ever more turbulent in the wake of the 13th Black Crusade, the Primarch assembled a massive Crusade Fleet to reach Terra. Leaving Macragge and Ultramar in the capable hands of Marneus Calgar, Guilliman's fleet was passing near the great Warp rift known as the Maelstrom when it was intercepted by a Chaos fleet led by the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Traitor Legion. Magnus had stirred himself from the Planet of the Sorcerers for the first time in millennia in recent days, to assault the Fenris System of his ancient foes the Space Wolves, and now to confront his former brother. The Thousand Sons Primarch cast a potent sorcerous ritual that flung the Terran Crusade Fleet into the Maelstrom, with no apparent way for it to escape from the labyrinthine clutches of that wound in reality.
With time in the Warp indeterminate, the Terran Crusade wandered from Daemon World to Daemon World within the Warp rift, taking steady casualties from the constant daemonic assaults. All during this time Roboute Guilliman's guilt and frustration began to grow, weighing down his psyche as the Loyalists found it impossible to escape the Maelstrom's clutches. But a beacon of hope came when on one such world Guilliman received a psychic message from the Eldar Farseer Eldrad Ulthran, now an ally of the Ynnari, which laid out a series of landmarks for the Imperial fleet to follow to escape the Warp rift. But when the much-diminished Crusade reached the starship graveyard which marked the passage back to realspace, it was met by another massive Chaos fleet, this time of the piratical Chaos Space Marines known as the Red Corsairs, led by the Lord of Change Kairos Fateweaver. The Chaos forces assaulted every voidship in the Imperial fleet, and Kairos ultimately succeeded in defeating Guilliman by using his psychic powers to wrap the Primarch in chains literally crafted from his own guilt. Threatening the immobilised Primarch's life, the Greater Daemon forced the rest of the Imperial fleet to surrender.
The Terran Crusade found itself in dire straits, brought by Fateweaver's command to a Blackstone Fortress hidden in the Maelstrom by the Red Corsairs, a secret gift from Abaddon the Despoiler. There the Primarch and his remaining followers would have rotted for eternity were it not for intervention from an unexpected source -- the Eldar Harlequins led by the Shadowseer Sylandri Veilwalker and Cypher, the mysterious Fallen Angel who was a sometimes enemy and sometimes ally of those loyal to the Emperor. In return for a promise to bring the Fallen Angel before the Golden Throne, Cypher freed the Primarch and his compatriots. With their starships lost to them, their crews sacrificed to the Ruinous Powers, Veilwalker offered another path to Terra -- through the Webway gate that lay at the heart of the massive xenos star fortress. The Imperials forced their way deep into the interior of the Blackstone Fortress, defeating the sudden influx of Khornate and Tzeentchian daemons that barred their way. The last hurdle was represented by the Bloodthirster Skarbrand the Exiled One who directly assaulted the Primarch after slaying the heroic Emperor's Champion Marius Amalrich. Guilliman managed to defeat the Greater Daemon in hand-to-hand combat largely because of the wound that Amalrich's Black Sword had left in Skarbrand's fiery hide.
With Skarbrand's fall, the Terran Crusade passed through the Webway towards Terra, only to discover that the Labyrinth Dimension was already haunted by Magnus the Red and the forces of the Thousand Sons. As Veilwalker explained that there had long existed a secret exit of the Webway on Luna, the moon of Terra, Guilliman realised that his daemon brother had been waiting for them. As soon as they opened the Webway exit in the Sol System, the Thousand Sons would rush through behind them, unleashing a major Chaos invasion right on Terra's doorstep, allowing Magnus to gain the glory ahead of the Despoiler. But with aid from the Harlequins and other Imperial forces such as the Sisters of Silence and the Imperial Fists, Guilliman and his Terran Crusade survivors managed to overwhelm the Thousand Sons and cast Magnus back through the Webway portal, permanently sealing it so that it could never be used again to threaten the Throneworld of the Imperium.
At long last, Guilliman was escorted by the awed defenders of Terra to the Imperial Palace, where the survivors of the Celestinian and Terran Crusades at last went their separate ways. There, he finally met for one full solar day with his father, the Emperor of Mankind, for the first time in ten millennia. None know what was said between them, but when the Primarch emerged from the Inner Palace, he declared that he was taking up the mantle of the Lord Commander of the Imperium once more. Now the first among equals among the High Lords of Terra just as he had been after the Horus Heresy, Guilliman promised the people of the galaxy that he would assemble the greatest fleet and armies seen since the Great Crusade to take the fight to Chaos ... and revive the Emperor's lost dream of a better future for Humanity.
- "Even gods have their limits. Mortal weapons may fail to harm them, this is true. But pride, arrogance, an excess of devotion to their mortal servants -- these are barbs with which even the most divine of beings may be brought low."
Journey into Hell
The Warp is, in many ways, a mirror of our reality. Like a dark and fathomless pool, its surface ripples with the impact of momentous events, or great outbursts of passion and emotion. The resurrection of Roboute Guilliman during the Ultramar Campaign sent bow waves of psychic energy rolling outward through the Immaterium, racing tsunamis of turmoil that did not go unnoticed.
One by one, the Champions of the Dark Gods of Chaos became aware of the resurrected Primarch. Reclining amidst an endless banquet of souls, Fulgrim pouted in displeasure as daemon imps whispered the news into his ear. The Daemon Primarch of the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion bestirred himself from his velvet throne, vowing to his depraved god Slaanesh that this time, he would ensure Guilliman's eternal fall from grace.
In hidden fanes and crystalline mazes, the greatest daemons of Tzeentch watched as the weft and weave of fate rippled and changed with the implications of Guilliman's return. Reading their master's will in the shattered facets of the future, each set itself to the task of tainting, tempting or destroying the Ultramarines Primarch in a myriad of subtly varied fashions.
Deep within the noisome swamps of Nurgle's Garden in the Realm of Chaos, a conclave of Great Unclean Ones listened indulgently to the frantic babbling of messenger flies. They leered in delight, bile and maggots slopping down their festering chins. A Primarch! One untouched and untainted by any of Nurgle's brothers. Their pestilential master would no doubt value such a prize most highly. Perhaps, they chortled mockingly, they might even arrange a final reconciliation between the bitter Daemon Primarch Mortarion and his brother. Such an opportunity had not presented itself in thousands of standard years, and the Great Unclean Ones hummed a cheerful ditty as they began to concoct a sickness fit for a demigod.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Mendox Cataclysm was coming to its hideous conclusion. Along a war front that spanned entire star systems, the Champions of Khorne burned eighty-eight Imperial worlds at once. Amidst the rising flames of their genocide, Champions of Khorne both mortal and daemonic witnessed visions of their furious deity, raging against Guilliman's return. His apoplectic bellows rang as thunder through the skies of the dying planets, and Warp Storms shuddered into being through rents in reality as though the Blood God was hacking at the stars with his ruinous blade. The servants of the other Dark Gods might try to corrupt Guilliman, to mislead or despoil him. Yet Khorne's servants knew that their master had no patience for such things. Instead, they fell to battle amongst each other, warring for the right to hunt down the reborn Primarch and claim his skull.
Other dark lords, too, saw the glowing beacon of Guilliman's rebirth from afar and began to marshal their forces accordingly. Forewarned by the prophetic visions of Zaraphiston, Abaddon the Despoiler had fashioned a loose alliance of Traitor Marine warbands to strike Guilliman down before his resurrection could occur. It was this that had spurred the sudden, frenzied Chaos invasion of Ultramar, but -- even with the aid of a sizeable force of Black Legionaries -- Abaddon's vassal warlords had failed in their initial gambit. Furious, Abaddon summoned and bound the Lord of Change Kairos Fateweaver, sending him winging his way across the galaxy to gather fresh forces against the Primarch.
Upon far-flung hell worlds, Magnus the Red and the Death Lord Mortarion received word of their brother's awakening. Their reactions were as different as fire and ice. Mortarion raged, a cold and virulent storm of anger whirling around him until its echoes in realspace seeded seven new and terrible plagues upon luckless Imperial worlds. Mired amid plans that were nearing fruition, the Daemon Primarch of the Death Guard Traitor Legion could not yet act to strike at Guilliman. Instead, as he stared with glowing eyes across the mist-wreathed parade grounds of his Plague Planet, and the massed ranks of Death Guard there assembled, Mortarion vowed that he would render Guilliman and his empire to rot soon enough.
Magnus, by comparison, gave a booming laugh of utter delight. Like a fortune teller who flips their final tarot card and gains sudden insight, the Crimson King saw now before him paths of glorious fate, where before had been a wilderness of confusion. Magnus began to issue orders, his words bursting forth as swarms of crystalline insects. They flitted away to marshal the thrallbands of his once proud Space Marine Legion, the Thousand Sons. Already, the cyclopean Daemon Primarch had revenged himself upon one hated foe of old, setting the Fenris System of the Space Wolves alight in the fires of retribution. Now, he saw a chance to punish another.
So the might of the Warp began to gather, coiling and writhing like a serpents' nest. Traitor Marine warbands rode the dark tides of the Empyrean toward Ultramar, howling with naked bloodlust and swearing vows to strike Guilliman down in the name of the Ruinous Powers.
Swathes of the galaxy were already riven with Warp Storms that had spilled through the Cadian Gate with all the ferocity of Old Night, or been unleashed by the shattering of the Eldar Craftworld Biel-Tan. Now those tempests spread further, as the Primordial Annihilator turned its full attentions upon realspace. Screaming maws burst open between the stars, horrifyingly immense, yawning gulfs ringed by mountainous fangs and coiling, ectoplasmic tentacles. Dozens of worlds were plunged into darkness and terror as time shattered apart around them, and the energies of the Immaterium burst their banks to flood into realspace.
Within the Warp, wars ended even as fresh ones began. Daemonic legions were pulled away from nightmarish battlefields and hurled through breaches in the veil of reality, charged with hunting down and putting an end to the reborn Primarch. Yet the servants of the Dark Gods are ever opportunists, and believed that this moment of distraction could be used to strike at their respective masters' rivals amongst the Chaos pantheon.
Mounted upon a cogwork scorpion the size of a city, Khorne's blood legions drove headlong into the winding edges of the Lord of Change's Crystal Labyrinth, swarms of flame-belching Tzeentchian daemons pouring out to meet them like insects defending their kicked hive. At the same time, Slaanesh's cavalcade of hedonism hacked its way into the Garden of Nurgle, even as the Plague God's infamous Sluggardhost came squirming through the brimstone caverns beneath Khorne's Ironfire Bastion. Soon enough, fresh wars raged throughout the domains of the Chaos Gods, their eternal rivalries stoked by the momentous events, yet still a portion of their attentions were focused upon the fate of Roboute Guilliman, and upon their worshippers' schemes to lay him low.
As for the Primarch himself, Guilliman was, as yet, unaware of the daemonic madness that his return had spurred. This was a mercy, for the Lord of Ultramar already had a crushing weight of questions and shock to deal with. Everything Guilliman knew was gone, replaced by the madness and horror of a future he had tried so desperately to prevent ten thousand standard years before.
Roboute Guilliman settled heavily into his new throne. The Primarch had despatched all of his attendants and advisors, even sending his Honour Guard to wait outside the sanctum. At last he could allow a little of his sorrow, trauma and pain to show, and Guilliman let his mask drop with a sigh of relief. Whatever had been done to him to bring him back, it had left the Primarch with a constant, gnawing ache that radiated from deep within. He suspected that pain would never leave him.
Physical hurts were the least of Guilliman's troubles. One by one, the Primarch had spoken with each of the Celestinians, the lords of the Ultramarines, and even Yvraine of the Ynnari. Solar days had been spent in deep, earnest conversation, Guilliman using every iota of his statesman's guile to set his guests at ease, to tease from them as much information as he could, and to hide his reactions to their words. Guilliman had thanked each of his visitors for their insights and their service to the Imperium, inwardly assessing each of his guests and showing them whatever aspect of his personality was surest to render them sympathetic and voluble.
Though he had not shown it, each fresh revelation struck the Primarch like a cannon shell. He was exhausted from staving off bewilderment and horror, hollowed out by pain. Guilliman groaned and placed his head in his hands, his new suit of armour hissing and humming with the motion.
"Millennia have passed", he murmured, unsure to whom he spoke. He knew only that he had to vocalise his situation before it drove him mad. Not for the first time since his return, Guilliman wished for one of his brothers to speak with. They, at least, might have understood.
"Thousands of years", he said. "And look what has become of them. Of us. Idolatry. Ignorance. Suffering and squalor, in the name of a god who never desired the title."
Guilliman shook his head and stood, pacing across the Chapter Master's sanctum to stare up at the banners hanging on the western wall. Each was the height of an Imperial Knight, a cascade of masterfully woven cloth depicting the glories of the Ultramarines.
Slain alien beasts, executed Heretic despots, worlds saved and worlds burned. The Chapter's proud iconography was much in evidence, but so was the Aquila of the Imperium and there, presiding over several of the heraldic designs, a figure with throne and halo who must surely be the Emperor.
"We failed, father", said Guilliman, his words tired and leaden with sorrow. "You failed your sons, and we, in our turn, failed you. And now, to compound our arrogance and vainglory, we have failed all of them, too. Did Horus not say that you sought godhood? He built a rebellion upon that claim. How he would gloat, to see the Imperium now."
Anger surged through the Lord of Ultramar, and he clenched his fists with the effort of self-restraint. He imagined destroying this chamber, tearing it apart and hurling its wreckage around like a wild beast. He dared not, lest these strangers in his Chapter's livery see through his facade. Though he wrestled with despair, the Primarch knew that he could not let his weakness show. Marneus Calgar, Tigurius, Agemman, all the others -- they looked at him as though he was the Emperor Himself. Guilliman was painfully aware of his symbolic quality, and of how desperate and dark the hour had become. He must show nothing but strength to his gene-sons, lest his despair taint their hearts, too.
"And yet, would it really matter," he sighed, turning his back on the banners and pacing across the chamber to stare through a stained glass window. Out there, across the war-torn immensity of the Fortress of Hera, Guilliman saw the sweeping bulwark where his old chambers had once been. They had belonged to his father, even before him. He had laid his plans there, spoken to his brothers, laughed and raged and -- on one occasion -- almost died. Now they were gone, buried beneath ugly agglomerations of buttressing and gun batteries. It was apt, he thought bitterly.
Guilliman's anger spilled over, and he spun on his heel, staring up at the woven Emperor with accusing eyes.
"Why do I still live," he snarled. "What more do you want from me? I gave everything I had to you, to them. Look what they've made of our dream. This bloated, rotting carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fires of Horus' ambition than live to see this." Even as he said it, Guilliman heard the lie in his words. Amongst his brothers, none had been more idealistic than Roboute Guilliman. None had envisioned a brighter future, not just for Mankind but also for the warriors of the Legiones Astartes. That flame of hope had been a part of him for as long as he had lived. Even now, as it was smothered by darkness and woe, Guilliman realised that his flame endured.
"There's hope still," he told himself, turning back to the window and placing one armoured palm against it. He stared out at the work gangs, labouring to repair the damage of war, and the Ultramarines stood proud and determined upon the ramparts. They had been born into this dark millennium, and had known nothing but the hardship, suffering and despair of unending conflict. Yet still they struggled on unbowed, despite the countless enemies ranged against them. Guilliman had seen a better age, one of hope and triumph. What right had he, a superhuman son of the Emperor Himself, to show any less strength and courage than his followers born in darkness?
Guilliman had seen what Humanity could achieve. Moreover, he knew what fruits Bellisarius Cawl's labours had borne beneath the surface of Mars. He believed that a better future for the Imperium was still possible. But only if those who tormented Mankind were first defeated.
"All of this misery", said Guilliman. "All of this suffering and pain. It is not the doing of Humanity, but of those who have betrayed us. Too long have the pawns of Chaos dictated our species' fate. That must end."
Guilliman felt new strength fill him. Inspired by it, the Primarch took his pain, and his desolation, and locked them away deep within his mind. But his rage he kept. That, he would have use for.
Later there would be time to mourn, to reason, to plan anew. Now was the time to fight, and to make his father's enemies pay for every horror they had inflicted upon the Imperium.
Battle for Macragge
Four solar days and nights after his coronation as the Lord of Ultramar, Roboute Guilliman emerged from seclusion. In his absence, Marneus Calgar had continued to lead the fight, ignoring his injuries as he coordinated the Ultramarines' war effort. Now, though, Calgar willingly ceded control of the campaign to his gene-sire. Recognising the vastly capable Chapter Master for the asset he was, Guilliman kept Calgar close at hand in the battles that followed, and asked his counsel constantly. Brother-Librarian Tigurius, too, swiftly became a trusted advisor, the Primarch accepting that in this darker age, the trappings and powers of the Librarius had -- by necessity -- also become darker. In a move that surprised many, Guilliman also included Voldus, Cawl, Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax amongst his coterie of lieutenants. The Primarch sought the insights of every arm of the Imperial war machine, recognising that in unity lay strength.
With his advisors at his side, and the unbowed might of the Ultramarines at his disposal, Guilliman began the reconquest of his homeworld. Wider galactic matters would have to wait; Macragge was still beset from every side, and if the Chapter planet fell, then even the resurrected Primarch would surely be dragged down by the tide of foes.
The war for Macragge lasted a little over a solar month, and its pace was blistering. Roboute Guilliman was a force of nature, an unstoppable avatar of the Emperor's will who drove his enemies before him like cattle. First came a series of lightning-fast offensives to clear the Valley of Laponis and the partially ruined city of Magna Civitas. Batteries of Iron Warriors siege guns were overrun. The semi-sentient artillery engines were blown apart by Melta charges, their whip-fisted overseers executed with swift efficiency. Chanting masses of Chaos Cultists were surrounded inside gilded domes and soaring habblocks, before being systematically cut apart. Agemman, Celestine and Greyfax led pinpoint strikes to take back the city's primary orbital batteries. Soon enough, ruby columns of light were spearing up into the heavens to drive the Chaos warships out of their geosynchronous orbits above the Ultramarines' fortress-monastery.
This was only the beginning. Led by the famed tank commander Antaro Chronus, roaring columns of Ultramarines armour swept the Traitor battle groups from the Magletine Highlands, and drove their survivors into the storm-tossed Pharamis Ocean. Grand Master Voldus and his 3rd Brotherhood of the Grey Knights lent their might to the reconquest when they spearheaded the strike against the corrupted city of Collosae. Here the silver-armoured Daemon Hunters fought a cat-and-mouse battle with cruel bands of Night Lords, who had veiled the city in an unnatural gloom. The Traitors were eventually driven out, and a mysterious blood ritual halted before it could come to fruition, though the entire city had subsequently to be levelled from orbit for fear of its Chaos taint.
Guilliman led attacks against Valmari, Mount Tarphus and the snowy Gallinus Pass, emerging triumphant at every turn. The Ultramarines swept all before them, combining their exceptional skill and discipline with the visionary battle plans of their Primarch into an unstoppable whole. The Ultramar Defence Auxilia followed up each new conquest, digging in and fortifying in great number so that any attempts by the Forces of Chaos to counterattack were met by overwhelming resistance. Though the Heretic Astartes fought furiously, and inflicted sore losses upon the Loyalists, they simply could not match the strategic acumen of Roboute Guilliman, and one Chaos warband after another was defeated. Even those who fled Macragge found no haven in the void, for their invasion craft had been surrounded and reduced to burning scrap by the Ultramar Defence Fleet.
Finally, after long solar weeks of vicious battle and a vast toll of the dead, the world of Macragge was liberated once more.
The Crown of Glories
The first steps had been taken upon the road of reconquest. Macragge was free of Chaos taint. Guilliman wished to press on, consumed by his desire to drive the Ruinous Powers from Ultramar. However, those he led needed time to regroup and consolidate. Countless wounded required attention. Hundreds of war machines needed repair.
Guilliman was wise enough to give his followers the time they needed. Meanwhile, Imperial reinforcements gathered around Macragge. Braving the Warp Storms raging through local space, Space Marine craft by the dozen assembled above the Ultramarines homeworld. Delegations from many Primogenitor Successor Chapters of the Ultramarines had ploughed through the Empyrean, risking terrible danger to see for themselves that the Primarch had returned. Novamarines, Sons of Orar, Genesis Chapter and countless others joined the growing throng, kneeling before the Primarch and swearing allegiance to him.
While the armies of the Ultramar Reconquest were gathering, a further opportunity presented itself. It was the Arch-Consul of Magna Civitas -- the closest Ultramar had to a conventional Planetary Governor -- who suggested that a grand victory parade could be held, and its majesty recorded on pict casts to be sent far and wide through the Imperium. The Consul said that people needed the light of hope in this dark hour, a shining example of victory to renew their faith not just in the Emperor, but in Guilliman reborn.
The Primarch acceded to this demand, though it sat ill with his bleak inner mood. Guilliman saw the wisdom in it, but he accepted such aggrandisement only grudgingly. Mere solar days after victory was declared, a grand triumph swept up from the Titan Gate to the very steps of the Fortress of Hera. Thousands of war engines and millions of warriors presented their colours and raised cheers and horn blasts to the skies. A seething sea of the city's residents packed the crater-pocked processionals and plazas to watch the proceedings, and voices beyond count rang out as one to cry Guilliman's praise in a single deafening roar.
Standing upon a marble-columned platform with his closest lieutenants at his side, the Primarch dutifully presented the most magnificent spectacle he could for the assembled masses. The Arch-Consul himself presented Guilliman with a stunningly wrought laurel wreath crafted in gold, urging the Primarch to don the gilded crown at once. The moment Guilliman did so, he found his mind filled with thoughts of future glories. This paltry triumph would be nothing compared to the breathtaking spectacle of his galactic conquest. The Primarch's armies would be beyond number, their adoration for their heroic lord so great that they would die for him gladly. Planets, systems, whole Segmentums would be renamed in honour of he who had liberated them, and the whipped dogs of Chaos would flee before him like the curs they were. Statues would be raised to commemorate Guilliman's majesty, and eventually even the Golden Throne of Terra itself would be his to mount. The Emperor's most loyal son deserved no less an inheritance, and he would have his due.
It was this last thought that wrenched Guilliman from the wreath's insidious curse. With a gasp, he tore the gilded crown from his head and bellowed a command for the Arch-Consul to be restrained. It was Grand Master Voldus who grabbed the robed dignitary, and as his blessed gauntlets touched the man's flesh it sizzled and crisped. The din of the triumph was colossal, an ocean swell of noise that hid the Arch-Consul's shrieks as the illusions that veiled him were unmade.
Guilliman and his lieutenants recoiled at the misshapen mutant thing that was revealed. Bulbous and deformed, the keening, fleshy abomination wore a glowing amulet about its neck on a thong of human skin. As Guilliman stared in disgust at this cursed fetish, he heard a susurration hissing within his mind that he had not heard since that fateful encounter on Thessala ten millennia before. In mocking tones, Fulgrim welcomed Guilliman back to his beloved Imperium. The Daemon Primarch revealed that he had concealed a fragment of his own animus in the amulet that his servant wore, and confessed disappointment that Guilliman had rejected his gift, the Crown of Glories. Many heroes great and pure had fallen to the trinket's blandishments, and Fulgrim had hoped that he could corrupt Guilliman in the same fashion. Yet the Slaaneshi Daemon Prince assured his brother that this was but the first of endless temptations that Guilliman would have to face. Laughing cruelly, he taunted that the Lord of Ultramar would never be able to trust any feeling of triumph or self-satisfaction again.
Disgusted, Guilliman drove his sword through the amulet and into the hideous creature that bore it, silencing the voice of the damned brother who had laid him low millennia past. Yet as the triumph rumbled on, Fulgrim's words continued to echo in Guilliman's mind. They would do so for many solar days to come.
War Zone Ultramar
As the armies of reconquest gathered upon Macragge, so ever more Imperial forces came seeking the Primarch. Some, like the Dark Angels and the Raven Guard, sent small delegations to determine the veracity of this miracle. Others came in hope and celebration, bands of Space Wolves, White Scars, Black Templars and others hastening to the Primarch's side. A glorious moment came to pass when the Black Templars made planetfall, for they were reunited with Marshal Marius Amalrich, who alone of his brotherhood had survived the battle in Guilliman's shrine. Taking one look at the zealous light in Amalrich's eyes, the Black Templars Chaplains declared him touched by the hand of the Emperor. The Marshal was brought aboard the Strike Cruiser Scourge of Heretics, and girded with the armour and the Black Sword of the Emperor's Champion.
Others, too, came to Ultramar upon the insistence of their seers, Astropaths, soothsayers and lords. Battleships of the Imperial Navy, regal Barons of Imperial-aligned Knight Worlds, fleets of warships from the Adeptus Mechanicus and their Titan Legions, processions from the Adeptus Administratum; all came to offer fealty to the Primarch.
A grotesque cyber-synod of the Adeptus Ministorum descended upon the Fortress of Hera and insisted upon first confirming, and then proclaiming, Guilliman's alleged divinity. The horrified Primarch agreed to such beatification only after Celestine and Greyfax impressed upon him just how powerful the Ecclesiarchy was in the Imperium of the 41st Millennium. Better to have them as a firebrand ally than an obstreperous foe.
Before his departure from the fortress, Guilliman had one more order of business. He decreed that now was an age of wrath and war, in which learning and lore must be set aside. The Primarch shocked his Chapter by ordering the great Library of Ptolemy barred to all comers on pain of death. Every last tome, every lingering, dangerous secret contained within that ancient repository was locked behind adamantium bulkheads and Servitor guns. At the same time a new war room was built. This was the Strategium Ultra, from where Guilliman's reconquest could be plotted, tracked and coordinated.
When finally the armies of reconquest were ready to set out, Roboute Guilliman led them into battle with something akin to relief. After the endless political infighting and bureaucracy of this turgid new Imperium, the thought of a battlefield seemed almost welcoming.
Guilliman began with the Macragge System itself, several of whose worlds were beset by the Forces of Chaos. A warband of Iron Warriors known as the Bitter Sons had invaded the Hive World of Ardium, conquering one of the planet's three subterranean hive cities and fortifying its winding tunnel networks. Linking up with the surviving Auxilia garrisons of Hives Geodrane and Tarnis, Guilliman led elements of the Ultramarines 4th and 6th Companies through a subterranean hellscape to assault Hive Magmaria. The fighting was savage in the extreme, the outnumbered Iron Warriors clinging tenaciously to their defences until the last man. Corpses choked entire magtunnels, and blood filled the undersump until it overflowed through the hive's drainage grilles. In the end, Guilliman and his gore-drenched followers emerged victorious.
The Shrine World of Laphis became the site of the liberation's greatest naval engagement when the Ultramar Defence Fleet engaged the ships of the Alpha Legion blockading the planet. Marneus Calgar commanded the offensive, seated in the captain's throne aboard the ancient flagship Macragge's Honour. The Ultramarines vessels swept in through the void with their guns thundering, successfully driving back those Alpha Legion voidcraft engaged in surface bombardment. Triumph turned to horror when a flotilla of fleeing Imperial bulk carriers were revealed to be crewed by Alpha Legion Chaos Cultists. Packed with explosives, the lumbering haulers ploughed into the Ultramarines starships and crippled several. Calgar had expected treachery from his foes, however, and now revealed his own masterstroke as a second, reserve fleet of swift Strike Cruisers and frigates swept in from behind Laphis' third moon, Aurora. At the same time, elite strike units containing Ultramarines Techmarines dropped onto Laphis' surface and succeeded in awakening the world's battered orbital defence grid. Caught from three sides, the Alpha Legion warships were torn apart, left as a belt of drifting wreckage above the Shrine World.
Through such heroic actions was the Macragge System made secure, allowing the armies of Imperial reconquest to sweep on towards the neighbouring star systems that made up the Realm of Ultramar. That stellar domain had once comprised five hundred human-settled worlds, before Lord Guilliman had granted many their own sovereignty after the Horus Heresy. All such treatises the Primarch now declared null and void, the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar reborn like their ruler. In such grim and desperate times, he would see his personal empire forged anew, for in this, as in all things, Guilliman desired strength through unity.
Onward through shuddering Warp Storms and Traitor hosts swept the armies of Ultramar. Not once did they falter. Iron Hands fought alongside Praetors of Orpheus on Talasa Secundus. Dark Angels went to war beside Titans of the Legio Fulminari to liberate Ischara. The chanting processions of the Cult Mechanicus fought shoulder to shoulder with Novamarines and Battle-Sisters of the Order of the Ebon Chalice against mutant hordes on the killing fields of Konor Prime. Unified and elevated by the leadership of Roboute Guilliman, their war efforts coordinated with clockwork precision from the Strategium Ultra on Macragge, the armies of reconquest overcame Warp Storms, Traitor armies, and even daemonic incursions in their battle to drive the ravagers of Chaos from ever more worlds. Yet still the fight ground on, solar weeks becoming solar months, for Ultramar is a vast stellar realm and its numerous invaders, the fires of their old hatred stoked, were obstinate. The Long War raged, worlds burned, and blood stained the stars.
It was during the seventh solar month of the campaign to reconquer Ultramar that the first cases of a mysterious new sickness were reported. Throughout the Drohl, Talassar and Parmenio Systems, Ultramar Defence Auxilia found themselves weeping uncontrollably. In the midst of battle, warriors were blinded by endless streams of viscous, stinking tears that gummed their eyes open and soon turned them red raw. Overcome by sorrow, sufferers wailed and wept for solar days on end. In the worst cases, the so called "Weepers" were permanently blinded as their infected eyeballs festered and rotted from their skulls.
The disease, soon named the Sorrow, or the Weeping Plague, spread with alarming rapidity. Its vector was believed to be an infestation of tiny, biting mites that were found amidst rations, squirming inside uniforms and ammunition packs, and even spilled from the pages of opened Imperial Primers. Nothing stopped the mites from multiplying, and no sanitary measure could long keep them out. The siege of Leotold's Keep collapsed thanks to the pernicious influence of the Sorrow, while the previously devastating Ravishol offensive ground to a halt as its human soldiery were reduced to blinded, wailing revenants.
Roboute Guilliman hastened to Talassar, leaving the war in the Prandium System to the command of Chief Librarian Tigurius and Inquisitor Greyfax. Guilliman knew that only mortal soldiery had been afflicted with the Weeping -- no warrior of the Adeptus Astartes or tech-thrall of the Mechanicus had fallen prey to the sickness as yet. Furthermore, though they were not absolutely immune, only a very few cases had been reported amongst the ranks of the Adepta Sororitas. Some ascribed this to the presence of the Living Saint amongst the reconquest forces, but more believed that it was the enduring faith of the Battle-Sisters that protected them from sickness.
Whatever the truth, Guilliman did not fear the terrible disease, but was instead far more concerned for the fate of his mortal soldiery. The Primarch arrived upon the world of Ravishol expecting nothing but sadness and horror. Guilliman's shock, therefore, was as great as anyone's when instead he brought a miracle.
Braving the hammering flak screens of the Iron Warriors encampments on the circuit-plains, Guilliman had his Thunderhawk deliver him to the fortified Imperial encampment in the Soldermask Valley. Over the thunder of the encampment's Servitor guns -- busy keeping the enemy Daemon Engines at bay -- Guilliman ordered the camp's Ultramarine commander to lead him to the sick. There were several thousand of them in this encampment alone, tank crews, artillerymen and infantry soldiers trammelled for their own protection within huge prefabricated sheds. From outside, the muffled cacophony of the Weepers' lamentation was unsettling even for Roboute Guilliman, yet as the shed's armoured doors swung open, the sobbing slowly died away. One by one, the stricken Auxilia rose from their sick beds, blinking in amazement with eyes that could see once more. Even those who had lost their sight altogether subsided with sighs of relief, knowing their first true sleep in weeks. None could explain how, but Guilliman's presence had healed the Weepers.
The same thing occurred in three more encampments along the offensive's stalled front. Wherever Roboute Guilliman walked, the Sorrow was driven out and the mites that spread it died until they piled up in black drifts. The medicae and Apothecaries were at a loss, but the Ecclesiarchy were quick to declare the phenomenon miraculous. It was the Emperor's mercy, they bellowed, brandishing their Aquilas, and it shone from His son as healing light.
So began long solar weeks of relentless pilgrimage for Guilliman, as he rushed from one site of sickness to another. The Primarch knew that while he was engaged in healing his followers, his attentions were drawn away from the wider war. Yet of all the Emperor's sons, Guilliman was perhaps the most human, and his compassion would not allow him to ignore his followers' plight if he could heal them.
Solar days became weeks, during which the Weeping continued to spread and -- worse still -- recur at sites that the Primarch had already cleared. Without Guilliman's peerless genius the reconquest began to suffer, the Chaos forces overturning Imperial victories in the Veridian and Tarvan Systems. All the while, the dreadful Warp Storms that had riven Ultramar and its surroundings worsened further. Soon, whispered the Navigators, the empire of the Ultramarines might be cut off from the wider galaxy altogether, just as it once had ten thousand Terran years before during the time of the Ruinstorm.
It was Grand Master Aldrik Voldus who finally confronted Guilliman. In a heated argument, during which the Grand Master dared the Primarch's wrath, he forced Guilliman to acknowledge that which he already knew. Weeks of labour had been for nought. Guilliman was not healing his subjects, for such was not his gift. In the Weeping Plague, Voldus recognised all the hallmarks of Nurgle. Most likely, the Plague God was simply withdrawing his dubious blessings from his victims upon Guilliman's arrival, then gleefully restoring them once the Primarch had moved on. The Lord of Ultramar was playing into the Plague God's hands, his desire to save his people perverted into a never-ending trap of entropy and despair.
Though furious, Guilliman accepted Voldus' wisdom. Further, he saw that Nurgle's desire had been to trap him within his own realm, and to keep him from the wider galactic stage. The Primarch realised then that his desire for completeness, for a neat solution and an unsullied Ultramar was, in itself, an echo of mistakes he had made long ago. Nurgle did not wish Guilliman to leave Ultramar because there, the Primarch could be contained like a wasp in a bottle. But this war did not belong to Ultramar alone -- it was a war for the entire Imperium. Guilliman saw that he could waste no more time focussing solely upon his own stellar empire. He must tend, instead, to his father's.
With a heavy heart, Roboute Guilliman stopped his efforts to end the Weeping Plague, instead charging his Apothecaries and Chaplains with finding a spiritual cure for what was clearly a spiritual affliction.
The Primarch announced his intention to set out upon a great journey. Once before, when the Dark Gods had threatened the Imperium of Mankind, the Primarch of the Ultramarines had reached Terra too late to do his duty. He would not make that mistake again. Guilliman intended to journey to Terra, to kneel at the foot of the Golden Throne and ask his father for guidance.
Conscious of the worsening Warp Storms lashing the space lanes of Ultramar, Guilliman announced his intention to make for Terra as soon as a suitable force could be assembled. The Primarch would not travel alone; the galaxy had become a dark and dangerous place, while the attempts by Slaanesh and Nurgle to tempt and trick him had shown Guilliman that his resurrection had drawn the eyes of the Ruinous Powers.
The war across Ultramar was still ongoing, however, and with Guilliman leaving, it would require strategically gifted warriors to keep pushing the Forces of Chaos back. As such, Guilliman gathered a select force of Battle-Brothers from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Companies of the Ultramarines to accompany him to Terra, and gave the honour of their command to Captain Cato Sicarius. He further requested that Grand Master Aldrik Voldus and the Grey Knights of the 3rd Brotherhood join their Crusade. Others pledged their aid to the Primarch's cause, including the assembled strength of the Primogenitor Chapters, and Emperor's Champion Amalrich and his Black Templars brethren. The Living Saint, the Inquisitor and Archmagos Dominus Cawl accompanied the Primarch also -- whatever aid they or the military forces under their command could provide the Primarch would be gladly given. Guilliman gratefully accepted all offers of aid before commanding Marneus Calgar, Chief Librarian Tigurius and Captain Agemman to remain and lead the reconquest of Ultramar.
The Ynnari, meanwhile, chose this moment to depart. The Eldar had their own wars to fight, and had already lingered overlong amidst human affairs. Though Cadia had fallen, worlds still remained upon which the Necron-built black pylons stood strong. It was to these that the Ynnari would now attend, directing those of their race who would listen to defend them and thus hold back the expanding power of the Warp.
The Celestinian Crusade had come to its end with its objective met beyond its heroes' wildest expectations. In its place, the Terran Crusade would begin. Mere solar days after Guilliman made known his intentions, the Imperial fleet set out, engines burning hot as they began the long journey to the cradle of Mankind.
The audience chamber in the Fortress of Hera was empty but for Yvraine, the Visarch, and Guilliman. In a matter of solar hours, the Terran Crusade would depart Macragge, yet the Primarch had found a few moments to speak to the Ynnari leaders alone. Even after solar weeks of mutually fruitful alliance, most warriors would have been cautious of standing alone in the presence of two such sinister and powerful xenos. Guilliman was not most warriors.
"It will be a long and dangerous journey", said Yvraine. "The galaxy grows darker by the day. Have a care, Primarch. You may have cheated death once, but you are not invincible."
Guilliman nodded solemnly. "Can I say nothing that will convince you to join us on our road? I have come to value the strength of you and your warriors greatly these past weeks."
"You cannot", Yvraine replied. "Already we have given you the gift of rebirth, not to mention a number of our peoples' lives. Is that not enough?"
"It is a debt I'm sure won't be forgotten", said the Primarch. "Before you depart, tell me this. Cawl may have fashioned the armour that I wear, but it was not he alone who ensured my resurrection, was it?"
Yvraine smiled demurely. "His technology would have healed your physical wounds, Roboute, but you and I know that the worst damage had been done to your soul. So no, Primarch; it is by the grace of Ynnead that you stand once more amongst the living. If you wish to remain, however, I would caution you against removing your war-plate. Not that you could easily do so."
A flicker passed across Guilliman's features at this, a faint ghost of pain well-hidden, swiftly replaced by a stony mask of duty.
"I could press you for greater insights into the powers that brought me back, and assurances against any taint in their nature", said Guilliman, noting how the Ynnari stiffened their postures at this. "But I suspect that our newfound understanding is of more value to my father's realm than my own satisfaction. And that those answers would not come easily."
Yvraine inclined her head, while the Visarch silently eased his hand away from the hilt of his blade.
"Thus, instead, I shall simply wish you victory in your ongoing battles against our mutual foes."
"May you walk with fortune, Roboute Guilliman", said Yvraine. "And know that we shall stand together in battle again, before whatever end befalls us."
The Visarch offered an elaborate warrior's salute to Guilliman, who nodded curtly in return before the Eldar turned and swept gracefully from the chamber.
"No doubt we will", murmured the Primarch thoughtfully, watching the enigmatic xenos withdraw. "As long as it serves your needs..."
Across the Void
- "The Warp is our greatest gift, and also our greatest threat. It is curse and boon, hope and terror, a raging inferno through which we must plunge, or else be lost."
- —Navigator D'Halnari
Once the great fleet of the Terran Crusade was assembled in orbit of Macragge, Roboute Guilliman made for Terra. The Warp churned. It roiled and raged. Temporal rip tides and squalls of insanity wrenched and battered at Guilliman's fleet. Whirlpools of arrogance; frenetic storms of anger and lust; becalming straits of misery circled by hungry daemonic entities; all had to be braved as the Terran Crusade pushed on.
On the pleas of their Navigators, the starships' captains dared only short jumps through the Warp. These quick and terrifying sprints ended -- more often than not -- in frantic crashdives into realspace as the dangers became too great. Several voidcraft were lost, and many captains beseeched Saint Celestine for her blessings to safeguard their passage. The Pride of Hera suffered a Gellar Field breach that saw the slouching daemons of the Plague God spill like animate pus through its corridors. Inquisitor Greyfax rallied a force of Adepta Sororitas and Praetors of Orpheus Space Marines to fight back against the monstrous creatures. Cleansing flame and sanctifed bolts were used to drive the daemonic infestation back deck by deck, forcing them away from the life support systems that they had sought to befoul with spores and infectious filth. Greyfax herself ended the incursion in a swift duel with the bloated Plague Daemon that led the invasion, leaping from a gantry down onto the thing's Nurgling-borne throne and slaying the abomination with a single blow.
Despite many such horrors, and an ever increasing toll of lives lost, none in the Terran Crusade so much as spoke of turning back. They braved the Warp Storms at the behest of a living Primarch, on a mission to Holy Terra itself. Those who quailed in the face of such a momentous calling would surely be damned.
Guilliman travelled aboard his Chapter's ancient flagship, Macragge's Honour, a craft that -- unlike so much around him -- provided the Primarch with a welcome haven of familiarity. He had hoped that the Warp Storms around Ultramar were sent to entrap him. As the Crusade fleet travelled ever further from his realm, and the storms continued to rage, the Primarch was disabused of this hopeful notion. Every time the fleet dropped out of Warpspace, Guilliman had his Astropaths comb the darkness of the void, seeking to ensnare every fragment of information he could about the state of the Imperium.
With the Immaterium in turmoil, those astropathic communiqués that made it through were jumbled, and nightmarish to interpret. What news the Crusade fleet managed to gather was uniformly dire, and left all who heard them cold with dread.
Whole star systems were being ravaged by unnatural phenomena, daemonic incursions and plagues of mutation. Psykers proliferated, bringing with them horrific manifestations and outbursts of terror and madness. Loyal populations rose up as howling mobs of mad-eyed Chaos Cultists. Entire armies of xenos, saturated in the energies of the Warp, fought alongside daemons to bring death to the worlds of the Imperium. Star forts cried out for help, their corridors prowled by unnatural Warp entities that preyed upon their garrisons. Imperial fleets and convoys flung distress calls into the Empyrean as they were dragged light-years off course, or were beset by terrifying empyric predators.
Despite the lethal roiling of the Warp, the Terran Crusade forged onward. For the soldiery aboard the ships, the weeks crawled past in an agony of inactivity and agitation. A constant state of high alert was required fleetwide, for at any moment they might come under sudden attack. Yet for all their constant training, drilling, patrolling and waiting, still nothing occurred. Even amongst the superhuman warriors of the Adeptus Astartes, tempers frayed and inaction chafed. For the thousands of helots, naval armsmen and Chapter Serfs who crewed and garrisoned the vast warships, the constant state of readiness inevitably took its toll. The expectation of danger became the norm, to the point that laxness crept in and awareness slipped.
When at last the fleet was threatened, it came so suddenly that even the Adeptus Astartes and Cult Mechanicus were caught off guard. The Terran Crusade had reached the trailing edges of the permanent Warp rift known as the Maelstrom, and had found it swollen with fearsome new power. The fleet's Navigators moaned and screamed, describing something akin to an endless, impossibly immense tornado thundering in the Warp. Where safe channels should have existed, the billowing fringes of the Maelstrom had consumed all. Even the light of the Astronomican became faltering and nigh impossible to see.
Fearing for the safety of their brutalised craft, the fleet's captains ordered immediate translation to realspace. One by one, the Imperial warships tore through the meniscus of reality, streamers of glowing ectoplasm trailing from their hulls as they plunged back into the cold darkness of the void. Yet the thunderous shuddering on board each voidcraft continued, intensifying violently as impacts flared upon Void Shields and smashed through armoured hulls.
The Hawk Lords frigate Wings of Glory was ripped apart by a string of punishing explosions before its crew even knew who or what was attacking them. The Ultramarines Strike Cruiser, Primarch's Wrath, sustained crippling damage after colliding with the White Consuls Cruiser Hope and Fire as both voidships attempted blind evasive manoeuvres.
Frantic orders filled the Vox net and echoed through cavernous ships' bridges as furious captains attempted to establish the nature of the threat. Had the fleet dropped out of the Warp and straight into an asteroid field? Had they, by some horrible chance, emerged into the midst of a hostile foe?
As Auspexes awoke and observation decks were unshrouded, the bleak truth became clear. The scattered ships of the Terran Crusade had indeed exited the Immaterium straight into the thundering guns of an enemy armada, but it looked as though this was no accident of chance.
Arrayed in perfect ambush formations were dozens of Traitor warships bearing baroque and ancient markings upon their hulls. The Loyalists realised that a vast fleet of the Thousand Sons surrounded them, deployed as though they had known precisely where and when the Imperial forces would emerge from the Warp.
At the heart of the enemy hung a strange craft of surpassing immensity. Only Guilliman truly understood its appearance, recognising a vast silver facsimile of the Great Pyramid of Tizca. That cyclopean crystal structure had once stood as the crowning glory in the Thousand Sons Legion's capital city of the same name, upon their lost homeworld of Prospero. Now it was resurrected in this monstrously magnified new form.
Vast as a planetoid, bristling with gun decks of baffling shape and function, and boasting an immense red crystal eye upon one flank, the insane structure was clearly both flagship and star fort for the enemy fleet. Guilliman knew his brothers well, and here, in this grandiose war engine, he saw all the hallmarks of the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red.
To the Loyalist fleet's rear loomed the squirming spiral arms of the Maelstrom, a towering wall of unnatural energies and whirling psychic sorcery that promised madness and death. To their fore was the titanic pyramid of Magnus, its attendant warships already pummelling Guilliman's armada.
With little choice, the Imperials fought as best they could in their scattered dispersal. Torpedoes fired from launch tubes, streaking through the void to blast ragged holes in Heretic warships. Fighter squadrons scrambled, jetting out into the darkness like swarming insects. Lance arrays spat ruby light, and gun decks thundered as the Imperial ships frantically attempted to fight free of their ambushing foes.
Yet the Imperial craft were taking a terrible hammering, void shields collapsing and ruptured decks venting screaming crewmen into space. Engines flared out and died under volley after volley of macro shells, while rune-inscribed torpedoes swept in to fill Loyalist bridges and magazines with Warpflame.
Guilliman issued a steady stream of orders to his captains, doing everything in his power to gather his ships and fight back. Inwardly he raged, both at his fallen brother's deviousness and his own failure to foresee the ambush. By comparison, Magnus watched with amused satisfaction from the grand observation gallery aboard his pyramidal flagship.
He had fashioned the vast voidcraft, named Tizca's Revenge, using the plundered resources of an Imperial world and the nameless energies of the Warp. Now he conjured those empyric powers again, for an altogether different purpose. A cabal of powerful Chaos Sorcerers stood around Magnus, chanting ominous words as he raised his arms high and cried out in stentorian tones.
The Crimson King called and the Warp answered, coiling tendrils of power coalescing to surround Guilliman's battered fleet. Magnus judged the damage done to be sufficient. He had no desire to kill his resurrected brother. Not yet, anyway. Thus, with a final booming incantation, Magnus completed his spell. The empyric tendrils clamped tight around the starships of the Terran Crusade and, with a vast convulsive wrench, dragged them deep into the raging heart of the Maelstrom.
Into the Maelstrom
Pandemonium seized the voidships of the Terran Crusade. Crushing tendrils of empyric energy wound about the craft like the tentacles of some leviathan beast. Bulkheads crumpled. Shields blew out. Raging fires and punishing gravity fluctuations tore through decks. Powerless to resist, the warships were plucked from reality and dragged into the Warp. Desperate Tech-adepts stumbled over their rituals as they strove madly to raise their ships' Gellar Fields. Some succeeded, but other craft were inundated with howling masses of daemons as they were dragged, unwarded, into the Warp. Madness and slaughter ran rife, and only the staunch determination of the Imperial armies aboard each ship prevented the Terran Crusade from being utterly annihilated.
By the time Magnus' spell ran its course, the starships of the Terran Crusade had been cast deep into the Maelstrom. Guilliman's fleet had, at least, been spat from the maw of the Warp once more, but the region they now found themselves in was a cursed one. Within the Maelstrom, reality and the Immaterium melted together in a strange morass. The stars were lost behind drifting veils of unnatural energy, and twisted worlds hung amidst the shimmering gloom.
While Belisarius Cawl coordinated emergency repair crews to shore up mauled ships and save the worst damaged voidcraft from destruction, Guilliman and his captains tallied the cost of the ambush. Their losses were sobering. From a vast fleet of one hundred and twelve Space Marine, Imperial Navy and Adeptus Mechanicus warships, barely half remained. Some had been lost during the Thousand Sons ambush, blown apart by blistering firepower. More had vanished during the subsequent mayhem, cast far adrift upon the tides of the Immaterium. Some, doubtless, would have made it to realspace, scattered distant from the main body of the fleet. Others were surely lost or worse.
All of the fighter craft launched during the brief battle were gone, their crews doomed to a cold and lonely death in the void of space. Hundreds upon hundreds of Chapter Serfs, human crewmen and Servitors were injured, insane or dead, and even the Space Marines had taken substantial casualties.
The Terran Crusade had been reduced to a shadow of its former military strength. Not one warship had survived the ambush unscathed, and many were sorely damaged. Crushing though the sudden losses were, they were still not Roboute Guilliman's greatest worry.
Meeting in his strategium with the assembled Imperial and Space Marine leaders, Guilliman expressed his belief that the Thousand Sons must have known, by some infernal means, where and when the Crusade would break from the Warp. Guilliman's fleet had been surrounded. Why not strike the killing blow? The Primarch knew all too well that Magnus did nothing without a plan, so why had he allowed his erstwhile brother to survive? It was a question that returned to torture the leaders of the Terran Crusade again and again in the dark days that followed.
Stranded deep in the Maelstrom, with no sight of the Emperor's Astronomican to guide them, the surviving warriors of the Terran Crusade required some means by which they could determine their location, and find their way back into realspace. Seizing upon the faint transmissions emanating from a nearby moon, the Crusade made for the dark planetoid in the hope of either capturing a Traitor who could act as their unwilling guide, or else gaining access to Heretic astrogation instruments hardened against the roiling energies of the Warp.
Landing parties mounted gunships and Drop Pods, streaking down through thin, pale skies onto a dark and glassy world. The Loyalists found vitrified continents, barren of life and tormented by powerful, screaming winds. An unnatural light glowed deep within the world's glass heart, and left all who glimpsed it with an ominous sense of dread.
The Crusade strike force located an armoured fortification amongst a range of mountains, clinging limpet-like amidst glinting peaks. Guilliman himself led the attack that breached the defences, finding to his disgust that a ragged band of Renegade Space Marines garrisoned the fortress. Crosses daubed over these warriors' Chapter iconography identifed them as Red Corsairs, and the Primarch vented his pent up anger and frustration upon the luckless Traitors. The battle was brief, Guilliman and a trio of Aldrik Voldus' Dreadknights slaughtering the Renegades' leaders. However, when Guilliman successfully seized the last Traitor alive in the fortress' Vox array, a diabolical manifestation occurred. The air crackled and rime crawled across the metal walls of the chamber as a menacing daemonic presence spoke through the captive's mouth. In two mocking voices, the presence told Guilliman that, even now, Ultramar burned. The evil thing cackled that the Primarch had abandoned his people to wander the Maelstrom forever. Then, it twisted the head of the captive around with a sickening crack. Guilliman cursed as his only lead expired amidst the sizzle and bang of overloading Vox banks. He vowed to locate the daemon, and wring the truth from it no matter what he had to endure.
After their encounter on the glass moon, the Crusade fleet wandered aimless. With no indication of the course that would take them to Terra, Guilliman picked a direction based upon his best guess, and instructed his captains to turn to that heading. For the moment, hoping to reach the Maelstrom's edge seemed the only available plan.
How long they journeyed, none could say, for time did not pass normally in that sanity-defying place. The Primarch was tormented by the words of the daemon, and sought any opportunity to discover what might be occurring outside the Maelstrom. His opportunity came when scout ships reported Heretic voidcraft patrolling a twisted, fleshy planet that hung amidst a cloud of huge crystalline skulls. Ordering an immediate attack, Guilliman commanded that the gathering of intelligence should be treated as priority. Maps, charts, cartographic hymnals, Traitor Navigators or whatever passed for Astropaths in this hellish place, were all to be seized.
The fleet swept down upon the fleshworld, only for the planet to fight back. The Renegade starships belonged to a warband of Emperor's Children, who began a thunderous empyric resonance that caused devastating sonic shock waves to burst from the mouths of the crystal skulls. At the same time, the planet itself unfurled augmetic tentacles, sutured onto its living surface. These monstrous appendages snatched several Mechanicus starships from the void and stuffed them into a continent-sized maw that unpuckered at the planet's northern pole.
Sustained torpedo bombardment finally severed the world's ironclad tentacles, while Lance fire shattered dozens of the crystalline skulls and crippled several of the Emperor's Children warships. The remaining Traitor craft turned tail, leaving their comrades to be boarded. Yet Guilliman's sense of triumph was once again short-lived. Though dozens of star charts and maps were recovered, all were blank save for the daemon's mocking words to Guilliman in the Red Corsair fortress, repeated over and over again. Whatever this entity was, it clearly sought to torment the Primarch personally.
On Darker Paths
Amidst fluctuating time streams and reality-warping energy storms, the damaged ships of the Terran Crusade struggled on. Within the Maelstrom lurked countless foes, for this was a region that had long harboured the warring minions of Chaos.
More than once, the Imperial ships were forced to fight off opportunist raids by sleek hunting packs of Traitor warships. Amidst a thousand-mile-wide cloud of corrosive spores, the Crusade ships found themselves beset by swarms of vast plague flies as large as frigates. The monstrous insects took a savage toll upon the smaller ships of the Crusade, until Saint Celestine took to the Navigator's observation blister of the Macragge's Honour. Unleashing her holy light in a blazing psychic shockwave, the Living Saint purged the hideous daemon beasts from the void.
In another uncharted reach, the Crusade craft found ghostly phantasms whirling around their hulls. Howling Warp ghosts screamed through the corridors of the Space Marine craft, swarming around the ancient relics and honoured banners of their Reclusiam shrines. The Adeptus Astartes realised, to their horror, that these aetheric leeches were draining the holy energies from their treasured relics, dragging faint, screaming ghosts from the enshrined helms, blades and scrolls. In this fight, the Grey Knights came to the fore, Aldrik Voldus swiftly splitting his brotherhood and deploying them by rapid teleport strike into his allies' shrines. Fighting alongside the outraged Chaplains who guarded the relics, the daemon-hunting warriors drove the Warp leeches back and banished them to the void.
So it went on for an indeterminate and bewildering span of time that felt like impossible centuries. As the Terran Crusade fleet forged on, their supplies running low and their crews exhausted by constant battle, Roboute Guilliman became ever angrier and more distracted. Unbeknownst to all, the Primarch was bedevilled by horrific visions.
Guilliman saw the Realm of Ultramar in flames, and the bastions of Mankind blowing away as ash upon the blood-wet winds of change. He was tormented by images of Mars, shattered into hundreds of pieces and raining down as flaming meteors upon the once-proud ruin of Terra. He saw the Golden Throne as a sparking, fire-wreathed wreck, the Emperor's blackened corpse burning within it.
Daemonic voices whispered into Guilliman's mind, day and night. If they had told him the scenes he saw had already come to pass, that would have been cruel enough. But this torment was more cunning yet, for instead the voices told Guilliman that the visions were flashes of foresight.
They were glimpses of a singularly dark fate that would transpire only should he escape the Maelstrom and complete his journey to Terra. Relent in his attempt to escape, accept his Warp-tainted prison for all eternity, give in to madness and despair, and he would spare the Imperium from coming to this terrible end.
Guilliman wrestled internally with each passing solar day, yet he showed no sign of his struggle to those who looked to him for leadership and hope. The Primarch maintained his veneer of strength and continued to pursue his goal of escape, determined that he would not believe the lies of any entity that inhabited that hellish place. Still, the Primarch's resolve eroded slowly, as a cliff washed away by the endless ocean waves.
Long had the Crusade fleet sailed the Maelstrom’s corrupted tides when they came to Bathamor. In the solar hours before they hove into orbit, the name of this cursed world leapt into the mind of every psyker in the fleet, repeating over and over in a malicious whisper until those that heard them cried the planet's name aloud. Auspex scans revealed an infernal world of kaleidoscopic crystal jungles, laced through by glimmering rivers of fire. They also showed Vox signatures and energy readouts commensurate with a sizeable Renegade presence, and so Guilliman ordered the captains of the Terran Crusade fleet to prepare their forces for an immediate combat drop. Once more, intelligence gathering would be paramount -- with their sanity and resolve weakening by the solar day, the Crusade's members knew they must escape the Maelstrom soon or perish within this seemingly endless expanse of tainted space.
Sweeping down from on high, the Imperial armies slammed into the crystal jungles amidst explosions of jagged shards. Advancing upon the greatest concentration of energy signatures, the Loyalist forces cursed in anger and bewilderment as their Auspex readings winked out like will-o'-the-wisps. The next moment, Tzeentchian daemons attacked from all sides.
Barrages of sorcerous flame and mutating energies clawed at the Ultramarines and their allies. Crystal trees detonated like huge fragmentation bombs, lacerating all who fought around them. In the midst of the madness, Roboute Guilliman found himself face to face with the architect of the devious ambush. A croaking, two-headed nightmare clad in shimmering robes and wielding a potent staff of temporal power, Kairos Fateweaver coalesced from amidst a glittering storm of crystal shards. Confronting Guilliman, one of the hideous Greater Daemon's avian heads mocked the Primarch's continued efforts to escape, sneering that he had scried every possible strand of the future and every last one ended in his failure. Kairos' other head crowed that Guilliman had always been the most unremarkable of the Emperor's sons, and was as incapable of saving the Imperium now as he was when he fell to his superior brother. Guilliman bellowed in fury and drove Kairos back with swings of his burning blade, before leading his stricken forces in a fighting retreat. The Terran Crusade and its leader would not fall to the Oracle's manipulation so easily...
Anxious as to the fate of the wider Imperium, and with several ships now left scuttled in their wake due to accumulated battle damage, the Crusade fleet came upon a world of black marble and bloody seas. They struck hard and fast against several Red Corsairs strongholds, eliminating outlying enclaves before finally laying siege to a fortified palace upon a claw-shaped headland above booming, gory waves. While Archmagos Cawl coordinated the siege, Greyfax and Captain Cato Sicarius led a daring raiding party that threw open the palace's main gates and sealed the Heretics' doom.
Guilliman knew that this victory offered a brief respite at best. The screaming of the bloody ocean was eroding his followers' sanity, and amongst the ashen skies overhead, huge, dark shapes stirred with the promise of terrible danger. Yet the logistics of stripping the Corsairs' fortress would take time, even with the Primarch's meticulously efficient plans. Thus, as Mechanicus bulk haulers rumbled back and forth through the planet's atmosphere, Guilliman found himself wandering alone through the twisted citadel's corridors. It was as he entered a chamber of crystal statues that a shimmering mist rose before the Primarch's eyes. Amidst the swirling patterns of light and shadow, a slender figure flickered into being. Guilliman caught the suggestion of willowy limbs and billowing cloth, a curving alien helm and a long stave, before the figure spoke. Like its image, the manifestation's voice swam in and out of Guilliman's perception. Yet the Lord of Ultramar was able to decipher instructions from the figure's words.
Guilliman was wary of further trickery, suspicious and plagued by echoes of the daemonic whispers that Kairos Fateweaver had projected into his mind. Yet he sensed no taint of Chaos in this manifestation; the energies given off by the shimmering vision were more akin to those of the Eldar who had aided his resurrection. At last, after repeating its message several times, the figure vanished, leaving the Primarch with a new sense of purpose and, perhaps, even a sliver of hope. Here, at last, was a heading, and Guilliman meant to follow it.
Through the Storm
- "You are a relic of a bygone age, a footnote to your father's failures. You should have stayed in the past where you belonged, Primarch, for you have no place in this future!"
Upon leaving the unnamed world of black marble and blood, the remnants of the Terran Crusade fleet set out with new determination. The Crusade now numbered a third of the ships that had departed Ultramar, but they were still led by Guilliman's flagship, Macragge's Honour, and they still stood ready for battle at any moment. They had a heading at last, albeit one derived from the omen-laden whispering of an unknown figure.
Plasma Drives lit with thundering flame, the warships of the Imperium clove through veils of frozen ichor and showers of meteors encrusted with staring eyes. They followed a distant, glimmering star of pure white, until it resolved itself into a massive flaming hole in reality. Turning to a new heading as this prophesied landmark was reached, the Crusade swept next through a sprawling region of mauve gas clouds that formed into unrecognisable sigils and shimmered with the eldritch power of change.
Emerging from the far edge of the gas belt after many solar days, the Crusade's Auspexes detected a triad of planets, all whirling around one another in an endless dance. This, again, was just as the mystical interloper had told Guilliman it would be, and the Primarch's hope swelled within him at the promise of escape.
Following the hidden stranger's directions, the fleet changed its heading once again, angling away from the spinning mass of planets and making for a distantly visible constellation of jade green glimmers. Soon, if the Eldar apparition was to be believed, the Terran Crusade would at last escape from the Maelstrom, but they would first have to brave what the figure had described as the resting place of hollow ghosts.
At first, the region appeared as a silvered speckling of space, stretching out in all directions ahead of the fleet. Gradually, those glimmering motes grew in size and definition until, at a distance of no more than a few thousand Terran miles, they resolved themselves into a breathtaking and eerie sight. Thousands upon thousands of wrecked starships drifted here, their hulls linked together by vast webs of brass chain. Lit by the jade stars that loomed in the middle distance, derelict voidcraft of every sort trailed wreckage behind them as they hung silently in their cursed afterlife. Some were familiar: ancient marks of Imperial warship, splinter-boned Eldar wrecks, hollowed Kroot Warspheres, broken-backed Hrud Warrenships, and the empty remnants of Nicassar Dhows. Others were unidentifiable: black needles of glassy material, ravaged structures like space-borne hive cities, vast, angular leviathans and tiny, ellipsoid ships little bigger than a Drop Pod. How they had all come to be abandoned here was an unsettling puzzle. The hazard that they -- and their binding chains -- presented was clear enough, however.
The first thought of Guilliman and his captains was to attempt to circumnavigate the starship graveyard. Yet the ghost vessels trailed away, seemingly into infinity above, below and to either side. If the Terran Crusade wished to pass this way -- and it seemed that they must if they wanted their freedom -- then they would have to push forward between the wrecks.
Guilliman gave the order. Spreading out with their Battle Barges to the fore, the Crusade ships engaged their drives and raised their Void Shields before edging into the starship graveyard. Progress was painfully slow, for in places the wrecks were chained just a Terran mile or so apart, tangled in vast chain webs like the prey of some cosmic arachnid. Tech-Magi and Chapter Serfs flinched and sweated at each new scrape and groan from their voidcrafts' hulls as the ships forged their slow and steady paths forward.
Despite exercising every caution, the larger ships could not completely avoid collision. Ice-cold chain links left vast gashes and dents as they skidded across reinforced exteriors. Ancient wreckage broke apart and scattered into the void as, here and there, a Battle Barge or Strike Cruiser nosed aside a drifting ship that blocked its path. Each fresh collision, each breathless near-miss, left the crews' nerves frayed and passengers on edge as the solar hours crawled past.
Finally, after a torturous stretch of time, Archmagos Cawl announced that he was reading clear space ahead. They were nearing the edge of the debris field and, more relieving still, it appeared they were nearing the edge of the Maelstrom. Past the last chained wrecks, the Navigators, who had been near-comatose for many solar days, could perceive a distant flicker. They awoke, muttering with increasing excitement that they could see once more the barest shred of the Astronomican's light, as though it shone through the gap in a partly-opened door.
Guilliman counselled caution, and ordered his crews to continue their careful, steady progress, yet he too grew more hopeful by the moment. At last, they would escape the hellish region into which his brother Magnus had hurled them. At last they could continue on their road to sacred Terra.
It was as the Macragge's Honour thrust aside the ravaged hulk of an Iconoclast-class Destroyer, and an open path to the edge of the graveyard yawned before it, that the attack came. Cries of alarm rang through the flagship's bridge as power spikes flared amidst the derelicts on every side. Drifting Chaos warships lit their drives and unshrouded gun decks, as their internal power sources thundered to life.
It was an ambush!
The Red Corsairs had laid their trap with cunning and skill, guided by the precognitive powers of Kairos Fateweaver. They had inveigled their ships into the far edge of the starship graveyard, precisely where Kairos foresaw the loyalist fleet would pass through. With the careful application of cosmetic hull damage, and all internal systems shrouded to minimise emissions output, they had magclamped severed links of chain to their hulls and posed as just another scattering of lost voidcraft. Now, rumbling back to life all around the shocked Loyalists, the Red Corsair ships launched an ambush of the enemy in their midst. Lance beams seared through adamantium hulls. Noble warriors who had survived countless trials were obliterated by raging firestorms, or sucked helplessly out into the void.
Guilliman cursed at what must surely be further Tzeentchian machinations. Hemmed in and outflanked, his fleet was at a catastrophic disadvantage. Several Imperial warships attempted to break free of the starship graveyard; these voidcraft were quickly targeted and, in the case of the Raven Guard frigate Silent Blade, shorn clean in two. The rest fought back, hammering fire into the void and tearing chunks from their attackers' warships at point-blank range.
Chaos firepower continued to rain down upon Guilliman's fleet in a veritable storm. The Primarch saw that the foes -- secure in their numerical and positional superiority -- were aiming to cripple his ships rather than destroy them. Weapons batteries, Auspex arrays and enginariums were blasted one by one, leaving the Crusade ships drifting and defenceless. Guilliman knew what must surely come next, and cursed aloud as he saw wave after wave of Boarding Torpedoes released from the launch decks of the attacking craft. The Red Corsairs were, first and foremost, pirates. Now they sought to steal as many of the Terran Crusade's warships as they could, along with the arms and armour within. Barking orders for his warriors to prepare for boarders, Guilliman's mind whirled with counter-ambush strategies and breakout plans.
Defence batteries studded the miles-long flanks of the Macragge's Honour. As the enemy boarding craft streaked closer, those guns roared to life, filling the void with sawing streams of firepower. Guilliman watched the external pict feeds intently, reading the patterns of destroyed foes and near-misses, and determining where the enemy's forces would hit his ship the hardest. The Primarch narrowed his eyes as the vessel's primary Auspex array took a direct hit, and the pict feeds drowned in sudden static.
Turning away from the useless datafont, Guilliman issued a calm string of orders that were circulated fleet wide. For all those who could still hear him, the Primarch commended their remarkable courage and strength. He gave the order that all ships deploy their forces to defend their bridges, primary magazines, shield generators and Warp engines, then -- swallowing his own distaste at the religious connotations of the term -- wished the Emperor's blessings upon all who were about to engage the foe. Those who repelled boarders were to break free, and rendezvous beyond the edge of the Maelstrom as best they could.
His orders issued and Captain Sicarius, Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax at his side, Guilliman donned his helm and joined the warriors he had deployed to defend the bridge. He listened intently as Vox transmissions flew back and forth throughout the ship. Boarding Torpedoes impacted by the dozen. The lower crew decks were overrun. Sergeant Apstrophis' Devastator Marines held the bulkheads before the Enginarium Primus. Then came the news that a daemonic creature had manifested aboard, sweeping towards the bridge at the head of a Chaotic horde. Mere moments later the bridge bulkheads shuddered, then exploded inwards upon a bow wave of unnatural flame.
The Chaos onslaught was swift and savage. It had to be, for though the Ultramarines were outnumbered, they held an incredibly defensible position against the enemy boarding parties. Guilliman's gene-sons crouched behind consoles artfully designed to double as barricades in the event of a breach. More of their number occupied elevated positions on gantries and balconies overlooking the bulkhead, taking up positions amidst the looming grandeur of the bridge.
The first servants of Chaos to bound and cartwheel onto the bridge had absolutely no cover whatsoever. Pink Horrors of Tzeentch were engulfed in a storm of disciplined, expertly aimed fire that ripped them to pieces. Into the meat grinder poured more and more daemons, while behind them squads of Red Corsairs lunged through the blasted bulkhead and dashed for any cover they could find.
Bolters roared, their massed echo and strobing muzzle flare rolling around the bridge like a raging thunderstorm. Daemons exploded in puffs of ectoplasm, smaller simulacra bursting from their corpses to be mowed down in turn. Traitor Space Marines clad in the defaced liveries of a dozen Chapters fell dead upon the killing ground, their armoured corpses continuing to twitch and jerk as more rounds struck them. Bolt shells, plasma blasts, las beams and missiles fell like hailstones, ripping the deck plates to blackened ruin and annihilating dozens of invaders.
Inevitably, though, the boarders began to gain ground. A jetting blast of purple fire leapt out to turn a gantry to slime, sending a squad of Red Corsairs Terminators tumbling a hundred Terran feet into the Vox pits below. A cluster of Krak Grenades rained down upon a console-barricade, their detonations killing one Veteran and forcing two more to beat a hasty retreat. In the moments before he fell, a Red Corsair unloaded his Plasma Gun into another barricade, killing several Ultramarines before being killed by his own overheated weapon exploding in his hands. So it went on, the enemy eroding Guilliman's defences through reckless assaults.
Then came Kairos. The first warning the Loyalists had of the Greater Daemon's onset was a thickening of the air as the Empyrean stirred. Librarian Pollonius cried out in sudden agony, hands clamped to his skull and eyes bulging as the energies of his own mind were turned against him. Fast as lightning, Guilliman hurled himself aside, barging Captain Sicarius clear in the instant before Pollonius' body detonated in a wave of blue fire. Several Ultramarines were not so lucky, their armour dissolving and flesh turning to ash as the flames washed over them.
As the commanders of the Ultramarines reeled, the next rain of firepower to fall upon the kill box was transmogrified. Instead of mass-reactive shells and whistling grenades, all that struck the attacking hordes was shimmering starlight and wisps of silver steam.
A fresh wave of leaping Flamers and cackling Horrors surged through the bulkhead and leapt to the attack. More Red Corsairs came with them, lumbering Chaos Terminators and fang-helmed warriors with Bolters blazing. At their back, his ragged wings spread wide and his staff tapping before him, came Kairos Fateweaver himself.
Seeing the Lord of Change, Guilliman roared a battle cry and charged. Cato Sicarius and his warriors followed close on their Primarch's heels, while Greyfax and Celestine hurled themselves into the foe to either side.
Guilliman stormed through daemons and Traitors alike, his flaming sword swiping in unstoppable arcs. Volleys of shells thundered from the Hand of Dominion, while the crushing fist obliterated an enemy with every blow. Daemons exploded in sprays of unnatural ichor before Guilliman's fury, while those Traitors foolish enough to stand in his path were smashed aside like rag dolls.
Following the trail of carnage wrought by their Primarch, Sicarius and his Battle-Brothers hacked and blasted those enemies who tried to encircle Guilliman. Sicarius himself was a blur, his Talassarian Tempest Blade drawing golden arcs through the air as it lopped horned helms from armoured shoulders, and split daemons in two. At the same time, blinding light shone from Saint Celestine as she carved her way through the Warpspawn, and Inquisitor Greyfax sent one Traitor after another crashing to their knees as she crushed their minds with her telepathic powers.
It did not take Kairos' matchless future-sight to foresee that his enemy would attempt to reach and slay him. The Lord of Change was no match for Guilliman in battle, but armed with his faultless precognition, he had long prepared for this moment. Now, as the Lord of Ultramar smashed his way closer, Kairos set his devious scheme in motion by unleashing a pulse of blue flame from his staff.
Nine Heralds of Tzeentch had worked their way through the press of battle, concealed behind shimmering spells of illusion. At Kairos' signal, the leering daemons cast aside their sorcerous shrouds and began a babbling incantation. Bolt shells whipped in towards the Heralds the moment they appeared, but their daemon minions leapt willingly into the path of the shots. Shielded by the shimmering flesh of their underlings, the Heralds continued their chant, nine voices rolling and twining with each other over the cacophony of battle. Raising the Staff of Tomorrow high above his heads, Kairos joined his croaking voices to the burgeoning spell.
Since Guilliman had first entered the Maelstrom and begun to hear Kairos whispering in his mind, the Greater Daemon had been planting traps in the Primarch's subconscious. It had not been easy, for Guilliman's mind was a pristine fortress of order and rationality, and his mental defences were formidable. Yet slowly, carefully, the deed had been done. Kairos had teased forth Guilliman's guilt, his anger and disappointment at what remained of the Imperium, his fears for its future. The daemon had intended to continue his work until the Primarch was quite mad before attempting this ritual, but the intervention of the interfering Eldar had forced Kairos' hand. His preparations would have to be enough, or else Guilliman would surely banish him back to the Warp and escape.
Swaying and gibbering, spinning and leaping, the daemons worked their spell and dragged forth the incantations laced within Guilliman's mind. The Primarch stumbled, bellowing in pain as streamers of incandescent energy poured from his eyes and open mouth. Squirming tendrils of green, psychic guilt twined around serpentine streamers of disgust and surging red tendrils of anger. Engulfed by the whirling storm of psychic energies, Guilliman tried again to forge a path forward, but with a howl of pain he went down on one knee. Greyfax, bogged down in the morass of combat, could only watch helplessly, while Celestine's attempt to fly to the Primarch's aid was thwarted as several daemons latched onto her wings.
Sicarius and his Battle-Brothers, crying out in impotent fury, tried to cut their way through the foe, hoping to stop the incantation in any way they could. The 2nd Company Captain ordered all fire concentrated upon the daemons tormenting the Primarch. It did no good. Those shots aimed at Kairos puffed away as clouds of glittering dust, while the Heralds remained shielded behind squirming bulwarks of daemonic flesh.
Though the outnumbered Ultramarines fought furiously, they could not reach the daemonic sorcerers to stop their ritual. Roaring his anger, Guilliman surged to his feet once more, hammering off a volley of shells that struck Kairos Fateweaver and ripped bloody chunks from his gaunt torso.
Though the daemon was wounded sorely by the explosive impacts, his chant did not stop. Instead, it redoubled in intensity, the daemon's voices ringing out cruel and cold. Whirling and lashing, the coloured streamers of ectoplasmic energy surged from the Primarch's mind. All of Guilliman's negative emotions, all of the threads of madness and wrath and fear that Kairos had seeded into his mind, blossomed forth and wrapped themselves like vines around the Primarch. They thickened and twisted, pulsing with power as they hardened into heavy crystal chains.
Arms and legs bound tight, Guilliman crashed to his knees once more. This time, held firmly by Kairos' spell, he was unable to rise. The Oracle, projecting his voices to every warrior upon the bridge, commanded the Ultramarines, the Living Saint and the Inquisitor to lay down their arms at once. If they did not, the Primarch would be crushed and throttled to death before their eyes. One by one, the guns fell silent as the horrified Ultramarines complied. The battle was over, and Kairos Fateweaver stood gloating and victorious.
- "They shall be my sons, and in them will live the hopes of a unified humanity. Theirs will be the strength to prevail, not only when victory lies within easy reach, but even when it seems unattainable, when doom settles like a shroud all about. In those times of darkness, my noble sons will shine the brightest of all."
- —Attributed to the Emperor of Mankind
With Guilliman's capture, the battle of the starship graveyard was lost. Those Imperial warriors who did not surrender under threat of the Primarch's death were killed, or forced to capitulate. Champion Marius Amalrich was amongst the latter, wrestled down and beaten unconscious by a mob of Red Corsairs as he single-handedly held the breach into his ship's enginarium.
The Loyalists and their stolen warships were taken under heavy guard to the nearest Red Corsairs stronghold. To their shock, this turned out to be one of the ancient Blackstone Fortresses. How such a mighty structure had found its way onto the tides of the Maelstrom, none of the Imperial warriors knew. Ultimately it mattered little. Stripped of their weapons and their honour, Guilliman and his surviving followers -- a force that included hundreds of Space Marines, Grey Knights and Skitarii, along with their engines of war -- were dragged into the depths of the Traitor fortress and hurled into psychic spell-shielded cells. The Adeptus Astartes were chained with adamantium links, while their leader still languished in the awful bonds of crystallised guilt, anger, sorrow and madness that Kairos had forged from his psyche.
Led by the piratical Chaos Lord Verngar the Apostate, a huge warband of Red Corsairs garrisoned the Blackstone Fortress. Much of the structure slumbered, for the Traitors lacked the knowledge to awaken the ancient alien construct or access the shrouded regions near its heart. Still, their fortifications were well-built, their numbers huge and their fleet powerful. Kairos Fateweaver deemed that this would be as good a prison as any to leave Roboute Guilliman in to rot. Though the Lord of Change had been vehement in his efforts to remove Guilliman from the galactic stage, he did not wish the Primarch dead. A chained demigod was too rich a source of power to simply cast aside, and Kairos planned to keep his victim hidden away in the Maelstrom until certain future junctures were reached. Already, the daemon could see several moments where unleashing a Primarch driven insane might produce most intriguing results. The Red Corsairs, for their part, would readily act as Guilliman's gaolers in return for the boons of foresight that Kairos could grant, and so the Fateweaver felt confident that his captive would remain locked away.
Perhaps it was the mysterious influence of the fortress itself; perhaps Guilliman's anomalous presence within the strands of fate distorted them in ways that even the Fateweaver could not perceive. Whatever the case, as he made preparations to leave the Blackstone Fortress, the daemon did not foresee the vast horde descending upon him.
From the depths of the Maelstrom came an enormous armada. Dozens upon dozens of warships thundered toward the Blackstone Fortress, their hulls encrusted with gore and skulls. The rune of Khorne was branded upon these spiked Battleships, and daemonic fires danced in their wake.
Before the fleet blazed a monstrous, blood-red comet wreathed in furious black flame. A fanged maw yawned wide upon that hurtling fireball, and eyes swimming with insane fury stared from its depths. So came Skarbrand the Exiled One to the Blackstone Fortress, blazing through the void to crash with explosive force into the station's outer hull. Khornate warships sped in his wake, fanning out to hammer the battle station with firepower even as teeming swarms of landing craft spilled from their flanks.
The Red Corsairs, first surprised and then outraged at this sudden attack, rallied swiftly and fought back. Even as their fortifications were opened to the void and blasted to blazing scrap, the Corsairs' gun batteries cycled up and filled the void with fire. Havoc squads sent volleys of shots lancing out to blast landing craft from the air, while Obliterators directed withering fire into the Khornate hordes already spilling across the fortress' outer hull. A furious battle raged in the silence of space, thumping explosions plucking Khorne Berzerkers from the fortress' night-black skin and sending them tumbling away into the void.
Within the Blackstone, flashes of pale green luminescence danced along darkened corridors, the ancient structure warning its denizens of danger. Red Corsairs deployed in disciplined firing lines, then filled entire passageways with crashing Bolter fire as masses of Khornate warriors charged towards them. Chainaxes carved through armour and flesh, while bolt-riddled corpses crashed to the ground aflame.
Through the mayhem stalked Kairos, screeching with dismay at this unforeseen turn of events. Conjuring forth masses of Tzeentchian daemons, he hurled them into battle in an attempt to drive back the invaders. Yet bloody mists were gathering as the slaughter continued, and from their depths sprang red-scaled cohorts of Khornate daemons that eagerly joined the carnage.
Meanwhile, deep within the Blackstone Fortress, Guilliman listened to the distant clangour, and gathered his strength in case a chance to escape should arise.
Furious battle spread like wildfire through the outer corridors and Imperial structures of the Blackstone Fortress. Meanwhile, deep within the fortress' hidden core, eldritch energies flickered into life. Unseen by the warring armies, a band of figures slipped from a Webway portal that had lain at the fortress' heart since the dawn of its existence millions of Terran years before. They moved swiftly and silently, a lithe procession of shadows accompanied by a larger, robed figure that moved with the stealth of a ghost.
Guilliman and his Ultramarines were shut inside cells that lined the circular walls of a huge, cylindrical chamber. These alcoves were closed off not by metal bars or locked doors, but by flickering sheets of sorcerous, mutagenic flame. A full squad of Red Corsairs stood guard over them, their guns trained unwaveringly upon the one functional doorway that led into this shadowy prison.
Unseen, another doorway slid open in the chamber's curving wall, directly behind the guards. In absolute silence, the Harlequins of the Laughing God rolled, tumbled and span from within, their movements a sinister dance to some unheard song of the dead. They drew closer to the Renegade Space Marines with every graceful step, naked blades held ready for murder.
The first the Red Corsairs knew of their peril was a sudden, whirlwind attack from behind. Perfectly dispersed and lethally poised, the Eldar struck with murderous grace. Rapier blades punched out through chest plates in sprays of blood. Monoflament needles slithered through the chinks in their victims' Power Armour, liquefying organs in Terran milliseconds. Point-blank hails of shuriken and fusion energies hurled Traitor corpses to the floor in mists of blood.
A single one of the Traitors -- unhelmed and horn-headed -- roared in pain as a Harlequin drove her blade through one of his knee joints, then cart wheeled around him to kick his Bolter from his hands. She completed her attack with an elegant back flip, one foot catching the Traitor under the chin and smashing him onto his back.
The Harlequin sprang away, and the Red Corsair fumbled for his side arm. He froze as a robed figure in ornate Power Armour loomed over him. The Traitor had never heard of Cypher, for the Fallen Angel was an enigma whose existence was hidden from most. He did, however, recognise the threat of the two heavy pistols now hovering before his face.
Wordlessly, Cypher stared down at the Red Corsair, his eyes glinting beneath his cowl. The Traitor stared back, yellowed gaze burning with defiance and hate. Cypher gestured with one of his pistols towards the cells that lined the walls. The movement was minimal, but the meaning clear. Growling low in his throat, the Corsair reached slowly into a pouch at his belt and drew forth a rune-inscribed amulet. The key to dispelling the psychic magics that held the cells closed.
Cypher nodded his gratitude, then raised one booted foot and stamped down on the Traitor's head. Bone smashed and blood sprayed, the Red Corsair's body twitching then lying still. Holstering his Bolt Pistol, the Fallen Angel plucked the key from his victim's open gauntlet, and then straightened up. He found himself staring into the shifting mask of the Shadowseer, Sylandri Veilwalker. She who had contacted Guilliman as he wandered lost in the Maelstrom. She who had enlisted Cypher's aid, and instructed Belisarius Cawl to leave his forge on Mars. Veilwalker sketched a mocking bow to Cypher, then pointed her staff towards a distant cell. With a nod, Cypher turned and strode towards it.
Through dancing flames, Guilliman watched the robed figure approach.The Primarch did not recognise this cowled Space Marine, but he knew the Legion whose colours he wore.
"You are Roboute Guilliman", said the mysterious Space Marine as he stopped outside the Primarch's cell.
"I can free you," replied the hooded figure, deigning not to answer the Primarch's questions.
Realising that no further explanation was forthcoming, Guilliman frowned. "Can", he rumbled. "Not will. What do you want in return?"
"You will take me to Terra", replied the Dark Angel. "To the Throne."
The malefic flames crackled and the distant sounds of battle rumbled on as Guilliman's silence stretched long. Even bound in sorcerous chains, the Primarch's presence was immense, his steady glare thunderous. Yet the Dark Angel stood unwavering, like a statue carved from granite. Guilliman strained once more against his bonds, and again found them unyielding.
"It seems that my choices are to rot here, or accede to your demand", said the Primarch slowly. "The former would be to fail in my duty, so I suppose it will have to be the latter. But understand this, Dark Angel. If you seek to trick or manipulate me, nothing in this galaxy will save you."
One corner of the stranger's mouth lifted into a small, bitter smile. "As you say", he muttered, then brandished the runic stone held in his off-hand. The flames of Guilliman's cell died away in response, followed by the fires of every other cell around the chamber's edge.
As the fires flickered out, Sylandri Veilwalker stepped forward and began a weaving, elaborate dance. Guilliman's eyes widened as he recognised the figure who had appeared to him in his vision, and directed him towards freedom. Had the Eldar meant for him to escape the Maelstrom, or had she always intended the Terran Crusade fleet to be ambushed and brought here? Such questions would have to wait, realised the Primarch as the Shadowseer's psychic magics went to work.
Shimmering lights coiled around the dancing Harlequin. Where the witch-light fell, the chains binding the Loyalist Space Marines fell away as dust. Even the devious sorceries of Kairos Fateweaver were undone, and Guilliman smiled a dangerous smile as his crystal fetters shattered.
The freed Ultramarines still wore their armour, but were unarmed. Answering their questions before they could be asked, the Shadowseer revealed that the Loyalists' weapons, their vehicles and their allies had been locked inside a string of stasis vaults some distance from their cells, but that she could lead them there. Guilliman gestured for his mysterious benefactor to lead on. The Primarch did not trust the Eldar, nor the shadowy Space Marine who had come with them, but while his brilliant mind worked out the angles of their involvement, he would allow them to lead him to the rest of his forces. After all, Guilliman would never abandon his father's sword within this den of snakes, nor the courageous allies who had accompanied him upon his quest.
Veilwalker and her Harlequins led the Loyalists out of the doorway through which she had entered the prison. Several hundred battle-hungry Ultramarines followed her lead, with Guilliman, Cato Sicarius and Cypher at their head. It was a capable force, even without guns and blades, and they travelled at a run down shadowed corridors and stairwells. Haste was more important than stealth; even with the battle raging above, their escape would soon be noticed.
The first stasis chamber they broke open contained Saint Celestine and her Geminae Superia. The second brought a reunion with Archmagos Belisarius Cawl and his Mechanicus forces. With Dunecrawlers stalking at their backs and ranks of Skitarii and Kataphron Battle Servitors lending their firepower, the Loyalists swiftly overwhelmed the Red Corsairs standing guard over the final stasis chamber. Within, they found not only Aldrik Voldus, his Grey Knight brothers and their Dreadknights, but all the other Space Marines of the Terran Crusade, as well as the dozens of tanks and Dreadnought brothers they had brought with them in their warships.
Captain Sicarius now suggested that they cut a swift path through the battle to reclaim their starships. Veilwalker shook her head. Thousands of Heretic Astartes and daemons battled across the fortress. Fighting around the docking spars was thick. Any attempt to recover the Terran Crusade's voidcraft was doomed. The Loyalists still might have attempted to recapture their fleet, until the Shadowseer told them that the human crews who had kept the starships operational were all dead, sacrifced alongside the Crusade's Imperial Guardsmen and Battle-Sisters. Worse, the fleet's Navigators had been spirited away in chains upon a fast voidship, bound for Huron Blackheart's personal fortress.
Fortunately, Veilwalker knew another way to escape -- the route Cypher and the Harlequins of the Masque of the Veiled Path had used to reach Guilliman, and the route they would use to lead him on towards Terra. At the fortress' heart, trammelled by ancient technology and still operational after many standard millennia, was a stabilised route into the Webway. The pathways it led into were huge, arterial routes that even starships could navigate -- they would accommodate the Imperial war machines with ease.
Bursting from the armoury, the Imperial army and their guides made for the lower tunnels. The awakening of the fortress' deeper chambers had not gone unnoticed, however. As they hastened further into the ancient structure, the Loyalists encountered stiffening resistance from bands of Red Corsairs and Daemons sent to cut them off.
Though Guilliman and his followers fought furiously, their advance slowed to a crawl. Pushing through a vast chamber of twisting bridges and black chasms, they found themselves surrounded on every side. Matters looked grim, but it was in that moment that spectral flames leapt amidst the foe. Auspex readings flickered wildly, and ghostly voices whispered and hissed through the Vox networks as shadowy figures stepped from the inferno and opened fire. Clad in black and bone, wreathed in aetheric fire, the Legion of the Damned had arrived in the Terran Crusade's hour of need. Their thunderous volleys swept the Chaos forces from the bridges to Guilliman's fore, and, with Veilwalker whirling and leaping at his side, the Primarch led the advance once again.
Long, bloody solar minutes of battle followed, gunfire flashing back and forth in the gloom. Though both sides raced as fast as they could to beat the other to the prize, Guilliman and his army reached the heart of the Blackstone Fortress at the same time as their foes. The chamber itself was vast, easily a hundred Terran miles across. Both its ceiling and its floor were lost in shadow. Entrancing patterns of shimmering lights crawled across the walls, and flickered up and down the titanic black column that rose at the chamber's heart. Out from that column, like the distorted branches of some dark arboreal deity, radiated hundreds of bridges, stairways, platforms and gantries, all shimmering with the same, vaguely bioluminescent lights that danced across the walls.
Countless dark doorways opened onto the Blackstone Fortress' heart, huge portals that seemed wrought for giants. From some spilled daemons of Tzeentch, fires flaring amidst the darkness. Others vomited the daemons of Khorne, loping in snarling packs across soaring bridges wide enough for Titans to cross.
Many of the massing daemons were still distant, small figures rendered insectile by the scale of the chamber, but great hosts of them would still intercept Guilliman's forces before they could reach the heart of the chamber. That was where they must go, however -- Veilwalker indicated a distant platform set into the black column's flank. Upon it, Guilliman could see the faint shimmer of esoteric energies dancing, and knew that this was the Webway entrance of which the Shadowseer spoke.
Guilliman ordered the advance. His forces flowed out across the nearest bridges, guided through the labyrinth of interconnected platforms and arc-bridges by the Troupes of the Veiled Path. Loping Dreadknights and roaring Space Marine tanks led the way, squads of Adeptus Astartes, Grey Knights and Skitarii advancing behind them.
The crossing became more dangerous as firepower whipped across the yawning gulfs to tear at the Loyalist ranks. Fights broke out as Red Corsairs let fly from higher walkways and Cannons of Khorne spat screaming skulls. Platforms as broad as parade grounds played host to crashing battles as packs of Daemon Engines clashed with squadrons of Ultramarine main battle tanks. The Loyalists fired as they moved, blasting paths through the massing foe. At the same time, the forces of Khorne and Tzeentch fell upon one another, Bloodletters hacking their way down ichor-slick stairways while Horrors scoured platforms clear with shimmering flame.
Far away across the chamber, Guilliman caught sight of Kairos Fateweaver, exhorting his followers into battle and hurling bolts of psychic sorcery at the Loyalists from afar. Yet the Lord of Change clearly did not care to face Guilliman's resurgent wrath, for he stayed far removed from the white heat of the battle.
Not so Skarbrand. Hacking his way through a gaping portal in the chamber's wall, the Bloodthirster blazed like a furious pyre. His bellows echoed through the cavernous space, primal roars of bloodlust that infected the minds of all who heard them.
Under Skarbrand's influence, Guilliman's Battle-Brothers became more reckless and aggressive by the moment. Contaminated by the daemon's psychic fury, Marius Amalrich and the last of the Black Templars turned aside from their route and hurled themselves into an onrushing mass of Khornate daemons. Blood sprayed as a savage melee broke out. For a moment the Primarch considered diverting his own forces to help Amalrich's, but with Skarbrand storming closer and daemons swarming on every front, there was no time. With a heavy heart, Guilliman barked orders through the Vox, steadying the Ultramarines and their Primogenitor allies with the sheer force of his will. Bellowing, Amalrich hurled himself into battle with mighty Skarbrand, his Black Sword clashing with the Bloodthirster's twin axes again and again.
With Voldus and his Dreadknights leading, and the relentless spectres of the Legion of the Damned fighting a silent rearguard, the remains of the Terran Crusade closed on the Webway entrance. Belisarius Cawl and his Skitarii mowed down rank after rank of daemons. Novamarine Vindicators blasted a trio of bridges that the enemy were using in an attempt to outflank, sending flailing Horrors plunging into the void. Inquisitor Greyfax and Saint Celestine fought side by side, hacking down a trio of Tzeentchian Heralds in as many solar minutes. The Harlequins were everywhere at once, sprinting along walkways, bounding between bridges, hacking and slashing with breathtaking skill as they wove a dance of battle around the Loyalists.
That was when Skarbrand gave a deafening bellow of fury and took a running leap. The cursed Bloodthirster sailed across the gulf, trailing boiling ichor from a terrible wound in his chest. Guilliman's eyes widened as he saw Amalrich's black blade, driven into the Bloodthirster's breast. It was the only remaining sign of the Emperor's Champion, bloody atonement for his failings on lost Cadia.
Skarbrand landed with a tremendous crash, hooves striking sparks as he slammed down on the bridge amidst the Legion of the Damned. His axes, Slaughter and Carnage, swept left and right. Fire-wreathed spectres were smashed aside, their broken bodies tumbling away like embers into the darkness below.
Already the rearmost warriors of Guilliman's force were turning back, tanks and Battle-Brothers alike lost to the Bloodthirster's madness. Realising control was about to slip from his grasp, Guilliman commanded all the remaining Imperials to make for the portal. A final bridge leapt out across the void to connect the platform on which Guilliman stood to the one where the portal flickered. The Primarch took position at the head of that bridge, standing firm with blade drawn as all who could still follow his orders did so. Infantry and vehicles streamed past him, following the Harlequins into the Webway, until only Cato Sicarius and Celestine remained, waiting by the portal's entrance.
Skarbrand stormed through the last of the Legion of the Damned and onto the platform. Guilliman felt the structure shudder and flex beneath the Bloodthirster's weight. Then the Greater Daemon's burning eyes found Guilliman's, and the Primarch felt unreasoning fury surge through him. Skarbrand had come for Guilliman's skull, that he might honour Khorne with it, and the daemon did not intend to allow his quarry to escape now.
In Guilliman's mind, hellish fires rose up on every side, full of the leering faces of his brothers who had fallen to Chaos. With every step that Skarbrand took towards him, Guilliman's ire grew, while at his back the bridge seemed to melt away as molten slag until there was nothing but the Primarch and the Bloodthirster, trapped together in an arena of roaring flame.
Unable to stop himself, the Primarch bellowed a war cry and leapt to meet Skarbrand's charge. The Emperor's Sword met Slaughter with a dolorous clang, while Carnage whistled over the Primarch's head by a hair's breadth. Guilliman drove his shoulder guard into his opponent's midriff, then span on his heel and backfisted Skarbrand with the Hand of Dominion. The blow would have punched straight through a tank hull, yet the Bloodthirster merely rocked back on his heels before launching himself forward again. Hellforged axes hacked and lashed in huge, haymaker arcs, Guilliman barely blocking or evading each blow.
The Primarch could feel his hate and rage building to new heights, eclipsing his strategic sense altogether. Dimly he realised that, soon, he would hurl himself at Skarbrand, hacking madly until his head was struck from his shoulders.
With a titanic effort of will, Roboute Guilliman forced down the supernaturally-created rage that was drowning his rational mind. Gasping with effort, the Primarch trapped the furious fires in a ring of cold, mental steel. Even as he continued to fight his monstrous foe in reality, he fought a second battle in his mind. Step by step, he pushed back against his blazing rage.
With a final scream of mental anguish, Guilliman forced down all his fury and hatred, and locked them away behind impenetrable mental fortifications. As he did so, the fires that he perceived around him died away, and the bridge to safety swam back into focus. Beyond it, Sicarius and Saint Celestine were exhorting him to move before it was too late.
Unwilling to let his enemy escape, Skarbrand hurled himself in a wild lunge with axes raised high. Guilliman coolly assessed the threat, raising the Hand of Dominion and blasting the daemon backwards.
Skarbrand bellowed in anger as explosive shells tore into his cranium and blew fleshy gobbets across the platform. Step by step, the daemon was driven back, yet still he did not fall. Gritting his teeth at the sight of the enemy drawing close, Guilliman fired the last shells from his magazine, aiming for Amalrich's Black Sword. A single bolt struck the weapon and blew the ebony blade apart in a storm of deadly shards. Skarbrand's torso was shredded, and he toppled backwards off the platform with a final, furious roar.
Immediately, Guilliman turned and sprinted across the bridge, hurling himself into the Webway after Captain Sicarius and the Living Saint. Behind him, the portal's warding runes sealed with a sharp crack, denying the surging tide of daemons at the very last second.
The Hunter's Labyrinth
- "The history of the galaxy is a tapestry woven from terror and blood. Yet amongst the countless threads of darkness, there gleam thin strands of light, moments of selfless heroism and bravery that shine out all the brighter for the shadow that surrounds them. Through such desperate deeds is the future wrought. Through such desperate deeds does hope endure."
Space Marines, Grey Knights and the warriors of the Adeptus Mechanicus stood amidst the shimmering mists of the Webway. They were gathered in a vague space, its dimensions vast and confusing. Lights glimmered around them, and a distant booming rolled through the air, akin to a titanic heartbeat, or the sound of waves washing upon a rocky shore. Of the Imperial warriors who had escaped their cells, around two-thirds remained alive. Voldus and his Grey Knights had taken only a handful of casualties, and the same was true of the Harlequins. Cypher, too, had survived the desperate running battle through the fortress, and stood now at the head of a band of dark-armoured Space Marines who had clearly awaited his return. As Guilliman's battered warriors regrouped, Sylandri Veilwalker came before the Primarch. She paused for a moment to share a long and loaded look with Archmagos Belisarius Cawl before turning to Guilliman without a word of explanation.
She counselled that they could not tarry for long. She had laced this region of the Webway with scout parties of Skyweaver Jetbikes. Those scouts were now reporting back, warning of heavily-armed intruders wearing ornate Power Armour of blue and gold. The warriors had the stench of Chaos sorcery on them, and the unmistakable mark of Tzeentch.
Guilliman's mind raced, weaving fragments of fact and glimpses of information with his peerless strategist's intuition. It was Magnus, realised the Primarch. His manipulative brother -- who must have somehow known precisely how matters would play out for Guilliman -- had sent his cursed sons to intercept the Imperials.
Events began to fall into place in Guilliman's mind. Magnus had hurled Guilliman's Crusade into the Maelstrom not to destroy it, but to weaken it. He had propelled the Lord of Ultramar onto a particular path of fate that Magnus had either hoped or known would lead him to his capture, incarceration within that very specific gaol, and eventual escape into this section of the Webway. Guilliman could not know that the Crimson King had called upon his greatest champion, Ahriman, to aid him with his stolen knowledge of the Webway's paths, but otherwise the Primarch's conclusions were entirely correct.
Swiftly and earnestly, Guilliman sought the counsel of his closest lieutenants. They had to determine what Magnus planned, and quickly, before they stepped straight into the Daemon Primarch's trap. It was Aldrik Voldus who -- drawing upon his knowledge of Titan's ancient libraries -- made the intuitive leap. There was a warded entrance to the Webway within the Imperial Palace. Voldus believed it to be heavily defended, bound shut with the most potent abjurations that the Imperium could muster, but still it existed. Perhaps Magnus knew of that gate, and sought to follow them to it?
Guilliman's strategic brilliance leapt ahead again, tracing patterns within patterns and perceiving the truth. Magnus already knew where the gate lay, he realised. There had been whispers that the Crimson King had passed that way before just before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, and in so doing unleashed the catastrophe that fell upon him and his XV Legion.
Magnus did not need them to lead him to the gate. He sought instead to follow them through it, clearly hoping that the gate's defences would be deactivated to allow for Guilliman's arrival. The Daemon Primarch wanted to strike at Terra, at the very Golden Throne of the Emperor of Mankind, and he hoped to launch his attack as the gate was thrown open to permit the Ultramarines Primarch passage.
The Terran Crusade, ironically, could not emerge at Terra, Guilliman realised with something like despair, not if it meant allowing Magnus to strike at the cradle of Humanity. Yet Sylandri Veilwalker had never intended for them to take that road. Instead, the Shadowseer revealed a secret that the Eldar had long guarded.
Lying dormant for millennia, hidden behind a veil of wards that even Humanity's greatest psykers could not pierce, a lonely spar of the Webway stretched out upon the border between realspace and the Warp to connect to Luna, Terra's only natural moon. It was to that illusion-veiled gate that the Crusade must now make haste.
With their path chosen, the survivors of the Terran Crusade set out at once. Already they had crossed great gulfs of space, and fought their way through hellish environs, yet they began this new and arduous leg of their journey without complaint. All who had set forth from Ultramar had been prepared to give their lives for this cause, and to endure any hardship they must in order to see the reborn Roboute Guilliman safely to Terra. Nothing had changed.
Travelling fast, the Harlequins of the Veiled Path lead the way. They progressed now through territory that was theirs alone, moving with ever greater speed and confidence as a result. Bands of Harlequins split away into half-glimpsed side passages, or slipped through hollow archways graven from stone. Others returned in similar fashion, filtering in before or behind the massed Imperial tanks and foot troops. Harlequin Jetbikes sped overhead from time to time, hurtling down the wider passageways in polychromatic blurs. All the while, Guilliman and his followers kept up a relentless pace, their tanks moving in the vanguard while loping infantry and stalking Dunecrawlers brought up the rear.
The Webway changed and shifted around them, from misty passages to dark and echoing tunnels, brightly lit expanses of polyhedral crystal to weirdly fleshy spirals that pulsed with peristaltic motion. The Loyalists surely would have been lost within solar minutes, had they travelled alone, or else set upon by the predatory entities that haunted the Labyrinth Dimension. Yet with the Harlequins as both guides and escorts, the Imperial forces were able to proceed unchallenged.
All that changed when frantic reports reached Sylandri Veilwalker of familiars that had espied the Loyalists and eluded the pursuing Jetbikes. At the Shadowseer's urging, the punishing pace increased still further, until the slowest Servitors were abandoned altogether. As Guilliman and his warriors thundered across a hazy, crystal-studded cavern, sudden volleys of firepower scythed into them from the flanks.
Fifteen warriors fell to that first volley, punched off their feet by bolt shells wreathed in coruscating flame. Rhinos exploded amidst leaping blasts of psychic sorcery, while Skitarii degenerated into howling mutant flesh as the fires of change washed over them.
Guilliman barked his orders and the Loyalists fanned out as one, dropping into firing crouches amidst the crystal outcroppings. From all around, swimming into focus through the veiling mists, came the plodding automata of Thousand Sons Rubricae. The armoured golems played their Bolters right and left as they advanced, laying down a steady hail of ensorcelled bolts. Hordes of shrieking Tzaangors moved amongst them, brandishing silvered blades.
Guilliman's warriors fired back, sending many of their ambushers reeling as their armour was rent and the dust that animated it spilled onto the ground. Cypher span and dove through the mayhem, evading every shot fired his way and reaping a tally of the foe with his blazing pistols. Aldrik Voldus, too, wrought havoc as he led a counterattack against the Thousand Sons. His warhammer swung in lightning fast arcs, battering Rubricae to the ground amid clouds of glittering dust.
Still more Rubricae closed in, their sorcerous masters upon their flying discs hurling their spells into the Loyalist ranks. Guilliman realised that to stay here was to fight an impossible battle, and to be lost with his goal in sight. It infuriated the Primarch to run yet again, for it seemed to him that, since leaving Ultramar, he had done little else. Yet the greater goal was of more importance, and he knew that he would not aid his father's Imperium by dying here.
Blade raised high, Guilliman led the movement to break out of the Thousand Sons ambush. Not all of his Battle-Brothers could extract themselves from the fight safely, and more precious lives were lost -- along with the gene-seed within them -- as Space Marines were cut down by the enemy's fire. Yet with the winged Living Saint cutting a path at their head, the Loyalists broke away from their attackers and fled deeper into the Webway.
They found themselves beset at every turn, Rubricae and braying Tzaangors bursting from side passages or holding junctions against them. Still the Loyalists pressed on, smashing headlong through every ambush and blockade with Guilliman, Voldus, Greyfax, Celestine and Cypher at their head. At last, the Imperials reached a rune-sealed portal, fixing helms and rebreather cowls in place. Then, led by the Shadowseer, they stepped from the Webway and onto the surface of Luna.
Amidst the Sea of Storms
Guilliman stepped through the shimmering lights of the Webway gate, enduring the unsettling doubling of reality that it created. He passed from soft illumination into harsh black shadow and searing glare, from air and gentle warmth into the frozen, airless lethality of near-vacuum. Gravity bled away around him, and with a single step, Guilliman launched himself away from the Webway gate into the billowing moon dust beyond.
The Terran Crusade had emerged into a deep crater, much of which was immersed in inky blackness. Shafts of stark illumination fell from above, where the rays of Sol itself spilled over the lip of the deep pit. Conscious of the foes following close on their heels, the Loyalists climbed quickly up the pit's sides. Space Marines sprang upwards hand over fist in the low gravity, only one-sixteenth that of Terra.
Tanks threw up drifting fans of moon dust as they powered up the rocky slope. Skitarii marched relentlessly upward, ignoring their blackening and freezing organic components. These latter soldiers would not last long on the lunar surface, but they would endure long enough to serve the Omnissiah's needs.
Above them, Celestine soared upward into the dark skies -- her Geminae Superia had donned their helms, but the Living Saint had no need of such apparel. Behind them, Veilwalker and her Harlequins lingered by the Webway gate. The Shadowseer gathered her powers, levelling her staff towards the Webway portal and beginning a whispering chant. The runes upon the structure's flanks glowed fiercely with a searing light.
Before Veilwalker could finish her ritual, the gate pulsed with dark energies. Blue fire billowed, its roar sounding as a dull rumble in the airless conditions. Veilwalker span clear at the last moment, but many of her Harlequin followers were not so fortunate. Their lithe bodies were engulfed in flame and, as their dathedi suits burned away, so their bodies melted like wax or froze and died.
From near the lip of the crater, Guilliman looked back to see the corrupted Webway gate glowing with dark fire. Streamers of energy leapt and coiled, dancing across the walls of the pit and blasting the Eldar corpses to ash. Out from that crackling storm stepped the first Rubric Marines, their footfalls muffled as they advanced across the crater floor. They raised their Bolters and opened fire, cursed shells roaring up from below to slam into the Imperials.
Armour ruptured and souls burned. Bulky bodies in the colours of the Novamarines and Mortifactors tumbled in slow motion down the slopes, clouds of chalky dust cascading around them. A Dreadknight toppled backwards, its pilot slain. The remaining Loyalists kept moving, over the lip of the crater and out of the Thousand Sons' line of fire.
Here, the retreat stopped at last. Guilliman and his surviving followers stood upon the surface of Luna itself, near the heart of the Mare Tempestus. On every side loomed the rusted hulks of old and broken Imperial voidships, a graveyard of junked and decommissioned spacecraft left there to moulder. Overhead, the blackness of space was speckled with stars while closer to hand, huge orbital docks and defence platforms filled the sky. Gothic leviathans swarming with voidcraft and covered in glaring lights, the grandeur of the Luna docks still faded against the breathtaking sight of Terra itself, hanging stark against the blackness above. There was the destination that Guilliman sought, the end of his journey at last.
Yet a deadly foe still chased at the Primarch's heels, and could not be allowed to work his malefic will within sight of the Throneworld. Guilliman knew that the Warp phenomena currently erupting in the crater's depths must surely have triggered every alarm and emergency Augur within a dozen terra-sols.
It would not be long before overwhelming Imperial forces raced to investigate, but there was no telling what irrevocable havoc Magnus could cause before they arrived. Guilliman saw again the visions Kairos had sent him, of a shattered world crashing down upon a fire-blackened Terra, and shuddered. He and his followers must hold the enemy here, driving the Thousand Sons back or -- at the least -- keeping them suppressed until aid could arrive.
The Thousand Sons were spilling from the Webway gate in increasing numbers, Scarab Occult and Rubricae driven forward by Chaos Sorcerers on their flying discs. Their advance was steady but unstoppable, pushing up the crater walls with their guns blazing. Recognising that the crater itself offered the best chance of containing the foe, Guilliman spread his warriors, combat walkers and tanks around its lip and commanded them to pour fire down into the advancing Thousand Sons.
Space Marines, Skitarii, Dreadnoughts, Land Raiders, Vindicators, Dunecrawlers, Battle Servitors and more opened fire. Using the lip of the crater for cover, and making the most of the higher ground, the Loyalists sent volley after volley ripping down into the Heretic Astartes. Striding automata were knocked back into the crater by devastating explosions. Glittering dust drifted from rents in ancient, ornate armour, floating free in the low gravity and leaving once-animate undead armour suits to crumple and collapse.
Sergeants barked orders through the Vox, coordinating volleys of Lascannon blasts and Demolisher shells to rain down upon the Rubricae. Cypher and his shadowy companions rained fire down upon the Thousand Sons. Greyfax slammed silver stakes through one Rubricae after another from her Condemnor Bolter. Aldrik Voldus tore Traitors apart with the potent powers of his mind.
Armoured corpses piled in heaps at the bottom of the crater, surrounding the Webway gate with carrion remains. From cracks and rocky outcroppings around the crater's edge, the last of the Harlequins added their own fire to the fusillade, hails of monofilament discs cutting through Power Armour and the flesh of living, daemonic discs.
For a time, it appeared as though the Thousand Sons would be bottled up in the crater. Though their return fire caused slow attrition amongst the Loyalists, the Traitors were losing far more warriors than they slew.
Then a fresh pulse of dark power surged through the Webway gate, its energies whirling faster and faster until they formed a flaming vortex. A wave of supernatural dread swept over the loyalist Space Marines as a huge, hornheaded figure stepped through onto the surface of Luna. Spreading his wings wide, Magnus the Red looked up at Guilliman with a mocking smile.
Gods of War
Drawing himself up to his full height, Magnus the Red raised his ensorcelled glaive and spoke dolorous words of power that rang out in defiance of all natural law. Purple flames leapt, forming shimmering shields and warding the Thousand Sons from harm. Suddenly, the Rubricae and Scarab Occult could advance unharmed, striding upwards as their foes' shots exploded upon Magnus' psychic shields. The Thousand Sons suffered no such obstruction, and dozens of Loyalists were sent tumbling back from the crater's lip, blood and shattered bone spraying.
Seeing the sudden shift in the situation, and knowing that they must hold out no matter the cost, Guilliman ordered his surviving warriors back. Moments later, the first ranks of Rubricae crested the lip of the crater and strode out with their gun muzzles flaring. More Thousand Sons marched behind them, and the surviving Loyalists fell back to voidship wrecks and rocky craters to gain cover while their tanks backed steadily away with their guns thundering.
Magnus rose from the crater. With a word, the Daemon Primarch unmade a trio of Dreadknights, burning out their psychic wards and crushing their armour. With a gesture, he telekinetically plucked an Ultramarines Land Raider from the ground and slammed it through ranks of Skitarii like a cannonball. Magnus brandished his staff and reality rent apart, a tide of cackling Tzeentchian daemons boiling from the Warp to join the battle.
Recognising that the Daemon Primarch would swiftly destroy his army if allowed free reign, Guilliman broke into a headlong charge. Giving vent to a booming war cry, the Primarch of the Ultramarines smashed a path through the Rubricae before him and launched himself into a heroic leap from the lip of the crater.
Guilliman soared, burning blade leaving a trail of flame behind him. Magnus saw his brother coming and began an incantation of pain, but before he could finish it the Lord of Ultramar struck. Magnus managed to parry his brother's arcing blade with his glaive, but the battering ram impact of Guilliman's leap carried the Crimson King backward, away from the fight. The two Primarchs tumbled across the lunar surface, dust billowing around them, and smashed into the rusted wreck of an Imperial frigate. Slabs of metal and corroded ironwork crashed down around them, burying the fighting brothers in an avalanche of wreckage. Meanwhile, the battle around the crater raged on, the last remnants of the Terran Crusade fighting furiously to survive.
Guilliman fought his way to freedom, hurling aside a slab of rusted metal and ignoring the alarms ringing within his helm. His armour was compromised, its air supply venting and the cold of the void leaking in. Were it not for his god-like constitution, and Cawl's life-sustaining technology, Guilliman would likely have been dead.
Instead, he raised his blade and kicked his way clear of the scattered wreckage.
"Magnus", he shouted through his Vox grill, searching around him. The Primarch knew his dubiously gifted brother could hear his words, even in the void of space. "I know better than to think you dead. Face me!"
Deep laughter rolled around Guilliman, a sound redolent with ancient malice. As he watched, Magnus' ethereal form rose from the wreckage and drifted down to loom over him. The Daemon Primarch solidified once more, huge and menacing.
"Very well, Roboute", laughed Magnus, and his words conjured crystalline showers that rained down upon the pale ground. "Here I am, in the flesh. And -- somehow -- there you are." Magnus cocked his head to one side and smirked. "I don't remember you seeming so ... insignifcant."
"Ten millennia have made you no less arrogant, then?" asked Guilliman, warily circling his towering foe. Inside his helm, a look of disgust twisted his patrician features as he regarded the monstrous form of the Crimson King. "Certainly those years have done you no other kindness."
Magnus sighed. "How you can have such grand plans and yet such scant vision has always eluded me. This", the Daemon Primarch said, empyric energies stirring as they gathered around his levelled glaive, "is what true power looks like."
"I see no power here", said Guilliman, shaking his head in dismay. "I see corruption, and enslavement to monsters that are worshipped as gods."
"On that, Roboute," Magnus laughed, sparing a glance at the Loyalists fighting nearby, "perhaps we can finally agree."
The cyclopean Sorcerer's smile turned into a sneer when he noticed his brother glance to the skies above. "Hoping to keep my sons and I occupied until the remnants of this palsied Imperium come to save you? I may not reach our father's throne room today, but I promise that you won't either. You will be dead long before help arrives. That alone will be worth all this trouble."
With that, Magnus attacked. The giant moved far faster than even Guilliman could have believed, his ensorcelled glaive lashing out to split the Lord of Ultramar in two.
Guilliman leapt backward, pulling his midriff in as he did so. Magnus' weapon drew sparks from his armour as it whistled past, and Guilliman landed atop the crumpled prow of a nearby frigate.
Before he could take stock, Magnus was hurling balls of blue psychic flame at him. Guilliman threw himself out of their path, sliding down the prow's rusted flank and dropping into a crouch at its feet. He broke into a charge, bursting from the drifting cloud of dust raised by his landing and weaving skillfully around his brother's sorcerous projectiles.
The ammunition in the Hand of Dominion was spent, but it was still a phenomenally powerful weapon. Sidestepping a downward cut from Magnus' glaive, Guilliman slid inside his brother's guard and delivered a thunderous uppercut. The impact lifted Magnus from his feet and sent him tumbling upward into the inky blackness. Fiery blood drifted in strings from Magnus' shattered jaw, causing kaleidoscopic fungi to sprout from where it spattered on Luna's surface, the power of change embedded even in the Daemon Primarch's blood.
Roiling psychic energy wrapped around Magnus, arresting his motion and righting him as he howled in anger. The Daemon Primarch stared hatefully down with his single eye, and Guilliman knew fresh sorrow as he realised how truly mad and lost his sibling had become.
"Arrogance", shouted Guilliman. "It was always your undoing, brother. You thought this would be an easy fight, that the gifts of your so-called gods would render me impotent. Perhaps those you serve are not all you believed them to be?"
Magnus' rage vanished in an eye-blink, and he laughed scornfully in response to Guilliman's jibe.
"You would like to believe that, wouldn't you? That the dutiful Roboute Guilliman was justified in his loyalty? That, now the ramifications of our choices have become clear, you can look down on me as you always did?"
With sudden violence, Magnus jabbed downward with his glaive. Multicoloured flames exploded from its blade, engulfing Guilliman and the bedrock upon which he stood. Moon dust exploded upwards in crackling clouds. Fire danced across scrap iron, and Roboute cried out as agony wracked his body.
Crackling with raw power, Magnus descended, still pouring Warp fire into his brother. Guilliman screamed again, dropping to one knee as his armour blazed with searing energy. Sparks burst from the overloaded systems of his Power Armour, and the smell of his own, cooking flesh filled his nostrils.
Desperate, Guilliman drove himself backwards in a graceless leap. He flew in an arc to smash down amidst a tumbled heap of enginarium debris, armour still flickering with flames.
Magnus landed, chuckling cruelly. Sprawled amidst the tangle of wreckage, Guilliman tried to push himself to his feet. The Primarch's body was a mass of pain, and his armour responded sluggishly, a number of its servomotors burned out.
"No, brother", said Magnus. "You stay where you are."
The Daemon Primarch gestured, and spectral claws tore several hundred tons of machinery loose from a nearby wreck. Guilliman had time to brace himself before the ungainly mass impacted like a comet, burying him completely beneath an avalanche of crushing metal.
Guilliman was entombed. Alarms chimed in his ears, red warning signs flashing in his peripheral vision. The pain of lacerated organs and shattered bones dragged at him, and for a moment the Lord of Ultramar was tempted simply to give in. Then he thought again of his long-suffering sons, fighting so hard for the ideals of an Imperium they had never even known. He would not betray them. He would not let one of his degenerate brothers keep him from his responsibilities -- not again.
Muscles tensing, strength surging, Guilliman ripped his way up through the tumbled mountain of wreckage. He roared as he hurled aside a capacitor unit the size of a Land Raider, and stepped, bloodied but unbroken, into the hard light of Luna. Magnus arched an eyebrow at the sight, and braced his glaive to hurl another spell.
And then the void lit with fire.
The Emperor's Wrath
Grand Master Aldrik Voldus looked up and gave thanks as the Emperor's deliverance rained down upon the battlefield. The Terran Crusade forces had broken into small islands of resistance, some hunkered down amidst spacecraft wreckage, others crouching behind jutting Luna rocks. The Thousand Sons had surrounded them, relentlessly pouring fire into the Loyalist positions while Tzeentchian daemons hurtled overhead on golden discs to rain Warpflame upon them.
Now, though, help had arrived. Gilt-chased fighter craft screamed down over the lunar landscape. As they did so, rippling lines of fire exploded amidst Rubricae and Horrors alike. Las blasts and hails of explosive shells tore the Tzeentchian footsoldiers apart. Bombs fell amongst them, sundering armour and flesh.
At the same time, vast leviathans of adamantium and plasteel rumbled in overhead. Naval system monitors of the Imperial Navy's Terran Defence Fleet hove into low orbit, their enormous forms swamping the battlefield in shadow as they came. Aided by triangulatory targeting data transmitted by Archmagos Belisarius Cawl, the voidships rained pinpoint-accurate fire upon the foe.
Lunar dust whirled in sudden vortices as teleport energies snatched it up. Bright light flared, and the golden giants of the Adeptus Custodes stepped from it with their Guardian Spears levelled. Hails of bolt fire ripped into the Rubricae. Cursing, the Sorcerers ordered their undead golem warriors to turn and address these new foes, but to no avail. Moving with breathtaking speed and skill, the Custodians hacked their way into the Heretic Astartes. Each fought like a hero born, their blades splitting ancient Power Armour like firewood and sending empty helms spinning lazily away across the lunar surface.
Rallying as aid appeared, the last enclaves of those warriors who had set out from Macragge fought back with renewed fury. Aldrik Voldus stepped out from the wreckage of a bulk carrier, leading his remaining Grey Knights and Dreadknights in a valiant charge. His hammer smashed apart ceramite wherever it connected, and psychic lightning danced about him despite the Chaos Sorcerers' best efforts to banish it. Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax fought alongside him, her iron will bringing Tzeentchian conjurers to their knees before she struck off their heads with her masterwork blade.
Seizing the moment, Saint Celestine swept through the enemy ranks, the Ardent Blade slashing left and right as her Geminae Superia raked the daemons with bolt fire. Captain Cato Sicarius followed in her wake, rallying Ultramarines and their Primogenitors behind him as they cut a path towards the Adeptus Custodes.
The muffled boom of engines sounded overhead, heralding the arrival of further Imperial forces. Stark yellow Drop Pods slammed down, thrusters flaring. Their hatches opened and squads of Imperial Fists Space Marines emerged from within, Bolters blazing at the enemy. Gunships rumbled overhead, yellow-hulled Stormravens and Stormtalons whose weapons tore through the Thousand Sons. Several were swatted by bolts of sorcery and hails of rotary cannon fire, flames belching from ruptured hulls as they span down to crash amidst the wreckage of starships.
Amongst these craft flew a trio of Valkyries with hulls of crimson and black, the sigil of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica emblazoned upon their flanks. Arcing through the explosions and mayhem above the battlefield, the gunships made for the point some way distant where Guilliman still battled his monstrous brother.
Purple fire speared upwards, ripping the wing from the leading craft and sending it rolling to a halt in a blazing fireball. The other two swept on towards their quarry, and as they came in low, their side doors slid open.
While their brave pilots blitzed fire at Magnus the Red, two squads of helmed Sisters of Silence dropped from the gunships. They landed near Guilliman in fighting crouches. Angrily, Magnus swept his clawed hand through the air, dragging one gunship sideways with telekinetic power and smashing it into the other. Both Valkyries exploded and tumbled downwards, but the Sisters of Silence leapt nimbly aside. Magnus glowered, jabbing with his glaive and sending tendrils of green and yellow psychic flame spiralling in their direction. The sorcery sputtered and died before it reached them, undone by the empyric dead zone around the warrior Nulls.
Seeing a strategic advantage at last, Guilliman leapt down from the mound of wreckage and landed amidst the Sisters of Silence. They would shield him from his brother's fell powers. Together, the Primarch and the Sisters charged towards Magnus with their blades at the ready.
The Daemon Primarch hurled another volley of psychic destruction, growling in frustration as it flickered out like the first. Angrily, Magnus hefted his glaive and swooped forward to meet his enemies at close quarters. If he could not destroy them with the powers of the Warp, he would hack and crush their mortal bodies until nothing remained but meat.
Beneath the dark lunar sky, with Terra hanging, ancient and hallowed above them, the two Primarchs crashed together once again.
Syndri Veilwalker bounded into the air. She drove one foot into the side of a Rubricae's helm, ripping it free with the force of her kick. The Shadowseer pushed off from her first victim, spinning through the thin air to hurl a bewildering glamour into the face of a nearby Sorcerer. The Tzeentch worshipper howled in panic, clawing at his helm and ripping it free. His flesh froze in solar seconds, his eyes bursting as bloody puffs and gore squirted from his nose, mouth and ears. The Shadowseer trilled a mocking laugh as she landed, spinning her stave low to sweep the legs from two more Rubricae, before sketching an elaborate bow to their fellows.
Amidst a hail of ensorcelled bolts, Veilwalker sprang away, as her kin cartwheeled into the enemy's midst from another direction. In such low gravity conditions, the Harlequins could achieve feats of agility and grace beyond even their normal blinding skill, and Veilwalker laughed again as she saw the Rubricae rendered clumsy by comparison.
Bounding in a high pirouette over the battle, Veilwalker sought he who wore the Armour of Fate. There he was, amidst the wrecks of crude human spacecraft, battling his monstrous brother alongside a band of warriors. Even from here, the mere presence of the psychic Nulls made Sylandri shudder.
Guilliman and Magnus were trading hate-filled blows, their weapons crashing together with titanic force. The Nulls were doing what they could to aid the fight, stabbing blades at the daemon in their midst or pouring Bolter fire into him. Already, several lay as broken corpses for their troubles, but the rest were doing an effective job of deadening Magnus' sorcerous powers.
Veilwalker landed gracefully, ignoring a storm of magical flames that exploded away to her left. Daemons, befuddled by her Domino Field, cast their spells at where they believed her to be. With a thought, Veilwalker activated the communications inlay in her helm, communing with her Death Jester, the Hollow Prince.
"The moment has arrived", she said. "Our drama has played out, and the brothers' enmity burns anew."
"Now the final curtain, then?" whispered the voice of the Hollow Prince, rich with wicked mirth. "Indignation. Outrage. Vendetta."
"It must be thus", agreed Veilwalker. "I shall ready the gate, for truth this time. You deliver your lines, and let matters play out."
Without waiting for an answer, Veilwalker cut her communications. She sprinted for the crater from which they had all emerged. She wove and sprang, dodged and tumbled through the raging battle, finally throwing herself into a feet-first slide over the crater's lip. Veilwalker arced gracefully down, moon dust falling about her like snow, and landed in a crouch amid the mounds of armoured corpses. Across the crater floor, the darkness was lit by the whirling storm of purple light that spat from the corrupted Webway gate. Magnus had done that, cursing the portal to permit his unnatural passage. Veilwalker smirked coldly behind her mask; he would pay for that hubris.
Across the field of battle, she knew that the Hollow Prince would be communicating with Guilliman, explaining their plan to the Primarch. The Death Jester would be telling the Primarch that Magnus could be destroyed only by casting his body into the corrupted Webway gate. If Veilwalker's visions were correct, Guilliman would believe him.
Meanwhile, she had to prepare the gateway, which was currently guarded by a pair of Chaos Sorcerers. Ghosting closer through the bodies with illusions flickering about her, Veilwalker drew her Shuriken Pistol. A gentle squeeze of its trigger, a flick of her wrist, and several more gentle depressions; first one Sorcerer and then the other staggered as rounds struck them, perfectly placed to puncture their gorget seals and open their jugular arteries.
The two Sorcerers crumpled, and Veilwalker hurriedly began her incantations. The energies around the Webway gateway pulsed and shuddered, the runes on its sides glowing brighter as a keening vibration shook the dark pit.
At that moment, battling demigods appeared upon the crater's edge. Guilliman and Magnus, both bleeding from the wounds they had dealt one another, still flanked by a last handful of the Null warriors. Magnus bisected another of the women with a brutal swing of his glaive, which lashed around to hack a chunk from Guilliman's breastplate.
In return, the Lord of Ultramar drove Magnus back with hammer blows from the Emperor's blade, then slammed his shoulder into his brother's chest and sent the Crimson King crashing down the steep slope.
Guilliman leapt after him, not giving Magnus a chance to recover. The Primarch's onslaught was punishing, the wounded Guilliman visibly pouring everything he had into this last storm of blows. Veilwalker melted away into the shadows as the warring brothers neared the Webway gate, still muttering her incantations and weaving her staff back and forth.
Magnus conjured a deadly sphere of Warp energies and hurled it at his brother with all his might. Guilliman's Iron Halo absorbed the worst of the blast, but still he was sent staggering back. With his back to the gate, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons conjured a wave of telekinetic fury and used it to fling a mass of Space Marine corpses -- Loyalist and Traitor alike -- at the last few Nulls. They vanished from Sylandri's sight, their contra-empyric drag blinking out as they were buried beneath a macabre heap of the dead.
The Shadowseer started forward, fearing for the fate of the Final Act. Then, with a roar of hate and rage, Guilliman struck. The Lord of Ultramar lunged at his brother. The burning blade drove in, under the Daemon Primarch's guard, and sank deep into his chest. Golden flames leapt, and Magnus howled in agony as they chewed hungrily at his flesh. He unleashed his powers in an uncontrolled sorcerous blast, its shock wave racing out across the crater and throwing Sylandri from her feet.
The burst of power hurled Guilliman onto his back, blade in hand, and sent Magnus staggering free, back through the pulsating Webway gate. Sylandri had one chance, a single moment in which to alter fate. With a final word, she shattered the runestone that glowed hot in her palm, and severed the Webway gate to Luna forever. Power surged, Magnus roared his fury, and then was cut off from Luna, his warriors and his brother, banished to the depths of the Labyrinth Dimension.
Dust to Dust
- "The battle is not over when your enemy is beaten. He must be crushed utterly. And every trace of his works and deeds expunged. His spirit, and that of his people, must be broken beyond repair. Only when your enemy has been eradicated altogether, and burned from the pages of history, is the war at its end."
- —Roboute Guilliman, the Codex Astartes
Guilliman staggered to his feet, limping and wounded underneath his smouldering and blackened armour. The Webway gate rose before him, and no trace of his brother remained. Had Magnus been destroyed? Guilliman hoped so, but he did not believe it. The Harlequins' sudden plan for victory had been too convenient, the disappearance of Magnus too abrupt. The Primarch cast about for Sylandri Veilwalker, but found that she too had disappeared. A swiftly voxed question to his warriors revealed that the remainder of the Masque of the Veiled Path had vanished with her, though none could say how. If it had all been a trick, Guilliman could not fathom its intent, but for now at least, Magnus was gone.
Listening to the voxed reports of his lieutenants, Guilliman realised that the battle was as good as won. Even while fighting his brother, Guilliman had kept a portion of his mind upon the wider strategic picture. It took him only moments to piece together the battle's events.
Bolstered by the sudden arrival of the Adeptus Custodes and the Imperial Fists, the Terran Crusade had driven the Thousand Sons back. Tzeentchian automata lay scattered across this region of the Mare Tempestus, little more than vacant suits of ornate armour tangled amidst the wreckage. The daemons that Magnus had summoned were gone also, banished along with their master.
With orbital barrages and hurtling fighter craft annihilating any Traitors who attempted to break for freedom, the last of the Sorcerers had gathered their Rubricae and their Scarab Occults, and were driving -- steady and relentless -- for the crater's edge. They had sensed the banishment of their lord, but they did not know that the Webway gate had been severed. The last of the Traitors were making a bid to escape, and Guilliman stood directly in their path.
Wearily, the Primarch squared his shoulders and shrugged off his hurts. Walking with a limp, armour sparking and dented, Roboute Guilliman made for the crater's edge. His helm's Auspex showed him the route of the incoming Traitors, and the Imperial forces harassing their flanks. Though badly mauled, the Thousand Sons still had numbers, and had broken through the last, faltering ranks of Belisarius Cawl's Skitarii.
Guilliman strode up the crater wall to meet them, and as he did so the mountain of corpses behind him stirred and shifted. Heaving themselves to freedom, three tenacious Sisters of Silence escaped their gruesome cairn and hasted to stand at Guilliman's side.
The remaining Thousand Sons were several hundred Terran yards from the crater's edge, marching relentlessly in Guilliman's direction. They travelled in a loosely circular formation, the Rubricae facing outward in a ceramite ring and moving in eerily perfect lockstep. Loyalist forces surrounded them, squads of infantry and scorched battle tanks pouring fire into the retreating Traitors. More Rubricae fell by the moment, but with their Sorcerers safe at the heart of the formation, the Thousand Sons' momentum was hard to stop.
They would come no further, resolved Guilliman. Voxing orders to every Imperial warrior, the Primarch instructed his followers to charge the Thousand Sons from every side, and all remaining vehicles to provide supporting fire, Guilliman brandished his flaming blade and swept into battle. The last of the Sisters of Silence ran at his side, their Bolters thumping.
The Imperial forces closed upon the Traitors like a clenching fist. The muffled thunder of gunfire carried across the Mare Tempestus as a devastating storm of shots engulfed the Thousand Sons. At the same time, Aldrik Voldus, Cypher, Greyfax, Belisarius Cawl and Saint Celestine charged into the enemy's midst with their guns blazing and warriors at their backs.
Thunder Hammers swung, connecting with tectonic force. Power Swords slid through armour like knives through silk. Sorcery transformed noble warriors to crystal statues, or collapsing heaps of mutated flesh. Through the mayhem waded Roboute Guilliman, hacking and bludgeoning his way towards the Sorcerers at the heart of the enemy formation. Enough loyal blood had been shed. Enough brave warriors had been slain, and more besides, to bring Guilliman within striking distance of the Throneworld. The losses ended now, and Ultramarines Primarch would be the one to end them.
The first Sorcerer he met was backhanded from his disc, tumbling away like a ragdoll. The next two fell to lethal sword thrusts, their blood puffing out into the void slow clouds. Three more turned their powers upon the Primarch, only to find hexes faltering and hellfires flickering to nothing as the Sisters of Silence joined the fray.
One Sorcerer succeeded in driving his sword through Guilliman's pauldron and drawing the Primarch's blood. Another cracked one eye lens of his helm with a desperate thrust of his stave. No other harm did the Sorcerers cause to the Lord of Ultramar, who passed through them like a storm of death and left all as drifting corpses.
At last the battle was done. The final Rubricae, leaderless and without direction, were cut swiftly to pieces. The whirling storm of moon dust settled as the battle's fury abated. With his loyal warriors kneeling around him and his foes destroyed, Guilliman allowed himself to lean for a moment upon his blade, and to feel the pain of both body and soul.
After the Battle of Luna, matters moved swiftly. Fresh waves of craft descended to scour away the Traitor corpses that littered the region. Inquisitorial agents and teams of Mechanicus Magi Xenotechnologis swarmed the battlefield, the former seeing to matters of containment and secrecy while the latter fell upon the deactivated Webway gate like vultures. Guilliman ignored them all. He allowed the senior Apothecary amongst the Imperial Fists to tend to his most immediate hurts, and then insisted that he and his companions be allowed to press on. None was foolish enough to gainsay a living Primarch -- indeed, few save the Custodes could stop staring in wonderment long enough to communicate with him -- and so Guilliman's demands were soon met.
Down from on high came an enormous lander of remarkable design. Glimmering gold in the harsh light of Sol, the craft resembled the two-headed Imperial Aquila writ large. Gouts of flame leapt from its wings, slowing its descent, and it landed on heavy, taloned struts just beyond the field of battle. More warriors of the Adeptus Custodes strode down the ship's boarding ramp, joining with their battle-scarred comrades and lining the route on board. Guilliman and his surviving warriors passed between them with their heads held high, Space Marines, Grey Knights, and the once-leaders of the Celestinian Crusade marching into the capacious hold of the Aquila craft.
Only once the ramp had whined shut behind them, and oxygen flowed back into the chamber, did the Custodes remove their helms and bow low to Guilliman. As the craft shuddered and lifted off, the Shield-Captain who led them introduced himself as Ty Adronitus, and explained that Guilliman and his warriors would be borne to Terra with all haste. They were to put down at the Eternity Wall spaceport, and from there would travel as part of a triumphant parade to the Imperial Palace. The High Lords of Terra had anticipated the Primarch's desire to stand before the Golden Throne, explained Shield-Captain Adronitus. They would do everything they could to facilitate it, and to fete the living Primarch's return to the Throneworld.
Guilliman approved the arrangements that had been made for him. Though they would have fought on stubbornly until their dying breaths if the situation had demanded it, Guilliman and his warriors were wearied by the constant hardships they had endured since setting out from Macragge. Thus, as the Aquila craft swept up from Luna's surface and away towards Terra, Guilliman and his comrades settled back in flight thrones and simply watched the external picters. Many reflected upon the astronomical losses the Terran Crusade had taken to get the Primarch here, but none could be altogether distracted from the breathtaking sights that slid past.
As the ship rose up away from Luna, the orbital docks and shipyards of the Moon spread out in all their industrial grandeur. Hundreds of voidships, thousands of forges, weapons platforms, grav habs and docking spindles sprawled through the void above the Moon's chalky white surface, while swathes of the Moon itself were carpeted in macrohives and sprawling junk yards like the one the Terran Crusade had so recently fought amidst.
Further out, the void teemed with spacecraft and defences of every sort. Dense minefields filled hundreds of Terran miles of space, every charge crafted to resemble a brushed steel skull. Vast battle stations and deep space weapons platforms hung menacingly, each one a gun-studded cathedrum the size of a city. Immense spacecraft of the Adeptus Ministorum plied the darkness, penitence arks and solar reliquaries dozens of Terran miles long; within those cold, dark halls, the faithful wailed prayers and self-flagellated for the Emperor's glory. System monitors prowled the heavens in vast numbers, swarming like stinging insects around their hive. All were eclipsed in size by the immense, mobile star fort that hung halfway between Terra and Luna, engulfed in repair cradles and servo-armatures. The Imperial Fists' mobile base of operations, the star fort Phalanx, undergoing much-needed repairs, had returned from the Cadia System to watch over the Throneworld like an eagle over its nest.
Far distant, further out towards the Sol System's edge, could be seen the angry red glint of Mars and its attendant orbital platforms, the so-called Ring of Iron. Closer to Terra, Guilliman was disquieted to see the drifting wrecks of warships both Imperial and Traitor being picked over by heavy Adeptus Mechanicus dredgers and scavenger-factorums. The war, it seemed, had reached Humanity's star system of origin before them, and would surely only become worse in the solar days to come.
As they began their final descent, Terra swelled in the picters. It was a bloated giant, its natural resources expended, oceans long boiled away and landmasses covered entirely in never-ending cityscapes. Lights beyond count burned all across the planet's surface, while macrostructures and super-statues pierced the Throneworld's pollution-choked atmosphere. Spaceport spires rose into the darkness amidst swarming masses of cherub-satellites, electro-sermon beacons, Servitor defence platforms and millions of Administratum transport ships.
Their craft swung down through the organised bedlam, its route given the highest priority clearance, and descended into a haze of chem-smog and glaring, artifcial light. Towering structures of grey, gold and brass rose on every side, encrusted with grime-streaked gothic architecture and studded with cold electrical lights. Servo-skulls and Cyber Cherubs, gunships and bulk haulers, transporters and prison barges, patrol ships of the Adeptus Arbites and bell-skiffs of the Ministorum, all whirled around the Aquila craft in a storm. Downward it flew, until the towering, gargoyle-topped spires that rose on every side completely obscured the fading darkness of space.
Finally, Guilliman's transport swung in to dock on a dedicated platform set into the flanks of the Eternity Wall spaceport. It put down upon a dais of age-worn marble, surrounded on all sides by verdigrised and heavily weaponised statues, from which hung burning braziers of incense. Robed figures were gathered on every side to witness and honour the Primarch's arrival. Servo-choirs sung out hymns to the Emperor while autoscribes scribbled with eagle-feather quills in iron tomes borne by chained slaves. Dignitaries of the Administratum and the Adeptus Terra flocked close, mingling with bombastic priests of the Ministorum and Terran nobles garbed in outrageous finery. All bowed to Guilliman as he emerged from the transport, forming the sign of the Aquila with their hands and vying to cry out their devotion the loudest.
The Primarch did his best to smile, and to acknowledge the clamouring masses with dignity and respect. His mind was a whirl -- the last time Guilliman had seen Terra was many thousands of standard years before, and where once there had been industrious, high-technology glory, now all was buried in grotesque layers of gothic over-construction, industrial sprawl and macabre religious ornamentation.
The Primarch's sense of dislocation and sorrow only increased as he and his followers were led through the masses, and descended in mag-lifts to what passed for ground level. They passed through a cavernous space of gloomy Administratum offices, where queues of petitioners stretched away into the hazy middle distance. Men and women, young and old, called out their devotion and wept for joy to see the Primarch pass, yet even his presence could not draw them from their places in queues that their ancestors had first joined, and that their progeny one day aspired to reach the front of.
Guilliman and his warriors, still accompanied by their Custodes guards, emerged from that impossibly vast structure to find themselves in a plaza packed out with droning, shuffling, downtrodden crowds. On every side rose mile-high stained glass windows, each depicting a different Primarch. Guilliman saw Sanguinius, wings spread atop a mountain of mutant corpses. He saw Jaghatai Khan, riding upon a skull-faced comet that sped between the stars. There was brave Vulkan, grasping an impossibly huge hammer as he used a world for his anvil. And there, Guilliman stared up at a distorted image of himself, haloed in light with his Codex Astartes in one hand and the severed head of a horned daemon in the other. He was depicted as a giant amongst worshipping crowds of angelic figures, and for a moment Fulgrim's words to him at the parade on Macragge echoed in Guilliman's mind. All of Humanity would worship him as a living god. Guilliman must never come to believe it himself.
Mounting up in ornate, super-heavy transporters, Guilliman and his companions were borne through endless streets and transit-ways, boulevards and processionals. They passed tribes of itinerant petitioners and clans of indigenous priests, faceless masses of Administratum drones and ragged shanties in which the poor and the maimed crawled like maggots in a wound. Billions watched the procession's progress as they passed through the dark heart of the Emperor's realm. The mountainous structures of the Imperial Palace loomed ever larger upon the horizon, a vast structure from which could be seen the cloud-piercing light of the Astronomican itself. For two solar days, Guilliman and his followers travelled through endless crowds and places of grandeur and grim horror.
They crossed a vast bridge that spanned for fifty Terran miles over a smog-laden trench, whose walls were formed from manufactoria and smelteries beyond count.
They travelled beneath the titanic guns of orbital defence silos that dwarfed any weapon even Guilliman had ever seen.
At last they passed into the palace proper, by way of a dizzyingly tall gate graven with warring angels and daemons. There they dismounted their lumbering transports, and Guilliman was glad to proceed on foot through the precincts of the Inner Palace. More gates and splendour flowed past, so much that it all blurred into an impossible assault upon the senses. At last, feeling more exhausted by his homecoming than he ever had by any battle, Guilliman came before the final gate. Beyond that expansive arch lay the Emperor's throne room, and there, the Golden Throne of the Master of Mankind.
Before the Golden Throne
There were many routes to the Emperor's throne room. This gilded doorway stood at the end of a towering cathedrum processional. Its worn flagstones thronged with millions of desperate petitioners and pilgrims. Golden light filtered through immense stained glass windows that depicted the Emperor's greatest deeds. Innumerable candles burned in that cavernous space, filling the air with greasy smoke, and hymnals rang from the mouths of hunched cyber-cherubim. Incense billowed and bells tolled, while Ministorum Priests delivered wrathful sermons from servo-pulpits. Throngs of Tech-priests muttered and swayed in shadowed corners. Officers of the Imperial Navy and Astra Militarum spoke earnestly together, gesturing to dataslates held up by robed menials. Penitent nobles dangled in golden pain-cages, whimpering promised blandishments to the Custodian Guards who walked their patrol routes below.
The doorway itself was beautifully worked in gold, bronze and precious stones, though it had the look of ancient, faded grandeur. It stood fifty Terran feet high within an arch of black marble, atop a flight of stone steps into which deep grooves had been worn by the passage of countless feet. The edges of each step were piled with petitioners' bones. Atop the steps stood twenty of the Adeptus Custodes. They were accompanied by a Martian Tech-priest, and led by a regal warrior in a high-plumed helm, golden armour and an ermine-trimmed cloak.
Roboute Guilliman strode up the processional, through masses of pilgrims and petitioners who reached out quivering hands to touch his armour as he passed. With him walked Captain Cato Sicarius, Grand Master Aldrik Voldus, Shield-Captain Adronitus, and the mysterious Cypher and his Battle-Brothers, along with Belisarius Cawl, Katarinya Greyfax and Saint Celestine. This last figure was scarcely less adored by the crowds than Guilliman himself, and she turned aside before the steps to offer her blessings to all. Behind them marched the last Battle-Brothers of the Terran Crusade, footfalls crashing and weapons held at parade ground readiness. Despite all they had endured, the Space Marines and Grey Knights still made for a magnificent sight.
Guilliman halted at the foot of the stairs, and looked up into the steely eyes of the Custodians. Their leader stepped forward, rapping his ornate spear thrice against the top step and announcing himself as Aquila Commander Kalim Varanor. In formal High Gothic, Varanor asked who came before the throne room of the Emperor of Mankind.
Equally formal, Shield-Captain Adronitus announced the leaders of the Terran Crusade, one by one. Further words were exchanged, ancient forms repeated by rote, but lent gravitas by the arrival of a living Primarch. Guilliman's purpose was demanded and given: to gain an audience with his father, the Emperor. The air thickened with tension, millions of onlookers holding their collective breaths as the Aquila Commander held the gaze of the returned Primarch. Would Kalim Varanor suspect some treachery? Would he decry Guilliman as false, or demand further proof of his identity?
The Aquila Commander looked to the Martian priest hunched at Guilliman's side. The robed figure inclined its head in assent, and Varanor announced his verdict. The Primarch would be permitted to pass, alone, into the throne room. All others would wait outside.
At this, Cypher stiffened, his hands straying towards his holstered pistols. Guilliman had expected this moment, and had planned for it accordingly. The hooded Dark Angel and his men had upheld their end of the bargain, granting Guilliman his freedom on the Blackstone Fortress. Yet the Primarch was not fool enough to trust such an ominous figure blindly. He might not have recognised Cypher, but he knew the blade on the Dark Angel's back. The sight of it made him shudder with dread. He would not permit such a thing into his father's presence.
Stepping aside, Guilliman commanded the Custodian Guards to apprehend Cypher and his warriors. Their presence was a riddle, one that could be solved once more pressing matters had been attended to.
Cypher responded with the first show of emotion any there had seen from him. He snarled in anger, ripping his pistols from their holsters before hesitating for one crucial moment, visibly torn between attempting escape and making a doomed lunge for the doorway above. In that second, the Custodians closed in with their Guardian Spears levelled. Cypher and his followers found themselves surrounded in a ring of crackling blades. Slowly, his half-seen expression grim, Cypher holstered his weapons, and he and his brothers knelt in submission before their captors.
Wrists bound with electrocuffs, they were led away by stern Custodians and locked away within a warded prison block that, for thousands of standard years, not a single inmate had escaped. In just a few short solar hours, however, Cypher would do just that, and in doing so leave no trace of his passing. For the moment, though, Guilliman knew only that the sinister figures were dealt with, and more pressing matters could be attended to. Face solemn, blade sheathed and helm tucked under one arm, the Primarch ascended to his father's throne room.
At the top of the steps, the Custodian Guards parted to allow the Primarch passage. The Tech-priest stepped forward, however, emitting a blurt of binharic cant and bowing before Guilliman. With skittering haste, Archmagos Belisarius Cawl swayed up the steps behind the Primarch and came to his side. Guilliman waited, impatient, as the two Martian priests exchanged encoded binharic blurts, then Cawl turned to him and spoke cryptic words. Only the Custodes heard what was said, of secret pacts on Mars, and long works drawing at last to their conclusions, but -- as with so many dark secrets exchanged over the millennia upon these very steps -- they affected deafness and ignorance.
Their exchange concluded, Cawl turned without comment and swept down the steps, his acolyte in tow. The Tech-priests vanished through the crowd and thence from Terra entirely, for they had matters of significant import to attend to upon the Red Planet.
Guilliman was left standing alone before the ornate doorway, dwarfed by its immensity. A single, booming chime rang through the cathedrum processional, and a collective sigh of wonder and fear escaped the pilgrims gathered there as the doorway cracked open. Slowly, silently, the tall doors swung inwards to reveal only darkness and drifting mists beyond. The vapours twined about Guilliman's limbs like serpents, and spilled down the steps behind him amidst the faint echo of sorrowful, ghostly voices. Noble features set in an implacable mask, Guilliman took a slow, deep breath and stepped into the Emperor's throne room.
As silently as they had opened, the doors swept closed behind him, and Roboute Guilliman was lost to sight.
Solar hours passed, during which the warriors of the Terran Crusade stood silently to attention before the throne room doors. Awed murmuring amongst the crowds turned to fervent prayer, and more than one petitioner ventured forward to present Captain Cato Sicarius, Grand Master Aldrik Voldus and their brothers with meagre devotional offerings and words of thanks. Saint Celestine and Inquisitor Greyfax chose this moment to depart, the former to spread her blessings, and the latter to report to her Ordo Hereticus superiors for the first time in many standard centuries.
The Imperial Palace had no natural cycles of night and day, the sky of Terra long lost amidst a miasma of artificial light and swirling pollutant clouds. Instead, the electrosconces and lumenchandeliers dimmed low at the tap of Lamp-servitors' wands. The petitioners huddled around parchment fires, still intoning prayers for the Primarch as they forced down the bowls of nutrient gruel brought to them by Ministorum Alms-servitors. Many lay down upon piles of threadbare surplices to sleep, while the Ultramarines kept their tireless vigil at the base of the steps as they waited for their gene-sire to return to them.
Only when the day cycle dawned again with soaring hymns and a swelling glare of lumen-light did the doors finally swing open. Glowing mist spilled from within, silver now like the cold shimmer of moonlight on bones, and from the cold radiance stepped Roboute Guilliman.
The Primarch's expression was unreadable as he strode down the steps to rejoin his warriors. The crowds cried out in awe and dread, begging the Primarch for enlightenment. Instead, Guilliman gathered his warriors around him, and bade Aquila Commander Varanor to attend him also. Guilliman demanded an immediate assembly of the High Lords of Terra, stating that he intended to resume his seat upon that august council. Roboute Guilliman would become the Lord Commander of the Imperium of Mankind once more. Of his meeting with the Emperor, Guilliman would say only that he had received all the enlightenment that he required.
There was much now to be done, for the threat of Chaos grew greater by the solar hour. But Guilliman knew what must be done, and he would not shy from doing it.
In the solar days that followed, the Primarch became the centre of a whirlwind of activity. He addressed the High Lords in the Senatorum Imperialis, claiming the Emperor's personal mandate as he forcibly removed several of them from office and replaced them with individuals of his own choosing. Guilliman warned the High Lords of an encroaching darkness, a terrible Warp phenomenon that was even now manifesting itself across the galaxy from end to end. The war against the Dark Gods was entering a new phase, more desperate and doom-laden than ever before in human history. The Great Rift was opening.
The ever-growing flood of astropathic distress calls reaching Terra supported the Primarch's warnings. Cadia had been only the beginning. From the ravaged Fenris Sector and Ork-infested Armageddon, to the systems of Attila and Balor -- all felt the grasping claws of Chaos. New Warp rifts were splitting the void in terrifying number, while existing Warp phenomena roiled outwards like the pyroclastic clouds of volcanic eruptions. Witch-lights swam between the stars, and monstrous things moved behind the veil of reality, all gnashing fangs and glaring eyes.
Whole sectors of the Imperium were going dark, while others reported the onslaught of rabid Greenskin hordes, aggressive Tau fleets or deathless Necron hosts, seemingly driven to conquest in the face of the expanding Warp Storm fronts. Heretic Chaos Cults and rogue psykers rose up in their billions, and every Imperial world now seemed set to burn in the fires of unending galactic war.
For all these disturbing omens and disastrous losses, Guilliman urged Humanity's leaders not to give up hope. The Emperor of the Imperium was not blind to their plight, and neither was its restored Lord Commander.
New armies would be raised, in breathtaking numbers. From Belisarius Cawl's forges on Mars, Guilliman planned to bring forth new and terrible weapons whose fury even the worshippers of the Chaos Gods would be unable to withstand. Fresh fleets would be built, grand war engines consecrated in the Emperor's holy name. The manufactoria would labour like never before, and every single servant of the Emperor would do their part. The Imperium faced total war on a galactic scale; with Warp Storms spreading and intensifying, no world was safe. Yet Humanity would not drown in this tide of warfare, but instead would ride upon the crest of a bloody wave to triumph once more against the darkness.
Roboute Guilliman vowed that he would not cower behind Terra's walls and wait for Mankind's oppressors to bring death to his door. He would stride out amongst the stars and meet the enemy in the Emperor's name, as he always had. The Imperium would unite as one in the face of mutual annihilation, and take the battle to the mutant, the Traitor, the alien and the Heretic. So commanded Roboute Guilliman and thus, even as the Warp Storms raged and the Astronomican itself strove to pierce their ever-blackening clouds, vast armies and armadas were raised in numbers not seen since the Great Crusade that had founded the Imperium ten millennia before. A dark new age called from amidst the fires of endless war, and the Imperium of Man would answer.
The long-feared End Times had indeed come to claim Mankind. But Roboute Guilliman, the Avenging Son, was ready to move the stars themselves to ensure that, perhaps, they birthed a new beginning...
- Gathering Storm - Part Three - Rise of the Primarch (7th Edition), pp. 48-93