Monday, May 30, 2011

Necrons gain on Blight

While the forces of chaos fought amongst themselves for dominance and began their new reign of terror in the Vastrid subsector, they also found themselves on the defensive on Blight. Necron raids continued to plague the planet as 05.011M42 continued, and on 2505.011M42 the Shadow Suns were once again on hand to defend the chaos outpost. The Shadow Suns followed the trail of destroyed villages and abandoned settlements and found their enemy in the northern latitudes of the world. The chaos marines fell upon the aliens with savagery and once again forced the Necrons to phase out.

It had been a trap however, as no sooner had the Necrons been engaged in the north another force appeared further south. With limited resources to spare on their colony worlds the Claws of Lorek had to resort to summoning daemons to halt the Necron advance, but the Necrons were more than equal to the slavering hordes raised from the immaterium. Lorek's loyal servants were easily banished back to the warp and whole swathes of territory fell to the aliens. Blight was fast becoming an unwelcome sideshow in the Aleph sector and the necrons threatened to ruin Lorek's plans to restore chaos domination in the Deeps.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chaos factions vie for supremacy

By the end of 05.011M42 it was obvious that the Imperium were going to win on Parthenope. The system was totally cut off and even with Thok's machinations in the Vastrid sector the Imperial fleet ensured that no reinforcements would be reaching the chaos ground forces, save those summoned by the infernal pacts with the warp. The factions of chaos had therefore decided to abandon the world to its fate, summoning daemons to aid them to ensure the utmost bloodshed amongst the Imperial invasion force.

With Parthenope all but lost, the various factions which made up the chaos presence in the Aleph sector continued their struggle for dominance. Three of the major factions were vying for the overall control of chaos forces in the region, but of late Lorek's title as Master of Chaos had crumbled to ashes. Now the Shadow Suns and the Covenant of Damnation held dominant positions.

Lorek first attempted to wrestle control over the Covenant, in a ritual-esque engagement of daemonic forces on Parthenope. The daemons of Lorek clashed with those loyal to the Covenant in a battle of supremacy, but Lorek's bid for power backfired and his daemons were banished back to the warp. Later, Lorek attacked the Shadow Suns in the Vastrid subsector with similar results. The former master of chaos had lost to both his biggest rivals in the space of a week.
Meanwhile the Covenant, high on their victory over the Claws of Lorek, took on the Shadow Suns in an attempt to secure their own place as the supreme power in the Aleph sector.

Transported to the Cerrack Nebula by the warfleet of Lord Traegan, their attack on the Shadow Suns on Trian was savage and unexpected, and a daemonic horde summoned by the Covenant obliterated the Shadow Suns forces on Quim. The assault, and their bid for power was, it turned out, uneccessary. The Shadow Suns, though a formidable force, had arrived in the sector merely to indulge their lust for battle. They had no interest in setting the agenda or planning grand strategy and were happy to be directed to the most savage warzones available. The Covenant now had their mastery, but at the needless cost of forces which were badly needed in the fight against the Imperial crusade.

Thok at large in the Vastrid Sector

For months it had been believed that admiral Thok's renegade battlegroup was safely contained in the region of space around his lair at Mordecai, and Imperial intelligence had been concentrating on supporting the invasion of Parthenope. Somehow Thok's ships had slipped through admiral Jellicoe's blockade and on 2505.011M42 a fleet of chaos cruisers suddenly appeared at the Imperial forward fleet base at Gamarok, between Vastrid and Hemera on the main warp lane between Farport and the rest of the Vastrid subsector.

Thok's battlegroup was led by the fast battleship Ragnarok, a ship Jellicoe has fought had to bring to heel in 009M42. Thok had managed to repair the blasphemous vessel and now it got its revenge as the entire chaos formation opened up on the Canopus, in orbit around Gamarok IV. Caught by surprise the Imperial force of four cruisers stood little chance, and Canopus was quickly reduced to a drifting hulk and the cruiser Intrepid was forced to disengage.

Cressy and Agincourt however put up a spirited fight against the chaos ships, refusing to disengage and performing a series of impressive manouevres, using the planet's gravity well to gain position on Thok's fleet. The fightback saw Rheintochter caught in an appalling crossfire and she was reduced to a flaming wreck. Midgard was also badly damaged before the chaos fleet fled. The damage had been done however and the loss of the grand cruiser was a severe blow to the Imperial fleet.

A week later Jellicoe dispatched a force of cruisers led by the battleship Resolution to a remote system near Trian in the Cerrack nebula. Rear-admiral Craddock split his fleet up in an attempt to flush out the renegades, but this played straight into the hands of the renegade admiral, whose faster ships quickly ambushed the cruisers Agincourt and Centurion. Rushing to their aid the light cruisers Firedrake and Phoenix managed to get behind the Acheron class cruiser Baldir, crippling the vessel, but by then the cruiser Audacious had had her main drives crippled, and the massive cruiser plunged into the planet Mor Khan, obliterating the Imperial base on the planet.

Phoenix and Firedrake now found themselves caught between chaos vessels on two sides, and the crossfire from Ragnarok pummelled both Imperial cruisers, reducing them to wreckage. By now the Imperium were staring defeat in the face, but the appearance of Resolution and Bulwark turned the tide, battering the chaos fast battleship and forcing her to disengage. Skoll was also crippled and once again the chaos fleet fled the scene.

Although both sides had taken damage in both engagements, Jellicoe's fleet had come of worse, losing four capital ships, while Thok's fleet had lost only one. The Imperium managed to recover three of the hulked vessels and had crippled four enemy vessels including the Ragnarok, but it had been bested by Thok significantly for the first time in years. Jellicoe immediately moved a portion of the Imperial crusade fleet to Vastrid to counter Thok's move while trying to work out the motives behind the insane admiral's latest actions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rumblings in the Deeps

While the Imperium concentrated their efforts on the crusade against chaos, the other races active in the Perseus Deeps were far from idle as 05.011M42 wore on. The Necrons showed their hand once again after months of inactivity, this time appearing on the chaos held world of Blight.

The forces of chaos were rightly concerned when Necrons appeared on the planet once known as Sulidaan. The system, lying close to the known Necron tomb world of Gamador would clearly be a target for the necrons, should they have expansive desires, and there was now growing suspicion that the entire region may have once been under the sway of the ancient alien race.

The first attack came on 1705.011M42, but the Necrons had clearly underestimated, or not expected, the strength of Covenant forces in the region, and the necrons phased out after a brief if violent battle. The necrons weren't done however, and just days later the aliens returned and mercilessly punished a warband of the Shadow Suns, defeating them and laying waste to several settlements on Blight. The scourge of the necrons remained a present threat.

While the necrons reappeared on Blight, the Grey Knights were also pursuing their own agenda in the Deeps. While nominally attached to the Perseus Deeps crusade against chaos, the Knights were also intent on solving the mystery of the strange Eldar who had been conducting raids apparently at random over the preceding months. The Ordo Malleus, worried by the continuing appearance of the enigmatic avatar of the laughing god, sent a significant expedition to an unknown location in mid 05.011M42. The Grey Knights successfully intercepted the eldar force, but were decisively beaten when they attempted to fight their way into one of the aliens' prohibited locations.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Imperium forges ahead on Parthenope

Following their victories against the Imperial Crusade on Parthenope in mid 05.011M42 the Shadow Suns mysteriously disappeared from the front line on the chaos held world. Despite being the most successful chaos faction in the pantheon it appeared the Shadow Suns held no interest in shaping the destiny of chaos as a whole in the Aleph Sector. Imperial Intelligence suggested that led by a Khornate elite, the Shadow Suns were more focussed on killing and wanton destruction than grand strategy.

Armed with this information, General Veers met with Ritchie to decide on the plan to breakout of their insecure bridgeheads on Parthenope. Ritchie's plan was direct and simple, and quickly accepted by his superior officer. The plan would see the Librian Guard drive south and west from Dalisac, along the main road to Centosar. Centosar itself was believe to be held by Claws of Lorek legionnairies, but it was thought that numerical superiority would enable the Imperial assault to largely bypass the town, with Ritchie intending to push on to Gand and cut the Chaos forces in two.
The Imperial assault began well, with Ritchie able to call upon the forces of the Librian 11th Armoured, 99th Mechanised and three infantry regiments. In addition the Grey Knights agreed to assault Gand directly, holding it until Librian forces arrived.

The drive on Centosar went well, and by 1705.011M42 the loss of territory to the Shadow Suns assault was quickly reversed. By 2005.011M42 Centosar haad been reached with the forces of chaos putting up little or no resistance. That changed once the Imperial force reached the city, as the Claws of Lorek refused to relinquish the settlement. The Imperial advance slowed and despite the support of the powerful tanks of the 11th Armoured regiment, the Librian foot soldiers found the going hard against the Claws' elite soldiers in the labyrinthine streets of the city.

The Claws of Lorek suffered horrendous casualties in the fight for Centosar, which lasted two days. Librian tanks, including Demolishers and Vanquishers, tore apart the Claws' armoured units with ease, and only a determined rearguard action by the ordinary traitor astartes (if such genetically modified superhumans can be called ordinary), slowed the Imperial advance.

Despite the heroic last stand thew Claws of Lorek were forced to abandon Centosar on 2205.011M42 and although the determined fighting had delayed the advance, the Anticross had faired badly in Gand to the Grey Knights. With his allies defeated in Gand and the loss of Centosar, the lord of Parthenope found his forces cut in two, just as Ritchie's plans had envisaged.

Seeing Lorek in serious trouble, the Covenant of Damnation began to demand concessions and a change of strategy from the chaos lord. Incandescant with rage, Lorek sent his forces in to crush the Covenant and teach them who was in charge. However the Covenant forces were prepared and the Claws of Lorek were badly defeated in an action in the Vregal Peninsular. Lorek's forces were crushed and the former master of chaos now found himself losing Parthenope and totally without influence in the Pantheon of Chaos. For now the Covenant of Damnation held the ascendancy. They would now decide whether and how to defend Parthenope.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Parthenope Invasion

Dark Eldar raid Corticant

While Veers back was turned, concerned as he was with the full scale invasion of Parthenope. worrying reports of raids on Corticant were overlooked. At first the scores of locals going missing from settlements near Fairmoor and Wellake, far from the main Imperial base at Ironhaven, were put down to rogue bands of chaos worshippers which were still abroad in the brushland wilderness which covered much of the planet. By mid 05.011M42 however, increasing stories of wanton destruction and strangely clad warriors drew the attention of the grey knights.

While many of their number fought on Parthenope, eager to root out the seed of daemonkind as part of the crusade, one company made for Fairmoor where the latest reports had suggested something more than mere rogue chaos warbands. When they arrived they got a nasty shock, finding a Dark Eldar attack underway. The Grey Knights deployed to meet them and a fierce battle ensued. For two days the Ordo Malleus astartes were assailed by xenos forces, sweeping in on their raider vehicles. Despite repeated attempts to force the aliens back, the Grey Knights were held until the Dark Eldar had finished collecting their slave haul, and when the Imperium finally managed to make it into the burning ruins of Fairmoor, the settlement had been utterly devastated.

Parthenope Invaded

The second invasion of Parthenope began on 1105.011M42 and was much stronger than the first. The strike force included five Librian Guard regiments, two companies of Grey Knights Astartes and a company of Space Wolves. Veers still had total superiority in space and used this to good effect, and the entire Imperial Guard force landed without incident in the southern steppes, just to the east of Cradossi.

The Space Wolves landed with the Guard, intending to act as a mobile reserve should the task force encounter any surprises, while the Librian regiments quickly took Cradossi. The Grey Knights meanwhile assaulted Centosar, a city believed to be the centre of daemon worship on the planet, but they got more than they bargained for.

Imperial intelligence had noted several units of Anticross and Claws of Lorek Traitor Legions on the planet, as well as large formations of traitor guard, most notably those of the Covenant of Damnation. However the Grey Knights soon found out that Imperial Intelligence had completely missed the strong Shadow Suns presence on Parthenope.

The Shadow Suns quickly reacted to the appearance of the Grey Knights, taking the daemon hunters completely by surprise. Seizing the initiative of the engagement, the Shadow Suns quickly reduced the Grey Knights transports to burning wrecks and inflicted heavy casualties on the foot troops contained within. The shock was so bad the commander of the company seriously considered pulling his entire force out, but duty made him and his forces stand and fight the traitors. Unfortunately the situation didn't get any better for the Ordo Malleus force and by the end of the day their attack on Centosar had collapsed, their force all but wiped out.

General Ritchie, in overall command of the new invasion, did not immediately find out about the disaster in Herescia and his Librian regiments made good progress, smashing through to Dalisac, a major city, before pursuing the Covenant forces all the way around the Brackeri sea into Konossa. The carnage amongst the traitor guard forces was horrendous, as Librian forces quickly eliminated their armoured formations with accurate, if somewhat lucky lascannon shots from their own Leman Russ tanks and heavy weapons platoons. Still the Covenant did not give up and they threw wave after wave of infantry against the mechanised Librians. By the end of 1405.011M42 the Imperial advance had slowed as ferocious if suicidal counter attacks took their toll on the loyalist guard units. In the first phase of the battle 5,850 Librians were killed or wounded, but the losses of their enemy are believed to total around 15,000 after less than a week.

While the Librians ground the Covenant forces down General Ritchie also received some welcome news. Disorder had broken out in the Chaos ranks with a set of skirmishes erupting in the west between Anticross and Covenant forces. Presumably over supremacy of command, the battles only aided the invasion and by 1405.011M42 the second invasion was going to plan. The Claws of Lorek mounted a night attack against Cradossi on 1505.011M42, encountering the second company of the Grey Knights. The action however was a confused and sporadic affair made worse by the poor lighting conditions. This attack petered out, but much worse was to follow for the Imperial invasion.

Since their rout of the Ordo Malleus, the Shadow Suns had once again been either overlooked or lost by Imperial intelligence, who were still playing down their overall threat to the campaign. Never had the Shadow Suns proved themselves to be a significant fighting force, and recent defeats to them had been put down to bad luck. Now those views were about to change. The Shadow Suns struck on 1605.011M42 with a lightning strike running west to east. They cut the Imperial supply lines between Dalisac and Cradossi before charging headlong into the rear of the Librian advance, encountering the Space Wolves company deployed to meet this very threat.

As the marines of Fenris moved out to give battle, they were suddenly appalled by the numbers and organisation of the Shadow Suns. Led from the front by a chaos lord and khornate retinue in an ancient Land Raider, the rest of the army was far from a disorganised rabble. Instead an elite fighting force of traitor marines tore into the Space Wolves, who knew immediately they were outclassed, but fought on valiantly none-the-less. Casualties were horrific, with the Space Wolves suffering their worst loss in the sector to date, much of the carnage caused by the chaos lord and his retinue. Eventually the Wolves were forced to withdraw, allowing the Shadow Suns to loot and pillage, cutting the Imperial Invasion into three pieces. Now General Ritchie faced a difficult siege and the second invasion's survival hung in the balance.

General Veers and the Space wolf captain attached to the crusade laid the blame squarely at the feet of Imperial intelligence. How had the strength of the Shadow Suns been so underestimated? Who was the chaos lord leading their army and leaving destruction in his wake? they had butchered the Grey Knights, Dark Angels and Space Wolves on Parthenope in little over a week. Who could now stop them?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Necrons surface on Zog

It was 05.011M42 that saw the re-emergence of the Necron threat in the Perseus Deeps. Arriving without warning on 0705.011M42 the unliving aliens fell upon the defenders of the small and unimportant planet of Zog which had only recently been wrestled from the alien grip of the ork. Unprepared to meet this new threat the local PDF called for aid and were soon joined in their defence by several units of Adeptus Sororitas battle sisters - the very same units forced to flee from Libria just weeks before.

Even the faith of the Sisters of Battle was not enough to overcome the resurgent Necrons however, and the defenders of Zog found themselves retreating in the face of their implacable foe. Veers however was reluctant to send reinforcements to the unimportant world, embroiled as he was in the messy first invasion of Parthenope. For the time being then, the defenders of Zog were on their own.

Inquisition War begins

The first real shots of the Inquisition war were fired on 0805.011M42 when the Grey Knights attacked the Dark Angels on Ares. Believing that Inquisitor Xanthus was on the planet, the Grey Knights moved to arrest the Inquisitor lord and stop an Imperial civil war before it started. Lord Hathek wasn't even consulted as the Knights believed that as Xanthus had broken from the council, and the primary function of the crusade was to destroy chaos, the Inquisitor was now a traitor and aiding heresy.

Hathek and Huron didn't try to stop the Grey Knights, they knew better. However unknown to the astartes chapter, Xanthus wasn't on Ares at all. Certain that the planet was now in Imperial hands, the Inquisitor lord had left for Sentinel to bolster his forces. Instead the Grey Knights found themselves facing the two Astartes chapters who had been responsible for returning the planet to the Emperor's light, the Lamenters and the Dark Angels. The Lamenters didn't interfere with the arrival of the Knights, but the Dark Angels, when asked to withdraw and allow the Ordo Malleus marines to carry out their investigations, they refused.

This refusal led to an immediate attack by the Grey Knights on the Dark Angels positions. By now the knights of the Ordo Malleus had decided that the Dark Angels had declared themselves "for Xanthus", and by their reckoning were already traitors. The attack caught their opponents by surprise and the battle quickly went away from the 6th company. Still they refused to yield and the Dark Angels took heavy casualties before finally departing from Ares in their strike cruisers. By then the Lamenters, still basking in the glory of their victory on Ares, had made themselves scarce. The gauntlet had been thrown down and now the sector waited to see what retaliation or worse, escalation, the Dark Angels would pursue.

Although ostensibly represented on the Crusade Council, the 4th Company of the Dark Angels under Captain Angelus El'Zahariel had taken no part in the crusade since its deployment to Bastien back in 1810.010M42. Since then they had pursued their own goals, brutally suppressing the Aganthean Apostacy in the neighbouring sub-sector. On receiving news of the treaty with the Tau, and with their campaign against the Apostates successfully concluded, El'Zahariel redeployed his company back to the Perseus Deeps.

Before the 4th could rejoin their battle brothers on Ares, El'Zahariel received an astropathic communicae detailing the attack by the Grey Knights. Whilst El'Zahariel was under no illusions about the stubbornness and intractability of his brother captain he was infuriated by the actions of the Grey Knights. Ardently pro-Hathek the Grey Knights had been acting like a loose cannon, attacking Imperial forces without hesitation and pushing the Imperium towards civil war.

Although keen to see the heretical alliance with the xenos Tau broken, Captain Angelus was anxious to avoid a split within the Imperium. This left him in an impossible position. To fail to respond to the attack would be humiliating and make the Dark Angels appear weak and pathetic. To respond in force, and against such a renowned chapter as the Grey Knights, would escalate tensions and plunge the sector further towards civil war.

Having monitored the Grey Knights base of operations on Ares, the 4th deployed a task force of roughly equal strength. They then issued a formal challenge to combat – an honour duel to the death to maintain the reputation of the chapter and hold the Grey Knights to account for their actions. The Grey Knight's pride gave them no choice but to accept and they sallied forth to give battle.

The two astartes chapters manoeuvred through the ruins of Ares, but it was the Dark Angels who struck the first blow, attacking with a fury born of righteous retribution. The Grey Knight's lead vehicles were quickly destroyed in lightning attacks by the Ravenwing, then Dark Angel's fell upon the survivors without mercy. Using their superior mobility they picked apart the Grey Knights, inflicting heavy casualties whilst sustaining few themselves. Clear winners of the duel, the Dark Angels declared honour satisfied and withdrew rather than push forward to attack the Grey Knight's base.

Although costly, the honour duel defused the tension building between the two chapters and the contained, formalised resolution of the dispute met with the approval of the ruling council on Ares. The threat of outright civil war had lessened for the time being.

Chaos repel Parthenope Invasion but Ares falls

At the beginning of 05.011M42 the flagging Ares campaign was finally brought to a conclusion by the sudden arrival of a company of Lamenters marines, more than eager to prove their loyalty to the Imperial cause. The marines fell upon the Covenant of Damnation forces holding up in the ruins of Sindon station, deploying their elite footsoldiers and slaughtering the heretics who still fought in the name of chaos on the planet. Clad in shining gold armour and utilising only their infantry, the Lamenters were the image of avenging angels, an image not lost on those who understood the chapter's need to prove themselves.

With Ares secured General Veers put into action his long awaited invasion of Parthenope. The last major world still held by chaos in the Vastrid reach of the Perseus Deeps, its fall would secure the Vastrid subsector and make any chaos incursions into the Valitane sector almost impossible. It would also shore up the supply line to Corticant and Bastien and allow Veers' much anticipated second phase, the assault on Mordecai and Calliden.

It may have been long awaited, but almost as soon as the operation was underway it became clear that operation "Thunderfist" had been badly planned. Landing in the Crad mountains three regiments of Librian Guard secured a landing base at Cradossi before moving down into the plains of Herescia, intending to take Dalisac and cutting the chaos resistance in two. Veers tasked General Ritchie to perform the first assault, and the Librian general sent his regiments off in three directions, intending to encircle Dalisac and crush its defenders on three fronts.

Unfortunately for Ritchie Imperial intelligence hadn't noticed that while the battle for Ares raged, Lorek had deployed a significant force of Anticross and Shadow Suns marines on Parthenope, and now Ritchie's Librian guard found their objective swarming with traitor marines. Worse still the three pronged attack went badly wrong. The three regiments arrived at different times with the mechanised and armoured divisions arriving well in advance of the infantry. Forewarned the Anticross forces simply had to deal with each attack in turn, and this they did with aplomb. Only three days after the initial landing the Librians were calling for assistance.

The Dark Angels 6th company responded to the call and made landfall near Centosar, intending to cut the chaos supply lines and buy much needed time for the Imperial forces fighting for their lives at Dalisac. Almost as soon as they had landed however, the Shadow Suns came racing out to meet them and attacked with such ferocity that the mighty astartes warriors were sent reeling. By 0805.011M42, less than a week after the initial invasion, the Librians and Dark Angels were both in need of extraction, and Jellicoe's battlegroup made a hasty rendezvous with the task force on Parthenope, rescuing the battered remnants of the Imperial Guard and allowing the Dark Angels to extricate themselves.

Veers and the crusade council had seriously underestimated the strength of resistance on Parthenope. Now with the threat of civil war still hanging over him, the lord General made plans for a second invasion which would be much bigger and better planned.

Vastrid Sector activity

As the Perseus Deeps crusade appeared to be moving towards inevitable civil war in the Imperium, the other races of the sector were beginning to make themselves felt more and more in the Vastrid subsector. While the bulk of Imperial forces were deployed in the Deeps, the orks of the Cerrack Nebula had been becoming more troublesome. Soon they might unite under one banner, behind one warboss, and plunge the Vastrid sector into another age of war. It had happened before.

For now the orks were considered little more than an annoyance, despite their conquest of the minor world of Aspaster. The orks however were on the move, and on 0505.011M42 landed a force on Trian, where the Master of Chaos, Lorek, had set up a forward base. The arrival of the orks was most unwelcome to Lorek. His enemy was the Imperium and the orks could ruin his plans to bring down the Vastrid sector, cutting the legs out from under the crusade in the Deeps. Angered at the temerity of this new ork tribe, Lorek sent the Shadow Suns to teach them a lesson. Unfortunately it was the Shadow Suns who were educated in the brutality of orks and now Lorek faced the Imperium in the Deeps and the Orks in the Vastrid subsector.

Lorek's machinations in the Cerrack Nebula were not all for nought however during 05.011M42. On 0905.011M42 a small band of chaos marines landed on Quim, the site of a small Imperial outpost defended by a company of Librians. They were discovered when a squad sent to investigate strange reports became engaged in a violent firefight near to the edge of the Imperial base perimeter. The Librians took heavy casualties and lost a chimera and the marines managed to escape. The Imperium now knew Lorek had landed forces on Quim, but they didn't yet know why.

The Eldar also appeared in the Vastrid sector at the same time, attacking the Dark Angels base on Glossop V for no apparent reason. Once again the Eldar appeared to be led, or at least accompanied by the strange alien performers known as Harlequins, and Inquisitor Huron despatched a trusted colleague to investigate this new band of eldar and discover their intentions. The Dark Angels were able to fight off the eldar raid without too much trouble, but were equally baffled by the aliens' motives.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sisters of Battle clash with Grey Knights

The first skirmish of the Inquisition war broke out on Ares between the Grey Knights and Adeptus Sororitas. It was triggered when the Sisters of Battle recieved news from their convent on Libria, following the system's excommunication by Inquisitor Xanthus. Reacting to this the Sororitas moved to arrest the senior officer cadre on Ares not part of Astartes chapters. However the Grey Knights refused to let them, and a bloody confrontation left both sides battered and bruised. Realising those loyal to Hathek's heresy were in the ascendency on Ares, the Sisters abandonned the world and retreated to join Xanthus on Xanthus.

The Inquisition War

The Inquisition War which began in the Aleph sector in early 011M42 centred initially around three powerful individuals. Inquisitor lords Hathek and Huron had been active in the sector for decades, and had been the public face of the Inquisition in the sector. Their time on the eastern rim of the Emperor's domains had seen them experience the difficulties the Imperium faced surviving amongst the myriad threats and enemies of Mankind.

Both Inquisitors were in their own way radicals. Lord Huron had for a long time believed that the future of mankind lay in harnessing the psychic secrets of the warp, and not shying away from the reality that humanity was becoming a psychic race. His colleague Hathek knew nothing of this, as Huron kept his leanings, and experiments, a secret from even his most trusted friends and allies. Lord Hathek meanwhile had become convinced that the eradication of all aliens was not only impossible, but impractical and a dogmatic millstone around the neck of the Imperium.

By 011M42 he had seen the expansion of the Tau empire and the loss of the Aleph subsector to the Federacy, and had become quite convinced that peace with the Tau, and where possible the eldar, would provide humanity with badly needed allies against the forces of chaos, the necrons and the growing tyranid threat.

Hathek had brokered the peace treaty with the Tau on Melberg in 008M42, and with the loss of Tarsis Major in 010M42, the inquisitor began secret communications with the emmisaries of the Tau. These secret summits were also attended by a representative of the Federacy, and after several months of cagey negotiations Hathek managed to convince the Tau he was genuine. An alliance would recognise the recent gains of the Tau empire and their right to exist. In return for this, the Tau would cease all further expansion and the Imperium and the Tau would be able to co-ordinate their efforts against their major enemies.

For the Tau this was an important breakthrough. Following their victory on Tarsis Major they had been under increasing pressure from the Necrons, and the tyranids of Hive Fleet Nemesis were encroaching on their domains. Their expansion was flagging and another war with the Imperium was out of the question. Despite this many in the Empire were distrustful of the Inquisitor, but the backing of the Federacy convinced them the offer was genuine. In addition Inquisitor Hathek offered something else.

The colony of Minos, on the very fringe of Tau space had come under attack from the Imperium and Chaos forces in the three years since it was established. Now with Veers' crusade Minos was totally surrounded by Imperial possessions and a constant drain on Tau resources. Similarly, the Imperial base on Aganthus was isolated and within easy reach of Tau forces on Parataea, Skera and Cernunnos. Hathek proposed a swap.

By 04.011M42 the agreement had been reached and signed by all parties. Now Hathek had to impose this new order on the forces of the Imperium, but he was confident that with the support of his fellow Inquisitor, who had been kept informed of all developments, the power of the Inquisition which they represented would be enough to keep dissent to a minimum. Lord Hathek announced the treaty at a session of the Perseus Deeps Crusade Council on 2604.011M42. Hathek and Huron spoke at length, describing in detail what the agreement meant, and reminding every member of the council that the word of not one but two lords of the mighty Inquisition, was law.

Unfortunately for Hathek and Huron, they were not the only Inquisitor Lords present at the meeting and active in the sector. Despite being presumed dead on Myrentas II, Inquisitor Xanthus has survived and had returned to the sector to ensure the distant region of the Emperor's realm was being properly led. Xanthus was nothing like his fellow lords. He believed the Imperium of Mankind had a manifest destiny to inherit the galaxy, and took the phrase "suffer not the alien to live", literally. Once again he was aghast at the direction Hathek was trying to lead the Imperium in the Aleph sector, and was determined to stop him.

Disguised as a hooded and cloaked Inquisitor of lesser rank, Xanthus had attended the council sessions. Hathek and Huron were suspicious of the strange inquisitor who turned up, but continued with the vote, wondering what the new arrival would do, while also trying to find out his identity using the vast resources available to them. In the event the vote for the alliance was carried seven votes to tree,with the Inquisitor and the Adeptus Mechanicus abstaining. Voting against, High Priest Garett Van Buerden of the Ecclesiarchy, gave an impassioned speech to the attendees, supported by the representatives of the Dark Angels, and the vote could have been close, but as predicted the other space marine chapters who by rights could have had a vote, chose not to attend. Despite the objections, Hathek had his alliance.

Two days later Inquisitor Xanthus contacted the High Preist, the Dark Angels and other trusted allies who became known as the "puritans". They met in secret and the Inquisitor lord revealed his identity as they planned to undermine the alliance, setting humanity back on its "true path". While Hathek and Huron were only just discovering that Xanthus was still alive and back in the sector, the Inquisitor Lord had already requisitioned Admiral Dreyer's battlegroup at Sentinell and gathered several regiments of Cerberex Guard and set off for the Tau colony of Minos.

On 0304.011M42 the Tau colony of Minos came under attack from Xanthus' battlegroup. Xanthus had six capital class vessels under Dreyer, whose puritan leanings had made it easy for him to allow the Inquisitor to take command, despite urgent countermanding communique's from his superior officer, Admiral Jellicoe, and even direct contact via astropath from Hathek. He responded by saying Lord Xanthus carried with him all the authority of the Inquisition, and had shown him his Inquisitorial seal. No-one could now countermand those orders.

The Tau were taken totally by surprise, but the lack of time ensured little damage was done, and Xanthus did not disembark his three regiments of Cerberex Guard. Xanthus hoped the attack would be enough for the alliance to break, but realising Xanthus' intentions, Inquisitor Hathek contacted the Tau Empire on the same day, managing to convince them that Xanthus and Dreyers' fleet was a rogue element. Although angered, the Tau accepted the story, but demanded to be defended by Imperial forces to complete their evacuation of the system. In addition they demanded that the federal fleet be allowed to "observe" the evacuation of Aganthus. Realising he had no option if he was to save the agreement, Hathek agreed.

Inquisitor Xanthus found out quickly that the Federacy was sending a fleet to monitor the evacuation of Aganthus, and was determined to prevent the Tau from leaving Minos intact. The Tau would not be able to break out of the system and only a significant fleet action could remove Dreyer's fleet. Hathek now took the next step towards all out civil war. Admiral Jellicoe was sent to Minos with eight capital vessels and five regiments of Guard from Veers' crusade. On 1604.011M42 Jellicoe's fleet arrived at Minos and demanded Dreyer withdraw. In response Xanthus declared his authority and warned Jellicoe not to land anyone on the planet, declaring it quarantine.

Dreyer however would not fire on Jellicoe's battlegroup, and Xanthus was not stupid enough to demand that he did. The resulting battle would have crippled the Imperial Navy in the sector and destroyed Xanthus' powerbase. Instead, Xanthus landed a regiment of Cerberex Guard before Jellicoe's fleet reached the planet itself before withdrawing to Sentinel. Jellicoe's forces proceeded in system, and with Hathek on the bridge of Iron Duke, three Librian regiments were landed and gave battle along side the Tau on Minos, wiping out the Cerberex regiment after a protracted week of heavy fighting.

By 2904.011M42 Xanthus had reached Sentinell, turning it into his own private base of operations. Regiments of Cerberex and Praetorian Guard were inducted into his own private army and Garett Van Buerden gave speeches to the assembled masses. Xanthus then addressed the crowds of Guardsmen and even managed to transmit his messages across the sector through astropathic communications. Hathek ordered them to be intercepted and anyone listening to them to be rounded up, but thousands, possibly millions heard the rhetoric of the puritan Inquisitor Lord. In his "Sentinell Address", Xanthus poured scorn on Hathek and Huron, declaring that they had overstepped their authority and thrown aside the Emperor's holy edicts. He publicly excommunicated Huron and Hathek and, in a spiteful turn, excommunicated the system of Libria.

For many decades Xanthus had been suspicious of Libria and her populace, frowning on their unusual worship of Law and aberrant veneration of the Emperor. Angered by Xanthus, Libria's elite rounded on the ecclesiarchy, and the Adeptus Sororitas forces stationed there were forced to flee. The Sisters of Battle reported this to high priest Garett Van Buerden, and they set course for Sentinel.

General Veers, Admiral Jellicoe and many of the senior Imperial officials of the Aleph sector stayed loyal to Hathek and Huron, but despaired in private, fearful of an imminent war which would drag the entire sector into the Abyss. Veers tried to talk to Hathek but the old Inquisitor would not be deflected from his course. The crusade would go on. The Imperium would have peace with the Tau and Federacy, and Xanthus and his band of puritan rebels would be dealt with when it became necessary. Hathek still couldn't believe Xanthus would start a war, but fearful of assassination, stepped up his own personal guard.

The next session of the crusade council, which met on 0105.011M42 to discuss the imminent successful completion of the Ares crusade, had several notable absences. Xanthus, the Ecclesiarchy and the Dark Angels were no longer in attendance, but the council now had the support of the Grey Knights who were fully in support of Hathek's crusade against chaos. On Sentinel meanwhile the Adeptus Sororitas added their support to Xanthus, and the Inquisitor Lord began planning the downfall of his opponents and the return of the sector to the Emperor's benevolence.

Xanthus knew removing both Hathek and Huron directly through force of arms would be difficult if not impossible. Assassination would be almost impossible, but that didn't stop him trying. Meanwhile however he would have to undermine the Inquistor's and their forces, by removing their forces, one way or another. Requesting intervention from Terra would be risky. For a start communications with Terra were slow and unreliable. A request for arbitration could take years to arrive and even longer to be responded to. Worse still, there was no guarantee the High Lords of Terra would agree with his position, though Xanthus believed they should. He had the benefit of being right.

No, the way to get rid of Hathek and Huron would have to be done the hard way, by cutting them off from supplies and provisions. The key to this would be the systems of the Aleph Sector themselves. Though they desperately tried to stay neutral, Xanthus determined to bring them into his fold, refusing to supply or entertain forces loyal to the "radical" Inquisitors. He had already excommunicated them, but now he needed to lean on each system and pursuade them, by force if necessary, to accept him as the lawful jurisdiction in the sector. Suppport from Astartes chapters would lend much needed muscle to his force, but by 05.011M42 he could only rely on the Dark Angels. Now came the time for each chapter to consider its loyalties and lend its support where it felt it was most deserved.

Betor Consumed

**Hive Fleet Nemesis vs. Librian Guard - 3pt win to Nemesis, Betor falls.

Ares current

New arrivals aid Crusade

As 04.011M42 drew to a close, new arrivals bolstered general Veers' somewhat wavering campaign in the Perseus Deeps. They immediately made their presence felt on Ares, where the Imperium stood on the brink of victory. The Dark Angels had secured Ares city and now the combined forces of the Adeptus Sororitas and mysterious Grey Knights chapter of space marines led the assault on Sindon Station, where the last of the Chaos forces were holding out.

The Grey Knights plunged into the heart of the city where a horde of daemons had been summoned to halt the Imperial attack. Daemons were however the Grey Knights' speciality, and they banished the abominations of the warp after a bloody struggle. Meanwhile the Sisters of Battle found themselves under attack from the Anticross who fought desperately to maintain a foothold on the planet. They had nowhere to retreat to, and fought all the more savagely for it. By the end of 0205.011M42 the Adeptus Sororitas had taken heavy casualties and been beaten back from their primary objectives, namely the last remaining stronghold of Chaos power on Ares. Thanks to the Grey Knights however, Ares was almost within Veers' grasp, and now at last regiments of Imperial Guard were becoming available following the passification of Bastien.

Valboris Current

Nemesis gains on Valboris

The war of Valboris between the followers of Chaos and the invading Tyranids of Hive Fleet Nemesis had been at a low ebb for months. Every so often fighting would flare up as one side probed the other's positions, but for the most part both sides seemed to be focusing their attentions elsewhere.

The bulk of the chaos forces on Valboris were cultists and pirates. Bored, undisciplined and poorly lead, these fickle degenerates were soon lulled into complacency by inactivity. They fell to fighting between themselves or raiding off world for spoils and riches. Sensing weakness, Nemesis was quick to exploit the malaise and attacked without warning.

Caught off guard by the sheer speed of the waves of Tyranids racing along Valboris' coastlines the depraved defenders summoned hosts of Daemons to their dark places of worship in the path of the attacks. These incursions were confused and poorly co-ordinated, at first barely slowed the oncoming swarm. Eventually a decisive counter attack was organised and the light, fast moving vanguard organisms spearheading the Tyranid thrust began suffering heavy casualties. Nemesis was once again contained, but not before it had made significant gains.

Eldar continue to flex muscles

While the cracks in the Imperium began to grow, the eldar continued pursuing their own agenda in the Perseus Deeps, and reports of a heavy raid on the Anticross drew the attentions of the shadowy organisation known to a few as the Grey Knights. This daemon hunting astartes chapter diverted some of their forces, recently arrived in the sector, to the pursuit of the aliens. Their particular interest revolved around the reports of a strange avatar accompanying the recent attacks. Previously thought to be an avatar of Khaine, the daemonic embodiment of the Eldar god, the Grey Knights had enough evidence to believe it was something quite different, and exceptionally rare.

The Ordo Malleus believed the abomination accompanying the Eldar to be none other than an avatar of the Laughing God or Cegorach. This was suspected and needed to be confirmed, and if possible banished, as combined works by the Ordo Malleus and Ordo Xenos had learned that an active Eldar faction led by the Harlequin god himself could prove to be exceptionally dangerous. The Grey Knights did not achieve their mission however, and none returned from their expedition. It can only be assumed they succeeded in finding the Eldar responsible for the recent attacks in the Perseus Deeps, and were wiped out.