Monday, February 18, 2013

Tyranteous: battle of North Vale

By mid 02.013M42 the war on Tyranteous had again scaled back to a watching brief by general Denham. The Death Guard still held Weybridge crossing, but showed no signs of breaking out. The plague was taking its toll on front line units, and as General Brooke, with the whole subsector to think about, was unwilling to divert much in the way of reinforcements to the agri world, despite its continuing importance to the survival of Zadoc, and the imperial position in the subsector as a whole.

In the north there was a known tau base, but astartes forces had forced the aliens back into the frozen wastes, and at some point the tau would have to leave or break out once again, and Denham was content that his forces were in good defensive positions to intercept any southern thrust. On 1202.013M42 Inquisitor Huron arrived on the world, and discussed the situation with Denham and the planetary governor, Diana Selken. He believed a new attack would come soon, but the imperial commander remained confident of his defences.

Unfortunately for General Denham, the enemy were already planning something audacious. Lorek, once master of chaos in the sector, was keen to destroy the imperial hold on the Zadoc subsector and take the sector capital for himself. To do this he needed to destroy Tyranteous, and starve Zadoc itself to the point of submission. His attempts to incite heresy and treason had not gone all that well, as the response from the astartes in the region had been overwhelming, but with the tau now in the system, Lorek sensed a rare opportunity. Over time during 013M42 the Tau and forces of chaos entered into a dialogue, and by mid 02.013M42 they had agreed on a combined operation to push back the imperial forces on Tyranteous.

For the tau the logic of such a temporary alliance was overwhleming. Together the tau and chaos forces would be able to gain a secure foothold on the agri world, taking the imperium by surprise. Once the imperium had been broken, the tau were sure they would be able to establish space superiority, land reinforcements, then wipe out the chaos forces in turn. For Lorek, his reasoning was similar. Use the tau to gain ground, then remove them once his logistics had been improved. Even if the tau were to eventually defeat his own forces in turn, the imperium would be obliged to divert forces away from other areas to defend against the tau, allowing Lorek to consolidate what was left of his empire elsewhere. Imperial intelligence had very little idea of what was about to fall upon them. On 1502.013M42 scouts reported tau forces moving west in the far north, away from inhabited areas, so Denham took little action. Then on 1602.013M42, the hammerblow fell.

A huge force of chaos cultists, rebel guard and traitor marines suddenly began rolling east from the cost of North vale. The army had appeared from nowhere and the small imperial garrisons quickly fled or were overrun. Unkown to the imperium, the device had been used once again, landing a well equipped and large chaos army on the shores of the continent before the warp tunnel collapsed drained. Even so this use of the device would not be enough. As Denham reviewed the reports as they came in he quickly judged that if he deployed his full forces in the north against the chaos threat, they would be annihilated. With this in mind he called a war council, inviting the commanders of the four astartes forces on the world, as well as the adeptus mechanicus, who had recently landed an entire titan legion on Tyranteous.

The Space Wolves, Salamanders and Blood Angels all agreed to be part of the forthcoming battle, relishing the chance to destroy such a large chaos army. The Apocalypse Riders however could add little to the fight since their losses incurred in earlier battles, Never the less they stood ready to lend what support they could should it be needed. To this elite force was added a single Warhound titan, the rest of the legio titanicus being ready to ship to Hylas to support the war efforts against the orks. However just one titan could make the difference, and Denham accepted the offer. Supporting the titan and space marines were three full regiments of Librian guard, as well as Zadocian and Tyrantean units on the flanks of the imperial army. Denham wheeled this massive formation across the plains of North Vale to face the chaos threat west of Fallenvale. On 1702.013M42 the two armies met, and General Denham got the nastiest shock of his military career.

Instead of facing just the force of chaos, it was quickly realised that the enemy had united, and now the army ranged against them matched them for size and firepower. The tau had joined the traitors in common cause and the imperium now had a real fight on their hands. Cursing the alien and the heretic, Denham ordered the attack.

Denham's forces were organised with the Librian armoured regiment on his right flank in mostly open country, with the Librian infantry deployed in the centre of his line, opposite the undustrial complexes of Fallenvale. Between them a strong force of Salamanders stood ready to take the fight to the enemy. On his left flank (to the south) the bulk of the marine forces were deployed, with the Space Wolves holding significant forces back ready to drop from orbit where they would most be needed. The warhound was kept as a mobile reserve, while two super heavy tanks marked the very centre of Denham's line. Behind them all the ranks of basilisks and manticores were waiting to bombard the enemy positions. The enemy had deployed their army with much of the tau kept well back, but the traitor guard had also deployed large armoured units in the open country to the north of the settlement. Crucially the allied forces had planned in detail together, and intended to deal the imperium a knockout blow once the battle was joined.

With no choice but to fight, Denham's army moved forward. Initially the imperial army gained ground. On the right the librian tanks were less than succesful in their duel with the traitor forces, but were at least making forward progress, while the Salamanders raced towards their enemy taking little meaningful casualties. The super heavy tanks caused appalling casualties in the tau/chaos centre, and body parts and the remains of tau tanks soon littered the ground infront of Fallenvale. The space wolves too made rapid progress and soon there was fighting in the enemy held city itself, as drop pods delivered the emperor's finest to the heart of the enemy positions.

This initial advance was the high water mark of the imperial counter attack. After several hours the fighting bogged down. On the right the warhound titan had to be deployed from reserve as the librian tanks were decisively beaten in the armoured tank battle in the plains to the north. The Salamanders reached the enemy positions, but tragedy struck as captain Fafnir was taken out of the fight by a stray round from a librian Baneblade, an event which caused much acrimony after the battle. Meanwhile furthest advanced, the space marines involved in clsoe quarter fighting with the enemy were eventually overpowered by superior numbers, their supporting armour knocked out by two super heavy tanks, one of which managed to ravage the Space Wolves 1st company.

As darkness fell on 1602.013M42 the chaos and tau forces threw in their own reserves. Deep striking crisis suits and teleporting obliterators suddenly appeared behind the imperial lines, and although the imperial general had planned for this, the strike was still devastating. In one stroke the enemy destroyed almost all the imperial artillery, the one arm of the army which had been inflicting real damage to the tau and chaos forces. In addition the super heavy tanks were knocked out, and precious resources had to be redeployed to counter this new threat.

The strike itself proved to be suicidal, and none of the units taking part survived as chimera borne librian veterans armed with plasma and melta weaponry made short work of the intruders, supported by astartes elite units. However the damage had been done and the imperial advance had stalled. On the right flank the combined weight of fire from the traitor tank regiment overcame the Warhound's void shields and it was reduced to a hulk. On the right the line buckled, then broke as the kroot arrived, shattering the space wolves' hold on the settlement.

Angered, Denham began to lose his control, of the battle and of himself. Increasingly enraged the thin wiry imperial general began shouting at his subordinate commanders. He ordered Colonel Piper, commander of the tanks, to sweep around the enemy's right flank and support the salamanders, despite the fact they had lost all their vehicles. Becoming hysterical he vented his fury at colonel Potter of the librian infantry. Dutifully the unsupported infantry advanced on their objective, only to be cut down by railgun, plasma rifle and heavy bolter fire. Finally General Denham admitted defeat, cursing the astartes and his subordinates he ordered a withdrawal, but not before reserves had been called up from the eastern province of Odinvale.

This move made the defeat even more catastrophic. The tau immediately took full advantage, launching a new attack in the east. By 1802.013M42 Smallgrove had fallen before the line stabilised. At the same time the tau extracted themselves from Fallenvale, establishing a closely watched front line between the aliens and the traitors. Almost a quarter of the planet had fallen with heavy losses and General Denham now found himself having to answer a number of difficult questions. His position as overall command was becoming more and more vulnerable.

Strategically the decisive defeat was a huge blow to the imperium. The tau and forces of chaos were correct in their assumption that the imperium could not afford to lose Tyranteous. Almost immediately more forces were diverted to the region. The defences of Hylas were scaled back, resources due to be sent to Veers' crusade on Mordecai were diverted to the Zadoc subsector, and fleets and armies were hurridly mustered. This one battle had severely threatened the Imperium across the sector, and would prove a turning point in the aleph sector campaign.

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