The First of Many Victories, Part One

Power.

Space.

Mind.

Soul.

Reality.

Time.

Their power alone could stop the galaxy, but only together could they bring the omniverse to its knees. The endless studies of Doom probing the subject of these elusive gems lasted for several hundred lifetimes in his libraries, where time stood still. Despite even this impressive array of information, he could only confidently say he had two of such jewels in his possession. However, tonight this minor expansion into cosmic immortality stood an infinitesimal challenge, for the brilliance of Doom had finally unlocked the location of not only one gem, but two: Power, and Time.

Arguably the least useful out of the remaining four, the stones he pinpointed were still extremely prominent in the overall efficiency of the Infinity Gauntlet. The Power Gem, obviously, fed the productivity of the device, augmenting the other gems considerably while displaying its own innate ability to bind them in place. Meanwhile, the Time Gem controlled every aspect of progress or recession in the fabric of the universe, whether it be aging, speed, or otherwise. The clock meant nothing as long as the wielder of the Time Gem had free reign.

Of course, the obstacles to obtain these crystals were legendary in scale.

For ultimate power, Doom had to contend with the indomitable will of a monstrous celestial who dwarfed planets. Finding the creature proved no easy task in of itself, because with the raw power of the jewel he had in his possession, the celestial could wander through the fabric of reality, tearing clumsy holes between dimensions and disappear or reappear on a whim. Doom managed to track the beast and stood upon his exit from traveling through cosmic barriers, issuing a challenge that none could refuse.

The contest lasted for less than a second in regular time, but it warped space around it much like a wormhole or other anomaly, turning light years into inches and back again, twisting entire solar systems apart and remaking them, changing the course of stars, puncturing the womb of the universe and giving birth to terrifyingly massive black holes only to snuff them out again. But in the end, Doom stood triumphant, and the celestial hovers to this day a lifeless shell, every ounce of cosmic power drained once the gem removed itself in order to attach to its new master.

Time, however, proved a curious departure from the brute friction provided by the keeper of the Power Gem. Doom traveled to the very edge of the cosmos, journeyed into the nothingness between universes, and beyond even that desperately cruel undertaking. Time stood as little more than a marker for one's sanity at this point, the perfect centerpiece for the keeper of Time as a whole. The crystal begged to be taken, but not by pure strength.

Time itself had a riddle for Doom to solve, a riddle that pried into the hearts of mortals and made them fear the night sky.

"What is the meaning of all?"

The ultimate question combined all other aspects of curiosity. Life, religion, essence, mortality, morality, existence, the universe...everything. In his many journeys to outside the projected sphere of the universe, Doom had answered most - if not all - of these separate little inquiries. As he pondered his rebuttal, vines started to grow along his body, intent on enveloping him if he could not answer. Time had built a forest of such interlopers, monuments to challengers of his question who could not see the truth.

The monarch of Elysia almost joined these statues of living death before he confidently replied.

"To evolve,"

"Explain," Time begged, intrigued by this latest progress.

"It all adapts to suit the ultimate need for structure. Time is a keystone in maintaining that balance, but you have adapted to living beyond its boundaries as keeper of the Time Gem, have you not?"

But all he spoke to was a hollow stump, the crystal already in his grasp.

"I thought so."

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The War for Holocaust - a timeline

  • Disagreement Begets Suffering - Isolation and continued war against the Xenos species native to the Holocaust sector brings the Blood Acolytes' Warmaster Torquemada de Insanguinare into conflict with the High Lords of Symaar Primus - they refuse to give him any further Guardsman levies due to the proximity of Holocaust and the continued presence of the nearby Fire Eaters Legion. The Xenos attacks worsen.
  • Lorkir Drakeson and Torquemada embark on a three-year crusade against neighboring Ork empires and Chaos-dominated fortress worlds. Though they initially succeed in driving off some of the Ghosts of Seszlak cult, the cultists retaliate in earnest and Imperial forces are driven back. Scion comes under direct fire from both Chaos and Ork forces. The combined assault provokes a massive Symaarian Guard movement from other sectors.
  • Despite the blatant proof that the Holocaust sector is undermanned, continued resistance from the High Lords begins to drive Torquemada into rage. At first, it is the enemies of the Imperium that feel his anger. But Lorkir grows more concerned about his lifelong friend and battle-brother. His anger is becoming less righteous and more bloodthirsty for the sake of being bloodthirsty.
  • The final insult to Torquemada's pride is when an Inquisitor is sent to Scion to investigate for signs of weakness in the Blood Acolytes and their battle-monastery. Torquemada refuses to allow the Inquisitor anywhere near the Isle of Blood and sends him back to Symaar Primus with a simple message: "reinforcements or war."
  • Lorkir manages to calm Torquemada down enough for him to convene at the next Warmaster moot. There he convinces Magnus Ironside of the Imperial Castigators, Tet'kai Khan of the Death Riders, Marcus Aurelius of the Stormbringers, and Magnir Plaaq of the Death Wardens of his plight and disagreement with the High Lords. To his surprise, they all report similar conflicts with the main governing body of the Imperium.
  • Torquemada goes back to Scion with his plan already set in motion - if the High Lords continue to refuse his request for reinforcements, there will be direct consequences. It does not take long for him to see that the High Lords are just as stubborn in their own decision when a battle-ready armada arrives in the Holocaust sector with the intent of bringing Torquemada back to Symaar Primus quietly or blasting Scion apart to do so. Due to his refusal to cooperate with the High Lords, Torquemada has been branded a traitor. Open war is now completely necessary.
  • Torquemada destroys the fleet with the Godhammer cannons prepared for just such an occasion and declares the Holocaust sector independent of the Imperium. The other Warmasters as well as their Legions Torquemada convinced of the Imperium's ignorance to strategically important matters and intolerance for change flock to his banner. Lorkir remains neutral to the affair, choosing instead to fortify Holocaust and protect its people for the coming storm.
  • Warmasters Vladimir Helhand, fresh from liberating the Keresh from their own devious government, turns a blind eye to the fascism practiced by the Imperium and goes to war alongside fellow Warmasters Sigismund Pugh, Severus Trajan, Thor'taan Ystva, Konrad Noct, Albion Corr, Ahzgrim Rageheart, Argul Invictus, and Lucius Tarnel. The largest civil war between the Space Marines since the Tartaran Heresy begins when Torquemada attacks and seizes Holocaust, killing Lorkir in the process. Though he grieves heavily for the loss of his brother, he does so out of contempt that Lorkir continued to refuse to help Torquemada. The enraged Warmaster attributed Lorkir's death to the same reasons he rebelled against the High Lords and he would never forgive himself for spilling Lorkir's blood, no matter how deeply he fell into the depths of Chaos.
  • The Battle for Gregoria - Sigismund Pugh provides an initial foothold on the shrine world of Gregoria, though losses among the Void Crusaders are staggeringly high following the assault. Tet'kai Khan and his Death Riders practice lightning warfare and the elongated streets of Gregoria meant for large sums of pilgrims are perfect for his Legion to ambush from. Argul Invictus, however, decides to avenge the fallen of the Void Crusaders from a distance and by the volume of siege weapons. Vindicators and other artillery guns rip apart the Death Riders, forcing the advantage back to the Void Crusaders as they butcher the traitor Guardsmen and inflict heavy casualties on the Death Riders defending Gregoria. However, Marcus Aurelius - youngest Warmaster to date and acclaimed tactical genius - breaks Argul's devious and infamous Iron Ring tactics with a bloody counterattack on the siege batteries. Both Void Crusaders and Iron Champions are forced back to Severus Trajan's battle line, where the Warmaster of the Omega Company uses the tried-and-true war strategy of "Caesar's Horseshoe," in which he deliberately lures his foes into a seemingly weak portion of his battle line and consequently surrounds them. Stormbringer forces are devastated during the fighting with the Death Riders only making up a small raiding force that is easily dealt with by Severus' fresh troops. Magnir Plaaq and his Death Wardens liberate Tet'kai and Marcus, however, and make a calculated attack on Severus' depleted battle line using their mutated Plague Marines to full advantage. Severus cannot account for the sheer durability of the Plague Marines and makes a tactical withdrawal to a fortified hilltop where Argul has made his artillery encampment. During the long march through No Man's Land, Magnir and his Death Wardens are not only subject to Argul's merciless bombardments, but also to Konrad Noct's traumatizing ambushes and nighttime guerrilla warfare. They are forced to withdraw as are the battered and bloodied Stormbringers and Death Riders. Gregoria is conquered, but at a staggering cost of almost 10,000 Space Marines on either side with countless Guardsmen making up the bulk of the casualties. The shrine world is virus bombed to eliminate any further resistance.
  • The Siege of Toth - Meanwhile, Magnus Ironside has been able to fortify the hive world of Toth ever since the Battle for Gregoria began. With the remnants of the other Legions as well as reinforcements from the local Guardsmen levies and enslaved loyalists, Magnus seemed ready to weather the forces of the Imperium for as long as Torquemada needed to prepare on Scion. He did not account for Albion Corr's rage, however, as the Warmaster of the Black Wings dedicated his presence in the War for Holocaust solely for the purpose of capturing (or killing) Magnus and Magnir. With assistance from Lucius Tarnel and Ahzgrim Rageheart, Albion Corr infiltrated Toth and even into the very underbelly of Magnus' stronghold. Ahzgrim lead the ground forces from the front, bellowing orders and threats to cowards all while claiming heretic lives with his enormous chainaxes. Lucius did the same, but at the head of a surging mass of Symaarian Guardsmen littered with his own Space Marines ready to sell their lives in service to the Lord of Praetor. Magnus had been so distracted by the intricate trench warfare and roar of artillery that he had not noticed Albion and his Legion scything through his headquarters until the Warmaster's lightning claws where embedded in his torso. Merely enraged, Magnus began a short and bitter duel with the Warmaster of the Black Wings that ended with the Khorne-worshiping Chaos Lord flayed and strung on a gibbet high above Toth's capital city. Magnir had been captured while Tet'kai and Marcus fled with the tattered remnants of their Legions back to Scion to prepare for the bloodiest fighting of the war. Space Marine losses were almost twice that of what they were on Gregoria with Guardsmen losses numbering in the hundreds of millions. Toth became subject to an extensive cleansing project that lasted until the end of the war.
  • The Battle of Scion - With only two fully capable Legions at his beck and call, Vladimir Helhand personally took to the fields of Scion alongside Thor'taan in what would be the bloodiest collision of Space Marines seen since the Tartaran Heresy. Torquemada made full use of his Godhammer cannons, forcing the Symaarian Navy away while simultaneously depriving the Space Marines of any real advantage in numbers. The Iron Fists and Lords of Ruin were thereby compelled to dig extensive tunnel works throughout their stay on Scion, lest they were to fall prey to roaming Death Rider patrols or deadly bombardments from the Blood Acolytes' artillery. Marcus Aurelius had also wounded Argul's pride in his siege tactics and he continuously second-guessed himself when asked how best to approach the Isle of Blood. It eventually fell to an unforeseen ally to provide the answer when Allesio Zavsh - captain of Torquemada's own Honor Guard - returned from crusading and joined the loyalist effort on Scion and even bolstered the ground forces with his bloodied veteran forces. He lead the assault on the Isle of Blood, pretending to have captured Vladimir and Thor'taan before unleashing an uncompromising and mercilessly bloody melee through the fortress, remembering every nook and cranny with a single-minded vengeance. It was also Allesio that found Torquemada in the chapel-barracks, looking out over the smoking ruin of Scion. They fought briefly, but in the end Allesio claimed victory as well as the title of Warmaster of the Blood Acolytes, which he renamed the Flesh Paladins and reworked the paint scheme as well as the iconography of in order to distance himself and his Legion from the heretical actions of the past. Total Space Marine losses where in the tens of thousands while renegade guard losses were nearly total, a number that touched the hundreds of millions once the last mound of bodies had been recorded.
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