Sunday, November 25, 2012

Second eldar intervention on Fort Sparcos

On 2611.012M42 the eldar tried once again to interfere with the war on Fort Sparcos between the orks and hive fleet Nemesis. This time a stronger force of craftworld eldar was sent against Thrugnik's forces on the planet, but met with little success. The orks gleefully met the challenge to their authority and defeated the eldar after hard fighting. Little damage was done to the fort, and the repeated attacks merely attracted more orks from Kallack to Fort Sparcos to join in the scrap. However in defeat the eldar suddenly realised their plan might actually be working. By attracting more orks to Fort Sparcos the tyranids would have a harder and harder time to gain eventual victory. This was what they had hope would occur by manipulating events to bring forward the invasion of Kallack. Now the eldar switched tack, planning to keep the war on Fort Sparcos alive for as long as possible, though not with the catastrophic losses they had so far endured.

Nemesis attacks on all fronts

As 011.012 reached a close, hive fleet Nemesis continued to make progress on Fort Sparcos against the orks. Thrugnik's forces were defeated once again in the latter part of the month, although Nemesis had so far been unable to reach the walls of the formidable fort itself, which thanks to the eldar, was growing in power every day. Nemesis, although well supplied by its hive fleet tendril, did not have overwhelming strategic and logistic superiority as it enjoyed in the Rim Worlds here, and the orks were well supplied from Kallack itself. Despite the ferocity of each battle, little progress was made and more orks poured in to reinforce their brethren. It would be a long war to overcome the fortress.

Meanwhile on Aornis the Iron Warriors inflicted the first real setback Nemesis had suffered for many months. Victory on the ground ensured that Sackville was reclaimed by the forces of Chaos, and Nemesis were forced back into the western badlands. For now, given the strategic situation, the Iron Warriors were unable to exploit the victory any further, as all resources were being shipped to defend Grimlock from imminent attack. Nevertheless the tyranids had been beaten, and the doom of another world postponed for a while at least.

Hylas: Salamanders retake Berkley, liberating West Coast

General Brooke had replaced Alexander as commander in the Zadoc subsector for a number of reasons including the fact that Lord General Roover detested Alexander and couldn't wait to get rid of him. Alexander was arrogant, while Brooke seemed eager to please and never made a fuss. However, this did not mean Brooke was a mere lackey. In fact he was an incredibly persuasive, charming and resourceful man who was now ideally placed to make sure the various organisations of the imperium worked together for common cause. Hylas now demanded the general's attention, and all his skill, charm and pragmatism to halt the greenskin advance before it was too late.

The Red Angels and General Gault's regiments of Librian, Prozan and Praetorian guard had so far been unable to halt the advance of the orks. The failure of the imperial navy to prevent the orks from resupplying their invasion was one particular problem, but not one Brooke was going to dwell on. He needed the navy on his side in the sector. The combined forces of Thrugnik, Uzfang, Krumpgutz, Na'Porkleon and Snazgubbins had proved too strong for Gault's men, and he needed reinforcements. Using his contacts, of which he had many in various circles, general Brooke managed to convince the Salamanders and the Legio Griphonicus to send a force to come to the aid of Hylas's defenders, and on 2211.012M42 they arrived at Tennyson, the Salamanders fleet forcing the orks to flee the immediate region of space around Hylas for long enough to land a full company of marines and two powerful reaver titans.

The Salamanders immediately saw an opportunity to disrupt the ork advance. The greenskins had taken Berkeley and advanced north, but their supply line was stretched. If a powerful punch from the west along the Sump Sea could retake the city and reach the impassable slopes of the massive plateau known as mount Flynn, a continent spanning ancient volcano, the ork forces would be cut in half. Those north of Berkeley would then be extremely vulnerable to counter attack from the Librian forces holding the line from Baldwin Bay to the Hylas plateau.

The Salamanders led the attack into Berkeley supported by two reaver titans of the Legio Gryphonicus, and were met by the forces of Da Verminator in strength. This was unwelcome news to the imperium on Hylas, as up till now the forces of that particular warlord had been assumed destroyed following his defeat in the Perseus Deeps. Sadly the warlord somehow managed to survive and even prosper, as was evidenced by the large force at his command. The ork warlord immediately counter attacked, but the Salamanders had moves so swiftly that the battle was raging where they wanted it to, in the streets of the city. Although one reaver was destroyed and the Salamanders lost much equipment, the orks were pinned to the battle in the city, allowing a fast moving reserve to race across the plains to reach the rocky ground further east. In less than a day, the ork advance in the west was cut in two.

With the ork supply lines severed the Librians to the north merely had to bait the orks to attack their defences, and soon the greenskins ran out of ammunition and equipment. Rendered powerless, the imperial guard with the help of the navy completed the job, pushing south towards teh ruins of Berkeley and routing the remaining orks.

Gault could finally report a victory to his superiors, and the greenskins suffered their first serious reversal on Hylas since the invasion began. However the Salamanders had achieved the victory, and it was General Brooke who had garnered their support. In any case the men on the ground cheered as they entered the battered city, but the war was far from over.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Current warzones

Librians hold eldar advance on Ares

On 1911.012M42 the Shattered Silence kabal of dark eldar resumed their attack on Ares City, attacking along the Hephath Valley in a lightning assault in the early morning darkness of the Ares night. Despite their speed and advanced weaponry, one thing the dark eldar didn't have was surprise. General Orkar Vassilevsky had been expecting a renewed attack on Ares City, as it was the key objective and the capital of the minor world. Control of the capital would isolate the key settlements of Caeralon and Sindon Station, as well as take out the most important spaceport on the planet.

With this in mind Vasilevsky had prepared well. Aegis defence lines now ringed the city and basilisk artillery sat concealed behind buildings, trained on the forests and plains beyond the settlement's limits. When the dark eldar came, they were met with an accurate and devastating barrage of shells which quickly blunted their attack. With the attack pinned down the imperial general ordered a cautious advance, veteran squads in chimeras accompanied by Demolisher battle tanks and hellhounds, ready to finish of what remained of the Shattered Silence kabal. Then the dark eldar airforce arrived.

Unfortunately for Vasilevsky, in the opening salvoes of the attack the dark eldar had very carefully and deliberately eliminated their enemy's anti aircraft capability, destroying them with modified chemical compounds fired from their usually toxin firing weaponry. This initial strike proved devastating, as although the dark eldar ground forces were in disarray, their aircraft swept over the imperial lines facing determined but inaccurate ground fire from the Librian defenders. The alien craft quickly targetted the basilisk batteries, destroying a few but making it almost impossible for them to maintain effective accurate fire.

As dawn broke over the battlefield the fight was in the balance. The dark eldar had mauled the imperial forces with persistent air strikes, but the aliens were lagging behind on the ground. Brutal close quarter firefights broke out infront of the Librian lines as the dark eldar inched forward. Withering fire from veteran squads and battle tanks kept most of the eldar warriors pinned to the open ground, but somehow the aliens managed to make the most of every undulation of the ground to take cover. Another day of hard fighting followed, but the imperial defenders would not budge. The defence lines had held, although the alien aircraft continued to take their toll on equipment and men alike. By the evening the fighting petered out and the Shattered Silence retreated back into the forests of the Hephath Valley. On paper Vasilevsky had achieved a victory, but in reality his troops had taken a battering in a war of attrition the eldar simply lost the stomach for. The imperial general began reviewing provisions for air defence and requested more squadrons of imperial navy thunderbolts to deal with the threat from above, while waiting for the next inevitable strike from the aliens.

Orks continue advance on Hylas

With the lost of much of the west coast of Hylas, general Gault prepared to meet the next assault from the orks. This necessarily meant concentrating his forces, which the imperial commander did in the north to prevent the orks from breaking out towards Sarin or North Eton.

Unfortunately for Gault, the next ork thrust came from the region of Beng, open country where the orks could use their mobility and speed to rapidly cross the Birego plains.

Gault was unwilling and in any case unable to free much in the way of forces to counter this latest thrust, as he was keen to keep the orks as far south as possible, away from the Sump Sea and an assault on Tennyson. In the end the Red Angels decided to take their own initiative against Thrugnik, and sent in infantry forces on 1811.012M42.

Thrugnik's orks, well equipped and highly mobile with overwhelming air support, confidently drove towards the thin red line of astartes, opening fire long before they were in range. The Red Angels, though returning fire with a stubborn determination, were hopelessly outclassed by the green skin horde and almost strafed into annihilation by the ork air forces.

The south of Beng fell in just two days and within a week the orks were making inroads into the eastern districts of Birego. Gault wasn't overly concerned but his superior, Lord General Brooke, began to ask serious questions about the Red Angels. Why were they always so ill equipped and what made them so insistent on taking on impossible tasks? In the meantime Brooke contacted the Salamanders and the Adeptis Mechanicus. He desperately wanted to reinforce Gault on Hylas and break the orks here, before the Waaagh! Descended on a more important world.

Eldar raid Grimlock

On 2111.012M42 the eldar once again played their hand in a campaign that at first glance they had no interest in. They knew that general Veers had launched his latest crusade, albeit slowly, against the chaos world of Grimlock, the last major chaos world in the Zadoc subsector. They also knew that hive fleet Nemesis would soon turn towards the Grimlock system and attempt to devour it utterly. Once again the ancient capricious race decided to intervene, although their motives were not understood for several weeks.

The eldar corsairs, chosen for their particular skill at hit and run raiding, fell upon the Death Guard at the Hakargh defence complex, deep in the centre of the planet's main land mass. The installation had been one of General Veers' biggest concerns, as it was nigh on impossible to approach undetected, and only a suicide mission would have a chance to put the facility, responsible for the overall command and control of the chaos defences, out of action.

The news that the eldar had attacked this facility came as a pleasant surprise to the imperial general, however some hours later the more depressing news of an eldar massacre at the hands of the Death Guard dampened the old general's spirits somewhat. Hakargh still stood, its communication and sensor arrays intact and undiminished in their capacity to frustrate Veers' developing invasion plans, but the eldar had at least tried. Veers hoped their assistance wouldn't be a one off, and that the aliens would return in greater numbers to aid his campaign against chaos, planned to commence in earnest in just two more weeks.

Orks raid Aornis

As if the Iron Warriors didn't have enough problems with the Tyranid invasion, then in late 011.M42 the orks arrived. Loyal to warboss Thrugnik a large raiding party of greenskins crash landed in shallow seas near Gorton Cove, but despite taking moderate casualties wasted no time in launching assaults on two of Aornis's main settlements. The orks transported themselves by air, boat and tellyporta, far faster than the forces of Chaos thought possible. 

At Walpole, an out of the way settlement but none the less rich in industrial resources, the forces of Thrugnik easily brushed aside the Death Guard defenders and systematically looted the area, plundering the many factoriums and mines which surrounded the city. While the orks made profit here, loading their kroozers in orbit with as much precious cargo as possible, the raid on Baldwin went less well. Here the Iron Warriors had built up the city's defences and Stahl's men were there in person.

The Iron Warriors went about their business of defence with their usual alacrity. The traitor marines were aable to concentrate the ork attacks into well prepared lines of fire, and after several hours of bloody fighting the orks gave up their assault, having seen their vanguard forces annihilated by the guns of the city's defenders. Thrugnik's boyz then left Aornis, satisfied at a moderately successful venture into the Rim Worlds once again, the Iron Warriors unable to pursue them out of orbit with their inferior numbers in space. In ork circles Thrugnik was becoming the warboss on the rise, his waagh! becoming large enough to challenge the rule of Uzfang, while Warsmith Stahl remained unquestionably Master of Chaos, but a master of an ever shrinking and embattled domain.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The trials of Chaos

The final blow on Carnage fell on 1011.012M42 when the necrons made their final push towards the last remaining chaos held settlement. By this time the Claws of Lorek and Iron Warriors had abandonned the world, and it fell to the Death Guard, a relatively minor faction in the Perseus Deeps to hold out for as long as possible as the last important items of equipment and favoured devotees of the dark gods were shipped hurridly off world.

The Death Guard defended admirably, forcing the necrons to advance along corridors of fire they had carefully prepared, and the aliens found them a tougher opponent than many they had so far faced. The blessings of Nurgle kept the necrons at bay for a while, but eventually superior firepower overwhelmed the traitor legion and the last settlement on the world fell. For the remaining half a million cultists and the general population of the minor world of Carnage, a new horror began, the endless servitude and slavery enforced on them by the Harakhty dynasty as Carnage became another outpost in the ever expanding necron empire.

Meanwhile the assault on Grimlock by Veers had not made much progress since the initial reconnaissance landings several weeks earlier. Problems with logistics had slowed the transfer of reinforcements to a trickle, and the initial landing perimeter had barely expanded since the Corellian Guard had established the primary invasion base. The Red Angels had pulled out, so now Veers was forced to wait while the supply chain slowly swung into force.

Much of the problem was the distances involved. The loss of Tarsis Major and Nemesis in the Rim Worlds made it hazardous to resupply from Caitlen Station in the Zadoc subsector. Troop convoys were forced to go the long way round from Corticant and Farport, a journey of weeks rather than days, and the main concentration of forces Veers had allocated to the renewed invasion was still mustering on Bastien. In addition the Iron Warriors had fortified Grimlock and chose to remain behind their defences, making the world a much tougher nut to crack than had been anticipated.

The Space Wolves intervened on 1211.012M42 on their own initiative. Seeing an opportunity to hasten the demise of chaos a significant force of Astartes launched an assault on several defensive installations around the planet, with the main focus being to inhibit as much as possible the Iron Warriors capability to threaten further invasion forces. This inevitably led to violent clashes as the Space Wolves descended on the heavily guarded fortress installations.

The main objective of the Space Wolves, the massive defence laser silos of Khandagar, saw the heaviest fighting. As soon as the genetically enhanced warriors of the imperium had landed, the Iron Warriors launched a swift counter attack, led by Warsmith Stahl himself and his elite guard. This proved a difficult test for the Space Wolves, but one they ultimately passed. Despite fighting heroically in front of their hastily constructed temporary defences, some of the victory gained by the Imperium was down to sheer luck, or possibly the whim of the dark gods. In the heat of the battle, as Stahl ploughed forward like an unstoppable leviathan, something in his biological and technological upgrades, of which he had many, went seriously wrong. The space marines and traitors alike were witness to the bizarre spectacle of the warsmith careering around the battlefield like a maddened grox, thrashing wildly at anything and anyone in his path.

If the sight of their warsmith going out of control affected the Iron Warriors in any way, they didn't display any hesitation in continuing the assault. However, the Space Wolves made the most of the opportunity, refusing to give ground and holding on long enough to complete their mission. Having destroyed the laser silos Grimlock now stood defenceless for a renewed imperial assault. Stahl was last seen thrashing and twitching on the floor, but the imperium doubted the warsmith had suffered a terminal injury.

Nemesis reaches Aornis

Almost a month after the fall of Rhesius and New Sparta, Aornis came under attack from the splinter hive fleet of Nemesis which had been remorselessy driving through the Rim worlds consuming everything in its path. Somehow Daedalon and Priam had been spared, but three inhabited worlds in the cluster had succumbed. The invasion of Aornis came as no surprise to the chaos forces, as it was clear the path the splinter fleet was taking, and the time delay corresponded exactly with expectations.

Aornis itself suffered serious tectonic shifts as the hive fleet approached, giving ample forewarning of the attack. In response the Iron Warriors reinforced the world, sending hordes of fanatical cultists to fight to the last, and units of experienced traitor astartes to try to halt the hive fleet. Thok, Traegen and Lorek were loathe to send any form of fleet assistance however, as they were too busy ensuring the defences of Mordecai were as strong as possible. The forces of chaos would have to defeat Nemesis on the surface of Aornis itself.

The reinforcements were large in number, but the force put on the world in just one day by the tyranids was astounding. Very quickly the Iron Warriors found their outer defence lines overrun and were forced to retreat to secondary bastions. The battles became exceptionally bloody, with the Iron Warriors launching a counter offensive along the entire front line on 1011.012M42. Despite vigorous prosecution of the assault, it was to no avail. The tyranids just kept pouring more and more creatures into the breaches created and very soon the local chaos commander realised the continued offensive was a battle of attrition they couldn't hope to win. The offensive was cancelled and the Iron Warriors retreated behind their defences, determined to make the tyranids pay in considerable biomass for every inch of ground on Aornis.

This in effect was the strategy of many of the races facing the tyranid threat. If Nemesis couldn't be destroyed it could be "convinced" that the price of victory was too high on certain worlds. Unfortunately the strength of Nemesis had so far overwhelmed all opponents, and only on Fort Sparcos were the tyranids finding a more stubborn foe. In imperial circles general Brooke was becoming ever more worried. The loss of Betor and Alphe had been painful, as had the fiasco on Rhesius, but now the splinter tendril in the Rim worlds pointed in an uncomfortable direction, towards the bastion worlds of the subsector, Zadoc and Libria.

Eldar interfere on Fort Sparcos

The continued encroachment of hive fleet Nemesis into the Mabb Nebul had been viewed with growing concern by the eldar as 012M42 drew to a close. The war on Fort Sparcos between the tyranids and the orks had been going on for some time, but ork victories had been few and far between. Nemesis looked likely to eventually consume the world, but instead of pressing home its advantage the hive fleet had recently attacked the tau colony of Va'Doran. Although the tau had successfully defended their world, the eldar worried that Nemesis was somehow losing interest in the orks, and making plans to attack other worlds in the Mabb nebula.

what the eldar feared the most was the hive fleet splinter from Alphe and Betor changing course and discovering the exodite worlds of Mael Kithlan, Shelwe Agir and Saim Lann, which the eldar had spent a lot of time carefully concealing from prying eyes. The tyranids however had senses like no other, and the worlds would eventually be discovered as a potential candidate for consumption unless the fleet's tendrils were kept well away.

The eldar, led by the Rillietan, had been counting on the fall of Fort Sparcos and subsequent invasion of Kallack by Nemesis. The large and populous ork world of Kallack wouldn't fall swiftly, and the eldar would see their two principal threats in the Zadoc subsector pitted against each other in a long and bloody war, one which the eldar hoped to prolong for as long as possible.

The failed invasion of Va'Doran convinced the farseers that the hive fleet's intentions were at odds with their hopes and they resolved to "convince" both the orks and the extra galactic aliens to pursue a long war with each other, one way or another.

The first part of the plan was simple. The Rillietan would strike against the tyranids on Fort Sparcos, dealing them as much damage as possible to make the hive world think the fort was important to them. Previous experience had shown the reaction by the alien organisms was usually aggressive, and Nemesis could be expected to invest more resources into a planetary assault if it was defeated by the eldar.

While the Rillietan conducted this raid, the Shattered Silence and eldar corsairs, allied to the Rillietan cause would strike at Thrugnik's base in the fort itself, causing as much damage as possible before retreating. This should ensure that an envigorated Nemesis would make short work of the defenders and begin the much awaited invasion of Kallack itself.

The first part of the plan went well, with the Rillietan causing significant damage to the tyranid forces found to be ringing the fortress on Sparcos. However in the fort itself, Thrugnik's forces were well equipped and well led. Both raids were defeated by the greenskins, with the corsairs in particular taking heavy casualties. Worse still, the orks decided to take no further risks against their enemies and started an immediate programme to bolster their defences on the planet. The fort became stronger than ever and the eldar plan had failed. There would be no invasion of Kallack in the near future at least.

War on Hylas

Despite defeating the forces of Thrugnik in 10.012M42, large forces loyal to the ork warboss made planetfall in early 011M42, after the imperial navy was forced to return to Hylas reach naval base following their defeat at the hands of the tau. Without enough naval presence in the Hylas system, the orks had almost free reign to reinforce the world with fresh troops whenever they wished.

Thrugnik's forces, though fewer in number than they would have been if it hadn't been for the Blood Angels raid, nevertheless made a significant impact in the war on Hylas very soon after they had landed. Gault had already lost Berkeley to Uzfang some weeks earlier, so the renewed assualt on the West Coast region of Hylas didn't come as a surprise to the Imperial General.

The imperial forces found it difficult to defend on the open plains, validating Gault's strategy of creating bottlenecks to fight the orks, but his attempt to retreat Sarin and Tennys Coast, where the ground was more favourable was denied. Short sighted imperial officials decreed no scrap of ground would be surrendered to the enemy and that the imperial guard must die where they stood. At least in this the guard followed orders.

While Gault's troops did manage to halt the orks west of the Sump Sea, the drive north was opposed by the Librian 212th regiment, a force hastily cobbled together from remnants of other regiments. The force itself was adequately equipped, but lacked any form of air defence. Without any anti-aircraft guns and no cover from the navy, Thrugnik's forces took full advantage. Attacking the Librian positions on the Eton road on 0811.012M42, the battlewagons of the orks rumbled forward. Heavy guns and tanks on the imperial side stopped some, with the demolisher pattern variants proving the most effective against the greenskins. Basilisk artillery was also emploed in force, and when accurate, caused much destruction in the ork ranks.

Shortly after dawn however the first ork air attack came in. Flying low over the battlefield squadrons of ork "Dakkajets" strafed the imperial lines, focussing their attacks on the undefended artillery. The imperial guard were powerless to intervene as their artillery was annihilated in under an hour. Now with their firepower severely curtailed, the Librians were unable to prevent the remaining ork heavy tanks from reaching their lines. Deathrollas, improvised ramming weapons, proved extremely deadly, crushing man and machine as they rolled over the lines. By mid afternoon the imperial line was a scene of carnage, as unable to retreat, the Librians were cut down in close quarter fighting with Thrugnik's Waagh!

The Librian 212th was all but detroyed in the fighting, and West Coast quickly capitulated anyway, despite the imperial orders. Gault prepared his next "halt" line, but without a swift reversal of fortune on Hylas, the world would be lost in a matter of weeks.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Battles in the Deeps

War continued to rage in the Perseus Deeps as 012M42 drew to a close. The invasion of Ares by the eldar once again flared up, with the Imperium suffering heavy losses at the hands of the Shattered Silence kabal of dark eldar. The morale of the guardsmen fighting on the world began to dip, as the war on Ares, previously thought to be won, now became a series of familiar running battles down the narrow corridor of land between Hephath Station and Ares city. The Blood Angels attempted to intervenet to dislodge the dark eldar, but were beaten back. The aliens now had a tenuous foothold in the main settlement of the world, and vicious street battles began.

Meanwhile the blood Angels attempted to turn the tide on Gamordal by striking at crucial necron installations, particularly an active webway portal which the aliens were using to reinforce their forces on the world without needing to use their fleet. If this supply line could be severed the Imperial Guard on the world would have time to dig in and attempt to hold the line, which was steadily falling back to the capital.

Unfortunately the necrons were well prepared for the Blood Angels' attack and the portal was heavily guarded. At one point a brave squad of battle brothers fought their way to the webway entrance itself, but were cut down as they tried to place their melta charges in the few weakspots identified by the Inquisition. With the mission a failure, the imperial forces on Gamordal continued to fight against hopeless odds, and on 0911.012M42 the primary spaceport of Gamordal fell, cutting the remaining imperial defenders off from their supply bases. Though the stranded units promised to fight to the last, without a significant intervention from Veers crusade the world was almost certainly lost to the Harakhty dynasty.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mordecai under siege

By early 11.012M42 with Carnage almost overrun and the war going badly on Gamordal, it was obvious that the next target in the sights of the Harakhty dynasty would be the chaos fortress world of Mordecai. It was clear the necrons intended to sweep the deeps of their enemies and re-establish their interstellar empire. Mordecai, with its three inhabited worlds and formidable defences, would be a tough nut to crack, but the imperial analyticae thought the necrons would be able to do so within six months, given the strength of the chaos forces in the region, so long as the formidable fleets of Tragean, Thok and Lorek could be put out of action.

The imperium needed to know just how strong the defences of Mordecai were. If the necrons were to gain control of the system then Corticant and Bastien would be next. If it was deemed that chaos were strong, the imperium was more than happy to let the two sides battle it out for years or decades. However, if the chaos defences were found wanting, then General Veers would be directed to cancel the invasion of Grimlock and instead plan for an assault on Mordecai.

Admiral Jellicoe had grave misgivings about this strategy. The chaos fleet had still not been reduced and should they meet once again, the naval vessels of the imperium and chaos risked mutual annihilation, allowing the necrons almost a free hand at Mordecai. However, the loss of Mordecai to the necrons due to the weakness of chaos could not be tolerated in any event, although senior command balked at the idea of aiding chaos in their struggle.

To test the Mordecai defences a small force of Blood Angels agreed to go on a sabotage mission into the Mordecai system, succesfulyy landing on the outer planet of Mordecai Tersius without interception by the chaos fleet. The Blood Angels moved in force against the mining complex known as Khorne's Pit, but found the Iron Warriors present and in numbers. the chaos marines counter attacked this invading force, wuickly overwhelming the small Blood Angel contingent. With great haste the astartes force withdrew, reporting that contrary to reports, the forces of chaos were in far better shape than previously thought. The invasion of Mordecai was shelved for the time being.

The eldar however had no confidence in Mordecai's ability to hold out against the necron invasion, especially considering they knew that beneath the mines of Mordecai Tersius lay a sleeping monster. Once a major world of the necron empire, thousands of dormant warriors and their equipment lay inactive just a few hundred metres beneath the deepest mine. Realising that these forces would ensure the collapse of Mordecai even more quickly, the eldar launched their own raid against the mining outpost, using the webway to deliver their warriors directly into the field of battle.

Once again the Iron Warriors were able to meet the threat, despite the fact the eldar were actually trying to disable their greatest enemy, something the eldar were unwilling to share with the chaos forces. The eldar reasoned that if the Iron Warriors found out about the tomb world, they would try to access it themselves, no doubt waking the hibernating enemy up and generally precipitating their own doom. Arrogant or not, the eldar would have to destroy the sleeping necrons themselves.

The eldar fought with determined vigour as they approached the mines, but were halted in their tracks by a fanatical resistance by the local chaos cultist forces. No matter how hard the eldar tried they could not shift the dogged defenders and gain access to the mines. The delay ensured chaos reinforcements, led by Stahl himself, were deployed against the raiders, blasting them from short range and quickly precipitating an eldar retreat back into the webway.

In the space of a week the Iron Warriors had fought off two raids on their mining outpost. Now, under the orders of Stahl, the fleet was brought up to directly protect Mordecai Tersius, however they were still as yet blind to the fact that beneath their feet there was a timebomb just waiting to be activated. Now at last the eldar considered making this fact more public...

Tau battles in the Zadoc subsector

In early 11.012M42 the Tau finally came into contact with hive fleet Nemesis. The tyranids had been making alarming progress throughout the subsector following the collapse of resistance on Alphe, and many of the Rim Worlds had already been consumed. Another splinter fleet had made its way to the Mabb Nebula, but so far appeared to have become bogged down in a difficult war against the orks on fort Sparcos.

However, late on in 10.012M42 the tau detected part of the hive fleet moving close to Va'Doran in the Mabb nebula. Lacking the necessary fleet assets to make a meaningful stand, and mindful of attracting the entire hive fleet to tau held worlds, the tau commanders patiently waited for the tyranid vanguard organisms to arrive on the world. This they did on 0211.012M12, when a tyranid scouting force, largely made up of genestealers and larger monstrous organisms, was detected east of Run'Al 4.

Commander Fastblade, now in charge of Mabb Nebula defence while Shadowstrike prepared offensives elsewhere, used the recent experiences of Moonshine and other tau commanders, adopting a defensive stance and tricking the tyranids into attacking into pre-determined killing grounds. The firepower of the tau force was horrifying, and the smaller tyranid creatures were cut down in swathes, before tau railguns and crisis suits took down the larger beasts. A few determined organisms made it close to the tau line, but then faced a withering hail of pulse rifle fire from fire warriors sheltering behind temporary fortifications. Within a few days the tyranid vanguard force had been annihilated. Fastblade now had to wait and see whether the tyranids would return in greater numbers.

Meanwhile, despite setbacks the Tau continued to lay the groundwork for an invasion of Tyranteous. The Zadoc Expeditionary Fleet under Kor'O Pureheart had succeeded in bringing to battle and defeating the Imperial battle group operating in the region. For a while at least the Tau were able to operate freely within the Mabb Nebula. The Tau's next priority was to secure a strategically important moon base on the fringes of the Tyranteous system. Currently overrun by Orks, in Tau hands it would provide an ideal mustering point and fleet base for the forthcoming invasion.

Shadowstrike favoured misdirection over a direct brute force attack that would put the Imperium on full alert. The provide cover for the attack a squadron of Castellan class escorts torpedoed a freighter making its way to Tyranteous, drawing the attention of the system's defence ships before withdrawing into deep space. With the Imperial navy distracted the Protector Salvation was able to sneak into the system unnoticed and land troops on the moon unchallenged.

The Orks reacted predictably and in the only way they knew how – by charging headlong at the invaders firing randomly. The Tau had anticipated this, practising the doctrine of Kayon, the Patient Hunter, to draw the Orks into an ambush. As the Orks rushed forwards Stealth Teams and Kroot auxiliaries outflanked their attack and prepared to close the trap.

The Tau commander had arrogantly underestimated his brutish foe. Showing crude “kunning” the Orks intercepted the flank attack and the battle devolved into a head on clash, one in which it seemed the Orks brawn would see them through. Rather than hold firm and be overrun the Tau fell back, giving ground and whittling down the Orks in a disciplined display of fire and movement. Eventually the Ork attack was repulsed, aided by strafing runs from Barracuda flights launched from Salvation. With the main resistance crushed a the Tau began the business of securing the moonbase for the next stage of the invasion.