The Iron Warriors of the 123rd Company under Serex Jasiera moved slowly across the plains. They had already sighted their target, a fortress built between the valley pass. There had been skirmishes when they arrived to bring the world to compliance, nothing that they and the Baranian 23rd could not handle. Now the prize lay before them and Jasiera stood atop a cliff ridge to get a better view of the terrain. His senior Sergeant Korna Unseles stood beside him with Colonel Jochim Strandton of the 23rd.
Jasiera glanced at the map that the human was holding he did no need such reminders, in the few moments after he had reached the ridge, and he had already taken in what surrounded him. Whoever had built the fortress, marked on the map that Strandton had acquired as Castello quae, bello Deorum “Redoubt of the war gods.” Jasiera could understand that, by the looks of the walls it would take gods to beat them down.
“Or a Titan” He mused to himself. His Sergeant and the Colonel glanced questionably at him but he did not elaborate.
There was a line of trees to the left, behind which was a larger canopy of trees that designated a dense forest, where he now stood with his companions was a high ridge that rose about ten feet into the air. Between the Forest and the rock face was a treacherous swamp; Jasiera had to admire their defence and the positioning of the fortress.
It stretched between the two cliff faces of the valley entrance, and by his estimation it was at least ten miles across. He allowed his vision to enlarge the sight and, like all Iron Warriors, he almost fell in love with the craftsmanship that had gone into its construction. The walls rose fifty feet into the air, four towers, and each housing massive guns pointed outwards ready to gun down any invader. There was a large gate carved into the stone, above which were smaller guns, positioned in such a way that they had a wide 360o view of what was before them. This was the front, ariel recon had been shot down before they got near enough to get any clean visuals, and high in the heavens, the Iron Heart could not penetrate the clouds that seemed to localise around the fortress and block any other view of it apart from the front.
Castelios Alpha was beginning to provide the Iron Warriors with a challenge. Since news of the Emperors ruling broke and the events that followed they had been nothing more than trenched warriors, now that was all changed, they were Astartes and mixed their skills with what Astartes did best. Horus knew that and he no longer allowed the sons of Olympia to become trench line warriors.
“That swamp is going to be a problem sir” Unseles mused, “Not for us but for the army and the tanks”
“There must be another way around” Strandton shook his head, “How else do they get supplies in?”
Jasiera was silent for a moment then turned to the two officers beside him,
“Unseles, I want Scout Sergeant Saman and his squad to go with the Baranian Rangers; they are to scout the forest region and look for anything that would give explanation to the Colonels valid question.
Then I want five brothers, with a tech Marine to prop the trajectory of those guns and their distance. Kalos, Deresen, Touchou Ingis, Fenos and Tech Marine Zelon should suffice, with Kalos being recently promoted to Sergeant, this should test his mettle”
“In the meantime, Colonel, I want your men and the brothers of Squads’ Heros, Justinian, Lorax and Hephastus to mark our trench lines as soon as the data comes in from Kalos and Squad Richeria”
“Yes My Lord, I have a suggestion lord” Strandton ventured.
“Let’s hear it” Jasiera told him.
“We could send an unmanned ship over the top, maybe find out what is blocking the ariel reconnaissance”
Both Iron Warriors glanced at each other and the Colonel believed that his suggestion was going to be laughed at. Instead the opposite happened, Jasiera nodded more to himself.
“Not a bad idea Colonel, even if it gets shot down then we will have some idea of the air trajectory. Sergeant, have Adept Bisos ready a drone of some kind, I would rather a servitor be shot down then a battle brother or member of the guard”
“Yes Sir” Strandons chest puffed with pride at his lords praise.
Both men saluted and moved down to join their respective camps. Jasiera folded his arms across his powerful chest, he had not met a fortress yet that he had not brought down, this would be a great battle, and this would be the fortress that would challenge him, of that he was certain.
Loken stood in the private stratagem alongside his Mournival brothers, Horus had not yet arrived, he had been in semi-seclusion since the death of the Khan, and his argument with the Ultimate Warrior had played on his mind, none of them knew what had occurred but Gulliman had been the last of the Primarchs to leave and something had occurred between them to have Horus fuming for days on end.
Abaddon had privately expressed his opinion to his brothers and Malgohurst the Equerry, which perhaps the father of the Ultramarines was preparing to make his empire a second one to rival the Grand Crusades empire building, in case it all went the way of the Emperor. None of them hoped that would occur, with half the Primarchs defecting to the Emperors new stance and the majority of the Terran born sons of the Legions behind Horus returning to their grandfathers’ side, this was turning into an uneven war. The last thing Horus wanted was to have a second empire, with a Primarch as its head, all sorts of things could happen. He wanted them to concentrate on the matter at hand, saving the Great Crusade and saving mankind from an Emperor gone mad.
Right now there was a vast programme of indoctrination into the full ranks with all the scouts across the board, and with the realisation that Psykers might be used again in the legions of the Emperor, many of the brothers who had returned to the ranks, were now being asked to don their old Librarian uniforms once more. Even Torgaddon was not his usual jokey self and Loken found that he actually missed his friends’ jovial banter, even if at times it seemed inappropriate.
Before he could ask if anyone knew what was going on the doors opened and the Warmaster swept into the room. The Mournival were about to go down to one knee when Horus waved it aside, his favoured sons need not show such abasement to him, anyone else he supposed, but not them, never them and his deep scowl prevented them from going against his wishes. He needed no show of respect from them, he already had that.
Loken noticed that his father’s armour held a large black band around the forearm and inside; in delicate Chogoris script was the name of the Great Khan.
“Do you remember what the Emperor said to me at my investiture as Warmaster?” Horus asked suddenly asked.
They all nodded, they knew it well as did the entire Legion. To recognise his authority as the supreme commander of the Emperors forces, the Emperor felt that it was necessary for the other legions to recognise the position Horus and his sons held.
“As I recall father,” Aximand said “You turned him down on the grounds that it would sew resentment within the other legions”
Horus nodded and handed the four brothers a goblet of wine, knowing full well that Abaddon and Torgaddon were drinkers of the harsh Chthonian ale that, to others outside the Legion, even the sons of Russ, was like paint stripper to the back of their throats.
“With recent events and some of my sons returning to the side of the Emperor,”
None of them failed to notice that since Prospero and the death of the Khan, Horus had stopped calling him father
“I feel that the Lunar Wolves will now be fighting beside the Emperor, so I am going to rename my Legion. I have already informed our allies of the fact and now I am telling you my Mournival so that you can inform the Legion”
“You are really going to do it?” Torgaddon frowned a little.
“Hubris be damned Tarik from this day forth the Lunar Wolves will be those companies that left for the mad god, we will be the Sons of Horus” His eyes burned bright with the knowledge that he was right in what he had decided
“I am the Warmaster and I am going to continue the Great Crusade and take back the Imperium of man and my brave sons and daughters, let us not forget the thousands of Imperial army that fight beside us, will war in my name and the name of the true Legions.”
Malgohurst cleared his throat and all looked at the Equerry “I have already informed the Legion sire, or should I say you have”
Horus frowned a little then heard the roar of those aboard the Vengeful Spirit, from the mighty Astartes to the below decks crew.
“Lupercal, Lupercal, Lupercal”
Horus wiped his eyes a little “White armour, green trim that will be our new colours and its time we took back the Imperium”
The Mournival realised that with the events of Prospero and the death of the father of the Steppes of Chogoris, Horus had begun to see that this was not a flash in the pan, if it was a war their Emperor wanted, then a war it would be.
“I need to make sure that our Legions are loyal to the cause” Horus moved to sit behind his desk and motioned his sons to sit down “I have received word from Mortarion that Amon Tetromach, the last Lion as they are calling him, not only escaped Terra with word that the world is well and truly in the throes of this blasted cult of the Emperor, but that Constantin Valdor and Malcador are dead”
Horus paused for a moment, his grief at the loss of Constantin obvious; Valdor was a companion to the young Horus when he was on Terra with his father, a second father figure. Malcador held the Warmasters respect and the loss of the Regent was equally damning.
“What did Amon say?” Abaddon asked quietly.
All the Mournival had a deep respect for the Captain-General of the Custodian Guard. The news of his demise and that of the Regent meant that there was now no one who would oppose the Emperor and his Legions on Terra.
“Lorgar is now the Black Pope” Horus saw the disgusted looks that crossed his sons’ faces and had to agree with them. “At the moment Amon believes he is acting Regent but Amon suspects that will go to Dorn when the time comes. The Imperial Fists have a second chapter. Sigismund is the Chapter master of a Chapter of fanatics who call themselves The Black Templars.
Amon and two Terrans were the only survivors’ from a town called Alyce Springs, the rest of its inhabitants were killed but the children were taken. He heard that the boys would be given to the Legions or turned into Custodes and the girls would be trained as a sisterhood devoted to the Emperor”
“This just gets worse” Torgaddon ran a hand down his face.
Horus made his hands into a steeple and his eyes darkened “Mortarion and Perturabo also believe that there is someone within their Legions who is reporting back to Terra, the last few worlds they fought on ended with casualties to companies they had sent there. From my understanding Amon is going to help with that, however, I have spoken to my brothers and we are going to ensure the same thing does not happen to us.”
“What about the Alpha Legion?” Loken asked “They work on secrecy and infiltration”
“Garvi is right” Abaddon agreed “What if they are the spies? They never answer anything without riddles, and you never know when one of them or several of them are within your brothers.”
“Easy enough to solve” Aximand swept his gaze across the room “We know that the Alpha Legion are with us but, as you so rightly say Ezekiel, we cannot know if they have another agenda, so, we get the company Captains across the fleets to order their companies for genetic testing. They can infiltrate and do a good job but they cannot fool a genetic scan. It would show up”
Horus nodded in agreement, “Have all Legionnaires report to the Apothecaries’ but I want them to think it is for a fitness test, I do not need them to start thinking they are mistrusted, we will keep this between us. Should anything turn up then we will deal with it accordingly.”
“What about Mortarion and Perturabo?” Loken asked.
“They will conduct their affairs as they see fit, however they will keep me informed. For now we are cleaning house and I hope by the hand of the ship that we have no spies within.”
The Mournival rose to their feet and bowed their heads “Is there anything else Lord?” Abaddon asked.
“Find me a world that needs our help Ezekiel, a world that we can bring to our banner, I need to feel like I am doing something useful.”
The Mournival left their father to his thoughts. Malgohurst was about to leave when Horus suddenly asked.
“Tell me Mal; have you ever seen Alpharius and Omeagon in the same room as each other?”
“Yes lord, Omeagon is the commander of the Effrite Squad and the First Captain”
“That’s not what I meant. All the Alpha Legion are alike, sometimes you do not really know if you are talking to Alpharius, what I meant was have you noticed how similar Alpharius and Omeagon are, more than any other of the Alpha warriors.”
Malgohurst cocked his head a little “What are you saying lord?”
“I am saying that perhaps there are some secrets about the Alpha Legion that even the Emperor does not know. I think I will arrange to meet them both, and then I will know for certain.”
Horus fell silent and the Equerry left his father too it, perplexed by his father’s words.