A Return to Vigilus: Prelude

Artwork by Advisorium

“Your presence is demanded on Vigilus.”

The six words were delivered in the flat, impassive tone of an expectation rather than a requst, the heavy vox-grille of the speaker adding a machine-like bluntness to the sentence. The speaker in question was tall and broad, even for an Astartes, and was clad in baroque power armour black as spilled ink, its only colouration being the gold trim that curled around its edges in the shapes of serrated blades and snapping fangs. The stranger’s scarred face was a pallid grey, and the only colour above his snarling vox-grille were the bloodshot eyes that glared out at Senoth.

The Black Legionnaire and his two companions stood before the main gateway of the silver tower, the arcane portal inert behind them after their entrance. Senoth watched the heralds, his own features hidden behind his own helm, before he slowly gauged the reactions of his fellow Sorcerors gathered around the orrery. Ktesis seemed deep in contemplation, his head twitching once or twice as he listened to the whispered counsel of the Neverborn; Mandrazura was as unmoving as a statue, though even his heavy Terminator plate could not hide the disdain that radiated from his soul; Hasturos gripped his staff in both hands, seemingly readying himself to sunder Abaddon’s heralds with spellcraft at a moment’s notice.

It was Medea– the only non-Astartes in the room– who broke the silence, taking an aggressive step towards the heralds, the armour of her crimson battle plate whirring as as its servos tensed. “And just who in the hells are you,” she hissed, “to make demands of us?”

The herald’s reddened eyes locked with Medea’s for a brief second, before they flicked back towards Senoth. “Keep your mortal pet on a leash, sorceror,” he said dismissively, “or I may have to break it.”

Senoth sensed the reactionary buildup of sorcerous energy in Medea seconds before blue fire radiated from her left eye, casting her enraged features in the light of flickering warpflame. That same warpflame erupted from the head of her staff, ready to be unleashed.

Hold, Senoth sent the thought to Medea. Now is not the time to unleash your anger. Not yet. At this, the warpflame that Medea had summoned died out, though Senoth could still feel the anger burning from his Practicus at the insult.

“Hmph.” It was Zanakht who stepped forward now, the miniature brass orrery on the tip of his staff whirling in a perpetual cosmic dance in mirror to the larger one that dominated the room. “The question does bear answering, however, even if it did come from a mortal’s lips. What makes you think you can come before the Sons of Magnus and issue demands of us? We are not of your legion, nor are we bound to your commands. You have a lot of gall, lapdog.”

The herald remained unmoved. He was no sorceror, as far as Senoth could tell, and bore no significant warp-borne gifts that he could see; the two Legionnaires that flanked him, bolters held at the at ready, were no more remarkable. The three heralds were but ordinary Astartes, yet they weremaking demands of a coven of powerful Sorcerors who could annihilate the three of them with but a gesture. A lot of gall indeed.

“It is not I who makes these demands,” the herald replied gruffly. “It is the Despoiler who issues this command, and I speak with his voice.”

It was Mandrazura who chose that moment to reply. “We are not the lackeys of your Despoiler,” the warrior of the Sekhmet grunted, his gruffness matching that of the herald of Abaddon. “We bend knee only to the Crimson King, not to Horus Lupercal’s bastard.”

The herald turned to regard Mandrazura, and despite his impassive features, Senoth heard a dry chuckle emerge from that vox-grille of his. “Then run to your father, if you must, warlock,” he said. “Run, and tell Magnus the Red how you were insulted. But know as well that the summons of the Despoiler is not one to be ignored, and even the Crimson King cannot shield you from his wrath. Your sorcerous abilities will either aid us against the Imperials on Vigilus, or they will fuel the war-forges of the Vengeful Spirit as you spend the rest of your days in chains. One way or another, you will aid us in the war effort.”

Senoth felt a surge of collective anger from his brother sorcerors at that point, their souls radiating with brimming power. They were ready to smite these Black Legionnaires down for their temerity. But there was something underneath all of this anger that he could sense as well: fear. They all were afraid, deep down inside, that this Black Legionnaire wasn’t bluffing: that even if they killed him, the rest of the Black Legion would hunt them down for this act.

Senoth knew he wasn’t bluffing: the utter devastation that Abaddon the Despoiler had visited upon warbands that defied him was legendary. For all of their collective power, Senoth and his brothers could not hope to stand against the militarized wrath of the Black Legion. And he also knew, with a sick certainty, that if it ever came to that, their gene-father would not even try to protect them.

“We accept,” he said. He could hear the hushed, disbelieving curses of his brothers behind him, and chose to ignore them. “We will go to Vigilus, and cast ruin upon the servants of the False Emperor.” He gestured to the arched, rune-encrusted gateway at the end of the room. “You may tell the Despoiler as such upon your return.”

The herald grunted. “Be there within nine days,” he said. “or we shall have this meeting again. Believe me, sorceror, you will not want that.” And with that, he turned away from the orrery, flanked by his two bodyguards, and strode back towards the portal with the confident stride of someone for whom everything had happened as expected. Senoth made a circular gesture with one hand, and the portal winked into existence, briefly casting the room in the nightmarish insanity of the Great Ocean. The Black Legionnaires strode into the portal without breaking stride, and then they were gone, the portal flickering closed in their wake.

The moment the Black Legionnaires were gone, the collective tension that the Thousand Sons had been holding onto was unleashed…and, as expected, it was all unleashed in Senoth’s direction. “You cannot be serious, Magister!” Hasturos spat. “You would have us bend the knee to the Despoiler, just like that?”

“Abaddon is the chosen instrument of the Pantheon,” Ktesis intoned, his voice melodious despite its cracked timbre. “This includes the Great Architect, to whom we are all beholden.”

“The Despoiler is NOT our liege, chosen instrument or not,” Mandrazura seethed. “I will not become his vassal!”

“Nor shall you be, brother.” Senoth replied calmly, turning to Mandrazura to ease his choler. “The last thing I would do to you…to any of you…is to sell you into bondage to Ezekyle Abaddon, no matter how powerful he may be.”

Medea frowned. “But you just said–“

“That we would go to Vigilus and aid in the battle there. Yes, that is what I told the herald,” Senoth said, turning to his Practicus. “But we are not going there because Abaddon demanded it of us. We are going because our quest for knowledge will take us there.”

With that, Senoth gave a wave of his hand. In an instant, the orrery floating before them changed, the sorcerous images of the constellations and spheres changing to a flickering topographical map of a vast, bleak planetscape covered by an almost cancerous layer of hive-city sprawl. Upon this map, numerous tiny fires were visible across those cityscapes, the images of a warzone in real time. This was no mere picter-image upon a computer screen, but a fully three dimensional map, so real the observer could even reach out and touch its dust and ash-ridden surface.

“I have had Ktesis scry the unfolding situation upon Vigilus,” he said, “and he discovered something interesting. There are numerous caches of lore stored within select cathedra in Hyperia Hivesprawl.” As he spoke, the view narrowed in one one of the continent-sized masses, and select regions began to glow in a hazy blue light. “Pre-Imperial lore, all pending examination and eventual incineration by the Corpse-worshippers of the Ministorum. Is that not correct, Ktesis?”

Ktesis tented his fingers as though in prayer. “Nine times nine invocations have I made, beseeching the Neverborn and sifting lies from truth,” he said, as though in a trance. “The book-burners of the Ministorum were keeping ancient lore on hand– ancient texts they deemed profane to their creed. The only thing that safeguards these troves of knowledge is the fact that the forces of the Ministorum have been diverted and scattered by the war that now rages on their doorstep.”

Many of the gathered sorcerors took a collective gasp. There were few things that the Thousand Sons prized more than knowledge: the older and more esoteric, the better. To have so much ancient lore there, on Vigilus, ripe for the taking…

“If it is as Ktesis says and there are pre-Imperial texts on Vigilus,” Zanakht spoke, “then…Magister…could it be there?”

Senoth knew of what Zanakht spoke: a particularly ancient tome, from the earliest days of humanity, long lost to the annals of history and fable. This tome was one that Senoth had been questing after for millennia, so great was its import, he believed, to humanity as a whole.

“I do not know,” he said, “but I intend to find out. If nothing else, I intend to retrieve and safeguard these tomes before the conflagration of war claims them. Our species has already lost too much priceless knowledge to barbarity, and I will not allow either the Imperials or our cousins of the other legions to destroy these remnants.”

He paused, allowing this statement to sink in to his brethren, before he finally concluded. “And if nothing else,” he said, “Ktesis has confirmed one other thing: the Wolves are present upon Vigilus.”He felt raw hatred suddenly boil to life in his brothers’ souls at the mention of their ancient enemy. It was a hatred he shared, and felt just as keenly. “Their packs are operating in Hyperia Hivesprawl, along with the warriors of the Adeptus Custodes. So, brothers, if we go to Vigilus, then if nothing else, we may be able to visit some vengeance for Prospero while we’re there.”

He heard more than one whisper of “vengeance” and “Tizca” murmured among the assembled Sorcerors. They had all been there, when the legion had invaded the Fenris system in force; Senoth and his brothers had fought the Wolves on their homeworld, and visited ruin, desolation and mutation upon their people and upon their landscapes. And as satisfying as it was…it wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t ever be enough.

“Assemble your thralls, brothers,” Senoth commanded. “Vigilus awaits.”

******

So, recently, one of my local game stores, Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto, has opened its doors to gaming again, much to the rejoicing of myself and all of my fellow 40k players. With the reopening of these doors came the announcement of a Crusade league, with all participants submitting 50PL rosters, and games starting off at 25PL before eventually growing towards 50PL. And while the crusade league would only be running for five weeks, there was talk that it might extend beyond that.

I was quite excited by this news and joined almost immediately. Crusade is a game mode that I have been itching to try since 9th edition first came out, as its emphasis on narrative gaming, and on units ranking up, gaining experience, abilities and even flaws, really spoke to the story-based gamer in me. It is a game mode where actually winning seems secondary to letting your force grow and evolve, and to mini-stories of heroism, failure, revenge and advancement all being told. I decided that the Crusade would also be the perfect opportunity to start using my fledgling Thousand Sons force: I had already fought the Siege of Hod’s Anvil campaign a while back with my Drukhari, and fought the pre-Covid escalation league with my Sisters of Battle, so I figured it was my heretics’ turn for a campaign.

For my roster, I took the following:

THE CRIMSON SCRIBES, a thrallband of the Thousand Sons

Subfaction: Cult of Time

Akhenatu Senoth (Exalted Sorceror)- Disc of Tzeentch, Prosperine khopesh, Athenean Scrolls, Weaver of Fates, Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Immaterial Echo
Sectae Hasturos (5 Rubric Marines)- soulreaper cannon, Icon of Flame, Sorceror w. Doombolt
Sectae Zhamat (5 Rubric Marines)- soulreaper cannon, Icon of Flame, Sorceror w. Temporal Surge
Sectae Medea (5 Rubric Marines)- 4 warpflamers, Icon of Flame, Sorceror w. Pyric Flux
The Children of T’Char (10 Tzaangor)- brayhorn, herd banner
Sectae Abydos (5 Scarab Occult Terminators)- soulreaper cannon, helfyre missile rack, Sorceror w. Presage
Brother Apophis (Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought)- multi-melta, Contemptor chainfist, plasma blaster, Cyclone missile launcher
The Forgotten (Chaos Spawn)
The Forsaken (Chaos Spawn)

Total Power Level: 49

Starting Requisition: 3 (2 spent ahead of the campaign on Senoth’s relic and warlord trait)

For this roster, the general idea was to take a lot of small squads of Rubric Marines that could all be fit into a 25PL list, with room to remove one or two squads if need be to take something heavier like the Contemptor instead. While I did end up spending a lot of power on my Sorceror, I figured a mobile spellcaster who was also semi-decent in a fight would help me a lot in low point games. There were a lot of units as well that I was curious enough to experiment with, particularly the two singular Spawn and the Contemptor, which I gave a very generalist combination of weapons as opposed to the dual volkite build you see in almost every single Thousand Sons list. Oh yes, and some Tzaangor, who were mainly thrown in to fill points and to camp on objectives and nothing else (sorry Tzaangor, I want you to be good, buuuuut you’re not)

While this roster would primarily be fielded for fun and for building up an interesting narrative, the Crusade would also be an opportunity for me to get some more painting done on my Thousand Sons. A lot of my units– in particular my Spawn and my Tzaangor– remained unpainted at the time of starting the crusade, and a lot of my existing Rubric and Terminator units needed improvement. As of late, between relentless work hours and binging things on Netflix (I mean come on, Arcane wasn’t going to watch itself), I had found it difficult to focus on painting in any capacity. That being said, I did get a start on some of the (many) Tzaangor in my collection,, converted up two Chaos Spawn from some Age of Sigmar Nighthaunt bits, and get to work some much-needed improvements to my existing Rubric Marine and Terminator models.

Some thoughts on this whole process, for those interested in painting or playing Thousand Sons:

  • Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult Terminators look amazing…but they also impossible to batch paint. The fact that they have so many fiddly little details means you have to give care and attention to each model, which can be infuriating if you are painting on a deadline.
  • If you got any of the start collecting boxes, then Tzaangor will multiply. Go with a nice, easy colour scheme for them where possible
  • Contrast paints are handy, but can also come on really splotchy if you lay them down too heavily. This is double true when you are applying Contrast over metallics
  • If you have a fancy method of, say, rolling Green Stuff tiles onto a base, then make sure you have that bright idea BEFORE you glue any of your models to said bases, as trying to remove them again can be a pain.
  • A magical glowing blue is harder than it sounds to get right.

With all of that said, here are some of the minis from my Thousand Sons force:

Some of my Rubric Marines. I went with a classic red and gold colour scheme to evoke the Thousand Sons’ pre-heresy colours (partly so that I could feasibly, maybe, field some of these guys as actual heresy-era Thousand Sons when the new Horus Heresy game comes along). The one thing I still want to get right with these guys, though, is to try to perfec the blending of the blue on their tabards and glowy jewel bits.

Some of my Scarab Occult Terminators, still very much a work in progress. Again, the trickiest thing is actually painting the blue of their tabards so that it flows nicely from dark to light.
My main wizard, Akhenatu Senoth, riding upon his Disc of Tzeentch. I am actually very happy with how he has turned out so far, and he is probably one of my favourite models in the army (at least, until I get both my Daemon Prince and Ahriman finished) Fluffwise, I have the general idea that he is on a self-imposed quest to recover all of the lost works of literature from humanity’s past, and preserve them on Sortiarus. Woe betide any ignorant fools who decide to get in his way…
My Contemptor Dreadnought, Brother Apophis, gitted out for proper melee rather than any of this volkite spam nonsense. My other favourite model of the army, I am really pleased with how he has turned out so far; he just needs some highlighting, I think, and maybe have the gemstones on his hull brightened up. I would also try inscribing little golden spell runes on his armour, but then I am not nearly insane enough to try freehand.
Last but by no means least, one of my Aspiring Sorcerors, Medea. The model is based off of Sister Pemutatia by Artel W (though as they are a Russian company, good luck getting any models from them while the war in Ukraine is going on), and I really liked the idea of a Chaos-ified Sister of Battle now serving Tzeentch. I have no fluff for her at the moment, other than that she is a former Battle Sister who fell to Chaos after her latent psychic powers awoke, and now serves as the practicus (read: student, essentially) to Senoth.

Anyway, some reports from the Crusade league are going to be posted soonish, so keep scrying, dear readers!

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