Disaster at Batu
The XIth were grown powerful indeed: while they could hardly match the strength of those Legions who already had a Primarch at the helm, they vied with the Shepherds of Eden and Wings of Woe even after the gruelling losses of the Xenocides. But pride, curdling in the hearts of the Legion and especially its command echelon, bred hubris. On a world named Batu, nemesis awaited the Apostles of War.
Imperial outriders, scouting the Hoyetalt Nebula, reported a massing of Ork warbands in the region. They were embroiled in internecine wars, but no one was foolish enough to ignore what that portended. Conflict breeds Orks and more powerful Orks at that. This interstellar brawl threatened to crown a new Warboss, who would likely turn his bloodlust upon the Imperium. More ominously still, the crude Ork transmissions spoke of a “Thundastruk”, who had escaped an earlier encounter with Imperial forces.
The War Council recognised the danger of an Ork Waaagh! coalescing, and acted quickly to stamp out the threat. The Apostles of War were to fight as part of a sizeable campaign force under Daer'dd Niimkiikaa, slated to include several Army battlegroups and twenty Solar Auxilia cohorts. They would launch coordinated strikes against the alien warbands, breaking them before they could come together.
Guaire Amalasan, however, derided the Council’s intention to place him under the command of another warlord. The greenskins were a simple foe, and required no grand strategy to best. He boasted that his Legion would suffice to “bring the blade down upon Batu and rend the beast's head from its shoulders.”
His oath made, Amalasen requisitioned all available assets and made for Batu, where the most powerful Ork warlord was resident. At his command were several Knights of House Makabius, whose own thirst for glory was all too compatible with the Legion’s own, and three Army battle-groups. Also at his side were a XVIth Legion fleet led by Arldel Merlus. It was a force which was certainly capable of breaking a greenskin world with the proper tactics and strategy.
Nonetheless, Merlus and a minority of XIth Legion officers, notably the brothers Cervantes and Dumah de Leon, masters of the Sunspears and Shieldbreaker Chapters, spoke out against the plan to attack unsupported. Though they carefully modulated their arguments, suggesting that such an overt attempt to rob the Bears of glory might be poorly received, Amalasan shrugged off every one. He would not be dissuaded, and so both his captains and Merlus’ saw no recourse but to fall in line with the Legion Master’s strategy.
Whatever trust they placed in Amalasan was not reciprocated, however; Merlus was consigned to orbital reserves with the greater part of the Army, and the de Leon’s companies to the rearguard. Amalasan’s favoured companies were given the honour of the initial drop-strike and the larger second wave that would follow, accompanied by the Knights of Makabius. They would draw out the Ork Warboss with this brazen show of force and strike it down, a method which had worked for Imperial forces several times before, and then unleash their reserves to wipe out the routed Orks.
And indeed this strategy seemed to play out perfectly over the first several hours of the engagement on Batu. The Imperials beat back the Ork fleet, unleashing drop-pods on the world below before gunships and mass landers took wing and descended into the atmosphere. The Apostles were beset almost immediately by the Orks, in ever-growing numbers, but their mastery of the blade held the enemy in check and then steadily beat them back. Tanks and Knights were brought down to shake the earth and match the power of their weapons against the ramshackle. war-engines of the Orks.
At the head of the Imperial formation, Amalasan and his Argent Champions of the First Chapter slew and slew again. The heavily armoured elites of the Orks sought them out, the most worthy targets of their rage, but fell in droves to the glimmering swords of the Apostles. Finally the very largest of the Orks reared up to challenge Amalasan, surely the Warboss itself, and led his Chapter in an audacious charge ahead of the main line. Into the press of Orks they thrust until they reached the giant Ork, and Amalasan hewed its head from its hunched shoulders just as he had vowed.
Except that, of course, this goliath was not the Warboss. The greenskin assault continued without relent or loss of cohesion, and now the First Chapter was dangerously exposed as the other Apostles fought to reach them. The Orks had diverged from the usual pattern of following bigger and more aggressive leaders, instead giving fealty to a Warboss from the aberrantly cunning caste known as Kommandos. So even as his larger champions drew out the Legion Master and perished, Thundastruk and his elite stalked unseen through the Ork ranks.
Before the Apostles understood the danger, the Kommandos exploded into range, felling a dozen Terminators with that charge while along the line other squads struck. The effect was, as de Leon later put it, “trying to hold a shield wall together on a scree slope.” The Orks filled every opening, the green tide boiling up and dragging Legionaries down while still more of the brutes rushed to encircle them. The Knights turned their guns and blades on the horde, holding them at bay, but barely.
To the fore, Amalasan clashed with Thundastruk, but the Legion Master was already weary and bled from a score of wounds. The Warboss ran him through and Amalasan fell, saved only when Captain Arngrim Valten interceded and drove the greenskin into retreat. Gathering the remnants of the elite around him, Valten dragged his commander back into the beleaguered ranks of the Apostles. But the relic blade Levanter, borne by every master of the XIth until now, was lost, and the peril to Amalasan and his protectors was hardly lessened as the Orks harried their withdrawal.
In the void, fresh squadrons of Ork ships hove into range and tried to cut the Imperial fleet off from their allies on the ground. On the ground, the Ork attack was renewed as misshapen walkers lumbered into range and met the Knights of Makabius in battle. Bombers and fighters began to strafe the Imperial landing sites as well as the host itself, pulverising tank squadrons with payloads which left flaming craters. Tumult overcame any semblance of order. The spirit of the Waaaagh! was loose, and it scented victory.
As if in response, something within the Legion flickered balefully to life; the Pariah gene rearing its head for the first time. None have ever shown true understanding of why it occurred now, but under the immense strain of the battle and the bludgeoning force of the Orks’ psychic echo, dozens and then hundreds of Apostles began to cast shadows in the æther. These dampened the force of the Waaagh! gestalt and, in other circumstances, might have provided the means to tip the balance back in the XIth’s favour.
But no such good fortune came to the Apostles, and even as their unexpected gift came to the fore it stuck at their brothers as well as the Orks. Raw and uncontrolled, the auras of the affected Apostles disoriented their kinsmen, and left them vulnerable to the attacks of the Orks, whose own fervour had hardly abated. The Imperial lines buckled even further, collapsing under the weight and mass of their foes.
Around them, all was carnage. The drop sites and landing zones blazed. Where before the Knights had been key to keeping the enemy in check, now they were forced to fight for their own survival against their counterparts. One by one they fell, smashed by Ork walkers or dragged down and dismembered by the Orks milling around them, who were now unimpeded in their rush to surround and crush the Apostles. Where Army formations were overrun, nothing was left but gobbets of meat and bone.
Tens of thousands were killed in mere minutes. The XIth Legion teetered on the verge of outright destruction, swamped by greenskins. Its proud ranks had fallen into tumult, swamped by the Orks as great warriors fell beneath the tide and were hacked apart. Gorkanauts and Stompas trampled whole squads with every footfall, burning and ripping up the battlefield with every attack. The Apostles were outnumbered and almost surrounded. But as the seeming end beckoned, Dumah de Leon seized the tiller and forged a path out of the storm. Renowned for his leadership and wisdom, de Leon’s humble temperament had set him at odds with Legion command and he had earned no small amount of scorn from his superiors - but now the fate of the Legion rested on his shoulders.
Coordinating with his brother Cervantes, Dumah ordered a retreat towards what remained of the landing site, forced to abandon those warriors too stubborn to fight on but bringing several thousand with him. Among them was the gravely wounded Amalasan, who had only been saved by the efforts and blademastery of Arngrim Valten. Merlus, holding things together amid the wheeling tumult of the void battle, sent fresh wings of gunships and bombers down to the surface. These were not enough to turn the tide against the massed greenskins, but they did enable de Leon and the retreating Apostles to make their escape.
Once in orbit, the fleet made a fighting retreat to the system's edge and entered the Warp, where the sheer cost of the disaster began to sink in. Amalasan was consigned to a healing coma in the medicae chambers, along with many others. And on every vessel, the medicae chambers were the only spaces full of Legionaries any more. Muster halls and armouries suddenly seemed cavernous and sparsely filled to the walking wounded. Dumah de Leon was left as the obvious choice to take command, not just because of his deeds but because so many of Amalasan’s lieutenants had not escaped the surface.
Worse was to follow, as Thundastruk unified the local Ork warbands under his leadership and struck back in short order. The entire Nebula was roused against the invaders, and they were forced to fight several more costly void battles to return to Imperial space. When they did, a sixth of their fleet was gone along with over 30,000 battle-brothers - an almost unheard-of magnitude of losses, with an even higher proportion of destroyed vehicles.
Their allies - save for the Lanterns, who had themselves fought and bled to hold position above the planet and in the subsequent void battles - had suffered even more heavily. Not one Knight of Makabius had survived the engagement, their sacred armours left to be defiled and looted by the enemy. For the Army’s party, over 2,000,000 troops perished on Batu, with entire regiments destroyed, their proud histories ending in the barbaric victory feast of an Ork horde. The greenskins had of course paid for their victory with millions of lives, but as is so often the case with that lamentably virile species, it barely mattered at the strategic level. Thundastruk’s victory ensured his ascendancy, and casualties have rarely weighed heavily on any Ork’s mind.
Instead of deciding the war at a stroke, the Apostles’ gambit brought disaster upon nearby Imperial worlds; when the Iron Bears and the rest of the xenocide force arrived, they found systems swamped by the green tide. A bitter and messy war ensued, and while the Orks were driven off, Daer’dd and his generals reported to the War Council that they had failed to slay Thundastruk and exterminate the xenos
. With the same unusual canniness they had displayed on Batu, the Orks had withdrawn beyond a range where the Imperium could sensibly pursue them.
The would-be exterminators, for the most part, had to content themselves with logging the Gorgruntars’ crude insignia and any other information which might prove relevant when the foe was inevitably sighted again. The XIth Legion, meanwhile, lost themselves in bitter introspection. They had incontrovertibly failed, and in so doing exposed the Emperor’s territory to the depredations of xenos
It is said that when Daer’dd issued his rebuke to the ravaged figure of Amalasan, the once fiery Chapter Master spoke not a word to the Bear’s condemnation. Daer’dd subsequently sent a missive to the War Council in which he recommended that no official sanction be visited upon the Legion: “I doubt they would bear any more of a scourging than they themselves are administering.”
Remembrancer Blu ntb' Lade
Written by bluntblade
Need to check about Merlus and the Lanterns. Of the new blood anybody has his legion split and attached to various legions before tge arrival of their respective primarch?