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Posted 11 December 2017 - 11:36 PM
So my answer is: two birds with one stone
Edit: wait, Pacificus or tempestus ?
Edited by Lord Thørn, 11 December 2017 - 11:45 PM.
Posted 12 December 2017 - 07:59 PM
After some discussion on Discord, here are the proposals, along with a tentative timeline of Expansion and Retaliation:
031 - Mechanicum Civil War (2A), Comnena Cluster (2B)
034 - Battle of the Forge (3A)
037 - Battle of Caelina (2C)
038 - Azus' Capture (3B)
039 - Andezo's Rescue (3C)
Additionally, I like your compromise, Thorn. With a caveat that it's location is in Ultima, but on the border of Tempestus. Additionally, the Warden of Light chapter is on returning home when they're caught up in Caelina, starting from the opposite side of the galaxy when their orders finally arrive. Finally, Iyacrax would be located between Molech and Styx on the galactic map.
Is this agreeable to everyone?
Edited by simison, 12 December 2017 - 08:01 PM.
- Doctor Perils and Sigismund229 like this
Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost
Brotherhood of the Lost has arrived on Patreon!
Posted 13 December 2017 - 03:32 PM
Alright with me - I'd say Iyacrax should probably be placed a bit further towards Styx as the galaxy's density is greater on the spiral arm (where styx is) then where Molech is.
A fair point, Thorn. Also, Mikhal wants the WoL to be a chapter that has only just returned to the galaxy and has no idea what's going on. He also wants them to attack the Void Eagles.
With these last few points, I think we've finally resolved the new order of mini-books, and we can move forward.
Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost
Brotherhood of the Lost has arrived on Patreon!
Posted 13 December 2017 - 07:26 PM
Regarding the Wardens returning and no one being nice to them, the only reason the Abyssii keep up the supply of null-masks to them is Alex's concerns that withholding supply could drive them to the traitor camp
Posted 13 December 2017 - 11:32 PM
The Myrmidon Custos were created on Nox as a guard cadre, providing security for important locations and high-ranking personnel. Drawn from elite Myrmidon cohorts and further trained and enhanced by the Auxilia Myrmidon, on the battlefield the Custos are a walking stronghold, weathering vicious hails of fire and retaliating in kind. Their reinforced endoskeletons allow them to bear such weaponry, and sophisticated targeting and sensor arrays allow them to pinpoint 'high value' targets with ease.
The first such cohort was created by Magos Silon Rex, and as a complete package represent one of his greatest contributions to the Abyssii. The Nox halfshields are a creation of his own genius and, with the promise of providing a full cohort, secured the then-Magos Aliana Furia's assistance with the targeting and sensor arrays. The first cohort, Custos Prime, formed the personal bodyguard of Archmagos Rex for many years, before being gifted to Archmagos Mortera as part of the oath of fealty that secured his cult's position as the foremost Myrmidon cult on Nox.
- 2 Myrmidon Custos
- 1 Myrmidon Lord
- Myrmidon Custos: Infantry
- Myrmidon Lord: Infantry (Character)
- One weapon option (see Options)
- Omnissian Greataxe
- Frag and krak grenades
- Nox Halfshield
- Preferred Enemy (Everything!)
- Lumbering Advance
- Sworn Protectors
- Chosen Warriors
A unit of Myrmidon Custos may take a Triaros Armoured Conveyor as a dedicated transport for +135pts
The squad may include:
- Up to seven additional Myrmidon Custos: +50pts each
Each Myrmidon Custos and Myrmidon Lord must choose any one of the weapon options listed here:
- Maxima Bolter: +10pts each
- Volkite Charger: +10pts each
- Graviton Gun: +15pts each
- Irad-cleanser: +20pts each
- Phased Plasma-fusil: +20pts each
For every three Myrmidons in the unit, one Myrmidon may replace their Omnissian Greataxe with:
- A Phosphex Flail: +15pts
The Myrmidon Lord may take:
- A Cognis-Sensor Array, granting the Split Fire rule to the unit: +10pts
The Myrmidon Custos may only be taken so long as there is a Magos or Archmagos in the army (this includes Special Characters and Lords of War), and do not use up a FOC slot.
The Skitarii Decontaminator were originally created by the Magos Biologis of the Mechanicum Abyssii to safeguard their biological research installations, deployed to contain small-scale contamination to preserve the rest of the installation. Armoured in sealed, specialised carapace armour, and armed with flamers and rad-cleansers, and programmed to be utterly remorseless in their duties, they were soon called upon in a military capacity to combat biohazardous foes.
When the Abyssii joined the Great Crusade, many thousands of Skitarii Decontaminator were called into the service of the Taghmatas. Their resilience against even the most hostile conditions, combined with the flexibility provided by their specialist shotgun rounds and other weaponry, made them potent close range fighters. The Decontaminator saw a great deal of combat in bunker clearing and ship boarding actions, their training and equipment perfectly suited to the close-in fighting. Many Decontaminator were further augmented for hand-to-hand engagements, wicked flensing talons allowing them to tear through flesh with ease.
- 4 Skitarii Decontaminator
- 1 Decontaminator Alpha
- Skitarii Decontaminator: Infantry
- Decontaminator Alpha: Infantry (Character)
- Vanaheim-pattern Shotgun
- Decontaminator War Plate
- Feel No Pain (6+)
- Secutarii Hazard Protocols
A unit of Skitarii Decontaminator may take a Triaros Armoured Conveyor as a dedicated transport for +135pts
The squad may include:
- Up to fifteen additional Skitarii Decontaminator: +10pts each
The entire squad may be equipped with:
- Rad Grenades: +10pts
- Flense-Claws (granting them the Shred Special Rule on all attacks made in close combat): +2pts per model
One Skitarii Decontaminator for every five models in the squad may replace their Vanaheim Shotgun with any one of the weapon options listed here:
- Flamer: +5pts
- Volkite Charger: +10pts
- Irad-Cleanser: +15pts
- Photon Thruster Cannon: +25pts
- Heavy Rad-Cannon: +30pts
- Chem-Spray: +30pts
The Decontaminator Alpha may take any of the following options:
- Augury Scanner: +5pts
- Shattersphere Grenades: +5pts
- Omnispex: +10pts
- Refractor Field: +10pts
- A single Phosphex Bomb: +10pts
The Decontaminator Alpha may take one of the following options:
- Lucifex: +10pts
- Volkite Serpenta: +10pts
- Plasma Pistol: +15pts
The Decontaminator Alpha may replace their Vanaheim Shotgun with one of the following options:
- Lucifex: +5pts
- Volkite Serpenta: +5pts
- Power Weapon: +10pts
- Heavy Chainsword: +10pts
- Arc Maul: +10pts
- Plasma Pistol: +15pts
Mordax-class Battle Automata Maniple
The Mordax Class Battle-Automata is a creation of Archmagos Dominus Crastus Mhal, and as such is very rarely seen outside the forces of the Mechanicum Abyssii. A variant on the Vorax chassis with various modifications made; an additional pair of legs has been added to create a more stable firing platform, and the armament of the Automata has been changed to give greater tactical flexibility. The design is controversial within the Mechanicum, but has support in the military arms of the Imperium, their commanders able to acknowledge the benefit of such a war machine without the dogma of the Cult Mechanicum influencing their decisions. Though primarily intended as a close-support unit, it has found use as a forward deployer, advancing in a low-power state and lying in wait, securing landing zones and lines of ingress for other forces after a combat has begun.
Later in the Great Crusade, the Mechanicum Abyssii began supplementing the armament of the Mordax with Rad-munitions for their missile launchers and developed Heavy Bolter rounds to give the Automata greater flexibility in combat. Whilst their Aer-Burst rounds were announced publically, their development of the Banestrike rounds, designed to defeat power armour and similar systems, was kept a careful secret until the Insurrection.
- 1 Mordax Class Battle-Automata
- Mordax Class Battle-Automata: Monstrous Creature
- Twin-linked Missile Launcher (Krak and Frag missiles)
- Two Heavy Bolters
- Cybernetica Cortex
The Maniple may include:
Up to two additional Battle-Automata: +65pts each
The entire unit may be equipped with Rad Missiles (in addition to Krak and Frag) for +15pts each.
The entire unit may be equipped with Aer-Burst and Banestrike Rounds for their Heavy Bolters. This is in addition to the standard rounds, however every automata in the unit must use the same ammunition type: +10pts each.
The Accipitrax are a modification on the Thallax design used by the Mechanicum Abyssii in their prosecution of Tech-Heretics and their creations. With their powerful servo-muscles stripped down to lighten their frame and with powerful thrusters installed, along with more sophisticated targeting hardware, the Accipitrax are a fast-moving force, capable of harassing the enemy with long range, accurate fire and rapidly relocating to avoid return fire.
The Accipitrax soon earnt their reputation during the Crusade, the specialist units reaping a considerable tally of enemy commanders, leaving their forces in disarray before the main push of the Crusade ground forces. Even the mightiest of hostile creatures, organic or otherwise, were at risk from the Accipitrax, the Cohort working in unison to bring them down, and when the wars of the Insurrection began, they quickly proved their worth against even the mighty Astartes.
- 3 Accipitrax
- Accipitrax: Jetpack Infantry
- Phased Rail Array
- Lorica Accipitrax
- Frag Grenades
- Preferred Enemy (Characters)
- Monster Hunter
The squad may include:
- Up to six additional Accipitrax: +45pts each
One Accipitrax for every three in the squad may replace their Phased Rail Array for one of the following:
- Photon Thruster Cannon: +25pts
The squad may be upgraded to take the Icarian augment for +25pts for the unit
Here we are, the most recent and up-to-date iteration of the Abyssii's units, presented in one block for easy reference. I'm personally quite happy with how they've turned out. There's a lot of variation between the units and each offers a different tactic to the player.
Posted 17 December 2017 - 05:42 PM
The Battle of Ysta
While Alexandros had recalled the majority of the Astartes within his reach to suppress the revolt on Mars and shore up the defences of Segmentum Solar, he had not done so entirely. Recognising the need to strike at Icarion before he could solidify his hold over the Commena Cluster, he ordered a Shepherds of Eden fleet to make for the war world Ysta, where a host, dubbed the Suppression Muster, was gathering for this purpose.
Marshal Earnad Harlech made all haste to Ysta with his Host, the Dawn Hammers, to assume the command he was to share with Lord Commander Aelus. An old and distinguished general, Aelus commanded some three Army regiments, with a cadre of Solar Auxilia to serve as his elite strike force and personal guard. To this force was added a further eight regiments, three Mechanicum taghma and 86 Titans of the Legio Ignis. Harlech, for his part, brought 10,000 Astartes and 200,000 auxiliary troops. A war flotilla of the Legio Gryphonicus and two further regiments were not far behind. This was not a force to defeat Icarion, to be sure, but it had sufficient strength to deny him a stranglehold on the Commena Cluster and perhaps further afield. Any foothold they gained would allow for further Loyalist counter-attacks.
The Ysta system was made up of three planets, but only one had proved suitable for colonisation. The small outer planets were used only for communications and security installations, but Ysta Prime was heavily fortified both in the void and on its surface. As such, and lying at the intersection of four major Warp routes, it had long been the lynchpin of the subsector, and these factors made it the optimal staging point for the Suppression Muster.
Harlech and Aelus knew that Icarion too would have comprehended all of this too, and his attention would soon turn to this world as surely as it had to the Commena Cluster. Consequently, they had made plans to move out before the last detachments were due to arrive, trusting to the element of surprise. The Harbingers’ foresight, after all, was not infallible. Yet these preparations were not enough, for on this world as on so many others, treachery had been committed in the Stormlord’s name.
Out of the Black
Almost to the hour of Athrawes' attack on Commena, an Insurrectionist fleet broke the veil in the Ysta system. It was led by fifteen capital ships of the Harbingers; all were infamous and foreboding vessels to any fleetmaster, but one above all inspired fear in those who recognised it. It was a Shogun-class battleship, a design unique to Akira’s shipyards. Long in service to the Ist Legion, few vessels save the Gloriana behemoths outclassed it, and it was named the Storm Unbound. This was the flagship of the First Marshal; Susanoo Empyon himself had come to smite the would-be avengers.
Clearing the minefields before them with scything volleys of las-fire, the Insurrectionists struck out having lost only a single escort vessel and two more heavily damaged. Swiftly they assumed a formation of three prongs, the battleships and grand cruisers sailing in loose pairs, surrounded by their lessers. Their targets had already been allocated, whether through foresight or intelligence given by traitorous hands. The Supression Muster had been caught in a state of half-preparedness, with many of their vessels still taking on troops and supplies from the surface. Worse still, the Dominus-class Taranis was still hanging in orbit, festooned with repair scaffolds after its flight from Sidon Ultra and unable to respond until these were removed.
Further out, the warships of the 14th Henyamak Grenadiers ran out their guns and went to meet the Harbingers, hoping to buy time for their allies. Their bulk carriers, hitherto lying at anchor by Ysta Tertius, fell back as their five battleships advanced. The Harbingers, however, met the warships with only a single broadside, sailing clean past them. This was enough to destroy several of the lesser vessels, three cruisers and one battleship, with another crippled and tens of thousands dead. Yet the Henyamak fleet remained largely intact, and now the Ist Legion ships had exposed themselves. Here was a chance to inflict the same hurt that the Harbingers had done to the Halcyon Wardens over Madrigal.
Those who understand the nature of this Galaxy will not be surprised that this tempting prospect was too good to be true. As the Harbingers struck and raced ahead, another fleet had torn its way into reality. Its mongrel ships were clad in sea green and copper, and they carried Drowned Men of the merciless XVIth Legion. This was the 27th Tendril, led by Herrud Bloodseeker and selected by Empyon himself for this task. Closing with the Henyamak vessels, they struck with a serpent’s speed, ripping away shields and mauling their engines. A few of the larger vessels, having weathered the initial onslaught, were boarded, but most were left to drift helplessly in the void as the Drowned gathered their strength and moved on.
The surviving ships made to follow in pursuit, but the boarders were already at work, spreading mayhem with bizarre weapons that no Astartes had been known to wield before. Their assault craft and boarding torpedoes had been expertly targeted, and within an hour bridges, reactors and life-support systems had been seized. Those who were not killed out of hand were forced to watch as further arrivals hove into view on their sensors, their translation having gone ignored in the fighting. A Mechanicus war ark and its attendant vessels, bearing the sigil of Lasaris.
Fire in the Void
These new arrivals were as yet unknown to the defenders arrayed above Ysta’s day side, where frantic preparations were under way. The Taranis’ injuries were repaired as much as possible, before the repair crews used controlled explosions to jettison the scaffolds. Now it took its place in the lines, anchoring a portion of the flotilla adjacent to the Shepherds. Aelus and Harlech weighed the situation; the attacking fleet was still outnumbered, but it was leaner in its composition, almost entirely composed of ship-killing vessels while the Loyalists had dozens of bulk carriers and Munitorum vessels to protect. At every turn the Loyalists would have to choose between attacking enemy ships or defending their more vulnerable assets. Empyon’s forces had only to choose whether to seize or destroy.
Their response was swift, reaching beyond the system. Their incoming allies were ordered to alter course within the Warp, lest they deliver themselves into the lap of the invaders. Aelus and Harlech pulled their fleet into formation above the mustering grounds, using the hemisphere’s two orbital defence installations to anchor it. Militia on Ysta itself, already on alert, were brought to full combat readiness, and the fleet assumed defensive positions above the planet. Satellite defence systems and the great surface-based batteries and void shields powered up, presenting a mighty obstacle to any landing attempt. Still they were vulnerable, however, especially the troops still on the ground.
As the Harbingers drew near to the core world, a new and disquieting message came from the vessels orbiting over Ysta’s south pole. Marshal Sulla of the 21st Geno Madaskite reported a fleet approaching from below the solar plane, having hitherto been moving without power or shrouded by technological means. He deduced two things; that they must be Legiones Astartes vessels and that they could not be anything but a threat. Accordingly, he moved to head them off. Harlech cautioned him, but Aelus approved of Sulla’s decision. If the rhythm of Empyon’s scheme could be disrupted, it could only help the defenders. So Sulla’s fleet raced to intercept, and soon the interlopers had been identified: Grave Stalkers. With that, another part of the void came alive with murderous light, followed minutes later by the guns of the Ist Legion as their ships hurtled into range.
Empyon’s fleet cut the void with ferocious volumes of fire, singling out battleships and cruisers to take most of the punishment. Shields strained, some bursting completely and allowing lasers and missiles to rip into the armour beneath. The defenders replied in kind, exacting a measure of vengeance. Aelus had resolved to envelop the Harbingers with his own battleships, for though the sides were evenly matched, the Imperials still outnumbered the enemy enough that he could keep a sizeable portion back.
Setting forth, he took with him sixteen battleships and strike cruisers, accompanied by fifty lesser ships. His command vessel, the Steadfast, forced back the Ist Legion battleship Fury of the First Son, blasting apart three frigates and crippling the cruiser Tempest as it closed with the Storm Unbound. As ships on both sides rolled and burned in the void, the battle hung in the balance. Aboard the Ironclad Shield of Meriac Harlech bided his time, waiting for the opening that would allow his warriors to deploy for maximum effect. On top of that, he dared not weaken the defensive blockade and expose the planet itself.
Then came word from the Madaskites. Sulla reported that his fleet had taken losses which made it untenable to remain apart from the main force, and back they came, pursued by the XVth Legion ships. With the Insurrectionists already inflicting heavy casualties, this was simply more bad news but manageable. Few cared to observe how many Madaskite ships were returning. In any case, whatever devices the Grave Stalkers were employing fouled auspex scans, and the nearest vessels made room for their comrades and began picking their targets.
The chance to loose their volleys never came. As the Madaskites drew level, their guns spoke, hammering the flanks of their erstwhile allies. Several ships were crippled before they could even demand an answer, but to those further away, the K’uhul - the commander of the Grave Stalkers - now spoke. Across the vox he named himself Vukaba and demanded that the defenders see the futility of resistance, for Icarion had ordained their destruction months ago. Now the pieces fell into place. Sulla’s actions had been a ruse, one that had opened a gaping wound in the Loyalist formation, and into it the Grave Stalkers poured.
The Grave Stalkers - twenty-four cruisers, frigates and destroyers, accompanying a single battleship - were like a blaze breaching a firebreak, ripping apart the ships weakened by their allies. Most spread out through the exposed fleet, but Vukaba’s flagship, now identified as the Blood Will Tell, lingered briefly. Silvery projectiles shot from its starboard flank to fall upon the planet itself. Far below, on the mustering grounds, troops who had been waiting for the battle above them to play out were struck down by the battalion as the dreaded life-eater virus swept through their ranks. Even as Vukaba watched, a black stain of rot spread across the surface of the world. It would not penetrate the sealed enclaves in the cities where many more soldiers sheltered, but it was a satisfying blow nonetheless. Then, before the great batteries below could get a fix on his position and the vengeful Shepherds could catch him, Vukaba ordered his vessels back into the fray.
Loyalist fighter craft were already spilling from bulk carriers and racing up from the surface, but the Grave Stalkers had long mastered this mode of warfare. Dispersing, they formed up into four arrowhead flotillas and proceeded to sow havoc where the Loyalists were weakest. Vox-channels were overlaid with piercing static whines that drove mortals to despair. Phosphor-laced cluster munitions interfered with both auspex and the naked eye, as well as shredding hundreds of fighter craft and casting their squadrons into disarray. Larger vessels, softened up by heavy cannon strikes from the lead ships, were targeted with haywire and virus-laden torpedoes, sowing mayhem and death within their hulls. On the ships raced, spewing all this and more conventional ordnance as they went, never deigning to enter sustained engagements.
Unnoticed behind the battle already playing out between Aelus and Empyon’s vessels, Herrud came into range and brought his fleet around to flank Aelus’ ships. Suddenly the trap was inverted, the hammer and anvil turned upon the Loyalists. The two Legions’ ships may have been matched by Aelus’, but they unleashed rare and devastating weapons against them. Volkite cascades, vortex missiles and other, less identifiable weapons, presumably unearthed beneath Madrigal and put at the disposal of Icarion’s favoured warriors, all were used to smash Aelus’ fleet.
Caught in overlapping fields of fire, the Army battleships had great chunks blasted from their decametre-thick armour, making them easy prey for the dropships and Caestus Assault Rams which flooded the space between the great vessels. The Lightning Bearers’ foresight gave them a devastating advantage here, lending near-impossible precision to the laser and torpedo volleys with which they screened their boaridng craft. Aboard five of Aelus’ ships, the 5173rd Solar Auxilia Cohort, known to history as the Steel Bulls, confronted a foe they had never battled before: Space Marines.
Corridors and chambers became tableaux of horrors, lit by flame and las-fire. The Steel Bulls held and fought with commendable discipline against enemies who had put Orkish hordes to flight, but they were terminally outmatched. As the Harbingers advanced, the cries of the wounded were drowned out by howling vibro-katana, the squeals of the volkite weapons they favoured and the percussive thunder of bolters. The Harbingers’ foresight, once romanticised as their “grace”, made them nightmare foes. Auxiliaries laid careful ambushes, only to find their enemies tearing apart the walls with grav-guns and chainswords to reach them. In choked passages, a Harbinger would weave through a torrent of las-fire to massacre his attackers and make precise kill-shots without even looking to see his victims.
Soon, the first five ships to be boarded had fallen silent, and three more shortly after that. Aelus ordered a retreat, only for the monstrous war ark to fall upon them with its retinue of Mechanicum ship-killers. Only six of the original twenty battleships made it back to the second line - though in truth this had become a loose scattering of formations - and scarcely any of their lessers had survived at all. Those not taken by the enemy tumbled helplessly in the void, bleeding atmosphere or scattered in fields of debris. Aelus himself died on the sword of Captain Kayiri of the 42nd Company, his last words damning the Harbingers for their treachery.
The remaining Loyalists fared little better. The Grave Stalkers and treacherous Madaskites had lost ships, for the Imperial fleet remained formidable, but the trail of devastation they had left made it impossible to pin them down without risking all the formation’s integrity. Now the Madaskites made to withdraw and reform, while the Grave Stalkers hunted. Munitorum and Titan vessels were cut out from the warships like prey animals from the herd, and boarding actions commenced by the Grave Stalkers, shrieking Reapers rampaging through a dozen vessels. Behind them came squads of Grave Stalkers leading Lasarine automata, combat servitors and skitarii. Wraiths, equipped with concealment fields, eluded even the augmented senses of Mechanicum cyborgs until they struck. As violence spread through the vast holds, the secutarii and tech-priests of Ignis fared little better than the Solar Auxilia.
Rout and Defiance
The true and nightmarish extent of the enemy’s schemes became clear. The Emperor’s weapons were not to be merely denied to His soldiers, but taken for use by Icarion’s armies. On Ysta itself, Army and taghmata personnel endeavoured to get offworld with increasing desperation, but as their transports reached the high atmosphere they were set upon by wings of interceptors and fighters, sending hundreds back to the surface in flames. Bombers screamed down to ravage airfields, stranding millions on Ysta. They did not strike at the hives, wary of the mighty guns that stood there, but it was increasingly clear that the Insurrectionists did not mean to break the fortress world open.
Now, far above, battle was joined on two fronts as the Lasarine behemoth smashed headlong into the Loyalist ranks. The Drowned and Harbingers spread out in its wake. Ships died in their dozens with every passing minute, and the Loyalist defence crumbled under the onslaught. The XVIth Legion ships attacked as they had before, ripping into battleships and cruisers with lethal efficiency, before seizing the vulnerable carrier ships that tried to lumber away. The Harbingers, however, advanced on their cousins.
The Shepherds ships, led by the Shield of Meriac, met their enemies with bullish defiance and the fighting took on a new, bitter savagery. The Shepherds held the Harbingers at bay, but they were too few to do the same with the Drowned and the war ark of Lasaris, now identified as the Formulae of Eradication, closing in on Orbital Station Gamma. The Formulae forged a path ahead of the XVIth Legion, its mighty shields and storeys-thick armour weathering the barrage of fire from Gamma. Once it was close enough, the Drowned slipped from its shadow. Two of their number, strange vessels of unknown origin, had been fitted with nova cannon for planetary assault duties. Covered by their fellows, they turned these weapons upon the station, and Gamma simply vanished in a plume of fire. Briefly, a second sun flared in the skies of Ysta.
Across the hemisphere, Station Sigma had fallen prey to a Grave Stalkers attack. Vukaba had sent a hundred Reapers aboard ahead of Ursarax and Adescularis troops, but as Gamma’s commanders attempted to halt the patternless killing, a squad of Wraiths went to work. Unlooked-for in the carnage, they infiltrated the climate-control facilities and plunged the station into a lethal cold. The flesh of servitor and mortal alike failed and froze, and by the time the Grave Stalkers entered the control rooms and loosed the station’s guns upon the defenders, the last personnel had fallen to hypothermia.
In just a few minutes, Sigma’s guns had accounted for three bulk carriers, two battleships and eight cruisers, with an unknown number of lesser ships. Again, this crime owed much to Sulla’s duplicity, for he had furnished the Grave Stalkers with the codes needed to swiftly carry off this operation. With that the Imperials had lost one of the linchpins of their defence, and another had torn a growing hole in their ranks. In their desperation, the Loyalists ordered surface batteries to pulverise Sigma before it could do further harm. The Grave Stalkers, however, escaped retribution, retrieved by teleport as soon as the station’s main cannons were emptied.
Harlech knew the fight to be lost, and with the grim rationality of a Legiones Astartes commander, he decided upon two actions to be undertaken at all costs. Sulla was to be punished for his deceit, and the Harbingers flagship was to be boarded. Harlech would inflict as much pain upon the arch-traitors as possible before death took him and his brothers. At the same time they would buy time for the remainder of the fleet to scatter. Empyon too recognised the looming confrontation, for the Storm Unbound advanced, sweeping wreckage aside with its armoured prow.
Sulla, fleeing for the safety of the Harbingers’ formation, was brought to justice swiftly and brutally by the strike cruiser Adamant Lance. Breaking his ship’s back with lance-strikes, it launched a coup de grace bombardment of melta torpedoes, burning it from the inside out. The Adamant Lance and its crew paid for their valour, cut apart as the Drowned fell upon it. However, its duty of punishment was fulfilled, and it accounted for more traitor ships before the end.
The Imperial formations came apart, many of the battleships sacrificing themselves in an effort to shield the escape of their fellows or leading small groups away from the battle. They were aided in this by the wariness of the Harbingers; the Shepherds were overmatched, but still a credible threat. Empyon’s fleet pulled back together to meet their cousins. As the Shield of Meriac thundered through the IstLegion vessels, making slag and debris of several escorts and destroyers as it went, Harlech and his warriors swore their final oaths of moment. The Shepherds were outclassed and outgunned, with even the Shield of Meriac no match for the Storm Unbound. But guile and fury carried the Shield of Meriac to its nemesis, other vessels racing ahead and training all their guns on the enemy flagship. They were all crippled or destroyed in their audacious charge, with only the Shield of Meriac reaching the enemy flagship. Under the onslaught of its lances the shields of the Storm Unbound, having held throughout the battle, finally burst.
Even as the Shield of Meriac came apart under the Harbingers’ massed gunfire, its teleportarium carried Harlech’s chosen companies aboard Empyon’s flagship, the rest spilling from the dying ship in Stormbirds and Thunderhawks. It is reckoned that with their target’s shields fallen, a full third of the ship’s four thousand warriors made their way aboard. The rest were blasted to atoms by interceptors and fighters as they braved the crossing. Fighting their way through tercios of Rakurai and companies of Harbingers to reach the bridge, the Shepherds repaid the traitors in kind for the massacres they had perpetrated on Loyalist vessels.
Akiran battle-automata were sent against them, with weapons that could and did crumple even Astartes armour, yet the Shepherds were unrelenting. The cut and thrust of the melee, the hewing down of monsters with sword and mace, was what the old VIIth had been wrought for. They climbed over the dead when corpses piled up, slaying all who crossed their path. Fervour drove them, for though their fate was sealed, they would die as shields of the common man, the purpose that the Shepherds held themselves to above all.
Their fury carried them almost to the bridge itself, and they were only halted by a cadre of Volta terminators. Sightless, but gifted of peerless foresight, these warriors raised their volkite culverins and reduced the boarders to ash and scorched plate by the dozen. Still the Shepherds came on, shields braced against the firestorm, their fury unabated even in the face of such destruction. Their shells hammered and finally sundered Cataphractii plate, and they waded through the ashes of their brethren to cleave the Volta’s eyeless helms.
Harlech’s warriors ultimately cast down the last of the sightless killers, but half their fighting strength was gone, and now the First Marshal's veteran squads entered the battle. The Marshal himself bled from a dozen wounds, his shield mangled beyond use by a Castellax’s claws and his proud warplate scorched and tattered. Yet still he stood, still he slew all who came before him, until finally he stood face to face the enemy he sought most of all. It is said that Empyon saluted the defiant knight before their weapons met, granting him the dignity of a proper duel, for Harlech was the last of the boarders still standing.
What is certain is that they fought, two blademasters steeped in very different schools of combat, Akiran-forged katana against Eskalan longsword. For all Harlech’s courage and prowess, his wounds told against him, and Empyon was a superlative swordsman even among the elite of the Legions. Whirling through the ash and fire, he was unceasingly on the offensive. He did not come away unscathed, as Harlech opened a shallow wound in his side, but in doing so the Shepherd had exposed himself. Empyon’s blade sheared through Harlech’s chest, splitting his hearts and lungs as it went. The master of the Dawn Hammers fell, the last Astartes to perish in the defence of Ysta.
Empyon’s victory was not unblemished, but it was overwhelming. Outside the Storm Unbound, the fighting was largely finished. With his superior occupied, 17th Marshal Yamon had briefly assumed command, completing the destruction of the Loyalist vessels that remained and assigning ships to run down those who fled. The Suppression Fleet was shattered, with hundreds of vessels disabled but largely intact. To the crews of these ships, a stark choice was given: turn their coats and slay their captains, those lackeys of the Emperor who had led them to this slaughter, or join their comrades in death. Many ships complied, and those that resisted were boarded by the Astartes and their Mechanicum allies and systematically wiped out or enslaved. If Icarion was to accept the allegiance of his former enemies, that allegiance was to be given without reservation.
The same offer was made to those marooned on Ysta, though with its fearsome array of surface-to-orbit guns and surviving orbital stations, Empyon did not care to waste his soldiers in a direct attack. Instead, as the majority of the invaders departed the system to annex its neighbours, Ysta was left to support a population swelled by millions of soldiers and other personnel, one that was not meant to linger there for more than two weeks. Hunger made desperate people, no matter how well its rulers attempted to ration food. Within a week, fighting had broken out among both the soldiers and civilians. Within a month, the Imperial Governor was dead, and Icarion’s representatives assumed control of a world unwillingly but irreversibly bound to the Stormlord. On the surviving stations, up in orbit, the crews were left to starve.
Ysta had been the last hope for a swift reversal of Icarion’s gains, but he and Empyon had turned it into a profitable conquest, creating a buffer zone around the Commena Cluster even when the conquest of that region was ongoing. The haul of ships stood at fourteen battleships, thirty one cruisers and perhaps three times that number of frigates, destroyers and escorts. Of Ignis’ Titans, the Insurrectionists seized at least 50, and the quantity of tanks, turrets and other such war spoil they took, to say nothing of personnel, is difficult to even estimate. Mechanicum flotillas arrived soon after, scouring the system of its wrecks, salvaging those that were not beyond saving and breaking down the rest for raw materials. Organic remains were likewise reprocessed. Ysta was garrisoned anew. The Stormlord’s war machine grew, more weapons ready to be turned upon the empire he had done so much to build.
Empyon's ambush served not only to foil the Loyalist retaliation, but to pave the way for further conquests. The psychological hammer blow was enough to break the resolve of many fleets and planetary governments. The survivors of Ysta found themselves isolated and hunted, caught up in a massive offensive as regiments sworn to Icarion descended on exposed worlds. Many worlds fell to Chapter and company-sized detachments of Astartes, shorn of the strength and support to resist them. Within months, Ysta appeared as only the first of a veritable avalanche of catastrophes, joined by Vaspel, Anvillus and Catachan to name only a few.
More immediately, it ensured that nothing could be done by the Warmaster's forces to spare the Commena Cluster. Nor could they interfere with Icarion’s next objective.
Edited by bluntblade, 02 October 2019 - 08:55 PM.
Posted 20 December 2017 - 02:06 AM
It's legible until the last 10-15% of the piece which is still really tiny. Also, am I giving it the full treatment or just a brief overview?
Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost
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Posted 20 December 2017 - 11:29 PM
,] and unable to..."
"...now the I[st] Legion ships ..."
"The [Taranis]’ injuries were ..."
,] before the ..."
"...adjacent to the [Shepherds of Eden]."
"Aelus and Harlech weighed the situation; the attacking fleet was still outnumbered, but it was leaner in its composition, almost entirely composed of ship-killing vessels while the Loyalists had dozens of bulk carriers and Munitorum vessels to protect." [Run-on sentence.]
,] and reached..."
"He deduced two things; that they must be Legiones Astartes vessels and that they could not be anything but a threat, and he moved to head them off. " [Run-on sentence]
"Harlech cautioned him, but Aelus approved of Sulla’s decision; if the rhythm of Empyon’s scheme could be disrupted, it could only help the defenders." [Run-on sentence]
"...the I[st] Legion..."
"... the I[st] Legion battleship..."
"He was still loath to weaken the defensive blockade and expose the planet itself." [This sentence feels awkardly-placed.]
,] but manageable."
"... himself Vukaba[
,] and demanded..."
"Herrud hove into range..." [Is this past tense?]
,] and the percussive..."
,] and make precise..."
,] or scattered..."
"...Loyalist ranks[,] and the..."
"...of the XVI[th] Legion,..."
,] and buy time..."
"The Adamant Lance and its crew paid for their valour, cut apart as the Drowned fell upon it, but its duty of punishment was fulfilled, and it took more traitors with it before the end." [Run-on]
"... through the I[st] Legion vessels, ..."
,] with the..."
"...the old VII[th] had been ..."
"Fervour drove them, for though their fate was sealed, they would die as shields of the common man, the purpose that the Shepherds held themselves to above all." [run-on]
"Harlech’s warriors ultimately cast down the last of the sightless killers, but half their fighting strength was gone, and now the Sentinel’s veteran squads entered the battle." [run-on]
"The Marshal himself bled from a dozen wounds, his shield mangled beyond use by a Castellax’s claws and his proud warplate scorched and tattered." [run-on]
,] and systematically..."
,] or interfere with..."
Still excellent writing.
Project Leader of the Brotherhood of the Lost
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Posted 23 December 2017 - 12:27 AM
The Abyssii's first exemplary battle, the Pacification of the Minos Empire
The First Contact Conflict, as the incident in the Nox system came to be known, is viewed with mixed sentiments by the wider Imperium. For some, it was a much-needed humbling of the Primarch Morro and by extension the rest of the Drowned legion. For others, it was an embarrassment that the upstart Priests of Nox used to leverage favourable terms. To the Mechanicum Abyssii, however, it was an event of good fortune and a much-needed eye-opener. Their military might, and diplomatic ability, had been clearly demonstrated for all to see, but the fact that a foreign invader had been able to control the course of the battle in their home system to the degree the Drowned had was deemed by the Magos of Nox to be utterly unacceptable.
Reform was needed within the Basilikon Astra Abyssii, and out of the debates, theories and simulations arose Magos Ariana Furia. Furia had commanded the Amber Citadel during the First Contact Conflict and had already been noted for her successful command in that battle and previous conflicts. However what drew the true attention of Mortera Nagathiir herself was her theories on naval strategy. Where previously her rank had prevented her from doing so, the reforms had given her the chance to voice her ideas.
Her bold and novel ideas were met with a great deal of resistance from the Magos Navarch in the Basilikon Astra, however her oratory, and the unexpected backing of Archmagos Reductor Charon Discut and Magos Myrmidax Silon Rex, convinced Mortera to allow her to test her proposed strategies and theories in simulations.
In spite of her detractors, her work proved sound, but what truly captured the attention of the ruling Magos of Nox was Furia's fluidity of command. Her ability and willingness to dispense with predefined tactics and instead improvise rankled with many of her peers. However, the First Contact Conflict had already demonstrated the danger of adhering to strict protocol, and after her first real-space 'War Games' scenario resulted in an overwhelming victory, Furia was given the opportunity to prove herself and her theories in the field.
The Treaty with the Imperium had been fully ratified, and the Abyssii were called to war. The Pacification of the Minos Empire would be Magos Ariana Furia's trial by fire, and with her new allies, Archmagos Discut and Magos Rex, at her side, the battle would be the event which secured her title as Archmagos Navarch.
The Minos Empire was a well-entrenched human domain spanning several star systems in the galactic South, east of the Veiled Region. Though the empire never expanded beyond three systems, the systems the Minos managed to control were rich in resources, with some scattered Dark Age technology free for the taking. The small-scope of the Minos Empire coupled with ready access to potent technology and plentiful supplies made their well-defended, with the capital world of Minos boasting defences the equal of some Imperial fortress worlds.
The Minos Empire had already refused to submit to the Imperium, but the initial pacification force had been fought off, the Minos defence fleets proving their worth. These factors had given the Imperial commanders cause for alarm, but to the Ordo Reductor the defences of the Minos Empire were naught but another bloody equation to be solved. When the Abyssii fleet arrived, the Priests of Nox rapidly set about their work.
Commanding the fleet actions from her new flagship, the Armageddon’s Blade, Ariana Furia led the first assault of the Pacification, a massed attack on the Deltana system. The Deltana system boasted some of the Minos Empire’s most impressive defences short of their capital world, with formidable orbital defence platforms and a powerful fleet, which made it the ideal target of the Abyssii’s ire.
The bulk of the Abyssii forces emerged into realspace at the extreme fringes of the Deltana system, immediately cutting all non-essential power use save for sparing use of their engines to drift into the system proper, whilst three battlegroups formed entirely of escorts emerged at the system’s Mandeville point and at Magos Furia’s instruction began raiding the outer reaches of the system, acting the part of marauding pirates. It wasn’t long before the defence fleet responded to the apparent pirate threat, half of the system’s ships diverting to combat the raiders.
Over the course of the next few days, the three raiding groups kept the fragmented fleet’s attention, leading them in apparently random patterns through the system’s outer reaches whilst the cold ships of the Abyssii drifted close. It was on the fourth day the trap was sprung; the bulk of the defence fleet had been drawn out into indefensible positions, far from the protection of their orbital stations.
The three raiding groups turned as one to finally engage the ships they had been luring out, their sudden attack timed perfectly with the first volley from the Abyssii fleet. In the first few seconds the first Minos ship died in flames; a grand cruiser was the Lance Held High’s first target, close-range fusion lances ripping through its shields, the unfortunate crew only had a fraction of a second to see the portals appear around the ship before a barrage of Douvoir missiles slammed into the now unshielded keel and stern, tearing the ship apart in a series of detonations.
Whilst the grand cruiser was still in its death throes, the Abyssii fell upon the scattered and shocked defenders. At close range the ships of Nox proved their mastery, disgorging boarding parties to seize several larger vessels, whilst the advanced weapons of the Abyssii tore through the Minos warships. The first battle was over in a matter of hours, the final defending ships attempting to retreat torn apart by merciless volleys of fire. The Abyssii had suffered losses of their own, yet they did not relent, speeding towards the heart of the system, their ships forming into offensive patterns seamlessly as they kept the momentum of their attack.
The remaining defenders, those who had not pursued the raiding groups, formed up around their orbitals, sheltering under the guns of the stations. As the Abyssii fleet approached the range of the stations, the Rulebreaker cannons of the Armageddon’s Blade and the Lance Held High roared across the void. The shields of the first orbital were overloaded by the reality-warping detonations, the electromagnetic pulses from the warheads throwing the sensors of the closest warships into utter disarray as the first station came apart under repeated impacts, entire sections turned to energy or sucked into oblivion.
With the orbital zone around Deltana secured, the Ordo Reductor deployed en masse to the surface, the local garrisons butchered under the gaze of Archmagos Discut and Magos Rex. Unwilling to surrender the momentum of their campaign, the Abyssii forces made liberal use of orbital bombardment and other weapons of mass destruction to annihilate points of resistance, departing as soon as other Crusade forces arrived to properly secure the system, moving on to other worlds in the Minos Empire.
The Deltana system capitulated less than forty eight hours after the Abyssii fleet first fired across the void, and the fleet moved on to the next system, Mintaka. The engagement in the neighbouring system was just as decisive, Mintaka did not have as large a defence fleet or garrison as Deltana, and with the fall of Deltana many ships were being recalled back to Minos Prime.
In mere days the fleet reached the capital system of Minos Prime. The recalcitrant empire was now ready for them, every weapon the system could muster primed and ready, a mighty fleet gathered in orbit to defend their throne world. The subterfuge that had ensured victory against Deltana would not work here, so instead Furia relied on the Abyssii’s brutal talent at close-range engagements, the fleet performing several slingshot manoeuvres to close the distance quickly.
As the Abyssii emerged from their final slingshot manoeuvre, their ships were battered by the Minos opening volley, a handful of escorts and three cruisers reduced to flaming wreckage. Angered by the loss of their ships, the Abyssii accelerated their attack, the Minos barely managed to fire a second volley before the Abyssii entered brawling range. The void roared with the fury of their guns, their capital ships focussing down the Minos Prime defence platforms whilst their other ships engaged the enemy fleet.
A flurry of boarding actions began as soon as the Abyssii were close enough, drop ships and boarding torpedoes swarming the Minos ships. The Myrmidons of the Perimo Rex cult under the command of Magos Rex turned the corridors of their targeted ships to bloody charnel houses, the war-priests butchering their way through the crews.
The Minos line now in disarray, the Abyssii fleet tore into them at point-blank range. The Armageddon’s Blade scored the first ramming kill of the campaign, its armoured prow cleaving a rival battleship in half. With the Abyssii ships locked in battle in orbit over the world of Minos Prime, the Ordo Reductor launched transports, aircraft and siege-crucibles towards the planet. A series of orbital bombardments and brutal bombing runs quickly cleared suitable landing grounds for the Ordo Reductor, and Archmagos Charon Discut’s sinister war-host took to the field.
This world was the capital of the empire that had refused the Emperor and the Omnissiah; there would be no mercy. With the Minos fleet occupied, the Ordo Reductor could now afford the time to carry out their task to its pitiless conclusion. Discut ordered scorched earth as they advanced, the Abyssii ground forces savaging the armies of Minos in short order with alchem-munitions and rad-fire, leaving vast swathes of devastated, contaminated land in their wake.
The Minos Empire had developed a healthy fear of the Abyssii during the Pacification, however the ruination the Ordo Reductor was visiting upon their capital world turned that fear to unbridled horror, the mere sight of the black-robed Priests of the Reductor stalking through the ash and fires sending their armies fleeing. Town, village and city were torn down by the Ordo Reductor, artillery flattening defensive lines and bathing trenches in baleful Phosphex. Entire garrisons were routed and gunned down at the command of Magos Rex, the enormous Myrmidon Lord leading spearheads personally.
Wherever the priests of the Abyssii went, nothing was left standing, a seared track of land visible from orbit marked their path. The inhabitants of Minos Prime were spared no weapon in the arsenal of the Ordo Reductor, clouds of chemical weapons billowing across every battlefield, whilst the war-priests fell upon the choking survivors in hand-to-hand combat. No quarter was given; any survivors amongst the defenders were executed or taken to be turned into combat servitors and unleashed on their former comrades.
When the Reductor war-host reached the city of Kades, the throne of the Minos Empire, the city had no choice but to surrender. Their fleets in orbit were almost annihilated, reinforcements were too far away or occupied with other Crusade forces, and their surviving soldiers could not resist the amassed might of the Ordo Reductor. To this end, a diplomatic delegation met with Archmagos Discut outside the capital city to offer their unconditional surrender in exchange for ending the bloodshed.
Discut’s response to their surrender was swift and brutal. At his command, an atomic device levelled half the city’s fortress walls and primary gatehouse before Magos Rex’s Myrmidons were set upon the city’s surviving garrison. Their soldiers were slaughtered in their bunkers and barracks, entire companies cut down without remorse or pity. By the end of the Ordo Reductor’s retribution, the remaining ramparts still burnt with the ghostly flames of Phosphex, the Abyssii’s domination of the empire now absolute. The verdict had been made, and the message was clear for all to see. Such is the fate of those that dare to resist the Great Crusade.
Posted 12 July 2018 - 02:53 PM
So the opening of 2B should look at Icarion's position on Madrigal and his work to build a shadow empire, while the Loyalists work to solidify the defences where they can keep hold of territory. The Harbingers should be the first into the action here, but who else should be involved from around the start beside the Drowned and Grave Stalkers? Eagle Warriors, perhaps?
For the Void Eagles, I suggest we just do a small piece like Autek Mor at the end of Conquest. Not a massacre of a traitor-held world, but I'm thinking they smash an Army force besieging a Loyalist world that's too isolated to endure. Then once they've mulched the Insurrectionists, they finally go to the forces they're rescuing and are like "those who can walk, come with us."
Edited by bluntblade, 12 July 2018 - 03:01 PM.
Posted 01 August 2018 - 05:24 PM
The False Empire
Edited by bluntblade, 20 December 2018 - 10:30 PM.
- simison likes this
Posted 07 September 2018 - 03:06 PM
I'm dubbing 2B in full:
The War for the Commena Cluster
On the Storm's Edge
The Harbingers' primary objective, in contrast to the Drowned, was not territorial gain but the elimination of a threat; the Fire Keepers. The closest fortresses of the Xth Legion to the Stormlord’s advance lay in the Commena Cluster, on the eastern edge of the Tayargund Reaches. Fragmentary records suggest that they were formerly part of an empire built on knowledge and psychic potential - a history seemingly shared with Terathalion and a handful of other worlds. The latter factor ensured that the Black Fleets of the Silent Sisterhood regularly trawled the region to prevent the proliferation of unsanctioned psykers. Indeed, a garrison of the null-warriors was maintained within the Fire Keepers’ fortress on Commena Prime.
Close to the verge of the Maelstrom, the Cluster was also wracked by Warp phenomena emanating from the shadowed and quarantined Prospero system. As a consequence astropathic transmissions periodically struggled to reach it, and the frantic missives from Terra were fragmentary. Enough emerged to paint a troubling picture indeed, though the politicians and soldiers who governed the Cluster could glean little of the state of play around them. Castellan Kerun Sigurd favoured a cautious approach, keeping close the forces available to him. In the main he was obeyed, but fear bred like a contagion in the hearts of mortal men, and some whispered that resisting the Stormlord would achieve nothing.
When the source of their fears first arrived, they came as ships clad in dark green and bone white: a fleet of the traitorous XIIIth Legion. The Eight Chapter of the Eagle Warriors struck from an obscure Warp route long thought to have been unnavigable. For this reason it had never been more than lightly defended, and the ships stationed there were obliterated within an hour of the fleet’s arrival. From here, Chapter Master Huetic Xiutel moved against his true target; the astropathic relay at Strebek. With the seizure of the installation and its personnel, the flow of news and orders from the Commena government ceased. Instead a flow of ultimatums from Xiutel issued throughout the region, battering against the resolve of military personnel and civilians alike.
Realising that a score of worlds and outposts at the Cluster’s edge had gone quiet, Sigurd was assailed with demands from those around him that the Strebek relay must be retaken. With the Eagle Warriors reportedly on the move and presumably having left only a handful of companies and divisions of mortal soldiers to hold their conquest, the advocates saw an opportunity. Sigurd was sceptical, but in the military councils of Commena the “riposte” party prevailed. A fleet was marshalled and dispatched, only to be confronted by a Mechanicum fleet bearing the sigil of Therbium. The traitorous magi of that world wasted no time in demolishing the Loyalists, their superior weaponry sundering the defenders' ships and snuffing out the power aboard others.
By the time the disaster became known, the Insurrectionists were sweeping like wildfire across the Cluster, overrunning the Army garrisons on the Cluster’s border worlds and leaving the surviving populations mired in disorder, fearfully awaiting their new rulers. In truth these were already at large in the Cluster; the first portion of the fleet Icarion had been mustering at Madrigal. Raiden Athrawes, the Primarch’s equerry, first made his presence known with the conquest of Vothkant, a lightning offensive that struck uncomfortably close to the Commena System itself before turning to threaten the lynchpin system of Uelaquan.
News came of other blows. On Uelequan itself a menials’ uprising had seen the entire ruling elite slain and hung from their towers. In the Pasegur system two Black Ships had been intercepted and seized by taghmata from Estaban III, the unsanctioned psykers in their holds vanishing along with the vessels. A fleet moving to reinforce Utap found a world ravaged and stripped of its youth, and returning to apparent safety, they were themselves set upon and destroyed by an unidentified force.
Storm and Sword
As the Eagle Warriors plied their marauders’ trade across the Cluster and unrest continued to flare up, Castellan Sigurd drew up his forces on and around Commena Prime. He had an impressive force at his command, some ten thousand who garrisoned the world along with its militia, who numbered in the tens of millions, and one hundred thousand soldiers drawn from the Franc Voltiguers and set to the defence of the capital, Rechul Hive. The defenders’ strength was doubled again by the presence of several Army forces of varying sizes which had been redirected to Commena and assigned variously to the prime world’s hives, Commena Secundus’ two cities and the watch station on the outermost planet.
All of these metroplexes were placed under martial law, with curfews and traffic limits rigidly enforced by the Arbitrators and soldiery. For two weeks the system’s inhabitants maintained what normality they could, despite the trickle of chilling reports as Athrawes’ forces split up to attack a further string of isolated systems. Then, shortly after midnight in Rechul, the klaxons began to blare that a fleet had approached from the southern Warp terminus and begun clearing the fields of orbital mines at the system’s edge. Squadrons of Army ships were deployed to halt and destroy the invaders, now identified as the Harbingers and the Akiran Mechanicum. Hard-fought as the battle would be, it seemed to the defenders that the enemy had played their hand too soon, committing when only a part of their assets were available.
The first squadrons, belonging to the Naskine Ferrophracts and the venerable G6 Division Kill, engaged the Harbingers an hour after the Insurrectionists cleared a path through the minefields. Reinforcements were close behind them, ready to close the trap. In the strategium spire of Rechul, reports arrived that swayed many in the room from cautious optimism to latent triumph. Athrawes' flagship, the Blade of Akira, led the Ist Legion fleet. The Ninth Marshal was here, but he had overplayed his hand. Fortune smiled upon the defenders, offering them the chance to slay one of the Stormlord’s foremost lieutenants. The Naskine and G6K ships halted, the first line of defence on which the Insurrectionists would break themselves, and from their guns came thickets of torpedoes and las-fire, blazing against the void shields of their foes. Soon the massive guns on Commena Extremis would be trained on the invaders too, and no amount of shielding would be enough to save Athrawes and his fleet, no matter the esoteric gifts of Akira or the Ist Legion’s shipmastery.
And then, even as the commanders in the Rechul strategium issued orders, fresh alerts flared up. Moreover they flared up within the system, indicating ships had emerged from the western terminus and bypassed the perimeter defences, undetected until they passed the engaged squadrons. Even as ships were diverted to engage them and frantic missives sent to Extremis, bursts of Warp-light erupted among the embattled formations of the Ferrophracts and G6K Division. Vortex torpedoes, their arcs calculated with a precision that spoke to absurd levels of planning, had been loosed hours before the new fleet’s presence was known. Ships caught in their vicinity were stricken, great portions of their structures excised, leaving their comrades in disorder as the Harbingers pounced.
The Claws of the Thirteenth
The second fleet were the Eagle Warriors; Xiutel again exploiting his mysterious ability to navigate shadowed and treacherous Warp channels to deadly effect. Though all would become horribly clear in time, the defenders of Commena were at a loss to explain his sudden appearance, let alone how it had been coordinated so closely with the Harbingers’ gambit. Armed with codes pillaged from captured vessels in other systems, Xiutel’s ships did not trigger any response from automated defences or systems, and that proved just as true of those on Commena Extremis as it had of the outer rings. Below, tech-priests frantically set about two tasks; some altering the codes and disseminating them to the fleet, while others tried to calculate the trajectory from which the Eagle Warriors were already approaching.
The time they had proved insufficient. The turbolasers and plasma annihilators on the little planet’s surface lit up near space with strobing spears of light and gouts of star-matter. The Eagle Warriors could not hope to evade it all, their shields fizzing and straining under the onslaught. Several escorts died, some leaving nothing but a spray of molten metal and atomic fire, others fracturing messily as torpedos smashed into them. The strike cruiser that had once been the Brightlance of the XIIth Legion had its brief second life ended when a plasma annihilator struck it head-on, leaving it to tumble away with its prow stripped away and the spires peeled from its back.
But then the rest of Xiutel's ships, closing on the command sector, were near enough to answer. Xiutel was adept in shock-attack planetfall operations, and the Illumination's Toll, his Avenger-class Grand Cruiser, was optimised for such warfare. Missiles as large as hab-blocks bathed the northern hemisphere’s city-sprawl in fire. The light of overloaded void shields outshone the stars and explosions until the dust of broken towers blotted out all illumination. Anyone exposed was suffocated or killed by the heat. Next came the howls of reality splitting open - not from teleportation technology, but stranger, arcane methods which defied the teleport jammers installed by the Fire Keepers. Eagle Warriors stepped through, five full companies which then converged on the subterranean control nexus.
In their way stood the land forces of G6K Division and the Ferrophracts, overseen by the Fire Keepers and commanded by Captain Isran Giora. Two thousand Astartes guarded the control nexus here, and they had seen to it that the complex was thick with automated and remotely controlled turrets at all levels. The concussive thunder of bolter fire and the whoosh of flamer units joined the cacophony, frustrating the Eagle Warriors’ efforts to enter. Their first attempt blunted, the Eagle Warriors fell back as their second wave entered the fray. It was far larger than the strike force which had gone before, comprising a great many mortal soldiers as well as several companies of the Eighth Chapter. Bulk landers sank into the ash clouds, while around them Storm Eagles and Thunderhawks wheeled in predatory flocks.
While this soup of ash and debris served to mask them from Loyalist auspex, it took a toll of its own as several landers had their intakes overwhelmed, plummeting abruptly to ground with devastating results. Others continued to fall victim to gun emplacements, for Giora had ordered the gunners to keep firing in broad sweep patterns for the best odds of striking enemy craft. The troops who made it to the surface had to contend with the soldiers of G6 Kill Division, who had emerged from bunkers in the tens of thousands. Their distinctive greatcoats and sealed armour allowed them to fight effectively despite the purgatorial conditions, and battle raged through the outskirts of Extremis’ cities.
The Eagle Warriors had directed their mortal units - perhaps 15,000 were their Calpuolla thrall-soldiers, but there were seemingly twice as many whose livery did not match any in Imperial catalogues at the time - to form up and move out immediately, overwhelming the defenders by sheer weight of numbers and fire. It was an attack lacking in any kind of subtlety and appalling in the losses it incurred, yet on the invaders came. Some of them were clearly prisoners, collared with explosives and driven out of their landers with whips and taser prods, but many seemed to come on and die out of their own volition. Even the hardened men of G6K Division were shaken, and they were forced into a fighting retreat as the Insurrectionists piled on in defiance of all tactical sense. Control of the planet’s defence grid was slipping, three sectors infested with enemy soldiers.
In the control sanctum, Giaros spoke a single sentence: “Give the conqueror his prize of dust.” Across the city, officers heard the words and acted accordingly. First, ammunition stashes went up, showering the invaders with shrapnel and masonry. Gun towers came crashing down, enough to bury hundreds but still giving the illusion of mere by-products of battle. The Insurrectionist hordes came on in their frenzies of fear or fanaticism, and among them were the Eagle Warriors, to whom such things were merely an irritant. Land Raiders and Rhinos battered their way through the remains of walls and over heaps of slag and bodies. And yet Giaros, faced with this prospect, was pleased, and he gave the signal for a second wave of destruction.
The Fire Keepers’ fortification of Commena Extremis went far beyond raising walls and designing kill-zones; they had planned for its fall. Demolition charges went up in rippling sequence across the bases of blocks, turning walls into floods of ferrocrete that subsumed men and tanks. Among the dull grey waves were breakers that glowed molten, for among the mundane explosives the Fire Keepers had placed melta charges which sent molten rock spilling over their foes. Giaro’s gambit swallowed up attackers in their thousands, leaving the remaining advance units cut off from aid, and this volcanic surge was the herald of the Fire Keepers.
Out of the inferno they came, rallying the platoons of G6K to their side. Assault marines appeared from the smog and came down among knots of enemy soldiers. Those that stood against them died by bolt pistol, flamer and chainblade, the rest cut down with massed rifle fire or the pinpoint shots of Xth Legion tactical squads. But the Fire Keepers saved their greatest fury for when the Eagle Warriors, traitors and kinslayers, renewed their assault on the city. On the host of green and bone-white came, expending the last of their bullet-soak hordes to cross the slag-heaps. Within the tangle of spires and causeways, Space Marine fought Space Marine. Four hours passed and still the Eagle Warriors could not advance, stymied by the Fire Keepers’ consummate use of the terrain. Under Giaros’ direction, every junction became a kill-zone, every unit a cog in his machine.
Commena Extremis remained in Loyalist hands, its vast gun emplacements still largely intact. Xiutel's ships were forced to return to low orbit, suffering the attentions of those batteries as they released a second wave of gunships and landers. This landing was again larger than before, and they paid a lighter toll than those who had preceded them, for Giaros’ ploy had sacrificed a great many defence platforms. Xiutel himself made planetfall, ensconced in a hulking Mastodon transport at the heart of the main Insurrectionist column. The Eagle Warriors set the full power of their tank companies to the operation, and towering above them were the Titans of the Legio Fureans, whom the Traitors had been loath to risk before this point in the battle.
Now spires were felled by Insurrectionist guns rather than Loyalist guile, and Giaros knew that his forces would not prevail this time. The Fire Keepers and Army made a valiant stand, gradually falling back and meting out a measure of vengeance for every metre their surrendered. The legendary forgecraft of the Xth Legion was a telling factor, even against the blades and guns of their cousins, and each warrior was the veteran of many a claustrophobic boarding-siege or grinding defence of a fortress. Their power blades glimmered like the brightest silver and parted ceramite as if it was mere flak armour. They were being ground down, but for every Fire Keeper who fell, at least two Eagle Warriors were cast down.
Even the Titans were made to pay, ambushed at points by dozens of tanks which succeeded in bringing down a Warhound and a Reaver, as well as seriously damaging six more. Finally the last of the garrison died, Giaros himself falling in combat against a squad of clawed Terminators, and Xiutel fought his way into the control nexus. However, he did not do so without an injury of his own, for a confrontation with one of Giaros’ Chaplains had left his right arm shattered. More importantly, assets intended for the conquest of the inner worlds had been depleted and delayed.
Now there was hope that the defenders of Commena could hold out until salvation came from their allies at the Cluster’s edge. There were other Loyalist fleets, close enough to intervene. Furthermore, despite the tumult in the Warp, some missives had reached the Commena system, and they spoke of a great muster taking place in the Ysta System. Alas, not only Loyalist ears had heard those words, and the invaders were quite willing to pay in blood for a rapid conquest.
The Knives Unsheathed
Sigurd had drawn his ships into a tight, interlocked formation which left no chance for Athrawes to approach unmolested. Defence monitors, while too slow to operate in open space, were perfectly suited to this kind of war, arrayed among the myriad cruisers and battleships. However, none of the vessels he commanded could rival the power of the Akiran Ark Mechanicum Unequivocal which, with five battleships arrayed around it so close that their void shields overlapped, formed a monstrous battering ram behind which the rest of the fleet sheltered. Sigurd, an expert in siege warfare, would no doubt have noted the parallels with archaic tactics first used by Mankind eons ago.
Unbeknownst to the Castellan, another, even more ancient method was in play - the knife in the back. In his long years of preparation, Icarion had cultivated allies who were either already stationed within the Cluster or placed there through subtle manipulation. Most had not yet declared their new allegiance openly, instead feigning flight when the Insurrectionist Legions launched the offensive. Thus they fell back to other systems and were welcomed into their lines of defence, and most of all they flocked to Commena Prime. In truth, the scars on their hulls had been inflicted by betrayed Loyalists. Regiments too had been swayed, and they awaited the signal on the ground.
A vox-cast from the advancing Ist Legion ships - sent ahead of the planned time, for events had forced Athrawes’s hand - set in motion an avalanche of betrayals. Men, tanks and ships of all sizes turned their guns upon those who thought them friends, and anarchy was the result. The interlocking web of fire patterns so carefully orchestrated by Sigurd fractured, ships dying or forced to pivot and answer their betrayers. Into the cracks poured the Harbingers and the Akiran fleet.
Where they advanced, no ships could hold. Several formations were pried apart with an ease that was all the more sinister for the elegance with which the Ist Legion ships moved, sweeping through the battle in graceful arcs. The Akiran ships, meanwhile, cleared their paths with sheer force, great banks of guns blazing away. Meanwhile, Magos Reductor completed the rites of activation for some of the Mechanicum’s most enigmatic and deadliest weapons, and lightning-phage, volkite implosion spheres and scathe-lash warheads split the darkness.
Even hardened captains recoiled at the hideous bursts of light and fire and the devastation they brought. Dozens of ships fled, forsaking all honour to survive. The Insurrectionists let them go, directing all their fire at those who still gave battle. Every vessel that escaped would carry a tale of unstoppable assault to their fellows. The outer lines of defending ships were disintegrating, split apart by their attackers so that ships could be picked off. All the while Athrawes’ voice, carried across the vox on a loop, proclaiming the Loyalists’ doom. They were outmatched and harbouring still more traitors, sworn to the Stormlord’s banner. Their cause was as bereft of hope as it was of value, selling their lives for an uncaring tyrant.
The same fate might be said to have befallen many of the traitors themselves, for Athrawes expended his allies ruthlessly to ensure his success. Declaring themselves too early to be sure of Space Marine support, they suffered by Loyalist retaliation soon, enough, and several were wiped out before the Harbingers reached orbit. Nonetheless, their work was thorough, having been planned well in advance by Athrawes and Ikoru Amakune, Master of the Forge and an expert siege engineer. Some of the turncoats below had been instructed to simply cause havoc, but others had a particular role to carry out. At Rechul Spaceport, the Kerawan Skylances scrambled their craft and carpet-bombed great swathes of the surrounding airfields before levelling the surrounding buildings for a kilometre around the huge complex. This paved the way not merely for the Harbingers, but for the massive transports of the Rakurai and other giants which plunged into the atmosphere.
The latter ships were huge cylinders, instantly recognisable as Titan-carriers. Upon landing, they opened to reveal two full war maniples of the Legio Telesto, flanked by the Knights of House Rakham. Sigurd had seen the danger, and Army tanks converged on the spaceport in their thousands, but against a force like this they were powerless. The colossal Arc Cannons of Telesto crackled into life, the anger of mythical gods made real by Man’s genius and unleashed upon the very heart of the Commena Cluster.
The Stolen Dawn
As on Extremis, the fighting threw up such volumes of dust and smoke that the darkness of night kept its hold over Rechul. Titan-war left little standing when it raged, and whole spires were consumed along with anything that stood between the lines of Telesto and the Legio Destructor maniples stationed at Rechul. The elder Legio were one of the most powerful in the Imperium, despite their long service in the Crusade. Closely matched, the two inflicted grave losses upon one another until more landers brought five Ordinati Minoris to the surface. Flanked by a host of Mechanicum tanks, these tipped the balance against the Loyalist Titans.
The Legio Destructor god-engines were destroyed so thoroughly that only four Titans were even identifiable after the battle, let alone salvageable. Of lesser machines, there was nothing but dust. A great waste had been created by the advance of Telesto, and the Harbingers and their allies had used it as a vast landing ground, descending in vast numbers and fanning out to storm the city. When they reached bulwarks they could not afford to simply level, siege-automata and penal troopers were sent ahead in forlorn hopes. Rakurai and Skitarii spread out in their wake, fighting bitter actions against the Loyalist Army, as the Harbingers struck for the heart of Rechul.
The Eagle Warriors followed on the third day, with battle still raging through the great boulevards of Rechul. Xiutel led his forces to districts where Loyalist resistance was stiffest. The vast depots below the city held hundreds of tanks, and they had been emptied as the battle wore, allowing the infantry to dig in. The Legio Telesto, after their duel with Destructor, had withdrawn for field repairs, taking much of House Rakham with them. Among the fallen machines they left the Warlord Titan Tonitruam lifeless and slumped against an arch, its carapace holed in a dozen places by Baneblade and Shadowswords. In the Titans' absence, even the Rakurai and Akiran taghmata struggled to make headway against their dug-in enemies. Xiutel broke that impasse with the Legio Suturvora and three super-heavy squadrons before sending breacher-led companies into the catacombs where the last platoons held out.
In the spires, where Athrawes pressed the attack, armoured warfare had given way to murderous infantry actions. The Fire Keepers had made their presence known on the second, backed by twenty thousand of their Ebedsakar serf-soldiers. The latter were, like the bonded auxiliaries of any Legion, armed and trained to the highest standards of the Imperium’s mortal soldiers, and entrenched in the very heart of the fortress alongside their transhuman masters. Athrawes responded with imposing Thanatar and Castellax automata. Towering above these giants were the Knights of House Rakham, who met the cries of the defenders with their ancient war-sirens.
Sigurd’s defenders had brought down a great many foes, but against this threat even their Dreadnoughts could not prevail, battered and torn down by the huge walkers as Athrawes’ elite companies surged up behind the Knights and robots. Sigurd himself was lost in the inferno, last seen plunging into the ranks of the Harbingers at the head of his command squad. The remnants of his force were dismembered by Athrawes, who cut his way into the command spire with his retinue of Oni blademasters. With his victory, strategic control of the Commena Cluster was wrenched from the hands of the Loyalists.
Edited by bluntblade, 03 November 2019 - 08:41 PM.
Posted 07 September 2018 - 03:11 PM
Part 2 is Ysta, which has already been posted. Part 3 is:
The Sack of Katorz
The Adamant Stars
Katorz was famed as a fortress system without a single planet. Its civilisation was instead spread across a host of void-stations, the largest of which was a moon-sized construct from the Dark Age of Technology. Hollow and lifeless, it had been home to a corsair empire until the Imperium chanced upon it, and much of its chrome strata lay silent and unexplored. Strategists had recognised its potential from the start, and when Niklaas expanded his program of fortification into the outer reaches of Segmentum Solar, Katorz had been among the systems he took and fashioned into an almost impregnable fortress. It was one of the furthest from Terra, sitting just within Segmentum Solar. Moreover, it was joined by a Warp channel to Ysta and the outer worlds of the Commena Cluster.
Colonists from a dozen void enclaves in Segmentum Solar, mostly Saturn and Jupiter, had made their way there when Katorz was first discovered sixty years after the Crusade’s beginning. Among them were the scions of noble dynasties, who found their ambitions hampered by the predominance of Terra within the Sol System. They sought a system where their culture could flower to its full potential, and the vast structure they called Katorz Aleph seemed the perfect fit for their ambitions. Thus they turned it into a void city to rival even a Terran hive and built a great system of enclaves and shipyards around it. Katorz gave its name to the "Holdfast", a collection of systems at the heart of the Tayargund Reaches. While staunchly committed to the Emperor, its people were defined by their voidborn heritage, a curious glimpse of what might have been had Jupiter or Saturn taken up the torch in Terra's stead.
As the new territory was established, the inhabitants founded strong military forces, naturally modelled on the Solar Auxilia pattern and well supplied by great manufactorum facilities. Several cohorts were raised and dispatched to the many war fronts of the Great Crusade over the decades. However, a growing number patrolled Katorz and the surrounding systems, venturing forth at times to subdue rebellions and destroy xenos threats. As the Holdfast put down roots, they expanded into the Nerska Marches and then beyond. By the time of the Insurrection, the cohorts of the Katorz Destructivists were counted among the most respected of their kind within the Segmentum.
The nearby Forge World of Hatross saw to the running of the system’s manufactoria, adding forces of their own to its garrison. The two polities grew into a symbiotic relationship as Katorz became a key staging point for Imperial expeditions into the Galactic south and and outer reaches of the Maelstrom zone. Notable among these were the relief forces dispatched during the Crisis of the Hungering Gyre and the mighty host that Pionus Santor assembled to intervene in the Qarith War. Katorz’s armies joined those expeditions, just as they contributed to most of the forces that passed through the system.
Besides the regional defence fleet, Katorz had played host to several flotillas at the beginning of the Wars of Expansion, although many of these had been siphoned off for the doomed muster at Ysta in the weeks and months that followed. Among them were the ragged survivors of Legiones Astartes fleets ambushed on or after the Day of Revelation. In the main these belonged to the Halcyon Wardens, but two months after that infamous day, a handful of Crimson Lions ships had arrived, having barely escaped an ambush by a VIIth Legion force. At Katorz they found some measure of respite, but it was not to last.
The Jackals of the Outer Dark
The IIIrd Legion ships had been undergoing repairs for three weeks when the first reports came of fighting; not in the Commena Cluster beyond, but much closer to home. Corsair clans had roamed deep into Imperial space from above the Galactic plane, bypassing stronghold systems via the stricken Commena Cluster and Coronid Depths. Opportunistic raids marked their passage, great quantities of freight and people stolen away before nearby forces could respond, while small defence fleets were ambushed and savaged, exposing more systems to pillaging. Their kind were familiar, for many civilisations both human and xenos had devolved into banditry, preying like wolves on other societies. Indeed, as noted above, one such clan had made Katorz their home until the Imperium wrested it from them. Hundreds of their ilk had been pursued by the Emperor’s fleets, occasionally brought to His light and turned to His service, but more often subjugated or destroyed.
These particular corsairs belonged to a variety of clans, and following their initial raids, Imperial savants were charged with examining the varied icons under which they sailed and the vessels, weapons and tactics they employed. Then a second task began as this bewildering array of symbols were cross-referenced with the voluminous records in the region’s strategic archives. Those who ruled Katorz and commanded its armies were troubled by their own ignorance and sought any intelligence they could uncover. Thousands of data-savants were set to the task.
In several cases, it emerged that the corsairs’ existence was at least hinted at in the archives, but those same records indicated that they had been pacified or destroyed. Now they appeared in numbers never hinted at, belonging to at least eight different major groupings and leaving broken fleets in their wake wherever they struck. Even more ominously, Imperial-pattern craft and vessels were sighted among their flotillas, suggesting that Icarion had cultivated and concealed these forces long in advance, feeding their growth and directing their paths of attack. Loyalist forces, already stretched by the spreading discord, were entirely unready for these marauders, so far from the front lines.
Hunter and Hunted
Captain D’tama of the Predators was the first to perceive a pattern in the incursions, approximately four weeks after they began. Despite the fragmentary data, he deduced that the marauders, despite their disparate nature, were concentrating their attacks along the major Warp routes that linked Katorz with other key parts of the Tayargund Reaches. This he took to be a part of the Insurrectionist offensive against the Commena Cluster, which was now all but unstoppable with the conquest of Commena Prime.
D’tama brought his suspicions to the ad hoc war council which now governed Katorz and the surrounding region. The raiders, destructive as they had proved, had not sought confrontations with Loyalist fleets above a certain size and strength. Indeed, they had been observed to turn tail and flee when confronted in force, and none of the corsair flotillas fielded more than a few capital-class vessels. Moreover, these were no larger than an Imperial strike cruiser. None of this came as a surprise to the seasoned commanders of Katorz, given that they had gone undetected by the wider Imperium.
D’tama’s diagnosis was that they had been assigned by Icarion to harass the Loyalists, preventing any interference in the Coronid Depths and the Commena Cluster. At the same time, he believed, they threatened Katorz’s own security, perhaps foreshadowing another assault. It was difficult to sift allied messages from Insurrectionist propaganda, but all the signs pointed towards the main forces of the Eagle Warriors and Drowned beginning operations in systems only a few months’ voyage away. An offensive against Katorz was not hard to imagine.
The council quickly concluded that the solution must be to tie up and destroy the corsairs, freeing their assets up if not to intervene in Commena, then to solidify their own defences. The Navigator House of Delphineus, a skilled and powerful branch of the local Navis Nobilite, offered their aid in devising a solution, exploiting their unrivalled knowledge of the region’s arteria. From this basis, a plan was drawn. Fleets would be carefully divided and set to lie in wait in systems identified as potential targets. The corsairs would be engaged by foes that alone would not withstand them, then surrounded by concealed ships and broken. Any survivors would be doomed to a perilous retreat, and the defenders would have a potent morale-booster.
It was as well-drawn a plan as any of its kind, displaying a laudable pragmatism on the part of the council and respectable understanding of the threat they faced. Yet they failed to the perceive the hand at work behind the scheme, working with infinite subtlety to arrange the very strategies of its enemies to achieve its ends. For just as Katorz had been identified by the Steel Prince as a fine bulwark, it had long been uppermost in the thoughts of the Stormlord, who regarded it as both a hazard and prize. With his most senior Sentinels fighting elsewhere, the Loyalists did not expect the Harbingers to make any other forays except to reinforce their gains. But then, no praetor was assigned overall command of this invasion.
The Spear of Insurrection
The bait was taken by the corsairs in the four systems where the Loyalists had laid their traps, only for fleets of Ist Legion ships to follow in their wake. Hunters became the hunted, and the defenders were annihilated, the Harbingers inflicting damage which far exceeded their numbers. Worse, the nature of the plan had demanded the use of fast-moving and heavily armed vessels, and thus drew extensively on the Loyalist Legion forces and Solar Auxilia in the region.
Thus in a few short days, the Harbingers had reduced the Legion presence among the defenders by over half. The Crimson Lions refused outright to fall back in the face of the arch-traitors, paying for their fervour with annihilation. Then disaster was piled upon disaster as the Harbingers and their allies descended on the now vulnerable worlds in each system. Their morale already in tatters, the planetary defence forces each collapsed in a matter of hours.
Marshal Vaerela Elaku and Voiavos, Magos Militant of the Hatross taghmata, had been left in overall command at Katorz, watching the shifting strategic landscape with mounting horror. The anticipated offensive had come with unimaginable speed, leaving her and her staff to desperately recall every fleet available to them and make safe the core system. And then, quite suddenly, there was no time for that either. A report came of a fleet entering the system, followed by auspex returns which were turned the defenders’ world on its head. Icarion Anasem had arrived, utterly unforeseen, on their doorstep.
The Stormlord’s work in suborning and subverting elements of the Imperium had gone far beyond cultivating military allies. In the case of Katorz, he had solicited those who were not bound by oaths of service to the system or the loyal Legions. Instead he had sought a faction who were no strangers to political and occasional internecine violence; he approached the Navigator House of Delphineus. With promises of power and prestige he won them to his side, and their guidance brought his fleet to Katorz, evading every fleet and waystation.
The Thunderchild had broken the veil some way outside the system, the fleet bypassing the outer defences just as Athrawes had at Commena. It was a majestic vessel, hawk-swift and deadly, a masterwork to stand proud beside any other product of the Imperium’s many shipyards. On its prow, pre-firing energies sparked across lances, while along flanks over twenty kilometres long, guns the size of Imperator Titans were run out. It was surrounded by battleships and strike cruisers which were themselves vast, mighty engines of war, yet they seemed as diminished in its presence as a Rhino tank or Land Raider beside a Mastodon.
The measures taken against the corsairs had denuded the defence fleet in the Katorz system itself. Between that gambit and the prior pressures of the war, a fleet that had normally been maintained at six hundred vessels had been reduced to less than half that number. In any case, not one ship in the region could hope to match the Thunderchild. The Harbingers were outnumbered, but accompanied again by Akiran warships, they far outclassed and outgunned the bulk of their fearful opponents. The only truly dangerous elements belonged to the Katorz Destructivists, the Hatross Mechanicum and the few Legion vessels left in the system. The Harbingers struck them first, enveloping them with salvo upon salvo. The Thunderchild alone was a fleet-killer, and the other battleships were all proven forces in their own right. The heart of the enemy fleet was torn from it with shocking speed.
Icarion gave hardly any attention to the rest of the Loyalist fleet once that was done, instead delegating their destruction to other shipmasters. His wrath was reserved for the void stations themselves, bristling as they were with vast static defences. Yet they were designed to operate in conjunction with voidships, and the precision of the Harbingers’ attack served to negate the advantage of their firepower. Katorz Aleph was their target, and they approached it with ruthless focus. Formed up into spearheads and approaching in corkscrewing trajectories, they evaded the fusillades and concentrated their fire on a small portion of the station’s shields.
Against this expert deployment, the vast defences were rendered strangely impotent, unable to find a mark. Stripping the visible hemisphere of its localised shields, Icarion destroyed many of the cannons arrayed behind them and laid the station bare to the Harbingers’ direct attack; boarding torpedoes and assault rams. Guided by the foresight of the Stormborn’s most potent diviners, they shot straight for the locations which would allow them to storm the hangars and press on for the locations from which Katorz Aleph was controlled.
For all their fear, and despite the suddenness of Icarion’s attack, this was an eventuality for which the defenders had drilled incessantly since the news of conflict reached them. Tens of thousands of Katorz Destructivists and Skitarii rushed to intercept the Harbingers. Armouries were thrown open and guns issued to many thousands of menials. The former were well-ordered and emboldened by the presence of veterans who had fought in the Qarith War, while the tech-guard were shorn of fear and guided by their archimandrite, who watched the battle through the eyes of all his troops.
In the confined spaces they met their enemies with great torrents of las-fire and Galvanic bullets, massed so that the enemy could not prevent lucky shots from finding eye-lenses and the gaps between armour plates. Servitor-controlled turrets chattered to life; Niklaas and his warriors had fortified the interior of Katorz Aleph as well as the exterior. Battle-automata added heavier firepower to the storm, capable of shredding even power armour.
But the Harbingers brought superior weapons to bear. Breachers raised their shields and strode through the volleys of their enemies. Heavy support squads armed with las cannons and volkite culverins turned whole companies to ash while assault and despoiler marines left trails of gore in their wake. Terminators and Dreadnoughts matched battle-automata for weight of fire and sheer strength. All of these were directed by minds which exceeded even Voiavos in their knowledge of warfare, and Icarion knew the strengths and weaknesses of the Mechanicum as anyone outside the priesthood.
The Stormlord’s Onslaught
The Harbingers had accepted that losses would be heavy, and endured the counter-assaults to establish their foothold. Already the hangar doors had been flung open for Ist Legion reinforcements, to be delivered by Stormbird and Thunderhawk. If the enemy still contested those hangars, then they were swallowed up by heavy bolter fire or incinerated by volkite-equipped Ash Phoenix gunships. Thousands of Legionaries joined the battle, and with them came their Primarch.
On the lesser stations, the Loyalists watched aghast, most paralysed by shock and the terror which Icarion had so adroitly sowed. Destructivists and Mechanicum troops boarded gunships and launched into the void, but the Insurrectionist ships patrolled sharklike around their strike zone, destroying any craft which dared attack them or attempt to run the gauntlet. Leaving command of the void battle to Tukuan, Archmagos Militant of Akira, Icarion stepped from his Stormbird into the anarchy on Katorz Aleph. With him was the core of the Second Maniple, the garrison of the Thunderchild and his personal force in effect. Some three hundred of them were Terminators, the Volta elite joined by a new force; the fearsome Vortices, armed for savage close combat where their brethren favoured gunnery.
Nothing on that station withstood their assault. The first waves of Harbingers had slowed and halted in the face of the Loyalist resistance, only to part as the second crashed into the Loyalist machines. Icarion seemed to have become the very embodiment of the storm, a blur of blades and lightning which arced through the iron maniples. No shot or blow managed more than a glancing strike, Icarion evading blows from which even his gene-gifted reflexes should not have saved him. His spear made a mockery of even Mechanicum battleplate, for it had been forged in ages past, imbued with devices and powers that the tech-priests could only dream of.
The Destructivists and Skitarii held firm, but their fate was sealed. The Harbingers simply dismembered them, carpeting the causeways and passages of the vast city and the automata only lasted a little longer. Stragglers were cut down by the thousands of Rakurai who followed behind the Astartes. Within six hours of the first boarding parties entering, the Insurrectionists had broken into the habitation zones and set about subjugating the terrified people within. Resistance earned only a swift and efficient death. The hab-districts fell quickly.
Vorax, Domitar, Baharat; all stood before Icarion and all fell as the Stormlord cut a path to the governance chambers from which Marshal Elaku was still directing the mortal defenders. Skitarii and Harbingers crossed blades, their power fields sizzling and shrieking above the crash and roar of the fighting, and the Harbingers mastery was the greater. Not one blade got past Icarion’s spear, ever weaving to stab and slice at his foes. Voiavos confronted the Primarch with a blazing power axe that symbolised his power, and their duel raged across the gantries that led to the innermost core of Katorz Aleph. Icarion had the victory, severing the Mechanicum general’s servo-limbs before impaling and burning him out with the energies of his spear.
The Hatross taghmata was left directionless, many of their automata embarking on rampages which did as much harm to their own side as they did to the Harbingers. But to their great credit, the Destructivists and a large part of the armed menials clung on in defence of the realm their forebears had built. They sold their lives to the last, even when the bulkheads were wrenched open by the Vortice Terminators and Icarion set foot in the heart of Katorz Aleph. But their valour could not change the facts. Victory had gone to the Harbingers, and all the Tayargund Reaches lay under the Insurrectionist boot.
Under Shade of Stormclouds
Marshal Elaku was taken alive despite her resistance, and publicly executed a day later as the Harbingers secured Katorz Aleph. The act was broadcast throughout the system, as astropathic missive carried the news of Icarion’s victory to the ears of any who still fought on. Morale shattered and now threatened with the station’s mammoth weapons, the rest of the system’s colonies knelt to the invader. The remaining XXth Legion vessels launched a furious but hopeless counter-assault on the system, dispatched by the Harbingers in a manner that suggested more lords on the hunt than a battle. The Halcyon Wardens, on the other hand, had admitted defeat and sailed for Loyalist space, pausing only to save what allied forces they could and take them with them, fending off the Harbingers ships that gave chase.
Thus Icarion had his prize; a fortress which would anchor the new border between his realm and the Imperium, from which he would be able to cow the entire region into submission even as Commena fell to Athrawes and Xiutel, and Empyon carried the war further into the west. The Loyalist forces caught there, now far from help, would be picked off. Those that did survive would still serve the Stormlord’s plans in their escape, for the news they took with them would be a hammer blow to Loyalist hearts. His brothers and many other generals were likewise enacting their own rapid conquests, building an empire whose sole purpose was to swell until, cancer-like, it engulfed the entire Imperium.
Every world under the Insurrectionist banner would serve this effort in one way or another. Already, fiefs in the Commena Cluster were being allocated to the Ember Host as a reward for their defection from the Xth Legion, and the Fire Keepers gene-seed taken in the conquest was given to them. The corsair clans were repaid for their long patience and loyalty with domains of their own, with many of their chieftains and lords assuming control over worlds which required the very harshest rule. People were pressed into Icarion’s armies by the million, or simply seized by the traitor Mechanicum for conversion into Adsecularis and servitors. Across thousands of worlds, forges and manufactoria were set to toil day and night, their populations living under the whip of Insurrectionist overseers. Fear and ambition caused men and women to spit on their oaths and pledge themselves to Icarion, and they sought to prove their fealty with ruthlessness.
The noble memory of the Lightning Bearers was already darkening just as the Ist Legion’s livery had. By their deeds, first fratricide and now the conquest of those who had revered them, the Harbingers took on a far grimmer mien and reputation: haughty warriors who now took overlordship as their due where once they had been liberators. This was true of many of their allies, even those who had taken their side out of idealism like the Godslayers and Morning Stars, but nowhere was it more apparent than in those once hailed as the finest of all the Emperor’s armies.
The horrified Loyalists had watched as realms they had believed secure had been engulfed and emerged as possessions of the turncoats. The initial shock of Icarion’s rebellion had given way to a steady flow of disasters, and these too only promised to be but the prelude to a greater struggle. The Loyalists dug in, the battered Legions and regiments working desperately to replace their lost strength, knowing that the strength of their adversary was only growing. Across their territory, unrest was quelled in bloody and merciless fashion just as Icarion’s collaborators exercised their power with brutality. And yet, as the Emperor remained silent and only the pronouncements of the Warmaster and Sigillite emerged from Terra, the poison of fear could not be expunged from the Imperium. Both sides knew that the time must come when Icarion struck for the Throneworld itself, and when that storm broke, it might sweep away all that the Emperor had built.
Edited by bluntblade, 15 July 2019 - 10:16 PM.
Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Void Eagles, Abyssii, Dark Mechanicum, Insurgos, Morning Stars, Shepherds of Eden, Martian Civil War
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