Renovating ParadiseSaramanth was a wasteland like terribly few others. Surface scoured of any and all life, the former civilized world that formed one of many nodes in Ultramar's supply chain was now a barren husk that made the desert world of Yuka-Rie look like a garden of Eden. Even the oceans had been boiled away, leaving trenches webbed across great tracts of wasteland that could swallow titans whole and leave an observer none the wiser. Saramanth had faced Exterminatus, if not in an official capacity; some unknown catastrophe had befallen the world during the Shadow Crusade, and neither Loyalist or Traitor knew who or what triggered it. Only the dead held Saramanth's secrets in their hearts. Now a fate worse than death awaited the ruined planet: situated a top her north most pole a terrible ritual lit both land and heavens. The turbulence caused by its initiation had been great, so powerful that the Warp itself boiled around approaching ships, several craft belonging to both the descendants of Guilliman and Fulgrim's own fleets stricken from the roster and marked as MIA before either side had mustered to full. Several Librariums and Covens suffered as well, the Dawnbringers losing a Lexicanum when the distress in the Warp first hit and his body shed its flesh in a blast of sheet lightning that left behind smoking meat that writhed on the charred skeleton. Charon would come to appreciate that the worst he suffered was a lapse in consciousness and several vivid nightmares. A small comfort as the scale of their coming engagement became a stark reality: a legion fractured by their father's law mustered against a legion fractured in its sanity. Ritual run off formed a flare visible from the void, and from it crawled mindless tendrils of nascent Warp storms (Warp depressions?). Between earth and sky fragments of bedrock and surface stone hung in mid-air, wisps of otherworldly energies dancing beneath and between the levitating fragments of Saramanth's corpse. Pulses of circular energy skimmed the new surface of Saramanth, the source of the floating stones as the effects of Fulgrim's ritual were literally skinning the planet of its top layer and revealing a thing of terrible awe beneath. The Dawnbringers, close and distant all at once, look on at the light show and what little they could glean from the view left many stomachs knotting in apprehension. Saramanth BriefingThe Dawnbringer fleet, as it could properly be called now with the addition of Odiaus' Pride and its host from the Third and Fourth companies, clung close to their Doom Eagle allies, similarly empowered by the coming of formerly far flung reinforcements. A mess of screens installed in the strategium and hauled in by support servitors were alive with grainy feeds of over a dozen officers and support staff scattered across the fleet. Chapter Masters, Captains, Librarians, Chaplains in places, a whole assortment of sons of Guilliman faced each other and the adopted bastards of Perturabo. As Alexander had predicted the chain of command had stabilized thanks to the greater will and discipline of the Ultramarines and their descendants. Most every hand had a Codex near it, though few needed it for recital; it was a sign of tenacity and a rock to lean on in these dire hours. "Rare are the days I grieve to be wrong, unfortunately it seems our prognostications were off, we have underestimated Fulgrim." Postamus, recently promoted Chief Librarian of the Aurora Chapter, begins the latest round of situational updates. "Our foe does not merely intend to open a rift into the Warp. I can only describe what is happening on Saramanth as a rebirth. The Emperor's Children are turning Saramanth into a daemon world. Something arguably worse than another tear in reality, somewhere that can be fortified, that can tether the Neverborn to existence and empower them. It would be a portal and a fortress, a beachhead and the port of an empire, one Fulgrim wishes to steal from us." "Then let us set about toppling Fulgrim's ambitions." Lucretious Corvo, designated as Supreme Commander of the assembled descendants and Chapter Master of the Novamarines, spoke up. "The enemy fleet is fractious, whether communications are failing due to the turbulence of the ritual, or they cannot be bothered to present a unified front remains unknown. What we do know is there are already several key weak points in the picket, the flagship is crippled, and not one vessel among them looks fresh and free of damage. Their primary advantage apparent at this stage is whatever control they have over the Warp disturbances bleeding from Fulgrim's ritual. Speaking of... do our Forge and Librarius assets have any new reports on what we're facing on the ground exactly?" It was a question for any of the many faces gathered. Since the muster above Saramanth, both methods based in science and sorcery had been plumbing the many miles of warped terrain surrounding the ritual's locus point: Fulgrim and whatever fortifications he hid behind. "Three hours ago we delivered the first images of altered terrain." Memories and data streams both picked up on the phrase and all eyes fell to recordings of Saramanth's surface, summoned up by a Techmarine of the Ultramraines. Beyond the floating stones and earth being turned and torn by the pulsating magics lay an immaculate path of white stones that spilled out from a palace of marvelous silver. The view was a distant one, Warp spawned building a looming mountain decorated with curving spires, shimmering towers and flowing rivers of pristine waters. It was a picturesque place, one surrounded by vibrantly colored grasses that shifted between hues of pale yellows and deep purples like a savanna caught before the setting sun. Smaller structures had sprouted up in all directions, hamlets of stately bunkers and platforms for artillery and anti-air emplacements that formed uneven rings around Fulgrim's titanic estate. "This is Fulgrim's foothold on Saramanth. Until recently it was also his only focal point for the conversion of the planet. Approximately forty-three minutes ago, large detachments of Emperor's Children began to leave the transformed sectors in force. Since then they have established several bases across the planet. Each one is accompanied by a coven and at least one Sorcerer. I approximate they are extending their reach; whether this be out of arrogance, haste, or need is a mystery. It is fortuitous they have done so regardless." At last a Dawnbringer spoke, Alexander looking on steadily at a series of fresh tactical grids depicting color coded shapes of enemy formations. "Striking at these points while they are still being established are liable to cause a powerful backlash against the primary ritual and slow its progress. If not disrupt it altogether. In the event it does not entirely collapse Fulgrim's progress, we of the collected chapter Librariums have devised a counter-ritual. By all rights, collapsing the traitor's ritual should banish the changes to Saramanth's effected surface." A bold plan, and one that raised a hundred questions. Each one answered seems to simultaneously shut down and spawn two more queries, but the sons of Guilliman address them as they come and with a speed that might leave even other chapters jealous. No they were not perfect by any stretch, but those dedicated to the Avenging Son's teachings and molded from his geneseed were adaptable, and the situation lent an urgency to the proceedings that none could deny. Soon enough tactical feeds were flooded with the makings of a battle plan: one that left the Dawnbringers in the vanguard of the assault where they would form the core of defenses for the collected Librarians on Fulgrim's doorstep. Filling out the rest of the vanguard would be the Aurora Chapter and their fearsome armored phalanxes, the vengeful Ultramarines prepared to turn aside the traitors and exact a fearsome toll in blood for the loss of Roboute. On a more personally relevant level to our scouts: Akar would be leading the entirety of the active Tenth Company in an assassination against an enemy Sorcerer. The Doom Eagles agreed to commit a large portion of their present chapter to supporting the mission, indeed it would likely be an impossible task for the scouts alone when one considered the security involved and the lack of favorable terrain. Already those areas taken over to further the ritual were being peeled away to reveal the maddened dream world bleeding through the Warp. Similar strike teams were being organized to operate in sectors across the entire planet, what scouts were present tasked with hunting the enemy psykers and thrall covens while the Doom Eagles provided close support and provided a weighty distraction for the legion forces present. It was a task that fit the fatalistic marines well, their lives sold the moment they pledged themselves to the Emperor, they held no fear of death, only failure. A sentiment shared by all as the loyalist fleet fell into formation and began to advance, countless pin sized flames from numerous jets, thrusters, and drop pods raining from the flanks of the void craft.