Sunday, October 31, 2021

Forces begin exploring the Rifts of Hecate

With the Hecate pass now stable in the Hadron Expanse, 10.021M42 saw the first expeditions to the Rifts of Hecate by several, as yet small, expeditions. The Imperium set up a crusade force that was nominally under the central control of general Percival, but in reality the astartes, adeptus mechanicus and imperial guard forces each had their own agendas. A small force of Imperial Fists were the first to make planetfall at the Calthingum system, as they had been following intelligence that the Thousand Sons were engaging in some activity on the single inhabitable world there. What they were up to was not known, and not relevant, as the Fists were only interested in disrupting them. In this however they were unsuccessful and after heavy casualties during that engagement, the astartes chapter had to re-evaluate whether pursuing the Thousand Sons into the Rifts was worth the risk.

The main engagements in the Rifts of Hecate began in the Ferrosium system, which had two habitable worlds. The larger one appeared to be an abandoned ex-human world, which was resource rich, especially in old technology and artefacts. The Imperium set up a base on Ferrosium II, the smaller, colder world, and began to send expeditions to the larger planet's surface.

Unfortunately they were not alone. Already there was a strange tribe of orks that seemed physically different from most orks previously encountered, identifying themselves as the "Hobgrobbos of Grunk Prime". Led by the strange looking but terrifyingly powerful "Areez the great green gobbo, god of the waagh!", the Ultramarines were the first to encounter this particular band of greenskins. Interupting what appeared to be a salvage mission by the orks, the Ultramarines were narrowly beaten and forced to withdraw, but the Imperial Guard special forces of the Lycanon regiment were able to successfully raid the "Hobgobbos" and determine their intentions before withdrawing to Ferrosium II. It appeared the greenskins (or yellowskins, such was the pallor of this new strain of orks), were salvaging as much scrap as possible, which posed a threat to the small imperial task force. If left unchecked, they would multiply and create giant war engines, and possibly be able to seed a new ork waagh! within the Rifts.

The imperium were not the only forces investigating the ruins of Ferrosium to encounter the orks either. A small warband of chaos astartes known as "Disciples of the red path" also encountered and were defeated by the greenskins on the world, before retreating to their lair in the Mendrus Mundi system, while the House of Eschar - a faction of the Death Guard, were also seen off by the angry orks, as Areez "the great" personally took down and banished the daemon prince "Gavinus" in hand to hand combat, confirming to the orks at least, his divinity.

The Death Guard, experimenting and researching new pathogens to unleash on the Aleph Sector, withdrew from Ferrosium following this defeat, setting up a base on Pyrrho Zeta, while the Imperium continued to establish a much larger facility within the Ferrosium system itself. Knowing the intent of the orks now, the Adeptus Mechanicus of forgeworld Stygies 8, keen to learn all they could about this ork strain and to obtain for themselves the valuable archeotech on Ferrosium I, launched their own raid against the Hobgobbos a few days later. Once again however the power of Areez was demonstrated, and the Mechanicum force was repulsed, allowing the orks to continue their asset stripping of the abandoned settlements on the larger world.

As 10.021M42 came to an end, several forces had set up bases in the Rifts of Hecate, but the Hobgobbos of Grunk Prime were proving to be the most immediate threat to the other task forces as they continued to extract resources from the Ferrosium system.

Hexis: Tyranids come under pressure

 The tyranid threat on Hexis had remained largely quiescent for over a year, as they had tried to rebuild their strength before launching a new offensive to overrun the other forces still in place on the dead world. In 10.021M42, there were signs however that the hive mind was re-awakening, now invigorated by some initially unknown force. Gradually both the eldar and imperial intelligence became aware of the emerging threat from the Tyranids on Hexis, dubbed "hive fleet R'lyeh" by the Imperium.

For years the tyranids on Hexis had been little more than an annoyance, with no hive fleet and no unified hive mind to guide them. During this time the psychic force of the alien species had been signalling to others of its kind, intending to either summon a hive fleet or gain enough biomass to overrun the world and convert it to the production of new hive vessels to begin a new migration.

The result of this was the arrival of several spores from other hive fleets over time, and now "R'Lyeh" was something of a hybrid of genetic stock, and growing in strength by utilising the organic materials of the very rocks of Hexis. In late 10.021M42 both the Aeldari and Imperium launched their own pre-emptive strikes on the Tyranids. The astartes of the Iron Roses chapter engaged in a minor raid to gather intelligence, while the eldar appeared from nowhere, striking at a hive node they had identified in the deep desert of the planet. This caught the alien race of balance, forcing them to respond, and the general increase in violence elicited a response from the orks on the world as well.

As the eldar corsairs were destroying the hive node, the orks around Menthoteph became energised and, always looking for a fight, launched their own attack against the xenos race, attacking with unbridled glee and removing the tyranids from around the city. Whether this was forseen by the eldar is unknown, but the result was to effectively reduce the threat of the tyranids on Hexis, at least for the time being, clearing them from key positions around the important necron tomb complexes and keeping the hive mind at bay for now.

Mordecai: Titan's lead major chaos offensive towards Festergax

In late 10.021M42 the forces of chaos had retaken Kuneus from the Imperium and were looking for ways to further push back the imperial advance on Mordecai Secundus. Both sides had recently deployed giant titans to the planet, and the worshippers of the dark gods were keen to bring these forces into action. The offensive thus planned by the enemies of general Kutuzov was more about destroying the imperial war engines than it was to gain strategic locations.

The Imperium had deployed their titans in the central sector of the front, in preparation for a wide sweeping advance across the flat lands of the Mekken plateau. Using the power of Astralis the chaos war leaders quickly deployed their own titans to face them and launched an immediate surprise attack. Across the vast plateau, close to an old exhausted mining complex, the two forces met in a violent and ground shaking engagement.

Taken somewhat by surprise the imperial titan legion faired badly, losing several of the mighty war engines to their corrupted counterparts, and compromising the entirety of Kutuzov's central front. The chaos titans crashed through and over the imperial trenches, forcing the supporting guard regiments to abandon their forward positions and fall back towards Festergax, leaving behind the burning hulks of their giant war machines as a testimony to the violence that had been witnessed on the plateau. With their own titans destroyed, the Imperium now dug in around the city, although the chaos engines would themselves need to repair and refit before re-joining the advance.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Mordecai Secundus: Kuneus retaken by chaos

The Thousand Sons did not waste time following their advance north to surround the city of Ur'Ghar. Previously the forces of chaos, led by the Emerald Serpent, had been pursuing a strategy of siege against the city, rather than face the Grey Knights in street fighting, which they rightly judged would likely end in defeat. Now that the Grey Knights had repositioned however, they did not hesitate to launch an assault against the city.

The suddenness of the attack caught the Imperium off balance, and the Adeptus Mechanicus forces had no support in their defence of the city. They fought hard for every street and building, but the Thousand Sons had once again redeployed their most powerful assets using the daemonic power of Astralis. Gradually the streets were reclaimed by the chaos army, and the Mechanicum, rather than face annihilation, abandoned the city by making the hazardous crossing of the Kuneus Traps, a vast lava sea that remained passable to the Mechanicum only by their advanced knowledge of technology and their faith in the Machine God.

Kuneus had once again fallen to the forces of chaos, a strategic setback which Kutuzov knew would reinvigorate the enemy, and risked putting the Imperium on the back foot on Mordecai Secundus. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Hadron expanse engagements widen

In the Hadron Expanse, while the eldar and necron forces continued their war to locate and obtain the necron artefacts on the tombworld of Hexis, other forces were active in the wider expanse. Since 020M42 the warp storms that once veiled the region known as the Rifts of Hecate had become increasingly becalmed, and the first tales of strange artefacts and exotic planets were beginning to emerge from those brave enough to make the crossing into an area that still posed a serious danger to anyone who entered. Many expeditions of all races did not return, but by late 10.021M42 it was becoming clear that the Rifts of Hecate may contain sufficient resources and wonders to make control over them, and access to them, strategically significant.

To access the Rifts of Hecate it was necessary to have a jumping off point in the Hadron Expanse. The Dark Eldar had several bases, but were increasingly aware of the threat posed to their favourable position in dominating the space lanes to the Hecate gap, by the Imperial presence on Vanir. This gap was the one navigable pathway into the Expanse, and the Drukhari saw an opportunity to both set back the Imperial encroachment on their access to the Rifts, and to harvest valuable slaves and engage in some wanton acts of savage violence at the same time.

The Dark Eldar raid was brutal and effective. The Adeptus Mechanicus forces had deployed expecting such a raid, but were taken by surprise following a deployment that was particularly vulnerable to a sneak attack. It is likely that the worshippers of the Machine God had put too much trust in their intelligence gathering capability and had relied on being able to react first to the appearance of the Drukhari, but this did not come to pass. The xenos struck first, and managed to enter devastating close combat and destroy vitally important tactical assets before the Mechanicum were able to respond. 

The battle soon became a massacre, and while the Mechanicum forces were able to disengage from the attack, the colonists and Administratum forces on Vanir I were not so fortunate. Fear gripped the more populous world of Vani, as the Drukhari slaughtered and enslaved thousands on the inner planet, destroying infrastructure and threatening Imperial control of the system, before melting back into the webway with the profits of their raid.

Further towards the unexplored Eastern Fringe and closer to the Hecate Gap itself, the Tau were continuing the creation of their own base on Tanis. Having secured a foothold, the Tau, lead by a force not part of the command structure involved with the Hadron Expansion sphere, had established a base. In reality these Tau had no links with Malkaor or the Expansion plans of the Tau Empire, and were acting in partnership with the Federacy, as the leaders of the technically advanced world of Tallax had been energised with the rediscovery of the Rifts of Hecate, and had sponsored an investigation of the region.

The Death Guard, continuing to establish their own presence in the area, and working hard to create the daemonworld of Fecus Major, also recognised the opportunities within the rifts of Hecate and the threat posed by a Tau/Federacy base so close to their own. In late 10.021M42 the forces of nurgle launched a raid to the Tanis system in order to disrupt the Tau operations there and gather more resources for their project in the Lysis system. The Tau deployed considerable forces to meet the chaos threat, but found their firepower severely lacking as the nurgle horde pushed inexorably towards the Tau base on Tanis III. Poxwalkers shambled into the Tau lines on the right flank while Blight Lord Terminators intervened supporting a daemon prince of nurgle in the centre. On the left flank of the engagement an elite force of crisis suits tried to push home a counter attack, but even with their advanced technology were unable to remove the ancient astartes warriors from key objectives. In response, mass Plagueburst Crawler mortar fire and entropy cannons made a mess of the suited Tau warriors, and even the mighty Riptide was taken down after being assaulted on all sides by the slow moving but relentless advance of the House of Eschar Death Guard force.

The Tau lost significant forces and their plans to create a base as a jumping off point to explore the rifts was severely disrupted, while the Death Guard continued to progress their efforts on the moon of Hexis. Soon a new plague planet would be born and the forces of chaos would have an ideal vantage point to further their plague spreading aims in the Hardon Expanse.

Imperial campaign against the orks suffers setbacks

Having secured Aspaster for the Imperium, the next move against the orks came swiftly, as ad hoc forces began probing ork defences on Magark, a large ork world that served as a sort of "capital" for ork forces in the Cerrack Nebula region of the Vastrid subsector. In 10.021M42 the campaign against the orks, ordered by Inquisitor Ezquerra, had not been organised in any strategic sense, and while the wheels of the Administratum started to turn, setting up a base on Aspaster and beginning to select an overall commander and assign Guard units, the probing attacks on Magark were conducted by hastily assembled forces which often had their own agendas.

The Blood Angels, assisted by a Knight household, were the first to test the ork defences of Magark, intending to gather intelligence and cut off the head of one of the more powerful tribes by assassinating its leader. In this at least, they were successful, managing to kill the warlord of an ork tribe in their raid. However their losses were heavy, including a Knight Castellan and their own Blood Angel's company commander, and the end result seemed to stir more orks to action so was not considered a strategic success in any way.

The Adeptus Mechanicus launched their own raid against the orks which was more profitable. Significant intelligence about the nature of the ork forces on Magark was gathered and their defences assessed, and this information was passed back to the emerging command structure on Aspaster for future campaigns against the large and populous greenskin world. The Mechanicum's real motivation however was concealed from other agents of the Imperium, as this particular Forge World was more interested in understanding the ork technology and investigating the ancient xenos ruins, thought to be of necron origin. What data they gathered on this subject they did not share, but gradually a coalition of imperial forces was beginning to come together in the Cerrack Nebula, with the intention of beginning a full scale war against the greenskins in the Vastrid subsector.

Mordecai Secundus returns to stalemate

On Mordecai Secundus following operation Sarkar, general Kutuzov was keen to shore up his right flank following the chaos counter attack into the northern Sathugar mines. Lacking Imperial Guard in this sector, the Dark Angels agreed to step in and attempt to cut off the salient the chaos advance had created.

Launching their elite forces against the Thousand Sons, the Dark Angels soon got into a vicious engagement on the rocky shores of the lava lake that dominated the area. Their Ravenwing and Deathwing units led the charge, and in a few hours the traitor astartes had been severely mauled, allowing imperial forces to cut off the salient and retake the mining complexes once more. This was a significant victory, but further south, the Thousand Sons, using their warp technology and the daemonworld of Astralis to reposition their forces, had launched a new offensive of their own.

The chaos siege of Ur'Ghar had only recently been lifted, allowing the Grey Knights to reposition and forces of the Imperial Guard and the Adeptus Mechanicus to take positions in the city. Defending the narrow corridor between the settlement itself and the rest of the imperial sector were the Adeptus Sororitas, operating out of their fortified complex fort Celestine. The tzeentch worshipping astartes now attacked in strength, and a savage battle took place across the blasted landscape of lava plains, as both sides stubbornly refused to give up easily.

After many hours of fighting, the traitor forces had managed to hold on to key objectives, and gradually the Sisters of Battle were forced back towards their defences around Fort Celestine. Once again the city of Ur'Ghar was surrounded, only now there were no elite astartes forces defending it.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ultramarines defeat Harlequins on Hexis.

Deeply unsatisfied with their defeat, the Sisters of Quartz took some time to lick their wounds and gather  reinforcements before skulking the plains of Hexis for a rematch. It wasn’t long before they saw the signs of familiar black and gold armour, and they once again positioned themselves to pounce.

However, Captain Vicky of Varsity had been expecting such a counterattack from the bitter Eldar, and with reinforcements of their own managed to make the first move. Elegant Harlequin vehicles were snapped in two by their brutal Marine counterparts, and a lack of secure cover left the fragile Sisters open and vulnerable. What was most concerning was Varsity’s newfound speed – some of the clunky lesser beings somehow moved with more speed and agility than the Sisters and this frightened them as they were quickly surrounded, picked off by bullets and flames alike as they failed to reach with their own weaponry.

They remained stubborn despite the losses, and as if out of pure spite for the Marines the Empress and her Solitaire took several direct hits from heavier and heavier artillery without flinching – perhaps they were smirking, but the blank masks gave nothing away and that arguably made it more unnerving. Captain Vicky was not so lucky in their resilience, their flame-wielding guards shot away by dying troupe members before a Sapphire spearwoman swung by, eliminating them in a surprising turn of the tide.

This minor victory, though, was the Sisters’ last. Out in the open a tank managed to finally mow the Empress down as the Solitaire faced a similar fate from the Dreadnaught she had been locked in combat with, and without enough bodies to secure the site the Sisters tasted loss once more.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Mordecai Secundus: Current Strategic Situation


Dark Angels retake Abrax mines on the Eastern Front

While the main action on Mordecai Secundus was taking place further south, the Dark Angels decided of their own volition to sort out the Eastern Front. It had only been mere weeks since the forces of chaos had overrun part of the Abrax mines complex, and while the chaos forces on this front did not pose a significant risk to Fort Vengeance or imperial HQ (thanks largely to the deep imperial fortifications in the area), the loss of the mining complex was of strategic significance.

The Dark Angels drew up a focussed and limited plan to retake the mines, launching their assault simultaneously with operation Sarkar to minimise the threat of rapid redeployment by the enemy. Using their most elite troops, including their Deathwing and Ravenwing elements, the loyalist astartes were able to grab key objectives then weather the counter attack by the Thousand Sons. Although only a "side show" to operation Sarkar, the reclamation of the Abrax mines was nonetheless a welcome boost for the imperial campaign on the planet.

Chaos counter-attack in the Central Sector on Mordecai Secundus

While general Kutuzov put in place operation Sarkar in the south, this necessarily came at a cost. In the central sector the imperial front line had to be weakened as imperial guard units were sent south for the offensive. To guard against chaos taking advantage of this situation the Ultramarines and Angels of Vengeance were deployed in the vicinity to rapidly counter any chaos offensive in the area.

The forces of chaos did not take long in making the most of Kutuzov's redeployment as a force of Thousand Sons and Death Guard began to rapidly advance on the city of Festergax Primus. Led by the Thousand Sons, with the slower Death Guard following behind, the chaos forces broke through the imperial lines with ease and now Kutuzov's counter strategy came into play.

The Angels of Vengeance, new to the theatre, took on the Thousand Sons. This however went badly, and the relatively inexperienced astartes chapter were all but brushed aside by the worshippers of Tzeentch. Further south-east, the House of Eschar faction of Death Guard moved inexorably forward, countered by the Ultramarines. Initially the engagement was evenly balanced, but the resilience of the Death Guard forces began to take its toll. Unable to take down enough of the nurgle forces, the Ultramarines were slowly enveloped then ground down by the Death Guard, with the intervention of the Blightlord terminators key to unhinging the Ultramarine left flank. Unable to respond to the appearance of the terminators, the ultramarines were gradually taken out, resulting in a massacre which severely dented the chapter's fighting capability on Mordecai.

By 2010.021M42 the forces of chaos had advanced significantly towards the city of Festergax, but the biggest risk was that Kutuzov's southern right flank now lay exposed and vulnerable.

Operation Sarkar: Major imperial advance in the south of Mordecai Secundus

As 10.021M42 progressed there was no sign of an end to the stalemate on Mordecai Secundus. The strategic situation was finely balanced, but general Kutuzov was now ready to launch operation Sarkar in the southern sector of the front. His intention was to break through the chaos lines at Ur'Ghar and west of the Sathugar mines, before pushing south towards the Sarkar traps, a vast lava sea that was impassable for ground troops. This would trap several chaos armies against the shore of the lava sea and enable them to be mopped up by the Novgorod Guard.

The offensive started to the west of Fort Celestine, with the Sisters of battle taking a large formation of Thousand Sons off guard as they advanced west from their positions. The initial engagement was very one sided, with the sisters decisively defeating the chaos force and breaking through the front line.

The Sisters had not finished their role in the operation thought, as a second force was required to reach the shores of the Sarkar traps south of Ur'Ghar, before the Novgorod guard could follow through in the centre and complete the entrapment. This second advance could not be done simultaneously with the first, as the Adeptus Sororitas did not have sufficient forces to conduct these operations in parallel, so as the second offensive got underway, the Thousand Sons in the south had forewarning of the attack.

This second battle was more difficult for the Sisters of Battle, as the chaos forces fought more defensively, aware now of the threat posed and the intentions of general Kutuzov. The imperial force was still successful however, and despite not achieving the same level of victory, the Thousand Sons were obliged to move back to Burroneus. Now to avoid encirclement the Death Guard defending the Sarkar line would have to prevent the Novgorod Guard from reaching the shores of the Sarkar traps.

The final phase of operation Sarkar began with an overwhelming barrage of imperial guard firepower, as once again the Novgorod Guard got the drop on the enemy forces. The initial bombardment was fearsome and accurate, destroying many Death guard elite units and putting plagueburst crawlers - a significant threat to the vulnerable guardsmen - out of action.

The battle continued to develop favourably for the Novogorod Guard, despite the elite force of traitor astartes using their resilience and tactical excellence to full effect. Kutuzov watched from his HQ as his loyal guardsmen managed to shake off a determined counter attack as they pushed on inexorably towards the lava sea. Despite the imperial firepower, the Death Guard were by no means finished, and the success of the whole operation hung by a thread. Eventually however the imperial luck held, and the Novgorod Guard managed just barely to hold on to their positions on the Sarkar traps, cutting off all forces between them and the chaos city of Burroneus.

Operation Sarkar had been a success, and the remaining chaos forces in the pocket, trapped against the shores of the Sarkar traps, were gradually mopped up in the ensuing week of fighting. It was the largest imperial advance on Mordecai Secundus for many months.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Sisters of Quartz return to Hexis

As the Ul'Staer Craftworld continued to exert pressure on the necrons and orks on Hexis, the Aeldari force were not alone. The Sisters of Quartz had once again returned to the world seeking to prevent any of the lesser races from uncovering or using the rare and dangerous artefacts created and stored there by their ancient enemy. External factors beyond their control had lead to the Sisters of Quartz all but disappearing from the Aleph Sector for far too long. But now, reorganised and regrouped, they were back. And they wanted blood. 

A lone company of Marines by the name Varsity were the first lifeforms they encountered. An easy mission, the Sisters felt – their nimble frames could dance in, plunder or destroy their supplies, and dispatch them swiftly before their clunky armoured bodies could raise their guns in response.

And that is how the battle started: a pair of Sapphire bikers reduced a tank to ashes before it could land a single shot, as another unit ploughed through Varsity infantry. However, this success turned to arrogance that later proved their downfall. The Solitaire leapt onto another tank, staring directly into the window… and then failed to shatter the glass. The tank fell back, unscathed, to reveal a line of men with flamers waiting eagerly behind. She never stood a chance.

The Sisters were separated, spread thin in an attempt to take too much at once, and a gruelling back-and-forth of blows ensued. Varsity reinforcements dropped in mid-battle to pick off the wounded Death Jester clinging to one of the supply crates. The Rose Quartz division held another site desperately as a Dreadnaught smashed through them, and even the Sapphire bikers began to buckle under the firepower of the Marines. 

Despite the considerable losses, things were looking hopeful for the Eldar until a single shot rang out that mortally wounded the Empress. Utterly thrown, the remaining Sisters conducted a final rush, causing as much harm as they could before they were forced to retreat, unsuccessful.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Strange reports from the Expanse

The arrival of the Dragon's Sons chapter of space marines had not entirely been welcomed by all imperial forces across the sector. Unlike many other chapters of astartes the Dragon's Sons had not made any representations to the imperial high command on Mordecai and had simply deployed where they felt necessary. The information on them was almost impossible to find, and the other space marine chapters simply refused to talk about them.

General Kutuzov, already having experienced the attitudes of the Carcharadons and the Forgotten Sons' was concerned, but while this new chapter aided his conquest of Mordecai he was content not to push the matter. Further field however, the imperial high command was more concerned as reports of strange actions came in from the Hadron Expanse, where apparently a company of Dragon's Sons had also deployed.

Sector commander Titus Luthor was already borderline paranoid by this point. Inquisitor's Huron and Vorushko had disappeared, the Forgotten Son's had arrived, started attacking Imperial assets as a "warning" then vanished, and he had only recently been made aware that Lord Inquisitor Hathek had now disappeared, leaving a cryptic message that false agents of the Inquisition, backed by rogue astartes chapters, now had him and his high command as a target.

While increasing his own personal security and issuing edicts that no Inquisitor should be obeyed without his express approval (already an order in excess of his remit or power), Luthor's paranoia reached new heights as reports came in of the Dragon's Sons simultaneously battling against necron forces and a company of Dark Angels in the far reaches of the Hadron Expanse. This - Luthor could not make sense of, and the Dark Angels once again abjectly refused to comment. The Sons were victorious, but what the engagement was about, and why the Dark Angels were involved alongside the necrons (or even if this was reliable intelligence), was unknown to Luthor and extremely unnerving.

Eldar make decisive move on Hexis

On Hexis the forces of the eldar had recently lost control of their webway portal to the Imperium, but the Mon-Kiegh had not yet had the wit to find the portal, well disguised as it was by the psychic artistry of the superior Aeldari race. While this was an irritant, the real reason for the presence of the ancient race on the world was in direct opposition of the reawakening of their old foe, the necrons.

The Farseer's of the Ul'Staer craftworld had cast their powerful psychic minds into the future, and did not relish the prospect of the Skareth dynasty of necrons securing the tombs of Hexis and the artefacts that lay in the thousands of miles of sprawling catacombs under the city. In order to prevent the necrons from reaching the entrance to the tomb complex however, they first needed to deal with the greenskins.

The orks had been used by the forces of chaos as extra manpower in the initial war for the control of Hexis and the access to the Foramen Ignotum, a pathway through the Cicatrix Maledictum now lost thanks to the intervention of the Ynnari. Their chaos masters, led by Iron Warrior Warsmith Stahl, had long since left, leaving behind uncontrolled and leaderless ork tribes who were nonetheless more than willing to fight anyone trying to remove them from their territory.

The Ul'Staer Aeldari were no exception. While trying to cut the Crypteks of the Library of Silence off from the tombworld entrance the orks were simply in the way, but fought with enthusiasm and savagery. The Aeldari were however able to carve a stable path through ork territory and now lay in wait for the necrons.

The arrival of the Skareth dynasty was not long in coming, and the ensuing battle was particularly vicious and unforgiving. Old hatreds were rekindled in the streets and open areas of Praxis, as the two ancient races acted out a miniature history of a war that once raged from one end of the galaxy to the other. The battle was incredibly evenly balanced, and both army leaders were slain in a savage battle that cost the Ul'Staer craftworld many lives. The result however was eventual victory, and the eldar had managed to control the south west portions of the giant city, cutting off the necron forces from easy access to the tomb world. The Crypteks now had to choose between going up against their enemy or taking a different path to gain access to the all important crypts beneath the shattered surface of Hexis.

Joint astartes force secures Aspaster

For many centuries the orks of the Vastrid subsector had been bottled up in the Cerrack Nebula warring amongst themselves. The Imperial forts of Thrace and Ate kept watch over the region, home to two large ork worlds, guarding against an ork incursion via the major warp lanes to Perisia and Vastrid itself.

Another world, Aspaster, was less populated, but often played a part in the ongoing territorial battles between the different ork clans and tribes, but in 019M42 the situation had changed. Unknown to the sector administration (or the sector commander Titus Luthor), the Inquisition had been secretly supplying imperial weapons to the orks of the Blod Axe clan. This clan had become a focus for the orks who, united in their dislike of the Blood Axes, threatened to overwhelm them and then - now united - pose a threat to the Imperium. With the main imperial effort focussed on Mordecai and the Perseus Deeps, an unexpected ork Waagh! was not something the Imperium could risk.

Not everyone in the Inquisition agreed or approved of this approach however, and in 019M42 with Lord Huron missing, the continuation of the operation to arm the orks could not be allowed to continue. Even before Brother-Inquisitor Cyrus Ezquerra was confirmed in his position of Inquisitor for the Aleph Sector, he had taken actions to stop the shipments, and unfortunately this had led to the destruction of Fort Thrace in the process.

To mitigate this Ezquerra had left standing orders for any imperial force to conduct operations against the orks "as soon as was expedient", given their competing concerns. Finally, with his inquisition agents highlighting growing ork activity in the Cerrack nebula, the Dark Angels and Hammers of the Emperor undertook a joint expedition to suppress the orks.

Landing on the frontier scrubland landscape of Aspaster, the astartes soon found a world not riven by inter-clan war, but a world of increasing military build up. During the course of 10.021M42 the Hammers and Dark Angels launched a series of operations against the main forces of Bloodfang orks, and Orks who seemed to be loyal to a figure they called "Ludendork", though this faction also seemed to have forces far to the east in the Hadron Expanse, suggesting that once again the shared consciousness or "belief" of the orks was playing a part.

Ork ideology notwithstanding, the astartes smashed both camps of orks, killing their warlords and wiping out the greenskins. The few that escaped disappeared into the vast wildernesses of the planet, while the Imperium setup a watch on the planet and in the system, to ensure any "regrowth" of greenskin activity in the system was closely monitored. From here, a systematic watch of the larger ork worlds of Keprok and Magark began, with the possibility of a full scale invasion of them not ruled out.

Mordecai ebb and flow continues

The war on Mordecai Secundus had been going on for years with no side prepared to give any ground. The mining world was key to the supply of the system's major world of Mordecai Primaris, the Imperium's ultimate goal. With the arcane technology available to them on Mordecai Primaris, it was likely that the Imperium would be able to establish a direct warp link between the Perseus Deeps and the Vastrid subsector, something badly needed for the prosecution of the Imperium's campaigns in the Imperium Nihilis.

The forces of chaos were more than keen to avoid this happening, and the Mordecai system had been critical to the continued chaos presence in the Deeps. Along with Kendrenec, these two worlds were the strongest of the chaos holdings in the region, as they had lost Bastien and Parthenope and previous campaigns, and Calliden, a previous stronghold, had been ravaged by the Harakhty dynasty of necrons, prior to their unexpected re-hibernation in 016M42.

The other worlds in the Perseus Deeps were of lesser value, and the loss of Mordecai would bisect chaos power in the region, cutting off the Rim Worlds from their power base in the Cicatrix Maledictum. In order to prevent the Imperium from gaining Mordecai, the Emerald Serpent - dedicated to the God Tzeentch and with the patronage of Magnus the Red and the Thousand Sons, had summoned the daemon world Astralis into the system. This gave the forces of chaos relief from the imperial naval blockade without having to risk their own fleets, as supplies and forces could be moved around via the arcane energy of the warp, but this was to no avail if the crucial mining complexes themselves fell into imperial hands.

Set against this background the forces of the Emerald Serpent and their elite legion astartes were always found deployed near the crucial strategic assets, and as the Hammers of the Emperor prepared to strike at the remaining chaos presence in the Sathugar mines, the Thousand Sons managed to launch their own unexpected attack in the north, against the Abrax mines. This northern sector had been quiet for months, but using the power of Astralis the Emerald Serpent quickly mustered and army and launched an offensive on 1010.021M42 against the Adeptus Mechanicus defences.

Relatively inexperienced with the battle tactics of the Thousand Sons, the Mechanicum force fought well, but were unable to prevent the forces of chaos from overrunning the northern mines. In the south however, the veteran Hammers of the Emperor struck almost simultaneously, overwhelming the chaos armies in the southern sector and reclaiming the remaining Sathugar mining complexes. By the end of 1310.021M42 both sides had managed to gain and lose sections of these critical mines.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Hadron Expanse: Tau setback at Tanis

While the war in the Lysis system occupied the majority of factions active in the Hadron Expanse, the Tau had long since disengaged from the bitter war for the system and the ruined landscape of the planet Hexis. The Tau had made significant progress in their "Hadron Expansion Sphere", helped in part by their alliance with the secessionist human Federacy, and their patronage by the Kel Sandros Eldar. For the last few years the Tau had established a strong base at Echo Reach, and taken the key worlds around the warp junction, including Hussaria and Dnatha. The Tau however, did not want to be constrained, and had turned their attention to the next phase of their expansion. The system of Tanis, while not as critical as Lysis (and Hexis), nonetheless was inhabitable, and stood at the gateway to the Rifts of Hecate, and crucially were the Tau able to control it, would serve to bottle surround the Vanir system and keep a check on the goings on at Hexis.

The expansion had been going fairly well, but in early 10.021M42 the Tau faced and unexpected attack from the greenskins following an ork warboss known as "Ludendorkk". Unaware of the reinvigoration of the orks on Hexis - and unaware that the increasing hostilities had been attracting greenskins from far and wide, the Tau did not expect the sudden invasion of one of the outer worlds of the system.

The Tau however had at their disposal a large array of weaponry and overwhelming firepower. Swathes of orks were cut down as they charged headlong into the Tau lines, and it seemed as if the greenskins would surely have to abort whatever mission they were on. To their horror however, the orks kept on coming, heedless of their losses, and it became apparent that the hunter cadre on the outer world may be lost unless the Tau commander took immediate action. Despite inflicting what should have been catastrophic losses on the greenskins, the Tau abandoned the outer world on 0510.042M42, and had to consider whether the expedition to Tanis was worth the effort. For now though, the Tau continued to construct their bases on the inner worlds of the system.

Mordecai sees action intensify in the southern and central sectors

During 020 and 021M42 severe warp storms and an outbreak of a particularly virulent nurgle pathogen had caused serious disruption to the campaigns of the Aleph Sector. This was especially true of the Mordecai campaign where the forces of chaos were locked in a titanic struggle against the Imperium, led by General Kutuzov's imperial guard. The guard forces had suffered the most from the nurgle virus, but the forces of chaos had also struggled to contain the outbreak. In the latter half of 021M42 the warp storms abaited and the nurgle disease appeared to be under control, and both sides began funnelling reinforcements into the meatgrinder on Mordecai Secundus.

The mining world was key to the imperial conquest of the system, and in late 09.042M42 several new forces arrived to aid the war effort. A company of ultramarines and a significant force of Dragon's Sons astartes deployed in system, ready to launch themselves into missions against the enemies of the emperor, while the forces of chaos saw Fabius Bile and other chaos forces deploy via the Daemonworld of Astralis, giving the enemies of the Imperium a direct supply route Kutuzov could only dream of. Nevertheless, with a fully operational spaceport in orbit around Mordecai Tersius, and no fewer than three imperial naval battlegroups in the system, the Imperium controlled the space around Mordecai Secundus, and the strategic situation on the ground was finely balanced.

Southern Sector

In early 10.021M42 both sides began probing the front lines, looking for weaknesses. While the northern sector of the thousands of kilometre front line remained fairly quiet, battles erupted in the central and southern sectors. In the far south, near the beseiged city of Ur'Ghar, the Grey Knights launched a break out from the settlement directly into the heart of the Emerald Serpent and the Thousand Sons. Facing off against the elite of the enemy forces, the Grey Knights once again had to deal with the apparition of Magnus himself, as well as a daemon prince, a senior chaos sorceror and the animated warriors of Tzeentch themselves. The astartes were however optimised for dealing with just such a foe, and despite taking casualties, were able to overwhelm the Thousand Sons and breakthrough to the imperial lines to the west. The siege of Ur'Ghar had been lifted.

Slightly further west however, the Imperium faired less well, as the elite of the Thousand Sons pushed into the Sathugar mines, once again contesting the strategically vital resource complex. Defended by the newly deployed Dragon's Sons marines, the area was a wide front and difficult for the small numbers of astartes to hold onto. Rather than face being surrounded, the Sons withrew, allowing the forces of chaos to once again establish a foothold in the Sathugar complex.

Central Sector

In the centre of Kutuzov's front line, Fabius Bile and his followers clashed with the Ultramarines in a medium sized skirmish. The battle was brutal, but not decisive. Neither Bile nor the Ultramarines would yield to the other, and after several hours of intense fighting and moderate casualties, neither side could claim victory. Just north of this action however, another company of Dragon's Sons launched an offensive into the Death Guard faction known as the "House of Eschar". Here the fighting was partcularly brutal, and the battle swung back and forth dramatically as the critical objectives were taken, then lost, then taken again. The combat power of the loyalist astartes was impressive, able even to put down whole squads of resilient plague marines, but the intervention of the Death Guard terminators threatened to undo the imperial gains. Additionally, the nurgle deamon prince refused to die, even when charged by the company commander himself. Despite the astartes skill in combat, the blessings of nurgle could not be undone, and the leader of the Dragon's Sons was slain in combat with the foul prince of nurgle.

The loyalist space marines however had great flexibility. Using stealth and guile, their scouts were able to penetrate the chaos lines, causing disruption and confusion, and while the Death Guard right flank held up with the help of the Blightlord terminators, their left flank collapsed, largely thanks to the intervention of the space marine dreadnought and heavy firepower, although this took some time thanks to poxwalkers who had to be mown down again and again.

Eventually, with their left flank smashed, the Death Guard, despite having slain the Dragon Son's commander and dealing heavy casualties to their hated foe, were forced to withdraw to stronger defences. Now the Imperium had created a salient on the west bank of the small lava sea north of the Sarkar Traps. From here it might be possible to encircle significant chaos forces, if a breakthrough could be achieved.

War reignites on Hexis

On Hexis in early 10.01M42, the recent advances by the necron forces spurred the other factions into action on the world. The Imperium, realising the necrons were now clearly aiming for the control of the tombs under the city of Praxis. needed to link up with their forces that had been besieged in the city centre for many months. Surrounded by chaos forces, the Imperium had difficulty getting to grips with the traitors, as the high ground to the west of the city was under the control of the eldar. With the arrival of Adeptus Custodes forces, believed to be on a mission of great importance to the Emperor, general Konev was finally able to launch a meaningful  assault to gain this high ground.

The eldar, aware this was the location of a key webway portal, reacted in strength. Craftworld Ul'Staer even deployed a mighty wraithnight to oppose the Custodes now marching up the slopes to the plateau overlooking the city. Intense fighting followed, but the elite Custodes forces were able to push the eldar aside and take the heights. Now Konev had managed to almost surround the forces which themselves were surrounding his forces in the city centre.

Over near the vast sprawl of the ruined city of Menthoteph, the orks, now leaderless and uncontrolled by their former chaos allies, had managed to attract even more greenskins to the fight on Hexis. Attacking without warning, or apparent motive apart from to engage in violence, the orks crashed into the Imperial lines taking another detachment of Custodes by surprise. Unprepared for this attack, the Custodes were forced to withdraw, and it took a counter attack by the Adeptus Mechanicus to reestablish the imperial line. the war on Hexis had reignited once more, and appeared to be far from a resolution.