Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Zadoc: alliance engage chaos

The war on Zadoc had been remarkably quiet for more than a month, ever since the alliance had driven the imperium back to their "fortress" island and initiated a minor assault on chaos forces. For more than a month the tau and their eldar allies had been relentlessly bombing chaos cities and defences, so it came as no surprise when the tau moved against their main enemy in the Zadoc campaign in mid 07.014M42.

The Tau high command decided to launch a two pronged assault against chaos forces, playing to their superior manoueverability and ability to redploy forces quickly. In the north recently arrived commander Fastblade was tasked with landing on Anorigo and taking Andisele, while commander Skyfall, with the aid of the Biel Tann eldar, was ordered to push hard against Arch Cleric forces in central Zadoc.

In the north Fastblade found his target defended by a large force of Emperor's Children, and landed to the north of the city of Andisele. Conditions were good, if extremely cold, and the snowbound landscape made it even easier for the tau to detect the advancing traitor astartes dressed in their purple armour, not that the tau needed such help.

Fastblades forces opened up a withering hail of fire against the astartes, and the fight was brutally one sided in terms of casualties. However, the all out assault delayed Fastblade significantly, allowing the chaos forces to retreat in good order to the west, and set up a new defensive line. Andisele was taken, but Shadowstrike was concerned at Fastblade's caution in allowing the chaos forces to get away. Never-the-less by 2707.014M42 the northern city had fallen and the forces of chaos cut in two.

Further east and south, Skyfall and his eldar allies were having a much more difficult time. Their initial assault had been swiftly met by the Arch Cleric's forces, and to the alliance's consternation an allied force of Shaidar Haran daemons. A pact had been made between the usually belligerent daemon entities, and the host of tzeentch daemons which poured into reality in front of the alliance army sorely pressed Skyfall's troops.

The battle was brutal and raged for over a week, but gradually the chaos forces, able to accept a higher rate of casualties, turned the alliance flank to the south of Jordoset. Realising to try to hold this position would be near suicide, Skyfall chose to withdraw, giving up the city at least for now. The chaos forces had proved that they were no pushover, and it seemed the alliance was in for a long war on Zadoc.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Libria gazetteer: Libria V

Libria V is a small world, heavy in silicate rocks and low in iron content. It is the furthest out of all the inhabited Librian systems and is the coldest with an average surface temperature of just 8C. The planet itself was terraformed from a lifeless rock millenia ago, and the crust, long dormant, was agitated to release CO2, raising the temperature of the world enough to thaw the ice covering the world.

Libria V is a world of rolling hills and high snow capped mountains, the planet's relatively low gravity and strong crustal rocks allowing for a much more rugged surface than that found on Libria IV or Libria III. Settlements are well separated and little more than frontier towns, the largest of which is only inhabited by around 100,000 people. Roads are little more than tracks, as the savage weather of Libria V and the distances involved make infrastructure upkeep challenging.

Libria V rotates quickly, with a day lasting little more than 12 hours. Its one moon is small and orbits rapidly, contributing to minimal tides. Angled at over 30 degrees to the Librian star, the world experiences varied seasons, with most areas experiencing snow at some time in the year, even at the equator. The planet's icecaps however are confined to the mountains, as the poles are mostly open water, and the high axial tilt ensures that even the poles are heated in their short summer.

The outermost Librian planet is little more than an outpost, waystation or frontier world. It has little in the way of assets or resources, but its position makes it an ideal stop over point for travellers and this is reflected by the world's many orbital space docks. From here travellers can shuttle to the surface, visit the bars and brothels in the many townships, and take in the world's breathtaking scenery. Libria V is also home to a large number of underground missile silos, though the knowledge to use them has lapsed for many hundreds of years.

Most people on Libria make a living by raising cattle on the land, which alternates between tundra, plains and evergreen forest. Prize cattle are the only export of note from the world, and the population are seen as backward and generally the most relaxed of all the Librian Folk.

Libria gazetteer: Libria IV

Libria IV is a world not much different from Terra in size and composition, but it's plate tectonics are weaker and over aeons this has led to a much shallower topography. Combined with a hydrosphere containing 20% more water, the planet is technically an ocean world with over 90% of the surface consisting of open water. The rest is made up of islands and one small continental landmass in the northern hemisphere.

Being so much wetter than Terra, and with similar solar insolation (though peaking at a lower wavelength since Librius is a K0 main sequence compared to the Terran sun's G2V), Libria III has a similar average air temperature at the surface - around 14C. However because the world is so dominated by its oceans, the atmosphere is well mixed, and there are no ice caps. The tropics are cooler than would be expected, and the planet's jet streams are particularly strong. This in turn drives large baroclinic storms, three or four times the size of those on Terra, which can affect vast swathes of the planet with wind and rain. Waves are driven higher and higher as there is little land mass to damp them down, and typically the oceans on Libria II have wave heights greater than 100m, with enormous wavelengths.

The planet's economy is centered around the vast bounty of the world's oceans. Unlike Betor, which was famous for its fish, the vast oceans of Libria IV are full of plant life, which is harvested and turned into a nutritious ingredient which forms the basic carbohydrate used in much of the system's diet. Enormous vessels, many over ten kilometres in length, patrol the oceans trawling for Chelp, the most common free floating seaweed and the easiest to harvest. The main continent of Graevos is studded with large offloading installations, where the Chelp is processed, boxed and shipped to the nearest space port. These settlements are usually built into the rock, and have high plascreet walls protecting them from the ferocious waves.

Life on Libria IV usually centres around Chelp harvesting, and most of the 88 million live in the cities along the coast of Graevos. The weather is usually cloudy and wet, a day without rain is rare, and the wind is constant. The coastal region is a bleak place, grey, wet, windy and constantly washed in spray. You have to go many miles inland to find freshwater plants, and the low hills of the coastal region where most people live are barren of trees, covered in tussock grass and home to many species of bird, most introduced by the early settlers.

The capital, Porthaven, is actually over three hundred kilometres inland from the coast, but is connected to the coastal installations by railway. Trains on these routes are large, often three stories, and the track gauge is wide. Vast amounts of freight and passengers is moved in this way between Porthaven and the ports themselves. Porthaven sits to the north east of the Spine, a long chain of low mountains which run from the north west to south east of Graevos, separating the ports from the hinterland. The hinterland, on which Porthaven was built, is a large inland plain. Shielded by the Spine it receives more than double the sunlight and less than a third of the rainfall compared with the western slopes, and is also the warmest place on Libria IV. It is far more desirable to live here than on the coast, and the planet's rich and important citizens live in the city, which gives the average visitor to the world the impression of a paradise world. In fact only 5 million live in this beautiful environment, the rest live out their lives working in the coastal cities, often never visiting the paradise in the hinterlands.

Libria gazetteer: Libria III

Libria III is the most Earth-like of all the inhabited Librian worlds. It shares a similar composition to Holy Terra, and is slightly bigger at 1.16 earth masses. Libria III has two moons, an axial tilt of 17 degrees and a temperate climate which is similar to slightly warmer than that of earth. The planet is made of continents and seas, and has a variety of environments, including mountains, deserts, lowland plains, forests and tundra. The majority of the population live in large cities which are almost, but not quite hives. Skyscrapers reach kilometres into the air and close to the city centres buildings are starting to be constructed on top of onw another, and infrastructure links such as road and rail frequently pass along fly-overs themselves hundreds of metres up.

Libria III is an industrial civilised world with a mixed economy, although it is not self sufficient in food. Overall Libria III generates around 25% of the food it requires, while the rest of the system can make good the shortfall. However Libria consumes large amounts of raw materials from within the Libria system and from other imperial systems to mass produce goods, weapons and hardware needed both within the Libria system and beyond. Since war came to the Zadoc sector the Libria II economy has suffered badly, and unemployment rates of nearly 1 in 3 have compounded discontent with the establishment, feeding the rebellion.

The culture of Libria III is generally reserved and law abiding. It is in fact home to the Librian Law cult, practically a religion which has served the planet well for centuries, with rigid adherence to utterly inflexible laws the principle foundation of the Librian culture.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Libria gazetteer: Libria II

Like Libria I, Libria II is tidally locked with its neighbour so that each day lasts ten earth days. The planet consists of hot desert plains towards the equator with rocky tundra towards the poles. Ice exists in some of the sunless valleys in the polar regions, but the planet is otherwise relentlessly hot with little water in its atmosphere. Plant life is restricted to scrubland bushes and grasses in the temperate regions, with algae colonising the native iron rich rocks, giving the planet a banded green hue at 60 degrees north and south.

Similar in size to earth the planets equatorial regions are a source of great mineral wealth, and the planet's 40 million inhabitants are chiefly there to extract the various ores from the dusty surface. While the temperate zones are mountainous, the majority of the planet is dominated by shifting sands. There were mountains here once, but the heating of regions directly under the sun for days at a time creates enormous heat lows. Cold air rushes in from the higher latitudes creating dust storms which scour everything in their path with winds up to 300mph. The weak coriolis force shapes these storms into vast slowly rotating monsters which over the course of a few days cross the entire day side of the planet. Lightning is common as the dust is swept into the high atmosphere, and the light from the Librian star is obscured completely. Water clouds form over the centre of the low, but rain never reaches the surface.
Once the storm reaches its peak, the dust and cloud cuts off its own energy source, and the storm finally blows itself out.

The day side of the planet can reach nearly 80 degrees, while the night size can plunge below freezing, thanks to the poor insulating quality of Libria II's atmosphere. This temperature difference causes dense fog to form as the sun goes down, and this is the only way water is delivered to the surface of much of the planet. Much of the polar region is constantly shrouded in fog, which over millenia has created ice caps through frost deposition.

Life on Libria II is hard. The main cities are widely spread, nestling in the protective shelter of mountains in the mid-latitudes. The capital, Whittaker, nestles into an extinct volcano, with much of the city dug into the mountainsides. What buildings protrude are built with strong but gently sloped sides to accomodate the severe winds which often blow into the capital. The city's space port resembles a many branched tree from above, with sloped tunnels converging into one ridgeline of the mountain, which serves as the conduit from the port to the city of eight million souls. At the end of each branch is an oval hangar with a domed roof. Shuttles and loaders land in these hangers which can be totally enclosed should a storm strike.

Whittaker itself is built into the volcano, with the mountain having been shaped to meet the needs of the populace. Several tiers have been cut into the mountain, which have been enclosed in plexiglas, creating sunlit boulevards and gardens for the richer inhabitants. These too are shuttered off when storms strike. However the majority of the population live in hab blocks dug into the mountain and live under the artificial day-night cycle regulated inside the city. Life is far from unpleasant, but the work for the majority of the population means long trips away from home on massive landcrawlers into the deserts and tough, dangerous hard labour.

The culture of Libria II is much like the rest of the Librian system, dominated by the veneration of Law. Specific attractions include the tradition of bazaars, which are held outside the cities' sealed walls in great tents on the first and fifth days of the rotation cycle. This is close to sunrise and sunset in the planet's period of rotation, when the weather is generally warm and pleasant and the dust in the atmosphere protects people from the star's damaging radiation, since the binary system of Libria I and II has little in the way of the magnetosphere. Fortunately the Librian star, being a K0V main sequence, emits far less UV radiation when compared to the Terran sun.

Libria gazetteer: Libria I

Libria I is a hot and dusty world which orbits close to its parent star. Permanently locked in orbit around its slightly larger twin, Libria II, the days last a full terran days as the two planets orbit each other. Libria II is a permament feature in the sky above the western hemisphere, and eclipses are common.

The environment of Libria I is hot, hotter even than Libria I, as the planet's albedo is lower, and more energy from the system's star is absorbed by the dark brown dusty soil. Dust storms are common, although not as violent as on Libria II, and the planet has no indigenous life. Prior to M30, the world was a lifeless airless rock, but ancient terraforming techniques have seeded the world with windborne algae, which over time have allowed enough oxygen to remain in the atmosphere to support human life unaided, although concentrations are low and physical exertion is difficult.

The third of a billion souls who live and work on Libria I work only to produce the armaments and heavy construction required by the Imperium. Libria I is an independent forgeworld by ancient decree, and the world is the leading procuder of military equipment for the sector, even boasting a single Titan Legion. The Mechanicus oversee all production and own all the factorum, but the planet itself is ruled by an imperial governor. Even so, there is no doubt as to the real masters of the world, and were it not for the secrets of the Mechanicus, the great Librian schism would have seen every soul perish when contact was lost with the other planets in the system, as all food must be imported. Water is synthesised on the Celebrus Mining Platform, a vast installation positioned at the binary system's barycentre. The platform harvests hydrogen from the solar wind to produce water, while also serving as a waystation for mass conveyers, and an ore processing plant for the output from Libria I.

Settlements on Libria I are dotted around the world, comprising of large manufactorum and other installations, ringed by hab zones and a commercia district.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Libria V: Librian loyalists defeat Skyfall

The victory at North Springvale was soon exploited by the Librian General Groenewold. Riding a new found optimism the general led three loyalist divisions at the heart of Skyfall's defences in the Gold River valley. After a fierce artillery bombardment which left most of the valley settlements in ruins, the Librians moved forward into the ruins.

Contact mas made swiftly as the loyalist forces encountered Skyfall's elite units. Groenewold was unphased and the advance continued. In the centre Punisher Leman Russ obliterated the enemy broadsides while a Leman Russ Demolisher was fortunate to have a clear shot at a senior tau commander in his modified battle suit. Despite their advanced technology the tau battlesuits and energy fields were no match for the brute force of a demolisher siege shell, and the loyalists scored an important early victory.

Reeling from the punches being dealt by the imperial tanks, the tau made a creditable counter attack on their right wing, sending in elite battlesuits and stealth suits in an attempt to check the imperial advance. Initially successful the tau move destroyed the demolisher battle tank as well as the imperial artillery. However general Groenewold quickly arrived at the scene and stabilised the line. The tau were eventually taken down by massed lasgun and plasma fire, although their stand had delayed the imperial advance on the left.

On the right and in the centre the imperial forces easily brushed aside the forces against them, with even a riptide taken down by sheer weight of fire. Skyfall's troops seemed uncertain as to how to proceed against so many infantry, having grown used to fighting imperial mechanised armies in several campaigns. This Librian army was different, and advanced with a sense of confidence and purpose often lacking in earlier battles. Skyfall, realising to make a final stand here would be catastrophic, retreated to Jutesberg.

After initial success the alliance landing on Libria V was now in trouble, and commander Shadowstrike made plans to personally oversee the situation, hoping his intervention would turn the tide. In the Federacy dissenting voices began to be heard, calling for a recall of the federal fleet and an end to the Librian "intervention". The alliance needed a victory - and soon - or the entire Librian rebellion would be snuffed out by a resurgent imperium.

Libria V: Astartes retake initiative

Following the defeat of imperial forces and the establishment of an alliance bridgehead on Libria V, General Abrahams' mood grew dark. So-called Crusade forces of the Carcharadon Astra and Raven Guard chapters had disappeared without warning allowing the alliance to consolidate their gains. Abrahams appointed General Andries Groenewold of the Librian guard in overall command of the situation, hoping the steadfastly loyal officer would ensure no more Librian units betrayed the imperium. Opposing him was another Librian general, Argen Koyt, who had firmly sided with the Federacy. The two men had grown up together and trained at the same time at the Librian military academy, but the two former friends were now bitter enemies.

Loyalist general Groenewold received some much needed aid in early 07.014M42 with the arrival of a Dark Angels strike cruiser and a similar vessel from the Ultramarines. The two astartes chapters announced they would put right the "dishonour" of the astartes and help win back the world from the alliance. Most assumed the dishonour in question was aimed firmly at the Carcharadons and Raven Guard, suggesting that sides were being drawn within the astartes fraternity. Some observers even privately speculated that another Badab war could erupt, but were mindful to keep such thoughts silent.

The newly arrived astartes chapters soon entered the fray on Libria V, assaulting the heavily defended settlement of North Springvale in a frontal assault. The defenders were made up of tau forces under the command of commander Skyfall, and Librian rebels commanded by Koyt's lieutenants. The defenders were well equipped and competent soldiers, but the astartes attack proved ferocious.

The first marine charge, by the Ultramarines fast bike units, was torn apart by the alliance firepower, while on the loyalist right flank the Dark Angels suffered heavy casualties as well. As the Librians defended the loyalist left, it seemed that the imperial counter attack might falter, but in the centre the decisive battle erupted. Wave after wave of marines poured into a gap in the alliance line left by a shattering bombardment of the alliance positions which almost broke the tau command units. What was left was soon engaged in bitter hand to hand fighting which would only ever result in an astartes victory. The Librian units were then cut off from the remnants of Skyfall's troops and within a few days North Springvale had been retaken for the imperium.