Beyond the Gates
As Niklaas ordered the Ordinatus Nox into position, offensives began against the other five main gates. Ordinati and Titans were brought forward to batter the defences into submission, bombers and gunships swooping overhead to add their weapons to the firestorm and wipe out any remaining emplacements which might threaten their allies. Shields burst, ferrocrete crumbled and metal ran molten under the bombardments. One by one, the gates and walls fell, and the Loyalists brought judgement to Olympus Mons.
The Abyssi’s siegemaster Charon Discut was the first to break through after Niklaas, his Triaros entering the city behind the Titans of Carnifex. Chief Eshad of Tribe Grannus began his escalade shortly afterwards, and before long the rest were advancing too. At the Galvanius Gate, the Legio Tempestus cast down the great lightning-marked door, and Irvin Ruel’s tank companies thundered over the threshold. Gliding in above them came Stormbirds, and no ordinary Stormbirds at that. These were Maahres-pattern gunships, adapted from the vast Apophis template on Nox and fitted with even more punishing weaponry. The Abyssii had designed them for the master of the Vth
Legion, and sure enough it was Alexandros and his chosen companies who rode them into battle.
At each gate, the Loyalists’ most redoubtable elements had been placed at the fore. Squadrons of Proteus and Achilles pattern Land Raiders and Spartans rumbled behind siege tanks, Leviathan and Deredeo Dreadnoughts striding with them. The Mechanicum forces called upon the most robust automata at their disposal; Castellax, Cataphracts and Colossi in the main. Here and there were rarer, more advanced machines. Domitar robots formed spearheads for melee combat, while the monstrous Thanatar towered over their compatriots. Still larger loomed Knights and Titans; so high were the arches of the greatest gates that Warlords could pass underneath them.
Taghmata stood ready to halt the Loyalists, among them the surviving Traitor Titans and Knights, arrayed on the greatest of the city's concourses. Yet the Loyalists’ strength was the greater, and their fire raked across the inner defences. Within an hour, whole blocks around the gates had been levelled. Skitarii and other machine soldiers simply ceased to exist, their remains lost in the dust of ferrocrete and stone. Knights and Titans collapsed on splintered limbs. But on came strange war machines, many of which bore no resemblance to any yet encountered, and here the Loyalist Knights and Titans found a sterner test. At the Galvanius Gate a swarm of insectile machines, moving at implausible speed and bearing energy weapons of fiendish power, cut off several companies of Halcyon Wardens. Laying waste several Rhino squadrons, they would have massacred the Astartes had the Knights of Zivich not intervened and destroyed them in a hard-fought melee.
To give a blow-by-blow account of the battle within the walls is to court futility, for in truth it was a war in its own right. For a week the Loyalists fought their way deeper into the Grand Mountain and destroyed all the enemies they found there, but faced an unforgiving struggle. Kelbor Hal marshalled his remaining forces to hold back his foes, the last of his elite Skitarii among them, and even the forge-thralls of the city were compelled to fight via their electoo implants. Many of the Army units found themselves occupied with fending off the hordes that resulted, and the corpses piled in the streets. Servitors prowled behind the Loyalist advance, gathering Loyalist corpses for cremation and those of Traitors, willing and enslaved alike, for processing.
The Astartes were just the tip of the spear once the gates were taken, vastly outnumbered by the Skitarii and mortal soldiers who fought alongside them. Against the garrison of the Fabricator-General, now augmented by Kelbor Hal’s tech-heresies, the brave men and women of the Excertus Imperialis suffered greatly, the death toll running into the hundreds of thousands in the first three days. But the momentum was with them, and street by street, chamber by chamber, the city was swept clean. Urtzi Malevolus was slain on the second day, his personal hangar torched by Fire Raptors and the Heretek incinerated by Xth
Kelbor Hal watched as his dominion crumbled away, the soldiers of the hated Warmaster and his own erstwhile vassals cutting down his guards, and knew he must flee or perish. With the Loyalists snapping at his heels, he fled with the Eagle Warriors and magi of Cognis to a concealed hangar in the bowels of the city. Icarion, after the debacle over Madrigal, had known of this possibility and dispatched a series of vessels to evacuate him. Most of these were intercepted and destroyed before they even arrived, but a Grave Stalkers vessel, a strike cruiser named the Subtle Knife
, successfully made its way to the Sol System.
By the strange and sinister arts of Lasaris, it escaped detection until it drew near to the Red World on the fifth day of the battle, and made its presence known to the hereteks. Several squads of Eagle Warriors mounted a rearguard action along with the Cognis Skitarii and robots accompanying them. Assailed by Mortera’s elite Myrmidons they were slain to a man, but their purpose was achieved. Kelbor Hal and a clutch of his surviving cronies fled the surface along with the Abysii, dozens of craft spending themselves to enable the escape. The Subtle Knife
took in the escapees before any Loyalist vessel could intercept them, and though the Fire Keepers cruiser Wrath of Aldimach
gouged its armour and blasted one of its spinal towers to smithereens, it slipped the net and fled the system.
With Olympus Mons in their grasp but denied their prey, Alexandros, Niklaas and Mortera scoured the Grand Mountain from peak to roots over a week after the battle. Kelbor Hal had covered his tracks with suicide parties of Skitarii, automata and thralls, along with traps which would require the attention of techmarines and magi to disarm. The purge of Mars itself would take much longer, but the Traitors’ hold over the world was gone and the Sol System secured.
Edited by bluntblade, 15 May 2018 - 10:10 PM.