Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Libria I: Hector falls to loyalists

Following the failed attack by the Angels of Redemption on the loyalist Guard forces stationed along the Hector road, the vital industrial complexes of Hector itself lay open to loyalist assault. Hectors garrison consisted of elements of the 16th Vannaheim Grenadier Regiment, supported by the 317th Vannaheim Heavy Artillery Brigade. Realising its importance, the Order of the Crimson Veil reinforced the garrison with its Convent of His Mercy, the few squadrons that could be spared from the very understrength 5th Vannaheim Armoured Brigade along with Knight-Warden Adalicia from the ecclesiarchy aligned House Xiphos.

Loyalist HQ wanted to avoid the meatgrinder that Hectors sprawling manufactories could become, knowing that the zealous, battle hardened Crusade forces would be almost impossible to dislodge in an urban battle. They instead sought to use the Crusades zealotry against them, to encourage them to leave the relative safety of Hector to be destroyed in the open by superior loyalist firepower. This difficult task was assigned to the 3rd Company of the Ultramarines, led by their Chief Librarian, Tigurius. On the morning of 1810.016M42, the loyalist operation began. Tigurius led small detachment of the 3rd Company along with Knight-Crusader Athanaric of House Gladius in a steady advance towards Hector. This force was spotted almost immediately by Crusade scouts, information that was transferred quickly to Hectors defenders. There was initial disagreement between the Crusade command elements about how to counter this threat. Canoness Sevilla of the Convent of His Mercy saw the apparently weak Ultramarine push as an opportunity to counter attack and break though Loyalist lines to retake territory lost earlier that month, whilst avoiding damage to Hectors industrial capacity an urban battle would certainly cause. The Commander of the 16th Vannaheim Grenadiers disagreed, believing that they neither prepared enough or had enough intelligence to attack, and instead should wear the Ultramarines down in urban combat, only attacking once additional forces could be marshalled against the Loyalists. Knight-Warden Adalicia, seeing a chance to test her abilities against another Knight, supported the Canoness, taking it upon herself to execute the Vannaheim Commander for cowardice and insubordination. With the dissent in the Crusade ranks squashed, their mechanised forces roared from Hectors relative safety, out onto the plains that surrounded the city. Instead of facing the Crusade forces, the Ultramarines instead retreated. The battle turned into a tail chase, with the Ultramarines refusing engagement, drawing the faster Immolators and Chimera’s away from the lumbering Leman Russ’s and Penitent Engines.

Mid-afternoon, satisfied with the situation, Tigurius called in his reinforcements. The rest of the 3rd Company thundered from the clouds borne by drop pod and Thunderhawk. Simultaneously, the Ultramarine ground forces turned and engaged the enemy, catching he crusade force completely by surprise. Immolators and Chimeras were blown apart by the storm of fire from the Devastator Marines that strode from the drop pods, the Sisters and Guardsmen inside hacked apart by Assault Marines that leapt down from the Thunderhawks that swooped overhead. Her communication lines and command structure decimated, Canoness Sevilla attempted to pull her forces back. The 5th Vannaheim Armoured Brigade did not receive this order, and blundered into the chaos. They were quickly turned back by vicious fire from the Ultramarines and Knight-Crusader Athanaric, whose Battle Cannon reaped a heavy toll on the Crusade Armour. Seeing her target reveal himself, Kight-Warden Adalicia charged forward, ignoring Sevilla’s panicked attempts at ordering her to retreat. She cleaved through a squad of Assault Marines and blasted apart a dreadnought in her charge but, bogged down in the carnage, she received Athanarics full attention. Her ion shield was breached by a deluge of bolt cannon fire, exposing her to a series of catastrophic hits from his battle cannon which detonated her Avengers Gatling Cannons ammunition supply. Blown in two by the explosion, the destruction of Adalicia’s Imperial Knight marked the transition of the battle from an ambush to a full rout.

The survivors retreated to Hector in disarray, hounded the entire way by the victorious Ultramarines. The bulk of the crusade force continued straight through the city and out the other side, having lost the will to present any further resistance to the Loyalists. In the chaos, the 317th Heavy Artillery Brigade did not receive any order to retreat, having been left in the city that morning to provide fire support for the Crusade attack. When the Ultramarines arrived at the city outskirts, they were forced into a desperate rear guard action. Resisting the Ultramarine advances for over 24 hours, they bought enough time for Canoness Sevilla to rally her forces and set up a new line of defence protecting Carteret and Kent City, preventing the defeat from turning into a massacre.

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