In an extraordinary session of the Federal Surpeme Council the motion to intervene in the war on Libria was passed by a majority vote. Since throwing off the yoke of Imperial oppression the Federacy had concentrated on recovering, rebuilding and rearming. Despite the Federacy's growing strength the majority of members felt little enthusiasm for an unpopular war of aggression, reluctant to end the decades of peace their populations had become accustomed to in pursuit of foreign military adventures.
Meanwhile the Tau Empire was becoming ever more overstretched. Its efforts to incorporate major worlds in the sector into its new sphere of expansion had been overwhelmingly successful but the Empire's resources were not limitless. The Federacy had been providing supplies and support to the Tau and allowing the use of its worlds for resupply and recuperation but little else. The Tau now wanted more from their allies and had been placing increasing pressure on the Federacy to take a more active role. They had been aided in this by Hartak, the warlike and idealistic Squats spoiling for a fight and eager to extend Federal freedoms to other worlds ready to throw off the Imperial yoke. They chafed under the growing isolationist and pacifistic direction the Federacy had taken. It was Hartak, seconded by Cerberex, that tabled the motion to become involved in the Libria campaign. They challenged the Federacy to actively seek to expand its influence, or as one Squat delegate less diplomatically put it, to “stop acting like a bunch of yellow pussies”.
Under heavy pressure from the Tau and a promise that Libria would be allowed to join the Federacy should it wish to the motion was reluctantly passed but it wasn't all the Tau had hoped for. The Federal Fleet would now be available for combat operations but no state of emergency had been declared and no world was compelled to send ground troops. For the time being the majority of Federal aid to air and space support. Hartak would mobilise its armies along with volunteer battalions from other worlds but without the numbers to wage a full scale war across multiple worlds they would be broken up and serve as auxiliaries alongside existing Tau Cadres. Still, it was a start.
By late 04.015M42 the Crusade was facing severe challenges and for each success there seemed to be a reverse for Vorushko's forces. On 1604.015M42 Launceston's loyalist Librian's continued the offensive from the Varas Isthmus, crossing the Riker sea by ship and landing on the coast of Cartasia, knowing the Crusade's smaller numbers and multiple front lines would make an immediate counter attack difficult. In fact the Librian forces were well inland before encountering resistance, and once again the war of attrition favoured the more numerous loyalist forces. the Adeptus Sororitas and Vannaheim guard inflicted heavy casualties on the Librian forces in an attempt to get them to wothdraw to the coast, but the Librians held fast, eventually forcing an exhausted crusade army to retreat towards Regina anaAegon in the south.
Meanwhile in the north, the alliance were pushing south as commander Shadowstrike and the Iron Warriors' mechanicum allies began a crushing offensive against the Vannaheim units. With her astartes forces busy elsewhere, the Vannaheim guard were put under increasing pressure, and gradually more and more captured Librian equipment - and even men - had to be forced into use by the crusade. The result was a tired and battered Vannaheim and Sororitas force facing a refreshed, sharp and well equipped alliance army. It ended in annihilation after two days of fighting, with simple logistics preventing the alliance sweeping into all of Cartasia. However by 2604.015M42 the crusade had lost control of most of Cartasia to either the loyalists or the alliance.
Further south the crusade made gains. The Minotaurs launched yet another airborne offensive, this time against the elite, but numerically small, cadre of commander Skyfall. Casualties were high on both sides, but the end result saw Skyfall retreat from the city and Vorushko restored to her capital. Further south, the Shattered Silence were pursued all the way to their webway portal by the Apocalypse Riders, allowing Quattria to be taken back on the south coast. Her empire was shrinking in terms of square miles, but at least Vorushko had taken back two important cities on the Cartasian Continent.
Only a week after the gains made by the loyalists in South Vale and Waneria, General Launceston's men made further inroads into alliance territory in the north, this time approaching Belleron from the Spit Mountains along the coast of the Inner Sea. In biting winds and occasional sleet the Lycaon Guard continued to push back the rebel forces before meeting stiffer resistance in the form of Skitaari & other Mechanicum units near Suda Bay. The Lycaon commander reported that he was engaged with Mechanicum forces, and the adeptus mechanicus loyal to Inquisitor Hathek were quick to identify the forge world, although they divulged very little about it to the imperial commanders.
the mechanicum in Newhall now knew that the same forgeworld aiding Van Dorn on Hylas was engaged against Launceston on Libria III. Further data analysis confirmed that this forgeworld had ancient links with the Iron Warriors prior to the heresy, and the mechanicus calculated a 79.2% probability that their opponents at Suda Bay were honouring their old commitments now Apollo had reappeared, and a 58.3% probability that Apollo was being actively supported by the forgeworld in secret. They did not share this information with imperial command nor did they divulge this secret to Inquisitor Hathek.
In any case the force was small, and soon the Lycaon commander reported that it too had been forced to retreat and the imperial offensive continued on schedule.
By mid 04.015M42 the Crusade forces were becoming seriously over stretched and under pressure. This was particularly true of the force in South Vale, which with alliance on both flanks and the loyalists in Lazarus to the north, had to be continually supplied via the Riker Sea, a shallow and treacherous stretch of water for shipping and a practical no-fly zone for crusade airborne forces, such was the superiority of the alliance air power in that region. It came as no surprise to Inquisitor Vorushko and her commanders whent General Launceston began an offensive driving down from the Varas isthmus into South Vale.
Vorushko, knowing her forces would capitulate without help, called on the Minotaurs. This highly mobile force was able to strike without warning from space, and then withdraw, the damage done, before the alliance space forces in the vicinity of Libria III had time to react. However, the Minotaurs would have to strike decisively and in a limited time frame.
the operation started well, with the Minotaurs force evading alliance and loyalist airborne forces and landing directly in contact with the lead element of the Novgorod Guard regiments at the front of Launceston's offensive. The Minotaurs intended to smash a hole in the loyalist line in order for Vorushko's reserves to counter attack, putting the whole of the loyalist plan into jepoardy. However the plan soon went wrong.
As violent as ever, the Minotaurs were simply unable to kill enough guardsmen quickly enough, a fact General Launceston had counted on, and as the blood of the Novgorod guard stained the countryside red, the rest of the loyalist meatgrinder pushed on into South Vale. Nearly 24 hours later, the Novgorod regiments facing the Minotaurs were almost spent, but by now the combat was irrelevant. The critical time had past and the astartes force had to disengage. Casualties were enormous, but Launceston accepted those as the remainder of his force outflanked then routed the remaining loyalist forces in South Vale, returning the region to loyalist control.
The loyalists were also enjoying steady gains across the other side of the planet, in the remote region of Waneria. For weeks Launceston's forces had been slowly pushing the rebels south, out of Hodor, and now the Wanerian mountains had been taken and the whole of the plains to the south lay open to the advancing Lycaon Guard.
The Shattered Silence kabal were asked by the alliance to put a stop to the imperial offensive, and after protracted negotiations, a price was agreed. However the dark eldar force found the imperial armour tough to deal with, and once again the Lycaon Guard regiments proved to be a difficult foe. The struggle, a series of violent skirmishes between xenos and imperial forces in the Wanerian plains, lasted almost a week, but at the end of that time the forward momentum of the loyalist army had not been slowed and the city of Belleron now lay at risk, outflanked to the west.
In the month since the recapture of Sarina from the greenskins General Van Dorn had been consolidating his gains and ensuring that there was no overwhelming greenskin counter attack which would undo the Apocalypse Riders' hard work. As under-resourced and low priority as ever, Van Dorn continued to plug away, using any resources he could get his hands on, and in early 04.015M42 through his network of contacts, he successfully pursuaded a little known forgeworld to send a force of skitaari and other mechanicum troops. Van Dorn was surprised to find an agent who could communicate directly with the mechanicum and secure resources, but his need was so great Van Dorn didn't let it bother him.
With surprising rapidity the force of mechanicum arrived in system. Within days of their arrival they made their presence felt, launching an offensive along the north coast of Hylas, near the shifting isles. The technology and power of the new force overwhelmed Von Bismork's defenders and within days North Eaton had been returned to the control of the Imperium. Slowly the green tide was turned back.
The next move by the alliance was to attack Crusade positions in the Cartal mountains to the west of the Cartasian plains themselves in an effort to widen the narrow corridor which kept alliance forces in the city of Cartal in ground communication with the rest of the alliance.
Since the city had been taken, Cartal itself had come under seige, but the alliance had kept open a strip of land, some fifty miles wide at its narrowest, leading to the Riker sea and the lands of Vardashi and Cerra. Now Skyfall was tasked with widening this corridor, and if possible rolling back the arc of crusade forces to the west and north of the city. If successful the siege of Cartal would be lifted and the remaining Crusade forces in Cartasia would be isolated from osne another.
Skyfall's attack took the defenders by surprise initially. The tau attacked in moderate strength, initiating a predictable and in fact hoped for counter attack by the Crusade's mobile reserve, this time in the form of the Sky Lords. this counter attack was then ambushed by Skyfall's main force, which had been carefully concealed by advanced tau technology and simple ruses such as camo netting.
The Sky Lords proved to be a difficult opponent for the tau however. The astartes force had learnt from their previous encounter, and despite the ambush, little damage was inflicted on the Crusade force. In reply, grav cannons were employed successfully against Riptide battle suits, and the space marines' land raiders held off enough tau firepower to deliver the elite terminator squadrons into battle with the tau command units.
This time despite their superior technology, the faith and brute strength of the imperium's warriors proved the more enduring, and the tau command, leading from the front once again, was smashed by the Sky Lords' chaplain and assault terminators. the remaining crisis suits were annihilated by the astartes grav cannons, while the Sky Lords sent their tactical squads after the "softer" tau forces.
Soon the tau attack was in all kinds of trouble, and the Sky Lords' counter attack became a full scale offensive. Sensing a victory, Vorushko threw in her reserve forces, cutting the alliance corridor and sweeping across the Cartasian plains reaching the Riker Sea on 0804.015M42. Cartal was now fully cut off and Skyfall was left wondering what went wrong. Only days after the battle was it revealed that his Broadside Battlesuits had in error been deployed facing the Crusade forces in Aegon, while Skyfall expected them to take part in the attack on the Cartal Mountains. this mistake may have contributed to the defeat, and Skyfall was forced to undertake a review of the army's communication procedures. On the ground, the crusade had won a badly needed victory, but strategically their position remained weak.
As 03.015M42 came to an end, the alliance, now made up of the Iron Warriors and Tau forces, continued to prioritise the destruction of the Crusade on Libria III. They assessed the Crusade as the greater threat and the least likely to surrender or withdraw voluntarily following diplomacy, whereas events on Tarsis and Melberg had demonstrated that the loyalist forces rarely fought the alliance to the death. Vorushko and her forces almost certainly would, and they had to be eliminated. By avoiding pressure on Launceston's loyalists, the alliance ensured the Crusade still had to fight on two fronts, making the job all the easier.
The assault against the Crusade continued with little in the way of delay following the destruction of the loyalists at Ballong Bay. In an unexpected attack, a large force of Iron Warriors infantry pushed south from Cartasia into the suburbs of Quatria in relative secret before the Adeptus Sororitas and attached Vannaheim regiments realised that a new assault had begun. the Crusade had expected the Iron Warriors to utilise their mechanised forces and had planned accordingly, but Apollo was clever, keeping his enemies guessing.
This time his largely infantry based force were able to utilise the cover of Quatria's massive buildings, and targetted the Vannaheim artillery for early destruction. In this they were phenomenally successful, wiping out much of the Vannaheim long range firepower. Thus compromised, the Crusade forces were unable to prevent the astartes warriors from overunning the city, and where they attempted to hold the Iron Warriors, the Sisters of Battle were brutally hacked down in violent hand to hand combats, the ideological gap between the two sides all to clear to see.
By 0504.015M42 Quatria had fallen to the Crusade, securing the entire western seaboard of Cartasia and much of the south coast. If Rhallor and Aegon could be captured, the alliance would be able to encircle the armies beseiging Cartal.