Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Inquisition War

The Inquisition War which began in the Aleph sector in early 011M42 centred initially around three powerful individuals. Inquisitor lords Hathek and Huron had been active in the sector for decades, and had been the public face of the Inquisition in the sector. Their time on the eastern rim of the Emperor's domains had seen them experience the difficulties the Imperium faced surviving amongst the myriad threats and enemies of Mankind.

Both Inquisitors were in their own way radicals. Lord Huron had for a long time believed that the future of mankind lay in harnessing the psychic secrets of the warp, and not shying away from the reality that humanity was becoming a psychic race. His colleague Hathek knew nothing of this, as Huron kept his leanings, and experiments, a secret from even his most trusted friends and allies. Lord Hathek meanwhile had become convinced that the eradication of all aliens was not only impossible, but impractical and a dogmatic millstone around the neck of the Imperium.

By 011M42 he had seen the expansion of the Tau empire and the loss of the Aleph subsector to the Federacy, and had become quite convinced that peace with the Tau, and where possible the eldar, would provide humanity with badly needed allies against the forces of chaos, the necrons and the growing tyranid threat.

Hathek had brokered the peace treaty with the Tau on Melberg in 008M42, and with the loss of Tarsis Major in 010M42, the inquisitor began secret communications with the emmisaries of the Tau. These secret summits were also attended by a representative of the Federacy, and after several months of cagey negotiations Hathek managed to convince the Tau he was genuine. An alliance would recognise the recent gains of the Tau empire and their right to exist. In return for this, the Tau would cease all further expansion and the Imperium and the Tau would be able to co-ordinate their efforts against their major enemies.

For the Tau this was an important breakthrough. Following their victory on Tarsis Major they had been under increasing pressure from the Necrons, and the tyranids of Hive Fleet Nemesis were encroaching on their domains. Their expansion was flagging and another war with the Imperium was out of the question. Despite this many in the Empire were distrustful of the Inquisitor, but the backing of the Federacy convinced them the offer was genuine. In addition Inquisitor Hathek offered something else.

The colony of Minos, on the very fringe of Tau space had come under attack from the Imperium and Chaos forces in the three years since it was established. Now with Veers' crusade Minos was totally surrounded by Imperial possessions and a constant drain on Tau resources. Similarly, the Imperial base on Aganthus was isolated and within easy reach of Tau forces on Parataea, Skera and Cernunnos. Hathek proposed a swap.

By 04.011M42 the agreement had been reached and signed by all parties. Now Hathek had to impose this new order on the forces of the Imperium, but he was confident that with the support of his fellow Inquisitor, who had been kept informed of all developments, the power of the Inquisition which they represented would be enough to keep dissent to a minimum. Lord Hathek announced the treaty at a session of the Perseus Deeps Crusade Council on 2604.011M42. Hathek and Huron spoke at length, describing in detail what the agreement meant, and reminding every member of the council that the word of not one but two lords of the mighty Inquisition, was law.

Unfortunately for Hathek and Huron, they were not the only Inquisitor Lords present at the meeting and active in the sector. Despite being presumed dead on Myrentas II, Inquisitor Xanthus has survived and had returned to the sector to ensure the distant region of the Emperor's realm was being properly led. Xanthus was nothing like his fellow lords. He believed the Imperium of Mankind had a manifest destiny to inherit the galaxy, and took the phrase "suffer not the alien to live", literally. Once again he was aghast at the direction Hathek was trying to lead the Imperium in the Aleph sector, and was determined to stop him.

Disguised as a hooded and cloaked Inquisitor of lesser rank, Xanthus had attended the council sessions. Hathek and Huron were suspicious of the strange inquisitor who turned up, but continued with the vote, wondering what the new arrival would do, while also trying to find out his identity using the vast resources available to them. In the event the vote for the alliance was carried seven votes to tree,with the Inquisitor and the Adeptus Mechanicus abstaining. Voting against, High Priest Garett Van Buerden of the Ecclesiarchy, gave an impassioned speech to the attendees, supported by the representatives of the Dark Angels, and the vote could have been close, but as predicted the other space marine chapters who by rights could have had a vote, chose not to attend. Despite the objections, Hathek had his alliance.

Two days later Inquisitor Xanthus contacted the High Preist, the Dark Angels and other trusted allies who became known as the "puritans". They met in secret and the Inquisitor lord revealed his identity as they planned to undermine the alliance, setting humanity back on its "true path". While Hathek and Huron were only just discovering that Xanthus was still alive and back in the sector, the Inquisitor Lord had already requisitioned Admiral Dreyer's battlegroup at Sentinell and gathered several regiments of Cerberex Guard and set off for the Tau colony of Minos.

On 0304.011M42 the Tau colony of Minos came under attack from Xanthus' battlegroup. Xanthus had six capital class vessels under Dreyer, whose puritan leanings had made it easy for him to allow the Inquisitor to take command, despite urgent countermanding communique's from his superior officer, Admiral Jellicoe, and even direct contact via astropath from Hathek. He responded by saying Lord Xanthus carried with him all the authority of the Inquisition, and had shown him his Inquisitorial seal. No-one could now countermand those orders.

The Tau were taken totally by surprise, but the lack of time ensured little damage was done, and Xanthus did not disembark his three regiments of Cerberex Guard. Xanthus hoped the attack would be enough for the alliance to break, but realising Xanthus' intentions, Inquisitor Hathek contacted the Tau Empire on the same day, managing to convince them that Xanthus and Dreyers' fleet was a rogue element. Although angered, the Tau accepted the story, but demanded to be defended by Imperial forces to complete their evacuation of the system. In addition they demanded that the federal fleet be allowed to "observe" the evacuation of Aganthus. Realising he had no option if he was to save the agreement, Hathek agreed.

Inquisitor Xanthus found out quickly that the Federacy was sending a fleet to monitor the evacuation of Aganthus, and was determined to prevent the Tau from leaving Minos intact. The Tau would not be able to break out of the system and only a significant fleet action could remove Dreyer's fleet. Hathek now took the next step towards all out civil war. Admiral Jellicoe was sent to Minos with eight capital vessels and five regiments of Guard from Veers' crusade. On 1604.011M42 Jellicoe's fleet arrived at Minos and demanded Dreyer withdraw. In response Xanthus declared his authority and warned Jellicoe not to land anyone on the planet, declaring it quarantine.

Dreyer however would not fire on Jellicoe's battlegroup, and Xanthus was not stupid enough to demand that he did. The resulting battle would have crippled the Imperial Navy in the sector and destroyed Xanthus' powerbase. Instead, Xanthus landed a regiment of Cerberex Guard before Jellicoe's fleet reached the planet itself before withdrawing to Sentinel. Jellicoe's forces proceeded in system, and with Hathek on the bridge of Iron Duke, three Librian regiments were landed and gave battle along side the Tau on Minos, wiping out the Cerberex regiment after a protracted week of heavy fighting.

By 2904.011M42 Xanthus had reached Sentinell, turning it into his own private base of operations. Regiments of Cerberex and Praetorian Guard were inducted into his own private army and Garett Van Buerden gave speeches to the assembled masses. Xanthus then addressed the crowds of Guardsmen and even managed to transmit his messages across the sector through astropathic communications. Hathek ordered them to be intercepted and anyone listening to them to be rounded up, but thousands, possibly millions heard the rhetoric of the puritan Inquisitor Lord. In his "Sentinell Address", Xanthus poured scorn on Hathek and Huron, declaring that they had overstepped their authority and thrown aside the Emperor's holy edicts. He publicly excommunicated Huron and Hathek and, in a spiteful turn, excommunicated the system of Libria.

For many decades Xanthus had been suspicious of Libria and her populace, frowning on their unusual worship of Law and aberrant veneration of the Emperor. Angered by Xanthus, Libria's elite rounded on the ecclesiarchy, and the Adeptus Sororitas forces stationed there were forced to flee. The Sisters of Battle reported this to high priest Garett Van Buerden, and they set course for Sentinel.

General Veers, Admiral Jellicoe and many of the senior Imperial officials of the Aleph sector stayed loyal to Hathek and Huron, but despaired in private, fearful of an imminent war which would drag the entire sector into the Abyss. Veers tried to talk to Hathek but the old Inquisitor would not be deflected from his course. The crusade would go on. The Imperium would have peace with the Tau and Federacy, and Xanthus and his band of puritan rebels would be dealt with when it became necessary. Hathek still couldn't believe Xanthus would start a war, but fearful of assassination, stepped up his own personal guard.

The next session of the crusade council, which met on 0105.011M42 to discuss the imminent successful completion of the Ares crusade, had several notable absences. Xanthus, the Ecclesiarchy and the Dark Angels were no longer in attendance, but the council now had the support of the Grey Knights who were fully in support of Hathek's crusade against chaos. On Sentinel meanwhile the Adeptus Sororitas added their support to Xanthus, and the Inquisitor Lord began planning the downfall of his opponents and the return of the sector to the Emperor's benevolence.

Xanthus knew removing both Hathek and Huron directly through force of arms would be difficult if not impossible. Assassination would be almost impossible, but that didn't stop him trying. Meanwhile however he would have to undermine the Inquistor's and their forces, by removing their forces, one way or another. Requesting intervention from Terra would be risky. For a start communications with Terra were slow and unreliable. A request for arbitration could take years to arrive and even longer to be responded to. Worse still, there was no guarantee the High Lords of Terra would agree with his position, though Xanthus believed they should. He had the benefit of being right.

No, the way to get rid of Hathek and Huron would have to be done the hard way, by cutting them off from supplies and provisions. The key to this would be the systems of the Aleph Sector themselves. Though they desperately tried to stay neutral, Xanthus determined to bring them into his fold, refusing to supply or entertain forces loyal to the "radical" Inquisitors. He had already excommunicated them, but now he needed to lean on each system and pursuade them, by force if necessary, to accept him as the lawful jurisdiction in the sector. Suppport from Astartes chapters would lend much needed muscle to his force, but by 05.011M42 he could only rely on the Dark Angels. Now came the time for each chapter to consider its loyalties and lend its support where it felt it was most deserved.

No comments: