Gaunt is being pursued by a truckload of angry troopers from a rival regiment. The chase ends with Gaunt's vehicle barreling into an illegal gambling den where a large group of Ghosts are having a party with the booze they stole from local gangsters. He simply leaps from the vehicle, snatches a bottle out of a trooper's hand, downs a swig of sacra and says "Lads, I could use a hand!" Then the rival troopers charge in to find every gun in the room pointed at them.
Corbec and Larkin managed to curb stomp Inquisitor Heldane. Heldane had previously been shown as an incredibly intimidating psyker far above the lowly men of the Guard.
Larkin(after shooting Heldane in the neck): "Now we're leaving, right?"
Major Rawne, using a pillaged shrapnel-gun, annihilates Fereyd. This not only puts an end to him, but to his literal puppeteer, Inquisitor Heldane.
Fifty Ghosts manage to take out 300 Jantine heavy troops before being overrun
While not one for the goody guys - during the last stand of the Jantine Patricians Major Brochuss despite being attacked on both sides kills forty four Vitrian Dragoons before going down.
The Ghosts ambush a group of World Eater Chaos Marines who were, in turn, ambushing an Imperial tank group. Lampshaded by the commander of the regiment they saved: "Takes discipline to ambush an ambush".
After being fired upon by allied forces that were tricked by thegeneral of the Volpone Bluebloods into thinking they were firing on cultists, Gaunt walks into the man's office. The general starts mocking him about striking the officer that fired on him, saying that's a firing squad offense. Gaunt proceeds to have the regiment that fired on them (which they had saved earlier in the chapter and had created a close bond with) drive a Basilisk (a heavy artillery piece) through the gate of the command center and point it at the window. Gaunt then makes it very clear that murder is committable and any deaths will likely be put down to the chaos of war. He then tells the general to think about that before turning and walking out of the room.
Scout-Sergeant Mkoll destroyed a Chaos Dreadnought singlehandedly and then told the only trooper that witnessed it not to tell the rest. Not because it's secret, but because it isn't important.
Mkoll (again), scouting ahead of the Tanith advance, survives run-ins with multiple squads of Chaos through Guns Akimbo action, sustaining several wounds.
The Royal Volpone have been pitted against the Ghosts repeatedly by manipulative commanders, but when a few volunteer Ghosts remain in a danger zone to guard some Volpone wounded, we're introduced to Ensemble Dark Horse Culcis of the Royal Volpone. He concedes that the differences between the Volpone and the Ghosts aren't as important as their shared goal. Despite being wounded, he takes it upon himself to be the Cold Sniper in Dorden's defense of the farm. Mkoll thinks that his eye is as good as Larkin's.
Trooper Caffran tricks an entire hive city of Khornate cultists into committing ritual suicide. This one doubles as Black Comedy, since Caffran didn't mean to win the battle - his squad was just harassing the enemy from behind their front lines.
Trooper Bragg uses his status as The Big Guy to trick a spy into bringing an entire army of brigands out into the open to get their just desserts. When the spy realizes he's been exposed and starts to draw a gun, Bragg delivers a One-Hit Kill with his fist.
Gaunt, Inquisitor Lilith, and Major Gilbear of the Royal Volpones meet up with a squad of Eldar, and they are all trying to figure out what they're going to do about the horde of Chaos troops attacking the Waygate. Gilbear tosses off an offensive remark about "alien scumbags", and Muon Nol (the acting Eldar commander, and just as touchy about his honor as Gilbear) raises his shrieker cannon to blast the stupid mon'keigh for his temerity. Before he fires, Gaunt tackles Muon Nol, then jumps up and decks Gilbear for being a dumbass. The awesome part is that Gaunt knocks down a heavily armed Scary Dogmatic Alien, then turns his back on him, and gets away completely unscathed.
A 60-man detachment of Ghosts and Volpone assigned as Inquisitor Lilith's bodyguard take out a Chaos force that outnumbers them at least 167 to 1, suffering only one casualty due to a ricochet. The incident was written out of Imperial records for being 'impossible'. The Imperial chroniclers could not know, and would have refused to believe, that the Guard was being aided by the substantial Psychic Powers of the Eldar.
The Royal Volpone turn up again, and Culcis appears again, now promoted to Major. During the First Storm, the Volpone are hit by the heaviest of the enemy assaults. Despite 70% casualties and the loss of his hand, Culcis manages to repel the attack.
The blood-soaked defense of Veveyr Gate shows the united force, and indomitable will, of the Guard.
The collapse of the initial defense, due to a local officer without experience panicking after communications break down, culminates in Gaunt's cold summarization of the man's failings. And a bullet.
Corbec and a young trooper named Genx are pinned down by enemy fire at Veyveyr. Genx is blasting away with his autocannon until an enemy las-round blows off his hand. When he sees the heat has cauterized the wound, he simply gets up without comment and starts loading the autocannon so Corbec can take over firing.
During the Zoicans' second push, Major Racine of the Vervun Primary, unable to reach his commanding officer (who spent most of the battle freaking out and generally being incompetent and ineffective), grabs as many explosives as he can and charges one of the enemy's heavily-armored siege tanks. Sadly he only makes it a few meters before he's shot through the head and falls...then the tank rolls over him and sets off the explosives he was carrying. The ensuing blast flips the tank over, making it easy prey for the Vervunhivers' own tanks.
A drug-addled civilian is causing a ruckus in one of the city medical facilities, so Dorden incapacitates him with a nerve pinch - a move explicitly said to be so precise that only Imperial assassins or a brilliant surgeon could pull it off.
Zoican tanks are tearing into Imperial Guard's forces, now that they've run out of anti-tank weapons. A team of guerilla fighters, former mine workers, devise a tactic with one minor downside: it's a Suicide Mission. One man for every tank.
"We have explosives, sir." said Soric, saluting again for a good measure. " Mining charges we lifted from the store behind the smelteries."
"Static charges with no launchers... against tanks?"
"It's how we've been doing so far, sir: a man takes a warp of charges and runs with it, anchors it to the tank hull— "
To get their only tank commander out of the local Secret Police compound (Grizmund was imprisoned for genuine but trivial insubordination), Gaunt and a few others end up in a brutal firefight with the local commissars.
Grizmund immediately validates this action by brutally thrashing the intruding enemy tank divisions.
Commissar Kowle's Heroic Sacrifice while fighting Sondar's Chaos Beast by letting it bite his arms off while he was holding a belt of primed grenades.
After the Citadel explodes, Gaunt plunges into a drunken depression. Major Rawne calls Gaunt out on that and demands some evidence that he's actually making a moral stand, rather than just self-destructing in despair.
The Tanith share this book with the Pardus tank regiments, showing that there are many, many Imperial Guard regiments out there that are competent badasses. At the Battle of Bhavnager, one company of Pardus heavy tanks (and a couple anti-aircraft platforms) attacked a village held by a Chaos tank force. They expected only an equal number of enemy tanks. They end up fighting a "division-strength" Chaos tank force (100+ tanks), including a super-heavy Baneblade. As the Pardus Company Commander thought to himself at the outset of the battle: "Forget "major engagement". This is going to be historic".
Major Kleopas, commander of the Pardus tankers, would later be killed in a battle where they faced over three hundred enemy tanks. His tank was hit by an anti-tank shell, killing his crew, setting him and the tank on fire, and severing his spine below the waist. He burned to death, but he died fighting, hitting and killing an archenemy tank despite being on death's door, and spitting his defiance.
Captain LeGuin, commander of a Pardus Tank Destroyer, also gets several CMOAs of his own. Several times, he was able to hide his massive tank destroyer so well that he fooled even Mkoll, the Ghost's chief scout. When LeGuin's tank was hit in the final battle, the Captain tried to escape his burning vehicle, only to realize that the hatch had been jammed. Grimly, the Captain sat back on his seat, and remain stoic even as he began to burn alive. Fortunately, Mkoll quickly comes to the rescue, unjamming the hatch and rescuing LeGuin.
Captain LeGuin was so calm and collected that he actually took the time to give his tank a proper goodbye before he bailed out of his ruined tank.
Scout Mkvenner, out of ammo, holds off a horde of Blood Pact in an ugly corridor fight with nothing more than an empty lasgun.
Adere and Doyl going active during the infiltration mission when their cover is blown.
First and Only! First and fething Only!
Scout Sergeant Mkoll is the sole survivor from his dropship. To complete the assassination of an enemy warlord, Mkoll climbs along a half-meter-wide span along the side of the mountain hab-dome over the course of a day (in acid fog and with mutant predators hounding him every way). He sneaks into the warlord's mansion, shoots him, and discovers he's shielded. When the Chaos Champion reacts with disdain, Mkoll responds, "This is just a distraction." He hurls himself out of the room just as the charges he'd planted vaporize the enemy.
Sergeant Varl has been doing his showman trick, hosting space-chicken fights to amuse the Imperials and local soldiers. One of the locals starts causing trouble and raises a fist — only to find his sleeve pinned to the doorframe by a Tanith warknife before he can react. One of his friends points out that sure, Varl has good aim, but now he's unarmed, so Varl casually requests some assistance. An instant later, a dozen warknives are sitting in a semicircle at his feet, every one stuck fast in the wood floor. The locals just go home.
The Ghosts' arrival on Herodor. When they are heading to the landing zone, Corbec gets word of a heretic attack and diverts some of the landing craft to the site of the battle. They waste the three stalk tanks with tread-fethers and send the Blood Pact cultists running, with zero losses.
Obviously, when an Imperial Saint enters the field of battle, exceptional things are going to happen. Saint Sabbat single-handedly destroys a Chaos Baneblade with nothing but a sword and a grenade.
"Come, Ibram. Let us educate the archenemy of mankind." "What shall we teach them?" "The Emperor protects."
Marshal Biagi's response plan to the invasion is so well-developed and robust to changes (such as officers dying) that even Gaunt is impressed, leading to him telling all of his troops that if they're cut off without communication, to follow Biagi's response plan above all else.
One of the nine assassins - a Mandrake, essentially a psychic master assassin space elf who's been tracking down and killing people for centuries - is caught completely by surprise by Scout-Sergeant Mkoll. The Mandrake is tricked into stabbing an empty jacket and revealing himself, looking like an amateur. Mkoll concedes, "You're good," and then blows his head clean off.
The fight again Karess, a Chaos Marine Dreadnought. The thing bursts from below into a religious ceremony and begins shredding everyone around in an attempt to kill Sabbat. Gaunt manages to cut a few holes in it's armour before the mortally wounded Colonel Kaldenbach nails it with a grenade that knocks it into the pool - where the flamer troopers heat the water and boil the thing alive.
Brostin's trick with the fuel bowser is impressive. He's just gotten chastised for having stealth skills inferior to the scouts. Then he finds himself staring at a mostly-full fuel bowser with some Chaos goons around it. He sprays the fuel everywhere along the road, then
He took one last, long drag on the lho-stick, exhaled a sigh, then flicked the butt away.
It circled twice in the air.
Then two hundred metres of causeway went up in a wall of fire.
The scouts are stunned by Brostin's Heroic Sacrifice. Then he stumbles out of the fire, blackened and singed, but alive. They ask why he's not dead...
Brostin hesitated before replying. There had been a drum of detergent gel on the back of the bowser, retardant material carried in case of spills. Just like the stuff Brostin had used back in his days on the fire watch in Tanith Magna. Hed poured it over himself just before his trick with the lho-stick. It wouldnt stop him burning, not in an inferno like that, but it would protect him long enough to get clear. Brostin considered explaining this to Mkoll and Mkvenner, but he realised that, for the first time, he had shown skills and secrets that impressed the unimpressable scouts. He wasnt about to waste that moment of superiority with a mundane explanation.
He said: I know fire. Been waging war with it for years. It wouldnt dare harm me, not after all weve been through together.
The scouts looked at him, suspecting they were being hoodwinked, but lost for an answer. Brostin clambered on up the slope.
Come on, he said. We havent got all day.
The squad led by Gaunt are attacked by five Chaos Space Marines. These are One-Man Armytitans of war, virtually invulnerable. Gaunt realises that his Power Sword might be the only weapon of use against them, readies himself to go against them, one at a time. His first kill: To sneak up on one Chaos space Marine and slices him in two with one stroke. His squad begin to achieve kills: Tona attaches their bag of Tube Charges to one, Rawne kill one with a longlas shoved into it's neck just before it can kill him, and Varl picks up a fallen bolter and empties the magazine into another's face.
MkVenner gets a supposedly posthumous moment of awesome when he frees an entire band of resistance fighters from the goddamned Inquisition without alerting anyone.
Only In Death
The entire second half of the book is one for Major Rawne after Gaunt is, by all reports, KIA. Rawne steps up to being a damned good Commander Officer in the really shitty situation. Even with no ammunition, barely any supplies, and staring down the nearly guaranteed destruction of the Tanith First and Only, he gets the Ghosts through the final battle.
Rawne, unarmed and stuck in a jail cell, still manages to kill a Blood Pact soldier. Lacking any weapons, he lures the soldier in close by speaking the Archenemy language, then disables his enemy by grabbing his jacket and simply pulling; repeatedly smashing the soldier's face into the bars. The soldier manages to push off and get away, but realizes that Rawne stole his rifle through the bars, just as Rawne blows him away.
Tona Criid kicks an Inquisitor holding her prisoner in the face. That same scene is also a CMOA for Commissar Blenner, a flabby, overweight officer who spends all his time in the rear, for telling off that same Inquisitor with an endless wave of witty responses.
Gaunt and his group finally arrive at a war monument on Balhaut, and his meeting with a contact is interrupted by a pair of Inquisitorial agents. They call for him to stand down, and Gaunt simply draws his bolt gun, daring them to fight. The Blood Pact, Inquisitorial forces, Commissariat security troops and the Tanith First and Only engage in a massive gun fight. Afterward, when Handro Rime (in reality a Chaos Warlord), believes he has Gaunt cornered, he taunts Gaunt because he would never kill a man unless he thought they were undoubtedly an enemy of mankind. Major Rawne points out that he has no such scruples. And demonstrates.
For that matter, Handro Rime's reveal. One of the Blood Pact troopers that has been hunting Gaunt for the entire book has been reciting the many names for death. He's getting close to the end of the list right as the final firefight breaks down, and murmurs them under his breath.
Then it is Golguulest, he was saying, then it is Nyurtaloth. Naeme was ebullient. He knew in his heart that the mission his philia had been sent on was almost done, and he knew his rite was nearly done too. There were only a few of deaths names left to be recited.
Then there is Djastah, he said.
Then there is Rime, said Rime.
Naeme hesitated, and stared at the inquisitor in amazement. There was no denying it. Rime was certainly one of the last names of death.
Yes, said Rime, allowing the body to fall. I am.
Major Rawne infiltrates a Commissariat facility just to establish that the enemy could too. He didn't realize that they were doing it at the same time, so inadvertently interrupting an actual assassination plot was just good timing.
Rawne jumps from a walkway onto a Shapeshifter assassin who was holding a child hostage and knifes him to death.
The Space Marines are deliberately kept offscreen for most of the series. Here, three are assigned to assist the Ghosts... because more would be redundant. They spearhead the boarding of a Chaos space station, face off against over three hundred Loxatl mercenaries in a massive hangar, and paint the walls with them.
And when the Astartes instinctively begin to advance further into the station, knowing it would be their death, Ludd convinces them to back down. The Guard want this operation to look like a treacherous attack by another Chaos faction, and even one dead Marine would give it all away. The Astartes bow to his logic, though they regret this fine opportunity to die gloriously.
The servitor piloting the Caestus should have a mention as well, piloting a heavily armed and armored shuttle and calmly ramming it directly into a Death Star-sized space station. When Loxatl start swarming the ship, the servitor's first response is to spin the Caestus in place, and fry the Loxatl with the exhaust. Even when the loxatl manage to force an entry, his final action is to ram the ship even farther into the station, causing maximum damage to the enemy before he dies.
The Space Marine leading the operation, after witnessing the Caestus pilot's valiant actions, made a note to make sure that the servitor would be honored and mentioned in the Chapter's annals. High praise indeed from a Space Marine who had brushed off a Lord General Militant of the Imperial Guard at the beginning of the story.
Dorden's inevitable death to his failing body comes up in conversation in Salvation's Reach.
Gaunt found Sar Af talking to Dorden. The old medicae looked especially fragile beside the vast Space Marine in his heavy boarding armour
'He is dying,' said Sar Af to Gaunt, as though this was news and come up in conversation.
To be compared to the Adeptus Astartes by one of them, there can be no higher compliment that an Astartes could give to anyone.
Ezrah is alone in the engineroom, fighting alone against the bulk of the forces boarding of the disabled Highness Ser Armaduke (Chaos-aligned Salvage Pirates). His reynbow is broken, and his pilfered lasgun is out of ammo, so he consoles himself that he did well before he dies, while the pirates continue to advance... then Eadwine, Sar Af and Holofurnace arrive on the scene and proceed to wreck their shit, annihilating tanks and infantry alike with their bolters, a Power Spear, and their armored gauntlets.
During the battle on Urdesh, Mkoll and Zhukova discover a large group of the Sons of Sek moving through a collection of derelict barges to slip past the Tanith and deeper into the city. Mkoll sends Zhukova to warn Rawne as they can't reach him with their microbeads, and then starts to hold the Sons off on his own, screaming "I am Death!" at them in their own tongue, scaring them shitless. And this may have been his Last Stand, as near the end of the book Zhukova returns with reinforcements to where she left Mkoll, and finds only his bloodied and broken warknife. Caober and Vivvo head down into the barge to search for him; whether or not this is the end of the Tanith First's chief scout remains to be seen.
There are two heavy tanks charging through a chokepoint, and the Ghosts limited anti-armor rockets won't work against them... so Major Pasha, the newly arrived Verghast veteran who missed out on the fight of Salvation's Reach due to an injury, demonstrates to the younger troopers how they dealt with tanks during the siege of Vervunhive: filling up a box with as many grenades as possible, rigging a detonator out of some wire and one grenade, and then sprinting up to the tank and placing the box in front of it's treads, as close to the tank as possible. If it's in the wrong spot, the explosion will do nothing against the armored treads or undercarriage; only precise placement allows it to wreck the gears in between the armor plates. Most impressively, she pulls this feat off twice and lives. The second time, the tank stops, so Pasha hurls a grenade in front it, tricking the driver into thinking that there was a minefield ahead, so he reverses backwards, right over her improvised bomb.
FIRST LORD EXECUTOR IBRAM GAUNT. That is all.
Opens up on a doozy of one: Mkoll is alive and kicking ass. Taken captive and set up to be sacrificed to the Chaos gods, he uses his seemingly helpless position to pump a high-ranking official for information, then frees himself, kills his captors, and takes said official hostage to make his way back to his regiment.