Sunday, November 16, 2014

Imperial disaster on Aethor

The violence on Aethor escalated in mid-11.014M42 as the eldar increased the pressure on the imperial defenders. It was clear that just like Sentinel, the eldar had now completed their probing missions and the all out offensive had begun. The eldar attacked in three distinct spearheads, each one driving down one of the three valleys which represented the bulk of the populated area of the imperial world. Aethor was largely mountainous, and the capital, Clade, lay at the western end of these valleys, where they joined into a broad plain.

The imperial regiments from Vannaheim and Novgorod had been bolstered by a small force of Adeptus Sorotitas and more than a company's worth of Imperial Fists and Dark Angels astartes. The Adeptus Mechanicus also had a presence on the world, though their forces immediately took position around their installation of Vaustfall in the southern Valley of Clay.

The Imperial Fists and Dark Angels were held back as a rapid reaction force, while the guard regiments took positions along the valleys. In the north, in the Vale of Ice, the Sisters of Battle were also deployed near to the Shrine of Saint Celeste, where revered holy relics were held and subject to the yearly pilgrimage of hundreds of devotees of the Saint.

Middlevale, the widest and most populous valley was expected to be the primary axis of attack, and on 1511.014M42 in the early hours, the imperial guard reported fast moving dark eldar forces moving through their positions. The imperial commander hesitated to commit his reserve, fearing this to be a diversion, but eventually the Imperial Fists took matters into their own hands and moved forward towards the fighting.

The astartes came across a large force of dark eldar identified as being from the Shattered Silence kabal. Well equipped and numerous, the xenos forces easily contained the Imperial Fists' armoured assault, and soon the astartes found their flanks compromised. The imperial guard had already fled, and convinced this was in fact the main eldar attack, the Dark Angels launched their own action.

The Shattered Silence were initially stunned by the astartes counter attack. Not expecting such an immediate response from the imperium, their advance was temporarily checked, and a furious and finely balances melee developed in the middle of a small settlement on the floor of Middlevale. Here was the fulcrum of the battle of the central valley, and gradually the dark eldar began to gain the upper hand. In an exceptionally bloody encounter, the Dark Angels' lead elements were wiped out, although they bought enough time for the Imperial Fists to extricate themselves and managed to inflict severe casualties on the dark eldar. The result however was that the imperial forces fell back to their last defence line, surrendering Middlevale to the eldar forces. Worse still, this wasn't the main attack.

In the north, a series of skirmished between the Biel Tan and imperial forces confirmed the craftworld's entry into the campaign on Aethor. Acting in concert with the other eldar forces, the Biel Tan disrupted the ability of the imperial forces to reinforce Middlevale from the north, tying down forces in unproductive and bloody raids, which could otherwise have bolstered the imperial defence further south. The Novgorod Guard faced the largest concentration of Biel Tan forces, and were soundly beaten at Gorget's pass. meanwhile the Imperial Shrine to Celeste came under direct attack on 1611.014M42.

The Biel Tan had a mission to loot the relics of St. Celeste, as their farseer had managed to discern that one was in fact an eldar spirit stone. Perhaps this was the primary reason for the involvement in the Aethor campaign, but in any case the speed and skill of the eldar attack caught the imperial forces off guard and very quickly the shrine, defended by a small force of Adeptus Sororitas, was soon cut off. Initially it appeared the eldar would wipe out the small band of sisters, but the appearance of a living saint and the fiery oratory of the priest commanding the unit inspired a counter attack. This very quickly inflicted horrific casualties on the attacking eldar, who only just managed to escape with their prize.

the defeat in Middlevale had been bad, compounded by events in the north, but it was in the south that the Kabal of the Glass Five broke the back of the imperial defence of Aethor. The key battle came at Vaustfall, a forge and Adeptus Mechanicus installation. Here the Mechanicum themselves defended their assets, with a force which was both well equipped and prepared for a fight. The dark eldar attacked with speed and withering firepower, but the Mechanicus did not falter. Here the fight was even and both sides gave an excellent account of themselves. After two days of fighting, the dark eldar commander took a risk. He knew that the fight in Middlevale was in the balance. If he surged forward now in an effort to take the mechanicum installation, he was gambling that the Dark Angels' defence further north would crumble. If not, the Mechanicum would be able to counter-attack, and the assault would fail.

Fortunately for the kabal, the Dark Angel's withdrew on 1711.014M42, just hours after the dark eldar had made their bid to take Vaustfall. The Adeptus Mechanicus counter attack never came, as their forces were urgently needed to block the Shattered Silence from rounding breaking through in the centre and taking Vausfall from behind. The Mechanicum gone, the Kabal of the Glass Five took the opportunity to exploit their victory, defeating the imperial Vannaheim regiment stationed immediately to the rear of the Mechanicum, and pushing back the imperial line still further.

The eldar & dark eldar assault finally lost momentum on 2011.014M42, but by now Clade itself was surrounded, and the imperium barely held on to the Valley of Ice. Both southern valley's had fallen and now the xenos controlled more than two thirds of the planet. Reinforcements were badly needed on Aethor or the planet would fall before the end of the year.

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