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The Buried Dagger is number 54 in the Horus Heresy series of Warhammer 40,000 novels, written by James Swallow. It tells two tales simultaneously: the fall of Mortarion to Nurgle via the machinations of Typhus (with flashbacks to their time on Barbarus), and missions of the Knights Errant on Terra on behalf of Malcador (in the build-up to the Siege of Terra).
Nearly the entirety of the book is relevant to Nurgle, either through the Death Guard or through the foes faced by the Knights Errant, and its full contents are not reproduced here. Instead, these extracts give some specific context for certain individual characters (Ussax) or groups (House Zegenda):
Without warning, the primary hatch leading into the bridge deck irised open and Captain Typhon strode in.
Stumbling behind him came a cluster of bony figures in robes, their heads covered by black hoods of sackcloth, their wrists and ankles bound in heavy phase-iron manacles. Hadrabulus Vioss and another of Typhon's Grave Wardens herded the prisoners, prodding them forward with the barrels of their bolters.
Typhon twisted off his horned helmet with one hand and mag-clamped it to his armour's thigh-plate, his gaze catching the querulous look in Morarg's eye. 'Where is he?'
Morarg hazarded a look towards the observatorium. 'The primarch left orders not to be disturbed-'
But the First Captain was already marching towards the other door, gesturing for Vioss to follow. 'Bring the collaborators,' he growled. 'Mortarion must witness this himself.'
Morarg went after them, as Typhon opened the hatch and strode into the dimness beyond. Vioss gave him a warning glare, but said nothing.
Following the group in, the equerry got his first good look at the hooded prisoners and recognised the thick, ornately detailed threading on the sleeves of their robes. The braids varied on each of them, some woven with wire, others with velvet or silks. Each pattern of threads represented a secret rank within their complex dynastic hierarchy. As the observatorium hatch slid shut behind them, Morarg knew who it was that Typhon had clapped in irons.
These were the ship's telepathic Navigators, dragged from the sealed sanctuary of their isolation chambers elsewhere aboard the Terminus Est. Only their kind were capable of steering starships through the inchoate insanity of warp space, their minds uniquely conformed by gene-manipulation and millennia of selective breeding to blot out the turbulent madness and sense the way between stars.
What illumination there was in the shuttered dome was bleed-through from the warp beyond the great baffles locked in place, thin razors of mutilated light cast through millimetre-thin gaps between the metal barriers and their frames. It gave the atmosphere in the chamber a waxen and unpleasant quality.
'What is the meaning of this?' Morarg directed the question at Vioss, but the Grave Warden ignored him.
Ahead, Typhon sketched a bow as Mortarion turned from the shadows to see who had violated his seclusion. 'My lord. You bid me to find an answer for our predicament.' He swept his hand towards the shackled Navigators. 'Behold the quintessential devils in these matters.'
Vioss reached forward and tore the hood from one of the prisoners. Morarg watched the aged mutant hunch forward, hands raised to cover his face and protect his third eye.
Mortarion rose to his full height and glowered at his officers. 'My equerry asked you a question. Answer him. Explain this.'
'The Navis Nobilite have betrayed us, my lord,' said Typhon, casting his accusation into the air. 'I did not speak of this before, as I was not certain, but during my time in separation from the rest of our forces, I came to suspect that the Navigators on the Terminus Est and my other ships were acting in concert. Against my will.'
'Not so!' piped the unmasked man, daring to speak. 'Please, Captain Typhon, my house has served your Legion for decades, we are oath-bound to obey your orders!' Morarg recognised the braids of seniority upon this one, marking him as the ship's Navio Primus.
Like the Navigators aboard every ship in the Death Guard fleet, he was a scion of House Zegenda, who had been bonded in perpetuity to Mortarion's patronage by Imperial fiat as a gift from the Emperor - a bond so strong that not even the rebellion of His sons had severed it.
'In the Paternova's name!' cried the Navigator. 'Blind my Eye, I swear it!'
Typhon ignored the interruption. 'I lost vessels in the warp. A sad reality of interstellar travel across galactic distances, to be sure. But it began to happen with regularity... And now I curse myself to think that I did not act on this suspicion sooner.'
'No!' said the Navigator. 'Any ships lost have been to the predations of the ethereal, not through deliberate acts!' He seemed aghast at the idea. 'No son or daughter of Zegenda would ever deliberately guide a vessel to wreck and ruin! It is unthinkable-'
Vioss stepped forward and clubbed the Navigator to the deck with the butt of his bolter. Morarg heard bones break as he rebounded off the plasteel floor and lay there, panting.
'The Navigators do not take sides,' Mortarion intoned.
'They have now.' Typhon removed something from a pouch on his belt and held it up between the thumb and forefinger of his gauntleted hand. A white gemstone, it glittered and caught the chamber's ill light. A strange haze faded into being around the jewel and defined itself into patterns of arcane symbols.
'Psionic glyphs,' offered Vioss. 'Encoded upon hololithic diamonds.'
Typhon handed the jewel to his commander. 'My specialists found them on every vessel we searched. I received reports from Ussax, Blathlok and a dozen others. The same gems, each time hidden in the Navis Sanctorum. The same words encoded upon them all.'
'What does it say?' Mortarion's words were grave. 'You can decipher this witch-speak, Calas. Tell me!'
Typhon's expression became equally severe. 'It is a communique from your father's regent, Malcador the Sigillite. He tells them that the nobles of House Zegenda have sworn fealty to the Emperor and all her children are so bound. He tells them they are to ignore whatever course the Death Guard give them and take us instead to the Falkurien Maw.'
'The Maw is a killing void,' said Morarg. 'A supermassive black hole surrounded by a molten accretion disc one and a half million kilometres wide.'
'From which we would never escape,' said Typhon. 'Yes. This is what sent the sickening effect through our fleet. It was the metapsychic backwash of a concerted effort to misguide us to our deaths.'
'No, no, no...' whimpered the Navigator. 'We felt the effect, yes, but it did not come from us. It came from the warp itself! Our course is...' He slurred the words. 'Our course is true.'
'A lie.' Typhon glanced down at the figure cowering on the deck. 'Your telepathic spoor is upon the stone. You communed with it.' He looked back at Vioss and gave a nod. 'I will not allow you to keep the Death Guard from its destiny.'
Vioss whispered something into his vox, and then there was a ripping crash of gunfire as the two Grave Wardens blasted the captive Navigators into bloody rags.
The shock of the act struck Morarg silent, and even the Reaper of Men was briefly taken aback. Then he was looming over the First Captain, seething with fury. 'Have you lost all reason? Without them, this ship will be becalmed in this hell! Do you realise what you have done?'
Typhon smiled, and an icy chill washed over the equerry to see it. Yes, he knows, thought Morarg. He knows exactly what he has done.
'I have saved us,' said Typhon. 'The treacherous Navigators are dead. All of them, my lord. On every ship. Executed, in this instant.'
Mortarion grabbed Typhon by the neck ring of his battleplate, on the cusp of striking his First Captain in open anger. 'Then you have doomed us all!'
'No.' Typhon echoed the tone of the dead Navigator. 'We can still travel onward, my lord, and this time we will go where we need to. I will see to it. My men will see to it. Ussax, Blathlok, all of them. We can guide the fleet.' He tapped a finger on his forehead, where a scion of the Navis Nobilite would have their psychic third eye, their manner of seeing into the paths of the infinite. 'My mind is strong enough. The Terminus Est will lead the way.'
'What choice do we have but to do so?' Mortarion released him and stepped back, his manner growing cold. 'You should not have acted without my approval. You have been your own master too long, Typhon! You forget yourself.'
'I did only what was necessary,' said the First Captain, keeping his tone neutral. 'If I had delayed, the Navigators would have moved against us. They had to be killed in the same moment, so no alarm could be sent.' He paused. 'I will guide us to our deliverance, Mortarion. I promise you that.'
'What have you done?' breathed Mortarion. 'If there is any of the comradeship still in you that we once shared, tell me why you have trapped us here.'
'I regret I had to lie to you,' Typhon admitted. 'But it is better this way. The Navigators were plotting, that was true, but not as I led you to believe. Killing them ended a threat before it was fully formed, and allowed me to bring you here. To see the Grandfather's bounty first hand.'
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