Heresy of Ptolemaios the Magnificent - ΗΕΡΕΣΥ ΟΦ ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΣ ΘΕ ΜΑΓΝΙΦΙΧΕΝΤ
In late M33 two city states of Helot, Herrenia and Harrania, were on the brink of full scale war. This is not unusual on Helot, but what made this situation so dangerous, was the number of allies both could call upon. In case of a war, many islands states and the whole eastern part of the main continent would be engulfed by the conflict. According to legend, these cities had been founded by twins, Herren and Herran. The cities are less then 50 miles apart, and strong allies at the time. But near the end of the Age of Strife the cities numerous minor disputes had gotten out of hand, and a small misunderstanding led to the outbreak of a full scale war between the two city states.
Upon the arrival of the Imperial Fists and the wars led by Hellas of Lakonia, the cities abandoned their generations old war, for the time being. After the founding of the Sons of Hellas, Herrenia and Herrania had constant skirmishes and proxy wars through their allies, but full scale confrontations were always avoided. Then, in 966.M33, the eldest son of the governor of Herrenia was killed in an ambush. He immediately demanded the head of the killer, but the ruler of Herrania refused. Threats were issued, proxy wars intensified and the closest settlements to both cities were destroyed, with every man, woman and child put to the sword. At the high of the conflict the rival cities armies assembled on the field, but before the fight had a chance to begin, the Sons of Hellas arrived and announced that they would not allow this conflict to go any further.
The Space Marines are seen as demigods by the people of Helot, and as such the governors and city states could only obey. A treaty was signed, and the second prince of Herrenia was married to the princess of Herrania. Through such events was Ptolemaios born, and he was named, as declared and demanded by the treaty, as the heir of both city states. But then, when Ptomlemaios was just 3 years old, the eastern coast of the main continent was hit by a plague. It claimed almost all of his relatives, including his grandparents and parents. But oddly, this was seen as a good omen, as the sole heir to both cities had survived, and the “old rule” was quite effectively seized to exist. Truly, this must have been a sign from the Gods.
He was to raised by a High Seeres, a well respected member of the Sage Council, noted for her great powers and wisdom. But unbeknownst to rest the Council and the Sons of Hellas, the High Seeres had been seduced by the Ruinous Powers, and now worshipped the Dark God of schemes and sorcery. And so, she was able to mould and manipulate the heir of these two mighty cities from an early age. Ptolemaios grew to become an inspiring leader, a mighty warrior and cunning general under the teaching of some Helots best generals. He also loved arts, poetry and music in particular, and some of his poems are still in use, though he is never named as the creator. Under this young ruler and his wise Seeress, the Twin Cities flourished, and the people gave him the title Magnificent.
Small wars and skirmishes are part of everyday life on Helot, and Ptolemaios was always seen leading his troops from horseback, riding up and down the line inspiring them ever greater feats. And with every victory, the young ruler became ever more greedy, taking more and more land, making other city states his unwilling allies. But every time a greater war seemed inventible, Ptolemaios stopped and signed numerous treaties that seemed to please every one. And so did he avoid notice from the Sons of Hellas. And with each treaty, each new city and each new pool of men and materials from which to draw upon, he prepared the conquest his “aunt” and her Master wished for.
Then, just as Ptolemaios celebrated his 35th birthday, the 4th Black Crusade was launched. 9 of the 11 Companies of the Sons of Hellas were immediately deployed to intercept it along numerous other Imperial forces. Only the 8th Phalanx Company and most of the 11th Scout Company were to remain on Helot. The time to strike had come. The first step in the plan was to lure the Captains to Ptolemaios’s palace. They were invited to a great feast in Herrenia, to celebrate the coming success in the coming war against the hated enemies of the Imperium. This was nothing unusual, as the seers and court wizards were just attuned to the warp as any psykers, and they were able to use the Tarot as well as more native methods of getting information, and so the lords of Helot were always somewhat aware of wars the Sons would take part in. So it had become a custom for the lords to invite a Captain of the Chapter for a celebration, and it would be a sign of disfavour and disgrace if such an invite was rejected.
Both of the Captains accepted the invitation, and arrive in Herrenia accompanied by a small escort of Scouts and Battle Brothers of the 8th Company. They were treated at the very least like kings, served with the finest of cuisines and entertainment. But notably absent was the host himself. When asked about this, the seneschal would simply answer that the governor would arrive at any moment, as he had been delayed in Herrania where he had been on official business. Little did the Captains know that Ptolemaios was coordinating his troops as he was preparing for his first strike in his new war of conquest.
Eventually the Space Marines grew tired of waiting and demanded to see the governor or they would leave. Just then Hoplites burst in to the room and quickly surrounded the Sons. To the horror of the guests these troops were wearing the new emblem of Twin Cities: an eight pointed star. Maybe Ptolemaios had underestimated the Sons of Hellas or he had overestimated the competence of his henchmen, for a small group of the Sons manage to evade the traitors long enough that they could send a warning message to the Spear of Ares, alerting their brethren of the danger. In the end the brave Battle Brothers were overwhelmed and only the Captains were taken as captives. The traitors had gained their first victory, but full success had been denied, as now the Sons of Hellas knew of Ptolemaios’s treachery.
Over night dozens of city states were attacked and thousands of people put to the sword across the entire planet. Almost half of the main continent declared allegiance with Ptolemaios and the Dark Gods along with numerous island states. Such a thing had not happened since the days of Hellas and Alexandrius. Within a week most of the still loyal city states were either under siege or their armies forced to retreat under the mass waves of enemy troops and citizens that were now raving cultists. Ptolemaios led the armies of Herrenia and Herrania, and in their wake everything was burned and sacrificed in dark rituals, except for those willing to bend their knee to their new ruler and his Gods. And The Sons of Hellas did nothing.
The destruction wrought by Ptolemaios was not random, for as ironic as it is the Dark Gods do little without a plan. Eight points were chosen for the sacrificial rituals. Eight times did the Seeres, now reviled as the witch she was bearing the mark of her God, deliver the sacrifice. One more great sacrifice did the Dark Gods demand, the sacrifice of the body Hellas himself. Hellas had been, contrary to local custom, buried. And not just in any place, but at very centre of the city of Hades, Hadeopolis. Ptolemaios led his army to the gates of the city, but just as they were approaching a lone figure in robes stood in their way. Enraged Ptolemaios demanded that this fool be removed from his sight and five of his own bodyguards stepped forward to make short work of this stranger. Each of the traitors wore the mark of the mutant in various ways, by having extra limbs or tentacles where a hand or a leg should have been. But whatever their new God had gifted them, they counted for nought as the hooded stranger cut each of them down with five strikes from his Relic blade. He then cast down his hood and reviled his face. What Ptolemaios and his witch had not known was that some time earlier the Brother-Captain of the 7th Phalanx Company had been wounded and sent back to Helot to recover. Now he stood in their way, defying them and through them their Gods.
Before the traitors could react, sniper fire rained amongst them, killing many more the tainted bodyguard. Then the loud door banging sound of the bolters joined them, and Hades claimed many souls in those few opening moments of the battle. Ptolemaios withdrew his forces and took a moment to appraise the situation. His army numbered more then 5 000 Hoplites and 15 000 cultists, but he knew he could not act rashly. The Sons of Hellas were occupying the high walls of Hadeopolis, and even though the gates had long turned into dust and rust, the Sons would only need a handful of men to block them. And indeed, now one could easily see the golden yellow shields of the Space Marines, and the long Thunderspears that held their bolters as well as a long blade that could cut into any armour.
So did Ptolemaios send a wave after wave of his cultists against each gate, trying to find a weak point. But each mindless onslaught was repulsed with a wall of bolter shells, and the worshipers of the Dark Gods fell in their hundreds. But for every one that fell, there was another to replace him. After more then three thousand of the cultists lay dead, did Ptolemaios halt the suicidal attacks. Instead he sent five hundred Hoplites against the Grand East gate of Hadeopolis, as the walls around it had crumbled and left the gate wider then others, and thus harder to defend. So did the phalanx of the traitors approach the gate, shrugging off most of the fire directed at them thanks to their large shields. Even the death of many of their officers due to sniper fire did not slow their advance and they managed to get into an effective firing range of their own Thunderspears. But as they fired their first volley that bounced harmlessly off the Space Marines shields and power armour, loud shots were fired from behind the Sons lines. Before they knew it, many of the traitors fell to the ground as the Airburst rounds of the Thundercannons exploded above them.
Now did the Ptolemaios realize what the Sons of Hellas had done in the week that he had rampaged across the continent. Knowing that they were watched and most likely surrounded by strong enemy forces, they had used the large underground tunnels network that had once connected the Spear of Ares to the other fortresses and made their way out unseen. Once they had seen the extent of the task ahead, and identified the main target of Ptolemaios they had prepared just for this conflict. Without a doubt they had alerted the rest of the Chapter, but Ptolemaios knew it would take a long time for any reinforcements to arrive to their aid, while he could call in innumerable cultists and Hoplites to crack their defence. So did the Siege of Hadeopolis begin.
Two days went on, as the traitors sent in wave after wave of men to take the city, and each wave was met with disciplined volleys of bolter fire, the roar of Thundercannons and the impenetrable wall of shields and Thunderspears. Then Ptolemaios ordered his troops to rest for two days, while over 40,000 fresh cultists and traitor Hoplites marched to join them. In the following days the Sons of Hellas were forced to give up their stubborn defence of the city gates, and were pushed inside the city. If the enemy had expected an easier time once through the gates, they were in for a nightmare. The dank fog filled streets offered only limited visibility, and snipers, trap and new defensive positions all took their toll on the number of the attackers.
Hundreds of traitors died daily as they pushed again and again into the streets of the city. And eventually the numbers were beginning to take its toll, as the Sons were soon running out of ammo. The Space Marines were now constantly forced to fight hand to hand, and even though every one of them equalled dozens of traitors, the toll of constant fighting was taking its toll. Here and there a Brother fell to the traitors fire, another fell under the blade of a cultist. All of them were avenged swiftly, but these losses were something the defenders could ill afford. For every Son to fall, dozens new cultists came to bolster the number of Ptolemaios’s army. And so they pushed the brave Space Marines ever deeper into the city, ever closer to the Temple of Hades. Ever closer to victory of the Ruinous Powers.
After two weeks the defenders had been pushed into the inner most city. The Captain of the 7th Company had fallen on the 13th day of the siege, and the eldest sergeant of the 8th Company took command. Out of the nearly two hundred and fifty defenders almost half was dead or too badly wounded to continue the fight. On the fifteenth day of the siege the traitors managed to break through the defensive lines and thousands cultists rushed towards the Temple. The Sons all fell back and blocked the nine stair cases that led to the Temple, standing shoulder to shoulder and shield over lapping shield. Knowing that victory was near Ptoleamios ordered all of his forces to attack. Hadeopolis was a filled by a sea of traitors. The Hoplites were first sent to take the stairs, and when they failed a black wave of screaming and mutated cultists crashed against the shield wall. When they were finally cut down a new Hoplite formation made its way up the stairs. The Sons were forced to give ground stair by stair, each of them at a high cost to the attacker.
On the third day of the final assault Ptolemaios and the Witch-Seeress came to lead their troops. With her vile powers the Witch made large gaps into the ranks of the defenders, but still they stood in their ground. Ptolemaios led strikes to all weak points in the shield walls, felling many Sons with his foul demonic blade. But still the defenders kept fighting on. But eventually even the Space Marines resilience was at its end and they were pushed to the very base of the temple. Ptolemaios, certain of his victory spoke to the Sons, urging them to follow him. Through him the Sons would rise into glory and fame like never before, as true Sons of the Gods. As if from some unseen signal the Sons of Hellas begun to sing an ancient hymn, the death song of Lakonia. They would rather meet their end here then to submit to the twisted Ruinous Powers like this weak ruler and his minions.
As they reached the chorus, the Temple begun to tremble. What caused this none can say, but at the same time traitors all around Ptolemaios begun to fall. From within the Temple strode forth thirty massive figures. Their golden armours were massive, resembling the Terminator armours used by many Space Marine Chapters. Their weapons spat death in to the midst of the enemy, their large hammers smashing dozens of enemies aside with each strike. Leading them was a tall figure garbed in a pure white robe, bearing a large broken sword. His face was covered by a hood, and some Brothers swore they saw a light shining underneath it. This figure challenged both Ptolemaios and the Witch, while the thirty warriors and those of the Sons that yet were able to fight set out to purge Hadeopolis of all the lesser traitors. And not even for a moment did the Sons cease their hymn.
The Witch-Seeress summoned demos to aid her in her fight, but the robed fire dispatched these in an instant without difficulty. Then lightning struck the figure, but had little effect on him. The Witch grew desperate as she had now used her most powerful tricks. In her fear she made a mistake, one was to cost her life and soul. She turned into a Keeper of Secrets, a powerful Greater Daemon of the Ruinous Powers. It unleashed fire, ice, lightning and missiles of foul magic at the fool that stood in its way. The white robed figure evaded many of the attacks, and even those that struck him did not seem to effect him. Each time he dodged a fire ball, jumped over frozen ground, evaded lightning and parried the Keepers mighty blows of its staff, the mysterious figure inched closer to it. Then finally, he was within range and after trading fierce blows, the broken blade cleaved the Keepers head clean off.
The figure sank to one knee, exhausted, but the battle was not yet over. Ptolemaios charged at the figure like a mad man. He was obviously upset at what he had just witnessed, and perhaps for the first time he truly understood what he had done, and what awaited him. Had the stranger not been so weary, Ptolemaios would have died without a possibility to strike back. But now they were almost equal. The madness that had taken over the traitor gave him inhuman strength, while the stranger was left struggling just to defend himself. Then Ptolemaios managed to get pass his defence, pushing the long blade through his stomach. The traitor rejoiced, pushed the robed figure against the Temples wall, and prepared to give the final blow. But as he struck all he found was thin air, as the stranger dodged and instead drove his own sword into Ptolemaios’s heart. The traitor fell to the ground without a sound.
Around the Temple the traitors and loyalists had fought ferociously, but as both of their leaders fell, the cultists and traitor Hoplites broke and fled. The Sons pursued, intending to wipe these heretics from the face of the planet. None know what happened next, but according to the survivors reports, the streets were once thick with fog, and next when the Sons could see anything they were already outside the city. The only thing that told of the presence of the traitors was their now empty main camp. The severely wounded Sons that had been unable to move were now standing amongst the other survivors, barely a scar on them. The more ominous sight was a small pile of black boxes, that in the end were proven to contain the gene-seed of the fallen scouts, and the pile of scout equipments, armours and weapons. Next to them were rank upon rank of power armours used by the Sons of Hellas, each holding their shields and Thunderspears in their left gauntlet, and a black box on the palm on the right one. Closer look proved that the all the armours were empty, and they belonged to the Brothers that fell during the battle.
Scant hours later the first Thunderhawks landed, signing the arrival of the 2nd, 4th and 5th Companies. With the help of the coalition made by the loyalist city states the traitor cities were cleansed one by one. In Herrenia and Herrania not a stone was left to stand on another, as the people of these cities themselves rebelled against their corrupt rulers. In seeking forgiveness, they destroyed their magnificent cities, but left the mighty libraries and archives untouched, and the documents within were later retrieved by the Sons. Thousands died, as they were suspected of having fallen to worship the Dark Gods. When the loyalist forces arrived to the area, preparing to meet the last stronghold of the traitors, they found a ramshackle set of tents and huts in the middle of what used to be no-mans-land between the two cities. Seeing the arrival of the Sons of Hellas the people threw themselves to ground, howling like animals and promising to submit to any punishment the Sons would see fit. After the Sons witnessed the total destruction of the fabled Twin Cities, there was little they could do. The Chapters Librarians and Chaplains were called to root out any possibly remaining rebels, and to see a new leader to be chosen for the people.
In the coming centuries the people built a new city, naming it Herapolis. This city would in time achieve even greater glory and honour then either of the twin cities, becoming a true jewel of the main continent. But the dark days of the Heresy would haunt the people of the city forever, and a certain air of paranoia always seems to cover the otherwise cheerful and bright atmosphere of Herapolis.