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Merir Astelan

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Merir Astelan

Merir Astelan is a notable member of the Fallen, and as such is considered a renegade Dark Angel Space Marine. Once a Chapter Master of the Dark Angels Legion[1], his name appears at the top of the secret list kept by the Grand Master of Chaplains of the Dark Angels Chapter, the list of the names of the one hundred and thirty-six Space Marines who first swore allegiance to Luther when he rebelled against the Dark Angels Primarch, Lion El'Jonson.[5c] As a result, he is currently hunted by the Dark Angels as a notorious traitor.[2]

History

The Great Crusade

A Terran native from the plains of the Sibran region, Astelan was a child when his land was conquered by the Emperor's Thunder Warriors, and he retained vivid memories of the massacres he saw for the rest of his life.[4] Astelan claimed that his people were then among the first to fight alongside the Emperor during the Wars of Unification and that it was from them that the Emperor took the first recruits for the Legiones Astartes[5b]; Astelan was inducted into the First Legion - then the only legion - as one of the first ever 5,000 Space Marines.[4] He next comes to prominence in Imperial record as a Dark Angels Legion Chapter Master, or Chapter Commander. Little is known of his previous career, though it is believed that his advancement from Sergeant to Chapter Commander took only fourteen years, and that he achieved his Chapter command before the Imperial discovery of his Primarch, Lion El'Jonson. Indeed, he on occasion referred to being given his power and honours by the Emperor himself.[1],[4] However, other information about Astelan states that, as a recognised veteran, he was in fact appointed Chapter Master by Lion El'Jonson in the years following Jonson's assumption of command of the First Legion.[3a]

His role in the prosecution of the Great Crusade came to end in the aftermath of the compliance action carried out on the world of Byzanthis. Previous to this, his Expeditionary Fleet (something less than eighteen vessels, led by Astelan's command ship, the Spear of Truth) had spent five years on exploration duties in largely uncharted areas of space, going without refit or resupply from the Legion for four of those, and indeed not even finding any habitable planets worth absorbing into the Imperium for three. [1]

At the end of this five year period however, fate would bring both reinforcement and, two weeks later, a world to examine. Chapter Commander Belath and his fleet rendezvoused with that of Astelan, informing the Expedition leader that the Lion had ordered him to Astelan as reinforcement. Astelan had never heard of Belath before, but was unperturbed by this due to the rapid influx of Calibanite Astartes into the Legion. He was surprised however, by the fact his fleet, which had apparently been assigned to an uneventful area of space, received reinforcement at all; Calibanite in men and material or otherwise.[1]

At last however, a radio signature was detected from the DX-619 system and Astelan diverted his fleet to investigate. Shortly thereafter, the world named Byzanthis by its inhabitants was discovered. Relatively technologically advanced, but not unified under a single world government, the Byzanthians seemed a likely candidate for peaceful compliance, at least to Astelan. Chapter Commander Belath, however, believed that conquering them militarily was the better option. Heated debate ensued, with Astelan espousing a philosophy that war is bloody and costly and to be avoided if possible, and that a world brought to heel will be resentful and slow to achieve the brotherhood that diplomatic compliance can achieve. Belath for his part, stressed that the Legiones Astartes had been created to fight and that the Lion - who had appointed him to Chapter command personally - had given him orders emphasising the annihilation and punishment of enemies. Eventually, the two commanders agreed on a reconnaissance mission to help them decide on a further course of action.[1]

Unfortunately, this reconnaissance mission (led by Astelan in person) swiftly went wrong when it was discovered the urban area they had planned to investigate was actually a large military base, with the result that the Legion forces were detected and attacked before they could attempt peaceful contact. Denying Belath's planned retaliation with orbital bombardment Astelan had his troops withdraw in fighting order.[1]

In the aftermath Belath again urged open invasion, preferring a plan to attack all six world powers at once. Astelan however, upon detecting the existence of Committee of Nations, a diplomatic body made up of representatives from all the powers, decided to attempt negotiation once more. Making contact with the Committee, he arranged for himself and Belath to appear before them and parley. While initially going well under Astelan's direction, the negotiations were fatally disrupted when one of the world powers detected that the Dark Angels had positioned vessels in orbit above all the capital cities of the planet. This move, under Belath's order, precipitated a threat response in which the Byzanthians attempted to seize the two Legionnaires. Summoning his Terminator bodyguard, Belath ended the negotiation with the execution of the world's Committee of Nations. Angrily, Astelan had no choice but to follow through on this act and finally order a full-scale planetary invasion. Dismayed at the outbreak of violence, he remarked that he could not allow Belath's actions go unpunished. Unperturbed by the threat, Belath responded that he would not be the one to be punished; he had already sent astropathic messages concerning Astelan's 'cowardly' actions to Caliban.[1]

Caliban

While it is not known for sure that Belath's actions in reporting the events of the Byzanthis campaign resulted in Astelan's reassignment, what is known is that, some fifteen years after the Saroshi campaign and the subsequent dismissal of Luther and a substantial portion of the Legion to Caliban to act as a training garrison, Astelan was himself reassigned there in mysterious circumstances. Reassignment to Caliban was considered a form of exile by those stationed there, and a single, veteran Terran Chapter Master being posted there from the Great Crusade was thought baffling, especially as Astelan was himself apparently at Sarosh and had avoided the initial reassignment cull. Luther however, quickly made a great show of support for Astelan and immediately assigned him command of one of the training Chapters. Astelan is noted to have been "won over" by Luther's personal charisma and the respect afforded to him. [3a]

Nearly half a century later, around the 200th year of the Great Crusade or a little later, rebellion broke out on Caliban, with certain sections of the indigenous population rising up against Imperial rule. While Luther was initially unwilling to commit his legion forces to combat his own people, he was eventually forced to use Astartes troops to investigate serious matters, such as the disappearance of the entire workforce and Imperial Army protection detail of a petrochem plant. Luther's lieutenant, the Librarian Zahariel El'Zurias, was tasked with this undertaking and called for volunteers. Merir Astelan was one of the first to step forward, and Zahariel was glad to have the veteran along on the mission, if a little curious as to Astelan's chosen battle-cry: "For Luther!" Zahariel and Astelan's force ultimately confronted and destroyed a localised Chaos taint, and both agreed to raze the entire site in the aftermath in order to keep what they had discovered from wider Imperial authorities other than Luther and Dark Angels Caliban command. [3b]

In the aftermath of this discovery, tempers grew frayed amongst the Calibanite Legion command staff, principally between the Terran Librarian Israfael and Luther himself, when deliberating on what course of action to take and where potential blame may have lain. When Israfael became particularly strident in his disagreements, Astelan was observed by Zahariel to reach for his weapons, prompting the shocked, younger Librarian to intervene to keep the peace. Immediately afterwards, Luther placed Astelan in personal command of Caliban's planetary defence forces and ordered him to ready for a war footing. [3c]

Not long afterwards, the situation on Caliban deteriorated when the Northwilds Arcology came under assault by a force of apparent zombies from the depths of the planet. Rioting broke out as native Calibanites and the incomer Terrans sought to lodge blame or suspicion for events on each other, and the local defence forces and rebel soldiery became involved, with battle lines and relative loyalties sorely tested. Astelan was present at another meeting of the Caliban commanders called as a result, and was therefore witness - along with Zahariel, Israfael and the Lord Cypher - when Luther revealed that he had lost faith in Lion El'Jonson. When Israfael broke ranks and moved to attack Luther, Astelan attempted to subdue the Librarian with the butt of his pistol, but was telekinetically flung across the room for his trouble. Surviving the melee that saw Israfael defeated and critically wounded with no further harm, Astelan was then tasked by Luther with arresting all the senior Imperial authorities on the planet, including the commanders of the Army and Mechanicum forces stationed there. Astelan hesitated for a long moment at obeying such an order, but eventually agreed to carry it out. [3d]

After Luther had completed his subsequent effective complete takeover of Caliban, Astelan was contacted by one of his company commanders, Captain Melian, with concerns about the direction things were heading in on the planet, particularly that the new Legionaries swore to defend Caliban instead of swearing allegiance to the Emperor. Astelan expressed ambivalence about Luther's changes, pointing out that that as a force ordered to remain on one world, without naval elements and apparently forgotten about, the Calibanite Dark Angels were effectively irrelevant to the progress of the Great Crusade and so may as well take as much pride as possible in just being Caliban's planetary defence force.[4]

However, on learning that Captain Melian spoke for a group of officers and veterans in his command who were preparing to take militant action against Luther in order for their concerns to be recognised, Astelan agreed to aid them in planning a more legal and bloodless move against the planetary commander. He suggested commandeering a secondary communications spire and sending messages to Terra and the Lion requesting restoration of the original Legion protocols and command structure until the Lion could assay the situation personally, while simply detaining Luther under close arrest. His plan was agreed upon by the conspirators, though not without them slightly warily noting that, under old Legion protocols, Astelan would become the force commander. Regardless, the plan was carried out; the bulk of the conspirators would head to the spire on a 'live ammunition training exercise', while most of the ringleaders - including Astelan - would confront and arrest Luther. Luther was surprised by Astelan's presence in the delegation that came to seize him, and also by what happened next. Astelan contacted the commander of the Army forces garrisoning the tower - Marquesa-Colonel Tylaine - and ordered her to proceed with their previously agreed plan; the Army forces and a company of Dark Angels under the command of Astelan's subordinate, Captain Galedan, suddenly attacked the conspirator's column. Realisation dawning, Luther joined Astelan in turning upon the ringleaders, and with him, slew them all. Most of the conspirators surrendered rather than fight other Space Marines, and the little rebellion was quickly over before it could truly begin. In fact, there were so many prisoners that there wasn't enough space for them all in the dungeons of Aldurukh; Astelan counselled that Luther simply carve out new ones. Luther also questioned why Astelan had allowed the conspiracy to get so far along, rather than just reveal it to him immediately, suspecting that Astelan may have truly wished it to work and only switched sides to curry favour; after all, according to Luther, Astelan's dislike of Caliban and Calibanite ways was "well known". Astelan stated that he considered the Lion a taint, that in his opinion everything had gone wrong in the First Legion since discovering him, and that he would rather serve a more worthy lord...especially one whom he suspected also wished to rid the legion of the Lion. Astelan dared Luther to say that he intended otherwise...and Luther remained silent.[4]

Luther's first act afterwards was to agree to promote Astelan's lieutenant, Galedan, to Chapter Master. Galedan confessed to his former commander that he was pleased that their previous comrade, the conspirator, Melian, had survived, intimating that he would be useful to them when Astelan inevitably attempted to depose Luther as Master of the First Legion. Astelan protested that he had no such plans...for the moment.[4] Later, Astelan led a purge of recently arrived loyalists on Caliban led by Chapter Master Belath, forcing Luther further into treachery in the process.[7]

The Testimony of Astelan

It should be noted that much of what follows is based upon information divulged by Astelan personally to various Interrogator-Chaplains of the Dark Angels Chapter after his initial capture as one of the Fallen. The truth and detail of his claims must therefore be considered thoughtfully.

The Fall of Caliban

Merir Astelan, as commander of Caliban's planetary defence forces, issued the order - codeword "Starfire" - to open fire upon the fleet of the Lion.[2]

Post-Heresy

After the Horus Heresy and the fall of Caliban, Astelan was sucked through the Warp and scattered throughout the galaxy like the rest of the Fallen. He would spend the next two hundred years at large from his (then unknown) hunters from the Dark Angels chapter, before ultimately coming to their attention.[5a]

Scappe Delve and Port Imperial

When Astelan emerged from the Warp, he found himself on an Imperial world called Scappe Delve, whose inhabitants were forced to live in underground shelters due to the hazardous nature of the environment. Falling in with the inhabitants, he was shocked to discover that 9,000 years had passed since he had last perceived the galaxy. After absorbing this information, and spending much time reading up on all the available Imperial historical and cultural records, he grew to pity the current state of the Imperium. Determining to attempt to "light a signal fire" to respark the philosophies of the Great Crusade, he sought a way off-world, ultimately leaving the planet on the ship of the Rogue Trader Rosen Trialartes, the Saint Carthen.[5d]

However, Astelan soon discovered that Trialartes was secretly smuggling weapons to unsavory organizations, and that even if he had had the time or inclination to deliver Astelan to Caliban as the Space Marine wished, the Rogue Trader claimed that no such planet existed at the co-ordinates Astelan gave him. Astelan therefore reluctantly accompanied the smuggler to the mercenary port of Port Imperial in the hopes of finding a more tractable ship-captain. There, fates conspired to bring him into contact with two other Fallen Angels, Methelas and Anovel, who had arrived there one hundred years earlier and ultimately set themselves up as the commanders of the space station. Caliban-born Fallen, Astelan did not recognise them, but they knew him instantly, and placed themselves under his command. Dreaming of a new beginning of an age of greatness, the trio proceeded to systematically commandeer weapons systems and armour plating from the other ships in the docks in order to refit the Saint Carthen as a combat-capable vessel fitting to launch a new crusade with. Once this act was completed, they turned their newly acquired weapons on the ships they were stolen from as well as Port Imperial itself. As the three Fallen began their crusade by hunting down and exterminating the pirates who used Port Imperial as a waystation, Astelan was further informed of the changes in the Dark Angels by the other two.[5d]

Tharsis

Over time, Astelan claimed, differences grew between the three Fallen in their shared vision for a 'Greater Imperium'. When the Saint Carthen was attacked by Imperial vessels who took it for a renegade ship, it became clear that the two Calibanite Dark Angels believed more in revenging themselves upon those they believed betrayed them than in upholding the Emperor's philosophies. Astelan left the other Fallen after this revelation for the small world of Tharsis. The planet was gripped in the middle of a civil war, and Astelan had seen his chance to make a difference and fight purely for the Emperor's ideals once more. He approached the Imperial Commander, Dax, and was immediately put in charge of the Imperial military presence on the planet. Tharsis had been primarily a farming world until Astelan's arrival, after which it was dominated by newly industrialised factory-cities (that quickly became crime-ridden), whose industry was devoted to making the weapons he used to win the war.[5c]

After a further eight years and much bloodshed, Astelan delivered what he had promised the Imperial Commander: victory. When he realized that Dax meant to institute leaders from the old noble houses again once now that the war was finished, Astelan's sacred bands of elite warriors staged another revolution and killed the Imperial Commander, they and the general populace insisting that Astelan take his place. This wish was rebuffed by various Imperial authorities on the planet, particularly that of the Ecclesiarchy, who were horrified by Astelan's assertion that the Emperor, while of course being the rightful leader of the Imperium whose wishes and philosophies must be obeyed...was not actually a god. Delivering to him an ultimatum that he acknowledge the Emperor as god or face a third revolt, Astelan, disgusted with their religious dogma and seeing it as a bastardisation of the Imperial Truth, violently removed them (and all members of the Adeptus Terra on the planet who felt the same) from power, setting himself up as the sole authority on the planet. Over the next seven decades he turned his thoughts to building up the armies of Tharsis into a crusading force, so that he could continue on with the Great Crusade. At some point towards the end of this period, one lone space pod piloted by an individual opposed to these aims got out of the system and sent a distress call. The call was picked up by a Dark Angels ship passing by the sector, who retrieved the survivor and learned the story.[5c]

The Dark Angels sent Interrogator-Chaplain Boreas and a force of marines to investigate. When the Tharsian system defence fleet attempted to hail the inbound Dark Angels Strike Cruiser, it was fired upon and destroyed. The Dark Angels landed upon Tharsis, and met with armed resistance; Astelan ordered his men to defend the planet at all costs, believing that history was repeating itself, and that this time he would preserve his great works from the misguided.[5a] Ultimately however, Astelan's armies were largely defeated, and despite his subordinates counselling against it, Astelan decided to surrender. He gave the order to stand down and allowed the Interrogator-Chaplain and his Deathwing retinue into his command bunker, where he was placed under arrest and taken off-world for transport to the Tower of Angels for interrogation.[5a] Astelan had been upon Tharsis for eighty years.[5c]

Imprisonment

Astelan at first could not believe what he was seeing; not only was the Tower of Angels now some sort of asteroid, not only were there white-armoured Dark Angels bedecked with heathen tokens, the Chapter even employed witches, long outlawed by the Emperor himself. Despondent that the warnings given to him by Methelas and Anovel, that the modern-era Dark Angels were ruled by superstition, ignorance and secrecy, appeared to be true, he wished he had not surrendered. At first he thought the Dark Angels had attacked Tharsis out of a misplaced sense of revenge, but as his interrogation began, both Astelan and Boreas would learn much of the other and their given reasons for their actions.[5a]

In the span of fifteen days[5b], and his Librarian assistant Samiel pried at Astelan's mind with pain, torment, psychic abilities, and questions designed to undermine Astelan's view of the events that occurred, trying to get him to admit his sins and repent. Astelan struggled and survived, explaining much about the past of the Chapter and the old Legion before the Heresy.[5]

Astelan claimed that his actions upon Tharsis were a continuance of the Great Crusade; to unify and lead the people of the Imperium as the Emperor had wished his Space Marines to do. Boreas countered that the Astartes were created to serve, not to rule, and that Astelan's allowance of the Tharsians to fight against the Dark Angels proved his heresy. Astelan's retort was that he and his men all believed in the Emperor's ideals of human dominion and were loyal to the Imperium; they fought to defend their world, attacked because the Dark Angels valued the capture of one man - himself - over the sanctity of an entire planet, diverting resources enough to protect star systems to ravage it and capture him. Boreas dismissed these claims as the excuses of a despot unable to recognise how far he had fallen. [5a]

The Tale of Astelan

Astelan's version of the Fall of Caliban began with the notion that Lion El'Jonson had abandoned the marines stationed there, especially the ones who originated from Terra. He claimed to have sent deputations to the Lion asking him to recall them to the Great Crusade, but the messengers returned having received no answer. He further claimed that Luther - a natural great warrior and leader of men - despondent at this supposed abandonment and believing that the Lion's jealousy had damned him to rot, would have retreated into useless ranting and shouting from his tower without his own guidance and vision into making the Dark Angels left on Caliban into something purposeful. For, while the newer Calibanite marines assigned to remain on the planet took him as their lord, the bulk of the forces stationed there - the Terran marines - felt abandoned by the Lion and considered therefore that their loyalty was to the Emperor alone; they listened to Luther only out of polite respect for his previous achievements. As a result, when Luther needed to sway the Terran marines to his cause, his oratory initially fell on less than receptive ears. Astelan claimed that it was he that made the difference; as a senior veteran of the old Legion, when he stood up next to Luther and offered him his support, the Terran marines followed.[5b]

When news - hearsay and rumour brought by scattered communications and infrequent messages - of the Horus Heresy reached Caliban, the Dark Angels stationed there were at first unsure of what to believe. But Luther, with Astelan's support, proposed that they disobey the standing orders of the Lion (whom they had not heard from and had no idea of his allegiance or status) and leave the planet to join the fight, if one was occurring, on the Emperor' side. However, it transpired that a section among the Calibanite marines listened neither to Astelan or Luther, but held sway to the Lion's command to remain on Caliban. According to Astelan, they opposed the leaving of the planet, militarily. The fleet elements under their command opened fire upon the first wave of transport craft heading to orbit, halting the embarkation completely. Astelan and Luther's marines counter-attacked in force, and drove them from orbit, some of the survivors fleeing in their ships, others going to ground in the wilderness of Caliban. Afraid to leave the planet while these supposed treacherous brothers were at large, a hunt for them was organised and thought successfully concluded. However, when the other Dark Angels again attempted to leave, the surviving Lionist marines attacked and took control of the Wrath of Terra, Astelan's own battle barge and used it to destroy the entirety of the remaining fleet, marooning the Dark Angels upon Caliban completely. Then, they deliberately crashed the Wrath of Terra upon Caliban's surface, causing a planetary catastrophe that flooded the southern lowlands and ignited much of the remaining forests on the world. As the biosphere began to die, the remaining Lutherean/Imperial Astartes despaired and felt massive guilt at allowing Caliban to become so despoiled, and feared the Lion's wrath at their massive failure should he return.[5b]

And return he did. By the time he did so, Luther had locked himself up in the Tower of Angels, leaving planetary defence to Astellan. When an inbound fleet of Dark Angels was detected, Astellan at first thought it was the surviving Lionist rebels returning, but an intercepted communication revealed it to be the fleet of Lion El'Jonson himself. Astellan then claimed than Luther contacted him, afraid at what the Lion would do once he learned of all that had transpired on now-ruined Caliban, and asked for the Terran marine's advice. Astellan gave him no return signal. Instead, he sent the order for the planetary defence systems to open fire upon Lion's fleet.[5b]

His reasons for doing so were thus: He suspected that the Lion had been primed by the escaped Lionist Calibanite marines with tales that would paint the Luther/Astelan contingent in the worst possible light, and that the inbound fleet was intending to wipe them all out. He also feared that the Lion - who had remained silent during the events of the Horus Heresy - was no longer loyal to the Emperor. The Dark Angels of Caliban had heard very little of the doings of their parent legion in the Heresy and still did not know whose side they had fought on, or the outcome. Finally, Astellan admitted that he simply wanted Lion El'Jonson to die, as he believed his oaths to the Emperor and the Emperor-sworn marines under his command were incompatible with those of the Lion, and that he was loyal to the Emperor first and by a wide margin; therefore the Lion had to be removed.[5b]

Aghast at this admittance of foul treachery - wanting your own Primarch to be killed - Boreas scorned Astelan's assertion that the ruination of the Great Crusade was all the fault of the Primarchs and that the Legions would have been better off remaining under the singular command of the Emperor. He accused Astelan of arrogance and jealously empowered by the rantings of the madman, Luther. Astelan insisted that he had never fallen to Chaos and remained true to the Emperor always, counter-claiming that the Dark Angels Chapter of the modern era were the creatures of shadow and darkness. Finally, he spoke of the Lion opening fire upon Caliban with planet-busting weapons, his descent to the Tower of Angels to duel with Luther personally, and the apparent warp storm that spirited him and others of what would become the Fallen away.[5b]

His last claims were the ones Boreas found the most appalling. For Astelan pointed out that the Lion was historically noted to be unusually slow in reaching Terra, in fact to the point where the Dark Angels under his command missed the entire Battle of Terra. Scorning Boreas' version in his turn (that the Lion was waylaid by much conflict and was simply late), Astelan revealed that the Lion - a peerless strategist never defeated in battle - wasn't late; he was stalling in order to see who would win.[5b]

After his interrogation, Astelan was taken from his interrogation chamber by Sapphon, the Grand Master of Chaplains, and placed in a cell in the deepest catacombs of the Rock.[5x]

Return

Astelan was ultimately able to escape his captivity on The Rock, and soon meets up with former comrades Methelas and Anovel. Together they conspired with Typhus to unite the Tuchulcha engine with its brother devices and open up a time portal ten thousand years previous that would allow the original legions of Fallen to enter the 41st Millennia. With captured gene-seed he planned to have the Fallen, Death Guard, and newly created Astartes all merge together into an unstoppable legion known as the Death Angels. However Astelan and Typhus are ultimately foiled thanks to the efforts of Azrael and Cypher, who managed to turn Anovel to their cause along the way.[6]

Sources