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Pythos

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Pythos is a Death World of the Imperium.

Map Basic Data Planetary Image
px Name: Pythos Unknown.jpg
Segmentum: Ultima Segmentum
Sector: Demeter Sector
Subsector: Unknown
System: Pandorax System
Population: Unknown
Affiliation: Imperium
Class: Death World
Tithe Grade: Unknown
The geography of Pythos

Pythos is a death world, covered mainly in dense jungles, with occasional areas of scorched grassland. Its jungles and oceans are inhabited by massive saurian predators.[1] Because of the dangers of moving through the lowlands and across the oceans, the human settlers of Pythos settled in mountaintop mining colonies. From these, they derived a precarious and meagre existence mining the precious minerals found in the planet’s mountain chains. Hundreds of these strongholds were scattered over the planet, each home to populations of only a few thousand Imperial citizens. Pythos’ only major city was the Hive-port of Atika, which was located on the coast of the planet’s largest ocean, and surrounded on its landward side by the aptly named deathglades. Atika was a small spire city with its main habitation zones located in the dome-like upper levels of the city, high above the surrounding swamplands. Travel between Atika and the delver-strongholds was carried out in dilapidated lighter-than-air dirigibles known as sky barges, lumbering through the skies high above the ferocious creatures that inhabited the lowlands in relative safety.[1]

History

Horus Heresy

Arrival

At an unknown point in time, a daemon was bound to the planet Pythos by the powers of the warp and required to lay in wait until victims happened upon the planet. Iron Hands Captain Atticus arrived in the Pandorax system aboard the strike cruiser Veritas Ferrum with the hundreds of members of the 111th Clan-Company and a handful of other survivors of Isstvaan V, including the Salamander leader Sergeant Khi'dem and the Raven Guard leader Veteran Inachus Ptero. In system, they passed by unknown wreckage of rock and metal floating through the system, and there was evidence of a cataclysmic event that once took place. As the ship progressed towards Pythos, Khi'dem and Ptero questioned as to why they came to the system. After much tension, Sergeant Galba briefed the two legionaries that the Iron Hands traveled to the system to find information but would reveal no more due to lack of trust following the Drop Site Massacre.[2]

Elsewhere on the ship, legion serfs were struggling with the events of the Horus Heresy, and one serf, Tanaura, began preaching hope in the Emperor and the teachings of the Lectitio Divinitatus. While repairs were made internally through the ship by the serfs, Captain Atticus made hololithic contact with far away Iron Hands Captains Khalybus, Sabinus, and Plienus to discuss the visions of Rhydia Erephren, Mistress of Astropaths, who led them to the system. Atticus reported that the closer they arrived to Pythos, the more powerful Erephren became, and the other captains expressed both fear and hope as to the possibility that she will eventually be powerful enough to have a level of awareness that would allow the Iron Hands to track the movements of the traitors. Ultimately, the captains decided that each were to prosecute the war independently, and Atticus was left to do as he chose. During the hololith meeting and following it, Atticus could feel a presence that seemed to welcome him to the system, but he ignored it as they continued to the planet.[2]

As the Veritas Ferrum approached Pythos, Erephren's powers increased and she felt that she could obtain omniscience upon the planet. When the ship arrived, it was revealed that their destination was a garden world lacking in civilisation. Erephren was able to locate the origin of the phenomenon, overwhelmed by the power and chanting before having the ship stop above the location. Once stopped, a warp presence could be lightly felt pressing upon the barriers of the material universe, and Erephren admitted that the warp was tempting her. Atticus ordered that the area be scanned and a search began of any object on the planet that might have an affect on the warp, but the auspex soon went dead as a power tore apart in a burst of fire. The auspex itself formed into a claw and impaled one of the Iron Hands, though others on the bridge denied the possibility.[3]

Landing

The Iron Hands sent 3 ships to the surface with over 60 legionaries: the Iron Hands' Unbending and Iron Flame and the Salamander's Hammerblow. The Salamander's Cindara was left in orbit. They landed on a rocky outcrop that rose above the jungle canopy and had cliff faces on 3 sides. Once on the surface, Erephren began to search for the source along with a legionary escort. Galba began to question her over the nature of the warp attack on the ship, but she responded that the warp could not be explained and she did not know of the source. The legionaries made slow progress through the jungle, finding it difficult to burn a path, but they eventually found a clearing with hundreds of quadruped saurian creatures that were 3 meters high and 6 meters long.[3]

As soon as the legionaries approached, the saurians attacked, revealing themselves to be predators and not the herbivores they were assumed to be based on their structure. As the legionaries killed the saurians, others of the herd began to cannibalize the corpses. Although many were killed, it was not enough to stop the attack, and some of the Iron Warriors died before it was over. After the battle, Ptero commented on the strangeness of the creatures and revealed that the blood was streaming uphill before the planet began to shake. With some warning, the legionaries were able to move but not fast enough and tentacle-like roots burst out and began to attack some of the Salamanders, killing two and feeding from their corpses. The bulk of the monster plant revealed itself, and the legionaries were forced to withdraw. The planet heaved as the mostly moss monster chased after the legionaries but they were eventually able to outrun it. Following the battle, Ptero spoke with Khi'dem to greater length about the wrongness of life on the planet and his suspicions that the enemy on the planet was sentient. This led to greater doubts over the mission as a whole.[3]

The legionaries made their way to a location were trees were dead and vegetation could not grow, and Erephren announced that it was the source. A dense set of trees were packed in the center of the clearly, and, when destroyed, revealed black column. At the same time, they were attacked by dozens of large bipedal saurian predators that stood 8 meters with sharp talons. After the first group was shot down, other saurians leaped in quickly and killed many of the legionaries, forcing them back to the black column. Erephren touched the column and then announced that they had to leave.[3]

Foothold

Returning to the landing site, the Iron Hands established a base of operations with modular fortifications brought from orbit at the request of Erephren because she believed the clearing around the black column to be indefensible. She used the location to focus on the warp and reflect on the information she received by touching the black column, including the four domains of the chaos gods and a vision of a fleet. When night fell, the oppressive, humid darkness disrupted the mental state of the serfs and kept them from sleeping. The night also caused the legionaries to suffer synesthetic reactions and their senses became confused. Eventually, the fear paralyzing the serfs was broken when one burst into an animalistic scream by a serf who tore his own throat out, and syllables screamed were "ma" and "dail" before he ripped out his eyes and bled out. When the Iron Hands arrived, a witness said that the dead serf's eyes were screaming. After that moment, Atticus, denying that there was a malign intelligence at work, announced that it was a mass hallucination and set guards over the serfs.[4]

After setting guidelines to protect the serfs, Atticus was informed by Erephren of the location of an Emperor's Children fleet, with three of the ships (the battle-barge Callidora and escorts Infinite Sublime and Golden Mean) separating from the rest of the group and were heading to the Hamartia System in the Demeter Sector. The Callidora was of particular significance; Atticus's men once fought besides it and were later fired upon by it at Isstvan V. On Atticus's order, they set out to arrive in the system first and plan a trap for the traitors. They arrived early and laid in wait at the Mandeville point, attacking as soon as the Emperor's Children appeared. First, the ships triggered a minefield, which hit the Infinite Sublime and erupted its ammunition, destroying it. The explosion hit the Golden Mean, and the blast combined with the mines and attacks from the Veritas Ferrum, causing the ship to explode.[4]

The Callidora was twice as large as the Veritas Ferrum and shrugged off the mines. The Veritas Ferrum retreated after sending a massive chunk of ice debris into the battle-barge, causing havoc on the ship. This distracted the Emperor's Children as dozens of boarding torpedoes broke through and allowed the Iron Hands to infiltrate the ship.[4] The Iron Hands overwhelmed the traitors, fighting their way through the ship. While fighting, Galba noticed how wrong everything was; chaos symbols replaced Imperial symbols, and the Emperor's Children were thoroughly corrupt. Even the carpets were made of human flesh, and a dreadnought, Ancient Curval, called those on board to become lost in the pursuit of sensation. The Iron Hands quickly took command of the ship because the traitors were lost in ecstasy of battle and lacked discipline. Atticus defeated captain Kleos of the Emperor's Children after trapping the traitor's weapon within the bionic replacements of his body. Taking control of the ship, Techmarine Camnus sent it to crash into the nearby planetoid Creon, and the Iron Hands returned to their ship via the boarding torpedoes. The Emperor's Children remaining on the ship tried to destroy Creon with their weaponry, but it was for naught and the ship was destroyed.[5]

Return

Following the success, Atticus wanted to repeat the action but Erephren was too far from the source to predict how many Emperor's Children ships would arrive in relief. Unable to know how strong their opponents would be, they were forced to return to Pythos but left mines waiting for any others who would arrive in system. In traveling the warp, the Astronomicon was no longer present, but Bhalif Strassny the navigator was able to use rely on the anomaly on Pythos as a different beacon. The journey back caused more distress among the serfs, and one had to be shot to end his screaming. With the taint of the planet infiltrating the ship, Tanaura gathered the strength to preach more of the Lectitio Divinitatus and she gathered more followers.[6]

Upon arriving, they found over a hundred civilian ships of various types and sizes. The civilian fleet came from all over, and most of the ships would have taken a long time to arrive in system. There was no unifying structure or order to the fleet, but the Iron Hands speculated that their arrival was not coincidental. Though the legionaries knew the risk the civilians posed, Atticus stated that they could not be slaughtered. Instead, they would observe the civilians as ships began to transport people to the surface around the black column and the anomaly. The Iron Flame was flown in reconnaissance of the civilian camp and determined that the civilians burned any ship that did not crash on the way down. Only the ancient colony ship Great Calling remained, but it was soon destroyed as the thousands of civilians celebrated, marking their intent to stay.[7]

Soon after, the saurians began to attack the camp, and the civilians put up a weak defense. Eventually, most fled to the area next to the black column. Unable to put up much of a defense, the Iron Flame returned to base, but they heard songs of joy instead of screaming as they left. Khi'dem expressed concern for the civilians and advocated for their protection, which further strained relations with Atticus. Eventually, Khi'dem won Atticus over by arguing that the civilian population could help stabilize the planet, which would help in their mission, then left with the remaining Salamanders and Raven Guard to defend the civilians without the Iron Hands.[7] The Iron Hands followed soon after, with the Contemptor Dreadnought Venerable Atrax and the Vindicator tanks Engine of Fury and Medusan Strength. The Vindicators cut through the jungle, creating new trails as they slaughtered the saurians in their way. The Iron Flame attacked from above with guns and flame, and the legionaries herded the civilians around the black column and formed a protective ring around the area. Although very successful, the strike caused many to question the nature of the civilians they were saving and their peculiar behavior in the face of death.[8]

Eventually, the Iron Hands were able to get the civilians to the protection of their outpost, and they continued to battle attacking saurians into the evening. Atticus met with civilians armed with primitive spears and swords and asked them to leave the planet. However, they would not because the general belief was that Pythos was their new home, and the people were called there to fulfill a prophecy and they had faith that they would pass any tests that would come before a great revelation. Among the crowd were hooded individuals who were named masters over the others, and some of the crowd were novitiates. The behavior and appearance of the civilians unsettled the Iron Hands, and they were particularly bothered that the civilians called themselves pilgrims. Seeking a distraction, Atticus asked Erephren to provide him with a target, but she explained that warp storms would make travel impossible.[8]

New Construction

The Iron Hands began work on a fortification surrounding the black column after they firebombed the surrounding jungle. Civilians were brought in as a work crew, and barricades were brought down from orbit to provide protection as trees were cut to create a palisade. While working, the civilians sang unintelligible songs and celebrated. As the work progressed, mounds were discovered in a pattern around the black column, and the civilians began to build upon one a structure that resembled a temple but was said to be lodge that would serve as both a shelter and a gathering place. The serf Jerune Kanshell was invited by one of the novitiates, Ske Vris, to enter the building and witness what was inside. He was taken back by the complexity of the structure and how it was built so quickly. Vris invited him to experience the supernatural, but Kanshell turned away.[9]

By night, the serfs returned to their base and the civilians continued to work, and it was fortified enough to be defended by a single squad. The Iron Hands continued to be bothered by the lodge building and the superstitious nature of the civilians. Atticus continued to be concerned by the warp storms keeping them in the sector, and he wanted to abandon the civilians as soon as possible. that night, Kanshell admitted to Galba that he was feeling the warp's presence; the shadows were invading once more. In the sleeping quarters, the serfs were all speaking in their sleep or awake and in terror, and the words took the form of the name "Madail" before Galba broke the moment by roaring and demanding that the serfs wake. The shadows fled, and Galba ordered that the serfs were to stay awake before he left to speak with Atticus. Galba was soon joined by other Iron Hands, and, before they could say anything, Atticus declared that they were under attack by an enemy that fights with shadows that they will destroy.[9]

The shadows then attacked Erephren and caught her unaware. They abused her and shouted "damnation" at her, breaking her barriers and causing her harm. She awoke upon the floor injured and her senses were slow to return. When she tried to pear into the warp, she experienced great pain and was forced to immediately stop. She left her chamber to find the Iron Hands, but they left to investigate what was discovered around the black column: a large, deep pit that appeared before the lodge and could not have been made by the civilians. Erephren began to talk with Tanaura who suggested that the events were unholy and that evil was attacking them. Tanaura tried to convert Erephren to faith in the Emperor but was stopped as Erephren grew angry at the profession of faith. At the same time, the Iron Hands released that a large structure was buried beneath the earth that could not have been made by any hand.{Fn|10}}

Atticus took the structure as a sign that a xenos enemy was present on the planet, and he ordered the area to be excavated. While civilians and serfs dug, the legionaries began to explore the depths. Khi'dem questions Kanshell over his belief that the enemy is supernatural and assures him that the serfs are mistaken because an enemy could be fought while the immaterium could not. More troubled, Kanshell turned to Tanaura for support, and both were filled with hope as they turned to the Emperor together; if the force of darkness were real then the light of the Emperor must also be true, and faith in the Lectitio Divinitatus comforted him against the horrors of the night.[10]

Pandorax Campaign

Pythos was reclaimed as an Imperial colony in M33.[1]

It was the home to a major Warp portal known as the Damnation Cache, making it the site of major fighting during the Pandorax Campaign.[1] Ten thousand years previous during the Horus Heresy, a small force of Iron Hands, Salamanders, and Raven Guard who survived the Drop Site Massacre landed on Pythos but were annihilated by the Warp-tainted world.[2]

Images

The surface of Pythos during the Horus Heresy.

Sources