Voidwar: The Sundering of the Arhunt’s Gavel

The Sundering of the Arhunt’s Gavel


There were many of them.

More than I had expected.

More than I had hoped.

Several clusters of Frigates and light Cruisers, all swarming around bigger battleships, all blistering with weapons. Amidst them, their savage mistress. The Unguis Rubrum – painted in that same stark crimson and trimmed in abyssal black, bearing a savage claw set in a cog-wheel on each side of its massive prow.

The Red Talon.

Grand Cruiser, Dagon-Class – date of manufacture unknown. I ignored the cuneiform running past my lens.

“So, the sons of Ferrus have been summoned after all.” I said, swallowing dryly as I weighed our options, “The captured astropaths spoke the truth.”

“It would seem so, Commander,” battle-brother Zuw spoke next to me, “The aspirants are in their holds; the scout-squads have just finished their routine drills.”

“Are you sure that it can be done?”

I valued Zuw highly. In my many years as Commander of the 10th company he had always been at my sides, always voiced his doubts – not to poison my resolve, but to purify it. A rare quality. He would make for a good inheritor of my rank and the Riven Lords would be all the stronger for it.

No, I am not, I had to admit to myself, but we must try – too much hinges on it.

I’d heard plenty of the Red Talons – few chapters had forged as ruthless of a reputation as they had. No wonder the craven High Lords had petitioned them for support – what better servants than those who had been baptised with the blood of other Astartes? 

Bodt. That cursed name. Bodt – den of the Eaters of Worlds. Bodt – corrupted flesh-cauldron, sundered by the wrath of the Mor. A planet shattered by hurling its own moon at it. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not read it for myself. A grim legend, yet merely the first in a long line of brutal extermination campaigns. The Reclamation of Sakkhar-II, the Breaking of Madrigal Prime, the Kothor Crusade, the Cowing of the Sable Lords... Their tally was long and spoke to an inexhaustible wrath. A formidable enemy, to be sure, but perhaps they could be swayed to our side. Their distaste for bureaucracy and the High Lords overreaching hand was well documented.

But so was their distaste for those that had failed in their eyes, I thought grimly.

Perhaps, I thought, perhaps if they saw what we have seen; beheld the potential inherent in Him. Perhaps the promise of a return to former glories would be enough.

“We must trust, Zuw,” I finally said, my heavy gauntlet hovering over the vox-caster’s switch, “We must trust and have faith in one another – for it is upon such a foundation that the future must be built.”

“This is Commander Kalim, of the Riven Lords hailing my cousins aboard the Unguis Rubrum.” The console hummed gently as it projected my voice across the cold void. “Do not be alarmed, for we come with good and peace in mind. We do not wish to spill blood where it needn't be spilled – instead, we wish to speak to you on equal terms, as cousins ought to do. Recent events bid you to stay your hand, for it is the fate of the Imperium and Mankind that is now held at stake by those distant Lords that reside upon Terra.”

“Hear our words, brethren of Mor,” I deliberately used a descriptive I had read in reports and campaign-recollections, “We promise safe passage to any envoy you send us and are willing to hand hostages in return – as long as it assures that our words reach the ears of whomever commands the Unguis Rubrum.”


The message spooled for a seventh time before Moritat-Immortal Perkûn gestured for the vox to be cut. The Unguis Rubrum was a hive of silent work – what few unaugmented mortals existed here knew better than to stir their lords with unnecessary babble. The neon-green of the pict-projections stung his eyes as reports and scans began whirring through the air.

The Arhunt’s Gavel, Vanguard Class Light Cruiser, its macro-cannons removed and retrofitted with additional lances – the Riven Lords had neutered the Gavel’s capacity for orbital support but made her a far deadlier void-hunter in return.

Impressive, Perkûn would have smiled had he still been in possession of a mouth. Instead, his fused rebreather merely exhaled a hoarse rasp.

His right, augmetic fist closed, only to relax and open again with a soft purr of moving servos– Perkûn had picked up this tic during the Purge of Aggatrin-Medis in order to deal better with the phantom-limb pain. Now it came as a reflex while thinking.

He gave no consideration to the Riven Lords’ hailing – to even entertain it was a ridiculous notion that reached beyond insult. The curs had defected from the Imperial Throne. There was nothing more to discuss as far as the Red Talons were concerned.

Now, there was the matter of determining whom to send and crush the Arhunt’s Gavel. Boarding operations would be ideal as they played to the Red Talons’ preferences – but the ship was nimble and could punch well above its class. Not the Azdhan, then. Armed to the teeth, aye, but too slow.

The Sivir, maybe? Plenty of transport capacity and faster than the wind – but one well-placed strike and it might wind up gutted in the void. No.

Perkûn ran the theoretical projections time and time again, changing variables as he went along, slowly but assuredly narrowing down the choice of ideal vessels. Finally, his eyes darted over to the most recent scans and projections of the Gavel’s crew.

+Mortal crew – est. 15,000+
+Voidsmen – est. 9,000+
+Combat Servitor clades – est. 12,000+

Respectable, he thought, the Riven Lords like their garrisons full, it seems. With that many crew members they can afford to run more frequent shifts too; set up for prolonged void-operations.

+Astartes – 12+

That cannot be right, Perkûn’s heavy brow furrowed as he ordered a recalculation. This is a chapter cruiser on patrol – there have to be more.

Moments passed, and the new report was immediately projected in the air.


Repeat scan.


The remnants of his mandible ground against the rebreather’s metal fixture as Perkûn sought a possible explanation. No variables had changed, all projections had remained stable.

At the bottom of the report, he would find his answer.

+Unspecified humanoid assets – 127.+

Adeptus Astartes, Y/N? he manually keyed the query.


Inconclusive? He considered all eventualities. Mutants? No, the likelihood was too small for a non-corrupted vessel, and the scans would have pointed more towards the ship’s underbelly – not its innards and bridge.

Indistinct humanoid assets – human, but not baseline; not baseline but not Astartes either. They occupied spaces on the bridge and in the Astartes habitation chambers.

What could they be?

His fist froze mid-motion as the answer dawned upon him.

Scouts. 127 of them. The implication sent shivers down his ironclad spine. Commander Kalim – old Principia Bellicosa equivalent for the Codex rank of Captain. This isn’t just any Light Cruiser.

This is their Tenth Company.

All of it.

Gorgon’s Gaze, Blackclad and Cinderblade,” Perkûn voxed through the fleet, “Immediately mobilize and converge upon the marked position. You are to engage the Arhunt’s Gavel. Operational pattern Cerberus – no survivors. Cleanse the ship with fire and assume control of the bridge.”

“Understood,” the ship-captains voxed in return, “Expected enemy resistance?”

“It’s the Tenth Company, Vlasko,” Perkûn said, his stark white eyes fixated on the hololith, “Gut them like fish and burn the gene-seed.”



Zuw was nervous, I could tell. All of us were. He had sharpened and oiled his sabre several times in the past few hours – somewhere between mantra and routine he tried to find calm.

“They are within range of our lances,” He spoke what all of us had on our minds, “If we are to strike, we must do so now.”

“Brother-Veteran Zuw is right, Commander,” Talzu inclined his head in respect, “Soon, they will be too close to properly engage. We will be trapped.”

Blackclad, Gorgon’s Gaze, and Cinderblade, this is the Arhunt’s Gavel – state your intent immediately or be fired upon,” I voxed, “Draw closer and we will train our weapons upon you. We have come in peace, but we will not be threatened.”

Silence, dreadful silence.

The Voidsmen had been readied and armed already – that request I could not deny Zuw. The rest of the bridge’s crew awaited my commands. With a gesture of my hand, the lance batteries began shifting.

Reaching for the vox-switch, I wanted to send out one last missive – one last attempt to preserve our mission’s hope. Talzu grabbed my wrist and shook his head.

“They will not listen.”

The bridge turned deep red before I could answer, klaxons blaring with terrible intensity as the Red Talons engaged us. The Blackclad had drifted to our lower right, the Cinderblade to our lower left and both had opened fire with their plasma-batteries. Iridescent blue fire washed over our void-shields as our lances responded in kind.

“Shields at eighty-nine percent capacity, sire.” a helmswoman said.

“Divert power away from the weapons, energise the shields.” The commands came naturally to me, my thoughts a wall of cold calculus as I began planning our escape to safety, “Take us forwards. +29 degree angle should leave us enough space to shift past the Gorgon’s Gaze.”

The third ship had moved above the Gavel – now unable to fire at us, true, but similarly hidden from any significant damage that we could inflict. The Red Talons wanted to board, that much was clear.

Not this easily.

Plasma continued to be traded with diminished lance-fire as the dance in the void continued.

“Shields at 92%, rising.”

The additional power had taken the brunt of the assault – but it would not keep forever.

“Zuw, Matinasa,” I said without looking away from the projections, “Go and rouse the scouts.”

“You expect us to be boarded?” Matinasa asked.

“I cannot exclude the possibility,” I lied, “But it pays to be prepared.”

“Commander, their plasma-batteries are powering down,” the helmswoman said, projecting the corresponding data-feeds next to me, “But their shields are not powering up.”

“They’re diverting power,” This made no sense. One diverts power from weapons for two principal reasons in a void-battle – to boost one’s shields or to rouse the thrusters, “What are they doing?”

Projections changed and enlarged as I squinted, zooming in and out as I sought some difference in the ambient systems.

That’s when I spotted it.

The Blackclad’s and Cinderblade’s plasma batteries were parting horizontally, shifting to reveal strange, needle-like structures. A weapon, that I was sure of, but none I had seen before. They were spinning, their tripartite fins whirring as vast quantities of energy were funnelled into their structures.

“Commander, the Blackclad’s and Cinderblade’s shield capacities have dropped to twenty-seven per cent and nineteen per cent respectively,” Rho, one of the present Techpriests muttered, “This is not congruent with the expenditure of our firepower.”

“They are draining their shields, too?” I turned to the red-robed priest, alerting him to the needle-columns, “Do you recognise what this is?”

He followed my armoured fingers, his silica-compound eyes shifting and glittering as they sought to make sense of what they saw. Precious seconds passed, but I could see that his secondary limbs were typing ferocious searches and calculations into his stomach-mounted cogitator. Finally, his tertiary limbs reached for the printed piece of paper.

“Void Piercer Batteries – Darkfire, oh accursed Darkfire,” the priest buzzed as he read, the paper crumpling in his despair-shaken hands, “Tactical suggestion: Immediately divert all power from weapons and shields, divert to thrusters. Primary directive: escape.”

“Insanity,” I protested, “That would rip our whole Enginarum apart. What is it, techpriest? Speak!”

“Energetic emanations and visual information are congruent with certain patterns of pre-imperial photonic weaponry,” he responded, his eyes growing more agitated and unnerved by the second as he continued to run further probability calculations, “Emphatic urgency: we must immediately leave engagement range.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but I never heard my own words. Needle-thin beams of purest black – lances so dark that they made the void itself seem washed out in contrast – projected from these photon weapons in regular intervals, striking our void-shields and eating into them like acid. The protective shell flickered wildly as the cancerous light refused to abate.

“Shield capacity at thirty-seven per cent and sinking rapidly!”

As the final beam struck, the shields collapsed fully – too perforated to self-stabilise, they needed to be restarted lest the void-generators be damaged – and the ship shook violently as it reeled under the assault.

I knew what this meant for us.

“To all members of crew, Voidsmen, and Brother-Initiates,” I voxed through the ship as I turned my eyes upward to the Gorgon’s Gaze, “Prepare immediately to be boarded by the aggressors. No prisoners are to be taken.”


A shower of red caskets carried through the void, carried by miniaturized plasma drives. Dreadclaws. The void above the bridge was full of them.


“Veteran-Sergeant Boran of Breacher-Squad Tva reporting in,” the Red Talon said as he hefted his massive shield, bracing it in direction of the hallway, “The ship has been breached successfully – all squads are to converge and systematically cleanse the ship section by section.”

“Release the murder-servitors.”

Few of the Dreadclaws had carried Astartes in them – there was a total of forty-two of them aboard the Gavel. The rest of them had been packed with servitors and the mortal Chainveil Auxilia.

The servitors came to life with an ugly hiss, their bright orange eyes cycling into life with hateful intent as they spread their flensing claws. A short jerk followed as Frenzon was injected into their extant biology – and already they started vaulting down the ship’s halls.

Boran could already hear screaming in the distance.

“Advance!” he bellowed as the squad started moving in rows of two, bolters held at the ready.

They were met with opposition rather quickly – Voidsmen and enemy servitors. Poor enemies for Astartes, but enough to grind any advance to a halt if nothing was done about it.

“Concentrated fire!” He commanded, stabilising his bolter on his battle-brother’s pauldron as the Astartes behind him did the same on his.

Las-bolts and shotgun shells pinged harmlessly off their shields as the mortals were torn to shreds.

“Halt! Primary enemy sighted!” Goran roared over the fire as taller figures became visible past the gore-soaked hallway.

They were bulky – not as he himself was, but they did not lack much. The auspex also revealed no power-armour signature.


“Janos, Lubor, to the front!” the ranks parted, shields held aloft, and the two marines moved forwards, their flamers already in hand. “Now – onward!”

The squad marched, pulping what few survivors remained beneath their armoured boots as bolt-shells began hammering into their shields.

Lubor winced as one struck his chest, but his void-forged plate did not falter.

Once the turquoise carapace of the Riven Lords’ scouts became visible, they bathed the hallway in fire. The scouts had thought themselves in safe distance, but the Red Talons’ flamers were overpressurised. Their screams were louder than the flames’ roar.

“Dispatch any survivors and then we move!” Goran pressed as he stomped on one scout’s head.

Other squads began reporting in.


Cetr had slain two scouts and a score of Voidsmen.

Sedir had been ambushed by three neophytes but had managed to overcome them in good order.

Tri had ground a whole seven scouts to pulp in an arming chamber to the west.

Already, there was a total of twenty-four casualties amongst the Riven Lords.

The enemy had a guile of their own, though. Once the squads had spread deeper into the ship, they encountered booby-traps: melta-charges hidden beneath corpses; krak-grenades suspended behind alcoves; hidden multi-laser turrets at crucial junctions.

Before long, the Red Talons would lose nineteen of their own.


The Red Talons’ devastator squads had swarmed through the Arhunt’s Gavel like parasites, their heavy flamers devouring anyone they met on their warpath. Even Astartes warplate provided little defence against promethium in these confined halls – it might only scorch the plate, aye, but it ate through the sealed joints with surprising efficiency.

“Westwards!” I commanded my remaining battle-brothers and Voidsmen, my blade rising and falling with the tact of our steps, “To the Enginarum!”

Their servitors were of a savage kind, throwing themselves against us with sheer abandon – I found myself wondering if their self-preservation protocols had been excised, or whether they had simply never been implanted.

The lower decks were swarming with them – the escape bays were hopelessly beyond our reach. We had hoped that the upper ones would hold out long enough until we arrived – but even Matinasa’s best hadn’t been enough. His corpse had been despoiled, our Thunderhawk’s engine had been gutted – escape was a distant dream now.

A full quarter of our scouts had been killed within the hour. The rest would follow soon, too, but none of us would sell our lives cheaply. I had left the bridge fully crewed, its bulkhead doors permanently sealed and demanded that we be driven as close as possible to the Gorgon’s Gaze.

The Enginarum was littered with the bodies of the fallen – mortal and astartes, Red Talon and Riven Lord alike. It pleased me to see that my charges had fought so tenaciously. Six Astartes and twelve scouts dead, surrounded by an equal count of Red Talons. The steel gantries were covered in smouldering hunks of gore, the air stank of promethium and charnel – but the gates to the batteries’ command consoles still held.

“Sigma-II and Rho-IV,” I summoned the two Techpriests to my side, “Can you redirect all energy from the vessel back to the Enginarum?”

“Theorem: possible,” Sigma buzzed, “Practica: actions described will cause critical damage to the vessel’s integrity. Chance of void-sundering estimated at nine-nine point eight-two-six percentile.”

“That would not be in accordance with the Omnissiah's will, blessed be He that He is,” Rho croaked, “It is our mission to preserve His works.”

“Do it.” My hearts ached as I saw Zuw slumped in an alcove of the generator. His arm was gone, ripped from the shoulder, and his chest had been ruptured in several places. Still, he had dragged himself here and barred the gate as best he could. “I am master of this ship while it still exists, and it is my command that you overload the engines and the batteries.”

Rho, ever the headstrong of the two, opened his mechanical mouth in protest – but stayed his words as I stared him down. I had always made a point of treating my crew well, no matter who they were – but even I would not suffer dissent or refusal of direct orders.

Silently, the two went to work. The rest of us assumed position around the sole gate that led in and out of the Enginarum, ready for the Red Talons that had tasted blood.

“Batteries at nine-seven point five percentile capacity.” Rho said, his Mechadendrites twitching this way and that as he sent command-pulses through the machine’s console.

One of the scouts, a youth sporting the braided beard of Icathan tribesmen, spoke up. “Commander, hark!” 

Indeed, the tramp of armoured boots and the skitter of servitor stilt-legs had become audible around the corner.

Soon enough, fire flooded the hallway. Our alcoves provided ample corners to duck into. The roaring fire lapped at my shin for several heartbeats, but once it perished – the Red Talons’ fuel tanks doubtlessly emptied for the moment – we fought back.

The scouts provided supporting fire with bolters, throwing the occasional grenade in hope of baiting the Red Talons into scattering. My brethren and I advanced, blades raised.

“Batteries operating beyond capacity; overcharge three-seven percentile above recognised limits.” Sigma blared over the noise of battle.

A Red Talon met me head on, his shield braced, ready to bash against me in the hope of throwing me off-balance. A smart, if simple, ploy. It might have worked – had I still been a younger battle-brother and not the Commander of a company with four centuries under my belt. I turned slightly on my ankle as his shield lunged forward, my blade singing through the air as it punched through his helm’s grille.

The blade continued to move, slicing through chainsword and bolter alike. It bounced from shields from time to time, but eventually found its way through the enemy’s weak spots.

The Red Talons were fierce. Four times I felt their chainswords rake across my plate, their wracked and ruined bodies refusing to give in as they pushed ever onward. It was difficult to believe that a Space Marine could be this spiteful.

Eventually, I found myself face to face with their leader. A hulking brute of layered armour, hung with pelts and chains; his lenses were a bright lime-green that stared at me with cold-blooded hate. In his hand, he wielded a maul thrumming with barely contained energy, migraine-inducing orange bolts arcing across the flanged head and floor.


“Batteries operating beyond capacity; overcharge seven-two percentile above recognised limits –containment critical.” Rho’s blurts had become distant now.

No words, no boasts, no challenges.

The Red Talon swung his weapon, weaving it in deft patterns as I dodged attack after attack, my own sword lashing and scratching against the layered ceramite of his void-hardened plate.

A wide attack left him open and my blade bit deep into his knee, sending sparks flying wide as damaged augmetics started seizing.

Still he moved. Hurt, yes – but unrelenting. The maul obliterated my shoulder-guard in a deafening explosion of abused ceramite and steel.

And so, we fought – darkened turquoise pitted against arterial red – as the structures around us began groaning with barely contained anger. Though the batteries were located much further down, my armour registered sharp spikes in both temperature and radiation.



“Commander Kalim speaking to the Bridge, report status.” I grunted across the crackling vox, dodging another attack as I bided my time.

“Bridge reporting; gates still sealed, staff still operational,” a woman responded, “We await your command, sire.”

“Drive her upwards, captain,” I said with a grunt, my blade finally finding its target, sheathing itself through the soft of the Red Talon’s neck seal, “Let blood be paid with blood.”

“Understood, commander.”

Even as the Talon lay on the ground, bleeding from his throat, he reached for a plasma pistol, levelling it at me with a shaky hand. Steel crunched through ceramite and his hand was sent skidding across the floor.

“It is over.” I said, “This is where you die.”

“Aye, that…that it is,” he said with a gravelly voice as he removed his helm with his remaining hand. His face was a ruin of pale flesh and bruised scars twisted into a wry, bloodstained grin, “But my brethren... hrkkk... shall remember me – yours will hrskk bleed out in the wars to... khrtt to come.”

“The hrkk irony,” he rasped through his ragged throat as he leaned back on the floor, his life seeping from him, “So many hrsk Lords and yet fhkkr... none to inherit-”

The last words died in his chest, his eyes glazing over as death claimed the Talon. I couldn’t help but lash out at the corpse, chipping my sword as I cut a deep gash across his chestplate.

He is right, I thought, as the ship buckled beneath my feet. Its gravity projectors were struggling to compensate for the sudden shift in direction. None of us will survive this and I doubt that they’ll leave Ithraca alone.

“Batteries at two hundred-three-zero percentile capacity,” Rho blurted, his frame caught up in painful spasms, “Void-sundering imminent – brace for collapse.”

Another fierce shudder ran through the surrounding structure and steel – many miles away – could be heard shrieking as it impacted the Gorgon’s Gaze above.

“This is it,” I said as I turned to my charges, “Brother-Veterans, Brother-Scouts. We may die here today, but our sacrifice shall not have been in vain."

I looked about, pride warring with sorrow. “Now, the Lord-Commander will know our enemy’s mettle – and the Red Talons will think twice before they approach one of us this boldly again.”

“Commander, watch out!” the bearded scout cried out as he threw himself against me with enough motion to throw me off my feet.

Bolt shells howled past us, detonating against the wall as my remaining brethren and charges rallied around the two of us and returned fire. The Red Talons had sneaked up on us, the air rippling around them as some form of displacer field began malfunctioning.

“Cover, seek cov-!” I cried out, as I saw the devastators march forward, heavy flamers levelled at us, but the corridor turned into a cacophony of light and roaring air as the batteries finally ruptured.

All was devoured, turned to naught – the Red Talons dissolved into the blinding light and plasma lapped at the scout that had shielded me from their assault.

My eyes closed instinctively, and I was cast into the void before I could open them again.

The Riven Lords’ future ceased to be.

And with it, did I.


Perkûn watched the disaster unfold across the void. The mortal serfs flinched as he moved amongst them, his frustration palpable as his vestigial mandible ground against the rebreather with an audible knackknackknack noise.

The Gorgon’s Gaze was burning. Shattered beyond repair by the Riven Lords’ daredevil manoeuvre, sending massive parts of its hull across the void like searing lances, piercing the Blackclad’s hull and consigning her to a similar fate. Three quarters of a company plus valuable assets were lost in the pyre of the former ship, the remainder of that company in the latter. The Gavel’s sundering saw the death of a further quarter-company. Not to speak of mortal losses. The joints of his augmetic fist strained as he held on to the command dais’ railing.

“A waste, to be sure,” Iron Father Boran commented next to him, “But a good trade-off nonetheless. The Riven Lords’ lost their scout company – their future – today. I am sure that Lord Mor’s… displeasure with you won’t be too great, brother-moritat.”

“Your word in the Emperor’s ear,” Perkûn let out a deep, rasping sigh, “Nevertheless, a significant blow dealt, all things considered. The losses will be replaced, one way or another.”

“Aye, we would do well to pursue the Riven Lords, now that they are weakened,” Boran said, “Find where they recruit and anchor, wreak havoc and repurpose their flesh.”

“Mhm, if extant records are to be believed, then Ithaca shall be the target of our wrath – it is there that these curs seek shelter. We must reconvene with the other four petals of the rose first, though,” Perkûn disliked the collars of logistics and command that had been placed upon them, but their efficacy was undeniably in wars such as these, “We must petition the Voivode before we move to Ithaca.”

“And what if he refuses?” the Iron Father voiced a valid concern.

Let the hound-faced Angel issue his decrees as he pleases.” The voice was a deep, tectonic rumble that reverberated through the main bridge like rolling thunder. “We will go where our duty demands it and before long, Ithraca will burn.

As did Madrigal-II.

As did the Kvipian Conglomerate.

As did Bodt.


I do not know how long I was cast adrift in the cold void, suspended in the dreamless slumber induced by my sus-an membrane. I remember the clarion call of sirens, followed by the heat of battle. There had been a blinding light – then only darkness.

[//Kalim, Commander of the Riven Lords 10th Company+]

Perhaps it was luck. Perhaps my brethren and charges had shielded me from the worst. Perhaps it had been an intervention by the God-Emperor – or His son.

Whatever the case, I had survived, adrift with the other wreckage.

Then, I was found.