Category Archives: horus heresy

Heresy Batrep: There are no Wolves (or Word Bearers) on Isstvan III

Horus Heresy: Betrayal (the tome that ignited my imagination and convinced me to get into 30k) has been on my mind of late. I’ve been spending some enjoyable evenings within its pages, initially reading about the Death Guard and their role on Isstvan III. It is easy to forget just how awful and catastrophic that initial act of fratricide was. Of course Isstvan III overshadowed by the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V, but the scale is no less mind boggling.

I’m still a little freaked out by the Life-Eater Virus and reading about its ruinous impact on the world of Isstvan III doesn’t get any easier. The population of six billion is extinguished along with one third of the 90,000 astartes in the Choral City. Crysos’ account of bunkering down with his squad mates in a shipping container to wait out the bombardment is harrowing indeed. When the life-eater finds its way in and penetrates an unfortunate Death Guard’s suit, it is apparent that there’s something insidious and utterly, utterly evil about this weapon. Crysos even alludes to it having some kind of sentience:

“Yes I saw it, the Life-Eater, a monster from the Old Time, human evil given form.

Then I believed”  – From the testimony of Crysos Morturg

-The Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal. Alan Bligh and John French

Believed what I wonder? In the reality of the betrayal? In Gods? Was his belief in the Imperial Truth burst in that moment?

Anyway!

As I poured over the missions with their awesome mysterious terrain tables and special rules I realised that, as another edition looms and the heresy creeps ever closer to its conclusion, I still hadn’t played the campaign! Well, my game with Dan and his wolves yesterday marks a firm a step in the right direction, even if our armies weren’t quite in line with the lore…

THE MISSION

We chose COUNTER THRUST, one of the Legendary Missions in the Betrayal campaign.

The mission represents an attempt by the Loyalists to break out of a kill zone and do as much damage to the Traitor offensive as possible. So far, so good!

Before the game I spoke with Dan about the scenario, explaining that I was going to take a foot heavy list ! Dan, in deference to the scenario, left his drop pods at home because why would the Wolves be drop podding down to break out of an encirclement? Oh, and the Traitors  controlled all of Isstvaan’s space.

I had played Dan’s Wolves on an few occasions before, but this would be the first time since their new rules broke. Dan explained them to me, but all I could hear was “stay well back – these guys will be on top of you and ripping you to shreds before you know it!

Now although the Word Bearers are no slouches in hand to hand, (3D6 Leadership removing the highest) they would be wrecked by Dan’s large groups of feral infantry. My plan was simple: stay out of reach – Withdraw and keep pummelling them at range until they bled out. Dan would receive VPs for every unit of his in the break-out zone (my table half) and I would in turn receive VPs for every Wolf unit languishing in No Man’s Land.

The Gal Vorbak I regarded as my ‘ace in the hole’ and was the only unit with a good chance against his murderous infantry formations.

TABLE SET UP

Appropriately red terrain served to represent the WB frontline, with a large bunker fortification covering the centre of the board. This bastion would prove to be a significant obstacle for the loyalists to push through…

Now for the exciting part: Rolling up on the Mysterious Terrain Table!

The bunker became an ammunition stockpile, with all weapons fired from within granted the shred special rule!

The ruins in Dan’s deployment zone became a Charnel House – Dan would have to pass a leadership check if he wished to move through them.

We then rolled on the Ash and Darkness table. Nightfighting would be in effect for the whole game, certainly a boon for the Wolves, whose acute senses can cut through the worst of conditions…

ARMIES

Space Wolves 2000 points

Garro

Geigor

Speaker of the Dead

Contemptor Dread

Deathsworn in Phobos

Grey slayers x 10

Grey slayers x 10

Grey slayers x 15

Landspeeder

Sicarian

Venator

Word Bearers 2000 points

Chaplain

Librarian

Contemptor Cortis Talon – 1 with Kheres w/ DCCW + 1 with x2 DCCW

Contemptor Mortis with twin Kheres

Gal Vorbak

x5 Veterans w/ Rhino

15 Tacticals

15 Tacticals

x2 Predator

Land Raider Proteus

BATTLE

Disclaimer: I was too busy having fun to make a blow by blow account of what went down. What follows is a bunch of pictures (hopefully in chronological order!) of what unfolded on that fateful day on Isstvan III…

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The Word Bearers ready themselves for the Wolves’ assault.

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The Wolves surge onwards…

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The Word Bearers’ shooting is largely ineffective due to the atrocious visibility…

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The Wolves move up, eager to close with the hated foe. The Greyslayers unit in the centre sense terrible evil in the red ruins around them, forcing them to skirt the edges rather than storming straight through… 

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The Predator slams into reverse whilst the contemptor lurks on the edge of the bunker, ready to spring out…

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The Greyslayers on the right flank start to take casualties as lascannon lances and kheres rounds seek them out through the fire and ash… 

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Garro teleports down in the back lines, firing his paragon bolter into the rear of the predator, shaving a hull point off. The Gal Vorbak emerge from a rend in reality nearby… 

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Rending buffed bolter fire from the mysterious terrain hammers into the slowly advancing Greyslayers whilst the Phobos rolls by… 

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Deploy! Out come the Deathsworn and the Speaker of the Dead…

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Seeking a target, the Venator shifts position and immobilises the Predator on the Word Bearers left flank…

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The Deathsworn surge into the Word Bearer’s tacticals butchering a handful…

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Bellowing challenges, the Speaker of the Dead and the WB chaplain trade blows… 

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Whilst the bloody melee continues, a thunderous explosion erupts behind the Space Wolves’ lines – the WB Vets, toting meltaguns, have destroyed the Venator, killing two more Grey Slayers in the blast… No one expects eh?!

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With the WB tacticals dead, the Gal Vorbak enter the fray, eager to murder the hated Garro…

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A unit of Grey Slayers, incensed at the loss of their Venator, destroy the Vets Rhino then fall upon the squad, killing them to a man… 

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After two rounds of ceramite crunching, gear grinding combat, the Space Wolves Contemptor lays the traitor Dreadnought low… Another saga to be written…

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The Gal Vorbak prove to be as lethal as they are unnatural, tanking wounds and striking Garro down – only for the hero of the XIVth to get back up again!

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The Gal Vorbak strike again, exhibiting the horrific power of the warp. Garro is finally killed, along with a handful of Deathsworn. Rattled by the murderous toll, the Wolves break, only to be run down by the Last of the Serrated Sun. They begin feasting on the dead as a wrecked Predator smoulders behind.

The Wolves were repulsed. They retreat swiftly into the murk to lick their wounds and no doubt seek a weaker point in the traitor lines to better exploit…

A huge thank you to Dan for being such a fun opponent and of course to BIG in Bristol for the fantastic table, terrain and venue.

Thanks for reading.

Ed

The Last of Us…

I had command of some eleven of my brothers. Daeka, our last apothecary, had expended the last of his unctions and chems in the last ambush and had nothing to give the wounded. Devoid of purpose, he had reverted to that of a line legionary, yet occasionally scavenged medical supplies from the fallen…  

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Crysos Morturg

Sergeant Tarageth Sune found us on the thirteenth day, stalking the refuge tunnels and abandoned subsurface mag-rail network. Three of his Terran born brothers were in tow, mercifully unhurt yet in need of ammunition. We consolidated our meagre supplies and shared what little information we had. Sune suspected that he and his men were being tracked through the tunnels by Thallax Automata and Seeker Squads… We would take the fight to them…

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Sergeant Tarageth Sune

….the Thallax are scrap and the Seeker Squad dead. Molor timed the detonation perfectly, collapsing the tunnel behind our pursuers and taking them by surprise. I hurled my last phosphex orb into their midst, forcing them to break cover and into our waiting bolters. After five days of hiding we sorely needed combat… we needed vengeance. No quarter was given. It cost us Vasha, who took a kill shot to the head and Mulog was injured badly, yet for all that we emerged the stronger for it. Dragging the bodies away before phosphex consumed them, we scavenged plenty of ammunition and warplate. Amongst the treasure trove we found specialist equipment common among Seeker units. This would prove useful indeed…

… Melta charges, prometheum and phosphex haunted our every tread. Evidently when the Seekers didn’t return they suspected the worst. It was time to go – better to die fighting on our feet than be extinguished like vermin in the dark…

…The sounds of heavy fighting echoed above us, steeling our hearts. More loyal kin yet live. As much as we wanted to burst onto the surface, I gave into reason; the terrain was unknown to us, as was the direction of fire and the placement of forces. We would wait until the fighting had died down…

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Like the Dusk Raiders before us, we emerged at nightfall and into the world above. A mass of twisted metal and tortured ruins greeted us as we moved silently into the city of ghosts. Surveying our position, it seemed that we were some eight miles south of our original holdfast. The Omni-Scope stolen from the Seeker dead proved most useful in scrying the darkness and radfog that had fallen around us…the battle had moved on and so too had the combatants… A second sweep of the Omni-Scope revealed engine signature….

Taking to the tunnels once more, the access shaft led me closer to where we had detected the signatures. Emerging once more, this time in absolute gloom, save for the flash of distant explosions and titan flare lumes, we stole closer to the target. Three brothers accompanied me, Daeka, Sollum and Kulg. It was then that we deactivated our power armour. I had no wish to give myself away so easily to augur sweeps. The Mark III plate would slow me considerably, but I felt steadier knowing that the tell-tale of heat signature and the low hum of reactor cells would not betray me. We moved silently for what seemed like hours, freezing at the slightest sound….

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…I recognised the iconography immediately. The Damocles rested to the rear of a trio of Medusas that fired northward. Vox chatter babbled incessantly between the cacophonous bellows of the siege guns as a column rhinos and Proteus Land Raiders gunned their engines by us, their high beams stabbing into the gloom…

…The Damocles…Our enemy believed that it had this sector secure and was free to operate with impunity. They would pay for their arrogance…

…closer still…

…closer…

Daeka and Sollum would take the Medusa crews, detonating their payloads and sowing confusion… Maybe they would mistake us for their own. Or perhaps not. The crews were too focused on their work and of a tactical detail there was no sign. The sheer hubris of it all…they thought they had us beat….well…

I would make for the command vehicle… 

It bore the personal seal of a favoured of Mortarion himself…Marshal Durak Rask.

My armour activated, the fibre bundles straining with strength and motion. In that same moment a vox-hailer roared its challenge to me as a score of gun lamps pointed in my direction.

“HALT AND BE RECOGNISED”

With calm conviction, I held up a hand and announced myself to my foe.

“I am Section Leader Crysos Morturg”

The first Medusa exploded as I broke into a run.

END TRANSMISSION

‘Our Last Apothecary…’

Crysos Morturg, whose testimony constitutes the majority of record concerning the fratricidal ground war on Isstvan III, cited the heroism of many of his loyal astartes kin. Of these was ‘our last apothecary’, known simply as Daeka, who was rent in two by a medusa shell when the loyalist’s holdfast was at long last discovered. Nothing else is known, save the speculation of this historian, who believes that for any astarte to have endured for so long, some two weeks after the fall of the Precentor’s Palace, is deserving of the highest accolades, even amongst their kind.

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This helm-cam pict-capture, believed by many to be the apothecary ‘Daeka’ mentioned in Morturg’s testimony, shows the Legion Medic hours before his death. The Mark III plate is badly damaged and has clearly been replaced with scavenged pauldrons and grieves from fallen or stricken brothers. This would account for the complete lack of iconography indicative of Daeka’s status as an apothecary. Indeed, the usual vials, unctions and paraphernalia typical of an apothecary’s role are missing, perhaps indicative of a total depletion of resources due to the extremes of astartes combat.

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Daeka has stowed his helmet on his belt’s mag clamp, perhaps better to observe his surroundings or, more likely, due to helmet malfunction.

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Note the unadorned, yet clearly well maintained Phobos pattern bolt pistol.

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The reinforced plate of the Mark III pattern became popular amongst the warring astartes due to its formidable frontal protection. Note the protection offered by Daeka’s armoured pauldrons. Daeka’s Narthecium seems to have been retrofitted with a chain blade. Following the shock of betrayal, many loyalist apothecaries absconded from collecting the gene seed of their fallen brothers, believing their Legion to be utterly damned and undeserving of preservation.

Thank you for reading!

Ed

The XIVth Legion: The Death Guard

The arrival of a Zone Mortalis Board at BIG was the perfect excuse to start building a small 30k force. I’m rapidly approaching about 4,000 points of Word Bearers at the moment, but I have always had my eye on other legions, just not with the intent of building such large forces.

My initial journey into 30k began with listening (and I think I’ve listened to it about four or five times since!) to the Independent Character’s coverage of The Horus Heresy Book I: Betrayal. It captured my imagination completely and I wavered a long time between collecting Death Guard or Sons of Horus. Fortunately, nothing came of it and three years later I had read Know No Fear, First Heretic and Betrayer, firmly implanting my determination to collect Word Bearers. Now, sometime later, I’m beginning to see the end of the Word Bearer project and I’m looking around for more colours to paint and ways to play. Zone Mortalis, The Betrayal Campaign and the Death Guard seems like the right way to go, especially with the new plastics.

Here is a test model for what will soon be a 500 point group of Loyalist Isstvan III survivors:

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Death Guard legionary Soluk Vasarg  [Pict-capture Isstvan III Atrocity] 

Soluk was part of the initial assault wave that was tasked with storming the rebel garrison outside the enemy stronghold designated The Siren Hold. Soluk’s company was largely wiped out by warsingers and the focussed fire of Isstvan rebel elite elements, as well as a largely forgotten friendly fire incident perpetrated by supporting Titans of Legio Mortis. Finding himself the sole survivor of his unit, Soluk stayed true to his legion’s character and resolved to continue his advance, fighting his way through the trench networks and into the bunker complex. It was whilst Soluk was attempting to patch through to his Company’s vox network that he picked up Saul Tarvitz’s warning of imminent betrayal and immediately took to the deeper recesses of the rebel emplacements, sealing himself in as best he could to weather the planetary holocaust to come.

After the combined evils of the Life-Eater Virus and the subsequent firestorm had scoured Isstvan of all life, Soluk set off in search of survivors, eventually finding a handful of his brothers under the command of one Section Leader Crysos Morturg wandering the wastes…

Hell Follows With Them…

If I could give one piece of advice to those thinking about entering into the Heresy, it would be to play their Legion the way that it is intended. Not so that you can optimise your list or table your opponent, but because it’s the most enjoyable way to play. I resisted this for nearly two years, running various builds and rites of war with little success on the tabletop.

Recently, the addition of the formidable Mhara Gal dreadnought and a wholesale use of psychic powers has, believe it or not, made the disciples of the Burning Horizon a far more dangerous force. Even so, I can recall on several occasions (usually after having my arse handed to me) my opponent saying, “Why don’t you run Gal Vorbak or ally in Daemons?”

Well, my tendency to run the army as a vanilla legion list (albeit with a 3D6 morale checks) is a thing of the past. From now on, I’ll be summoning daemons and calling upon all the help the Dark Gods can provide. After all, those loyalist loving dogs are no pushovers.

In keeping with this gradual fall down the eightfold path, the Burning Horizon has recently had a unit of Gal Vorbak seconded to its ranks! I’ve heard a great deal about these guys and can’t wait to find out if they’re as scary as everyone says they are.

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Despite the addition of these daemonic troops, the Burning Horizon is still an armoured company. These guys will be getting a Phobos to run around in as part of either an Armoured Breakthrough or Armoured Spearhead Rite of War list.

Thanks for reading.

Standby for more Burning Horizon soon…

 

Ed

 

 

Origins: The Burning Horizon

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Zu’ul Na’gir

Their Praetor,  Zu’ul Na’gir, traces his origins to the motor-gypsy tribes of a world claimed by the XVIIth during the early part of the Great Crusade. Born aboard a tracked carrier, his mother died shortly after his birth, exerting her last grain of life to get her son to safety before the migratory swarms of xenoform locusts devoured the continent’s surface biomass.

Inducted into the XVIIth some fifteen standard years later, the legionary displayed considerable aptitude for armoured warfare and frequently grew impatient with the methodical doctrines of his fellow officers.

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Zu’ul has a great many seasoned warriors under his command, and he is reluctant to let them slide off into oblivion. Mortally wounded legionnaires all too often awake to find themselves rehoused in the sarcophagi of Contemptor chassis, ready to serve the legion once more.

Following Monarchia, the XVIIth accelerated their execution of the Crusade and Zu’ul’s expertise soon rose to prominence amongst his kin. He gained a reputation for rapid advances, and possessed an uncanny ability to identify and exploit weak points in the enemy battle lines.

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Nathagnol Mu’hur – Steel Centurion of The Burning Horizon and second in command.

The vehicles under Zu’ul’s command held special significance for his Folio. Where others regarded their tanks and transports as mere tools, Zu’ul’s legionnaires gave them names, etched scriptures upon their hulls and painstakingly restored wrecked vehicles to their former glory. The chapter’s Motorpools and Engineerum decks were even converted into places of worship to ensure that the vehicles could attend the services.

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Yet it was on Istvaan V where Zu’ul gained true notoriety. Some four hours after the moment of betrayal, many Loyalists had managed, despite the crippling losses inflicted by this act of wanton fratricide, to form cohesive formations and hit back at their erstwhile brothers.

IMG_2422One such sizeable formation of Iron Hands and Salamanders was inflicting significant losses upon the XVIIth; the Salamanders’ stubborn resistance, combined with the mechanical ingenuity of the Iron Hands, made for a formidable adversary. Worse, their commander was shrewd, using his armour to carve up unsupported Traitors that had overextended themselves in their advance, whilst evading traitor heavy battalions with tremendous skill. Upon hearing of this, Horus insulted Lorgar’s ability to direct his forces effectively, reminding him that every moment that passed on Istvaan would compromise the secessionists’ plan for total victory.

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At Lorgar’s personal request, The Crimson Revenant moved into low orbit, disgorging wings of Stormbirds, Stormeagles and Thunderhawk Transports. Within minutes, Zu’ul was on the ground, directing his forces from the cupola of his Land Raider Proteus, ‘Instrument of Ruin.’  The armoured spearhead had soon located the enemy formation, misdirected it and probed carefully for weaknesses via aggressive reconnaissance. The pseudo tank battle raged for hours, neither commander willing to commit his forces utterly for fear of a trap. Bluff followed bluff as Predator tanks skirted the lines and Land Raiders charged forth only to quickly dive back into the choking radioactive fog that enshrouded the Urgall Depression.

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It was one such piece of misdirection that finally proved to be the undoing of the Loyalists. A squadron of Zu’ul’s Land Raiders made contact with an Iron Hands Contemptor supported by infantry and a damaged Fellblade. In this engagement, a Land Raider was badly damaged whilst the rest of the squadron withdrew, giving cause for the Word Bearer’s within to disembark. Such a target as infantry in the open was too tempting for the Fellblade which moved into position to unleash its volkite cannon upon the target location. The infantry evaded the superheavy successfully, taking cover in a nearby arcology in the hope of mounting an ambush upon the enemy reconnoitre. Their opportunity came. The Iron Hands Contemptor advanced upon the stricken Land Raider, supported by a collection of Loyalist survivors. The Word Bearers watched as the Contemptor prized open the hull and ended the life of the mortally wounded tank commander. The Loyalists quickly got to work, ripping out the power coils and thermo packs of the Proteus’ lascannons and equipping themselves with salvage that could aid their own depleting motorpool. At this distance, the Word Bearer Stave Leader recognised the Contemptor as an ancient commander of the Iron Hands, a warrior of renown and deep significance. If the Iron hands would only commit here, in defence of one of their revered ancients, then the Salamanders would be forced to support them or submit to their forces being divided and destroyed piecemeal. Voxing his co-ordinates to the rest of Zu’ul’s Folio, the Stave Leader engaged.

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Six of his men were annihilated in a volkite inferno seconds after breaking cover. The Stave Leader, along with his three remaining faithful, survived the few minutes that it took for the Contemptor to be locked into a protracted firefight with the Land Raiders that had returned from their feigned flight. When reports came that the Contemptor had been immobilised, Zu’ul committed all of his forces. The gamble paid off.

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Whether it was the grief and rage of losing their Primarch that day, or the significance that the Iron Hands placed upon feats of mechanical engineering, who can say. Yet the bulk of Iron Hands moved to protect their leige, giving the Salamanders little choice other than to follow. It is fair to surmise that Zu’ul counted upon the Legion’s tendency to seek out a last stand…

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Within fifty eight minutes of the Stave Leader’s vox call, battle was joined. Hundreds of Lascannon beams lanced through the fog, hungrily piercing ceramite and filling the battlefield with the shrieking crack of superheated metal. Contemptors bound through the Word Bearer ranks, eager to reach the Loyalist lines and exact a bloody toll upon targets of opportunity. Predator autocannons hammered home whilst the contents of Zu’ul’s Proteus and Phobos squadrons fixed their chain-bayonets in anticipation of the close action to follow. Zu’ul’s medusa batteries rained shells over the slow tread of his armoured formations, raining phospex and high explosive onto the defenders, whilst Vorbak units, spearheaded by demonically charged dreadnoughts, formed the vanguard of Zu’ul’s assault. It was at this very moment that Zu’ul’s forces received their new moniker; over the vox, the sonorous and enigmatic tones of their beloved primarch delivered the final order:

Children, the gods themselves watch o’er us now.
In fire you march, in glory you tread. Hark!
Bring Truth this day at my request, for now
you etch our deeds upon the stars themselves.

Break open hammer and iron this day,
do it with bolt and blade and truth,
with shell and shot, alchem venom, las lance -
prayers and zeal;  Steel yourselves - now advance!

The very Horizon Burns at our touch!

                                                                  —Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers

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…Hell follows with them…