Sunday, February 23, 2014

Zadoc: Imperium on the run from Chaos

The imperium knew that the next blow against them by the forces of chaos on Zadoc would be an airborne or amphibious assault. Imperial intelligence had known for some time that the city of Gerzonne had been converted into a blasphemous forge and was now pumping out all manner of daemonic war engines. The skies above Zadoc were filled with all manner of fighting aircraft, and the tau and chaos air forces vied for dominance on a daily basis. The imperium had long given up air superiority on Zadoc, and even over the islands they now controlled the skies were often plagued by enemy craft.

General Wavell made his defensive plans accordingly. Wavell was fully on the defensive by now, although his plan to remove the imperium from the Zadocian mainland was vetoed by sector command, lord Titus Luthor reasoning it was better to make the tau and chaos forces fight bitterly over worthless territory. To protect the islands Wavell assigned specific task forces to each. Riontas, the most important, was turned into a fortress, defended by most of his guard units and three companies of marines. Montene on the island of Hannuse was defended by the Zadoc PFD and the Dark Angels, while the Imperial Fists formed the first line of defence on Aso in the north. The minor island of Cariode and Reggia were left with light defences, and Wavell waited for the next attack to come.

When the Iron Warriors made their move on 2002.014M42 the choice of Aso as a target and the vital city of Viorni was no surprise. The Imperial Fists were ready, and although the Imperial Guard fled south in the face of overwhelming odds, the loyalists knew that the land narrowed into an Isthmus midway down the island, and here the forces of chaos could be held by the imperium, so long as the preparations were adequately made.

To prevent outflanking airborne operations the coasts around the Aso isthmus were mined and covered by Imperial defensive weaponry. The Iron Warriors accepted the challenge, being masters in seige craft, and launched a ferocious assault on the Imperial Fists, who had amassed an entire company on foot in the ruins and defences of the Isthmus.

The Iron Warriors advanced rapidly, catching the loyalists rather by surprised. The traitors used the natural contours of the land and what cover the ruins afforded, ensuring the imperial fire was largely ineffective. The battle would necessarily come down to a violent and brutal hand to hand brawl. Aided by airborne power in the form of Helldrakes, which served to prevent imperial reserves from entering a now front-wide close combat, and one which the chaos forces, through brute force, were bound to win. Despite fighting stubbornly to the end the outcome was now inevitable, and by 2702.014M42 the Imperial Fists had been all but wiped out, and chaos had secured their grip on Aso and the city of Vorni. Wavell had stabilised theline south of the Aso isthmus, but the loss of almost a company of astartes was a painful blow to imperial capabilities.

At the same time, the daemonic forces leading the advance in the south along with the Emperor's Children, launched their own offensive. Perhaps the Iron Warriors had coordinated with their demonic allies in order to tie down forces in Mascata while the Iron Warriors assaulted Aso, but Wavell had always planned to defend the mainland, or what was left of it. Here the Blood Angels were performing a similar role to the Imperial Fists, aiming to halt the daemonic forces almost single handedly, despite being outnumbered and lacking any air cover. This would at least allow time for the imperial forces to dig in on a secondary front line should the first line of defence be penetrated.

The daemonic attack was violent and forceful, and despite their best efforts the Blood Angels were unable to hold the chaos horde for long. After two days of fighting the Blood Angels had to withdraw, allowing the traitor army to move into Mascata. The Imperial line had to be held much further west than they had intended, and by 2802.014M42 the armies defending against the Tau on the Nanali Sea front were in serious peril. The chaos and tau front lines were now a mere 100 miles apart, and one thrust would pinch out this pocket, isolating several hundred thousand imperial troops. Wavell now had an escape to prepare.

Nemesis forge ahead

As 02.014M42 wore on the battle for Grimlock became ever more violent and desperate. The scale of the conference increased as Nemesis threw in more and more biological resources to overwhelm the defenders, and in return the forces of chaos employed more forces of their own, summoning great daemonhosts and fielding entire traitor legions and titans of the Dark Mechanicus.

The conflict now focussed in the south, where Nemesis was attempting to take Hakun, splitting the chaos forces into two isolated elements. Their strategy was obvious and clear, allowing both sides to concentrate massive forces on the Hakun front. The battles which raged all along the border between Nemesis and chaos were exceptionally bloody and violent, and although the forces of the dark gods were forced steadily back, Nemesis was forced to pay in blood for every mile of ground taken.

Even thought the slaughter was on an epic scale, the hive mind was prepared to accept the cost, and by 2502.014M42 the aliens reached the south polar regions, successfully cutting the chaos defenders in two. The war on Grimlock had taken a decisive turn in favour of the tyranids. Without external intervention their eventual victory was now assured.

Meanwhile in the Mabb Nebula it was clear something was very wrong on New Cerberex. Since the encounter with the Dark Angels there had been further sightings of tyranid bioforms, and on 1802.014M42 tectonic movements under the capital were felt, and a small force of PDF were sent into the sewers to investigate. They never returned. Soon the first creatures of the tyranid vanguard began boiling up from below the capital, and the governor called for assistance. Before regiments of Imperial Guard could be deployed, the Imperial Fists headed the call, having already arrived in system at the request of the Dark Angels.

The marines arrived in force, a whole company, outnumbering even the encroaching swarm. The weight of firepower was incredible, whatever Tyranid creatures were targeted were cut down by massed bolter fire. But the Imperial Fists were being chipped away at, marines falling to a constant barrage of spores and deadly bio-plasma. At the height of the battle their Captain bravely hurled a tactical sergeant out of the way of a deadly blast of Harpy venom, only to have it consume him, leaving him a melted pile of biomass. The Imperial Fists were not ones to give up at the loss of their commanding officer, and threw everything they had at the Swarmlord as it reached their lines, swamping him in combat. But the ferocious beast survived, and as the remaining marines saw the untouched hordes of scuttling Termegants swarming the battlefield they had to admit defeat and beat a hasty tactical retreat. New Feducia had fallen to the hive mind, and now the Imperium faced an uphill battle defending their isolated colony

Monday, February 17, 2014

Operation Sandstorm

By mid 02.014M42 the tau were making solid progress towards final victory in Zadoc. The imperium had been largely removed from the mainland continent and the forces of chaos had been defeated in the south. On the ground the front had been stabilised, but in the wider system there remained the imperial presence on the Zadoc trading outpost, a constant thorn in the side of the tau invasion and a potential springboard for an imperial counter-invasion of the planet.

On 1702.014M42 the tau command received reliable reports that an astartes strikeforce was gathering on the remote and barely habitable outpost. With their fleet already engaged in important duties the tau never-the-less felt they had to act. Contacting their eldar allies the older race agreed to allow some tau units to travel through the webway, so long as they were escorted, and planning for Operation Sandstorm began in earnest. Commander Windgather, his units being so used to being around their eldar allies, was selected as commander for the mission. In addition it was hoped that Windgather's unbroken string of victories would bode well for such an important mission.

The Tau and eldar forces managed to reach the outpost undetected, thanks to the webway, and immediately began sending in forces against each strategically significant point on the rocky and barren planet the tradins post resided on. There were a few skirmishes, but on the whole there was little serious fighting, the guardsman forming the garison at the trading post wholly unprepared for such a surprise invasion. However the Blood Angels were already mustering west of the main inhabited complex, preparing for an assault on Tau positions within the Zadoc system.

Windgather's forces immediately attacked, catching the Blood Angels by surprise. Caught out in the open the astartes were wholly outclassed by the alliance force, and although they fought doggedly, the most they could hope for was survival against a superior force. Even the rocky terrain of the outpost didn't serve them well for long, and in a few hours the Blood Angels force had been annihilated.

Receiving word of the attack, the Carcharadon's raced in to help their comrades, but unfortunately for the imperium weather conditions around the trading post proved challenging, and not only did the airborne elements of the Carcharadon Astra chapter arrive late, far too late in any case to aid their brethren, they also arrived piecemeal. The result was a disaster. Having finished off the Blood Angels the tau-eldar force now turned on the inbound marine force, dealing with each arriving wave in turn, and turning the counter attack into a bloody rout.

By 2002.014M42 Operation Sandstorm had achieved its stated objectives and the imperial military occupation of the Trading post had been eradicated, strengthening the tau hold on Zadoc even further. For the imperium the loss of their staging post came as yet another devastating blow in the war on Zadoc, which was looking like a defeat, much like Tarsis, Alphe, Betor and Tyranteous. With Libria declared heretic by the most senior inquisitor in the sector, some wondered if there would be an imperial presence in the Zadoc subsector at all for very much longer.

Nemesis close in on New Cerberex

Whilst on patrol in the shadow worlds on its continuing mission to gather intelligence on the heretical trade between The Federacy and Libria, Dark Angels strike cruiser Dark Dominion received a priority distress call from New Cerberex. The Dark Angels have long held close ties with the Imperial colony, respecting the staunch loyalty and faith of its inhabitants in the face of the heresy of their perfidious brethren. Captain El'Zahariel of the 4th company immediately ordered his ship to make full speed for New Cerberex and the Dark Angels made prompt planetfall in a remote, rural region that had recently fallen silent. All attempts by the local PDF to penetrate the region had failed, their patrols disappearing without trace. The Dark Angel's succeeded where the local militia's had failed however, their armoured spearhead discovering a Tyranid Hive Node festering like a dark cancer in the landscape.

Their presence discovered Tyranid bioforms matching the genotype of Hive Fleet Nemesis boiled out to defend their beachhead and swamped the mechanised column before it could react. The Dark Angel's suffered heavy casualties in the opening moments of the conflict and although they fought bravely and great tenacity they couldn't hope to overcome the hordes of ravening aliens. Only when all hope of victory was gone did Captain El'Zahariel, himself wounded in the fighting, order a retreat back to the drop ships.

The Tyranid canker would have to be left to fester and grow for the time being but their presence was at least discovered. The Dark Angel's issued a summons for all Space Marine chapters in the area to provide aid and demanded Imperial High Command commit the Imperial Guard to the defence of New Cerberex should the infestation not be quashed in its infancy. But with the Imperium already dangerously overstretched and Inquisitor Vorushko stridently demanding forces to prosecute the Librian Heretics it was doubtful significant forces would be mustered. El'Zahariels rallying call would not go completely unanswered however; a Salamander's strike cruiser was in the region and promised to re-enforce the Dark Angels with all haste.

At almost the same time the Blood Angels were investigating the silence of the small but important Corredon outpost. Nothing had been heard from the base for several weeks, and it was widely expected that the station had fallen to Xenos. The question was, which one? The force of Blood Angels landed on the rocky outpost on 1702.014M42 and could find little trace of an invasion. Instead they found a charnel house, the former inhabitants of the outpost slaughtered and dismembered. THen the invaders attacked.

The Blood Angels defended bravely, but were outclassed by their enemy. The astartes died buying enough time to get a message back to their strike cruiser that the tyranids had overrun the base. Few marines made it back to their warship, and as soon as they did the Blood Angels vessel broke orbit and raced to the jump point as fast as possible. On the edge of the system something lurked, something large and menacing, its psychic presence overwhelming the astartes astropath. The shadow of the warp was closing in around New Cerberex.

Iron Warriors halt decline

Recent defeats on Zadoc had angered the master of Chaos. Warlord Stahl was once again furious with his allies, who seemed to be incapable of sustaining victories which his own forces began. While the Iron Warriors swept all before them where they entered the fray, daemonic forces, the Emperor's Children and various cults and traitor armies were losing his hard won gains.

Stahl demanded answers, but most of his allies remained quiet, passive and obsequious while the lord of the Iron Warriors raged at his commanders, muttering apologies to their master. There were exceptions however. The daemonic entities with which Stahl had made pacts were less inclined to bow their heads. One in particular, a greater daemon of Tzeentch, went so far as to mock the ancient captain.

Stahl could not allow this to stand, and challenged the daemon, who quickly materialised at the head of a daemonic host. Stahl threw in his elite astartes forces, as well as his own daemonic allies. Leading from the front the traitor marine commander was wise to the tricks of the enemy, and through overwhelming firepower and iron resolve, the marine forces overcame the greater daemon's hordes, banishing the daemonic host and restoring the prestige of the Iron Warriors as masters of chaos.

Eldar cleared from Corticant

A week after the defeat of the Imperial Fists General Veers received significant reinforcements to his army on Corticant. The base on Corticant, under siege now from two hostile alien forces, was a strategically vital lynchpin of the Perseus Deeps and front line against the Xenos of the sector. Titus Luthor recognised this, and so did Inquisitor Lord Natalia Vorushko, who pursuaded the Carcharadons, having eliminated all trace of the Tyranids on Bastien, to make the short warp hop to the Corticant system.

The Carcharadons decided to use their small force where it would be tactically most useful, and to this end allowed General Veers to plan his new offensive against the eldar. Veers had little choice other than to engage in an obvious offensive aimed up the Iron Road, and the eldar were ready and waiting for him. Thirty thousand imperial guardsmen, mostly Librian, advanced towards the enemy positions, and at Arenhal Junction, met fierce resistance.

The terrain and landscape of Corticant prevented any tactical flair, as there was no method of outflanking the Junction, without an airborne assault. Veers couldn't spare enough airborne units and against the eldar would struggle to maintain air superiority in any case, and the Disciples of Ynead, backed up by their Corsair eldar allies, knew this all to well.

At Arenhal the eldar had massed their strongest forces and the bulk of their army. Despite having a clear numerical superiority and some of the best imperial equipment, Veers had no super heavy battle tanks or titans at his disposal. The eldar however, did. Early on on 1302.014M42 at least one Scorpion and one Cobra were spotted around Arenhal Junction, hiding amongst the installations which had seen the demise of the Imperial Fists a few days previously. Veers pressed his attack anyway, hoping the Carcharadons would pick an appropriate moment to come to his army's aid.

The destruction wrought by the eldar Pulsars in the ensuing action was brutal. Leman Russ were simply vaporised, while the imperial HQ, sheltering behind an Aegis defence line, found their defences no match for the Cobra. One crack of the eldar weapon and the imperial command were simply gone. Even so the Librians marched forward into Arenhal Junction, and on the right flank Librian veterans and hellhound flame tanks found some success against the Corsair eldar. An artillery bombardment killed their commander while their infantry were mercilessly burned by the hellhounds' weapons. This assault was backed up by Carcharadon land speeders and scouts, and only dogged fighting by the Corsairs prevented the eldar left flank from collapsing. In the middle of the fighting the guard were losing. Their advance had stalled and the casualties were spiralling out of all control. Just before Veers was about to call a general withdrawal, the sky overhead was suddenly filled with contrails. The Carcharadons had arrived.

The elite astartes warriors deployed right in the centre of the action, determined to take on the primary eldar fighting the battle, the disciples of Ynead. Ignoring the giant eldar skimmers for the time being, the Carcharadon terminators waded into battle against the Wraithguard protecting the Ynead Farseer, engaging in a long lasting and brutal hand to hand melee, joined by a few Librians swept up in the battle.

After a protracted fight the eldar were eventually cut down, although a misjudged orbital bombardment from the Carcharadon's almost cost the imperium their momentum, causing a number of avoidable casualties amongst their own centurion unit, saving the Cobra from certain destruction. The eldar Farseer attempted to withdraw, but was caught by - of all things - two regular librian guardsmen. One simply stuck out his bayonet as the Farseer fled from the giant astartes warriors, impaling him.

The eldar did make some temporary inroads into the imperial advance into Arrenhal, but Librian reinforcements of Chimera borne veterans eventually downed the Wraithknight, the single biggest threat to the Veers' advance after the super heavy grav tanks. On the imperial right the remaining scouts juat managed to escape annihilation from the eldar pulsars, and two days into the advance the tide was turning against the eldar. Although their two super heavy tanks were still operational, their power reserves were running low, and their troops had been slaughtered. If they didn't withdraw now the Carcharadons would be able to add two valuable eldar skimmers to their tally of kills.

The Carcharadons pursued the fleeing eldar back down the Iron Road, ready to engage them when they chose to turn and fight, but hostilities on Corticant were never renewed. When Boargrius himself reached Ironhaven the eldar were gone, as well as the former inhabitants of the city. The space marine captain could only assume the eldar had abandoned the fight on Corticant, perhaps deciding that the cost to their kin was too great, and the resolve of the imperium too great. Or perhaps they would come back later. Of the population of the town nothing was ever found, although the rumour of eldar slavers persisted.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Carcharadons prevent major Zadoc offensive

In early 02.014M42 the Imperium became aware of a build up of chaos troops in the cold southern tundra region of Mida. It was noted that the concentrations of traitor guard and cultists were centred on units of Emperor's Children, and this pointed to an imminent major offensive in the south.

On the ground, General Wavell explained to his superiors that countering this new threat would be challenging. Operation Failsafe - the plan to abandon mainland Zadoc, had only been halted by the the timely arrival of the Adeptus Mechanicus to bolster the front, and even then the advance in the south had been limited. Wavell simply didn't have the troops to pre-empt the chaos assault, and all he could do was prepare for the oncoming onslaught.

Wind of the activity of the Emperor's Children reached the Ordo Hereticus, and from there the ears of the leader of the Carcharadons in the area. Relishing the opportunity to ruin the hated traitors' plans, the astartes chapter quickly drew up a plan of attack.

On 0802.014M42 the Carcharadons assaulted the chaos marine positions just to the east of the imperial front line. They targetted specific positions identified as command and control points by their own strike cruiser's surveys, and conducted devastating aerial assaults against the traitor astartes. Ancient war machines and martial prowess were no help to the Children, who could not stand against the uncontrolled blood lust unleashed by the loyalists marine chapter. In just a few hours of fighting the Emperor's Children had suffered heavy casualties, and lost critical equipment. In addition, the destruction of these key elite units caused a temporary lapse of command and control over the chaos forces, destroying the planned offensive against the Imperium on Zadoc for weeks.

Tyranid advances

The end of the Tau colony on Memnon came on 0702.014M42, just 4 months after the invasion by the orks and tyranids. The tau had taken refuge behind their last line of defence, their position ensuring that a last stand was inevitable. The tau forces knew their resistance was suicidal, as there was no prospect of their evacuation, but for the greater good a prolonged battle on Memnon was preferable to having Nemesis and the orks invade any more tau colonies.

First to appear was the Nemesis swarmlord, who appeared to be directing the horde of creatures which followed. The tyranids surged down one flank, attempting to bypass the tau manning a defence line, taking heavy casualties to the tau emplaced weaponry. Monsters were brought down by sheer weight of fire, but the alien swarm was resilient and seemed endless. Barrages of spores and finally a tunnelling Morlock circumvented the fixed tau defences, bringing close range death to the defenders. A desperate counter-attack by the tau commander and supporting Riptide into the heart of the tyranid horde was ripped appart by the swarmlord itself. The defences breached the surviving tau were forced back towards the sea, having had apparently no impact on the horde of bugs now swarming over their once peaceful colony. The tau hold on Memnon was over.

On Grimlock, the long war between the forces of Chaos and Nemesis continued, but while the swarm grew the defenders dwindled, and by 02.014M42 the shadow in the warp had completely obscurred the system from astropathic communication. Isolated, the defenders of Grimlock had to face the multiplyng hordes alone.

Having secured Atil late in 013M42, the hive mind knew it needed to push south, as the vital region of Repsis would be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war. If the remaining chaos forces could be divided and surrounded, the war would be over much sooner. To this end the assault towards the chaos city of Tallin began in 02.014M42, with a major Tyranid advance. Defending the city, the mass of cultists were able to count on a small but critical number of Emperor's Children, who had vowed to stay and fight the alien menace for as long as it took to remove them from the sovereign world of their dark masters.

Nemesis however was nothing if not clever, and the swarm of tyranids surged forwards before the marines were fully prepared. Despite fielding a large number of astartes and supporting units, the chaos forces were unable to effectively concentrate their fire, and the protective psychic powers projected by the hive mind kept the alien swarm alive long enough for ravenors to reach the chaos lines. Bio-engineered for close melee actions, the ravenors quickly butchered any who stood in their way, millenia of service and enhanced human physiology offering little resistance to the perfectly adapted killing organisms.

The Emperor's Children launched a desperate reposte, sending in an ancient Land Raider Spartan and elite terminator warriors into the heart of the battle, where Nemesis looked like breaching the city's defences. However this small elite force was quickly overwhelmed by a mob of hormagaunts who, while posing little threat themselves, delayed the astartes warriors long enough for a Swarmlord to reach them and rip them apart. Eventually all that remained of the traitor astartes was the Spartan itself, which squashed the head of a Mawloc as it emerged from the ground, and then escaped to take word of the massacre to the city overlords.

The breach of the defences signalled the end of the defence of Tallin, and the chaos army fled in terror before the tyranid swarm. Repsis fell a week later and the tyranids were only held as the advance lost its momentum on the borders of Hakun and Orrin in the far south. the loss of either of these regions would seal the doom of all chaos forces east of the Errin sea, and hasten the end on Grimlock. In any case the loss of Repsis now sealed the noose ever tighter around the neck of the chaos dominion of the world.

Only in the Perseus Deeps did Nemesis continue to see reverses. While Memnon and Grimlock were being overrun, Bastien's cleansing was continuing. Having broken the back of the tyranid infestation the Carcharadons left, allowing General Veers to direct his own Guard forces to eradicate the remaining aliens. In early 02.014M42 a Corellian expedition to the northern mountainous region encountered several tyranid swarms, but the mechanised Imperial Guard units made short work of them. A large set piece battle took place on 1002.014M42, requiring the Corellians to commit their reserve, but after this action the alien resistance dwindled. Bastien would be considered free of the tyranid threat by the end of 02.014M42, although the threat from individual mindless tyranid creatures would remain indefinately.

 - Grimlock current

Eldar gains on Corticant

On Corticant the slow sporadic fighting continued between the Imperium and the eldar. Corticant had been fighting a war against the necrons for almost a year, although recently the war had devolved into a stalemate. Veers had built up his defences along the shores of Lake Hartford, and the necrons seemed disinclined to test them.

The eldar, led by elements of the Shattered Silence Kabal and Corsair eldar had invaded in the latter part of 013M42, taking Ironhaven. Since then General Veers had sent several forces against the eldar, but although the aliens had been beaten a number of times, the war against this new invader had fallen into a similar stalement, much like the recent war on Ares. Corticant, like Ares, was sparsely populated, and vast tracts of land remained untouched wilderness. The concept of holding "territory" and a "front line" was meaningless.

A new eldar faction, identified as the "Disciples of Ynead" by the Inquisition, escalated hostilities in 02.014M42, attacking outposts and defensive positions all along the Iron Road. This linked the important Arenhal Junction with Ironhaven, and if the eldar took the junction, the imperial forces manning the southern defences against the necrons would be cut off. Guard units retreating along the road told of whole hosts of ghostly Wraithguard, led by towering wraithknights. The reports of super heavy eldar skimmer tanks brought the attention of the Imperial Fists.

In order to effect surprise on their enemy the Fists eschewed any transport vehicles, marching on foot across the wasteland to the east of the last known eldar positions. The astartes force was then able to observe their enemy and launch an attack from an unexpected quadrant, taking the eldar by surprise.

The Imperial Fists attack was almost successful, as repeated heavy weapon hits and eventually close combat charges by assault troops seriously damaged the largest of the Disciples' super-heavies, identified as a much feared Scorpion. However, the main weapon was never disabled, and the alien monster's fearsome Pulsars took a heavy toll on the yellow liveried marines. Designed to rip apart the heaviest armour and titan void shields, power armour and super human strength proved totally inadequate to withstand this kind of weaponry. Realising he stood to lose his entire force, the Imperial Fists' commander withdrew, taking up positions behind the imperial guard to act as a reaction force. The eldar had control of the Iron Road, and would now be able to threaten the heartland of the imperial base.

Dark Angels raid Libria V

The next phase of the Dark Angels' investigation of the Librian Heresy took them to Libria V. Meeting no resistance from an unsuspecting administration, which would have struggled in any case to put up a fight on the least populated world of Libria, the attack plan was executed. The Dark Angels had determined that the alien supplies were being offloaded at several sites - hidden from the general populace - on the remote alpine planet, and Chaplain Azurath El'Ressius was tasked with finding the proof of the Librians' transgressions.

The surprise attack was launched early on 0702.014M42 from the Strike Cruiser Silent Hunter which was in orbit, ostensibly to take on supplies and carry out maintenance. A number of thunderhawks were launched to "ferry supplies" up from the surface and landed a strike team which made its way under cover of darkness to the abandoned airfield pinpointed as the destination for the supplies.Here they engaged a unit of Librian guardsmen defending the perimeter whilst the cargo ships were being unloaded. The Dark Angels strongly suspected from their opponents' confusion and horror at being attacked by Space Marines, and their reluctance to follow the orders of their superiors that only their commanding officers were directly complicit in the heresy. However, to the imperium ignorance is no defence.

Unfortunately for the Librians present when the Dark Angels attacked, the astartes declared that "all those associated with heresy are tainted by (it)" and that "they were righteously cleansed without mercy. In death they are free, may the Emperor have mercy on their souls." In addition several civilians were detained following the action who were actively participating in the unloading of the cargo vessels. It was then that a number of Federal agents were uncovered, and the explanation the Dark Angels had been looking for was revealed.

The findings of the Dark Angels were immediately relayed to Inquisitor Lord Vorushko on Vastrid. For her the evidence was damning, as she knew it would be, and she took immediate actions to prevent such sedition ever happening again. On 1402.014M42, by which time the Librian government on Libria III hadn't even been informed of the Dark Angels' action, Natalia Vorushko made her pronouncement.

***Citizens of Libria. Some among you have been found guilty of treason and heresy, dealing and trading with aliens and proscribed heretical organisations, namely the so-called Federacy. As a people you have broken the Pax Imperialis and transgressed against the Emperor's laws. You have been judged guilty and as Imperial lord Inquisitor I have passed judgement.

You will hand over your leaders. The governments of Libria will be removed and replaced by those deemed worthy of such an office. In addition the system of Libria and her people will submit to the following tithes as reparations for her transgressions.

The Imperial Guard tithe in terms of manufacture and delivery of materiel will be doubled for the next 100 years.

The first born Librian of every family from this day forward will be forfeit to the Emperor. They will serve pennance for their fathers' sins in Penal Regiments for the next 100 years.***

These terms were in addition to the already large Librian regiments raised and sent to fight in the Emperor's wars, but the imperium needed even more manpopwer and Natalia wasn't about to let such a glorious opportunity go to waste. On Libria there was initially no response, the government simply reeled in shock and stayed silence. The public proclamation also reached other ears. On Aleph 4, the capital of the Federacy, an emergency session of the Council was called to discuss the options now lying before them.

Disaster at Hylas

Da Verminator's fleet did not disappear entirely following its defeat to the Adeptus Mechanicus in 013M42 and in 02.013M42 the ork warlord returned in force, dropping much needed supplies and reinforcements onto the ork held areas of the world and causing General Van Dorn a great deal of stress. Admiral Jellicoe was contacted, and this time the senior naval representative in the sector was able to respond, having moved Admiral Pendragon's battle group from the Perseus Deeps to Caitlen Station in the Zadoc subsector.

Admiral Pendragon's force arrived within days of the request and immediately made for the ork fleet blockading the embattled imperial world. What followed was an unmitigated disaster, as Da Verminator's ships closed to lethally close range, pummelled the imperial vessels and initiated mass boarding actions. After a few hours of vicious close quarters fighting Pendragon broke off his action, realising his headlong rush towards the orks had been ill-advised and had badly backfired.

The imperial fleet withdrew from Hylas' inner biosphere, leaving Da Verminator free to molest Van Dorn's troops at will. On the surviving imperial ships the battles raged on even as they moved towards the jump point, brutal hand to hand fighting continuing for weeks aboard boarded cruisers. Some battles were even raging when the imperial fleet arrived back at Caitlen Station, where imperial guard regiments were drafted in to turn the tide of battle on board.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Greenskin victories

As Nemesis was defeated utterly on Bastien, it was losing on Fort Sparcos. The two theatres could not be compared however. On Bastien a small splinter or vanguard of Nemesis had been paving the way for a larger invasion, whereas on Fort Sparcos the invasion proper was well underway, but stuck in a seemingly never ending stalemate which had so far lasted over five hundred and fifty days. In late 013M42 it had looked like a final victory for the tyranids was in sight, but more and more greenskins had since flooded into the massive an ever growing fortress installation, which had bloated to the size of a large hive city.

Underneath the fortress the greenskins had created vast tunnels and caves to grow their funghi, and the effect of the hive mind had had unintended consequences, causing massive overgrowth with the funghi growing to several times their normal size, this in turn feeding the ever growing population of orks. It also meant that more snotlings were needed as many of the funghi had become carnivorous, but this was balanced by extra sport of carnivorous funghi pit fighting, allowing the orks to entertain themselves between battles.

On 0302.014M42 the ruins around the fortress were once again the scene of mass carnage, as both sides launched simultaneous offensives. The tyranids unleashed their newest creatures upon the greenskins, Exocrines seen for the first time, launching foul toxin bombs into the ork ranks, while alien creatures filled the skies, carpeted the ground and appeared from beneath the ground.

The orks however were nothing if not numerous, and they met horde with horde. More importantly the orks had lootas, lots of them. All along the fortress walls and behind ramshackle ramparts the ork 'eavy weapons specialists sent a virtual wall of shot in to the tyranid hordes. The flying creatured were peppered with holes and ripped from the sky, while hordes of gaunts were simply swept away. Protected by burrowing underground some Trygon Primes made it to the ork lines, but having caused initial havoc, once they had killed all the orks around them they too fell prey to ork firepower. By 0802.014M42 the orks had regained much of the shanty town around the fortress, and had begun the process of constructing more useful things out of the scrap they salvaged.

On Zoggot, far away in the Enceladus subsector, the war between the orks and chaos erupted again in early 014M42 as the orks on the planet forgot all about their peace treaty. Seeing an opportunity for mayhem the Bad Moons attacked a small but strong party of Emperor's Children on the plains of the minor world, for little more than the joy of battle itself. The eventual bloody victory was for the orks, but the real effect was to end any hopes the forces of chaos had of convincing the orks to fight on their side against the imperium and the alliance. The orks would fight, bit on their terms, and often for no reason at all.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Astartes tip the balance

Following a request for military assistance from Inquisitor Lord Natalia Vorushko of the Ordos Hereticus, the Dark Angels Strike Cruiser Dark Dominion redeployed to the Shadow Worlds in late 01.013M42, where it quietly watched and waited, it's mission to uncover material evidence of the Librian's apparent heresy. Inquisiotr Vorushko believed that if the Tau and/or Federacy (either entity being equally heretical in the eyes of the Ordo Hereticus inquisitor lord) were shipping supplies to Libria then these supply routes likely passed along the same lanes the Tau were already using to support their war effort in the region. A strike against one of the main Tau supply bases was therefore ordered, led by Captain El'Zahariel of the 4th Company.

On landing at a scrubby outpost simply known by the Tau designation as "Waystation 239", the astartes force encountered a surprisingly strong and well equipped garrison and the fighting was brutal and at close quarters. Eventually all resistance was subdued allowing investigators of the Lord Inquisitor's retinue to sift through the remains of supply depots, interrogate prisoners and examine cargo manifests. Documentation proved to be scarce and inconclusive but one prisoner, thought to be a low ranking Ethereal personally captured by El'Zahariel, apparently provided much valuable information. This led the inquisition to determine the final destination of some Federacy cargo shipments as the Libria system.

Scarcely days later the Dark Angel's Strike Cruiser Silent Hunter put in to the Libria V docking facility, ostensibly to resupply, and in the shadows at the endge of the system, a Carcharadon strike cruiser lay in wait.

Meanwhile in the Perseus Deeps, the Carcharadons were pursuing a more obvious enemy in the northern badlands of Bastien. Since the hostilities of the previous year the tyranid threat had been removed from the southern mountains, but in the north a large swarm of aliens was known to remain. The Carcharadons decided to hunt them down and exterminate them.

Using their customary airborne insertion tactics, the astartes warriors fell upon the alien horde with their usual savagery. Despite being outnumbered many times over the Carcharadons pressed their assault, aiming to fell as many of the large beasts and strike at the heart of the hive mind on Bastien, the hive nodes themselves. In this task they were successful, and soon all central control over the Nemesis swarm on Bastien collapsed, and the hive mind withdrew from the planet, astropaths in Salvation sensing the dark veil lifting from their minds. At least for the time being, Bastien had been cleansed, and hive fleet Nemesis looked elsewhere for its next feed.

Hylas: No end in sight

Van Dorn's lonely war against the orks on Hylas continued as 02.014M42 began. Un-reinforced from subsector command, the imperial general had none-the-less recieved some reserves in the form of the Adeptus Mechanicus and their astartes allies. These force, although autonomous, recognised the danger of the renewed ork offensive and deployed accordingly. They were also keen to protect the island of Etonia for reasons they did not wish to divulge.

Defensive minded, the mechanicus commander deployed his forces along the northern bank of West Coast, in front of the Etonia bridge, the only safe route to North Eaton from the mainland. Utilising local installations and tall buildings, the imperial force waited for the greenskin advance.

Na'Porkleon's orks duly showed up, but before advancing the aliens too created a defensive position opposite the human defenders, and an uneasy standoff ensued. This state of affairs could not last long however, as the Adeptus Mechanicus would not be moved, knowing that Van Dorn was readying a counter attack from the east. If the orks could be broken here, Van Dorn would have a better chance.

The ork warlord tried desperately to keep his forces from blindly attacking the imperial strongpoints, but in the end that's exactly what they did. Mainly on foot, the greenskins charged towards the Mechanicum lines, led by their elite forces mounted in battlewagons. Na'Porkleon squealed in disgust and bellowed at his lootas to open fire at anything which they could see.

The ork firepower, though heavy, was largely inaccurate. Even so several imperial vehicles, caught out in the open, were wrecked. In the ruins of large factorium buildings however, the astartes and guardsmen were relatively safe, and watched the oncoming greenskin horde, waiting for the order to open fire. When it came a withering hail of bolter and plasma fire tore apart the ork lines, annihilating those mobs caught in the open. Leman Russ battle tanks put paid to most of the battlewagons, and the elite meganobz inside were cut down by plasma fire, their armour melting under the heat of the barely contained energies of the mechanicus weapons. No ork set foot within the imperial defensive perimeter.

The second wave of orks, seeing the untimely demise of the first, took refuge in ruins between the main ork and imperial lines, and began an exchange of fire between their positions and the imperial lines, one which was always going to end badly for the ill equipped orks. Losing badly, the remaining orks of Na'Porkleon's unintended attack force fled back to their own lines on 0302.014M42. Etonia was safe and the ork offensive had left the greenskins in disarray. Now Van Dorn attacked.

The next few days saw the orks flee in disorder as Van Dorn's imperial guard easily overran the ork positions. By 0702.014M42 the line had stabilised as Na'Porkleon halted at the previously held defence lines and the stalemate on Hylas resumed.

Chaos retreats on Zadoc

Early 02.014M42 saw reversals for the forces of chaos on Zadoc. In the south the Adeptus Mechanicus led a new offensive against chaos, the first imperial offensive for some months, moving the front forward some fifty to one hundred miles by the end of the week long operation. During the fighting, a new daemonic force was recognised and drew the attention of the Ordo Malleus, although Inquisitor Hathek was able to use his influence to prevent the wholesale "cleansing" of regiments taking part in the war on Zadoc.

The same daemonic hordes made their presence felt against the alliance further north, as Commander Windgather arrived to repair the damage inflicted by the Emperor's Children. Increasingly the tau commanders on Zadoc looked to Windgather to act as "firefighter", moving forces from theatre to theatre across the planet shoring up any deficiencies in the tau lines and going over to the offensive wherever possible.

Windgather however encountered more daemonic forces than Emperor's Children, the legion having apparently withdrawn into the chaos hinterlands ready for their next operation. Thousands of traitor guardsmen were also encountered manning the defensive, but only the daemons put up meaningful resistance. The alliance assault continued however, and by 0802.014M42 the city of Jordosett, taken from the imperium by chaos, now fell to the tau.