Find filed below my report on the circumstances surrounding the recovery of Deathwing squads Seventeen and Eighteen.
:: Report begins ::
It was looking like a massacre. Hundreds of Imperial Ash Legion Planetary Defence troops, loyal to the Emperor and an Empire many have never seen, had gavin their lives defending the Pyramids of Faith against a well-organised rebel Guard forces. We have long suspected that these rebel units were being controlled by outsiders in the form of a Chaos Space Marine Chapter, and our suspicions are well founded.
As far as the eye could see across the polar ash waste, ragged tatters of uniform, shorn limbs and bloodied bodies lay in shallow fox holes, around blackened craters or in heaps at the ends of narrow defiles. They had fought and died hard.
We were not there to inspect a dead army — the Departmento Munitorum's Apothecaria would collect the remnants. Our squad, transported by Thunderhawk to this region, was to search for two squads of the Deathwing Company drop-podded to bolster the defence of the Pyramids. Since the battle of three nights ago nothing has been heard from them since.
Zahariel the squad Sergeant leading us was accompanied by Librarian Mehebia, signifying a mission of some importance, a fact not lost on any of the squad.
We spread out and made a closer inspection of the battlezone. The first thing that struck me was the lack of any enemy bodies. Evidently the rebel units took away their own fallen after the battle, a strange behaviour. Our auspex told us that there were no life forms apart from ourselves within the immediate vicinity.
"Advance 200m due south", came Zahariel's command over the commlink. "Split into sections. Isiah, take section two and sweep 300m to the right of our line of advance."
We moved as rapidly as we could over the uneven landscape but the sight was always the same, dead Ash Legion Guardsmen. Sometimes a blackened hull of a tank, turret blown off, gave a vertical dimension to the blasted terrain, maybe a sandbagged heavy mortar position or an artillery battery with muzzles pointed skyward at crazy angles, but always, more bodies. I was becoming concerned. As we got nearer to the Pyramids the wreckage of battle became denser – the fighting had become more desperate. There were more close combat wounds on the dead, less evidence of heavy weapons. Yet still no sign of the squads of the Deathwing.
"Nothing on this sweep", I reported to Zahariel. I looked to our left and saw his section sweeping forwards parallel to mine about 600m away, the search areas considerably widened by the range of our auspexes. Brother-Librarian Mehabiah was slightly in advance of both squads, the blade of his force axe glinting in the low sun. I wondered why he had joined us on this mission. A standard search-and-sweep deployment seemed a bit below his revered position. Perhaps he had other pre-occupations. Certainly he seemed more intent on reaching the Pyramid and less on his immediate surroundings. I wondered too why the Ravenwing Land Speeders currently attached to our garrison were not with us as there was the chance of contacting heavy enemy forces. I ordered my section to check their bolters.
Advancing still further across the battlefield we crossed a small ditch palisade with roughly hewn stakes on its reverse slope — the last line of defence. The bottom of the ditch was full of reddened ash, discarded weapons and dead Ash Legion troopers. More bodies were impaled on the stakes, whilst trying desperately to flee the advancing foe — the tide of destruction had swept clean through this hurriedly constructed barricade — sweeping on towards the Pyramids.
The squads two sections were converging on the North face of the largest Pyramid. The ground began to rise in a series of terraced steps each about 10m wide. On each level a network of heavy bolter and autocannon positions had been carefully positioned to sweep the previous terrace, linked by ammunition communication trenches. Yet none of the guns had been fired, ammunition remained stacked and breeches closed. But all metallic objects were caught in a curious state of semi-fluidity — liquefied by a heat source force of unimaginable power yet then instantly solidified, the very ground too seared by this immense force. Bodies here were rare, those that we saw were vaporised, blackened and hideously contorted.
We advanced in a grim silence. I could see why the Deathwing had been deployed. I could imagine the desperate pleas of the Colonel and his command Staff, witness to the regiment's massacre, calling for reinforcements on the open emergency channel. But what puzzled me more was the knowledge that the Deathwing's presence was a virtual death sentence. The Deathwing are not sacrificed on a whim yet the battle had already been lost — there was (or is) something here that required the rapid incursion of the Imperium's finest fighting force.
Within bolter-shot range of the great Pyramid the ground levelled onto the final terrace. Librarian Mehabiah readied his force axe as if for battle though auspexes revealed nothing. Zahariel ordered us to quicken our pace and we soon reached the twin columns that stood before the blackened face of our objective. The ground had been glazed by heat so great that it shimmered as if it were water. In this distorted haze smallish objects could be discerned. We spread out to traverse the area. We found shards of blackened and half-melted heavy ceramite armour — Terminator armour.
Our mission was nearly over. Around the very base of the pyramid was a strip of ground barely wide enough to stand on that had remained untouched by the heat of destruction. Within this band we found the shattered remains of Deathwing squads Seventeen and Eighteen. Their heavy tactical dreadnought armour had been scored and damaged by numerous direct hits from enemy lasguns and bolters, as well as almost bestial gouges that penetrated deep into the bodies of those within. Though their armour was blackened, bloodstained and besmearched to be almost unrecognisable, I noticed a strange detail: the powerfists had been stripped of all ornamentation after constant use against abrasive targets. Searching carefully for life-signs amongst these brave warriors I came across the slumped form of a sergeant.
"We have a survivor here", I bellowed over the comm-link. The squad came running towards me. I stooped down and carefully cradled the great bulk of the Terminator. His wounds were great, but I had seen those with worse recover — he would be lucky.
Mehabiah looked down with an intensity that told me his was mindreading, searching for answers amongst a field of many questions. Nine battle brothers of the Deathwing had given their lives willingly, fighting against massive odds and knowing their fate had been sealed before their mission had started, all in the service of the great God-Emperor. Their last stand at the base of the Pyramid had ensured that the secrets held within would remain out of reach to the forces of Chaos, for the time being at least.
The sergeant's voice, barely audible, intoned the honour of the Chapter and begged that the sacrifice of so many would not be unforgotten. Mehabiah picked up a small piece of blackened Terminator armour — part of his shoulder pad — and looked at it carefully.
"The sacrifice of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth shall not be forgotten Brother", Mehabiah promised. "I know how we will honour you and your battle brothers". His hand closed around the shard of armour.
:: Report ends ::
As a result of this operation — all Terminator units serving as part of the Dark Fortress Garrison are permitted to paint their armour black.
Until the Sword is reforged.
Imperium Approved: Honoro Legio Dark Angels.
Chronicler Isiah, the 4th Battle Company, Dark Angels.