Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section19

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Section 19: The Fist Clenches: Strongholds of the Sons of DornEdit

"Dig in. Do not yield! Never yield! Close the fist!"
Last words, bellowed by Chapter Master Lastrates, as he battled the daemon tide on Terra.

When the Emperor fell, and the Custodes abandoned Terra for reasons unknown, the garrison of Imperial Fists led the desperate counterattack against the daemons which poured forth from the shattered Golden Throne. Their disciplined gun lines and defensive formations carefully and calmly pumped bolter shell after bolter shell into the onrushing horde, as they led the Arbites and Terran Imperial Guard on a last, doomed charge on the Imperial palace. The vast galleries and corridors within the palace ran fluid with daemon essence, and they were assailed at every turn by gibbering clerks and adepts, driven wild with fright or corruption. These were gunned down all the same as the Imperial Fist contingent pushed onwards.

The throne had connected into the deep warp, and hence, as they neared the throne room, older, fouler daemons spilled into reality. Daemons that had never been manifest before. Tendrils and coiling, maddening shapes forced themselves through the very fabric of the air, tearing marines from their feet to their dooms, or boiling guardsmen where they stood. However, the Astrates never faltered, never floundered, but pushed onwards, swinging his twin thunder hammers with furious abandon.

Their Primarch had built the palace defences, and they made it difficult for the Imperial Fists to enter the palace. Ironically, the Fists had made a fortress so well, even they couldn't get through properly.

This desperate battle, however, was never about victory. The Fists had succeeded in their objective. They had bought the people of Terra a few precious hours, allowing scores of vessels to flee from the doomed home world. Amongst the fleeing humans, a single Imperial Fist Neophyte went as well.

As the Imperial Fists fell to the nightmares pouring straight from hell, the neophyte carried a message from his master, a final order, that would change the history of the Astartes of Dorn for the next ten thousand years.

He told this neophyte to travel across the galaxy, to everywhere a Fist or Iron Lord or other marines of Dorn were fighting, and to tell them to dig in, to fortify. He did so, and soon his message was taken up by other Imperial Fists, stationed off-world, and to other forces across the galaxy.

Across the Imperium, even as it began to truly shatter, the Imperial Fists and their successors made good on their orders. Fleets diverted themselves to the nearest defensible planets, or stayed put upon planets recently taken back from heretics and rebels. Here, they began to fortify each of these worlds. In some cases, Templar Chapter houses already existed, and the Black Templars stationed there welcomed their founding Chapter brethren with open arms, and together, they built upon these fortresses, and out into the wider world. In other cases, the Imperial Fists had to find the central palace of a world, and demand to fortify it. Dorn's Astartes began to increase orbital defences, and helped worlds found weapon factories and build bunkers, and to toughen the structures of buildings currently standing upon the worlds.

Any Imperial Navy vessels or Fist ships damaged beyond repair were stripped down, and their guns and ammunition stockpiles were cannibalized , and great orbital guns were built into the surface of these growing Imperial Fist Fortress Worlds. The gutted hulks of the vessels were converted into space stations, stocking additional fighter craft and bombers, in the event they would be required.

Supply lines and logistical support were installed, and made incredibly efficient by the allied Fist chapters. Food was secured to feed the populace of these worlds, either from the agricultural areas of worlds, by securing off world agri-facilities, or creating underground artificial eco-systems, deep beneath the layers of armour and steel, which began to cover these worlds. Every building was converted into potential defensive structures, with angled geometry to allow overlapping arcs of fire, and maximum avenues of assault. Killing zones were subtly crafted, disguised as town squares or ditches. Bunkers and trench systems were rapidly installed, and rationing was put into immediate effect.

In most cases, these measures were welcomed by the native populace, who were utterly terrified by the loss of contact with the wider Imperium, and the near-constant xenos and chaotic attacks and raids. With the Imperial Fists there to help defend, they felt their confidence bolster, and aided their superhuman allies in any way they could. Ranks of the PDF increased by an average of 60% on many of these worlds, with the reserve PDF forces and militias composed of more than half of the entire world population of many of the worlds in question.

The most famous and effective of these Fortress worlds was Nu Marsus. Nu Marsus was an embattled Imperial world, even by early M42, besieged as it was by Helicaour Ravagers, a bizarre species of metal-fanged xenos monsters. Captain Huun, of the Imperial Fists 4th Company, led a strike force of Imperial Fists against these aliens, and drove them off. As a happy coincidence, a Templars Chapter house was located upon the surface, which had aided in the defeat of the foe. The two forces of marines met up with each other, swapping stories, as they performed the strange, masochistic rituals of the Dorn Successors.

When the astronomicon went out, and warp storms began to buckle and flare across the entire galaxy, killing almost all astropaths, the Space marines found themselves stranded. Unlike other space marine forces, they didn't tear off to assault the nearest foe. The Templars amongst them wished to, but the Imperial Fists persuaded them to stay put for the time being.

Eventually, word came, via sporadic reinforcement from injured or lost Imperial Fist Chapter serfs, that their orders were to dig in anyway, and thus, Huun threw himself whole-heartedly into fortifying the planet. Like the other Fists, as mentioned above, he crafted efficient and effective orbital defences, built up the orbital batteries. He placed his fleet and the systems own defence fleet on constant patrol around the system boundaries, always within vox contact of Nu Marsus. The Governor of Marsus was happy to help the Astartes, and with his government's cooperation, soon every city became a fortress, and the people, eager to help, took up arms and militia roles. The small strike-force's techmarine set to work, guiding the industrial sector of the planet to increase production of arms, armour and munitions, in addition to their usual output. Also, he instructed several factories how to produce bolter shells (discreetly remembering to not tell them how to produce holy bolters, for they were for the Astartes alone). The PDF of the planet, the Falcina, were built up and extensively drilled by their superhuman allies. They wielded lasguns and carbines, in addition to their traditional billhook weapons, and with the new training and equipment the Falcina bill men were a force to be reckoned with. The 50 marine Imperial Fist force, in addition, made the decision to split up into smaller units, and each marine took command of several squads of Falcina, or took command of artillery divisions or armour squadrons, and hence disseminated their massive siege experience to the masses. While the Arbites precinct, Governor's palace, and Templar Chapter Fortress were all void shielded from orbital assault, most of the population centres and cities were not. Huun, scavenging the generators from several of the most damaged and irreparable ships, converted these star ship shields into city-wide force fields, which were installed on almost every city, much to the gratitude of the human populace. The thirty Black Templars left upon the world remained slightly aloof from the humans, and maintained their squad formations. However, they did submit to Huun's overall leadership, and their thousand-strong force of Chapter Serfs were still highly trained and well equipped to defend their keep.

Thus, Nu Marsus was fortified. And, just like all the other Fist Strongholds, it was to be tested very soon after.

The Petty Imperium of the Aton was ruled by Aton, a vain and foolish man. Unfortunately, his vanity allowed him to become possessed by a daemon of Slannesh. Thus, his entire Imperium was taken over, and the worship of dark gods began in the Atonian Imperium. The daemon-Aton decided that, in order to christen his new empire of sixty worlds, he would baptise it in blood. The blood of Nu Marsus to be precise.

His fleets penetrated the outer system in 222.M43. For weeks, Huun's Imperial Fist fleet harassed and harried the post-Imperial fleet as it travelled towards Nu Marsus, damaging and crippling dozens of Aton's cargo and supply ships, before fleeting back into the outer system.

Aton's main battle fleet consisted of a single battleship, over eight cruisers, and many escorts. By the time he reached Nu Marsus, he had six cruisers, and much fewer escorts, not to mention fewer logistical vessels.

Nevertheless, Aton's dread force was still massive. This sizable fleet smashed into the densely-packed orbital stations and defences erected in orbit. Hollowed out wrecks formed crude carrier vessels, unleashing hundreds upon hundreds of fighters, bombers and thunder hawks at the enemy force, as monitor vessels opened up upon the fleet, as well as the already in place laser orbital, and the long range torpedo silos built into the planet itself. Another cruiser was blasted apart, as well as two more escorts.

Yet, he managed to get his battleship into orbital strike range, and fired. Flames, brimstone, and searing shafts of light rained down upon the entire world, lighting up the sky and angry orange and red, as it churned the clouds, and rumbled off the numerous city force fields across the world. The sound was deafening, but the people of Nu Marsus, inspired by their marine benefactors, showed no fear. It was said that, as the skies filled with fire, Sergeant Blant of Squad six of the strike force, stood in the middle of the capital's town square, and began to laugh loudly, his thunderous voice carrying to all the people of the people of the city, who cowered. He then took up some scraps of metal, and began to beat a tune out upon them, with the pummel of his broadsword, singing a hearty war song as he did so. Eventually, other people began to pile into the streets, and sing along, in defiance.

The bombardments lasted for three days. In that time, only one shield failed. The unfortunate city was blasted into fiery ruins within a few minutes, the lives of over seven million people snuffed out as if nothing. The city of Shogar was no more. Yet, the defence lasers reaped a terrible toll amongst the orbiting fleet.

Yet, the rest of Nu Marsus was unbowed.

Thus, as soon as possible, Aton sent his massive numbers of troop ships to land upon the surface. The enemy landed with almost no losses, as they landed upon the ruins of Shogar, which no longer had any AA batteries to combat them.

Aton's army was vast, numbering almost 60 million troopers, with attendant armour and chimera transports. Great banners were unfurled, bearing the cursed runes of Slannesh, crudely painted over the aquila. Daemonettes groped and cavorted amongst the ranks of Atonian Troopers, as the giant, nude form of Aton sat upon a giant void-shielded dais, in all his androgynous evil majesty.

The army headed, with all speed, towards the capital, Sherivar. If Aton could break the centre of Imperial Fist power, the planet would be his.

Artillery rained fire and explosives upon the city for two full days, before the army charged the fortress. Lascannons flared and speared across avenues. Bolters fired and auto guns barked, as weapons discharged in criss-crossing, confusing arcs. Tanks rumbled through the streets, only to be blown up by concealed missile teams, who were in turn burnt out by hellhounds, or killed by heavy cannons destroying their buildings. Imperial Fists were present at every gun line, barking orders, which had been drilled into every human on the planet for years, the concentrated and disciplined firepower driving back wave after murderous wave of soldiers. Armour battalions clashed in the narrow avenues and wider parks, exchanging devastating barrages of high explosive ammunition.

The thirty Templars were out in the action, every single one wearing a jump pack. Like angels of doom, they darted from kill zone to kill zone, striking viciously and swiftly, wherever ordered to by Huun. Their fists, hammers, picks, axes and whirring chain blades cut bloody swathes through the twisted ranks of the fallen post-Imperial troopers.

The Trenches throughout the city were bloody killing grounds, where troopers and feral things tussled in the blood and gristle of already dead soldiers. It was work for knives, clubs, and heavy blades, and shotguns, as the foes were joined in epic conflict. Huun travelled in his Land Raider, storming off to every battle he could find across the city, him and his terminators charging from the bowels of his chariot vehicle, and ripping apart foes with his lightning claws, as his terminator assault squad smashed apart their foes with hammers and great tower shields.

The Falcina fought bravely and fiercely, their bill hooks bloody with the terrible toll they reaped amongst their traitorous foes. The barely armed militia fought at their shoulders, aiding the bill men as the enemy sought to surround them. All had curses upon their lips, and faith in their beleaguered hearts.

The Chapter house was a blazing charnel house as the servitor-controlled bi-pod las and auto cannons fired almost constantly, while defiant Black Templar serfs manned the walls and windows of the fortress, pouring bolter and las rounds into the braying, crazed hordes. It was said that, as the gate was battered down, and the enemy threatened to storm the building, the senior Chapter Serf, fearful of failing his superhuman masters, took up one of the marine power swords, and ran to defend the gate. Though the blade was a mere short sword to a marine, he wielded it like some great double-handed barbarian sword, howling Templar oaths as he cut down his foes. Though only a serf, the Senior Serf was modified and strong, trained to the peak level of mortal human strength and speed, and he smote his foes terrible blows; for hours upon hours, he held the gate.

Sergeant Blant walked around the city in a defiant state of good cheer. His insane joy at battle was the stuff of legends. He was said to have been juggling swords and blades as he sang at the top of his lungs, to be heard over the din of battle, as he cackled with laughter, lopping off limbs and heads with dismissive blows of his broadsword. At one point, he was said to have even been playing his uilleann pipes in one hand, while he fired his bolter from the hip in the other hand.

The battle was bloody and brutal, and lasted for a full week. The siege was broken, however, as Huun's fleet returned, and assaulted the Aton-devil's fleet. Caught between the orbital defences and this new fleet, the Atonian fleet had to flee into the warp, leaving Aton on world. Eventually, his forces were forced from the capital, and hounded, until they reached Shogar from whence they came. For the second time, orbital bombardment fell upon the ruins, and Aton's army was no more.

Huun and his marines remained on the planet for the rest of the period, ever fortifying and reinforcing the defences of the planet, fighting off alien tyrants and devilish monsters, nearly every year. These wars were fierce, murderous and terrible, and soon the good cheer of the defenders became sombre dour determination and grit.

The story was similar across all the Imperial Fist strongholds. As they closed their fists, the Imperial Fists hardened their hearts, and sealed themselves from the galaxy, fighting anyone who even entered their systems, until the galaxy abandoned them entirely. The galaxy shattered, and the Age of Strife flared into horrific life. And all the while, the bitter, hard-nosed Fists of Dorn just dug themselves in, deeper and deeper. Bloodied, battered, muddy, but unbowed; these were the Fists. Unbowed, but blind and futile in their defences, for, as they suspected, they held out for nothing. No help, no relief, would ever come. They would remain, entrenched on their muddy, barbed wire swathed fortress worlds, forever. Even the insane cheerfulness of marines like Blant wouldn't change this simple, depressing fact.


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Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk