Author's Notes: Okay, here we finally get introduced to the main Covenant characters for this story. A Brute Captain and a Elite Spec Ops Commander. In addition we get introduced to the Silent Cartographer of the Seventh Installation. Also I've changed the name of the Chaos Lord to Vastakel Khyre, since it sounds cooler to me.


Three days after the Chaos landings-three miles south of the Unyielding Flame

Garaktus roared his battle-cry as he opened up with his plasma rifle into the horde of human-like things that charged towards the Covenant positions on the hillside. His warriors responded in the traditional Jiralhanhae war-cries as they added fire from their Spikers and Brute shots, felling dozens upon dozens of the humans as they came.

Garaktus had fought the humans before at the behest of the Prophets many times. But never had he seen this strange form of human. For one thing none of them were normal humans at all, instead possessing a variety of extra limbs, fangs or scaled skin, as if they were mutated in some sort of strange fashion. Unlike the humans that Garaktus was accustomed to fighting, these humans were not clad in any kind of uniform. Instead they wore rags of some kind. They wielded a strange sort of laser and solid shot weaponry among a wide array of knives, cleavers and swords.

And unlike the humans that Garaktus was accustomed to facing these humans seemed to have little sense of tactics, seemingly charging up into the Covenant lines with the same sort of fanaticism that Garaktus had seen only in the most devout warriors of the Prophets. They kept on chanting a series of four phrases over and over again. Garaktus had no idea were these humans had come from, up until three days ago he was leading his warriors from the Unyielding Flame to scout the ruins of the ancients on the Sacred Ring. Like all of the Jiralhanhae in the fleet he had been excited to finally claim one of the Halos. But now that excitement was souring as the humans laid their feet upon the world.

Garaktus led Varsivus Assault Pack, thirty of his favorite killers in their blue-violet armor. Among them all Garaktus himself was the only one who wielded a plasma rifle, the rest using their traditional spikers and grenade launching brute shots. Under them were roughly two hundred Unggoy and Kig-yar dug in in a series of hills west of the Unyielding Flame.

The humans has descended from the skies in great drop ships, hundreds of them spilling out in great mobs carrying massive banners shaped into runes that hurt Garaktus's eyes. They had immediately converged on the position of the Covenant, like a bloodhound tracking a scent. The Unggoy added their weapons to the fire, plasma pistols firing in unison. The Kig-yar moved together creating a linked shield wall in which their snipers began to take a heavy toll on the human invaders.

But still it was not enough.

Occasionally the humans would return fire. Several Unggoy fell near Garaktus, their bodies pierced by las-fire or by bullets. A few auto-rounds impacted off his chest plate but Garaktus shrugged it off, thanking the Prophets for allowing his unit to he outfitted with the earliest models of Jiralhanhae armor. He looked up, switching out the cell on his plasma rifle as the humans approached. Up close now the Jiralhanhae captain could see their bestial warped faces, covered with tattoos of an eight-pointed star and other strange runes.

''Varsivus!'' he roared.

''Stand fast!'' his warriors responded with a resounding cheer.

Good, thought Garaktus, if the Jiralhanhae stood then the weak-blooded Unggoy and the cowardly Kig-yar would as well. He brought up his plasma rifle, firing off several more shots at the charging mass of humanity before his rifle hissed and halted when it started to overheat. Garaktus instead brought out a broad-bladed cleaver knife at his side and prepared for close combat. The humans hit the Covenant lines like a tidal wave against a Rock. The Jiranhanhae stood form, using their spiker's attached blades or drawing broad-bladed knives for close quarters. Despite the humans fanaticism the Jiralhanhae were still bigger and stronger. The Unggoy were having a harder time of it, not used to close-quarters firefight, whole the Kig-yar's shields served them well.

Garaktus was ecstatic. He had never fought humans were seemed to want to close to grips in hand to hand before. Finally, he was facing a real foe. His knife lashed out, cleaving through the neck of a scrawny tattooed man while his fist crushed the skull of a snake-headed woman with one blow. He brought his knife around and gotten some sort of twin headed thing. Someone fired an autopistol point blank and he grunted as he took the bullet in the gut. But the weapon was low-caliber and did not even penetrate his stomach plating. He rewarded the human by smashing his knife through their skull and wrenching it out. A cleaver thudded into his knee and a spider-like creature leapt on his back, trying to strangle him. His massive hands grabbed the strange mutant and flung it away into the mass as he brought his knife around, decapitating another mutant.

Another mutant brought an axe around trying to strike at Garaktus's head. It never connected. Baractus, one of his Pack warriors, blew the mutant back with a shot from his spiker before laying in with spiker and knife. Garaktus roared in pleasure, letting his instincts take over. His enormous muscles bunched as he lashed out, crushing skulls and slicing off limbs wherever he went. In one hand he retrieved his plasma rifle and fired it point blank, blasting mutants.

Then there came a bestial roar that answered his own and a hulking shape stepped out from the ranks of the mutants. It was a grotesquely swollen human dressed in green robes. It's skin was scaly like a snake, and it's head was shaped like some sort of beast with a pair of large curling horns. In it's forehead was tattooed a gold eight-pointed star. It looked at him with eyes of balefire and carried a large chain-toothed axe.

Baractus came forward, firing his spiker at the mutant champion. The human stumbled back, blood flying from his body, but whatever mutation had affected his hide made it far tougher than normal skin and he straightened up. The Axe roared to life as the chain blades spun and the weapon buried it in the torso armor of Baractus, carving a deep furrow through the chestplate. Baractus snarled and tried to whip the champion upside the head with his pistol, but the mutant leader caught it and buried his chainaxe in the throat of the Jiranhanhae. As Baractus fell, blood streaming from his wound, Garaktus roared in anger and shoulder slammed the mutant champion back. The chainaxe flew from the leader's grip as Garaktus wrestled him to the ground, trying to strangle the mutant.

The champion choked, opening it's mouth to reveal row upon row of fangs. Garaktus smashed his head into the champion's face, breaking it's nose and smashing it's teeth. After several shakes there was a distinctive snap and the mutant was dead. Garaktus roared and picked up the body before throwing it as far as he could. There was a cry of distress from the massed cultists around him as he picked up his plasma rifle again. Nostrils flaring he dove in again.

Over the head of the ridge a hundred more Unggoy appeared, along with two hulking giants. Each metal armored giant had great spines protruding from their backs and they carried huge shields and Fuel Rod Guns.

They led a charge directly into the thinning ranks of the cultists on the right flank. Cultists were simply vaporized by the Fuel Rod Guns or smashed to bits by the massive fists and bulk of the Lekgolo. Behind them the Unggoy followed, emboldened by the giants' presence. Caught between these two forces the cultists simply melted away. Howls of terror and defeat rose from the throats of the humans as the Jiralhanhae and the Lekgolo formed the two vices that broke the main body of the massed mutants.

As Garaktus cut down two more feeling humans he spotted a snake-like creature trying to slither away. He grunted and raised his plasma rifle sighting it on the fleeing creature. However before he could kill it an energy blade appeared out of thin air and skewered it. The snake-like mutant writhed at the end of the blade as the form of a Sangheili Spec Ops Commander reveled itself. Five more Sangheili de-cloaked around Garaktus as the Jiralhanhae's lips curled in disgust.

''Captain Garaktus,'' said Deras Zaramee. His lower jaws spread out in the Sangheili approximation of am amused grin. He flicked his sword to the side and cast away the dying mutant.

''Zaramee,'' Garaktus grunted. He disliked all Sangheili, but especially this pompous Spec Ops commander. ''Where you here all the time?'' he asked.

''No, tragically. However I was spared your clumsy efforts.'' Zaramee said in a dismissive tone. Garaktus felt his teeth clench together.

''You-''

''You have orders,'' Zaramee interrupted. ''The Ship Master and the Field Masters on the Sacred Ring want you to move out to Point Alpha-Six.'' he said.

''The Ruins of the Holy Ones north of here? Why?'' Garaktus asked.

''An offensive is forming, a large human host has been approaching the Unyielding Flame,'' Zaramee said. ''High command is still trying to find out what exactly is going on here.'' he kicked the corpse of a mutant.

''Obviously these aren't your normal humans'' the Sangheili said.

''They still die when you shoot them,'' Garaktus responded. ''If you have nothing more to say then I am leaving now.'' he finished curtly and brushed past the Sangheili.

''Jiralhanhae,'' Zaramee said rudely. ''Don't leave just yet. After all I've been assigned to accompany you.'' Garaktus turned at that news.

''That's right, you will soon have the continued pleasure of my company.'' Zaramee said sarcasticly It was obvious how little he felt of the Captain.

Garaktus groaned.

Prophets above. He thought. What can get worse?


Chaos Battleship-Mortis Invictus

Ralek stalked the corridors of Mortis Invictus, his thoughts running through his head. It had been three days since Apuat had first landed and earned glory on the ground of the Halo ring. After the Chaos Marines spearheaded landing zones on the artificial world the massed cultist hordes had descended from their landing craft to besiege the aliens. Most of the Astartes had been withdrawn to the orbiting ships, in preparation for the next series of strikes. The Chaos Lords aimed to break the xenos forces below with swift, powerful surgical strike on their command centers. Surely he thought, after three days we must strike soon.

He glanced about, turning into another corridor. The hallways of the Mortis Invictus were made of dark iron and smelled like rotten meat. In the shadows daemonic faces could be seen pulsing and writhing on the walls. In other corridors one could often hear low screams of strange beings. Countless slave-cultists patrolled the corridors, engaged upon a variety of tasks for their masters. Wherever Ralek walked they hastened to get out of his way while muttering words of praise and apology.

Eventually the Black Legionary came to the training area.

The area was over fifty meters in length, circular with high strands on the walls, places were the warriors of the Black Legion could look down from the stand-podiums to asses the combat skills of their warrior-brothers. A large eight-pointed star of Chaos forged from black iron dominated the ceiling. The floor of the area was a dull brown of old faded blood. n the center of the area Maskas and Keras where both clad in war-plate and dueling with chainswords. Both blades were deactivated, leaving their monomolecular teeth still, allowing the swords to be wielded as normal blades. Otherwise the chainblades would be damaged needlessly in a practice match.

Keras's Decapitator scarped off Maskas's shoulder guard as he failed to properly block a slash. The youngblood took time to parry Keras's next series of strikes as the older Astartes forced him back with a series of blows.

Maskas swept out one boot, trying to trip the older warrior. But Keras saw through the attempt and jumped over him before hammering his chainsword blade into the bare face of the youngblood, sending him sprawling.

As Maskas tried to rise, blood streaming from his broken nose as Keras brought his chainsword with a flourish at his throat. The tips of the blades lightly touched the younger Black Legionary's throat as Maskas's head was forced back.

''I yield,'' he said.

Keras grinned and withdrew his blade. ''A good effort, but ultimately failed, you are a thousand years too young to beat me.'' he boasted.

''Do you wish me to challenge you?'' asked Ralek as he stepped into the ring, his hand on the ornate hilt of Moonfang. Keras grinned and beckoned him over with his chainsword.

As Ralek prepared to attack he heard footsteps behind. He held up a hand and looked back, watching the form of a robed slave-cultist come up hesitantly, head bowed as he scraped along the floor. Ralek took in the symbols on his hood. He was Zaraphiston's.

''You better have a good reason for interrupting my fight,'' Ralek said. Normally is it were a common slave-warrior he would have slain them for such impudence. But the slaves of the Sorcerer where more important and he risked bringing down the Sorcerer's wrath.

''My lord requests your presence, new attack orders are being issued by Lord Dhar'leth in the name of the Despoiler and Lord Zaraphiston has requested honored Apuat accompany on his mission.'' the slave-cultist mewled.

''He wants us to babysit him eh?'' Keras chuckled to himself. Ralek silenced him with a glare and then turned to the form of Viskis in the shadows.

''Get the rest of Apuat ready for combat, I will meet with Zaraphiston.''

Ralek walked into Zaraphiston's divination rooms. Mounted in stone lectern to the sides were strange, glowing statues. In the darkness daemon-things leapt about and hissed. He growled, sending them scurrying away. He then emerged in the central divination rooms, a place where the Black Legion Sorcerer received his guests. It was a wide circular room, with runes of sorcery and change carved into the floor and walls in strange complex patterns.

Vasktakel was there, great and terrible in his terminator-armored bulk. Behind him were the hulking forms of two Justaerin Terminators, standing back, lightning claws retracted for the moment. Ralek dropped to his knees as his Lord turned to see him.

''Get up Ralek of Apuat.'' he ordered and the champion complied.

Next to Vasktakel was the form of Zaraphiston. He was dressed in rune-marked power armor, jet-black and trimmed with gold and silver. One shoulder guard was fashioned into the Eye of Horus while the other was in the symbol of Tzeentch. He wore gray robes threaded with silver runes over his form. He carried a bladed staff in the shape of an eye. His tall bladed helmet was off, revealing his pale, craggy features and short, close-cropped white hair. The Sorcerer's skin was a gray-white, with tiny black tattoos cracking over his temples and cheeks. His eyes were twin pools of balefire.

He smiled.

''Ah, Ralek, just in time for the news.'' he said pleasantly, his words honeyed and oiled.

''What does my lords require of me?'' he asked.

''I have recently had a vision, I have released portions of my soul to the warp, listening to the words of daemons. I have encountered very interesting things.'' Zaraphiston explained.

''Things that are vital to the conquest of this world,'' Vasktakel rumbled. ''I am personally leading the 27th Black Company in an offensive soon, all the warbands will soon land and seek to eradicate the xenos presence on this world.'' he started.

''We have located a number of targets to attack, however my Sorcerer has seen something special.''

''You see,'' Zaraphiston took over. ''I have been seeing strange things in the warp, a spark in the darkness, a map of this place. And through my divination I have seen a phrase coming from the threads of the future.'' he said.

''What is that?'' Ralek asked.

''The Silent Cartographer.'' Zaraphiston answered.

''What does that mean?'' the champion asked.

''We don't know,'' replied Vasktakel. ''But Zaraphiston here has confirmed whatever it is it is important, and the Black Legion must have it, I do not trust the machinations of the Word Bearers, or Typhus. This 'Cartographer' or whatever it is, belongs to Dhar'leth and myself'' he stated.

He pointed one armored finger at Ralek. ''Apuat has been selected with a number of other squads to follow Zaraphiston while he leads part of the warband to reclaim the object from the xenos. Do not fail me in this Ralek.'' he said, his voice laced with steel.

''I promise my lord, you will have this 'Silent Cartographer', or I will die trying.'' Ralek swore.


Dramatis Personae

The Black Legion

Vasktakel Khyre: Lord of the Black Legion 27th Black Company

Zaraphiston- Sorcerer of the Black Legion

Apuat Squad

Ralek-Champion of the squad

Viskis-Second in command

Haraketh-Fanatic of the squad

Keras-Close combat killer

Menathor-Ex-Iron Warrior, plasma gun wielder

Maskas- Most promising of the newbloods

Melek-Flamer of the squad

Covenant

Garatus- Jiralhanhae Ultra Captain

Deras Zaramee- Sangheili Spec Ops Commander