The Third War for Armageddon that began in 998.M41 was a massive conflict between the Imperium of Man and the largest Ork WAAAGH! ever raised, led by the Greenskin Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. The war was fought on the Hive World of Armageddon where Ghazghkull Thraka had launched his first attempt to seize the planet exactly 57 standard years before.
The conflict eventually drew in portions of over 25 Space Marine Chapters, dozens of Astra Militarum regiments, several Titan Legions and caused immense destruction to Armageddon before essentially ending in an extremely narrow Imperial victory, though neither the Imperial nor Ork forces were able to secure complete control over the contested world and fighting is still ongoing across the planet.
Following the opening of the Great Rift in 999.M41, Armageddon was cut off from all outside contact for the duration of the Noctis Aeterna. When the beacon of the Astronomican could once more be seen in the Armageddon System, Imperial relief forces arrived to discover that a third faction had joined the war, the daemonic legions of Khorne and Tzeentch, as intent on fighting each other as the mortals present on the Hive World. In several cases the remaining Imperial and Ork forces on the planet had become temporary allies to defeat this new threat to both of them.
Armageddon is an Imperial Hive World in the Armageddon Sector of the Segmentum Solar with an estimated population of between 100,000,000,000 and 500,000,000,000 people. The massive trade and industrial output of Armageddon makes it a vital part of the Imperium, particularly for the tightly settled worlds of the Segmentum Solar, the very heart of human-settled space.
The Third War for Armageddon began exactly 57 standard years to the day after the start of the Second War for Armageddon in 998.M41, and it saw the return of the Ork hordes to Armageddon under the control of the infamous Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. He brought with him the forces of three other major Ork Warlords, the Great Despot of Dregruk, Urgok the Unstoppable and the Over-Fiend of Octarius. They each commanded vast Greenskin forces, led by many other Ork Warbosses, to create the greatest Ork WAAAGH! ever faced by the Imperium of Man.
Ghazghkull proved to be that most dangerous of Ork leaders, one with both drive and actual ability in abundance. A serious head injury in his youth awoke his "visions" from the Ork gods Gork and Mork which led him on a bloody path of conquest unmatched by any Orks in recent Imperial history. He returned to Armageddon for his "rematch" after decades of planning and testing Imperial defences and succeeded in unifying dozens of Ork tribes and even contingents from several different Ork empires, a level of unity among the greenskins that had never been faced by the Imperium before.
The Orks Regroup
"Orks are never beaten in battle...we can always come back for annuver go..."
- — Classic Ork saying
Ghazghkull had not been an idle Ork following his defeat in the Second War for Armageddon. Retiring to his stronghold in a network of Ork-controlled star systems in the Golgotha Sector, he carried on with the master plan that had been divinely revealed to him by the Ork gods Gork and Mork solar decades before. If the Imperium had made one terrible mistake following the Second War for Armageddon it was to believe that Ghazghkull had actually been defeated.
In truth, what the Ork gods had revealed to the Warboss, or at least what he said they revealed, was that in order to truly destroy one's foe, you first had to learn all about him. For Ghazghkull, the Second War had simply been a way to learn how the Imperium would react and defend against a major Ork planetary invasion. In effect, Ghazghkull believed that the first invasion had been nothing more than a test of the Imperium of Man's defences.
In the five solar decades that followed the Second War for Armageddon, Ghazghkull carried on uninterrupted with his divinely-inspired plan. Having learnt all he needed to know about Imperial tactics and strategy, he began developing the tactics that he felt would lead to his enemies' ultimate defeat. As he did not want to draw attention to himself, these "experiments" were carried out on a much smaller stage than the invasion of Armageddon. From 945 until 959.M41, the Imperium received numerous reports of small Ork raids and attacks against Imperial bases and outposts that were led by Ghazghkull Thraka personally.
In 962.M41, an Imperial military base on the world of Buca III was destroyed by missiles fired from an Ork base hidden within an asteroid. The asteroid entered the star system from deep space and bypassed all the Imperial sensors because of its seemingly inert nature before unleashing its potent missiles at the unsuspecting outpost.
In 972.M41, the Imperial Agri-world of Chigon 17 was overrun by a huge force of Orks also allegedly under Warboss Ghazghkull's direct command. Despite the fact that Chigon's Imperial Guard defenders were equipped with tanks and other armoured vehicles, they were decisively beaten by the Orks in a lengthy guerilla campaign which rendered the powerful but static Imperial defences wholly useless.
In 986.M41 the Imperial Navy battlecruiser Radiant Way and its escorts were lost with all hands in an attack by ork pirates, again led by Ghazghkull. The Imperium responded in force but discovered that all signs of the ork presence had simply disappeared by the time they arrived in that region of space.
Just before the outbreak of the Third War for Armageddon, Ghazghkull allied with the Bad Moons Ork Warlord Nazdreg Ug Urdgrub to launch an assault on the Imperial world of Piscina IV. The Orks used a previously unknown form of teleportation technology that let them maneuver their troops directly onto the planet from a Space Hulk located a large distance away from the planet. The Imperial garrison was taken completely by surprise and only the presence of Space Marines from the Dark Angels Chapter saved Piscina from being overrun by the greenskins.
However, this defeat proved to be of little consequence for Ghazghkull as the completion and testing of his new "tellyporta" by the Ork genius later dubbed "Orkimedes" by the Imperium meant that he was finally ready to unleash his full force against the Imperium. After more than fifty years, Ghazghkull and his Orks intended to have their revenge.
The Reconstruction of Armageddon
Following Ghazghkull's first invasion of Armageddon, a long investigation of the planet's readiness and defences was begun in 948.M41. In light of the strategic value of Armageddon to the Imperium, extensive works were ordered by the Adeptus Terra to secure the Armageddon System against any future attacks. The Imperial Navy's Sector Command was transferred to the Armageddon System and the naval facility of Saint Jowen's Dock was rebuilt and expanded to accommodate all classes of Imperial Navy warships. Three permanently-manned monitoring stations were established in the outer reaches of the star system, named after three of the greatest heroes of the Second War for Armageddon: Mannheim, Dante and Yarrick. Ground-based and orbital defences were rebuilt and heavily reinforced, gravitic minefields were seeded throughout the star system and a substantial increase in the numbers of sublight system defense ships and monitors was ordered.
On Armageddon itself, the long process of reconstructing the hive cities destroyed by Ghazghkull's first invasion was begun. This was a process that was still ongoing over fifty Terran years later. In part, the slowness of reconstruction was caused by the increased number of Planetary Defence Force (PDF) regiments that were raised over this period, despite a lowering of Armageddon's tithe of regiments destined for the Astra Militarum.
A military council was appointed by the Administratum to rule over Armageddon and was made up of high-ranking officials of the Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy, the Departmento Munitorum, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Ecclesiarchy and the Governor of each of the major hive cities on Armageddon. The council was led by General Kurov of the Imperial Guard, a respected veteran of the Bakkus Crusade.
From 949.M41 to 978.M41, General Kurov coordinated a series of xenocidal campaigns conducted throughout the equatorial jungles between Armageddon Prime and Secundus and on the frozen planet of Chosin to eliminate feral Ork infestations which had sprung up in the aftermath of Ghazghkull's invasion. Fifty standard years passed and Armageddon slowly rose from the ashes, its defences stronger and more powerful than ever before. Still, it would not prove to be enough to face the green storm that was coming.
The first sign of that coming conflagration was a series of Ork attacks on the star systems surrounding Armageddon and other Imperial worlds nearby. First, the nearby world of Minerva suffered from the depredations of Ork pirates, then the Agri-World of Ruis was likewise assailed by Greenskins. Over a period of solar months, in spite of the heroic efforts of the Imperial Navy, the number of Imperial merchant starships reaching Armageddon was cut in half. Someone seemed to understand that the Imperial forces in the sector were bound by the need to guard the Armageddon System and were not free to patrol the rest of the sector as freely as they normally would.
Almost immediately, the Ork pirate raids grew into assaults on Imperial outposts and then into attacks against lightly-held Imperial colonies. Soon, the first full-scale planetary invasions began. Two dozen Imperial worlds came under attack from Orks in as many hours and the Astropaths of Armageddon received constant reports of yet more Ork invasions and atrocities. Every consultation of the Emperor's Tarot prophesied only enormous amounts of bloodshed to come and the sign of the Beast Resurgent.
Rumours spread that Ghazghkull was returning to have his vengeance and soon even the most obstinate Administratum adept could no longer deny that an Ork WAAAGH! of gargantuan proportions was engulfing the entire Armageddon Sector of the Segmentum Solar. After the Imperial Navy's Task Force Trajan was presumed lost battling the Orks in the Desdena System, General Kurov sent an astropathic call for assistance to nearby Astra Militarum regiments and Space Marine Chapters to come to the defence of Armageddon once more.
Return of the Beast
On the day of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension in 998.M41, 57 standard years to the day after the first Ork invasion of Armageddon, augur psychic probes registered a massive disruption in the Warp as an Ork fleet emerged back into realspace and Ghazghkull's greenskin horde descended on Armageddon once more. An alert from the Imperial monitor station Dante was cut off in mid-transmission as the Ork starships swept past in their hundreds upon ramshackle hundreds.
The monitor station's final vox reports indicated that an Ork fleet was moving into the Armageddon System, comprising 50 Ork Kroozer and over 300 Escort vessels, accompanied by at least four Space Hulks. The Imperial forces of Armageddon were placed on full alert and seven Imperial Navy cruiser squadrons, led by the Apocalypse-class battleships His Will and Triumph, departed Saint Jowen's Dock in geostationary orbit of Armageddon within 24 hours of the first reports of the Ork invasion. The Imperial fleet, under the command of Admiral Parol, entered battle five days later, catching the lead elements of the Ork fleet in an ambush around the high-gravity world of Pelucidar.
Sixty Ork attack ships were blasted out of the vacuum by Imperial fire in the initial engagement, without the loss of a single Imperial starship. Then Admiral Parol's vessels were engaged by heavy squadrons of Ork kill kroozers and swarms of fighta-bommerz racing ahead of the main body of the Ork fleet. The Imperial starships fought valiantly, their weapon batteries pounding the crude Ork vessels into scrap, ravening lance beams incinerating wave after wave of the fighta-bommerz.
Nevertheless, the Ork fleet outnumbered the Imperial Navy's defenders of Armageddon by six-to-one and the Imperial starships were gradually pushed back. The Orks made suicidal runs against the Imperial gunners with unbridled ferocity, losing a dozen of their ships in exchange for a single Imperial vessel. At the height of the engagement, Admiral Parol received comm-bursts from the Yarrick and Mannheim monitor stations warning that three more entire Ork fleets were entering the edges of the star system. At the exact same moment, the Triumph was hit by the combined firepower of five Ork kill kroozers and crippled by this heavy fire and massed Ork teleport boarding attacks. Realising that his duty lay in preserving the Imperial fleet for what would be a protracted conflict, Admiral Parol reluctantly gave the order for a general retreat.
The doomed Imperial monitor stations were overwhelmed by the Orks a few hours later. By their last count, the combined Ork fleets entering the Armageddon System numbered in excess of 2,000 starships and at least twelve Space Hulks, the largest number of Space Hulks ever to assail a world of the Imperium in its 10,000 year history. Admiral Parol, his command reduced to just five squadrons of cruisers and a single battleship, could do little more than mount hit-and-run attacks against the massive Ork armadas as they moved in-system. Imperial reinforcements would later arrive and then Parol hoped that the Orks command of space could be challenged with more of a chance for success.
As they waited, Parol's escorts and light cruisers harried the Orks as best they were able, distracting and drawing off their foes into traps and gravitic minefields. To their dismay, the Imperial Navy vessels encountered dozens of crude asteroid fortresses, or "Roks," in the normally vulnerable rear of the Ork fleets. These incredibly heavily armed weapon platforms proved difficult to assault directly, but the very presence of such large numbers of Roks seemed to indicate a complexity of strategic planning among the Orks that had not yet been seen by the Imperium's defenders.
Surprisingly, the Orks did not turn aside to capture the orbital Saint Jowen's Dock. Instead they bombarded it for six days as the Ork fleets moved past, enlivened by repeated attacks from Imperial assault boat squadrons. Ork warriors succeeded in establishing themselves throughout the lower sections of the dock and though the facility remained under Imperial control, it was rendered virtually useless as a dock for warships by damage from the bombardment and constant Ork raids. Only the arrival of two Inquisitorial Ordo Xenos' Deathwatch Space Marine Kill-teams later in the campaign succeeded in driving the Orks back to the isotope storage pits at the base of the orbital station.
In the final few weeks before the Ork forces landed on Armageddon proper, the planet was in a frenzy of activity. Ancient Imperial Titans powered up their ancient plasma reactors and took up defensive positions around the hive cities, Imperial Guard regiments were mustered and dug in, Space Marines from over twenty Chapters moved into the mountains and wastelands, to prepare to face the Greenskins. Imperial merchant vessels were commandeered and used daily to run supplies and reinforcements to the planet through the besieging Ork fleet, despite the risk. The very last transport to touch down carried a legend to the people of the world, the "Old Man" himself, Imperial Commissar Yarrick. The population cheered as, for the first time in twenty years, Yarrick stepped foot on Armageddon.
The Commissar met with the military council that governed Armageddon that night and advised them on Ghazghkull's most recent tactics and strategies, and warned against underestimating the powerful Ork Warlord's abilities. General Kurov had always been renowned for his judgment of men in battle and he was deeply impressed by Yarrick's drive and intelligence. He requested that Yarrick take over the leadership of the military council for the duration of the crisis and to general relief, the Commissar agreed.
Six weeks after entering the Armageddon System, the vast Ork armada went into battle with the Imperial space stations and weapons platforms in high orbit above the world. Those who had hoped that the powerful orbital defences of Armageddon would keep the Orks at bay were soon proved to be hopelessly in error. The orbital battle raged for three full days and two terrible nights, but by the dawn of the third day, the skies of Armageddon were filled with the trails of Ork landing pods and the incandescent streaks of their attack craft carving runnels through the clouds. Hive Hades, still a ruin following the previous conflict, was the first to fall. In an act of vengeance, Ghazghkull chose not to fight again at Hades. Instead, the entire hive city and its inhabitants were smashed asunder by the colossal impact of giant asteroids dropped from the Orks orbiting Space Hulks. This act of wanton destruction was but a premonition of the monstrous bloodshed that was to come.
As the fires of Hades' destruction lit the eastern horizon, the first Ork drop legions clashed with Imperial defenders near Volcanus, Acheron and Death Mire. Ground-based defence lasers and missile silos took a terrible toll on the Orks as they landed, but the hulking survivors regrouped and assaulted the defences with such ferocity that soon more and more of the greenskin horde was reaching the planet's surface unharmed. Feral Orks swept down from the Pallidus Mountains and out of the world's Equatorial Jungles to join the growing numbers of their more technologically-inclined brethren. Where the Imperial defences proved too strong to be taken by frontal assaults, huge mobs of Orks and their war machines were teleported directly into battle from the Space Hulks waiting above. As the ground defences fell silent on the third day of the Ork landings, Yarrick ordered every remaining aircraft on Armageddon to be thrown into the battle in a desperate attempt to destroy as much of Ghazghkull's ground troops as possible before they reached the surface.
The sodden yellow skies over volcanic Armageddon became interwoven with the twisting trails of thousands of Ork fighta-bommerz and Imperial Thunderbolts and Furies as massive dogfights proceeded with maniacal fury. The Imperial aircraft had the advantage in that they could return to their armoured airbases to refuel and rearm, whereas the Orks had to reserve enough fuel to climb back up to their starships and Space Hulks in orbit. Yet, the Orks soon secured ground bases and the air battle turned against the brave Imperial pilots as the sheer number of Ork aircraft was brought fully to bear upon them.
As the aerial battles reached their climax five days after the Ork landings, Hive Acheron fell to the Orks without warning, captured by treachery from within. Reports spoke of the hive city's power grid being sabotaged and the Orks boiling up from secret access tunnels at the very heart of the great arcology. The instigator of these terrible crimes was revealed to be none other than the infamous war-criminal and former Armageddon Planetary Governor Herman von Strab. He took over the conquered hive city as its new Overlord, announcing that it was his divine right to rule over Armageddon. Ork brute squads stood ready to silence any dissenters who doubted von Strab's new right to rule. Shockingly, much of the old nobility in Acheron welcomed back von Strab as their long-lost prince, choosing to ignore the fact that he had thrown in his lot with some of the most violent xenos known to the Imperium.
At Hive Volcanus, on the same day that Acheron fell to betrayal, massed Ork infantry surged over the twenty square miles of defenses atop Volcanus Mount just beyond the hive city's outer suburbs. Seventeen garrison regiments of Armageddon hive militia were routed and the Orks captured many weapons and Imperial fortifications fully intact. Volcanus itself soon found itself besieged, surrounded by a ring of Orkish power and relentless pounded by captured Imperial macro cannons and barrage bombs.
Outside Death Mire, the defence went better. The Titans of Legios Tempestor and Victorum with their supporting regiments of the Mechanicus' cybernetic Skitarii virtually exterminated the Orks' Blackfire Tribe in a three-day battle across the Plain of Anthrand. But the Ork landers fell from the skies like an endless storm and the fighting spread across Armageddon like a wild fire until every hive city and factory complex was involved. In many places, Ork attacks were beaten off by the bravery and ferocity of Imperial defenders, but again and again the Orks regrouped and attacked once more, stretching the defenders to the limits of their endurance -- and beyond.
As Yarrick had predicted, Ghazghkull's strategies proved effective. The Orks kept an iron grip on Armageddon's airspace, orbital bombardments and fighta-bommerz pounded Imperial forces wherever they tried to form a coherent battleline, pinning them in place while further Ork infantry landings were made to surround them. Where the Orks found themselves outnumbered, they fought with guerilla tactics, striking at their human foes and then withdrawing into the world's harsh ash wastelands before retribution could arrive.
Ghazghkull had learned the lessons of Chigon 17 very well and deliberately prepared so that the fighting was scattered and chaotic; precisely the conditions in which Ork warbands thrived and Imperial regiments were denied the support and coordination that humans depended upon to defend effectively. The only Imperial force which consistently defeated the Orks were the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes. The Space Marines scoured the hinterlands of Armageddon on search and destroy missions to eliminate concentrations of the savage greenskins at every opportunity.
As the battles raged furiously on Armageddon's surface, Ghazghkull unleashed another of his surprises. Dozens of the great Ork Roks encountered by Admiral Parol's starships began to descend from orbit. Slowed by powerful gravitic force fields, retro boosters and modified Ork traktor kannons, the Ork Roks made landings in the verdant Equatorial Jungles and across Armageddon Prime and Secundus. Many were lost to ground fire or "Orky accidents" but each one that survived became a new bastion for the Orks, a rallying-point and a new citadel. As well as their huge guns and missile batteries, the Roks contained giant teleport arrays created by Orkimedes that were similar to those Ghazghkull has used during the Piscina campaign. These were employed to teleport down Ork reinforcements from their orbiting fleet, including Gargants and heavy artillery, in a seemingly endless stream of greenskins. Commissar Yarrick personally led assaults by the Imperial Guard's Cadian Storm Troopers supported by the Titans of Legio Metallica and Legio Ignatum which destroyed several of the Ork fortresses, but bloody battles around many of the others consumed whole regiments in only hours. For the rest of the war, the Space Marines bore the brunt of eliminating the Ork fortresses where they could, with the Salamanders Chapter winning particular honour for their successes against the Roks along the Hemlock River.
Mysteriously, the Orks also made landings in the Fire Wastes and the Dead Lands to the north and south of the main settled continent of Armageddon. Even Yarrick was surprised as these grim lands had always been believed to be uninhabitable and without value. Their value to the Ork Warboss became apparent when weeks later hundreds of tanker-sized Ork submersibles designed by Orkimedes rose from the polluted waters and made landings at Hives Tempestora and Helsreach. The surprise was total and Tempestora fell within days and the dockyards of Helsreach were soon in Greenskin hands. Only a bitter defiance by Hive Helsreach's ganger militias, with supporting companies of Imperial Guard Storm Troopers and Space Marines that had been rushed to the region, prevented the Orks from overrunning the hive city during what became known as the Battle of Helsreach. It was at Hive Helsreach that the Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus led the defence of the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, which had stood since Armageddon's colonization (see below).
Fourteen days after the initial Ork landings on the planet, the first major confrontation between Ork and Imperial war engines occurred. A ten-day battle raged over the Diabolus factory complex as the Gargant mobs of Warlord Burzuruk and Warlord Skarfang clashed with the Titans of Legio Crucius. Six Titans and eight Gargants were utterly destroyed in the fighting and others needed many months of repair before they were ready to enter combat again. The Diabolus complex was wrecked by the battle, its great foundries and machine shops blasted apart or crushed underfoot by the giant robotic war machines. In the aftermath of the battle Ork Speed Kults swiftly encircled Hive Infernus, cutting it off from all external aid. Mechanised Imperial counterattacks into the ash wastes met with initial success, but when an entire Imperial Guard regiment of Savlar Chem Dogs was surrounded and wiped out by the Speed Freeks, further attempts by the Imperial defenders of Infernus to break out from Ork encirclement were abandoned.
As the defenders pondered how to lift the greenskin siege, reports came in of a vast Ork horde rounding the Pallidus Mountains from the northeast. Soon the horde was visible from the hive's spires, a great sea of greenskin warriors which seemed to fill the empty expanse of the ash wastes to overflowing. Towering Ork Gargants strode through the tide, like dreadnoughts rolling on a sea of green doom. The war chants of the Orks could be heard from over 20 miles away, the ground shaking with the horde's progress. Even worse, the sea of war banners swaying over the Orks bore the personal glyph of Ghazghkull himself.
As the skies darkened beneath the shadow of Ork Space Hulks high above the hive city and the first orbital bombardments began, the citizens of Infernus knew that doom was upon them. They tried to take inspiration from the legends of Commissar Yarrick during the previous Ork invasion and how he had made the greenskins pay for every inch of ground they took at Hive Hades. Not all were courageous enough to face their fates and thousands fled into the ash wastes to be killed or captured as slaves by Speed Kults which circled the hive city like buzzards.
The Adeptus Arbites Arbitrators within the city soon moved to secure the hive, turning back or outright executing any who failed in their duty to the Emperor. As Ghazghkull's Ork army came within range of the city, the great siege guns that had survived the orbital bombardment pounded them, lobbing thousand pound shells into the mass of greenskins until return fire from the orbiting Space Hulks smashed them apart. In the brief lull that followed, Ghazghkull delivered to the defenders of Infernus a messenger. It was Colonel Gortar of the Chem Dogs, horribly mutilated and missing both his eyes and hands. The message the blind and crippled Colonel bore was a simple one that would be heard many times in the months to come across Armageddon as the war only escalated:
Surrender or Die!
Black Templars Armageddon Crusade
High Marshal (Chapter Master) Helbrecht of the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter and three full Crusades of his Black Templars answered the plea for aid from the besieged world of Armageddon when the Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka returned at the head of the largest Ork WAAAGH! seen in living memory. The surrounding star systems and worlds fell quickly to the swarm of Orks, despite valiant attempts by Battlefleet Armageddon to stop the invasion. The WAAAGH! was simply too massive to halt. The Black Templars fought bloody campaigns throughout the ash wastelands of Armageddon, but it was in space that their greatest contribution was made to the defence of the world. The Three Black Templar Crusades assembled at a Chapter Keep on the world of Fergax, and set course for Segmentum Solar. Upon arriving at the war-torn world of Armageddon, Helbrecht's experience of commanding great fleets made him a natural leader of the assembled Adeptus Astartes starships, while Black Templars Marshals Ricard and Amalrich took their Crusades to the surface of Armageddon. The war in space was bitterly fought, with Helbrecht leading many storming actions aboard Ork Space Hulks. The Imperial Navy fleet under the command of Admiral Parol began to whittle down the massive fleet of Ork starships and Space Hulks, and the reduction of Ork ground reinforcements eventually began to tell on the greenskins' war effort. By the commencement of the Season of Fire where the surface of Armageddon becomes hostile to all life because of extreme volcanism, the fighting between Orks and humans had boiled down to an uneasy stalemate.
Fall of a Champion
The Black Templars' success in blunting the Ork invasion was shattered when Helbrecht's Crusade returned to the Space Hulk Malevolent Dread. Earlier in the orbital engagements this Hulk had been heavily bombarded by the Black Templars battle barge Light of Purity, and damaged by charges planted by Black Templars boarding parties. Finally. Helbrecht decided to put an end to the Hulk once and for all and gathered his Crusade and all of his Sword Brethren Terminators to launch a massive boarding assault. An assault of this kind had never before been attempted on such a scale, but Helbrecht was determined to put an end to the gargantuan spaceborne monstrosity.
The first stage of the assault was a teleport attack led by the Black Templars Terminators. The Terminators established a perimeter to allow the rest of the Templars' forces to board the Hulk. The Ork response was immediate and the Terminators came under heavy assault. Casualties mounted but Helbrecht was determined to make room for the reinforcements. Thunderhawks and boarding torpedoes made it to the Hulk and joined the fighting at the perimeter. The Terminators held the Orks at bay but it was a tenuous achievement at best.
The second phase of the mission began as the Crusade organized into strike teams to lay the heavy thermal charges that would tear the Malevolent Dread in two. Helbrecht himself would lead the most important team, despite having been wounded several times already, Helbrecht was determined to plant the charges that would initiate the chain reaction and destroy the Hulk once and for all. Along with his command squads and the Templars' Emperor's Champion Vosper, Helbrecht pushed deeper into the Hulk.
The Terminators had held the Orks at bay during the first phase of the battle, and during the second phase they led the advance, forming the spearhead of the Templars' forces as they fought their way through the twisting corridors of the Hulk. Once they abandoned their relatively secure firing lanes, however, casualties began to increase yet again, but with the support of the entire Crusade the Terminators managed to press through the Ork defenses. As more and more strike teams broke off to complete their individual objectives, the Templars forces became ever more vulnerable to sudden ambush and attack. It was as the Templars broke into a cavernous gap between two of the ill fitting starships that made up the Hulk that the Orks launched their largest assault yet. Over a thousand of the greenskinned monstrosities threw themselves into the bolter fire laid down by the Templars, heedless of their own losses.
An audible crack sounded as the Orks smashed into the Templar line. Their advantage lost, the Templars nevertheless managed to hold the line. Vosper and Helbrecht led the counterattack, scything into the Orks with unmatched skill, building a pile of Ork dead at their feet. Slowly the tide of battle turned as the Templars reformed behind their champions to cut through the Ork horde. As the two mighty warriors slashed their way through the Orks they came upon the largest of the foul creatures, the Space Hulk's Warboss, who tore through the swirling melee, cutting down warrior Battle-Brothers wherever he went. Filled with righteous fury, the Emperor’s Champion Vosper called the massive Ork to account and faced the creature in one-on-one combat. Each Templar whispered a prayer to the Emperor as Vosper and the Ork Warboss crossed blades, praying for their Champion who was the very embodiment of all that their Chapter held dear.
Vosper attacked the Ork warlord with huge two-handed sweeps of the Chapter's famed Black Sword, driving the creature back step by step and slowly gaining the upper hand. But as the Warboss reeled back from a powerful overhand blow it became enraged and recovered with inhuman speed, driving Vosper back and though the Emperor’s Champion met every blow of the Ork’s sword he could not stop the creature from barreling into him. Knocked off balance, Vosper could not stand aside as the Warboss split his skull in two. Their Champion’s fall was the turning point of the battle. Despite High Marshal Helbrecht’s best efforts, the Templars faltered and the Orks redoubled their efforts. The High Marshal was forced to the ground, swamped by dozens of greenskins. His Command Squad pulled him clear but an Ork Choppa was buried in his chest armour. As the Templars fell back, many were brutally cut down and the casualties for the Chapter went from bad to horrendous. Many groups of Templars found themselves cut off as the teleporter arrays of the Light of Purity overloaded with the strain of teleporting units back on board. Without an effective defensive perimeter there was nothing the Crusade could do to rescue the stranded squads, leaving them to do nothing but try to sell their lives as dearly as possible.
By the time the Light of Purity pulled away from the Space Hulk almost half of Helbrecht's Crusade had been lost and Helbrecht himself had been critically injured, only his enhanced body keeping him from joining the Emperor. Finally, with Armageddon's Season of Fire upon the combatants, the fighting on the planet's surface finally stalled as the Orks found it difficult to advance in the face of the world's rampant volcanism. The Space Hulk believed to be the flagship of Ghazghkull Thraka, the Perversion of Pain, departed Armageddon orbit along with the bulk of the remaining spaceborne Ork forces. Swearing a mighty oath to hunt down and slay Ghazghkull before he could threaten the Imperium again, High Marshal Helbrecht took his remaining Crusade forces and pursued the greenskins, but the Black Templar fleet did not leave alone. The Hero of Armageddon, Commissar Yarrick, petitioned High Marshal Helbrecht to allow him to accompany the Black Templars alongside a handpicked force of elite Imperial Guardsmen and as a sign of the esteem in which Helbrecht held Yarrick, the High Marshal granted his request.
Chaplain Grimaldus, Hero of Helsreach
The third Black Templar Crusade on Armageddon was led by Chaplain Grimaldus, who had just recently been raised to the position of Reclusiarch, after the death of his mentor Mordred. Under the direction of the High Marshal, he led over a hundred of his Battle-Brothers into some of the most horrific battles to take place on Armageddon. After a score of successful campaigns, Grimaldus gathered his forces and charged towards Hive Helsreach which was besieged at that time by thousands of Orks who had swarmed up from the icy Dead Lands in the south using Orkimedes submersibles, initiating the terrible Battle of Helsreach. The Black Templars stood their ground at the colossal building known as the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, a vast basilica dedicated to the Imperial Cult that had stood since the earliest days of Armageddon's colonisation.
The Orks attacked with devastating force but Chaplain Grimaldus and his Astartes held out for almost two months. The Orks finally penetrated the Space Marines' defences and stormed the Temple, destroying irreplaceable relics, infuriating the Templars even more. Many of the Hive Militants and Imperial Guardsmen supporting the Space Marines turned to flee, but were rallied by the sound of Chaplain Grimaldus' booming voice echoing through the Temple; "I have dug my grave in this place and I will either triumph, or I will die!"
The battle degenerated into a bloody melee in the heart of the building, ending only when the entire edifice began to crumble, eventually collapsing around the combatants. All were feared lost until a day later, when Chaplain Grimaldus crawled from the ruins, bearing the last relics of the Temple and vowing that all would remember the lives that had been lost in the defense of Armageddon. The Black Templar Apothecaries who examined him later were amazed that Grimaldus had survived, much less found the strength to climb from the ruins. When the war finally ended, the citizens of Hive Helsreach honored him with the title of "Hero of Helsreach."
Celestial Lions Crusade on Armageddon
The Celestial Lions are a Successor Chapter raised from the genestock of the Imperial Fists Primarch Rogal Dorn. They were created during an unnamed Founding during the latter years of the 38th Millennium. During the next four millennia, the Lions proved to be a resolute Chapter and true Scions of Dorn, fiercely defending the realms of man from the enemies of the Emperor. But the Lions' fierce pride and moral principles that have always governed their Chapter's thoughts and deeds may have contributed to their own destruction. Events that were set in motion over five decades earlier during a routine assault on the world of Khattar in 948.M41, may now prove to be the Chapter's undoing in the wake of the events that unfolded during the Third War for Armageddon.
The Mannheim Gap
"Grimaldus. They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us there to die. You know of whom I speak. We cannot outrun the echoes of Khattar. We pay the price now for our virtue in the past. The Celestial Lions will never leave this world. A handful of us remain, but we know the truth. We died at the Mannheim Gap. We died the day the sun rose over the scrap-iron bodies of alien gods."The Mannheim Gap on Armageddon was a canyon running through the mountains north of Hive Volcanus. It was a rent in Armageddon's priceless earth, torn open by the slow, active dance of the world's tectonics. Any who dwelled there for more than a handful of solar weeks knew that Armageddon was not a world that slept easy, whether due to Greenskins, dust storms, or yet another war.
Merek Grimaldus from Celestial Lions Deathspeaker Julkhara
The Celestial Lions were told the canyon had to be assaulted, for it was a nest of mechanical heresy where the aliens were constructing their scrap iron god-machines or Gargants. Hive Volcanus' forces had to strike before the alien Gargants became active, or the tide would forever turn against the city's defenders. The Astra Militarum could not be trusted to deal such a surgical strike, nor could the hive city organise a mass withdrawal and redeployment of its deeply entrenched Guard elements to make it a plausible option. The task fell to the Lions.
Primitive Void Shielding protected the site from orbital bombardment. The Lions had to strike overland, without Drop Pods, marching into the ravine alongside their tanks, attacking in battalion regiments like some echo of the Horus Heresy and the millennia of crude warfare before it. The Lions reconnoitred, of course. They scouted and watched, deeming Imperial intelligence reliable. None of the alien god-walkers were infused with life. But time was not on their side. Every solar hour they spent behind their fortress walls was another solar hour that brought the Gargant machines closer to awakening.
Five hundred Celestial Lions Astartes attacked. The last half of the Chapter went to war, knowing that the enemy numbers were beyond the capability of the Imperial Guard to confront. They chose to bring overwhelming force and to strike fast and hard, seeking to counter their crippling inability to strike from the skies. Five hundred Space Marines were involved and some Chapters had taken whole worlds with a quarter of that number.
The Lion commanders were right to commit their full fury. Any Chapter Master would have done the same. There was no possible way the enemy could have known such a force was coming to destroy them, and there was simply no way to prepare for an assault by five hundred Space Marine warriors. Strike with ferocity and destroy the enemy and then fall back before getting entrenched in a full-scale battle. It should have worked.
In truth, the Gargants were not sleeping, they were simply waiting. Despite this setback, if that was all they had to deal with, the Lions might still have fought their way clear without being slaughtered. They might have even won, despite dying to the last man. The Lions' gold battle tanks raged skywards, streams of Lascannon fire bursting thin shields and scoring holes in the hulls of the towering enemy war machines. Warleaders shouted orders, in control of their warriors even in the heat of battle, establishing where to strike, where to push through the Orks' lines, where to move in defence of tank battalions threatened by enemy infantry.
Even when the Gargants awoke, the last half of a noble Chapter still fought to win. They would purge the canyon at the cost of their own lives. Dorn himself would have stood with them that day. But the tide truly turned. The enemy ambush unfolded further as Greenskins spilled from the earth, pouring in hordes from warrens within the canyon sides and the rocky ground. There were thousands of them, roaring beneath fanged war banners and standards made from crucified Celestial Lions taken in other battles. This fresh army surged into the ravine, filling it like sand in an hourglass, blocking all hope of withdrawal and eliminating any chance of victory.
Somehow the Orks knew that the Lions were coming. There could be no other reason to bury whole war-clans under the rock, waiting for such an assault. Their overlord was a beast clad in scrapwork armour -- the biggest Greenskin the Lions had ever seen. He ate the dead -- his own, and the Lions. Warleader Vularkh buried the war-sword Je'hara in the beast's belly and carved three metres of stinking alien guts free. It did nothing.
The Lions fought back as they fell, but they knew they were betrayed. A traitor, somewhere, had fed word to the enemy, and the Orks made the most of their ambush. But soon, the extent of the treachery was revealed, as sniper fire, deadly accurate, rained down from the canyon walls. Not the solid shell rattle of Greenskin projectile throwers, for the Lions knew how the Orks fought. This was viciously precise laser weaponry, knifing through their officers' helms from above. Deathspeakers, Warleaders, Spiritwalkers, even Pride Leaders, cut down with fire too precise, too clinical, to be that of the Greenskin enemy.
It took the Lions four solar hours to fight free. They carved their way back the way they came, abandoning a sea of dead tanks, slain Battle-Brothers and butchered, green enemy bodies. The gene-seed of half the Chapter lay rotting at the bottom of that canyon, unharvested by the Lions' Lifebinders and defiled by the thousands of foes they left alive.
The Lions had fled from the field, and the most valiant battle the Celestial Lions ever fought was that retreat. Never had they faced such odds, and the last of them cut their way free, pulling their brothers from the storm of blades and fell back to their fortress with the enemy at their heels. The xenos flooded their forward base before most of their survivors had even arrived. The Celestial Lions had to fight just to escape their own falling fortress. Even then, for every gunship that raced free, another two were shot down in flames.
The survivors of the Celestial Lions returned to Hive Volcanus. Only three officers were left at dusk of that day, three officers above the rank of Pride Leader. Deathspeaker Julkhara, who called Reclusiarch Merek Grimaldus of the Black Templars brother; Warleader Vakembi, the last surviving Captain of the Chapter; and Lifebinder Kei-Tukh, the Lion's only living Apothecary. The Chapter's future rested on his skills.
But the final insult was yet to play out. The last gasp in this drama of shame and treachery occurred later that same, terrible evening. The Lion's territory inside the city was a cold foundry, nearly lightless, with a perimeter of rockcrete patrolled by their remaining warriors.
Lifebinder Kei-Tukh did not survive the first night after their terrible defeat. The Lions found him at dawn, slouched against their last Land Raider, shot through the eye-lens. The gene-seed he had carried was gone, and he would harvest no more.
The depths of the Celestial Lions' plight on Armageddon were dire indeed: they had lost their fleet, their armoury, their officers and almost all hope of rebuilding their Chapter. They couldn't even cling to pride, after the shame of defeat. All that remained to them was the truth. The Lions vowed to survive long enough to speak it. The Imperium needed to know what had happened to them on Armageddon, where they had been betrayed by others who claimed to serve the Emperor.
The Dark Truth
The remaining Celestial Lions then determined to die on Armageddon alongside their brothers, as was right and honourable if the Chapter could not be revived. Deathspeaker Julkhara reached out to Reclusiarch Grimaldus, a fellow son of Dorn, to know the truth behind their coming last stand, and ensure those that shared their Primarch's blood never spoke ill of the Celestial Lions' fall.
Julkhara sent a lone Storm Eagle from Hive Volcanus to seek help from the Hero of Helsreach -- the zealous Chaplain Grimaldus, who had recently held the besieged Hive Helsreach against thousands of Orks. Convalescing for several solar weeks after being buried alive in the rubble of the collapsed Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, Grimaldus soon received word of the discovery of a crashed Storm Eagle. The downed Celestial Lions gunship had fallen victim to the fearful winds and violent storms that wracked Armageddon's skies, heralding the infamous Season of Fire.
Acquiring a Valkyrie from the 101st Armageddon Steel Legion regiment, Grimaldus and his subordinate Chaplain Initiate Cyneric departed the safety of the hive city to investigate the crash site despite the horrendous weather conditions. The air was severe enough to scald unprotected flesh, and while the Astartes' Power Armour offered a shield against the elements, it wouldn't protect them for long.
Grimaldus was unable to determine the Chapter origin of the Storm Eagle from its outward appearance, as whatever colours it had borne into battle were long gone, stolen by the storm. Its symbols of allegiance were similarly eroded by ash and dirt in the turbulent air. Smashing his way through the ship's bulkhead with his Crozius Maul, Grimaldus and Cyneric found the body of a lone Space Marine pilot, clad in burnished gold, lying in ungainly repose where the deck met the weapon-racked walls. The Reclusiarch recognised the Chapter's colours -- the Celestial Lions. But this discovery left more questions than answers.
Grimaldus couldn't understand what this gunship was doing all the way out in this remote location, so far from Hive Volcanus, nearly half a world away from its point of origin. Removing the dead Space Marine's azure helmet, the faint signs of darkening decay in evidence clearly indicated that he had been several solar days dead. Upon further inspection Grimaldus discovered a hololithic imagifier the size of a human fist mag-locked to the dead warrior's belt.
Once freed and activated, it gave rise to a flickering blue image -- the ghost of another warrior in another city -- wearing the heraldry of the Celestial Lions and carrying a skull-faced helmet beneath one arm. Grimaldus recognised the fellow Chaplain as Deathspeaker Julkhara, whose wavering voice brought grim tidings, "Grimaldus. They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us here to die."
Grimaldus and Cyneric departed the crash site and made their way back to the protective walls of Hive Helsreach. Once safely inside, the Reclusiarch sent a secure Vox message to the Eternal Crusader, the flagship of the Black Templars' High Marshal Helbrecht. When he contacted the mighty vessel, he relayed his orders to a Chapter Serf, instructing him to complete four tasks: first, he was to make contact with every vessel of the Celestial Lions Chapter still in orbit so that he could have a full accounting of their war fleet. Second, they were to contact whatever command structure remained in place at Hive Volcanus and to acquire a detailed report of every Adeptus Astartes casualty in that region since the war's commencement. Third, he and Cyneric needed a gunship to return to the Eternal Crusader. If the coming storm hit before arrangements could be made, they would risk teleportation.
For the fourth and final order, the Eternal Crusader was to make contact with the ranking officer of the Celestial Lions, garrisoned at Hive Volcanus. He warned that the transmission would most assuredly be monitored, no matter what encryption processes were run. The following message was to be delivered -- Grimaldus knew he had to be careful how he worded his message -- it was only six words. "No pity. No remorse. No fear."
Back aboard the Eternal Crusader Reclusiarch Grimaldus met with High Marshal Helbrecht, producing for him the hand-held holorecorder which relayed the dire message from the Celestial Lions' Deathspeaker. The High Marshal inquired as to what the Reclusiarch hoped to accomplish. Grimaldus sought to establish contact with the Celestial Lions to take stock of their losses, and if possible to destroy those who had betrayed them.
But the High Marshal knew in his hearts that this would be impossible no matter how much it appealed to him. The High Marshal warned Grimaldus that he risked dragging the Chapter into direct conflict with the Inquisition. The High Marshal sympathised with Grimaldus' cause, for injustice must be stopped and impurity must be purged. But the Eternal Crusader was to set sail in three solar days in order to pursue the fleeing Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the Ork Warlord who had led his massive WAAAGH! in the invasion of Armageddon.
The Reclusiarch requested to be left behind. The High Marshal was surprised by Grimaldus' request. He was caught between the purity of a war against external enemies, and a just war against an internal foe. Grimaldus would fight both, if he could. The Ork Warlord's death, however, took priority over all else. The arch-warlord responsible for Armageddon could not be allowed to flee from their grasp, for retribution called as loud as justice.
But Helbrecht could not overlook that the Celestial Lions' devastating losses were the principal reason he believed his Reclusiarch's concerns were valid. Justice called to them, and at the very least, the Black Templars wished to learn the truth of the matter. He ordered Grimaldus to go to Hive Volcanus to learn the truth of what happened. If the Celestial Lions were destined to die, the High Marshal wished to hear the truth of their tale before it was too late.
The Last Officer
"Anyone who trusts an agent of the Inquisition has earned the right to be named naive, Cyneric. There is a reason the Adeptus Astartes stand apart from the Imperium -- autonomous; loyal to the empire's ideals, but rarely its function. The Lions' most grievous error was forgetting that."
Soon Grimaldus and his charge made their way to Armageddon Prime, where Hive Volcanus was still besieged by the enemy and the winds were more often free of the burning sand and ash that so blighted the other side of the world. The Celestial Lions' firebase was located atop a natural rise in the landscape, supremely defensible, with great battlements and sacred statuary of fallen Imperial heroes staring down at any who would dare bring the fight to those dark walls.
The whole site was already in ruin. The pair of Black Templars were honoured for their presence by the remaining Lions. Grimaldus noticed right away that several of the Celestial Lions were plundering their own firebase's supplies, loading up their surviving Thunderhawks with brutal efficiency. The warriors themselves kept at least one hand free to reach for a Bolter at a moment's notice.
A lone Space Marine came forward, bearing the black helm of a Pride Leader. He knelt before the Reclusiarch and removed his dark helmet. Grimaldus was greeted by the sight of a face that was a warm, rich brown complexion of a human born to equatorial climes. Though he had never been to the Lions' homeworld of Elysium IX, he had met many of its dark-skinned sons. They were a culture of hunters: proud from birth to death, true Scions of Dorn.
Grimaldus did not recognise the warrior who introduced himself as Pride Leader Ekene Dubaku. "Pride Leader" was the Lions' term for a Squad Sergeant. This did not bode well. Dubaku was now the senior surviving Lion who led those that remained. The Veteran Marine explained that there were ninety-six Lions still drawing breath upon Armageddon, and that he had inherited command from Warleader Vakembei, he of the Spear That Hunts Hearts who had been slain eighteen solar days earlier. Grimaldus knew Vakembei, a stalwart Space Marine officer and deadly swordsman.
The Reclusiarch inquired as to the whereabouts of Deathspeaker Julkhara. The Pride Leader replied that he had been slain by the "kine" (a Celestial Lions' term for cattle or beasts -- the Greenskins) nearly twenty-four solar days past. Now the surviving Lions were looting what was left of their supplies at their forward base. They had little choice, since it was overrun. Their fallback stronghold was within Hive Volcanus itself, but they risked raids in this forward area every three solar days.
Ammunition was low -- production and resupply from their fleet had dropped to almost nothing. Grimaldus wondered why the Celestial Lions had not requested aid from the other Chapters present on Armageddon, but understood that Dorn's blood ran thick in the veins of his descendants. It was difficult to lay such pride aside, even in the face of devastation. Especially then, for that was when a warrior was truly tested. There was no other time more fit for proving that a man was strong enough to stand alone.
Dubaku explained that they had swallowed their pride long enough to request aid from the Flesh Tearers and the Black Templars, but the former were as depleted as they were, and the latter were preparing to take the fight out to the stars in pursuit of the fleeing Ork Warlord. The Lions felt they had no right to beg for scraps while being left behind. So they existed by plundering their fallen fortress and looting their own dead.
This confirmed for Grimaldus that Julkhara's summons had been a personal one. It had cost his pride dearly to send it. The Reclusiarch was struck by one thing above all else: the Celestial Lions were effectively dead. While a hundred yet remained, the Chapter operated now without a single voice from their Chapter's high command, and their ranking Veteran officer was a squad sergeant.
Grimaldus ordered the Lions to finish loading their gunships, then he wanted Dubaku to tell him everything that had happened to the Chapter since they made planetfall. It remained to be seen just what Julkhara expected of the Black Templar, or what Grimaldus could actually achieve for the Lions. It already felt less like he had been summoned to save the Lions, and more like he had been called to hold vigil, watching over the Chapter as it died.
The Pride Leader's tale was grim. The Reclusiarch's blood ran cold as Dubaku revealed each new betrayal that had occurred. Grimaldus quickly realised that the surviving Lions meant to die on this world. The Pride Leader confirmed this was true. The Lions intended to die alongside their brothers, as it should be. Deathspeaker Julkhara wished for Grimaldus to know the truth behind their coming last stand, and ensure that those who shared their Primarch's blood never spoke ill of their sacrifice.
Cyneric argued that the Celestial Lions should return to Elysium IX, to endure the shame if they must, as the Crimson Fists endured their shame after the Battle of Rynn's World. They had to rebuild their Chapter -- the galaxy must not lose the Celestial Lions forever.
But the remaining Lions scoffed at this suggestion. Their Chapter had been savaged beyond resurrection. Men, material, knowledge...all of it was gone. They had nothing to hand down to any generation that would follow them. The remaining Lions refused to flee like cowards. But it was not cowardice Cyneric advocated, it was survival -- survival to preserve precious blood, and to rise again to fight another day.
Grimaldus agreed with both opposing viewpoints, for a glorious last stand was no more less respectable than preserving the infinite value of a Space Marine Chapter. But Grimaldus wondered if Cyneric would advocate shame if he were the one facing the prospect of so glorious a last stand. Easier to speak of shame than endure it. And yet Grimaldus was just as determined that the Chapter had to survive.
The remaining Lions explained to Grimaldus that the Inquisition wanted to silence them. But the Reclusiarch assured them that this was not the case. They were using the Celestial Lions to make an example. The Lions were in fact the most recent casualty in the Inquisition's campaign to rein in the political autonomy of the Adeptus Astartes. The Inquisition tolerated no attacks on its sovereign rights -- yet the Lions had challenged them. And now all would bear witness to the price of their Chapter's rebellion.
The sabotages, the conflicting orders, the ambushes, all would lead to the destruction of a Space Marine Chapter. Millions of Imperial citizens would hear of how the Celestial Lions were killed on Armageddon. A mere handful would know the truth behind their deaths, and each of those would be Adeptus Astartes officers who would tread with much more caution when they dealt with the Inquisition in the future. The lesson would be learned, just as Inquisitor Apollyon's cronies wished.
Digesting this information, Pride Leader Dubaku explained to the Reclusiarch that his Chapter would make for the Mannheim Gap and that, though many of the Gargants were gone, it was still a well-defended Ork stronghold. It remained a cancer in Hive Volcanus' territory, and it must fall.
This seemed idealistic at best to Grimaldus. He informed the Lions that in fact, it would not fall. Not to a handful of Lions, no matter how noble and proud they were. Dubaku countered that they would die trying, for this was where the Celestial Lions had chosen to die. It had to be there, for then their bones would lie alongside their brothers. Grimaldus inquired if the Lions would fight alone, to which Debaku replied that they would. Volcanus could not spare its Astra Militarum regiments.
Even with Mannheim emptied of Gargants in the solar weeks since the massacre -- a fact they still could not be certain was true -- it was still a difficult target, rich with the enemy's presence. Five of the Lions' Battle Companies had failed to take it. A few thousand Guardsmen would be nothing more than spitting into the wind. The Lions could not trust any of the Guardsmen in any case, for the Inquisition's talons were everywhere.
After hearing their tale of woe, Grimaldus decided that Cyneric had been right. The Lions' death would be a disservice to the Imperium, no matter the greatness of their glorious last stand; no matter the heroism of individual warriors as they spent their life's blood. The Lions argued that this was how they wanted it to end -- to finish their legacy in fire, not in centuries of painstaking laboratory work to preserve their bloodline. They wanted to die as warriors.
Indeed they would, thought Grimaldus, a hundred warriors, dying in glory...and denying the possibility of thousands of warriors who might be needed in a darker future. It was Dorn's way to fight on no matter the odds. Death against overwhelming numbers was no shame to any warrior born of the Imperial Fists' gene-seed. Yet, those were lessons first taught ten thousand Terran years ago, when the Imperium was so much stronger. The last centuries of the current Dark Millennium had all but bled Mankind's empire dry. Yet the Reclusiarch still admired Dubaku for his hunger to taste a glorious death, even if it was a last charge few would remember.
Dubaku informed the Reclusiarch that they would not delay the inevitable and were prepared to make their last stand almost immediately. His Chapter would gather their resources the next day at their forward base, and make one last scouting run for supplies and survivors. The Lions would then charge to their final war at dawn the day after. The Pride Leader made one last request of the stern Chaplain. He requested that Grimaldus grant final unction to the surviving Celestial Lions warriors.
The Black Templar had only agreed to speak of the Lions' death, and that he understood how it had happened and why they had chosen to act as they did. But now they wished for him to also bless their damnation. The Lions had no surviving Deathspeakers and so they wanted Grimaldus to bless the warriors of another Chapter, sharing the Black Templars' sacred rituals, and vowing before the Emperor and Rogal Dorn that their death would be a noble testament to the Imperial Fists' bloodline.
Grimaldus looked upon the surviving Celestial Lions, standing amongst them during their desperate, respectful silence. Grimaldus felt he had no choice, could not grant his blessing to the suicide of the Chapter and refused to perform the requested rite upon the Lions.
Grimaldus and his charge then departed the Celestial Lions' forward base and made for the Eternal Crusader. He went there to put an audacious plan into motion. The Chaplain knew he could not return to Hive Helsreach, for the Season of Fire played its tempestuous games around the city, harsh enough to kill sky traffic but not quite violent enough to interfere with Vox signals.
Utilising the flagship's powerful communication array, he was able to amplify his transmitter's signal to send a message through. Making contact with the Imperial forces on the ground, he relayed a series of orders to one of the Astra Militarum officers present there. It took several more solar hours of coordinating Helsreach's defences from high orbit. Grimaldus knew a great many Guard officers were going to Vox skyward for confirmation in the hours to come.
Time passed, as Grimaldus spoke with eighty-one Astra Militarum officers and eleven Naval captains. As his clearance was Rubicon-grade, no one dared to question his orders. Cyneric questioned the senior Chaplain's motives, and wondered if he hadn't exceeded his authority. But Grimaldus argued that the Lions' survival would be for the best and he was depleting Hive Helsreach's defences to march alongside the Lions back into the Mannheim Gap.
The Reclusiarch explained that the city was vastly overdefended now, with entire battalions sitting idle and awaiting redeployment. It was an irritating truth; would that they had such a problem when the real war was being fought. The soldiers in Helsreach were actually bored. They did not do well with tedium, especially when left alone with nothing to do and no one to shoot.
Cyneric felt that Grimaldus was playing on the people's regard for him. The Hero of Helsreach called them to war. Of course they would follow. But he was sure it was their war. The Reclusiarch argued that it was their world. And it was the only chance the Celestial Lions had, if they were to survive.
The Lions' unseen enemies might well allow them to die in the glory they deserved. But their deaths served nothing but to ease the soreness of wounded pride. The Celestial Lions must not die on Armageddon and without help, the Chapter was doomed. Everything depended on just how fast Grimaldus' forces at Helsreach could break out from the storm, and redeploy halfway across the world.
The Second Mannheim Siege
"I am remaining on the war-world. Someone must fight alongside the Lions, saving them from futile glory and the worst excesses of their otherwise pure blood... The Lions have no Chaplains remaining, and they are our cousins. Honour and brotherhood demand this of me. The Lions cannot call upon the resources of their hive city, but they will not fight alone... Let Volcanus hide behind its walls. Helsreach is going to war."
Arranging for an Imperial Navy shuttle, both Grimaldus and Cyneric deployed to the surface of Armageddon. Dawn was less than a solar hour away as they broke cloud cover above the Lions' ruined fortress stronghold. Grimaldus wondered if the Lions would have already left their fallen fortress by the time they arrived, marching towards their last stand.
Besides the remaining four dust-blasted and paint-stripped Thunderhawks possessed by the Lions resting upon the wide rooftop platform, dozens of inelegant, blocky troop landers had joined them there. Struggling to locate an unmarked, untaken patch of ground, Grimaldus ordered the shuttle to break off its descent, as both he and Cyneric jumped from the ship's rear bay.
The pair of Black Templars descended from the sky to the ground by utlising their Jump Packs. Pride Leader Dubaku was taken aback by the return of the Black Templars. Grimaldus replied that he thought that the Lions might appreciate the extra bodies. The Reclusiarch was greeted by General Kyranov of the Armageddon Steel Legion, the acting commander of the Imperial military forces at Helsreach. Within the solar hour a war council was called, ordained before a battalion of revving tanks. The plan was simple -- they would march into the Mannheim Gap, and they would destroy anything that moved or breathed.
Dubaku stood with Grimaldus at the heart of the impromptu conclave, his anger a palpable thing. He directed his ire at the Reclusiarch, who he felt had overstepped his authority. The Pride Leader didn't appreciate these interlopers who threatened to interfere with their personal vendetta and their glorious last stand. He argued with Grimaldus that this was the Celestial Lions' fight and no one else's. Dubaku warned Grimaldus that when the time came, when they confronted the Ork Warlord responsible for so many of his Battle-Brothers' deaths, it would be a Lion's blade that killed the creature. Grimaldus vowed grimly that it would be so.
And so, the forces gathered from Helsreach marched in long, armoured columns towards the Mannheim Gap. Every hope they possessed that Mannheim would be near devoid of Ork Titans was crushed before the first Steel Legion soldier had set foot on the loose rock slopes leading down into the canyon.
The enemy was present in grotesque force. Great sockets in the rigging and stanchions along the canyon walls marked the absence of several Gargants, but many more were undergoing repair or reawakening after fighting in recent battles. The ravine was choked by multitudes of Orks going about their work, and thousands of mouldering corpses piled up into a sea of decaying organic matter.
Gold armour, darkened and soiled by waste, showed among the barricades of the looted dead. The dead Celestial Lions had been heaped in undignified repose with their xenos murderers, and their ceramite -- useless to the junkyard heresy that constituted Greenskin technology -- was left to encase the rotting warriors amidst their flesh cairns.
The Imperial force advanced over the sea of the disrespected dead, for tearing the barricades down was not an option. The Guardsmen climbed and waded through the sea of bodies or rode on the hulls of their tanks. Above the advance rode the gunship fleet, all flanking the four remaining Thunderhawks in the Celestial Lions' arsenal. The moment they streaked through the ravine's trench, cannonfire began to bring them down in tumbling fireballs.
The Steel Legion did not baulk at the sight of such a vast enemy horde. They ploughed into the enemy's disarrayed ranks, slaughtering them to make room on fields of their bodies for the gunships to land. The first hours of the battle were unremarkable only for their ferocity. The Imperial Guard's massed cannonades devastated the Greenskin war machines. In reply, the Orks butchered the Guard at every point along the advance where it fell to men and women with bayonets to hold the line. As was so often the way of the Astra Militarum, they had the stronger steel, but the enemy had the stronger flesh.
In such a grinding lock of armies, winning and losing was relative. The Imperial force pushed deep into the canyon as hundreds of men and women fell face down into the dirt. Behind the Space Marines lay a graveyard of tanks, practically all their own, all lost to enemy cannonfire. Lining the canyon's walls were the burning metal corpses of towering god-constructs, holed by missiles and tank shells, melting to slag in the flames of the Imperial Guard's bombardment. Stubber fire rattled against their ceramite harmlessly, but scythed Guardsmen down in droves. Still the Imperials advanced, sloshing through a rising torrent of blood. It was knee-deep on most of the humans, turning all advancement into a sweating wade through filth.
Soon the pivotal moment of the battle came upon Grimaldus, as it had so many times before, his heraldry often drawing enemy commanders to him as often as he fought his way to them. It happened again at Mannheim, though he tried to avoid it. The largest of the Orks, doubtless hunting the Reclusiarch by heraldry, launched itself at Grimaldus from behind. It was a thing of blunt fangs, sinewy muscle and hammering limbs -- larger than Grimaldus, and both stronger and faster than him. A Celestial Lion called out to the Reclusiarch, reminding him that the Ork Warlord was the Pride Leader's kill.
Grimaldus faced off against the massive beast, swinging his Crozius maul at the foul creature, but the powerful Greenskin moved as if immune to everything thrown against it. Las-fire lanced off the creature, going ignored against its armour, and equally ignored as the volleys scored fingertip-sized holes in its flesh. Celestial Lions charged the creature but the hulking warlord countered their feeble assaults with a sweep of his mighty mangling claw.
As Grimaldus was driven to his knees and eventually struck to the ground, Dubaku finally came between the two combatants with a leap and a roar. He held his hand back, bidding Grimaldus to remain away. The Reclusiarch had to force himself to obey, something he would never have countenanced in any other circumstance. But they had fought this battle for a bloodline's pride, and here was the moment of reckoning.
Dubaku beat his blade against his chestplate, staring at the Greenskin lord in its powered suit of tank armour scrap. Despite the cacophony of battle that raged all around them, Grimaldus could hear the Celestial Lion's words as clearly as if they had left his own mouth: "In whatever underworld your foul breed believes, you shall tell your pig-blooded ancestors that you died to the blade of Ekene of Elysium, Lion of the Emperor."
No one knew it then, but at that moment, the Pride Leader was the last Lion still standing. Dubaku attacked, his Chainsword worthless against the beast's claw. He had just as little hope of parrying the creature's cudgel with his Combat Knife. So what he lacked in strength, he poured into speed -- never blocking, always dodging. The battle did not pause around the two combatants. Soon both the Pride Leader and the Ork Warlord were bleeding from a score of wounds.
The Chainsword had found its way through armour joints and plunged into soft tissue; the Power Claw had mangled the Celestial Lion's armour each time it fell. Soon, Dubaku was backing away. Fighting such a beast was no task for one warrior alone, no matter the pleasure of pride. Then came a thunderclap of noise as a massive electrical burst turned the air to charged static. Orks and men in their droves cried out in pain at the sonic boom. The orbital shield was no longer functioning.
Somehow at some point in the hours of melee, while the Reclusiarch fought with the Lions, the Steel Legion had laid explosives at the base of the Void Shield reactor. The Emperor alone knew when, where, and how. No sooner had the shield imploded, spitting its static charge in all directions, than a powerful and priority channel Vox-rune chimed loudly in the Reclusiarch's retinal display. Grimaldus activated it as he watched the Pride Leader and the Ork lord stagger around each other, wounded animals too proud to die.
Soon Grimaldus heard a familiar voice -- it was High Marshal Helbrecht. He informed the Chaplain that the Black Templars were ready to reinforce their position. All he had to do was give the word. Grimaldus informed the High Marshal to blacken the sky. At that moment the severely wounded Celestial Lion was down before Grimaldus could reach him. The beast clutched Dubaku's arm in its mangling claw, crushing it at the biceps before ripping it free. The Pride Leader retaliated by ramming his Chainsword in an awkward thrust into the creature's throat. Deflected by armour, it barely bit. His assault came at the cost of his leg, as the iron claw scissored through the limb at the knee, dropping him on his back into the slime.
Grimaldus was on the beast's back a heartbeat later, securing himself by digging into the creature's armour with his boots as he wrapped his severed weapon chain around its bleeding, sweating throat. The chain garrotted taut, cracking sinew in the beast's throat. The iron claw battered at the Reclusiarch, shearing chunks of ceramite away. It staggered without toppling, gasped without truly suffocating. Even this -- even strangling it with his last remaining weapon -- could not kill it.
All Grimaldus could do was buy Dubaku the moments he needed to crawl free, which he quickly did. And Cyneric was waiting, a Bolter in his remaining hand. The mutilated Celestial Lion reached up for it, clutching it one-handed in a pistol grip, and aimed it up as he lay back in the sludge. Grimaldus dropped back, not completely, but enough to pull the chain tighter, adding his weight to his strength, and wrenching the beast's head back to bare its throat.
The Bolter sang once, and the kick of something heavy struck near the chain. With a muffled burst, the Ork's head came free, tumbling back over its shoulders and landing with the Chaplain in the filth. The armoured body stood there without anything existing above its neck -- still too stubborn, too strong, to fall.
Once he got to his feet, Grimaldus reclaimed his maul from the fallen beast. Then he tossed the thing's slack-jawed head to Dubaku where he lay. The battle continued to rage, as the men and women Grimaldus had led there fought their way further down the canyon. Dubaku looked up at the darkening sky as the Black Templars descended in a massive Drop Pod assault upon the Mannheim Gap. The Lion's only reaction was to rise as best he could, and pull his helmet clear. He ordered the Reclusiarch to help him stand. He didn't want to meet the High Marshal on his back. Cyneric and Grimaldus hauled Dubaku up between them. While they did so, the Guard's Vox link erupted in cheers, as Lord Helbrecht blackened the sky with Templar Drop Pods.
Reclusiarch Grimaldus bid his farewell to the newly-installed Chapter Master Ekene Dubaku of the Celestial Lions, escorted by his surviving few warriors onto the Black Templars Strike Cruiser Blade of the Seventh Son, with its course plotted for the distant world of Elysium IX. Dubaku now bore a bionic leg and a noticeable limp, his physiology not entirely adjusted to the augmetic replacement yet. The armour he wore was gold war-plate of an ancient Imperial Fists champion, granted as a gift from the Eternal Crusader's Halls of Memory. His cloak was that of Helbrecht's own Sword Brethren, red on black, elegantly cast over one shoulder.
It was not known if this was the very same cloak Helbrecht had granted to Dubaku when he forced him to take the oath of lordship over his depleted Chapter. At his hip, bound by chains of black iron, was the flayed, polished skull of the Greenskin Warlord they had killed together. An honour indeed, to be named on a Chapter Master's prime trophy.
The Black Templars Honour Guard comprised to bid him good journey consisted of the Reclusiarch, the newly promoted Chaplain Cyneric, and the High Marshal's household knights, clad in ceremonial colours. The Reclusiarch hoped most fervently, as time passed, that Chapter Master Dubaku's efforts in reconstructing the Celestial Lions and training the generation to follow him continued to go well. Grimaldus knew with grim satisfaction that they would most likely never meet again, as Dubaku was sworn to a life of defending what he could hold, and the Black Templars always sailed forth on the attack against the foes of the Emperor.
The Salamanders' Return to Armageddon
When WAAAGH! Ghazghkull descended upon Armageddon in 998.M41, many Space Marine Chapters responded as noted above, including the Black Templars, White Scars, Exorcists, Silver Skulls, Iron Champions, Storm Lords -- the list goes on, their raiment every colour under the Emperor's sun. Yet of all those Chapters that fought in the shadow of Armageddon's smoke-wreathed manufactorums and hive cities, the populace remember none with the same gratitude that they give to the Salamanders.
The Salamanders had been instrumental in Ghazghkull's defeat in the Second War for Armageddon, but victory had cost them dearly. Perhaps it was vengeance that drove the Chapter to make such a generous contribution to the Third War. Whatever the reason, almost the entire Salamanders Chapter was present in the crucial early months of the war. Under the eye of their bold Chapter Master Tu'Shan, they fought with determination on the most terrible battlefields. When the din of battle grew quiet and the Ork attacks slowed, the Salamanders did not sit idle, but instead launched several devastating counterattacks against the Roks landed by the Orks along the Hemlock River. Preferring the close-quarter fighting to be had in the maze of crudely carved tunnels that lay within the interior of the Roks to the long-range duels in the desert, the Salamanders made their mark. By the start of the Season of Fire, 9 Roks had been destroyed by the Salamanders' attacks, killing untold thousands of Greenskins.
The glory of such battles was one shared with many other Chapters, and alone it does not explain the fierce loyalty that the Salamanders engendered in the people of Armageddon. The truth of the matter remains that while some Chapters fought for the Emperor, and others for the renown and glory to be earned, Tu'Shan and his Salamanders fought each battle to save the lives of the people of Armageddon.
On more than one occasion, Tu'Shan threw his Astartes into the most hopeless of battles to rescue embattled civilian enclaves and settlements that other Imperial commanders had been prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the wider war. Indeed it is even rumoured that Master Tu'Shan himself came to blows with Captain Vinyar of the Marines Malevolent after it became known that the latter's men had shelled a refugee camp simply because there were Orks within its perimeter. This act alone won Tu'Shan and his Chapter much renown, although relations between the Salamanders and the Marines Malevolent have never been quite the same.
The majority of the Salamanders departed Armageddon following the Season of Fire, but the Chapter's work was not done. The two companies of the Chapter that remained behind on the Hive World did so to protect its major population centres from marauding Ork warbands that would never quite be eradicated. The Chapter's Techmarines have been instrumental in repairing and rebuilding the infrastructure required to maintain such a vast amount of people, and it is certain that they have saved many thousands of lives with these vital but often overlooked duties. The people of Armageddon will not soon forget the efforts the Salamanders made in their name. The legend that the Sons of Vulkan have left behind will surely shine all the brighter with every passing year.
The end of the Third War for Armageddon is clouded in mystery. Ultimately the campaign was considered a narrow Imperial victory as the world remained largely under the control of the Imperium. Word later reached Yarrick from the Black Templars Chapter fleet in orbit of Armageddon that Ghazghkull had fled the world once the planet's Season of Fire had begun and bogged down the Orks' offensives, possibly in his command Space Hulk, The Perversion of Pain.
With this news, Yarrick gathered together his own forces and gave chase alongside the Black Templars Crusade Fleet, as the Black Templars' High Marshal Helbrecht began a new Crusade to seek out and finally destroy Ghazghkull.
In a daring covert operation by the 13th Penal Legion under Colonel Schaeffer, the traitorous former Imperial Governor Herman von Strab was killed in the occupied Hive Acheron when he was tackled over the edge of a balcony by one Lieutenant Kage, both men falling to their deaths.
Though the war is officially over, fighting still continues on the planet at present. Though Ghazghkull has left the world, pursued by Commissar Yarrick with a full Black Templars Crusade at his back, the remaining Orks have come to regard Armageddon as a kind of Greenskin Valhalla where they can always come to find a good fight, and the Imperium must still send more troops into the stalemated battle to keep the planet in Imperial hands and prevent the seemingly permanent Ork infestation from becoming a major threat once more.
Countless Orks still infest Armageddon and the war raged. For the Orks, the war became known as the "Big Scrap" and "Ragnarork". More Orks arrive in the system with each day as word spread of the great battle raging there. The death toll for the Imperium spiraled towards the billions. The Imperials knew one thing, however: whatever the cost, Armageddon must not fall.
The state of Armageddon and its surrounding planets is currently dire. Billions of Imperial soldiers and citizens have died, and many of the hive cities of Armageddon lie in ruins. The damage done to the world by the Third War for Armageddon is some of the most devastating ever suffered by the people of the Imperium.
Dozens of Imperial armies were decimated or destroyed altogether by the ferocious combat, and the damage done to the planet itself may take Terran centuries to repair. Most of the settled planets in the Armageddon System have been ravaged by Ork forces, and with Ghazghkull having fled into deep space, it is likely he will quickly rebuild his forces and carve out a new Ork Empire for himself, unless the Black Templars and Yarrick prove able to stop him.
Not even the great Warp Storms unleashed by the birth of the Great Rift in 999.M41 could halt the fighting, but they did change its nature. During the period of the Noctis Aeterna, reinforcements were cut off for both sides, and those en route to the system were swept into oblivion. Those combatants who remained on Armageddon were forced to face not just each other, but oncoming waves of daemons. At times, so desperate were the defenders that Orks and humans fought alongside each other against the greater threat. Such temporary ceasefires never lasted long.
By the time the beacon of the Astronomican burned bright once more and easy travel through the Immaterium was possible, an Imperial relief force arrived to find the landscape of Armageddon greatly changed. At the height of the Warp Storms, the daemonic forces of Tzeentch and Khorne had battled each other as part of their eternal competition in the Great Game.
The Orks and Imperial defenders sought cover as titanic Greater Daemons duelled for supremacy. Fully half the planet was reshaped into a hellish landscape reminiscent of many Daemon Worlds -- a nightmare born of the Warp merged with the ruins of a war-torn Hive World. The Imperial reinforcements, led by elements of nine Space Marine Chapters with the Salamanders in overall command, succeeded in halting a daemonic ritual that would have brought Angron, the Primarch of the World Eaters, back to the world that had defied him during the First War for Armageddon.
Select Imperial Order of Battle
Astra Militarum and Armageddon Planetary Defence Forces
- 4th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 8th Armageddon Super Heavy Tank Company
- 13th Penal Legion, "The Last Chancers"
- 14th Savlar Chem Dogs
- 34th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 34th Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 51st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 61st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 69th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 91st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 93rd Armageddon Steel Legion
- 101st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 121st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 121st Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 141st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 199th Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 273rd Armageddon Steel Legion
- 276th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 703rd Armageddon Steel Legion Storm Trooper Division
- Armageddon Ash Wastes Militia, 5 Regiments
- Armageddon Command Guard, 5 Companies
- Armageddon Hive Militia, 120 Regiments
- Armageddon Jungle Fighters Regime, 1 Regiment
- Armageddon Ork Hunters, 5 Regiments
- Armageddon Steel Legion, 25 Regiments
- Arphista Penal Legion
- Asgardian Rangers, 2 Regiments
- Cadian Shock Troops, 15 Regiments
- Catachan Jungle Fighters, 3 Regiments
- Death Korps of Krieg, 5 Regiments
- Elysian Drop Troops, 14 Squadrons
- Helsreach Dockers' Union
- Helsreach Ganger Militia
- Jopall Indentured Squadrons, 17 Battalions
- Krourk Ogryn Auxilia, 2 Regiments
- Minervan Tank Legions, 3 Legions
- Monglor Ogryn Auxilia, 2 Regiments
- Mordian Iron Guard, 6 Regiments
- Noctan Strike Forces, 6 Regiments
- Ocanon Phalanx Troopers, 11 Regiments
- Pyran Dragoons, 10 Regiments
- Savlar Chem-Dogs, 6 Regiments
- Savlar Chem-Riders, 2 Regiments
- Semtexian Bombadiers, 9 Batteries
- Storm Troopers, 18 Companies
- Zouvan Skirmishers, 4 Brigades
- 5082nd Imperial Naval Wing
- 14 Adeptus Astartes Battle Barges
- 103 Adeptus Astartes Strike Cruisers
- Unknown number of Thunderhawk Gunships
- Battlefleet Armageddon
- 43 Starhawk Bomber Strike Wings
- 36 Squadrons of Escorts
- 6 first-line Cruiser Squadrons
- 9 second-line Cruiser Squadrons
- 12 Light Cruiser Squadrons
- 67 Fury Interceptor Strike Wings
- Monitor Station Dante
- Monitor Station Mannheim
- Monitor Station Yarrick
- Archangel - Defiant-class Light Cruiser
- Forebearer - Defiant-class Light Cruiser
- Ex Cathedra - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Hammer of Light - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Thunderchild - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Green Lake - Oberon-class Battleship
- His Will - Apocalypse-class Battleship
- Leonid - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Triumph - Apocalypse-class Battleship
- Inomine Veritas - Emperor-class Battleship
- The Eternal Crusader - Black Templars Flagship (Battle Barge)
- Light of Purity - Black Templars Battle Barge
- Majesty - Black Templars Strike Cruiser
- Night's Vigil - Black Templars Battle Barge
- Sanctis Legate - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Serpentine - Salamanders Battle Barge
- Sword of Voss - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Vulkan's Wrath - Salamanders Strike Cruiser
- Angels of Fire, 7 Companies
- Angels of Redemption, 4 Companies
- Angels of Vigilance, 6 Companies
- Angels Porphyr, 8 Companies
- Black Dragons, 9 Companies
- Black Templars, 3 Crusades
- Blood Angels, 1 Company
- Celebrants, entire Chapter deployed
- Celestial Lions, entire Chapter deployed
- Exorcists, entire Chapter deployed
- Flesh Tearers, 5 Companies
- Immortal Hearts, 1 Company
- Iron Champions, 7 Companies
- Marines Malevolent, 2 Companies
- Mortifactors, entire Chapter deployed
- Omega Marines, entire Chapter deployed
- Raptors, 5 Companies
- Red Scorpions, 1 Company
- Relictors, entire Chapter deployed
- Salamanders, 6 Companies
- Silver Skulls, 7 Companies
- Sons of Guilliman, 6 Companies
- Space Wolves, 5 Great Companies
- Storm Giants, 5 Companies
- Storm Lords, 2 Brotherhoods
- White Scars, 3 Brotherhoods
- Widowmakers, 1 Company
Forces of the Inquisition
Forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus
- Ark Mechanicus-class Battleship
- Centurio Ordinatus, 4 Ordinatii
- Legio Crucius, Demi-Legio
- Legio Ignatum, Legio
- Legio Invigilata, Legio
- Legio Magna, Quarto-Legio
- Legio Metallica, Demi-Legio
- Legio Tempesto, Legio
- Legio Victorum, Legio
- Skitarii, 14 Regiments
Forces of the Ecclesiarchy
Forces of the Adeptus Arbites
- 20 Adeptus Arbites Armageddon Precincts
- 12 Punitive Battalions
Forces of the Departmento Munitorum
- Departmento Munitorum Engineer Corps, 2 Corps
- Departmento Munitorum Pioneer Corps, 1 Corps
Forces of the Officio Assassinorum
- Officio Assassinorum Agents (Numbers Classified)
Forces of the Officio Sabatorum
- 34 Agents of the Sabatorum
Forces of the Templars Psykologis
- 15 Disruption Squads
Select Ork Order of Battle
- Despot Gazgrim's War Horde, 200 Mobs, 18 Gargants
- Black Slayers Tribe, 30 Mobs, 4 Gargants
- Firebellies Tribe, 18 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Razor Speed Freeks, 21 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Varga's Drop Legion, 24 Mobs
- Warlord Badfang's Battle Forts, 3 Mobs, 16 Battle Fortresses
- Warlord Gorshag's Big Gunz, 7 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Rukgor's Gargant Big Mob, 5 Mobs, 6 Gargants
- Warlord Thogfang's Gargant Big Mob, 2 Mobs, 7 Gargants
- Great Overlord Ghazghkull's War Horde, 400 Mobs, 18 Gargants
- Blackskull Tribe, 30 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Burning Death Speed Freeks, 25 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Crooked Moon Tribe, 21 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Red Fin Tribe, 30 Mobs, 4 Gargants
- Red Wheelz Speed Freeks, 18 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Warlord Burzuruk's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 9 Gargants
- Warlord Kroksnik's Death Traks, 4 Mobs, 32 Battle Fortresses
- Warlord Morfang's Gargant Big Mob, 6 Mobs, 7 Gargants
- Warlord Morkbad's Big Gunz, 6 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Skarfang's Gargant Big Mob, 3 Mobs, 6 Gargants
- Warlord Thugsnik's Big Gunz, 6 Artillery Mobs
The Fire Wastes
- Great Slayer Grimskull's War Horde, 60 Mobs, 8 Gargants
- Slasherzz Speed Freeks, 12 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Stompers Tribe, 16 Mobs, 1 Gargant
- Vultures Tribe, 16 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Warlord Blargrot's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Warlord Rukglum's Big Gunz, 11 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Skarg's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 3 Gargants
The Dead Lands
- Great Fiend Gorssnik Magrash's Wa Horde, 250 Mobs, 160 Battle Fortresses
- Black Cloud Speed Freeks, 20 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Warlord Bogsnik's Blitz Brigade, 12 Mobs, 41 Battle Fotresses
- Warlord Skarsnik's Blitz Brigade, 12 Mobs, 41 Battle Fortresses
- White Lightning Speed Freeks, 31 Kult of Speed Mobs
Ork Fleet Elements
- 12-16 Space Hulks
- 2000-3500 Fighta-Bommer Squadrons
- 2100+ Attack Craft
- 80-100 Roks
- 250-400 Kill Kroozers
- Several thousand Ork Battleships
- Dethdeala - Ork Battleship
- Grimzag's Ammer - Kill Kroozer
- Kroolboy - Battleship
- Skullbanga - Space Hulk
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 19, 34, 43, 45, 49, 106-107
- Codex: Armageddon (3rd Edition) pp. 13-32
- Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition), pp. 20-21
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex) pg. 8
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pg. 13
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 24
- Codex: Orks (7th Edition), pp. 76-78, 86
- Codex: Orks (4th Edition), pg. 25
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 20-22
- Epic Armageddon Rulebook, pg. 61
- Waaagh! Ghazgkhull: A Codex Ork Supplement (Digital Edition), pp. 47-53
- Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse (6th Edition), pp. 307-308
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 52
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 176, 193
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition) , pg. 34
- White Dwarf 249, "Index Astartes - Emperor's Shield"
- Armageddon (Anthology) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Annihilation Squad (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Blood and Fire (Novella) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Third War for Armageddon - World Wide Campaign