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First and Only (Novel)

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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Novel by Dan Abnett; for the Imperial Guard Regiment, see Tanith First and Only.
First and Only
Author Dan Abnett
Publisher Black Library
Series Gaunt's Ghosts
Followed by Ghostmaker
Released August 1999
Pages 288
Collected in The Founding
Editions 1999 softcover:
ISBN 9781841541013

2002 softcover:
ISBN 9781844161645

2010 ebook:
ISBN 9780857870018

First and Only is the first novel in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel series by Dan Abnett. It was first published in August 1999.

Cover Description

For a thousand years, the Sabbat Worlds have been lost to the Imperium, claimed by the dread powers of Chaos. Now, a mighty crusade seeks to return the sector to Imperial rule. And at the forefront of that crusade are Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only – better known as Gaunt’s Ghosts. Trapped in the grinding trench warfare of Fortis Binary, the Ghosts find themselves drawn into a conspiracy to assassinate the crusade’s leader, Warmaster Macaroth. With enemies all around them and no one to trust, Gaunt and his men must find a way to save the warmaster and prevent the Sabbat Worlds Crusade from falling into anarchy – even if it means waging war on their supposed allies.


First and Only begins on the Forge world of Fortis Binary, where Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt leads the Tanith First and Only in disrupting an important Chaos ritual. The Ghosts later become involved in a plot by Lord High Militant General Dravere that has the potential to destroy the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Gaunt also faces the machinations of Colonel Flense of the Jantine Patricians, who carries a long held grudge against the Commissar.

Interspersed with this story are flashbacks to almost two decades earlier, which have a profound impact on the events of the present day.


This page contains spoilers for: First and Only (Novel)

Part One: Nubila Reach

In the contested Sabbat Worlds sector, two Imperial Faustus-class patrol interceptors are destroyed, but not before relaying a mysterious "Vermillion"-level astropathic message...

A Memory: Darendara

Twenty years before, Cadet-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is tasked with leading the final assault on a rebel fortification upon the world of Darendara; victory in this assault would mean victory in the campaign. With the aid of a hand-picked insertion squad, Cadet Gaunt succeeds in his mission, but is discomfited by the words of a captured enemy witch, who appears to utter a prediction to him of his future.

Part Two: Fortis Binary

The Tanith First Imperial Guard regiment is embroiled in the last gasps of a bloody trench-war on the Forge world of Fortis Binary. With a slight forewarning from his adjutant Brin Milo (and his 'excellent hearing'), the commander of the unit - Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt - is able to rouse his men into beating off an assault on their position and in fact repelling and counter-attacking the enemy. Under orders to pursue, in the confusion of shellfire and the broken terrain, the Tanith 1st breaks up into disparate elements, with sizable clumps under various officers making their way into the enemy lines in the company of Guardsmen of the similarly advancing Vitrian Dragoons.

A Memory: Gylatus Decimus

Eighteen years earlier, Cadet-Commissar Gaunt is promoted to the office of full Commissar by the dying Commissar-General Delane Oktar.

Part Three: Fortis Binary

On Fortis Binary, Gaunt manages to reunite his scattered regiment, and survive a night in enemy territory, despite various forms of unnerving attack. Leading his now unified multi-regiment force further inwards, Gaunt discovers an underground maglev train line running from Shriven rebel forward ammunition stores to the ammo dumps in the rear. Wasting no time, Gaunt orders his men down the line and into an attack posture. Upon reaching the end of the line, they crash into and annihilate a force of around 200 hundred Shriven, though the pair of Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines present cause somewhat more of a problem. In the battle's aftermath, a mysterious stone monolith is discovered near the ammo dump, clearly part of a Chaos ritual building to completion. Upon discovering a map indicating that there were seven of these stones arranged to act as an uholy weapon, Gaunt realises he was warned about this event twenty years earlier by the witch on Darendara. Deciding to follow her utterances, he resists calls to blow up the monolith, and instead has it forcibly realigned. The effect on the Shriven is immediate, robbing them of their will to fight. At the same time, Gaunt has Major Rawne wire the ammo dump's contents together, setting off an explosion that tears the heart out of the enemy's central position. With this strike - destroying the Shriven redoubt before the Jantine Patricians armoured forces can assault it - the campaign is effectively won.

A Memory: Ignatius Cardinal

Twenty-eight years earlier, the twelve year-old Ibram Gaunt is assigned to the Schola Progenium on Ignatius Cardinal, after the death of his father. There, he meets fellow Scholar Vaynom Blenner, and they become friends. Gaunt proves to have a studious and pious bent, being able to recognise quotes from texts written by such august bodies as Inquisitor Ravenor... but he appears consumed by the wish to discover how his father exactly died. That knowledge is classified.

Part Four: Pyrites

After the victory on Fortis Binary, the Tanith 1st are posted to the world of Pyrites for some rest and recuperation. Billeted in Cracia City, several of the Ghosts begin to get itchy feet. Learning that the 'cold zones' of the city are effectively lawless and that as Imperial soldiers they are banned from going there, numerous members of the regiment decide to investigate the areas for entertainment possibilities. At much the same time, Gaunt receives a message from an old friend, Fereyd, asking for his assistance. He heads to the meeting, another old friend - Vaynom Blenner - in tow.

The antics of the Ghosts in the Cold Zones start to heat things up when Major Rawne and his adjutant, Feygor, rip off a local gangster and start a moving gunfight. The pair are soon joined by Colonel Colm Corbec, and are forced into making a stand in a deserted warehouse. There, in the shadows, the trio of Ghosts succeed in taking out some twenty pursuers with nary a scratch between them.

Gaunt's meeting does not go as he expected; his contact is not in fact Fereyd, but a man claiming to work for him as an agent of Navy Intelligence. The agent explains that there is a power struggle going on at the highest levels of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, one that threatens to derail the entire venture. Details pertaining to it - vermilion-coded details - were captured by Navy Intelligence astropaths and now exist on a single data-crystal... which the agent gives to Gaunt. Fearing his network to be compromised, the agent believes that Gaunt is his best hope of getting the information to Fereyd and putting it to good use. Before Gaunt can learn much else, the meeting is violently interrupted by the assault of insignia-less assault troops. While the agent is killed, Gaunt and Blenner are able to fight their way out of the ambush... only to be stopped by a roadblock manned by soldiers of the Jantine Patricians, who aim to throw down with Gaunt for reasons of their own. Gaunt's adjutant, Brin Milo, takes things into his own hands and drives his commander and Blenner off into the night, with the Jantine in hot pursuit. Milo takes the Commissars to the off-limits areas of the city, straight to where he 'knew' a large amount of the Ghosts had agreed to meet up. As Rawne, Feygor and Corbec arrive, Gaunt explains the situation... so when the Jantine finally enter the area, they're ambushed and sent packing. In the aftermath of the affair, Gaunt and Corbec begin to strike up a friendship.

A Memory: Manzipor

Thirty years previously, young Ibram Gaunt is visited by his father's commanding officer, General Aldo Dercius of the Jantine Patricians. "Uncle" Dercius has some very unpleasant news for Ibram concerning his father...

Part Five: En route to Menazoid

The Sabbat Worlds Crusade moves on. The army the Ghosts belong to is placed in transport to the Menazoid Clasp. The Ghosts' previous Navy billet, the frigate Navarre, is reassigned, forcing them to travel on an Adeptus Mechanicus Mass Cargo Conveyance; the Absalom. The problem with this arrangement is that the Jantine Patricians are billeted on the same vessel, resulting in a series of raids and fights carried out between the two regiments, fights that result in injuries and even deaths. Also during the transit, Gaunt survives an assassination attempt thanks to the intervention of Milo and Corbec, his assassin revealed to be a psi-controlled puppet. This act motivates Gaunt into briefing the officers and NCOs of his regiment with what he knows about the alleged corruption in the Crusade high command - particularly how likely it is that Dravere is behind all this - and his possession of the data-crystal. He also takes Colonel Zoren of the Vitrian Dragoons into his confidence, after the Colonel reveals that he too was targeted.

In another part of the vessel, Colonel Draker Flense of the Patricians is brought before Golesh Heldane of the Inquisition, who reveals that, for reasons of his own, he is aiding Dravere in his attempt to usurp control of the Crusade and that something in the Menazoid system is essential to their plans. In order to ensure it is gained, he enlists Flense's aid with the future termination of Gaunt. As part of this scheme, the Patricians kidnap Major Rawne, delivering him into Heldane's clutches. However, the Ghosts quickly scramble a rescue team, who proceed to not only recover Rawne, but put a bullet into Heldane for good measure.

A Memory: Khedd 1173

Sixteen years earlier, on the planet Khedd 1173, Commissar Gaunt intercepts a unit of the Jantine Patricians led by his uncle, Dercius. Confronting him, Gaunt explained that, some years earlier, a witch on Darendara had told him the truth about how his father had died, claiming that his father's commander, Dercius, had cowardly sacrificed him so that he could escape. Accused of the crime of dereliction of duty, the Jantine General, knowing he was caught out, suddenly attacks Gaunt, prompting a chainsword duel. Through unorthodox technique, Gaunt is eventually the victor, although terribly wounded. Having slain his uncle, he has avenged his father.

Part Six: Menazoid Epsilon

The Ghosts are assigned to conquer Menazoid Epsilon, as are the Jantine Patricians, the Vitrian Dragoons and many other regiments. As they proceed with their task - and get involved in an inter-regiment 'war' that claims the lives of the entire Tanith 7th Platoon - Gaunt is surprised to be joined by Fereyd himself, in disguise as an Imperial Tactician. With Fereyd's help, a Ghost special ops team are able to locate the mysterious prize sought by Heldane and Dravere; an underground complex holding a Standard Template Constructor. And not just any STC; one that produces Iron Men. The aid of these mechanoids would prove invaluable to Dravere, despite the apparent heresy in using them. The STC discovered, Fereyd is revealed to be a psychic puppet, similar to the assassin on the Absalom, Inquisitor Heldane having earlier discovered and suborned him. Heldane himself was only wounded by the injury inflicted by the Ghost sniper, Larkin, not killed. Activating the STC, Fereyd/Heldane expects the Ghost team to be wiped out by the force of Patricians he knows is following them, as well as by the Men of Iron he intends to bring under his control.

Unfortunately for the radical Inquisitor, his plans come awry when Major Rawne turns and shoots Fereyd in the face. His puppet's head having been blown clean off, the psychic feedback of his death slams into the already grievously wounded Inquisitor; unable to contain such energies, Heldane himself perishes, his own death releasing his stored psychic power explosively. Ensconced as he was in Dravere's command Leviathan, the vehicle is comprehensively immolated, ending Dravere's bid for power alongside his life.

As for the Ghosts, they are able to destroy the (corrupted) STC, as well as defeat the Jantine Patricians wholesale; the bulk of the Tanith regiment, with the aid of the Vitrian Dragoons, defeats the bulk of the Patricians in battle, while Gaunt's special ops team defeats a similar one led by Draker Flense - who reveals himself to be the son of the disgraced Aldo Dercius shortly before his death. Despite having taken serious casualties, the Ghosts emerge from the entire ordeal victorious.

A Memory: Darendara

And twenty years earlier, Cadet-Commissar Ibram Gaunt meets with the witch, to hear her words...

Notable Characters


Imperial Guard

Tanith First

Jantine Patricians

Vitrian Dragoons

The Inquisition



  • The novel's dedication reads, "To Nik, first and only."

Conflicting sources

See also

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