Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vastrid subsector: Imperial fleet savaged by Dark Eldar

While the bulk of the imperial fleet was covering the Perseus Deeps, admiral Pendragon's force was transferred to the Vastrid subsector to investigate growing rumours of alien raiders in the Radeon Cluster. Upon arrival the imperial force found little, except that Inardion reported ever increasing raids by alien strike teams who matched the profile of eldar or dark eldar corsairs. Unlike other planets, Inardion had not been targeted previously, as the world itself was not connected directly to the webway. This information had been given in secret to Pendragon, and this news confirmed the likelihood of xenos vessels in the region.

Despite having fought this kind of Xenos in the past, Pendragon took no special precautions nor set up any deep pickets to search for potentially cloaked vessels. Therefore when several dark eldar cruisers and escorts appeared within weapons range, the imperial admiral was taken quite by surprise. The ensuing battle was one-sided, and Pendragon's fleet was soundly defeated by the aliens, who were in fact experienced members of the Shattered Silence Kabal. The remnants of the human fleet withdrew, limping back to Farport. The Shattered Silence had bought themselves time, but it would not be long before their machinations in the Radeon cluster would become known to the imperium of mankind. Hopefully by then, it wouldn't matter.

Perseus Deeps: Mordecai Tersius expedition fails

While the war for the Libria system continued to rage in the Zadoc subsector, General Veers was still brooding about his failure to gain a foothold on chaos held Mordecai. In 01.015M42 an initial landing had been bloodily repulsed, but two terran months later, Veers wanted to try again. In truth, General Veers was facing serious problems. His fortress world on Corticant remained a necron domain, although for some reason known only to the ancient aliens, his last stronghold of fort Bastion had not been assaulted. Never-the-less Corticant was for all intents and purposes, a necron world. Now, with vital resources going to the Libria system, sequestered by either Hathek or Vorushko, General Veers, whose campaign has seen the imperium smash chaos in the Deeps, was sidelined.

Admiral Jellicoe vehemently opposed a return to Mordecai. He knew that following the victory over the chaos fleet at Bastien, lord Tragean had not ventured out. However his intelligence indicated that Thok still had a large fleet operable, and its location remained unknown. There were also rumours of something far worse, almost impossible, being constructed in the warp for the deranged admiral.

Titus Luthor, sector commander and ultimate authority in the matter, overruled the imperial admiral's concerned. Disctracted and concerned by the catastrophic escalation in the Libria system, he was in no mood to be harangued by General Veers, so simply authorised the operation to take Mordecai Tersius. Jellicoe pointed out the flaws in the plan including the lack of astartes support, unknown disposition of the chaos fleet, and the fact the Iron Warriors were known to have fortified the outer world. He was ignored. Then on 1203.015M42 Jellicoe received news that a small battlegroup of Thok's cruisers had been confirmed in the Mordecai system by imperial spies. At least he might get to diminish yet more of the rogue admiral's fleet in the operation.

Jellicoe raised his flag aboard Iron Duke and led a flotilla of capital ships into the warp escorting transports carrying largely Novgorod Guard forces. Veers intended to swamp the small traitor legion forces and their fortifications with infantry, and as ever the Novgorod regiments came in handy for such a loveless task. On 2003.015M42 the imperial battlegroup broke into realspace close to the orbit of Mordecai Tersius, finding no enemy battlefleet close to the jump point. Veers landed his troops once more and began an advance on the Mordecai Tersius installations around the city of Skryme.

Several Novgorod Regiments were ordered to take the Iron Warrior forward positions. The Novgorod approached the city initally without difficulty setting up defensive positions within the rocky outcrops that dotted the landscape. Through the night conscripts snuck into forward positions, digging trenches for miles across the newly formed front until the city was encircled. Finally the Novgorod brought up artillery designed to destroy the Iron Warrior armoured divisions. The Iron Warriors, who were clearly concious of events, merely waited.

The early morning gloom of 140315.M42 commenced Artillery bombardment upon the Iron Warrior positions although unfortunately the Iron Warrior casualties were surprisingly light. Soon after the initial bombardment, the chaos forces sent their assault sections across the newly formed no-mans land in an attempt to get to grips with their attackers. On the Western flank and centre the Iron Warriors simply shot their way through the Novgorod conscripts, and in the East, Spawn attacked, dragging the conscripts further from the Western flanks and creating a yawning gap in the imperial lines. Into this gap the Iron Warriors charged. At the this point the Novgorod Colonel was forced to commit his reserves, consisting of elite special weapons teams and Rough Riders.

The Rough Riders, attempted to outflank the Iron Warrior assault commander, riding through thick woods, this proved disastrous with over half their number falling the in the woods including their Sergeant. The survivors, believing themselves to have been ambushed, retreated, leaving the Eastern flank undefended, sealing the Imperial forces' fate. Soon after the Imperial western flank also began to buckle. The morale of the Novgorod shattered turning into a full rout, although with nowhere to run the carnage on Mordecai continued for the rest of the day. Last reports from the landing force suggested the Colonel leading the invasion attempted to save Novgorod and imperial honour by challenging a Daemon Prince to single combat. Once again the landing on Mordecai had been defeated with few survivors. Veers came close to ordering in a second wave, but by the second day of the invasion the imperial commissar had had enough. He relieved Veers of command and ordered a retreat.

During the two day fiasco on Mordecai Tersius, Admiral Jellicoe had sent out his escort squadrons far and wide looking for Thok's vessels, to no avail. Then, just as the flotilla of transports was preparing to leave the system, scout vessels reported contact with a squadron of several cruisers. Jellicoe immediately detached his main battle force and set a course to intercept.

As Iron Duke led the imperial battlegroup into the asteroid fields surrounding Mordecai Tersius, his sensorium reported a massive power spike. Initially the senior tech priests dismissed such readings as implausible, but as ship after ship recieved the same augur returns, it became clear that something massive and powerful was accompanying the fleet. Very soon an enormous vessel, identifying itself as "Gotterdammerung" came into visual range. The "ship" was huge, almost twice the mass of a normal battleship, and it's strange spire like weaponry crackled with witchfire. Momentarilly stunned, Jellicoe was slow to react to warnings to disperse his fleet, and an impossibly bright beam of energy shot out of the front of the enemy vessel, scything through Valiant and damaging the flagship.

Crippled, Valiant tried to escape, but the rest of the chaos fleet quickly reduced the vessel to a wreck, and before long Iron Duke was badly damaged by the massive conventional weaponry which covered every inch of the massive vessel's infrastructure. Jellicoe recovered his wits quickly however, ordering Benbow and Implacable to cross the enemy fleet' "T" to their front, while the smaller vessels and light cruisers were sent to cut round the back of the main imperial fleet. Thok however had been planning this encounter for years however, and had carefully arranged his fleets' deployment. Many a night he had spent obsessing about his encounter with Jellicoe, running scenarios and playing war games with his subordinated in order to perfect his battle plan.

Now the mad admiral laughed as Jellicoe tried to escape his trap. Gotterdammerung swung in from port, while the rest of the fleet approached from the opposite wing. The massive chaos vessel opened fire once more, scything apart Firedrake and forcing the imperial escorts to flee. Implacable and Benbow managed to damage Brunhilde, but it was an unequal contest. Soon Benbow was wrecked and Implacable attempting to disengage. Iron Duke too managed to limp away and hide amongst the asteroids while Thok searched in vain for his adversary.

Admiral Thok hadn't managed to eliminate his most hated foe, but he had given Jellicoe and the imperial fleet a bloody nose. Thok laughed again as he imagined the panic which would soon be manifest at naval headquarters on Farport. His imagination turned out not to be far from the truth, as Commodore Cardale's fleet was immediately withdrawn from the Vastrid sector to reinforce Jellicoe's battered fleet. The lord Admiral himself was shaken by the encounter, but realised the new threat from Gotterdammerung was real indeed. The events in the Mordecai system had all but reversed Jellicoe's great victory and handed the initiative to the forces of chaos.

Libria III: North-West Cartasia taken by Alliance

Having failed to decisively finish off the Crusade by 2003.015M42, the alliance prepared for their next assault against Vorushko's forces. However before they did this, they knew that they had to deal with a troublesome force on their right flank of the Cartasian Front.

This force was made up of the remaining loyalist forces under the command of General Launceston. With no hope of immediate evacuation by sea or air, the imperial forces, mostly Lycaon guard, were in any case well equipped and were prepared for any attack which was thrown against them. More worryingly the alliance had determined that should they continue their assauly against the Crusade, the loyalists had the capability of intervening with the possible loss of Alliance held cities.

The Iron Warriors were thrown into the attack once again, utilising their heavily armoured elements to smash the loyalist defences. Despite being well equipped and dug in, the Lycaon guard had no answer to the ten thousand year old veterans of the Horus Heresy, and Apollo's legion took apart the imperial defenders, taking Ballong Bay and scattering the remaining imperial armies into the wilderness, where comparatively few made any token guerilla resistance. By the end of 03.015M42 West Cartasia had been linked up with the alliance forces in the Broken Lands, and the alliance could turn its attention once more to Vorushko's Crusade.

Libria III: Imperium strikes back (1703-2003)

Having lost much ground to the alliance and Crusade, Launceston was now forced to go on the offensive. Vorushko's forces were finally winning battles but by 1703.015M42 it was the alliance who were threatening to sweep all before them. Some in tau command even entertained ideas of finishing the war on Libria in a matter of days. It was not to be...

Having defeated the loyalists in West Cartasia and seeing them all but collapse to the alliance offensive, the Crusade decided to decapitate the remaining imperial forces loyal to Inquisitor Hathek. The Apocalypse Riders and Minotaurs were brought in to assault the loyalist capital, Newhall, in order to bring all imperial forces under Vorushko's control.

The Minotaurs were largely successful in completing their mission and taking their objectives. The Lycaon Guard were soundly defeated, but enough loyalists remained to delay the astartes force for a crucial couple of hours while the Apocalypse Riders were being defeated in their attempt to take the city itself.

Launceston had been warned of a possible attack on his command and the Space Wolves had been placed specifically to counter this threat. When the Apocalypse Riders attacked, the loyalist astartes were waiting. Weathering a storm of fire the Space Wolves closed on their enemy, and quickly the assault on Newhall dissolved into bitter hand to hand fighting. The battle was now in the balance. To ensure victory, Launceston requested aid, and the Imperial Fists soon arrived to bolster the loyalist counter attack. Facing overwhelming odds, the Apocalypse Riders abandoned their assault, leaving the Minotaurs dangerously exposed. Both Crusade forces retreated, leaving Newhall in the hands of the loyalists.

The Loyalists were also having a better day on the Varas Isthmus. Launching an attack from the north this time, the Lunar Guard attacked Lazarus, determined to take the prize they had been eyeing for months. In order to prevent the city falling, Shadowstrike sent his own forces over the Varactus Sea to bolster the defence, but to no avail. After several hours of bitter street fighting the rebels were pushed back and the tau, suffering heavy casualties, evacuated the city. Finally the Lunar Guard had taken the rebel city.

In Cartasia the alliance hoped to finish the Crusade by attacking Cartal and southern Cartasia, breaking Vorushko's hold on the region. The eldar were employed once again, defeating the Sisters of Battle and taking Vorushko's capital. However in the south, the Iron Warrios faced a massive counter attack from the Carcharadons, who employed nearly all their forces in order to take down the traitor astartes and their warhound titan. 

After a furious battle the Space Sharks were finally victorious, taking down the warhound and ousting the alliance forces from the city of Aegon. The alliance had taken Cartal, but now they were effectively surrounded by Crusade forces.

Libria III: Alliance Ascendant (1303-1603)

Minotaurs sweep into Illum Bay defeating Praetorians and Space Wolves
Skyfall and IW take West Cartasia and link up with rebels utilising Warhound. Loyalists cut off & surrender

The initial phase of the new offensives were over by mid 03.015M42, and all sides considered what to do next. The loyalists had held their own while the crusade, despite their win in South Vale, had lost ground. 

The alliance were the first to strike. Commander Shadowstrike had joined the alliance on Libria III by now, and his forces joined the assault on the Crusade armies. Striking south the tau commander crossed the Purun sea from Cerra, outflanking the Crusade armies and forcing Vorushko to hastily redeploy her Vannaheim regiments to counter this new attack. After a grinding and attritional battle, the city of Aegon fell to the tau.

Worse for Vorushko, the eldar had once again appeared in support of the alliance. The aliens struck hard and fast and succeeded where the Iron Warriors had so far been unable. They broke the deadlock on the Heanor front, driving the Apocalypse Riders back and sweeping across the plains to Canaur. For the first time since the secession, the rebel city was now in contact with the rest of "Federal Libria III".

In West Cartasia General Launceston attempted to follow up recent gains by throwing in his reserve Lunar Guard regiments to take the important cuty of Quattria on the south coast. However the Mechanicum counter attacked, and no more than a few miles were taken before the offensive was called off. Soon after the loyalists suffered more defeats as the Minotaurs were employed once again. The astartes were thrown into the defence of Quattria, but seeing that the threat from the loyalists had passed, the Minotaurs went on the offensive. They smashed a combined Praetorian and Space Wolf force, pushing the loyalist line back towards Krichten and Ballong Bay. 

Seeing the now precarious situation the loyalist forces were in following their defeats in West Cartasia, Skyfall and the Iron Warriors acted themselves. Employing a Warhound Titan for the first time in the crusade, the tau and federal forces annihilated the Lycaon Guard on the loyalist left flank. Space Wolf units sent in to bolster the collapsing line were similarly dispatched, and by 1403.015M42 an enormous hole had appeared in Launceston's defence. Exploiting this, the tau quickly moved units into Krichten, trapping thousands of loyalist troops between their own forces and the alliance in the Broken Lands. Launceton pulled back to Ballong Bay, and much of his army in West Cartasia had no option but to surrender.

Libria III: Total war breaks out (0803-1203)

In early 03.015M42 the war on Libria III quickly escalated. With her effective annexation of Cartasia, Vorushko had signaled her intent clearly, and both the loyalists and alliance forces made immediate plans to take advantage of any confusion in the region by launching immediate attacks.

The first blow on Vorushko's new empire came with an attack from West Cartasia by the Lycaon Guard & Praetorian regiments. General Launceston was keen to make early gains against the Crusade forces to bolster morale and keep Inquisitor Hathek's side in the war, and the offensive went well. The Lycaon forces pushed east, causing heavy casualties amongst the Sisters of Battle and Vannaheim guard, while the Praetorians held off a considerable Mechanicum counter attack. The result was an early success for the loyalist which came as a welcome surprise to the loyalist general.

However the loyalists did not have things all their own way. In the east of Cartasia the Crusade forces unleashed the Minotaurs on the Lunar Guard who had been besieging Lazarus on the Varus Isthmus for months. The sudden attack from behind caught the loyalist forces by surprise and chaos ensued. Few of Launceston's men were able to extract themselves from South Vale, and the success in the west was almost cancelled out by the terrible loss in the east.

On the border of Cartasia and Vedrick, the alliance clashed with the crusade at the same time. The alliance attack on Heanor, led by the Iron Warriors, was held in the foothills by the timely arrival of the Apocalypse Riders, but commander Skyfall was able to take Grisk & the Tamaron Ocano industrial complex despite the arrival of the Carcharadons on the scene.

Friday, March 13, 2015

More raids on Achreom

During the first half of 03.015M42 the raids on Aethor by the dark eldar continued, increasing in ferocity. The imperial forces, now reinforced with Vannaheim units and regiments of Novgorod Guard, were forced to put the planet into lock down, and normal life on the world ceased as the imperial colony adopted a siege mentality against the alien interlopers. Using the webway, the xenos raiding forces appeared from nowhere and struck hard and fast, with little chance for the slow and cumbersome imperial guard to react and counter attack.

In the space of a week the dark eldar struck two outposts far apart from each othere, seemingly at random. In the north the Atterine oile fields were raided, but the strategic assets were protected by mobile Vannaheim Guard units assisted by the Adeptus Sororitas, and the attacks were soon brought under control with heavy casualties inflicted on the raiders. In the agricultural south however, the less mechanised Novgorod Guard found themselves up against the Shattered Silence's elite warriors, and a series of bloody and attritional skirmishes saw the dark eldar able to take control of several districts, massacring or enslaving whole towns before disappearing in the face of imperial reinforcements.

On 1303.015M42 the Minotaurs chapter of space marines intervened, launching a ferocious assault against the Shattered Silence Kabal as they were moving back to their webway portal. Fearful of being cut off or their means of entry discovered, the dark eldar put up a stoic defence, at the cost of the lives of their warriors. The battle itself was inconclusive, and the Minotaurs were unable to prevent the dark eldar from escaping into the webway, nor locate the exact whereabouts of the portal in the south.

Sarina retaken by Apocalypse Riders on Hylas

The war on Hylas had ground on for two and a half terran years by 02.015M42. For months General Van Dorn had wethered incessant ork raids from behind a set of increasingly elaborate imperial trenchlines and fortifications, as events elswhere in the sector starved his force of badly needed reinforcements. An ork hulk remained in orbit, but the main body of the ork force, now commanded chiefly by the warlord Von Bismork, remained on the surface, controlling more than half of the world but not making any truly organised attempts to breach Van Dorn's defences.

The stalemate was broken in early 03.015M42 with the return of a company of Apocalypse Riders. By now the entire chapter was active in the Zadoc subsector and Perseus Deeps, and although they had joined the Librian "crusade", the Astartes force still considered itself a staunch defender of the Imperium of Mankind.

The Apocalypse Riders quickly moved into action in northern Hylas, launching a lightning assault against Von Bismork's forces on 0603.015M42. Taken completely by surprise the greenskins were slow to orchestrate a coordinated response, and the fast but durable forces of the Riders created havoc behind the front lines. Their cohesion broken, the orks were unable to stop the imperial forces under Van Dorn's command when they moved en masse "over the top", and hundreds of miles of the Sarin plains were retaking in just ten days. The main stand of Von Bismork's boys came at the city of Sarina, but here the Apocalypse Riders concentrated their forces and massacred the orks within a few hours. Sarina had been retaken by Van Dorn again and the stalemate broken, but after their decisive intervention the Apocalypse Riders were soon leaving, responding to an urgent need for men in the Libria system.

Zadoc: Vorni retaken by alliance

With the events in the Libria system taking centre stage, the war on Zadoc between the alliance and the forces of chaos had become stagnant. Weakened from their catastrophic losses in the fleet battle against the imperium in the Perseus Deeps, the alliances between chaos warlords had become fractured. The Arch Cleric's activity had diminished, Lord Tragaen had retreated back to Kendrenec and Admiral Thok had disappeared into the warp with his fleet. Only Stahl's Iron Warriors, with some help from the Emperor's Children, now stood against the tau on Zadoc.

The situation with the chaos forces suited the alliance. They had embarked on the more ambitious task of adding Libria to their sphere of influence and had reserved their front line forces for that task. Second line forces were now allocated to the Zadoc "front", with large numbers of ex-imperial forces ready and willing to fight against chaos.

Although less strategically important than the Librian campaign, Warsmith Apollo fo the 5th Grand company of the Iron Warriors, now allied to the Federacy and through this the alliance, was unable to overlook the presence of his damned brothers on Zadoc entirely. In late 02.015M42 Apollo sent a small force - no more than one hundred legionaries - to Zadoc to help bolster the alliance forces.

Upon arrival the alliance Iron Warriors soon began organising the alliance forces on the world and prepared for a new attack. Vorni would be targetted as it was known to be a garrison town for a large contingent of traitor Iron Warriors. Within days the battle had been joined, and after ten millenia brother met brother once more in a repeat in miniature of the battles which shook the galaxy during the Horus Heresy. Neither side was willing to give ground, and despite their former brotherhood and ten thousand years, the hatred they bore for each other remained undimmed. It was the traitor marines, thanks to a tactical error, who were defeated, with Apollo's men triumphantly taking Vorni by 1003.015M42, although by this time the city itself had been reduced to a ruin by the firepower of the two seige minded astartes forces. The war on Zadoc had entered a new and bloody phase.

Libria III: Alliance consolidate gains

Early 03.015M42 saw no respite for the imperium on Libria III. The arrival of the Iron Warriors on the side of the alliance had shaken the imperial forces, and even the intervention of Vorushko's elite forces hadn't managed to slow the tide of alliance gains. In addition the imperial forces within Cartasia found themselves coming under more and more scrutuiny from the Inquisitor's retinue of commissars and priests, which the Imperial commander in Newhall found particularly alarming.

In order to try to regain some control of the situation, Vorushko ordered the retaking of Parth, now garrisoned by commander Skyfall's tau. The Sky Lords, recently arrived in the Librian system would lead the attack, while Librian Guard forces launched their own offensive against the Iron Warriors in Regina.

The Sky Lords were able to make ground in the outskirts of the city of Parth without much difficulty, but soon their spearhead formation of land raiders came under sustained attack from Skyfall's advanced hunter cadres. Riptides, a number of them the latest pattern proved well shielded from the astartes weaponry, and the forward momentum of the imperial warriors was slowed. Worse still the close assault by the chapter's elite terminator unit against the command and control forces of the tau proved ineffective, as powerful technologies proved protection against even thunder hammers. To their disbelief the tau HQ crisis suits wethered the storm of blows from the Sky Lords' finest, and made an orderly withdrawal from the combat. Now out in the open, the elite warriors of the astartes found themselves targetted by the majority of the tau army, and heavy casualties were sustained amongst the best of the crusade's army.

Thus blunted, the Sky Lords assault withdrew, leaving the city of Parth to the tau. Further east sheer weight of numbers almost overwhelmed the defenders of Regina, but the Iron Warriors held firm and learning of the failure of the Sky Lords further west, the Librian forces called off the attack on 1003.015M42.

Despite failing to turn the tide of the war against the alliance, Inquisitor Vorushko wasted no time in turning the screw against her enemies within the imperium. With Inquisitor Hathek away and with "loyalist" command residing on the other side of the planet, the inquisitor started by releasing her agents into the armed forces of the imperium in the Cartasia region. Soon whole regiments had become fanatical adherents to her cause, some becoming flagellants or joining the preisthood. Gradually order began to break down in cities behind the front line, and to restore the pax imperialis, on 1303.015M42 Inquisitor Vorushko declared herself rightful governor of all Libria III, by her own decree, and effectively annexed the region of Cartasia. Thousands were killed in the loyalist ranks as they tried to escape to friendly territory, and others fled to the alliance. Meanwhile General Launceston, commander of all loyalist forces on Libria III, found himself and his forces "condemned" for generations to come by the lord Inquisitor. He needed no pursuading in joining the cause of Hathek and refused to recognise the inquisitor's authority, effectively declaring war on the crusade. The war on Libria III was now three-way.