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- "If you bear the honour and glories of the past, you must also bear its duties."
- — Danarth Lysander, Imperial Fists First Captain
Darnath Lysander is the First Captain of the Imperial Fists Chapter's 1st Company, Overseer of the Armoury and Watch Commander of the Imperial Fists' mobile fortress-monastery, Phalanx. Even for a Space Marine, Darnath Lysander has led a long and bloody career. As a Sergeant he was credited with the successful defence of Colonial Bridge and hailed as the vanquisher of the Heretics of Iduno. As Captain of the 2nd Company he led the storming of the Eldar Cruiser Blood of Khaine and rescued the Haddrake Tor planetstrike from disaster.
For two standard centuries, Lysander led the Imperial Fists' 1st Company with distinction, earning the highest praises his Chapter could bestow. Whilst leading a force of Imperial Fists, they disappeared into a Warp Storm and were feared lost, though the Chapter patiently waited for his return for quite some time. The Chapter ultimately pronounced Lysander and his men dead in absentia. In truth, Lysander's starship re-emerged into Chaos-held space where it was captured by the Imperial Fists' bitter enemies, the Iron Warriors. Lysander and the survivors were captured and taken by the Traitors to one of their accursed Fortress Worlds, known as Malodrax, and were tortured for years. Eventually Lysander, without weapons or armour, effected his escape and fought his way off the accursed Chaos world to freedom. When he returned to the Imperial Fists Chapter, many centuries had passed in the material universe. Fearing that he might have been tainted by the Ruinous Powers, Lysander was thoroughly screened by the Chapter's various specialists and found free of Chaotic taint. Afterwards, Captain Lysander was reinstated to his position as Captain of the 1st Company. Lysander then led a force to raze the Iron Warriors from Malodrax and laid the world to waste, achieving his vengeance at last.
During his time as First Captain, Lysander is also noted for his development of the Titan Hammer formation, which is a group of Terminator Squads armed with Thunder Hammers and the rare weapon known as a Vortex Grenade that can open a vortex between realspace and the Warp. Titan Hammer formations are tasked with the destruction of enemy Titans. It has enjoyed considerable success, having claimed the Chaos-tainted Titans Glory’s Fist, Fires of Hades, Iron Jackal, Hellfiend and Lucian’s Might.
Darnath Lysander is rare amongst Space Marines of the present era, for he was recruited on Terra itself. His 13 year pilgrimage towards becoming an Astartes began with his parents before his birth, following an oft difficult path towards a pilgrimage to Terra from their homeworld that was interrupted by betrayal, enslavement and the murder of his family. Lysander was kept alive by the charity of the Imperial Cult and his own wits, learning to fight, at first for survival, and then to complete the pilgrimage his parents had begun. His road to Terra was fraught with peril; such as the devastation of WAAAGH! Grozdakk and the horror of the Quesarch Heresy and the subsequent Imperial purging of Quesarch. The determination of the pilgrim boy gradually became known in high places and upon his arrival on Terra he was greeted as a hero.
At that time Chaplain Shadryss of the Imperial Fists was on Terra conducting Chapter business and first heard the extraordinary young man's tale. He sought out the young pilgrim by the Pillar of Bone, a monument that was believed to have been erected on Terra to commemorate the Imperial Fists' courage in an unnamed campaign. But in reality it was actually a sacred holy relic to those privy to the knowledge of its origin within the Imperial Fists Chapter. The Pillar was the last remnant of the once-great Imperial Fists fortress-monastery that had once existed on Terra in the days of the Great Crusade. It had been destroyed during the Horus Heresy in the Battle of Terra but, to most of the huddled masses of the Imperium, the Heresy was only a legend and few would dare to openly claim that the Forces of Chaos had ever set foot on the sacred ground of Terra. In the holes torn from the column by Bolter fire were the scrimshawed hands of ancient Imperial Fists Battle-Brothers. Part of Chaplain Shadryss' sacred mission as a Chaplain was to bring fresh relics of the Imperial Fists to the Pillar, but he also came to Mankind's homeworld to recruit pilgrims from across the Imperium who were deemed worthy of becoming Aspirants of the Chapter. It seemed to Shadryss that Lysander had the blessings of Rogal Dorn upon him.
Lysander excelled on the harsh training fields of Juno and Ganymede, progressing through indoctrination and training with a speed seldom before witnessed. Under Shadryss’ tutelage, he learned that the Emperor was not a god, as the Imperial Cult decreed, but a mighty warrior and visionary from whose mortal flesh the Space Marines had sprung. Lysander rejected this at first, for faith had been the only sustenance he had known for much of his young life. However, he soon came to embrace this new truth, realising that it made the Emperor no less a saviour. Like all those who had come before him, Lysander pledged his life to upholding the Emperor’s works, not as the helpless worshipper he had once been, but as a warrior honouring the deeds of an illustrious forefather.
Years passed, and Lysander passed into Captain Jostin’s 2nd Company, the Swords of Terra, where he quickly rose to the rank of sergeant. Here, to the outrage of his peers, he cast out the official bolter drill honed over many thousands of years. Instead, Lysander trained his battle-brothers in the more unorthodox techniques he had learnt from Jonas Makan, the sombre Scout Sergeant who had inducted him into the art of war. When Jostin challenged Lysander about his breach of tradition, he refused to back down, arguing that effectiveness counted for more than blind adherence. However, in the end it was only Shadryss’ intervention that prevented Lysander’s demotion and censure.
A Hero's AscensionEdit
The name Lysander first appeared on the Liber Honorus of the Imperial Fists Chapter in 567.M40 when, as a sergeant of the 2nd Company, he was first recognised for his leadership and valour during his actions on the planet of Iduno during the Battle of the Colonial Bridge. There, three Tactical Squads from the 2nd Company held the bridge leading to the governor’s palace against a cultist horde of some three thousand lost souls. Captain Jostin perished in the initial moments of the attack, a lucky autogun shell smashing through his helm’s left eyepiece to bury itself deep in his brain. With Jostin’s death, Lysander took command, directing the survivors in the clockwork volleys first impressed upon him by Sergeant Makan. Unable to make headway through the storm of roaring shells, the cultists fell back in disarray, leaving a bloody rampart of their own dead behind.
The Battle of Colonial Bridge was the first time that Lysander’s name was recorded in the Chapter’s Liber Honorus, the same techniques that had once threatened to bring him ruin now earning him great honour. The battle also granted Lysander a first glimpse of one of the traitorous Iron Warriors. It had been their heresies that had wrought insurrection on Iduno, and one of their augmented warriors was later discovered amongst the dead. The renegade’s presence was enough to bring the full might of the Imperial Fists down on Iduno, but no further traces of Perturabo’s treacherous sons were found.
In the wake of Iduno, Lysander earned many more Imperial laurels. He became known as a warrior who could hold any position, no matter how indefensible it might appear to others. Yet he was no stranger to daring assaults, either. Indeed, it was following the capture of the Eldar cruiser Blood of Khaine that he rose to the command of the 2nd Company. When the Imperial Fists deployed to break the three-year Siege of Haddrake Tor, a planet in the merciless grasp of the Iron Warriors Warsmith Shon’tu, it was Lysander who commanded the Drop Pod assault onto the heights. Having secured the high ground, Lysander’s strike force set up teleport homers to summon the Terminators of the 1st Company into the thick of the fighting.
Alas, the defenders had set a tremor in the Warp, and many of the Terminators materialised over deep chasms, or else in solid rock. Kleitus, Captain of the 1st Company, was one of these, his body reforming around solid stone. Before he died, Kleitus thrust his thunder hammer, the Fist of Dorn, into Lysander’s hands, and bade him seek vengeance through victory.
This Lysander did, leading the survivors of the 1st Company alongside his own to shatter the Iron Warriors stronghold. Shon’tu fled from the planet in defeat, but he had left a mystery in his wake. Survivors spoke of how the Warsmith had concerned himself little with the despoliation of their world, and had instead buried himself in a search through its millennia old archives. Unfortunately, there was no way to know what Shon’tu had been searching for, as he had destroyed the archives before making his escape.
In the reorganisation that followed Haddrake Tor, Lysander was elevated to the rank of First Captain, Master of the 1st Company, Overseer of the Armoury and Watch Commander of Phalanx. Chaplain Shadryss, now many centuries old, looked upon the path his recruit had walked, and saw his faith had been rewarded. Lysander seemed certain to rise one day to the supreme rank of Chapter Master, and perhaps lead the Imperial Fists into a new and glorious age.
Lysander's next noteworthy victory came against the Chaos Space Marines of the Alpha Legion. In the Jorgurd Cluster, while putting down an insurrection on the world of Klebendor III, the Imperial Fists forces under the First Captain's command captured the Traitor Marines' Chaos Champion Ialo Vex and his inner circle whilst they were desecrating the Cathedral of Saint Aspira. After receiving guidance from the Inquisition, Lysander pursued the enemy back to their lair in the form of a remote space station constructed in the heart of an asteroid. Lysander immediately launched a surprise attack on the enemy's Cruiser while its power was off-line and the ship was docked. The courageous Captain personally led the boarding party of Terminators that teleported aboard the Alpha Legion's vessel. They held off Alpha Legion reprisals for several hours while the 3rd Company landed in Thunderhawk gunships and fought their way through the space station's dock complex to reinforce the Imperial Fist Veterans already aboard the Cruiser. Lysander defeated no less then 7 foul Champions of the Dark Gods. At the height of the battle, the Chaos Space Marines made a desperate last assault on the 1st Company's encircling warriors. This appeared successful before Lysander countered their attack, ambushing them in mid-assault by cutting through the Cruiser's interposing bulkheads with his Terminators' Chainfists and Thunder Hammers. Under attack from multiple directions, the enemy's plight was only reinforced by the 3rd Company's arrival. The Traitors fled into the tunnels of their asteroid base, earning only a brief respite before Lysander's Terminator Squads purged the last of the Heretics.
A Prisoner of ChaosEdit
Another two Terran centuries of honoured service as the master of the 1st Company awaited him before events conspired to bring about a tragedy. Towards the end of the 40th Millennium, Lysander was travelling aboard the Imperial Fists Strike Cruiser Shield of Valour when it was lost in the Warp. With him was lost a sizable portion of the 1st Company. The Imperial Fists waited, hoping for his eventual return. But it was all to no avail, for decades and then centuries passed with no sign of the starship's return to realspace. All hope was given up and Lysander's name was entered on the roster of the Chapter's fallen and his statue placed in the Hall of Heroes in the Phalanx.
Yet Lysander and his crew were not so dead as any supposed. Due to the fickle tides of the Warp, the Shield of Valour returned to normal space nearly a thousand Terran years later, in 964.M41. However, the location that the Imperial Fists found themselves in was hardly any better. They were located in the outer orbit of the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion's stronghold world of Malodrax on the western fringes of the Eye of Terror. The Iron Warriors were quick in their reaction and the firepower of 3 orbital fortresses disabled the Strike Cruiser. Lysander and a handful of Imperial Fists survivors were easily captured by the Iron Warriors.
Lysander’s captor, the Warsmith Shon’tu, believed himself a reincarnation of the legendary Dark Age warlord who had borne the same name. He had christened Malodrax after his predecessor’s mythical fortress and, as he went about his bloody tortures, Shon’tu recounted ‘his’ glorious past deeds, ever boasting of the horrific legends he would reforge. He spoke endlessly of the spear Hydros, Bringer of the Swarm, and his search to reclaim the leviathan war barque Tamunash, whose weapons had laid waste to a thousand worlds and, Shon’tu boasted, would do so again.
In the hands of their most hated foe, the Imperial Fists were shown no mercy or pity. The Iron Warriors tortured them for weeks and only the astonishing tenacity of the Sons of Dorn allowed them to survive a full month of incarceration and the tender mercies of the Iron Warriors. Although Lysander's body was bloody and broken, his will remained intact. Throwing off his shackles, he and the handful of Imperial Fists survivors fought their way unarmoured and initially with no weapons save for their fury and their fists through the planetary capital, managing to reach a shuttle and escape into the void.
Lysander returned to the Chapter and was received with great acclaim by his Battle-Brothers and the Chapter Council. Although none of them had even been born when the Shield of Valour had been lost to the Warp, his legend remained strong among the Astartes of the Chapter and his actions still provided inspiration to new Battle-Brothers. However, for all this joy at his miraculous return, a deep vein of fear was rooted in the minds of the Imperial Fists that their hero had been corrupted in some way during his time spent in the Warp and the dungeons of the Iron Warriors. Lysander underwent 6 months of meticulous examination by the Imperial Fists' Librarians and Apothecaries, in which his body and psyche were tested against the Chapter's records. Every corner of his soul and every cell in his body was examined thoroughly, leaving no doubt in the minds of his brothers that Lysander was free of any spiritual or physical taint. With thunderous approval, Lysander was ultimately restored to his post as the Captain of the 1st Company. Within 6 months of his reappointment, Lysander returned to Malodrax to avenge those lost and his own suffering at the hands of the Iron Warriors. None could stand before the righteous fury of the Imperial Fists as Lysander claimed his revenge.
Once Malodrax had been cleansed, Lysander vowed to scour the foul stain of the Iron Warriors from the galaxy once and for all. Gathering warriors from across the vast holdings of the Imperium, he initiated a crusade against the Imperial Fists' most hated foe that continues to this day. Though Shon’tu escaped that maelstrom of blood and fire, he did so weakened and beaten. Yet Malodrax was but the start – Lysander’s vengeance had only just begun.
Storm Clouds GatherEdit
Following the scourging of Malodrax, Lysander threw himself into the extermination of the Iron Warriors. Within three years, the captain had masterminded and led the destruction of three other fortress worlds bordering the Eye of Terror, one of which – the Blackstar Redoubt – had ground three separate Cadian assaults into bloody paste across the previous decade.
In his works, Lysander had the vociferous approval of his Chapter Master, Vladimir Pugh, and a tacit devotion from the rest of his battle-brothers which bordered upon worship. Pugh was, if anything, slightly wary of Lysander, for he feared that the other might attempt to leverage his reputation in an effort to become the next Chapter Master. In another man, Pugh’s concerns might have been the result of ego or pettiness, but such things were entirely alien to his nature. An honest and honourable warrior, even by the exacting standards of the Imperial Fists, Pugh would have readily stood aside for a worthy candidate.
However, the Chapter Master could not quite allay his concerns about Lysander, with whom he had clashed on several occasions since his return. Pugh found his First Captain a little too stubborn, a little too swift to recount the ways in which his experience exceeded that of his Chapter Master. Even discounting Lysander’s lost millennium in the Warp, he had nearly a century of experience over any living Imperial Fist. Pugh did not wish to fight Lysander’s ascension, which he saw as inevitable. He merely wished to delay that day until Lysander was truly ready for the Chapter’s gilded throne. Pugh had always felt that his own ascension had come too early, that the deaths of one hundred and seventy Imperial Fists in the Boreal Planetstrike could have been avoided, but for his own stubborn refusal to fall back. Pugh had learnt from that disaster, but considered the price of that wisdom too steep.
For his part, Lysander was still coming to terms with life in a new millennium. Much was the same, for bureaucratic inertia and tradition had made it so, but almost every warrior he had known from before was now dead. Most had perished on the Emperor’s battlefields, bringing his vengeance to the enemies of Mankind, and Chaplain Shadryss had passed on during the Siege of Moros, at last having found a foe canny enough to take his life. Joran Makan, Lysander’s Scout Sergeant during his formative years, was now interred within a Dreadnought’s adamantium sarcophagus, but his mind was so scattered that he no longer recognised his old student.
An Obsession With VengeanceEdit
Such was Lysander’s unrelenting ferocity in his pursuit of the Iron Warriors that the Imperial Fists often entered battle bereft of their 1st Company, which was all too often hammering yet another renegade fortress to dust many light years distant. Other Chapters – indeed, other Chapter Masters than Vladimir Pugh – might have sought to quell so personal a crusade lest it overtake a Space Marine’s broader and selfless duties. However, the ten thousand year hatred between the Iron Warriors and the Imperial Fists was a powerful force, and Pugh found it fitting that a part of the Chapter’s strength was ever dedicated to repaying the slights of the Iron Cage, and ten thousand other battles. In any event, Pugh could think of no better way to test Lysander’s suitability for a more exalted rank.
The 1st Company did not always fight alone. As Lysander’s plans grew ever more ambitious, Pugh assigned additional forces to his temporary command. At the Revold Maze, Lysander’s strike force consisted not only of the 1st Company, but also demi-companies from the 2nd and 5th. At the Blackstar Redoubt, Pugh himself accompanied the 3rd and 9th Companies, content to serve as Lysander’s strategic observer, the better to take full measure of his First Captain’s ability. Nevertheless, and despite his intended detachment, Pugh found himself fighting at Lysander’s side in the final assault on the weapon-forges. He saw the Fist of Dorn shatter the vast black gates, and cheered as loud as any of his battle-brothers as Lysander smote the towering Daemon Prince who served as master of the forge. A day later, when Pugh watched from orbit as barrage bombs collapsed the Blackstar Redoubt’s jagged iron spires, he knew that the time had come. Upon the return to Phalanx, Pugh would step down and take a captaincy. The future of the Imperial Fists would lie in Lysander’s hands.
Then came the attack on Taladorn.
The Invasion of TaladornEdit
The Iron Warriors had not sat idly by whilst Lysander had levelled their holdings. An influential new warlord had risen to power amongst Perturabo’s sons. With promises of revenge and dark glory, he raised a new army – the Sons of the Forge – from the remnants of warbands crushed by Lysander’s hammer-blows. No one but this warlord knew why the manufactorum world of Taladorn was chosen, save perhaps as an object lesson in needless malice. There was certainly no military goal beyond the stark application of terror, a reassertion of the Iron Warriors’ might following a string of defeats.
The fleet of gunmetal battleships struck Taladorn without warning, pounding the world’s defences into rubble before unleashing wave after wave of Dreadclaws onto the planet’s surface. Drop ships in the shape of tentacled dragons followed, their coiled feelers flailing as they sought purchase amongst the manufactorums’ upper towers. As the vessels settled into position, Warpsmiths struck runes of containment from the passenger bays, and snarling Daemon Engines spilled into the city streets.
Defence commanders mustered what forces they could, but troops recruited to confront the violence of gangs, smugglers and pirates were of little use against the monstrosities that now tore their regiments to red ruin. Valkyries, operating from a hidden airbase on the polar continent, screamed south to engage a second wave of renegade drop ships, but were swatted from the sky by the Heldrakes that swooped and dove upon Taladorn’s volcanic thermals. Taladorn Primus, seat of the Planetary Governor, surrendered after less than a day’s fighting. Before the week was out, almost all the other cities had petitioned for mercy. Only Taladorn Decimus, located in the extreme south, still stood unconquered. Built as it was into the side of an obsidian mountain, its defences had ridden out the bombardment better than those of its fellows. Any Dreadclaw that landed within range of Decimus’ guns was blown apart by shellfire, and any drop ship or Heldrake that entered its skies risked obliteration by its impressive array of defence lasers. Yet, stalwart as it was, Decimus could not offer assistance to its fellows. Thus did its inhabitants watch helplessly as the Iron Warriors set about enslaving the population, praying all the while that the storm of iron would leave them untouched.
In the following weeks, the Iron Warriors wrought great change upon the planet. Taladorn Primus was overrun by coiling mecharoots, woven together to form a vast domed structure over the ruins. This had become the Forgeheart, an imposing citadel beneath which the Iron Warriors’ grafted bond-slaves – men and women who had embraced damnation for promises of mechanical apotheosis – fed the bellowing Daemon forges night and day. The previous inhabitants – those who still lived – now toiled beneath Taladorn Sextus. This blasted ruin was now little more than a forced-labour mining complex, squatting amongst the rubble and supplying precious ores to the rapacious Warp-foundries beneath the Forgeheart. By the time the Imperium responded, millions had perished in the mines, and the mecharoots had spread to cover almost the entire southern continent. Taladorn was well on its way to becoming a new fortress world.
The Coming of the Imperial FistsEdit
Taladorn had been under occupation for a little over two months when the Space Marines at last arrived. This was not a coordinated counter-strike, but a piecemeal response to Taladorn’s garbled distress calls. Thus, when the Imperial Fists arrived, they found the world’s orbit lit with lance flares and torpedo trails, and an impressive fleet of crimson Azkaellon-class frigates engaging the Iron Warriors fleet.
The Blood Angels vessels attacked with their customary bravado, ignoring the disparity in size and numbers. Already one of the Chaos battleships was afire along its length, puffs of atmosphere venting as escape pods hurtled out into the void. As Lysander watched from the bridge of the Battle Barge Storm of Wrath, a cluster of boarding torpedoes struck home against the aft section of a second Iron Warriors ship, and the First Captain knew them to contain Blood Angels boarding parties – a brave but reckless strategy. Deeming that the momentum of the Blood Angels’ assault would soon dwindle, Lysander ordered the Storm of Wrath and its support fleet to join the battle.
The Iron Warriors admiral was quick to respond. Like Lysander, he knew that the Storm of Wrath was the single mightiest vessel so far engaged – its survival or destruction would determine where victory lay. At an unseen command, three Chaos heavy cruisers came about on an interception heading, swarms of Heldrakes boiling out of their fighter bays. Ignoring the Blood Angels frigates, they bore down on the Storm of Wrath with violent determination.
As the Storm of Wrath’s guns fired their first salvo, another force entered the growing battle, as the Ultramarines Strike Cruiser Valin’s Revenge burst into realspace off the Battle Barge’s port flank. The newcomer fired its prow guns in brief salute, then drove in hard beneath the Storm of Wrath, its dorsal weapon batteries roaring as they obliterated a vanguard wave of Heldrakes.
The prudent action for Lysander to have taken at that point would have been to obliterate or repel the Chaos fleet before initiating planetstrike. However, he quickly decided otherwise. When later recounting the battle to the Chapter Council, Lysander would cite his concern that every moment of delay was another moment in which the Forgeheart’s defence systems could have been brought online, but the truth of the matter was that he had little patience for duelling amongst the stars whilst the Iron Warriors’ grip lay tight about an Imperial world. Ordering the Storm of Wrath into a slow belly roll to bring its deployment chutes into alignment, Lysander left command of the Battle Barge with its commodore and ordered his assault force to their Drop Pods. As the heavy cruisers reached weapons-range and the Battle Barge’s hull began to shudder under shell impacts, the Imperial Fists launched their assault on Taladorn.
The first wave of the Imperial Fists’ planetstrike came as a storm of barrage bombs and lance strikes. They slammed into the Forgeheart like bolts of divine fury, collapsing sections of the dome to crush the smokestacks and Daemon forges below. Mecharoots flailed like wounded animals, the ends thrashing madly through the bombardment’s dust clouds. A few defence batteries returned sporadic fire, but a second bombardment followed hard on the heels of the first, silencing these emplacements. Scores of Iron Warriors, and many hundreds of their bond-slaves, perished in those opening salvoes, blown apart by shockwaves or crushed flat by falling rubble.
The Planetstrike BeginsEdit
The planetary assault began in earnest even as the aftershocks ceased. Lysander had given the honour of vanguard to Vorn Hagan’s 5th Company, and they struck with a precision worthy of Dorn. Drop Pods screamed downwards, their retro-thrusters pinpricks of brilliant white against an angry red sky. They tore through weakened sections in the Forgeheart’s dome, slamming into the rubble-strewn expanse below. Drop Pod hatches slammed down as one, and the battle-brothers of the 5th Company strode out into the debris-choked air, bolters blazing as they came. An instant later, the air flickered as Captain Lysander and three squads of the 1st Company’s Terminators teleported into position. Lysander had ordered the rest of the 1st Company, under the command of Honoured Sergeant Julan, to capture the slave pens beneath Taladorn Sextus. Lysander was aware that splitting his already outnumbered force was something of a risk, but had few doubts about Julan’s ability, and none at all about his own.
The counter-attack began almost immediately. Bolt-and auto-shells streamed from amongst the rubble, every weapon aimed by a hated Iron Warrior or a zealous bond-slave hoping to earn his master’s favour. Still the Imperial Fists came on. Under Lysander’s terse commands, they advanced across the shattered tangle of permacrete and adamantium, disdaining all thought of cover. Heavier weapon-fire split the air, lascannons and plasma guns crewed from the balconies of smoke-blackened spires and gantry lines spitting bright death. Devastators returned fire, missiles and heavy bolter shells hammering at the defenders’ positions. A vast stone balcony all but disintegrated under the impact of two krak missiles, and screaming cultists plunged to their deaths amidst the rubble below, their bodies trampled beneath the advancing Imperial Fists.
All at once, the defenders’ fire slackened as the bond-slaves retreated into the tangle of corridors, leaving their masters to fend for themselves. Not so much as a single Iron Warrior took a step backward. Planting their feet firmly amongst the wreckage, the traitors taunted their ancient enemies, daring them to come forward and die. The Imperial Fists’ response came as another volley of boltgun fire, the roar of the guns drowning out their foes’ raucous taunts.
Captain Vogen’s 3rd Company did not deploy for another quarter of an hour, their launch delayed by a concerted bombing run on the Storm of Wrath. By the time their Drop Pods smashed home amongst the dead and dying, the battle had moved on. Comm-traffic told Vogen that Lysander had moved up into the fortress’ command spire, and half of the 5th Company had gone with him. The rest, under Hagan’s command, had spread out to secure the fortress’ depths. Bolter-fire still raged in the middle distance – the battle was far from over.
The further into the Forgeheart the 3rd Company drove, the more twisted the environs became. Gone were the stark lines of an Imperial manufactorum. Instead, mecharoots pulsed and writhed around pillars fused from metal and flesh. Not all of Taladorn’s inhabitants had survived to reach the mines. Many, infected by some machine contagion, had become the materials from which the Forgeheart had been fashioned. Their contorted faces stared out from walls, mouths open in silent screams at their horrifying fate. Veteran Sergeant Garadon – Vogen’s second in command, and the company’s most decorated warrior – broke his customary silence as he looked upon these tortured dead and swore to avenge them.
Under Vogen’s command, the newcomers pushed on into the hellish maze of smelting pits and blazing forges. Lysander’s trail of destruction was easily found, but following it was another matter. More Iron Warriors were converging on the battle, drawn to Lysander’s presence as moths to a vengeful flame. They found the 3rd Company instead, and a vicious running battle broke out amongst the smelting pits. Some of the gantry lines and scaffolds were unstable, and many combatants’ battles ended not in glorious volleys of bolter fire, but in seething pits of molten metal.
As the battle raged, a quadrupedal Daemon Engine charged out of the darkness. It leapt high onto a permacrete wall, then pounced down into Tactical Squad Renon. Five battle-brothers went down as the Maulerfiend struck, the survivors hurled away by the beast’s flailing tentacles. The Daemon Engine was in motion again even before its victims had hit the ground, pistons driving it on towards Vogen. The captain had but a moment before the creature was on him, and it was not enough. Even as Vogen’s crackling power fist came around, the Maulerfiend slammed into him. The beast’s colossal mass bore the captain to the ground, and Vogen’s gauntlet slammed into the side of its armoured skull. The blow smashed one of the monster’s glittering eyes, leaving a livid scar of ruined metal in its place. The beast barely slowed. With a hiss of pistons, it punched a massive alloy fist down onto the captain’s breastplate, shattering his power armour and pulping the Space Marine’s chest. Vogen died instantly.
Tearing his attention from the Traitor Marines, Sergeant Garadon barked orders into his comm-link. Lascannons blazed, boring deep into the beast’s Warp metal torso. The Maulerfiend roared in pain and gathered itself for another pounce, but the lascannons flared for a second time, their devastating energies striking with precision and shearing off one of the Daemon Engine’s forelegs. With a last terrible roar, the Maulerfiend slumped to its side, oily blood spilling from its wounds.
With the Daemon Engine’s defeat, the Iron Warriors’ determination faded. In ones and twos, they broke off into the darkened corridors. Detailing the remains of Squad Renon to carry Captain Vogen’s remains back to the drop zone, Garadon assumed command, and redoubled the company’s pace.
At last, after what seemed an age, the 3rd Company emerged onto the pinnacle of the command spire – or what was left of it. What had once been the planetary governor’s palace was now overcome by the coiling corruption of the Iron Warriors’ technarcana. Scattered throughout alcoves, windows and gateways were vast, coil-encrusted hexagonal pods. At the apex of each, cables pulsed as they delivered vile fluids to whatever lay within. But it was the battle raging at the chamber’s heart that drew Garadon’s attention. There, amongst the carbon-scored tangle of ruined machinery, some thirty warriors of the 5th Company fought alongside the bulkier Terminator-armoured veterans of the 1st. Gunmetalclad dead were piled deep around them, but there was golden armour too amongst the grey.
To Garadon’s eye, too many battle-brothers had fallen, and more would perish before this battle was done. The Imperial Fists were severely outnumbered, and the air was full of the metallic roars of Daemon Engines. In the centre of the chamber, Lysander clashed with a hulking figure, clad in what had once been Terminator armour. Now both flesh and armour were merged, a horrific melding of man and machine. This was the warlord of the Sons of the Forge, come at last to face his domain’s invaders. Garadon didn’t hesitate. With a single barked word of command, he threw the 3rd Company into the fray.
A Duel of HateEdit
Lysander saw none of it, for he was lost to the battle with his hated foe. This was no mere warlord he faced, but Shon’tu, ruler of vile Malodrax. The Fist of Dorn swung about, shattering Shon’tu’s left shoulder guard, but still the warlord came on, a leer upon his face and a Daemon sword grasped tight in his left hand. Knocking Lysander’s second blow aside, Shon’tu slammed his unwounded shoulder into Lysander’s chest.
As the First Captain staggered backwards, Shon’tu pressed the fingers of his free hand tight upon his left gauntlet. Responding to this silent signal, the pods lined about the walls cracked open with a flare of greenish gas and the feeder cables tore free. Metallic roars echoed across the command spire, their timbre somewhere between rage and agony, and scores of glistening Daemon Engines lurched forth into the battle.
As Lysander threw himself at Shon’tu once again, his comm-link crackled into life. The blockade fleet had been driven off; the Ultramarines had made orbit, and Captain Sicarius now offered reinforcement. Lysander was incensed. This was the Imperial Fists’ battle – honour decreed that they would claim victory from this adversity as they had many times before. Hagan’s forces would soon return from the depths to join the battle, and Perturabo’s cursed children would be annihilated. Catching the strike of Shon’tu’s Daemon sword high upon his shield, the First Captain angrily refused the Ultramarines’ assistance, and fought on.
Elsewhere, the newly-birthed Daemon Engines had seemed disoriented at first, and this gave Sergeant Garadon some much-needed time to react. The 3rd Company were still some distance from linking up with their beleaguered battle-brothers, so Garadon ordered his warriors to form a defensive ring in the heart of the nearest courtyard. From this living fortress, his Devastators could track and destroy the onrushing Daemon Engines – at least, that was the plan. As his battle-brothers took their positions, Garadon saw that these monstrosities were not quite the same as the creature that had slain Vogen. They were incomplete somehow, trailing metal tubing and viscous fluids. Some had stubby, half-formed weaponry; others had warped and mottled armour, the texture akin to molten wax. They were unfinished, Garadon realised, Shon’tu must have been desperate indeed. But half-forged or no, the newly-woken Daemon Engines quickly proved themselves fearsome foes.
A roar of engines from the skies above at last denoted the arrival of a flight of Imperial Fists Stormravens, the heavy rasping of their assault cannons a welcome sound amidst the carnage. The heavy shells tore into the Iron Warriors, driving them back from where the 5th Company who had accompanied Lysander stood their ground, but they made little impact on the Daemon Engines’ armoured hides. With a screech, a Heldrake plunged from the bleak skies, its talons tearing deep into one of the Stormravens. Crippled, the flyer plunged groundward, its impact tearing a bloody furrow through the 3rd Company’s position. As more Heldrakes arrived from the skies, the surviving Stormravens banked away to begin their own fight for survival. Nevertheless, between their intervention and the fortitude of the 1st Company’s Terminators, the 5th would endure. The same could not be said for those who had thought to rescue them.
The Cost of PrideEdit
Its formation shattered by the Stormraven’s impact, the 3rd Company was being mauled. Fire rained down from all sides, and two dozen battle-brothers had already fallen. The survivors fought on, teeth gritted against the pain of their wounds, but their foes were too many. A Forgefiend’s autocannons blazed and three battle-brothers of Squad Tynon were torn apart.
Brother Conrath, the lone Dreadnought assigned to the 3rd Company, turned his multi-melta on the monstrosity and reduced it to steaming slag, but his armour soon buckled as other Daemon Engines returned fire. Roiling gouts of Warp energy tore through the 3rd Company’s position, the blistering clouds melting armour and incinerating flesh. Sergeant Garadon, his right arm shattered by an autocannon shell, saw his brothers dying about him and roared defiance.
Again, Lysander’s comm-link crackled into life with an offer of assistance, but again he refused. Hagan, as yet unaware of the situation atop the spire, made no response, but Garadon looked around at the ruin of his battle-brothers, and came to a decision. Triggering his own comm, he made formal acceptance of Sicarius’ offer. Lysander’s bellow of rage flooded the channel and drowned out the Ultramarine’s response. Garadon paid it no heed and triggered his Teleport Homer. A moment later, there was a flicker of motion as some thirty Ultramarines Terminators materialised in the chamber, storm bolters and assault cannons already bellowing their anthem of war.
This new arrival marked the last turning point in the Battle for Taladorn. Shon’tu had no surprises remaining to him, and following Garadon’s request for assistance, the forces marshalled against the Warsmith rose steeply. Next to arrive were the Ultramarines 2nd Company, the Thunderhawks Gladius and Spatha descending from the skies amidst a whine of turbo-laser fire. Hard on their heels, deploying from Stormraven Gunships at break-neck speed, were the vanguard of Captain Tycho’s Blood Angels.
Where before the Space Marines had been outnumbered, now they had the upper hand. The Ultramarines advanced methodically through the rubble, their line of battle expanding and contracting to match the Iron Warriors’ desperate counter-attacks. One of Shon’tu’s lieutenants, a giant of a man named Marax, took refuge in the remains of the Divinitas Shrine. The brute directed his fellows’ fire with such ruthless efficiency that any Ultramarine who approached was all but torn apart. This ended when Tycho loosed his Death Company against the ruins. Seemingly impervious to pain, the black-armoured warriors forged on through the storm of fire, hacking at the defenders with chainswords or tearing them apart with bare hands. Overwhelmed by their fury, Marax’s makeshift bastion collapsed, the survivors left to the Ultramarines’ guns.
By the time Captain Hagan’s demi-company had reached the command spire – the force upon which Lysander had pinned his hopes of victory – the Iron Warriors were in full retreat. Shon’tu, seeing his cause lost, fled with his followers and escaped into the tunnels below.
It would take many more days to fully drive the Iron Warriors from Taladorn and to scour their works from the planet’s surface, but no effort was spared until the task was complete. Dozens of traitors, and many hundreds of bond-slaves, were hunted down and slain, but of Shon’tu, no trace could be found.
Lysander said little in that time, and spoke not at all to Sicarius or Tycho, instead leaving Sergeant Julan to liaise with what he still saw as unwelcome allies. Once Shon’tu had fled beyond his reach, Lysander had at last awoken from his vengeful fever and was forced to confront the cost of his obsession. And it was a high cost. Over ninety of his battle-brothers had been slain, including Captain Vogen. Had Lysander waited to make a coordinated assault with the Ultramarines or Blood Angels, many of those deaths could have been avoided. Worse, had the Ultramarines not intervened, the tally of honoured dead would have been much higher.
As for Garadon, he and the 3rd Company played little part in the closing phases of the Taladorn campaign. The Apothecaries deemed scarcely a dozen battle-brothers of the Sentinels of Terra fit to fight, and the sergeant was not amongst them. Thus, as the 5th Company aided the Ultramarines and Blood Angels in scouring Taladorn, Garadon endured a frustrating period of convalescence. The inactivity gave him much time to think on the 3rd Company’s fate and, by the time the Storm of Wrath was en route to Phalanx, Garadon was determined that Lysander’s prideful folly would be brought to account.
The Storm BreaksEdit
The return of Lysander’s strike force to Phalanx should have been a time for sober celebration, but such was not to be. Shortly after the Storm of Wrath had taken formation with the rest of the Imperial Fists fleet, Sergeant Garadon had requested a private audience with Vladimir Pugh, and therein laid bare the story of the 3rd Company’s near-demise.
Such a meeting was not altogether unusual amongst the Imperial Fists, for the warriors of that Chapter have ever held one another to the highest standards of deportment and discipline. Nevertheless, this was not a step that Garadon took lightly. For a sergeant to seek censure of a captain was unusual enough; to demand it of an honoured hero like Lysander? There would be no good outcome from such a challenge.
It said much of Garadon’s unease at the situation that he had three times sought Lysander out during the homeward voyage. He had hoped to see some element of contrition from the captain, some sign that the follies of Taladorn would not occur again. On each occasion, Garadon was angrily dismissed, with Lysander threatening to strip the sergeant of his rank if he persisted. Garadon was perceptive enough to recognise that he was not the true target of the captain’s anger, but wise enough to realise that matters had progressed beyond his ability to rectify.
Pugh was greatly displeased. His ire stemmed not from the sergeant’s candour – indeed, he commended Garadon for speaking on the matter. Nor was the rendition of the Battle of Taladorn entirely new to him. Lysander had already given his own account of the engagement, a report that had been scrupulously honest in every detail from his audacious planetstrike, through to his repeated refusals of assistance. No, what concerned Pugh was the fact that Lysander showed no sign of remorse at the outcome his decisions had led to. The First Captain cared only that the Iron Warriors had been defeated and the world returned to the Imperial fold. Pugh found this attitude dangerous. There had been triumph at Taladorn, true enough, but bought with such needless sacrifice that another dozen such ‘victories’ would see the glorious traditions of the Imperial Fists ended altogether. Too often had the blood of Dorn guided his children down such a path. The Invaders, to name but one of the Imperial Fists’ successors, ever risked annihilation because of their stubborn refusal to back away from the unwinnable. Moreover, Pugh knew that many of the Imperial Fists’ captains looked to Lysander for example, rather than to himself, which could become problematic if the First Captain’s deeds went unchallenged. After several days of silent meditation and with heavy hearts, Pugh convened the Chapter Council to judge Lysander’s conduct.
Thus did the other eight surviving captains of the Imperial Fists convene in the shadow-shrouded Cloister of Remembrance, to determine if pride – rather than duty – had come to rule Lysander’s actions. This was an old tradition, the captains affirming their obligations beneath the gazes of the honoured dead. Golden statues, each many times the height of a man, stood silent in the tiered alcoves that lay around the chamber’s circular perimeter. The flickering of the lumen in each alcove seeming to make expressions play upon the statues’ faces. Some alcoves were empty, awaiting a battle-brother to prove himself worthy of such remembrance. It had been a thousand years since the last statue was raised, and a millennium more could march by before the honour was again bestowed. There were no furnishings in the Cloister of Remembrance; no seats upon which the captains could rest and no council table to pound in support or detraction of a particular course. Each captain took his place at the room’s perimeter, whilst Pugh, as head of the council, stood in the centre, pacing to address each of his brothers as need arose.
The Hour of JudgementEdit
Pugh had ordered Garadon’s presence, and the sergeant now stood in the space set aside for the 3rd Company’s captain. He was soon called upon as a witness to Lysander’s part in his company’s near demise. Garadon addressed the assembly calmly, for his anger had cooled with the passing weeks. Captain Hagan, commander of the 5th Company, was another matter. He had dwelt greatly on events and come to realise that his own company, though scarred during the Taladorn planetstrike, could easily have suffered in the 3rd’s stead. Anger bubbled beneath his otherwise clinical account. Hagan gave projections of what would have happened had Lysander not divided the strike force’s companies, and if he had not begun the planetstrike until the Ultramarines and Blood Angels could have provided support.
Yet it was Lysander’s own testimony that was most damning in Pugh’s eyes, albeit unintentionally. The First Captain spoke of the Imperial Fists’ tradition of sacrifice, of their duty to crush the works of traitors wherever they took root. There could not be, he maintained, too high a price to pay in pursuit of this cause. The Iron Warriors were the Imperial Fists’ burden to bear, and their honour to defeat. Without looking at Garadon, Lysander scorned the idea that assistance had ever been required, and moreover suggested that the Ultramarines’ arrival had in fact created the distraction which had allowed Warsmith Shon’tu’s escape.
As Lysander spoke, Pugh marked the approving expressions and nods of affirmation given by fully half of the captains present – as a mere acting-captain, Garadon had no vote upon the council. Lysander’s words and demeanour had spoken to the Imperial Fists’ selfless and selfreliant traditions, and those captains with whom such things resonated strongest were inclined to overlook where that path had led him. Pugh had hoped to salvage some unity from Taladorn by demoting Lysander, making him an example of pride gone awry, the lesson for generations to come. The Chapter Master was certain that the First Captain would have recovered from such a blow, and would have even emerged the stronger for it. Such a thing was impossible now, for with the Chapter Council so evenly divided, an obvious rebuke would create division. On the other hand, to not act would drive a wedge between Lysander and those captains who disapproved of his actions at Taladorn. As Chapter Master, Pugh did not need the consent of his captains to take decisions, but he had long ago learned that leadership was more effective when wielded subtly. Dorn, for all his forthrightness, had understood that concept, and now Pugh resolved to emulate his forefather.
Rather than put the matter to a vote, Pugh decreed that Lysander would set aside his duties as First Captain for a time, and take Vogen’s place as commander of the battered 3rd Company. There was rebuke in that course of action, for it was an obvious demotion. However, Pugh pointed out that there was honour as well, and reminded all present that he could think of no one better placed to rebuild the shattered company from its current lamentable state. Lysander’s skill as a drillmaster had not faded since his days as a sergeant, and there would be much work for him in the rebuilt 3rd. It was one thing to draft replacements from the reserve companies to replenish the 3rd’s losses – it was another thing entirely to expect those warriors to act as a single unit from the very start. Pugh furthermore ordered that Sergeant Julan would assume command of the 1st Company until such time as Lysander’s task was complete – though all noted that the Chapter Master set no timescale under which he expected this to be achieved.
Garadon frowned at his Chapter Master’s words, but said nothing. He had hoped that his temporary command of the 3rd would become permanent, but was incensed that it would pass to the very man responsible for its near-destruction. Even Garadon’s status as sergeant was now in doubt, for he recalled all too well that his last conversation with his new captain had ended with the threat of sanction. For his part, Lysander was careful to maintain an even tone as he accepted his Chapter Master’s judgement. Moreover, he thanked Pugh for the opportunity to forge the 3rd Company in battle against the Iron Warriors as he himself had been forged. Shon’tu, Lysander insisted, would at last be brought to account for his crimes.
Lysander’s expression stiffened noticeably when Pugh informed him that the 3rd Company would not be assigned to pursue the Iron Warriors. Rather, they would prosecute a new campaign – a Crusade of Thunder – against the Orks of the Magor Rift, whose threat had been growing for several years. Against these foes, the 3rd Company would hone their skills and prove themselves worthy of the traditions they bore. Lysander looked around the cloister for support, but found none. Without a word, he strode from the room and into his new future as captain of the 3rd Company.
The Crusade BeginsEdit
With Vladimir Pugh’s edict, momentum for the Crusade of Thunder began to grow. However, Lysander’s command as yet consisted only of some thirty warriors and the Battle Barge Storm of Wrath. It was the foundation of a mighty force, but little more. The 3rd’s losses would have to be replenished before the campaign could truly begin.
Seven sergeants had been lost on Taladorn and, for the most part, their replacements were chosen from those brothers who had survived that battle. Sergeant Garadon was surprised when Lysander consulted him about which of the 3rd Company’s warriors were most suitable for promotion. As with almost every word that passed between the two at that time, the conversations were stilted and awkward, with both men making a poor show of hiding their mutual dislike. Nevertheless, Garadon experienced the first sparks of a grudging respect for his new captain, if only for the professionalism with which he took to his new duties. This grew further when Lysander confirmed that he was content for Garadon to remain in position as Squad Primus’ sergeant, and even offered a grudging apology for the previously-threatened demotion. Garadon took both of these things with much the same ill-grace as they were offered. In the end, several of the vacant sergeants’ positions were filled by survivors of Taladorn, two by sergeants from the 7th Company, and one by the respected Sergeant Odan, a 1st Company Veteran.
With the appointments determined, the replenishment draft began. Many of the 3rd Company’s new warriors – some sixty battle-brothers in all – came from the reserve companies. Captain Jonas’ 7th Company, which had itself recently returned from a campaign amongst the Ghoul Stars, contributed almost forty Tactical Marines, which at Lysander’s instruction were divided amongst the battle-worn squads. Thus, no unit would be manned entirely by the less experienced warriors of the reserve companies. The remaining inductees were Scouts that Lysander personally selected from the 10th Company. He took only the most promising recruits, those that the irascible Captain Monteith considered ready to make the transition to full battle-brother. These, like the inductees from the reserves, were spread throughout the company.
All told, the flurry of drafting and reassignment brought the 3rd Company’s roster up to its official strength of one hundred and five battle-brothers, plus support personnel and transport crew. Chaplain Markov, preserved from injury on Taladorn by the Emperor’s grace – and by the force field within his Rosarius – relished his company’s restoration. He prowled the Storm of Wrath’s decks in search of infractions performed by battle-brothers used to the laxer ways of the Chapter’s other Chaplains, who Markov mistrusted for the weakness he imagined them to possess. Brother Conrath, preserved from a second death by his armoured sarcophagus, had been carefully restored to full function by the Chapter’s Techmarines. He was joined by another Dreadnought, Brother Makan, who had been awoken from slumber specifically to lend his might to the crusade. Upon learning that Makan had once been Lysander’s sergeant, Garadon wondered whether Pugh’s command stemmed from the desire to allow the captain an old comrade, or because the Chapter Master believed that Makan’s influence would ameliorate Lysander’s stubbornness.
With the ranks of the 3rd Company filled, Lysander requested – and received – an honour guard of 1st Company Terminators. He also requisitioned some thirty Centurion warsuits, several Vindicator and Predator battle tanks, and the Land Raider Legend of Roma. Not content with that, he then convinced Captain Monteith to assign three of his Scout Squads to the strike force, and Captain Hagan to part with three of the 5th Company’s precious Stormtalon Gunships. Only when the last of these attack craft were secured aboard the Storm of Wrath did Lysander at last order the Battle Barge to break formation with Phalanx and head out into the tides of the Warp.
The Crusade of Thunder had begun, but none of those who set out upon the voyage knew where it would end...
Lysander is armed as befits an Imperial Fists First Captain:
- Terminator Armour - Captain Lysander utilises the superb protection of master-crafted Indomitus Pattern Terminator Armour, to lead the Veterans of the Imperial Fists' 1st Company in deadly melee combat and boarding actions.
- Fist of Dorn - The Fist of Dorn is a legendary master-crafted Thunder Hammer traditionally wielded by the Captain of the Imperial Fists' 1st Company. The weapon is shaped to resemble a gauntleted fist that is holding each end of the warhammer's head. The arcane technologies built into the Fist of Dorn allows it to strike with far more powerful blows than that of a normal Thunder Hammer, and the weapon was designed to be most effective when used to assault heavily armoured vehicles and fortifications. Captain Lysander still wields the Fist of Dorn, the ancient weapon given to him by his predecessor Kleitus as Captain of the 1st Company of the Imperial Fists.
- Storm Shield - Storm Shields are large and heavy shields that can house extensive webs of field generation circuitry in their thick plating. The shield's generated energy field can fend off bullets and blasts from afar, whilst the physical shield itself protects against melee attacks. Captain Lysander's mighty Storm Shield bears the heraldry of his Chapter and includes mulitiple Purity Seals and a Teleport Homer.
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 93, 114, 151
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 91
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 47
- Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition), pg. 40
- Codex: Space Marines - Sentinels of Terra (Supplement) (6th Edition)
- Sons of Dorn (Novel) by Chris Robberson
- Hellforged (Novel) by Ben Counter
- Phalanx (Novel) by Ben Counter
- Seventh Retribution (Novel) by Ben Counter
- White Dwarf 302 (UK), "Heroes of the Imperium", pp. 84-85