The First Battle of Eront Secundus
Koschei’s early campaigns are defined by the usual growing pains and push-pull of new and old which characterised a Legion in transition. The ongoing attrition that afflicts any army on Crusade played a part. While this effect is usually confined to the rank and file in mortal armies, among the Astartes it was heightened by the “from the front” ethos so many captains and commanders subscribed to. It is only in hindsight that a darker side emerges to the changing of the guard, and that is best seen in the Conquest of Eront Secundus.
The Godslayers drew close to this world cautiously, but with no small amount of optimism. Historical record and reconnaissance data indicated a human civilisation, albeit one not yet developed to spacefaring levels. As the Godslayers fleet drew near, their auspex registered strange phenomena in the atmosphere, making it difficult to tell how advanced the civilisation below might be. Its cities were sizeable but nowhere near true hive cities, and electromagnetic readings proved inconsistent in the extreme. Still Koschei’s optimism was undented, and he took a small force, numbering only a few hundred, to the surface by Stormeagle. With Alexander Kharkovic at his side, Prometear Thyris and Griorsk Varangar, still known as Lords Commander at this time, were left in command of the fleet. Varangar was the one to hold command of the new Gloriana Krylataya Pobeda
, while Thyris brooded on the former flagship Winter's Night
Atmospheric interference foiled all efforts at vox-communication, and it was only through a handful of astropaths that Koschei and Alexander maintained contact with the fleet. Landing near the largest city, they were dismayed to find it deserted and ruined, but persisted in their search. This would not be the first world where humanity lived as a fragment of its former glory, dwelling in hovels and wary of the cities their ancestors had called home. Two hours later, Koschei’s party reported heat signatures in the northwest quadrant, which their Thunderhawks investigated despite the interference with their comms. By voxcaster they reported what they saw, and the advance party’s mingled hope and concern became outright horror. These were no humans at all; they were feral Orks, and within the tide of green flesh had swarmed into view.
Ork technology is unreliable at best, and the Orks of Eront lacked even that, so for several minutes the fighting was one-sided to an almost comical degree. But the greenskins still possessed astonishing numbers, masked only by their failure to fully subjugate the world’s architecture. Moreover, where crude war machines would normally be found in the Orkish line of battle, feral clans use Orkoid beasts in much the same capacity. Koschei’s force was swamped by Squigs, followed by Warboar cavalry and Squiggoths thundering down the highways as the main Ork force drew near. As ever, the Orks cared nothing for the toll exacted on their fellows or the danger to themselves. The horde simply absorbed the onslaught of gunfire, with three more aliens to every one that fell.
Guns ran dry, and the Godslayers were forced to grapple with the enemy in melee combat. The Stormeagles made charred offal of the tightly packed xenos and brought buildings crashing down on their heads, but while there was no artillery to threaten them, the Orks had Weirdboys and hideous Squighawks with which to assail them. By the time drop-pods breached the atmosphere, only a dozen gunships remained airborne, and Koschei’s force was beleaguered indeed. Only hastily scrambled bomber squadrons spared them from being enveloped completely.
Thyris, who had brought his ship to full readiness despite the Primarch’s optimism, led a drop-pod assault into the outskirts of the city, losing several squads to rushed dropsite designations which saw pods shattered against buildings. Even then this most rapid option had taken some twenty minutes, and the waves of Godslayers mobilising in orbit would take longer. All the while, Koschei and his force fended off a horde of Squiggoths, the Goliaths slashing at the beasts with their power blades. The defence cost Koschei hundreds of warriors, but they held long enough for the new arrivals to divert the enemy’s attention. More reinforcements followed, Stormbirds descending with fresh troops and tanks.
Now the Godslayers went on the offensive, their armour columns leading the way. Yet other Orks warbands were already drawing close, lured by sounds which they had never heard before but were unmistakable in their violence. Tens of thousands became hundreds of thousands, internecine strife cast aside now there were outsiders to kill. Thyris met them head-on, likely seeing a chance to prove himself to his Primarch at last as he drew within sight of the Warboss. Despite requests from Alexander to fall back and draw the Orks into the guns of the tank columns, he carried on into the mass of greenskins.
This exchange had been conducted over a broad vox-net, but now Alexander switched to a closed link, so the rest of the exchange went largely unheard. Less than two minutes later, the massed tanks were ordered to fire into the horde. Hundreds of Orks perished with their leader under the sustained bombardment, but so too did Thyris’ warriors. An unfortunate circumstance, brought on by the ugly necessities of battle, and a mere footnote in a battle which spanned a day and began a year-long war. Or so it was thought for many years, until a Godslayers data-core was captured and broken open during the Insurrection.
Now we know the truth of the old Legion Master’s death. Kept alive only by his Iron Halo, Thyris had furiously demanded an end to the bombardment over a closed vox-channel to Alexander, only to realise his comms systems were being impaired from afar. Alexander used him to lure the Warboss into his trap, and perhaps more pertinently, saw a chance to remove the biggest obstacle to Koschei’s control of the Legion. That this act of betrayal was improvised in the heat of battle speaks volumes of Alexander’s resourcefulness, and the ruthlessness with which he would work towards his brother’s dream. Things that went unnoticed as the Orks were routed and the Godslayers began their campaign to cleanse Eront and free the human slaves they found later on, but which had we known of them might have served as a warning.
Edited by bluntblade, 15 September 2017 - 09:17 PM.