Sunday, January 17, 2021
Thursday, January 07, 2021
Malkaor was given overall command of all forces in the Hadron Expanse during 019M42, and he had learnt from previous expeditions. The war on Hussaria had been bloody and protracted, and the foothold on Boltarean against chaos had resulted in the strengthening of chaos defences, making further gains more difficult. Keen to avoid such long and drawn out conflicts, since mid 019M42 Malkaor had been planning the next phase of operations against the Imperium using the tau military doctrine of overwhelming force and surprise. Awarath was his target, as this was not only a key system in the line of Tau expansion, but it was also general Percival's sector HQ.
The invasion of Awarath took place as 021M42 began, with a massive tau battlefleet arriving in the system. Caught by surprise the Imperial battlefleet was unable to prevent the tau from landing a significant force on Awarath Prime, but general Percival had not been completely unaware of the threat from the Tau. Defending his HQ was a large force of imperial guard, as well as super heavy vehicles and a mighty Reaver Titan. In addition, as soon as the invasion began, space marine forces converged in order to defend the seat of Imperial power in the Expanse.
The assault by the tau was particularly brutal and decisive. Using Mantas to deliver kroot directly into the enemy trench lines threw the imperial defence into disarray, while overwhelming tau firepower was directed at the Reaver titan. The Blood Angels chapter responded by charging into the fray, but were soon bogged down in fighting stealth teams that stubbornly refused to die, blunting the impact of the astartes intervention. Seeing that General Percival was directing the battle from well behind his lines, Malkoar sent in his elite crisis suit drop teams, managing eventually to capture the imperial general and spirit him away from the battlefield.
Without Percival the command of the confused battle now passed to the astartes, with the Space Wolves attempting to deploy their forces via Thunderhawk into the heart of Malkaor's firebase. Disrupting this formation was key to throwing back the tau forces, but the Thunderhawk was soon shot down by massed firepower. Despite this, the Space Wolves managed to teleport their elite terminators into the heart of Malkaor's headquarters, with their librarian reaching Malkaor and severely wounding him.
By this time however it was too late. The astartes teleport action was too weak to disrupt the tau formations, and despite losing Malkaor's guiding hand, the tau had brought down the mighty Reaver titan, dealt with the astartes counter attack and broken the back of imperial resistance. Percival's HQ was overrun, and other hunter cadres were simultaneously establishing strongpoints all over the world. A few imperial forces managed to flee into the wilderness regions of the planet, and the space marines who remained were able to withdraw their forces. The Imperial system however had been totally overwhelmed in less than 24 hours, and as the tau fleet set up a defensive ring around Awarath Prime, the imperium were forced to leave the system. Now the tau began the process of rapidly securing their gains, as a multitude of Earth Caste vessels entered behind the war fleet, turning the system into a new stronghold colony for the tau empire.
The Imperium were in no shape to counter attack. With Percival now in the custody of the tau empire, the fleets withdrew to Dnatha and Vanir, desperately signaling to Sector Commander Titus Luthor that more forces were necessary. They had been saying for months that the weakening of forces in the Hadron Expanse to prosecute the war on Mordecai would have inevitable consequences, and they had been proved right.
In response to the latest offensive against the Abrax complex, the traitor forces summoned a host of Slaaneshi daemons in the path of the Novgorod Hussars. The Greater daemons were dealt with by the imperial tanks, but the battle soon descended into a swirling melee of daemonettes and cavalry. The support of hellhound flametanks proved invaluable, annihilating many of the warp spawned abominations and allowing the loyalist horsemen to banish the remaining daemons back to the warp.
The success against the daemon horde allowed the slow but steady advance into the mining complex to continue, and by early 01.021M42 the imperium had won back more than half of the important mines. Concerns over the exposure of the imperial forces to daemonic influence was raised and constantly monitored, but it was assumed that none of the participants in the battle would live long enough to carry any taint off world anyway.