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Nightbringer (Novel)

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Nightbringer
Nightbringer.jpg
Cover art by Clint Langley.
Author Graham McNeill
Publisher Black Library
Series Ultramarines
Followed by Warriors of Ultramar
Released 2002
Editions 2002 softback
ISBN 9781844161638

2004 softback
ISBN 1-84154-205-9

2013 re-release cover.

Nightbringer is the first novel in the Ultramarines (Novel Series) by Graham McNeill. It was first published in 2002.

Summary

After replacing his former Captain and mentor, Idaeus, Captain Uriel Ventris embarks on his first mission, to the planet Pavonis with the 4th Company of the Ultramarines. Beset by doubt in his abilities, alien foes and traitorous opportunists, Ventris must battle against them all if he is to defeat an ancient horror soon to be awakened.

Synopsis

Part One

Uriel Ventris, newly-promoted Captain of the Ultramarines' Fourth Company, is given a mission by Chapter Master Calgar: the Imperial world of Pavonis has failed to pay its Imperial tithes, because of depredations by Dark Eldar pirates, and the actions of a mysterious terrorist group, the Church of Ancient Ways. Uriel and the Fourth are tasked to suppress the Eldar, and also protect the high-ranking Administratum adept being sent to Pavonis to sort out the trouble.

During an early skirmish with the Dark Eldar outside the system, the Ultramarines' Strike Cruiser Vae Victus narrowly avoids an ambush by the raider Stormrider, concealed by its Mimic engine, thanks to the observations of the Adept, Ario Barzano. Lord Admiral Tiberius wonders if there is more to this humble "quill pusher" than he is letting on.

Things on Pavonis have gone from bad to worse. As a Mining World, Pavonis is ruled by a collection of industrial cartels, with the head of one serving as Governor by majority vote. The current incumbent, Mykola Shonai, is a tough and experienced ruler, but is close to being unseated. As if the Dark Eldar and the terrorists weren't enough trouble, the taxes she has been forced to impose are causing rioting in the streets.

When Barzano and the Ultramarines make planet-fall, they are met by the head of a rival cartel, Vendare Taloun. Barzano is mildly surprised, thinking the exact time of their arrival was supposed to be a secret. Grimly, he concludes that the local Administratum representative, Ballion Varle, is firmly in the pocket of the Taloun, and probably the other cartels as well.

Arriving at an extraordinary session of the Pavonis Senate, they are in time to witness Taloun call for a vote of no confidence in Governor Shonai, rapidly seconded by cartel heads Kasimir de Valtos, Solana Vergen, and Taryn Honan. The vote has been carried, when Barzano breezes in and declares the vote in abeyance, saying he will keep Shonai in office while he is there to sort out Pavonis's troubles.

In private conference with Shonai, Barzano informs her frankly that she has failed in her duty as Governor, and he does not expect her to remain in office, but for the moment he regards her as the least of all evils. Her best course of action, he encourages, is to cooperate fully with him and the Space Marines in tracking down the Dark Eldar and the terrorists. She agrees.

Meanwhile, Taloun is fuming to de Valtos about the failure of their political coup, and de Valtos calmly suggests that they proceed with their original plan.

Part Two

Barzano details Uriel and the Vae Victus to start patrolling the system and locate the Dark Eldar's base. They follow the trail to the recently devastated world of Caernus IV, where a barely-alive survivor whispers to Uriel that the pirates were looking for something. On a hill outside the ravaged settlement, they find a hill of a strange metal, marked with xenos sigils, and a recess where some object was removed. Uriel is afraid that the Dark Eldar are here for some reason beyond simple piracy. Then Admiral Tiberius signals that the Eldar's ship is inbound, and they should be able to lie in wait and ambush it. Uriel - displaying some of the unorthodox thinking his predecessor Idaeus tried to pass on to him - has a different plan. Instead of returning to the Vae Victus, Uriel determines to fly their Thunderhawk from the planet's surface in a direct boarding action.

Uriel and his few men storm onboard, eventually fighting their way to the bridge, where Uriel engages the Archon, Kesharq, in single combat. He is no match for the Eldar in close combat, but drives him back with a shot from his bolt pistol that takes a painful chunk out of the Eldar's cheek. The Ultramarines fall back to the Thunderhawk and disengage. The Vae Victus cannot hope to match the raider's speed, but it doesn't need to; the ship is heading directly for Pavonis.

A huge demonstration of disgruntled workers and civilians assembles in Brandon Gate, the capital city. The Arbites have strict orders not to respond with violence, and it looks as if the demonstration, though passionate, will not turn ugly. Unfortunately, a group of terrorist operatives, masquerading as Arbites, open fire on the crowd, sparking a riot. They try to slip away, but the sharp-eyed Arbites commander, Virgil Ortega, spots them and leads a squad of Judges in pursuit; they are outgunned by the terrorists, but a squad of eight Ultramarines, led by Sergeant Learchus, acting on Barzano's orders, storms past and manage to capture their leader, Amel Vedden, alive. But the riot rages on, and four thousand people are dead by the end of the day.

Governor Shonai is, if anything, energized by the carnage and their first solid lead to the terrorists, who turns out to be a Captain of a PDF regiment sponsored by the Taloun, while the safe house they were using is a summer retreat belonging to the Honan. They still have a lot of investigation to do, and the Govenor reluctantly decides to mobilize the rest of the PDF to cordon off the suspect regiment.

The next day, Taryn Honan arrives at de Valtos's estate, smarting at the indignity of being detained and questioned by the local Arbites. He is expecting sympathy from his "friend," de Valtos, but the latter is finished with pretence and says that Honan's part as a willing dupe is over. The next thing he knows, Honan is paralyzed with a sedative and handed over to de Valtos's "Surgeon," a Dark Eldar haemonculus.

In conference with Barzano, Governor Shonai and her aides are stunned to hear his theory that someone on the planet is working with the Dark Eldar, and all the myriad troubles on Pavonis are part of some larger scheme, to distract the Imperial authorities from their main purpose.

In another part of the palace, a Webway gate opens, disgorging Clawed Fiends sent to assassinate the Governor and Barzano. Two of their Ultramarines bodyguard are killed, but the beasts are killed, and Barzano reveals himself to be a deadly fighter with a power sword - and, in actuality, an Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos.

Part Three

But the fuse burning on the conspiracy Barzano suspects has not only been lit, it is much shorter than he believed. The next morning, PDF units loyal to the Taloun and the de Valtos cartels mobilize around the city, announcing their intention to "keep the peace" since the Governor has failed to do so.

Uriel and the Victus return to Pavonis. Barzano examines the artifacts they brought back from Caernus IV, and shocks the room by announcing they are fragments of a starship more than one hundred million years old. It is enough to confirm Barzano's worst fears: the ship, a vessel of unimaginable power, is linked to something on Pavonis, and someone is trying to reunite it with its "owner."

Barzano's aide, Lortuen Perjed, reviewing Uriel's exchange of words with the Eldar Archon, hits on a vital clue: the Archon referred to his accomplice by the title of Kyerzak, a term perverted by the Eldar to mean a victim of their torturing arts. In fury, Shonai realizes who has been the real mastermind behind all her troubles: de Valtos.

Uriel leads a raid on de Valtos's estate, where they fight and kill several of his Dark Eldar allies, and find the gruesome remains of Solana Vergen and Taryn Honan. De Valtos himself, however, is gone, and has already set the next stage of his plan in motion.

In the Arbites station house, cartel head Beauchamp Abrogas is bailed out of jail by a low-ranking cartel serf, who also gives him an opiatix inhaler in consideration for his rough evening. Despite the monumental stupidity of "using" before getting out of the station house, Abrogas cannot resist and takes a healthy drag - inhaling a drug created by the Eldar Surgeon, that reacts violently with his body chemistry and turns him into a walking bomb. The force of the explosion almost completely destroys the Arbites house and is the signal to de Valtos and Taloun's forces to attack the city. Thanks to de Valtos's agent inside the palace's defense control center, the palace's void shield is not raised, and the air defenses are aimed towards preventing any reinforcements arriving from the Vae Victus.

The Arbites house is soon under siege, and Ortega leads a desperate defense. In the palace, Barzano persuades Shonai and her entourage to flee to the palace's landing pad, to be lifted to the safety of the Vae Victus.

Just as they reach the landing platform, Shonai's loyal aide, Almerz Chanda, grabs a lasgun and kills the flyer pilot, and then wounds Barzano and Shonai. When de Valtos arrives on the platform, Chanda presents his true master with the captives he wanted. De Valtos thanks Chanda for his service, then paralyzes him with a poisoned dart and hands him over to the Surgeon; after all, de Valtos explains, he could never really trust a servant who had already betrayed one master.

Barzano warns de Valtos that the full wrath of the Imperium is about to descend on him; de Valtos only laughs, and says they both know that the power he is about to raise can handle anything the Imperium can throw at it.

Part Four

In the cells of the palace, Shonai and Barzano listen as Chanda is tortured for the amusement of the Surgeon. Shonai asks what de Valtos is really after. Barzano says that ancient texts refer to some ancient "god", the Nightbringer, entombed on Pavonis - something which, in all honesty, Barzano does not believe they can stop once it is awoken.

But a loyal PDF officer inside the defense bunker, avoiding the eye of de Valtos's agent, sends a signal to the Vae Victus that allows it to fire a pinpoint shot with its Bombardment Cannon, vaporizing the bunker and disabling the air defenses. Uriel's Thunderhawk, returning from de Valtos's estate, is clear to assault the palace. Smashing their way through traitorous PDF and Dark Eldar warriors, Uriel and Learchus manage to rescue Barzano and the Governor and extract to the Vae Victus. De Valtos has already left the palace to claim his prize.

Aboard the Vae Victus, Barzano says their only option is Exterminatus. Shonai objects, but Barzano says that they have no other way of stopping de Valtos before he unearths the Nightbringer. Uriel, thinking fast, remembers details he noticed at de Valtos's estate, indicating where he is excavating. Coupled with Shonai's knowledge, they are able to deduce that the Nightbringer's tomb is located in the Tembra Ridge mountain range. Barzano agrees to let Uriel lead a strike force, but says that if they fail, Pavonis must die.

The excavation site is defended by the traitor PDF, but they are no match for the Space Marines. Uriel and his squad drop down the mine shaft, accompanied by Barzano.

In Brandon Gate, the Arbites defense house is close to being overwhelmed, when the last survivor, Ortega, detonates the weapons stockpiles, obliterating himself and the station house, but taking a large chunk of the rebel forces with him and denying them their main hope to resupply their arms.

Deep below the surface, De Valtos, accompanied by Taloun and Kesharq, finds the Nightbringer's sarcophagus, and plugs in the missing components taken from Caernus IV. Just as the Ultramarines arrive, the sarcophagus begins to open, and the Nightbringer's Necron guards animate.

De Valtos, mistakenly thinking he is still in control, shouts for the guards to destroy the Ultramarines, but the Necrons start attacking Eldar and Space Marines alike. The Nightbringer arises, and De Valtos's human escorts scream as horrific visions assail them, and many of them commit suicide. De Valtos himself experiences a brief moment of empathy with the Nightbringer - a creature billions of years old, with the power to wipe whole stars from existence - and realizes that to it he is as insignificant as a mote of dust. Ignored by the creature, he begins demanding, then pleading, to be rewarded for releasing it. The Nightbringer deigns to notice him for a brief instant, just long enough to decapitate him with its scythe.

Uriel, seeing that everything depends on him, dives toward the sarcophagus and tears out the key runes De Valtos implanted. The Nightbringer pauses momentarily, and locks gazes with Uriel, who tells the entity to depart, or else he will command the Vae Victus to destroy the Nightbringer's ship before it arrives at Pavonis. Caught, the Nightbringer disappears, and its guards fall silent.

Many Ultramarines have fallen, and Barzano has been mortally wounded. With his dying breath, he commends Uriel and pleads with him to watch after Pavonis and Shonai. Apart from the Ultramarines, the only survivor of the battle is Vendare Taloun, who fainted before the Nightbringer was fully awake. The Ultramarines escort him out, and collapse the tomb with explosives, burying it forever.

Epilogue

In the months following the battle, order is restored to Pavonis. Sporadic fighting continues between the rival cartel forces, but is quickly and ruthlessly suppressed with the Ultramarines' help.

Vendare Taloun is convicted of treason and hanged, and many of the larger cartels fall into disarray following the deaths of their leaders.

Mykola Shonai is permitted to serve out the remainder of her term as Governor, but the cartels are stripped of power and the planet is placed under the direct control of the Administratum. Lortuen Perjed remains behind as its representative, while Ballion Varle is condemned for gross negligence and executed.

Barzano's remains are buried in the Governor's palace. Uriel takes his leave of the planet, having laid his doubts about his fitness for command to rest. In recognition of this new confidence, he decides he will keep the hilt of Idaeus's sword, which was broken during the fighting in Brandon Gate, but forge a new blade for himself to fit it.

The Nightbringer, though denied its ship, bides its time in an uninhabited star system and begins to grow strong again.

Notable Characters

Ultramarines

The Inquisition

Pavonis

Dark Eldar

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