The dew drops slid gently from the tip of the banar tree leaves, their muffled landing heralding the first rays of sunshine. The morning mist lazily began its daily ritual of fading before the oncoming warmth of Lelithar's sun. The occasional rustle in the fallen leaves indicated that a few restless local fauna were stirring from their reverie. The settlement of Mirad's Folly slept in peaceful oblivion, protected on three sides by tall lush mountains. The northern most perimeter of the vast agri-settlement continued in to a rolling plain, providing the only easy access to the rest of the planet Lelithar, the planetary capital of its namesake system. Standard construct living quarters were scattered indiscriminately, any semblance at organised planning long lost, separated by narrow streets and the occasional public house. Large brooding grain silos were concentrated in the northern reaches of the vast settlement, watching the inhabitants like titans on guard duty. To the west, large warehouses took up the space, likely containing machine shops, store houses and other repair facilities, supporting the general productivity of the inhabitants. A few wisps of smoke began to emanate from scattered households, indicating the awakening of those inhabitants. To all intents and purposes this was no different than millions of similar agri-settlements scattered around the galaxy.
The apparent tranquillity of Mirad's Folly would no doubt easily deceive the casual traveller and the unwary. However the astute observer would not easily mistake the tell tale oil streaks that were evident on the walls of the silos and warehouses. Dripping down from the roofs of these buildings were dark streaks of oil mixed with slime and dirt which would not stand close scrutiny. The unusually high position of the oil streaks, suggested the presence of mechanical equipment high upon the walls and roofs. The roads themselves, dirt tracks to be more accurate, were cleaved deeply with heavy ruts, a testimony to the regular arrival of heavy vehicles. The broken windows and makeshift tarpaulin covers, while adding to the sense of dilapidation, also served to hide the presence of the hidden watchmen. Perhaps this was not necessarily the tranquil settlement, or perhaps the locals were simply being careful in these perilous times. One such man, his face hidden behind a dark hood watched the skies through an ocular device that was well out of place within the confines of the outdated equipment scattered about. His vision, enhanced by the technological wizardry of the device in his hand, revealed the presence of four comets streaking down through the atmosphere. The objects were falling rapidly, their speed and atmospheric friction raising the surrounding temperature to thousands of degrees, causing condensation to vaporise as they descended. Majestically, maintaining their distance from one another, like birds of prey with a singular purpose, like chariots of fire, they descended through the upper atmosphere.
Smiling wryly, the observer muttered to himself "So it begins".
Four thunderhawk gunships thundered at supersonic speeds through the atmosphere of the planet Lelithar. They were performing a powered atmospheric re-entry at full speed, having exited the hangar bays of the strike cruiser "Sanctus Mortis". Sporting the battle colours of the Angels of Absolution chapter, the strike cruiser had entered the outer atmosphere of the planet to release the thunderhawks, reducing the time of their exposure within the thick atmosphere. Two were coloured in deep green livery with large white winged swords proudly emblazoned upon their adamantium hulls. The other two were coloured bone white, and wore the white skull on a single black wing insignia with equal pride. Anyone who saw these four beasts of prey descending towards their targets would have been in no doubt that the Unforgiven had arrived to do the emperor's bidding.
The leading gunship buffeted about slightly as the pilot made corrections to compensate for the heat induced vapour trail. Code named Angelus I, it was the command gunship of the flight of four. The pilot called out as a matter of fact, "Two minutes to touch down, honoured Grandmaster"
In the back of every thunderhawk there lie a number of facilities. Highly regarded amongst these is the emperor's shrine, where each member of the accompanying force would meditate and give their thanks to the emperor and the primarch on the eve of battle. A figure arose from its kneeling position at the shrine. The rise was accompanied by the almost silent rise of thirty more men. The tall man, imposing even by the standards of the enhanced physique of space marines, was covered in a robe. The bone white robe extended up to his head and covered it as a hood. A flash of deep blue armour could be seen underneath the swirling robes. A large, rune encrusted sword lay by his side, sheathed in an antiquated scabbard. Complex wires and tubes lead from the force weapon to the librarian's armour and ended in inserts on his head and face plate. The face plate covered half his face, though no one present knew or dared ask the events that lead to it being there. The man, doubtlessly the leader of this group, slowly opened his eyes, and spoke to another by his side.
"Are the men prepared, Master Sheol?"
"The men are honoured for being chosen for this task. They are ready to do their duty, for the lion and the emperor!"
"Sixty seconds to touch down" the pilot interrupted calmly. "Arm weapons, suppression fire on demand, pattern delta-four"
"Then you may tell them that this day may bring us that much closer to redemption" continued the librarian. "Confirm combat status of angelus two, three and four! Specify confirmation of potential class fortitude magna interference." he directed the pilot, who activated the communications runes to confirm with the other three thunderhawks.
"Grandmaster Azadael confirms! The lion be praised!"
Class fortitude interference was the coded signal for potential intrusion by friendly forces during Dark Angel operations. The Magna adjective meant the presence of loyalist space marine contingents. They had received intelligence reports of a contingent of the space marines belonging to the Relictors chapter deployed to the north of Mirad's Folly. They were in an ideal position to cover the only exit from the valley, and therefore protect the rear of the Angels of Absolution. Yet, combined operations was not possible in this case, the stakes were too high. They had hoped that the Relictors contingent would remain where they were, though what their mission was, no one seemed to know.
"Thirty seconds to touch down! Brace for impact landing!"
Master Sheol looked over the thirty men of his beloved fourth company. Resplendent in the deep green armour of the Dark Angels chapter, he had with him a squad each of tactical, assault and devastator marines. Each squad lead by a veteran sergeant with the emblem of Deathwing on his person. He knew that they were eager with anticipation. This would be a different mission. He turned to face the librarian and said
"The men are ready! May the lion watch over you, Grandmaster Ezekiel!"
The verdant tranquillity of Mirad's Folly was shattered with an apocalyptic suddenness as the four thunderhawks re-entered subsonic speed and brought themselves to land within a matter of seconds, accompanied by the protesting high pitched whine of retro-thrusters. The skill of the pilots was evidenced by the ease with which they landed the two green thunderhawks squarely within a stones throw of the southern most building. Hardly had the gunship touched down, with the ramps open, the thirty men contained within had disembarked and fanned out. The tactical squad fanning out to form a firing line, while the assault squad triggered their jump packs to move eastwards and create interlocking fields of fire. The devastators remained where they were, aiming their lethal weapons at potential targets. A rhino armoured carrier rolled out from the second gunship followed closely by two more tactical squads and then both lifted off, their guns swivelling towards the settlement in anticipation.