Sunday, November 02, 2014

Bastien invaded by chaos

Following the unsuccessful attempt to force the imperial fleet to abandon their post defending Bastien, the Arch Cleric devised a new strategy. The Word Bearers fleet managed to convince Lord Tragean to leave his anchorage at Kendrenec in force, and move along the Perseus Run towards Vastrid. Tragean's force easily outmatched Jellicoe's fleet at Vastrid, although this was defended by a series of system defences. Of more concern to Jellicoe was the possibility of an invasion of Minos, which had no system defences. Fearing this Jellicoe moved his fleet so that the bulk could cover any move towards Minos, Parthenope or Aethor, while the Raven Guard fleet, themselves a significant force, stayed behind to defend Bastien.

The move by Tragean was of course a feint. In the Bastien system the Arch Cleric arrived with his force on 0111.014M42, and to the alarm of Imperial observers the damage to the chaos fleet had apparently been made good, although it soon became obvious that at least two of the enemy cruisers were of recent design.

The Raven Guard moved to intercept, figuring they could see off the chaos fleet reasonably swiftly and then return to their station around the planet. This however was not the Arch Cleric's plan. In contrast to previous engagements the chaos force began by creating their "crescent" formation, severely damaging two strike cruisers and eventually leading to the demise of one of them. The Raven Guard then pressed home their main attack, taking the opportunity of an apparent mistake by the Word Bearers, whereby the van of their force was now shielded from the approaching Raven Guard by an asteroid field. The astartes force moved in towards three chaos capital vessels, knowing they outmatched them two to one, only to see the three vessels then vanish as the force disengaged.

Initially this appeared to be a triumph for the imperium. Half the enemy fleet had now disengaged and the Raven Guard had the initiative. However a fast and powerful battleship remained in the system, and the astartes fleet began the long process of tracking and skirmishing with their foe. Eventually the engagement became a long running game of cat and mouse. The chaos battleship, Savage Messiah would for the most part stay out of range of the more powerful fleet behind it, before turning on her pursuers with a volley of lances. Then, as the imperial fleet formed up to reply, the desolater would once again extend the range. This continued for several days, before a squadron of Raven Guard hunters found themselves exposed as the Savage Messiah made one of her turns. The squadron was vapourised in minutes and the loss keenly felt by the astartes fleet.

The chaos fleet had lost one vessel - their newly constructed hades class cruiser, which may have suffered from faulty plasma conduits, such was the rapidity of her demise. The remaining fleet had disengaged, save for the flagship. On 0411.014M42 after three days of skirmishing, the Raven Guard grew nervous. What was this achieving? without warning the imperial fleet turned and headed for Bastien orbit as fast as they could.

When the Raven Guard arrived on 0611.014M42 they realised they had been tricked, as did Jellicoe. A day earlier the large chaos fleet massing in the Perseus Run had dissipated, an Jellicoe's fleet had been stood down. Meanwhile, as the Raven Guard chased Savage Messiah around the system, twelve chaos transport barges had arrived at Bastien and unloaded their cargo. Three were caught by the astartes escorts and reduced to vapour and dust, but this had come too late. Already tens of thousands of troops and equipment had been landed on Bastien, if not enough to conquer the planet then at least enough to make their removal extremely difficult. The Iron Warriors' scouting force had created Reaverton and the surrounding plan as a beachhead, and the Word Bearers had taken advantage, all while the imperial fleets chased shadows.

Lycurgus Stahl's Iron Warriors continued to attempt to create the much needed beachhead for the chaos invasion of Bastien. Growing tired of the tirades and questionable strategies of the Arch-Cleric and distrusting the capabilities of the Word Bearer fleet, Stahl ordered his forces to continue to forge ahead towards Reaverton instead of the Arch Clerics' desired target of Imperious. This would have been far easier to defend against the inevitable counter attack should the Word Bearers have failed in their mission, and Stahl knew that the Arch Cleric wanted Imperious for symbolic rather than strategic reasons.

The Imperial forces were not idle in the face of the resurgent chaos threat, having mobilised a large number of local forces, mainly tank commanders of the PDF veterans of the previous wars against Chaos upon Bastien, as well as newly arrived Vanaheimi regiments. Stahl placed subordinate Sorcerer Ashoka, in charge of the infiltration forces and ordered a reconnaissance of the road from the mountains to the city of Reaverton. Contact was soon made with imperial forces and throughout 0111.014M14 a series of running battles occurred between the Iron Warriors and local Imperial Guard forces. The Iron Warriors rampaged across the sweeping Bastien plains around the settlement, attacking small settlements in an attempt to draw out local forces. In the first major engagement the defenders attempted to break the assault forces directly. This played into Ashoka’s hands however as the veterans of the last war expected forces similar to their previous experience. This led to several severely underestimating the speed of the Maulerfiends of the Iron Warriors which they had not previously encountered. For once experience invited disaster.

In one such encounter, during the early morning gloom the first indication that the Iron Warriors were attacking was the fusillade of fire from the Vindicators who had moved into the ruins near the defending forces. The defenders, a mix of Vanaheim units and Bastien PDF, hurriedly backed away from the rapidly advancing Iron Warriors, two Leman Russ focusing their fire upon the Maulerfiends and a Wyvern supporting artillery aimed at the Iron warriors command units, including Ashoka himself. Despite the experience of the imperial tank commander directing fire, the Maulerfiends emerged unscathed from the concentrated hailstorm of fire from the Punisher variant Russ, and managing to dodge Vanquisher cannon shells.

The chaos bikers however were not so lucky as the sheer concentration of artillery took its toll, though the Iron Warriors pushed on stoically through the bombardment. Despite the loss of their scout forces as the sun rose, the Iron Warriors attack hit home with a coordinated charge that devastated the Imperial line and left their commander dead. In the centre, an imperial guard lieutenant attempted to restore order to the situation but to no avail; as soon as the a veteran squad arrived were able to turn their guns on the Iron Warriors they were torn apart by Demolisher cannon fire from a vindicator, now free to roam almost unmolested across the battlefield. The lieutenant and his command squad, the only survivors of the short battle retreated to Reaverton's second line of defence.

The following day, the Iron Warriors struck again, this time seeking to break through the weakened defences to the city. With the information gained from the initial encounters, the Imperial forces were much better prepared for the attack on the city. As per the previous attack the Iron Warriors attacked an hour before dawn, rushing across no mans land to close while receiving covering fire from hidden Vindicators. The defenders' initial casualties were light however as the gloom of the morning threw off the aim if the chaos bombardment.

The Imperial forces had scattered spotters in the ruins on the outskirts of the city who identified over vox the Iron Warrior walkers which despite some communication errors, allowed the Vanquisher tank hunters to halve their number in scant minutes, before dawn. This was cold comfort for the local PDF forces that were stationed as a protective screen against the Iron Warriors onslaught however, as the chaos forces tore into the defenders with wanton abandon. After only an hour of fighting between human and traitor marine, not a single PDF defender remained alive, and the Iron Warriors' casualties had been extremely light. Along the length of the defenders' perimeter firefights and melees now broke out between the PDF and the Iron Warriors. On the imperial left flank the results of each furious engagement were the same as Iron Warriors bolts and blades far outmatched the lasguns of the defenders.

On the right of the city perimeter despite similar firefights between the two sides the local commander was keeping far better control and had the measure of the Iron Warriors. The callous gambit of sacrificing infantry companies paid off when despite the valiant efforts by a particularly insane Rhino driver named Falk, who repeatedly tried to block the imperal line of line of sight by weaving about and kicking up dust, the remaining Maulerfiends were caught in the open and wrecked by the Vanquishers, a veteran tank commander riddling Sorcerer Ashoka and most of his bikes with rounds, leaving only Sergeant Hakor unscathed. The Iron Warrior assault was at risk of collapse at the gates of the city however Hakor and Falk continued to urge their comrades on. Upon a rocky hill the last line of defence had seen off a small foray by Iron Warrior forces, but Falk’s Rhino charged up the clope towards the imperial defenders, crushing the Veterans Lascannon support under grinding tracks, while Sergeant Hakor smashed into the veteran company itself, single-handedly butchering the remaining guardsmen. This show of bloodlust signaled the end for the defenders as the PDF line broke, leading to a general rout. With Iron Warriors took the city of Reaverton and consolidated the plains around the settlement. The forces of chaos now had a bridgehead, and before reinforcements were drawn up to launch a counter attack, the Word Bearers transport fleet arrived, delivering thousands of warriors to the surface around Reaverton.

The initial invasion of Bastien did not pass without any imperial success however. To the east of Vanaheim the newly arrived cultists and general "hangers-on" to the chaos forces managed to summon a significant force of daemons, who launched themselves at the nearest imperial force, gibbering maniacally. The imperial force was made up mostly of Vanaheim troopers, who had landed with the Aleph reinforcements some months prior to garrison duty on Bastien. Veers, wary of such a re-invasion of his crusade prize, had begun to assign more defences to the planet for several months, and now this foresight was paying off, despite the casualties.

During previous encounters the Vanaheim regiments had not showered themselves in glory, and were considered second rate forces by several front and army group commanders. However in this instance the Vanaheim units stood their ground and held firm in the face of possibly the worst adversary, desperately clinging on to their defensive positions and just managing to hold the daemonic horde off until the entire host disappeared back into the warp. The imperial line had held, just barely, and prevented the mortal chaos units from exploiting any hole in the line. For now the chaos invasion was bottled up near Reaverton, and Veers had time to put into action the defence of Bastien he had developed shortly after its liberation.

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