Ok, just finished reading the fluff and WOW. I think this is really it, BIG THINGS are happening. Obviously SPOILERS AHOY. Long posts incoming too lol.
Ok, so the book starts off with probably the coolest thing I've read in 40k – some prose about a Dreamer Awakening in a World That Is Not A World, and her wearily being called back to War. It's probably the coolest thing I've read about Celestine, and it doesn't even mention her by name smile.png
The first chapter of the book picks up immediately following the first wave of the assault on Cadia. It is beaten back by the genius of Creed (after he assumes command following the treacherous slaughter of the existing Cadian High Command). He sets about rebuilding the shattered defences for the second wave he knows is incoming – Abaddon will make a point of pride to make Cadia fall.
Making up the shattered defences are:
Creed and the Cadian 8th, holding the last major fortress on Cadia – Kasr Kraf
Black Templars of the Cruxis Crusade, led by Marshal Marius Amalrich. They are standing on the southern defences of Kasr Kraf
Dark Angels 4th Company, led by Company Master Korahael (they are making their stand at the wreckage of their fallen Strike Cruiser to the North of Kasr Kraf, its guns still operational)
Space Wolves of the Ironwolves Great Company, led by Wolf Lord Orven Highfell. They are initially garrisoning a ruined Kasr between the Dark Angel Strike Cruiser and Kasr Kraf, but you know Space Wolves and standing still…
Space Wolves of the Firehowlers Great Company, led by Sven Bloodhowl. They have the only remaining Imperial Ship still under power in orbit, the Battle Barge Firemane's Fang
Knights of House Raven, led by Baroness Vardus
Battle Sisters of the Order of Our Martyred Lady, led by the twin sister Canonesses Eleanor and Genevieve. They are holding the Shrine of Saint Morrican across the valley from Kasr Kraf
Numerous other Cadian regiments and shattered Space Marine Chapters
Things look pretty grim when a scout ship reports that the Black Fleet of Abaddon is inbound to finish of Cadia, with a Blackstone Fortress called the Will of Eternity at its heart. It has the power to destroy a planet with a single shot, but the Imperium had prepared a special defence for it. Unfortunately the first assault left it it ruins – Cadia is doomed. Sven Bloodhowl and the Firehowlers, along with a host of Battle Brothers from shattered Chapters and even alongside some Cadian regiments, gather on the Firemane's Fang to lead a desperate assault on the Will of Eternity to delay it before it reaches Cadia ("you're telling me we're some kind of Suicide Squad?") whilst the Mechanicum frantically try to repair the anti-planet killer shields. The battle-cry goes up amongst the Cadian Defenders – "Cadia Stands!"
Elsewhere! Belasirus Cawl has been having some shady conversations with a Harlequin Shadowseer. She tells him to check out some backwater planet, long since abandoned by the Imperium in after the 4th Black Crusade swept by it in M34. On it, Cawl discovers evidence of massive orbital bombardments. Apparently the 4th Black Crusade didn't randomly sweep by this planet – Abaddon had been trying to destroy something on it. Fighting of some random Orks looking for a fight, Cawl discover something amazing – this planet has Pylons on it, just like the Cadian Pylons and it seems Abaddon was trying to destroy them! The Shadowseer tells him to go to Cadia
Elsewhere! Trazyn the Infinite is chilling in Solemnance when one of his treasures, the Bell of Saint Gerstahl, suddenly starts ringing and causing all sorts of havoc on each chime. After the bell kills 5 of his bodies, causes Solemance to send all his warriors into stasis-sleep, destroys a number of his priceless artefacts it stops after the 13th Chime. Trazyn is all wth? and goes to the Celstial Orrery (a perfect reflection of the galaxy) to try and figure out whats going on. He notices a lot of 'crimson stain' pulsing in intricate webs out of one place in particular. The Necrons have a ton of data on the place, but Trazyn deliberately ignores that. The Imperium calls it Cadia. Trazyn wonders whether he might try being the Saviour of the Galaxy for once. At the very least, there should be something shiny to steal on Cadia.
Elsewhere! Specifically, the orbit of Terra!! Even more specifically, aboard the Phalanx!!! Be'lakor has decided to trump Abaddon and launch an attack directly at Terra – no stuffing around at Cadia for him. With the help of the Iron Warriors Warsmith Shon'tu, he creates a warp rift right in the middle of the Phalanx, with the intent to board and capture it and turn it against Terra. On board are… not much. Most of the Imperial Fists are elsewhere. All that remains to repel the chaos forces are the newly reconstituted 3rd Company, led by Captain Tor Garadon (ironically stationed there because they are inexperienced) and 30odd marines from the 1st Company. They are massively outnumbered by the combined Demon and Iron Warrior assault, are getting overrun and are losing control of the Phalanx to machine viruses from the Iron Warriors. In desperation, Garadon turns the guns of the Phalanx on itself in order to 'cut away the disease like a chirurgeon'. It costs the Phalanx a full 10th of its mass, but it stops the machine virus from taking hold and also takes out most of the Iron Warriors. As soon as control is back, Garadon orders a blind jump into the Warp in order to remove the potential for the Phalanx to be turned against Terra. Be'lakor is kinda pissed his plan has basically failed, but since they are now in the warp all his Demon forces are powered up and at least they can destroy the Phalanx. So he gets cocky and throws his Demons carelessly into the fray, victory is inevitable. At least it was inevitable until the Legion of the Dammed turn up to kick his arse. Better luck next time Be'lakor! (should have cast Invisibility). Curiously, the Legion of the Dammed have stuck around though, and Garadon has no idea why. He makes to return to Mars for urgent repairs, however a distress call is picked up – Cadia is real trouble. Garadon decides that the defence of Cadia is the most important, so he turns around and makes for Cadia. The Legion of the Dammed Sergeant gives him a ghostly bro-nod.
Back on Cadia! The Imperial defenders look on with horror as the Will of Eternity appears in orbit. The Mechiancum are no-where near finished repairs to the shields. The Will of Eternity fires….. and the beam is stopped in the clouds! Huzzah! It worked! But how?!?! Says the Magos in charge, looking around at all the slain tech-priests at the shield generator. Looking closer he notices all sorts of filthy Xenos technology integrated into the Mechanicus technology……….
Oh well, time for a conventional assault then. The Black Fleet commences orbital Bombardment of the defences, Void Shield generators straining, Drop Pods and Landing Craft coming down the thousands etc. Long story short, lots of fighting and pew pew pew. Battle Sisters kick arse. Defenders are forced back, traitor Titans of Legio Vulcanam are advancing (despite a Valkyrie kamikaze into the lead Warlord Titan, A-Wing vs Super Star Destroyer style). The Demon Prince Urkanthos, Abaddons second in command, drops in to lead the final assault. Final Gate goes down, Urkanthos shrugs off everything the Cadians can throw at him as heads straight for the shield generator protecting against the Planet Killer only to find the Battle Sisters in his way. The twin Cannoness Genevieve and Eleanor duel with him, but he kills them both (not before Genevieve headbutts him right between the eyes as her dying act of defiance though! Fkn Badass! And Eleanor stick her sword right through his chest, doing the only real wound to him). Urkanthos proceeds down to destroy the shield generator. A Chaos Baneblade is wrecking havoc amongst the Cadians, and the Black Templars rally to try and stop it and just as it swings its guns around to blow them away it suddenly freezes… and turns around and starts shooting the Chaos Forces… no-one notices a sneaky Necron Lord lurking about…. Creed uses the distraction as a last ditch effort to run his forces over to protect the shield generator, but upon seeing the dead Battle Sisters who tried to stop the Demon Prince he knows that Cadia is lost. So he goes to order a rally in one last stand, when he notices his officers holding devotional icons and uttering "The Emperor Protects". Not really one for faith, he gets kinda angry at this, but as he turns he can't help a "Well I'll be dammed"
Saint Celestine had answered their prayers.
Celestine emerging from the Heavens and slaughtering all the Demons before her re-energises all the Imperial Forces present, like a shot in the arm. Only the Adeptus Astartes are unaffected (Black Templars feel it though). The tide turns for a moment, the Defenders rallying to Celestine. But then the Traitor Legionnaires crash back into the defences. But no biggie, Celestine has that under control too – behind her, landing ships drop out of the sky and drop fresh ranks of Battle Sisters onto the field, their Battle Hymns sounding. Apparently she found a transport floating dead through the Warp, carrying 5 full companies of Battle Sisters from the Order of Our Martyred Lady lost some 1400 years ago. She hooked a Sister up and led them to another Ship en-route to Cadia. Urkanthos comes back from destroying the shield generator, looking to make his escape before the planet blows up, but runs straight into Celestine. Celestine is like "you're dead" and Urkanthos is like "lol, you can't fight me alone I'm like favoured of Khorne and Right Hand of Abaddon and stuff" and Celestine is like "HEROES NEVER DIE!" and gets a clutch rez on Genevieve and Eleanor and all 3 proceed to soundly kick his arse. What about the Blackstone Fortress about to blow up Cadia? Oh yeah btw, that ship Celestine hooked the Sisters up with was the Phalanx and it just suddenly jumped in amongst the Black Fleet.
The Phalanx bears straight down on the Will of Eternity. It's taking on the entire Black Fleet by itself but, hell, its a fleet in of itself. Garadon knows he's gotta kill the Blackstone Fortress, so he saves all his firepower for the opportune moment… and a section of the Will of Eternity's shields go down! Turns out Sven Bloodhowl's Suicide Squad made it aboard after all and they managed to sabotage the shields! Taking the shot, the Phalanx pours all its firepower into the Blackstone Fortress and blows it the hell up (along with like a third of the Black Fleet), the wreckage breaking into a few large chunks that sit in orbit like moons. The Black Fleet, having just been sucker punched hard by the Phalanx, pulls away to regroup. Down on the planet, Kell replants the Standard of the Cadian 8th atop the Kriegan Gates as the Battle Sisters and Cadians route the attacking Chaos Forces. Creed breathes a sigh of relief, but knows it's only a fleeting victory.
Aboard the Vengeful Spirit, Abaddon looks out over another failure. No more though – Cadia has defied him for far too long. Abaddon gathers his forces for and will lead the next assault himself. This time its personal.
The Imperial Forces consolidate. A trickle of re-enforcements arrive; The Crimson Fists 5th Company led by Captain Ruis Tracinto, Knights from House Taranis, tanks from the Cadian Armoured 51st and finally Belisarius Cawl's Mechanicus fleet. Whilst most of his Skitarri were depleted fighting those Orks, his fleet is still relatively strong. It takes up position with the Phalanx in orbit over Kasr Kraf. A Council of War is held, and Cawl outlines his discoveries about the Pylons and Abaddons intentions with them – it seems the Pylons are literally holding back the flood of the Immaterium into the galaxy. This explains the rising darkness of the last 10,000 years, and the increasing prevalence of warp storms – as Abaddon's Black Crusades have ran on the number of Pylons they've destroyed as gone up and the Warp leaks faster into realspace. Turns out Abaddon's Black Crusades haven't been failures after all, just a series of plays in a very, very long game! Creed, who'd been thinking about retreating from Cadia to preserve forces, realises that's no longer an option. The Cadian Pylons can't be allowed to fall. Cadia must stand!
Cawl gets a strange visitor… at first he thinks it's the Harlequin, but turns out its Trazyn! Trazyn offers his assistance in figuring out the secrets of the Pylons. Cawl is distrustful, but Trazyn points out that he has no desire to see Chaos rule the galaxy. Cawl realises that he's hopelessly lost in the Pylon technology anyway, so accepts his help and quickly figures out the Pylons. He's got a plan now!
Abaddon launches the next assault. Long story short again, lots of fighting, lots of pew pew pew. Battle Sisters, now led by Saint Celestine and the Twin Gemini, continue to kick all sorts of arse. The Battle Sisters get a pretty good showing in this book imo. Anyway, Abaddons forces eventually close the circle around the Imperial Defence, and its capped off by Abaddon teleporting into Creed's Command Centre to cut the head off the command. It's only by Kell's last heroic effort that he's able to push Creed onto a Valkyrie to escape, before Abaddon cuts Kell down. With the Cadian Command in tatters, the Imperial Defence begins to fall and get overrun. The Cadian 8th fall back into the underground catacombs where the Pylons and Cawl are, pursued by Abaddon and his Terminators. On the surface, only the Battle Sisters have managed to push back the attacks.