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Pale Stars campaign (Horus Heresy)

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Pale Stars campaign
Horus Heresy Pale Stars campaign.png
Unidentified Space Marines during the Pale Stars campaign
Conflict Horus Heresy
Date 007-???.M31
Location The Pale Stars
Outcome Pale Stars devastated
  • Pale Stars mostly under Imperial control
  • Xenos and renegades capture/retake some systems
Loyalists Traitors Dark Brotherhood

Human pirates


Captain Serron[1g]
Nirun (MIA)[1g]
Praetor-Commander Brant Hesioth (KIA)[5]
Strike Master Ijax (MIA)[1c]
Primarch Fulgrim (012.M31)[5]
Nemean (until 008.M31)[1c]
See order of battle See order of battle See order of battle
Heavy Heavy Heavy

In the Horus Heresy, the Pale Stars were the site of a major military campaign, waged by Imperial loyalists, traitors loyal to Horus, and various unaligned third-party human as well as Xenos factions. The campaign resulted in massive destruction and loss of life. Ultimately, the Imperium captured most of the Pale Stars, and the traitors were driven out. However, human renegades, pirates, and some Xenos were able to retain control of at least parts of the Pale Stars.


The Pale Stars are a series of resource-rich, but allegedly also cursed systems. They were invaded by the Imperium in the Great Crusade. The native humans and Xenos resisted the conquest, and suffered terribly as a consequence.[1b] By the time of the Horus Heresy's outbreak, the Imperium had not yet completed the region's conquest, with some human as well as Xenos worlds still resisting colonization efforts. Pirates had also entrenched themselves. For the most part, however, Imperial control was growing, centered on Phargos Rex as the local Administratum seat.[1a][1b]

When Horus rose in rebellion against the Emperor, the Imperial governments in the Pale Stars were generally horrified at this move. Despite this, the local Imperial Commanders also did not declare openly for the loyalists, as they were aware that they stood not chance against the traitors. For the most part, the locals hoped by not offending either side, they would be left alone. This hope would not be fulfilled.[1b]


Descent into anarchy

War arrived at the Pale Stars in 007.M31 with the emergence of the Ruinstorm, as it caused a wave of death and insanity. Many human inhabitants of the Pale Stars restarted the ancient cults of their ancestors and rebelled, while astropaths died en masse and many ships were lost in the Warp. Communication with Terra was lost.[1b] Not long after, a Blackshield warband called the "Dark Brotherhood" led by the "Nemean" arrived at the Pale Stars. Though their exact motives and background remained unclear, the Dark Brotherhood sought a haven, finding it in the Pale Stars' Eridayn Cataract. The Blackshields established a base there, securing it by attacking intruding Imperialis Armada patrol ships and targeting local pirates. After crippling the human-Xenos pirates of the nearby 771/51-6 system, the Dark Brotherhood's small empire began receiving growing attention.[1c]

Located south of the Maelstrom, the Pale Stars were located in-between the centers of power of the infighting civil war factions.[2]

Meanwhile, the first forces of Horus also arrived at the Pale Stars. Led by Strike Master Ijax, these belonged to a Alpha Legion force. Ijax sent his lieutenants to each Imperial world of the Pale Stars, demanding the Dark Compliance and preventing the locals from coordinating their response. However, the local governments did not submit as willingly as expected, as the Dark Brotherhood's presence meant that the traitors' presence was not unchallenged. Ijax judged that he had to eliminate the Dark Brotherhood to secure the Pale Stars, and forced the local government to provide their militaries to his cause.[1c] Under the Alpha Legion's command, the local armies, fleets, and militias were retrained and improved. After completing this reorganization and securing the Pale Stars' core worlds, Ijax sent his motley contingents to take the outlying systems of the region to contain the Dark Brotherhood's expansion.[1d]

The Dark Brotherhood responded by raiding the traitor fleets in the void between systems, destroying many, but being also often repulsed by the effective resistance of the militias and their Alpha Legion masters. Fighting was merciless, with both sides dying rather surrendering in these clashes. Upon arriving at the various systems, the Alpha Legion deployed their human militias as bait, hoping to lure the Blackshields into ambushes. However, the Dark Brotherhood's leader was often too cunning to fall into such traps, instead allowing the bait armies to waste away on the Pale Stars' toxic planets. Rergardless, the Blackshields were occasionally surprised by their opponents' capabilities, for example when encountering mechanical horrors during an otherwise successful raid targeting the Dark Mechanicum-aligned forge of Mirdath. In another case, the traitors ordered the garrison militia of Dissolution to assemble in the planet's orbit for redeployment. The local, primitive Xenos used this unexpected opportunity to launch a massive counter-offensive on the surface, reclaiming their homeworld and massacring tens of thousands of Imperial settlers. At the same time, the Dark Brotherhood fell upon the militia's ships in orbit, only to be struck by hidden Alpha Legion vessels.[1d]

As countless people were killed in these battles, the local Warp became ever more tempestuous. Dissolution, Phargos Rex, and Mirdath were drowned in onsetting Warp Storms, making travel ever more difficult, while Daemons and Chaos Cults rose up on many worlds. On Phargos Rex in particular, Warp-induced insanity caused much of the population to rise in rebellion. To what extent Ijax was aware that his campaign strengthened the growing chaos remained unclear.[1d] Either way, with the spread of revolts, the local governments found themselves completely dependant on the Alpha Legion for survival,[1f] as the Dark Brotherhood was uncaring of their situation.[1d]

Meanwhile, the Imperium had decided to send a Rogue Trader, Lorn Orpheus, to the Pale Stars in an attempt to learn about the region's situation.[1b] After a dificult journey and the loss of half of his fleet, Orpheus arrived at Phargos Rex, finding the region engulfed in anarchy and war. He reported his findings back to Terra, where one part of his message was received with great interest: The presence of the Nemean. Malcador the Sigillite sent one of his agents, Nathaniel Garro, to recruit this individual for the Knights-Errant.[1f]

Conclave of Optera

Using the warp-sprinter Eusebeian Herald, Garro's force arrived at the Pale Stars' Optera system in 017008.M31. His followers included ex-Emperor's Children Legionary Callion Zaven and ex-Ultramarine Tylos Rubio. From Optera, Garro's astropath sent out a message which could only be decoded by Legionary Astartes who were "truly" loyal to Terra; the message called for a conclave at the desolate planet of Optera IV. Twenty days later, ships arrived in the Optera system and sent their representatives to attend the meeting; however, to the surprise of the Knights-Errant, not only the Dark Brotherhood had arrived. One group of unexpected arrivals consisted of the Blood Angels' 121st Company under Captain Serron. The second group were a diverse group of 500 White Scars, all belonging to the same Warrior Lodge led by Nirun. Both the Blood Angels as well as the White Scars had discovered Garro's signal by chance.[1g]

With everyone gathered but unsure about the others' knowledge of the Galaxy's current situation, Garro began the conclave by outlining a history of the Horus Heresy up to this point. Finally, after making it clear that warriors to defend Terra were desperately needed, he stated that he had come to recruit the Nemean for Malcador. However, the presence of the other Space Marines presented new opportunities, and he implored all those gathered to accompany him back to Terra. The first to answer his request was Serron of the Blood Angels. He declared that, as he had just learned how their Primarch Sanguinius was possibly lost, his company would not turn from battle. Instead, the 121st Company would stay and kill the traitors where they were. Garro accepted this decision, whereupon the Blood Angels left Optera IV. Next, Nirun declared that he would continue with "his current path" unless he received differing orders by Jaghatai Khan, and so the White Scars also left.[1h]

At last, the Nemean responded. He declared that before he could voice his decision, he had to know one thing: What was known of Lion El'Jonson and his role in the civil war? Before Garro could answer, however, explosions could be heard. Quickly, those present realized that the Alpha Legion was attacking the Dark Brotherhood's fleet in orbit. The Alpha Legion had seemingly broken the allegedly unbreakable cipher of Garro's message, been informed of the meeting by one of the attendees, or actually included loyalists working for some shrouded purpose. With this attack, the Dark Brotherhood's warriors erupted in anger, suspecting treachery either by the Knights-Errant or their own comrades, before being temporarily silenced the Nemean. He repeated his question to Garro who responded this time, earnestly, that Terra had not yet heard of Lion El'Jonson. Just after this exchange, however, members of the Dark Brotherhood began to shoot each other and at the Knights-Errant. Disgusted how his warband had so quickly descended into fratricidal violence, the Nemean then agreed to leave with Garro. The three Knights-Errant and their new comrade then teleported to the Eusebeian Herald, leaving the Pale Stars.[1h]

Loss of Phargos Rex and arrival of the Emperor's Children

Though now without a leader and less unified, the Dark Brotherhood fleet successfully broke through the Alpha Legion ambush at Optera and returned to the Eridayn Cataract.[1h] Over the next years, the Blackshield warband tried to consolidate their pocket empire centered at the Eridayn Cataract in a series of operations. The Dark Brotherhood attacked an Alpha Legion base at Dissolution in 008.M31 and later raided Larsa II in 010.M31.[1e] The Blackshields also clashed with Alpha Legion elements at Optera V and Optera VII.[1i] Meanwhile, the Blood Angels' 121st Company fought a brutal and ruthless war against the Alpha Legion, clashing with the traitors in the mines of Kyro IV, the moons of 771/58,[1h] and at Mirdath.[1i] On Sidaiva, a three-way war took place between loyalists (including Blood Angels and White Scars), Alpha Legion forces, and the native Xenos.[1h][1i]

Eventually, the 121st Company broke away mid-battle at Psiom-Zeta-1, hurriedly making a Warp jump toward Segmentum Solar, having possibly been informed of Sanguinius' survival and the Blood Angels' gathering at Terra. In contrast, the White Scars under Nirun launched a raid on Phargos Rex, targeting Strike Master Ijax himself. As the battle was ongoing, Phargos Rex was completely swallowed by a Warp Storm, the fate of both White Scars as well as Alpha Legion unclear. However, Nirun's name was later entered into the roll of honour of the House Orpheus, suggesting that his ultimate fate had been tied to Lorn Orpheus.[1h]

In 012.M31, traitor Emperor's Children fleeing the destruction of Chemos arrived in the Pale Stars. The Salamanders subsequently waged a bloody operation against these traitors to secure the Pale Stars.[3][6] The Emperor's Children split into many groups, each seeking out a separate refuge in the region or following other, darker purposes. On Invocastus IV, a small faction of the traitors convinced the population to rebel; when a Salamanders strike force under Praetor-Commander Brant Hesioth reached the planet, they unsuccessfully attempted to put down the uprising and evict the Emperor's Children. Ultimately, Hesioth's forces discovered that the traitors had selected Invocastus IV as a testing ground for Inductii mutants to amuse Fulgrim himself. After the Daemon Primarch and his followers massacred much of the Salamders strike force, he disappeared alongside most of the local Emperor's Children.[5] On other planets, the Salamanders faced more conventional, albeit still heavy, resistance. For instance, one larger Emperor's Children faction turned the Idylitar system into the bastion of a "new kingdom", with the Salamanders only evicting them after months of brutal fighting.[6]


Though the exact fate of the Dark Brotherhood is unclear, the warband eventually disappeared in the Eridayn Cataract. The Nemean joined the Knights-Errant, eventually possibly becoming a member of the Grey Knights. The Blood Angels' 121st Company is believed to have fought in the Siege of Terra.[1h]

The Pale Stars were ultimately reclaimed by the Imperium, although many of its formerly colonized planets remained outside Imperial control by M41. Dissolution, Sidaiva, and Mirdath no longer appeared in Imperial star maps, while Phargos Rex (now better known as "Phargos Hex") had been designated as a "Forbidden World".[4a][4b]

Order of Battle



Human renegades



Battles of the Horus Heresy
005-006.M31 Battle of Isstvan IIIFirst Battle of ProsperoWar Within the WebwayBattle of the Somnus CitadelUnrest on CalibanSchism of MarsBattle of DiamatDrop Site MassacreBattle of the Rangda SystemFirst Battle of ParamarManachean WarSignus CampaignTreachery at Advex-MorsSiege of CthoniaBattle for Felweather Keep‎
007-008.M31 Battle of PhallBattle of RavendelveRuin of MaerdanBattle of the Alaxxes NebulaPale Stars CampaignBreaking of the Perfect FortressChondax CampaignSecond Battle of ProsperoFirst Siege of Hydra CordatusBattle of the Furious AbyssBattle of CalthBattle of ArmaturaBetrayal at IthracaDeath of CanopusShadow CrusadeCrusade of IronDoom of BorminaDefence of TyrosDefence of the Three PlanetsBattle of UlixisAmbush at EspandorBattle of Aquila AtollBattle of Drooth IIPercepton CampaignBattle of IydrisThramas CrusadeFall of Baztel IIIBattle of VannaheimSecond Battle of ParamarBattle of Constanix IIMezoan CampaignBattle of BodtBattle of DwellErellian SubjugationSiege of Baal
009-010.M31 Battle of MolechBreaking of AnvillusXana IncursionCarnage of MoroxSangraal CampaignBattle of ArissakBattle of PerditusBattle of SothaDrussen AtrocityScouring of Gilden's StarBattle of NyrconBattle of TallarnCataclysm of IronBattle of NocturneWar of DrakesBattle of PlutoSiege of InwitBurning of Ohmn-MatBitter War
011-014.M31 Reaving of the Xibana ReachesLorin Alpha CampaignSubjugation of TyrinthMalagant ConflictBattle of the Kalium GateBattle of CatallusAxandrian IncidentBattle of the Haddon SystemJarrazr IncursionBattle of TralsakTarren SuppressionBalthor Sigma InterventionBattle of AbsolomScouring of the Ollanz ClusterBattle of ZepathSecond Battle of ZaramundBattle of AnuariBattle of PyrrhanSecond Battle of DavinArgolian MassacresBattle of TrisolianBattle of YarantBattle of KradeBattle of DelugeBattle of Heta-GladiusBattle of the Aragna ChainBattle of KallethBattle of the Diavanos SystemBattle of DesperationBattle of Beta-GarmonWar for AgaropsDefence of RyzaBattle of ThagriaPassage of AngelsThassos IncidentBattle of Zhao-ArkhadSerpent's CoilSiege of BarbarusForicaan CampaignBattle of VezdellBurning of VrexorDawn of DesolationDeath of ChemosBattle of Luth TyreYdursk IncidentFall of TenzebarSolar WarRaid on LunaSiege of TerraGreat Scouring