“An imperial regiment, complimented with a Tactical Squad and a half dozen scouts for an exploratory mission? Does the Inquisition think us fools?” spewed harshly from the imposing figure, his voice echoing through the Temple Chambers.
“They refused to provide additional intel Master Sammael, our briefing left us woefully unprepared.” Artellus rumbled defensively.
“The presence of the Ordo Sicarius betrayed the mission’s importance; we should have pressed for details. Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus… appeared to be Vindicare Temple, from the make of their weapons. We could have…”Davian started but was quickly cut off.
“I believe the Inquisition has given a full mission brief, we stand by their statements” Artellus interjected, glaring at the scout.
Sammael, Master of the Ravenwing, seemed to envelope the entire chamber “They have, I want to hear it from you two.”
“Apologies Master, The scout speaks out of turn” Artellus followed "As I said; Our Primary mission was to assist the Inquisitors in locating and returning the Archmagos to Macragge. Our secondary mission was to clear the way for several regiments of Imperial Troopers to secure the Ordinatus Belacane as well as the stasis forges. We were advised to use minimal force as the mission was primarily investigative as Archmagos Daedus has not responded to an Imperial summons. We entered Markayn from the Josian Reach and utilized the Season of Iron to cover our approach and shroud our incursion.
“A bold and potentially foolish action, the Season of iron has forced the entire planet underground, yet you decide to fly through it….nearly losing both your Thunderhawks in the process. I wish I could have seen their reactions when the Sword of Atonement came for exfiltration.
“The Inquisition demanded we arrive unnoticed. They were unwilling to chance even a resonance trail possibly be detected. The Ordo Hereticus carried direct orders from the Senate of the High Lords of Terra. I did not argue above my station. The decision to send in the Sword of Atonement was not mine to make.” Artellus growled at Davian.
“You disagree Scout?”
A short breath escaped Davian as he began to argue Artellus’s timorous statements but quickly caught himself. His bellicose temperament served had served him well in battle, but the Temple of Angels was no place to push beyond his position. Only the emperor knew the true contents of the countless prison chambers buried deep within the confines of the Rock.
Artellus swelled in victory at Davian’s silence, locking his gaze with the young scout.
“It was obvious we were only capturing the forge plants that led to the Archmagos Temple. Our objectives seemed little more than a cover to justify our use of Imperial Navy Cruisers. They may only be guardsmen but even the Tactica Imperium would recommend securing the planetary defenses first, and then inserting our forces. If we had control of the orbital defenses it would have allowed us to create a covered angle of assault as well as turning the Ordinatus Belacane upon our enemies” Davian blurted, unable to temper himself in the face of Artellus’s obvious aggression.
“That it would” Sammael grinned slowly turning back to the seething Artellus. “Perhaps I should hear the scout’s version first.
“Of course Master” Artellus sighed in retreat.
“The Assault force waited in low orbit until the meteoric tide had abated and began insertion immediately following an atmospheric torrent. Shortly after breaking our descent to level for low altitude cruise both Thunderhawks began taking damage. Inquisitor Mallia ordered the two assault ships to prepare for an immediate landing. Our transport made landfall here, ahead of the Imperial drop ships here and here” Davian stated, pointing to the reddish gray landscape adorning the Temple’s data terminal.
“As we disembarked the craft we received a vox from Sgt. Artellus’s escort ship. They had received critical damage and were making a dead stick landing 6 kilometers to the north. Approximately here.” He gestured again.
“Just outside of Belacane, even during the harshest torrents of the Season of Iron an incursion that close to the city will not go unnoticed” Sammael stated, his bored demeanor finally giving away to curiosity. ”Any resistance?”
“None sir” Replied Davian,” We had expected them to be waiting for us when we breached the Stasis Forges, but the forges were completely inert and almost completely abandoned. We found the Ordinatus Belacane in similar condition. Mallia ordered the guardsmen to set up a perimeter around the objectives as we investigated.”
“They were redirecting energy from the forge reactors and the Ordinatus Belacane, massive cable feeds were leading toward the Temple of the Omnissiah. “Artellus intruded in an attempt to regain a measure of control over the brief. “I immediately ordered a full assault on the Temple.” Artellus paused to emphasize his statement.
A moment exploited by Davian. ”The buildings and courtyards around the Temple were heavily garrisoned. Belacane Knights, several variants, but mostly Knight Wardens and Paladins numbering in the hundreds if not thousands. We approached as they did not appear to be arranged in any sort of defensive formation, they were looking inward toward the Temple, and it appeared to be some sort of ritual. Mallia broke into a run dispatching the Vindicare sharpshooter and several other inquisition agents to capture the security terminals. As we approached the corridor leading to the Vitae chamber the contingent of nights began to increase dramatically, both in number and decoration.”
“The Techlord’s Honor Guard. The Knight Baron’s; elite units of the Adeptus Titanicus, soulless machinations that answer only to the Council of High Magos and the Deus Mechanicus.” Grand Inquisitor Mallia added as the chamber doors slid closed behind her. “Your request has been granted Master Sammael, though do not expect the Ordo Sicarius to bend so lightly in the future” she stated coldly. “His fate is yours for the time being, I expect results. “She threatened as a black clad figure entered the room.
“Exitus Acta Probat” he saluted as she walked past.
“We shall see” replied the Inquisitor as she disappeared behind the closing metal doors.
“Continue” beckoned Sammael drawing the focus from the dark visitor.
“When Mallia pressed for entry she was refused. Sgt Artellus pushed to the front of the group and demanded entry to the Vitae Chamber. A Red Knight Baron stepped forward; it looked like he was examining the sergeant’s chapter badge, and offered to escort us inside, apologizing stating the other marines had already assembled for the Ritual.” Davian grew anxious at this statement. Even passive exposure to a heretic ritual brought extreme scrutiny.
“Ritual?” Sammael questioned. “What was the purpose of this Ritual?”
Davian continued “I am unsure. Conduit had been run to the Archmagos vitae tank; they were pouring massive amounts of energy into it. As Mallia began to approach the Vitae- chamber the air began to shimmer… then erupted with an electronic crackle, pinning us in place. The entire room was webbed with stasis fields.
“No doubt an artifact developed by the Archmagos” Remarked Sammael.
“It was then that the Librarian emerged from the rear of the chamber, his chapter badge was Dark Angel but his armor was completely black like… ”Davian started but was quickly interrupted.
“I want his exact words, tone, everything” Sammael growled.
“You were told not to let anyone in.” Zahariel roared as he emerged from the rear of the enormous chamber.
“Anyone but Dark Angels, they bear the mark of your brothers” The Knight Baron corrected.
Zahariel’s gazed settled on the Space Marines straining within the stasis fields. “So it would appear, though you are mistaken, they wear the color of the betrayer “his voice rising at every word. “They come to steal the soul of the Archmagus and his secrets for their campaign against the Emperor. But now you will bear witness to his rebirth, you will watch as he becomes one with the Omnissiah, your souls will fuel his return” Zahariel was now screaming as he began channeling his psykic power into the vitae tank.
“And that was when the voice came over the vox. Steady marines, dropping power in 5,4,3” Davian finished.
Sammael turned to the inquisition agent” Reaper is it? “He asked not waiting for a response. “It was your team that disabled the stasis fields?”
“Correct ,sir “Reaper confirmed in his cold emotionless manner.
“As the stasis field dropped we engaged the honor guard. They opened fire killing brothers Intios and Uriah instantly as well as both of Mallia’s guards. The tactical squad responded with suppressing fire as we flanked the entrance to the vitae chamber, killing the honor guard and pushing the Knight Paladins in the hallway back by alternating nova grenades from each side. Davian added solemnly. “We immediately began to set up overwatch on the chamber entrance but as we maneuvered the Librarian began chanting.”
“Our assault squad immediately dropped to their knees in agony, writhing as several of our brothers and the inquisition agents being drawn into the Ritual. He was assaulting our minds, threatening to tear our very psyche apart. I could not see anything, my mind was seething with pain, I removed my helmet staggering to stand up. Then our brothers erupted into fountains of blood, feeding an energy swell growing within the vitae tank. The second wave of psykic energy hit and I was struggling to remain standing. I was looking around the room trying to see if anyone was left alive; the only ones left were Mallia and Sgt Artellus. Mallia was clutching her head screaming….”Davian paused for breath.
“This librarian was able to overpower the mental training of a Grand Inquisitor? Powerful foes indeed, please…..continue.”
“Sergeant Artellus was unconscious on the floor directly beneath the librarian, blood pooling from his nose and eyes. I scrambled to retrieve my shotgun, but the room was as if the gravity had been dropped. The energy swell on the vitae tank had now grown to envelope it entirely, filling the room with dark energy, and then it erupted showing the room in human detritus. As I struggled to level brother Intios’s heavy bolter I started firing but I could not bring my weapon to bear on the target. Just as Artellus’s body began to rise off of the floor he exploded in a tortured scream, his body contorting as energy from the vitae tank arced towards him. It was then that I heard Reaper over the vox, clear as day. Turn and fire Soldier, I followed his order instinctively suppressing the Knight Errants that were now advancing down the entry way corridor.”
Davian led on, his attention turned inward as he described the ordeal. “I focused my mind on the report of the heavy bolter, harmonizing with every round. As I regained control I turned to see that the energy was now arcing between the Sgt and the Archmagos and the Librarian was beginning a summoning ritual on the floor beneath them. I heard Reaper begin counting down again, 3,2,1 and I unloaded with my heavy bolter sawing the Archmagos in half. As the librarian turned to face me he retracting with superhuman speed, the sharpshooters volley would have been a kill if not for the unnatural speed of our enemy.”
“He lies” Screamed Artellus. “Master, I did not succumb I Swear to you” but was cut off by a dismissive wave of Sammael’s hand.
“The air crackled and he was gone, but the legions of Belacane Knights continued to pour into the corridor. I discharged countless rounds into the corridor suppressing their assault as the sharpshooter worked to revive Mallia.
“Grand Inquisitor Mallia” Artellus reprimanded.
Davian did not acknowledge the comment as he continued on “We held that position for hours, the Knights had relented shortly before the arrival of the exfiltration squad. They evacuated us as the Sword of Atonement destroyed the Temple Mechanicus from orbit.
“Interesting choice, how did you know the ritual could not be finished without the Archmagos? Perhaps the summoning could have completed with only the Sgt” asked Sammael.
“I didn’t” Davian replied.
“Well luck appears to be on your side. You have encountered Zahariel and lived; this is not a small feat even for seasoned veterans.” Sammael said as his gaze met Sgt Artellus’s horrified gaze. “Apologies brother, but you know what happens once a Marines psyche has broken… You will report to the Chaplain. It is the only way.”
“I’ll kill you” Artellus lunged for Davian but stopped as if running hit by a Land Raider. Sammael slowly removed his hand from Artellus’s chest “To the Chaplain Sergeant that is an order.”
Sammael waited until Artellus’s had retreated from the chamber before continuing. “We lost many brothers in this mission, but we have gained one as well. Your resilience to the librarian’s psykic attack has proven you worthy of the Ravenwing. Your celebration will have to wait however, as your exposure to the Fallen Angels has brought to light an unfortunate part of our Chapter.” Sammael proclaimed staring at the two.” What do you know of the Horus Heresy……