The Forgotten Wars is a term used by the Dark Angels to refer to a conflict that lasted from 580.M31 to 632.M32. Rumors led the Dark Angels along with two of their Successor Chapters (one of which was the Lions Sable) to embark upon a harrowing campaign. However in the end it turned out that the Ruinous Powers had simply baited the Dark Angels, luring them into the edge of the Eye of Terror, though the Dark Angels and their allies were eventually able to escape.
Lemnos Civil War
It began innocently enough. While in pursuit of the remnants of an Ork fleet, elements of the Angels of Vengeance entered the Gothic Sector. Under the guise of scanning for remnants of the greenskin fleet they had been commanded to destroy, the Angels of Vengeance searched for clues that might lead them to any Fallen. This was standard procedure for all Unforgiven Chapters – to pursue their secret goals whilst ostensibly following mission edicts as passed down from the High Lords of Terra. Gathering long-range scans and widely collected reports, the Angels of Vengeance Strike Cruiser uncovered nothing untoward save for an encrypted signal beamed from the mining world of Lemnos. Once decoded, the message described exactly what the Unforgiven were seeking. The world of Lemnos was embroiled in a bitter war over mining rights – a battle of greed, rather than ideology. As Imperial tithes were met, there were no orders to intervene, and the matter was to be left for the planetary governor to handle. Rival noble factions were using private armies to enforce their ownership over the richest veins of mineral wealth. It was of these battles that the signal spoke. The mysterious message was sent in one of the older battle codes used by the Dark Angels and provided just the kind of clues that fit the modus operandi of one of the Fallen.
According to the message, the leader of one of the mercenary warbands fighting on Lemnos was turning the tide of battle almost single-handedly. He also fought in what seemed to be an old mark of power armour. Hiding the signs of extensive genetic modification is not easy, and the Unforgiven are trained to investigate legends of humans with superior abilities. Often, these speculations turn out to be misleading – most are mere exaggerated accounts, or perhaps a local warrior aided by a powerful piece of wargear. However, over the years, such leads have uncovered mutants, hidden psykers, xenos shapeshifters and Chaos Space Marines. These leads are pursued only if there is hope that a Fallen will be uncovered. On the most promising trails, the Unforgiven will attempt to get one of their Librarians close to the quarry, for they can employ the most damning method of testing.
At close ranges, Librarians from the Unforgiven Chapters can pick up the unique psychic signatures of those who bear traces of their shared Primarch. Even the most spliced or tainted gene-seed of Lion El’Jonson emits a distinct signal powerful enough to detect. This is not a foolproof method, as such readings can vary due to Warp flux or be blocked by psychic dampeners. Also, not all the Fallen bear the Legion’s pure gene-seed. When the First Legion reached Caliban and reunited with their Primarch, they accepted many members of the Order into their ranks. Those young enough to survive the ordeal received the full gene-seed implant, while others – like the arch-traitor Luther – were otherwise augmented into elite soldiers.
In the Lemnos case, the Librarians reported multiple readings. The original target – a towering man known as ‘the Mauler’ – had raised alarms with his superhuman feats of strength in battle. When subjected to a remote psychic probe by an Angels of Vengeance Librarian, the telltale signs of someone bearing Dark Angels Legion gene-seed appeared. Terminators from the Angels of Vengeance 1st Company were sent in to apprehend him. There were, however, other readings picked up from the vicinity as well. One of these signals flickered – a phenomenon associated with Warp storms, although none were reported at that time. This was the first recorded encounter with the unique signals that would later be associated with Cypher. Whether he had been there first and brought in another Fallen or was working with the Mauler from the beginning is not known.
The strike team was successful in capturing the Mauler, although in doing so, they sustained high casualties. As the Terminators closed upon the surprised mercenary band, there was one amongst their number who shot his way out. At the time, neither the robed stranger, his unusually lethal pistol shots, nor his subsequent escape and disappearance were the known trademark that they have since become. At the time, it was merely noted that the loss of so many Angels of Vengeance Terminators seemed out of place. The veteran warriors in their nigh-impervious armour rarely fell in battle, and when they did, it was to titanic weaponry or some mighty champion, not a rogue soldier from an outlaw band of third-rate mercenaries. As the Rock was in an adjoining sector, it was not long before the Mauler was secured in its deep dungeons. Persuaded by the harsh methods of the Interrogator-Chaplains and the relentless mind-probes of the Librarians, the Mauler eventually revealed that he had been known by another, older name. Here was Brother Sytrx, a Dark Angel returned to the fold. Before finally recanting and being relieved of the burden of living, Sytrx revealed more. He named a dozen of the Fallen that he had seen in the sector. Elements from the Angels of Vengeance, the Dark Angels and the Lions Sable followed these trails. Each stop along this new journey – from planetfalls to the boarding of a derelict hulk floating in the midst of deep space, led the Unforgiven towards still further clues. At each point, some new revelation was ascertained. As each new scrap of information was reported back to the Rock, a larger and more sinister plot was slowly revealed.
Originally, the Unforgiven had begun their mission seeking only to apprehend individuals. What was revealed was a corruption spread through six systems of the Gothic Sector. Running through the collusions and inter-planetary trysts was a coherent and sinister thread that bore many of the hallmarks of an elaborate plot by the Alpha Legion – although that group of traitors had, at the time, erroneously been declared destroyed by the Inquisition. Weaving through the clues and criss-crossing trail of evidence scattered across the Gothic Sector was the individual with whom Dark Angels Librarians had a fast-growing obsession – the one called Cypher. Sometimes, the cowled figure produced the psychic signature of a Fallen, evincing the blood of their Primarch, the Lion. At other times, however, the mental probes of the Librarians could detect nothing save for a brief flickering of that signal, as if it were overtaken by some other being. Prolonged searches discovered something new – a hollow, null void, a cold emptiness that moved through the Immaterium like a shadow left behind by Cypher. His apparent ability to mask himself has since been observed many times, but whether it comes from innate psychic powers or some unknown artifact has never been determined.
Thus far, the Dark Angels and Angels of Vengeance had accomplished much deploying strike teams ranging in size from a few squads to a full company or more. This allowed them to continue their secret missions while still fulfilling all obligations assigned by the High Lords of Terra. However, the chase for Cypher stretched from years into decades, until it came to a grinding halt when the trail led to the densely populated world of Brigia. It had been determined that the commander of the planetary defence force – Grand Captain Tylius – was most probably one of their Fallen brethren. He had certainly been in recent contact with Cypher. As if he had been forewarned that he was being hunted, the Grand Captain was wary. He remained within Brigia’s most formidable fortress system, an entire army acting as his personal bodyguard.
With his forces spread thin across the Gothic Sector, Purson, the Dark Angels Supreme Grand Master, gathered all the Unforgiven within range. At the time, the Angels of Absolution were to the galactic east and could send no aid – however, the Angels of Redemption and the Lions Sable answered the summons. Well-timed Drop Pod assaults swiftly deployed troops and bunker-busting Dreadnoughts. Lance strikes from Land Speeder formations kept the foes on the ramparts down and eliminated key bunker-mounted gun turrets. With precision timing and deadly accuracy, the Unforgiven made headway through the outermost defences, working their way inwards. They were poised for the second phase of the operation – a final attack on the central keep where Grand Captain Tylius was hidden – when the unexpected happened.
There were two factors that Supreme Grand Master Purson had not anticipated. First, a new target of opportunity appeared on the battlefield – Cypher. The Unforgiven had followed his trail for so long and ‘had been so frustrated by his escape at every juncture that all efforts shifted from the battle and Tylius to apprehending Cypher. His appearance in the trench line immediately drew in Purson’s Terminator reserves, as they teleported in an attempt to surround their quarry. Grand Captain Tylius was a cunning tactician, however, and he chose this moment to release his hitherto unsuspected reserve force. A large formation of Chaos Space Marine Terminators teleported to aid his fortress defence, while mobs of Cultists were called up from the nearby population centers. Tylius was indeed a Fallen, and he had made a fell pact, fully immersing himself in a labyrinthine Alpha Legion scheme. This was nothing like the previous covert or skirmish actions the Unforgiven had engaged in throughout the Gothic Sector. The war that erupted over the fortified bunkers was intense, prolonged and destructive.
Cypher moved across the battlefield with speed and surety. It was difficult to track him in the maze of trenches and if not for the Land Speeders that zoomed overhead, they would have lost him or mistaken which of the many bunkers he had blasted into to gain temporary refuge. Again and again the Unforgiven flushed out their prize prey – a running battle in the midst of the raging conflagration that raged all around them. With his twin pistols, the robed warrior blasted a hole through the defenders of Brigia and kept just ahead of his pursuers. As stitched patterns of twin-linked bolter fire blazed all around him, Cypher reached a blast door that opened into an underground complex below. Using his plasma pistol on its maximum setting, the elusive Fallen melted through the reinforced plasteel and disappeared into the tunnels before the nearest squad of Deathwing could reach him. Even as chainfists widened the hole in the blast door so that they could follow, the Chaos Terminators launched their counter-attack. Soon, the Unforgiven were too hard-pressed to follow, as the heavily armoured Dark Angels clashed with their traitorous kin, trading titanic blows. Although the fight was fierce, and their quarry had likely already fled, the Unforgiven Chapters did not retreat. Notoriously stubborn-minded, the true Sons of the Lion mowed down the Cultist hordes as they swept forward. The clash of Terminators was at first evenly matched, but the Unforgiven were driven by righteous fury, and in the end that proved decisive. Eventually, the last squad of debased enemies was taken out by a single, well-placed burst of energy from a Land Speeder Vengeance’s plasma storm battery. Only then could the Unforgiven return to the pursuit of Cypher and the final stronghold assault to pry out Tylius. Both ventures proved too late – for Cypher and Tylius had made good their escape.
Into the Eye
Upon Brigia it was established that Chaos Space Marines were deeply involved with the Fallen, and it was no real surprise when the clues that had been leading the Unforgiven across the Gothic Sector now led towards that most hated of refuges: the Eye of Terror. Reports of the Dark Angels’ actions on Brigia had already reached Terra and questions began to filter back to the Rock. Even as answers were crafted to explain why elements from their Chapters had appeared so far from their assigned missions, the Unforgiven were plotting their courses towards the forbidden zones. It was perilous even to track the signal, for psykers that open their mind in the direction of the Eye of Terror risk falling prey to fell things from beyond. Dark Angels Librarians, however, dared the attentions of the darker powers in order to achieve the trace – following the trail to the outermost of the twin planets Cocytus I and II. These were not fully contaminated planets immersed in the chaotic energies, but rather astral bodies that maintained orbit at the edge of the Sentinel Sector.
The Unforgiven sent a single Strike Cruiser, the Sable Lions’ Fury of Caliban, into the swirling mists. It carried companies gathered from the Dark Angels, the Angels of Vengeance, Angels of Redemption and the Lions Sable. At first, all went well – they successfully ran the gauntlet of Warp storms and emerged in realspace to bypass all of the Imperial stations. Transmissions to the Rock were patchy and unreliable, but the Fury of Caliban had reached the orbit of Cocytus I. A strike force immediately made planetfall. When it was reported that the distinct signal of Cypher was on the planet, Supreme Grand Master Purson gave both the order to attack and the command that sent a second ship. So began the Forgotten Wars – a raging battle upon Cocytus I that drew in half of the Dark Angels and the Angels of Redemption, three companies of the Angels of Vengeance, and the entire Chapter of the Lions Sable.
The corruption grew worse and storms quickly drew over the twin planets. Battle raged as the Unforgiven razed den after den of Cultists, mutants and renegades – always pressing more deeply into the wasteland continents of both planets. Twice Cypher had eluded them. What was even more infuriating was that he had sent them messages, urging them to depart and warning that they were heading into a trap. Begrudgingly, Purson had to admit that it looked as if Cypher was correct. He gave the command to retreat as the Warp storms crashed over the region. He was loath to abandon the battles, but he knew his time was running short. The Lions Sable, however, refused. Since splitting into Chapters, each successor was meant to remain autonomous, but the Dark Angels had always maintained more control over their progeny than was laid out in the tenets of the Second Founding another secret they kept hidden. So many times had their Primarch Lion El’Jonson stubbornly held onto a position or refused to give ground that the Lions’ defiant act seemed more in character with their mighty forefather, and for a moment Purson hesitated. Taking with him only his bodyguard, the Supreme Grand Master headed back down to the planet. He commanded the fleet – for there were now six of their ships in orbit – to get clear of the Eye of Terror. He would contact them when the storm cleared. None knew it then, but that was the last anyone would ever see of Purson or the Lions Sable.
The storms had become so violent – the ever-spinning spiral arms growing wider and wider as raw Chaos vomited from the Eye of Terror’s centre – that the frigate Vendetta was lost into the Warp. The tumult provided one advantage: the Unforgiven fleet escaped out of the Eye of Terror and past the Cadian Gate unobserved in the impenetrable murk. They alone survived to bring word of these events back to the Rock. They were dismayed to find that although they had been gone for but the span of a few years as measured inside the storms, in realspace over a thousand years had passed. Many small sorties had attempted to penetrate that murk, but none ever succeeded. When at last the tempests ceased, a small task force was sent into the Eye of Terror once again – but no sign of Cocytus I or its twin could be found. It was as if the Eye of Terror had swallowed them.
Cypher, however, did return, and much more quickly. His telltale signal appeared in the same system as the Rock, which quickly scrambled hunt-teams to seek him. Once again he eluded them, but not before leading them into an empty cathedral to the Emperor on a ruined and desolate planet. There, they found neatly placed where they could not miss them the returned Sword of Secrets and the Lion Helm – the most potent icons of the Dark Angels and tokens carried by their Supreme Grand Master. Whether trap or test, the Unforgiven Chapters suffered serious losses upon Cocytus, and those events were to have profound effects upon the Sons of the Lion. To cover up their immediate losses after their warriors were thought lost to the Warp, the resources of the recruiting world of the Lions Sable – the ebon orb of Nachwald – were usurped to replenish the Angels of Vengeance and the Angels of Retribution. The Dark Angels staged a false plasma explosion aboard the Rock to explain their loss of records, for it was decided by the Inner Circle to destroy all records relating to the event. As for the survivors of Cocytus that did eventually return, they were spread out amongst the Unforgiven Chapters so their sudden influx would not be noted. For the rest of their lives, each was closely monitored by Company Chaplains to ensure the prolonged Warp exposure had not contaminated them in any way.
Of the Forgotten Wars, the Dark Angels do not speak, nor has it entered into the apocryphal tales told to their initiates. They have gone to great lengths to ensure all references to that campaign or to the Lions Sable have been stricken from the records available to the Adeptus Terra. Yet it is the custom and battle cry of the sons of Lion El’Jonson to ‘Never forget, never forgive’. Deep in the dungeons of the Rock are secreted the only remaining accounts, and only those of the Inner Circle ever learn of that heroic sacrifice that must forever go untold.
- 1: Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pgs. 36-37
- 2: Dataslate: Cypher - Lord of the Fallen - A Nemesis Unveiled