A legion burns the homeworld of another. Righteous fury vs forbidden knowledge to the bitter end. Come Loremasters, witness the tragedy.
The Battle of Prospero, also known as the Desolation of Prospero or Burning of Prospero, is the name of the full-scale invasion and planetary devastation of Prospero, homeworld of the Thousand Sons, by imperial forces that mainly included the Space Wolves Legion, the Adeptus Custodes and the Sisters of Silence.
In order for his legion to receive their punishment without being tempted to fight back and therefore ruin their last chance at redemption, Magnus went to great lengths to keep the knowledge of the impending Imperial attack from them and reducing their chances from the outset. He threw up a psychic cocoon around the entire world, blocking astropathic communication and preventing the precogs of the Corvidae from foreseeing the future. The fleet elements of the Thousand Sons were ordered into four battle-groups and to head off into various parts of the galaxy, carrying sealed orders. Not long after this, the Imperial battlefleet arrived. Made up of ships from the Space Wolves, the Adeptus Custodes and the Sisters of Silence, the grey, gold and black fleet numbered in the hundreds of vessels.
With no fleet in orbit, Prospero had to rely on her orbital defence batteries as first-line protection. These stations lasted but mere moments, with torpedo-spreads aimed at them released from the Imperial vessels. Survivors of these torpedo attacks were bracketed and then obliterated by long-range gunfire as the fleets closed in. Imperial interdiction vessels drew up alongside and boarded all civilian traffic in the system, including taking the vessel Cypria Selene, aboard which they found Mahavastu Kallimakus, the Scribe of Magnus, a valuable capture. Taking up orbit themselves, the Space Wolves’ vessels commenced saturation orbital strikes upon the entire planet. Magma Bombs, directed energy-weapons, mass-drivers and even ballistic cannons were unleashed upon the surface of Prospero, in an assault that literally changed the surface of the world forever: mountains were levelled, valleys filled with their rubble; the seas were boiled away, flashed into steam; the very bedrock of Prospero was pounded and heated into new shapes, like metal upon the anvil; boiling hot winds swept across the world, bringing with them the smell of heated metals and oils.
This bombardment was so sudden and so strong that moments after it began, only one population centre still survived on Prospero: a standing unit of Thousand Sons from the Raptora Cult kept a telekinetic shield generated over the city of Tizca. This shield, as hard and impenetrable as those generating it could mentally conceive, proved completely proof against the fearsome orbital bombardment directed at Tizca, even though sympathetic damage to the kine-shield killed several members of the cult maintaining the shield.
The Wolves Arrive
Stymied by the city-wide kine-shield, Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves and long mistrustful of the Thousand Sons, led his legion to landfall. Landing in assault-boats on the eastern side of Tizca, their numbers were so great that onlookers on the ground confused their landing craft with grit particles cast adrift on the winds. Only when they grew closer was the terrifying truth unveiled: the Space Wolves and their allies were landing in such force that Tizca was sure to be annihilated.
The Battle is Joined
It was at this point that the Thousand Sons marines made their presence known, their captains acting in accordance with their hastily-made defence plans. Ahriman led the Scarab Occult in to reinforce the 15th Assault Infantry. Although the Spireguard unit had some success with using the narrow streets of Tizca to their advantage, the were but mortal soldiery, and the Scarab Occult arrived just after the Wolves managed to break through. As Ahriman formed up his gun-line in front of the charging Wolves, he peered down the length of his bolter and found the precognitive thread that would guide his shot into detonating the helm of one of the Space Wolves. The significance of this moment made him hesitate, with the result that the charging Space Wolves opened fire first, smashing several of the Sekhmet to the ground. This action broke Ahriman’s hesitation, and he pulled the trigger, killing his first Space Wolf mere moments before the rest of his elite company opened fire, knocking the Space Wolves back. The stunned Wolves were then struck by the various psychic powers employed by non-Corvidae members of the 1st Fellowship, with the survivors either variously being telekinetically mauled to death or burned alive. Not a single Space Wolf from this attack lived, and with clashes like this repeated everywhere the Space Wolves met the Thousand Sons, the first defensive line was formed.
It was at this time that the first reports of non-Space Wolf attackers being present in the Imperial forces began to flash up and down the Thousand Sons’ line. The Adeptus Custodes were the first to be seen, making daring hit-and-run attacks from the backs of their powerful jetbikes. While their presence was unsettling, members of the Thousand Sons swiftly discovered that, despite their formidable reputation, Custodes died just as easily as anyone else, particularly when stuck by psychic energies. The officers of the legion settled in to their defensive perimeters, with Ahriman holding the east, Phosis T’Karand Hathor Maat the west, Phael Toron defending the port and the Athaneans holding the centre. The Thousand Sons then concentrated on bringing in surviving Spireguard units and moving civilians through their lines to the safest place left on Prospero: the Pyramid of Photep, southernmost of the central pyramids.
This lull, or brief silencing of the battle-lines, was followed up by a more literal silencing of the Thousand Sons. Hard on the heels of the Adeptus Custodes came the Sisters of Silence, sliding into the defensive line in small groups or as individuals, their bizarre nature immediately dampening or nullifying the psychic powers of the defenders.
While again, many members of the legion were able to overcome these supposed elite troops of the Emperor in personal combat, the disruptive effects of the Sisters were considerable, especially as Leman Russ ordered his own legion to move in alongside the Sisters to take advantage of the confusion. The Thousand Sons wavered, falling back some small distance and losing unit cohesion…until the tactic of concentrating on the Sisters themselves resulted in enough of the Null-Maidens perishing that the Sons were able to again access their psychic powers.
The Space Wolves were able to capitalise on the direct pressure exerted by their primarch, as well as land combined Wolves/Custodes/Sisters disruption teams behind the Thousand Sons’ lines. One of these teams, led by the Rune Priest Othere Wyrdmake, entered the Pyramid of the Corvidae and began to systematically burn all the texts within. Interrogating the mortally wounded Librarian Ankhu Anen, Wyrdmake learned where and when he could find and confront Ahzek Ahriman. Ahriman was at this time repeatedly trying to convince Magnus to come to the aid of his legion. The Primarch repeatedly refused.
Ahriman resignedly gave the order for all Prosperine defenders to fall back, shrinking and tightening the defensive line. As they assembled in Ocullum Square, Ahriman realised just how costly the battle had been for his legion, as their numbers were now drastically reduced. He took comfort from the fact that the survivors included nearly all of the older and more experienced marines, including Sobek and Hathor Maat, as he set up the new defensive perimeter.
This line was to encompass the park bordering the Great Library (now destroyed by air and artillery attacks), and run from the Athanean Temple to that of the Pavoni, once again protecting the Pyramid of Photep, lair of Magnus and where Ahriman was directing all the civilians. Setting up a gunline anchored on the surviving Scarab Occult, Ahriman expected to drive off several attacks from the Space Wolves before having to pull back. This expectation was quickly dashed at the sight of Leman Russ himself leading six thousand Astartes and Custodes in a direct assault on the outnumbered Thousand Sons’ position.
Gods of War
Ahriman pulled everyone back further, to the final line in front of the Pyramid of Photep. Briefly having won time to assess his forces, the Chief Librarian realised barely 1,500 Sons still lived, and the Pyramid was crammed full with the surviving citizenry, last survivors of a lineage of scholars that descended from Old Night. With the narrower perimeter and such heavy cover, the Sons were able to briefly hold off the resurgent Space Wolves before the Wolves unleashed their terror troops, figures that the Thousand Sons at first thought were giant wolves, and then realised were part-armoured marines. The Wulfen burst into the Thousand Sons’ lines, causing havoc and many deaths. With the approaching howl of Leman Russ himself echoing in their ears, Ahriman and all the others prepared to meet their deaths.
This however, would not come to pass. For Magnus, watching all the while, finally decided to enter the battle. No longer able to watch the slaughter of his children and destruction of his works, Magnus descended from the Pyramid of Photep with lighting, fire and rain, slaying the Wulfen explosively and driving the Space Wolves back with the ferocity of the deluge, spearing them with telekinetically flung shards of glass, slaying them with one baleful gaze of his eye, and detonating their armoured vehicles with bolts of energy from his staff. From where Magnus descended, the sky split asunder, the very essence of the Warp leaking into realspace. Hundreds of eyes gazed down from this crack in space/time, driving any who gazed back at them insane. As the Space Wolves pulled back before Magnus’s overwhelming display of power, only Leman Russ and his two wolf companions, (presumably Freki and Geri) stood unmoved. As Magnus made to confront the Wolf King on the causeway before his pyramid, he slowed time enough to issue his last order to Ahzek Ahriman, that his Chief Librarian and most gifted student retreat inside the Pyramid and report to Amon, his Equerry, in order to receive guardianship of the Book of Magnus. Magnus had foreseen that Ahriman would survive the day, but believed himself destined to fall. With that, the Crimson King engaged Leman Russ in personal combat.
Magnus generated a lighting cage around them, so that no allies could disturb them, before blasting his brother with such energy. Apparently immune to such attacks, Russ closed with the Red Cyclops, striking enough blows on him that his breastplate cracked open. Staggering back, Magnus hit Russ with a blast of balefire that cracked his own armour and set light to his hair. Separated back out to weapons’ length,frostblade met golden axe, as the two combatants duelled with each other. To all those watching, lit by lightning, drenched by bloody rain and each impact echoing with the thunder, the two kings seemed to swell with power and become as if giants.
Back at the central battle, the rallied Adeptus Custodes and Space Wolves forces sought to circumvent the duel and enter the Pyramid, crashing across the moat in their eagerness. Magnus spotted this and with one gesture turned the moat to bubbling acid, slaying or wounding all those caught within it. Shadowy hands formed out of pools of standing water on the ground, reaching for those who returned to the moat or stayed on the edge, the wounded dragged down into the dark. As the warpstorm in the sky continued to manifest, the earth shook and split, and it seemed as if Prospero and all upon her were damned.
In the centre of it all, Magnus and the Russ continued to fight, Magnus battering the Wolf King with fists wreathed in lightning and fire. One of Magnus’s mighty fists clove into Russ’s chestplate above his heart, the attempted death-punch shattering it and sending ceramite shards deep into his body. Russ grabbed the offending arm and snapped it like a branch. Magnus speared his brother with a blade of pure thought formed around his other hand. As Magnus held his brother transfixed and prepared to finish him off, the two wolf companions of the Primarch leaped at the legs of the Crimson King, sinking their jaws into his flesh. Staggering back, Magnus dissipated the thought-blade, slamming his fist into the head of the black-furred wolf, bursting apart its skull and dropping it to the ground. Roaring in frustrated anger and pain, he grabbed the white-furred wolf with a thought and flung it far over the heads of the watching Space Wolves before turning back to his brother. The two wounded primarchs returned to their wrestling match, somehow levitating over the causeway. Now distracted by the combat, Magnus was unable to prevent a second wave of Wulfen from dashing through the moat, supported by groups of Space Wolves using shards of the pyramid and the stocks of their bolters to make improvised canoes. As Ahriman tried to concentrate enough to direct a force to fight off these approaching threats, a roar of agony from above, followed by a second, separate, louder one directed all attention upwards. Magnus had struck Leman Russ with a particuarly concentrated sorcerous attack, wounding the Wolf King again, but causing him to lash out randomly with his blade in response. The tip of the blade swept across Magnus’s remaining eye. In the instant after Magnus reeled from this blow, all the extraordinary pyrotechnic effects surrounding the duel vanished, including the impression that both combatants were giants. leaving all to see two brothers standing staggered and in pain upon a simple causeway. Grievously hurt, Magnus called on regenerative magic to heal his arm and eye, but Leman Russ grabbed him, lifted him high, and broke his back across his knee. The sound echoed like a gunshot in the heart of every watching Thousand Son. As Magnus fell to the ground and the sky wept oily tears for his fall, Magnus mind-linked with Ahriman and revealed his last gift. As Russ brought his frostblade Mjalnar down in a fatal arc, Magnus used Ahriman as a conduit to enact the last part of a great master-spell he had prepared. With those words of power, Magnus and all the Thousand Sons instantly vanished from the surface of Prospero. Mjalnar smote the ground where Magnus had lain.
The Space Wolves had won, but the Thousand Sons had escaped execution.