Sunday, August 26, 2012

Orks of the Aleph Sector

As with all parts of the galaxy orks are present in great numbers in the Aleph Sector, but they are more prevalent in some areas than others. Mostly orks are confined to individual worlds or pirate fleets, and only rarely in recent history has an ork warlord risen high enough to generate a sizeable Waagh! the last serious ork uprising occurred more than three centuries ago, but signs are that once again the ork power is rising.

- Vork Ork Expanse: The largest and most significant concentration of orks in the Aleph Sector is known as the Vork ork expanse or infestation. This is an area dominated by ork worlds, involving three major systems and at least five strategically significant smaller systems. The larger systems are Uggrod, Skabgrod and Maggrod, with Uggrod boasting three inhabited ork worlds and all manner of installations and bases cluttering the system's many asteroid belts and rocky planets.

The Vork ork expanse is home to countless billions of orks and tribal rivalry dominates their lives, with the orks constantly at war with one another. Only very rarely to ork bands venture far from their usual domains, but the expanse effectively blocks the quickest warp channel from the tau empire into the Aleph subsector. It is a major target for the tau, although even they will admit to being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the ork domination of the region. Were a Waagh! to originate from here, Melberg or Tyranteous would be most at risk of invasion.

Recently expeditions by the Imperium have discover new warbosses, Krumpgutz and Uzfang, active and attracting growing number of followers in the area.

- Shadow Worlds and Kallack:Outside the Vork ork expanse, the Shadow Worlds are home to a significant population of orks, who have rule Kallack for countless millenia. From this base they frequently launch raids and invasions of the shadow worlds, and Waagh! Nazghat originated from here just a few years ago. Nasghat gathered a significant force, overrunning Danelloth, Coronus and Bothorion in the Mabb Nebula. Danelloth was then taken by the Tau, and Coronus liberated by the regiments of Cerberex, but Bothorion, along with the former fortress worlds of Sparcos and Aerin, remain in ork hands.

Waagh! Snazteef also originated from Kallack, and Snazteef gathered a large force around him intent on joining the invasion of Tarsis Major. Lured by the prospect of hard and vicious fighting, many joined his Waagh! The orks plagued the imperium to the north of Tarsis Prime for many months before eventually being eradicated by the tau. Snazteef escaped by detatching a significant portion of the northern peninsular and tellyporta-ing it into space, causing widespread destruction on the coast of Tuva and Merrin. He hasn't been seen since 009M42.

- Vastrid subsector, Keprok and Magark:Keprok and Magark form the centre of an ork "empire" in the Cerrack Nebula. These large worlds constantly threaten to raid or overrun the nearby Imperial worlds of Perisia and Krell, and even pose a risk to Vastrid itself, and so the forts of Thrace and Ate must maintain a constant vigilance over the main space lanes leading out of the Nebula. In 010M42 Warboss Thrugnik rose to prominence as the most powerful ork in the region, and his conquest of Aspaster underlined that fact. However he has failed thus far to gather a large enough Waagh! to represent a significant threat outside the Cerrack nebula.

- Perseus Deeps:The Perseus Deeps used to be a haven for ork pirates & raiders, with several notable bands basing themselves in the Perseus Deeps. From 00-03M42 the ork pirates known as "Shadrak's Sharks" were a constant menace to trade routes from Hartak to Libria, before they were all but annihilated by the Imperial fleet. Since then the main ork warband has been led by the strange ork warboss known as "Da Verminator". Despite embarking on eccentric and often bizarre campaigns, he always manages to reappear when defeated with an equally large following of faithful orks. Since 011M42 the ork worlds and bases in the Perseus Deeps have all been eliminated, either by the Imperial crusade, tau expansion or rapidly growing Harakhty dynasty. Da Verminator is bound to turn up again however, as he was last seen heading into the Hell Stars region with his rebuilt ramshackle fleet.

- Other areas:There are orks in other areas of the sector as well, especially in the Hadron expanse and the Aurelis deeps. Many of these areas are completely uncharted, and may harbour as yet undiscovered ork "empires" which could at any time lead to a new Waagh! to ravage the sector.

Perseus Deeps Modifiers

Tyranteous uprising

Ever since the loss of Betor the situation on Zadoc had become dire. Although not a true hive world, Zadoc relied heavily on it's neighbours to provide it with the food required by its 800 million inhabitants - this mostly due to its poor soil and lack of habitable dry land. The situation was only made worse by the loss of Alphe, and imperial intelligence worried over the loyalty of Zadoc as its people began to suffer. Rationing was brought in but riots across the world were becoming more frequent as food became scarce.

However it was not on Zadoc, but on the last remaining large agri-world, Tyranteous, that trouble started. Pushed ever harder by the administratum to produce more, the world and its population were ever more exploited throughout 011M42 and 012M42 as the imperial authorities doubled, then trebled the tithe in order to ease the trouble on Zadoc. Less and less food was available for the 8 million of Tyranteous, and yet they were expected to work harder and harder, turning ever more of the planet into a vast farm to feed the millions on the subsector capital.

There was no mass rioting however. Instead, in early 08012M42 the imperial governor, Diana Selken, was informed by her regional councils that Hollyden, an island state near the equator of the world, had seceded from the federation which nominally governed the world, rejecting the imperial tithe and declaring themselves independent. Lady Selken was horrified by the news, and immediately ordered the PDF to assault the state and take its capital, Hollydale. The PDF dutifully moved in via North Landing, but it was clear they were less than happy with their orders from the capital, Jutesburg. Then the unthinkable happened, as a host of daemons suddenly ambushed the small PDF column advancing on Hollyden. The loyalists were scattered and the rebel state was now known to harbour heretics rather than just traitors.

Diana Selken knew she had to ask for aid, and in mid-08.012M42 sent a general appeal. The reaction from the sector commander, Lord General Mikell Denham was swift, and three regiments of Librian guard were reassigned from Alexander's battlegrouop to help quell the rebellion. News of daemonic activity also secured the help of the Raven Guard and Blood Martyrs chapters of marines, and in late 08.012M42 the combined imperial force landed on Tyranteous and moved against the heretics of Hollyden.

The Raven Guard moved in from the south, while simultaneously the Librians and Blood Martyrs attacked once again from north landing. At both ends of the state the land narrowed into a small isthmus, and it was as the imperial forces crossed these narrow strips of land that the traitor forces responded. Rather than fight themselves, daemonic entities were once again summoned. At Fernal Crossing the Raven Guard fought furiously, aided by the Grey Knights themselves, who had arrived in small numbers to destroy the daemons. The chaotic forces were too strong however, and despite a stubborn defence, the imperial forces were obliged to retreat back out of the Fernal isthmus.

In the north, at Weybridge Crossing, the Imperium fared no better. With the enemy sighted midway across the crossing, the Librians dug in, hiding behind hastily prepared fortifications, while the Blood Martyrs forged ahead to break the apparently weak cultist resistance. However once again the daemons were summoned, and swept across the plain towards the imperial forces. Massed fire had little effect on the warp creatures, and the Blood Martyrs were cut down where they sttod. The imperial guard forces found their defence lines irrelevant as the daemons brushed them aside, and very few survivors made it back to North Landing. Here the imperium dug in and awaited even more reinforcement, while Lord Inquisitor Hathek sent agents to determine the level of heresy on Tyranteous.

Nemesis tendrils unstoppable

As 08.012M42 came to an end the tendrils of Nemesis were active on four worlds. With Alphe consumed, the distant nodes of the hive fleet seemed to grow more agressive, as the tyranids launched assaults all over the sector. On New Sparta, more of the world came under the control of the alien menace as a horde of ravenous beasts exterminated all before it. Even the summoning of a host of daemons could not halt the tide, although Lorek's forces did give the tyranids pause for thought, allowing him to extract his forces from certain annihilation. The front line was pushed back, but New Sparta was far from defeated.

Meanwhile in the Perseus Deeps, Nemesis had established a toehold on the Tau sept world of Parius. The Eldar quickly realised that what had begun as a minor incursion could easily snowball into a full invasion with the potential of drawing the main body of the Tyranid Hive Fleet into the Persius Deeps. If the Tau and Federal worlds there came under threat it would divert resources away from combating the Necrons and drastically weaken their new allies strength in the deeps.

Anxious to nip this new threat in the bud the Eldar sent a war host to the aid of the Tau and the two allies made their stand side by side. As the Tyranids swarmed forwards they took heavy casualties from the combined fire power of the alliance. The first wave made it to the Tau positions, but so badly weakened it was held off before Eldar Harlequins moved in to put down the survivors.

Realising that its foes strength came from unity Nemesis abruptly adapted its tactics. As the Tau were distracted by a massive Trygon bursting up from amidst their positions Nemesis directed its full fury against the Eldar. Overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught the Eldar suffered horrific casualties, leaving the Tau isolated against the Tyranid swarm.

Realising their precarious position the Tau immediately launched a desperate counter attack, catching Nemesis out of position before it could bring its full might to bare against them. The Tau succeeded in punching a hole through the horde arrayed against them and it seemed as if they might hold out yet, but with the Eldar resistance now collapsed and their own casualties mounting the Tau faced being cut off and destroyed by the rest of the Tyranid host which now threatened them from all sides. The Tau hurriedly withdrew their remaining forces, preserving their strength until an effective counter attack could be mustered.

Unknown to the Tau, the dark eldar were also battling the tyranids on Parius. They knew Parius was the site of a webway portal, and were desparate to avoid the aliens finding it, lest their own city of Commoragh come under direct attack. The dark eldar, their former brethren already in action on the world, took action themselves, ambushing Nemesis as it approached the portal. The tyranids fought back ferociously, and massacred the would be ambushers, drawing the attention of the intelligent hive mind to ponder why the dark eldar had attacked. To the horror of the dark eldar, Nemesis began scouting out the hills near where the webway portal was located, anxious to find what the kabals of Commoragh had been so desperate to hide.

Back in the Zadoc subsector, the force of tyranids on the barren planet had multiplied over several months, and now launched another huge attack against the orks. Warlord Uzfang's boz were there to meet the invaders, and summoned the green tide against the hive mind. Deploying all manner of contraptions, vehicles and even orks riding a Squiggoth, the orks gleefully went into battle. This soon degenerated into slaughter as the two forces barrelled into each other, but after several hours it became clear that although Nemesis had taken casualties, the ork army had been obliterated. The remaining orks quickly fled back to the outer defences of the fort itself, ready to make their stand against the all consuming tyranid menace.

With hive fleet Nemesis advancing on all fronts, inquisitor Huron began to raise a force to investigate the source of the invasion. He had worked out it had come from the Hadron Expanse, and a lower rank inquisitor in his service had already deduced much which wasn't right about the hive fleet. Huron resolved to track down the hive fleet to its source, perhaps learning enough about Nemesis to find a way to stop it before the entire sector was consumed.

Alien invaders of Ares lose ground

Following the Dark Angels' intervention on Ares the Blood Angels launched their own strike against the eldar. However they did not inform General Veers nor the commander on the ground of their assault, and when their strike cruiser was contacted as it approached the world, the astartes merely stated they were on their own business and that other imperial forces should avoid getting in their way. The Blood Angels came in hard and fast, launching strikes at various points around Hephath Station. Much damage was done to the eldar defenders, but the marines left as quickly as they arrived, and the Imperium was unable to take advantage of the unannounced strike.

THe Librians and Blood Martyrs chapter engaging the eldar in the main campaign were also having to deal with opportunist dark eldar raid, something which seemed to plague those theatres of war where the eldar themselves were engaged in major ground campaigns. While the eldar were allies on Alphe they were the enemy on Ares, but it made no difference, the dark eldar arrived and took advantage of the open webway portals and the confusion of war. Once again however General Veers had made plans for such raids, and a combined force of Librians and Blood Martyrs were able to lure the dark eldar away from their plunder onto pre-prepared defences. The tactic worked and the raiders were slaughtered as they charged the imperial lines, before disappearing empty handed as darkness fell. Later on 2608.012M42 the dark eldar were able to get some revenge, ambushing a Blood Martyrs patrol, killing several marines and taking several captive. A consolation prize perhaps, but imperial high command once again gave clear orders to local commanders to take appropriate precautions against dark eldar raiders throughout the Perseus Deeps.

On 2708.012M42, keen to preserve the momentum built up by the Imperium on Ares, the Dark Angels once again committed their strength to the planets surface. Lead by their company chaplain elements of the 4th battle company made an aggressive mechanised assault on Hephath Station. At first they encountered no resistance and it seemed as if the Eldar had abandoned the area, but as the lead elements of the company moved into the ruins the hulking forms of Eldar Wraith constructs strode from their concealed positions.

Brutal close quarter fighting erupted amidst the ruins and Chaplain Azurath fell early on in battle at the hands of a mystical Waith Seer. As the battle hung in the balance a sudden counter attack by Tactical Squad Lazarus finally put down the alien witch construct. Devoid of its guidance the animated ghost walkers seemed to lose focus and most were finally destroyed by the tactical squads advancing through the ruins. As resistance crumbled the Eldar used back streets to outflank the attack and send mechanised aspect units to harass their enemy from the rear. Cut off the Dark Angels were forced to halt their attack and hold position until regiments from the Imperial Guard could be brought forward to consolidate the ground they had gained. Hephath Station had been reclaimed but the fighting on Ares was far from over.

Krumpgutz resurgent in Vork ork Empire

While Lord General Militant Roover was concerned mainly with events in the Aleph sector itself, but the end of 07.012M42 he could no longer ignore the increasing signs that the orks were on the move in the Vork ork expanse. Roover couldn't spare any forces however, which was an issue as Inquisitor Leballe of the Ordo Xenos was threatening to take them anyway, and form her own investigation force. Fortunately for Roover, his senior position meant he could draw upon the support of many allies. He was able to convince Laballe to leave his Imperial Guard regiments alone, offering the support of two Astartes companies which he had managed to secure.

Laballe accepted the help of the Astartes, and the 5th battle company of the Raven Guard, led by shadow captain Corvane Valar abours the battlebarge Shadow of Corax, formed the bulk of the expedition. Within a month the Raven Guard had reached the Vork Ork expanse, joined by a strike cruiser and battle company from the Ultramarines. They landed on the sparsely inhabited ork world of Nazgrot within a month of departure, and Laballe began her investigations while the marines set up a base.

All was not well however, as very soon it was determined there were far more orks, millions more, on Nazgrot than the last imperial survey just thirty standard Terran years previously had found. It didn't take them long to find out the marines had landed, and before long orks loyal to the warlord Krumpgutz were whooping and careening just miles from the imperial base, relishing the opportunity to test themselves against the cream of mankind.

The orks attacked on 1808.012M42, and the Ultramarines fought hard to defend their perimeter, while the Inquisitor gathered as much information about the orks as she could. The Ultramarines held off the greenskin charge, just, but the orks involved in the attack appeared darker, larger and more violent than the usual inhabitants of the minor world.

Now that the orks new they were there, more would come, so Laballe moved her base of operations. As the small strike force left Nazgrot, Labbale was able to witness another battle going on between the orks on the surface. Two warlords, Uzfang and Krumpgutz, had forces engaged with one another, and the fighting was intense and bloody. Perhaps the arrival of the imperial forces had stirred the orks up and now, with their opponents leaving, they had only themselves to fight... which is of course what they did. Even so, the shocking violence on display demonstrated the orks were mobilising for something.

The next investigation occurred ten days later on Uggrod III, the smallest and outermost inhabitable world in the massive Uggrod system, home to billions of orks. As the Shadow of Corax slipped past the outer asteroid fields, Laballe detected a frenzy of activity. The orks were hard at work, building ships, roks and converting anything they could find into a mobile weapon of war. The Inquisitor's forces barely managed to slip past the orks, and it was fortunate they were so focussed on their tasks. Had the space marine vessels been uncovered, the combined might of the orks in the system would easily have overwhelmed the smaller imperial force.

The landing on Uggrod III went as planned, but within days of the landing a huge dustloud on the horizon indicated they had been discovered. Once again the orks charged, this time with even more fury and wild abandon. The Raven Guard were in the thick of the fighting, but found themselves in serious difficulties after just a couple of hours. Laballe began evacuating once more, horrified to learn the orks here were also loyal to Krumpgutz. This meant his power was growing, as his followers now spanned multiple systems. Similarly Uzfang held sway over forces in the Vork Ork Expanse and the Mabb Nebula, meaning that there were at least two ork warlords capable of launching major invasions. If one of these were to become pre-eminent, a Waagh! would surely ensue.

The Inquisitor left Uggrod III and slipped out of the system. She knew she needed to gather more information from the other worlds in the expanse, notably Maggrod and Skabgrod. How many more warlords were there? What else were the orks planning? Laballe needed to find out, and soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The doom of Alphe

General Percival's distress call from Alphe was answered as quickly as possible by the Imperial Navy, and to their credit they managed to get Alexander's battlegroup to the system within two weeks. When they arrived in system, although the hive fleet was nowhere to be seen, the entire system close to Alphe itself was swarming with spores, which delayed the inbound would be rescuers as they were forced to bunch up and punch a way through the toxic biohazards.

Meanwhile as the fleet approached the planet itself, the defenders on the ground were facing a desperate struggle for survival, trying to keep the Deepsnow space port open as the tyranid hordes closed in around them. The final battle on Alphe would be fought at the gates of the massive city itself, constructed on and within the mountain range in the polar regions of the planet. Percival, now aided by the Eldar and a company of Ultramarines, made his stand at the fortifications protecting the hive, the only city large enough for such a classification on the whole of Alphe, while as much of the planet's precious resources and equipment was shuttled to the awaiting fleet. If there was time and sufficient space, the civilian population might also be rescued.

The tyranids rushed headlong at the gates of Deepsnow, and Percival was forced to deploy his last reserves. This included two super heavy tanks, a baneblade and a shadowsword, the last on the world, as well as a handful of Prozan and Librian regiments, bolstered by his allies. The Tyranids quickly created a breach in the walls and blew the main gates to pieces, then, in the half light of the now almost toxic atmosphere, Nemesis swarmed forward.

While Percival began the evacuation of heavy equipment, the battle raged at the gates. The order of priority was brutally pragmatic, starting with the Adeptus Mechanicus, the men and equipment of the Imperial Guard would be next. Adeptus Arbites struggled with millions of rioting civilians at the spaceport gates, all desparate to leave with the remnants of Imperial authority, and soon bloody battles were being fought inside the city as well as at the gates. Law and order broke down as the instinct for survival took over.

At the gates themselves, bolstered by the inspiring sight of the Ultramarines, and in awe of their alien allies, the Imperial guard of Libria and Prozan fought furiously. The super heavy tanks turned hundreds of aliens into gobbets of flesh and chitin, while the Ultramarine terminators fought in bloody hand to hand battles with any creatures which got close to the walls. But there were always more. The battle turned when several monstrous burrowing creatures appeared in and around the main gates, forcing Percival to direct his attention momentarily away from the approaching horde. It was all that Nemesis needed.

As the fire from the defenders slackened, the horde of tyranid creatures burst through the breach in the walls, slaughtering the eldar defenders. Percival sent in Hellhounds to reinforce his allies, but these were in turn destroyed. By now Nemesis had got close enough to the walls to assault the tanks of the Librian guard, and a terrifying barbed Hierodule ripped the baneblade apart with its claws, having destroyed the shadowsword with it biological ranged weaponry. Fortunately for the Librian defenders on the walls, massed lascannon fire brought the brute down before it had a chance to rip its way into the fortress itself.

In the centr
e of the battle the Space marines were being tested in their attempt to hold the central gatehouse of the walls of Deepsnow, and the captain of the 4th company fell in combat with multiple tyranid beasts. A brave airborne counter assault by the Prozan cavalry bought some time, but as soon as they had disembarked the Prozans were surrounded, the colonel of the regiment taking his own life rather than face butchery at the hands of the aliens as they closed in around him.

At the end of the first day of the tyranid assault on Deepsnow, the eldar began to retreat towards their warp gate, which was held long enough for them to escape, sealing it shut behind them. As the breach finally fell to the tyranids, Percival gave the order to withdraw to the landing pads. He realised the time was up, and at 12:14 local time on 1808.012M42 he gave the order for all remaining equipment to be left behind. He would now save as many of his men as he could.

As Nemesis closed in on the central complex of Deepsnow, the remaining Prozan and Librian troopers retreated in good order to the landing pads at the heart of the city. The PDF revolted when they learnt that only guard regiments would be evacuated, and several thousand PDF troopers and Imperial Guard soldiers died not at the hands of their enemy, but to each other. As all discipline broke down the guardsmen scrambled for the remaining shuttles, as Ultramarine roared skyward.

Of the 85,000 guardsmen left after the battle for Deepsnow, almost half were evacuated. Of the 250,000 PDF troopers all but 12,000 met their fate on Alphe, while only the planetary governor and some three hundred "important non-military personnel" left Alphe with the survivors, leaving several million to perish at the hands of the ravenous aliens. Nemesis did not meaningfully interfere with the escape of the handful of men. Nearly all the equipment had been lost and the hundred thousand or so who left with battlegroup Alexander represented a tiny amount of the total force available to either Nemesis or the Imperium. All told, the campaign on Alphe had lost the Imperium eleven tank divisions, four airborne regiments and thirty five infantry divisions. The loss of life, some two million military personnel and almost the entire civilian population of Alphe, was appalling, but the loss of sixteen imperial guard regiments, including almost all their equipment, was the most painful loss.

With Alphe gone, the second agri world in the subsector had been consumed by the tyranids. This now left Zadoc in a perilous position. Tarsis Major, now occupied by the Tau, had always been more or less self sufficient in food, but Zadoc, and to a lesser extend Libria, both imported heavily from Alphe & Betor, or "the sisters". Now the subsector capital faced a famine of unprecedented scale unless those sources of food could be replaced...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Perseus Deeps Modifiers

Eldar suffer setbacks

Ever since the eldar had been bloodily repulsed from Calliden they had been looking for a way to strike at the necrons, while keeping their campaign for the cleansing of ten major worlds in the Deeps underway. The Rillietan decided to strike at Enaloth to test its defences, preparing the way for a potential invasion. On Enaloth the necrons were not as strong as on their other worlds, and this looked like a potential way to take the war to the Harakhty dynasty.

Unfortunately the initial scouting party was soon discovered, and the Rillietan force were consequently wiped out, refusing to retreat to the webway portal lest its location be discovered by their most hated enemy. No sooner had the Harlequins absorbed the impact of this bitter blow, then another came. The Dark Angels arrived on Ares, launching an offensive into the flank of the eldar forces holding the Arnel valley. The unexpected assault came at just the wrong time, when precious Rillietan forces were conducting operations on Enaloth, and consequently following protracted fighting, the eldar were forced to shorten their supply lines and retreat some two hundred miles.

The victory was hailed on Corticant by general Veers, but the eldar had still not been removed from Ares and the war would go on. The eldar realised that on their own their objectives could not be achieved and therefore sent emmissaries to the Federacy and the Tau Empire, which ultimately led to the alliance, formally signed on 1508.012M42, to be known as the "Alliance of Light".

Dark Eldar raids

The dark eldar continued to initiate their own raids in the Perseus Deeps during 08.012M42, but found every world they visited on high alert, seriously hampering their surprise attacks. Worse still, the Rillietan, now on the warpath following the dark eldar raid on Alphe, had managed to inform the tau and Imperium of impending attacks by "rogue forces".

Their raid on Carnage was ill-timed, coinciding with the arrival of several retreating armies from Calliden. The dark eldar found the forces of chaos ready and waiting, as well as numerous, and were easily beaten off. Worse followed, with a raid on corticant crushed utterly by a well prepared force of Librian guard after General Veers called for untmost vigilance against raiders. The raid on tau held Parataea ended equally badly.

Tau defend Perseus colonies

The Tau became ever more hard pressed in the Perseus Deeps during 08.012M42, as they found it increasingly difficult to maintain their colonies against so many threats with supply lines to the tau empire so long. Reinforcements from Commander Moonshine were welcomed, and had an immediate effect, as his defensive tactics were particularly applicable to the fragile tau outposts in the Deeps. Parius and Aganthus received special attention, which was fortunate, as a reinvogorated Claws of Lorek force attempted to raid Parius on 1008.012M42 en route from Calliden to Carnage.

One strike cruiser slipped through the automated defences of the system and landed near to vital tau supplies. Moonshine had prepared well however, and Lorek's forces found themselves facing uncharacteristic defence lines and sentry guns, with a well emplaced tau force safely behind it. Undeterred, the Claws launched themselves at the defences, charging headlong into withering fire. After a few hours of heavy casualties for next to no gain, Lorek's forces abandoned their raid.

On Parataea the dark eldar were encountered but, forewarned of their intentions by the eldar, Shadowstrike's forces were able to intercept them in a well timed ambush before they could do much damage. However events were not going so well against the Necrons, who pre-empted a tau patrol of the southern hills by launching an attack of their own on 1208.012M42. The tau were caught unprepared for the necron assault, and almost a cadre was wiped out with the tau forced to surrender the vital southern hills to the necrons. The Harakhty dynasty appeared to be serious about adding Parataea to their empire.

With tau resources becoming ever more stretched, the ethereal caste met with the eldar aboard the brand new orbital city completed above Lucardium. Here the two races discussed much, and came to an agreement, creating an alliance against all other races in the Perseus Deeps. The Federacy also attended the conference, but declined to commit any military forces to the alliance, at least in the short term. The Imperium were not invited. Despite the setback on Parataea, the new alliance offered the tau a new hope against the gathering forces of darkness in the Deeps.

Imperium lose foothold on Va'Doran

Ever since the Space Wolves of Erik Morkai initiated the invasion of Va'Doran in the Shadow Worlds the imperial assault to take the world had been half hearted at best. Even when the Librian Guard made headway in the first half of 012M42, this was not followed up with further assaults or reinforcements. General Alexander, the overall commander of operations in the Zadoc subsector, had his eyes firmly fixed elsewhere, and by 08.012M42 the standing orders for the imperial forces on the Tau world were to hold their positions and await reinforcement, which could be as long as a year in coming.

Unfortunately this was easier said than done. The Tau were certainly not treating Va'Doran as a backwater, and began reinforcing the colony with troops from Moonshine's contingent in late 07.012M42. This spurred on the local commander of the Librian Guard to launch an offensive as soon as he saw Moonshine's troops digging in in front of him.

The Librian's launched their assault on 1008.012M42, thrusting down from the high ground towards the tau lines, but were shocked to find the tau being very "un-tau like". Moonshine's troops had spent their time building fortifications and creating a killing field in front of their line, and the Librians blundered into it. Despite fighting hard to breach the tau lines, haphazard reinforcement, in part complicated by the tau superiority in the air, meant the attack fizzled out, the imperial forces smashing themselves on the carefully created defences prepared by Moonshine's cadres.

The battering of the Librians allowed the tau to immediately mount a counter attack, and Alexander authorised a general withdrawal from Va'Doran, as it was clear that even with reinforcement, the imperial bridgehead would fall long before they arrived. The imperial forces rapidly returned to their troop carriers in orbit, and escorted by two light cruisers the small battlegroup left tau space on 2008.012M42.

General Alexander had now cancelled two campaigns in as many weeks, losing his footholds on Va'Doran and New Sparta. In addition General Percival was about to be evacuated from Alphe, and only the successful invasion of Rhesius kept Alexander in a job. Lord General Roover was furious with his subordinate, and demanded an action plan to get the campaign under way again. Alphe would be evacuated, and a defence force left in place in the Shadow worlds. The Rim worlds remained top priority but the remaining chaos worlds were all the time receiving reinforcements from Calliden, abandoned to the necrons. Alexander and his war council now had an uphill struggle to maintain the current campaign.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

New Sparta abandoned by Imperium

Since the initial invasion and advance on New Sparta the invasion had been going badly. Despite repeated attempts to reinforce the bridgehead General Alexander found himself unable to defeat the chaos forces who were fighting tenaciously, now on two fronts with the tyranid invasion.

Alexander tried to use the shock invasion by the aliens to destroy the chaos hold on the world, launching an immediate attack by the Prozan cavalry. Unfortunately the initial scouting force sent in to direct the airborne attack was wiped out by a force of Iron Warriors, who Stahl had sent to the region to extend his influence over the declining Empire of Chaos in the Aleph sector. With no-one to guide them in the Prozans returned to base, the attack a fiasco.

A dejected Alexander decided on 0908.012M42, with the tyranid threat now increasing on New Sparta, to abandon the invasion for a second time, citing "unexpected circumstances". Roover agreed to the withdrawal, as a protracted fight for New Sparta with the tyranids was not worth the strategic value of the planet. The Imperial plan to dominate the Rim Worlds would have to start again elsewhere, but the tyranid threat threw the Imperial plans into disarray.

Dark Eldar raiders anger Harlequins

Despite often being seen in alliance with the mysterious Harlequins, the dark eldar showed once again in 08.012M42 that they were not above murdering and enslaving their own kin, and that only their abhorrence of the Necrons and their fear of certain destruction at the hands of the tyranids outwieghed their own bitter hatred towards the Craftworld eldar.

Early in the month the dark eldar unexpectedly fell upon the Craftworld eldar on Alphe. The assault was conducted by the same forces which had attempted to turn back the tide of Nemesis just days before, so it came as something as a shock to General Percival when his allies turned on each other. The Craftworld eldar were taken by surprise at the raid, which was pulled off with a great deal of flair and daring. The dark eldar netted a good haul of eldar slaves, a valuable prize indeed in Commorragh, and turned for home heading for a webway portal deep in the mountains to the south of Deepsnow.

The Rillietan were clearly enraged by the cynical act performed by the dark eldar. The attack had been cynical and opportunist, and the Harlequins wasted no time in exacting due punishment. Once again the alien race went to war with itself on Alphe, within plain sight of the Imperial forces, who sensibly kept their distance. The Rillietan appeared from an unseen webway portal of which the dark eldar were oblivious, and ambushed the raiders before they could escape to the webway. The dark eldar raiders were wiped out, and their prisoners freed.

Alphe defenders close to annihilation

Summerbridge Crossing falls. Imperial forces retreat to the defensive walls of Deepsnow and request evacuation. The Imperial navy begins mustering a fleet.

General Percival's forces received some unexpected help on Alphe in late 07.012M42, when the eldar arrived, unannounced, under a flag of truce. They gave away little in the subsequent negotiations, but did agree that the defeat of Nemesis was of paramount importance to both races, and that in defeating the alien foe all races of the galaxy would end up having to fight alongside one another.

Though mistrustful of his new allies, Percival sorely needed the reinforcements, and the eldar began arriving in strength near Deepsnow. Closer to the front line Percival's forces were still desperately trying to hold back the growing horde in the difficult lands of the Neck, but every day saw the Imperial hold on the planet slip further and further south, as Nemesis closed in on the last two centres of resistance on the world.

On 0208.012M42 Nemesis made a concerted push towards Summerbridge crossing, breaking through the weakened imperial line and attempting to encircle the city. Without warning or announcement another force of eldar suddenly appeared, heading straight for Nemesis. Identified as the dark eldar, the raiders moved swiftly to the head of the salient made by the advancing horde, but a combination of numbers and martial ferocity smashed apart the dark eldar as soon as they made contact with the tyranids. The capricious dark eldar fought bravely and died rather than give ground to the horde, but their efforts were in vain as Nemesis simply bypassed this action, encircling the city of Summerbridge Crossing on 0608.012M42.

The dark eldar were wiped out, and General Percival now found himself struggling to avoid encirclement at Summerbridge. In this he was largely succeful, but the defenders of the city knew that they would have little chance of rescue unless they held the Tyranids here. A regiment of Librians and a small company of Blood Martyrs took up positions at the cities formidable perimiter defences, while Percival readied a counter strike with the eldar.

Percival just needed the defences of Summerbridge to hold out while his forces were marshalled, but that was a big ask. The city was surrounded by millions of creatures all acting as one, and only a thin line of Librian and Blood Martyr's defendes barred their way into the city. After a few probing attacks the hive mind selected Fort Lenton as their main axis as attack, and threw in an enormous attack against the stalwart imperial fortifications as dawn broke on 0908.012M42.

The Imperial defenders opened up with a furious volley of fire against the tyranids, but the aliens still came on, wave after wave of creatures pouring across the shattered landscape, the screams of the larger beasts terrifying the defenders with an unholy and incessant shrieking. As the tyranids came on the Blood Martyrs deployed, selling their lives dearly while protecting the fortress walls themselves from attack, never flinching from the fight until the Recclusiarch of the Blood Martyr's 3rd company was brutally cut down in combat by a monstrous hive tyrant.

With the Blood Martyrs all dead the Imperial line began to falter. Reinforcements came into the battle piecemeal, and were cut down by rampaging monsters which had flown of tunnelled beyond the main fortress. Still the attacks on fort Lenton continued, as the Imperial commander in Summerbridge realised, belatedly, what the hive mind was trying to do. If they took fort Lenton they could access the power grid and destroy the defensive shield protecting the city. Summerbridge would fall.

The Librians in the fort fought hard and stubbornly, utilising the fort's arsenal of weapons against the attackers. Unfortunately the men detailed to man the missile silo were inexperienced with the weaponry, and the two times they did manage to loose a shot off, they failed to aim, resulting in the high explosive projectiles flying straight up, then back down on the fort itself, killing several guardsmen and two of the Imperial Colonel's personal retinue.

When the tyranids got in close, the Librians fought tooth and nail to hold on to the defenses, fighting with lasgun and flamer to deny the hive mind, but it wasn't enough. Gradually the tyranids made their way through the fort, scaling the walls or tearing them apart to get inside. There were simply too many, and as darkness fell on the 9th, the last Librian was cast down from the walls of the highest tower, a hive tyrant shrieking its victory across the battered landscape from the battlements. Fort Lenton had fallen, and minutes later, the defence shield of Summerbridge Crossing collapsed.

The city itself fell in an orgy of bloodletting over the next few days as the population were systematically exterminated. dangerous long range scouting flights by the Imperial navy revealed a transformation further north. Most of the reconnaisance missions were lost to floating spores or corrosive gases, but those that did get through took valuable images, showing the surface of Alphe being transformed into sludge by all manner of unholy beasts. The planet was beyond saving now, and using the strongest psychic booster left to him in Deepsnow, and aided by the eldar, General Percival sent out a distress call requesting the immediate evacuation of all remaining Imperial forces, some fifty divisions, from Alphe.

Eldar invasion of Carnage thwarted

The withdrawal of Chaos forces from Calliden had an immediate impact on the Eldar campaign. On 0108.012M42 the Rillietan led an invasion out of the webway onto the surface of Calliden, finding a weak force of defenders loyal to Lorek standing in their way. In a vicious firefight the Claws of Lorek were swept aside, allowing the Rillietan to secure a bridgehead on the world.

By 0608.012M42 the bridgehead had been reinforced by regular Craftworld Eldar forces, but by then Stahl's legions had begun to arrive on the planet, and quickly counter attacked with overwhelming force. The Craftworld Eldar staggered back from the Chaos assault, and in just days the bridgehead became untenable. By 0808.012M42 the invasion of Carnage was put on hold and all remaining Eldar evacuated from the world, spurring the Eldar on in their attempt to secrure an alliance with the Tau.

Eldar gains on Ares

The eldar campaign on Ares had stalled for several weeks bit the news from Calliden spurred the aliens on to complete their campaigns as quickly as possible. Seeing the "grand alliance" as unattainable, the eldar instead sought to conquer the worlds they needed to secure for safe passage of their craftworld, and in addition conquer and hide all the worlds they felt at risk from the Necrons.

With a swift conclusion to events on Ares in mind, the Rillietan pushed south towards the capital, Ares city, down the Ulluana valley. alarmed by the sudden appearance of the Eldar on a large scale, the commander of the ground forces on Ares send in the Prozan Cavalry to deal with the threat. However the Prozans, despite being highly mobile and commanding significant firepower, lacked strength in numbers on the ground, and were unable to shift the Eldar defenders when they attacked. The result meant the Prozan's were forced to withdraw and Colonel Sanders' Librians were now tasked to halt, and reverse the eldar gains.

The Librians moved forward into the Ulluana valley and quickly encountered the lead elements of the craftworld eldar fighting alongside the Rillietan. Sanders immediately attacked, sending in his punisher Leman Russ variants and veteran squads of infantry, which very quickly had an effect on the eldar, whose advance came to a sudden halt. The eldar then reinforced with swooping hawks and warp spiders, but the Imperial Guard firepower tore the eldar forces to pieces.

The Imperial Guard had battered the eldar advance, and now the Blood Martyrs, who had sent a company to Ares, now took the fight to the enemy, assaulting the Eldar centre and butchering a squad of Harlequins overseeing the battle for the Rillietan. However they now found themselves isolated from the Imperial Guard forces, and marauding eldar jetbikes caused a great deal of casualties, before the final marine was cut down in heavy hand to hand fighting in one of the many wooded areas of the battlefield.

Even with the Blood Martyrs' attack failing to completely wipe out the eldar forces, Colonel Sanders should have achieved a decisive victory, but sloppiness and insufficient attention to detail cost him victory. For a start he failed to concentrate on the remaining warp spiders who still threatened his rear areas, so that the material victory over the eldar could not be exploited. Secondly he failed to inform the Blood Martyrs land raider commander that he was exceptionally close to a key eldar objective, and had the land raider been made aware of this fact, the eldar supply line would have become compromised, and the aliens would have been forced to abandon their recent gains.

Sanders failed to do this. In the heat of battle he had forgotten the strategic mission and focussed instead on killing his enemy. The result meant that despite the eldar taking horrific casualties, they were able to stabilise their line and prevent the Librians from breaking through. An opportunity to fatally undermine the eldar invasion of Ares had been missed, but Sanders kept his job.

The End on Calliden

With the Necron advance continuing to push north into the heartlands of Calliden, the master of the Iron Warriors in the sector, Warsmith Stahl, was quickly coming to the conclusion that continued fighting was a futile gesture, and was looking for away to rescue the situation. He was more than happy therefore to entertain a shadowy figure who arrived without warning or announcement in the Warsmith's chambers, claiming to represent the Harakhty dynasty, especially when the emissary declared he was looking for a way to end the bloodshed on Calliden.

There was of course no humanitarian aspect to either sides' negotiations. The Necrons wished to complete the conquest of Calliden as soon as possible, and saw the continued Chaos resistance as an annoyance, slowing up their military build up against the Tau, against whom they next intended to strike. For Stahl, he desperately wanted to stabilise the Chaos line in the Perseus Deeps, and the only way to do that would be to abandon Calliden, thereby reinforcing Carnage, Kendrenec and Mordecai.

The two leaders agreed a truce, whereby the Iron Warriors would leave the world along with all their military hardware. Meanwhile Stahl ensured a substantial Chaos fleet was sent to escort the leaving forces, in case the Necrons decided to go back on their agreement. After reinforcing Carnage, Stahl then planned to order Lorek and Thok to muster their fleets at Mordecai to prevent Necron invasion, while setting up his own capital on Carnage.

Lorek was sent into a violent rage upon hearing news of the agreement. Declaring Stahl a traitor, but inwardly irritated more that the Necrons had gone to Stahl to negotiate and not himself, Lorek mustered up a large army and began to besiege luthien, where Stahl currently had his headquarters. Unfortunately for Lorek his forces could not match those of the Master of Chaos, and despite destroying much of the Iron Warrior's vehicles and fortifications, the army sent against Stahl was all but wiped out, confirming the Iron Warriors' position as leader of the Chaos Empire. When Tragean and Thok obeyed Stahl's deployment orders without question, Lorek realised his weakened position, and publically denied the battle had taken place, citing Warsmith's "diplomatic genius" in negotiating with the Necrons.

The withdrawal from Calliden was enacted swiftly over the next few weeks, and the effects were almost immediate. The Chaos supply lines shortened, and they now had more forces to defend fewer places. This outcome prompted the other races of the Deeps to enter into a furious round of unprecedented diplomacy, with both the Eldar and Warsmith Stahl privately offering an alliance against the Necrons to the Tau. The Eldar also contacted the Federacy and the Imperium in their attempt to create a "grand alliance" to the twin enemies, now apparently acting under a flag of truce with one another.

The Federacy were luke warm to suggestions of an alliance and the Eldar realised they would not actively help until one of their own worlds was threatened. It was obvious the Necrons may move against Myrentas II, but the Necrons would not be foolish enough to declare that intention until the Federacy had no allies left. An alliance with the Imperium and the Tau was also out of the question, since the Tau refused to work with the Imperium under their current leadership, and until Inquisitor Xanthis was removed permanently, so the Eldar for now had to be content with an alliance with the Tau, and this would not be easy or quick to achieve.