Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another setback for Shadowstrike

Imperial command on Va'Doran were quick to capitalise on the advances made by the Librians. Lifting off from their drop zone, wings of Valkyries and Vendettas carried their payload of drop troops from the Prozan Cavalry to secure the remainder of Mesme Tol. Supported by air strikes from Vulture gunships the Prozans were successful in pushing the Tau out of the strategically important central hills. The Tau cadres in the region seemed to lack significant anti aircraft capability and were ill equipped to deal with the highly mobile Prozans. Rather than throw away lives stubbornly holding on to empty hillsides in the face of merciless air strikes the Tau withdrew until the air war could be fought on a more favourable basis.

Shadowstrike was concerned with the direction the war was heading. The expansion of Imperial forces from their original beachhead made a quick resolution more and more unlikely. The appearance of Librians and Prozans amongst the Imperial forces on Va'Doran showed that the invasion could no longer be attributed to “rogue elements” within the Imperium. Hatheks words were exposed for the lies they were.

To regain control of the campaign the Tau needed to assert dominance in the air. With his fleet now secure in orbit and patrolling the space around Va'Doran Shadowstrike began deploying wings of Mantas, Barracudas and Remoras to the planet's surface. Shadowstrike himself then transferred to the planet along with an elite cadre of hand picked black ops specialists and staged a daring raid on the Imperial landing zone.

The operation was a high risk venture but it was already too late to abort when lead elements of the strike force identified the bulky, 8' tall forms of Space Marines defending the landing zone rather than guardsmen. Although taken by surprise the Marines of the Red Angels reacted with clinical precision, advancing into the hail of shots and sniper fire to seek out their elusive foes. Their targeting sensors found it hard to find solutions against the Tau's stealth technology but eventually they identified the bulky forms of XV88 Broadsides hidden amongst the trees. Powering up from where it had lurked in the blackness of space a strike cruiser made a flyby of the planet, teleporting in elements of the Red Angel's 1st Company before the Tau fleet could react.

The Tau attack hung by a thread but the terminators and teleported into the heart of the Tau positions and faced attack from every quarter. No sooner had they dealt with one ambush than they would face attack from another direction. One by one the veterans of the 1st fell before the repeated ambushes until only the captain and chaplain were left. Their last video transmission showed the hazy form of a new and even more advanced stealth suite variant levelling the bulky form of fusion guns towards them.

Having suffered heavy casualties and finding their rear positions overrun by Kroot the Red Angels retreated and abandoned the landing fields and their vital supply dumps to the Tau.

Calliden Current

Chaos lose ground on Calliden

Following the initial invasion of Calliden the Necrons wasted little time in consolidating their bridgehead and taking the fight to the enemy. Between 2804.012M42 and 0205.012M42 the Necrons advanced more than two hundred miles along the northern shore or Tarsh, destroying settlements and installations and enslaving the population in order to accelerate their war effort. The populace was also fleeing ahead of the Necron invasion, flooding into the city of Bellatrix where they received little sympathy. The defenders of Calliden were completely unable to meet the disciplined military forces of the Necrons on equal terms and the refugees merely made a coherent defence even more problematic.

For centuries Calliden had been a world gone over to the Powers of the Warp. All the Chaos gods were worshipped and the entire society was chaotic, decentralised and anarchic. The Catechism had been able to stiffen resistance somewhat, but even the followers of Moonface found it difficult to exert any control over the petty warbands which passed for the defence force. These were prone to fight each other as much as the enemy.

Eventually the four leaders of Bellatrix, known as the Paragons of the Four, one for each major chaos god, hatched a plan to thwart the Necrons. A huge counter attack was arranged, led by the daemonic hosts of their other worldly patrons. For such a host to be summoned a huge sacrifice of human life was needed, but this solved the refugee problem at a stroke, so to the Paragons the plan had no drawbacks.

The daemonic host fell upon the Necrons on 0205.012M42, breifly giving the invaders pause for thought, but the implacable advance could not be held up. Ancient weaponry and organised military might easily overcame the slavering monsters sent against them, and by 0405.012M42 the gates of Bellatrix itself had been reached.

The war on Calliden had by then become even more complex. Unknown to all but themselves, the Eldar were also watching Calliden. Their plans called for the invasion of that world and the removal of Chaos forces, at least at some point, but the Necron invasion ensured that Calliden moved to the top of the Eldar priority list. They simply could not allow the world to fall into the hands of their most hated enemy. On 0305.012M42 a large force of Eldar troops, in the same livery as those encountered on Sentinel, appeared out of the webway in the lowland region known as the Neck. The eldar objectives were clearly the cities of Hextrac, Durin and Velorur, as by taking these Calliden would be bisected, and the Eldar would lay across the path of the Necron advance.

The Eldar took the forces of Chaos by surprise, but the Iron Warriors soon arrived and slowed the Eldar advance. In a spate of bitter and bloody battles the Eldar slowly gained the upper hand against their enemy, expanding their bridgehead but unable to reach the eastern shore of the the sea of Tarsh. The Iron Warriors' strength was sorely sapped however, and unless the diverse and often hostile forces on Calliden could be brought together by a charismatic leader, the ancient races would soon be left fighting each other over a the ruins of Calliden's chaotic civilisation.

Imperial advances on Sentinel

On 2704.012M42 General Ritchie launched another major offensive against his enemies on Sentinel. Ritchie knew that for his forces to survive he needed the spaceport to allow supplies to get to his troops. Food, amunition and spare parts were all running low, and none of these vital commodities could be manufactured on Sentinel itself. The planet was mostly barren, except for a few sparse patches of scrubland and tangled trees, and the planet had never been colonised for its natural resources. Its very name described what it was, a waystation between sectors, which the Imperium had planned to use as a naval base, but never got round to it. In the end Sentinel had become a rather lawless trading post, home to some half a million Imperial citizens, and as many outlaws.

The fall of Sentinel to Chaos had changed everything for the inhabitants of Sentinel, but since its recapture, and subsequent re-invasion in the device affair, the Imperium was not about to let the world fall into alien hands again. Ritchie was given an urgent message in 04.012M42 by his commander, General Veers, to "get on with it" and finish the war on Sentinel once and for all.

By the end of 04.012M42 General Ritchie had not recieved any new reinforcements for his renewed offensive, but he could still call two Librian mechanised regiments, a regiment of Cerberex Guard and a fresh unit of Prozans, a highly mobile force which thus far Ritchie had held in reserve. Despite the fact the Space Wolves and their brother Astartes had left Sentinel to apply their rapid strike capability elsewhere, the Imperial General was confident of his plan to attack both his enemies simultaneously, using his fastest and most heavily armoured units as an armoured speartip.

Resting the Cerberex regiments, Ritchie finally gave the orders for the Prozan Cavalry to prepare for their attack, their target the forces of Chaos, now supported by the Iron Warriors once again, who stubbornly refused to quit the planet. Meanwhile the Librian XXth mechanised regiment would swing west to cover the Prozan's flank, directing their attack against the Eldar occupying the vital highlands overlooking the spaceport itself.

The Librians launched their assault in the early morning and soon found themselves up against a highly mobile and well equipped foe. The eldar employed fast vehicles and mighty Wraithlord constructs, but the Librian commander seized the initiative, launching a full out attack as soon as his scouts came into contact with the aliens. A furious battle erupted as the Eldar desperately tried to counter attack, but although they caused casualties and many chimeras and Leman Russ battle cannons were lost to the fearsome D-Cannons employed by the larger walkers, the sacrifice was worth it. As the battle raged the colonel of the regiment personally led an outflanking manouevre which cut the eldar supply lines, forcing their retreat.

As soon as Ritchie received word that the Librian attack was going to plan, the Prozans were released to destroy the Iron Warriors holding the far end of the Spaceport compound. As expected the Iron Warriors fought hard, but found it difficult to land telling blows on their enemy. The Prozans fought just as doggedly, and once again the Prozans demonstrated fearlessness in the face of the enemy, with officers leading the charge into battle once the infantry had dismounted from their Valkyries. In the face of overwhelming firepower and an enemy which was not afraid to engage in close combat, the Iron Warriors scattered into the vast wasteland region which covers much of Sentinel. By the end of 04.012M42 the Sentinel Spaceport had been secured once more and freight landers could once again arrive without the threat of being destroyed on approach, delivering much needed supplies to Ritchie's jubilant army.

Shattered Silence starts construction on new base

Despite knowing that the Shattered Silence were aiding the strange Eldar of the Rillietan in their mission, Inquisitor Huron was not surprised to learn that during 04.012M42 the Dark Eldar turned against their own kindred, assaulting them on the embattled world of Sentinel.

The raid followed the pattern of previous raids, and now the sometime allies of the Eldar fighting the Imperium on Sentinel attacked their own kin, defeating them in open battle before taking hundreds of Eldar captives. Huron could only guess at the horrors which awaited them in Commorragh, but Huron was unaware that the Shattered Silence had begun building their own base of operations in the Radeon Cluster, a space station which once completed, would make the Dark Eldar kabal a persistent and dangerous threat to the Vastrid subsector.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Librian Guard make gains on Va'Doran

Responding to the fresh aggression of the Space Wolves Shadowstrike redeployed his fleet to Va'Doran. He would not allow any more colonies to be lost to the threacherous Imperium. Fresh hunter cadres were deployed to the planet's surface an an offensive planned against the Imperial landing zone. If this could be destroyed the Imperial invasion could be halted before it could gain momentum.

Things began to go wrong when the lead elements of the Tau attack encountered elite Librain mechanised formations, well experienced in war against the Tau from campaigns on Tarsis Major and Melberg. Knowing the Tau's preference for isolating and eliminating priority targets the veteran leaders of the Librian regiment concentrated their forces in well selected defensive positions. The Tau were unable to inflict significant casualties, their long range fire power causing only minor material damage to the Librian tank forces. A series of strikes into the heart of the Librian positions by Kroot and Fire Warrior teams met with more success but suffered heavier casualties than they were able to inflict. Recognising that the assault was achieving nothing and costing Tau lives the Tau fell back to plan a new offensive, surrendering part of Mesme Tol to the Librian advance.

New Necron invasions

As 04.012M42 progressed the Necron threat re-emerged with an intensity so far not seen in the sector. In three simultaneous attacks on 2104.012M42 the Necrons began invasions of three worlds, declaring their intentions and showing a strength they had until now not displayed. The Necrons were first detected on the Imperial outpost of Gamordal, which had only been cleared of a Necron presence during 010M42. The Necrons had been unfocussed and tactically naive beings, and the Imperial forces on Gamordal had come to the conclusion that Necrons were a relic of ancient times and no threat to the Imperial presence in the Deeps. On 2104.012M42 his view changed.

The Necrons arrived without warning, bypassing Gamordal's defences by using a technology far in advance of anything the Imperium possessed. Upon landing the Necrons swiftly took three vital positions, the hills overlooking the main base, the secondary space port and the water processing facility of Kerash Optecia. Now the major settlement of Gamordal itself looked under threat, and the total annihilation of the Imperial garrison was only avoided by the timely arrival of the Space Wolves. The Astartes immediately counter-attacked the Necron positions on the high bluff overlooking the city, but in a savage battle they were unable to shift the alien warriors. Now all the Imperium could do was dig in and await the Necrons' next move.

On the major Chaos world of Calliden a very similar story was unfolding. The Necrons appeared on the far west of the Dubladen peninsular and quickly overran Prideholme, cutting off the oil refineries of Kalas'har and quickly establishing a very defensible bridgehead for the invasion. The Catechism, re-energised by the invasion of one of their home worlds immediately sent in a counter attack, led by elite mechanised formations which had once lain waste to swathes of Tarsis Major and Cerberex, as well as conquering the Rim worlds in 008M42.

The Necrons were once again an impacable enemy, and the Catechism forces found their defensive perimeter impossible to break down without taking unacceptable losses. After days of probing the Necrons for weakness the Catechism withdrew to the hinterlands, drawing up a defensive line to prevent a swift breakout by their enemy. Another world was awaiting the Necrons' next move.

Further to the galactic south, almost as soon as the Tau finished the defences for the colony of Parataea, the Tau's worst fears were recognised as the world once more came under attack, this time from the ancient Necrons. The Tau had been monitoring the awaking of the Necron tomb worlds in the Perseus Deeps for many months now and had long recognised that their new sept worlds were vulnerable to a Necron invasion. Analysts predicted a major war against the Necrons was inevitable. Whether by accident or design the recent Dark Eldar raid meant that the construction of the new colony on Paratea had been finished well ahead of schedule and its garrison massively enlarged, just in time for the Necron attack. Even so the Tau suffered badly in the initial Necron onslaught, taking massive and unsustainable casualties. Despite this the Fire Caste knew their duty and fought to the death to contain the Necrons. The result was that the Necrons were successfully contained to a relatively small initial beachhead although many hunter cadres were virtually annihilated in the process. Distress messages were sent to Shadowstrike's task force at Va'Doran and the Tau's nearby allies, the Federacy, who had as much to fear from the Necron menace as the Tau themselves.

Dark Eldar raids

Although the colonisation initiative was proceeding with some urgency Paratea remained the Tau Empire's most vulnerable outpost in the Perseus Deeps. Whilst the Earth Caste were absorbed in the task of transferring materials from the constant stream of transports making orbit the Fire Caste maintained a watchful eye. Their vigilance paid off – the newly installed planetary surveillance network detected a raiding party of Dark Eldar heading towards an incomplete settlement in the planet's southern hemisphere. A hunter cadre quickly moved to intercept and the Dark Eldar flew headlong into a storm of rail gun and missile fire that lit up the pre-dawn darkness.

Despite having lost the element of surprise and suffering heavy losses in the initial ambush the Dark Eldar pressed home their attack, leaping from their transports into the heart of Tau task force. Thrown off balance by the speed and ferocity of the close quarters attack the Tau managed to maintain their fire discipline. At some point the Aarchon leading the raiding party was gunned down in the confused fire fight and the Eldar raiders at last broke off. Wary of the possibility of follow up raids the Tau accelerated the construction of the colony and increased their military presence on the world.

The Dark Eldar continued to make a nuisance of themselves in the second half of 04.012M42. Their raid on the major Chaos world of Calliden was less than successful, as the Catechism were ready for them. Once again the Dark Eldar had chosen to attack a world which, days later, the Necrons invaded a pattern which became of interest to Inquisitor Huron. Why would they chose to weaken worlds which were about to be attacked by their mortal enemy? Or were they testing their defenses, seeing which worlds were weakest and likely to fall to the Necrons?

Huron was convinced that the Dark Eldar attacks were following this pattern, but he was cautioned by his superiors against jumping to conclusions. Members of the Ordo Xenos were already working on a theory involving a mysterious Eldar Craftworld, about which little was known. In any case, the next hammerblow fell on Corticant, Veers' former headquarters before the conquest of Bastien, but the forces deployed on the Imperial base were still significant, as the world was now being used as a major staging post for expeditions into the Deeps.

The Shattered Silence Kabal attacked Fort Bastion, heart of the Imperial defences, while another Kabal began reaving near the settlement of Ironhaven. The Shattered Silence were quickly intercepted by a company of Space Wolves, but the aliens appeared unperturbed, forcing the Astartes warriors to retreat before completing the sacking of Wildgate. Even so, the Space Wolves' intervention meant damage to fort Bastion was light.

Meanwhile the small garrison at Ironhaven had been destroyed, but not before they had sent a distress signal. Within minutes of hearing the call, the Prozan 9th Cavalry responded, charging into the fray mounted in Valkyries and Vendettas, sweeping over the Veers' Mound and launching a hail of fire into the Dark Eldar reavers, who were forced to cower behind what cover they could find.

The Dark Eldar, unused to fighting such a mobile and well equipped foe, found themselves pinned down and unable to engage in the way they would have liked. After initial success however, General Stonewall found his enemy difficult to root out of their hiding places, and he was forced to commit his troops to ground assault. Even fighting outside their comfort zone, the Prozans conducted themselves with bravery and enthusiasm, and vicious hand to hand fighting eventually led to the scattering of the final Dark Eldar defenders. The survivors scattered, slipping quietly back into the webway. The Prozans had proved themselves in battle against a new foe, and Ironhaven had been saved from total destruction. Meanwhile Inquisitor Huron requested access to the Ordo Xenos theories about the Dark Eldar actions in the Deeps.