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Fear to Tread (Novel)

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Fear to Tread
Author James Swallow
Performer Gareth Armstrong
Publisher Black Library
Series Horus Heresy Series
Preceded by The Primarchs
Followed by Shadows of Treachery
Released August 28, 2012
Pages 516
Length 15 hours
Editions August 2012 softcover
ISBN 9781849701969

2012 audiobook
ISBN 9780857878038

Full cover art

Fear to Tread is the 21st novel in the Horus Heresy Series, written by James Swallow. It was released on August 28, 2012. It was included as part of the "Nine Loyal Primarchs" set for 2016 12 Days of Christmas: Day 9.

The novel became the eighth volume in the Horus Heresy series to make the New York Times bestseller list (after Graham McNeill's A Thousand Sons, Swallow's Nemesis, Aaron Dembski-Bowden's The First Heretic, Dan Abnett's Prospero Burns, the anthology Age of Darkness, Abnett's Know No Fear, and the anthology The Primarchs). It has also received the highest ranking to date (#13) of any Horus Heresy volume to make the list.[1] It was later included in "The Novels: Volume 5" eBook collection.

Cover Description

Since the earliest days of the Great Crusade, Sanguinius — angelic primarch of the IXth Legion — was ever among the closest and most loyal of Horus's brothers. But the Blood Angels have long kept their true nature hidden from the rest of the Imperium, and when the Warmaster hints that the key to their salvation may lie in the ruins of a conquered world, the sons of Sanguinius race to claim it. Now, as the revelation of their betrayal dawns and the traitors' hand is revealed, the Blood Angels must face all the warp-spawned armies of Chaos, as well their own personal daemons, upon the blasted plains of Signus Prime...


Prologue: Melchior

During the Great Crusade, a joint operation by the Luna Wolves and Blood Angels on Melchior marks the successful end of a campaign to exterminate the nephilim, a xenos race that have enslaved the system's native human populations. In the battle's aftermath, Sanguinius is called away from Horus's side by First Captain Raldoron, who informs the primarch that one of their brothers has been "lost." In a deserted cathedral Sanguinius confronts Brother Alotros, who has succumbed to the Red Thirst and turned into a mindless, feral beast. Sanguinius tries to call his son back to himself, but Alotros is lost and attacks his own primarch, forcing Sanguinius to break his neck. At this moment Horus appears, having somehow slipped past the Sanguinary Guard and watched the execution in horror. Horus pleads for his brother to explain what happened, swearing that he will tell no one else, not even their father. Sanguinius confesses that there is a flaw in the Blood Angels' genetic makeup that has surfaced occasionally but continually throughout their history and now seems to be increasing in frequency. Sanguinius, with his limited gift of divination, foresees a dark future where all of his sons will struggle with it. Sanguinius has kept the flaw a closely guarded secret, but all his attempts to find a cure have failed. Horus promises to keep the secret, and further promises that if he can do anything to help his brother find a cure, he will.

After the primarchs have departed, Raldoron summons a Junior Apothecary named Meros to extract Alotros's geneseed, but instead of returning the seed to the Legion's stores Raldoron takes the capsule and orders Meros to forget everything he has seen and done.

Part One: The Northern Cross

The Blood Angels are relieved to complete a campaign in the Kayvas Belt, having spent the engagement picketing the edge of the asteroid field and destroying the Ork forces that flee from it as a result of the Alpha Legion's undisclosed actions within the Belt. Mkani Kano, adjutant to Captain Raldoron and an ex-Librarian, leads an attack on the final Ork ship's bridge to disable it before it can escape to the Warp. On the bridge he is attacked by an Ork psyker and is almost forced to use his own banned psyker powers to defend himself before more Astartes arrive and kill it. Warden Yason Annellus confronts Kano, suspecting that he was about to break the Edict of Nikaea, but Raldoron arrives and breaks up their argument.

A small envoy of Word Bearers led by Apostle Tanus Kreed arrive in-system bearing new orders for Sanguinius from Horus. The reason for the unconventional communication is made clear when a female astropath the envoys brought with them acts as a conduit between Sanguinius and Horus, allowing them to converse directly as if they were in the same room. Horus reveals to Sanguinius that the nephilim have survived and taken over a distant star system in the Northern Cross, specifically a group of planets and suns called the Signus Cluster. He tasks the Blood Angels with destroying them and when Sanguinius questions why they are being given a campaign suited to a more brutal Legion Horus tells him that the nephilim have a technology that can counteract the Red Thirst. Sanguinius agrees to crush the nephilim for good.

Sanguinius calls the entire Legion together for the campaign. A task force sent to combat Dark Eldar at Nartaba Octus, that was really cover for Sanguinary Guard commander Azkaellon to investigate the planet for a cure for the Red Thirst, prepare to rejoin the main fleet and Meros, recovering from a near-mortal wound, witnesses the sudden arrival of a small group of Space Wolves who have been sent to join the Blood Angels on the orders of Malcador the Sigillite. The entire Blood Angels Legion gathers together and Sanguinius reveals their new campaign before taking the entire fleet to Signus. As they transition into the Warp both Mkani Kano and Sanguinius experience visions of falling into an endless abyss and a screaming Red Angel. The Legion arrives in the Signus Cluster to find it lifeless. Scout forces investigate the wreckage of several ships that were attempting to flee the system despite not being Warp-capable and recover the bodies of many humans with all their bones removed. As the fleet passes the outermost planet, Phorus, they find it burned from pole to pole and watch as vast abysses crack open through its surface to form a huge, fiery version of the eight-pointed star Chaos symbol which triggers suicides among the fleet's human crews. Even this is then eclipsed by another disturbing phenomenon as a dark veil falls around the cluster and obscures the light of the stars.

Interlude: Ullanor

It is the aftermath of the Great Triumph on Ullanor, and Horus is seeking solitude, still brooding over the awesome responsibility that accompanies his appointment as Warmaster of the Great Crusade. Sanguinius finds him alone in a deserted tent, and the two brothers share a drink. Horus expresses his opinion that the honour should have gone to the Angel, but Sanguinius assures him that Horus is the most deserving, and their other brothers will eventually accept that. Pensively, Horus asks if Sanguinius, with his limited gift of divination, saw this coming. Sanguinius admits that he did not; Horus replies wryly that nor did he.

Part Two: Cathedral of the Mark

The Blood Angels fleet continues into the Signus Cluster, with one ship sent back to investigate the veil that has surrounded it. Sergeant Cassiel's squad from Ninth Company which includes Meros take a Stormbird down to the ice-planet Holst, the next closest to Signus's sun, accompanied by Mkani Kano, Tanus Kreed's second-in-command Uan Harox and two nameless Word Bearers called simply 'trackers'. On the way down the Stormbird's pilot goes mad and causes them to crash, and while none of the marines are seriously injured thanks to Meros making an emergency crash-landing they are left stranded until such time as the fleet notices that they have failed to report back. Meanwhile, the ship sent to investigate the veil is torn apart by daemonic forms that emerge from it. Going ahead with their mission the squad on Holst find the planet's main hive completely lifeless and discover more civilian corpses devoid of bones. Though hyper-alert for signs of life they are taken by surprise when the city itself starts to attack them, a Blood Angel named Xagan being swallowed whole by a building and one of Harox's trackers being eviscerated by the partial collapse of a glass tower. Constructs made of random debris attack the squad and the ground itself attempts to fold itself over on top of them, and the squad seem doomed until Captain Amit arrives in a gunship and rescues them. They retreat into orbit and the whole planet begins to attack the fleet, hurling mountains into space like missiles and destroying a ship. Sanguinius orders Holst destroyed and the fleet combines its weapons to blow the planet apart.

Aboard Tanus Kreed's ship the Dark Page the female astropath is forced to kill herself making one last communion between Horus and Signus, allowing Horus to communicate with a greater daemon of Khorne, a Bloodthirster named Ka'Bandha with whom he plots to kill Sanguinius rather than turn him to Chaos as per Erebus's plan. Horus fears that if turned Sanguinius could usurp control of the rebellion from him and tasks Ka'Bandha with killing him instead.

The Blood Angels fleet continues on to Scoltrum, the next planet in the Signus system, where the survivors of Sergeant Cassiel's squad are distributed amongst Captain Nakir's Twenty-Fourth company as advisors while they conduct a search of the Stark Dagger, a Signusi ship that crashed on the planet. Nakir, Cassiel and Meros's team discover survivors hiding out in a cargo compartment led by a woman named Tillyan Niobe and evacuate them to the landing zone as the task force comes under attack by hordes of flies and Slaaneshi daemonettes. They fall back into orbit, where the survivors' tales of a man named Bruja who overthrew the Signusi government and paved the way for armies of daemons to eradicate nearly all human life in the system cause consternation among the Blood Angels, many of whom still believe the attacks they have faced to be psychological warfare by the nephilim and scoff at the existence of daemons. Only Captain Amit credits the stories fully, though unknown to most of the Legion Mkani Kano spent his time since Holst travelling through the fleet speaking to other former Librarians and discovered that they all had the same dream of the Red Angel and believe there to be a dark truth behind the threat in the system.

The Blood Angels fleet reaches Signus Prime, the capital planet of the system, and is assailed by a psychic shriek that causes mass despair and madness among the human crews, causing most to kill themselves or each other. Kyriss, a greater daemon of Slaanesh, materialises in the same room as Sanguinius and introduces itself as the master of Signus, and Sanguinius vows to destroy it. A fleet of Chaos ships emerges from the planet's asteroid belt and attacks. Deciding the time has come to reveal his true colours Tanus Kreed abandons the Blood Angels and allows a Chaos ship to hit their flagship Red Tear, and a handful of marines including Meros and Kano struggle to repel a horde of daemons that board. Th tables turn when Helik Redknife and his Space Wolves arrive and use a bomb to blast the attached ship away, sucking the daemons into the void, though Kano is badly wounded. The Blood Angels' ships defend themselves effectively until the shipmistress of the Red Tear goes mad and murders the entire bridge crew before sabotaging the ship, sending it into an irreversible plunge towards Signus Prime. Sanguinius intervenes and the ship makes a crash-landing on the Plains of the Damned, while in orbit the Blood Angels drive the Chaos ships back into the asteroid belt. The Blood Angels convert the wreck of their flagship into a fortress, the majority of the Legion shuttling to the surface to join the final attack against the foe. In a meeting of the entire Legion Meros relates the story of Kreed's flight and Amit dares to suggest that the entire campaign has been a trap deliberately set for them by Horus. Sanguinius knocks him down in anger but Redknife intervenes, choosing that moment to reveal to Sanguinius that he and his squad were sent to join the Blood Angels by Malcador to watch them for signs of corruption, as Magnus the Red has already rebelled against the Emperor by breaking the Edict of Nikaea. Finally accepting that it is not the nephilim they are facing, the Legion prepare to attack the enemy stronghold, the Cathedral of the Mark.

The Blood Angels meet hordes of daemons in open battle before the Cathedral, which is revealed to be constructed from the bones of the population of the Signus system. Ka'Bandha joins the fight and duels Sanguinius. The primarch of the Blood Angels gains the upper hand and runs Ka'Bandha through but falters when the Bloodthirster reveals that Horus had indeed betrayed him. Taking advantage of his distraction Ka'Bandha breaks both Sanguinius's legs with his whip and unleashes a psychic blow on the Blood Angels, slaying 500 marines at once and triggering the Red Thirst in the entire Legion. The psychic backlash sends Sanguinius into a pit of unconsciousness.

Interlude: Nikaea

In the aftermath of the Emperor's Decree disbanding the Librarius department of every Legion, Sanguinius and his entourage are preparing to depart Nikaea. Captains Amit and Raldoron debate the decree, Amit insisting that the decision is a mistake and that depriving the Legions of their psykers will come back to haunt them in the future. Sanguinius appears suddenly and Amit, chastened, apologizes for speaking out of turn. Sanguinius smiles and says he keeps Amit because he is never afraid to speak his mind and tell the truth as he sees it. Sanguinius shares his son's misgivings about the effects of the Decree, but resolves that whatever challenges await the Blood Angels in the future, they will face them as they arise.

Part Three: The Red Angel

Dismayed by the fall of their primarch Captain Raldoron and the Sanguinary Guard teleport Sanguinius's body back to the Red Tear and order a retreat, but the majority of the Legion become uncontrollable under the influence of the Red Thirst and fight on in frenzied bloodlust. Captain Amit and the 5th Company, made mindless with aggression, encounter Helik Redknife's Space Wolves on the battlefield and butcher them. As the battle rages Kano and the other former Librarians convene around Sanguinius's unconscious form and agree to break the Edict of Nikaea by using their powers to enter the primarch's mind and attempt to revive him. Kano voyages into Sanguinius's psyche and experiences visions of several potential futures but is then ejected, the life forces of the other Librarians burned out supporting him and their mission seemingly failed.

Meros, having realised that Tillyan Niobe is a Pariah from the feeling she projects and the way she and those close to her were able to hide from the daemons on Scoltrum, forms a plan with Raldoron to take her into the Cathedral and use her aura to shield them from the rage-inducing sorcery long enough for them to attack the daemon leaders. Their Stormbird is brought down by Furies en route to the Cathedral and they almost overwhelmed by daemons until Yason Annellus and the rest of Meros's squad arrive on a Mastodon and save them. Raldoron snaps Annellus out of the influence of the Red Thirst and they take the Mastodon to the Cathedral, though Annellus is knocked off along the way and dies fighting a mob of daemonettes. The group penetrate the Cathedral and reach Ka'Bandha and Kyriss, who have been arguing over Ka'Bandha's choice to side with Horus against the agreed-upon plan, Kyriss incensed over Ka'Bandha's intent to kill Sanguinius rather than turn him and the slaughter of their army as the enraged Blood Angels steadily butcher their way towards the Cathedral. Kyriss reveals to the attackers the 'ragefire', a crucible of pure rage distilled from the geneseed of a Blood Angel's corpse that Ka'Bandha used a part of to trigger the Red Thirst in the Legion and that is to be the tool of Sanguinius's corruption. Tanus Kreed and Uan Harox join the mob of daemons that emerge from the pit beneath the ragefire in attacking the Blood Angels, but Raldoron tears out Harox's throat and Meros rams the saw attachment of his medicae gauntlet up under Kreed's jaw and into his brain. Kyriss bests Raldoron and tosses him to Ka'Bandha for execution, but at that moment Sanguinius, revived by the Librarians' efforts, burst into the Cathedral. Throwing his sword to impale Kyriss he attacks Ka'Bandha with his bare hands, garroting the Bloodthirster with its own whip and tearing its wings off before casting it into the pit. The Blood Angels outside finish off the last of the daemons and reach the Cathedral, but their rage is unabated and they are left on the brink of turning on each other. Kyriss promises Sanguinius that his sons will be saved if he willingly sacrifices himself in the ragefire, but Meros sacrifices himself instead. Sanguinius beheads Kyriss and Meros transforms into the Red Angel, the corrupted revenant Kano and the primarch witnessed in visions. Informing Sanguinius that just enough of Meros's consciousness is left for him to be aware of what he had become the Red Angel dives into the pit and flees Signus. With Meros's sacrifice the Blood Angels come out of the Red Thirst and the veil lifts from around the Signus system. The Blood Angels level the Cathedral and collect their dead before departing the system, learning in the process that more time has passed outside the system than within it and that a full eight Legions have sided with Horus while three loyalist Legions have been wiped out, and that the entire galaxy is engulfed in civil war. They set course for Terra.

After some weeks of travelling the Blood Angels fleet emerges in realspace far from the Sol system and Sanguinius realises that the psychic beacon their Navigators have been following may not have been the Astronomican. A patrol of Ultramarines ships hails them and Roboute Guilliman greets Sanguinius, welcoming him to Ultramar and stating that thanks to his arrival 'now we can begin.'


Aboard the Vengeful Spirit Erebus presents the Red Angel to Horus. Horus is reasonably pleased with it but Erebus, letting his control slip briefly, accuses Horus of fouling up the plan he worked so closely with the Chaos powers to formulate, preventing the Blood Angels from falling to Chaos and joining the Warmaster's army. Offended by Erebus's arrogance, Horus snatches his athame from its sheath and flays the High Chaplain's face from his skull. He reminds the wounded Word Bearer that neither he nor the gods of Chaos are the masters of the rebellion - only Horus is.

Dramatis Personae


Blood Angels

  • Amit, Captain, Fifth Company
  • Furio, Captain, Ninth Company
  • Cassiel, Sergeant, Ninth Company
  • Meros, Apothecary, Ninth Company
  • Sarga, Ninth Company
  • Xagan, Ninth Company
  • Leyteo, Ninth Company
  • Kaide, Technmarine, Ninth Company
  • Galan, Captain, 16th Company
  • Cloten, Dreadnought, 88th Company
  • Reznor, Lieutenant-Commander, 164th Company

Space Wolves

Traitor Legions

Imperial Personae


See also

Related Articles

Related products


Horus Heresy Series
Novels I Horus RisingII False GodsIII Galaxy in FlamesIV The Flight of the EisensteinV FulgrimVI Descent of AngelsVII LegionVIII Battle for the AbyssIX MechanicumX Tales of HeresyXI Fallen AngelsXII A Thousand SonsXIII NemesisXIV The First HereticXV Prospero BurnsXVI Age of DarknessXVII The Outcast DeadXVIII Deliverance LostXIX Know No FearXX The PrimarchsXXI Fear to TreadXXII Shadows of TreacheryXXIII Angel ExterminatusXXIV BetrayerXXV Mark of CalthXXVI Vulkan LivesXXVII The Unremembered EmpireXXVIII ScarsXXIX Vengeful SpiritXXX The Damnation of PythosXXXI Legacies of BetrayalXXXII DeathfireXXXIII War Without EndXXXIV PharosXXXV Eye of TerraXXXVI The Path of HeavenXXXVII The Silent WarXXXVIII Angels of CalibanXXXIX Praetorian of DornXL CoraxXLI The Master of MankindXLII GarroXLIII Shattered LegionsXLIV The Crimson KingXLV TallarnXLVI RuinstormXLVII Old EarthXLVIII The Burden of LoyaltyXLIX WolfsbaneL Born of FlameLI Slaves to DarknessLII Heralds of the SiegeLIII TitandeathLIV The Buried Dagger
Siege of Terra I The Solar WarII The Lost and the DamnedIII The First WallSons of the SelenarIV SaturnineFury of MagnusV MortisVI WarhawkVII Echoes of EternityGarro: Knight of GreyVIII The End and the Death (Volume IVolume IIVolume III)
The Primarchs Roboute Guilliman: Lord of UltramarLeman Russ: The Great WolfMagnus the Red: Master of ProsperoPerturabo: The Hammer of OlympiaLorgar: Bearer of the WordFulgrim: The Palatine PhoenixFerrus Manus: Gorgon of MedusaGrandfather's GiftPerturabo: Stone and IronMalcador: First Lord of the ImperiumKonrad Curze: A Lesson in DarknessJaghatai Khan: Warhawk of ChogorisVulkan: Lord of DrakesSons of the EmperorCorax: Lord of ShadowsAngron: Slave of NuceriaScions of the Emperor Konrad Curze: The Night HaunterGhost of NuceriaThe Passing of AngelsThe Abyssal EdgeMercy of the DragonLion El'Jonson: Lord of the FirstIllyriumThe Revelation of the WordMorningstarWill of the LegionEmbers of ExtinctionAlpharius: Head of the HydraBlood of the EmperorLoyal SonsMortarion: The Pale KingRogal Dorn: The Emperor's CrusaderSanguinius: The Great AngelHeirs of The Emperor
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Script Books Horus Heresy: The Scripts: Volume IHorus Heresy: The Scripts: Volume II
Graphic Novels Macragge's Honour