In the fateful battle for Talusa IV, the Ghoststalkers, the Raven Guard’s 3rd Company were almost broken by the Daemon Prince Kernax Voldorius and his forces of chaos. Few survived, and even fewer returned to tell a tale of horror and despair. Amongst them was the Ghoststalkers Shadow Captain, Vordin Krayn. Either from fear or cowardice, knowing the fate of those who fail in battle, he chose to place the blame for the defeat on his second in command, the young Lieutenant Aajz Solari. While this was far from true, Aajz and his battalion the Storm Crows, had in fact stood firm, holding back the inevitable tide, ensuring that retreat had not turned into a rout, no one could gain say Vordin’s account and Aajz doom was sealed.
So it was that Aajz was court martialled, and in accordance with the dictates of the Codex Astartes, sentenced to death for cowardice in the face of the enemy. His battalion would suffer little better, sentenced to ‘decimation’ as an example to the other battle companies. Such a terrible fate had only been inflicted upon an Adeptus Astartes Chapter but a few times in recorded history.
Unwilling to allow his brave and loyal Talon to face such an unjust fate, and in the hope that he could in time find a path to redemption for his battalion, Aajz fled the Raven Spire and Deliverance, with his close friend and mentor, Tech Marine and Master of the Raven Guard Forge, Korpheus. With Korpheus’s aid, they stole a Raven Guard Light Cruiser, Second Shadow, and cloaked in its Reflex Shield, the entire battalion vanished into the void.
The cost of Horus’ treachery at Istvaan IV still an open wound after millennia, the loss of an entire battalion, not least their Forge Master, was grievous indeed for the Raven Guard, who are slow to refill their ranks due to the care they must take to recruit as their gene-seed is far from stable. But none knew where Aajz and his Talon had gone, and too few could be spared to scour the vast and treacherous void to find them…
Aajz, Korpheus and their loyal Talon slipped through the screens of the Imperium, the Second Shadow crossing Segmentum Solar, to the very edge of the Great Rift and there they found sanctuary at last.
Millennia ago, Tech Priests of Adeptus Mechanicus found a strange ice moon orbiting a dead planet on the edge of what was then known space. The moon was unique, it exhibited massive tectonic activity, resulting from intense heat generated under its ice sheets, and yet had a core of solid rock and minerals. Its secret was the forces exerted upon its core resulting from a highly unusual orbit. Realising the potential for such a source of massive and sustainable energy, the Tech Priests built a Forge and Manufactorium in the moons stable core, accessible only through a surface base on one of the more stable ice sheets.
Korpheus, set to work rebuilding the base, its habs, hydroponics and workshops, reactivating its defence grid, and turning it into a strong redoubt, from which the Storm Crows could defend themselves and sally forth at need to continue the fight. Ever a reader of ancient histories, Korpheus named the ice moon, ‘Enceladus’, after the giant of old who fought the Gods and was buried alive underneath a mountain. It was a fitting name, for most of Enceladus’s surface was highly unstable, constantly shaken by huge quakes like the stirring of a giant, the quakes venting ice and rock in great clouds into space. Such violent activity, filling the surrounding void with ice crystals and silica also provided the perfect screen, rendering the Storm Crows new home undetectable to all but the strongest sensors.
Explorator Delphan Gruss actuated his auxiliary lights and gazed upwards, the powerful beams dancing off mighty columns, black as obsidian, before being swallowed by the cold, dry darkness far above.
Those who had built these vast halls and towering engines of unfathomable complexity were long gone, rank after rank of their machines standing sentinel in alcoves beyond count; other than the scuff of his boot in the dust of millennia, all was deathly silent.
“Send a message at once to the Arch Magus. It must be delivered at all costs. Tell him just this:
We have found it….
As the servitor departed, Delphan stared pensively into the darkness; no, not quite darkness he reflected, there was light here, barely perceptible even with his augmented vision, but it was there, a brooding, pulsing luminescence, a pallid green glow emanating from the columns. There may not have been life here, but there was energy, power still, great power that could change everything, Delphan mused.
He was troubled though, Veridian VII was far into the Obscurus Segmentum, navigating the immaterium from here, even in short jumps with his most gifted psyker at the helm, was a perilous and lengthy undertaking, it would be long before that message arrived, if indeed it did at all, and even longer before help would come…
Aajz and his Talon rapidly made their presence felt in the segmentum, often swooping down on unsuspecting foes, appearing as if from nowhere to liberate besieged colonies, only to vanish as swiftly and inexplicably as they had come, such is the Raven Guard way. But no amount of victories in the Emperors name could set aside the disgrace they carried with them into every battle, nor quench the rage against the injustice that was inflicted upon them by their former Shadow Captain. That would take events beyond the reckoning of even Balsar Kurthuri himself. Three years into their exile, a single event set wheels in motion that would change their destiny irrevocably, and determine the fate of all sentient races across the universe…
Kayvaan Shrike, famed Master of Shadows, and by a twist of fate, former Shadow Captain of the Raven Guard’s 3rd Company, bore witness to Aajz’s punishment and while he knew not the truth behind Vordin’s lies at the time, he had taken a keen interest in the career of the young Lieutenant, knew there was more to the story and foresaw that he would play a part yet in the fate of his Chapter. It was Kayvaan then, knowing the strength of their friendship, who asked Korpheus to help Aajz escape Deliverance, to guide him and to keep a watch on him and his faithful Talon, lest they be needed.
The first thing the Storm Crows sentries new of his arrival, was when Kayvaan Shrike’s venerable Sokor Pattern Storm Bird, The Hood uncloaked above Moon Base Enceladus, landing thrusters roaring, and slammed onto the main landing pad, venting steam and blinding their sensors behind a cloud of ice.
A Storm Bird – fully void-capable orbital drop ship, assault lander, ground attack gunship and bomber, one-time bulwark of the Adeptus Astartes fleet, had not darkened the skies above a war zone since the Horus Heresy; for the Raven Guard to awaken such a leviathan from its slumber in the depths of the Armouries, need must have been great indeed.
It would have gone ill for both sides, had not Korpheus stayed the hand of the Storm Crows gunners, curious to see who and what the arrival of such a ship might portend. As he descended the ramp, all recognised the tall, lean figure of their Shadow Master, but Kayvaan had not come alone, he was flanked by his personal guard, hand picked veterans all.
Kayvaan would not speak of his mission to any but Aajz and Korpheus, and they were long in conference, but when they came down, there was new light in Aajz’s eyes, a threat and an opportunity beyond imagining had arisen from the depths of time and space, a chance at redemption for him and his loyal Talon, and perhaps for all mankind. The Emperor himself had need of a small force to investigate a lost world, but with all speed and in utmost secrecy. What better chapter to take on such a task than the enigmatic Raven Guard, and what better force than one that doesn’t exist…
They made their plans in secret. The Storm Crows entire battalion, including its full complement of men, land speeders, warsuits and dreadnoughts would easily be accommodated in the Hood’s vast holds. Accompanied by Kayvaan and his guard, for he deemed the matter of sufficient import that he would come in person, they would make all speed to Veridian VII, and insert a small strike force to investigate, safe in the knowledge that they had the backing of a full Talon in orbit should they encounter resistance from any quarter…
Prepare for the new Warhammer 40k Crusade Campaign coming soon to Dice & Bolter. More stories to follow, the full collection can be found under the #tag 40k Crusade Campaign.