Friday, July 30, 2021

Disciples target Imperial Fortifications

The next set of attacks by the chaos forces on Mordecai were soon in materialising. As predicted, the Disciples of Be'lakor were once more at the forefront of the chaos offensives, which did not seek to breakthrough and exploit for territorial gain. Instead, important Imperial installations came under attack. First Fort Rhagrim in the north, then somewhat surprisingly and swiftly fort Arbrux on the normally quite north eastern front.
In the north, the Black Templars reacted to the arrival of the Disciples at the Imperial fortification. However the chaos forces were ready for this counter move and the battle was a disaster for the loyalist astartes. Overwhelming force descended on the Imperial fortification, which was raised to the ground. The Black Templars force that attempted to intervene was all but wiped out in the process, severely shacking the Imperial high command's confidence and troubling Luthor at the sector headquarters at Vastrid. Things were going very wrong on Mordecai Secundus.
Worse still, before the destruction of Rhagrim could be processed, a surprise attack on Fort Abrux developed on the eastern front. Here, not expecting significant activity by the enemy, Kutuzov had not assigned any rapid reaction force, and the Catachan Guard defending the fortress were on their own. Once again the Disciples of Be'lakor were at the vanguard of the chaos attack, swiftly encircling the fort and severely battering the guard regiments holding the line. The Catachan losses were great, and included a much respected senior officer, severely impacting Imperial morale. Surrounded and unsupplied Fort Abrux swiftly fell, but once again the chaos forces did not advance. Instead, as the Imperial morale sank lower as their defences were smashed to pieces and casualties mounted, the chaos forces bided their time for a decisive and overwhelming offensive.

Chaos forces grow in strength

Following the fall of Ur'Ghar on Mordecai Secundus, General Kutuzov was quick to move his Imperial Guard forces into position and fortify. Chaos forces, increasingly reinforced via the daemonic portal held open by the Daemonworld of Astralis, were likely to mount a strong counter attack and soon. Kutuzov couldn't know where, but in late 07.021M42 a double strike by chaos forces severely pressured the Imperial lines.
In the northern sector of the line, the Thousand Sons forced their way into the Imperial lines, scattering the guard manning the defences and requiring a swift intervention by the Imperial fists. A brutal battle between loyal and traitor astartes erupted, and the followers of Tzeentch managed to get the upper hand. Reluctantly after a stubborn resistance the Imperial Fists were obliged to withdraw or be annihilated but the Emerald Serpent did not exploit the breakthrough. After destroying Kutuzov's front line defences they withdrew once more to their own positions.
This pattern was repeated in the south, where the Adeptus Mechanicus of the forge world Lucius were defending a section of front facing the Mekken Plateau. Here the Imperium faced a new enemy, devotees of pure chaos in the form of the Disciples of Be'lakor. Once again the fighting was hard, but the chaos forces did not breakthrough and exploit their victory once they had defeated the Mechanicum in the field. Instead they went about causing maximum destruction to the Imperial defence lines before withdrawing to their starting positions. A pattern was now emerging and with the arrival of the Disciples of Be'lakor, known for their destructive capabilities and worship of chaos undivided, it appeared the chaos gods had a single will to reverse the losses on Mordecai.
Kutuzov called a war council as his intelligence reports suggested the chaos forces were now engaged in a systematic and planned attempt to reduce the Imperium's capability to resist a counter attack. Rather than take ground then over-extend, as different factions played to their own agendas, it now appeared there was a new level of strategic planning in the chaos attacks. The Imperial general ordered his forces to go over to the defensive and braced himself for the next onslaught.

Drukhari continue Hadron Expanse Raids

In late 07.021M42 the Imperium was coming under increasing pressure in the Hadron Expanse. Sector Commander Titus Luthor had become almost obsessed with the war on Mordecai and continually stripped back forces from other theatres. This left General Percival with fewer and fewer forces at his disposal, removing his ability to go on to the offensive and forcing the Imperium to defend the increasingly small holdings in the Expanse with ever decreasing resources.
The other factions vying for power in the region noted this, and while the Tau prepared for their next offensive at the Tanis system and the forces of chaos continued to invest in the construction of a daemon base at Lysis, the Dark Eldar, aided by the bases prepared by Vlokarion, continued their raids against weakened Imperial targets. Percival was not entirely without allies however. While he was unable to secure Imperial Guard resources, his appeals for aid attracted the attention of the Adeptus Sororitas. The Adeptus Mechanicus already had an interest in the Hadron Expanse and its wealth of pre-Imperium human relics and xenos artefacts, but the Mechanicum was only interested in protecting its own. The Ecclesiarchy however was motivated by spreading the faith to the human populations of the Expanse, where Emperor worship was not as strong as in the rest of the Imperium.
Motivated by faith, the Sisters of Battle deployed in orbit around Vanir and waited for the next raid by Drukhari forces. When a Dark Eldar raiding party arrived the Sisters struck first, downing a drukhari flotilla in one fell swoop and obliterating half of the troops inside. The xenos force responded by sending in baron Stitch, his haemonculus and haemoxytes who then systematically worked through the sisters units, sewing them into fresh haemoxytes as they piled through their lines. More and more Drukhari fell to the Sororitas however, with the archon warlord being taken in the last moment by a crack shot from a damaged immolator. Ultimately, Baron Stitch and his haemoxytes ground out the victory, backed up by a team of Cronos Parasite Engines providing fire support. The Sisters' intervention had been unsuccessful and although Stitch had lost men and equipment, the raid proved profitable and the morale of the Vanir population sank even lower.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Grey Knights take Ur'Ghar

Despite the constant assaults on the Imperial lines, in late 06.021M42 the Imperium still held a significant strategic advantage on Mordecai Secundus. General Kutuzov was aware however that the drain on his resources in defending his lines was reducing that advantage as time went on, and the forces of chaos were growing stronger. To counter this, Kutuzov convened a war council to discuss how this might be reversed. The Grey Knights proposed a plan to take the city of Ur'Ghar on the southern shore of the Kuneus lava sea. If the Imperium could take this strategic settlement it would open up the possibility of taking the populated area near the Sarkar Traps, and consolidate the Imperium's hold on the important Sathugar mines.
The Grey Knights arrived without warning at the gates of Ur'Ghar, but quickly found that the enemy had recognised the importance of this city, and had chosen to deploy an elite force of Death Guard terminators in the city itself. Realising a quick victory would now be out of the question, the Grey Knights pivoted their strategy and began bitter house to house fighting for control of the settlement. Using their knowledge of the warp to full effect, gradually elite astartes force managed to push the traitor force back street by street. It was a hard slog, but by 0107.021M42 the Knights had taken the city, allowing Kutuzov's army to follow up and consolidate the Imperial hold on the southern shores of the Kuneus lava lake.
At the beginning of 07.021M42 the Imperium had managed to extend their line south, and Kutuzov was satisfied with the strength of his defences. However, the daemonworld of Astralis was now operating at full effect, and reinforcements were arriving directly to the chaos held territory on Mordecai Secundus via the efforts of the sorcerers of Tzeentch. The strategic advantage the Imperium had held for many months was rapidly waning, and the forces of Mankind braced for the inevitable onslaught.

Kutuzov faces increasing resistance on Mordecai

On Mordecai Secundus the Imperium once again had to resist a number of counter attacks by the forces of chaos during 06.021M42 and all major offensive actions on the world by Kutuzov's army had to be put on hold. The general was initially criticised, but his decision to hold firm to his defences would soon prove wise, as the enemy made a two pronged attack in mid 06.021M42. In the northern sector, chaos knights broke throught Kutuzov's primary line, requiring the intervention of the Wolves of Novgorod, an elite Astra Militarum Scion regiment. The scions fought extremely hard, but the firepower and sheer aggressiveness of the chaos knights proved difficult to contain. Both sides took casualties and heavy casualties, but the Novgorod were unable to prevent the destruction of key defensive posts in the northern sector as the Knights claimed victory.

Further south, hordes of chaos forces simply overwhelmed the front line, and once again Kutuzov was forced to ask for help from his reserve forces. This time the Sisters of Battle threw themselves into the fray, desparately trying to plug the gaps in the lines that the chaos forces had opened. Despite mowing down great swathes of the enemy they too were unsuccessful, and it looked increasingly likely that the chaos forces would now exploit these northern and southern breaches in the lines.

The exploitation and breakthrough never came however. By now, the Emerald Serpent and its allies understood the strategic situation on Mordecai Secundus, and realised any territory taken now would only put them in a more vulnerable position. Kutuzov, with his improved supply lines would be able to attack their flanks and potentially win back all the ground as well as net vast numbers of their troops. Instead, the chaos forces pulled back, content with the losses they had inflicted and beginning a new war of attrition on Mordecai.

Air war on Tanis

On Tanis, the war between the Imperium and the Tau had ground to a halt by mid 06.021M42. Neither side had the resources to effectively reinforce the system and its many barely habitable planets, but the Tau were keen on maintaining the pressure on the Imperium. In order to do this the Tau air caste were deployed in strength to harass and raid Imperial settlements and bases on the worlds controlled by their enemy, but they initial reponse by a well prepared imperial navy took the Tau by surprise. Dogfights raged over Tanis VII, where the Imperium had established their strongest presence, and the Tau were found wanting. Losses were heavy, and to make matters worse, the Tau air caste were ambushed by a roving Ork fighta squadron on their return, and nearly all the first wave was destroyed.

Concerned by events, including the suggestion that ork forces may be in the system as well, Tau commander Malkaor considered calling off the attacks altogether, but was convinced to make one last raid for the pride of the Air Caste. This raid was much more successful, and the Tau fighters managed to down several Imperial thunderbolt fighters before returning to base. No real damage was done to ether the Imperial or Tau installations, but Tau pride had been restored.

Dark Eldar raids prove profitable

During 06.021M42 and 07.021M42 the Hadron Expanse experienced increasing numbers of raids by the Dark Eldar. In previous years the Drukhari had established several bases in the webway which gave easy access to the Expanse for raiding forces, but since the coming of the Ynarri the Drukhari had been drawn into the campaign to acquire the necron devices, and raids by the aeldari's dark brethren had generally reduced. By the first half of 021M42 however, the Ynnari had almost completed their mission with the necron devices, and no longer needed the aid of the Drukhari. Almost immediately the cabals of Vlokarion and newcomer to the area "Baron Stitch", were active in the sector.

The first sites to suffer at the hands of Stitch were Vanir, the most exposed Imperial outpost in the Expanse, and Hexis, where Hive Fleet R'Lyeh came to the attention ofthe dark eldar for the purposes of their "sports" held in Commoragh. The Adeptus Mechanicus forces on Vanir were taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of a Drukhari raidiing force, and ultimately were out-maneuvered by the fast moving Xenos forces. The dark eldar took many slaves, a great deal of equipment and did much damage to the installations at Vanir before stronger forces were able to be deployed to encourage them to return to the webway.

On Hexis, the tyranids were a more tricky prospect. The arrival of the Drukhari raiding force triggered the Hive Fleet's defensive mechanisms, and a horde od beasts came charging at Baron Stitch's forces. For some time it looked like the raid was going to end in disaster, but the dark eldar kept their composure and managed to weather the charge by the giant alien beasts, while dealing with the host of smaller creatures accompanying them. Eventually the tyranid charge faltered, and the Drukhari managed to capture at least two of the larger creatures for their entertainment in the dark city. Their raids in the Hadron Expanse were finally proving profitable.