Fallen Angels (Novel)
|Series||Horus Heresy Series|
|Preceded by||Tales of Heresy|
|Followed by||A Thousand Sons|
With news of Horus's treachery spreading across the galaxy, the Great Crusade grinds to a halt as the primarchs and their Legions decide where their loyalty lies: with the Emperor, or with the rebel Warmaster. The Dark Angels, too, face a time of testing, both among the stars and on their home world Caliban. Luther, once Lion El'Jonson's trusted second-in-command, now languishes as an exile in all but name while his master struggles to thwart the traitors advance upon the forge world Diamat. But an ancient evil gathers its strength beneath the surface of Caliban, and the First Legion will soon be thrust into a deadly conflict where all that they know will be cast into doubt.
Acting as a sequel to Descent of Angels, the novel follows two plotlines: one seen through the eyes of Brother-Chaplain Nemiel as the Dark Angels learn of the Heresy and the Lion stages a raid on the forge world Diamat to deny Horus vital weapons, the other seen through the eyes of Librarian Zahariel as the Dark Angels garrison on Caliban faces widespread rebellion on the homeworld and learns of a sinister Chaos plot.
The Dark Angels Legion are embroiled in a war against the rebel Gordian League when news reaches primarch Lion El'Jonson of Horus's treachery at Isstvan III. Summoning Chaplain Nemiel to the Invincible Reason, he outlines a plan to take a small strike force to the forge-world Diamat close to the Isstvan system where loyalist Imperial forces are holding out against the traitors. His fleet arrives in-system to find a second-line fleet of traitor Imperial Army sent by Horus besieging the planet from orbit while battle rages in Xanthus City and its adjacent forge complex on the surface. Breaking through the larger enemy fleet with superior tactics Jonson deploys his strike force of Dark Angels to the surface, but the Invincible Reason is struck by torpedoes just as the drop pods are launching, causing Nemiel and his squad to come down in the wrong part of the city. Fighting through human rebels who have taken most of the city and are attacking the forge the squad rescue Dreadnaught Titus whose drop-pod came down in a building and got trapped, saving him from destruction by a rebel demolition team. Accompanied by Titus the squad retake the forge complex's southern gate from the rebels holding it and move on in search of the Mechanicum forces. Locating a squad of skitarii Praetorians Nemiel is taken aback when they attack and one of the Dark Angels is badly wounded before Magos Archoi arrives and orders the Praetorians to stand down, apologising and explaining that the Praetorians' combat protocols had not been reset to count the Astartes as allies. The Dark Angels' arrival sends the rebels into retreat and Diamat gains a reprieve.
In the following weeks Lion El'Jonson plans the defence of the city with Magos Archoi and Imperial Governor Taddeus Kullik, and requests a list of all the forge's supplies from Archoi. The request makes Nemiel suspect that the Lion may have come to Diamat to sack its forges, but learns otherwise when the Lion tells him of six super-heavy siege machines requisitioned by Horus and kept on the planet that Archoi has not told them about, which the Lion came to the system in order to prevent Horus from capturing. Nemiel and his squad infiltrate the forge complex under cover of night in search of the machines and discover evidence suggesting that Archoi's superior and those loyal to him were murdered rather than killed in the battle as Archoi claimed. Locating the siege machines in the forge's Titan foundry the squad find Archoi and some traitor Army leaders overseeing work on the machines beneath the butchered bodies of Archoi's superior's forces and the loyalist Imperial Army sent to defend the forge. Realising that Archoi is a traitor who was poised to hand the siege machines over to Horus when the Dark Angels arrived, Nemiel and his squad are discovered but kill several of the traitor Army commanders before escaping to rejoin the rest of the Dark Angels. They are too late to prevent Archoi's treachery as skitarii units he embedded amongst all the Imperial Army and Dark Angels defenders turn on the loyalists and cause mass damage at the same moment that Horus's second fleet arrives, bypassing the Dark Angels' fleet thanks to sabotage by the Mechanicum repair crews sent to fix them after the first battle and deploying fresh traitor Imperial Army and a force of Sons of Horus into the city.
The Lion orders the main forge complex destroyed from orbit, killing Archoi, and teleports to the surface to lead the defence of the Titan foundry and its six machines. Taddeus Kullik and his surviving forces arrive to help, but they are wiped out to man in a surprise attack by the Sons of Horus that is only turned back by the Lion's intervention. In the final moments as the outnumbered Dark Angels make a last stand at the foundry, Techmarine Askelon transfers Dreadnaught Titus's MIU from his combat chassis into one of the siege machines, allowing him to pilot it out and attack the Sons of Horus, crushing their assault before destroying the city's starport and all traitor reserves with a single shot from the machine's siege cannon. The failure of Horus's second attack leaves him no time to make a third attempt as the loyalist retribution fleet bears down on him at Isstvan V and the Dark Angels take possession of the machines. Part of the retribution fleet passes through the system on its way to Isstvan V and Lion El'Jonson hands the siege machines over to Perturabo of the Iron Warriors in return for Perturabo's promise of support when the time comes to elect a new Warmaster after Horus is defeated, unaware that Perturabo is a traitor who will use the guns against the loyalists at the Dropsite Massacre.
Librarian Zahariel has become second-in-command to Luther during the years that the Dark Angels garrison has spent recruiting and training new marines for the Great Crusade, and despite their successes the garrison has come to feel abandoned by their primarch. Rebellion spreads across Caliban led by former nobles who oppose the Imperium's takeover of the planet, years of careful planning coming to fruition in a series of damaging raids. Luther leads the attempts to put the rebellion down but refuses to deploy the Dark Angels, holding them is reserve at Aldurukh. He and Zahariel meet with the rebellion's leaders including Sar Daviel, a former knight of the Order who warns Luther than Jonson betrayed them and that monsters still remain on Caliban. When the entire workforce and the response team sent to investigate disappear at Sigma Five-One-Seven, a manufacturing plant near the Northwilds arcology, Magos Bosk's outrage leads Zahariel to force Luther's hand by declaring that the time has come to deploy the Astartes.
Zahariel and Chapter Master Astelan lead the team of Astartes sent to investigate and discover signs that the plant's garrison was murdered, but not their bodies. Descending underground into the plant's thermal core they find the earth corrupted and overrun with insects and come under attack by vicious reaver worms. Proceeding to the main chamber they find the corpses of the plant's workforce and the response team piloted by the parasitic worms into a huge pile as incubators for other workers who have become living hosts for new worms, all protected by a monstrous queen worm and the entire chamber daubed with Chaos symbols as part of an unholy ritual to unleash the taint at the core of the planet. The corpses reanimate and attack the team but collapse again when Zahariel kills the queen worm. The squad retreat and Zahariel orders the plant destroyed by orbital fire.
Luther receives their report and deduces that the Terran engineers overseeing the plant must be responsible for the ritual as the only ones not accounted for. Knowing that the Imperium will destroy the planet if they find out about the taint he orders the situation kept secret as meanwhile the rebellion becomes focused in the Northwilds arcology where the actions of the rebels leave many citizens stranded in the lower levels without power or water. Needing to know more about the taint Zahariel contacts the Watchers in the Dark, who reveal that the Imperium is responsible for unleashing it by digging below ground in the Northwilds, the tainted area he once wandered into as an aspirant knight. Zahariel vows to defeat it, but the Watchers inform him that Caliban is doomed. Recalling Sar Daviel's words to Luther Zahariel has Cypher organise another meeting with the rebel leaders and travels to the Northwilds arcology, where the situation has deteriorated badly and Zahariel is shocked to discover his old training master Remiel as one of the rebel leaders. Informed by Zahariel of the taint, Daviel and Remiel reveal that they already knew of it and agree to join forces with Luther in order to stop the Terran sorcerers who are using the situation in the Northwilds to fuel another, master ritual which will unleash the taint all across Caliban. On the journey back to Aldurukh Sar Daviel reveals that the Knights of Lupus were long aware of the taint and studied it to try and harness its power, which is why Lion El'Jonson had them destroyed and took possession of their library. He also reveals that the last Knight of Lupus went into hiding but managed to shed his identity and join the Order as the unknown young knight who became the new Lord Cypher, and Remiel implies that Cypher and Jonson were complicit in ignoring the threat of the taint and leaving Caliban to its fate.
When the group return to Aldurukh Cypher tries to prevent them from seeing Luther who has gone into seclusion, but Zahariel forces him to take them to him. They find Luther in a library deep below the fortress having spent weeks without food studying the tomes taken from the Knights of Lupus and now convinced that Jonson sent them back to Caliban so they would die when the Imperium discovered the taint. Sar Daviel reveals that a knight he packed up the Knight's of Lupus's library with was the man Ulient who tried to assassinate the Emperor when he came to Caliban and this unlocks the psychic block on Zahariel's memory of the incident placed on him by Chief Librarian Israfael. Israfael attempts to overpower Luther and place Zahariel in command on the Legion, but wards Luther has etched into his skin protect him from Israfael's attack. Israfael kills Sar Daviel when the others try to overpower him but is badly wounded by Cypher and imprisoned. Luther declares that Caliban will no longer recognise Imperial authority and orders Astelan to arrest the planet's Imperial administrators while he takes a force to the Northwilds arcology to stop the Terran sorcerers. Arriving at the arcology he coordinates with the local armed forces to prevent the spread of animated corpses made from the many citizens who have died in the sub-levels and facilitate the evacuation of the survivors while he leads the Dark Angels in attacking the site of the ritual. Fighting through an army of the undead the Dark Angels find the Terran sorcerers carrying out a ritual with an enormous reaver worm and kill them, but Luther has decided to harness the power of the taint as the Knights of Lupus tried to rather than banish it so he can use it as a weapon against the Emperor. Using Zahariel as a conduit for a ritual he attempts to control the beast that is the source of the taint but the ritual collapses before the worm can reveal its true name to Luther. Filled with the taint's energy, Zahariel falls dead.
Zahariel comes to eight months later, having been revived by Luther and spent the intervening time in a coma. It is revealed that his connection to the taint allowed him to realise that the Terrans were attempting to banish the creature, not summon it, and that it has not gone but is still infesting the planet. Furthermore, though he conceals this from Luther, Zahariel heard its name.
- Luther — Second-in-Command of the Legion
- Israfael — Chief Librarian
- Astelan — Chapter Master
- Zahariel — Librarian
- Nemiel — Brother-Redemptor