The Spawn of the Void – Shamus’ Return

The following is the prologue to a one day narrative event.  Multiple armies will be battling it out to try to claim the tightly held prizes from the depths of this space hulk.  Some armies seek to claim these treasures for their own personal gain.  Others have strict orders from their superiors to secure the hulk and await for other forces to arrive to handle the extraction.  Lastly, some more renegade factions seek to destroy the hulk and it’s prizes in an effort to deny their foes from gaining the possibly destructive powers hidden within.  Participants to this event will need to write their own short back story explaining their forces motivation within this event (stories should be loosely based around the previously listed motivations).  The previous saga of Shamus can be found here.

Shamus McCraken stretched his arms and gazed around the smoky crew quarters of the Indomitable Zeal. He had been stuck on this strike cruiser off and on for 3 years now.  After his brush with the Minotaurs and Dark Angels, he didn’t have much of a purpose again. The Minotaurs, after much interrogations, had cleared him of any heresy and left him back at the Imperial staging point on Orvis IV.  He tried to re-unite with his regiment from Verdan III, but was shocked to learn the entire regiment was lost to the ork Waaagh.  He actually got a chuckle when he found his name listed among the dead.

He spent several weeks in the staging area.  Shamus only really had two professions at this point, farmer and solider.  And since Orvis IV was a warzone and not an agri world, he went back to doing the only thing that made sense to him.  So, he started tagging along with other guard squads as they were deployed.  Eventually they all started asking where he came from.  Shamus didn’t want to get into all the business with his old sergeant and the Adeptus Astartes.  He would slip away in the night once the other guardsmen’s curiosity started to get to overwhelming.  But as the campaign inevitably went in the Imperiums favor, there were less and less forces to try to blend in with.

That is when he met Inquisitor Francisco.  He had noticed Francisco around several of the command tents throughout the campaign.  He seemed to get under the skin of the officers, which was just fine by Shamus.  What wasn’t fine was when Shamus noticed that Francisco started to question all the other guardsmen Shamus had been serving with over those few weeks.

Eventually the Inquisitor corned Shamus directly. Shamus had to admit, this man was pretty sharp.  He had already pieces together Shmaus’ involvement with the Minotaurs and his brush with the Dark Angels.  He was primarily interested in Shamus’ old sergeant.  Shamus was reluctant to talk until Francisco offered Shamus something he could not refuse.  Purpose.  Francisco offered to take Shamus with him off this world as part of his retinue in exchange for whatever information Shamus had.

That’s how Shamus ended up here, in the strike cruiser of Inquistor Francisco.  Sometimes he had trouble believing it himself.  He had seen a fair amount of action after joining the Inquisitor.  He had grown a grudging respect for the man and the other members of the retinue he had served with.  He often came out from his quarters in the evening to swap war stories with the other unfortunate souls.

This evening’s discussion was focused on the legend of the Spawn of the Void.  According to Arthur, it is a veritable cornucopia of lost treasures.  Then again Arthur was a former hive ganger, and would tell you he once shook hands with The Emperor if he thought you would believe him.  The pessimist of the group, Donivan, swore he was part of a salvage crew that spotted the infamous hulk once.  When there ship got close, their asupex light up with signatures.  Donivan swore he could hear the orks bellowing before their ship finally aborted their approach to the hulk.

There was one thing that Shamus could say definitively about the Spawn of the Void.  It was somehow able to broadcast a signal.  The Inquisitor apparently once managed to scan the hulk before it fell into the void.  It gave of a unique vox signature and psychic signature.  This signatures were unique in two ways.  They were low intensity, so you had to know what you were looking for if you stood a chance at finding them.  Second, they seemed to be incredibly long ranged, able to be detected from sectors away.  This alone was worth of investigation.

Last month, the Spawn of the Void had fallen out of the void near the Damocles Gulf.  When word reach Inquisitor Francisco, they had re-routed the Indomitable Zeal.  Shamus and the other crew were not able to get much more information out of Francisco about their specific mission goals.  All he knew was this was damned important to the Inquisitor.  Francisco promised that he would give them a detailed mission brief when they arrived in the system.

That never sat well with Shamus. He had learned a few things about Franscico.  One of those things was the more dangerous the mission, the less Francisco would tell them before they deployed.  But there was nothing Shamus could do now but sit back and take a swig of the cheap amesec they had on board.  Just two more months before they were supposed to be in system.

Donivan and Arthur were still going on about the Spawn of the Void.  Shamus was so bored of their story, he finally felt forced to interject something of his own to change the subject.  Grinning and leaning into the table, Shamus said “Enough of this shit about the Spawn of the Void.  Did I ever tell you guys about the time I saw Fransico steal a land raider from the Ultramarines?”

Beachhead

At long last, here is the latest installment of our “Battle for Tarandros” narrative campaign series. If you missed earlier parts of the tale, find out what happened here: Introduction, Plantefall- Part 1, Planetfall- Part 2, Planetfall- Part 3

Having defeated every foe to cross his path, Captain Titus led his Ultramarines towards the heart of the dilapidated ruins of what was once a mighty hive city of the Imperium. The time had come for him to complete his true mission. From fragmented records that had survived since the days of the Great Crusade, the Ultramarine Librarius had learned that a store of Astartes gene-seed had been kept deep within the city’s secret vaults. The Imperium Reclamation fleet’s vanguard was ordered to invade Tarandros in order to clear the surrounding area and buy time for Titus to achieve his goal. If the planet could also be returned to the light of the Emperor, all the better.

Commissar Decanus was one of the few that knew the real reason that so many resources had been mobilized to this barren rock. Besides the Ultramarines, three Astartes Chapters had made an appearance in this theatre: The Blood Angels, Carcharodons and Astral Claws. From his command Chimera he monitored vox traffic and read scouting reports. Commissar Nemo’s men guarded the northern part of the city, while Decanus was tasked to fortify the desert highlands to the south. Despite the slaughter that the Astartes had wrought upon them, everything indicated that the orks were massing an immense counter attack. So far though, there had been no sign of it. The Guardsmen had expected an attack the day before, but night had fallen uneventfully and all was quiet.

That changed very quickly. Decanus first heard of the enemy’s arrival through panicked shouts emanating from outside his vehicle. Immediately, the aged Commissar reached for his command panel and took control of one of his remote servo-skull observers. The macabre machine hovered above a rock outcrop several yards above the Command Chimera. As far as it’s mechanized eyes could see into the early morning gloom, the horizon was drenched in the sweaty hides of savage greenskins. Most of the orks were on foot, but Decanus heard as much as saw, great lumbering vehicles racing alongside the horde, their mismatched armored plates rattling loudly in the wind. Without a moment’s hesitation, the seasoned Commissar ordered his Basilisk battery to open fire. Although the darkness severely hampered the artillery’s range, the enemy was everywhere.

Soon, the Imperial Guard’s lines roared into life. The potency of their firepower was so great, that it illuminated the night as a false dawn. The advancing orks were smashed mercilessly by the barrage. Many of the shots went wide, but the greenskins still died in droves. Yet their mobs fearlessly kept on coming. As they approached, Decanus’ servo-skulls revealed a squadron of three killa-kans lumbering forwards on his right, pointlessly firing their crude weapons despite being far beyond their effective range. Ork boyz trudged along with them, trying to keep their distance from the the walkers’ clumsy strides. So tight was the press of bodies, that several orks had nowhere to run when the kans mis-stepped, and were crushed by the walkers’ huge mechanized feet.

On the far right of the imperium’s gun line, a Battle Wagon raced forwards, its awkwardly attached deff rolla flattening everything in its path. The ork vehicle was heading directly towards a squadron of Lehman Russ battle tanks. Their mighty ordnance fired upon the advancing orks, but the Battle Wagon’s armored plates somehow held firm. The Guardsmen gunners were powerless as the ork vehicle rammed into them with full force. The force of impact reduced a Lehman Russ to a smoldering ruin.

Elsewhere on the field, the Imperium fared no better. The left flank was held by ten of the mighty Adeptus Astartes from the Blood Angels chapter. With great courage and tenacity did they charge head-long into the green tide that threatened to drown the Imperial Guard. Long did they endure, filling the air with the sweet song of their bolt-pistols and the fearsome roar of their chain-swords. But it was not to last. Though they sold their lives dearly, the orks were too many, and eventually the Space Marines were slain to a man. Dismayed, but unbroken, the Guardsmen fought on, pouring their ever-shrinking firepower into the ork masses.

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From the deck if his Battle Wagon, Kap’n Klaw roared with joy at the destruction that his mighty Waaagh had wrought. All around him the sands of Tarandros were awash with the blood of combatants and its dry air filled the pervasive music of battle. From deep within his primal instincts, came the knowledge that the time was right. The ork warlord stomped one of his mighty legs on the front edge of his transport and let loose a titanic bellow:

WWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

From their leader’s lungs came the ultimate call to war. Though the cry itself had no intrinsic meaning, it carried the very essence of what it was to be an ork. Klaw’s various warbosses responded immediately with cries of their own. Every greenskin on the field was filled with murderous inspiration and the inescapable urge to kill. Without hesitation, each of them echoed their Boss’ war cry. Even the thunder of the mighty Basilisk artillery was drowned out by the ensuing cacophony. As one, the ork tide surge forward, and crashed mercilessly into the battered lines of the Imperium.

In the skies above, twin Dakka jets flew erratically towards the humies’ armored column. They unleashed their guns in a relentless storm of bullets, crazed by their leader’s war cry. Even at their great height, the voice of Kap’n Klaw could be heard clearly. Caught in the cross-fire, a Chimera transport burst into flames, forcing its passengers to perform an emergency disembarkation. From his vantage point, Klaw could barely make out the shapes of the survivors, but amongst them was humie wearing an enormous red hat and wielding a puny Klaw. Sensing that this must be the enemy leader, Kap’n Klaw leapt from his transport.

But before he could move towards this foe, Warboss Zug and his boyz had already fallen upon the hapless umie, and whatever was left of his squad. None survived. Disappointed, Kap’n Klaw searched the field for a worthy opponent. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. To his left, Klaw could hear the unmistakeable gurgling noise of a shock-attack gun being loaded. Frustrated by the lack of opposition, Kap’n Klaw turned to watch what would happen next. He had found that the effects of this weapon are always amusing, and he was not disappointed. Somehow, the Big Mek managed to get himself caught by the weapon’s own feeder and was sucked into that “tranzdamentunal” chamber that he was always so proud of. With a surprised yelp, the Mek was fired, through the warp, by his own weapon and re-appeared directly in front of a stunned group of umies.

Kap’n Klaw roared with laughter at the sight of this, as did his entire bodyguard of nobz. The surprised Mek flailed desperately as he tried to fight off the enemy. But he was quickly cut down. With his amusement over, the ork Warlord realized that the fight was mostly over. There had been no sight of the great Space Mahreens that he had heard so much about. Hopefully he would find them inside the ruined city.

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News of the ork attack had reached the Blood Angel strike cruiser with time to spare, but the skies above the great carcass of the ancient hive city were obstructed by warp storms. Once again, the eldrich lightning had come without warning. Brother Aquilus, who had borne Chaplain Malkor’s doomed relief force, sought to pilot his Storm Raven into the theatre of battle. Chapter doctrine taught the sons of Sanguinius not to mourn the passing of those succumbed to the black rage, but the loss of such a mighty and pious Chaplain as Malkor was a grievous wound to the Chapter. Try as he might, the experienced pilot could find no breach in the wretched weather. He had no doubt now, that the corrupting hands of demonic entities had shaped this barrier. Unable to mask his frustration any longer, Brother Aquilus turned to Chaplain Sebastian for guidance.

Though the storm hampered communications, they were close enough to receive fragmented vox signals. By sporadic screams and terrified calls for aid, Sebastian knew that the plight of the Imperial Guardsmen. The fact that he had heard naught but silence from his brothers below, bespoke of their grim fate. Two Bhaal Predators awaited the Storm Raven’s arrival, so that they may perform a decisive coordinated attack. Unwilling to delay any longer, the Chaplain gave the order for the vehicles to complete their outflanking maneuvers and to consume the Xenos filth with purifying gouts of flame.

Accelerating to full speed, the two Bhaal predators burst through cover, one at each of the enemy’s flanks. Their heavy flamers roasted dozens of orks with their mighty promethium. But the damage they dealt was too little, and it had come too late. It was not long before their noble hulls were overwhelmed by the battle-crazed savages, and rent asunder. By the time Brother Aquilus was able to navigate the treacherous warp storms, nothing remained of the Imperium’s forces. The ork horde had slain all. Smoldering with rage, Chaplain Sebastian had no choice but to order the pilot to make the return journey. The Storm Raven’s deadly cargo would be disgorged at another time, when the death company’s sacrifice would achieve more than futile vengeance. Their day would come. Honor would be satisfied.

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Elsewhere, upon the Eastern fringes of the city’s dilapidated ruins, the Alpha Legion continued to blaze a bloody path through the Imperium’s defenders. This time, they were opposed by more than mere men: Adeptus Astartes of both the Carcharodons and Astral Claws Chapters had been entrusted to halt the advance of any foe. But the traitor marines were not alone. From tears in the fabric of reality itself daemonic hosts poured onto the battlefield. The combined forces of Chaos proved too much for the Imperium’s forces. Despite their valiant efforts, all of the defenders were cut down, and the agents of the Dark Gods stormed through the breach and into the city proper. Sensing that their prize was near, the Alpha Legionnaires surged forth triumphantly. Who could stop them now?

Lore in the 40k Universe

First off, apologies for the delay in posting the narrative for Part 2 of our “Battle for Tarandros” series. Work has been insane these past three weeks and all of my limited free time has been consumed by other pursuits. But I will definitely get to it before our next narrative event.

In the meantime, I thought I would share my thoughts about the Lore of Warhammer 40,000, or “fluff” as it is more commonly referred to (a term that still makes me cringe, though I too have begun using it).

One of the first things that drew me into the hobby (both Fantasy and 40k), was the concept that each army has a personality. Much like any role playing game, you pick the army that resonates with you. Either because they match your character, have an interesting backstory, or the internet told you it would make you win (by far the least inspired choice).

All of the factions in the game are fictional, to be sure, but they all come from the human imagination, which means that they are each infused with qualities that we can relate to, an “essence” if you will.

For example, I love Eldar. If I was forced to choose 10 armies to play (and given the proverbial infinite monies), I would have one from each Craftworld, a corsair force and Dark Eldar army, before even considering an alien race to play. In actuality, I play only Ulthwé, because it embodies everything that I would expect a great civilization to possess; elegance, intelligence, wisdom, tenacity, and the courage to fight even against impossible odds. Every other race in the 40k universe seems crude by comparison.

That is not to say that I have strong negative feelings against every other race. Being Italian, anything inspired on the Roman Empire makes me happy, but the rampant ignorance and dogmatic superstition of the Imperium prevent it from being my faction of choice. Also, as you may have noticed from my narratives, I am quite capable of “getting in character,” no matter what models I am moving about. Eldar is simply my preference…by leaps and bounds…

However, 40k is extremely Imperium centric. Unlike Fantasy, where the lore is fairly balanced, easily 80% of the media (outside of codexi) produced by Games Workshop is by the Imperium, for the Imperium. To be fair, this is probably as much a function of the fact that it is the dominant force in the galaxy, as that of being the origin of most armies in the game.

So the disparity makes sense, but it definitely does make the rest of us feel a little left out. I was ecstatic when the Path of the Eldar trilogy came out, in addition to the lore contained within the Iyanden supplement. But that is pretty much it, aside from some cameo appearances in other stories (I am purposefully ignoring the existence of the Carnac Campaign short stories).

To be sure, the Horus Heresy is a massive undertaking, that is consuming much, if not most, of the Black Library’s resources. Hopefully when it ends, there will be an opportunity for some attention to the other non-human (or human adjacent) races of the galaxy. For my part, having an amazing codex definitely makes up for the lack of lore…though I still pray to Isha for an Ulthwé Supplement…

Ultimately though, the stories are what allow me to immerse myself into the “essence” of my favorite armies, and where most of my enjoyment of the game comes from. I know that many players could care less about the “fluff, ” which is fine. I suggest only that it might be worth exploring this dimension of the game, as it might enhance your experience of it.

Planetfall: Part 3

Holographic displays recreated the last moments of the battle between the Ultramarines and the Tau. Warlock Sereth watched distastefully as the Tau leader attempted to transmit the data that his infernal device had acquired. “These methods are barbaric! The device must be destroyed.” He said, unequivocally. Hidden in the webway; a realm between the warp and the materium, the elegant Ulthwé warship Asredil was invisible to the belligerents upon the nearby world of Tarandros. Within the vessel’s meditation chamber, a heated debate was underway.

“They are a young race, Sereth. They do not fully comprehend what it is that they meddle with.” Farseer Erethentil retorted. The warlock was not dissuaded “even so, it is our duty to protect the younger races from their own folly. These manipulations can only serve to draw the attention of the Hive Mind” Sereth insisted. “Can we risk open war with the Tau? Has it not been seen that they are our best hope for survival?” asked Warlock Lenea. Having remained silent thus far, Farseer Aramel answered “the Seer Council of Ulthwé has indeed determined that the Eldar must align themselves with the Tau Empire. Only together can we hope to stand against the dark powers. However, this does not mean that we can allow their youthful curiosity to drive them along a familiar, ruinous path.”

Erethentil nodded in agreement “fortunately, the Ultramarine Captain prevented the Tau leader from transmitting the emitter’s collected data” he said. “But it was not destroyed!” complained Warlock Sereth. “The mon-keigh fools did not even notice that it existed. They slew all without bothering to discover why the Tyranid creatures could fall under another’s control!” he continued. “Surely those that wrought this device will seek to recover it.” Aramel sighed before responding “sadly, that is the way of the Astartes. They live only for war, much like the Exarchs of our race. Little interests them beyond battle and defending their empire.” Sereth scoffed “what empire? their power has no serious opposition in this galaxy and yet they can barely hold their crumbling government together! What are these mon-keigh defending? They have no culture to speak of, except for their fanatical devotion to their corpse emperor!”

“You go too far Warlock!” Aramel said sternly. “The Crippled King does more for the war against Chaos than you can possibly imagine! You have walked the path of the Seer for only a brief while. If you cannot participate in our councils civilly, then perhaps you walk the wrong path.” He added. Cowed, the young warlock apologized “I am sorry, Farseer Aramel, I spoke without thinking. I allowed my passions to overcome my sense.” Aramel nodded. “Our emotions can serve us well, but there is a time and a place for each of them. It is well that you recognize this” he said. “We should influence events against the recovery of this device if possible. But open conflict with the Tau should be avoided” voiced Erethentil, eager to return the discussion to the topic at hand. “Agreed” the other Seers said, unanimously.

Suddenly, the mind of every Seer present was touched by another’s. It was Farseer Ithiniael, communicating telepathically from his diplomatic quarters aboard the Tau flagship in high orbit above Darkstar Sept. “It is I, Farseer Ithiniael. May I address this Council?” he asked. Though everyone knew his identity, decorum demanded that the ritual words be spoken. Every mind within the meditation chamber consented to Ithiniael’s intrusion. “I have spoken to Commander Darkstar’s Ethereal, Aun’ro” the Farseer mind-spoke. His message was conveyed not just in words, but also in emotion and images of his summit with the Tau leadership. “It would seem that the Tau’s sensors have detected the approach of the Alpha Legion, and recognize this threat. We have been granted permission to enter the Tau Empire’s sovereign soil of Tarandros, and are invited to joint-operations with Tau forces to expel the forces of Chaos. However, Aun’ro expressed great dismay at the uninvited arrival of Imperium forces to this system. Particularly given that the Imperium’s ‘reclamation fleet’ far exceeds their colonization armada. The Tau respectfully request our aid in expelling the Imperium interlopers. In spite of this, he made no mention of the open hostilities between the Tau and Adeptus Astartes.”

The gathered Eldar psykers were not surprised to learn this. The new Tau weapon, that allowed limited control over Tyranid forces, was obviously a closely held secret. The Tau would not risk revealing its existence, even to would-be allies. Quite familiar with intrigue, the Eldar had no intention of pressing the matter. “Is it wise to antagonize the mon-keigh by joining forces with the Tau against them?” Lenea asked with her mind. “We have already examined the skein thoroughly. All favorable futures require collaboration with the Tau” mind-spoke Erethentil. “The Tau Commander Boldstrike is tasked with securing an abandoned industrial sector” added Aramel. “Unbeknownst to him, the Imperium forces count with the support of the Dark Angels. Without our aid, he is doomed to fail. Under cover of darkness, we can descend upon the humans and disrupt their communications. Their leaders will believe that only the Tau were responsible for their demise” the Farseer continued.

“Farseer Aramel and I will lead the strike force. Warlocks Lenea, Sereth and Naril will join us. Farseer Ithiniael will remain with the Tau” mind-spoke Erethentil. Psychically, the gathered Council expressed its unanimous agreement. The Eldar seers aboard the Asredil felt Ithiniael’s mind depart. “What of Farseer Maceil?” asked Lenea. The two Farseers looked uncertain. A force of Eldar from Craftworld Windu had made contact with them as soon as they had reached the Sorathian webway network. It was they that had warned the Ulthwé Seers of the approach of Chaos to Tarandros. Maceil had led his own strike force to the planet surface, but none aboard the Asredil had heard from him again. The skein was strangely clouded to all inquiries into the Farseer’s fate. “For now, knowledge of our kin’s whereabouts is beyond us. We must hope that he is well, and focus on the task at hand. Fate will no doubt reveal the truth, in time” said Aramel. With that, the Coucil session was adjourned, and the Seers destined to do battle went to don their arms and armor.

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The Imperial Guard 678th Cadian Armored division had been ordered to reclaim Tarandros’ industrial sector in the name of the Emperor. Their landing transports had reached the planet surface soon after the Ultramarine spearhead pierced the ork horde. They spent the remainder of the day mopping up the rag-tag bands of savages that had taken up residence in the ruins of an ancient Manufactorum. As the sun set, enormous abandoned cranes cast long shadows on the Guardsmen below.

A portion of the division was ordered to patrol the perimeter. This force consisted of two Hellhounds, two Chimera transports filled with veteran Guardsmen, a squadron of two Flakk tanks and a squadron of two Lehman Russ battle tanks. They were joined by Adeptus Astartes of the Dark Angel chapter. None of the Guardsmen had been notified of their arrival, they had simply appeared, seemingly intent on joining the patrol. This made Guardsman Yorik nervous. He had heard tales of the mysterious Dark Angels. It was said that they always follow their own agenda and are utterly ruthless in the service of the Emperor. But they would not travel all this way just to kill orks. Something more must be afoot and the possibilities gave Yorik chills.

The Guardsman’s musings were interrupted by a loud explosion. He peered out of one of his Chimera’s firing grate and saw that something had turned the nearest Hellhound into a smoldering ruin. The vehicle burned brightly in the night, but there was no sign of the attacker. On instinct, the Cadian forces fired their considerable armament in the direction they believed that the enemy shot had come from. Yorik’s world shook as his transport’s gunner opened fire with his multi-laser armament. At least some of the shots struck home, for the Chimera’s search lights zeroed in on the target. The illuminating beams revealed the hull of a black-painted skimmer, of unmistakably Eldar design. The Lehman Russ behemoths lumbered onwards, unleashing their battle cannons upon the revealed enemy vehicle. But the skimmer was moving too fast for the Imperial gunners, and the shots went wide. Eldar walkers revealed themselves with a torrent of laser fire. They pelted the advancing Dark Angel bikers with their scattered beams of light, before racing back into the gloom, out of reach of Imperial guns. To his horror, Yorik saw that five mighty Astartes bikers fell to this barrage.

The Chimera’s vox exploded with a stream of curses. “Hammerhead sighted…bring it down boys!” someone shouted authoritatively, probably the battle psyker that Commissar Nemo had left in charge. “Call for air support!” someone transmitted. “Outbound communications are down. Can’t reach Command” another replied. From his vantage point, Yorik could not make out the Tau forces, but he did hear the unmistakeable rumble of a heavy rail gun. Tau weaponry featured heavily in guardsman training-vids. Its first shot smashed into the front armor of a Lehman Russ, but its adamantium plates held strong. The other Chimera was not so fortunate and was wrecked by the Tau battle tank’s next volley. Yorik could see a triad of the infamous Crisis suits rise from the rubble using their jet packs. From the air, they sent streams of missiles and plasma fire into the Astartes bikers, only to disappear into the ruins to reload.

From the frantic vox communications, Yorik learned that the second Hellhound had moved up the right flank and begun to roast the Xenos hiding in the ruins. The painful screech of metal brought the guardsman’s attention back to the battle nearby. One Lehman Russ had finally succumbed to the Tau and Eldar combined firepower. Unexpectedly, bright bursts of light lanced into the Dark Angels’ land speeder from above. This was followed by a barely perceptible stream of projectiles. This proved too much for the vehicle and it was torn asunder, violently forcing the Astartes pilots out of their seats and throwing them several yards away from their destroyed land speeder. Clearly these shots had come from a flyer, but if it had made any noise during its arrival, Yorik had not heard it. The Flakk tank squadron immediately opened fire. Looking up through the Chimera’s top hatch, the Yorik finally saw the enemy flyer. Its hull was black, just as the skimmer that he had seen earlier. It made impossible maneuvers as it tried to jink out of the torrent of Flakk fire. But the Cadian anti-air tanks were unrelenting and eventually struck home. Bright sparks erupted from the flyer’s fuselage and one of its wings began to trail smoke. Although the flyer was not destroyed, it turned and flew out of the combat zone.

The guardsman had no time to celebrate this small victory. Another Eldar skimmer began to move towards his Chimera at impossible speed. His gunner fired at it with all available weapons, to no avail. The next thing Yorik knew, the Eldar vehicle was right next to him. Enemy artillery hidden in a ruined building fired directly at him. The weapons emitted arcane waves of supersonic sound. When these hit the Chimera’s hull, the entire vehicle began to vibrate uncontrollably. Within moments, the chassis was ripped apart, and the passengers were forced to disembark. Yorik and his fellow guardsmen climbed out of the wreckage, only to be greeted by a volley of laser fire. The guardsmen were cut down where they stood, until only four members of their squad remained. Seeing that the left flank was crumbling, their Sergeant ordered them to fall back. As Yorik scrambled to follow the remnants of his squad, he was struck in the back by a laser blast. Immediately he felt his body paralyze, and then his world went black.

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Aramel’s wave serpent glided to a halt just past the destroyed human vehicle. The attack was proceeding just as he had foreseen. Several Tau had fallen but, so far, no Eldar lives had been lost. Throughout the battle, Farseer Erethentil had guided the war-walker squadron, allowing them to perform their vital role of neutralizing the Dark Angels. He also used his powers of prescience to direct the guardians controlling the unit of Vibrocannon artillery that he had joined. Thanks to his guidance, the support battery was able to destroy several of the human vehicles. By now, only a handful of space marines and their lesser brethren remained. The two remaining vehicles would soon fall to the Tau onslaught. The carnage was unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Once the designated position was reached, the wave serpent’s door opened and the disembarkation ramp descended with a gentle hiss. Aramel’s unit of Storm Guardians drew their weapons and started to move out of the transport. The Farseer walked with them and was joined by warlock Sereth. Before they were able to exit the wave serpent, however, Aramel sensed a disturbance in the warp. A presence had entered realspace earlier this day and only now, that it had been momentarily cast back into the warp, was it forced to reveal itself. By his expression, Sereth had sensed it too. But he knew not the perils that lurk in the warp. Even as Farseer Aramel shouted at him with both mind and voice to stop, the bold warlock gazed through the raw warp at the servant of Tzeench. What he saw, consumed him. The titanic truth of the greater daemon’s presence within the warp was too much for Sereth to bear. His physical body could not withstand the vast psychic pressures that his mind had forced upon it, and he fell, lifeless.

Aramel’s heart was heavy as he gently placed the young warlock’s glowing soul stone in a special container within the transport. Perhaps this fate could have been avoided, but any future becomes uncertain when the changer of ways plays his hand. The Farseer chanted a quiet prayer to Isha, then donned his ghosthelm and joined the Storm Guardians on the planet surface. Wary, he reached into a pouch within his robes and began to cast his wraithbone carved runes and divined the possible futures to come. Using the specially designed ammunition intended for this mission, the warriors of Ulthwé fired their pistols at the last remaining Astartes.

Xxx...Expunged Security-vid Record...xxX

Xxx…Expunged Security-vid Record…xxX

Just as the last one fell, Aramel saw a future where the three fleeing humans nearby opened fire upon his Guardians. He saw over half of his ten-strong squad being consumed by flames. As the moment approached, the Farseer forewarned his squad members. Many jumped out of the flamer’s path before the bearer had even fired. Yet still three Storm Guardians fell, either dead or badly injured by the searing gouts of flame. Whilst the casualties were rushed back onto the wave serpent, the two guardians bearing fusion guns fired at their attackers, vaporizing the three humans in their tracks. All imminent threats having been neutralized, Aramel walked towards the group of Astartes that had fallen in the ruins ahead, located at the furthest edge of the Imperium’s collapsed left flank. The Farseer walked to a specific point in the rubble, and used his telepathic powers to raise the heavy slabs of fallen metal. With an effort of will, he found his buried objective, and wrested it from deep within the ground.

Aramel had unearthed an old human sensor array. It still functioned, as he knew it would, despite the centuries of disuse. He examined the device, but did not tamper with it. He placed it in the middle of a clearing within the ruins. After some time, he was joined by Warlock Lenea and her team of Black Guardians. They were followed by small automated hover-platforms, which carried the Dark Angel bikers, that had all fallen during the battle. With her hand, the Warlock led yet another hover-platform, this one carrying a device very similar to that excavated by Aramel. When she reached the Farseer, Lenea bowed her head and made a gesture of mourning for Sereth’s passing. The Farseer nodded and reciprocated the hand motion. “When will they awaken?” Lenea asked, referring to the ceramite-clad giants. “Fairly soon” replied Aramel, “our war walker’s scatter-lasers were modified to overload their nervous systems. I imagine that they will regain consciousness before day-break” he continued. “As for the toxin used by our Storm Guardians in place of their pistols’ shuriken fuel…It may be as effective. I obtained it from Archon Oberon. He owed me a favor.” Lenea nodded, but she was far from convinced. Their dark cousins made it very difficult for Craftwold Eldar to trust them.

Soon after, Aramel received a telepathic message from Farseer Erethentil. The Tau had been persuaded to relinquish control of the third sensor array. However, they knew nothing of the Space Marines’ survival and assumed that all had perished. Together, the three arrays will provide incontrovertible proof of the Alpha Legion’s presence within the Sorathian System and offer a clear indication of its movements on Tarandros itself. Once the arrays were in place, and the unconscious Astartes carefully deposited on the earth nearby, the protectors of Ulthwé prepared to leave. Before they parted, Lenea asked Aramel “could we not have simply told the shadowy mon-keigh that their quarry was here?” He smiled sadly. Though she could not see this through the Farseer’s helm, his mood was captured in the tone of his reply “alas, this is the only way in which Captain Tomas of the Dark Angels would believe our message. We explored countless futures before deciding on this course, but humans are very distrustful of alien species. This one in particular, would never accept that our warnings rung true. Thus, only the technology of his own people would suffice to guide him.”

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Guardsman Yorik was completely disoriented as he regained consciousness. He rose from the dirt and felt about his uniform for a wound, but did not find any. Though he distinctly remembered being struck in the back, he had somehow survived the same lethal weapon that had annihilated the mighty Adeptus Astartes bike squad. Yorik looked about, searching for friend and foe. Of the enemy, there was no sign. In the distance he heard the moaning of wounded Guardsmen. Occasionally Yorik would hear orders being barked, though he could not make out the words. It was probably that psyker again. All else was eerie quiet. As he searched his surroundings, he was very surprised to see a sizable contingent of Dark Angels congregating within the closest ruined building. These reinforcements must have routed the Xenos scum, the Guardsman reasoned. Carefully making his way through the rubble, Yorik moved in their direction.

When he was only a short distance away, Yorik could see three ancient machines placed in a semi-circle within the ruins. Standing before it, a Space Marine with finely decorated armor held a tiny disc-like object in his armored left hand. Yorik imagined that this must be the Dark Angel Captain. Before the Guardsman’s eyes, a holographic image projected itself from the strange device. It appeared to be a recording of some sort. It displayed a thin,robed, figure that began to speak. “Greetings Captain Tomas. I am Farseer Aramel of Craftworld Ulthwé.” The Eldar spoke Imperium basic with a strange accent. The words were clear and precise, but the inflection sounded forced and bizarre.

“Apologies for the subterfuge” the Eldar continued “it was the only way that we could retrieve these devices. Without them, you would not heed our warnings. Those you hunt are here. Know that they are our enemy also, and that we mean you no harm.” When the message ended, Captain Tomas crushed the projecting device in his fist. “Surely we cannot trust the Xenos scum?!” Blurted out Guardsman Yorik. The nearest Space Marine walked towards him, until he towered above Yorik. “Identify yourself Guardsman” he commanded. “Yes my lord!” Yorik exclaimed as he saluted. He then proceeded to stammer his name, rank and serial number. The super-human colossus nodded in acknowledgement “very well, Guardsman, you have served the Emperor well. Return to your unit” he commanded. “Yes my lord!” Yorik replied and went to rejoin the other Imperial Guard survivors. He had only taken a few steps when he heard shots fired nearby. He turned to see what was happening, only to come face to face with the Dark Angel’s bolt-pistol. Before he could say anything, the Astartes pulled the trigger.

Elsewhere, Chaos Lord Croxius lurked in the shadows, mounted upon his colossal warbike. The rest of his squad waited patiently behind him. In the distance, two Rhinos painted in Ultramarine colors rumbled toward an Imperial Guard checkpoint. The fools stood between Croxius and his goal. His misguided Astartes brothers had come seeking ancient gene-seed, to create more drones to serve the false emperor. “But they would not have it!” Croxius thought. The hated loyalist marines had hoarded his birthright for far too long. He would liberate the gene-seed and at long last the Legion would be allowed to grow, and engulf all of the Gods’ enemies. For this, he would be richly rewarded.

As soon as the Rhino transports came within sight of the Guardsmen, they were illuminated by several search lights. A vox-projector came to life with a loud burst of static “My lords!” exclaimed a nervous sounding Guardsman, “your Captain Titus has instructed us to ensure that none pass this point. We knew not to expect any Astartes from outside the perimeter” he continued. “Kindly speak the words of passage, and we shall hinder you no further” the Guardsman explained. Both transports activated their dirge casters. “For the Emperor!” twenty baritone voices shouted at the top of their genetically enhanced lungs. “Ah…indeed” replied the Guardsman, “but those are not quite the established words…if you…” At that point, the Rhinos accelerated to full speed and started to race towards the Imperial Guard lines. At the same time, their dirge casters began emitting a continuous stream of inhuman wailing and other disturbing, incomprehensible sounds.

Lord Croxius smiled wickedly as realization dawned upon the hapless humans. Thanks to the daemonic gifts that enhanced his already considerable Astartes physiology, he could hear the Guardsmen’s cries of terror. “Traitor marines!” Many of them shouted in shrill voices. The dirge casters’ symphonies were doing their work. The Imperial Guard scrambled to fire their guns at the advancing Rhinos, but it was too late. The chaos lord and his bikers revved their engines into a deafening roar and crashed onto the open cityscape, bellowing war cries and brandishing their cruel, daemon-morphed weapons. A pair of obliterators manifested out of the raw warp and unleashed powerful bolts of las-cannon fire upon the nearest enemy vehicle. The destructive beams burned deep holes into the Guardsman tank, turning it into a useless wreck.

As the chaos bikers rampaged across the battlefield, the Imperial Guard focused their firepower upon them. Two of their number were eventually shot off of their saddle, but Chroxius cared not. He hungered for carnage. Finally he reached the enemy’s lines and charged into the ranks of Guardsman infantry. They posed no real threat to the mighty chaos lord and he reveled in their slaughter. A demonic howl form above signaled a Helldrake’s arrival. It descended upon the puny mortals and bathed them in the glorious flames of Chaos. Meanwhile, the Alpha Legion warriors had jumped out of their camouflaged Rhinos. Together with the obliterators’ heavy weapons, they lay waste to the Guardsman infantry and armor.

Croxius gloried in his impending victory. The surprise of his attack had been complete, and the servants of the false emperor were being swept away like wheat before the scythe. The chaos lord was so consumed with thoughts of his inevitable ascension, that he failed to notice that the weight of Guardsman firepower was taking its toll on his squad. By the time he finished butchering a squad of guardsmen with his chain-sword, he found himself alone. It mattered not. He had been chosen by the Gods. Croxius knew with absolute certainty that no mortal weapon could harm him. He revved his bike’s engines once more and charged headlong into the last remaining squad of Guardsmen.

Hundreds of lasgun beams rained upon him. Croxius laughed at these pathetic attempts to slay him and accelerated. When he was almost face to face with this fresh enemy, the chaos lord sought to raise his chain-sword above his head. Inexplicably, his mighty muscles refused to comply. With all of his will, Croxius commanded his limb to move, but it would not budge. “What trickery is this?!” He wanted to bellow, but found that he had no voice. Unable to control his bike, Croxius was powerless to prevent his deviation into a pile of rubble. He crashed into it and was violently thrown off of his saddle. As he lied on his back, unable to move, the chaos lord realized that he was dying. Enslaved by his own bloodlust and thirst for power, Croxius had led his squad, alone, into the heart of the enemy forces. Heedless to his grievous wounds, he had fought on. Now, Croxius’ broken body was damaged far beyond its ability to heal. In his mind, the chaos lord howled in rage. But soon, his life-force was utterly spent. Somewhere within the warp, a Greater Daemon of Tzeench roared with laughter.

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Captain Tomas witnessed the complete annihilation of the Imperial Guard’s forces at the hands of the Alpha Legion. With his bike squad, Tomas had used the data retrieved from the sensor arrays to locate the Fallen. Having seen them with his own eyes, the Dark Angel was forced to accept that the Xenos had spoken truthfully, at least in part. He turned to one of his squad members and said “Librarian Darwyn must know of this. Inform him that our quarry has been found.” The marine nodded “it shall be done my captain. Also, Commissar Nemo wishes to know what befell the forces stationed at the abandoned manufactorum.” The Captain replied immediately “tell him that there were no survivors. The Tau slew all before we could intervene.”

Chapter 1: Rising Tide

An ugly planet, an ORK planet!

An ugly planet, an ORK planet!

A great noise startled Zug. The ork had never heard such a sound and looked around in confusion. The scarred earth around him showed no signs of disturbance. The noise came a second time, exploding in the feral ork’s ears. This time Zug distinctly sensed that the unfamiliar commotion came from above, which was odd, because nothing came from above. Except for tasty birds, now and then. The ork looked up and was amazed by what he saw.

A great, shiny, yellow rock was plunging towards him, with a great black plume of smoke trailing behind it. Too mesmerized to do anything, Zug just stood there as the object plummeted to the ground at incredible speed. Impossibly, it slowed only a few tree lengths from the ground and smashed against the ground with a heavy thud only a short distance from where the ork stood. Sensing that this rock might somehow be important, Zug raced towards it. Mebbe diz rock make gud chopaz! The ork thought to himself. Boss wud be soo pleazed!

When he reached the shimmering object, Zug stopped at arm’s length from its strange surface. As he looked, Zug was alarmed by the sight of another ork staring back at him from the rock. “Oi!” he bellowed, “wot ya doin in dat rock?” Zug demanded. The strange ork made no sound, but opened his mouth and waved his arms menacingly, so Zug swung his club and smashed it right into the other ork’s face. The weapon shattered on impact. The other ork seemed unharmed, but looked extremely puzzled. Suddenly a hissing sound emanated from the shiny rock in front of Zug. Before he had time to react, a large sliver of the object came crashing down on top of the feral ork.

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Cap’n Klaw raised a single orky eyebrow. The gangplank had just said Oww. It didn’t usually do that. Must be the mek messing with him. Klaw would bash his funny head in later. With a happy roar, the ork pirate jumped onto the surface of Tarandros. His boyz followed eagerly, stomping noisily down the gangplank. But the steel slab used by the ork pirates as an entrance ramp kept making strange whimpering noises.

“Right, I’ve bout had enuf o dis!” shouted Cap’n Klaw, and trudged over to the gangplank. The giant ork shoved a pair of boyz that were standing on the plank out-of-the-way and lifted the metal with a grunt of effort. Beneath, he found the bruised shape of a mostly naked ork. With his Dakka hand, Klaw grasped the poor sod by the neck and lifted him up to the Cap’n enormous head. “Oi!” Klaw roared, shaking the ork “are you alive?” he demanded. His chest no longer crushed by hundreds of pounds of ork and metal, Zug was able to breathe again, somewhat. He coughed and sputtered, slowly regaining consciousness.

When Zug finally opened his eyes, he was face to face with the biggest, meanest looking ork that he had ever seen. In vain he tried to struggle and free himself. Red beady eyes peered at him intensely, completely unnerving the feral ork. Cap’n Klaw inspected the wretch from head to toe, and recognized the brute for what he was. He dumped Zug on the ground, but threatened him with his massive power klaw, to make sure he would not run off. “Me name’s Cap’n Klaw! Me an me space boyz iz startin a grand propa Waaaaagggghhh! I came ere to gather up any real orks wot wants a gud fight! Where iz your boss?” the pirate shouted. “Ugghh…Err…youze da boss…Boss.” Zug replied nervously.

The orky pirate captain roared with laughter and slapped his newest boy on the back, propelling him head first into the dirt. “Aye! Good answer, you lot, find dis boy a choppa an a dakka gun! Wez got lots of work ta do.”

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To the human mind, the warp is only a place of madness and unreality. A realm of chaos, to be avoided at all costs. The Eldar, however, are bound to the warp in manner unlike any other known race, and remember a time before the dark pantheon dominated the immaterium. For the Eldar, the warp is still the realm of infinite possibilities and source to most of their technology. Contrary to the belief of many, the warp and the materium are not realms apart. They flow in symbiotic concert with each-other. The places where the two meet, are known to the Eldar as the skeins of fate.

Aboard his sleek scout ship Asredil, Farseer Aramel opened his mind to the skein. Using wraithbone runes to guide him, the Eldar seer sifted through the myriad possibilities that the immediate future offered. The balance of probability confirmed that the events transpiring on the world of Tarandros within the coming cycles would have a decisive impact on the future. Aramel saw images of an Ork Warboss, with millions of his savage brethren flocking to his banner. He saw also the blazing symbol of the Mon Keigh Ultramrines, plunging into the heart of this growing green tide.

But these things were easily discernible using his vessel’s instruments. The Farseer delved deeper and saw the point of flux; a decision made that could lead to radically different futures. Where the armies of many races fought, the choices of one would determine the fate of all. Aramel had seen this many times, during his voyage through the webway from Craftworld Ulthwé, yet he could still not be certain of what act would forge the most favorable future.

As time advanced towards the point of flux, the skein would become clearer, and Aramel trusted that it would reveal the path that he must take. The Farseer allowed his mind to return to his body, and opened his eyes to Asredil’s crystal meditation chamber. He was not alone. Farseer Erethentil and several warlocks had added the strength of their minds to empower his visions. “The time for action approaches” said Erethentil. Aramel nodded, and rose to prepare his Black Guardians of Ulthwé for battle.

Chapter 1: Echoes

Battle Barge Andronicus

Brother Flavius confirmed the acolyte’s readings. The signal was faint, but a Great Crusade era Ultramarines distress beacon signature was clearly distinguishable from the background radiation picked up by the Andronicus’ sensors. “Brother Captain Titus must be informed immediately” stated Flavius and purposely made his way to the bridge.

Upon entering the Sorathian system, Captain Titus had wasted no time in setting a course for the desolated world of Omega-Epsilon. This had been the site of the major engagement, during the Horus Heresy, that his Chapter master had spoken of. Such was the fury of the onslaught, as brother fought brother, that thirty thousand years later the planet surface was still awash with toxic radiation: remnants of the apocalyptic munitions detonated in millennia past.

So dense were the echoes of that ancient Fallout, that the ships’ instruments had been unable to obtain any telling readings. Any answers would have to be gathered by ground forces. As the space marine captain contemplated his options, Brother Flavius emerged from an access corridor to address him. “Captain, I have overseen the sensor sweep of the planet’s moon as ordered.” Titus nodded for the marine to continue “the surface appears not to bear the same scars of combat borne by Omega-Epsilon. Though the radiation from the planet is strong, we were able to conduct a successful survey of the moon’s topography. Also, Captain, we have detected an ancient Ultramarine signal from quadrant 4.”

The marine then presented Titus with his findings. “This is well done Brother” the Ultramarine Captain said. “I see by the surrounding terrain and the weakness of the signal, that it must be beneath the surface. Perhaps, within, lies an installation founded by our forebears. If the Emperor wills it, we may yet find precious gene seed that has survived after all of these long years. Rouse Brother Marcus with all haste, bid him muster strike force Alpha, whom I shall lead personally!” Flavius inclined his head and replied “it shall be done at once Brother Captain,” and went forth to fulfill his duty.

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The opening to the complex was pitch black. It mattered not. What little remained hidden from the Astartes’ enhanced vision was revealed by their helms’ advanced lenses. The Ultramarines proceeded cautiously into the derelict structure. Brother Captain Titus held the center, while Brothers Marcus, Cassius and Flavius took point. Fully ten of the Emperor’s finest advanced boldly, with their Captain, into the earth. They were preceded by an armored behemoth: A Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought. Entombed within its mighty adamantium plates was revered Brother Augustus.

With the experience of centuries, the Contemptor smashed its impressive bulk into the the darkness. The entrance was broad and thus Augustus had no difficulty as he proceeded towards his objective. Titus and his marines followed only paces away. It was immediately clear that this had once been a barracks of the Ultramarines, a temporary staging point in preparation for deployment to the war-zones upon the planet below. The first chamber they were greeted with was small and empty, with only a narrow stairwell leading downwards. There were no other passageways in sight.

Without needing to receive any command, Brother Augustus brought his Assault cannons to bear and opened fire at the surface beneath his feet. What ensued was a brutal cacophony of screeching metal and the pervasive whine of the Contemptor’s weaponry. When Augustus’ cannon’s became silent once more, he stood in the middle of a perfect circle, carved into the steel flooring. With a mighty stomp, the Dreadnought overburdened what few threads of metal survived his onslaught, and plummeted onto the level below.

Silently, the Astrates moved single file down the stairwell to rejoin their Brother. Once they did so, Captain Titus found that Augustus had landed in a large open space, which must once have housed the base Armory. However, only one pathway was large enough for the Contemptor to pass. Titus divided his marines in two teams, leading one towards Augustus, as he ordered Brother Marcus to lead the second to explore the corridors to the south of their position. Before the teams separated, Titus gave them their orders. “My brothers, we are gathered here this day to give our fallen brethren the peace in death that they could not allow themselves in life. Seek out any that may have fallen and reclaim their gene seed that they may rejoin the Chapter!”

The squads separated and moved out to execute their designated sector sweeps, alert to any dangers that may lurk in the darkness. Sergeant Marcus led his four Ultramarine companions down a corridor to the south. As they turned a corner they came across a fallen Astartes warrior, wearing Mk II battle plate, adorned with the livery of the Legion of Ultramar. After taking a moment to pay their respects to their fallen comrade, Brother Marcus knelt and examined the corpse. Remarkably, the ancient power armor had repaired itself and preserved the body to this day. Not much remained, but Marcus was able to extract enough gene seed to fill the specially designed container he had brought.

Meanwhile Captain Titus had found the source of the signal that had been detected from orbit. In an alcove within the large chamber, an Ultramarine Legionary Tech-priest had fallen. Seemingly he had activated the beacon with his dying breath. The significance of this last act was unknown to Brother Titus, but at the very least it had allowed for the re-discovery of this place. Titus retrieved the Tech-marine’s gene-seed and deactivated the ancient beacon. As he did so, his enhanced instincts began to scream that something was amiss.

Brother Severus was first to make contact with the enemy. He had stood guard as Marcus completed his task, when he sensed movement in the corner of his eye. He readied his bolter and waited. Suddenly, lithe shapes peeled from the shadows and began moving towards the marines at great speed. With a shout, Severus called for a volley and his fellow marines were quick to answer.

Bolter fire filled the narrow corridor, felling several of the unknown attackers. Brother Maximus took up his flamer and released its fuel. In a blazing plume of cleansing fire, the Ultramarines’ attackers were revealed for what they were: Mandrakes. In these tight quarters the flames created a nigh-impenetrable wall of death. Yet the foe seemed unconcerned with its losses and charged into Marcus’ squad with wild abandon. So furious was the attack, that two space marines fell to the fiends’ cruel blades.

But the marines’ precise reactionary fire had been flawless and only three of the enemy’s number remained. These were quickly dispatched. Victorious, Brother Sergeant Marcus led his squad to the main chamber. Responding immediately to the enemy presence, Captain Titus ordered strike force Alpha to gather and fortify their position. Even as they complied, Marcus’ marines were beset again. This time by crazed Dark Eldar wyches, who darted at them. Two were claimed by righteous bolter shots and gouts of flame. But three reached the Ultramarines. In the swirling melee, another Astartes was slain. Marcus and his surviving brother were unable to harm the wretches, so fast were their movements.

As this happened, a squad of Kabalite warriors sprung into the main chamber from a side entrance. With preternatural speed they fired volley after volley of poisoned splinters at Titus and his marines. Hundreds of these projectiles peppered the Emperor’s warriors, but the foul shards found no purchase, for the Astartes armor was too resplendent. True to its name, the Dreadnought turned to face these puny attackers and unleashed its devastating hail of fire, bellowing “Purge the alien!” None survived. Confident that Augustus would guard them against enemy attack from the rear, Captain Titus led his squad towards Sergeant Marcus. No matter how fast they may be, the sheer bulk of the charging Ultramarines proved too much for the three surviving wyches. With nowhere to turn, they were strangled by a noose of ceramite.

As Titus looked up from the Dark Eldar corpses, he noted that the enemy leader had finally shown himself. An Archon of Commorragh strode into sight, accompanied by a retinue of four menacing looking armored Eldar. The Captain recognized these beings: Incubi, peerless and deadly warriors, even for an Astartes. Titus would not suffer them to live. “To me my brothers!” he called. Immediately all of the Ultramarines formed as one and took firing positions. Once again, the Dark Eldars’ speed and dexterity proved to be no match to the storm of bolter fire that they were confronted with. Despite their heavy armor, the Incubi were all felled by the righteous barrage.

The Archon, however, emerged unscathed. Hits had been scored against him, but each time a dark field had swallowed the detonating shell as though it were nothing more than a smoke pellet. The Eldar sneered contemptuously and raced directly towards Brother Captain Titus. Wasting no time, the space marine Captain rushed forward to meet the charge. A flurry of vicious blows rained down upon him. They fell with a level of dexterity and skill that Titus could not hope to match. Nor did he need to. He waited patiently as the Archon sought in vain to penetrate his artificer armor, raking at the space marine’s breastplate with his gauntleted agonizer, even as he stabbed at perceived weaknesses in the Captain’s armor with a venom blade in his other hand. There were none. In mere moments Titus saw his opening and smashed the Eldar warlord with his shimmering relic blade. The forceful strike caught the Archon fully in the chest, reducing it to pulp on impact. In a single blow was the foe slain. His Eldritch technology did not save him.

Amidst the tangled ruin of that once haughty Eldar, Titus was surprised to discover a slender tube. On closer inspection, he saw that it unmistakably contained Astartes gene seed. Having seen this also, Brother Flavius could not hide his contempt “perfidious Eldar! does their foul meddling know no end?” he asked. “These are not Eldar of the Craftworlds, Brother, but denizens of the dark city Commorragh. Though there is no place for either in the Emperor’s realm, the presence of these bodes ill for our quest. We must learn what machinations drove them to seek out Astartes gene-seed. Whatever plan fuels this mad scheme must be thwarted.”

It took Titus and his men another hour to scour the complex and become satisfied that no more gene-seed remained. Of the three casualties, two were stabilized and would eventually recover from their wounds. The third, however, had been sliced apart by the wyches’ blades and could not be saved. When the time came to depart, Brother Captain Titus said “Severus, detonate a fusion charge on that bulkhead, that our good Brother Augustus may leave this sorry place.”

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From within the comfort of his pleasure yacht, concealed in a nearby artery of the webway, Archon Oberon-Geren Mackareth ended the visual feed. His invisible probe had followed one of his minions, Archon Naruth, into the ruined Ultramarine complex. Oberon had not expected to find the mon-keigh hulks in this system and certainly did not expect Naruth to be so incompetent as to allow himself to be defeated by them.

As this petty Archon had stood alone, foolishly dueling the Ultramarine captain, Oberon had formulated a new plan. With a faint smile, he had remotely deactivated Naruth’s Shadowfield, using a code that he had keyed into the device when he first “gifted” it to his subordinate. He could not risk any damage to the Ultramarine leader. Now that he knew space marines were in the area, it seemed wasteful not to make use of their services. Oberon signaled one of his Incubi and shortly thereafter, Archon Ivanael was brought before him. The lesser Archon bowed his head towards the leader of the Undivided Blood Kabal.

The gesture was a facade of course. No Archon of Commorragh works for another except for the hope of one day plunging his dagger into the other’s back and usurping his old master’s seat of power. Oberon knew that, and Ivanael knew that. It was the Tyrant’s law, and it was the way of the Eldar. Those of their race that drifted amidst the stars in their wraithbone coffins sought to deny the truth of their own nature. They were fools. Commorragh was the Empire reborn, an unassailable fortress from which countless Dark Eldar raiding parties could strike throughout the galaxy with impunity. In their world, only the strong survived, while the weak were nothing more than chattel, to be used at their betters’ whim.

For the moment, Oberon and Ivanael needed each-other. Their instincts resonated with the knowledge that one day they would come to blows, which created in each of them the desire to strike at the other immediately. Well acquainted with the urge to kill, they repressed the impulse easily. “Archon Oberon, how may I best place my Kabal at your service?” asked Ivanael. Oberon studied the new leader of the Eyes-Bled-Out Kabal with an expressionless face. He knew little about this up-and-coming dark eldar, except that he had been particularly bold in the assassination of his predecessor and largely successful at both cementing his hold over the Kabal and hiding the truth of his origins. Perhaps he was the correct tool with which to implement his new plan.

“I have brought my forces here, Ivanael, because I wish to hunt especially powerful prey.” Archon Oberon said. “I have known for some time that the mon-keigh that call themselves space marines would come to this place. They are the product of primitive genetic manipulation and are thus far more resilient than the verminous masses of ordinary mon-keigh. As such they are of great value as combatants in our city’ arenas.” The Archon continued. “They are few in number and will prove easily captured. However, their vessel is formidable and an assault upon it would prove unnecessarily costly. For this reason I need you to find suitable locations for us to lay in ambush while the fools are on a planet’s surface.”

Archon Ivanael nodded in apparent understanding. As did all successful Archons, Oberon spoke lies with the same tone and sincerity that he spoke truths. Such was his mastery, that the younger Archon could not hope to differentiate between the two. He therefore assumed that nothing he heard was the full truth. “I have learned that the mon-keigh are of the Ultramarines chapter and that they are here in search of meaningless trinkets from their bygone age of glory, to satisfy the cretinous infatuation they have with their corpse-emperor. Find the remnants of ancient Mon-keigh and report your findings to me.” Oberon finished. “Of course Archon Oberon, it shall be done.” Ivanael inclined his head once more and left the audience chamber.

Imperial Guard: Orders

Imperial Aquila

The Imperium of Man is a vast, sprawling Leviathan. On countless worlds, the human civilization trudges on in time to the unyielding tempo set by the Adeptus Terra. From densely urbanized forge-worlds to comparatively sparsely populated agricultural planets, the minutia of daily life is dictated to the Imperial citizen by the seemingly omnipresent Administratum, through its legion of agents.

Very much like a Leviathan, the vast organism that is the Imperium is often slow to react. Fully six thousand years had passed since human eyes looked upon records concerning the Sorathian system, a minuscule spec of dust somewhere in the Viridian sector. Deep within the bowels of Holy Terra, the offices of the Sub-departimento Occupatio housed hundreds of thousands of scribes. Each is tasked with the duty of scouring an endless tide of Imperial records, in the futile attempt to measure just how large the Imperium is, count how many worlds fall within its domain and discern where they are located.

An especially thankless task, is to peruse ancient documents from the times of the Great Crusade and cross-reference the obscure mentions of planetary systems with current information, to determine whether these worlds are still part of the Emperor’s domain. Scribe A-3400/9 had spent months sifting through garbled text and badly damaged combat logs, until he finally stumbled upon one sentence: “World eaters pursued….Viridian sector…Garrison left on Cadia XIV…”

It took the scribe two more weeks of searching through the files pertaining to the Viridian sector, before finally finding a millennia old footnote “Guardsman platoons left in the Sorathian system…warp storms…all contact lost.” A-3400/9 compared his findings with current census data, but found nothing that hinted at an Imperial presence on any Sorathian world. The meager evidence that the scribe had found probably amounted to nought, and he felt fairly certain that there was nothing of value in that Emperor-forsaken smudge of space, but by Terra, he needed a promotion. The scribe was a mere nine levels away from becoming a petty administrator, which meant that his designation would finally be changed to a true name. Normally this would take twenty more years of hard work, but A-3400/9 was confident that, with the right phrasing, his report would halve that time. Barely containing his excitement, the scribe began to craft his masterpiece.

From a couple of garbled sentences, the scribe produced a three page Memorandum, detailing the high strategic value of the Viridian system and the need for the vast human population of Cadia XIV to be returned to the Imperium’s fold. The lowly scribe was not alone in his desire to seize on this opportunity and by the time his report made its way to the higher levels of the Sub-departimento Occupatio, it had become a hundreds-of-pages long document, culminating with the following finding:

It is with studied certainty that we find the issuance of a reclamation fleet not only virtuous in His holy eyes, but necessary for the survival of humanity within the entire Viridian Sector. The overwhelming evidence, unearthed by our dedicated and hard-working servants, unequivocally demonstrates the critical importance of the Sorathian System. It must be reclaimed for the glory of the Imperium.

Long live the Emperor!

After reading this last paragraph, having completely ignored the rest of the report, Commissar Nemo crumpled the page it was written on in his right fist. Disgusted, he dumped the entire document down an incineration shute, much to the horror of his subordinate. “Security reasons” Nemo said curtly. He did not need to read the report, he had seen dozens like it, all with the same grandiose air and lack of substance. In the end it did not particularly matter. The mission was always the same. Travel, fight, die or conquer. But Lieutenant Perkins did not know this, for he was freshly graduated from the academy and assumed that everything that agents of the Imperium said was true.

The officer stood to attention and exclaimed “Of course Lord Commissar! How foolish for me to even think to question your wisdom, what are our orders sir?” The Commissar sighed before paraphrasing: “In His holy name, we are to go forth at maximum speed as a vanguard of the reclamation fleet. Once we reach the Sorathian System we are to immediately lay siege to Cadia XIV until pacified.” Perkins was so excited by the prospect of leading his troops in his first campaign, that he was completely oblivious to the sarcasm in his commander’s voice. “Splendid sir! I shall go to the men and tell them the good news!” The Lieutenant screeched, saluting stupidly. “Yes, you do that,” Nemo said dryly, “dismissed.”

Once the simpleton subordinate left his ready room, Commissar Nemo took a moment to collect his thoughts. The innumerable masses of the Imperial Guard had countless assets of war at their disposal, with equally varied tactics to employ. Somehow, the Administratum only ever ordered the use of one tactic: The wave. Like an implacable ocean, entire companies of infantry and armored divisions are thrown at the enemy. When, not if, that assault is destroyed, it is immediately followed by another, and another, until nothing is left of their foe.

The high death toll is apparently of no consequence to the bureaucratic hegemony. Life, they say, is the Emperor’s currency and victory seems to always be on sale. Over the decades Commissar Nemo had noticed the patterns in orders given, small details hidden amidst requisition orders. Whereas others might be puzzled at only being given enough fuel for one trip, Nemo knew there would be no supply missions. In short, he recognized a suicide mission when he saw one, and this was it.

In the great battles against overwhelming foes the likes of Abbadon, a Necron dynasty, or Tyranid hive fleet, the armies of humanity are commanded by the Imperium’s finest generals, where every life under their command is a precious asset, spent with the precise economics of a master tactician. But this was no titanic struggle, just an ignominious backwater theatre unworthy of the Imperial Guard’s true leadership. So the Administratum happily usurped that role, greedily pursuing its own agenda. Even the Commissariat had better things to do than curb the unnecessary waste.

None of this helped Commissar Nemo in the slightest, who was bound by duty to comply. Of course, the battle-scarred veteran had absolutely no intention of following the spirit of his orders and would instead meticulously and obstinately abide by its letter. If he was clever enough, maybe some of the boys would make it back home in one piece.

Dark Angels: The Eternal Hunt

Dark Angel Icon

Librarian Darwyn knelt is silent contemplation. Many of his brother-librarians had been claimed by insidious perils hidden in the warp. Too eager were they in their divinations, that they were blind to the doom of their path. Darwyn vowed that he would not suffer such a fate. Prayer was his solace and through piety, he was certain, his treacherous heart could be conquered.

But his own personal struggles were trivial compared to the task with which Librarian Darwyn was entrusted. News had come from the Dark Angels’ vast information network. Whispers that the 7th Company was moving. The hated Death Guard seemed intent on carving a bloody path through the Sorathian System. The reason did not matter, their numbers did not matter. All that mattered was hunting the fallen, and Brother Librarian Darwyn would see it done.

Ultramarines: Arrival

Ultramarine Icon

The silence was pleasing. Captain Titus gazed through his view port as he recited the hymn of Command. Behind the reinforced glass and beyond the safety of the Gellar Field, the full horrors of the warp unfolded. Impossible shapes and colors screamed past, as Battle Barge Andronicus tore its righteous path through the Immaterium.

Any man would have recoiled in fear at the sight, his courage spent and mind rent asunder. But Captain Titus was no man. He was a Space Marine. A warrior of the Adeptus Astrates and scion of the Ultramarines, first amongst the Chapters in service to the Emperor of Mankind, may his light never fade. Titus stared into the abyss and the abyss averted its gaze, for in his eyes burned the undying power of the Golden Throne. The Captain’s words reverberated within the hallowed halls like a silent thunder:

From his light, darkness withers
I am his beacon
His are the armies of the faithful
I am his beacon
Faith is their weapon
I am his beacon
Contempt is their armor
I am his beacon
The unworthy will fall before them
I am his beacon
And they shall know no fear!

The hymn ended and the Battle Barge burst into real-space, the madness of the warp replaced by an endless sea of darkness. Captain Titus turned and made to exit his chapel. As he did so the vox blared into life, “Warp Jump Completed, Glory to the Emperor!” With surety of purpose, Titus made his way to the bridge. As he traversed the labyrinthine expanse of the battle barge, Captain Titus thought of the missive he had received from Chapter Master Marneus Augustus Calgar.

It spoke of an ancient battle fought by the Legion of old. Far did the sons of Ultramar, led by Roboute Guilliman, wisest amongst Primarchs, travel in pursuit of the traitor legions. Relentless in their fury, the Ultramarines brought ruin to the followers of Chaos upon many worlds. One such battle was fought within this very system. No more is known, for none now live that remember. By chance, fragmented records were pieced together and coordinates found.

No holy reclamation mission had ever been sent to this region. Titus’ was the task to learn of the fate of his long fallen brethren. If any precious gene-seed yet survived, the Captain was to retrieve it. With a hiss of hydraulics, the doorway to the bridge clanked open. Titus strode through the opening and made his way to the command podium. A baritone chorus greeted the Captain as he entered. “Praise the Emperor!”

Captain Titus stepped onto the podium and the display panel flickered into life. He scrutinized the star chart before him and decided where his search would begin.

The Sorathian Affair: A Narrative Campaign

Within the space known to the Imperium of Man as the Viridian sector, lies the Sorathian system. Its young star is orbited by seven planets. During the Great Crusade these worlds were conquered in the name of the Emperor of humanity. Throughout the great war wrought by Warmaster Horus, every corner of the galaxy was touched by the conflict and this system was no exception.

The Sorathian System

In the aftermath, these distant worlds were abandoned by the new, more cautious Imperium. Some within the Administrartum would see the system return to the fold, and a reclamation fleet has already been dispatched. But humanity is not alone in its interest of this sector. Every major faction in the galaxy has something of value to gain amongst the Sorathian worlds.

Overview: This campaign is intended to be flexible, responsive to player input and focused on that “cinematic” aspect of the game that we keep hearing about. As you will see in the posts that follow, there are many factions participating in the campaign, each led by a varied cast of characters. These Warlords are the players’ avatars within the campaign. Events during the Sorathian Affair will be dictated by the choices made by players. New players wishing to play 40k games in the universe of this campaign can create their own characters be added to the tale.

Gameplay: This is not a turn based campaign. Instead, it will progress by chapters, each one advancing the campaign story, according to the outcomes of the battles fought, and choices made by players. There are several ways in which you can participate. First, you can join the various events that will be run every now and then (such as the battle for Tarandros) where major plot points will be resolved. Second, you can play narrative games using the special campaign rules. Finally, you can play regular games of 40k set in the Sorathian System.

Aside from the player armies (of which more can be added at any time), there will also be a number of NPC Warlords from various races, that will interact with players in different and hopefully fun ways. Unlike player factions, NPCs will not grow in power from game to game, though they may be affected by particularly significant plot points in the narrative. This will allow players to switch roles from time to time, should they desire to do so.

Victory Conditions: As a “story mode” campaign, everyone’s primary objective is to have as much fun as possible. However, everyone has a general goal, which are provided more as plot devices than a means to “win” the campaign. Certainly there are significant milestones that can be reached by every participant, which will give each player access to truly unique abilities, units and items.

While most faction’s objectives are known only to themselves, the Tau Empire and Imperial Guard are less than subtle about their intent to colonize the Sorathian system for the glory of their respective peoples. These two factions are unique in that they alone have the resources and inclination to occupy a world on a permanent basis. Should a Tyranid hive fleet ever reach the system, it might similarly begin to harvest planets and consume their bio-mass.

In game terms, this means that these three factions can “conquer” planets. This task will be of varying difficulty, depending on the native populations and the desire of other players to aid or oppose the would be conquerors. At the time of the campaign’s start, only Commander Darkstar of the Tau reached the system in order to lay claim to its worlds. As you can see from the galactic map, his conquest has already begun.