Sunday, July 07, 2013

Tyranteous; Tau edge south

General Cunningham took control of the situation on Tyranteous by immediately arranging a daring counter-attack on Shadowstrike's forces nearing Greenberg. On the right flank of his armies the Praetorians would hold a defensive posture, while the Librians and Blood Martyrs led the assault from the west of lake Renbow.

The offensive was begun in complete darkness, and Cunningham committed significant armoured forces to the attack on the built up industrial farming complexes north of the city of Greenberg. To a casual observer this would seem poor strategy, as the Librian armour would be at an apparent disadvantage in the built up area, and the tau had superior night fighting equipment. However Cunningham knew that the tau were also very effective in the open fields, so by taking shelter amongst buildings and ruins he was reducing the aliens' advantage. He also reasoned the tau would not expect an attack at night, and in this he was right.

The assault initially took the tau completely by surprise. There was no preliminary bombardment and the imperial forces were able to close with their enemy before the tau realised this was a serious attack. Losses were high and several units simply withdrew without orders, and the tau retreat soon risked becoming a rout. Shadowstrike was away at the tau HQ at the time, but the tau commander on the ground was an able and experienced commander. As the Librians and Blood Marryts surged forward the tau commander kept his head, and despite having lost much of his army he utilised his remaining forces expertly. Riptides were once again key to the battle, but in the end the outcome of the battle was decided by a fierce firefight between tau fire warriors and the astartes. In the end the tau just held on, and despite Cunningham's initial hopes, the offensive stalled as the sun came up, and Shadowstrike was able to wrestle the initiative back for the tau.

With mounting casualties and the tau reinforcements plugging the gaps in their lines, the Librians were forced to retreat, allowing the tau to encircle and take Greenberg, reaching the shores of lake Renbow and cutting the imperial army in two on 0307.013M42. Now commander Dawnstride launched his own offensive in the east, seeking to smash the Praetorian armies on the imperial right flank.

Dawnstride's forces moved into the plains of east Wendrick meeting little resistance from the imperium until two days into the advance. Then the tau met the prepared positions of the Praetorians, who had created formidable defensive positions in a line running all the way from Tallengrove Crossing to just north of the Renbow Refinery complex. The tau struggled to penetrate the prepared positions of the Praetorians, although they quickly dealt with the imperial heavy guns. In a confused battle which degenerated into a long range gun duel, Dawnstride's forces were simply not prepared for the close quarters fighting which was needed to take the Praetorian defences.

After several days of inconclusive fighting, the Praetorians even launched an infantry counter-attack, led by their abhuman Ogryn auxilla. This attack was repulsed with heavy casualties sustained by the imperium, and the tau wondered why the imperium would launch such an attack which had such a slim chance of success. In fact the tau had simply failed to understand imperial logic. The Praetorian commanders knew full well the outcome of an infantry assault against the tau in broad daylight, but while the tau were busy annihilating these forces, they were not concentrating on the defenses themselves, and the imperial forces were given breathing space to move their reserves up to the defence lines. By 1007.013M42 it was clear that Dawnstride would be unable to penetrate the "Praetorian Wall", and the tau called off the offensive in the east.

Tyranids surface on Memnon

The previously relentless onslaught of Hive Fleet Nemesis had been quiet of late, the Hive Minds seemingly content to sit and digest the worlds they had consumed. Biomass was being stored and readied for the next offensive, with analysts on all sides wondering where it would strike.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it was the Eldar Farseers who correctly predicted the movements of the Hive Fleet. It was fortunate that the Tau counted the Eldar as their allies for it was the Tau outpost of Memnon where the Tyranids were next to attack. Slipping through the webway the Eldar met the advance force of the invasion as it was landing. The battle was brutal, with heavy losses on both sides – but these were losses the Eldar could ill afford, and the Tyranids could easily replace. The attack was blunted but in no way stopped.

With the Eldar failing to stop the attack their only hope was that they had bought enough time for their allies to prepare. Outside Research Station Re’Lso Tau forces were being hastily assembled and initially it seemed this may be enough, for only a few Tyranid creatures initially came into view to attack. But as they thought they had the upper hand the defenders were unprepared for a rain of spore pods and winged creatures dropping from the skies, and tunneling beasts emerging from the ground.

Used to keeping their enemies at range the Tau were thrown into disarray, and monsters rampaged through their lines. Many of the defenders broke and ran early in the battle rather than be ripped apart by tooth and claw. An XV104 Riptide held its own amongst the chaos, but was finally bought down by psychic assault for which belief in the Greater Good provides little defence. The battle was over swiftly, the Tyranids quickly consuming what they could. The Tau, who until now had managed to avoid the unstoppable tendrils of Nemesis, realized that they were entering a new fight, possibly their most dangerous so far.

Tyndareous uprising

Following the chaos uprising on Zadoc, it was quickly discovered that the Arch Cleric was not a local force confined to the imperial world. Clearly keen on destabilising the entire subsector, forces claiming loyalty to this new and enigmatic chaos figurehead, again supported by Word Bearers astartes, declared themselves the rulers of Tyndareous, a tau base with some half a million human subjects.

The city of Arrenton was soon lost by the tau, and Dawnstride, nominally in control of Tyndareous, ordered is forces to restore order. In scenes similar to those on Zadoc the tau soon came up against a well prepared and well equipped enemy, supported by heavy weaponry, war engines and vehicles. Somehow the forces of chaos had been slowly building up their forces across the sector, and both the imperium and tau began internal investigations intending to understand how they had allowed such forces to build up on worlds they claimed to control.

The tau assault was easily beaten by the Arch Cleric and his army, and the tau were preparing to re-deploy forces from Tyranteous to secure their vital base, but in the end the sudden and unexpected appearance of eldar forces on Tyndareous turned the tide. A large eldar warhost, supported by at least one mighty Wraith Knight was too much for the Arch Cleric's forces, and the chaos uprising on Tyndareous, unlike on Zadoc, was brutally eliminated. Their base secure the Tau could now concentrate once more on defeating the imperium, but the appearance of chaos forces on one of their own bases had weakened the tau claims that they were superior to the imperium in keeping order, and the water caste now found human ears more skeptical to their overtures. The tau redoubled their efforts to sway the starving on Zadoc however, but now the Arch Cleric appeared to embody salvation for many of the poor, rather than the tau.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Zadoc: Chaos uprising

For months the situation on Zadoc had been deteriorating. With food stocks dwindling and supplies from Tyranteous becoming fewer and more sporadic, the great cities were suffering more and more unrest. The highly stratified society of Zadoc ensured the poorest suffered first, and as food prices spiralled out of control, vast throngs of angry and hungry citizens began protests in each of the cities. These soon became riots, and the Adeptus Arbites and the local PDF spent much of their time putting down the unrest. Governor Valentine Pole did much protesting to the Lord commander of the Sector, but in general, Pole took little action to alleviate the problems on his world, and much food was wasted or squandered by the rich while the poorest starved.

The city of Celliano, governed by a cartell of merchants in much the same way as the rest of the planet, first reported problems on 2006.013M42. At first the ruling elite on Zadoc believed the subsequent loss of contact with the settlement, home to 17 million inhabitants, was just a symptom of a rather more successful uprising, but the PDF regiment sent in to restore order soon found something much worse, reporting an army of cultists following the "Arch Cleric", backed by blasphemous warmachines and the agents of chaos. The PDF regiment was annihilated.

The response to the news of chaos forces on Zadoc was remarkably swift. General Montgomery immediately assigned several Librian regiments to Zadoc, ordering Libria herself to double her military tithe. The Salamanders, at the time conducting operations on Hylas and Tyranteous, already had forces on Zadoc, and these were rapidly redeployed to the northern city. Meanwhile Governor Pole became another casualty of Commissar-General Crowe, removed from power and placed under house arrest for his dereliction of duty and woeful handling of the Zadoc food crisis.

The Librians and Salamanders found the city of Celliano already held by the forces of chaos, and intelligence suggested daemonic forces as well as those of the hated Word Bearers traitor legion in place in the city. It seemed the Word Bearers had found fertile ground in which to spread their treacherous and heretical ideas. On 3006.013M42 the imperial force attacked from Chemart, directly assaulting the rebel city. At first the battle went well, as the Salamanders forced their way into the heart of the city, while the Librians protected the astartes flanks.

The Librians had difficulties however, finding the streets of Celliano less than ideal for their mechanised force, and it became increasingly difficult to redeploy their armoured assets as the chaos forces rapidly moved to meet the threat of the Salamanders. In the centre the fighting was brutal. While imperial artillery massacred the lightly armed and armoured cultists, the forces of the Arch Cleric concentrated on the Salamanders' thrust. Here both sides took heavy casualties, with the elite of the elite trying desperately to break the chaos line. However the Salamanders fell just short, and by early 07.013M42 it was clear that the imperial force hadn't managed to dislodge the chaos forces from critical objectives in the city. Reluctantly the Salamanders commander ordered his forces to withdraw, and the Librians backed off too, forming a defence line just to the west of the city.

Tyranteous: Shadowstrike's trap

A rapid series of operations had driven Imperial forces from Tyranteous' northern continent and secured the planetary capital for the Tau Empire. This was a significant blow to Imperial moral but the Tau themselves place little value on the acquisition of territory. The major obstacle to breaking the back of Imperial forces on Tyranteous were the Space Marine chapters currently supporting the Imperial war effort. Elite, well equipped and superbly mobile the Emperor's finest were capable of striking anywhere and at any time.

Shadowstrike badly wanted to eliminate this threat but the Marine's mobility and grasp of strategy made them impossible to engage on the Tau's terms. In order to destroy them they would have to be brought to a time and place of the Tau's choosing. To this end Shadowstrike decided to employ the strategy of Kauyon – The Patient Hunter. In Kauyon a bait or false indication of weakness is used to draw enemy forces into an ambush. In order to lure the mighty Space Marines en masse the bait would have to be something of enormous value, something totally irresistible to Imperial command, and the location would have to be a place only the Space Marines could reach.

Only one bait would be sufficient to entice the Imperium into taking such a risk: Shadowstrike himself. In an intricate operation the Tau ensured that Imperial Intelligence would discover the location of Shadowstrike's command complex, codenamed Superiority. Located far behind the front lines and covered by the protective umbrella of the Tau Air Caste in air and space only a rapid orbital insertion could hope to succeed in breaching the base and killing Shadowstrike.

The bait was further sweetened by the arrival of Commanders Whitefire and Dawnstride at Superiority Complex. In a heated war council Marine captains warned of the risks of an orbital strike so far from friendly forces but High Command would hear none of it. They were desperate for a significant victory to demonstrate to their own superiors they had a grip on the situation. The spectre of a multitude of worlds lost to the Tau under Shadowstrike's command hung over them and motivated them to abandon all reason in securing his demise. Reluctantly the Space Wolves and Lamenters based on Tyranteous agreed to the strike.

The trap set, Shadowstrike's plan was disrupted by the last minute arrival of an Ethereal at the base on a surprise inspection. He was quickly escorted back to the landing pad and a shuttle called in to remove him from the impending conflict but before it could arrive the Marines struck.

Without warning drop pods screamed down from orbit, blazing through the sky in trails of fire. Closely behind followed the finest of the Lamenters, jumping out of Thunderhawks in the upper atmosphere and using their jump packs to control their fall. The suddenness and ferocity of such attacks had broken many armies throughout the galaxy but Shadowstrike had studied his enemies tactics and the Tau were ready and waiting. Even as the Marines made planetfall they took heavy incoming fire from carefully sited and concealed air defences and found themselves instantly surrounded by a force many times strong than they had expected.

In the open layout of the Tau base there was no place of respite from the overwhelming volume of fire directed at each contingent as they arrived. The Space Marines had some initial success in bringing down the Tau's Riptides – suits so large their positions had been identified from orbit and were the first targets of the Marines' wrath. But it was too little and the Marines suffered catastrophic casualties. A mechanised thrust which approached the base perimeter, somehow not detected by the Tau until it was too late, was able to make a stand but as soon as the Marines within the base had been eliminated the Tau turned their weaponry outwards and the tanks too were destroyed.

The Tau plan had been an overwhelming success and the attackers casualties had been enormous with the Tau's own losses minimal. Despite this Shadowstrike took little joy in the victory. Over many conflicts the Tau had learned to respect the Space Marines as skilled, honourable and worthy adversaries and the sight of so many great warriors slaughtered through the stupidity of commanders who would never themselves set foot on a battlefield was tragic. In a show of respect the bodies of the dead marines were returned to their Chapters so that they might be honoured in whatever way their battle brothers deemed fit.

This action did bring one unexpected ray of hope to the Imperium – the grainy imagery from a dead Space Wolve's helmet camera seemed to show a battle suit tentatively identified as Commander Whitefire being felled by a Krak missile in the closing moments of the battle. His fate was unknown but in a desperate effort to save his own neck it allowed Lord General Brooke to claim the attack had been at least partially successful in eliminating the Tau high command. This did little to endear him to the Space Marine chapters supporting his efforts who saw such a 'victory' as no compensation at all for so many dead.

It wasn't enough for General Brooke. By 0607.013M42 he was out of a job, replaced by General Montgomery by the Commissar-General of the sector, Lord Ferdinand Crowe. Crowe, who had arrived with the new sector government, had been content to sit back and watch events unfold. The latest catastrophe on Tyranteous made up his mind. In the same week that Brooke was moved to an "administrative role", Lord General Roover was "retired", and the general on the ground, who had fallen so completely for Shadowstrike's trap, Mikell Denham found himself courtmartialled and executed for dereliction of duty. General Cunningham, a veteran of Melberg and Tarsis, was called upon once more, finding himself again facing the tau in an almost impossible situation, with orders to hold the line.