Saturday, November 22, 2014

Libria V: Crusade forces take the fight to the alliance

Following the raid by the Apocalypse Riders the alliance forces swiftly took action. Commanders Shadowstrike, Skyfall and ethereal Aun Shayr decided to go over to the offensive, despite the lack of eldar support. The Alliance still held the balance of power in space, thanks to the federal fleet and the complete lack of a meaningful attempt by the imperium to shift them, although the crusade fleet was lurking somewhere in the system, able to deploy small units rapidly by fast escort.

The tau increased their forces and began a new offensive on 2211.014M42, making gains at Gold River by defeating the Novgorod defenders. Shadowstrike's forces found the going arduous against the mainly infantry imperial force, and many times the battle devolved into close combat skirmishes with bayonets and pulse rifle butts - something the tau found rather unsettling. Even so Shadowstrike made moderate gains.

Further south Skyfall encountered a patrol of guard moving north. An engagement briefly erupted north of Jutesberg, but the imperial regiment soon withdrew without explanation. Skyfall, wary of a trap, waited for reinforcements from Aun Shayr and Shadowstrike, who joined him and stabilised the front on 2411.014M42. The front line was now well defended, and a portion of the imperial force cut off, but the tau plans to continue south were suddenly interrupted from an unexpected direction.

The tau barely noticed the fast moving astartes strike cruiser and mechanicum escort craft moving in at 80 degrees to the ecliptic plain. When they were detected the federal fleet were engaged to intercept, but the adeptus mechanicus and space marine forces were able to rapidly deploy, then withdraw their spacecraft to the relative safety of the Librian cloud, a halo of dust and gas which made detecting enemy vessels extremely difficult. The federal fleet declined to pursue, although this led to the decision to employ a close blockade of the planet from then on.

The astartes forces were new to the sector and did not bother to acknowledge General Abraham's command of imperial forces on the ground. The Sky Lords chapter simply deployed their elite forces along with a powerful force of mechanicum, north of Gold river, effectively creating a second front against the tau. It was obvious this force was a new addition to the crusade, and Inquisitor Vorushko was now making her play for Libria V.

Vorushko was trying to be cunning. If she could defeat the tau in the north or at least consolidate a bridgehead, then she would attempt to defeat the tau more slowly than the alliance defeated the loyalists in the south. In this way she could be rid of both her enemies and be left in control of the planet - both ends of the system would be sewn up.

The mechanicum forces quickly dealt with Aun Shayr, cutting him down in a withering hail of fire at the start of the battle, although it is unknown whether the tau ethereal was actually killed. The tau then gave a good account of themselves, with Skyfall's troops at the heart of the action. The fast moving land raider borne force of the Sky Lords ensured the tau never even got close to the long range firepower units at the adeptus mechanicus' disposal, ensuring the tau were struggling with close combat at the same time as being bombarded by the best weaponry of the imperium.

On the right, the tau managed to prevent a breakthrough, and on the left, a diversion by Sky Lords tactical marines ensured the tau had to commit reserves - any astartes was a threat to the tau. The fight here was evenly balanced, though the tau came off worse in terms of casualties. However in the centre of the battle line the tau were first pushed back, then broken, despite destroying an imperial knight an eliminating a Sky Lords' land raider. Crisis suits and broadsides were brushed aside by the elite of the imperium, and by 2711.014M42 the alliance had been forced to cede Gold River to the crusade and fall back to their own bridgehead. The tau now had a two front war to deal with, while the first part of Vorushko's plan had been achieved.

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